Sunday, September 29, 2013

I Want to Remember

Today Ellie is 18 months old. A year and a half! The six months since her birthday have gone by in the blink of an eye, and I know that I'll go to sleep tonight and wake up and tomorrow we'll be celebrating her second birthday. It's going to feel that way, anyway.

I have really been trying to memorize so many details of Ellie's life and development over the past six months. The first year of her life was so heavily documented, through not only the blog and our monthly photos and letters to her, but also her baby books (yes, plural), calendars, etc. I have a very thorough, enduring record of Ellie's first year of life and I'm so grateful for that.

But all of that really stopped at one year, and from here on out, any documentation of detail is going to require a more concerted (and less guided) effort. The calendars ran out, baby books continue only yearly now, and we decided to stop the monthly letters and photos after 12 months, now reserving them only for birthdays. At Month 13 I felt a little lost, with a nagging feeling of "shouldn't I be writing this down?!" It felt strange to transition from such heavy documentation to nothing at all.

It seems strange that we stop all that at one year, because the past six months have seen Ellie develop in leaps and bounds. She is a full-blown toddler now, running possibly more than walking. Her verbal development has really boomed in the last couple of months, and she is able to communicate most of her needs and wants through spoken word. She is also starting to put words together to form little mini-sentences. Her personality continues to be on full display, as she is unabashedly her complete self, ALWAYS. She has strong opinions and isn't afraid to express them in tantrum form if things aren't going her way. She loves cats and dogs, music, Elmo, bubbles, and walking Achilles. She's back to sleeping through the night (cue me knocking on ALL THE WOOD) and takes one midday nap. Her favorite foods are bananas, pancakes and string cheese. She has twelve teeth. And, quite possibly most exciting of all, SHE IS FINALLY GROWING HAIR.

And that's just a quick summary of 18-month-old Ellie, but over the course of the past six months, there have been so many little things about her that I am forever trying to burn into my memory. Because I never want to forget these things. And because I know my memory tends to fail me, the best way to ensure that these Ellie-isms will live on in my mind is to write them down, right here, right now.

So, off the top of my head, these are some of the things that I most want to remember about 12-to-18-month-old Ellie:

Signing: I still hope to have a fuller post about baby signs up one of these days, because we have loved baby sign language. It has been wonderful for Ellie to be able to communicate before she could speak. Now that her verbal skills are growing, I know the signs will start to be phased out, but I never want to forget how sweet she looked when she did them. My particular sentimental favorite: the "milk" sign when she wanted to nurse.

Ellie signing "eat," "more" and "all done"

VIDEO: Ellie showing off a few of her signs

Sponge Bob: I love that "Sponge Bob" was one of her very first words. Crazy kid.

VIDEO: Ellie says "Sponge Bob"

Beads: Ellie went through a phase where she wanted to wear beads all the time. First thing in the morning, she would put on her beads and would wear them until she went to bed. She'd wear them out in the world and get compliments on them and everything.

My bejeweled baby

Walking in Memphis: Her early strut down the streets of Memphis, with her arms up in the air (something that has already gone by the wayside), was so insanely adorable:

Look at her go!

Ellie and Peabody:

I mean, I just can't.

Her thumb-sucking:

What a doll.

Her first barrette:

The cheeks! The long lashes! The tiny clip! Too much.

Her goofy faces:

She kills me. Seriously, I am forever cracking up at this kid.

And her sweet face, too:

Those blue eyes...

And of course, that smile:

There was a time when I was concerned that teeth would ruin her adorable gummy smile. She's not so gummy anymore, but I would hardly say anything was ruined! She's too sweet.

How much she loves her "Kill-ee":

They're buds.

How she sometimes likes to play peek-a-boo in her crib when you get her up in the morning or from a nap:

Good morning!

How much she loves to give kisses, both to her family members and to her toys and books:

Such a love.

The way that when she figures out she can get what she wants by saying a new word, that word gets stuck like a broken record:

VIDEO: I think Ellie wants up. But who can say for sure?

The sweet sound of her voice:

VIDEO: Ellie saying a few early words

Her happy face when you figure out what it is that she wants:

VIDEO: At least she knows what she wants! (Or, more accurately, what she doesn't!)

Her "Where is it? Where did it go?" hand gesture:

In this case, "where did the airplane go?"

The way she "shops," by browsing the racks like a real grown-up person:

It's totally your color, girlfriend.

Her constant quest to find any and all belly-buttons, both her own and everyone else's:

Belly buttons can be wily. You gotta keep an eye on them.

Her always-graceful eating style:

I wish she would just let loose and enjoy her food.

Her unbridled love for "Melmo:"

She's obsessed. All day long all I hear is, "Melmo? Melmo?" as she points to the computer or the TV. She realizes I have the power to make Elmo appear as if from nowhere, and she is not afraid to ask for it.

Her impromptu dance parties:

VIDEO: A little Ellie dancing compilation

How much she loves chasing birds at the beach (or anywhere, really):

"He will be my squishy."

VIDEO: Chasing the birds at Jacksonville Beach last month

The way she has started to imitate me: She has started to want to do what I do, and it's adorable. If I'm sweeping, she wants to grab the broom and give it a try. If I'm wiping something up with a paper towel, I better give her one, too. The other day, I was putting lotion on my face and looked down to see her watching me while rubbing her face just the way I was rubbing mine. It's fun to watch her learning before my very eyes!

She commandeered this broom so she could sweep, too.

Her love of our neighborhood cats: Every day, I hear, "Achilles? Walk? Meow?" all day long because Ellie knows that when we take Achilles for a walk, we'll go find her cat friend. And when we do, she plops right down with her best buddy to catch up on old times.

"So, what's been new with you, buddy? Tell me everything! Don't leave anything out!"

VIDEO: Stalking her cat friend. I totally have the kid who hunts down a cat, laughs maniacally, says "Boo!" at it and refuses to leave it be.

Her boldness: One of the things I admire most about Ellie is her fearlessness and willing to go out into the world on her own, to meet new people and try new things. I told a story a few weeks ago about how when she heard a balloon pop, she immediately requested more. Likewise, in the above video of baby signs, after getting hit directly in the face with a stream of water, she asked for more then, too. Another anecdote that I feel really sums up her personality is this: in my limited experience with other children, it seems that a common strategy to get the kid to hurry up and follow you as you walk somewhere is to walk away, calling "bye!" back to the child. If I do this to Ellie, she looks at me, says "bye!" and blows me a kiss, and keeps walking in the other direction. The girl is already eager to leave me in the dust in pursuit of new adventures.

"See you later, Mama."

Most of all, I love and want to remember Ellie's enthusiam, excitement and joy. Her laugh is the greatest sound, her grin is the greatest sight, and she is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.

See how much joy she has here in this picture? That is only a tiny fraction of the joy she has brought to my life.

It continues to be an overwhelming pleasure to watch this little girl growing up. I'm so proud to be her Mama. She is my sunshine.

Happy 18 months, baby girl. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Jeff + Sarah

In my last post, I told you all about our weekend at the beach in honor of the wedding of our friends Jeff and Sarah. Today, let's talk about the wedding itself!

After getting all ready, I ran into the bridal party (minus the bride) in the lobby. They went back to their holding room and I found a seat on the beach. Shoes optional!

Shoes optional!

Soon, the processional started. Everyone looked so wonderful, although I was personally partial to a certain groomsman.

Looking good!

Eric and Jeff sharing a handshake

The rest of the bridal party

Soon, it was time for the beautiful bride to make her grand entrance.


Jeff watching Sarah

Her gown was stunning!

The ceremony was beautiful and heartfelt. There were lovely readings and I couldn't help but tear up during the vows. The couple just seemed so happy and in love, which is what really makes it special, isn't it?

Exchanging vows

First kiss!

The new Mr. & Mrs.!

After the ceremony, it was back to the beach for pictures.

The bridal party

Post-ceremony posing

While the bridal party took pictures together, I joined the rest of the guests at the cocktail hour where I drank delicious wine, dined on tasty hors d'oeuvres, and made conversation with new people. It was so refreshing to be out, feeling like my old self again! Before long we were joined by the bridal party, and then the bride and groom themselves.

Jeff and Sarah met/live in Washington, D.C. so I thought these napkins were a nice touch! Many of the guests were also from D.C., and we spent some time at the cocktail hour studying our napkin maps and comparing memorable locations.

With the bride and groom!

Soon we moved into a private dining room at Caretta on the Gulf (the Sandpearl's main restaurant) for dinner. Jeff and Sarah made their grand entrance and looked so happy!


So sweet.

Although we opted to ditch Ellie for the weekend, Jeff and Sarah had planned for her to be in attendance and even had an adorable place set for her at the table. It made me wish we had brought her, although our weekend would have been very different if we had. I think we made the right decision, but I was touched that our friends were so welcoming of our little girl at their big day.

Ellie's spot at the table

The dining room was beautifully decorated with moss table runners and submerged flowers/candles as centerpieces on the two long tables. The lemon meringue wedding cake looked delicious adorned in fruit and the placecards were held by wine corks. 

The wedding cake


The sweetheart table (I wish I had taken this picture with Jeff and Sarah there instead of the groomsmen [regardless of how hot the pictured groomsman may be], but what can ya do?)

Love this shot of the room, with the bride and groom in their own world in the back

Before dinner got underway, the Best Man, Maid of Honor, Fathers of the Bride and Groom and Mother of the Bride made lovely toasts. 

Toasting the bride and groom


Dinner itself was quite tasty. I had a crab bisque and fish entree, and both chocolate stout dessert (with caramel corn on the side!) and wedding cake. They even served Ellie a dessert, but I handled that.


Ellie's dessert

After dinner, we just did a little mingling and hanging out.

The guys

When the whole planned event was over, many of us went across the street to the Brown Boxer for a few more celebratory drinks and cigars. (This is the part of the night where I was especially thankful Ellie was at home, because babies don't generally do well with beers and cigars in a bar hours past bedtime, and I would have hated to miss this extra time to celebrate with our friends!)

Celebrating with the groom!

We had such a wonderful time watching this beautiful couple kick off their new life together. Jeff has been such a great friend to both of us for so long, and he deserves a perfect woman to share his life with. I'm so glad that he found that in Sarah and we can't wait to see what the future holds for them. Congratulations, newlyweds!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Our Beachy Weekend

As I mentioned, Eric and I spent this past weekend relaxing at the Sandpearl Resort on Clearwater Beach in honor of the wedding of our good friend Jeff to his beautiful bride Sarah. Ellie, on the other hand, stayed put in Jacksonville and my mom came to stay with her. Thus, we enjoyed our very first baby-free weekend in nearly 18 months. I missed her like crazy, sure, but the ability to sit quietly on a beach, enjoy an afternoon cocktail, and sleep in until I woke up on my own was not terrible.

You may know that Jeff has been a good friend of ours for quite some time. He and Eric went to high school together, although they weren't really friends then. We all ended up at the University of Florida for college, and Jeff and my roommate Kristina hit it off so we spent their freshman year (my sophomore year) as a foursome. Jeff and Kristina split after that first year, but we remained friends and Eric lived with Jeff for a couple of years. Then, we all ended up in Washington, D.C. for graduate school (law school for the boys), so we roomed together for two years there until Eric and I got married and got our own place. Needless to say, we think Jeff is good people and we just love Sarah, too. I can't wait to get to know her even better.

Eric and Jeff in college!

Jeff and Sarah opted to plan a more intimate wedding on Clearwater Beach (about 30-35 guests), with a larger reception to follow in D.C. in 2014. We were thrilled to make the cut of invited friends for the wedding, and Eric was asked to be a groomsman. We've been anxiously awaiting this weekend ever since!

Eric and I left Jacksonville on Saturday morning. Thanks to traffic in Tampa, we didn't arrive at the beach until almost 2:00, but hey, we were at the beach! Who can be mad? The check-in process was kind of slow, but they gave us some free champagne while we waited, which is the key to my heart. When we finally had the keys to our room we got settled in and then went to find the bride and groom on the beach.

Left: Beach-bound with our sunroof open; Right: The Sandpearl Resort and me enjoying my free champagne

Our room at the Sandpearl

The view from our room

After saying hello to everyone, Eric and I split from the group to grab some lunch (and a whole lot of sangria) at Frenchy's. I couldn't help but marvel at how easy it was to eat a meal at a restaurant without a toddler in tow. It also didn't hurt that the toddler at the table next to us treated his fellow diners to several loud meltdowns during the course of our meal, and guess what? I didn't have to do a thing about it. I didn't have to shove food in his face or desperately try to get him to play with a crayon or continuously pry open salt packets out of his hands. I WAS ON VACATION.

Our lunch view

This is the life.

We spent a decent amount of time at lunch watching the creeper in the bushes taking pictures of the ongoing volleyball game. I suspect he knew the group, but still...sketchy!

After lunch we hit the pool/hot tub for a little while. Jeff and Sarah had reserved delightful cabanas by the pool both weekend days, so we were also able to catch a few minutes of the UF v. Tennesee game there while we chatted with other friends of the couple, too.

Now this is how you relax by the pool in style.

Before too long, it was time to head up to the room to get ready for the rehearsal. Eric got cleaned up and joined the rest of the bridal party on the beach for a little practice. I joined them a bit later and enjoyed the lovely view while they received their instructions for the Big Day.

Bridal party off to rehearse

Rehearsal on the beach

Not ugly.

After the rehearsal we went to Crabby Bill's for dinner with Jeff and Sarah's friends Doug (the best man), Doug's wife Sarah, Jenn (the groomsmaid) and Chris. Dinner was delicious - hip, hip, hooray for a steamer bucket and beer.

Enjoying Clearwater Beach


After dinner it was back to the resort for s'mores around the firepit on the beach with the rest of the bridal party and guests in attendance. We sat out there for a quite a while, chatting with people and enjoying a lovely evening.

Roasting marshmallows

Hanging out with the groom

Then it was off to bed to SLEEP, without fear of any small children deciding that 4:00 a.m. was time to rise and shine. No, no, my friends! This night could last as long as we wanted. I had visions of sleeping blissfully into the late morning, then loafing around in bed as long as I wanted before finally dragging myself up, all entirely at my own leisure. And on Sunday morning, I did sleep in, all the way until....8:45 a.m. Whomp, whomp. But hey, even if it wasn't a super late wake-up time, it was all on my own accord, so I'll take it.

Eric and I went across the street for a delightful omelette breakfast to start our day.

After our breakfast at the Clear Sky Beachside Cafe

Then, Eric, Jeff, Doug and Sarah's father went out for a little miniature golf.

Happy wedding day, Jeff!

Serious golfers

The guys

Meanwhile, I sat on the beach. Wait, read that sentence again: I sat on the beach. As in sat. Quietly. I didn't have to pull sand out of anyone's mouth, or keep any small children from meeting an untimely end by diving face-first into the waves without an exit strategy in place, or beg any spirited young girls to OMG JUST SIT DOWN FOR FIVE SECONDS. Instead, I just sat. I put my toes in the sand, sipped a contraband alcoholic beverage, listened to the surf and watched the clouds grow in the distance. I did all that until the clouds finally grew so big that rain was clearly imminent and then inside I went, just as the boys returned from golf.


Oh, how I cursed those clouds!

I also should mention, that in addition to all this luxurious lounging, I also had gifts bestowed upon me to really put the cherry on top of the perfect weekend. Eric surprised me with an aquamarine eternity band to compliment my wedding and engagement rings on my left ring finger. It was something we had discussed but he handed it to me right there in our hotel room on our first day, and I was quite surprised. I just love it. Aquamarine is Ellie's birth stone, and it was my "vision" to add an eternity band of each of our children's birthstones (should there be more children, of course) to my ring finger. In my mind, this is a perfect way to symbolize that the vows I made to Eric on our wedding day don't only apply to him, but to the entire family we create together. They are all deserving of my steadfast love, honor and loyalty and by adding rings to represent our children in addition to our marriage, I feel that commitment to the family as a whole is clearly symbolized in my every day life. Hey, I'm a sap.

My new bauble

As expected, the rain came as soon as I met back up with Eric and we got up to our room. We had a quick errand to run, so we went out to do that and grab some lunch. When we got back we had just enough time for a very quick stint in the hot tub before I had to get ready for the wedding. The boys were invading our room at 4:00 to get ready together, so I wanted to be showered and such before then. When they arrived, Doug's Sarah and I left them to do their guy thing and we went to groomsmaid Jenn's room to get ready ourselves.

Then, it was time for the wedding, but The Main Event deserves it's very own post, coming up later this week!

For now, I'll just say that the wedding was a blast and Jeff and Sarah looked wonderful and so in love, as a bride and groom should look. Congratulations to them!

On Monday morning, Eric and I woke up early and took one last walk on the beach before we had to check out and head back to Jacksonville.

So long, lovely beach vacation.

I love the beach in the mornings.

Sad to go! (Also, totally still rocking my wedding 'do in this pic. I'm not ashamed.)

We were both exhausted and it rained for most of the drive back, so it seemed rather long, but we made it. We picked Achilles up from his boarder on our way and got back home after Ellie had already gone down for her nap. My mom gave a great report; it sounded like Ellie did just fine without us all weekend (which makes me both very proud and somewhat offended). We thanked my mom and said farewell to her, then took a nap ourselves. When we all woke up, it was a happy reunion. I think I can safely say that both "kids" were glad to see us, and the feeling was definitely mutual.

Reunited with our oldest

Our youngest was pretty psyched!

We had a wonderful weekend away, and it was great to recharge and feel like our old pre-baby selves again for a bit, but we sure did miss our little family. 

Stay tuned for wedding pictures!