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Beach Day | nextlifechapter.comYesterday was a great day and worthy of note. We decided to spend the day at the beach and Tim insisted we drive a little further to the “real Florida beach” at St. George Island. I’m not sure it was worth the extra 45-minute drive, but the sand dunes were lovely and the beach accommodations were better than those at Bald Point.

We bought boiled peanuts along the side of the road on our way out (a true Southern treat…salty and soft like beans, not crunchy like roasted peanuts). We did get some rain and even had to eat our lunch in the van due to a passing storm, but in true Florida style, the bad weather passed quickly. It was a fun afternoon of jumping in the waves with Adelaide, playing in the sand, and resting in the shade of the beach umbrella while June napped on my belly.

On the way home, we hoped for good seafood and chance found us at the Seineyard Seafood Restaurant where we had a delicious meal and super-friendly service. (Tim can convince me to go to St. George Island any time if we can stop there on the way back.)

But what made the day truly remarkable was what happened the night before we went to the beach. For the second night in a row, June slept seven hours straight, in her crib in the room she and Adelaide share. It may not sound like much, but we haven’t had many nights like that since moving to Florida.

And–this is the biggie–Adelaide went to bed and slept the entire night without her pacifier. Aside from perhaps a few weeks of infanthood, this was the first night of her four years of life without a paci. This is a big, big deal in our house and for Adelaide. We have attempted to wean her from the paci several times in the past. “But I love it,” she once told me, such a sincere, yet sad plea.

When June was born, we decided to pick our battles and let it go. She only used the paci when she slept at night and it brought her such comfort that my post-partum self couldn’t emotionally handle the fight. I figured (hoped? prayed?) that she would give it up when she was ready. We did hang the carrot of “an awesome prize” over her head, telling her that she could choose something awesome at the store when she decided to give up her paci forever.

Well, tonight makes the third night in a row that she has gone without. I’m so proud of this young lady before me. I swear she seems to have grown an inch in the last month, and while it’s probably just coincidence, she’s been particularly pout and whine free this last week. My baby is growing up. And maybe, just maybe (knock on wood), I may once again get to regularly have a good night’s sleep.

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Reflecting on your birthday  |  nextlifechapter.com

Me at Adelaide’s age, my 4th birthday.

 

Yesterday was my birthday. With birthdays often comes reflection. Where has this year taken me? What do I look forward to in the year ahead?

I can’t argue that my 37th year was a memorable one. This time last year I was four months pregnant and celebrating with my sister, having just spent my birthday in NYC on an overnight trip to see Neil Patrick Harris perform in Hedwig and the Angry Inch during his closing weekend on Broadway.

A year later and I have a beautiful seven-month old daughter. I’ve moved to Tallahassee, Florida to start a new life with my family, and I have a new job. Whew! This year will always be one defined by before and afters. Before June was born. After we moved to Florida.

I have a few of those clearly defined years in my head. The year I graduated high school. The year I graduated college and moved to Portland, Oregon. The year I left Portland and moved to Boston for grad school. The year I graduated from grad school and moved to Philly. The year I got married. The year Adelaide was born. And now, 2015. The year June was born. The year I moved to Tally. The year I turned 38.

Last night on the phone my dad reminded me that he was 38 the year our family hosted a foreign exchange student. I was in 7th grade then. Sometimes when I sit and think about the passing of time I’m blown away. Time really is a crazy beast.

I’m nearly certain that last year my birthday wish was a healthy baby. After two miscarriages, I concentrated all my positive energy on a healthy pregnancy. This year, as I faced the cupcake candles, my wish didn’t come as naturally. The possibility is wide open.

A new year. A new start. Today, today I feel hopeful.

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When I first started this blog, I named it “Next Life Chapter” because I was starting the new chapter of motherhood. Plus, I liked that the blog could grow with me. There will always be a next chapter.

I started a new chapter in January with the birth of Juniper, our second daughter. However, that chapter will be titled “The fourth trimester,” and it will be superseded by another exciting new chapter that’s about to begin.

Philly LOVE necklace  |  nextlifechapter.com

I gifted myself this special “LOVE” necklace as we prepare to leave the City of Brotherly Love.

Tim and I have been thinking about moving to Tallahassee, Florida for a while now. Tim’s parents are there, and with the arrival of Juniper we’ve dreamed of being closer to family. It’s a huge decision, but we are officially moving! I have accepted a Communications Coordinator position at Florida State University, and Tim is interviewing as well.

We told Adelaide last week, and she seems excited. Since I’ve accepted a new position, things are happening fast! The idea of moving to Florida has always been just that, an idea. It’s all happening much more quickly than I imagined. I’ll be starting my new job on May 8, so we’ll be leaving Philly on May 2. I’ll still be returning from maternity leave next Monday and working for two weeks. My official last day at work is Friday, April 24. Then, we’ll have a final week at home before heading out. (I’m flying down with the girls this time. We drove down when we went to Tallahassee to interview, and I don’t want to make that road trip again anytime soon.)

There’s so much to do and sort and pack. I go back and forth between feeling excited and feeling overwhelmed and sad about leaving. I’m going to miss my Philly friends immensely, and I feel dumb/scared/crazy for quitting a job that’s been good to me for the last seven and a half years. I know part of it is just the fear of the unknown. I’m comfortable in my job here and at a time when I’m trying to navigate the waters of being a new mom of two, starting from scratch somewhere else is a lot to bite off all at once. I’ll miss being so close to NYC (although we don’t take advantage of it as much as I’d like), and I’ll miss all the culture and opportunity that comes with living in a large city. Tallahassee does have a better cost of living, but it’s not THAT much better.

It’s all so bittersweet. I have to remind myself why we’re doing all this, and there are a lot of factors. One being that Adelaide will start Kindergarten next year–what!?!–and the Philly public schools (at least in the neighborhoods we can afford) are struggling. Plus, putting two kids in daycare is ridiculous. Tim’s parents are going to watch June this summer and then there’s the possibility they will continue to watch her two days a week into the fall and winter. It’s also going to be nice to have a free babysitter once in a while when Tim and I just need a date night. I think this will be really good for our marriage as well as our girls growing up near some of their extended family. Hopefully not having to travel to Tallahassee will allow us to visit my side of the family in Illinois more often–or *gasp* dare I say, take a vacation that doesn’t involve visiting family.

Overall, I know it’s a good move for our new family of four to be closer to Tim’s parents (they’re newly retired and ready to help), and the sunshine won’t hurt either.

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Last year Maryam from the blog Hi and Hello surveyed daughter Margaux on a series of questions right around the time of her 2nd birthday. I thought it was cute and wanted to steal the idea for myself last year. But, at age 2, I knew Adelaide wouldn’t be able to answer most of the questions. I figured I would get blank stares, and it wouldn’t make for a very interesting blog post. Fast-forward a year and I dug up the list of questions again. Adelaide is incredibly verbal now, so I knew she’d be able to do it. I thought it would be a fun thing to do each year at her birthday to see how her answers change over the years.

15 questions to ask kids on their birthday  |  nextlifechapter.com

 

Here are Adelaide’s Birthday Questions & Answers at age 3:

  1. What’s your favorite toy?  “Baby” (When I followed up with “which baby?” she replied, “Annie,” as in Raggedy Ann.)
  2. What’s your favorite thing to eat for lunch? “At school?” she asked. “Sandwich–peanut jelly sandwich.” (When I prompted her to follow-up with her favorite thing to eat at home, she said, “For dinner? When I wake up? Banana.”)
  3. What’s your favorite TV show?  “Frozen” (She doesn’t really distinguish between tv and movies at this point, and she just got Frozen for her birthday and saw if for the first time this week.)
  4. Who’s your best friend?  “The reindeer” (meaning Sven, the reindeer from Frozen) When I prompted, “Whose your best friend in real life?” she said, “Sadie” (a friend from school).
  5. What’s your favorite thing to play outside?  “The slide. And the balls.”
  6. What’s your favorite thing at bedtime?  “The book. The doggie one.” (When I asked which doggie one she said, “Go Dogs Go.”)
  7. What’s your favorite food?  “At school, Mommy?” she asked. “Anywhere,” I said. “Orange.”
  8. What’s your favorite song?  “Twinkle Little Star”
  9. What’s your favorite movie?  “George” (meaning the Curious George tv show–see above about not differentiating between tv and movies)
  10. What’s your favorite color?  “Green” (holding up the green crayon that happened to be in her hand at the time)
  11. What’s your favorite fruit?  “Pineapple” (which if funny because up until about 2 weeks ago pineapple was about the only fruit she wouldn’t eat)
  12. What’s your favorite snack?  “Goldfish” (crackers, obviously)
  13. What’s your favorite drink?  “Nilk and water,” she said immediately. “And juice!” (I asked her what kind of juice and she said “fruit juice.” Then she added, “I like grape juice.”)
  14. What’s your favorite holiday?  “Princess”
  15. What do you want to be when you grow up?  “A singer”

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new baby announcement  |  nextlifechapter.comIf you follow me on Instagram or Twitter (or have seen me recently) you’ve already heard the news, but our family is very excited to announce we are expecting a baby in early January, 2015. Adelaide is especially enthusiastic to be a big sister. I don’t think she quite understands how long it is until “after Christmas,” but she knows that baby still has a lot of growing to do inside Mommy’s belly.

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Today is my baby girl’s last day of being two years old. She will never be two years old again and this makes me a little sad. I’m excited for her to be three and all that being a three-year-old brings, but it’s been such a fun age. Adelaide’s language and personality really exploded this year. This girl is a talker! From the moment she wakes up in the morning she is all-go Chatty McChatterson. She loves to put on shows, or put a blanket over head and play “wedding” or “princess” or “superman.” She likes singing the ABCs song, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Baa Baa Black Sheep. She makes up her own songs, too.

She likes to take food orders and go pretend grocery shopping (real grocery shopping isn’t quite as fun, but she’s pretty good at that too, as long as we bring a box of raisins or some other snack). She knows her colors and most of her letters and can count to 15 pretty consistently. Sometimes she can count higher, but the numbers start to get mixed up and repeated (eleventeen is my favorite).

She loves the water and although we don’t get to the beach or the pool very often, she takes advantage whenever she can get the chance. Spraypark is definitely part of her vocabulary.

She often gets phone calls (using our remote controls) from Shrek or Princess Ona (Fiona), or from Mom, Dad or her grandparents. Her favorite shows are Sesame Street, Daniel Tiger and Curious George. Dad sometimes lets her watch Adventure Time although much of it is (thankfully) above her head. She loves books and having us read to her. She likes dancing and twirling and playing catch.

Coloring and drawing in her notepad are other favorite pastimes. She’s recently started drawing people with real faces, complete with two eyes, a nose, mouth, even eyebrows! She is very nurturing and often rocks her baby dolls, Grover etc… in her arms, puts them to bed, plays doctor and gives them medicine and shushes them when they’re crying.

Three years ago at this time I was about to go to bed, having no idea this was “the night.” (You can read Adelaide’s birth story here.) She’s the one who made me a mama, and she’s made me smile each and every day since. I love you, my sweet girl. Happy Birthday!

1st birthday | nextlifechapter.com

First birthday party smash cake.

2nd birthday |  nextlifechapter.com

Second birthday party at the spray park.

3rd birthday | nextlifechapter.com

Yesterday’s third birthday party at the spray park.

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Six!

wedding anniversary love letter | http://nextlifechapter.com

Photo by Tammy Bradshaw Photography, November 2013

Today is our six-year wedding anniversary. For those following along at home (or new to this blog), you can review the posts I wrote for our five-year anniversary, four-year anniversary and three-year anniversary. As I said last year, I realize I’m not going to be able to top the previous year’s post every year. I’m not going to be able to summarize my feelings and say something new about marriage every year.

However, this last year has been a meaningful one for Tim and me. It’s been one of the most joyful, as we’ve watching Adelaide go from a nearly two-year-old to a nearly three-year-old. She has so much personality and can have me so frustrated one minute and smiling with pride the next. This has also been one of the most challenging years of my life. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve suffered two miscarriages since we celebrated our anniversary last year. While it’s so easy to feel alone in those situations (as something that happened to me, not something that happened to us), I know that Tim has been right next to me providing support to get through each devastating day. While I know men and women deal with emotional issues differently, I always felt as if he was on my side.

Marriage isn’t easy and this year has shown us the rollercoaster of ups and downs. I tend to get motion sick on rollercoasters and avoid them if possible. But sometimes, they can’t be avoided. There’s no one else I’d rather be on this ride with, and I feel blessed to celebrate this day and every day with my coaster buddy. As I wrote last year, “I know I don’t have to one-up each and every holiday or anniversary post on this blog. But, I think it’s good to pause and remember, to acknowledge where we are in life’s journey and remember how we got here and why.” I’m here because I chose to be here, and I choose it again each and every day.

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Weaning After Age Two  |  http://nextlifechapter.com

My berry-loving, messy-faced “Super Awesome!” girl.

Adelaide is officially weaned. She’s now two and a half years old (or 30 months). As I wrote in this post when she was 25 months, or in this post when she was 19 months, it’s been a slow process.

I let Adelaide wean on her own timeline. As a mom who has worked outside the home full-time since my daughter was 12 weeks old, I’m proud that I was able to nurse exclusively until she was one.  At around 13 months we introduced whole cow’s milk and continued to supplement breast milk with cow’s milk. Then at about 17.5 months I stopped pumping while at work. As my supply dipped and Adelaide’s appetite for “real” food increased, it was natural that she only nursed three times a day and drank cow’s milk the rest. Then she was nursing only twice a day. It was that way for several months–in the morning lying in bed before starting our day and at night in her room in the rocking chair, right before books.

The last couple of months Adelaide’s nursing sessions have become shorter and shorter. I laughed when one day she announced, “empty,” as she patted my breast. Sometimes she seemed a little frustrated that Mommy’s milk supply was low, but it didn’t usually bother her. She still nursed for comfort.

A couple of months ago I stopped offering Mommy’s milk, but Adelaide would almost always ask for it. Each night I tried to pause and savor the moment, to look into her eyes and remember the special bond I felt. Then, nursing started to not be as fun anymore. It wasn’t painful, but it wasn’t as comfortable for me as it used to be. Still, I thought each night might be our last, so I tried to appreciate it.

One night when Adelaide was nursing, I asked her if it was empty and she shook her head no. Apparently, she was still getting something. But the sessions became very short–just a minute or two on each side. The last several weeks, Adelaide stopped asking. I was a little bummed that I couldn’t remember the exact last day, the last moment we nursed together. I thought the date would be something nice to record here and in her baby book, but I was okay. I knew it was time.

Then, on Friday, February 7, I was changing Adelaide into her pajamas when she said “Mommy nilk.” The request caught me by surprise. It had been a week or two since Adelaide had last nursed. If Tim has been around, he probably would have said, “Oh you don’t need Mommy’s milk anymore. You’re a big girl.” But, it was just me and her. I was excited to have one last nursing moment with my girl.

I said okay and Adelaide nursed for maybe 25 or 30 seconds. When I offered to “switch sides,” she sat right up and we switched. Almost immediately she popped back up and climbed down to get books to read. That was it. No grande finale. It was less emotionally climactic than I thought it would be, but in a good way. There were no tears (from her or me). That was it.

 *   *   *

A while ago I ran across an article that reassured my thought process surrounding extended nursing and weaning. The following is an excerpt from Norma Ritter’s post “Thinking About Weaning” at Breastfeeding USA:

…human milk does not suddenly turn to water after a certain length of time! Mothers can nurse their babies for as long as both they and their children wish to continue. Children will wean all by themselves when they are developmentally ready to do so.

Many mothers are surprised to learn that during their baby’s second year (12-23 months), 15 ounces of their milk provides:

  • 29% of energy requirements

  • 43% of protein requirements

  • 36% of calcium requirements

  • 75% of vitamin A requirements

  • 76% of folate requirements

  • 94% of vitamin B12 requirements

  • 60% of vitamin C requirements

Ritter goes on to say:

I’ll bet you have never heard a mother say, ‘I will make him walk by the time he is xxx,’ or ‘I will make him talk by the time he is xxx.’ We KNOW that you cannot make a baby walk or talk before they are ready to do so! All babies are different, and there is no reason to set an exact date. The same goes for weaning; children wean when they are ready.

The article ends with the line, “Remember, you know your baby best, and you know what is best for your family. Trust your instincts, and you won’t go far wrong.” Great advice for all of us.

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Last year, on October 1, Adelaide moved out of the infant room at her daycare and into the young toddler’s room, and I blogged about it here.

This year, on Monday, August 26, Adelaide moved out of that young toddler’s room and up to the two-year-old room. I don’t know what she’s going to do without her Kiki and Saddie. (Kiki was her teacher and Saddie is her friend who is a few months younger and not yet moving up). Adelaide talks about “Kiki Saddie” all the time. As if they are one entity. Kiki Saddie. Kiki Saddie.

Adelaide even has a “Saddie shirt.” (It’s actually the t-shirt with the daycare’s logo on it, but Saddie has one too so she calls it her “Saddie shirt.”)  Adelaide also has a Saddie cup. I’m not sure where that even came from because I’ve talked to Saddie’s parents and while Saddie does have sippie cups (don’t they all?) she doesn’t have one like Adelaide’s “Saddie cup.”

I don’t know if Saddie is just an easy name for a toddler to say, or whether this girl has really made that much of an impact on our daughter. All I know is she seems to have Rock Star status at our house.

It’s not as if Adelaide doesn’t know the kids in the two-year-old room. She’s been going to our daycare three-days-a-week since she was 12 weeks old. Most of the other kids in her class were in her toddler room or even her infant room at one point. Our daycare is so small that Adelaide will still see Kiki and Saddie regularly. They all play together in the morning and during pick-up, and they sometimes do other activities together throughout the day. And, with a late October birthday, Saddie will likely be moving up to the two-year-old room later this year.

Although today was day three of being in her new room, Adelaide walked straight into Kiki’s room when she got to school today. Old habits are hard to break, and I don’t think Adelaide quite understands that she’s not in Kiki’s room anymore. While getting dressed this morning and talking about school, it was all “Kiki Saddie.”

To keep the tradition going, here is the new “first day of school” photo from Monday in addition to the photos from the previous two years. It’s so fun to see how much she has grown and changed (and how long her hair has gotten).

First Day of School | http://nextlifechapter.com

First day of school in the two-year-old room – August 26, 2013

First day of school in the young toddler room - October 1, 2012

First day of school in the young toddler room – October 1, 2012

First Day of School | http://nextlifechapter.com

First day of school in the infant room – October 20, 2011

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Adelaide turned two last Sunday. It was a great weekend. We had a Sesame Street-themed party for her on Saturday at Herron Park Sprayground here in South Philly. She loved it.

Sesame Street Birthday Party | http://nextlifechapter.com

Tim designed the invitation – notice his added touch of the Philly skyline reflected in her glasses.

Back in June I was trying to decide what we wanted to do for Adelaide’s birthday. She loves animals, so I was thinking of something with a circus theme or a zoo theme. I didn’t want to do a bash quite as big as her Moustache First Birthday party last year. That party was really more for us than for her, so we just invited all our friends. This year, we wanted to primarily invite the kids from her class at “school” and their parents, as well as other families we know with kids around her age. With a birthday at the end of July, I knew it would likely be a hot day. Still, I wanted to invite quite a few kids and knew we didn’t have enough room to host it at our house. I tried to find an inexpensive air-conditioned room to rent within the city. I looked into the local parks and thought about having an afternoon BBQ. Finding a park that also had a public restroom was a challenge, and although Adelaide is not yet potty training, I knew several of the kids her age would need a restroom nearby.

Then, when we were in Illinois visiting my parents in mid-June, I saw how much Adelaide loved the Miller Spray Park outside the Miller Park Zoo in Bloomington. During our week vacation, we went there three different times. Back in Philly, a friend mentioned Herron Park and how she thought they had restrooms. So, our first weekend back from vacation, Adelaide and I made a scouting trip to the sprayground to check it out.

I thought it would be perfect.

A few days later I was looking through the book of birthday theme cakes at the local grocery chain when I saw one fitting for an animal theme. Then, we passed a cake with Elmo and Big Bird on it. Adelaide went berzerk yelling “Elmo, Elmo!” I looked to Tim. “I think Adelaide wants an Elmo party.” So, Sesame Street theme it was. Adelaide picked.

Sesame Street Birthday Party | http://nextlifechapter.com

This cake from BJs Wholesale was nice because the plastic cars are something Adelaide could keep and continue to play with later.

We invited everyone from her class at school, everyone from my Saturday playgroup and a few other friends. Including Adelaide, we had 11 kids attend (ages three years to 19 months, most right around age two), the total group including parents was right around 30 people. Several people RSVP’ed late, so I was proud of how smoothly everything went.

I picked up some Elmo plates and napkins at the local party store and the party favor bags of Elmo, Cookie, Bert and Oscar were adapted from something I saw on Pinterest. The project was more time consuming than I had expected (I’m a bit of a perfectionist), but they were a big hit and I think it added a nice personalized element to the party. I filled each bag with a little container of bubbles (also from the party supply store) and a pack of Elmo alphabet cards I found online (using my free one-year trial of Shop Runner for free shipping).

Sesame Street Birthday Party | http://nextlifechapter.com

I think Bert was my favorite.

Everyone loved the location, and I’m glad we brought the tent Tim uses to cover his booth for craft fairs. It provided a little shade for the table with the cake and fruit and for our guests sitting on blankets. The playground is newly renovated so the trees are young and don’t provide much shade yet.

The weather cooperated splendidly. (Did I just write “splendidly”?) It was in the high 80s, but not too hot and not rainy or cloudy. Having the party from 10 am to noon worked out really well too. It maybe was a little strange to eat cake at 11 am before lunchtime, but having the party in the morning meant people weren’t expecting a full lunch and the party didn’t interfere with all the different afternoon nap times. It also meant the sprayground wasn’t yet over crowded. It was pretty perfect if I do say so myself.

Sesame Street Birthday Party | http://nextlifechapter.com

I can hardly believe I’m the mother of a two-year-old.  The terrible twos. The terrific, giggling, twirling twos.

Happy Birthday, my sweet girl.

 Sesame Street Birthday Party | http://nextlifechapter.com

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