Sunday, August 31, 2014

That FACE.

Since E.J. was born, I keep saying that I am obsessed with his face. Heck, I was even quoted as saying so (in so many words exactly) on E.J.'s birth announcement. But, I mean, LOOK AT IT:

He pretty much alternates between this heart-breaking grin and a seriously worried expression, complete with little baby forehead wrinkles. I prefer the grin, but either way, it's just too much. I can't get enough.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Announcing E.J.

This is just a brief Friday post to share E.J.'s official birth announcement with you!

Given that E.J. was born during a big blockbuster weekend, we went in a cinematic direction with the announcement this time. Eric took the picture for this bad boy and I worked on putting it together in the hospital when E.J. was sick. A little trivia: the photo was even taken while in the hospital, and is carefully cropped to hide the gauze over his PICC line and monitors on his chest. What a sweet baby, to still look so content while posing for a photo with all that other stuff going on!

E.J.'s movie poster birth announcement!

(Last name edited for internet safety)

I'm just nuts about that little boy.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Making Introductions

We went down to St. Petersburg last week for an unexpected trip for my Grandmother's funeral. It was our first long car trip with E.J./two kids and really, the car part went exceptionally well, especially on the way down there. E.J. slept the whole time, and we just kept marveling at the difference between this trip and Ellie's first. Granted, Ellie's was longer - about nine hours, from New York to Cleveland - but she screamed and cried for about eight and a half of those nine hours. Let's just say I prefer E.J.'s approach to car travel. (On this particular trip, Ellie was also incredibly good and even the dog slept quietly in the backseat instead of whining in my ear for three hours. I don't know how it happened, but I wanted to give all three of them big sloppy kisses of thanks upon arrival.)

We hadn't planned to bring E.J. to St. Petersburg until the end of September, which would have meant that some of our family members would have still had another month to wait before meeting him. However, this visit gave us the opportunity to make some introductions ahead of schedule.

We stayed with Gramz (Eric's grandmother) for this trip, so she got to meet E.J. as soon as we arrived:

E.J. laying on the charm for his great-grandma

After my grandmother's funeral on Friday, my mom took Ellie back to her house while Eric, E.J. and I continued on to the cemetery with my dad. After the ceremony at the cemetery, we stopped back at my mom's house to retrieve Ellie, and E.J. met Grandpa Gary for the first time:

He looks a bit overwhelmed.

My mom was happy for a little visit with both her grandkids too, and it looks like they feel the same!

Then, on Saturday morning, we went to visit Eric's mother for breakfast, so she got to meet E.J., too:

Toni getting her first look at her new grandson


Three generations!

Eric's brother Ronnie and our nephew Charlie also joined us, which was great fun. We were even able to get some pictures of all the cousins together. Of course, there isn't a single one with all three kids looking at the camera and/or looking pleasant, but hey. That's life with kids.

Brothers and their babies

The W. cousins

Love for the little one

Totally frame-worthy.

After that visit, we stopped at the park for a late morning play session and another visit with my dad before hitting the road back to Jacksonville. The trip back was a little more up and down, kiddo-wise, but for the most part, everyone was great. We really do have a couple of terrific kids!

Let's hit the road!

Sunday, August 24, 2014


My grandmother

Eric, Ellie, E.J. and I just returned from a whirlwind visit home for a very sad reason: my grandmother, Rita Baird, passed away late Monday night. The funeral was held on Friday, with a nice, simple service at the funeral home followed by a brief ceremony at Florida National Cemetery, where she is now at rest with my grandfather. She leaves behind her four children, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Although we are sad to say goodbye to her, she has been very ill and very frail for a very long time, and as of late she was dealing with far more than just physical failings. In a way, it is a relief to know that she can finally rest. I pray her passing has brought her the peace she was missing for so long.

I realized as I sat down to write this that I actually know very little about my grandmother's life when she was a child or young woman. I know that she was very beautiful:

Looking like a movie star in her youth!

And that she and my grandfather had a World War II-era romance that transitioned from "uncertain" (as my grandfather described it) to happily married during my Papa's service with the Marines:

My grandparents are on the right, on their wedding day

A sketch my grandfather made for my grandma and mailed to her while he was overseas in WWII

And if I'm being honest, my grandmother and I did not have a particularly close, "grandmotherly" relationship. When we would go to her house as children, we would generally go off and play in a bedroom while she visited with my parents. My grandfather helped me plant a garden every year and built me a dollhouse and took me fishing, but I don't have similarly memorable one-on-one experiences with my grandmother. She wasn't very emotionally demonstrative, yet I always knew she was interested in my life, and cared about me, and she definitely loved hearing about and seeing pictures of Ellie (in fact, her visits with Ellie after we moved to Florida were the times I remember her being the most obviously happy in a very long time).

Four generations of Bairds, July 2012

Admiring Ellie

December 2012. I'm so glad Ellie got a chance to meet her great-grandmother, too!

But even knowing all that, overall, my grandmother and I just weren't as close as we could have been.

However, just because she never donned an apron and baked cookies with me while telling tales of "the good old days" doesn't mean that I don't consider her to be one of the great female role models in my life. My grandmother's personality was as vibrant and fiery as her red Irish hair, and she had a plethora of qualities that I find extremely admirable - traits that I hope to embody to some degree myself, and characteristics that I hope to see in my own daughter as she grows:

Grandma was well-educated and even into her final months, continued her relentless search for knowledge. She loved to read and study and sought constant opportunities for learning.

Grandma was well-informed and very opinionated in regards to politics and current events, and was never afraid to share her thoughts on that subject (or any subject, for that matter!).

Grandma loved music, particularly opera.

Grandma had a great sense of style. She was always well put-together and when we were kids, she had the best dress-up clothes! My cousins and I would drape ourselves in her old dresses, sequined pillbox hats and mink stoles and imagine what great parties these fine clothes must have seen (from things my dad has mentioned, it sounds like there were fine parties indeed!).

Grandma wanted the best for us, even if she sometimes showed it in seemingly strange ways. For example, she was angry at my cousins and I when we gave birth in situations or under circumstances that scared her (my HELLP syndrome; my cousin's homebirth). I know she just wanted us to all be okay, and didn't like feeling out of control. I get that.

Grandma was outspoken, even coming from an era when women were generally much less so than today. She could be blunt and often stubborn, but by golly, she would tell you what was on her mind! As an introvert who avoids confrontation at all costs, that is a trait I really wish I had a little more of myself.

Of all Grandma's qualities that I considered over the past week, however, the one descriptor that comes to mind with noticeable frequency is that Grandma was strong. She was strong mentally - smart, sharp and clever. She was strong emotionally - enduring the war with her husband overseas, raising four children, carrying on as the head of our family after her husband passed 16 years ago. She was strong physically - she battled her health for years and years but simply refused to give up. Sometimes her strength (and stubbornness) was to her own detriment, like when she insisted on getting out of bed herself even when she was too frail to do so. That woman would not give up; when she set her mind to something she was going to do it and all you could do was get out of her way. She was one tough cookie, definitely one of the absolute strongest women I have ever known. To me, strength was Grandma's most defining characteristic.

All these things are pieces of Grandma that I hope will live on in her family - in her daughters and sons, her grandchildren, her great-grandchildren. I pray that we will live our lives drawing from her extraordinary strength and making her proud.

Grandma in the upper right corner, surrounded by just a sampling of her family and very happy about it.
July 2012

We love you, Grandma.

Monday, August 18, 2014

No Itching!

August 18, 2007

Today Eric and I are celebrating our seventh wedding anniversary, and I am pleased to report that neither one of us is the least bit itchy. No seven-year-itch in sight over here!

What a year of marriage we've had! This past year may go on record as being the one most characterized by change of our entire marriage. It certainly is to this point, I'd say. On our anniversary last year, we had just moved to Jacksonville and Eric was about to start his first year of teaching. So, one year has seen Eric start and finish Year One of teaching, including coaching football. We moved out of our apartment and into a new rental house. And, the biggest change of all: our family grew by one sweet little boy.

I'm sad to say that our anniversary seems to be getting lost in the shuffle a bit this year. Aside from the facts that our house is still a disaster zone and today is Eric's first day back at school with students, this summer has been particularly crazy. The past six weeks since E.J. was born have been a complete whirlwind and I know there have been many times that I have felt like my head is barely above water, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if Eric felt the same. Just in the past week, we've been trying desperately to settle in to our new home while Eric worked to prep for the new school year (including making adjustments after learning he will not have a classroom of his own, but will be traveling from room to room this year). Any free time we have had that hasn't been taken up with unpacking or lesson planning or cleaning or caring for our kids has been spent trying to show said kids a fun time (zoo, pool, playgrounds), and not planning any sort of anniversary celebration for ourselves. Good luck to us in year eight, am I right?

But just because there aren't any big plans on the agenda doesn't mean the day will go unnoticed. Tonight we'll get some dinner to go from someplace (see? literally no plans have been made), watch our wedding video and talk to each other. We like to reminisce, talk about where we are now and where we're headed. Spoiler alert: the past was good, the present is great, and we fully expect the future to be even better.

When Eric and I got married, we had nine years of fun behind us. We were more in love with each other than ever and had so many great thing ahead of us to look forward to. I had high hopes for our relationship on that day that I said "I do," but now, seven years later, it's so much better than I ever imagined. We have made so many great memories and each year has only strengthened our relationship and left us enjoying, trusting and loving each other even more. Additionally, our family has grown by two beautiful children so today not only am I unbelievably in love with my husband, but with my family. I look at the three of them and cannot believe how lucky I am to be a part of this family.

I really like where Eric and I are in our relationship right now, actually. We've been married for seven years and together for a total of nearly 16, so we know each other. We each know how the other thinks, feels and processes things. We each know how the other handles stress and what really gets under our skin. We each know what makes the other laugh, what challenges them, what they enjoy and what to say to bring comfort and reassurance in times of uncertainty. We know each others' stories (and were there for the creation of many of them!) and just know what makes the other person tick. Yet at the same time, we're still new and young enough to still be learning new things about each other all the time. Even after all this time together, we still have new stories to share with one another and there are still things we just haven't yet learned about each other. In addition, as we grow and change as both a couple and individuals, we're getting to know each other in new ways. Currently, we're primarily getting to know each other as parents. Our relationship is constantly evolving and it is a really cool thing to have that familiarity and comfort that comes from a long-term relationship, while simultaneously maintaining the exciting newness of a couple just getting to know each other.

Looking forward, I can't help but wonder if there will come a day when the newness has fully faded away, when we have been together so long that we can know what the other is thinking without speaking a word, when we can each recite the other's stories, and when all that is left to do is to sit together in comfortable quiet, content with the knowledge that we know each other as whole people and still love each other entirely. I hope so. I hope we're blessed with a marriage that lasts that long, till we're old and gray and out of new stories to tell. Of course, knowing my husband, there will never come a day when there are no words left to be spoken - with him, there will always be something to debate, discuss, analyze or question! And that is just fine with me, because that's the man I married. And I love him entirely.

Eric, thank you for being the husband you are. In every way, you are more than I could have hoped for. Thank you for all you do to take care of me and of our family, for being my very best friend, for sharing my stories and making me smile. The past seven years have far exceeded any and all expectations I could have ever had and I am so thankful to have been able to share them with you. Happy anniversary to my absolute favorite. I love you, always and forever.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

My Favorite Shade of Blue

E.J. has been getting quite a bit of love here on the blog for the past six weeks, so I figured it was time to give Ellie the spotlight back for a minute. I just wanted to share one photo Eric snapped of her a few weeks ago. She's really growing into such a beautiful little girl, both inside and out. I can hardly believe how grown up she's getting and I spend our days together watching her in awe. She's smart, spunky and sweet, and so much fun to be around.

She's also just so pretty. Her hair is finally long enough to get some nice curls (a reason to be thankful for the Florida heat and humidity!) and her eyes seem to just keep getting bluer and bluer. On this particular night, the lighting was just right to really bring them out and every time I look at this photo, they're all I can see. They are my favorite shade of blue.

I'm so proud to be her mama.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Settling In

I mentioned in Friday's blog post that we moved into our new house on Thursday. Moving is never fun, and adding in a toddler, a very new newborn and post-surgery heavy lifting restrictions for one of the two adults in question adds a whole new level of frustration. But, we're here!

When we decided to make this move back in June, we anticipated having about a month's worth of time after E.J. was born in order to purge, organize and pack in a methodical and somewhat leisurely manner. We knew that moving with a newborn would be challenging, but didn't anticipate 1) a c-section for me, and the recovery restrictions that brings with it; and 2) E.J.'s two-week hospital stay, rendering me completely useless and leaving Eric to run around like a chicken with his head cut off, trying to take care of everything else. There was just no time or way to get any packing done until E.J. and I were set free. We didn't pack one single box until less than a week before the movers were scheduled to arrive. PANIC.

We did hire movers that were willing to help us pack whatever we were unable to get to, and we considered having them do the whole apartment. Ultimately we decided we would start with the most time-consuming (and thus, costly) packing projects (here's looking at you, kitchen!) and just try to get as much done as possible.

Even once we got started, it was slow-going. Trying to pack around kids' needs was challenging in itself (once again, I thank my ability to set aside my parenting scruples and just plop Ellie in front of Doc McStuffins or Daniel Tiger as much as necessary for allowing us to get anything done), but also, as I mentioned, I was not supposed to be lifting anything heavier than my nine-pound baby. I did what packing I could and had Eric do all the moving of boxes. Eric did his best to help with the packing itself, too (and single-handedly packed the kitchen, bless him), but he was also preoccupied with a myriad other issues that kept popping up and needed to be dealt with: securing health insurance for E.J., signing the new lease, dealing with the terrible management at our current apartment as we tried to settle up our last month's rent, unexpected student loan issues, etc., etc. We would just start to gain some momentum and something else would pop up that would delay the whole process. Every day I would set what I considered to be very reasonable goals for what to accomplish that day, and every day we came up short. Frustrating!

Doc McStuffins + swaddled nap in the nest = the only way to get anything done.

But somehow, we managed to get through far more than I originally thought we would. By the time the movers arrived Thursday morning, the majority of our home was in boxes, save for the master bedroom closets (no small task, to be sure) and some other miscellaneous items here and there. And thank goodness, because after seeing the movers' packing "strategy" (by "strategy," I mean haphazardly throwing random things into unorganized and unlabeled boxes), I cannot fathom the hell that would have been trying to unpack our entire home if it had been packed in that manner. And how I shudder at the thought of the tragic fate that surely would have befallen our dishes and glassware with this packing approach. Oh, the inevitable carnage!

The movers arrived around 8:30 a.m. on Thursday and got right to work. I may bemoan their last-minute packing strategy, but let's not understate how thankful I was to have two able-bodied men to move all of our junk out of our apartment, down that flight of stairs, into a truck, across town and into our new house. Did they put all the boxes in the right rooms upon arrival? Certainly not. Ellie's Cozy Coupe ended up in the living room while boxes of blankets remained outside on the porch. But you know what? WE DIDN'T HAVE TO DO IT.

Let's do this thing!

Loading our things onto the truck

While the movers did their thing, I threw E.J. in a wrap and took the kiddos for a walk. We took the same path Ellie and I always used to take: across the uneven stepping stones where an unsteady new-walker Ellie once always held my hand (sniffle), to the apartment that feeds the stray cats to look for good ol' "meow," and out to the "turtle lake" to watch the geese and turtles. Ellie actually walked the entire distance there and back without whining to be carried, which I'm not sure has ever happened before and was very welcome. It was a nice way to say good-bye to our old routine.

Ready for moving day!

Ellie has no trouble with these stepping stones now!

Enjoying our final voyage (and E.J.'s first!) to the turtle lake

Bye, turtles!

Achilles heading back inside after a final frolic on the golf course

When the movers left for the new house, we fed the kids lunch and then Eric and Ellie took off for the new house while E.J. and I followed behind (and made a stop at Arby's for parent lunch). Upon arrival at the house, though, it was chaos, and our lunch went uneaten for a while. Much of the stuff the movers had packed had gone into boxes they brought, and they said they wouldn't charge us for those boxes if we unpacked immediately and gave the boxes back before they left. On the one hand, yay for saving money. On the other, UGH. All the stuff they packed was last-minute stuff that we probably could've left boxed for days while we unpacked the more important things. But instead, we had to rush around and empty those boxes, in the midst of the chaotic moving-in environment, with no furniture in place or real plan with where to put many of the things in those boxes. Moving, man. It's the worst.

But a mere eight hours after kicking things off that morning, it was over. The movers left and we were officially in the new house - buried under piles of boxes, of course, but in. We unpacked the essentials that night (bedding, etc.), picked up some local pizza for dinner and thanked the heavens that the worst was over.

The dining room (and living room) after the movers left, and Ellie perfectly expressing what we all felt.

The kitchen

Ellie's room

E.J. hanging out in his room

Master bedroom. Getting that Sleep Number bed operational is always a top priority after we move!

One tired family chowing down on some local pizza in our new living room at the end of the day

Since then we have largely spent our time trying to settle in, but just as it was with packing, the unpacking is very slow-going. We have the kitchen, bathrooms and Ellie's room largely setup, but there are still boxes galore just waiting for the kids to both sleep at once so they can be given proper attention. I also started to feel like I was probably overdoing it physically a little bit, so I've sidelined myself for a day or two and then will hit the ground running again. In addition to setting up the new house, we still need to finish cleaning up the old place before handing in our keys on August 25. So, there's still much to be done.

But we're very excited to be in the house. I think we're really going to like it once we're all settled in. We've already made use of the walkability of the neighborhood with som local dinners, and have walked the kids to the local park several times (it just so happens to be Ellie's favorite park in Jacksonville so far, so that's lucky!). I think ultimately this neighborhood will be much more our style, and I think we'll be very happy here.

Off to a nearby park with the kiddos

New playground fun

Post-playground stop at Panera Bread for a frozen lemonade treat - all this easily done on foot!

I can't wait to show you more pictures of our new home when we get it all set up, which, at this pace, will probably be a while. But we'll get there!

The kids in front of "the blue house," as Ellie calls it!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Inexplicably Homesick

We moved into our new house yesterday, and it has been quite a whirlwind of a week. Hopefully I'll be able to calm the chaos and show off our new place to you soon!

We're excited to take this next step in Jacksonville, and to really give "suburban life" a fair shake. We still don't know what the future holds for us or where we'll end up, but having already lived the city life for a number of years, now we're trying the picket fence thing.

And generally, I'm on board with that. I think it's good to at least get a taste of all our options in order to figure out where we really see ourselves long-term. I get nostalgic for city life quite often (thanks a lot, friends who still live there and post amazing city pictures on Facebook and Instagram all the time...), but we're settling in to Jacksonville just fine and recognizing that it could possibly be more of a long-term option for us.

But then, sometimes, it still sneaks up on me out of nowhere: homesickness. A few days ago, the trigger was this random photo from Humans of NY on Instagram (one of my absolute favorites):

I came across that picture as I was scrolling through Instagram before bed one night, and for some reason, that random, goofy photo got to me. I looked at it and read the caption, and out of nowhere I felt a pit in my stomach, a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. Man, I miss New York.

Looking back at that picture, I really can't tell you what triggered such an aching reaction for me. Maybe it's the look of the New York street. Maybe it's the evident hustle and bustle in the background. Maybe it's the featured man's ridiculous and light-hearted attitude, and the way that symbolizes the eclectic eccentricity of New York. Maybe it was even just that unmistakable glimpse of taxicab-yellow on the right. Who knows? But whatever it was, it made me feel like a fish out of water all over again and reminded me that a significant chunk of my heart and soul still resides in the Big Apple.

There's no real point here. There's no take-home message or simple resolution. I simply just wanted to document that, hey, almost two years after we left, I still long to be back on those city streets. I don't know what the future holds. I do hope it holds more time in New York, but time will tell what is ultimately best for our family. So for now, I'll continue to do my best to give Jacksonville a fair shot, while still sighing over Instagram photos that remind me of the extraordinary place that I used to call home.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A New Addition to the Baseball Nursery

I shared E.J.'s baseball nursery with you back before he was born (though at the time, the name on the scoreboard was censored!), and it's something I'm very proud of. I love how it turned out! Granted, he hasn't spent much time in there yet, but now that we're finally home from the hospital for good, we can start enjoying it.

Ta-da! You can see the actual finished scoreboard now!

E.J. and Eric in the nursery

While I was Pinterest-ing for baseball nursery ideas, as an expectant mother is wont to do, I came across an idea for a birth record for E.J. that was very on theme and very cool. After he was born, we ordered it right away.

This birth record is a personalized baseball bat from Texas Timber Co. They will engrave the end of the bat with the baby's name and relevant details, and - here's the coolest part, in my opinion - will cut the bat to the same length as baby was at birth. So now, E.J. has this baseball bat that is as long as he was when he was born, and I can't wait to watch it (seemingly) get smaller and smaller as he grows up and gets bigger and bigger!

E.J. showing off his bat! (2.5 weeks old and in the hospital in this picture)

Pretty cool, right? (Last name removed to protect the innocent!)

Now we just have to hope the little guy actually likes baseball...

So far he seems somewhat unimpressed.

(NOTE: This is not a paid post. Texas Timber Co. does not know I exist; I just thought their product was cool and wanted to share!)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Dear E.J. - One Month

My dear E.J.,

It has already been one month since you joined our family, and what a month it has been! Your life has gotten off to an eventful start. But, I guess we could have expected that, considering that you made sure your birth would be immediately followed by literal fireworks.

Half of your first month was spent in the hospital after you developed a fever at 11 days old. With no concrete diagnosis but suspicion of bacterial infection, the doctors opted to err on the side of caution, assigning a diagnosis of "presumed meningitis" and keeping you in the hospital for 14 days of antibiotics. E.J., watching what you went through in the emergency room that first night and for the duration of our hospital stay was the hardest thing I have ever done. I cannot even describe the heartache I felt as the doctors put you through the ringer with tests and labs (including a spinal tap and tons of bloodwork) and IVs and temperature checks and x-rays and what have you. In the ER that night, you cried more and harder than you had ever cried in your life (and more than you ever have since) and I wept right along with you. You were just so tiny in that hospital bed and all I wanted to do was to take it all away for you, to make it all better, to give you a happier start. I felt guilty for not being able to protect you from illness and the ensuing ordeal, and heartbroken at the idea of you being "cheated" out of two of your first few weeks of life by being confined to a hospital room, enduring endless checks and stabs and tests. I am so sorry, buddy. I wish I could have given you better.

But we made it out, you and me. I stayed in the room with you the whole time and we made it through the whole experience just fine. In fact, in a way I was grateful for that time with you, when I could give you my full attention. At home, your sister commands much of my focus but by being in the hospital, just the two of us, I was able to turn my attention solely to you. I liked being able to get to know you in that private way, and I think you and I are off to a pretty decent start together.

You are such a good-natured baby. Even with all you went through, everyone kept commenting on what a trooper you were. You were brave and strong, rolling with the punches with apparent ease. At home you are endlessly tolerant of your sister's poking and prodding, and the noise of our home doesn't seem to disturb you in the slightest. Even when you're upset, you sound more worried than anything, and your cries are generally brief, quiet and far-between. When you do cry, it is almost always for a specific reason, and all we have to do to soothe you is make sure your basic needs have been met. In extreme situations, a light patting on your bottom or a gentle rock in your "nest" (your Rock 'N Play cradle, where you much prefer to take your naps) will usually do the trick. When you're awake, you seem very thoughtful, carefully studying everything around you. Your dark eyes and serious expressions make you seem like something of an old soul. You are starting to smile a bit more, though - I can't wait for them to be purposeful so I can start working to make you laugh!

You sleep a lot, which is to be expected for a newborn, of course. You nap well in your nest all day and sleep well in your crib at night. Just the other night you slept for a five and a half hour stretch, which is a great sign of things to come, I think!

You eat well, too. You and I picked up the breastfeeding thing like we'd been doing it forever. I usually have to wake you to eat but aside from that (and that's not a problem), so far we're off to a really great start. I loved my breastfeeding relationship with your sister, and I'm so happy to have a chance at a repeat experience with you. In your first week at home, I especially cherished our nighttime feeding sessions, when it was quiet and dark and we sat in the glider and rocked together. You just fit so perfectly in my arms, your tiny body pressed against mine, both of us relaxed and cozy. I tried desperately to memorize every detail of those moments in the hopes that they will never slip my mind. Time will tell if I succeeded, but regardless, I really enjoyed that closeness with you.

As my second child, I have been struggling with the knowledge that much of your newborn-hood will vanish from my memory in time. When your sister was born, even as a first-time parent, I spent so much time trying to memorize everything, to catalog every detail in my mind. Even just two years later, I look back at pictures and my heart aches at how much is already forgotten. It's just the way it is, unfortunately. With that knowledge, I struggle with a feeling of helplessness as I spend these early moments of your life with you. I want to remember everything but know there is no way I possibly can. It's heartbreaking. Thank goodness for all the photos we take, so I can do my very best!

You've already grown up so much in just one month. Even after your two-week stay in the hospital, nurses that saw you at the beginning and end of our stay commented on how much you've grown, and I know they're right. By the time we got home, you didn't fit quite so well in the nook of my arm during those late-night feeds in the glider anymore. By now, you're already holding your head up with impressive strength and determination, and you're starting to find your voice a little bit. Daddy and I have been greatly enjoying your "sneeze moan" - that forlorn little moan you make before, during and/or after your cute little sneezes - and we're still trying to capture it on video to our satisfaction. Hopefully you won't grow out of it before we get the chance!

You're also constantly reminding me that you are your own person, very different from your sister. I knew that would happen, but having only experienced her as a newborn, I wasn't sure what exactly that would look like. But your demeanor, personality and preferences are so noticeably different. For example, I already mentioned that you are not much of a crier, are pretty easy to soothe and you prefer to sleep in your nest (even over being held in my arms, most of the time). Ellie, on the other hand, was often disgruntled, soothing her took hours of vigorous effort, and she would only sleep if being held/bounced/cuddled. I'm grateful for these differences because they are a constant reminder that you are you, and I love every bit of the unique little baby you are.

E.J., we are so overjoyed to have you as part of our family. If I'm being honest, I had some concerns before you were born, because having only known what it was like to be a mother of one child, I had a hard time understanding how I would have enough love to give to two. But there is so, so much love. I adore you. I cherish you. I love you with all my heart and soul. You are my sweet boy, my little man, and now that you are here I can't imagine our lives or our family without you. Likewise, I know your Daddy is similarly in love and Ellie is nothing short of completely smitten with you. And it's not just us, buddy. After you were born and again when you were in the hospital, I was so touched by the outpouring of love and support from friends and family, both immediate and distant, from all stages of our lives. You have so many people in this world who love you and want only the best for you. You are one lucky little boy.

I have loved this first month with you, little man, and I can hardly wait to see what is coming next for you. Happy one month, sweet boy.

All my love,

 * * * * *

Dear E.J.,

It has been very nice to meet you. I know it has been a whole month, but I do not feel like we have made it much past introductions. Obviously, you are a brand new baby and not able to control your hands or feet, get out of the places we put you, or communicate anything other than that you are ready to eat. However, we also lost a lot of the bonding time we should have had due to your, um, vacation, and to the fact that you have required so little of me to this point.

Please forgive me for the poor writing, but I would prefer to address the second point first (despite the fact that I hesitate to even put in writing). You see, so far you have been every bit of the easy-going baby that we hoped you would be. Other people have been particularly eager to attribute it to the fact that you are our second child, but I am not so sure that explains all, or even most, of it. It's possible they are suggesting that you are incredibly perceptive and can tell that we know you are going to be okay, and are simply being okay in turn. However, you also maintain your cool when we are stressfully dealing with your "spirited" sister. So far, you seem to be more content in more situations than I remember her being at any age. You haven't needed the personal attention of a cuddle, rock or bounce nearly as often and, at times, have even preferred being laid down somewhere to simply watch things and be. This has obviously been a great help in our adjustment to a family of four, but it also makes it difficult to use a lot of adjectives to describe you right now or to make bold predictions about what you will be like. To me, you remain very much of an enigma.

Another big reason that I haven't gotten to know you as well as I would like is that I have had to (gotten to?) spend so much time looking after your sister. With your mama recovering from surgery, which was very much the result of your aforementioned contentedness inside her womb, we have had to adopt a man-to-man approach to childcare. This alone would have been challenging to our relationship development, but we were also forced to maintain separate residences for almost half the month! I'm fairly certain your mama is going to mention your fever in her letter, so I won't be too specific other than to let you know how worried I was about you. E.J., I want so much for you to have the fullest opportunity to be whatever you choose and I believe it is one of my most basic responsibilities to keep you safe until you are big enough to do so. I am so happy that you are okay and finally being able to daily watch you be incredibly adorable and start to grow and develop muscle (okay, maybe just the ones in your neck right now, but it's a start!) fills me with such joy that I can't begin to comprehend how lucky I am.

For lack of a better idea, I will close awkwardly by listing a bunch of things I really hope you like as much as I do: your mama, your sister, golf, the game of baseball and your baseball nursery, healthy debate and the fact that your birthday is on the Fourth of July.

I love you, little guy, and can't wait to be great friends as you get bigger.

All my love,

Saturday, August 2, 2014

We're Moving!

But really, when aren't we moving, am I right? Sheesh. It seems like we're forever packing up and moving all our stuff from one place to the next.

When we moved to Jacksonville, we hoped that this apartment would last us the duration of Eric's two-year teaching contract. However, as the past year wore on, we started talking about the likelihood of staying in Jacksonville for a third year. Although we still don't know for sure what Eric's next step will be, it seemed pretty plausible that at least the third year of this new career would keep us here. So, when we realized we were adding E.J. to the family, we started tossing around the idea of moving to a three-bedroom place. We have no problem keeping E.J. in our room for a while, but we figured that in another year, we'd be ready to get our space back. So, we'd most likely be moving next summer anyway. The question we asked ourselves was, if we're going to have to move in the next year anyway, should we just do so now and then hopefully stay in the new place for two years?

We were tossing that idea around, weighing the convenience of getting the move out of the way now with the hassle of trying to move just weeks after having a new baby. But then, our apartment complex sent our lease renewal documents and made the decision for us by raising our rent significantly for next year. So, the hunt was on for a new place.

We decided we would really like to rent a house, so that is where we focused our efforts. Eric was, as usual, a housing-search all-star, tirelessly searching for the perfect rental home for us. Right after E.J. was born, he found it: a three-bedroom, two-bath house in the San Marco area of Jacksonville. It has wood floors, a fireplace, washer/dryer hookups, a separate dining room, a big screened front porch and fenced backyard (with lawn care included in the rent!). It is much closer to both downtown and Eric's school (probably cutting his commute in half), and is walkable to downtown San Marco, which is a very cute neighborhood. And, the rent will be a whole $200/month LESS for this house than it would be for our apartment if we stayed put! So, I mean, wait. A house, with a room for each child, and a fenced backyard, for significantly LESS than we're paying now? Yeah. Let's do that.

So, we are! We'll be moving late this week. The house is "ours" as of yesterday, but we don't have to be out of our apartment until August 26. However, we'd like to get ourselves into the new house as soon before Eric goes back to work (mid-August) as possible. Of course, E.J.'s hospitalization threw a little wrench into our plans, but we'll make it work!

Want to see a few pictures of the new place?

The house!

Eric and the kids checking out the front porch

The living room

Front bedroom


The yard

We were all able to go look at the house during our week at home before the hospital (our first outing as a family of four!), and after checking it out we hit up a nearby park to sample the neighborhood a little bit.

E.J.'s first playground experience!

Four thumbs up for family playground fun!

I will be sad to leave our current apartment - it's in a nice location, I love the unit itself, and we love the "backyard" and amenities in our complex - but we're all very excited about our new house and our new part of town. The kids, in fact, could hardly contain their joy after our fun morning in our new neighborhood!

May this be indicative of things to come in our new home, right?

So, if (when) this blog goes quiet for a little while, you'll know why - we're busy, busy over here!