Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Christmas, part 3

After spending all morning and early afternoon at the Blakeys, we came back to our house and had Christmas with the Botkins.  My whole family was in town, and it was really special celebrating with everyone.

Before we sat down for dinner, I changed the girls back into their dark green velvet matching Christmas dresses.

My mom always spends so much time in the kitchen, so we tried to simplify the menu a little bit this year.  But she still insisted on baking a couple of her special pecan pies. 
Her favorite.  I never liked them as a kid, but I've grown to appreciate the flavors and textures.

Chloë looking all grown up eating Christmas dinner.

My brother cuddled Elaina a lot.  She loves her Uncle Samuel.

And so, we conclude the random photos from Christmas.  Less than 11 months until the next Christmas!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Christmas, part 2

We got back from our quick trip to Bonners on the evening of Christmas Eve, and then we re-loaded the car with presents and pillows and food, and went out to the Blakey's for our annual sleepover.  We stayed up late putting the final touches on gifts, baking cookies, and playing video games.
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, everyone was lounging in the living room playing video games.  I think that's it.
Poor Elaina had come down with a fever, so she never had the chance to wear her new Christmas jammies that matched her sister's.

After Chloë went to bed, Bryan and I got to work putting together the rocking moose that we got for her.  The last picture before I headed to bed:

Christmas morning.  Chloë was really excited.
She loved the rocking moose.
We had our traditional huge breakfast, with lots of grease and chocolate.
Chloë was happy to keep on rocking her moose, and Elaina enjoyed some of the food.

Finally ready to dig into that pile of presents!
Elaina wasn't feeling very well.
But she thought tearing the wrapping paper was pretty great.

Chloë got lots of cowgirl stuff, including a great pair of little leather boots.  As is her custom with all footwear, the ultimate test is to see how they do with dancing.

Cute little Christmas cowgirl.

Elaina enjoyed playing with her doggy toy.

We actually doubled up on the present-opening this year.  Instead of doing just one at a time, we did two at a time!  We were all done opening presents in a couple of short hours, instead of the usual four or five hours.  Then we loaded everything up and headed home to continue the Christmas festivities.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Christmas, part 1

A month has passed since Christmas, but I figured a few pictures are better late than never.

The real kickoff for our Christmas season is to find a Christmas tree.  It seems like we always manage to go Christmas tree hunting on the coldest night of the year, but we hit the heat wave this year.   It was almost 40 degrees.
Chloë found the perfect tree!  A noble fir, which is exactly what we wanted.

Back at home, she got the first decoration all ready to hang on the tree.
She tried to hang it on a branch, but it dropped to the floor and shattered.  So I helped her with other ornaments, while Elaina watched our every move.
Of course the baby wanted to touch everything.
Chloë got to hang some non-breakable ornaments without assistance.
All decorated and lit up.  A few days later, Mimi helped Elaina get a closer look.

The Sunday before Christmas, we were all dressed in our finest, and the girls in their matching green velvet Christmas dresses from Grams.
Austin snapped a few pictures with my camera. (Notice the barricade around the tree to keep the little fingers from temptation.  It worked really well.)
I'm realizing how tricky it is to get four people looking halfway decent in the same shot.  This one isn't too horrible, I guess.
We didn't know it at the time, but Elaina was getting sick.  So she was just about done taking pictures before we even started.

We drove up to Bonners Ferry right after church, and stayed the night at my parent's house.  We got to spend the next morning with my dear friend Chelsea, who was in town visiting for the week.
I got to meet her super cute (and super chubby) boy Taylor, and we spent a few hours sipping tea and catching up.  Then it was back on the road, and back to Moscow.  Being Christmas Eve, there was much to be done.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

We've Been Domestic

We really have. 

Well technically, I suppose I'm domestic every day.  But changing diapers, reading books, and cooking dinner doesn't usually make it into the glamorous side of domesticity.  It's the extra stuff that gets the attention. 

Last month I bottled up some delicious vanilla vodka.  I was hoping it would be strong enough to use for baking, but it mixes well for sipping too.  The vanilla beans had been marinading in vodka for 14 months.

Then last week I made a cake.  A Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Salted Caramel Coconut Mocha Cake for our church dinner last week.  (Recipe found here.) This was, perhaps, one of the most frustrating culinary experiences of my life.  The cake actually turned out great.  As long as you didn't notice the little clumps of baking powder that didn't mix well.  But the frosting... oh, the miserable frosting.  After almost two hours in the kitchen, I had completely ruined two attempts at making frosting.  The spatula turned out not to be made of silicone, and didn't hold up very well to the heat of the first batch of caramel.  Oops.  And with the second batch, the meringue buttercream ended up more like caramely scrambled eggs.  Double oops.

So I just made the salted coconut caramel and used that.  Not the prettiest cake I've ever made, but it turned out alright in the end.

I've been doing various artsy crafty stuff, too.  I saw a cute idea on Pinterest to make some pretend miniature tea bags out of cloth, but I figured I'd make them a little more realistic.  So a couple of days ago I used a coffee filter, some brown paper, a threaded needle, and a little glue.  Voila.
They fit perfectly into Chloë's tiny porcelain tea cups.

Aaand I made lots of jam. Five batches of it, actually.  I unloaded the bags of frozen berries from my freezer, and got to jammin'.  I know it doesn't look like much, but those pint jars hold a lot of jam! One batch of raspberry, and four batches of cherry raspberry mix. Chloë and Elaina eat a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Thus concludes my domestic post for this month. I'll spare you pictures of the dirty diapers. But don't worry. I really don't have any pictures of dirty diapers. From this month, anyway.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Two-And-A-Half Years Old

And now, ladies and gentlemen, a long awaited blog post about Chloë.  She is two-and-a-half now, after all, and it has been months since I've updated the world on how she is growing and changing.

Sometimes I begin posts days or even weeks before they appear public on this blog.  Because I want to scribble down (or frantically type?) some little thing that happened, lest I forget.  This also explains why posts like this one feel a bit choppy.  Oh well.

I was just browsing through a few notes that are months old, and am realizing how much Chloë has changed.  She is my regular little helper and conversationalist.  Her vocabulary has exploded into talking in full and complete sentences about anything and everything; telling me about her imaginary world, or asking for help with some grown up thing she wants to do, or bemoaning the fact that her curious little sister wants to join her in whatever she's doing.

The first note I have was about introducing the idea of potty training, and Chloë insisting that she only wears diapers.  Well, I am extremely happy to report that she hasn't worn diapers (or pull-ups) for a few months now.  We tackled potty training with the "in a day" method, and it proved extremely successful for us. She stays dry at night and only has an accident once a week or so when she gets so absorbed in whatever it is she's doing that she blocks her body signaling her to use the restroom.  But it's big girl pants for this kid these days.

A couple of months ago, Chloë and I did some regular "Speech Therapy."  Ironically, she refers to it as "doing recipe." She had a lot of trouble with her Fs and Vs (which end up sounding like Z or S), and her TH sounds more like a Z.  So we stand in front of the mirror so she can compare what our mouths and tongues are doing, and we make some silly sounds ("ba ba ba, ma ma ma,"), and practice the hard ones ("fa fa fa.  Fi fi fi.  Fiiiish.").  We did this for maybe 10 minutes a day, a few time a week for a month or so, and she made huge progress.  She now uses Fs and Vs with ease!  Her THs still sound a lots like Zs, so we should probably work on those.  I don't want to make a big deal out of it, since no child speaks their first word perfectly; I know it is a years-long learning process.  But I'm happy that my silly attempts paid off.

Chloë loves to draw, and we have no shortage of drawing supplies in this house. 

Her first self portrait a couple of months ago:

She thought this huge pink pen was pretty spectacular.

We've gotten into the habit of letting Chloë make birthday cards by drawing them, and she really surprised us last month with the portrait she did of Bryan's dad.

She understands past, present, and future, but doesn't always get the time frames quite right. Yesterday could mean last week, and "in two weeks," means it must be a loooong time from now.

Chloë likes brushing hair. 

A few months ago, we sat down for dinner, and I told Chloë it was her turn to pray.  "Remember," I said, "Just tell Jesus the things you're thankful for."  We all held hands, and Chloë said "Dur Jesus.  Thank you for this food." She looked around the table. "And the potatoes.  And peppers.  And spicy.  And Laina.  And Daddy.  And Chloë.  And Mama.  In Jesus' name.  AMEN!"  These days, with her eloquent complete sentences, she rambles on about all sorts of things when she prays.

She likes going places.  Any time I put shoes on, she excitedly asks, "Where we goin', Mama?!"  She can almost entirely dress herself, and she will eagerly put her shoes on (usually on the wrong feet), and get her coat, and she's ready to join me on a grand adventure to the grocery store.  Occasionally we'll even do something special like go on a little date.  She feels pretty important drinking hot cocoa out of a little cup.

Sometimes she likes walking around the house in her snow gloves and snow boots.  And she loves playing dress up with jewelry or dress up clothes.

She loves talking on the phone, and she love pretending to have entire conversations on the phone.  She'll fake laugh, and say "oh my goodness," and "yeahyeahyeah," and all manner of hilarious things that I know she must hear me say.  Sometimes she will have rapid succession phone conversations, during which she will repeatedly say, "Hello? What's? Okay, bye!"

Her favorite foods are olives, pickles, chips, and chocolate or anything that would qualify as dessert. 

Sometimes she really doesn't like going to bed, she doesn't like very many vegetables, and she doesn't like really loud noises.

A few weeks ago, Chloë was in a sad mood at bedtime.  I leaned in to give her a goodnight kiss, but she stopped me and perked up.  Raising her eyebrows, she said, "I hear something."  I paused and listened.  "I don't hear anything," I told her.  "I hear something," she insisted.  I listened.  "I don't hear it.  What is it?" I asked her.  "My head," she said.  Curious, I asked, "what does it sound like?" "A truck," she answered.

For as much as Elaina is capable of messing up whatever her big sister is doing, Chloë really does love her little sister.  A couple of months ago, they were playing and laughing together on my bed, sort of cuddling. Chloë smiled her sweetest smile while nodding and quietly said, "I like my sister." Then she leaned over to Elaina and whispered, "I love you so much."

She loves animals, and loves seeing the alpacas at Grams and Pops' house. This little baby 'paca was just a couple of days old.

She likes "reading" books by reciting stories as accurately as she can, building towers out of blocks so Elaina will have something to knock over, playing with her sister, playing with her friends, playing outside or going to the park, "helping" me cook or clean, watching Sesame Street, running around the house and playing chasing games, and using melody or rhythm almost constantly at times.

Chloë usually goes to sleep for the night around 10:30.  She often wakes up once or twice, but goes back to sleep easily.  She sleeps until 8 or 8:30, and then has about a two hour nap mid-afternoon.  I'm not sure what she weighs or how tall she is, but I'm guessing below average for weight, and right on track for height.  She can count into the teens, knows all the major colors, knows the alphabet and most letters' sound, and thinks that every word that begins with the letter "C" must be her name.

This is the beautiful face I get when I ask her to smile for the camera.
She's a pretty great kid to have around.  She's is goofy and silly, sweet and affectionate.  She'll rub my leg and ask, "How ya doin', Mama?" or stroke Elaina's hair if she's upset and tell her, "It's okay, little baby." She's such a joy.