We have a toddler!?!?

I am not quite sure what the main direction of this blog post is , I just know that I am in disbelief that we have a toddler now!!! I guess before I had a child I always thought of 2-3 year olds as toddlers. But here we are with a 16 month old acting full-blown toddler. It came out of nowhere and I was not prepared. The tantrums, the hitting, the food throwing and pickiness, you’ve heard them all. I’ll be fooled into thinking her embrace is a hug until she rips herself out of my arms and plants a big ol’ slap across my face. And I feel like it was a really good day if I got her to eat anything other than chicken, pasta, or bread. One second she is the sweetest, kindest little angel and the next she is literally growling, screaming or just saying “nonono” repeatedly.

But sometimes what you don’t hear as much about is the absolute, melt-your-heart moments that make you feel so full of love you might burst. Those moments that seem a little silly when you write them on paper because you can’t fully describe the feeling with words. Eleanor really LOOKS at me now and wants to engage with me. She tries so hard to communicate and show things to me. She idolizes the bigger kids at daycare and watches their every move. She is obsessed with getting our attention when she wants to play peekaboo with us. When she rests her head on my shoulder while I’m reading to her or she just simply gives me the biggest smile, I feel so completely full and content with life. She is a little human-being now with personality and watching her experience things in life for the first time is completely awe-inspiring. As difficult as things truly can be at times, these are the moments that make me immediately forget about how frustrated I was with the last diaper-changing battle or food-throwing meal. Having such a hard time connecting with Eleanor in the beginning and not feeling like a Mother, I finally get it.

I guess the biggest thing I have learned in the last 16 months of my life is that once you get comfortable with things and find a rhythm, it gets turned on its head. I would start to feel defeated in some way like maybe all that hard work I put into establishing certain routines or getting her to do something had failed. But the reality that I’ve now embraced is that this is how it’s going to be, always. Babies, kids, families and marriages are forever changing and growing and the sooner that I let go trying to control parts of them, the sooner that I can simply buckle up and enjoy the ride.IMG_2403

Food Allergies…darn.

Never thought I’d have to carry one of these around….

epipen

We just found out that our 14 month old daughter has food allergies (as we have suspected) but more than we originally thought.

As an infant, Eleanor would have “naked baby time” and lay on the ground on a blanket. We knew she had eczema but we quickly realized she was also getting little hives here and there that would randomly appear. We had our theories that maybe she was sensitive to the blanket or maybe there was dust on it and she was allergic to dust, etc. etc. Or MAYBE she was allergic to pet dander. We have two cats and a dog so I shut that thought down really quickly not wanting to think about having to remove our pets, especially our dog Ruby. Soon we also noticed when the dog would happen to lick Eleanor’s face that there would be hives where Ruby licked. Then we really started thinking hmm….she’s probably allergic. So we’ve kept her away from the cats and dog and she really doesn’t have any other symptoms besides hives with direct contact.

If you read my first post you know Eleanor was a very upset and colicky infant. Her pediatrician suspected it could be a milk allergy that is making her so upset based on some interesting dirty diapers and her demeanor so I avoided dairy and when I finished with breastfeeding we put her on a hypoallergenic formula (don’t do it if you don’t have to….so expensive!). She did ok on the formula. When she turned one we decided Eleanor could try some ice cream!! She looooved it. And then 2 minutes later we took a look at her and she had white and red raised bumps around her mouth.

Fast forward a couple months to December and we end up at the allergist for testing.

IMG_0985
IMG_0983

After an hour and a half of waiting, some serious baby distracting, 20 skin pricks on Eleanor’s back, and tears, the nurse came in to read the results and quickly started listing: eggs, milk, cats, dogs, and tree nuts.

IMG_0987

After 😦

This is where my head started spinning. I know this is not the end of the world and so many people have to deal with allergies. It’s just one more thing to have to think about, keep track of, and yes, worry about. We already had to avoid dairy but now eggs?? Tree nuts?? I don’t know anything when it comes to food allergies. Will she be one of the kids that has to sit at a separate nut-free table at lunch? Will I trust others to avoid her allergens when I’m not around? Will she get a nutritionally balanced diet now? We felt a little rushed at her appointment (who doesn’t these days) plus Eleanor had hit her limit for tolerating ANYTHING so we barely got to ask questions. We bought some epi-pens at the Doctors suggestion ($600 thanks to high deductible insurance), have to start dissecting food labels and need to figure out how to feed our daughter a nutritionally balanced diet.

Knowing my past with Dr. Google and serious anxiety, I am trying to limit going online but it can be a good resource for learning about food allergies or food substitutes, if I’m careful. I refuse to let myself go down the “could I have done anything different to prevent this” path. It won’t change things and will only make me feel worse. There are many theories out there too about why so many kids today have food allergies such as the theory about a link between food dyes/coloring and allergies.

Maybe we will go see a nutritionist and get some guidance because we didn’t get much from the allergist. I’m not saying I believe it’s his job to help with her diet but they should at least guide us toward helpful resources. Milk, eggs, and nuts are a big part of our every day diet and have some serious nutritional benefits but when it comes to other foods I don’t have much of a clue what kind of nutritional value certain foods have. And for the cat and dog allergies? So far we have not seen enough upsetting symptoms to get rid of any of them but we have purchased 2 air purifiers and made her room completely off-limits to the pets. Time will tell.

Here’s hoping Eleanor is part of the 80% of kids that outgrow milk and egg allergies and that her nut allergies are not severe. Looking forward? We will retest in about a year to see if there are any changes or weakened reactions. If anyone reads this that has experience with kids and allergies we’ll take all the advice/resources/recipes we can get. ❤

Eleanor’s First Birthday Party: Woodland Theme

Now that the party dust has settled I wanted to share some of the things I made and bought for Eleanor’s First Birthday! I really wanted a theme, thinking it would be easier to plan. It was a bit more difficult then I originally thought because I had very specific things I wanted to find as opposed to finding a color scheme or a more vague theme. Anyway, I went with a woodland forest and animals theme. There are sooo many ideas all over Pinterest and Etsy it was actually a little overwhelming. But I thoroughly enjoy planning and putting together a party, almost more than the party itself.

Here is a peek at the invitation! I ordered these on Etsy where there are hundreds of options, even for this theme but I wouldn’t recommend this particular seller. There is also a photo of a felt animal garland I purchased on Etsy from a shop called FeltWitch. She was fabulous to work with and even custom made this one to have hedgehogs on it!

_DSC0692_DSC0653

Another item I custom ordered on Etsy was this paper banner from a shop called FoolishWorkerBee. They were also great to work with especially on customizing the colors, animals, etc!

_DSC0658

I worked hard all year long taking monthly AND biweekly photos of Eleanor. It proved much more daunting of a task than I thought, especially when she was bigger and able to protest photo time! But here is the month photo board I made. I put it with a photo of Ryan and I when we were one. I had another board hanging up that had the photos I took every 2 weeks. IF there is another baby in the future I most likely will NOT be taking photos on a biweekly basis! Also pictured here are the popcorn party favors we made. I found the idea on another blog: http://paperliciousgirls.blogspot.com/2011/09/fabulous-fall.html and instead of candies we put my father-in-law’s homemade popcorn in them! I used circle cutters for the eyes and free-hand cut the owls head and nose. I was really happy with how they came out!

_DSC0650_DSC0651

_DSC0668

Here are the cupcakes and the cake I had Cakes by Debbie from Windham make. The cake had a fondant deer on top that I found on Etsy.

_DSC0660

I made a hedgehog cheese ball! It was super easy but a little heavy on the garlic. Here is a link to the recipe I used but I made mine look a little different: http://helenjane.com/2011/11/12/cheese-ball-hedgehog-recipe/. We made little chocolate acorns too out of Hershey Kisses and Mini Nilla Wafers. The idea came from this website:  http://www.wicproject.com/recipe/how-to-make-chocolate-peanut-butter-acorns/.

_DSC0656

_DSC0675

Table display with fake moss, wooden animal and tree decorations, glitter coated acorns and the cake!

The party went smoothly (minus one minor hangry baby meltdown). We are truly blessed and extremely grateful for our family and friends. We could not have gotten through this last year without them. Year #2, bring it on.

_DSC0778

Eleanor had ZERO interest in her smash cake. Less cleanup for us I guess!

_DSC0718

Her new birthday hat! A little big for now but she can’t wait to grow into it!

         Based on my first blog post this birthday celebration was momentous for Ryan and I too….we made it through the first year in one piece! Yahoo!

Happy First Birthday to my sweet little pumpkin.

Ripping Off the Band-Aid

Wow. My first blog post. There have been countless hours of rocking my daughter Eleanor with my mind running a mile a minute full of so many thoughts, ideas, reflections on the past, etc.  A lot of it has to do with becoming a Mom and the challenging year that I’ve had. Well, I might as well start at the “beginning.” I’m ripping off the band-aid and talking about my deepest, darkest, and most worthwhile experience.

I have a daughter. A sweet, beautiful, funny, feisty, red-headed little goob named Eleanor. She just turned one and I am still in disbelief. Becoming a mother has not been anywhere near what I expected it to be like, and neither was her birth. Long-story short: what seemed like it would be a regular long first-time labor like I expected for 9 months turned into a scary emergency c-section. But we got through it and had a beautiful baby girl to show for it.

I just assumed (first mistake, my dad taught me never to “ASS-U-ME”) that I would just figure this whole baby thing out with few challenges and do everything perfectly. You see all these moms that look so well put together and their kids are so perfectly behaved and you think ok! I want to be one of those moms. Yes, I’m a little bit of a perfectionist, a control freak, a little type-A, whatever you want to call it. I quickly realized that it took everything I had to just survive the first 6 or 7 months of her life. I had a feeling that postpartum depression might be a hurdle because I’ve struggled with GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) since high school. And when Eleanor developed reflux, eczema, colic, a potential milk allergy, did NOT sleep well at all, and just proved to have a very feisty/fussy demeanor, it was a recipe for disaster. Needless to say, I quickly developed pretty severe postpartum depression. I was in denial of how bad of a place I was in. I kept thinking about those moms I see that just make it look effortless and couldn’t help but to think I was doing something wrong. I had countless offers from wonderful friends and family for help and I turned most of it down. I should be able to handle this! This is MY child, MY responsibility, so thanks, but no thank you. No one talks about postpartum depression or really struggling for that matter. People would always offer their best advice while I was pregnant along with glowing accounts of how wonderful it all is. And maybe some people that have it easy truly mean that but why is everyone that has struggled so afraid to talk about it? I guess they were like me and didn’t want to admit it. I thought I was weak or just not cut out for this. Why was I so deeply sad and depressed? Why was my baby always crying? What was I doing wrong? There were many nights I remember saying out loud to my husband Ryan in despair “I SWEAR I will never forget how utterly helpless and hopeless I feel in this moment and I will never go through this ever again.” I buried or hid most of my feelings. It wasn’t until my husband pushed me to see my old therapist that I realized how bad things were. She saw me with my daughter and bravely told me that I was completely disconnected and in a dangerous place. I was a zombie doing everything I was supposed to do to care for her but there was no connection. I stopped taking care of myself and was consumed with trying to figure out why my baby was so upset and unhappy all the time. I lost weight. I was down to 98 pounds, 12-15 pounds less than my pre-pregnancy weight. Eating became an obsession where I limited what I put in my mouth for fear of it upsetting my already upset baby. Eleanor didn’t sleep more than 3 or 4 hours stretches until she was at least 6 months old with some weeklong+ periods of waking every 1-2 hours. Bottom line: it wasn’t good.

It was a long few months of finally asking for help, getting the utmost support from my husband, family and a few close friends, learning to accept things for what they were and trying to roll with the punches, getting Eleanor on a hypoallergenic formula, seeing a dermatologist for her eczema, and finally getting sleep, for me to start feeling like me again. I’d hate for this to come off as if I’m having my own little pity party. I look at this last year and I pat myself on the back for getting through it. I’m ok. My daughter is alive and thriving. And I can only hope that some new Mom might read this post and feel a little less alone if they are struggling like I did.

My sweet girl is proving to be as feisty a toddler as she was an infant but with much more sleep I can handle it better. Maybe there is some truth to the red head temper you hear about! But I am so grateful that I have learned to be present, in the moment, experiencing life with this amazing little human. Before I became a mom I had heard so many people try to describe what it’s like having a child and most say that it’s just indescribable love that you never knew you could feel….and I feel so blessed and relieved that I can say I totally am indescribably in love with my daughter.

AR__3401

Eleanor, 6 Months. Photo by Portland Photo Company