Sweet Summer Time

Sweet Summer Time

“PSA to parents – you only have 18 summers with your children, so make them count.”

Talk about pressure.

I don’t know where I heard that quote but it has definitely stuck with me. I love that I can spend fourteen weeks of summer with Millie but here we are, two summers deep and I already can’t remember what we did during our first summer together! Thankfully, this blog helps to jog my muffled, mommy memory. Leaving Mill every weekday is rough. I love teaching music and the start of a new school year is always exciting but I miss our snuggle time in the morning, eating lunch together, and I especially miss taking mid-morning naps. So, here’s a post to commemorate our summer (because God knows I will forget by fall).

Millie’s favorite breakfast was a bowl of multigrain Cheerios with almond milk and a side of fruit, usually strawberries or blueberries. She’s gotten really good at using a spoon! Her go to lunch was veggie chicken nuggets (dipped in ketchup), steamed broccoli, and black olives that capped her fingers before they went into her mouth. She breastfed twice a day; before her afternoon nap and bedtime.

It was impossible trying to keep the living room clean. I’ve heard, “You can have a clean house when the kids grow up and leave the house but once they do, you’ll miss them in your house, messy and all.” and my OCD does not care about that for one second. Every time one mess would get organized, Mill would have two more activities out, while playing with something totally different! Then inevitably, it would be meal time and I’d have to walk away from the mess in the living room, just to make a new one in the kitchen! It was definitely one step forward and two steps back when it came to cleanliness this summer. It was best just to clean everything at night, after we put Mill to bed, so we could start fresh the next morning. BTW- she started sleeping in her own bed, in her own room, and through the night this summer..so there’s a win!

Traveling to Texas and Washington DC were easily some of our most memorable adventures this summer. (You can read all about our Texas vacation in the previous blog post.) We went to the DC Zoo with my mom, step-dad, and sister. We drove about two hours, braved the heat, and saw pandas for the first time! Mill loved them. Her paw-paw Kev got her a panda book and stuffed animal panda bear. She’s gotten pretty good at saying their Chinese names, too! On an episode of Daniel Tigers Neighborhood, (that’s a regular show in our house now) there was a quick clip of an actual panda playing in his enclosure and before they said the bear’s name or even the name of the zoo, I was able to identify both. Needless to say, we got a little “panda crazy” this summer.

“Pool?” Mill’s little voice would ask constantly because she loved being in the water this summer. She rotated between a striped, watermelon bathing suit and a hot pink, pineapple suit. To dry off, she used the cutest, hooded Daniel Tiger towel. We set up a small, blowup pool in our backyard, which ended up being more work then fun; it would only stay clean for a day or two before getting slimy and gross, the hose water was freezing, and the pool killed our grass no matter where, or how much we moved it. Next year, we’ll be getting a sprinkler. Mill loved going to her Gam’s pool while we were in VA; she would play with other kids, go under the sprinklers, and go swimming in the deep end with her Aunt Nani. At Zoombeezi Bay, a waterpark connected to the Columbus Zoo, Millie enjoyed going down the water slides (she was too little for some of the slides and would end up with a face full of water). On two occasions, Mill got to play in splash pads. Although she loved it, I was a nervous wreck with the possibility of her slipping and falling on the wet concrete; thankfully, that never happened. She liked playing in her water table, especially on the day that her dad and I attempted to power wash the house; we all got soaked.

We did another session of Zumbini this summer with an instructor that Mill loves. The class was early on Monday mornings and every week, Millie was excited to get dressed and go. Mill surprised me with her dancing and instrument playing; she can play the triangle with great technique and started to twirl and stand on her toes. Frustrating to me, some mothers would bring their newborns with them to class, which of course distracted Mill because she loves babies. She would want to touch the babes and play with them instead of listening to the instructor. And sometimes the moms would get irritated with Mill wanting to see their baby – hello don’t bring your newborn to a toddler class. My grandma made Mill a scarf like they used in class so she could continue to practice her Zumbini dances at home. This girl loves to dance.

Millie loves people, being outside, and anything loud so we decided to take her to our community’s firework show. Her patriotic outfit was absolutely adorable and her pigtails had sequin bows. She rode in her wagon and waved at children we passed finding the ultimatum viewing spot. Mill and her daddy kicked around a soccer ball while we waited for the sun to go down. Once it got too dark to see the ball, I tried my best to explain to Millie the loud booms the fireworks would make. I showed her a fireworks video so she would know what to expect from the show. During the fireworks display, she bounced between mine and Chris’ laps, completely unafraid. Mill was interested in the fireworks for the first three minutes and then asked for baby videos; she loves babies.

We found out in July that we will be having a baby, expected in March! Good thing Mill has taken such a liking to them. Next summer will be different but I’m sure just as memorable.

Makeup and Millie

Makeup and Millie

I have vivid memories of watching my mom put her makeup on in the bathroom mirror. Sometimes she’d ask me to brush her long, dark hair and add a polishing cream to the ends to make the stray hairs lay down flat. I remember being envious of how beautiful she looked and wondering if I’d ever grow up to be that pretty. “Maybe when I’m 27”, I’d think.

Before I was allowed to wear makeup out of the house, my mom insisted on teaching me how to properly apply my foundation, powder, blush, eyeshadow, eyeliner, and mascara. When I’d wear too much eyeliner or dark eyeshadow, per my mother, she’d take my makeup away until I was ready to wear it correctly. If I was grounded from wearing makeup, I’d borrow my friend’s eyeliner and apply it in a car mirror on my way to school; totally gross, but middle-school-me didn’t care. Reflecting on those years, I am grateful that I had a mother who invested time into me; I know that not all children get to experience that.

This year, I’ll turn 27, and one of the best compliments I receive is how much I favor my mother. After a much needed, adults only, double date, my reluctant husband accompanied me to Ulta for an, “in and out, I know exactly what I’m getting” shopping trip. $80 later, I was a happy girl and my husband, will never step in that store again. I picked up two new hair products, an eyebrow pencil, two new makeup brushes, a lip moisturizer, a beauty blender, and new foundation. I couldn’t wait to use my new goodies!

My mother taught me to smile when applying blush to my cheek bones. I was to pull the blush across my cheek, at an upwards angle, to the side of my face. She was teaching me to contour, bless her! I still use my moms makeup methods today and Millie now watches me in the bathroom mirror. Somehow, my sweet angel must have gotten very confused because she used mommy’s new blush brush to scrub the toilet. My husband saw her first, took the brush from her, and he found it hysterical; “that’s one way to use it!” Blush brush = toilet scrubber.

The next day, while I was curling my hair, Millie decided to paint the bathroom cabinets. (She found a dry paint brush and it kept her occupied.) I was singing and she was babbling. I finished my hair, looked down to compliment Mills work, and to my surprise there were brown drawings on my white, vanity doors. At some point, Millie dropped the paint brush, found my new eyebrow pencil, and went to town! My husband found that funny, too.

Millie’s “innovative” ways of using makeup has surpassed anything that I could’ve thought of. The drawings have yet to be erased. Cheers to 27, makeup, and daughters.

Turd in the Tub

Turd in the Tub

Millie has always enjoyed the bath. I will never forget balancing her on my left forearm while bathing her in my kitchen sink. When she first learned to splash, she’d get water in her face, blink, and gasp; inevitably I’d get soaked. She would try to grab the water coming out of the faucet with her clumsy, little hands. I still love to rub oil on her clean, baby body when she’s fresh out of the tub. And how adorable are baby towels with the attached hoods?

This summer, Millie loved swimming in the pool; she would relax in her floaty, letting the water move her around. We swam in three different pools this season and each got Mill’s approval. When Millie was six months old, My grandma, Mill and I traveled to VA to visit my sister, who lives on the beach – I’m so jealous of her daily view – and Millie loved the ocean; she would yell at the waves when they would ripple away.

I include Millie in my Saturday morning shower and she clings to me while the water hits us. I spray shaving cream on the wall for her to play with. She doesn’t mind when the water hits her face and it’s probably because she dumps water on her face, daily. When Millie attempts to drink from a cup, she tips it back too quickly and the water splashes out and spills everywhere – she doesn’t seem to mind getting wet.

I read in, What to Expect When You’re Expecting: 1-2 years, that babies can start to revolt against the bath around 15 months. I shrugged it off considering how much Millie enjoys the bath – my karma. The next evening, after a delicious (but messy) taco dinner, Millie needed a bath. I undressed her, set her down in the tub, and she started to cry, real tears. I checked the temperature of the water; fine. I checked to see if she was sitting on anything uncomfortable; nope. I began singing to calm her down; didn’t help. I gave her, her waterbaby to play with; she pushed it away. I quickly washed the black beans off of her arms and face and took her out of the tub. As soon as I lifted her from the bath, the tears ceased.

I feared that the tub was now a time of terror and unfortunately, the next time a bath was necessary, cue the waterworks. I was determined to not let bath time turn into a habitual melt down, so I stripped down to my undergarments and joined my daughter in the tub. I poured water on myself and said positive things about the tub with a smile on my face, trying hard not to think about the baby pee that I might have been sitting in; and it worked! She stopped crying and began splashing and kicking her legs under the water. I felt victorious having navigated my daughter through a developmental hurdle.

That feeling soon changed when I saw a stream of bubbles floating up from Millie’s backside. I turned my attention to her face and she was turning a shade of red; pushing. As I lifted her from the water, attempting to sit her over the toilet, a turd accompanied us in the tub, corn kernels and all. A turd. In all its glory. A floater in the tub. The What to Expect When You’re Expecting book did not properly prepare me for bath time trauma for the both of us!

Why the Bonnet?

Why the Bonnet?

“Stop making her look Amish.”

Chris and I changed many things in our lives once we found out that we were expecting; we censored our language, started using laundry detergent with cleaner ingredients, we re-carpeted our second floor, etc. We both agreed that we wanted to raise Millie differently than the loud, flashy, plastic, commercialized, technology-promoting, societal-norm.

When I envision a simplistic upbringing: knit clothes and wooden toys, piano lessons and singing together, rocking chairs, home cooked meals with fresh ingredients, speaking to each other around the dinner table, and church on Sunday morning. I understand that we may not be able to live this way 24/7, but striving for a simpler life is my prerogative. Texting my children that dinner is ready, eating McDonalds on T.V. trays while watching Pat Sajak on The Price is Right, is not my ideal family environment. For some families, I just described their quality, family-time and that’s cool for them, it’s just not the “goal” environment for us.

I first put Millie in bonnets when we began taking her outside of the home; she was around 3 months old. Not only are bonnets nostalgic and darling, but they also help to protect from the wind, rain, and sun. Millie was born with a full head of hair however, she lost it all within her first month of life and for the next six, she was a bald-beauty. In early March, I was worried that Millie would catch a chill if her head wasn’t covered, so she wore a bonnet. In the aggressive July sun, I didn’t want her fair skin getting burned so she wore a light, brimmed-bonnet to shade her face.

The bonnets she wears fit snug on her head, so they stay in place, and she keeps them on all day. Millie has knitted, brimmed, cotton, linen, embroidered, and reversible bonnets. Just as I change my accessories upon my outfit, she has different bonnet options. Her bonnets are nothing like the plain, white bonnets that Amish children wear. Millie’s bonnets have beautiful patterns.

We have received many compliments on her bonnets; at church, at the doctors office, exploring around Cleveland, etc. Once, a lady told me, “I love when babies wear bonnets, it makes them look like such, babies”. Isn’t that funny? Why are we so quick to dress our babies like adults, give them tablets, and sit them in front of a screen for hours at a time? I digress.

When Millie is older and can vocalize her wants more, maybe she will choose to not wear bonnets. Until then, Millie will keep wearing bonnets and I will continue nurturing and protecting my bonnet-wearing babe.

Locks of Millie

Locks of Millie

How is it possible to take such pride in a strand of hair?

White, moving follicles I observed from your ultrasound.

Hair that I washed while holding your body effortlessly in one arm.

Counting the strands you lost during your first nights sleep.

Covering, protecting.

Longer it grows; you are beginning to take steps on your own.

Growing thicker from the nutrition you continue to receive from my body.

Independently combing your hair by running a tooth brush behind your ear.

Your hair. Different than mine.

I cherish the smell of you through your hair.

Zumbini

Zumbini

Before I had a child, I knew I’d be the monitored screen time, oil using, breastfeeding, crunchy-kind of mama. When Millie was born, the television wasn’t turned on for weeks because I read in a parenting magazine that baby’s can sense when you’re multi-tasking, like folding laundry and watching Grey’s Anatomy. Multitasking can make a baby anxious so the tv remained off. My mom finally said, “You have to be able to put her down for a moment and the tv will help.” She found a channel called, Baby First and Millie was entranced!

The vibrant colors, the songs, the high-pitched voices, the close ups of baby faces; Millie loves it. There is a a flower in the corner of the screen and the petals change color based on the learning elements in that particular show. The best aspect of the channel, in my opinion, is Zumbini. I love to dance and Zumba is my favorite way to work out. Zumbini is a baby’s Zumba. It incorporates dancing, singing, instrument playing, ball rolling, etc. Millie loves to dance and sing to the short Zumbini episodes in our living room. She smiles and rocks her body – she is completely engaged! At the end of the show it instructs the viewer to, “Go online and register for a Zumbini class near you!” So, I did.

The class was being offered near my undergraduate campus so I felt comfortable with the location. The instructor was quick to answer all of my questions and she was just as helpful and kind when we met in class. I am a music teacher and a “retired”, collegiate Zumba instructor so one could assume that I would be judgmental towards another’s class however, I’m new at this parenting thing and I have nothing to gain from judging and everything to gain from creating experiences with Millie.

When registering for Zumbini, we received a book with the lyrics to all the songs in the class, music downloads, and a little doll (that has seriously won over Millie’s heart, she loves her, “TJ”). Zumbini promotes freedom for the children to do as they please as they listen the up-beat music. I dance with Millie on my hip, I dance in front of her while she sits on the floor, I play instruments while she puts hers directly into her mouth. At six months old, Millie was the youngest in the class however, everyone was willing to help her, they doted over her and her big, blue eyes, and it never felt like she didn’t belong.

The music from Zumbini, incorporates different languages, styles, tempo, and time. I like that Millie is exposed to such diversity. The class materials include rhythm sticks, scarves, miscellaneous percussion instruments, balls, and bongos. Mill has taken two, nine week sessions and we don’t plan on stopping. This girl is shaking what her momma gave her!

Millie Met Mo’ana

Millie Met Mo’ana

We are so fortunate to live close to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Because I teach and have summers off, Millie and I have been able to go on daily adventures – the zoo being one of her favorites. She loves looking at all the children and is captivated by the fish at the aquarium. During the week, especially on days with spotty weather, the zoo isn’t overly crowded and we have the opportunity to talk with the staff that works directly with the animals.

The Columbus Zoo works closely with Western Lowland Gorilla conservations and learning about their success in the gorilla population was encouraging. Stephanie, the gorilla expert, told us the names of all of the gorillas and their ages. She was knowledgeable about their relationships with one another and their personalities. She informed me that “Mac”, the silverback in the enclosure, the grandson of Colo who was the first gorilla to be born in captivity, knows he’s handsome, will pound on the glass whenever he feels like it, is a surrogate dad, and is busy raising his two year old, rambunctious son, J.J. J.J. acts like any other toddler; he prolongs nap time, copies everything his daddy does, and plays about the enclosure. The gorillas habitat was observed and approved by Diane Fossey, one of the greatest mountain gorilla conservationists of all time. Stephanie says that these gorillas have it made at the Columbus Zoo, like the animals in the movie, Madagascar.

I learned that the female gorillas take birth control pills once a day, the same way a female-human would. The female gorillas are tested each month to make sure that they haven’t gotten pregnant over the course of the month, by mistake. A “board” meets to determine which gorillas can breed according to their DNA compatibility. Because the gorillas at the zoo are promoting the conservation of their species, the board wants the bred outcome to be the best gorillas. What I found particularly interesting is that even with this board acting in the role of God, some gorillas don’t come out as they plan.

Kinyani, a beautiful female gorilla at the zoo, was bred and born in captivity, and she is deaf. She stays up high in the trees so that she can see the activities below and no one can sneak up on her (For his own enjoyment, Mac will sneak up behind her to smack her in the head.) Her deafness was not planned by the board however, Gods plan superseded.

Mo’ana, is a seventeen year old, female gorilla at the zoo. She was born and bred in captivity and she has a mental disability. Her body didn’t grow normally so she looks different and she has arthritis. She sits right at the glass of the gorilla enclosure and tries to feed the children hay, when they sit across the glass from her. Again, her disabilities were not planned, however her gentleness is a gift from God.

I have always loved gorillas and I felt especially close to them after learning that Colo, the beloved gorilla in Columbus – may she Rest In Peace, her parents were from Cameroon. I was not familiar with this country until earlier this year when I looked it up; 3% of my DNA is from Cameroon, according to Ancestry. I also learned that Colo’s mother’s name was Millie.

Twice, I have sat Millie by the glass to interact with Mo’ana. She seems timid as she looks at the gorilla and then turns her face into my chest. She doesn’t cry but she doesn’t smile at her either. I tell her all about the gorillas when we visit their enclosure. I hope that one day she will share the love that I have for these beautiful primates.