Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Lady with the Baby, Reprise

I realize I haven't written about any fall holidays, Abby's birthday,or Christmas.  In light of my last post, though, I'm inspired to write about an incident that happened about a month ago, right after Thanksgiving.  Festive posts to come soon!

Last February, I wrote a post about people's reactions to tiny babies. Maybe it's because Abby was/is particularly adorable and charming, but I suspect most people with small babies have people say these types of things to them.  It usually opens with something about how precious/adorable the child is, then sometimes follows up with some vaguely ominous warning about the future.  "They're cute until they start talking back."  "Just wait til she starts moving." "Can I trade my teenager in for her?" I usually just smile and nod, because what can you say?

The Sunday after Thanksgiving, Kevin and I went with friends to the Christmas tree lighting in Bel Air.  Afterwards, he, Abby and I had dinner at a local restaurant.  Sitting near us was a large group of what appeared to be an extended family, including two preteen girls.  Abby was being very charming (as usual), and was smiling and waving at everyone.  As we got up to leave, one of the mothers at the table turned to us to tell us how adorable Abby was.  I smiled graciously and thanked her, but then she added something unusual.

"It just keeps getting better and better," she said.  "My girls are so much fun.  Did you see that dance routine they did? (We had, and it was awesome.) They made that up while we were waiting in line to check out on Black Friday. People always tell you to enjoy while they're babies, but things are just so good now."

I thanked her.  It was so refreshing to have someone say this.  I had already sort of figured out that each stage has its own challenges and rewards, but to hear this offered up by a stranger was a gift.  I understand the message to "enjoy them now," but why does it so often have to be followed by, "...because you might not enjoy them later!" Which is more or less the implication.  I know my sweet girl might not always be sweet, but she'll always be MY girl and doing something wonderful.  Or developmentally appropriate that will eventually be something wonderful, in any case.  :)

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Best Christmas Gift

A little more than a year ago, we got the best early Christmas present.

Recently on Facebook, I posted this picture, comparing last Christmas to this Christmas:

and a friend of mine commented that she didn't get nostalgic for the early days with her kids, the way a lot of mothers do.  I replied that there are things here and there I get nostalgic about, but that, despite that precious photo from Christmas 2012, I am certainly not nostalgic about the newborn stage.  I'm reminded of a conversation I had with a pregnant friend - she said, "Birthing sounds horrible."  I paused, because in a way, birthing was horrible, but it was also wonderful (which is what I told her), because at the end, you get this incredible little person to fall in love with.  What is really horrible, I thought, hours after our conversation, is having a newborn. And the newborn stage lasts much longer than labor. I would have given birth two more times to skip the first month. But more on that another time.  Again, it's the same thing.  It's painful - in a different way than labor, for sure - but, in the same way, wonderful, because now I have a happy, playful, twelve-month old, who is a joy. And, in the grand scheme of parenthood, both labor and the early days are so fleeting.

So, while I don't long for those early days of two-hour stints of sleeping, one-hour nursing sessions, and forgetting to eat until 5PM, when I look at pictures from last Christmas, I am reminded of what a special time it was.  I remember feeling so blessed to have a family that brought Christmas to us so that we could focus on our new baby, and not have to miss the holiday.  So thankful to have plentiful hot food available, at least for a few days. On Christmas Eve, a light snow fell, and I remember hugging my sweet, eleven-day old baby to my chest, and looking out the window, feeling like everything was magical.  "This is Christmas," I thought.

And then, we tried to read The Night Before Christmas to Abby, which did not go nearly as magically as I'd imagined it would.  It ended with tears (Abby's and mine), and Kevin reading the book to his brother's dog, Stanley.

Stanley enjoyed it.  Things went a little more smoothly with Abby this year.

The point of this post?  To capture memories I didn't have the energy to get down last year, I guess, and a reminder to live in the moment with this little one, and be realistic about where we are and where we've been.  And to celebrate the blessing of our little girl and wonderful family!

A real Christmas post later!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Daddy's Little Girl

It should come as no surprise that Abby is "Daddy's Little Girl."  Really,every post about her could be titled, "Daddy's Little Girl."

Daddy and Abby on Fathers'  Day

It's fairly obvious.  After all, many, if not most, little girls are Daddy's Little Girl.

Daddy and Abby blowing raspberries, which is
After I took Abby's ten-month pictures the other day, I just took a few random shots of her laying on the blanket.  And, while I've always thought she looked more like her daddy, in a few of these, she CLEARLY looks just like her daddy.

This the only picture where I think she looks like me at all:

In the parking lot of the Bel Air Library. 

There's a bit of "Palm" in the smile. That's why it's one of my favorites.  I know she'll continue to come into her own look for awhile, yet.  No matter what she looks like, though, one thing is for sure.

At Annie's Playground

She'll always be Daddy's Little Girl.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Past and Future Travels

I've been looking for inspiration to write a post, lately, and was ready to just do a, "Look! Abby's Still Cute!" post (in case you're wondering: she is) but came across something tonight that rekindled an idea for something I've wanted to write about since January.  I wanted to write about what it was like, after giving birth.  How so many things, physically, mentally, and emotionally, were unexpected and unexpectedly hard.  And how it seems like no one talks about it.  Or, if they talk do talk about it, it just doesn't sink in to the expecting-parent brain, because it's clouded with gleeful anticipation for the coming bundle of joy.

That's not the post I want to write today, not entirely.  I have a laundry list of weirdo things that I experienced postpartum, and today I just want to touch the tip of the iceberg of one of them.  

Before I gave birth, I thought that I was probably predisposed to Postpartum Depression (PPD). I've never been Depressed (with a capital "D"), but have had bouts of melancholy and a little bit of a family history.  I wasn't too worried about it, though, because I knew I would be willing to get help.  Also, there's a difference between knowing intellectually that you might get Depressed after giving birth, and another actually going through it.  Having said that, I still don't think I had PPD, just a serious, lingering case of the "Baby Blues."

I'll write another time about how I cried at EVERY. THING.  One day, a brochure for Viking Cruises came in the mail (We get these all the time.  I don't know why.)  As Abby slept, I sat in the living room, flipping through the pages that described fanciful cruises through exotic European ports, and started sobbing.  We loved to travel.  What had we given up by having this baby?  We would never get to go on one of these cruises; never see these beautiful places.  I felt a tremendous sense of loss for our old life.

Tonight, I went into our craft room to find some thread, and I stumbled upon my travel journal.

Artsy picture taken at Cafe Cubano in San Francisco with a tasty cafecito on the side.
This is a blank book my friend Liz gave me for Christmas from a market in Budapest when we visited her grandma there in December 2000.  Since I had just finished six-weeks student-teaching in London and spending weekends traveling through Europe, I decided to use the journal to keep track of where I had traveled and wanted to travel.  

I still use it to make plans for our trips, listing attractions and restaurants I'd like to visit, then going back and making notes about what we thought about them.  I also include super-helpful things like this highly-accurate map of England and Scotland:

When I came across it tonight, I flipped through it and stopped at the last filled in page from our trip to Germany.

And it's funny, because Nuremburg wasn't even the last place we went.  Like so many things, time caught up with me and I never finished planning the trip. The rest of it just...happened, I guess.  No more notes.

And that's the last big trip we took.  Our Baby Moon to Amish Country didn't even rate a page heading.

And that made me a little misty-eyed.  Remembering that trip, and thinking, as I had when I perused the Viking Cruise Brochure, that it would be a long time before we'd have a trip like that, again.

Then, I glanced up, and on the desk I saw this box of holiday cards, with a bold message on the front:

The best is yet to be.  It is here now and it keeps coming.  For all the challenges, sacrifices and exhaustion, I am generally happier than I've been in a long time.  And, while Kevin and I might never be the same "Us" we were before, I'd like to think that we still have the "Best Us" ahead of us.

PS. Here is proof that Abby is still cute:

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Staying Busy and Sanity

It's hard to believe that Abby will be nine months old tomorrow!  Seems like she just turned eight months...

Eight months is a very serious age.

Ok, not that serious.

I initially felt a little bit at a loss when we got back from our Outer Banks vacation in July.  Having family around to play with Abby all the time sort of threw me off.  I realized that Abby and I were both ready for a routine.  We've slowly been developing one over the last two months, and I'm feeling pretty good about it, now.  Of course, it will probably change any day now, as Abby continues to change.

The main thing, for my sanity, is to make sure we have activities planned for everyday, and to make sure we get out almost everyday.  Being a stay-at-home mom in a world where most people aren't is very lucky, but can also be very lonely.  Getting out and about helps!  We try to go to Diaper Gang, a baby story time with rhymes and songs, at the Harford County Library every week. It's fun.  Abby seems to love it, and I get to talk to other mommies.  I've also joined a great online community, Chesapeake Mommies, that has a lot of useful forums and a fairly active activities calendar.  We go to as many play dates and activities as we can.  

Grocery shopping and lunch with Daddy on Thursday (usually).  La Leche League Breastfeeding Cafe at Wegmans second Monday of every month.  Free coffee with purchase of bulk beans at Coffee Coffee on Monday.  Not that I buy coffee beans every Monday, but you get the idea.

We've started going for a walk everyday, even if it's just to get the mail.  When it's hot, like it's been the last few days, we just go up to our mailbox and back (we have a very long driveway).  If it's nice, we'll do the whole street.

When the temperature hits the mid-80s, it means it's time for the baby pool!  It's a little easier to manage than taking her in the regular pool, and, in any case, we've been losing an algae battle for the past few weeks.  I fill the pool up in the morning during her nap, so the water has a chance to warm up, and make sure I set it in a place where there will be shade later in the day.

I had forgotten about her swing for a couple of weeks, but we've rediscovered it, and she loves it!

We also spend a lot of time in her Exersaucer and playing with her stacking rings.

I know the jig is about up, though, as she thinks about trying to move.  Which, she's not totally into just yet, but I know it's coming.  Mamas, any advice for entertainment once she gets going?

Any day now.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Abby Goes to the Beach

...well, a little anyway.  Abby's first beach vacation was a little light on the "beach," but full of fun and excitement!

About a month ago, we took our annual Ulmes family vacation to the Outer Banks.

Abby went to the beach for the first time, and dipped her toes in the ocean.  She wasn't a big fan, as you can see below.  But my parents tell me that when I was a wee one, I was scared of the ocean, too.  A wave snuck up and startled me, and I was supposedly afraid of the ocean for years. I don't remember ever being afraid of the ocean, though, so I apparently got over it, and I'm sure Abby will, too.

This new adventure wore her out, though.

She had a little more fun playing in the warmer, more sedate tide pool a few days later.

This wore Abby out, too.

We didn't spend nearly as much time at the beach as we normally do.  The Ulmes don't like to go to the beach in the middle of the day to avoid the sun's cancer-causing rays.  However, Abby tended to take her naps before and after peak sun-time.  So, it was hard to sneak in beach time before dinner time and bedtime.  Abby did manage to stay up late enough one night for us to get some beautiful sunset pictures at the dock near our house.

We're looking forward to next year when Abby will be able to go down to the beach more and have even more fun playing!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Swimming, Swimming... a swimming pool! 
When days are hot;
When days are cold;
In a swimming pool!

Breaststroke, side stroke,
Fancy diving, too!
Oh, wouldn't it be nice to have
Nothing else to do! 

That's just one of the many old Girl Scout songs we've been singing to Abby, and just two weeks ago, she got to actually go swimming!  I mean, as much as dipping a six-month old baby in a swimming pool counts as swimming.

Last summer, we had so much fun seeing our friends' daughter Daphne experience the pool for the first time.

Daphne loves the pool!
Abby is 13 months younger than Daphne, so she's almost the same age Daphne was at this time last year.  So, we were looking forward to Abby loving it just as much. Abby, on the other hand, was a little apprehensive.

Daphne, however, thinks it's even more fun this year.

She tried to give Abby a high-five for trying the pool, but seeing as how they are 19 months and 6 months old, respectively, it didn't quite pan out. "A" for effort, though.  Her heart was in the right place.

I wouldn't say Abby hated the pool, but she definitely wasn't the little water baby I was hoping for, like the one in this video:

Abby still needs to figure a few things how to move in the water, hold her breath, etc.  But not too bad for her first time in!

Maybe next year.  She did warm up after awhile, and even had some smiles by the end!

We hope to see Baby K in the pool by the end of the summer!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Abby's First Nom

As I mentioned in the Father's Day post, another first for that weekend was Abby's first solid food.  Or, as I like to call it, "The Day the Diapers Changed."  Only they really didn't, because she hasn't really eaten anything.  Much, anyway.

We're trying something called Baby-Led Weaning, or BLW.  In this case, "weaning" doesn't mean "weaning off of breast milk," but rather "weaning onto food."  The idea is that babies can handle appropriately sized and prepared whole foods and don't need to be spoon-fed purees.  It's supposed to foster independence and adventurous eating because baby chooses what she wants to eat and figures out how to eat it.  Something about it intrigues me, so we're giving it a go.  We're supposed to start with finger-shaped fruits and vegetables, because babies can pick them up and still have a bit to eat sticking out of their little fists.

We decided to start with pieces of avocado.  Nice and soft, and mild-flavored.

Abby was all ready!

I don't think she knew quite what she was ready for, though!  She didn't really acknowledge anything in front of her, at first, so I tried handing it to her. She just squished it in her fist.  Kevin's mom offered Abby a piece on her finger, which Abby seemed to enjoy.  After wiping her own mouth (really!), she picked up a more solid piece of avocado and gnawed on it.  I don't know how much she really ended up eating, though - I was unable to detect any evidence in the diaper! But that doesn't mean that she didn't get any - she did get to taste it, at any rate.  And, for now, food is all about exploration for her.

Since then, we've tried steamed broccoli (good because it has a handle!), cucumber, banana, steamed asparagus, and boiled potato.  She's not terribly interested in any of it.  She just looks at us, clearly wondering what happened to the toys we used to keep on her high chair tray during meals.  She was perfectly happy to stick those in her mouth and gnaw on them, but regards the foods much more warily.  It takes a lot of encouragement - like putting the food in her hand and guiding it to her mouth - to get her to try it.  She has seemed to enjoy gnawing on cucumbers and potatoes, and licking banana goo.  

I keep reminding myself of the mantra, "Food before one is just for fun."  I can't wait until she gets more interested and eats more voraciously!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

First Father's Day

Two weekends ago, we celebrated Kevin's first Father's Day.

Kevin's parents and brother came down.  It's always nice to have them visit, and they looove hanging out with Abby.

I texted this picture to Kevin, and his reaction? "Looks like Dad found the Murphy's!"
Abby's starting to distinguish between "Mommy" and "Daddy" and "Everyone Else," so it did take her a little bit to warm up to Grandma and Grandpa, this time.  She loves this little barking dog, though.  She had started to fake cough about a week earlier, and Grandpa swears that she fake coughs when the dog barks because she's trying to talk back to it.  Maybe!  And Grandma is certain that when she reads Moo Baa La La La that Abby sings along with the "la la la."  This is just one of the reasons why grandparents are awesome!

And, as far as fake coughing goes, Abby found it HILARIOUS when Grandpa fake coughed at her:

My favorite part is when Kevin tries it, and Abby just looks at him like, "What are you trying to do?" It's also great when she starts looking at Grandpa expectantly, her face asking,"Well?  Are you going to do it?"

Abby also tried her first solid food while the family was here!  That's a post for another time, though.  For the grown ups, Kevin's mom helped me make Pioneer Woman's Ribeye with Whiskey Cream Sauce.  Yum! The steak is done very simply, but the sauce is fantastic - and easy, too.  Abby just had some avocado - I hope she didn't feel cheated.

I, er, Abby got Kevin, his father, and his brother beautiful engraved pint glasses (you know, because none of them have enough pint glasses) that say "Dad," "Grandpa," and "Uncle" (respectively on each glass), "EST." and Abby's birth date.  I don't have a picture of the actual glasses, but I got them from Dustyroadgurl on Etsy.

From Dustyroadgurl's Etsy page
After Kevin's family had left, Abby gave one last Father's Day present - she sat without help for the first time!

She's getting to be such a big girl!  And sassy, too!

Definitely in a good way,