Monday, March 23, 2015

In Case You Wondered: I Am Not Pregnant.

I felt that needed to be said, because I have not posted anything on the blog since E.J.'s 8-month letter, which went up almost three weeks ago. Three weeks of radio silence!

When I was newly pregnant with E.J., my first-trimester nausea and fatigue made for some quiet days around here on this ol' blog. When I announced my pregnancy, quite a few people responded with something along the lines of: "I knew it! Your blog was so quiet, I knew something was going on! I figured you must be pregnant!"

So, let the record show: I AM NOT PREGNANT. Sorry to disappoint! My excuse is far less exciting. I've just been busy.

We've had a super busy March. I posted E.J.'s last letter while also working like crazy on a mock trial that occupied all my free time (and then some) for the better part of two weeks. As soon as that was over, I had a ton of work to do to prep for Ellie's birthday party, which was held last Sunday, March 15. That was also Eric's spring break, so we spent some time in St. Petersburg and then went to Disney World for a few days and then just kind of hung out at home. So things have been a bit hectic. This week we're preparing for my dad's visit over the weekend, as well as Ellie's third birthday (WHAT). So I wish I could say my posts will pick back up, but it may still be a bit.

When I do come back, though, I will be back with a vengeance! That seems to be my modus operandi these days, doesn't it? Radio silence for a while as we do a billion things, then relentless posting as I try to catch up. It's tough to stay on top of my blogging anymore. Two kids equals less free time, and the free time I do have is used for household chores, other more pressing projects, and sometimes, just sitting. The blog does tend to get pushed to the backburner.

I have considered hanging up my blogging hat, but I do really like having this record of our lives so I'm going to keep trying to keep up with it until it really becomes too much of an unnecessary hassle. So don't give up on me! I like having all of our activities recorded for posterity - it just may not be done in quite as timely a manner as it was in the pre-kid days.

So, when I get over this hump of craziness, I will have lots to share. Here's a little sneak preview to whet your appetite:

Ellie and I had a mother-daughter "Girls' Night Out" at Chick-Fil-A!

We went to the zoo - SHOCKING.

We went to "A Day Out With Thomas," which both kids loved! (Can't you tell by their faces in this photo?)

We had some fun with old ballet costumes (that once belonged to my sister and me) during our St. Pete visit

We figured out a new strategy to get E.J. to eat. It's not my favorite thing, because...well, look at him. I'll fill you in soon!

We had a great Doc McStuffins-themed birthday party for Ellie!

E.J. was an adorable wee Irish lad on his first St. Patrick's Day.


Ellie was also reunited with an old friend this weekend!

See? Lots of fun things! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Dear E.J. - Eight Months

My dear E.J.,

Today you are eight months old! Your daddy and I selected this month's picture because in it you look so much like a little boy—not the teeny baby you have always been. Of course, I recognize that in a few months' time, I will look back at this picture and marvel at what a baby you were, and in a few years I will hardly remember when you were this small. Such is life. But as of today, I think you are very grown up!

The major theme of my letter last month was your ever-increasing mobility, and you have not slowed down in the slightest since then. Your "creeping" is now a very rapid army crawl, which quickly propels you the entire length of the house. We bought a couple of baby gates and instituted "baby jail" (because we can only chase after you to keep you out of the dog bowl so many times), and Ellie has learned to keep her bedroom door shut if she doesn't want you to crawl on in there and help yourself to her toys. (All this has led to many a forlorn look on your little face as you realize you are unable to reach your desired target!) The bars underneath our coffee table that were once a roadblock to you are now nothing but a speed bump, and you quickly go up and over and on your merry way. Basically, you are unstoppable. Last night, you also crawled a short distance on your hands and knees, up off your belly, so you may still be perfecting your craft. I have wondered if you would, considering there's not much need—you get where you are going (and fast) just fine army-style! We'll just have to wait and see!

In addition to improving on your forward motion, you have mastered sitting up at last. I no longer have to worry so much about you toppling over from a sitting position, as you are both more steady while seated and have figured out how to ease yourself down to your crawling position rather than just lurching abruptly in the direction you want to go. You have also figured out how to get yourself up to sitting and do so with ease. I love to see you just sitting there playing with your toys! You're just so cute.

This month you also started pulling yourself up to standing, both on stationary objects and, preferably, while holding our hands. You figured that out and that has been pretty much all you've wanted to do all month long. Often I'll be trying to do something while you play on the floor, only to have you start fussing at my feet until I sit down with you and extend my hands so you can pull yourself up, all while sporting your most pleased little smile and looking around to make sure anyone else who may be in the room is sufficiently impressed by you. Of course, the problems we formerly had with your sitting technique have now transferred to standing: all you want to do once you get up is let go and reach for things, but you are far too unsteady for any of that so whoever is on "baby duty" at the moment has to be pretty vigilant to keep you from hitting the floor with a "thud" that I have become all too familiar with. You really have very little regard for your own life.

All this activity sure can be exhausting for your mama, but luckily, you are finally sleeping through the night! After last month's failed sleep training experiment, I did some more research and reading and this month we tried again, armed with a more familiar method and renewed determination. The first night was rough, but the second night was already much, much better, and by the third night, you had it down. You now sleep from roughly 7:00 p.m. until somewhere between 5:00-7:00 a.m. straight. It is fabulous. Your wake-up time still fluctuates a bit and is often far earlier than we would like (5:00 a.m. is just rude), but we'll get that figured out, too. Doing this parenting thing for the second time has given me the wisdom that no phase is forever, and I'm sure before we know it, I'll have trouble rousing your teenage self by noon.

We also bid farewell to your baby swing and started working on getting you to nap in your crib this month, but that has brought more mixed results. Morning naps are generally great (with the exception of a rough couple of days this weekend), but afternoon naps are spotty at best. So that's still a work in progress, but I know we will get there. In the meantime, your daddy and I are just trying to adjust to a severe decrease in kid-free-time in the afternoons!

Speaking of daddy, your verbal skills have continued to progress this month. You still do a lot of screeching but have started making some more consonant sounds, including a few rounds of "dada" a couple weeks ago. You made his day!

I suppose I could be bitter that "dada" came before "mama" (Ellie did that to me too, for the record), but I can't be mad because you make it very clear how much you like me in other ways. In particular, the cuddles! So many times when I pick you up, you wrap your little arms around me in a tiny baby hug and nestle your head onto my shoulder, or bury your face into my neck. You are content to just be held and cuddled like that for some time, and if you are upset, it is the quickest way to calm you. I cherish those snuggly moments so, so much.

In other news, I think we have made some progress with solid food this month. You like to gnaw on some finger foods, though the only one you seem to actually ingest is wheat toast. You will at least try others, though, so I suppose that's something. You are still refusing to open your mouth for a spoonful of pureed food, though if we are able to trick you into allowing it in, you do actually swallow it and almost never make faces or give a full-body shudder anymore. So, success? I do have to be pretty tricky to get that spoon in your mouth, though, and I have tried a number of strategies, including feeding contraptions like a silicon feeder and squeezable spoon. The most successful technique has been to swoop in and stuff some food in your mouth when you open up for another purpose—usually, to gnaw on your water cup. I do worry a little that you probably think water actually tastes like pureed carrots, but we'll deal with that later.

I did try another tactic to get you to open your mouth one evening this month, and that turned into one of my most favorite E.J. moments of all time. You had eyes on Achilles, and were just staring at him staring back at you (waiting for you to inevitably throw some food to the floor, of course). I thought perhaps I could use the dog to my advantage so I asked him to speak. He let out a little yap and sure enough, you broke into a big grin. Achilles kept going and your grin turned to giggles, which very quickly escalated to utter hysterics. I have never seen a baby laugh like that and to my great delight, I captured the whole thing on video. Since that night I have watched it over and over and over again, and I expect to do so for the rest of my days, because I cannot get enough of that uproarious baby laugh. It just makes me feel happiness down to my very core.

Of course, that is not rare with you. E.J., every single day I am struck by just how lucky I am to have you as my son. You are sweet and joyful and adventurous and persistent and curious and perfect. You are such a special, wonderful little boy and I could not possibly love you more. I am just so, so thankful for you.

I love you so much, little man.

All my love,

* * * * *

Dear E.J.,

Happy eight months, little buddy!

At this age, you are still adorably miniature, but have been moving at a feverish pace that belies your age. Except for when you are sleeping, eating or getting ready to sleep, you are in motion. This month, you mastered pulling yourself to a stand and getting from your belly to sitting up and back down without any sort of learning curve. The day after I noticed you could do it, you seemed to have it down. As for your crawling, there is actually a funny story. You see, I kind of loved Ellie's scoot-crawl thing and always hoped you would follow the well-worn path of hands and knees when the time came. I was sure that I didn't want you to be an army crawler. I don't think I had any reason in particular other than I thought it looked funny or maybe even lazy. But in reality, it's pretty cute. You are just so intent on getting places that you have no patience for testing other ways to do it or time to worry about the way it looks. You are all about results and have obviously settled on the quickest way to get moving. It actually looks like you are swimming without the water, reaching one arm at a time with a synchronized leg kick. Given this turn of events, I should probably also mention that I hope you never out-drive me.

All of this movement even caused me to briefly reconsider my strongest impression of you. However, E.J., you are still just the sweetest. You have smiles for everything, laugh almost daily (and even hysterically at the dog) and legitimately cuddle your mama before and after naps. I really hope you stay as good-natured as you seem. I can't imagine you having as spirited of a go at toddler/preschooler-hood as your big sister or ever being a regular, cynical adult. Whatever happens, I am trying to remember to enjoy each day with baby you as much as I can.

Speaking of enjoying these days, you started saying "DA DA" this month! As if you weren't already such an angel, these new words in your very own voice bring the biggest smile to my face. It is so awesome. Don't ever let me say you never did anything for me.

Before I get to my final thought, I feel like I would be remiss to not mention your newfound night sleeping, post-bath fluffy hair, solid food eating/refusing and the funny faces that accompany it or the distinctive and truly awful smell you manage to produce about once each day. Good times.

In writing this letter, it occurred to me how crazy it is to mark so many of the things new parents mark. Just about everything that has been highlighted in these month-to-month letters is something you will take entirely for granted by the time you read them. And yet, each of these eating, sleeping, vocalizing and movement milestones genuinely seems to require the kind of formal acknowledgement ordinarily reserved for the kinds of things we may have thought you would never accomplish. Do I think you are going to read this someday and be impressed that you crawled at the age you did or that you have been referring to me by name as long as you have? Nope, but it doesn't persuade me to leave everything out. Maybe because it wouldn't leave much else to write or maybe it's not even crazy at all. At eight months old, all of these things and so many more are literally happening for the first time in your life. Firsts are typically the moments that can be the most precious as you get older. So even if you don't appreciate the milestones for their own sake, I mark them to let you know how much they mean to me as first-time experiences with my very own son.

All my love,

Sunday, March 1, 2015

My Brown-Eyed Boy

He has the sweetest little face.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Mobile Baby is an Exhausting Baby

E.J. is nearly eight months old now, and has been purposefully on the move since he was a wee 5.5 months old. Let it be known that this was far earlier than I wanted him to be mobile; my days of being able to set him down in one place and have him stay there for at least a few moments were far too short.

It all started on December 21, when we saw our first purposeful forward movement, in pursuit of a ball.

VIDEO: And he's off!
***Click here to watch on YouTube***

So, he was on the move a little before Christmas, but I'd say he kicked things into high gear around the time of our January Disney trip, when we would give him some time to stretch out on the floor of our hotel living room. We'd set him down with a few toys and look away for a moment, only to look back and find him trapped under the coffee table or halfway across the floor in pursuit of whatever toys Ellie didn't want him to have.

By mid-to-late January, and about 6.5 months old, E.J. was comfortably making his way around the living room, leaving the nice, soft, padded foam mat we set up for him in his dust while he went off in search of his favorite thing to gnaw on: shoes.

VIDEO: E.J. creeping to Ellie's shoes
***Click here to watch on YouTube***

As you can see in the above video, his technique was still more "creeping" than crawling: pulling his body weight with his arms moving at the same time.

E.J. really perfected this method and soon was traveling around the house.

I don't think we're in the living room anymore, Toto.

His favorite destinations? Ellie's room, for some new and different toy experiences...

Well this looks fun.

Can you find the baby in this toy explosion?

...the dog bed...

Achilles is all, "Come get your puppy, woman."

...and of course, the classic baby favorite: the dog food dish.

Because kibble is totally delicious, but we're still boycotting banana.

For a while, he also had some trouble with getting himself stuck on the metal bars at the bottom of our coffee table:

How do you like my babyproofing technique of wrapping the bars with scarves? It looks just lovely, doesn't it?

But he quickly learned how to go up and over and now basically just treats them like a speed bump.

VIDEO: E.J. goes over the coffee table bars
***Click here to watch on YouTube***

All of this exploration has led to the creation and expansion of varying levels of "baby jail," including the Pack 'N Play in our living room for those times when I just have to leave E.J. unattended momentarily, and baby gates at the kitchen entrance (to eliminate the dog bowl problem) and front door (to keep him off the porch when we want to have the door open).

Ellie is taunting him with tales of life on the outside


In the last month, E.J. has continued to hone his craft and adapt his technique. His movements are less "creeping" now and far more "army crawl," in which he remains on his belly but moves his arms one-at-a-time and also uses his legs to help propel himself forward. He really gets some speed this way!

VIDEO: E.J.'s army crawl
***Click here to watch on YouTube***

I do wonder if this will be his final crawling technique. He certainly can get up on all fours:

He thinks he's fancy.

But I'm not sure what the incentive is to do an off-belly crawl when he is hardly inhibited by his army-style method. As you may recall, Ellie was quite an unconventional crawler (one-legged scoot crawl!), so maybe my kids just like to do things their own way.

Regardless of method, E.J.'s insistence on go-go-going, persistence and speed make him one exhausting baby to keep an eye on. And it's not only limited to our time at home, either! He keeps me on my toes when we're out and about, too, because if he sees an opportunity to move, he is going to grab it.

Here is E.J. heading for the exit during storytime

Crawling clear out of his pants at the museum

Making a getaway while Ellie shows off her latest craft

Ellie did not crawl this early. I know this for a fact, because we moved out of our teeny tiny Hoboken apartment when Ellie was just over eight months old, and I remember being relieved that we never had to figure out how to babyproof that crowded little home. My first memories of her really crawling are in the empty apartment after all our stuff had been cleared out by the movers. Up until the age of eight months, she was content to just sit on her soft foam mat (that's what it's meant for, E.J.) and play with her toys. I had hoped E.J. would be similar, because two mobile children is just a lot of mobile children, but alas, he had other plans. I'm mostly just chalking it up to the "every kid is different" line of thinking, but sometimes I wonder about other explanations: Boy v. Girl? Second Child (trying to keep up) v. Only Child (nowhere else to go)? It doesn't really matter, of course. All that matters is that he's on the move and helping me to increase my calories burned each day because PHEW, it's exhausting!

Heaven help me when the walking starts...

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

February Catch-Up

I can't believe we're almost done with February already! Time is flying, my friends. E.J. is almost eight months old and Ellie will turn three years old in just over a month. Eric only has about three months left of this school year. It will be summer before we know it!

But anyway, let's catch up on what else has been happening in February!

We had some really rainy days, which made for one stir-crazy mama and lots of puddles to jump in.


Enjoying a non-rainy evening by the river

I love this picture of happy Ellie!

My mom came to visit, which was very helpful because I was sick with a bit of a cold. We didn't do much, aside from a little playground run just to get out of the house (this was after the aforementioned rainy days and I was itching for some fresh air).

Ellie sliding with Grammy

He's turning into such a little BOY! What happened to my BABY?

I found a ring sling that E.J. just had to have, and used some Christmas money to make it ours:

It suits him.

Ellie cooked up some fine banana swirl in her kitchen.

What a chef!

E.J. went upward, learning to both sit himself up...

Big boy!

...and pull himself to standing.

He'll just help himself to a toy, thanks.

His ever-increasing mobility also led to the expansion of "baby jail."

He's not amused.

E.J. also rocked some sleep training, and is now sleeping through the night and napping in his crib!

Look at that sleeping, would you!!!

Ellie discovered Siri on my iPhone and decided that we should regularly invite her to play with us.

Siri is kind of a buzzkill.

Achilles continued to reluctantly tolerate the children.

One of them is far more excited about their close proximity than the other.

Eric ran a half marathon out at the beach with his Marathon High kids.

We tried out a new storytime at the Mandarin library, where Ellie particularly enjoyed the craft.

She made a bear, and was quite pleased with herself.

Speaking of Ellie and storytime, she also went ahead and grew up and left me in the dust. One day at storytime she asked me, "Mama, can I go sit with my friends?" and I said, "Sure, Ellie." She very seriously looked at me and said, "Bye, Mama," then went and sat with the other kids. And my heart shattered into a million pieces.

How can I be so proud and so sad all at once?

Speaking of Ellie growing up, I registered her for preschool, to start in the fall. On the way home we stopped at the playground and she up and climbed this "rock wall" all by herself. ENOUGH GROWING UP ALREADY.

Then she came home and wrote her college essays.

E.J. continued to prefer eating inanimate objects to actual food.

I call this "expressive eating."

We did, however, find a food that he will willingly put in his mouth: wheat toast!


Princess Anna did a little babywearing at Publix.

What a sweet little mommy princess.

Speaking of Anna, I got crafty and painted up some Anna and Elsa t-shirts for Ellie.

This way, she can still be in Frozen costume even when I make her take her Anna dress off.
Phew! That was close. She almost had to be a non-costumed child for a moment there.

Earlier this week we had a pocket of lovely weather (following up a few days of frigid-for-Florida temps), and we celebrated by playing in our backyard for the first time in 2015.

"It's fun to play baseball!"

We also had some fun with a box on our front porch.

Coloring her "rocketship"

"We're going to get a moon rock!"

On one particularly beautiful evening earlier this month, we had a great time at the playground. Ellie once again broke my heart by excitedly going over to "play with [her] friends"—she ran over to a group of older kids playing with a ball and started calling out, "Throw it over here! Throw it to me!" When they didn't, I absolutely died inside. But never fear! Her daddy found an abandoned ball and they had their own fun.

Nope. I don't have the stomach for this sort of thing.

Eric is a great dad!

That evening also included a sweet baby...

I can't.

...and a beautiful sunset.

February in Florida!

Not a bad little February, eh? There are still a few days left, which will likely also bring more storytime fun, another visit from my mom and a quick visit with my aunt and uncle, and some more jury work for me. A great way to end the month!