It's my birthday. I'm so old.

It's that time of year again! Christmas! Wassail! Turkey, ham, cheeseballs, cake. Yes, cake. Because it's my birthday.

I worked all freakin' day on Saturday, which was a bit of a drag. Every other Saturday I've worked so far (this round), people get cut early. We fully staff the store to deal with the morning and mid-day rushes, but then we're typically dead by the afternoon.

Not this last Saturday. Apparently the 18th of December is in competition with Black Friday as our busiest day of the year at Starbucks.

So I drug my feet for 8 hours, and made it abundantly clear to my assistant manager that it was my birthday. I rubbed it in bad. Tim and I had had a quick conversation just before opening one morning back in November about my birthday. I asked him if I could work that day but just get my hours in earlier rather than later. He flipped through the time requests book and then shut it and shoved it back on the shelf.

"Your birthday is on a Thursday and you don't work Thursdays."

"Oh, uh, well, no it's not..." But by the time I finished saying that I was talking to his back. Heck, it was 4:30a.m. - no one is putting their best foot forward at that time of day.

And so I worked on my birthday, 8:30a.m. to 4p.m. Talk about a sucky shift. I really really wanted to go home. The hours between noon and 3p.m. were particularly torturous. I saw Nate in the morning before heading to work and asked him if he would bring the girls in to say hi. He didn't understand why it was so important to me - it was about then that I realized he had forgotten it was my birthday. I didn't say anything, resolving to not be upset until 24 hours had passed: I'd give him all day to remember.

I kept texting with him throughout the morning, asking him to bring the girls in. He was hesitant (knowing that I don't exactly have huge windows of time to say hi when we're in the middle of a rush at work). It was around 12:30 that I realized I had the car with the carseats. There would be no visits from little ones. I was so sad! I had spent all morning looking expectantly at the door every time it opened. Around 3:15 Nate wished me a happy birthday via text. And without a reminder; he was redeemed.

After work, Nate and I got ready for our first ever ugly Christmas sweater party. It was awe-some. Of course Goodwill was out of ugly sweaters when I went in the other day, so we looked nice rather than ridiculous.

I was so blessed/touched/tickled/reduced to near tears when the host and hostess surprised me with a birthday cake. I can't even begin to really define what it meant to me...It was so special and meaningful! It's been ages since a surprise like that! The other fun thing about it was that I knew the host and hostess and Rae Ann - everyone else at the party was a stranger to me, so when the lights went out and the cake came in and everyone began to sing "Happy Birthday" (with much gusto and bravado), well, it was pretty much awesome.

After eating cake, we played a game called Cutthroat Maffia. Ever heard of it? I rarely get to play games any more. Nate won't play with me. The bum. He says it's because I'm too enthusiastic or something or other. He might have used the word competitive but I can't remember.

I was maffia twice and a townsperson three times. Nate was maffia twice. I killed him the two times I was maffia but he graciously only killed me once. I died the other two rounds also, and I think I was killed both times by the host. I was never rightfully accused of murdering the person I actually killed, but I did get sent away for murders I didn't commit. The justice system is messy. Good times!

Since I worked all day on Saturday, we got down to the business of celebrating as a family on Sunday. We started out the day by sleeping in and then heading off to Joe's Donuts in Sandy. I made the mistake of mentioning donuts with sprinkles to Hazel while I was dressing her, so we had to listen to her chatter in anticipation for another two hours before we actually sat down to eat the donuts.

After Joe's, we headed home and put the girls down for naps. Nate had to make a quick trip to Portland to pick up his mom so I puttered around the room doing dishes and laundry, waiting for him to get home. Turns out he got a call from his mom on his way out the door - she didn't need a ride any longer so instead of driving to Portland, he went to the store and bought me flowers and a card. He left them in the car for me so that I was surprised by them when we finally headed out for our evening together.

We took I-205 North toward Gresham but realized pretty quickly that the freeway was a mess. It had started to snow and all the crazy Oregonians forgot how to drive in the cold and wet conditions. Who can blame them, though, really? It had already been two days since the last rain. Anyway, we took back roads into Gresham. The closer we got, the bigger the snowflakes. It was awesome! When we arrived at Starbucks for a pick-me-up, the flakes were huge and coming down fast. We ran in and bought our coffee; by the time we got back to the car, there was quite an accumulation of flakes. It was so beautiful!

We drove into Sandy (again) for dinner at Calamity Jane's (a really fattening and tasty dinner of chili cheese fries and burgers) and then we went to the movies and saw "Tron." Nate loved it immediately. The whole '80s vibe had him stoked. I ran to the bathroom during the movie and I think I picked the most vital part because I'm still a little confused by the movie...

We were home by 11p.m., which was a perfect end to the day. Now it's Monday and I'm still old.


Hazel turned 2 and I can't believe it.

 We picked her name from a street sign, no joke. I thought it was a lovely and unique name, but it took some time for Nate to agree. When he met her, he knew she couldn't be named anything but Hazel!

It's weird that her birth was only two years ago and that it's also already been two years. Time is doing this weird surging thing; it's ebbing and flowing and I can't seem to keep up. My little Miss B. is two and she's quick to tell you so when you ask! Or she is once you convince her that you do understand that her name is Hazel, yes, Hazel Banks, okay, I understand.

She's a chatty chatty girl these days, but the upside is that I can finally understand most of what she says! Actually, I don't think that's a fair statement. I'm her mom and it's pretty obvious that the parents can understand their kids' baby talk better than anyone else on the planet. What I should say is that other people can understand Hazel as well as I do now. Wahoo! Hazel is one smart cookie.

At her pediatrician appointment on her birthday, the wonderful Dr. Mooney had a conversation with Hazel about a book she was looking at. Hazel had shoved the book into Dr. Mooney's lap for her to read, so Dr. Mooney picked it up and showed Hazel a picture of a little kid sitting in his high chair at lunchtime. She asked Hazel, "What's the little boy doing?" I think the response she was looking for was something like, "Eating," or, "Drinking." Hazel answered, "The little baby is drinking his cup of milk." Dr. Mooney was shocked.

 Hazel routinely asks for stories and songs, especially CHRISTMAS MUSSEEK! She loves moobies, or I mean movies, especially the "Lion King" (which apparently can be either Simba or Aslan, doesn't matter much so long as there's a lion involved).

Miss Hazel arrived into this world on November 22, 2008. I'll let you take a look in the archives to read about her birth. She came out beautiful, entered the funny looking newborn stage shortly after birth, and then grew into my Chunky Monkey. She's getting so old and big girlish now! She's not so little anymore. Of course she's still a toddler but then that goes back to two years have passed already and only two years have passed. That stinkin' ebb and flow.

We celebrated her birthday with some friends and family here at Rick and Karen's house. We didn't use our room - we used the upstairs. It was a tight fit with everything in transition, but really it worked very well, much more smoothly than I'd been anticipating. Hazel was stoked that so many of her very favorite people were in the same room. She didn't really know what to do with herself!

She raced around to see everyone and then got down to the business of playing. Rae Ann made a gorgeous pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting. It was so heavy and decadent. She gave me crap about how many candles I used on the cake, but who says you  have to use a number dependent on the birthday kid's age? I indulged by using a large number of orange candles. I think it looked wonderful!

We snacked on appetizers and chatted for awhile before cutting the cake. Hazel blew out her own candles and I was so proud of her! She put some really focused effort into it and did an amazing job.

Following cake cutting and eating, we opened presents. Hazel seemed to grasp the idea quickly: Rip off the ribbons and paper and there's something pretty cool inside! She had a blast and "oohed" and "ahhed" over all her gifts.

Here are some pictures from the party:

 [Karen with Hazel and her birthday balloons.]

[Tutu and Miss B.] 

[Friend Heather and Henta with Piper.] 

 [Lighting the candles with Amanda & Lilu, Stella and Ivy watching on. Oh and Hazel.]

[Hazel watching the candles as they burned.] 

[Down to one lit candle! She was a wind machine!] 

[Opening some presents.] 

[Riding her new hip-hip-hippo with Indira.] 

[She stole Rae Ann's piece of cake and walked away with it. Dad spotted her eating alone in the middle of floor.]

I'm still stumped at how we got to this point. I'm amazed at her growth and I feel blessed every time I look at Hazel. She is growing really well by the grace of God. He has given us a very special girl in Hazel Elaine! She's happy and cheerful, loving and obedient (with her moments of tantrum throwing, of course). She brings everyone around her such joy. She's independent and organized (believe it or not). She loves to wear pretty clothes and have her nails painted. She announces when she has done a no-no and takes us to the scene of the crime. She loves to play pretend with her dollies and her kitchen stuff. She reads to us and reminds us of her favorite parts in any book. She's helpful with picking up her messes. She loves to take baths and run/fly.

I am so in love. And I am so blessed.


Tree Killin' 2010

So, don't tell Nate this, but I can't find the camera. I keep holding him off telling him we'll find it when I shift some stuff around. I've done the shifting and I still can't find it. That being said, the following is the ONLY picture I have from this year's Tree Killin' adventure!

I worked until noon on Sunday and raced home. Nate had the girls up and in their many layers - I sprinted in the door and he ran outside to transfer carseats from my car to his dad's Escape. I threw my warmer winter gear into a bag, packed some snacks for the girls, undressed Hazel a bit (she was sweltering in her bundles of clothes), and then tossed the kids out the door to Nate one at a time.

We piled into the Escape and headed to Estacada. We met up with Dad, Mom, Rae Ann, Stella, and Ivy at the Fearless Brewery and had some lunch. Of course, as is so often the case with kids, both Hazel and Piper sensed my hunger so they each decided to give me big chores to do before I could eat. Hazel had need of a diaper change, so we headed to the women's restroom, which was pretty clean (I was surprised, actually) but didn't have a changing table. I laid her out on the floor and did the deed. When I got back to the table, Piper was screeching and I was keenly aware of the owner's policy toward unhappy, crying kids: Take them outside. I grabbed her from Nate and took her back to the Escape to feed her.

By the time she was done eating, I was in a very poopy mood. I was starving. Appetizers had been on the table when I left with Piper and I could imagine that, twenty minutes later, there wasn't anything left. Nate met me outside on my way into the restaurant and he took Piper so I could eat something. Dad and Nate had thoughtfully guarded the chili fries so I could have some (that's one of the best things about Tree Killin' in my mind!).

We scarfed our burgers, onion rings, chicken strips, breakfast wraps, and mac'n'cheese in record time. Mom and Dad had a party to head to later in the day, so we needed to be quick about getting our trees. We headed toward a tree lot called Bobz. For a family who has always climbed the foothills of Mt. Hood to cut down $5 trees, it hurt our senses to have to visit a lot to buy a $20 tree. It turned out (Mom and Dad knew this when we drove there, but it was news to Rae Ann and I) that an old old friend owns Bobz. We did a little chatting and reconnecting and then we found literally the perfect trees. Rae Ann was super happy with her find, Mom and Dad couldn't have done better, I don't think, and Nate and I walked away with a beautiful little tree for Rick and Karen.

Rae Ann found out that we weren't planning on having a tree in the basement (space restrictions you know), but she insisted on buying a little two foot tree for Hazel. It's super cute. It's sitting next to me right this minute. I brought two stings of lights with me touse in decorating our room for Christmas so I used one on the tree. It's glowing. The tree itself is way to wimpy to hold any of the four ornaments I have with me (a metal bird, a wooden frame with a special saying, a heavy fairy, and a fragile goldfish), so it's bare for now except the lights. What a gift, though! I love love love Christmas trees, so it's been fun to be able to look at this one every moment of the day.

The guys at the tree lot loaded the tree onto our car for us. As Nate and I were unbundling ourselves and the girls, the truck took off with the rest of the family in it. Dad shouted bye out the window as the truck rounded the corner and disappeared from view. Nate and I just looked at each other and laughed. We knew they had a timeline that was pretty tight, but it was still funny that they were gone so quickly. Rae Ann texted me a couple minutes later and invited us over to Mom and Dad's for a bit to hang out. We drove straight there. She made some brownies and Mom rocked Piper to sleep. Hazel told Ivy no a million times while they were playing, and the dogs were appropriately harassed by all the small children. It was a good time. It hit about five o'clock and we decided to get the girls home for an early bedtime.

We had a fun Tree Killin' experience, once again! I'm sad to report, though, that we didn't get our yearly picture with our tree. It was super windy and cold at the tree lot. (I'll blame the weather rather than the lost camera. Best not to draw too much attention to that poor camera...)

[P.S. This is Piper after eating about a week ago. I'm posting this here because she's getting huge! I'm so proud of her!]


Forgot to tell you about this.

Last year Nate was sick on Tree Killin' day, so Hazel and I braved the elements alone. Well, it wasn't actually as dire as it sounds. We rode with Mom and Dad way far away (couldn't exactly tell you where we landed but it was getting close to Breitenbush campground. (Did you notice that those are two separate links? I'm tricky and slick sometimes.)

I strapped Hazel onto my back in the Kelty and we started hiking straight uphill, right on Mom and Dad's heels. I lost wind pretty quickly; it was way too hard. And it became way too cold. I'm pretty sure Hazel came *this close* to losing an eye a couple times. That kid never cries in discomfort really, no not ever. She threw a true tantrum once before this adventure (during our last Christmas photo, picture below - she had a fever and double ear infection and we had no idea until she melted down three snaps in during our photo session). Branches kept whipping up and hitting her in the face while were climbing the hill. Straight up. I realize that you probably just read between the lines to realize that, in the end, that's my fault. It's true. I'm probably the one who made the branches whip around and smack her. I realized that around the third time she cried out, so that, coupled with not being able to feel my nose any more, helped me make the incredibly easy decision to head down the hill, back to the truck, so that we could warm up comfortably while Mom and Dad did their crazy hiking. Pictures:

Can you see her ultra cold cheeks and nose? It's hard to see the scratches on her face, but they're there. We sat in the truck for quite awhile before Mom and Dad showed up with their tree. Dad loaded it into the truck bed and we headed down the hill to have lunch in Estacada. We hit up a tree farm on the way into Damascus so that we could return home with some success. (SUCCESS? Bah. It burns me to pay more than $5 for a Christmas tree, stupid tree farms.) Nate was laid out on the couch when I got home. He held Hazel and watched me wrestle the tree through the door and then decorate it.

Below is the picture we used with our Christmas letter. Not the best. Following that is a picture I wanted to use but couldn't because Hazel was entering her meltdown.

I must say, this year's experience with our tree is bound to be better! We won't have a tree in our room, so we're cutting one for Rick and Karen. It'll stand in their living room for everyone to enjoy. I can hardly wait to decorate it! All my ornaments are packed away for next year so I'm really looking forward to helping Karen with hers. Hazel is going to lose her mind. It'll be the best!


Settled? What's that?

Our life is utter chaos right now, if I'm being honest. That being said, please forgive me if I missed a planned get together, or if I'm supposed to call you back and I haven't, or if you're expecting something from me in the mail. My world is a little upside-down right now.

Piper is doing fine - she's pretty much the only one out of the four of us, though, who can say as much (and she's not currently speaking).

Hazel is a mess. This move has been hard on her. When we first landed in my in-laws' basement, she continued to sleep in her play pen upstairs in the office. That's where she's been most familiar with sleeping. She was switched down to the basement (as was always our plan) about a week and a half into living here. That's been a tough one for her. Napping is coming easier these days, but we're having to work toward the "right" bedtime for her. She's been up until about nine the last few nights, but we're inching that bedtime closer and closer to her original and more appropriate 7:15 bedtime.

Miss B. turned two on November 22nd (I'll have to post separately about that - too many good pictures) and she's every bit the protest tantrum two-year-old. It's driving me insane. Love her to pieces, but some mornings I just want to put her back in bed and walk away. I think these major life changes have been a bit much for her so she's picked something to be mad at and that's the changing table. She hates it. She won't lie still and she kicks, hits, and pulls my hair when I have to change her diaper. Some of you might be wondering why I force it with her when it's such an issue: Even though we have moved, our expectations of her are the same. She will have her diaper changed on the changing table, not our bed; she will eat sitting in her high chair, not wandering around the room. She needs to feel the same sense of security within these boundaries as she did at our old house, but it's taking some time right now for her to realize that although our living situation has changed, nothing else has. I don't want to fight any more battles with her; I'm tired. Bone. Tired.

Nate is working working working. He was the incredible one-man-show during the move. He had the wonderful help of his brothers when it came to literally loading crap into various vehicles and depositing it wherever it needed to land, be that Goodwill, the storage unit, someone's house, or the "Great Room." He is so utterly tired also. I don't know how he's still functioning. He's my hero, truly. It took him two weeks to get us to a "done" point with the house. I helped when I could, but it was a bit tougher with the girls. Rick and Karen went above and beyond by watching them many, many evenings as Nate and I cleaned and organized the other house. I can't even begin a breakdown of everything he did in/on that house before we could be considered moved.

I miss that house every day. It hurts my heart that we're not living there anymore.

On December 1st, Nate turned our keys in to the landlord. He walked through the house and pointed out changes we made, things we brought with us that we're leaving there, etc. We're leaving the outdoor light fixtures that we bought for our Anderegg house and then brought to the 172nd house; we're leaving our stove and hood, the pendant light in the kitchen nook, the shower head and curtain rod, window shades in the bedrooms, and...Other stuff that I can't remember right now. Our landlord was thrilled. He loved how nice the inside looked, so he was able to look past the overgrown front garden and the piles of leaves in the yard. When Nate asked me for my key on Tuesday night in preparation for the walk-through the next morning, I cried.

I've really struggled with this move, and I know it's because I feel a lack of control. It kinda sucks that God wants to have me learn a whole bunch of tough lessons back-to-back. I'd like to just be done with this season, so I'm hoping and praying that I morph into a quick learner.

We're blessed to have the generosity of Nate's parents. We've filled up their basement with our disorganized crap and I know that it's stressful on everyone. I have boxes and boxes of stuff still to unpack. I think our family might just celebrate the holidays with Christmas decorations in January because at this point there's too much other clutter in our one room to even recognize the decorations apart from the boxes and piles of stuff I'm sorting. Do you want a peek? It hurts me to post this picture, just so you know.

It's bad lighting because I used the computer camera to snap the photo, but I think you get the gist. The stuff on the left is a pile I'm working on currently; it blocks the fireplace. Our bed you can see pretty easily - the red blanket/curtain helps to separate our part of the room from the girls. What you don't see here is Nate's office, my pantry, the chest freezer and fridge, the dressers, changing table, or closet. Good times, yes?

Even with all this blech-ness right now, our little family is still together and we're thriving. We have to get over this hump of change and acclimate (hopefully soon). I already feel that we're making true memories here, and that's a gift! Oh, and another super thing is that I have full access to Nate's super awesome computer, so hopefully blogging will happen much more often (very likely during my mandatory quiet hours between 1-4p.m.; naps, you know).

Tomorrow we'll head up to Estacada to find our Christmas tree, and Hazel is so stoked. All she can talk about right now is, "!*@^*#* [Decorate] the Christmas tree, MOMMY?"