Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Something about Pumpkins

Why do people with small children decide that it's a good idea to drive into the country once a year to look at and choose various pumpkins, all the while snapping photos? It's a ritual that I never thought much about until this year. Are kids just that cute when photographed with an orange and green backdrop? Are we comparing their size and growth to that of pumpkins? I really don't know what the appeal is, but I feel it. That's all I know. It's fall? Gotta get to a pumpkin patch! Take some pictures! Weird. Last year, it was particularly strange since she wasn't walking yet. We would just plop her down next to a pumpkin and snap away! Even here it looks like she's wondering what is the big deal about this pumpkin?

Anyway, here are a few of my favorite pictures from this year's unexplained outing.

Here's Sophia keeping an eye on the McCoy chickens. She doesn't trust them.

She loved this tiny cabin, but for some reason she's into pretending she's sad. When you ask what's wrong, she says, "Nothing's wrong, Mommy" and laughs.

Just the cutest little face. Even cuter next to orange, right?

She tried her best to pull this wagon, but eventually she admitted that "it was too strong."

Here she's thinking, "I wonder if Mommy knows they sell pumpkins at Wal-Mart?

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Birthday Weekend

First thing on Sophia's big day, we let her open her presents from us - one of which was a pirate outfit.

After playing with those for a while, we drove out to McCoy's Pumpkin Patch so we could pick out a few carving pumpkins and some decorative pumpkins. Sophia really enjoyed running around on a beautiful fall morning choosing pumpkins and enjoying the sights.

I should have known that she wasn't feeling well because she really didn't want to have much to do with her birthday. She wouldn't let us sing Happy Birthday to her (and we're not THAT bad) and she kept saying that she was all done with her birthday. So I shouldn't have been surprised when she woke up from a very short nap with a fever and a severe lack of energy.

So the Pirate Party that I had planned for the evening was significantly downsized since our friends with babies wisely chose not to come. By the time the party started, Sophia was feeling much better and had a great time. I felt sorry for Sophia since she didn't get to see all of her friends on her birthday, but with a sick and somewhat touchy toddler, it probably turned out better for everyone.

Sunday was spent relaxing and cooking for the week. My parents stopped by for the afternoon to celebrate the birthday. Here she is reading their card.

Sophia ended up having a great birthday weekend, I think. Part of me can't believe that she's two, but she has acted two for so long in so many ways that it's really just a technical change.

Here's to another year of fun and changes for our two-year-old!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Happy Two, You!

My Dear Big Girl,

You are one of my very favorite people. I even think your own company rivals my own!

Your sense of humor (and knowledge of when to use it) astounds me. Your perceptions of people are impressive. Of course you get these traits from me, along with being a bad morning person. Your dad offers drama and intelligence in spades (that means in excess.) That, my dear, makes you a very dangerous 2-year-old.

I love to watch you with others. You are starting to be more aware of yourself and that makes you the tiniest bit more shy. However, given the slightest encouragement, that shell comes peeling off, revealing a heart just bursting with love. I love what you do for our little family. I also love to see you thrive under our care. I am so proud of your successes and failures. Even as a toddler, you're becoming aware of your mistakes. I'm so grateful that you seem willing to accept yourself in spite of these and willing to make things right with others that you hurt. We'll both make mistakes during these next 16 years, but I'm so happy to be entrusted with your care.

Have a happy day, Sophia, learning to be independent. Needing to be dependent. Brightening our lives and broadening our worlds. We'll try to help you along the way, and we'll be willing to accept your help when it comes too.


Friday, September 26, 2008

The Second Year

Here is Sophia's second year in photographs. Have I mentioned that I love this kid? She definitely keeps me entertained yearround. Enjoy.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Baby Sophia

Up to her first birthday. I'll post another one tomorrow, I hope.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Another Video

This time, my video post is not meant as a distraction. I just got it yesterday and had to share it.

Sophia occasionally watches a show called Little Bill on Nick Jr. In one episode, Little Bill learns to tie his shoes. His dad teaches him by teaching him a rhyme. Sophia has said that rhyme ever since. This time I caught it on camera.

One little loop
What do you do?
Wrap the lace around and pull it through.
Now you've made a bow (only she says bone, which is my favorite part)
And you've tied your shoe!

She does this when tying anything into a bow. Well, when pretending to tie anything. I just love to watch her do stuff like this. I hope you enjoy it too.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

She comes by it naturally

Here's my favorite self portrait. I waste way too much time playing with my camera (and posting the pictures to my blog), but it makes me happy.

The self portrait function is one of my favorite things about our iMac as well. It has Photo Booth, which has recorded several very good memories. It's also a lot of fun for someone who thinks they're creative and doesn't mind taking her own picture. Here's one I got from our computer cam with effects.


I'm still in the phase of the diet where it's pretty much all I think about. It takes a lot of preparation and willpower, so apparently, my mind doesn't have room for thinking of interesting (even in my opinion) things to talk about.

So, here's Sophia. My camera's viewfinder flips around. I have mentioned how I love to take self-portraits, and that feature makes it the ideal self-shot. Apparently, I'm not the only one who likes to see myself on camera.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I have a rumbly in my tumbly

As my good friend, Winnie the Pooh, would say, "I have a rumbly in my tumbly." Unfortunately for me, a jar of honey is completely out of the question. Last Wednesday, Erick and I started a diet to end all diets. Well, not really that drastic, but hopefully it will give us habits to eliminate our need for future diets.

This diet is the Six-Week Body Makeover. The diet itself focuses on boosting metabolism by prescribing three meals and three snacks, balanced with protein, carb and fruit, depending on your body type. It seems to be a healthy way to lose weight, if there is such a thing. It's certainly healthier than the way we were gaining weight.

The first couple of days were rough, to say the least. I was just a little on the grumpy side. I guess losing out on my normal comfort foods was taking it out on me. Spending the day in the kitchen preparing less than appetizing meals didn't help any either. Things have thankfully turned around in the last couple of days. I have found a few recipes and ways to make our food tastier, and I think my body is already adjusting to the new habits. Mind you, at this moment, it feels like my stomach has turned inward to eat itself, but still. . . the hunger is always worst just before bed. Just a reason to go to sleep earlier.

Anyway, I just wanted to share the reason that I can't focus. I have never thought so much about food in my life. So that's definitely a downside. The best way I have been able to describe my reason for this diet is that I need to turn the tide for my body before it becomes even more difficult than it will be through October. I've reached the age where I can't eat whatever I want without gaining an ounce. Yet, I still seem to insist on exercising that freedom. I have tried here and there to cut out the bad things, insert the good things and eat at home more, but I just can't seem to find the willpower. So, here we are wrapping up Day 5 of the diet and I don't feel like giving up any time soon.

I'm filling you in so I can continue to update you on my moods, cravings and increasing hotness.

She can open doors

I figured out that Sophia can open doors the other day. The first time she brought me a snack from the pantry to open, I thought I had just left the door cracked. The second time she came around the corner with a giant pretzel container, I realized it was her doing. Sure enough, She can twist and pull. Caught her red-handed.

We had to put on the child proof door handle on the pantry door. She knows which doors are important. When Sophia gets into trouble, she gets some time alone, usually in our bedroom. The door opening became an issue there, too. She wouldn't come out all the way. She'd just open our door and look at me. When I asked if she was ready to be nice, I got a "Not yet, Mommy," and a closed door. She did that several times before she decided she was ready to be nice. We'd probably be the only people with a child proof inside bedroom door handle. Hopefully it doesn't come to that.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day! Aaarrrrrg.

Avast, ye Maties! Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day! From Cap'n Billy, here are the

Top 10 reasons to raise your children as pirates

(10) Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him to be a pirate, and he’ll steal other people’s fish for a lifetime.

(9) Divvying up booty is good quality time with the kids.

(8) When other parents hear you’re raising your children as pirates, they’ll stop asking you to volunteer at school.

(7) It’s fun to watch the emergency room doctor’s reaction when you say your son was injured during “a little mishap boarding a merchant vessel that refused to surrender.”

(6) You’ve always preferred the title “Captain” to “Mommy” or “Daddy.”

(5) You can spend your kids’ college savings on more important things, like a trip to Las Vegas.

(4) Your children already smell like pirates, so the transition will be easy.

(3) The family that plunders together, stays together!

(2) Replacing “family movie night” with “family terrorizing the neighbors with cannons night” is a wonderful change of pace.

(1) Cap’n Billy wants you to do it—and the last person who didn’t do what Cap’n Billy asked was set adrift in a rowboat with only a day’s supply of water.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Here we are now; Entertain us!

My final blog about our trip to the Big Easy will be pretty broad in scope. I'm going to describe to you what entertained us on this quick trip.

This time around, we decided to really make efforts to take in whatever live music we could find. In the past, we have focused on sight seeing or eating or what not. Music was our focus this time. At least that's how we started out. What we forgot to factor in is the sheer entertainment factor inherent in a city that is filled with drunk people, miscreants and people like us. We understand that we're entertaining, too.

The music focus served us very well on the first night. In our previous visits to the French Quarter, we have managed to miss out on the world renowned entertainment hosted at Preservation Hall. Preservation Hall is incredibly diminutive from the outside.

I always assumed it was deceiving and housed a roomy, acoustic stage and hall. I was wrong. It was even tinier than I could have imagined on the inside. There was barely room on stage for the instruments. The hall consists of four wooden benches and a few floor pillows. As we walked in, we were welcomed by a friendly cat. "Intimate" would be a great way to describe Preservation Hall.

Many acts have played there, but the venue is home only to one - the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. On Friday night, we arrived in time to get seats for the first set at 8:15 and we stayed until about 10:00. The cost was only $10 per person for all three sets (they played till 11:00). The Jazz Band was outstanding. It was made up of a handful of old timers on sax, clarinet, piano and drums, and one young (comparatively) trumpet player.

They were really a pleasure to listen to. They clearly had a great rapport, and they were open about not rehearsing together, which made their performance all the more entertaining. I can guarantee that we won't miss another opportunity to take in such great jazz.

We finished that night by walking down Bourbon Street and observing the usual debauchery and foolishness. Nothing too interesting to report that evening. We were actually quite disappointed at the lack of crowd, when comparing it to our previous visits. We hadn't been since Katrina, and the city has yet to fully recover, even in the touristy areas.

Our final day was entertaining from start to finish. I mentioned the banter at Clover Grill, which started our day. For the rest of the day, we were just pleased to see a more busy and bustling city full of interesting people carrying on interesting conversations.

In the evening, we headed onto Bourbon Street and enjoyed some great live music at some random Blues Bar, which we can't seem to recall the name of (no indication of our state of mind). Talk about great people-watching. This place was great. The house band was actually great quality. Things got more interesting when they brought out their guest performers. Dr. Blues was a little cheesy.

He was haled with a smattering of indifference (a phrase I stole from David Letterman years ago) upon his exit.

He was followed up with a great performer. The Soul Man or some such.

He knew how to get people on their feet. You can imagine the sights and sounds of a group of intoxicated individuals keeping beat with one another on a small dance floor. Good times.

Our final stop for the evening was Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop. It's another favorite of ours. It has a terrific history and even better atmosphere. The bar is lit almost exclusively by candlelight and has the feel of an authentic 18th century pirate pub. If only the walls could talk. I'd probably have to plug my ears. This was the most entertaining spot of the night. Complete with a crowd of tipsy bridesmaids & bachelorette, who fortunately weren't inappropriate - just inebriated; an angry drunk yelling profanities about politics and religion at his clearly more relaxed, yet uncomfortable, friends. And finally with a visit with the "world famous Windex Pete." He's the one toasting us from across the street, and his bike is the one chained to the most photographed street sign ever. Bourbon.

He said he was a tour guide and Renaissance Man. He had plenty of stories of the famous people he had run into at Lafitte's and around the city. The entire time he chatted with us, clearly after a little generosity of spirit, he kept his eye on his "classic" bike, saying, "You watch that bike, now." Then he told us how it had been stolen just after Katrina, and he ended up running into the fellow later, who easily returned it. Pete is what makes New Orleans what it is. We didn't feel unsafe with Pete. On the contrary, he was more likely to keep us safe and give us a few helpful hints to guide us safely through our night. I'd love to have more time with Pete one day, I'm just not sure we could afford it! On our next trip, I'd be happy to run into the Windex Man and get the next version of his interesting history.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Our Big Easy Menu

In the past, we have tried a few different approaches to eating in New Orleans. We have made reservations at some great places, laid down the cash and enjoyed a European-style lengthy meal. This time, we decided to put our use of time above the culinary star level. We were very pleased, when all was said and done, with our choices. We got to experience more styles of food this way, and we had more room to enjoy the beverages so readily available in the French Quarter.

I didn't take any pictures of the food or drinks. We just ate and drank. So I may throw in a few random shots just for a little variety.

After checking into our hotel, we realized that we hadn't eaten all day. So we headed to the Gumbo Shop, and enjoyed - what else - gumbo. Delicious, hot, steamy gumbo. Our daquiris were a pleasant addition to the meal.

Afterwards, we wasted no time before tracking down our favorite beverage. The River's Edge, right off of Jackson Square, makes an excellent drink called the River's Edge Punch. Just saying it makes my mouth water. Now, Erick makes a mean rendition of this favorite, but as you can imagine, it tastes even better when drinking it while watching street performers and interesting characters pass by. You can imagine our crushing disappointment when the drink was no longer on the drink menu. Fortunately, the bartender knew just how to concoct this little bit of heaven. We would see Rudy the bartender several more times before the weekend was through. Here is Erick enjoying the River's Edge - from my cup too!

He was "holding" my drink so I could snap this shot of the gutter next to the St. Louis Cathedral.

Planners be ware: the following could irritate you just to read. All of our meals were enjoyed at the very last minute when we realized we were hungry. We wandered around the French Quarter until we found something that met our time, money and taste bud requirements. We checked out Bubba Gump's on the first night. We wouldn't normally eat at a chain on a trip like this, but knowing that the shrimp was fresh helped us make our decision. It was actually a great atmosphere and even better food. We didn't forget that we were in New Orleans, so that's all we needed.

Our unplanned meals took us back to the Gumbo Shop on Saturday, then to the Crescent City Brewhouse for dinner. Again, fantastic luck. Erick and I shared the Brie Platter and a burger. The Brie platter, with roasted garlic and apple chutney, was just perfect. The burger really hit the spot, particularly when enjoyed with their own freshly brewed beer.

A trip to New Orleans would not be complete without a trip to Cafe Dumonde for beignets and milk, since we don't enjoy chicory in our coffee. Just happens to be across the street from the River's Edge, I might add. Oh, and also across from carriage mules like this one.

We only had one breakfast during our visit. We knew exactly where we would go. On our last trip to NOLA, with Paul and Risha, we discovered the Clover Grill. This is just a couple blocks from our hotel, and serves a real southern breakfast, perfect for anyone who needs a full plate of grease after a rough night. Since we weren't in such a situation, we just enjoyed biscuits & gravy and sausage. Of course, the coffee was perfect. It was fantastic. It's really just a pleasure to watch the cook and server interact and banter with the regulars and the first time customers. I love little diners like that. The camaraderie is almost tangible. I don't know if its the tight quarters or shared love of a big breakfast. Regardless, it's a good time.

I think that covers the highlights of our culinary adventures. Snacks and beverages were smattered throughout. Now, on to a diet. Don't ask. Just wish us luck.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Falling in Love Again

Over six years ago, Erick and I made the trip to New Orleans in our 95 Dodge Neon for our honeymoon. It was an experience that we can never and would never want to forget. Full of ups and scattered with downs that we didn't mind, it was the trip of a lifetime. Not only was that trip the greatest opportunity we had to fall more deeply in love, it turned out to be the opportunity to fall in love with a city.

This was our third trip to the Big Easy, and we fell in love all over again. For us, New Orleans embodies freedom, romance and community. Our goal for the weekend was to rest, relax and enjoy each other's company. We jumped into this goal with both feet. We enjoyed great food, fantastic live music and people-watching to soothe the soul. It was really the best trip that we could have hoped for.

As you all know, I had been experiencing a certain amount of dread as it related to leaving my sweet girl for the weekend. Turns out, she didn't share my concern. Each time we checked on her, she seemed to be as well-adjusted and happy as the moment we left. I was certainly relieved. It even added to my enjoyment. I had a better time than I had expected to, since I thought I'd be worried about Sophia. Of course, as Mommy, there's a smidge of disappointment that she didn't pine for my comfort or kisses or special way of doing things. It's a disappointment I can quickly get over. I'm just saying.

Here is our room. The same one we stayed in during our May 2005 visit with Paul & Risha (although P&R had their own room.)

In subsequent posts, I plan to share with you some specifics of our trip. We ate some fantastic food, and enjoyed some heavenly beverages. Then, we also took in some of the best live music, or at least most entertaining people that New Orleans had to offer.

I can honestly say, each time we go to New Orleans, we enjoy it more than we did the last. Not sure when we'll get back there again, but if I can talk any of you into going some time, that would do me some good. I can live vicariously.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Tiger Spirit

Even though we're absent for today's game, I am going to perpetuate the Tiger Spirit by posting this brief but inspirational bit of fierceness. Go Tigers!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sweet Sophia

As full of teenage angst and stinkerness as Sophia was last week, she has been that or more filled with sweetness and silliness this week. I'm not sure if that makes it easier or harder to leave tomorrow. I'm certainly glad for all that will be around her this weekend.

This morning, I told her our plan for the weekend. She responded, "Sounds like fun!" I know that she has no clue what two nights means, but I'm sure she'll have a grand time being passed around among the people she loves the most. When I told her that when she wakes up tomorrow, Casey will come get her, she said, "I love to hold him." So, while we need to work on gender pronouns, her sweetness is very much in tact.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Our Next Adventure

This weekend, Erick and I are taking our first big trip without Sophia. We are going to spend two nights in New Orleans (it's fine, by the way. Ike's going the other way). We are thrilled and excited and giddy. . . until we remember that we're not taking Sophia.

This is our first time leaving her for more than 24 hours. So it feels like such a huge step. She's not feeling well this week, so there's also a certain amount of guilt for leaving her with unsuspecting victims while we're gone. Mostly, I'm just going to miss this face.

We have a great time together, the three of us. I know that she will miss us. It's not going to get any easier, so it's definitely best to break the seal now, so to speak. I've already begun making extensive lists with all of her most recent medications (she has another wheeze and near ear infection) and all of her favorite foods and activities. I know they already know all this, but it just helps this crazy mom feel better.

Just getting it out makes me feel better already. 'Cause you know who has a good time together? Just me and Erick, that's who! Darn right. We'll have a grand old time. We're staying in the hotel we stayed in on our last trip with our friends Paul and Risha. That was back when Risha was pregnant with their Lilly. Anyway, we are so excited to get away and get some sleep and walk around without chasing a toddler. We're looking forward to eating for hours at the same place with all of the utensils near the edge of the table. You know what, the salt and pepper can stay right where they are! I doubt if I have to give Erick consequences for running into the street or running away, so there's that distinct advantage. Our luggage will decrease by about 80%, so that's cool.

So, for you more experienced parents, can you tell me about when you took your first big trip? Did everyone survive?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

I Love Columbia

We love our town. It's really just one of the best places to live. It is also very cool considering our friends live here. Still, the atmosphere during football season is so intoxicating. . . ahem. . .

Anywho, it's been another replenishing and enjoyable weekend around here. Poor Sophia is very congested; yesterday snotty; today coughy. So, I'm pretty sure it's just an additional allergy flare up. She's been so great this weekend, though. She's been snuggly and sweet. Not to mention hilarious.

We got to spend some much missed quality time with our friends the Townsends this weekend. We have filled notebooks and notebooks with our card scores over the years, but lately it's been sparse for the obvious reason of our beautiful but less than understanding children.

See how beautiful? I mean handsome. Jimmy.

Crazy beautiful Sophia.

The Townsends also have a beautiful daughter, Gracie, but at four months, she's not that into cowboy hats...

We didn't get to the Tiger home opener this weekend. Our budget is tightening, and we have a big trip coming up this week. Not to mention a 6:00 game is a little less than ideal for a snotty toddler. We had a wonderful time listening to the game in our driveway. That's how we roll.

Today, I experimented on myself and our Timbers Court family (the actual family, that is) with some whole grain organic pasta from the farmer's market. It was fantastic, if I do say so myself. I don't cook very often, so I celebrate! Here's to the start of another great week!


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Almost 2 . . . or is it 13?

With a birthday coming up, we've been thinking a lot about this new phase. What we didn't realize was that two would be so much like thirteen. From what I hear (I was a perfect teenager myself), teenage girls can be, um, difficult. Lots of their own opinions, they don't like anything you do, and they seem to already know everything! Enter not-yet-two Sophia.

Sophia has become very independent and it's not always cute - although sometimes it is.

What I didn't mention about Sunday's visit with my parents is that she spent the first 30 minutes or so being taciturn and anti-social. When asked a question, she would gruffly answer and walk away. It's not the typical whiny toddler response she has when she's normally being unpleasant, but it's still unpleasant.

Today, we had another phase of teenage angst. Basically, she just doesn't want anything to do with whatever I suggest. Here she is mulling it over. She's not in trouble here. It's just her way of letting me know she doesn't appreciate my input.

Another time this weekend, she and I were having a disagreement over an established boundary. I don't even remember what it was. She turned and walked to Erick, while pointing back at me. She said, "I'm kind of sad at her." It was very hard not to laugh, but in reality I was proud of her! There was nothing bad about her telling us how she felt or that she disagreed, as long as she was being nice about it. So, she's already learning, and maybe having these "trial runs" will make her teenage years more tolerable.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

First Visit to Bass Pro

This weekend, we made a trip to visit my parents in Springfield. As Sophia flew crazily around the room pretending she wasn't tired, we adults tried to keep our eyes open in the early afternoon lull. I popped up with "Bass Pro Shops! Sophia's never been!"

Sophia really enjoyed sitting on all the ATVs pretending she and Lulu were bumping along some unplanted field.

She was a little less certain about all the dead animals that were standing around. She insisted that she was too close to this bear.

Since she wasn't quite sure what to think, she told Erick that she was afraid of the ducks. I suppose that was because they were the only live things that it made sense to be afraid of. So he had to assure her that all ducks do is quack and paddle their feet. She seemed to be happier after that.

A game of camping peek-a-boo seemed to help allay her fears.

She fell fast asleep on the way back to mom & dad's house, so we had to end our trip for fear of waking the beast. Erick and I were much more awake, though, so Bass Pro did the job!