Archive for March, 2014

Now that I’m back at work, I’m cherishing my weekends with renewed vigor, seizing any opportunity to get out with Juliette and Shane and enjoy the glimmering signs of spring.  A few highlights:

Last Sunday was gorgeous, so we headed out over to Seward Park in the evening to soak up the day’s final rays.  La Verne happened to be there with Nico and Jack walked over to join us – we spent a little while on the playground, perching our two bewildered kiddos on the teeter totter, and then grabbed a spot on the grass to stretch out and relax.

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These kids!  Deep in conversation about….?  The Giants’ prospects this year?  Huggies vs. Pampers?  The crazy crew of parents snapping photos at their backs?

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Since I’m only in the office Monday through Wednesday, my weekend gets off to a soft start on Thursday, though I’m still especially eager for Saturday when Shane will be around.  This past Thursday was gray and drizzly and Jules and I were both feeling a little funky after saying good-bye to my mom as she headed back to Oregon, but I rallied and we set out for Jefferson Park in the afternoon.  The playground was deserted, so I took advantage of the open equipment and gave Juliette her inaugural push in the bucket swing.  She dug it!  We’ll be hitting this park hard over the summer.

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Friday was another rainy day – perfect weather for a cozy happy hour with the gang at the neighborhood pizza joint.  Gryffin’s smile makes me so happy.

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We took a wet walk in the woods at Schmitz Park with the Rust clan yesterday.  We were all muddy-footed and soaked by the time we reached our cars, but the fresh air did us good (and helped pass that long stretch of time between morning and afternoon nap).

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The clouds parted today and we drove over to Bellevue to walk the trails at Mercer Slough.  It was beautiful – moss-covered trees and promising little buds and a lovely feeling of quiet.

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Juliette sporting her latest signature accessories – spit bubbles on her chin and a drool-soaked sweatshirt.  Girl’s got style.

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And…over and out.  Happy Sunday from the Schnells.

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Whew – week one of my new life as architect/mother is in the bag!  And as with all things baby, it’s been a roller coaster.

I dipped pretty low last weekend as my start date drew near – I got super-nostalgic for time gone by, remembering what it felt like to cradle a newborn in my arms with the promise of six months of maternity leave stretched out in front of me.  I thought about all the mornings we woke up and snuggled on the couch together, Juliette looking up at me as I brightly (ok, sleepily) asked “what should we do today?”  All our trips to the mall, lunch dates with friends, long walks at Alki or Jefferson or Madison Park.  All those loooooong afternoons at home together.  My heart ached at the thought of being away from her for nine or ten straight hours.

And then the tears started flowing – a few glistening drops at dinner on Sunday as I watched Juliette happily bang on the table with her measuring cups, and a veritable waterfall when I put her to bed that night.  Tears morphed into stifled sobs as I kissed my sweet, oblivious baby goodbye on Monday morning and headed out the door with Shane’s arm around my shoulders.  I spent the ride on Lightrail drawing watery-eyed deep breaths, trying like heck to compose myself before facing all my coworkers.  And then I walked into the lobby, our office manager gave me a warm “welcome back”, and I dissolved into a blubbering mess.  I mumbled an apology and spent a few minutes in the bathroom, wiping the running mascara from under my eyes and trying to convince myself that my face wasn’t that splotchy, but the moment I stepped back into the office and was greeted by another kind face, gah!  Total waterworks.  I settled into my desk and pretended to look at my phone whenever anyone walked by, so as to avoid any more awkwardly emotional interactions, but damn it if I don’t have my favorite picture of Juliette on my phone’s home screen, and seeing her face threw me back over the edge.  We had an all-office meeting that morning and I hung out in the back of the conference room, cringing when my principal announced my return and everyone clapped and turned to look at me, all red-nosed and puffy-eyed.  Let’s hear it for the falling-apart new mom in the room!

But I eventually managed to pull myself together.  I organized my desk, got up to speed on my project, and poured myself a cup of coffee.  I sat down, opened up Revit for the first time in what felt like ages, and got to work.  Even amidst the hum of a busy office, I was struck with a strange feeling of stillness.  No looking at the clock, trying to guess how long I would have before Juliette’s nap would end.  No wondering when or how I would find the time to do something “productive” in the non-baby sense (because I still maintain that keeping an infant fed, safe, and smiling is some of the most meaningful work I’ve ever done).  This new space in my life for focus, for problem-solving, for adult communication felt good.  Surprisingly so.

That said, 5:00 couldn’t come soon enough.  I actually slipped out the door at 4:45 and nearly broke into a full-on sprint once I got off the train.  I was dying to get my girl in my arms.  And sweet Jesus, it felt good to see her smile when I walked in the door, to scoop her up, bury my nose in her lavender-scented hair, and squeeze her as tightly as her squishy-but fragile little body could handle.  I got the rundown from my mom and was thrilled to hear that they’d made out pretty well.  Juliette’s naps were a little off that day, but they’d enjoyed a nice jaunt to the neighborhood bakery, read some books, eaten well.  Seems Jules had handled day one better than mama!

Tuesday was tear-free (for me, at least – Juliette was a bit of a handful that day) and by Wednesday I was really starting to believe that we’d found our groove.  I burst through the door on Wednesday evening exclaiming, “Baby!  I’m home!  For the next four days!”  But where was her sheer joy?  Her extra-huge smile?  Her big cuddly hug?  Instead I got fussiness, squirminess, discontent  – three days of short naps and some tummy trouble had caught up with Miss Juliette, and she was one unhappy kiddo.  I put her to bed early and then cried into my salad at dinner, worried that this transition was taking a toll on the baby, despite grandma’s expert TLC.  And I was disappointed that our evening greeting hadn’t lived up to my lofty expectations, in which Juliette would be waiting for me with bated breath and reach for me with arms wide open upon seeing my face; I’d pick her up and twirl her in a field full of daffodils and we’d both laugh like we’d never laughed before.  Apparently she’d missed the memo.

But Thursday was a new day.  We took a good walk together, had a fun coffee date, and after a healthy dose of prune juice, Juliette’s bowels were back on track.  She fell asleep in my arms while nursing and I relished the cuddle time like never before.  All was well again.

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Shane and I had an appointment on Friday morning to visit Juliette’s daycare so that we could meet her teachers and go through the daily drill.  We spent some time in her new classroom and she sat happily in Shane’s lap as we chatted with her super-friendly teacher.  Her gaggle of soon-to-be buddies crawled and rolled and cruised on by, and she watched them with interest, hardly batting an eyelash when one little boy reached out to tug on her pigtail.  When the director asked us if we wanted to leave Juliette in the classroom for 15 minutes while we went over some paperwork in his office next door, we figured it would be a great little trial run.  And it was great, for about five minutes – I poked my head in and saw her chomping on a new toy, sitting in a Bumbo while a couple of other babies scooted her way.  Making friends already!  And then we heard her start to cry.  And then we heard her wail.  We both pretended like we were listening to the director’s spiel about the center’s nurturing environment, but we were secretly hoping he would just put a sock in it so that we could go save our seriously distressed child.  The second he finished, Shane shot out the door like a rocket and hopped over the baby gate to scoop Jules into his arms.  Juliette’s teacher had certainly done her best to calm her down, but that girl was fired up.  We held her and shushed her and she quieted after a minute, but this did not bode well.  Come March 31st, we won’t be around to swoop in when she cries.  The thought of her wailing like that, looking for us not and knowing where we are, it’s horrible.  It was enough to send Shane into a desperate search on Friday afternoon for available nannies (though I’m not sure that would really make things any easier).  We’ve talked about it some more and are telling ourselves we need to give this daycare thing an honest shot.  It will most certainly be hard at first, but Juliette will eventually come to love her teachers and classmates, and she’ll learn that papa and I will always be there to pick her up at the end of the day.  I mean, she already has a cubby and a crib and a daily report clipboard with her very own name on it.  There’s no turning back now.

And here we are at Sunday night again, after a pretty perfect weekend together.  A very, very small piece of me is ready to get back to the office tomorrow; a bigger piece of me is dreading three straight days away from my little girl.  But Wednesday will be here before I know it, and then it’s all giggles and daffodils.  Right, Jules?

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Ah, I love a visit from the grandparents!  Hearty home-cooked meals courtesy of my mom, good conversations around the dinner table, and extra hands to push the stroller or hold the baby on our daily outings.  We hit Seattle pretty hard last week, rain and shine.

We spent Monday afternoon downtown – my dad was a sport and hung out with Jules while my mom and I perused the offerings at Nordstrom Rack.

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We enjoyed a sunbreak as we left the mall, but it was short-lived and we ended up ducking into the Crab Pot for fish and chips just as the rain started to fall.

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Tuesday was beautifully, perfectly, un-gray and sunny, and Seattle shone in all its springtime glory.  We headed over to Green Lake for a long walk, rewarding ourselves afterward with ice cream at Molly Moon’s.

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Juliette was laser-focused on my waffle cone, tossing aside the toys and plastic spoons I offered as distractions.  I refused to share my scoop of espresso ice cream, but she did sample my mom’s kumquat sorbet.  It’s just fruit, right?

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And it was a hit.  Grandma forever sealed her spot in Juliette’s good graces with that one.

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My dad headed back to Oregon on Wednesday, but not before one more quality chat with his favorite baby.  These two got along so splendidly – Juliette and I were both pretty sad to see him go.

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My mom and I headed over to Alki on Wednesday afternoon for another vitamin D dose.  You can see Juliette fits right in with all those Seattle-ites that get giddy and silly when the sun comes out.

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We spent Thursday afternoon down at Southcenter, scoring a couple of killer deals at the Loft while Juliette happily chomped on the fuzzy new lion grandma picked up for her at Target.  Turns out the three of us make a pretty good shopping trio.

I hung out with my mom’s group on Friday while my mom enjoyed the last of the week’s sunshine at Jefferson Park, and by Saturday Seattle’s spring drizzle had returned.  But no fear – the gray skies served as the perfect excuse to spend the morning at the bakery with a hot cup of coffee.  And Juliette’s good mood persisted, so I’ll hold off on complaining about the weather.

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Ok, so here’s the thing – it rained ALL DAY today!  Not even the shortest, slightest break in it.  Jules and I were hoping to get out for a good walk, but it wasn’t in the cards for us.  So my mom and I left Juliette at home with Shane and drove over to Capitol Hill for oysters and wine, followed by a quick trip downtown to check out the big sale at Gap (must. stop. shopping!).

Tomorrow my mom will hang out with Juliette as I head back to the office – my maternity leave is officially OVER.

I don’t wanna talk about it.

Juliette hit the big half-year mark yesterday – more and more we’re exclaiming “what a big girl!” as she flies past each new milestone and showcases each new skill.  Six months ago today at about this time, we were on our way home with our brand-new baby, feeling overjoyed and overwhelmed as we strapped her into carseat, praying that we’d buckled it right and her head wouldn’t roll off if we hit a bump in the road.  She was such a tiny, helpless little thing.  And now she’s so strong and squishy and expressive and…fun.  With the exception of the night I spent camped out on the floor of her nursery a couple of weeks ago when she was sick and waking every hour, we’re in a really good groove, lavishing her with plenty of affection but also taking advantage of her increasing ability to self-entertain.

On Wednesday she took her maiden voyage in the stroller without the carseat, facing out big-kid style.  I know, this is such a small, silly thing, but it felt like a really big deal.  I’ve walked a lot of miles with her these last few months, chatted with her and sang to her while she looked up at me from her cozy carseat.  But now she’s ready to see things from a new angle, and while I’m excited show her a world beyond treetops and my face, I’ll miss watching her gnaw on Sophie.  I suppose it’s possible that I’m feeling extra-nostalgic as my maternity leave is over and I head back to work on Monday, but gah!  Stop growing already, baby!

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She continues to tease us with just an occasional laugh – recent rounds of peek-a-boo have drawn forth some pretty adorable giggles.  We continue to make complete fools out of ourselves for the sake of even the smallest chuckle.

Juliette recently discovered her toes, which means it will soon be impossible to keep socks on her.  Thank goodness barefoot weather is coming!

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She was particularly fascinated by her feet when I put her on the changing table yesterday.  I cringed a little when she latched onto her big toe, but then I figured her feet are probably much cleaner than her grabby hands, so suck away, hon.

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We have recently ventured into the word of solid foods, and I believe this wild-eyed look says it all:  Give me MORE!  (And check out those pearly whites peeking through her bottom gums – girly has her two first teeth!)

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We started with rice cereal a couple of weeks ago and have since added oatmeal and sweet potato to her palate.  Tonight she’ll have her first avocado.  Mmm, Mmm, Good.

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Shane put up a bit of a fight when I brought this monstrosity of a jumper home from Emily’s, but once we realized she can occupy herself in this thing for a solid 15 minutes at a time, we decided it’s well worth the space it takes up in the living room.

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We’re still dealing with the occasional 20-minute nap, but for the most part, Jules has settled into a solid sleep routine.  She’s up once in the night around 3:00 for a quick snack and has been (fairly) consistent with the hour-plus morning and afternoon naps.  One of my favorite things about doing away with the swaddle is watching her sleep in all these new positions – she’s pretty angelic with her chubby hands clasped at her chest, just so.

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We celebrated the big 0.5 last night with sweet potatoes for dinner and bananas for dessert – this goofball definitely loves to eat.  We bought her a small booster seat to strap to one of our dining room chairs, and I love having her at the table with us.  As long as she keeps those sticky hands to herself.  Thank goodness bathtime falls right after dinnertime.

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Finally…more gratuitous tummy time photos (I can’t stop myself!):

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The expression in this photo shows her increasing curiosity – craning her neck just a little, wanting to know where a sound came from or where her favorite toy went or what mama is putting in her mouth (sorry kiddo, no chocolate for you).

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And…super-baby!  She looks ready, to take off, doesn’t she?

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Happy half-year Juliette.  It’s beyond fun to watch you grow, but…no rush, ok?

We’ve only made it to church a handful of times since Juliette was born.  The service occurs smack dab in the middle of nap time and it’s often hard to muster up the will to go, knowing that we’ll be late (we are always late getting out the door these days), and then we might end up spending half the sermon walking Juliette in circles around the foyer to keep our tired baby quiet.  But we made it out the door at 8:30 sharp this past Sunday morning, as it was an extra-extra-special day at church.  We gathered with family and friends to dedicate Juliette and five of her buddies into the hands of Christ.  We have had six babies born in our community group over the past 12 months.  More than half these babies were born to couples that walked a long, hard road of infertility.  If I ever catch myself questioning the goodness of God’s timing, I’ll pull up this photo:

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There were a number of reasons why it was important to Shane and I that we dedicate Juliette. A big part of it was that we wanted to stand together and celebrate with these other families that have walked alongside us as we’ve dreamed about, cried for, and finally birthed our baby.

But even more deeply, it was important for us to remember and publicly declare that our daughter ultimately belongs to Christ and that we need His guidance, His word, His Church as we navigate our new role as parents.  We leaned on God so heavily throughout our struggle to become pregnant, pleading with Him to bless us with a child.  When I saw that first positive pregnancy test, I fell to my knees and asked Him to protect my fragile heart and grow our budding embryo.  As we walked down the hall toward our first ultrasound, I prayed desperately that we’d see a heartbeat on the monitor.  I lifted little Schnell up to Him at every subsequent appointment, eventually asking Him between contractions for a smooth, safe delivery as we headed to the hospital on September 13th.  And then Juliette was placed in our arms and we were asked to take charge of feeding her, soothing her cries, keeping her safe.  I grabbed the reins in my new role as mama and stopped praying with the same degree of intensity.  Shane and I felt so deep in the trenches, and God wasn’t going to swoop down to deal with a diaper blow-out or bounce her to sleep – those responsibilities fell on our shoulders.  And between the pooping and the crying, we were reveling in the immense joy of parenthood, patting ourselves on the back as we watched our beautiful little girl sleep so sweetly.  God had answered our prayers for a child, and the going was tough at times, but we were figuring it out.  “Thanks, God.  She’s perfect.  We’ll hit you up for a little more help when she starts dating.”

But the reality is that we need Christ in our home every single day.  His work in our family has only begun, and He is to be at the center of our hopes for Juliette, He shall be our guide as we strive to raise our daughter to become kind, compassionate, and brave.  We need Him, she needs Him.

And so we stood in front of our church family on Sunday and promised to give Juliette every opportunity to choose a life of faith; to teach and embody humility, mercy, and justice; to seek support from our church family when we’re feeling overwhelmed or lost.  We pledged to pray for her faithfully and fervently.  As Pastor Eugene laid his hand on her little pig-tailed head, I felt this simultaneous sensation of lightness and weight.  Lightness because we felt so supported, so overwhelmingly loved by our friends and family, so flooded with gratitude and adoration for our girl.  But there was heaviness, too, as I grasped both the responsibility we carry as parents and the fact that even our best efforts won’t yield any guarantees.  We can’t promise her health or safety or happiness.  No matter how tightly we hold her, she is ultimately in God’s hands.  Deep down, I know it’s better this way, but the fiercely protective mother in me wants to lay down a path for her free from pain or danger or sorrow.

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I like to think Jules and O have been buds since before they were born…

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I was a bit nervous when Eugene offered to hold Juliette, fearing her stranger danger syndrome would kick in, but after one little lip quiver she quietly settled into his arms (although she’s looking a little forlorn in this photo!).

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Despite a busy morning and a missed nap, this girl was a rockstar.  That smile!  Still gets me every time.

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I’m so glad my parents were there to celebrate with us.

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Happy dedication day, Juliette.  You are loved.

Giving the ten on ten challenge another go – ten photos over ten consecutive hours:

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Thankful for the extra daylight in the evening, but dang, it’s hard to get out of bed on these dark, gray mornings.


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Realizing it will soon be time to pack away Juliette’s 3-6 month clothes.  I’ll miss that bunny onesie.


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Taking a tea break while my mom attends to the should-be-napping baby upstairs…


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Calling naptime a bust and hopping on lightrail to head downtown for lunch.


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And, in the midst of bustling Pike Place Market, she sleeps.


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Good coffee shop weather.


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Signs of Spring in the midst of all this gray!


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A flower for Juliette from a very thoughtful friend.


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Sweet potatoes for dinner.


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And pork stew for our dinner, prepared by my mom from a box o’ meat shipped to us from Shane’s mom and dad.  We have the best parents.

Goooooood night, folks.  This was fun.

I am still plugging away at that lovely loop scarf I started back in 2012.  It’s been slow goin’ – I’ve knitted through an entire season of House of Cards and still have quite a ways to go.  So I set that pattern aside (again) for a more instantly gratifying project and whipped up the simplest scarf ever, in less time than it takes to watch the latest episode of New Girl.

Most people are surprised to learn that I went through a wannabe skater phase in my early teens, but it’s true.  When I was a freshman in high school, I plastered my binders with Sub Pop stickers and dressed in men’s jeans that were far too large for me and second hand t-shirts bearing random logos like “Mid-Eastern Parachute Association, 1978”.  My friend Megan and I would head to Salvation Army after school and spend hours scouring the racks in search of the perfectly ironic t-shirt; the more obscure the image or text, the older the date on the logo, the better.  I’ve hung on to a number of these gems over the years, mostly for sentimental reasons, as they’re hardly even suitable for a workout anymore.  In a wave of naptime inspiration last week, I decided to pull up a tutorial I pinned awhile ago and breathe new life in these ratty old T’s.

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Take a knit cotton shirt without side seams and cut horizontally below the armpits and above the hem.

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Make snip marks across one edge, spaced about 1 inch apart.

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Cut along the snip marks to the other side.  Leave about 1 inch of uncut area along that edge.

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Give each strand a tug to curl in the edges, and voila!  You have yourself a 10-minute scarf.

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You can use a piece of the hem remnant to gather and tie the scarf at the uncut portion (at the back of the neck), but this isn’t necessary.  I like it to lay a little flatter, so I opted to skip this step.

Double or triple up if you want a little extra bulk (I’m wearing three separate scarves below).  And pair with a preppy black blazer if you really want to dismay your former grunge-loving self…

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For the first couple of months of Juliette’s life, I resisted going anywhere.  It just felt like such an ordeal, with the jacket and hat and the carseat straps and the inevitable carseat meltdown and the schlepping of the baby and all her associated gear.  And she was such a wild card – I didn’t know if I was facing a leisurely stroll through the aisles of Target while pushing a sleeping baby in front of me, or if I’d be auditioning for Supermarket Sweep, making a mad grab for laundry soap and shampoo while Juliette squirmed and fussed and drew sympathetic glances from fellow shoppers.  But at some point in the past few weeks, the tides have turned and “Do we really have to leave the house?” became “We HAVE to leave the house!!!”.  It’s true – the three to four-hour period between her morning nap and afternoon nap can feel like an eternity if we have nothing on the agenda.  On those days when weather or laziness or lack of planning keeps us indoors, I find myself grasping for ways to fill our time, stretching out simple activities like getting her dressed or putting her clothes away, turning a two-minute diaper change into a ten-minute song and dance, because she’s already spent twenty minutes batting at the elephant on her playmat and she’s tired of her bouncer and she’s not due to eat for another 47 minutes.  That oft-referenced adage about parenthood rings so true sometimes – the years are short but the days are loooooong.

Today we had no plans.  And it was raining.  And Juliette is in the midst of her first cold.  Looked like it was going to be a manic Monday indoors…  I made us a nest of blankets and pillows on the living room floor, spread out all her favorite toys and books, and we hunkered down.  We read the complete Eric Carle collection (three times!), I sang every single song I could remember from my days as a Girl Scout plus a couple of upbeat Taylor Swift ditties, we practiced standing and sitting and knocking over towers of blocks and Juliette tested the chewability of each rattle, stuffed animal, block, and ring within her reach.

That all took about 25 minutes.

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“What else you got, mama?”

So at 1:00, when the clouds parted and the sun came out, cold flu be damned, I strapped Juliette into the Ergo and we were OUT!

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The walk did us both good.  We came back refreshed, ready for one more round of read-sing-rattle before heading upstairs for naptime.  Don’t misunderstand me – I love these quiet days at home with my baby, but that Very Hungry Caterpillar is quickly losing his charm.