two years and a new beginning

2 years and a new beginning\

today marks two years of marriage and the day we leave holland. i find it incredibly fitting that as we begin our third year of marriage we also begin the next part of our life as a family in cincinnati. it has been an incredible year for us as a couple and the process of taking this next step forward has made us even stronger as husband and wife. today i am grateful for all that i have in stijn as a partner and a friend. i am proud of who he is as a man, a father, and a husband. here's to another year's adventures together.

10 months old

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my dear eleanor,

monday you became 10 months old! that means that in just 2 short months you will have been on this earth for one year. (yes mama's math skills are impressive. remember that when you're learning trigonometry) it's been a big couple of months for you. there is so much that you seem to be learning everyday, i can hardly keep up.

stats:
height- 29.5in. (75cm)
weight- 19lbs., 14oz. (9kg)
teeth- still holding steady at 6

you will eat pretty much anything though you seem to be especially fond of bananas. you started eating plain yogurt and decided this morning that you were going to feed yourself with the spoon. you're still breastfeeding about 4 times a day. we were planning on waiting until the one year birthday mark before introducing sweets but at ella's birthday party this past weekend i looked over to find you under her high chair eating every crumb that fell from her piece of chocolate cake. you were a fan!

you go on and on all day long with your bahbahbah and dadadada and an occasional mamama. no discernible words yet but since you are being taught two languages we expect you to be a little slower to speak. you do seem to be understanding words though. whenever you want to touch something that mama doesn't want you to touch you walk over to it, turn around and look at me, and then shake your head no. this doesn't keep you from touching it though, you just think no is funny. you also know who kenya is. when we ask you where she is you get super excited and point to her. when we ask you where mama is you also point to kenya so we're working on it.

you love books and get really excited whenever we read a book with animals in it. your favorite book right now is the book of sleep. when we read a book you turn the pages for me (sometimes before were done reading the page) but it's so fun to see you connecting with how it works. because you love the animals in books so much i thought it would be fun to take you to the zoo and so we went to the lincoln park zoo when we were in chicago and you smiled the whole time. i'm not sure whether it was the animals or all the other kids but you were so happy. your favorite was the monkey that swung back and forth right in front of you. you just kept following him with your eyes back and forth and smiling and pointing. i tried to show you the lions since that is your favorite stuffed animal right now but they were sleeping.

my absolute favorite thing you are doing right now is giving kisses. when i ask you for a kiss and pucker up and start to say "mw-ah" you lean in and plop one on me. sometimes you even finish the "ah." it is simply the cutest. you have also started to cuddle a bit right when you wake up. you snuggle right into the nook of my neck and it melts my heart.

you have been cruising on furniture for months now, pulling yourself up, climbing, and cruising down the couch or the table. you have been standing on your own for short periods of time these last few weeks and last week i pulled out a folding chair for you to push around the kitchen. you loved it and so everyday we practice walking by pushing your chair. and then today while i was taking pictures of you for this post you took one step toward me. you immediately fell over but still your first step! later on today you did it again, and again. when papa came home from work you wanted to show off so you took two steps. i think it's only a matter of time before i'm chasing you around the house.

walking
you are such a joy and we are so lucky to have you shining in our lives and our family. you, my dear, make everyday awesome!

ANNIVERSARY

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart) 
i am never without it(anywhere i go you go,my dear; 
and whatever is done by only me is your doing,my darling) 

i fear 
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet) 
i want no world (for beautiful you are my world,my true) 
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant 
and whatever a sun will always sing is you 

here is the deepest secret nobody knows 
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; 
which grows higher than soul can hope or mind can hide) 

and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart 
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart) 

-e.e. cummings 


one year ago.

home is where...

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house buying is stressful! truth be told stijn and i have been through the ringer throughout this process. because stijn is a foreigner, and therefore has no credit score here, the process of securing a loan has proven to be quite difficult. unfortunately, because i am not currently working and therefore have no steady income, my credit does not count. we understood that this was going to be the case and were prepared to have to jump through more hoops in order to purchase a home but we had no idea that it would be this frustratingly disorganized. the bank and underwriter seem to be flying blind, not able to anticipate what is needed, and therefore asking for the same document 10 times. you may recall that this is nothing new for us. we are well versed in difficulties with communication. (see story of our marriage) it just feels like we are wasting time and as our close date draws nearer it becomes painstakingly clear that we are not going to make this deadline.

in an effort to remain positive and to keep my level of enthusiasm high i now engage in daily drive-by's of our house. yesterday on our way to dinner while stijn was venting about a telephone conversation he had just had with the loan officer my car steered itself in the direction of that historic brick home with it's trees blossoming and it's tulips opening. just a reminder that it is all going to be worth it.

this house means more to me than i thought it would. i have realized that i have not had a home in years. the last time i felt at home was early in 2007, in my loft in over the rhine. in the spring of that year i packed everything and moved to hawaii to work on a coffee farm. when i came back and moved into my partner at the time's home i never unpacked. i never fully moved in. there just didn't seem to be room for me there. when that relationship ended i moved into a house once owned by my great grandparents. i had big plans for that little house but my reconnection with stijn and all the travel that went with a very long distance relationship kept me from fully committing to a home there. soon i was moving again, this time overseas, and again into someone else's home. stijn and i tried to make that apartment ours but knowing that it was only temporary made it hard to want to invest and settle. i do not see home as a place that houses possessions and i know that home is where we are and can be anywhere we make it but there are a few things that always make me feel like a place is mine, the most important of which, is my books. i am a book hoarder. i'm not a borrower of books nor a lender because my personal library is one of the things that i take great pride in. i love seeing all the stories that have marked my life lined up on a shelf. i love occasionally looking through them and remembering where i was when i was engulfed in a particular book. reading has always been a big part of my life and i wish for it to be the same for my children. i look forward to the day when eleanor looks through her parents book collection and picks one up to read. my books have been packed away in boxes for 5 years and soon they will be freed from their cardboard cages and lovingly placed on shelves to be admired and remembered again.

these are the thoughts i cling to as we struggle through the administrative process of home buying. soon we will have a home. a yard for eleanor to roll around in the grass, squirrels for kenya to chase, a porch for us to enjoy coffee on, a kitchen fully stocked with everything for me to test new recipes, bookshelves for us to unpack and arrange our books on... these are the things that keep me going through the difficulties. envisioning our life there in that house on 12th street. and what a beautiful life it is.

discovering the trails

trails

my apologies for being a bit quiet here on the blog this week but i have been out enjoying this beautiful weather we've been having here. 70 degree days have found eleanor, kenya, and i out exploring and enjoying coffee and books in the sunshine. yesterday we went to stu visser trails, part of the macatawa watershed program. as we walked along and i saw colorful birds and turtles and the beginnings of plants reaching out of the ground i thought of how fun it will be to go back when eleanor is a bit older and will notice the things around her. it's amazing how she is already changing the way i see the world.

six months old

6 months old

my dear eleanor,

saturday you turned six months old, which is half of a year already. i can hardly believe how much you've grown up.

you are sitting on your own now. every once and a while you still topple over but you love sitting and the new view that this is giving you. you aren't yet able to sit up from laying down on your own but we are working on it.

you now have two little bottom teeth and they make your smile even cuter. you seemed relatively unfazed by the whole teething process. none of the fevers and rashes that i had heard about. you chewed on just about anything you could get near your mouth and then suddenly there were two little teeth.

with the addition of those teeth and your new ability to sit up we started you on solid food. because we are doing baby led weaning this has meant just putting different foods down in front of you and allowing you to discover them. so far you have tried carrots, broccoli, apple, green beans, asparagus, avocado, banana, a little chicken, and ezekial bread toast. it's a bit early but it seemed as though your favorites were asparagus and avocado. so far i'm not sure how much you are actually ingesting but just moments ago you were getting the hang of chewing with an apple slice. it is so amazing to watch you figure food out and until you do breast milk is still keeping you at the top of the growth chart.

you continue to babble mama mama and dada dada. while we would love to believe that you are already calling us by name i am fairly certain that these words are no different to you than babababa and ahahahah.

since we arrived in the u.s. three weeks ago you have been sleeping in your crib at night. i was worried that this would be a difficult transition as we have been co-sleeping since you were born but you have taken to it like a pro. the transition may have been harder on me than on you so when you wake up at 4 or 5am for a feeding i usually keep you in bed with us until morning.

you continue to bring joy to everyone that meets you. you light up and smile the biggest smile whenever you are spoken to and everyone remarks on how happy you are. i am so glad and feel so lucky that you are mine.

6 months old

weekend bits

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WEEKEND
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Big Red Lighthouse (Holland, MI)

i hope all of you had a lovely weekend. we spent ours exploring our new home, baking mini cakes for our six month old baby, playing at the lake in holland state park, making homemade pizza for pizza night, and just enjoying life as a family. here's to the beginning of another great week!

the deepest blue

last night as i was rocking eleanor to sleep she looked up at me with those big blue eyes and i was immediately transported back to the first time i looked into them. in these moments i feel as though my heart is going to explode with all the love in the universe and am so grateful that i was chosen to care for this beautiful little soul.

2011 in review

14 weeks
january: we announced some exciting news.

february: we discovered that the little peanut growing inside of me was a girl.

Trail (Wadi Rum)
march: we traveled to jordan where we rode camels, camped in the dessert, and floated in the dead sea.

april: we celebrated easter in zurich and found out that our little one was going to have a cousin!

la sagrada familia
husband and wife
may: we traveled to spain, celebrated my 31st birthday, and were married in switzerland

romily
june: we celebrated stijn's 33rd birthday and took one last, very pregnant trip home to see dear friends marry.

july: we not so patiently waited for the arrival of our baby girl.

eleanor faye
august: we welcomed our beautiful eleanor faye (after 32 hours of labor) and began to see how much joy and love a little person can bring into our lives!

september: eleanor received belgian and u.s. passports and stijn was granted a green card.

eleanor and moemoe
october: my best friend came to visit, eleanor took her first trip to paris, and we traveled to belgium to introduce her to her family.

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november: we flew to the u.s. for thanksgiving and to introduce e to her american family.

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december: we took the train to zermatt where eleanor saw snow for the first time and we traveled to belgium to celebrate her first christmas.

2011 was another amazing year of love. a 365 day lesson in being open and adaptable, the year taught us what it means to be a family. it brought weddings and babies, and adventures to places only dreamt of. it brought new friends and tested friendships with old ones. it brought motherhood, and with it many more dreams for the future. when i look at the summary of what each month brought i am amazed by the themes of family and travel. i believe that these will always be the focus for our little family of three. my wish for this next year and all the ones that follow is that they be filled with more of the same!

gent

gent

yesterday we took eleanor on her first college visit in gent. one of the many advantages to her having dual citizenship is that she can attend university in europe if she so chooses. (we are hoping for this as it's nearly free and also an incredible education!) all kidding aside gent is one of my favorite cities. we were there two summers ago for the gentse feesten and i fell in love with it's old world charm. this was also the place where stijn proposed. i cannot wait for my parents to make their first trip to belgium so i can take them there as i know they would love it. the cobblestone streets crowded with walkers and people on bicycles, the great little bars and cafés, the incredible architecture, and the beautiful rivers running through the town make it the best of europe. if eleanor decides to attend her father's alma mater i would be happy to have an apartment here.

christmas

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hopefully everyone had a lovely holiday. ours was just swell. we celebrated with family here in belgium and thanks to skype, also with my family in cincinnati. i think eleanor is a fan of christmas. she celebrated by rolling over, now in all directions, and spent the day moving across the floor.

christmas traditions: ornament

my family has it's share of holiday traditions and now that stijn and i have our own little family i've been thinking a lot about which traditions i would like to keep and what traditions i may want to begin.

eleanor's first ornament

stockings are my favorite part of christmas at my parents house. my mom fills our stockings with what others may consider whole gifts. they usually contain some version of the following; a book or two, a dvd, socks, jewelry, always a toothbrush, and always our ornament. every year my mom buys us each an ornament. the idea being that when we grew older and into our own homes with our own trees we would have a box of ornaments to take with us. the best part of decorating a tree is opening that box of ornaments every year and remembering where each one came from. this was a tradition i always knew i wanted to keep for my own family and this year, for eleanor's first ornament, i ordered a little ceramic dish with her name and birthdate imprinted on it.

ornament from paloma's nest

christmas traditions: pajamas

my family has it's share of holiday traditions and now that stijn and i have our own little family i've been thinking a lot about which traditions i would like to keep and what traditions i may want to begin.

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every year on christmas eve my mom gives us pajamas. matching pajamas. typically flannel plaid matching pajamas. we all wear them to bed and while we open gifts on christmas morning. nerd alert! this is obviously one of those questionable traditions. to keep or not to keep? as my brothers and i have gotten older the tradition has become even funnier. some years we would come over to spend the night at my parents' on christmas eve waking up the next morning as we did when were kids. typically with one of my brothers (i won't embarrass him by saying which one) waking us up at 5am. "guys, is it time?" other years we would actually drive to my parents house in the morning wearing said pajamas. could you imagine needing to stop for gas?

one year we took my dad on a scavenger hunt to find his gifts. one part of the hunt included riding tandem bicycles to a friends house. i cannot even imagine what this looked like to people. a very tall family wearing matching plaid pajamas riding tandem bicycles down a busy street. unfortunately there is photographic evidence of this.

another year my mom decided to do things a bit differently. we lovingly refer to this as the year the pants went horribly wrong. in all the years we've been donning our christmas pjs they have been a different version of the same pant. in an effort to mix things up a bit and appease those of us who enjoy a different style she ordered tighter fitting pants. on christmas eve like all other years came the big reveal. we opened the packages and uncovered neon orange leggings. my brothers came downstairs and lets just say the pants were a bit revealing. in between the laughter and tears my mom screamed for them to take them off. forever burned into my mind is the image of my 6'4" twin brothers dancing around in neon orange tights.

last year my brother asked my mom about the pajamas and she confessed that she hadn't bought any. i guess she figured we had grown out of the tradition. apparently not because my horrified brother went out and bought us all a pair.

i haven't decided yet if this is a tradition i will carry on in it's pure form. i'm thinking my version will include a christmas pajama for everyone but maybe without them matching. we picked up these candy cane pjs for eleanor when we were in cincinnati to be her first christmas pajamas. they don't come in adult sizes so i'm still on the lookout for stijn and myself.

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four months old

4 months

4 month stats: 7 kilos and 66 centimeters

dear eleanor,

here is where i would like to push the pause button as you have grown up so much this past month. we made a big trip overseas and you, my dear, were a champ, a real traveling pro. in the two weeks we were there mama took you to all her favorite places, you met tons of new people, celebrated your first thanksgiving, picked out a christmas tree, saw a holiday train display, and went to see your uncle aaron's band perform. in those two weeks you changed and grew tons and i really feel that we started to see your personality coming through. prior to the trip you spent almost everyday with only your mama and papa and i was a bit worried about how overwhelming you might find meeting your american family and all of my friends but you seemed to develop into quite the sociable child. you began talking a lot and are now testing the volume of your voice.

coming back to switzerland was tough as you had a harder time with jet lag. my previously perfect sleeper has been a bit of a terror these past few weeks. i was starting to think this might not only be jet lag but also the dreaded 4 month sleep regression and then miraculously just last night your sleep habits normalized. (le sigh and thank you)

my absolute favorite time of day is in the morning when you wake up and your big eyes light up at the sight of your papa and i as we lean over to give you good morning kisses. you smile this big toothless grin and i think, "wow we are a family."

you saw and felt snow for the first time in zermatt this weekend and we celebrated by building a snowman. it seems as though your first christmas is going to be a white one!

as a gift to yourself on your 4 month birthday you mastered the art of rolling over from back to belly. you seem so pleased with yourself and every time i place you on your back you immediately roll over just to show off. once on your belly you scoot in circles which is pretty cute.

4 months

i captured this little video this morning to demonstrate her new trick along with another one of her habits. i must say that i am impressed that she manages to keep her thumb in her mouth while rolling. oh and please excuse the shaky camera, mama may have had too much coffee this morning.

for gladys

for gladys

throughout my pregnancy people often asked if i wanted a boy or girl and of course i responded with the canned, "it doesn't matter as long as he/she is healthy." and this is absolutely true, i did want a healthy baby and would have been equally thrilled had e turned out to be a boy. but, i was especially excited that she was a she and for one major (albeit superficial) reason, girls are more fun to dress! ok all kidding aside i had hoped for a daughter for as long as i can remember because waiting in storage bins in my parents basement were dozens of crocheted outfits made by my great grandmother, gladys. they were mine when i was little and i couldn't wait for the day when they could be rescued and given another life. and when i say outfits i mean complete outfits. gladys made sweaters with matching hats, mittens, booties, diaper covers, and purses.

i don't remember much about gladys. she was my mother's father's mother, she was french canadian, and she was a new yorker. i've heard the infamous stories of her sitting in the window of her brooklyn brownstone in red hook yelling down (in the best of new york accents) at anyone who tried to park out front that that spot was for her joseph. one of the only memories i have that i am certain is true to me and not from a story or a photo is of her taking me to a shop where they sold doll parts which she made into dolls that she eventually crocheted outfits for. i'm fairly certain i would find any such shop creepy now.

gladys was gone before i was of the age where i appreciated the art of her craft. i learned to knit five years ago and taught myself to crochet just two years ago. the craft skipped a couple generations but i intend to pick up where gladys left off and teach my daughter how to make the sweaters her great great grandmother made and that she now wears. as i peruse the knitting and crochet patterns that i plan to make i wish that gladys could be here to sip tea and chat while we craft together.

three months

3 months


dear eleanor,

what a big month it has been for you my dear.

3 month stats: 6.5 kilos and 63.5 centimeters. you finally have some baby chub to grab onto!

you are really starting to experiment with your voice. you sit in your bouncy chair kicking and babbling away. i keep trying to record you but every time i reach for my phone you stop. you love looking at yourself in the mirror. the first time you laughed was while doing so. your cute little laugh made me laugh which made you laugh harder which eventually made me cry. you also seem to think its funny when mama coughs which really isn't very nice my dear. and you think it's hilarious when i sing. i can't blame you there as i think my voice is pretty funny sounding too.

you desperately want to roll over. every time i set you under your play gym within minutes you are on your side working like crazy to get all the way over. you made it from your back to your belly twice now but it's not a regular occurrence. you seem to not be able to figure out what to do with one of your arms once you get there. you love standing up and showing everyone just how strong you are.

you never took a pacifier but you seem to be perfectly content substituting your fist. you are obsessed with putting your hands in your mouth. i'm a bit worried that this might be foreshadowing for you being a thumbsucker. along with your oral habits you are sticking your tongue out and blowing lots of bubbles. i especially like when you stick your tongue out and lift your dress at the same time. way to class it up little lady!

your cousin was born this week, little luna de bremme and i know you just can't wait to meet her and show her the ropes of life as a baby.

we leave today for a big trip over the ocean to the united states where you will meet the rest of your american family. i'm quite certain that you will be the perfect baby on the 9.5 hour flight since you are destined to be a world traveler. (fingers crossed) now if only we can figure out some sort of plan of attack for baby jet lag.

3 months

life as your mother is the greatest. watching you grow and change is so amazing and you make everything more fun. you have brought so much love and joy into our lives and we are just so grateful that we get to be your parents.

as time goes by

playtime

time seems to speed by at an exceptional rate when you have a baby. it has been three months since eleanor was born and the signs of my pregnancy have all disappeared. the dark line marking my stomach has faded, the weird discoloration on my back that had me looking like a cheetah is gone, i am back to my pre-pregnancy weight (though i'm not sure my body will ever be quite the same). it took 40 weeks for my body to transform and already there are no signs, save for that little stretch mark under my belly button, that it happened. my physical changes are nothing compared to the lightning speed at which she grows. i have to remind myself quite often to savor where we are as she is bound to change within days. i feel nostalgia for those first few weeks and have been prepared to feel some sort of sadness as she grows up (too quickly). but imagine my surprise when i felt nostalgia for something else entirely...

the other night i found myself longing for my labor. i wasn't one of those women who loved being pregnant and can't wait to do it again; so, longing for labor? we had just received word from stijn's family that his sister was in labor and i was jealous. jealous? i thought there was something seriously wrong with me but i wanted to relive the day e was born; the intensity, the pain, the joy, all of it. it was the most significant day of my life thus far and part of me is sad that it is over. i know there will be more of those big days and i am enjoying the everyday but i wonder if any other mothers have felt this before. did you miss labor?

twenty twenty twenty four hours...

all the love in the world

for the last eleven weeks my days have been marked by singing made up songs, talking in a voice at least 2 octaves higher than normal, conversing with someone who cannot respond, cheering for burps, making the silliest of faces, and celebrating triumphs like my daughter sleeping in her crib for a whole hour.

our days are pretty simple and often times i'm a bit bored. i even googled "what am i supposed to do with my baby all day." there sometimes are a few variations but most days look similar to this:

8am: feed followed by family cuddle time in bed. she is her best in the morning so this is our favorite time of the day. i usually give her to stijn and go make coffee and feed the dog.

9am: papa heads to work and eleanor and i do some baby yoga and have some tummy time (which she hates). she usually then plays under her play gym and i take the opportunity to clean a bit or take a bath.

10:30ish: eleanor takes a nap

11:30: feed and then a walk with the dog. sometimes to meet stijn for lunch somewhere.

2:00pm: feed

afternoons i usually run errands with her in the ergo carrier and she sleeps the whole time. or we meet a friend for coffee somewhere.

5:00pm: feed

6:00pm: stijn comes home and plays with her, reads her a book. i make dinner (or order a pizza)

7:30pm: bath and massage

8:00pm: feed and sleep. stijn and i use the rest of the night to get things done or just to relax together! thankfully, eleanor is a great sleeper and has been since the beginning. she usually wakes up around 5am for a feeding and then sleeps until 8am. repeat.

sometimes i worry that i'm not doing enough to stimulate her and sometimes i think that i'm the one that could use a bit more stimulation. then i remind myself that she's only 11 weeks old and she's pretty awesome. but i'm curious, seriously what can i do with my baby all day?