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Toddler life: Almost 18 months

Dear baby girl,

I was going to wait until 18 months to write an update, but with so many changes in your world lately, this seems long overdue.

The past few months have been a whirlwind as I have had one foot surgery and now another, keeping me off of my feet and unable to do as much as I used to. As hard as it has been for me as a momma who may have slight control tendencies, I have come to realize that there is more than one way to do laundry, and your daddy can still pick out a pretty cute outfit for you to wear for the day. There may be days where you’ve been in PJs most of the day, but those are also the days I’ve been able to spend with you while your daddy does yard work and projects around the house all while doing laundry and making dinner in between getting you up in the morning and ready for bed.

I read this quote in an article today, which made me even more incredibly thankful for your daddy through this process:

“Throughout these trying times, I’ve come to find out that marriage and parenting is never 50/50. And you know what? Thank God for that. There are so many times one of us feels as if we’re giving more than “our share,” but the truth of the matter is, when one of us isn’t able to give our owed portion, the other makes up for it. And that’s the pure beauty and absolute phenomenon to an ever-changing and an ever unequal balance of this thing called family.”

Needless to say, our whole family will be ready for things to be normal again soon. It’s been harder for you after this second surgery, as you are understanding more that Momma has a “boo-boo” this time around and that I am unable to do some of the things with you that I used to.

You’ve also become increasingly aware of your surroundings and are able to communicate so much more than just a couple months ago. Your vocabulary has exploded from a few words to a few dozen, and I can tell you know so much more than you are able to say. It seems you are learning a new word each day, from telling us what the cow says to repeating “I see you!” when we peek at each other. One of my favorite new things you’ve learned is your name. We’ll ask you where mommy and daddy are, and you’ll point at each of us and say our names. Then we’ll ask you where Hannah is and you’ll point at yourself and say your name with glee. SO. CUTE.

You’ve enjoyed recent visits with family, seeing both grandmas and cousins. We visited Gammie in Omaha a few weeks ago, where we enjoyed a weekend of sunshine, eating good food and shopping. We then had a brief visit with your cousins Ethan and Brennan and Auntie Katie when they passed through town. We enjoyed a lunch together and a visit to the park behind our house. You and the boys loved it, and I enjoyed seeing you all spending time playing together and catching up with your auntie.

For Easter we visited your daddy’s family. It was a short but fun trip which included Easter dinner with your grandma, Auntie Laura, Uncle Kenn and cousins Sophia and Landon. You and Sophia are two peas and love hanging out together. We enjoyed a pancake brunch at church and grilling out before heading home. Our trip home was a little longer than normal, as we ended up having some car problems, leaving us stranded at a gas station for a couple hours. Ironically, you loved the adventure and exploring the area. Your favorite part was the tow truck ride home.

Easter with Daddy

Easter with Daddy

It seems to be never a dull moment around here lately, but for the most part we’re taking everything in stride. In just a few weeks I should be back to normal and we’ll be that much closer to summer. I can’t wait to get out and explore with you and do fun things together, like visiting the farmers’ market and the zoo. I love seeing the world through your eyes and the joy you experience through discovery and play. It reminds me to slow down, appreciate the simple things and every moment I get to share with you.

With love,

Momma

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Mom life with a 15 month old

Dear baby girl,

I don’t know when it happened, but I feel like I blinked one day and stared at you, realizing you are no longer a baby, but rather a walking, talking toddler.

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And I couldn’t be more in love.

While a small part of me misses the snuggly newborn stage, this age is so much fun. You’re no longer just a baby for me to hold and care for, you are becoming your own person for me to interact with, and your personality is starting to shine.

You are such a happy baby – er, toddler. Unless you are sick or teething, your general disposition is always full of smiles and laughs, and you love giving hugs. I recently taught you how to blow kisses, so now you enjoy blowing kisses at momma and daddy, or even during mealtime, which makes for a fun cleanup.

One of your favorite games at the moment is peek-a-boo, and you will hide behind the curtains in the living room, pop out and yell “Boo!” before running into my arms, smothering me with kisses. It is pretty much my favorite thing ever.

You seem to be absorbing and learning a lot these days. You can speak quite a few words beyond your adorable baby babble, from momma and dada to shoes and boots to go, hi and bye. You’ve finally got the waving thing down, too. Sometimes you’ll wave towards yourself. 🙂

The other night we were playing and discovered you knew way more than we realized. Your daddy and I would ask you where certain toys were, and you easily would grab your different animals and toys, bringing them to mommy and daddy. You’re also starting to learn different body parts, pointing out your nose, belly, ears and hair.

It is so much fun to see you discover all these new things about yourself and the world around you, and I couldn’t be more proud. I know that every child learns things at a different pace, so even though you seem to be catching on to these things quickly, I’m sure that means something we’ll really want you to learn quickly – like potty training – is going to be a battle. Ha.

It’s been a crazy past couple of months, as I recently had surgery on my foot and couldn’t walk for about four weeks. Your daddy did a good job taking care of us, even though we spent about six weeks taking turns being sick. At least one of us was sick between Christmas and now! I am thankful we are all on the mend and close to the end of cold and flu season. Even though I am still wearing a boot on my foot to get around, things are getting back to “normal” around here – as much as they can be with a toddler!

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Although it’s not nearly as quiet around here as when you were a baby, I wouldn’t trade this stage for anything. Every age has its challenges, from sleep deprivation to teething to mealtime madness, but every age also has its rewards. Watching you learn and discover the world, seeing your adorable little personality shine and experiencing your love as my daughter are what brings me joy each day. It is a blessing to be able to love you and be your momma.

With love,

Momma

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Mom life: One year in.

Dear baby girl,

Happy birthday to my favorite one-year-old!

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I had another mom recently ask if it was hard for me when you turned a year old, as she had a difficult time when her daughter did. I felt like it should have been a more emotional experience, but honestly, I was more excited than anything to celebrate your first birthday. We had a blast celebrating with family, and you loved hanging out with your cousins and devouring your cake.

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This year has been the most rewarding and challenging of my life, and I couldn’t be more grateful for where we are today. Someday you’ll better understand the journey we’ve been on this year, as I’ve gone from working mom to stay-at-home mom to work-from-home mom. I got to spend the first three months of your life at home on maternity leave, returned to work for a few months, and even though I was laid off from my job, I wouldn’t trade the nearly six months I got to spend at home with you for anything in the world.

As a work-from-home freelance momma I have the flexibility to be with you on a moment’s notice, like when you recently got sick with an ear infection (thanks, daycare). My favorite part of the day is picking you up from daycare and seeing you light up with excitement when you see me. You wrap your arms around my neck and give me a little squeeze, and your dimples show as you give me a toothy grin.

We have a little mirror that hangs on the back window of the car in front of the car seat so that I can watch you in the rearview mirror while I drive. One of my favorite things to do is crank up the tunes and watch as you bop your head and laugh with the music. It is pretty much the cutest thing ever. You love music, and just over a month ago you figured out how to dance along. You love getting your groove on with momma, and we frequently have dance parties when we get home, whether you’re dancing on your own or I hold you and we dance around the living room. I’m sure the neighbors love it. 🙂

Another fun milestone you reached just days before your first birthday was taking your first steps! You were hanging out with me in the kitchen when you stood slowly, took a few steps and sat down again. It happened so fast I almost couldn’t believe it! Then a couple days later you did it again for Daddy. We haven’t see you do it since, but I’m sure you’ll be walking before we know it! You like cruising from one piece of furniture to the next, and you enjoy playing with your new toys you received for your birthday that help you walk. You also love reaching out to me and grabbing my hands, taking steps and walking towards me.

One of my favorite things about being your momma is seeing your joy and excitement as you reach new milestones and discover more about the world around you. I love experiencing each phase of your life with you. Perhaps that’s why I don’t feel overly emotional as you grow and get older. The best piece of advice I got from your Gammie is to enjoy every phase, each moment of your life. It’s easy to fondly look back at memories or excitedly look ahead at what’s to come, but there’s nothing like savoring the beauty of the present moment, celebrating each day and every milestone with you.

We’re one year in, and I couldn’t be more proud, more grateful, more blessed to be your momma. Here’s to celebrating every year together.

With love,
Momma

P.S. Just so you know, you will forever be my baby girl, no matter how old you are.

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Life Lately: 10 Months

Dear baby girl,

So much has been happening in your world lately, it is fun to see how you change from day to day. In the past few weeks, we’ve seen a lot of new things:

You fed yourself for the first time! We started with something simple and got puffs that dissolve on your tongue. It took you a while to figure out how to get them in your mouth. For the longest time you would just hold onto it, play with it, or just let it stick to your hand. We were so excited when you finally got it and kept doing it. We are still working on other foods…you’ll take them on a spoon just fine, but if I put them on your tray you just want to play with them, squish them or throw them on the ground. However, today we succeeded with our first attempt at Cheerios. 🙂 We’re pretty much done with purees these days and are eating lots of mashed and chopped foods. I made my first batch of homemade applesauce and baked apples that I’m excited for you to try. You were being finicky at dinner tonight, so all you ate were Cheerios.

One thing you started doing just after feeding yourself is clapping. We would always clap for you when you figure out something and say, “Yay!” and now you clap with us. You also like to randomly clap, which is pretty darn adorable. You’ll clap for yourself after you feed yourself, and you’ll clap anytime you hear us say yay. You’re a smart little cookie.

You (finally!) got two more teeth. You officially have your two front teeth as of today. The second one finally broke through. You have been working on them for a long time, and you’ve been pretty sore the past couple weeks. I’m glad these are in – I am imagining these are the worst ones to deal with. I am hopeful that teething will be much easier going forward.

You are taking “steps” while holding our hands. Now that you’re standing and more active, you want to keep moving. We’re showing you a little bit what it’s like to walk, and you’ll do it for a few steps while holding our hands and walking away from us.

You’ve become our little climber. You want to climb everything, from the couch to the bed to the stairs. You’ve been on the go since you figured out you could move. I couldn’t believe the  first time you climbed the stairs – you were just 8 months old!

You are one Chatty Kathy. You’ve started “talking” a lot more these days, imitating sounds we make and having little conversations with yourself while you play. I’ve noticed you do it a lot when you’re tired, but you’re pretty much chatting all day these days. You love to make a “suh suh” sound while looking out the window, which makes me think you might understand “outside” as a word, but that could just be me thinking you’re my baby genius. 🙂

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New favorites. One of your favorite things to do these days is to make a new version of “crazy baby face” where you clench your fists and say “Yay!” really excitedly. You also enjoy musical toys, opening doors and drawers (more baby proofing is on the list of things to do this weekend) and being momma’s sous chef in the kitchen.

We’re getting pretty close to 11 months…it’s crazy that I am already planning your first birthday! I am so not ready for you to be a toddler. Can you be a baby for a little while longer? I am loving this age and stage, taking it all in with you.

With love,

Momma

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Our breastfeeding journey.

Dear baby girl,

If someone would have asked me nine months ago (a month in as a new momma) what I thought about breastfeeding, I would have told that person it was incredibly rewarding, but that I didn’t know how much longer I would last.

You hear about all the amazing benefits of breastfeeding, but no one tells you about and nothing fully prepares you for the challenging parts of the experience. From getting you to latch on both sides to dealing with clogged ducts and oversupply issues, the first few months were pretty rough. The hardest part was seeing how my oversupply was affecting you, as you would gag and spit up every time you ate.

I felt like the worst mom and that I couldn’t fix it.

Thanks to some good advice from leaders in our local La Leche Leage group, I was able to figure out the steps to correct my issues. By the time you were three months old, we were finally starting to figure things out, and pretty soon, the hardest days were behind us.

Once we got into a groove, I really started to enjoy our time together. You would snuggle up into me and settle in for a good 30 minutes. I began to look forward to our time just the two of us, just enjoying the peace and quiet of the moment, a time for both of us to rest and just be still together.

Around month five, you began to discover that there was more to your world than just that which was near to you. There was more out there to explore, and you wanted to discover it. This made nursing a little more challenging, as you would get distracted easily. This got especially hard at bedtime, when all you would want to do is play instead of eat and settle down for bed.

It was frustrating, but I am so thankful that I didn’t give up.

It took a couple months, but we got through the hardest part of distracted, short nursing sessions. It took a lot of patience on my part, as well as realizing this was all new to you and that I am your comfort and guide through this entire journey.

At month ten, we are farther than I ever thought we would be when we started. You still get distracted, but we’ve figured out how to make it work for us. And now, my favorite part of the day is bedtime. Most nights lately you have been falling asleep while nursing. While some may say this isn’t a great habit to get into, I am okay with it. I know it will be hard to break you of, but I’m okay with that, too. I know that this time we share is limited, and I want to enjoy it while we can.

One of my favorite things is watching you slowly fall asleep, your long eyelashes kissing the tops of your cheeks. I love it when you take your hand and run it through your hair, or you lay it softly on my chest. Sometimes you grab onto my finger or you cover your face with your hand. A week ago you did something you haven’t done since you were a small baby and you let out several small coos and sighs as you fell asleep. My heart pretty much melted onto the floor. Then you began to snore softly. It was pretty much the cutest thing ever.

I love being able to watch you in those peaceful, quiet moments, when everything else in the world melts away. We sit in the dark, quiet nursery, your nightlight casting a soft glow in the room so I can see the features of your face. Your mouth purses open, as though you are softly kissing the air. You sigh your soft breaths as you slowly drift off to sleep, and I whisper to you just how much I love you.

I am embracing this time that we have together, and I am thankful that I am able to share it with you. Know that no matter where your journey leads you as a mother someday, there is no right or wrong decision, but whatever you feel is best to do for your children. I hope you know that my heart is filled with nothing but love as I care for and nurture you.

With love,

Momma

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Nap-time snuggles.

Dear baby girl,

There was a moment the other day where time stood still as I held you, as we swayed in the kitchen staring out the back window. It has become a part of our routine to either go for a walk, step outside or stare out the window before I put you down for a nap. It helps you calm down, as you stare into the distance, watching the trees sway as the leaves softly blow in the breeze.

I wanted to remember this as one of my favorite things, not to forget this simple thing as something special we share. As I hold you close, you slowly calm down, resting your head now and then on my shoulder or chest. You lift your head again, looking around and softly talking to yourself (and me, possibly), usually a soft “Suh suh suh” noise. I whisper in your ear what we see, like trees, birds, houses (if we’re out walking) and more.

When I hold you close, I nuzzle my head into yours, my nose and mouth inhaling your soft baby scent. Your hair is getting longer, and it presses against my nose and lightly tickles it. I love the soft space on the back of your head, rubbing your hair with my hand, calming you slowly, watching your eyes get heavy.

We go upstairs for nap time, which sometimes goes well and sometimes takes a while or a couple tries. We always read at least one book together. Our recent favorites are Goodnight Moon and The Little Red Caboose. I like to rub your belly as I read, continuing to calm you and get you ready for nap. Sometimes you seem to be into the story, other times you’ll look around the room, and sometimes you’ll be over-tired and hyper, reaching out to grab the book. My favorite is when you are leaning back against me, listening as I read, and you occasionally tilt your head up to me and smile.

Before I put you down for nap we stand and snuggle together again for a couple moments, as I turn on your noisemaker and we sway to the swishing of the ocean waves. I hold you close, my face against yours, slowly running my hand through your hair and up and down your back. I whisper in your ear how much I love you and how excited I will be to see you when you wake up. I give you a lot of kisses before putting you down for your nap.

I treasure these simple moments, wanting to hold onto them in my heart and my memory forever.

With love,

Momma

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Mom life: Lessons learned

Dear baby girl,

It only took me nine months to get here, but I am becoming a confident momma.

I’m sure I’ll still have plenty of doubts for years to come, but I am finally to the point where I feel like I know a bit about what I’m doing, and even if I don’t, I’m realizing that’s okay, too.

I’ve learned that it’s okay if you occasionally miss a nap or stay up way past your bedtime. It’s not ideal, but it’s not the end of the world, either. Sometimes when you miss a nap it’s because we’re already out and about or traveling and you’re out of your routine. If you fight a nap, sometimes I take advantage of extra time together with a trip out shopping or to the park. I discovered that you’ll sleep eventually. And when you do, it’s really darn cute.

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I’ve also learned that it’s okay to trust my instincts. Dare I say it’s okay to do what I want. I may not do everything that is recommended by the experts, but that’s okay, too. That doesn’t mean I’m not looking out for your safety and health first and foremost.

I’ve learned to embrace each moment as your momma, even when it’s tough. You’re still waking up at night to nurse, which is only once before you are up for the day. Even though I like my sleep, I know that someday I will look back on this time and miss our middle of the night snuggle sessions when all is quiet and it feels like we’re the only two people in the world. I know that each age and stage of your life will come with its share of challenges, but they will also come with incredible gifts and memories to last a lifetime.

I’ve learned it’s okay to nurse you to sleep. I don’t do it all the time, but most nights I still do. Is it not a great habit? Sure. Will it be hard to break you of it? Probably. But do I love the time we have together, and do I know that you enjoy it, too? Absolutely. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

On the flip side, I have learned that it’s okay to let you cry it out. I don’t nurse you before naps, and you gave up the pacifier at 4 months old, so naps are a time where we have to let you cry. Sometimes it’s only for a minute or two, other times it takes a while. Sometimes you don’t cry and talk to yourself before dozing off. (Which is seriously cute.) Does it still hurt me to hear you cry? With every fiber of my being. But do I know that you are okay, healthy, safe and secure? Yes. I know that you are tired and just don’t want to sleep. You don’t want to miss out on the fun of discovering the world around you, practicing your skills and meeting new milestones.

I have learned that motherhood is both the hardest job and the greatest gift. Being a momma is the hardest job I have ever had. It demands 24/7 attention and requires me to make stressful decisions. I have my moments where it plagues me with guilt that I might be doing something wrong or that I am not doing the best job that I could. It’s easy to get caught up in what we feel like we need or ought to be. I wonder if I am doing enough, being present enough, loving enough.

But then I realize I am more than enough in your eyes. I have learned that there is no “perfect mom” camp to be in. Sometimes it feels that way, but I have to remind myself there is reason there’s the saying that “Momma knows best.” Being able to love and provide for you is the most wonderful, rewarding experience, and it fills my heart with so much joy.

The biggest thing I have learned, that I will always hold close to my heart, is that being a mother requires sacrifice and selflessness. It is in this giving of myself for you that I have received the greatest gift of all: your love for me.

With love,
Momma