Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Charlotte For Real

Yeah, it's only February 1st. I actually took this picture a week ago... and these flowers were actually blooming several days before that.

They're confused.

I think the sunny 60s + we've been getting is unseasonably warm, even for here, but you will not hear me complaining. Nope, not one bit.

C'mon down and join in the fun!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Maura and Michael

This is my first week of the last month of work. Strange to ponder. In just 31 days I'll be saying good-bye to the "day job" I've had for the last year and a half.

 It's been fun.

It was hard at first, most definitely. Emotionally connecting with Maura was difficult, and learning to balance being their friend, while still maintaining respect and obedience was even more difficult. But we made it through.

Really, it's been a blessing. Not everyone gets to have a job they love. And not everyone gets to work for people they love, either.

It's a beautiful feeling to say goodbye and know that the work I have done, and the effort I have put forth over the last year and a half have been noticed, and appreciated.

The good meals were remembered, the bad ones never mentioned. The fun times talked about, the rough days long forgotten.

We trekked all over Charlotte, those two kiddos and me. At first we could hardly get anywhere without having to stop and reprogram the GPS, or do a U-Turn because I'd missed the street, and consequently, they held onto their seats, and were late almost always. Now, they don't even bat an eye lash when we head out, and we're always ten minutes early to every activity. :)

I've watched Maura bud from a shy, nervous perfectionist, to a happy, confident not-so-little girl. She's come out of her shell, reveled more in her individuality, and doesn't worry so much about what everyone - even Michael -  thinks about her. She sings happily along to Taylor Swift, practices her splits and back bends 24/7 and gets straight A's on every report card. Every Monday she asks, "How big is your baby this week?" and is sweetly interested of all the little changes that Baby has been going through. 

Michael has grown, too. When I met him he was a chubby little kindergartener who asked a million questions a minute, and was always trying to say something funny. All the pants I hemmed August 2010 have been let out again, and still, he's growing out of them at lightening speed. He still cracks us all up with his jokes and antics. A couple weeks ago he told me he definitely didn't want to be a lawyer. Being a lawyer is boring. "But I'd like to do what Dad does. He gets to sit and play on the computer all day long!" He loves sports, and being active. It's been hard to keep up with him, and I've had to tell him more often that I can't go jump on the tramp, or play kick ball or ride scooters. He doesn't like it, I know, but he puts up with it. He hates homework, because it interferes with play time, but he's still super smart for a 1st grader. Half of the million questions he asks I can't even answer. His mom told me he adores me, though he'd be horrified if he knew she said that. 

This is the famous Jack D. When Michael first talked about him in the beginning days of kindergarten we were all a little skeptical. But since then Jack has proved his worth. He and Michael are best buds, and I love having this kiddo join our gang occasionally.

I've learned the value of picking battles. I've learned that kids are happiest with a balance of structure and freedom - too much structure and they fight you constantly, too much freedom and you have chaos. 

Our best moments now are in the car, listening to music and talking about their day, or lives, or answering Michaels one million questions. Funny, when I started, the car was the bane of my work day. Don't really know how we got through that one... Adventures and Odyssey, and lots and lots of days of lost privileges, I guess.

It'll be fun to come back a visit occasionally. I think they'll like to see the baby. It's been a good run. I'm thankful that I'm leaving on a good note, with so many positive memories. My welcome is not worn out, but I am so ready for this next season of life to begin.... It's bittersweet, moving on. But move on we must.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Name Game

I am one of those girls who has had my ten hypothetical sons and ten hypothetical daughters named since I was eight years old. And as my mother said would inevitably happen, the list has evolved quite a bit. I can hardly remember half of the names I was so in love with ten years ago. New ones have taken over - though I certainly don't have twenty hypothetical children named anymore.

Daniel knew about these lists, and fell prey to my wonderings long before conception was even possible (we were still dating, I mean). So, when we did find out that this little one would be joining our family, he almost immediately put the name game to an end.

"I am not talking about baby names until a month before the baby arrives!" He declared.

Well that would not do, I told him. We needed at least 6 weeks to discuss names and let them grow on us. So he "compromised," and said we would discuss our baby's name sometime in "late January."

**rolls eyes**

I kept talking about names, and asking for his input, and he stubbornly held to his resolution most of the time. It's true, there were times when I would ask about a certain name and he would give a yea or nay. However, the majority of the time he said, "We can discuss that in late January."

Can you imagine my frustration!? :-D I had had my fake children named since I was eight year old, and now I was actually having a baby, and I couldn't even talk about what to name it with its father!?! :-P

So, I insisted on a date. Late January in my mind was January 21st. In his mind, it was January 31st. So again we compromised and the magic day became January 25th.

Which is today.

**shouts and jumps for joy**

So, I am pleased to announce that the official baby naming game has begun in our home (and via text message). We have several favorites for both a little boy and a little girl, but middle names are not coming as easily.

We would like names that go well with our English last name, and Irish ancestry. I am mostly German, so a name with German roots could be an option, too. Daniel has some Scots blood in him, too, but not enough to sway us too much towards those names, unless it was something very special.

We also have a one syllable last name. This has proved to be the hardest obstacle for us! We love short names! But some just don't ring right. (Imagine Belle Wells. :-P)

Being typical Americans we also don't want a name in the top ten list. If a name isn't on the top 100, I get excited. Some of my favorites still are though, and that's ok. :)

We would also like our baby's name to have some significance - whether he or she is named after a person special to us, a historical hero or the name itself has a meaning that we can draw from. I've always appreciated the thought that we are naming our children for eternity. Daniel is not quite so sentimental about it, but I think he mostly agrees.

Lastly, we just want to love our baby's name! :) We'll be saying, whispering, cooing, introducing, shouting, groaning and repeating it for the rest of our lives. It better be good, right?

It's becoming increasingly popular not to share baby names with friends, and even family. I won't say that we're doing that... but I won't be blogging our names, or the name until Birth Day. If you ask me privately on a good day I may tell you... but honestly, since we really aren't sure yet what we love best, I find telling people our ideas too definite. Just because I mention a name doesn't mean that's what our baby will be called, but nevertheless it circulates through the crowds somehow. ;)

I've also experienced with several of my siblings and my little niece, that sometimes a baby is born and he or she just doesn't look like the name her parents had picked for her. My little sister was supposed to be something very different from Aliza Rose, and we had never even heard of the name Nevin until Dad called home from the hospital and said that the baby boy wasn't going to be Neil, but Nevin like Kevin, but with an N. Nevin most certainly wasn't a Neil.

All that said, Baby's name really won't be chosen until Birth Day anyway...

Ha! TMI Ashlee, TMI, right? ;)

But I am SO EXCITED to be talking about baby names finally!!!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

33 Weeks!

 How far along?: 33 weeks - 7 weeks or 49 days to go. Wow!
Total Weight Gain: 20+
Maternity clothes? Yes :)
Stretch marks? not on my belly ;)
Sleep: eh... it's alright. I get it somehow, right? That's what's important.
Best moment this week: Baby's kicks and punches are getting much, much stronger, and one evening this week I had Daniel feel for it. He was completely AMAZED. "That's the baby? Is it supposed to be that strong? Wow!" Then he was bragging to friends later about how active and strong his baby was. <3 <3 The shower last weekend was also really special.
Movement: O, yes.
Cravings: potatoes and sugar snap peas... not together.
Gender Predictions: I was so confident about Baby being a girl until I announced aloud at my shower that I thought it was a girl. Ever since then I can't shake the thought that maybe it's a boy!... gah.
Labor Signs: no
Belly Button in or out? Out, and I'm proud of it.
What I miss: still miss sleeping on my back, but other than that I am super lovin' bein' pregnant.
What I am looking forward to: Making progress on the nursery, and slowly filling the dresser drawers with little things. :) We start birthing classes on Tuesday, and are doing a Taking Care of Baby and Infant CPR class this Thursday, as well as a Breastfeeding class on Saturday - busy week!
Weekly Wisdom: This isn't wisdom... it's more of an observation I've made about myself. Most people say that the 2nd trimester is the honeymoon, or "babymoon," but I've found my 3rd to be the most enjoyable so far. I feel pregnant, I look pregnant, and the expectancy of this little one's arrival heightens every day!
Milestones: Nothing major, I don't think... we're just movin' right along. :)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Our Weekend

As noted at aforementioned baby shower, we had quite a handful of out of town visitors this past weekend!

The fun started Thursday evening when I rushed out of work straight to the airport to pick up Mom, Mare and my two littlest sisters. Daniel was still out of town, so we braced ourselves for a girl night! We had yummy tomato basil soup from Trader Joe's and homemade bread and salad for dinner, all while we talked ten miles a minute about everything and anything. Then we curled up together on the couch and watched Enchanted.

Friday morning Mare and I walked to the playground with the girlies, which of course included Zoe.

watching Aliza brings back so many memories of my childhood. She does almost everything I would have done.

Then Friday, Daniel came home and Janet and Rebecca arrived, filling our house with redheads! It was a late night and an early morning, but Saturday after the shower we all enjoyed a good long walk on the Greenway....

... and frozen yogurt!!

Sunday everyone made their way back to their respective states eventually. But not before Daniel showed his mom how to play Wii!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Showered With Love...

... and presents for Baby, too!

Saturday my sweet friend Carolyn and her mother, Peggy, hosted a baby shower for me and Baby. 

Carolyn's mom wanted a theme, so I suggested Beatrix Potter, since that's how we'll be decorating the nursery. She took it and flew! Everything looks so sweet. The morning brunch was delicious, and my northern family got a real taste of tradition southern hospitality.

The shower was just beautiful, and I am so thankful for everyone who could come and celebrate with us.

playing "According to Ashlee..." where guests had to answer questions like, "What will the baby look like?" and "how will Ashlee react when she meets her baby for the first time?" as if they were me. My Mother-in-Law won! Getting 15 out of 20 questions right! Aliza got 11 right. :)

Janet flew in from Florida, and Rebecca flew in from Texas. Aliza, Anna, Mom and Mare flew down from Michigan and Ohio. 

It was a beautiful day! Bringing home all the sweet and useful things for Baby makes the arrival seem more and more real. Only 54 days until Due Date!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

32 Weeks

Dear Baby,

In two months time you'll be here. It seems surreal to me. I feel you bump around inside of me every day, I hear your strong, healthy heartbeat at every midwife appointment, my belly keeps growing and growing, and Daddy and I are slowly getting things ready in the nursery - in your room. But the realization that there inside of me is a complete little person who will be ours to care for and love is often beyond my comprehension.

You are a miracle.

I am head over heels in love with you already.

You are worth every ache, every pain, every pound. I am so very thankful for you.

I sometimes want to burst into a fit of giggles as you jump around inside of me. You are so active! Daddy says maybe you'll be the next Tim Tebow, if you're a boy.

I think you're a girl, though. I wasn't sure for a long time. I kept going back and forth, back and forth. But now I would be very surprised if you were born a boy. I'm nearly certain you'll be our sweet baby girl.

And if you're not, I will be beyond delighted to be wrong, and call you our handsome lil man.

Either way, I'm hoping you have red hair. Dark and rich like your daddy's, and thick and wavy like my moms was when she was born. I hope you don't mind. I think it's beautiful. If you do have red hair and you don't like it, you can say it's all my fault, since I prayed for it.

(If you are born bald and end up having muddy colored hair like I do I'll still love you to pieces. I promise.)

I have always loved springtime, especially since we have lived in Charlotte. But now, springtime is even more dear to me, and I will always look forward to it with more expectancy because it will be the time when we will celebrate your birth. Getting married at the beginning of summer, in June, always seemed just perfect to me, and having a baby in the first weeks of spring when everything is beginning to bud and bloom again seems just as wonderful. But I'm biased.

I cannot wait to make memories with you. To bring you home from the hospital. To take you to church for the first time. To dress you up, and give you your first bath. I can't wait to see your first smiles, and hear the sound of your coos.

I am preparing to be completely enraptured with you, and with everything you do. If I don't set you down for more than ten minutes the first two weeks of your life here, I don't think the world will end. But, I suppose I should share you with your daddy... he is so excited, too. He loves knowing your gender, even though I don't. He says that sometimes he pictures your face and thinks of you by a certain name (even though we still don't know what we'll call you for sure). I know that is so precious for him, especially since he doesn't get to hold you like I do every moment of the day right now.

Dear Baby, we pray for you daily. We pray for your healthy and safety. We pray you will be born complete and whole. We thank our heavenly Father for you daily, because we know you are wonderfully made, and we rejoice in your life. Our deepest desire, our most fervent prayer is that you will not know a day, or even an hour, when you do not know Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord.

All my love,

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Oreo Pie

Want a yummy dessert that's super to easy to make? How about Oreo Pie?

This particular dessert is Daniel's favorite. I've become rather attached to it too.

Confession: when I make it, we eat the left overs for breakfast. :-/


1 regular package of vanilla pudding
8 oz cream cheese, softened
12 oz cool whip/ whipped cream (I always make my own whipped cream)
About 1 package of oreos
1/2 stick of butter, melted

Grab a brown paper bag and crush about half the package of those oreos to smithereens... or chop them in your food processor. Whichever floats your boat.

Spread them in the bottom of a pie pan, and pour the melted butter slowly over top. Press the cookies down firmly with a spatula to create the crust.

**You can skip this first step by purchasing an already made oreo crust**

Using an electric mixer (preferably, but not necessarily) mix the pudding package with as much milk as the recipe calls for. Add in the cream cheese and whipped cream and beat until smooth.

Add crumbled oreos of you'd like (and why wouldn't you like?)

Pour on top of crust.

Top with more oreos if you'd like (see above).

Chill several hours, til set. Then enjoy for breakfast, lunch or dinner! ;)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

2011 Books - Part 2

By June 2011 I'd read 6 books... that was only a 1/3 of the way to my goal of 15 titles in a year (four more from 2010). I know, I'm a pathetically slow reader, but I'd rather read only a little than nothing!

From June to December I have read:

This took me about 4 months to finish, but it was certainly worth it. I enjoyed the depth of humanity in it.
I'm also proud to say I've finally read Dostoyevsky

Fox's Book of Martyrs hit the dust when morning sickness came on full swing, and these six lovely books got me through the first 15 weeks of pregnancy. I've read them all before, but they were thoroughly delightful to reread.
Daniel and I slowly made our way through this.
It's hard to read a book when you've seen the movie a dozen times. :)
And that makes a total of 14 books for 2011... One short of my goal. :( Sad day. Well, here's to 2012 and my goal of reading **coughs** 20 books - even with a baby! Hey, I can pick short ones, right?

Are you a faster reader than I am? (It doesn't take much, seriously) Do you have specific books you want to read this year? How many books did you read in 2011?

Sunday, January 8, 2012


I know this is a week late... but we can celebrate 2012 all year long, right?

This year we have been so incredibly blessed. We're not the party-it-up type (did you guess?? :P). We actually did have plans for a party(New Years Eve), but ended up not going for various reasons. Instead we spent our New Years Eve together, playing Mario Kart on our new Wii, and watching The Cosby Show. I fell asleep well before midnight, and even though Daniel assures me he gave me a New Years kiss as the ball dropped I have no memory except for waking up at 12:15 and asking if it was 2012 yet. :)

We are especially excited for 2012 because we will get to meet our sweet baby face to face, but as I reflect on 2011 I'm aware that, baby or not, we have been incredibly blessed. It was a great year!

The first week of January Charlotte got dusted with snow, and we enjoyed a "real" winter... for about a month.

We celebrated our first Valentine's as Mr. and Mrs. by stuffing our faces :-P at the Japanese steak house (so good!)

And at the end of the month our home was full of visitors!
Jonathan, Chloe and Oliver - then still in utero. :)

and Mom and the five youngest kiddos.

By March spring and love were both in full bloom. We got to see two of our best friends fall in love, while the daffodils popped their yellow heads through the dirt. [Cue Audience to "Awww"]

We began thinking and praying about post-seminary plans, and Daniel buckled down on his last few weeks of classes.

By May, he officially had his masters, and we celebrated with his mom and sister, and my sister.

My sister also spent a week with us in May, and we had a ball just being sisters again. (Well we're always sisters, but we don't live together anymore - that's what I mean) :)

And for better or worse this feisty mutt joined our family. We think we'll keep her. She was pretty darn cute, huh?

June 5 we celebrated our 1st anniversary. I was sick so it was rather low-key, but we were both thankful to have made it through a year together.

A friend and I threw a baby shower in Ohio for my sister, then 20+ weeks pregnant with twins

I spent several days in Michigan with my family the second week of June.

I nannied these crazy kiddos 9 1/2 hours Monday -  Friday and had a blast of a summer!

July 3rd, 2011  we found out Baby was on the way!

And we celebrated the 4th of July with my family in Michigan

Towards the end of July we took a road trip down to Tampa to spend some time with Daniel's family.

We also used some vacation time to visit the beach and soak up some rays.

In August Daniel celebrated his golden birthday. :)

September and October we dipped into some different cultures and visited the Greek Festival...

... and the Renaissance Festival (which were not on the same day, even though Daniel is wearing the same outfit... whoa!)

September 28th, we became Aunt Ashlee and Uncle Daniel for the second and third time as our first nephew and second niece made their entrance into the world! (We can't wait to meet them face-to-face this summer!)

and in mid October we got to see this sweet lil face for the first time.

 Thanksgiving we spent here in Charlotte with friends, and traveled the following weekend to visit Daniel's mom for her birthday.

Then Christmas season hit!

... and here we are in 2012.

God Bless!