Thursday, September 25, 2014

Our Growing Girl

E is at an age where it can feel like every breath is a battle. Tasks she used to love, like picking up her toys or feeding the dogs, can be a source of fun and entertainment one day but pure torture the next. Convincing her to do just about anything on my schedule rather than hers is nearly impossible (some things haven't changed all that much since birth), and heaven forbid I try to throw out her old food that's been sitting untouched for hours. However, in the midst of all the willpower and drama, she's growing into a charming little girl.

In no particular order, here is a small sample of the wonderfully sweet moments I get to witness every day with this little girl. These are the things I want to focus on in the day to day, and what I want to remember forever.

Lately E's been reading books to her dolls and stuffed animals, and I love hearing her interpretation of the pictures on the page. Her tone and inflection are awesome! Her imagination soars as she brings her storybooks to life for her minions, and I usually catch myself taking a break from whatever I'm doing in order to hear what goes on in that little mind of hers.

Her daddy taught her to touch cups and say, "Cheers!" before she takes a sip of water. In my opinion, this is much improved from slamming the cup down and exclaiming "Gan Bei!" like they were doing a few months ago. Her cheers, however, has transcended way beyond cups. In the past few weeks, we have exclaimed, "cheers!" as we've touched plates, bowls, spoons, granola bars, pepper slices, and even our toes.

When E wants something that she knows she may not get, she likes to come up to me, smile, and whisper very softly. Typically I'm sitting at my desk working and she'll come up and whisper, "Tigey!? Watch Tigey?" when she wants to watch Daniel Tiger. It's adorable, and sometimes it works.

E's grown into a really sweet and thankful little girl. Often when I bring her a snack or fetch something for her, she'll emphatically proclaim, "Thanks, Mommy!!" It warms my heart every single time. She loves giving random hugs and telling me she misses me, which for some reason she thinks is the same as loving me. Her standard response to "I love you!" is "I miss you, too!" This morning I was reminding her (again!) that she's not to draw on her pants with a pen, and she looked at me and starting singing, "I miss you! I miss you! I miss you! I miss you!" It's remarkably hard to discipline a toddler who is expressing their undying love for you through a song.

She's recently started repeating things she's learned on Daniel Tiger (a good reminder that it's important to watch what she's viewing!) and it makes me laugh. She'll say, "Mommy, I don't feel well. I need a nap." as she crawls onto the sofa and pretends to sleep for 3.2 seconds. Her baby no longer cries, instead she's "upset". The other day I heard her hammering away with her plastic toys. She was yelling above her own noise, "Too loud! Too loud! My ears hurt!" You and me both, kid. You and me both.

Last night we got home really late, and I had some work that needed to be completed before the guys got into the shop at the crack of dawn this morning. My computer program spazzed out and destroyed a large drawing in the process. I yelled some choice words at my computer and E was very concerned. She asked if I was okay, and I told her I was not. She then asked daddy if I was okay and he told her I was frustrated. She looked at me and started singing, "It's okay to feel sad sometimes. Little by little, you'll feel better again!" and then she asked if I felt better. Um, yup, you melted my heart and I feel great! Thanks, baby girl!

The other day we were walking Cali, and as we walked passed a house a dog barked and growled from inside. E was very concerned, walked over to Cali, and whispered, "It's okay, it's okay." as she hugged her around the neck. It was a very sweet although I'm sure Cali would have preferred to put the growling dog in its place rather than be hugged by a toddler.

I'm constantly amazed that I get the privilege of being this girl's mama. It's amazing how so much sweetness, stubborness, and personality can be wrapped into such a tiny package.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Welcome, Fall!

It's hard to believe September is here! I'm both sad and a little relieved that this whirlwind of a summer is coming to an end. In the last three months, we have celebrated upcoming births, new babies, first birthdays, third birthdays, and 30th birthdays with our dear friends, thrown E her first party, picked strawberries and peaches and blackberries and cherries, dog-sat for friends, had family visit from Taiwan, sipped coffee and devoured meals with some amazing people, decorated a new toddler bedroom for E, enjoyed a week at the beach in Stone Harbor, hosted countless toddler play dates, frequented the new Asian noodle restaurant in town, reconnected with old friends and deepened relationships with close friends, worked very long hours, relaxed in my parents gorgeous new pool, and adopted a cat. As an introvert who enjoys rhythm and routine, this summer has been stretching, but it's been good. Really, really good. We've been overwhelmed with our community of friends and wouldn't trade the time we've invested in each other's lives for the world.

I'm ready for the calm that I'm hoping and praying September will bring, while remaining so thankful for the community we share. We have some wonderful things planned for this season that I'm really looking forward to. I'm hoping that this fall will be a season of growing in relationships and simplifying and slowing down to focus on what's important. Welcome, Fall!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Meet Jill

In the Chou household, we have been hopelessly and embarrassingly losing a battle. In the last year, I think the score is roughly Chous:3 to Mice:1,325,600.

That's a rough estimate, but the pesky rodents just won't leave us alone. We've learned that after catching a few in the same trap, they wise up and avoid that trap and we need to find a different one. We've learned that the second (and third, forth, fifth, and sixth) mouse really does get the cheese and great bait only worsens our problems. We've learned that mice might not like peppermint essential oil and ultrasonic repellents, but they can certainly live with them. We've learned that all three of my dogs can sleep through me screaming as a mouse runs toward my feet. We've learned that mice don't really care if a doberman growls at them. We've learned that we are most definitely the weakest link. 

As the only house without cat(s) on our block, we've become a safe haven for these pesky rodents. As much as I'm a huge fan of rescuing animals in need, I've become increasingly frustrated with being the neighborhood mouse refuge. We are admittedly much more "dog people" than "cat people," but we were suddenly eyeing every adoptable cat and warming up to the idea of housing a feline.

Then we heard about Jill, an adorable two year old Scottish Fold who found herself in need of a home. After researching the breed and finding that they were great with kids and dogs, my mom and I went to meet her. We were met by the sweetest, friendliest group of cats we had ever encountered, and not only did I end up taking Jill, but my mom fell in love with another cat, and we now both have new kitties.

Jill warmed up to E almost immediately, and she's gotten to know the puppies as well. She greeted Titus, our Doberman, with a swat across his nose the first time they got close enough to sniff, and she's been regretting that decision ever since. She's ready for a friend and playmate, but he has yet to forgive and move on. Jill's still working on warming up to her new environment, but we're hopeful that in addition to being a great part of our family, she'll scare away/kill/eat/torture all of our unwanted rodents.

A Week at the Beach

There's something so refreshing and life-giving about Stone Harbor. The town is quiet, peaceful, and beautiful. Time away from the routine of home and work and toddler tantrums is always so welcome. Despite an unfortunately-timed project for work this year, we managed to enjoy the sand, tidal pools, waves, sun, and delicious restaurants. E enjoyed the undivided attention from aunts, uncles, grandparents, and great-grandparents, and managed to behave herself for the most part despite the inevitable spoiling. 

Since E's first exposure to the sun and sand when she was all of six months old, she's been in love with the beach. My wonderful father asked her if she was ready for the beach a full week before we left (thanks, dad!) and every single time I buckled her into her car seat that week, she'd ask, "Beach? Go to beach?!" She was bouncing off the walls all night before we left, and thankfully slept for the entire car ride there. As we pulled up to the beach house, she immediately woke up and excited exclaimed, "beach!!" I'm not sure if she smelled the fresh ocean air or if it was just coincidentally great timing, but it was adorable. She spent her days on the beach with Grandma, Aunt Kristin, and Daddy, playing in the waves and the sand, and her evenings walking into town and enjoying gelato and petting every puppy she could find.

Yup, that's the same swimsuit from last year. One of the many advantages of having a petite girl.

Monday, March 3, 2014

A Day in the Life of a Toddler

I suppose someday I'll look back on these days with fondness and a bit of nostalgia. After all, my little girl is amazingly sweet, and watching her learn & take in the world is both fascinating and fullfilling. However it can also be unbelievably frustrating and infuriating.

Here's a look at an ordinary day. This particular day was Sunday, March 2nd. E is 27 months and acts, well, like any other two year old.

7:30am E woke up when I tried to sneak out of bed. This is a daily occurrence but I still try in hopes of a random success. She ran to say "hi" to daddy before following me downstairs to supervise my coffee drinking.

7:35am  E asked for baked oatmeal for breakfast, and sat down to eat it at the dining room table. Handing blueberry baked oatmeal to a toddler is like inviting them on an epic treasure hunt, where they'll dig for gold... err blueberries like their life depends on it. I suppose I could have just offered her a bowl of blueberries, but that wouldn't have kept her entertained for an hour. Yup, an hour. Points for me.

8:35am Daddy dresses E while I finished getting ready to leave for church.

8:45am We're loading into the car headed for church. On time. This is rare and to be celebrated!

8:55am Daddy checks E in and we each grab a hand to swing her up the stairs to her room. She thinks it's an awesome ride and we reach the top of the staircase while it's still 2014. Everybody wins. She has a huge grin as she sees her friends and leaders, and we breathe a sigh of relief that only a parent of a toddler fully understands. We get to go focus on adult things with no worries about the house being destroyed, the dog being shaved, or the sofa being redone with fresh ink and scissors.

10:15am Church is over and we get E. She's snacking, happy, and acts like she owns the lobby. E and I wave bye to daddy and our friends, brave the freezing cold weather and head home.

11:45am I warn E that it's almost time to go get daddy. She can finish her Angry Birds cartoon and then we're leaving.

11:47am The cartoon ends and I ask E to put the tablet away. She refuses. Tantrum ensues as I close the tablet.

11:50am I put E on the potty before we leave. After a minute:
Me: Are you all done?
E: No.
Me: Are you still peeing?
E: No.
Me: Do you need to poo?
E: No.
Me: So you're all done.
E: No.
I go with it and we have a nice little conversion as she sits on the potty.

Me:  You need to be done. We're leaving.
E: No.
She doesn't complain when I grab her off the potty (I realize she did nothing!) wash her hands, and carry her downstairs. I put on her boots and peacoat, and grab my moccasins. E grabs my cute wedges for me to wear instead. I explain we're just going for a quick car trip and I want to be comfy as I slide my feet into my moccasins. Cue meltdown. I concede as we're already late (I did not plan on a fifteen minute potty break) and I have a really hard time getting E in her carseat when she's angry. I throw on my wedges, and head out to the car.

12:30pm We return home, daddy in tow. E is sound asleep as daddy carries her inside. He sits on the sofa and after a brief moment daddy and daughter are both passed out. Lovely Sunday afternoon nap for them and precious alone time with no agenda for me!

3:00pm E is stirring and I make her get up, afraid we've already sabotaged our chance for night time sleep. She hasn't napped in weeks and I'm getting more concerned by the minute. We get her a snack and watch the latest episode of How I Met Your Mother.

3:45pm As a family we write some long overdue thank you notes. E grabs her crayons and adds her own touch to several cards.

4:00pm Daddy and E play, and play, and play! It's so great to have him home. They tickle and giggle and build and destroy.

6:30pm Daddy throws dinner in the oven and E strips. I assume she's ready for some comfortable pajamas, but no. She's decided it's bath time. I remind her she doesn't need a bath now, but she's persistent so I promise a bath after dinner figuring it will save me some time tomorrow. She complies but refuses to get dressed again. Whatever.

7:00pm Dinner is ready and I pull the meat off the drumstick so E can dip it into her own little bowl of honey mustard. She grabs the bone and gnaws all the remaining bits of meat off, just like daddy. As she sits naked, gnawing on bones, I can't help but laugh. This long bitter cold and ridiculously snowy winter has stolen our sanity and there's clearly no hope of getting it back. Once the bone is clean to her satisfaction, E settles for the meat pieces on her plate and finishes dinner.

8:00pm E plays happily in the tub for quite awhile, eating bubbles, splashing daddy, and tirelessly pouring water from one container to another.

9:00pm E is clean, dry, and ready for bed. Daddy takes her upstairs for her bedtime routine and tucks her in.

9:30pm I hear crying. I go upstairs as usually this means she needs a potty break. Unfortunately that's not the case tonight. She's not tired. She comes down and snuggles with me for a bit before I try getting her back to bed. I feel her gums for her two year molars, give her a healthy dose of teething oil and teething drops, and sprinkle some lavender essential oil on her pillow. She's still not tired, so we convince her it's time for everyone to sleep. We get ready for bed and snuggle.

10:30pm She's still wide awake, singing to her baby and chatting up a storm. Daddy's snoring away.

11:30pm She's finally settled but not asleep. I fall asleep.

4:00am In my sleep I readjust and roll over, away from E, which sends her into a tantrum. Exhausted and frustrated, I yell. Daddy rescues me and brings E into the nursery to rock her. She wants mommy and is furious, but eventually settles. Daddy brings her back to bed under the condition that she can't utter a peep. She begrudgingly abides and we go back to sleep.

8:00am I roll my tired self out of bed, trying not to wake E. It doesn't work.

Monday, December 16, 2013


E has ditched her teddy bears as part of her sleep routine. She no longer needs them to fall asleep.

All she's needed for the past two months has been her dog. No, not a cuddly little stuffed dog, but her dog. Barking, crazy, warm, and cuddly Cali has been helping E get to sleep for the past two months. 

We kicked Cali off the bed when I was pregnant. She had slept on the bed with Chou from the time he rescued her before we were married, and I never minded her extra warmth although I could do without the hair. We didn't want her to be jealous of E on the bed (although at the time we had no plans for cosleeping) nor did we want her accidentally rolling on the baby, so off she went long before E made her grand appearance. She's been happily lounging on her dog bed on the floor for the past 2+ years. One day this fall she suddenly decided she was allowed back on the bed. I'm really not sure why she bothered after two years, but I do know the only reason she got away with it was because she immediately started snuggling with E and they were too cute to punish.

E's only been napping a few days a week, but for every nap and every night at bed time, this is how she goes to sleep. It's really sweet.

Sometimes we're not quite ready for a nap, but still need a snuggle

Sometimes we forget we're supposed to be sleeping

And sometimes, when we're really lucky, Daddy joins us!

Monday, December 9, 2013

At long last

Now that it is a blustery December and we've had our first official snowfall here in Pennsylvania, I decided it was about time I shared the rest of the pictures from our vacation last summer. Procrastination runs in my family, and I consider myself to be a pro. As I sit here dreaming of warm weather and relaxing vacations, I decided it's the perfect time to share pictures from Stone Harbor.

One thing I learned when I started dating Chou is that his (and dare I say most men's) idea of a relaxing beach trip is quite different from mine. In my (pre-motherhood) mind, a perfect day at the beach involves a good book, a warm nap in the sun, and maybe a little time spent jumping waves. Chou's ideal beach trip consists of a whole lot of wave jumping, sport playing, sand sculpting, and maybe a very little nap or short reading session while he rehydrates. Chou has been thrilled to welcome our brother-in-law into the family and greatly appreciates someone who enjoys beach sports as much as he does. This past year they raided our rental house for beach activities and found several that occupied them most of the week. Their most notable find was a skim board. My sister and I marveled at their ability to have just as much fun when they completely wiped out as when they landed beautifully. We enjoyed watching from the sidelines and they enjoyed mastering a new skill.


E has loved the beach from her first taste of sand. Luckily for all involved, this year she was no longer interested in trying to consume the entire beach, but instead focused more on playing with her bucket and some water and occasionally dipping her toes in the waves. She'd wake up in the morning, point in the direction of the ocean, and say, "beach!" It was wonderful to see her enjoy the sun and sand as much as we do!