Thursday, May 31, 2012

Nesting in the Nursery

On Monday Michael took Ellie hiking with a few friends and I found myself with a whole day at home, alone. It was a perfect day to work on the girls' room: finishing the wall decor, rearranging, and organizing. 

I wanted alphabet letters in the room and got an idea on Pinterest to have ladies at my baby shower help decorate individual letters. 26 wood letters would be expensive so I used foam board, hand drew letter stencils of different fonts (a bigger perfectionist may have printed letters off the computer), then traced them and cut them with an exacto knife. Below is the result of several friends pitching in to help decorate. I wanted all the letters to look different and I love the end result. The picture doesn't do each letter justice, but here's a glimpse:
This wall is a collection of special pictures and artwork. The embroidered bunnies on the right were given to me by my aunt when I was a little girl. There's a picture of me when I was pregnant with Ellie, and a footprints heart Michael and Ellie made me for my birthday when she was barely 2 months old.
 A couple of special quilts from when Ellie was born. I need to figure out how to hang them better.
 My grandmother embroidered this when I was born. I reframed it for the room.
I've had Ellie's name up on the wall but am still trying to decide where the letters will go now. Maybe once we have this new little one's name picked out I will have two names for the wall. Ellie loves having her bench here so she can look out the window at the neighbor's cats and dog.

My Big Girl

Now that the room is organized I feel like this baby can come. My due date is 4 weeks from today. I'm feeling more ready every day!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Learning My Limits

I recently had a "Parenting-Sure-Can-Be-Hard" kind of day, also known as "AHHHHHHHHHH!"

We were in southern California for a work event and that meant I got to spend a lot of quality time with Ellie.  It's always a task to figure out where to put the pack 'n play in the hotel room. We had her tucked in a nice corner hidden from view, but on this particular Sunday afternoon she was not into napping. She was into pulling up her mattress and hiding her doll and blanket underneath. And talking and jumping and laughing and playing. And not letting mommy sleep.

This was an afternoon after two long days of walking around and being on my feet, and the first time I have really started feeling super exhausted and sore during this pregnancy. All I wanted to do was take a nap. I was desperate for a nap and silence and Ellie wasn't cooperating with my need for either.

After almost two hours of repeatedly putting the mattress back in place and laying her down again, my patience was thin. At home I would have left her alone but I was worried she'd put a hole in the thin nylon underneath the mattress. I was tired beyond tired, frustrated and cranky. It was 97 degrees outside and hot. Michael was working and not getting back until after dinner and Ellie's bedtime. I was the sole parent.

I wanted to cry I was so tired. That "so exhausted I can't think straight" state of mind. My little girl was laughing and playing and thinking it was all a fun game and I was afraid my impatience would somehow make me lash out. I had a vision of those parents that are so tired or frustrated they start shaking their kids into submission, or even just irrationally yelling or raising their voice. No, I didn't want to harm my baby (I won't even spank or pinch or hit for discipline), but it made me be VERY aware of my own human impulses and limits. I'm learning it's healthy for me to acknowledge when I've reached my patience limit and to walk away, or to let Michael take over if he's around, so that I can regroup.

I made the decision to give up nap time yet still do something to have some "me" time: walk to Starbucks and get myself an iced white mocha. Then we'd return and I would take Ellie to the outdoor pool to swim.

The closest Starbucks was only a few long blocks away but I earned that iced mocha walking in the near-triple digit heat (I was guzzling lots of water too). It helped me to clear my head and the stroller always calms Ellie.

When we were literally right outside the pool entrance Ellie fell asleep. I changed plans again, went upstairs to our room and transferred her to her crib where she got an hour nap and I got to relax. Of course she would finally sleep after I had coffee and no longer felt like napping myself, but I'm not complaining. It was glorious downtime and I soaked up every minute.

We went to the pool and then walked to a nearby restaurant for dinner. Dinner was a continuation of the hyper, playful girl who wanted nothing to do with food and was very distracted. (Seriously, where did this feisty toddler come from?) I did my best to enjoy my dinner and to cherish my mommy/daughter time, ignoring the chaos and mess at our table.

My hyper girl at dinner.
By the time Ellie got to bed that night I had recalibrated. The day held a few important lessons for me, including acknowledging my own limits and being OK with letting Ellie skip her nap when it is better for both of us. 

Flexibility. Limits. Patience. Appreciating Time With My Daughter.

I know being a parent of two will require me to pursue these things in the midst of chaos, exhaustion, and an uncooperative toddler. These are good lessons for me to learn as life continues to get more interesting every day.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Toddler Bed: Endings and Beginnings

Several streets around our house have annual yard sales in the spring that are sometimes blocks long. Tonight we went on a walk after dinner along one of these streets. We've never walked down one of these streets the night before a sale and we were surprised how many houses were already set up and had customers.

A few weeks ago at one of these sales we almost bought a toddler bed but have been unsure when to transition Ellie out of her crib. Tonight we walked by the perfect little toddler bed. And only $20! We were thrilled! Ellie climbed right up onto it and sat against the headboard, beaming from ear to ear. (And seriously, 20 bucks?!?!) There were two plush teddy bears sitting on the bed and Ellie scooped one right up and tucked it under her arm.

I almost didn't recognize her. There she was, my little baby, sitting on a big girl bed. It's freeze-framed in my mind, the look of joy on her face as she sat there so proud and excited, seeming so old and grown-up.
We peeled Ellie away from her new bed and she burst into tears. A girl stood next to her mom and handed Ellie the teddy bear she'd been snuggling with. "Here, she can have this for free." It was very sweet and the whole family was kind and friendly.

We were a few blocks from home and didn't have any cash with us. The woman agreed to let us go home and get money and our car and return. She moved the bed to the back of her yard, out of the way. I told her we lived around the corner and would be back in just a "few minutes."

We hurried home, which was further than "just around the corner." Michael left in the car and had to stop by the store to get cash. I put Ellie down to sleep in her crib, thinking about how surreal it felt to have my baby growing up. I was already rearranging her room in my mind to make room for the toddler bed.

Michael returned and walked in the door, empty-handed. "She sold it."  


"She wasn't sure if we were coming back so she sold it to someone else."

I don't understand. How clear could we have been that we wanted it? Granted, we weren't just a "few minutes" but it had been 30, maybe 45 minutes at the most. Was she really so desperate to sell a $20 bed in a sale that hadn't even officially started that she couldn't wait for us to come back?  She even gave her a free teddy bear. Seriously?!?

"Is there any decency left in humanity?" This was Michael's response. We were both a bit surprised by the emotional let-down we had. I felt like I could cry and got a tiny lump in my throat. It's incredible how disappointed I could be about something that was non-existent an hour earlier. And why?

There was something about seeing my baby girl sit on that bed that made me suddenly sentimental. As she climbed up onto that bed we literally and unexpectedly watched our baby transition into a little girl before our eyes.

And just as suddenly, the piece of furniture that symbolized endings and beginnings was gone, at least for now.

I guess she won't be moving to a toddler bed quite yet. I have a bit more time with my precious little one before she sheds the last traces of babyhood. I'm in no rush. In about five weeks she will no longer be my baby and she will be forced to take on the role of "big sister." And the transitions will continue.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Three Mother's Days Of Joy

Mother's Day is a blessing to me with such a sweet girl in my life. Every year I find myself thinking about my friends and family who have lost children, as well as those who want to be a mother but for some reason aren't. This day is often hard for them, and it was only a few years ago that I dreaded Mother's Day, unsure how to celebrate others when I myself ached to be a mother. This is my second Mother's Day with Ellie, third if you count being pregnant with her. I had such a great day with my little family. We took pictures in the same spot as last year in our front yard. We had to include one with Baby Sister:
We had a super yummy brunch at one of our favorite places in town. Then we headed to the outdoor mall where Ellie played and we had smoothies, "enjoying" the 97 degree weather.
Next, we went to a place where Ellie and Michael made me a mug for Mother's Day. Not only did Ellie do a great job painting, she was also super patient for the two hours we were there, coloring and drawing and just hanging out well past her nap time.
One thing we know about Ellie is she's never been a fan of paint on her hands. I've tried numerous projects where I paint her hand or dip her hand in cement, and every time she knows what's coming and starts crying before the process even starts. She doesn't like to have "stuff" on her hands. I was a little worried about how she would react today but wanted her hand print on my mug. She did well, I think because a stranger was there to help.
Although, by the end of the process she looked at daddy and wasn't too happy anymore:
We won a drawing while we were there and won two more little tea cups, so we painted those as well to match my mug. We painted "Ellie Grace" on one and "Baby Girl" on the second since we STILL don't have a name picked out for this little one. I was tempted to put "Ruby" in quotes because our niece Isabelle has decided that's her cousin's name, and it would be funny to document that, but we couldn't commit to that. Yes, we are still waiting for inspiration for the name of our new little girl. We ended the family day with dinner at a local vegetarian Indian restaurant, and it was delicious.
All day today I've been impressed with how happy and patient my little one is. She ended up not taking a nap and no one would have guessed. She's been happy and joyful and spunky all day, and I found myself constantly looking at her, amazed at the little girl she's becoming, and the fun personality I see emerging. It's bittersweet to see her growing up and shedding her baby tendencies by the day. I had to look back to last year and compare pictures:
And then there was Mother's Day 2010 (I was 18 weeks pregnant):
Happy Mother's Day to all you wonderful mothers out there. Special thoughts go to those of you who have a difficult time on a day celebrating mothers. And of course, A Very Special Happy Mother's Day to my mom and mother-in-law. We are blessed to have you in our lives!