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Jason’s family visits

March 25, 2014

Jason’s family visited for a few days after E’s baptism. As I mentioned yesterday, I have very little memory for anything these days (7 months of sleep deprivation, I blame you!), but I do remember lots of happy chaos during our time together. Oh yes, and my daughter the ringleader told the other kids it was okay to draw on our walls. (thank goodness it came off easily!)

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L & E are so lucky to have cousins that are so close in age – together there are 7 cousins, all under 7. And they played together wonderfully.

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This was really the first time Lil was able to play with her older cousins – last Christmas she was only 18 months and she was sick for half of our time together. This year, though, she’s more interested in playing with other kids and she had SO much fun with them.

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Elli P then got to meet all of her older cousins, including new cousin Mary who is only a few weeks older than she is. The babies were pretty cute together, and I caught them checking each other out quite a few times. It’s so amazing how different babies are — personality, stage of development, etc.  Even at only 4/5 months old, these two little babes were so very different.

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Other happy memories from our few days together: there was real conversation with other adults (while the kids were upstairs drawing on the walls), Christmas presents, meals out, meals in, and sledding. A good time, indeed.

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(And Elli P got in a photo or two in her christening gown with her godmother!)

Eleanor’s baptism

March 25, 2014

I’m returning to this little neglected space, and its overwhelming. So much has happened since I left, and also, so little has happened since I left. Isn’t that life with little ones, though? Every minute seems to be simultaneously everything and nothing, important then forgotten. Life is full and (mostly) happy. I’m going to start with our little story where I left off, but I’m afraid it may be void of lots of cute and important-at-the-time details — not because I want to tell a boring story, but because I simply cannot remember anything. It’s sad, really… but I guess that’s at least 85% of why I write things here anyways… memories.

E was baptized the Sunday after Christmas. Not really a popular day for baptism, but we managed to find a time when both of our (scattered across the US) immediate families could (somewhat easily) be in Michigan. That is sort of an impressive feat, and most definitely one worthy of a special occasion. So, E was baptized.

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We chose E’s aunt Brey & uncle Robby to be her godparents. Unfortunately, aunt Brey caught a terrible terrible stomach bug on the way to MI, so she wasn’t able to be at the baptism. She did cuddle E later in the week, though! And uncle Robby did a great job filling in, even though he looked waaaaaay nervous when I passed the baby to him to hold during the baptism.

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After the baptism, we had a little lunch at our house. Somehow we crammed nearly 20 family members into our tiny house for pulled pork sandwiches and cake (thanks to my in-laws for picking up food for us to serve!) It was a quick and easy meal, but nice to have so much love for baby E in one place at one time!

Christmas 2013

January 27, 2014

Is January over?  Yikes.  I’m back at work and life seems to be moving quicker than ever before.  I’ve been using all of my computer time for work, and actually trying to step away from the computer more when I’m not working, so blogging is likely to continue to be sporadic… like it always has been here! :)

We had an absolutely amazing, busy, wonderful, hectic, lovely holiday.  We were lucky enough to get to see BOTH of our immediate families at the end of December — amazing since everyone lives out of town (and in the case of Jason’s family are split between the East & West coasts!).

I took the girls to Milwaukee on the train.  It’s a 5.5 hour trip, which includes an hour and a half layover in Chicago.  They were great – Lil got a little freaked out just moments before we were to board the train, but once we were on it, she chatted excitedly and watched out the window for a solid hour before needing other activities.  Elli mostly slept.  I packed just a backpack for the three of us — I didn’t want to wrestle with more things than I could carry at one time.

We arrived in Milwaukee a week before Christmas, and spent lots of time hanging with family.  (Jason made the trip on Christmas Eve Eve, after work).  We spent a wonderful day with my grandparents, did some last minute shopping, and made Christmas cookies with my mom, sister, and grandma (good thing my sister was motivated because EVERY cookie I tried to make was a giant FAIL!).

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On Christmas Eve, we played broomball with aunts, uncles, cousins, and second cousins.  Because nothing says “Merry Christmas” like trash-talking your cousins’ broomball skills!  Baby E met my second cousin’s baby who is just two weeks younger than she is.

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After broomball, we got dolled up and headed to church and then to my grandma’s house.  It was so amazing to have all of my dad’s family there together, especially as we’ve all gotten older and moved farther away from each other.

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Santa made a special appearance and Lilly was SO excited!  “Santa brought me blue camera!”  She’d been writing Santa letters all December that went, “Dear Santa, please bring me blue camera.  And bring tiny camera for tiny baby Elli cause she’s tiny.”  So when Santa pulled the first package from his sack, Lilly said, “That’s tiny present for tiny baby Elli!”  And was equally pleased when Santa pulled a second package from his sack for her.  Unfortunately, Santa was unclear as to exactly which camera Lilly was talking about and picked up other cameras (one for her, one for E), so she was still mentioning the blue camera a few days later.

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Christmas morning, we woke surprisingly late (I think it was after 9 before Lil woke) to a wonderful breakfast with my immediate family.  Then we opened presents!  Lilly was so happy to get a dress and baby carrier for the Bitty Baby doll she had gotten from my grandparents the night before!  Both girls were showered with gifts, which are really gifts for me, too, since it gives them more options of things to play with and more activities for us to do together.

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We had lunch at my grandma’s house on Christmas day.  We played pass baby Elli and Lilly had a blast with all of her “new friends”.
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The few days after Christmas were pretty quiet.  J and I went out on a date while my aunt, cousin, and mom babysat.  It was then that we discovered that baby E will not take a bottle… and we’ve been working on that ever since, with no luck.  We also took Lilly ice skating while Grandpa and auntie Ashley played with El.

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And then Saturday following Christmas, we visited with my mom’s side of the family.  It’s always so fun to see lots of family that we don’t see often enough!  We had so much fun that we ended up leaving a bit later than anticipated…

131228untitled10327.jpgElli was super-into this cougar that was at my aunt’s house…

We ended up getting back to MI a bit late.  The girls slept for most of the ride, so we were able to make good time, but Lil was up so very late that night, which was only a problem because we had to get up early the next morning to baptize Elli. (How’s that for foreshadowing?!)

happy new year! (but I’m still wondering where the second half of December went)

January 16, 2014

So, Christmas happened.  And New Year’s, too.  Were yours great?  I hope so!  Mine were pretty wonderful, but, as predicted, happened faster than a blink of the eye.  And now I am in the early parts of 2014 with about a million Christmas pictures to share.

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Let me back up to early December for a second.  As is tradition, we waited for some of the first signs of snow, and set up a Christmas card photo shoot.  The Christmas card photo seems vitally important to me, if for no other reason than to mark the passage of time.  I save all of them in a photo album, and flipping through it is a good opportunity to reflect on who we’ve been and where we are now.  Luckily, my three partners in crime are willing participants in my insanity.  This year: candy cane hats and a wooden sled (to contain the toddler!).

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Once we snapped a cool hundred or two photos, we bundled up further and hit our fave local tree farm to buy half of a tree (the front half).  Lilly was totally into it, and we made sure that she had a say in picking the *perfect* tree.  Her main criteria was that it would be SO BIG, which really made things easy because when you’re two years old, just about any tree on the lot is SO BIG compared to you.

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Elli hung out in the Ergo, keeping me toasty warm.

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Once we chose and cut down a tree, Lil drank some hot cocoa, and we all sang Christmas carols the entire drive home.  Lil is really loving Christmas carols this year — she’s got “Jingle Bells”, “Away in a Manger”, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”, and the Christmas Monkey song from Curious George’s Christmas special.  She’s pretty tone deaf, and the phrasing isn’t quite there yet, but the girl really knows how to bust out the lyrics — eyes closed, jazz hands spread wide above her head.  It’s the best.

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stringing beads

December 13, 2013

Lest you think baby Elli is the only one benefiting from mama’s cheapness DIY skills, I present Lilly’s latest homemade toy: a dowel mounted on a wood block.

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Thrilling, no?  Lilly seems to think so, which is good because putting beads on this dowel is a good way to use her fine motor skills.  And now that she’s mastered the dowel-in-a-block, we sometimes string beads on pipecleaners, too.  She hasn’t quite mastered that one, yet.

(Other activities for hand strength and fine motor skills that we’ve been working on: cutting with a scissors, and using a pipette or syringe to pour vinegar into baking soda.  I’m really enjoying the amount of concentration all of these activities require!)

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And an in-depth tutorial, in case you want to make it yourself: sand down a wood block, drill a hole in it, insert a drop of glue & a dowel.  Tada!

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You’ll also notice that we’ve entered the era of dressing-up.  “I want to wear my dress!” she says.  Sure, Lil!

DIY Gobbi and fall leaf mobile

December 12, 2013

I’m obsessed, I know.

But once I started searching for DIY Montessori mobiles, I was pretty hooked… and after making the first one, even more so!  Maybe here is where I mention that these mobiles follow a steady progression as the baby ages, and should match infant development.  It’s a super-cool concept, I think, although my baby is growing & her needs changing faster than I can keep up here on the blog!

Here’s a basic timeline of when to use which mobiles, borrowed from Little Red Farm:

Visual mobiles
Mobiles / hanging toys designed to be touched as soon as attempts at grabbing start
  • Bell on a Ribbon (12-16 weeks)
  • Wooden ring on elastic  (12-16 weeks)
  • Primary colours mobile (12-18 weeks)
  • Wooden musical mobile (16-20 weeks)

My most recent mobile was an attempt at the Gobbi.  Most Montessori mobiles are made from beautiful, real materials, and for this one, it seems that wool or cotton embroidery floss is the most popular tool used to make the balls.  Since I simply don’t have the time to make something that intricate right now, I decided to paint styrofoam balls instead.  Admittedly, its not as beautiful as many of the wool felt mobiles I’ve seen on the Internets, but, hey, you can’t win ‘em all, right? :)
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You can’t tell from this picture, but the darkest ball is about 12″ from the stick and each subsequent one is 1/2″ closer to the stick.

Elli seems to be interested, but I think her favorite by far has been the Octahedron mobile.

I was also inspired by the falling leaves in October to make a tiny mobile from a stick & leaves so that E could enjoy the beauty of the falling leaves, too.  I usually shy away from projects like this that are sure to fall apart quickly, but this one has survived a few weeks with toddler & infant, so it was worth the few minutes that it took to glue it all together!
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I had to include this last picture of E covered in blankets and big sister’s pjs… I’ll give you one guess as to who is responsible for keeping baby warm! :) It’s so fun to have Elli awake for longer periods of time so that the girls can “play together” on the floor.  El has recently started grasping objects, so Lilly and I have had fun giving her different things to grasp, and I’ve recently set up the next set of mobiles… so expect more mobile posts to come because, like I said, I’m obsessed.

pause

December 6, 2013

Oh, cruel Time.  You just keep moving, don’t you?

I have this feeling like someone pushed the fast forward button and I’d really just like to be on pause for a bit.

These girls are getting so. very. big.
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Our days are so full, and they move so quickly.  E is now waking for much of the day, which is delightful.  She is such a sweet, easy, happy baby.  So many smiles and now giggles!  She is also VERY talkative – methinks she wants in on the action surrounding her.

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At nearly 4 months, she’s still in 0-3 month clothes.  I’m sure she’s gaining weight pretty well, and she’s probably doubled her birth weight by now.  We had a strange stretch in October where I’m pretty sure that E was not very comfortable, I think due to some reflux — she had the characteristic back arching, spit up, crying, and wasn’t sleeping very deeply.  She’d vomit roughly once per day.  I cut dairy, then soy out of my diet and she seems to be feeling much better (still occasionally vomiting, though).  Do you know what has soy in it?  Pretty much every snack I want to eat and almost all meals out.  So the baby weight must be flying off now (I don’t care enough to actually step on a scale), but OH MAN I JUST WANT TO EAT AN OREO.  Luckily, we do a lot of cooking at home and a few easy substitutions (sunflower oil for vegetable oil, coconut aminos for soy sauce) have eliminated soy from our family meals.  It’s worth it to have a happy baby – we don’t eat THAT much packaged food anyways, and maybe it’s a good excuse to be more mindful of what we’re eating.

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E still wakes at least once/night and usually cat naps during the day.  I think (hope?) that she’ll settle into more of a solid nap/sleep schedule soon — we’ve gotten a few solid afternoon naps & early bedtimes in the past week, but I’ve definitely jinxed myself now that I wrote it.

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She ADORES her big sister.  She’s able to track big sister and the dogs around the room now, and will often smile big when one of them comes into view.  She stares at Lilly, though, watching her with a sweet little grin and often cooing sweetly at her.  She has also found her hands, and they are INCREDIBLE.  It’s too cute watching her stare at her hands as she moves them, opening her mouth wide to slowly draw them in, and then missing the target at the very last minute.  She’s getting better, though, and soon I bet she’ll be able to get her fingers to her mouth on the first try!

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Lilly ADORES her tiny sister.  She’s constantly wanting to hold baby Elli’s hand, talk to her, show her toys, etc.  It’s really sweet.  Lilly’s been having some big emotions lately, (a handful of tantrums, I think, only it’s never clear exactly what she wants, she just has a big emotional outburst) and she will stop mid-crying to check on baby Elli, put a blanket on her, whatever.  It’s too sweet.  The big emotions are tough to witness, but usually stopped by just holding her and letting her do her thing.

These big emotions have been accompanied by big social leaps, too.  She’s now more attentive to what other kids are doing, and in September was even caught holding hands with a little boy she had just met and was playing with.  She is very clear about what she wants or doesn’t want, “I didn’t want you to do that, mama!”  She says “thank you” often and at unexpected times, and it’s really sweet.  She now is obsessed with helping, and wants to be involved in just about everything that’s going on.  She seems busier than ever.  And she often says, “I want to do it by myself” so we let her — she now makes her own peanut butter sandwiches, carrying all of the supplies to the table and then returning the dirty dishes to the sink when she’s done.  She “folds” her laundry with me, wipes up her messes herself, zips her zipper herself, puts her winter coat, hat & boots away herself, and just this week, she made holiday treats (chocolate covered pretzels with sprinkles) all by herself.  In fact, we made an impromptu trip to MKE mid-November when our power was out for 4 days, and while we were there, Lil decided she was going to help my grandma make dinner and went ahead and pulled a little stool up to the kitchen counter.  The next night, she helped my mom cut strawberries with a crinkle cutter.

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I peeked out the window one day to find her raking the dirt, ready to dump it in the wheelbarrow just like daddy.

Lilly loves singing and “rock shows” and often will sing songs she made up herself.  She’s also frequently a dog — it’s so ridiculous to see her lined up at the window with Barley and Jezebel, barking.  Or to hear her panting as she runs to the back door to give Jason a lick when he gets home.  Licking is one of few parent things that I just. cannot. handle. so I try to squirm away when she’s a dog… but poor baby Elli… I am not always able to scoop her away fast enough to avoid sister’s tongue.  Eww.  I am grossed out just thinking about it.  (Hands in drinking glasses is another parenting thing that I just can’t handle, but fortunately, she’s grown out of it).  She’s into imaginary games – covering the dogs with blankets and saying goodnight, going to the “store” — giving us a big “mwah” air kiss as she leaves the room, cooking in her kitchen, playing doctor and checking up on us, and her latest imaginary game involves wrapping up items that are laying around in her play silks and giving them to us.  Yesterday I was gifted a lemon — “what I always wanted!”  It’s so fun.

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Food-wise, Lilly sometimes eats a lot, other times nothing.  I hear that’s what toddlers do, so we go with it.  Sleep-wise, she typically falls asleep on her own around 8pm and wakes around 8am, and seems to be back to sleeping through the night most nights.  She’s sleeping on her floor bed in her bedroom, so we usually wake to the pitter-patter of little toes… Jason usually grabs her and takes her back to her bed or the guest bed that he’s currently sleeping in. (We’re all about divide and conquer with our sleep these days… perhaps someday soon E will stop waking in the night and he can come back to our room!)  Lilly no longer naps, unless she’s at daycare.  Some days she’d probably like a nap around 4pm (wouldn’t we all?), but if she sleeps then she doesn’t go to bed until 10 or 11, and we’re done parenting by 7, so it’s not a great combo.  She’s potty trained but won’t initiate trips to the bathroom yet, so we still have the occasional accident when mom or dad forget to take her.

131112untitled9655.jpgThis is Lilly’s handiwork: both Barley and Elli covered in blankets, cuddling a “George” (monkey).

Our days seem to have a certain rhythm to them: wake up, eat, play/go on an adventure, eat, play a bit more, relax/read/watch an episode of Curious George, play until daddy comes home, eat dinner, play a tiny bit more/bathe, get ready for bed.  For whatever reason, it’s much easier to get out of the house by 9 than it is almost any other time of day.  So we visit the library, have playdates, run errands, whatever, in the morning.  We usually end up baking at least once/week – Lil loves to be in the kitchen.  And I try to prepare one new activity each week, although some of my ideas seem to go over MUCH better than others (her current fave is a toss up between cutting with a scissors and playing with the Christmas decor).  Our rotating toy selection seems to help, too, though I probably could be better about switching things up more often.

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Snow is so exciting that we had to go outside in our pjs first thing in the morning!

Aaaaand, that’s where we’re at.  A little pause on the old VCR of life…  I am really, especially trying to savor this month so that the holidays haven’t disappeared in the blink of an eye.  That, and I’ll be back to work part-time in January, so I’m anticipating that things will only seem that much busier…

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