Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas 2011

There isn't much to say other than that Christmas was a success. We all ate entirely too much food (sugar cookies and prime rib to be exact) and had a good time with family.

Have I mentioned how much I love these three people?


Bailey was really into the gifts ... for all of about two minutes. Both Bailey and Avery's piles of gifts were huge. Much more than any child - under 2 especially - needs. But aunts and grandmas don't necessarily care much about needs. We are lucky to have family members that buy them both needed clothing and fun things [sidenote to Aunt Fe: the baby Jordans are in this category!]


I noticed two different styles for opening presents:

Slow and neat:


OR...

Rip it open with your two teeth!:



The entire family was able to get together at my Grandma Joyce and Grandpa Ronnie's house for dinner on Christmas afternoon. There are only 17 of us total, but seeing as we are all so quiet and polite... well, most people would probably need earplugs. We do a grab bag exchange/game every year and it gets a little competitive. Unfortunately, I ended up getting robbed of my 4-packs of mini wine bottles, but at least I didn't get the peanut multi-pack that ends up in the mix every year!


The annual Weiss grandkids photo


There was so much extra stuff in the car on the way home, I am surprised the hatch door even closed! We are truly blessed and definitely not just in the material way. We are blessed to be able to spend time with our families all year round - not just at Christmas. Thank you Jesus for your blessings. And happy birthday, too.

Friday, December 23, 2011

When did I become such a softie?

It's totally okay and basically expected that you become a hormonal, crying mess when you are pregnant - at least on ocassion.  No one thinks you're crazy when you tear up over the littlest of things. So why am I still tearing up like that when I have a 7 month old?!  Did becoming a mom make change me into that person who cries at Hallmark commercials?

Like today for example... I am sitting on the floor with the girls, playing with toys and watching The Young and The Restless. {Don't judge me - it's good. And if you don't watch, I understand your skepticism, but I've followed along since I was probably in middle school and I am not about to stop now}. It was one of those so-not-a-new-idea Christmas episodes when someone in trouble [Nikki] gets visited by her guardian angel and they see what her loved ones are doing, she is inspired to change, blah blah blah. And I started tearing up! What is wrong with me?! It wasn't even sad! Ever since Bailey was born, I have cried at the most ridiculous stuff: a Maxwell House commercial, daytime tv, ASPCA informercials (but truthfully, those ones are trying to make you cry), and I am sure my family could think of even more.

Thinking about our girls and how quickly they are growing up can really get me teary eyed. The other night during their bath, Bailey sat down gently beside Avery in the tub and held her hand. They just sat there, not making a sound, holding hands. It choked me up. I just love how much they love each other. Quiet little moments like that are so precious amidst the whining and Sesame Street watching and snacks and diaper changes that seem to eat up our days.

But....Christmas is only 2 days away now! And I am excited to watch the girls open presents this year - wait, make that:  I am excited to watch Bailey open presents and Avery try to eat all the paper this year. We are headed to my parent's house to spend Christmas with them and my sisters. Bailey and Avery will soon find out that Santa Claus has nothing on the Ellis aunts!

Monday, December 19, 2011

It's just another day here at our house. Nothing exciting to speak of, but boring is good in my book. Excitement can mean drama. And drama is usually something like rocky relationships, crazy family members, money problems, or unruly children and we don't have much of that. (At least usually... But everyone could use some extra padding in the bank account, right?)

Speaking of money, I really had to work for it this weekend. It was my weekend on call. We worked until 12:30 AM both Friday and Saturday nights, with a few hours sleep in between. That added up to 20+ hours of call-in pay. {That more than paid for our Christmas, so thanks Med Center!} They were very long days though. An extra-busy 12 hour shift on the floor doesn't even compare to my day Saturday. Thank God I gave away my Sunday call... But I do find that nothing gives you that second burst of energy like (paid-for) pepperoni pizza and Jimmy John's delivery. Oh, and a nice DMD. Gotta have my Diet Mt. Dew. 

On a sad note, I was speeding just a wee bit on the way home from work at 1 AM on Sunday morning and got pulled over. [Side note: It is extremely easy to speed on a empty, dark road when you are half asleep, zoning out, and just ready to go to bed.] So apparently I was going 74 in a 55. Oops... In all honestly, I had no idea I was going so fast. I told the officer as much and casually mentioned how I was coming home from a long call weekend. {And then I prayed he took note of my tired demeanor and the horrible bags under my eyes and would take pity on me.} And he sortof did. I didn't get a speeding ticket much to my surprise, but a ticket for not putting my new registration sticker - which I got like 4 days ago- on my license plate . The current one wasn't even outdated yet! [It's really hard to put a sticker on when your car is covered in dirty gravel dust and I was going to wait until I washed it, but he apparently didn't understand that logic.] So while that stupid ticket is $80, at least I didn't get the $190 one for speeding. And I guess now with two warnings, I will have to slow my ass down...

Bailey is learning some new phrases. Early Access of Iowa comes to visit Bailey once a month to evaluate her development and speech since she was technically premature (my 7+ pounder preemie, yeah right) and because of her cleft. Our real concern is her speech. She know a lot of words, and she will repeat new ones back to us when we ask her to, but right now she very rarely just says them without prompting. They were asking me if she put words together to make two word phrases or if she walked up to things and named them out loud. I said "Nope, she hasn't been doing that." And like every other time they ask about something and I say no, she started doing it the very next day. She picked up a book, pointed to a ball and said "ball" out loud. I gave her her breakfast and she looked right at me and said "Thank you." {And before you think my child is just so wonderful and well-behaved, she says it so often now, she would probably thank me if I spanked her or something.} She is also on a  kick of saying "toot-toot" every time she farts.  Wouldn't it be nice if us adults could do that and people would just laugh and think it was cute?

Avery is our lazy little lump of cuteness. She is perfectly content to just sit in one spot and not move. And if she were to need something out of reach, she makes no effort to get it herself by moving her body. She just cries until Bailey brings it to her or one of us picks her up. At this age, Bailey was already crawling around the entire house and pulling up on furniture. This one is perfectly content to snuggle up on you and let you serve her every want and need. Why go get it yourself if you can get other people to do it for you? Crawling seems to be a ways off, which I suppose is fine. We're probably not ready for an extra child to help destroy the house just yet.

Jared is working today.  And after two long days alone with the girls and no breaks, I am sure he is fine with that. Since I am still catching up from the weekend, I really should be taking a nap while both girls are napping. But I just like the quiet time in the house so much, I can't bring myself to do it. Maybe it's time to go catch up on my Y&R. Sweet Jesus, please let them find a way to get rid of Patty and create a new storyline. Oh, and some scenes of Cane half-naked would be fine by me, too.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

R.A.K.

I like the Christmas season. I like the festive decorations around the house and the laugh-filled get-togethers with family. I like the food {big surprise there!} and special Christmas goodies we make only during this time of the year. But I really like that boost in friendliness there seems to be. People take the time to think of other people besides themselves. People just seem to be a little bit more cheery in general. There seems to be more kindness.

In 4th grade we had this weekly project called Random Acts of Kindness. {I believe we called it R.A.K. because you know that abbreviated things are way cooler.} Each week we would have to do something nice for someone else out of the kindness of our hearts and write about what we did, how it made us feel, and if the person noticed or not. So being 4th graders we would do things like "I put my dirty clothes in the hamper without being asked" or "I let my sister use my favorite (insert toy/video game/sweater here)."  I know some of mine involved loading the dishwasher after supper or picking up the mess us kids made in the living room [You're welcome, Mom]. You could say hi and smile at the "weird kid" on the school bus or let your little brother play with you and your friends after school. Little things. The project helped us see that when you do good things for other people, you feel good in return.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if people lived this philosophy year round; if everyone did tiny little things that didn't cost a cent, just to make someone else's day a little better?  Because it really is true: when you do something nice for someone else, you feel a little bit better about this world we live in. And I personally like knowing that there are lots of good people out there doing little things to make this world a better place.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday, December 5, 2011

Carrots and Beans and Cauliflower, Oh My

Homemade baby food tends to intimidate a lot of people. People seem to think you need special equipment or an official cookbook or you have to be an all-organic nut. None of those is true. To be honest, I make my own baby food because I am lazy and hate being in the grocery store shopping for even a second longer than I have to. (Anyone been in WalMart around 6 PM on a Friday payday at the beginning of the month? Crazy white trash central.) Oh yeah, and because I hate spending money.

But truthfully, it's easy and requires very little time {a definite prerequisite at our house}. All you need is a food processor (which we already had), a few cheap ice trays, and some Ziploc bags. And the food of course. I usually buy the $1 or less bags of generic (keepin' it cheap!) vegetables. For fruits with Bailey I bought pears and apples, but you can do bananas and some other fresh fruits and don't have to worry about making them up ahead of time.

It couldn't be simpler. You just prepare the vegetables like you normally would. Then you throw them in the food processor. If the food seems too solid, you can add some water, formula, or breastmilk to it to thin it down.

Appetizing, huh?

After that, you fill up your ice cube trays with the pureed food.

A cookie scoop is the perfect size.

You leave them in the freezer for a few hours to firm up. Then I remove them and place in labeled quart sized Ziploc bags. They keep in the freezer for 2-3 months.  And the best part is that a $1 bag of vegetables makes 16-20 ounces of baby food.


So when it comes time to feed your baby, all you have to do is pop one or more of these cubes in a small dish. You microwave them for about 30 seconds and then use rice cereal or formula if needed to bring it to the correct consistency. One cube is approximately one ounce. With Bailey I mixed in some of the less-popular veggies with the foods she loved, like apples and pears. (Carrots + apples = Bailey's version of carrot cake.) So while you can make them into combinations before freezing, it was just as easy to tailor them to her liking by mixing them up later. And if you want new recipes or ideas, the internet is full of websites solely devoted to homemade baby food.

Then it comes time to actually feed these lovingly made foods to your baby. Now you just have to pray your child likes them. Bailey has always liked to eat:



My latest batch of baby food has been less well received. Somebody doesn't think carrots are all that fabulous:


Oh well. Maybe she will like carrot cake, too.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Smiles

Two years ago this month we had our "big" ultrasound of our daughter Bailey. I was 24 weeks pregnant. I already had a love/hate relationship with ultrasounds. On one hand, they are simply amazing because you get to see your tiny, little, alien-looking baby kicking around inside of you. But sometimes you get devastating news instead - like a miscarriage in the case of our first pregnancy.

This particular day in December was the day we learned that our child would have a cleft. To a pregnant woman, it can feel like the end of the world if the grocery store is out of your favorite kind of ice cream, so it is no shock that I was devastated. Jared was also upset, but he held it together much better. [I attribute part of that to the lack of crazy hormones raging through his body.] Since the OB doctor told us there was still a chance our baby could have a cleft as a part of some other syndrome, I went into worry mode. I was a hot mess. Like a crying at work hot mess. (In hindsight - definitely should have used up a sick day on that one.) It took a good two weeks for me to chill out and stop crying at night.

Our family, friends, and coworkers would tell us things like, "At least they can fix it." (I even had my manager tell me, "It's not a big deal. You can be glad it isn't worse." She also did/said some awesomely not-cool things later, but that is a story for another day...) Everyone had good intentions. All those comments were basically true, and I knew that deep down, but I didn't need to keep hearing it over and over. {Remember the pregnancy hormones, people!}

A co-worker at the Med Center gave my email address to someone she knew. This friend of hers had just given birth to a sweet baby boy with a cleft lip and palate. Her email to me was like a blessing. It felt so nice to have someone to talk to who understood what we were feeling and could reassure us that everything would turn out okay.

And it was. We have a precious daughter who was born with a different smile than most babies. We only had that unique smile for 3 short months. I look at pictures and can't believe that was her. God bless all the wonderful strangers who approached us in stores and told us how beautiful she was. God bless the people who commented on our Facebook pictures and saw past her cleft just like we did. Those first months were hard, hard work. But we are lucky to have had the means and resources to help Bailey get the surgeries she needed.

Not everyone does, especially in other countries. That is why I love these sites: Smile Train and Operation Smile. {I seriously doubt you can watch the videos on these sites without tearing up. Just try it.} Just $250 for one surgery and a child's life is changed forever. They are no longer outcasts in their own communities. They truly get a second chance at life. Right now is the season for giving. Many television commercials ask for your help for abadonned animals, premature infants, domestic violence victims, the poor, the hungry. If you ever feel motivated to donate to a worthy charity, keep Smile Train and Operation Smile in mind.


***And if anyone reading ever wants to talk about having a child with a cleft, or if they have a friend who is having a child with a cleft - whatever, feel free to leave a comment and I will write you back. I am grateful for the help when I needed it, and I am happy to pass it on. ***