Thursday, December 31, 2015

15 Things I Learned in 2015

 (showing off my new 'do--I sure have missed having a little red in my hair!)
Here we are, on the cusp of the new year, and I've been debating for days on what kind of "year in review" post I wanted to do. I thought for awhile of doing a traditional month-by-month approach, but that didn't lend itself to what I really wanted to get across, which is that this year, more than anything, has been a year of growth and learning hard lessons and transforming myself, one day at a time.

So I decided to post some of the lessons life has taught me over the past 12 months, with several links to posts that best illustrate those points of growth.

Here's hoping I can continue to grow in the new year to come!

1. Sometimes you need to hit the "Refresh" button to totally shake yourself out of a bad habit.
A lot of people (myself included) often try to "ease into" better habits by making small changes one at a time. Sometimes this works.

However, I have learned that for many habits, I am much better off having an extreme "reset" in order to get myself back on track. Sometimes, that reset button can be for as little as 24 hours or sometimes it can be for a whole month, but sometimes we need to be jolted out of our ruts, not eased.

Two cases to illustrate this: 

- In January, Matt and I did a "spending freeze" to cut down on unnecessary spending, and we didn't spend any money on anything other than the bare necessities for 31 days. Because of this challenge, we not only saved a bunch of money that month, but we had successfully reset our financial habits to help us get to where we really wanted to be, which was saving enough money to pay off the hospital bills we'd be incurring when Raven was born and eventually saving up for a house.

- When I learned I needed my gallbladder taken out, I was forbidden to eat fatty foods, which caused a drastic reset button in our eating habits. After the surgery, I continued to basically stay away from red meat and greasy food because I'd been "reset" from our low-fat eating the weeks leading up to it.

2. Life is better when we don't expect other people to have the same standards or expectations that we do.
I decided early in my pregnancy that I wanted a natural childbirth, and while I found several people to become my mentors and coaches (my sisters and mom, first and foremost), I discovered that many people didn't share my expectations and often tried to push doubt and fear into my mind around the whole idea of a natural childbirth. 

Later, after I'd experienced the natural childbirth I'd prepared to do, I found myself pushing my own views on other expecting mothers, which made me realize that I might be making them feel just as uncomfortable and unsure as how other people had been making me feel. Similar struggles came up when I tried to share my views on other things, like being a working mom or choosing to listen to my doctor's advice on treating my AI disease with medication rather than strictly holistic methods, like many people had encouraged me to do.

Basically, everyone speaks from experience, which is a powerful teacher (and which is why we often are so adamant in our views). However, I have decided that unless someone asks me for more information, I am not going to try and attempt to force my expectations and experiences on others. Period.

3. Anything over the recommended 25-35 pounds of pregnancy weight is a beast to get off. It's surely easier to just watch your diet when pregnant rather than pay for it endlessly after.
Dang it, my mom was right again (you'd think I would just learn to listen to her on everything already). The fact is, because weight loss and exercise had been so easy before my pregnancy, I mistakenly thought they'd be easy after. Perhaps if I'd had a different postpartum experience (one that didn't involve gallbladder surgeries less than a month after giving birth and autoimmune diseases), this *might* have been true.

But I still kind of doubt it.

The fact is, pregnancy and labor and delivery change your body in ways you can't expect, and if you ate a lot of sweets during your pregnancy, you're not all of a sudden going to want to change your eating habits once the baby is out (although you might feel more pressure to do so). 

I have VOWED that the second time around, I will watch my diet much more strictly and not use the excuse that I'm eating for two as I reach for yet another cookie I don't need...

4. Motherhood is everything and nothing like what I thought it would be.
You'd think I would have learned before that everyone else's experience is not my experience, but becoming a new mother taught that lesson to me once again. Before becoming a parent, I had vastly underestimated the joys and delight and sheer increase in love I would feel as a parent, and I grossly exaggerated in my mind the sacrifices, work, and drudgery aspects of it. 

The fact is, yes, you do need to clean up poopy diapers, deal with many nights of oft-interrupted sleep, and give up easy date nights and free-to-do-whatever-you-want socializing. But the fact also is, for me at least, that it doesn't FEEL like it's this huge sacrifice or that it's this new life of drudgery that involves endless laundry loads and disagreements over whose turn it is to take out the Diaper Genie--it instead feels like a privilege and a wonder and the first few steps of a wild adventure, one that will be life-changing and memorable and high and low and everything in between.

In other words, IT'S ALL WORTH IT. It really is. 

5. Patience is a lesson I apparently need to learn and re-learn and re-learn again.
I thought I'd learned patience, for once and for all, as a missionary in El Salvador. Then I thought I'd really learned it when my husband didn't get into PT school the first year he applied and we had to wait another year to see where our life plan would take us.

Now, I'm finally beginning to realize that life will hold endless opportunities for me to work on my patience, to teach me that my life is in the Lord's time and not my own, and that patience can take many forms (like patience with strangers, patience with myself, patience as a parent, patience with my students, etc. etc. etc.).

This year, the patience I had to learn was with accepting things that were ultimately out of my control. My autoimmune disease diagnosis was such a shock in many ways, and I definitely never dreamed I'd be having to live with a chronic condition for the rest of my life. While I have learned that I can do my best to take care of my body (like being careful what I put into it and taking it easy when my body is close to burnout), I have learned that some things are out of my hands, including when (or if) this disease will ever *fully* go into remission (or when it will come back and flare up again, if it does completely go into remission). The fact is, I learned that I need to keep living life with the trust and the patience that someday, it will all work out. It might not be in this life or in my timing, but it will all work out.

And I'm sure it's a lesson I'll be learning year in and year out because that's how patience is. 

6. Accountability doesn't guarantee success, but it sure seems to help.
I may naturally have more motivation than many people to set goals and start new habits and work on resolutions, but that natural motivation is still helped along when I couple it with accountability.

Back in February, I borrowed a pedometer to track my steps, intent on staying as active as I still could during my pregnancy (since I'd unfortunately stopped running in the first trimester, thereby losing the ability to do so later in the pregnancy). In September, my mom got me a Fitbit for my birthday, which has greatly helped me in my unspoken resolution to not sit for such long periods of time and to fit in more bursts of activity and walking and movement during the day.

I may not hit 10,000 steps every day like I'd like to (still working on that!), but I definitely am always on the lookout for ways to be more active, which is a big first step.

7. Sometimes the answer is spending MORE money, not less.
Considering that my mom is basically the Queen of Bargains and Sales, it is natural that I love a good deal (like the fact that I've gotten several hundred dollars' worth of free clothing this year because I put our hospital bill on my credit card and then paid it off right after).

Being frugal and thrifty is a good skill, one I'm grateful I have.

However, I learned a powerful lesson this year--sometimes spending more saves me more money in the long run, not spending less. Case in point: we finally bit the bullet and bought ourselves a new mattress this year. And we didn't go for the cheapest one, either---knowing that this would be worth an investment (considering that we spend a third of our lives sleeping), we researched our options and got a nice (but NOT cheap) new Serta mattress.

It has changed our lives.

8. You get done what you make a priority. You don't get done stuff that you'll "get around to."
I once saw an infographic that someone had made where they'd mapped out their allotments of time on a pie chart, comparing side-by-side all the free time they had before having kids and the tiny amount of free time they had after. And if I remember correctly, the writer pointed out that while she had a vast amount of free time before having babies, she still didn't get as much done as she did once she'd had them. The secret, the article said, was in her priorities. 

When you feel like you have all the time in the world to do something, it's so hard to make yourself seize THIS particular slot of free time to do that one thing you've been intending to do forever. But when you make something a priority and realize that this is the only free time you'll get for the next foreseeable day or week or month to work on it, you just jump right on it and get it done.

That is how I managed to work on my novel almost every day during the busiest part of my work year, and that is how I manage to read 40-50 pages on most days, despite working full-time and having a rambunctious 8-month-old to look after. The fact is, if you prioritize it, you'll find time, If you don't, you won't. Motherhood has definitely helped me to see where my priorities lay, and it's also helped me to waste a lot less time.
9. Sometimes, your life plan doesn't work out, even when you've tried your best.
I didn't talk about it too much on here, but we (and by we, I mean Matt) put a lot of effort into applying for PT school for a second year--we applied to 15 different schools (dropping a couple grand in the process), had Matt retake classes to improve his GPA (which delayed his graduation), and got his application reviewed by different people so we could get input and pointers from experts who knew a lot more than we did.

And he still didn't get in this year.

We talked about maybe trying again for a third year, but it just didn't feel right--we'd put forth our best effort and prayed like mad, but we just didn't get what we wanted, which meant accepting that maybe there was a better path for us elsewhere. 

Surprisingly, I was much more crushed after the first year of applying than I was after this second year. I think it's because, although it's a hard lesson, we needed to learn that even though we desired a good thing, we don't always get those good things, even if we're praying for them and doing our part to get them and trying to be the best people we can be. Sometimes we've just got to fail and accept that the answer is "no," and that's okay. 
10. Sometimes, your life plan TOTALLY doesn't work out, and it makes you laugh at the old you who thought you'd have it all figured out by this point.
Matt and I had our 10-year reunion this summer, and when I was 19 and had just graduated high school, I thought I'd have it "all figured out" by the time I came back. Now, I wasn't naive enough to think that I literally would know everything about anything, but I did think that we'd be living the typical "husband has a great 9-to-5 job with full benefits, wife stays at home with the kid(s), house-buying would be on the horizon, the idea of "settling in" just around the corner" life.

"No" to all statements. In fact, I don't think we've ever had LESS of an idea of what's going to happen with us. Before, we measured time by semesters until graduation and just figured things would fall into place as we'd planned. When they didn't, we made plans for the interim. Now that that interim is an empty road with no destination in sight, we've just learned to embrace it.

Throw on top of all that uncertainty a birthing experience that did not go as planned (with a major complication to boot), a surprise surgery less than a month after, and an autoimmune disease diagnosis, and I've basically just learned to not set too much by my life plans.

But that's okay--I like surprises.

Much of the time, anyway.
11. My worth as a human being is not tied to my appearance, including to my weight or how attractive (or not) I'm feeling.
Although I would have always told you before that I knew this lesson, I really had to put it to the test this year when I was dealing with a lot of postpartum body issues and unwanted side effects from the medications I was taking. I guess I had taken it for granted before that I felt attractive and relatively fit most of the time, so when I no longer had a body or a general appearance that fit how I'd always viewed myself, it was hard for me to accept, especially when there wasn't much I could do about some of it (like the "moon face" symptom that comes along with taking a steroid or the permanent widening of my hips that came with childbirth).

It took me months to come to peace with my altered appearance, but as I started to pay attention, I realized that when it came to what (and who) was most important, my worth was not affected by how I looked--my husband still loves me the same (and even more, since we've embarked on parenthood together), my students still learn from my teaching, my family still laughs at my dry humor, my friends still appreciate my chattering and short, the only one thinking that I was less because of my less-than-ideal appearance and body was myself.
12. However, I DO feel better about myself when I take care of myself, including my appearance.
I know this seems to contradict what I just said, but I don't think so--the fact is, we often send messages to others and to ourselves by how we treat ourselves and our appearance. If we become lazy with our appearance, it often helps to contribute to laziness in other parts of our lives. If we let our exercise and healthy eating habits slide, we often let other good habits slide.

It has never been so hard for me to force myself to get ready every day and to eat right and to exercise, but I can state for a fact that I never ever regret it when I do and that it ALWAYS benefits the rest of my day.
13. My health is directly affected by what I eat (otherwise known as: "I really, truly, officially do not have the metabolism or resiliency of a 17-year-old anymore, so I can't keep eating like I do.")
Over the past four and a half years (ever since getting married), I have slowly but surely been working on improving my general diet. It started from a simple desire to lose the weight I'd gained on my mission but then morphed into a desire to take care of my body from the inside out the best that I could.

As I've been dealing with my AI disease this year, I have a feeling that I've only tapped the surface with how important diet is when it comes to maintaining my health despite my condition. This elimination diet I've been on for nearly 3 weeks now has drastically altered how I've felt and visibly improved my symptoms. 

Although it's not fun to restrict what I eat, I am grateful that I am learning young to deal with my sugar addiction and my tendency to just eat whatever I want and think it will be okay. Although I'm definitely hoping that I won't have to permanently cut out the things I most love to indulge in (like cheese and chocolate), I've also realized that I can't treat those things as the major food groups I was treating them like before. My health can't afford it, and my youth can no longer compensate for it.
14. I now understand what people mean when they say that you need to "work on" your marriage.
I've been blessed with a spouse who I get along with as easily and naturally as I do with anyone I've ever met, a fact which has meant that on the marriage front, I've had few real challenges or issues to work through.

However, even the best relationships require nurturing and being intentional and quality time, all things that can sometimes be hard to come by when you're both adjusting to your new roles as mom and dad. I know we need to be better about going on dates and being more intentional with the time that's just with us two, but I at least finally understand what people meant when they said that you have to continue to work on your marriage after having kids---it's not that your love has grown dimmer (in fact, just the opposite) or that your desire to continue to build your friendship has lessened, but it's that you no longer have all the time and energy and focus to just pour into each other and into your relationship, which means that you HAVE to be more intentional about it, instead of it happening more organically as before.

15. You can't please everyone. No, you really can't. 
I've never considered myself to be a people-pleaser, but to a degree, I've discovered that I am. A lot of it stems from my innate tendency to preserve peace and equilibrium at all costs (and to run from confrontation like it's the plague). Often, I think these are qualities that are worthy of keeping around, but this year, I have learned that sometimes I have to take the hard stand, even if it means disappointing people I love or possibly offending people I'm close to.

Boundaries are a tricky thing with any relationship and it's hard as all get out for me to sometimes come out and say what I really think, but I'm learning that in the end, in order to preserve what's most important to me, I will have to learn to take a stand, which inevitably means that someone will end up frustrated or upset or offended or angry. I'm sure it comes as a surprise to no one that on subjects such as politics, religion, parenting, education, etc. that people are not always going to like what you believe or what you practice. And that's okay.

But along with taking a stand, I've also realized this---I might not please everyone with my decisions, but I CAN disagree without being disagreeable.

All in all, 2015 has held a LOT of surprises for me and quite a few lessons that (let's be honest) have been hard to learn. 

But I'm feeling a lot of hope and gratitude and faith going into this new year--I have a feeling it's going to be a good one!

Linking up with Stay Gold Autumn and Emily P. Freeman

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

First Christmas with a Baby, In Pictures

Christmas with a baby--

It's like, to paraphrase Charles Dickens, "having...the lightest license of a child, 
and yet being [wo]man enough to know its value."

Our first Christmas with a baby was everything it ought to be--full of family, parties, gifts, giggles, and an occasional fussy fit or two when naptimes were ignored or pushed back.

But most of all, it was a time to delight in the care and support of loved ones, the wonder of children, and the hilarity that comes from watching a baby get more excited over the wrapping paper and ribbons than in the gifts themselves.

(Because, after all, that's exactly what Christmas with a baby should be, really.)

A few highlights:

- having the two toys from the grandparents (a walker and a set of plastic balls) be the hits of the last week, and having the toy from Mom & Dad (a wooden ball of sorts that has moving beads) be the most feared item in the living room (next to the vacuum, of course)

- One thing this kid will never have a shortage of is books, but isn't that the way it should be? There's the recipe for a happy childhood, right there. (Oh, and plenty of wrapping paper to eat, naturally.)

(there it is---the feared toy...this is a picture of Raven gingerly pushing it away from her rather than squealing in delight, as we'd anticipated)

- Here's a little video of Raven opening her first gift ever (this was obviously before she developed a bit of an irrational fear towards her new toy):


(we took advantage of Raven's wrapping paper binges to open our own gifts)

- I didn't realize until it was too late that I'd only gotten pictures of my own family (immediate and extended) gatherings and none with Matt's side. I also realized I didn't get a single picture of both Matt and I with Raven during any of these festivities. Those will be top of my resolutions for next Christmas...

- Another highlight? Going to my extended family's big Christmas party and each getting to pick out an apron of my late grandmother's for both ourselves and our daughter(s). These family gatherings have never been the same without her presence, but I appreciate opportunities to think of her even more often than I already do.

- Despite all the fun and chaos and sheer noisy delight, we did manage to sneak a few quiet moments for ourselves to feed the baby, read Christmas books aloud, and sip some sparkling cider while playing card games when it was just the two of us (after the baby had gone to bed). With all the joy that the holiday festivities can bring, it's always nice to enjoy the stillness of quiet solitude and time spent with just our little family, hushed and snuggled together with just the lights of our tree around us.

Baby, you make everything more magical.

Thanks for an even happier Christmas for your presence!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

December Adventure: Elk-Watching and "Sleigh" Rides

Remember when I made a goal a few summers back of planning out some sort of "adventure" every month to ensure that we were continuously trying new things and not getting into the trap of "same ol', same ol" all the time? No? You don't remember? Me neither, because it's been so long since we've actually done it that I forgot all about it.

After a little adventure the Saturday before Christmas with baby in tow, I think that needs to be remedied.

I'd been feeling that all-too familiar stir-crazy sensation inside me for several weeks, and in all honesty, I'm surprised that "in a rut" feeling hadn't come a lot sooner, considering that it's been awhile since we've really done anything too out of the ordinary. (In fact, not counting trying new restaurants here in town, the last "adventure" we went on was back in September, when I took Matt on a surprise weekend getaway for our birthdays.)

And even though I knew the holidays were coming up and that I'd have more time to plan adventures in a few days, I just felt like I couldn't wait any longer--we needed to do something different and stat! (and preferably something outside, too, seeing as I never seem to see daylight anymore).

That is why you would have found me in the faculty room during lunchtime on the last Friday before the holiday, even though I usually eat my lunch in my own classroom because I'm desperately trying to avoid as many holiday treats as possible due to my elimination diet, and our faculty room is chock-full of them. Anywho, I had sort of had a place in mind for a little day adventure, but while I was bringing up my desire to get out and do something different that weekend, a coworker brought up a fun little outing a little closer to our home than the one I'd been planning, and it was one I'd never heard of. Apparently, Hardware Ranch (which is about 30 minutes away from our place) did this thing every winter where you could pay $5/adult to go on a little sleigh ride out in the midst of several hundred elk and take a little guided tour of the area.

A cheap adventure close to home for only $10? Yes, please! Even better was that it would help assuage some of the guilt I'd been feeling for not having been able to take Raven on a walk outside for about two weeks, poor thing. She needed to get out just as much as we did!

So off to the Ranch we went, with Raven all bundled up in a pink sweater onesie and Matt and I marveling at the fact that it was a balmy 45-degree December day. Apparently hundreds of other people had the same idea we did though because the place was pretty busy, and it only seemed to get busier as the afternoon wore on.

Luckily, the "sleigh ride" was pretty short (only about 15-20 minutes) and the horse-drawn carts could hold about 18 people (including children), so the line went decently fast (since there were three different horse-drawn carts going out, I believe). The short length of the ride proved to be perfect for Raven because it gave her a chance to be out in the sun and enjoying the fresh air, but it didn't give her *too* much time to get fussy, since we were coming up on her naptime pretty quick with the wait in line. (Although I will say that she ignored the elk most of the time, preferring instead to stare at the ground as it whooshed underneath us as the horses pulled us along.)

Some quick info for anyone interested in going:

Location: Hardware Ranch, located up Blacksmith Fork Canyon (it's about 15 miles east of Hyrum, so it's about a 30-minute drive from Logan, Utah)
Event Dates: Dec. 11th, 2015 - Feb. 29th, 2016
Hours: Mondays and Fridays from noon to 4:30 p.m., Saturdays/Sundays from 10 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Cost: $5/person (ages 9-adult), $3/child (ages 4-8), children 3 and under ride free
Event: horse-drawn carts take groups of 15-20 people around a loop in the middle of a field to view several hundred elk while a guide briefly shares some interesting facts about the elk and the ranch

Part of the appeal on this mini adventure lay in the drive to the ranch itself, I thought---Blacksmith Fork Canyon is simply breathtaking this time of year, and I, being the obnoxious photo-obsessed wife I am, begged Matt to pull off to the side of the (snowy) road in the canyon so we could get some pictures.

I am definitely not sorry.

So now, thanks to my husband being ever so willing to go along with my whims, I give you a bit of picture overload to top this post off:

Here's hoping your Christmas was magical and that you've got some happy things to look forward to as we head into the new year!

Friday, December 25, 2015

"I Will Honor Christmas In My Heart, and Try to Keep It All the Year"

I read A Christmas Carol every year out loud to my students, and it never ceases to bring the light of the Christmas season into my heart. A few of my favorite lines for you now, and here's wishing all of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year:

"He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the
good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in
the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him,
but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough
to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which
some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and
knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite
as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the
malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was
quite enough for him."

"I am sure I have always thought of
Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration
due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be
apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant
time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when
men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts
freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were
fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures
bound on other journeys. And therefore . . . though it has never put
a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me
good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

"It was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive
possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!
And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!"

Here's hoping that as the end of this year draws to a close, you find yourself surrounded by people you love, your heart filled up with gratitude for another twelve months of blessings, and your soul motivated to honor the spirit of Christmas in your heart year-round.

Merry Christmas to all!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Ten Days In - Elimination Diet Update

It is a miracle I haven't given this up.

(In case you don't know what "this" is, here's the original post on the diet and my reasons for doing it.)

If I had a dollar every time I thought of just sneaking a roll or taking a huge bite out of the whole cheese block, I would easily have been able to buy myself a few new editions of Harry Potter and about 20 hot chocolates from 7-11, to boot.

But somehow, despite my urges almost every other hour to just give up and try again a different time (preferably during a season when there aren't so many delectable goodies around), I've stuck with it.

I haven't always been happy about it, but I've stuck with it.

It is a bit true what they say though, about the first 4-5 days being the hardest. Now, being almost halfway through, it is generally easier to say no to off-limits foods and just nosh on a piece of fruit instead. One thing that helped my willpower enormously was when I discovered some sweet snacks I could substitute in while on this diet, among them rice cakes with peanut butter slathered on top and these protein balls, which are basically made from peanut butter, oatmeal, chocolate chips, coconut flakes, and hemp seeds (don't even get me started on how long it took me to find ingredients for said protein balls though...have you ever tried looking for a dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, corn-free bag of chocolate chips? Yeah, it's ridiculous). So that's helped enormously because now I feel significantly less deprived (although the sight of fresh-made rolls at my family's Christmas party last Sunday nearly made me weep).

But the big question is--have I noticed a difference?

Well, yes and no. I know that many people don't start noticing a super significant difference until about two weeks in, so I realize that some of these conclusions are surely preliminary. But I can say that my digestive system is certainly happier overall, and I can also say that I've managed to lose about 5 pounds, which, although it isn't much, is actually pretty impressive considering that I hadn't basically been able to lose any weight before while being on the Prednisone.

Also, my skin rash seems to be clearing up even more quickly than it was before, which is the main reason I'm still on all the medications to begin with. I haven't gone back to my doctor yet, but I'm hoping that with all these positive changes, he'll be able to give me a timeline on how long I'll still have to be on the meds (whereas up to this point, it's just been a waiting game with no end in sight).

So all in all, I have mostly positive things to report, at least on the symptom front. However, lest you think it's all peanut butter rainbows and dairy-free chocolate unicorns over here, I will say that I'm still lacking in energy much of the time (despite eating more than I did the first week) and that my digestive system isn't always singing songs of praise. And that's not to mention the inconvenience of not being able to go out to eat and to have to call ahead to family parties to make sure I won't have to bring all of my own food. Oh, and, you know, the fact that it's basically the pits not to be able to eat basically any of the holiday goodness that's all around me.

In the end, I'm hoping it's worth the sacrifice. If I'm able to go off the meds sooner than I would have been able to otherwise, it definitely will be.

Here's just hoping I can keep this up...I've already come thisclose about five different times in the past 48 hours to just adding in dairy again dangit...

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Raven: 8 Months

Raven turned 8 months old over a week ago, and here I am, still trying to pull off another monthly update. At least I actually took the photos this time on the actual day, eh?

Quick Stats
Weight: about 17 lbs.
Height: about 26.5"
Clothing Size: 6-9 months 
Diaper Size: 3

Milestones Reached
  • Got her first two teeth (both of them are on the bottom)
  • Crawls on hands and knees
  • Has started to pull herself up to standing (mostly just when she's trying to get closer to Mom)
  • Has started to feed herself finger food
  • We *think* she's starting to understand the word "no"
  • Distinguishes between "dada" and "mama" more frequently (not 100% of the time, but she definitely says the one more depending on which parent she's with or which parent has just arrived home)
  • Can get over/between/under most obstacles in her path, including parents' legs, piano bench, kitchen chairs, etc.

    Physical Appearance

    She hadn't seemed to grow too much before we took her to her 6-month appointment (which was closer to 7 months, really), but she seems to be making up for it in spades now. She has visibly gotten bigger in the past several weeks, and her hair is almost long enough to put into pigtails. (In fact, if we got it wet first, we probably could.) She now has a toothy grin every time she smiles, and we've had quite a few people comment on her defined eyebrows, courtesy of her daddy's genes since my own mother tells me I was basically hairless for at least 12 months.

    What I Love About This Stage

    I love that she is getting pretty good at entertaining herself through exploring, and even though it means more constant vigilance on our part, it's been a lot of fun to watch her excitement and curiosity as she bangs her toys against hard surfaces to hear the noise, pulls on things to see what happens (pulling out the DVDs makes for lots of things to chew on, pulling on the Christmas tree gets a strong "no," which she sometimes heeds and sometimes laughs about). And it's positively delightful how many things simply make her laugh and laugh and laugh, like Daddy creeping up on her and nuzzling his face in her belly, or Mama making funny noises and getting really close to her face.

    She's also started to show excitement when we pull out books to read to her. We've been reading to her since the beginning, but she often would lose interest after about ten words or try to escape. Now, she makes excited noises when I bring out a book, and she tries to participate by grabbing the pages and trying to eat the cover like a little sweetie. Seeing as how her daddy and I are both bibliophiles, it just tickles our hearts to no end that she's starting to show interest in something we both love so much.


    With increased mobility also comes the need to watch Raven more closely, especially as we've had our Christmas tree up. She usually does pretty good to stop when we say no or at least stop once she's been redirected, but it does require a pretty diligent amount of monitoring. She also has the sharpest nails you've ever felt, and she especially likes to grab her little claws into your chest when she's trying to climb up you to see over your shoulder. We're trying to teach her to "be soft," but it's a work in progress.

    Although I initially had worried about this stage when she could really start getting into everything, I've been surprised at how fun I think it is overall. I'm probably more comfortable than I should be with a little bit of mess and clutter, so her getting into stuff doesn't phase me that much, and I usually redirect her before it can get too bad anyway.

    Most of her diaper rash problems have disappeared thanks to us starting to use Calmoseptine, which was recommended by our pediatrician. She's had the sniffles and some major congestion lately though, and she positively HATES getting her nose sucked out and will scream and scream and scream whenever we try. It's just the saddest thing ever.

    Things I Don't Want to Forget
    • The way she starts talking and babbling so enthusiastically every time we sit her in her high chair to give her solids. She LOVES solids, and she'd probably exclusively just eat solids if we gave her the chance. Right now, she just eats two 4-oz. jars of baby food a day (we usually try to do at least one fruit and one vegetable, or some combination of both) and some finger food, like the little Gerber bites or Cheerios (with lots of supervision) or mashed up bits of banana.
    • When Matt shuffles towards her with his hands reaching towards her and a mischievous little gleam in his eye, she'll scream and bury her face into me, laughing and squealing, then peek back to make sure he's still coming to "get" her.
    • The fact that she's developed a fake cough, which is utterly hilarious. The funniest is when we'll try and tell her no, and she'll just look at us and fake cough.
    • Her crazy "yoga" poses when she's on her hands and knees--she'll stick one of her legs way up in the air or go into downward dog or turn over into a kind of sideways plank thing. It's both impressive and adorable.
    • The fact that it seems like she's starting to prefer me to cuddle and comfort her rather than her daddy :)  (For awhile, especially the couple months after I'd initially returned to work, she seemed to prefer Matt for most things. Now, she loves to play with her daddy and loves to snuggle with me. It's a good mix.) 
    • How she finally splashes in her bath, and it isn't small splashes either--we're talking all-out waves of water coming out of the side (since we still don't feel comfortable bathing her in the normal tub yet because she tries to crawl around in the water rather than sit still, and we're worried about her falling and hitting her head).
    • The pleasure of knowing that we're basically the funniest people in the world right now to her. Anything we do, whether it's dancing or bouncing her on our bed or singing funny little made-up songs, we are rewarded with loud giggling and ample smiles (which are often interspersed with a fake cough or two). And the funniest part is, it's the anticipation of what we're about to do that seems to get the most laughs of all rather than the actual event or action.

    Other Notes (mostly for myself)

    She was, up to a few weeks ago, in a pretty predictable routine when it came to napping patterns. Lately, those patterns have been all over the place, and she's gone from taking 3-4 naps to taking just 2-3 (although they do seem to be a bit longer in general than before). She used to be very dependable when it came to taking a nap at our sitters' houses, but now she sometimes won't if she took a late and longer morning nap. The glorious thing that easily makes up for this unpredictable napping routine is that she has been sleeping 12+ hours at night for months now, and she will very predictably go to bed between 6:30 and 7:00 every night and sleep until at least 7 or 8 the next morning almost 90% of the time probably.

    Man, it's so much fun parenting this little bundle of energy and joy. Happy 8 months, Baby Girl!
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