Sunday, July 29, 2012

Dear Ellie - Four Months

My dear Ellie,

Oh, my sweet girl, it's all going so fast! You are four months old today and I can hardly believe it. I said in my last letter that month three seemed to go slowly, but month four has passed by in an instant. I look back at pictures from your newborn days and I already have trouble remembering when you were that small. As always, I am torn between being so excited to watch you grow and change and wanting to freeze time and keep you as you are forever.

This month has been a big one for you, as I expected it would be. One of your biggest accomplishments has been rolling over. You were so close to rolling for about a month, and then one day you just finally made it all the way over. I could hardly believe it and was sure you would take forever to do it again, but no - from that moment on, you've been a rolling fool. You never stop. Of course, you're still mostly stuck on rolling from back to belly, and although you're becoming more tolerant of tummy time, you're still not a fan. So, we have spent a lot of days this month going through the following cycle on endless repeat: you roll over, I watch you for a moment to see if you'll figure out how to go back, you get really upset, I roll you onto your back again, and then you instantly go back over.  You've started to make progress in the rolling belly-to-back department, but we're still working on that one. Once you get it, I may need to take up a new hobby to fill all my newfound free time when I no longer have to flip you over all day long.

You are very observant and want to look at everything now. You are not very patient for sitting around - you would much rather be carried around the house so you can inspect everything. One day this month we spent about 20 minutes just standing in the bathroom looking at the toothbrushes. It's so cool to watch you seeing everything for the first time, and I only wish I knew what you think of it all!

You have also become so good at reaching for and grabbing things. It's so fun to watch you zero in on something and go for it. When you get it, you turn it around and look at it from all angles and then it inevitably finds its way to your mouth. Some of your favorite things to grab are your butterfly toy, the caterpillar from your play mat and your stuffed Pooh Bear. You always have a smile for Pooh Bear!

Speaking of things making their way into your mouth, you have just started sucking your thumb within the last week or so. You mostly do it at night or when you are very tired. In fact, this past week I have been able to lay you down in your crib awake at bedtime and you are able to fall asleep on your own by sucking your thumb. There have been many nights when I have longed for something like this, because up until this point our bedtime was a long, drawn-out ritual that involved me nursing you to sleep, waiting for you to be really out cold, and then Daddy or me very nervously transferring you to your crib. If you woke up during the transfer, we would start the whole process over again and it would often take well over an hour. Now, I nurse you and then lay you down, you find your thumb and fall asleep just a few minutes later. This new development is both liberating and heartbreaking for me - liberating in that now I have much more free time at night, but heartbreaking in that it is one of the first things you have learned to do yourself and you no longer need me. It's just a reminder that as you grow you will only become increasingly independent and will need me less and less. Even though I often felt frustrated with our long bedtime routine, and I am so proud of you for being able to soothe yourself now, I already miss being such an integral part of your bedtime. I just keep reminding myself to cherish every moment with you, even the frustrating ones, because one day I won't have them anymore and then I will regret having wished them away. Every moment is fleeting and I want to remember to stop and soak in every last one.

Although your nighttime sleep continues to be wonderful, your nap times are still a struggle. I started this month with the lofty goal of getting you to sleep in your crib, but your newfound ability to roll thwarted my plans - instead of sleeping, you would just roll around and get upset! So we're sort of in this weird "I don't know what to do" napping place right now. Sometimes you nap in your swing, sometimes with me, but it's just not very consistent. We'll get it figured out, but in the meantime, I just hope I'm not letting you get too overtired. Mark my words, baby - someday you are going to regret turning down all these naps!

You are still very vocal these days. You've started making new sounds and you now love to blow raspberries. Watching you form your mouth to "talk" is one of my favorite things. Sometimes you get on a roll and just talk and talk and talk, and I love to listen to you. You have also become much more agreeable to public outings and this month we have been able to make some new friends and get out a bit more, which I think is fun for both of us. Thank you for that, sweet pea!

As of this month, one of your favorite things seems to be kisses. You love when your Daddy kisses and hugs you as you lay on your changing table before bed each night - you always give him a big grin at least, and sweet little giggles at best. During the day you love when I kiss your hands and feet, always giving me big happy smiles when I do these things. This works out very well for me because I am perfectly happy to spend my days kissing you anyway, so if it makes you smile, all the better!

As I write this letter, you are in Florida for the first time. You took your first plane ride this month (and did very well) and now have met all of your grandparents, all but one of your great-grandparents, and your aunts and uncle. Everyone is so in love with you, baby girl. We have had a wonderful time showing you off, and the comments we hear about you most are that you are beautiful, alert, aware and observant (all true!). And of course, that you look like your daddy! (Although some people have said you have my eyes, which makes me happy that maybe you look like me a little bit!)

Also very important - today was your baptism day. You were baptized at the church where your daddy and I were married, and so many family and friends came to celebrate with you. You wore a gown that has been in our family for three generations now and you looked so beautiful. I was so proud of you and it meant so much to me to give you back to God today. Baby girl, before you were born, I prayed for you so much. I prayed for God to bless me with a sweet baby, to make me a mommy. When I found out you were coming (just over a year ago now!) I was so thankful but so apprehensive. I just wanted every last piece of you to be perfect. I prayed every night for God to help you grow healthy and strong, to help me give you a good home while you were in my belly and also when you came out. When you arrived, you were so much more amazing than I ever could have hoped for and every day I feel blessed beyond measure. I can never give enough thanks to God for entrusting you to me. I pray that as you grow you will come to know Him, to love Him, to follow Him faithfully. He is so good!

My sweet Ellie, I love you so much. I can't even put into words how proud I am to be your mommy. I look at you and I just feel like my heart cannot possibly contain all the love I feel for you. I am the luckiest mommy in the world.

Happy Four Months, Sunshine. I love you.

All my love,

* * * * *

Dear Ellie,

We really seem to have a good thing going. By now, you are pretty much getting the hang of this "being a baby" thing and I feel like I am getting much more comfortable being your daddy.

The easiest way to sum up your development this month is to say that you might be getting predictable. For instance, your moods seem to correlate well to whether, when and how long you were able to nap. When you get fussy (which happens less often these days), we almost always know why, which can include being tired or hungry or simply wanting to walk around and look at things.

Speaking of looking at things, you have been incredibly alert this month. You just love to look at and study the world around you. Although the observation really began last month, you have started reaching for things and using your hands and mouth to explore. I have really enjoyed watching you begin to develop this skill because of all the cool things you might someday do with your hands.

At four months old, the smiles continue to flow freely. Getting back to the predictability theme, there seem to be so many more things that you really enjoy than even a month ago. Off the top of my head, you almost always smile when I: kiss and hug you (which is so precious it hurts); get you out of bed in the morning; talk baby talk to you (especially when I copy your noises and faces or when I say "DaDa"); show you your Winnie-the-Pooh toy; kiss your feet; and make you kiss your own feet.

Although napping continues to be a bit of a challenge, you have been an amazing night sleeper. This month, we stopped swaddling you and even stopped waiting for you to fall completely asleep after your bedtime dinner before laying you down in your crib (via a five-minute wait, an uber-careful two-hand transition from our bed to yours and a five-minute prayer that you would stay asleep). Lately, you are able to eat, get drowsy, lay in your crib and get soothed (sometimes you even soothe yourself!) to sleep, where you stay asleep until the next morning between 6:45 and 7:30. Though I should probably not put it in writing, your Mommy and I almost take for granted these days that you will stay asleep (even if Mommy insists on regular/frequent trips to check on you). We have been left with a nightly struggle between battling exhaustion to stay up and enjoy actual free time and needing to get to bed to prepare for the early wake-up call. This is obviously a great problem to have.

Finally, in this month's installment of "the thing that is so wonderful, I cannot adequately describe how great it makes me feel," I would like to tell you about putting you to sleep in my arms. Though this has happened from your first full day in the hospital, I feel like it has become almost tried and true when I know you need to sleep but will not. I love that you grab onto my arms and that I usually need to hold you extra tight to keep you from wiggling too much. I love that I can feel your head get heavy and I love to feel your limbs go limp one at a time. I love to listen to you breathe and wake up every so often to snuggle in closer and reposition your little head.

I love you, sweetheart, and I love that you are growing to love me, too. I think I can tell that we are going to be great friends.

Though it should go without saying, I think you and your Mommy are the best.

All my love,

Friday, July 27, 2012

Ellie Meets the W. Family

On Monday, Eric, Ellie and I spent the whole day at Eric's grandmother's house so Ellie could get to know her daddy's side of the family, and it was a wonderful day!

We arrived at Gramz's house around lunchtime, so we had some time to visit with Gramz alone before the rest of the clan arrived. Ellie and Gramz hit it off immediately. Gramz's dog was also an Ellie fan.

Gramz getting her first look at Ellie

I think Ellie likes Gramz's fun painted fingernails!

Ellie made a new dog friend!

About an hour after we got there, Eric's mother Toni arrived - the last of her grandparents Ellie had yet to meet! I was so excited for Toni to meet Ellie. I could hardly wait to see her reaction. And I must say, I was not disappointed. I'm not sure I've ever seen such visible joy on a person's face as I saw on Toni's when she first caught sight of Ellie.

Toni's reaction when she first saw Ellie!

First meeting

Ellie cuddling with her Nonnie

I love this picture so much.

We spent the afternoon visiting and were even able to get Ellie down for a little nap. Around dinner time, Eric's siblings showed up and Ellie got to meet her aunts and uncle. Kelley and Phyllis arrived first, then Ronnie and Stephanie. I think it's safe to say everyone loved their new niece!

Ellie and her Aunt Kelley

Saying hello to Uncle Ronnie

Meeting Aunt Stephanie

Ellie, Daddy and Nonnie


We ate a delicious pasta dinner together, thanks to Kelley. Somehow pasta just always tastes better when it comes out of a giant pot in the middle of the table, shared by all these great people. Dinner was followed by a cake in honor of my birthday and Ellie's arrival, and it was also delicious.

Family around the table

Pretty cake!

Ellie wants that little nude plastic baby.

After dinner Eric and I basically passed off custody of our kid to Aunt Kelley while we sat and visited with everybody. Aunt Kelley seems to have the magic touch and Ellie was soon down for the count.

Best buds

Sleepy baby in her auntie's arms

Kisses from Uncle Ronnie

Ellie woke up as the evening was winding down and we bid our good-byes to everyone. It was a great day and I was so happy to see Ellie getting to know her dad's side of the family. I know I consider myself very lucky to be a member of that family, and I have no doubt that Ellie will, too.

Four generations!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Kicking Off My Thirties

First of all, I want to say thank you to all of my friends and family who helped Eric with his post for me on my birthday. I loved it so much and was so touched and humbled by all the wonderful things you all said about me, and that you so willingly took the time to do so. Not only did I have the post to read on my birthday, but Eric also let me read each of your responses in its entirety and I just have no words to respond to the kind things you all wrote for me. I have been very blessed with so many incredible people in my life and that post, contributed to by so many and put together so wonderfully by my husband, was a great reminder of that. Thank you all.

As you may know, Eric, Ellie and I are in Florida right now and will be until Tuesday, then it will be off to Ohio for my family reunion. It has been wonderful to be able to kick off my 30s in Florida with our loved ones.

My birthday weekend was a wonderful one, although it got off to an exhausting start with our flight to Florida on Saturday morning (the day before my birthday, which is my dad's birthday!). We left the house at 7:00 a.m. for our 10:15 a.m. flight, so by the time we actually boarded the plane, we were all already pretty tired of traveling. Ellie was a trooper up to that point, but as soon as we sat down in our seats on the plane she let us know that she was OVER IT.

Luckily for us, that was by far the worst of it. I nursed her during takeoff, and she napped for a bit on my lap. When she woke up we played with some of her toys for a bit, and then I handed her off to Eric for just a minute. She almost immediately fell asleep in Eric's arms and slept that way for the rest of the flight. I was all prepared to nurse her during the descent to help with the pressure in her ears, but there was no need. Daddy's arms cure all, apparently.

Ellie and Eric at the gate, waiting to board our plane

Ellie sucking her thumb (a newfound love) and waiting until the very last possible second to actually sit down

Oh boy.

Could it be? Is she really back to sleep?

Why yes, I believe she is.

We landed safely in Tampa right on time, with all luggage and a well-rested and happy baby, so I would say that Ellie's first flight was a smashing success overall.

My dad picked us up at the airport and took us back to his house, where we napped for a bit. My sister came by in between her Saturday performances of Cabaret so she could meet Ellie for the first time, which was wonderful because I have been so anxious to introduce the two of them! It was love at first sight, of course.

Baird ladies

Kisses from Aunt Heather

I just know they're going to be BFFs!

Ellie's visit with Auntie Heather was brief, because Heather had to get back for the evening show and Ellie, Eric, my dad and I were all off to the Tampa Bay Rays game - Ellie's first baseball game! (And first of many, because Eric still has quite a few MLB stadiums to visit!) And once again, she was fabulous. She wore her gear, watched the game, visited the touch tank, and spent lots of time slobbering all over her Grandpa's arm while watching some baseball. She's a baseball game natural.

Ellie's first time in a baseball stadium!

Watching some baseball

Go Rays!

Left: Eric, Ellie and Ted Williams
Right: Ellie at the Rays Touch Tank

At the Touch Tank

Rays watching some baseball

She's hooked.

We stayed through five innings before heading home and getting the little one to bed. She went down without a fight - what an exhausting day she had!

My sister returned to my dad's house later that night and she, Eric and I toasted my birthday with some champagne at midnight. We actually stayed up all the way until 1:00 a.m. - party animals!

Sunday morning (my actual birthday) we relaxed at home until it was time to take Ellie to my mom, who very generously offered to babysit her all day so I could enjoy my birthday out on the town. She was over at friends Don and Wilma's house, so we dropped Ellie off there knowing that she was in good hands.

Ellie playing with Grammy and her caterpillar

After dropping Ellie off we went back to pick up my dad and then went out to the freeFall Theater to see my sister Heather's latest show, Cabaret (yes, the one I plugged a while back!). Awesome, awesome show! I loved it. I have never seen the movie nor had I seen the show on stage before, so I went in totally fresh and thought it was excellent. They did a really great job with it.

Love to see my sister's "name in lights," of sorts!

PAUSE FOR A PLUG!: Although Cabaret's original run is over, if you are in the Tampa/St. Pete area and missed it, do not fret! Cabaret will be coming back for an extension (by popular demand) in August! That's right folks, you get a second chance to see this show that sold out so quickly during the original run. The show will be returning from August 30 until September 30, with shows every Thursday (7 p.m.), Friday (8 p.m.), Saturday (2 p.m. and 8 p.m.) and Sunday (2 p.m.) at the freeFall Theater (6099 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, FL). Tickets are $37 and worth every penny, available here, and there is not a bad seat in the house. Trust me, you will love it. Go see this show!

After the fabulous show, Eric and I dropped my dad off at the house and then went out for an early dinner date at Arigato's Japanese Steakhouse. It was delicious, and so nice to be out alone with my husband (despite the fact that Ellie was on my mind constantly). 


We went straight from dinner to pick up Ellie, and were pleased to hear that she did great in the care of Mom & Co., including a three-hour nap. Way to go, baby! As we sat and visited for a bit, Ellie also rolled over from belly to back! I think it was pretty accidental, but she did it a couple of different times, so maybe there is a light at the end of the tummy time torture tunnel.

Reunited with my baby!

We took Ellie back to my dad's house and put her to bed, and then later that night did the whole birthday cake thing. Big thanks to my dad for not actually putting 30 individual candles on my cake. My elderly lungs may not have been able to handle it. (I kid, I kid!)


And with that, this old lady called it a day and went to bed. I was exhausted. 

Thanks again to everyone who helped make my birthday weekend so special. I am so very blessed and am so happy with my life as I have reached this milestone. Love to all of you!

My two biggest blessings! I'm a lucky girl!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Meghan a/k/a Mrs. W.

** Note: This is the first (and perhaps last) post prepared by someone other than the regular author. Although it is written directly to Meghan by her husband, it should serve to provide useful information about her for those who happen to drop by from time to time.**

Happy Birthday, Meghan!

As you turn thirty today, I know you will be reflecting on the three decades just completed, remembering the times well spent and looking forward to the exciting experiences that lay ahead.  One thing you may not be thinking about is the impression you have made on others over that time.  Therefore, I have asked many of your closest friends and relatives to list a few things they like or admire most about you or that they think make you special. The responses were surprisingly consistent.  What follows is a summary of the things that these people love the most about you as of today, the day you turn thirty.

  1. We love how much you love your family.  Cathy says she loves to read your blog because it is obvious how in love you are with Ellie and me.  She finds it refreshing to see someone with such an old fashioned view of marriage.  Molly points out that, despite the distance between you and most of your family, you always know what is going on in their lives.  Kristina mentioned that the pride, admiration and genuine love you have for your sister make her wish that her daughter will someday treat her sister the same way.  Your dad admires how you embrace the joys of family and Jess recognizes your deep love for your family.
  2. We love your great attitude.  Adam says that you are always positive and upbeat when he talks to you and Kristina W. admires, among other things, your eternal optimism and positivity. Fran and Molly also admire how you always look for the good in others.
  3. We love that you are a great writer.  Heather says your blog can make her both laugh out loud and cry her eyes out, while keeping her up-to-date and helping her get to know you even better.  Aunt Debbie describes your "amazing weblog" as engaging and entertaining, and the writing as articulate, funny and honest.  Molly finds it funny, informative and often touching.  On a related note, your mom has always been impressed by your command of the English language and remembers that you were forming full sentences at one-year old and composing short stories (and illustrations) by the age of three! I think you have a real gift for narration and have always appreciated your editorial advice.
  4. We love your sense of humor.  Aunt Rachel and Molly note that your phrasing of even the simplest things on the blog makes them laugh and Kristina says that the captions you write for your pictures often have her "rolling on the floor."  Erin likes that you have a sarcastic sense of humor and I like that you seem to laugh a lot.
  5. We love your attention to detail.  Your mom specifically remembers helping you plan an outfit for your first homecoming dance, complete with complementing dress, hair, nails, purse and shoes.  She also says that as early as four-years old you were choosing your own clothes and she remembers being impressed that they always matched.  I hope it goes without saying that you did an amazing job on our wedding, from the invitations to the flowers to the favors and everything in between.
  6. We love that you are very thoughtful, caring and kind.  Almost all of your friends and family used at least one of these words to describe you, including your mom and dad, Amanda, Aunt Debbie, Cathy, Erin, Jess, Leah, Lucia and Heather.  Molly says that you think of everyone and everything, no matter what is going on in your life.  I think the fact that most of these people did not include a specific example shows that thoughtfulness, caring and kindness are not just great traits you possess, but a deeper part of who you truly are.
  7. We love that you are a great listener.  Cathy appreciates that you always seem genuinely interested in her life.  Molly says there is no one that she has shared as much with over the years, and that you are always encouraging and supportive of her dreams, fears, frustrations, joys and sadness.  Kelley also described you as a great listener and Fran appreciates how you are always there to listen to the problems of others and offer to help in any way you can.  Erin agrees with Fran that you are never judgmental and can be trusted completely.  I agree with your mom that you possess a rare talent for empathy.
  8. We love that you give great advice.  Kelley says that she has always appreciated this about you and Molly is impressed at how you can be honest in your feedback and opinions, while being tactful to the point of never hurting her feelings.
  9. We love your creativity.  Aunt Jean says you have always been creative and Molly remembers how you were the designated drawer in the Cousins Club and that you spearheaded some of its greatest ideas and contributed memorable Reun' Tribune articles, HMM News and Radio topics and mermaid stories.  I still cannot believe you designed our wedding album and most of Ellie's nursery, and will forever cherish the photo books you have put together.
  10. We love that you are a great gift giver.  Heather says that you always seem to remember things that she mentioned months prior.  Molly expressed how much it meant to her that you sent one of Ellie's favorite books to Santiago with a sweet note about how excited she was to meet him.
  11. We love how you get the most out of life.  Molly says she does not know anyone else with a bucket list that actually crosses things off on a regular basis.  Erin loves to live vicariously through the things you talk about on Facebook and your blog because they give her fun stories to tell at parties (e.g., her cousin has a picture with Darren Criss!)  Kristina says that your love for life makes it seem like you never let a day go to waste and she admires how easy you make it look to have time for all the things you do.  Aunt Jean says that you have always lived life fully, from childhood sleepovers to now as a wife and mother.  Leah says you are fun to be around.  Jeff loves that you let us throw a half-eaten turkey off our thirteenth-floor balcony (and even took a picture!).  Amanda describes you as one of the most fun-loving people she knows, and says that she enjoyed stalking celebrities in the cold, getting kicked out of a bar for dancing and going into a chocolate coma with you.  Kalli gave a list that is too long to post here of the fun things you used to do together and says that you are an inspiration.
  12. We love that you are a great friend.  Although this should be obvious for many of the reasons set forth above and below and the fact that the contributors to this list span three decades and at least four states, several of your friends and family mentioned this separately, including Megan, Kelley, Kristina, Fran, Aunt Debbie and Lauren T.  Jeff describes you as a sweet and supportive friend and says he appreciated your helping him through a breakup on a long car trip.
  13. We love that you are well-rounded.  Uncle Mark is impressed that you are able to match great intelligence with a super personality.  Kristina W. summed it up well by saying that you are incredible when it comes to pretty much everything, including motherhood, sisterhood, daughterhood, wifing, blogging, writing, photography, celebrity stalking, etc.  I completely agree.
  14. We love that you are courageous.  Cathy is impressed that you were not afraid to share the downsides of early parenthood, even with the threat of criticism.  Jess and Erin are impressed by what you endured to give birth to Ellie.  You have never been afraid to try new things and it has been a joy to move around the country with you not knowing what is next.
  15. This one doesn't have a title, but I know you would want the list to end on a round number. Therefore, I will use this item to include some additional ways people describe you: loyal, gentle, gracious, accommodating, endearing, smart, one of the sweetest souls, stunning and "a gem."

I want to specifically thank the following friends and family for helping me with this project and for helping you become the amazing wife, mother and person you are today: your mom and dad, Heather, Molly, Erin, Aunt Debbie, Uncle Mark, Aunt Jean, Aunt Rachel, Adam, Megan, Kristina, Amanda, Jeff, Jess, Kelley, Fran, Kalli, Leah, Cathy, Lucia, Kristina W. and Lauren T.

Happy thirtieth birthday, Meghan! I cannot tell you how incredibly proud I am that you are my wife and how awesome it is to watch you raise our daughter.  You are my favorite, and it is pretty obvious that a lot of other people like you a lot, too. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

"The Dark Knight Rises" Premiere

Tonight at midnight, my handsome husband will be making his big screen debut as one of Gotham City's finest in the long-awaited, much-anticipated new Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises!

Eric on set in his Gotham PD uniform

You may remember when Eric was cast as an extra in the movie, and he was a part of the massive fight scene they filmed in NYC back in November. In honor of his big show biz break, Eric will be attending a Batman marathon in IMAX tonight, complete with a showing of the new movie at midnight. I know he'll be watching closely to see if he actually ended up on camera! If you're also going to the movie, keep your eyes peeled for him in the big fight scene that I believe is at the end of the movie, when the bad guys and the Gotham PD collide in one epic battle.

Police and bad guys, preparing to brawl

There were literally hundreds of extras, so of course we may not be able to pick Eric out of the crowd, but I sure hope we can! How cool would that be?!

Regardless of whether or not he actually made it into the movie, Eric did get to rub elbows with the cast and other celebrities at the movie premiere at the Lincoln Square theater in NYC on Monday. He saw Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Morgan Freeman, Christopher Nolan, Marion Cotillard, Chris Daughtry, Ron Howard, Russell Simmons, Cillian Murphy, Hines Ward, Bill Cowher, Michelle Trachtenberg, Hailee Steinfeld, Aziz Ansari, Jay Manuel, Pharrell, Donald Trump and more! (All will be included on our NYC Celebrity Sightings list as soon as Ellie's naptime allows!)

Christian Bale and Gary Oldman

Morgan Freeman

Anne Hathaway

Cillian Murphy

Joseph Gordon-Levitt being all mysterious behind a passing bus

Marion Cotillard, and a shot of the black carpet

Are you going to see The Dark Knight Rises this weekend? If so, keep an eye out for Eric! And don't tell me anything about it, please - I'm planning to see it during our Florida trip next week! In the meantime, I'm just basking in the glow of being married to a movie star!