Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Watch Liesl Grow - She's TWO!

Our baby is officially not a baby anymore!  What an incredible and FAST two years!  Every day she does something that amazes us and quite a few things that crack us up.  She's picking up on so many details and remembers stores, restaurants, our trip to Disney World a month ago, seriously all the bits and pieces of her little life.  We love every part of her personality - she's smart, funny (without really trying), brave, kind, affectionate (she hugs me and tells me she loves me at least five times a day, talk about heart melting), inquisitive, opinionated, and unbelievably full of energy (she'd be more than happy to run around outside all day long).  One of my favorite aspects of this age is how she lives life with such passion and focus; once she's decided to read a particular book or complete a puzzle, it's close to impossible to pull her away.

Although she still loves to climb and jump, she's also begun to enjoy playing with smaller toys and pretending with her figurines and animals, so she requires a tad less supervision and is happy to entertain herself.  It's definitely a new stage of parenting that is a lot easier in some ways but that also comes with a new set of challenges as discipline and schedule-keeping are becoming more important.  Overall, she's a great listener, but we're working on understanding why it's not okay for her to run away from Mama in public (the scariest) and how to express when she wants a cup of milk or a certain toy in a kind way (which means not rolling around on the floor and whining angrily).  I'm nervous for what this next year holds with the infamous "terrible twos" and the inevitable potty training.  However, this babe has such a sweet spirit, and we've already been able to make the crib to "big girl bed" switch with almost no drama, so I'm hopeful that we'll be able to handle all of the coming milestones with grace. 

She's speaking in long sentences, remembering whole verses of songs, and helping to clean up her messes.  Although she obviously says some hilarious toddler-isms, her command of the English language (using the right tense of verbs, pluralizing nouns the correct way, etc.) is impressive.  I love our conversations and how they're becoming more and more in-depth each day.

We're spending more time apart, as she is going to hourly care (a really great program operated through the military Child and Youth Services) for three to four hours two mornings a week in addition to two hours in childcare at MOPS every other Tuesday and an hour each Sunday in nursery at church, plus we've gotten more comfortable leaving her with a sitter every once in a while since we've found someone we trust here.  Although I know it's probably good for her and me not to be together 24/7 and for her to understand that she's her own little person, it's hard on my heart.  She cried for a few mornings going into hourly care, but now she runs in and doesn't seem to mind when I leave.  There's another kind of sadness that comes with her not being upset to see me go.  Of course, I'd much rather it be that way, though.  And she's always SO HAPPY to see me when I return, and greets me with a run-on sentence of, "MOMMY, I miss you!  I lub you! Go home? See Hank and Lulu? Get in the car?!"

As I always say, every day is the best day and it just keeps getting better and better.  She's a blessing and a light, both to our little family and to every person she meets.  We're so proud and grateful she's ours.

Liesl loves -
  • Milk!  We're still hooked on whole milk over here.  She would exclusively drink milk if I let her, preferably of the chocolate variety.
  • Blueberries, steamed broccoli and carrots, cheese!, mac & cheese, sweet potato fries, Simply White Cheddar Cheetos, yogurt (especially eating it with a spoon like a big girl), gummies, donuts, bagels, and cookies of all kinds, and she really likes dipping everything she eats in "sauce" (honey mustard, ketchup, jelly, you name it!).
  • Books!  Although she doesn't want to read them ALL day like she used to, she still really likes to read before nap and bedtime.  Her faves are "Hop Aboard Here We Go," "The Pete the Cat Treasury," "Sheep go to Sleep," "The Runaway Bunny," and "They All Saw a Cat."
  • Listening to music, but only specific songs!  Right now, those are "Let it Go" from Frozen, "Touch the Sky" from Brave, "How Far I'll Go" from Moana, "The Greatest Showman" soundtrack (with "Tightrope" being her favorite from that CD), "Silent Night," "Away in a Manger," and "The 1812 Overture" (or "The Unicorn Song" as she calls it thanks to Little Einsteins).
  • Singing! She loves to sing ALL of the above songs (and more) and will break into passionate renditions any time the mood strikes her (mostly just of one line from each song over and over).
  • Bath time (We counted recently and she has something like 43 bath toys. There is hardly room for her in the tub.)
  • Animals, mostly CATS, horses, and dogs, but she loves them all.
  • Her stuffed animals... most moms can circulate stuffed animals out or give the less played with ones away.  That wouldn't fly in our house.  Each one has a name and receives attention.  Right now, her most adored are her Donald Duck, two cats named "Dexter" and "White Mocha," and her giant Olaf pillow that we bought for her new bed.
  • Olaf in general! Something about that dern snowman makes her so happy that it's almost overwhelming for her to talk about him : )
  • "Little friends/things" - these are random figurines, mostly Disney characters and animals, that are her most beloved toys.  When we went to Disney World in December, my mom got her a book bag exclusively for carrying her "little friends." At any given time, you will find a random assortment lined up on our coffee table.
  • Swinging, playing on playgrounds, and generally just being outside where she has room to run
  • Running and running and running
  • Puzzles!  She got several for Christmas and I thought she wasn't going to be quite ready for them, but she can do almost all of them by herself.  She'll spend an hour doing her favorite farm themed one over and over.
  • FaceTime
  • Swiping toiletries off of the bathroom counter (kid really loves toothbrushes and toothpaste)
  • Dave and Ava (her fave iPhone app)
  • Disney Jr... We just recently changed TV providers and now have Disney Jr., and she is hooked.  I try not to let it babysit her too much, but it is nice that almost all of their shows keep her entertained and I can flip the TV on when I need to make dinner or focus all of my attention on a task.  "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse," "Puppy Dog Pals," "Vampirina," and "Little Einsteins" are the winners at the moment, including their theme songs which we sing over and over.
  • Bubbles
  • Chick-fil-a playdates with her best bud, Grant (and going to "see cats" at the Petco across the street after)
  • Her toddler yoga and gymnastics classes
I could go on and on, there's just so much that makes her happy these days!

Liesl does not like -
  • Loud noises (particularly hand dryers in bathrooms)
  • Sitting still, especially in shopping carts and such - we've had to stop using her wagon for now because she just cannot stay on her bottom in there!
  • Nap/bedtime - she loves her "big girl bed" but hates when it's time to go to sleep.
  • When she can't make a toy, cup, blanket, etc., do what she wants it to... she becomes frustrated quickly.  Working on our patience! Part of it is just toddlerhood and part of it is her personality; she comes by it honestly from both her mom and dad.
  • Moving from task to task... Even when the next activity is one she really wants to do she has a hard time following through with stopping what she's doing in the moment to transition (e.g. leaving her toys downstairs to go upstairs to take her bath).

Ever since the change to her toddler bed, other than just a couple rough nights, she has been sleeping through the night wonderfully and has even been playing by herself in her room for a bit before I come upstairs in the morning.  We're all much more rested, and it's nice that I have a little time to get myself ready for the day before I start giving her my undivided attention.

Her hair is very curly now and dirty blonde.  It looks a little crazy most of the time, but I do my best to keep it under control and am having so much fun now that it's long enough to try different hair styles.  Like her daddy's, her eyes look like they're going to settle on a really pretty bluish green that tends to change a bit depending on what color she's wearing and how the light hits her face.

I think this will probably be my last age milestone post for a while; I'm planning on holding off on doing another one until she turns three.  It's hard to imagine how much she will have changed by then!  Yet I know she's going to stay the same daring, free, beautiful girl, no matter how old she is.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

10-17-17, 11:15 a.m.

On Tuesday, October 17, 2017, at 11:15 a.m., my daughter told me she loved me for the first time.

I went to pick her up from the nursery at the church where the Mothers of Preschoolers group in which I participate meets.  When she spotted me, she came running and gave me the tightest hug and said, clear as day, "I lub you." I was in a little bit of disbelief, as she had copied us saying it before but had never declared it spontaneously, so I waited for her to say it again.  And she said, once again, "I lub you!"  I told her that I loved her too, of course, and then asked her to put the Big Bird toy she was holding (the one she starts talking about as soon as we pull into the parking lot of the church) back where she found it.  She put it right back, first time asked!  Let me tell you folks, we are not at the communication level where this happens consistently yet.  In that moment I was just so dern proud and happy and warm inside.  Even though I know that she loves me, for her to be able to tell me and really seem like she knew what it meant, it was so huge.  It was like, in the two hours we'd been apart, there had been a slight shift in her ability to comprehend and articulate feelings and thoughts, and we were both made aware of it in this perceptible way that is difficult to explain but that felt very real.

It may seem like a silly thing to write a whole post about; I just have to remember forever all the little details: the tiny arms squeezing my neck, me trying to hold back tears in a public place, her thin baby hair against my cheek.  She's always worth the dirty diapers, limited free time, and messy living room, but in those seconds it was like my whole life made sense and I knew I was doing okay at this mom thing.

As I sat by her crib last night and she begged me to, "hold you," I tried to remember that perfect moment.  We've never sleep trained and I'm slowly trying to get her used to falling asleep on her own, which usually goes great.  Her bedtime routine works like a charm, and sometimes she doesn't even want to finish reading Goodnight Moon and singing our rocking chair songs - she just wants to go right upstairs and get in her crib.  Last night, however, she had no interest in going to sleep, so I tried to stay near her and comfort her without giving in and letting her doze off in my arms.  I was working so hard to be comfortable with letting her share her feelings without allowing them to dictate my actions.  I acknowledged her, over and over again, and told her that I was nearby but that it was bedtime and she needed to rest.  The crying continued, off and on, for almost an hour.  When I finally caved and picked her up, she was sitting  up on her knees staring at me and crying in a desperate way I've rarely heard her cry.  As I held her, she melted into me and fell asleep almost immediately.  She continued to snooze soundly after I gently put her back in her crib. As I walked downstairs after, I was almost sick to my stomach.  In those low times, it's so easy to convince myself that I'm doing everything wrong.

She slept like a rock, as she usually does lately, and woke up this morning calling for me happily.  Like every morning, she smiled and hopped up and down when I walked into her room.  I realized I'd been worried all night that her feelings toward me may have changed somehow - that by not scooping her up right away when she cried for me last night that I had chipped away at our bond, made her trust me less.

I read somewhere this week (I apologize for not remembering where) that what "good" mothers give their children, more than anything, is a sense of security.  Their children may not comprehend what "security" means, but they would feel it if they didn't have it.  I was there in the dark beside my daughter last night, and even if I had left the room, as I sometimes have to do, she would still know I would never truly leave her.  She is protected and cherished, and, from her toddler perspective, I'll always be able to keep her safe.

She felt the same love for me last night as she did on Tuesday morning, and I felt the same love for her, too.  I was just having to show it in a different way.

To all my mama friends out there, I have no doubt that your babies feel completely safe, and they know you love them, so much.  And they love you with everything they have, even if they can't tell you yet.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Watch Liesl Grow - ONE and a HALF!

I've been putting off writing a Liesl update for a long time because she has grown and changed so much since she turned one, and I knew it would take me FOREVER to write.  Free time is a luxury at the moment; this kid is busy, busy all the time and has a knack for finding the most dangerous activities.  So I'm going to write this as quickly as I can, so I can maybe work out and do a little bathroom cleaning before nap time is over. : )

For a refresher, I went back and read the post I wrote six months ago when Liesl (a.k.a. Birdie, Liesl Ann, Liesl Bird, Birdie Ann) turned one, and, oh lord, I thought she was full of personality back then!  I had no idea!  She is now talking up a storm and copying pretty much every phrase we say.  She knows EXACTLY what she wants most of the time, and has no problem letting us know.  She is so sweet and kind-spirited, and she's generally very good at sharing.  Now that she's a little older and more aware of who "her people" are, she isn't quite as smiley and talkative as she used to be with strangers when we're out and about.  But she's a happy little firecracker at home! Her listening skills are typically pretty good, and she loves to follow instructions, like, "please throw this in the trash" and, "get a blanket and put baby night-night."  Like many kiddos her age, she's a boundary pusher, so it's taking lots of creativity, patience, and persistence to help her distinguish between safe/acceptable behavior and dangerous behavior that isn't "okay."  She's a climber and an adventurer, so I do my very best to make sure she has opportunities outside every day to exercise her need for exploration and physical activity.

I've been astonished at how much she remembers lately, from what we talked about and saw days ago, to letters and numbers and names.  There is so much going on in that little head all the time.

She does become frustrated very easily, and it doesn't take much for her to lose her patience - I know a lot of this is her age and the struggles with communication that come along with this time of transition from baby to toddler, but it's also obvious that some of it is just her personality.  With a lot of practice and reminding, she's doing tons better asking for help instead of just becoming upset when things aren't going her way.  Her toys must sit "just so," and sometimes her dexterity and understanding of physics don't mesh with her expectations.

I remember when she was tiny dreaming about the days when I would be able really understand who she was and how she felt about things.  And now that she is able to communicate and comprehend her emotions and ideas, I'm loving it even more than I knew I would.  It's such a wonderful thing to talk WITH her instead of TO her.  She gives the best hugs, and she loves to "sit with Mama" (briefly) and walk to the playground holding hands.  I'm proud of her and her joy for life and desire to learn every single day.  And I have no doubt her curious, kind, free, strong spirit will serve her well her whole life.

Liesl loves -

  • Whole milk!  It's a struggle to get her to drink water/juice these days, but she'll chug milk.  The doc says we have to cut back because dairy can block the absorption of iron.
  • Puffs, blueberries, cheese (especially on quesadillas!), watermelon, sweet potato crackers, FRIES (sweet potato and regular), Annie's gummies, and ice cream
  • Books! Lately she's been into the Beatrix Potter Peter Rabbit Collection that the Mister's grandparents gave him when he was little.
  • STUFFED ANIMALS!!! She loves them all so much and most of them have names. Her faves include her elephant and a little pink bunny she calls "Foo Foo." 
  • Climbing, particularly on the bar stools and the couch... and throwing things behind the couch (which is a no-no.)
  • Listening to music in the car (lately she only likes female singers), dancing, and singing "Row, Row, Row" and "Baa, Baa, Back Seep (Black Sheep)"
  • Bath time and going to the pool
  • Playgrounds - her favorite one consists of bug statues that are made for climbing and sliding, and she calls it, "play with bugs!"
  • Swinging
  • Animals!  Especially dogs, horses, and bunnies
  • Making animal noises and, very recently, putting them in sentences - e.g. "Hank says, 'woof woof!'" "Cat says, 'meow.'"
  • Being outside
  • Peek-a-boo
  • Facetime and Snapchat
  • Dave and Ava (iPhone video app)
  • Hiding in cabinets
  • Her pull-along dog, Digger
  • Stickers
  • Sitting down randomly in stores and on sidewalks... If you ask her what she's doing she says, "sitting," like, "duh, Mom."
  • Playing in the nursery at church
  • Bubbles

Liesl does not like -

  • Being confined in anything (stroller, car seat, shopping cart) - she'll tolerate a high chair only while she's eating.
  • Shopping (obviously, since she hates shopping carts)
  • Sitting still, especially during diaper changes
  • Being held for long periods of time
  • When her stuffed animals don't sit the way she wants them to in her stroller, on chairs, etc.
  • Being away from Mama... except for in the nursery at church - it's magic.
  • Naps and bedtime (she fights sleep with everything she has.)

We were sleeping through the night pretty consistently until her and I went on a two-week-long trip back East last month.  Although the time with family was definitely worth it, we've been struggling with sleep ever since.   I'm sure she'll regulate eventually - we're slowly getting there.

Her hair is long enough now to have a little curl on the ends and is mostly light brown with some touches of blonde from all the time we spend in the sun.  It definitely still has an auburn tint in the sunlight, but isn't as red as it used to be.  Her eyes are blue with flecks of green and gray.

I've heard from tons of folks and can already tell that these early toddler years are going to be a blast.  She's a little sponge right now, and every day is a new adventure.  Even though the infamous "terrible twos" are approaching, I have a feeling there will be much more good than bad with our Birdie in the next few months.  Being her mama is the very best.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Making a (Temporary) Rental House a Home: PART TWO

I've been wanting to show you some photos of our new house, but before I do that I want to catch up on sharing a few from our Oklahoma home that I never got around to posting.

When I look back on these photos, I'm pretty proud of us for making our OK house work for half a year.  It was old and pretty yucky and tight on space.  Not to mention we shared it with a colony of wolf spiders and various other creepy crawlies.  We had to do what we could with our budget and the short time frame, plus it was a bit of a challenge to find a decent rental house that was dog friendly.  Taking a glimpse back to last year also makes me really thankful for the clean, new-ish, spacious home we have now.  We're lucky duckies, and we're really enjoying making this space ours.  It's nice to know we'll be here for a while and can settle in.

These photos are from the back half of our OK house which included the hallway, bedrooms, and bathrooms.  I shared the kitchen, dining area, and living room in a previous post.

Our guest bedroom was nothing to write home about, but it did the job - we were lucky to have both our parents come visit a couple times each.  I chose to make this extra bedroom a guest room instead of Liesl's nursery to ensure our families didn't have to stay in a hotel when they came out west, and because, honestly, I was still more than happy to keep L in our room. : ) The gun rack pictured was made by the Mister while we were in OK, and it ended up in the guest room due to the fact that he didn't have an office/man cave in which to display it.

The guest room was the dogs' domain during the day when I was home alone with L and couldn't wrangle everyone by myself (they didn't love being quarantined, but they were happy to have a great view out the front window from the bed), so that's the reason for the baby gate.  These ceramic tiles ended up being unbelievably slippery when wet, hence the random assortment of every rug we owned in the hallway.  I ended up kind of loving the patterns together, though, and the rugs made traversing to the bedroom after bath time much safer.

The house had two bathrooms, a full bath off the hall and a half bath off our room.  We would have been fine with just the full - it's the only one we really ever used since it had the shower and tons of counter space.  As you can see from the photo above, one pro about this house was that it had TONS of natural light.  I am a sun junky, and having all those happy rays streaming in was good for my soul.  Luckily, our new house is the same way; it may be even brighter during the day (we are in the desert after all).

I went minimal with our master bedroom, other than Liesl's little nursery corner.  Like I said, that natural light spoke for itself and I mainly just wanted to highlight the big window.  We bought curtain rods and curtains for our room but never got around to hanging them before it was time to move (oh, military life!).  The Mister made our platform bed at my request (and the fancy, schmancy dog bed, too!).

I was itching to do a tiny bit of a nursery in OK since there was no reason to have one in NC (we moved for the first time when Liesl was still tiny and sleeping in a bassinet by our bed).  This space was full of precious items, including the canvas above that my sweet and talented cousin, Molly, painted.  I hand made the bunting for our wedding reception and the bear print depicts Liesl Bird's favorite stuffed animal at the time (that we lost in the park, sadly - if you have a Target hook-up and know how to buy discontinued items on the black market, let me know). I liked the coziness of this space, but I love Liesl's new nursery where everything is a little more spread out since she has a room all to herself now.  Can't wait to show you! 

I custom ordered this print featuring the first two lines of my most favorite hymn to hang over the crib.  It's one of the dearest things to me in her current room, too!  It brings me a lot of joy to see our little one sleeping under these words.

This frame was on the wall in our master bedroom and it's become a treasure to me.  The first photo is from the night we got engaged, the second is from our wedding (obviously), and the third is from when we were moving out of our first home in NC with baby Liesl in tow.  When we arrived at our new home in TX, I removed the engagement photo and added a photo of us in front of our OK house that was taken on the day we moved out (and scooched the other two photos over to make it chronological).  I plan to keep this up with each move - but I may have to buy some more frames because I kind of like the idea of having a photo of our little family in front of each house on display... both because it's fun to see the different houses we've made homes and because I love to see the snapshot of our family at that moment in time.

All in all, even though I didn't LOVE our house in OK, I do love the memories we made there.  It was our home for a lot of Liesl's life so far.  I think we made the best of it, and I'd choose that house again (minus the spiders) if given the option.  I think Hank and Luellen really miss it - they had a big backyard full of lots of wildlife.  Now they have a teensy sandy lot with a pitiful patch of grass.  Poor pups!

I'm glad I finally got around to sharing this post.  Now I can show you some photos of our new house (which I really, really love!)... If I ever get around to taking them that is.  : )