Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How Is That Possible?!

I have a six month old baby!  How is that possible?!  Where has the time gone?!  How can I be so blessed to have this amazing little person be a part of my life for half of a year?!  God is so good!

Ella is six months old today, and getting more beautiful, coordinated, fun, smart, and independent every day.  She is such a joy, and now that she is a part of our lives, I can't imagine my life without her. 

We made it all the way to our goal of exclusively breastfeeding for six months before introducing her to rice cereal this evening, which she seemed to love.  She kept reaching for the cup where the rice cereal and breastmilk were mixed as if she understood that's where the food was.  I think most of it made it's way into her belly, but I couldn't help myself but to laugh when she tried to blow bubbles into the mush. 

If I'm this excited about her turning six months old, just think how ecstatic I will be when she is a year old!  I have so to which to look forward.  Like I said--God is so good!

Aside from the fun of feeding Ella rice cereal, today's blessing was the chance to write a letter of recommendation for a former colleague as she applies for a role similar to mine.  She is currently a teacher, but has a daughter who is a week younger than Ella, and looking to do something that is more conducive to being a mom.  It was such a blessing to reflect on the year that I spent with her on my staff.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Natural Highlights...or Gray?

I'm a dirty blonde.  Wait...perhaps that came out wrong...I should have said, "I have dirty blonde hair".  So when I noticed last night that my hair seemed to have a little extra "shimmer" to it, I chalked it up to natural highlights from being out in the sun now that the weather is absolutely gorgeous in Arizona.  But this afternoon, upon closer examination, I don't think that I can claim the "shimmer" as "natural highlights".  I don't quite know how I feel about it, but I think I have gray hairs!  Yes, "hairs"--plural!

It's not that I'm "opposed" to having gray hairs...I just don't think I'm "ready" to have them.  Ella will be six months tomorrow--she's so little (and yet so big!), it just doesn't fit in my mind that a mother of a six month old would have gray hairs!  And no, I'm not about to start dying my hair to hide them.  For one, I've never dyed my hair before; but more importantly, I feel like this is who I am.  I may be shocked at the gray hairs, but I don't feel like they are something that I need to cover up.  Besides, they make me look "wise" and "distinguished"...right? 

My greatest blessing from this last weekend was the chance to meet up with Jill from Hubby, Baby, and Me...Our Family of 3 and her beautiful Baby Girl.  I have always admired Jill's honesty and thoughtful perspective.  Since my husband's Army Reserve unit is located near Jill's home, Ella and I met up with Jill and Baby Girl for coffee and had a wonderful chat.  Baby Girl is facing the possibility of a pretty major surgery, so please keep their family in your prayers.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

For the First Time

Ever since we got the bottle situation figured out at daycare (she takes about 6 ounce in the morning, I feed her at lunch, and another 6 ounces in the afternoon), I've been feeling better and better about her being there.  Sure, part of me still wishes that I could be a stay-at-home mom, but for the first time today, I realized that daycare gives her something that I couldn't give her on a day-to-day basis:  community.

While I was feeding her at lunch, one of the care providers started playing with the puppets, and the other older kids--between 8-10 months--quickly crawled over to join her on the mat.  When Ella finished up, I brought her over to the group and sat with her for a few extra minutes before sneaking out.  As I left, I peaked through the window to watch her for a bit and was just touched at how happy she seemed.  She sat there, so confident and so poised, alongside the older kids.  She just looked so comfortable and cozy and...grown-up.  Okay, I know that she's not even six months yet, but she just looked like she was so content there among her friends. 

For the first time, I felt good about leaving her and going back to work.  For the first time, I smiled as I got back in my car.  For the first time, I felt like maybe I really could balance being a good mom and a good employee.  For the first time, I felt good--really good--about our arrangement.  For the first time, I felt...peace.

Today's blessing was finishing a four-day week, and it feels so good to know that I'm taking tomorrow off!  My husband and I are looking forward to bringing Ella to her first Cubs Spring Training game tomorrow.  Aside from the sick days, this is my first real day off since going back to work in early January.  I can't think of any better way to spend it!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

From Pennies to Paperclips

If you've been following my story for a while, you're probably familiar with how I keep an eye out for pennies and other coins.  It all stems from my grandma's habit of picking up coins on her walks and then dividing them among our stockings at Christmas.  When my mom started doing the same thing for Ella and her new cousin, I decided that I would join in as well.  I am very proud that I found $4.86 in loose change during my pregnancy with Ella.

I realize that it's just a silly little habit, but when I went back to work in January, I admit that I was a little disappointed that I wasn't finding many pennies.  I tried to keep an eye out for them, but perhaps I was just too busy or too stressed to notice.  I mused that maybe God figured that I didn't need the pennies anymore after the raise and the promotion with which He blessed me.

But it was never about the monetary value--rather, it was more about the "warm fuzzies" that I got each time I found a coin.  It was a moment of solidarity with my grandma and my mom--two amazing women who I love and want to emulate.  And in my own special way, each coin felt like a "reminder" that God was looking out for me and my baby. 

Lately, I haven't found many pennies, but I've noticed that I've been finding paperclips absolutely everywhere!  Granted, I work in an office and the daycare affixes an invoice to our check-in sheet each week, so I'm bound to come in contact with them on a regular basis, but I'm finding them in unexpected locations.  If I looked funny bending over to pick up pennies in the middle of the grocery store when I was eight months pregnant, I probably look just as silly bending over with a six month old in my hands to pick up a lost paperclip!  Let others think what they want; and yes, I realize that they hold even less value than a penny, but it still makes me feel good to find either shiny little item.  (I do, however, draw the line at staples--though I got a good chuckle when I opened my car door in a parking lot and saw a pile of dumped staples shining in the sunlight).

Today's blessing was hearing that Ella was back to her happy self after a rough day at daycare the day before.  She has been sleeping so well lately, and was totally happy throughout the weekend, but then had a rough night on Sunday night, and just wasn't happy on Monday morning.  It breaks my heart when she's upset, but God blessed her (and therefore us) with a good night sleep last night and lots of joy today. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Back to Back

Yesterday I shared that a former colleague had lost her son in a stillbirth.  This morning I found out that another friend didn't see a heartbeat after seeing one two weeks ago.  It seemed like things were going so well in my own little world, and then just like that--back to back--two friends experience loss.

I know that just because I had a baby, all is not suddenly right with the world.  Just because I got my happy ending doesn't mean that every story will finish like mine.  I'm painfully aware that pregnancies end too soon, and that arms are still left empty.  I now view life through a lense of what has been or what could be lost--but I also view life through a through a lense of what has been and can be gained.  And although I recognize that we all process these experiences in different ways, I would imagine that these women will begin to do something similar. 

Please pray for this friend as she recovers from the physical trauma of today's D&C and the emotional turmoil that comes from losing this baby that she desires.

This may sound insignificant, but today's blessing is qualifying for 2-day free shipping from Amazon so that I could order a book that helped me through my losses for each of these women.  I hope to put together a little "survival kit" for each of them, the way that a friend did for me.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Thoughts and Prayers

Thoughts and prayers go out to my former colleague who gave birth to a stillborn son yesterday.  She's a beautiful woman of faith, and I know that she and her family would appreciate your prayers for God's comfort in this unfathomable pain.

Just like that, so many thoughts, reactions, emotions, and memories come flooding back.  I'm sitting here with Ella in my arms, but she is the only person I could think of all day.  My heart goes out to her.

In light of this sort of news, I'm reminded of God's blessings and goodness--even in challenging times.  The passage I read this morning promises us that He will bring us through:
 "I waited patiently for the LORD;
   he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
   out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
   and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
   a hymn of praise to our God." 
(Psalm 40:1-3)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Look What I Can Do!

Ella mastered the art of sitting up by herself (as in, I can set her on an even surface and she can stay seated for a good ten minutes or so).  We worked on it a bit on Friday morning and then again yesterday morning.  By yesterday afternoon, she knew what to do.  My husband didn't get to see her new trick before he left, but I was able to send him a video-text during his layover.  We're pretty proud of her!

Today's blessing is that some friends from church invited Ella and I over for dinner since my husband is out of town.  This is a new couple at church, and they live nearby, so I'm really looking forward to getting to know them better.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


My husband left this morning for a week in Korea, which makes me a single mom for the next seven days.

When he first told me that he would be gone this week, I was initially disappointed that he would be gone during Spring Break.  Unlike my students, I don't automatically get the week off...but it is usually a good time to take a day or two of vacation with him because everything slows down.  However, with my new position, things don't appear to be slowing down!  So instead, I'll work the whole week and hope to leave a little earlier than usual each day since I'll be doing our evening routine sans husband.

I admit that there have been times when I felt that my husband wasn't pulling his weight in caring for Ella.  He's so squeamish about bodily fluids that I could probably count the number of times that he's changed her diaper on both hands (okay, maybe both hands and feet).  And since we're still exclusively breastfeeding, he's off the hook in the feeding responsibilities.  But he is the primary bottle-washer every single night, and it makes my life so much easier.  And he adores Ella, and loves to play with her and teach her new things.  Having the extra set of hands is pretty vital when I'm trying to prepare dinner and she's starting to do her "I'm getting tired and hungry" sort of fussing.  Even with two parents, we're pretty much go-go-go from the moment we get home to the moment we go to bed.  I know that I'll survive without him (it's only a week, right?), but I'm sure going to make sure he knows how much I appreciate him when he returns!

Today's blessing is the absolutely gorgeous Spring weather that we're having here in the desert!  Ella and I went for a long walk today, and you couldn't ask for better weather!  Sure, it gets hot in the Summer, but we're loving it for now!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Date Night

My husband and I celebrated our four-year anniversary today.  When he initially told me that he wanted to take me out to a nice dinner to celebrate, I found myself coming up with reasons why we shouldn't go out to celebrate.  Admittedly, all of the excuses revolved around Ella. 

First, we would need someone to watch her.  Even though we have plenty of friends who would gladly entertain her, the last thing I want to do is hand her off to someone else after I haven't seen her all day.  And she has been sleeping so well, that I don't want to mess with her routine.  But we decided that we could make it work if we got an early dinner reservation, and my very-dear friend and her husband were more than happy to help us celebrate by taking Ella.  They live near the steakhouse where my husband and I celebrated after our wedding, so it all felt fitting.

But I was torn all day today.  Part of me was really excited to celebrate with my husband, while I simultaneously felt drawn to be with my baby.  Even throughout dinner, I thoroughly enjoyed the time being a grown-up, and yet my arms felt strangely empty without her.  Dinner was amazing, and we even opted to get dessert, but I was so anxious to pick her up.

And Ella, apparently, was just as anxious for our return.  It turns out that she got fussy the moment we walked out the door.  I feel bad, but my very-dear friend and her husband have a little boy who is two weeks younger than Ella so I know that they "get it" (not to mention that they are both soon-to-be pediatricians).

Knowing our lifestyle, it probably won't become a regular event to leave her with a babysitter while we go out, but I admit that it felt really good to spend some quality time with my husband.  We even talked about how important it is for us to have these "date nights" from time to time.

Today's blessing was the chance to reflect on these last four years.  We saw more heartache than I imagined when I said "I do" on March 10, 2007, but we have also been abundantly blessed in this time.  Ella sits at the top, but it truly is a long list of blessings.

Monday, March 7, 2011

You're Scaring Me!

I was totally excited for Ella to roll over from her back to her tummy...but now it's causing a new concern.  Ella apparently prefers to sleep on her tummy, facing straight down into the mattress.  I admit that it's truly got my concerned.

Today's research tells us to have babies sleep on their backs.  I know that our mothers' generation instructed moms to have their babies sleep on their bellies, and my supervisor said that she was instructed to have her girls (now teens) sleep on their sides.  I realize that plenty of people have turned out okay when not sleeping on their backs, but I also understand that "back is best".

I put Ella down on her back every night, and she'll fall asleep that way.  But by the time I finish prepping her bottles and diapers for the next day, she has rolled over and is sleeping peacefully on her side or belly.  I try to roll her back over to her back, but she gets fussy and immediately rolls over to her belly again.  On Saturday night, this "she rolls-I roll-she rolls-I roll" routine went on for about an hour before I finally gave up and "compromised" that her head was sufficiently turned to the side.

Everyone has said that if she can roll over, then she's old enough/smart enough/strong enough/developed enough to do what she needs to do.  My very-dear friend (the pediatrician who is working on a masters degree in Public Health) recently presented a paper on how keeping a fan going in an infant's room can drastically reduce the risk of SIDS, so we have done that.  We also took off the bumpers and don't have any other blankets or stuffed animals in the crib.  So I trust that we have done all that we can to make it a safe space for her.  But I can't help but feel like I did throughout the pregnancy when I was just praying that God would keep her heart beating--except for now I'm praying that He keeps her breathing throughout the night.

This isn't the first time I've worried about her, and I know it sure won't be the last.  This morning, I found myself just wanting to fast-forward through the next month or so until she is old enough to safely sleep on her tummy without any concerns, but I know that's not the answer either.  All I can do is trust God...and check on her multiple times throughout the night.

We were blessed yesterday with the chance to visit with some good friends who moved about two years ago.  My husband and I really appreciate their friendship, and it was great to be able to introduce them to Ella.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Who Me? Competitive? Never! (Okay...Maybe A Little)

Okay, okay...I admit that I'm a little competitive.  I realize that every baby is different and develops at different rates, but I can't help by want Ella to be the brightest and smartest baby around.

Over the last few days, Ella has gotten so close to rolling over from back to tummy.  She would swing her top leg over, but her bottom arm seemed to keep getting stuck under her.  There is another baby who is three days older than Ella at daycare, and the care providers told me that she had rolled over on Thursday.  Of course, I immediately started doing the math in my head:  if she is three days older than Ella, and she rolled over on Thursday, then than means that Ella needs to roll over by Sunday to be on par.  Sure enough, I went into the nursery this morning to get Ella...and there she was, on her tummy. 

I think it's one thing to want Ella to grow and develop and meet her milestones appropriately, but I need to remember not to push her too much.  And I need to keep in mind that every baby develops differently.  We all develop different strengths and weaknesses that make us who we are, and babies aren't any different.  I want to always encourage and inspire her to do her best, and sometimes that does mean pushing her a bit.  But I don't want her to resent me for pushing too much or comparing her to others.

Yesterday's blessing was the chance to have dinner with some good friends after a long week.  I felt bad that I had to leave a bit early to put Ella down, but it was fun while it lasted!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I Think I Can, I Think I Can!

I think I can make it all the way to six months with exclusively breastfeeding!  I know that they say that we can introduce solids (ie, rice cereal) at 4-6 months, but from what I understand, there is less of a risk of allergies when a baby is introduced to solids closer to the six month mark. 

There was a point in time when I first started back to work and daycare was feeding Ella more than what I was pumping, and I was just praying that I would get to four months.  But then we got into a routine and figured things out, and I seemed to be breaking even every day.  As long as I went and fed her during my lunch break, I could get about 10-12 ounces in my 3-4 pumping sessions, and this would provide two 5-6 ounce bottles--one for the morning and one for the afternoon.

Now that Ella is sleeping through the night, I'm coming out ahead on the bottle count because I'm pumping in the middle of the night.  So I'm essentially producing three bottles' worth per day, and she is going through two.  There are still some days when I can't make it in to see her at lunch and she'll take three bottles, but let's just say that I'm running out of space in the freezer.

In fact, I've switched up my routine when it comes to prepping her bottles.  Up until recently, I always fed her the "oldest" stuff--meaning, I froze whatever I pumped, and defrosted a bag for each bottle over night for the next day.  But then I started thinking--why not just give her the "fresh" stuff?  It's probably better for her in a lot of ways (and saves me a few steps as well).  I can freeze any surplus and use that on days when I can't join her during my lunch break.  I wish I had thought of this sooner...but I guess it's just part of the whole "figure it out as I go" mystery that is breastfeeding.

Today's blessing was the chance to chat with my sister-in-law.  Yesterday was her first day at home alone with my niece.  It's so nice to be able to have "mommy conversations" with her as we share this new adventure of parenthood together.