Sunday, December 31, 2017

A Love Letter to 2017

Tomorrow begins a new year so I thought it would be nice to write one blog post in 2017 that was not a monthly update on Holland.

Typically I'm excited to start a new year.  There is nothing I love more than a clean slate, which is why taking down Christmas decorations makes me giddy... perhaps a smidge giddier than putting them up (don't tell).

But this year.  THIS YEAR, you guys.  It was not always perfect, of course, but it was good.  It was so good.  It brought us the biggest surprise of our lives, our sweet Holland Claire.  She was the gift I didn't even know I needed.

I wish I could say my faith is rock solid.  It's not.  I'm not sure it's ever been.  I'm a Christian, but when my mind starts turning and I think about heaven... it's all so bizarre and strange.  Simply put, it just doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.  I read something once, "Doubt your doubts."  I find myself having to do that often.


Holland Claire.  Holland is who I turn to now when I start to have doubts.  She is my tangible miracle.  We've always been able to get pregnant but were not able to sustain a pregnancy without help.  Except Holland.  We were done having kids.  We'd sold everything and moved forward.  Then 2016 happened and we were dealt some unfortunate cards.  I prayed for God to show his face.  One of those prayers was simply, "I need to see YOU.  I need to see your hand in this."

He gave me Holland.

I didn't pray for a baby.  I didn't even know I wanted a baby.  But the second I took that pregnancy test, I knew.  She was His answer to my prayer.

There were 100 other possibilities but instead he gave me her.... a literal and metaphorical second chance.

The reason I share this is simply because... I'm not quite ready for 2018.  I look at this past year and see redemption and restoration.  I can't help but think, "It can't get better," which unfortunately means... it must get worse.  Ha.  (It took me 35 years to realize I'm not a realist, I'm a pessimist. Whomp whomp.)  Starting a new year is hard for me because I want to hold on tightly to the incredible year I've been given.  I want to cling to our health, our happiness, and our kiddos at this very moment when their biggest fears are make-believe monsters and hurricanes hitting McKinney.

I remember a similar feeling when we were flying home from our honeymoon and I was curled up in a ball - I wasn't ready to be back in the real world.  Meanwhile, Michael was so excited about our future.  10 years later I'm looking back at 2017 with hands grasping anything I can hold onto while he's looking toward 2018 with wide eyes and big dreams.  Thankfully, he's kind of scooting me along with him and encouraging me to do the same.

2018 will bring some exciting times:  Holland's first birthday, Jude & Sloane starting kindergarten,  and me possibly going back to work full time (jury is still out).  And since I haven't yet learned how to stop time - I feel like I'm getting close - I suppose I will embrace all of the exciting times ahead.

This post is all over the place.  I guess I just felt like a formal THANK YOU was in order for 2017.  It has been the sweetest year of my life and given me so much joy.

I hope your year was just as sweet.  And if it more resembled my 2016, just know it will get better...  especially in 2020 when we get a new president (oh come on, you know I had to...)

Friday, December 22, 2017

Holland | Eight Months

Aaaand here we are, two weeks late again.  Holland, please don't take my delay in writing your posts as anything other than me having poor time management skills.  Also, you are quite the needy babe and don't give me a lot of free time to do much of anything.  In conclusion, this is all your fault (ha).

It's been a fun month for our girl!  Not a ton of changes but steady growth!

This month has been a bit of a bummer in that I've now realized I'm not the queen of homemade food as I once believed.  Holland has tried quite a few new solids.  I pureed sweet potatoes, carrots, bananas, pees, apples, blueberries, etc.  She didn't want anything to do with any of them.  It wasn't like she ate something and spit it out, she just closed her mouth and refused to take a bite.  I was determined to save us money by making her food but when your child doesn't eat anything you make, you aren't saving much.  I bought some vegetable/fruit pouches for her to try and she likes some but, to be completely honest, she just wants to nurse and eat finger foods.  She loves mum mums and tolerates yogurt melts, cheerios, etc.  In sheer desperation/frustration I gave her a slice of my pizza one day and she gnawed on that for a bit before looking at me with disdain.  So... I'm not quite sure what to make of it and plan to ask the doc at her nine month appointment.

Holland now has two teeth, which appeared mid-month and on the same day.  I took her to the pediatrician for what I thought was an ear infection (she was snotty and kept touching her ear) but the doc told me teething signs are very similar and, sure enough, two teeth popped up the next day.  She continues to put everything in her mouth so I imagine more teeth are on the horizon (spoiler alert: I'm writing this two weeks late and actually know this to be true).

Breastfeeding is still going well so she's as chunky as ever, but I do realize that will stop one day and the little lady needs to add more to her food repertoire.  She nurses about five times a day with her first feeding around 6a and her last at 7:30p.

That's right folks, if you read the last sentence above you see she is now SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT!  It took eight months.  EIGHT.  MONTHS.  The day she turned eight months is the day we finally tried the cry it out method.  It was as awful as one can imagine and I told Michael the next morning, "There's no sadder baby than Holland."  I realize that statement is ridiculous as every baby who goes through CIO is the saddest baby ever.  However, our girl is a quick learner and has slept through the night consistently since. Whoop! I'd put it off as long as I could but instead of her waking up once or twice each night it was three or four (or five) times.  Both of us were total grouches in the morning (and throughout the day).   Now that we're both getting longer stretches of sleep, life is better than ever.

This typically goes after E A T but I was so dang excited about her sleeping through the night that I couldn't wait any longer to spill the beans.  Playing has been a lot of fun this month.  Her favorite toys are still all the things she doesn't need to touch (wires, small objects, dirty shoes, hot coffee mugs, etc.) but as long as you put an appropriate replacement object in her hands as you take the bad object away, she doesn't get too upset.  Sloane has learned she can pick Holland up and is constantly running after her to drag her away from something she shouldn't touch.  Holland LOVES being held by Sloane so she always gives me a big grin as she's being whisked away.

Holland adores Jude & Sloane and wants so badly to join in on what they're doing.  She's still army crawling but she does the first six or so steps as a regular crawl before she drops to her stomach so she can speed up the process.

We've noticed some pretty severe eczema this month and I wonder if it's extra irritated due to her crawling (the worst of it is on her stomach).  We've tried several lotions and they all hurt her terribly so we've resorted to coconut oil and aquaphor with a little bit of hydrocortisone cream, which has worked wonders.  She's a slippery mess after we put it all on her but it's offering relief so we've made it a part of her bedtime and morning routines.

Holland talks constantly.  No meaningful words yet, but she's saying Dada, Baba, Hey (drawn out and sounds like "Heeeeeey"), and lots of baby babble.  Along with recognizing her own name, she seems to recognize all of our names and will typically look at the person I name.  ("Where's dada?)  She's ticklish and her laugh is amazing.

As long as you are holding her, she loves you...  Family, strangers, doesn't matter.  Just hold her close and she'll love you forever.

Dear Holland,
Sweet girl, it's been another great month with you by our side!  Speaking of side, you are the best little sidekick and are pretty much attached to my hip throughout the day.  You want to be a part of the action and sitting alone on the floor simply will not do.

You have a few teeth now and more are clearly on their way.  Your hair is slowly filling in and your blue eyes are getting a bit lighter!  You've had to deal with some pretty severe eczema this month, which breaks my heart but you are such a trooper.

We've had some cold days so I put socks on you whenever we leave the house and you are NOT a fan.  By the time we get where we're going you've already removed at least one if not both.  Bows don't seem to bother you but you don't love the cute hats I put on your sweet head.  I guess this means you are a true Texas girl and want nothing to do with cold weather accessories.

Your smile is the best part of my day.  I'll be honest, I've been so tired the last few months and there are some days I'm exhausted and DONE by 10:30a, but your smile... It's impossible not to smile back and fall in love with you all over again.

I love getting to spend my days with you.  I know how quickly the early years go by and it's been so much fun watching you learn and grow and play.  You're a sponge and as you soak in everything around you, I just stare in amazement.  What a gift it has been to get to do this all over again!  You are precocious and can be quite stoic at times.  And then our eyes meet and you give me the biggest grin.  I'm going to have to be careful with you because you're eight months old and already know how to get exactly what you want.

Watching Jude and Sloane with you is so much fun.  Sloane is your second mama and she takes her job very seriously.  Jude, meanwhile, is the fun big brother who just wants to make you laugh.  He hates to see you upset and will do a silly dance to distract you.  I think the growing bond between you and your siblings is what I'm excited about most.

Every time I put you to bed I hold you close and whisper, "I love you, Holland" because I want those words to be so ingrained in your sweet head that there is never any doubt.  You are so unbelievably loved.  Before we know it you'll be turning one and I'll be a sad sap crying in the corner (you'll get used to it, I'm a wreck when it comes to birthdays).  Until then, I will do my best to make every day count and remember how lucky I am that what you want most right now is to simply be by my side.

I love you, Holland.

Love - Mama

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Holland | Seven Months

Holland turned seven months almost two weeks ago and here I am finally writing her update.  I think this is proof of how crazy life has gotten now that she's on the move!  I barely have time to eat, let alone write an update.  But here we are for memory's sake!

This was a big month for Holland as we introduced solid food!  She was ecstatic - she's been anxiously watching us and wanting in on the excitement.  We started with wheat cereal and I'm pretty sure she only ate about 3% of it - the rest came right back out.  She's gotten much better with it - after milk for six months there was an adjustment period. I also made butternut squash this month and she liked it as well.

Aaaand that's it.  I'm so embarrassed to admit she's only had these two so far.  Sweet potatoes are next on the list and then I may give fruit a try.  A lot of it is just due to (lack of) timing and the ease of breastfeeding.  It's quick, easy, and there's zero clean-up.  I have to remind myself that regardless of ease for me, I need to step up my game and get this girl eating more solids.

That being said, breastfeeding is still going really well!  I went to Charleston for several days this month so I pumped two weeks beforehand and she did great with bottles while I was gone.  I was curious if she'd take thawed milk but Michael said she didn't have any issues!  Whew!

No teeth yet but it's obvious they're close.  So much drool and she chews on everything in site.

Holland is definitely the epitome of a third child.  She wants to be involved in all of the action and is quite the crawler these days!  It's still an army crawl but she is SO fast and I've lost her multiple times  in our home after leaving her in one room and coming back a minute later to no Holland.  Her arms are so strong and she seems to love the challenge of keeping up with her siblings.

Her favorite toys are phone chargers and dirty shoes.  Awesome.  I can line up five baby appropriate toys and she heads straight for danger.  It's harder this time around because (with the twins) we were able to fully baby proof the house.  That's a wee bit impossible when you have two older kids also living at home.  Lots of redirection happening around here.

On her 7-month birthday she sat up from a crawl for the first time.  It was so cute to watch her figure it out - she was so surprised when she realized she'd sat up on her own.  She still loves to stand up on our legs, whether it's facing us or looking out at everyone else.

She's more consistent with waving back when you wave to her and her hand-eye coordination is impressive.  We were at Mimi & Papa's house and Jude was playing with battery-operated cars on a track.  They move incredibly fast and each time one would zoom by she'd scoop it up with her hand and then hang onto it.

She also celebrated Halloween this year by dressing up as Hei Hei from the movie Moana.  It consisted of us dressing her up, taking cute pictures with her siblings, and then leaving her home with Gaga & Poppy while the rest of us trick or treated (it was really cold that night)!  She'll come with us next year for sure!

Sleep is ridiculous.  There isn't much consistency - sometimes (rarely) she sleeps through the night but more often than not she wakes up once or twice.  I believe I've said, "We're going to try CIO this weekend" about six times and have yet to commit.  It's especially hard when she sleeps next door to Jude & Sloane.  CIO means she'll most likely wake up the twins who need to go to school in the morning (and get a good night's sleep).  We'll get there.

Holland typically takes two naps a day - one around 9:30a and the other around 1p.  She will occasionally take a third nap in the early evening - it all depends on the length of the previous two and her overall demeanor. She easily falls asleep in the car, which can be pretty miserable for the rest of us because that means her naps can be as short as 15 minutes.  Yuck.

Bedtime is 7:30p and I do Holland's bedtime routine while Michael is reading to the big kids.  My hope is to move her bedtime to 7p but with Michael getting home late most days I hate for him to miss out on time with her in the evenings.

Dear Holland,
What a fun month it has been with you!  You continue to meet all milestones with ease and are ahead of the game with most.  I'm equal parts proud and devastated because I realize how fast the baby days are flying.  Not to mention you are quite large for your age so you're already looking more like a toddler and less like a baby.  Stop it!  Stop it right now!

You are so sweet, Holland!  You are such a joy to be around and your huge grin is contagious.  You don't care to be left alone and now that you're on the move you really don't love sitting still.  Leisurely brunches are a thing of the past as you have no desire to sit still for a meal.

You're finishing up a box of size 3 diapers and then we'll move to 4.  You still fit into 6-12 month clothing but I'm now only buying 12-18 because you fit in those as well.  You wear size 70 or 75 in your Hanna pajamas and size 2 shoes!

Your hair hasn't grown much in the last month - it's still hard to tell if it's going to stay dark.  Your eyes are a gorgeous blue and your skin has lightened considerably.  I've also noticed a few eczema patches but nothing (yet) like Sloane.  We're watching it closely so we can make sure you stay comfortable!

Everyone says you look like your daddy, who just so happens to be your favorite person in the world. It's hard not to be jealous but it's so much fun to see your face light up when he walks into the room.  Apparently feeding you multiple times a day (and night)... basically keeping you alive... is not what wins you over - hurumph.

Holland Claire, I'm still searching for the perfect nickname for you.  Right now I call you the most ridiculous things (seriously - RIDICULOUS) and in the highest pitch voice because I can't even help myself.  I've even called you certain names and then stopped mid-sentence because it doesn't even make sense.  Your mom is very tired.

You have been the best addition to our little family.  Jude & Sloane adore you just as much as we do.  I have mixed feelings about you growing up so fast but I truly can't wait to see what you'll do next.  You are so loved, sweet girl!

Love - Mama

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Jude & Sloane | 5 Years

Jude and Sloane are F I V E !  It's been an amazing year and (as all moms say) flew by.  I'm not sure if it's due to their baby sister's arrival or just because life with them gets easier by the day but, my goodness, it went quickly.

I've loved watching them in their new roles as big brother and sister.  I was a little afraid they'd completely ignore Holland or one of them would develop a bond with her and leave the other behind.  Fortunately, they still seem to be thick as thieves with one another (until they get tired of each other, which happens at least once a day) and also welcomed Holland into their inner circle.

We had their well check last week and have two perfectly healthy kiddos who are meeting all of their marks and thriving.

Height: 43 1/2"
Weight: 42 lbs 4 oz
Clothes: 5/6T
Shoes: 11

Height: 44 1/2"
Weight: 38 lbs 8 oz
Clothes: 5/6T
Shoes: 11

Jude Sullivan

Jude has grown so much this year.  Not in height - his doctor says he's due for a growth spurt any day now - but in every other way.  He's having fun in school and receives positive reports most days.  He still has more energy than most 5-year-olds but does a good job channeling that energy when necessary.

Jude has gotten much better at rolling with the punches.  J&S have a lot of activities and no two days are alike.  A year ago this would've frustrated him to no end.  Currently he voices his disdain but can move on and deal with it effectively.  I try to give him plenty of warning before we do anything new but even that's no longer absolutely necessary.

Jude adores his sisters and loves giving hugs and kisses.  Most of my girlfriends have little girls so there are plenty of playdates where he is the only boy in a sea of ladies.  He must realize how lucky he is because it doesn't bother him one bit!

He's playing soccer this year and grins the entire time he's on the field.  I was a little nervous about him playing because there is so much going on during the games but he does a great job focusing on the ball.  I always say he has grit on the field because he's not afraid to really get in there and steal the ball away from the other team... and sometimes his own teammate.  Unfortunately, this means he's knocked down a kid or two so we have some work to do there.  He also loves gymnastics and his strength/balance are exceptional.  His lack of fear really helps him with the bars and balance beam - he'll run across the beam while most of his teammates are (rightfully so) far more cautious.

Jude is still quite blonde and is average for both height and weight.  Who knew our chunky monkey would slim down so much?!  He is hilarious whether he means to be or not.  He still wins people over with his smile and sweet nature.  He'll hug a stranger or will initiate a high five with the person behind us in line at Target.

Right now his favorite things are dominoes (he loves lining them up and then watching the chain reaction), the moon and all of its phases, weather in general, and going to the park.  He also loves giant numbers ("Mom, what is 5 7 5 7 5 7?") and listening to music in the car.  His favorite color is red and he wants to be a soccer player like daddy when he grows up.  He still loves to snuggle and gives the best kisses.

Jude is such a gift.  He is complex, exhausting, and challenges me in ways I never thought possible.  Fortunately, I love a good challenge and he makes every single day better.

Sloane Elisabeth

Sloane is five going on 16.  She's turned into quite the rule follower (sneaky used to be her middle name) and is so responsible.  Not going to lie, there have been several days I've wondered if I could make a quick run to Target and leave her in charge of the kids at home.  And then I have to remind myself she is FIVE and that could get me arrested (though I honestly trust her more than most teenagers).

Sloane is a great friend.  She's thoughtful, sincere, and wants to be involved in everything.  The absolute worst thing that could happen to her is to be left alone.  School?  Her favorite.  Soccer?  Her favorite.  Gymnastics & Ballet?  Her favorite.  She absolutely loves life.

She's a bit of a robot in that she only requires (what feels like) 72 minutes of sleep each night.  This girl is an early bird.  She reminds me so much of her Gaga - once she opens her eyes she goes full force throughout the day until it's bedtime... and then she crashes.

Unfortunately, Sloane has had a lot of nightmares lately.  They range from natural disasters to people hurting Holland to monsters.  I'm afraid she gets this active imagination from me, which is so sad.  The doctor mentioned giving her some melatonin before bed so we're going to give that a shot and see if it'll help her sleep better at night.

Her asthma/allergies seem to be slowing down a bit, thank the Lord.  In the past we'd already used the nebulizer multiple times by November and - knock on wood - we haven't had to use it yet.  She isn't able to run as long or as hard as her soccer teammates but she still manages to keep up.

Sloane adores Holland.  She loves taking care of her and is such a big help around the house.  She genuinely enjoys chores and "jobs," which I know will not always be the case so I'm always up for giving her something to do.

Sloane is all girl and loves everything pink & purple.  She wanted a makeup vanity for her birthday and constantly wants to paint her nails.  When she's not playing soccer she's on the sidelines teaching her teammates how to do cartwheels and handstands.  She also loves to practice the splits or ballet positions.  Sloane wants to be a teacher or a doctor when she grows up.

I love this girl's charisma and her kind heart.  I love that she sticks up for herself and her friends.  I love her inquisitive nature.  I love that when I think of who I want to be when I grow up, she's the first person who comes to mind.

Happy FIVE years, Jude & Sloane.  Here's to many, many more!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Holland | Six Months

Holland is six months old!  This is about the time I start breathing into a paper bag as I realize she's now closer to one year than a newborn.  I blinked and here we are.  She continues to make life incredibly interesting, absolutely crazy, and perfectly complete.  I love how her presence has changed our family dynamic and she's allowed me to love Jude & Sloane in a completely new and different way.  Word to the wise - Do not ask me what I think about having a third child because I will talk your ear off on how you must do it too. ;)

Holland had her six-month check-up today and I found out she's not only large but also really tall!

Holland's stats at six months...
Weight: 19 lbs (91%)
Height: 28" (99%)
Head: 17" (71%)

Holland doesn't miss a meal, which is obvious when you look at her chubby cheeks and roly poly arms.  And her legs absolutely kill me, they are so chunky!! Breastfeeding continues to go well and just a few days before she turned six months we gave her cereal for the first time.  She was absolutely thrilled as she's been intently watching the rest of us eat for the last month or so.  It was a huge mess and a bit like Cookie Monster (I'm not sure how much food actually went/stayed in her mouth) but she was so excited to finally join the rest of us at the table.  My plan is to make her baby food as I did with the twins - we'll see how it goes!

I haven't pumped much at all with Holland because we're always together and there hasn't been a need.  However! I'm leaving for Charleston this Friday so I started pumping last week to fill the freezer in my absence.  I was nervous she wouldn't take a bottle of thawed milk but we did a test run today and she did just fine.  Whew!

Holland is quite the charmer.  She absolutely adores attention and will smile at anyone who looks her direction.  And her smile is so sweet.  I'm constantly holding her and whenever we're in a public place the person behind me starts talking about what a happy baby she is.  The attention used to surprise me but now I'm used to having the world's biggest flirt in my arms.

She is all over the place these days.  Whether it's rolling or scooting, if she sees something she wants she will get to it.  I think we're a couple months away from crawling but she's so strong she may surprise us all.  She's also sitting up on her own but I use that term loosely as her back is only straight for a few seconds before she slumps forward and uses her arms to hold herself up.  It still surprises her when she sits on her own and oftentimes the shock alone is enough to knock her off balance.

She's also incredibly LOUD.  She's by far the most vocal of our kiddos and has the lowest, loudest voice.  She starts chatting away and can be heard over a room full of people.  Bless her.

Michael has gotten her to wave a few times but no words just yet.  She is absolutely a daddy's girl so I have no doubt "dada" will be her first word.

What has been a sore subject for months... continues to be a bit of a sore subject.  What makes it so frustrating is she'll have a great night of sleep followed by a night of waking up every two hours ready to eat.  It's perplexing and exhausting but we're hoping it becomes more consistent this month as we attempt to let her cry it out.  I'll be the first to admit I typically pick her up and feed her because it's quick and a sure way to get her back to sleep fast but the last few days we've started patting her back and not picking her up.  The first night was a disaster and the second night went much better.  Here's hoping for restful nights for everyone in month seven.

We moved to a new house this month, which wrecked any sort of schedule I'd established with Holland.  What used to be a two minute commute to MDO, ballet, and gymnastics is now 10-12 minutes, which is just enough time to put her to sleep en route.  She was back in the pack n play for a week while we moved/painted her room so when she finally reunited with her crib she was all smiles - it was hilarious.  She scratched the sheet and smiled at the bars like they were an old friend.

I'm not sure we'll ever be on a strict schedule like we were with the twins because life is a little bit crazy these days and the only way to be consistent is to stay home all day.  Not a chance.  She rolls with the punches pretty well and when she doesn't get enough sleep she's perfectly happy as long as she's in someone's arms.  I can't decide if she'll be an early walker because she wants to keep up with Jude & Sloane or extremely delayed because she adores being held.  It will be interesting to see!

Her hair is thickening up and appears to be dark blonde/light brown.  It's hard to tell since her dark hair from birth still remains.  Her eyes are a deep blue and her skin has lightened up quite a bit.  Friends say she looks like Michael or Jude, though she's had a few pictures/faces that resemble big sister.  I look at her and see a completely new face - one that doesn't really resemble anyone else in the family.

Michael wrote Jude & Sloane's six month letters so in keeping with tradition he wrote a letter to Holland as well!  He couldn't love them more.  :)

* * *

Dear Holland,

As I sit down to write, your infectious smile is the first thing that comes to mind.  Generally, when you meet someone, you take them in for a moment and then you give them the biggest smile you can, which is every one of your smiles.  If you see a family member from across the room, you'll smile until they turn your direction.  Should someone be holding you while this happens, you use all your energy to smile and stand as straight as possible before you collapse and burrow down into your holder's shoulder.  

You always want to be in the middle of it.  What it happens to be is irrelevant.  You want to be where the action and the people are.  We used to lay you down with toys or put you in your jumper so that the rest of us could eat dinner.  Exclusion was not your style.  The first time we put you in your high chair at the table with the rest of us, you smiled alternatively at each family member for the entire meal.  

You love your brother and sister.  If they walk in the room, they immediately have your full attention.  We can tell you want to follow along and play so badly!  Enough so that I wouldn't be surprised if you walked earlier than either of the twins.  In return, they adore you.  Sloane likes to be the first into your room in the morning so she can show you whatever she's playing with or put on a show for you while in your crib.  Jude is your partner at dinner.  He sits close to you and makes sure you stay happy and retrieves any toy you may drop during the meal.  

Holland will be heard!  You don't know what you're saying yet, but you say it repeatedly and with vigor.  It's a bit like a comedy bit that doesn't know when to finish.  You'll yell and people think it's cute or funny.  Then you keep going and it can get to be a bit much.  Then when you continue to talk and yell to no one in particular, it becomes funny again.  

Just when we were settling down into how life would be, you came in and rearranged everything.  You're only six months old and already living in your second house!  We didn't know our family was incomplete until you arrived.  You've had so many positive imapcts upon our little crew and we're so grateful you came along to shake up the balance.  We're so excited to learn what's next!

Love - Dad


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