Monday, December 12, 2011

Every Day Ayla - Month 11

Well folks, this is it.

The last monthly every day collage. Next month we'll finish off this project with a nice video of a whole year of my baby girl. I can't believe it. All day while editing the pictures, I just kept shaking my head.

Why does it amaze or sadden us when our children grow up? That's what we want, right?

The word of month 11 is "communication." Ayla's language skills have been on the forefront of her development and it's been fun to see her connect things she says or signs to the effect that has. She can now sign "milk," "dog," and "please," and she says "yeah," "ball" (baw) and "kitty" (ity).

She's picking up relational skills, too. She can blow kisses and roll a ball back and forth. She hands me books she wants me to read to her, then either climbs in my lap or sits by me and helps turn the pages. She hugs and kisses her stuffed animals and her balls. She really likes balls. (I know you want to snicker, go ahead. Now get over it.) She loves music and "dances" when she hears it, and by dancing, I mean bouncing up and down. When I'm putting her to bed, she starts to hum because she knows I'm about to sing to her. No word yet on when we'll do our first mother/daughter recording, but you'll be the first to know!

This month, her first tooth finally popped through. My siblings and I didn't get teeth until after our first birthdays, so I suspected she might be a late teether. It's nice to see some result of all these months of drooling, pain and intermittent irritability, but that sucker is sharp!

She's standing more on her own, and enjoys pushing her train-walker around, but still prefers to crawl more than anything. She's becoming quite the climber too, so it looks like more baby proofing is in order.

I started giving her grains this month, but most of her diet is still fruits, beans and veggies. She's kind of a ninja when it comes to picking up and eating food off the floor and since we have a pretty active social life, she gets ample opportunity to sample what her playmates drop. You know, come to think of it, they may be working out some kind of deal with all that screeching and babbling they do. I'll have to look into it.

My goal is to wean her after her birthday, and (officially) introduce meat and dairy then, too. Right now, I'm trying to get her to drink out of sippy cups more regularly so I can keep her hydrated once she's weaned. She likes to drink from straws, and commandeers my water bottle whenever she sees it, but it seems to be more of a novelty and less of a way to actually down liquid.

I'm so proud of this girl. We spent three of the last four weeks with John traveling through three time zones to Colorado, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Texas and South Carolina. She did so well on the planes, in hotel rooms, playing with our friends' kids, playing with her cousins, taking naps pretty much on schedule and wasn't even phased by the time zone changes. Of course, it helped having an extra set of hands. I was totally spoiled!

And of course, she loved being with her daddy. If you've met her, you know she loves everyone. I think that's how she approached him at first, like she does everyone else, but by the end of the three weeks, I'm pretty sure they bonded in a special way. She definitely knows who Dada is, even though she still uses that term indiscriminately. Now when we Skype with him, she gets very excited, waves and starts using all her sign language. It's very cute.

Speaking of cute, here are her last 30 days:

Monday, November 14, 2011

Every Day Ayla - Month 10


This little miss has tons of it. Month 10 has seen Ayla's expressions of will develop, which has been mostly fun and a little frustrating. I see so much of her dad in her face, but so much of my stubbornness and goofiness in her personality.

There hasn't been a huge increase in mobility since last month. She has gotten much stronger. She pulls up on everything, can cruise, but prefers to crawl, and has even stood wobbly on her own (but I'm not really counting it since it's been for like a mili-second). She can climb up stairs, but I usually don't let her because she doesn't have the patience to go down backwards yet. I am not in a hurry for her to walk, but I have a feeling I don't get a say in it.

She uses signs for "more" and "finished" like a pro, and we're starting to work on "please" and several animals. She loves to clap and give high-fives and wave.

I introduced her to the fork and bowl for eating purposes, and she seems to be getting the concept of utensils. The biggest thing I'm working on right now is to teach her not to throw food on the floor. It was definitely a test of wills, but now I just take it as a sign she's finished with that part of her meal, so I'm helping her express that correctly. She does love to eat, and especially try whatever I'm eating. 

I was so excited when she finally started saying "Ma," until I realized she uses it for everything; her favorite cow, when she's upset, me, whatever she's reaching for. But, still. She knows I'm Mama, and when she hasn't seen me for a length of time, she gives the best smile, "up" arms and starts bouncing to come to me. 

She owns my heart and knows it!

Here are her last 31 days.

If you look closely, you can see her hair growing!

(I know I teased you about the next blog in the "how we're doing" series, but we're going to have to take a little blog break to spend time with John for the next few weeks (!!!), then I'll pick it back up.)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

My Digital Marriage

It's rather appropriate that my romantic relationship with John started out with flirting over text messages. That led to hours on the phone while we dated long distance from Northern to Southern Virginia, then from Honduras to Virginia. We got a few video chats in back then, but it was 2004 and Skype was nothing like it is now and Steve Jobs and his crew hadn't given us the iPhone or FaceTime yet.

Now we use text messaging, Vonage, Skype, Google Video chat, FaceTime and Tango, besides old-fashioned emails and cell-phones, to keep us in touch.

"In touch." Hmm, that's funny. 

Because "touch" is exactly what we do not have, even with all these digits and wires.

You want to stay in touch with your family and friends, but is that really the term you want to use in a marriage? "How are you and John?" "Oh, we're really in touch."

Anyway, this is what we have and this is how we use it.

We get to talk on the phone every day and do video calls several times a week. For the first few weeks I only put the camera on Ayla while we talked, but then I thought he should probably be able to see his wife, even if my hair is a mess. I mean, we have been married for six years and he watched me have a baby, I think he can handle a little frizz. (Okay, a lot of frizz)

I am SO grateful for this technology. (I literally cannot state that any more emphatically, as I used all the basic editing features blogger gives us.) I know many couples with one spouse away don't have the luxury of reliable/constant communication we have, in years past and even today. However, being separate does present challenges to a marriage that can't be ignored without affecting the long-term health of the relationship, and can't be solved merely by using digital communication.

Here are a few main challenges we've encountered in our years of long-distancing (yep, just made that term up) and the work we try to do to stay in front of them:

1) Challenge: Bringing the other person into your world without overburdening them with too much detail or leaving them with not enough information.

Work: Understanding we are living separate lives for the time being and respecting the other person's immersion in their world. I understand that John is working for most of the day and for the few precious moments we talk, that's not what he wants to talk about. He understands that I want to know how he is beyond "good," or "tired," so he tries to think of elements of his work life that would be interesting to me. He'll tell me about the people he works with, the office dynamics, how he feels about a project he's spearheading, and so on. He understands that most of my day is filled with Ayla, and most of what I have to talk about revolves around her. I try to think of more than just her diapers or naps to tell him about. I work to communicate about her in a way that he can stay connected without adding to the weight he's already bearing by being away. We don't have a formula for this, I'm telling you, it's hard work!

2) Challenge: Making the time on the phone/video-chat count.

Work: Letting each day be what it is. Some days, we just don't have much to say, so we just say Hi, I miss you, I love you, talk to you tomorrow. Some days we have to discuss "business" (house stuff, money stuff, car stuff, etc.), so we put that up front. It's not all romantic and deep thoughts. But we have learned that we need those deep talks, too, so we plan and prepare for them. If we have serious relationship issues to discuss, we have to first see if it's something that would be better in person and if it will wait, we table it. If it can't wait, I try to give him heads up that this is something I'd like to talk about in the next few days and see if he'd like to work it out in email or on the phone. I think the key here is being intentional and flexible, and applying lots of grace and consideration for the other person.

3) Challenge: Staying connected spiritually.

Work: Being connected to the Source. I believe we are covered in so much grace for this, but it's still a work on our parts to be submitted to God, live as a citizen of His Kingdom in our respective days and to listen to His voice. This is the hardest challenge, by far, and the most necessary to work at. We try to share about what we're learning from what we're reading or listening to, burdens for prayer, questions we're asking, or stuff we're struggling with. Of course, we can't do any of that if we're not practicing any type of spiritual discipline, which is challenging for everyone (and why it's called a discipline!). I know that I can't do his spiritual work for him, but if I do mine, it benefits him because I'm a healthier person.

I'm sure you've realized the same thing I have in discussing these challenges, that they're the same in same-place marriages! I believe this work is essential for health in any marriage, and we absolutely have to put these things into practice wherever we are.

For people in our situation, though, the need is amplified because we don't have the benefit of touch, of lounging on the couch after a long day's work, or the time together in the car or during a meal. It's not enough for us to just think how wonderful it is that we have Skype or that we get to talk every day, because those things can actually become burdens if we're not working on the relationship that these technologies help connect.

We haven't perfected this by any means. It's still hard and frustrating. It sucks to have to hit "End," and that really be it until the next conversation. But, I think even just being aware of these challenges keeps us proactive against sliding down the easier road of growing apart.

So, I was trying to think of something funny or light-hearted to close with because I feel I got a bit serious up there. (John, you'll just have to forgive me for this.) I have gotten a big kick out of seeing my incredibly strong, manly husband use text lingo like "omg, lol and !!!" these past few months. It seems, even in digits, marriage can be a delightful surprise!

(Next up: I am what I swore I'd never be)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

How to tell it- Side Two

(See Side One here)

I am a hoarder.

Of people.

Seriously, I have more people in my life who love me and whom I love than any one person should be allowed to have.

Just for example, my thank-you list for baby gifts is 74 people long. I don’t know the average, (I could make something up) but that seems really high to me!

These are people who when I asked if someone knew a teenager I could hire to weed my yard, snuck over to do it before I even woke up (a colonel's wife, no less!). Who show up at church with a Starbucks frappuccino for me, just because they were thinking I might need one. (I did!) Who hear that my baby is sick and offer to make me some chicken soup. Who beg to watch Ayla for me so I can go run errands or go out with other people.

(sounds like someone's primary love language has become acts of service)

The people who are related to me, either by genetics, marriage or choice (you know, the fremily type, not to be confused with frenemy) are the dream team of a family. They believe in me, encourage me and forgive far more than you can imagine. (well, several of you reading this are in this category, so I guess you actually can imagine)

This people-hoarder phenomenon became apparent to me in John’s absence. When he was here, after we'd spend time with friends, we used to look at each other and say, “We know the best people in the world!” I had no idea how true that was until this year.

I don't think you really know how good your friends are until you need them.

I think his absence also paints a sort-of target on me that makes me more visible to others, more a subject needing friendship and support. I haven't always been super comfortable being on the receiving end of that, but I am learning the joy of being receptive to such things.

Because he’s gone, I’ve been able to travel across town and across country with Ayla to visit lots of these people. I've stayed in your homes, eaten your food, thrown poopy diapers away in your trashcans. I marvel at the friendships that have seemingly bloomed from nowhere (like a Craigslist ad) and others that flourish under newly-available intentionality.

Every night when I put Ayla to bed, I start our prayer by thanking God for the people we've been able to see or talk to that day. And almost every day since John's been gone, one of your names have come across my lips. 

“Wait a minute!” you’re thinking. “Why is she talking about people when she’s supposed to be talking about the other side of the coin today?”

This IS the other side of the coin. On this side there is an image of me (still holding the drooling baby girl) surrounded by this great cloud of iron witnesses/supporters/cheerleaders.

I am not alone.

Oh, and I have an amazing daughter.

This may have been selfish of us, but we prayed for an easy baby. God went over and above that with her. I know He gave us the daughter we needed and threw in a bunch of features to bless others as well. She is healthy, sweet, funny, outgoing and pretty stinking cute.

I write about her more than anything else, so I won’t belabor it here, but my gratitude that I get to spend all day most days with this precious gift pulses through me as steadfastly as my own blood.

(Ok, maybe I will write just a little bit more about her)
I do dread the day in the future when she doesn’t think I’m the greatest thing in the world. When she’s too cool for me, when I embarrass her, when she knows more than I do, when I disappoint or fail her, you know, when she’s a teenager. I don’t think anything I do this year or ever will guarantee we will always have a perfect relationship. What I do know is that this is a special time. These days, even without John, are gifts. I feel like the luckiest person on the planet.

And of course, there’s God. 
(my atheist readers will just have to skip ahead)

At the end of John’s gospel he wrote that if each thing that Jesus had done on the earth were to be written about, the world could not contain all the books. I know he’s using hyperbole to make a point, but I can relate terms of recording what God is doing in me during this separated year. I don’t know how much of it I will be able to or want to write about.

What I can tell you now is that He is here.

He is loving. He is active. He is in control. He is generous and comforting. What I know most of all, though, right now, is that He is here.

So on one side of the coin there is Absence and on the other there is all this


I can’t be thankful for just one side and hate the other. It is all the same thing.

Of course, what I have in Presence with me will remain when John is home. But my sense of these Presences is heightened because of his absence.

Joy and pain, gratitude and sorrow. These are not opposites. They are notes in a chord. Threads of a cord. They are inseparable and necessary for me this year.

This is how I am doing. 

I am okay. I miss John. I am blessed.

(Join me tomorrow for My Digital Marriage.)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How to tell it- Side One

Their eyes would find me. They’d stop what they were doing to come close.

Voices dropped, nearly whispered,

“How are you do-ing?”

You know the scene.  You were probably in it.

The first few weeks after John left, I started to dread this scene because it happened all the time. Several times a day, sometimes, when I was in a group.

In a group of friends. Who love me. Who were there for me. Who were there for me when I cried.

Which is what I did every time someone asked me that.

(Can I just tell you, I hate crying in front of people!)

It wasn’t that I was doing so horrible at that moment that tears just burst out. It was that talking about it, making the words come out--which made it even more real than just living it--was hard.

Hell, (can I say that here?) living it was hard. Trying to express myself in a soundbite was hard enough to make me cry.

“I’m ok. I miss him,” I’d choke out.

And then quickly laughing to break the sadness of the moment, adding “But we’re good. We’re so blessed.”

I get about here in telling this story and I vacillate. There are two parts of the story to tell. It’s a well-worn coin twisted round and round between my fingers, dropped on the floor, lost in pockets, but always there, each side as real as the other.

On one side is an image of me with empty arms. Well, one arm is actually full of a baby girl who probably has some piece of me or her in her mouth. 

(But, see, even there I am showing you part of the other side already.)

It’s important to tell this, though. I doubt I’ll ever forget it, but this, as hard and not-awesome as it is, is part of the fabric. Like the tearful-but-beautiful years of infertility, this time isn’t something to be rushed through or just “hung in there.”

I do miss my John. Severely. I do feel quite empty without him.

My life is supposed to have him in it, he’s supposed to be here in this house, with me. He’s supposed to come home at the end of the day and kiss me. He’s supposed to help me unload the groceries from the car. He’s supposed to be standing by me at church and slip his arm around me and squeeze my shoulder and in that, tell me everything.

I clench and flex my fists, trying to work the pain of emptiness away. I squeeze my eyes shut tight, because maybe when I open them this will be over. I try to mute that track that plays over and over, screaming in my mind,

“I don’t like this! I want him here! This isn’t right!”

I hold our daughter and ache for him not being able to do the same.  

You can’t look at Ayla for very long without smiling, though, and as my mouth turns up, that coin starts its rotation again.

(Tune in tomorrow for Side Two)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Some blogs about how we're doing

Hi there. I know, I know, it's been a while since you've seen a post up in here.

I stop blogging for a few weeks and my home state has record-breaking earthquakes. Andy Rooney went off the air, then died (uh, maybe I should take that as a lesson...?). Some kouple got married AND divorced. And some other stuff happened too, I think.

I also realized there's a certain topic missing from what I've written about lately. John's been gone almost five months and I haven't really talked about how we're doing.

It's hard for me to articulate. I'm going to write about it, though, because 1) I need to write to get some of this processed, 2) I wouldn't be worth my salt as a writer if I can't communicate the tough stuff like this, and 3) he's coming back for his first three-week break next week and you know I won't be blogging while he's here!

When we were planning for this year apart, I thought one of the things I would do superlatively more of is write. I thought about starting a separate blog just to deal with the topic of long-distance marriage and parenting. I'm sure there are plenty of military spouse and single parenting type of blogs, but I don't read any of them and I thought our experiences this year would make for some pretty interesting reading.

Instead of doing that, I'm just being. I'm being a single-ish mom. I'm being a long-distance wife. I'm being a friend.

I'm taking pictures of and writing a little about my baby, but part of what I haven't really been being is a writer. And I really want to be a writer.

So, I'm turning back to the digitized version of the blank, potential-filled legal notepad and sharpened pencil and turning thoughts into words and phrases. I'm going to share a little bit about what life has been like for us in the past few months over the coming week. I hope you'll join me.

(I'm not going to put all the links to these posts on Facebook and Twitter, so please either follow or subscribe so you don't miss any. Thanks.)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dreams come. True.

Sometimes I read about dreams:
 following your dreams
  dreaming big
   daring to dream

and I wonder 

Whatever happened to my dreams?
Have I completely forgotten about them?
Am I waiting for something to change or just happen 
for them to come to pass?
Am I using my gifts and talents,
or are they getting moldy
underneath piles of burpcloths
or lost in the kitchen sink
with the soggy remains
of a baby's "dinner?"
And then I hear myself
 in the middle of singing 
   the twentieth song 
    I've made up that day
     for my baby daughter

and I realize

(rock star. mom.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Every Day Ayla - Month 9

If I felt like she grew fast in months past, I feel like she added turbo boost this month. Some skills she developed this month are:
-pincer grasp
-opening and closing things (like the toy laptop in the pictures above)
-understands "no," but doesn't always obey (yet!)
-pulls up to knees
-pulls up to feet (yesterday!)
-beginning to cruise
-eating with spoon (assisted)
-rolling ball
-blowing through mouth
-sticking out her tongue (I keep laughing at her, so she keeps doing it)

Speaking of her tongue, this month she discovered licking. She still has no teeth and still puts everything in her mouth and chews on most everything, but she now also licks it. My mother-in-law told me that babies experience the world mostly through their mouths and fingers, and I've seen this in that she wants to touch and feel everything.

Then there's my face. So the licking and the touching, and my face. I think I need my full-face helmet!

We have been having so much fun trying different foods and adding seasonings like cinnamon and cumin to it. For mushy things like hummus or applesauce, I put a little on a spoon and hand it to her to put in her mouth. She gets it in there, then "hands" the spoon back for more. We're still working on that part of it, but she seems to enjoy eating like Mommy does. She says something like "na na na" when she sees food and is getting impatient to eat. We're also working on the signs for "more" and "finished," but she gets her point across! She hasn't met many foods she doesn't like, but she won't give white-flesh potatoes or cauliflower the time of day.

As you know, sleep is always a moving target (pun intended, see last blog). We dropped the 3rd nap and moved bedtime up to 6:30. That seems to be working well, and even if she goes down later, she's still up around 6 to eat. Since yesterday, when she learned how to stand up in her crib, she has just done that instead of taking her morning naps. I'm hopeful the novelty will wear off soon and she'll get back together with it. They were really cute together.

We went for her 9-month check-up today and here are the stats:
Weight-17lb 6.5oz (25th percentile)
Length-26.5in (25th percentile)
Head circumference-mumbled and jotted down by doctor, but not heard by mommy (so, perfect)

Our doctor said it's not unusual for babies' growth to slow down when they get mobile and that Ayla was healthy and developing well, so she had no concerns. Well, that's not exactly true. She was concerned about how wet the ear pieces of her stethoscope were after Ayla gave them a thorough oral inspection. (I know--gross. What can I do, though, she's so cute!)

She talks, laughs and sings all the time. I think she knows her name and she always smiles really big when we talk about Daddy. She gets to talk to him on Skype or FaceTime a few times a week, and hears his voice whenever he calls when she's awake. She loves looking at pictures of him in her chewable picture book and started beaming when she saw a picture of us in the living room.

I have since moved the picture, it was a little too tempting there.
Look, I know I'm biased, but she is one of the happiest, well-mannered babies I've ever met. I have confirmation of this from everyone who spends time with her, from the ladies in the gym nursery to the ladies in the church nursery. Well, I guess that's just nursery workers. But I'll take their word for it!

I'm so blessed that she's my daughter and most days I feel like the luckiest person in the world! Here are the last 30 days:

PS- Notice how awesome the "9" pictures at the top and the every-day picture from 4 days ago are? They were taken by my friend, the talented Ginny Filer and are part of her 9-month photo shoot. You can see the rest here, and like her page on Facebook. I cannot recommend her strongly enough for all of your photography needs!

Monday, October 10, 2011

My Nightly Entertainment

I posted a status on Facebook a while back saying something to the effect of, "I love watching my daughter discover the world around her. Who needs TV?"

Of course, this was back before all my friends shows came back on. 

One of my friends jokingly said I was watching "Ayla TV." When she started crawling, I borrowed a video monitor, so now I have a literal Ayla TV to watch alongside my other one.

Since my last blog was a question about her sleep, I thought I'd bridge from that to what's coming on Wednesday (her 9 months of every day pics, just in case you couldn't guess) by sharing what's entertaining me tonight.

And. She's. Out.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A sleep question

I was going to post this as a status on Facebook for my tribe there to chime in, but it would've been way too long. I hope they/you will still comment here or there so everyone can get the benefit of my awesome readers' collective wisdom.

First, before my question, a little about Ayla's sleep habits.

She's typically a good sleeper. I put her down awake, but sleepy and she goes to sleep on her own. She doesn't need any type of swing, vibration, blanky, stuffed animal, just her pacifier. She sleeps for about 10-11 hours at night (I'm working with her to get it to 12, but I'm happy with 11!), and takes three naps a day, usually for an hour or longer. So, pretty easy as that goes.

Lately, though, it takes her no less than 40 minutes to actually go to sleep from when I put her down. She plays (throws her pacifier around and crawls around to get it, pulls up, rolls/crawls around, does yoga, whatever), talks and just minimally fusses for that time, and when she finally falls asleep it's like she's just run out of batteries. The only time I go in to intervene is when her distressed cry tells me she's thrown the pacifier outside of the crib and I go replace it with no interaction. If she sees me, she thinks it's time to get up and play.

I thought I could read her signs of sleepiness to even start putting her down; yawning, rubbing eyes, getting still and quiet, and so on. I've started a pre-nap ritual to signal it's time to sleep, not play. It doesn't matter if she nurses or not.  I can't find any factors to change anymore than I have. It's pretty consistently 40 minutes.

So, what do you think?
-Is this 40 minutes excessive, normal, just a phase?
-Am I putting her down too soon or too late in the sleepiness window?
-Is this one of those things where every baby is different and I should just roll with it?

Before you answer, please consider:
-I don't need recommendations for a book to read, just your experience-based advice! (thanks!)
-I've read and am reading Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child and basically agree with the philosophies therein.
-She does not sleep in my arms as a general rule. I wish she would. Very rarely she'll fall asleep after nursing, but only for a few minutes, then it still takes 40 minutes to go to sleep.

This is her right now. Run right out of steam!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Every Day Ayla - Month 8 (a few days late)

As I was going through the pictures for this month's every day collage, I noticed that too many of them were blurry. It wasn't intentional, but it does represent our month of traveling through 11 cities in three states and that she never stops moving because now

She's crawling!!

There, that's about it for this month's update. (Ha ha!) (But seriously..)

While we were in Tulsa last month, my sister-in-law, Victoria (Solo's mom), showed Ayla how to get from rocking on all fours to sitting position. The day after that she was doing it like a pro, and the day after that she was crawling. Like it was no big deal. She likes being mobile, and is already starting to try to pull up! 

She's doing great with self-feeding, having expanded her repertoire to seasoned or flavored food (veggies pulled out of curry, lo mein, sandwiches, whatever I'm eating). To my absolute delight, she LOVES hummus and guacamole. It's a little hard for her to eat since she wants to feed herself and doesn't know how to use a spoon yet, but we get it in there! 

I got her a sippy cup, but she pushed it out of the way in preference for my water bottle, so we went straight to using a straw. She has her own "water bottle" now.

Last month, we started using cloth diapers, G Diapers, to be exact. I really like them. I'm not sure what Ayla thinks of them, just that she thinks every time she's getting her diaper changed is a chance to twist herself into unimaginable contortions and test mommy's patience!

As babies tend to do, she changes and develops new and better skills every day. I'm sure she's changed even while I've been typing this!

Here are her every day pictures for her eighth month:

PS. Have you seen Solo's video yet? Want to watch it again?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Even a hero needs help sometimes

First, hello!

How have you all been?

I know it's been a little quiet around here, but that's mostly because I haven't been in much of a quiet setting lately. Ayla and I have been on a whirlwind tour of Texas, Oklahoma and now California. So far, we've been with all of her grandparents, cousins, uncles and all but one of her aunts.

(I know, I owe you tons of pictures.)

It's actually one of those cousins I'm thinking about today. If you've been here a while, you know all about Solomon. He's my brother's current youngest son and is turning 4 next week. 

You know what? Written words aren't going to suffice here. Would you take a few minutes and watch this video?

Just a little bit about his special school. The Little Light House provides him and his friends a completely specialized education worth about $30,000 a year for exactly no cost to their families. They are able to do this because of generous donors, since they receive no funding from the government.

Their big fundraiser of the year is coming up on Sept 24, and we all get to participate! Exciting, right?

So, here's what you do:
1) Watch the video (again)
2) Go to Solomon's page and sponsor him
3) Share the video

Last year's video got more than 5,500 views and we blew their fundraising goal out of the water.

Are you ready to do it again? If you don't have any money, that's ok. You can still help by forwarding this blog or just the video on to everyone you know. Thanks!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Every Day Ayla - Month 7

(You saw this coming, with all the seven related posts I was doing, right?) (and also because you knew today is the 12?)
I know we used the blue flower in last month's pics, too, but it just went so well with her outfit today!

My little girl continues to be a delight, and is slowly upping the ratio of challenge to fun, but it's all good. Just when I think I know what I'm doing, she changes things up, so I'm trying to learn to just roll with it.

Her current skills are getting up on all fours and rocking, easily rolling over both ways, scooting backwards on purpose, and sitting without props. I even found her sitting in her crib one day, which means she got that way by herself, but she hasn't repeated the trick yet.

The self-feeding is going well. Cucumbers seem to be her favorite right now, as well as any sweet fruit, although I have given her sweet potatoes, red potatoes, avocados and green beans which she has tolerated.

She mostly just plays with the food, but she manages to get some of everything in her mouth and, eh hem, um, evidence suggests that it's making it through her system. I'm more or less following the guidelines here for a timeline of introducing different foods to her. She's still nursing 5 times a day, and tracking right along with the 50th percentile for her age for weight and height, so I'm not too concerned about her actually eating food yet.

She has discovered that she can make noise by banging things together, so she's added that to what she does to almost everything as well as still putting it in her mouth. I haven't seen any teeth yet, but she seems to be working hard on it every day.

She's still very social, and seems to especially like big kids and men. I have started putting her in the nursery at church and they love her there. We also have moved her "up" to a rear-facing convertible car seat, which has been 99% fuss-proof. I'm just wondering why I didn't do this sooner!

Oh, and if you saw the video I posted a few days ago you already know this, but the absolute best thing right now is the kisses! She both initiates and complies to requests for kisses, which are all open mouth and drooly, but wonderful and sweet! I'm sure baby saliva is good for the complexion, right?

Well, that's about it. Here's my girl!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

7 things to do when you're feeling wobbly

1) Cry

2) Write down a few things you're thankful for

3) Pray for (or think about) someone else going through a hard time

4) Do something for someone else

5) Read the news to widen your view of the world

6) Read something old (the Bible, poetry) to deepen your view of time

7) Smile

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

7 things Ayla will thank me for

reading/watching/listening to. (that's the full title, but it seemed too long to put in the title box.)

Here are a few things (in no particular order) I've found online that I do believe help or have helped me to be an awesome mom (so far):

Hilarious mommy blog 

This blog is like the blog-world version of chips and salsa for me. In other words, I can’t get enough of it! The two moms who write it are witty, sarcastic as all get out, a little irreverent and champions for everything you wish you could say, but they just say it better.

Awesome mommy podcast

These three moms from Tulsa have a wealth of knowledge, advice and humor that obviously have served them well as they raise a total of 10 kids from 3 different countries. The podcasts run a little long, usually about an hour, but I find myself literally laughing out loud and talking back to them, as if they can hear me ‘cause we’re all just sitting around having coffee! They also have a Facebook fan page, so you can join that and discuss to your heart’s content!

Totally addicting sales website/email

Unlike the plethora of sales and brands on Zulily, this site offers just two deals a day, at 9am and 9pm MDT. They only send out an email for the 9am deal, so as not to crowd your inbox. I have liked them on Facebook, too, so I see the evening deal as soon as they post it. This is where I get the adorable Baby Legs leg warmers everyone compliments Ayla on. All the goods are handled through Google checkout, so it’s really easy to order, even from my mobile browser and they usually ship it out that day. (I mean, FOUR Aden+Anais swaddle blankets for $27.99? Come on!!)

Inspiring, influential pieces:

Sarah Kay’s “If I should have a daughter”

This TED talk was sent to me by my wonderful mother-in-law. The whole video is just over 18 minutes long, and it’s all good, but the title poem is in the first 3:41 minutes. I could watch it over and over! (and have, actually!)

Tina Fey’s “Prayer for My Daughter”

Do I really need to explain why this is one of my favorites? Most of the websites which posted it say it is from her book, Bossypants, but since I haven’t read the book yet (sorry, BFF, I’ve been a bit busy!) I can’t verify that. There are a few PG-13ish words in it, so don’t read it out loud to your parroting children.

Ann VosKamp’s “a prayer for a daughter”

I’ve posted about her before, but she’s just that good, I had to use her again!

Lacey Keigley’s view on big families

I don’t think I’ve mentioned Lacey's blog yet, but she’s one of my favorites. Her family of six kids is a mix of adopted and birthed children. This post resonates with me, partly because I always wanted to have a ton of kids and partly because even if I don’t, I want to raise the ones I get with the essential lesson she writes about here.

 And, you're welcome, baby girl, you're welcome! 
Modeling the Baby Legs, mastering the pop-up animals

PS. Happy Birthday to my niece Princess Avrah, who has been blazing the way for princesses in our family for five years! I love you! (Blog her mommy wrote for her today) (Blog I wrote for her two years ago)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My 7 Celebrity BFFs

There's a scene in in the movie, Notting Hill, where Hugh Grant's character's sister meet's Julia Roberts' character (a movie star named Anna) and gushes over her saying something like, "I've always felt that we would be best friends if we ever got to know each other."

I can totally relate! Y'all know how awesome I am at actually meeting celebrities, but I still suffer the delusions that I would actually be friends with some of them if we ever had the chance to get to know each other.

Here are my top 7 (in no particular order):

Julia, of course

Tina Fey
Amy Poehler

Ellen DeGeneres

Jennifer Garner

Christina Applegate
How about you? Have you ever thought about this, even? Do I totally have too much time on my hands?

Just try not to smile

She was blowing raspberries and squealing at the curtain until I turned the camera on her. Can a baby be vain? Let's just call it strong self esteem!
(And I just love the way she kisses me now, which you can briefly see!)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Ayla Look-Alikes Revealed

Today has been so hot, it's time for something cool! (hardy-har-har)

Did you see Monday's post about the Ayla look-alikes? If not, go check it out and make your guess before coming back here to see who is who.

I asked people to comment on which match-up was the most similar and also to guess which three were NOT blood relatives. Only a few people took on the second part of the challenge, and none of them got it right.

However, 100% of the people who selected a match picked the same one!

Here's the big reveal:

My awesome friend, Jen.
(I don't have any pictures of her holding Ayla, but she does--
all the time!)

Her Daddy, of course
My long-time friend, Kari, was the hands-down winner.
We have been told several times we look like sisters.
I take that as the highest compliment.
Yours truly! (Christina, you were right!)
Her Aunt Kim (John's sister)

Her little gal-pal, Charissa, who is two weeks younger

So, what have we learned from this? 

That when people say "She looks just like you," they really mean, "She looks just like your friend, Kari!"

(And I'm ok with that!) 

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My Parenting Philosoph-ease

When Ayla was two months old, I told John I was going to blog about what I was doing as a mother to get such an awesome baby. I had many friends expecting their first babies as well, and I thought I would do them a service by offering my wisdom gained from my vast parenting experience.

He suggested I maybe wait until she was six months old, just to make sure she was still an awesome baby (and still alive) and then it would probably be okay to offer my wisdom.

(Yeah, so he's really the wise one in this parenting partnership, but this is my blog, so there!)

Henceforth, she is six months old and still alive and still an awesome baby, thusly shall I share my wisdom.  Do you have a pen and paper to take copious notes?

But for real, I am so glad I didn't try to write about this back then because almost everything I would've said then wouldn't be what I would say now. So, I'm not really going to try to offer advice, but I think it's safe to share some of my philosophies because those haven't changed so much.

(I don't know if I even need this disclaimer, but just in case: I don't think this is the best or only "correct" way to think about these things, they are just the way I think about them, so take them for whatever that is worth to you! Thanks!)

Two questions or scenarios I try to think about when researching, then choosing a method for anything baby-related are:
1) What do mothers or families in other parts of the world do about ____, especially those without the same access to the resources and information I have?
2) What have mothers or families in generations past done about _____, ditto?

(And really, I think about these two aspects of just about everything in life, not just when it comes to parenting.)

I have found these questions help to broaden my perspective from what this or that blog or website or currently much recommended or much loathed book says to do or not to do. I don't get so wrapped around a certain method or style, because in the back of my mind I'm thinking, "There are about a billion people in India and I doubt many of them have read or heard this _____, so it must not be as complicated or absolute as this _______ is making it seem."

Now, of course, I am SO grateful for the knowledge of those gone before and that of my peers, the access to the amazing resources I am blessed to be able to use and so on. And obviously, we (our society/generation) are doing a better job in general at keeping our babies alive, so I'm not kicking it all to the curb. It's just that the American Medical Association recommends different things than the Australian or British version of the same. So, since they/we didn't invent childbirth or child-rearing, and mothers and families have been doing it pretty successfully for as many centuries as you believe this earth is old, I just keep those two "filters" on and go from there.

That wasn't too bad, now, was it? I have a few other thoughts I'll pepper in amongst the Ayla pictures and single-ish-mom stories, too, and I hope to have you along for the ride.

What are your thoughts on these or other philosophies? Are they even really philosophies? Is there a better word for them? Were you hoping I'd put at least one Ayla picture in this blog?

Ok, here.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Who does she look like?

One of the fun (or "fun") things about having a baby is other people's comments about who he or she looks like. We try to see if they look like their mom or dad. There's the inevitable comparisons to grandmas or grandpas or other blood relatives.

What I did not expect is that people who are not related to me think Ayla looks like they did, even to the point of sending me baby pictures to prove it. So, I have a little poll or guessing game for you.

Here are a selection of these comparisons, in no particular order, "Ayla-look-alike?" on the left and Ayla on the right.

Leave me a comment with which letter you think looks the most like her, and then, try to guess which three are NOT related to her by blood. But, here's the deal. My mom and mother-in-law, and brothers and sisters, and the "look-alikes" themselves will know more about who's who than most, so if that's you, please don't give it away for everyone! Maybe just wait until I reveal who's who on Friday.

Until then, happy voting!

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