Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving and Decorating Granny & Poppy's House

Well, I hate to tell everybody this, but...we didn't get ANY pictures of Thanksgiving. We were just having such a good time, and we stuffed ourselves so much...we just straight up forgot.

But, never fear! Juliette's first Thanksgiving was a success. She was thrilled with the people and the music (including "Alice's Restaurant" and "The Turkey Song") and had a very good time hanging out in front of the fire. She loved looking a her great uncle Marty ("Goofy Mary" as cousin Madeline likes to call him) and had a good time being passed around the assembled guests. We had a fairly good crowd at my parents' house this year, which included the aforementioned Marty and his wife, my mom's sister Bridget and their two boys Ryan (of Pokey Lafarge and the South City Three fame) and Alan, my uncle Dan (Kathy's boss), his wife Tina and their three kids Maggie, Connor and Colleen, my Grandma (Ma, as she is now known) and, after dinner, Maureen, Kevin, Maddy and Lydia showed up. We ate way too much turkey and pie and drank our fair share of beer and wine.

Side note about the beer; I brought Blue Moon but no oranges, so instead I poured half a shot of Blue Curacoa into a pint glass and then poured the beer on top of it, which had almost the same flavor that I was going for but turned the beer a swampy greenish color which became quite a nice conversation piece.

But the biggest conversation piece was, of course, Juliette, and how awesomely cute she is!

The day after Thanksgiving, instead of hitting the ridiculous sales and facing possible trampling death, we went back to Granny and Poppy's for breakfast and to help them decorate their house for Christmas. I love my parents' house at Christmas, it's so pretty and awesome. Here's a taste:

I look awkward, Christmas 2009, photo by Lori Weier

But making a house look this good takes a lot of work. And a lot of child labor.

Maddy tries on the new tree skirt, which is more of a tree poncho on her.

Juliette gets drafted to fluff the garland.

Jules worked hard, and finally got so tired she had to relax a little.

Jules gets cozy for a nap.

Best napping spot EVER.

As good as that nap was, she found another spot that was just as good.

Or, this is the best napping spot ever.

It was a fun time, as you can see.

Every day should be like today!

We had such a good time, that before we knew it, we had eaten all three of our meals of the day there. Granted, Mo and I ran to Target once to pick up some replacement lights for some of the garland, and then my dad and I had to run back again for more lights as well as to rectify a shortage of chocolate, so our Black Friday wasn't entirely void of shopping, but we didn't stand in line all night like some crazy peoples.

So, we kicked off our holiday season with a couple of fun days, and we can't wait for all the season has to bring! We've got a cookie exchange party, a fancy party, and plenty of family traditions to enjoy! Years ago, when I worked in retail, this was my least favorite time of year. I'm glad that feeling has disappeared, to be replaced by all this happiness and happy anticipation!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Reflection: A Letter to My Daughter

Dear Juliette,

I wanted to tell you how much I love you. But just saying that doesn't exactly cover everything I want to cover. So let me just ramble here, as your dad often will, and you will see what's going on inside my head.

I didn't know what to expect that night your mother and I very calmly ("Your water broke? Oh my GOD whatdowedowhatdowedowhatdowedo???") made our way to the hospital. We weren't sure if you were going to be you or someone else. You see, sure modern technology could have allowed us to know if you were going to be a Juliette or a boy (we have a boy name picked out, but I am refraining from using it in case of future need). We also didn't know if you'd be coming that day or the next, though time was running out for that day.

When you finally arrived the next morning, and the doctor said "It's a girl," and I finally said your name for the first time, it was an amazing feeling. There you were, a person! Of course, I cried. You did, too, for the record, though not as much as the doctors and nurses expected you to. I think you were just more amazed at this new wide world you had entered into than anything else, and so crying was not on the top of your agenda.

What followed is now mostly a haze; your mom and I were very tired after having been up most of the night waiting for you, and now that you were here, we marveled at you; your tiny hands, your long feet, your lean legs. There you were, in our arms, after months of anticipation. And while it was great to finally meet you, I hope you understand that through a lot of the previous nine months, we were nervous about your arrival. It took time for the excitement to outweigh the nerves and, I'll be honest little girl, once you arrived the nerves actually increased. We were responsible for you now! Us, your mom and dad! Neither of us had ever been a mom or a dad before, except to cats! And cats, as I'm sure even now you are aware, are not the same as baby girls.

We had some good role models for being parents, though. Because Granny and Poppy are my mom and dad. Grandma and Grandpa are your mother's mom and dad! So we both figured, well, they did it, so there's no reason why we shouldn't be able to.

And at first, it was easy enough. The nurses changed your diapers and they let us get plenty of sleep. We had a steady stream of visitors and life was good. But, get this...they don't let you stay at the hospital indefinitely, they actually made us go home after two days!

I'll admit, when we got home, I was a little overwhelmed. We were responsible now for every aspect of your care and well-being. You coughed and spit up a bit. We had to put you on a bed that gave off a sickly blue-light glow all night (which, coupled with anxiety and your totally normal but for us strangely abnormal nighttime noises kept us up almost all night) and we had to take you to the doctor so they could check your blood to make sure your jaundice was getting better. It was, which meant that after two days we could turn off the blue light and let you sleep on the actual mattress of your bassinet.

I remember the first diaper change I spearheaded. That was a moment of panic for me; you kept fidgeting and I had trouble keeping your feet out of the dirty diaper. Then, once I finally got you clean and a new diaper in position, you kept fidgeting and I couldn't get it on you at all. I had to call in back-up. And then, of course, two minutes later, it had to be done all over again. This was the new normal for us. But after one day, I didn't have to call for back-up anymore, except for on very rare occasions (which we won't go into now).

Then came the first day I had to go back to work and leave you behind. That might have been the longest day of your life for me; I missed my girls a lot. And while I was at work missing you (and using any free time I had to stare at pictures of you), you and your mother were continuing to bond. She got to see all your little changes, and that was hard for me to cope with. But, if I wanted to keep you in this house, I knew it had to be done. And when I got home, there you were, still adorable and waiting for me.

Life has gotten easier since that first week; diapers are changed with much more efficiency, your pictures are getting stared at by me and anyone who I happen to show them to (which is, as far as I can tell, everybody I meet practically), and you continue to grow. I look back at some of the pictures of you when you were just a brand new baby, and then I look at you now and I think, "Where did my little girl go?" But then you smile at me, and you laugh, and you hold your head up and I think, "She's still my little girl, and now she's turning into a person." And I know you will be a wonderful person.

You're my little girl and I love you so much. From the moment you came into my life, I knew you'd be amazing. I love that I get to read to you every night, that when I come home from work I get to hold you and sing to you, that we spend Saturday mornings cuddled up as a family, and that every day you grow and change (even though that last part also makes me sad). Keep changing, but don't ever stop being yourself.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Photo Time

Here are some pictures to help get you through the rest of your week.

Hey Readers!

This baby might be too cute, though I have been informed there is no such thing as "Too Cute"

We've started her learning "Senior Picture" poses. Next up, hands folded on a flat surface, left cheek resting on hands

Her new favorite activity: "Om nom nom hands are tasty nom nom."

This is from her "pensive tortured artist" phase of November 8, 2010

We were sleeping in. It was a Sunday, that's what those are for!

Oh, Hi Mommy! Take our picture!

Now sitting in the red chair, Number 10, Juliette Adriana

She looks so serious in this one

She's frustrated by the fact that it isn't chromatic. "How'm I supposed to improvise without accidentals?"

Friday, November 5, 2010

Our First Road Trip!

This past weekend, we loaded up the car with enough stuff for a two month adventure and pointed ourselves North. Or rather, it just seemed like it was enough for two months' time. I guess that's what happens when you travel with a child. Two people travelling alone for three days? A bag of clothes and a container of snacks for the car. Travelling with baby? Two bags of clothes, diaper bag, bassinet, car seat, dangly toys to keep kid interested, blankets, hats...the list goes on.

To be fair, we also packed up a bunch of clothes that Juliette has rather suddenly grown out of. Seriously, little girl...when did you start getting so big? the three of us piled into the car and headed to Bluegrass, Iowa (a suburb of Davenport) to visit family on Kathy's side. We don't get to see them much, since her family is fairly well spread out. She's one of ten kids, and the rest of the family lives in Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa and Colorado. But we try to get together once a year for the purpose of awarding a new champion with the Family Classic Trophy.

Seriously, the competition has been fierce and bitter in past games, and this year was no exception. But before I get to that, I have to tell you that Juliette's world was thrown into outer orbit this weekend when it comes to aunts, uncles and cousins.

See, Jules only has one aunt and one uncle on my side of the family, and they're here in town. And that one local set comes with a pair of cousins, Madeline and Lydia. Pretty manageable for a three month old little girl. But get together with Kathy's family (and they weren't even all there, we were missing two on a trip to Paris for their fifteenth anniversary and one couldn't get away from work) and suddenly, it's relative overload. But, Jules seemed to enjoy it. She got to see Grandma and Grandpa again, which she enjoyed.

Grandpa got fuzzy since last we saw him

She also got to see Aunt Lisa again, along with Aunt Lori and her boyfriend Justin. But then came the wave of cousins.

Morgan takes a swing at the Pinata
First up, we've got the oldest, Morgan. She's 8. Here, you see Uncle Jeff protecting himself from Morgan's powerful lust for candy.

Kaitlyn's refrain: "Can I hold her?"
Kaitlyn LOVED Jules. She kept asking to hold her every five minutes, oblivious to the fact that everybody else wanted to hold her, too.

Andrew took the 2010 Family Classic Win, and, thus, gets the trophy for the year.
Andrew won the competition this year, so obviously it wasn't for cutest new little girl. He's pretty happy, though, so I can't take that away from him.

Jake also wanted some candy
Andrew's younger brother Jake got into the Pinata action as well. Here he is venting his frustration on having to stare at the trophy for the next year knowing he couldn't pull out the win. Or, he really really wanted some candy.

Madison also liked to hold Juliette
Morgan's younger sister Madison was a big fan of Juliette as well. At this point, I think Jules was getting a little tired of all the cameras. But we still had lots of pictures to take...

Max: the man with a million costumes
Kathy and I finally got to meet our newest nephew, Max. His parents kept vanishing upstairs with him, only to bring him down in a new costume. My favorite? The jailbird/pumpkin (sadly, I did not get a picture of it). It was a pumpkin costume, but the legs and arms were black and white striped. Escaped Pumpkin!

Of course, we had to get a picture with all the grandkids gathered around Grandma and Grandpa.

The whole gang
The red shirts most of the kids are wearing are from when Kathy and her siblings were young. There are numerous family pictures with all the kids wearing these shirts. Juliette got to bring her #10 shirt home!

But let's not forget that while in Davenport, we had some serious business to attend to.

"Trick or Treat, Smell our Feet. No, Really, They're disgusting after walking all over the neighborhood."
Well, okay, we had some other serious business to attend to as well as the Family Classic, but it was Halloween, and the kids needed their sugar fix. It looks like here we have a Minnesota Twin, two princesses, a Power Ranger (I think?) and, in the background, Madison is a Rock Star. And what about our little girl?

Kathy and I went as new parents too tired to come up with actual costumes.
Jules went as a Sweet Pea! Because she is.

Now, to the competition.

Per the usual, there was a lot of boasting and trash talk beforehand, not least of which came from this guy:

Steve: "There's no way you're going to win, you shouldn't even try."
Well, okay, maybe he wasn't trash talking Juliette, but Uncle Steve did spend most of the competition claiming that his skills were the superior, that he would carry the day, and that others (most notably myself as I was sitting nearby) had best polish up on their game if they wanted to even stand a chance.

For the record, the game was Bingo Blackout.

Allow me to repeat that: Steve was talking trash about our skills at a random game of chance.

Okay, now that you've let that sink in...

I guess there's no suspense left, as you already saw that Andrew carried the day, leaving Steve only slightly deflated (there's always next year). We got the past winners all together for a group photo afterwards.

The Winners, past and present
Back row: Jeff (2005 Lawn Olympics), Joe (2003 Bowling), Elliot (2004 Baseball Penny Bet), Dave (2008 Reading R.T. Rybak's Mind); Middle Row: Kathy (2001 Biggest Fish), Adrienne (2007 Rock/Paper/Scissor Challenge), Lance (2006 Diet Coke & Mentos Shoot-out); Front Row: Morgan (2002 Star Attraction), Andrew (2010 Bingo Blackout, Current Champ) Note: No competition was held in 2009. We went to Puerto Rico for Joe and Shelley's wedding. Everybody won.

I would just like to point out that I hold the record for least amount of time in the family before winning the Family Classic Trophy. Less than a week after Kathy and I got married, we held the 2004 competition and I won. Granted, I took part in the 2003 Bowling tournament, but I was roundly pummeled due to my complete lack of bowling skills.

After the competition, it was time to bring out the Piñata.

Lance poses with the Piñata 
The kids all had a good time giving this thing some good solid hits. Even Juliette.

Uncle Dan watches as Jules takes a swing
Okay, so she needed a little help, but that's to be expected.

All in all, it was a great trip! Thanks to Uncle Dave and Aunt Ninfa for hosting, thanks to Aunt Kristie for reserving a block of hotel rooms, and Happy Birthday to Aunt Carissa! Juliette loved getting to know all of you a little better, and can't wait to see you all again (plus the three that were missing; Paul, Jen and Erica).

That was fun, but I'm ready to go home now
Jules handled the travel portion of the trip up very well; she fell asleep when she got in the car, woke up briefly when we stopped to get gas and use the restroom, but then fell right back asleep and stayed that way until we got to the hotel. A diaper change and a meal later, she fell asleep again! On the way back, though, she was a little more active. We had to stop to feed her twice, and the second time she had been crying for a little bit because we couldn't find a good place to stop. But all in all, she was a perfect little travel companion. Like her parents, though, when the trip is over, she's just anxious to get home.

Sunday, October 31, 2010



Scared ya!

She's my little pumpkin!

Pumpkins have tasty fists.

Some bunny loves you!


Trog Dor, the Pumpkinator!

And Kathy HATES spiders. With a passion.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Well Behaved and a Fan of Dad

If you happen to be a reader of my writing blog then you are well aware that this past Tuesday I read from my novel-in-progress at an open mic night. Many friends came to support me, but the biggest support of all came in the form of my family.

That's right, even though it was at a brewpub and I read after 8 PM, my wife and twelve week old baby came. Note: I am the only one in the family who partook of the beer.

Juliette was so well behaved! She slept through almost every reader until I stood up. Then, she was wide awake and paying rapt attention. Afterwards, she was a little fussy but not too loud, then fell back asleep after a brief walk out of the room.

I wish I had some pictures to share with you on this one, but oh well.

It was awesome to have her there. I hope she comes to many more.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Cats in Cradles, Silver Spoons, Sunrises and Sunsets...

Our little girl is growing up rather fast.

Don't believe me? Check this out:
She's. Holding. The. Rattle.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Full Lap

Just thought I'd share this picture from October 10th of Kathy and the rest of the family.
So Much Love.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Patch

After celebrating Lydia and Mo's birthdays on Saturday, we went out to Eckert's Orchard to pick some apples and get a pumpkin. So we woke up early, got Jules dressed up for the occasion, and headed first to Granny and Poppy's.

Juliette dons farm attire.

We met up with Mo, Lydia and Maddy, piled into two separate cars, and headed across the river.

First thing we did when we got there was point out the new Country Store, which my uncle Dennis designed.

(Editor's note: Juliette wanted me at this moment to tell you all "Luowuaoul. Buweh. Hnk! Ungi." That is all).

First, we stood in line for a while.

A really long while.

Even Lydia got kinda tired.

I assure you, that is a yawn.

Finally, we got on the tractor. Jules was so excited, she almost woke up.

So close to waking up

Kathy got some good cuddles in, though.

At the first stop, we hopped off and grabbed some Granny Smith apples.

She held it long enough for Kathy to get a bite.

All this talk about Granny Smith made Juliette want to see her real Granny.

Granny doesn't look like an apple...

We loaded ourselves back onto the wagon and went to the pumpkin patch.

Mo and Lydia at the Pumpkin Patch

Jules picked out our pumpkin for us.

Lydia found something she thought would be good for carrying the pumpkin home in, but it had to stay at the farm.

"Our pumpkin would TOTALLY fit inside this milk crate!"

And then, a short ride later, Juliette found the perfect pumpkin for her.

Somewhere in this bin is the perfect one...
There we go.

Afterwards, we had lunch and then made the long trek back home.

It was a tiring day, no doubt. But it was a great new fall tradition!