Up, Up, and Away!

In 2010 (yes,  three and a half years ago), Brandon and I received a gift certificate for a hot air balloon ride over Napa.  At the time we were living in San Francisco without a car, so it wasn’t a convenient outing for us.  Time got away, I got pregnant and had Ellie, and we still hadn’t scheduled it.  Luckily for us there was no expiration date!  Anyway, Brandon finally put his foot down and scheduled our balloon ride and I am certainly glad he did (although at 4:30 this morning when the alarm went off I was thinking maybe it was not such a good idea).

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I didn’t think I had a fear of heights, but I happily confirmed that today. While I am a bit of a scaredy cat typically, I am pleased to report I wasn’t nervous at all–I surprised myself.  It’s incredibly peaceful and beautiful to be floating along like that, although the burners every few minutes take away some of that peace–they are really loud!  Our balloon had 20 people in it and was something like a 400,000 cu. ft balloon (I believe it’s the largest they make).  In balloons that big, they have the basket sectioned off into 5 areas–1 for the pilot, and then 4 compartments for the passengers. We floated above the Napa Valley for about an hour, had pretty much the smoothest landing one could hope for, and then were shuttled back to a hotel for a lovely champagne brunch (with bottomless mimosas–I was not complaining).  The brunch was included with our hot air balloon ride–quite the deal.  We had a very leisurely brunch and then returned to my parents house to pick up little miss Eleanor.

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I’m so thankful to my parents for getting up super early to watch Ellie so we could have a few hours just for Brandon and me, and thankful to my brother-in-law for giving us such an amazing experience. I was just emailing with a dear family friend the other day, and she was asking how my work/motherhood/alone time balance was going.  I think much of the time once kids come around it’s the “alone time” thing that suffers the most, but for me it’s actually the couple time.  In some ways this seems surprising since B and I are hope together much of the time (he works out of the house) but that certainly doesn’t mean we get quality time together.  Since we only have childcare help 1/2 day a week (shout out to my sister here who is a peach and makes this happen!), we pretty much tag team all day.  One watches Ellie while the other works, we both work while she sleeps, and then frequently we have to continue working once she goes to bed since our days aren’t 100% productive.  While I wouldn’t trade this arrangement, it does create blurred lines between work time and down time.  All this to say this few hours of time for B and I to sort of catch up without the distractions (at least one is a super cute distraction) of our everyday life.

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The balloon ride was a great time out for us, something that forced us out of our normal routine to do something fun and indulgent for the two of us.  Thanks to everyone who made this possible!  I think I’m going to challenge B and myself to make more of these excursions, with and without Eleanor to keep us focused on the important things like spending time as a family.

500! And an Easter Egg Hunt

Well, this is apparently my 500th post!  In many ways I feel like this should have come like 3 years ago, and it would have if I had continued blogging consistently.  Alas, I haven’t so instead we get post 500 today.

On Saturday our church did a community Easter Egg hunt, which was a really great event.  They did crafts and activities and then of course a massive Easter Egg hunt.  Eleanor was interested in the eggs, but more interested in the contents of the eggs.  This meant we had to really go to the edges of the hunt to even get the eggs since other kids were really quick at snatching them up, and Ellie would pick one up and then spend a couple minutes trying to open it, then another couple examining the contents.

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Eleanor and her friend M

The highlight of the day for E was probably the parachute.  I thought at first she might be timid, but she charged right in and couldn’t get enough, giggling and smiling and squealing in delight.
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Of course I didn’t get pictures during the actual hunt because I was busy holding a hand and guiding along, but rest assured it was cute.  After, Eleanor couldn’t wait to find her cousin Claire (they separated the kids by age for the hunt) and was quick to walk hand-in-hand.  So sweet!
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Overall it was a great day!  A little windy, but sunny and warm and the kids all had a blast.

And now for the only picture that I took on actual Easter in her actual Easter dress.
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She’s gotten really old, hasn’t she?  Looking all grown up these days…

Rainy Days

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Rainy days are FINALLY here, and Eleanor could not be happier.  This girl loves umbrellas so much that we must hide them, otherwise she will throw a tantrum if we leave the house and don’t let her have her “brella.”  Further complicating matters, she isn’t content holding an umbrella that is collapsed–it must be open, and she must carry it herself.  Going into the store/library/house becomes a point of contention, since we won’t let her go indoors with the umbrella open, and that is not acceptable to her.  She has gotten better, but it always takes a few minutes to move past the issue.  Dang, does she look adorable with that umbrella, though!  She loves nothing more than throwing on those rainboots, grabbing her umbrella, and heading out into the rain to do some good, old fashioned puddle jumping (or “splash” as she refers to it).

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Also, she does not own a raincoat (oops) and she DID have a scarf and hat on, but she quickly took them off because they interfered with her splashing.  She also enjoyed standing under the roof dripline and getting soaked by the big water droplets.  She’s a nut.

In other news, whether it was from said “splashing,” or just from generally being in public around other people, Eleanor has contracted a cold.  Thankfully for me, it is not one that involves copious amounts of snot–those who know me well know that snot is NOT my thing.  It really really grosses me out and I can’t handle it.  Anyway, enough on that.  Whatever she has is more of a chest congestion/cough thing, poor girl.  A quick funny though–her voice is a little raspy, and the other morning she was “exploring” her newly acquired raspy voice, having fun with the strange sounds she could make with it.  SO, back to this illness thing.  Unfortunately, little ones can’t really take much, but she’s been having a tough time sleeping so this mama went a little crunchy and decided to try some things that are a little more natural.

After a trip to the health food store, I came home armed with homeopathic tablets (Eleanor loves these, calling them her “num nums” and is sad she only gets 5 of them 3 times a day), essential oils for breathing easier, and ingredients for a homemade cough “salve” you apply to the bottom of the person’s feet that is supposed to stop the coughing.  Brandon has made plenty of jokes about me having my seance (with the essential oils and candle oil diffuser–don’t worry, we don’t leave this lit in Eleanor’s room), but by golly, she does seem to be breathing easier.  Also, she still has a few coughs with the salve, but she does seem to be coughing less SO I’ll consider it a win.  Plus the bottoms of her feet are extra moisturized now!

In case anyone is curious about my crunchy measures, here is what I have been using:

For breathing easier, I have been using Olbas Oil in a diffuser (now I want an electric one, but for now we’ve been getting by with a ceramic candle diffuser purchased at the dollar store)

For the salve, I made this recipe for a natural cough remedy

For the homeopathic tablets, I have been using Boiron’s Spongia Tosta

Anyone have any go-to methods for fighting colds in the toddler crowd?

Growing Up!

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Kids…they just grow up so fast, don’t they? It’s been amazing to watch Eleanor’s personality and vocabulary explode lately.  She has taken to saying things like “It’s beautiful, mama!” or “Mmm…delicious!” and even “Here, Mama, I’ll trade you!”  She enjoys singing, or more specifically singing songs from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, which is a-ok with me.  I pretty much melt instantly when I hear her little voice sweetly singing “I like you, just the way you are…” or “keep trying, you’ll get be-e-tter!”

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Her imagination is taking off as well, “making” things in her little kitchen, and “hiking” around our living room.  Her current favorite activity is stirring up a pot of beads, spooning it out and telling me to “try this!”  It’s amazing the little phrases she parrots back to us.  When she spoons me some of said beads (often they are “blueberries” which I find hilarious, because she refuses to eat blueberries but she likes pretending about them!) and then after one bite will say while putting the lid on the pot “Okay, all gone! That’s all we have!”

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She also enjoys stacking things, or rather she enjoys stacking them so she can knock them down.  I finally found some blocks for her, because she had taken to stacking packages of diapers and wipes since we didn’t have any blocks around.  Our local library also has those large cardboard box blocks, so we try and take E to the library and let her play with those as well.

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E is also getting more adventurous!  Now, that said, she still asked my sister to help her step over the hose in her yard this morning, but she confidently can step from the sidewalk to the grass now, so I consider that a win.  She also can be found running around at the park, yelling “Mama, where are yoooooooooou?” as she runs directly away from me.  She also greatly enjoys the medium and small slides (we have done the large slide a few times, but she seems to enjoy the independence of the other two slides–the large slide requires some team effort) and the swings.  I love seeing her physical confidence grow, as she climbs up and down the play equipment and runs after other children, laughing and smiling.

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I was watching her the other night and was struck at how amazing kids are–it is such an honor and blessing to be able to watch her learn and grow, developing into a more independent, self-sufficient little human.  Now for the humorous part of this epiphany moment, let me describe the scene which stuck me: Ellie was sitting in the bath, talking into a bucket (with the bucket completely covering her face).  I was just marveling at how there was definitely something going on in her head, a scene playing out.  There she sat, totally uncaring what anyone around her thought about her antics, entertained completely by what she was doing.  It was also a nice moment to step back and realize we can be happy with so little, if we would only let ourselves. Right? So, now my question for you is what are your truly simple pleasures in life, or have you had an epiphany moment in life lately? Big or small, what was it?

Ch ch ch changes…

eleanor_sqIt has to be a good blog post starting out with a picture that cute, right?  Really, that’s just a gratuitous picture of Ellie, complete with food on her face and all and it has nothing to do with my post content.

Anyway, we moved.  Like 6 months ago.  To the ‘burbs.  And I’m just not writing about it.  I may have mentioned it previously but honestly I’m too lazy to reread the text of the 3 posts that I’ve written in the last 6 months so I’m going to talk about it.

Moving was not something we expected to happen at the time it did, and it was certainly not something I was ready for, especially out of the city and into the suburbs.  About 6 months before we moved, Brandon started getting a little restless with work, and decided to explore his options professionally.  He also saw the writing on the wall that it may not be possible for us to remain in the city if he was going to contemplate a large career leap, and thinking long-term, our 1 bedroom, 525 sq. ft apartment wasn’t going to hold 2 adults, 2 overly active cats and 1 growing toddler comfortably much longer, especially with the possibility of him working from home.  So, Brandon started looking for a new place to live all over the Bay Area.  He would show me places, and no matter where they were, I poo-pooed them.  Too small.  Too dark.  Not close enough to a park.  Not close enough to a downtown.  Too ugly.  Carpet.  First floor.  Just…no.  Bless his heart, he kept trying, but I just wasn’t ready to move! We even thought about other places in SF, but have you seen those prices lately?  Yeah.  No thanks. We were trying to get MORE space and less rent, not less space and more rent.

Around January, we had a chat where we sort of made “the scary leap decision” which basically was this: Brandon was going to put in a proposal for a job, and if he got it, he was quitting.  This, in turn, meant we would need to move.  I put on my big girl pants (reluctantly…dragging my feet the whole time) and on board-ish with the house/apartment-hunting, which really just meant I didn’t veto EVERY place he showed me, and in fact I took the initiative to look on my own occasionally as well.  I still had a totally negative ‘tude–I was feeling kicked out of SF, out of the apartment I loved, out of the lifestyle I loved.  In reality, I wasn’t being forced out–I was making an adult decision based on what was best for my family, I just didn’t want to handle it in an adult way.  I also sort of had it in my head that, while I have much faith and confidence in Brandon’s abilities, no way was he going to land the first job he put in a proposal for.  That just doesn’t happen!

As you can probably guess at this point, he did indeed get the job.  I had a major “oh $h!t” moment, where I was thrilled and excited and proud…and terrified and sad and filled with anxiety.  This all was really happening! The search for a place to live went into overdrive, 2 weeks later we had a lease and 2 weeks after that we were all packed up and moved out of our beloved apartment.  It happened in the blink of an eye–I didn’t even get to fulfill a bucket list of things to do! No last date nights…nothing.  Just like that, we were gone.  My drive out of the city was extremely tear-full, as I said goodbye to the place that I loved–it was our apartment that we moved into when we got married, the place we brought Eleanor home to from the hospital…it is filled with so many memories and so much love, I just wanted to keep it forever (even though we didn’t own it).

And that brings us back to here and now.  Do I miss San Francisco? Terribly, with all my heart.  I even miss my tiny apartment.  I miss so many things about living in the city, but when I get down about it I remind myself how much I get to see Brandon now, and how much he gets to see Ellie.  He works from home,  so we take turns with E and do a lot more as a family.  Whereas in SF he was frequently gone 10-12 hours a day, now he’s around most of the time and I wouldn’t trade that for anything, and I especially wouldn’t take that away from him.  He is so much happier and less stressed now, and that is worth the world.  Also, we have a backyard now.  I have a garden.  We have a stoop.  We live in an adorable early 1900’s house.  We have an awesome office space in the house.  We’re near the water.  I GET SUMMER WEATHER (this has probably been the single fact that helped me most).  We live near my family, including my grandmothers.  When we walk down my grandma’s street, Ellie gets so excited squealing “Gigi! Gigi!” and it’s in those moments, too, that I know we made the right decision.

But I still miss San Francisco (and yes, I still live close to it, but visiting is never the same as living there)…

Words

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Eleanor has been increasing her vocabulary lately, although I’m not sure it has been the most traditional expansion. She says typical toddler things like mama, dada, doggie, kitty, ball, etc. some of her other favorite words, however, include door and window.

Of course, she also has her own spin on the pronunciation of words. The following is a list of some of her words with pronunciation:
Window: noy-no
Shoe: oosh
Paci (what we call the pacifier): bah-mmm. We have NO clue how she came up with this one
Water: caca. Seriously. And the girl actually loves water. Again, no clue how she came up with this.
Bruce (her aardvark): Booce
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(here she is handing me the “phone” aka wii controller)

Other funny little word-related things:
She has started telling me to sit when I am feeding her. Frequently I will hand her food in her high chair while I do things in the kitchen, but now she will tell me to sit and doesn’t like to take the food until I sit next to her.
Any time she sees a pair of shoes she starts saying “Oosh! Oosh! Oosh!” On repeat. She also says this if one of her shoes falls off, which is quite handy. Related: she has taken to putting on my flipflops and trying to walk around the house.
She loves giving an affirmative answer by saying “mmm-hmm!” And nodding instead of saying yes. She has no problem saying no, and emphasizes it with a firm head shake.
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She truly is the sweetest, most fun and adorable little girl and she is growing up so fast!  I’m sad that I haven’t recorded more along the way, but I am comforted knowing that I’ve spent much quality time just soaking in the memories.

Vacation, Part III: Hilton Head

Wow.  You know the bag thing about not posting about a vacation until 1.5 years later?  Well, you forget.  A lot. Oopsies.  Anyway, what I DO remember is that Hilton Head was incredibly beautiful and incredibly relaxing and it was my first time to an “East Coast” beach (you know, the kind in picture with beaches for miles and tall grasses at the top of the beach?)

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Just like that.  Reeds/grass/whatever plant that is. Gentle breeze.  Warm weather.  Comfortable humidity.  You get the picture.  And then, I got to wake up to this:

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Is it time to go back yet?  We decided to splurge and rent a cabana for a day, which was the best decision ever.  It was pretty toasty, so it was nice having a designated spot to set up camp with some guaranteed shade (especially at 6 months pregnant).  This leg of the trip was all about relaxation and we definitely indulged in a little bit of peaceful rest.

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So picturesque!  And this was all just steps from our hotel.  It was perfect.  As an aside, I also had my first outing to a Piggly Wiggly on this trip! I always sort of thought those were just in the movies…apparently not!  The only downside of a resort-y place like this is the lack of food selection (and reasonably priced food at that).  We went to the store and got some lunch and snack items so we could avoid hotel food for at least one meal a day.

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Awwww, so cute…the obligatory self-portrait.  Can you see how stress-free we look there?  Not a care in the world.  We had a lovely walk on the beach that night, which would only have been improved with a glass of wine in hand.  Warm summer nights are one of my favorite things (one thing I’m very much thrilled about with our move–the return of warm summer nights!), so I ate up every moment of our evening stroll.

Well, slowly but surely we are making it through vacation from two years ago!  Yahoo!  Only one more part to go!

Eleanor, the nut

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This is Eleanor at 16 months.  She is happy, she is sweet, she is a nut.  On the day these were taken, we were playing the sunglasses game.  I would put them on her face, and she would move around, trying to keep them on.  When they fell off, she would attempt to put them back on, have trouble, then hand them to me to start the cycle again.

Eleanor sings and babbles all.  the.  time.  It’s absolutely adorable.  Her vocabulary is also expanding rapidly and she frequently parrots what I say.  For instance, I said “Oh MAN!” the other day and then heard a little echo behind me.  Her favorite words lately are “ball” and “doggie,” but her standard words include mama, dada, kitty, doggie, ball, up, thank you, bubble and cheese.  Some adorable words to watch her form are Stu (one of our cats’ names) and Lola (my sister’s dog).

She has adjusted quite easily to our new life, is sleeping great (at least has been the last week, knock on wood) and loves talking walks down First Street.  She loves seeing my family more frequently and hanging out with her cousins.  She has also taken a liking to Kieran’s tricycle, which is adorable to see.  Her favorite part is ringing the bell (it’s the kind of trike where she gets pushed) and she just sits there with a big grin.  If you stop, she makes it known she would like you to continue forward.

She is a good eater, but I am so painfully uncreative when it comes to feeding her!  Any suggestions for easy and varied meals for a 16 month old are welcome.  She loves cheese, bagels, eggs, yogurt, and her fruit purées.  I’m going to be working on getting her to eat fork mashed fruits/veggies because right now if I try and give her the non-puréed version she is not a happy camper.  I have found the best way to get her to try new things is to be eating them and wait for her to demand a bite–if I try and offer her a bite first she usually refuses.

Well, that’s E in a nutshell!  She is absolutely loving having her daddy home all the time and we love watching her grow and learn.

Technology

My sister and I only live about 45 minutes apart, but between us there are 4 children (and 4 nap schedules), 2 jobs, 2 bridges…you get the picture (okay, who am I kidding…I only have one of those 4 children, but still.  I contribute to the number).  The reality is we don’t get to hang out nearly as much as we would like to.  Instead we have to be satisfied with phone conversations and our newest “discovery”–Skype.  Yes, we have known about Skype for a while but it has only been recently that we have actually started using it.

This is a typical scene during our chat sessions.  If I remember correctly, about 10 minutes later on this particular day I couldn’t see my sister at all because Claire decided to join the pile.

Now, if you have followed this blog at all there are countless posts about Claire.  Unfortunately Conor and Kieran have gotten MUCH less air time.  I would like to take this moment and gush a little about Conor.  This boy…sigh.  He is the biggest sweetheart EVER.  E-V-E-R.  As is common with boys, his verbal skills came along much more slowly than Claire’s (and who knows–maybe he didn’t feel the need to talk since his sister took care of most of the talking for him) but lately he has become much more talkative.

As soon as Eleanor appears on the screen, I hear a big intake of air and then “LELLIE!!!!” (well, sometimes it’s BABY!!!!).  He then spends the rest of the Skype time asking me to alternate between Eleanor and the cats.  It sounds a lot like this: “Kitty?  Kitty?” [I pan to the cats, giggles ensue] “Lellie?  Lellie” [I turn to Eleanor, giggles ensue] “Kitty?” You get the picture…He also likes to kiss the camera to show his affection.  How sweet is that?  There was one day where my poor sister’s computer was probably covered in fingerprints and lip marks because Conor and Claire both had about a 5 minute kiss session sending kisses my way.  The other day Conor was upset because Claire had gone somewhere without him, so I offered up an Ellie Skype session to make him feel better.  He was eating breakfast (pancakes, in case you are wondering), chatting it up with Eleanor and me.  We did the obligatory apartment tour (the cats, our exercise ball, and the baby), we made some animal noises (cats now say “rawr!” in case you were wondering), discussed the dinosaur on his shirt, and just enjoyed “hanging out.” Claire typically pops in to say hello, inquire about where Uncle B is, and then runs off to do whatever she was doing or asks to play games on the computer and Kieran just hangs out much like Eleanor does, but Conor truly seems to be the one that enjoys it most.

I love these sessions because I at least get to see this munchkins more than I would normally.  Conor has been much more interested in me since Eleanor came along, and I couldn’t be happier.  I love that little boy fiercely!  I mean, he brought my sister her robe after her shower the other day.  He isn’t even two!

Alright, enough of my little gush fest.  And no, Skype did not sponsor this post or have anything to do with it.

One of these days…

One of these days I will write a post with substance.  Perhaps one that doesn’t cheat by just having a bunch of pictures of Eleanor and calling it a day.  This is not that day.  I want this blog to include plenty about Eleanor, but I also don’t want it necessarily to be all about her.  These days, however, it’s difficult not to write about her because well, 1. she’s so dang cute but 2.  she pretty much consumes my activities 24 hours a day. We haven’t gotten her to take a bottle yet (I admit the effort has been poor at best) which means she isn’t far from me for more than a couple hours at a time.


(Eleanor helping Brandon study for his exams and yes, she only has one sock on)

Not that I mind–she’s proved to be quite the entertaining sidekick!  I also have a backlog of non-iPhone photos to share, but they are still on my camera (along with some family portraits of my sister’s family…yes Jen, they are still on the camera…SIGH) and I just never seem to get around to downloading them.


(chatting with a polar bear.  That literally kept her entertained for about 30 minutes straight. Also, thighs!)

I have to admit it’s been a little overwhelming at times, being mom full time AND working part time AND attempting to keep up with chalk + dot.  I still dream of a day when chalk + dot can be a serious money maker, but for now I have to keep the day job.  These past few weeks we have gotten into a much better routine which has been great.


(Ellie and I out at lunch with Brandon)

For a while I was getting frustrated and upset because I felt I was always half doing something–half taking care of Ellie and half trying to work at the same time, which meant neither task was getting my full attention.  Of course in my sometimes-still-a-little-hormonal state I mentally spiraled down the road of how I was going to miss so much of Ellie growing up because I wasn’t able to focus on her.  After I got to the end of my mental pity party (I mean, let’s be real–I am fortunate to be able to be in the situation where I can stay at home and still earn money!) I decided to institute a strict schedule where work time is work time and Ellie time is Ellie time–no trying to combine the two.  I work while she naps and once she goes down at night.  When she is up, the laptop goes away.

(Ellie in her Easter best.  And yes, there are photos from Easter on the camera too)

So far for the most part my scheduled time has worked out quite well.  Of course there are days where naps are a mess and I don’t get any work done, but then I just put in extra time in the evening or the weekend and try not to get upset or frustrated.  I just have to accept that things are beyond my control and I just have to do the best that I can.

(Me: “Brandon, you need to see the look your daughter is giving me!”)

It’s amazing how quickly the time goes when your days are built around mini-cycles.  Wake up.  Feed.  Play.  Wind down.  Nap.  Wake up. Feed.  Play.  Wind down.  Nap.  Wake up.  Feed.  Play.  Maybe cat nap.  Bath.  Feed.  Bedtime for E, work time for me.  That’s my schedule in a nutshell.  The time seems to slow during the final cycle because Ellie gets a little crabby because she only gets a cat nap in but that means she is up for a longer period of time than normal.  She enjoys the bath so that helps pass the time but as you can imagine crabby baby = slowed perception of time.


(Mrs. Pickle in her new sun hat, waiting for Brandon to get his new glasses)

Well, I guess I ended up writing a little more substance than I had planned!  Check that out–675 words and counting. My goal for this blog going forward is to yes, chronicle the goings on of our life, but also incorporate a little more reflection, share a little more of the inside me.  We will see how that goes.  For now, I’ll leave you to stare at the pictures of Eleanor.  Go on, scroll back up to that picture of her with the polar bear and those amazingly scrumptious baby thighs.  You know you want to.