Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Within the course of 10 days, Lilly turned one, I got to spend time in Mum and Dad’s new house in DC with the entire Stephens Family, Jim and I went to Italy, we celebrated 3 years of marriage and I turned 29!  A pretty exciting 10 days.  Italy deserves its own entry so I won’t talk about that here.  But here’s a glimpse at the days pre-Italy (correct usage Joseph?)  Lilly’s birthday kicked it all off on April 11th.  The Wednesday after her birthday, we packed up the car and drove down to DC—to Columbia Heights to be exact.  We arrived at the house that Mum and Dad just moved into, a little more than a week before.  Already, this house looks like a home.  Buddha has his place, candles and flowers are present and the dining room table, where we tend to spend hours every night, is set up.  Ellie arrived that night and Joseph and Edward arrived Thursday morning.  Within minutes of everyone’s arrival, it was like it always is when we’re all together.  We were sitting around laughing, having a few beers, catching up while ragging on each other…and now that we’ve added Lilly to the mix, there’s a whole new dynamic.  She wants to play with everyone, all the time.  She wants to be a part of whatever anyone is doing.  She was running back and forth between her uncles and aunt, laughing and falling down, and then getting back up and doing it all over again. We had some fantastic family dinners that seem to involve endless glasses of wine and discussions that last until midnight.  Our dinners are probably what I look forward to the most when I come home.  

I got to see Joseph again the way that he was when Ellie and Edward were little. When Lilly was sitting in her high chair and having something to eat, Joseph would go and get one of her toys and play with it right in front of her, just waiting for a reaction and usually ended up getting a shriek or a scream; exactly what he wanted!  Lilly learned to scowl at Joseph, Joseph kept trying to make her scowl, and so the games continued.  Edward watched Lilly walking around and spent a lot of his time cringing at how unrelaxing her walking is.  Between Lilly’s inability to turn corners and her lack of interest in looking down to make sure she had a clear path on which to walk, Edward had his work cut out for him as he tried to keep her out of harm’s way.  Edward gave Lilly a UT dress, which she seemed to be very excited over.  I tried to tell her that burnt orange is not necessary a girl’s best friend when it comes to choosing dress colors, but Lilly didn’t seem to mind.  She can wear it when we’re down in Austin in a few weeks; she’ll fit right in.  As soon as Ellie arrived, she stepped right back into her godmother role.  Within minutes, Lilly was running over to Ellie, or holding out her arms to go over to her.  Ellie picked out Lilly’s outfits, danced and sang songs to make her laugh, carried her around like a little princess and even gave her a princess mirror (much to Jim’s dismay).  Lilly adores looking at herself in this mirror.  Every time I see Lilly and Ellie together, I think that they have more and more in common.  If indeed that is the case, then I’m in for some trouble.

One of my favorite things about being home with everyone since Lilly was born is that I get to see Mum and Dad as grandparents.  When they are with Lilly, it is the most natural thing in the world.  You wouldn’t know it has been 22 years since they have had a baby in the house.  I feel like we get a snapshot into what Mum and Dad were like when we were babies.  Dad just wants to play!  He loves chasing Lilly around, tickling her, looking at her over the table, then under the table, then over the table…or putting something on the table for Lilly to throw off, picking it up and putting back until she throws it off…the games are never ending.  Sometimes, Dad gives up first, but surprisingly, on occasion, Lilly will go and do something else before Dad gives in.  Their games usually end in both of them taking naps--actually, when Lilly is napping, everyone seems to nap.  I think most Stephens' family members are not used to getting up at 7am (see the picture below for evidence!)  I remember all the games we would play with Dad growing up, and now Lilly gets to play them all over again.

Mum is my inspiration when it comes to being a mother.  She walks around the house chatting away to Lilly, singing songs, playing games and making it all look so easy!  And, to top it all off, Lilly listens to Mum.  They’re both stubborn, but I think in Lilly’s first year of life, she has realized that Mum is more stubborn, so it’s easier to give in.  Without saying no all the time, Mum manages to get Lilly away from the stairs…or out of the cabinets…or away from cords and chargers (typically, Lilly’s favorite toys).  When I left for Italy, I was sad saying goodbye to Lilly, but knew that she was going to have the time of her life.  Jim and I had a list of things that we wanted Mum to “fix.” Like, getting Lilly to sit in her high chair for extended periods of time…and putting the pieces in a puzzle instead of always throwing them out.  I don’t know if those things are “fixable” at this point in time.  But, we came back to our happy little daughter who now holds her sippy cup out to “cheers” before she takes a sip and says “mmmm” after every bite of food.  She babbles away constantly and likes carrying around her little “Lilly” tote bag full of toys, until she gets sick of it and throws them all on the ground.  Lilly had a week filled with mangoes and grapes and every other fruit imaginable, as well as pink rice, beef ragout, chicken casseroles…basically, she spent the week at Baby Disneyland.  What more could she want?

Throw Tess in to top it all off, and I don’t think Lilly could have been any happier.  Poor Tess, especially now that Lilly is walking.  Lilly used to follow her around but now that she can walk, she’s literally an inch behind her at all times.  She likes to touch Tess’ nose, pat her head, and occasionally, much to Tess’ dismay, she likes to grab her ears.  I think that Tess will spend this entire week sleeping and recovering from Lilly’s visit.  After all, she just turned 13, and 13-year-old dogs aren’t supposed to put up with this!

So that is how Lilly spent her week.  Next up, Jim and my week in Italy!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lilly's First Birthday

April 11th, 2009

Lilly turned one on Sunday, April 11th.  Naturally, Jim and I kept thinking back to this time last year, and couldn’t believe how quickly everything has happened.  I kept thinking back to the night of April 10th—my due date.  That Friday came, and that Friday went, or so I thought.  When I got into bed on Friday night at 11:30pm, I’d had a few little contractions.  After lying down for just a few minutes, I told Jim that I thought this was it; that we wouldn’t be going to bed that night!  Most of our family and friends know how the night unfolded, but in a nutshell, my contractions got really strong really fast but the timing never matched up with what the doctor had told us regarding how long they should have been before going to the hospital.  But at 4am, I knew that this couldn’t go on for much longer and thought it was time to get moving and head to the hospital.  Jim thought otherwise.  After all, in our childbirth class, they told us that husbands ALWAYS want to go to the hospital too early, and that if we wanted a natural childbirth, our best bet was to stay at home as long as possible.  So, when I thought we should be going to the hospital, Jim decided to have a shower…and asked me to cut his hair…and do all those things that could have been done just a little bit earlier in my mind.  But, they distracted me for awhile, and then I knew we didn’t have any more time to waste.  I think Jim realized it as well, and it became apparent that we had to get to the hospital sooner rather than later.  I relive that drive to the hospital often!  I really thought that we were going to have a baby in the car—I didn’t think we were going to make it.  When Jim called the hospital to let them know that we were on our way and that I was pretty far along, they didn’t take him seriously enough.  When we arrived, my delivery room wasn’t ready, but they soon saw that ready or not, this baby was coming.  So, after arriving at the hospital at 5:30am, Lilly was born at 5:50.  It wasn’t a very relaxing 20 minutes either…the nurses were yelling at each other, yelling at me because there wasn’t a doctor there yet.  Thank God Jim was there, calming them and me down and keeping everything under control.  But, when little Lilly arrived, the previous 6 hours became a memory—and they are hours that I would relive any time if I knew that Lilly was the end result.

We loved her from the very first minute.  When the doctor placed her on me, it took awhile to process that this was our daughter!  That was the first time I had used that word in relation to me, and it didn’t sound real.  One year later, Lilly is running (she likes it better than walking) around.  She loves to play games; everything is a game!  She’s a great little eater and will try anything.  Sometimes, it takes her a few times to like it, but so far, we haven’t found anything that she doesn’t like.  And, most importantly for Jim and me, she’s a fantastic little sleeper.   From the first day we brought her home, she would sleep at night for about 4 hours at a time.  And, while some nights were definitely better than others, she slept from about 11-5 when she was 5 weeks old.  So, now we have a little one year old, who sleeps from 6:30 at night until 7 or 8 in the morning, and we can’t complain.  But you only have to spend a day with Lilly to understand why she sleeps so well.  When she is awake, she never stops.  From her earliest days, we would bring her onto our bed in the morning, and she would lie on her back for ages, kicking her legs.  When I visited DC with Lilly when she was about 6 weeks old, I would bring her onto Mum and Dad’s bed in the morning.  Dad said she looked like she was in a bike race and was exhausted just watching.  He would often go back and take a nap when Lilly did!  When she started crawling, a couple of days before she was 7 months old, she never looked back.  She had a whole new world open to exploration.  And now that she’s walking, she’s everywhere, checking out everything.  So no wonder she sleeps.

We had a few friends over for Lilly’s birthday.  It was a gorgeous day so we sat outside, had lunch along with some beer, wine and champagne and chatted while we watched the little ones play.  Lilly wasn’t feeling too great by the afternoon, so she ended her party by going down for a nap, while the boys played bocce and the girls sat and drank more champagne!  It was a lot of fun for us, and Lilly seemed to enjoy it all too.  After all, she was the center of attention all day...what more could she want!  She had lots of people to wave to and babble away to.  She loved all the balloons, and even though her favorite game was to crawl up to them and dive head first into one, miraculously, none popped on her.  Her first cake was a success; she just needed a little help from Jim to get going.  After all, if her dad eats it, then Lilly wants it!

When everyone left, Lilly woke up, opened her presents, and I burst into tears!  I couldn’t believe that our little baby was one, and all of a sudden, it just hit me.  That, and I was exhausted, Lilly was sick and we were leaving for Italy in a week.  It was a lot to process at once.  Lucky Jim; he had a sick baby and an emotional wife on his hands!  So, we did what we’re best at, and all went to sleep ridiculously early that night.  It was a first birthday to remember.



Thursday, April 8, 2010


It’s been a busy week here.  On Friday morning, we headed down to Villanova for Easter with Jim’s family.  We had a wonderful weekend filled with gorgeous weather and got to spend some time seeing all the Clarks.  It was a nice, unexpected, get-together.  It was one of those weekends that wouldn’t have worked out if everyone had tried to plan it.  But a couple of weeks before, it just came together!  Funnily enough, the same thing is happening for me next week with my family.  Again, we didn’t know this was going to be a time that we’d all be together, but I’m bringing Lilly down before Jim and I head to Italy, the boys are coming up from Austin and Ellie is taking her first vacation from her office job in Guatemala.  I’m sure Mum would have chosen a different time if she had the choice, given that Mum and Dad moved into their new house on April 1st, but no one minds if there aren’t enough beds, or if all the furniture isn’t perfectly arranged and everything else unpacked.  In fact, Lilly is very helpful when it comes to unpacking, so Mum should probably wait to put anything else away until we arrive on Tuesday.  As far as sleeping arrangements go, I think that Edward and Joseph should sleep in the same room as Lilly.  It’s time for them to live up to their roles as uncles.  I will warn them ahead of time that Lilly has started waking up at about 2am and enjoys playing in her crib for close to an hour, laughing and seeing how loud she can say “da da da…”  It’s really cute, and I’m sure her uncles will think so as well.

The countdown to Lilly’s birthday is on!  Here’s a look at this time last year:

I could never have imagined that this was the little person inside me!  Over the course of this past year, Lilly has developed some pretty distinct traits, that I like to call Lillyisms.  These are a few of my favorite ones!

The Growl
From the first days when Lilly began communicating with us, it seemed her primary means for doing so was a growl.  That has continued to this day, although her growls are diminishing as she is becoming more verbal.  I assumed that this was normal and that all babies growl, but I have since learned that most babies do not growl at sweet old ladies walking by them in church after their baptisms or at runners going by at the end of a half ironman and that this is indeed a Lillyism.

The Tarzan Stomach Pummel
As is the case for many babies, Lilly prefers life with no clothes on.  To prevent little accidents from taking place all over the carpet, Jim and I often let her play in just her diaper after she gets out of the bath.  Recently, Lilly has taken to walking around and banging on her stomach when her little belly is free.  She looks like a baby Tarzan when she does it, and she cracks herself up.

The Dance
We usually have music playing in our house and as a result, Lilly has developed some impressive dancing skills.  Her skills have evolved over time.  Around Christmas, she would bob her head up and down when one of her toys played music (similar to the way Jim dances).  She continues to do that but if she is standing up when she hears music, she usually starts swinging her little hips.  She also lets go of whatever she’s holding onto and puts one hand down by her side as she dances.  We have this on video!  It’s the cutest little dancing I’ve ever seen.  It is extremely appropriate that Lilly likes to dance given that is how Jim and first met—dancing at a crew party at the end of freshman year.

The Sneeze
I think my favorite Lillyism at the moment is her sneezing.  Jim has taught Lilly that sneezes are hysterical!  As a result, every time Lilly sneezes, she follows it up by laughing.  It’s close to impossible to capture on camera as we don’t really have any warning that a sneeze is going to take place but hopefully one of these days we’ll be able to.  She also thinks that other people’s sneezes are funny—even Jim’s fake ones.  Jim is extremely proud of this trick of Lilly’s; so much so that he told me the other day that he was concerned I wasn’t laughing enough after her sneezes.  Apparently I have to make a bigger deal of her sneezes so she continues to think they’re funny.  This is one thing I did not foresee as one of my motherly duties but I will take it on nonetheless.  

Thursday, April 1, 2010

These Jeans Are Made for Walking

It’s been a big week in the Clark household!  Lilly wore her first pair of jeans yesterday, which may not seem like a big deal but knowing how much I love baby clothes--girl baby clothes in particular--this was a big milestone.  I have looked to my Mum for a lot of advice this past year in raising Lilly.  In all of our discussions, one of the biggest aspects of parenting that I have taken away from Mum is that babies are babies for such a short time.  They have their whole lives to wear jeans and shoes, and only a few months to wear baby gowns and little fuzzy onesies.  So I have resisted putting Lilly in “grown up” clothes, shrunk down to adorable baby sizes.  She has worn comfy clothes, because let’s face it—jeans are not exactly the most comfortable clothes.  Anyway, yesterday I decided that this pair of jeans, that a friend gave her, is so cute and it was time to try them on.  As I do so many times around Lilly, all I could do was laugh.  They are actually really soft and comfy; I think they’re more like sweatpants than jeans.  I bet Ellie would love them; I wonder if they make them in adult sizes?  But they have the cutest little elastic waist that I had to tighten all the way and the jeans were still too big!  Of course, I took a picture of Lilly’s first jeans.

While the jeans were exiting, the bigger news this week is that we have a little walker in the family!  Lilly has been taking steps for a few weeks, a couple at a time.  These happened mostly when Jim and I were sitting a few feet apart, starting her off and getting her to walk the rest of the way.  She has been a confident little stander for a while, taking both hands off whatever she was holding and just standing there.  As my dad put it, she looked like she’s was standing in an earthquake zone.  Whenever she wanted a toy or to get somewhere fast, crawling was still her preferred transportation method.  Last night, however, Lilly started walking to things, and this morning, she has been walking everywhere! She starts off sitting down, and then stands herself up.  It looks SO difficult and her little legs start shaking.  I associate it with coming up from a squat, which is what she looks like she’s doing.  As she is the first baby that I have seen learn to walk, I’m not sure if this is how it is always done, but it seems a rather difficult task if you ask me.  She has been able to walk to her toys, or the computer (shocker!), but she is still not quite sure what to do when she gets there.  She has not yet mastered the task of falling gracefully, so I have a feeling that there are going to be some bumps and bruises in our future.  She walks waving her little arms in the air.  Edward saw her do this on Skype the other day and aptly described her as walking like a zombie.  I am trying to capture these steps on video but every time she starts walking I get so excited and forget to get the camera.  When I try and get her to walk when I have the camera out, Lilly sees the camera, gets excited, drops to all fours and starts her “sprint crawl” to try and grab the camera out of my hands.  That is the reason that all our videos and many of our photos of Lilly end with an extreme close up of her face or her hands; she just can’t leave the camera alone!

It has been so amazing to watch all these developmental milestones over the past year.  Watching Lilly take her first steps was one of those moments that Jim and I were able to witness together.  We looked at each other and just shook our heads in disbelief.  This time last year, this little person wasn’t yet a part of our lives and now, she is so much a part of our lives that we can’t remember what life was like without her.  I think as a parent, I am beginning to truly understand what people mean by “time flying.”  It is such a common expression used by everyone.  I always thought things went by fast; summer vacation was always too short; family holidays always end too soon; experiences that I really loved seem to be over before they really began.  That is how it has been for me this past year, and I am sure it will only seem faster moving forward. 

It’s amazing when you think about how this little person came into the world.  When we first found out that I was pregnant, Jim and I were excited.  We wanted to be parents and couldn’t wait to enter the next phase of our lives.  But a woman is pregnant for nine months for a reason.  It is such an emotional rollercoaster (although I am confident that I was level-headed and rational throughout; just ask Jim). Those nine months allow you to prepare for the road ahead.  I had moments of doubt, where I knew that even though I would love this little baby, I loved the relationship that Jim and I had.  We always had so much fun together, just the two of us, and I would go through times where I couldn’t possibly understand how a baby would make our lives better.  Mum and Dad would provide words of encouragement that only parents can, and then would end a conversation saying something like, “well, it’s a little late for those thoughts; there’s not much you can do about it now.”   Such helpful parental advice that always did what it was intended to do—put a smile on my face.  Around the same time when I started feeling this uncertainty, my stomach began growing at what seemed like an exponential rate.  While I loved being pregnant, I began to feel so ready to have that baby.  I was finished carrying her around.  My back wanted those extra pounds gone and I began getting excited for the big day.  And of course, I wouldn’t change a thing.  Lilly has only made our lives better.  She has brought Jim and me more love than we knew was possible and has strengthened our relationship with each other.  Just as everything happened at the right time during those nine months, all of Lilly’s developmental milestones this year were timed perfectly.  When I am starting to get sad that our little Lilly is about to be one, she does something amazing and starts walking.  I can only smile in amazement as I watch her learn to walk.  There’s no room for sadness.  Besides, there’s not much I can do to slow time down so I might as well enjoy it.  She's going to driving in no time.