Wednesday, September 24, 2014

One Year Later

Dearest darling,

A year and some weeks ago, I wrote you a letter.  You were new and fresh and itsy bitsy, and everything about you charmed us. While your arms and legs were filling my belly, a love for you was filling my heart  - and well, that love exploded the day you came.  Once, I heard a mom say having a baby was like having part of your heart split off to walk around outside of you.  I'd say that's about right.  You've carried a piece of me around with you for nearly 400 days now.  From rolling over to sitting up to crawling like a maniac to the two faltering steps you've lately managed, my heart's gone with you, all the way.    



In a classic case of chest-bursting parental pride, your Daddy and I are convinced you are the cleverest baby yet.  You aren't regularly using words (although you have said mama, dada, more, and go) but you respond to questions with a yes bob or a no shake, and you can fetch things for us that we ask you to get.  You like to point to our facial features and then yours, waiting each time for us to say what it is.  "Nose."  "Mouth." "Eyes."  In one of the books we read you, the daddy bunny tells his son he loves him as high as he can reach, and when we get to that line, you stretch both your hands above your head.









Your skin is so soft I can still hardly believe it, even after a year of touching your chubby thighs and kissing your cheeks.  You love the spray of the water hose, and when it rains, you stand at the screen door and cry to go out.  You stare strangers down with your big brown eyes and rarely proffer a smile at first meeting.  You can spot my purse from anywhere in the house and yank it down to the floor by its strap, pulling the contents out one by one.  You love to be chased up the stairs.  You crawl to your closet and yell for me until I come, and then you show me that you want to wear your shoes.


You are really into things you can't have, and this is where the most challenging part of being your mama comes into play.  Daily, I tell you not to touch the computer, my cell phone, or the toilet, and daily, you decide you'd rather touch those things and suffer the consequence of getting your hand swatted.  When I put something you can't have out of your reach, you throw yourself on the floor and scream.  I tell Daddy about our rough days, and he says he thinks it's only just beginning.  :)  He's right. This will be a lifelong battle, my sweet one.  The force of your will and selfishness will only grow, and you will always want things that are not good for you.  Mama knows from experience.  Yet.  There is One who will reshape your heart if you let Him.  Daddy and I pray that you will run early and run often to Jesus.

What a beautiful year it's been.  I love you, my sweetness.  And I forever and always will.

Love,

Mama

Monday, September 22, 2014

Birthday Blitz

In our little threesome of a family, our birthdays all fall within ten days of each other.  This year was a banner year - one of us turned 1, one of us turned 30, and one of us turned the age that is very, very close to 30.  

Aaron is first in the birthday train.  His birthday went something like this:

(Driving home from church, which means the time is somewhere around noon, aka, roughly 6 hours after we woke up, aka, this will become an important detail soon. )

Me: Hey, let's stop for a taco since we're not having lunch 'til later.

Aaron:  You mean like a birthday taco?

Me:  Oh hahahahahaha.  Oh my goodness.  Uncontrollable laughter.  

Aaron:  You didn't really forget my birthday.  

Me:  Oh, no, I mean yes, yes I did.  Still hyperventilating laughter.

Aaron:  No you didn't.  You have something planned and you're just acting like you forgot.

Me:  Still laughing while wondering how in heck I am going to dig myself out of this one and also wondering why he didn't say ANYTHING about it being his BIRTHDAY for an entire HALF of a DAY.  

So, obviously, I am Wife of the Year.  

I made up for it by getting him not only a birthday taco but also the most expensive and peanut-buttery ice cream cake Dairy Queen offered. 


Am I exonerated? 

Anna's birthday was next.  You're right, you're right!  She's the one who turned one.  We had a little outdoor party at my parent's house for her.  I wanted to call it a soiree on the invitations.  Aaron talked me down from that one.
Aaron also talked me out of making her a healthy banana muffin-cake.  The girl got the real deal.  Chocolate cupcake with white brain icing, complements of a mom who doesn't know her way around an icing tip.  She played with the brains for a while, then gingerly ate about half of the cupcake.  It was an entirely underwhelming first cake experience.


After she was through, she wiped her mouth with a cloth napkin and said, "Thank you, mom, for my first experience with refined sugar.  But I think for my next soiree, I better stick with a banana muffin."  

My 30th birthday tied up the celebratory forenight.  It was a sweet and simple day.  Breakfast with my mom, lunch out with Aaron and Anna, and a dinner I didn't have to cook at my parents' house.   Also.  My husband remembered my birthday.  I am sure I could write a whole post about my feelings on 30, but for now, the story is that I am grateful for a new decade and this skin feels more comfortable than ever.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Trading Up

It seems I have traded in my running shoes for walking shoes.

Oh, they're still the same pair - green and white Asics I bought halfway through training for our marathon.  A few days before the race, I decided they were not broken in enough, and I made a wild last minute decision to run 26 miles in my bedraggled navy New Balance shoes.

The Asics are good and broken in now.  They've got tiny holes in the mesh at the bottom of my baby toe.  The stitching is coming undone near the top, and they aren't so much green and white now as they are green and gray.

Where are the days when I had time to schedule a three hour run?  Sometimes I wonder this.  Three unbroken hours for anything is a chapter in the imaginary book I keep called "If I Had Free Time and No One Depended on Me."

So I lace up the old Asaics and pull out the stroller.  We go walking in the morning, before the heat rises to its peak.  It's possible to beat the heat, but the humidity is an early bird, and by the end of our walk, Anna and I are both sweaty.  

As I walk, I look down at her chubby feet.  The farther we go, the farther down in her stroller she slouches.  Her legs swing over the edge, and she flexes her toes up and down.  Those chubby, short toes!  If she's getting bored with the trees and the wind and the birds, she pulls her left leg up to her ear and babbles like she's found a new friend.  Hey, it's my foot!


























On every walk, I think, "I wish I could preserve those sweet baby feet."  I know in ten years, when I might have the time and energy to take up running again, I will remember the chunky legs and pudgy bare feet of my first baby.   How her bare feet meant she wasn't yet walking, she was riding.  How she needed me to carry her when we collapsed the stroller and slid it back into the shed.   How she wanted me to carry her, how she snuggled her head into my shoulder, how she pulled at my shirt when she wanted to nurse, how for that short time, I was totally and completely her world.

Free time?  Don't have much of it.  But as it turns out, I would trade every infinite minute of it for two plump feet.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Dressing a Baby Girl on a Budget

In my dream world, I would buy all of Anna's clothing from Zara, Baby Gap, and Tea Collection.

Money is a moot issue in a dream world, right?

I love picking out Anna's clothes.  The fact that we don't live in a dream world, but instead, a world where we only have one full-time income, means that the process is creative and challenging. While I would love to exclusively dress my daughter in outfits that are spot on current trends, the budget - and, if I'm honest, my convictions about where our money goes - say nope.

Last week, Shannan shared her secondhand genius for girl shopping, which got me thinking about sharing Anna's fall/winter wardrobe.

I have a few guiding parameters when shopping for Anna.  One, I steer away from animals and cutesie sayings.  Two, I don't buy a ton of pink.  I'm not die-hard against pink, but neither am I a huge fan of lots of pink and ruffles.

My basic process is to start with garage sales and thrift stores.  During the summer, I look at the online classifieds to find garage sales that specifically advertise baby/toddler girls' clothes.  Anytime I'm at a thrift store, I take a few swipes through the baby racks.  Anything I find that is cute and cheap at these places comes home with me.

At this point in Anna's life, it works best to have her clothes paired into outfits.  So after I have an assortment of secondhand tops/pants, I pair them together and take notes on what I still need.  I still keep an eye out for those gaps at garage sales/thrift stores, but I also start looking on Ebay or ThreadUp.  (More on ThreadUp at the end.)

As far as retail shopping, I rarely buy anything new full price.  Mostly, I shop online, because we live in a small town where the extent of retail shopping is Wal-Mart.  I wait for end of season sales or 30-40% off coupons and sometimes the stars align, and websites offer free shipping on top of the coupon.

Are you ready to peek into her closet?








Pajamas 
Monkey pajamas: $0.50, garage sale
Carter's cotton footy pajamas: $1.00 each, garage sales
Carter's fleece footy pajamas: $1.00 each, garage sales

Total: $5.50

(Soo, my animal rule does not apply to pajamas.  Let the girl sleep swaddled in a menagerie.)



Outerwear
Carter's aqua rain jacket: free, gift from Aaron's mom
Baby Gap yellow jacket: $6.00, Ebay
Old Navy pink fleece: free, hand-me-down
Old Navy navy/white striped jacket: $4.00, consignment shop

Total: $10.00

(She probably has too many jackets???)

Shoes
New Balance tennis shoes: $1.25, thrift store
Tan booties: $1.00, thrift store
Slipper socks: $2.25, Target clearance
Blue shoes: free, hand-me-down
Brown boots: $1.00, garage sale
Black Mary Janes: $0.50, garage sale

Total: $6.00

(Neutral is the name of the game for shoes!)



Outfits (Short sleeves for early fall but paired with cardis to take them into winter) 
Carter's hot pink cardigan: $7.00, carters.com clearance
Carter's love t-shirt: $5.00, carters.com clearance
Garanimals grey leggings: $0.50, garage sale
Old Navy white heart tee: $3.00, clearance
Old Navy heart leggings: $3.00, clearance
Old Navy gray cardigan: $8.00, sale
Old Navy yellow onesie: $3.00, clearance
Garanimals khaki pants: $1.00, thrift store
Children's Place white cardigan: $0.50, garage sale

Total: $31.00 (That seems like a lot after the other categories!)

(I'm obviously determined that she will love cardigans as much as I do.)


Outfits
Carter's peach top and patterned denim leggings: $4.00, JCPenney with $10 off coupon
Old Navy ivory pullover: $1.00, garage sale
Children's Place jeggings: $2.00, consignment store
OshKosh striped tunic: $2.00, consignment store 
Children's Place jeggings: $1.00, garage sale
OshKosh coral striped top: $1.00, garage sale
Garanimals brown yoga pants: $0.50, garage sale

Total: $11.50

(I think I would wear the patterned denim leggings myself, if I could.)


Uh, Mom, why are you laying all my clothes out on the bed?  That's weird. 

Outfits
Garanimals ivory top with lace: free, gift from my mom
Zara khakis: $6.00, ThredUp
Carter's chambray shirt: $12.00, carters.com
H&M flowered leggings: $7.00, hm.com
Old Navy green shirt: $1.00, garage sale
White leggings: $2.25, Kohls clearance
Circo white tunic: $0.50, thrift store
Orange leggings: $1.00, thrift store

Total: $29.75

(The chambray shirt outfit is her birthday present.  I really wanted to buy her this outfit, but $19.00 for a baby outfit is crazy expensive in our world, so that money came out of the present fund.)

Dresses
Old Navy coral dress: $6.00, ThredUp
Circo brown dress: $1.00, garage sale
Circo butterfly dress: $1.00, garage sale

Total: $8.00 

Grand total drumroll?  44 pieces for $101.75.  $100 still feels like a lot to me to spend on baby clothes, but it's spread out throughout the year as I pick things up here and there, and it averages out to $2.31 per item, which seems a lot easier to swallow!  

About ThredUp.  Have you heard of it?  It's an online consignment shop where I bought the Zara pants and the coral Old Navy dress.  Although you have to wade through some not-so-great stuff, it's a good place to find nicer brands for cheaper than retail.  Sometimes, the garage sales around here are full of animal/cupcake/pinkpinkpink little girl clothes.  ThredUp is a way to find some labels I really like but could never buy new.

The best thing about them is their referral program.  Every friend that signs up gets $10 credit, and if that friend makes a purchase, you get $10 added to your account.  Since there are a lot of things priced under ten bucks (even with shipping added in), it's a win/win.  Your friend gets something free, and you get $10 added to your account.  Obviously, I would be thrilled if you joined ThredUp through my referral link.  Then, go get yo' friends to join so you can get some credit too! Aaron teases me that this is my pyramid scheme - it isn't a pyramid scheme - but yes, I am excited about ThredUp.

And because I can't say pyramid scheme without thinking of that Office episode, here you go: 


"Yes!  Thank you!  You will get rich quick.  We all will!"  Makes me laugh every time.  

What about y'all?  How do you shop for your kids?  Secondhand all the way?  A good mix?  Wouldn't touch a garage sale with a pole?  Do share.  

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Garden Lives On



In a surprising plot twist, the zucchini and the cucumbers are no longer with us.  RIP.

But!  The peppers pulled through their blight and are now popping out little progeny all over the place.

And the sunflowers are bent on world dominion.

Gardening is such a head-scratcher. This is about the time of year that I want to pull everything up, even the plants that are producing well.  You can only blanch and freeze so many green beans, and when you're scared of canning tomatoes because of botulism, well, you run out of ideas for using them all.  We are becoming the neighborhood dispensary for tomatoes.  (Which, as it turns out, giving away food you've grown is as much fun as eating food you've grown.)  












Our little garden grows and grows, through the August dryness and burning sun, and even though I sometimes want to give up on the entire caboodle, mornings find me outside with the hose.  Later, before Anna's nap, we sashay to the garden to pull a few weeds or deadhead the petunias.  Anna always eats a marigold.  (Don't worry - I googled it, and marigolds are only just a wee bit poisonous.)  After dinner, Aaron joins our parade out the back door to pick beans and pluck tomatoes.  Before returning inside, we stop and stare at our three glorious watermelons.  Our watermelon discussion is cyclical; every night we return to the same question.  "So, uh, do you think they're ready?" 



All those tiny seeds, finger-poked into the ground months ago.  Seeds that have turned my yard into a lavish mass of green, polka-dotted with yellow, red, pink, purple.  (There were also a fair amount of impulse bedding plant purchases.)



I'm already thinking of bulbs for fall planting.  Our new house hasn't one tulip to its name, although Mrs. Smith, the lady who built the house and lived here 50 years, had a special predilection for pink ladies.  (Did you know that if you pick your pink ladies and bring them inside, a curious and very pungent mothball smell will fill the air?  Live and learn.)

It's been the summer of the garden.

A great summer, indeed.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Summer Days



I've never been good at blogging during the summer.

There is only so much sunshine in a year, you know?  And during the summer, we live outside, we go on trips, we welcome friends for weekend visits, and at night, the whir of the ceiling fan draws us into our bed early.





It's so good.  Summer always gives us the room to slow down and just be.



The garden is bountiful, though we are not without our share of farmer troubles.  The peppers have a fungal blight, and our patty pan sqaush plant produced odd, oblong, green pumpkinish fruits...not quite what we were hoping for.  Did we have cross pollinated seeds?  I don't know. Nonetheless, we've got cucumbers and zucchini galore, enough eggplant to satisfy, and the tomatoes are creeping up to an riotous explosion soon.

We've been reading more, sinking into our spots on the couch as soon as Anna is tucked away in her crib for the night. A glass of ice water, a good book, my husband beside me.  In my world, there's not a better way to spend a summer night.  Cool nights, we've hefted the windows open, (we we both prefer unless it is blazing hot) and the sounds of crickets and cicadas and the whiff of a neighbor's cut grass drift in.  Ahh, summer.


Friends from Topeka came two weeks ago, and a dear friend from Afghanistan (home on a visit) came last week.  We've cooked pizza and Turkish lahmacun, mixed scones and pancakes, torn through cartons of ice cream and pitchers of tea.  We've visited my family in Arkansas and Aaron's family in Kansas City.  We're home now for a month, and the number one priority?  Get our precious girl on a good sleep schedule.





It's summer.  And I'm loving every day of it.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Back in the Saddle



I have loads of posts knocking about in my head.  But tonight it is late, and I promised myself that I would start going to bed earlier because I keep staying up too late, and someone tiny and cute is still not "doing her nights" as the French would say.  Aka, she is still waking up screaming at 2 a.m. wanting to eat.

Tonight is about jumping back onto the blogging horse.  It will be random.  More cohesive, well-thought out things are sure to come soon.

Anna came down with her first true sickness last week.  She had roseola, which meant three and a half days of a high fever followed by two days of a rash.  It was the saddest thing.  Whenever I put her down, she would just lay on the floor with her cheek to the ground.  She didn't want any food, just wanted to nurse all the time. Little babies with fevers are like furnaces - her body was so hot in the middle of the night.  Why is it that sickness always seems to peak in the middle of the night when there is nothing that you can do but pray and hope that the hours until you can give more Tylenol pass quickly?



She's back to her sweet self now, crawling all over the house, making messes, chowing down on food.



We celebrated our fifth anniversary June 20 with a quick trip to Sedalia to stay the night in an historic hotel.  Aaron surprised me with a manicure and pedicure, and the next day we wandered about Powell Gardens looking at plants to my heart's delight.  It has been, in many ways, a long and tough year of marriage for us...somehow this makes the anniversary all the sweeter.  The night away was a time to exhale, talk about silly things and serious things, and attempt to sleep in.  Of course we still woke up at seven.


Aaron has the next two days off, and we are going to knock some projects off the house list.  Tonight it is so cool that I am drinking hot tea.  Our baby is sleeping, the house is mostly clean, and there is a delicious breeze drifting in the front door.  Life is good.