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!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

17 Months and 2 Days

That's how long we nursed.

peering down Mommy's shirt with no sense of boundaries

We went through a lot to get to this point. And now, as I'm writing this several months later, it feels like such a quick blur - all the sleepy late-night feedings, all the pump parts and bottles, even the weaning. I barely even remember the last time you nursed. Still, it was such a significant part of our relationship for so long, I feel compelled, no, inspired, to document what I do remember.

We had a rocky start to nursing. You can go back and read about it if you want, but I can sum it up from my perspective pretty easily. In my life, some things have come fairly easily to me. Other things have not. Among those challenges, I've always done one of two extremes: I've given up and not even tried (this is why Mommy never really played sports), or I've worked my tail off until reaching a level of absolute mastery (this is why Mommy is a board-certified neurologic specialist). I've always felt and will probably always feel like I gave up on delivering you. I was not going to give up on nursing you, even though it was difficult. We were going to be nursing champions. (By the way, reflecting on my own behavior makes me wonder how you'll respond when faced with a challenge.)

And nursing champions we were! It became the easiest, most natural part of our relationship. It was the one constant in an ever-changing you. As I learned to get the hang of motherhood and got to know you and all of your personality quirks, something always changed and kept me on my toes. But not nursing. I could always count on it to stay the same. I loved the portability and convenience of it, too. I saw my friends pack formula and bottles every time they left the house, and I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that all I needed was the right bra and a cover...if I felt like it that day. I even had the pumping down to a science! That took a little while to get used to, and I never enjoyed it exactly. But I did feel some sense of pride and love knowing that I was providing something wonderful for you even when you weren't with me.

A societal obligation first motivated me to work so hard towards nursing, especially because it promised a wonderful bonding experience. I had no idea what that bonding experience would be like, and I don't think anything prepared me for its magnitude. I was your only food source for four months, and your primary food source for another four or so. Even when I wasn't with you, I sent you to school with pumped milk for six months. And even after that, I nursed you for another five. I've never felt more needed or more loved. The closeness that resulted was something indescribable, and even now that you're weaned, it remains.

That brings me to my next point: nursing was far more emotionally complex than I anticipated. There's a downside to nursing. I think because you did need me so much, I felt guilty when I wasn't there. I cried the first time I gave you cow's milk because I was so worried that I was pushing it on you; I wondered whether I should wait until you showed me you were ready to try something new. There were days where I felt so over-touched that I'd shudder when your daddy tried to hug me. That intimacy that comes with nursing - that closeness and exclusivity and need - it's heavy.

I always assumed you'd self-wean. I had no plans to stop before you were two. I figured you'd get sick of it by then; you're so busy and usually hate sitting still, but somehow nursing was always the exception. At 12 months, I was thrilled that we were still going strong. At 13 months, I didn't mind that you weren't slowing down. I thought that going away to a conference would kill our nursing relationship at 14 months, but you still pushed through it. At 15 months, I was starting to wonder whether the benefits still outweighed the downside. Were you just using me as a crutch to fall asleep? Was I a giant pacifier? But that closeness, oh those snuggles that I knew I'd never get back...

I finally decided at 16.5 months that nursing was less of the joyous relationship it once was and more a matter of martyrdom. I was starting to desire greater autonomy, which was a difficult realization to have. I never never never NEVER want to rush you growing up, but it felt like it was time to set boundaries. I don't remember which one we cut out first: your morning feeding or your bedtime feeding. I remember giving you a cup and blueberries in the mornings. I remember singing you your songs and rocking you at bedtime. You'd still ask to nurse, but then I'd distract you with those blueberries or those songs, and one day, you just stopped asking.

I'm glad that those last few sessions felt less magical and more obligatory. It made it easier. It was still very hard to let go, I think just because it was so emotionally complex. I was relieved it was over, proud to have made it as long as we had, and sad because we would never have those moments again. Even now, I'm tearful writing this because I miss it so. I'd often daydreamed about what our final nursing session would be like. I imagined a nice, full feeding, followed by me singing the Ellie Rose song we made up and maybe Not With Haste, then just holding you and crying, trying to let that last moment linger a little longer. We didn't have that. But we had over a year of that.

I'll wrap up with my top 10 most memorable nursing moments:
  1. with you strapped into the Ergo while walking around an apple orchard
  2. in a million different places all over two parks at Disney World
  3. while walking from brunch to my car
  4. in between vomiting while I had a stomach bug or food poisoning or whatever that was
  5. in an Indian restaurant's bathroom
  6. in a million different positions while I had a plugged duct
  7. pumping while sharing an office with Tiffany
  8. pumping simultaneously with Christina while Emily H. sat in between us in the backseat of a car
  9. while holding onto my bloody thumb for compression while Daddy simultaneously held you up to me
  10. that first time after the clipping at the pediatric ENT's office, that moment that changed the next 16 months of our lives
I love you.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

My Second Mother's Day

It's amazing how memories can fade so quickly. That's why I'm thankful for the internet, where everything is permanent! I already don't remember much about my first Mother's Day. I know we celebrated with Auntie Sara, and Tía Ametista was in town, and you wore that adorable bumblebee outfit. I know I hurt my thumb just before then, because I remember being concerned that all I'd see in photos from that day was a bunch of Coban. I know Daddy started a really sweet tradition of having you write in a notebook for me, and I know I was excited to see how this book of memories would grow throughout the years.

For my second Mother's Day, your Auntie Lisa was visiting from Washington state. We had a very busy day at the aquarium that Saturday, so on Sunday, she insisted on a lazy, quiet day at our house. Unfortunately, I'm not very good at being lazy or quiet, so I insisted that the three of us go on a morning hike before Auntie Lisa and Daideo came over.

I'd had my heart set on finding the Paper Mill Ruins at Sope Creek for a while; after all, they're supposedly right by our house. Well, we didn't find them immediately, but it was worth the hike!

What exactly are the Paper Mill Ruins? I don't know! Ask your Daideo or Auntie Amanda! All I know is they're old and cool! Sigh. Okay fine.

Wikipedia says:
These ruins are the remnants of a larger manufacturing complex which drew on the waterpower that the creek produced. During the period 1850 to 1940, a succession of enterprises, from a (fully integrated) paper milltwine plant, flour mill and hydroelectric power plant occupied an area of about one mile along the creek.
The paper mill at Sope Creek was run by Marietta Paper Mills and incorporated on December 19, 1859, possibly by Andrew Schofield Edmondston and Saxon A. Anderson. Facilities at the paper mill included a mill, oil room, office, mill sluice (raceway), storeroom, dam, machine shop, pulp-grinding mill, and two shelters.
The Daily Intelligencer of Atlanta printed a letter dated September 10, 1863, from Mr. A.S. Edmonston [sic]. In it, Mr. Edmondston pleads with the Intelligencer, letting them know that while they are the newspaper’s main source of paper, they can only send them so much due to war constraints. Edmondston writes:
I have on hand a few bundles of paper, which I will ship you, and this will be the last for some time; for when we shall resume again I cannot tell. My hands volunteered in the Home Guard, to protect the country against raids, and are now called out to guard stores and prepare the defences [sic] of your city, I understand. In the first instance, at the commencement of the war, I was disposed to aid all in my power and encouraged two of the hands to volunteer in Confederate service. This left hardly hands enough to get along with when all were well. Afterwards we lost two or three hands, and this left us short of hands, and one machine has only run when our hands have worked eighteen hours in the day.--We applied for the detail of the hands which has not been done, though the Government has been urgent for paper, and we have strained every nerve to supply. Shorthanded, we have done the best we could, and now all our hands are taken, of course we are obliged to stop.
Edmondston goes on to complain about the fact that while the Confederate government demands paper, he is shorthanded because paper workers were not considered vital to the war effort. Edmondston stated: “You know Paper makers are not to be had South, and are not like Shoe-Makers, and many other callings which give exemptions to so many thousands, and cannot be learned after the Conscript officer takes after a fellow.”
The paper supply became even harder to come by when on July 5, 1864, Union soldiers under the command of General Gerrard burned the Marietta Paper Mill, along with Denmead’s Flour Mill. The paper mill was rebuilt in 1865, only to burn again in 1870 and be rebuilt in 1871.[5] The mill struggled to survive the years immediately following the second rebuilding. The mills were sold at a public sale in 1873 and restructured as the Marietta Paper Manufacturing Company. In 1888 and 1889, a wood pulp mill and a twine factory were added to the site, respectively. Finally, in 1902, production at that location stopped.

So yeah. Pretty cool stuff. And it definitely made for a really cool Mother's Day.

If you're wondering what I got for a Mother's Day present, check it out: matching Mommy & baby Toms!

Watching the River Run

Ellie, your mommy and daddy have lived in Atlanta for eight years now, and one of our favorite things about this town is the fact that we keep finding more to discover. Recently, we discovered a new favorite place. I don't want to get into too many details, because Yelp is already ruining this secluded spot. But I'll just leave these pictures here to help us remember just how magical it was during our first few visits.