At 12:35am tonight, I turn thirty.
As I understand it, this is a pretty big deal, and yet it feels very much the opposite. I don’t mean it in the hum drum I don’t want to age way. Or in the, don’t make a big deal about it humble mention way. I mean, thirty just seems like another year. I can’t see how it’s different than twenty-nine.
This past year has been the very best year of my life.
My health has been fantastic. I have gotten to stay home part time and raise the most incredible little person on this earth (it’s true). My marriage is the best it has ever been. My family is incredible and closer than ever. I literally could not ask for life to be better than it is right now. I can’t imagine how it would even be possible.
So the whole charade of thirty just seems…underwhelming.
The only real change is that I’ll have to put a new number or pick a new age range on forms. Everything else remains the same.
And as excited as I am for another birthday, what I’m most excited about is the future. I’m excited about this life I get to lead. I’m excited for all the tremendous blessings in my life. For more time with my family. For more days with my son. For more adventures ahead. I’m excited for the future, no matter what number year it may be.
Thirty itself means very little to me, but starting another year of this incredible life? That means the world. I can’t wait.
Not sure how much longer we’ll do these (or if we’ll post them), but this has been such a tremendously fun way to track Eli’s growth. My sweet little baby is no longer a baby.
Today you are one year old! Happy birthday! I cannot believe that you’re one. I spent the last week putting together your baby book (and this letter will go in it this evening, with the rest of the pictures and letters) and even having chronicled the past 12 months in alarming detail, I’m still blown away that the year is over. I’m just shocked that you’re already one.
I’m happy to say that this month has been awesome. You’ve had a cold, you’ve gotten 1.5 more teeth, so there should’ve been high levels of misery, but there weren’t. You were a joy. You have been sleeping wonderfully, including all the way through the night now, and the best part was that aside from about 5 minutes of crying on the second night, we didn’t have to do any real training. You just seemed to get it, and it was/is awesome. You nap like a champ and absolutely adore your room and bed, which we love too. I hated the idea of forcing you into the crib, so knowing that we were able to find a sleeping arrangement that you are comfortable and safe in, makes me very, very happy.
Despite your introverted parents, you are an incredibly social baby. You smile and wave to everyone around you and if they don’t notice, sometimes you yell gibberish at them to get their attention. If we tell you to say hi, you’ll wave your little baby hands until someone waves back. You’re working on bye-bye, but it’s not quite as consistent yet.
You said your first word on April 21st (aside from mama and dada) and against all odds, it was dog. I cannot tell you how much this amuses me. In a house full of cats, with a mother who hates dogs, your first word was dog. And you are OBSESSED with them. Tonight a dog walked past us and you clenched your fists and at the top of your lungs screamed “DOG” as clear as day. Earlier today at your birthday party you did a hilarious bear crawl to get to the dog, even though you hate grass more than almost anything.
You are not walking or standing independently yet, which somedays I don’t mind and other days makes me a little worried. You just don’t seem to want to yet, and that’s fine- you can take your time. You are hilariously resistant to standing about half the time right now, unless it’s on your terms. If we try to stand you up when you’re not into it, it’s like you have no bones in your body. Or alternately, it’s like you’re incapable of straightening out your legs- whichever is more effective at keeping you from having to stand. Most of the time you just want us to put you down so you can crawl.
Over the past few weeks you have suddenly emerged as Mr. Independent. When I get down on the floor and try to play with you, you’ll come over and give me a little bit of love and then wander to play alone. You will happily play by yourself for up to an hour at a time and it’s pretty cool to watch. You love to take any ball you can find and roll it back and forth along the entertainment center and if we sit in front of you, you’ll roll it back and forth with us, too.
Your likes this month include: Dad, Aunt Claire, Mom, all the many assorted grandparents, any meat/protein in small chunks, cheese, kiwi, strawberry, the cats, dogs, being on the floor, Sesame Street (especially Elmo and Murray), pups, Glen, sippy cups (especially to play with, not so much to drink from), ice cream, cookies, your mother’s alarming lack of restraint with letting you try new foods.
Your dislikes this month include: vegetables, not getting the toy you want the moment you want it, diaper changes, long car rides, teething. Honestly, there’s not much more you don’t like.
The theme of your party today was Dr. Seuss’s Oh the Places You’ll Go, which I chose because I liked the idea of thinking of this year not as the end of babyhood, but as the beginning of your real life. We read the book last night and I found myself in tears at the end. I was doing so well, right up until “Kid, you’ll move mountains” line. There’s something about that line- something about thinking about all the amazing things you’ll do that just hits me right in the heart. I have no doubt in this world that you were meant for big things. I don’t mean fame or fortune necessarily, but you were meant to do something significant. To move some mountain, to make something happen. And while I am admittedly a little sad to be marking the end of babyhood and the entry to toddlerhood, I am also just so unbelievably excited to see what you have in store for us.
Next week is my 30th birthday and everyone keeps reminding me with that ominous tone- the one that is meant to make me feel old and scared and things like that. But I just keep thinking about how this past year has been the best year of my whole life. How I get to do this- be your mother, have this incredible family, for the rest of my life, and suddenly, the number just doesn’t seem that important. I have so many years left and I am so grateful to get to spend them as your mother.
I know that it may be some time before these letters mean very much to you- probably until you are a parent yourself, but it has been so fun to sit down each month and think back on all the things you’ve done and enjoyed. I hope you know that though not all of it was pretty, you really had a great first year. You were loved by many, many people and you were one of the happiest babies I’ve ever seen. We are thankful each day to be your parents, to get to love you and raise you. To see your cheesy grin and hear your easy laugh. You are the best thing that’s ever happened to us, and this year has been unquestionably, the best year of our lives.
Happy birthday to you, my sweet boy. This is just the start of so many wonderful things and of so many big adventures. We love you so very much and cannot wait to see what the next months and years bring.
Oh right, I blog. I remember now.
Things are in full swing preparing for Eli’s first birthday, which is in 6 days. I absolutely cannot believe that he will be one in 6 days. One year ago I was a grumbling, whining, miserable mess because it was my due date and there was no sign of labor and no baby and I was 100000 pounds (read: 15 more than I am right now) and did I mention miserable?
And now, I have a baby who is almost not a baby anymore. Today he got his first haircut, which he desperately needed. He has said his first word (dog, which, I can’t even with that). He’s not terribly close to walking, but he crawls and cruises and is just the happiest baby ever.
A year ago I didn’t have a baby, and now I barely have one. This has been such an incredible year, but it has FLOWN.
On Friday we’re having Eli’s 1 year pictures taken. I am looking forward to it, though I know it’s going to be a big production the night before a big production, so I’m sort of pre-emptively tired. We were able to schedule Eli and my niece Addie’s pictures back to back so that we can also do a couple of pictures of them together, for which I bought possibly the most ridiculous outfit of all time. Pretty excited about that part.
After dinner tonight, Eli broke out in a rash on his chest and the eczema on his cheeks flared up big time. The only newish thing he had was mango, which he’s had (I think) 2 other times. And tonight he only took a very small bite, so I’m a little concerned about that. It’s definitely something I’ll bring up at the 1 year check up that is in 8 days. Because my baby will be 1 in 6 days.
Also in 6 days, I get to quit pumping. And oh my God I’m so so so happy.
Speaking of appointments, we have our follow up visit with the neurosurgeon tomorrow. Though Eli thankfully didn’t have surgery following his fall/brain bleed, he was admitted to the neurosurgical team and so that’s who we’re following up with. He’s had very few issues since coming home from the hospital, but I have a few little concerns that hopefully we’ll be able to address tomorrow. I don’t think we’ll need any future follow ups and for that I am immeasurably grateful.
I bought a bag of “Belly Flops” (reject Jelly Bellies) and there were several that I swear to God were Tabasco flavored. I wanted to die.
The situation with Eli and the cats has reached a bit of an apex. Eli firmly believes that the kitties are his best friends ever, but the kitties believe he is the worst thing ever. And so basically there is a constant battle of Eli wanting to “pet” (read: assault) the cats and catch their tails, and the cats wanting to kill the baby. Currently Eli has bite marks on his face (ON HIS FACE) from my cat, and despite this, he is not deterred. Hell, he didn’t even cry when it happened. He squealed and went right back for the tail. I feel like I am running constant interference between the baby and the cats and neither of them are learning anything.
6 days. Let’s get this week started.
Prior to getting pregnant and having Eli, I was kind of a crappy eater. I mean, I was a healthy weight and my BMI was in the “normal” range, but you’d probably have cringed at my diet for a few reasons. First, I could live on carbs alone, and be completely happy about it. But also, I am a big fan of preservatives. I even wrote a post several years ago where I bashed organic foods as a scam.
I always internally rolled my eyes at the “crunchy” moms who only fed their kids organic, hormone-free stuff. It just seemed so over the top and unnecessary. And even though I found/find the “well, we survived when I was growing up doing x, y, or z that is now unsafe” argument infuriating when it comes to just about every other part of parenting, I gave the same excuse for food. I was healthy on a diet of preservatives, why did I need to freak out about feeding my son the same stuff?
When I got pregnant, I felt a small shift in my thinking. I still ate Easy Mac by the heaping bowl full, I still overate carbohydrates, but I began to linger longer at the organic section in our grocery store. I scrubbed fruits and veggies before eating instead of casually rinsing. I started to choose meat from the organic market and read labels slightly more carefully.
After Eli was born, we were in survival mode for a while, eating whatever was in the house or delivered to us, regardless of its health benefits, but when we started him on solid foods at 5 months, I began to feel uncomfortable with our eating. The first thing we did to try to combat our discomfort with the situation is joint a CSA and get a basket of fruits and veggies every other week. Eli’s first several foods came from those baskets and it made me feel a little better to be able to give him non-genetically modified, non-pesticided foods, locally grown food.
As he started to be more interested in real table foods, it got more challenging. We’re very fortunate in that we live walking distance from an organic market, but the distance isn’t the issue now- it’s the cost. Last week I bought a few lunch items for Eli, as well as ingredients for 2 dinners (that would feed us for 4 nights) and it cost over 80 dollars. And look, my child’s health is important, but that is unsustainable.
We also decided to quit the CSA basket this week, not because we don’t like it, but because we’re not making good use of everything and having to throw away too much produce. I found a small local produce stand that will likely be more reasonably priced than the market that I’m going to try out, but either way, it’s been frustrating to balance my desire to feed my child healthy, whole foods and not spend my entire paycheck on it.
And it makes me feel more frustrated because we’re fortunate, we can afford to spend extra for organic, but that’s not the case for everyone. I hate that other families may want to feed their child the same way I want to feed Elijah, but are unable to do it because the cost is prohibitive. I’m frustrated that we’ve reached a point in society where we’re comfortable with feeding animals antibiotics prophylactically, even when we know it causes antibiotic resistant bacteria to proliferate. I’m frustrated that we’re comfortable spraying pesticides on foods, even when we know that some of these chemicals in large quantities can be very dangerous.
I’m frustrated that it’s so complicated to feed my child safe, healthy foods.
I have no solution, not even really any good ideas, just worries and frustrations. I want to be able to feed my child well without breaking the bank. And I just can’t understand why that’s an unrealistic desire. I can’t understand how we hope to manage all the health crises facing our country if we can’t even find a way to make healthy food affordable. I’m frustrated and I think I’m not alone.
When you think about all the exciting firsts in a baby’s life, I know that for us and for a lot of our friends, feeding the baby real food for the first time is a big one. I remember planning days in advance what he would eat first (avocados) and how I would make it (food processor because mashing didn’t work like the book said) and how he would take to it (not well). But I have to confess that after the first week or so, the magic wore off. It was cool seeing my baby sit at the table and eat like a big kid, but I had underestimated how much time and equipment would be needed.
Little did I realize that this was only just the start.
Okay, I’m going to start with a quick timeline because otherwise this is going to get confusing. From 2006 to 2009 I was a teacher. From 2009 to 2012, I was in grad school. In September of 2012 I started my first post-grad school job (we’ll call it job 1, for the sake of simplicity), where I filled in for others when they went on vacation or jury duty. In January I started a second job (job 2, because I’m creative) where I was initially working 1 day a week consistently.
When I started job 2 in January, I had reservations. It’s pediatric based and I did peds at my last clinical affiliation last year and hated it. I mean, hated it. I didn’t want to go. I called my sister almost daily on the way to work practically in tears for how miserable I was. And yet, when I got an email offering me this position, I jumped at the chance. It’s a cool place with cool people.
And from the first day, I loved it. I felt a little out of my league at parts, but as each week passed my confidence and arguably my skills, improved. I got to where each week I looked forward to Wednesdays and dreaded the days I had to go to work at job 1. After a few weeks, we added a half day at job 2 to accommodate new patients. I was thrilled.
I have been continuing to take days at job 1, but over the past 2 months, they had slowed to a trickle. I accepted every one that came my way, even the ones that were an almost 2 hour commute away, but even still, most weeks I was getting one day of work a week at best. I really liked the company, but I was not working enough to make it worth my while staying per diem at job 2. I spoke with my boss at job 2 and she said that if I wanted to work more, she’d give me the hours and would eventually need me up to 3 days a week, or even more if I was interested.
And with the combination of hospital bills and student loans looming, we knew what had to be done.
2 weeks ago I gave my 2 week notice for job 1 and starting next week I’ll be working up to full part time hours at job 2. Eventually I may go full time, but I like being able to be home with Eli a few days a week and as long as it works with our budget, I’m not in a rush to change it. My boss also has a young daughter, so she’s extremely understanding of the need for a work/home balance and I am beyond appreciative of that.
But the coolest part of all of this is that I truly enjoy going to work now. When I was a teacher, I dreaded going to work each day. I loved my students, I loved interacting with them, but I hated the job. At job 1, I dreaded going to work each day and I started to worry that I had gone into the wrong field because I was miserable. But now, I no longer dread it. I look forward to seeing my patients, to seeing my coworkers, to working with parents. I look forward to even the toughest patients, because they challenge me in a way that is exciting. In a way that makes me want to work more instead of less, and that is a very novel feeling for me. I am pretty stubborn, but when I don’t like my job, when things get tough, I tend to want to bow out. There is no more bowing.
I remember when job 2 was offered to me and the trepidation I felt about returning to pediatrics, but now that I’m there, I feel like I’m home. And that makes the long road to get here seem more than worth it.
A few months ago we signed up for a bi-weekly CSA basket and found very quickly that it was going to force us out of our food rut. We suddenly had fresh produce that we had to use, sometimes within a few days, and no history cooking them before. One of these items that pushed us to try something new was spinach. I have had more spinach salads than I can possible count and I have made more spinach dip than I could eat in a lifetime, but I have never made anything else with spinach. So I went on a search and found a totally delicious mac and cheese with spinach. I know, I know. But it’s good, I promise.
It was originally a Cooking Light recipe, and while I definitely added some of the calories back, it’s still better (in health and taste!) than many of the other mac and cheese recipes that I’ve tried over the years.
I’ve made this recipe a number of times now and somewhat unintentionally, have used a different cheese each time. Most of the time it was because I couldn’t find gouda at my grocery store, but there were a few other times I just wanted to experiment. So far I’ve used Jack cheese, Gouda, Gouda with Wasabi (an accident because apparently I can’t read) and most recently I used sharp cheddar, which changed the texture slightly (cheddar ends up grainier) but the flavor was awesome. So feel free to experiment with any good, easy to melt, cheese. I suspect you can substitute other greens for the spinach, but I haven’t tried that yet. Arugala will be my next substitution because I think that peppery flavor will be awesome.
But really, it’s your mac and cheese, so don’t be afraid to try something new.
Spinach Mac and Cheese
1 slice french (or sourdough) bread
1/8-1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (can be omitted, just adds a little more flavor)
2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup sliced green onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk (I have used fat free and 1%)
4 ounces shredded Gouda cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 cups chopped fresh spinach
4 cups cooked elbow macaroni (2 cups uncooked)
1. Preheat oven to 350. Coat a 9 inch square pan with cooking spray.
2. Using a food processor, magically transform your bread into breadcrumbs. Stir in the red pepper and parmesan cheese to taste.
3. Cook macaroni per package instructions.
4. Melt butter in a large saucepan. Add onions and garlic, cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add flour, cook for 1 more minute, stirring constantly.
5. Add milk and whisk until well combined (takes a few minutes). Bring to a boil, stirring periodically and cook until the sauce begins to thicken. This usually takes 2-3 minutes for me.
6. Add cheese, stir until melted. Add in spinach, macaroni and salt and pepper, stir to combine. Pour into the prepared pan.
7. Sprinkle with bread crumb/parmesan mix and bake for 15 minutes, until the topping is lightly browned and the mac and cheese is bubbling.
This mac and cheese is best fresh from the oven, but it can certainly be reheated. I always add just a little water (think like a tsp) and cover it with a damp papertowel to get some moisture back in while it’s in the microwave.
These pictures are more and more of a challenge each month. But worth it. Always.
11 months and 1 day old!
(Alternate option for this month- the polar opposite)
One more to go!
Today you are eleven months old. And oh what a month it has been.
I’ve been telling people for the past month that this is my favorite age, and that’s still very true. You are the most fun you have ever been. You laugh, you babble, you crawl, you play and you are just a joy to be around. You squeal and bounce when we walk into a room and interact in a way that is much more boy than it is baby. Last week you started dancing every time you hear music and it’s so cute that I pretty much want to have music playing all day long. If I could bottle this age up forever, I would.
But this month will also always be the month where you ended up in the hospital for several days, and I will bear the scars of that on my heart forever. A few weeks ago you fell head first off our hotel bed onto the very hard floor and got a bleed on your brain. You were completely miserable and ended up staying in the hospital for 3 nights so we could control your pain and persistent vomiting. It was awful for all of us, most of all you. Thankfully and to our amazement, you came out of the whole thing virtually unchanged and picked up right where you left off- a joyous, playful baby.
Just after I finished telling your Nana that I didn’t think you were close to talking, you suddenly started doing just that. You now use Mama and Dada mostly appropriately, though Mama tends to be my name and your way of saying you want something. You can repeat the word duck, though you don’t say it in reference to ducks, which is odd (also probably a good sign that we need to start watching our mouths). When asked to say kitty, you still say gaga, and it’s also what you call Glen your monkey blanket and basically any other stuffed animal. I am not counting any of these as an official first word yet (if you’d say duck in the presence of a duck, I totally would, but alas…), but I’m so excited for you to talk more because I think your tiny voice is the greatest sound ever. (Turn on your speakers and try to ignore my very obnoxious voice…)
You’ve been pulling up to stand every chance you’ve gotten this month and started cruising some as well. You’re not really big on cruising, mostly I think because the couch is a little tall for you, but this past weekend Dad grabbed your little car, put you behind it and you just took off walking like you’d been doing it your whole life. Now you’ve decided that every toy is a push toy and push toys all around the living room while walking, even if they don’t have wheels, or sometimes even if the wheels are supposed to face a completely different direction.
You now eat a variety of real food and all without choking or gagging, which sounds like not such a big deal, but someday when you’re a parent you’ll realize it is. You love blueberry toast and cheese, but everything else is hit or miss. Last week there was one night where you chowed down on strawberries like they were going out of style. The next night I gave you one, you took one bite, spit it out and looked at me like I had just given you arsenic. I’m learning to roll with your finickiness, but to my great frustration, some days you exist primarily on air and puffs.
Your likes this month include: Dad, Aunt Claire, Mom, all the assorted grandparents, the kitties (their tails especially), laundry, balls of every shape and size, Little Crunchies, Sesame Street, your pacifier, stuffed animals, music, baths, pulling the stickers off the wipes containers, rocking on your rocking horse and walking with assistance.
Your dislikes this month include: diaper changes, head injuries, ear infections, teething (you now have 4 teeth!), Augmentin, being dropped off at daycare, getting dressed/not being naked, having your teeth brushed.
This month was by far the toughest we’ve had as a family. I have never in my life felt so helpless and I know your dad felt similarly along the way. The whole thing was just heartbreaking. We wanted so badly to fix you and let us all go home, but there was nothing we could do, and so we snuggled you and cried while you cried.
The accident at the hotel was truly an accident, but it was also the result of a lapse in judgment on my part. I knew better than to not have my hands on you on a high surface and I’m sorry, Eli. It’s a mistake that I won’t make again. If I could go back in time and undo it, I would, and I have wished for that a thousand times this month. But all I can do is learn from it and be more careful in the future.
I’m trying very hard to keep my worries quiet around you lately. I saw another little boy who is 2 weeks younger than you yesterday and he was tearing around the room with reckless abandon. I know all kids are different, but watching him made me realize how cautious you are. You lower yourself to the ground slowly and carefully every time and you almost never do anything until you’re sure you can do it just perfectly. I hope that this is just your personality and not my worries influencing you. I want you to be free to explore, to try new things, to be whoever and whatever you want to be, even if it scares me. I want you to be confident and comfortable, and do whatever makes you happy.
The other thing this month did was give me a fresh dose of perspective. I have spent so many of the last few weeks lamenting how big you are getting, that my baby is gone and all sorts of other silly sounding things, because you are growing up so fast and my heart is having trouble keeping up. But as everything unfolded with your accident and as I waited for an ambulance I thought to myself how all I wanted was for you to be okay so you could grow up and do all the things you were meant to do. It made me realize that I was wasting so much of your life being wistful about stages that we had passed that I wasn’t embracing the ones we were in. I miss the tiny baby you once were, but I am so incredibly in love with the emerging toddler before me right now. I can’t waste anymore time being sad about you growing up when I have so much to enjoy now and look forward to in the future.
This month, more than anything else, reaffirmed how very much we love you and how lost we would be not just without you, but if something happened and changed who you are. You are the most amazing little person I’ve ever known and I cannot imagine a life without you, despite having lived 28 years of one. You’re like air to me now, vital for my survival, and the very thought of losing you has forever changed me. Someday when you’re a teenager or an adult and you read this, I hope you understand how deep my love runs for you, has always run and will always run, no matter what happens. There is a bond here, made of something you cannot see or understand, but it courses through my veins every second of the day, into my heart and through my very soul. You hold a piece of my heart and I will be forever tied to you. And that makes me the luckiest person in this world.
Eli, we love you so very much and truly cannot wait to see what next month brings.