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Tuesday
Feb112014

Can't stop reflecting

I have three friends that had babies in early to mid January of this year. And if I wasn't already reflecting enough on where I was a year ago, those births sure amped it up. I'm obsessed with knowing how they're doing, knowing if it is for them what it was like for me in those newborn days. I try to keep my distance and not overwhelm them with questions because I know how difficult the early days can be, but I eat up any glimpse they give me into their lives.

A few times a week I look back at the journal we kept last year. Most of it from the early months is a log of feedings and naps, but it fills my head and heart with so many memories. I look at photos we took in the month following Mo's birth, and she is so tiny and I look wrecked, and my god that was an emotionally trying and amazing time.

Becoming a mom has been one of the most profound experiences of my life. Surviving the newborn phase challenged me (and us) in ways I didn't expect, and we created a bond as a family that I believe will last for a lifetime and will, hopefully, get us through any challenges we might face. 

This last year ticked by much faster than I was ready for, but watching Mo grow and change and learn, and knowing she is MINE and I get to keep watching her grow and change and learn hurts my heart in the best way.

I know how lucky I am to have her. I know not everyone gets the child(ren) they want, and not everyone gets a healthy child, and not everyone gets to enjoy their kids without struggling through impossible situations. I'm sure I can't fully appreciate what I have without experiencing some of those things, but I try to focus on my fortunes every day.

My baby. My word, how did I get so lucky?

Tuesday
Jan282014

Mornings are hard!

Mike and I work slightly different schedules. Different enough that it plays in our favor as far as daycare drop off and pick up. He is up and out of the house before Mo and I wake up, so I get her ready and drop her off before I go to work. Mike then gets done before me, so he picks her up. In theory, with this arrangement, she would be in daycare from 8:00 to 3:30 instead of something like 7:30 to 5:30. It doesn't always work quite like that - in fact, Mike doesn't usually leave work when I wish he would, and Mo is usually at daycare until 4 or 4:30. And sometimes he leaves so late that I beat him there, but that's another complaint for another post.

Mo hanging out in her reading nook. Check out that drool!

This post is about how difficult mornings are. Before she was born, when we talked about this arrangement, it all made logical sense. But in practice, it is HARD! I have to do every morning by myself, and even though it has been almost a year of this, I haven't found a good rhythm. 

I'm one!

Lately Mo has been waking up before I'm ready, so we nurse and then loiter in bed until I gather the energy to haul both of us up and drag us down the hall to the bathroom. Mo is good about entertaining herself (usually be tearing apart toilet paper or finding small random objects on the ground to ingest) while I get myself ready. That part isn't so hard even though I'm still god awful tired at that point.

Mo in a basket. A "Mo"ses basket? 

Then we go downstairs and it becomes more difficult, especially since this ridiculously cold and snowy winter has set in. Every morning I juggle how to get her dressed, get some breakfast, make coffee, get all our bags and other accoutrement out to the car, keep her from crawling up or down any stairs, keep her from getting pissed when I sneak out to start the car so it's not an ice box when I put her in, get both of us bundled up, carry her out, strap her in, and somehow not forget anything. 

Love her mad face.

It shouldn't be so hard, but by the time I climb into the driver's seat, I usually let out a big sigh and say something like, "Girl, we need a better system." Then I still have to drive to daycare, bring her in, unbundle her, chat with the caretakers, give her lots of kisses, and drive 20 minutes (or more depending on traffic and weather) before I get to work. I feel like I've lived a whole day before I even sit down at my desk.

Elmer Fudd.

I'd really love to have Mike there with me in the morning to help juggle it all. There has been a morning or two when he has gone in late, and just that little bit of support in the getting-ready process makes a huge difference.

Mike does what he can to make my mornings smoother. He usually prepares the milk we send with her in the evening so I don't have to do it in the morning. He will help me put together a lunch the night before. I always pick out her clothes and try to arrange things, like her coat and hat, so they are easy to grab. But my mornings are still stressful, and it's not a good way to start the day. 

Unfortunately Mike doesn't have the option to go in to work later, even though he often stays well beyond an 8 hour day. At his job, early mornings are key. And I can't get up early with him because a) ew, way too early, and b) daycare doesn't open until 7:30 anyway. Otherwise we'd try to adjust our system a little. 

My beautiful baby girl.

So, what? What can I do to not start every day feeling harried and hurried? Working parents with young children, what are your mornings like? I know I have some readers out there with twins or more than one child - dear god, how do YOU do it?

Tuesday
Jan212014

She's a model, you know what I mean, and she shakes her little tush on the catwalk

I don't remember when, but at some point recently I mentioned that Mo was called in for a photo shoot, and I promised a few more details about that. I wanted to wait to see if they'd indeed use her photos, and over the weekend we found out they did!

So here's the story. 

Mo is adorable, that much is pretty obvious. But she's also incredibly adaptable, even-keeled, and easy-going. Many people had been telling us, "She should be a baby model!" I'm sure all parents get that line, and for a long time I wrote it off because um, baby modeling. But then I thought, well, it's not just that she's cute, she really would do well in a room full of strangers and bright lights and she'd probably even have fun, and don't baby models get paid? Couldn't we put that in her college fund?

So I did about 30 minutes of Googling and found a local agency whose "application" process was simply to send in some photos and info (like age, size, etc.). I printed some photos, wrote out the info, and sent them in. I got a form letter back saying they'd keep her photos on file, and that was it. I figured that was basically the end, and that was fine.

Then about a month and a half later, out of the blue, I got a call from the agency. They said Meijer, a megastore that is much classier than WalMart but not as stylish as Target, and which was founded in our city but has expanded well beyond our state, wanted her for a photo shoot. We were told they always book two children of each age in case one doesn't cooperate. She gets paid regardless, but would be paid slightly more if she was selected.

I had to drive her an hour away to a giant studio (or series of studios in a giant warehouse of sorts), and we waited patiently while some younger babies were being photographed.

She checked out some fashion mags while we waited.

Then they brought me an outfit to put on her, and we walked out to meet the photographer and the...talent handler? I'm not sure, some lady whose job it was to get Mo positioned correctly and smile and all that. 

From the beginning I said if Mo isn't into it, I would not make her do something she didn't want to do just to put money in the college fund. I'd take my cues from her. 

Well, she did amazing. She made friends with the handler right away, and didn't even care that I was sitting nearby but not holding her. The idea was for her to be crawling away from the camera so it could capture the decal on her tush, but to look slightly back over her shoulder. Tricky! All the younger babies got just sit there! But she nailed it.

In total, she was in front of the camera about 10 minutes, then we looked at some of the shots with the photographer. And someone I'm calling the Creative Director commented, "Wow, she's really great. She's totally comfortable. Has she done this a lot?" Nope, first time!

We brought Kitty to keep her company.

To be fair, I saw her "competition" and she was adorable too. But she was chunkier with dark hair, so it probably just came down to what look they were going for.

We had to wait until this past weekend to find out if they'd use her photos, and even though it really didn't matter because she got paid either way, I was pretty excited when my mom called me to say, "Mosey is in the ad!"

 

And yes, we went straight to Meijer and bought that outfit.

Really though, I honestly think the biggest accomplishment is how well she took to this experience. I was a painfully shy child. PAINFULLY SHY! My mom tells me that if someone even looked at me funny, I would get upset. I continued to be shy all through my childhood and it was awful. I really hoped my offspring would not inherit that trait because it is such an unnecessary torture. 

To watch my child do so well with strangers, to know she trusted me enough to leave her in the hands of others while I sat nearby, and to see her light up rather than shut down in this situation, was a beautiful thing.

She hasn't gotten any other calls, and maybe she never will. That's fine. But if she does and we can work it out, I'd take her again. And if the calls keep coming, we'll keep making decisions based on her cues.

Sunday
Jan192014

Mo and Will's first birthday party

You may recall that Mo was born less than two hours after her cousin Will: he just before midnight, her just after. They don't quite share a birthday, but it only made sense to celebrate with a joint party. My sister Emily and I began "planning" awhile ago, if picking a date and location count as planning. We didn't do the bulk of the preparations until shortly before the party because we wanted to keep it relatively low key. 

The guest list included only family, but we have a pretty large family, plus all the in-laws, so it quickly grew beyond what either of our homes could accomodate. We (or I should say she, my sister, because I still insisted it wasn't necessary, and she is incredibly generous) rented a room in a township hall, we ordered pizza, and we got some help from family with salad, beverages and desserts. But the fun part was pulling together all the decor. 

We weren't really interested in doing a big theme party, and I don't like to spend a lot of money on decorations that can't be reused. So we went with "polka dots and stripes" and based everything around that general idea. 

Will wore stripes while Mo wore polka dots. (And yes, we coordinated their outfits. Like we wouldn't!)

We boughts some pretty inexpensive plates and napkins at Target that had stripes or dots on them, and we also found little cardboard treat boxes that we filled with Sixlets (dots) and Twizzlers (stripes). 

Mike's Mom is an incredible seamstress, and she made these bibs for each of the babes. 

Em and I decorated the "smash cakes" (I think I kind of hate that term) for Mo and Will. We made box cakes with white frosting, and used sugar sheets to cut out shapes.

Other than that, we just bought some fun and colorful things to put around the room:

(Those eventually were hung from the ceiling.)

I also made these faux chalk boards for each of the kids, inspired by a Pinterest find. They cost only a few bucks and were fun for me to make.

(Please ignore the fact that I spelled finicky wrong. Nobody seemed to notice.)

We also displayed their monthly photos, and below that is the onesie we had everyone sign when they visited us in the hospital after Mo was born.

When we got to the hall we discovered the furnace was broken. It was FREEZING in there, and we spent the first 30 minutes trying to figure who to call about that. Eventually enough bodies showed up that it warmed up a bit, and later we managed to get ahold of someone who brought a couple space heaters. The other major mishap was that Em's high chair was missing its tray, and we really wanted them to be in side-by-side chairs for the cake fiasco. Luckily our other sister saved the day and brought a third high chair to use. 

We started with food, then let the babies tear up some cake.

Mo really got into it...

...and even wanted to share with everyone else. 

Will was a little skeptical...

 

...but was happy to share with his Mama.

This is one of my favorite pictures from the party - cake kisses:

My niece shares a birthday with Will and was going to turn 12, so we made her a special cake too. We presented it to her and we all sang, and then she shocked all of us by digging in like the babies did!

 

After everyone had dessert, we opened gifts. We did not want the focus of the party to be the gifts because we're trying to teach our children about appreciation instead of entitlment, so Em and I sent an email to invited guests, explaining our approach. We knew we could never stop people from bringing gifts all together, and that wasn't the point, but we wanted everyone to know it was truly not expected, and also to give them another option if they were interested. This is what we said:

Dear family,

By now you should have received an invitation to celebrate the first birthdays of Will and Mo. We hope you can join us at their party in a few short weeks!

We wanted to let you know, very sincerely, that we don’t expect gifts for the kids. Our children are greatly blessed with so much love, and they already have everything they could need or want at this age. As parents, it is important to us to teach our children gratitude and simplicity from a young age, and so our party for them is meant to celebrate their lives with love, not just gifts. Therefore, please know we are sincere when we say gifts are not required, nor expected, nor needed.

However, I will add that we understand that half the fun of gifts is in the giving, so if you do bring a gift, don’t worry, we won’t be banning them at the door. :)

(And if gift-giving is your love language, but you don’t know what to get a one year old, Mo and Will would gladly accept donations to their college funds. Checks can be made out to their parents who will deposit them into a special account set aside for their futures!)

There's no good way to deal with the gift situation, but that was our best attempt. And as you may have guessed, they still got a crazy amount of presents.

(That's just Mo's pile!)

They did receive many donations to their college fund, and they also got some toys and clothes. Mo's favorite thing was a little stuffed puppy that came with a college fund donation from her Great Grandpa and Grandma. She hugged and nuzzled this thing for a long time, and now has it in her crib.

Even though we kept her up well passed her naptime, Mo stayed in good spirits the whole time. On the way home, she crashed, and even after we moved her to her crib at home, she slept well into the evening. It was really sweet to see her enjoy herself so much and then sleep like an angel.

It was a fun afternoon, and I'm so grateful for all the people that love my daughter. She really is so blessed to be born into such an incredible family.

I can't believe my baby is ONE!

 

Happy birthday Momo!

Friday
Jan172014

"Mo"nthly Photo - Twelve

This is my last "Mo"nthly photo since I probably won't do these every month going forward, yet it seems like I still should be documenting every moment. It all passes by so quickly and I don't know how I'll remember it if I don't write it down!

I have so much I want to write about this first year of motherhood, but I'll save most of that for a future post. For now, as usual, a look back at the last month. 

It's around this age that everyone wants to know if she's walking yet. She is not. I know she has the ability to do it - she's a pretty strong stander and walks with ease behind her push toy - but she hasn't really given it a try yet. A couple times she's been holding onto a piece of furniture near me, decided she wants to get to me, and has taken an accidental step or two when she realized I was further away than she thought. But no, not walking yet.

She is communicating more lately. She still only has a few actual words, but she is so full of fun noises, and she learns how to make new noises all the time. Her latest favorites are saying "aaahhh" while patting her hand over her mouth, saying "uh oh" but she says it more like "uh..............oh" with along pause in between, clicking her tongue, taking deep breaths that cause a deep sound in her throat, and imitating certain animal noises like "woof" and "oh oh ah ah" (like a monkey). I love to watch her figure these things out. She usually listen to us do them a few times, then she'll try. And then she'll practice for awhile, and once she's mastered something, she moves on. Uh oh was huge for awhile, but now we can only occasionaly get her to say it. Even though she isn't saying a lot of recognizable words, her doctor says she's actually very communicative.

She has also been more affectionate lately. She was never a cuddler, and still isn't really, but she has been showing a bit more affection. She especially likes to lay her head on things to show a little love, so she'll rest her head on a toy she likes, or on our leg or shoulder, or even on the couch if she's trying to tell Oberon she loves him. She also likes to nuzzle some of her small stuffed animals to her neck, and oddly, she bites or nibbles things she likes. When she gets really excited about her stuff Kitty or another plush toy, she squeals and gnaws at it. She also bites my slipper a lot, which I think means she loves my feet. And my favorite thing is that she learned to kiss. If we say, "Can I have a kiss?" she will smack her lips. Sometimes she'll lean in for a kiss, sometimes she'll blow a kiss, and sometimes she just continues what she's doing while making the kissing sound. I die every time.

Mo is still a really good eater. She pretty much eats what the big kids eat at daycare, and eats what we eat at home, though she still gets some purees to fill up because it takes her FOREVER to eat table food. They're also moving her to dairy milk at daycare, but she still nurses at home. However, I'm done pumping! I thought I'd do it through January, but I'm just so over it. I was down to about twice a week anyway, and then a couple weeks ago I pumped for the last time without knowing it was the last time. It's better that way, less ceremonial.

As of her first birthday, Mo had six teeth, though I've seen two more pop up in the last couple days. Those may be the reason she was sick on her birthday. Fortunately we celebrated early so she was healthy for her party (which I intend to write more about soon), but our plans to take her to dinner on her birthday were foiled when she came home early from daycare with a fever. A fever that got up to 104.1 the next day and stuck around longer than I would have liked. Two days after her birthday, the temp was significantly lower, but she had her 1-year appointment at which she had to have SIX shots. And she didn't sleep at all that night, poor babe. Not a great way to spend your first birthday and the few days following it. 

This is how we started her birthday:

And this is how we ended it:

Typically, when she's not feeling icky, Mo is on the move. I like to joke that she does parkour in our living room - she climbs and rolls and tumbles over everything. I have video of her crawling over Mike's legs and doing a somersault to get over the other side. This is something that happens ALL the time. Maybe she's a future gymnast? Or a future American Ninja Warrior?