Today Jacob said, "Mama, do you know which cousins I love?" And I said, "Which ones?" And he said, "ALL of them! And I even love all my aunties and uncles!!" And we do. We love them all!
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little belles is one!



it has already been nearly 3 months since annabelle had her first birthday! we had a small little party in our backyard, which we covered in black and red decorations. mom and prasad, who were up visiting, helped with the kids so i could spend way too much time decorating little ladybug cupcakes for the guests.

i made a separate little cake for annabelle, also decorated as a ladybug, so she could do with it what she pleased. i was putting this cake together, smiling at the memory of jacob and his first birthday cake. i remember him testing the frosting with one finger, realizing it was something not to mess around with, and, wasting no more time, plowing face first into the cake. i am laughing at this as i'm painting annabelle's ladybug cake with red and black frosting. i'm imagining how her chubby little cheeks will look after she nosedives into her carefully decorated cake. i have already mentally dressed her in the full-sleeved bib (courtesy bees) and placed the highchair out in the backyard, where i know we can hose it off afterward. i was ready.

we manage to gather all of our guests around our little bug and sing happy birthday to her. cameras are flashing, kids are grabbing for cupcakes, the wind is blowing the bloody candle out, and annabelle is just taking it all in. i proudly set the long-labored over ladybug cake in front of her and step back, grinning in anticipation of the nosedive.
she looks at me.
she looks at the cake.
she looks back at me.

i'm still grinning, but can feel the corners of my smile starting to sag a bit.
she looks at the cake. she looks at me.
i stop grinning. i point to the cake. "look, annabelle! try it! it's yummy!"
she looks at me and starts to whine. reaches up to me with one arm. pick me up, mama. this isn't fun at all.
i swipe my finger through some icing and try to get a little on her mouth. i'm positive that once she gets a taste of it she'll go nuts.
she turns her mouth down and gets that look. both arms are now reaching toward me.
i see the look building on her face and i can feel all the people waiting around us. waiting, with cameras poised, for that classic 1st birthday cake dive. that cake dive that EVERY kid does.
except for mine.
the frown turns to a yell which i suspect will rapidly become a blood-curdling scream. she pushes the cake away and, red- and black-stained hands turned up, reaches to me again.
get me OUT of here, lady!
my shoulders slump. the crowd lets out a sigh. the baby starts crying. i look around, smiling to all the cameras and grandmas and grandpas and friends.

but then i realize, this is the beauty of family and friends. they don't care about the "perfect birthday shot." (most of them, anyway...) They just want to see this cute, sweet little ladybug enjoy herself on her birthday.
so out she comes, down to the floor, and far away from all the little ladybug cupcakes and decorations. she heads back inside, where she is most happy, and spends the rest of the night laughing and playing and crawling and squealing.
you can't beat that.


time keeps on ticking, ticking, ticking... and don't we all know it. it is already almost halloween (please somebody tell me how that happened), the weather is (finally) turning colder, the days are getting shorter and summer is now so far behind us.
it's about time i wrote about our last trip of the summer, to the fernow cabin in the mountains of flagstaff, arizona.
i have been wanting to write about our trip to arizona for so long. it was so much fun. the 14 hour drive ended up not being as bad as we thought and the time we spent out in the wilderness in that little tiny cabin was unbeatable.
it all started in prescott, a cute little town with a beautiful town square where we managed to get out of the house by lunchtime ... once. you can imagine how easy it is to go anywhere with a group that includes 7 adults, 6 children under the age of 8 and 3 dogs. we were quite the sight.

we did drag the crew through a couple of thrift shops, per tradition, but that was the extent of our adventures in the three days we were in prescott.
after a few days of civilization we were ready for the wilderness. we hauled the gang out to fernow, the old ranger's cabin in the forest. the last time we were there was in 2004 and there were only 2 children along for the ride (3, if you count annika in cat's belly). makenna, who was 3 at the time, nicknamed fernow "the rain cabin" because of a little rainfall we had one day that year. now the name will stick forever, thanks to day after day (and night) of rain. we did manage some sunny days as well, though, and none of us minded the rain too much. we did have to cram ourselves inside the creaky cabin walls a couple of times, but for the most part we dealt with the drizzle and hid on the porch or under the easy-up when necessary.

our days out at fernow started in the late morning with dad's cooking (he makes the best pancakes ever) and would eventually turn into a hike or walk of sorts. this, of course, could only take place after one kid napped, then another would need to nap right when the one woke up, the we would have to spend an hour packing up food, sandwiches, crackers, drinks, fruit... then another hour figuring out where we would go, then, just when 6 people were ready to walk, the other 7 were grabbing a jacket, going to the bathroom, changing a diaper... getting that group out the door was quite the feat! but we managed!
this, naturally, only left us with an hour or two to walk/hike, but we made the best of it. the kids walked for miles (mostly without complaint) and loved taking turns walking the dogs. the most exciting part of any of our walks was finding a "cave" (i use the term loosely) to play in. the kids could spend hours in there. the most amazing thing in all of this is that we had 6 kids, ranging in age from 11 months to almost 9 years, and they ALL managed to play together! annabelle didn't take part in too much of what the others were up to, but the other 5 played all together all the time. it was just wonderful. in fact, i think the 5 of them behaved better than any of us adults!! just kidding. sort of...

anyway, in the late afternoon we would all kind of do our own thing. us little bidwells would usually nap, steph and cat would take the big girls on a walk of sorts, the boys would read their magazines, nap or go accompany the girls on the walk, the littlest kids also napped, and poppo would go for a run. then we would somehow manage to make dinner for 13 people, we would eat and drink by the fire, put the tiniest kids to bed and keep the others up to roast marshmallows and sing campfire songs, accompanied by dad's guitar.

most of the family would trickle off to bed and cat, steph and i would stay up into the wee hours drinking wine, talking and hanging out.

we just had the best time. i can't wait to go again next year, despite anything i may have said in the meantime! :) i loved for the kids to be outdoors constantly and using their imaginations to play all sorts of games all day long. there were no phones, computers or electronics of any kind out there and, really, it was bliss.


and so it is...

we're back in action. i'm back to work, jakey is back to school, ben is back to teaching twice a week on top of working full-time, and annabelle is approaching her first birthday. i feel a little like i'm in the middle of this tornado and if i should stop for a moment and look around, i might realize how crazy everything is around me! i feel like i am skimming the surface of many things, not really finishing anything, and just waiting for a day with some down time to "do it all." HAH!

I'm only working part-time (though I am technically working 3 part-time jobs if you include the photography blog and the realtor blasts) and I have put tutoring on hold for a couple of weeks (thank God!) so I should be able to handle it. There are moms out there who work full-time and have more kids than me. I honestly have no idea how they do it. And I have a lot of help!! my mother-in-law helps a ton when she's over here on tuesdays, and my neighbor down the street is awesome with the kids on wednesdays and thursdays... and still i feel very frazzled!

i also sound like a big, fat complainer. actually i like my job, so far, even though i have yet to meet with students. it's nice to be back on campus and part of that community. i love my daycare options, i'm very lucky with that, and i have always loved being busy. and Lord knows i'm busy. so hopefully i can remember to send out pictures and update this blog every now and again. i'm dying to write about our trip to arizona with the family (such fun!) and other summer outings, but that will happen on one of those "do it all" days. and i'm positive i'll have tons of those :)


time flies

holy moly.

it's already august, jakey is going into his second year of preschool, i am about to go back to work, and annabelle is almost 1!! we have had the craziest and busiest summer, but no one can accuse us of not taking advantage of the time, right?

after pinecrest with ben's family, we headed up again with my sister, cat, and her family for her birthday. we spent a long weekend there and had a blast. We went kayaking, hiked around the lake, took walks and jogs and even swam. we usually don't brave the lake past our knees, so this was big! we spent one night around a campfire roasting marshmallows and eating s'mores. the weather up there was perfect.

the next weekend my other sister, steph, and her family came up to our house for the weekend. we had so much fun with them. we took the kids across the street to the park where stasia learned to ride her bike without training wheels - in about 10 minutes!! she was amazing! we also headed to osage park for more walking and biking, and steph and i thought it would be a good idea to go 5 miles in the blazing 95 degree heat in the peak of the afternoon one day. but we made it fun! the kids had a blast hanging out with each other... and the cat.

two days later my friend, jamie, and i took our kids (she has a 4 year-old, joey, who is one of jake's best buds), hopped in the car, and drove 8 hours down to poppo's. we swam a ton, hung out, ate some of poppo's fantastic cooking, and even went to Legoland with steph and her girls.

we had such a great time! we spent the night at cat's on the way back up and headed back home bright and early on saturday. it was such a whirlwind!

now we're back home for a week before we head out to the mountains of arizona for some glorified camping with my family. i'll be home for 4 days and then head back to work.

where on earth has the summer gone???



i love summer! even though it's still early july, though, i feel this sort of dreaded anticipation that it will be over as soon as it started. i know i shouldn't waste time that way, but i can't help it, espe
cially since i will be going back to work part-time in the fall. the summer before last just bled right into fall because i wasn't working, didn't have any deadlines or anything like that. it was phenomenal. then last summer i was pregnant so i spent the summer waiting for annabelle to arrive. both years were relaxed, no anxiety about the end of summer... it was fabulous. and now it's back to reality for me. i really can't complain at all, since i was fortunate enough to find a part-time job, and it's a job i'm really looking forward to doing, i just hate, hate, hate, hate leaving my kids. even though i'll only be away for 1 full and 2 half days, i feel like i'm going to miss so much. i love the relationship i have with my kids, i love the time i get to spend with them, i love all the activities we do. i hate the thought of leaving them! and jake will be in preschool three mornings a week, so my only two days off he will be in preschool in the mornings. oh well, i can't dwell on the negatives. it will be a good thing, right? anyway!

our summer so far has been super busy, as per usual! we went down south for a week and to pinecrest for 5 days. we have been having a great time and definitely making the most of our summer.

jacob is taking
swimming lessons every week and just loves them. he hates leaving and tells me he "wants to stay at swimming lessons forever!" he had such an amazing time with all of his cousins and is excited to see his friends again, now that we're back. he has become quite the character lately. he says the funniest things and tries so hard to keep up with the adults. he is also so sweet and loving. he tells us he loves us all the time. last night he told me, "i love you and daddy and annabelle more than the whole world!" he is always hugging and kissing us, especially his sister. he is so good with her, i just love watching them crack up together.

annabelle just turned 10 months and is also quite a character. we've been calling her the velociraptor lately because she makes this crazy noise that sounds like some prehistoric beast! she is hilarious, and also very cuddly and smiley. she claps and waves (she's been perfecting her princess/parade wave), has two teeth finally, and is crawling all over the place. she loves to crawl up to my biggest plant and just pluck all the leaves off. poor plant. she just learned to sign "more" but will only use it when it involves cheese. that's my girl.


my big boy

first day of preschool, August 2008

last day of preschool, June 2009

today was jakey's last official day of his first year of preschool! he is finished in the 3s class and will start in the 4s class in the fall. the year went by so quickly! i was hugely pregnant when he started and he was so sad those first few weeks when we would drop him off. now he can't get in the door at school any faster and he has a sister who is almost 9 months old! he loves his teacher, mrs. tetzloff, and has made so many good buddies at school. we walk either to or from school almost every day (sometimes both) and have had a lot of good little chats on our walks. and jake has become quite a good walker - he can do a mile easily!

a lot has happened this year and time has gone by far too quickly for my taste. but each end signifies a new beginning and i can't wait to see what's next.

my little leap-er

jacob is in some of the demo videos for new leapfrog toys! in a post i wrote in april there's a picture of him holding a "Text & Learn" toy. he got that for "acting" in leapfrog's demo videos. i'm so proud of him! he even let me have a cameo.

to see the demo, go to the leapfrog website (http://www.leapfrog.com/toys/)

click on the movie clapboard on either the
Scribble & Write, the Text & Learn or the Learn & Groove.

He is the second or third demo for those toys. you have to click on the orange arrows on the right to scroll through the demos.

we sure had a good time!


the month of may

may was such a busy month for us! we did have some headway with the living room project, but now it's at a bit of a standstill. we're waiting on crown molding, but i've no idea when that project will take place. but it's good for now.

on may 6th our little boy turned 4!! jakey is such a big boy now. he's a wonderful little helper and such a sweetheart. he loves to make annabelle laugh and loves to play with her. in fact, if he hears her laughing, even if he is across the house, he will come running and say, "what made her laugh? can i try?" and sometimes he'll cry when i have to put her down for a nap because he wants to play with her. cherish these moments, right? so precious.

for jacob's birthday my great friend, jamie, and i threw a carnival party. jake and joey are 11 days apart and this is the second birthday party they've shared. it was such a blast to plan with jamie (she was awesome! check out her ferris wheel cake below!) and the party was so much fun!

annabelle has been growing up way too fast for my taste. i'm pretty sure she's our last but she is just getting too big too quickly! she is sitting up and moving around, but not crawling. she scoots her way across the floor somehow and is really working on manipulating her little body. she is such a good little eater and is now working on finger foods. she rebelled for a month or so, but now she's pretty good. little lady LOVES shredded cheese! has to be sharp cheddar... so picky! :)

ben is working up at cal state hayward in some underground vaults for the time being. thank God he has a job. i am still doing boot camp, tutoring, blogging for my mom & prasad, fliers for dean souza (realtor) and all the fun stuff being a mom involves.

i feel like i'm writing one of those letters you send with a christmas card. we never send those letters. i guess now's as good a time as any for that!

enough for now... every time i blog i say i'll be better from now on... i really will try! things have been so busy, but so good. i truly love my life!


house project

here we go.

we're in the thick of our latest housing project. i love projects and all, don't get me wrong, but the mess is killin' me. i know it will all be worth it, though.

so a couple of weeks ago ben busted out and put recessed lighting in our living room. it looks so nice! he was able to complete the whole project in about a half a day. i love when he's motivated.

after that he painted one wall (he had a little help from jakey).

at first we didn't like it. it felt too dark compared to the white that we've had for the last 3 years. we left it that way for about a week, and now we love it. i'm so glad we didn't change it right away. the color is sort of a grey/green/brown i guess, but that sounds hideous. it's not hideous! it is not very dark but a nice tone. ben has painted almost all the walls. there is one wall that is yet unpainted because our giant wall unit is impossible to move, but once that's done the painting part will be finished. then onto the molding!

we picked out some crown and baseboard from home depot that we really like. i guess that project will be next. then ben is going to trim out the fireplace, then we're contemplating slip covers for the couches and new curtains. i'm so excited - i think it will look fantastic when all is said and done. i'm so glad and lucky to have such a crafty boy living here :) i think i'll keep him.


happy easter!

i started this entry tonight because i have been looking through my picasa folders for about an hour now looking for a picture of my family, just the 4 of us. what's really sad is the most recent one i have is the one we had done at picture people for christmas, and the only one before that is of us 4 in the hospital! this is terrible! i have photos of everyone with my kids and husband but me! i guess that's kind of typical, though. anyway, that wasn't very exciting so i thought i'd talk about easter. we had the most eventful easter ever! saturday we spent the day with our in-laws. ben's sister and her family were in town for the weekend, so we all got to spend a lot of time together saturday. it was so much fun seeing the three little cousins together. they did an egg hunt in karen and steve's beautiful and huge backyard. they had a blast. they all tolerated the photo op very well, too. sunday morning we had our own egg hunt here and i actually mentioned to ben that we should get a photo of the 4 of us before we left, but we were out of time. we went over to the shacklefords' for the most delicious brunch. after stuffing ourselves we headed over to uncle chris & aunt koleen's to stuff ourselves some more. such phenomenal food, as always!! the kids had so much fun, as did we. we have nicknamed uncle chris the baby whisperer. he calms annabelle right down every time. it's amazing. anyway, 4 egg hunts and LOTS of candy later, easter is over for another year. i love easter.

love and (lack of) money

well my good friend, jessica, is a writer for the bay area news group. she and i go way back, back to 1992 in fact. maybe even earlier. we met in high school after both dating the same guy. she and i forged a very strong bond back then and remained close for several years. as things go, we parted ways at some point in college and just lost touch. when i was pregnant with jacob we met up for dinner at a mexican restaurant in danville. we had such a great time, but managed to lose touch yet again. i suppose me having a new baby and her getting seriously ahead in her career had just a little to do with it.

then came

ahh, facebook. i have a love/hate relationship with facebook, but one thing it did do for me was put me back in touch with jess! we met up again at a place in danville she was reviewing for her paper called
Easy 925. (neat atmosphere and fabulous drinks, in my opinion... though it has been years since i've been out for cocktails!)

that's a lot of unnecessary information for the real story here. jess and i got to talking about the economy and marriage and how the economy is affecting our relationship. it started out as casual chatter, but then i made a comment about occasionally (and i truly do mean occasionally, ben!) sneaking a new t-shirt into my target purchases. she liked that line and apparently her editor did, as well, so the next thing we knew we were having our photo taken for the paper! our photo was on the front page of the TIMEOUT section of the contra costa times and the first few paragraphs of her article were about us! it felt a little silly being photographed in our pajamas with a glass of wine and a movie on (that we were too nervous to actually watch), but that is honestly our idea of a good date night and i guess that's what they wanted for the article! the man who came to take our photos took them of us putting the kids to bed, hanging out on the couch, opening the wine, etc. we didn't get to see any of them (and i'm assuming we never will) until we saw the photo on the paper. lucky for me my friend gina let me know the article had run, and even luckier was that my mother-in-law, karen, was able to run out and nab a few copies!

like i said, we felt a little silly, but it was also nice to know that she liked our story and thought we were relatable enough to put in the paper. enjoy the




I actually wrote this post about 2 weeks ago and just never got around to publishing it or posting photos. so here we go!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

today jacob had a little video shoot for leapfrog! we went for a casting call last week and it was right during his nap time. i was sure he'd have a meltdown or just not be in the mood to do what they asked. i was wrong. he was so good, talkative, singing... he was terrific. so much so, i guess, that they decided to use him on their website! so today we drove into bernal heights to the house of one of the creative designers at leapfrog. his house was fantastic. one entire wall was a chalkboard. amazing. anyway, they took us upstairs and let jakey sit on the bed and play with some of their new products. he was having fun and i was just loving watching him. i was sort of hoping i would be able to sneak my camera out and get a photo of him in action, but there was just no way. so i'm standing there, watching, wanting to talk to him and get him doing some of the things the people were asking him to do. you know how it is, you feel like you have the right words and the right intonation that will really get him going. wrong! he will respond when he feels like responding. which wasn't too much at first. so they asked me to get in there with him, sit him on my lap, and play with him! me and my poufy hair, sloppy sweatshirt and all. but it was fun. a little nervewracking, but at least i could see all of this from jake's perspective. big camera right in your face, lights shining in your eyes, people telling you over and over what to do... it wasn't as bad as it sounds, but it definitely gave me some sympathy for when he just feels like he's done. anyway, it was interesting and fun. they said the videos should be up on the website in about a month, so keep your eyes out! i'll post the link as soon as i can find it. and we'll just wait to see if we get another call!

(here's a photo of jakey with the new toy he got for being in the video - this is the text & learn, i think)