Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Scowl

As anybody who has met Lilly knows, she is a very opinionated little girl.  She knows how to play to her audience, and this is her newest trick.  I first saw Lilly's scowl when she met Carolyn's boyfriend, Jeremy, at Easter.  Lilly would look around the room, smiling at Jim's sisters, waving to Jim's mom...Jim's dad was the subject of an occasional scowl but Jeremy took the brunt of her scowling.  She pretty quickly noticed that everyone laughed when she scowled and gradually, this has become her favorite way to entertain people. 

Most recently, when we were in Austin, Joseph seemed to be on the receiving end of Lilly's scowls.  For some reason, whenever Joseph talked to her, she scowled.  If you asked her to bring something to Joseph, she'd take a few steps towards him, scowl and then walk backwards. I've received a few scowls...when I tell her that she shouldn't be playing with something, like my cup of coffee.  Or in the case of the picture above, she opened a bathroom cabinet, found some dental floss and Jim and I were in the process of taking it away--hence the scowl.  We've been trying to get a picture of it for ages and were pretty excited when we captured this.  I think if we look back at baby pictures of Ellie, there are definitely some of her making this face.  When I find one, I will put it up next to Lilly's.  Like Godmother, like Goddaughter.  

I no longer tell Lilly to "say hi" to people, because she has interpreted that as scowling at them.  It's not the most friendly greeting, but everyone seems to laugh and as long as that keeps happening, Lilly will keep scowling.  She scowled at Edward's friend, Brogan relentlessly in Austin.  Joseph's friend, Meredith, received a scowl or two, until Lilly warmed up to her and then the scowls disappeared.  Anyone who happened to be in the lobby of the hotel received this look anytime Lilly happened to be toddling her way through the lobby.  The people who worked at Starbucks received their scowls first thing in the morning when I got my lattes.  We are still trying to figure out why Lilly scowls at certain people and not others.  When we had dinner at Uncle Billy's, our waitress came up to Lilly, said hi and told her how cute she was, which is usually grounds for an immediate scowl.  Instead, Lilly smiled and reached out her hands to go to this waitress.  She gave her a hug and even patted her on the back--a sign that she really likes you.  She then looked back and scowled at Joseph.  

Maybe one day we'll figure this little one out, but for now, she's the one who has got us figured out.  

Friday, May 28, 2010

Blue Suede (Leather) Shoes

When Lilly started walking, we went out and got her her first pair of "walking shoes."  She had a few pairs of really cute shoes but they didn't cut it for learning how to walk.  So, off we went, shoe shopping for a one-year-old.  She tried on different pairs of shoes (and by tried on, I mean tried to move her foot every way other than into the shoe) and we settled on a cute pair of sneakers...with little flowers on them of course.  She wears them everywhere, usually with frilly socks to dress them up a bit :)  As much as I'm dying to buy all the fun little girls' shoes out there, most of them are not practical for a little one who still often walks like she is onboard a ship, so for now, the sneakers are her shoe of choice...for dancing on tables or learning how to play the guitar.

When I was little, I also had one pair of shoes that I would wear everywhere, with everything.  They were navy blue boots--Clark's boots as luck would have it!  Because of the way toddlers walk, the shoes have absolutely no wear on them.  Here's me with my shoes and my teddy bear (before I ate all the hair off him).

Mum and Dad gave them to me after Lilly was born and I unwrapped them the other day.  Lilly carried them around the house for awhile and as luck would have it, they are the right size for her to wear!  So, naturally, I put them on her.  28 years later, these shoes look brand new and Lilly stomped around in them and loved the clicking noise they made when she walked on the tile inside.  They reminded me of the Elvis song, "Blue Suede Shoes," which was one of Edward's favorite songs when he was little!  I played it for Lilly the other day and she started dancing.  Apparently, she likes the same music that her godfather does.

And, just as when she wears her sneakers, Lilly fell one or two times wearing these little boots.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Since Lilly's hair has been her defining characteristic since day one, I thought it was time for a mention.  I will write a blog on her various hairstyles through the months...maybe when she gets her first haircut.  Just when I thought it was time for her to get a haircut, Mum and I figured out while we were in Austin that Lilly's hair is long enough for a ponytail!  It completely changes the way she looks.  Jim thinks she looks like a 13 year-old, and while I wouldn't go that far, it definitely makes her look older...and you can see her face!  I don't have a ponytail picture yet, but I do have her little bun, which I love just as much.

So, anyway, I was out tutoring yesterday afternoon and Paige (Lilly's FAVORITE babysitter) was looking after her.  When I came home, this is what I found:

Safe to say, I am a huge fan of the pigtails.  Thanks Paige!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Law School Graduation

I’ve taken another blog hiatus, not intentionally but I had been working on an Ironman Florida DVD (which dad may have asked me about once or twice) and wanted to finish it before getting the family together in Austin. I finished while we were in Austin and I seriously feel like I just completed a final exam or a final paper for a class in college—a huge load has been lifted off my shoulders! I think it came out pretty well and it was fun to relive that week in Florida while we were together in Austin.

Jim, Lilly and I arrived in Austin on Thursday morning, around the same time as Mum and Dad. We had a great flight down, although it wasn’t as relaxing as our flights down to Austin used to be…before Lilly arrived. We planned the flight so that it was during her nap time, and figured that we’d get a good 2 hour nap out of her. Lilly, our little social butterfly, had other plans. She wanted to wave and talk to everyone. There was so much to look at and although she stayed in her car seat for the entire flight, she ended up sleeping for a grand total of 30 minutes. As the woman next to us said, “She’s such a good baby. She’s very verbal, isn’t she?” It’s basically the same thing as a teacher writing on a report card that a student is a “very active participant in class.” It was a nice way of saying that Lilly wasn’t the quietest person on the plane. She sat there singing and saying “mamamama” and “dadadada” often, at the top of her lungs. I can’t complain though. She was happy, she played and she didn’t cry. It could have been much worse. Edward picked us all up from the airport and so began our week of eating, drinking and being together in a place we all love.

This time, Scout, Lilly's talking green dog, joined us on our trip. These two videos represent our time in the hotel in Austin...Lilly parading around, playing with cell phones and dancing to Scout's "singing."


And then, everyone had to recover from Lilly's busy mornings. When Lilly had her nap, everyone had a nap.

This trip to Austin was planned to celebrate Joseph’s graduation from law school, and celebrate we did! The graduation ceremony itself was pretty amazing. The people who spoke at the graduation were not the reason it was memorable. None of them offered new and insightful advice to the graduates. They were the same generic speeches that you would expect to hear at a graduation; speeches in which the speaker spends the majority of time talking about himself speaking at the graduates instead of speaking to the graduates. It is a ceremony that I will remember, however, because I spent most of the time in amazement that I have a brother with a law degree.

As members of our family point out continually, Joseph and I are 17 and a half months apart in age (my two favorite pictures of Joseph and me when we were little are below). Often, this is brought up when Joseph tells us about an afternoon spent playing drinking games and mini golfing, or an evening of beer drinking and bowling, or when discussing relationships (I’m not going to begin to tackle any of those!) While we are close in age, Joseph and I live very different lives. Mine involves being married, having a baby and going to bed early. Joseph’s is much more interesting and hard to sum up in one sentence. If I had to try, I would say that his life involves training, studying, drinking, reading, training, working, watching baseball, training and reading. Throw in a couple of nights out on the town, a missed (international) flight or two, a one of a kind sense of humor and some good conversations and there, you have Joseph in a nutshell.

Joseph is very modest and is not one to boast of his accomplishments. In fact, if you just met him and had a conversation with him, he would say that he was in school but he most likely would not bring up the fact that he’d just completed his law degree at one of the most prestigious law schools in the country. He might mention that he trains for triathlons, but he would never say he has completed eight Ironmans and more half-Ironmans, sprint and Olympic distance races than I can begin to count. And not just completed them—annihilated them. He might mention a book that he has read or is currently reading but he wouldn’t tell you that he is the most well read person I know, second only to Dad. He knows about politics, sports, and world events. He can quote Steinbeck, Hemingway, Proust and Dickens. He is an amazing writer and great storyteller. His sense of humor rivals Ellie as the quickest, sharpest and most sarcastic that I have come in contact with. He keeps everyone on his or her toes and can make anyone laugh. He motivated me and gave me advice on a regular basis when I was training for the Ironman. He is someone whose opinion I respect and value. In addition to all of this, he can now add completing law school to his list of accomplishments.

Not a great picture, but the only one I have of Lilly in her Texas dress, ready to celebrate graduation!

Every night together consisted of another memorable family dinner, often with a couple of Joseph and Edward’s friends. We had nights where we all sat in our hotel room, drinking beer and wine, eating bread, cheese and pizza and the conversation flowed freely late into the night. Other times, we went out to enjoy our favorite Austin cuisine—barbeque and Tex-Mex.

Two dinners in particular stuck out for me. After Joseph’s graduation, we went to Cantina Laredo to celebrate. We enjoyed our Tex-Mex with margaritas and mojitos and had a fantastic evening of talking and laughing and toasting Joseph. Dinner ended only when Lilly was exhausted—around 9:30. It was a new record for her since she tends to go to bed around 6:30 (which would have been 5:30 in Austin!) But, as always, she loved being a part of the conversation, especially when everyone was looking at her and smiling. Being the center of attention is one of Lilly’s specialties. I have no idea who she gets that from! Mum and Dad took Lilly back to the hotel while Jim, Joseph, Edward and I headed out for the night and met up with Brogan and Meredith—2 of the boys’ friends. We went to a couple of bars and then a club called “The Ranch” where we all had a few too many beers (or frozen mojitos in my case). While the highlight of my night was the dinner (and frozen mojitos), the highlight (well, one of them anyway) of Jim and Edward’s night was witnessing a fight at this club. They were close enough to this fight to be hit by beer that the guys were throwing at each other. What is it about boys and fights?

The second dinner was at Uncle Billy’s, which has great barbeque. We always seem to end up here at the end of a hot day. Brogan and Meredith joined us, and the food and beer was free flowing. Eleven pitchers of beer later, after a ridiculous amount of ribs and pulled pork, we called it an evening. It was a night that ended only when the restaurant closed. A few topics of conversation, aided by the eleven pitchers of beer, included: training and races, work, books, facial hair, white speedos (don’t ask…), babies, relationships…actually, I’m going to stop there because the conversation got a little bit out of control and should not be documented, for everyone’s sake.

The last couple of days were spent at the pool, running on Town Lake and just enjoying the warm weather.

Watching Grandpa go for a run!

As our time in Austin drew to a close, there was definitely a feeling of sadness in the air. It’s always hard when we say goodbye at the end of a vacation, and we try to figure out the next time we’ll all get together so we have something to look forward to. We haven’t planned the next time yet, which made leaving that much harder. And while we all had fun together, a day did not go by without thinking and talking about Ellie who was in Guatemala and was missed greatly. Next time we get together, it has to be with everyone…no Stephens family members missing.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Joys of Being One

Lilly had her one-year checkup on Monday.  She weighed in at a whopping 20 pounds, 1 ounce and she is 29 inches tall.  That means that this year, she has gained a little over 13 pounds and she has grown 9 inches!  Her doctor, Dr. Brown, is fantastic.  He’s an older man who has years of experience in pediatrics.  He’s practical and doesn’t believe any of the latest trends.  He only gives a baby medication when he believes it is absolutely necessary.  He has hundreds of stories and I always leave his office feeling that I am doing the right things as a mother.  I’ve found that it is extremely rare for people to complement mothers.  Most people question other mothers and how they are raising their children and as a result, over the past 13 months, there have been many times when I have wondered whether I was doing the right thing.  As time goes by, I ask myself that less and less as I see that Lilly is a happy little girl and that Jim, Lilly and I have so much fun together and love our little family, so we must be doing something right!

Lilly was great during her check up.  She babbled away to Dr. Brown, tried to take his stethoscope, and pushed all the chairs around to the opposite sides of the room.  She was fine during her shots too.  She got 3 shots, cried after the third one, and then I took her over to wave at the fish and she was happy again.  She was even fine when the nurse pricked her toe to take blood.  Lilly was pointing at the paintings on the wall and babbling away while the nurse took an eternity taking the blood.  She drew the line, however, when the nurse put a band-aid on her toe when she was finished.  Lilly gave that nurse one of the dirtiest looks I’ve seen her give someone.  She was furious and was not afraid to show it.  She proceeded to put her toe in her mouth, used her teeth to pull off the band-aid, and then was as happy as could be again.  She did exactly the same thing with the band-aid on her finger; so if you want to stay on Lilly’s good side, don’t put band-aids on her.  When we left, she was blowing kisses at the nurses and waving to the fish.  All in all, not such a bad appointment.

Dr. Brown said that I may be noticing some new, maybe even defiant, behaviors in Lilly as a one-year-old, and boy, did he hit the nail on the head.  In addition to the toilet episode, which took place last week, I have witnessed a few other “new behaviors.”  The other day, I put Lilly down for her afternoon nap.  She often plays before she falls asleep but this particular afternoon, she played for an hour and showed no signs of falling asleep.  I went in to check on her and this is what I found:

I looked away and smiled.  Every single blanket, stuffed animal and book thrown out and in a pile on the ground.  I wondered how she managed to get her huge quilt out of crib by herself, and what must have been going through her head for the past hour when she was doing this.  And then, I decided that it wasn’t worth pursuing this nap any more.  It was a gorgeous day so we spent the afternoon outside instead. 

Walking and waving!

Lilly continues to help with day-to-day things like doing the laundry, unpacking the dishwasher and vacuuming.  When I am moving the washing over from the washing machine to the dryer, Lilly stands there taking each piece of laundry from me and putting it in the dryer.  She’ll often take everything out of the dryer and then put everything back in.  She does this with her closet too.  She has learned how to open her closet and pull all her clothes out.  She’ll put them back in, but only after shaking them to make sure they’re completely unfolded first.  I can’t begin to count the number of time I have re-folded her clothes.

One of my favorite “new behaviors” is Lilly’s interest in whatever we’re eating.  The second Jim or I put something in our mouths, Lilly toddles over and stands as close as she can to us, and just stares.  If we don’t get the hint that she wants some,  she stands there going “mmmmmmm” which is what she says when she likes something that she’s eaten (something else she learned from visiting Grandma and Grandpa in DC).  It’s pretty cute, and inevitably, Jim and I give in to the “mmmmmmm”s and give Lilly a bit of what we’re eating. 

Jim and I have the best time watching Lilly.  We’re just waiting for the day when her constant babbling turns into a stream of words, and then we’re really in trouble!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My Second Mother's Day

I know I’ve gotten a bit behind on my blog.  I’m not going to make excuses but I will say that the amount of tutoring I’ve been doing has increased exponentially (a good math teacher description, and in essence, an excuse).  Last week, I spent 3 evenings tutoring in Fairfield (which ends up being a 50 mile round trip drive) and an afternoon tutoring at Sacred Heart and another evening tutoring in Greenwich.  This week, I’m doing the same thing and adding both weekend days to my tutoring regime.  The school year is winding down and exams will be underway soon so I’ll take advantage of this as I know that tutoring will slow down in the summer.  So, I’ve been falling behind on my blog and I’m hoping to spend the rest of this week catching up. 

Last year, for my first Mother’s Day, Lilly was less than a month old.  Mum and Dad came up to visit and so I got to spend my first Mother’s Day as a mum with my mum.

Sunday marked my second Mother’s Day, and I’ve decided that this has become my favorite holiday.  It’s such a special day without all the commercialism surrounding so many holidays, and it is a whole day dedicated to thanking Mums.  I spent the day thinking about how lucky I am to have the Mum that I do and how wonderful it is to be a mum myself. 

I woke up to Jim and Lilly trying to be quiet, but Lilly blew their cover pretty quickly.  She walked into our room carrying Scout, her favorite green dog, who was singing one of his songs that goes something like…”Let’s sing a song about you, Lilly….L---I---L---L---Y--- Lilly”.  It’s a catchy little tune; one that gets stuck in Jim and my head for days.  Anyway, Jim made coffee (which for some reason always tastes better when someone else makes it) and I walked out to the living room where there was a cake, a card and some presents!  The cake was a “birthaversary mother’s day cake,” so aptly named by Jim.  Apparently I get one cake a year so it counts for everything!  Even though I am adamant about keeping the holidays separate, I was so excited for my cake that I didn’t mind.  Neither did Lilly.  She was cautious when she first saw it, but quickly learned how to dip her fingers in the icing and lick the icing off her hand.  Within minutes, her face was covered! 

The icing even made it into her eye! 
You can see the damage to the cake below :)

My Mother’s Day card was priceless.  Words can’t do it justice so I took some pictures.  Jim learned that Lilly isn’t really ready to use markers yet, let alone permanent ones.  He said there was some serious face scrubbing after the card was complete. 

Then, Lilly gave me a kit to make her handprint out of clay, and Jim gave me a griddle, which I’ve wanted for ages!  We spent the day together with no plans.  Jim made eggs for breakfast and a roast chicken for dinner.  We took Lilly for a long walk in the middle of the day, and then we went out for a run in the afternoon.  It was the perfect Mother’s Day, which we ended watching “Roman Holiday” and reminiscing about our trip to Italy.  Well actually, Jim watched the whole movie while I fell asleep; a common occurrence in our house and a trait that I believe I inherited directly from Mum.  I loved my second Mother's Day! 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Pictures Speak Louder Than Words

Yes, this is exactly what it looks like.  This was how Lilly occupied herself today while I was doing laundry.  When I saw the toilet, I had to turn around and smile.  I didn't want to make a big deal of it, otherwise Lilly would think it was a game.  So I picked her up, took a picture (of course), and then removed the books and a plastic shovel from the toilet.  I was actually really impressed.  I mean, Lilly's little bath is full of all her bath toys and books...and she carefully selected the books to put in the toilet!  Let's just hope the cell phones and remotes don't find their ways in here.

After this, Lilly and I walked out and met Jim for a coffee.  The 3 of us sat outside UBS on a gorgeous afternoon; Jim and I had our coffees and Lilly roamed around.  Here are a few pictures: