Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dear Mia, Part 15

Well, gosh, I started writing this back at the end of March... 7 months ago. This is what I wrote then:

Mia, we just celebrated your 3rd birthday, and I hope it was as fun for you as it was for me. If the last few weeks are any indication of what your 3rd year will be like, I can't wait to see what's to come. The wild, erratic, tantrum-throwing toddler has turned into a hilarious, energetic, well-behaved kid.

I try to tell you as often as I can what a GOOD girl you are. You no longer scream the whole time we're grocery shopping. You sit patiently in waiting rooms without me having a bag full of distractions. Meal times are no longer a battleground. You go to bed at night without getting up 15 times before morning, and you rarely take naps anymore, but you play independently in your room for an hour or so in the afternoons, usually without too much intervention.

For your birthday I tried to fit in as much fun for you as I could. When I asked you what you wanted for lunch if you could eat anything, you told me you wanted a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but I convinced you maybe french fries were a loftier goal, so we got you a McDonalds Happy Meal and you sat on the living room floor watching Frozen while eating it. Afterward we went to Build-a-Bear because there is just nothing you love more in this world than stuffed animals. It was perfect for you, filling a puppy dog with stuffing, bathing it, picking out an outfit for it. Then we went to the merry-go-round in the mall, because that's probably your second favorite thing in life. We made cupcakes and had grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner. Then the following day we had your birthday party at Bounce-it-Out. Every single one of your favorite people came, all your cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents, neighbors and friends. It was just so awesome to see you so happy, holding hands with one friend while jumping, then going down a giant slide on a cousin's lap.

You are obsessed with the movie Frozen right now. You love Olaf, the snowman, and often wonder aloud if perhaps he will visit us one day. I made you a snowman a few weeks ago, which you named Olaf and then spent a good 30 minutes talking to and trying to feed. When you accidentally knocked him over, tears were shed. You can sing along with the entire soundtrack, and you do multiple times a day into your toy microphone, with much emotion. And this may be our first foray into the world of loving princesses, because you LOVE Princess Anna. I was beginning to think we might bypass all of that, but it seems not.

2 and a half was a rough age for me, and our family was in a big transition, but I finally feel like I've got my fun little sidekick back.

You really are better with your sister than I could have ever imagined. A lot of the time you are just indifferent to her, but you pick toys up for her when she drops them, you often crouch down on the floor with her to kiss on her and talk to her. Most impressive is that her crying doesn't bother you. We've gone through a rough patch with her sleeping so we've been hearing her scream a lot lately, and miraculously it doesn't seem to fray your nerves as it does mine, and often you sleep right through it.

And now, you are 3 1/2, and I don't even know where to begin!

You started pre-school in September and you LOVE it. You only go 2 mornings a week, but you ask every day if it is a school day. You are making your own friends, and I am just so excited for you to have your own little life separate from me, to see how your personality flourishes all on its own. You are so very outgoing, running up to your classmates to give them long, awkward hugs (we're working on that) and telling your teachers all about things going on in your life. You ask cashiers in stores what their names are, and then introduce them to your little sister. You are so confident and self-assured, and I hope that nothing ever puts a damper on that.

You take a dance class on Saturdays where you do tap and ballet and you do a little class after pre-school on Tuesdays called Sporty Sprouts where you are introduced to a bunch of different sports. You love both. You look a swim class through the Y this summer and it was amazing to see how much more comfortable you became in the pool just over the course of 7 or 8 weeks.

You love your sister. You are desperate for her to learn to play with you, and it's happening slowly. She'll laugh manically as you run circles around her in a toddler version of "chase." You guys hug and kiss each other, but also push each other out of the way to sit on my lap.

We have our rough days, where you fall apart over little things and don't want to use your words. But mostly you are funny and smart and inquisitive. You ask SO. MANY. QUESTIONS. I told you earlier today that Gracie watched Sesame Street while you were at school and then had to answer 300 questions about what episode it was, what Elmo was singing about, etc. etc. etc.

We had lots of fun this summer. We took a trip with my side of the family to the Outer Banks in North Carolina and you had so much fun. Every day you played in the ocean and the pool and the sand and every night we had a slumber party with your cousins. It was such a great week.

We also visited the zoo, a few farms to pet the farm animals, the pool at Camp Arrowhead, the museum, every playground in a five mile radius, and spent every afternoon out in our yard.

We moved in April to a bigger house, and you adapted quickly, only sad about leaving behind our neighbor Kassie whom you used to play with every day. But you have made a new friend down the street who is about a year younger than you, named Molly. And you love the swing set we inherited in our yard.

You love to make up songs and dress up in crazy outfits. You love to play with your play kitchen making me wild concoctions of foods. You love to draw and paint and read and do puzzles.

Halloween is next week and you are going as Ladybug Girl. I love that the last two years you have chosen to be characters from books.

Oh Mia, I know it's probably cliche to say, but you are a joy. When we are at your school or the library and you are chattering away or singing and dancing without a care, people always notice you -you are the absolute opposite of a wallflower - and I am SO PROUD that you are mine. I wonder a million times a day where the heck you came from. You certainly didn't get this outgoing personality from me. But, man, I think it's amazing. Sure, the flip side is you can get awfully sassy, but I honestly wouldn't have it any other way. Your mama thinks you are one of the coolest people in the world, and I hope you always know that.

Favorite Shows: Strawberry Shortcake, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, Paw Patrol
Favorite Movies: Frozen, Rio
Favorite Color: Purple
Favorite Songs: Let it Go (Frozen), Boom Clap (Charli XCX), Fancy (Iggy Azalea)
Favorite Foods: Sweets, yogurt, bagels & cream cheese, fruit snacks
Favorite Books: Elephant & Piggie books, Ladybug Girl books, Fancy Nancy books

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Dear Gracie, Part 4

Oh Grace Louise, you are 10 months old already. Where has the time gone? Before I know it we'll be celebrating your first birthday, and I have not recorded nearly enough of your first year.

I started writing this, I think, when you were about 5 months old. I wrote the following two paragraphs:

"When I pick you up out of your highchair or take you from someone else's arms you put your hands around my neck and bury your face in my collar bone in a little baby hug, and it is the most wonderful thing in the whole world. You don't do it to your dad or anyone but me, oh, and I think it is one of my favorite things you do.

When I carry you around on my hip going about daily activities - putting laundry away, getting snacks for your sister - you periodically stop me by putting your little hands on my face until I look at you. Then you lock eyes with me and smile, and I stop whatever I'm doing to take in that moment. It's like you need to be reassured that it's really mommy carting you around. You're a pretty happy baby, quiet a lot, but you always let us know when you need some attention."

Then I believe I gave up.  

We moved when you were almost 6 months old, and you didn't sleep for the first 8 months of your life. So those are my excuses. That and you needed to be held and bounced constantly for the first 3 months of your life.

You were a very difficult newborn. Lordy, you were. But the clouds seem to have parted and here you are a cheerful little baby who crawls like the dickens and climbs on anything within reach. The way I describe you is that you are a very happy baby... until you're not. Because you are quite content most of the time, but when something is wrong you protest loudly and furiously until it is corrected. A doormat, you are not.

You started crawling and pulling yourself to standing at about 8 1/2 months. I've tried to coax you into taking steps, but you are so proficient with crawling I wonder if you might be a late walker.

We took a trip to the Outer Banks in early July, and I was excited but also terrified. Terrified of how you would handle being in the car for 14 hours (which was about as bad as I expected) and terrified that you would keep everyone awake all night with your screaming. While the first few nights were rough because you did not like sleeping in the same room with mommy and daddy, after we moved things around so you could have your own room, it was gravy.

And you loved the beach. You loved being around your cousins. You loved the pool. You loved the waves, and you loved sitting in the sand. I was worried you would just sit and shovel the sand into your mouth, but you were pretty content to dig.

You are not at all a snuggly baby. Your sister is, and always will be my snuggly child, but you never stop moving long enough to cuddle. I'm now only nursing you in the morning and before bed (and you take 2 bottles of formula during the day - more on that later), and I think I'll miss nursing when we're done because it's the only time you'll lie in my arms.

When you were about 7 months old I took you to the doctor (several times) because you were such a terrible sleeper I was sure something must be wrong with you. We found out you were dropping and dropping in the weight percentiles (at the lowest, you were in the 7th percentile), and perhaps you were just really hungry! You never liked to be spoon fed baby food and you often got too distracted to nurse much. So we started forcing bottles of formula on you and letting you have your way with finger-feeding yourself, and suddenly you started gaining better and sleeping better. And you do love to eat! Your favorite is probably macaroni and cheese and you love fruit - blueberries, strawberries, banana, pear, cantaloupe. You probably eat more than your sister.

You babble all the time. We think you really call daddy, "dada," your sister, "sis," and the cats, "didi." I've heard you a few times utter the word, "mama," usually when you are in distress and I comfort you.

You aren't big on strangers. When we went to Aunt Amy's wedding a few weeks ago I was so stressed out about leaving you with Aunt Penny's friend. But you did so much better than I could have expected. You just have to warm up to people. And if I am around while a "stranger" is holding you, they don't ever stand a chance. You are a mommy's girl.

People often ask me if you adore your sister. You do, but it's different than I thought it would be. You definitely want to be where ever she is and want to steal whatever she is playing with, but it's almost like you see Mia as an extension of yourself. You don't light up at her presence. You see her as an equal, essential part of you, like, "oh, of course, there's my sister, my other half." And Mia does adore you. She can't keep her hands off of you. I guess that's the downfall of having such a cuddly sister.
She'll try to make you cuddly too!

You dance to music and attempt to do the hand motions for songs like The Itsy Bitsy Spider. You take the lotion bottle and imitate rubbing lotion on your legs or steal a hair brush to brush your hair. You have 7 teeth and hair that hangs in your eyes unless I put it in a pony tail on top of your head. You love to play with balls and to put things into containers. You love to climb and swing and swim.

You are just such a sweet, happy little baby. This is really my favorite, favorite baby age, and I just want to bottle you up exactly as you are right now and keep you for always. I couldn't imagine having another little girl. I expected you to be exactly like your sister, but you are so so different and somehow fit like a puzzle piece into our family, into a spot I didn't even know needed filling, and I can't imagine life without you. My Gracie, my perfect little baby.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Dear Gracie, Part 3

Gracie, you are 4 months old today. I can't believe a third of a year has passed. I feel like you've always been here.

You are such a sweet, happy baby. The colic has passed and underneath it all was this smiling, squealing little girl. You are a quiet baby, for now you let your sister make all the noise. You coo and squeal when she takes a breath. But you always let your needs be known. You have the most annoying whine in all the land.

You seem to just want to get up and run off. I have a feeling you will be the child quietly scaling the furniture. You love to sit up and stand up, and love bouncing in your Jumperoo.

You have bright, sparkly eyes, and strangers stop me to comment on your hair. Your hair is one of my favorite things in life. It just sticks straight up from your head in all directions, except in the back where it's getting quite long and you have a bald spot on the back of your head.

I hit a wall about a month ago where I just could not physically handle rocking you to sleep 10 times a day. You were only napping at 45 minute stretches and you weren't (aren't) sleeping through the night, so I felt like I was spending my whole day bouncing and rocking you. I took you to the doctor who told me it was time to let you cry-it-out. I hadn't planned to do that so young (we didn't with Mia until she was 6 months old), but we both needed it. You are now napping better, although the nighttimes are still the same as they ever were. At this point I don't even know what it's like to sleep through the whole night anymore. But at least you put yourself back to sleep. I know it's a good thing, but it also makes me sad not to have a sleeping baby in my lap. I often rocked Mia to sleep until she was almost 2, but I guess that's the breaks of being the second child, I don't have all day to sit with a sleeping baby anymore.

You are a tall, skinny baby, but finally getting some meat on you. I love a fat baby, so it's delightful to see your chubby legs and rounding belly.

I worked hard to get Mia on a schedule early, but you are resistant to a schedule. Some days you wake at 5am ready for the day, some days you sleep until 8:30. It makes getting out of the house hard. I always wondered if I was too strict with Mia's schedule, but now I realize that it wasn't just me, I think she needed/wanted a schedule and I could sense that, whereas you don't seem to need that structure just yet.

Oh Gracie, you are just such a sweet little girl, nuzzling into my shoulder when I pick you up out of your crib. I just love watching you try to figure the world out around you. I spend lengths of time studying your hands and grabbing at toys. You are inquisitive and happy and such a sweetheart. You fill some space in our family I didn't even realize was missing. 

Dear Mia: Part 14

Here you are, a few weeks from being 3. I have started this entry twice before, and now here we are 6 months after the last entry.

I started this entry once when things were in a very bad place, when I was very pregnant with your sister and you were acting out in ways I had never seen before. You found out how to push your boundaries and you've been pushing ever since. And now you are 35 months old, and our days are a pendulum swinging wildly between a sweet, smart cherub and an attention-starved, rage-driven demon. This stage of parenting calls on so much more mental stamina than ever before. I see the stark contrast between the physical stamina I must practice with your infant sister; the sleep deprivation, the learning to do everything with only one hand while carrying a baby. I can do that all day long without breaking a sweat. But you, you are calling upon every inch of my patience and intellect to keep up with you. I cannot just react. It is no longer just muscle memory with you. Oh, and it is hard, and some days I don't think I'm cut out for it. Some days you spend more time in time-out than out of it. Some days I think I've screwed this all up. You just seem to wander around the house like a wrecking ball doing naughty things.

But still, I look at you, really look at you, a dozen times a day and listen to your little voice that still can't pronounce the letter "R," and I remember that you are just a tiny little girl. That I have to guide you. That you are learning from every move I make, nothing is lost on you, that I have to be the very best example of a human being for you. It's so much to live up to. But then we have really good days where you just blow my mind with how smart, polite, kind, sweet and funny you can be. And I think maybe, just maybe I'm not doing too bad.

You love to sing and dance, making up songs all day. You are obsessed with Katy Perry's Roar and watching you sing and dance along with this song makes my heart want to burst out of my chest. You request I play Roar, Darius Rucker's Wagon Wheel and Pharrell's Happy on repeat (we've finally moved far enough past Christmas that you've stopped requesting "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas").

You have done better with your new little sister than I could have ever imagined. Thankfully any frustration you have about not having my full attention has been directed at me and not at her. You do sometimes act out the second I turn my back to tend to her. When she was first born you were adamant that she was NOT coming home with us, but you are so so sweet with her now. You sing to her when she cries and love to show her toys. As expected you can get a little rough with her, smothering her with kisses or yanking on her arms and legs like she's a doll. 

You NEVER. STOP. TALKING. I'm serious. Never. This alone doesn't drive me bonkers, but the fact that you MUST get a response from someone about everything you say is maddening. And often you're talking over me giving the appropriate response, so you repeat yourself. 

You are human velcro most days. Every 10 minutes you are asking me to cuddle with you on the couch and then you are climbing on top of me wiggling up under my arms, sticking fingers in my face. All day long you are asking your dad and me to play with you, but playing with you means we basically just let you boss us around for as long as we can stand. Having a tea party means we must only drink our tea when you instruct, we must repeat certain phrases you shout at us, and do voices for various stuffed animals. What I'm trying to say is, you like things done a certain way, sometimes we have no idea what that "way" is until you are screaming it at us.

A few months ago I got to take you to a local library to meet the characters from your favorite books - Gerald and Piggie from Mo Willems' Elephant & Piggie books. You were bursting with excitement. You requested to wear your halloween costume so you could look like Gerald. There were only a few other children there, so you stole the show. You sat on a little couch while a librarian brought you books on command so you could read to Gerald and Piggie. You recited the books much to the librarians glee and pointed to an illustration of Piggie exclaiming "That's you, Piggie!" I stood there watching you, camera in hand, with a smile so wide I thought my face might crack in half. The librarian tried to engage me in conversation and I couldn't even speak, I was afraid I might burst into tears. It was like taking a princess-loving girl to Disney World. It was your dream come true. And this is the kind of heart-bursting joy I did not know (and find it hard to explain) before you came along. Of course now you think every character you love from books, movies and TV is real and going to come over for a playdate, but I just love your imagination.

We celebrated Christmas a few months ago. It was an exhausting day as you chose to get up in the night 4 times the night before, but it was so awesome to see your excitement about it. I think next year will be even better as you really understand it more and more.

We sold our house a few weeks ago and will be moving in April. I am so excited to get into a bigger space, but also sad about leaving this home which has always been your home. I get teary thinking about the fact that you may not even remember this place, but you've already picked out your room in the new house and we talk a lot about moving and taking all of our things with us.

I signed you up to start preschool in the fall. I'm so excited for you to start a new adventure. You are having separation anxiety I never expected however. We joined the YMCA a few months ago and the first time I took you to the Child Watch area so I could exercise, I left thinking you wouldn't miss me at all. When I came back the women there told me you had cried the whole time, only stopping when one of them sat and read books with you. The second time I brought you, you were so set on not crying that you sat at a table and colored one piece of paper with one crayon the whole time I was gone. I guess it's progress, but I was so surprised by your reaction. You seem so fearless and independent, and have never been particularly shy or a mommy's girl. It made my heart break and burst at the same time, but I have so much confidence that you will overcome it.

Favorite movie: Madagascar
Favorite TV show: Doc McStuffins, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
Favorite color: Purple
Favorite food: Sweets, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, bagels and cream cheese
Favorite song: Roar by Katy Perry
Favorite Book: Any Elephant & Piggie book

You love to color, paint, and read. You love horses, and animals in general. You are 95% potty trained, but sometimes use "accidents" as an attention-seeking device. You are still an maddeningly picky eater. You love breakfast food, but for dinner you often eat nothing, even if I make something you usually like. You don't like pizza for goodness sakes! You are still not into princesses or dolls. We took you to see Frozen a few weeks ago and your favorite character was Olaf, the snowman.

I can't believe you are almost 3. It's such a cliche, but it really feels like it was just yesterday that I was pregnant with you, dreaming about what life would be like as a mom. You are just the most amazing, beautiful, sassy, exuberant little girl I've ever met, and I am so so proud to be your mom.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

2013 Books

It's only the second week of January and I'm already posting about what I read last year! (Here's my 2012 list) I read a lost less than I did in 2012, so now I'm ready to hunker down with my Kindle and read a ton in 2014.

1. The Girls by Lori Lansens 
I just liked this book. It took me the first half to really get into it at all, but by then there were a lot of allusions made but never any payoff. I understand that in life things don't get wrapped up in tidy packages, but in works of fiction I usually think they should. I did really love the main characters, they were all so fleshed out and rich (especially the aunt and uncle).

2. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Dark and gritty and nightmarish. I pretty much saw where it was going from the beginning, but I couldn't put it down. For what it's worth I want Amanda Seyfried to de-age 10 years and play Amma in a movie version of this.

3. Let The Great World Spin by Collum McCann 
Another one I just had a hard time getting into. A lot of people loved this, and there were parts I loved too, but quite honestly the parts about the tight rope walker - the parts that tied all the stories together - could have actually been cut out completely. I skimmed a lot of that.

4. The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
My dad recommended this. I need to stop taking his recommendations, I think. He thought it was hilarious. I thought it was just meh.

5. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
I think this was my favorite Flynn novel. It was definitely dark and probably more gory than the other two. I couldn't read it before bed or I woke up in the night convinced someone was in my house with an axe, but, uh, I loved it. The story was complex and engrossing, and I loved the way it wove together the present and the past. The main character reminded me a bit of Lisbeth Salander, and at first the story reminded me a little of something Chuck Palahniuk would write, but it was definitely Flynn.

6. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
Light, quick, chic-lit. But also made me think. I enjoyed it. Had a satisfying ending.

7. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
I really loved this, but I'm having a hard time remembering why, so maybe that's a strike against it. I was worried it would be all about baseball, but it's not at all. 

8. Waiting for Birdy by Catherine Newman
Such a perfect read while I was pregnant with my second baby. She writes to and about her children and about becoming a mother the way I only wish I could. I copied down many passages and have reread them again and again.

9. Where'd you go Bernadette? by Maria Semple
Another quick, light, chic-lit read. 

10. Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld
Am I the only one who was underwhelmed by this? The problem is that I will compare everything Sittenfeld writes to the perfection that was Prep and this does not measure up, mainly because I found Kate to be unrelatable (the complete opposite from the main character in Prep).

I didn't really get engrossed until halfway through and then all the action really happens in the last 15% of the book and it felt so rushed. It felt like that entire 15% of the book was written in the manner of an epilogue.

11. Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
So poignant. I only wish I could think and write like Strayed. Another one I copied passages from to reread later. 

12. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell 
Loved it, just like every other female on the planet. 

13. Divergent, 14. Insurgent, 15. Allegiant by Veronica Roth
I had heard people say they thought these books were even better than Hunger Games. I whole-heartedly disagree. One thing I loved about Hunger Games was that each book could kind of stand on its own. The Divergent series was just one long (reeeeealllly looooong, each book was much longer than it really needed to be [see also: Twilight]) story. By the middle of Allegiant I was pretty sick of the Tris/Tobias love story. They had a few moments of hot and heavy and I'm supposed to believe they are "meant to be"? They spent more time "off" than "on," and I was not at all invested in their romance. I felt like I really had to power through Allegiant. Perhaps it's because I read them all back to back, but there was so much information and so many characters I thought that would help me to remember what was going on. I also didn't like how Roth wrote from two character's perspectives in the last book which she hadn't done previously. It was quite confusing, especially since (to me) they didn't have clear, separate voices. I do look forward to seeing the movie though, so it's not that I didn't like these books (obviously, I read all 3), I just enjoyed Hunger Games more. 

16. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Loved it even more than E & P. Rowell just writes so perfectly about first love. It took me right back to my college dorm room with my college boyfriend. Cath was quite a frustrating character, but I'm sure I was at 18 too.