Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Thank you to everyone who shared their kind words of support and sympathy after Eric's mother passed away. To be honest, it still doesn't quite feel real but we are grateful for your caring and concern.

I want to talk a little bit about what happened and how we ultimately paid tribute to such a special woman. As you know, Toni suffered a massive stroke about six years ago. At that time, honestly, we thought she wouldn't make it through. But she did, because she was so impressively strong. For the next six years she lived in a nursing home, but was able to come be a part of family celebrations, holidays, and regular visits. For six years, almost every time we saw her, we would leave the visit marveling at how much better she seemed: more conversational, telling jokes, participating, asking questions, seeming more like herself. It was really good to have her around.

Honestly, however, we did a lot of mourning for Toni in the immediate aftermath of the stroke. Yes, she pulled through against all odds and showed improvement visit after visit, but she still was unable to live at home, or give Eric parenting advice, or chat on the phone for any length of time. The relationship Eric had with her already was forced to change drastically, and essentially he already lost  much of the mother he knew. But we were so grateful that she was still there, still able to be a part of our lives, still able to share memories and meet her grandchildren and celebrate our big life events. It was really special to us to have her be a part of all those things for the last six years. In a way, it felt like borrowed time.

A couple of months ago, Toni developed an infection that took a disastrous toll on her body. After some time in the hospital, she recovered, but never fully recovered. Ultimately, complications from that infection were too much to overcome.

We got word on Tuesday, June 8th that Toni's condition was rapidly deteriorating, and Hospice didn't seem to think she would make it through the weekend. That happened to be Eric's last day of school for the year, so the next morning we packed up our things and drove down to St. Pete - an epically bad drive. We drove through insane sheets of rain numerous times throughout the trip, and terrible traffic from Orlando to Tampa. A trip that usually takes us 3.5 hours took us six, with two kids who missed naps and a whiny dog. That was a day, alright.

Thursday morning Eric golfed with his brother Ronnie and visited with his grandmother, who had also fallen very ill and was in the hospital. They also went to visit Toni. Toni had mostly been sleeping but she was awake during that visit and was able to tell Eric she loved him.

On Friday, we all went to visit. We hoped Toni would be awake to see the kids, but she was sleeping soundly when we arrived. We stayed a few minutes but decided not to try to wake her. We kissed her good-bye and left, and on our way out, a nurse stopped us to ask if we had decided on a funeral home. That sparked a flurry of activity, trying to figure out exactly what we wanted to do in terms of arrangements when the time came.

As a side note, I would like to highly recommend to everyone that if you have particular wishes for what you'd like to happen after you pass, please make those known to your loved ones, and clearly (preferably in writing). There was much debate and back and forth over what Toni wanted, and it was stressful to try to figure out the best way to handle everything in a way that everyone would feel comfortable with. We spent the weekend going over everything time and again, and making calls and talking things through and doing research, but without resolution.

On Saturday, Eric spent the morning with his dad and brother, and then that afternoon we went back to visit Gramz at the hospital. We ran into Eric's aunt, uncle and cousin, just leaving as we arrived, and had a nice chat with them. Eric and Gramz had a long talk while I took fidgety E.J. back outside to crawl around in the grass in front of the hospital.

On Sunday we went up to my mom's house for a bit before driving back to Jacksonville. Eric was due to start a new summer fellowship the next day. We debated calling off work from the new job and extending our stay, but ultimately decided that we would likely be returning soon and didn't know when or for how long, so we thought it best to go back home in the meantime. Our drive back to Jacksonville was uneventful, but Eric and I spent a lot of time talking through other ideas for how to handle things in the event of Toni's passing. We talked a lot about the woman she was and the best way to pay tribute to her in a way that we knew she would love.

When we arrived back in Jacksonville, the kids seemed very happy to be home. We let them enjoy their house a bit before feeding them dinner and putting them to bed. We had just finished preparing our own dinner when Eric's sister Kelley called with the news that Toni had just passed.

We knew it was coming, but the moment was very surreal. How could this really be happening? We hugged each other and cried.

And then immediately, decisions had to be made. As far as plans, we had left with things still very much up in the air. Eric and I talked everything through very carefully but quickly and at last, the ideas we had swirling around during our drive kicked into place and we knew what we wanted to do.

We drove back down to St. Petersburg the very next day, and immediately upon arrival Eric went to meet with the funeral home to make all the arrangements. He also picked up his grandmother from the hospital and took her home, where he met with Kelley to talk things through. (Although Gramz was discharged from the hospital that day, she took a big turn for the worse as the week wore on and unfortunately was back in the hospital by the time of the funeral. I know that was so hard for her and I hate that she had all this going on at once.)

In the end, we decided to have Toni buried at the Largo Cemetery. Our sister-in-law Stephanie helped us select a lovely spot under a tree, and Toni was buried there in a private ceremony for family and close friends on Thursday, June 18th. Pastor Joyce from Kelley's church led the service, and did a lovely job. Ronnie and Kelley read Bible passages and Eric gave the eulogy that I shared in my previous post about Toni. I also read the following poem:
You can shed tears that she is gone
or you can smile because she has lived. 
You can close your eyes and pray that she'll come back
or you can open your eyes and see all she has left. 
Your heart can be empty because you can't see her
or you can be full of the love you shared. 
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday. 
You can remember her and only that she's gone
or you can cherish her memory and let it live on. 
You can cry and close your mind,
be empty and turn your back
or you can do what she'd want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on. 
- David Harkins

We concluded the ceremony by placing brightly colored flowers onto the lowered casket. Even Ellie placed one (though she wanted to hold onto hers at first).

After the ceremony, all the siblings, cousin Tara and close friend Leighanne went to Olive Garden (Toni's favorite restaurant) for lunch. It was so nice to spend that time together.

On Saturday we held a public Celebration of Life for Toni at Taylor Park in Largo, and invited all who knew her to join us. The event was relaxed and filled with memories of a great woman, which is just what we hoped for. Again, there was a brief program: "I Hope You Dance" (a song with special meaning for Kelley and Toni) played to kick things off, then Kelley's Pastor Tash spoke. Ronnie read a verse again, and Eric gave his eulogy, and I read the poem. We then opened up the floor to people to share memories. We also had tins with notecards and markers on all the tables and we asked people to write down their memories of Toni and add them to a clothesline we had going around the pavilion, featuring our own memories and pictures. People wrote some really beautiful things, and I loved that by hanging them up around the space it was like we were literally surrounded by happy memories of Toni.

People also had really nice things to say when they came up to speak to us. Toni made such an impression on so many lives—I'm not even sure she could have realized how many, in fact. What a special person.

After the program there was food and we all just stood around and talked about Toni and caught up with people we hadn't seen in a long time. It was really, really nice. I was so pleased with how it came together. Eric, Kelley, Cathy and I worked hard to put it together (and Kelley and Cathy definitely bore the brunt of the legwork, for which we are grateful), and it turned out nicely.

And that was it, really. We came back home on Sunday and now it's back to regular life.

It still feels very surreal. As I mentioned, much of our mourning was already done after the stroke six years ago, but it is still hard to believe that she's gone. I think that will creep up on us, for example, when she's not at E.J.'s birthday party in a couple of weeks. Or at Christmas. Or if we have another baby that she won't be able to meet. Those little things that were so important for us to have her be a part of...those are the moments that will be the most difficult, I think.

Throughout my years of knowing Toni, I tried to let her know how much she meant to me. I admired her immensely—her devotion to her children was an unparalleled selfless love. She was strong and she was smart and she was kind. She welcomed me into her family with open arms, even when I was nothing but a shy sixteen-year-old kid. She was funny and bold and outspoken. She never put on airs; she just always was who she was, and who she was was something special.

Even though I know I tried to tell Toni how much I appreciated her and her family, I still am left wondering if it was enough, if she really knew that I felt I hit the mother-in-law jackpot, or if she knew how much I hope to be a mother like her to my children.

I hope she knew all that, because not only do I appreciate her for who she was, but for the legacy she left behind. She raised three wonderful kids, one of whom in particular I am quite fond of. She raised Eric to be the perfect husband for me. Like his mother, he is strong and smart and kind. Like his mother, he puts his family first and loves selflessly. He is the exceptional father to our children that he is because of his mother. Toni's memory will carry on in the husband and father that Eric is, and hopefully, it will continue when our children are caring for their own families someday. My children will benefit immeasurably because of Toni's legacy. That is a beautiful thing and it is a debt I cannot repay.

Thank you, Toni. Thank you for all you did for your family and for all of us. We love you.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Daddy Eric

Happy Father's Day!

We are back in Jacksonville after nearly two weeks in St. Petersburg and it is good to be home. Unfortunately, we were not back in time to partake of all the Father's Day fun we had planned, but Eric is spending his evening watching the U.S. Open and drinking Mountain Dew so I think he's pretty content.

This has been a taxing week and a half but it has been a time that calls for much reflection. And by capping the whole thing off on Father's Day, today I'm reflecting on Eric—the man I love, the father of my children—and what the last year has brought for us.

Since last Father's Day, Eric became a father for the second time. Once again, he was my rock during labor and delivery, supporting me as no one else could.

When newborn E.J. went back to the hospital for two weeks with a fever, Eric stepped up and handled everything else so I could focus all my energy on our infant. He took care of our home, of Ellie, of our new rental home search, of the dog, of E.J.'s health insurance, everything. I never once had to wonder if x, y or z was getting done, because I knew Eric would take care of it. He gave me the gift of a clear mind so E.J. could be my sole focus.

When we finally brought E.J. home, Eric jumped in and kept on primary-parenting Ellie. The "divide and conquer approach" worked well for us, and once again, I knew that all of Ellie's needs were being met and she was having fun with her Daddy. I could focus on nursing my newborn and getting to know him.

When the dust settled, we distributed the care for both children a little more and Eric, as expected, transitioned into being the father of a son with apparent ease. He is great with E.J. and I can't wait to see their bond further develop as E.J. grows.

When we moved to our new home, Eric worked so hard. He worked hard to find the house for us, and to help move us in. Now we live in a great little home in a perfect part of town for us, all thanks to Eric's efforts.

When the school year started, Eric opted to not coach football this year so he could have more time at home with our new family of four. As a result, this year was the most "around" he's been able to be in all his years of parenting, and the kids love it. When he is home, he is so hands-on with everything from playtime to book-reading (he does voices, even!) to meal preparation to bedtime routines. The kids love having him around and we all have a lot of fun together.

 When the school year ended, drawing Eric's teaching commitment to a close and forcing us to yet another crossroads, Eric threw himself into the search for his next step. This one is still a work in progress, but as usual, Eric is working hard to find the right opportunity that will allow him balance in both work and home life.

When Eric's mother passed away a week ago, I watched him once again step up and handle everything that her passing threw at the family with poise. He simply did what needed to be done as far as arrangements, while also managing his own emotions and concern for those around him. He was stoic and strong and loving. It was beautiful to watch.

Eric is really just an exceptional man, husband, father. He wants what is best for his family and is working so hard to make that reality. He enjoys being around his children and loves to make wonderful memories for and with them. He supports me like no other and it is so meaningful to have an equal partner in this parenting thing. I am so lucky to have him.

Thank you, Eric, for all that you do for us. We love you and appreciate you so much.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

An Unconventional Angel

I realize that once again, a fair amount of time has passed since my last post. I am deeply saddened to share with you the reason why: Eric's mother, Toni, passed away last Sunday evening.

As you probably recall, Toni suffered a stroke six years ago. That experience and her journey since have been pretty well-documented here. I have written much about her strength and have shared how much I admire her, and how much it has meant with us that her fighting spirit allowed her to be around with us for the last six years, including for the birth of her three grandchildren. However, since we last saw her over Memorial Day, she took a turn for the worse and ultimately found her peace last weekend.

We have been in St. Petersburg for the last week and a half, being with family and making arrangements. Toni was laid to rest in a private burial service on Thursday morning (followed by a family lunch at Olive Garden, her favorite restaurant) and today was her public Celebration of Life service. Both events were beautiful and, I think, perfectly paid tribute to a truly exceptional woman.

I will share more with you in the coming week, but in honor of Toni's celebration today, I wanted to share the eulogy Eric wrote for his mother. He so eloquently captured who Toni was and what made her so special to all who knew her. I think she touched more lives than she ever could have known, and so many people are so much better for having known her.

And so, in Eric's words:
First of all, I am tremendously humbled by this opportunity to speak about the life of someone who means more to me than I could possibly put into words. I will do my best to explain some of what I think made her so special, but I do think we would be remiss not to take advantage of the personal reflection brought on by death. In processing it, we are given a precious opportunity to appreciate our own lives more deeply. Going forward, I am convicted to love others more; to approach each day on purpose; and to faithfully pursue an honest relationship with our God. 
The reality of death also gives us a natural occasion to consider life's existential questions: Why are we here? And what does it all mean? But as I began to ponder the imponderable, I realize that if my mother were here, she would almost definitely be rolling her eyes at me. Actually, there's a good chance she would have slapped me by now. 
I think that was one of the things people loved about her. Not only did she live life in the present, but she was rather irreverent. She not only spoke her mind, but she was never afraid to say what you wouldn't because of social convention or some other such nonsense. Just this week, Meghan was telling me that one of her favorite memories is the giant smile my mom used to get after she would say something really inappropriate. She was very easy to talk to and so much fun to be around. Her personality was endearing and it was adorable. Which is why she was able to be hilarious in that off-color way where you know the kind of thing she's about to say, but you're still caught off guard when she says it. 
My mom was very real and down-to-earth and honestly didn't care what other people thought of her or what she was doing. However, I think the reason she didn't care what other people thought is what made her unique. I believe it is because she was just too busy caring everything she had to care about those she loved. 
You see, my mother was an unconventional angel. While she was every bit of the lovably outspoken friend we all hold dear, she also devoted more of her existence to the things that really matter to anyone I have ever known. She leaves behind no estate whatsoever, but, instead, a legacy of unconditional love and an invaluable example of selfless devotion. 
In the time that I knew her there was never a doubt about who she loved, how sincerely she felt, or what she thought was important. She spent the second half of her professional life in the service of children, countless numbers of whom now benefit from that devotion. Many of whom are here today. For my brother, sister and myself, she sacrificed a professional career and a personal life because she believed doing so gave us the absolute best chance to achieve both for ourselves. It's one thing to speak of love in an all-encompassing way, but a completely different thing to live it. 
Before I close, I want to share one of Meghan's favorite Bible verses with you. It comes from Romans, Chapter 8: 
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
My mother came as close to living out that kind of love as I believe is humanly possible. To the extent I am able to love others in any meaningful way, I know it will be because of the example she set for me. She is loved and will be missed dearly.
Toni Alice W.aters: beloved mother, daughter, sister, friend.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Riverside Arts Market & Pogopalooza

We had another really nice weekend together as a family this past weekend, starting with a super busy day on Saturday. I don't know what it was about this weekend, but there were just way too many things going on that we wanted to do. Apparently Jacksonville really does it up for the first weekend of summer vacation! We had some work to do to narrow down our options but ultimately decided to spend our Saturday at the Riverside Arts Market in the morning and Pogopalooza in Hemming Park in the afternoon.

We have been meaning to get out to the Riverside Arts Market for some time now. It is a weekly event, happening every Saturday morning under the Fuller Warren Bridge in Riverside. This week in particular drew us out because it was Kids' Day, with extra activities planned for the little ones. We did end up having a great time at the market, perusing the booths and enjoying the atmosphere. PBS Kids was there with Curious George, and Ellie tried her hand at some gymnastics and she got her face painted for the first time. Even without the extra children's events, I think we'd like to go back to RAM again soon!

The Riverside Arts Market

Trying some gymnastics!


Face painting!

Finished product! She chose the "Elsa" design, because she is a three-year-old girl living in America in present day.


After lunch and naps, we went back out into the world, this time to check out Pogopalooza downtown in Hemming Park. Pogopalooza is the "U.S. Open" of pogo-sticking and it took place here in Jacksonville for two days, this past Friday and Saturday (the World Championships will be held in Philadelphia over the Fourth of July). We actually planned to go check it out on Friday afternoon, but stormy weather kept us home. We had better luck on Saturday, although the Skyway trains don't run on the weekends so we made the trek out there on foot. We arrived just in time to see them award medals for the Freestyle competition, and then spent some time playing in the park before catching a little of the "Best Trick" contest. They also had a Kids Zone where the littler attendees could give it a try for themselves.

Pogopalooza in Hemming Park!

Pogo sticks at the ready

Big winner!

Hanging out by the fountain with my babies

Playing with the blue blocks in the park

Making a tall, tall tower with the giant Jenga blocks!

Ellie and Eric doing some pogo-ing

Go, Eric!

Playing with the beach balls in the fountain

Ellie and Eric

Best Trick time!

That's some fancy pogo action!

We ended our fun Saturday with a walk back home and a pizza picnic on our front porch. What a fun day!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Dear E.J. - Eleven Months

My dear E.J.,

Eleven months! I just can't understand how the time is passing so quickly. It hardly feels like a year has passed since I was waddling around town with an enormous, wiggly, hiccup-y belly, hot and irritable and equal parts excited and anxious about the impending delivering of my baby boy. Wasn't that just yesterday? How is that little wiggle worm in my belly now less than a month from his first birthday already? I can already feel the tears in my eyes when I think that next month's letter will be the last in my monthly series to you. Brace yourself, little man: Mama is not going to handle this gracefully.

Last month, I chose "crazy" as my one word to describe you, and that is not inaccurate this month, either. However, I might change it now to "busy." You still like to climb though a little of the novelty seems to have worn off (thank heavens), so now you have shifted your focus to mess-making, and you have mastered your craft. When left to your own devices at home, you spend your time scoot-crawling all over the house, not resting until every item within E.J. reach is on the floor. And I mean EVERY ITEM. Your favorite tasks: pulling the DVDs off the shelves and out of the T.V. stand drawers; pulling the photo albums off their shelf; emptying the toy box; removing all the books from your bookshelf; throwing everything from the coffee table onto the floor; and pulling down/out all the puzzles and blocks from the kids' corner in the dining room (bonus points, apparently, if you can open the puzzle or block bags and scatter pieces all over the house). I'm going to need you to develop an interest in putting things in and away next because goodness gracious, there is a lot of picking up to be done around here.

Whatever you may be doing, you just almost never stop moving. You are content to crawl around on your own and explore (destroy) your surroundings for hours on end. Your scoot-crawl continues to serve you well, with the added modification of often being one-handed so you can carry a toy around with you in the other hand (hence, the scattering of various things all over the house). You do still like to pull up on whatever you can, and cruise along the furniture with ease. You have taken a big interest in Achilles (much to his dismay) and chase him around a few times a day. You still use your walker toy here and there (or will swap it out for anything that you can push, such as Ellie's Doc McStuffins Mobile Clinic or, to my chagrin, her standalone Elmo potty), and you are getting pretty good at maneuvering it out of corners so you can keep moving. You still try to climb, though mostly just up my legs when you are itching for some Mama cuddle time.

Oh, and am I ever happy to indulge you in those cuddles. When you're tired you just snuggle right up into my shoulder, often with arms hanging straight down at your sides so your whole body weight just leans into me. Sometimes you still wrap one arm around my neck or arm and squeeze—the very best baby hugs!

Before we go any further, let's just get the other two big topics out of the way: eating and sleeping. Your sleep hasn't changed much from last month; you still nap twice a day and wake up two or three times a night. Some mornings lately you have been sleeping in until 8:00 a.m., which is great for my sleep but throws off our daily schedule (for storytime and that sort of thing). So, I guess it's a trade-off.

As for eating, it just really seemed to click for you this month. You will still eat your puree if we feed it to you along with finger foods, and you've tried a great number of new foods now that have become part of the regular rotation (such as eggs for breakfast). Your absolute favorite, however, is cheese, either shredded or cottage. You have started doing baby signs this month (more on that momentarily) and from the moment you see me start prepping your meal, you are signing enthusiastically for cheese. Sometimes you will refuse to eat anything until it is accompanied by cheese. I mean, I get it. Cheese is pretty great. But let's not become a one-trick pony, here.

Regardless of what you are eating, it seems you have been eating enough of it to see some improvement in the weight department. We had another check-up with your doctor at the end of the month and you have risen to the seventh percentile for weight! She was pleased with your progress and thinks we are finally getting enough calories in you to keep up with your activity level. So, onward! More cheese for the big guy!

As I mentioned, another big thing for you this month has been baby signs. We had such success with baby sign language with Ellie that we started trying it earlier with you, and it has paid off. You can do probably five signs or so already: "cheese" (your favorite), "more," "all done," "dog," "milk" and "fan" (you like the ceiling fans!). It is so cool to be able to communicate with you in this way already, and you seem to be so pleased when we are able to understand what you want!

One of my most favorite E.J. "things" this month is your dancing and clapping. You love music generally, and will dance along as it plays and clap when it ends. Your absolute favorite, however, is the "Letter of the Day" song from "Sesame Street." That is your jam. As soon as you hear it playing, your little head whips around and you scoot-crawl faster than a speeding bullet over to the source, shrieking happily and pausing to clap as you go. You bounce and dance so vigorously you nearly fall over, clapping and grinning the whole time. IT IS ADORABLE. I cannot get enough. Seeing you so delighted—there is nothing better!

In other news, you now have a total of three teeth (two top, one bottom, with the other bottom on the way), had your first lick of ice cream, "voted" for the first time (or rather, accompanied me while I voted), and visited with some family this month during a trip down to St. Pete. Your hair is getting long and will probably need a cut soon, if I will allow it. You talk and babble constantly, and you love to point at things and give them what-for (you especially like to talk to the T.V. and the baseball pictures above your crib). The intonation of your speech sounds like you are trying to have a real conversation, and I only wish I could decipher your meaning. Your favorite toys right now are your O-Ball car (but you also enjoy just about anything can push around in front of you), blocks, and the musical instrument puzzle (you like to carry the pieces around and sit on the board to make the sounds play!). You love to crawl up onto Ellie's bed (especially in the mornings), and she nearly smothers you with hugs when you do so. You like to swing at the park and climb into the library stacks. You give big, wet sloppy kisses and raise your arms when you want to be picked up. You love to be worn. You had your first real active beach outing this month and could have crawled all over that sand until the end of time, but you didn't love the (cold, wave-y) water. In short: you are one cool little boy overall.

I just can't believe that a year ago at this time, I still didn't even know you. I knew your movements in my belly and now in retrospect I can see how they fit with your personality, but I didn't really know my E.J. I didn't even know what I was missing! You have brought so much joy to our home in these eleven months. You laugh a lot and we laugh with you. You are such a treasured addition to our family, E.J.

As we prepare for your first birthday this coming month, I know I'm going to struggle as I have struggled every month since your birth. With newborn Ellie, my days were spent much more focused on survival. She was our first, it was all new, and well...she was Ellie. (Suffice it to say, she was not as easy-going as you are.) But you, my boy, are so happy, so adaptable, so sweet that I am left with far too much time to contemplate how quickly time is passing and I am left feeling desperate to hold on to every moment. I think some of that comes from you being my second child, too, because wasn't Ellie just as small as you are today? And now she is a full-blown kid. She is a constant reminder that your baby days are numbered and that number is dwindling far too quickly. Already you are constantly on the go and our cuddly moments, though sweet and treasured when they happen, are fewer in number than they were just months ago.

When we were in St. Petersburg this month you had trouble napping the first day of our trip. You cried and cried in your Pack-N-Play until I finally gave up on the nap idea and went to get you. I sat on the bed and held you and cuddled you and I as you lay still in my arms, I saw your eyes grow heavy and soon close as you finally gave in to sleep. It had been months since you last fell asleep in my arms, and even in your newborn days it was a rare occurrence. I chose not to try to put you back in your crib but instead to carefully lie down on the bed with you, and we napped there together with you in my arms for over an hour. When you woke up, you looked up at me and got the biggest smile on your face, then threw yourself back down with your head on my chest and one arm wrapped around me, as if in a grateful hug, and went back to sleep. That little nap with you was one of my most treasured E.J. moments to date, buddy. I know that opportunities like those are rare enough as it is, and will only become more so as time passes. Thank you so much for giving me that afternoon of cuddling my little baby while he is still a little baby.

I love you so much, baby boy. I can't even tell you how much. Happy eleven months.

All my love,

* * * * *

Dear E.J.,

Two more letters until you are one year old. I can't believe we are here already even though, technically, we aren't actually here yet. Your mama and I were talking and realize that, based on our experience with your sister, we should be able to look back on this age and recognize things about your real-life personality that you are already demonstrating. Physical appearance similarities often work from an earlier age, but I have no real ability to project any resemblance, not that I could draw it out for you or otherwise prove it in a meaningful way. I feel like I have said it before, but suffice it to say your ever-so-sweet face works really well in baby form, so here's hoping that continues to work in your favor. More importantly, I want to take a shot at guessing some of the ways people might describe future (Present? Past?) you.

First, but in no particular order, you are very independent. Right now, you travel throughout the entire boundary of any area you find yourself in and speed up when a door opens to a new space like Ellie's room or the front porch. You can spend over an hour exploring and make quite the mess to prove it. That said, you are the good kind of independent in that you can handle playing with others just fine and even like interacting with them, especially indulging big sister Ellie and sharing food with Mama. You give things to people and laugh at many of them. I hope this means you will be a self-starter who can function just as well in group situations.

Second, you are very interested in communication. At eleven months old, you still chat all the time and yell often. You are really varying your sounds, though it is not obvious that you are trying to say specific things. It's pretty fun to listen to either way, though I should apologize if you have been trying to talk to me because I have absolutely no idea what you are saying. In addition, you have added baby sign language to the mix! In a very short time, you have begun using hand motions for (in order of importance to you): cheese, milk, dog, fan, more and "all done." You even use a compound sign for "more cheese!" It's possible this means you will "wear your heart on your sleeve," for lack of a better way to say it, and/or you will be willing and able to discuss a variety of issues with a variety of people.

Finally, you are adventurous. You love to climb things, even though you have adorably not learned to judge ahead of time what things are even possible to climb in light of your stature. You love to ride on my shoulders, swing (carefully, of course) by your arms and hang upside down. I hope this means you will be open to new and diverse experiences and that fear will not keep you from enjoying the unique things life has to offer.

We'll see about all of these. For now, you are just the coolest little guy. I hope you stay as happy as you are forever.

All my love,

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Last of May

Well check me out, I have actually kept my blog current through the month of May! Here we are kicking off June with just a quick look back at the little moments that didn't make it onto the blog in real time over the course of the past month, but all the big stuff is properly documented in a timely manner. I'm a new woman!

May was a good month, and it went quickly. There was a lot of fun stuff to do around Jacksonville, as you have seen. But here are a few more May happenings that have not yet been shared:

I went to a "Mom's Night Out" at Pure Barre San Marco, which included a Pure Barre trial class followed by cocktails, appetizers from a local restaurant and giveaways. Unfortunately, I did not win anything except epic soreness for like two days because that workout is no joke. I wish we had the budget for regular classes because I'm pretty sure I'd be chiseled in like two weeks. But, alas. Regardless, it was a sort of reinvigorating night out by myself, and after my workout and glass of red wine I stopped to watch the sunset over the river on my walk home. Not too shabby, my friends.


I also got crafty! Ellie, E.J. and I made a tote bag for my mom for Mother's Day, and I made both a patriotic wreath for our front door and a new Rapunzel dress (with matching clip!) for Ellie.

Tote bag for my mom! The butterfly is E.J.'s footprints, the flowers are Ellie's hands, and the bee/ladybugs are my fingerprints.

Our festive front door!

Ellie in her new dress

The weather has been quickly spiraling towards that suffocating Florida summer humidity, but there have been some really beautiful evenings still sprinkled in there, and on those days we have been sure to take advantage with some late afternoon walks.

Beautiful evening along the river

Ellie going for a run at Friendship Park

E.J. loves watching Ellie run, and laughs when she runs over to him!

Last weekend Eric had his official Teach for America Alumni Induction, marking the end of his stint with Teach For America (already!). From there he drove straight down to St. Pete for his sister Kelley's reception in celebration of her March wedding to Cathy. In addition, Eric was able to golf with his dad and spend some good quality time with his mom and Gramz. Overall it was a really nice day spent with family.

Kelley and Cathy!

Cathy, Kelley and Gramz

While Eric was out, I had a rare night all to myself (well, after I got all the kids in bed, of course). I chose to spend it drinking my fair share (...at least) of wine and getting myself hooked on "Orange is the New Black."

My glass of red and Piper Chapman

As for the kids, Ellie has continued to be obsessed with Rapunzel.

The fandom is strong with this one.

She also earned herself a new Sofia the First dress, crown and amulet by being potty trained. Yes, my friends, I think it's safe to put that in writing. She still wears Pull-Ups at naptime and diapers at night, but the rest of the time, she's straight-up big-girl-style. I wasn't sure this day would ever come but I am so proud.

She was so pleased.

In less proud parenting news, Ellie has developed a severe fear of the bath and I don't know why. Really it's just that she hates rinsing her hair, but that snowballs into hatred of the bath in general. I don't know why bathtime hair-rinsing is the stuff nightmares are made of while things like sprinklers, swimming pools and splash parks are a-okay, but hey, I'm not three years old. Dreading the bathtime spectacle this weekend, I mom-hacked it and invited Ellie outside to play in her kiddie pool where I sneak-attack shampooed her and rinsed her off with the hose. And nobody got hysterical! So, win! (But seriously, if any of you moms out there have any better ideas for handling this issue, please email me!)

Right before I tricked her into a swimming pool bath

E.J.'s eating improved dramatically, as did his napping skills (excuse me, I'm knocking on every wooden thing in my home now).

Happy lunch!

Sweet naptime

He also continues to make sure I get in my daily heart attacks by climbing on everything and basically wreaking general havoc. That child will not rest until EVERYTHING IS THROWN ON THE GROUND SO HELP HIM.

Here is my baby trying to climb out a window.

Here is my baby using his carseat as a stepladder so he can pull all the books off the shelf.

Here is my baby buried under a pile of photobooks that he pulled off the shelf. AGAIN.

Here is my baby risking life and limb to pull all the DVDs off the shelf. AGAIN.

Here is my baby standing at the coffee table, chewing on the babyproofing strip he just pulled off the table. Prior to this photo his middle finger was also extended. He was giving me the finger both literally and figuratively simultaneously.

E.J. also got into a bit of mischief at the library.

Chasing him through the stacks

The standard.

E.J. also helped me vote—his first time at the polls! (Ellie helped Eric vote, but this was not her first time. She was in the booth with me for the presidential election in 2012!)

That is one fine, upstanding American baby!

He also was still for a second. Once.

Relish this moment.

And, of course, we made our monthly trip to the zoo, though we barely made it in under the wire this time (we went the last day of May)! It was a fun trip, including a giraffe feeding and our first experience in the zoo splash pad, which went quite well. Ellie started out not wanting any part of it, then agreed to go through the water if I held her, then if I held her hand, and by the end she was running off away from me while I sat on the sidelines. Such is life.

Feeding our giraffe friend

E.J. smiles for a gorilla statue

Splash pad time!

Look at these cute faces!

And that, my friends, was May!