Monday, May 31, 2010

Goodbye Eeyore

This post is my attempt to banish "eeyore" from the list of adjectives that describe me and turn a new corner into a more positive and optimistic light.

While most families gathered together at parks and cabins to celebrate the three day Memorial weekend, and hopefully take a moment to be reminded of why we have this holiday, Ian, Ainsley and I had a rather different experience.

Ian is under a huge deadline for work (ending tomorrow, God-willing) and thus has been at the lab on and off all weekend. He has made a great effort to come home in the middle of the day to get in some quality family time and enjoy the nice, albeit HOT, weather (sans today of course with the thunder clouds booming). Still, I find myself in a bit of a funk.

Perhaps it's the coming down from a very full and productive week, baby hormones, no longer fitting into ANY pre pregnancy pants or non stretchy tops, but I feel a bit blue. I mentioned to Ian my sadness about not having a "typical" holiday weekend this morning and got the deserved guilt trip about making him feel guilty for needing to work, and for bringing us here in the first place.

First of all I don't blame him for bringing us here. I love so many things about Oak Park. The people, the quirky stores, the farmers market, the neighborhoods, the parks. I feel like being here has helped develop who I am as a grown woman so much more than being at "home" in Minnesota would have. And as a family it has allowed Ian and I independence to form our own opinions and traditions aside from our two (WONDERFUL) families.

There is of course that part of me that hurts when I see family photos from occasions we've missed including my ADORABLE nephew who knows his aunts, uncles, and grandparents so much better than Ainsley. I feel sad when other toddlers are uttering the names of their cousins and extended family members when Ainsley only has "Miss Amy" from musikgarten class and the wonderful bagger lady from Trader Joe's whose name I don't even know.

I know that there are so many families in the same boat as Ian and I. Living away from relatives and relatively alone. It just doesn't feel that way right now.

I looked back at some old posts the other night and was reminded of my vow to make Oak Park our home. I have definitely made strides to make our house a home. Especially lately I have poured nearly all of my excess energy (excess=the energy left over after caring for and entertaining Ainsley=NOT MUCH) into finishing up the decorating and odds and ends around the house. It has helped a lot. For one it has kept my mind busy, even when Ainsley is napping, so that I can't think TOO much about being homesick. For another, the house is looking great and if I'm put on bedrest again this baby will be all set (yes I've already bleached all the onesies).

While I'm realizing this post may sound rather eeyore still to you, to me it has been cathartic. I think rather than focusing on forcing a feeling that's not there I just need to accept that as long as we're away from "home" it's going to be a little hard. I can choose to focus on the things I'm missing out on, or I can remind myself of all the wonderful times we have here as a family.

This weekend we got to go to the pool for the first time (watch out waders! Ainsley plunges in with no abandon and marches out until her head is well under water...this could be a LONG summer for me) test out the hugely obnoxious giraffe pool in our backyard that Ainsley LOVES, eat yummy food, take naps and relax in the sun, and enjoy kisses and snuggles from our ever sweet little girl.

While it may not have been a typical Memorial Day weekend for some, this is our typical weekend every weekend. I am so blessed to have such a wonderful husband who is working so hard for us and a daughter that brings joy to my life every minute.

Take that Eeyore!

Some pictures from our weekend.

Asking for "more please" after stealing a decadent Regina's chocolate truffle. That's my girl.

I prompted "smile for the camera!" and this is what I got

The new giraffe pool. Too bad she doesn't like it.

I love that she brings us books now and cuddles up to read.

*Parents: This is a ridiculously funny ABC book I found at the library. B is for burp after the bird drinks a beer, F is for Ffft as in fart and X shows a dead bird lying on it's back. Ainsley's too young to get it, but it sure entertains Ian and I. (Ruth you would LOVED it)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Big Girl Bed, Take 1

Sooo. I know it's crazy early, or so I'm told, but in preparation for the new little one on the way in a few months (eek!) Ian and I have decided to take baby steps towards getting Ainsley into a twin bed.

Let me back up a bit.

I'm not overly concerned about jealousy issues with Ainsley and her soon to be new little sister, mostly because I was raised with the sentiment "life's not always fair, get used to it" and I find in my old age I quite agree. There are some things Ainsley's just going to have to deal with, like the new baby getting lots of snuggles and love (of course she will too), lots of mommy time (breastfeeding for 8+ months tends to lend to that), and getting to play with her old favorite toys, drink from bottles and do other "baby things" that she's just too big for now. I'm foreseeing that there will of course be issues with this, but I think approaching it matter-of-factly and without much fuss we will hopefully glide right through the transition.

The crib is another story. Back when I calculated for the first time how old Ainsley will be when her new sister arrives (20 months) I realized that most babies aren't out of their cribs yet and gosh by golly I'll be darned if we're going to shell out a few hundred dollars for a second crib (especially when there are so many other things I'm finding I "need" for the new little one). We do have a beautiful handmade cradle that will work for the baby for a few months but I am weary of letting Ainsley stay in her crib until the point that the new baby needs it and then WHAM! in one fell swoop trading out her beloved crib for a new bed. I think that may cause more territorial issues than I'm willing to deal with.

So the theory was formulated that if we could get Ainsley into a "big girl bed" before the baby even gets here she won't associate that sweet little bundle of joy with ripping away her one remaining baby comfort (ok, she still has a pacifier, but that's worthy of a whole separate post in and of itself).

After making this decision I found myself a bit traumatized by the thought of just taking away her crib and replacing it with a bed in one rash step. Then the epiphany occurred to me... "Ainsley's crib converts into a toddler bed!" genius. I had assumed that we would never really use this feature as the plan was always to cram our children as close in age as possible to one another, thus necessitating the constant use of the crib in it's original form, but it turns out it (knock on wood) may come in handy after all.

So this morning after Ian headed off to a morning of dealing with rat brains I clambered upstairs, still in pajamas, with Ainsley on one hip and the tool box on the other and turned her crib into a toddler bed.

The process in and of itself was a thrill for her. She grabbed a screwdriver and "helped" to undo the front side and then proceeded to sit on the mattress platform while I attempted to raise it to the appropriate level. She also made sure to taste every screw for me just to, you know, make sure they were good. Once everything was in place she climbed right up and made herself at home in her new bed.

Now comes the real test, naptime.

As Ainsley decided to wake up at 5:45 this morning I made it a point not to allow her to doze this morning to tire her out for her first big girl bed nap. We made black and blueberry scones, went through old clothes Ainsley has grown out of, folded laundry, read books, sang countless fingerplay songs, and blew up her new giraffe splash pool in the backyard.

At approximately 12:15, red faced and yawning (Ainsley, not me, well at least not the red faced part, I think), I brought her upstairs, reminded her that she needed to stay in her big girl bed for sleepytime, did the goodnight moon thing, sang Edelweiss and laid her in her bed. After turning on the monitor so I could hear her every move from downstairs I sat back to listen to the unfolding of the fruits of my labor. Almost immediately I heard her jump out of bed and run to her door trying in vain to open it up. After about 10 minutes of thumping around her room Ian headed up to try his hand. He came back down 5 minutes later and we haven't heard a peep since.

I know we still may have a long haul in front of us. Who knows what will happen tonight for the 11-12 hour stretch? But for now we have success and if there's one thing I've learned as a parent you take every little one you can.

Our little girl is growing up. I am thrilled, proud, and a tidge heartbroken all at the same time. I guess this is why we're having another one, right?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Things Loved in May

I've seen some other bloggers do this and thought I would jump on the bandwagon.

1. Basic
This is one of my favorite go-to places for new baby clothes. They sell solid color 100% cotton basics that have become a staple of Ainsley's wardrobe. My favorites are the cardigans, lettuce edged leggings and t-shirts. I just got a new shipment in the mail today including 2 newborn gowns for the new baby and bloomers for Ainsley (pictured below). Ian calls them her Arabian night pants and they are too cute for words, SO comfy looking and really roomy for the cloth diapers. Clearly I can't say enough good things about this online store.

2. Patagonia Sun Hat
Ainsley got a great baseball cap from Pops in Florida, a life is good "night owl" cap, and while she loves to wear it I was looking for a sun hat with straps for the pool and lakes this summer. I found this one at REI and it's SO cute and reversible! The underside is burnt orange. So far she keeps it on pretty well even though it's a bit floppy.

3. Yoplait Smoothie
An impulse buy from Costco has become a new staple in the Vaagenes household. Ian and I just shared one for dinner and I've had two for snacks this week. I make them with soymilk and flaxseed and they're DELICIOUS.

4. Boon plate and bowl
Now that Ainsley is well into self feeding and will in fact only eat what she can feed herself it was time to invest in some toddler dishware. I love the Boon brand, I find it at Target. The spoon and spork are great for those first tries and self feeding and the divided plate and bowl are out almost every meal now. The bowl suctions onto her high chair or the table and she really can't get it off. The plate is nonstick and she at least doesn't seem to be able to fling it off the table.

5. Greenworks
I know I know, I've totally jumped on the "green" household cleaner bandwagon and don't worry I have no intention of preaching. I still scrub the bathroom with softscrub because anything else just doesn't seem to get it clean enough but this stuff runs a close second. I LOVE the smell and it even tackled our disgusting trashcan in the kitchen with ease. Plus, as Ainsley is still very much in the put everything in your mouth phase of life I feel better about using something a bit less abrasive.

6. Bio Oil
This has actually been my favorite throughout both pregnancies, but it couldn't go unmentioned. I've tried just about every lotion, cream and belly butter there is and nothing beats this stuff (plus walgreens sells and generic for almost half price!). Ainsley has taken to helping me rub it on her belly and if she's onsie-less she'll pull up her shirt and ask for "more please" so she can also partake in the oil belly rubbing. It's become quite the ritual in the Vaagenes household, especially as I need to reapply about 3 times a day now to tame the itching from the crazy stretching going on (no stretch marks though so far! here's hoping I skate by like I did with Ainsley)

7. Green and Blacks Organic Milk Chocolate
Normally I'm a dark chocolate kind of a girl but for some reason with this pregnancy, and lack of red wine to pair it with, I've been digging milk. This brand is typically on sale at our local whole foods and lets just say if Ian doesn't realize that it's in the pantry by Tuesday (I do grocery shopping on Monday) he's pretty much s.o.l. plus it's organic so it's good for you, right?

8. The Oak Park Farmers Market
While this is technically the second weekend of it's annual running it was our first family trip this morning and although the pickin's were slim (we got rhubard, asparagus, apple cider-frozen from last fall, and of COURSE donuts) it was glorious to be back. I am already salivating over the fresh produce all summer long and of course the donuts. Ainsley ate her first powdered sugar donut and was in absolute heaven. I think we'll try cinnamon next week. Ian was right, it was a bit messy, but so very worth it for the smile on her face.

9. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
Since joining my new bookclub I've stumbled across some great books and this one is no exception. I'm scrambling to finish it in time for the meeting next week but it's not for lack of interest. The book takes in between world wars during the Japanese invasion/terrorization of China and then subsequently in post depression era China Town California. If you read Snowflower and the Secret Fan by the same author you'll be sure to love this one.

10. Water
Let me explain. Grammy introduced the beauty of water to Ainsley on our trip to Minnesota. Truth be told it'd be a bit too chilly or I'd been a bit too weary of the cleanup to introduce it before May but Ainsley LOVES water, much like most toddlers. A full bucket and a few cups, spoons and sieves buys me almost a half hour of gardening time outside with her. We're going to venture to the pool for the first time this afternoon and I'm thinking that's going to be an even bigger hit if previous ventures in the water (Florida) have anything to do with it.

In other news:
Thanks to everyone for the support based on my last post. I think I was just in the depths of that end of second trimester hump. Everything looks great with the baby and hearing her little heartbeat took away all anxiety I was feeling, at least for the moment. Ian and I have come to a decision on the name which helps when I talk to her at night. Ainsley is more and more curious about my growing belly for example: tonight in the bathtub Ian asked her "where's mama?" and she puffed her belly out, pointed at it and started laughing. This is why we have children. To keep perspective, and a sense of humor.
P.S. Ainsley's newest word is hedgehog. Only a child of Ian's would say hedgehog before mastering hello.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hungry, Anxious and TIRED

So, in about an hour I get to drink that lovely orange glucose cocktail and get my blood drawn at the midwives. Usually not eating until after 9 wouldn't be an issue but of course this morning I'm ravenous, thus on the computer while Ian feeds Ainsley so I don't steal her yogurt.

I am feeling pretty annoyed about having to take this blood test. I don't mind needles so much, it's just the whole inconvenience and then waiting to hear results, and they wonder why my blood pressure is slightly elevated whenever I have to have a test done? I just REALLY despise going to the doctor, thus going to a midwife, and resent that pregnancy is looked at as an illness, like something is wrong with you. Especially now that I've had one successful pregnancy/birth, HEALTHY BABY you would think things could be dialed back even more. I guess not.

I am also dreading getting on the scale. While I lost a few pounds in the first trimester I have gained 9 pounds since and am dreading going up more and more. It's just the most bizarre feeling to feel out of control over your body. I'm eating the same things I always do and exercising the same. On top of walks with Ainsley and in general staying up with her toddler energy I've been alternating my 3 favorite workout tapes 4-5 times a week. It doesn't seem to matter, I just feel HUGE. I'm so dreading being a swimsuit at the pool all summer long. I feel so self conscious in everything that I wear. I wish I could be one of those women that "glow" and only show in their belly's but I feel like I show everywhere. My face and legs and arms all look poofy to me, and I'm only 24 weeks!

I think all these worries are compounded by the fact that Ian has been working a ton this week and will likely be working through the weekend. Adding an extra hour onto the end of my day with Ainsley is a killer and I really don't know how this weekend is going to work out. I'm feeling bad for Ian that he's stressed out at work and trying to be supportive. It's just been hard to get dinner on the table with a smile lately.

I'm hoping I'll feel better after the appointment is over and find some energy to do a few errands and get some more things done around the house. Ainsley and I went to Costco yesterday and bought way too much pantry stockers so I need to get a shelving unit for the basement to organize what we have. I'm almost hoping for a little rain this afternoon to justify a good snooze with my girl.

I know I vowed to be less Eeyore, but it's hard when you're hungry, anxious, and tired.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Weekend Woes

On a walk this morning around town I found myself complaining a lot. I wasn't really in a bad mood, just hot, tired, and feeling huge. At one point Ian said "yes, Eeyore" and I knew things had gotten out of hand. Have I become one of those glass is half empty kind of people? or worse, have I always been this way?

I've always thought of myself as a relatively positive person. Employers always described me as "upbeat, energetic, and positive" so why when I'm by myself, alone with my thoughts, do I feel so NOT those things?

Perhaps this is normal. Maybe everyone is walking around with negative thoughts in their heads choosing to push them aside for a facade more pleasing.

What's worse, or maybe in the end for the better, is that Ian is the complete opposite of me in this regard. While I notice the sky high humidity and sweat already cascading down my temples he remarks how wonderful the warmth and sun feel on his skin and how good the dose of vitamin D will do us all.

I woke up from a solid nap this afternoon to come downstairs and ream into Ian for not having turned the air conditioning on, for not folding the laundry, rather than realizing that he deserves a little a free time, just like me.

After working out our little snafu he commented that he'd love for me to just wake up happy, come downstairs, sip on a cup of coffee and relax. I would too! I would LOVE to wake up without a list of to do's in my head and a critical eye for what remains undone around the house.

It's exhausting to be a negative person. Truly it is. I'm having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that this may be how I'm wired. I'm determined to change my ways because it's starting to get in the way of my enjoyment of everyday activities. Weekends should at least be somewhat relaxing and rejuvenating right? Let's see how the next one goes!

P.S. I blame this all of the fact that the weekend got off to a bad start when Ainsley woke up at 5am Saturday morning AND I forgot that it was the first day of the Oak Park Farmers Market. I missed out on fresh donuts and early season produce and plants? That would put anyone in a bad mood.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Baby Sign

While Ainsley's down for an uncharacteristic morning nap I thought I'd take the opportunity to write about something that's been plaguing me for months now, the ramifications of teaching Ainsley sign language.

We started when she was about 8 months old, mainly while feeding. "more" was the first word she signed to us right around her first birthday and from then she's been soaking in all the signs she can get. She "says" more, milk, water/juice, food/hungry, please, thank you, tired/sleepy, all done. She's started to try fingerplay games with me, like itsy bitsy spider, way up in the sky, 5 brown buns, 5 little ducks, twinkle twinkle. When we count she holds her little fingers up and "sings" along to the abcs.

But she isn't saying many words and for a bright almost 17 month old I'm feeling at a loss. I had heard that teaching your baby sign language can delay their speech a bit, mainly because they have their basic needs met with signing and have no need to speak. It's not that Ainsley doesn't speak, she is yakking away all the time. She says dada for Ian and just about everything else. She says yay, all done, bye bye, hi and mama very occasionally. She's named a few of her toys. Her bear is Cici and the other day she started saying hot dog and hat and made a valiant attempt at thank you.

I guess I just thought that once she started speaking she would zoom along just like she has with every other milestone. I can't help but feel like I'm doing something wrong. Rest assured I talk to her ALL the time. We sing, read books, interact with other babies her age. When the tv is on I'm sitting right there with her talking about what we're watching and asking questions. I don't feel like there's much more that I can do. I just need to let her be who she is.

I have to admit watching the joy on her face when she signs and I understand what she wants is priceless. She still gets frustrated when there is something specific that she wants that I don't understand. We've been working on the sign/word for help because she gets frustrated easily when trying to move something large around or climb up something. On the flip side she has this determined focused quality at times. She puts simple puzzles together and is a whiz with stacking blocks and cups.

I hate that I'm even sitting here worrying about this feeling like I need to justify the intelligence of my child. I swore I would never be "one of those parents". One of the things I regret most about my young life was being labeled "gifted" so young. (notice the overuse of quotations in this blog) and I don't want that pressure put on Ainsley. It really ruined some aspects of school for me and I want her to feel free to pursue her interests and talents without being placed in a box, especially so young.

When she started walking at 9 months old I got a lot of "wow, you're so lucky" "what an advanced child". Perhaps I should have felt this way, lucky, but all I felt was dread about a label being placed on my sweet little girl so young. Now she had this "advanced" label to keep up with. What's worse is that because she walked, and did all of the physical milestones early, I assumed everything else would be at the same pace. Now that I know Ainsley so much better I know that she walked early because she is fiercely independent and needed to MOVE ON HER OWN. She signs because she could do that first and it gets her what she needs. She'll talk more when her signing doesn't cut it anymore.

I hate that I focus on these milestones that don't really matter and let them overshadow the beautiful little girl that is growing before me. I hope it's true that we learn from our mistakes and that I can take more of a backseat with our next little girl and cherish her for exactly who she is right from the start.

I love you Ainsley girl and I wouldn't change a thing about you!

P.S. I must add as a disclaimer that I love baby sign language and will definitely be using it with subsequent children. It is such a great communication tool even with the few cons it may pose.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Where to Start

The problem with blogging so infrequently is that by the time I actually sit down to write I have a million, yes literally a million, things to say. Do I go with an account of the days that have passed? A rant about the things that are driving me crazy or gushing of the things that I love? Let's try a little of each shall we?

On Monday we (Ian, Ainsley and I) got back from our trip to Minnesota for my sister's wedding. While I wish I could say that the trip was wonderful, the terrible stomach flu we ALL got and dreary April-like weather put a bit of a damper on the vacation. The wedding itself was beautiful and flawless. I made it through my maid of honor speech without stumbling, or breaking down, Jenny looked gorgeous, and Ian took care of our kantankerous toddler. I think the photographer even ended up getting a few good shots of her! My only regret is not getting a formal family photo. Below you'll find the one and only. It will have to do!

The week before, minus the puking and fevers, really wasn't that bad. We got some good shopping in (I had to take advantage of no sales tax on clothes) and Ainsley had a blast with all the attention from family and friends. I did too. I found loads of great deals at Gap Maternity and Old Navy for me. I keep trying to think of what I'm going to want to wear towards the end of my pregnancy...nothing! considering the sweltering heat and hugeness I'll be dealing with. Thankfully maxi dresses and super soft tank tops are in abundance. I should be good to go.

Grammy and I took Ainsley to get measure for new shoes. She's really shot up in the past couple of months and since we first measure her in the late fall she's 1.5 sizes bigger! While I was sad to retire her first pairs of good walking shoes and sandals it was fun to pick out new ones.

Grammy bought her some real "big girl" sneakers, saucony's..they're SO cute.

I got her a new pair of sandals. Apparently her feet are very narrow so she doesn't fit into See Kai Runs which I mourned briefly, as they're my favorite baby shoe brand, until I found these Umis which are adorable.

This may be my new favorite brand. Ainsley seems to like them so far! Of course the $5 crocs Joann gave her in Florida are still her favorites. I think she likes that she can put them on herself.

So of course after being home for a few days I'm going through the typical Minnesota withdrawal. I know I'll get used to it again like I always do but it's such a shock to the system to go from being surrounded by family and friends to just the three of us overnight. I keep vowing to be better about setting up playdates and dinner parties with friends but time just always seems to get away from me. We are already planning our next trip to MN hopefully over the 4th of July and then I'm mentally prepared to be in Oak Park until baby girl is born. I hope we can make it up one more time before then though.

I've had a blast looking through Ainsley's old baby clothes and remembering how tiny a newborn is. The good news about having another girl is that we really don't need to buy too much, on the flipside I WANT to buy things which I can justify. Because I was on bedrest at 34 weeks with Ainsley and was really good about not buying things before then it was up to my wonderful mom and sisters to stock the dresser with newborn clothes for me. I've had fun buying a few things here and there (a few matching with Ainsley of course). And now I know the things that I like for newborns.

I do need to buy some new cloth diapers as the bumgenious that we use were HUGE on Ainsley until she was 4 months old. I'm thinking these ones

They're a bit more expensive than the kissaluvs we used for Ainsley but as we'd only need about 6-8 of them to supplement what we already have I'm thinking it's worth it.

I'm also thinking of one particular splurge that I really wanted with Ainsley, a moses basket. With Ainsley it wasn't really practical. In our small apartment her bedroom was always steps away. In our new house I'd love to have one to lay the baby in wherever I'd need to put her down while playing with Ainsley. I think it makes perfect sense, right?

Well this ended up being way more of one of those dry posts. I just had way too much fun "window shopping" online tonight.