Monday, January 30, 2012

2012 Plans

Growing up, I enjoyed the comfort of stability and predictability.  I lived in the same house from the age of six months to 18 when I went away to college.  During that time, my parents decided that we were going to move to a neighboring city (Virginia Beach).  I was 11 or 12.  I cried my eyes out so much at the dinner table that they just couldn't bring themselves to do it.  I crave consistency.

Christopher, on the other hand, moved from city to city every handful of years.  He is always looking for the next adventure, a new place to live, some new city to explore.  Maybe that explains why I prefer sitting under a tree for hours while he yearns to run the trails.  Or maybe I'm just lazy.

When I graduated from undergrad and then from my M.A. program, I felt tortured by the unknown.  The unknown was terrifying with the economy not doing well.  I knew we wouldn't be homeless, but I didn't know if or how we could ever possibly settle into careers.  It all worked out.  And I guess I have been clutching hold of that, not wanting to take any chances, because it was so hard to come by and followed so much uncertainty.

I had a lot of plans for this year.  These plans included consistency, the same patterns, but expanded.  We hoped to drive down south for a late winter/early spring vacation.  Not happening.  Then we planned to go to Tybee Island, but then compromised with North Carolina instead to lessen the drive.  I don't think we will be vacationing this summer.  I had plans for our degree programs--I really hope those don't change.  I had career goals in mind.  I had home projects to do.  Those have all shifted.  And we planned to try to have another baby--that could happen, but I think we are pushing that back as well.

I'm not complaining here.  I'm not trying to whine.  These change in plans aren't a bad thing.  They're just different.  They're not "more of the same" as I had hoped, but instead might be more of a very old same that I have not known for many years, yet with a new twist.  It is hard to switch gears, so to say, and I don't know how much will work out with this new plan or how much we will step back to the previous one.  Still, I'm hopeful and excited.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Eliot's Second First Birthday Party

We're in Chesapeake!  As I have written many times before, my family couldn't come to Eliot's birthday party due to the crazy Chesapeake virus that was getting everyone.  Instead, we came to have a second party.

Yesterday, we took Eliot to the zoo.  He is nuts about animals, so we thought he'd love it.  Well, he got really excited about the up-close animals, like the spider monkeys, but didn't care too much about the ones that were far away, like the elephants.  We had fun and the weather was just amazing.  And Chris got to see a lot of palm trees, which makes him super happy.

Afterward, we had dinner at my parents' house.  Everyone (including my grandma, whoaaa!) came over and my mom made this excellent basketball cake.  Eliot ate a little more than his birthday cupcake at his first party, but not much.  The boy likes sour things, not sweets, just like momma.
Lots of hugs with cousin Sydney

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Lesson in Thomas Family History

Christopher's grandparents came from North Carolina.  His grandmother (Glenna) grew up in Eden, NC, which is just two hours away from our house.  Shortly after Christmas, his dad and mom took Glenna to Eden.  She has Alzheimer's, but it seems that every time any of us went to see her, she talked about wanting to go visit.  They knew she would probably forget if they went and might not even understand what was going on, but they wanted to give her that trip to see that sparkle of familiarity, even just for a moment.

Christopher really wanted to go along ever since Glenna began mentioning the trip, but he had a week-long class the day after Christmas.  His dad is on a sabbatical this month (the first one he has ever allowed himself!), so we made the trip today.  I think it was really special for Chris to go with his dad and bring his own son (Eliot) along with him.

Eliot's middle name is Thomas--after Glenna's maiden name.  First, we went to Eliot's great-great grandfather's house, James Oscar Thomas.  This beautiful house (with amazing grounds) has been maintained, added onto, and turned into a restaurant.  The owner knew we were coming and met us to give us a tour of the house.  While it looks huge from the outside, it actually was just a three-bedroom home with a den and (maybe) kitchen.

After lunch, we headed over to one of the previously-owned homes.  That is, James Oscar did not raise all of his children in this larger, white farm house.  Instead, Glenna and her brothers and sisters (all eight of them!) mostly grew up in this house.  Chris's dad remembered visiting this house frequently and told stories of playing on the porch and in the very hot boys' room upstairs.

When we got there, Chris's dad knocked on the front door to explain why we were taking photos outside--we didn't want anyone to get worried or confused.  The lady was actually really nice and understanding.  Then she invited us in!  She came over from Belgium and casually mentioned that we weren't the first to come by.   Instead, she said we were about the third group of people saying this was their family members' house.  "What is this?" she asked, "A historical monument?!"  It was quite funny because Chris's dad immediately knew which of our family members had been by.

It's really neat that Chris has this, and that Eliot will have these photos.  How often do you go back to your great-great grandparents' house to be served lunch?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Officially a Toddler, I Guess

It looks like we have a real toddler on our hands.  He walks, climbs, and requires discipline (already?!).  A couple of days ago, I posted a video of him getting tricked into walking by carrying Tigger around.  The next day, he walked from the den to me in the dining room all casual as if to say, "Hey mom.  Get me a sam-a-wich."  Last night, Chris was laying with Eliot on the floor.  Eliot got up and used Chris to climb up on the couch.  Ha!  He also tries to climb his Megablocks table every chance he gets....  I couldn't believe how much he had changed out of nowhere.

And here he is having a good time looking at the world up-side-down.  He was laughing so much.  Ah, that boy gets me.

Eliot acts like he doesn't know what "no" means, but I think he is trying to trick us.  He doesn't do much bad, but needs to stop when I tell him to.  He doesn't understand why he can hammer his blocks, but not my foot.  Or why he shouldn't unfold the clothes I'm folding.  Or why it is OK to slide his cars on the wood floors, but not the lid to his bucket (oh, that scratching sound).  Since he just laughs when I say no, I have tried removing him from the situation.  I say no firmly, hold his arm, and then if he tries again, I pick him up and set him a few feet away.  That kind of works, but I'm open to any ideas out there!

It has been too cold for much outdoor, baby fun these days.  I haven't been running.  We haven't been biking.  I was hoping to take some pictures today at Otter Creek, but I doubt that will happen.  This is kind of disappointing, but I guess that's winter.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

New Shovels and Planet Earth

I didn't get to mention that Chris and his dad worked very hard to cut our hedge down to nothing.  This hedge separated us from our neighbors.  While the boundary was kind of cool, the thing was out of control.  It was almost touching the power lines when we moved in.  It had poison ivy, regular ivy, and wasps in it.  It was right next to the driveway, so we'd always "pick up passengers" in the street because no one could get in.

About three months after moving in, Chris and my dad cut it down to four feet.  That was such an operation.  Chris tried to tame it by cutting it back throughout the summer until wasps attacked us.  He kept trying anyway, but it was always a bit nuts.

It had to go.  So, Chris and his dad cut it down to the roots.  However, we still have these stumps and roots.  Chris has been planning to dig them up with an axe and shovel--that is, until the roots broke his shovel.  Whaaat?

Yesterday brought us a trip to Lowes to get a new shovel so Chris could get back at them roots!  We put Eliot in one of those car shopping carts for the first time.  Those things are hard to control!  I blamed it on Eliot's bad steering.

Then we went to the grocery store for a few things.  We planned on spaghetti squash for dinner, but they didn't have any!  Whaaat?  I guess it isn't necessarily a high-demand item.  When we got home, Chris hacked at the remains of the hedge some more, I made dinner, and Eliot took a nap after we ate.  This whole 6:30 pm nap time schedule is kind of weird.  He used to nap around 10:00 am and 2:00 pm.  Now it is 10:00 am and... 6:30 pm?

After Eliot woke up, we watched some of Planet Earth, which Eliot loved.  He'd stare and point and talk.  I loved it.  However, I'm not sure if I should be humored or concerned that he chuckled whenever an animal would get eaten....

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

One Year Portraits

I took Eliot's one year portraits today!  I was excited to try setting up a white sheet for the first time, and I think I discovered something kind of awesome on accident....  I bought the sheet the day before at Target for six bucks.  Eliot's bedroom has pretty good lighting since it has two windows, so I taped the sheet up in front of his nook.  Our house is a capecod, so the sheet was about four feet in front of the window.  This might be difficult to do otherwise without a frame of some sort.

I was surprised and happy to see that the background look completely seamless--not like a sheet at all!  This is great because the sheet did have some wrinkles in it still despite putting it in the dryer.

Here are some of my favorites, but first, my favorite newborn portrait of Eliot just for fun.
His eyes sure have opened up a lot more, huh?  He was like a puppy back then, born with eyes squinting.

Here is one from his six month session....  Is it weird that he still looks just like that in my mind?

OK, on to the one year photos!
See more from our shoot here.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Guitar and Xylophone

When it comes to the internet, we often present a projection of ourselves that we want everyone to see.  In all honesty, I avoid taking photos of myself if I don't like the way I look.  But here is a picture that is just real.  Rather unflattering for me, but this is just us.  I'm wearing a tank top and leggings.  My hair is in a messy pony tail and I didn't shower that day.  I'm making the "guitar face"--a face I can't help but make when I'm concentrating while playing an instrument.  Eliot doesn't have clothes on because we undressed him since his clothes smelt after dinner and a big diaper.  This picture wasn't taken with a fancy camera or in a room with good lighting.  It was Chris's cell phone.  But here is a real, raw moment of me and my little boy making music together.  And I love it.

I have been having too much fun with Eliot's new instruments.  I sat on the floor last night and taught myself how to play "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and that "Are You Sleeping, Brother John" song on the xylophone.  I proceeded to get way too excited about my musical "accomplishments" for the day.  And Chris gave me more pats on the back for it all than I'm sure was merited for such silly feats.

Today was a busy one for Eliot.  I took him to a playgroup for the first time where he tried to roll a ball with a boy his age, played with cars with another boy, and then attempted to push a girl in a walker around the room (in a nice, friendly way).  He seemed stunned at first, like he didn't know to do with a room full of little people.  I think he had fun!

Then we headed to his one year appointment.  All looks good.  Still tall and skinny, but the doctors always say that is simply how he is weight-wise.  And he doesn't look underweight by any means.  After the appointment, we headed to Moe's for lunch.  On the way, Eliot ate a ton of food in the car and then proceeded to eat a cup of guacamole.  And I mean their cup size, not the usual small portion you get on the side.  He leaned back and watched tv since basketball was on.

We went over to Target for bottle liners, milk, a couple more sippy cups, and a few other things.  He is drinking out a bottle some these days, but uses a sippy cup too.  I don't see what is too wrong with him using a bottle still even though "they" suggest to cut it off around a year.  When we got home, Eliot downed some milk, listened to a few stories, and passed out.  I'm expecting him to nap until 8:00 pm, I bet.  And that's Eliot's adventures for the day!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Party!

Yesterday was Eliot's birthday party!  Overall, I'd say it was a great success filled with family, snacks, cupcake smashing, and a happy little boy.  I was honestly pretty bummed that my parents, sister, brother-in-law, niece, and nephew couldn't come due to sickness.  However, I know it was the right choice in the end.  How do I know this?  My parents got very sick the day before the party with the same bug, so my niece and nephew were probably still contagious.  And then my parents would be too.  We'll go see them in a few weeks once this all passes.

The party was a reasonably small get-together, but, man, putting together even a small event with a baby can be difficult.  Chris was working on a paper most of the day.  And let me say, I am not complaining about that at all.  The guy has been putting off his own work to help me out with other things to get ready throughout the week, so he needed to concentrate on writing.  Anyway...

Eliot woke up extra early.  I was hoping he'd sleep in a little so I could shower before he got up.  He had other plans.  Instead, we had the big boy birthday breakfast.  Yogurt and raspberries.  He fed himself so well with a spoon!
After he was done, he played with his toys some while I got some dough going in the bread machine to make soft pretzels.  I did some cleaning, changed a diaper, changed the baby's clothes, yadda, yadda.  Chris's parents came over and his mom watched Eliot so I could run to the store for a few things (milk, dip ingredients, wrapping paper, candles...).  By the time I got back and put everything away (and party decorations up), Eliot was ready for his nap.  I took him to bed while Chris and his dad went to pick up the cupcakes and Chris's mom went to pick up Elizabeth.

Can we talk about multitasking for a second?  While Eliot napped in our bed, I wrapped his presents on the floor and then did my hair and make-up (all while staring at him to make sure he didn't roll off the bed or something).  Tada!  As I said on Instagram, I was looking a little (lot) better than I did a year ago on this day.  And baby's birthdays are special to moms too--it's the anniversary of doing a very, very big thing that becomes a defining moment.

Eliot woke up...  I made the soft pretzels (that just turned out to be rolls), dips, and got everything in order.  As it turns out, Eliot is one of the few babies in the world that actually kind of likes wearing party hats.  Crazy!

And the party began!  My aunt, uncle, and cousin came along with Chris's aunt and uncle as well as Stephanie and Bernard.  His parents, grandma, sister, and sister's boyfriend were also there.  Eliot had fun grabbing people's hands and conning everyone into walking him around the house.  Chris's mom and I got a little weepy together looking through Eliot's birth book while Elizabeth laughed at us.
What happened to my curls?!?!  Who knows.  Life, I guess.
Then it was time for the cake.  Eliot didn't get why everyone was singing to him, but he was cool with it.  Then Chris and I blew out his candle together.
Eliot isn't huge into sweets.  I didn't know what he'd do with the cupcake exactly, but, yeah, this sums up my expectations rather well.
Eliot wasn't sure what to do with the cupcake all the way.  He ate a little icing and then proceeded to destroy it.  Elizabeth tried to feed him, but I knew that look...  The one when you know a baby is just done eating and if you keep pushing it, food is going to end up in your face as he spits it at you.  Yeah, that one, so I sat back and had a little bit of icing thrown at me too.  The cupcake ended up on the floor (which the cat ate) and Eliot made it his mission to get icing all over himself, the back of the chair, and in his hair.  Good times.

Then Eliot got a bath and we opened presents! 

After everyone left, Eliot went into extreme hyper mode, which meant that he was utterly exhausted.  I got him in bed and he slept for two hours.  In fact, we woke him up to take him to a basketball game.  He let him sleep so long that we only caught half of the game, but that's just fine.
Is he not the most affectionate thing?
We came home to find that the dogs had eaten about 30 treats between the two of them--yes, two of them because Dexter was in his cage and I guess was forced to watch as Abed-nego and Bella (Chris's parents' dog) chowed down.  After our nightly routine, I got Eliot to sleep about 10:30 pm.  What a day!  I think it was a good, enjoyable, fun day for our Eliot.

[More photos from the day]

Today, we're relaxing some, picking up the pieces from the party, and trying to accept that our little boy is really one year old.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Dear Eliot: Twelve Months

Dear Eliot,

Here is the big one.  Twelve months.  This letter seems about equally as big as my words to you at your birth.  Here, a year later, another letter.  I hope that these strings of words are as real to you as they are to me as I type them.  I hope that my "I love you" doesn't become just three little words uttered.  I know you won't fully understand this at first or even after a second or third reading.  Sometimes you have to live your own life before you can understand what someone is saying.

Eliot, let me tell you that I didn't always specifically want a family.  In fact, I would get frustrated when people would announce that they were now a "family" since they were having a baby--aren't a husband and wife a family of two?  What about a baby turns a couple into a family?  In high school, I said I didn't want kids.  And then when I met your dad and we stepped closer and closer to marriage, I wanted to grow with him.  I did want kids.  I did want a family.  I wanted you.

I remember the first time I saw your heart beating on that little screen.  A cluster of moving shades of gray.  Your heartbeat was so real.  You were so real, alive already at nine weeks.  You were asleep, but woke up and nodded your head.  I can't believe it has been so long since that day in June.

This year has been the best year of my entire life.  I love sharing every moment with you.  You've grown into such a boy.  Once you get more hair in, you'll lose your baby appearance even more as you toddle around the house, tell us what you want and like, and get into everything.  Part of that is a little bittersweet, but our time together with you as an infant was a tremendous blessing and a beautiful time.  I feel like your dad, you, and I all worked hard to lay a good foundation during that time.  It's nice to see the how our hard work has paid off as you grow.  Now as you progress into a new stage, we can enjoy looking back on those memories while also making new ones as you continually change.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm not sad that your infanthood is over, because so many aspects of that time are part of today.  You are still my son and you got to be where you are because of the past.

I say this every month, but your personality and preferences are continually shining through more and more as you become an individual.  Your favorite toys are balls.  Soccer balls, basketballs, footballs, bouncy balls... Any kind of ball, you love.  I didn't expect this at all, Eliot, and it didn't occur to me to buy you a small ball for some time.  Then we bought one on a whim at a checkout counter.  You loved it!  You laugh and reach when you see a ball in a store.  We took you to the bookstore on campus and you had to hold a football.  We let you carry it around the store, but when we went to put it back, you wanted to hold them all.  It was so funny.  You think it is so cool when we hold you up to help you put the basketball through the hoop on your small goal.  I wonder if you will really like to play sports some day.  You have always loved to watch sports on tv.  You even watched a football game with your dad in the hospital.  Your dad says over and over again that you are a dream come true.  You really are, Eliot.

Your favorite food right now is still raspberries.  You could eat endless raspberries, I am sure.  You eat almost anything that we give you, though, as long as you are in the right mood.  You have recently decided that it is very funny indeed to throw your food to the dogs.  They are always ready to gobble up anything that you don't want.  Right now, you are teething.  You are getting two more top teeth in, which will give you a total of seven teeth!  They barely broke through the other day, so you're still dealing with it, but the worst is over, I think.

As for speech, you are growing to connect words with things.  You correctly identify mama, dada, ball, cat, and dog.  You are beginning to understand us too.  When we ask for you to give us things, you usually do.  It is becoming obvious that you understand a lot more than I give you credit for.  You were playing in the dirt while your dad and I planted tulip bulbs.  After I dug a hole, I handed you a bulb, and you planted it yourself.  You even pushed dirt onto it!  You do little things like this to demonstrate your understanding all the time.  When I tell you "no," you still smile and laugh at me like it is a game.  I think you get it, Eliot, but you're playing with me.  Please understand that I have your interests in mind when I tell you no, little guy!

Physically, you are growing too.  You refuse to walk, but we know you can.  We trick you into it sometimes and you barely hold onto our fingers when you take us for walks around the house by our hands.  You seem to lack the confidence in yourself.  That's fine if you want to take your time walking.  I know you can, and that is the important part.  You even do squats while holding a full-sized basketball, so I know you have it in you!  You have taken off climbing, though.  You crawl up the stairs at a rapid pace.  You try to climb the baby gates.  If there is something you can go "up," you certainly try.

One of your favorite things right now is animals.  You get very excited and jabber when you see one.  You reach for them and talk to them.  Whenever you get the chance to hug the dogs or cat, you make a run for it.  Fortunately, our pets are rather tolerant and let you tug on them.

This month we celebrated Christmas together for the first time as a family.  We were so happy to have you with us that your dad and I barely bought anything for each other.  We didn't even get anything for our stockings (just yours) because all of our focus was right on you.  Christmas felt special in a way that it never had before.  When I was younger Christmas was my favorite time of year, but it lost some of its sparkle as I grew older and I suppose more cynical.  With you around, even though you didn't understand it and weren't excited yourself, I was full of holiday cheer and excited to share everything with you.

This month, we went back to walk around Longwood, where your dad and I went to college for undergrad.  It felt like stepping back in time as we remembered how we felt, what we thought, our dreams, our fears, and what it was like to be graduating at 20 (and 21 for your dad).  There were so many unknowns, but everything turned out better than I ever could have imagined.  I never thought I'd go back and walk the campus with such an amazing son.  It also got me thinking beyond my past to your future.  You have so much ahead of you.  Sometimes it will be easy and fun.  Other times it will be scary and challenging, but you stick with it, Eliot, and you'll get there--wherever you are headed.  Your dad and I had a great time there learning about literature and writing at Longwood.  I think it'd be rather neat if you went there too, but I hope for even better for you.  I dream for you to go where your heart wants to and to accomplish far more than your dad and I have.

I'm so proud of everything you do.  My heart swells just looking at you--all you have to do is exist and I get all weepy with happiness.  I think you are the most adorable little guy ever.  When I was pregnant with you, my heart knew you were a boy.  Maybe I got a lucky guess, but maybe somehow my heart knew yours as it was forming.  You're absolutely beautiful.  You're more than I ever dreamed of.

It has taken us twelve months to get here.  It has been a fast year full of changes.  You're growing into such a big boy.  We've come so far together, Eliot, and we're going to keep on trudging on.  Even a year later, your dad and I hold ourselves back from hugging and squeezing you while you sleep.  Happy first birthday, Eliot.  I'm so glad you're with us.