Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Reluctant Carseat

Well, it's not the carseat that's reluctant, to be fair. It's really Tom and me.

We finally ordered a third one. Oy- three. Can you believe it?

After much thought, I decided on the Diono Radian R100. I'm very happy with the Britax Marathon 70 that Abby is using now, and considered staying with the Britax brand, but Diono has a unique advantage. It appears to be narrower than any of the other convertible carseats out there. And at this point, just weeks away from being a mom of three, I'm trying to really look ahead to the future, and planning for flexibility in fitting my growing brood into one vehicle all at once (and hopefully still having a tiny bit of room for the occasional extra passenger). My only remaining qualm is whether I should have sprung for the R120. As its name implies, the R100 (once converted to a booster) will take a maximum weight of 100 lbs, whereas the R120 will go up to 120 lbs.

I honestly don't remember at what point I passed the 100 lb mark in my own childhood, but I have to think I was over 4'9" when it happened (the maximum required height to be in a booster, and the minimum height at which a car seat belt can properly restrain a passenger without one). I don't even want to think about the possibility that any of my children will pass the height max (and therefore the weight max) before reaching an appropriate age to graduate from the seat. Well, if that's the case for Abby, maybe it won't be for Michael. In any event, I'm quite sure this is not the last car seat/booster that we will be purchasing, as time goes on.

Supposedly, should we ever get around to having a Diono for each child, I would be able to fit three across in the back. Whether we'd ever want to do that, I don't know, though it would certainly make it easier for our occasional guest passengers to get in and out if we were finally able to free up the bucket seats in the middle of the van.

So far, I like the look of the seat, the reviews on Amazon were good, and it appears, for all intents and purposes, that it will allow for an easy install. I can't personally report on that yet, since the seat is currently sitting against a wall in our living room.

It's been a big hit with the kids thus far. When we first brought it out of the box, there was a bit of competition between the two of them over who would get to sit in/stand on it.

Luckily for Abby,  Michael eventually took more of an interest in the instruction manual, and she was free to take over the seat as she pleased.

I took these pictures on the 28th, so we are now on day three with a new piece of furniture in our living room. I guess that, at some point, we should move the thing into the car, where it belongs.

The plan is to put it in the middle of the back seat, facing forward. So then the question becomes: am I ready to turn my little Abigail (she's still happily rear-facing in her Britax Marathon)?

I don't think I ever will be. But that day is coming soon enough now, I suppose. If I haven't done it by the time Raspberry comes along... well, I won't have a choice, after that. Three babies; three carseats. The biggest to the biggest, and the smallest to the smallest. It's just math, right?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My Daughter, the Magician

Abby's gotten into the habit of running around behind her crib when she first enters the bedroom. It's a narrow space- just enough room between wall and rail to keep her from pulling down the window treatments while she lies bored in her bed. I guess she likes it for that reason. It's like a little hiding place back there.

This evening, Tom had to chase her out to get her diaper changed before bedtime. As he lay her down on the changing table, she grabbed at her ear, and began repeating, "Abby's ear is dirty. Need to clean it."

"What's wrong, Abby?" Tom asked. "Your ear is dirty?" He was a little confused, thinking at first that she was in some way uncomfortable, and trying to express that to him.

As he leaned over to look more closely, Abby pulled her hand from behind her ear, revealing a shiny nickel.

"Wait. What? Abby- how did you get that? Where did you find it?"

"Behind the crib."

Of course, the fascinating thing is not so much that she found the nickel. I imagine it must have fallen out of Tom's pocket one day and rolled back there (perfect child-proofers, we clearly are not, sadly). No, the amazing thing is that she essentially performed a magic trick with it, and we have no idea where she picked up the idea from.

Coincidence? Perhaps.

Most likely, she saw it on an episode of something-or-other that Tom or I allowed her to watch with us. Dr. Who? Good Eats? Top Gear? Some show from the CW that I won't name because it's embarrassing to admit that I watch it via Netflix streaming on my Kindle Fire out of sheer boredom? ;)

Though, even given that scenario, it's impressive to me that she could view it once and then repeat it, some days (or perhaps weeks) later.

Maybe my Abby is just a genius, that way.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Zippidee-doo-dah! Zippidee-ay! My, oh my, what an impossible day!

That's what happens when you have two teethers, I guess. I think I have two teethers, anyway.

Despite the fact that I still cannot see any activity in the back of her mouth, I can't imagine what else could account for Abby's resurgent interest in mouthing absolutely everything, but especially her own hands, which I often find stuffed halfway down her mouth. Not only is it unpleasant to witness, as I imagine how many germs she must be ingesting that way, it leads to bad-breath smelling hands in no time flat. Not to mention the drool that comes into play...

Of course, what she really wants to do is spend all day with a binky wedged between her teeth. If it really is due to the discomfort in her gums, I really, really empathize, but I simply can't allow her to continue pushing the limits of what I'll accept when it comes to her continued use. I hate that, at over two years of age, she's still using one at all, but she simply cannot sleep without it.

The plan, since she turned one, was to limit binkies to nap and bedtime, which has become a near-impossible task since her brother entered the picture. Why? Because though her binkies are kept only in her bedroom (or the kitchen, being cleaned), Michael may often be found sporting one, and she nicks them from him.

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Of course, now that Michael has turned one, it's time to start limiting his usage as well, which I've been trying to do as much as I can. However, since he's currently teething, offering a binky to him is often the easiest way to gain a bit of peace and quiet. And even though I've made an effort in the past couple of weeks not to bring him down to the playroom with one in his mouth, Abby has a knack for finding days-old ones that were tossed aside at some unknown point, and forgotten.

That's where she got the one that I confiscated from her this morning. Normally, I can do this with minimal fuss; often, she will give the binky up voluntarily when asked. However, in the last couple of days I've noticed that she's become irrationally attached to, and possessive of, every binky she sees. She knows that all of the blue binkies are Michael's and would historically admit to this fact even while trying to take or use them. Lately, she's been insisting that even the blue ones are hers.

This morning, the loss of her binky prompted a complete meltdown, which I tolerated as long as I could before finally asking, "Do you want to go take a nap? Because that's the only way you're getting a binky."

She insisted that yes, she did, so I called her bluff. She was, of course, unhappy to actually find herself in the crib, but I let her whine about her predicament for about five minutes before going to retrieve her. By this time, she was asking to "go play."

Of course, once downstairs, sans binky, she realized that the crib was the place to be and proceeded to screech at pitches and volumes that I am amazed didn't set a whole neighborhood of dogs howling. She did this on-and-off (stopping only to rest her voice temporarily) for close to an hour.

Michael, in the meantime, has apparently been suffering from more than just teething troubles. While we've made a successful transition to cow's milk, we're still having trouble establishing a more aggressive solid-feeding schedule, and as a result he's been drinking way more milk than he should. I didn't realize until today how terribly backed up he's been, and my heart broke for him as he moaned and wailed with each bm (of which there were four over the course of the day). When it first happened, he threw himself down on the floor and buried his head in the rug, and I was mystified as to what was happening. I thought at first that he had developed some sudden, horrible headache. But as I held him to me, rubbed his back and patted his bum to comfort him, it didn't take me long to realize what was actually going on.

I'm horrified that he had to go through all of that, feeling guilty that I wasn't more careful about monitoring his intake, and now paranoid, to boot, that he might somehow be psychologically scarred from the whole ordeal.

But he got through it, just like I got through the rest of the day, and Abby's continued crabbiness.

And in the evening, as she is wont to do, Abby put a smile on everyone's face with her cleverness.

We had dinner over at the neighbors', and in preparation I had packed a sippy cup, fork, and snack cup for Abby's use. We had all settled ourselves at the table to eat by the time that I remembered I had brought a special utensil for her use, so we figured we'd just work with what was readily available. Abby played along initially, and then wandered away from the table a few minutes into dinner. I figured she had just gotten bored with the whole thing. But just a minute later she was back, clutching her fork (which she had located in the diaper bag and retrieved herself), and proceeded to dip it into her bowl to eat with.

She may have started off the day a big 'ole cranky-pants, but she made sure to end as a smarty-pants.

That's just what you'd expect of a smarty-pants, though. Right?


Speaking of pants, Abby still had hers on, and a diaper, too, when she sat down on her froggy potty this morning and announced, "Abby made a poo-poo!" However, as far as I can tell, she timed her sitting on the potty with the act itself, which earned her lots of praise and fawning from Mommy. Though she seems to have lost whatever interest she had begun to show in the whole potty-training process as of late, this was a step in the right direction again. I guess I'll just be taking this a day at a time, like everything else.

Monday, January 28, 2013

There's a First Time for Everything...

**Spoiler: This post is a bit long and wordy, but there is an Abby picture at the end, I promise.**

I haven't been invested in the blogging world, or even really following it, for very long, but in that time I've seen a few "awards" get passed around. I've always felt two ways about it when I read other bloggers' posts dedicated to the various ones they've gotten: a tiny bit jealous that I've never been noticed, and somewhat relieved that, not having been nominated, I don't have to spare the brainpower required to come up with a special post on the subject, and figure out who to pass it along to.

Therefore, while I owe a huge thanks to Ashley, at Every Little Beautiful Pieces, for her  recent nomination of my humble little blog, I must admit to a large measure of trepidation when it comes to actually passing on the baton, as it were.

But here goes. The award is the Liebster Award.

Basically, the Liebster Award Nomination is for bloggers who have less than 200 followers; it helps promote their blogs and lets you get to know them a little bit better!  If you get nominated you cannot nominate the person who nominated you (No Tagbacks!). The point of the Liebster Award is to ask and answer 11 unique questions, tell 11 secrets about yourself, and nominate 11 other bloggers who fit the criteria.

I'll start with the 11 secrets (though they'll only be "secrets" to people who don't already know me well, I suppose).

  1. I'm a little neurotic about things like this. I've been stressing about it for days, wondering how I'm going to approach the post itself, who I'm going to nominate, and whether I'd be cramping their blogging style by giving them an assignment of sorts to complete. It's all very silly. If they want to participate, they will- if they don't, they won't. But I obsess about it all the same, even as I write this post.
  2.  I'd really like to write a novel someday- I'm just lacking an interesting concept or idea (a central requirement, I know).
  3. I both love and hate to write. Writing is one of the big reasons that I fear I'll never be able to go back to school again. The papers and assignments feel too impossible to accomplish, because of all of the thought organization required to get them completed. So many times, I've tried to take the advice to just "start writing," and never could. I always had to get that first paragraph perfect first, starting with the first sentence. You can imagine how that requirement stumped me every time. However, I've always enjoyed free, unstructured writing, and I love that I finally have an outlet to do it here. I don't love that it never comes out as beautifully on paper screen as I imagined it could be in my head. Of course, that's in large part because I hardly have any time to plan posts, or the energy to properly think through the ones I sit down to write.
  4. I find it nearly impossible to let go of past regrets. So really, for me, past regrets is a bit of an oxymoron; my regrets are never far behind me.
  5. I'm a big Joss Whedon fan, and have enjoyed everything he's ever done (Firefly/Serenity, in particular). It's actually one of the common interests that Tom and I bonded over when we first met.
  6. I have a ridiculous tendency to watch horror films, and then spend the next few days regretting having done so, because I can't shake the images. I seem to have a harder and harder time bouncing back from them as I get older.
  7. I'd never set foot on a plane until I was 30 years old, when I accompanied Tom to his cousin's wedding in California. The only other time I've flown was to Florida, when Tom and I honeymooned in Disneyworld, and I've never, ever left the country. I hope to someday, though.
  8. Both Tom and I have one parent who speaks fluent Spanish, but neither of us can. I'm still frantically brainstorming how I can pass the language on to my children when I never mastered it, myself.
  9. I played violin for many years, and to this day I have difficulty holding my hands still when I hear the sound of one. I have to fight the urge to move my wrist as though I am pulling a bow along a string. 
  10. I'm a terrible housekeeper. I can never seem to keep up, and seem to always be in a vicious cycle of letting things pile up until impending visitors force me to clean up my act, and my house.
  11. I wish I had more positive things to share, but I'm a recovering cynic, and it's often still hard for me to turn my mind in that direction.

Next come Ashley's 11 questions for me:

  1. What is your biggest regret in life, and why? Letting go of my two best childhood friends. To be fair, not all of the circumstances were within my control, and I perhaps could not change the outcome even if I went back in time. But I miss them both, terribly.
  2.  Why do you blog? I started off doing it partly to see if I could. I'd always wanted to write creatively, but had to struggle to overcome the bitter taste that writing left in my mouth after all of my struggles in school. Now, I continue because I can end each day feeling like I've created something, and I feel secure in the knowledge that even though I'm not organized enough to make a baby book or even a physical album, I'm leaving behind a record that my kids may someday appreciate. It is also my hope that family far away can feel a little more connected by being able to tune in on the finer details of our lives.
  3. What is the meaning behind your blog title? There's actually a story behind it, which you can read here.
  4. Who is your hero? My husband, Tom. He is an amazing source of support, and is strong in so many ways that I am weak. He makes me want to be better, every day.
  5. What is the best thing you've ever done? I'm not sure about the best thing, but the thing I'm proudest of is my two (soon to be three) children.
  6. If you could change anything about yourself, what would it be? I wish that I could let go of my regrets, and truly forgive myself for things that I've done wrong.
  7. What is a current trend that you can't stand? People's attempts to spread political opinion all over Facebook. Come on guys- you're not changing anyone's minds, but you're definitely annoying quite a few of them, even the ones who agree with you. Sorry if that sounds harsh. But between all of the shared and re-shared links, and ugly conversations that I see every day, Facebook can get a bit depressing for me.
  8. What is your most embarrassing moment? I'm sure it has yet to come- my toddler is learning to say and repeat all kinds of things...
  9. Do you have an experience that totally changed your life? Becoming a mother. 'Nuff said.
  10. If you could pick an era, which one would you choose, and why? I'm not sure that I would choose another one. There are many horrible things to be said about this era, but that's true of any time. I do wish, sometimes, that I lived in a time where raising children was more of a community affair, but I suppose that would come with trade-offs in other things, like current advances in technology and hygiene. And anyway, better the devil you know, right?
  11. Name one of your dreams that you have achieved. I know I'm repeating myself here, but it's true, and it's been the achievement of the biggest dream of all: becoming a mother.

Next are the blogs I'd like to give a shout-out to:

  1. Howeverblog
  2. The Life of a Greek Wife
  3. Two Way Street
  4. Morning Quiet Time
  5. Dancing Backwards in High Heels
  6. Mom, Outnumbered
  7. Korinthia's Quiet Corner

I know that's only seven, but I'm pretty sure that the other blogs I read have more than 200 followers (though I'll be honest, I'm not sure how to tell).

I also wanted to add that I made this list because I find these blogs worth honoring, but I'll leave it up to the authors to decide if they want to "play along."

In case they do, here are my eleven questions:

  1. How long have you been blogging, and why did you start?
  2. Is there one special blog post that you're most proud of, and if so, what is it?
  3. What side of yourself do people around you least often see?
  4. What is your biggest daily challenge?
  5. What hobby or interest would you pour tons more time into if you had several more hours available in the day?
  6. What is the main goal that you are still striving to achieve in your life?
  7. What is your least favorite physical feature?
  8. What talent (that you are lacking)  would you choose to have, if you could pick one?
  9. If you were a superhero, what would your special power be?
  10. Do you have a favorite quote or saying, and if so, what is it?
  11. How much do you feel you've changed from when you first made your way "out into the world?"

And last, but not least, for the family who's probably stopped in looking for a baby picture or anecdote, I'd hate to disappoint, especially on such a sad day as this. Tom lost his grandmother; Abby, Michael and Raspberry their great-grandmother, this afternoon.

There's my sweet Abby Rose, as she looked today in her pretty blue dress while roaming the living room this evening.

God be with you Mia, as you go to your final rest. You will be dearly missed.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Raspberry: 31 Weeks

Dearest Raspberry,

I'm so very weak, and so very impatient. I've been fighting it, but I'm slowly slipping into that mindset of being "done."

The ridiculous thing is, I'm so not ready to be done. I'm not mentally prepared to go from having two children to three (will I ever be?). I'm more than a little nervous about having a newborn again. And I will never, ever be amenable to sacrificing sequential hours of sleep again, though I know that it will be an unavoidable consequence of your impending arrival.

Not that I'm getting much sleep these days anyway, between your brother's teething woes, my misbehaving legs, and my general tendency towards insomnia (especially late in pregnancy).

What's really messing with my outlook, though, is the realization that I may be on the brink of prodromal labor again. All this time, I've been trying to remain optimistic about the possibility of it happening: that it may lead to a nice, quick active labor, that it may be easier to handle a second time, since I'll know what to expect. But now that I'm actually being faced with the possibility, my only thought has been, "I can't do this again." Add to that a brand new fear that this culminating "nice, quick labor" may be a little too quick, to the point that we don't make it to the hospital in time, once things get serious.

I had a rough evening this past Thursday, into Friday morning. Contractions galore. Though things had calmed down quite a bit by the time of my afternoon appointment on Friday, I still had to spend over an hour hooked up to an NST monitor while your father and siblings tried to amuse themselves nearby, and all four of us were exhausted by the time we got home from the ordeal. I've now got a bottle of pills handy to take in case things get crazy again, but the memory of the side effects that I got from them the last time is almost enough to make me want to trash the thing without opening it. I don't remember them being much help with all of the contractions when things were bad with your brother, anyway.

The good news is that this time I am not yet showing signs of dilation, as I did around this time in my last pregnancy. So, while I am baffled that I ended up having such a lengthy episode of contractions given my fairly limited activity levels, I was pleased to find that perhaps my caution has done me some good. I may be contracting, but I'm not progressing yet.

I've got another busy week ahead of me now; I won't be sorry to see January go. Let's see you how you, me, and my irrational uterus handle what's in store.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Michael Walks, Abby Does the Dinosaur

We're up to sixteen steps today. And while I didn't catch those on video, I did catch this:

Need I say more?

Friday, January 25, 2013


The kids didn't sleep well last night, which meant that Tom didn't sleep well, and me? Well- it wasn't in the cards for me to get a good night's sleep regardless, but the wailing of both of my babies at various times certainly didn't help my stress level, or allow for much chance of quiet restfulness.

The day has been long and trying, the details of which are pretty boring, even if I had any interest in sharing them. Instead, I'm turning to some pictures I've had on hand for the last few days, which I've been saving for just such an occasion of laziness as tonight.

I give you: Jellyface. (Well, more accurately, Jam-face, since I am quite partial to Concord Grape Jam, and it's all I've ever liked to use in my PB &  J, and now Abby's, as well.)

Michael's up to 14 steps today, which he took on his first solo journey across the width of our living room, from sofa to loveseat. I haven't managed to get any good video footage of him in the act, though I hope to soon. Imagine if I'd caught those fourteen steps on tape, though. What an awesome excuse for shirking the responsibility of writing an actual post tonight that would have been...

(Yes, I realize that last sentence was awkward. You see now why it's better that I am relying so heavily on photographs tonight. Thanks, Abby, for your awesome contribution, as always.)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Abby vs. the Snow

Once Michael had gone down for his second nap this afternoon, it was just Abby and me to ourselves for a little while in the playroom. Much as I was happy to stay down there in the Dry and Warm, I dragged myself upstairs with Abby to get her into the pretty lavender snowsuit that's been hanging in her closet, unused, for over a year, determined to finally give Abby an up-close introduction to snow. I must give some credit to my good friend, Lisa, who texted me earlier in the day requesting some snow pictures, and provided me with the motivation, because I certainly don't have much to spare lately.

It took about fifteen minutes of prep time. The snowsuit had to be retrieved (I let Tom go up to the attic bedroom to do that), and the tags finally cut off. Socks had to be located, and sneakers, as well as plastic baggies and hair ties. I still haven't bought boots for Abby yet, so I covered her feet in ziploc bags, which I then attached to her snowpants with hair ties, before slipping her sneakers on. Abby watched all this with great interest, commenting on her "rainsuit," which I kept correcting to snowsuit, because, "Abby- we're going out in the snow!"

I couldn't find her mittens, but I figured we'd be okay, since I didn't expect her to be out there long, and it actually wasn't particularly cold outside. In fact, by late afternoon, there was hardly any snow left to be found in our back yard, and I felt a little guilty for having waited so long to venture out.

There was excitement in the air as we darted through the kitchen on our way to the side door, and I pointed out the snow to Abby again just before we crossed the threshold to go outside. "Snow!" she repeated, eagerly.

Then, I tried to put her down on the snow-covered stoop. She collapsed her legs like a crippled animal, and would not straighten them. Confused, I tried to show Abby, with my own feet, how interesting it felt to step on snow and feel a crunch underfoot. She was not interested in trying it out. Indeed, she was not interested in going any further at all.

I thought for sure that if we only got off the steps, the magic would sink in. I carried her down to the driveway, and tried to place her on the ground by our patio table. She began to cry. Desperate to convey the to her the awesomeness that is Snow, I said, "Abby, do you want to touch it?"

"Nooo!" she wailed.

I put my own finger into the snow that had collected on top of the table, and scooped out a bit to show her. Intrigued, she quieted, and tentatively reached her own tiny finger to my own. Then she flinched, pulled back, and resumed her weeping. "Too cold for Abby!" she lamented.

By this time, Tom had come outside to see what all of the fuss was about. Flabbergasted, I tried to explain.

"Do you want me to take her in?" he asked. Clearly, that was the solution, but I'd wanted at least one picture to record our first snow experience, and hadn't been able to let go of Abby to take one. She was still refusing to put her weight down fully on the strange, white substance beneath her, and was leaning heavily against me to support herself.

I passed him the camera. "Just take a few pictures, first, for me."

And so he did.

 Is she not the saddest snow monkey that you've ever seen?

Clearly, my own enthusiasm was not rubbing off on her.

And so, having captured our adventure on film for posterity, back inside we went.

Abby immediately reverted to her old self again, and bounded joyfully down the stairs back to the playroom, declaring, "Abby doesn't like the snow," as she descended.

I could be wrong here, but I'm guessing that Abby didn't much like the snow.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Buh-Bye, Formula

Never a dull moment, these days. Changes, big and small.

Michael's whipping out the lower-lip suck again.

That, combined with some drooling, biting, gnawing, and excessive chewing, and- best of all- the far-too-frequent-as-of late appearance of Crankypants McFussykins...

... well, all of that tells me that we're starting up on a teething cycle again. Yay! (not)

I suppose it's about time, as he's had the same five teeth for what seems like forever, unless you also include those lower-right and upper-left lateral incisors that have been cowering just beneath the gum line for months now, never budging.

I'm quaking in fear a little bit, and we're nowhere near getting to those pesky molars yet, or those evil canines.

Or are we?

Abby started getting both when she was just a bit older than Michael is now, but she already had all of her other teeth by then. Not that it's going to matter to Michael's molars or canines that he hasn't finished up with those eight front teeth yet. When it's time, it's time, I suppose.

In the meantime, he's working hard at his newest challenge: walking. I'm a little surprised, now that he's become so much more focused on working at it, that it's taking him so long to get the hang of balancing out in the open. I want to say that it happened more quickly for Abby, but chances are that my memory is simply skewed, and even if it's not: different kid now, right?

He's still managing to break his own records each day, however slow his pace might seem to me. He took twelve steps across the living room this evening.

He's also started developing a new form of self-transportation that I've dubbed the knee-shuffle. He takes to one knee, and drags himself across the floor with his other leg in some kind of a crawl/walk compromise. I really don't get it, because it looks terribly uncomfortable, and certainly doesn't get him to where he's going any faster than crawling does. But I imagine that it's helping him build some important muscles, and perhaps some confidence, and that can only be a good thing.

The biggest change of all, though? The end of the formula era (and good riddance). If I never have to smell it again, it will be all too soon. We've been working towards this moment for the last couple of weeks now, slowly decreasing the formula ratio until we were down to 75 milk/25 formula. And tonight was the last bottle that he will have with any formula at all.

Though I have no particular love for formula, and definitely won't miss its added cost, Tom and I were feeling a bit sentimental about the moment (hence, the picture), not least because it also signals the impending end of bottle-feeding.

The washing and preparing, I will not miss (though, for now, I'll simply be transitioning to an equal level of washing and preparing of sippy cups, instead), but the move away from bottles is a move away from Baby and toward Toddler. So, I made sure to hold him through the feeding, even though he's a big boy now, and in recent days takes his own bottle in a chair by himself more often than not, and to treasure the moment.

Because pretty soon, my baby will be a baby no more.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Why I Love My 55-200mm Lens

I have two kit lenses for my Nikon: an 18-55mm AF-S, which I use most of the time, and a 55-200mm AF-S, which I generally reserve for the "Month Picture" photo sessions. The 55-200 can (potentially) take some amazing portraits, but the trouble with it is that a lot of distance is required between camera and subject, so it's harder to use when space is limited and/or I need some flexibility of positioning.

However, I had it on the camera for Michael's 12-month photos, and haven't gotten around to taking it off since.

It was still on when I got the urge to start snapping pictures of Michael being cute yesterday, and though the pictures themselves were not amazing, I was pleased to see that I managed to get some sharper images of Michael than I usually can with my smaller lens.
They were clear enough and cute enough that I imagined I could work some kind of blog post around them, so I began sorting through them to select and edit a few.

Then I came across this one, which Tom had taken without my knowledge.

Now, I'm no photographer, and certainly no certifiable photography critic, but I think it's quite stunning. Certainly, it took my breath away.

And then, embarrassingly, a bit of my confidence. After all, I'm the one who's (sort of) been practicing with the camera. Certainly, I'm much more familiar with it. And then Tom whips out a picture like this one?

But there's no doubt that I'm glad to have it, whoever was behind the lens. Definitely my favorite picture of Abby so far.

As for Michael, he took- not six- but seven steps today. It's still taking him some time to overcome his natural instinct to drop to a crawl once he's no longer supported, but he's making gradual progress, all the same.

Here's hoping I can keep up some sort of slow progression of my own with this photography thing. Some days, I feel like I'm still crawling, myself.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Storytime Silliness

One thing that finally appears to be happening for Michael around the one-year mark is the ability to sit still for a bit of story time.

I think this was around the time it happened for Abby, too. However, in her case, she developed a very sudden interest, which we happily fed.

In Michael's case, we've been trying to make more of an effort lately to keep introducing the concept (now that we can actually get somewhere in the attempt), in the hopes that an interest will grow from the repetition of experience.

I think that Michael's problem is that he's much more active than Abby was at his age, and it's very hard for him to sit still while simply looking and listening. He always has to be doing something.

Like messing with his sister, for instance.

Or her feet.

Or Daddy's beard.

They still managed to make it to the end of that book, but the second book that Tom picked up to read was for Abby's eyes alone. Michael was finally set free to take up his usual position, exploring the floor.

It's a start though, right?

Speaking of starts: Michael took independent six steps today (in a row). He didn't make much forward progress in the process, but he set a new record, all the same.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Raspberry: 30 Weeks

Dearest Raspberry,

Thirty weeks down, ten more to go? If you're anything like your brother or sister, we have even a little less time than that before your "lease is up."

It will be a trying time for me, though, no doubt. Insomnia and restless legs have kicked in full-gear, a repeat from my experience with your sister. Managing sleep at night every other day seems to be the new norm. And, much like with your sister, I appear to be carrying you rather high, so not only am I occasionally feeling you up in my ribcage now, I am often finding myself short of breath from my inability to properly utilize full lung capacity nowadays.

As low as I carried your brother, however, I still reached a point with him that I could not comfortably sit up straight, which always makes mealtime interesting. This past week, I've definitely reached that point with you.

Have you any more challenges in store for me? Choose them wisely- I'm not sure how much more I can take on in my current, zombie-like state.

One thing I am sure of: it will all be worth it in the end.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Totally Rockin' at Twelve Months

Michael's twelve-month picture "session" was an exercise in laziness on my part, though I at least got it done on his actual birthday. Not that it did me much good when it came time to write his birthday post- I started it so late last night that even without taking time to edit all of the ones I wanted to use (I just chose one to include), I still couldn't get it published before midnight. Thankfully, my Blogger account seems to think that I operate on Pacific time, even though I've told it otherwise.

An actual sleeping schedule being now nonexistent for me (I'm lucky if I sleep at night at all nowadays), I was (say it with me, because I know how sadly predictable I've become by now) incredibly tired yesterday, and in no mood to try and set up a backdrop, so I didn't. I scrounged around for Tigger, but realized that Pooh was upstairs napping with Abby at the time I chose to make my attempt, so I didn't include him this time around. Between already feeling uninspired by my lack of preparation, and still pouting a bit over the fact that I no longer have a working Speedlight, I elected to put the camera on auto, and let the settings fall where they may.

The results were a little surprising. I knew that I wasn't going to be happy with the lighting due to my use of the pop-up flash, but I didn't realize I'd actually have to decrease the brightness on almost every picture I took when it came time to edit. Despite the dark background, Michael looked pretty washed out, and his white shirt practically glowed in each one. I also expected to have uninteresting or unnatural colors (again, due to the in-camera flash) but with the positive trade-off of a crisp, clear subject. This was not so in many of the action shots. Somehow, Michael ended up blurred around the edges in several pictures.

Of course, Michael did present more of a challenge this time around than ever before, and I quickly remembered during the course of my attempt why I hadn't even tried to do a twelve-month photo shoot with Abby. By this age, they've definitely graduated beyond certain boundaries of mobility that automatically allow for the level of cooperation required for such a feat. In the back of my mind, I sort of knew that I was trying to achieve the impossible, but I went for it anyway because I had one last sticker- the 12- to use. I begged Tom to give me ten minutes of his time to help me out, but the best that he could really do was spot Michael as he attempted to lunge off the front and sides of the couch, and provide some amount of amusement to distract Michael from the fact that he was temporarily confined.

Despite it all, I have a special place in my heart for this set of pictures. They're far from my best, and they don't look remotely polished, but they tell a great story. Best of all, they're a pretty accurate representation of the mobility and exuberance that Michael has in spades at this particular stage of his life.

So, here they are: the twelve-month pictures.

Yet another example of my laziness: I didn't even change Michael into clean pants. As you can see when he stands up, there's some banana residue from that morning's breakfast on his bum.

At first, I thought the (lack of) sharpness issue had to do with the fact that the camera's auto setting perhaps used an insufficiently fast shutter speed for my purposes. However, looking at this picture made me realize that there was probably more to it. Generally, the camera's focus defaults to center, and the center is not where Michael was in this picture, thanks to my shoddy framing. I didn't bother to crop it to correct that because, well, the focus doesn't lie.

I got back on track for these, though.

Michael, however, was more than ready to be done with the whole thing by this time.

Finally, I took pity on him and let him down off of the sofa, but couldn't resist snapping just a couple more.

Little Brother, indeed. Little do you realize, you're going to be a big brother soon, too.

Friday, January 18, 2013

To Michael, on His Very First Birthday

Dearest Michael,

Today, you completed your first year, and left your infancy behind you. Your once-miniscule stick legs have chubbed out with baby fat and muscle, and grow sturdier by the day as you bravely test the ground beneath your tiny feet. Those terrible reflux days behind you now, you're sleeping comfortably, eating enthusiastically, and developing one of the most joyous personalities that I've ever encountered.  What a happy, serene little boy you've become- that is, when you're not bored, overtired, or clearly and loudly expressing your distress over being left behind, deprived of something you're interested in, or kept out of action that you can hear, but not see.

I've looked upon you in wonder all day, as you grasp at my legs with sticky fingers and big ideas, and the changes so readily observable in your precious features. The thickening hair, ever-sprouting teeth, deepening dimples, widening grin. The intelligence and mischief growing in your eyes.

And my mind is ever in two places at once: cherishing the daily privilege of being able to observe the accomplishments you've managed thus far, and looking ahead to all of the developments that lie just ahead in the days, weeks and years to come. What sort of toddler will you be?  What sort of young boy? Teen? Man? 

I can only guess at such things, as I try to remember to hold on tightly to these brief moments that you are as you are now: innocent, sweet, eternally curious, conveniently portable, ever-so-soft, and still dependent on me in an intimate, special, absolute way. A way that you never will be again.

Happy Birthday, Little Buddy.

What an amazing year it's been.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Abby, Abby, Quite Contrary

Tom and Abby had the following conversation before dinnertime this evening following a discussion between Tom and myself about whether he should make a tuna salad/tuna melts or some grilled cheese sandwiches (we needed some kind of quick-fix option because it was getting close to bedtime for the kids, and we were both feeling wiped out):

Tom: "Abby, would you like some grilled cheese?"

Abby: "No!"

"Well, what would you like to eat?"


"Do you want a tuna melt?"


"How about tuna salad?"


Abby then tackles Tom, and they wrestle for awhile. Finally, I remind Tom that it's late, and we should get dinner prep started soon. As he gets up to leave, he says to Abby:

"Okay, Abby, I'm going to go make us some tuna salad."

Abby: "I don't like tuna salad. Don't make the tuna salad!"

Having been through similar illogical interactions with our brilliant young toddler many times before, we're pretty confident in how best to proceed. Tom makes the tuna salad anyway, and, in fact, makes it into a melt for Abby. She eats it up with no complaint, and even tries to beg some off of me, too.

Oh, what a fun little stage we're in...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Keeping Up with the Kiddos

In the two days that it's taken me to recount Michael's baptism and birthday celebrations, the kids have been keeping things plenty interesting around here.

Abby continues to talk about the baptism here and there, and even attempted to re-enact it during Monday night's dinner by dunking her forehead into the little bowl of vinaigrette that Tom gave her for her salad and tomatoes and declaring, "Abby put oil on her head!"

She's also been continuing to show an interest in all things potty. What started off as random comments about bathroom behavior in the last week (like her attribution of my stomach rumblings to Raspberry's activities in utero) seems to be growing into a larger indication of interest in how the process works. It now appears to be me who is holding us back. Take yesterday, for instance. I brought her downstairs after her nap and was changing her diaper, and she was chattering on about how "Abby made a stinky poop." I chuckled and said, "Oh, Abby, there's no poop in this diaper. Just lots of pee-pee." I must ashamedly admit that it did occur to me as I was pulling her pants back on and setting her down that she was perhaps trying to tell me something. But, I brushed the thought aside, because I'd given in to false indicators before, and was feeling too tired to indulge in this one.

And, wouldn't you know it, within five minutes Abby fulfilled her own prophecy, in the brand new diaper that I'd just put on her. It could have been in the potty, and I'm still kicking myself over the lost opportunity.

To be honest, though, if it had happened, what then? I don't know that I'm ready to take whatever follow-up steps might be required. Certainly, it would be helpful to have one less child in diapers before the new one gets here, but I just don't know how I'm going to find the time or energy (or courage, for that matter) to actually tackle potty training until she is literally begging me to do it. I've been terrified of the prospect since before I ever had any children, and I'm even more terrified of it now, as it looms so perilously close to my actual reality.

I know I'm always complaining about being tired these days, but I did actually have a good excuse on that particular afternoon. Tom had to go into work on Tuesday, so I handled all three babies by myself from about 9am to 5pm. This involved several diaper changes, six trips up to the attic and back again for nap times, one trip up to the dining room for lunch, lunch preparation, kitchen cleanup, and basically no time for a break. Despite usually having Tom around to help with the carrying of babies up and down the stairs, I actually did okay with all of that.

What really got me out of breath was doing all that and then unexpectedly having to chase Michael around the playroom when I brought him down after lunch. He had the whole room to himself while Abby was down for her nap, and it suddenly occurred to him to try out that activity walker that I've been trying to introduce to him for days now. The purpose of it just clicked in his little head, somehow, and away he went. Or rather, tried to go. Unfortunately, he had a hard time keeping it going in a straight line because he preferred to hold with one hand, rather than two, and there were countless objects on the floor perfectly positioned to get in his way. Everytime he got held up, he began to cry, and I didn't want him to get frustrated and give up before he was really able to experience it, so I found myself bending down to sweep things out of his path, and running ahead to repeat the same step when he found a new obstacle. About a minute into all of this, I realized that I couldn't let the moment go by without recording it, so I had to run upstairs, get the camera, and then fiddle with it on top of everything else.

It was nearly impossible to get any footage. I would set Michael up on a clear path, and away he would go, before I could even get the camera positioned or the "record" button pushed. The end result was seven clips, all less than twelve seconds long. I spent a bit of time this evening trying to figure out how to edit them into one long sequence, but the free app that I downloaded to do so wouldn't open the file type that my camera saved the videos in. Go figure. I only have so much patience for this sort of thing at the tail-end of the day, so I gave up and decided to pick my favorite three clips to share.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Michael's Baptism: Part II (The Party)

Because we waited nearly a year to baptize Michael, the date of his baptism fell within five days of his birthday.

When we finally set the date some weeks ago, I initially felt terrible about  having waited so long to get it done (we Catholics tend to baptize early), but it all worked out beautifully in the end. Not only were we able to combine the celebrations of his baptism and birthday this way, we ended up getting Michael baptized on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, a very special day to be baptized, indeed.

Bonus: despite the fact that Michael is much older than his father was when baptized, Tom's little christening outfit still fit, so we were able to begin a wonderful tradition for both of our children (Abby was baptized in my christening gown).

It occurred to me just days before the party that if we were going to be celebrating Michael's birthday, we needed a birthday cake for him. We'd already arranged for a baptism cake, which we planned to serve to the guests. However, I wanted something that Michael could put his hands into that wouldn't send him into a sugar craze. Though I am not totally anti-sugar, I've done my best to carefully monitor how much the kids get while they're still so young, and I didn't want Michael getting a tummy-ache (or worse) from ingesting more sugar at once than he's had in his whole life thus far. For Abby, I made a cake based on a recipe from What to Expect the First Year, which was essentially a carrot cake. It was pretty good, but because it had very little sugar, it didn't have the typical richness that a cake should have. This was all fine for Abby, who didn't know what cake was supposed to taste like, but she only had a few bites of it, and I had to figure out what to do with the rest. Tom and I had a few slices each over the course of a couple of days, but then ended up throwing the rest out. And because Abby never even smashed it, it seemed like kind of a waste to me.

I wanted to try something different, and smaller, for Michael, and in the course of our combined brainstorming, Tom suggested a custard. His first attempts, which contained no sugar, came out a little too firm, so he tweaked his recipe a bit, adding just a bit of sugar and extra cream. We topped off the custard with a few banana slices (I put some on Abby's cake way back when, and they turned out to be her favorite part), threw some candles in, and voila!

A smash custard.

We brought it out a couple of hours into the festivities, once Michael had been awake for awhile, and our guests had had their fill of Tom's delicious ham and roast beef (expertly sliced by our good friend Rich), and Nana's pate and chick pea spreads, as well as some tossed and chicken salads.

Everyone gathered around to see how the guest of honor would react.

Unlike his sister, who appeared to be a bit afraid of her very first cake, Michael broke into a bit of a smile as his was brought out.

Though, it was perhaps his adoring fans who really gave him reason to grin. Rarely have I heard such a well-sung rendition of Happy Birthday, anywhere.

I did the honor of blowing out the candles, embarrassing myself in the process. (It took me two attempts.) To be fair, however, I can hardly sit up straight now, let alone take in a deep breath. Raspberry seems to be taking after Abby with this new found preference for hanging out in my ribcage. Only this time, instead of having tiny feet up in in there, I have a bony little head.

I was sure that Michael would dig right into his cake, even though Abby herself had been quite timid. Abby never went further than pulling off a slice or two of banana, and even when given her own slice to eat, took her time about doing so.

Initially, however, Michael seemed to take heavily after his sister.

Speaking of his sister, it didn't take her long to head on over and investigate. She poked her fingers into the custard a bit, but let him do his thing.

Finally, he helped himself to a banana slice.

And then another...

At this point, Tom and I decided to reward our guests with their own slices of cake, so we brought out the Big One.

This was our one big splurge. We bought it from the same little shop that made our wedding cake, a place called Cake Dreams in Rockville, MD. We did the same for Abby's baptism, electing to get the same Vanilla, Chocolate, and Caramel flavor as we had in our wedding. This time, we decided to try something new: a Lemon with Lemon Custard and Raspberry Jam number. It was quite yummy.

As we all began to dig into our own slices, Michael finally got into a groove. Unfortunately, the camera flash got turned off during the taking of cake pictures, and was not turned back on for these, so they're a bit out of focus. But you'll get the idea.

Soon after this, the custard had to be cleared away, for fear that it would end up on the walls, floor, and guests. But I was so happy to see Michael get good and covered with it, first. Not so much that he needed an outfit change, though, which was all kinds of awesome.

Especially when this was his outfit.

Sadly, that was one of the only pictures that I got of it, since I was too busy trying to catch up with everyone to really pick up the camera.

I didn't really get any of Abby's beautiful dress, though you can see the top of it here.

She did amazingly, by the way, despite getting no nap at all (not even a short doze in the car) and eating a little more cake than I was comfortable with seeing her ingest. I could tell, as the evening wore down, how very tired she was, but she remained cheerful and sweet until bedtime. (I'm sure it helped that Nana brought with her a fabulous new book/toy, pictured above.)

I still have no plans to cut that nap out anytime soon, however. We're sticking with it until she ceases to play along.

As for Michael, he had a special surprise for us at the end of the night, when most of the guests had gone. He reached his arms out to Mima, and took his very first steps (about 3 or 4). Then, over the course of the next twenty minutes, he did it twice more.

Just three more days left until you officially turn One, Buddy. I can't wait to see what you have in store for us then...