30 April 2009

Blakeisms

Instead of describing all of our little boy's recent Blakeisms, I caught some of them on video. He is pretty predictable in the things he says, wants, and does. I shot the footage within an hour before bedtime, when he was the most chatty and wound up. I thought I would really miss my baby but I have to say that I am loving this phase.
A few explanations that go along with the video:
  • Blakeisms - He thinks it is hilarious when I squint my eyes almost closed, and he tries to imitate me.
  • Our Little Parrot - Uh-oh, Uh-oh, Uh-oh. Blake repeats it over and over everywhere we go. We were in Costco the other day, and many people that we passed said "Uh-oh" back to him. He loved that. Also, our grass looks like a jungle in the video. The footage was shot before the first mowing of the season.
  • The Parrot's Second Favorite Word - Ball. He can spot them from his carseat, through the window, on television commercials, in stores, etc. He loves balls.
  • Combining the Two Words Together - Although his talking is cute, he can't do anything without dragging around that darn beloved mini-bumper pad.
  • He Looked Out the Window and What Did He See? - Ah, finally some mowing! Blake has always said "dada" more than "mama."
  • Blake's Favorite Color - I caught him repeating this word the other day when he pushed the "purple" button on his toy octopus. It is my new favorite, he just says it so cute!
  • Peek-a-Boo - I love it when he barely covers his eyes and thinks that I can't see him.
  • Gettin' His Groove On - No explanation needed here, just proof that the boy's got moves.
  • Finding Curious George - Blake loves this book where you have to find George on each page. He knows all of the hiding spots. I also love the intonation he uses while "reading."
  • Blake's Fixation - He displays a few OCD behaviors. He won't drink his milk until the cap is back on the gallon, he has to throw each dirty diaper away before playing, he gets very upset if so much as a morsel of food drops from his highchair tray, he won't eat until he is satisfied that any condiment or food item has it's lid restored at the dinner table, he immediately wants the light on and the humidifier off before I get him out of his crib in the morning, and of course, the greatest fixation he has is with the lights.


28 April 2009

Brain Stimulating

After Blake's breakthrough with the pretzel/pretzel connection, I decided to stimulate his brain more and make him a matching game. I glued little zoo animals onto cardstock and laminated them for durability.

We don't use the animal cards as a memory game quite yet. Blake is smart but he doesn't understand the concepts of rules and turn taking. However, if I put out two or three cards face up, he can find the matching cards and place them on top of the originals.

Also stimulating to Blake, though maybe not so much in the same way, is his new little corner. We removed a couch cushion so that he could climb onto the couch by himself without begging and whining, which was a frequent occurrence. He uses the cushion as a stairway to the couch.

The cushion now remains permanently on the ground because Blake spends the majority of his time in the little empty section of the couch. He gathers up all of his favorite things, and sits there and looks at books. Then he gets wound up and dive-bombs his body onto the remaining cushions. The floor is now padded with the throw pillows that used to be on the couch, because all of the rolling around often leads to falls. Blake also uses the cushion next to the hole as a little bouncy trampoline. Our couch has turned into Blake's personal jungle gym. If I ever try to put the cushion back where it belongs, Blake comes unglued.

Lastly, a shout-out to my missionary brother Jorden, who will be coming home in 8 short weeks, and will meet his nephew for the first time. Happy 21st Birthday!


24 April 2009

This is My Life

A friend of mine from high school recently wrote about homesickness. She is an American expat living in Chile, and her ideas about the topic really hit home to me because it is something I have been struggling with. I'm not an expat, but I do live 1500 miles away from my family and friends that are in a place I used to call home.

I never thought of myself as the homesick type. I figured that I wouldn't stay in my home state forever (as most Michiganders do). However, even though I thought that I wouldn't look back, I find myself often daydreaming about the scenario of moving back home. I think of all the people that I could see, the events I could attend, the babysitters I'd hire, and the playmates that Blake would have. Every time I miss a wedding, a birth, a funeral, a holiday, a family reunion, or even a simple night of games played by friends back home, the pain within me that longs for home deepens.

I often make the mistake of living my life in anticipation of the next trip back home; the next time I will be able to see my closest friends and family. I often choose not to form ties to people and places where I live now because I am still holding on to what is far behind me. I live vicariously through the stories and events of others that are living their lives back home, lives I am no longer apart of outside phone calls and email. I am no longer connected to these people like I once was. The hardest part about being away is that they're all still deeply connected to each other.

I don't want to live my life in anticipation of trips back home. The let down I experience when our trips are over and I come back to my real life is tremendous. It's not a healthy way to live and it's something I am working on. I realize that moving back home is not now, and probably never will be, a possibility. Every time I come back from a trip to my hometown, I have to remind myself that this is my life. While accepting the fact that life goes on without me when I'm not there to be a part of things kills me, I have to snap out of it and enjoy what I have here and now. It's difficult to realize that I'm never going to be as connected to my family and friends as I once was, but I have to accept my life as it is and move on.

What makes the "moving on" process difficult is that I have never really settled in to where we live now. As Troy puts it, "You have just never seemed to click here." I guess I have always viewed our time here as temporary, and haven't tried very hard to establish any real roots. Well, I don't know how temporary it will be anymore, and the disconnectedness is starting to wear on me. Aside from Troy, Blake, and my in-laws, (all of whom I absolutely adore and couldn't imagine my life without), I don't really have any friends. When I first moved out here, I was married soon after and was in the honeymoon stage. I wanted to spend every waking moment with Troy and didn't care that I had left my whole life behind me. I still love spending time with him above anyone else, but we are beyond the honeymoon stage. No matter how much I love my husband, every girl needs other girlfriends to talk to, laugh with, and share ideas and experiences.

I was blessed with the best friends in the world during college. Friends that I still talk to several times a week and that will remain my best friends forever. Troy says that these friends are both a blessing and a curse. It is not too often that you find people that you connect with so deeply, that you can completely confide in, and that sometimes know you better than you know yourself. Maybe I just found these friends earlier in my life because we needed each other during trying times of decision making, but they have forever impacted my views on friendship. Now, my opinions on friendship are jaded, because I don't think I can ever form friendships as wonderful as these. I do hope I'm wrong about that, not because I want to replace them, but because while phone calls are great, there is something to be said about having friends that you can see face-to-face. I feel bad that I have an attitude about starting from square one again. I already have my friends, right? But there is a void that I think every girl wants to fill with interaction with others (especially when your daytime companion can only say 10 words).

I feel childish even writing about my friendship dilemmas, but the truth is, this is one of the hardest trials I've ever had. I was what you would call a social butterfly when I was growing up. I was always hopping from one friend's house to the next, my best friend had her own bathroom drawer at my house because she stayed there so often, and I filled every minute of every weekend with social activities. I realize that I'm married and have a child now. So of course, that lifestyle isn't possible, nor do I want it back, but I've also changed a lot in the past five years or so. I know who I am and I know that I have worth, of course, but I am not the confident, bubbly person that I once was. I have grown more shy, more hesitant, more resistant towards new situations, more nervous to initiate activities, and more anxious when faced with new people that I have to create conversations with. The idea of making the first call or extending an invitation towards a friendship terrifies me. I can't pinpoint what it is I am afraid of, I just know that this is not the social girl I used to be. It's not that I'm suddenly unfriendly, I have just formed some boundaries that I haven't gotten past. It also doesn't help that there aren't many gals that are in a similar situations as me in our neighborhood or church (my only social outlets).

There is no grand solution for any of these things (although my husband often tries to think of one). What I do think is that my homesickness and lack of friendships are related to and are affecting each other. I am working on the insecurities that I have and am resolving to try my best to "settle in." No one should live their life only in anticipation of future events, and I just need to get over my own stubbornness and get on with it already. On the bright side, there is a certain sense of pride that comes from establishing your own life in a completely different surrounding than your upbringing.

The aforementioned friend that inspired this whole long, long thought train (which if you are still reading, I'm sorry for going on and on and on), put it better than I could:

"Eventually you'll start to appreciate your life as is again, instead of wishing you were somewhere else. Life goes on without you - accept it. Sooner or later, you'll plant your own roots wherever you are. You'll live through your own births and deaths and weddings and divorces and happiness and sadness. Those won't replace what's going on with your childhood and college friends and family back home. But, again, it comes back to living your life in the here and now, as corny as that may sound."


22 April 2009

Paper Topiary Tutorial

I have had a handful of people request a tutorial on how to make the topiaries that I made for a baby shower. I made another one and took pictures of each step, so I am happy to share the idea with you. This craft may look daunting but it is actually very easy. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or email me.

You'll need:
  • 4 sheets of coordinating, 12x12 double-sided cardstock (this is enough paper to make 2-3 topiaries)
  • 1-2 sheets of green cardstock (either 12x12 or 8.5x11 will work)
  • Green craft paint that matches the green cardstock
  • Brown craft paint
  • 4" Styrofoam ball
  • 4" clay pot
  • Dry floral foam (any size, you can cut it to fit inside the pot)
  • Approximately 100 white ball pins (It takes about 100 pins per ball, so you will need more if you are making more than one. You can also use colored ball pins, but they are not hidden as well)
  • A 3/8" x 36" dowel (this is long enough for 3 topiaries)
  • 1/2 yard coordinating ribbon
  • Tools: scissors, paint brush, paper cutter, hot glue, pencil, tape runner (or other adhesive), saw (I used a mini-saw)

Divide your dowel into three 12" sections and use a saw to cut the dowel along the lines (I enlisted my husband to do the sawing)

It may take 3-4 coats of brown paint to cover your clay pot. Paint about an inch or two of the inside in addition to the entire outside of the pot. Allow drying between each coat of paint.

Poke your dowel into a piece of dry floral foam for easier painting and drying.

Use your paper cutter to cut approximately 100 1/2 inch by 3 inch strips of cardstock. Since you have four sheets of double-sided paper, you will actually end up with 8 different prints that you can alternate around your Styrofoam ball.

Instead of rolling the paper and holding the ends while trying to pin each strip into place, I found it easier to use a small amount of adhesive on each strip before pinning.

It takes a little bit of time to roll and adhere each strip, but this makes the strips much easier to hold in place for pinning.

Poke each pin through the spot where you adhered the two strip ends together. Use alternating papers and rotate the strips in various directions. Place the strips close together and cover the entire Styrofoam ball.

Remember to leave space for the dowel to be poked into the Styrofoam ball.

Cut a piece of dry floral foam to fit snug into the clay pot. Poke a hole with the dowel about half way to the bottom of the foam (you may have already poked a hole when you painted the dowel).

Turn the pot upside down to trace a circle onto the green paper. This circle will cover up the inside of the pot.

Cut around the circle about a half inch from the line. Your cutting does not need to be perfect; the circle is just to hide what is underneath and provide a shelf for the grass.

The circle should rest on top of the dry floral foam; just below the bottom of the rim. Make an indent with the dowel on the center of the circle, lined up with the hole in dry floral foam that is underneath.

Use the edge of your scissors to make an "x" slit on the indent of your circle. Then, poke the dowel through the slit into the dry floral foam.

To make grass: Cut 1/8" strips of green cardstock. I cut some long strips and some short strips to add texture. They don't have to be any particular length, which is why it doesn't matter if you use 12x12 or 8.5x11 cardstock.

Roll each strip tightly around a pencil. They will unravel slightly when you release your grip on the paper. Place the grass on top of the green circle in the clay pot, and use as much grass as you would like.

To spice up the rim of the clay pot, cut two 3/4 inch by 12 inch strips of cardstock with your leftover paper.

One 12 inch strip isn't quite long enough to wrap around the rim, so you will need to hot glue the two strips together.

Hot glue the strip onto the rim, cutting off the excess paper. Make sure you overlap the ends before cutting off the excess.

Add a bow with your ribbon, and voila!

You could use different papers for spring décor, fall décor, table centerpieces for a wedding, baptism, luncheon, or shower, Christmas, Halloween...the possibilities are endless.


20 April 2009

Zona

Blake and I stayed through the week in Arizona. We enjoyed more of our favorite activities (beyond the meals). We swam, sunbathed, took long walks in the stroller, ate dinner on the patio, and got together with AZ friends.

One of my absolute favorite perks was that I was able to attend a yoga class every single day at my favorite studio. I earned 25 free classes by completing my teacher training in January, so I wanted to use up some of the classes up while I was in town. I was thinking about when I would feasibly have a lifestyle where I could attend a yoga studio every day. It could easily be more than a decade before our children are all in school and I have free time. So, I definitely took advantage while I was there and had a willing sitter. One day I even went twice. It lit the yoga spark within me again, and as soon as I get my certification from the National Yoga Alliance (it's taking forever), I want to start teaching.

Overall, we had a wonderful time and can't wait to go back to our "second home" again. Blake must be getting confused about where he lives, considering all the time we have been spending there in recent months. He instantly remembered some of his favorite gadgets in the house, such as the fans, the light switches, the lamps, the stairs, and the water fountains in the pool.

He still loves water and even tolerates wearing a hat if he can splash and kick.

Blake has very cute hat hair.

Blake's Grandma and Grandpa got very attached to him again.

We hit the town for some delicious Italian Gelato.


We also found a puppy walking by the fountain that Blake thoroughly enjoyed. Too bad his mom is anti-animals because Blake would love to have a pet.

Our trip home was a little crazy. We darted through the airport to barely catch our plane due to a freeway closure on the way. Blake showed a true mark of super genius on the plane though. He immediately pulled out all of the magazines and safety pamphlets from the seat pockets, and we looked at the back of a magazine that had a picture of a pretzel on it before takeoff. Half way into the flight, the flight attendant gave us a bag of pretzels. The pile of magazines was completely buried in toys and snacks. However, Blake rummaged through the pile, found the magazine with the picture of a pretzel, and put the pretzels in his hand onto the picture. What a smart connection!

Troy was excited to welcome us home since he had to go back early to avoid using vacation days. He broke through with the first grilling event of the season, and deemed the moment picture worthy. We had his parents and sister over for dinner and enjoyed the start of many summer cookouts.


13 April 2009

Easter

We went back to the Valley of the Sun for Easter. It seems like we have gone to Arizona a lot lately. It is hard to stay away from the abundant sunshine, pleading grandparents, and royal treatment we receive when we visit. I am elated any day that I don't have to cook. AZ is such an easy trip from Utah, and well, we just love it there. It is our long-standing joke that Troy always brings the rain, and he didn't let us down on this trip. It literally hadn't rained in over a month, and of course it downpoured all day Saturday. Fortunately, the storm passed by quickly and we enjoyed a beautiful Easter Sunday.

Our baby wore his Easter spiffies.

He cruised along the bunny trail.

It was next to impossible to get a decent family picture with our wiggly toddler.

Troy and I were much more cooperative.

Blake was more interested in opening and shutting the door than going on an Easter egg hunt (that's my boy), but I love this picture.

He was incredibly delighted each time the door opened and he could peek out from behind it.

The Easter Bunny filled his basket with a book, an Easter etch-o-sketch, playdough, and goldfish (crackers, not a real fish).

We persuaded Blake to pick up one egg from the obviously hidden bunch...

...until he discovered that there were were jelly beans inside. He gave up on the hunt at that point, but (to his mom's great dismay) thoroughly enjoyed candy for the first time.
Happy Easter!


09 April 2009

Best Friends Forever

As I mentioned in a previous post, my BFF's Stephanie and Kristen spent some time with us. Kristen actually lives an hour away from me, but I don't get to see her that often. Her sister, Steph, flew all the way from Michigan to spend a week with family and friends. Kristen didn't that know her sister and niece Skyler were coming at all.

We surprised her on April Fool's Day. We showed up at Kristen's office, claiming that her 6-year-old cousin had an April Fool's Day joke to play on her (the cousin wasn't even there but we had to think of an excuse to have the video camera out), and in walked Steph and Skyler. It was a really fun surprise. Check out Kristen's high-pitched reaction:

We spent the week doing the things I love the most; going to girls' nights with dinner and a movie, watching General Conference, going to the Mount Timpanogos temple together, taking walks with our strollers, playing games, watching the NCAA basketball finals games, shopping, having late night gab sessions, making fun of cheesy movies, chasing after our little kiddos, and of course, laughing so hard that it hurt.

Blake loved having a little friend to follow around and play with. Blake and Skyler played pretty well together despite the one year age gap. They often mimicked each other; which was funny until Skyler mimicked Blake crying and Blake picked up on Skyler's preference for a milk-only diet.

Blake warmed up to Kristen like no other. He is not a cuddly boy, and yet he walked right past us and up to Kristen, begged to sit on her lap, and cuddled with her for long periods of time. I wish her magic charm would rub off on us.

See how much he loves Kristen? It's not fair! Kristen read the book "I Know the Modern Prophets" to prepare the children for General Conference. We checked it out from our library. Sometimes I forget how rare it is to find books like that at our local library, but Michigan-dweller Steph got a kick out of it.

Blake loved Stephanie too, but I'm afraid that she didn't have quite the same lure as Kristen did.

I am so sad that the week is over already. I had been looking forward to it for so long and it is just not fair that one of my favorite people on this planet has to live 1500 miles away from me. When we were playing Catch Phrase, Troy said to Steph and me, "I'm pretty sure you two share a brain so you can't play on the same team." 

I miss my other half immensely and I'm so glad we got to spend the week together doing the things I love the most. It wasn't perfect of course. We dealt with whiny children, high fevers, missed sleep, getting lost, missed flights, and even some tears, but it was life at its finest and I wouldn't have it any other way.