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Sunday, December 19, 2010

I like to read fiction.

As of today, I have completed one more item on my 30 Before 30 list:  

#8. Read 25 books in one year... DONE!


I started in April and intended to read 25 books in a twelve-month period.  2010 was a good year for reading, though, what with all those hours I spent nursing a baby.  So I'm giving myself bonus points for reaching my goal in eight months.


I tried to choose a fairly wide variety of books.  Some were on my always-wanted-to-read list, some were parenting books I read out of desperation (ha!), some I stumbled upon because the library didn't have what I really wanted.  I found several new favorites and a few duds.


Soon I'll feature the nonfiction, but below is the list of fourteen fiction books I read this year.  I've listed them in the order that I would recommend them -- the first one was my favorite, and the last was my least favorite.  I ranked them strictly on how much I enjoyed them as a reader (not as an English teacher or literary critic).  Check out my list and tell me what you think.  Have you read any of these?  Do you agree with my assessments?  Have I convinced you to read/not read any of them?
 
FICTION

Day for Night (Frederick Reiken)
Includes multiple plotlines (some involving the Holocaust) and multiple narrators.  Could be a disaster, but it's brilliant.  Loved it.  I'm pretty sure I cried because I loved it so much.

The Help (Kathryn Stockett)
Set in pre-Civil Rights Mississippi.  Tells the story of several black housekeepers, the women who treat them heinously, and the women who don't.  Multiple narrators again.

Girl with a Pearl Earring (Tracy Chevalier)
Fictional story behind the Vermeer painting by the same title.  Told from the perspective of Griet (the Girl in question), who has just become a servant in the Vermeer house.  Period fiction is really not my genre, but I loved this book. 


The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath)
Sure, Sylvia Plath was all kinds of crazy, but she could sure write.  Assumed to be autobiographical, this book follows a young woman as she goes insane.

The Pilot's Wife (Anita Shreve)
Newly-widowed pilot's wife learns all sorts of terrible things as she looks into her husband's death.  Drama, drama, drama.  But in a good way.  Definitely skip this one if you are actually a pilot's wife, though.

Belong to Me (Marisa de los Santos)
City girl moves to the suburbs.  Chaos ensues.  I'll admit it has a predictable, chick-lit vibe, but de los Santos gives her characters really amusing, relatable voices.  FUN read.


Water for Elephants (Sara Gruen)
Old man flashes back to his younger years, when he was part of a shady traveling circus.  Entertaining stuff.


Clay's Quilt (Silas House)
I had an idea in my head of what the hills of eastern Kentucky are like, but there is some messed-up stuff going on there.  At least in the picture this book paints.  Good read.  Definitely not cheesy like some hill-country novels.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime (Mark Haddon)
Told from the perspective of a teenage boy with autism.  Sort of a murder mystery?  Really funny, but not in an offensive, making-fun-of-this-boy way.  Quick read, worth your while.

Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules (ed. David Sedaris)
Compilation of some of Sedaris's favorite short stories.  I'm a sucker for a good short story, but don't expect these to be funny just because David Sedaris likes them.

The Bean Trees (Barbara Kingsolver) 
Young woman heads West to start a new life, and ends up having to care for an abandoned baby.  A little on the sappy side, but I enjoyed the book overall.  I loved Kingsolver's Poisonwood Bible when I read it several years ago.  Read that one if you haven't.


Girl in Translation (Jean Kwok)
Chinese girl and her mom immigrate to New York and face all the hardships you might expect, including work at a sweatshop.  Not a bad read, but feels like an unrealistic American Dream story.


Birds of America (Lorrie Moore)
Another collection of short stories, but all by Moore.  I picked this one because I loved her story "People Like That Are the Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk."  I was disappointed in most of the other pieces in this book.

All Families are Psychotic (Douglas Coupland)
Crazy, far-fetched story of the mostly unlikable members of a dysfunctional (to say the least) family.  Entertaining, but way too crass for my taste.  If you can't peel your eyes away from the tabloids in the grocery line, this might be up your alley.

Friday, December 10, 2010

I love late-onset winter.

At Ben's fifteen-month checkup, our pediatrician told me that being outside for 30 minutes a week in Colorado Springs gets you all the Vitamin D your body needs.  I have no idea whether that is actually true, but I pay him to tell me things, so I guess I'll choose to believe this one.  And I'm happy to report that it has been warm enough lately that I can actually stand to be outside!  For more than 30 minutes a week!

We've hit two different parks so far this week. 


Okay, yesterday morning was a little cold.  But not frigid.






  


Then today was the perfect day to rake leaves and play in them.  I'm guessing tomorrow will be the perfect day to re-rake leaves.
 
All this Vitamin D makes us very happy :)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

My Favorite Things: Ben Edition

Fair warning:  This is one of those baby-book posts that contains way more details than most of you care about.  Ben is at an especially fun age right now, and I honestly think multiple times a day, "This is what I hoped motherhood would be like."  For my own sake, I wanted to record some of the things that I'm loving about Ben at fifteen months.



*He calls our Christmas stockings "boots."

*Sometimes he talks stream-of-consciousness style.  And sometimes he says one word, then says other words that sound like it (rhyming or alliterative words, usually).  He recently learned the word "berries," but he pronounces it "boo-des."  Several times lately, he has said, "Boo-des... Stooges."  He learned who the Three Stooges are at my parents house, and they apparently made quite an impression on him.

*He will randomly say "boo!" to scare us.

*He LOVES a seventh-grade boy at our church named Graham (Graham helps his parents in the nursery on Sunday mornings).  Any mention of church, friends, or favorite anythings makes Ben say "Graham!"  A few days ago, Daniel asked Ben, "What's your favorite thing about Mommy?"  Ben's answer?  Graham.  Then last night, we were headed to a Christmas parade and were trying to get Ben excited about it.  I said, "Do you know what we're going to see at the parade?"  Ben got a sweet, hopeful look on his face and said, "Graham?!"

*He gives excellent snuggles, hugs, and kisses.  Sometimes I don't even have to ask :)

*He thinks any beverage not in a sippy cup is coffee.  Even if I have a water bottle, he calls it "taw-hee."

*He likes to pretend to eat and drink things, complete with fake smacking noises.  Then he shares with us or the cat. 

*His favorite thing in the world right now is to play on our bed.  He has two favorite games there:  1)He lays his head down, pretends to sleep, then pops up and says, "Hi!"  2)We give him two coffee cups and a stash of pens, and he transfers pens from one cup to the other, hands pens to us, fake-drinks from the cups, etc.  Yes, this is totally weird.  But some mornings he even requests this game while he eats breakfast - "Bed!  Pen!  Taw-hee!"

*He puts everything (seriously, everything) on his head and calls it a hat.

*He still loves Justin the Cat.  However, he now thinks Justin's name is Midget (his cousins' cat in Abilene).
video


*At naptime and bedtime, I hand him a little fleecy blanket before I lay him down.  Even if he is upset about going to bed, he snuggle the blanket up to his face and lays his head on my shoulder.  Ohhhh, it is so sweet!

*He calls his grandparents all the time on anything that resembles a phone.  One day this week, he called Nana on a calculator.

*He says "please" a lot.  If he demands something, I can say, "Ask nicely."  And he adds a "peas!"  He doesn't know he's being polite.  He just knows he's more likely to get what he wants when he says "please."  But it sure sounds cute.

*He is a full-time walker now, and it kind of blows my mind.  Walking has done wonders for his moods and my moods (it was time for him to be less mommy-dependent, I promise).  Everyone told me that once he started walking, I would wish he were crawling again.  That has totally not been the case for us.  In fact, my only complaint is that he carries things from one room to another and puts them in strange places.  I have to spend a few minutes every night relocating small objects. 

*He is still not an easy-going kid, but his feisty temperament is sooo much easier to handle now than it was even a few months ago.  So far, toddlerhood suits him quite nicely.  I am so thankful to spend my days with this precious BIG boy!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

On walking

Having Ben has taught me a lot about what not to say to other mothers.  So much of what people say to you as a new mom makes you want to kick them in the teeth (or maybe that's just me?).  Therefore, as a public service to anyone who ever comes in contact with a woman who has a baby, I want to offer two pieces of advice regarding what to say:


1. Tell her that her baby is absolutely perfect.  Then tell her that you can't believe she ever gave birth to a child because she looks so smokin' hot.


2. Rather than asking if the baby has reached a specific developmental milestone, ask, "What is he/she doing these days?"  Mom still gets to brag, but you spare her the awkwardness of admitting that her absolutely perfect child has not, in fact, reached that specific milestone.


In my own case, the current milestone is walking (I seem to be talking about this a lot here -- I'm really not as sensitive about it as I'm making myself out to be).  When your child turns one, that is all people ask you about.  "Oh, he's a year old!  Is he walking?"  Then when your child turns fourteen months old, it morphs into the question I got this week:  "He's still not walking?!" (This is where the teeth-kicking urge comes in.)



No, he is still not walking.  Not on his own, at least.  He's awfully fond of walking with a parental finger for support, but he drops to the ground (intentionally) if we try to let go.


Let me reiterate:  we really are not worried.  Lots and lots of perfectly fine kids with perfectly fine parents don't walk until later.  And it's obvious to anyone who has seen Ben walk that he could do it without support.  He is just scared or stubborn or trying to keep his mama humble.

He has also given us some glimmers of hope recently by taking a few independent steps.  He totally ignores our attempts to coax him into walking and just randomly decides to take steps on his own terms.  Then when he's done, he doesn't seem to realize that he accomplished a major feat.  He just moves on like nothing happened.  He is a mystery, that one.  For the grandparents, here is the little mystery in action (turn your volume down -- I'm talking reallllly loudly):

video
 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Last weekend

We have lived in Colorado Springs for two years, and this is the first time we've experienced a Fall here that lasted longer than five minutes.  I am loooooving it.  I'd forgotten how nice seventy-degree weather is.  This cutie is enjoying some extra time outside, too:

He had better enjoy it because next year he's responsible for raking all those leaves.

My Aunt Cheri sent Ben a super cute shirt for Halloween, and I made some valiant efforts to get a good picture of it last Saturday.  I failed.  This was as good as it got:
His arm is inside an empty puffs container.  He's been really fascinated by sticking his arm into things lately.  We call this move "RoboBen."

On Sunday, Ben finally got to wear his "Happy Reformation Day" shirt that we've been saving since before he was born.  Are we dorks?  Yes, we are.  But you knew that.  Again, I tried and failed to get a good picture of the shirt.  You can't deny that he looks awfully cute, though:

On Sunday night, we changed into our Halloween costumes to go to our church's Fall Festival.  I had the brilliant idea that we would dress up together as Andy Griffith, Aunt Bea, and Opie.  Unfortunately, my execution of this idea was a bit flawed (because I was lazy and cheap), and it was sort of a flop.  Only a few people knew who we were supposed to be.  And I know you'll be shocked by this, but we only got really terrible pictures of ourselves:
For real, these were the best ones.

Despite the stupid looks on our faces, we had fun at the Fall Festival.  Ben got to play in a ball pit, and he got a balloon.  In Ben's world, it really can't get any better than that unless Gogurt consumption is involved.

And finally, my favorite bizarro little man decided that the best place for his upper lip was inside his lower lip.  He spent several hours making this face. He is so. so. weird.  But man-oh-man do I love him.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Don't worry!

Based on the response to my last post, it's probably a good thing I usually only post about good things.  Because now most of you either think I'm crazy, or you're worried that I'll never post cute Ben things here anymore.  I would have a hard time convincing you that I'm not crazy, but I can certainly put your mind at ease about sharing Ben's cuteness.

We took Ben to his first football game today.  Our new friend at church plays for the USAFA Prep School Huskies, and we wanted to go to one of his home games before it got too cold.  I forgot that it's always cold at the Air Force Academy (what's up with that?).  We lasted an hour and a half, which I count as a huge success.  And Ben LOVED it.  He ate some snacks and made some new friends.  He managed to keep his hat and gloves on almost the entire time we were there, and he looked INSANELY ADORABLE in them:


If you want to tell me that's not the cutest thing you've ever seen, I'm going to make you prove it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

To quote our president, "Let me be clear."

I went to a MOPS meeting at church this morning, and our speaker was fabulous.  She reminds me a lot of my own mom, in that she really seems to get it.  She has the wisdom and perspective that years of motherhood provide, but she in no way pretends to be an expert sprinkling her vast understanding on those of us who are too stupid to know things already.  

Something she said today, though, made me think about the way I have presented myself and my family on this blog lately.  She cautioned us to be careful about bragging on our children because the very trait you are so proud of may be something another mom is insecure about in her own child.  And since my very last post here was about how brilliant I think Ben is (and since I hate hate HATE the silent competition that seems to exist between moms), I just want to clear the air:

Yes, Ben is very verbal.  That's just where he excels.  But he is thirteen months old, and I don't think he'll be walking any time soon. 

And he is still way more clingy than a kid his age probably should be.  He cries A LOT every time I drop him off at the church nursery.  Sometimes he's still crying when I pick him up.  He usually wants me or Daniel close by even at home.  

He really doesn't like to be told "no."  If he doesn't flat-out ignore me, then he throws a fit about it.  There is a lot of crying in our house.  And I'm not even very good about sticking to my guns every time I tell him "no."

His sleeping is somewhat inconsistent.  Sometimes he wakes up at 8:30 in the morning, and sometimes he wakes up at 6:30.  I got so tired of guessing every day whether he would take good naps that I only put him down for an afternoon nap now.  He probably still needs the morning nap some days, but I know he'll be exhausted by the time 1:30 rolls around, and I can count on two hours of peace.  So in case I make myself seem like I have it all together on this blog, you can rest assured that I don't.

In fact, motherhood makes me feel more incompetent than anything else I have ever done.  And that includes teaching middle school, which I will freely admit kicked my butt.

I care way too much about what other people think of my mothering, too.  I come home from church crying most Sundays because of some off-hand comment that I took personally (Ben isn't walking because I carry him too much, I shouldn't be weaning him already, his crying makes the other kids in the nursery cry, I need to suck it up and stop worrying about him in the nursery, and on and on).  I wish I weren't so sensitive, but I am SO SENSITIVE about the job I'm doing as Ben's mom.

And sometimes I'm legitimately not doing a good job.  Like the times I forget to change his diaper for hours at a time and he ends up with diaper rash.  And I have to let him run around naked and he pees on things.


And maybe you missed it a couple of posts ago when I had to take him to the hospital because I let him play with a Tylenol bottle.  That should clear up any misconceptions that the Wiginton household is running like a dream.

I usually choose to post about the fun, happy things that happen around here because this blog is closest I'm ever going to get to a scrapbook (there's another area where I don't have it together).  Also, my natural tendency in life is to focus on the negative, so this blog helps me remind myself what an incredible gift it is to be Ben's mom.

So I hope you'll understand that what I post here is only part of our lives -- usually just the better part.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

No, seriously. He is a genius.


Ben is obsessed with books right now.  Really, really obsessed (I can't imagine where he gets that).  We easily "read" 30 books every day, and quite a few of those feature animals.  Apparently he's actually been paying attention because he suddenly knows all sorts of animal sounds:


video


We intentionally taught him most of these, but he caught on to the owl and dolphin sounds on his own.  I know, right?  My experience with 13-month-olds is a little limited, but I'll just go ahead and assert that this one is a genius.  Yet he doesn't seem to understand when I tell him not to throw things from his highchair...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Molly Maid

First, a little back-story:  On Tuesday morning, Ben was playing in my room while I got ready.  I'm not in the habit of leaving medication on the floor, but there was a box of various medical-type things on the floor of my closet that day (Mistake #1).  Ben discovered a couple of pill bottles and decided they were fun shakers.  I saw they had child-proof caps and let him shake away (Mistake #2).  To avoid an inevitable meltdown, I let him continue to shake a bottle of Tylenol while he ate breakfast (Mistake #3).  Then I stopped thinking and left him alone in his highchair while I got my own breakfast.  Roughly two minutes later, I made the panicked realization that HE STILL HAD THE TYLENOL (Mistake #4).  Of course, he had managed to open the bottle.  Of course.

Based on my frantic forensic analysis, I was about 95% certain that he hadn't taken any pills.  However, when you call the pediatrician and they tell you that even one extra-strength Tylenol can kill your child, you do not rely on 95% certainty.  And it seems the only people who can determine if your child has taken Tylenol are the kind-but-not-so-efficient doctors at the ER.  So we spent Tuesday morning at the ER -- my patient husband, my slightly bored baby, and his mother who felt like the scum of the Earth.

Now that we have those minor details out of the way, let's discuss the real story here.  While attempting to entertain Ben at the ER, we took several walks down the halls, and Ben took a bizarre interest in the janitor's cart.  I pointed out the broom to him, and he latched right on to that.  He would point at the cart and yell, "Broom!" (pronounced "boom") - over and over and over - every time we went into the hall.

Then the next morning, I pulled out our broom, and it got the same reaction.


I thought it would be another couple of years before Ben would be good slave labor, but I have hit the baby jackpot with him.  Maybe I can teach him to clean a toilet before he learns how to use one!  Score!

video
 

Monday, September 27, 2010

30 Before 30 Check-In

30 before 30


Happy six-month anniversary to the original 30 Before 30 list over at emyselfandi.com!  To celebrate, E herself is asking for an update on our lists.  Here's where my list stands today:

1. Get totally out of debt, except the mortgage
2. Save six months' worth of living expenses
3. Run a half marathon in a cute running skirt
4. Run a shorter, family-friendly race with Ben in a stroller - (Daniel and I walked a 5K with Ben, but I'm thinking that doesn't count.)
5. Take a family vacation (just Daniel, me, Ben, and any future babies) to a fun city
6. Finish Ben's baby quilt - (I am totally ashamed that this one isn't done since my baby is barely a baby anymore.)
7. Take some sort of class just for fun
8. Read 25 books in one year - (I'm up to 17 since April.)
9. Get a makeover and buy the makeup
10. Shoot a real gun
11. Clear the junk out of our back flower beds and replace it with something edible (tomatoes, peppers, piles of Snickers bars?  I don't know) - DONE!  My garden was a mild success.  I harvested bunches of squash and zucchini, several Roma tomatoes, and a few green bell peppers.  I have three cantaloupes that should be ready any day now.  The strawberries and blueberries were total failures.
12. Paint the inside of our house -- no more white walls
13. Have a bright red front door - DONE!  And I love it.  See it here.
14. Make a surprise visit to my parents
15. Memorize a book of the Bible and still remember it a year later
16. Eat out zero times for a full month - DONE!  We ate all our meals at home in May.
17. Beat my friend Susanna at a game of Scrabble
18. Take Ben's picture by something pretty at my alma mater - DONE!  Check out some of the pictures here.
19. Spend a day at a spa
20. Pretend to be Donna Reed for a day
21. Organize the garage to my satisfaction
22. Go snow skiing
23. Participate in the Great Fruitcake Toss in Manitou Springs
24. Make a pretty cake from scratch
25. Host a tea party (the scone-eating kind, not the political kind)
26. Climb the Manitou Incline
27. Come up with an acceptable system for organizing my recipes (I've tweaked my system, but I'm not thrilled yet.)
28. Throw my husband a spectacular 30th birthday party
29. Complete another 100 Thing Challenge
30. Watch the Balloon Classic in Colorado Springs - I'm calling this one at least 50% DONE!  I didn't make it to a morning balloon launch this year, but I did go with my fam to a Balloon Glo one night.  It looked like this:

Clearly, I have quite a ways to go, but I'm happy I have any progress to show at all!  By  my very accurate calculations, my list is 18.33% complete.  Check out other folks' updated lists and post your own here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cute one-year-old boy

Right after Ben's birthday, he started sleeping incredibly well.  He's never been a horrendous nighttime sleeper, but the past couple of weeks were just heavenly.  And even his naps were easy and long.  But this week?  Well, once again, he's lucky to be cute.  "Protective coloring," my mom calls it.  Here's some evidence:

Last Wednesday we went to Happy Apple Farms.  I let Ben sample an apple and was shocked that he went right to work and ate the whole thing.
 

We didn't end up getting a pumpkin (because I didn't want to carry it all the way back to the car), but here he is sitting by one, still eating the apple.

Then last Friday, we went to an open house at a place called Little Gym.  It's exactly what it sounds like:  a gym for little kids.  
 
 
Ben loved it until one of the workers tried to help him do a forward roll (this is apparently something a twelve-month-old can do?) and he started losing it and we went home.  This was also the first day I stopped nursing him at lunchtime, so that probably contributed to his moodiness.

On Saturday, Daniel and Ben and I went on our favorite easy hike - Mt. Cutler.  I thought we would make it home before naptime, but I was wrong.

And just for fun, I want to share two videos.  Ben is hilarious these days and is gaining new skills all the time, so I'm trying to do better at catching some of it on video.  This is my favorite new trick:
video

And this one isn't so new, but I still think it's adorable to watch a tiny person climb a giant staircase:
  video

I haven't forgotten that I owe you, my loyal readership, a post or two about Ben's birthday.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Summer Catch-up: Part 3

For the sake of getting on with blog-life, I'm just going to put a few pictures and a few captions up from our last trip of the summer.  In mid-August, went with Daniel's brother and his family (same fine people from the previous post) to Estes Park, Colorado, for a few days.  Our cabin, which had a hot tub on and hordes of hummingbirds around its deck (both got two thumbs up from me), was just barely outside Rocky Mountain National Park.  We drove around the park every day and saw loads of pretty scenery like this:

 And this:
And this:

We took multiple family pictures that ended up looking about the same every time:

This one looked a little different:

And this one included the whole crew:

We did some mild hiking (five young kids necessitate mild hiking only):

We toted Ben around in the hiking backpack, which he loved:

We had a superb time all around.  Thanks, Clark & Steph & kids, for sharing your vacation and your s'mores with us!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Summer Catch-up: Part 2

We got home from our Great Louisville Adventure on a Monday, and the following Friday (July 30), we were on the road again.  This time we drove to Abilene, Texas, to visit Daniel's family.  Colorado Springs to Abilene is a long drive.  A loooooong drive.  But we entertained ourselves by making Ben repeat funny sounds -- this was a new trick at that point.

video


Daniel grew up in Abilene, and his parents are still there, and his brother/sister-in-law/nieces and nephews recently moved there, too!  So it was a big ol' family affair.

This time, we stayed at Clark and Stephanie's (the brother and sister-in-law) house.  They have four insanely cute kids, and Ben was in cousin heaven.  The three oldest cousins were really sweet to play with him, but Asher, who will be two in December, usually wasn't much of a fan.  Probably because Ben constantly poked him in the face.

Whilst in Abilene, we had an early birthday party for Ben because the Wiginton side of the family won't be here for his big birthday bash next week.  I think the pinnacle of a first birthday party is watching the baby smush cake in his face, and I didn't want to jump the gun on that special moment, so we had donuts instead of cake.

He loved the donuts (poor kid has his mama's sweet tooth).  And he got all sorts of fun toys.  Thanks, Grandmommy & Daddo and Clark & Steph!

Despite valiant efforts, we never managed to get a good picture of our little family of three.  Ben's sugar high was probably not helping matters.


Clark and Stephanie live on a lake, so we spent lot of time playing outside and enjoying their backyard and its nice view.  

And as if that weren't awesome enough, Clark bought a kayak while we were there, so we all took a few turns row-row-rowing the boat gently down the lake.

And when the 500-degree weather proved too much for us, we came inside and played with fake mustaches:

This trip also included a fun double-date with Daniel's parents.  We went to a cute, girly restaurant AND a fun little gift shop with local stuff AND a candy store, all in downtown Abilene.  That's pretty much a run-down of my favorite things, so I had a great time.  But I don't have any pictures to prove it :(

I do have a few pictures of the zoo, though!  We went to the Abilene Zoo!  The zoo was mucho fun, until Ben started melting down a little around naptime.  We had to cut our visit short, but we still got to see some good exhibits.


The whole trip was quite enjoyable.  And even though Stephanie destroyed me in several late-night games of Nerts, I think we will probably go back again :)  Assuming our Abilene hosts will have us.

*I'm almost caught up now!  Just one more trip (to Estes Park, CO) to cover, and then the blog will be devoted to a sappy post or two about baby Ben's turning the big oh-one!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Summer Travel Catch-up: Part I

The last month or so has been a bit of a whirlwind compared to our normal (admittedly boring) lives.  And I have been so very negligent when it comes to blogging all our adventures, but no more!  I hereby vow to make three posts this week, catching the blog up on our recent trips before I start making sentimental Ben's-first-birthday posts.  Hooray!

Part I:  Louisville/Southern Indiana with My Girls

I already wrote a little bit about being in Louisville with Daniel and my mildly tragic side trip to Nashville.  We were in Louisville together as a whole family for about a week, but then Ben and I stuck around for an extra week of fun with some of my favorite girls in the whole wide world.

Oh yes, we did take a "prom picture" on the stairs.  That's (left-right) Rebecca, Whitney, me, and Angela.  The four of us have been close friends since high school. After graduating, we started a tradition of making almost-annual trips together to different major-league baseball parks.  This year, we went to Cincinnati (such a cool ballpark!) to see the Reds play the Washington Nationals.

None of us are die-hard MLB fans (sorry, Dad), but the baseball trip tradition gives us a nice excuse to get together in a fun city without the pressure of staying for a long time and doing everything you're supposed to do when you go to a fun city.  Our only stated objective is to see a baseball game.  But the only actual goal is to spend some time together.


This year, we got to spend more time together than normal, which was perfect since our last baseball trip was two years ago.  Whitney and her hubby live in southern Indiana (right across the Ohio River from Louisville, and a short drive from Cincinnati), and they were kind enough to let three extra girls and a baby invade their house for a week.  We couldn't all fit in the one car we had access to, so we just got to bum around Whitney's house most of the time.  It was glorious!  

 
Whitney has a beautiful baby girl named Norah, so we spent a lot of time staring at babies.  And sitting around and eating and not getting dressed until the middle of the afternoon.

 
And reading to babies and dressing them up all young Hollywood-like.  Ben doesn't usually like anyone to play with him except me and Daniel, but he took to my girls very quickly.  I think he might have developed a few little crushes.  Smart boy.  If he marries a girl half as wonderful as one of these, I will be a happy mama.

I am incredibly thankful for these girls' friendship, and I'm so happy we make a point to see each other and stay invested in each other's lives.

As if that weren't enough fun, Angela and Rebecca and I sat by the Doobie Brothers at the Louisville airport at the end of this trip.  One of them talked to Ben, and then Angela got an autograph.  The End.