Sunday, December 13, 2009

12.13.09 - 6 months later.

Today I took a look back at my orignal entry - I started this blog while I was on bedrest.  I had no idea what was about to happen to our family in those moments.  I remember how scared I was when I was awaiting Julia's arrival.  I knew that I was going to be a good mother, but there are so many unknowns encompassed in the world of birth and newborns and all that goes with it. 
So here she is, Julia Claire, 6 months later...she is her own person!  When I was looking at her in those first moments in the hospital I couldn't quite imagine what kind of baby she would be or what she would be doing at this point.  So I'm writing it - for Julia.  Because I know it will be completely different in another month (or even next week).  I want to remember this time because each day seems so foreign because it's new territory, but at the same time it all just makes sense.

Julia -
6 months ago you arrived in true Julia style - peacefully in a chaos-ridden situation. You knew it was all going to be okay and as soon as you were here, it was.
I once heard someone comment that now that they have a child everyday feels like Christmas morning.  I never understood that until you came into our lives.  I get so excited to see you each morning.  You are so happy in your sleepy state.  You rub your eyes and kick your feet, but you have such a joy about you in the morning.  I am so quick to get you (even in the middle of the night) because it feels like a special treat to be in your presence.  I love sneaking into your room at night just to see you sleep.  You embody peace in those moments.  You have given me a whole new perspective on life as I slow down and take in my time with you.
You have grown so much in the last few months!  You are now sitting up and able to intentionally play with your toys.  You get the biggest kick out of the simplest things!  Tonight you were able to press a button on a toy knowing that it would release the ball that you wanted.  You are so stinking smart! (and you definately know how to get what you want!).  Lately you want to be held a lot.  I think you are just taking so much in that being held feels like "base".  You want to explore your world and then you need a break.  I hope you always keep that healthy perspective...it's good to explore, but also know who/what you trust.  (Yes, I am the social worker mother who is already teaching you boundaries) :)
You have so much to say and you love making sounds - you just found your tongue and are pretty impressed with the new sounds you are able to make.  When we are in the car you have this little game where you yell out louder..and louder... and louder...and then when you get to your loudest, you fall asleep.  Your daddy and I just laugh at you and wonder what point you are trying to make when you do that.
You are laughing all of the time now.  Scout brings you a lot of joy (although most of the time she is kind of aloof), you don't seem to notice.  One of these days she will come around and you will both be ready to play together. 
Right now my favorite time with you is in the mornings.  Your still sleepy enough that you want to nestle in and be held tight.  I love being your mother and I can't imagine anything that compares with that feeling in all the world.  Each moment with you feels so complete and I thank God for the opportunity to experience this depth in life.
You are growing and growing - the next 6 months will hold whole new set of challenges and adventures.  I still have that new mom feeling of not knowing what's in store, but I guess that is the joy of parenthood.  You always seem to surprise me.
Thank you for your vibrant spirit and your unending joy!
We love you always!


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The 12 Days of...

The Christmas countdown begins, but the past 12+ days have marked sheer craziness in our home.  If you set up a video camera outside of our home and pressed the fast forward button, it would reveal some interesting activity!  We literally feel like life has pushed some hidden fast forward button on us - Julia will be 6 months old next week!  The following photos highlight some of the finer moments:

Thanksgiving morning stared bright and early with a "I can now eat whatever I want now that I have completed a Turkey Trot".  Since the closest 5k was 45 minutes away, we decided to host our own.  Charles ordered trophies that were something to be proud of.  My last sprint to the finish line was purely out of the desire to claim the trophy for this year.  I won the female division...which included only 3 of us.  I have to defend my title for next year, which is my motivation to stay in shape!  Kirstan and my mom are going to make a comeback! 

And to complete such an "accomplished" morning, Charles and I pulled off Thanksgiving for 13 people plus 4 babies under 8 months old.  We had such a great mix of our friends and family all in the same room.  God has truly blessed us this year with these individuals who are encountering parenthood at the same time. 
We captured a photo of all of the dads...this was the best we could do considering we had very little cooperation!

On Saturday we headed out to chop down a tree at the most beautiful tree farm in all of New England.  I was so excited to take Kirstan there - being from FL, she doesn't often get to see pine trees :)  It was the perfect New England day finished off with some soup and homemade bread for dinner as we decorated the tree.  For all of the craziness of the weekend, we had these little glimpses of perfection...the simple moments of soaking in the time with family and enjoying the season!

And on Sunday was Julia's baptism, which was a very moving service of celebration as we vowed to raise Julia to know God and to grow in her chuch community.  Our pastor used the symbol of light to describe her commitment to faith and her impact on this world.  It is so appropriate for the season of advent as there are lights everywhere reminding us of Jesus - the light of the world.  One little child...it is amazing to me to think of the impact she will have on this world!  I can already see how special she is.  I can only imagine how amazing it will be to see her grow and ask about Jesus and say her prayers...how humbling that we as parents guide her through this journey? 
This is the only picture that I camptured with my camera...it is adorable!  Charles was carrying her out of the church and the only thing that we had to cover her head was this santa hat...quite cute!

And finally, the thread of the entire weekend was some really special moments with my sister, which doesn't happen as often as I'd like.  She will be Julia's Godmother and also walking this journey with Julia.  Our time together makes me feel that all is right in the world - like we can be kids again and reminice and also get excited about these big changes in our lives.  I am so happy for the place that she is in her life right now and I am even happier when we get to share it together along with mom.  Over a glass of wine and a game of Scrabble.  Perfection!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Favorite things

I have a secret wish that I could make a guest appearance on Oprah or (on a smaller scale) have an article in Real Simple magazine featuring: Lauren's Favorite Things.  Every Christmas I seem to find one thing that I would like to buy in bulk - one of those items of the year that is functional and hip and just makes my day so much easier. 
In 2007 I would have featured the trusty head-lamp - great for my grandmother as she walks her dogs and Charles as he attempts to fix our leaking roof in the middle of the night.  What other gift can you buy for both your grandmother and husband? 

2008 would definately be the all purpose Farmers Market collapsable basket.  I have bought this for just about everyone and I take it everywhere!  It's especially handy when I am in charge of bringing an appetizer somewhere - I just load up the basket and I'm ready to go.
 *I found mine at Home Goods and subsequently bought them out of about 10 more*

And as we all know, 2009 is all about the baby. 
When I was pregnant I asked every new mom I could find to name their top 3 baby products.  I was clueless about the essentials and wanted to keep the big circus-like toys to a minimum.  So here are my top 3...not that there isn't other "need to have" type gear, but these are the things that make me smile when I'm using them.  They make life easier, or just a bit more cheerful.

#1 - The BOB stroller - just watch the demo, you will be sold!

# 2 - Petunia Pickle Bottom Diaper Bag (here is the link to the blog)  The shoulder bag is so functional!  It's a bit pricey, but it's very durable, so I anticipate that it'll last beyond our first child...

#3 - Etsy...ok, more specifically these burp cloths (but I have made some other GREAT Etsy finds - especially for unique handmade/embroidered clothes).  If you ever need an easy New Baby gift this is the place to go.  The woman who makes these is wonderful to work with!

oh, and the Baby Ergo is very cool too!  I know there is a "babywearing" movement, which I can't say that I've read too much about (I have a good feeling that if I read up on it, I would be even more excited about the Ergo!)  I just love the idea of having her close to me every moment possibe.  It's great bonding time and it helps me get things done around the house! 


And now a focus on the things that REALLY matter in life:  friends.  This weekend inspired me to think about my favorite things because it goes in the history books as one of the best weekends of my life.  It was a 3 day long 30th birthday celebration starting with a nice little visit from my parents, a "Gray-style" party on Friday night, which was a nice reminder that we DO have friends in Massachusetts - great ones!  Sometimes it takes them all in the same room to remind you that you've got roots somewhere. 
And to top it all off: a surprise trip to New York where I was met by Kate, Jill, Kris and Becca and whisked away to a great lunch and an amazing Broadway show - Wicked. 
Here are some of the highlights:





Thank you everyone!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

who knew?


Why is it that nobody ever told me how great this age was?  I guess I had to experience this for myself, but I really didn't know that she would be so animated and excited about life!  We've had a fun-packed few weeks with some busy times ahead as we celebrate my 30th, Thanksgiving, and Julia's baptism in a week span at the end of this month.  The Gray household will be hosting some fun festivities (including a Turkey Trot 5K that Charles is pulling together).  More on that I'm sure...
Here are the highlights of the last few weeks as she wraps up her final days of being a 4 month old: (dramatic, I know, but I feel so sentimental about how quickly this is happening!)

So, I have a minor obsession with Julia's feet.  I have decided to use this obsession to my advantage with the many babies that have entered our lives.  I have started using Julia's footprint to make cute little cards for an adorable and low cost gift.  Charles is convinced that there are child labor laws against this sort of thing, but I can't get enough of these tiny little toes! 

Julia has also discovered her new best friend - Scout.  She reaches out and intentioinally pets her and even squeals with delight when Scout licks her hand.  It's cute to see this little bond growing.  I don't think Scout quite knows what is in store for her...I can see that Julia is not going to be gentle and if Julia is anything like the Cirillo side of the family, she will LOVE dogs (and want to create a shelter for stray animals). 

And our latest endeavor - rice cereal!  We decided to try it.  She's just so interested in what we're eating and everything goes into her mouth.  She was quite a natural and didn't spit any out (the mess was just the cereal that never made it into her mouth since she insisted on trying to feed herself).  Yes, this is how we spent our Saturday night and I must say, we were quite entertained.  Here are the highlights:


The other night Julia fell asleep on my chest.  I love those moments - when I can feel her entire weight melt into me as she falls asleep and fully trusts in the comfort of her mother.  She becomes more and more active everyday and I realize that she isn't going to always be so willing to relax on the couch or fall asleep that way.  I LOVE this time with her! 

Sunday, November 1, 2009

My favorite Polar Bear!

Although our neighbor offered up a pea-pod costume for Julia, Charles was convinced that she needed to be a polar bear - his Bowdoin college mascot.  I let him know that if that's the case, she will have to be a Messiah College falcon next year (but I don't think that will be as cute...) So, we sprung for this adorable costume that worked quite well.  It's so warm and comfortable that I actually put it on her last week when she got her 4 month shots.  Nothing helps you recover from the misery of shots like sporting all of that great polar bear fuzz!

Our neighborhood hosts an adorable parade for the kids that starts at the top of our circle and makes a little half loop.  Our friends Shana, Jared, and Clara and also Mark, Jess and Luke joined us for the festivities, which was an adorable mess of animals that ranged from a giraffe to a puppy.  This time last year I was aware of this parade, but I'd never seen it because it typically occured during the week.  There have been many moments in the last 4 months that we have looked at eachother with the "MY, how our lives have changed!" look.  This was one of them...never would I have thought that something like this could be such fun.  It is so neat to see all of these kids that Julia will be growing up with!  We love our neighborhood!  And we love our friends!

At one point during the party, Julia grabbed a doughnut from Charles' hand and we just watched her to see what she would do with it...
 *I should preface this with the fact that we have been debating what to do about starting rice cereal and solids.  The Dr. gave use the go ahead, but also said that she would give us cues when she is ready.  I like the idea of breastfeeding as long as I can and Julia seems to have no problem with that, so we have decided to wait another month or 2.*
So Julia takes a little crumb, puts it in her mouth, and gnaws at it with great delight.  The "new mom" in me sort of gasped, but she was just fine.  A few minutes later, I find Julia licking the bottle of Pumpkin Ale that Charles is drinking.  Lovely!  I believe that she gets her love of pumpkins from all of the pumpkin pancakes that I ate when I found out I was pregnant!  Anyway, we had a great time and Julia was exhausted when it was all over.  We came home and had some great friends over in the evening.  On these full days I anticipate that Julia is not going to handle it well and will eventually have a breakdown, but she always surprises me.  She did amazingly well last night.  We put her to bed a little bit late because of the time change and she slept a full 9 1/2 hours.  Gosh this child is amazing! 


Earlier this week we also had some great times - my Gram drove up to DE from FL and sprung for another 5 hours to drive to Massachusetts with my mom.  We had a wonderful few days that included a trip to Yankee Candle, some good food in Northampton, and having a bakefest/dance night in my kitchen.  This picture captures 4 generations of women on my mom's side.  It's pretty amazing!



Monday, October 12, 2009

4 month update

It's hard to believe that exactly one year ago today we took our first pregancy test and found out we were expecting...and tomorrow Julia will be four months old. I can't even begin to summarize this past year of my life. Words can't describe the love that has grown as we prepared for Julia and now watch her grow from day to day. Wow, 4 months old - can I just push a pause button to soak it in for a little bit longer? For some reason the jump from 3-4 months seems like a big one. She has developed quite a personality, which everyday reminds me that she is an individual with her own mind and her own demands. Just when I think I have her figured out, she surprises me with something new. Our biggest new surprise is the fact that she has decided that it was getting a little too comfortable to sleep through the night. From 6 weeks through 3 months she was sleeping 8+ hours through the night. Now she is up whenever she pleases, which has been really difficult now that I am back to work. Waking up to her is still a joy - she of course is happy and bright eyed (just hungry). I can't help but laugh at her - even at 2am. We are working on it - any insights would be very helpful!

We have been on the go in the last few weeks. First with a trip to DE/PA to see family and friends and celebrate Jill and Tommy's engagement. She does great with the ride down, which is great news for us as we anticipate many of those in her young life! When we came back Julia seemed on the verge of laughing, but couldn't quite get there...I knew it would happen at any moment. The other night I caught her in a really good mood - I blew some raspberries on her tummy and she let out the cutest belly laugh. Luckily, I had my camera close-by to capture it (please ignore my "mommy" voice on the video :))
video
On Thursday (10/8)we were off again to celebrate my mom's 50th birthday in Florida. We've known for a while that this would be our first big trip, but since Charles and I do not have much time off of work, it was a quick one. I personally think Julia could be Southwest's mascot... not just because she looks so cute posing in front of our plane, but she also slept the entire trip to Florida and all the way home. We had a great time - my mom, sister, Gram, and I got manicures and pedicures on Friday. We had the whole spa to ourselves and it was such a treat. We then took Julia for her first trip to the beach. It was not a surprise that she loved the water since she loves her bath (and her sleep sheep plays waves every night). The only difficulty was keeping her out of the sun. The tent we bought for the trip worked perfectly-she slept in it at night and loved playing in it at the beach. I would put this on my list of top 10 baby essentials especially for those who travel don't want to cart around a pack n' play.
Saturday's highlights included cooking breakfast to kick off mom's birthday, checking into our hotel in Clearwater, enjoying a little time by the pool before we went out to a lovely dinner and caught the tail end of the sunset as we raced back to our hotel. We topped it off with a competitive Cirillo-style game of Scrabble. All the great things of life. :)
On Saturday evening Charles and I were up all night with Julia. We hadn't had a night like this since Julia was just a few weeks old. We gave up around 6am and decided to head out to the beach to catch the sunrise. Although we were exhausted, it was such a great opportunity together in the midst of a busy and ever-changing time in our lives. We thanked God for each of these blessings we are experiencing. When we were preparing for Julia I never imagined that this child would completely shift my perspective on life. She brings such simple joy to everyone.
There is so much more that I could add - this month has been packed full of new adventures. Our newest encounter will be the transition from the bassinette in our room to her crib upstairs. We started this last night...we'll see how it goes, but the bassinette goes next door to our neighbors who are expecting any day now, so there is no turning back!


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hello Miss Julia

Now that I've been back to work for about a month, life has changed drastically. I know it's a good balance, but I feel like we jump in and hold our breath on the days that I work and then emerge trying to pull all of the pieces together. Julia is fine with all of this. She's so adaptable!

We had a rotation of our parents watching her the first 3 weeks, but this week she started in an in-home daycare for 2 of the 3 days that I work. Apparently she loves watching the older kids and I think this will be a great socialization opportunity for her. (I had to keep telling myself this as I walked away from her in tears everyday!)

The past month has been so much fun as Julia becomes so much more alert and vibrant from day to day. My neighbor randomly invited me to a Mommy and Me music class that is held in a little school house a mile from our house. I decided to go and check it out thinking that I would get a feel for whether I would like to sign up when Julia is ready for something like this. I completely underestimated the fact that she would already be engaged and ready for this class - SHE LOVED IT! She was in awe from start to finish and even threw in a few squeals of delight. The crazy woman who runs it starts off with a welcome/hello song that has been stuck in my head since the class. Each time I sing "hello, Miss Julia. How are you today?" she gets a big kick out of it! Needless to say, I have humbled myself to the goofy-singing-mom-role and we will be back to the music class when we get back from vacation.

We are off to Florida to celebrate my mom's 50th for a fun filled weekend with our family. This will include many firsts for Julia...plane, beach, visit to Aunt Kirstan's...so I'm sure I will have much to report. And then when we get home, Julia will be 4 months old! I love seeing her grow, but this is just flying by!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Milestones

I have been going to a mom's group since Julia was about 6 weeks old. I am so grateful for the opportunity to share with other mom's - it makes a huge difference to have others who can relate and have already been through certain phases and can help you along the way. Yesterday I left the group feeling thankful - thankful for the simple gift of sharing.

It has been so funny to watch Julia grow. I was so overwhelmed the first week that I went to this group. I was an hour late for a group that only lasts an hour and I was so embarrassed when I walked in...I made myself go because I knew it would be good and if I didn't do it, I would never return. Now Julia is a bit more predictable and I can confidently get there in true "10 minute late" Lauren Gray style.

I learned the other day that even batting at objects is a milestone...everything counts as growth. I think that's about where we are, but here are some of the top other ones that Julia has accomplished over the past few weeks:

Sitting up in her Bumbo seat



Grabbing objects (she got a big kick out of pulling her blanket over her head when we were on vacation in Maine - it became a daily playtime routine).

She is also consistently sleeping through the night and has been since about 6 weeks. This is not her actual nighttime attire, but she looks so cute in her fleece bunting!
I know the big milestones are right around the corner, which is hard to believe! This time last year I didn't even know I was pregnant - it all seems to be happening so quickly! God has been incredibly faithful in placing other couples in our lives at the perfect time to coach us through these phases or walk beside us as we encounter them together.
Thankful is a good word.




Friday, September 11, 2009


"In those days, we finally chose to walk like giants & hold the world in arms grown strong with love & there may be many things we forget in the days to come, but this will not be one of them."

Awakening - Brian Andreas


There have been so many moments in the last 3 months that have caused me to stop and attempt to soak it all in. Smelling Julia's hair as she's snuggled in my arms after a bath or watching her squeal with delight as Charles attempts to impersonate a loon in one of her storybooks - I just have this feeling like no other. The kind of feeling that I know I will look back on and remember how life altering this all has been (and continues to be). Although things will just keep getting better from here, there is nothing that compares to the precious and uncharted territory of life with a newborn. There is so much that we have learned about this child and so much that she continues to teach us. I transition back to work this week and I couldn't help but look up the above quote from Brian Andreas. This is how I feel. My, we have grown. And we will never be the same.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Greatness

I have got to acknowledge all of the visitors who traveled to Massachusetts this summer to meet Miss Julia. Not only was it a huge help to have some extra hands, but it was a refreshing piece of home with each new visit. This is titled GREATNESS not only because we are thankful for all of these people in our lives, but also because she got to meet her Great Grandmother and Great Great Grandmother who was so excited to see her and put her to sleep each night with Polish lullibies.



Becca, Ben, and Hannah arrived to celebrate the fourth of July with us, which was quite a trip considering they had a new house to move in to and they left their vacation at the beach to make it in time for the East Longmeadow parade. I would say that their rush to get here was because Becca is obsessed with babies, or she really missed me, but the added joy of the whole trip was when Becca let me know that she too was pregnant (I don't know why I say "too" - I'm not pregnant anymore, but somehow it's difficult to disconnect with the pregnancy stage). It was amazing to hear the news from them - Becca and Ben are going to be such great parents and baby Neufeld has one heck of a big sister!

Kris and Jill had a whirlwind 24-hour visit, but we had a great time and they got their fill of Julia. We were able to see them again a month later, which made the quick trip bearable. We went for a long walk in the park and Kris paid special attention to sister Scout so she wouldn't feel so left out.


Aunt Kirstan FINALLY arrived when Julia was about 7 weeks old. The timing of her trip was perfect because Charles had to go out of town for a week. This was the first time that I truly felt confident getting out on little trips during the day...I am starting to get to know Julia and what she (and I) are capable of doing in a day. Key word is STARTING...she is still a bit unpredictable! We had so much fun together and the greatest part of the whole week was watching Kirstan with her neice. They had an immediate connection that was beyond words. I had so many moments with tears in my eyes as I watched the love between the two of them. We also asked Kirstan to be Julia's God-mother while she was here. Of course, she is honored! Julia is a lucky girl to have Kirstan for an aunt. I have a feeling in a few years I will be hearing "But Aunt Kirstan is so much cooler than you mom!"

And then Kate and J. came. Kate and J. were married in May and indirectly, Julia got to be in their wedding (in utero). She tells me she had a good time :)


J. is from New England so they got to visit some family while they were up here and we had a random assortment of fun as we introduced them to our neighbors at our Neighborhood Party and of course they loved spending some time with Julia. Julia was especially enamoured by J. (I think it was the red beard) :)


And I should put Chrissy first on this list - she was on stand-by when Julia was born to drive from Boston to Springfield. She saw Julia on the day she was born (yep, drove all they way out for a 45 minute visit and then drove all the way back to Boston). She got to spend a little bit more quality time with her a few weeks later on a random Thursday when she has off work. She came at a good time b/c Julia got stung by a bee and I needed her nurse practioner skills to make Julia all better. She is so good at that!


And you know what is funny about these visitors? This is ALMOST all of my wedding party (aside from my grandparents and the boys of course). The only one missing is Allison Huett - she lives in California and I know that if she were closer, she would be here in a heartbeat. These are my life long friends and it is precious to share Julia with each of them. They are going to be such an important part of her life. I am sure there are many visits to come - these were just the highlights...what a summer it's been!