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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ellowyn is 11 months (and one day)

Ellowyn is 11 months old!  It's strange how it feels like she has always been here.  I can't seem to remember life without her.

A few weeks back, she went through a month-long phase of getting sick.  She caught one thing right after another for four weeks solid.  It was miserable.  But since then, she's been much better.  She's now sleeping 12 hours straight through at night, no night wakings, and also taking one nap a day for an hour and a half.  This has taken some work and time to achieve, but it puts her on the same sleep schedule as her sister, which is SOOOO nice.  She's eating like a trucker; I have to plan extra food for her at every meal (as opposed to Mira at this age, who could just share a little off of our plates).  And she's still nursing 4-5 times a day.  But despite all that food, she remains a skinny little thing.  She must have the metabolism of a hummingbird.

In the last week she's learned two new skills: waving and walking behind a push toy.  I don't have a good video of the waving yet, but I'm hoping to get one soon.  In the mean time, here's a video of her walking with the push toy:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Weigh in - 2 months

In the month since my last weigh in, I've been pretty busy.  

In the first part of the month, I did really well.  I was working out 4-5 times a week, 45 minutes to an hour each, and making good progress.  I was up to 30 minutes on the rowing machine (rowing about 6000 meters, burning about 400 calories) and I was mixing in an occasional workout class.  In the first two weeks of the month, I lost 3 pounds.  I was really happy about that.

The last two weeks of the month are another story.  We travelled to and from Dallas twice in those two weeks, once for Thanksgiving and once for a training conference I attended.  The trips both ended up being great, but I'm sure you know (or can imagine) how stressful and time-consuming and exhausting it is to travel with a toddler and an infant.  In those last two weeks, my workouts were sparse and my diet was shot, so I didn't lose any weight.  And really, I'm just happy I didn't GAIN anything.

So there it is: I lost 3 pounds this month.  Since I started 2 months ago, I've lost 7 pounds, putting me 23 pounds away from my goal of losing 30 pounds.  

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Weigh in - 1 month

It was a month ago today that I wrote this post beginning my goal of eventually losing 30 pounds.  I've decided that I'm going to weigh in here once a month.  The results are in...

But first I'm going to make you all sit through an analysis of my diet and workout regime this last month.  Ha!  See how I'm the blogger and so I have the power?  (What?  You're just going to scroll to the bottom of this post anyway?  Ok cheatypants.  Way to rain on a blogger's parade.)

I've only been half serious about my diet.  I'm making a lot of healthy substitutes: fruit or gum instead of other sweets, turkey instead of fattier meats, salads with low-calorie dressing, etc.  But I'm still not counting calories.  I know that would be most effective for me (and it's what I prefer to do, diet-wise) but I hesitate to do so because I'm still breastfeeding and there's no way to know how many calories that burns.  Also, we eat out about once a week and I know I'm not making low-calorie decisions when it comes to eating out.  I tell myself that it's only once a week so I can splurge a bit.  Which is a fine mentality to have, I think, but it doesn't exactly help shed the pounds.  On the positive side, I have noticed a huge cut back in my snacking.  And for Halloween we didn't even hand out candy because I didn't want it in my house.  (Mira has some candy that she got from trick-or-treating, but for some reason I'm not tempted to eat it, probably because it's HERS and I don't want to take it away from her.)

But as blase as I've been about my diet, I've been totally attacking my workouts.  I'm going usually 5 times per week and working out for 50 minutes to an hour each time.  I usually do the eliptical, since that seems not to aggravate my plantar fasciitis.  Actually it's this weird eliptical that makes your legs go out in front of you like you're doing a knee lift, instead of going round in circles under you like a traditional eliptical.  I prefer that one because it burns a lot more calories in less time.  So doing 50 minutes on that thing, with a pace of 120-130 strides per minute (which is pretty fast, I maintain that rhythm using music that is 120-130 beats per minute), at an incline of 3 and a resistance of 20 (whatever that means), I can burn 500 calories in 50 minutes.  Which I do.  About 5 times a week.  I'm starting to get a little bored with that though, and I want something that's more of a whole body workout.  Not to mention that I don't want my body to get too "used to" any specific workout.  I tried a zumba class and thought it was fun and definitely intense, but I felt like I was spending too much time trying to get the choreography and it was still just all cardio as opposed to having some strength training.  So today I tried the rowing machine for the first time.  Whoa.  Fifteen minutes on that thing and my butt was kicked.  My total workout today was 20 minutes on the eliptical, 15 minutes on the rower, and then another 20 minutes on the eliptical again.  I wish the rower would tell me how many calories I burned on it because I bet it was a ton.  If I had to guess, I'd say I burned about 200 calories in that 15 minutes on the rower, making my total calorie burn today a whopping 600 calories.  It felt good, but my shoulders are already a little sore.  I think I'll keep the rower in my workouts for this next month and see how that goes.

Ok ok... here's what you've been dying to know.  In the month since my last post, I lost 4 pounds.  I feel good about that.  It's a rate of about a pound per week, which I think is realistic and maintainable.  That said, I have hopes that this next month will yield bigger results.  Mostly because Mira, Ellowyn, and I were all sick TWICE last month and when any of us is sick, it's pretty impossible to get my workout in because I can't go to the gym.  So there were a lot of times last month that I wanted to go work out but couldn't because someone was sick.  Hopefully we will all be healthier this coming month and that won't be a barrier for me.

One month in and I've lost 4 pounds, putting me 26 pounds away from my goal of losing 30 pounds.  Feeling good.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Halloween 2011

This year was the first time that Mira picked her own costume.  She chose an adorable little witch outfit (and I added the striped tights because every good witch has striped tights and also because CUTENESS OVERLOAD).  And poor Ellowyn got Mira's hand-me-downs, like always: she wore Mira's old goldfish costume.  Someday that girl will have something of her own... I'm just not sure when that will be.

This year the girls made good use of their costumes; we attended FIVE different Halloween events.  (It would have been seven if Mira hadn't been camping the weekend prior... yeah, we get around.  :-P)

1) Halloween party in the park:
The Tuesday before Halloween, we met a bunch of friends at the park for a Halloween costume party.  We painted pumpkins, ate Halloween themed snacks, and played on the playscapes.  At one point several of the kids were all sitting together eating lollipops.  It was so cute how they were all lined up together.  I swear the photo below is completely unstaged!  (I didn't bring my camera, but my friend shared with me this photo that she took.)

2) Halloween party at a friend's house:
Saturday evening on Halloween weekend, we went to a big party with a bunch of Mira's friends.  One of the moms hosted in her big beautiful backyard.  The costumes at this party were awesome.  It made me wish that I had dressed up as something, since Brian and I were one of the few not costumed.
Yes, the baby there with Ellowyn is dressed up as french fries.  His big brother was a hamburger.

You've heard of mini golf... well here's witchy golf.

Why yes, that is a bouncy house in the background.

3) Hyde Park Fall Festival:
My parents' house backs up to a park owned by Hyde Park Church and every Halloween they throw a big festival there.  It's really great for preschoolers: activities, bouncy houses, a train ride, crafts, a puppet show... basically everything a toddler could want in a Halloween celebration.  So the Sunday of Halloween weekend, that's what we did.
"Fishing" for candy.

Ball toss.

Bean bag toss.

Everyone's a winner!


Cookie decorating.

Obstacle course

Ellowyn had fun from her comfy seat in the stroller.  Plus this sock is delicious.  Wanna bite?

4)  Fall Fun Fest in Round Rock:
And the Hyde Park Festival was so fun that we figured we'd do it all again the next day.  On the morning of Halloween (Monday), the city of Round Rock put on a similar festival in Old Settler's Park.  We also ran into quite a few of our friends at this event, so that was fun.
Watching the jugglers.

Bean bag toss.  Again.  By the end of the festivities this year, she was a pro.

There were some uniformed police officers there with a police car for the kids to look around in.

More crafts.

5) Trick-or-treating:
And of course, Halloween evening we went trick-or-treating in my parents' neighborhood.  Last year, Mira was only up for about 4 houses.  But this year, she thought trick-or-treating was the best thing since sliced bread.  She said "trick-or-treat" at every door and remembered her manners with a "thank you" after receiving candy or compliments on her costume.  After every house she'd say "And now let's find ANOTHER house!"  I think we probably did about a dozen houses before Ellowyn demanded bedtime.
"And now let's find ANOTHER house!"

The last house we trick-or-treated had this strange bearded man... oh wait it's just Grandpa.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Ellowyn is pulling up

In the last couple of weeks, Ellowyn has started pulling up to stand.  Lately she's gotten really good at it and loves to practice her new skill.  I have hopes that she'll be an early walker (babies get so much easier when they can walk).

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mira went camping!

Last weekend, Mira went on her first camping trip.  Brian took her and met some friends out at a local camp ground.  They spent 3 days (and 2 nights), which was the longest Mira had ever been apart from me.  Apparently she did great!  She didn't sleep well (no napping, late to bed, early to rise) because she was so excited about sleeping in the tent with Daddy, but Brian says that it didn't make her cranky or unruly and that she behaved very well and really enjoyed herself.  There was some swimming, some hiking, some nature-watching, some star-gazing...  They couldn't have a camp fire because of the draught, but I'm told they still were able to make s'mores using a propane grill.

I told Brian to take pictures for me, and he did.... a whopping 6 photos.  Sigh.  Well here's the best of the slim pickings:

Brian sounds VERY enthusiastic in that video, doesn't he?  He assured me that he did actually enjoy himself quite a bit, despite the lack of evidence supporting that claim.

Meanwhile, Ellowyn and I got some one-on-one time.  I decided to keep her home with me because (1) I'm not a big fan of camping and (2) with Ellowyn being at that crawling-around-putting-everything-in-her-mouth phase, I was picturing a never-ending game of "chase the baby and pull things out of her mouth and then console her while she cries about having that delicious stink beetle taken away from her and then finally put her back down to chase her some more and repeat until dead".  It was a nice break to have only one child to care for, and it was nice to interact with Ellowyn in ways that are not possible when Mira is involved.  But I was still really happy to see Mira and Brian when they got home; I missed them so much!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Mira is learning her letters.

Mira's been getting really good with letters.  She recognizes and can name any letter, upper or lower case.  And she's starting to work on the sounds the letters make.  There are a few letters that she knows the sounds of really well and can name multiple things that start with the letter, like B and D and M.

Playing with some letters.

She can spell her name.  Given a pile of letters, she can pick out the ones that go in her name and put them in the right order...  although that whole "left to right" concept is a little iffy.

And she's even starting to work on writing some letters.  If I draw a letter, she can do a pretty good job of replicating it in her own handwriting.  I'd say, for being 2 and a half, this is pretty impressive:

And all of this is not because I push this kind of learning onto her; SHE wants to learn it and asks me to draw letters so that she can do it too.  She'll start up a conversation out of the blue about the sounds different letters make.  It's information she genuinely wants to know and regularly asks about.  I think she may understand that this is the key to reading and that is why she wants to learn it.  She's just like her father that way... naturally inquisitive.  And like me in that she has a strong desire for understanding and craves explanations.  Needless to say, I am so proud of her.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A touch of sibling rivalry

Most of the time, Mira and Ellowyn play really well together.

Playing "Train"

Ellowyn tickling Mira's toes

Other times not so much.

It really wasn't a problem until Ellowyn started crawling.

Before Ellowyn was crawling, Mira went through a phase where she didn't want Ellowyn to have certain toys (or sometimes any toys).  But that was pretty easily handled by a combination of teaching Mira how to trade toys with Ellowyn and telling Mira that the rule is that she cannot grab toys out of Ellowyn's hands.  Things were under control.

Until Ellowyn started crawling.

Now Mira will be playing with something and (since Ellowyn thinks Mira is the bee's knees) Ellowyn will decide that she wants to play too.  But the way a baby plays is basically to mess things up and create chaos.  This really bothers Mira, as organized and orderly as she is.  So then Mira lashes out at Ellowyn, by pushing her away or snatching the toy away from her or yelling at her or something similar.  And Ellowyn doesn't understand what went wrong so she starts crying.

I've been reading various sources on the subject of sibling rivalry, and one common theme seems to be that the parents need to stay out of it as much as possible.  The reason for this makes sense to me: every time you intervene, you inevitably take sides (and taking sides only makes rivalry worse).  But I can't just stand by while Mira pushes Ellowyn over.  Having a baby in the mix complicates the "work it out yourselves" approach.  I've also read the tactic of putting a toy into time out if it is being fought over or having children take timed turns with a toy, but it seems to me like both of those tactics would have little bearing in my situation, since there is a baby involved.

My sister and I are 12 years apart, so I never experienced sibling rivalry first-hand.  I do have some experience with mitigating sibling rivalry from my years as a nanny, but all of those kids were older and there are lots of tactics that you can take with older kids.  I simply have no idea how to handle this when one of the kids is a baby with no concept of consequence or respect for others.

I know that, to some degree, sibling rivalry is just part of having children who are close in age.  And really, this is not that big a problem: as I said, most of the time the girls play great together.  I just hate feeling like I don't know if I'm taking the right approach on those occasions when they do have trouble playing happily together.

Mostly what I'm doing right now is using distractions with Ellowyn and giving Mira places to play where Ellowyn can't reach (up on the couch or at the table).  I also do use time outs with Mira as a consequence for physical violence, but that's rarely necessary.

Anyway, I would welcome any suggestions, if anyone has ideas that I've not thought of.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ellowyn is 9 months old

Two days ago, Ellowyn turned 9 months old.  

She's such a bright, happy, easy baby!  She sleeps well, eats well, entertains herself easily...  I really lucked out with her.

Here are her stats from her 9 month well-check:
Height: 27.5 inches (40th percentile)
Weight: 15 pounds, 2 ounces (3rd percentile)
Head: 45.5 centimeters (90th percentile)
The doctor is a little concerned about her weight being so low.  Mira was low too, but never this low.  He says it's probably because Ellowyn is so happy playing on the floor, crawling around almost constantly.  But it means that he wants to keep a closer eye on her, so rather than waiting till 12 months to see her again, he wants to see her back in 6 weeks.  He says it's just a precaution, he's sure she's fine, but he likes to keep closer tabs on the tiny babies.

She's still just got the two teeth, but I can see by looking at her gums that the top ones are on their way.
Flashing that toothy grin.

She's crawling very proficiently now.  She still sometimes prefers the army crawl, but certainly not because she isn't *awesome* at crawling on her hands and knees.
Crawling, crawling, crawling...

Just a couple days ago, I caught her attempting this new trick:

Gonna have to get out the gate pretty soon!

And she still LOVES to eat.  She mostly eats what we eat, with only a few exceptions.  I'm already having to plan larger meals to accomodate her; sometimes I think she eats more than I do.  After eating, her belly is always so distended, she looks like a tadpole.  So her low weight is certainly not for lack of trying.  In addition to 2-3 solid meals per day, she is still nursing about 6 times daily.  Girl loves her some noms.

We tried avocado again recently and got the same reaction as before: hives, this time on the chest.  So she really is allergic to avocado.  The only other food that she has shown a sensitivity for is egg white, which she throws up every time.  I'm hoping she'll grow out of that one.

And she can drink from a sippy cup all by herself now!  Watching her do this cracks me up.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Girl needs some dance classes

I think Mira has an innate love of dance.  She frequently asks me to turn on music so that she can dance and every time she hears music she starts dancing.  I can't tell if she is an especially talented dancer, but does it even matter when she loves it so much?

The place where she's taking her gymnastics class does offer dance classes too, but they don't start till age 3.  You better believe that she will be in those dance classes just as soon as she can be.

I recently got some photos of her doing what she calls a "dance clap" (she turns around in circles, picking her feet up high and clapping her hands).  Excuse the pajamas, this was first thing in the morning.  Also note the cute little ballet slippers (a gift from Aunt Kevan).

And after a dance, every good dancer knows to do your stretches.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The beginning of a long road...

My cousin, a mommy blogger like me, started tracking her weight loss on her blog a couple months ago.  I thought it was such a great way for her to hold herself accountable to her weight loss goals.  It also struck me as being very honest and vulnerable in a way that I admired.  So I guess you could say I've decided to follow her lead.

I'm going to start a weight loss journal here on my blog. 

I know a lot of you are probably thinking, "Wait a minute.  I signed up for cute baby pictures and videos of that adorable little girl singing her ABCs.  I don't give a flying flip about workout regimes and dietary goals and pounds lost and all that hoopla."  To those people, I have to apologize.  But this is something that I need to do for myself.  I don't pretend to imagine that this is a topic that all of my followers will think is fascinating.  But by putting myself out there in this way, I feel more pressure to succeed, and that's something I know I need: accountability.  So this is more for me than it is for you.  Feel free to skip the weight loss entries, if you're not interested.  

There will also continue to be cute photos/videos of both the girls, so DO NOT DESPAIR!  I know what your needs are and they will not go unfulfilled.  


Preamble complete.  

I've been working out routinely for about 5 weeks now.  I've lost 7 pounds in that time.  Which is better than I thought I'd do because I've not been serious about my diet.  But it's a start.  And I'm feeling like I have more energy and I'm actually WANTING to work out, which is a big step.  But since I've started working out, I've encountered a hurdle: plantar fasciitis.  So my workout regimen has had to change: I was doing a lot of walking/jogging and that's just not something that I can do right now.  So instead I'm doing the eliptical a lot, sometimes swimming.  Anyway, I'm hoping that this pain clears up quickly so that I can get back to the kind of workout that I'd like to do, but I've heard that it can take many months for plantar fasciitis to heal.

At first, I was just working out for the energy and to feel better.  But seeing that I'm losing weight, I'm thinking that maybe I should take this whole thing seriously.  I'm working out 3-5 times per week, for 30-60 minutes.  As far as my diet, what has worked for me in the past is to count calories.  I've successfully lost weight on a 1200 calorie/day diet.  But I'm not comfortable limiting my calories because I am breastfeeding.  It's hard to know how many calories you are burning in milk production, and the last thing I want is to lose my milk before Ellowyn is ready to wean.  So I'm not going to worry about quantity of food and instead focus on food quality (meaning I can eat as much as I want as long as the foods I eat are healthy and nutritious).

Anyway... the first goal that I'm setting is to lose 30 pounds.  I may have more to lose than that, but I'll reevaluate once I get there.  


30 pounds to go.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sick sick sick

I'm so tired of having a sick kid.  Last week it was Mira, this week it is Ellowyn.  When Mira was sick, she was just pathetic: miserable and wanting to be held in my lap.  I actually kind of like snuggling with her like that, but it makes taking care of Ellowyn more difficult.  Now Ellowyn is sick and she is making me want to tear my hair out.  She is really congested, so she's having trouble nursing and it seems to be a common trend that she spends the entire morning crying no matter what I do.  We've been doing the steam shower thing, especially in the morning when she is most congested, but Mira won't just sit in the bathroom with us, so I've been plopping her in front of the TV (which I don't mind doing occasionally, but on sick days it seems to happen a lot).  And to top it all off, I can't get out of the house.  I've been stuck here for two whole days and it feels like forever.  I think I lose my sanity a bit when I can't leave the house.  AND I haven't been able to get to the gym to work out in 3 days so my body is feeling crappy.  It's frustrating.

Rant over.  Let's all have some cute pictures to cheer us up.

Mira helps me do Ellowyn's hair in the morning.  Ellowyn is unsure about this arrangement.

Sweet sisters

Ellowyn is still a little wobbly when sitting up, but Mira is there to catch her.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A little time for me?

About a month ago, things came to a head as far as my health is concerned.  I had symptoms of PPD, tests showed I was seriously nutritionally deficient, I had no motivation... I was at the lowest point that I had been in for more than a decade.  The turning point came in a diagnosis: ultrasound showed that I had polycystic ovary syndrome.  It's a hormone imbalance that causes irregular menstrual cycles, infertility, and weight gain due to insulin resistance.  There's no cure for this, the only thing that can be done is to treat the symptoms individually, but it has been known to reverse itself with weight loss.

That diagnosis was what made me decide that I had to start putting myself first, at least a little bit.  I was sacrificing myself to my children, and while that is what's required of a mother to a degree, I was taking it to an extreme.

So I got a gym membership.

I've been working out 4-5 times a week for the last 3 weeks now.  Most of the time I take the girls with me and they stay in the child care center at the gym while I work out.  (We still make our playdates and fun activities in the mornings; I go to the gym with them after they're done napping in the afternoons.)  I've already seen great improvements with my energy and stamina and motivation and my cycles are already back to normal.  So I know this is exactly what my body needed.

While I feel great that I'm getting the exercise, I also struggle with feeling guilty about leaving my children in the child care center.  They're only there for 30 minutes to an hour at a time, but still the first two weeks were really hard for them: lots of tears and I would frequently get paged to stop my workout because one of them just couldn't handle being left there.  (The care-givers give me a pager when I drop the kids off in case they don't do well.)  Let me tell you just how great this made me feel about finally deciding to do something for myself... Needless to say, I constantly question the decision to do this.  And I hate to say it, but it often feels like the price is not worth the reward.  It's been 3 weeks now and Mira is doing better... pretty well, actually.  But Ellowyn still cries every time and she has developed a pretty nasty case of separation anxiety since I've started going to the gym.  It really pains me to see her struggling and I'm constantly wondering if I'm making the right decision.  I know that this is the right thing for me; my body is showing me in so many ways that this is the answer.  But I'm finding it so difficult to put what my body needs ahead of what my daughter needs from me.  I guess it's just not in my nature to be selfish in this way.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why I'm a Stay At Home Mom

I just recently had a friend ask me, "If being a stay at home mom is so hard, why do it?"  In the moment, I gave a brief vague response about it being the best choice for my children.  But it got me thinking and I realized there were so many things I wish I'd said.  Because there are so many very important reasons why I chose to be a stay at home mom (SAHM).

It's true, it is hard work.  Being a SAHM constantly tests my patience, ingenuity, creativity, and resolve. I can't eat or go to the bathroom without addressing someone else's needs first.  It's difficult to never have a break from your children and putting them before you.  Juggling two children presents it's own special challenges, especially when the needs of one are in direct conflict with the needs of the other.  Even when they're sleeping (and if I'm lucky enough that they are both asleep at the same time), I'm listening for them and wondering when they will wake and planning what to do after that happens and recovering from their latest adventures and picking up the leftover messes.  And god forbid I ever need to go to the dentist or get my hair cut.  It's messy, painful, tiring, relentless, and thankless.

So why on earth would I put myself through that?  

So many reasons.

Bonding: A special kind of bond is formed between a child and a parent when the parent is dedicated solely to the process of caring for and raising the child.  This bond creates a feeling of security for the child.  And in turn, that security breeds trust: trust that I will always be there and that their interests will always come first.  That trust makes so many other aspects of parenting so much easier.

Breastfeeding: As a SAHM, I can breastfeed my children as long or as often as we need/want to.  I don't have to worry about pumping or supplementing or weaning or finding an appropriate place/time.  We can just do what comes naturally whenever it strikes us.

Stress-free kids: With no deadlines to meet or time cards to punch, my children are free to explore, play, sleep, and eat on their schedule.  There is no mad rush to get out the door in the morning, no commute home wondering if I'll have time to make dinner for the family before the kids need to get to bed.  Also, if my kids are not enjoying a situation, we can change it up.  If they are getting stir-crazy at home, we can go out somewhere.  If we are out and about and one of them melts down, we can leave and head home.  This is a stark contrast to a day-care environment where, if the child doesn't want to be there... well, that's just too bad.  The kind of liberty I have as a SAHM creates a nurturing, relaxing, easy-going lifestyle for my children that reduces their anxiety and stress.  

Parenting my way: By being with my children 100% of the time, I assure that I make the parenting choices.  I decide how much TV they can watch, what foods they can eat, what punishments/consequences to use, what lessons to teach, what experiences they are exposed to.  It's a big responsibility, but I would rather take it on myself than leave those child-rearing decisions to someone else.  Also, I am able to oversee their social interactions (and they do get lots of social time with other kids thanks to my network of other SAHMs) to make sure they are learning how to be polite and share and avoid physical violence and take turns.  

Go, Do, Learn, Play, Explore: As a SAHM, I have the joy of being able to take my children places like playgrounds, parks, ponds, pools, museums, playdates, rides, activity centers, etc.  If they were in a day-care situation, they would miss out on being able to go do these things with me every day.  It is rare for us to spend a day at home, we are constantly going out and doing fun exciting new things specifically for the girls to enjoy.  (And it's nice for me that we are usually out doing these things with another SAHM or two, so I have some adult company.)  Bouncy houses, baking classes, gymnastics, dance classes, train rides, museum visits, nature walks, zoos, farms, puppet shows, story times at the library... these are the things that fill my days and these are all things that I'd hate for my children to miss out on.  

Never miss a moment: Every day, I am creating loving memories with my children.  And I know that I will be there for every first: crawling, teething, walking, laughing, talking, etc.  These are memories that I will cherish and I can feel sure that their earliest childhood memories will be of the time they spend with me.

So many reasons.  

Is having a parent at home with the kids the right choice for every family?  No, of course not.  If staying at home is a choice that would be regretted or one that felt forced, then children will not thrive with a reluctant parent.  Also financially, while some monetary sacrifices are acceptable, if having a parent at home would be too hard on the budget, not having the money for groceries is not in the best interest of the family.  

But for me and my family it was clearly the right choice and I'm so glad I made it.  Even if it means that my successes are measured in whether or not I have bodily fluids on my clothes at the end of the day.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Any day now... (Ellowyn is mobile)

Ellowyn just recently turned 8 months old.  For over a month now, she's been getting up on her hands and knees and I've been SURE that she would start crawling any day.  Yeah.... not so much.  However, she's got a MEAN army crawl.  She can really book it.

Here she is about a month ago (this was taken while we were at the beach).

And here she is more recently.


I think the fact that she can army crawl so well has lessened her determination to get up on her hands and knees to crawl.  But she does still work on it.  She'll get up on her hands and knees and rock a lot. Sometimes she'll manage to move her arms, but she gets caught up when it's time to move her knees.  She just can't figure out how to move one then the other.  But I'm sure it will be soon (though I've been saying that for a month now...).

Monday, September 12, 2011

Facing the Music

My mother died just about a year ago.  Today is the 2nd time I've been able to play native American flute music since that day, or rather night.  The first was too raw, too much pain.

I got a phone call from my sister: "Brian, Mom's in surgery and there has been a complication..."

... I had gotten a voicemail from my mother the night before - and ignored it, like usual.  I think I even pushed her to VM rather than take a late night call.

Oh Shit!

The thoughts that percolated at that point weren't terribly sophisticated.



Surgery?  I didn't know about any surgery!

OH SHIT - what will my boss think?  --Meta information - I was in my first week of my new, high paying, save my family's financial ass job--

F' the boss - "Sis, where are you - I'm on my way"

The pride I feel at this point, looking back on that decision to prioritize being with my family over my finances kind-of bothers me... it's honestly a decision I'd make again - but the fact that I feel pride in it means I could have gone the other way... and what kind of despicable ass makes that decision?

A bit of time in the waiting room with my sister and her then BF - a nice guy but not up to the multi-month crisis my sister would then enter - my other sister joins us - we eat a ad-hoc dinner and then find Mom's been moved to the ICU... after dying for 10 long minutes with docs manually pumping her heart.

Yeah - my head is spinning; my heart is cold; my strength for my family is palpable.

We plan - who's doing what shift - I insist on the overnight....  insist.  I know my sisters won't sleep - but they will be worse than I if they don't at least try to sleep.  To this day, I don't know if/how they did.

I did go home briefly while Kevan spent some time with Mom.  I threw together a bag with my 'hospital sweatshirt' my iPod and it's portable speakers and a book.  The speakers and iPod are key to this story.

My mother loved native american flute music; those rhythmic drums and haunting melodies.  One of my favorite internet radio stations was based 100% around this musical style - and it was what I played for us the hours while I sat at her bedside.  Praying to my goddess, her God, anyone who might be listening that she could pull through the coma, get over the twice an hour body wrenching retching, and have intelligence, rather than horror, reach her eyes once more.  Yes, I saw her fear in her deep brown eyes.  The terror.  The soul ripping horror at her situation and our mutual inability to do more than pray.

So as the low sonics of wood flutes and skin drums penetrated the ICU, and the concerned young man who was taking *very* good care of my mum came and went; I waited - listening to the sounds - knowing my mother could hear them... and knowing that they called her to a fearless beyond... I helped my mother pass.

And have had a hard time listening to this music since...

Light a candle when you see this post - she loved candles.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ellowyn's first teeth

Ellowyn cut her first teeth this week.  It's the front bottom two teeth.  She cut one and then a day later the second.  It's funny because, leading up to the teeth coming in, she was not cranky at all.  It was only AFTER the teeth came in that she started the "teething" behavior.  And by that I mean reluctant to nurse and difficult to get to sleep.

I'd post a picture of Ellowyn's new chompers, but they are only just barely poking through the gums so you can't even see them yet in person, much less in a photo.  The only way I know they're there is that I can feel them when I put my finger in her mouth.

In related news, here's a cute series of photos/videos from one of Ellowyn's recent culinary adventures.

Mmm, blueberries.

Uhm... ew.

How did the unsuspecting blueberries get mauled into indecipherable mush?  Let's examine the evidence.

Exhibit A: Note the "who me?" expression on the face of the accused.

Exhibit B: Note the blueberry-induced face puckering.

Exhibit C: And now the foot has entered the scene.

Exhibit D: The accused shows no remorse.

Exhibit E: Blueberry mush was discovered between the toes of the accused.  

Guilty as charged.  And to top it off, after she tired of mauling the poor blueberries, she proceeded to play with the remains, spreading blueberry carcass all over the surrounding area.  Oh the humanity.