Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Merry Little Christmas

Phew. The holidays always leave me feeling a bit like I just ran a marathon. Or gave birth. Or both.


It could be the fact that we go from one family event to the next for four days straight. Or it could be that we typically have company stay with us for a few days. Or that we have friends in town from all over the world whom we make every effort to spend quality time with. Or that we throw an annual Christmas party, inviting just about everyone we've ever gone to school with and beyond.

Even though all of the hustle and bustle still took place {minus the Christmas party - we settled for a very casual Wine Wednesday with a close group of friends since many would not be in town this year}, there wasn't a bit of frazzle in me this holiday season.

It only took 8 years of "Adult Christmases" {counting since I've gotten married} to finally get the hang of this whole holiday thing.

...to where I finally have the right mindset and have learned to not sweat the small stuff.

...to prep Christmas brunch the day before, instead of the morning of.

...to be in search of great sales for gifts year-round, rather than wait until Black Friday when everything from my "saved carts" gets emptied. Only to begin back at square one in figuring out what to gift people.

...to realistically accept the fact that we won't get to everything on our holiday bucket list.

...to be okay with a dollar limit and find more creative ways to give.

...to appreciate the fact that Gabe and I tend to give the gift of experiences over material things to one another.

...to eliminate stress {as much as possible} and to embrace the sentiment of the holidays.

...to stop creating memories, and let the memories create themselves.

That's right. Memories create themselves. Who knew?

I just can't help it. I'm a sucker for sentiment. I love all things that generate something special to look back on. And I especially like to capture those memories so I can go back and remember, relive even.

But I think I can, at times, get obsessed with sentiment. And quite possibly even try to create it. And when you try to create what's pictured in your mind as perfect memories with children, it more often then not backfires. Because children, if you haven't heard, are unpredictable. Especially during the overstimulating blur of the holidays.

So, I guess after a lot of practice and self-motivating talks, I've simply learned to plan ahead for the details that can cause stress if left until the last minute. And I've also learned to let memory-making details unfold naturally.

I've also tried my best to avoid stress and embrace simple. Not that we didn't do gifts or introduce Santa or decide last-minute the week before to sand/paint/and put together a new play room for the kids. Ha! I guess embracing simple, for me, was more of a mental shift. To focus on what really matters.

And let me tell you. It may have been simpler than years past, but this was the best Christmas I can remember. {Next to the Christmas where I woke up to find Malibu Ken, a set of Pound Puppies, and a pair of "high heels" under the tree, of course}.

This year sort of felt like a first. Maybe because it was Adaline's first Christmas. But also because Lyla was just so excited and really got into the holiday spirit. She couldn't wait to wake up Christmas morning to see if Santa did in fact put "lunch" under the Christmas tree like she asked.

We hear it over and over again, but it's just so true. Experiencing the holidays through your child's eyes is even better than when you were a child yourself.

And this year was so wonderfully special.

Even though Gabe and I didn't account for the fact that Lyla and Adaline's kitchen would take 4 hours to put together. Or that Miss A blew out her sister-coordinating Christmas jammies first thing when she woke up Christmas morning...and I didn't get a single picture of her in them. Or that Lyla wanted to open every single present's plastic packaging instead of opening the remaining presents under the tree. Or that we forgot to buy coffee for Christmas brunch, and so we had to use my stocking-stuffer.

It was still perfect.

The holiday started with Lyla and I baking and decorating Christmas cookies to take to our neighbors on Christmas Eve Eve. This recipe was extra special too - one of my sorority sister's lost her mom years ago, and to honor her, my friend sent out her mom's famous sugar cookie recipe. They were delicious, and I kept thinking how special it was to be part of the fun memories that were created year after year with this recipe. I can't wait to bake them again next year! #cookiesforpaula

While the girls napped on Christmas Eve, I prepped for the Christmas brunch we host each year. I was super bummed because we had to skip Christmas Eve service this year as Gabe had to work. Bah Humbug. But I still dressed the girls up before we headed to GiGi and Bots' house for our traditional chow-down on shrimp, cheese, mushroom soup, and fudge.

 Lyla is going through a new {hopefully} phase where she is nervous around the camera

GiGi and Bots sure know how to make a Christmas Eve spread. If only I had a picture of it. Luckily, I did get a picture of Lyla trying ginger beer for the first time. She felt sooo big because we were all drinking Moscow Mules and she got to drink ginger beer out of a fancy Fostoria glass. She has been saying "more ginger beer" ever since.

After rushing home to tuck in the kiddos, we got started on Operation Kitchen Project. It was 9:30, mind you. Four hours later, and thanks to the best husband and daddy of all time, we had a play kitchen! The girls slept until 8:30 Christmas morning, which was the best gift of all because I still had some dish-prepping to do. And even though it totally takes away from the romanticism of Lyla waking up and running out of bed to see what Santa put under the tree, we went in to get her {because she doesn't get out of her bed} and fed her pre-brunch breakfast first. I mean, she's two and wanted "lunch" for Christmas. Girlfriend has to eat. So after breakfast, we dug into the stockings and presents under the tree.

Wearing Mama's old holiday dress

And then the BIG REVEAL. Santa's Elves decided to finally complete the last room in our house. It only took 4 years. The trim and walls were painted and shelves were stocked with current toys to make a play room. {One that is not yet complete. Like, it has exposed outlets. But that's neither here nor there. Because I'm avoiding stress...remember?} And of course the four hour kitchen was revealed as well.

Then we topped off the rest of our four-day-Christmas-extravaganza with more family, food, and merriment.

And that is what I like to call a merry little Christmas.

**Oh. And I just want to give a special shout-out to my saint of a mother-in-law. Who spent her entire day-after-Christmas rummaging through bags upon bags of garbage to find an ornament we misplaced. Only to find it in the very last place she looked: the garbage bin at the curb ready to be picked up in the morning.

That, my friends, is what we call the Christmas spirit.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Post for the Littlest: 2 Months

My poor second child.

Every blog post I've written and many of the pictures I've taken since she's been born also includes her big sis.

{Word on the street is that's just the way the cookie crumbles.}

Your first gets everything: the attention, the royal treatment, obscene amounts of new clothes, and really worried parents who spend a large percentage of their days googling things like "does baby tylenol cause autism?".

The second time around, the kiddo is lucky to get a new outfit and at least one good solo picture...without big sibling highjacking.

Go ahead take a gander back at this ol' blog's archives for example: "Lyla firsts", "Lyla monthly updates", "Lyla weekly updates"{seriously?}.

It's just embarrassing.

When I got pregnant again, I wasn't naive. I knew I wouldn't have the time or energy for the upkeep of monthly, let alone weekly posts of my poor second babe. I couldn't even keep up before she got here! But before you go and feel too bad for my sweet Adaline, I am taking pictures of her {and just her} daily, tracking her firsts and stats using this photo journal app, and spending quite a bit more time cuddling with her than I did with Lyla. She's not lacking in the quality of life department.


But I do feel bad she isn't getting posts just about her. After all, that's one of the main reasons I blog. So my kiddos have something special to go back and read one day. So, I'm going to start {or at least try my very best} to write posts that highlight the goings on with my little bug. I'm not going to commit to monthly updates - because that creates a lot of unnecessary pressure that I'm so over. But I am making an effort to track special memories with Adaline. {Many of which, include her big sis. Again. That's the way the cookie crumbles.}

Here are some notable things that have happened this month...

... As of December 5th, girlfriend was 11.7 pounds, 24 inches {in the 99% for height!}. And that was 3 weeks ago - I can only imagine how much she's grown since then. Because seriously, she grows like a weed. A really cute weed, but still. But all of this growing so quickly has caught me off guard. She's already outgrown 0-3 month clothes and wearing things that Lyla wore at 4 or 5 months old. My mother-in-law told me Gabe was her biggest {and tallest} baby. She advised me to really hold onto this baby phase because Gabe seemed to grow up much quicker than the rest of her kiddos. Adaline is already doing the same. {you can find me in a puddle of tears in the corner}

... The only redeeming thing about the fact that my last baby grows at some genetically modified sci-fi speed, is that she is a cuddler. Thank you Jesus that my last baby likes to snuggle. I really needed that.

... She started making those adorable baby gurgles and coos this month. Sometimes, she lets out a funny little high-pitched "aahh" squeal. Lyla thinks it's hilarious and does her best to imitate it.

... This kid is the most laid back, happy-go-lucky little creature I've ever known. I mean, I really didn't know babies like this existed. It could be the fact that Lyla was the exact opposite, but the juxtaposition of the two is complete black and white. Oh. And she's been a naturally good sleeper from the first night we brought her home.

I'm sorry, come again?

... Awake time is so much fun now. I seriously love when babies start staying awake longer. Especially when that baby isn't screaming for hours at a time. She just looks at things so wide-eyed, shows interest in toys and the dogs, and is obsessed with watching her big sister. It's the most magnificent thing I've ever seen. She immediately stops crying or gets intently quiet when Lyla walks into the room. Adaline just watches everything she does and smiles. {insert heart burst}

... Speaking of smiles, I can't get over how social this kid is. She's just so happy and smiles all the time. Except for when she suddenly realizes that everyone else in the family is in another room...without her. Then the saddest little cries and lip puckers come out. But all we have to do is move her to where we are, and poof. Insta-happy.

... I'm breaking all kinds of rules this time around, and it feels rebelliously wonderful. And it seriously makes me want to go back and shake my first-time-around-new-mom-self. I mean yes, I had a difficult baby then. But was it really necessary to set alarms for feedings and always put my child down "when sleepy but not asleep"? I mean yes, we are in a routine with Adaline, but we are by no means following a rigid schedule. And I hold her all the livelong day. And I nurse her to sleep at night. And what do you know? She's still a happy, healthy baby.

... Miss A does have a little bit of tummy issues just like big sis did. They're not nearly as severe. Either that, or she just doesn't complain like poor Lyla did. But this kid can spit up. And by spit up I mean spew chunks. We still go through about 10 burp cloths a day. And she gets pretty sad when she's gassy. Just like most babies. But with all of those darn tummy bubbles, she's still smiling through it all.

... Two month shots really sucked. I had forgotten how awful they are. First of all, we went in for a 6 week weight-check, and as I was getting her dressed to leave, I was told she was getting shots. I didn't even have time to process. She did fine at the appointment, just a few tears. But then, she woke up a few hours later crying really hard. In fact, this was the first time we'd really heard her cry. Girlfriend rarely cries, but when she does, she sticks out her bottom lip into a pout and streams real tears. She's had those since the day she was born. The nurses all said she'd break our hearts with those tears. They were right.

... I love watching and hearing her paci. It's so cute how it bounces up and down and sucks in and out. And then when she stops sucking so she can listen when I talk to her? I die.

... We decided to have Adaline in our room when we brought her home instead of sleeping in the crib right away like we did with Lyla. Mostly because I was sleep-deprived and it was easier. But, if I'm honest, it's also because I felt this desperate need to be close to her. But. We did put her in her crib at around 5 weeks. I just felt like trying it one night to see how she'd do. She slept beautifully. Although sometimes I miss having her really close while she sleeps. So, I just make up for it during the day. :)

... She's tracking things this month. Her eyes shift and follow things, and she can turn her head to watch. Especially faces.

... Oh how I love when she kicks those legs. It's sort of like a dog wagging its tail. It's her way of telling us she's so happy she can barely contain herself.

... She started taking a bottle this month. I try to pump every now and then just so we have some milk for bottles. But, oh my word, but it's so much easier to nurse. However, the last thing I want is to not be able to go anywhere for the next 6 months+ because my baby's gotta eat. So practice with the bottle will continue.

... My previous Lyla-mom self hates what I'm about to say. But this kid is sleeping through the night. And when she doesn't, she only wakes once. Which, really, she's been doing since she was a few weeks old. Again, I had no idea babies like this existed. But I like it.

... You know the infamous scene in the How the Grinch Stole Christmas? The one where his heart triples in size. I walk around feeling self conscious of my heart for fear it's going to start busting through my clothes. Just so in love.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tis the season to be simple

Sometimes I surprise myself. Particularly with my reactions to things.

Or under-reaction, rather.

Like when things don't go as planned, and I don't hyperventilate. It surprises me. Or when I don't beat myself up for not hand-making a dozen sentimental Christmas presents for members of our family. It surprises me. Or especially when I don't have the time, energy, or creativity to construe festive holiday crafts or baked goods. It really surprises me.

I've lately caught myself asking {out loud} "Who are you?"

I just don't get rattled these days.

Being a mom to two littles has taught me many things. Most importantly, I've learned to be flexible. To appreciate imperfect. To say no. To seek out simple. To stick to my strengths. To let things go. All things, mind you, that go against the very nature of who I am at my core.

During one of our typical Saturday morning coffee talks, I was explaining these feelings to Gabe. How I, ironically, feel like a more relaxed person since we've had kids. {And since I began my journey of seeking balance, being okay with boring, finding myself, and purging anxiety-inducing thoughts, activities, and jobs from my life.} I no longer try to do it all or be it all. And most importantly, I try really hard not to want it all.

And goodness, it feels so great.

I can remember a time when I was striving to be the best at everything. Even things that I am not good at. Like the time I tried to take up sewing. Or the time I tried to become an expert graphic designer. Or the time I vowed to make dinner from scratch every night. HA. To all of it. Just, HA.

Pinterest and Instagram just make things look so easy. But social media, as brilliant and helpful as it can be, can also spread lies by telling only half-truths; just a sliver of someone's story. And it often used to make me feel like a subpar mom/teacher/person.

But these days, I stick to what I know, the things I am naturally good at. Which is not being the Martha Stewart, the creative-genius photographer, or the sous chef. Yes, I may be a stay-at-home-mom, but I'm certainly no homemaker. No really. I don't have a domestic bone in my body.

And I can actually say that without one bit of shame.

Because all it really comes down to for me is just one simple thing. I want to be the very best mom to my girls. A mom who is wholly and completely present in every sense of the word. And you don't have to be domestic {or perfect} to be a good mom. You just have to love your kids. A lot.

But for me to get to this conclusion meant going through the painful process of letting go.

And let me tell you. Letting go of perfect can be quite excruciating.

Yet oh-so exhilarating!!!

The real test of my "process of letting go" has always been the holidays. Because the holidays especially bring out the need to be perfect by creating-baking-and-memory-making. Nevermind the frenzied bombardment of perfectly-crafted Pinterest Advent calendars or the ever-present reminder of how Grinch-like I am because we don't partake in elf-on-the-shelf.

But I just don't have the time or energy with a new baby this year to even care.

And care, I do not.

But I promise I haven't been a complete Scrooge. We've been creating plenty of fun memories and carrying out some of our favorite traditions.  It's just that simple seems to be the theme this year.

And, what do you know? My girls are still thriving.

Imagine that. Thriving on simplicity!

The fact that I haven't broken out into hives because this is Lyla's third Christmas, and she has yet to get a photo with Santa? That right there folks is a surefire sign of letting go.

This past weekend was one of the best we've had since Adaline's been born. Because we spent the majority of time at home together as a family, and there was no pressure. Pressure that I typically put on our family to squeeze all the typical holiday activities in before December 25th.

Admittedly, my easy breezy attitude was probably kick-started by our first night out sans baby with Gabe's company Christmas party. The evening was filled with live music, unlimited wine, a photo booth, and two party animals never wanting to leave the dance floor.

Oh, wine how I've missed you.

But like I mentioned earlier, I've learned many things since becoming a parent. I forgot, however, to mention the biggest lesson of all: We are old. Mostly too old to stay out past 10. And definitely too old to drink more than 1 glass of wine. I'm pretty sure I stayed on the couch drinking coffee until 2 pm the day after mom and dad's big night out.

Lucky for us, we had nothing on the agenda the next evening. So we decided to uphold the one tradition that I will never, ever rid of. We had our annual watch Christmas movies- drink hot cocoa-sleep by the Christmas tree extravaganza. Although this year, we made a couple minor changes. We added a pizza picnic {because we didn't have the energy to get dressed to go out to dinner.} And we didn't actually sleep by the tree per se. {See the aforementioned lesson of "We are old". And with old comes the deep desire burning from within to get a good night's sleep.}

But oh-my-word did we have a good time. We started this tradition the very first year Gabe and I were married, when we lived in a 700 sq. foot apartment in Dallas. But this year was extra special, for two very obvious reasons. But it's the two year old who makes this whole process of traditions so much fun. Because she understands how special they are: Eating in the living room, consuming sugar that isn't usually kept in our house, and staying up way past bedtime watching movies.

Of course the perfectionist part of me wishes the photos I did catch were much better quality. But then I remember what's important. And I'm able to look past the grainy iPhone quality and terrible lighting to see the magical memories we created.

And I'm not sure who felt more spoiled: the girls or the pups!

Someone was pretty excited about the idea of a pizza picnic. 

Movie and hot cocoa time!

Then we rounded out our already perfectly-simple weekend with the annual Christmas Cantata at church. Complete with mother-daughter matching{ish} outfits. Which, by the way, was an accident. I know I don't have the best track record for accidentally matching. But I'm predictable. And it happens.

Perhaps the biggest testament to a new, anti-stress me? I didn't google how to photoshop out the Stanley canteen mug out of the background of this photo. :)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Ramblings from my Mommy Brain

It feels like so much has happened in the past six weeks since Adaline's been born. Yet if you asked me what I do on a typical day, I'd probably laugh. Because I would have no idea what to say.

Believe it or not, we've managed to stay fairly busy during my "maternity leave". That's what I'm calling it. It's the time I allow myself to relax a little more than usual and am extra forgiving of myself on the days we stay in sweats until lunch time. "Because", I tell myself, "I have a baby. And a toddler. And it's winter. And it's my 'maternity leave'."

But we really have been pleasantly busy with lots of visitors, play dates, errands (so.many.errands.), and prepping for the holidays. And I've very quickly realized that tasks that used to take me 10 minutes suddenly take me 2 or 3 days. And that's no lie.

We also follow the household rule to make it out of the house at least once a day. Even if it means simply going through the Starbucks drive through. It may take about 2 hours from start to finish, but I do everything in my power to get us out. I surprisingly have yet to throw my hands in the air and say "forget it! not worth the 6 layers of winter clothing and a toddler who loves to dawdle." Which brings me to a question. Will I ever be on time again? Ever?  It frazzles me to the core.

And because it's my "maternity leave", I'm going to go ahead and not feel guilty about writing the rest of this post in bullet points. Because that's how my brain works lately - not complete thoughts, just bullet points.

So. Lately...

... It is no joke when they say to hang on tight and savor these years because you blink and your kids are all grown up.  I thought Lyla's babyhood went quickly. But this? Oh my word, time with two little ones is scarily passing by. These pictures, for example. They were taken two and a half weeks ago. And Adaline already looks completely different. And no longer fits into this nightgown. And has an extra chin. {sniffle. sniffle.}

... Speaking of Miss A, she has been nothing but smiles. And it feels just as exciting as it did the first time around with big sis. I love when babes start smiling...it marks the beginning of "This is my FAVORITE phase". I'm not sure how I'd forgotten the uncontainable joy one experiences when your baby smiles at you for the first time. I was just as much an emotional mess this time around. I mean, when she looks at me and smiles, time stops and I feel like my heart is going to burst right through my chest.

... Like many first-borns, Lyla has always been an observer. That girl walks into a room {with extreme caution, of course} and observes for quite awhile before she lets down her guard and participates in whatever is going on. My little observer, feverishly studying everything around her. I swear that's what she's been doing for the past two years with language. She's always had a large vocabulary, but really has only been speaking in short sentences since she turned two. But all of a sudden, she is having full-blown conversations with us. Conversations that make sense. She can remember and recall things from a month ago, she tells us what she did at school or church, and she reminds us when we forget things. It's mind-blowing.

... We're actually starting to get into a routine around here. Although it may be a loose one, it feels pretty amazing. I've learned, for example, that if I accidentally sleep past 6:45 a.m., the rest of the day is shot. Because then I don't have time to shower. And when I don't have time to shower, we seem to have more tantrums and a lot less productivity. I think it's a scientific correlation: showered mama = successful day.

... Lyla started nursing her babies. It's probably the cutest thing I've ever seen in my life. Ever.  Monkey see, monkey do.

... Lyla has really developed a love for helping in the kitchen. It started out as a tactic to teach her patience while waiting on meals, but now she loves it. She loves to measure and pour and stir and taste test.

... I still can't get over how easy of a baby Adaline is. I'm not kidding when I say I can count on both hands how many times we've heard her *really* cry. I would feel guilty about this fact. Except Lyla was INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT as a baby. Although I didn't think it was possible to ever love something more than my first born, Adaline is a breath of fresh air. :) And I know a large part of that is that we're so much more relaxed as parents. But I also think God knew that we just really needed an easy baby after little miss scream-for-days-colic-pants.

... My mother-in-law calls Lyla "Goodnight Moon". And it's so true. Because that really is how she talks. "Good night, heater."  "Good morning big girl underwear." And just today as we were leaving for school, "Goodbye Lyla's slippers." Hilarious observation and just so cute.

... If you still haven't started the podcast Serial, you do NOT know what you're missing. I mean, I do think my adrenaline has stepped down a notch after listening to 8 episodes straight in one weekend. But, I get SO excited for Thursdays. And it is the topic of conversation in our house for at least one hour a day. I'm not sure what I'll do exactly when it's over.

... I'm also not sure what I love more. The father-daughter relationship or the sister-sister. They both slay me.

... I don't think anything has me more confused than toddler moodswings. I kid you not. One minute I am texting Gabe telling him how incredibly sweet Lyla is and that I want this stage to last forever, and the next, she's throwing herself down in the middle of a parking lot taunting me with smirks, headshakes, and "NO!"s. Of course that is immediately followed by me thinking she snuck some sugar water somewhere because she's melting my mama heart into a puddle of sap with "I'm sorry" and "I love you Mama". Oh goodness, do toddlers sure know how to make a perfectly sane woman see red.

... We have our first date night planned this weekend. Getting all dressed up for Gabe's company Christmas party. It is time and it is necessary and I am pumped.

... This is the part of my maternity leave that I like to call "The Awakening". It's where you suddenly realize that it's time to start getting out more. It's time to start cooking again {THANK YOU to all my friends and family who have made us meals. Absolute Godsends, you are. Meals are the best gift you can ever ever ever give a new mom}. It's time to be a sociable human being who has conversations with other people besides a newborn and a toddler. And although hanging around the house in yoga pants with my girls has made me happier than I've ever been, it's time for my brain to get some exercise. And to get that exercise, I have quite the project I've finally pulled the trigger on. Very excited to share soon!!!

Although, hanging in our pjs for hours and reading books by the Christmas tree everyday has been a welcomed change of pace.