Friday, October 26, 2012

Thirteen Months

Stella is thirteen months old now. As I tell Mr. Frisby, that means only five more months until she gets to go to nursery at church. I'm super excited for that day. So, what's new with Stella? Well, she still isn't walking. And, at this point, I don't think she will. She has no need for it now that she's figured out how to get around by pushing the chairs and her high chair throughout the kitchen. She seems perfectly content to get around by holding onto things and then filling in the gaps with crawling. Never mind that I'm not perfectly content with chairs crashing into the back of my legs while I'm trying to make dinner. She has been able to stand up in the middle of the room without holding onto anything a few times, though, and I can see the wheels turning in her head when she gets to a point that there's nothing to hold onto. She's thinking about it and that's a start.

Her first molar broke through a few days ago, so we're excited for her dining possibilities to expand further. She loves to eat and many of the words she recognizes have to do with food: milk, cheese, yogurt, fishy (as in, fish graham crackers), snack, breakfast, lunch, dinner. I think her current favorite food is cheese. If I say cheese or get out a cheese stick for her, she goes crazy. She has also grown to love her milk, to the point that she doesn't even want water anymore. Just milk. She's weaned from her bottle, too, so she drinks it all from her straw cup. And, is pretty adorable doing it.

Mealtimes have become very exciting these days. Stella has learned that food can be played with. And thrown. And that's usually more fun than eating it. This is especially exciting for Scout who has learned to hang around the highchair at mealtimes and to thoroughly check the highchair for crumbs after we pull Stella out.

I realized the other day that she's really starting to understand what we say more. She was getting into something, so I said, "let's go in your room and play with your puzzle". I took her hands and she walked right into her room and bent down to pull her puzzle out from where it is tucked away under her bookshelf. Her being able to understand us is pretty exciting, but I think at first I just expected that all of a sudden she could understand everything. Obviously this is not the case and I'm starting to get a grasp on that. She's also getting expert at selective listening. She looks right at me and listens when she wants to and other times, I may as well not even be there speaking to her.

She gives us hugs and we LOVE it. It took me a little while to realize that's what she was doing. Usually, it's when she's playing. She'll just look up from her toys and crawl over and onto my lap and wrap her little arms around my neck and then she's back down and back to her toys. At first, I thought it was because she wanted something or she was getting tired or something of that nature. But, after awhile, I realized she was just coming over to give me a hug. So great!

Stella is also figuring out what to do with some of her toys and it's fun to watch her figure out how things work. Take her Fisher Price stacking rings for example. She's always been able to pull the rings off.

But, now she's figured out how to put them on. Not in the right order necessarily, but she puts them on nonetheless.

Her hair continues to be a little out of control. It's to the point that it's really too long to do just a ponytail on top of her head, so we switched to pigtails. And we love them.

She's a creative little girl and has found a way around the fact that I don't give her a paci unless she's going to sleep.

She's also learning to play with Scout. This picture is of her trying to hand Scout her toy while she's sitting in her kennel. It's really cute. It kind of seems like Scout doesn't like to play with her because she doesn't play according to Scout's standards, but Scout knows that she wants to, so she just humors her. It will be fun to watch those two interact more as Stella gets older.

A video to illustrate their playtime:

She continues to be a happy, busy little girl who keeps me on my toes at all times. We love watching her figure things out and develop her own personality and we're excited to see how she enjoys the upcoming holidays.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Pumpkin Patch

I have never been to a pumpkin patch. When I was a kid, we chose our pumpkins from the selection at the grocery store and that was it. No trains. No hay rides. No fun games. No country farm setting. I'm not upset about this. I'm the youngest of nine kids and as a mother of one, I don't blame my parents for not wanting to wrangle a whole bunch of kids through a crowded "farm" with its abundance of dirt and pumpkins. Especially when the pumpkins are cheaper at the grocery store and the grocery store is someplace you go to anyway.

So, when we were invited to join some friends at a nearby pumpkin patch a couple weeks ago, we thought maybe we would take little Stella and see what all the hype was about. Turns out, we had fun. But, we still didn't buy any pumpkins. They're still cheaper at the grocery store.

Stella was way too interested in everything going on around her to be bothered to look at the camera. Oh well. Isn't she cute, all nestled among the pumpkins? Or on the pumpkins?

Or on a giant chair?

Aren't we all cute on the giant chair?

We even decided to do the hay ride. And we had fun.

So, the pumpkin patch was a success. Because this pumpkin patch is about 15 minutes from our house. I'm not about to make the drive to Half Moon Bay for pumpkins. Especially when they're cheaper at the grocery store.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Family Pictures

I decided a little while ago that we needed to take some family pictures. We weighed our options. We could find a photographer locally and pay lots of money for a photo shoot or we could fly Mr. Frisby's sister out from New Mexico and pay nothing for a photo day and have her visit for a weekend. It was pretty much a no brainer. We flew Mr. Frisby's sister out the weekend before our trip to Seattle. I went shopping to make sure we all had coordinating clothes (not matching - just coordinating). We all got haircuts the weekend before. We narrowed down the myriad of possible locations for our photo shoot to just a few in San Francisco. We were ready.

Many, many pictures were taken. With an energetic one-year old in the mix, most of them turned out like this:

At any given time, one or more of us was not looking at the camera or making some crazy face. And, for a few of the pictures, we decided to just throw caution to the wind and add the dog into the mix.

It was a wild day and exhausting. Before the day was over, I had a splitting headache. Serious props to Ashlee for hanging in there the entire day. But, we got some great shots, so I would say it was worth it.

Of course, to see our absolute faves, you'll just have to come visit so you can see them on our walls. And, lest you think we just made Ashlee our photographer slave for the day, we did take her to Golden Boy for the best pizza ever and we made sure she had other photographic opportunities in San Francisco as well since portrait photography isn't normally her thing. And she got to leave the vast desert of NM for the beautiful sunshine and greenery of California. I'd say it was a fairly good deal for her.

Thanks for visiting us, Ashlee, and thanks for the great pics (I hope you don't mind me posting them)!

Friday, October 5, 2012

All Aboard!

We're working backwards through September, here. The weekend before Stella's birthday, we had a wedding to go to in Seattle. Now, Seattle is a lovely town, but we just visited there not long ago and had a great time seeing all the sights then. So, we decided to make this trip all about the journey instead of the destination. We opted to take the train. Mr. Frisby has always wanted to take a train ride - I mean a real, overnight, sleeper car train ride. And, I thought it might be fun. So, we booked ourselves a roomette on Amtrak's Coast Starlight and we were all set.

The Coast Starlight goes from LA to Seattle with stops all along the way, including San Jose. When boarding in San Jose, it's an approximately 24 hour ride to Seattle. When riding the train, you have the option of just purchasing seats in Coach for the ride. However, for our comfort and because we had an almost-one-year-old with us, we decided to upgrade to a private roomette with two beds in First Class. With our upgrade to the roomette, all of our meals aboard the train were then included in our ticket price. We were pretty excited for our adventure. Amtrak claims that the Coast Starlight is its most beautiful route, so we were expecting some amazing scenery.

My biggest concern with this method of travel was how the roomette (which sleeps two adults) would work when adding in Stella for our sleeping arrangements. What exactly is a roomette, you ask? Well, I would say it is precisely what it sounds like. It's not big enough to be considered a room. Really, it's a tiny room. A "roomette". In the daytime, the "roomette" is set up with two seats facing each other with a foldout table between them. At night, those seats fold out to make a bed and then a second bed is folded down from the wall above. The "roomette" is the length of the beds (probably about 6 feet) and a few inches wider than the width of the bottom bed ( maybe 3.5 feet total - and that's generous). Between the wall with the door and the bed, there were a couple steps to climb up to the top bunk and a miniscule closet. With the beds folded out, the only floor space was a small square large enough for one person to stand up on between the door and the bed. The plan was for Mr. Frisby to sleep on the top bunk and for me to sleep on the bottom bunk with Stella sleeping at the foot of the bed. I informed Mr. Frisby that we had best just plan on getting no sleep that night. Then, if we actually did, it would be a nice surprise. There were several restrooms to be shared among the passengers in our car and there was even a shower if we chose to use it (we did not). There were other options than just a roomette. They have family rooms which sleep two adults and two kids and they have larger rooms that sleep two adults, have a private bathroom, and another chair. Those options would have been nice, but they were considerably more expensive and, we thought, more than we would need, so we went with the roomette. It's only 24 hours, right? In addition to our private roomette, as First Class passengers, we were entitled to wile away the time in the "Pacific Parlor Car" whenever we wanted. Basically, this was a lounge car with comfy seats, big windows, a small dining area (which we could eat in instead of the dining car if we so chose), and a movie theater room on the bottom floor. It's only open to First Class Passengers. We were also entitled to roam around all of the Coach sections of the train, including the Observation car.

So, here's how it all went down. The train was scheduled to pick us up in San Jose at 8:39 pm on Thursday. That's just a little past Stella's normal bedtime, so I thought we would just get on the train and put her to bed right away. We quickly learned that train travel is not like airline travel. In an airport, there are monitors all over and gate agents everywhere to let you know if planes are early, late, or on time. Getting through security is also horrendous. When we arrived at the train station, security was a breeze - there was none. We just walked into the train station and sat down to wait. And there are no monitors to tell you the status of your train. Amtrak recommends arriving at the station half an hour early. So, we were at the train station just after 8. As it got closer to our scheduled departure time, I overheard a fellow passenger asking a ticketing agent if the train was on time and the ticketing agent responding that it was two hours late. I wanted to be sure I heard that correctly, so I asked the passenger and she confirmed that the agent said the train was running two hours late. Mr. Frisby and I then jumped on our iPhones to find out if we could track the train. Indeed we could and I even downloaded Amtrak's app so we could track it even easier. The tracking jumped around over the next couple of hours as we waited, getting our hopes up one minute, then dashing them the next. Finally, after over two hours of keeping the little one busy and entertained while she was growing increasingly tired, our train pulled into the station around 10:30 pm. We were more than ready to board and get the little tyke to bed.

We found that train rides are a bit like a cruise, except you're on land and it's waaaay less luxurious. When we walked over to our car, we were greeted by our car attendant who would be with us the entire journey to make up our roomette when needed and help us with anything we needed. You know, sort of like a cruise ship room attendant. She set up our roomette as beds before we boarded, so once we got on and got our luggage settled, we immediately got Stella to sleep. She was one tired girl.

We were actually pleasantly surprised at the roominess of the roomette. It was in no way, shape, or form roomy, but it was much better than we expected from what we had read and seen online. Since it was much later than it was supposed to be, we just got ready and went to bed as well.

As expected, we passed a horrible night. Maybe I shouldn't say horrible. It was sleepless. Some might consider that horrible. Stella slept great. She didn't wake up at all during the night. Mr. Frisby and I were not so lucky. I would've given anything for an oil can. There was a squeaky hinge on the upper bunk. It was, apparently, right next to Mr. Frisby's ear. And, therefore, it was directly above mine. And it squeaked whenever the train went over any sort of bump. Which was pretty much all the time. I don't think it would've woken me up, but it kept me from going to sleep. For a very long time. Of course, when I finally would doze off, then I would get woken up when the train stopped and new passengers got on and talked loudly to the attendant right outside our door. Oh well. We expected to sleep very little and our expectations were fulfilled. When morning came, the train was still running two hours behind. This proved to be a fortuitous circumstance because it allowed us to get a good view of Mt. Shasta. When on schedule, the train goes by Mt. Shasta around 5 am, when it's still dark outside. Since it was about 7 am when Stella woke up and we got ourselves ready for the day, Mt. Shasta was perfectly visible, so we headed to the Pacific Parlor Car (hereafter referred to as PPC) to check out the view. While looking out the windows and otherwise familiarizing ourselves with the train, we overheard the waitress in the PPC telling another passenger what the breakfast menu was in that car. The egg and cheese breakfast sandwich sounded good to us, so we opted to eat there while enjoying the view as we rolled by.

We had a little station guide for the Coast Starlight route that mentioned the landmarks of interest along the way. We looked for the landmarks and enjoyed the very beautiful scenery throughout the rest of the day. At one point, we decided to venture to the Observation Car to check it out. A few minutes mingling with the peons of Coach was enough and we headed back to the PPC and the lap of luxury. We pretty much switched off between our roomette and the PPC throughout the day. Stella didn't nap well on the train and, therefore, neither did we. But, for most of the day we kept the lower bunk in bed form, so it provided a fairly large area where Stella could crawl and play. When she got bored, we would take turns taking her to different areas of the train for a change of scenery. We decided to have lunch in the PPC instead of the dining car since it was a little more laid back and quiet and, with an almost-one-year-old to wrangle, that was a good thing.

As promised, the scenery was spectacular and did not disappoint. We enjoyed gorgeous views throughout the day in all three states we went through. I think my favorite part, though, was going through the Cascade Mountains. It was absolutely stunning.

I think Stella liked it, too.

Throughout the day we gradually made up time and began to have high hopes that we would indeed pull into the Seattle station near our 8:45 scheduled arrival time. There were a few stops throughout the day that were called "fresh air stops". That simply meant that the train would be stopped there for several minutes, so all the passengers could get off and stretch/smoke/breathe/etc, etc. We made use of one of those, but I don't remember which stop. Somewhere in Oregon, I think.

For dinner, we decided we better try out the dining car. The tables in the dining car seat 4 people, so if your party doesn't have 4 people in it, they seat you with other people to fill the table. They counted us a party of 3 since we had Stella with us and seated us with a very nice, albeit eccentric, young lady from Australia. She was touring America and thoroughly enjoying herself, though she had been spending more than she planned, so she was trying to curb her spending so she would still have money left by the time she made it to NYC (She was not taking the train all the way there - just to Seattle). She was kind enough to take this picture for us as Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" was running through my head.

We continued to enjoy the scenery and Washington welcomed us with a beautiful sunset.

But, as we rolled by the Puget Sound and we knew we were getting close, we started to get antsy and were ready to pull into Seattle.

We finally arrived in Seattle at 8:44 pm on Friday, one minute ahead of schedule. So, our 24 hour train ride actually only took 22 hours. All in all, it was pretty fun. Stella didn't seem to mind it and she did pretty well. It was nice that we could walk around with her and keep her entertained. But, the train was dirty and people would leave stuff around, so we had to constantly watch her so she wasn't crawling through anything nasty or picking up garbage/crumbs that were left around. The plane ride home was easier just because it was so much shorter. If Stella were a little older, I think she even could've enjoyed it for what it was.

My sister and her husband picked us up from the train station and took us to our hotel. We were really excited to take showers and wash the train grime off. After we got cleaned up, we were excited to sleep in a nice, comfy bed with no squeaking. It was delightful.

We got up bright and early the next morning and headed to the temple for the wedding. Considering it was Seattle, the weather was amazing! It was nice and sunny and after the morning chill, it warmed right up.

Holly and Tim looked lovely.

Mr. Frisby and Stella looked lovely.

The temple looked lovely.

My sister's corsage looked lovely.

And we had a great time.

After the sealing, we headed to the reception where we took no pictures because it was too dark. But, it was fun. Though, by the end, Stella was super tired. She took a nice little nap in my arms while Mr. Frisby helped with clean up after it was over. After the reception and clean up, we headed to the airport. It was a very quick trip. We were actually in Seattle for less time than it took us to get there. But, it was an adventure! And, maybe someday, we'll do it again. Though not with an almost-one-year-old.