Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The One With the Things I Love Henry (22 Months Old)

This might be my favorite time of Henry's life so far. I guess there are a lot of favorite times, but he's just so fun these days. He's sweet and cuddly and rambunctious and adventurous and just the best. Here are a few of my favorite favorites.

1. His language has exploded recently. In what seemed like a short amount of time he went from barely saying, "Hi" and "Guggles" (for the cat) to suddenly saying, "I like milkshakes [and] car-car, Mama." and "My car-car is 'keen' (McQueen)" or "I want boots, Dada." It's all pretty marvelous to hear what is going on inside that gorgeous head of his. Recently he's caught me off guard with, "Daddy's a (at) work." or "I want go school [and] park." Meaning that he actually wants to park at the school where we wait for his sisters.

2. He is so snuggly. He loves to cuddle with me and dad and Mallory especially. And he comes running at you full-speed when you first walk in the door. And when we leave somewhere, like grandma's or a friends' house, he goes around and hugs everyone goodbye. It's the sweetest. He wants to "nuggle" all the time. I love it. I hope he always does.

3. He loves "Guggles" and all "gagas". "Guggles" is what he calls our cat, Snuggles, who, despite her name, is not all that snuggly (anymore). Poor Snugs Mugs has not been the happiest cat since coming to live with us in Portland, but ever since Henry has started playing with her she has been much better and much less whiney. She lets him use her tail as a leash and follow/lead her all around the house. And when she walks away from her food dish he picks it up and carries it around after her. And usually trips and falls and spills it everywhere. But I can't be too made because it's so cute. "Gagas" are all dogs and boy, does he love dogs so, so much. Maybe we should get him one someday. Or maybe not. I don't know if I'm ready for that kind of responsibility.

4. He is such a sweet helper. He is very good at putting things away when asked and generally trying to help out wherever he can. I was worried that as the baby he would be, well, babied, and would be hard to convince to participate in the cleaning. But he's doing a great job. Just yesterday he spilled some water, went and got a towel, cleaned up the spill, and replaced the towel without being told anything at all. I didn't even know he had spilled until I asked what he was doing and he said, "Bottle spill." I asked him to pick up all his books the other day and came back and they were all cleaned up. He's better at cleaning right now than his sisters. Ha!

5. His, "Hi Mama" is maybe my favorite. It's so high-pitched and adoring, as if I'm the best possible thing there is. Ever. You know it's really true what they say about how a mother will never know love like that of her son. I love the girls so much, I get the girls, but there is something about being adored by my son that just doesn't compare. He's my best boy and the love I feel for him sometimes threatens to break me in two. It almost hurts to love someone so much. And then be reminded that someday he's going to leave me. You know that Kenney Chesney song, "There goes my life"? That's how I feel whenever he walks away from me.

6. He's so thankful about everything. His "Mank-ou, Mama," is so sweet, I try to just give him things so he'll say it. But it's not just about giving him things. He's thankful for riding in the car, getting dressed, having his teeth brushed. One time I gave him an ice cube and he said, "mank-ou" over and over again for about five minutes.

7. The girls buckle themselves into their carseats, so after we've loaded up I ask, "Ellie, Olivia are you buckled?" and he volunteers, "I buckled, Mama." (Which of course he is, because I buckled him.) But I still love that he says it.

8. His favorite book is the "The Curious Garden," by Peter Brown. We brought it home from New York (it's a story loosely based on the Highline Park there). I love that without fail he brings that book to me to be read before bedtime every night. I don't know why he likes it so much, but it makes me so happy that he is developing his own preferences and tastes.

9. He lays on the floor to play with cars and trains. Sometimes I'll find him completely prostrate on the ground, head on an arm while the other hand plays with the motor vehicle. It's like he's tired but can't stop being a boy.

10. Why have I not mentioned the boots? He is OBSESSED with boots. All day, everyday, boots, boots, boots! He has three pairs, and he is almost always wearing one of them. There was about a month of time when you could not take him 3 feet from the bed without his demand for his boots. He is super into accessorizing, too. He loves hats and jackets and gets pretty picky about which ones he is wearing when headed out. But I have to say, he's got a great sense of style so far. So that's nice.

11. I'm with Ellie when I say that I like his "zjoom" and his "rawr". She wanted to write him a note that said, "I like your zjoom and rawr." Of course she does. It's the cutest thing there every was.

12. He's got some pretty funny "no"s. I like to ask him, "Can I keep you forever?" and he says, "NoooOOOO" in a sing-songy and very lovey way. Which I think is actually a code for yes, so I'll just go ahead and make arrangements for him to never leave, ever. He's mine.

13. His laugh. I would learn to do backflips to make him laugh. It's the best sound that has ever fallen on my ears. It's perfection. It's infectious. I have never loved a sound like I love his laugh. I hope it never goes away.

14. I'm probably starting to sound like a crazy person for how much I adore these menial things about a 1-year-old. But we've come such a long way and I wouldn't trade him for anything in the whole world. I want to keep him forever and ever. And I'm so glad he incites that kind of love in me.

This stage is my favorite. It's so wonderful. All you mamas of little babies that are having a hard time with the sleepless nights and the incessant feedings, I'm telling you from here that it is soooo worth it. Hang in there. Hold your little one tight. Soon they'll be laughing and saying funny things and these memories of frustration will fade in the insurmountable joy they bring as they grow and become more and more themselves.

You're pretty wonderful, Henry Bear. I'm going to keep you forever and ever, whether you like it or not.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The One With the Fruity Valentines (+ Free Printable)

Every year when Valentine's roles around and my kids want to give out those licensed Valentines from the grocery store I try to talk them into something more fun and creative. And this year we finally came to an agreement when I designed these little cards and we washi taped up some little paper bags of cuteness. Also, I love puns, especially fruity ones, as you can see. 

"You are simply sub-LIME and I like your smile." is my favorite. Also, "Hey you, ORANGE you cute!" I was really hoping to find a peach graphic so I could say, "you're such a peach and I'm glad we're friends." But alas, I didn't find a peach graphic. Maybe next time.

You could put really anything inside. We gave mini homemade cookies (like these Frosted Brownie Cookies) to our friends, because everything is better when it's mini. But their school has a weird rule about not allowing homemade things for events like this, so the girls packaged theirs up with little Valentine's erasers or chocolates. I think these would be the cutest with flower seeds inside or even Sour Patch gummies or other fruity candies like Starbursts. (If you are going to put in something baked like brownies or cookies, I suggest wrapping them in clear plastic wrap first, or the oils will bleed through the paper sacks.)

Of course, you could attach these to ziplock bags of actual fruit for a healthy snack! Except maybe not limes... I don't know how well those would be appreciated.

I made the design using graphics by AF Studio via their Octavia Font on Creative Market. (Can I send a Valentine to Creative Market? I love them so.) Watercolor textures used for the fruit names are via Watercolor Texture Pack.

And guess what? I made all this into a free printable for you! Isn't that so nice of me? You know, just in case you're procrastinating about Valentine's Day and your kids are expected to bring something on Friday. You can get it here. Just download, print on white cardstock and cut along grey lines, then every 2 inches to separate each card (final product should be about 2x3.5" - standard business card size). Tape onto something cute, or just sign your name and you're good to go!

Happy Day of Love and Chocolate and Snail Mail! (It's my favorite.)

Additional sources:
Mini paper bags - 3x4" (shown) or 4x6", available at most craft stores

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The One With the Valentine's Frosted Brownie Cookies

If you've known me long enough, you know that I like Valentine's Day. A lot. A friend of mine theorized that we are all very fond of the holidays closest to our birthdays, and maybe that's why I like it so much. Or maybe it's because Valentine's Day is a good excuse to break up the bleary wintery days with pretty notes and chocolate and heart confetti. And to try to talk your children out of store-bought valentines in exchange for complicated handmade ones that are not going to turn out as you are currently envisioning. Sigh. 

But let's get to the point. I made these cookies for Superbowl as a little test. And they passed the test. So I think I will be making more and sending them as valentines to friends near and far. And so should you. Or you could just make some and eat them all yourself. That would also be a good idea. 

Frosted Brownie Cookies
Makes 12 large cookies. Adapted from Sweetapolita.

For the Cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups high quality semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons Dutch cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Frosting
  • 1/2 cup high quality milk chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup high quality semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon corn syrup
Sprinkles of Choice (I like these.) 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a double boiler (heat proof bowl in a pot of water, 1 inch deep), melt the butter and 1 cup of chocolate chips over medium heat, being sure not to let the water boil or spill into the heat proof bowl (if water gets into the melting chocolate it will cause the chocolate to "freeze" and be unusable). Stir every so often until melted and smooth. 
Meanwhile, use a fork to sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl. Set aside. 
In another bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the sugar, eggs and vanilla until well combined and smooth. Add the chocolate mixture to this and beat together on medium speed until well incorporated. Add the flour mixture in 3 increments, beating on low between each increment. Finally, stir in the remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate chips.
Use an ice cream scoop to scoop out six dollops of batter and place two inches apart on baking sheet. These will spread in the oven, so be sure to give them plenty of room. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the cookies have a cracked appearance. (Do not overcook or the cookies will dry out and taste chalky.) Let cool on pan for 10 minutes, and then on a wire rack for another 10.  Repeat to make the last six cookies. 

After the two batches are cooled, make the frosting. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips, butter and corn syrup together, stirring occasionally until smooth. Use a knife to spread the frosting onto one half of each of the cookies and then add sprinkles generously.

Wrap them up all prettily and send them to everyone you love. I'm sure they'll like them.

P.S. These cookies are very rich, so you don't need to send a whole batch to each person.
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