I Always Feel Like... Somebody's Watching Me!

Friday, August 26, 2011

It Takes A Thief

It used to be that I would crawl into bed at night to find random toys, books and kitchen utensils. Whatever Ayla and Jackson were playing with always seemed to end up under a pillow or hidden in wrinkled blankets.

Now instead of finding unnecessary items... I am missing crucial ones. Several of my library books have gone missing (as I am sure their covers looked interesting) and last night I found myself without my new satin pillowcase.

I recently made a silky satin pillowcase out of remnant fabric because I had read in a magazine that it was good for stomach sleepers. I sleep with my face buried in my pillow, and since at the ripe age of 30 I am now prone to wrinkles; a smooth satin fabric is supposed to help.

And it does help. I love my new pillowcase.

Apparently, Ayla does too!

Last night I could not find my pillow. Gregory had put the kids to sleep while I was at yoga class, so I figured that some pint-sized person had stolen it and was snuggling with it in bed.

But 3 AM rolled around and I couldn't take it anymore. I am hooked on this satin pillowcase and I needed it! But a quick survey of the kids' room provided nothing. No one was cozy with it on their beds.

I was searching in their closet and then under the beds when Ayla woke up and smiled at me. I said, "Hey crazy person, where is my pillow?" She laughed and said. "Under my bed."

Well, it wasn't just under the bed. It was shoved behind two storage containers and completely hoarded away! If she is going to steal my pillow, she might as well use it!

Ayla was willing to trade the satin pillowcase for her new Hello Kitty one, so the stakes are high. Looks like I have some more sewing to do to prevent any more pillowcase searches in the middle of the night.
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Who is the better parent?

 I am usually too busy parenting to pick up a parenting magazine, but the other day I was waiting in the pediatricians office and flipped through the pages of either Parents or Parenting (can't remember!). Sometimes I find these magazines somewhat interesting... but it is usually a lot of marketing for really overpriced strollers and cutesy cupcake recipes. I find it more enriching to read the Mothering magazine blogs or accounts from my friends (personal blog shout-outs, yeah!)

I think we can add gender stereotypes to the list of what is included in these mainstream magazine.

A survey asked the question of mothers, "Who is the better parent?"

As if that isn't already the most loaded question of all time... try answering that in your household without it resulting in an epic fight... but the responses (or the ones they chose to print) were super DUPER depressing.

The results were not unanimous. Women did not just vote for themselves. Many stated that their husbands/partners were the "better parent". Awww, sounds so nice, right? It's not nice. In essence, women either said that they were better because they were "more responsible or knew how to clean up better". Or they were NOT the better parent because, "I'm so tired from taking care of the house that I am cranky with my kids."

  Some of the answers alluded to the idea that the fathers were more fun to play with because they came home from work refreshed, as in they had enjoyed a momentary break from toddlers whining and pooping all over the place. Other answers insinuated that Moms were better because they were the only one that could be held responsible to make dinner, clean up the bathroom or pack a suitcase. Um, is it just me, or does this seem unfair?

These weren't stereotypes forced upon these women, they have chosen these roles for themselves. Or maybe if not chosen, they have let themselves fall into these roles. Moms clean, feed and handle all of the rules (and thus are too tired or burnt out to enjoy time with their kids) while the Dads shirk all household responsibilities and get to be the "fun" parent.

I know this isn't the norm for parenting roles, but jeez, it certainly seems to be happening a lot!

  Maybe this survey struck me because sometimes I do feel that I miss out on the "fun" part of being a parent because I spend an awful lot of time handling parenting logistics instead of playing. By bedtime, I am so done with bickering, pushing and general rebellion that I lose my patience. Yes, I yell and I get grumpy. Gregory can return from work and approach whatever battle I am fighting with a fresh perspective. Their Dad is the patient, reasonable one while I'm the psycho b&%ch they've been stuck with all day.

  I am not saying that it's easy to come home from work and then have to discipline kids. Both mothers and fathers, whether they stay home all day or not, have exhausting roles to fulfill. What bothered me most is that these mothers are perpetuating an unfair balance in their lives. Is that really what you want to gain from mothering from your children? "Well, they can count on me to get the laundry finished, but they don't think I am very fun!" Yuck.

  What about you? Other moms and dads, do you fall into this trap or try to fight it?

Monday, August 22, 2011


Last week, a package of wonderful clothes arrived from my brother and sister-in-laws house. They always make the effort to pack clothes my niece and nephews have grown out of and generously send them our way.

Unfortunately, only half of the contents in the box arrived.

The post office, after receiving a hefty payment for delivery, somehow ripped the box, lost half the items, left dirty black stains on some of the remaining clothes... and then quietly, guiltily left it on my front porch.

Way to own up to your mistakes, post office employees! (And as an insider to the federal employee benefits, post office employees have the best of the best.) Pretty pathetic.

But, on the bright side, parts of Halloween costumes arrived and we will have fun playing with them.

I thought it was only appropriate to share our Batman moment, with some epic filming of the next Batman movie going on in our hometown. If my sister, Eve can't get a moment alone with Christian Bale... then Jackson will just have to suffice!
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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Two Vet Visits Two Many

Dermadex, flea medicine and feline oral surgery... those are just of the few expenses that have popped up at the veterinary's office this week. Having pets is fantastic and I love them. (Baxter is more of a hate/sorta like situation.) But, damn, they are more expensive than children!

Let's start with Baxter: our red, skittish, retarded dog. I don't give him enough credit, I know. He has improved a lot since we brought him home from the Humane Society in Pittsburgh. Back then, he was peeing all over the house, recovering from worms and whatever else his previous owners had done to him. Now Baxter only pees in the house when fireworks are booming outside... but he still manages to do it in the most inconvenient places to clean up. As if there are convenient places to clean up pee.

From day one, Baxter has had this recurring skin condition. He is red and itchy, which seems only to be controllable through daily medication. He looked fine and handsome when we moved to Buffalo in February and ran out of his medicine. The drugs were an alternative to the very expensive "dips" he was getting at the vet... which seemed to not make much of a difference. Slowly but surely, without his drugs: Baxter went back to his itchy, irritated, haggard looking self.

 We knew it was time to update his vaccines and get this pathetic dog some help. So Gregory scheduled the appointment and took him to Petsmart, where we monthly pay for a health insurance plan that is more comprehensive than my own.

 Instead of a quick diagnosis, Gregory encountered the most judgmental vet tech on the planet. Can we all agree that we have met this person at some point in our lives? She was obviously better suited to converse with animals than humans, and showed such utter disdain for manners and a quick work ethic. I have found that some people that work with animals lose their humanity when it comes to other people. Not all, but some. I am sure they see a lot of animal cruelty cases and get disgusted with negligent owners. But it all gets a little fuzzy when the lines of what a "negligent owner" really is. We feed the dog, play with him, love him (sorta) and make sure he isn't dying of heartworms. To me, that is responsible. But overzealous vet techs with attitude problems... they tend to treat you like the laziest, most disgusting human because you simply won't buy $100 a bag organic dog food or take your furry beast to doggie slumber parties every weekend. Animals are members of the family, for sure, but they are NOT getting better treatment than most people I know!

This lady was a class act: Threats of mange, that our whole family was infected, and "I see a flea!" (insert disgusted sigh). We knew that Baxter's skin problem had just returned and I had just inspected him for fleas the day before. She even decided to attack Gregory's parenting skills during his three hour wait with Jackson. Our son was yelling, simply because he was trying a new word and Gregory couldn't understand him. She came in the room, asked why he was yelling (hello! HE'S THREE!). When Gregory explained that he was trying to understand a word, she said, "Oh, you must not understand him because you're not home that much." Lady, stick to what you know... which obviously isn't very much about people skills.

Okay, moving on.

 Let's end this vet talk with Koko, our beautiful kitty. He was our first pet together, saved from a shelter in Cleveland. Koko is the best cat and other than him jumping on my pillow in the middle of the night, he is cool to hang out and occasionally steal our food from the dinner table.

 Gregory discovered the other day that one of Koko's canine teeth is sticking out of his mouth, in the wrong direction. It looks irritated, but he continues to eat and drink and is still a very happy cat. Why then, am I now facing a vet bill that rivals our monthly rent?

The animal hospital at the end of the street was very nice. The vet and her techs were a little less judgmental, but only because we are hesitant about all of the incurred costs. Cat anesthesia, electrocardiograms, painkillers, tooth sealant (my kids aren't even covered for that!)... I love that cat, but come on. I am not a bad pet owner because I don't have an extra $1000 lying around, waiting to be handed over unquestionably to the vet.

 Before I get reported to PETA: we are going to get Koko's tooth fixed. I woke up and checked on him in the middle of the night, worried that he was going into some feline dental coma. I am just going to do some shopping around first.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mers Birthday Celebrations!

 Yesterday we celebrated Ayla's 5th birthday. Oh, how the years have passed quickly: taking us from a squirming, jaundiced little baby to Miss Sassypants herself. I think with your oldest child the celebration of their birth is also a celebration of yourself as a parent.

Enjoying breakfast in bed.

 I can vividly remember those last moments before Ayla was born. I remember how Gregory and I spent the day I went into labor, and thus avoided going to the hospital for 12 hours. We went for a long walk, made a dinner without worrying about a crying baby and played Scrabble. Not until it was gone, did I appreciate the simpleness of filling my days without willful children to dictate my activities.

 (1) You think you know what parenthood is going to be, then you are knocked off your feet.
 (2) This cycle repeats on a daily basis thereafter.

 We celebrated the day quietly at home, with a spaghetti dinner joined by our only family in the area. Suzanne & Phil - you really made the party with your gifts of flamenco dresses and the unicorn. Can you guess what Ayla has been playing with ALL day today?

Being very clear about which presents she liked and disliked. Sorry, Eve, I think she was bummed that we already have one set of viking horns!

However, we get a thumbs up for the skanky bunny ears from Halloween! Should I be worried?

Our party guests, Suzanne and Phil!

  Gregory and I are still taking advantage of the simple joys that our daughter partakes in: drawing and playing pretend. Without peer pressure and friends to influence her too much, Ayla isn't asking for her own Nintendo DS or expensive fashion items. YET. So we showered her with dollar store gifts like paint-by-number sets, drawing pads, markers and Hello Kitty sheets (another wondrous Goodwill find!).

 Every day with Ayla is a new discovery, and even when she is stomping around the house because I've essentially ruined her life (by turning off the tv or asking her to pick up Legos), I am grateful to know and love her. It's a beautiful thing to watch Ayla encounter the world without fear or self-consciousness. She is thoughtful, kind, giving and assertive. For some reason, people find the pronunciation of Ayla's name difficult. Every time we meet a new person and they say, "Your name is Ava? Layla? Allyah?", she responds loudly, "No, it's Aay-LA!" Now that's someone who knows who she is!

 Happy Birthday, my spunky 5 year old know-it-all woman. We are growing right along with you.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The White Glove

If this video isn't blogworthy, I don't know what is !

Starting early on the MJ impersonations!
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Friday, August 12, 2011

Here we go again...

 The proof is on the store shelves all around town... summer is coming to an end and we must prepare for the start of the school year. (Although in reality we still have a few more weeks of lazy days and humid nights.) I am new to this game of preparation and back-to-school shopping. We are thinking of bus schedules, supply lists, backpacks, potty training (gulp: one month to get Jackson ready!), dance classes and saving boxtops. Having children enter the world is overwhelming!

  Ayla will be attending Kindergarten five days a week, for a full school day. Her cute little butt is going to be riding the bus to and from school, as well as eating lunch with the big kids! My heart aches with the cuteness of the idea. Jackson will be starting preschool at the Y, three days a week for a morning session. He will get to swim, play in the gym and climb in the adventure room. He will enjoy story time, crafts and "my friends" (that's what he is most excited about.) My entire body aches with the cuteness of it all.

 Elliot will remain my third appendage and we will most likely spend our days cruising in the minivan. So begins the challenge of enrolling my kids in enough activities to keep them stimulated and not too many to turn their childhoods into a scheduling nightmare.

Oh, and one more thing. As we will probably spend the month of September overwhelmed, tired and adjusting into schedules after a summer of relaxed living: Gregory returns to Oklahoma for more training.

I hate Oklahoma.

I know he hates it more that he will miss their first days of school. But I know how challenging it was before to survive his absence (emotionally and logistically); and that was in Pittsburgh, surrounded by a network of family and friends. Now I am in the virtual abyss of Buffalo (yes, I'm being dramatic), with only a few neighbors and acquaintances to turn to in an emergency. I am sensing that the loneliness is going to be multiplied by ten, even though Gregory will only be gone for 5 weeks.

My mother is going to come to visit and help, so I am thankful for that. Perhaps my pathetic cry for help will inspire more visitors? :)

I am going to try and stay positive in the weeks leading up to Gregory's departure. The timing is really the best we could have hoped for. Other than missing the start of school and my birthday in October, he won't miss out on any holidays. I will keep my mind in the present and follow Eckhart Tolle's advice: "The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation, but your thoughts about it."

 Yes, it will be stressful on my own with two kids adjusting to school and possibly a baby Elliot walking around the house: but I will save my worry until the time is actually here. For now, I will continue to search for five packs of glue sticks and primary colored markers in our preparations for the fall!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Best. Pillow. Ever.

 As a belated Father's Day present, I have been crafting up the idea of making Gregory a pillow. I have made him many a pillowcase over the years, but I wanted to try something different.

Last week I finally got around to finishing the project and presented him with the best.pillow.ever. - inspired by the best. picture. ever.

 See what I mean? Who wouldn't be proud to display a decorative pillow with the images of three crazed children (or possible prison escapees?). Just as you are snuggling into bed, after a long day of disciplining these exact children: you can drift into a peaceful sleep with this image seared into your brain.

 The photo is printed on washable fabric paper, which irons on to the fabric and then was sewn around the edges with fabric to match our t-shirt quilt. Easy enough. In fact, the hardest part of this project was figuring out how to align our printer with the 4 by 6 fabric paper.

Some rough edges, but I used the "heartbeat" stitch on the sewing machine. A new trick for me!

It's still up for debate whose face is the funniest.

The back of the pillow: made with pre-quilted fabric intact with batting (filling). I made a mini-pillow inside with stuffing that can be removed for washing. Because everything in our house gets dirty.
 This is exactly what I am looking forward to marketing/selling on Etsy. I'm happy to send out pictures of my own crazy children or personalize a pillow for anyone who wants one.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Crocodile Poop


If anyone needs translation, Jackson is talking about a crocodile. Eating poop. We went to the zoo over the weekend and discovered a new corner of the reptile house. In a room draped with tarps, sat a lonely crocodile we had never seen before. Perhaps they stuck the poor guy in the back because he chased his own poop in the water.

Maybe Ayla is right... we should still give him a chance.

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Balance (And other Impossible Tasks)

 For the first time in my adult life, I have been "unemployed" for six months. Yes, yes, full-time motherhood is not by any means unemployed. I am busier now than I ever was in the workplace and forget days off and sleeping at night! Managing three kids keeps me constantly on the move: cooking, cleaning, changing diapers, driving to and from school/activities, grocery store outings, playground visits, cuddle time and crisis control (sicknesses, temper tantrums, lost binkies and other tragic events). By the end of the day, it is hard for me to define exactly what we have accomplished - other than we just survived! Everyone was fed, cleaned and loved.

But let me return to the original purpose and mantra of this blog: BALANCE. Spending all day in the confines of our house or minivan, moving from one task to the next, isn't the balance I am accustomed to. Ever since Ayla was born, I worked outside of the home on top of my motherly duties. With one child, I worked an average of 40-50 hours a week in a hotel. With two kids, I downgraded to 30-40 hours in an office. By the time Elliot popped out, I was happily working part-time at a maximum of 20 hours a week in a restaurant.

Some women are happiest when they continue full-steam-ahead with their careers. Other women are horrified by the concept of leaving their children and find the most satisfaction being home with their children. Most families face this decision with the unfortunate realities of life: time and money. A lot of moms want to stay in the workforce, but the insane cost of childcare changes those plan; just as some women don't return to work after having children despite its' financial downfalls. Children thrive in all sorts of scenarios and I don't place judgement on how anyone balances the work/mommyhood dilemma. We have a lot of options in this day and age!

That being said, I am a lot harder on myself than I am on other Moms. I never felt I had the luxury of staying home after Ayla was born (or Jackson or Elliot!). We depended too much on my income and I really needed to feel that I was contributing financially to our future and well-being. I was able to downgrade with hours, which made me feel that I had some control over the madness at home and that I wasn't missing crucial Mom moments like bedtime, breakfast and trips to the park.

 Up to almost a year ago, I was happily managing that balance: thanks to Gregory's flexibility with his job and my bosses at the restaurant where I worked. We alternated our work schedules so that we only needed babysitters once or twice a week (although we never saw each other) and I was able to live up to my own standards as an involved mother AND a citizen of the workforce.

 Then... jobs changed and we moved to Buffalo. Away from our babysitters. Away from my luxe serving job across the street from our house.

  I will admit that I am now "working" in a different capacity. Without the stress of an outside job, I can focus more on the details of managing the homestead. I have more time for my creative projects, for laundry, for meal planning, for gardening, for coupon cutting... all the thrills of life, right? I am in a support position. A crucial support system. Gregory can thrive at his job and have the whole family package: because I am working just as hard to manage our money as he is working to earn it. Managing a family budget is just as important as being the family breadwinner. In fact, I'm the breadmaker (literally, get it?) because I now have the time at home!

  I am a lucky woman. I am living the dream that so many mothers have for their families. I am, for the most part, living the dream I had for myself.

 But here is where the pursuit of balance gets me: I just want a little....more.

It made sound insane, but I want to accomplish more! I am inspired by the Moms I know that have developed home-based businesses and have flourished. In my idealistic mind, having a successful business from home during your own free hours (ha! the fifteen minutes before dinner is finished and when you are dead tired at 10 pm) is the perfect blend of motherhood and industry.

Here's the catch: I am not the only one with this dream. How do I transfer my years in customer service and restaurant management to a business from home? I don't, in fact. I start over with something new. Anyone and everyone is selling their wares on the internet. And I would like to join the crowd.

In the hopes that my public declaration will motivate me to get things started: I would love to open up an Etsy shop. If you don't already shop there, you simply must start. I plan on starting simple with useful, modern pillowcases and baby items. How hard can it be to park my butt in front of the sewing machine for an hour each day? I certainly find the time to park it in front of this computer screen!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Heartburn Tomatoes

I haven't even eaten my tomatoes yet and there are already heartburn problems. It's not me... it is the tomatoes themselves.

With the recent experiences of potatoes and broccoli refusing to thrive, I was very excited by the growth of my potted heirloom tomatoes on our front porch. They have flourished from seedlings and there are dozen of cute little green fruits, just waiting to ripen.

Only these green fruits are rotting on the bottom.

Please, garden gods, let me at least have tomatoes this year!

A little internet research revealed that my plant is suffering from blossom end rot. The roots are having trouble absorbing calcium from the soil, which causes the dark spots on the bottom of the tomatoes.

I could risk repotting the entire plant OR give them some Tums. A quick remedy for blossom end rot is to break up Tums and mix them into the soil for fast calcium absorption. I gave the tomatoes their mixed berry flavored medicine yesterday... so now I wait, with wishful thoughts of bruschetta on my mind.

Goodbye heartburn, hello healthy heirloom tomatoes?
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Friday, August 5, 2011

Broccoli, grow for me!

Garden, you are starting to hurt my feelings. Ten broccoli plants nurtured as seedlings in my basement as early as March... and this is all you give me? I planted you, watered you and even with your Martha Stewart organic labeling, this is the best you can do?

Our broccoli always thrived at home in Pittsburgh, so I am at a loss as to what is so different now. I had to cut the pathetic sprouts last night before they turned into flowers; I managed about a half cup on the kids' pizza for dinner. That isn't much of a return on four months of work.

"I've given you sunshine, I've given you dirt. You've given me nothing but heartache and hurt!

.... what do you want from me, blood?"

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Two Solos, One Duet

Our wedding at the Pittsburgh Aviary in 2004

 This past weekend, Gregory and I celebrated seven years of marriage. SEVEN. For some readers, that will sound like an eternity. For others, you might be thinking, ha! try thirty!

 I get caught up in the numbers because:

(1) How can I be old enough to be celebrating my 7th wedding anniversary?
(2) I have never even stayed at a job for that long.
(3) The past seven years have literally felt like seven minutes. We were just on our honeymoon. Yet, we are surrounded by three small people that we have somehow given life to in that span of time.

Boozin it up on our honeymoon cruise!

 We attended a family wedding in June and friends of the bride were stalking the guests for marriage advice and memories for a video scrapbook. If I am like most people, I was dreading the moment the video camera came around to me for advice. It's so hard to quantify in words the concept of marriage and true partnership, let alone give someone else tips on how to do it right! There are some basics I know (fidelity, honesty, kindness, respect and humor), but many that I don't. I remember babbling something off the top of my head and hoping that I didn't sound like an idiot.

  I could spend this entire post gushing about all the ways I love my husband. He is kind, giving, thoughtful, patient, affectionate, respectful, hilarious, really attractive, a great kisser... and I'll stop there before the romance gets on your nerves. :) But what I am most grateful for? Gregory is my partner in every way. Having three little kids often gets in the way of our communication and time sometimes (or on a daily basis), but I know that he will do whatever it takes to make our life work together. We don't have the type of marriage where there is "woman's work" or "man's work"; we define those things for ourselves. So here is my public thank you and appreciation for all that you are, Gregory! You have brought me so much joy and I am thankful for you.

 As for marriage advice and what I have learned through seven years of partnership, there are two standards mantras that married couples hear. The first is that "you should never go to bed angry". To be completely honest, I think that advice is pretty tired. And Gregory will probably laugh at that because one of my faults is that I actually like to go to bed angry. Or more specifically, I like to process my anger and hold it in until I can get my thoughts into words. That doesn't happen automatically for me at bedtime. I could write you a ten page letter describing my feelings before I could actually tell you out loud. The fact remains that all people process disagreements, anger and resolution in different ways and I don't necessarily think that going to bed angry is bad for all couples. It's what you do with that anger in the morning that counts.

 The second piece of advice refers to the bible verse describing how the man and woman leave their parents and start a new family. If I have learned anything, this advice is crucial. It doesn't mean that you abandon your parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and grandparents: but when you get married (even without the thought of having children), your spouse should become your primary concern. Just like other relationships are special, the bond between you and your partner deserves it's own protection and recognition. It's part of growing up, part of forging a new life.

 But what the hell do I know?

 I know that we celebrated our anniversary with the new wok Gregory bought for me (us). We made green bean and zucchini tempura, banana mango daiquiris, thai chicken with cilantro sauce... and subsequently did not have any room for dessert. I can't wait to try the bamboo steamer.

 Gregory gave me a beautiful collage of pictures this past Christmas, with a quote that rings true for me every day....

 "A long marriage is two people trying to dance a duet and two solos at the same time." 

  Amen to that. Here's hoping to 70+ more years of balancing our solos and duet!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Happy Birthday Baby!

How does a baby transition from this...

to this in the span of a year?

Forget the miracle of birth, it's what a baby is capable of learning in the first year of life that just blows me away! For almost all of Elliot's life, our family has been in "transition". Gregory went to Oklahoma before Elliot could sit up, we moved him to a different state before he could roll over and now he is climbing onto the dishwasher and kitchen counter.
 And yet, he is definitely the happiest, most content person I know. I think all three of my children are stunningly beautiful and amazing - but it's only been with Elliot that strangers stop us everywhere we go to comment on him. Yes, his dimples are ridiculously cute. But I feel it is more his engaging personality that makes people stop and want to talk to him. One of Elliot's favorite activities is riding around in the grocery store cart, yelling and waving and smiling at people. 

I am less of a numbers/timeline mother with Elliot (I can't really remember how much he has weighed at each and every check-up) as I was with the other two. I don't worry about when he will hit his milestones. I am just enjoying the baby stage while it lasts. I know too well what is in store for us when Elliot starts to walk, talk and defy his parents! 

 Maybe part of the reason I am so infatuated with the baby stage this time around is that these feelings balance the high amount of anxiety I felt about being pregnant with our third baby. I was so nervous about how we were going to manage, the timing just seemed all wrong. And now I see what a joy and light Elliot brings to our family - that it was so silly of me to "question" anything about it! 

 So Happy Birthday baby Elliot (as of last Friday), we love you dearly!
(Even if you are crying and resisting bedtime right now!)

Enjoying his birthday dessert of strawberry shortcake.