Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My one year old

Today is the big celebration for Eleanor's first birthday.  Wednesday was the actual day of her birth, but today we welcome family from out of town and all our friends to share in our joy.  I am so incredibly grateful that Eleanor is a part of my life and my family.  I am honored to be her mommy.  I couldn't imagine a single day without her.  I can't believe it's been a whole year since I met this beautiful girl.  In many ways it feels like yesterday, but mostly it feels like I've known her my whole life.
Eleanor is vibrant, completely full of life.  She gets excited to see people.  She loves to smile and laugh.  Small things are funny to her.  Because of Eleanor, we laugh so much each and every day.  I smile at her from ear to ear, until my jaw tightens.  Most days I think I couldn't smile any harder. 
Eleanor is creative and incredibly smart.  I love watching her learn new things and challenge herself.  She can stack blocks on top of each other and find the correct hole for different shapes.  You can tell she has a methodical sense, and will plan out her actions.  When she knows she has done something well she gets excited.  We will cheer for her and she will join in by clapping or making fun noises.  It is incredibly fun to see her learn and grow.  I can sit here for long periods of time just watching her move and play.  She claps to music in the car and sings along and dances in her carseat.  It is the most amazing thing and I can't help staring at her in the rear-view mirror.  Must keep eyes on the road!
Eleanor isn't walking yet, and she might not have many new "big tricks."  But her development changes each and every day.  Watching her play peek-a-boo is my single most favorite thing in the world.  "Where's the baby? Where did Eleanor go? Peek-a-boo!"  When you start saying these words she knows to play along.  It is amazing!  While my mom was in town visiting she also taught Eleanor a few new tricks.  Like to make an "ahhh" noise when we wave our hand in front of her mouth.  It's hard to describe, and at the risk of sounding non-politically correct, we used to call it as kids "making an Indian noise." Does that help explain it?  She does it when we start tapping our hand in front of her mouth and sometimes will even do it on her own with her hand.  So cute!
Eleanor can be devious.  She already knows right from wrong in many ways.  She knows she isn't allowed to stand in the tub or in her highchair and will give us a backwards glance as she slyly tries to pull up.  When we ask her to sit down or we correct her behavior she shoots us her best disapproving look.  Occasionally I have raised my voice in surprise when she bites or pinches me hard and she will smile up at me or even giggle...these, my friends, are the first signs of toddlerhood.  I know you have all been waiting with your "I told you so" smirks.  Even the best babies are not immune to the "terrible twos" it seems.
At 12 months, Eleanor's days are typically very busy, thanks to my busy schedule.  She spends most of her time with me, but also goes to the babysitter's a few hours a week.  This past month Alex and I enjoyed many evenings out without Eleanor.  These nights meant that she would take a bottle and go to sleep somewhere other than our own home.  But as always, she was perfect.  We would pick her up around 10pm and she would go right back to sleep in her crib once we were home.
We are still nursing two to three times a day, with no signs of stopping anytime soon.  Now that we have reached the one-year mark I think I will make a conscious effort to just nurse morning and night.  She is still a fabulous eater.  Most days she takes three solid meals, sometimes we will squeeze an extra snack or meal in there as well.  And she almost always eats whatever we are having.  The only time we will make her something different is when our dinner is extra, extra spicy or we aren't done cooking when it is time for her to eat.  
Other than a few early wake-ups because of illness, Eleanor sleeps through the night with ease.  She typically goes to bed between seven and eight and sleeps until seven in the morning.  When we set the clocks back last weekend she did great and continued to sleep straight through to the new seven! We are in that awkward stage of naps, trying to switch from two to one.  I think she prefers one nap a day, typically falling asleep around 11:30 and napping for two to three hours.  This works well for me too.  I get so much done during this one nap!
Our big adventures this month include apple picking, visiting the Balloon Fest, Oma coming to visit and celebrating her best friends' first birthdays (Happy Birthday Aubrey and Harper!) And of course celebrating her own birthday!
She loves to play with other kids so much.  She is intrigued by big kids and will just watch them at the play ground or at church.  On her birthday we took her to the park to swing.  We were jumping up down and being completely goofy to get her to smile for the camera (and you wondered how we captured all these amazing photos!) but all she would do was stare at the other kiddos.  I think she is so inquisitive.  
It will be so fun to watch her continue to grow and see how her personality develops.  Will she be shy? Or outgoing? Will she be passionate, caring, loving, cuddly, sweet, energetic, playful?  Will she be a leader, a thinker, artistic, dramatic? Will she ever love to read? 
I can't wait to spend the rest of our lives getting to know each other.  I can't wait to love her each and every day.  My goal is to always be a Christ-like example of unconditional love and understanding.  To be firm and consistent, but loving and faithful.  I want to show her all the beauty in the world, but also help her recognize the need of a Savior because of the evil in this world.  I want to teach compassion and tenderness, and also strength of character and leadership abilities.  I want to be an example of all these things, so I am always and constantly improving and working on my own character.  Being a mom has been such a rewarding journey thus far, but it has also been incredibly challenging.  I want to be the absolute best me I can be, so I can be the best mom I can be.
Because she's worth it.

She is worth every tear shed and difficult decision.  She is worth the four days of labor and the incredibly painful drug-free child birth.  She is worth the sleepless nights and sore nipples (yup, I went there).  Being Eleanor's mommy is worth every ounce of energy exerted.  The joy in her expression and the light in her eyes tells me it is worth it each and every day.  There are many things in my life that drain me of energy, but being her mom fills me up and restores me.  This is by far the coolest job I have ever had (and Girls on the Run is a pretty cool gig--but being a mom sure takes the cake!)
What a journey it has been.  For 365 days (+3) we have snuggled and kissed and squeezed and loved and cared for this amazing and beautiful little girl.  We have held her tight and nurtured her little body from just 6 pounds 8 ounces to a whopping 22 pounds! From 19 1/2 inches to 28 inches tall.  From thick, jet-black hair, to beautiful, whispy, strawberry-blonde locks.  Blues eyes to gray.  Gummy grin to a bright toothy smile.  From a helpless newborn, to a wonderful, independent, entertaining little girl.  

Pip, Ellie Meg, Baby, Favorite, Booga Bear, Honey Bear, Squishy, Nugget = Eleanor Margaret
My favorite little girl in the whole wide world! Thanks for being ours!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thoughts on Motherhood after One Year

I can clearly remember the moment I fell in love with Eleanor, and it wasn't on the day she was born.  That was probably my first and biggest surprise of motherhood. 
I will admit, I was very selfish on the day she was born.  All I could think about was me and how soon I would be out of pain.  I had not one care for the child that was about to enter the world.  And even moments after her birth all I remember thinking is how I wanted the pain to stop so I could enjoy that time.  It was scary. 
Soon enough the pain did subside and I was able to drink in our new reality, one that included this tiny baby girl and made our little family of two become three.  But even in those next hours, I thought little of our new life.  Instead, it was a blur of shock and probably a little hunger.  A bit of confusion and a whole lot of exhaustion.  We went home, ate our fridge empty, and bundled our tiny baby in our arms and slept. 
This was the beginning of parenthood.

The next day I fell in love.  It was mid-morning and my friends had all left.  I just nursed Eleanor and laid her on my lap and stared at her precious face.  And that was the moment my heart exploded.  I had to hand her over to Alex for fear that I may drop her or shake her out of pure joy and elation.  I was a mom and I was overflowing. 
Now, twelve months later, I often feel that same sense of overwhelming love.  Maybe not as strong, and certainly not as often.  But when I take a moment to slow down and observe Eleanor and the wonderful gift that she is in our lives, I want tear my chest open, or flail to the ground, or do something else equally ridiculous.  It is an all-consuming, uncontrolled kind of love.  Intense and incredible.  And almost painful.  It's the kind of love that let's me know that if anything were to ever happen to Eleanor I would simply die of a broken heart. 
When I am away from Eleanor I feel this constant pull to be back close to her again.  As I drive away, it is like a bungee cord is strapped to my car, restraining me.  And then when I am finally turned around heading back toward Eleanor, I feel the urgent tug forward, pulling me ever closer to her.  Being a mom is incredibly rewarding, but also very difficult work.  Not just physically, but emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

So after a year, here are my thoughts.  I will never again be the same.  I will never get to walk around this earth without always feeling a pull toward this little human being.  It is true the saying by Elizabeth Stone, "Making the decision to have a child - it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." My focus will never be 100% again.  There will always be a part of me distracted by thoughts of Eleanor. 
Love is incredible.  The way it changes us and moves us.  The way it grows.  I cannot believe I can love someone so much as I love Eleanor.  And I already wonder where I will find room to love another child.  I am reassured by so many parents that your heart just grows and your love multiplies.  What a beautiful promise!  And what a representation of the love of God!  Being a mother has helped to shape and grow my faith.  I understand better God's love for us.  I believe God created unique roles like parenthood to help us understand Him best.  He created us in His image.  And so just as He first loved us, we now have the privilege of loving others.  I love loving Eleanor.  It doesn't get better than this!
Oh, and might I add, I am also extremely tired and exhausted.  Mentally fatigued and physically beat.  I am worn out and worn thin.  I leave every day completely wiped.  But then each day is new.  And Eleanor is there to greet me with joy and love.  And I have the ability to do it all over again.  I must say, I am thankful for a baby who likes to sleep.  Without the refreshment of sleep each night, this would be a very crazy world!
Twelve months in, and many, many more to go! I am so grateful for this role and opportunity.  I am incredibly grateful for my little family and for a very supportive network of friends and family.  At the risk of overusing the word: We are so very blessed!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Eleanor's First Birthday Party!

You might recall...this girl had a big birthday last week.  As if I haven't said enough about it already, indulge me as I recap her amazing birthday party!
I tried pretty hard to keep the party low key.  I think we did a great job keeping the food and decor to a minimum, although I couldn't help but create a few pinterest-worthy pieces.  The thing that really threw Eleanor's First Birthday Party over the top was the guest list.  We really wanted everyone to share in this special occasion with us!
The thing is, we wanted to share this momentous occasion with everyone we know.  Eleanor isn't just special to us, she is special to so many people.  She brings joy and life into so many lives.  And so since we invited just about everyone, we had the party at a local coffee shop.  This was ideal since we also had out-of-town guests staying at the house.
Throwing a party outside of my home requires a great deal of organization.  And help.  I had several boxes packed up, ready to go.  Each box was clearly labeled.  And everything inside the boxes were also clearly marked.  It was Alex's job to pick up all the food and set-up the whole party, while I made the trip to the airport to pick up my family and make sure Eleanor was ready for the party.
As I mentioned, we tried to keep things low-key.  Rather than serve a big meal, we had an afternoon party and offered yummy snacks like soft pretzel bites, chicken nuggets and veggies and dip.
Our theme for the party was born out of photos from my first birthday.  I am a huge sucker for nostalgia, so I found the exact same Carebear party hats from 1985 on Ebay and ordered them for four times their worth.  I even asked my friend Shannon to make Eleanor's party dress inspired by my first birthday dress.
We didn't want to just do a Carebear theme so we rolled with it and created a "Sunshine Bear" theme-ish.  One of our favorite nicknames for Eleanor is "Honeybear" so it was fitting.  We had fun making the food fit the theme.
Cupcakes became "Cubcakes" and "StrawBEARy Cupcakes." We served Teddy Grahams and Gummy Bears and "Bear Food" (aka Trail Mix).
My one big project for the party was this photo display.  In each of Eleanor's month photos I used a different fabric for the background.  Using those fabrics I created (with my mom's help) a fun banner to hang from this beautiful picture frame.  I found a nice frame at Hobby Lobby but it was so expensive.  So I asked my dad and he made this wonderful frame and brought it with him from Missouri!  The cake table is compliments of the wonderful Whitney Dumford! As always she worked her magic, baking the most delicious cupcakes (ever!), decorating them with the cutest bears, and making a special, healthy, smash cake for Eleanor!
The absolute best part of the party was watching Eleanor dig into her cake.  I had no doubt she would enjoy every single minute!
"Happy Birthday to you..."
That photo above has to be my favorite picture of all time!
She started off slowly.  I gave her a lick off my finger.  And sliding the cake closer to her, it didn't take her long to figure out how delicious frosting is!
I have created a monster when it comes to the camera.  Eleanor is such a ham.  She pulled the cake plate right up to her mouth, opened wide, looked up at the crowd with those angel eyes and then froze in this posed bite so everyone could get the perfect photo!
Seriously! She kept smiling and flirting with the camera.  We were all cracking up!
We let her chow down for close to 30 minutes.  She put a serious dent in the cake.
For minutes at a time she sat with her mouth and nose buried in the frosting just sucking away! It was hilarious!

Eventually Alex pulled her away and gave her a bath in the bathroom sink.  She came out happy and clean and ready to play!
We were so grateful to have so many of our friends at Eleanor's party.  But especially grateful that my dad, my two sisters, my niece, my two uncles, Alex's dad, and his brother were all able to come in town for the big party.  It meant so much to us to have them there!
It was also just so special to see these girls playing together.  They are just five weeks apart in age and it is so fun to see them interact.  I really can't tell you how special it was to have my two sisters with me to celebrate Eleanor.  All the friends in the world can't replace sisters, and it makes me incredibly sad that we live so far away, especially watching these babies play together.  I am just so excited I get to see all of them in just a few more weeks for Kolbie and Taylor's birthdays!

Eleanor's first birthday party has left me extremely humbled.  There are so many people in our lives that love this little girl so much.  I mean they really, really love her.  She is in their hearts and their prayers.  I am so thankful to know how loved Eleanor is.  Thank you!

And a big, special, huge THANK YOU to Whitney Dumford who not only created that beautiful cupcake display but also took all of these fantastic photos! You are so talented my friend!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Five Years

The most amazing thing happened last week, but has gone all but unnoticed.  Alex and I celebrated our Fifth Wedding Anniversary!
I feel like this is the most momentous occasion in our lives, and yet it was over-shadowed in many ways by Eleanor's first birthday.  We had great intentions of special plans, each of us trying to secure something of a date night.  From quick dinners out, to elaborate overnight trips, we had great ideas.  Alas, we scratched all plans and settled in with our family on our anniversary for a night of pizza and beer. And a champagne toast!
On such a large occasion, I could be very disappointed by the lackluster event, but honestly I was so full of joy all weekend.  I honestly can't imagine anything more I could want in life than these two by my side.
Our fifth year of marriage was an exciting one with so many firsts, thanks to Eleanor.  On our last anniversary we were just brand new parents without a clue.  We were elated and floating on happiness and sleep deprivation.  And now, a year later, we are a little more rested, but still just as crazy happy.  More so even!  I had no idea how sweet it would be to have a child!  But this post isn't about Eleanor.  This one is about the guy behind the baby...
Alex has given me the two best things in the entire world: the gift of being a wife, and the gift of being a mom.  While I will often mention that being a mom is the most wonderful role I have ever taken on, being a wife is so much sweeter, really.
It hasn't always been easy for me.  I have learned so much about myself by being a wife.  Something about the marriage relationship really pulls out the best, and the worst in a person.  And Alex has certainly seen it all.  But the wonderful thing about it, is when you are aware of your worst, you can begin to improve.  Our knock-down-drag-out fights used to last days.  Now it's just hours, and even just minutes on good days.  We have learned so much about each other, our needs, our likes, our ways.  I can read him like a book.  And he can pick up on my moods before even I do.  We know how to make each other happy.  We know what each other needs.  Best of all, when we can't figure it out...we know we can just ask each other. 
Alex is absolutely my best friend.  I couldn't do life without him.  Apart from my sisters, I always wondered if anyone would ever be able to put up with me for a really.long.time.  How he does it, I will never know.  But each day he still tells me he loves me.  And each day we are apart from each other, even just for a few hours, he misses me.  He can't stand to be away from me.  And even after five years of marriage and another year and a half more of dating, he still wants to hang out with me.  Why am I so lucky?
Alex is the center of my world.  Often times it looks like Eleanor is front and center, but Alex is truly the rock holding us all together.  I am so eternally grateful for this amazing, loving marriage relationship that I have been blessed with. 
I am reminded of a passage in Luke that says, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked," and I am a little unnerved.  I know that I am blessed beyond measure, and I know that this blessing comes with huge responsibilities.  Alex and I are always aware of that and I am certain that we are supposed to use all this good in our lives to create even more good in the world.  It is a tall order, but I want the world to see the light in our lives and recognize where it comes from.  I want my life to bring glory to God and lead others to faith in Christ Jesus. 

In person I am not so great at this.  I am easily intimidated and silenced.  But one look into the joyful eyes of my precious baby girl, and a glance at this faithful and endearing husband, and I know that God is REAL, and he loves me unconditionally and eternally.  And I really want to share that love with everyone I know.  I hope someday to be worthy of all this love I have been given.  I hope to somehow show others this incredible love like I receive from Alex, and Eleanor, and especially from God. 
Life is a pretty awesome thing, and I am so grateful today that I get to share mine with Alex.  Five years strong and many, many more to come! Thanks for being my husband Alex!