Leo is 6 months old!

I say this all the time, but I'm once again flabbergasted... dumbfounded... and stupefied at how fast children grow up. It seems as though just yesterday morning Greg and I woke up in a hotel room at 4 am to drive across highway to the hospital for my 5:30 am C-section. I can even feel the butterflies I was feeling then. I was so so SO nervous about that surgery and was mentally rehearsing a speech in which I professed my undying love for Greg and Annika, and how I wanted him to find a good mother for our kids if I didn't make it, and how he should never ever wash whites and colors together. I know! But what can you do when you are 39 weeks pregnant in the middle of a very hot summer and it's 5 am and you haven't eaten nor are allowed to eat for the foreseeable future? Pregnant + hangry+ no coffee. A gallon of fluids via an IV did little for me, except maybe made me so swollen that even my ear lobes looked pregnant.
Then they made me walk to the operating room in that gown that had no back. But at 5:30 no one cares (a little part of me did though, no coffee and all). The OR was so cold, my top and bottom teeth couldn't find each other, much like my thoughts. I was so nervous I could barely talk and I kept asking if it was normal to feel so nervous and if I was going to die. Then the anesthesiologist gave me the spinal block and it worked before I even counted to three (mississippylesly). And I repeatedly asked if I was very exposed and if everything was going according to the plan.
I knew I was being cut by the smell of the burning flesh. Awesome! To keep my mind off of the smell, I asked Greg to tell me about work, because that always makes me snooze:) I didn't.
That part was quick and then the doctor and the nurses started pushing on me something awful to get the baby to come out. I thought a car was driving over my chest and all of a sudden I couldn't breathe and once again started asking what was going on and if I was dying. I wasn't. Praise the Lord for the most comforting anesthesiologist who stood by my ear and told me things like, "this is supposed to feel that way... your O2 levels are perfectly normal... it will be over in just a couple of minutes". And it was and we heard a tiny squeal and then it was all a blur of people spilling out stats, one of which stood out the most  - A BOY! 
And I did die, of love and admiration. And I die every time I look at his sweet face that I kiss a million times a day.

Little 6-month stats:
He is a very chill little mister, much like his daddy, who loves observing everything around him, adores his sister (and has a healthy fear of her too:)), sleeps very well (7:30-7:30, sometimes with a little snack once + 2 one-two hour naps), and is a champ eater (95% for size). He sits up and grabs everything in his sight and promptly puts it in his mouth. He can roll, but doesn't like to, much rather prefers lying on his back and chewing on his own toes:) 

the one with the cute naked girl

Like in "The one with the ugly naked guy", only not?
(You get it? My anti-Friends husband didn't get it, so I have to ask...)

And no, by the cute naked girl I most definitely do not mean myself. (If my jelly belly had hands it would have slapped me on the face and ordered to get over yourself, Lena!)
The other night, after putting Leo to bed, I found Greg sitting on the floor of our bathroom with a drink in his hand, keeping Annika company as she was going potty. The two were having a grand time talking all things farts, poops, and politics. When time came to get into her jammies, Annika informed us matter-of-factly that she had to run around naked for a bit. O-kay! She was totally serious and when we asked her why, she said, "Because I said I have to run around naked for a bit." Duh! And so she did for 10 minutes. 10 glorious minutes complete with little feet making circles around the house, happy squeals, and oh my gowsh, the cutest joggling buns I ever did see. Then, panting and with rosy cheeks, she was ready for her diaper and jammies. She was satisfied and ready to hit the sack. She was out in no time.
We have much to learn from that girl. She knows how to unwind for the day. All we do to unwind is watch some Netflix over an alcoholic beverage. Surely not as fun. Unless it's Jimmy Fallon that we are watching. Hashtag old farts, hashtag couch potatoes, hashtag quit spelling out hashtag...
So anyway, as soon as I finish typing this and take a shower, you know what I'll be doing. 

the one with random numbers and random pictures

6 children, 12 adults, 5 hours, and 4 total naps. 3 cartons of eggs, 24 french toast slices, 24 tart shell desserts, 5 cartons of strawberries, and cups of coffee too numerous to count. Zero meltdowns. Several dirty undies, though.
Nope, not a week's worth of life. Just a Sunday brunch at our house. I live for these brunches, even though every time I confirm to myself that I'm a terrible hostess.
I forget to introduce people who don't know each other. I never have enough plates/forks/glasses/coffee mugs. I had napkins today and I considered it a success. I put people to work. Thanks, Kirbs, for making all those toasts. Thanks, Linds, for making the sausage links. Thanks, Aaron, for making bread. So basically I just provide the house, the table and the chairs. And I don't even have enough chairs for everybody. Somebody send me to an etiquette school!
People continue to accept our invitations though, so it must not be as bad? Or maybe it's just my husband's charm and free coffee? I don't know, but I'll take it.
I love having people at our house, whether it's just a couple of friends, or a group so big, you aren't sure you've had the chance to chat with everybody. As we were sitting at our table today, chatting, too full to get up, I caught myself listening into several different conversations. I wasn't particularly following any of them, because it's kind of impossible with several topics going on at the same time. Or simply because I'm just such a lousy listener? Scratch that, let's go with the first excuse!!! So I just sat there, smiling and feeling happy, like a fool:) I thought  to myself that I should really try to stay in touch with these people forever. I thought that I should be a better friend to all of them. I thought that I should probably be a better listener. I thought I should check in with friends during the week too, to see how there jobs were going or just to say I miss them. I thought I should probably stop eating. And for heaven's sake, I should definitely buy many many more chairs.
Some more random pictures, why not:)

Chicago Weekend for the Win(n)

As I was nursing Mr. Leo before bed tonight, I was browsing my phone (I usually read some smart book during nursing... no I do not!!!), I looked at my photo stream and was disappointed at the number of photos I took while in Chicago this weekend. My first thought  - fail. Because we all know that the level of success of a certain endeavor is determined by photo documentation of that endeavor.   No, it is not. Because yucky weather notwithstanding, it was a positively successful weekend not without some new experiences.
First, there was the "almost bribery" of a Chinese consulate worker, who helped us out with my brother-in-law's passport situation. We didn't intend to bribe at all, just wanted to thank the guy and make it "worth his while" for coming into work after hours. But he refused our Target gift card. He may have been worried about getting caught on tape accepting something, but I'd like to believe he was just acting out of the goodness of his heart. Ashley and Weishan should be about an hour away from Shanghai as I type this, thanks to the honest and kind Chinese consulate worker, who probably got a lickin' from his wife.
Then there was my first ever bathroom nursing. Standing up. My arms were shaking , but it could have been worse actually. Thank you Mr. Leo, for being a speedy eater. And thank you, Target, for your semi-clean spacious family restrooms. (Would you put a bench or something in there though?) I don't know about you, but this seems like a big deal to me.  Is a "Seasoned Mom Club" a thing? 'Cause I feel like I've just become a member.
One of our goals for the weekend was to get Greg a new wardrobe. I was planning to not shop for myself, but to help him. But you know that feeling when you walk into a clothing store and everything goes blank in your mind and all of a sudden you come home with a bunch of crap you didn't need? Yeah. Me! Neither!

So yes, two and a half iPhone pictures only, but we came home from Chicago with some money to spend at Target,  a new-found level of motherhood, and bunch of clothes that we don't need, but must have if we don't want parenthood and small town living to completely turn us off fashionability... Fashionhood? Fashioning? Agh... too late...

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Oh, what a year it has been! By far the biggest and most life changing year of my life. I feel like I say that every year, but this one REALLY was:)! In fact, the big changes started no later than January 1st of 2014, the day my hubby became a business owner. Now, nearly a year later we still sometimes wonder what in the world we were thinking with that one:) Greg is in his element and LOVES his job, but it's a little intimidating (and time-consuming!) to own a business, I won't lie.
Later in May, Miss Annika turned the big TWO, and we all know everything about what that's like. Phew:) That same month we closed on our very first house and then I became a stay-at-home mom (for a year). On July 12, we left the lake and moved 2 miles down the road into our new house. Just 5 days after that, Mr. Leo was born. And I became a stay-at-home mom of two!!! Of two precious little rascals, who make my heart go boom-boom every day (in between all the hair-pulling that I do, teehee:)).
This year, my sister-in-law Tracie got pregnant (4th grand baby for the Winns is due in February) and my brother-in-law Ashley got engaged to his girlfriend Weishan.
Even though all of these changes didn't come without some challenges, I know that years down the road, this is the year we will be talking about the most and remembering it with smiles on our faces.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from our family to yours! Cheers to 2015 (the year I will become skinny)!!!! :)

Annika says...

-Annika, say 'thank you' in Russian.
- Thank you in Russian!

- J, turn on the cartoon.
- Annika, ask J nicely.
- J, turn on the cartoon nicely.

Annika examines Greg's arms:
- Daddy, why do you have those wrinkles?
- Those are my veins.
- Why do you have those veins?
- Because I'm old.
Annika looks at her arms and says:
- I'm new.

- Mommy, can I have the lady bug killer? (fly swatter!)

- Why are you itching your back?
- Not my back. The neck of my back.

- Can you put some silly raisins in my oatmeal? (she meant craisins... we may have told her they mean crazy raisins:))

- Leo is a thumb sucker.
- And I'm a paci sucker. 

- Annika, how do you say 'good night' in Russian?
- Twinkle, twinkle, little star.

It's time to work on your Christmas cards, friends!

The day after Halloween the famous red cup made its appearance at Starbucks. I giggled and giggled over it, not unlike my 2-year-old giggles over the word “treat”. But then I panicked.   I HAVE LESS THAN A MONTH TO BRING MY DIY CHRISTMAS BOARD ON PINTEREST TO LIFE. Excuse my shouting, but if that’s not THE reason to panic, I don’t know what is.
First things first! Holiday cards. For years I would put this off till the last minute. Once, friends received our cards at the end of January. I have no shame. This year, the moment the first leaf fell on the ground, I told my family to jump! They didn’t respond with “how high”, so it took some convincing. But that’s another story.
I do a little bit of photography on the side and have had a few Holiday sessions. Every time I just look forward to seeing what outfits and locations people choose. I myself put a lot of thought into those life-or-death matters as well and would like to share my two cents:)

As far as outfits are concerned, I think picking one color to stand out is the trick. Last year, for example, I chose the oh-so-then-popular mustard yellow. This jacket on my hubby (my favorite), this dress on my Annika… And I myself opted for a simple headband. No need to go overboard:) 
How great would this picture fit with this modern card design below? Minimal holiday cheer does not overwhelm all the colors and textures in the photo.
The year before that I actually went with simple gray as the accent. The little touch of red makes it look wintery and festive:)
With the simple colors, you can go all out on the card. How about this fun one?

I love continuity in Christmas cards, so I try to match at least one color from my picture with the color of the card design (like gold-orangish in the first example and red in the second). I’m not type-A, I swear.
Can’t think of a specific color? Consider black and white photos.
This was a revelation to me until I got a beautiful black-and-white card last year. I can just see this photo with my daughter on this Christmas card from Tiny Prints. It’s so classy, simple, and yet festive.
As far as location is concerned, I find that most people choose fall scenery for their holiday card photos. And no wonder, it’s gorgeous (in most of the country). It’s great if your city has a trail in the woods where fall trees and leaves are in abundance. Fields are great, too, whether it’s an open field or a corn fields. Or maybe an apple orchard (photo below)? The trees are bare in late fall, but they are usually so perfectly lined up and look very picturesque.
You can also have fun inside. Put on your Christmas jammies and snuggle with your loved ones over a steaming cup of hot cocoa (with those little marshmallows floating on top, of course:)) or over a Christmas book. Candid, real, cozy!

No matter what, your friends will LOVE getting a Christmas card from you. I can just picture them saying, “Awe, look how nicely the shade of her headband matches her daughter’s dress!”.
I kid, of course .
And here comes the most astounding secret to perfect Christmas pictures: smile and have fun! I know, I know, a shocker, but I don’t think there is a greater feeling than seeing all those happy faces displayed on your fridge as you reach for that eggnog.
Happy Holidays!