30 December 2012

The Refreshing Christmas

If you ask me to sum up Christmas in one word, I would want to pick something like, "hectic" or "stressful." But I don't want to remember Christmas 2012 as The Hectic Christmas, so I'm going to focus on the good things that happened and say, "refreshing." It was hectic when the cops showed up to deal with my charming neighbors on the evening of the 24th; it was hectic when the turkey took an extra 2.5 hours to cook; it was hectic when drove to Michigan in a blizzard on the 26th and then ran around from party to party. But it was refreshing too. It was refreshing having a white Christmas. It was refreshing getting to see so many long-lost friends. It was refreshing having a 3-hour long heart-to-heart with my sister-in-law, even if it meant only getting 3 hours of sleep that night. It was refreshing going on a date with Matt, our first in over 5 months.

Her Christmas outfit. I made us matching skirts brown and pink plaid skirts. She's standing at her new toddler-sized table that she got for Christmas.

For a few days while we were in Michigan, we stayed with Matt's oldest brother, his wife, and their four kids. Abigail did really, really well in the exciting hubbub, so well you'd never know she had the opposite everyday at home. Staying with my sister-in-law was very conducive to family life, as her entire house is baby proof and full of fun toys. Abigail played by herself and with her cousins for so long that at one point I half forgot I had a kid. It was pretty refreshing. I spent lots of time with my 7- and 5-year-old nieces building pony stalls and beading necklaces. When they cried as we ran out to a lunch date with my grandmother, it was refreshing to be wanted that much. Try as I might, I have been unable to teach Abigail how to push a toy train while crawling along side of it, but after one observation of her cousins, Abigail picked up this new skill. Refreshing, her picking something up without hours worth of work. And that date night. That date night was incredibly refreshing. Matt and I enjoying dinner, browsing the aisles of Meijer, sipping coffee at Panera Bread. Just the two of us. When we arrived at the restaurant, I really wanted to say, "table for two - no high chair," but I managed to rein myself in at the last minute. It was amazing to me how nice it was to be able to give Matt my undivided attention while we were out in public. Our conversations were deeper, went uninterrupted, and I even got to primp in the bathroom after dinner. And when we drove back to Chicago yesterday, we took our time, stopped for lunch, and Abigail didn't cry. We arrived at home to find the perfect parking space and made time for both unpacking and lounging, plus fell into bed by 8:45pm CST. The Refreshing Christmas.

And I can now reveal the big Epic Crochet Project of 2012. The project I started in Florida in January. The project I took with me through three states. While moving twice. Drum roll, please.

Those are normal-sized ornaments hanging from those packages to show scale.

Blankets. Seven blankets. The fastest I finished in about a month. I don't know how long the longest took me. I made all seven of my nieces and nephews their own afghans in one year.

I like to crochet, you see, and my favorite thing to make are afghans. Well, I spent years crocheting dozens of afghans for myself and my husband, occasionally a random family member, but it wasn't until I had Abigail that I realized how important kids are. I had barely even gotten my nieces and nephews gifts when they were born, missed most of their birthdays (I was in Florida), and never made them my favorite thing to make. Until 2012. In 2012, I spent 12 months crocheting 7 afghans over 3 states. I actually made almost 9. I was about 1/3 of the way through one afghan when the company discontinued the yarn. I searched through three stores and online, but couldn't find any more of the yarn. So I started over. Another afghan I realized when I finished that it was the smallest of all the blankets for the second oldest kid. I had to start over on that one. So many evenings spent in front of the computer watching a movie while I crocheted after Abigail went to bed. So many late nights sitting under a blanket without air conditioning. So many books I didn't read. But so worth it. So worth it when one boy spread his out on his bed and came back to tell his mom his bed was "so pretty." So worth it when my sick niece wrapped hers around her shoulders, sucking a pacifier and giving the camera her cutest cute face. So worth it when the entire room was "oohing" and "ahhing" as each was opened, one-by-one. Refreshing.

This Christmas was surely The Refreshing Christmas even if Hectic and Stressful made a good run at the title. I don't think I'll fully make any one of my three pre-New Years Resolutions. It was rather fool-hearted of me to even make such lofty resolutions with so little time left. But I made a good run at each of them, mitigating potential damage, I suppose. But Matt and I made more feasible resolutions beginning in January while we were on our date night. Personal, professional, and spiritual resolutions. Resolutions that will carry The Refreshing Christmas into The Refreshing New Year.

23 December 2012

New Years Resolutioning

"Live Your Best Life!" "The Year of Fitness!" "13 Tips to Financial Freedom for 2013!"

Everywhere I look, people are gearing up to make this the Year of the Century. The blogs I read, the articles I read in my Women's Health magazine, the Personal Journal section of the WSJ, the headlines on Livestrong.com, the website I use to track my calories. Hitting my goal weight, eating healthy, getting out of debt, reducing my stress, reading more books, writing my book, maybe starting an Etsy shoppe. It's getting overwhelming. I know, I know, make long and short term goals, take baby steps, take one day at a time. Maybe dedicate each month to a different goal? 28/30/31 Days, 12 times over? I enjoyed the 31 Days, believe you me, and I'm totally going to do it again in 2013 if it happens, but it takes a lot of time and dedication and I don't think I want to/have the endurance to commit to it for a year straight. Also, many of the things I want to do (hit my goal weight, read more, get out of debt) can't happen in just one month. I think I might just take each month at a time, setting small goals as I go. 'Cause nothing is more depressing than setting up a series of baby steps (I'll lose 10 lbs this month, 10 lbs next month, and 10 lbs the 3rd month!) then looking at the scale in the 2nd month and realizing you're still 5 lbs off and you'll never make your 3rd-month goal.

All this stems from three things that occurred this weekend:
1. I am a measly 3 lbs shy of seeing a new number in the 10s place on the scale, a number I haven't seen since August of 2010, but with eight days to go until 2013 and four holiday parties, it'll take all my will power just to maintain this weight, let alone lose those 3 sticking pounds.
2. Matt was reading aloud bunch of stories in the WSJ about people who overcame boat loads of debt, all Dave Ramsey style (although his name wasn't mentioned in the article), and I realized that we definitely took a step back in the frugal living department this Christmas. We made a budget for the holidays, but I went over-budget on Matt and Abigail, I bought a few new Christmas decorations for which we didn't budget, and I over-spent the food budget. All this means we'll be making a smaller loan payment in January, which means it'll take us that much longer to get rid of the debt. All because I really wanted to get "one more thing" we didn't really need.
3. When we moved to Chicago, I started making a pile of the books I finished, and even counting library books, the stack was much smaller than I wanted. Thanks to the Epic Crochet Project of 2012, I spent a lot more evenings crocheting this year instead of reading. Books I bought and received as gifts started piling up, and I am now ashamed to admit that I have more unread books on my book shelf than I ever have before. Thinking about starting an Etsy shoppe makes me realize that this year won't be unusual, and even if I do trade Etsy for designing, I still won't have time to read.

So I kinda feel like a failure. A failure who eats way to many Christmas cookies the weekend before Christmas.

But this evening, as I was starting to feel myself crash, I decided to work out - a good 45 minute sweat session that made me feel pretty good about myself (good thing Abigail fell asleep early tonight). I think it really stemmed the tide of depression that was about to ensue.

In the midst of all this New Years Resolutioning, I read an article that recommended that people start their resolutions in December, so then when January 1st hits, you're running on a tide of momentum and are more likely to avoid the February crash. So maybe I need to make some pre-New Years Resolutions. Some tiny, 8-day baby steps:
1. I will work out and be conscious of my calories during these next 8 days. My goal: look at the scale on January 1st and see what I saw yesterday.
2. I will use all my Christmas money to help payback the money I spent going over budget.
3. I will read one (short) book. Add one more to the finished pile before the turn of the New Year.

It is crazy how much action overcomes the depression of inaction. Lately I've be realizing how frustrating it is to stare inaction in the face time and time again, feeling awful for failing to follow through on action.

How do you, dear, patient readers, keep motivated when you find yourself back at square one after you've put so much effort into moving forward? I need your words of support.

20 December 2012

Happy Friday Eve

"There is nothing so precious as my little girl pulling up to stand against my leg saying, 'Mama.'

And not one hour after I made that my Facebook status, that same little girl starting banging her head against the ground and crying. Because she was about 4 hours overdue for a nap she was refusing to take. I tried and I tried to rock her down for a nap. But she refused to go. I hate the cry it out method for all the reasons Dr. Sears hates it, but the bottom line is that leaving Abigail sitting in her crib sobbing hysterically into an empty room, exhausted and wishing someone would just come and hold her doesn't work for our family. That isn't how I would want to be treated if I was her. So I put my priorities in order (ie, kid first, blogging second), strapped her to my back or held her and slow danced to Bing Crosby Christmas songs, or made stuffed animals do jazz hands as they bounced on her toes. She was still tired, she still got mad easily, but she stopped headbanging and started smiling more. (Update, after 6 hours, she finally fell asleep tear-free. And I squeezed in a snack beforehand, so let's hope the nap is a long one).

When I push through the temptation to just deposit her in her crib and running screaming to pair of headphones and last week's episode of New Girl, take a deep breath to calm the rising tide of anger over her irrational crying, and garner every last ounce of self-discipline to keep from yelling back, when it's all over and she's asleep, I'm so thankful I did. It's really damn hard and I rarely succeed, but when I do, it brings about an immense sense of peace in my heart.

The best out-of-context line from a Christmas song has got to be "If you haven't got a friendly cat, may God bless you." I mean, seriously.

This general geographic region is expecting a blizzard, but while Chicago is expected to catch just the fringes, Abigail and I had fun today finding flashlights, filling up water bottles, and pretending that we're going to be snowed in tonight. I even made Matt promise to ask work what the protocol is when there is a snow day. The decorations are hung, the presents purchased and wrapped, the Christmas cards mailed (just this morning. I'm so on top of things ; ), and the cookies handed out. The most excited person to get cookies was actually the-man-I'll-call-Vladimir-the-maintenace-man. He's a hard person to get to know, but he has an amazing work ethic. His grin and cheerful, "Merry Christmas to your family too" made all the hours in the kitchen worth it.

Sometimes Abigail is so not content to play with her own toys, or play with me with her own toys, so we have to get inventive in finding ways to keep ourselves entertained. We have impromptu dance parties to the Trans-Siberian orchestra where I teach Chica how to play the electric air guitar (air electric guitar?)

And try hats on

And try to find ways to show off Abigail's flexibility.

It shouldn't be possible, I know, but it is. And it's so freaky-in-a-cool-way.

But sometimes she does still enjoy some good independent play, usually in the mornings. I find unicorns all over the apartment and I know that I have a girl.

Abigail's hair is getting so much longer and looks so cute in a pony tail now

I, on the other hand, need a hair cut.

Tonight is Friday Eve and I'm hoping to spend it relaxing with my family and watching the snow fall in a wonderful ambiance. It's a lot of fun creating my own holiday traditions, but sometimes I feel a lot of pressure to create perfect ones. Then I take a deep breath and remind myself to stop freaking out. I don't want her memories to be that holidays are stressful.

I totally stole this Christmas-present-wrapping idea from Kelle Hampton. She's my idol.

I'm slowly but surely learning that making it to the other side of the tough days are sometimes better than cruising through the best days. The days when you have to dig down really deep and do something better, different, more, creative-er than you've ever done it before - days when you have to grow - are the days that make you a better person.

Happy Friday Eve, everyone, and Merry almost Christmas.

18 December 2012

Playing Tourists, Part II

You'll have to forgive my late post this week. Yesterday I had the worst migraine of my life - blinding pain, shaking, nausea, dizziness. I had to call Matt to come home early from work. Today I still have a lingering headache, so he's staying home this morning to be sure it doesn't explode into a migraine again. I think I tweaked something doing yoga yesterday because I've got serious shoulder and neck pain as well. Not just sore-cause-I-worked-out, but shooting pains when I lift my shoulders too high. That's what I get for not waiting until Abigail was asleep and letting her crawl underneath me and pull up on me while I'm doing downward dog.

Anyway, I spent all of Saturday wrapping the remaining presents (I finished the Epic Crochet Project of 2012) and baking dozens and dozens of cookies to give away and eat at Christmas (my freezer is so full I can barely close it). It felt really good to get everything done, so Matt and I enjoyed Sunday off by going downtown to check out some Christmas sights.

A few weeks ago while we were going for a walk, Abigail took off her hat and threw it and I missed it. I went looking for the hat the next day, but it was gone. We popped into Old Navy while we were out the other day and picked up another hat on clearance, but I think the longest it stayed on her head was about 8 seconds, only 3 seconds longer than the hood stayed on. I am going to sew ribbons to the hat so that it can be tied under her chin and hopefully stay on a bit longer. Anyway, that's why Abigail is not wearing anything on her head in any of these pictures. While we were out, we swung by the building where Matt works.

He works on the 20th floor of the Civic Opera Building, a very historic building with tons of offices above the theater that had a live performance going on that evening. "15 minutes til the curtain goes up! 15 minutes til show time!" A sharply dressed man called while opening taxis for women in sparkling skirts. We meandered through the crowds, checked in with security, and wound our way up to the office. Matt's corner office:

The view from two of his windows. The tall building disappearing into the clouds on the left is the  Willis Sears Tower. From the office kitchen, you can see where the river (running N to the left and E to the right) meets the infamous shipping canal (the part pointing toward the window).

After we toured where daddy works, we went to an outdoor Christmas market that takes over the Daley Plaza every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's a German/Polish traditional festival and the old-fashioned wooden booths sell hand-carved wood nativities, hand-blown glass ornaments, and hand-made beer steins, all imported from abroad and half the shopkeepers speaking broken English at best.

We meandered around downtown, taking in the sights

Until we ended up at Macy's, which seemed like a traditional place to go for the holidays. Eight escalators later, we found ourselves staring at several-story-tall Christmas tree

And then back down to the ground floor where we browsed $100 perfumes under a mosaic tile ceiling:

When Abigail fell asleep, Matt and I grabbed a bite, sitting at the counter at the window. It almost felt like we were on a date.

Now, you may be wondering to yourself how I ended up with this fancy new backpack style carrier after my professed love of slings. Well, I think I have become obsessed with finding the perfect child carrier and shall never cease in my willingness to give a new one a try. A friend recommended to me an Ergo baby carrier with the note that her child, who is about the same weight as mine, can be worn even while unloading the dishwasher without causing back pain. I can't lean over with the sling (she'd fall out) or cook (she can reach whatever I'm doing). I was also attracted to the on-the-back style of carry. My sling, which is great for jaunts through stores or when I need the ability to take her on and off quickly (while trying on clothes, at restaurants, etc), is not very good when it comes to going for walks (when I don't use the stroller) and sight-seeing downtown. Abigail's low muscle tone means that she doesn't like to use her abs when I carry her and long-term standing carries mean neck and back strain. The Ergo was perfect for our downtown trip. Abigail is seated such that she primarily leans backward when she's not using her abs and her weight completely disappears on my back. I feel like I'm carrying a nearly empty backpack. Plus it comes with a little hood that can be snapped to the shoulder straps to hold Abigail's head up when she falls asleep. BRILLIANT. When she went down, the hood went up, and I got two free hands with which to eat dinner. I think the Ergo and the sling compliment one another very nicely. Where the Ergo lacks (takes longer to put on, can't access Abigail as easily in the back carry), I can use the sling. Where the sling lacks (as described above), I can use the Ergo. Thanks, Mrs. S!

And then there is Little Miss whose diet has grown increasingly narrower since we last spoke.

She removed lentils with veggies and oatmeal from her diet. She's down to bananas, grilled cheese, fruit and grain bars, fruit snacks, and cookies. It's bad. She also completely refused the chicken nugget, preferring to go hungry instead of eat it. There were tears, head bangings, accusatory stares. I rescheduled all of Abigail's appointments (the ones we has to cancel when we came home early from Thanksgiving) to the middle of next month, so I'll ask the pediatrician about it. I spoke to enough moms since my last post to know that Abigail is acting pretty normal. I just want to be sure she's not in danger of becoming mal-nurished.

It's a good thing God makes them so cute!

13 December 2012


Abigail has really been exploding with new accomplishments. She also started signing "more" and "kitty" when she hears us saying them. I took a video of her showing off her mad skills (she primarily signs "more" with her thumbs, but she's been doing a proper "more" with her fingers more often lately):

Tuesday was craft table fun time. Abigail and I decided to get serious about creating a place for me to craft.

My previous arrangement (which is the same one I've had since...ever), was a bunch of yarn, felt, and  painting/stamps shoved in a closet and sewing, needlepoint/embroidery, and paper crafts stuffed in an overly-full foot locker trunk. My sewing machine was on the top shelf of the closet in its box. In order to use it, I'd have to get the step ladder, take my sewing machine down, take it out of the box, set it up, make my project, pack the sewing machine back up, and put it back in the closet. When I want to craft something, I take over the kitchen table for an afternoon, so I would have to finish the project by dinnertime or it would go back in the closet for so long that I lost interest or forgot where I was by the time I could pull it out again. The start up/take down costs to crafting were outrageous.

But we scored a good-size crafting table for $20 at Ikea (the chair was an additional $15) and everything comes apart very easily when we move again. (In 7 months!) I have a decorative shelf that has long been sitting rather empty since Abigail can reach the bottom three shelves. I moved out what few items sat on it and added some crafting supplies. Abigail doesn't (yet) pull baskets off a shelf to get inside them, so I'm good for a little while longer.

Before and After:

I know it doesn't look like much, but I'm in heaven! I still have the yarn in the closet, but now it fits much better and I opened up a few shelves. I also still keep the paper crafts and fabric in the trunk, but I pulled out my embroidery trunk (on the bottom left shelf with the gold trim), so everything fits with a little space to spare. It is a bit daunting, though. All those crafts just staring at me, taunting me to be more productive. Matt noted that I shouldn't succumb to their bullying, as crafts were made for Jacqueline, not Jacqueline for crafts.

I find myself bringing my laptop over to the workspace during the day, though, gravitating toward the pull of my own creative place. We share a lot of the desk items (pencil holder, external hard drive, printer), so it wouldn't be very practical to have two desks right now (plus I'd have to move everything in order to sew). Anyway, while I still dream of one day having my fabric and yarn all in one place with my design books and computer to create a creative dream space, this recent improvement is more than enough to send my spirits to cloud nine.

While I was going through things, I found a few needlepoint crafts that I finished years ago, just sitting there waiting for frames.

Anyway, Abigail did think it was a lot of fun to reorganize, putting my yarn in and taking it out of the baskets over and over and rolling empty ribbon spools around the living room.

I would now like to put my picture-taking skills to shame by showing you some by a professional. Matt's brother brought his camera long to the Matt's swearing in and gave me permission to post the photos on my blog.

So I'd like to be totally selfish and vain here for a minute and be excited about how I look in these photos because I've been loosing weight! I'm not where I want to be yet, but I'm excited to look down and not see as much chub.

I officially hit my pre-pregnancy weight right before Thanksgiving (and I managed not to gain a single pound over the feasting holiday), so now I'm trying to loose the extra weight I had before I got pregnant. I'm about half-way there. Weight for me has always been a struggle and I'd really like to get to my goal weight and learn how to maintain it.

This is a photo of me earlier this year, or, about 20 pounds ago.

Forgive the costumes, we were on our way to a sock hop.

30 pounds down, 30 pounds to go. My goal is to get there by Abigail's 2nd birthday.

I'm thankful for an open next couple of days where I should be able to get lots of things done without feeling overwhelmed or sacrificing family time. I need to finish my epic crochet project and buying Christmas presents, wrap said presents, go grocery shopping, bake about 12 dozen cookies to give away to co-workers, therapists, and neighbors as gifts, finish designing the Christmas cards so that we can mail them out before January, and reschedule all those doctors' appointments we canceled when Abigail got sick. In addition to the daily making of dinner, sweeping of floors, cleaning of litter plans, physical therapy, and, of course, exercising and eating healthy to loose more weight. I'll also reserve a couple of hours to work on any design projects that come my way and do some writing for a book I'm working on ; )

Merry Almost Christmas, my friends!

10 December 2012

Remembering the Good

Sometimes just when I'm burying myself under a mountain self-pity over my hard knock life, I stumbled across the blog of someone who has it much, much worse. Someone whose job as a mother is to keep her child comfortable while she waits for his short life to end. And as I read through the bad-day posts of depression and bitterness and the good-day posts of love and joy, I realize that I have it good. So very good. Even on hard days, days when I worry that we'll have to deal with heart surgery and the big C before Kindergarten or days when people won't acknowledge my child, I can rest assured that I am not holding any member of my family in my arms and wondering if today will be their last day. I haven't had a serious concern over Abigail drawing another breath since heart surgery 15 months ago. The blogs re-calibrated my whole weekend. They made me forget the rain and the arguments and the frustrating Christmas lights and focus on all the things that went right.

For an entire week now, Matt and I have stayed strong against the snooze button when the alarm goes off at 6:30am. We've had leisurely mornings with enough time to shower, dress, eat, and even kiss one another good morning. Matt insightfully noted that you can't have a lazy morning when you sleep in. Sleeping in leads to congestion later in the morning when there isn't enough time to make coffee or put breakfast bowls in the dishwasher. Getting up on time, however, even on the weekends, can go so far as to secure a few moments of alone time in the morning before small children wake up and demand to be fed.

The weekend brought a very luxurious and enjoyable trip to Ikea that is best described as the field trips one takes when they are of school age. I always thought Ikea had poor quality, uber modern furniture and was of no interest to a person like me until we got their 2013 catalog in the mail this fall. It only took one perusal of that catalog before I was hooked. Matt and I decided to get Abigail a tot-sized table and chair for Christmas, didn't see anything we liked on Craig's List, and so decided to make a trip of it.

We spent hours wandering through bedroom models, sitting at desks, testing the hearty-ness of shelves, marveling over $5 2-pack magazine holders and $4 kids' play dishware. We talked about the furniture arrangements and curtains we'd like to have once we get settled at our long-term home in Lansing. I let Abigail test out every play kitchen we came across (most were too tall for her, though) and play under bed canopies. When we got hungry, we made our way to the cafeteria where we piled food on big white trays and received coupons to deduct our food purchase from our total furniture purchase (a weekend sale thing). We're going to keep Abigail's present in the box until she goes to bed on December 24th, then we'll build it, tie a ribbon on it, and let her discover it on Christmas morning. But it turns out that Ikea is one of those places where you go to buy one thing and walk out with a dozen. Cue my new craft table:

I HAVE A WORKSPACE! I'm very excited. I've been crafting for 18 years, but have never had a permanent place to do it. There isn't much storage, so my stash of yarn will remain in its current closet-shelving system, but I think it's a really good place to start. I envision keeping my sewing machine on it and it's big enough that I'll be able to make hair clippies and Christmas decorations and paper crafts on it instead of the kitchen table, so I won't have to clean everything up and put it all away before dinner (cause, as all you crafty-types can attest, projects don't always fit neatly into one afternoon). It was very inexpensive and came in boxes so small they fit in the trunk of our Focus.

We also bought Abigail some small play cups. Her occupational therapist recommended that we get cups small enough to fit in Abigail's hands and her speech therapist recommended that we get toys that encourage imaginative play for Christmas.

Although she's still a bit young to play tea party, she does really love having things in her size. All evening long, she scooted around the apartment, carrying the cups around to small corners and spaces, where she piled them all together, stacking and unstacking repeatedly.

The next day she was feeling pretty silly and was carrying the stemware around like this:

While I was out getting some alone time on Sunday (which consisted of going to confession and giving blood at a church blood draw following confession), Matt reported that Abigail woke up from her nap, looked at him in the eyes, and said, clear as a bell, "Mama?" He told her I was out. "Dada?" When Abigail started experimenting with the letter "m," she used to just scoot around the apartment saying "mumumumumumumum" to herself. As time went on, the speech therapist made me realize that she'd progressed to only saying the letter "m" around me. She also wasn't using the letter "d" around me as much as she did around Matt. The ST advised that Abigail was slowly beginning to make word approximations. I think yesterday was the climax. She has also been paying tons of attention to our hands when we use sign language, finally seems to know the difference between "eat" and "more" (she used to use "more" to mean "eat"), and is making a much more clear and accurate "more." Abigail is very chatty and her speech therapist notes every time we see her that Abigail has a very strong social/emotional intelligence. She told us that kids who aren't as physical spend more time focusing on people and making verbal communications, so the calm, quiet ones are usually more in-tune to their parents whereas the rambunctious ones tend to be more delayed in the speech department. I'd also like to throw in that she's also a girl. That de-facto makes her a talker.

In the physical therapy department, I started doing baby yoga with her and working her out while letting her watch an episode of Blues Clues (it is amazing how much longer she'll hold a squat or a tall kneel while distracted). The extra work is really paying off as she is making much more progress toward using her core muscles to move herself. She is also much stronger when standing and starting to take halting steps when we hold both her hands.

It is amazing that we can sometimes go for weeks with very little progress and then suddenly, she starts whizzing through every department's checklists all at once. Another thing, she's starting to stack blocks on top of one another and using her fingers to point to things instead of her thumbs.

This weekend also involved Christmas decorations:

 Our meager supplies filling the space nicely. Remember these from last year?

I totally stole this idea from Pintrest:

Today the temps dipped back down into the 20s and 30s and I can honestly say that it's finally beginning to feel like Christmas, the Christmas we remember growing up, after several years of Christmas in shorts will palm trees.

So I promised some good news in my last blog post and here it is: We had renter's insurance when my apartment building was robbed in August!


If you'll recall, I let my renter's insurance expire in December 2011 to save money, thinking since we didn't use it in hurricane-prone Florida, we probably weren't going to need it in the mid-west. The day after we were robbed, I re-purchased renter's insurance. Well, we got a piece of mail from the insurance company two weeks ago, but it was mailed to my old address in Florida and forwarded up here. I was pretty frustrated that the wrong address was on the mail, so I called up the company only to find out that the policy I thought expired had automatically renewed. When I called to buy a new policy a few months ago, I had bought a second, separate policy. She said the previous policy was automatically renewed, paid via an EFT. I racked my brain, talked to Matt, and searched through our account records, but I can't find evidenced that it was ever paid. Plus, Matt and I despise EFTs and never sign up for them unless it is mandatory. I made her double check, but she says they say they were paid, so I won't argue. She was able to cancel the one policy and refund us our money, so we aren't paying for two renter's insurance policies.

Even though the policy listed our Florida address, it will cover goods stored in a storage unit anywhere in the country, so the bikes and everything that was taken is covered! We do have a $500 deductible, so we won't get the full amount back, but getting something back is better than nothing. We're pretty excited. This robbery cost us as much as two years worth of the policy costs, but having experienced how easily and secretly a robbery can be executed and now understanding how devastating it would be to lose the belongings we keep in our apartment, it is totally worth it to own. If our two laptops were stolen, the cost of them plus their more expensive software would be more than 7 years worth of policies.

I'd like to leave you with this one last image. The little panda bear is a speaker. He is blaring Christmas music. The white cat is sleeping next to the panda bear blaring Christmas music. Just in case you didn't believe me that she is deaf.