Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bye-bye, Mama

Every summer, I get together with four of my best friends from high school for a fun-filled slumber party weekend. I love these girls so much. They have known me since I was a gangly, glasses-wearing, brace-faced, 11 year-old girl. Before babies, or blogs, or husbands, or college, or prom, or boyfriends, or broken hearts, or (as Maggie put it recently) puberty. We've been doing our annual summer sleepover every year since 2002, and it's always one of the highlights of my year.

The slumber party rules are simple: 1) No significant others (we now plan a separate "family weekend" to spend time with each others families) and 2) no children (unless they're itty bitty, brand new babies). Will doesn't quite fit the itty bitty category any more, so he will be staying with Daddy while I jaunt on over to Minneapolis for three days of chatting, relaxing and over-eating. Sounds heavenly, yes?

Most definitely yes. But... I am going to miss my sweet baby terribly. The longest I've ever left him was 18 hours (12 of which he was sleeping). So this is a major moment for me. I know it's good for both of us to spend some time apart, but I'm going to miss him so much. I fully anticipate I will be crying in the car nearly the entire way to Minneapolis. Luckily I'll have four dear friends around to help mend my aching heart.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Twelve Months Old

Is this big boy my baby? When did that happen?
Dear Will,

Wow. Just wow. I can't believe you are an entire year old. It literally feels like we just brought you home from the hospital at a mere 6 pounds, 8 ounces. Now you're nearly a toddler (so close to walking!), weighing in at a whopping 21 pounds. Actually, that's a bit small for your age (28 percentile), but it seems huge compared to where we started. I honestly can't believe how far we've come in twelve short months.

You continue to be a very busy boy. You are cruising, crawling and constantly grabbing for our fingers to help you walk. You started walking with the assistance of only one hand this month, which has been a life saver on our backs. Plus now you have a hand free to explore! You also like to walk behind your push walker. It was so wild to see you propel yourself across the floor on your own. You're quite good at orienting the walker where you want it to go, and moving it when you reach an obstacle.

Daddy and I both believe you could walk on your own (you have the balance and the coordination), but you like the security of a little extra help. So we continue to indulge you (most of the time). When we let go of your hand, you will take a few steps before you realize you're on your own, then promptly sit down. Or simply stand there bewildered and slowly lower yourself to the ground. As with most things, you will walk when you're good and ready (and not a moment before).

You are downright obsessed with wheels. Wherever there's a wheel, you must stop and inspect it. Doesn't matter if it's on a car, stroller, grill, toy truck, etc. If there's a wheel, you're there. You also love big trucks and airplanes. You get so excited when I point out an airplane to you in the sky. And if a truck passes us, your eyes get as big as saucers and you will crane your neck to watch it as long as possible.

You simply adore Stella. Whenever we come home you squeal when you see her on the couch. You love to play with her tail and poke her nose. And you recently started pushing in her nipples (ha!). She's so good with you though. She lets you crawl all over her, waiting patiently until you're done to seek refuge on the couch or in her bed. She gets rewarded for her tolerance though. You feed her quite generously from your high chair several times a day.

One of your favorite games is sorting objects, especially putting things in containers. This has been exceptionally helpful when we need to tidy things up. Every night Daddy gets you undressed and tells you to put your clothes in the hamper. You pick up the garments, crawl over to your hamper, pull yourself up, and methodically drop them in. It's so cute!

You started waving bye-bye this month, which is so sweet. I love seeing your little hand bobbing up and down. And you love the attention that people give you when you do it! Many times you get stage fright though, and can't seem to wave bye-bye on the spot. I can't tell you how many times I've tried to get you to wave bye-bye to the store clerk or a friend, only to have you start waving a few minutes later (after they're long gone).

A year is a major milestone, not only for you, but for us as parents. We did it! We made it! We kept him alive for a year! (Just kidding. Sort of.) At all your friends birthday parties, amid showering the birthday boy or girl with well wishes, I also make it a point to congratulate the parents. It's a big moment for the entire family.

We love you, darling boy. Thank you for the best, most chaotic, most joyful, most incredible year of our lives. You literally make our world go round.



Thursday, August 18, 2011

Breast Cancer Care Package

Breast cancer hit close to home within this past year. Despite an overwhelmingly positive prognosis, it was a terrifying time for our family. Although I am exceptionally close with this person, I often found myself unsure of what to offer or say. Is it better to be comforting? Ask questions about treatment? Return to life as normal? Does anyone really need another casserole or restaurant gift certificate?

In our case, the best medicine was lots of baby hugs. But I wish I would have had this article from the NY Times Well Blog when our loved one was going through her experience. It offers 10 suggestions for building a breast cancer care package. I love this because a) it's thoughtful, b) it's sensitive to what the patient is going through, and c) it's unique.

In case you know someone who could benefit from this idea, I thought I'd share.

Monday, August 15, 2011

First Haircut

Will had his first haircut today! I half expected him to freak out, but he did great! No tears, and lots of smiles.

Ready to go in my cool fire truck chair
The first few snips
Playing with the fire truck wheel 
Just a little off the sides please
Almost done!
A quick blow dry
Checkin' out my new do
I look good!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Summer Wedding

On Friday, we were guests at a beautiful wedding at the Paine Art Center and Gardens in Oshkosh. Given our gorgeous surroundings, we took a moment to snap a few family photos:

My loves
Busy boy
I'm outta here!
Out for a stroll
Exploring with Mama
Let's go, Daddy! 
Big smiles

Thursday, August 11, 2011

First Birthday Recap

Will's first birthday parties were a smashing success! I had several people ask me about the recipes and decor, so here you go:

Theme: "The Very Hungry Caterpillar"

I adore the illustrations of Eric Carle, and "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" has long been Will's favorite book. It was a perfect fit!

Decor: Primary colors, stripes and polka dots

I didn't want to take the theme too literally, so instead of plastering caterpillars everywhere, I elected to draw from the bold, primary colors of Eric Carle's illustrations.

The one decor element I knew I wanted was buntings. They're so lovely and whimsical. And with the primary color theme, I could use them over and over again. My mom offered to make three eight foot buntings for Will's party, which was incredibly generous. We picked out the fabrics together, incorporating the primary colors, stripes and polka dots all in one!

The buntings were a good start, but I needed something to stand out as the center piece of the room. So I purchased a bold, striped table cloth on clearance at Target, which helped draw the eye immediately to the table.

To keep things playful and whimsical, we also dressed Will's high chair with a mini-bunting and topped it with a paper lantern chandelier. Many of the lanterns I also got on clearance at Target, and the others came from Party City. Not including the fabric for the buntings (which my mom generously paid for), we only spent $15 on decor.

And then, of course, there's the birthday photo collage, which I shared as a sneak peek earlier in the week. We hung the photo collage in our entry way to help set the mood for the party as soon as our guests walked in. Seriously, I'm still so proud of this. I got the idea from Pinterest, but it came together even better than I could have hoped. I'm actually having trouble taking it down. It's just so darn cute!

If you're wondering exactly how I did it: I printed the photos at our local Walgreens, selecting the white border option to give them a crisp, clean, uniform element. Then I got a circle punch, some primary color card stock and white foam stickers to make the numbers. Each number is attached to the photo with foam mounting squares to create some additional dimension.

For favors, I picked up a dozen beach buckets at the Target Dollar Spot. They looked so bright and colorful all together, almost like their own little decoration! Each bucket came with a coordinating plastic shovel. Then we added a container of bubbles, a small maraca, and a package of organic vanilla-flavored cookies. All together, the favors cost about $3 each. Not too shabby!

Menu: Easy and delicious

I toyed around with a few different menu ideas, but ultimately chose things I that I knew were easy to prepare and delicious to eat. For the adults, we served curry chicken salad (on pretzel rolls or hard rolls), panzanella salad, fruit kabobs, fresh veggies and iced coffee.

For the kids, we served a few of Will's favorite foods, including fruit salad (cut-up in baby-sized pieces), star-shaped turkey and white cheddar sandwiches, cheddar bunnies (like Goldfish crackers, but organic) and apple cinnamon graham cookies.

I had oodles of people ask me for the recipes (see links above), which I consider the ultimate compliment. If the food is good enough to serve in your own home, then I know it was a hit!

Cake: Edible art

For the cake, I asked my friend Sarah at BAKE Cupcakery in Appleton to make three dozen of her incredible organic cupcakes. She has a long list of delectable flavors, but for Will's party we selected "Root Beer Float", "Peach Cobbler" and "Vanilla Bean Raspberry".

I knew the cupcakes would be delicious, but Sarah really out did herself on the decorations. She totally ran with the "Very Hungry Caterpillar" theme, drawing on some of the major themes from the book. She did many of the foods that the caterpillar eats through (pickles, apples, oranges, lollypops, etc), as well as polka dots and darling little caterpillars that looked strikingly similar to the Eric Carle original. Too cute!

Lessons Learned for Next Year

The parties were great, but I definitely took away a few lessons for next year. First of all: remember food allergies. Two of Will's friends have a dairy allergy (which I knew about), but I forgot to make a few turkey sandwiches without cheese. Their moms were incredibly sweet and gracious about it, but I felt awful. I also put cashews on top of the curry chicken salad, forgetting that one of the moms has a nut allergy. Fail. Must make accommodations for food allergies whenever possible. It's often very easy, just requires some advance planning and consideration.

For the party with Will's friends, we requested no gifts. We did this for two reasons: 1) the child already has SO MANY toys, and 2) we really just wanted to gather everyone to celebrate Will, not shower him with presents. However, many people (very generously) brought gifts anyway. You know why? Because it's fun to buy gifts! In retrospect, we shouldn't have imposed the no gift mandate. Let people bring something if they want to. I know I always like going to a party with a small token in hand.

That being said, I think it would be fun to do a book exchange in lieu of gifts and favors. Ask the parents of kiddos to bring a new, unwrapped board book, then invite each child to take a book home when they leave. You could even request books around the birthday theme (if it's simple enough), and slip a "thank you for coming" bookmark into each one. Must remember that idea for next year!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Party 2 .0

We did two birthday parties for Will: one on Saturday with family, and one of Monday (his actual birthday) with his baby friends. The Saturday party was great, but the Monday party was a laugh riot. Nine toddling/crawling babies, one pre-schooler, one infant and ten moms... you can only imagine the chaos and fun!

Will reading his favorite book during the party
Unimpressed with his party hat
Loving the buttercream frosting 
Making music with Riley
Beep beep!
A few of Will's best girl friends
The aftermath

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

More First Birthday Photos

Even more shots from Will's first birthday party on Saturday! It was a fun day with family, but unfortunately Will was a little under the weather. He looks so droopy. Nevertheless, we know he had a great day with his loved ones!

Blowing out the candle!
Playing with bubbles
Being forced to wear my party hat
Opening presents!
Mama and me

Monday, August 8, 2011

On His Birthday

This day will always be to celebrate my sweet William, but it's also a reminder of the moment a year ago when my life changed forever.

I'm hesitant to say that motherhood defines me. I am many more things than a mother. But it is the most important, all-encompassing, rewarding role of my lifetime. My entire life's happiness is wrapped up in this child. He is my greatest joy, frustration, happiness and sorrow. When he smiles, I smile. When he hurts, I hurt.

My heart and soul are no longer my own. They now belong to him.

“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before.
The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.”

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Let Him Eat Cupcakes

A few shots from Will's party yesterday! The cupcakes were made by my friend Sarah at BAKE Cupcakery in Appleton. She does incredible (and delicious!) work. Will is enjoying a "Rootbeer Float" cupcake. Yum!

Is that for me?
Are you sure I can eat this, Mama? 
Trying out the buttercream frosting
Have some, Daddy! 
I'm full!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Eleven Months Old

Can I help you with these boxes, Mama?

Dear Will,

After I was whopping 30 days late on your 10 month post, I told myself that I'd write this one ASAP. No procrastinating this time! Yet, here we are again, nearly a month late. Where do the days go?

Oh, I know... I spend them chasing after you! This past month was a big one. You finally started crawling on your hands and knees (yay!). I was partially convinced that you'd be one of those babies who went right to walking and never crawled. But right after we moved, off you went! My friend Lisa said it was clearly because you wanted to explore the new house.

Crawling was preceded by a few key milestones. Mid-way through the last month, you figured how to go from your belly to your bottom. Then, it wasn't long before you we're going from your bottom to your hands and knees. Then you started rocking back and forth (pre-crawling) and pulling yourself up on furniture. Before we knew it, you were crawling around and cruising along furniture. And you haven't stopped since!

You still don't have any distinguishable words, but you chatter constantly. "Ba" is used most often, but you also throw "ma", "da" and "pa" in there for good measure. You love to puff air and spit out the side of your cheeks, which makes a funny gurgling noise. So cute!

You still love oatmeal, purees and yogurt, but we're working harder on finger foods. Your interest in puffs is waning, but you love to eat crackers, cheese and fruit by yourself. You reject all finger vegetables, which means the only way I can get you to eat anything green is to stir it into your yogurt. Green bean yogurt is among your bizarre favorites (yum!).

You aren't a fan of sippy cups. We've tried five different cups (different brands, different spouts) to no avail. Doesn't matter if it's juice, water or formula. You just aren't interested. You drink well from a regular cup, but you need Mama's help for that. I worry about you getting enough fluids when (if?) we stop bottles next month.

Now that you're crawling, you love to explore. You crawl in, around and over everything, dragging toys and other odds and ends along with you. Whenever I open the patio door, you make a bee-line for the backyard. It's such a big world out there! You just want to see it all.

Already, we can tell that you're very mechanically minded. You are obsessed with wheels and love stacking and sorting objects. You love toys with screws, bolts or holes that you can inspect. You explore everything with your fingers, gently flicking, stroking or poking objects to see what they do. You love books with different textures to feel. "I Like Bugs" and "That's Not My Monster" are among your favorites.

Whew! Another month come and gone already. I feel like I blinked and it was over. You keep me busy in the most joyful, exhausting, rewarding way possible. I love watching you grow. I love you, my darling boy.



Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Graduation (Now With Photos!)

Things have been so busy around here that I forgot to share the good news: Will "graduated" from his helmet!

He was officially done on Monday, July 11 after five months of wear. To say we were ready to be done was an understatement. Will was getting really uncomfortable in the summer heat, and he was becoming more aware of the helmet on his head, tugging and pulling at it often. Needless to say, it was time.

If you want the measurements, Will started at a cephalic index (head width to depth ratio) of 100%. Normal is 83%, but our orthotist only recommends treatment for kids above 92% (three standard deviations from the norm). Will ended at 90.5%, so below the treatment threshold, but still worse than the average kid.

Side view (January 2011 - 5 months old)
Side view (July 2011 - 11 months old)
Top view (January 2011 - 5 months old)
Top view (July 2011 - 11 months old)

Man, when you look at the top view, you can really see the difference. I can't believe we ever told ourselves that it wasn't a serious problem. Moreover, I can't believe our pediatrician ever believed that it would fix itself. Will's case was bad, and given that treatment is more effective the younger the baby is, I'm so glad we pushed for a referral when we did.

After $2,800 and five months, Will's head isn't perfect. It's still flat. Not so flat that most people notice it, but flat nonetheless. Sometimes I struggle with whether or not we should have kept going, but I didn't want this to be about the pursuit of perfection. Will had a severe condition that needed treatment. We got it for him. He saw significant improvement. And that's a victory we can be proud of.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011