Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

"Don't be alarmed," he said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him."
Mark 16:4-6

* * * * *

Happy Easter, my friends! Christ is Risen! What a wonderful day to celebrate!

We are very much looking forward to our first real opportunity to celebrate Easter with Ellie this year. Sure, this is technically her second Easter. But, last year, she was just a little blob of nothing, merely ten days old, and I was still very much in the throes of recovery. We dressed Ellie in her Easter dress, posed for a picture, and then quickly returned to the couch to rest and relax.

Our new family of four - Easter 2012

This year, however, we'll be taking Ellie to church, which I am very excited about. I love the celebratory Easter service and I think she will also love all the joyful activity. Then we'll be spending the day with family, something new this year as we're not usually around relatives for this holiday. And of course, we had to get in on the more secular side of things, as well. A few weeks ago, Ellie made sure all the necessary introductions had been made:

Ellie and the Easter Bunny! 2013

Her adorable smile seems to have made a very good impression because the Easter Bunny visited our house early last night and left behind a basket of goodies for Ellie. So, she'll get to start that tradition this year, too!

Happy Easter to all of you. I hope you have a wonderful day celebrating our Risen Savior with loved ones.

He is Risen, indeed!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Dear Ellie - One Year

My dear Ellie,

Today is your first birthday - you are officially one year old. One year ago tonight we spent our evening staring at you, taking literally hundreds of pictures, calling our family to share the news of your birth (and your name!) and trying to soak up every last second of you. If we're being honest, even though you are a whole year older, we still spend our days doing those very same things! Even after 365 days, we just can't get enough of you. I don't see that changing any time soon, either. But still, I can't believe that an entire year has passed us by since that night when we first met you.

Yet somehow, here we are. And it feels so bittersweet, but I have had a hard time pinpointing exactly why. It seems silly to be sad, because I am so insanely in love with the little girl you have grown into over the course of these 12 months. If we're being completely honest, your newborn days were quite challenging, but I love this age for you. I love to play with you and interact with you in ways I couldn't 12 months ago. I love to see your smile and hear your laugh. I love to see your silly faces and watch you learning before my very eyes. And aside from my thorough enjoyment of the present, I am so incredibly excited to watch you continue to grow. I can't wait to see you become the person you are meant to be and find out what life has in store for you.

But even still, as I watch old home videos of your newborn days, or look at those photos of teeny, tiny you, tears come to my eyes. I think maybe it's just the realization that this major stage of your life - your babyhood - has passed by seemingly in a flash. That stage is already over, and although your Daddy and I have tried so very hard to be present and appreciate each moment, some memories have already gotten fuzzy. No matter how hard we tried to remember every single detail of those early days, they simply passed by in a blur and there just wasn't anything we could do to help that. More than once I thought, "no way will I ever forget this!" only to be proven entirely wrong when I stumble across a picture to jog my memory months later. I think any sadness I may feel quite possibly stems from the feeling of being out of control - time is flying by and I'm doing the best I can to keep up, but some moments just get away from me. And I don't want a single moment with you to get away from me.

But really, I think my tears today are not so much sad tears but rather happy ones, tears of gratitude and overwhelming joy. Ellie, I am so, so blessed to be your mama. I still look at you and can't believe that I got so lucky as to have you for my daughter. I am so humbled that it is my responsibility to care for such a beautiful person, and am so overcome with love for you that it takes my breath away. How can I not cry? I have been given the greatest gift I could ever imagine. How blessed I am!

At one year old, you have become quite an extraordinary little girl. You have such personality, and people are always quick to take notice. You love to meet new people, reaching out to strangers, smiling and waving. While the children in line both before and after us cried at the mere sight of him, you contentedly sat on the Easter Bunny's lap a couple of weeks ago, and smiled your biggest smile for the picture. At your birthday party last week, you totally worked the crowd, crawling all around the room to greet all your guests. You are just so playful, sociable and fun!

You are so interested in the world around you, though this is hardly a new development. Even in your younger days you refused to let us sit and instead demanded that we carry you around the house so you could look at everything. Now, as we carry one-year-old you around, you constantly point in all directions, exclaiming in excitement as if to ask "what's that?" about anything new that catches your eye. You want to inspect everything and figure it all out. You pay close attention as we play, and often remember things your Daddy and I did with barely a thought (such as placing a ball on top of a toy) and try to recreate it yourself later (sometimes even days later!). This month some things you have especially enjoyed are: bunnies (see above re: the Easter Bunny), putting things in and taking them out of containers, Cheerios, stuffed animals, and of course, your beloved peek-a-boo. You also love to dance and have started doing this new butt-wiggle move that is too cute for words. I love that you love music!

You have also started using your walker toy for its intended purpose. You had no interest in any such thing for the longest time, then one day Daddy stood you in front of it and off you went, and you haven't stopped since. You tear back and forth across the house, hollering as you go. I love to watch you do this. You are also getting so much better at standing and can stand alone for quite some time now. I'm sure your first steps are imminent so I will continue to keep my video camera at the ready!

You have four teeth now (with more possibly in progress), and continue to be an excellent eater. We're wrapping up our time with purees in favor of all finger foods, which you enjoy quite a bit. The one food you haven't particularly enjoyed this month, however, was your birthday cake. We expected an epic mess of a cake smash, but you very daintily sampled some frosting then called it quits. Very unexpected, but quite sweet!

We are also still nursing, so I am very proud to say that I have met my goal of nursing you for a year. And I don't see any reason to stop as long as it's still working out so well for both of us, so we'll continue onward for the time being. This month you also learned how to sign when you want to nurse by lightly tapping either my chest or your own, and it is the sweetest thing in the whole world when you climb into my lap and gently tap my chest to let me know exactly what you want. I just love those quiet moments with you and I am so grateful that breastfeeding has worked out so well for us. I have loved every moment of it.

And, aside from all your developments and changes, what a year you have lived! You have toured New York City, flown on a plane several times, walked (well, stroller-ed) in two parades and won two contests, watched the New York City Fourth of July Fireworks, been baptized with so many friends and family there to witness it, strutted around town with fellow fashionistas at Fashions Night Out, lived through a hurricane (and power outage), met the Vice President and several other celebrities, met Santa Clause (three times!) and the Easter Bunny, experienced both snow and the beach, been to festivals and fairs, celebrated your birthday in rather fun Alice-in-Wonderland fashion, and developed relationships with your extended family. I'd say that's a pretty successful first year of life, wouldn't you?

I just look at you now and your newborn days seem like such a distant memory. Sometimes I remind myself of the endless hours spent bouncing you on the exercise ball to calm you and get you to sleep. Or how you would only really nap if you were cuddled up next to me, so we would spend hours in my bed with me on my laptop while you dozed. Sometimes I was trapped there for so long I would get hungry, so I started stashing food and water in our usual nap spots. There were days when I couldn't take you out into the world without a meltdown, and I felt so isolated and discouraged sometimes.

Ellie, having a newborn can be tough. What surprised me most about new motherhood was the depth and range of emotion that came with it. Your Daddy has said (and I wholeheartedly agree) that when you have a new baby, everything is so much more intense - when you're frustrated, you feel frustrated to your core. But when you look at your little one and feel that joy or pride or love, it's just so indescribably great. And the funny thing is, you can flip-flop from one extreme to the other in a matter of seconds. I remember days when you would be just a mess, crying and crying and refusing to sleep and I didn't know how to help you. I would cry along with you and feel so discouraged, so desperate, so helpless, sometimes even asking myself what I had gotten myself into. And then I would look down, and as if you knew I needed it, you would flash me that gorgeous gummy smile with that little dimple on your cheek and in a split second, everything would fade away and I would feel such overwhelming love, such joy, such happiness and I knew that I was exactly where I was meant to be. It really is an amazing thing.

Even with a year of experience under my belt, it's just so hard to put into words what motherhood is really like. It is at once both deeply frustrating and incredibly uplifting, both heart-wrenching and joyful, both hard work and tons of fun, both humbling and empowering. It really is like nothing else I have ever experienced but even with all that fluctuation, it is by far my favorite experience of my life. Being your mother has fulfilled me far more than anything else I have ever accomplished and I am so, so proud to do this job. I hope I can be even half of the wonderful mother you deserve.

Ellie, I love you more than I can ever say. You changed my world infinitely for the better one year ago today and I just adore you. I love being your mama and I am so looking forward to seeing what the coming years bring for you as a person and us as a family. I love our family so ridiculously much.

Thank you for a wonderful year, Sunshine, and for being so perfectly you. You're far better than I ever could have imagined. I love you. Happy birthday!

All my love,

* * * * *

Dear Ellie,

Happy birthday! I can't believe we made it to a year already. One of the biggest mysteries of parenthood is how the months seem to pass so quickly despite each day doing the opposite, measuring one play, change, feed and nap at a time. It's crazy to look back on this past year and see how very much you have grown and changed. There are just so many cool things you do now that hardly seemed possible a year ago today. For example, in no particular order of cuteness, you can, and regularly do, ask to be picked up or for milk, point directly at the things you want, crawl, walk (with help), say "mama" and "dada" and feed yourself. You are such a big girl already, but I know there are still so many good things to come. It's all just so awesome and I am very excited to continue to watch you grow.

If I seem to be rambling in this letter, it's probably because I can't decide what I am supposed to say to you. Do I simply talk about where you are and what you are doing as we celebrate your first birthday? Or should I wax poetic about my hopes and dreams for your life, seeing as this is my last monthly letter to you? Honestly, I am having a hard time thinking clearly at this point. Despite one year being such a clean interval, we are just too deep in the middle of a transitionary period to set down clear descriptions or expectations. To say nothing of the fact that I am in between careers and cities, you are on the verge of walking and sound like you are trying to say more words. You are also in the early stages of using sign language, including those for "milk" and "dog," which is crazy precious. You also managed to change your morning wake-up time recently, which is forcing us to try and adjust your nap schedule, with mixed results. Suffice it to say that despite the enormous progress you have made and the numerous parenting challenges we have solved, there are always as many new ones right around the corner.

That said, I am so grateful to be raising you with your mama. Honestly, one of my absolute favorite things about your first year of life was watching my Meghan be your mama. Ellie girl, let me tell you, we are blessed. From your earliest days, when everything else in her life went completely against plan, she was always gentle with you. She may recall having the same insecurities and frustrations as all new parents, but it has never seemed that way. When it came to dealing with you, Ellie, she always exuded peace and her voice was always soft and kind. I know that everyone loves their mother and most kids turn out okay regardless, but I would be willing to bet that you are a very lucky kid. Your mama seems more natural at caring for you than I have ever seen anyone at anything. She has always encouraged you to figure things out on your own, while letting you know she was there, ready to comfort and support you when she could tell you needed it. From my understanding of new parents, many seem to find themselves, rightly or wrongly, favoring one thing over the other. Not her. I believe that balance has helped you become so well-adjusted at one year old. You are not afraid of new people or being apart from us, but it still feels like you love and trust us completely.

My dear Ellie, I hope the past eleven letters help you understand how special you are and how much you are loved. As long as you know those two things, I think you will be okay. But then again, what do I know, except that I am crazy in love with our little family.

Happy birthday!


Friday, March 29, 2013

The First Year

Today we are celebrating our baby girl's first birthday. I can hardly believe a full year has passed since she came into my life and changed my world.

This year has been the most emotional, intense, joyful, frustrating, uplifting, humbling, empowering, love-filled, challenging, beautiful, fulfilling year of my life. Parenthood brings with it a very full range of emotions, all felt more deeply than you ever felt them before. This year has been one like none other. And not only have I been so insanely blessed with such an extraordinary baby girl to call my daughter, but I am lucky enough to have Eric by my side for the whole adventure. I love them both so much, it takes my breath away.

As we have for each of the last eleven months, Eric and I are writing letters to Ellie today, and I'll share those tomorrow. We wanted to take our time and enjoy the day with her before stopping to fully reflect on her first year of life. In the meantime, we have been doing a lot of "remember when?" stuff. We've read back through the birth story, looked at old pictures and videos (many already long forgotten), laughed and reminisced. My heart aches with both joy and gratitude for these happy memories and bittersweet sadness that those days have passed and we'll never get them back. But I can't be sad for long, because the one-year-old I have in my life now is so fantastic, and I can hardly wait to see what tomorrow will bring for her. Watching her grow up is the coolest thing I can imagine.

So for today, please join us in looking back at the year gone by and celebrating our sweet Ellie.

VIDEO: A look back at Ellie's first year 
(Music is Elizabeth Mitchell's "You Are My Sunshine")

Happy birthday, Sunshine. We love you more than we could ever say.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Tea Party for Ellie

Today is the day - Ellie's First Birthday Party! She doesn't actually turn one year old until Friday, but today is The Celebration.

I'm glad we're having her party before her actual birthday, because I certainly went a little overboard with this shindig and I have been so consumed with crafts and baking and planning that I have not had much time to reflect on the fact that my baby is one year old (yet somehow, I have managed to think about it enough to cry already on several occasions). I'm glad that today we will have a great celebration, and then things will die down some and I can have some time to think about what a milestone this, not just for Ellie, but for us as new parents, as well. This party today is as much about celebrating our survival of Year One of parenting as it is about Ellie's first year of life, to be honest. Both are great accomplishments!

But there will be time for reflection this week. Today, it's all about fun at Ellie's Alice-in-Wonderland-themed tea party. Or, if you will, Elizabeth Alice in ONEderland! Hopefully, it will be a great time for all. We've already gotten into the festive spirit and can hardly wait for our guests to join us.

The Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatter, Alice, White Rabbit and Queen of Hearts are ready to par-tay!

Happy Un-Birthday to my sweet Elizabeth Alice! We are so excited to celebrate ONEderful you!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

My Wee Irish Lass

Happy St. Patrick's Day, my friends! Luck o' the Irish to you!

Ellie may only be a little bit Irish, but she is clearly quite proud of that part of her heritage. And, thanks to her Auntie Megan in Cleveland, today our wee Irish lass is celebrating her last first holiday in proper Celtic style:

Festive and happy!

And, she's bringing along her two best buds for the celebration:

Her new (apparently Irish) sock monkey 

And, lest he feel left out, or old festive dog makes a triumphant return!

We'll be heading downtown later today to try to catch my dad in a Second Time Arounders concert at MacDinton's, and will be dining on our traditional Guinness beef stew for dinner. Aside from that, we'll be sticking close to home because I am a busy person these days. I have had all sorts of posts and such planned in the last week or so, but there just hasn't been time. I was already going crazy with all that I still had left to do for Ellie's birthday party next Saturday (because apparently I am a person who cannot say no to a good craft), and then, I got some new jury work in on top of it. Somehow jury work always seems to find me at the most inopportune times. I can't complain, because I love the work and certainly don't hate the income, but the timing just always seems to be less than ideal (such as the big case I was working on as we moved to Florida. That was good times). Now, I have to-do lists on top of to-do lists (seriously, my Wunderlist app is frightening) and far too little time to do it all. So you probably won't be seeing much of me this week.

But, can we take a quick second to also address the fact that this is Ellie's last first holiday? Last year at this time I had just finished work and was anxiously awaiting her arrival, and I was incredibly uncomfortable. The idea that we've already almost come full circle, and this Easter will be her second Easter already, is blowing my mind. How has it been a year?

But today, we celebrate (kid-friendly) Irish style, with festive attire, some delicious Irish fare, and perhaps one small glass of green beer (or milk, if you prefer). Happy St. Patrick's Day, all! Erin go bragh!

Very exciting!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Painting With a Twist

A couple of weeks ago, I met up with a couple of friends at Painting With A Twist in Tampa for a rather fun evening. If you are unfamiliar, Painting With A Twist is essentially an art class with wine. You sign up for a certain evening, and the cost includes your supplies. The instructor shows you how to paint that evening's masterpiece, and you are able to sip on the alcoholic beverage of your choice (bring your own). I love artsy crafty things, and I love wine, and I love having a rare night out with girlfriends, so I was super excited about this.

The night of this shindig, I got myself ready. And by "myself," I mean my wine purse - an incredible gift from my cousin Molly. It is literally a purse designed to carry wine, and even has a little secret compartment with cork screw included.

My wine purse in action

(Bad Parenting Moment Confession: when I opened that gift on my birthday, I actually said the sentence: "Oh cool! A wine purse! Now I can stop putting my wine in the stroller." Ooops.) (Although in my defense, this was back in Hoboken, where I had to walk to/from the liquor store, usually with Ellie in tow. So it's not like I was carrying it around in the stroller because I'm a wino that drinks and strolls, it was just my means of transportation.) (Geez. Ellie is going to grow up to be this kid, isn't she?)


When I arrived at Painting With A Twist, my friends Kristina and Jessica were already there. I checked in, grabbed an apron, and joined them in a glass of wine.

Jess, Kristina and me all aproned-up and ready to paint!

The class got started shortly thereafter, and we got to work painting our "Stilletolicious" works of art: a painting of five stilettos from the back. First we painted our canvases solid black, then traced the outline of the shoes, and then went to work on the details.

My canvas in its early stages

Shoe outlines

Starting to work on the details

The whole thing was a blast. We had a group of girls across from us who were in town from South Carolina to celebrate a birthday, and one of them in particular was a drunken hoot. They were a lot of fun. Also, the music was fantastic - some great old school stuff that got everyone dancing. The painting itself was fun too, so long as you didn't put too much pressure on yourself to get it right. Because for one thing, we're all amateurs here. For another, we're all drinking. Drunken amateurs should not concern themselves with perfect paintings and should just have fun. And that we did.

In progress

When our paintings were finished, we posed for a full class shot and for a photo with just the three of us.

My finished masterpiece


After our drunken art class we dropped our paintings in our cars and Jess and Kristina tried to introduce me to geocaching, but unfortunately, without success. Another time, ladies! Then we stopped off for some martinis and hummus before calling it a night.

I had a great time hanging out with these ladies and doing a little artsy creation in the process. I would definitely do both again! Thanks for a fun night, friends!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

My Baby

I know my most recent post was all about how Ellie is turning into such a big girl and all I can do is sit back and watch, BUT. Sometimes there are just those moments - when she crawls into my lap for comfort, or rests her head on my shoulder, or relaxes into my arms as she nurses - those moments that remind me that she's still a little baby. My little baby. Moments like this one we were lucky enough to enjoy last week, on a rare occasion when we were able to sneak a peek at her precious sleeping face:

Just a look at that sweet angel face reminds me a million times over of the many hours we spent together in her newborn days, with her nestled against me (the only way she would nap) as I watched her sleeping by my side. She doesn't need my company to sleep anymore, but she still is so small and so dear, just as she was from day one. Moments like these are great reminders that although she's growing up quite possibly a bit quicker than I'd like, she's still my little baby for now and all I can do is just stop and breathe in those moments and try to make sure they're catalogued in my memory forever.

My sweet sleepy baby.

Friday, March 8, 2013

My Big Girl

Ellie has had quite the week, and it seems in just seven short days she has turned into a very big girl right before our very eyes. Allow me to show you!

First, she added a third word to her repertoire (joining "mama" and "dada") by figuring out how to say "hi" while waving. Cutest thing you've ever seen, I tell you.

VIDEO: Not the best proof of her spoken word (see 0:42 for the closest I've gotten to capturing it on video), but at the very least, it's an adorable video of Ellie waking up from a nap.

Also, she sprouted another tooth, bringing the tooth tally up to three as well. That's the two bottom front and our newest addition: her top right front tooth. It's still making it's way down far enough to be noticeable in pictures, so you'll have to wait for proof of that, but in the meantime, this photo of the teething side effects should suffice:


Although really, in all fairness, Ellie was much more happy-go-lucky with this round of teething than she was the first time around (but of course, in her defense, the first time around was also during our move when we completely changed her entire world, so crabbiness is more than warranted). This time there was a lot more spitting up, though. I felt like we were back in her newborn days at times. Hopefully that is on its way out now, although we may be starting work on the other top front tooth very shortly so we'll see what delightful side effects that one brings.

Then, just this past Tuesday, Ellie started showing the most interest in walking that she has to date. You may recall that we (errr, Santa) bought her a walker toy for Christmas, which she was incredibly delighted about at first sight:

Oops. We may have misjudged this one.

Not to worry, however. It quickly grew on her and became one of her favorite toys:

Playing with her walker

But, all she ever wanted to do was play with all the flashy noisy stuff on the front. Every time I'd try to show her how to walk with it, she'd plop right back down and go back to playing with the front side.

Until Tuesday. Eric stood her up "at the wheel," so to speak, and she was off. She walked from one end of the house to the other as we all clapped and cheered. I worried she wouldn't do it again when I had my video camera ready to go, but that was a needless worry. She hasn't stopped walking around the house yet. It just suddenly clicked for her that morning and now there's no stopping her.

VIDEO: Ellie's second walk around the house. What a big girl!

Now that she's a walking fool, she is really perfecting her technique. She doesn't need nearly the "spotting" that she did at first, although she still hasn't learned to turn and will run into something and then just stand there and wait for us to turn her around. But when she is in motion, she's even starting to get a little fancy. For instance, there's the Walk and Wave, in which she pauses mid-stroll to wave to her adoring fans (also known as my dad, Eric or Achilles):

VIDEO: Ellie waving as she goes, Miss America-style

And often, she uses her "travel time" to perfect her monologue. She is one chatty driver:

VIDEO: Walking and talking!

All these changes within the course of a week, added to the fact that she will be celebrating her first birthday three weeks from today (and her party is even sooner - two weeks from tomorrow!), are leaving me speechless. What happened to my teeny little baby? Where did this little shrimp go?:

Ellie at one week old, and small enough to fit inside a baseball glove!

It's just such a strange feeling to be all at once so sad over time passed and so excited for the new changes and growth that is happening now. It's just so incredibly awesome to watch this little girl growing up right before our very eyes, becoming her own walking, talking, waving, tooth-growing little person. She is seriously the coolest and I am one proud mama.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Baby Friends

Since moving back to Florida, Eric and I have been excited about having the opportunity to get together with old friends, many of whom have babies now as well. Unfortunately, things have been far more hectic since our arrival than we anticipated, so we haven't seen nearly as much of our old friends by this point as we would have liked. But, slowly but surely, we're making these visits happen.

Most recently, I had a couple of get-togethers with my high school friends Fran and Cathy. Fran's daughter Hailey is about a year and a half old now, and Cathy has a five-year-old son and as well as a baby girl (Claire) who was born six days before Ellie. You may recall that we all got together when I visited Florida in July:

From our last visit in July: Fran and Hailey, Ellie and me, Cathy and Claire

Just as with Ellie's baby cousins, I was excited to see my friends and their babies again now that nearly six months have passed and the kids can interact a bit more.

Ellie and I went for a little play-date at Fran's house a few weeks ago. Ellie and Hailey got along great, although I think Ellie will love it even more when she can run around and keep up with Hailey. Hailey was great about sharing her toys though, and I know she and Ellie will be BFFs in no time.

Here, Ellie, have this toy.

The girls at play

Hi, ladies!

Then, this past weekend, Ellie, Eric and I met up with Cathy and her kiddos at a park for another little playdate. Cathy's son ran and played on the playground while the girls hung out on a blanket and played. (Well, for the most part. We did have to do a little chasing them around as they crawled all over the place.) Ellie and Claire got along great, and were just so cute playing together. I love that Cathy and I have babies so close in age, and soon we'll be celebrating their birthdays together!

Ellie and Claire on the blanket

Me with the girls

Off the reservation!

Pretty ladies

Unrelated to baby friends, after our playdate we hung out at the park for just a few minutes longer so Eric and Ellie could have some fun on the playground.

They're just cute.

It is so nice to be back around old friends, both so we adults can catch up and so our kids can get to know each other! Hopefully we'll be able to make these get-togethers with our friends a more regular thing during our remaining months here!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Baby Cousins

Recently, we had the opportunity to visit with some family that we don't see very often, and in this case, hadn't seen since my family's reunion in August. First, my Aunt Rachel and Uncle Mark came to visit from Pittsburgh. They stayed with my mom for part of their trip and then with my Aunt Debbie (who lives about an hour south of us) for the rest. On their way from one place to another, they stopped in our neck of the woods for a nice dinner. Then, while they were still at Aunt Debbie's house, my cousin Molly (Debbie's daughter) and her son Santiago came for a week-long visit. So, Eric, Ellie and I headed down there early in the week to visit with all of these out-of-towners.

Given that the babies hadn't been together in almost six months, they had changed quite a bit since their last meeting! And last time, Ellie was in her prime "I hate everything" phase, so she spent some time scaring poor Santiago:

Four-month-old Ellie terrifying poor two-month-old Santiago at their last encounter

But Ellie is much more happy about life these days, and both kids are really growing up. It was great fun to watch them interact a little bit more this time...or at least, to be able to sit and play next to each other, rather than hanging out like the little blobs they were last time. Ha!

Now, just-about-nine-month-old Santiago and just-about-eleven-month-old Ellie at their more recent meeting.

Top: Hi there, cousin! / Holding hands/feet
Bottom: Techie babies! They're totally texting. / Playing with cell phones

And of course, the grown-ups had some fun with the kiddos, as well!

Top: Ellie and her Great Aunt Rachel / Santiago and his Nonnie / Ellie having fun with Auntie Molly and Great Aunt Debbie!
Bottom: Ellie playing with Great Uncle Mark / Santiago and Uncle Eric / Ellie getting her first piano lesson from Great Aunt Debbie

Santiago just wasn't sure what to make of Eric. He was willing to entertain the possibility of him, I suppose, but he wasn't convinced.

Aside from just visiting, the big event of the day was Santiago's first haircut. Unlike my (until recently) practically bald child, Santiago has been sporting quite the head of hair since he was a wee lad. So, Aunt Debbie's friend Joyce came over and did the honors. Overall, Santiago handled himself like a gentleman and when he started to get mad over this hair business, Ellie did her best to help see him through it.

Top: Haircut time! / He's not pleased.
Bottom: Joyce trimming up the sides / The magic of distraction!

It was a great visit, and I could just tell that by the end of the day, Ellie and Santiago were well on their way to being BFFs just like their mamas!

But, that wasn't all! Another baby cousin was yet to join the mix. Later that week Molly's husband Arturo joined them in Florida, and my cousin Jacob (Molly's brother), his wife Zita and their daughter Zazi came for the weekend as well. So, that Sunday, my mom picked the three of us up and we made another trip down to Venice to visit with all these family members (most notably, the babies).

The three babies last time, back in August...

...and now, six months later!

Once again, the babies played together...

Top: Ellie and Santiago sharing a drink / Ellie and Zazi playing in the house / Ellie checking out Zazi's pacifier
Bottom: Zazi and Santiago hanging out / Three babies on a blanket, all wanting the same toy (naturally) / Ellie and Zazi playing together

...and the adults got in on the fun, too.

Top: Me with Ellie, Molly and Zita / Molly and Santiago - he's such a big boy! / Jacob and Zazi / Ellie with Auntie Molly
Middle: Zazi playing with her Nonnie / Ellie getting kisses from her Grammy / Santiago riding in style / me spending some QT with my baby and my nephew!
Bottom: My mom having some fun with Santiago (who does not love it) and Ellie / Aunt Debbie with her grands / Molly and Santiago, Jacob and Zazi, and Ellie

And for the record, Santiago may have started to warm up to Eric a little bit, but at the end of the day, the verdict was still: Sketchy.

I get it, Santiago. He can be a lot to get used to. But he is good people! You'll come around!

Jacob, Zita and Zazi were flying back home to Boston that afternoon, and Molly drove them to the airport. So, when they all left, Eric, Ellie, my mom, Aunt Debbie and I took a walk to the beach for a bit. Ellie relaxed a little bit on the walk out there and then had some fun playing in the sand, as usual.

Top: Ellie sprawled out in the stroller / Ellie and me on the beach
Middle: Ellie strolling down to the water, princess-style / Debbie on the beach
Bottom: Me, my mom, Eric and Ellie

Pretty girl playing in the sand 

On the walk home, we passed a huge tree that was just calling Ellie's name. We just had to sit her in the nook for a quick photo op.

Ellie in a tree!

 What a sweetheart.

When we got back to Aunt Debbie's house, we said our good-byes and off we went. Poor Ellie was all tired out and passed right out in the car.

Sleepy girl

We had such a great visit with these family members. I think it's so awesome that my cousins both have kids so close in age to Ellie (all three babies were born within six months!). I hope that they all grow up to be as close as we are. Visits like this should definitely help!

Sunday, March 3, 2013


In flipping back through pictures the other day I came across this one that I snapped with my iPhone when we were on our way home from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon Inflation. Ellie was not quite nine months old and quite overtired from all the balloon fun we had just had. She was a pretty unhappy camper (see here), but we sat down on the subway and Eric sang her to sleep - a rare feat indeed. The two of them were just so sweet: her sleeping so peacefully at last, right there in the corner of a noisy, crowded subway car, as Eric sang quietly under his breath. My heart could hardly take it, and I got those same warm fuzzies when I rediscovered this photo this week.

Oh, my loves!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Dear Ellie - Eleven Months

My dear Ellie,

Today you are eleven months old, just one month shy of a whole year. I can hardly believe it. Last year at this time you were rolling around in my belly, seemingly trying to will yourself more space as your feet dug into my ribs and your limbs stuck out every which way. I chuckle when I remember your in-utero movement habits, because now that I know you, it was just all so you. For instance, you would often nestle your feet into my ribcage, causing me some decent discomfort. I would try to massage you downward and out of there, to which you would respond with a swift "back off, Mom" kick before repositioning yourself back where you wanted to be. I should have known then what a little firecracker I would have on my hands! (An incredibly sweet firecracker, to be sure, but a firecracker nonetheless!)

This month has been another fun one, although your developments have been more subtle. You continue to master previous skills such as standing (which you have now done with NO HANDS for several seconds on countless occasions, and even when you do hold on I can see how much your balance continues to improve) and cruising (you make your way from one piece of furniture to the next with great ease, and especially love to head over to the piano to play a few notes for us!). Your scoot-crawl lives on and you tear around the house on your two hands, one knee and one foot. Everyone gets such a kick out of it and I love this distinctive movement of yours. I assume next up will be walking, whether we're ready for it or not. As of now, you will take a few steps while Daddy or Papa holds your hands, although you usually won't do that for me, because you just get mad that I'm not picking you up (apparently I've spoiled you). And just within the past few days there have been several moments when both your daddy and I have been just sure that you are about to let go of whatever you're holding onto and start walking towards us. You just look like you want to walk! Alas, you always think better of it and decide to scoot-crawl instead, so for now we're left with the video camera constantly at the ready in case you do decide that maybe a couple steps aren't such a bad idea after all. But, as usual, no rush, Ellie! Once you start walking it seems to me that you will be a real Little Girl and no longer a baby, and I'm perfectly happy to hold on to your baby-ness for just a little while longer.

As for language, you have still been babbling your little heart out. You can say "mama" and "dada" but you still say "dada" more regularly. There have also been a couple of times when we thought you might be trying to say something else (such as "dah" for "dog"), but we can't be sure. You do, however, understand a lot of what we say, including things like "eat," "milk," "may I have that" (which results in you handing us whatever you are holding), and "no" or "don't touch" (which usually results in some whining, if not a full-blown tantrum). It is really cool to be able to talk to you and know that you understand what we're saying!

And, even though you're not really talking, you do your very best to make your wishes known in other ways. For instance, much of your day is spent crawling over to someone and reaching your arms up, asking to be held. When you are in someone's arms, you point all over the house to direct us where you want to go, asking us to show you whatever it is that you want to inspect a little closer. Your favorite things to look at around the house this month are any and all ceiling fans (preferably ones with a chain you can pull), the light switch in the dining room and the wooden pelican art piece hanging over the dining room table. You also often ask to be led to Achilles!

As for regular play, your big thing this month is emptying containers. You love to pull all the toys out of your toy box, and if you can get your hands on one of them, you particularly enjoy emptying my purse, your diaper bag or your daddy's wallet. You also love to tear paper and really did a number on a clothing catalog the other day. In addition to those games, your other favorite activity is peek-a-boo. You love to play peek-a-boo anyway you can, with anyone who will indulge you. It's very sweet and I love that you are now able to initiate a game yourself and interact with us in that way.

Your sleep continues to be interrupted at night, and you are still waking up two or three times expecting to be nursed back to sleep. Your naps, however, are great. You are taking two good solid naps every day, and it is something I never take for granted after all of our nap struggles in the beginning. As for eating, you are still doing quite well although you are less enthused about your purees these days and would rather more finger foods. We've started letting you sample more and more things and it's always fun to watch you experiment with something new. You always try something at least a couple of times before deciding you don't like it, which is something I hope sticks with you!

Another notable thing about you this month is how great you are with all of the outings we drag you on. Even if you have to miss a nap, if you are out and about, you are happy to explore your new surroundings and meet new people. You are bold and outgoing, and reach out to be held by anyone and everyone, including total strangers (such as people in the lobby at the mechanic or in the aisles at the grocery store). Although I do hope you learn to be a little more cautious around people you don't know for the sake of safety, I love your willingness to interact with new people. That's a trait you get from your outgoing dad, and your shy mom is very proud of your little social butterfly self.

And Ellie, I do love your boldness. And your independence, and your fearlessness. Not only do you love meeting new people, but you love new experiences. Every new situation is a chance to learn, inspect, watch and study, and you are always game. For instance, many babies (your mother included) hate the feel of grass on their feet or legs and will cry in protest when forced to touch the stuff. You, however, when plopped down in the grass, immediately go to work pulling it up, inspecting it, and handing it to us so we can also see what is so interesting to you. Similarly with sand, you were hesitant at first touch, but within seconds you were scoot-crawling your way around to chase sea gulls or get a closer look at the shells. You are constantly on the hunt for something new to examine, and you will try everything at least once (and sometimes more, as I mentioned in reference to food), before forming an opinion. This is a trait that, frankly, I hope sticks with you until high school then goes on hiatus until you start travelling the world in your twenties! In all seriousness, though, I so very much love your adventurous spirit.

Ellie-Girl, I realized the other day as I watched you play that the thing I love most about you at this age is that you are just so completely, genuinely, unapologetically you at all times. If something pleases you, you respond with your biggest, happiest, most scrunchy-nosed smile. If something upsets you, you let loose your biggest, unhappiest, uninhibited cries. If you want to go somewhere, you will climb over whatever obstacle may be in your way to get there. If someone tells you "no," you protest whole-heartedly (and loudly!). If something interests you, you will study it relentlessly until you are fully satisfied. If you are hungry, you will enthusiastically stuff food into your mouth. You do everything to the very fullest, without a care in the world about things like social graces or peer pressure. Your personality is on constant, wonderful display and you just are who you are, completely and totally, every second of every day. As adults, that quality is almost nonexistent and to watch you is refreshing, beautiful and inspiring. I know that there may come a day when perhaps you will smile a little smaller, because you are worried about how you will look in the pictures, when you will eat with more decorum so as not to seem rude, when you will worry about what others think of you and you will let self-consciousness dictate your behavior to an extent (although I certainly hope not!). There will come a day when your reactions are more measured, when you keep your opinions to yourself, when you put your own wants and desires aside in favor of social convention. I know some of that is necessary as you learn various social graces, and some of it is unfortunately inevitable as you become aware of the fact that others can form opinions about you. But right now, at this age, those things don't matter. You are completely and totally you at all times and I cannot even express how much I love to see your personality out on full display every day. I love every bit of the baby you are and the little girl you are becoming and I hope that you will always feel the freedom to be yourself and let people love you for who you are. Because you, my girl, are outrageously lovable.

Ellie, even at only 11 months old, you are an extraordinary person. I cannot believe I am so lucky as to be the mother of such a wonderful little girl. My heart can hardly stand it.

Happy Eleven Months, Sunshine. I love you so very, very much.

All my love,

* * * * *

Dear Ellie,

First of all, you are going to notice that this letter is being written on a day other than the 29th. You have no doubt worked out that there was no February 29th in 2013 and may be wondering how your mama and I chose today over February 28. As the answer to that question is not even a little important, I will only admit that we had more than one legitimate discussion about it and invite you to make of that what you will.

In any event, you have continued your inexorable march towards becoming one year old. I would probably be sadder about moving farther from your tiny days if you were not so much fun to be around. You are always full of excitement and smiles when I get you up in the morning and when I first see you after work. You are also interested in so many toys and things and get better coordinated every day. That said, if I take time to think about it, I realize you don't fit as neatly in my arms as you used to and there is too much to look at these days for you to bother with resting your head on my shoulder. You don't really need me to feed you solid food (though you still tolerate it in between your many distractions) and you sleep in your own room so I can't stare at your perfect peacefulness every night before going to bed. After your birthday party, you are also going to be out of first holidays. Fortunately, we tried to do the best we could at being in the moment and enjoying you and them. We also have more than a few pictures in case we forget anything.

This month you have continued to show so much personality and really seem to be learning new things all the time. You lift your arms when you want to be picked up, point at the things you want and know what Mama means when she tells you not to eat something you shouldn't (even though you strongly disagree). You know where and when she usually nurses you and get excited when you can tell it is about to happen. You even turn book pages yourself (in fairness, you are still working on this one, but it is clear you know what you are trying to do). As you can imagine, it is incredibly daunting to know it is our job to teach you everything you will need to know in this world, so it is nice to see you eager to pick some of it up on your own (and especially nice to see you are capable of doing so!).

Speaking of things that are satisfying and fun to watch, you are going on eleven months old and are anything but shy. With the exception of "mama month," you not only allow new people to watch you be yourself, you happily invite them to play along. This past month, we had a lot of family outings where you preciously asked to be passed from one relative to the next, while also taking time to play on your own. This does not seem to be an especially common trait and it has been exciting to have my first glimpse of fatherly pride. Of course I want you to be yourself and I will only ever ask that you do the best you can, but it doesn't mean I can't also be proud when the results are objectively impressive.

In closing, I want to mention how grateful I am to have written these letters. Not only will they give you some idea of what you and I were like during your first months of life, but writing them has forced me to consider in a meaningful way the inexpressible greatness of fatherly love. I had no idea how vast the range of emotions was that came with being a parent for the first time, and it has far surpassed what I expected and looked forward to for so many years. For me, these letters have unintentionally given me a way to try and step back inside the earliest stages of the incredible journey that is being your daddy. I love you and your mama so much and am so grateful that the best things ever to happen to me happen to be so very great indeed.

All my love,