Thursday, September 27, 2018

How To Take Your Kids Hiking (And Not Regret It!)

Recently, I've received a lot of comments regarding pictures I have posted about our kids on various hikes and trails in the Colorado mountains. The predominant question concerns how the heck we get all four of our kids to hike a trail with decent length and elevation gain. The answer is simple for the youngest two: Daniel and Lucy are almost always carried, whether in a Kelty backpack or an Ergobaby carrier. They're comfortable for them so there is relatively little complaint from them. We just have to stop usually once per hike to feed Daniel - and I've breastfed him while hiking at various times - but normally we are able to make it to the summit before he really requires a feeding. Lucy, on the other hand, is completely happy being carried for 75% of any given trail but also willingly will hike a good portion of it. She's a very good sport.

Matthew, our energetic 8-year-old, is actually quite a fantastic hiker. He can be a bit clumsy, so sometimes I worry about him on looser rock, but for the most part, as long as we have plenty of water, he can keep up with me and Paul without issue or complaint. In fact, we are already planning on taking him on a couple 14ers (Mount Bierstadt, Torreys, and Grays Peak) next spring and I don't imagine that he will have any issue making those ascents with us.

So, that takes care of three out of the four miniatures, leaving the lone, major hangup of all our hiking journeys in the form of our daughter Emma. Unlike her other three siblings, Emma is incredibly difficult to encourage and rally during a hike because the very point of her existence at this point in time is to whine, squeal, and make life a bit less enjoyable for her parents. The ironic thing is that her whining never stems from a lack of energy on her part. On the contrary, she is extremely agile and possesses great endurance. She just doesn't like to employ her skills on demand.

We have learned a few tips and tricks about hiking with the kids that have made our family hikes a bit more enjoyable. I'm not going to lie, the first couple we took were a bit brutal due to Emma's endless whining. No amount of beautiful scenery can make up for that irritation. However, since then, we have managed to get away with actually enjoying our hikes 100% from start to finish using a couple tricks. These might seem obvious to some, but bear with me. Paul and I are not the sharpest tools in the shed when it comes to parenting.

1. Bribe your kids! Paul and I often get the kiddos pumped up for the hike with promise of a pizza dinner afterwards or a fun snack at the top. One of the greatest ideas we ever had was to start packing some popsicles for the summit! We stuff popsicles in a freezer bag with a bunch of ice and a little coarse salt and then put that in a small insulated lunch bag. Keeps them perfectly frozen for quite a few hours! The promise of a cool, refreshing treat at the top works on Emma every single time.

2. Make sure the kids have decent shoes for the terrain.  As a general rule of thumb, if their sneakers have a Disney character printed on the side, the quality is probably questionable. Good shoes with decent grip make a world of difference.

3. Choose trails with destinations. The kids love hiking to waterfalls, glaciers, or mountain tops with some neat rock formations that they can scale once they reach the top. The promise of these locations is often enough to rally a withering Emma to continue onward and upward. I think they enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes with reaching a destination just as much as we do!

4. Be sure to have some fun and engaging conversations along the way. On our most recent hike, I spent the majority of the final 2.5 miles teaching Emma the lyrics to "The Big Bang Theory" by the Barenaked Ladies. It provided a nice distraction for her and we got to sing a fun song as we went along. We also had a huge family debate about our favorite sushi that lasted over an hour on one of our hikes which was an interesting discussion that the kids heavily participated in despite never having actually eaten any sushi. The point is, engaging the kids with songs, stories, or conversations makes the hike more enjoyable for all and distracts them from the temptation to whine.

5. Try to prevent stumbles and falls as much as humanely possible. If one of the kids trip and fall, it's a major setback to the entire outing. Our kids are super dramatic about injuries. Not sure if that's typical, but normally even the most benign of injuries results in much wailing, crying, and demands for latex bandages to contain the invisible gushing of blood. Holding hands to with the kids, while irritating and a bit straining on the arm, can really help increase confidence, especially when scurrying over tricky rocks or climbing up areas with loose gravel. Lucy often refuses to hold hands, but Emma almost requires it just to move.

6. Compliment the kids on their progress down the trail! My kids love to be praised - with extreme detail if possible. Emma will openly display a bit more pep in her step if I tell her what a great hiker she is. "She scaled that rock like a champ!" "Hiking expert coming through!" "Next stop - - Mount Everest!"

7. Do not get frustrated with the frequent stops kids sometimes require. Sometimes it feels as if we can't get our groove going with a hike. We seem to stop almost constantly because something went wrong with one of the kids (or the dog). A shoelace will suddenly need to be tied. A minute later, Matthew needs to find a tree to pee on. A minute after that, Emma needs a drink of water. Another 30 seconds after that, Daniel needs to be removed from the pack to nurse while we walk. Two minutes after that, Peyton gets all tangled up in his leash and Matthew needs help untangling him. This is followed by another stop for water since the 10 feet we traveled in the last 5 minutes was super exhausting and dehydrating for all the children. Then Daniel finishes eating and needs to be put back into his carrier properly. Then comes another bathroom stop for Matthew almost immediately followed by Daniel spitting up everything he just ate all over me. You get the picture and are probably wondering how the heck this is enjoyable. Trust me, eventually everyone settles into a groove and we are actually able to cover some ground. Just not as quickly as I would like to. But that's ok. As Paul has to continually remind me, the whole point of the outing is to spend some quality time together out in nature, marveling at God's creation. This tees into my final point...

8. Be prepared and resigned to the fact that you might not complete the entire trail - and be at peace about it! This has in all honestly been the most difficult part about hiking with the kids for me. When we first set out, I always want to make it through the entirety of the trail. I have major FOMO when it comes to experiencing the beauty of nature and I always want to see and immerse myself in more of it. However, the kids honestly cannot swing the long, exhaustive hikes that I enjoy and we certainly do not want them to view our family hikes as mini-death marches. Our average with them is between 4 and 5 miles, sometimes shorter depending on the difficulty of the climb.

9. Just get out and do it. Sometimes the thought of all the preparation it takes to get all the little people out and hiking can be daunting. However, despite all the frustration that can come with it, I don't think we have ever regretted a single hiking trip with the kids. We all normally feel great once we have finished the trail and - wait for it - we have actually had the kids voluntarily thank us for taking them. A shell shocker at times considering how many times they whined along the way. But truth be told, I do think they legitimately enjoy it and the challenge of a hike is just plain good for their character development. Overcoming the obstacles that come with the physical demands of the outing can be rewarding and fulfilling in ways that even kids at a very young age can grasp and appreciate. I also believe it fosters their determination and fortitude, something that will prove beneficial to them in all areas of life. Not to mention, I truly believe promoting an appreciation for the natural beauty of the world is vital to healthy child development.

10. It's really bugging me that I don't have a 10th point. I guess I could also point out that wildlife sightings are big motivators for continued hikes. Look who we spotted on our hike last weekend.

In summary, the whole point of this long-winded post is that no matter the difficulties, get out there and HIKE!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Amazing Zucchini Brownies

I have been very much mistaken in my disdain for zucchini brownies. Mea culpa.

After this post in which I declared that zucchini brownies were soggy, tasteless, disgusting confections that I was not fond of, a reader sent me this recipe and told me to try it as it just might change my mind. The day before, I had actually obtained quite the harvest of fresh zucchini from a friend's garden so it seemed a fitting time to give it a whirl.

I wasn't expecting much, but this recipe completely blew me away. Not only were the zucchini brownies perfectly delicious, they were downright one of the best brownies I've had in a while. High praise, but oh so true. Fudgey, moist, very chocolaty. The zucchini is completely undetectable. I enjoyed watching Emma gobble down a piece and then announcing that they were made with a hefty dose of her least favorite vegetable. She didn't believe me and insisted that I was pulling her leg.

I made THREE batches of these. I experimented with butter and oil, finding both of them perfectly delicious. For more fudge like brownies, up the butter by 1/2. I also added espresso powder - a must when working with chocolate in my opinion - and a few extra chocolate chips certainly couldn't make these any less delicious. My favorite part about this recipe is that there is no need to drain the zucchini. That's often the part about zucchini recipes that I detest the most because the process oftentimes leads to a stained towel and anxiety over whether enough water had actually been removed. In this recipe, the liquid from the zucchini is required to transform the mixture into a brownie-batter consistency before baking. For this reason, it is recommended that in-season zucchini is best for use in this recipe. So making this with zucchini purchased from the store in mid-February might not be as wonderful.

In short, dear readers, I stand corrected. These are pretty amazing. Give them a try before zucchini season ends!

Zucchini Brownies
adapted slightly from Two Peas in a Pod

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup canola oil or vegetable oil (or butter)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups shredded zucchini (don’t squeeze out the moisture)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (divided)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9×13 baking pan with parchment and set aside.

In a stand mixer, combine sugar, oil, and flour, combine until mixture resembles wet sand. It will appear dry. While mixing, on low, add cocoa, shredded zucchini, vanilla extract, espresso powder, salt and baking soda. Mix until well combined. The mixture will moisten once the zucchini is added. Stir in one cup of the chocolate chips.

Pour brownie batter into prepared pan and sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips. Bake for 28-32 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and the brownies are set.

Cool completely on a wire rack. Cut brownies into squares and serve.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Stuffed Pepper Soup

A few people have asked me how Emma is adjusting to Kindergarten. She went from being home all day, every day to being in school all day, every day. In all honesty, her transition into school could not have gone better. She loves her teacher, loves her class, loves homework (I'm sure that won't last long), and loves her school uniform (I often have to pry it off her at the end of the school day). At back-to-school night, her teacher did approach Paul and confide in him that she believe Emma has a bit of anxiety in large crowds. She explained that whenever the class goes to Mass, Emma immediately gets a bit whiny and restless, claiming to be "scared", and will only calm down when the teacher has her sit beside her. So, she informed us, we might have to work on getting Emma more accustomed to crowds or large-scale social events.


Neither Paul nor I had the heart to tell this well-meaning teacher that she has been completely played by our precocious imp. No child is more social than Emma. She is an extreme extrovert. The issue is, and we know this from personal experience, she is the Queen of Manipulation. She often complains of being "scared" or "shy" or "sad" when she wants a warm lap to sit on. And it sounds like it's been working for her and she has been enjoying a prominent spot next to her teacher during Mass. I'm sure her teacher will figure this out about her soon enough.

So, yes, Emma loves school and has adjusted to it perfectly well! She loves her little friends and has also enjoyed embarassing her older brother Matthew every chance she gets by running up and giving him a big hug or kiss whenever she sees him - which is often considering their classrooms are located directly next door.

In my last post, I shared a recipe for Honey-Butter Rolls and promised a delicious recipe to serve with them. This Stuffed Pepper Soup is a family favorite that is simple, quick, filling, healthy, and delicious. Paul loves this soup and so does - wait for it - EMMA, our pickiest eater. In fact, when Lucy was doing her normal boycott of dinner, Emma told her, "Lucy, this is SO GOOD. You are CRAZY for not even trying it!" Praise from Emma doesn't get any better than that!

Stuffed Pepper Soup

1 lb lean ground beef
2 Tbsp olive oil , divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small yellow onion chopped (1 cup)
3/4 cup chopped red bell pepper (a little over 1/2 of a medium)
3/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 cloves garlic , minced
2 (14.5 oz) cans petite diced tomatoes
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5) can beef broth
2 1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley , plus more for garnish
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 cup uncooked long grain white rice (add less for a thinner soup)
Cheddar, for serving (optional...but not really)

In a large pot heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat, once hot add beef to pot and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally while breaking up beef, until browned. Drain beef and pour onto a plate lined with paper towels, set aside.

Heat remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil in pot then add onions, red bell pepper, green bell pepper and saute 3 minutes, then add garlic and saute 30 seconds longer.

Pour in diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, beef broth and add parsley, basil, oregano and cooked beef, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring just to a light boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes.

While soup simmers, prepare rice according to directions listed on package, then once soup is done simmering stir in desired amount of cooked rice into soup*. Serve warm topped with optional cheese and garnish with fresh parsley.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Honey-Butter Dinner Rolls

Paul has his favorite dinner rolls which I shared on here a long time ago. Those are wonderful - soft, fluffy, quick, and easy! BUT now it's time to share MY personal favorite go-to roll recipe. I like my rolls sweetened with honey and glazed with rich honey-butter, making for a soft, slightly sticky treat that pairs wonderfully with ham, chicken, or just about anything. Having one of these rolls leftover to eat as a snack the next day is pure bliss. Last time I made these, Lucy and I adored splitting them open and spreading some huckleberry jam on the halves. I've also made these rolls extra large to use for ham and swiss sandwiches.

Admittedly, the problem with these rolls is that when I serve them alongside a lentil soup or something, inevitably my kids will ONLY eat them for their dinner. As much as I hate to admit it, man truly cannot survive on carbs alone but my kids sure do try. I should probably stop serving so many delicious breads at dinnertime so they actually try to eat the main course.

Up next...a recipe to serve with these rolls that my kids actually ate with gusto! Stay tuned!

Honey-Butter Dinner Rolls

2¼ tsp. instant yeast
1 cup warm water (105-115˚ F)
¼ cup honey
3 tablespoons canola oil
1¼ tsp. salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons honey

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the yeast and warm water.  Add the honey, oil, salt, and egg and mix well.  Add 3 cups of the flour and mix until the dough comes together in a sticky mass.  Switch to the dough hook and, with the mixer on low speed, incorporate the remaining 1 cup of flour.  Continue kneading on low speed for about 8 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, turn once to coat, and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 30 seconds.  Cover with a towel and let rest for 10 minutes.  Punch the dough down and divide into 10-12 equal size pieces.  Shape each piece into a smooth ball and place into a round, lightly greased 9- or 10-inch round baking dish, spacing evenly.  Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot for 40-45 minutes. I've let them go as long as an hour. Just make sure they double!

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Mix together the melted butter and honey, and brush the tops of the rolls with the mixture (sometimes I wait to brush them on until midway through baking time as the glaze does cause darken quite a bit in the oven!).  Bake for 22-30 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and the rolls are baked through.  Let cool slightly before serving.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Salted Caramel Banana Bread Brownies

The interior of our home has been filled with the music of Les Miserables and Evita. Paul and I have been on a musical kick for the past few months, ever since we took Daniel with us to see the Broadway version of Les Miserables. As I type this out, I realize that I should have mentioned in my last blog post about Daniel that he has already seen a Broadway show at the tender age of three months. When we walked up to the box office with our tickets (which we had purchased back in February) we were politely informed that we could not bring the baby into the theater until we had purchased an "infant in arms" ticket for him. Ridiculous, right? His ticket cost almost as much as ours! Thank goodness he was a complete angel and slept the entire time so we were able to enjoy the show - which was incredibly amazing. Paul is already asking when we can go see another show although I have a hard time believing any show can top Les Miserables.

So, we have been blasting "Master of the House" "One Day More" and "On My Own" while washing the dishes and getting the kids ready for bed. And as far as Evita is concerned, I haven't even thought about that musical since high school but randomly started singing some of the songs. Matthew heard me and asked me about it, which led to me seeking out the soundtrack online, and now my kids are familiar with most of those songs. Emma especially loves the song "High Flying Adored" whereas Matthew prefers "The Lady's Got Potential." If you have no idea what I'm talking about, look these songs up on YouTube. They're great! We've become quite the musical family recently. Beware, we might morph into a Colorado-based version of The Von Trapp Family Singers, only with far less talent and relatively no originality.

Speaking of no originality (on my part at least!), here is a recipe for Salted Caramel Banana Bread Brownies that I made exactly as written from the remarkable food blog Plain Chicken. If you haven't heard of her blog, check it out. All her recipes are simple, no-fuss, and guaranteed crowd-pleasers. When I spied the picture for these brownies and then glanced at the pile of five blackened bananas sitting on my counter with a growing colony of fruit flies floating about, I figured it was worth a try! The banana bars would be a great snack for the kids to pack in their lunches since they love banana anything, although apparently not actual bananas since whenever I buy them they go uneaten and turn mushy and black.

I was completely prepared not to like these. I normally find the texture of zucchini or other vegetable-based "brownies" to be completely abhorrent. These, however, were really quite fantastic. It probably had something to do with all the chocolate, caramel, and butter but I very much enjoyed eating these for breakfast this know, because they have bananas and go so great with coffee. I need to work on my sugar addiction.

Will I choose these over straight-up brownies? Probably not but that doesn't mean they're not delicious.

I found the salted caramel chips at Kroger! They actually have their own Kroger brand of them probably inspired by Hershey's Salted Caramel Baking Chips. If you can't find either version of them, I think Butterscotch Chips would be a fine substitute.

Salted Caramel Banana Bread Brownies
from Plain Chicken

6 Tbsp unsalted butter
3/4 cup chocolate chips
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 to 4 very ripe bananas
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1-3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup salted caramel chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x9-inch baking pan. Set aside.

Melt butter and chocolate chips in a small saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat and cool.
In a bowl, mix together the vanilla, sugar and mashed bananas. Add the eggs and beat well. Mix until everything is well combined.

Sift flour and salt and add to banana mixture. Stir in salted caramel chips.

Fold in 2/3 of the chocolate mixture into the batter. Stir just until combined - a few chocolate streaks in the batter is perfectly fine.

Spread batter into prepared pan. Drizzle the remaining chocolate mixture on top of the batter. Use a knife to create streaks of chocolate.

Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack 1 hour before cutting. Store leftovers in refrigerator.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Springtime Minestrone Soup

I thought I would begin this blog post with a few fun facts about my 3-year-old daughter Lucy. She's such a cute and funny little person and I am very much enjoying my time with her at home while her two older siblings are at school. She has quite the sense of humor but is still in that cuddly, sweet toddler phase where she loves to be held, read to, rocked, and showered with affection.

Lucy Fact #1: In nearly every statement she makes, she always incorporates a random, nonsensical reference to time. "I finished all my dinner for four years!" "Cheerios are my favorite cereal for two months!" "This shirt was my favorite last morning!" "I played with my painting set for five years last morning!" "Hey! I have a great idea! Let's go to the candy factory again last year!"

You get the picture. It's super cute and endearing.

Lucy Fact #2: Whenever Lucy is very excited to tell you something, she stutters for a good 30-seconds before she is able to finally spit out her thoughts. Paul and I find it so funny, but it really irritates her not-so-patient older siblings, especially Matthew ("Just say it LUCY!"). Ironic, considering how much time I have used up over the years interpreting Matthew's endless jibberish about random subjects.

Lucy Fact #3: She has declared passionately that when she grows up she wants to be a farmer. She loves pigs and cows and thus thinks being a farmer along the lines of "Old MacDonald" is the perfect career for her. I have yet to explain to her where her beloved bacon comes from.

Lucy Fact #4: Lucy is fully potty trained. Which is fantastic. The not-so-fantastic, slightly disturbing part of this is that she has developed a couple quirky habits as a result of her training. After successfully using the potty and washing her hands, she usually comes back out to the family room wearing only her underwear and then proceeds to wiggle her butt at everyone while singing in her deep baritone voice: "I have a stinky little butt. Look at my stinky little butt!" Paul finds it hilarious, I find it horrifying. I've been trying to explain to her that nice young ladies do not act that way, but of course it hasn't had much impact because Lucy is also being egged on by her obnoxious older sister Emma who finds the whole thing very funny indeed.

Lucy Fact #5: Lucy rarely, if ever, eats dinner. Always claiming to be starving at dinnertime, Lucy pretty much only finishes her plate when the meal consists of pizza, bacon, or ice cream. Every other food she just plays with and makes a mess but doesn't actually eat any of it. If she can detect a single vegetable in a dish, she won't even play with it lest she be exposed to its nutritional poisons.

After that last fact, I probably don't need to tell you that this Springtime Minestrone Soup is a meal that Lucy refused to even try. She ate the bread that we served along with it but this soup went completely untouched. In fact, she complained until the bowl was completely removed from her sight. Her loss because this soup is freaking fantastic! The pesto-infused broth is so addicting and all the nourishing greens, beans, and veggies makes for a meal that leaves you feeling satisfied, healthy, and comforted. Emma gave quite the fuss about this soup when we initially put it in front of her, but once she finally tried it even she was won over by it. She especially liked the chickpeas in the stew and mounding her bowl up with plenty of shredded parmesan. I sometimes worry that we as a family do not eat nearly as many vegetables as we should at dinnertime - everyone gets plenty with a serving of this soup!

I know that the name of this soup is "Springtime" Minestrone, but really you can make this year-round because all the veggies are available anytime! Don't skip the artichokes or the asparagus! They were my favorite part!

Springtime Minestrone Soup
adapted from Simply Recipes

2 Tbsp olive oil
6 green onions
2-4 large garlic cloves
1 pound baby potatoes, or Yukon gold potatoes cut into 1-inch chunks
1 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes
4-6 cups chicken stock (use vegetable stock if cooking vegetarian or vegan)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
1 15-ounce can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
1/2 pound asparagus, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 cups greens (dandelion, chard, spinach, kale, arugula, etc), sliced into thin ribbons
1/4 cup pesto (heaping!)
Grated parmesan cheese for garnish

Begin by prepping the green onions, garlic, and potatoes. Chop the green onions and green garlic and separate the white and light green parts from the green tops. Mince the garlic cloves and combine with the white parts of the green onions.

Sauté white parts of green onions and garlic, add potatoes: In a large pot set over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil for 1 minute. Add the white parts of the green onions as well as the garlic and sauté for 1 minute.

Add the potatoes, and cook 1 minute more.

Add tomatoes, stock, salt, then simmer: Add the diced tomatoes with their liquid and the quart of vegetable or chicken stock.

Add the chickpeas and green peas and cook another 5 minutes.

Add the asparagus and artichoke hearts. Cook 2 minutes.

Add the greens and the green parts from the green onions and green garlic, if using. Stir well to combine and cook 1 minute.

Add pesto, salt, pepper: Turn off the heat and stir in the pesto. Taste your broth and add black pepper and more salt to taste (depending on how salty your stock is, you may need to add 1 to 2 teaspoons of salt).

Serve topped with grated cheese.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Life and Times of DJ Nistler - Five Months

Poor Daniel. He is definitely the fourth child behind three very loud, attention-grabbing, high-maintenance siblings. He has neither a baby book nor many blog posts written about him during the short time he has been here. Pictures are in short supply too! But don't let that fool you - he is very much a loved, revered, and adored member of this family. In fact, I would argue that he currently holds the title of "Most Popular Sibling" and "Best Behaved Child" because he is cute, sweet, does not hit, bite, scratch, or talk back, and tends to eat a meal, bat at a few toys, roll in a circle, take a short nap, and repeat. He's an easy peasy baby.

In the nearly five months he has been outside the womb, young DJ has quite the list of life accomplishments! He's been a busy little fella. Here is a little summary of some of the most noteworthy moments in Daniel's young life.

1. Daniel has been baptized!

On May 20th, Daniel was welcomed into the church as a child of God! He screamed during most of the ceremony and then passed out immediately afterwards, snoozing all the way through his party afterwards. His baptism was definitely the smallest gathering we have had so far but we still had plenty of family representatives - Grandpa Korson traveled all the way from Indiana for the occasion! Aunt Adrienne and Uncle James were present to fulfill Godparent duties. Uncle Steven surprised us on his way back to Montana from Kansas with a visit for the occasion and a handful of other friends were also in attendance. It was a great day! And yes, Fr. Nathan, our energetic parish priest, does have a mullet.

2. Daniel has experienced some fairly massive hair loss.

He was born with quite a bit of hair, but unfortunately it has slowly fallen out over the past few months. He practically has a "comb over" now and rivals Paul in baldness. Unlike Paul, Daniel's hair will soon regenerate into a mane of luscious blonde locks.

3. Daniel has climbed a 14er.

A major accomplishment of many residents and visitors of Colorado is to summit one of Colorado's 53 peaks that exceed 14,000 feet in elevation. Daniel may have cheated a bit being hauled up to the summit by his mother but it's quite the accomplishment for a little dude under the age of six months. Paul was a little concerned that the altitude would be bothersome to him, but he sure didn't seem to mind! The rest of us felt a bit lightheaded at the top but Daniel just giggled and sucked his thumb while taking in the breathtaking views.

4. In fact, Daniel has "climbed" many Colorado peaks.

Daniel has been hauled up quite a few peaks in the Colorado wilderness. He usually snoozes for the majority of the hike up but always seems to wake up just in time to experience the summit. As Paul has said on multiple occasions, Daniel truly is "our mountain baby."

5. Daniel has experienced the adoration and adulation of many tiny, little women.

It's no secret that little girls just love babies. This is the reason Daniel has been a prime target for toe tickling and cheek squeezing from many young little ladies wherever he goes. I keep telling him that he better soak in the attention while he can, because he will probably never experience this much attention and fawning over by females again! He can always be found flanked by two little lasses in particular.

6. Daniel has taken his first cross country road trip.

My sister Sophie was married in July back home in Indiana. As a result, we loaded everyone up and drove the entire 18 hour trip in one shot. Lucy, Matthew, and Emma are champs when it comes to road tripping, but we were unsure how Daniel would handle so much time in the car. Being the generally good-natured child he is, he handled the trip like a champ. However, ever since our return, he has complained pretty loudly whenever we strap him back into his car seat. I wonder if it's related...

7. Daniel has been held by many members of his massive family.

The grand size of our family was overwhelming even for Daniel who is fairly used to having someone in his face during all waking (and some sleeping) hours.

8. Daniel has toured a candy factory.

I really wasn't planning on adding this one to the list, but Matthew insisted that it was a significant moment in his life. More specifically, it was a fairly life-changing experience for the three kids who can actually eat candy. Daniel just came along for the ride and stared at a rotating fan for the majority of the tour. The tour took place at Hammond's Candy Factory in downtown Denver, a facility that has been making gourmet candy for nearly 100 years. They offer free daily tours that are both informative and fun. My kids were completely captivated watching the workers make candy canes, chocolate, ribbon candy, and taffy using old-fashioned equipment that dates back to the factory's origins at the beginning of the 20th century. I was so impressed that each piece of candy is made almost completely by hand, start to finish.

The best part of the tour, according to the kids anyway, were all the free samples they got to take home and enjoy. It was a fun outing for the whole family! Paul is just bummed that he had to be at work while we were consuming all this sugar. We picked out a couple pieces and dropped them off for him right afterwards so he didn't completely miss out!

Daniel has been such a blessing to our family! All the stress and worry surrounding my pregnancy with him has resulted in the sweetest, most dear little boy that we cannot imagine our lives without. He is certainly loved and will remain loved his whole life!