Sunday, August 24, 2014

What We Did This Summer

Tomorrow Annabelle will be sixteen months old, so stay tuned for some photos and an update later this week.  It has been a busy and exhausting summer, so I'm sorry that I haven't kept everyone up to date.  Here is a quick update on what we've done:

Ate dinner out for Sophie's birthday.

Ate decadent chocolate cupcakes at our dear friend and former babysitter Miss Jane's wedding.

Did lots of fun crafts at the library.

Read books together.

Visited Keegan's cousin and her family at Topsail Beach.

Took a trip to Busch Gardens with cousin Sammy.

Visited the doctor - but at least we had a smile while we were there!

Rode Sophie's birthday bike, complete with doll seat and chalk holder for making chalk trails.

Played at the neighborhood playground.  This is Sophie's impression of a summer snowman!

Picked blueberries (and did lots of other things) with Sophie's best friend Portia.

Watched TV together.

Took ballet for the first time.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Happy Birthday, Sophie!

We had Sophie's fourth birthday party at the pool today. She shared her party with two other girls from her class at school. Portia's birthday is today, and Sianna's is two days after Sophie's. It was cool and overcast, but the rain and thunder stayed away. 

I had such a great time taking Anbabelle in the pool, chatting with my friends, and watching Sophie enjoy her friends and family. 

I can't believe little Sophie will be four in less than two weeks!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

New Skills

Look what Sophie can do!

She has been very resistant to going underwater, but a little peer pressure from her best friend did the trick. She was so thrilled and had so much fun looking at everyone's legs and feet underwater. 

Annabelle has also been enjoying the pool. 

She loves to ride in her float, to suck pool water off the float (gross!), and to be bounced in and out of the water. 

On Father's Day, she also tried out the swing,

the slide,

and Daddy's shoulders. 

We are so thrilled that she is enjoying life more this summer than last summer, which was the Summer of Reflux.

Also, I caught her this week pushing her wipes box off the changing table and swiping her lotion off the changing table, giggling with glee both times. We are in so much trouble. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Annabelle's Thirteen-month Update

Well, it hasn't been too long since my last Annabelle update, so this will be brief.  In the past two weeks, Annabelle has continued to hone her rolling and sitting skills.  At therapy last week, she was able to sit completely independently for thirteen seconds.  It doesn't sound like much, but it's a starting point.  I was also thrilled that during her thirteen-month photo session, she was able to sit for a short time propped up in the Boppy pillow, which she hasn't been able to do before.

Yay, Annabelle!
I think Annabelle's understanding of the world is improving.  Mom and I have both noticed that she is "helping" when we get her dressed now.  She straightens her arms to put them through her sleeves, Mom said she pulled a sleeve down yesterday, and I could have sworn she pulled her onesie down off her face this afternoon.  She shakes her head yes and no all the time, sometimes at appropriate times in the conversation, although that may be chance.  And tonight, before eating, Mom signed "eat" (putting your hand to your mouth), and Annabelle put her hand to her mouth in imitation!  Annabelle's first sign!  Also, she has been turning pages in her board books.  I get it started for her, and then when she is able to get her little fist under the page, she pushes it over to get to the next page.

Eating is still a struggle.  Anything with a texture lumpier than applesauce is highly suspect to Annabelle, and sucking things off the spoon is the preferred method of eating.  But she seems to enjoy eating a great deal and always smiles excitedly when we sign eat and show her the spoon.  I'm really hoping that some oral skills will click with her in the next couple months.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

My Girls the Movie Stars

The girls have been extra adorable lately, so I wanted to share some of their antics.

Annabelle is getting more and more engaged with her world, especially with her beloved birthday balloon.

She is also starting to understand that she can imitate (and maybe even communicate through?) gestures, which is so exciting I can barely stand it.

Not to be outdone, Sophie has been really into music lately.  She and her friend Portia treated us moms to a concert yesterday.

All this activity is exhausting!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Annabelle's One-Year Update

Annabelle is a year old!  She continues to make great strides towards some big milestones.  She has been rolling with greater success, both from back to tummy and tummy to back.  Her supported sitting is improving by leaps and bounds, although if you take the support away, she immediately scoots her bottom out from under herself.  Our physical therapist hypothesizes that she may be a scooter rather than a crawler, but we shall see.  Actually, today was the first time that crawling was mentioned as a goal on the horizon, which is super exciting!

Annabelle's vision has noticeably improved recently.  She seems to be able to see and to be more interested in objects further away.  For example, when I hold her and other people come over to say hi, she will look at them.  Before, she would not focus on things outside of about a foot away from her face, so this is big progress.  Her hand-eye coordination has improved correspondingly.  She can now reach for a hanging toy with purpose and grab it.  She loves looking at books, and pats every page energetically and with laser-like focus.  Sometimes it even looks to me like she is trying to turn the page, although she is not able to do that yet unless I help her.  It must be close to a year ago that I was crying in the NICU thinking that Annabelle might be blind and never able to look at books.  Obviously, we are very glad that that NICU ophthalmologist was wrong!

We are making slow progress with solid foods.  We are still working on purees.  Anything with a slightly lumpier texture is unlikely to pass muster with Annabelle, although she does try almost anything.  We've been experimenting with pureeing chunky soups and rice and with fruit combinations, and she has been accepting most everything we try.  She is eating about twice as much at a sitting (up to two teaspoons!), and can deal with bigger spoonfuls (more than one molecule at a time!).  So I am encouraged, although it doesn't look like we will forego the feeding tube any time soon.

Another encouraging skill is that Annabelle is very responsive now to imitation games and will imitate some sounds and gestures.  She has learned to nod her head yes, with much concentration, and she loves to give kisses, which is about the cutest thing you'll ever see.  She has not started babbling yet, and I am a little afraid that she will not have the mouth control or coordination to speak.  But I am trying to be patient.  And she is certainly motivated to communicate - she makes all kinds of cooing sounds, clucks her tongue when she wants kisses, and kicks her legs delightedly when instructed to "run, run, run."

Annabelle's birthday was spent with a surprise visit to the hospital with a horrible chest cold, which turned out to be pneumonia.  She was a trooper and went home the next day after a full regimen of breathing treatments and antibiotics.

Cool as a cucumber in the hospital.
The day after her birthday we had an impromptu barbecue celebration, and we were able to get some birthday photos.

Annabelle's slinky party was moved back to this past weekend, and we had a wonderful time.  We are so lucky to have made such wonderful, supportive friends here.  Annabelle enjoyed her birthday balloons, her first taste of chocolate ice cream, and playing with Grandma while Mommy enjoyed chatting with her friends, Sophie ran amok with the other kids, and Daddy played cornhole outside with the guys.

More chocolate!  MORE!
So proud of her sitting!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Runner Again

I have been running since I was ten years old.  Both my parents are runners, and I grew up going to road races and watching each of them head out the door for a run at least five days a week.  I rode my bike with my mom on her runs and earned a new book for making it up all the hills on her route without stopping.  (I picked my first Babysitter's Club book.)  When I was nine, I went to a women's race with my mom and was thrilled to learn that there was a mother-daughter team award.  I decided that I would like to be a team with my mom the next year.  So I started running.

It wasn't too many years before I could be on the J.V. track team at the high school, and I ran track and cross-country all four years of high school.  In college I met a number of wonderful people in the Williamsburg running club at weekly interval workouts and ran my first Virginia Ten-Miler, followed by my first half marathon.  I ran while I was teaching English in Poland, and my first date with Keegan was a running date.  I ran in Korea on a fantastic road winding through rice paddies and ending at a statue of the Buddha.

I always knew that I would run all the way through any pregnancy, because I never stopped running, and because that was what my mom had done with me.  Unfortunately, I had some complications early in my pregnancy with Sophie, and the doctor told me not to run during the first trimester.  I tried to start up again in the second trimester, but it was not easy to restart, and I ended up confined to walking for the rest of the pregnancy.  The strain of having a newborn who slept fitfully and unpredictably combined with the long hours Keegan was working and the lack of friends and family who could help meant that I didn't run much for a long time after Sophie was born.  I made a few attempts to restart my running schedule, aided by our BOB running stroller, which was the best baby gear purchase we've made.  Soon enough, though, I got pregnant with Annabelle and once again was benched throughout the pregnancy and for the first crazy four months of her life.  Finally, when Sophie started preschool in September I decided that I would get serious about running again.

My first run back was in Colonial Williamsburg, from Merchant's Square to the Capitol and back.  I felt horrible.  Having run for so long, I could never understand why people complain so much about running.  Let me tell you, coming back to running after the break I took to have Sophie and Annabelle STUNK.  I totally get it now.  I felt awful every day for weeks.  I gradually, gradually increased my mileage, slogging along and feeling awkward and ungainly.  Finally, probably two months into my training, I started to feel good again.  That feeling of floating along effortlessly came back, and my pace began to increase.  My heart and lungs started to feel powerful instead of overtaxed.  My legs felt strong instead of clumsy.  I had a brief relapse a few months ago when life was crazy and I felt like there was no time to run, and after only a week or two I started to feel tired, heavy, and grumpy.  Time to get back onto my running schedule!  It's a priority now, and I am able to cram in three runs a week pretty reliably.  My goal is to keep that schedule up, to start doing 5k's about once a month, and then to increase to four runs a week next year when Sophie starts her four-day-a-week preschool class.  My long-term goal is to set a new PR for the 5k and then return to triathlon training, but that may be a few years off.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Spring Break

Sophie is on spring break this week, so we've had time to do some fun things.  Although we have not gone to Disney World, as Sophie told her friends and teachers at preschool last week, I think we've made some good memories.

On Monday night, Sophie spent the night with her grandparents so that I could make an early exit Tuesday morning to take Annabelle to her appointment with the gastro-intestinal specialist.  She's on the chart for weight, around the 10th percentile!  She weighs 17 pounds, 5 ounces, and is the size of an average seven-month-old.  The dietician gave us some advice about how much she needs to eat and talked a bit about moving up to toddler formula, which we won't do for another few months. We don't have to go back until July.  

Wednesday we had some fun at home, playing with Sophie's Bill Ding set and dyeing Easter eggs with Portia.

My mom remembered these from her childhood and was thrilled to get a set for Sophie.  They are pretty fun.

Today, after a lazy morning at home, we went for a picnic at Sophie's favorite playground with some friends from preschool.  

"Mommy, Annabelle and I are making a T!"

Climbing a tree at Chickahominy Riverfront Park

Tomorrow we are headed to Busch Gardens with Grandma and Grandpa.  A nice week and a nice break from the usual routine.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sophie Update

Sophie doesn't get to be the focus of the blog very often, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to write about her latest adventures and accomplishments.

At three years and nine months, Sophie continues to be a lively, funny, imaginative, nonstop chatterbox.  She is getting more and more independent, but she still wants nothing more than to be held or watched, and I can tell that she is jealous of the attention that Annabelle gets.  She is loving her 3-day preschool program and the kids in her class, especially her best friend Portia.  She often tells stories about Portia right after she talks about herself (even to complete stranger, so I know her friend is never far from Sophie's mind.

Independent Sophie on the Sesame Street boat ride at Busch Gardens.  She did great on the kiddie roller coaster too.  I only got to go with her because she was't allowed to go by herself.
Favorite activities these days are coloring and drawing, playing doctor, changing her clothes to suit various activities (such as having a picnic, going to a tea party, putting on a dance concert, or taking a nap), and walking pretend pets on leashes.  She loves to watch Phineas and Ferb and Doc McStuffins and to sing songs from Frozen.  We are loving Dr. Seuss books, and we pick a new one each time we go to the library.  I think both of us would pick I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew as our favorite so far, although The Lorax is up there too. The Arthur books are also recent favorites of hers, although I can take them or leave them.  She can swing for what seems like hours.  She likes to hug/wrestle poor Annabelle when she is practicing her rolling and wiggling on her play mat.

Sophie's "buddies" join us for breakfast.  
An adorable habit of late has been asking us "Do you know what I love about you?" and then telling us.  Can't say I mind that.  I usually get "I love your snuggles," but I have also gotten "I love the way your hair looks," and "I love your seaweed giving."  Keegan also got complimented on his hair.

Sophie has a knack for dawdling and getting distracted by a million things on the way to completing a simple task.  Getting dressed has become a lengthy ritual that involves laying all the clothes out precisely on the floor as they will go on her body and then doing anything and everything to avoid actually putting them on her body.  Usually this is messing with Annabelle, although it can also be climbing on the windowsills, critiquing my bed-making skills, playing with whatever toys can be found, or trying to pick out "extra" clothes to take with us in the diaper bag.  Fortunately, everyone else is usually late to preschool, too.

"Helping" with dinner.
Sophie is definitely getting stronger and can walk for longer distances without asking to be carried.  She likes to have races and to decide ahead of time who is going to win. She lets me win sometimes, and other times can tell that I am letting her win.  And sometimes, she just shoves me out of the way or starts the race when I am still several yards behind her.  Generally, though, she accepts the result of the races with equanimity, so I hope she will be a graceful winner and loser in the future as well.

So, overall, we are proud as can be of our older daughter and can't wait to see how she'll change as she grows.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Annabelle's Eleven-month Update

Annabelle is eleven months old and doing great!  Her major milestones this month are rolling from back to tummy and beginning to really eat pureed foods.  She has been so eager to lie on her back on the floor so that she can practice her rolling and wiggling skills, and she is all over the place!  She often wiggles completely off the mat or blanket we lay her on.  In the mornings, I often find her with her head where her feet were when I laid her down at night.  She is also getting more flexible at her knees, and she looks better when we practice supported sitting with her.  I can tell that her upper body is getting stronger, although her balance is still pretty shaky.  Also, she thinks sitting is for the birds.  She wants nothing more than to lie down and roll, roll, roll.  Finally, she has begun to tolerate being on her tummy for short periods of time.  She can hold herself up on her arms and doesn't fuss half as much as she used to.  Progress with tummy time is awfully slow, but I know she's developing great strength and vision skills when she's able to do even a little.

When we first started feeding Annabelle solids, she would not open her mouth for them at all.  But now she opens (could be wider, but we'll take what we can), smiles at the spoon, and kicks her legs in delight.  She is beginning to move the food around her mouth with her tongue and jaws better instead of just sucking it back.  Her favorites so far are bananas and yogurt, but she also likes applesauce and pears and sometimes potatoes and avocado, although those are less reliable.

Annabelle continues to be happy and smiley and to love sounds.  She giggles at all kinds of sounds, from velcro and zippers to fingernails on the material of her car seat to the sound of her little fist whacking the paper table covers at the doctor's office.  We discovered Sophie's forgotten drawer of music toys, and Annabelle gets a thrill out of banging on the little drum we found inside.  She has started making raspberry sounds - they were one of Sophie's first sounds, too, so that seems like a good sign.  We are beginning to do some simple sign language signs with her - eat, milk, and bath.  She is fascinated when I make simple consonant sounds for her and loves to watch me shake my head and nod.  She also shakes her head, often to hilarious effect.

She continues to gain weight like a champ, and she's now 17 1/2 pounds!  She is also healing well from her surgery.  The stitches are all gone, and she has a "normal" bottom at last!  The coming month will bring not only a barrage of medical appointments, but also Annabelle's first birthday!  Hurray for surviving the first year!

For some reason this month's photo session was a FAIL.

"Maybe she'll be happier lying down," thinks Mommy.  "Wish I was anywhere but here," thinks Annabelle.

Big sister brings momentary joy to even the most trying times.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Love Letter to Old Friends

We have been living in Williamsburg for just over a year now.  Our anniversary of moving into our house is coming up the first week in April.  So we have been very focused on making a new life here - meeting other parents, forging new friendships, and frankly just trying to keep our heads above water.  But this weekend was a chance for us to connect with some old friends that we haven't seen in a while. We traveled to Lynchburg to see my oldest friend Laura and to attend my friend Jamie's daughter's third birthday party.  I've known these women since childhood.  I started playing with Laura when I was still in diapers, and I met Jamie in high school, when we thought that we were adults, but in hindsight, were very much still children.  How sweet it is to see them raise their own children, and even better to watch our children play together.  I loved looking out Jamie's window to see Sophie and Jamie's daughter sitting together in a cluster of daffodils, plucking flowers to add to the brilliant yellow bouquets in their little fists.  I loved watching Sophie chase Laura's middle two girls around the house, giggling.  I only wish that our families could spend more time together, so that Sophie could feel the immediate ease with the other children that I feel with their mothers.  

There is never much time to talk uninterrupted. Children bustle around, calling on one mom's attention, then the other's, so the conversation stays superficial.  But the comfort and understanding that's been built over decades of friendship envelops us the whole time we're together.  There's nothing like that feeling of not needing to explain yourself, of knowing that you have both been put together from so many of the same memories and experiences.  Well, maybe there is something like it - the feeling of belonging to a family.  As an only child, I am truly lucky to have been able to expand my wonderful family to include these women.  I love you two!  Let's have another superficial, fragmented, and absolutely perfect conversation soon.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Married to a Marathoner

"Please stop photographing me and let me lie down."
Keegan finished his first marathon today!  His time was 4:43.  He would have liked to run faster, but he wasn't able to finish his whole training program in the weeks before the race, so on the whole he's pretty happy to have made it to the finish line.  I am seriously impressed.

Keegan, Sophie, and I headed down to Virginia Beach before dawn this morning.  (My mom stayed here with Annabelle.)  We dropped Keegan off well before the start and hoped he would find a warm place to wait out of the persistent chilling wind.  Sophie and I went out for breakfast and enjoyed all kinds of breakfast treats.  I had Eggs Benedict, and Sophie had a pancake shaped like Mickey Mouse, which she found absolutely delightful.

After breakfast, we headed to the beach at Lynnhaven.  The only other people enjoying the beach in the frigid wind were dog owners with no choice, but we made the best of it.   Sophie was thrilled to be at the beach and immediately ran to the waves.  She was eager to collect seashells, and she indiscriminately scooped up as many as she could and tossed them into her bucket.  She chased a poor, unsuspecting seagull, and tried unsuccessfully to build a sand castle with too-dry sand.  I can't wait to spend more time at the beach once the weather is nicer.

The poor seagull is trying to just mind his own business.

Sorry, gull, you're going to have to fly to escape this one.
By this time Sophie was eager to say "Go, Daddy, go!" and see Keegan run by, so we drove to the marathon course and watched Keegan go by at around the 15-mile point.  We enjoyed seeing all the zany St. Patrick's Day costumes while we looked for Daddy.  He came by ahead of 4-hour pace, looking tired but strong.

Sophie napped in the car for a while, and finally it was time to go to the finish line and wait for Keegan.  The wind was whipping out on the boardwalk, and Sophie needed to be held so that she could see, and Keegan had slowed considerably, so it was a long wait.  I was proud of Sophie for being so patient and determined to wait to see her dad.  Finally, Keegan shuffled by, looking like a zombie, and totally ignoring our fervent cheering in his single-minded focus on the finish line.  We were all happy to see each other and get back to the warm car.

I'm so proud of Keegan for finishing!  So far, he seems to be feeling ok.  Sore, tired, and suffering from some serious chafing on his sides, but surprisingly cheerful and awake.  Now we are all wondering whether he will be able to get out of bed tomorrow.