Friday, March 29, 2013


It's rude to talk about money, they say.  I try not to ask others about their money, even if I'm just trying to be friendly, but it's something I want to always talk to my sons about.  I was involved in my parents' money discussions--not that I was making financial decisions with them, just that they tried to explain what they were doing and built budgets along with me for my money.  My college was budgeted out completely, down to how much food my rabbit ate a month.

I'm the person who is more likely to stuff money under my mattress, not even count it, and sit on it.  I hate buying expensive things--and when Chris says he wants to buy something for more than $30, I always say no, that it is a bad idea, at first.  That makes me feel better because I know my mattress money is there if I need it.  But money doesn't grow like that, and money certainly isn't accounted for in this way either.

Chris and I are young, but we have a family.  We wanted to start a college fund for the boys early.  Our hope is that we can pay for their undergraduate degrees, so we're trying to come up with a plan to start now, even if it is small.  And then there's our retirement....  That seems a long ways off, but we don't have a retirement plan through work, so it is up to us.  There are so many options, and people from the outside like to tell you what to do "for sure," but we're the ones who have to put the money aside and live with the consequences, both good and bad, of our choices.  And should you focus aggressively on retirement when you also pay tuition in cash and have student loans?  So many booming voices proclaim that we can do both, yet I'm still settling into a new house with a new budget that I am piecing together with a new baby on the way.  It's a lot to organize right now.

So, as you can see, I am allowing myself to become overwhelmed.  Term v. whole life insurance.  ROTH IRAs.  VA 529 plans.  Setting up a will and a trust?  And what about the "things" in life that I want to buy as we enjoy life?  Like a vacation every now and then (I feel like everyone else travels so much more than us) or a larger vehicle in about five years?  Oh, goodness.  Suddenly, my mattress is looking like a less complicated place to keep my money.  I try to think of what Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman would say.  I reflect on our personal situation, our goals, and our hopes.  I try to keep in mind that the fact that we're working on these things at this age is great.  We don't have to invest heavily now, but getting started (or even waiting six months) is something I will be glad we began early on.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Feeling Spontaneous: Eliot's First Busch Gardens Trip

Do you ever do things that you think seem reckless, but they're not?  They're just fine, actually?  That was us yesterday.

Both of our weekly meetings were canceled.  We didn't have much work to do.  I told Chris I felt cooped up.  "Let's go to Busch Gardens!"

Chris and I grew up an hour from Busch Gardens.  I went as a kid and a teenager; Chris went constantly in the summer with his friends when he was in high school.  However, he and I had never been together--and we've been married for almost six years and dated three years before that.

We don't do much spontaneous these days, so it felt wrong.  It felt like I should get a permission slip filled out first, but we didn't have any commitments, Busch Gardens is an hour away, and we had been planning to go whenever it warmed up enough.  Plus, if you're a Virginia resident, you get a season's ticket for pretty much the price of one admission.  We figured this could be something fun to do with Eliot on days that we don't know what to do and we feel like getting out of town.  It's far enough to feel special, but close enough to be convenient.

We waited until Eliot's naptime and put him in the car to sleep.  And then we drove!  He passed out right away and woke up 15 minutes before we arrived.  Maybe that seems silly to go in the afternoon, but it would be warmer (55 degrees?) and we knew we'd only stay a short while with Eliot.

Eliot loved the train.  He loved pointing at all of the castles and dragons.  He met Elmo.  He rode three rides.  And one of those rides, he had to ride alone.  And we were so nervous, but he demanded to go on the ride since it was little ladybug cars.  He just went along, and I thought he was looking for us for a second, but when he saw us, he just yelled, "Vroooooom!"  I need to learn to trust him more and allow him to grow in his independence--he's bigger than I think he is.

Eliot also had a great time at Land of the Dragons.  How he understands the difference between a dinosaur and a dragon, I do not know, but he gets it.

We stayed for about two hours until Eliot seemed tired, I knew I was tired (pregnant ankles...), and it was growing colder and windier.  I think we left the park at just the right time, and Eliot only got upset as we were leaving because he wanted to ride the train again (but we'd have to go around the whole park to get to the exit and it was really too windy).  Next time, little buddy!

And there will be a next time!  Chris is talking about going again on Monday when it is warmer.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

26 Weeks

At 26 weeks, those kicks are getting a little painful.  They don't always hurt, but sometimes Jack will give me a really good jab and it takes a second to re-gain my composure.  He moves frequently and loves to kick when I'm eating.  He's been giving me a 4:00 am wake-up call each morning, but I don't mind too much.  I would probably be awake anyway.  I swear he is doing bicycle kicks in there.  I love to feel him move.

Those baby movements are what finally calmed my anxiety about Jack's development.  I was a bucket of worries throughout my first trimester.  And then those worries kept coming until I felt flutters at 15 and a half weeks.  After our 20-week ultrasound, I felt relieved to know that Jack was growing fine.  Now that I feel him move so often and so strong, I don't worry anymore.

I started doubling up on my morning prenatal vitamin in hopes of getting some more energy.  It helps some days, so I'm not sure if it is the vitamins or just luck.

I've really slacked with exercising this time around, and I blame the weather.  With Eliot, I found out in late April that we were expecting and already had an exercise routine, so it was warm and easy to go on walks.  I exercised almost every day until my third trimester (which also happened to be when it got cold).  This time, it has been so cold the entire time.  When we've had warm days, I've gone on walks, but I think that this time I'll end up STARTING to exercise in my third trimester instead of stopping.  And, yes, I should have exercised the whole time indoors with prenatal yoga or something, but I'm just not that good of a person.

Yesterday, I weighed 109 pounds after breakfast.  That is a weight gain of 13?  That still puts me on pace for a pound a week, which would be 27 total.  My goal is to keep it about 30.  At the same time, I'm trying to keep in mind that I don't have that much control over my weight.  I eat well, my portions are smaller than my non-pregnant self, my snacks in between meals are healthy, and my "indulgences" are limited.  Lately, my cravings have turned more to sour things again.  They always seem to come at night after dinner when it is inconvenient to leave the house.  Taco Bell has iced lemonade, which is pretty awesome.  I've had one and am trying not to get another one for a while.  Instead, I make a strawberry-banana-orange juice smoothie.

I've been horrible at applying cocobutter this time around.  The kind I bought was in a fancy bottle.  Surely, it would smell nice, right?  It smells like cucumbers and I can't stand cucumbers--I hate their smell, taste, texture, and everything about them.  I quit using it.  I mean, who even knows for certain that it works, right?  RIGHT?!  Then I noticed the beginnings of a stretch mark on my belly!  Ah!  I didn't get any on my belly with Eliot (just some on my thighs, which I had issues with in high school anyway).  I went ahead and bought the same, classic Palmer's cocobutter that I used with Eliot and you better believe I've been applying that stuff daily.

When I hit the third trimester in two weeks, we'll take some portraits like we did with Eliot.  I have some poses in mind, and I'm pretty excited to see them leave my brain and become photos we'll cherish.  Then we'll take more around 36 weeks like I did with Eliot, I suppose.  I don't always feel like I look my best these days, but pictures are important to me--and I know I won't regret it.

We're planning to have a "Yeah, Jack" party in a couple of months.  I don't think anyone is planning to throw me a shower (and that isn't a hint I'm trying to drop, really--I swear).  However, we still want to celebrate with family and friends, so we're having a little pool party at the beginning of June in honor of Jack.  Gifts are appreciated, but not expected.  It is important to me to celebrate our boy, even though we don't need many "things," and this will be kind of our last "sha-bang" before Jack arrives.  I can't waiiiit and would do it earlier, but I want the pool to be warmer.

I have three months and one week exactly until my due date.  Sometimes that sounds like a long time; sometimes it seems so short.  I feel like I should buy a pack of diapers or SOMETHING, but we have time.  And I had my shower with Eliot at 26 weeks (I know that's super early, but it was due to work schedules and having to come in town for the shower), so we were able to figure out what else we needed and make those purchases.  I'm trying to remind myself that we will have a whole month (or maybe a little less or more) after our "Yeah, Jack" party to buy all those things.  Also, I keep telling myself that if Jack came today, I'd send someone to Target for a couple packs of onesies and diapers--we'd be fine for survival mode.  Then there are some important things that I need, like a working thermometer (can anyone everrr find a good baby thermometer?); some things that would be convenient, like light-weight swaddling blankets, a swing, and a cushion for the rocking chair; and some things I simply want to be nice, like Jack's very own baby blanket, fitted sheets, and mobile.  So, yeah, in the world of survival mode, we're OK, so no reason to stress.  I might go baby shopping in a few days anyway because I have a 20% coupon to Kohl's and I haven't bought the babe much.  I just feel an itch to get a few little things--and I realistically only have a month or so left before I don't feel like moving at all anymore.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Spring Cleaning and Sleeting

The calendar says "spring," yet it is sleeting.  I suppose March is one of those months that can go either way weather-wise, but it seems that this winter simply won't call it quits.  The past few days, though, have been good for getting work done around the house.  Maybe it's the nesting, but, man,we've done a lot.

Chris is great about doing yard work.  He never complains and is rather proactive.  I always tell him that it can wait, but he does it anyway.  Our shed has a pergola, which looks nice, but it also had all of this... plant? ... growing on it.  In fact, the vine or whatever had gotten so out of control that it rotted the roof of our shed!  We knew when we moved in that we'd need to tackle it our first year here.  Over the past couple of weeks, Chris has been hacking at it by himself.  Then this weekend, my dad gave him an extra hand and got alllll of the growth down in less than an hour!  And next comes repairing the shed....  Oh man....

I've been trying to get the boys' rooms more personalized.  The rooms have been "together" for some time, but they didn't have any pictures on the walls.  To me, pictures are really what adds the final touch to a room.  I had Chris help me find the frames I needed for both Eliot's room and Jack's room.  Then began the fun game of measuring and leveling.  I'm not the best at hanging pictures in a line, but it sure drives me crazy when they're crooked.

I also hung these two pictures above Jack's crib.  I know it looks slanted on the left, but it's just because I didn't take the photo straight.  I have a couple more pictures to hang in Jack's room and then his room will be mostly complete.  We just need to order a cushion for the rocking chair (never got one with Eliot and reallyyyyy regretted it), find a place for Chris's surf board, and eventually buy the bedding for Jack.  Clothes are another story.

Then came the room I have been dreading.  I love to clean, but I am so bad at organizing.  I hate going through boxes of "stuff" that I don't know what to do with.  Chris has been encouraging me, though, that we should just tackle the room over the garage.  It's another "play room" of sorts for Eliot and guest bedroom when we have company (even though we don't have a bed for it...), so it has been easy to ignore over the past three months.  However, we finally did it!  I know this picture is dark (darn sleet) and non-descriptive, but that room used to be full of boxes.  Eventually I'd like to bring more life and function to it, but for now it just rather empty.  I'd like to get a couch of some kind or maybe a daybed for guests; at this point, we're just not looking to spend money on furniture that isn't really necessary.  I know some day it will be Eliot and Jack's video game room.

We recently bought ourselves some new sheets too.  All of our sheets had holes in them thanks to Dexter's puppy gnawing habit when we got him and were discolored.  I guess letting dogs sleep in bed with you kind of wears sheets down faster.  I think we last bought sheets around the time Eliot was born, so we were due.  These sheets were just $20, cheap ones from Target, and although they aren't the most comfortable ever, it really makes a difference to have new sheets.
 So, it has been gloomy outside, but we've been making the inside of our home pretty.  My heart is hoping for warmer days so much, in fact, that I bought that summer hammock I've been telling everyone about.  It was on sale half price, so I told Chris it could be my Easter present (not that we exchange Easter presents).  I have to justify everything that I buy for myself.  I will sit in that hammock forever--we're going to hang it under the shed's pergola by pool.  Yessss.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Style Attempts: Maternity Ed. 3. Bags

I'm not all that girl-y.  I'm not super into bags or purses, but I used to get excited to buy one new purse a year.  I don't really care about expensive brands, like Coach, but instead like "old granny" purses from Urban Outfitters or simple bags from Target.  I felt like I was indulging if I spent $40 on a bag.

When Eliot came around, I didn't want to get a really "baby"-looking diaper bag.  I mean, I didn't care if it looked like a diaper bag, but I didn't want one with pastel blue or teddy bears.  I picked out a simple, dark green bag online for about $15.  It worked, but I didn't love it.

I discovered Petunia Pickle Bottom.  They have the most gorgeous purses and diaper bags with beautiful patterns.  I drooled over these bags, but at $129, I had never spent that kind of money on a purse.  For my birthday that year, Chris really spoiled me.  He gave me the most expensive ($129), beautiful diaper bag I had ever seen.  I loved it!  My previous diaper bag became our "beach bag".
Prettiest bag ever, right?

The diaper bag had plenty of pockets and space so I could bring all of the essentials for Eliot and then some (sometimes I even carried along our clunky DSLR camera).  I was always getting compliments on my bag and it made a great accessory.  Let's be honest, though.  If you are using one bag every day with a child, eventually it is going to start showing some wear.  When Jack comes in July, my bag will be two years old.  That's pretty good for a bag, I think!

Chris offered to buy me a new Petunia Pickle Bottom bag for Christmas, but I said I wanted to wait.  I wanted to get a more spring-y pattern this time and figured it would be better to wait until my birthday in the summer.  I am using a diaper bag less anyway--I usually just put my wallet in my pocket and toss a diaper and wipes in the car.  If I am going somewhere for a while, I put some snacks in a tote bag.  Maybe it could be a "Jack is here!" present too.

If I could have two bags, I totally would get a new Petunia Pickle Bottom bag, but I decided to try something different this time.  With two little ones, I think I might need access to both of my hips more frequently, so I'm hoping to get something with a more messenger bag feel.  I actually came across Maranda Lee's Etsy shop when I was pregnant with Eliot, but the bag I liked sold out before I bought it--and I was feeling super cheap since we had to buy so many baby things.  These diaper bags (and purses) come in size options, including small, medium, and large, and start as low as $68 for the small diaper bag.  I'll probably look into a medium one because I don't need something too big (and I am small myself).  I love the fabric options, the pockets, and how it doesn't necessarily look like a diaper bag (you know, pastel blue with teddy bears).

I haven't gotten a new bag in so long, but I think I'm just going to wait so I can savor the excitement closer to when Jack comes.  And Petunia Pickle Bottom sells Ergo carriers with amazing patterns, so maybe I'll get one of those since I was planning to use an Ergo carrier this time.  Sometimes I feel silly oogling over baby things, but I rarely buy nice things for myself, so maybe it is OK to indulge in a few new, possibly expensive baby items with a new little one on the way, especially since we've had so little to buy for Jack since we are re-using so much from Eliot.  Three and a half more months til Jack gets here!  Can't waittt!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Just Because He's an Awesome Dad

I write a lot about Eliot, but little about myself and less about Christopher.

I have this whole kid raising thing easy.  My husband works from home, and, yeah, we both have to do work at the same time at points, but I always have a helper (and he always has a helper in me).  I can always shout from across the house, "Hey, can you grab me a diaper?"  No problem.  Don't feel like putting Eliot in his car seat?  Chris does it most of the time.

But more than helping throughout the day, Chris is an amazing dad to Eliot (and Jack too) in ways I just can't compete with.  Eliot comes to me for cuddles, but he knows Chris is the one always ready to play and can throw him in the air much higher.

Eliot requests to play football allll day, every day.  At 8:45 pm when we're just tired, he approaches Chris with football in hand, pointing at his back.  "Tackle me!  Tackle me!"  I can tell Chris is simply exhausted and wants to call all of the chasing a night, yet he gets up anyway and they're running through the house.  Eliot can always count on his dad.

I mentioned before that Eliot has been obsessed with this idea of driving the car lately.  He really thinks he has a license (or is unaware of this requirement and also the need to be able to reach the pedals).  There have been daily tantrums over this.  Yesterday, Chris let him play in the car even though I said it wouldn't end well.  But what do I know?  Eliot turned the steering wheel, adjusted the windshield wipes, and pressed buttons.  And then when Chris said it was over, it was fine.  Sometimes Daddy knows best.

Of course, there's more to being a good dad than playtime.  Chris spends lots of time with Eliot and takes him on one-on-one adventures, but he is actively involved in the less fun aspects of parenting too, like discipline, sleep transitioning, food preparation, and diapers.  If Chris is in the room, he offers to help me change every single diaper.  And if I know Eliot has a wet one to be changed and I ask, he does that too.  If Eliot is being a moody eater or asks for a smoothie, Chris is much more likely than me to jump up and create an amazing, yummy, nutritious smoothie with greens, fish oil, and fruit for Eliot.  Did I mention that Chris does almost all of the grocery shopping entirely by himself?

Chris is always trying to show Eliot the things he loves and then celebrates Eliot's unique interests too.  They've already ran two races together.  When Chris goes for a run, Eliot cries that he wants to run too--and Chris takes him in the jogger whenever it is warm enough.

p.s.  In the photo below, Chris won first place for his age group and tenth overall! Chris is too humble to tell anyone this, so I brag for him.

Chris is already a great dad for Jack too.  He makes sure I eat well; he encourages me to exercise and also rest.  He helped me pick out a good prenatal vitamin.  He reminds me to use cocobutter.  He listens to me complain and offers empathy.  I can't tell you how many times he has praised me and said how hard it is to be a woman (with all sincerity), which always makes me laugh (because he really means it and says Beyonce would back him up).  He feels Jack's kicks and checks up on how Jack is doing multiple times throughout the day.  He loves his boys, both of them, and is the best dad I could imagine for my boys.

Nothing makes me love him more than watching him love our sons.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

We'll Get There

Eliot has been a happier boy today.  Looking back, Chris and I have both been very busy over the past couple of weeks with work.  B term courses had final grades due, C term was just at mid-term, and D term courses were starting, so we have been pulled in a lot of different directions with a lot of grading and work to do.  This weird collision of sub-terms happens twice a year.  Not only am I responsible for my grades, but also keeping up with my team of 25 professors as well.  I absolutely love my job; it is so rewarding in so many ways.  It's a dream job.  The reality is that working from home and raising a toddler takes balance.  I try to work when he is asleep, eating, or distracted, but sometimes we watch more tv than I'd like or he has to play by himself when he doesn't want to since I have deadlines.  And that is just life--he can't always get what he wants.  So, maybe he has been acting up a little more out of boredom too.

Eliot's sleep has been off even more than usual lately too.  We're having inconsistently late nights, waking up for an hour or more at a time in the middle of the night, and sometimes very early mornings.  It really wasn't his fault last night....  One of the dogs woke him up and he had a lot of trouble getting back to sleep.  And I didn't listen to his request for milk--surely, he would just go back to sleep, right?

He's a good boy with a sensitive heart.  He's been so "off" lately in so many different ways (sleeping, his eating habits even, and his little fits out of frustration), and I feel really bad that he is working through some toddler things, but I know he is learning and growing.  We'll get there, him and me (and Chris too).

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Toddler Tantrums: Worst Parent Ever?

Eliot is such a sweet, kind, caring boy.  He loves to give affection.  I never thought he'd have meltdowns.  Lately, though, I feel like I can't take him anywhere.  His behavior hasn't been this atrocious since he got his first year molars in.  Hmm...

It starts off well.  Today we went to the mall.  I haven't bought myself shoes in a year.  It is growing more difficult for me to tie my shoes, so I thought I'd get myself some new slip-on Vans.  I have one pair of Toms that I usually wear, but they are too tight.  Eliot was a doll in the store.  He loves riding the escalator.  He walked and held our hands in the mall.  He also HAD to hold the keys, but that's OK.

Then we were feeling a little hungry, so we got lunch.  Eliot was curious about the food and played with his lunch with a fork, but didn't eat.  First sign of trouble...  Afterward, we went to the play area to let him run around.  He was having so much fun, but when he seemed to be fine with leaving, we left.  As soon as we stepped out of the play area, we ran into sign of trouble number two:  those darn cars that you ride for a quarter.  I wasn't going to start with that--it was crowded, I didn't have any change, and I knew he would never be happy about leaving.  He got in one, pressed a couple of buttons, and then we left.  He screamed, but I thought we'd be all right if we got away.

Chris took Eliot to Barnes and Noble to look at books.  Eliot loved the books and wanted them all.  We hadn't bought him a book in a while, so we picked out a couple.  One on cars, one for the alphabet (I've been trying to work more on letters), and a Dinosaur Train coloring book.  Chris went to pay while I kept reading him books.  More trouble when it was time to leave....  He wanted all of the books and didn't want to pay for them.  I got down to his level and looked him in the eye.  I try to give him the words:  "Eliot, you're angry because you like books.  You want to keep the books.  I like you liking books, but Daddy bought you three books.  You just can't have these books right here, but we bought you three nice books that you can look at out there."  I know you can't negotiate with meltdown-ers, but I find sometimes that engaging with him calms him down and maybe giving him the words can help him recognize the emotions he's feeling.

It didn't work this time.  He cried and carried on.  We carried him to the car; we let him walk to the car; we let him CARRY A BOOK to the car.  When I thought we had calmed him down, he wanted to sit on the escalator, which couldn't happen and it all started again.  Everything helped for a second, but then he'd be a wailing ball of tears and attracting everyone's glares all around us.  Yep, that's my kid.  Yep, I'm the worst parent ever.

We made it to the car.  I gave him a snack.  He refused to eat it.  Not even three minutes later, he was eating his snack.  He was hungry....  While it wasn't nap time yet, I am noticing that he has these meltdowns if we are out within a couple hours of nap time.  And it is usually around lunch time (and I do offer him food, but he won't accept it....).

We got home.  It was another fight getting him inside.  He thinks he can drive the car and tries to get in every time we get home.  Instead, I sack-of-potatoes carry him inside.  He cries more.  Chris puts him in time out to calm down while I make a smoothie for him and myself.  He demands mine; I say they are the same; he doesn't believe me.  I let him try mine and then he concludes (as I said) that he'd prefer his own.  Chris reads a book to him....  Eliot chases the dogs around and I take him to bed for a nap even though he says he isn't tired.  It is now 2:30 pm at this point--two hours straight of meltdown after meltdown.

It's like over night, he has been having some fits at home too.  We thought it'd be fun to go for a walk.  He loves running.  We were having a great time, but every time we'd pass a house with a basketball goal, he thought he could go play with it.  Not only are these not our basketball goals, but he didn't have a ball and is too small anyway.  We tried to keep going, but he'd just keep screaming for the basketball goal even when we told him he could play with his at home.  Eventually, we had to carry him home in tears.  And then there's the garage....  Currently, our shed needs work, so our garage has a lot of not-baby-friendly items.  And it also has a bag of sports balls.  Eliot unlocks the garage door and goes in there to get every single ball.  When we tell him to come back inside (it is cold out there, too!), he just loses it and cries at the door.  Man!  He just can't be out there all the time!  And there's the car thing--he gets the keys, unlocks the front door, and says, "Bye bye, Ma.  Car ride."  When I tell him he can play with the keys, but he is NOT going to drive my car, he loses it.  I'm sorry, but that just isn't up for negotiation.  Sometimes I feel like I'm going crazy by not leaving the house and then I feel like we can't leave the house either because of his fits.

Eliot threw his first tantrum in the grocery store over a tomato (which he thought was a ball) when he was a year and a half-ish.  So, I've been dealing with these fits for about nine months?  I still feel embarrassed when it happens in public.  Everyone stares....  I try to keep in mind that most of those people have been in the same place, so they probably aren't judging me.  Some people smile with sympathy.  And whenever I see a kid acting up, I always feel bad for the parent's awkward position. 

I feel like Chris and I are pretty giving parents.  We try to do fun things, provide Eliot with the best, and make sacrifices for his well-being.  I know he doesn't understand, but I feel so frustrated when we try to do something fun (like go for a walk or buy books) and Eliot has tantrums over things I can't control.  I always put him and his needs firsts.  Why does he hateeee me?

He knows what he wants and loves to explore.  He wants to try everything.  He's independent and won't take my word on things--he has to know from his experience for sure.  And when I tell him that he can't, he doesn't understand why.  I guess we need to do more time outs and give him a place to cool down.  Of course, I feel guilty like I'm the one to blame, like I haven't disciplined him enough or I'm not reacting to his tantrums the right way.  I usually try to remove him from the situation and ignore him or I try to get on his level to give him the words.  Sometimes distracting him helps.  I'm just thankful that he isn't hitting, kicking, or biting (yet?).  Does this ever end?  Because I feel like it is getting worse....

Friday, March 15, 2013

Dear Eliot: Two Years, Two Months

Dear Eliot,

I think I've settled into the idea of you being a two-year-old because I keep accidentally thinking you are two and a half years old since you will be that age when your brother comes this summer.  So, to take a step back to two and two months, well, that seems less crazy.  Plus, you seem to be doing everything lately, making you seem older.  I barely remember you as a baby anyway--you've been so BOY for so long.

For a few months, you have been quite interested in making things talk.  Your toys have conversations, your food talks, your feet even have something to say.  Sometimes we'll be in the car and you'll demand, "Talk, you!"  You're telling me to make your toy (or whatever) talk.

We've been working on numbers and sometimes you can get to four when counting things.  You've always wanted to have two of everything (one for each hand), so it is no surprise that you love pointing out when you have two of things.  Two crackers.  Two arms.  Two pacis (this looks funny and you knowww it).  Two cars.  Two shoes.  Two feet.  Oh yes.  Your feet....  You tell us all the time about your two "baby feet" or your "Eliot feet".  You love shoes; you hate socks.  And you sometimes put your shoes on all by yourself!

I used to count your words as you learned them.  I don't anymore (how could I?).  And then I used to understand everything you were saying.  I don't anymore because you are saying so many new words every day that I can't keep up as you learn to pronounce each word and phrase.  I understand about 90% of what you say and other people understand about 70%, I think.

I think we can say that you are left-handed now for sure.  You do everything with your left hand.  I think that means that you are supposed to be more emotionally and creatively inclined.  It shows!  You are always drawing, coloring, painting, taking pictures (which you are amazing at), making music with a harmonica or piano, singing some song...  You love doing everything that involves creativity.  When getting ready for bed, sometimes you sing the lullaby that I have sung to you since you were born.  You are crazy about taking photos with our phones (and the regular camera too) to the point that we are considering making you your own Instagram account.  Also, when you draw, you often draw this weird spiral symbol.  What is that?  You won't tell me!  You also draw sting ray families and sharks the most.

Your winter clothes are really getting snug on you, but I don't want to go buy you a new winter wardrobe with spring (hopefully) around the corner.  These clothes are mostly 18-24 months, so it will soon be time to pick out some 2T clothes for the spring and summer.  Clothes are confusing since you are taller than most boys your age, but you are also slimmer.  I will miss some of your winter outfits, but you have been wearing some of them since the fall (that's six months or more), so we're getting more use out of your clothes now that you are a toddler.

You are such a big kid and help yourself to whatever you want or think you need.  If I'm cooking, you pull a chair up next to me and "help".  If you want something in the pantry, you push a chair to the door and get yourself a snack.  You think hitting light switches is very awesome too, and we often find you standing on a chair while turning the lights off and on.

This month, you had your third professional haircut.  Each time you get more and more relaxed.  They just have to give you a lollipop and you sit still.  It's awesome.  After the lady brushed away all of the stray hairs, I realized that you truly are a dirty blond boy.  All of your light, light blond hairs that had been bleached from the sun were clipped away and your natural, sandy hair was all that remained.  This is the first time I've seen you with just darker hair because you didn't have hardly any hair at all last winter.  You look adorable both ways, but it sure is funny how much your hair changes in the summer.

Your dad picked out this fox hat from Target for you this winter.  He said he wanted something to really keep your head warm instead of the knit hats (with holes) that I often put on you.  That makes sense, and you seem to appreciate it.  You love your fox hat.  When we leave the house (especially if it is windy), you remind us to put your fox hat on.  One time when we were drawing together, you asked me to draw you.  I did and you pointed to your head and asked, "Fox hat?"  Yes, I had to draw the fox hat on your head for you.

We've tried to spend some time at the beach when it is at least a little warm.  I wasn't sure how you'd react because last summer you were scared at first.  When we went on Christmas day, you seemed afraid too, but it was really cold and windy.  This time, though, you loved it.  You played in the sand, chased the seagulls, and flirted with the waves.  You begged us to let you "TOUCH IT," so we'd hold you up and over the water.  Eventually, I got caught by a wave.  And it was colddd.  But you loved it, so it was worth it.  This spring, we'll go back more, even if it is too cold to play in the water.

It is growing more difficult to read to you because you want to read yourself!  You love to bring us book and will tolerate being read to for a while, but then you take the book and finish it up for us.

You're showing some signs of being interested in potty training, but we aren't taking the plunge quite yet.  Sometimes you tell us when you have a diaper and try to take off your pants.  And here's an embarrassing one for you in the future.  One time in the tub, you looked at me very concerned.  "Ew," you said.  "I pee pee in the water."  Nice sentence, buddy!

This month, you had your first metro ride into DC.  It didn't quite go as planned since the metro was being worked on, it was freezing to the point that it snowed some flurries, and we took you out way past nap time.  However, we had fun in the end and you loved looking at the dinosaur bones at the museum and taking pictures of everything.  On the metro, you kept saying, "All aboard!" and I had no idea that you even knew that phrase.

Your favorite movies are Cars and Cars 2 still.  Boy, it has been a year since you fell in love with these movies.  You really love the characters from Finding Nemo still and ask to watch Nemo Cars in bed, but if I put on Nemo instead of Cars, you protest.  "No!  Cars!  Mater!" and get the remote to change it.  Goodness, boy!  It has been a year of Cars!

Eliot, you are so smart and intuitive.  I can't believe all the things you do, say, and figure out.  When you were a newborn, I was afraid that I wouldn't be good enough for you.  I was afraid I would hold you back.  I hung on to each milestone as a sign that I was doing OK at being a mom.  But you have made it so easy.  We love you, boy, and I can't believe how quickly the time has gone.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

24 Weeks

Sometimes I feel like I update too much, but when looking back on posts (even just a few months later), I've never regretted writing "too much" or "too frequently".

I'm feeling pretty OK!  My back hurts occasionally, but not like it did before with that pinched nerve feeling.  I'm tired a lot, but what else is new?  Fortunately, my headaches subsided.  A week or so ago, I had such a bad one that I lost my vision for about 30 minutes.  The headache lasted for three days.  So glad that didn't become the norm.

I am seeing Jack kick a lot.  Yes, seeing.  It is one of my favorite things...  To see him kick from the outside.  With Eliot, Chris would always seem to miss it, but Chris has seen Jack tumble around a few times now.  Eliot felt Jack kick last night.  He giggled and said it tickled.

At this point, I am at 11 pounds gained, which I think is a good place.  I think...  It is hard to think of things I want to eat (other than sweets, which is really not like me), so I've been making menus for the week.  That way I have ideas for dinner even if I don't necessarily feel like any of it.  At least then we can all agree on something instead of me shrugging a lot.  I fill up fast and don't eat large portions, so late at night, I am hungry for fourth meal.  This happened with Eliot too--I used to go downstairs every morning at 4:00 am to have a bowl of cereal.  Like a newborn myself, I couldn't make it through the night without eating.  So, I bought myself some cereal and started having fourth meal around 10:00 pm.  Hopefully that will hold me over through the night.  And cereal makes sense, you know, since some people put cereal in babe's milk to help them sleep longer. (That was a joke, by the way).

Maybe it was the nice couple days of weather or maybe it's nesting, but I've been cleaning cleaning cleaning as much as I can.  I still feel like I'm barely keeping up with Eliot's usual messes and the extra dog messes (we're dogsitting both my parents' dogs and my in-laws' dog, so our house is one big, slobbery, barking mess!).  That's OK, though.  The house generally looks tidy, just never spotless.  On Saturday, I cleaned both bathrooms (including scrubbing the floors), did two loads of laundry, cleaned the kitchen, swept and vacuumed the whole house, picked up the stray toys, made lunch, and gave Eliot a bath all before noon (and I showered too!).

We met Chris's parents in Richmond today for brunch, so we stopped by Williamsburg for the Carter's outlet on the way home.  We picked out a couple of tank tops for Eliot for the summer and also three rompers for Jack.  The funny thing is that Jack's rompers are the same length as Eliot's shirts, so that means Jack will be about the size of Eliot's torso?  Ha!  They're going to be so cute this summer.

Twenty four weeks, huh?  Sixteen remain?  A little less than four months?  That sounds like a lot in some ways, but it means in four months, our lives will be changed yet again by a beautiful boy--this time, named Jack.  I am so excited.  SO excited.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Sorting Through the Letters

I post my monthly letters to Eliot here in place of a baby book.  However, I also bind them as a Blurb book.  I did pretty all right keeping up with it for Eliot's first year, but it was kind of hard to maintain this second year.  The photos and Blurb software are all on another computer, which my cat broke the screen to, so I have remote desktop in and it takes a whileeee.

Anyway, I've been playing "catch up" over the past few days to get his second book together before I get too behind on his third book.  I decided to aim to do two letters a day, which would have me caught up in a week.  I need manageable goals.

Over the past few days, I've read over letters following his first birthday.  I remembered the magic of him learning to walk, climb, and run.  I aww-ed over his beautiful face.  And I laughed at how I was so excited for his "hair to finally be coming in" because when I wrote that, he was still so, so, so incredibly bald.  I remembered sunshine, trips to the parks, and hopes for summer.

At the same time, I remembered all of the things that I didn't write to Eliot.  I remembered our hopes for having a second baby, our heartbreak through the process of losing one, the difficult summer we had when so many of our family members continually were being hospitalized, the frustration Chris and I felt over trying to move, the stress of writing a dissertation....  To be honest, we went through a hard season without an end in sight.  I felt overwhelmed.  I felt crowded and alone.  Life is full of seasons, though, and I am thankful that time is over.  We may enter a difficult time again in the future, but for now life is much more calm.

Sometimes I worry about "starting over" with Jack (as I've said before) because Eliot is so much fun now.  It's nice to look back and remember how I have gushed over Eliot so much since the beginning too.  I have to remember to keep writing for my sons.  I treasure those letters, memories, and records of milestones already and it hasn't even been that long.  I love both of my boys so much (and Jack isn't even here yet).
I want to remember every moment and every detail,
but I know I can't,
so I write letters
to my future, grown boys
about things they won't remember
in hopes that they will know
that I always loved them with all I have.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Things That Scare Me About Two Babes

It's no secret that it took a while for Chris and me to get where we are with our second babe on the way.  I know it isn't that abnormal, but it did take about ten months (I think?) in the end to get our positive test.  What I'm trying to say is that we thought about having a second baby a lot.  A lot a lot.  So when people ask now if I'm nervous about having two, I generally say no--I've only been able to focus on how incredibly thankful I am to be where we are in this pregnancy.

The truth is, though, that there are aspects of having two that scare me.

Starting over?  It has taken so long to get to this point with Eliot.  He can communicate, he eats, he sleeps about the same time, he is capable of going off places and having fun, he has most of his teeth, and he doesn't get upset when he is dropped off with someone for babysitting for a little bit (which happens once a week).  We worked through so many phases, and now I'll have to start again with another human while trying to keep on teaching this human how to be a normal, functioning person?  That sounds like a steep order.
But then I remind myself that some stages with Eliot when he was younger were EASIER than now.  Like when we took him camping when he was only  three months old.  Yeah, it was easier then than it would be now.  And when we would go to restaurants, Eliot mostly slept or was just held by someone.  He wasn't crawling under the table like he does now (Is it socially acceptable to let your toddler sit under the table?  Because I do...).  Newborns are a handful but for different kinds of hands.  And toddlers are a handful but in a totally different way.

Eliot's "baby"-like tendencies.  I haven't been too pushy with Eliot when it comes to "baby" things that other parents might take away.  And those parents probably think I'm nuts--but that is OK.  He still has milk (and only milk) in a bottle--sounds weird, but he refuses to drink milk out of a cup.  We are still in the process of transitioning him with his big boy bed (I mean, he isn't in his own room yet with it).  He still uses a paci when he sleeps (otherwise, he grinds his teeth), is in the car, and when he gets hurt.  And he isn't potty trained (which I don't think is a big deal at all).  However, what happens when he isn't allowed to have a bottle and then he sees Jack with one?  Or if we take his paci away all together only to realize we gave it to Jack?  Is he going to freak out?
But then I remind myself that I have allowed Eliot these "baby" things because I am waiting for the right time.  I decided not to push him, so I don't need to give myself a four-month deadline to restrict him just because a new baby is coming.  He can still be a baby too for a while longer if he needs to.

Will I be enough?  I'm sure every parent struggles with this.  Can I provide enough love and attention to two boys with two very different needs?  Eliot is quite independent in many ways, but he is incredibly affectionate.  He loves to cuddle while watching TV.  Can I still give that to him?  When he goes down for a nap or to bed at night, I have to lay with him for at least 20 minutes.  Will that be possible with a newborn?  I will feel stretched and divided.  And newborns gotta eat a lot and frequently--at least Eliot nursed alllll the fricken time.
But then I remind myself that millions of mothers have small children and also infants.  It will take balancing and it might be hard at first, but we will figure it out together.  Also, I'm so lucky that Chris works from home, so if Eliot needs someone to lay with him to go to bed, well, Chris can do that too.  And maybe we'll get lucky and Eliot will transition to more independent sleep before Jack arrives.

How will Chris transition?  Again, another worry that I'm sure all mothers have, but moreso with their first babies.  I worried how Chris would handle a newborn when I had Eliot.  However, he took to Eliot right away and loved doing everything he could to help.  I guess I worry that he might be a little spoiled with Eliot because the kid runs and plays and hits baseballs.  It's easy to entertain Eliot.  A newborn might be more difficult.  I don't want it to turn into Eliot is Chris's boy and Jack is Katie's baby.  I don't want assigned kids--I want us to parent both together.
But then I remind myself that Chris would stay up late with Eliot (way later than I could stay awake) when he was a newborn, just the two of them.  Then I could sleep some until Eliot was ready to nurse.  Chris is a wonderful dad.  It might take a moment to re-group when Jack comes, but we'll be OK!

What about Eliot?  Eliot has been the center of our world for two years.  When Jack comes, attention will have to be divided.  Will Eliot see Jack as competition and a distraction from his wants?  Will there be jealousy?  What if Eliot hates the baby?
But then I remind myself that this is another challenge that so many parents before me have faced.  I should expect there to be some jealousy issues, but it's nothing we can't work with.  Eventually, it will get to the point that none of us remember what it was like without Jack, and Eliot will strike a balance.  Plus, Eliot loves everything baby ("Oh!  Baby duck!  Baby dinosaur!  Baby fish!").  Everythinggg that is small is also a baby to him, so he probably will like a human baby all right too after we get settled.  Also, having a little brother will help Eliot grow and mature because he will have to learn sooner or later that the world doesn't revolve around him.

I'm sure every worry I have is normal.  I'm sure it will be difficult some days, but we will get there.  It occurs to me that every thing that scares me is concerning the transition of welcoming Jack into our family, and I know from experience that this kind of transition is scary at first but then is over before you realize it.  For every person who asks how in the world will I handle two, there's someone else out there who has done it and says we'll be fine.  (And two at once really isn't that many....)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Style Attempts: Maternity Ed. 2. Taking Time for the Details

When you have a newborn, the ultimate goal for the day is to survive.  Baby is alive?  Check.  You're alive?  Check.  Success.

Sometimes it is hard enough just to eat, let alone shower, get dressed, style your hair, and do your make-up.  Eventually, life calms down.  You fall into a routine.  And sometimes, if you're like me, you forget to include yourself in that routine.

When you're pregnant (and especially if you have another babe already), you start feeling outside of yourself.  Taking time to maintain the "details," like your hair and make-up, can make all the difference.  It does for me, at least.

I work from home.  My husband works from home.  I have a two-year-old son who entertains himself.  Why do I still feel guilty when I take a bath?  Or when I blow dry my hair?  I get too involved in trying to take care of everyone else that I forget about the small things to take care of myself.

In our old house, it was kind of difficult to get ready with Eliot.  That meant going upstairs, which would result in him crying to come along.  And if I did bring him with me, he'd surely be trying to climb down the stairs.  Irony...  Kinda hard to do one's hair and make-up.  However, our new house is a ranch.  So now Eliot just runs around where he wants to.  And I don't feel so guilty because I can do my hair and make-up in the hall bathroom where he can come visit me if he wants or go do something else.  He is very interested in my eyeliner especially because he thinks it is a pen, so sometimes I have him put on my face moisturizer or some of Chris's aftershave to make him feel like he is involved.

So often, I would decide to "sacrifice" doing my make-up in the interest of getting us out the door faster.  However, I timed myself.  It takes me three minutes to do my make-up.  I only put on a little eye shadow, eye liner, and mascara (I'm a minimalist and also don't know what I'm doing, really), but those three minutes make such a difference in how I feel about myself.  I'm worth those three minutes (and more!).

As for my hair, well, it had grown long.  Really long.  And I usually let it air dry, blow-dry my "bangs" and curl them if I'm feeling fancy, and spray in this product to help it form some waves for texture.  It didn't take long, but I was feeling kind of ratty.  I needed a trim (and then some).

And I realized that I hadn't cut my hair since September 2011 (see entry here) and the time before that had been a year.  Never again, friends.  Every time I thought about getting my hair cut, I felt so guilty.  I'd be taking time away from Eliot.  I'd be taking up time we could have together as a family doing something fun.  I almost didn't do it today, even, but Chris practically pushed me out the door because he knew it was important to me.

I got four inches off and yet my hair still manages to look long (which I was hoping for) and the curls are sticking again since I have less weight and split ends.  I didn't even blow dry my hair all the way, so I'm sure I could easily get it looking even better with minimal effort.  I should have done this a long time ago.

All of this is to say that you should make time for yourself.  I'm not one of those people who praises herself and demands a week's vacation for "me" time, but I am someone who puts herself last frequently when no one is even asking for anything.  In the words of Parks and Rec, "treat yo'self."  So, Katie, don't wait another year and a half for a hair cut.  And take three minutes a day to do your eye make-up if it makes you feel better.