Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking back and forward

The newspaper has been running a whole series of "Decade in Review" stories this past week. Some have been pretty interesting. And it's got me reviewing my own previous decade. In some ways, I can't believe that it's almost 2010. It really doesn't seem like that long ago that I was starting college. But at the same time, I've covered a lot of ground (both figuratively and literally) since I graduated high school in 1999!
In the past 10 years, I've finished college and graduate school. I met the love of my life and got married. Brian and I lived in four different states — moving all our belongings four times in a three-year span. We had our first child, adopted two dogs and created a wonderful home for ourselves in Lafayette, Ind. (a place I'd never have guessed I'd be living if someone asked me 10 years ago!)
The obvious highlights of my decade are Brian and Ellie. While Ellie just made it into the tail-end of the decade, I already have a hard time remembering what life was like without her. And I simply can't remember my life as a solo act. Brian and I have been such a great team for so long now! I hope we have decades and decades more time together.
I can remember, however, my life with my dad still in it. It's unbelievable that February will mark 10 years without him. Even though he died on Feb. 11, 2000, I can still feel him giving me a hug if I think about it hard enough. And I can picture his face when he laughed really hard at something. He would throw his head back and let out one of his signature belly laughs. It makes me smile every time I think about it. And my heart aches when I want to talk to him — I still remember his work phone number that I called all the time especially during my first semester away at college. And even though I can't share with him (in person) the amazing things from my life, and about Brian and Ellie, I try to think about those happy memories and share them with Brian. I hope I never forget that stuff and always feel like it was only yesterday that he was here.

I'm not sure what the next decade holds for me, Brian and Ellie. And I'm not big on resolutions, but here are some goals I have for the next year and maybe longer:
  • Live more in the moment. I know that I worry too much. I even find myself worrying about the fact that I worry so much. I'm not expecting that to totally change, but I want to enjoy every second I have with my family and friends. And to do that, I need to relax a little more and have a little more faith.
  • Spend more time outdoors and exercising. Brian and I spend too much time in front of the TV. And we waste too many sunny days. I want to teach Ellie (and the other kids I hope we have) to play, be creative and stay active. We need to lead by example. And I'm hoping as Ellie gets older, we'll have no more excuses for sitting on the couch when there's a whole lot of exploring we can do elsewhere.
  • Complain less, appreciate more. Brian and I are both guilty of spending our nights complaining about rough patches in our days. I want to (try to) focus on the good parts more and the frustrating/annoying parts less. No, my job... family... bank account... life is never going to be perfect. And things won't always go according to plan. But we have a lot to be grateful for, and I need to remember that.
Happy New Year and New Decade everyone!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Thank you

Ellie would like to say "Thank you" to everyone who showered her with gifts on her first Christmas! Here she is below with some of her loot. She loves it all! It was hard to get her to look up at the camera and smile because she was too busy admiring all her stuff. What a lucky girl to have so many people who love her and want her to have nice things. Thanks everyone!

And this is just a cutie picture of Ellie enjoying her Bumbo chair. She's doing great in it!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas pics

Here are pictures from our Christmas in St. Louis. In no particular order....
We got to visit Kris and Melissa and their son, Jacob. I'm sure one day Jacob and Ellie will be great friends, but right now they're too little to be very interested in one another. But their moms and dads had fun hanging out.

We got to have a quick visit with Grandpa Wallheimer and Aunt Sarah, though Ellie was a little tired and cranky from all of the Christmas stuff we did that day. Not sure what she was complaining about, though. Ellie's the one that woke everyone in the house up at 4:45 a.m. on Christmas morning. Guess she was too excited ;)

Aunt Sarah gave Ellie some great gifts, including a new outfit and a snowsuit!

The aunts on Christmas Day were very excited about Ellie. Here she is with Aunt Mary.
And I wasn't sure Aunt Cindy was going to give her back at the end of the afternoon, but luckily she did. And Ellie got some great clothes and toys from everyone!

Here's Ellie with her cousin Alex... who's smiling here but was a little nervous about handling the baby.

Grandma couldn't get enough of Ellie, of course, even though she had to be careful about holding and lifting our chubby girl post-surgery. Overall, I think Ellie helped speed her grandma's recovery!

Here's Ellie in her Christmas outfit! It didn't last all of Christmas Day. Even though Ellie didn't spit up on it, the jumper was too warm at great-grandma and great-grandpa's house — where the heat was set to a balmy 78 degrees!

And here's Ellie and grandma in their jammies on Christmas morning. So sweet.

Monday, December 28, 2009

All I want for Christmas?

We're getting more and more sure that Ellie's got some teeth (two front teeth!) coming in. Beyond the major drooling, she had a low-grade fever yesterday :(
She's got a runny nose, too, but didn't seem to feel too bad during most of yesterday — so we're thinking the fever is probably teething-related. I was very sad to feel her warm head, though! We used Ellie's new temporal artery thermometer (a gift from her Aunt Pat and Uncle Steve) last night and it showed a temp of 100 degrees. We gave her some children's Tylenol, some extra cuddles and put her to bed. A few minutes later I heard the most pathetic cry/moan from her, but then she fell asleep. When I fed her around 3 a.m., she felt cooler and dad reported that she's having a good morning. Back to her smiley self! I hope she continues to feel fine today and that those dang teeth either come in or stop hurting her.

I'll post some of her Christmas pictures later. We all had a great holiday weekend and Ellie cleaned up in the presents category :)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas!

As you can tell, Ellie is very excited about her first Christmas!

A few times in recent weeks, Ellie's daily log of activities from school has included the entry "working on secret project." Well, Brian picked her up the other day and found a present waiting for us — from Ellie! The teachers in her room made the most adorable frame and took this great picture of Santa Ellie sitting in front of the classroom's "fireplace" :) We LOVE it. After fighting over who would get to take it to work, we compromised on keeping it at home in the dining room. Thanks, Ellie — and her teachers!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Daddy is 30!

SOMEBODY is turning 30 years old on Dec. 22! I'll give you a hint... it's not Ellie.
Just a year ago, before Brian's 29th birthday, we were traipsing around Italy on our first world-traveling adventure. Wait, is "traipsing" the right word for walking around after having wine with every meal? :)
The time leading up to Brian's 30th birthday was different, but no less exciting. Sure, we go to bed most nights now before 10 p.m. And, yes, more of our conversations revolve around poop and puke. But I think Brian would agree that Ellie is the best present he got all year!
I've told Brian 30 isn't old anymore. (It's the new 25!) But I might need some reminding of that in 21 months when I hit the milestone... Actually, I don't think Brian is having too much trouble with this birthday. It's just another number. And he loves to point out: "There's only one alternative to getting older, and it's not a good one."
Happy birthday, Brian and daddy! Lots of love, Dorothy and Ellie

Friday, December 18, 2009

3 is better than 2...

"I'm never going shopping without you again."
That's what Brian said to me on the phone the other day after he had to go shopping for funeral clothes. He did pretty well, getting a nice button-up shirt and a new pair of dress slacks. He even found a new belt, since his old one had great timing and broke while he was out of town.
But I had to laugh when he told me the story of trying on clothes and asking two random women in the store if the shirt fit. (And this was after he texted me a picture of the shirt to see if the color was good or not!) Thankfully the "random women" told him the first shirt he tried on looked too big and he found a smaller size. But even after soliciting advice, he had to model his new pants for me last night (after he'd already worn them...) to see if they did in fact look all right. They were great ;)
And I can't fault Brian for wanting the second opinion. I felt a little bit lost during the days he was gone. Ellie is great to have around, but she's not chiming in (yet) on whether my outfit fits OK or what we should make for dinner. And just keeping up with Ellie during the first half of the week, left a lot of other stuff around the house unattended. We're a great team. And while I'm glad that Brian could support his family in person earlier this week, it's good to have him home!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Grandma's surgery

Grandma Linda is recovering well from her surgery. Brian, Ellie and I are so grateful to see her come out healthy on the other side of this. It's going to be a tough recovery, but we know she's going to get through it. After all, she met Ellie right at the beginning and she needs to be around to be grandma to her for a long time.

Brian is still in St. Louis. He left Sunday with plans to return today, but is now staying an extra day-and-a-half to offer support to his dad and attend Donna's funeral. And I know it means a lot to his mom (and grandparents!) to have him there right now while him mom is still in the hospital.

Brian and his mom have such a close bond. Yes, they drive each other nuts sometimes :) But they're friends, on top of being family. I hope Ellie feels as close to us when she's older as Brian and I do with our moms.

We love you and Ellie sends slobbery kisses, Grandma Linda!


We are all thinking of Brian's dad's family today. His longtime girlfriend, Donna, who is the mother of Brian's half-sister Sarah, died suddenly over the weekend. Her whole family is in our prayers. Donna got to meet Ellie when we went to St. Louis for a visit in November. As Brian jokes, we practically had to pry Ellie away from her. It was clear she loved babies, and I hope all of her children remember her love.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Laughing girl

Brian discovered a way to get some laughs from Ellie (and to create a lot of static electricity!)....

Fun and smiles

We pulled the exer-saucer out of storage this weekend because Ellie has just gotten big enough for it. We have it on the lowest setting and her feet just barely hit the floor :) But she loves it. The first time we set her in it, her eyes got really big as she tried to take in all of the toys in her reach. She smiled and played for a good 20 minutes before wanting out.
Ellie had a couple photo sessions over the weekend. And I was finally able to capture more of her smiles on camera!
I wanted to get a few "happy" pictures to print and send with Brian. He traveled to St. Louis Sunday to spend some time with his mom and be there when she goes in for surgery Monday. (She's getting preventative surgery because she's had breast cancer twice and has a high-risk of getting it again.) So, I wanted to send her in with some fun images of Ellie in the front of her mind.
This one below is from Sunday morning. I may have been groggy still at 6:30 a.m., but Ellie was thrilled to start her day!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cutie pie

Here are some fun recent pictures of our cutie pie :) She's good at holding her rattle and shakin' it! She also LOVES doing this combo of smiling and sticking out her tongue,

Caught: One Ellie-belly having too much fun playing in her jump-a-roo. She can spin around and move all over the place in it... but sometimes her arm gets stuck inside (as it is below). Poor baby — but I did fix it after taking a picture...

Ellie showing off one of her fancy new bibs. Yes, she's fancy.

She gets tired from all the fun she has at school and home, and she usually has to catch a quick power nap during the evening. What a life!

All bundled up

With the wind chill dropping below zero today, I insisted on bundling Ellie up in her snowsuit for the trip to school this morning. Brian suggested that it might be overkill. And, sure enough, by the time a crabby Ellie got to day care, she was probably too warm (since I had the heat blasting in the car, too...)
Ellie looks super cute in her snowsuit — as you can sort of tell from my sub-par picture taken on my cell phone. But she doesn't like that it cuts off access to her hands. Not only are her fingers covered but the sleeves of the suit are so thick that I'm not sure she has the strength yet to bend them and bring her arms in! It's definitely reminiscent the outfits in A Christmas Story.
So tomorrow we'll probably go back to piling the blankets on her in the morning. I wish someone would pile blankets on me and carry me to work...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Stairway Picture

I'm a little late on this topic, but wanted to share a couple more pictures from Thanksgiving weekend. Ellie got to meet all of her cousins and was adored by most of them. Watching the older kids play together got me very excited for when Ellie will be old enough to join in the fun — and shenanigans!
When I was younger, my parents used to make all of us kids do a stairway picture at the holidays. We did the picture every year until we all got too big to fit on the stairs! I remember years when we were outright mad about taking the picture, probably because our parents withheld presents until we all sat nicely on the stairs. I guess that was the only way to solicit cooperation from kids that wanted to run in 10 different directions. But even though the pictures seemed like a pain at the time, I'm thankful to have those memories preserved. It's fun to look back at the different years and see us all growing (and changing hair styles!)
I was very excited that my cousins and siblings decided to starting the tradition with the next generation of kids at Thanksgiving this year. Our first attempt wasn't perfect... as evidenced below.... One cousin, Ila, wouldn't even get in the picture. But we'll keep trying!

At least Ellie was cooperative this year. (The whole lack of mobility thing helps.) And Alora and Jay were happy to ham up the picture with her!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Warm and fuzzy

I think someone is trying to tell me something... Perhaps that everything is going to be OK.
Not long after I wrote yesterday's post, I got a call from a sweet old lady in Lafayette — Roberta Osterloh. She said I came out to her house a while back and wrote a story about her husband, Leroy. I didn't remember the exact story, and when I looked it up in the archives it turned out I wrote it at the end of 2007! But she remembered me and has followed my writing in the paper. She saw the news that Brian and I had a daughter and wanted to know her name because she was making a personalized gift for us. I thanked her, told her it wasn't necessary — but also told her Ellie's name.
The next thing I knew, I got a call from the front desk telling me there's a gift for me. Sweet Mrs. Osterloh gave us three quilted baby bibs, each with Ellie's name stitched across the front. They're gorgeous! That was my first warm-fuzzy to start of the weekend.

Then, today, I had to work. One of my assignments was covering an Eagle Scout ceremony. It was for an amazing young man, Seth Mullen, who is 20 and suffers from severe cerebral palsy. He's nonverbal and confined to a wheelchair, but that hasn't stopped him from accomplishing something very few people have. (I know how important it is to become an Eagle Scout since I'm married to one!)
I almost cried several times during the ceremony as Seth's father read a poem to his son and later talked about his son's struggles. The most touching part of the poem he read went something like this:
Don't listen to the words shouldn't, wouldn't, couldn't and can't....
Only listen to the words should, would, could and can.
These are the words that will make you a man....
If you follow these words, they will make you hurt and ache ...
But you must follow your heart's words.

I'm less worried about Ellie and the world today. It's the Christmas season and I've been reminded of the good and amazing people out there.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A worry wart

I'm having a hard time figuring out how to write this, so bear with me.
In the first couple months after Ellie was born I struggled with some baby blues. Between the hormones raging through me, the sleep I wasn't getting and the total change in almost every aspect of my life... I struggled to make it through most days without crying.
I'm doing much better now. And I give credit to Brian for helping me keep my sanity through that time. Talking to him about what I was feeling (worries about not being a good mother or feeling inadequate because of my low milk supply) helped me deal with those emotions. And he was always there to tell me I wasn't crazy and to give me a hug, or a quick break from baby duty.
Nowadays things feel so great. Ellie is sleeping more at night, playing more during the day and melting my heart every time she smiles or laughs.
But I still find myself worrying A LOT about her. It doesn't help that I work for a newspaper, where we report all the good and bad news of the day. This week has been especially horrifying for a new mom like me. We had stories about a babysitter who molested children in her care, one only 2-months-old, and another about a mom who passed out on top of her 3-year-old outside in the cold. The toddler is on life support (and it's unlikely he'll survive), and who knows how those children hurt by the babysitter are recovering.
I know reporters are supposed to have thick skin, and I've covered my fair share of fires, shootings and other bad events over the years. But I'm not always able to stay detached from the stories. I remember a fire I had to cover late one night when we were living in Massachusetts. It was freezing out and there were parents and kids that had run out from the multi-family home with nothing on their feet. I called Brian and made him bring some blankets and old shoes and socks of ours down to the scene. He distributed them while I worked on getting information for the story.
In some ways I am grateful that these stories remind me of the needs of so many other families in the world. But many of the stories, especially where kids get hurt, haunt me. I can't believe the bad things that happen in this world to innocent people. And now that I have Ellie I feel this crazy need (literally a feeling that ties my stomach in knots) to protect her... from everything.
I know that she is already better off than a lot of kids. She has two parents who love her and would do anything for her. She's healthy. She's fed, clothed and protected. I just see these insane things happening — in some cases to babies — and can't help but worry.
It's normal for parents, especially first-time ones, to worry. And I don't expect to stop any time soon. But at the same time, I don't want to be a mom that smothers her kids or is too scared of what could happen to ever let her experience things in life. I want Ellie and any other children I have to try new things and really live — even in that means sometimes failing or getting hurt.
I just want what's best for her always. Can anyone help me arrange that? Preferably before I drive myself crazy with all this worrying!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

4 months

Ellie is four months old today! To help celebrate, we took her in for her 4-month appointment and shots. She did great — weighing in at 15 lbs, 4 oz and measuring 25.25 inches. Poor Ellie wasn't too thrilled about the shots, but she did get Snoopy and Bugs Bunny band-aids. And before the shots, Ellie got some fun playtime with mom and dad while waiting for the doctor (see above).
Brian and I love the pediatrician we found for Ellie... but we do NOT love how backed up her appointments get each time we're in there. Today Brian picked Ellie up and brought her over to the doctor's office for the 10:45 a.m. appointment. When he arrived they told him the doctor was running an hour behind! This was especially bad news because the last two times we were in there we had to wait an hour to see her anyway. I'm not sure if it was because of the pissy conversations we had with the desk clerks or what, but we ended up getting in to see Dr. Miller about 15 minutes later. And we were out from the appointment within 75 minutes. Not bad!
So, we're sticking with Dr. Miller for now. Hopefully we have more good luck there.
Dr. Miller said Ellie is going great! She's in the 86th percentile for weight and the 85th percentile for height. We feel so blessed that she is healthy and happy!

I almost forgot to do Ellie's top 10 list for 4 months. Here goes:
1. Laughing... she's only done it a few times for us, but it's awesome! Can't wait to hear more of it.
2. Chewing on things — really anything she can get in her mouth: burp cloth, fingers, mom's shirt.
3. Babbling and cooing. She loves to raise her voice and it's hilarious when she surprises herself with it.
4. Blowing spit bubbles.
6. Having poop blow-outs. I can't remember the last time she came home from school in the same outfit I dropped her off in.
7. Grabbing fingers and hair. I need to wear a ponytail more often.
8. Tolerating tummy time for much longer, usually 5-15 minutes at a time. We're starting to see signs of her rolling over, but not yet.
9. Sucking her thumb. It's her best friend at nighttime.
10. Smiling about everything and anything — except the camera, usually!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Little kid fun

Ellie is saying and doing a lot more these days ... but I'm still measuring her progress in head lifts and coos or squeals. It was a lot of fun to hang out with some bigger little kids over the weekend — our 4-year-old nephews, Mason and Jay, and 6-year-old niece Alora. Brian was happy to tickle and roughhouse with them, especially the boys.

Meanwhile, I had fun playing with Princess Alora. It's good practice for me when Ellie gets older! Alora recently attended a birthday party where all the girls got their nails painted. So I decided to be a very cool aunt and offer to paint her fingernails again. She immediately agreed and started brainstorming what designs I could draw on her nails — hearts or birds feet or lines. I explained to her that I'm not a professional nail tech, like the ones at the beauty school that did her nails last time. She finally agreed to have me paint her nails alternating colors (sparkly pink and purple) and then just add a dot of color to each one. That I could handle :)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What a weekend

We finally got back in town last night after a weekend that was amazing, fun, whirlwind and exhausting! I have so much to write about and I won't be able to hit it all in one post, but here are some of the main events from our long weekend.

• First Thanksgiving
Ellie had a great first Thanksgiving, even though she cannot yet enjoy all of the Schneider family favorites. I'm looking forward to next year's Thanksgiving when she can try the *best ever* mashed potatoes, which are a staple in any holiday meal with my family :)
The holiday was also a chance for Ellie to meet some family members for the first time — including my younger brother Ben and his fiance Candice. I hated that they met her for the first time when she was almost four months old! But they live all the way up in Minneapolis and we just don't get to see each other often enough. Ellie had a lot of fun with her Uncle Ben, including some quality time watching the Packers-Lions game together on Thanksgiving Day.

• Muzzy... and other mishaps
We traveled with both dogs again and did pretty well. Radar did get nervous a few times on the return trip and stepped into Ellie car seat — again. And Muzzy jumped up into it a few times when we went through the drive-thru because she wanted to see what was going on. But Ellie was unfazed by the visits from her puppies. She slept through most of it!
Funnier than the car ride, were Muzzy's antics once we arrived at my mom's house. The morning after Thanksgiving she got into Ben and Candice's room and trotted downstairs with a pair of Candice's underwear. She left them in the dining room for all to see... and Candice was slightly mortified. Brian told Candice that it was Muzzy's way of welcoming her to the family, but I don't think she's forgiven Muzzy yet. It didn't help that later in the weekend Muzzy got back into Candice's stuff — eating two packs of gum and several tablets of Pepto Bismal. Bad Muzzy!
In the "other mishaps" category, I had to marvel that in a house with two 4-year-olds and one 6-year-old, Ben (age 26) was the one to get hurt during the weekend. He dropped a knife and it stabbed his foot Friday morning. No stitches were necessary, but there was a lot of blood. Oops.

• Short nights
Ellie bunked in with us during the weekend at my moms. She slept in the cradle that my dad made for me and my siblings when we were babies :)
We had some short nights of sleep through most of the weekend, though. Ellie was still on her Eastern time schedule, which meant she woke up the first few days at 4:30 a.m. (feeling like it was 5:30 a.m. EST). Brian and I took turns getting up with her, but it was tougher than nights with her at home. We have more freedom to let her cry-it-out at home because we're the only ones disturbed. But I didn't want her screaming at 1 a.m. at my mom's because it woke the whole house up. So we tried some different things, running Ellie downstairs in the overnight hours or simply walking around with her in our room to try to encourage sleep. It was also tough at night because Ellie was held so much during the daytime hours by eager family members and friends. We love to see her getting loved-on, but it's taking some reminding for her to get back to sleeping out of someone's arms.

• A night out
As I posted last time, Brian and I went to my high school reunion Saturday night and left Ellie with grandma overnight. I was nervous about it, but of course it turned out fine. I called home Saturday night and early Sunday morning, and each time my mom was still a happy grandma. Ellie woke my mom up at 2 a.m. and again at 6 a.m., but overall she did pretty well while we were away. And it was fun to go out with Brian and have a few drinks with friends. But I hugged that baby very tight when I got back to see her Sunday morning!
Grandma likes Ellie in hats :)
I'm sure there's more I'll remember to write about later. But those are definitely the highlights of our mega-Thanksgiving-reunion weekend.