Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Big red chair.

Last night before bed, I snuck into Calvin's room. I leaned over his crib in the darkness and whispered "hi sweetheart" to my sleeping boy, only to have tiny hands reach up to grab my shirt. "Rock me," he whispered back.

I gathered him up, he wrapped his tiny arms around me, and we settled into the big red chair in his room. He snuggled his face into the crook of my neck, and stroked my hair as I traced circles on his back.

We rocked.

His breathing slowed; his hands stopped moving, still tangled in my hair. Asleep. I stroked his sweet curls, and a tear rolled down my cheek.

My sweet baby. So big, sprawled across my entire lap and half the chair. When did this happen? When did he grow too big for me to comfortably hold? When did our late night snuggles become the exception and not the rule?

As I rocked him, I thought of his sleepy newborn days. His pudgy little legs and wide, toothless grin at six months old. The bins of his infant clothes parked in our dining room, waiting to be sorted, shared, sold. The many nights spent together in this red chair, which will soon find a home across the hall. And my sweet daughter, who will take his place as the baby of our family a few short months from now.

I cried silently, my tears wetting his sleeping head.

It's all going so fast. And I feel like I'm missing it. As I struggle to drag myself through day after day of morning routines and commutes and work and dinner and bedtime routines, he's growing. Learning. Maturing. Finding his way in the world. And I'm just trying to survive another day of mile-long to-do lists.

I want to slow time, to bottle these years of his smallness. Because I know they'll be gone soon, much sooner than I expected. And I'm not ready. I'm not ready for preschool and third grade and homecoming dances. I'm not ready to sacrifice our one-on-one time to the needs of another baby. I'm not ready to move the big red chair across the hall.

But as I rocked my sleeping son last night, I realized none of this is about me. Everything I do as a parent is for Calvin. And he's ready. He's desperate to grow big, like his daddy. He wants to know everything about everything and find his way in the world. And he's ready to relinquish his place as the baby and embrace his new role as big brother...even if I'm not. My job isn't to keep him small, it's to give him roots and wings. To teach him to fly without forgetting where he came from.

After a while, Calvin shifted uncomfortably in my arms and repositioned himself so that he was cradled across my lap. I held him like that for a moment, marveling at the difference two years makes. Then I gently pushed aside his mop of curls, kissed his forehead, and returned him to bed.

I padded back to my bed, where I snuggled in next to my sleeping husband and prayed for my children — my darling big boy and my precious unborn daughter.

I promise not to hold them back, Lord. Just please let me rock them a little while longer.

Monday, August 29, 2011


Oh, calm down. Not really. But this photo was taken after a ridiculously good dinner at Heartland with my husband, so I figure there's a human baby AND a food baby in there. And let's be honest: Twins is the only excuse for a belly this big at 22 weeks.

So thankful for this one, who loves me despite my double wide middle. And who still makes me laugh harder than anyone else in the history of the world. I dare you to ask him about the $2 at dinner.

Actually, I will pay you $2 to ask him, because then I can laugh all over again. It's a story well worth $2. My husband is very funny.

And exceptionally cute.

And an amazing husband.

And an even better dad.

Our babies, food and otherwise, are blessed to have him. As am I.

(Here's hoping all this sucking up will keep him from killing me over the mere mention of the $2 at dinner. Because we all know it has to come out now...)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Five Minute Friday: Older

Is 32 the new 22?

I sure hope not.

At 22 I was a college graduate with no prospects. My boyfriend had dumped me. I had a degree but no career. I was living with my parents. I made $8.50 an hour lugging formal dresses around Bloomingdale's. I spent my money on designer clothes and cranberry and vodkas, and barely had enough left over for my student loans and car payment. I was on the fast-track to building some serious debt, which would haunt me throughout my 20s.

On the flip side, I had a lot of fun. My clothes were awesome, as was my body. I dated some interesting guys (some of whom were far more memorable than others, to which my friend Jo can attest). I went out with friends nearly every night of the week. I stayed up late and and got up even later. My parents provided my food, paid all my utilities. I had little-to-no responsibility because my lifestyle at the time didn't require much more than showing up to work and paying my bills on time.

At various times throughout the past 10 years, I've romanticized my early 20s. Nate and I will often reminisce about our early days together and think — wow, we sure had fun. But fun was all we had. Besides meeting Nate, very little from that time period is worth remembering. It's a blur of late nights and tipsy kisses, irresponsibility and immaturity.

At 32, I have responsibility. Loads of it. Bills to pay and to-do lists to complete and children to raise. But I also have a solid foundation on which to stand in both my faith and my family. I have a loving Father. A devoted husband. A beautiful little boy at home and a precious baby girl on the way. A stable career. A roof over my head. I have priorities, and most of the time I have them straight(ish).

I also have crows feet, about 30 pounds to lose, and a pretty pathetic excuse for a social life. There's no question: I've aged. Twenty two-year-old Abby would be dismayed. But 32-year-old Abby knows better.

32 isn't as glamorous or exciting as 22. And it's a lot harder, more exhausting. But with age comes experience, maturity, and the ability to differentiate between what's "fun" and what's meaningful.

No doubt these will be years worth remembering.

After a few weeks off, this post was written as part of Five Minute Friday. Visit The Gypsy Mama to link up or read other bloggers' take on this week's prompt, Older.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Throughout the course of our relationship, a few things have happened that one or the other of us will never live down. For example, the time Nate tried to fix our kitchen cabinet using string. Or the time I fell down in the mall parking lot and ended up with a lost flip flop, a sprained thumb, ripped jeans, and two bloody knees.

Yep, Nate and I were MFEO.*

One of the more memorable stories involved me leaving town with both sets of our keys. Halfway to Iowa, Nate called me in a panic because he couldn't find his car keys anywhere, and asked if I may have picked them up accidentally. I searched my purse and told him he was clearly insane to think I had them and he needed to look harder. Thirty seconds after chewing him out, I found them in the bottom of my purse. Whoops. Too embarrassed to admit I'd been wrong, I hid them in the side of the couch once I returned home a few days later and then "found" them for him.

Marriage is nothing if not built on honesty, trust, and the occasional face-saving move involving neither honesty nor trust.

Since then we've had our share of lost key incidents and we've become somewhat notorious for misplacing them. For Christmas one year, Nate's parents got us each a ginormous (like 5") wooden initial key ring so there'd never be any confusion as to whose keys were whose. Alas, those were not practical for everyday use, so we had to come up with an alternate plan.

Enter Anthropologie. Have you ever spent time in that store's hardware section? Holy mother of all that is pretty and overpriced. If you are a lover of fake vintage stuff (because, let's face it, real vintage stuff is rarely a good choice for utilitarian items) and kitsch like I am, this is the "hardware store" for you.

Nate and I were shopping there one day (he's a good husband) and he ran across these adorable alphabet hooks. We purchased an A and an N, thinking we'd hang them by the door and that would take care of that.

But I am a complicated creature and like to make small projects into giant ones that take too long and sometimes never get done. Just ask the half-finished Mickey Mouse balloon and ribbon birthday wreath I made for Calvin's party, which has been sitting in our basement since April. So instead of merely hanging the two hooks on the wall, I decided to buy a shadow box, take out the glass, cover the backing in cute bird fabric, set the two hooks on it, and then leave it, unfinished, on the dining room table for two months.

Thankfully my husband took it upon himself to finish this project for me, and when I came home the other day it was hanging next to the door. A sweet little shadow box housing an A and an N, ready and waiting to keep our keys (and the two of us) organized.

Of course I've only remembered to actually put my keys on the hooks twice since then, but you know. Baby steps and all that.

*Made for each other. Seriously, didn't you ever see Sleepless in Seattle?

Monday, August 22, 2011


Until now, my world has been filled with blue. With stripes and plaids, with dirty socks and dump trucks. With snot-covered sleeves and matchbox cars and stinky toes. With never ending questions about dinosaurs and firetrucks and bugs.

And I've loved it. Every single second. I wouldn't trade my precious boy for anything. That little man of mine holds my heart.

But, oh, sweet baby girl. I can't wait to meet you.

I've been waiting for you forever.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I often make jokes about Minnesota, the state in which my husband was raised and we currently live. Truthfully, I find it to be an odd place. People generally keep to themselves, casseroles are called "hotdish," and they pronounce "aunt" "ahnt" and "bag" "baeg." But I come from a state full of loud-mouthed people, corrupt politicians, and hot dogs served without ketchup, so I don't know that I have much room to talk.

Moving to Minnesota 12 years ago was not my choice. Staying here was. By the time my parents made the decision to move back to Illinois, I was gainfully (?) employed and in love with a Minnesota boy (we were 22 and 23, so "boy" seems appropriate). Leaving Nate wasn't even a question; I think we both knew we'd end up married long before we'd even said "I love you." I was here to stay.

Not without a little bitterness, of course. No matter how much I loved Nate, how many terrific friends I made, or how many excellent restaurants we had access to, I was homesick. Terribly. Minnesota could never compare to my beloved Chicago. I missed my loud-mouthed family and friends, Vienna Beef, and folks who could pronounce words correctly. (The corrupt politicians, not so much.)

Over time, the ache in my heart has dulled a bit. While still lonesome for my family and my first home, I have found happiness here. And though Nate and I have talked, at length, about moving to Illinois someday, I know it will never happen. I won't let it. I've left everyone I know behind to make a life in a new state, and it's horribly difficult. I would never put Nate through that. His family, his friends, his entire life is here. And now, 12 years in, much of mine is, too. I have a stable job, a beautiful house, a family of my own, and extended family I hold dear. Not to mention a number of friends with whom we have developed solid, life-long relationships. People who I believe will play an integral role in our lives and the lives of our kids.

The other day, as I drove back into St. Paul after spending time with friends, I was struck by the beauty of the city skyline. While it doesn't hold the same awestruck wonder for me that the Chicago skyline does, it's beautiful all the same. And, after many years, I can finally say it's home.

My past is in Chicago; my family and my roots are in Illinois. But my present and my future are not. My heart, my home, is here — in Minnesota.

My home is with my husband, who likes lefsa and keeps to himself unless I force things out of him. With my little boy, who will likely say "baeg" but will always know the right way to dress a hot dog. And with the tiny one growing inside me, who I hope will inherit just a touch of this mama's Chicago-style loudmouthedness along with his/her daddy's reverence for hotdish.

Minnesota is certainly not where I expected — or wanted — to be, but there's no doubt in my mind it's where I belong.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ordinary life.

Time stands still best in moments that look suspiciously like ordinary life. -Brian Andreas

Monday, August 8, 2011

Delicious and [kind of] nutritious.

Now, I know I've said time and time again that I don't cook, but I do bake. And once in a while I make something awesome. When that happens, I feel it's only fair I share the recipe.

I made this zucchini bread recipe last summer and loved it, then kind of forgot about it. Glad I remembered! It's super moist and cinnamony and of course chock full of vegetables (and sugar) so it's also good for you! And the recipe makes two loaves, which I always think is nice — one for immediate consumption, one for the freezer. Or one to share with a friend, if you're nicer and less of a pig than I am.

Zucchini Bread

3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsp cinnamon
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil (I use a canola blend)
2 1/4 cups sugar
3 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini (two small)*
1 cup chopped walnuts

Grease and flour two 8x4 loaf pans. Preheat oven to 325.

Sift flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl.

Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add sifted ingredients, beat well. Stir in zucchini and walnuts.

Bake for 40-60 minutes** or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes, then remove bread from pan and cool completely.

Aren't these lovely little loaves?

*I also think this base would be awesome with diced or grated apples.
**My oven cooks slowly, so I typically check at 40 minutes but end up going closer to 60+.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Five Minute Friday: Whole

My life was full before I met you.

Happy. Healthy. Carefree. Devoted entirely to my God, my husband, my family, my friends, my job, myself.

I had work-life balance.

I had money.

I had time.

And now I have you.

I no longer have balance.

I no longer have money.

I no longer have time.

And even without these things, my life, my heart, is full.

More than full.


This post was written as part of Five Minute Friday. Two weeks in and all I've learned is that I'm a very slow writer and hitting publish after a mere five minutes of writing is terrifying. Join us, won't you?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Things I love Thursday [Food Edition]

I don't know what it is about Thursdays and blog lists, but it's about all I can muster by this point in the week. And given my current state the only thing on my mind is food, so it seemed a logical topic. Really, you should just be thankful for whatever I throw together because I know you're all sitting at work bored out of your skulls just waiting for something new to read.

Oh, that's just me? Okay then. Congrats on being a better employee than I am. Or, if you don't work, congrats on having a better life than I do.

1. Trader Joe's Roasted Gorgonzola Crackers. They don't even need cheese. Or dip. And that's saying something from a girl who rarely lifts a cracker to her mouth without some additional motivation. Chicken in a Biskit also fall into this category.

2. Decaf vanilla coolers from Caribou Coffee. From the drive-thru, preferably. Who wants to actually take the time to get out of their car in the morning?

3. McDonald's sweet tea. One dollar any size for a limited time only. Do it.

4. Everything at Brasa. Seriously, everything. Nate and I went there for the first time in a long time on Tuesday night and it was so ridiculously good. I know there are probably only two people who read this blog and live in the Twin Cities, so I'm very sorry to the rest of you. Except for those of you who live in the south and can get slow roasted pork and red beans and rice and cheesy grits and cornbread and homemade macaroni and cheese whenever you want. Holy heck I live in the wrong part of the country. Sure, Minnesota has tater tot hotdish,* but...yeah, I can't even get through that with a straight face. I mean, tater tot hotdish? This place is so weird.

5. Bacon cheeseburger meatloaf. Cheddar cheese, pickles, thick slices of bacon on top. It's the best meatloaf in the world. And I should know, having tried them all. I'm one of those weird people who really likes meatloaf. Maybe because I really like onions. Nate hates meatloaf because of the onions...which is how we ended up having bacon cheeseburger meatloaf at our house. Onion free. Or maybe just onion light. Who knows, I don't cook, I just eat.

6. Guacamole. No specific recipe in particular, I just had a mad craving for guacamole last night around 10pm while I was watching the end of So You Think You Can Dance and was really disappointed to find we didn't have any. Not that guacamole is the sort of thing anyone just has in the fridge. It usually requires some thought and preparation. I had a bowl of Berry Kix instead. Not the same, not the same at all.

7. Diet coke. Yep, I know. Don't care. It's delicious and I love it and I'm sure my baby will be just fine if a tad hyperactive. And if he/she is not fine, well then you can go ahead and kick me when I'm down. But bring a Diet Coke because after you do I'll probably be thirsty. Also, my mom smoked** when I was in utero and look how well I turned out!

8. String cheese. For kids, or for adults? Hard to say. But I think we can all agree on it being delicious and convenient! Except for Nate, who thinks it "tastes like nothing" yet still eats it.

9. This blueberry pie recipe which I am going to make soon, while blueberries are 2/$4. I haven't actually tasted this pie yet, but I am 100% certain pie crust + blueberries + CREAM CHEESE LAYER = something I love.

10. B.T. McElrath's Salty Dog chocolate bar. It's chocolate...covered in salt. There's nothing more to say.

And, I'm done. Not because I'm out of things to list, but because it's lunchtime and I'm starving and suddenly I want pizza.

11. Pizza. Yum.

*A hotdish is a casserole, for those of you not from Minnesota, aka everyone else on the planet. Also, if you come here with preschoolers, be prepared to play "Duck Duck Gray Duck" instead of "Duck Duck Goose." Yes, I know. I'm raising my children here. Wish me luck.

**Different times, they didn't know then what they know now...yada yada. Look for a similar statement from me down the road when my kids point out how I ate lunchmeat and drank Diet Coke while pregnant.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Mommy & me.

Because Nate works every other weekend, I try to take advantage of that one-on-one time with Calvin. Given last Saturday's dark and stormy weather, I decided it was a good day for two of my personal indoor favorites: McDonald's breakfast and a trip to the library.

If not a healthy body, at least a healthy mind, right?

A sausage egg McMuffin, an egg, bacon, cheese biscuit, two hashbrowns, and a mango pineapple smoothie = bliss.


During breakfast I tried to prep Calvin for our trip to the library by telling him that once we got there we'd need to stop at the counter and get a library card, which might take a few minutes. But after we did that, we'd get some new books! And that the library is a quiet place, so we'd need to use our very best library voice and listen to and obey mommy at all times.

He listened intently to my description of the library experience, thrilled at the prospect of new books. And then we practiced his library voice, which he nailed on the first try. I've been trying to get him to use that same hushed voice in other scenarios by calling it "car voice" and "morning voice" but so far it hasn't caught on. Dang.

After breakfast we made our way over the library, where I applied for a library card. I should note here that yes, I am an avid reader and yes, I should have a library card. However, I am really quite terrible at returning books on time and currently have outstanding fees in both the Dakota and Ramsey county systems. I'm a bit of a fee flee-er. The books have all been returned, but the fees have gone unpaid. I've been too nervous to try and get (another) library card now that we're back in Dakota county, because heaven only knows how much I owe in ten-year-old late fees, but then I realized that I have a new last name since I opened that first library card in Dakota county and they'll probably never know it's me. But I used Nate's phone number on my application just in case.

And now you know the extent of my criminal activity. I'm not proud, but I'm also not going to lie about it. Well, to you at least. I've obviously done my share of lying to the library system.

Side note: The woman in front of us in line was a total cat lady. Middle aged, crazy hair, sweatpants. And she was requesting a new library card because the night before she'd left it at a restaurant. She told the librarian that she'd gotten it back less than an hour later, but she was very concerned someone had used it during that time. (?) So the librarian checked her account and said it hadn't been used, and the woman said "Oh, I'm so relieved. But I'd still like a new account because I really don't know what they did with it during that time. Believe me, I know how these things work. I watch a LOT of true crime."

That was one of the more challenging "must not laugh out loud must not laugh out loud" moments I've had in life.

Anyway, after I succeeded in scamming the library into giving me another chance at borrowing books, Calvin succeeded in being the most well-behaved toddler at the library. And he loved it there! Maybe I have a shot at redeeming myself by raising a kid who loves and is respectful of the library. And by returning my books on time from now on.

He read and played while I browsed:

And then he insisted on carrying our bag full of goodies all by himself.

Our Mommy & me day ended when Daddy came home from work and crashed the party, but we still had fun. On our way home from dinner at Chili's that night, Nate and I were listening/dancing to Katy Perry in the front seat. From the backseat we heard Calvin say, "Mama, look! Look at MY moves!" I turned around to find Calvin raising and lowering his right arm again and again to the music. He dances about as well as his parents do.

I love my cutie boy and our special weekend time together. Oh, and I highly recommend Duck & Goose: How are You Feeling? and Lots of Spots. Those two books have gotten a bedtime workout this week!

Anyone notice his awesome Merichka's shirt? Nevermind that it says "tap room" on it with a picture of a cocktail glass. I may have sent him to his (church) daycare in that shirt once or twice before I even noticed...

Ugh. McDonald's, fee evasion, Katy Perry, cocktail shirts...this post isn't doing me any favors. Good thing I'm not up for any parenting awards this year.
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