Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Weekend of Thanks...

Well, tonight wraps up a glorious 4-day holiday weekend with Ron at our side the entire time. Ever since he went back to school in late June, this has been a rare thing for Lia and I to have him around for this many days in a row. Pathetic, I know. So, were we ever grateful to start off our weekend of thanksgiving with that additional blessing. Plus, we were able to celebrate Thanksgiving in Seattle with my family for the first time (for me) since 2001! That makes eight years that I have been in a different state or even county. We loved not having to fly on the busiest travel weekend of the year. No lines, delayed flights, lost luggage, no nothing! Here are the highlights of the weekend:

Thanksgiving dinner was held at my parents' house with several family members in attendance. Although many members of the family contributed to the dinner, my mother made over half of it herself and came through with flying colors (which is no surprise). Here is my mom, SIL Natalee, and Aunt Sharon bustling around the kitchen during the final, frantic minutes before dinner. I am helping out by taking pictures...

My SIL Rebecca, brother Tip, hubby Ron, and three nieces playing games in the family room while awaiting the meal.

One of the tables decked out in its Thanksgiving splendor in the dining room. Martha would be proud, mom.

In keeping up with being the closest to perfect that a toddler can be, Lia obediently took her daily nap before, during, and after the Thanksgiving dinner. By doing so, Lia kept on schedule and allowed her parents the freedom to enjoy their holiday dinner in peace. It's hard work being perfect, but she manages to do it somehow. Here she is bossing Ron around while most anxiously consuming her turkey dinner after the rest of us have long since finished.

I volunteered to make four pies from SCRATCH (yes, dough and all) as my assignment for dinner. I made two pumpkin, one apple, and one banana cream pie. I did this in order to further my progress in accomplishing the goal of becoming more like my mother.

The full-belly family.

On Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, we decided to go on a little family outing in order to, one, avoid the malls and, two, take advantage of some sunshine peaking through the clouds. We ventured out and explored a new beach on the Puget Sound in Tacoma called Owen Beach (thanks, Sarah, for the directions) for an hour or so before stopping for salmon wraps and salmon chowder (delish!) at this adorable seafood shop on the way out. Here is Ron, Lia, and my shadow basking in the sunshine.

Lia in repose...

Quite possibly the world's most adorable toddler...

On our way home, we made a spontaneous stop at the grocery store to pick out our Christmas tree from the freshly arrived stock of trees. Since we have never been home on Thanksgiving weekend as a married couple, we have never purchased our tree this early in the season. However, we realized with Ron's busy work-school and university-school schedule, that this was the opportune weekend to do it! So, we carpe diemed and bought one. And, I know, I know, we DO live in the world of U-Cut Christmas tree farms, but we had a bad experience with one our first year living here and are now completely content with buying our 6-foot Douglas Fir at Top Food Grocery Store for a bargain $19.97 each year.

Ron unloading the tree from the car!

Friday night, while Ron worked, Lia helped me decorate the Christmas tree with lights and ornaments. As one would imagine, she was absolutely mesmerized by the entire process and never left the room. I managed to photograph the most precious moment of the evening that I think captures some of the magic of Christmas. While I was stringing the lights around the tree, I found Lia on the landing of our stairs where she was trying to feed the other end of the lights through the railings and onto the tree! What a little Santa's helper.

Of all the "ormanents" (as Lia fondly calls them), she was most fascinated with this little birdie and its accompanying nest. She carried it around and played with it for several minutes before finally helping me place it on a lower bough in the tree. Here she is on the ground playing with her new found friend.

Putting the birdie in the nest.

Ron and I wrapped up the highlights of our holiday weekend with an actual date on Saturday. Gasp, I know. This kind of thing unfortunately does not happen as much as it should in the Hartland. However, thanks to our favorite YW, Paige, who is 17-going-on-30 and the free babysitting she owed us for the proofreading of two English papers, we were able to slip out of the home for almost six hours! I'm embarrassed to admit that I dragged Ron to New Moon for the first half of the date (I have a love-hate relationship with Stephenie Meyer and her books for a couple of reasons that I won't get into) where he managed to survive the film and its endless scenes of shirtless men. We then finished off the day with a trip to the fabulous Asian strip mall we found in August while his mother was visiting. We feasted on Filipino food, sipped Vietnamese avocado shakes, purchased enough Pan de Ube at the Filipino bakery to feed an army, and happily wandered the miles and miles of highly entertaining and equally fascinating aisles of the Asian grocery store. Pictured above, you will find me and our cart in the aisle devoted ENTIRELY to sauces. Can you even imagine an entire aisle in a grocery store devoted to everything sauce under the sun?! Fish sauce, soy sauce, chili sauce, oyster sauce, banana sauce, bean sauce, BBQ sauce, and even some vinegar and shrimp and chili paste are all available for your enjoyment. I think I now finally understand why my husband absolutely insists on having some sort of sauce on everything we eat...

Hope you all had a fabulous Thanksgiving weekend!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Times in Happy Valley

Seeing as though I had not been to Happy Valley (a.k.a. Utah Valley) for over FIVE years, I jumped at the opportunity to accompany my mother to attend the wedding of a family friend there. Since Lia is still under the age of two and free on a plane, she accompanied us for a very fun and busy weekend doing much and seeing much. Being the closet-sentimental-sap that I am, I had a glorious time taking several trips down memory lane and visiting some very close friends and family members. Plus, my brother, Tip, and his wife, Nat, also were down for the wedding and it was a real treat to be with them sans the "blonde tornado" (as I affectionately call their four very blonde children). As much as I love my nieces and nephews, it is just a rare treat to be with a sibling these days without a child pulling on a sleeve. Overall, it was a glorious weekend and truly memorable for me to introduce a very special place to my daughter...

Ever since Lia went on her second plane ride in September, she has been fascinated with planes. While outside, she will faithfully point them out to me in the sky whenever she sees or hears one. So, you can imagine her excitement on the morning of November 19th, when we went to the SeaTac Aiport to catch our plane to SLC. She couldn't get enough of the window watching and running up and down the corridors while waiting to board our plane. I love this picture as it's almost as though Lia is trying to hug the planes through the window.

After landing and picking up our rental car, my mom, Lia, and I hit Temple Square in downtown SLC for some good ol' sightseeing. We enjoyed strolling around the grounds on a crisp, autumn day and getting a sneak-peak at the endless Christmas decorations that will be fired up the day after Thanksgiving. Here we are in front of the life size nativity scene where Lia was fascinated with all of the animals.

We took Lia up into the Visitor's Center to take a peak at the Christus statue. For some reason, she kept on lifting up her shirt while I was trying to get a photo of her. This was the best one I could get before the shirt when flying up. Such an irreverent and silly child.

A doting mother and child in the shadows of the temple.

There is this circular pedestal on the east side of the temple where many a bride and groom have taken the classic SLC Temple wedding pose. Lia mistook it for a baby-size performing stage and hopped right on it and started doing the silliest poses and facial expressions. She seriously did this for several minutes while my mother and I laughed our guts out. Here are a few of the poses I managed to take of her in between laughs...

And another pose...

And, another. Can anyone say C.O.A.? (if you don't know that acronym, it stands for "Center of Attention." She gets that quality from her father....:-) )

Friday, November 20th, started off with a tour of BYU with Lia, my brother, and his wife. Seeing as though the three of us are all alums of this fine university, we really had a grand ol' time wandering around campus, visiting some of our stomping grounds and checking out some of the changes. We really all have such fond memories of the Brigham Y. Plus, Chris was really on one and spent much of his time monitoring how many of the young, female, coeds were checking him out. He is convinced that he still has what it takes. I'm not so convinced...

Although my old English building is still standing, it is no longer the Humanities building. Instead, a glorious one has been built two buildings down and is something to marvel at! Here is Tip, Lia, and I in front of the fountain that stands in the stunning courtyard of the 4-story beauty. Now, WHY didn't they have this building when I was an English major?! Geez.

We just had to make a stop at the good ol' HBLL (BYU's library) for memory's sake as all three of us spent one too many hours there. Chris and Nat had never seen the addition (with the moving book shelves) and I simply just wanted to see if it smelled the same. Here is our future BYU student getting familiar with the fiction section.

After being penned up in the stroller for most of the morning, I let Lia out to run free amongst the students during passing period with "Nunny" in tow.

Later on Friday, I met with two of my closest buddies, Courtney and Carrie, from my days as a missionary in the grand land of Canada. Although neither one of these soeurs were actual companions of mine, they were kindred spirits from the get-go. We met at Courtney's house in Provo and talked up a storm while our posterity gorged on Red Vines and trashed Courtney's house in the interim.

Our brood: Carrie's three, Courtney's one, and my Lia (rocking out with the drum stick) on some fabulous pea green carpet.

After a much needed slower start on a Saturday and a trip to the Provo Temple during Lia's nap, Lia and I met up with my mom, brother, and SIL, for the evening wedding festivities of our dear friend, Sean, in American Fork (pronounced American Fark). The wedding dinner and reception were held in this really cool, old church building. Lia had the time of her life running around like a wild child the entire time. Needless to say, I did not last til it ended as that girl wore me out long before then!

This picture perfectly captures my out-of-control daughter as she sprints up one of the flights of stairs. Check out those crazy, flushed, pink cheeks?

My family and a very sweaty me (due to my endless attempts at catching my daughter) in the reception hall.

This picture perfectly sums up how Lia feels about my brothers. For some reason, she is not the biggest fan of this contingent. I'm going to blame it on my brother, Eric, who traumatized her at a young age by hurling her into the air. She has never trusted the three of them (as they all kind of look alike).

Here Lia and I are the next day with my beloved Aunt Lois and Uncle Boyd who hosted my mother and me for the weekend. They were my parents-away-from-home during my years at the Y. It was so nice to be able to spend the weekend with them and get Lia acquainted with them. She got very good at saying, "Bye bye Boyd," and "Bye bye Lois" by the end of our time there.

Sunday, November 22nd, found me at the home of Melissa, my dear friend from my study abroad in Jerusalem way back in 1996. This girl is one adventurous spirit and was the perfect match for me during that wild summer we spent in the Holy Land. All I have to say is that climbing the Giza Pyramids with someone is the kind of thing that bonds you for life! I thoroughly enjoyed talking the evening away with Mel and her hilarious hubby, Travis, and meeting her two girls, Harper and Norah, for the first time.

My mom, Lia, and I flew out on Monday, November 23rd, after a slow morning. Since my aunt is a piano player and teacher extraordinaire, Lia thoroughly enjoyed getting in her first official piano lessons that weekend. Here she is at Aunt Lois' side where she was seriously entertained for a good hour before saying goodbye that morning.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

21 Month Update...

Well, it happened. Our sweet pea turned 21 months old today. Before I know it, she'll be two. Goodness. Where has the time gone? It has gone waaaaay to fast. For family record-keeping purposes, here is a quick top ten of "Lia's latest" this past month.

1. Lia continues to work on the art of tantrum throwing. Although she is still not half as bad as what I've seen from others in the throws of the terrible twos, she is most definitely refining them. This past month, she has taken to throwing her tantrums in the living room. It is her location of choice. The tantrum will originate in the kitchen or the family room and then travel to the living room where she finishes it off. Who knows why.
2. Although we tried successfully for many, many months to avoid teaching Lia the word, "no," by using other more polite alternatives like "We don't do that," she managed to pick up the cursed word anyways a few months ago. However, this past month, she has started using it to answer our questions which we have actually found quite helpful in the communication department. However, what I really want to record for posterity is how she says it. I don't think that there ever has been a toddler that says the word, "no," as sweetly and politely and demurely as Lia. Ironic as it is, it is just one of the cutest things she has ever done.
3. Lia has started to delve into the world of imaginary play. She can be found singing to herself and talking in pretend-language while playing with one toy or another. I love catching her in the act before she discovers my eavesdropping. This is just one of those things that makes me smile.
4. As of this month, I have officially given up on recording Lia's latest words. She just has SO many now. In fact, people comment all the time on how surprised they are when they learn her age due to the amount of words she uses. I would like to think that she is above par in this department. In addition to having a few hundred words in her vocabulary, she has started to use mini-sentences of 2-4 words on a regular basis (remember that a sentence only needs a subject and a, they do qualify as sentences)! Examples would be, "Push the button," or "Eat the carrot," or "Baby sleeping." In addition, adjectives ("big" is her favorite), prepositions, and personal pronouns abound.
5. Although Lia has had a coordinating baby pillow in her crib ever since she started using it, she finally discovered it this past month. Why does that happen? She did the same thing with her bunny a few months ago. Anyway, as a result, she has developed a fascination with pillows and talks about this regular household item on a daily basis. She oftentimes insists that it be in sight when placed in her crib and can be found from time to time actually sleeping with her head on it.
6. Ron actually noticed this one and it is now one of his favorites. Lia pushes her hair out of her face all the time now. The funny thing is that her hair isn't always in her face when she does it. I just think it makes her feel all grown-up.
7. This is most definitely my favorite of the month (and I think my mother's, too). Often times, after Lia has settled down from a cry fest whether it was from an owie or from a tantrum, she will then say, "Baby crying." It is too, too funny. She apparently is becoming an expert in pointing out the obvious. I couldn't be more proud.
8. Lia has begun to understand the concept of where her parents are and the main reason why they are gone on a daily basis. Whenever Ron comes home, Lia will shout, "Papa home," and whenever I take her to her babysitters house, she will say, "Mama work." Sharp kid.
9. This is another one of my favorites. One day this month, I started whispering to Lia for a reason I can't remember. However, she immediately started copying me by pretend whispering. Lia does this all the time now whenever I whisper. She apparently doesn't understand me when I do this as she will usually "parrot" the last word of any sentence I say, but doesn't do this when I whisper. It really is so cute to watch as she will just spew out several sentences of mumbo-jumbo in this quiet, serious voice.
10. On her own, Lia has discovered the thrill of jumping or bouncing down the stairs whenever she has an adult hand to hold onto. Thankfully, she hasn't attempted this while walking down the stairs on her own, but will attempt it anytime Ron or I am accompanying her. It often times gets messy as jumping seems to throw off her aim which causes Lia to miss a step here or there, but luckily there is always a firm hand to catch her in the act.

So, there you go, folks...that's it for the month! Until next time...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fall into Autumn...

Yesterday, while Ron was working on school work and homework, Lia and I braved the cold and ventured outside to do some annual autumn yard work: the raking of the leaves! We spent quite a bit of time yesterday gathering up the leaves that had fallen in our backyard and transferring them to our garden boxes that I had just ripped out earlier in the week. After attending to some of her domestic responsibilities in the kitchen of her playhouse, Lia eventually joined me in the leaves. Not sure what to make of all of this, she decided that running around me in circles would be the best use of her time. After I placed her in the pile of leaves, she still wasn't sure what to do with it all. It wasn't until after she discovered that she could be my assistant, that she finally found her purpose in all of this autumn madness.

Testing out the leaves with her pan and spatula in hand.

Trying out the sitting-down position.

The discovery of the rake brought on a whole new purpose to the afternoon!

Lia actually was quite a good helper. She dutifully followed me back and forth between the leaves and the gardens where she carefully helped transfer the leaves to and from the wheelbarrow. Such a good girl.

Last, but not least, I tried to get the classic autumn pose of child-laying-in-leaves. You can see for yourself what Lia thought of that.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Happychoo, Papa!

This past week, we celebrated Ron's birthday with a few nice and mellow events around the house and town. First off was the birthday breakfast. One of my traditions is to surprise him with a homemade breakfast bright and early before work on his big day. However, this year he has taken "bright and early" to a whole new level. Can anyone say 4:30 am? NOT me. As a result, we had his birthday breakfast of quiche and blueberry buckle the Sunday before his birthday. We even broke out a bottle of Martinellis for the affair! On his actual big day, Lia and I welcomed Ron home from work to dinner waiting for him in the dining room. Meatloaf, garlic mashed potatoes, asparagus, and carrot cake from scratch were on the docket! We dined on our fine china and and sipped milk out of our crystal with Lia at our side in her not-so-fine, plastic high chair. The evening was a pretty classy affair. :-)

Dinner's served!

The scrumptious carrot cake from scratch complete with carrot curls and crushed walnuts. This was my first attempt at making what is known as Ron's favorite cake. I'm not one to brag about my baking, but this one was divine. Thank you, Megan, for the recipe!

This was the first time that Lia has heard the song, "Happy Birthday," since really becoming verbal. She was quite taken by it and started singing, "Happychoo Papa," over and over again. (She combined the "Happy" and the "to you" from the song to make "Happychoo"). It was soooo cute!

After cake, Ron opened his cards and gifts. His gift from Lia and me? Well, it's what this man needs more than anything this year besides a week basking on a remote island in the hour massage at the spa down the street. Enjoy, papa!

Part #2 of Ron's birthday was our annual trip to the tiny, family-run, Japanese restaurant in P-town that it pretty close to the real thing (I know, who would have thunk it! In Puyallup of all places). A wee bit pricey, we visit Kanpai once a year in honor of Ron's big day and provide him with the opportunity to fill up on enough sushi to last til the next year. I, on the other hand, thoroughly enjoy stuffing myself on all things Japanese that are cooked (and, yes, believe it or not, there are actually quite a few items on the menu that fall under this category). We had a very pleasant evening enjoying what we do best (eating) sans baby thanks to one of the loyal Laurels in my YW. After coming home from work on Friday with a pounding headache in both temples due battling lazy and disrespectful teenagers all day long, I am happy to say that Kanpai, with its lovely service and food, wiped it all away. I have decided that this restaurant has become my new extra strength Tylenol.

My absolute favorite thing about Kanpai: the sushi boat that all of Ron's raw goodies come on every year. Man, we've got to get ourselves one of those!

Happychoo, Papa! We love you!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

"Little Red" and Halloween...

Well, I'm happy to report that Halloween '09 was a success in the Hartland. Lia was the cutest thing on the block in her Little Red Riding Hood costume and loved every minute of the evening. Last Halloween, she was only eight months old and was basically clueless to the festivities around her. But, this year was the complete opposite. I think she really was aware of how adorable she was in her little outfit and thoroughly enjoyed prancing around in it while getting attention and receiving free candy. Before we set out for the various events on our night's agenda, I took my "Little Red" out for a quick photo shoot in the front yard. She actually behaved herself for quite a few photos before discovering the absolute thrill that one feels while running around with a hooded head and a basket in hand.

Lia with her new found friend, Jack.

Lia petting jack. I just love this picture!

I'm sorry, but do they get cuter than this?!

A streaking Lia on the driveway.

Ron and I dressed up as a Chinese doll and warrior. Here are Lia and I on the front steps before heading to our dinner party. I still can't get over how much I look like my mom with that wig on!

Our friend's, the Nelsons, hosted a little Halloween dinner party before the trick-or-treating portion of the evening. They made delicious fish tacos that both we and our other friends, the Jacobsens, contributed to. Besides making an appropriate "frog eyed salad," I tried a pumpkin spice cake recipe and decorated it like a pumpkin. Although it didn't look as good as the picture in the magazine (does it ever?!), I think it tasted pretty good.

The Chinese warrior and the apple of his eye waiting for dinner.

I know that I have already included enough pics of Lia, but I snapped this outside of Nelson's door and thought it was just too cute with her little tongue sticking out!

The Jacbobsens have a daughter, Kaylee, who is three months younger than Lia. Due to the age difference, Lia has always had a bit of a physical advantage over her which hasn't always been a good thing. Over the months, we have found Lia pulling Kaylee's hair and attempting to gouge out an eyeball. So, is it any wonder that this is the worried look that Kaylee is giving her as Lia reaches over to touch her pony tail?! And, don't those two girls just look too precious all dressed up in their Halloween finery?

The kids all dressed up and ready to go!

After dinner, we all headed over to attend our church's trunk-or-treat activity in the church's parking lot. We got there a little late and only caught the last few minutes of it. Whoops. Here is Lance and Megan's car getting attacked by a swarm of trick-or-treaters!

The Hartland fam.

Although Lia isn't fully versed in candy (how long can I pull that one off?!), she did get a big kick out of carrying her little trick-or-treat bag that was compliments of a doting Lola. She spent most of the time running, dancing, and twirling around the parking lot. After we packed up from that affair, we made it back to our neighborhood. Ron manned the door while I took Lia out trick-or-treating around our cul-de-sac. She really got into it after learning that she could get up close and personal with several cats and dogs behind our neighbors' doors. After a few houses, she started requested, "more, after leaving each house. I will never forget looking down at my side to see my sweet, little daughter confidently walking down the sidewalk in her Little Red Riding Hood get-up while holding my hand. It's one of those moments that I froze in my mind forever....