Friday, February 22, 2013

Ellie is one!

Okay, well technically, Ellie has been one. For about a month and a half now, actually. Oops! I was waiting to write about her first birthday until my brother finished her first video birthday, which I wanted to post here. But it is still in the works, and I can't wait any longer to share some pictures from her special celebration.

We (I) decided on a tea party theme for Ellie's party.  It was very delicate and lady-like, which has been the continuing theme of Ellie's name, sip and see party, and now birthday. I had a lot of fun planning it, although I learned the hard way that next year I need to start the planning a little earlier. With her birthday falling about two weeks after Christmas, I'm hoping to have the majority of the planning done for Ellie's second birthday in the fall, before the holiday business picks up.

I was able to use my Silhouette Cameo to hand-make most of the decorations-- the wreath, the happy birthday banner, the 12 month pictures banner, the flowers on the high chair, the fabric bunting, and the birthday onesie. Jason got me the Silhouette for last Christmas (2011), but since Ellie was born weeks later, I really didn't get much immediate use out of it. I pulled it out for my sister-in-law's baby shower in September, and then used it again for Ellie's birthday party decorations. I definitely got some good use out of that machine! 



Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dear Eleanor

I've held off writing this post for a while. For 13 months, actually.

I was afraid that if I wrote truthfully about my love for Eleanor, it would seem too over the top; that people might question my priorities or my love for Everett, or my husband, or for Jesus.

But I decided today that it would be a shame not to write a love letter to my baby girl, just because it would be too extravagant. I DO love her extravagantly, and I want her to know that.

So here goes.

Oh, my sweet Ellie-girl. You are it for me. There are days where I literally think (and tell your Daddy) that we can't have any more babies. We have to stop with you, because there's no way I could love another person as much as I love you. It fills up every crack and crevice of my being. 

I look forward to getting you out of your crib in the morning. I love how you murmur drowsily and pat my back until you wake up fully. Then you grin around your paci and point to everything in your room, asking, "Whas da? Whas da?" and we say good morning to your bookshelf, crib, lamp, and each of the pictures on your wall. 

Your name means "ray of light" and you so are! You are my sunshine baby. You have healed my heart in a way I wasn't sure (but hoped) was possible. I can't get enough of you. I want to bottle you up at every age and keep you forever: newborn Ellie; 4 month Ellie; 6 month Ellie; 10 month Ellie (!!!); 13 month Ellie. I try to commit every grin, every expression, every roll, every sound, every finger and toe, to memory, because I can't bear to forgot! Your Daddy and Uncle James have done a great job of documenting your first year through photographs. As I looked back on them all to make an Ellie's First Year book for your grandmas, I couldn't believe all the subtle changes you've gone through: your face has slimmed and lengthened, losing it's baby roundness. Your hair has fallen out and come back in, and is starting to curl against the nape of your neck. Your gummy smile now showcases five (almost six!) beautiful little teeth. You're growing way too fast. The saying is true: the days are long, but your first year was way too short. 

There are days when all I do is tell you that you are such a doll baby, and kiss you a million times: your cheeks; your ears; your sweet head; your chubby, sticky hands; your crooked toes; your round little baby belly; your ticklish neck. I have to kiss you a million times! I didn't realize how much I was doing it until a friend said, "You must love that baby-- you kiss her all the time!" It's true. Sometimes it gets on your nerves. You'll take my face in both of your hands, look me in the eyes, and push my face away. It's like you're saying, "Mom. Enough." Okay, Ellie, I get it. *sigh* I just can't get enough of you. 

I'm thankful for you every minute of the day.  I love being home with you-- LOVE IT! And while I am beyond-words-thankful for both of your grandmothers, who regularly come to play with you so I can run errands or get my hair cut, I love the look in your eyes when you realize I'm back.  I snatch you up,  and my heart swells when you lay your head on my shoulder and pat my back. I have to hold myself back and clench my jaw to keep from squeezing the breath out of you. I'm your favorite person, and you're mine. 

You are my little serious baby. When we go somewhere unfamiliar, or with large crowds, you grip my shirt with your pudgy little hand, and I rub your back and remind you that I'm here; mama's got you. I took you to the Botanical Gardens last week, and as we sat in the grass in front of the pond, watching the geese, you didn't move. You kept your hand on my leg and just took note of your surroundings for about ten minutes. I guess you decided the grass was safe, because after that, you were all over the place! It always takes you a little bit to warm up, so strangers often assume you're withdrawn. I'm okay with the fact that you don't light up for everyone; although, funnily enough, you are very quick to wave "bye-bye" to strangers-- ha! 

I am over the moon that you have learned to give kisses! But you are sneaky with them. Today, you wouldn't give me kisses ONE time! Instead, you put your finger in my nose and mouth repeatedly, and cocked your head at me like you didn't understand what I was asking. But as soon as Daddy came home, you were giving kisses away like they were candy. Maybe you have two favorite people. 

I love, love, love you my darling Eleanor Pearl. I'm thankful for your sweet life; thankful you're a girl; thankful for the healing you have brought to your daddy and me.  I will never stop loving you. 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

New Trick

At almost thirteen months (can't believe I just typed that!), Ellie is getting into more and more "not for Ellie" things everyday. She *loves* to root through her diaper bag, mostly, I think, because she knows I keep an extra lovey (her fave blanket) and pacis in there. She usually just pulls things out until she finds a paci and her lovey, then goes on about her business-- you know, chasing the cat, pulling DVDs off the shelf, and playing her cat piano Jerry-Lee-Lewis-style.

Yesterday afternoon, I was finishing up an email on my laptop, when things got eerily quiet. I leaned over the side of the couch, and there was Ellie, perusing the contents of the diaper bag, as usual. Only this time I learned that she is fully capable of unzipping Mommy's purse, and enjoying it's contents as well. I think the pictures tell it better than I can.

"Oh hey, Mom! Just checking on my lip gloss situation..."
"That looks perfect! The taste is iffy, though."

"Looking good!"

"You're okay with this, right?"

And I guess I was, because as usual, I made sure to get some good pictures before getting my favorite lipstick (shiny tube in her right hand, Clinique's Bamboo Pink if you were wondering) out of her reach! 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What Up, January!

It's January 30, and since one of my 2013 goals was to return to blogging a bit more regularly, I decided it probably wouldn't be the best start if I let January go by without a single entry!

Even though I think about my blog and subjects to blog about pretty often, I have a hard time carving out the time to sit down and write an entry. It's hard for me to find the balance between living my life and blogging my life. I'm sure a lot of bloggers (and pseudo-bloggers, like me) struggle with that. Hopefully, 2013 will be a year of semi-regular blog posts!

In the spirit of fresh starts, I made a list of goals for myself for 2013. I'm not really one for resolutions, but I decided goal-setting was a good way to establish direction and expectations for myself. Here are my 2013 goals, broken down by sub-categories (don't hate, it's the teacher in me):

Read at least two books a month
Wake up early consistently
Finish going through “Healthy Homemaking
Finish going through “8 Weeks to Declutter
Complete the Couch to 5K program (is it sad that this is one of my goals? ha!)
12 DIY projects (1 per month) 
Create and maintain a homemaking binder
Create and follow a housework schedule

Go on at least one date a month
Go on one marriage retreat/conference
Read two marriage books together

Night wean Ellie (DONE!) 
Daily devotions with Ellie
Read to Ellie for 20 minutes every day

Send 2 encouraging notes per month
See Amy’s face at least once per month
Send cards for all family birthdays and anniversaries
Coffee/GNO with two in-town friends per month (one church, one non-church)
Have a family in our home for dinner at least once a month

Continue to give at least 10% every month
Stay in budget every month
Continue to save for a down payment towards a new house
Give generously to needs in our community & around the world, as God prompts us

Read through the Bible chronologically
Memorize Philippians
Complete the January Hello Mornings Challenge 

So there you have it. I tried to make my goals measurable and realistic. Also, I realized that I needed this list printed out and tucked into my planner for reference; it's no good setting goals if you can't remember what they are! 

Did you make any goals for 2013? 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

18 Months

Thursday marked 18 months since our sweet Everett silently entered the world.  I took Ellie with me to Valhalla, the cemetery where he is buried.  I still don't know how I feel about the cemetery.  I know, for some, it's a very special place.  Other women have written about how God speaks to them at the cemetery, how He meets them in prayer, and how special a place it is for them.  Every time I go, I try to conjure up those feelings, but I just can't.

I do try to keep Everett's grave looking nice; although, admittedly, too many months passed between my visit last week and the one before.  I am resolved not to let that happen again.  Still, tending his plot is the only way I can physically mother him.

But I hate it.  I hate that there are bugs there.  I hate that his stone gets dirt caked on it.  I hate that the flowers I put out are always dirty and faded when I return.  I hate that the one physical place I have for him is outside, exposed to the elements and creatures.  Most of all, I hate that he is there, and not with me.

And yet, I know he isn't really there, either.

A girl that Jason used to go to church with lost her third baby last week.  She had already suffered two miscarriages, and was 18 weeks pregnant with a baby girl that she and her husband were so ready to bring home.  Sadly, they will not.  When another friend told me, it literally made my stomach turn.

I felt myself yelling at God in my heart. "Why do you let this happen???  Don't you see what's going on down here??? Do you even CARE?!?!?"

And even in my anger, I felt Him gently speak to my heart... Of course He sees, and of course He cares.

God, too, knows what it's like when your child dies.  And the death of God's son is the foundation for all my hope, all my joy, all my love, and my perseverance in the knowledge that this life is not the end.

So today, even in the midst of pain and longing, I am choosing to be thankful for life: the resurrected life of Jesus, the physical life of my family, and the eternal life that will reunite me with my baby boy and the glory of God.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Hello Mornings!

I'm sure I don't have to explain to anyone that having a baby basically turns your life inside out.  I've been at home (as in, not working a paying job) since June 2011 which is right when we found out we were pregnant with Ellie.  So, I had nine months to fall into routine, and decide how I wanted to shape my days.

And then the long-awaited and planned-for baby was born.  And it all went out the window.

Now that Ellie has really settled into a routine, and actually pretty much put herself on a schedule, I decided it was time for me to do the same.

See, I *want* to be a morning person.  I really do.  I had to be up at 5:45 when I was teaching, so I'm no stranger to waking up early.  But it's different when you know you *have* to be up, versus when you're getting up for yourself.  At least, it's different for me.

I've decided that I am pretty much worn out by 10 pm anyway, and I need to just make myself go to bed instead of wasting time on the Internet.  The problem is that Jason is definitely a night owl.  He can think, accomplish things, and generally be productive at 11 pm, whereas I can only mindlessly click through Pinterest at that point.  He also has a very hard thinking before 9 am.  Seriously, he can barely talk to me in the mornings.

So up until this week, I'd just been staying up with him and waking up for the day whenever Ellie woke up, typically around 7-7:30.  But I had really been struggling with feeling like I wasn't as productive as I needed to be.  My devotions were scattered and haphazard.  It was after lunch a lot days before I really felt ready to tackle the day (showered, dressed, Bible study, basic chores done, etc.).

And then I came across Kat at Inspired to Action and the Hello Mornings Challenge.

From the website:

"The HelloMornings Challenge was birthed to encourage Christian women toward the life-giving habit of waking up early.             
Inspired by the (free) ebook, Maximize Your Mornings, thousands of women from all over the world who have joined the challenge. Through our tri-annual online community groups, these women are inspired to action as they receive encouragement and accountability.

                Our hope is that over time HelloMornings participants will:

               1. experience quality time with God
               2. intentionally plan their days
               3. and exercise regularly

               —all before the day gets going! God. Plan. Move."

One of the things Kat challenges women to do when they start the HM Challenge is to make it public.  Hence, the reason for this post! 

The challenge started on Monday, and will run through November.  I'm only two days in, and taking baby steps to waking up earlier, but so far it's going really well.  I like waking up and taking time to have a cup of tea and read my Bible, versus waking up to Ellie crying over the monitor (that's right, she sleeps in her crib all night these days! Small victories!).  I'm part of a small accountability group on Facebook, and every morning I check in there to say that I'm up, and again when I'm finished reading, exercising, and planning.  

Maybe you already rock the mornings.  Maybe mornings are your thing.  If that's you-- congratulations, and I am jealous. ;)  But if you could use some direction in this area, I encourage you to go check out Inspired to Action and the Hello Mornings Challenge.  The groups are all filled up at this point, but you can still download the resources (the Maximize Your Mornings ebook is really great!) and participate via Twitter and the #hellomornings hashtag.  Even if you're not a morning person, you just might like it!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

VA/MD Trip

We are home from our visit to Virginia and Maryland! Jason, Ellie, my mom and I left last Thursday afternoon, spent the night in Wytheville, VA, and then finished our drive on Friday to my aunt's house in Hague.  We spent a few days visiting with my Aunt Julia, cousins, and their plethora of animals (geese,  ducks, chickens, horses, cats, and a pretty Collie named Lady), and then headed to Maryland to visit with my grandparents.

All in all, it was an awesome trip! Between taking the 13 hour drive in two days and my mom riding in the backseat with Ellie, the car ride was much more bearable than I thought it would be.  The only thing I would have done differently would be to have switched Ellie to a convertible car seat.  Though she still fits in her infant carrier (and will for about 13 more pounds), she gets very warm when she has to be in it for extended periods of time.  Still, she handled the car ride (and the majority of the trip) really well.

My cousin Lucy (8 years old) was *very* happy to meet Ellie.  She held Ellie at every opportunity, and wanted to sing her to sleep every night.  Our second evening there, she asked me, "So... when I'm done singing Ellie to sleep, would you like me to just put her in her bed?"  Haha!

We got in a little sightseeing (George Washington's birthplace, Annapolis, Whole Foods--ha!) and a lot of wonderful family time.  Ellie gave her sweet smiles freely, and charmed everyone she meet (including lots and lots of strangers, everywhere we went).  It was a great visit, but we're happy to be home! (Leia really missed us!)

Ellie and Great Grandpa, having an intellectual discussion

Ellie loves Cecilia!

Ellie *really* loves Sophie the Giraffe. 

Redneck baby on the beach

Ellie and Griffin got along splendidly.  He enjoyed licking her toes!

Ellie and Aunt Cynthia

Happy baby!

Ellie and cousin Megan

"Hey Griffin, what's up?"

Enjoying lunch at Carol's Creek in Annapolis

We even managed to take her 28 week picture-- she's so big!