Feathered Aspen


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!




Happy October!¬† We’re enjoying a warm streak this week with temperatures in the seventies and eighties, and it’s just gorgeous.¬† The leaves are changing, it’s just cool enough to wear long sleeves, and I’m dabbling in warm drinks.¬† Life is good, and I’m feeling particularly thankful for my little family and this wonderful time of year.¬† Lu is such a cuddle-bug, and Lily just told me she loves me to the moon and back when I put her down for nap, sooooo.¬†¬† Yeah.¬† I’m one lucky duck.

Joshua took his eighth day of paternity leave yesterday and let me study up for my nutrition exam.¬† It’s been so nice to have a few three day weekends and little more time with him.¬† I sure am grateful for paternity leave.¬† The rest of the country should hurry up and see the wisdom in offering fathers time to take care of and enjoy their newborns.¬† It’s just so crazy to me how we don’t have better legal provisions for moms, dads, and babies.¬† For all of the conservative focus on the family pandering, I hear mum about making it more financially and professionally feasible for parents to take time off and usher their little ones into this world.¬† My heart just goes out to those moms who get no time or just a week to three weeks off, unpaid.¬† And for all those dads, too.¬† And babies!¬† Imagine being swaddled in amniotic fluid one week and then dropped off at a stranger’s the next!

On a completely separate note, you may have noticed a couple of name changes going on around here.¬† We’ve decided to slowly phase out our girls’ real names and bring in Lily for the eldest and Lu for the youngest.¬† I’m done going back and changing to Lu, but it’s going to take me a while to change everything to Lily.¬† Anyway, we decided to take a little more precaution with our girls’ internet footprint, so that’s why you’ll be hearing a lot more about Lily and Lu.


One of the things I’m thankful for these days is being able to nurse.¬† It’s such a nice thing Lu and I share, and I know firsthand that it can be such a struggle for so many people.¬† Recently, I’ve encountered mommies who have been quite militant about nursing and other mommies who have talked openly about their struggles with nursing, using formula, and then successes nursing with their subsequent children.¬† Sometimes, I’m amazed at the self-righteous judgement people are willing to cast upon other parents.¬† So while I’m thankful for this gift I’ve been given, and I do like that nursing in public is becoming more and more acceptable, I’m also hopeful that we can be more open and loving to all of the wonderful ways in which babies are cared for and fed.


Just a glimpse into my micro lab.  I kind of love it?!


Just amazed by the changes in this little one’s face.¬† Two months (bottom) to three months (top).




Soooo…¬† You know how lots of parents say, “you can be whatever you want to be.¬† You can be an artist!¬† An astronaut!¬† A ballerina!”

Yeah.¬† We’re trying something different.¬† We’re brainwashing Lily, and she’s going to be a scientist.¬† She can be an artist too, but I’m thinking I’ll just encourage her to be an artist or a poet or a writer – what have you – in her free time.¬† I will not be encouraging her to be a ballerina.¬† Anywho.¬† I’m sort of joking and sort of not.¬† It’s kind of like with my students.¬† I told them they were going to college.¬† Are there other valid life choices?¬† Of course.¬† But there’s something to be said for positive messaging and high expectations, you know?¬† A lot of people might assume that students from families with low incomes won’t go to college, so I thought it was important to have someone saying – rather adamantly – that they would.¬† In the same way, I had people telling me I could be whatever I wanted to be, but I don’t think I took them seriously because it was almost too abstract.¬† The narrative that girls didn’t make good mathematicians and scientists was less abstract.¬† Even though I felt confident that I was smart and I could go to college, I never ever considered being pre-med because I was “bad” at and didn’t “like” math and science.¬† Which is ridiculous really, because I never got anything less than an A in high school, and I think I didn’t “like” math and science because I couldn’t see myself as a mathematician or a scientist and the classes were harder for me.

So I’m telling Lily that she’d be a great scientist, and we’ll see where it goes.¬† Should she decide that she wants to be a teacher or a lawyer or a mechanic, I’ll get behind that, too ūüôā


More brainwashing, of course.


I hope they are good friends someday.¬† For now, I’ll settle for Lily keeping her fingers out of Lu’s orifices.


Oh, Lu.


The pregnancy hair hasn’t vanished quite yet.¬† Maybe it will stay forever?


Lily and I went on a walk around the neighborhood the other night.¬† It was a date, just the two of us.¬† When we got to the park, I asked Lily if she wanted to get down and play, but she said, “no mommy.¬† Lily, mommy walking.¬† Cuddle, talk.”

As you might surmise, I was more than ok with that.


More mommy and Lily time on the front porch.  Love this girl.


Is that….¬† A BABY in the laundry?!


Cha-cha-cha-chocolate face!


Mommy and Lily hiking at Guanella Pass.


Friends that wear your baby are the best sort of friends ūüôā ūüôā¬† This morning was so great, you guys.¬† We got into the car at 645, got up to Guanella Pass by 8, and Joshua and Will ran together while Val, Lu, Lilly and I walked together.¬† It was gorgeous!¬† Afterwards, we had lunch and then Joshua, the girls and I walked around Georgetown.¬† It was a good day ūüôā


Cuddle bug!


Fort building later that day!


Miss Lu and me.



It feels like such a win when you pull off a meal with zero groceries that actually tastes good ūüôā


I won’t go on with all the details, but I’ve been learning about fluids, etc in nutrition, and guys.¬† Drink up.¬† Seriously.

Lotsa Love,



14 Weeks

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Welcome to the Lily¬†Time-Warp, where 3 months pass more quickly than you can say, “Bob’s your uncle,” and yet days seem to pass in a slow, sultry, and desultory manner. ¬†Our schedule is determined by Lily, and as a result, time slows down. ¬†All plans are salted heavily with the knowledge that things can change, and this uncertainty foists me into the present moment in ways more powerful than any meditation, sutra, or asana. ¬†Like most things that I have discovered in parenthood, I’m caught in a paradox: ¬†twitchy from my goal-oriented, productive-minded pre-mama alter ego, and already wistful, watching her get bigger, already missing these hours and days and weeks of holding her, feeding her, giggling and cooing.

While not tightly wound in a superlative sense, I have never been a vision of serenity, and although I felt a sort of condescending aversion to uptight mamas before I had Lily I have certainly had to wrestle with my own expectations in the past few months.  The desire to do what is right and good for Lily is over-whelming.  The chances of failure are great, if not inevitable.

So if I desire to be an unconventional parent, then what do I deem right and good? ¬†The compilations and writings of Peggy O’Mara and other attachment advocates strike a chord with me, but at the same time, parenting advice that smacks of self-righteousness and¬†martyrdom chafes uncomfortably. ¬†¬†In the end, I am reluctant to embrace any model or philosophy in its entirety. ¬†I want to maintain a degree of flexibility, a¬†modicum¬†of spontaneity, and perhaps hardest of all, an ounce of humility. ¬†Now, more than ever, Dr. Bob‘s motto resonates with me, “Think That You Might Be Wrong.” ¬†Parenting hardly seems a hard and fast science, and when confronted with the messy details of daily life, most models and philosophies – no matter how unconventional – seem a bit too pristine for me.

This healthy dose of rationalization comes on the heels of a couple of compromises I have made thus far. ¬†Convinced and inspired by documentaries such as “The Business of Being Born” and “Born in the U.S.A.,” as well as the writings of Ina May Gaskin, I ¬†planned to have a natural childbirth. ¬†Most people are quick to dismiss the guilt and disappointment I felt in the wake of my labor. ¬†Shouldn’t I be content with my beautiful baby girl? ¬†It seems ungrateful to have these feelings when all I should care about is the blessing of a healthy baby. ¬†And then on the other end of the spectrum, there are those by whom I feel judged, and while this is almost certainly a projection of my own self-doubts, I feel my own self-judgement harshly. ¬†In my retelling, I feel compelled to mention the length of my labor, my own¬†comparative¬†stamina, etc, etc, and all the while, I feel myself squirm with the transparency of my excuses.

I’ve been trying to decipher why I still feel this disappointment. ¬†Lily is healthy. ¬†She and I have bonded. ¬†My heart is sewn somewhere on my sleeve. ¬†I am healthy. ¬†I¬†am¬†grateful. ¬†So why is this feeling still lingering? ¬†My somewhat uncertain answers are these: ¬†I am not a religious person, but on a spiritual level, I wanted to be present – in every sense of the word – for the birth of Lily. ¬†To me, something as surreal and sublime as witnessing and feeling a new life come into the world ranks ups there with other rites of passage and affirmations of our¬†extraordinary¬†ordinary humanity. ¬†These are my good reasons for feeling disappointment. ¬†My more vain reasons for feeling disappointment are that of an endurance athlete: ¬†I couldn’t hack it; I wasn’t tough enough; I cut a corner and caved in. ¬†After all, no one is a harsher critic than the one that looks at you through the mirror.

I don’t know if there is peace to be had in these musings, and I sense that they could even piss some people off. ¬†For some reason, these choices are sensitive to people. ¬†I could fabricate some sort of pop-psychology explanation as to why, but I’ll just stick with this is the way¬†I¬†felt, and this is why I felt it.

The other expectation that I set for myself involves holding Lily. ¬†Somehow, I got it into my head that what was¬†right for Lily¬†was for her to be held or worn all¬†the time. ¬†But then it got hot. ¬†We don’t have air conditioning, so Denver’s streak of 100 plus days has hit us in full, sweaty regalia. ¬†It turns out that babies like being held when it’s 100 degrees outside just about as much as parents like holding babies when it’s 100 degrees outside. ¬†I fretted for a little bit when I set her down in her swing at first, but then I decided that I was being ridiculous. ¬†Isn’t the goal of good parenting to have a happy, healthy baby and happy, healthy parents? ¬†Lily¬†was clearly happier without our sweaty arms and torsos elevating her core temperature, and after a few soporific, pendulous swings, she was definitely very happy, off in la-la land. ¬†Now, we put her in the swing when she seems ready for a nap (even if it’s not hot). ¬†She sleeps so well and contentedly in her little swing, that this must be what’s¬†right for her.

Finally, and I’m not sure if this falls into the compromised expectations category, I unclench a little more every day when it comes to nursing. ¬†From a stopwatch and written-down intervals in the first weeks, to frantic weigh-ins on our old-fashioned, decorative scale, to 90 minute long feeding sessions, Lily¬†and I have finally graduated to a much more relaxed pace. ¬†Nursing stopped hurting just a little before six weeks, we started getting better at nursing in bed around 10 weeks, and now, the two of us never have to get up at night to go nurse on the couch – whether from pain or worry that she or I might fall asleep mid-feed. ¬†I feel like I can finally trust that she’ll let me know if she’s hungry, and while she definitely wakes up multiple times in the night, it’s easy to turn over, feed her, and have both of us fall back asleep. ¬†Thankfully, I can stop obsessing and worrying about nursing and just enjoy the time it provides me with Lily¬†and to relax.

As for Lily, she’s the best. ¬†I love her so much that I do really annoying mom-things like nibbling her toes, smelling her neck and blowing raspberries all over her belly. ¬†Despite my serious reservations about giving her gender expectations and a complex, I can’t help but tell her how beautiful she is – all the time. ¬†In the past couple of weeks, her tummy time has become more and more impressive – she can almost lift her head at a 90 degree angle (which I find difficult to do), and when she’s propped on her boppy, she kicks her legs viciously and reaches out for Oscar, grunting with exertion and consternation. ¬†She’s begun to goo, gah, coo, and ahh with volume and earnestness, and we love watching her hands fine-tune their motor strength. ¬†She clasps her fingers, sucks on her knuckles and grabs onto everything.

At night, bath time is her favorite, and we splash and enjoy the water before turning in for a story and a night-time nurse. ¬†In the morning, she grins with chubby cheeks and talks up a storm. ¬†Days pass with little to distinguish them apart from visitors and her newest accomplishments, but we’re happier than ever. ¬†I could go on, but the pictures above describe how much fun she is better than I ever could. ¬†Happy Summer.

Joshua, Ellie, and Henriette


One Month

Lily is one month old! ¬†It’s been a full month: ¬†we’ve had a weekend with Nana Yvonne, a weekend with Papa Tim and Granny Joette, a week with Grandma Eunice, a few days with Auntie Ashlee, and lots of adventures in between.

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