Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dear Ellie - Two Months

My dear Ellie,

Today you are two months old already. It feels like this last month passed us by in an instant.

You have changed so much in the past month. It is really incredible to watch. As always, I'm torn between being so excited to see what great change will come next for you and wanting to freeze time so you will stay just as you are forever and ever. Each day I am all too aware that it is a day that we will never get back, that you will never be this small again, that each day you wake up a little bit older and wiser and you will never again be the little girl you were just the day before. It seems there is nothing like motherhood to teach you just how precious time really is. These moments are fleeting and I am doing my very best to cherish each one.

Each morning you wake up around 6:00 a.m. and I get you out of your crib and bring you back to bed with me, where I feed you and then you usually fall asleep for a couple more hours. I try to use that time to go back to sleep myself, but there have been many mornings when I have had to will myself to stop staring at you and close my eyes. I just lay there and watch you, trying to memorize every detail of your pretty face, your tiny hands, your round little belly, your precious little toes. I just can't help myself. I am an overtired new mother not because you keep me up at night, but because of my own inability to stop admiring the perfect curves of your chubby little cheeks long enough to get some sleep.

Oh, but Ellie, you are such a good sleeper! You go to bed between 10:00 and 11:00 every night and sleep until 6:00 or 6:30 a.m., then will usually go back to sleep until 9:00. Bless you, child, because I know you're making it easy on us here. You often fight off your naps during the day (unless you are bouncing on the exercise ball or cuddled up against me), but I can handle anything during the day as long as I get my rest at night. Thank you for that, baby.

At the end of last month, you were just learning to hold your head up. One day it seemed to click for you, and ever since then, you've been holding your head up like it's your job. I always marvel at how strong you are - such a big girl! I'm trying to help you keep working those muscles, but you hate tummy time and as soon as I lay you on your belly, you scream as if I am the meanest mommy there ever was and it breaks my heart into a million pieces. What is so bad about tummy time, baby? Laying on your belly is delightful. It was one of the things I missed most while I was pregnant with you! But, I don't understand why you would want to refuse a nap, either. Agree to disagree, I suppose.

You also smile all the time now, and it is the greatest, happiest, gummiest smile ever. I dare anyone who sees you smile not to smile back - it cannot be done. We haven't heard an audible laugh out of you yet, but heaven help us when it happens. I might melt into a puddle right then and there.

In just the past week, you have become so talkative. It was as if last Sunday you realized, oh hey, I can make sounds with my mouth that do not involve screaming, and then you never looked back. You "talk" to us all the time, especially in the mornings as you lay on your changing table. Your voice is the most beautiful sound I have ever heard. I could do nothing but listen to you talk all day every day and be completely happy. I just listen to you chatter on and imagine all the talks we'll have throughout your lifetime. This is the voice that will call me Mommy, that will say "I love you," that will ask me to play, that will say "goodnight" at bedtime after we sing our prayers together. This is the voice that will call to me when you have a bad dream and boast to me when you did something you are proud of. Of course, this is also the voice that will tell me you will NOT eat your peas because you hate peas, the voice that will defiantly tell me "no" when you don't want to listen. This is also the voice that will tell me you hate me someday when I won't let you wear that skirt that's too short or stay out past curfew. But it is also the voice that will hopefully tell me all your hopes and dreams, and then one day, call to tell me how you achieved them. How cool that all this is starting right now, with those little coos on your changing table!

Another new development for you this month is that your hair appears to be turning reddish. I thought it looked that way in pictures at first, but when a woman stopped me on the street to comment on your red hair, I knew I wasn't just imagining it. There is red hair on both sides of your family, so this is not completely shocking. I love this new development and I can't wait to see what you will really end up looking like. I will also say that the other day, after being outside in the humidity, the front strands of your hair seemed to have a little curl to them. Oh baby, you might have inherited your mama's hair, and if that is true, I apologize for the lifetime of flat irons and frizz control serum you have ahead of you. My advice: embrace the curl, don't fight it. It took me far too long to learn that lesson. Learn from my mistakes and save yourself from photos of a middle- and high-school-aged you with really big, frizzy hair. Heed this advice and trust me, you will thank me later.

This month has been significant for me because it is the first month that has almost entirely been just you and me during the weekdays. Your Grammy was here at the start of the month, but since then, you and I have been finding our rhythm as we are home alone together during the day. You are much more alert now, awake much more of the time (see above re: fighting naps), and I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to entertain you. We walk, we talk, we read books, we sing, we dance, we bounce, we swing, we play on your play mat (which you just discovered you love - you just lay there and laugh and coo at those toys above you!). I basically spend my days acting like a total fool, all in an effort to make you smile. There are days that I am completely exhausted by the time your daddy gets home from work, and I feel triumphant for having successfully made it through another day. However, with each day that passes I feel like we're getting to know each other better as we create our own little routine. I wouldn't trade this time with you for anything. As I said, I cherish every moment because I know this time is fleeting. I'm so happy to be here with you - there's nowhere else in the world I would rather be.

I'm so proud to be your mommy, baby girl. Happy Two Months.

All my love,

* * * * *

Dear Ellie,

Has it really been two months? It is crazy to think that you have literally doubled in age since the last letter. It's also crazy to think about how much more of a real person you seem than you did back then. These days, you are working hard on making sounds (which are some of the cutest I have ever heard and probably my favorite things in the whole world) and starting to take a real interest in your surroundings. You like to lock your eyes on different people or objects and you always have an opinion, whether it is an eyebrow raise or furrow, a smile, a laugh or some face I can't wait to ask you about. As for how much you have grown physically, Mommy put it well when she said she no longer finds herself deciding which of us you look more like (me), because she can't see you as anything other than your own person.

As a close second to all your noises, the most exciting thing this month has been your beautiful smile. You are doing it a lot, and it is just the sweetest thing. I want to meet the person that can watch it happen and still worry about the stresses of everyday life. Putting aside the sheer heartbreaking cuteness, one of the best things about your smiles is their confirmation that you recognize Mommy and me. I can't say for sure that it means you appreciate all the things we are doing for you, but, at this point, it is more than good enough to know that you know we are the ones doing them (even if you don't yet know what these things are or that you are the one to whom they are being done).

If I am being perfectly honest, I have to admit that this month hasn't been entirely puppies and rainbows. You have actually been a fair bit of work and you seem to be more eager to let us know when you are anything less than fully satisfied. I realize that you are still a little baby and don't have a lot of options when it comes to communicating your feelings, but I am only trying to record a fact. I also realize I may be a little unfair because your dissatisfaction seems to be especially common in the evenings, just before I usually get home from work. Maybe you can sense how much I miss you during the day and are just trying to let me know that it is okay to make up for lost time. Either way, you have made it very clear that after 7:00 p.m., you will not settle for anything less than the moving arms of your Mommy or me.

Even though it can be challenging to forgo evening downtime and to stay patient while you so unequivocally demand our attention, please believe me when I tell you that the extra effort is more than worth it. The good times with you are so indescribable that they do not simply outnumber the challenging ones, but they completely overwhelm them. I am amazed at how easily I am able to forget how sore my back is from trying to put you to sleep all day the moment you smile at me before bed. You are a very special lady and I love you so much.

Happy two-month birthday, sweetheart! Keep up the good work.

I think you and your mommy are the best.

All my love,

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day, my friends! I hope you are enjoying your day while remembering the sacrifice so many men and women have made (and continue to make) for our country. I so greatly admire these people and their families who go through so much for the sake of our nation. As always, I'm thinking of one of my favorite veterans, my grandfather:

George Baird, USMC Guadalcanal

As always, NYC is a great place to be over Memorial Day, what with all the Fleet Week festivities. Ellie got her first taste of Fleet Week fun on Wednesday, when we caught a little bit of the Parade of Ships on the Hudson River and several military plane flyovers. Maybe next year I'll take her into the city and teach her how to check out all the sailors roaming around town, but for now we'll just take it one thing at a time.

It was a hazy day so everything is gray, but there is a big ship passing by the Empire State Building

Ellie at the Parade of Ships

One of the flyovers...

...which left a trail of blue-looking smoke in its wake

Thanks to all members of our military for all you do for us!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

My Award-Winning Baby

This past Sunday, our little family took part in a Hoboken tradition: the 11th Annual Baby Parade. I remember hearing about this parade last year and thinking, "there are seriously so many babies in Hoboken that they actually parade them down the street?" Why, yes. Yes, there are. Hoboken is full of young families, and this event on Sunday brought over 100 of these families out to parade along the water with their tots in tow.

The parade originally began in the early 1900s as a way for the health department to extend services to newly-arrived immigrant families and families with newborn babies. At that time, the babies didn't dress up in elaborate costumes like they do today, but instead wore their Sunday best. There is even a trophy in the Hoboken Historical Museum for "Best Baby," awarded at the parade in 1914. The modern version of the parade is in its 11th year, and now parents go all out. The parade is still sponsored by local doctors and daycare centers, which sort of keeps with its original intent.

Of course, being exceptionally proud new parents ourselves, we had to participate. As you see on the flyer above, they were awarding trophies in the following categories: Best Dressed Child, Most Creative Carriage and Best Dressed Family. As you've seen through our regular torture of Achilles with costumes and outfits, we like to dress helpless things up in adorable outfits, so Ellie was doomed from the start. But, as I mentioned, we are new parents and thus didn't have a whole lot of time to plan. We knew we wouldn't win Best Carriage, because we just couldn't find the time to devote to an elaborate stroller design and we knew other parents would go all out. We also figured Best Dressed Child was off the table, as there would be tons of children in fancy costumes, and we just don't have any fancy costumes for Ellie yet (operative word being YET!). But, we thought we could put her in one of her prettier dresses, which happened to be an adorable little sailor dress. And hey, doesn't Achilles also have a red, white and blue outfit? (Yes.) And don't Eric and I also have red, white and blue we could wear? And just like that, we figured we would give the Best Dressed Family award a shot with a patriotic ensemble. 

Our patriotic family

Ellie all ready for the parade, and looking quite fetching if I do say so myself!

Registration for the parade started at noon in Sinatra Park (just outside our apartment building), with the actual parading set to begin at 1:00 p.m. We made it down there around 12:30, which left us plenty of time to register, have a family photo taken, and check out all the other decked out little ones.

The baby girl in this stroller was dressed as a chef, with her stroller decked out in spaghetti and meatballs!

A safari-themed stroller, complete with cardboard cutout animals they carried alongside it!

Police car stroller, complete with working lights on top

Hoboken EMS

Eric and me with our "kids" before the parade began!

Just after 1:00, they had us all get into a line and we started marching south along the waterfront to Pier A Park. Ellie and I walk this path almost every day, so she totally knew the way. She was a parade-marching natural. (Actually, she slept the whole way, but I could tell she knew just what she was doing.)

The start of the parade

Eric and Achilles marching along the water

Way to go, Ellie! Marching in her first parade!

Marching through Pier A Park

We suspect Ellie was the youngest participant in the parade, although not by much - as we marched, we met another family with a little baby who we found out was also born on March 29th! However, he was born in the morning, and Ellie was born in the afternoon. So to our knowledge, she was the youngest there! 

When we had done the full loop of Pier A Park, they had us all stand off to the side as the judges came around to review everyone's efforts. Ellie woke up from her stroller nap just in time to turn on the charm for the judges. When two different judges asked for our number, we started to get hopeful - maybe we would actually win Best Dressed Family! We really figured that having the dog dressed up too would be the thing that put us over the edge into winner territory.

But, Ellie didn't even need the rest of us. We should have known! Instead of relying on the dog and the rest of the family's patriotism, Ellie won Best Dressed Child all on her own! We were so thrilled when they called us up to collect our trophy and pose for photos. Way to go, Ellie! Such a little fashionista!

Ellie with her proud daddy and her trophy

She's trying not to let the recognition go to her head.

After all the trophies were handed out (there were four trophies awarded in each category), they had all the winners line up to pose for a group shot.

Big winners!
(Photo by Lauren Casselberry of the Jersey Journal, found here)

We were just so proud of Ellie! So young and already the winner of a shiny trophy! She's such an overachiever. Of course, her mom did win a "Cutest Baby" contest herself when she was a baby (my picture was in the newspaper and everything!), so I guess she's just a chip off the ol' block. Ha! But really, we were very, very proud parents.

We were on such a winner's high that we didn't want the afternoon to end, so we found a nice quiet bench in Pier A Park to give Ellie her celebratory lunch, then we walked north along the water and just tried to soak up the gorgeous weather. It was such a beautiful day!

Ellie and Daddy hanging out in the shade

Left: Post-lunch cuddles with Mommy;  Right: Views of the city from "Hoboken Beach"

And that was our day at the Hoboken Baby Parade! We're so proud of our little award-winning baby, and we'll definitely be back next year to see if she can defend her title. Way to go, baby girl!

My pretty girl in her "Best Dressed" outfit!

Although I can't help but wonder if Achilles is upset that she's stealing his thunder...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Lucy Jane

Today is a very sad day for my family - we're saying good-bye to our dear, sweet dog, Lucy. She has lived a long life and we know it's time, but that never makes it any easier.

Lucy came into our lives during the summer of 1997. My parents had recently divorced and Lucy was a welcome and positive addition to our little family. We picked her out of a litter of pups at Friends of Strays in St. Petersburg, FL. My dad had stopped off there one morning to check out the dogs, and after seeing Lucy he came dashing home to wake my sister and me so we could go see her and decide if we wanted to adopt her. If memory serves, she and her brothers and sisters had been found in a dumpster. Can you imagine? How could someone do that to a litter of sweet pups? Although selfishly, I'm glad they did, or Lucy would never have become a part of our family. And when we looked at all those puppies, sure enough, the little brown one just captured our hearts. We brought her home, slapped a bright pink collar on her and named her Lucy. Or Lucy Jane, affectionately. Or Lucinda Vivian, if we were feeling formal and fancy. Lucy wore many hats.

New puppy Lucy climbing on my back, with my sister's encouragement! (1997)

I know on such a sad occasion it's easy to see all memories of the dear old dog with rose-colored glasses, but let's be honest here - as a pup, Lucy was a bit of a hellion. Cute as a button, sure, but also...challenging. We should have known when we brought her home and the first thing she did was lunge at our feet and nip our toes that we were in for a bit of a wild ride. Of course, her feet were also the size of saucers - way too big for her little puppy body. We knew she was a chocolate lab/pit bull mix, so we were in for a big dog, but those paws were the best indicator of what we really had in store for us. Sure enough, Lucy grew like a weed.

Already getting bigger!

Of course, a growing dog needs lots of nourishment and good nutrition. Lucy sought out this "nutrition" pretty much anywhere and everywhere. She would eat anything - pennies, plastic wrappers, even razors left on the edge of the bathtub. That dog must have an indestructible digestive system, let me tell you. Her favorite forbidden delicacy was my sister's retainer, which she devoured and then also went after the replacement - more than once. That's one pricey snack, dog. Another favorite was cloth hair scrunchies, which she would swallow whole, and...uh...let's just say, those don't digest. They come out in the same form in which they go in. Ewwwww. What is the appeal there? On a less gross note, Lucy also loved to eat ice cubes, and whenever you filled your glass with ice cubes from the dispenser on the refrigerator, Lucy would instantly be at your feet asking for one for herself. Another favorite treat was a raw egg cracked over her food - aaaah, now that's the good stuff.

Young Lucy, always on alert

And of course, growing dogs also need exercise. Lucy would stretch her ever-lengthening legs regularly by escaping out the front door whenever she got the chance. This would lead to an epic chase around the neighborhood - everyone that was home at the time would frantically dash after this flash of brown fur as she tore through neighbors' yards, screaming and hollering things like "Lucy, no! Stop! Sit! Come here!," all of which was about as effective as yelling such things at a rock might be. At least we all got our exercise.

Beautiful dog

Lucy also loved our swimming pool. It took a little convincing at first - we taught Lucy to get into the pool by putting a treat on a raft, encouraging her to climb onto the raft and float around. We would later regret this strategy as Lucy popped one inflatable raft after another, but hey, it got the dog swimming. And swim she did! She loved to be in the pool when we were, happily doggy-paddling around her family. Sometimes we would play "Pickle in the Middle" with her, throwing a ball back and forth from one end of the pool to the other as she swam back and forth to try to retrieve it. We would also run as fast as we could around the edge of the pool (the "mother" side of me now cringes at the thought) as Lucy chased us, and just as she was about to catch us we would jump into the water. She would often follow, but she always used the stairs. And not only did Lucy love the pool, but she really just loved water in general. You could aim the hose at her and she would run face-first right into the stream of water, chomping away, trying to catch as much of it as possible in her mouth. "Wet dog" just became a fact of life in our house.

Playing Pickle in the Middle with Lucy!

Through the years, Lucy made some friends. She got to know our neighbor, Dave, and was always happy to see him on the other side of the fence. She also got to hang out with Achilles a few times when we would bring him to visit, and when my sister and her cat Rodney moved in with my dad for a few years, Lucy was thrilled to have a feline playmate. The cat, however, was not so enthused and spent a lot of time on top of furniture.

Achilles and Lucy waiting to be let back into the house

Achilles and Lucy barking at my photographer on my wedding day, as he took photos of my wedding shoes!

A rare moment for Lucy and Rodney - they're so close to each other! Of course, Rodney is trapped in that room, because NO WAY is he going to try to walk around Lucy!

This was the more usual state of affairs - Lucy is ready to play, and the cat is up on the furniture.

And of course, Lucy loved her family. She would just look at us and wag her tail. When we came home from an outing, Lucy would always be laying there in the front window of the house, just watching and waiting for us to return. When we walked through the door, she would wag her tail so hard her whole body shook and pull up her lips, exposing her teeth in what could only be described as a big, happy dog smile. When my sister and I went to bed, Lucy would sleep in the hallway between our rooms, nose pressed against our bedroom doors, just waiting for us to re-emerge. And when she heard us stirring, we would hear the thump, thump, thump of her tail wagging against the floor. Lucy also loved resting her head on people - on their laps, on their chests, wherever she could. I sometimes think she was really a small dog trapped in a big dog's body. If it had been up to her, she definitely would have been a lap dog. If you sat on the floor with her, she was in total heaven.

Young Lucy and my sister

Young Lucy and my dad

Elderly Lucy and me, taken this past Thanksgiving

Lucy has been with our family through so many years and so many changes. When she first came into our lives, we were trying to figure out our new family identity in the wake of my parents' divorce, and she fit easily into our new life. At that time, I had just finished my first year of high school. Lucy watched both my sister and me grow up through our teenage years and all that entails - the laughter, the tears, the new friends, the boyfriends, the busy schedules. When I got my first car that had a muffler that sounded like a lawn mower, Lucy learned that sound and would run to the front door when she heard my car coming around the block. When I got my first job as a waitress at Steak 'N Shake, Lucy would ride with my dad to pick me up after my shifts and would start to lose her mind by the time they were halfway there. I'm not sure if that was just excitement to see me, or if she was hoping for a steakburger...probably both, if we're being honest. When we would get ready for homecoming dances and proms, we would have to be careful that Lucy didn't jump on our dresses. When we brought our boyfriends home, Lucy would shower them with way more kisses and attention than they ever wanted. Then I went away to college, but every time I came home, Lucy went wild as soon as she saw me. She never forgot. When I moved out of state, I saw Lucy even less frequently, but her reaction as always the same when I returned. Lucy was there as I got ready on my wedding day, barking ferociously at our photographer alongside Achilles. Lucy was there for my baby shower, patiently waiting outside for her turn to join the festivities. Lucy has been there through it all.

Our sweet dog

I wish I could be there to say good-bye to Lucy today, even though I know she doesn't know the difference. And I know that it is time for her - to be honest, she has been in bad enough shape for some time now that every time I visited, I made sure to say good-bye to her because I wasn't sure if she would still be around the next time I was in Florida. She has lived a very long, full dog life - 15 years of chomping on ice cubes, of mangled retainers, of shaking water all over us after a dip in the pool. Fifteen years of loving stares, happy tail wags and excited barks that put smiles on our faces and brought joy to our hearts. Fifteen years of being a part of our family, our Lucy Girl.

Lucy was loving and loyal till the end, and that's how I'll remember her. So long, sweet pup. I hope you find peace and know how very much you were loved.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Ellie FAQs

As of yesterday, Ellie is seven weeks old. Time is flying! I'm torn between being so excited to watch her grow and change, and wanting to stop time so she can stay this small forever.

Since Ellie arrived, I have been asked a few questions pretty regularly, so I thought I'd like to put together a little bit of a hodge-podge post to answer them. Plus, this will give a little more of an update as to how things are going with our little bundle of joy, aside from the visitor recaps and the like. So, let's answer those questions!

How did Ellie get her name?

As you know, we kept Ellie's name under wraps until she was born, so since then we've been asked many times how we chose her name. When I first got pregnant, I was convinced that if I had a girl she would be named Emily. However, when we found out the baby actually was going to be a girl, Emily just didn't feel right. Elizabeth was a name we had both always liked (it's actually my middle name too, although that's not why we chose it), but Eric was not really a fan of any of the usual nicknames for Elizabeth. However, when we threw out the option of Ellie as a nickname for Elizabeth, it sounded pretty nice. Once we knew she was a girl, we spent some time "trying it out" - writing her name down, imagining using it in conversation, etc. Ellie just felt right, so that was decided pretty quickly. We both just loved the nickname Ellie, but also loved Elizabeth as a more formal grown-up name in case she wants to be a Supreme Court Justice or CEO or something fancy someday. So, Elizabeth it was.

Every week during pregnancy, Eric would draw me a new picture on the white board in our kitchen to celebrate another week down. As you can see, we had Ellies's name chosen by week 21!

The middle name was much more difficult. We were stuck on Elizabeth Rose for a long time, which would have given her Eric's initials. We even considered Elizabeth Ryan, which would be both of our middle names put together. However, we also always had Alice in our minds, because Alice is Eric's mother's middle name. As you may recall, I have written quite a bit about my mother-in-law on this blog, both before and after her stroke in 2009 (you can read all I've written about her here). Long story short, she is an amazing woman and incredible mother - she's just the kind of person I really aspire to be like. And Alice is such a sweet name, isn't it? So, Ellie's middle name was decided - it would be Alice, after her grandmother.

And that's how Elizabeth Alice got her name!

How is Achilles adjusting to the baby?

We were definitely a bit nervous about introducing Achilles to Ellie. When we first got home from the hospital, we planned to leave Ellie in her Pack 'N Play bassinet for a while so Achilles could focus on saying hello to me before we did the Big Introduction. That was all well and good for about five minutes, before Ellie stirred and Achilles' ears shot straight up to attention. He then paced all around the bassinet, trying to figure out what was going on up there, until Eric finally picked him up to show him his new little sister.

You can't fool me, there's a tiny person up there!

Trying another angle

The first look

Since then, Achilles has been pretty much indifferent. He mostly steers clear of Ellie, with two exceptions: when I'm on the couch with her, he will sometimes try to come and cuddle with me; and sometimes when she cries he runs to her. I'm not sure why he's running to her, whether it's to try to shut her up or to comfort her, but he just does it sometimes. Of course, we always intercede before he gets to her, which is why we don't know his motives. And sometimes when she cries, he just hides under the bed.

Is that a look of concern? It's hard to say for sure.

Yesterday he did show his first bit of interest in cuddling with Ellie, which was sweet, although we're still keeping them pretty separate for the time being. Someday, little pup!

Patiently waiting for his turn to play with the baby

How is the "nursery" working out?

Our little mini nursery in the corner of the bedroom is working out perfectly so far. Ellie has slept in her crib since the first night we brought her home, but she's still just a few steps away from me. The glider has been great for middle-of-the-night feedings (although there are very few of those anymore, bless that child!), and the little dresser/changing table has been working out quite nicely. Of course, maybe in a few months I'll wish we had a separate room for Ellie so Eric and I can have sole control of the bedroom once again, but for now it has been perfect.

Sleeping in her crib on her first night home from the hospital

How is Ellie sleeping?

Splendidly! (Knock on wood, because I'm sure now that I have actually put that in writing, I just jinxed it and doomed myself to a demon child at night from here on out.) Pretty early on she started sleeping five hours straight at night, and now she's holding steady at six (although there have even been a couple of seven hour nights, too!). Generally, she'll fall asleep as I'm feeding her for the last time at night, and then will sleep for six hours, then will wake up to eat again and will go back to sleep for another two or three hours. It is fabulous. I may never have another child just because I doubt I will ever get it this good again. I just pray, pray, pray this keeps up!

My sleepy angel

During the day it can be a little more of a struggle to get her to nap, although I feel like I've really been getting to know her better and am figuring out what methods I can try to help her fall asleep when she's fighting it. They don't always work, but something usually will do the trick. Her favorite strategy is almost always being bounced on the exercise ball. She also likes her Snugabunny swing. If all else fails, I can always just take her for a walk - she loves her stroller and if you walk briskly over the brick sidewalks along the water, it at the very least calms her down if it doesn't knock her out completely. I guess that's the city dweller's version of putting her in the car and driving around the block? Hey, whatever works.

My mom demonstrating the power of the exercise ball

Asleep in the stroller

What else do you do with Ellie all day? Do you like being home with her, or do you miss working?

Miss working?! Oh, how I laugh! No, I don't miss working, although I do kind of miss going into the city each day and having some adult interaction. But as Ellie gets a little older I'm planning to hit up some moms groups and maybe some Mommy and Me type exercise classes to get out a bit more. That will hopefully come soon. But I do very much enjoy being home with my baby. Sure, it can be challenging sometimes, and very monotonous. But I love and appreciate that I'm able to be here with her each day. We've got a good thing going.

As for what we do, Ellie and I try to go for a nice long walk each day (see the previous section about her love of the stroller and brick sidewalks!) - usually through the parks along the waterfront, and/or to the mall or Target. She'll also spend some time playing on her play mat, swinging in the swing, and of course, bouncing on that exercise ball (seriously, that exercise ball was the best baby purchase ever). She also loves to be on her changing pad, so whenever it's time for a diaper change, we usually spend a little extra time in there, just talking to each other and singing songs. I sing "You Are My Sunshine"to her a lot, but aside from that, for some reason most of the kids' songs I can think of harken back to my Bible School days: "Jesus Loves Me" (that's her favorite), "This Little Light of Mine," "Father Abraham," etc. So although she isn't going to church yet, she's definitely getting her "Jesus loves you" lessons in!

Playing on her play mat

Having a grand old time in her swing!

And you know, sometimes we just sit around looking adorable.

How are you doing? How is your recovery?

I had my final postpartum checkup this week and my doctor says I'm recovering nicely. My scar is looking good and things are all getting back to normal. We also had a good chat about HELLP syndrome and what that could mean for future pregnancies, so I'm feeling very informed on that front.

As for how I feel physically? I'm feeling pretty good. Sometimes if I overdo it with the physical activity I'll feel some pains in my belly, or if my pants are rubbing too much my incision may hurt a bit, but for the most part, I feel back to normal. My belly is still a sad state of affairs, though. Oh, the stretch mark carnage! That will take time to improve, I know - no rush over here. I have other things to worry about for the time being!

How has motherhood compared to your expectations?

In some ways, it has been about as challenging as I expected. I feel like my extended recovery meant it took a little longer for me to start to really get to know Ellie. Here we are, seven weeks later, and of course I don't have all the answers, but I'm just now starting to feel like I know her well enough to figure out what she needs and provide it for her...most of the time, at least! Of course, whenever I start to feel too cocky she'll do something to keep me on my toes, but I'm feeling much more relaxed and confident in my mothering skills now than I was just a few weeks ago.

And really, in some ways, it has been easier than I expected, but I know that's really just the luck of the draw. I happened to be blessed with a baby who eats well (no breastfeeding problems, hooray), sleeps well, and is generally very happy. Her smiles just kill me and I'm so happy that they come about as frequently as they do. She is such a good baby!

Smiling at me in the stroller

What is your least favorite part of parenting so far? What is your favorite?

My least favorite is the unpredictability. I'm just never sure how to plan my day, because so much of my productivity depends both on Ellie's mood and nap schedule. And even if she does follow a roughly predictable nap schedule, I'm never sure how long each nap will last. Of course, ultimately this makes me more productive because as soon as she falls asleep I run around like a crazy person trying to get as much done as quickly as possible, but I'm not really much of a "go with the flow" kind of girl - I'm much more of a planner. So that has been an adjustment for me.

My favorite part is hard to pin down, but I'd have to say that at this point, it's that smile. When I go to pick that baby up out of her stroller or her swing or her crib and she grins up at me, I just die. My heart just wants to burst. I honestly don't know how I'll handle it when we get to the age where she actually wants me, actually asks for her mommy or wants to cuddle up with me and read a book, things like that. I think that will be amazing. But for now, I'm very happy just with that adorable little smile.


Have a great weekend, everyone!