Saturday, December 31, 2011

What I loved about Christmas 2011.

No order to this list.  Some are serious, most are not.  Each one brings a smile to my face as I remember it.

1. Celebrating God's greatest Gift with these two (numbers 2 and 3 in my book!)

2. My girl started walking.  Like, for real.

She started taking a few steps in early December.  But they were few and far between.  During our week in Michigan, however, she became a walking fool.
She that proud grin?  Yeah, she bit it on the sidewalk right after I snapped that.  Check out the red mark on her forehead in some of the other pics.

3. Aiydan and Gray (my cousin's son) were so adorable, playing together on Christmas Eve.
Yes, I included a blurry picture on purpose.  That's because it's how I remember the two of them.

4. All of us kids got new PJ's. 1224_7917-1 But Ben's stole the show.
Adult footie jammies.  With a back hatch and everything.

 Caroline's were too long, but Montoya fixed that with a pony-tail holder.

6. We met Mia, who is the new daughter of Josh's cousin Lacey.  Now that we've got a active, often-destructive, big girl on our hands, it's fun to hold little bitty babies that are so sweet and snuggly.  Here's Mia, Baylee (Lacey's older girl) and Caroline.  And "Lovey Dog," who is Caroline's constant companion.

5. Starting in early December, we attempted to sit down daily as a family and pieces of the story of Jesus, starting with his ancestors.  A Jesse Tree devotional.  Each day we'd sit down and read a different story - Abraham and Isaac, or Moses, or some other piece to the larger story.  We didn't do this perfectly, by a long shot.  But it's important to me to build traditions in our family, especially as Caroline gets older.  And those times of prayer and remembering and preparation for Christmas were precious to me this year.

7. Caroline loooooved Opa and Oma's Christmas tree.  We were lame at our house and didn't put one up.  (Don't judge!  By the time we got around to it, it was a week before we were scheduled to leave for Michigan.  AND now we don't the hassle of taking it down to look forward to.)  Anyway.  Caroline thought it was way cool.
8.  On Christmas night, we went over to my aunt and uncle's house for my cousin Natasha's birthday party.  A big group of aunts, uncles, and cousins sat around and told old family stories. Stupid pranks.  Grown-up shaving cream fights.  Hand stand contests. 

What a fun, if slightly dysfunctional, bunch of folks.  I'm thankful to be among them.

9. My brother's new girlfriend impressed everyone with her ability to slice the top off of a champagne bottle with a butter knife.  She fits into our family real well, that one.

10. Christmas in Grand Rapids is what I grew up with, and on some level just seems right.  I so enjoy being at my parents' house, opening presents in the same living room that I did when I was six.  The late-night drive through East Grand Rapids (where they put up luminaries) on Christmas Eve is a long-standing tradition.  As is having certain cousins over on that night.

Actually, growing up, we used to pile in a minivan, sitting on top of each other, and do the luminary drive.  During which time we both sang Christmas carols as loudly as possible and criticized everyone else's light displays.  But our numbers have grown and babies make it difficult to all get out late at night.  So we kissed that part goodbye for this year.  But the cousin part was mostly still there.

A late Merry Christmas to you, Internet.  Here are a few more pics of our festivities. 201110

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

GIngerbread House 2011

My mom is a gingerbread house queen.  In general, she's not a person to have many hobbies.  In November and December each year?  Well, you can find her in craft stores, looking for just the right touch.  Or else rolling out fondant.  Or perhaps leaning over a miniature yellow house, piping bag in hand.

Perhaps you remember this series?  It's our family's tradition.

Well, this year's house was the cutest ever.  Like, ever.
Just look at her.  She even lights up from the inside.  But even more cute things than that.
A little bench near the front door.
Holly in the windows.
A "stone" chimney and Christmas lights.
A little bucket of apples near the door.
Wreaths on the fence.

Yup, it's the cutest ever.  So fun.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Caroline's One Year Photos

A few weeks back our friend Jess took pictures of Caroline (and Josh and me) for Caroline's official one year shots.  And, you know, a Christmas card picture too.

 Despite the fact that it was a gray, cold, drizzly day, the pictures turned out super cute!  Thanks, Jess!
Caroline 1 Year

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The evolution of a fuss

This is totally random.

I took these pictures back in October.  Back when my baby could play outside in short sleeves.

Every time I see these, I chuckle.

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Have you ever seen such a drama-riffic face? 

Lord, have mercy.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Fall 2011 Randomness

Now that we're out of the fall season (yay, Christmas season!) I thought it'd be fun to do a little recap of sorts as to what we've been up to.  You know, since I would someday like to look back on Fall 2011 and not have to guess as to what we did.

1. Caroline has new tricks every day.  It's exciting to sit and watch what new things she does.  And then amusing-meets-aggravating the next moment, as she learns to pull all of the freshly-folded laundry out of the basket and into a heap on the floor.   Or how to go after the toilet brush EVERY TIME she's in the bathroom.  Love that kid.  This post includes a gratuitous helping of pictures for any who are looking to pass the time.


2. I've started to do Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) for the first time.  It's been way too long since I've done an in-depth study of the Bible and I'm grateful for the opportunity to do so now. AND they offer fabulous, FREE childcare.  A huge, enormous, blessing.  I need to add those ladies to my Christmas gift list.

3. Our girl was Eeyore for Halloween.  We enjoyed some "Boo at the Zoo" the weekend prior and then had our friends over for some quick Trick-or-Treating on the actual day.  Our friends' baby, Mateo, was dressed as a lion, and mostly the kids sat and looked at each other.
1030_6234 1030_6221

Girlfriend loves her the aquarium.

Is it bad to go Trick-or-Treating for the following reasons: A) show off your baby, and B) get candy to eat yourself? Because that's exactly what we did. 1031_6206

4. Josh's parents got Caroline (and us) a membership to COSI, the local science center/children's museum for her first birthday.  We're big fans.  It'll be so nice to have a place to bring a rowdy toddler this winter when playing outside isn't an option.
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The water table is Caroline's one true love.  I strip her down to a diaper and let her splish-splash away to her heart's content.1106_6104 1106_6085 1106_6114

5. My friend Jamie (from college) made her annual visit in October. I's so nice to have friends that are willing to take their own time and money to come to visit you. Among other Columbus-area adventures, we went apple picking - a must!
Two years ago we went up to Cedar Point, which was a BIG bunch of fun. Last year I was 8+ months pregnant, so that wasn't going to happen. This year I was still nursing so didn't want to leave Caroline all day long. Maybe we can make another Cedar Point pilgrimage next year? 1014_6412 

6. Caroline and I flew to Chicago in late October.  Who knew - flying with an 11 month old is different than a 3 month old?  My mom met us there to she could watch Caroline while I did some work stuff.  And then we also got to see my cousin Michelle and her little girl, Inez.  So fun.

And yes, I call Caroline the "purple people eater" when she's in her winter get-up.
Caroline was an old pro at the plane ride. For the first 45 minutes.  I was just thankful that the flight to Chicago was only 50 minutes.
7. We discovered rotten subfloor in our master bath, next to and under our existing shower. So we've embarked on a very slow, mostly DIY bathroom project. What I've learned so far:
A. Demo is therapeutic.
B. It's always more expensive than you think it's going to be.
C. Drywall is a challenge.
D. The Internet is a DIYer's best friend.

Post-demo shot:

And here's where we're at today:

1. Demo of old shower and tile floor.
2. New subfloor is in.
3. New fixtures and drain are in.
4. Toilet taken out.
5. New shower pan installed.
6. New shower walls are in.
7. New drywall is up.
8. Drywall patching/mudding/sanding/etc is still (clearly!) in process.

To Do:
OH MY STARS TOO MUCH TO COUNT.  But this list includes:
1. Finish drywall repair.
2. Tear out existing carpet.
3. Tile the entire floor.
4. Hook up the toilet again.
5. Paint the walls.
6. Take out the existing vanity.
7. Create a vanity out of a piece of furniture from IKEA.  (I must be crazy.)
8. Replace light fixtures.
9. Install base trim.

Have you noticed that a simple problem of the need for a new subfloor, shower, and a very small amount of tile has ballooned into a full blown remodel?  It's true.  I am BOUND AND DETERMINED to do something about the ugly-as-sin vanity + light fixtures + curtain. Pic_0067bl

If you made it to the bottom of this post, I applaud you! In summary, Fall 2011 was a blast for the Browns.  And we may never get our master bathroom back.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Washington D.C.

Have you ever written a blog post, edited pictures, and then realized two months later that you never hit "publish"?  Yeeeaaaahhh.... 

Our family recently spent an impromtu long weekend in Washington D.C.  Josh had a work-ish thing to do for a couple of day, and Caroline and I tagged along.

The work-ish thing was actually pretty cool.  Nickelodeon puts on an annual Worldwide Day of Play and shuts down its programming for the afternoon, encouraging kids to get outside and play.  And the actual event is in front of the White House on the ellipse. 

Josh's company, who produces lawn and garden products, had a booth there and gave away mini-greenhouses.  Their booth was next to a big Zumba party, near a PGA activity involving "golfing" into a dinosaur's mouth, and down the way from the stars of iCarly.

We were shocked that anyone would bother with the greenhouses, quite frankly.  But they did.  5,000 kids went home with them.


We got into town Friday morning, and embraced the rain.  I bought a child-sized raincoat because it was all I could find on short notice.  We walked down to the Air and Space Museum and checked out the planes, then headed out to dinner at a pizza place behind the Capital.

The wetness on Josh's pants cracked me up... who manages to keep their knees dry only?

We were making the trek back to our hotel after dinner, when...

The clouds parted.  The rain stopped.  The sun shone magnificently on the Capital.  And we got to witness the sunset overlooking the Washington Monument. 

Further highlights:
  • Breakfast with one of my very oldest friends, Rachel.
  • Exploring the Newseum.  American history as told through newpapers, television coverage, photographs.  It rocks. 
  • Enjoying a visit with Jamie, my friend from college.
  • Watching the Michigan game at an alumni bar in town.  We work vacation time around football games in our family.
  • Visiting the monuments.  At night.  The very best time to visit them.  Who needs regular bedtimes where there are sights to see?
  • Arlington Cemetery.  I was there as a kid and remembered NONE of it.  So it was worth another visit.  There's nothing like viewing row upon row of those little white stones.
  • Lunching in Georgetown.
  • And taking a solo bike ride around town, courtesy of a public co-op bicycle system. 


Sunday, November 13, 2011

First Birthday Party

Well, it's that time.  Time for the littlest member of our family to turn one.


[Yes, we were trying to win the "hipster baby of the year" award with the too-short skinny jeans and Chuck Taylors.  Or perhaps she's just getting tall and her mom loves baby shoes?]

Her real birthday isn't until Friday the 18th.  But we hosted a birthday party on Saturday to celebrate with friends and family.

You know, because somebody in our house is driving up to the Michigan/Nebraska game next week Saturday and we couldn't possibly have a party that would interfere a Michigan football game.  We were fabulously blessed to have both sets of grandparents AND Montoya and the kids in town for the shin-dig.  And then some in-town friends came over as well. 

We decided on a simple "rainbow" theme.  Who are we kidding?  I decided on a rainbow theme.  And, thank you Pinterest, there were lots of fun ideas to copy from the Internet.  Layered Jell-o, marbled cupcakes, no-sew bunting, multicolored cake-pops, a potato stamp tablecloth, a bib-meets-apron pattern, etc.  I could have gone crazy but *tried* to keep it in check.  My mom and Montoya helped out big time the day before with all of the last-minute details.

11-12 Birthday Party

I thought I was all clever, planning the party around her nap schedule for optimum mood.  And then the time change happened and the party was smack dab in the middle of nap time.  But despite being a bit tired and cranky, she held it together pretty well.

However, she would have nothing to do with her matching headband.

Or party hat.

Ah, well.  She was loved on, played with, and spoiled with presents.  As any party girl should be.

And her first taste of cake?

At first she was more interested in the candle.

Then she tossed the whole thing on the floor.

We tried again, this time cutting it up.

And it went down much easier.  1112_6689

And some even made it into her hair. No surprises there. 1112_6696

Happy birthday, most precious of girls. You are pure joy, and we're thrilled that we got to spend the last year with you.