Thursday, January 28, 2016

The State of the Blog

So. You've probably noticed that I've been pretty quiet over here. Aside from a couple random posts, this blog has been largely silent since...November? I think? That's a long absence.

I figured I should check in to make it clear that I am NOT pregnant or sick or going through any kind of major life change that is keeping me away. Frankly, I just got burned out and decided to take a little break.

I've always said I'll keep the blog going as long as I continue to enjoy writing it. By late fall, I was not enjoying it. It was starting to feel like a chore. I realize this was entirely my own doing, of course: I don't get paid for this, nobody advertises here, I don't have a boss who makes me write according to a certain schedule. But I put all this pressure on myself to document everything, to keep up with everything we were doing, to get this recap posted so I could post this next thing by that day because the next post needs to go up and this other day, and so on. I was devoting a lot of time to posting here and not really enjoying it. I also was letting recaps of our activities take priority over more thoughtful posts, and I didn't feel like I was really writing anymore, if that makes sense. Although I started the blog for the purpose of sharing our day-to-day lives with long-distance family, I also appreciated it as a forum for sharing some more meaningful thoughts along the way. Recently, I've felt like that part of it has largely gotten lost.

I was also concerned that it was keeping me from other projects I've had on the backburner. Nothing major, of course, just little things—mostly memory documentation stuff. I've put such a priority on blogging everything we do because I love having that record of our lives. And it really has come in handy! Eric and I have looked back at old blog posts to more thoroughly revisit past memories countless times. But, I had to pause to remind myself that this blog is not a permanent record. Blogger could up and decide to shut down tomorrow, for all I know, and all this work I have put into "preserving" our pictures and stories could disappear with it. I realized that I was spending time recording things here but not creating anything tangible and lasting, like photo albums of our pictures that we can actually flip through with our fingers. I always meant to do things like that, but I was devoting my limited free time to the blog and it just wasn't getting done.

So I started debating what to do: keep on keeping on? Shut this whole thing down entirely? Try shifting my posting style? Take a "leave of absence," of sorts?

Basically, I decided to take the holidays off. I just gave myself a little blog vacation and figured I'd reevaluate in the new year. Obviously, I enjoyed my newfound extra free time, as my hiatus has now stretched almost entirely through January. I've felt more relaxed and have actually gotten a lot of other little projects done, or at least made some headway.

I do wonder if that means I'm ready to hang it up, to end this experiment after nearly eight years of writing about our lives.

But I'm just not sure I'm ready to really end it just yet. I do enjoy sharing our memories and our photos and our family with whomever out there is still reading. And here we are, once again on the precipice of another great change in our lives (the next step in Eric's career change, whatever that may end up being), and it's something I think I'd like to document as we go. So maybe the end has not yet come.

So my verdict? I'm planning to keep on posting, for now. But I'm going to try to do some things differently. If I want to recap things, I'm planning to keep it to either major events or larger, more vague "This Is What We've Been Up To" kinds of posts. I hope to share more meaningful posts, too; maybe try to do a little more real writing. Basically I'm going to give myself some grace and let the blog just be what it will be going forward; no expectations. It's not a chore, it's an outlet.

We'll see how it goes. Maybe this will end up being the beginning of the end, but I'm not ready to say goodbye just yet!

Thanks for sticking around, friends.

Monday, January 4, 2016

I Want to Remember

Today E.J. is 18 months old! A whole year and a half. I can hardly believe it. For some reason I think of him as still much more of a baby than Ellie was at this age. Maybe that's just because he is my baby, maybe it's selective memory, maybe it's because he's still so small (he is just barely 20 pounds, fully clothed—still rocking that fourth percentile for weight!). Who knows, really. Whatever the reason, I can't believe we're on the downhill towards his second birthday already!

When Ellie hit 18 months, I wrote a bit about the difference in documentation for the first 12 months of life versus the remainder. With E.J., my experience is similar: his first 12 months were recorded via his baby book, baby calendar, monthly letters and other regular blog posts. However, after his first birthday, the baby books and calendars were filled up and we shift to only writing yearly letters. This makes sense, of course, if for no other reason just because it's simply not sustainable to maintain that kind of intense record-keeping long-term. However, E.J. is still growing and changing every day, and he has already changed so much in the last six months. By the time his second birthday rolls around, he'll seem like a whole new kid, I'm sure.

So as this day approached I've been thinking about a lot of the little "E.J.-isms" that I love so much: those little things he does that right now that I swear I'll never forget, but in reality, I know that they will fade from memory far quicker than I can even expect. I wanted to write down a few of my favorites so even though the formal documentation has come to an end, someday I can look back and remember these little pieces of 18-month-old E.J.

Baby signs: E.J. picked up baby signs quite quickly and does them as needed. He's not quite as gung-ho about it as Ellie was, but he has his arsenal of signs and uses them appropriately. His most favorites seem to be "more," "all done," and "milk."

Signing "more" at the end of a carousel ride!

His little giggle when you accurately guess what he wants: It's just the sweetest. He gets the best smile, too!

VIDEO: E.J. knows what he wants!

His dinosaur roar: E.J. loves dinosaurs, and not only does he do a baby sign for dinosaur, but he accompanies it with a little "dinosaur roar" that is just sort of a quiet, breathy exclamation. It is so precious and it's one of my favorite things.

VIDEO: E.J.'s dinosaur roar

His little "I'm trying to get something I can't" grunt: He just makes it sound like he's trying so hard, bless his little heart! He would sometimes just look at you and make the noise as his way of asking for help! Now, however, this has largely been replaced by one of his favorite words: "stuck" (he pronounces it more like "duck").

VIDEO: He really wants that baseball to come out of his lamp!

His Hulk Smash: Usually, E.J. is the happiest, most easy-going kid. But sometimes...well, let's just say you don't want to make him angry.

VIDEO: Hell hath no fury like a toddler who can't wear the space helmet.

His waving:  He waves at everybody: family, friends, the grocery store cashiers, people walking down the street, football players on TV, passing dogs. As of just the past week or so, he often also accompanies it with a, "Hiiii, [Name]!"

The way he squeals and yells "Mama" when he first sees me after an extended absence: I can't even deal.

The way he loves his Papa: E.J. has a real soft spot in his heart for my dad, and whenever his Papa is around, that's who he wants. When he was very sick last week, he cuddled with me but every now and then would lift his head and pitifully ask for Papa.


The way he rolls over when I put him to bed: As soon as I lay him in his crib, he rolls over towards the wall (always towards the wall) and sleeps on his belly with his knees underneath him and his little butt in the air.

For heavens sake.

The way he says "water": Currently, he says "wuuur!" It's super cute.

VIDEO: E.J. wants some "wuuur"

Other E.J. sayings: In addition to "duck" and "wuuuur" and his dinosaur roar, E.J. also loves to say "Elmo," "Gickey" (Mickey), "Mama," "Dada," "choo choo" (train, obviously), "football" and "baseball." He also sort of says "shoes," "grapes" and "peas" by just making a "sssssss" sound, and anything he wants to call by name but can't say he just calls "Dada" (that's what he calls Ellie and Achilles!). He also says "run, run, run!" while he runs, and "me, me, me!" when I ask who's ready to do something. All adorable, and all so fleeting—I know the baby talk doesn't last long!


VIDEO: Me, me, me!

"Cheese": When I'm taking a picture of Ellie, E.J. always goes to stand next to her and says "cheeeese!" right along with her! Sometimes he'll even invite a picture on his own, and back up against the wall or a special item and say "cheeese." So cute.

Look at these hams posing for me!

His penguin shuffle: This is relatively new, enough so that I don't have a video of it. But E.J. gets this little smile and shuffles his feet along like a little penguin.

His "fancy" smile: When E.J. puts something on that makes him feel fancy, he gets this little smirk and struts around. You can just tell he feels cool!

The bath: E.J. LOVES the bath. As soon as he hears the hot water heater kick on, he starts signing, "bath! bath!" He loves to play in the water and especially loves having it dumped over his head.

Bath time for E.J.!

Blowing kisses: I've said it before and I'll say it again: if (IF IF IF) we end up having more kids, it will likely be a direct result of E.J. blowing kisses to me as I lay him down in his crib. Because MAN, is it precious.

VIDEO: E.J. blows kisses

His snack cups: The kid seriously carries a snack cup around like a security blanket. He always has a snack cup in hand. Usually he's munching on crackers, but sometimes he'll carry it even when it's empty.

The weight of him against me when he cuddles: E.J. has been on the move for over a year now, and he rarely stops to cuddle with me for any length of time. However, recently he has been sick and has had some trouble sleeping, which has left him curled up in my lap, resting against me with his head on my chest or shoulder on more than one occasion. I don't like to see my little man unhappy, of course, but I just sit there and soak him in and try to remember exactly how he feels all curled up so perfectly in my arms.

That lopsided smile: E.J.'s teeth are coming in all sorts of funky (not in the ordlerly manner that Ellie's did), and so he still has four teeth on top and only three on bottom and I just love that little lopsided grin. He has the best smile, and he shows it off regularly.

That face!

I just love being this little boy's mama so much. Happy half birthday, E.J.!