Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas Eve!

I hope you are surrounded by loved ones on this day before Christmas, cozy and content, prepared to celebrate the birth of Jesus and the arrival of Santa (and most joyously, the departure of your Elf on the Shelf, haha). We have a weekend full of celebrating planned but I wanted to stop by to wish you a very Merry Christmas!

This week has been chock-full of busy for our family. We've been preparing for this weekend by baking (approximately 14 dozen cookies), shopping (not for Christmas gifts but for random essentials), and wrapping (we've been done Christmas shopping for weeks but I just started wrapping gifts this week!). The crowds around here have been insane all week. Louisa and I were out running errands on Tuesday and Wednesday, and after fighting for parking spaces and waiting in enormous lines, I swore I wouldn't set foot in another store until December 26.

I can't believe how quickly this weekend snuck up on me! It seemed like I had all the time in the world, and then suddenly I only had 5 days and an endless list of baking, laundry, wrapping, and assembling to do in addition to the regular momming and wife-ing I do on a daily basis. We also had a Christmas gathering with friends and Victor's office Christmas party this week. I became overwhelmed from time to time, but I powered through by following Max's advice. Whenever he senses that I'm getting worked up about something, he looks at me with his big blue eyes and says, "Fwoh doowwwwnn, Mom" (slow down) as he pumps his little hands as if he were pumping brakes. I can't help but giggle and take a minute to re-prioritize.

Sometimes as moms, we're so busy trying to make everything magical and memorable that we forget to enjoy the season ourselves. I can totally see myself in the future dreading the holiday season due to all the pressure I put on myself to do all the things. I hope to keep things in perspective and really slow down and enjoy these magical occasions with my kids.

Last night, as we drove home from Victor's office Christmas party, I took a detour to look at Christmas lights with the kids. Max loved shouting out all the colors he saw and was fascinated by the brightly-lit houses. We then snuggled on the couch to watch Santa Claus is Comin' to Town before he and Louisa went to bed. My kitchen still had sprinklings of flour and powdered sugar everywhere, there was a load of laundry to be folded in the dryer, and the remnants of my gift-wrapping marathon from naptime were still all over the family room (I turn into a "shove it in a bag with some tissue paper" gal in the eleventh hour, lol); however, it felt great to truly "fwoh down" and actually watch a movie with my kids. The chores were still waiting for me after the kids went to bed.

I hope you are able to "fwoh down" this weekend and truly take it all in with the ones you love most. Delight in the magic of the season and be present. All the to-dos will be waiting for you later. Enjoy the moment now.

Louisa's first Christmas, 2016

Max's first Christmas, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

thirty two

Yesterday was my 32nd birthday. A few days before, I had to do some fast math to figure out how old I was going to be; my age is not something I keep track of these days, I suppose. I don't dread turning one year older, but I also have never really been one to make a big deal about my birthday. My main desire is to not have it lumped with Christmas, but other than that, I'm pretty low key.

I love this photo, especially the blurry-ness

I had a wonderful day yesterday thanks to some of my favorite people. I was awoken at 6:30 AM by my darling Max, and the entire family (with the exception of Louisa) was downstairs before 8 AM. Victor made special French toast for breakfast and surprised me with a hidden bouquet of roses--he sent me on a mission to find a Christmas candle in our butler's bar, and there they were, waiting for me.

We picked Victor up from work around 11 to go see Santa at the mall. Max was pretty jazzed to see the big guy; from the moment we entered the mall (or "Santa's house," as Max referred to it), he began calling out for him. We walked right up to Santa and plopped the kids on his lap as there was NO LINE (I highly recommend going mid-week during the day)! Max was a little less thrilled about sitting on his lap once we got to him, but he held it together enough to get a nice, non-crying photo. After Santa, we had lunch together in the food court before heading home for naps.

My in-laws came over for a Mexican dinner celebration last night, and we also enjoyed a yummy festive cake and opened gifts. Victor cleaned up the kitchen while I put kids to bed (he's the best kitchen cleaner), and then I enjoyed nice warm bath with one of my new bath bombs (Victor and the kids got me bath products for my birthday: lavender-scented soaps and salts, a fabulous bath pillow, and an assortment of bath bombs). I finished the night off watching two episodes of Gilmore Girls on the iPad in bed (almost to season 6!). It was a lovely day, made even more special by all the birthday wishes sent via social media and phone/text. I definitely felt the love yesterday, so thank you for thinking of me!

I decided this year that I would make some goals for myself. Here's what I want to accomplish/work toward in my 32nd year:

+ Live a healthier lifestyle. I want to nourish my body with healthy foods and exercise. I want to get more sleep (this one might be out of my control for a few more years, but I can try!). I want to be stress-free. I want to have more self-control when it comes to my guilty pleasures. I think all of these will help me be a better version of myself.

+ Begin a new master's program. I started one back in 2011 but found myself unhappy with the program and classes (all online...bleh). I took what was supposed to be a short break in 2013 and then never started again. My teaching license is expiring next July since I haven't completed enough continuing education credits, so if I ever want to return to teaching (which I'm still on the fence about), I need to go back to school. I'm thinking of something literacy-related, perhaps a reading specialist program, and I know I for sure want to physically go to classes, even if I only take one class at a time. My plan is to research and begin a program by Fall 2017.

+ Declutter and organize my house. I feel like every time I open a cabinet or closet, I have an instant urge to purge and reorganize. We have accumulated so much STUFF that we don't even know what we have anymore! I love it when everything has a purpose and a place. I love having things contained in baskets or bins. I love having things neat and tidy. But I feel like my house is always a disaster, even if it's only a disaster behind the scenes. Time for order!

+ Be more present. I feel like I'm easily frustrated (especially with Max) when I'm constantly focused on my to-do list. I want to give myself the freedom to be more present with him and truly enjoy our time together, having adventures and creatively playing and interacting. I know that my frustrations will continue to grow as Louisa gets older and things get busier, so I need to get a handle on this goal ASAP!

+ Do more with the photos I take. I am pretty good at saving photos to Dropbox regularly, but then they just sit there. I rarely print photos anymore. My frames hold the same photos year after year. We have so many bare walls in our home. I need to put those photos to good use!

+ Demand more time for myself. I feel like I'm getting lost in motherhood, and while I love my kids and cherish being home with them, I find myself reaching burn-out levels occasionally. I need to force myself to get away from my mommy/wife role, even if it's just one day a month, and just be Rachel again. We moms put ourselves last pretty much every day; once everyone else is taken care of, we can take care of ourselves, and if there's no more time left that day, our needs get pushed back to the next day...and the next day...and the next day. I'm a classic introvert and require alone time to reset and recharge, and when I don't get that, I can be pretty unpleasant. I think everyone around me will benefit from me having more "me" time, but I need to get out of my own way and ask for/schedule it.

Hopefully sharing these goals with you all will help hold me accountable and make it more likely that I accomplish them!

Enjoy a trip to birthdays past:

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Louisa | 6 months

On November 19, my baby girl Louisa turned 6 months old. Halfway to one year old. And now in just 6 short days, she'll be 7 months old.

H O W ? ? ?

She is changing by the second lately, learning new skills and reaching new milestones faster than I can keep track. She's the sweetest, happiest baby I've ever met, and I love spending every single day with her. 

Since Louisa's and Max's birthdays are only two days (and two years) apart, I find myself comparing her milestone achievements to Max's when he was her age. She's lagging a bit behind him; however, she has to compete for Mommy's attention (something Max never had to do), so she hasn't been able to hone her skills as intensely as big brother could. She just recently started sitting up unassisted for prolonged periods of time; Max had been doing that for a good month by the time he was this age. Max already had two teeth by this age; she has none. She's also not quite ready to pop up on her knees and explore crawling yet, but Max was working on crawling pretty solidly by this age. I'm not worried in the slightest as I know all babies develop at their own pace. I'm also trying to revel in her baby-ness as long as I can; Victor and I go back and forth daily on our opinion about whether we should have one more baby or stop at two. Since she could be my last, I don't want to wish the time away. Plus, the longer we can keep her contained to one area, the better for my sanity!

Here are some sweet little tid-bits about my Louisa Maria at 6 months old:

+ Stats: Weight | 18 lbs, 14 oz | 91st percentile   Height | 26.5 inches | 72nd percentile   Head circumference | 17 inches | 67th percentile

+ She has what I like to call "rose gold" hair and blue-gray eyes.

+ She's quickly growing out of her 6 month clothes and wears a lot of 9-12 month sizes. She's also in size 3 diapers.

+ She's sleeping fairly well. She goes to bed around 8:30 most nights and will sleep until around 8 AM (give or take) the next morning. She normally wakes once at around 3 AM to nurse. I'm toying with her wake times during the day to see what gives her the best naps. This week, her first two naps were 30 minutes long most days and her 3rd nap (which is supposed to be a "catnap") lasts for 1-2 hours.

+ I still put her to sleep on her back, but she's turning into more of a side/tummy sleeper.

+ She loves bathtime, and I'm personally looking forward to her and Max bathing together (two birds, one stone, people). Probably in the next month she'll be sitting up well enough to enjoy a big girl bath!

+ We started offering her solids at around 5.5 months. She wasn't interested and basically cried/fussed the whole time she was in the high chair to eat. I gave her the week of Thanksgiving off and tried again the past couple of weeks. She still didn't care for them until late last week when a switch seemed to go off. All of a sudden, she loves it all and I can't get the spoon in her mouth fast enough! So far she's tried rice cereal, apples, sweet potatoes, peas, and carrots. I'm doing a mixture of homemade foods and store-bought baby food.

+ She is not interested in taking a bottle anymore, likely because she's out of practice. She was taking them occasionally over the summer and then we never really needed to offer her one once fall hit. Victor and I went Christmas shopping a couple weekends ago and left the kids with Victor's parents for about 6 hours and Louisa refused to take a bottle the entire time! She wasn't too fussy though and just chowed down on the boob once I returned!

+ She completed her first Kindermusik session this fall. She enjoyed it, but I don't think it really "spoke" to her as much as it did to Max. She really loved the movement/bouncing activities and would crack up whenever we'd do them.

+ She's the happiest kid around. Seriously. She only cries or fusses if something is really bothering her or if she's bored.

+ She regularly rolls from both belly to back and back to belly. She's getting close to rolling all around the room!

+ She's sitting unassisted for extended periods of time now, but she still tips over if she tries to look at something behind her or up high.

+ She used to like to sing/babble herself to sleep, but now she just gets down to business and goes to sleep fairly quickly on her own.

+ She thinks her big brother is the coolest guy ever. He doesn't have to do much to get her to smile or laugh.

+ She's been "teething" for months now with nothing to show for it. She's constantly got her fingers in her mouth to relieve some pressure in her gums, but she's not overly fussy about it.

+ She's becoming much more interested in playing with toys and will reach out to grab something she wants.

+ The girl can poop! Several times a day! And about 3 days a week, she poops out of at least one outfit. So much stain treatment going on here (see this post for a great DIY stain remover. I swear by it!)

+ She loves to watch Instastories with me and will frequently smile/laugh at what she sees.

+ Lately, every time I wipe her face, she sticks her tongue out to lick the washcloth.

I couldn't have asked for a sweeter, lovelier baby girl! I wish she could stay little forever, but I'm so looking forward to watching her grow up!

Read more about Louisa here:

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Max | Two and a half years

On November 17, Max officially became two and a half years old. I feel like I've been telling people he's "almost two and a half" for months now, and suddenly here we are. He's now closer to three years old than he is to two. I can't even believe I nearly have a three-nager on my hands!

These past two and a half years have been such a joy with Max. He made me a mama, and I can't even remember what life was like before him (I do vaguely remember sleeping in more...). Never could I have imagined that he'd turn out to be who he is today, and I'm so excited to see how his personality continues to develop as the years go by. Victor said to me the other day that it's crazy to think that in less than 16 years, we'll be sending him off to college, into the world without us. I know those 16 years are going to fly by because I swear he was just born and then I blinked and now he's almost 3.

Every day is an adventure with my Maximiliano Phillip, and it's the wildest ride I've ever experienced. He can melt my heart and make me want to rip my hair out in the same minute. And I wouldn't want it any other way.

Here's what I want to remember about my boy as a big two-and-a-half year old:

+ Stats: Weight | 35.2 lbs | 93rd percentile  Height | 37.75 inches | 84th percentile  Head | enormous

+ He's moving into size 3T in clothes and wears an 8/9 size shoe. His shoes look huge now. When did his feet get huge?

+ He's the very best big brother to little Louisa. He loves making her happy and is so proud of himself whenever he makes her smile or laugh. He doesn't hesitate to retrieve her toys and frequently gives her hugs and kisses. Occasionally his mischievous side will come out and he'll give her an eye poke or a foot bite (no lie...over Thanksgiving I was holding the baby and he walked up and bit her on her foot!), but more often than not, he's being sweet, loving, and doting on his precious baby sister.

+ He's so musical. I took him to Kindermusik classes as a baby and it really resonated with him. He's got quite a collection of instruments ranging from bell rattles to a kids' keyboard and drum set. If he's watching a show and the characters start playing instruments, he runs to find his and joins in. He also frequently asks me if his cousins Courtney and Lauren can come over to play instruments with him. Victor and I will continue to encourage his musical curiosity and see where it leads.

+ He's hilarious. Even when he's not meaning to be funny. And he loves to laugh. I could listen to his giggle for hours.

+ He's loud. Always. It's only quiet in this house when he's sleeping.

+ He has a great memory. He remembers obscure places where he hides things and how he burned his finger on dad's grill last summer.

+ His favorite song is "Beat It" by Michael Jackson. We have the Michael Jackson Experience game for PlayStation and I put it on for him to "learn" the dance. Now he repeats some of the moves and says he's the "blue guy" whenever we dance to it. He's also learning more words and chimes in every time he listens to the song. I'm convinced it's going to be his go-to karaoke song choice when he gets older, and I will have plenty video footage of him singing and dancing to it as a toddler to embarrass him. I hope he always calls it "beat it fong."

+ He's still a picky eater. There was a time, back between ages 12 months and about 16 months, where he would eat pretty much anything we put in front of him. Then suddenly a switch flipped and he began refusing some of his favorite meals. I don't think I've gotten him to eat salmon in a year, and he used to mow it down! I recently read an article in Parents Magazine's November 2016 issue about methods to double the number of foods your child likes. It's a pretty fascinating concept called "food chaining" and I'm going to attempt it! See the main points from the article here.

+ He's great at making messes (his method of finding something is throwing everything that's not the thing he's looking for on the floor until he finds it), but he's also great at cleaning up. Sometimes he'll clean up without being asked and other times he needs to be reminded, but he seems to like things being in their place.

+ He's very strong-willed and stubborn. This is very challenging at times since it's nearly impossible to reason with a toddler, but he's helping me become more patient.

+ He's recently become very imaginative when he plays. He calls action figures "guys" and he plays with them ALL THE TIME. He has them walk along Louisa's exersaucer and rappel from our counter stools. He has them talk to one another, saying things like, "Hey dude! Let's go to the beach!" (in Max-speak, of course). He calls for them when he can't find them as if they'll call out in response, "Batman, where are you?!" He's all boy and loves superheroes and vehicles. He is also into dressing up and becomes Spiderman or Pirate Jake frequently.

+ He's fiercely independent but also asks for help when he can't quite manage to do something himself.

+ He says "Excuse me" after he burps, coughs, or sneezes. He also says "please" and "thank you," but he needs more prompting to use those more regularly.

+ His motor skills haven't caught up to his language skills yet, so he has some pretty interesting ways of saying different phrases. My favorites are "Me nyah voo" (I love you), "key tee" (Christmas tree), and "baby wee-ah" (baby Louisa). He can produce very elaborate sentences and rarely stops talking, but unless you know his "code," you might not be able to understand him.

+ He's starting to understand that commercials show you cool things to buy, so now when he sees a neat toy he likes, he says, "Mom, buy dee me." (Mom, buy this for me). Lord help us.

+ He completed his first "soccer class" through Soccer Shots this fall, and he was a rock star! He did so great taking direction from "Co Key" (Coach Kurt) and was a star student at a majority of his classes. He looked forward to Soccer Saturdays every week.

+ He knows where the various Starbucks locations are near us and will request a "pink pop" as soon as he realizes that we're going to get mama a coffee. He even walks up to the baristas and says shouts, "Me nyee pink pop pee!" (I need a pink pop please!).

+ He pushes/drags stools/chairs everywhere to reach things on his own, even when he's not supposed to have it. The sound of the dragging drives me bonkers!

+ He loves to help. He will put away groceries with me. He loves to help bake. We had an electrician come by last week (he was here a lot after we first moved in to get our speakers/security systems running correctly so Max knows him) to fix an internet wire, and when Max saw his tool box, he ran to his play room and got his toy tape measure and screw driver and sat down right next to him. It was hilariously adorable.

+ He still takes naps as long as he's home in his own bed, but we are considering eliminating them in favor of him falling asleep easily and sleeping through the night. On days he naps, he takes forever to fall asleep at bedtime and wakes at least once overnight. The opposite occurs when he misses his nap. This is a week of experimentation, and next week we might start forgoing naps. I'm not sure how I feel about this. Any tips/words of encouragement from veteran nap-eliminators are appreciated!

+ He loves playing with friends and family and is always sad when his favorite people leave, declaring that he "nyahs" (loves) the people who are departing. It's so sweet.

+ He keeps asking about "pee fool" (preschool) and knows that when he's 3, he'll get to go to school and make more friends.

+ He wants nothing to do with potty training. He prefers peeing in the tub.

+ He can identify numbers 1-10, most colors, and some letters. He also knows that "Max" starts with "Emmmmmmmmm."

+ His favorite colors are blue, green, and white.

+ He loves watching Bubble Guppies, Curious George, Team Umizoomi, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, and Wallykazam.

+His favorite toys are his "guys," cars, and his panda bear stuffed animal from Ikea.

+ His favorite food is bananas. He requests them all day long and will eat two in one sitting. He's also recently had his first smoothie (on his 2.5 year birthday, actually. Not sure why I waited so long to introduce him to them) and he requests them almost daily.

+ His current favorite books (the ones we read everyday at naptime and bedtime) are The Lion King and The Pigeon Needs a Bath.

This boy has my heart. I'm so incredibly lucky to be his mama!

Read more about Max here:

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Almond-Crusted Tilapia and Roasted Sheet Pan Veggies

We used to eat poultry as our dinner protein a majority of the week until this summer. Now we try follow a more vegetarian/pescatarian diet, and I'm having lots of fun finding fun seafood recipes to try and add to my recipe book. I'm not a huge fan of plain tilapia since I think it's a pretty bland fish, so I'm always on the hunt for recipes that give it a little extra oomph.

I'm so glad I came across this recipe in my All Recipes magazine! I love almonds, so this was an added bonus for this recipe. It's fairly simple to throw together with the help of a blender or food processor, and thanks to the almonds, the leftovers are still crispy/crunchy the next day unlike many other "breaded" fish and poultry I've tried.

I have never made enough of this to serve 8 people, so I've simply reduced the ingredients a bit based on how many people I'm serving.

Additionally, I'm finding myself making roasted veggies as a side a lot in the fall and winter months, so I thought I'd share my go-to recipe for that, as well. It goes well with pretty much anything and is so easy to do. I am always sure to have potatoes, carrots, and broccoli on hand just in case I get a hankerin' for roasted veggie deliciousness. The leftovers are also scrumptious!

Almond Crusted Tilapia
Serves 8

What you'll need:
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon lemon pepper *I did 1/2 teaspoon pepper, then squeezed  fresh lemon juice on the fillets once they were coated
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups finely ground almonds with skins
  • 1 1/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • 8 6-oz. tilapia fillets *I used frozen tilapia loins from Costco (thawed before cooking, of course)

What you'll do:
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spread butter over bottom of a 12x17-inch rimmed baking sheet (add a layer of foil for easier clean up!)
  2. Stir together flour, spices, and salt in a shallow bowl or pie plate.
  3. Whisk eggs in separate shallow bowl or pie plate until combined.
  4. Combine ground almonds and cheese in separate shallow bowl or pie plate.
  5. Dredge each fillet in flour mixture, shaking off any excess, then dip in egg, letting excess drip off. Finally, dredge each fillet in almond mixture, coating both sides, and transfer to prepared baking sheet.
  6. Bake until fish flakes easily with a fork, about 10 minutes.

Roasted Sheet Pan Veggies

What you'll need:
  • An assortment of your favorite roasting vegetables: carrots, red potatoes, onions, squash, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. (my faves are carrots, potatoes, and broccoli)
  • Olive oil
  • sea salt
  • fresh ground pepper
What you'll do:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Line a cookie sheet with foil, then drizzle olive oil on top.
  3. Wash, peel (when necessary), and chop your veggies. Carrots should be in slightly uniform chunks (unless you're using baby carrots), broccoli or cauliflower in florets, potatoes and squash in uniform chunks.
  4. Arrange veggies in single layer on cookie sheet. Drizzle with more olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Toss slightly to coat.
  5. Roast for 15-20 minutes or until you can easily pierce the veggies with a fork and they feel soft. *If you're making this to accompany the tilapia above, you can put them in the same oven at 450, just keep an eye on them...they'll probably only need 10-12 minutes.

This is SO good, y'all! Enjoy!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Oh hey, Friday! | Welcome December!

Happy Friday y'all! And happy December, as of yesterday! I can't believe how quickly this year is coming to an end! I've started addressing our Christmas cards and making Christmas shopping lists, but my Christmas decorations are still in their bins. Hopefully I'll be able to get to those this weekend. I need some cozy Christmas cheer in my house!

I welcomed December by putting Louisa in Max's old "First Christmas" pajamas yesterday. That was her outfit for the day. She was happy. I was happy. It was a good day.

This week has been a bit crazy as we combat "re-entry" after our trip last week. Here's a peek into our week:

1) A crew began digging up our yard on Monday to remedy an issue the county has with our rainwater drainage. It's a long, boring story so I won't get into it, but our yard has been a mess all week. Also, the utility marking company didn't note where our Verizon Fios line was located when they marked for the dig, so the crew accidentally dug up and sliced right through our Internet and cable line on Monday. Thankfully a nice gentleman got out here on Tuesday, in the rain, to get us temporarily spliced back together until they can bury the line again. That little setback caused my Thanksgiving recap post to be delayed until Wednesday. Find it here in case you missed it!

2) My desire to watch all the Gilmore Girls has really put a damper on my productivity, and at the same time my to-do list is really putting a kink in my plans to watch all the Gilmore Girls. I've made it into the beginning of season 4, but I've got a long way to go until I'm ready for the revival. 

Speaking of Gilmore Girls, have you entered the giveaway! You have until midnight tonight to get entered!

I'm also 3 episodes behind in This Is Us, and I need to watch the 3rd part of the Real Housewives of Orange County reunion. So much TV to watch, so little time!

3) I finally cleared off my desk in our home office so now I can actually sit here and do office-y desk-y things, like blog, send emails, address our Christmas cards, pay bills, etc. I still have a lot of work to do to feel totally organized and settled, but at least I've made a step in the right direction! I'm so excited to finally get all of the office-related clutter out of the kitchen!

4) I did all the kids' laundry on Monday (or maybe it was Tuesday), and it's still sitting, unfolded, partially in the dryer and partially in the basket. Perhaps I'll fold today while I watch some of that TV I need to catch up on.

5) I made a delicious almond-crusted tilapia for dinner this week, and I plan to share the recipe here next week! It's SO GOOD!

Hope you have a lovely weekend!

Linking up with
Karli and Amy