Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas in the 'Burbs

Merry Christmas season!

I don't care if some people think the suburbs are lame. ;) Tonight reminded me of the upside of living outside the perimeter: It's kid-friendly, there's a sense of community, and people aren't afraid to have good, old-fashioned, unashamed fun. Really, no one's too cool for school in the 'burbs, and now that we have E.V., neither are we. So, in the spirit of suburban living, tonight we joined the families of Alpharetta for the annual Christmas tree lighting downtown.

It was our first year attending because we were too cool for school pre-baby, and it made me sad that we've missed out on so much fun over the years. When we realized that the lighting was tonight, we decided to take advantage of being a new family and dressed Emma Vance up in her warm reindeer wear and headed downtown for the evening. What we didn't know in advance was that North Point Community Church was running the event, and they did a SPECTACULAR job. There was music and kids' choirs and food trucks and families and dogs and hot chocolate and cafe lights and general merriment. (These are a few of my favorite things...) The main event was that Santa arrived in Alpharetta all the way from the North Pole, and when Emma Vance was confused, we corrected the emcee and told E.V. he was coming all the way from North Point Mall, which made sense to her since that's where she saw him last week.

The highlight of the night's entertainment was Britt Kitchen's Young-Life-like program; we were so surprised to see him on stage, so it made our night. We even were lucky enough to run into Britt and Natalie and their 2.5 kids after the show, a path-crossing that always brightens our day. In fact, there were a lot of old friends there tonight, making it an unexpected occasion to catch up with people we hadn't seen in a while. Maybe that's why tonight made me fall in love with the suburbs again: Our friends are our neighbors, and our neighbors are our friends...and you can run into them in the most innocent of places, like the town's annual tree lighting.

So, dear Atlanta, as much as I like you, I'll opt to keep my life in the 'burbs and see you only on occasion. It's only a 20 minute drive after all. Unless it's rush hour. Or unless there's construction. Or unless I forget my toll money. Maybe we can just have a long distance relationship?

E.V. the Red Nosed Reindeer and Sophie the Elf

Emma Vance saw the Grinch creeping around the event...yikes!

I can't wait until Emma Vance is  old enough for recitals. So cute!

(Gosh she loves her dad!)


Ryan taking a cue from our five month old...

The official start to the Christmas season!


Love the Kitchens. What a cute family. :)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Princess and the Pea, Resolved

No more peas, please!

...aaaand we've transitioned successfully. Whew.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dear E.V. (Month Five)

Dear E.V.,

I can't believe five whole months have passed. They often say that "the days are long but the years are short," but in your case, everything seems short. Too short.

This month your personality has really bloomed, even in comparison to how big it was to begin with! You are already turning out to be such a fun person. I can't tell you how much joy you bring to everyone who meets you. I love having you out in public because you eat up every bit of attention that strangers give you! It's so wonderful to have you around these days because you're becoming a real person who can express their emotions. You rarely cry and often laugh, and making you giggle is the goal of every moment we spend with you. You thinks it's HILARIOUS when we jiggle you or hold you up high; you giggle with delight when we say "boo" or make high-pitched sounds; anything sort of surprise or anticipation gets a big belly laugh from you. The best two games we play to get you to laugh are The Goudy Stomp, where we jostle you from side to side, and Sideways Baby, where we lift you like hydraulics on your side. So fun. "Joyful" isn't even strong enough of a word to describe how full of life and how happy you are. I am thankful for your demeanor and hope that your babies are just as wonderful for you one day; you're earning good karma, girl!

You're progressing so well with your development, it amazes me each time you master a new skill. You grab objects with ease, move them around at will, and have taken leaps and bounds in your motor skills this month. When we sit for down for dinner with you in our laps, you are in heaven! You reach for everything on the table, including dishes, which is cute but really dangerous! :) You're still obsessed with putting EVERYTHING in your mouth, which cracks me up but is also very dangerous, so I've got my eye on you, little lady. This month you just started reaching for us, and it makes me grin from ear to ear when it happens. To know that you actually want to be with me fills my heart to its fullest. We often sit on the floor, face to face, playing with each other and with your toys, and I cherished those small moments especially this month because now you are actually playing with us. You also have been sitting up on your own in small spurts for a while now, but this last week you began being confident enough to sit up for extended periods of time. (Yesterday you sat up for about seven minutes all alone!) You have yet to be able to actually make yourself sit up, but boy do you try! When we have you propped up at an angle, you always pull yourself up with your little baby abs (which are quite impressive, little athlete!) to sit up with the big people. In fact, we've been propping up your newborn lounger on the couch so you could sit up straight with us, but last week it finally happened: You reached down for a toy and tumbled head first off the couch, hitting the coffee table and landing face down on the ground. My heart has never stopped for so long; I was across the room, watching it all happen in slow motion. I felt terrible. You had a huge knot on your head and a line across your forehead from the coffee table, and I just rocked you and held you until you calmed down. I'm so sorry, Emma Vance. I promised I would never let anything hurt you, that I'd protect you, and I failed.

Besides  grabbing, playing and sitting, you are also so very eager to crawl. You love your tummy time each day, and although you've been trying to crawl since the day you were born (it seems), lately you've been discovering the mechanics of the process. You hike your legs up, lift your shoulders up and dig your feet down, wiggling back and forth, but you can't seem to catch any traction. I have mixed feelings about this; I'm proud of you in one sense, but also not eager to see you growing up so fast. I'm not ready yet, girl, so slow down, okay? :) Rolling from your back to your belly is still a seemingly impossible task for you, and it's low on your priority list these days. The other direction though, back-to-belly, is no challenge for a big girl like you. We practice each day on your play gyms--which you are ob-sessed with--and I'm eager to get you a couple new ones to give you new play environments to explore. You still like to kick your piano, but now that you can sit up, you prefer to be seated at it, scratching away on the keys like a proper little pianist.

And, oh, the scratching! It's so odd, but so endearing. You don't really "feel" stuff--you scratch stuff, which is hilarious. Anytime you hear another person scratching, you immediately zone in on their hands and mimic them. If a fabric is extra noisy, it's like Christmas morning to you! You've gotten so strong this month, Emma Vance. Your grasp is lethal these days, and you have no filter. You like to grab your dad's beard but haven't learned that grabbing my face isn't quite the same thing. The other day you grabbed my cheek as hard as you could, digging your nails (still uncut--sorry, I'm terrified!) into my skin and clenching as hard as possible. You laughed while I grimaced, which made me laugh. Also, your legs are also so strong; standing up is easy-peasy for you, although your baby proportions make balancing a bit difficult--but not for long! I've started having to say no to you these days, which feels strange since you can barely babble yourself, but you get the message when you're pulling with all your might on my hair. (And, by the way, you pull my hair all the time, so thanks for that. :) ) I've also had to chastise you for pulling on the dogs' fur. (You love to collect lint and hair in your chubby little hands, it seems, and fur is the best of both worlds for you.) Olive likes to lay next to you on the ground during tummy time, licking you occasionally on the ear, which I love to see, but it won't last long if you keep pulling out clumps of her fur! (You did gently pet Oscar the other day, although it probably had more to do with your angle than your understanding of "petting" versus "pulling." Ha!) Thankfully you are very obedient so far. Let's keep it that way, okay?

As far as your sleeping, it's been a bit more tumultuous this month than the previous ones. There were a lot of factors that made it a little unpredictable--packing up and moving, growing out of your pack 'n play bassinet, daylight savings, traveling. On the days when we were out and about or one the move, I felt so terrible that I couldn't help you stay on schedule. You're so much happier with predictability, but you were fine to go with the flow (although I knew better). Now that we've moved into our rental house, I've been working to figure out how to normalize your naps and bedtime, and we're getting there, girl! You are still taking 45 minute naps and on a two and a half hour schedule (which it seems like it should be much longer by now), but truthfully I haven't been forcing the issue this month since it's been so crazy around here. You seem happy, so we're just going with it. You were sleeping in your bassinet in our room during the nights, but it was becoming ridiculous and impacting your sleep negatively, so we just started the transition to your nursery at the end of the month. You love playing in your crib before nap time and bedtime, and there's a yellow rattle that I've deemed your "night rattle" that is always the last toy you play with before you pass out. We always play white noise for you as you go to sleep, and you LOVE your sound machine giraffe. Now that you can move and grab at will, you've taken to worming your way over to it and chewing on its leg to soothe yourself. Since you clearly like to pacify, it's so strange to me that you don't really care for a pacifier, but I try anyway just in case you change your mind. Gas seems to be waking you up at night (I can here it in your belly, and then you usually burp or toot and go right back down), so we've been taking extra gas drops, patting your back longer, and letting you lay on your belly before bed to help you out. Sorry, Emma Vance. Gas stinks. (Literally and figuratively.)

As far as your short cycles and gas, everyone seems to have an opinion on your eating: what, how much, how often, what methods, etc. Your dad and I, though, know what's best and have been figuring out what's right for you and our situation. You are SO distracted when you eat, even when I know you're starving (a trait of your dad's, so let's hope it's just a phase!). We've been working on weaning a bit, and although you've always taken a bottle, this month we've been giving you them more often and trying out different brands. We also introduced a little formula at the end of this month, but you don't seem to care either way--milk or formula. Singing to you seems to focus you the best, so I've made up quite a few crazy songs lately to get you to eat! You've also gone from a bajillion poopy diapers each day to only one really gross one every few days. It's so bad that usually it requires a bath, with you standing in the tub, holding yourself up with my forearm, butt toward the faucet. It's quite a hilarious sight to see! I'm not sure which I prefer--suffering a little each day or all at once! :) It has really cut down on the cost of diapers for us, so no complaints here.

Despite working on trying to get you to eat more, you seem to be growing just fine these days. I had bought so many cute 3-6 month clothes that it seems you may not get to wear them all! When we started to move, I chose a few items to keep out, and then it seems like you went from just over three months to almost six months so quickly! I may have lost the opportunity to use all of your lovely outfits. Or maybe we'll just starting to dress up to hang around the house. Everyday is an occasion for a party dress, right? Your cousin Charlotte would say so. :)

Speaking of your cousins, we visited them in Florida this month. It was your first trip, and I was so nervous that you'd be a terror on the plane. I should have known better, though, because you were quite the opposite. You slept straight through the entire flight (both there and the way back) and were a total angel. You got your first wings from Delta (of course), following in your dad's footsteps. We went to visit your namesake, Mrs. Emma Vance, my grandmother, and she was enamored with you. She adores you, and I know you will make her proud with how you live your life. You have some big shoes to fill! When we saw your cousins and Aunt Jill and Uncle Tony, you were so excited to see them and vice versa. Jacob and Nathan loved you, but, to be honest, the girls were maybe a little less interested. :) Just wait a few years until they can boss you around when you visit, and they'll always want you around!

E.V., I can't wait until you can really talk. You already have so much to say, once your babbling becomes words, watch out world! You make some sort of noise probably 90% of your waking hours, which is awesome (most of the time). You squeal with delight, laugh deep from within your belly, say "mamama" and "dadada" constantly. The other morning I was snuggling you in bed in an effort to avoid having to get up, and in the dead silence you said, "Daddy!" clear as day. I was floored! I know you don't know what it means yet, but whenever you string a single "mama" together, I always repeat it back to you so that you'll understand it soon. (When you cry you always murmur "mama," and it kills me!) You also have this silly habit of literally yapping your jaw in a "mama" motion without the sound, and people think it's so funny. We call you Zombie Baby these days because you make the most realistic zombie noises: It's this low, gutteral "awwww" that is distinctly zombie-like. And then, on occasion, you give a wookie call, a gurgling babble that is distinctly from Star Wars. I know that you're just finding your voice and exploring all sorts of sounds, that those ones just make your throat tickle and entertain you the most, but I like to think you make those noises on purpose to make us laugh.

Emma Vance, we love you. We love you not because we have to, but because you are amazing. You are fun and good and lively and curious and smart and strong. You look more and more like your dad each day to me, and seeing the two of you together brings joy to my heart. These past five months have flown by so fast, and you have changed and grown so much already. We are eager to see you become a little girl, to grow up and discover the big world out there, but for now we'd like you to stay a baby as long as possible, okay? :)

Love you always,
Me (and Dad)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Princess and the Pea, Vampire Edition

The little princess all comfy and cozy, not a pea in sight.

Oh, babies and sleeping.

It's perhaps the most asked question when someone has a baby ("Are you getting any sleep? Is the baby sleeping through the night yet?"), and I'm thankful to say that we've been blessed with a lot of peaceful nights between Emma Vance's good demeanor and Baby Wise's advice. However, last night was not one of them.

We haven't had such a sleepless night since Vampire Baby first arrived, which is saying a lot. I feel guilty because deep down I feel like it's my fault; we've been so crazy for the last month, and I know that she can sense the madness. When we got the offer on our townhouse, Emma Vance's nursery became our staging room for the packing process, and then, when we actually began to pack, it was the first room to go. Since I had been dragging my feet on transitioning her from the pack 'n play to the crib anyway, it didn't seem like a big deal at the time. We just kept doing what we were already doing, and it worked. I figured I'd deal with getting her 100% into the nursery once we moved. Then we traveled and really moved stuff out of our townhouse (meaning we changed to a blow up mattress and moved rooms, making the entire Shove family's nighttime routine, well, un-routine), and when we threw daylight savings into the mix, her sleeping schedule got all messed up. Two weeks ago when we moved into this house, we skipped the crib and set up her pack 'n play in an effort to help her sleeping normalize (sans newborn bassinet, since I figured that was at least a little progress in transitioning). But it didn't. Basically nighttime was a free for all, and it was not awesome.

So Emma Vance's been waking up during the night more often than necessary, but I was convinced her nighttime rustlings would settle on their own. Wrong. In fact, they got a little bit worse last week, and when she woke up a few times in one night, Ryan and I were getting frustrated. It was the oddest thing--we'd pick her up, cuddle with her, feed her, whatever seemed right at the moment, but as soon as we'd put her down in the pack 'n play, she'd freak out. Weird. Then, my middle-of-the-night-blurry-brain had an idea: I took one of our big, fluffy pillows, laid it down in the pack 'n play and placed her on top of it. She was out immediately, blissful and relieved. Turns out our little princess is really a Princess and the Pea.

Pack 'n plays are great, but what pre-baby me didn't realize is that they've got this big lump of metal in the middle that makes them collapsible, and E.V. apparently is just too delicate to handle such nonsense. I've known dozens of babies who are happy as can be napping in pack 'n plays, so it never occurred to me that E.V. would be uncomfortable. The "pea" was keeping her up at night, which was keeping us up at night, so at 3 a.m. on Saturday, Ryan installed the newborn bassinet back into her pack 'n play (because we hadn't set up the crib yet), and E.V. slept straight through the night. HOWEVER, our relief didn't last long because, ahem, the newborn bassinet is meant for exactly that--newborns--and we are WAY past that stage. There she was, our giant baby in this tiny bassinet, all crunched up and cozy for a night...until she realized how stinkin' big she was. Then our Princess and the Pea got all up in arms about her too-small bed and started waking herself up during naps the next day trying to stretch her giant legs out...of the bassinet...and of the pack 'n play entirely. Even I was a bit embarrassed by how ridiculous she looked with her little feet dangling over the edge. In a fit of exhaustion yesterday, I collapsed the crutch of a bassinet and asked Ryan take a moment out of his crazy schedule to assemble the crib. FINALLY!

Last night was E.V.'s first night in her nursery, all alone. I had hoped that the crib would be a magic cure for her restlessness, but, alas, the Princess not only minds Peas, but also Loneliness. So about every hour or so Emma Vance would wail, we'd comfort her,  and she'd pass back out. I realized that it was loneliness at about 4 a.m., because when she freaked out, I simply put my hand on her leg and she fell back asleep. I mean, I can't blame her; it's been a tumultuous few weeks full of change. And now here she is, just wanting to be cozy in her bassinet, and she comes to find out she's REALLY outgrown it. Now when she wakes up, she's gone from this cozy little nest to a huge, empty crib, and that can be scary. I also think that the bassinet was WAY more comfortable because it was essentially a baby hammock that nestled her perfectly. We had absolutely no issues when we stopped swaddling her (we went cold turkey with no consequences), and looking back, I think that the baby hammock was the reason why.

Tonight will be Night #2 for our Princess and the Pea, so wish us luck, folks. Let's hope that neither Vampire nor Princess shows up. If it doesn't go well we may be constructing a crib hammock, available Christmas 2013 to the general public. Ha!

Nap time went well today, thankfully!

All princesses have to kiss a frog or two, right?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Three Little Ladies, Sitting in a Row

Harper Blevins, Emerson Engert and Emma Vance Shove

While UGA squashed Georgia Tech yesterday, Danielle, Chelsea and I played with our babies, and while they seemed to be taking turns being sleepy and napping, there was a brief moment in time when all three were awake and happy. Uh-mazing. I hope they all grow up to be friends if for no other reason than to put these pictures to good use. :)

Emerson came to visit all the way from D.C.!

(Shame on Hudson for that jersey--although he did call the dawgs in it, so he's forgiven.)

Harper was dressed in the right colors...of course!

Buddies :)

Getting six women to pose for the camera = impossible!

Take two...

Third time's a charm?

(I cannot stop laughing at E.V.'s expression in this pic!)

Even though these pictures aren't in focus, so stinkin' awesome!