Saturday, December 24, 2011

What Christmas Means to Me...

I love Christmas. The lights, the music, the snow, the decorations, the gifts and even secretly find enormous lawn blow-ups strangely endearing. Like a little kid I start thinking about Christmas way before I probably should. I love giving gifts and have a hard time waiting to give presents. Growing up my parents always tried hard to make Christmas a special day. We would build up to the main event with weekly advent readings and had several traditions that I plan to carry on with my own children.

This year for me, Christmas is different and more meaningful than ever. This year I get to celebrate Christmas as a mom. As I wrapped presents for Ben and wrote on the tag, "from mommy and daddy" I started to think about what a gift Ben is to us which made me reflect on what a gift God gave us on the first Christmas. I don't think that it ever really hit me until I became a mom, the power of the gift. I never knew the kind of love that I could have for someone until Ben was born. A love that isn't always explainable in the midst of sleepless nights and poopy diapers but a love that will do anything to protect my little gift from harm. If I love Ben this much how much more does God love us? I don't always do things that make God smile and laugh or even make him proud, but yet He still loves me unconditionally. I want to give Ben the world. God gave us the world when He gave us His son, a perfect little baby that He watched grow and change in the same ways we've watched Ben. Ever since that first day when I held my little miracle in my arms I've had a little glimpse of what God wants and feels for us.

Tomorrow morning we will open presents, I will enjoy helping my little guy unwrap his gifts but most importantly I will embrace the gift that God gave to us thousands of years ago.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Eleven Months? Not possible

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I know in my monthly blog post about Ben I am always shocked by how quickly time is flying and this month is no exception. (You might want to grab a cup of hot chocolate--this is a long one!) This time last year I remember being very pregnant and struggling to get close enough to our tree to put on lights. I can remember not baking a single Christmas cookie because I was so full of a baby I couldn't imagine much more fitting in. I can remember Andrew and I spending Christmas day in Morgantown by ourselves in order to follow my mid-wife's orders to "stay put, that baby could come soon!" Now, it is December 23rd and we are one month away from celebrating Ben's first year of life. We are celebrating Ben's first Christmas and continue to be enchanted by the bald-headed being that has completely changed our lives.

At 11 months...

Teeth: 6--four on top, two on the bottom and perhaps two more will be through in the next week or so
Hair: Baby mullet--business on the top, party in the back (and his cradle cap is almost completely gone after several scrubs)
Clothes: All 12 months

Skills: Ben isn't walking yet but he will stand by himself for a few seconds at a time. He thinks that walking is funny and if you hold his hands to try to get him to take a few steps he will look up at you ad smile--his Brautigam sized head doesn't do much for his balance when he is looking up.

On December 14th, Ben clapped for the first time and he thinks he is hot stuff when he claps and everyone joins in. We love when he is crawling across the floor and will go down to his elbows to clap, making him look a little like a seal.

In addition to clapping, he can also "shake it" which involves shaking his hands up and down preferably to music. Sometimes his shaking to music will also be partnered with bouncing up and down as our baby has some serious rhythm.

Communication: Ben continues to babble away and correctly associates "mamama," "dadada" and "dgdgdg" with me, Andrew and the dogs. Beyond those sounds he will say "ahhh," "haa," "bububu," and other endearing baby noises. One of our favorite sounds is his laughter and squeals of delight. I've started doing a little sign language with him and he will sign milk while he is nursing (and sometimes before) and we are working on the sign for yogurt, his favorite food in the whole world.

He is a social butterfly. He loves to be around people but prefers the company of his mom and dad. Every week when we have small group he is the life of the party as he charms the ladies with his baby blues and dimpled grin.

Favorites: Ben loves to play, move around, and harass our poor dogs. Chopper tolerates him pulling his ears, crawling on top of him and touching his paws but Tessa is not as generous with her affection. She pays the most attention to Ben when he is eating as he will often feed her some of his snacks. This month gave Andrew and I a little bit of a break as Ben became more stationary. He continues to crawl all around the house but he will now pause and actually play with something. He loves to hang out in the kitchen while I am cooking and enjoys exploring all of the cabinets. A particular favorite is the drawer under the oven that holds our pizza pans. He is drawn to the dog's water bowl and loves to make a break for it to try to splash in it if I am not paying close enough attention.

He is getting quite adept at playing with his toys and attempts puzzles, shape sorters and stacking blocks. He is very curious about how things work and is testing out cause and effect. Things that once scared him (like water coming out of the tub faucet) are now amusing. He still loves books and enjoys both looking at them on his own and listening to his parents read. He especially loves books that are interactive with tabs to pull and different textures to feel. He is increasingly interested in stuffed animals especially when Andrew makes them come alive.

Eating: Ben still eats solids three meals a day. He starts his morning with yogurt and eats again at lunch and dinner. We are trying hard to get him to eat things with more texture as he is almost a year old. He likes some finger foods but most of the time he is in such a hurry to get food into his belly he doesn't have the patience for them. He nurses four to five times a day. We are still working on the sippy cup and have tried numerous kinds. He will drink out of a regular cup so maybe we will skip the sippy altogether?
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Sleeping: This month was a weird one for sleeping. Ben started out sleeping pretty well, had a cold and didn't sleep well, went to Georgia and slept awesome, came back and didn't sleep and for the last week has slept very consistently. At the beginning of the month he was taking really long morning naps and a short afternoon nap for a total of about 4 hours a day. With that napping however, he would wake up in the middle of the night ready for a new day. After we returned from Georgia and he was again napping a lot during the day and wanting to hang out at night I decided to cut his naps. When he settles for nap he likes to play around in his crib for a while and tries to play peek-a-boo. For the past week he naps in the morning from 10:45 to 12:00 and in the afternoon from 3:30-4:45 (give or take 15 minutes). The shorter naps have worked awesome and he is going to bed around 7:45 and up at 7:30 with only one wake up. After months of waking up numerous times a night his new sleep schedule has left everyone feeling much happier.
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Week by Week...what Ben was up to...

Week 1: We celebrated our first Thanksgiving as a family of three in Fredonia. Andrew, his dad and I all ran our annual Thanksgiving run where Andrew took the win while Aunt Jo and Grandmom hung out with Ben. He tried some pureed turkey, met all of his Westfield second cousins and enjoyed seeing his first fire in a fireplace.

Week 2: Ben and I hung around at home and didn't get outside much because of all of the RAIN we've had this winter. On December 2nd, his granddad watched him so Andrew and I could sneak out for a lunch date. The following night he had his first paid non-family member babysitter while Andrew and I went to a Christmas party at church. Unfortunately he wasn't his charming self and Andrew wound up leaving early from the party.

Week 3: We flew to Georgia to see my little sister get married. Ben was a champ. He loved his own personal audience on the airplane and enjoyed meeting his Uncle Kyle and Aunt Rachel who live in Oregon. My parents gave him a lot of snuggles and he enjoyed exploring my old house.

Week 4: Ben helped us pick out his very first Christmas tree at Dixieland Farms. He also helped decorate it and is constantly showing me where different ornaments should go as he takes them off the tree. He hasn't shown much interest in the presents underneath. He enjoyed welcoming home his Aunt Joanna from graduate school in Nashville and has made sure she has been covered in a lot of his drool.

Week 5: Ben came down with another yucky cold that he was generous enough to share with his parents. In the midst of all of the stuffiness, he's spent some time with his granddad, who is recovering from donating his kidney, helped bake over 31 dozen cookies with Aunt Joanna and continued to explore the Christmas tree.

As a new month begins, both Andrew and I are looking forward to Ben's first Christmas in a few days. We love our little guy and feel honored that we were chosen to raise him.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Our Extrovert

Last week we flew to Georgia for my little sister's wedding. I was incredibly stressed out before we left. I felt nervous about how Ben would do on the plane, worried about the cold he developed two days before we left, worried that he wouldn't sleep at all away from home and wondered how he would react to a babysitter during the wedding.

Our plane left on Thursday December 8th at 7 o'clock from Buffalo. We arrived at the airport in plenty of time, enjoyed the family line at security and walked to our gate. I quickly learned that when you fly with a baby people stare at you with looks of dread. I was hopeful that our little angel would not be a screamer and tried to entertain him and show just how cute he was while we waited to board.
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Both in the airport and on the plane our little guy was a charmer. He wasn't bothered at all by the elevation change, thought the seats were for peek-a-boo and enjoyed waving to his audience as they filled in seats around us. Each flight we were on the looks of dread from those around us turned into grins because our little guy flirted with every person he saw. His big blue eyes took in everything from the magazines in the seat pocket to the windows to the balding head of the man in front of us. On the way down we didn't arrive in Atlanta until 11:30 and he stayed awake and smiling the entire time. He needed a few trips through the mommy drive-thru for a beverage but who doesn't like a drink while they fly?

For the majority of the weekend Ben was his easygoing people pleasing self. He slept through the night, giggled with his aunts and uncles, and dealt with a messed up schedule with ease. After a weekend filled with people we loved watching his energy as he charmed everyone he met (except for the babysitter at the wedding but we'll let that one slide.) Andrew and I both felt so blessed that we are given the chance to be the parents of our cute little guy. It is so fun to watch his extroverted personality emerge. We can't wait to see what he will do to make someone smile next!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

10 Months

Last Wednesday was Ben's 10 month birthday. That's right, his TEN month birthday. I still can't believe that in two short months he will be an entire year old. His first year of life has flown by and I feel like just yesterday he was a little grub in my arms.

Stats: At Ben's 9.5 month check up he was the following:
Height: 29.5 inches
Weight: 21 lbs.
Head Circumference: 18.5
Teeth: 4ish (his two front teeth are so close to popping all the way through, I expect to see them by the end of the week--two more teeth are in as of today!)

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Movement: Ben is a speedy crawler. He loves to crawl around the house and if he is being chased, he really picks up the pace. He climbs up the stairs, over the dogs, and over any obstacle on the floor. He pulls himself up on everything and can transfer from one thing to another. He tries to stand on his own but doesn't have much balance so he quickly tumbles to the ground. He does not want to walk. If I hold his hands in mine to try to get him to walk he simply kneels to the ground and tries to crawl. I'm okay with this and we are not encouraging walking too much.
Games/toys: Ben loves peek-a-boo and "find mommy." If I am in another room and say, "Where's mommy" he will crawl as quickly as he can to try to find me and laugh when he has accomplished his task. He has started to figure out his toys and makes an effort to sort shapes, put puzzles together and bang on things that look like they need a good hit. He likes to open and close cupboard doors and bang on pots and pans. He loves music and it is both very soothing and enjoyable to him. He will "dance" by bouncing up and down. He loves it when Andrew plays the guitar when he is around and tries to touch the strings.

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He likes to dump out baskets of toys, books, clothes, etc. He enjoys pulling things out of our kitchen cabinets and pulling things off of the table. He loves to crawl all over Andrew's guitar cases and play with the latches. He is especially intrigued by the vacuum and Andrew's bikes--more than once I have had to wipe bike grease off of his hands a trend that is certain to continue.

He loves to read. We take weekly trips to the library and he loves all of our books. He has a few favorites that include, Peek-a-Boo (he can flip up pictures to see a smiling animal underneath) Goodnight Moon, How Do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon and Go to School, Doggies, and a touch and feel animal book. He will turn the pages in a book and if it is one we have read a lot, he will do it at the appropriate time.

Verbal Communication: Ben loves to babble and mimic. If you cough, Ben will cough. If you trill your lips, Ben will trill his lips. He has mastered "dadada," "mamama," "baba" and "dgdg." The later is often said when he sees our dogs so I am saying it was his first word. He has also started to say mama and dada at appropriate times although he mostly says "mama" when he is upset or is looking for me. He uses a lot of inflection in his voice when he is having conversations with us. He has started to test our reaction to things and will drop things or knock something over to see what we will do. When he gets a bump and I am around he will cry, but if Andrew is around and I am out of site he seems to recover fairly quickly.

Social Development: Ben is a social butterfly. He loves to be around people. If we have people over we have a hard time getting him to go to bed because he wants to hang out. If we aren't paying enough attention to him he will talk or shout to get our attention. He will wave "bye-bye" and "hi" if he is prompted most of the time.

Silly things: Ben touches things with one finger. Whenever he feels something he reaches out his little index finger and points to it. Perhaps this is a normal baby thing, but we find it incredibly endearing. He continues to love our dogs and prefers Chopper over Tessa. He loves when we give them bones and tries to hold their bones for them. He doesn't always understand that there are dog toys and baby toys. He gives very wet sloppy kisses . He loves the dogs crates and enjoys banging the doors and only occasionally crawls inside. He is incredibly interested in strings of all kinds--shoe strings, strings on mittens, cords, basically anything that looks like he could strangle himself with he tries to grab.

Eating: Ben's favorite food is yogurt. On a typical day he eats yogurt for breakfast, fruit and vegetable for lunch and a vegetable/meat dinner. I make most of his baby food but we keep some on hand from the store just in case. He is doing better with feeding himself but he doesn't like when there are "chunks" in his baby food--he spits them out. When he is full he starts spitting which brings laughter from his audience (especially his dad). He nurses about five times a day. We are still working on a sippy cup but he doesn't really "get" it. He will drink out of an adult cup very carefully.

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Sleeping: This past month was so much better for sleeping. On average he only woke up once a night and slept for longer stretches. He goes to bed around eight o'clock and wakes up at seven. His in the middle of the night meal is not predictable at all which has helped us to see that he is not just waking up out of habit. He is better at self-soothing in the middle of the night when he wakes up and isn't hungry he will settle back to sleep on his own. He takes two naps a day--one in the morning around 9:45 and one in the afternoon around 2:45. When we go outside for walks we do not go anywhere close to nap time because we've learned that if he gets a catnap he won't take a real nap later. When he wakes up from naps and in the morning he is very cheerful and talkative and tries out every sound he can make.

Clothing: Ben wears all twelve month clothing. A few of his nine month sweatshirts still fit but pants are out of the question. He hates to wear socks and pulls them off of his feet as quickly as he can. He helps me dress him now which is really nice.

Monthly Highlights: During this month, Ben took his first trip to his Aunt Hilary and Uncle Dan's house in Dayton. We enjoyed going to their churches Trunk-or-Treat where Ben was an adorable elephant. He also liked hanging out with their dog Lander. November had unseasonably warm weather for New York and with that weather we enjoyed many trips to the playground, walks around Fredonia and hanging out on our porch swing. Ben overcame his first cold which I took him to the doctor for making it very evident that he is our first child.

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Every day our little guy becomes more of a big boy and we are enjoying watching the transition. Andrew mentioned the other day that it is really like having another human around now instead of just a little grub. He is a joy to parent and we love him more than we ever imagined.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Day 29--My Baby's Daddy

I hijacked this blog from this guy I'm married to named Andrew. On day 2 of this month I posted that I was excited that he passed the bar. Today, I'm still thankful for that, but I am also thankful for the love and acceptance he has for me.

According to Andrew, when we first met I used the "tease and release" method. I liked to hang out with him but I wasn't sure I was ready to date him. It wasn't until I was in Moab with some friends from college and I trashed my knee mountain biking that I thought maybe I actually liked him. He was the first person I wanted to call to complain to about how awful mountain biking is and how much I could not understand why he enjoys it so much.

Once we actually started dating I was pretty sure we would get married and started growing my hair out for the wedding. I made a list in high school of all of the things I wanted in a husband, there were over 30 and Andrew fits every single one.

Now after nearly six and a half years of marriage, two dogs, a baby and several moves, I can't imagine sharing a life with any other person. Andrew gets me. He knows when I am mad. He tolerates the fact that I like to go to bed early and wake up even earlier, he knows when I am being crazy and will make me notice it, and he doesn't criticize my desire to wear sweatpants when I am home on rainy days.

One of the things I most appreciate about him is his support for my desire to run and stay fit. Without Andrew I wouldn't be able to do it. He has always helped me when I am training for a race through training runs, bringing me water, cooking me delicious meals, tolerated my weird appetite after long workouts, and most recently taking care of our little guy. He helps me stay reasonable in my fitness goals and brought back to reality after I tried to train for a 50 miler.

When Ben was born way back in January, my love for Andrew grew even more as I watched him become a dad.
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There isn't anything more special than to watch the person that you love more than anything hold the little miracle that is part of both of you. I love that Andrew is such a devoted father to Ben.

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He never complains about changing diapers (even cloth), loves making Ben laugh and will even get up with him in the middle of the night if I need a break. I love that Ben's face lights up when his daddy comes into the room and Andrew's smile widens when he sees his little boy. I can't wait to watch the two of them play sports together and ride bikes together. I know Andrew is counting down the days until Ben can lace up his first pair of hockey skates and later when we can take him to Deerfoot.
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So today, I am thankful for Andrew, the father of the cutest baby ever and the most loving husband a girl could ever hope for.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Day 28--Big Breakfasts

I wasn't always a fan of breakfast foods. In high school I would slurp down a smoothie and in college a bowl of cereal. I didn't really even like eggs. (I had an unfortunate incident on the bus in middle school involving my egg breakfast.) Andrew however, loves to eat a big breakfast. Before Ben was born and on mornings I did a hard workout he often made me a breakfast sandwich that I munched on in the car. Once I went back to work after Ben, Andrew consistently made me eggs and a side of meat everyday to eat for breakfast. I noticed a huge difference in the days that I had a big breakfast and the days I settled for just toast and juice. I wasn't hungry before lunch, I had plenty of food for Ben, and I snacked a lot less.

Now that I am staying home and Andrew is the one working it is up to me most days to fill our bellies with food. We eat eggs every day and go through two dozen a week. We either purchase them from a friend at church or the farmer's market when it is in season. Deerfoot style, we have meat with our breakfast every day and it is most often sausage or bacon. If I have extra time I'll make us an omelet or veggie scramble. I used to grab breakfast on my way out the door and not really think about it. Now we eat our big breakfast together as a family of three and it is a wonderful way to start our day.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Days 25, 26, 27--Family

You might call me a cheater for choosing the same thing to be thankful for three days in a row, but that is a risk I am willing to take because I am that thankful.

Before Andrew and I started dating, I spent Easter weekend with his family and his friend Mark. Andrew went to Georgia on a canoe trip and I went to his house. (Andrew might have signed up for the trip to spend time with me, the girl with whom he was madly in love, but I backed out at the last minute--we weren't dating after all.) My first night in Fredonia I met Joanna. She was a high school student and was stirring a pot of spaghetti sauce loaded with Italian sausage. Mark and I ate heartily and enjoyed a weekend in the B family hotel. I went for a run with Andrew's sister Hilary and his dad and learned that "old" men can run me into the ground.

After Easter weekend, I visited the family again for Hilary's graduation party. One thing led to another, Andrew and I started dating, got engaged and married. When I married into the family I not only gained two amazing sisters-in-law but also an extended family that has welcomed me with open arms. Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents have all made me feel incredibly loved and accepted. We all look forward to family weddings because the "kids" table is often made of adult cousins where the conversation never stops and people simply enjoy being together.

Over the last few days I was reminded again of how blessed I am by having family close by. On Friday night seventeen adults and eight children ages five and under gathered at Andrew's childhood home for a Mexican feast prepared by Andrew's mom. We all crammed into the living room and it was so loud that by the time we went home my ears hurt! We didn't need a TV, electronics or a game but instead enjoyed catching up with cousins that have been in Scotland, new babies and life. Laughter rang out and it was so much fun just to watch family just hanging out with one another without any conflict.

Andrew's family has never treated me like an outsider. I am just one of the bunch. His grandmothers send me birthday cards, his sisters call me and his parents have always made me feel so welcome. Occasionally people will ask how I get along with my in-laws and I can only respond with "great." I truly gained a second family when I married in and it is a family that is filled with so much love that my heart feels full when I am around them.

Not only was Friday night a lot of fun but over the past three days we spent a lot of time with Andrew's sisters, our brother-in-law and Andrew's parents. We shared meals, played with the cutest baby ever and just enjoyed being with them. Ben enjoyed thousands of kisses and Andrew and I enjoyed a few moments to ourselves while the aunts spoiled their nephew.

On Saturday night we had everyone down to our house for a pizza dinner and as Andrew and I fell into bed last night we both felt so thankful and overwhelmed with love for our family. When they left today we were both a little sad that everyone doesn't live closer, but it makes the time that we do have together that much more special. It is such a gift to have a family that we want to spend time with. We can't wait for Christmas when everyone will be together again!

In two weeks we get to fly to Georgia to see my family and we can't wait for Ben to meet one of his uncles, hang out with his aunt who is getting married and to see my parents. We are so fortunate to have two families that love us so much that being thankful for three days of family isn't cheating--it's the truth!

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Day 24--Thanksgiving

Today I am thankful for Thanksgiving. Every Thanksgiving since we started dating we have spent together. I'm not really sure what Thanksgiving looks like without Andrew. As a married couple we have spent Thanksgiving in three different states: New York, Wisconsin, and Georgia.
Eight years ago I spent my first Thanksgiving with the Brautigam family and our friend Mark. We started our morning like any good turkey eater should and ran ten miles. The ten mile run, Cable Hill, was a run started by Andrew's dad and a couple of friends twenty nine years ago today. Over the years the run has had roller skiers, mountain bikers, and even a participant that ran part of the hill backwards--actually the same person did all of those things in different years.  Leaving from the Brautigam's house the journey takes you up hill until the base of Cable Hill Road--a 0.9 mile road that goes straight up hill. The run is fun until the base of the hill. At the base it turns into a race that has bragging rights that last for the year. On my first Thanksgiving with the Brautigam's I started the women's division.

Today much like my first Brautigam Thanksgiving, we started our morning with Cable Hill. We had seven participants and I am proud to say that Andrew won.

After our run we relaxed with family, watched the cutest baby ever and ate entirely too much food. In addition to our traditional dinner favorites we had four pies and a cheesecake to split between six people. It was a quieter Thanksgiving than in past years but it was fun to spend time with very dear people.

As this Thanksgiving draws to a close I am thankful for a day that is set aside to reflect on all of that which is wonderful in life. We are so blessed!

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