Monday, December 31, 2012

Raspberry: 27 Weeks (also, Happy New Year!)

Dearest Raspberry,

Here we are now, finally in the third trimester, and on the cusp of a brand new year. Whether in honor of our arrival back home, your graduation into the third trimester and/or seventh month (which makes me officially six months pregnant as of the 29th), or in celebration of 2013, I can't say, but you've certainly learned some new moves in there, and have been showcasing them over the last couple of days.

More times than I can count today, I've watched t-shirts, blankets, books, tablets, or whatever else I had laying across my belly bounced around like popcorn on a hot skillet. I can now not only feel your dance moves on the inside, I can see the evidence of your be-bopping on the outside. It brings such a smile to my face each time, especially since you manage to do it so gently. No pain or discomfort here for me- just amusement- maybe you're just naturally graceful. Maybe my uterus is actually behaving itself this time and not getting irritated by every little thing. Either way- so far, so good. Lots of Braxton Hicks contractions going on, but not in any kind of pattern that would cause me to worry.

I'm hoping it stays that way, but if it doesn't, I'm trying to mentally prepare. Things didn't start to get crazy with your brother until I hit 32 weeks, so it's still early yet, in comparison. But I take it as a good sign that we got through the past week, with all of the traveling and uncharacteristic amounts of walking, and we're still doing okay (intermittent back and hip pain aside).

As for my belly, it is now round enough to protrude just a bit even when I lie flat on my back, and my belly button has long since turned itself inside-out. I was amazed to see how quickly it happened with both you and your brother, since it took until the last two weeks of pregnancy with your sister before the center of my belly button finally gave up and stretched itself out along with the rest of me. Under normal circumstances, I am decidedly an "innie," and I think that is the only reason I've never seen it poke out so far that it reaches beyond the profile of my belly itself. It's only the center that gets pushed out, just to the outer line of my belly, while the outline remains stubbornly depressed, like a teeny-tiny moat around a teeny-tiny castle. If I press on the skin around it, I can get everything to lay perfectly flat, but that's the furthest that my little belly button is willing to concede. 

Still no linea nigra, though. I don't remember when that is supposed to appear, nor do I remember when it happened with your sister. It never has completely faded since I gave birth to her- there wasn't really time before I got pregnant again and whatever fading had occurred re-darkened by the end. It is currently in a faded state, and has not yet darkened again.

Linea nigra or no, we continue to push forward, you and I, straight into the new year. Even as I type, we've crossed over from 2012 to 2013, never to return. I praise God for all of the blessings I've received in the past twelve months, and am overjoyed that in the next few, I can look forward to at least one more.

Happy New Year! In just a few short months, you'll get to see 2013 with your very own beautiful eyes.


Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Long Island Christmas, and Homecoming

We spent much of the day yesterday visiting extended family in Long Island.

Abby got a chance to dress up in another Christmas dress, and Michael looked handsome, once again, in his red sweater vest and black corduroy pants.

I was a bit worried about how Abby would receive a large group of somewhat unfamiliar relatives again, but she did quite well this time. I think it helped that she got a bit more sleep in the car on the way than she had on our trip to Flushing, and that all of the people gathered in Long Island had been in attendance at the wedding she participated in back in September. With her stunning recent developments in memory, she no doubt still pretty clearly recalled having seen and spent time with them eight or so weeks ago.

She was entranced by the tree, which was quite large and colorfully lit, and the presents beneath. In particular, she had her eye on a little blue Tiffany's box, which she liked so much that she picked it up and carried it across the room. We all got a chuckle out of that, joking that she had a taste for expensive things already.

But it seemed an ideal time to start the gift-giving, and we started with Abby.

First came a couple of belated birthday gifts.

She's really gotten the hang of this gift-opening thing. She even went for the card first, and pulled it out of the envelope herself. When she saw it, her eyes lit up, and she exclaimed, "A birthday card!"

A new pretty dress!

And a soft, furry jacket!

Next was Michael's turn. He needs to work on his paper-shredding technique a bit more before he can put it to use, but he did admire the wrapping job.

Daddy took over unwrapping duties for him.

Michael bided his time by flirting with the crowd.

And what was inside? A brand-new snowsuit!

What might the next one be?

A Michael-sized fire truck! He was so excited to ride it.

Abby took an interest, too.

In fact, she was so interested that she grabbed Michael in a headlock and tried to remove him from the seat. He took it in stride, as he nearly always does.

The rest of us diverted Abby's attention to her own Christmas present, which was a super-cool, rocking, music-playing, pink elephant.

Crisis averted. ;)

Ultimately, Abby loved being at Great-Aunt Irene and Great-Uncle John's house, though she was initially confused about where she was. Some time after Aunt Ali and Uncle Joe arrived, she remarked, "Aunt Ali's house."

"It's Aunt Irene and Uncle John's house," I corrected. She looked up at me with a wide smile and said, "Makes me so happy."

She was also pretty impressed with our host and hostess's beautiful home. As she climbed the steps to the upper level for the umpteenth time, she commented once or twice, "It's like a hotel!"


Amazingly, we managed to fit both the fire truck and elephant into the trunk of our overstuffed van as we waved goodbye to New Jersey this morning. Abby was overjoyed to see the furry pink head peeking up over the back row of seats. A few other larger pieces, like the kitchen and clubhouse, will be brought down by Nana a few weeks from now.

The drive went much more smoothly this time, and we made our way to my parents' place in Rockville in just over five hours, including one long and one short stop. After a lovely dinner with Mima and Granda, we finally made our way home.

As always, it's good to be back. I pray that both my children rest peacefully, in their own beds at last,  the whole night through. We could certainly all use the sleep.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

What I Wish I Was Doing Right Now

She looks so comfortable, doesn't she?

Me? I'm tired, but wired, and trying to fit in a quick blog post for the day so that I can do what I've been dreaming of doing for the last couple of hours: crawl under the covers and pray that Michael allows me a night of relatively uninterrupted sleep.

It's been a long day, but a memorable and fun one, spent with extended family in Long Island, NY. But that's a story for another day, because we've only just gotten back home within the last half-hour, and I am beat.

I am, however, thankful that Blogger insists on time-stamping my posts in Pacific Time, because it gives me a couple of hours of leeway so that I can still count this post for Saturday, rather than Sunday.

And that's all I've got for now. I'd better sign off, before I turn into a pumpkin, or something.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Things We've Learned at Nana's House

Today, I came to the sudden realization that tomorrow will be our last day in New Jersey. It's strange how time works when you're away from home- it seems that we've only just begun to settle in, and at the same time, I can't say I won't be relieved to finally be home, when it comes down to it.

We will have ended up spending only a week here, but the kids have experienced so much in that time, particularly Abby. I began reflecting upon the various things that she's learned during her stay, which comprise an impressive list, indeed:

Snow looks awesome on Christmas trees (and pretty much everything else around).

The more hats, the merrier.

Coloring is great fun, whether in coloring books,

on floors,

on tubs,

or even on the frames of electrical outlets.

She's also picked up a few new phrases, including:

"Oh my goodness!"
"Oh, jeez."
"I can't believe it."

And this evening, she saw her very first light show. Unfortunately, I could not attend, as it was a walking tour, and I was too tired out after a brief trip to the mall this afternoon to do any more walking. However, Abby had a great time with Nana and Papa. It was held at a local zoo, so she saw a few animals, too, and rode a carousel. Nana perched her on a seal that moved up and down, and held her steady, but perhaps next time we'll try the bench seating; Abby got a bit nervous before too long and finished the ride in Nana's arms.

Finally, our Cute Abby Moment of the week:

While Tom, Mei Mei and I were off at the Met, Nana put Abby down for her afternoon nap, and forgot to give her a binky before leaving the room. At first, Abby chatted to herself cheerfully, but after a few minutes, she grew tired, and began to whine. When Nana went up to check on her, she found Abby tearfully clutching her new Madeline doll. Abby looked up at her as she entered the room and said, woefully, "Madeline wants to go to sleep." At that point, Nana realized her omission, offered a binky, and all was then well.

As for Michael, he's mostly just been getting into trouble, especially with the tree. Despite our best efforts to block his access, he's broken no less than four ornaments. He's also gotten even more adept at climbing over objects to get where he wants to go, including staircases. He's ascended the stairs to the upper level at least three times now, and regularly tackles the lower shelves of end tables and large toys that block his way.

That's not all he's been up to, however. He's really become invested in using his voice to communicate, and has developed a range of sounds to get his point across that no longer hinge on crying. Most of his "words" are variations on oh, ah, and heh, but he varies the volume and inflection to indicate his level of desire or need. He's also continued to practice the few consonant sounds that he has mastered, and will spend a few minutes here and there exclaiming loudly to himself in "babble."

His journey towards walking independently has been an interesting one to observe ever since he began to pull to standing. For some time now, he's indicated some amount of readiness, but he's gotten so efficient with crawling that lately, he;s lacked the motivation to develop an alternate means of getting around. I've therefore given up on trying to predict when his first steps will occur, as they could happen tomorrow, or some months from now, depending on when he starts to actually take an interest.

However, in the last few days, he does seem to have made some progress on that front. On Christmas day, he "walked" across the room while pushing a light, hollow plastic chair in front of him. Today he took a few steps while leaning on the matching plastic table. And in general, he is pulling up more, and in more places (such as up against sliding doors to suck on the glass -ick),

and when he stands, he does so with great confidence.

 Maybe he'll be walking soon, after all.

Or maybe not...

The phrase "que sera, sera," comes to mind, though truthfully, the more I see his capacity for trouble-making grow, the more I began to suspect that I'm much better off having him down on all fours for as long as he will stay there.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Merriness at The Met

My 200th post was published three nights ago, making this one my 203rd, but there's been so much other excitement to report on that I never figured out a good way to slip that factoid in. I still haven't, but I'm pretty proud of it, so I'm randomly mentioning it now.

I'm going to go heavy on the pictures again, because they took me forever to select, edit, and prepare, and because I'm so sleepy I can hardly think straight enough to put intelligent sentences together. (And I'm starting to really regret that after-dinner serving of ice cream; I can't wait to curl up in bed and wish away my sad tummy until the morning.)

Nana has been encouraging us for weeks now to plan an outing in New York City, whether with or without babies, and we finally decided yesterday on where we wanted to go (The Met) and how we wanted to go about doing it (baby-free). So, shortly before lunchtime, she dropped off Tom, Mei Mei, and me in front of the museum and sent us on our merry way. Then she headed back to NJ to share in the babysitting duties with Papa and Uncle James.

The merry band of museum-goers forged ahead, braving heavy crowds and moderately long lines to take in the wonders on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. These included:

The Temple of Dendur (relocated from Egypt upon completion of the Aswan Dam),

A statuette on display within the temple

the Annual Christmas Tree...

... and Neapolitan Baroque Creche,

a Confection Model of the museum,

some cool-looking instruments,

and interesting armor and weaponry.

Worn by King Henry VIII

Admittedly, it was nice to be walking around as "free adults" once again- so much simpler, and comparatively hassle-free- but Tom and I both missed the kids at various times, and thought of them often. I even had Mei Mei snap this picture of a bear sculpture outside the cafe, because I thought that Abby would have gotten a kick out of it.

I felt pretty eager to get home once our ride arrived to take us back, but since we were already in the city, we agreed to drive by and try to catch a glimpse of the tree at Rockefeller center. The traffic was pretty atrocious, however, and I tried to stave off my frustration with it by amusing myself taking pictures of the various buildings creatively decorated for the Christmas and Holiday season.

Hanging snowflake
Fancy jeweled serpent
Pretty wreath

Wintery design
Glittering belt and lights
Giant bow and climbing cats (the cats showed up only as bright yellow orbs, sadly)

Finally, the tree! I was barely able to capture it as we cruised on by.

Of course, the most welcome sight of all was that of my two babies as I walked in the front door. Nothing quite like them in all of New York, or the rest of the world, for that matter.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Our Christmas in Pictures

The tree, post-Santa.

The Grand Entrance.

Of course, Abby goes for Michael's pile, first.

It works out, though, since Michael tends to follow his big sister around.

Michael tries out the rocking horse. He's interested in the soft texture, but not so much in the ride.

Taking pictures of gift-unwrapping proved to be rather difficult, as Abby was often too close by, and virtually always facing the wrong direction.

Short break for story time. The unwrapping of gifts was a gradual process, as the kids tended to fixate on each new thing for long periods of time, and could not be interested in new presents until they were ready to move on.

Michael, hanging out in his new clubhouse; dreaming up all kinds of mischief, I'm sure.

The babies open up their new "laptops..."

... and Mommy discovers that she got one of her own, too! (Thank you to everyone who generously contributed to make my gift possible; I'm still loving it, even as I type.)

Abby discovers her hat-box, and begins to try on many excellent new hats

Chef Abby makes an appearance (I love that Dopey ear, though I made sure to adjust it after getting in some pictures, because I didn't want her to end up with a sore little earlobe).

All dressed up for an extended family get-together in Flushing, NY.

Awww! (Okay, admittedly, she's probably just trying to get that plastic disc out of his hand, but it still looks adorable...)

Not pictured:
  • Michael spends Christmas Eve night alternating between napping and screaming in one-hour intervals (he's still not adjusted to sleeping in a new place, though last night was much better).
  • Abby waits until the video camera is no longer rolling and she is on one of her last presents to exclaim, upon seeing what's inside, "Oh my goodness!"(She had just heard her Nana say it in reference to something else, but it was still cute, and so perfectly stated.)
  • Abby gets a bit of "stage fright" upon entering a houseful of less-than-familiar friends and relatives. Interestingly, she seems to be becoming more shy as she gets older. Thankfully, after a bit of time, space apart from the festivities, snuggles from Mommy, and temptations of yummy appetizers, she comes around and turns back into a little social butterfly.
  • Abby gets her first taste of sparkling cider, and Michael gets his first shortbread cookie.
  • Good food and great conversation.
  • Lots more joy and laughter than I could ever capture on film.