Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy 3rd Birthday, Marla


Today you are three years old. As I put you to bed tonight, I kept searching for traces of the baby we brought into the world three years ago...

But I'm afraid you're not a baby anymore. How did this happen??


The past year has brought so many changes, and you've proven time and again that you are even more extraordinary than I give you credit for. When I got pregnant with Avery, I had a list of things that I hoped you'd accomplish before the baby was born, including: potty training, sleeping in a big girl bed, giving up your pacifier, climbing into your carseat by yourself, etc. I told people I'd be happy if I could check just one of those things off the list, but you handily conquered everything on it and more. In many ways, you are a typical first child and seem to master just about everything with little effort. You continue to amaze us with your intelligence, creativity, humor, and overall positive attitude.

For all the growing up you've done this year, nothing has moved me more than watching you become a big sister. You welcomed Avery into the family without batting an eye and have blown us away with your love and acceptance of her. You tend to be a bit bossy with other kids and Avery is no exception. But you also protect and watch over her, doing your best to make her smile and laugh. I have no doubt that you will be her hero for years to come.

Your personality. Where do I even start? You are my shining light. You have boundless energy and a thirst for life that just can't be quenched. Everything is exciting and interesting to you. I could tell you we were going to get a root canal and you'd get a gleam in your eye and exclaim, "Guess what, Avery?! We get to go see the DENTIST!" Physically, you're a force of nature. You're still a bit clumsy, mostly because you want to move faster than your feet will let you. You love to dance, laugh, run, swim, jump, spin, bounce, and basically move in any way possible. People often ask me incredulously, "Is she always like that?" Yep.

You also have a quiet side. You continue to love reading books and coloring, and have recently started drawing and writing more. You love to listen to stories. Every night after we read you your books, you ask for a story. These are usually just retellings of our day or a recent event, but you drink them in like bestselling fiction, grinning in anticipation as I start out each one with "Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Marla, who lived with her mama and daddy and little sister, Avery." (Have I mentioned that you're easy to please?)

You are sassy and full of attitude, but the temper tantrums of a year ago have subsided considerably. It's impossible to stay mad at you for anything. One of my favorite recent Marla-isms is when you say something along the lines of "I don't like you," I respond by saying it's not nice to say that, and you pause and say, "I don't like you, please??" You have a sense of order and like to be in control. You line up and arrange your toys and stuffed animals and collect things from around the house to carry around with you everywhere. You often order others around without feeling the need to follow the rules yourself, but we're working on that. 

You LOVE to accessorize. First thing in the morning, you put on necklaces, bracelets, rings, a headband, sunglasses, and a tutu. Getting you out the door takes an extra ten minutes because we have to negotiate with you to take off all your bling before leaving, only for you to put it all back on when we get home. In fact, it's hard to find a picture of you in the last year where you're not wearing at least one accessory. So, in closing, I'm including this picture, which captures the very essence of you, Miss Marla. You are my dazzling, lively, clever, happy little girl, and I couldn't be prouder to be your mom. I love you.     

Sunday, December 1, 2013

We built this house

On December 16, 2011, we moved out of our condo and into an apartment that we intended to sub-lease for about six months while we found a new place. It had taken the better part of a year to sell our condo, so when we got a buyer, we accepted the offer without thinking twice. We moved into a two-bedroom townhome with a single stall garage and left about half our stuff packed up in its basement, awaiting a more permanent residence. Little did we know we'd be there for a year and eight months.

House hunting was extremely frustrating. We looked at more houses than I care to count. When our lease was up in May, we signed on for another year. I'm pretty sure our realtor hated us. After becoming pregnant with Avery in December of 2012, it was like a clock began ticking. We found a home we liked that month and put in an offer, but after lots of negotiation and a last minute second buyer who outbid us, that process ended in disappointment. We knew we would most likely lose our minds if we stayed in our tiny apartment with a toddler AND a newborn, so we began talking seriously about building a house.

We met with several builders and ended up signing a contract with one at the end of March, 2013. We had hopes that they'd break ground by the beginning of May, since the baby was due September 4. Well, it seemed our bad luck was going to continue for a while longer, with horrible weather throughout the month of April and even a snowstorm in the first week of May (seriously, May??!!). They finally broke ground on May 8, then it seemed to take forever for anything else to happen. But once June hit, things sped up and the house seemed to pop up overnight.

We had a close date in our contract of August 31, just five days before our baby was due. (This seems like poor planning on our part, but the builder hesitated to give us a date at all, so we felt fortunate to have him committed to anything.) Of course our apartment lease was up on August 31 as well, and based on the size of my expanding belly, it seemed the baby was planning an early arrival. Between stressing about the timing of everything, packing, arguing with the bank about the appraisal and closing, finishing a big project at work, and the physical discomforts of being nine months pregnant, August was probably the most stressful month of my life.

The house was completed a week ahead of schedule, on August 23. Looking back, the early completion was a huge blessing. I honestly don't know what we would have done if it had taken any longer. After many phone calls and emails and near-breakdowns, it became clear that we wouldn't be able to close with the bank until a week after construction was done, but our builder took pity on us and allowed us to move in prior to closing. Another huge blessing. I had contractions all afternoon and evening on the day of our final walk-through and was convinced I'd be spending our moving weekend in labor, but Avery held off and we were able to move some stuff ourselves over the weekend before the movers finished up on Monday. That Friday (August 30), we closed with the bank and the house was officially ours. Next Thursday, Avery was born, and the rest is history. The house felt like home within a week. I spent my maternity leave unpacking and organizing, and though we still need to paint the bedrooms and add some decor, it seems as though we've been here for years.

I wanted to chronicle the building process while it was happening, but of course that didn't happen. Instead, I made a slideshow of the construction pictures. I set it to the song "We Built This City" by Starship, which I found appropriate on several levels. It was the first song that Jeff and I ever danced to more than ten years ago. Enjoy!