Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 In Review

Can you believe another year has come to an end? Neither can I. For an adult, a year doesn't seem like a very long time and often little changes, but with kids, boy oh boy, does a year make a difference!

From birthday #1 to birthday #2, William grew almost six inches and gained nearly 10 pounds. He is still tall and fairly lean but he is filling out some too. And in the past 12 months he went from saying very few words to saying all of the words all of the time. He is a non-stop talker. He's also running and dancing and climbing everywhere. We figured out that if we read or sang songs during meal time, he ate twice as much food. I guess we'll work on table manners next year!

Chris continues to work for Pulse Entertainment, crossing the Golden Gate bridge for work every day. The projects have been pretty slow at coming, so Chris was able to spend a lot of time working on computer programing for the company; they even gave him a new title of "Web Developer" this year! They had some staff changes recently so he is now the only one in that department making him technically the "Senior Web Developer!" Once the projects start coming, I think he'll need to put his editor hat back on for a while.

Chris also finished his final draft of his novel -- all 146,000 words! We'll let you know when we have a publisher! He also finished creating his first web app--a program that will tell you how much to pay for stock. Check it out: stoxox.com Chris has been so very busy!

I continue to work from home for Jews for Jesus, now just 20 hours a week. I needed to make the change from 24 hours/week when William dropped his afternoon nap at age 22 months. I was so lucky he napped so well for so long! It's still a stretch to get 4 hours in each day, so I hired a sitter for one day a week which allows me face time with my co-workers and a chance to focus a little more. I have been with this organization for five and half years now! How blessed I am to have applied for that 6 week temporary position so long ago!

My photography sessions also doubled this year! I was able to do three newborn sessions and a lot of families. Its exciting, but also pretty time consuming. I typically only shoot on weekends so Chris can be home with William. Check out my website: emilybabiakphotography.zenfolio.com

In July, we flew to Minnesota, making the rounds to see as much family as we could. We finished the week out with a three-day lake cabin vacation with my family -- all 12 of us! Everyone had a great time fishing, canoeing, swimming, biking and playing games. This was probably one of my favorite family vacations so far. Even with the toddlers running around, it was fun and relaxing.

In September, I took a solo trip to Australia. My best friend has lived there for nearly four years and another couple I love dearly moved there around the same time. Between my Jewish-holiday vacation days, Chris's work being a bit flexible and William not yet 2 (and could fly for free), it seemed like the perfect time to go. And I had a lot of birthday/Christmas money saved up to pay for most of it! (Thanks everyone!) Chris and William spent the week in Texas with his family and I explored Melbourne, Ocean Grove, a bit of the Southern Coast and Sydney. It was really a once-in-a-lifetime trip!

It's no secret that we've been looking for a larger apartment for a while now. Actively looking for nearly a year. Our 600 sq ft. space still works for the most part, but we get quite tired of the street noise (any guesses as to how many fire trucks drove by during nap time on Christmas Day? There were six...blaring their sirens for our entire block and then some). I have such a hard time facing the fact that our rent would have to double to add another bedroom . . . and triple if we add a yard or laundry and parking. And the kitchen might be smaller and there might not even be a bathtub (when you have kids, that kind of matters right?) Anyway, it is taking a long time to find something that works for us.

We had a lot of family visit us this year. Which was awesome! Even my dad made it out here for the second time in five years! Thanks Dad! In March we had my brother, Chris's mom and sister out for William's dedication. Chris's brother, sister-in-law and nephew all made it out here in August too which was so fun. I am so thankful William had some cousin time! Chris's parents made it out here several times this year and Shannon just came out again for Thanksgiving too.

We've had a lot of fun watching William grow and change this year. I can't wait to see just how much he changes in 2016! (We have hopes of potty training and introducing a big-boy bed. Tips anyone?) I love how much we got to see our families this year and pray we can make trips out to see everyone next year. We have much to be grateful for and we try to thank to the Lord often -- for our marriage, our health, our home, family, friends, jobs and our community.

Wishing you a bright and wonderful New Year! Thanks for reading!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!


We tucked our little boy in bed after attending our Christmas Eve service. Then with much excitement I uncovered our pile of packages that have arrived over the last few weeks and stacked them carefully under our tree. William did find packages peaking from behind the baby gate, but listened well when I told him "We open those on Christmas day, don't touch, please." I think with his growing experience in gift opening, tomorrow should be fun!

Yesterday I drove into work, noticing the lack of traffic and seeing a few people with suitcases making their way toward the BART station. I could feel their anticipation, knowing the joy that comes deep within when you are going "home." It brought me back to the feeling of taking your last final in college, running to the car and heading home for break. I still experienced that yesterday, even though I wasn't the one traveling. Or getting a long break from work. The anticipation of the holiday still runs deep.


Isn't that what Advent, the season leading up to Christmas, is really all about? The anticipation of the coming King!? The whole universe was and is waiting in anticipation for the King to come and restore all things to the proper state. We are all longing to go to our real and everlasting home. And then he did come. But not as anyone had expected. No, he made his way to earth not with pomp and circumstance or greatness, but as a newborn baby, born to a young, virgin mother in an animal shed.


And we still live with this anticipation because he has promised to come again. This time, not has an innocent baby, seen by a few shepherds; but with greatness and glory and all will see him.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 reads:
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.               
I hope that this season brings a sense of anticipation to your souls, too. And that you pause and ask what you are really anticipating. Is it the Messiah? Or something else?


From our hearts and home to yours, over thousands of miles, we want to wish you a very Merry Christmas! Christ the Savior is born!

Christmas Eve in the City

Today was an eventful day as Chris, William and I met up with friends at Union Square to take in all things Christmas. The tree, the gingerbread tree, the puppies and kittens in the Macy's window, dinner out and ending with our candlelight service at church.  William did so great with it all (with the help of my superman husband).






It was really a great day. One I hope becomes tradition.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Christmas at Home

This is the first year since we've moved into San Francisco that we'll be staying here for Christmas. We are a little sad that we won't be with either of our families, but also a little excited to experience the holiday with just the three of us. Also, our city has some really amazing things to see at Christmas time which we've never really taken the time to see! (I'm hoping to make time for that this year.)

But for now, let me show you our home decor . . .

First, the tree. We haven't had a tree for the past two Christmas's because 1) we weren't going to be here for at least a week 2) we didn't really have space and 3) William was a baby and then a walking baby and, well safety. But this year, he was ready. And I was so excited. And I love it:


The nativity scene doesn't really change much from year to year, except maybe where I put it. I didn't hide it from William this year. I am risking my ceramic pieces in the name of experience. So far, William has been very gentle and has learned words like "shepherd," "angel," and "wise man." I love that he knows which one is dada and mama. I love that he plays with them. (I'll say that until they break, but like I said, it's about experience.)


Lastly, our stockings. I finally finished William's stocking this year. And we hung them up in a new place, our entry hallway. I love them up there -- it never worked with just two!


I have some garland in a few other places with candles. There is a wreath on the door. But these are my highlights for this year.

Oh, and this:
This is William's first ever take-home craft from a play group (I joined MOPS last month, more to say about that later). When I picked him up, he was so excited to show me and when we got home, he was thrilled to put it on the tree all by himself. ("By self" is a new and often used phrase now.)

 And here's one for Chris:


And for me:

May your home feel bright and merry this Christmas season! If not, come see us!

Stocking #3: Complete

Two years ago, I started sewing William's stocking. Well, I mean I had cut out all of the fabric and had it ready to sew. . . but there it sat, unfinished until this past October. After his birthday party, I sat down and sewed it all together and hung it on the wall . . . just waiting for December to come.


 I wanted William's stocking to match ours, but not be identical. I was also keenly aware at how time consuming our design had been. So, I made a few adjustments using scraps I had left over from my tree skirt.


The strips are a bit wider and the cuff fabric less busy. Otherwise, it's pretty similar. I was so thrilled to finally be done with it and love how it looks in our hallway with the others. Now I just need to hunt down a "W" ornament to match!


Happy 3rd Christmas William!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Was Thanksgiving really last month?

Wow, am I behind. Thanksgiving was a week ago and November is no longer with us. Let me back up even farther to the weekend prior to Thanksgiving and share about back-to-back visitors:

Chris's parents made a brief weekend stop in SF on their way to Hawaii, alas, we could not join them this time. William and I had both been getting over colds so we took it easy and only went out a few times.

On Saturday morning we went for a hike on Mount Davidson. Not sure it really requires a "Mount" being within city limits, but that is what it's called. It was a brisk day but with the sun peaking through the trees and the dew still on the ground it made for a very pretty sight. At the top is a giant white cross, which William named "The Tower." We've been here for five years and this was Chris's first time to see it (and only my second). We do need to get out more.




That afternoon was spent at the park while I got dinner ready and then the evening wrapped up with games.

Sunday began with church and might have had another run to the park before saying farewell to our guests. It was such a quick visit, but I was so thankful to see them as we won't be seeing them for Christmas this year.

The following week, Chris's sister, Shannon stayed with us. We love having her here with us. She was such a good sport to sleep on the floor each night next to us as we all shared the living room. Someday we'll have space for visitors again (I hope).

Even though she was on break from teaching, she had plenty of school work to keep her busy as she's now in a master's program. She spent several afternoons working along side Chris reading and writing papers.

We did make it to the Botanical Gardens together, which was really fun, although cold. I don't think I've been this cold in SF in at least two years. William loved the leaves and the pond with ducks.

video




She babysat for us one night so we could see the last of the Hunger Games movies. She also helped keep William occupied so I could work a little easier. Shannon has the ability to make anything exciting to this little guy. His imaginative play really took off while she was here. Several of their games became every day occurrences once she left.

On Thanksgiving day, I baked bread in the morning and then after William woke up from his nap we headed over to our friend Kate's house for dinner with her family and a few (7 other) friends. The kids played well enough at the beginning but William couldn't comprehend why mom had to sit down at the table for longer than 5 minutes to eat. The meal was served in courses, which was really fun and fancy, but my little two year old man didn't get it. We even gave him an intermission and took him to the park for 30 minutes. We ended up leaving shortly after the main course to make it home for bed time.


We have much to be thankful for, this mama-friend and her daughter have meant so much to us this year and we were so happy to spend the afternoon with them. For our families and church community, for our jobs (and their paychecks), and our vehicles (when they aren't stolen).

It was a lovely week with Shannon and we were sad to see her go. William was doubly sad in the morning and he woke up to find she had already left on the airplane. (He did enjoy talking about the airplane though).

And now we are in December . . . the month of advent, festivities, too many sweets and a lot of excuses to get together with friends. A wonderful way to finish the year.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Advent Season Begins

I'm really excited about this year's Christmas season. We don't have a ton planned and we aren't traveling. I'm excited because William is starting to understand what is going on around him, and he's soaking it all up.

I'm excited to start an Advent calendar of sorts with him this year. It's more or less a reading plan to go with his Jesus Storybook and an activity for each day, but it should be fun. I hope he gets into it. (I hope I get into it too!)

This weekend we started decorating the house. Yesterday was cleaning day in preparation for the tree and everything else. (Am I the only one that waits to dust for this occasion?) The nativity has been set up and played with and reset up, the stockings are hung, and we have a tree! We haven't had a tree for the past two years because we were traveling for Christmas and we didn't really have the space. But we've rearranged since then (i.e. our bedroom is now in the living room and we are down to one couch) so a tree fits and our little boy hopefully won't try to eat it or the ornaments on it!

Here are a few photos from our tree-outing:





Today was the First Sunday of Advent and our sermon at church was about Thanksgiving, and not just for the food. I was really struck by how shallow my thankfulness runs sometimes and how much I actually have to be grateful for. And there is only ONE to thank . . . and it's not me. 

Here's to a great season of anticipation, of thankful hearts, and making memories!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

2015 Fall Festivities

Fall is underway and now that the air has a chill and I've succeeded in making at least one pumpkin dish a week, its time I stop to share some of my favorite fall festivities and photos with you! (And I'm just really far behind and late in doing so).


During the last week of October, we headed to the pumpkin patch in the city for an afternoon of fun (earlier attempts to go elsewhere failed). The patch had numerous halloween displays and all types of pumpkins you can imagine. They had a hay-bail maze, hay rides, and even pony rides, most costing a pretty penny. We watched other kids doing each for a long time but we didn't go on the rides this year. William attempted the maze, but didn't quite enjoy it (and may even got stuck and/or lost for a minute).


We spent a good deal of time looking at all the pumpkins. He loved feeling them, picking them up, and claiming them as his own. Eventually we found the perfect one to take home.





The next day, we painted it! Last year, we just did a hand print, but this year, William was ready to be more involved. I used masking tape to make a "W" on one side and a face on the other. As much as he loves painting, he didn't get into it as much as I had expected and needed a lot of encouragement to keep going. But he loved the finished product and we've been getting out our paints a lot more frequently since!


On Halloween, we invited a few friends who had children over to hang out and eat goodies. We had chips and quac, apple slices and spider web brownies. Nothing over the top, but still fun and festive. 



William dressed up as a dog, a hand-me-down costume from a good friend. He was so cute and did quite well wearing it for most of the party (without the hood). Chris and I "dressed up" as a cat and mouse and William loved that idea. He had been pointing out all of the animal's tails in his books so I knew he'd like our costumes. He often asked to wear my ears and tail on top of his dog outfit. 



After the party, we took William for a little stroll on Cortland Avenue - a fun street in our neighborhood where all the merchants were participating in handing out treats. The sidewalks were super crowded and almost everyone was really dressed up; our little ears seemed a bit small. We had fun walking around and seeing the decorations and having William grab us candy. (I'm sure we'll have to share it next year!)


 We spent the month reading Halloween themed books and drawing pumpkins. Now, we're moving on to turkeys, leaves, and more delicious food! Happy Fall!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Weekend in Monterey

This past weekend, Chris had a wedding to attend near Monterey, CA so we decided to make a weekend out of it. Its been a while since we've done anything like that. I say Chris and not "we" because they specifically asked for no children to attend and since we didn't bring a babysitter, that meant William and I hung out together instead.

After the Walk for Life, we made the drive down. We stayed at an AirBnB in Marina CA which was nice, but not really kid friendly (wood floors, glass tables, fancy everything). While Chris was at the wedding William and I walked to the beach. When looking at the map, it looked like it was only six city blocks away which is totally doable, but this "city" was all spread out and a block was probably close to half a mile. In the end, it ended up being a four mile walk there and back! Including my walk that morning, I put in well over my 10,000 steps!

It was much colder than I had hoped it would be so we bundled up and got out or sand toys and had an hour of fun before hiking back for dinner. William and I ate at Taco Bell (because Toddler boy loves tacos and nachos and I figured it was better he eat than not). The decor was like a 50's diner and totally great for William's attention span. We actually had a nice little "date" and headed back just in time for bedtime.



Sleep was a little harder to come by that night. It was hot in the room and noisy outside but we had to have the window open. We missed our white noise of the fan from home and the sheets sounded like crinkled newspaper each time we moved. William woke up each time we got out of bed (to adjust the window or use the bathroom) and at one point he started sining "Jesus Loves Me" for nearly 15 minutes. Which is really the sweetest thing ever, but when you are loosing sleep, its not. Sharing a room was hard on all of us.

On Sunday, William woke up at 6 a.m. and we showered, packed our bags and headed to McDonalds! The only place open at 7:30 that had a playground (none of the parks I saw the day before had playgrounds for kids . . . just nature paths and bird watching).

After breakfast we headed to Monterey to see the aquarium. Chris and I had been one other time and we were excited to go again and knew William would love it too. We got there before it opened and stayed until 11:30. William was exhausted by then and it was apparent just how much sleep he missed the night before. But we got to see most of what we wanted to: the penguins, the jelly fish, the open sea aquarium, the touch pools, and several other tanks - sharks, rays, salmon, etc. I think the sharks were William's favorite!





We grabbed a quick lunch and got in the car. We handed William his glass of milk and his lovey and within 15 minutes he was out! He slept most of the way home (which never happens). It was good to be home and have just enough time for grocery shopping and getting the laundry done before we all went to bed for a better night sleep.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Alpha's 2015 Walk for Life: Success

Last time I mentioned the Walk for Life event happening this past weekend I told you that I couldn't participate in the actual walk but was going to try to fundraise for the organization anyway. Well, we had a slight change in our plans and I was able to walk after all! William and I also spent an hour earlier this week helping organize the gifts that were going to be given. This was the first time I've done volunteering with William! I hope we can make that type of thing a regular part of our lives.

Thanks to those who sponsored me early on! I was so encouraged to see the support Alpha has even from outside city borders. And thanks to those who gave at the last minute! I was glad to be able to enter the walk with a grand total of $250 in actual gifts plus two pledges yet to come! Thank you, thank you!!

I didn't reach my goal of raising $1000, but with this year's participation being so last minute, I am being gracious with myself. But that won't stop me from asking you to continue supporting and praying for this amazing organization who loves on women and children in need like no one else in this city.

Now, back to to the event:
A friend of mine actually joined me at the last minute and we were able to walk together on a team of people from Sunset Church. It was her first time on the walk and I was so glad she came! Our team was assigned to two families. The first was actually right next door to the pregnancy center and we had to make that visit quick as the mother was about to be late for work. She was so gracious for all the gifts we brought for her daughter and so thankful for all Alpha has done for her family. She and her mother let us pray for her and we said good bye. Later the grandmother asked if she could get a couple of our event sweatshirts! Of course our team obliged!


Our second family wasn't too far away either. This was a family with two really little kids. We were glad to be able to meet the children and offer prayer for this family as well. The meeting was brief as we handed over our bags of gifts and let them know how loved they are.


From there the team walked to John McLaren Park, we had a wonderful time getting to know each other -- it made the walk go really fast! At the park we joined the rest of the walkers and had a picnic together. The total raised for the walk this year was $11,000 and we had over 150 walkers. The event was a success!

Thanks again for all who sponsored me!

"Hungry Caterpillar" Party

William turned two on October 1, but the first available weekend we had to celebrate with our city friends wasn't until October 11. Chris has always wanted to grill out for a party so when I saw that our neighborhood park had a grill/picnic area I could reserve, I just knew that would be the perfect location. The eating area was also really close to one of William's favorite playgrounds so there would be plenty for the littles to do!

We went with a “Hungry Caterpillar” theme as it has been one of William's favorite books for nearly all two years of his life. And it basically planned the menu for me! Other than the grilled meats we had sliced apples and pears, a bowl of strawberries and oranges, a cheese platter, watermelon and a big salad. And of course, chocolate cupcakes for dessert. We left out the salami, cherry pie, and lolly pops (and I'm sure a few other things).






it kills me that I didn't fix the legs for the picture . . .


To go along with the caterpillar theme, we got green and red balloons and tied them in a row along the railing to look like a caterpillar (blowing in the wind). And I made William's T-shirt (but failed to get a photo before food got all over it).






Nearly twenty of our friends came to the party! Everyone seemed to have a great time – enjoying the food and the playground nearby. They spoiled William with gifts, hugs and “happy birthdays.” When the time came for dessert, we decided to try the candle and see how William did blowing it out. It was a little windy so after a couple of attempts we got the flame to stay long enough for William to try a couple of blows, and with some help, he got it out!



my cousins also came to celebrate! 
(Serious expressions to match William's confusion)

I had ended up spending most of the day at the playground with William and the other moms and kids while the dads hung out by the food and some even helped clean up. It was a fun party and a great excuse to get together.

William understood the concept of presents a lot more this year and enjoyed opening all his gifts – his current favorites are a plastic food cooking set and a dump truck and tractor. He was entirely pleased with the day I am sure and Chris and I had a great time with everyone!


Happy Birthday Little Caterpillar!