On Putting a Baby to Sleep

Elise does not like to sleep. Actually, better said, Elise does not like to fall asleep alone. I probably could have avoided this little dilemma if I'd sleep trained her months ago, but I didn't, and here we are. 

For the first few months, going to bed looked like nursing her to sleep and then putting her in the Dockatot in our bed.

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It worked until it didn't - she got too big and we had to come up with a new plan. It then morphed into nursing her to sleep and putting her in the pack and play next to our bed. Progress! She wasn't IN our bed anymore! 

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Eventually, I grew out of my new mom is-my-baby-going-to-die-if-I'm-not-hovering-over-her phase and realized that she'd be just fine sleeping in her own room (though at that point we did get the AngelCare monitor, so maybe I'm still outgrowing that particular irrational fear). She also started going to bed at 7:00, so then bedtime changed again to nursing her to sleep, putting her in her crib, and learning to avoid all the squeaky spots in her floor as I tiptoed out of her room since we now had the evening free.

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Fast forward another couple of months and Elise no longer nursed to sleep. Instead, she'd finish up, start smiling, patting my face, and then screaming the moment I put her in her crib. However, she'd fall asleep rather quickly if she just snuggled for awhile, and so we did that. 

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And then one day, she decided it was more exciting to stay awake and climb on top of me than fall asleep, and the jig was up. She had to fall asleep in her bed. However, she also has extreme separation anxiety when it comes to bedtime, which leaves me stuck in her room beside her crib until she falls asleep. She deemed this method acceptable, in that she no longer screamed when she was put down.

Most nights she settles quickly and I'm in and out of there in 20 minutes start to finish, but some nights, let's say...TONIGHT FOR EXAMPLE, she fights sleep like it's out to get her. On nights like that, my internal dialogue starts to sound a bit desperate by the end, while externally I remain silent and completely still so as to avoid creating a distraction:

"Maybe tonight will be a good night! Maybe she'll just put her head down, shut her eyes, and be immediately asleep."

"Exactly how close do I need to be to the crib in order for her proximity meter to register an acceptable reading? Can I at least lie on the bed instead of the floor?"

"Nope."

"Just put your head down, child."

"Good job! Suck that thumb until the cows come home!"

"Why is your head back up?"

"WHY IS THE NEIGHBOR RUNNING A FREAKING CHAIN SAW??"

"Yessssss. Lying back down."

"Why are you repeatedly smacking your mattress? How does that help you fall asleep??"

"STOP. STOP STOP STOP. SLEEEEEEEEEP."

"GO TO SLEEP."

"SLEEP NOW."

"I may need to invest in that notorious 'children's book' for adults." 

"Why are you still awake?"

"What if I just sneak out while she's facing the other direction...?"

"Wait, I've tried that before. It only prolongs the process."

"I've been lying on a FLOOR for 30 minutes. Is this really the best use of time?"

"Why didn't I suck it up and sleep train months ago...?"

"When I finally get downstairs I should google if it's possible to spoil a child by catering to her need to have me nearby to sleep."

"Wait! Is this it? Is she sleeping?? Can I escape???"

"Curses."

-- 10 minutes later --

"I give up."

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One Year of Elise in Photos (x2)

I suppose this is a bit of a continuation of the birthday post, but this is basically all photos. Throughout the course of the year, I took two series of photos each month. One was the "real" set with a legitimate camera, and the other was in our Moses basket and with my phone. I was much more consistent on the date of the photos with the camera, but the basket ones are fun to see exactly how much she grew! And so here you go: the basket photos first, then the others. 

And then the camera photos!

I'm just milking all the birthday stuff over here. Don't mind me. You can expect at least one more...because she only turns one once, after all!

One Year of Elise

Elise turned one on Memorial Day, and we spent the first half of the day up in Vermont and the second half driving home. But while it wasn't the most celebratory day of all time, we still had a good time, and her real birthday party is next weekend! No doubt I will recap that as well. In the meantime, I did still take my normal volume of month stat pictures, and then I tripled that amount for good measure.  

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Within the last month, she learned things in leaps and bounds! The most exciting one is that she is walking all over the place, and she seems delighted with her newfound ability to walk without holding on to someone's hand. I suspect she will move on to running in the next week with how fast she still likes to push her little cart. 

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She's added some more words to her vocabulary, and uses them with great frequency. If you visit our house, you'll likely hear her say, "Uh oh," "Duck," and "Wowwwww!" The last one is most often employed when hearing, seeing, or thinking about the construction vehicles that are currently working on replacing our formerly rotten wooden retaining wall along our driveway. That's another story for another time. If you were hoping for a visual of her saying her favorite word, look no further!

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In addition to the spoken word, she has also created her own version of the sign for All Done. She makes this sign when she has finished eating a meal, wants to get out of her car seat, or has woken up for the day and would like to get out of her crib. 

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Since the weather has gotten warmer at long last, we've spent more time outside. She loves being out there, and this month she's discovered the singular joy of feeling the grass on her bare feet. She loves it, and we've already had several baths on non-bath days thanks to having dirt on her knees. I consider that a sign of a day well spent.

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Her favorite food lately is cardboard. Yes, you read that right. While she often refuses tasty things like fruit, she will chow down on tags, board books, boxes, and church bulletins, and within seconds will tear tiny pieces off and swallow them if I don't catch her in time. Fortunately for the board books, she also likes reading, so I don't have to be quite as vigilant around those as I do around other pieces of paper. Nevertheless, most of her books have bite marks, evidently indicating to the world that they belong to her and her alone.

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Her animal sound repertoire has increased, and in addition to lions and monkeys, she'll reliably tell you what owls and birds say when asked. Occasionally she'll remember what a cow says, so we'll be working on that one next. 

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Her sleep has also improved lately, which has been wonderful. It had been rather terrible between 10 and 12 months, with a typical night including two or three wake ups and getting up for the day around 5:30. In the last couple of days she's only been waking once and sleeping in a little later, so I'm hoping that will continue. 

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It's quite odd to think that this is the last of her month by month posts, since it seems a bit unusual to continue reporting beyond a year. Cue a barrage of thoughts about the speed of time. However, in lieu of actually writing those out, I present to you a stream of photos of Elise with a party hat or five. What could be better than that?

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Happy very first birthday, sweet girl! We love you forever and can't wait to watch as you continue to grow.

Eleven Months of Elise

Elise is 11 months now! That came up quickly thanks to the fact that I didn't write her 10 month report until two weeks into the month. But a lot of things happened between 10 and 11 months! Time for an update.

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In recent days, Elise has become slightly pickier in her eating habits. She's a big fan of spitting things out, but I read somewhere on some moms' message board - the best source of quality information, right? - that this particularly delightful habit is sometimes related to teething. That doesn't seem too far fetched because between 10 and 11 months she cut three teeth all at once! She's up to eight total, and it's changed her little smile quite a bit. 

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She must have hit a growth spurt as well, because we used 12 month onesies for about two weeks before she needed the 18 month size. 

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Last month I mentioned we were working on some animal sounds, but the lion was the only one that was consistent. Well, shortly after that, she mastered a monkey's sound as well! She's learned a lot lately - she's clapping, raises her hands when she hears us cheer, and if you ask her where your nose is, she'll point to it without fail. 

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Her hair continues to grow as well, which is good - she doesn't get random strangers referring to her as "Baldie" anymore. But the best part about it is that as long as her hair dries right after a bath, she ends up with a single curl right on the top of her head. I'm just hoping it doesn't eventually descend down to the middle of her forehead, because there's a rhyme about that. 

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Within the last week or two she's gotten especially good at standing independently, and now it's much more often on purpose than it was before. It's hard to capture in a picture since she's always on the move, but every once in awhile, I get lucky:

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Her favorite activities include opening and emptying drawers, pulling all of her books off of her little bookshelf, pointing at anything she finds interesting, cruising around with her push cart, and, more than anything else, holding on to our hands and walking around the house. She'd do it for hours if she could, and she gets rather sad when we have to let go and do something else. In that case, she'll go back to her push cart, which she recently learned how to steer!

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But her biggest accomplishment this month is that a couple days shy of her "month day," she took a step! It was only one, and at first she wasn't too happy about it, but she did it and she has done it several times since. 

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We keep cheering her on with each new development. It really is amazing to see how a baby can go from being completely and entirely dependent on you in the first days of life to a little independent person all within the space of a year. I mean, let's be honest...she's still very dependent in most ways. But it's so much fun watching her personality reveal itself every single day. What a blessing.

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And next month, she'll be one! Prepare yourself for an onslaught of pictures of Elise in a white onesie...with a birthday hat. 

Ten Months of Elise

We've made it to another month day! Happy 10 months, Elise!

Also, a note: a took her pictures on the actual day, but I have been remiss in my chronicling duties and am posting about it a week late. Alas! 

The most notable thing to occur this month was the big trip, of course. That included several milestones for Elise: first international trip, first passport stamp, first croissant, etc. But she's glad to be home now, exploring her familiar things and places, and she's growing like a weed. Her 9-month clothes are getting too short, and I'm packing up some of my favorite outfits in favor of ones that fit. While I normally start with the standard white onesie shots, I decided to first pay homage to her hedgehog pajamas with the matching hat, since they're going to end up in the storage box after their next washing.

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She's been practicing standing all on her own more and more lately, usually when she's absorbed in something (like removing all of the books from her bookshelf). She has also expanded her vocabulary a bit, using more consonants and speaking in what sound like full sentences of gibberish. 

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We also discovered that she has sprouted yet another tooth, bringing the total up to five. I suspect that the same tooth on the other side is on its way in as well, but she hasn't been complaining about it. As a result, it may be a little while before her mouth gets into a symmetrical state again. She's totally pulling off the look though. 

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She has also been sampling a ton of foods! She'll eat whatever is on my plate, and so I've tried to become more intentional about making her a little miniature meals at mealtime so that she gets a substantial amount of solids each day. That works some days and other days she subsists entirely on milk, but since food is more for exploration than nutrition at this point, I think she's doing just fine. 

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As of eight or nine months, she began playing games with people, usually with Chaz, where she leans all the way over to one side when she's sitting or standing and expects you to reciprocate. Once you've leaned over to match her, she'll lean the other way and wait for you to follow. She thinks it's hilarious and the game is typically accompanied with lots of smiles, babbling, and giggles. 

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And whenever she's in the presence of a light blanket, you can be sure she'll play peekaboo with you. She pulls the blanket up so it's covering her face, and when you ask where she is, she'll pull it down with gusto and grin. 

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She has also developed a strong affinity for climbing anything and everything that she can, so stairs hold a particular fascination for her. However, when stairs are not available, the nearest chair suits her just fine. 

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Fear not; I rescued her immediately once things started heading that direction. 

When not climbing, her preferred activity of late has been reading, which I love. She sits on our laps to read, and when we get to the end of the page, she'll reach with her left hand (only - never the right) and turn it. She really loves lift-the-flap books, and her absolute favorite is Dear Zoo. She gets very excited when we begin, and her excitement culminates on the page with the lion. So much so, in fact, that when you ask, "Elise, what does a lion say?" at any point, she'll roar. It's the best. We're still working on monkey and elephant noises, since those are some of the other animals in the book, but having the lion noise down pat is pretty great. 

I think that's all I have to report for the moment. See you next month for another report!

Euro Trip with a Baby, Part 3

Congratulations! You've made it to the last chapter of our seemingly everlasting narrative!

To conclude our time in Basel, we attempted to board an earlier train to Paris than the one for which we had a ticket. I repacked all of our many things, including the items we'd picked up as souvenirs along the way, and they somehow still managed to fit in our bags. I'm still not sure how that worked, because I'm pretty sure I left the US with no room to spare. 

Once packed, I fed Elise, changed her diaper, got her into all her outdoor gear, strapped her in the stroller, attached everything else to various parts of my body, and we left the hotel. Since Chaz was going to be checking out the next day, we left our key in the room so that he could return it (along with his own key) at that point. We arrived at the train station with plenty of time to spare, so we picked up a pretzel and some water to keep us well fed and hydrated on the train. 

When we got to the track, I figured it'd be best to confirm that getting on an earlier train was fine. Would it have been fine? Yes. Would it have been free? NO. The conductor informed me it would be an extra $131 (USD), and we suddenly had an extra four hours to kill with all of our luggage...over nap time. What a development. Back to the hotel we went. Suddenly leaving the key in the room seemed like a terrible idea, but when you're laden with a tiny human and bags hanging off of most of your appendages, the front desk people don't ask too many questions when you say you left your key in the room.

I had intended to go to the (utterly wonderful) Swiss grocery store once more in those four hours, but instead it turned into a nap fest. Elise decided sleeping with her feet on me was the most comfortable position.

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She got a good rest and then we washed, rinsed, and repeated the same process again for the second time. The silver lining here was that Rachael was now on the same train! Hip hip hooray!

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Three hours and sixteen minutes later we found ourselves back in Paris, ready to catch our flight home the next day. But since we WERE in Paris, we immediately knew we needed to make the most of our remaining couple of hours. 

To do:

  1. Eat crêpes. 
  2. Buy more Ladurée macarons.
  3. Take in the final sights.

Our train had arrived at 7:45 pm, so by the time we were setting out from the hotel it was 8:45. First stop: crêpes. Oh my goodness. We found the BEST crêpe place in le Marais, which is, in my humble opinion, the loveliest historic district in the city. It's also a safe place for two women and a baby to be walking around at night, so win-win. But the CRÉPES. If you're in Paris, you must go to La Droguerie. You must! Rachael and I each got two crêpes - one savory (for dinner, of course) and one sweet. 

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And look at the jolly Frenchman in the back! He was the crêpe master, and he gave us free cups of tasty mint tea and told me my French was good. I was flattered. However, he did first ask if I was American...

I shared my apple-filled crêpe with Elise, and she LOVED it. 

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Each time I offered it to her, she'd try to take a bigger bite, and once it was in her mouth she wouldn't let go. If the baby approves, you know you've got a good thing going. 

With filled bellies, we made our way back to the metro and raced toward Ladurée on the Champs-Élysées. They closed at 11 and we walked in at 10:59. The ladies at the counter begrudgingly filled our macaron order and rather smugly turned away the man that walked in at 11:00, but no amount of near-closing-time attitude could stifle our anticipation over the imminent macaron consumption. I'm happy to report that they exceeded our expectations. 

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With our final stop of the night complete, we felt like we'd hit everything we needed to and went back to the hotel feeling content and ready to head home in the morning. Our flight was at 11:30 am, so we decided we'd leave at 9:00 to give ourselves plenty of time to get to the airport. Please note: we each received an email informing us that there was a Nor'easter scheduled to hit Boston at the same time as our flight, and that we should be prepared for a delay. This email also mentioned that we could make one free change to our flight plans, but we figured we'd use that in case we got stuck in Reykjavik due to our Boston flight being canceled.

What we did not anticipate was leaving half an hour late and that it took roughly 1.5 hours to get from our hotel to the airport, thanks to rush hour traffic. If you're wondering how we still made our flight...great question. WE DIDN'T. 

Up until that point, I had never missed a flight in my life. I think if it had been any other flight, I would have been out the full airfare for rebooking my ticket, but guess what came in handy? The email! We cashed in on that one free flight change and voila! Rachael, Elise, and I now had a whole extra day in Paris. Considering chances were extremely high that our Reykjavik to Boston flight was going to be canceled anyway (and we later found out that it was), the missed flight was rather fortuitous. 

You've certainly heard the "when life hands you lemons" saying. I'm going to raise you one and say that when life hands you lemons, you occasionally get the chance to practice alchemy and not only make lemonade, but convert your yellow lemons to yellow gold and live it up to the hilt. We chose this opportunity to take that route and I'm pretty sure our spontaneous extra day was the very best. 

First, we found a hotel for the night. We picked the location carefully - le Marais! More crêpes for us! Our room had the most perfect window, and with the slightly warmer temperature and sunny day, we left it open to provide us with some fresh air. 

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We dropped off all of our stuff (another award to Rachael for seriously saving me when it came to hoisting Elise, the stroller, and my suitcase up several flights of stairs between the airport and the hotel), regrouped a bit, and then went in search of lunch. Elise made sure to practice some conducting before we set off. 

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We hit the road and discovered that the Rue de Rivoli is basically the affordable version of the Champs-Élysées. The result? A shopping excursion! We made a bee line for H&M thanks to the fact that while I was perfectly fine wearing the same pants and shirt again for an extra travel day, there are other articles of clothing that I was definitely NOT ok rewearing. Hence the need for a dependable, cheap store with all the...basics.

Along the way we stopped for lunch at a patisserie simply called "Paul." In spite of the simple name, our three-cheese flatbread pizza and chocolate cake were anything but simple, and we walked out feeling rather sprightly and well-fed. We also stumbled across a grand cathedral and used it both as an opportunity for prayers and photos. One of those things felt significantly more holy than the other.

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In retrospect, we should have stayed inside the cathedral and said more prayers, because shortly after departing we got caught in a heavy downpour. Perhaps that was God's casual smiting for taking a few too many photos. We ran the last couple of blocks toward H&M and shook off the few raindrops that hadn't already soaked into our clothes, which led to the discovery that Elise had made great use of the rain as a distraction for removing and disposing of her hat. It was gone forever, sadly, but H&M thwarted her dreams of remaining hatless as we left with a new one in hand. Or rather...on her head. 

After a couple more stops, I realized that if we had any hope of being able to sit down for dinner that night Elise would need a nap, so we made our way back to the hotel. Baby naps have their perks - time to search for the perfect dinner place! A quick Google inquiry for best (affordable) restaurants in le Marais led us to Le Colimaçon, and this is where our extra day went from simply lovely to totally awesome. It turned out to literally be the BEST MEAL. As in best meal I've ever eaten in my entire life, and possibly the best meal I hope to consume for the rest of my life. I knew Paris had good food, but this was above and beyond.

Because we were looking for restaurants in the neighborhood we were staying, we were able to walk. It had warmed up a bit over the course of the trip, so it might be more accurate to say we strolled. I mean, we did have a stroller, so we definitely strolled. The sights were perfectly Parisian, and for a brief moment I wondered if I'd accidentally walked onto the set of Roman Holiday. I then mentally reprimanded myself for that thought seeing as Roman Holiday is set in Rome. 

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It was far too late in the trip to blame jet lag. Baby sleep, perhaps? 

We arrived at the restaurant and were almost turned away because we hadn't made a reservation. At the last moment - the very last, since we had already walked out the door - the waitress ran after us and informed us that someone had reserved a table for six, but only four attended, so a table was available! 

It was a tiny dining room that felt friendly and intimate in a way that only the French can pull off. Elise must have inhaled the classiness of the place and translated it into feeling compliant, because she sat in my lap and chattered quietly while gnawing on a piece of bread as opposed to her normal decibel level for talking in quiet places. That level is off the charts and is typically reserved for church. In case you need proof, here's a shot of both of stuffing our faces with a shared piece of bread prior to the arrival of the main course.

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We didn't take any pictures of the actual food because it was too glorious to behold and might have broken our cameras. Also because we dug into it so fast that we didn't think to whip out any sort of photo-taking device, and once we'd started in there was no stopping us. My steak was perfectly cooked with a divine brown sauce of some sort, and I don't use the word divine lightly! Alongside the steak were vegetables and a small salad, paired with a delicious Merlot that the waitress had recommended. Elise particularly enjoyed the carrots dipped in the brown sauce, and would open her mouth for another bite each time she swallowed.

It was so good that we couldn't say no to dessert, so we followed it up with a chocolate mousse that was probably sent straight from the heavens on to our plates. Elise may or may not have sampled a tiny taste of that as well...the c'est la vie! mentality struck again. I didn't want her to miss out on the meal of a lifetime! 

We left the restaurant and walked back to the hotel vowing to return with our respective spouses in the future. If I say it out loud, it has to happen, right? In the words of the Terminator, I'LL BE BACK. 

So we never actually had more crêpes, but it didn't matter because we'd found something even better. We peaked at the very end, which is the ideal way to (un)plan a trip!

The next day we left 1.5 hours earlier than we'd left the previous day, picked an alternative way to get to the airport, and got to our flight with plenty of time to buy ourselves a final croissant and hot chocolate at the gate. The plane rides were uneventful, and Elise figured out a great way to both entertain herself and give me a workout: 

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We arrived home to a foot of snow, no power, a buried car, and several trees down in our driveway, but we were able to stay with my parents that night and power was restored the following morning. All was well, and best of all, we were reunited once again! We took a blurry selfie to commemorate the occasion. 

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And with that, our international adventures were ended. À bientôt, Paris! 

Euro Trip with a Baby, Part 2

Welcome back to the second installment of the Euro Baby Chronicles. I can promise a continuation of our lengthy recap that may or may not stretch into a THIRD post. I guess we'll find out after I type for awhile longer.

Where did we leave off? Oh yes. The passport was recovered, dinner was delicious, and we had turned in for the night. We had a nice comfy bed and a lovely view overlooking the street in a charming hotel, although it turned out that the other half of our traveling party had issues with their shower. Sad times! I think the hotel made up for it with their delicious breakfast offerings though. Elise sampled a croissant and I ate another two myself, coupled with yet another hot chocolate. When in Rome, you know? Or better said...when in Paris, you know?

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After enjoying her croissant, Elise spent a couple of extra minutes hanging out with Rachael while I went on a quick mission to buy some diapers from the nearby market. Turned out they were quasi-closed - they informed me I needed to leave after I walked through the very much unlocked door - but Elise clearly loved her quality time. 

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Upon my return, we squashed all of us and our various suitcases, bags, and the recently-delivered stroller (!) into an Uber and sped across town to the Gare de l'Est train station to ride toward Colmar. Colmar is a tiny town in the Alsace region on the eastern border of France (wine country!), and if you want a visual, picture a village straight out of Beauty and the Beast and you'll be right on the money.

It was COLD. 

We also had all of our bags since we were going to end up in Basel, but Google had informed us that the bike shop next door would stow luggage for the day for a mere two Euro per item. Great news! The downside? The bike shop was closed for lunch, and would not reopen for two hours. The upside? The train station had a little restaurant. We camped out, drank some hot drinks, and waited until the bike shop employees had finished their afternoon lunch + siesta. After walking so many miles in the previous two days, I don't think any of us were sad about the forced break. 

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When the appointed hour came, we dropped off the luggage and made our way into town on foot. It was as charming as ever and as lovely as I had remembered from my first time there, albeit much chillier. We found a sandwich shop for lunch and then proceeded to walk around town, stopping in shops where we wanted to investigate items we'd seen in the window and taking all sorts of pictures of our surroundings along the way. 

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There were two places to note in particular: first, we found French Target. Monoprix has everything from diapers and wipes (thank goodness - I had just used up my very last one from home) to food to housewares to clothing, and all of it was adorable. Elise got a souvenir from here, because it's an unspoken yet widely acknowledged rule that you can't pass through Target/Monoprix and leave empty-handed.

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I should add that I found the French generic-brand diapers to be significantly superior to Pampers. I'm still working on trying to get a subscription service sent to my house directly from Monoprix.

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Second, we found an ice cream shop called Edelw'ice. 

Let's pause for a moment to really appreciate the greatness of that pun. 

I stood in the street and laughed out loud because hello, I'm a nerd. Had it not been so cold, I would have bought as much as I could from them just because I loved the name of the business so much. Here's a blurry photo taken so that I could revel in the punny glory for ages to come:

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After laughing so hard, we needed a snack, so we hit up a nearby chocolate and pastry shop for our pick me up. Elise was beyond delighted to be released from the constraints of her stroller, and she didn't hesitate to let the entire dining area know about her glee. 

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Fortunately, the window distracted her enough that we were able to make it through our tea and (yet more) croissants without shattering any porcelain dishware, and we left with full bellies and slightly damaged eardrums. Back to the bike shop we trudged to pick up our luggage and hop on the train to Basel!

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Oh, and we gave up on the stroller for that last leg. Elise got the Ergo treatment instead.

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The half hour train ride was quite uneventful as Elise fell asleep the moment we got on board. After a very active day, I think I may have appreciated her nap even more than she did. She was a total traveling champ on this trip and I was so very proud of her. Look at how happy she was, even when she was pooped!

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She did have mittens...but she would just take them off approximately five seconds after I put them on. Every. Single. Time. 

The vibe of the trip changed a little bit once we got to Basel due to the change of purpose. I mean...my purpose was still the same, but Julie was heading back home, and Rachael was there on a business trip. Do you know who else was there for business? CHAZ! We overlapped with him for a grand total of two nights (he worked during the day, of course), and in that span of time we took zero pictures of us all together. Evidently our priorities were elsewhere - his with work and mine with eating carbs and sugar.

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Basel is definitely a city, but it's a much smaller, quieter city than a giant one like Paris. The effect of that change was that every single thing is closed on Sunday, and we had arrived on a Saturday night. Nevertheless, Elise and I rallied on Sunday morning, got ready for the day, and eventually went exploring after her morning nap. 

As a quick aside - it is logistically difficult to shower while being single-handedly responsible for tending to a baby in a hotel room. We tried several methods over the course of the week, but this one was the most successful. I figure she already knows how to appreciate a good spa treatment.

Believe it or not, our 2.5 days of Basel exploits can be condensed into a few pictures and even fewer words: we came, we saw, and we ate. Success!

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We're actively working on raising the next generation of cathedral lovers. 

Chocolate was obviously an important factor for me, and being in the Land of Chocolate, I was determined to find the best hot chocolate place in the city and drink it. I'm happy to report that I did find it, and it was delectable. Really, you can't go wrong when you're at a place that's dedicated to hot chocolate drinks. 

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It came with a small piece of the actual chocolate used in the drink, a heaping pile of whipped cream ON THE SIDE, and a small glass of water to wash down the decadence. 

While it was amazing and absolutely worth the effort of seeking it out and drinking it while holding a squirmy child, I'm about to make a bold, entirely subjective claim: I liked the Musée d'Orsay's hot chocolate better. 

😬

Overall, the slower pace we took in Basel was a nice reprieve from the hustle and bustle of touristing, and when we weren't roaming the old town streets, we spent several hours in the hotel like this:

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There aren't very many things in life sweeter than a baby who cuddles in her sleep.

Well, I have once again used up more than enough blog post real estate for only a portion of our trip, so I'll continue to drag this out with a part three...

COMING SOON.

Nine Months of Elise

So we're really late to the party here. Two weeks after the fact is a new record, I think, but it'll be documented nonetheless. This delay has been brought to you by a heaping dose of traveling with a baby, to be recapped in the near future. Hold on to your glutes.

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9-month-old Elise is lots of fun. One day she woke up and started pushing her walking cart, stood for a moment by herself without holding on to anything, and figured out how to climb the stairs all within the span of a couple of hours. We bought a gate for the stairs that weekend, because if she's left to her own devices, she'll find her way there within minutes and make her way up. 

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She is infinitely curious, and loves exploring details, often on things I'm wearing. Buttons, necklaces, and (rather unfortunately for me) glasses are items of particular interest, and she'll spend many a minute poking at them with her pointer finger. 

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She continues try new foods in the form of whatever is on my plate, and seems to be particularly fond of eggs of and oatmeal. She also continues to be the most talkative member of the family, and has expanded her consonant sounds beyond mamamama, dadadada, and babababa to include nananana (we're still working on BATMAN). She also enjoys clicking her tongue and opening her mouth over and over, which almost makes a whispery papapapa sound.  

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When she's especially excited, she inhales with a raspy sort of gasp that sounds like a mix between hyperventilation and wheezing, which seems somewhat alarming, but really she's just so thrilled with whatever she's come across that she can't help herself. 

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She's started to think that toots are funny and giggles whenever they occur, and she also cut her top two teeth. We're up to four! All her developments this month have come with a side of separation anxiety, most often evident when she needs to sleep in her bed, so we're working on that. She very much has opinions about how things should be, and isn't afraid to show some displeasure when they don't go the way she expects. I think that will be a good quality later in life, but right now it's going to keep us on our toes. 

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I really can't believe that we're already approaching her first birthday. This year has gone by in the blink of an eye, and even though everyone tells you that ahead of time, there's no way to know what it feels like until it's happening. But I guess we still have a couple of months before we get to that point, so I suppose I'll savor these last couple of months before her first birthday as much as I can. 

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And that's all there is for this month! 

Eight Months of Elise

Another month has gone by, so yet again it's time to document!

This kid's middle name should be Active. She very rarely wants to sit still, because there's so much to explore and she's developed a bunch of skills to do so. She was crawling awhile ago, and shortly thereafter learned how to pull herself up, and she has never looked back. She pulls herself up on e v e r y t h i n g, ranging from our media console to the coffee table to the kitchen island to the couch to her crib rails to our legs, etc. She's gotten really good at balancing and it's not an uncommon sight to see her loosely pressing a single hand against her latest support. Pretty soon I suspect that she won't need the support at all and will stand up anywhere! 

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She suddenly developed a fondness for eating solid foods, which is great, and for most meals she wants to be in my lap, eating whatever is on my plate. So far she has yet to encounter a food she doesn't like, although she was a little surprised the first time she tried a green bean. She proceeded to chow down on a few more after that, so that apparently didn't hinder her appreciation for them. She's a big fan of eggs, oatmeal, broccoli, guacamole, and prunes, of all things. She also very much enjoys every flavor of Puffs, which is a great way both to get her used to different textures and also work on her pincer grasp, even though they have very little actual nutritional value. When she's not eating food, she's trying to eat everything else, so she might be on teething round 2...

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She seems to have hit another round of somewhat unpredictable night wakings, so we're all a little tired. However, she makes up for it by being a napping champ during the day, so that, at least, is great. I'll take what I can get when it comes to baby sleep! Eight months of this parenting gig has taught me that everything is a (usually short-lived) phase if nothing else, so we grin and bear it when it's sometimes a little tougher, knowing it won't last forever. 

She's also discovered some very fun tricks, including kissing (albeit very wet and with a wide open mouth) and dancing to music. She'll stop what she's doing and start bobbing her head along with the beat. We think it's one of her more adorable stunts, and it makes me remember to turn music on more often while we're at home.

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She quite despises getting dressed and having her diaper changed these days, presumably because both activities require staying still more more than 0.5 seconds. She's generally become rather skilled at voicing her opinions over such things, but she counters that by being delightfully content and smiley when she's doing almost anything else.

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I feel so lucky to be her mom. I hope she always knows how loved she is, and that we think she's the bees knees, forever and always.

Seven Months of Elise

Well, we've arrived at yet another month marker. This one snuck up on me. In all other months, I've started thinking of Elise as the upcoming month's age a week or two prior to the actual date. But this time? I thought she had a couple more days to go at least before she graduated from a half a year to a month plus a half year. 

This month brought with it a host of changes! She started crawling at six months plus three days, something I only remember with such specificity because the month change had happened so recently prior. While very exciting, I had rather been looking forward to the "potted plant" stage where she would happily sit on a blanket while playing with toys. No such luck for me. We went from stationary lying to very non-stationary moving in the blink of an eye, and there was no turning back. 

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Our house converted from being quite safe to extremely hazardous overnight, and we're in the process of baby-proofing everything at the moment. In the meantime, we watch her like an overprotective hawk while she zooms around every conceivable area all the live long day. 

Within a week or two of crawling, she also decided she'd like to pull herself up to a stand, and we lowered the crib mattress ASAP. In lieu of having an easily accessible crib rail, she finds many a surface with which to serve her standing needs. The current favorite is a box of Costco wipes waiting to be stocked away.

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She babbles all the time, alternating between syllables and growls to her heart's content. She's also sampled some "real" food this month, trying her taste buds at such exotic flavors as plain yogurt (with a touch of maple syrup), peanut butter (hooray for no allergies!), Thai massaman curry (hey, the doctor said to mash up whatever we were eating...), butternut squash and apple soup (sampled at our work's Christmas party), and avocado (which she despised). It seems that she appreciates many a flavor but hates any and all textures other than liquid, so we'll be introducing textured things later. That said, she does enjoy a good chomp on a whole carrot when the time is right. 

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When she wants to sit still for long enough, she loves to read books, and I frequently watch her crawl over to her bookshelf to pat each book on the binding, apparently to signify her approval of the contents. As a result, several baby Bibles have made their way to the most easily-accessible shelf. 

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She has a few favorite toys at the moment, and thoroughly enjoys time spent on her play mat.

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However, she typically finds the tag on said play mat as interesting (if not more so) than the actual toys. 

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She had her very first Christmas this month, and in spite of dealing with a bit of a cold during the festivities, she enjoyed herself and loved having her Nana, Papa, and two uncles around for the occasion. 

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As previously stated in every month post since she's been born, we love her to pieces. She's the most marvelously delightful little girl and we think she's just the best. 

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Six Months of Elise

At this exact moment a half a year ago, I was lying in a hospital bed with a 16-minute old baby in my arms. Upon her arrival sixteen minutes prior, she had been whisked over to the warmer to be evaluated by the neonatologist to make sure all her bells and whistles were in good order, and when she was declared perfectly healthy, they handed her to Chaz, who handed her to me. And after that turn of events, our little family's world has never been the same, and I wouldn't have it any other way. 

It's hard to believe that was only six months ago. Every single parent on the face of the earth says, "I can't remember what life was like before Baby arrived," and we all just chuckle and carry on, but as with almost every saying that is repeated 'round the globe, it's completely true. That IS why it's a common saying, after all. But that doesn't stop me from repeating it once again. I can't really remember what life was like before Elise arrived. Heck, what did we DO with all of our spare time? 

In other news, Elise is six months old and is a ball full of energy. 

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She's gotten significantly better at holding herself in seated position once placed there, although she hasn't quite mastered getting there herself. She's trying on the regular though, so I suppose that will come in no time.

She rarely cries, but she has zero tolerance for being on her back and will flip herself over on to her stomach and get up on her hands and knees before you can say Jack Robinson. 

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She's pretty proud of herself, too. 

She talks most of the time, and has expanded her vocabulary to "Babababababa," "Bwahbwahbwahbwah" (I promise that's different from babababa), "Mamamamama," "Dadadadada," and "Brrrbrrrbrrrbrrr." She still enjoys both squealing and growling, although more often than not those sounds include syllables as well. What excitement!

Speaking of excitement, when she finds something particularly thrilling, she'll make a funny sort of inhaling gasp/squeak, accompanied with curling up into a ball and enthusiastically clutching the shoulder of whoever is carrying her. This combination of actions is usually brought on by walking down the stairs after waking up for a nap, going outside, or whenever someone says something excitedly. 

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She seems to be within days of figuring out how to crawl, as she is able to move her knees while on all fours, and often rocks back and forth trying to get herself to move forward. Once she figures out her hands need to move as well, she'll be off to the races.

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And last but not least, she cut two teeth while we were in Washington for Thanksgiving, and she is suddenly back to (mostly) sleeping through the night. Insert praise hands here. 

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Other fast facts to note:

  • She took her first flight and handled it like a champ.
  • She had her first Thanksgiving and ate no Thanksgiving food - still on a fully liquid (milk) diet!
  • She's started sleeping in her own room at night, now that she's more consistent in not waking up. 
  • She's working on moving up a clothes size, and as a result has a rather inflated closet since she fits in 3-6 month but also in 6-9 month outfits.
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And we love her to pieces. 

O Christmas Tree...

I think Christmas just got infinitely more exciting. I mean, Christmas has always been exciting, but with a baby, it became even more so. I'm not sure which is better: being a kid at Christmas or having a kid at Christmas. Perhaps we'll never know. Or at least I'll know after a few Christmases with a kid are under my belt.

Needless to say, I'm pretty pumped about this coming Christmas, and so we got started with the Christmas decorations a little earlier than usual this year, beginning with the Christmas tree.

In a perfect world, we'd go to the tree farm and cut down our own tree. I have such great memories of doing that for years as a kid and I'd love to pass that down, but it turns out that somehow cutting down our own is significantly MORE expensive than buying a pre-cut one. Someone explain that to me, please. Someone has to do all the labor of cutting, moving, arranging, selling, and attaching the trees to cars, but it's $20 less expensive than me going to the farm, sawing, transporting, and attaching everything on my own?

I digress.

Long story short, we got Elise's first Christmas tree at the local garden supply place down the road, but as far as pre-cut trees go, they had a really good selection and it was still fun. 

We headed to the lot on Saturday afternoon and perused the various tree options. There were several good ones! 

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Our living room has limited options for tree placement, so we knew we wanted something not too tall and not too wide, but not too short and not too skinny. Basically, it had to be just right. Fortunately, we found the perfect one within a few minutes and then we made sure that Elise approved. 

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When we couldn't get her attention to take a picture, we knew that was it. And so we played it like the millennials that we are and took a family selfie, then paid for our tree and got it on top of the car. 

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As one does with Christmas trees, we brought it home, set it up, and filled it with decorations while Christmas music played in the background. Midway through we made breakfast for dinner, and then finished it up after we ate. 

We tried to take one more picture along the way, but it's a little tough while baby-wrangling and this is pretty much what we got:

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And finally, because Christmas with a baby is magical, I took a few photos while she played with some lights to round out the evening. 

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Since Advent starts later this year, we have an extra week to enjoy the season. We're celebrating at our house this year for the first time, and I'm quite looking forward to slowing down, savoring the preparations, the decorations, and the holiness in which these weeks are steeped. And I can't wait to watch Elise take it all in for the first time, since there's something especially lovely about introducing holidays to someone who's already filled with wonder over the regular day to day life. May we all anticipate Jesus's birth with such childlike amazement. 

Five Months of Elise

Somehow, another month has passed already and I'm back here to document. Usually I like to have a few posts between the month by month ones, but...here I am without other filler. Besides, a regular dose of Elise updates is all anyone ever wanted, right? Ha.

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This month, Elise finally decided that rolling from her back to her stomach is her new favorite activity, and if you put her down on her back, she'll be on her stomach within the blink of an eye. Occasionally, typically in the morning when she has the most energy, she'll do a few barrel rolls and go from back to stomach, stomach to back, back to stomach, etc. until she's reached the opposite side of whatever surface she's lying on. Needless to say, it has become even more difficult to get a non-blurry photo of her while she plays, since all she wants to do is move around. 

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She continues to expand her repertoire of sounds, from the bottom of her range with growls, and the very top of her range with extremely high pitched squeals. The growls are particularly endearing, while the squeals could be considered ear-splitting. Upon experiencing them during a 3-hour car trip, Chaz said, "I think it's time to invest in some ear plugs."

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She's got a little more peach fuzz on top of her head, and it looks like she's going to be blond, at least for now. With two brunette parents, I think chances are good that she will one day join the club. 

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She has just started to be able to sit up by herself if put in position, although it's pretty hit or miss whether she'll stay up or tip over on her side. I'm guessing by the time six months rolls around, she will be doing it all on her own. She's also showing some signs of getting ready to crawl, pushing herself backwards in order to get up on hands and knees. 

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All the changes have been pretty exciting, except that she has gone back to waking up a few times a night rather than sleeping all the way through. Nevertheless, we think she's the greatest, even when we're getting a bit less rest.  

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With everything that's changed this month, we're so excited to see what next month brings!

Four Months of Elise

Things have been a little more...distracted around here these days, seeing as I'm writing this a solid two weeks late. Elise is four months old! She's growing like a weed! She's learning new things! Per usual, we must document.

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My photos weren't as good this month because she was wiggling all around, exploring the world around her. Or at least her own fingers. At the four month mark, she is able to consistently roll over from front to back, and occasionally roll from back to front. However, she still prefers to reserve this particular activity for the most special of times, namely when she doesn't want to sleep. As with last month, her most favorite activity while spending time lying on her stomach is to try to propel herself forward, so far to no avail. She is an absolute pro at rotating herself in a full circle when she has the room though, so it's only a matter of time.

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She talks all the time while at home or in her car seat, but when we're out and about she would rather observe everything than say much. Her favorite sounds include "Ummmmm," "Mmmmm," "Maaaaaa," and if we're really lucky, "Mama." I'm 100% sure that she does not associate the word with me at all, but it's rather gratifying nonetheless.

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Her four month checkup revealed that she has grown a full six inches since birth, and she's off the percentile charts for height. However, if there were a percentile chart for hair growth, that would be incremental at best, seeing as she still gets called Baldie every once in awhile by perfect strangers. Let it be known that she does indeed have hair, but it's very light and very short. And it is growing! Just very slowly. 

And last but not least, here's a smattering of non-month-specific photos from the last month that deserve to be published just because we think she's the sweetest. 

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 Is there anything better than a pajama-clad baby? I say no. 

Is there anything better than a pajama-clad baby? I say no. 

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 Blurry, but her face is too good to not post.

Blurry, but her face is too good to not post.

 She thinks standing is the coolest. Some balancing assistance is required.

She thinks standing is the coolest. Some balancing assistance is required.

We love you, little bean! 

Apple Picking and the Start of a Tradition

When I was little, one of the key indicators that fall had arrived was going apple picking. Chapin Orchard was a couple towns over, and we'd visit the animals, take a hayride, and of course...pick apples. I don't actually remember what we did with the apples we picked, but they definitely all got eaten one way or another!

By the time I got to college, the yearly outing was treasured enough (and similarly loved by friends) that we made it a priority to go to a nearby orchard in the fall to continue the tradition despite being away from home. We added on apple cider donuts to the animal visiting, hayride, and apple picking, and that became as important as the other aspects. Perhaps more so, if I'm being honest!

I don't know if I really thought about it as a tradition until lately though. But this year, with a tiny human with whom we'd like to establish some annual traditions, it suddenly felt more important. So when my friend Meghanne suggested apple picking with our respective families, the idea was irresistible. 

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So we loaded up our babies and met at the farm, and headed out to the orchard to gather our apples. 

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Elise is still a little too small to get excited about the picking process at this point, but she did enjoy spending time in the wrap while Chaz and I did all the gathering work!

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We stopped picking long enough to take a few family pictures, which is great since I have precious few photos of all three of us together. I mean, 99% of the pictures I take these days are of Elise and Elise alone, so it's nice to mix it up every once in awhile. 

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We got some good ones of Meghanne's family as well! 

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We each gathered a half a bushel of Cortland and Red Delicious apples, making sure to only grab the good ones. That turned out to be harder than expected, because many of the apples looked like they'd been afflicted with some sort of apple-y disease, but we managed to find some spot-free ones without too much trouble. Several of the good ones were high up, so Meghanne and I stood back and let the taller ones among us grab those. 

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And before we left the orchard area, we made sure to get a group photo, because it didn't happen if it wasn't documented, right? Right.

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As we walked back to the farm center, we found one of those...cut out things where you can poke your head through a hole. I'm sure there's a name for those, but I'm not educated enough to know what it is. So Wooden Hole Thing is the official term for now. Obviously, more pictures were in order, because when a Wooden Hole Thing is available and babies are present, such an opportunity should not be missed. Behold, a series of photos: 

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 Elise wasn't too sure about it. 

Elise wasn't too sure about it. 

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All the modeling tired Elise out, I suppose, since she cuddled right up and proceeded to fall asleep. 

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We ended our adventure with apple cider donuts, since we had already established that the donuts were the secondary goal of apple picking. This farm did not disappoint - I'm pretty sure they were the best apple cider donuts I've ever had, and I've eaten quite a few in my day. 

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In short, we had a grand old time. Elise definitely won't be old enough to remember this trip, but it's something I hope to repeat year after year so that we can start establishing traditions of our own. 

I love fall - I mean really, who doesn't - but it isn't just because of the pretty colors on the trees, the crispness in the air, or the sumptuous food that ends up on our tables with the change of season. Instead, it's the gathering in, to pull an idea from The Lifegiving Home (frequently mentioned here of late). I love the feeling of the pull homeward, the desire for warmth and stocking up, preparing for winter, and making things cozy. And so I made 11 jars of applesauce with our apples while Elise slept this afternoon. I took a little break when she cried a bit in her sleep, taking more time than usual to snuggle with her and breathe in her freshly-bathed baby smell before settling her back in her crib to snooze the afternoon away. Gathering in doesn't just have to be about stocking a home pantry. I gathered Elise in my arms, knowing that she won't be small enough to gather this way forever. I gathered memories of our apple adventure, storing them away for years to come. We're slowly gathering traditions throughout Elise's first year, hopefully giving her an anchor in life as she grows.

We're already planning on doing an apple picking trip next year, because traditions are important. They gives us the peculiar opportunity to gather both memories and hopes all at once. 

Three Months of Elise

Today, Elise is three months old! Insert a paragraph here about how fast time is passing and oh-my-goodness-HOWWWW. But all of that has been said before both here and by every parent in the history of ever, so I'll spare you the redundancy. Just please note that all of it - every last jot and tittle that you've heard from everyone - is 100% true. 

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Three-month Elise has recently discovered her vocal cords and has been putting them to good use, having full-on conversations with us on the daily. Fortunately, she has not decided to use her newly discovered skills in places slightly less familiar than home, which is good news for us during church. I suspect those days are coming to an end, however, and we'll have to adjust our church service strategies to accommodate. 

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She has also become the Drool Queen and enjoys chomping on her hands, making a bit of a mess wherever she goes. Toys occasionally find their way into her mouth as well, but at least for now, she enjoys looking at them more than playing with them. Her favorite toy is a stuffed cow from a school I visited for work last year, probably due to the dramatic color contrast between the black and white spots on his body. 

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While she hasn't yet mastered rolling over, she does manage to get from tummy to back with only a tiny bit of assistance, so the day is nigh! She loves tummy time and prefers to spend it attempting to move forward in a sort of crawl rather than trying to flip herself sideways. 

When it comes to routines, we've been following her cues, and within the last two weeks she's established an astonishingly consistent bedtime between 7:30 and 8:00. She spends the first part of the evening sleeping in her crib, and then we feed, change, and move her into our room when we go to bed. She will sometimes give us a full night's rest, but most nights she wakes up between 3:30 and 5:30 looking for food and a clean diaper. She usually goes right back to sleep, though, so we don't complain! 

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She has about 1000 nicknames, ranging from the formal Miss Elise to the much less formal Bean, Nugget, Goober, Grumpkin (when fussing), Peanut, and the list goes on. We think she's the coolest, and with every new achieved milestone, I'm both celebrating her achievements and begging time to slow down. After all, a quarter of a year (already!) is nothing to sneeze at. 

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We love you, baby girl! We're so blessed to be the ones who get to watch you grow.

2 Months of Elise

It's hard to believe that we've had a baby in the house for two full months now. Some days it seems like no time at all, and other days (honestly, most days) it feels like she's been here forever. It's hard to remember what life was like before she arrived! 

I meant to write down everything when she was one month, but I only got so far as taking a few pictures. Right around that time she hit a developmental leap (read: a week of fussing), we went on vacation, and she caught a cold. But she was still cute!

We made it back from vacation, her cold (plus conjunctivitis) went away thanks to some lovely Erythromycin ointment, and life carried on, and here we are at two months!

Elise, at two months of age, smiles a lot. She's happiest in the morning when she wakes up and after eating, and likes to talk, presumably telling me all about her dreams from the past night. We lucked out and she typically sleeps at least one six-hour stint every night, and occasionally sets records by going for 8.5 hours. This sleep schedule is a vast improvement from her first month, when she predictably woke up at 1:30, 4:30, and 6:30. I'm expecting that schedule to return around her fourth month, but we'll enjoy the longer stretches while they last.

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While she hasn't quite rolled over yet, she's very, very close, getting frustrated when she can't twist herself in quite the right way get all the way over. Her favorite activity is practicing standing. She'll put weight on her legs, wave her arms like she's trying to do a crawl stroke in the air instead of a pool, and do what we've come to refer to as "standing face" - opening her eyes very wide and opening her mouth to match. We didn't get the greatest picture of it, but it has been documented nonetheless! 

She's a happy, content girl unless she's tired, hungry, or uncomfortable due to digestion, which was a little tough for her during her first month. This month has seen a vast improvement in that department though! 

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She also loves hanging out in her wrap, and has taken to munching on the part of it that is in closest proximity to her mouth. Since her other most favorite pacifiers are a) nursing and b) sucking on my pinky, eating the wrap gives me a nice break! 

She's our favorite girl - since we only have one kid it's ok to say such things - and we're so glad that she's here with us. We love you, Elise! We can't wait to see how much you grow in your next month of life!

#momlife

This blog once was all about traveling, random experiences, and who knows what else. Food I found abroad? Organic house products? I guess both of those fall under the "random experiences" category. I clearly should have been a little more specific in my initial list of options.

Those posts are all fine and dandy, but life looks a tad bit different now and I'm home waaaaay more often than I will be abroad these days, so I suppose the content is going to be different. Now that I have a kid I guess that makes me a legitimate mommy blogger and thus my list of daily accomplishments has changed significantly. For example, formerly you might have found something here like, "I made it through a 7-hour flight without having to use an airplane bathroom!" (Side note: if I was listing that as an accomplishment, I was clearly not pregnant.) Now, my small feat of the day might be something like, "I made it through the last 12 hours without getting spit up, poop, or other sundry body fluids on my shirt!" Lofty goals, I tell you!

So I guess you could say life is a little slower at the moment. I spend a lot of time doing this:

I'm very aware that if there's another baby in our future, chasing after a toddler would seriously limit my human mattress capabilities, so I'm trying to soak up the opportunity now and fight against my constant urge to get up and do something productive, creative, or otherwise useful with my time. 

I haven't quite figured out that balance. I'm looking forward to the days of having an older, more interactive child so that we can do things together, but I'm simultaneously wishing time would slow down so my tiny cuddly baby doesn't outgrow her propensity to nuzzle against my shoulder while she falls asleep. At the same time, I don't think it's too shameful to admit that I do sometimes miss the ease with which I could pack up and go in a minute if need be, and the adult-only interaction that came with life in an office. Don't get me wrong - I wouldn't trade my current status for the world, this job is infinitely more worthwhile, and the benefits far outweigh the small inconveniences. But as time goes on, I'm sure the days will become more routine and we'll all feel more settled.

In the meantime, here's another photo of my favorite girl. And also my leg.

 Please note that I was indeed wearing shorts.

Please note that I was indeed wearing shorts.

And that's not to say that every day is without adventure. In two weeks, Chaz, Elise, and I are all packing up and hauling ourselves to NYC for a couple days. I'm sure you'll be absolutely dying to hear all about it, so get yourselves all good and ready for that enthralling tale. 

Oh, and today's small accomplishment? Elise napped in her crib! Score!

Elise Lorraine: An Arrival Tale

Let me just start by saying right off the bat that I know birth stories aren't everyone's cup of tea, so feel free to skip this one if you're less than enthused about the topic! However, I'll spare the goriest details, since...the internet doesn't really need those anyway. Continuing with the disclaimers, I apologize about the length. This post is more for my own memory-keeping than anything else, so it's pretty much a small novel. 

I finished working on Friday, May 26th. I had honestly been hoping that the little one would make her appearance ON the 26th, since Chaz and I got engaged on October 26th and married on July 26th, but no luck - I finished working, packed up the remainder of the things left in my office, and Chaz helped me carry it all down to my car. At 39+3 weeks, I was DONE being pregnant. Pregnancy, overall, treated me extremely well - no morning sickness, no cravings, no excessive weight gain - until the last two weeks. Between swelling of all my extremities and some unpleasant side effects that caused severe discomfort, I was really, really hoping to go into labor over the long weekend. Plus, it was a long weekend! Aside from the fact that my brother had declared that May 28th was an off-limits date since it was his birthday, the timing couldn't have been better.

I'd been having consistent Braxton Hicks contractions for most of the day on both Thursday and Friday, to the point where they were timeable. But by the time the evening rolled around, they'd taper off, and I'd go to bed hoping that I'd get a full night's rest and go into real labor bright and early the following morning. 

I woke up on Saturday (May 27th) and felt the same - extraordinary discomfort due to my "side effects," with mild contractions about 20 minutes apart. Every few hours I'd get excited because they'd increase to about 15 minutes apart and start feeling mildly painful, but they'd space out again shortly thereafter. We proceeded with our regular Saturday routine. Chaz went to the dump, we cleaned the house, and then we got ready for the day. Around lunchtime, we decided to go on an excursion to Wahlburgers for lunch. While the burger was delicious, it was probably the most uncomfortable meal of my entire life. I could barely sit on the hard chair, and my "Braxton Hicks" contractions, though still not more frequent than 15 apart, were decidedly uncomfortable. We got back in the car, headed home, and spent a quiet afternoon around the house. 

The evening rolled around and we grilled pork chops for dinner and sat down to watch a show. I noticed the contractions were getting closer together, clocking in at 10 to 12 minutes apart, but remained convinced they'd go away as soon as I went to bed. But as soon as we got tucked in around 10:00, I realized sleep wasn't in the cards for me. I told Chaz to get some rest, but that I was going to go downstairs and manage them there "until they went away." 

I went to our guest bedroom and dozed there between contractions, which were getting steadily more painful and decidedly closer together. I stayed down there until 1:00, at which point they jumped from every 6 - 7 minutes to every 4. I finally convinced myself that they weren't stopping like I expected, so I gave the birth center a call, and to my surprise - I'm still not sure why I found this surprising - they told me to come in. 

Since our guest bedroom is downstairs and Chaz was sleeping upstairs, I texted him at first to see if I could avoid climbing the steps. No luck. I waited another five minutes, breathed my way through another contraction, and then went to wake him up. "Is it time to go?" he said. I confirmed, and I put in earrings (again...not sure why I felt that was necessary) while he got his bag ready and put everything in the car. 

We arrived at the hospital 15 minutes later and they sent us to L&D triage, where they put me on the monitors for 20 minutes to make sure everything was consistent. After the nurse told me that the contractions weren't the "strong, middle-of-labor contractions" variety characteristic of active labor, I convinced myself they were going to send me home. But! The doctor came to check me, and upon finding that I had made some progress, he informed me I could stay and we'd be having a baby. They had me sign a bunch of forms, took my blood (though I tried to talk them out of that...), and got me into a delivery room by 3:00am.

The hours between 3:00 and 6:00 are a bit of a blur. I spent most of the time sitting on a yoga ball beside the bed with my head and arms draped over a stack of three pillows so I could rest between contractions. The nurse came in to check on me every so often, but by the time 6:00 rolled around, I knew something needed to change since I felt like I wasn't going to be able to handle the pain for much longer. The nurse offered me a couple of non-epidural drug options that I wasn't thrilled about - I've never liked the idea of not being fully mentally present for anything, let alone delivering a baby - but then she suggested that I get into the tub. It sounded perfect, so off she went to fill it up. 20 minutes later, I was sinking into a nice warm bath, which helped immensely. Contractions were still coming regularly, but they were easier to manage when surrounded by what essentially felt like a giant heating pad. Chaz was even able to sleep a bit in a chair nearby! 

I hung out in the tub for 7:30. The contractions picked up in intensity again, and I wasn't getting much of a break between them anymore. And by then...I was done with it. I asked for an epidural, and died a little inside when they told me the entire process would take about 20 minutes from start to finish. Fortunately, they said they could do the IV while I was still in the tub, so at least I could distract myself with being surrounded by warm water while they stuck me with needles. Have I mentioned how much I hate needles? I HATE NEEDLES. Prior to labor, I thought my hatred of needles would be enough to prevent me from wanting an epidural. Ha. No. After 10 hours of labor, my mental state was something akin to "Stick me with all the needles! Help!"

And so I hobbled back to the delivery room from the tub room at the speed of an overheated, dehydrated tortoise with an IV pole, where the anesthesiologist arrived with a tray of giant needles that I steadfastly turned my gaze away from. Chaz apparently had a nice view though, and he tactfully said nothing about the size of the needles until several hours later. 

They had to do the epidural twice. The first time I could still feel the insertion of the tubing used to administer the drug and it HURT, so they pulled everything out, waited through another contraction, stuck me with the numbing needle a second time, and then did the tubing again. The second time I could still feel a little, but it didn't hurt anymore. Shortly thereafter, my legs started tingling and the contraction pain was significantly diminished, and I sent two friends a text saying, "I've concluded epidurals are God's most perfect gift to women." It was glorious and though after another 10 minutes I couldn't feel the lower half of my body at all, it was so nice to have a bit of a break.

The break was a bit short-lived, however, because about 10 minutes after that, I noticed my arms were tingling as well. When I asked about it, the nurse said she thought it was the blood pressure cuff, since it was taking measurements every two minutes. But the next thing I knew, the nurse was handing me an oxygen mask and paging the doctor. This part is all very hazy to me, but apparently my blood pressure had dropped like crazy, as had the baby's heart rate (normally around 150, down to 80 beats per minute). The flipped me every which way to try to get her heart rate to stabilize, assuming that the cord was wrapped around her neck. I heard the anesthesiologist say, "Ok, give her ephedrine," but around the same time they realized that I wasn't able to support the upper half of my body at all to assist in positioning myself to fix the baby heart rate issue. The doctor was there as well and they realized that the problem was the epidural, not the cord. The epidural drug had gone both down (which is what it was supposed to do) and up (which is not what it's supposed to do), so I had no feeling at all from my neck to my toes! 

Eventually, they got me into a position where the baby's heart rate was stable, but they also broke my water and stuck a fetal monitor on the baby's head so they could get more accurate information about her status. They turned the epidural completely off, and once I was looking a little less...zombie-like, I guess...they left us to our own devices until the effects wore off. Fortunately, my body kept on laboring during the whole thing, so things were still progressing.

About two hours later, I could feel my arms again, although everything below my navel was still numb. No complaints - I wasn't really interested in feeling much after that, so I was a happy camper. They gave me a popsicle and I took a selfie that turned out to be a very accurate portrayal of my state of affairs:

Tasty popsicle, messy hair, tired red eyes, and SUPER BLURRY because I'd been shaking nonstop probably since 3am. Labor + adrenaline = the shakes, I suppose. 

And so we waited. It was a pleasant couple of hours once I'd recovered enough to talk. Around 10:30 I made a dumb joke that if we had the baby in the next 20 minutes, we could still make it to church on time. Around 11:15, they checked me again and said it was time to push. The doctor recommended that we try every other contraction, since her heart rate was still on the unsteady side and we didn't want to rock the boat too hard. So for the next 1.5 hours, that's what we did. I was starting to feel contractions again now that the epidural's effects had mostly dissipated, but epidurals have a magical re-up button and after a bit they let me hit it since the renewed pain was distracting me from pushing. 

I knew things were getting close when people started assembling and the doctor suited himself up. In addition to the doctor, there were at least three extra nurses (aside from the one - Katy! - who'd been with us the whole time) and the neonatologist. When they called in the neonatologist I knew they weren't going to put the baby on me right away, and I was fine with that because it meant they were going to make sure she was in good shape right away. 

I guess she wasn't moving out quite as fast as her health required, because the doctor said that it was time for the vacuum. Another side note: the term "vacuum" isn't really accurate. It's really more like a suction cup. With that, they stuck it on her head, gave me a small surgical modification, and vacuumed while I pushed. And there she was! It was 12:58 pm on May 28th, and we named her Elise. We definitely missed church.

They took her over to the warmer right away and checked her all over. She screamed immediately, so we knew her lungs were doing just fine. She was pink and she had ten fingers and ten toes, weighed 7 lbs 14 oz and was 20.5 inches long, and was perfect. Then they handed her to us and we loved her.

We spent the next two days in the hospital getting to know her, recovering, taking a thousand pictures, seeing visitors, sleeping a very little, and eating some surprisingly good hospital food. 

And then we took her home and started figuring out how to be parents. It's an adventure! 

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And we love it.