Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Mother Lode (a.k.a. our Christmas letter)

Welcome to our annual family Christmas letter. Or, I forgot that we usually send out some sort of Christmas letter until a few days ago, and rather than write one, print it out, fold them up, and so on and so on, I decided to go electronic this year!

So let's start with a memory of how the year started:

And yes, that is the best sweatshirt ever. I kept it for my next pregnancy (full disclosure, I'm wearing a fuzzy red maternity sweater right now because its so soft I can't resist it).

Back in January, I had my first days life...working only one job. It was oddly enjoyable! I'm a very focused person, always trying to be productive and accomplish projects. The end of my second trimester was a good time to start having some free time, so it worked out!

In January, Tim and I went on our second cruise to the Caribbean, making stops in St. Thomas, St. Maarten and Nassau. It was a fun trip of transitioning between entire days of lounging on the boat, eating dessert and reading, to walking miles and miles to sight see in at each stop. It was a much-needed vacation to decompress after two years straight of working 60 hours/week, though.

Coming back, I stepped into a role at my job as both an executive assistant and a communications specialist. I spent the next three months learning how to code a website, which was much more interesting than I originally thought it would be. It was like a math problem, I just had to find the right answer to make the website function right!

And then, the most adventurous part of our lives began at about 6 a.m. April 29: I had my first contraction around the time that Tim's alarm went off. 12 hours later, during which time I threw up grape juice, swore like a sailor (pre-epidural), took a nap (!) at 8 centimeters thanks to drugs, almost had to have a C-section because the umbilical cord wrapped around the baby's neck three times, aaaaaaand then Levi arrived. My mom made it for the last ten or so minutes of the delivery, and then we all had to wait until I was steady enough after blood loss (only two or so hours) to get down the hall to recovery.

And then our lives were topsy-turvy in the best way :) Family descended for the first week or so after Levi was born, and I had another seven weeks after that home from work. I valiantly tried to get up in the mornings before 9 a.m., but after Levi ate around 5:30 I was never motivated to get up again before his next meal. Tim managed to sleep pretty well most nights, other than waking up once or twice when Levi freaked out about getting a diaper changed (note to self: you don't have to change their diapers every three hours around the clock; if they fell asleep after eating enough and it's only been a couple of hours, let them go back to sleep!)

We spent a lot of time outside those first few weeks, sitting on the porch swing and just rocking, lounging on a blanket in the back yard, and going for a walk every day with Levi in my Mobi wrap

Time went on - I went back to work part time for a few weeks, working "from home" - or rather, at a cafe with my laptop while a friend watched Levi at home every morning. At 11 weeks old, Levi transitioned to full-time daycare downtown. Tim and I love the daycare, from the mix of kids who are there because of its downtown location to the director to the teachers to the big room for infants. I drop Levi off every morning around 7:45, and Tim picks him up around 4 p.m (he works a bit earlier so he can pick Levi up then).

Two weeks after going back to work, I started a new job! After four years of free-lance writing for any publication that would have me, the local (and rather prestigious, if I may brag a bit) business journal had a position open for their news reporter covering Lancaster County.  I wasn't really job-hunting while on maternity leave, focusing more on things like sleeping and showering and diapering, but a friend in the industry tipped me off and within a few days I was hired, which was really exciting. I'd been looking for something at least more focused in writing (PR, marketing coordinator, copy writer) for quite some time, but any interviews I went on either didn't materialize into an offer or just didn't feel right if they did.

However, I forgot that when you start a new job the learning curve can be intense, even if it's something you're pretty familiar with. Going from free-lance to leaning all the processes, subjects and style of the business journal has been a bit intense, but almost five months in I finally feel like I'm getting the hang of it. I have my own office with a couple of other people about 15 minutes from our house, and commute into Harrisburg once, sometimes twice, each week to be at meetings or just be present in the home-base office there.

I feel like I'm leaving Tim out of the mix a bit here. This has been much more a year of change for me than it has been for him, somewhat of a welcome switch for both of us I think :) He's still with the small construction and renovations company he started with about a year and a half ago. It's grown significantly from the six or so employees then to more than 15 now, doubling its revenue in 2011 and having the best year ever on the books. Tim spends his time estimating the costs of potential jobs, working on marketing and some strategic planning for the business. The atmosphere is one that he can grow in, and the leadership are strong Christian men who are very particular about how they conduct their business, which has been a blessing.

In our family, Tim has gone way beyond and held up a lot of moving parts. He continues to cook delicious meals for us (when he's not home I eat easy mac or cereal. true story), out doing himself with new flavors and invented recipes regularly. I think he should start a food blog - though we've learned as parents that hobbies aren't always an option!

He still spends time with the same group of boys at church he's been with for four years now - since second grade. They're in fifth grade now, and love to wrestle, play dodge ball and eat!

I should mention that our one and only home improvement project this year, aside from finishing the nursery in February, has been to build a shed in our backyard. And by "we," I clearly don't mean me. There was a cookie-cutter shed, 8x10 and about four feet tall in our backyard when we moved in. It caved in during our second year here in the heavy snows of that winter. We priced out the project, and decided we could build a bigger, better shed ourselves if we were crafty about it.

Well, from finds including a huge Anderson window for $20, some quality shed paint from Sherman-Williams half-off and some shingles at a local auction for dirt cheap. Our shed came together. Though the interior is still 8x10, we added an overhang for firewood (dry firewood makes such a difference!!) and made it a little taller. "Taller" as in about 14 feet tall. As in it almost makes our three-story house look small....

We had a string of bad luck including my car getting hit by a deer (in Tioga County, Pa., where there are more deer than people), Tim's cell phone, our video camera and my wallet being stolen, and lastly, right before Thanksgiving, and attempted burglary at our house. In the first situation, we were stranded up in Nowheresville, PA for about a day, had to pay for part of our rental car charges for three weeks and then had to drive the 7 hours (up and back) to retrieve my car and return the rental. In the second instance, my wallet was found but we had to replace the cell phone and will eventually have to replace the video camera. In the last instance, a marvelous neighbor saw someone snooping around and called the police, who were able to catch the guy. We had one pane of our two-pane back door broken, but other than that all is fine, thank goodness.

Since Thanksgiving we've put up Levi's first Christmas tree, a blue spruce that he likes to touch even though it's prickly. He can't move yet, so it's not in danger of being knocked over yet. He loves chewing on Christmas cards though, so feel free to send some our way!

We wish you all a blessed and merry Christmas!


Holly, Tim and Levi

P.S. If you're looking for more detail about our little cuddle-monger, check out the rest of the blog :)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy, grabby, toothy boy

A couple of weeks ago now we went out and picked out our Christmas tree with Levi. He looooooves to be outside and enjoyed trekking through the fields of evergreens until we found our perfectly-sized blue spruce.

Levi can move in one full circle. He can also sometimes accidentally scoot backwards, though then he ends up under things sometimes - ottoman, bouncy seat, etc.

Even though he can't move, he has the uncanny ability to both focus and somehow stretch out longer to reach whatever it is he's trying for. He rarely gets impatient - he'll just keep reaching and reaching. Maybe he has inspector gadget arms, because he usually can get his toy after awhile :)

An of course, when he gets his toy, its a party down in here. happy laughing, screeching, and of course, chewing in celebration.

Speaking of chewing, this boy has entered the realms of teething. The first two teeth popped out with no problems other than increased drooling. Now? Most nights he's up at least once, inconsolable, tylenol, orajel, nothing works - even touching his gums to give him medicine makes him scream. Oy.

I should say that he's still very happy at times other than between 2 and 6 a.m. Even when he's rubbing his ears (from pain in his jaw) or a little whingy, we can usually make him smile and he'll chat and play nicely.

Levi is very grabby. We're trying to teach him to be gentle, particularly when touching people's faces or hair. It's impressive to see how he can manipulate objects - he can find his pacifier and put it in his mouth the right way (that was a long time coming!) and he can figure out the best parts of a toy to chew on or how to make things spin or light up.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Swedish Pea Monster

We may have taught Levi to laugh like Ernie.

We used to laugh at him like Ernie when he was teeny tiny, because we thought it was funny. Now he does it all the time, particularly when he's pleased with himself.

Which is most of the time. I know every parent thinks their baby is the best baby, but this kid is so easy going. We had a two-hour photo shoot today for his six-month photos, and he was good right down until the last ten minutes. Even I was more cranky than he was after two hours of traipsing through the woods, posing, trying to make him laugh, etc.

Levi now has two teeth - and hasn't bitten either of us yet, which is great. He does like to chew on everything, of course. We might have let him try to eat a leaf today during the photo shoot. He particularly likes to chew on crackly things :)

He does, however, like to grab things. If it's a toy or object, it's great learning of motor skills. If it's our faces, oh man. Particularly because I'm not so great at keeping his nails short, every morning here's how it goes:

Levi eating while laying down next to mommy

Licking the sweet potato lid to the last drop
Levi stops eating, mommy dozing.

Levi reaches out to touch mommy's face.

Suddenly, Levi's fist closes on her nose/check/chin/eye socket/neck. Instant yell from mommy. scratch on her face for up to one week. Depending on the day, Levi either giggles or cries when mommy yells.

Ah well. We're working on understanding the meaning of the word "gentle."

Levi had his first green vegetable today - peas. It's one of the few vegetables Tim and I both dislike :) He's already made it past the "could be an allergy" for rice cereal, sweet potatoes, squash and carrots. The squash was the worst/funniest face along the way, probably partly because it was the first one he tried after the rice cereal and I tried to trick him by putting the spoonful in right after he'd swallowed one of cereal. He was a champ and has eaten everything we've given him, though he's still not the biggest fan of the squash :)

Speaking of vegetables, Tim has decided that even though Levi is very cute and cuddly, calling him "Sweet Pea" isn't manly enough, so instead he calls him some variant, such as "Sweet Little Pea-Man," "Sweetest of the Pea Folk," or - most commonly - "Swedish Pea Monster."

Sunday, October 30, 2011

One Tuth Bloke - a story of firsts

We've created our first house rule: no eating your socks.

In general, we've tried to start having the mindset of "please do this" instead of "stop doing that" - rather than Levi growing up thinking his name is "no!" :)

Mommy put this together almost all by herself!
Levi's had some big firsts this week. On Saturday morning, he tried to chomp on my hand while I was still half asleep - and low and behold, one of his bottom teeth had started to break through! He's been drooling pretty heavily for about two months now, so we didn't realize the toothing was iminent. Though if his sleep habits last night were indicative of it continuing to break through his gums (or a tooth nearby, perhaps) then yes, that was a sign.

Exactly in tandem with the new tooth was Levi's half birthday! On which momentous occasion, we gave him his first taste of grown-up food, in the form of watery rice cereal (which all grown-ups love, of course :) He ate about half of it before he realized that he did not actually want the stuff I was putting in his mouth.

Also a first for the boy - his first snowfall! Though we were in Syracuse last weekend visiting friends, it was only cold and rainy there, not snowy yet. However, this weekend in Pennsylvana we got some very heavy, wet snow. I tried to capture Levi with the snow falling outside of our bedroom window, but a) he kept reaching forward for the camera, b) He can't really sit up by himself so I had to be close enough to hold him, and c) it was so bright outside the photo couldn't really come out. But I tried.

We spent most of the snowy day running errands, and bought Levi a proper (and possibly the most adorable one ever) winter hat! His baby hats are now too small, they don't quite make it to his ears.

Oh, I need to report on his doctor's visit of late last week: only 10th percentile for weight, which is likely because we haven't given him solid foods yet, 50th percentile for height (at 14.4 pounds) and 25th percentile for head circumference. He got his vaccinations all set and only screamed for a minute or so from the shots.

Hm, also of note in Levi's life, he got in his first car accident, spent his first night in a hotel, saw his first deer up-close....Bet some of you can guess where this is going. While heading back from visiting our friends and stopping by my grandparent's in Buffalo, there was a deer. In the road. On Route 15 heading south through Tioga County. FYI, Tioga County is mostly filled with deer, trees and trucks.

Trying to eat Dinosaur barbecue with mommy and daddy
We're all perfectly fine except my car and the deer. Tim saw the animal coming across the road and had slowed down before the dang thing stopped in our lane smack in front of us. We hit it, it flipped over my car and landed in the shoulder and we managed to back my car without an engine starting to the side of the shoulder. Some folks were nice enough to stop and let us borrow their phone since our $25/month plan isn't the best in rural areas. Long story short, we were stuck in some podunk town until noon the next day when we could wrangle a rental car out of the one company for miles that actually had rentals available. I did play the pity card and got us a hotel room with a nice hot tub in it while we were stuck there, yay. Now we're just waiting on the insurance folks to give us the all-clear to fix my car. The crappy part (aside from actually hitting the deer in the first place) is that my car is 200 miles away and we have to pay for a rental car until it can be fixed, blah.

So that's our recent crazy life!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Bigger and Faster

Baby Levi is rapidly approaching six months! His six-month birthday will be on Oct. 29, which I think is a Saturday in a couple of weeks. His six-month checkup is this week, so we'll have the official stats update for you next time we blog (I'm going this time instead of Tim so I'll be sure to actually record things like height, weight, etc.).

Levi's most recent new skill is his ability to grab anything mommy is holding. He's not terribly quick yet, but if I'm holding it, then he wants to see/have it. Sometimes its useful for distraction, like part of the menu at a restaurant we stopped at yesterday, other times its trying to rip pages in a book or tilt a glass out of my hand. Hopefully as he gets quicker, so do I!

The older he gets, the more easily he gets bored, it seems. I can't wait until he's old enough so that when he says "I'm bored" I can say "Then you must be wanting to do this chore," like my parents did. We learned to self-entertain pretty quickly. And also to do a lot of household chores, I suppose.

Levi loves to watch us eat. Since its nearly time to start feeding him "real" food (i.e. brown rice cereal) I suppose its only natural, but sometimes its a pain. If he happens to be eating while I'm trying to snatch some dinner, he needs to stop what he's doing to watch me. And, of course, try to take whatever it is out of my hand to put into his own mouth. We're going to hold off until his half-birthday because of the history of food allergies in Tim's family, as is doctor recommended, but I'm thinking he'll at least really like to get big boy food IN his mouth, if not in his tummy at first.

I should mention Levi also moved up in diaper size. He is now officially size two, which for some reason seems so much larger than size ones. He was certainly the weight to move up, but the boy does not seem chunky enough to need larger diapers :) Until we put them on and realize that the leg-holes are much more fitting to his little thighs :)

This is Levi in the morning. We're not sure how he's related to us.
Speaking of weight, while Levi is still by no means chubby, he is getting enough baby fat to brag about a little bit. He's got dimples where his knuckles should be, thighs that almost have a roll in them, or at least a couple of wrinkles down by his knees, and his cheeks are a tad bit round ;)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Bubbles and Jammies

Levi is widening his repertoire of funny faces and sounds. This week we noticed that he makes a concerned look by tucking his lips in in a straight line sometimes. We haven't been able to capture it on camera yet. With Auntie Krista, he was also trying to make kissy faces the other night. He's also learned to blow bubbles by making raspberries with his lips. Though as my dad pointed out, he only makes bubbles because he drools so much :)

We've introduced the warm jammies, which he hasn't worn since he was a newborn and needed all the extra layers he could get. Now its 55 degrees every night, so we're into the froggy, monkey, elephant and firetruck jammies, and he looks SO CUTE in every pair!

My whole family came down this past weekend and we had a grand old time buying pumpkins, snacking on fresh apples, eating Tim's delicious pulled pork (which he actually took pictures of, he thought it was so beautiful) and hanging out at a local diner.

We promised you info on what the Boonga Boonga's were, and though it's late in coming, here it is!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Socks, dresses and dressy socks

Levi. Went on his first dress shopping trip.

As I myself have probably been dress shopping only a dozen or so times in my life, it wasn't from a happy habit that I felt like introducing the boy to.

I'm in a friend's wedding next summer and the bridal party got together to try on some dresses at a few locations to see what was most comfortable and fit well. It was a good day, and Levi got passed around among the ladies while we all tried on a variety of cute dresses. Probably one of the few times in his life he'll hang out in a women's dressing room. And good news! We found relatively affordable dresses that have pockets!! Truly a selling feature for me :) I'd like to say Levi's cuteness inspired the better price, but I think the store had a legitimate sale.

In Levi's own wardrobe developments, as the weather has turned cooler Levi has become a pants- and socks-wearing man. I'm not one to overdress a baby - there's a little girl at his daycare who comes in every day with a hairband in her hair, a perfectly matched outfit and tiny shoes on. She even had a belt on today (she's about three months old). I've had Levi in onesies for quite some time. Sometimes I put him in jean shorts too. that's about it. But now comes time for coordination, layers and actually getting fully dressed every day. ah the life of wearing just a diaper and a onesie, you shall be missed.

While getting dressed or into his jammies every day, Levi has begun to use his new rolling talent to flip himself over on the diaper changing table. He banana-rolls sideways and then onto his tummy, and it turns into a game for him to flip him around and the moment he's back to facing right-side-up he flips again. He thinks its quite hilarious, and it's fine because he's not known for the pee fountains (barring Tim's unfortunate experience). Though I'm sure one day my down-to-the-minute morning prep time will be sorely harassed by his antics :)

Shawn, my brother and his favorite nephew
Levi has been perfecting his (for lack of a better term) hand-to-mouth skills. he can hold toys or anything else he gets his hands on and bring it to his mouth to suck/chew on. If he can't get it in his mouth, he just drools all over it with gusto. and if he thinks he should be able to get it in his mouth, like a pacifier he's holding backwards, he gets upset at his lack of dexterity. Considering a few weeks ago he couldn't even grip a toy, I'm sure he'll get there soon.

One of Levi's favorite new activities is "bungabungas." I'd like to have a guessing contest to see how many of you can figure out what that is.

Tim says we should leave it at that and do a video post in a few days with a prize for the winner. Ready, set go: post in the comments or comment on this link on Facebook before Friday at 10:23 p.m. and whomever is the closest to what a bungabunga is will win a prize. the prize will some drool from Levi, or, maybe something better when we come up with it.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Roll, Tide, Roll

The name of this post is in honor of Jason Mitchell, the student ministry pastor at our church, who SKIPPED CHURCH tonight to stay home and watch the Penn State - 'Bama football game. It is also apropos since we have both rolling and tide in this post!

Last weekend we took the three days to head to my Grandma Norton's house, also known to Levi as GiGi, for some beach, good company and good food relaxin'.

We got in late Friday night and Levi was a doll the whole weekend, minus one freak-out we think caused by constipation (but as you know, that cannot be discussed here ;). Saturday after relaxing for some time, we headed out to the beach at Cupsaugue. The island was recovered from Hurricane Irene, but the wind was still something fierce. We wrapped Levi up in a thick towel and sat watching the waves and reading, perfect therapy! We did the same on Sunday at a bay-side beach instead where the wind was less harsh. Levi did a little standing in the ocean and didn't seem to care one way or the other about his feet getting wet. The water was pretty warm, being early September and all, but none of us got in because the wind was strong enough that we knew we'd be freezing when we got out :)

Levi has also begun rolling himself around a bit. He does it "banana style" as Tim calls it - rather than throw a leg/hip or a shoulder over, he just arches his back in extreme until he rolls to the side. He can only roll from his back to his tummy. If he lands on his stomach for too long he gets mad because he can't roll back over from his tummy.

And now, a loverly photo show!