Here’s what I remember from November: snow.
We had a pretty big snow early in the month, and ever since Jason mentioned his love of snowy Christmas card photos a few years ago, it’s been tradition to try to get some good photos on the first snow. (To be really honest, I’m not sure if Jason was messing with me when he said that, but he started a thing and we’ve been going with it.)
So, it snowed and I told Lilly I wanted to take her and El outside for a few photos on the new (to us) old sled that we found in my grandparents’ garage. She decided that she needed to be in her Elsa costume, and El in her Anna costume. I was going to go in a different direction for Christmas card photos, but she was SO VERY INTO IT that I couldn’t possibly say no. And I’m glad I didn’t — just a few quick snaps and I was able to get several photos of BOTH of them looking and smiling (a Christmas miracle!).
We traveled to MN for Thanksgiving. It was kind of a long drive, but we are always ALWAYS excited to travel to the frozen tundra to see family, and especially when there’s mashed potatoes involved. We had a great time visiting with grandparents, aunts, uncle, cousins. My aunt and uncle are quite the turkey day hosts! I am drooling just thinking about all of the yummy food…
We went to the world’s shortest Christmas parade (involving Santa, Mrs Clause, an elf, an angel, and some sort of German Walz champion prince and princess, followed by 4 cars with advertisements posted on them). It was not as cool as the website suggested, but BUT! Lilly had her first Santa encounter of the year, in which she marched right up to Santa and said, “I would like that Ariel dress. The pink one with the long long long sleeves.” Not at all shy, that one.
Jason and I got some date nights out of it — TWO IN A ROW! Woohoo!
And we got a chance to visit with Cousin Catherine, newly returned to the frozen tundra, and to see her little house, meet her boyfriend, see her chickens and kitties, and pet and feed her horses. She has a cute cute little house! And we haven’t gotten to see her as much as we should since she lived so far away, but she’s back! Yaaaaaaaaay! (And now Lilly wants horses…)
(Of course we had to get a few photos with the giant cherry on a spoon.)
After Thanksgiving week, the girls and I hung out in MKE with my family for a week while Jason drove back to MI to work. We had all sorts of fun — Lil and my mom made a gingerbread house, Lilly and my dad went ice skating, some quality time with my grandparents, Eleanor got a sled ride across the ice at the rink, there was Christmas shopping, and a show — The Lion King (it was amazing).
Like nearly every other preschool/school-aged girl in America, Lilly was dying to be Queen Elsa from Frozen for Halloween. Luckily, Eleanor didn’t yet possess the words to object, and she made the cutest little princess Anna. Jason and I filled in as Kristoff and Olaf. As a happy coincidence, at least 3/4 of those characters dress appropriately for late October in Michigan.
My mom was kind enough to sew the girls costumes, and she totally knocked it out of the park. Little Anna’s costume especially. I also love this soft white robe that she made for Queen Elsa — the little ice queen needed something to keep her warm!
I pieced together Olaf from some hot glue, felt, and pipe cleaners. And Jason’s encino Kristoff costume didn’t turn out quite as cute as planned, but it did the job for a cold cold cold Halloween evening. We managed to trick-or-treat in the super-cold weather for about 45 minutes before Lilly called it quits. I ended up wearing tiny princess Anna in a wool wrap under my down coat, so the two of us were quite cuddly and warm. Lilly’s Elsa dress fit two layers (one fleece) underneath, so she stayed warm for a while, too. Both kids were thrilled to eat their spoils once we returned from trick-or-treating. And I was thrilled to steal at least 3/4 of their candy for my own enjoyment once they were sleeping. :)
And here we are talking about October in mid-January. Progress.
Our annual pumpkin hunt/photo shoot (because, again, it’s at least 90% about picture taking) occurred on a sunny and mostly warmish (for October in Michigan) day. It’s tricky to get both kids actually looking and smiling at the camera, so there’s about 456 million pictures from this day. I won’t publish all of them. :)
I can remember walking around, wheeling the kiddos in the wagon. Lilly picked out at least 30 pumpkins, loaded them in the cart one by one, and Jason put most of them back in the field, one at a time, when Lilly wasn’t looking. We were excited to see the cows in the field, and a little terrified when they came close enough to touch. They were eating pumpkins, which was just SO SILLY.
We carved the pumpkins when we got home. Lilly was not into touching any of the pumpkin guts, but of course wanted to use the knife. Jason let her help design her jack o lantern, but decided to keep the knife work to himself. (Good choice.) She was totally into making sure that the jack o lanterns were lit and outside, and it is SO FUN to have her participate, understand, and enjoy some of our seasonal traditions. I’ve been on the lookout for more traditions to add to our family repertoire because it is just so fun to see how exciting even the smallest/silliest traditions (lighted up pumpkins?) are for her.
Eleanor also seemed to enjoy herself, and checked out the pumpkin goo with a little surprise and much joy. She was pretty silly this day. Actually, she is often silly, making cute scrunchy nosed faces, and, recently, singing. She makes us laugh every day, and I think we are all enjoying watching her little personality blossom.
Whew! I’m on a roll here with this blogging thing, aren’t I? :)
We travelled to Pittsburgh at the end of September for a friend’s wedding, and had the added bonus that Jason’s parents met us there! It was really great to see them (and so great to get two date nights in a row! not to mention the awesome hour and a half nap that J, Eleanor, and I snuck in while Grammy and Poppy took Lil to lunch. I don’t even remember the last time I napped, but it felt soooooo luxurious.)
The rehearsal dinner was at the MLB park in Pittsburgh, and the wedding was downtown. It was a gorgeous wedding — the flowers were A.MAZ.ING — but I neglected to take photos. BAAAAADDD blogger.
The girls (especially Lilly) were SO HAPPY to see Grammy and Poppy. SO HAPPY. They had a blast! So thanks to Gram and Pop for giving J and I some time to ourselves and to hang out with friends.
A fall tradition we couldn’t pass by this year was picking apples. (And by tradition, I mean this is the second year we’ve gone, and I am probably going to make us go every year so that it really truly turns into a tradition.) We managed to find a sunny day when the orchard was surprisingly not crowded, and we did a pretty good job finding not fully ripe apples and putting them in the bag. We also did a good job of sampling an apple or two. Or more.
But more than apples, this trip is really actually about me taking a million photos. Not all of them turned out amazing (I’m blaming the bright midday sun and my uncertainty about how to deal with it), but the pictures of the girls sharing an apple are just so sweet. And this happened totally unprompted, and at a moment in time when Eleanor wasn’t showing much interest in chewing/swallowing, so it was extra thrilling to see her interest in Lilly’s freshly picked apple.
The last two photos were taken at the apple picking farm in a small shed that housed a few goats and a miniature horse. Lilly was excited, then nervous about them (the goats got up in her face and were very loud). Eleanor screamed, terrified the minute we set foot in the barn.
And finally, I found this picture from one of our grocery store adventures, and the family historian in me thought I should mention the everyday fun that is the grocery store. We are simultaneously the best and worst in the grocery store. Both children are quick to identify Oreos (Eleanor also reliably picks veggie straws) and ask to place them in the cart. I love Oreos (and they’re one of very few dairy free cookies at the grocery store), so I agree. Lilly, who is usually in the back of the cart, cracks them open. Eleanor, who begins most grocery trips in the Ergo, squeals and rubs her tummy (sign language for “please”) until I place her in the cart next to Lilly. The two of them proceed to share many -MANY- Oreos, until this mean mama puts the kabosh on their fun. This arrangement is the best because: the kids are so quiet and well-behaved in the grocery store! I can concentrate on making sure I get everything on my list! And how sweet is it that they sit in the cart, sharing and talking and giggling together?!
And this arrangement is the worst because: I feel strange/guilty?/wrong? about opening items before they’re paid for and also this arrangement leaves fewer Oreos for me. Oh. And maybe I should be teaching them self-control by making them wait until later for the cookies? Sigh.
(Also, re: the dress: Lilly will only wear dresses at this point. One day in December she told me, “From now on, I will only wear the sparkly clothes.” Luckily, she has broken that, because she has only a few sparkly things. But she is AAAAALLLLL about dresses, preferably long ones that twirl — her current faves are Hanna Andersson twirl dresses, and her favorite tights are thick Gap tights with sparkly stars or stripes on them.)
We HAD to throw Eleanor a little party with friends for her first birthday. HAD to.
I know this is one of those things she’ll never ever remember, but: 1. J and I remember (and at least 90% of parenting these kids is about me), and 2. we had a tough first year together and wanted to celebrate growing beyond that.
So I made some monkey-themed invites, and we threw a little monkey party.
The power went out the night before the party (you know, when I was supposed to do all the prep!), so I decorated cupcakes and cake by candle light. I think they turned out okay anyways.
We were lucky that most of our friends could make it to celebrate E, and it’s always fun to see all of the kiddos running around the back yard while the adults attempt to actually have conversations with each other.
For decor, we stuck with simple balloons and flags (which I crafted with fabric and glue by candlelight the night before the party!). I also had a photoboard up with weekly pictures of E’s first year — nearly all of them taken cuddling the little sock monkey my gramma made for her (which is also why I went with a monkey theme). Luckily, I had finished printing the photos earlier in the week, so that project wasn’t affected by the power outage. Unluckily, I forgot to take a photo of the board, so you don’t get to see it. Imagine 52 pictures scotch-taped to a giant white board, and you’ve pretty much got it.
She was CRAZY about the balloons. (Eleanor is screaming and giggling in over the top excitement in the above photo.)
Barely ate any cake. (Don’t worry, Lilly and I overcompensated for her.)
And, we typically tell our party guests that presents aren’t necessary, but E did get a few presents and was happy to open them (with big sister’s help, of course). In all, it was a great afternoon!
Nothing like a full foot of fresh snow to keep you trapped in your house and blogging (about summer, because you are desperately behind).
We took the girls to the zoo late summer to see the new Tiger exhibit. (Lilly often tells us that tigers are her favorite).
I don’t remember much about this particular trip, other than: Lilly and I rode a camel! Lilly had asked to ride the camel on a previous zoo trip, and I asked her to wait for daddy to be along, and she patiently waited. She chose me to go with her, and Jason and Eleanor cheered us on from the sidelines. I think she enjoyed herself.
Once upon a time, in November, I wrote a beautiful and long tribute to my sweet little baby e. It was lovely. And then my evil ipad ate it, and it disappeared forever and I lost interest in blogging and who has had the time for that anyway, since our little baby e only likes to sleep with mama by her side (which is so sweet and cuddly and I feel honored to be her go-to person, but also it is frustrating and aggravating and terribly inconvenient for someone who doesn’t quite need 12 hours of sleep per night).
So, baby E, in honor of your first birthday plus a few months, here are some love notes from me to you, peppered with pictures of your real first birthday.
It’s hard for me to believe that you’ve only been with us a year (plus a few months), because it feels like you’ve always been here. You fit so normally and naturally with us that it’s hard to remember what things were like last year, before you were here.
You bring so much joy, little one. You are quick to smile, and frequently reward us with laughs or hilarious gestures. Your personality is outgoing — you are quick to interact with others, but you also seem to really love hugs and cuddles from your family.
We had a lot of trouble your first year. Not an ideal start — the hospital stay, c-section, prematurity and problems nursing then eating. You were so very very tiny! And so very strong, and tough. You laughed in the face of nearly every medical procedure we were suggested to put you through, never NEVER giving the doctors what they wanted on the first try. That made us laugh, or at least smile. You sweet, silly little thing!
Anyways, we seem to be past that all now. Thank goodness. Somewhere around 14 months, you thought it was time to eat, and just a few weeks ago, you learned that if you yell “‘NACK” very loud, we will indeed offer you a snack. You often follow it with a little rub of your belly, baby sign for “please”.
I have no idea what your first real word was. Probably “dogs” or “mama” or “dada” or “lilly”. This makes me terribly sad. I’ve missed recording a crucial moment in your life, and it’s just *gone*, out of memory, forever. I’m sure it won’t be the last time I miss a milestone, but it feels like a heavy thing for the family historian to miss a big moment in your history. What I want you to know, as I’m missing these seemingly big things, is that I am really truly trying my best to be there for the little things. Trying to pay attention to every cuddle, every sweet time you lean your head into my shoulder (melts my heart), every sweet sigh as you sleep next to me on the floor bed, cuddled into me as I stroke your chubby little baby cheeks and soft curls, admiring your long eyelashes and sweet little nose. I’m trying, little one. Your sister has offered proof that these moments will not last, and with you I want to enjoy them as I can.
(But, to be honest, if you wanted to sleep without waking every 45-90 minutes from 7pm until I inevitably give in and join you on the floor mattress, mama would be oh-so-grateful. I am burning out quickly, and need just a moment or two — or, preferably, two consecutive hours — of time to myself.)
You began crawling just before your first birthday. A month later, you were pulling up, then cruising the furniture, then the stairs. Oh! The stairs. You love them and are great at them. I am terrified that one of the other beings in our household (namely, your sister or the dogs) will accidentally knock you over as you’re climbing. So I follow you, slowly, quietly, patiently. Please remember that when I am old and need you to do the same. :)
Ever since you’ve learned to crawl, our house has the mess of the one-two punch that is you and your sister. Your sister can reach anything and everything. You can transport things, and love to put objects into containers, cupboards, etc. I am missing one toddler size 9 gold shoe, and I firmly believe that it was your & your sister’s collaboration that undermined any sense of organization (haha!) I thought this household had. So… our house is trashed most of the time. It’s not terrible, except that it is terrible. I strongly believe in a “prepared” environment — one that is neat and where everyone can access what they need to. I think our days go better when our house works for us in this way, and I wish, especially for your sake, that I was able to keep the house more clean/organized — I think it would really allow you to play more independently and concentrate more deeply. Also, you wouldn’t be constantly accessing and trying to eat random bits of paper, small rocks, cardboard, styrofoam, crayons, and other nonsense. While we’re on this topic: could you please stop taking bites out of full rolls of toilet paper?
Anyways. You. You love the bath, you go CRAZY when daddy gets home from work because you are SO happy to see him, you love the dogs and frequently approach them solely to put your arms around them and lean your head on them. There have been so SO many days where those dogs are just on my last nerve, and then, you. You love them so fiercely that I know I should quit the impatience and just sit and pet them with you.
Your sister and you seem to be off to a good start. She ADORES you, ADORES. You are always her “tiny sister” and she’s quite pleased to show you off to anyone and everyone. “You see my tiny sister?” She wants to hug you, smooch you, and sometimes she even thinks it’s okay if you handle her toys for a moment. You love to watch her, and demand for any food (especially cookies) she might have. She loves to rip things out of your hands. Your response is either to pick up another toy or to scream as loudly as you can until she gives it back. This works for me because I don’t have to interfere much — you two seem to be navigating object sharing as well as I can really expect a 3 and 1 year old to. You can hold your own, little one, and I love it.
You nod your head “yes” and “no”, though I think sometimes you either don’t know what you really want, or are too quick to respond and say “yes” when you really mean “no”. The head nods are helpful, more helpful than screaming/crying, and I think you’re quickly realizing that you can communicate with us better through words/actions than crying. Thank goodness, because this is a TOUGH age. There is just SO much that you want, and you have so few ways to communicate.
Your gestures include: please, thank you, milk, more, change, food, water, all done, help
Your words include: mommyyyyyyyyyy, daddyyyyyyyyyyy, lilly, doggyyyyyyy, poppy, grammy, naneeeeeeeeee, please, milk, more, barley, jezebel, up (bup), snack (NACK), cookie, done, teeth, bath, brush, help, scoot, noooooo, yoouuuuuuuu (you giggle with an exaggerated “you” when repeating “I love youuuu”), bird, and you’ll repeat just about any words we say to you
Your animal sounds include: moo, woof! (and panting), hoooooo, tweet, baa, and a tiny scrunchy nosed oink
(We celebrated you with a trip to the Children’s garden to play with the outdoor tea set and the fountains — both of which you enjoyed on previous trips as well as your birthday trip. Also, cupcakes in the backyard were a must.)
You are just the sweetest little thing, Elli P. It’s surreal to me that you’ve been with us for only a year and 1/3 — it feels like we’ve always been together. You bring so much joy to our family. You have the silliest faces, the cheesiest little grins, the sweetest little giggles! I am so glad, so SO glad that you are mine. I couldn’t imagine things any other way. And I think that our fun is just beginning, as we get to see more and more of who you are (and what you want) each and every day. Love you so SO much, kiddo.