October 31, 2013

Livvy, 11 months.

Fall in Nashville started off slowly, grudgingly, but now the leaves can't seem to fall off the trees fast enough. And now my baby is 11 months old. Last Halloween, we took Tessa trick-or-treating bundled up as a bear and I was so pregnant. Livvy was bearing down on me, an anchor resting at the very bottom of my belly. I was still almost a month away from having her, but by then it felt like she might come any day. It's incredible to think how much has happened in a year's time, how my life has changed and how our family's changed since Livvy entered it. The footage flickers so quickly in my mind; it feels frantic. There has to have been so much I missed, so much I'll forget.

Here are some things to remember:

This past month in Livvyland was most notable in terms of her communication skills. She's not saying any words, not really, but she's getting so much better at communicating to me what she wants or doesn't want, and she's so pleased when I get it. Sometimes she emphatically shakes her head yes or no, and she more often seems to comprehend what I'm saying--whether I'm telling her, "No, don't touch that!" Or "I seriously love you so much I can't even stand it, you little piece of angelpie you." She took her first step this week, although I still think it'll be awhile before she's walking, as she doesn't seem to have the confidence to really go for it just yet. She is more "into everything" than ever before. I just ordered cabinet locks, since her favorite thing to do is open up the kitchen cabinets and take every last thing out. Everything still goes straight into her mouth, disgusting or not, and about 85 percent of the food I put in front of her she either drops off the side of her highchair, where the dog waits, or she chews and spits/drools it down the front of whatever outfit she's wearing. She is still nursing some. We are down to three times a day, which means she gets about four bottles of milk a day (usually a mix of cow, almond, and coconut milk). She loves her milk--all kinds--and in the bathtub she is the most darling, with her potbelly covered in suds.

She is the last baby I'll have. This family of ours is pretty maxed out. So while I was always tucking away Tessa's outgrown baby clothes and things for Baby No. 2, this time I'm dropping them off at Goodwill or stashing them for expectant friends. Of course, the very most sentimental things--mainly, the outfits that both girls have worn--I'm saving so I can pull them out decades from now and cry buckets over. In any case, knowing that Livvy is my last is bittersweet. I'm cherishing her milestones and her quiet, stunning moments that much more--having seen how fast time flew (and continues to fly) with Tessa.

Still, I fail at being Livvy's mom more often than I'd like. I think it was last week that I threw an ink pen against the wall when she wouldn't stop crying and marched upstairs like a child and threw her door open and said, "Please! Please, God.Why won't you nap?! You really, really need to nap. I need you to nap." Tessa "babysits" Livvy more often than I probably should let her, while I'm working or am elbows-deep in one of my compulsive, impulsive, and deeply involved home projects.

There are things that I do right as a mother, too. I kiss and hold and beam at her whenever she catches my eye. I rub lavender lotion on her knees--tough from so much crawling--and I rock her and nurse her until her eyes flutter closed, and I lay her in bed and cover her and tiptoe out of her room. I marvel over her. She is exquisite. Each of her smiles feels like a triumph to me. I love her, not perfectly, but truly. Next month she will be a year old.

October 10, 2013

Tessa at Three and a Half.

A couple of weeks ago, Tessa hit the half-birthday mark. We didn't put a party hat on her or hand her a slice of cake, but I have been celebrating her in my heart in so many ways. In fact, when I think about Tessa, I get that fluttery, half-dizzy feeling I used to get when I'd have a crush on boys in high school. Back then, I wrote poetry in my diaries; now I write entries on my blog. Back then, I pined quietly; now I get to love my family out loud. I've affixed so much hope and awe and unconditional love to this little girl, with her wild hair and her loud voice and her insistent kisses.

A lot of cool things have been going on in Tessa Land recently. I guess we planted the learning-to-read seeds long ago, with all those story times and alphabets recited. But watching her love of the written word begin to bloom bonds me to her even more. In just the past two months, she's decided that she wants to know what every word starts with and what are other words that start with that letter, too? She goes around saying, "Buh-buh-buh" or "Fa-Fa-Fa" a lot, sounding out words to figure out what letter they begin with. She can spell her own name and Livvy's name. And she has started to write out her name, although it's still a jumble, and she usually writes it backwards on the page, like A-S-S-E-T.

Last week, she got her first haircut. I had been putting this off because her hair is normally a rat's nest (it starts to 'dread about 24 hours after I last washed it and detangled it), and I couldn't imagine any hairstylist taking the time that I do to patiently (or impatiently, depending on my mood or hers) yank a comb through her curls. But since she wants to be Ariel for Halloween, I thought I would practice blow drying her hair and straightening it. (On Halloween, I'll spray it red.) While it was all combed out and semi-straightened, it seemed a great time to go get her dead ends cut off. These pictures show her pre-haircut and post-flat iron. How hilarious is it that this is what her hair looks like after a flat iron? Mine would be stick straight. In other words, her hair doesn't usually look anything like this, but we had to document it with pictures. It's normally either in a puff of a ponytail on top of her head or it's in tight curls that don't go much past the nape of her neck. She was really apprehensive about the prospect of a haircut, as she thought it would mean that she would return home without any of her hair. But she relaxed once she saw minimal curls land on the floor around the stylist's chair.

It kind of bothers me how much Tessa is into her appearance in general. I never tried to stress that with her, as she'll have enough time to worry about her looks later in life. I certainly have made plenty of fuss about how beautiful she is, however, so I'm trying extra hard now to gush about how smart, strong, and thoughtful she is, too. She wants every day to pick out her own outfit and is generally against pants or shorts, always picking skirts or dresses. She loves to accessorize with bracelets, barrettes, headbands, rings, necklaces, and everything has to be princess or ballerina or Minnie Mouse.

I'm sure at least some of this focus on looks comes from her loving to watch movies, which are mostly about Prince Charming coming to a beautiful girl's rescue. Cinderella, Tangled, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast are favorites, although she also loves The Princess and the Frog. I have kind of given up worrying about how much TV she watches. It's a great way for me to reward her or to get her to stay quiet while the baby's napping, and it means I can get things done around the house or for work. There's no time to beat myself up about stuff like this. There's only time enough to do the best I can. And I make sure that her TV time is counterbalanced with lots of playdates, one-on-one time with me, and outdoor playtime. Her go-to activity is to play with her Barbies. This is kind of a new thing--a love of hers that we stumbled upon when my mom found a basket of my old Barbies in storage. There was no turning back after that. We've already sent a dispatch to the North Pole asking Santa to squeeze this through our chimney come Christmas Eve.

Tessa's tantrums have been better in recent months--more subdued and therefore less infuriating. For instance, yesterday she wanted headbands at the grocery store, and I said, "Nope, can't have 'em." And her face got all red and splotchy and she cried for a few minutes, but softly, and she kept walking with me, instead of flopping on the floor. Maybe she is growing up? This is the only thing I like about her growing up. Oh, and potty training. I guess that was a cool thing about her growing up, too. It was awesome when I didn't have to bear witness to her bodily functions all the time.

In other news, Tessa has a cavity. It appears to be a genetic one because it's in a unique spot on the outside of one of her molars. (But I'm sure it didn't help that we gave her a spoonful of honey right before bedtime for months at some point when she had a cough that wouldn't quit.) In any case, we've visited the dentist several times so far, and we have another visit coming up at the end of the month, during which she'll be sedated so they can fill the cavity. I'm nervous about it.

She is a living doll, and she is growing up too fast. I'm going to blink my eyes and find myself sending her off on the school bus and then ... dropping her off at college. Just thinking about that last milestone, I feel an incredible emptiness. For now, I try to hold her tightly as much as I can, and I come here to write down all of these little details so I can remember what she was like when she was three-and-a-half and giggly and I got the privilege of standing in her doorway, eavesdropping on her playing with her Barbies while wearing a princess costume and kindly letting her baby sister gnaw on a Ken doll.

p.s. Here's Tessa at two-and-a-half.

October 7, 2013

Painted White Floors: Livvy's Room.

I have nothing against natural hardwood floors. Love 'em to death. But, for me, refinishing the hardwoods I found beneath our upstairs carpet was not an option. These floors were royally effed. Like someone took an anvil and held it realllll high in the air and then dropped it just for fun. There were 80 years of paint splatters and staples and nail holes, and in a couple of places, I could lift a split floorboard up to see the joists. (I told Tessa they were "secret hiding places.")

Painting these floors was the only option. And because they were upstairs, where most of the dirt is contained to Hattie [dog] hair and hairballs from a flokati rug, I decided off white was the way to go. I started a few weeks ago and ripped up the carpet in the small hallway. After some light sanding and some intense vacuuming and staple and nail plucking, I coated the floors with the rest of a can of Sherwin Williams Porch and Floor paint that I had from painting my porch. It turned out so damn fine, and I knew I had to do the rest of the upstairs. The color is "Antique White," which looks almost beige on the card, but is in real life a super versatile, lovely shade of cream. I love that paint could camouflage the hot mess underneath but still show these floors' character.

Last week I tackled Livvy's room, also upstairs. Here's what it looked like with carpet. I'm such a nerd because I had so much fun doing it. My friends/family think I'm crazy, but this DIY remodeling thing is just my bag. It makes me happy. It's what I do when no one else is at home (that doesn't happen often); I pour most of my "me" time into my house. My kids are used to me covered in paint, and Tessa will often walk into a room and say tentatively, "Is there wet paint in here?"

Anyway, I a-friggin'-dore Livvy's room now. I need to say that it normally doesn't look like this. I moved the diaper pail out of the room, so as to pretend that babies don't poop, because wouldn't that be so awesome? And before I picked up all the books and toys and put them into and onto their respective shelves and baskets, the floor was so thick with toys that I could hardly see it.

The floors in our master bedroom will be next. That's the biggest room in our house, so it'll be an undertaking, but worth it. Happy October!

October 1, 2013

Two Lil Paint Projects.

I picked up the old paintbrush again a few days ago, needing to touch up my green coffee table, which had become etched with markers and other kid-related scars. While I was at it, I used that same color--Martha Stewart's "Rhodendron Leaf"--to paint this old Cosco stool that we use in our kitchen constantly. A couple of years ago I spraypainted it blue, but it was always too bright for me, and the baby likes to chew on it, so it had gotten all kinds of effed. Yep, chew on it. When I'm not looking/listening, she crawls up to it and scrapes her teeth along the top of the stepstool.

And this morning, while Livvy was napping, I tackled the porch swing. I had whitewashed it a long time ago, but it needed to be yellow. I used the same buttery yellow I used to paint Tessa's bedroom--Behr's "Pismo Dunes."

Happy October!