I’ve always loved Christmas, but it just gets more and more fun when you add kids into the mix, doesn’t it? Emily is obviously pretty clueless about the whole thing, but Alexander spent the entire month of December buzzing with excitement about all things Christmas.
He loved decorating the tree, and spent many evenings draping his ever-present pile of blankets from his bed over various parts of the house, declaring “I’m decorating for Christmas!” He’s also very insistent that all Christmas trees must have stars on top. Whenever we see a tree with an angel on top, or even a pine tree outside with only lights, he’ll note, “Oh, I guess they forgot to put a star on top of that Christmas tree.”
He watched a ton of Christmas shows and learned (well, mostly learned) a bunch of Christmas songs this year. His version of “Jingle Bells” is delightful (Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle all da way! Ash-ee-urr dinnda oneeeuuuopen sleigh, hey! ), but his abridged rendition of “Frosty” is my favorite:
He wasn’t timid at all about meeting Santa this year. Our neighborhood hosted a Story Time with Santa event where Santa came into a room full of kids right at the end of a reading of Frosty the Snowman. All the kids noticed Santa around the same time, but no one was too sure what to do. Alexander, no longer our shy little guy, took the lead by marching right up to Santa and giving him a great big hug. Once A. broke the ice, the other kids were quick to follow suit. It was adorable.
He was excited about getting presents from Santa, of course, but he surprised me with how excited he was about giving presents to other people. We got Emily a book from us/Santa, and that was it since she’s a baby and doesn’t really need anything. But then a week before Christmas, Alexander asked me out of the blue, “Mommy, can I give Emily a present for Christmas?” I’d already finished shopping and didn’t want to go back out to the stores, but I wasn’t about to discourage Alexander’s spirit of giving. So I suggested we go down to the basement and pick out one of his old toys from when he was a baby that he could give to her. “Oh, yes!” he exclaimed. “Can we do that right now?!” I need to remember on future gift-giving occasions that he’s old enough now to understand and have an opinion about what gifts he gives to people.
Alexander couldn’t get enough of helping me wrap presents. He helped me with almost everything I wrapped, and wanted so badly to wrap more when we were visiting my parents the weekend before Christmas that my mom picked a decorative box that’s been on her end table for a few years and let him wrap it up for my dad. And there have been several nights, even now that Christmas is over, when I’ve gone upstairs well after his bedtime to find him sitting up in bed, wrapping his stuffed animals up in blankets. “I’m wrapping presents for my children. I’m playing Santa!” he explains.
After Alexander expressed a desire to ask Santa for “All the toys!” we spent a lot of time discussing the fact that Santa would probably only bring him one or two presents. He could not believe his luck on Christmas morning, then, when in addition to the one present plus stocking stuffers from Santa, he had more presents from Mommy and Daddy and Grandmas and Grandpas and cousins. “I get another present?!” he exclaimed over and over again. And, with the exception of some fun dump truck socks that Santa really thought he would like but were met with mildly disappointed confusion, every single present he opened was followed immediately with a delighted cry of “Whoa! It’s just what I wanted!” (He’s since come around to the dump truck socks and asks to wear them every day. I guess they just weren’t as exciting a present to open up as all the other goodies.)
We spent Christmas morning at our house, just the four of us, for the first time this year, and it was so much fun. I’m loving figuring out our own family traditions, not to mention seeing all the joy and magic through Alexander’s eyes. It’s only going to get more fun from here as Emily grows up and starts figuring it all out, too. I can’t wait.
At eight months old, Emily…
…legit crawls, and she’s quick.
…pulls herself up to a stand, and sometimes takes a few tentative cruising-style steps.
…lights up whenever she sees me.
…says “mama” when crawling toward me, and does it often enough (and not when crawling toward anyone else) for me to think she probably knows what it means. First word!
…snuggles up close, nuzzling her head against my chest when if I’m holding her and someone asks her, “Do you have your mama?” It’s as if she’s saying “Yeah, I’ve got her right here. Life is good.”
…loves stealing toys from her brother, and wants to be wherever he is all the time.
…grins from ear to ear when her brother gives her goodnight hugs and kisses, even if she was fussing and grumpy a second earlier.
…wraps her arms around Alexander to hug him back whenever he gives her a hug.
…sometimes sleeps through the night, sometimes doesn’t, but when she does wake up, it’s usually only once per night.
…gives slobbery, gummy kisses.
…still has zero teeth.
…had her first taste of mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving and let us know in no uncertain terms that she hated it: tears, gagging, lots of drama. Oh, Emily.
…loves pulling the dogs’ hair and splashing in their water bowl.
…won’t leave the Christmas tree at daycare alone, but so far hasn’t paid much attention to ours.
…is still my Very Best Girl.
Emily is seven months old!
She started sleeping in her crib this month, and, overall, she and I are both sleeping much better with her across the hall instead of right next to me. She still sometimes wakes up at 2am, but…well, look. I’m not going to talk about it for fear of jinxing it. Suffice to say that most nights she doesn’t wake up at 2 am. It’s really nice.
Emily is completely in awe of her brother. The other night he was dancing around the living room, and she laughed and laughed the whole time. And just look at this picture. The way she’s reaching out to take his hand and looking up at him with such admiration. Have you ever seen anything sweeter? No. No you have not.
She crawls! Not fully on her hands and knees yet; it’s more of a belly drag, but she gets around. She’s using her new-found mobility to help herself to whatever toys she wants to get her hands on, which usually happen to be the toys she sees Alexander playing with. Alexander’s not a huge fan of this development. We’re talking a lot about sharing these days.
She’s also using her mobility to be extra dramatic (and, okay, also a little hilarious) (but still heartbreaking) in the evenings when absolutely nothing is okay unless Mommy’s holding her. As soon as I try to cook dinner, here comes Emily, dragging herself across the floor to me, wailing pitifully the whole time. She’d make an excellent extra in a zombie movie.
In less dramatic news, check out this picture from Alexander’s birthday party. While all the other cousins were running around like crazy, my 6-year-old niece, Audrey, sat down to read books to Emily. It was such a sweet moment, and you could tell Emily totally loved it. One of many reasons I’m so happy our kids get to grow up around a bunch of their cousins.
I don’t really have a paragraph to introduce this next photo. But look at my sweet girl! She’s so pretty! And her post-bath curls are the very best!
The day she turned seven months old also happened to be…wait for it…
You know we couldn’t let a baby’s first Halloween go by without putting the baby in a pumpkin, right?
We even let Alexander join in the pumpkin-sitting fun.
Both kids were quite a bit happier on the outside of the pumpkins.
Is that not the most adorable kids-with-pumpkins photo you’ve ever seen? Can you even believe how lucky I am to have these kids?
I don’t have height and weight stats because this was the first month of her life Emily didn’t have to go to the doctor. On months when she didn’t have well checks, we had to take her in for her eczema, but not this month! It turns out Dairy-Free is the way to be. Since I’ve gone off dairy, her eczema has improved drastically. I still miss cheese a lot, but since adjusting my diet is so obviously helping her, I only spend about 70% of my waking hours counting down the months until I can eat cheese again (rather then the 95% I spent previously).
Look at this kid. She’s the best little girl. The very best.
What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 30 and celebrated being in the best shape I’ve been in since Alexander was born by running a 5k. To make it even more fun, I did a mud run with my good friend and college roommate, Lauren, and we celebrated our success at the end with breakfast burritos. I don’t remember what exactly I did on the actual day of my birthday (I’m sure burritos were involved), but the mud run was my main personal birthday celebration.
What are your strongest memories from this year, and why?
(1) The conversation in which we decided to have another baby. (2) The Black Forest Fire in early June. Watching the beautiful forest where Tim grew up burn, wondering whether we’d have to evacuate since we live only a couple miles from the forest’s edge, wondering if Tim’s childhood home, our church, and other memory-filled places would still be standing when all was said and done. A lot of things burned — over 500 homes were lost — but Tim’s childhood home and our church both survived. (3) Our month-late Anniversary celebration in which we visited a local brewery’s new location in a 100-year-old building that used to be an elementary school, tried a delicious new-to-us Mexican restaurant, and celebrated both eight wonderful years of marriage and the new baby that we’d just found out was on its way. (4) Alexander’s 2nd birthday. (5) Experiencing Christmas through Alexander’s eyes.
What did you do this year that you’d never done before?
Started running regularly (at least for the first half of the year), with the help of the Couch-to-5k Program and a handful of good audiobooks to keep me distracted from how boring running can be.
What did you want and get?
To get back in shape and reclaim my body after holding on to post-pregnancy weight for way too long. To get pregnant again. Lots of quality time with my favorite boys.
What did you want and not get?
2013 was a pretty great year and didn’t leave me wanting much. I did ask Santa to bring me a professional cleaning service, just for one day, to clean my house top-to-bottom and do all the things I’m too lazy to do (clean the baseboards, top of the fridge, etc.), and, alas, there was no cleaning service under the Christmas tree this year. Oh, I also wanted my dance studio not to move to a ghetto location that I’m not comfortable going to after dark for classes, but they went ahead and moved anyway. Luckily my tap teacher is awesome and has a tap floor in her basement, and she’s been holding class there for those of us unwilling to go to the ghetto. However, the studio’s move did mean that I had to give up my jazz class, and I really miss it sometimes. I know I could just find a different studio, and that’d be great if all the women I used to dance with would also go to a different studio with me, but that seems unlikely to happen. It’s not that I miss taking as many classes as I used to (though I do miss that); I miss dancing in those specific classes with that specific group of women. We had so much fun, and I’m still holding out hope that the studio’s ghetto location is temporary, and eventually it’ll move to a better place and we’ll all get to dance together again.
What would you like to have next year that you didn’t have this year?
A daughter. Good news — I’ve got one scheduled to arrive in a few months.
Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I resolved to finally get off my ass and lose the baby weight I’d been holding onto for over a year, and I was very successful, thanks in large part to Biggest Blogging Loser. And then I promptly got pregnant and gained it all back, but I’m okay with that. In retrospect, I think losing that extra weight really helped pushed me over the edge to finally being ready to go down the pregnancy/childbirth/recovery road again. I’ve lost the baby weight once; I know I can do it again.
I spent New Year’s Eve and Day this year in a haze thanks to the Sinus Infection from Hell and couldn’t be bothered to come up with any new resolutions. My main priorities for this year are to stay healthy through the final trimester of this pregnancy and try to adjust gracefully to all the changes that will come with adding a second kid to our family.
What was your biggest achievement of this year?
On a large scale, I feel like I did a pretty kickass job at finding a work/home balance and being a good wife and mother to my boys. On a smaller scale, I finally organized several years’ worth of digital photos, successfully implemented a system to continue to keep our photos organized as we take them, and worked with Tim to print, frame, and hang several family photos in our previously bare front hallway. It’s something that I’ve been wanting to do for awhile, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the results.
What was your biggest failure?
I let myself get way to stressed out about prepping for the holidays, which happens every year, and this year the anxiety was magnified by pregnancy hormones. I have this mental block that I can’t start relaxing and enjoying the holidays until all my shopping and prep work is done, which turns me into a messy ball of anxiety during the first couple weeks of December. I really need to work at being better at going with the flow and allowing myself to enjoy the holiday season even before I’ve checked everything off my to-do list.
What did you rely on when you were overwhelmed?
Tim, as always, saved me from my crazy emotions on several occasions, and he did so more often than usual thanks to the aforementioned pregnancy hormones. I can always count on him to listen to me cry about everything that’s making me crazy and then help me put a plan in place to deal with it all; having a solid plan of attack usually calms me down quite a bit.
What are your strongest recommendations for entertainment from this year?
Oh, man, I read some really great books this year, including The Scorpio Races, The Raven Boys, The Book Thief, The Fault in Our Stars, and Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. (Wait, technically I read Penumbra in 2014, but I read it before writing this, so I’m still going to count it.) We watched and loved the final season of Breaking Bad, and I’ve finally gotten into The Walking Dead this season. I’d like to go back to the first season and get caught up, but I’m still enjoying the current season. Luckily Tim is nice enough to fill me in on any important back story that I’ve missed up to this point. I think the only movie we saw in the theater this year was Gravity, and it was excellent. We do most of our movie watching at home via Netflix, and nothing really sticks out as being super memorable, except maybe Cabin in the Woods. I’m pretty sure we first watched that one in 2012, but we re-watched it this year, and it was just as fantastic. It was nothing like I expected, and I really, really enjoyed it.
What song will remind you of this year?
I don’t pay much attention to music. I heard a lot about a song called “Blurred Lines,” but I honestly couldn’t tell you whether I’ve ever heard it. If I have heard it, I didn’t realize what I was hearing was “Blurred Lines,” so I may as well have not heard it. I know I heard “Wrecking Ball,” but that’s only because Tim showed me a funny parody video about it. Keeping up with music’s not really a priority for me, is what I’m saying. So I’m going to interpret this one pretty loosely and say that 2013 was the Year of the Audiobook for me. I discovered the joy of a well-produced audio book this year, and the best ones I listened to were The Raven Boys, The Scorpio Races, and The Book Thief.
Quote a song lyric that sums up your year (not necessarily from the song that reminds you of the year).
Music not really being something I pay attention to, I was tempted to slap a “not relevant to my interests” answer here and move on. But the more I thought about it, the more I kept being reminded of Tim’s and my unofficial song, “The Luckiest” by Ben Folds. (I say unofficial, since it wasn’t our first dance song at our wedding, but it’s probably more meaningful to us than our first dance song, and it’s one that Tim requests whenever we go to friends’ weddings. The DJs usually don’t have it, unfortunately.) The whole song is great, but the title lyrics, “I am the luckiest” really hit home for me this year. I know it’s cheesy, but I look around at my life and can hardly believe how lucky I am to have the amazing family, extended family, and friends that I have. I really am the luckiest.
What was your most enjoyable purchase?
We put together a playroom for Alexander in our loft this year, which has really been fantastic. We lined one wall with cubby shelves for his toys, Tim worked his handyman magic to mount our old flatscreen TV with wires running through the ceiling so the DVD player and other connected devices could be in the closet across the room, and we had a talented friend paint big, fun alphabet letters on one wall. We spend a lot of Alexander’s waking hours up there these days, which is great, and then we put him to bed and come downstairs to a living room that’s not cluttered with trucks and Legos and plastic tools, and that’s even greater. For myself, I scored a pretty amazing deal with an online sale corresponding with stackable coupons that allowed me to get a $90 pair of boots for $30, and that was pretty awesome.
Did you travel? If so, where?
We flew to Virginia to meet our new nephew at the end of June. In October, we took a road trip to San Antonio to visit Tim’s parents in their new home. Fourteen hours in the car over 2 days (each way) with a 2-year-old wasn’t as challenging as I expected it to be — Alexander did remarkably well, all things considered — but I’m not in a hurry to take another long road trip anytime soon. Once we arrived, we had a great time with Tim’s parents. Hopefully next time we visit the in-laws, we’ll be able to find cheap flights.
What do you wish you’d done more of?
I know it makes me sound like a lush, but I’ve really missed wine since I got pregnant. Just one cold glass of Chardonnay in the evening, that’s all I want. It sounds so good. Come April, you can bet my now-empty wine rack will be fully stocked again. (I know that’s probably not the proper spirit of the question, but I’m running out of steam here. Cut me some slack.)
What do you wish you’d done less of?
Stressing about the holidays, definitely.
Compared to this time last year, how are you different?
Well, I’m 6 months pregnant, which is the most obvious difference. I also feel, overall, more confident as a parent and (usually) more prepared to take on the challenge of adding a new baby to our lives than I did at this time last year.
Compared to this time last year, how are you the same?
I’m still the same-old me, overall. Still quiet in social situations, still a sucker for a cheesy romance book or movie. Still loving being married to a man who makes me laugh every day.
What’s a life lesson you learned this year?
Naps are amazing. No, seriously, they’re amazing. I’ve always known it on some level, but I really came to appreciate it when faced with first-trimester exhaustion coupled with chasing a toddler around and not having the luxury to nap at will. Now, Saturday afternoon naps with a toddler snuggled up next to you because that’s the only way either of you is going to get a solid 2 hours of sleep? Probably one of the best things ever.
The second trimester of this pregnancy has been fairly uneventful, much to my relief after the roller-coaster first trimester. We found out we’re having a girl, which has me both thrilled and terrified, and she’s quite the little wiggle worm. She spends most of her days dancing around, which I absolutely love. I remember loving feeling Alexander kick when I was pregnant with him, and it’s just as fun with his baby sister. It’s probably the one thing I’m going to miss about being pregnant.
You know what I won’t miss? The near-constant pain in my lower back and hips. I don’t remember this happening at all last time, but my hips have been aching for weeks now, and I’ve found very little I can do to make them feel better. So far I’ve determined that sleeping with a pillow between my legs helps a little, and sitting on my ass all day keeps it from getting worse — which, for someone who likes to stay in good shape and be active, pretty much sucks. Going to tap class makes them hurt; going for a 10-minute walk on my lunch break makes them hurt. Yesterday I had the nerve to go grocery shopping, and I’m still paying for it today, hobbling around like a geriatric little old lady. What the hell, body? I do not approve of this new development, and I’m not excited for it to continue for the next 3 1/2 months.
In other pregnancy news, I had to take off my wedding rings a few weeks ago. I haven’t had problems with swelling like I did last time, but apparently I’m carrying some of this baby weight in my fingers this time around because it was getting harder and harder to get my rings off to put on lotion. Let’s not talk about the fact that even with crazy swelling I made it to 7 1/2 months before having to take my rings off last time, and this time around I only made it to 5 months. On the bright side, maybe this means the too-big maternity clothes I got from a neighbor will fit me sooner than I thought?
Also, Week 24 was the week my belly button officially decided to drop all pretenses of being an innie and pop out for good. Fun times.
Here’s the state of the belly these days (25 weeks):
. . .
Christmas with Alexander this year was so much fun, you guys. This was the first year he really understood what was going on, and he was so excited about Santa and the decorations and the music and everything. There’s a local radio station that plays all Christmas music all the time around the holidays, and every time I got into the car with Alexander, he’d announce “I need Chrimmas mukick!” [Translation: “I need Christmas music!”] He loved decorating the tree and helping me bake Christmas cookies one Saturday morning when he woke up far earlier than should be acceptable.
We talked to him a lot about Santa in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and he was absolutely certain that what he wanted most in the world was for Santa to bring him a “Train on a Track!” When we finally took him to meet Santa, I really wasn’t sure how he was going to react. He tends to be very shy around new people, and I expected he’d want nothing to do with the man in the red suit when faced with him in person. It’s true he was pretty reserved, and he really wasn’t excited about sitting on Santa’s lap (although he did sit there, stony faced, clearly using all his will power to tough it out until he was allowed to get down), but he really impressed me with how brave he was. When we first walked up to Santa, he leaned forward from his perch on my hip and whispered with all the intensity of a little boy who’s been rehearsing his lines and is terrified of messing them up lest Santa not get the correct message, “Train on a track.” He was so serious and brave about it, and I was so proud of my bashful little guy.
When Christmas Day arrived, Alexander was sad when he woke up and realized Santa wasn’t in the house to hand-deliver his presents. He knew Santa was coming, and apparently thought he’d get to see him again Christmas morning. Once he inspected the empty cookie plate and milk glass, and determined that Santa had been there and enjoyed the treats we left out for him, he cheered up a little. Discovering a stocking full of presents made him forget all his disappointment at Santa’s absence, and the rest of the morning was filled with joy. Alexander was well spoiled by his grandparents and relatives, and it was a bit of a struggle convincing him to keep opening presents — Alexander, do you want to open another present? “No, I good. I already open a present.” — but we were in no hurry. The rest of the family was all showered and dressed and in the midst of preparing Christmas Dinner by the time Alexander finally got around to opening his last present. And then, of course, the next day he woke up and announced, “I want to open another present.”
Santa came through, by the way, and there was a train on a track waiting under the tree for Alexander Christmas morning. Alexander was absolutely overjoyed, and in the last 6 days, he’s only stopped playing with his trains long enough to eat and sleep. Well done, Santa. Well done.