Tuesday, January 19, 2016

21 Months Old

Better late than never, right?!

Our biggest update for the last quarter is that you are now in the Early Preschool classroom at school! The whole story is actually a bit of a mess. You were loving life in Ms. Jasmine's classroom, and then everything turned upside down when they did a mass move-up at the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year in August. Move-ups are always hard, but they're an inevitable part of school that's necessary for your development. This one was different. Nearly everyone else was moving up, and we were asked to keep you behind. Chronologically, you were one of the younger kids in Ms. Jasmine's class, but developmentally, you were the most advanced. The feedback we got for your teacher was that we needed to push to have you moved up. Unfortunately, this became a logistical problem, as there simply wasn't enough room in the older toddler class! Your teacher, the school director, and a few other people worked with Mommy and Daddy until we found a class that would work better for you. You actually hopped around for about a week or so, and then you ended up in Ms. LaTeefah's early preschool class. Your school was so wonderful about it, and they monitored you closely. You were now the youngest by far in your class, and we were worried the other kids would baby you or bulldoze you. Neither happened, and you fit right in perfectly. You're now very loved in that classroom, and we really think being around all of these older kids has helped you grow in so many ways. We've been told that you'll most likely be with Ms. LaTeefha until you're at least three, so we're excited to get to spend a lot of time in a situation that has really worked out beautifully.

Our other big update is that you are now absolutely 100% obsessed with princesses! You know all of their names, and you can recognize specific "princess music." Some days, you insist on wearing your Princess Anna dress after school, and you really like playing dress-up with tutus and fairy wings. I don't think you really have a favorite princess; you like different things about different ones, like Belle's love of books, and the fact that Ariel is a mermaid. We talk a lot about how princesses are kind and brave.

We had a very fun summer and, even though we didn't travel much, we spent a lot of time exploring our own city. You had your first visit to the Fox Theatre for a Sound of Music singalong, and you really loved running around the long carpeted hallways. You made friends with all of the bathroom attendants and climbed on all the pretty vanity furniture in the powder room. You also went to your second-ever Braves game (we're down to one per season so far) with your friend GG. GG's grandfather has some friends who work with Turner Field, so we got to sit in a special box with lots of delicious food and sit right behind home plate. You were even on tv for a minute! You and GG weren't really feeling the game much, so we wandered around for a while and left before it was over. Hopefully next year we can go on a day that's not so hot, but that can be tricky during baseball season in Atlanta!

Your personality has become a bit more shy lately, I think because you have a new classroom to get comfortable in and new friends to get to know, but you are still very active and busy. You can go up and down stairs now while holding onto a handrail, and you even took a gymnastics class this summer! You know so many more words now than you did last quarter (like the names of all the princesses!), but you're definitely still signing more than talking. This is absolutely okay, especially because your new teacher knows a lot of signs too! Your fine motor skills have really developed a lot recently, and you really like to color. You're really good at doing anything involving two hands, which I credit to the fact that you crawled for so long!

I'm so glad we had a fun summer together. Since this is such a delayed post, I can tell you that the next three months weren't as great. In hindsight, I'm sad that wonderful summer was over so quickly, but seeing your joy in playing outside and in exploring our city just reminds me of how much we have to look forward to as you grow. I think summer at age 2 1/2 is going to be even better!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Princesses and Gender Norms

I tried not to make you a girly girl. So many moms dress their little girls up in so many ruffles and bows, and that just wasn't our style. You had a couple of princess dresses, but they just looked silly with your bald head! Besides, what if you ended up identifying with a different gender? I didn't want to push anything on you. I wanted to present several options and let you choose based on your identity.

Then we went to visit your cousin Keira at Disney World, and it was all over.

Keira's mommy works for Disney World, so they have a lot of Disney things. You and Keira spent several days playing princesses together and watching princess movies on tv. When we got back home, you couldn't stop talking about these beautiful creatures.

My friend Tiffany and I took you and her kids to a singalong at the Fox Theatre earlier in the summer. They do this summertime movie series, and several of them are musicals. We saw the Sound of Music, and you sat still for some of it. When we saw that they were showing Frozen later in the summer, we knew how much you kids would love it.

You were excited to see the movie, and to spend time with your friends Alba and Donovan, but you were more excited to see all of these little girls dressed as princesses. You seemed thrilled to learn that there were so many people out there who shared your interest! Between that day and your time with Keira, you were officially hooked.

Every day we either read a princess book or watched some of a princess movie or played with princess toys. Some days, you even wore princess dresses...wherever we went:

I'm a bit late in writing this post, so I can safely say that you still adore princesses to this day. You love putting on jewelry and having me fix your hair and looking at yourself in the mirror. But you also like fire trucks and superheroes and oh my goodness do you love reptiles. There's a lot of talk in the world today about gender neutrality, even when it comes to our children. I really don't want to get into it too much (especially because I'm hoping that by the time you read this, it won't be a thing anymore), but I will say this: you don't like things because you're a girl; you like things because you're you. I was so worried about pushing princesses on you, but you chose princesses all on your own. I would never say "don't play with that; that's for boys" so why was I afraid to let you be a girl? I'm glad you're so confident in your interests and your choices. Thanks for leading the way.

A Second Proposal

You know the story: Daddy asked Mommy to marry him on August 29, 2009 on a hot air balloon over Lake Lanier.

What you probably don't know is the story behind the ring.

My mom, your Mimi, had this earring. It was a rather large, round-cut aquamarine draped in platinum in a drop earring. Or at least, that's what we thought it was. This earring came from my great-grandmother, and we had no idea what happened to the other one. From the time I knew aquamarine was my birthstone, I had my eye on this piece of jewelry. As a little girl, I used to hold it up to my ring finger and imagine how beautiful this stone would look as an engagement ring, rather than a lone earring without a match. When the time came for Daddy to propose, he got the earring from Mimi and had it placed in a white gold setting that he designed.

After the initial excitement surrounding our engagement had calmed down, we took it to a jeweler to have it appraised. When the jeweler took a look at it, he told us the stone was synthetic. Daddy's heart sank, but I didn't really care. It was beautiful, and that was enough. It didn't matter whether it was priceless or worthless, it was what Daddy had asked me to marry him with.

I was always extra careful with it, though. Even if it hadn't been a real gemstone, it wasn't a diamond and that meant it wasn't as hard. But on top of that, it wasn't even real, which meant it could easily be chipped or scratched. I'd had this thing for nearly six years when one day I dropped it on the bathroom floor. It literally shattered and aquamarine-colored glass flew everywhere. I was crushed, and called Daddy crying.

To him, the setting was the only meaningful part of this ring. He had designed it to fit the stone, but the stone never mattered to him. "Besides," he told me. "We can afford an upgrade now, and when I proposed, we couldn't." He took the ring to the jeweler and had them look out for the perfect aquamarine to fit this setting.

When he finally found it, he wanted to do something sweet and propose to me all over again. He came home one day, and handed it to you. "Go give this to Mommy," he said.

You opened the box and were SO EXCITED to find something shiny, that OF COURSE you didn't want to share it! I got it from you eventually, but your curiosity and interest made our second "proposal" so much better!

Cow Appreciation Day

As a parent, I occasionally find myself reflecting on traditions. What brought on our traditions? Who share them with us? Which ones are worthy of passing along to you?


Now this is going to sound very silly, but Chick-Fil-A holds a great deal of sentimental value to me. I mean it! Before I moved to Atlanta, I didn't know much about this town. I knew it was where we (the Gators) played football games sometimes if we were good, and I knew there was a good aquarium here. But mostly when I thought of Atlanta, I thought of Coke and Chick-Fil-A. I think that's what most people think of when they think of Atlanta, actually. When I finally did move here, I felt strange in a new place that I didn't know. I didn't know how to fit in, I definitely didn't understand the traffic patterns, and I had no idea where to eat. But I knew I was never too far from a Chick-Fil-A, and that was something that could always feel familiar.

I was relieved to find people who felt the same way. My grad school friends, Erin, Emily H., Emily B., and Christina, were also big fans of eating more chicken. "Chick-Fil-A Test Day" quickly became a beloved tradition, in which we would treat ourselves (remember, we didn't have a lot of money back then) to a delicious meal after a test. Usually we went to the dining hall on campus, but if we were feeling really adventurous, we'd wander off to the Chick-Fil-A on North Druid and Briarcliff or the one on Trinity in Decatur.

A few weeks into grad school, we learned that Chick-Fil-A holds a special event every July called Cow Appreciation Day. On this day, if you dress like a cow, you are given anything on the menu FOR FREE. I'd like to take this opportunity to remind you how we were broke grad students who had -$300,000 to our names because we were busy becoming doctors. This wasn't just a free sandwich or a free Coke; we could have an entire meal free of charge just for doing something that sounded fun anyway. Those girls and I had only been friends for less than a month, but we unanimously decided to prioritize this event in our busy schedules. And we went ALL OUT.

I was so excited to get free food, but I was more excited to have found people in a new place who understood me. They understood the need to make fools of ourselves and to have fun. They understood the need to participate in something silly with all our hearts, rather than just phoning it in. On Chick-Fil-A Test Days, they understood the need to blow off some steam and how important it was to heavily debate which condiment was better rather than discuss how we thought we did on our exams. On that first Cow Appreciation Day, I knew a tradition was born. I knew we'd be back every year, at least while we were in school together. But more importantly, I knew I had made life-long friends. I didn't know the depth that our friendships would gain. I didn't know that we'd be in each others' weddings, that we'd cry with each other about love and loss and change. I didn't know that we'd give each other mom tips in just a few years and sit next to each other in the back seat of a car pumping after a night out while the babies stayed at home with their dads.

I haven't really participated in Cow Appreciation Day in the past couple of years. It's just not the same now that I'm the only one of these friends left in Atlanta. But this year, I decided spontaneously to pick up some black posterboard on my way to pick you up from daycare, and I decided we'd participate at the last minute.

You love Chick-Fil-A, and even at only a year and a halfish, you understood the significance of being silly. You scarfed down your free grilled nuggets and fruit cup, and I think you enjoyed your free meal even more than the ones Mommy pays for. But most importantly, you mooed at everyone who walked by us.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

18 Months Old

Okay, so this is two months late.

I think the theme of the last three months has been progress, or comfort, or something related to finding a groove. They say it takes a good 6-12 months to adjust to being a family, but I really think we turned a corner around 15. Maybe it was the tough delivery, the long maternity leave, the crazy test I took during maternity leave, or just the fact that Mommy and Daddy are just more tightly-wound than the average bear which causes us to hold ourselves to a higher standard than most (which is not necessarily better or worse; it just is), but that's how long it took.

I know these quarterly updates are about you, but I do think our family has really grown a lot recently. We're so much better at taking you out in public, and what used to be very difficult is just second-nature now. We're in a good routine. And most importantly, we've achieved a sort of balance. You've gotten much more comfortable with babysitters, and we've gotten more comfortable with leaving you with someone. I'm not saying that it's perfect. It's chaotic and effortful. But it's our life and it's the best that it's been so far.

But back to you.

At your last quarterly update, you were just starting to walk. Well now, you're running! Your motor skills have really taken off, even on compliant surfaces. This is good, because this time of year, we're aaaaalways outside. As you've seen from some recent posts, you've been quite the outdoorswoman! You still crawl from time to time, especially when going up stairs, but it's clearly because you want to and not because you have to.

Your most recent checkup told us that you were on target or ahead with all of your milestones. Your speech is probably your slowest skill to develop, but if we count your dozens (hundreds?) of signs, we think you're doing just fine! You're already starting to try to talk a little more, but usually you don't try because you can communicate effectively by signing. You're growing bigger and bigger, but you're still in a shorter height class. Sorry kid; Mommy and Daddy didn't have any tall genes to give you!

Your other big updates are that you've done a lot of traveling. Overall, you're hit or miss when it comes to flying or long car rides. But you're always up for an adventure! You love exploring new places and meeting new people. You even like trying new foods sometimes (though not as much as Mommy and Daddy do). Speaking of food, you weaned during this last quarter. Since then, I think you've asked to nurse only once or twice, so I don't think you miss it.

As a full-blown toddler, you have very specific likes and dislikes now. I'm not talking about how you like when you're full and you don't like when your teeth hurt; I'm talking preferences. You have favorite foods, favorite people, and even favorite toys and games. You're very attached to your daycare teacher, but she really loves you too. Probably your strongest dislike these days is getting into your carseat, but we're working on that.

As I'm writing this, you're closer to 21 months than you are 18 months! So much of this is still the same, but so much of it has already changed!

Daddy's 30th Birthday

Every June, Daddy has to go to Orlando for a conference. This is kind of the best and the worst thing ever. On one hand, I love going to Orlando. We have friends near UCF, family near Disney, and of course, there's always plenty to do. On the other hand, UCF and Disney are basically two separate cities. Two separate cities that may as well be on two separate continents. Seriously. The drive is 40 minutes on a good day, but throw in tourist traffic with tolls on 408 and it can really be a nightmare. Additionally, this conference is always around Daddy's birthday. So again, there's a dilemma: celebrate his birthday in Orlando with Mickey Mouse and some of his favorite friends? Or does that mean missing out on a celebration with friends back home?

The decision was easy this year: Abue wanted to meet us in Orlando. It was Daddy's 30th birthday, so we decided that he would head to the conference, you and I would fly down to meet him, and then he'd stay late after the conference while Abue drove up. That way, we could all celebrate his birthday together at the parks! Oh, and this also happened to fall during Star Wars Weekends.

Our dreams of celebrating with Abue and Darth Vader had to be flexible, though. As you know, Abue was sick for most of 2015, and at the last minute, she wasn't able to join us. We decided that the show must go on, and to Orlando we went!

The flight down was pretty awful. You're not so great at sitting still these days. When you ARE still, you're only comfortable doing so if you have your space. I get that! That's okay! But there was a lot of turbulence, which meant I needed to hold you to keep you safe. Longest two hours of my life.

We made it in one piece, and Auntie Michelle picked us up at the airport. We spent Friday night and Saturday hanging out with her, Auntie Jen, Auntie Ellen, and your cousins Keira and Oliver. You had met Keira during your first visit to Disney World over a year ago, but none of us had met Oliver before because he's brand new! Your birthdays are actually pretty close together, but he's an entire year younger than you. Nonetheless, you were basically the same size.

You got to spend a lot of quality time with your cousins. You went to the pool, watched some Disney Junior, and played with Keira's toys.

We spent Sunday at Disney's Hollywood Studios. We're really lucky in that we get to go to Disney World pretty often. Because of this, we don't usually have a plan. We roll out of bed, head to the parks when we feel like it, grab something to eat or maybe not, maybe go on some rides, and head home. It's nice to be able to stop by, and it's great to have that flexibility. But when you have kids around, it's helpful to have a schedule. This way, you make sure you have as much fun as possible while still planning around a much-needed naptime. We got up EARLY, met up with the Barks, and headed over. We did some rides, saw a parade, and had more fun than I've had at the parks in a long time.

My favorite part was watching your face during the Frozen Singalong. I think your favorite part was seeing Jedi Mickey. This was your first time seeing him in real life, and you were just starstruck. I almost got us a reservation to do character dining, but I wasn't sure how you'd react to the characters. That's a lot of money to spend if you're not sure what the result would be! But in hindsight, I think you would have loved it. Next time.

We went back to Auntie Ellen's house and took a nap. We went back out in time for fireworks, and it was sooo worth it. They were choreographed to all of the music from Star Wars, and it was literally the best fireworks show I've ever seen. You went to bed close to midnight, which made getting up for an early flight tough.

Star Wars Weekend: 1, Ellie: 0.

We had a really great time, and Daddy certainly felt loved on his birthday. We'll be back in December to celebrate your, Oliver, and Uncle Mark's birthdays! I can't wait to see how much more you love it!

A Weekend at the Farm

Your friend GG has a horse farm. Well, her grandpa has a vacation property that includes several beautiful horses and several beautifuller I mean not fuller you don't look fuller but more beautiful farm houses. On Memorial Day weekend, just after you turned 17 months old, GG's family invited us and our other friends to come along with them for a fun weekend on the farm!

It was one of the most beautiful places you've ever been so far, and the weather was perfect. You got to spend lots of time with friends...

...and make new ones!

Best of all, Chelsea got to come too!

It's good for our prissy pooch to get out to the countryside from time to time so that she be reminded that she is, in fact, a dog. She took a minute to warm up, but then she was all about it. She was chasing new smells, frolicking in the horse corral, riding in the bed of a truck, and giving the new babies kisses.

The humans had a really great time. It was very low-key - just a lot of relaxing with our friends! GG's parents also invited our friends the Highsmiths. Cason is older than you are, and McKenzie is younger; I met GG's mommy through their mommy, and the three of us always have a ball when we're together. It's so great that we all have kids around the same age! I assumed you'd spend most of your time with Cason, since you usually gravitate towards older kids. But you were all about those baby girls! Cason was happy to spend a little more time with the men, so I wasn't too worried about him feeling left out with you ladies.

We cooked out and toasted marshmallows, and you enjoyed exploring a new home. You even got to take a fancy bubble bath in a grown-up tub!

On Sunday, we went into Serenbe, the town nearby. It's a really unique place in that it's more of a community than your typical town. There were trampolines built into the ground, fresh produce growing everywhere, and a really cute little city center with really nice shops and restaurants. Your favorite part was the livestock area. 

Our favorite part of the weekend, though, was all the time we got to spend outside, enjoying a beautiful Georgia weekend.

We had a really great time with our friends, and it was great to get away from the city for a few days. Hopefully we'll get to go back some time!