Sunday, December 27, 2009

1st Christmas Chronicles

First Christmas Club Members - Miles & Corey

Performing his first Christmas program with Grandpa Nickolay.

Miles as a Salvation Army bell ringer.

A snowy scene on Christmas Eve from the window.

Happy family! (What's on daddy's head?)

Proud grandparents with the First Christmas Club Members.

The goofy version of a nice Nickolay Christmas Eve photo. I love you self-timer!

Celebrating Christmas with Grandma & Grandpa Gray in Arizona.

Thanks for the presents Aunt Denise and Cousin Sarah!

"I have wavy hair like you Aunt Denise."

Christmas Eve

This Christmas will go down in history not only as Miles' first Christmas but also as the year of the great Christmas blizzard of 2009. I know weathermen and neighbors will be talking about this year's Christmas blizzard for years to come and when they do I'll think fondly of celebrating this year with Miles.

We spent Christmas Eve with my immediate family and celebrated as we do every year with appetizers, a home brew sampling, a stocking exchange and a gift opening marathon. This year there was lots of baby cuddling too. Miles was a little tired by the evening but still enjoyed tearing through the paper on his presents. I think that crinkling the tissue paper in the packages was one of the highlights of his holiday. He also (after two weeks of daily rehearsals) performed a Salvation Army bell ringer performance with his Grandpa Nickolay. I can only imagine what next year's Christmas program with Miles, Corey and Grandpa Nickolay will be!

Christmas Day

The morning started with breakfast at my parents' house and then we all went to Christmas mass. As our family grows we can almost fill a pew at St. Hubert Church. We then braved the sloshy roads and blizzard conditions to drive to my Aunt Nancy's house to spend Christmas with my mom's side of the family. We enjoyed a delicious ham and turkey dinner with all of the fixings and lots of Christmas cookies. Our family always plays a rousing game of Bunko and again this year I scored very low points (not good in this game). In just a couple of years Miles will be joining us and rolling the dice.

December 26

Miles took his first plane ride on US Airways to visit his Gray Grandparents in Arizona. He was a model baby on a packed flight to Phoenix. I was a little nervous but he didn't fuss and slept much of the ride. Flying with Miles was the easy part - lugging 3 suitcases, the carseat, a backpack, purse and diaper bag through the airport was comical.

December 27

Today Miles celebrated Christmas with his Gray Grandparents and has enjoyed lots of cuddling with Grandma Gray and playing under the Christmas tree. He also met his Aunt Denise and Cousin Sarah for the first time. There is more fun to come this week as Miles continues his vacation adventures in Arizona.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Merry Christmas!

Great-Grandpa Nickolay and his two youngest grandsons.

My Grandpa Nickolay and just some of his grandkids!

Miles with his Grandma and Grandpa Nickolay.

Getting ready for the Christmas party and looking pretty spiffy!

Boy, what a lucky mommy I am to have such a good looking son.
Thanks Amy for the adorable argyle sweater vest!

Miles lending a protective hand to his cousin Corey as they hang out at the park.

Sylvia, Gloria and Daren wheelin' around Edinborough.

Baby babushka.

Having fun at "fundue" night! (Someone's missing from this picture...)

The stockings are hung from the chimney with care.
Thank you Sharon Huse!
This is the only time of year where I ask Mike "what did we get in the mail?" and I look forward to the answer. Christmas cards have been rolling in and we love every picture and signed card that reminds us of all of our loved ones. Three cards in particular stand out this year in my mind and all three were for Miles.

The first was a letter to Miles from Santa which truly was delivered from North Pole, Alaska. Santa told Miles that he knows of his birth and that he is already recorded on his good list. My favorite part of the letter is the last paragraph: "When I told Rudolph that I was going to write to you, his nose lit up to a beautiful bright red! Rudolph can't wait to visit your house and catch his first glimpse of you as you sleep peacefully on this, your first Christmas! I wish you a very Merry First Christmas, little one! Always, Santa Claus" Yes, Miles, there really is a Santa Claus.

The second card came from Miles' Great-Great-Aunt Lucille. Lucille just turned 87 and (no exaggeration) has over 100 nieces, nephews and great-nieces and nephews. Great-Great-Aunt Lucy is always so good about sending a card for birthdays and Christmas and this year Miles received his first Christmas card from her in the mail.

The last letter came to Miles from his honorary Great-Aunt Sharon Huse, a wonderful family friend who I have known since birth. Sharon Huse not only made Miles a lovely stocking to match the ones she gave Mike and I as a wedding gift but she also wrote a beautiful letter to him about love and family. It is such a wonderful letter that I cried while reading it to Miles as he ate his peas and rice cereal one night and I'm tearing up re-reading it to myself now. Thank you Sharon for keeping letter writing alive and for your truly lovely words.

Transitions in the New Year
It is with a heavy heart (and again tears in my eyes) that last week was the last, full-week that Miles will be cared for by his Grandma and Grandpa Nickolay. Since returning to work in early October we have made the trek each morning out our door and down my parent's driveway to drop him off for what we've called day-care but has really been day-love. I joke that Miles is probably better taken care of by his loving grandparents then by Mike and me - which he probably has. Each day he is greeted with hugs and kisses from them and when I call them frequently from work I hear about the games of "stinky feet" he's playing, the books that he's reading, the tickles that made him giggle, and the snuggles he's getting. Miles loves it at their house - whether he's sitting on a warm lap or just hanging out over the back of the over-stuffed chair watching the snow fall outside the big, front windows. Mike and I are very sad that Miles' wonderful, daily visits with his grandparents will come to an end this week and I know if Miles was old enough he would feel sad too. My parents head to Texas for the winter and Miles will be going to a regular day-care starting January 4. Words can't express how thankful we really are to them for taking such good care of Miles and for being wonderful grandparents.

So as not to end on a sad note...
I can't end with the last paragraph because just the thought of the transitions to come makes me cry so I'll end with the run-down of our weekend activities/festivities. Friday, Miles and I went to Edinborough Park in Edina with Rachel and Corey and our cousin Amy and three of her five kids, Gloria, Sylvia and Daren. The park is a one acre indoor park with live trees and plants, waterfalls, cobblestone paths, a huge tree-house/playground and a large multi-purpose area that is perfect for crawlers, toddlers, and runners on the go. We enjoyed a picnic lunch and fun with the kids that day.

Saturday evening Rachel and Graham hosted the annual "fundue" dinner at their house. Every year we get together for a three course fondue meal. This year Miles and Corey were initiated into the fun tradition. Miles slept through the whole evening and Corey was as cute as ever as he was passed around from person to person.

Today we headed to the K.C. Hall in New Prague for the Nickolay side Christmas party. The traditions here include a chicken and ham dinner, Christmas carols led by Aunts Carol and Sue, a holiday Pinata for the kids and a big family BINGO game. It's the Nickolay version of a Norman Rockwell gathering.

In this week leading up to Christmas may everyone be safe and have a wonderful holiday with dear family and friends. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Week 21

Miles Bennett is 5 months old!

Wow, these big boy toys sure have a lot of features!

Sunday morning snooze with mommy.

Peas - gross!

Hmmm, they aren't so bad the second time around.

Hugs for daddy.
Week 21
I love writing this blog every Sunday because it allows me to reflect on what we've done during the week, family and friends who we've seen and the new developments in Miles' life. Sitting down at my computer tonight, after a busy weekend, my screen saver displays a picture of me, Mike and Miles at the hospital right after he was born. Mike and I look happy and tired holding this little dark-haired peanut in our arms. Miles' eyes are open in the picture and he's gazing up at me. Fast forward 21 weeks - Miles is quite the charmer, giggling and snuggling with everyone who holds him, he actually rolled across the floor on Friday, and has now graduated to eating vegetables! Happy 5 month birthday Miles! Time zooms by when you're watching a little man grow.

The Storm
Just last weekend I was writing in a Christmas letter how I hope that we have snow for Christmas. I swear, Minnesotans have amnesia about how bad winter can really be otherwise nobody would live here. The snow came right in time for rush hour on Tuesday. I left work early at 3:30 pm to pick up Mike thinking that we'd maybe beat some of the gridlock. Instead we sat in traffic for 2 1/2 hours. There is nothing more frustrating then sitting in the car, watching the minutes tick by, when all you want to do is hug your baby. Luckily, we made it home safely and went straight to my parent's house for a lovely dinner. They hosted a small, neighborhood get together which was nice - I had to snap out of my crabby, work-and-bad-traffic mood in order to visit with our neighbors. Miles didn't seem to even notice that we were really late as he helped his grandparents greet their guests.

'Tis the Season
This is the season where everyone is racing around - going to holiday parties, fighting the crowds at the malls, making and eating a lot of sugar and trying to stay warm. We threw ourselves right into the craziness this weekend. Friday Miles and I went to Byerly's for lunch with my mom. We had at least 3 seperate workers stop by our table to admire Miles and his hair! Later in the afternoon Miles and I went to an ECFE pal's house for a playdate. It was fun to see the babies from class again and to have some mommy company too. Miles enjoyed getting his head pet by 7 month old Piper and spent some time bouncing vigorously up and down in her jumper seat. He was tuckered out that night from his big visit. I braved Costco and Target Friday night for a little Christmas shopping. We're close to finished (what did everyone do before existed?) but will have to make one more trip to the mall later this week.

Saturday was spent in a flurry of cleaning, cooking and laundry. That night friends Jill, Shawn and baby Nova came over for visiting and dinner. For Miles' dinner that night he added peas to his food repertoire. Initially he flashed us his "this is yucky" face but has since opened his little mouth for more, more, more. I had every intention of making all of my own baby food for him. Ha! It was organic baby food peas in a jar for Mr. Miles.

Today Miles woke up early and I was still tired so I propped him in bed next to me and he looked at my hands and played with my fingers. Mike was awake but after a few minutes Miles and I both dozed off and Mike snapped the picture above. Later, my dad, Rachel, Graham and baby Corey came over for the Vikings game and I did my Christmas baking. Actually I tried Christmas non-baking this year. I made oreo truffles, nut goodies, cashew sweet mix and dipped pretzels. Could my headache this evening been a result from a sugar high? Most of the goodies will be given to co-workers tomorrow for holiday gifts (otherwise I'd eat them all).

Here's to hoping everyone takes a few moments to do some deep, cleansing breaths this coming week (including me!)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Today Rice Cereal, Tomorrow College

Wow, this new high chair is cool!
(Thanks Aunt Annette & Uncle Roger!)

Ok, I'm ready now.

Give me the spoon, dad!

Yum! More please!

Done already?

After seeing Miles these last few weeks stop playing, talking and kicking every time we ate in order to stare at us eating I finally let my little baby take his next big step and eat rice cereal. He got his first taste of real food on Saturday. Miles' amuse-bouche consisted of 1 Tbsp. rice cereal and 4 Tbsp. breast milk - yum! We first let him get used to his brand new high chair which he loved and then I got to spoon feed him his first bite. When the cereal first hit his little tongue he made a face as if to say "what the heck is this stuff?!?" but then quickly opened his mouth for more. We were so delighted and excited I couldn't stop giggling. We think that he really liked it because he kept trying to grab the spoon and shove it back into his mouth. His first grown-up meal was a success and we couldn't have been prouder!

A letter from Miles
Dear Santa,

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth. Ok, mom says I have to wait a little while longer for those. So instead can I please have some more rice cereal? And maybe a little mashed banana or sauced apple on the side? Oh - yum, yum, yum, yum, yum - I can't hardly wait! Dearest Santa I'd also like the coordination to put right into my mouth anything I can get my chubby little hands on . So many toys are too big - they just don't all fit in there even though I really want them to. Lastly, oh-wonderful Santa, I don't know too much yet about toys and clothes so all I really want for Christmas are for the hugs and kisses from everyone to keep on coming.


P.S. - I hope to meet you one day Santa. Mom says maybe next year when I'm a little older. Goodbye for now!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Lots to be Thankful For...

Where's the turkey?

First Thanksgiving for the babies.

Attempting our first family Christmas card photo - this one is definately not it!

Sweet boy.

Miles is going to hate me for this picture someday.

Christmas tree shopping

Things I'm Thankful For:
  1. Holiday cheer
  2. My family's health
  3. A miracle named Miles
  4. A clean house (thank you Dyson)
  5. Supportive, caring and fun family and friends
Things Miles is Thankful For (or what I can only imagine he's really thinking):
  1. Milk
  2. Mama & Daddy
  3. Lots of love and kisses from aunties, uncles and grandparents
  4. The monkey mat
  5. Strong arms to hold him while he bounces on his legs
Thanksgiving Weekend

How nice to have a long Thanksgiving weekend off of work! I've got the Sunday blues thinking about the prospect of driving into the office early tomorrow morning and am sad that such a nice weekend is coming to a close. Thursday we spent Miles first Thanksgiving at my mom's house with 30 aunts, uncles and cousins. Our family is blessed because this holiday we have the addition of 3 new babies - Miles, Corey and Kendra. This works out to be about a 10:1 adult to baby ratio - which in our family is a good thing since everyone wants to hold them! The traditional Giesen family Thanksgiving menu included: turkey, dressing, cream corn, baked sweet potatos with apples and walnuts, cranberry salad, kolacky's (the most delicious Czech pastry filled with yummy poppyseed or prune or apricot) and apple and pumpkin pies.

Friday, my brother Matt was in town so we had him and my parents over for a homemade pizza dinner, Wii bowling and a Guitar Hero jam session.
On Saturday we actually ventured out for a little shopping and made a small dent in our Christmas gift list this year. We also got our Christmas tree. While I had this romantic notion of a light snow falling as we cut down a fresh evergreen tree for Miles' first Christmas the reality was that we went to the Mendards lumber yard and picked up a very nice looking (but probably sprayed green) tree for $14.99. Saturday night, with family still around, we gathered with my immediate family for another dinner (baked ribs and halibut) and round two of Guitar Hero. About 10:21 pm Miles let us know what he thought of so much activity packed into a few short days. Poor guy - he woke up screaming inconsolably, which is a rarity for him, until I rocked him back to sleep. He got up a few more times that night. Was it the hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving day, being carted around shopping or Guitar Hero that put him over the edge? My conclusion - you can't be a rock star with a baby.

Today we kept it very low key but stayed in the holiday spirit by decorating the house and tree for Christmas. On a roll I also got spruce tops and put together my outside planters and we did laundry. All Miles had to do today was relax and play. He's a happy boy and sleeping soundly now. After a busy weekend I hope to be sleeping soon too and eating a lot less this coming week!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ready or Not Our Baby is Growing!

Daren, my Godson, digging into his 1st birthday cake.

Mike, Miles and Ruby working on laundry.

Giving the little bear a hug.

Doing great on tummy time!

Is Miles in there?

Grandma and Miles time!

Cousins holding hands.

Cousin Corey invited Miles to hang out in his crib.

Lucky mama and auntie!

4 Month Doctor's Visit
Miles had his 4 month well-baby visit this week at Wayzata Children's Clinic. His stats are:
  • Height: 24 1/2 inches (25%)
  • Weight: 15 lbs 6.5 oz (55%)
  • Head: 42.7 cm (65%)

My conclusion from these statistics - he's a healthy eater with a big brain! Miles got another round of immunizations which he took like a champ - he only screamed for a few minutes after getting poked 3 times in the legs. The only surprise we had was the doctor recommended starting Miles on solids any time. The signs that a baby is ready for real food are: is 4-6 months old, can hold head steady when sitting with support, is not satisfied by nursing alone, shows interest in family members eating and starts to put things in mouth. Miles meets all of these criteria except for not being satisfied by nursing alone. Even though the doctor said Miles could start eating rice cereal and other fruits and vegetables anytime I'm not ready! Miles is growing so fast that I want to keep him a little baby a few weeks longer. If I can work myself up to this transition we'll start solids within the next month or so. Stay tuned for messy food pictures!

The week's activities

Monday was our last 0-5 month ECFE class. We're sad that we won't get to see all of our school friends again until January but will be getting together for playdates with a few little ones and their moms soon.

Tuesday I hosted book club. We read and discussed The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. It's amazing - this book club, a core group of 7 women, has been meeting monthly for almost 5 years now. In those 5 years almost all of us have transitioned to new jobs, 2 people have gotten married, 5 babies have been born with another on the way and a few people have embarked on the graduate school adventure. I'm hoping we last another 5 years because it's so nice to have the support of other women experiencing the same life moments as you.

Wednesday I took the day off of work to take Miles to the doctor. After the shots we had a low key day at home.

I have now officially gone down to 90% of full-time at work so have every Friday off. Miles and I visited his new daycare (as of January). I am viewing the world of daycares completely differently now that Miles is a reality - not just a miracle inside of me. Going to grandma and grandpa Nickolay daycare everyday has spoiled us all - Miles is so well loved and cared for that transitioning to a regular daycare where he is one of several babies will be a little rough. Mike is going to take Miles and visit also within the next few weeks. We'll post our thoughts on this once his visit takes place. On a happier note we went to lunch with my mom, sister and baby Corey to Good Day Cafe in Golden Valley. If I thought one baby attracts a lot of attention toting in 2 babies doubles this! There was a lot of oohhing and ahhing over the little cousins. That night Mike, Miles and I drove to Union Hill for my Godson, Daren's first birthday. He's such a sweet boy. One of the joys of attending 1st birthdays is watching the little person of honor dig into their first piece of birthday cake. Daren took his time at first with his piece - he would swipe one finger through the frosting and taste it. Before long though that whole piece of cake was stuck to the side of his face. Happy birthday Daren!

Comings and Going this Weekend
I've been wanting to get professional pictures taken of Miles for a few months now. It's been on my mind and I finally booked time with a photographer because I figured I would regret it eventually if I didn't properly capture all of these special baby moments. We bought a package so we'll get pictuers taken of Miles 4 times within his first year and a half. Miles was a doll at the shoot and cooperated very nicely. Like every parent, I think my own little one is so cute. I can't wait to see the pictures but have to wait in suspense until December 4 to view them. Saturday night Mike and I went out together for only the 2nd time since Miles was born! We first volunteered at a benefit for Fraser. It was a beautiful gala event with a Moroccan theme held at the Hilton Minneapolis Hotel. Mike and I helped to check guests in for a night of auction bidding, dinner and dancing. After our shift we walked across the street and had a nice dinner at Vincent A Restaurant on Nicollet Avenue. I marked the occasion with my first glass of wine since getting pregnant with Miles.

Today we took advantage of the mild fall weather and got out for a walk and had my parents over for a meal of comfort food - chicken, roasted brussel sprouts and my first attempt at making Czech potato dumplings, a food I grew up eating. To make them you mash potatoes and mix that with flour, egg and salt. Then you form balls with the dough and boil them. This may not sound very appetizing or healthy but they are so delicious! I hope that Miles will like them someday too.

As we spend time with our family this coming week we hope that everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Night at the Nickolays - In Pictures

We spent Saturday night at my mom and dad's house. The whole family was there - Matt & Janelle came down from Moorhead and our honorary aunt and good friend Sharon Huse came up from Sherburn. The night started with a little ping pong... and continued with a lot of baby cuddling. Everyone loves to make Miles smile. Matt & Janelle met Corey, our sharp dressing newest family member, for the first time.
Mom and dad prepared a delicious feast of roast chicken and squash and Sharon Huse supplied the apple pie.
"The boys" hung out together while the adults ate dinner...
and the night concluded with an impromptu accordian concert by grandpa Dave. How many other grandbabies can brag that their grandpa knows how to play "In Heaven There is No Beer" on the accordian?

The rest of the week
Monday - Another fun ECFE class - I don't think I'll ever get tired of the "Hammer Song" and hanging out with a bunch of happy babies.

Tuesday - We brought a Buca feast to Rachel and Graham's house to visit with baby Corey and let Rach and Graham eat a meal together at the table. Mike and I rocked babies so that they could eat in peace. Corey is getting bigger every week and will soon catch up to Miles!

Wednesday - Miles turned four months old! I'm still amazed by my little miracle every day. He makes our lives so happy! I had my first night out with friends (besides book club) since Miles was born. I met Amy and Becky at Kincaids for happy hour and then we heard Barbara Kingsolver talk about her newest book The Lacuna at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul. For those of you unfamiliar with Barbara Kingsolver I would highly recommed The Poisonwood Bible and Pigs in Heaven.

Thursday - Mike went to Old Chicago because they were featuring a new beer and my parents saved me from a dinner of cereal by inviting me and Miles to stay for dinner at their house - thank you!

Friday - I had the day off so during the day Miles and I hung out with Rachel and Corey. Our Firday night - after a full week of work and activities is it any surprise that our household is in bed by 8:30 pm?

So big!

New this week - Miles is starting to sit by himself.

Cuddling with his "lovey" the bear.

Even babies get bed head!
(In Miles defense, it's hard for a baby with a thick head of hair to keep it looking spiffy 24/7.)