Thursday, November 8, 2012

Party of Four

Oh my. Would you believe me if I told you it had been five weeks since our second daughter was born? FIVE WEEKS? It's one of those crazy things where I sometimes stop and say to myself, "Wow, these weeks have flown by!" and I sometimes say, "Wow, only five weeks? It feels like she's been here forever." (That's possibly the lack of sleep talking - dozing in two hour stretches can sometimes make your brain do funny things.)

And so it goes.

I don't really want to bore you with all the minute details of Amelia's birth, but there are a few key points I'd like to highlight and remember. The first one being, clearly, that I really don't recommend spending your last baby-free night sleeping in a tent out in your backyard. It obviously wasn't planned that way - my due date was still over a week away - but I can remember sleepily thinking to myself as I was peeing in the yard for the third time that I would be really pissed if I wasted my last precious night of uninterrupted slumber in a sleeping bag in the freezing cold with a toddler who kept stealing my blanket and a husband who snored through it all. Wouldn't you know it, my water broke the next afternoon.

Waking up to this pretty much made it all worth it, though.

Amelia knew what she was doing, however. In fact, her timing couldn't have been better. Almost my entire pregnancy, my father-in-law joked that September 30th would be a perfect day for her arrival - his birthday, too. And since we never got it together to send him a present, our new daughter knew just how to make us look like the best gift givers in the history of ever. I think the lady from the birth records department came to our room no less than five times, only to be turned away because we hadn't made a final name decision. After consulting many, many people (including all of our nurses and the poor birth records lady), the choice was clear. Amelia and her Opa (Albert Jacob Arends) share initials, and her middle name, Jacoba, is from her great-grandmother on his side. We've been calling her Mia more often than not, and Anna still sometimes throws in a Joey - what she called the baby all throughout my pregnancy.

It also worked out that my sister and brother-in-law were in town. Without being too graphic, let me just say that when your water breaks and your sister arrives minutes later with adult diapers in hand, you know some kind of fate was involved. All kidding aside, having them and my parents here was incredible. I was an emotional wreck, trying to bake cookies and snuggle with Anna and pack my hospital bag, and they were here answering my questions and cleaning my kitchen and letting Mike and I have some quiet time before we left for the hospital. My sister might want to seriously consider a side career as a doula...

And then she was here. And all those things people say about your heart growing even bigger than you imagined it could proved to be true. For me, I am finding it so much easier to just enjoy Amelia because I've experience first hand how quickly it goes by. Yes, I was exhausted when they placed her in my arms for the first time. Yes, she didn't want to be put down, preferring to snuggle against one of our chests. But those things will change. We will eventually sleep. Soon enough she will be a toddler whose idea of cuddling lasts about 3.2 seconds. With Anna, it wasn't always easy to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I see it now, and if the tunnel lasts a little bit longer it wouldn't be such a bad thing.

We're settling in. We're adjusting. Our first night home from the hospital our poor dog got locked out of the house all night. And on our first outing as a foursome we drove away from the gas pump without paying - luckily the nice policeman who knocked on our door was very understanding (And in all fairness, Mike did swipe the card. The machine didn't read it. Swearsies.).

We're taking it one day at a time and basically just doing what all other parents try to do - get both kids to nap at the same time. (Victory is mine today! Hooray!)

Baby "Joey" on Halloween

Welcome to the world, Amelia. We are so very, very glad that you are here.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Eviction Notice

Editor's Note: I wrote this post last week, thinking I would get around to editing and finishing it sometime this week. It turns out that our baby had different plans - Amelia Jacoba Arends arrived Sunday morning. I guess she was listening!

In the weeks leading up to Anna's birth, I can remember feeling fairly calm. Yes, I was excited about meeting our new baby. But I also knew that life was about to drastically change, and I was content to enjoy my last few days of baby-free time. Mike and I went out to nice dinners. We went to the movies. I spent leisurely hours at Barnes & Noble with stacks of gossip magazines by my side. The new little person would make his or her appearance eventually, and I was in no rush to offer an eviction notice. It probably helped that it was also the holiday season, so there was Christmas shopping and decorating and baking to keep me distracted. It also probably helped that we had the nursery done in October, so I had nothing to stress about - other than if I had read every single page in every single pregnancy book I owned. (For the record, I had. Twice. I found my copy of "Your Pregnancy Week By Week" last week when I was straightening up our bedroom and the last chapter I read this pregnancy was "Week 14". Oops.)

Once the contractions started? Well, let's just say I felt a little more along the lines of, "Baby, please come out. Like, NOW."

This time around, though, my emotions have been a little more conflicted. On the one hand, I'm not sure I'm ready to let go of the life I have now. (Remember? We talked about this - I'm slightly sentimental.) But mostly I feel like this pregnancy has been dragging on forever. Yes, it's true that we really have no names picked out (there are a few front runners - more on this subject later). Yes, it's true that until a few days ago the new baby's room didn't have a door and there were random hammers and tape measures strewn about. Yes, it's true that starting all over again at the newborn stage terrifies the crap out of me.

But despite all of that, even though I haven't read a single page about preparing for child birth this time around or don't have our hospital bags totally packed and ready to go, I know that the minute that little baby is placed in my arms none of it will matter.

People always say the babies who aren't born first tend to get screwed when it comes to things like baby books or number of photos taken. But it seems to me they have a huge advantage in the fact that their parents already realize how much they are going to be loved. Mike and I have talked so many times about how, having been through it once, it will be so much easier to deal with sleepless nights and poop explosions and crying jags because we know how much we love Anna and we also know how quickly it goes by. (Someone please remind me of this in a few months, though, ok?)

The car seat and the baby swing might not be totally ready, but our hearts are.

So with that in mind, Baby, I'm giving you the go-ahead to make your appearance. Just give me a few minutes to brush up on when it is, exactly, that we're supposed to get to the hospital...and don't be offended if you find a screwdriver in your crib.

The last photo of our family of three, right before Mike and I left for the hospital on Saturday night.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Oh, hello.

Well, would you look at that.

It's September.

I think I've posted maybe two or three times this whole summer. In fact, last week Mike made a comment to a friend that I "used to have a blog". So.

It's not for lack of excitement. There have been lots of changes and lots of posts started in my mind and lots of things I've wanted to share. Mike's parents moved to Florida. We attempted to potty train Anna - and failed miserably. Trips to Indianapolis to visit my sister, setting up new nurseries, fun Pinterest crafts, play dates with friends. Mostly, though, my head and heart have been a jumble of emotions as I try to wrap my brain around the fact that in less than a month we will no longer be a family of three.

While words cannot describe the joy and excitement I feel about bringing another little person into the world, there is another small part of me that is scared and sad about losing the life I know right at this very moment. Yes, I am exhausted and uncomfortable and have an extremely hard time bending over to do things like tie my shoes, but I also know that our days alone with Anna are fleeting, and I want to spend as much time enjoying them as possible.

Don't get me wrong - I know a sibling is one of the greatest gifts we can give her. In fact, one of the moments I look forward to the most (probably after finding out if this new addition will be a boy or a girl) is introducing Anna to her new brother or sister. I get emotional thinking about her walking into the hospital room for the first time, meeting the sibling she will share so much with for the rest of her life.

But still. I'm sentimental. I'm a sap. And change is sometimes hard. Writing about that change? Even harder.


Speaking of siblings and being emotional, though, there is one extremely exciting development that I need to share...

I'm an aunt!

A little over two weeks ago, my sister and brother-in-law welcomed Asher Harrison Stanton into the world.

I couldn't be more proud or excited - or in love. We've already been down to visit inhale his baby scent twice, and the one major down side to being pregnant at the same time as my sister is now it's probably not advisable for me to travel too far away and I won't get any Asher snuggles for at least three more weeks. Lame.

Excited faces on the way to meet our new nephew!

Uncle Mike!

The proud daddy.

Mama and son.


I am high off baby scent.

Oh, hello.

Anna is so in love with her cousin .

It's crazy and awesome and frightening that we will have our own new little baby to snuggle and sniff in such a short time...

And with that in mind, I'm off to haul all those boxes labeled "Newborn" out of the basement and snuggle with my first born.

If I can bend over to pick her up out of her crib, that is.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Grilled Pizza Incident

A few months after we moved back to Michigan, Mike made plans to get together with his friend Tom and his new (at least to us) girlfriend Melissa. As is probably typical with a married couple in those first sleep-deprived months of parenthood, we somehow got our signals crossed and I found myself covered in dirt from working out in our garden all afternoon with a house full of guests, no food in the house, and a vague idea in my head that I was planning on making grilled pizzas for dinner. My visions of being one of those cool, have-it-all-together moms were quickly going down the drain as introductions were being made and I was trying to downplay the awesomeness of my muddy Crocs and hide the fact that I had absolutely no fancy edible snacks to offer. (Have I mentioned that Melissa is drop-dead gorgeous and a *few* years younger? Sigh.)

After a quick shower and rushed trip to the grocery store, I returned to make amends and dazzle them all with my grilled-pizza-making-skills. Once they taste this, I thought to myself,  I will be totally redeemed and they will forget all about the stale bag of pretzels I offered them and realize I am a cool mom after all!

Yeah, not so much. I guess in my haste I forgot to look up the recipe, because the damn pizzas took FOREVER to cook. I'm pretty sure Tom and Melissa left before anything was done, claiming the need to be at a graduation party, but in reality they probably got so hungry they needed to make a break for it before they passed out from hunger.

I am proud to say that since that awful, awful May day I have totally perfected the grilling of the pizza - in fact it's probably been one our favorite summer meals.

Except Tom and Melissa just had to move to Colorado, so even if I wanted to prove to them that I'm not a total spaz, I couldn't.

The best I can do is share my recipe and technique. So here it goes...

Spoiler Alert: This is going to get long. It's really not complicated, just lots of steps, especially if you are going to be making your own dough and sauce. You can totally skip those steps and just move right on to the grilling technique if you want!

The first part is the dough. When we lived in South Carolina, our grocery store sold fresh pizza dough that was awesome. I haven't been able to find it here, but after trying a few recipes I think I've found the best one. It is, in fact, called "The Best-Ever Pizza Dough" and can be found here. It's perfectly chewy and crispy, just the way I like it. You need to make it at least a day in advance.


1 cup lukewarm water (105-115 degrees) I never measure the temp...just use warm-ish water
1 tsp. honey
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast (the little packets they sell are exactly this amount, fyi)
3 cups (or more) all-purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp. coarse salt
2 tbsp. EVOO

1. Mix the water and the honey in a liquid measuring cup until the honey dissolves. Sprinkle with the yeast and let the mixture stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, using a food processor, pulse the flour and salt to mix.

2. Pour the yeast mixture and the EVOO over the flour mixture. Process until the dough comes together in a sticky ball, 20 to 30 seconds.

3. Put the dough on a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.

4. Add the dough to a large, oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size, about an hour - I put mine in the microwave, just so it's safe from toddler hands or curious dogs.

5. Punch the dough down and put it back on a floured work surface. Quarter the dough using a knife.

6. With each section of dough, work it into a ball and roll it until smooth.

Rolling dough and taking pictures at the same time is not so easy - sorry for the crappy lighting!

7. Each dough ball goes into a plastic bag. If you are going to be eating it soon, refrigerate it for 10 to 48 hours, otherwise you can freeze it for up to two weeks. We usually eat two pizzas at a time and freeze the other two. Let the dough sit at room temperature for about an hour before you shape it, if it's been in the freezer let it sit out for two hours.

8. Working with one dough ball at a time, press it out onto a lightly floured work surface and press into the shape you want. I usually just go with the shape naturally - they never turn out totally round, more like ovals or rectangles. You could also cut the dough here to make mini pizzas if you want!

I like to make my own sauce, mostly because I'm picky and don't like sauce that tastes over-cooked or seasoned.  Here is my basic recipe - doctor it up as you like! This is enough sauce for two rounds of pizza, so I usually keep the leftovers in the fridge until we grill the second half of the dough, as long as it's within ten days or so.


1 14.5-ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 14.5-ounce can of tomato sauce - but you probably only use about half the can
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tbs. EVOO
Fresh garlic, grated or minced- I usually use one or two cloves

1. Throw all the diced tomatoes, half the tomato sauce, the salt, EVOO, and garlic into a blender or food processor. Pulse a few times until you get your desired consistency. I like it a little chunky, but you can make it smoother if you want. Season to taste and add more tomato sauce until it's how you like it!

Now you are ready to grill. There are tons of recipes out there for different kinds of pizzas, but I have to admit that I'm a boring simple girl when it comes to pizza. I like plain cheese. Maybe some basil or fresh mushrooms.  No BBQ sauce or other crazy concoctions for this girl. But if you are into pizza that's a little crazier (Pepperoni? Calm down, would you?!) here is where you'd want to assemble all your ingredients.


Pizza sauce - half of recipe above, about a cup
Pizza Dough
Mozzarella cheese - 1 to 2 cups
Toppings of your choosing

1. Preheat a grill to 500.

2. Lower the heat on one side of the grill to low. Oil the grate on that side of the grill. I sometimes use a paper towel soaked in oil with some tongs, other times I just use a pastry brush to put the oil directly on the crusts. I've even sprayed the crust with non-stick cooking spray before. Move the shaped dough to the grill. Lower the edge of the dough onto the oiled grill. For bigger pizzas, grill two at a time. If you're making mini pizzas you can grill eight at a time.

3. Cover the grill and cook until the crusts begin to bubble and brown, about 3 minutes. Loosen the crusts with a metal spatula and flip over, cooking until they begin to brown on the bottom, about 2 more minutes.

The back of our grill is a little hotter than the front, but even burnt it still tastes delish!

4. Flip the crusts back over to their original sides, but this time put a baking sheet underneath (thanks for the tip, Fred and Sarah!). Spread the pizza sauce over the crust and then sprinkle with cheese and any toppings you want to add. Cover and cook until the cheese is melty and golden, 2 to 3 minutes.

Can you guess which one I'm going to eat?

Hooray! You're done! I honestly think this pizza tastes way better than any you can get delivered, and it is SO much cheaper.

Plus, you could totally impress Tom and Melissa. If only they didn't live so far away...

Anna's face when I told her there were people out there who doubted my grilled-pizza-making-skills. She just can't believe it.

Happy Monday!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Summertime in Northern Michigan

Ok. I'm about to throw a whole lot of vacation pictures at you. I kind of wish I could make a slideshow and then force you all to sit there while I went through them one by one telling funny stories and trying to make  you understand how amazingly awesome these two weeks were. But I don't even think the pictures would do any justice (as much fun as you would have listening to my boring stories of dunes and waves and parades and fireworks and, well, you get the point) because this vacation truly was perfection. It was such a nice blend of family and friends and laughter and sunsets and cherry pie - all the things in life that make me happy.

And here are some of the pics snapped on my phone (and some from Mike's and some from this guy Steve who seemed to be following us around...)

Mike and Anna walking at sunset; playing on the beach at Crystal Lake; hiking Sleeping Bear; sunset at Lake Michigan
wine tasting at L. Mawby; more sunset; cherries on the beach; Uncle TJ and Anna
the pier at Frankfort (times two); waves; looking for fish
more waves; the dunes; don't worry - it's juice!; sunset at Crystal Lake
And while it seems like I have a lot of pictures, looking through them I realized that we busted our good camera out a total of about three times. My iPhone filled in here and there, but overall most of the really good stuff is captured only in my head. So I guess I'll be forced to share those slides only with myself, on the days when I need a sweet reminder of how lucky I am and how much I have to be thankful for.

Happy Tuesday!