25 January 2015

Eight Months Old

Eli was eight months old last week!

Eli is loving exploring his voice- he's learning so many new sounds at all volumes. His favorite thing to say is dada. "Ah da da da da da" is his jam. He's eating food. Before, he kind of dabbled in some flavors, but now he's actually eating food 2-3 times a day on top of the usual nursing. He got a cool new highchair for Christmas and has been eating big boy food ever since. Also, eating is a breeze with two extra new teeth. Both teeth on either side of his top front two are out, making a grand total of six pearly whites. The additional nutritious diet has Eli growing. He's in 6-9 size clothes now and size 3 diapers. Eli is waking up one-- sometimes two-- times a night, but is a great sleeper otherwise. He is a terrible napper when teething, but typically takes two naps a day for a couple of hours each. { Disclaimer: I write these posts throughout the month and save them as drafts so that I remember what happened. This whole sleeping thing is currently a load of crap this past week. No naps. Not sleeping at night. }

Eli has reached a couple of pretty big milestones. He is crawling and pulling up! I'm so happy I was able to get a little bit of his first crawling on video for his dad to see that day. This guy is on the move and holding onto many things: all the furniture, his crib, me. Anything that he can reach, he tries to stand up with its assistance. He's reaching up for us when we walk toward him and say "up". It's pretty cute. I am also hyperaware of the importance of finalizing all baby-proofing in the house…yikes! He is typically surrounded by his own toys but must make a beeline for Jessie's when I'm not looking. He also seems particularly drawn to plastic bags and electrical wires. Eli loves playing peek-a-boo and seeing friends and family on FaceTime. He loves his dvd that teaches him his colors and shapes. He is also loving his swing again for some reason. He is just now figuring out how to get around in his walker. Teething toys are essential these days, and he loves his handy manny flashlight that talks to him in Spanish. He is fascinated with Jessie (and Jessie, with him) and loves playdates with friends.

Our little man is super cool. But being a parent is hard. I try to remember the cuteness through the haze of exhaustion and crying and smells and nursing and chasing and consoling and cleaning. A good friend stole my baby a couple of days ago to keep me sane after getting less than two hours of sleep the night before. She doesn't think she did much, but she may have saved a couple of lives that day. A true American Hero. Another friend came by and shoveled my snowy driveway. Let's just say, other mom-friends that tell me our normal is their normal are priceless. They help celebrate the fact that we've successfully kept our kids alive another month, and they are the reason why I'm still kind of capable of putting a sentence together. Happy 8 months little man!

07 January 2015

Post-Christmas Adventures

We've spent a great deal of time and energy for months now making sure we are all caught up here at Woodard, Inc. on all of our administrative, financial, household, car, legal, etc. needs. So in between tying up some of these loose ends before the crazy year ahead, we've embarked on some bucket list adventures like these!

We took a trip to Talkeetna the Saturday after Christmas. It was an overcast day, but we hadn't had clear skies in some time and none were forecasted any time soon. We still got to view Mt McKinley, even though the very top part was covered. We ate at Denali Brewing Co., bought Hubs a hoodie he's had his eye on for months, and took a short walk to the river. We then stopped in a souvenir shop before splitting a piece of chocolate creme pie at the Roadhouse. We also came home with an oversized cinnamon roll for the next day's breakfast!

New Year's Eve 
We had big plans for festivities downtown. It was Anchorage's Centennial celebration with activities, ice sculptures, food trucks, and fireworks! It had been on our calendar for weeks, which for us is quite a commitment. That afternoon, however, plans changed. It wasn't quite 32 degrees, and it rained. Yes, you read that right. It rained for the better part of the evening. We decided we didn't want to be brave enough, so we headed to Hubs' favorite Mexican restaurant instead before driving up to Arctic Valley, a lookout point above Anchorage. We were hoping to see the fireworks in our car, but cloud cover creeped in right at showtime. We could hear the fireworks but couldn't see them. We did get to see a snow shower roll in and some of the biggest flakes I'd ever seen. Once we left that altitude, we were back in the rain. Our plan was to have a second sled day New Year's Day, but it was rained out. Who would've thought?? Rain in January in Alaska is blowing my mind.

January 2nd was the first day that forecasted any kind of sun. It said partly cloudy, and we figured that was the best we might get for a day at the ski resort, Alyeska. I've been there a couple of times, and Hubs has been once. The day he was there, it was ridiculously foggy with zero visibility, so he had no view from the top of the tram. This day was different! We finally had clear skies to see the sights. We had a great lunch at the deli while Eli took a solid nap. We explored the viewing and skiing areas. The pictures here in Alaska never do it justice. Back below at the resort area, we followed a trail just a short ways in to take advantage of the daylight we had left. On our way home, we made a stop at Fred Meyer and took Moose's Tooth pizza back home. It was a really great day!

Picture Day
Yesterday was pretty eventful as well. We had our pictures taken with the same photographer who took Eli's newborn photos in our home. We met at Russian Jack Park in Anchorage in 15 degree weather. She had us outta there in 15-20 minutes. She's so amazing. I've already seen one proof, and it is gorgeous! I'm so excited to have sweet photos of our time in Alaska that will last a lifetime. I'll do a whole post of these pics once we get them in hand. 

Afterwards, we ate dinner at one of Hubs' favorite places, Texas Road House, before getting a few things done at Target. We were watching a movie when I got a notification on my phone: the auroras were out!

Chasing Auroras
Listen, chasing auroras is serious business. It requires compass navigation, tracking websites and forums for real-time forecasting, hot chocolate, matching leather bomber jackets, a snuggling blanket and other warm layers, and baby-maintenance items. It requires patience and time in the middle of the night, the least amount of light possible, cloudless skies, and cold, cold, cold weather. Also, if you want any kind of decent picture, you gotta have some very expensive photography gear and know how to use it in the dark and in a split second. So, please be forgiving of the pics from my iPhone6.
Cousin Eddie was a little weird when we was rudely awakened by our spontaneous adventure.
After we saw the lights, we felt like official Alaskans. The timing and location Hubs found were perfect for the small, green show, and we were so grateful to check this off our bucket list just in the nick of time!

Sunday was the last day of Christmas vacation. (I was trying not to panic/cry/throw up/throw a fit/throw something valuable.) Hubs packed the whole day. He had to completely repack the next day (because, army) and is headed to training very soon. The forecast was looking great, so we kept watch to go aurora-chasing again if they lit up. (It's a little crazy to take a chiweenie, an 7.5 month old, and Hubs when he has work the next day, but we are in the last days, folks. We can sleep when we're separate.) We didn't have to go far, however, when before midnight Tuesday night, the auroras showed right up at our door. 

This was the brightest and biggest either of us had ever seen. She danced for minutes right above our heads. We usually can't see the hints of auroras from our house due to light pollution, but this burst was not hard to recognize. (The picture is so far from what we really saw, I hesitate to post it.) It swirled and stretched and spanned from the northeast horizon over our house to the mountains southwest of us. After that died down, we went to bed. Apparently, the show was even more incredible from 2-4am. They say it was the best show in Anchorage ever. Brilliant colors, coronas, right overhead, and lasting several hours. This is just one of many reasons why we are so glad we are getting to experience Alaska. Now if only the auroras would come out to play before bedtime…

We had such a great time over Christmas leave. We had normal married-people bickers and normal eight-month-old meltdowns, but we still just can't quite get enough of each other. I'm pretty sure these memories are good enough to last us through the year. We are checking off so many cool things from our Alaska Bucket List, but we are adding to it almost as fast. Here's to a quick countdown!

01 January 2015

Christmas 2014

“That night, some shepherds were in the fields nearby watching their sheep. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them. The glory of the Lord was shining around them, and they became very frightened. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I am bringing you good news that will be a great joy to all the people. Today your Savior was born in the town of David. He is Christ, the Lord. This is how you will know him: You will find a baby wrapped in pieces of cloth and lying in a feeding box.” Luke 2:8-12

Anyone else think it's crazy that the One who came to be the King of All of Everything didn't come to us ablaze with power and pronounced arrival? Of all things, He thought being a baby in a feeding box would do. He transcends circumstance so thoroughly that He figured it'd be just as well to put Himself in the most helpless situation outside of heaven. I don't want to ever get over that. 

The first days of December, we started trimming the tree. Hubs was intent on buying an artificial tree this year. He thought it would alleviate some Christmas chores for this season and next. Real trees are hard to get and dispose of with our Camry. They are beautiful and smell like memories, but they can also be hazardous to small dogs and baby boys. But the real reason we got a fake tree is deployment. Time is precious before he leaves and time is precious when he returns. The several months before and after a deployment are always the worst part. It's surprisingly the most difficult. I'm sure you've all seen the videos of military homecomings, and that part is one of the best feelings of life ever. But then real life settles in and it's hard work. Harder than normal. Harder than what you signed up for. Harder than any of the best homecoming feelings. You have to choose to live in each other's mess again. Just when you had gotten use to not having to- at least not in the day-to-day. And that mess is a hell of a lot messier when you've been separated by war. (I would say it might be imperative to start a new tradition of marriage vow renewal several months after each deployment, but please dear Lord and Father in heaven above, please let this be the last deployment our family will experience forever and forever amen.) Anyways, time is precious. So, if some thing is not directly about each other, it's not happening. But if some other thing just has to happen, it needs to as efficiently as possible. Thus, we came up with a Christmas short-cut. 

We don't necessarily get warm fuzzies from decorating a tree together, but we love it once it's up. So, we decorated with our wedding reception ornaments as usual this year. Then the day after Christmas, we saran-wrapped that bad boy and carried the entire decorated evergreen down to the basement. Next year, Hubs will come home, we'll walk the tree upstairs, unwrap it, and voila! We're already prepping to celebrate our Homecoming 2015. We've been dreaming and planning and mulling over what we have to hope for the holidays. Only 372 days til Christmas y'all!

One of our many outings…ice cream! Because we weren't getting cold enough in Alaska…seriously. It's been cloudy and gray and anywhere in the teens to the high thirties. We had a hard time getting below freezing. So it would rain, then the rain would turn to ice, then it would melt to slush, then it would ice over again. So, any daylight we do have is gray and dreary. Oh well. Making the most of it with Santa hats and Marble Slab!

Did I mention it's dark? Sunset this day was about 10:30am and this sunset pictured below was at about 3:30pm. Since December 21st was the shortest day of the year, we are so glad to be gaining sunlight more everyday!

Eli got an early Christmas present: a new walker! This is also kind of a present for momma. I'm hoping he learns how to chase Jessie soon and gives me some hands-free moments!

One night we got a little dolled up and went to eat at the Turnagain Arm Pit, a southern bbq place we discovered and LOVE nom nom nom. Afterwards, we finally made it to an Alaska Aces game. It wasn't a Preds game, but it was close enough. Hubs had some military vouchers from work, but we opted for sitting in the empty cheap seats so we could stretch out. The buzzers and bells are pretty obnoxious, so Eli's ear muffs came in super handy! The only downside was that the game started shortly before bedtime so we didn't stay long. We saw three goals and a fight and happily headed home. It was a blast!

Another rainy day activity was a trip to the Anchorage Museum. I think we walked through the entire thing. The ginormous paintings of Alaska landscapes were breathtaking. We walked though the planetarium and imaginarium that had everything from bubbles to reptiles to fun physics experiments. It will be such a cool place for Eli when he's a little older! We walked through an interesting section of Alaskan history with wildlife, models, boat and home construction, and chronological information of life in each region of the state. 

The part of the museum we had heard most about was the Lego exhibit. It was a really fun section and the detail, creativity, and preservation of each piece was really amazing. Plus, we found a Jessie!

Christmas Eve was reserved for Facetiming family. With so many different time zones and schedules, it was a better option than Christmas day. We made cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate, played a Christmas exchange game with my mom's family that morning, exchanged presents with Mimi that afternoon, opened gifts from Milee and Grandhops that night, and then made an appearance at Nana's get together to top it off. 

Later, Hubs had a great idea for our new tradition: A Christmas Fort! It worked so great Christmas Eve night, that we did it again Christmas night! Eli couldn't hang with us staying up watching movies and drinking hot chocolate, so he went to bed. Hubs and I were really ok with that though. It was like a mini-holiday-date!

Jessie got a new bed for Christmas! She was ecstatic. She got in it immediately after we brought it in and didn't get out of it for a good twelve hours. In her stocking, she was surprised to find a new rope with a tennis ball, four treat toothbrushes, a real wood chew stick, and sharper nail clippers. Yippeee! Eli's stocking had a tiny toothbrush, a feeder for frozen fruits and veggies, a teething toy, fox slippers, fuzzy socks, an Alaska moose shirt, and a dad bear for deployment. *tear*

After stockings and a delicious breakfast casserole, we went sledding! It was the most fun. We weren't out for too long since it was very windy, but it was the peak of our Christmas. Eli seemed to love going down the hill. He was a little unsure of the wind, but he was definitely having fun playing in the snow with dad!

We already have several other Christmas traditions we are excited to start as a family! How to experience such a big time in every year is such a fun thing for us to think about with a new human. For this year, our favorite part was that we were together! I'm betting that's our favorite next year too.

We locked in for three years in Alaska-- three snowy, white Christmases. Can you believe that we already have two down and only one left to go?? It seems like we pulled into town not long ago. We are only almost to the halfway-mark, so we still have time to explore this beautiful place. But I have a feeling the second-half is about to go quite a bit faster than the first!

Stay tuned for Part Two of our Holiday Leave Time!