Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Gift

It seems a bit cliche to talk about children as these magical fairy people who can turn a frown into a smile with a flick of their wands or infect you with some sort of happiness disease that they carry in their pockets, but sometimes these things are true and bare repeating. Most of you know that my grandmother Charlotte passed away last Friday. Things like this are especially difficult when they happen around the holidays. Everyone kept saying that they hoped we could still find some joy on Christmas despite the circumstances, and the truth is, we did, and it couldn't have happened without the opportunity to witness the pure excitement oozing from every tiny pore of the children in our lives.

My very best girlfriend in the whole world, Jessica, spent the holiday with us and she said that she couldn't wait to watch Ella, Mason, and Izzy open their presents on Christmas morning because it had been such a long time since she had witnessed that excitement with little kids. And it really was something to behold. Izzy, being 4, was the only one able to really verbalize her joy, "a shirt with zebra stripes!" but the looks on Ella and Mason's faces as they opened their Elmo books and tiny trucks spoke volumes without any words. And this is the greatest gift that children give us- the opportunity to remember and experience that kind of joy once again and to forget about everything else and just live in the moment of opening that gift. I cannot say we didn't feel an emptiness that day. I cannot say we didn't feel a wave of emotion every now and then, but I can honestly say that watching the glint in Ella's eyes as she ran through the house chasing her cousins helped me spend a lot more time thinking about life rather than death. That's what Ella B gave me for Christmas. And it was exactly what I wanted.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

I got it!

Ella B has reached another milestone- her first complete sentence. As a mother and English teacher, I am ecstatic that my little one can now put multiple words together in a logical, coherent, even grammatically correct way (something I am still having trouble teaching some of my ninth graders). On Tuesday, she was in the dining room playing with Play-doh and trying to figure out how to get the doh into the little hole in order to squeeze it out into various fun shapes. She was getting a little frustrated, so I showed her how to do it a few times and then left her to her own devices while I made dinner. After a minute or two of grunting and babbling, I heard her yell out, "oh!" and then, "I got it!" It was the sweetest little sentence I had ever heard.

I was telling Christina this yesterday and she laughed and said, "Of course that was her first sentence." And knowing Ella, it really does make a lot of sense. She has always been a very opinionated, independent, "Ella do it," kind of girl, and she continues to become more of her own little person every day. So happy milestone day Ella B. I'm looking forward to "I love you" and, "You are the best mommy ever," but I'll be happy with "I got it" for now.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas tree, O Christmas tree

So today was Christmas tree day. Ever since I can remember, my family has cut down its own Christmas tree and there is no doubt in my mind that I am a cut-my-own-tree kind of girl. There are a lot of holiday things I don't do. I don't spend lots of time decorating the house, and I'm pretty terrible at buying presents, but this moment- finding that perfect tree and dragging it home- that is the beginning of the Christmas season for me.

The best part is getting to help cultivate a tradition in a little person of my very own. Although she is still too young to really understand Christmas, Ella B was there with us braving the cold and the rocky terrain to find just the right tree. I won't forget how her eyes lit up when she realized that we really were "shopping" (one of her new favorite words) and that we would be taking this tree home to live in our house! Traditional times of year like this really make you think about how strange our traditions are. At no other time of year do we drag trees inside our homes and cover them in lights and knick knacks. It is also the only time of year that we encourage our children to sit on strange men's laps and share with them all their hopes and dreams. Only through our children's first experiences do we get to reflect on the sometimes funny, sometimes poignant nature of our own lives. Seeing the world through her brand new eyes is a pretty remarkable experience and I'm looking forward to Christmas morning in a whole new way. Happy Holidays everybody!

Friday, December 2, 2011

No, thank you!

So, I know it is a little late, but I just wanted to share a few more Thanksgiving pics of the people we are most thankful for, our little kiddos. The first picture is one of my favorites of all time. It is Ella B hugging her favorite cousin Nate. She spent the majority of the day following him around yelling "Nate! Nate" and holding his hand. When she wasn't with him, she was being pushed in a tiny baby carriage by Nate's brother Jake. The day after Thanksgiving, we got to spend the day with my sister and her kids, and Mason and Ella spent some time coloring in between meals.

My cousin Brian commented that Ella B spent Thanksgiving day doted on by one man after another, and it is definitely true. If it wasn't Nate or Jacob, it was my father holding her, or Mike's dad playing with her, or my Uncle Tom teaching her how to jump off the couch (thanks for that one Uncle Tom).

It's true that we are so thankful for the blessings of our kiddo, but I know that even though she doesn't have the words for it yet, Ella B is just as thankful for all the love she is surrounded with every day. So, until she can tell you herself, I will say thanks from Ella B. She loves you lots.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Dear Ella B,

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and while I meant to write this then, I was so full of turkey and love that I couldn't lift a finger to the keyboard. So today I will tell you a little story about what I am so thankful for today.

Of course I am thankful for your very existence, and I try to remind myself how lucky I am to have gotten pregnant so easily and to have had such a healthy (albeit grumpy-to-the-max) baby. You have a father who adores you, a million people who dote on you, a home, a backyard, two strong legs, and all of that. These things will be easy to remember, but I started thinking about all the little things I am thankful for that will become fuzzy in years to come and I started to write them down.

So here are a few little things I am thankful for this holiday season that are all thanks to you Miss Ella B:

1. Your dinosaur "rawr"
2. Your Happy Birthday song "Happy day daddy"
3. The way you love to talk about boys, especially Arlo and Nate
4. Weekend morning snuggles in between mommy and daddy in our bed
5. Your post-bath naked craziness on our bed when I am trying to lotion you
6. The way you always say bye to people after they've already left, but never before
7. The way you hold out each body part so I can rinse you off after your bath
8. Your belly- dear God your belly
9. How you always want me to draw cats for you
10. And once again, that dinosaur "rawr" cause it just kills me until I'm dead

Thanks for giving me so much to be thankful for Ella B. I can't believe I get to be your mom.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday Cuteness

What can I even say? This little girl is really starting to murder me with her cuteness. Today she became a tiny fashionista. First, when we went outside to play, she put on the above hoodie and upon realizing (apparently for the first time), that it had pockets, she stuck her hands inside and kept them there for a solid fifteen minutes. Also, she has pretty much been wearing that hat since I came home from Target with it on Saturday.

Later, she put my socks over her leggings and came running to show me how amazing she looked. I have to say, I almost dropped my sponge and Kaboom foaming spray (yes, I was actually cleaning the bathroom), and ran out to buy her some legwarmers; she looked that good.

When my mother arrived (because it is inevitable every couple of days), she had brought with her a bag of clothes from my sister. As soon as Ella saw these clothes and heard that they use to be Izzy's, she had to try them on. Before I knew it, she was decked out in a winter coat, boots, no wait, sparkly dress shoes, no wait, Christmas dress, no wait, another pair of boots, no wait, nothing, until finally there was nothing left and she stripped down naked and got in the bath.

Looks like I've created the Punky Brewster kid I always wanted to be. Move over Soleil Moonfrye!

Friday, November 11, 2011

My Hero

Today is Veteran's Day and for those of you who don't know, my husband is a veteran. It sounds like a funny thing to call someone who is 31 (almost 32). Growing up, veterans were old men like my grandfather who wore military hats and talked about a war that happened a million years ago and didn't matter all that much anymore. Being a hippy pacifist myself, I never expected to be married to someone who was in the military or who had actually fought in war. And I never expected to have to explain to my daughter what it means to have a dad who is a war hero. Of course, she is too little to understand today, but one day, maybe on a day like today, I will ask her why she has the day off from school and if she knows what it means to be a veteran.

When you think about raising children, you think about how honest you want to be with them. You want them to trust you and to make them feel connected to you, but you also don't want to tell them every last detail about high school, either. You want them to hold on to their innocence for as long as possible, but to also educate them about the reality of life outside of their safe little bubbles. So, the discussion of war is a tricky one then. What does it means to be a veteran? It means that you have fought in a war. And what does that mean, to fight? There is the Hollywood version of war we're all use to, of course, but what does it really look like? It means things like- sleeping in the dirt, carrying an enormous pack for hours on end, writing letters to loved ones, sitting around doing nothing sometimes, being afraid, being tired, and it also means a lot of other ugly things that we don't like to think about.

So what do I want Ella to know about her daddy, the veteran? I want her to know that he did something harder than I could ever imagine. I want her to know that he is brave and strong (though she already knows this). I want her to know that the experience of war changed him, as it changes ever single person who experiences it, and that it isn't something to be taken lightly as I took my own grandfather's service for so many years. I want her to know that being a veteran will always be a part of who he is, but that it is only one part of the man who is her father. And I want her to know that I'm proud of him.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


As in, full of power, meaning- I finally got my power back! This marks the end of four long days of cold, darkness, and a lot of takeout. In the thick of it, we were pretty miserable, but looking back on it now, I can see some of the romance in having no power. Michael and I had a lovely candlelit dinner of cold Chinese food and went to bed early every night. Ella B, little Miss particular, didn't even seem to notice. She loved walking around the house carrying a little lantern and now thinks that candles are just about the coolest thing ever.

We were nervous about how this whole thing would affect her, especially the cold, but we just bundled her up in two layers of pajamas and figured that if she woke up, we'd let her sleep with us. We read her some books by candlelight and sent her off to bed and then she (wait for it) WAS TOTALLY FINE! Not only did she not seem to notice the cold or the lack of lights, I think she actually liked it. She spent her mornings at the diner with either mommy or daddy and her evenings eating pizza at Ernie's or lentil loaf at Amy's. Wednesday and Thursday she spent the day at Miss Amanda's house with two kitty cats, a great Dane named Scooby, and a baby, and then we went to Tommy and Kristy's where she chased Jacob and Nathan and jumped on the couch while we played Just Dance on the Wii. All in all, it has been a pretty awesome blackout for Ella B.

When we got home tonight and discovered we had power, Michael and I jumped up and down and Ella looked at us like we were crazy. Then we put her to bed and she cried for the first time in weeks. Call me crazy, but I think my baby wishes we were Amish.

I think what she really enjoyed was our technology-free undivided attention, which reminded me of why I've always sympathized with the Ludites. Right now I am sitting on the couch watching T.V. and blogging and Michael is in the other room playing some weird building game on the other computer. During the power outage, we went to bed early and actually even talked a little. We were well-rested and more connected. And then the power came back on and we locked on to our devices again and that was that.

So maybe we can all learn a lesson from Ella B that there is something to be said for less technology and more humanity. Touche Ella B, touche.

Wordless Wednesday: Merry Halloween?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fall Weekend

Had ourselves a lovely little Fall weekend. It all began Saturday morning when this little lady decided to help me make pumpkin muffins. She has become quite a fan of cooking and can't wait to get on the counter and start mixing. That morning was particularly exciting because she realized that something even more fun than stirring the batter is tasting it. Wow, the whole world opened up for her after that. She promptly turned into a pumpkin-muffin-batter monster as you can see in the photograph above. Unfortunately, the muffins didn't turn out so great (apparently baking soda is not an optional ingredient- who knew?), but we sure had fun anyway.

Our bellies full of dense muffins and caramelized onion and mushroom omelets (courtesy of my resident omelet chef, Michael B.) we headed over to Movenastics with the Miss Violet and Andrea. Wendy and the boys joined us, too so we said fair well to the toddler class in style. We had considered going to the Halloween hoot, hence the skeleton pj's, but opted out when I saw how tired Miss B was after all the tumbling and scootering and whatnot, so we left and she promptly passed out in the car.

On Sunday we headed over to Lyman Orchards with Andrea, Steve, Arlo, and Violet and picked up some pumpkins and apples. Arlo was very particular about which pumpkins he wanted, while Ella was more interested in rocks than anything else. She did, however, house 2.5 apples and then pass out in the car once again.

We ended our lovely weekend with Nathan T.'s 6th birthday party, which is always a costume party. Kristy had purchased this super cute garden gnome costume back when she was unable to go to a store without buying Ella a present. Remembering the family costume of my childhood (Candy was Strawberry Shortcake, my parents were Strawberry's parents, and I was a strawberry), I decided we should give it a try. Since Ella was the garden gnome, I became the garden and Mike the gardener (though he kept saying farmer just to spite me).

We wrapped it all up with a handful of candy corn and called it a day. Pretty awesome weekend all around. Hope yours was filled with friends, family, and Fall festivities, too. Happy October!

Friday, October 21, 2011


Yesterday, as we pulled up to the stop sign right before our house, Ella B said, "Home." It was not the first time she had said it, but it was the first time I started thinking about what this word means to her. For the first six months of her life we lived at my parent's house, a place that I have called home since I was two, but Ella will never remember as her home. This house that we have lived in for only a year is the only home she has ever known and will probably be the house she'll see in the rearview mirror as she drives off to college or wherever her life takes her. It's funny that this place where I feel so newly planted is the place where she feels the most rooted.

For homework last night, I asked my Creative Writing students to write a poem about their families. I had hoped to write one as well, but I felt too overwhelmed by all the planning and stacks of paper on my desk to actually do it, but as I was scrambling to get out the door this morning, the poem came to me- a poem about Ella and her home. So I stopped for a moment and wrote it down.

Coming Home

She says “home” now in her tiny voice that
extends and elongates the “o” and “m”
and I wonder what this means to her.

It used to be my belly- all tucked inside and
squished against my insides in a perfect circle
The only world she’d ever known

Home from the hospital meant
My parent’s house
So many years free of a baby’s cry
The harmony of three generations
easing the transition from
daughter to mother

There it was my bare chest
Her body curved against my breast,
A tiny hand reaching up to find me
in the dark, cold morning

And now it is this place
Blue house number 123
Pumpkins on the porch
Yard strewn with leaves
Long driveway leading
off to someplace else

It is so much bigger than me,
My womb, my breast, my memories
Bigger than the reach of my arm
You are so far away

But it always sounds the same


The “m” like mama, like mater, madre
Amma, Ahm, omm
The smell of baking bread,
Your hand in mine,
Of falling into something warm,
Release, contentment, comfort
Coming back to something
we can point at and say
That’s it, over there
that's where I come from,
that's the place I know

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Yethsh and 9

Sp I picked up Ella B from daycare today and apparently she says "yes" now instead her super cute exaggerated "yeeeaaah." Of course, it's not quite "yes" really. It's more of a "yeth," or a "yesh," or a combo of the two, like "yethsh."Apparently she speaks Yiddish now.

She has also started using the number 9 in conversation. So, if I ask her "how many" she will always answer with "9" no matter what the question is. Here is how the conversations go:

"How many feet does Ella have?"
"How many squirrels do you see?"
"How many grapes are on your plate?"
"Do you love hummus?"

It got me thinking about the different ways kids change- with a whimper or with a bang. Sometimes the changes happen so quickly that you pick her up from daycare one day and suddenly she has a whole new vocabulary, or she has learned how to sleep on her cot like a good girl. And then sometimes it happens more slowly and quietly until one day you realize that she doesn't need your help getting on the couch, or she can feed herself with a spoon, and you ask yourself, "Can she really do that?"

And, of course, the answer is:

"Yethsh" and also "9"

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Thanks to Jeremy and Christina for doing five different blog posts in the span of a weekend and making me feel like such a dead-beat blogger that I am now blogging at 10:30 on Sunday night when I should be sleeping. PS- check out their awesome new blog over at when you have a chance.

So, yesterday we popped over to Woodbridge Rec for a little toddler gymnastics class run by my dad, aka "Pop Pop," aka one half of Ella B's most favorite people on the planet. Enrollment for the Fall class has been low, super low, so I tried to recruit some of Ella's besties to come with us, but no one was free. So, we ventured to class anyway and ended up being the only ones there. Yes, picture this: Ella B in a giant gym full of balls, things to bounce on, things to slide down, her Pop Pop at her side, and no one to share it with. Needless to say, she was in baby-girl heaven. Of course, I think it would have been a whole lot more fun with Violet and Bella there, but this little lady didn't seem to notice. Sorry gals.

She spent the entire hour leading her Pop Pop around from station to station, sliding head first, stepping off high things, chilling on the balance beam, running as fast as her crazy legs would take her, and basically doing everything I was (okay, am) afraid to do.

The whole thing gave me flashbacks to when I was the little girl in gymnastics class who refused to swing on the parallel bars. The instructor at the time told me she would bring me a box of salt water taffy if I did it just once, and I still couldn't do it. I guess the only thing that trumps food bribery is fear of being upside down, but I digress.

All in all, it was an hour well spent. Unfortunately, they won't be able to keep running the class if enrollment stays like this. So, if you've got a little munchkin who needs a place to wiggle it all out, won't you chill with us on Saturday morning at 10:30?

I hope everybody else had a movenastics weekend!