Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ellie's New Best Friend

A couple of weeks ago, we made a weekend trip to Vero Beach to visit one of my best friends/college roommate Kristina, her husband Frankie and their baby girl Lena. And, their baby-boy-on-the-way! Kristina is expecting #2, a baby brother for Lena, and we're so excited for their family.

The last time I saw Kristina was almost exactly one year ago, at my baby shower. Lena was just five months old and I was, well, larger. I couldn't wait to see Kristina again (and let her be the pregnant one this time!), see how much Lena had grown (she's 18 months old now!), and introduce all three of them to my baby Ellie.

With Kristina and Lena at my baby shower in January 2012

Ellie slept in a bit the Saturday we drove over to Vero Beach, so we got a bit of a late start, but we made it there by about 2:00 that afternoon. Our grand plan to leave at Ellie's nap time so she would sleep in the car was thwarted by my baby's ability to resist sleep as if her little life depends on it, so she was pretty tired by the time we got there. Lena was napping when we arrived, so we had some time to visit with Kristina and Frankie with just one kid to look after before Lena woke up. When she did get up, she was very excited to meet Ellie! Unfortunately her excitement ultimately resulted in an Ellie face-plant onto the tile floor, but both girls quickly recovered and went on to become fast friends. Lena went right to work sharing her toys and giving Ellie hugs. And hey, you know what's precious? A baby hugging another baby.

Ellie meeting Aunt Kristina

Left: Lena and Ellie! Right: Lena going in for what we assume was meant to be a hug that ultimately sent Ellie's face into the floor. Poor babies.

Here, Ellie, have this toy!


Baby swap!

We spent the afternoon/evening just hanging out at their house. Ellie had a great time playing with all Lena's toys, and the adults pretty much just chatted and watched the kids play. The girls had dinner together (which Lena very politely shared with Ellie, resulting in Ellie's first taste of hot dog), and Lena took her bath.

Eric and Ellie checking out Lena's Little People

Ellie thinks she hit the toy jackpot.

Happy girls, ready for dinner!

Lena and Eric sharing a dance

Bath time for Lena

The girls got ready for bed and put on their matching pajamas, which was just the cutest thing ever.



Honestly, how precious are they?

Two sets of BFFs!

After the girls went to bed, the grown-ups ate a delicious dinner of burgers, hot dogs, baked potatoes and more that our hosts cooked on the grill for us. We shared some wine and some great conversation before retiring to bed ourselves. That's the nice thing about visiting fellow parents - they understand you have an early wake-up call coming the next morning and don't expect to stay up until all hours of the night!

The next morning, the girls had breakfast, and Lena so nicely helped Ellie eat her banana.

Here, eat this.

The adults were hungry too, so we decided to go out for breakfast. We got ready and put our name in at the restaurant. There was about a 20 minute wait, so we walked across the street to a little art festival and then played at the playground for a bit. It was an absolutely gorgeous day!

Ellie and Eric at the park

Ellie went on the swings while Lena played on the slide. They both really hated it.

Happy girl!

When we went back to the restaurant, we still had a few minutes to wait, so we did a little shopping at the stores nearby and Ellie and Lena shared some hugs.

Bah. It's just too much.

We got our table shortly thereafter and enjoyed a tasty breakfast. The girls kindly shared their food once again, too.

The girls at breakfast. Don't they look like two little old ladies, out to eat, sharing some conversation?

Lena helping herself while Ellie daintily eats her Puffs

After breakfast we went back to the house and Eric and I decided we should hit the road. Ellie was so overtired (she barely napped the previous two days and slept poorly the night before), so we thought that rather than give her a nap at the house and then drive back, we should just get going and hopefully she would pass out in the car. So, Ellie and Lena said their goodbyes, as did the grown-ups, and we were on our way.

Lena holding the baby

Or so we thought. After about 15 minutes of driving, just as we reached the outer edge of Vero Beach, and Ellie had just fallen fast asleep, we noticed the car making a weird throbbing sound whenever we got it above 50 mph. We pulled off into a gas station to try to figure out what was going on. We checked the oil and that sort of thing, but everything looked fine. A quick call to my car-savvy stepdad convinced us that we should probably get it looked at before beginning the three-and-a-half hour drive across the state, a large portion of which was largely nothingness with no good place to stop. All this had awoken poor Ellie, but what could we do? We managed to find a Sears Auto Center that was open on a Sunday afternoon, so that's where we went.

It took them a couple of hours to figure out that the rear wheel bearings needed to be replaced. Not wanting to take any chances with driving the car back home as-is (especially with our baby in the car), we decided to just do the repair before we left town. For a while it looked like it could be done on the spot and although we'd be getting home much later than planned, we'd still be heading back that day. But, not so fast. They didn't have the parts they needed and couldn't get them until the next day. So, back to Kristina and Frankie's house we went. They graciously accepted us back, ordered pizza for dinner and indulged us (read: Eric) in watching the football playoffs that night.

When we got back to their house Lena seemed quite excited to have her friend Ellie back. We gave Ellie a bath before putting her to bed, and Lena was once again quite the little helper by bringing Ellie a large assortment of bath toys and helping to wash her with the washcloth. Super cute.

She's such a trooper!

Lena bathing Ellie

We put Ellie to bed and she did eventually fall asleep, although not without an epic fight. It was extremely draining, but Kristina helped me keep my mind off the stress by inviting me to bedtime story time with Lena, which I loved. She is just the sweetest little girl, and so happy! I loved spending that time with my friend and her girl.

It's never fun to have car problems and get stuck somewhere, but being stuck in Vero for another night was actually quite nice. I thought we had more great conversation with Kristina and Frankie that night, and I'm actually very grateful for the extra time we had to visit. Even if I do hate cars. Which I do.

Unfortunately, Ellie did not have such a great night. She woke up around 3:30 a.m. and refused to go back to sleep. Finally at 5:15 a.m. she did manage to get back to sleep, but only by sleeping in the bed with me, relegating Eric to the living room couch. At least she got a little bit of sleep, because the next morning, there was a bit more play time with Lena to be had.

Eric's artsy Instagram picture of Ellie in the hallway in the morning

Her nighttime sleep may have been a mess, but we did get Ellie down for a great morning nap. She slept a record three hours! I was so glad she finally got some of the rest she needed, and that gave us a little extra one-on-one time with Lena.

Eric and Lena playing in her play house

Left: Being shy!; Right: Fun with ribbons!

When Ellie woke up, we gathered our things and said good-byes again. We had a 1:30 p.m. appointment at the mechanic to hopefully get things fixed and get on our way, so off we went. While our car was being worked on, we killed some time at the nearby mall, having lunch and doing a little shopping. When we were done, so was our car and we could finally get on our way.

Happy Ellie at the mechanic

We finally made it back home around 7:30 that Monday night, just in time to feed Ellie a little late dinner and put her to bed. She struggled to sleep that night again, but the next day (and for the rest of the week) she took some amazing, mama-doesn't-know-what-to-do-with-all-this-free-time type of naps. So the poor overtired girl did finally get her rest. Bless her sleepy little heart.

It was a really great visit. It was so nice to see Kristina and Frankie's home, and watch my old college roommate as a mother. I loved seeing their family in action and watching our baby girls playing together. That will only get better in time, too, as the developmental gap between the girls narrows and they can really play together. I just know they're going to be just as good of friends as their mamas are!

BFF kisses!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Dear Ellie - Ten Months

My dear Ellie,

Today you are ten months old, and as always, I can hardly believe it. I feel like time is passing by so quickly and all I want to do is slow it all down and savor every moment. I think this is largely because we have already started making plans for your first birthday party in less than two months, and I am absolutely in shock that we're already staring one year in the face. I'm not sure I'm ready to let go of your babyhood and welcome you into the toddler world just yet. It's happening too fast!

But, you are not quite there yet! Today you are ten wonderful months old and I am going to officially declare this my favorite age for you so far. This month you have been such a delight - a happy, playful, fun little girl once again, a stark contrast to poor, teething, temper tantrum-ing, Mommy-phasing, unhappy you of last month. This month, you are more smiley, more playful, and you laugh more freely. You are far more interactive now than you used to be, and I feel like we can actually play together, which is so incredibly fun. I watch you learning new things almost constantly and spend my days just staring at you in awe...well, until I have to get up and chase you as you scoot-crawl your way out of the room like a little flash of lighting!

One thing you have recently learned to do is place toys in other things, such as tupperware containers. You especially like to put your Little People Nativity pieces into the stable (turned on its side). Your Little People Mary is your favorite, though, and she often travels around the house with you. You also figured out how to open and close things this month, and particularly enjoy opening and closing your toy laptop and the barn door on your walker. You have also learned to share, I think at least in part to a weekend we spent with your new friend Lena recently. You spend a lot of time handing your toys to me, your daddy, your grandpa, and even Achilles. You grin when we take it and thank you, and then happily accept it back when we offer it. It is so very sweet. Another of the more precious things you learned this month is how to "dance," and you rock back and forth to music. You already have a great sense for the beat, so I'm convinced you'll make an excellent musician one day!

You have also become fascinated with books this month. You go through your stacks of board books, handing them to us over and over again so we'll read them to you. Your favorite books include your small Pat-A-Cake and Humpty Dumpty books, the Indestructibles books Santa brought you for Christmas, Is Your Mama a Llama? and I Love You Through and Through. You study the pictures and bounce with anticipation when it is time to turn the page. I just adore this new book love you have going on.

As far as other motor skills, you haven't necessarily mastered anything new this month but are perfecting and becoming more comfortable with old skills. Your scoot-crawl can get you from place to place in record time, and you have gotten the hang of crawling with a toy in hand. You love to spend time every day exploring the whole house, crawling from room to room in search of other people, or just checking things out. You pull yourself up with ease, and spend much of your day standing at our coffee table playing with your toys. You also particularly like to pull yourself up on the window pane that separates the dining and family rooms, looking through at Achilles or us on the other side and laughing. You do love windows in general these days, and taking a lap to look out the windows has become a part of our naptime preparation ritual. You're also getting more confident in your standing, often using only one hand, and I have even seen you stand on your own for several seconds at a time! So, I'm sure it won't be long before you're standing freely and then...WALKING.

You have been especially vocal this month. You talk and shriek almost constantly, and we get the feeling you are really trying to say things. The highlight of this month for me was most certainly hearing you say "mama!" You have started saying it regularly, and not only as a part of your normal babble. You have also said it distinctly to me as you crawl into my lap or when I come to get you out of your carseat or high chair. Sometimes you even say it upon request! It is so surreal to hear that sweet sound come from you and I can't even begin to describe how unbelievable it makes me feel. I just love you so much, my Ellie-Girl.

Another highlight has been your laughter. Prior to this month, your laughs have been relatively rare treats, but this month, you laugh much more easily. You laugh at Achilles, at our funny faces, at tickles and fun games. You particularly like when we play peek-a-boo, and laugh with such delight when we pop out from wherever we are hiding. In fact, you like peek-a-boo so much that you have started playing it with me on your own as you nurse, either pulling my hand or my shirt down over your eyes until I ask, "where's Ellie?" and then pulling it away with a sweet smile on your face. It is the most adorable thing.

Speaking of nursing, we are still going strong with that at 10 months and I still enjoy it immensely. It is so nice to have that quiet time with you, when you are still (well, as still as you ever are while awake) and we can just cuddle up together, with a little playing and tickling mixed in. My goal was to nurse you until you are a year old but as that time approaches, I'm not sure I'll want to stop at that point. I think we'll just take it a day at a time and see where we end up.

In general, though, you love to eat. You eat three meals of solids a day now, plus one snack, and are especially excited about the finger food portion of each meal. You love almost everything I have given you, with the exception of avocado which, if placed on your tray, you will pick up and throw right back down without taking one bite. Everything else gets shoved into your mouth at warp speed, so this is very abnormal. Your favorite food so far seems to be banana, which I can hardly cut up fast enough to keep up with you. I'm so glad you're such a good eater!

As for sleep, your naps have vastly improved and you now take at least two good naps each day with little to no protest, and sometimes you'll even take a third (I probably should not have just put that in writing!). At night, however, you're still waking up several times, generally at 1:00 a.m., 4:00 a.m. and 5:30-6:00 a.m. I'm always able to get you back to sleep easily by nursing you for a few minutes, which is both nice and exhausting. As much as I enjoy those quiet moments together, I can't say I would mind a night or two to just stay in bed for the duration of the night. But, that time will come. In the blink of an eye, you'll be a teenager and I'll be the one dragging you out of bed!

Baby girl, I have been spending a lot of time reflecting on these past 10 months as we near your first birthday, and I'm just so overwhelmed with how far we've come. Those days of bouncing you on the exercise ball for hours seem like a lifetime ago, and I can hardly believe you were ever anything but this happy little girl with the scrunchy-nosed smile crawling all over the house. You amaze me, Ellie-Bellie. I'm so proud of you and so over-the-moon in love with you that all I can do is sit back and watch you turn into the little person you were meant to be, praise God for entrusting you to me, and give you as many kisses as one person can possibly give another in any given day. I am just so very blessed.

Happy Ten Months, Sunshine. I love you so.

All my love,

* * * * *

Dear Ellie,

How are you already knocking on the door of being one year old? Ten is a lot of months and I find it hard to believe you have been around for that long. Feel as I might, your first calendar year has officially ended and January is drawing to a close as well. Even though you are continuing to grow up with every day that passes, I am grateful to still have some time to refer to your age in months.

Looking back at my earlier letters to you, I am struck by how much more appropriate some of my thoughts and feelings are this month than they were when I originally wrote them. I can already sense this is going to be the case for a long time, but that doesn't make it any less true now. For example, you are becoming such a real person. You are starting to grow actual hair (we may even have spotted early signs of bed head), eat real food with your own hands, intentionally say "mom" and "dad" (we are pretty sure!) and move in all directions. Obviously, you are still pretty much of a baby, but you are growing so much more physically capable and exhibiting so much personality. I suppose it will always be relative, but you were definitely more of a baby at the earlier times than I gave you credit for. The other big example is how comfortable your mommy and I have gotten with our (not quite so) new identity as your parents. We have all sorts of routines, including modified ones for the days after you get off the regular ones. We are comfortable with and both enjoy entertaining and taking care of you and, judging by your pure bouncing excitement to see us after any period of absence, we must not be terrible at it. There is an awful lot of love being passed around our little family and it is so awesome to be a part of it.

In other month ten news, you have, fortunately, eased up on the Mommy-or-bust madness, which has freed you up to start doing lots of adorable things. You have started to share your toys with people and dogs, give us books to read while you study the pictures, practice putting things in and taking them out of other things and work on figuring out the magic of windows. You also smile at and reach for people all the time. You are just so precious.

Another thing I noticed about the earlier letters is how many of my favorite things I had to be reminded about. Although I can still remember them vividly, I probably would not have been able to compose a full list without help. It is so sad to think about the sweet things you no longer do, though I am sure there are even more fun things we will someday do together. Nonetheless, I take my poor memory and lack of specificity as a sign that you are starting to rub off on me. Ellie, you live unequivocally in the present, which allows you to express joy as only a child can. I am so grateful for each day we are able to spend together and am very excited about the future I would be able to describe more clearly if I weren't so busy loving every moment of the present.

All my love,

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Silver Lining for Achilles

When Ellie became mobile, it really threw Achilles for a loop. He has taken to softly growling at her if she even thinks about moving in his general direction, and sometimes when she really picks up speed around the house, he gets a little...well, horrified. The fact that her favorite way to interact with him is by pinching his face does not endear her to him any further.

Ellie, on the other hand, thinks Achilles is the greatest. Aside from pinching his face and grabbing his fur by the fistful, she now seeks him out when he's hiding under furniture (much to his dismay), squeals with delight when she sees him and has taken to trying to share her toys with him.

Lately, however, Achilles has come to learn that perhaps Ellie has some redeeming qualities after all. Namely, she is the member of the family most likely to share food with him, both unintentionally and purposefully. 

Ellie sharing her afternoon snack with her favorite dog

So maybe she isn't really so bad after all, eh, Achilles? How's that cracker?

Friday, January 25, 2013

A January Day at the Beach

A couple of weeks ago, my mom picked Ellie and me up and we all spent the afternoon at the beach. Considering that this is what my phone says the weather is currently like back in NYC:...


...I would say the weather is one thing Florida really has going in its favor. Nobody is going to the beach in that mess pictured above. (Well, except the Coney Island Polar Bear Club crazies, but they're the exception.)

So we spent a Saturday in January at the beach. At the glorious, sunny, warm, sandy, delightfully breezy, gorgeous beach. My mom brought a new bathing suit for Ellie to wear, and with that ruffled bikini paired with her sun hat, she really looked the part of Florida girl.

She's a natural.

Left: Working on her tan. (Not really, of course, don't worry - no babies were actually tanned in the making of that photo.)
Right: The ruffled butt just kills me. I am powerless against a ruffled baby butt.

Hanging out with Grammy under our umbrella

Ellie was much more participatory this time around than she was during her first beach experience, as was to be expected. She wanted to climb all over the chairs, crawl through the sand, and munch on some seashells. Needless to say, if she was in motion, we had to be on our toes to try to keep the sand consumption to a minimum.

Happily climbing (and showing off her teeth) with Grammy's sunglasses in hand

Examining the sand

A fistful of sand, headed straight for that big, open mouth. Yikes!

All that sand snacking makes a girl thirsty. Gotta stay hydrated!

The one thing she really didn't like was the chilly Gulf water, and the poor girl cried right away when her mean ol' mama stuck her toes in.

VIDEO: Poor Ellie feels the chilly Gulf water!

So, we spent our afternoon letting Ellie explore, strolling along the shore, having some lunch, and just relaxing. We were all having so much fun that we ended up staying quite a bit longer than we had planned! I think Ellie was destined to be a beach bum.

Ellie and Grammy walking on the beach

Sharing some laughs back on our blanket

Thumbs up for beach day!

Of course, the poor sweetheart passed right out on the drive home. Beach-going is exhausting!

That is one tired beach bum.

I have to admit, I feel pretty disconnected from the rest of the world and even a bit disoriented thanks to this warm Florida weather. I see my friends back up north posting pictures of snow, and that is how I remember that it's winter. I keep assuming the kids are out of school on summer break. I forget that in most other places, it's cold, cold, cold right now. It's all very strange.

Not that I'm complaining, of course. I'll take a January beach day and you won't hear a peep of griping from me!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Let the Visits Begin!

When we first arrived in Florida, naturally getting out to see friends and family was a top priority. Life was crazy for weeks on end, but we tried to see as many people as we could, as quickly as we could. Now that things have settled down a bit we hope to see more of friends and family, too.

We saw my sister right away when we arrived, because she was doing a show in St. Petersburg and was able to stop by pretty regularly. We also had dinner with Eric's mother, Gramz, Kelley and Phyllis within a few days of our arrival in Florida. A week later, we were also able to have lunch with my mom and Gary, and their friends Wilma and Don. (Ellie has really become a restaurant pro these days!)

Grammy is happy to be so close to Ellie now!

We also took Ellie to meet Eric's childhood friend Ryan, his wife Amanda and their new baby Ethan. Ethan was born at the end of July, so there is about the same age difference between Ellie and Ethan as there is between Eric and me. Coincidence, or proof that they'll probably end up married? You decide.

Ellie making Ryan's acquaintance

Old friends with new babies. Both babies also happened to be wearing Gator gear, so I'm pretty sure the fates have spoken on this one.

We took Ellie to see her Great Grandma Baird pretty early on into our Florida life, as well. Ellie loves Great Grandma's place, with all the nooks and crannies to explore, the fuzzy stuffed elephant, and the air vent that she can pull up on and feel the breeze through her lustrous locks.

Fun with stuffed elephants

Oh, hello!

Come here, Great Grandma. Let me closely inspect your face.

One very special visit involved meeting our new nephew Charlie. Eric's brother Ronnie and his wife Stephanie were taking Charlie to meet Eric's mom for the first time, and we ended up tagging along for a visit and a shopping trip to Target before the holidays. It was so great to finally meet that sweet baby. He was born early and weighed only three pounds at birth, but by the time we met him, he weighed a little over what Ellie weighed when she was born. It was strange to hold him and think that Ellie was once that size! How time flies, right? Charlie is such a dear and we just loved meeting him and very much enjoyed our day out with the family.


Stephanie holding Ellie and me holding Charlie

Charlie and his Nonnie

Ellie and me sharing a lemonade at Target (I think the icy drink felt good on her poor teething gums)

Shopping and meeting family is exhausting!

As much as I may miss the hustle and bustle (and public transportation) of New York City, it really is nice to be so close to family and friends, especially for Ellie's sake - I love to watch her interacting with her relatives and forming relationships with them. That's one thing that the Big Apple just couldn't offer us, and it is so very special.