Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Ruby Can Walk: Months 10 + 11 Updates


I'm silently chewing on bites of a hot mini-quiche and sipping (more like chugging) my home-brewed latte, thanks to our workhorse Mokapot Ken purchased years ago, while baby girl sleeps contentedly in the nursery. Each lift of my mug, followed by its quick and gentle return to the table is thought-out, my body moving with robotic poise, as I carefully try not to wake my little one. Just outside, the lovely morning glow turns dark gray, as I watch storm clouds overtake the sky through our dining room window. The thought, "Desperate times call for desperate measures," comes to mind, and I laugh quietly, as I reflect on the past year and how, nearly 12 months into this whole 'parenting thing', I'm feeling more like myself again, and less like a crazy-sleep-deprived-mother hen. Thankfully, it's not that sense of desperation or overwhelm that I experienced in the first few months. Or was it the past year? Things are changing and getting more manageable - in certain ways. For instance, I'm sleeping more regularly, which translates to at least 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night (sometimes more, sometimes less, but mostly that). Ruby still nurses once or twice at night, and yet I can see how she's moving in the direction of needing that less and less for sustenance and more for comfort - to know that I'm there for her, and that her world is a safe place. I now get up at a regular hour each morning, fix breakfast, and often dress myself in day clothes. I exercise a few times a week, and run errands. I get outside a lot, and am so thankful for the more moderate climate of the inland northwest; it's a great motivator to get active. Ruby and I meet my amazing new mom friends throughout the week, and enjoy playtime with their kids. We are both growing up in a lot of ways - baby girl and I, growing more confident and assured in our strengths, and increasingly aware of our weaknesses and how to work with them.

Over the past couple months, Ruby has learned how to walk and now tries to run. She took her first steps on Friday, Feb. 12th (!!!) a couple hours before my best friend Sherilyn and her husband arrived from Canada. I can picture it with precision. Ruby had been trying to walk unsupported for weeks - tumbling down as fast as she stood up. But she persisted! Each day, I could see her learning and adjusting her movements, trying to figure it out. I'm so proud of our little girl. Along with walking, Ruby loves to climb up onto toys, our giant bean bag chair, and even up into the car seat, so she can teeter back and forth like a see-saw. (I have to watch her carefully or she'll typically fall over.) She is strong and confident, and I can see her personality developing. Her giggle lights up the room, and she can make "friends" with strangers anywhere we go. She is a joyful child, who likes to explore and learn about the world around her.

Currently, baby girl's favorite foods are blackberries, yogurt, broccoli, aged sharp cheddar, shredded chicken, and turkey. She loves all types of berries that she's tried, but always squeals in the grocery store when I reach for blackberries. They're her favorite. For her upcoming birthday, I considered asking friends if, instead of typical birthday presents, they could gift Ruby with cartons of blackberries. It's been harder for me to keep our supply on par with the demand lately... ;)

Ruby has become an avid reader. Often, I find her seated comfortably in various corners of the house with a good book and a cup of tea. (I'm kidding about the tea.) She loves to read to herself when I'm preoccupied. She'll hold up a book in the air and go through the pages, mumbling, "Ah-googo-ga-go, Ga-ga-boo." It's pretty cute, and melts my heart. I try to be intentional about reading to her each day. I'd say that her favorite books are "Peek-A-Zoo" and "Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?" and "Tails," mainly because those are the books she brings to me on a consistent basis. "Peek-A-Zoo" also has a half-eaten cover, which is a good indicator that Ruby likes it.

As a child, I loved how my mom read to me. It was a special treat, hearing her read me stories, and something I hope to foster with my children. I'm a believer in the power of words (spoken and written word), and can see how reading opened up new worlds for me as child. Books allowed me to process feelings and emotions and desires that I didn't understand or know how to talk about. They helped me learn how to empathize, gave me vision and a sense of freedom, and taught me that I could rise above pain and circumstances, in faith and hope.

In considering what to give Ruby for her 1st birthday, I think I'll keep it simple. Blackberries and a new book. As I've gathered over the years, from growing up on very limited means to now being more financially able, having more doesn't always mean having more and having less doesn't always mean having less. Ruby is turning one in only a few short days, and I hope that this birthday and in all the birthdays to come, that she is able to glimpse how incredibly blessed she is - no matter what she's given or has. She is loved, and adored. This beautiful, wonderful, incredible child that God blessed Ken and me with just one year ago. I praise God for you, Ruby.

12 months, here we come!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Texas: Yee-Haw!

BOOM BOOM BOOM
Mr. Brown is a wonder.
BOOM BOOM BOOM
Mr. Brown makes thunder!
He makes lightning
SPLATT SPLATT SPLATT
And it's very, very hard
To make a noise like that!


As I happily chanted Dr. Seuss's "Book of Wonderful Noises" to Ruby late yesterday afternoon, I had no idea how pertinent my reading would be to our nighttime display of theatrics. Last night, around midnight, it rained. Or rather, the sky beat down buckets of water against our hotel in a passionate rage. Lightning flashed. And thunder roared - so loudly that I woke Ken more than once to clarify that those sounds were in fact coming from nature, rather than from my other hypothesis at the time: planes exploding in the air or bombs going off. The weather was intense, and awe-inspiring. At one point, I slid out of bed to peer out our window at the scene unfolding. Storms can be beautiful, and enchanting, and also scare me to the point of trembling.

This one in particular was a combination of all three.

Thankfully, baby Ruby slept considerably well given the circumstances. Perhaps that had a lot to do with Ken downloading a "white-noise machine" app on my iPhone shortly before we tucked Ruby into bed. Ken set the app to play all night, and it sure helped. I'm constantly impressed by Ken's ingenuity, especially since we had mistakenly left Ruby's actual white noise machine at our previous hotel in Spokane shortly before heading on a flight to San Antonio. The lovely city with its temperamental weather, where we now find ourselves settling in for the week.

Tagalongs. More than just the name for a delicious Girl Scout Cookie, this word describes baby girl and I here in the big ole' state of Texas. We tagged along on Ken's business trip to the area. So, while he spends the day programming power relay systems at a nearby facility, Ruby and I are making the best of our plush hotel-meets-apartment style room. We read books together, play with the squeezable plastic farm animal bath toys that are scattered about, eat lots of pees, blueberries, raspberries, bread, and cheese, and explore the outdoor space at our hotel. There's also a nearby mall and a heated outdoor pool, which I'm tempted to try out with Ruby later today. While our transportation is limited to my two feet during the day, baby Ruby and I are still enjoying lots to do and see.

Last night, prior to all that inclement weather I mentioned earlier, we drove with Ken to the San Antonio Riverwalk for dinner. What a charming place! It reminded me of being back in Venice, Italy, perusing the local shops along the water. Thick Ivy hangs along the red brick buildings, and towering trees line the riverfront. A little, pay-to-ride boat ferries guests up and down the canal, and various restaurants, from Mexican to American to Italian, hug the riverfront. Our family of three dined on an assortment of fresh, warm baguettes and rosemary butter, roasted veggies seasoned with lemon and garlic, giant shrimps with horseradish cocktail sauce, coconut crusted prawns (best I've ever had) and seafood enchiladas. The food was fantastic, and I only wish that I could eat prawns like that on a more regular basis. Ruby, on the other hand, probably mentioned at one point (in her native tongue) that while everything looked incredible, she would've been just as happy with only the bread. She loves bread.

On that note, it's almost lunchtime here and I'm needing to assemble some turkey sandwiches before Ken gets back for his break. Should another opportunity arise (think: Ruby napping contentedly on her own) where I can put down in writing more of our Texas adventures, I will try my best.

Texas will now get crossed off my bucket list. Texas. Check. I look forward to reporting on more of the places we hope to someday travel to.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Nine and Three-Quarter's Months Old!


Platform 9 3/4. But, Hagrid, there must be a mistake. 
This says Platform 9 3/4, there’s no such thing. Is there?
Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone, J.K. Rowling

And there you have it. Baby girl is now nine and three-quarter's months old. In a week, she'll be 10 months, and before you know it, she'll be out the door and on her way to elementary school! I'm getting ahead of myself, though. (We could always decide to home school.)

Our sweet and lively little girl is now closer than ever to walking! Ruby tries daily to figure out exactly how to position herself so that she can walk like her daddy and me. She can walk with the support of her walker toy, and can balance standing up for long-ish periods of time, but once she tries to maneuver her feet on her own, she plummets straight toward the ground. And still, Ruby is determined! She's currently an expert crawler and can quickly race across the room in a matter of a seconds. This keeps Ken and I occupied as we are constantly 'baby-proofing' and trying to hide unsafe objects from baby girl's vantage point. What an adventure this new season is with her! I'm curious what it will be like once she's walking and then running...

This past month, Ruby has really grown in her love for solid foods. She continues to nurse, and is now enjoying little snacks throughout the day. Her favorite foods include peas, green beans, broccoli, yogurt, mango, bread, cheerios, and the Alaskan salmon that Ken caught on our dip-netting trip last summer (See story here). She'll pretty much eat most things that we give her, particularly if she sees us eating them. It amazes me, how she is starting to understand 'meal times' and is also keen on playing games and mimicking us. For instance, this last month, Ruby started playing peek-a-boo with Ken and me, where she is the one doing the hiding behind towels, blankets, and furniture and then 'popping out', hoping for a reaction from us. She also loves blowing raspberries on my face, and doing things that she thinks will make me laugh, like being sneaky and climbing on things. Such a strong and smart little girl. 

At nine months, Ruby's hair is a sandy blonde-brown color and her eyes are hazel, which depending on the light, can lean more toward green or brown. "Da-da" is still her favorite word, although she will occasionally say, "Ma-ma" when she really wants something (like mama's milk). 

I'm really excited that baby girl is almost one year old! Here are some photos from this weekend. The rolling fields of the Palouse are just gorgeous on these sunny winter days. My cousins Isaac and Kristina joined us from the Spokane area for a couple nights and we had so much fun with them. It's a unique blessing to live near them here in Eastern Washington. (Thank you guys again for blessing Ken and me with a date out!

I'll leave you with these fun photos of our little 9 [ and 3/4] month old! 






Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town: An Essay

“Come out!”

“Come out of your houses!”

A muffled voice over the loud speaker immediately grabs my attention, as I race to the dining room window to see what’s going on. I peek through the blinds, my heart pounding, as I look upon the snow-laden streets outside our apartment.

I’m scared, I think to myself, as my heart rate increases. It sounds like police shouting for someone.

I can’t make out where the sound is coming from.

My mind takes me back to a few years ago, in 2012, when Ken and I were living in the U-district in Seattle, labeled thus for its proximity to the University of Washington. I was home alone, listening to the news on the radio. I had just heard about a shooting a few blocks away from where we lived. Five people were shot at the little café I walked past on a daily basis.

“Stay inside your homes and call the police if you see the shooter,” continued the report.

The shooter was loose in the streets.

Lord, help me. Please keep us safe, I prayed, as I drew the blinds, locked and re-locked the doors – finishing with the deadbolt before jumping into bed, to hide under the covers, at which point I then called my older sister and texted friends. Ken was in class at the time.

What do I do if someone knocks at the door, God-forbid? I obsessed.

Not long after, I heard on the news that the shooter had been found downtown. The scene ended grimly.

That memory still haunts me. It’s been three and half years and we are now living in the quaint town of Pullman, in Eastern Washington. A 90-minute commute from Spokane, Pullman is home to Washington State University and a year-round population of 30,000. Not bad for a small town, but not giant either. Residents are welcoming and friendly, not in that creepy sort of way, but in a genuine, authentic sense. The town’s landscape is like an oasis of evergreen trees sandwiched among hundreds of miles of wheat fields dotted with charming red barns and rusted farm equipment. It’s idyllic, and homey, and the kind of place where you’d want to raise a family.

But when I heard that sound of yelling over the microphone the other night, I immediately expected the worst. My body went into lockdown-fight-or-flight-kickass-mom-mode, mentally preparing for some sort of shootout on the streets. 

Mind you, after living in Seattle for four years, where I experienced multiple run-ins with violent and mentally unstable people on the streets, Ken and I relocated to Anchorage, Alaska, hoping to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Wanting at best, a safe place to raise a family, where we could set down roots. It wasn’t until moving there that I found out that Anchorage is one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S., according to Forbes, with a crime rate that rivals any of the major cities where you’d expect that sort of thing. That surprised me.  

I’m reminded that you can’t really escape violence in any part of the world, these days. There’s so much pain, all around us.

Peering out into the dark winter night, I wondered, How could I protect my family if something bad were to happen? If someone bad was out there? In many ways, I feel an even greater burden and sense of longing for safety for my baby girl – a desire I never felt so strongly in the past – for the world around her to be a safe place.

“Come out! Come out of your houses!”

I instantly see a figure emerging from the darkness. A large truck towing a sleigh with a jolly ol’ Santa Claus, rounds our corner street.

“Ho-Ho-Ho! Merry Christmas!” He shouts.

I let out a long, nervous laugh.
And with that, my faith in humanity is restored.


+++

You better watch out
You better not cry
You better not pout
I’m telling you why

Santa Claus is comin’ to town

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

8 Months & 4 Teeth Later...


It happened. 

All of a sudden, baby girl up and turned 8 months old. My little baby, who seemed to have been born only a couple days ago (see birth story here), is now crawling (!!!), pulling herself up to a standing position on her own (!!), and trying to feed herself solid foods - on her own, of course! 

Ruby, how did you get so big? How did you grow up so fast? I ask her these questions on a daily basis. 

Baby girl is still wearing some 9-month clothing, but is mostly on to 12-month clothing now. As I glance over at my little girl, whose toes already seem to be outgrowing her newest 12-month size sleeper, she smiles knowingly, as if to say, "Yep, Mama. I'm a big girl." She's so tall for her age!

Just as the legendary song All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth goes, it seems as if Ruby has been working overtime (think: scattered sleep at night) to get her top two front teeth in. Her bottom two teeth are all the way in, and now their long-awaited counterparts have broken through. I think she's wanting to chew foods more like a big girl, as she practices using her teeth all the time now. 

Besides these exciting developments in Ruby's life, she's also become more and more conversational. I love it! I love hearing her trying to describe and understand the world around her. It's priceless. 

With that said, I better head out. Ruby is calling for milk in her native tongue. 

I'll leave you with some recent family pics. Have a great night!






Sunday, December 13, 2015

O Christmas Tree: A Story About Holiday Traditions


Holiday traditions.

Those words conjure up memories of Christmas mornings as a child, excitedly awaiting any sign of movement from my sisters and parents, so that we could open presents together. A salty-buttery smell hangs in the air, as my Dad prepares eggs benedict in the kitchen. I can picture him standing over the stove, pulling a piping-hot sheet of perfectly-toasted English muffins out of the oven, while freshly-whisked hollandaise and hot poached eggs sit waiting. It was our holiday tradition to savor my Dad's eggs benedict every Christmas morning, before heading to my Grandma's house (conveniently located right next door) for Christmas lunch a few hours later, which always consisted of the same delectable pairing - lox and bagels. Straight-up New York-style bagels and cured salmon, which I imagine was similar to what my Grandma enjoyed growing up in the Bronx. This was a no-frills lunch, with simple condiments (onion slivers, capers, tomatoes, cream cheese) that I could count on every year. I found stability in those ritual meals we enjoyed together as a family every Christmas. When my Dad left, sometime around my 12th birthday, I couldn't help but grieve those holiday traditions, centered around food and family. They were such special memories.

In reflecting back on my childhood and what influenced me in positive as well as not so positive ways, I hope to develop meaningful holiday traditions that Ken and I can share with our kid(s) in the years ahead. I want to show Ruby the joy of shared experiences, and how to give generously and freely, without regard to whether a gift will be reciprocated. I also want to teach her compassion and how important it is to help other people, so that her world isn't centered on her own needs and desires.

I think it's tempting to want to do all sorts of 'special' things together as a family, especially around the holidays, but I want to create space where we can practice reaching out, rather than just inward. One such example comes to mind: When I was young, I remember how my mom took me to a couple of different places where we helped feed people in need. Families who were homeless, or down on their luck. We volunteered at a food bank once, and perhaps a church, and then an outreach center near the prison. In retrospect, I find that ironic since many times we could barely scrape enough money together to buy food for dinner each night. (We ate so much toast for meals/snacks, when we couldn't afford much else.) But my mother saw something that she could do - small ways that we as a family could reach outside of ourselves and help others, by serving platters of food, and took the opportunity to do so, when possible. Thank you for teaching me this valuable lesson, Mom. I think of those times, especially around the holidays. There are so many people in need, and I never want to turn a deaf ear to ways that I can help.

In sharing these stories, I noticed that the blog post I meant to write, about how we recently started what I hope is a new tradition, got sidelined. Without further ado, I introduce to you, our newest (hopeful) holiday tradition: the Christmas tree.

---

Last Sunday morning, Ken, Ruby, and I headed out the door with our winter gear and a couple of cold ham sandwiches, and set out for the nearest hardware store. Our mission: to purchase a saw suitable for chopping down our very own Christmas tree, and to acquire the relevant $5 permit we needed to be able to take home that tree from the National Forest. We were successful in both those endeavors and after stopping for a quick coffee and nursing break in a neighboring town, we made our way northeast to the forest.

Despite the heavy rainfall, we enjoyed our drive through Eastern Washington's picturesque farmlands - the rolling hills of the Palouse, covered in wheat fields and dotted with red and gray barns, and found a real beauty of a tree: some sort of evergreen, simple, seemingly symmetrical, straight, and most importantly, not too tall, making it perfect for our current housing situation. Ruby was initially uncertain about the weather and the whole chopping-down-of-tree-thing, but once she realized that we were bringing the tree home, and then saw it in our house, I think that she warmed up to the idea.

Ken and I hope to continue this tradition in the coming years, as it makes for a great memory and doesn't cost much. This Christmas in particular, we are quite tight on funds, which has given us the unique opportunity to become even more creative in how we budget and spend our money.

It's safe to say that this experience was worth every penny, and more.

Here are some photos from our adventures!




Tuesday, November 24, 2015

7 Months!


As I sit down to write this, I realize that it's late November. Baby girl is already 7 1/2 months old! My sweet and active daughter is more than halfway to her 1st birthday! How am I so behind on realizing this? I think to myself.

Perhaps it has something to do with the Big News that we announced last month? And us needing to pack up our whole house in a matter of days...and having to list our house for sale...and all those house renovations...oh, and our long-awaited trip to visit my family in Hawaii? Yes to all of the above. This past month has been ridiculously intense. Ken got a job offer in Eastern Washington the day before my 30th birthday (read about that here), and within a few weeks, we were packed and headed to Hawaii for vacation, en route to Washington for this next chapter in our journey.

And somewhere, in the midst of all these changes, Ruby turned 7 months old. Bubs is learning and growing in extraordinary ways, with each passing day.

Here are some of Bubs' latest milestones:
  • She can almost crawl !!!
  • She can rollover both ways and when she can't reach a toy, she rolls over to it.
  • Bubs can say "Da-da!" and "Hi!" and "Ok!" She also looks at Daddy and smiles when I say "Da-da" more often than not. 
  • She has said "Ma-ma" or "Mah-mee" a couple of times, but doesn't say it nearly as much as "Da-da!" (So, I'm not counting it yet as a real word. Hehe.)
  • Bubs can sit up on the floor (without support) for longer periods of time. 
  • She can also stand, with support, and almost pull herself up to standing position by holding on to me.
  • Bubs can recognize her name! She loves it when I call her "Ruby" or "Baby Girl."
  • Baby girl loves to smile and chat with just about anyone friendly who gives her attention.  
  • She has tried lots of new solid foods in the past few weeks (such as green beans, rice, carrots, sweet potato, bread, chicken, peas, and poi) and likes most of them, while continuing to nurse full-time. 
  • She still loves her jumperoo and bounces happily in it each day. Just this weekend, Ken moved her jumperoo to the highest height setting. (I'm not sure what we're going to do when she grows out of this!)
  • Baby girl's eyes are currently hazel colored (greenish-brown toward the center and blue around the outside.)
  • At Ruby's 6-month checkup, she was in the 92nd percentile for height and weighed around 18lbs - so healthy and strong. I'm looking forward to seeing her measurements at next month's checkup! 
  • Last but not least, baby girl seems to be teething again! I can just barely see her top two front teeth trying to break through the gum-line. Her baby teeth are so cute!
Ken and I praise God for our little lady. She's so full of joy. Her middle name means "reflection of the Sun/glistening moonlight." That, she is.

Here's a video of our baby girl's contagious laugh. Click here to watch. And one more video of Ruby's first time swimming in the pool with my Dad, Ken, and me on Maui.

And before I head out, here are some of our latest pics. :)