Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Our little monkey's first birthday party

Well, we made through our first year as a family of three! What an incredible year it has been - so many sleepless nights, frustrating moments, learning experiences, hilarious memories...and so much joy. Definitely something worth celebrating. :D

Because Lukas' birthday, November 27, was the day before Thanksgiving this year, we decided to postpone his birthday celebration until that weekend, fitting in a small "party" between other family activities. We kept it low-key, with just my parents and immediate family there, not knowing how Lukas would respond to having too much attention. He did pretty good though - smashed the cupcake in his own cautious, methodical way, then asked to be washed off. Hmmm...we may have something of a neat nick on our hands. ;)

Lukas has had some sugar before, but only in small quantities. Call me an overly paranoid first-time mom, but I didn't want him to get too much sugar at once. I found a relatively healthy cupcake recipe on this blog, and made some adaptations. Then I tweaked an old family favorite for the frosting recipe. The cupcakes turned out surprisingly good, and everyone seemed to enjoy them. Here's what I ended up doing:

Healthified First Birthday Cupcakes 
5 ripe bananas (mine were frozen)
3/4 c. applesauce (I didn't have any sugar-free or plain on hand, so used some with cinnamon added)
3 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
3/4 c. butterscotch baking chips (could use chocolate, carob, or raisins) 
Mash bananas in mixer, then add remaining ingredients in the order listed, mixing each one in well. Pour into cupcake liners placed in a muffin pan, dividing into 12. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
Healthified Banana Frosting 
1 stick butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 ripe banana (don't use a frozen one for this!)
Powdered sugar to taste (normally I'd use honey, but that's not supposed to be good for little ones either, so... :P The banana adds quite a bit of sweetening so less is needed than normal frostings.)
Carob powder (optional - I mostly used it because I wanted brown-colored frosting) 
Beat first 3 ingredients together well, then add sugar to taste, followed by carob powder. Don't over-mix it like I did! It won't fluff up, so just mix until ingredients are thoroughly combined and the mixture is smooth and creamy. 
Note: This makes a LOT of frosting, so if you are only doing the dozen cupcakes you may want to halve the frosting recipe. We ended up making a banana sheet cake, too, and putting the extra frosting on that.

I found some decorating ideas on Pinterest and had a lot of fun turning the cupcakes into little monkeys. :D A cheap cookie decorating kit from Big Lots supplied the eyeball candies and the red frosting, and generic vanilla wafers from Aldi made the muzzles and ears. It all tied in perfectly with some matching birthday hats, blow-thingys, and banner I found at Dollar Tree last summer. Just perfect for our little monkey. :D

More snapshots from the party:

Enjoying the singing!

"Am I really allowed to touch this, Mama?"

Isn't his shirt perfect? I was tickled to find it at the thrift store this summer, for half off $0.60. Couldn't pass that up. ;)

So solemn, almost guilty-looking...

There's a smile! Must taste yummy. :)

Ready to be cleaned up - no fun being this sticky!

One of Lukas' gifts was a little bubble wand. He had a lot of fun watching and "catching" the bubbles.

A chair his own size! Happy birthday, little man!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Lukas Paul Valour: one year old!

A cute but fake little smile for the camera. ;)

Twelve whole months! I can't believe our little man is already a year old. Our easy-going baby has morphed into a wiggly, emotional toddler with a stubborn streak clearly inherited from his parent (which parent that is depends on who you ask, lol).

This past month has been so exciting in terms of locomotion. Around the first week of November he (finally!) learned how to crawl properly, and he was a real pro right off the bat. This means we must be sure to go through the baby gate quickly, keep the bathroom door closed, and grab things out of the fridge in a matter of seconds - otherwise a little shadow is suddenly beside us, not wanting to miss out on any of the fun. :)

This is what most of our photo shoot looked sitting still here!

Even more exciting than crawling has been the progress made towards walking. Though not quite to the point of walking by himself, Lukas cruises around furniture at amazing speeds, has a grand time pushing his little push-cart around the living room, and is delighted whenever anyone holds both his hands and lets him run wherever he pleases. He can almost walk with just one hand being held, but after a few steps he gets nervous. I'm just glad he hasn't yet figured out how to climb up on the furniture, haha! Soon enough...

All this activity obviously wears Lukas out every day, and he has been napping longer than ever in his life - sometimes as much as 2-3 hours a day. I know that's not much compared to some children, but after him napping only 20-30 minutes most days for months, I'm finding it amazing to have a little longer margin of quiet time for getting computer work done. It's a good thing, too, since he needs a lot more attention when he is awake. He has an unending fascination for my computer keyboard (I can't blame him, really, since he sees me giving it so much attention while I'm working), and we're still learning the meaning of "No." Ah, many lessons in patience! :)

Mr. Solemn. He wasn't in a very smiley mood the day we took these pictures.

Speaking of sleeping, Lukas has been in his own room for almost a month now. The transition has been surprisingly easy, and he went from waking 3-5 times most nights to only once, sometimes not at all. Generally he sleeps from around midnight to 8, has a bottle and diaper change, then sleeps another hour or two. Joe and I usually manage to snag 7-8 hours in there somewhere, which has been lovely. Joe has been the one to most often get up and help Lukas if he wakes up in the night - after wrestling a 20-pound boy all day in addition to all the usual housework, cooking, and my design jobs, I sleep pretty hard. ;)

Our little man has quite the voracious appetite these days, usually eating two large meals of solid food plus snacks and bottles of milk and diluted juice through the day. Oatmeal, cheerios, pears, and avocado (no, not mixed together, ha) are his favorite foods, but he usually eats pretty much anything we give him. He's a pro at feeding himself now and can really gobble food up by the handful. He's usually pretty good about not throwing food on the floor, which we're very thankful for - our dining area is carpeted and our linoleum-floored kitchen is too tiny to hold his chair.

With Daddy's help we got some genuine grins and giggles. And look at that wild hair!

With all the focus on movement this month communication hasn't been a top priority. But he has definitely become more emotional and vocally expressive, and it's usually pretty easy to tell if his cry is caused by hunger, fear, pain, tiredness, or frustration. He has a shockingly loud scream that makes an appearance too often on grumpy days, especially if he's teething at the time. Often he'll make soft little whimpering sounds, like he's trying to tell a sad story or make us feel sorry for him - it's adorable! The most fun thing, though, is that he sometimes imitates various sounds we make. If we use a growly voice or a sing-song tone or a whisper, he'll often try to copy us. And if we repeat back the sounds he is making, we can have a little "conversation", usually ending in giggles. Apparently he knows what we're "talking" about, at least. ;)

Lukas' birthday was the day before Thanksgiving, so we had a small celebration with my family while we were together for the weekend. I'll write a separate post with details and photos of our little party. It was really special to have our first Thanksgiving with him, and to introduce him to all the out-of-state relatives who gathered for the holiday. We have so, so much to be thankful for, and right up at the top of the list is this precious little person that God has entrusted to us. What a treasure and privilege!

Monday, December 2, 2013

A contest!

Hello friends!

If you're connected to me on Facebook, you might be sick of seeing this by now, but there is a giveaway in progress through December 14th. The main prize is a complete set of The Truth Chronicles, all autographed by Tim and me. Follow the link to my Facebook Author Page and click on the "Giveaway" tab to get started. Be sure to share with your friends, too.

Also, just so you're aware, my main website/blog,, now has an active store where you can purchase the books individually or in sets (the set option will be active this week) directly from me. They make great gifts for children ages 8-12 in particular, though many younger and older children as well as adults have enjoyed them, too. Read what one mother had to say:

"My 9-year-old was sent to bed at 7pm and instead stayed awake reading by flashlight until midnight, finishing the first two books of The Truth Chronicles series in one night! He came to me saying they are some of the best books he's ever read. I made him get some sleep before starting on the 3rd book in the series. We'll be sure to leave book reviews soon! Thank you soooo much for the books!!" ~ Tammy from Washington

If you get a chance to read these books, be sure to let me know what you think.

God bless, and have a wonderful day!