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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!


"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?


My 2013

1. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 33 in December. The night before my birthday my mom watched Mo, and Mike and I went to a movie. But not just any movie. We went to a new theater where you can order dinner and beer and snacks while you watch. It's basically the perfect date for us! We saw Catching Fire. The actual day of my birthday we just stayed home in pajamas, which is our other perfect date.

2. What are your strongest memories from this year, and why?

The birth of my child, obviously. That whole experience is so strong in my memory: the horrifying pain of labor, the moment I met Mo, the first weeks at home where we fought in the trenches together just to stay sane and the three of us - me, Mike and Mo - bonded for life.

3. What did you do this year that you’d never done before?

Gave birth. Breastfed. Mothered a child. 

4. What did you want and get?

A healthy birth and a healthy child. Sorry, there's obviously going to be a theme here.

5. What did you want and not get?

More money. I know, so materialistic. But I've been wanting to find a way for our household to have more income, and we just can't figure it out.

6. What would you like to have next year that you didn’t have this year?

Curtains on all my windows. We've lived here a year and a half, and about half of our windows are still curtainless. Which is really just a symbol for the never ending home improvements that come with home ownership. But really, I need some damn window treatments!

7. What was your biggest achievement of this year?

Do I even have to say it? BABY!!

8. What was your biggest failure?

Eating better. Because I was breastfeeding, I didn't care much about what I ate for about six months. I was starving so I just ate what I wanted. Then, though I'm still breastfeeding, I decided I should be more health conscious. Mike and I downloaded My Fitness Pal and counted calories, and it did make us more aware of what we were eating, but I haven't noticed any changes in my weight or my energy. So yeah, fail.

9. What did you rely on when you were overwhelmed?

When Mo was born, the most overwhelming time of my year, Mike was my rock. I learned to appreciate him in new ways. I also leaned heavily on my amazing family. They always showed up when I needed them, and I feel so blessed to have them.

10. What was your most enjoyable purchase?

Skinny jeans. I know! I swore for years I was not a skinny jean person, and then one day, on a whim, I tried on a pair at Old Navy, and I said to my sister, "Am I delusional or do these look good?" And then I bought them. And I love them. I think I might buy more.

11. Did you travel? If so, where?

We spent a weekend at Sleeping Bear Dunes with my family in August, and then immediately following that I traveled to Chicago for work. I wanted to bring Mo with me, so I brought my mom and niece, as well. It was just as logistically chaotic to take her along as it would have been to leave her behind, but I wasn't ready to be away from her for two nights yet.

12. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Yoga. I didn't start again until fall (my last class being a few weeks before Mo was born), and I only did it once a week. I really should do it every day.

Also, I wish I could have spent more time with Mo. I'm still struggling with the fact of being away from her 9 hours a day. I wish there was a way to see her more often.

13. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Laid awake in bed. Which is my way of saying can I please be a better sleeper?

14. Compared to this time last year, how are you different?

My hips are wider. I weigh less than when I got pregnant, yet I'm up a pants size. I don't think these hips are bouncing back any further.

Also, I'm a mother, which means I'm different in a trillion ways.

15. Compared to this time last year, how are you the same?

I'm still tired all the time. And I haven't changed my hair in years. 

16. What’s a life lesson you learned this year?

Don't blink. Because it all goes by so fast. 


Mo's first Christmas

Mo celebrated her first Christmas with SEVEN different parties! Her first was with her daycare friends. Our provider hosts a party at local kids' play center, and covers the cost of dinner and gifts from Santa! We decided our approach to Santa (see this post for reference) would be somewhere down the middle road. We wouldn't go out of our way to convince her that Santa is real and brings her presents every year, but we likewise wouldn't go out of our way to banish Santa from her life. For instance, we didn't intend to make a special trip to the mall to sit her on Santa's lap, but when daycare invited him to the party, we went for the photo op.

She surprised us all by being uncomfortable with the old guy. She's normally content with anyone, but everytime she looked at him she was confused and then decided she hated him.

Then we had several family parties over the next couple weeks. Both my and Mike's parents are divorced, so we bounce around a lot during the holidays.

For the most part, she really didn't care about any of it, which is to be expected. But she loved being around her family so much! 

On Christmas morning, we gave her a few gifts from us. We decided not to do too much, so she got a giraffe that glows and plays music, and a couple books, plus a stocking with some dollar store stuff.

I'd say she had a pretty good first Christmas. Next year when she's almost two will be really interesting!


Who is raising your children?

There is something that has been bothering me a lot lately. It's the phrase, "raising my own children" or any variation thereof, referring to parents who stay home with their children rather than use some sort of child care. This is usually only said by parents who can and do stay home, and even though I don't think it's meant to criticize parents who do use child care, I do think it is an offensive statement.

When I was much younger and long before children were even on my mind, a friend was preparing to have a baby. She was going to quit her job and stay home with her child. And she said to me, "I just don't want someone else raising my child." Even though children weren't even on the radar for me at that time, I remember being very uncomfortable with what she said. She was implying that anybody who does use child care is allowing others to raise their children. That they're not doing the job themselves. (And even though this isn't the point of my post, there were definitely undertones of, "And that's not good enough.") Now that I have a child, her statement bothers me even more. And lately I've seen or read similar words from other parents, and I'd like to advocate that we all stop saying it!

There are many things that bother me about this. First and foremost, I don't like the suggestion that by using child care, we are surrending the raising of our child to someone else. That is just such huge crap that I can't even come up with an eloquent way of saying it. It's horse crap! Raising children is so much more than caring for their basic needs or spending time with them. Raising children means shaping who they become. It means making all the decisions that influence how they grow up and what shapes them. It means choosing who they spend their time with, including who provides their care when we can't. My child care providers don't decide what Mo knows about spirituality or who her doctor is or whether she gets gifts from Santa or how much TV she watches or whether we take her to a pride parade or what to do if she is every bullied at school. We entrust them to be partners in her care, but we decide all of those things and make so many other impossibly hard choices, and daycare only helps us enforce them. That is what raising a child is, and I'm offended by anyone who implies that I'm letting someone else do that because I don't stay home with her. Even if that is not what they mean when they say it, that is what they are implying, and it is an ignorant statement that needs to stop.

Another thing that bothers me about that phrase is that it dismisses and ignores the privilege of choice. Some people have the choice to stay home, others do not. That's really just lovely that you have the OPTION, the CHOICE to stay home, but many parents don't, and you're basically saying, "Oh you both have to work full-time to make ends meet? That's too bad, I guess someone else will have to raise your kids for you." It's wonderful that some people want to stay home with their children and even more wonderful that they have the option to do that. But that is a privilege. A very big privilege that is not afforded many people. So please don't rub your privilege in my face by implying that you think I'm not raising my children because I have to work. 

And also, even some people who have the privilege of choice choose not to stay home. What does your phrasing suggest about them? It suggests that they had a choice to raise their kids on their own, and they chose not to. What is so very wrong about that is that their choice to work is not a choice to let someone else raise their kids. It's a choice to partner with someone else in the care of their children - a difficult choice that is part of the difficult job of raising children.

I fully recognize that most people who say "I'm staying home because I don't want someone else to raise my kids" or "It's important to use that we raise our own children" don't actually mean that because I work, I'm not doing the important work of parenting them and shaping who they become (though some do mean that, unfortunately). But I think it's imperative that we change that language, that we quit implying with our words that working parents who use child care - whether by choice or by circumstance - are somehow not parenting as hard or as well as those that stay home. Child care does not take the place of parenting or of child rearing. Child care is part (one of many parts) of the child rearing process, one of the many decisions parents make in raising their children to shape who they will be.

So please, I beg you, stop saying that you're home with your kids because you want to be the one to "raise them." Even if you don't mean anything about me and my circumstances (and the circumstances of all working parents who use child care) when you say it, please change your language. Instead, how about: "I stay home with my kids because I am privileged enough to have the choice to do so, and I made the decision to care for them full time rather than partner with someone else in their care."

I know that sounds all politically correct and crap, and why do we have to be so damn picky all the time? But language is important. One of the first steps to better understanding is to use the right language. Let's start there.

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