Feathered Aspen


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Lily, Lu, and the first bit of the year…

Oh, hello! ¬†It’s me again, Ellie, and it’s kind of nice that Joshua has kept you up to date, so all I need to do is share the fun stuff ūüôā

2016 has already brought in quite a bit of change, and though January is the longest month of the year (I swear it is), we’re so thankful for its gifts.

As most of you know by now, Lily got in the school of our dreams, and this fact alone counts as one of the best strokes of luck we’ve had yet. ¬†It’s such a relief to know that Lily is going to a place that holds and encourages the same values we share, and even better that now our other kiddos get to circumnavigate the harrowing experience of school choice, lotteries, etc. ¬†I could go on and on, but it comes down to this: ¬†though we are blessed with family and friends, I’ve often felt we are parenting alone, and I mean that in the sense of both community and lifestyle. ¬†With this school, I finally feel like we’re connected to a group of families and vision that resonates with us. ¬†This might seem like a weird analogy, but whereas we had hoped to find this at church (and didn’t), I am so hopeful and already see so many indicators that this is the place.

Initially, Lily enrolled for five full days a week, which was the spot that was available. ¬†That first week, she attended every day, and though it was good, when I heard that there was a Tuesday/Thursday spot open, I leapt to take it. ¬†Not only is the tuition much more manageable now, but I also wanted to tip the balances back toward the home. ¬†I’m so grateful that now I get to have Lily most of the week, and she also gets to participate in a larger community and start engaging as an individual. ¬†This schedule just feels like the perfect gradual release. ¬†Some day, she’ll attend school five full days a week, but for now, she’s three and we’re enjoying this special time at home.

Ok, so I am going to go on (and on). ¬†One of the other things that has really just exploded since enrolling Lily into school is her creative and independent play! ¬†Oh my goodness. ¬†It’s insane. ¬†I know it seems crazy that even just after two days at her school, I could see a huge difference, but it’s true. ¬†Her storytelling has gotten more complex and she can sustain 30+ minute stories often. ¬†She regularly disappears into her room or some corner of the house with her art supplies or toys that she’s self selected and then proceeds to play, thoroughly engaged, without prompting. ¬†Just today, we went to the playground after school, and she sat down in the sand and built four little ‘bear caves’ (they were pretty good!) and then started telling me all about this family of bears that lived ‘before there were humans.’ ¬†It used to be that Lily would encounter the blank canvas of the playground or our home (not really blank, but let’s roll with the metaphor) and desperately need the engagement and guidance of an adult to help her figure out what to do and how she was going to play. ¬†Now, I feel like some barrier has lifted. ¬†One thing I really notice is almost a trance-like state as she’s imagining her world, story, game, art. ¬†It’s like she’s tapped into another plane.

Which I know makes me sound like I’m really reading into this, but there you have it.

So Lily is doing quite well. ¬†On days that she’s not in school, we try to get outside as much as possible. ¬†We’ve gone sledding a couple of times, and the weather has even allowed a number of playground trips in just our sweaters. ¬†We’ve hit the Children’s Museum and the Art Museum as well, but to be honest, January has got us closer to home. ¬†This doesn’t make a lot of sense given the cabin fever we’ve (me? ¬†Yeah, maybe it’s just me.) been feeling, but I guess we’re full on contradictions ūüėČ

We’ve made friends with another family and we try to get together with them once a week for playdates. ¬†Their girls are the same ages as Lily and Lu, and the older two get along especially well, so it’s always a treat to hang out with them. ¬†For whatever reason, connecting with other families and getting a pleasant, regular playdate together has been challenging for me in the past year and a half since I’ve been staying home. ¬†I know I’ve mentioned this here before. ¬†I attended meet ups and arranged play dates. ¬†I showed up at the same locations week after week after week, hoping to become part of the scenery and the communities that form around story times at libraries, the play areas at the art museum, or the sidelines of the Children’s Museum. ¬†For a long while, I made the resolution to strike up conversations with anyone who seemed willing, thinking that if I just kept showing up, kept talking, it would happen. ¬†Does this make me sound desperate? ¬†Cuz yeah, I felt a little desperate. ¬†For mom fellowship, for someone for Lily to play with.

Last year, there were stretches of time when we’d spend time with another family and have those regular playdates, but rather than growing our community, we saw more of an ebb and flow, revolving door scenario. ¬†Schedules would change and we would be back in the same spot, looking for our people.

Though I’ve felt a little dislocated in the past, I’m starting to think that this isn’t personal. ¬†The ages, gender, and number of children makes a difference. ¬†Schedules make a difference. ¬†Sadly, I suspect our world is not really designed to foster long term, meaningful friendships. ¬†Which is not to say that I’m not still trying. ¬†Which is not to say that when I see a group of moms laughing, their kids tearing it up, that I’m not completely green with envy.

Anyway. ¬†Our schedule is changing! ¬†And though I can’t say I found the answer, at least our perspective is changing and good things are on the horizon. ¬†Families at Lily’s school are warm and quirky, and for now, our playdates with this other family are really, really nice, and I’m feeling so thankful.

Now for Lu! ¬†Lu is growing up, you guys! ¬†It’s throwing me for a bit of a tailspin. ¬†I mean, didn’t I just give birth to her? ¬†I’m sort of in denial that she’s a year old, much less closer to two than she is one. ¬†I think part of the reason I can keep that fantasy going is because she’s such a little peanut. ¬†She really still looks like a baby to me, and her 12 month clothes still fit her pretty well. ¬†She’s also still a HUGE mama’s girl. ¬†She loves to be held, she loves to snuggle, and she is just so darn affectionate. ¬†Some mornings, I go crazy with all the begging to be held, but I keep reminding myself to snatch those snuggles while I can.

Despite the denial surrounding my youngest’s advancing age (haha), there are a few telltale signs that she’s growing up:

1. Weaning. ¬†Oh dear. ¬†I’m one of those mamas that would happily nurse their babies until three… ¬†Yes, I know that disturbs all of you. ¬†But I love nursing. ¬†It’s a good break, great snuggles, and so special to know that you’re providing something so healthful and beneficial. ¬†And it melts calories, but that’s a pretty vain reason ūüôā ūüôā ¬†I love knowing that I’m giving my girls immunity, a healthy gut, and a special bonding experience. ¬†After those first five weeks with Lily (which were hellish), I’ve had a primarily love/love/love relationship with nursing. ¬†I love it, my girls loved it, and it loved me. ¬†So dear nursing, thanks for everything. ¬†We’re so grateful!!!

So how is it with all that love that Lu and I have not nursed in nine days? ¬†Well, I’ll tell you. ¬†I want another baby, and there were some essential ingredients missing, even after dropping down to nursing just twice a day. ¬†So here’s hoping that this does the trick ūüėČ

Lu is doing well. ¬†She was upset the first night, but already on the next morning, she cried just a little bit and then seemed to understand that we were done. ¬†She’s pretty handsy just like Lily was, but she’s doing way better than I could have predicted. ¬†Her appetite has also exploded. ¬†She eats more than I do some days. ¬†I probably shouldn’t have let her, but yesterday she ate an entire bag of frozen blueberries all by herself. ¬†So yeah. ¬†Her love for blueberries is voracious, and I’m not winning mom of the year.

Weaning has also meant that Lu is sleeping much longer before she’s comes to our bed. ¬†And getting her down is easier. ¬†She falls asleep in less than ten minutes, and most nights, she sleeps from 7:30 – 3 before she wakes up and wants to snuggle with me. ¬†(Just in case you’re wondering, this is way better than her older sister who never sleeps for more than 4 hours without waking up, sobbing, begging for snuggles.) ¬†That’s the other news in the family. ¬†We now officially have two bedrooms. ¬†We put the girls down at 730 (earlier bedtime for school and because Lily is completely done with naps) in their bunks. ¬†We lay with them until they fall asleep, which is usually about 10 minutes or so. ¬†When Lily wakes up, Joshua goes and lays with her, sometimes finding a way to come back to our bed after a while, and sometimes just spending the rest of the night with her… ¬†So. ¬†Not really winning over here, but making progress all the same. ¬†When Lu wakes up, Joshua is usually already in their room, so he brings her to me, which is superhero status.

2. ¬†So Lu is still pretty quiet. ¬†She’s not a big talker, but she is getting more words. ¬†I was thinking I should write down as many of them as I can here, because it’s fun to look back and see a similar post for Lily. ¬†I will say that she understands A LOT more than she can say.

she says: ¬†Mama, Dada,¬†sister’s name, didee (diaper), poop, boot, more, mine, woof, bloob (blueberries), shoe, Oscar, boob, water, cheese, please, thank you, no, hot, cold, hi, up

she signs:  all done, water, more, please, thank you, bye

There’s more to update, but I’m going to post this for now. ¬†Dinnertime!


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Happy New Years!

I love the New Year. ¬†I’m not sure that I would say it’s my favorite holiday – there needs to be a bit more tradition and food involved – but taking time to reflect on the year and make goals or intentions moving forward is definitely my jam.

It just so happens that yesterday our little Lu turned 18 months, so I’m feeling extra reflective about the milestones we’re hitting. ¬†It’s hard to believe that Lu only started walking a scant three months ago. ¬†She’s toddling all around the place these days, opening our cabinets and drawers, emptying them with methodic and persistent glee, and tagging along with her big sister. ¬†Just as with Lily, she still loves to be held and carried in the Ergo, so though she’s mobile, I’m still getting plenty of snuggles.

We night weaned on November 10, though I’ve not been terribly strict about early morning feedings. ¬†I’d much rather cave and nurse in bed in those early hours than wake up at 5 AM. ¬†Starting on Christmas Eve, when the girls spent the day with their Nana and Grumpy, I phased out daytime feedings as well, so now we’re down to early morning and just before bed. ¬†With all of our guests and the holidays, Lu would get a little upset and tug at my shirt, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I set her down for a proper nap sans nursing. ¬†There were many tears, and it brought back the same sadness I experienced weaning Lily. ¬†I find myself worrying that they won’t turn to me for comfort in the same way, that I won’t get nearly as many snuggles. ¬†For the moment, I don’t have a fully weaned deadline in mind, but we’re definitely on that path.

Lu has been cutting some teeth in the past month, and her favorite teething soother is frozen blueberries. ¬†She even attempts to say the word (which is a bit astonishing given how few words she has). ¬†She loves bananas, blueberries, clementines, rice, beans, and cheese (all the cheese, both of my girls). ¬†Though we’ve tried to give her milk, she’s not a big fan.

Our friends and family remark that Lu is a bit more shy and a “momma’s girl” compared to Lily at this age, and it’s probably true. ¬†I also think she’s more independent. ¬†She’s happy to explore things by herself. ¬†When she’s around her big sister, she’ll make exclamatory noises (screaming for fun, “no!” “uh oh”), but it’s not until her sister is in another room that she plays more with language. ¬†She can be quite quiet! ¬†She is also, admittedly, rarely interested in being held by anyone other than myself, though Joshua is a close second these days, and she’ll go to people with whom she is more familiar.

We’re picking up a few more signs, including ‘all done,’ ‘more,’ ‘please,’ ‘diaper,’ and ‘food.’ ¬†Verbal words include mama, dada, enri (!), poop, wa. ¬†She knows a ton of words, and she follow many requests, including retrieval of all sorts of things, pointing at body parts and different family members.

Dear Lu, it’s been such a year. ¬†It’s amazing to think you’ve been with us the whole time! ¬†From a lovely spring, to Minnesota, through a move, to Wyoming, Mexico, and then through the warm days of summer. ¬†This fall, we’ve settled into a groove. ¬†You’ve grown, beginning those forays of independence with plenty of curiosity and interest. ¬†I love you, little one.

As I write, Lily and Lu are off in the other room. ¬†I can’t hear them, but I know they’re playing. ¬†Probably creating a massive mess, but hey. ¬†I’m happy to clean up after them if they’re playing well together. ¬†Which is one of the things I’m most proud of when it comes to Lily. ¬†She is such a good big sister. ¬†She is loving, protective, and finally, finally, finally sharing so much better. ¬†She’s the mistress of taking turns, making trades, and these days, she’s even willing to wait people out. ¬†This doesn’t mean that we never have disagreements, but the improvement from this time last year to now is night and day.

Joshua and I remark nearly every day how grown up Lily is becoming. ¬†She is very articulate, a great conversationalist, and she shows so much interest in the people and things around her. ¬†I’m pleased to report that I’ve written down some of the funny things she’s said this week:

  1. I’m telling Lily about the New Year, and as I’m telling her that this year was 2015 and next year will be 2016, she says, “that’s a lot of macaroni and cheese!”
  2. We’re laying in bed, trying to fall asleep when Lily says, “I have an idea. ¬†If we don’t get a vanagon or a school bus, we could get a truck with skis on it. ¬†But if that’s too expensive, we could just go on an airplane ride.”
  3. On Christmas Eve, Lily is beside herself with excitement and worry over Santa. ¬†She hides her favorite present in my closet, worried that Santa might take it and give it to another kid. ¬†She’s babbling to herself, saying things like. ¬†“The stick is mine, but maybe Lu can have my camera. ¬†Or maybe daddy can have the stick and Lu can have the camera.” ¬†Then she pauses, shakes her head, and says, “the problem is the camera.”
  4. Joshua asks Lily what her favorite part of Christmas was, and she says, “The people. ¬†The conversations. ¬†The reading.” ¬†So, win. ¬†We win.
  5. In Taos, we were telling Lily what a wonderful big sister she is, and we were telling her that we think she’s ready to have another sibling (I’m not pregnant). ¬†Lily says, “yeah, I’m good at taking turns, and I can teach them to regulate their emotions!” ¬†I think she’s heard me quote her enough that now this phrase is a regular ūüôā

One of my favorite things that Lily does is sing to herself. ¬†She makes up songs about babies, fairies, and dogs. ¬†It’s very sweet. ¬†I also love how much she loves to read, though sometimes I grow weary of reading that many picture books! ¬†The sweetest thing is to come in the room and see the two of them sitting down with a pile of books, reading quietly.

As for me, I’m feeling good about having completed 4 of 6 pre-requisites for an accelerated nursing program. ¬†I’ve been reading a lot, and running a ton too. ¬†On Christmas Eve, Joshua and I ran 12 miles on trail, and though it was definitely a challenge, my fitness level is good enough that I can pick up and do something like that. ¬†Nordic skiing for three hours, though. ¬†That was HARD.

My best discoveries this year were: ¬†minimalism, podcasts, and mindfulness. ¬†Though I am by no means an expert in any of these arenas, I’m so pleased to be exploring them. ¬†During the first half of the year, Joshua and I got rid of more than half of all of our things. ¬†With Sarah, I ran two garage sales, and we gave away nearly 5 truckloads of things to the thrift store. ¬†Early this fall, I read Marie Kondo’s Magic Art of Tidying Up and did another comb through. ¬†Though I’m sure there are still things I could get rid of, I’m most pleased that the desire to acquire more things has abated. ¬†I used to always have a running list of things that I wanted, especially clothing. ¬†Now, my wardrobe is smaller than ever – everything fits in my small closet! – and I rarely feel the pull to buy anything new. ¬†Even my thrift shopping trips, which I still enjoy, are much more modest. ¬†I’ll come away with one or two items and promptly purge one or two items when I get home.

As for podcasts, I listened to my first one early in the year, and I haven’t stopped. ¬†My favorites are:

  1. The Lively Show (this was my introduction to podcasts)
  2. Serial (of course)
  3. On Being (this is my all time favorite podcast.  Krista Tippet can do no wrong.)
  4. Women of the Hour (a short 5 episode podcast by Lena Dunham)
  5. Magic Lessons (an 11 episode podcast by Elizabeth Gilbert)

These keep me interested, keep me thinking. ¬†I’m so grateful for the inspiration.

In terms of mindfulness, I haven’t gotten quite as deep, but I’m looking forward to doing more this year. ¬†I read The Conscious Parent by Shefali Tsabary and The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, and these were supplemented by interviews on On Being and The Lively Show. ¬†I’ve done some mindfulness meditation and yoga, and I’m excited to do more yoga this year ¬†(because Joshua’s awesome Christmas Present to me was a 10 pack to CorePower).

The other thing I’m really excited about for this year is that I’ve decided to invest more in community building. ¬†The first area is with becoming more politically invested. ¬†I’m a big Bernie Sanders supporter, and the Colorado headquarters for his campaign is conveniently located a couple of blocks away! ¬†We’ve also committed to supporting causes we care about when they come up. ¬†I really like UNICEF, we attended a Moms Against Gun Violence rally, and I’ve begun writing politicians about refugee and fossil fuel policies. ¬†The other area is super exciting. ¬†I’ve finally made some progress on the non-profit I mentioned this summer. ¬†Though I had had the goal to get it off the ground in the fall, I’m pleased to tell you that I figured out a way to circumnavigate all the paperwork. ¬†I contacted parks and recreation and you’re looking at a contractor for the city of Edgewater! ¬†I’ll be running a community storytime and playgroup one day a week in an effort to build community and create an unbranded, public space for parents and kids to connect. ¬†I’m sooooooo excited about this, and I’ll be sharing more as time goes on, but I start the first week of February!

Unfortunately, I poorly timed taking a math placement exam through MSU, so I won’t be able to take a class this semester, but I’ll be looking forward to taking time to write and work on my storytime and playgroup, and I’ll hopeful resume classes again in the fall.

Thank you all for reading along with us here.  I love that this little blog is a means of communicating with our loved ones flung near and far, and I also love that this has become record of our days together as a family.  Wishing you and yours a very merry New Year!!!


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8 mos/35 mos

Hello World!¬† The sun is shining, Stacy and Ellison* are in town, and this coming weekend we’re off to Salida!¬† Life is so good, especially now that February or as I like to call it, the longest shortest month of the year, is done.¬† There are many things I love about winter, but without some nicely groomed ski trails nearby, the cold and the ice can be a huge drag.¬† Especially with kiddos.¬† Plus, there’s something about those dark months of January and February after the bustle and cocoa of the holidays that’s just plain lonely.

But right now, we’re feeling great! Nothing like friends and a little Vitamin D to give you a whole new perspective.

So, in those 10 minutes when both of my daughters are sleeping, I thought I’d share a few brief updates:

Lu:¬† Eating more and more these days.¬† After a slow start (she really wasn’t interested until a couple of weeks ago), she’s now grabbing for my food, reaching to intercept spoons, and getting frustrated when she doesn’t get a little of what we’re having.¬† She’s had pureed tortellini with pesto, egg, purreed rice with kale and mushrooms, broccoli, potato, polenta with ragu, apple, carrot, and a bunch of other little nibbles of anything we’re eating.¬† She’s got a pretty strong gag reflex, so we’re trying to blend everything or give it to her in tiny grain-sized bites, but I’m looking forward to when I can just hand her an apple to gnaw on.

In terms of movement, she’s leaning over and grabbing things, scooting on her butt, and traversing quite a distance that way.¬† She’s pulled herself up onto her knees a few times, and she also has gotten onto her hands and knees and rocked, but no crawling yet.¬† She loves picking up small objects, and I like letting her do that while I watch because she’s so graceful and focused on coordinating her fingers.¬† Right now, she’s loving anything that’s paper, and I’m constantly removing choke-sized bits of paper from her fists, much to her dismay.¬† She also loves plastic bags, so I let her play with little sandwich sized ones sometimes.

In terms of interaction, she’s smiling so much these days, fooling people into thinking that she might want to be held by them ūüėČ She’s so easy going, but it’s rare that she’ll tolerate someone other than her mama holding her.¬† Joshua definitely has the most luck (though I’m afraid it doesn’t feel like it to him).¬† She also is giving snuggles that look and feel more and more like hugs, and the other day, she even played a little peekaboo with my scarf and then leaned her face into my chest every time I asked for a hug.

Lily:¬† Is potty trained!!!!¬† Hurrah!¬† Sure, it may have taken almost exactly a year, but when it really happened, it happened fast.¬† One day we were in diapers, and the next, we were only in diapers for nap and night.¬† We had two accidents in the first couple of days, and now, I’ll sometimes ask her if she needs to go, but usually, she just takes care of it herself or let’s me know when we’re out and about.¬† I’m so proud of her.¬† In the end, it took the push of me saying, “no more diapers” and her crying a little bit, but the transition was so quick that I think she really was completely ready.¬† I know there’s lots of kids out there that have been potty trained for ages and Lily’s might seem late, but it doesn’t diminish how proud I feel of this independent little girl.¬† You go Lily!

This past week, we had another rough patch.¬† Lily tried something new:¬† an insult.¬† I’d like to be that confident woman who is not even phased, but even after years as a middle school teacher, it still hurt, aaaaand as usual, my wounded response just made things worse.¬† God, I can be such a mope sometimes.¬† I texted Brittaney, and she was just great.¬† She’s so encouraging, and I come away from those exchanges feeling like this is normal! Keep on! Show her love and be firm!¬† It’ll be ok!¬† There’s nothing wrong with you or her!¬† And it’s that last one that really gives me the strength to go back and set the tone.¬† To show her that it’s not ok to treat others poorly, but even when she does, I’m not going away and I’m strong enough to be there through it all.

And then, like any other almost three year old, she can also be so sweet.¬† “I love you SOOO much, Ellison!”¬† Kissing my “lonely” cheek, and curling up on my lap for stories.¬† The other morning, I was at my wits end trying to get out the door, but once we were outside, she grabbed my hand (unsolicited) and announced cheekily, “Mama, I’m a monkey.¬† I’m a green monkey!”¬† (She had dressed herself from head to toe entirely in kelly green.)

I was asking my mom about myself as a little girl, curious about how Lily and I were similar or different.¬† I think our intensity and affinity for order and schedule are very similar.¬† (For example, whenever we move furniture, Lily breaks down in sobs.)¬† Although both my mom and dad say that I was a little more serious and quiet.¬† I do see some of myself in her in social situations where she’s clearly fascinated by watching other people and seeing them interact, but often too shy to go and join in.¬† And, like me, when she is comfortable with a group, she has no problem talking up a storm and being in the thick of it.

That’s all for now.¬† Spring is in the air, and even though I’m sure it will snow again, our little seedlings are coming up and the sun feels warm on our bare arms.¬† I feel like singing ūüôā

*Yeah.¬† That’s my name.¬† Yeah.¬† That’s this little one’s middle name.


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All at Once

Lily

It’s been a while since I wrote about Lily’s milestones, and since this blog really the only baby book I have for her, I’d better catch up:

  • Words:¬† Since Christmas, Lily’s language has really begun to unfold.¬† About two months ago, we started hearing her string together words.¬† “Come here.”¬† “Sit down.”¬† “Baby sad?”¬† In Salida, I heard her form her longest sentence (of sorts) yet.¬† “Daddy ball up in sky?”¬† (Daddy, will you throw the ball up in the sky?)¬† Just last night, Lily said, “Margot read book?”¬† Her vocabulary, of course, is also growing.¬† She tries out words and many of them sound the same.¬† “Jacket,”¬† “Airplane,”¬† “Oscar,”¬† “Snack,”¬† and¬† “Hungry,” for example, all sound pretty similar.¬† Nevertheless, she’s communicating, and I love being able to look into her little face as she earnestly repeats the same unintelligible word, over and over again.¬† “Ball?” “Potty?” “Snack?” I say, guessing.¬† Finally, if it’s really important, she’ll take my hand and lead me somewhere.
  • Learning:¬† Last week, Lily and I picked out a potty, big girl undies, a stool, and a red plastic ball with a LED light inside that flashes on impact.¬† The final item is unrelated, of course, but boy, does this little girl love chasing a flashing light incased in a red ball.¬† Anyway, that first night, she went on the big girl potty twice, and since then, she’s pulled off nearly three whole days spent entirely in big girl undies.¬† Diapers?¬† So pass√©, she says.¬† Of course, I’m still putting her in them overnight and during longer trips out and about.¬† Her school can’t transition her quite yet, either.¬† But she’s made it through nap and even on stroller-runs without an accident.¬† Before we had purchased the potty, Lily had used the big girl potty with success probably a dozen times, and she would frequently ask.¬† I was beginning to think that she might just take up the potty without mishap, but pooping has proved to be a bit more challenging than peeing.¬† I could tell that she needed to, but every time we tried, it just wouldn’t come…¬† Until I saw Lily crouching in the corner, looking a little shocked.¬† We also had a little accident at my birthday dinner where she may very well have told us that she needed the potty, but I just wasn’t paying attention.
  • Preferences:¬† Would you believe that in five months that have passed since I weaned Lily, she’s asked to nurse every day?¬† Well, it’s true.¬† Thankfully, she says it with a little smirk, and when I tease her that she’s being silly, she laughs.¬† She’s still a hand-down-the-shirt kind of girl, and when mommy’s not around, daddy’s will do.¬† So much for my devious plan to have her forget the boob and all of it’s glory before Lu comes along…¬† I’m afraid we may have some heartbreak yet.¬† Other than boobs, Lily loves kitties (hence her kitty-themed birthday party), Cameron (her best friend at school), pulling wagons and pushing strollers, grocery shopping, “bar bars” (Lara Bars and Kit’s Organic Cliff Bars are our favorite), reading, and going to “Margot’s house.”¬† In terms of food, she loves fish, asparagus, rice, SOUR CREAM (which she’ll eat by the fistful, if you’re not careful), cheese, bananas, oatmeal,¬†egg whites (but not yolks, yet), tomatoes, kombucha (“Bucha?”), sparkling water, and almond milk.¬† She’s such a dairy fiend that it’s hard to keep her away, but she takes after the As, so we try to limit her dairy intake.¬† The girl produces phlegm like it’s her job.¬† Lily’s other preferences are appearance based.¬† She likes piggies and ponies, but some days she prefers to wear her hair down.¬† Don’t worry, she’ll let you know.¬† When it comes to dressing, she’s got ideas of her own, and sometimes mommy’s ideas are DEFINITELY not what she had in mind.¬† She loves all of her doting grandparents, music, dancing, drawing, and being outside.¬† She loves smelling flowers, and she’s terrified of bees (been stung three times in her short life, poor girl).¬† She has an endearing love for cards, and she likes to fall asleep holding her sippy cup, a book, and either Curious George or one of her kitties.
  • Oof:¬†¬†Lily is a pretty easy-going little lady.¬† She smiles a lot, and she’s very sweet.¬† While she certainly enjoys testing some boundaries, she’ll often clean, share, and walk to bed all by herself, even when she doesn’t want to.¬† I think our most difficult moments are mostly¬†after nap, when she’s feeling particularly grumpy and sensitive.¬† Eating hasn’t been a smooth road, either.¬† Lily’s not terribly picky, but it’s tempting to capitulate to her preferences, rather than try to get her to taste and appreciate other things.¬† We’re trying, but we’ve definitely made some mistakes.¬† Around Christmas, I would have said that my biggest struggle with Lily was her¬†rejection.¬† She went through a¬†phase where it felt like she wanted very little¬†to do with me, but thankfully, that’s mostly passed.¬† Now, I think our biggest battle is sickness.¬† Poor little Lily has had either a cold or an ear infection for nearly three months now, and she’s projectile vomited all night long twice now.¬† As you can imagine, it’s been hard for Lily, but it’s also been hard on us.¬† I feel like she’s had a cough forever now, and some days I’m convinced that my body will just cease to work on so little sleep.¬† But it keeps working, and Lily keeps coughing and her nose keeps dripping…¬† Oh lord.¬† It’s a crucible.¬† I think I’ve narrowed down the vomiting to a garlic sensitivity, and yesterday, we went to the doctor and they prescribed a low-grade steroid inhaler to reduce inflammation in Lily’s lungs (plus did a swab for pertussis).¬† All I know is that after the trauma of giving Lily her inhaler last night, she slept without coughing the whole night, and I woke up this morning feeling like God had personally decided to give me a reprieve and allow me to live for another day.
  • Size:¬† While I can’t remember exact numbers, Lily is in the top tenth percentile for height and¬†fiftieth percentile for weight (28 lbs. as of yesterday).¬† Her hair is getting longer and longer, and some days she looks so much like a little girl and so little like the newborn I can barely remember that it makes my heart stop.

Pregnancy

It’s been a while since I’ve updated the blog with anything pregnancy related.¬† I’ve been better this time around taking the occasional bump photo, which I’m sure you can see in my little Instagram widget on the bottom right column.¬† The belly continues to grow, and while I initially found the ease with which my belly popped out for all the world to see a little alarming, I’m feeling a little more calm now that I only have eight weeks left until our due date.¬† The belly is a sizeable thing, but not of epic proportions.

My legs, though.¬† Those are epic.¬† Somewhere around 18 weeks, varicose veins began popping out on my left leg, and since then, it’s evolved into one purple, gnarly mess.¬† By mid-morning, my ankles are a thing of the past, and my calves are hard as rocks.¬† The bruise-like veins have spread down to my foot and all the way up to my knee.¬† It’s not attractive, but it is a little impressive.

Lu had the hiccups for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and her kicks are now just below my ribs.¬† For some reason, I got the impression the first time around that Lily would be this fiery little lady, because her kicks were so adamant and powerful.¬† Lu, on the other hand, is a gentle mover.¬† She moves frequently, but I joke that she doesn’t want to hurt me ūüôā

I’m thinking more and more now about labor and a newborn.¬† I’m glad I took a break from nursing, because now I miss it, and I’m looking forward to it again.¬† As for labor, I feel wizened.¬† I’m going to try my best to got without medication, but I also know that if I hit the 30 hour mark again, I will probably do the same thing I did last time.¬† Only this time I won’t beat myself up about it.¬† I am nervous about tearing again.¬† Oof.

As for dreams of a newborn, I spend a lot of time thinking about carrying her close to my chest and wrapping her snuggling in swaddling blankets.¬† But then I think about summertime in Colorado, and I think she’ll probably just be naked most of the time.

House

Oh my.¬† We closed in mid-March.¬† Since then, Joshua has:¬† demoed the entire basement to get advice from a structural engineer, rewired the entire house, reinforced the mud-room floor, ripped up all the pergo, covered the walls in texture, painted the bedroom and living room, built a privacy deck out back, and installed an entire Ikea kitchen, including appliances, lights, and a breakfast bar.¬† He’s hired help to dig culverts for water diversion, lay concrete for a new walkway and sidewalk, add plumbing to the kitchen and mudroom, restore all of the painted-shut, broken sashed windows, and install new gutters.

Papa Tim came out to help this past weekend, and they were able to get quite a bit done, but Joshua’s had less help than last time, so most nights he heads over after dinner and doesn’t come back until midnight.¬† And that’s after a full work day.

Yet to do:¬† paint the hall, Lily’s bedroom, the sunroom, and the kitchen.¬† Install cabinet fronts to the kitchen.¬† Install Ikea bathroom.¬† Lay floor in the bathroom and kitchen.¬† Wire the lights and chandeliers I bought off of eBay.¬† Move in.¬† All by the second weekend of May.

To do once we’ve moved in:¬† finish up odds and ends at Gray.¬† Build out mudroom and craftroom¬†with storage and floors.¬† Landscape the pile of rubble that is our front yard.¬† Begin work on the front porch for at least a little curb appeal.

To do in the next couple of years:  install a fireplace.  Refinish the basement into another living room, bathroom, guest room, and storage closet/work space.  Install structural supports.  Put in access to the enormous attic and finish into another bedroom, walk-in closet, and master bathroom.  Lay a patio in the small backyard for barbeques.

Joshua’s lofty goal:¬† build a carriage house out back for rent.

Does it make you tired just reading about it?  We miss Joshua.

Teaching

There are five and a half weeks left.¬† We’re in our final unit, and I’ve just completed my final round of formal observation and evaluation.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been teaching for five years.¬† It feels like a good year to end on:¬† a nice counting number and my best year of teaching.¬† Not to mention the five-year loan forgiveness that will virtually erase the last of my student-loan debt.

So this is the story of Ms. A, in a nutshell:

  • Before it all began:¬† In the Spring of 2007, I applied for a recruiter position within Teach For America.¬† I was hired, and my official title was “Campus Campaign Coordinator.”¬† Way back then, my main motivation for applying was the CCC the year before me.¬† Her name was Alex, and she was a religion major with an art history minor.¬† I thought she was fun, and I was completely enamored with her plans to go teach in New York City.¬† After I was hired, I read Savage Inequalities and One Day.¬† I was definitely drawn to the message, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t first drawn to the idea of having a job right away and going on a new adventure.
  • Accepted:¬† In the Fall, I was accepted with the first wave of applications, and both Joshua and I were placed in New Orleans and slated to teach middle school science.¬† Figuring, I better acquire some experience, I continued haranguing the rest of the my class to apply, signed up for two science classes my spring semester, and began working at a Montessori.
  • Institute:¬† Teach For America held an intensive training for all incoming corps members.¬† We were in Phoenix, and we spent 14+ hours a day learning about teaching, teaching, and preparing to teach the next day.
  • Year One:¬† I was hired at Schwarz Academy, a for-profit charter school run by Camelot.¬† What a crazy year.¬† There were nine corps members on staff, and eight of us were first years.¬† Camelot was hired by the RSD to run the alternative school, and we had a constantly changing roster of students who had been expelled from other schools in the district.¬† That first year, students died.¬† One was shot by the police, others were shot by rival “cliques.”¬† Some students were convicted of murder.¬† One student was shot multiple times in the gut and would wear a colostomy bag for the rest of his life.¬† My eighth grade students ranged in age from 12 to 17.¬† Some had tattoos on their faces, some had babies, and some were pregnant.¬† Many used.¬† Most lived in projects.¬† That first year, the police were called onto campus 52 times, and during the second semester, we never made it to fifth period.¬† We “locked down” after fights, and my main job was to keep students inside a classroom without water or a bathroom for multiple hours a day.¬† We had limited electricity and few resources, and the Camelot infrastructure was incredibly corrupt.
  • Year Two:¬† Schwarz was closed, and I was reshuffled into Excel Academy, the RSD run alternative school.¬† I taught Art and Spanish.¬† While less violent than our first year, the second was just as hopeless.¬† Our principal quit mid-year, and another principal was never hired.¬† Students dropped in and dropped out, died, and had babies.¬† One student used a screwdriver to stab another student in my classroom, and I was called into court to testify.¬† My students threatened to rape and brutally murder me every day.
  • Year Off:¬† After two years of heartache and trauma, Joshua and I took a year off to travel the world.
  • Year Three:¬† Joshua and I somewhat randomly selected a state on the map.¬† We choose Colorado.¬† On the charter school website, we found job openings, and we each applied to five of them.¬† Within a week, we had interview offers from almost all of them.¬† After a visit to Denver, we chose West Denver Prep.¬† Joshua taught at one campus, while I taught at another.¬† In many ways, this was really my first year of teaching.¬† I knew how to endure abuse, but I had no idea how to manage a classroom or write a curriculum.¬† Behavior was still a struggle, and it was a tough year.
  • Year Four:¬† I stayed at the same school, teaching sixth grade science for a second year.¬† I gained confidence with management, and I grew to really enjoy writing curriculum.¬† Behaviors were still challenging, but I saw growth in many of my students.
  • Year Five:¬† In my third year at the same school, the administration turned over, and I had the strongest managers yet.¬† We held fast to Teach Like¬† A Champion practices and executed a level of consistency I hadn’t seen before.¬† As a result, there were barely any behavioral problems.¬† I spent the majority of my time and energy on academics, and I saw incredible growth in my students.¬† I liked my coworkers.

It’s strange that in my best year of teaching that I also realized that I no longer wanted to teach.¬† It’s as though I had been hoping it would get better, and when it did, I was finally able to see the pieces that weren’t for me.¬† Lost in my nutshell are the sagas around licensure and pay, and these also contributed to my loss of love for the profession.¬† Despite having taught for five years and having seen impressive and measurable growth in my students, I am not a certified teacher, and in most states, that would mean another 18 months of school, including six months of student teaching.¬† As for pay, my network implemented merit-based pay in my fourth year of teaching, and despite policies they have since agreed were unfair and have laid to rest, I was, in a word, screwed.¬† I now make less money than I did my first year of teaching.

In the end, I find that teaching is both meaningful and demanding.¬† I believe in what I do; I care about the students; and I’m thankful for the many, many, many things I have learned.¬† I was so green when I started.¬† I hadn’t a clue about race or hardship or accountability or what it meant to be an adult.¬† I’m certain I’ve learned more than I taught any student.¬† This is meaningful.¬† And yet, I find the demands are too much.¬† Many hours, little pay, and the highest of expectations leave me feeling absolutely trampled by May.¬† I just don’t love it enough to give it what it requires.¬† I’ve felt my creativity leak out of me and a hard-scrabble determination take it’s place.¬† I guess that could sound like a good thing, but it’s put lines around my eyes and bent my spine into a permanent curve.¬† I’m so tired, and the end is never, ever in sight.¬† I’m so tired, and I will never, ever be good enough.

Part of me is afraid that I’ll leave and come back, and another part of me is afraid that I’ll leave and never come back.¬† I don’t want to teach, but I don’t want not to teach, either.¬† So I’m going to try something else.¬† ‘Cuz like my wake up call said, ‚ÄúGood Morning Ellison.¬† Lead the life you wish to live, for there is no other.¬† If not now, then when?”


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Walking Girl

It’s official: Lily is walking. Although she took her first step on May 10, it wasn’t until June 7 that she really started walking all over the place. She’s having so much fun, and she wants to practice all the time. It’s pretty exciting to watch!

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8 Months

It’s true! ¬†Our luvaduck is 8 months, and in keeping with our new tradition, here’s the photo to prove it:

8 mo

Among Home Girl’s milestones this month:

  • Lily learned to mimic us clapping our hands today. ¬†See the video here.
  • Although it is liberally applied, Lily has also said her first word (ish, of sorts): ¬†mamamamama. ¬†She uses it whenever she needs to tattle on dad, when she’s hungry, and when she’s tired.
  • Jibberish. ¬†She’s good at it. ¬†Multiple syllables and sounds.
  • Can pick up a rice puff and put it in her mouth.
  • Loves pumpkin, carrot, sweet potato, pear, and apple.
  • Launches onto her belly from sitting position and wriggles like crazy.
  • Whines when you take something away from her.
  • Two bottom teeth.
  • Held hands with a boy at her school (no seriously. ¬†Apparently they were sitting in high chairs, holding hands, and finger painting.).
  • Has stranger danger.
  • Gives “hugs.” ¬†Leans in and smushes her face against your chest.
  • Loves to play with her toys.
  • Loves the grocery store.
  • Loves walks
  • Loves runs in the chariot.

* On a side note, the glider she is sitting on was a craigslist find… ¬†Initially, I found the green velvet repellent; I was sure that I would recover the cushions. ¬†But now, I sort of love it. ¬†I don’t think I can bring myself to recover it ūüôā