Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Advent Activities

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...maybe not outside, but it certainly is around our house! While I refrained from putting out all of the decorations this past weekend, I decided to go ahead and assemble the 9" tree in our upstairs living room while Taylor napped for three and a half hours on Sunday. (That's 210 glorious minutes for anyone who's counting.) Talk about an early Christmas present - it was magical! When she awoke, I carried her into the living room anxiously awaiting the look on her face as she caught the first glimpse of the tree. She smiled and clapped as if it were the most fabulous thing she had ever seen, then she immediately ran down the stairs to touch it. Later that evening, we put a little 4" tree in her bedroom. I was clearly out of my mind caught up in the Christmas spirit when I decided to put ornaments on her tree, because I spent the rest of the night telling her "no, don't touch." Needless to say, the ornaments only lasted until Monday night.

That night when Jake got home from work, we put the tot to bed and went to work on her advent calendar. After reading this post last year, I was super inspired to recreate something similar for our tot this year. (Seriously, if you all don't follow Little Baby Garvin you are missing out. No joke.) We wanted to find a space where we could hang the calendar at Taylor's height and in a place that she went past every day (because with kids, if it's out of sight it's most definitely out of mind). So, we chose the hallway that leads from our bedrooms to the kitchen (which she travels up and down 50 times a day).

After we hung the calendar, we stuffed each stocking with a piece of paper that has an activity written on it. These activities include everything from making Santa beards in the bath tub, watching Rudolph and painting our nails red, surprising Daddy at work with coffee, and making cinnamon ornaments to decorating Christmas cookies, visiting Santa Clause, making red and green play dough, visiting the Magic Tree, decorating a gingerbread house, and making Christmas cards. Each activity has a small treat that goes along with it, most of which were dug out of the Target dollar bins. Sweets and treats, what's not to love?

Technically, I jumped the gun a bit since we can't actually start for another week, but after the long holiday weekend (which is sure to be full of food, shopping, and decorating) I know we'll be more than ready to start in on our Christmas fun come Monday. Maybe it's just the kid in me, but I cannot wait to do all of these fun activities with the tot. And with Jake practically living at work until Christmas Eve, I thought this would be a nice distraction from his absence. I'm all about making the countdown to Christmas just as exciting as the actual day itself. I mean, why limit the fun to just one day when you can celebrate an entire month?!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Life of a Working Mother

I have been drafting this post for a while but have been hesitant about posting it. Such controversy lies within the topic of working moms versus stay at home moms, although I'm not sure why. Both are equally challenging in their own right, and both are equally unappreciated, in my opinion. And while I completely understand and respect the difficulties that come with being a stay at home mom, I can only write according to what I know - and what I know is the struggle that comes with being a working mother. So here are my two cents on the topic.

When I was little, I remember my mother constantly juggling a thousand different things. She would substitute teach during the day and attend night classes at a not-so-local college all while raising two young daughters and maintaining a household. My mother was very particular about when and how things were to be done. I used to think that she was crazy. What I didn't realize then was that my mom maintained such a tight schedule because that was the only way she could fit everything in. As a working mom myself, I understand the method to her madness. On a typical workday, I'm out of the house by 7:30 and lucky if I'm back in the door by 5:30. Then there's dinner to cook (accompanied by a hungry little mouth reminding me just how famished she is), then bath time, story time, and bedtime for the tot. Once she is asleep, it's off to pick up the house, do the dishes, fold the laundry, and finally bathe myself. After all of that is accomplished, it's 10:00 and I'm exhausted. Another day is done and my to-do list hasn't been touched.

Looking back now, I understand why my mother insisted that we spend time on the weekends doing chores and preparing for the work week. When every single second of Monday-Friday is completely consumed, there's no other option but to utilize Saturday and Sunday for the other necessary tasks that need to be done. And even though there just aren't enough hours in the day to get it all done, life still goes on. The struggle to raise children, maintain a happy household, and hold down a 9-5 is exhausting. Most days, I do my best just to keep up with everything (and my desk/purse/calendar are full of post-it notes to prove it). And even though our time together is limited throughout the week, I still try to do extra-special things for our tot, because I know that this time with her is precious and will be gone before I know it. She is only little once, and I want to ensure that her childhood is full of happy memories that she will look back on one day and smile.

On occasions when the daycare is closed, I am able to get a small taste of what life would be like if I were a stay at home mom. While it's a welcomed change of pace at the time, I'm not sure it's something I could swing full-time. Some days are wonderful - the tot is well behaved, she naps on schedule, and we laugh and play all day long. As most moms out there know, these days are few and far in between. Other days are a complete disaster that leave me pulling my hair out and begging to return to work. It's a never ending struggle. When I'm at work, I just want to be with her, but after too many days of tears and tantrums, I'm more than ready to return to the office. I realize this is a relief that most stay at home moms never get, and it makes me grateful that I have the option to do both.

But that constant feeling of being pulled in two different directions is always present. On one hand, I love spending time with my girl. I love going on long afternoon walks and having picnics in the middle of the living room floor. I love seeing the look on her face as she experiences something for the first time. I love when she crawls into my lap asking me to read her a book or when she holds on to a hug just a little longer because she needs that extra snuggle. But I also love watching her interact with the kids at daycare. I love how strong and independent she is, completely unafraid and always eager to play with anyone who is willing. I love how much she adores her sitter as well as the other kids and their parents. I love that she is able to make decisions on her own without Jake or I there to hold her hand. Unfortunately, this back and forth is a daily struggle that has yet to get any easier.

And even though I miss our girl all day every day, I know that being a working mom helps me to be a better mom. I enjoy feeling that sense of accomplishment after completing a labor-intensive project, but I also love seeing Tay's sweet face after a rough day. Being away from her throughout the week helps me to fully appreciate the time that I do get to spend with her. And although I am constantly wondering what she's doing or if she's happy, it comforts me to know that she is in good hands. It's never easy trusting someone else to care for your child, but I know it's also good for her to be content away from our home and around other people. An act that I know is easier for her than it will ever be for me.

At the end of the day, I just want what all parents do - I want my child to be happy, healthy, well-mannered, and well cared for. It just so happens that this is the route best suited for our family. If/when baby no. 2 comes along, well...that could be a different story!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Non Traditional Gift Giving

Now that Halloween is over, my countdown to Christmas has begun! Yes, I know that Thanksgiving comes before Christmas, but since Jake's place of employment is about to completely consume his life, we are in the process of getting all of the holiday planning out of the way now. I've been preparing our advent calendar activities (which I'll likely share in a separate post later), making my shopping lists, and pulling all of the fun recipes I can't wait to whip up over the coming weeks. Since Taylor will be able to participate in the festivities this year, I plan on making this holiday season as much fun as possible!

In an effort to save a little dough (that kitchen remodel wasn't cheap, you know) and add some spontaneity to our marriage, Jake and I have decided not to exchange store bought gifts this year. So, I have come up with a fun and budget-friendly alternative to traditional gift giving (which, of course, absolutely thrilled my husband). This Christmas, instead of going out and buying each other more crap that we don't need (or a duplicate of something we already have hidden in the back of a closet somewhere), we will be doing a gift giving exchange that requires each of us to do kind things for the other. You know, the kind of things that you always wish your spouse would do but, in reality, you know there's no chance in hell they actually will? Yeah, those things.

The plan is as follows: each of us will write down 12 "gifts" we would like to receive from the other person (i.e., back massage, foot massage, shoulder massage - can you tell what I'm trying to get out of this?), fold them up, and stuff them into an envelope. On Christmas morning, we'll exchange the envelopes instead of costly presents.  Then, throughout the year, whenever one of us pulls out a "gift", the other person has to do whatever is written on that piece of paper - no if's, and's, or but's.

Why 12, you ask? Obviously, because there are 12 months in a year, but also because if we do any more than that Jake one of us will grow to hate this idea and refuse to ever do it again. (After being in this relationship for a decade, I have finally learned his limits.) And, like any good game, there will be rules that both of us must follow:

1. Only one gift can be requested per day. The goal is for this to be the gift that keeps on giving all throughout the year, not make one of us into the other's personal slave for a day (which I can totally see happening). No, thank you.

2. The same gift cannot be written down more than once.  Otherwise, Jake would write down the same thing 12 times (and I'm sure many of you can guess what that would be) and have his gifts cashed in by January 5th.

3. The "gift" must be given at the time it is requested. No rain delays here! If the card is pulled, the activity must be completed at that time (or as soon as possible thereafter). I'm sure I'll regret this one eventually, but right now all I can think about is how I'll be able to con a back massage out of Jakeeb whenever I want. I'm obviously drunk with power.

All jokes aside, I hope that by completing these 12 selfless acts for each other, we will continue to do additional acts of kindness even after our "gifts" are used up. With work and Taylor to keep us constantly preoccupied, we need to reset our focus on each other and our marriage, and I think this activity is the perfect start! And - let's be real - I'm sure this is bound to provide some interesting fodder for the blog, so stay tuned!

Happy holidays, everyone!

Sunday, November 9, 2014


Our Halloween festivities began last Thursday night with a little pumpkin painting. Since the tot is still too little (no matter how hard she tries to disprove it), we waited to do this activity until after she was in bed. I painted our names on three little pumpkins and then painted black stripes on a larger pumpkin and covered it in glow-in-the-dark puff paint. I'm sad that I forgot to get a picture of the final product but the glow-in-the-dark paint was awesome! Definitely the coolest pumpkin on the block. ;c ) While I was busy painting my four pumpkins, Jake was consumed making sure every detail of his one pumpkin was perfect. However, after nearly an hour of planning and design, he ended up with a large, black "E" and a white stem. I nearly fell off my bar stool laughing. Time well spent, huh?

The next day was Halloween . Our out-of-town guests arrived just before we set out for trick-or-treating and, although it was absolutely freezing, we threw on extra layers and headed down the street. Mr. "I'm no fun" Eldredge refused to dress up as the tin man leaving Taylor and I to pull off our Wizard of Oz theme by ourselves. Since it was so cold, I traded in my straw hat for something a bit warmer and added a leather jacket over my costume. Taylor had on two layers of clothes under her costume (including gloves, a hat, and house shoes), so I'm certain that she stayed nice and toasty.

As for the actual trick-or-treating, the tot was a little unsure. She didn't understand why we were going up to stranger's houses and not going inside (and, at a few residences, she even invited herself right in), but I'm pretty sure she enjoyed seeing all of the other kids on the street as well as the festive decorations at each house. She was a good sport about the entire thing, regardless.

The tot had a full-on entourage for the big event with her dad and I and our friends from Salt Lake in tow. Our trick-or-treating was short-lived due to the cold and the fact that our street is an extreme hot spot for kids on Halloween. We made sure we were back home in time to hand out candy before the madness began. And honestly, I think Taylor enjoyed seeing the trick-or-treaters at our door more than she did partaking in the experience herself. She was able to stay inside in her jammies where it was warm while everyone else came to her. Smart kid.

The next morning we were up bright and early so that we could hand off the tot to my parents for a kid-free day at Faurot Field watching our Mizzou tigers beat the Kentucky wildcats. Tailgating is, by far, one of our favorite activities, and we were super excited to show our friends the ropes sans baby. We had chilly weather, good company, and a cooler full of fall beers enjoy. After the game, we headed downtown for some greasy bar food and beer hopping. The day did not disappoint, and I'm pretty sure our friends had a stellar time indeed.

I think I'm still recovering from our night of fun (being 30 really is rough...), but it was totally worth it. We made some new memories with the tot and relived some old memories with a couple of great friends. 

So long, October. It's been an amazing, action-packed month, but I'm ready to move on to turkey legs, pumpkin pie, and some quality family time. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

13 Month Update

My goal is to continue these monthly updates for as long as possible, because nothing cheers me up faster on a crummy day than looking back and laughing at all of the crazy adventures our tot has put us gone through. And let's face it, the major reason you all come to this blog is to see the tot's face. I don't blame you. It's by far the best part of my day, too. So let's get to it...

Since officially becoming a toddler, life with the tot has become much more interesting. The rate at which she learns is absolutely remarkable. Kids really are like sponges - they absorb and retain everything they come into contact with. Our girl is no exception. Watching her as she continues to grow and develop is truly the highlight of my life.

Our babysitter was closed one day last week, so Jake and I each worked a half day in order to avoid one of us missing a full day at the office. When I arrived home at noon, this is what I found. Jake had bought her a coloring book and crayons and made her this sweet box fort. She had the best time playing in her "house" all afternoon. Jake reached rock star status for this little gem, for sure.

Taylor loves being outdoors, which means we have spent as much time as possible outside riding toy cars, going for walks, and enjoying the fall weather. Thankfully, our girl is able to spend the majority of her time at daycare running around outside and playing with her friends. This allows her to release some excess energy and our babysitter to keep her sanity. Win, win.

Thankfully, the tot is finally outgrowing the stage of hating things on her head (and in good timing with winter right around the corner), which means we have recently begun experimenting with various head wear options. In fact, trying on hats is now a must at any store we go to. She giggles non-stop while putting different hats on and off her head. A cheap and easy source of entertainment for all!

Last week, I attempted to give Taylor her first pony tail. Although she was not thrilled with me touching her hair and squirmed though out the entire process, she also didn't rip it out. And even though I consider that a small victory, I think we'll wait a few more weeks before wearing this look out in public. I mean, she looks like an unproportionate unicorn. Jake must have agreed with me because, as soon as he saw her, all he said was "no".

Taylor's latest and greatest hobby is chasing Charlie around the house. While she is amused by petting hitting him in the face, pulling on his tail, and laying on top of him, he is not. But since he will do anything for attention these days, he puts up with her antics (most of the time). One morning, while getting ready for work, I noticed these two sitting side by side under my sewing table as Taylor rambled on in her crazy toddler language. It was the funniest and most picturesque sight I had seen in a long time. I so wish I would've gotten it on video!

Our girl continues to enjoy new foods and will eat nearly anything we give her (a girl after my own heart). Her most recent dishes have included chili, tacos, and shrimp, all of which she devoured instantly. And even though she eats as though every meal is her last, her baby fat continues to disappear roll by roll. I can literally see my baby fading away with each new photo I capture. It's already quite clear that she is going to be tall and skinny, just like her father.

As she continues to grow physically and mentally, I continue to thank my lucky stars that we have been blessed with such a wonderful little girl. And since I can't stop time, I have been trying to embrace each and every moment we spend together. I have been making a conscious effort to disconnect myself from work and social media in the evenings so that I can soak up every memory of our tot at this stage in life, because, at the end of the day, nothing matters more than this sweet face.