Born: December 10, 2016 at 5:19pm. This little girl has brought a whole new element of sweetness and joy to our family. Asher and Bennett are totally smitten with her. Asher is constantly remarking about how cute she is and he keeps seeking reassurance that we are in fact going to keep her. Bennett is always showering her in the tiniest little kisses and stroking her head and softly shushing her whenever she becomes unsettled. They both rush to her side and try to soothe her every time she cries. I think she is about the luckiest little girl around to have such loving and doting siblings. Birth story to come.
So admittedly I’ve been
pretty completely m.i.a for the past 8 months. This space has been utterly and completely neglected. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to sit down and write but I’ve just been so overwhelmed with all the changes happening in our lives that I haven’t had the mental head space to do so.
What’s been going on you ask? Just about every major thing you can think of, well not really, but you get where I’m going.
First let me fill you in on a little of what we’ve been up to. This past July the four of us jetted off to Florence, Italy to celebrate the union of my sweet cousin Siria and her Scottish groom Ashkan. Raf and I spent part of our Honeymoon in Florence and seeing as how that was in the middle of winter, it was so nice to go back and experience the stunning city in balmy weather.
Siria and Ashkan’s wedding was something out of a fairytale. It was held in the stunning Tuscan villa, with the ceremony overlooking the rolling hills and cypress trees, while the reception was held in the garden lined with olive and lemon trees. It was unreal. The best part was being able to be there with so many members of my extended family. Here are the kids with their Great Grandma Carol.
Raf has been itching to leave his government job for a while now, and after applying to a few places he got hired as the Lead Data Scientist at a really cool start up that allows him to work remotely. So we started asking ourselves “if we can go anywhere do we really want to stay in the D.C. area?” Basically, the answer was a resounding “no.” Right around the time that this was happening my parent’s decided to leave China and move to Maine, where they had built a house. At the same time, my dad started a foundation call SolHEALTH devoted to promoting health and preventing disease, one population at a time and he asked me to come work for him. Now since we had only owned our house for a year and a half we knew that selling it would be tough, especially since we didn’t want to lose any money. So we decided to test the market and basically over-priced it, cleaned it up and went to stay with my parents for a few weeks. Well to make a long story short, the house sold. We played hard ball and it still sold. Ten days before closing we started packing. We found a place to rent in Maine and drove north. Here’s a picture of us in front of our first home in Virginia, right before we got in the car and left for good.
Those were just a few of the thoughts that went through our heads right after the move. It was kinda surreal how it all happened so fast. Raf and I didn’t really have time to catch our breath. But with the thought that being near family would be good for us, the slower pace of life in southern Maine was exactly what we needed, and that being closer also allowed me to work for SolHEALTH more easily, we powered on. We got to Maine at the end of August and although I was concerned about finding Asher a preschool that was still accepting students, it was actually pretty easy.
Here he is on his first day of Preschool!
Raf and I began looking for houses and in under 2 weeks we had put an offer on a house which was then accepted and on Halloween day we moved in. Needless to say, I had to break from my tradition of DIY Halloween costumes although I was dying to dress them as characters from Stranger Things. Asher really wanted to be an Astronaut and with everything going on I honestly welcomed the ease of ready-made costumes.
The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of unpacking and settling in. Raf has been painting every weekend and I’ve been nesting like crazy, because oh yea, I forgot to mention…baby number 3 is due December 3rd!! We’re having another girl and we couldn’t be more thrilled albeit stressed and exhausted from everything else going on.
Raf has really been so amazing during this whole time. Not only is he adjusting to a whole new normal in his career and day to day life but he also has a pregnant
emotional wife and two small children who’s lives all just got uprooted as well. It’s been an incredibly stressful time for all of us but being near my parents has made it all worth it.
Life in Maine thus far has been interesting. We’re adjusting to the cold and slowly making friends. The pace of life here is much slower than we’re used to, which is both a blessing and an adjustment. The other day Raf looked out our window and saw some people walking their goats down our street. Yes, you read that correctly. Goats. It’s pretty awesome. Wild turkeys roam free and I’ve nearly (not really) hit a deer in the middle of the road on two separate occasions. It is stunningly beautiful and the people are super friendly if not a bit reserved at first. We are nervous about the fact that spring doesn’t come up here until MAY, but we are looking forward to living in a place where snow doesn’t shut down EVERYTHING.
So there you have it. In a couple weeks things will only get even crazier with the arrival of our newest little one, but hey at least that’ll give me a lot more blog material! Bright side, right? AND can I just say that I am SO looking forward to having another sweet little baby to snuggle! I’m already sad about how fast my time with her as a baby will go by and she isn’t even here yet. Seriously, the baby period is so fleeting and being firmly settled in the knowledge of the fact is both a blessing and a curse of being an experienced parent.
This little girl is ONE YEAR OLD!! One whole trip around the sun! I am feeling all the feelings. So much joy and yet so many achy aches. My baby is now a toddler. I can not do this child justice in writing. She is quite simply light upon light.
Bennett has become a champion eater. This girl puts food DOWN. She had so much fun eating her birthday cake. She took her time and savored every bite, whereas the next time we gave her a slice she shoveled it in like there was no tomorrow.
Ben Bucket has also developed quite the strong will. She no longer puts up with her brother pushing her around and will make her opinion heard. She has even started fake crying just to get him in trouble so I have to keep an eye on her to make sure I’m not blaming poor Asher for something he didn’t do.
Bennett is exceedingly affectionate and she gives me copious amounts of kisses which I absolutely adore. She has become quite steady on her feet. She has mastered the stairs and still loves to climb and is finding new ways to give me heart attacks every day. She constantly wants to be doing what her brother and the big kids are doing and will. not. be. left. behind.
This year has been one of the sweetest of my life, which is not to say that it wasn’t challenging or downright hard because it was, but the gift of having a second born child is that you learn to savor all the moments because you know all too well how fleeting they are.
This little ray of sunshine started walking! This past month she has hit quite a few big milestones and I’m enjoying every second with her. Although she can walk she still mostly chooses to crawl and will only walk when we’re encouraging it or if it’s a very short distance. I think she still needs to gain some confidence. Where she lacks confidence in walking she makes up for in climbing. If you aren’t watching her closely, the next think you know she’s on top of the coffee table, or standing on the backrest of the couch looking out the window. If there is ever an option to go vertical she will take it. She also learned to stand up all on her own and it is the cutest thing to see because she absolutely beams with pride whenever she does it.
Bennett LOVES climbing up and down the stairs and I must say she has gotten pretty good at it, but she fall down half a flight this month. It was a mix up of communication. I assumed Raf had his eye on her and he thought I had it covered and the next thing we knew…boom,boom,boom,boom,boom,WAIL. My heart nearly stopped in my chest. But thankfully she wasn’t hurt at all, just pretty scared. I wish I got off so lucky whenever I fall down the stairs (a frequent occurrence).
We went and visited Raf’s side of the family in Texas this month and not surprisingly, Bennett was a huge hit. It became clear while in Texas that Miss B has some very strong separation anxiety when it comes to me, which I both love and find inconvenient.
Bennett is extremely attached to me. She likes to know where I am at all times and wants to be able to see me. Even when she’s playing, she’ll come up to me periodically to check in and get a quick snuggle before going about her business. I am savoring every tiny moment of this time because I know that my days of being her favorite person on the planet are numbered.
Her rolls are melting away as she becomes increasingly more mobile and I hate it. She did get RSV this month so I’m sure that didn’t help. Both kids had to use a nebulizer every 4 hours and Bennett HATED it and pretty much screamed the entire time. Speaking of screaming, she also got to experience snow for the first time this month and let me tell you, she was not pleased. She must take after her Mama after all. Asher on the other hand must be half abominable snow man. That kid can and does spend hours out in the snow and still has to be dragged inside. He is so lucky to have such an accommodating father.
Bennett’s naps have fallen to pieces this month. She takes two naps a day and really only sleeps 20-30 minutes both times. For the morning nap I don’t really mind because we’re usually have a lot of things going on in the morning. The afternoon nap on the other hand is when both kids are down at the same time and that’s my recharge time. She will nap longer if she’s napping next to me in a dark room only because I’m able to get her to fall back asleep after she wakes up 20 minutes in. But I’ve found that I then fall asleep and it really messes with my sleep pattern (we’ve been making huge efforts to get to bed early). I know what I need to do to get her to sleep longer but I’m not super motivated to do them. Her mood isn’t suffering and she’s content for the time being to play quietly in the same room as me. I may hold off and see if things change on their own once she drops her morning nap before making any concerted effort to extend her afternoon nap.
I can’t believe I only have one more of these monthly updates for Bennett! She’ll be 1 year old next month, a whole trip around the sun! Just thinking about it makes every fiber of my being ache. My sweet baby is just growing up before my very eyes.
As I lay in bed with a baby nestled against me, cheek pressed to my chest,
I write poems in my head, that will never be read.
While rocking a baby in the quiet dark of night, who refuses to be lulled into slumber,
I write poems in my head, that will never be read.
In the moments I take to savor the sweet ache in my muscles, from holding a baby for hours on end,
I write poems in my head, that will never be read.
Of love and joy and pain and light. The trials and triumphs of motherhood.
I write poems in my head, that will never be read,
for this one.
Raf’s Mom makes this dish for us nearly every time we visit, but this was the first time she made it with Zucchini (she normally makes it with bell peppers or tomatoes) and it was by far my favorite. This is a dish that Raf’s maternal grandmother used to make and she passed the recipe along to her daughter who in turn has passed it along to me. The original recipe called for white rice and ground Lamb, but Raf’s mom modified it into a much healthier but equally as delicious vegan dish. She normally eyeballs most of her recipes, so there is a lot of room to play around with amounts to satisfy your particular tastes. If you have any left over filling after stuffing the zucchini, and you probably will, you can just cook it for 10 mins and eat it separately, or use it to stuff a pepper or tomato if you have any.
When I made the dish, I had some left over white rice that I used in place of the brown and I only had dried parsley on hand so I used a couple tablespoons of that (if you have fresh, definitely use that, it makes a big difference, but it’s still yummy either way).
6 to 8 zucchinis
1 cup uncooked Quinoa or Brown rice (I used 1/2 cup of each)
1/2 cup split peas or use a cup of crumbled tofu
1 onion chopped
2 cloves of Garlic, minced
1 can 8 oz tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
1 tsp garlic chili sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp dried or chopped fresh tarragon
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp dried Dill
2 tbsp dried chives
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 can 16 oz tomato sauce
3 tbsp lemon juice
3-4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Italian seasoning (spaghetti or pizza seasoning also work)
Salt and cayenne pepper, to taste
The easiest way to prepare the zucchini is to cut them in half and scoop out the center of each half and set aside (but if you want to get fancy and do it the way Raf’s mom does it, you can cut the stem end off and scoop out the inner flesh using a zucchini corer). Cook the rice and quinoa separately. Cook the spilt peas with a little bit of salt. Drain the water, set aside.
Sauté the onions and garlic for two mins, add garlic chili sauce and the scooped out zucchini flesh and sauté for another min. If you are using tofu you can add it to the onion mixture and fry them for few more mins. Add your herbs and the rest of the ingredients, mix them well and turn off the heat.
Spoon stuffing into the center of zucchini halves.
Mix together all the sauce ingredients and pour them into a 9×13 baking dish to cover the bottom of the dish. Place the zucchini halves in the baking dish, cover with aluminum foil and bake for an hour or until the zucchini is tender. You may need to add some water to your sauce while baking.
There haven’t been too many new developments this month. Bennett has become quite fond of the slide and even insists on sliding down the big slides at the play ground all on her own. She loves it so much that when you lift her off to put her back at the top she thinks you might be taking her away from the slide and begins kicking and squawking in protest only to discover 1 second later that you are in fact just allowing her to slide down again. It doesn’t matter how many times this goes on, she will always protest once you lift her off the slide.
Rosebud is eager to walk. She has been cruising around and has been practicing her free standing a lot lately, but I think she’s still quite cautious about taking any steps. In any case, she probably needs to work on her balance a bit more anyway, which suites me just fine. She has taken to going down the steps on her bottom. Despite my numerous efforts on having to descend the steps backwards she insists on facing forwards and it’s a very teetery (not sure that’s a real word, but it works anyway) affair. We are currently living in a state of denial about the need to install baby gates, which certainly keeps us on our toes.
This month Bennett has become quite the picky eater. If you serve her something she isn’t fond of no amount of coaxing will do. She’ll just sit there and stare at you silently, not complaining. If you then give her something she likes she’ll scarf it down, clearly having been hungry. She really loves fingering feeding food into other people’s mouths, especially if said food is not deemed fit for her own consumption.
I taught her to drink from a straw this month and have subsequently begun the process of cutting down the amount of times she nurses during the day. She drinks water and green smoothies and seems quite fond of both.
Ben Bucket is as cuddly as ever and as always is completely enamored with her older brother. They have begun playing and interacting more and it is just about the sweetest thing ever. That is until, Asher takes her toys away or smashes her face into the floor. Got to love the sibling relationship.
This past year has been one of a lot of changes for Asher. We moved into a house, he became a big brother, he became potty trained, and he developed an extensive vocabulary. He is loving, active, strong willed, friendly, shy, gentle, artistic, joyous, volatile, sweet, stubborn, smart, affectionate, capable, persistent, curious and outgoing. He is so much, and he becomes more and more the person that he is every day. I love being able to experience all the chaos and joy that is being his mother.
For his birthday we had some of his little friends over and basically just let them run around. Everyone got along surprisingly well.
The weather was unseasonably warm for these parts so we were able to take the party out doors, which was so fun! I made a carrot cake and Raf broke out the bubble wand. Bennett even had her own little cohort of tinies, that was exceptionally adorable.
Raf bought a GoPro camera for our trip to Yap and he finally finished editing and uploading the footage (totally making up for our lack of good quality pictures). I LOVE how it turned out! I can’t help but grin while watching it and I’m always sad when it comes to the end because I just keep wanting more. It was a learning process so there are definitely some things we will do differently in the future, but overall we’re pretty happy with it and are even thinking about making yearly family videos.
Enjoy this glimpse into the silly crazy goofiness that is our family!