Sunday, April 29, 2012

Open House!

Today was our first open house!  Showings had slowed down some, but it was kind of a relief in some ways.  We had four showings in about a week and a half, all of which were positive with some picky comments.  Everyone says they love the house and that it is so charming, but one person preferred a ranch (then why look at a capecod?) and another person wanted a larger kitchen.

Anyway, we had to be out of the house for two hours today.  I spent the morning tidying up.  With a toddler, there are so many things that I have to wait until the last minute to do, like vacuum or pick up all of the toys.  If I do put the toys up even a little early, this happens.

Somehow, it all gets done with time to spare, and we play in the front yard until the realtor arrives.  I left a little note for the people seeing the house.  You know, just to give them that cozy feeling.  :)
During our two-hour outing, we got some lunch.  Then we headed to Mister Goodies for the first time of the season.  Last year, we couldn't give any icecream to Eliot.  This year, though, I am excited to share some soft serve with him.  He was cautious at first, but then really seemed to enjoy it.

We returned to the house just a couple of minutes early to wait in the driveway--someone was inside looking still.  After the lady left, the realtor told us that we had a really great turn out.  Seven groups of people came by.  While three were neighbors, two of the three said they were looking for friends.  A likely story and excuse to snoop in a neighbor's house, I know, but they gave details about the friends, so I mostly believe them.  The four groups that weren't neighbors all said the usual--the house is charming, has nice paint colors, and a great layout.  All good things!  So, while we don't have an offer tonight necessarily, we have quite a few potential buyers.  They might want to think about it and look around more, but, hey, it all takes time.

Friday, April 27, 2012


I've been pumped on grading during Eliot's naptime, but we have found ourselves truly bored at home.  What do you do when you work at home, but your work is finished for the day and you don't know what to do other than melt into the TV?  Sure, we could go out to eat, but we try to keep that to once a week at the most.  So, we've tried to find some free adventures instead.

Thomas Road has Kid's Cove, which is free and open to the public.  It can provide some fun on rainy days.
A lot of the equipment is "too big" for Eliot on his own, so I have to be a little bit of a helicopter parent, but I don't mind.

Lately, we've enjoyed Hollins Mill.  There is even a family of geese there now!  However, Eliot is growing more and more brave with the water, which really worries me.

Our own backyard provides endless fun for Eliot.  The neighbor pig (Boone) is often out.  And then there is the "ghetto sandbox," as we call it--our flowerbeds.

Eliot used to cry at the sight of Boone.  Now Eliot pets Boone on his own!

And when we just can't seem to get the time to go out, I find cooking at home to be really enjoyable.  Eliot loves to help stir the pot, but I have to be careful....  When it comes time to take the spoon away, he screamsss.
When all else fails, a quick trip out to share a milkshake between the three of us and go for a drive makes for one happy baby.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

On Photography and Documentation

Can you believe this picture was taken a year ago?  Eliot was almost three months old there.  He and I have both changed a lot since then.

You know, he is kind of making the same face (same expression in the eyes and lips) in this photo from the other day.  Ha!

As you can see, I absolutely love playing the "this time last year" game with photos.  I did it before Eliot too.  I've always felt the need to document everything.

Photographs are so important to me.  I received my first digital camera for my sixteenth birthday.  It was your typical point-and-shoot camera, but my parents understood that pictures meant so much to me that they gave it to me about four months early.  I had no idea!  They said they wanted me to have it early to go ahead and take the pictures before the memories went away.  Or, maybe my sister had been complaining about me "borrowing" her camera indefinitely.  Before that, I used to take my parents' digital camcorder around to get stillframes of me and my friends.  I used to record all of our band practices and our silly adventures.

I have tried to take pictures of everything.  I used to carry my camera with me in my purse.  When Chris and I got married, we bought our first DSLR together--a Canon Rebel--and took pictures all the time.  Looking back, Chris and I laugh because we almost exclusively take photos of Eliot now.  Before, it was always each other and the pets.  Maybe the subject of your photos says something about your priorities.

Over the past few years, I've been privileged to help document other people's memories as well.  I've photographed a few weddings, a family reunion, and engagement sessions.  I really enjoy being able to give people good-quality photographs that capture the day's emotions.
When Eliot was a newborn, I tried to take a picture of him every day.  I found myself setting up photo shoots at night because our day-to-day ended up so busy that it was hard to find a time with the right lighting.  After about a month and a half of that, we relaxed some and just tried to take photos a lot.  Eliot has an album on our Flickr page for each month.  I get frustrated when an album only has about eight photos for the whole month, but I remind myself of two things.  First, I also make albums for each of our adventures, so there might be (and usually are) many more photos of him throughout the month; they are just clumped in a different album.  Secondly, if I had as many as eight photos of myself each month as a baby, I'd be impressed with my parents.

I constantly have to remind myself, though, to try to not only document the memories, but also be a part of them.  That is, I get so wrapped up in taking the right photo sometimes that I forget that we're at the park to play, not just for a photoshoot.
"A frog!"
 For being so concerned with photos and celebrating memories, though, we have very few pictures of us hanging on the walls.  As in only our wedding portraits and a shot of McAfee Knob.  We planned to make a big "photo wall" with different frames, but we never did.  Now that we may be moving, it seems like a silly time.  I have so many pictures I'd like to frame and ones I'd love to have canvases made out of.  Like this one.  What a darling face.

In a week and a half, we will be having our pictures taken.  This will be the first time we've been photographed professionally as a family by someone other than me with the self-timer.  It is actually in celebration of our fifth wedding anniversary and will be taken by the field of wildflowers that we were supposed to get married in front of (Tropical Storm Barry changed our outdoor wedding plans).  I'm so excited!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Mournful Heart

A friend of mine from grad school lost a baby.  Yesterday morning.  The baby boy (Ezra) was one day old.  I feel utterly horrible for them.

Ever since I read the news, I've carried a mournful heart for the couple and Ezra.  I don't know the full story (I believe she was full-term).  And I don't know if there is anything I can do other than offer my condolences and give them the space they've requested.

I held my little boy a little closer yesterday.  I begged for forgiveness for ever losing my patience (which is very rare, but happens sometimes), not doing everything perfect all of the time, or ever taking our family for granted for just one second.  I prayed for the Masters family and asked for peace.

God gives and He takes away.  I can't say why He gives sometimes or why things happen the way they do, but we do live in a fallen world.  I pray for grace, comfort, and divine wisdom.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Weekend

Since last weekend was full of grading, this weekend was full of family.  On Saturday afternoon, Chris's parents came in town.  We met them over at Shaker's for lunch.  Eliot so wanted to run around the parking lot, but that issss not safe.

After lunch, they did some running around with Elizabeth and we took Eliot home.for.a.nap.  He had skipped his morning nap and was falling asleep all over the place.  We felt so cooped up and bored out of our minds, so we went for a little walk before it began to rain.  Chris's parents were in town to see a friend play a concert, so we didn't see them that night.

On Sunday, we met them for lunch at La Carretta.  We forgot to ask for a cup of water for Eliot (I always forget!), so he shared Christopher's water.  And he thought it was hilarioussss.
Then we headed over to see Glenna (Chris's grandmother).  As always, his dad brought her a milkshake, but Eliot was bent on stealing it.
Chris's parents came back to our house for a little while, and then headed back home.  Chris and I were feeling cooped up (again) and it was raining (again), so we went to Target.  We needed groceries, but I didn't feel like going to a grocery store.  I don't know why I don't like grocery stores, yet enjoy Target....  I think more than anything I just wanted to get out out out.  Anyway, we picked up a couple of things and enough food to hold us over until I make up a menu of sorts and really go grocery shopping today.

On the way home, we got a milkshake to share (Glenna's had looked so good.  Ha), and Eliot was more than happy to take part.  It is difficult to get it away from him in the car, but when we got out, he kept trying to feed it to me.  He's so sweet.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Hollins Mill and a Sleeping Plan

We went to Hollins Mill today!  We were going to go to a park, but Eliot loves to run around and hit things with sticks so much that we figured an open area to play would be even better.

This little boy loves his dad lately.  Everything Christopher does is better, more interesting, and much more fun than anything I can pull off.  I'm there for comfort and food only.  That's fine.  I love seeing my boys enjoying each other.
See what I mean?  "No time for kisses, Mom.  I have a stick and I want to hit something with it."

Or play in the dirt.

Eliot was mesmerized by the water.  Me too!  There is something hypnotizing about it.  And Eliot still had that stick with him.

As he grew tired and less adventuresome, he came to me to ask to be held.

It felt great to get outside, watch Eliot run around, and take photos.  I really enjoy the portability of the camera on my iphone and being able to use Instagram, but I am finding that I take less "real" photos.  This is something I have been trying to avoid.  So, it was great to get some nice shots of us.

In regards to my previous post about sleep, I have developed a plan to "wean" Eliot over to his crib.  I am honestly in no hurry to get him out of our bed.  We're all happy together.  And I let my dogs sleep in my bed, so why would I not let my son?  Anyway, I'll give this plan a try, and if it doesn't work, I'll wait a few months and try again.

Week one:  Eliot and I will have some play and rest time in the crib every day.   We'll read in his crib, play with toys, and point out the animals on his sheets.  This will hopefully help loosen any negative associations with the crib.
Week two:  We will continue play and rest time in the crib.  In addition to this, I will lay with him in his bed while he naps and also some until he falls asleep at night.  I've tried this before and he wakes up 10 minutes after I leave.  If he wakes up, I'll try to soothe him to sleep.
Week three:  When it is nap or bedtime, I will try to soothe him to sleep and sit by his bed.

It won't be easy.  It will actually be exhausting.  But, I suppose it is worth a shot to try to be more consistent and persistent.

And He Fell Out of the Crib

We have been happily co-sleeping with Eliot since he was born (which I have written about before) since he would wake up to breastfeed every hour and a half through six months.  People have been suggesting since the beginning that we just needed to let him cry it out in his crib, but it didn't seem right at the time.  While mildly inconvenient at times, I have loved co-sleeping with Eliot.  And as long as the three of us were resting well and happy, it wasn't really a problem, right?  Those mornings when I wake up to my sleeping husband and son are some of the sweetest memories I have with Eliot.

Eliot's napping has been a little difficult lately.  He is probably transitioning to one nap (opposed to two), but it is frustrating when he looks exhausted with all the right signs (his usual nap time, rubbing his eyes, yawning, laying on the ground cuddled up with a pillow) but he won't sleeeep.  So, yesterday afternoon, we put him in his crib and let him cry for thirty minutes.  It didn't go over well.

Last night, I thought we'd give it another try.  I gave him his night-time milk in his crib, took the bottle when he was finished, gave him a paci, and shut the door.  After five minutes of screaming, he heard the thump.  And then thump-thump-thump.  He fell out of the crib.  We scooped him up laughing and he continued to scream until we were both holding him at the same time.

I have tried getting him used to his crib by seeing it as a "safe" place.  I play with him in it.  He pets the cat in it.

I'm probably doing this wrong because I'm not entirely committed to letting him cry it out.  And it is something I should do after thinking all of the details through, not just out of frustration like I did for his afternoon nap.

Here's the thing with sleep.  It's not black and white.  We don't all sleep the same way.  When I was young, I hated to sleep alone.  I used to share a bed with my sister for a long time.  I remember her bedtime being extended to 8:30 pm and being mortified.  It wasn't that I wanted to stay up longer, but I didn't want to go to bed alone.  When I grew older and slept in my own bed, I would lay awake at night, my eyes darting around.  Even when I came home from college on weekends, I'd feel uncomfortable in my bed at home, like someone was staring at me.  My parents' house is creep-y.

Whether or not Eliot's fear (or frustration or dislike or whatever you want to call it) of being alone in his crib is founded, it is real to him.  I understand how he feels.  And while Eliot should confront his fears and be independent, I don't want him to feel hopeless, helpless, and alone. When children feel supported, they are more confident to step out on their own.

So, I'm not saying cry it out is inherently wrong.  I'm not even saying that we won't try it with Eliot at some point.  Eliot will sleep in his bed when he is ready.  Now just isn't that time.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Grading and House Drama

What a whirlwind of a week.  I know it is Tuesday, but it feels like it is finally the weekend to me!

Chris and I are so blessed in our jobs.  We work from home.  When I was in undergrad, I knew I wanted to do something with English and at a college for my career, but I didn't think I could be a professor because I didn't think the right doors would open, yet here we are both teaching English for LUO.

Sometimes I think some people are under the impression that "work-at-home mom" is the same as a "stay-at-home mom".  Believe me, I'm not knocking stay-at-home moms.  They give up a lot and make sacrifices to stay at home, and if I couldn't work at home, I only hope I'd be able to stay at home or work part-time somehow.  Anyway, this week, I graded roughly 80 essays and 20 paragraphs in addition to all of the communication and supervisory duties I have.
Chris watching Eliot play in the dirt while I grade
With a toddler running around, I have a few instances when I can grade:  1. in the morning before Eliot wakes up at 7:30 am; 2. when Eliot naps (about two hours a day); 3. when Eliot goes to bed at night at 9:00 pm; 4. when Eliot plays by himself (but I feel guilty the whole time and have to re-direct him getting into trouble); 5. when Chris takes Eliot.  Finding a balance has been a year in the making and we're never quite there.  I'm not complaining.  I love working with my students.  I'm just saying it is indeed a situation that requires balance.
Grading break because Eliot woke up from his nap.  We're watching Yo Gabba Gabba on my laptop.
And when I get an email like this at the end of a course, I know I've done my job right.  And it is all worth it.  "Thanks for everything you did for me during this course of English 102.  I just wanted to express my gratitude and appreciation for working with me through a course that was filled with obstacles and trials.  I just want you to know that your professionalism and patience with me was second to none.  You are a special professor.  Thanks again and God's richest blessings."

So, that has been my week.  In addition to that, we have been showing the house.  We had three showings this past week, and our realtor suggested that we reduce the price.  At first, I was taken back.  Three showings seemed like a good amount of traffic.  It has only been up for two weeks and we realized that the first week was during a holiday (Easter).  Then I realized that some more expensive houses in the area had reduced their prices, so it was indeed time.  We dropped it by $5,000, which was our "bottom line" before.

It hurt at first.  We have put $15,000 and three years of work into this house.  We took two bathrooms back to the studs, re-built them, updated plumbing and wiring, and put in tile.  It took three months to do each bathroom.  And we have re-done the rest of the houses in ways you wouldn't guess.  A buyer wouldn't know that the kitchen had five layers of wall paper that I burnt my fingers scraping off with a steamer.  Or that we replaced all of the outlets, light switches, and covers.  Or that Chris and I cut in the flowerbeds out back with a shovel and a rake in the heat of August.  To someone else, all of those improvements are taken for granted in a way.  So, it is understandable if they don't see as much monetary value in a house as we do.

Then I think I found the house that would be perfect for us in Chesapeake.  I just have to hope that it stays on the market because it is priced well.  It is a "Great Bridge special" that you so often find in Chesapeake, but the full attic is like a cape cod.  It has a great screened-in porch and a nice deck.  The inside needs some work, but mostly just paint and a kitchen update (new counter tops--they're pink right now--and new appliances).  And I don't know the stories behind all of the work that they put into the house, just like I worry that people won't appreciate all of the little, time-consuming details we've undertaken.

Hopes of buying that new house helps ease the sting of reducing the price on our home.  I just hope that house in Chesapeake doesn't fly off the market, but if it does, I know we'll find another one we love too.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Dear Eliot: Fifteen Months

Dear Eliot,

It feels strange that I have written you fifteen letters now.  Every time, I struggle with where to start.  Another month.  Times goes by fast, and I can still remember everything about the first time I wrote you a letter at just one month old.

The biggest change this month has been your communication skills.  You make it clear when you want something, when you don't like something, when you are upset, and when you are happy.  You point and have this cute mumble-y voice inflection when you ask for something, whether it is a toy, a drink, or a snack.  It kind of sounds like, "Uh mom nom?" When I offer a toy or food that you don't want, you shake your head and grumble.  With that also comes your expression of dissatisfaction when we aren't playing how you want to or walking in the middle of the road like you want to or whatever it is that you don't like.  Maybe this seems simple, but you are making your desires known.

This month, you decided to stop eating for almost two weeks!  You seemed so upset, clingy, and had an upset tummy.  I didn't know what was going on, but it ended up being your molars cutting in.  They've broken through for the most part, and, man, your dad and I had forgotten how sweet, energetic, and playful you normally were.  You are also back to eating almost everything we give you, which is a big relief.  In fact, you want to try everything that we have.  Because of this, I am really glad that we have continued to try to improve our eating habits so you eat good food too.

You mimic everything we do, especially all that your dad does.  If he is digging in the garden, you dig too.  When he paints, you find something similar to a paint brush and try to paint along with him.  You do very sweet things as well.  When I hold you standing up, I pat your back.  In return, you pat my arm.  Recently, you have started giving big kisses, which I think are so funny.

About a week ago, we took you to your first baseball game.  I don't really like sports much, but we thought you might like it a little.  You pointed and said, "ball," so I think you kind of understood that it was a game with a ball being thrown.  That's all you need to know for now.  We stayed for about an hour before you wanted to climb all over the bleachers.
Eliot, sometimes I don't even know what to make of you and sports.  I swear that you just get it somehow.  Everything to you is a basketball goal, including lamp shades.  The funniest thing happened in Khols.  We were irresponsible parents and let you run around the whole store--while watching you, of course.  You found a ball in the toy section and ran around the store with it.  Then you saw an empty magazine rack, dunked the ball, and ran on your way.  As I said, everything is a basketball goal to you.
What is more boring than baseball, you ask?  Golf.  The Masters was on recently.  Apparently, it inspired your dad, so he brought his golf clubs up from the basement.  He showed you one time how to hit a golf ball and you spent the rest of the night playing golf in the den.  I really didn't think it was a good idea.
Then for Easter we bought you a soccer ball and goal.  I hadn't even finished setting up the goal when you started trying to put the soccer ball in it.  I don't think you have even seen a soccer game, maybe just highlights on tv.  After the goal was put together, we showed you how to kick the ball in.  You are already really good at kicking the ball in the goal, and I think that is more of a "nineteen month" skill from what I have read.  In short, you love sports and you catch on fast.

You are an inquisitive boy and love to explore.  When we put you in new or uncomfortable surroundings, you cling to me for a few minutes, but before I realize what is happening, you take off running around, opening drawers, exploring, and having fun.  You love all things outside.  Picking flowers.  Digging in dirt.  Climbing.  Running down the sidewalk.  And collecting sticks.  Always collecting sticks.  You'd rather be running around outside than playing with any toy inside.  It really is easy to satisfy you.  We just have keep an eye out for sunburn.

Speaking of exploring, your climbing skills have continued to improve.  You half-way get over the baby gates--I should just take them down.  And you can climb on the dining room chairs now too.  One of your favorite places inside is the back of the coach where you climb up to look out the front window with the dogs.

I know you can't tell from pictures as well since your hair is so light, but your hair is growing in quite well.  You have a fuzzy rat tail growing in the back that I keep saying I'm going to cut.  When it is brushed back, it isn't so long and doesn't stick out, so maybe we'll wait a little longer.  You've waited a long time for that hair and it is finally coming in thick.

Sometimes I can't believe how big you have grown.  You are triple your birth weight.  Your length has about doubled since birth.  When you are laying next to me and I hug you close, I think, "Wow.  I can't believe I birthed him."

You're a special little boy to us, Eliot.  I could stare at you for hours.  Even a year and three months after your birth, some things simply don't change.  In other ways, everything changes from day to day.  I know that doesn't make much sense right now.  Your dad and I are always watching you and sighing and saying how much we love you and how cute you are and how much joy you bring us just by being you.  I hope that you never forget that you have always been so incredibly wanted and loved.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Day in Instagram

Our days generally have a pretty nice balance of work, play, and relaxation.

Yesterday, Eliot climbed up on one of the dining room chairs by himself for the first time.  He had been working at it for a week.  He'd get up a step, get stuck, get to whining, and I'm get him down.  Now he has it!

In the evening, we had a house showing.  It was one of those two-hour blocks that is right in the middle of a meal time.  5:00 pm til 7:00 pm.  There was no way we could make dinner at home unless we had a picnic (try that with two dachshunds) or had a really late dinner (but we were so hungry).  Taco Bell it was.

We still had a lot of time to spare, so we went to Ivy Lake Park.

It is so weird coming home and knowing someone has been in your house.  I look for clues.  The closet door isn't closed all of the way.  The backdoor is shut--we left it open.  I wonder what they thought.  I wonder if they are considering making an offer, but want to sleep on it first.  Or if they have their hearts set on another home.  I wish we had an exit survey or something so I wouldn't get my hopes up if they aren't interested.  We have a nice, cute house at a good price.  We just need to get the right person to see it in the right place in life.  It's great for a young couple or family.  I really wouldn't mind staying a handful more years, but it seems like the right time to move back home.