Dear Claire: 18 and 19 Month Updates


(I've been writing monthly updates to my daughter, Claire, documenting all the changes that come with the passing weeks. You can catch up on past letters here.)

Dear Claire,
A year and a half, you have been my daughter and a year ago we uprooted you and moved from Georgia to my home state of Ohio. You have officially spent more time as a Buckeye than a Peach, and that fact is a testament to how quickly time flies.

Over these past two months, you took your first trip to the beach and dipped toes in the sand, hands in the ocean for the first time. You were not scared or stunned by it, but embraced it quickly, learning to love the splash and the salty breezes with gusto. You also started going into the nursery at church without a problem. I don't know when or how it happened, but all of a sudden, when we left the room you were completely at ease and played plenty until we returned at the end of the service. While I enjoyed getting to spend time with you in there and get to know the other nursery volunteers better with each passing week, I'm glad to get to sit through an entire service and know that you trust that we're not forsaking you, but that we'll be back soon. It's a good feeling knowing you feel safe, without having to shed a single tear in the process..

One of the things I've been noticing of late is how your personality comes out in different situations. For the longest time I was convinced you were an extrovert, always loving going shopping and waving hi to all the cashiers. But then when we went to a splash park where other kids were running through the sprinklers without a care, you stuck close to me, making sure to never let go of my hand while we watched and you inched close enough to dip your toes in a puddle. Then, we had a few families over for dinner and I thought you'd love the ample playmates, but the. I caught you playing on your own in the corner or wanting me to hold you most of the time. It's scenes like these where I feel I am getting a better grasp for who you are and what you need. (So far, I think you prefer adults and older kids (girls, especially) in small groups, though you're always up for people-watching, so long as you feel safe with mom or dad.)

Otherwise your personality at home continues to bubble over, as you're picking up new words fairly quickly. You were the flower girl (flower fairy girl, actually) in your aunts wedding, and we coached you to say "cheese," and you were practicing it in your sleep! Your vocabulary so far: mama, dada, no, uh-oh, ball, Elmo, shoe, hat, kitty, cheese, woof-woof, ah-ah (imitating a monkey noise), hot, hi, bye, home, duck, sheep, baby, eyes, please, two (as in "one, two, three"), amen, book, and you're adding to it almost daily it seems!

Your disposition continues to shine as such a cheery one. Your name, "Claire," means "bright," and I think that is so fitting. You are constantly smiling or laughing and always vying to make us do the same. Even when I try to discipline you, your lip might quiver for a moment, but then you bust into a smile and I can't help but smile back and laugh. There is an unending joy that bubbles up from within you and I love it. It makes my life so much brighter, too, to watch you enjoy and drink in this world around you.

You're also becoming more and more of a help to mommy. This morning, I was installing a new light in the bathroom we recently overhauled, and I dropped a tiny screw. You were playing at my feet, so I asked you to retrieve it, unsure if you even knew where it fell. But you found it and handed it to me immediately. I hope that servants heart of yours continues to flourish and bring joy to a world that is in so much need of help and that darling little smile of yours.

Also, seemingly overnight you began taking a huge interest in books, much to the delight of your mama and dada whose book collection spans an entire wall in our new house! You love to pick through your book collection (pretty vast, in its own right), and bring us book after book to read through. I am not sure where this came from, because for so long you would not sit still to read and had no interest except in turning the pages. But I did not rush or fight that, and still you developed a love all your own. Which is something that awes me, because, even in this limited, small instance, I can see the Lord at work, shaping you and making you something fascinating and beautiful—all on his own. I am here to walk alongside you and read the books out loud, but he is the one doing the work, creating you and breathing life into your interests and passions and development. As a mother, this is a great comfort to me, because I know that I do not do this work alone. I have the Lord to help me, a God who loves you far more than either of us can fathom and to fill in all the gaps of my failures and shortcomings when it comes to parenting.

All in all, both you and I are learning much together as the months continue to tick by, and for that I am thankful. We both are ever growing, ever coming into our own as mother and daughter, and as the people God so lovingly fashioned us to be. For that, Glory be to God.


Dear Claire: 16 and 17 Month Updates

(I've been writing monthly updates to my daughter, Claire, documenting all the changes that come with the passing weeks. You can catch up on past letters here.)

Dear Claire--
Well, I'm consolidating two months into this update: your 16 and 17 month updates. Time got away from me, but, as you'll see, it was spent having a lot of fun!

Over the past two months (June and July), you:

- Have added to your speaking arsenal: "Oh boy!" "Hat" and (much to your GP's delight) "GI Joe." When it comes time to eat something, you also like to say, "Mmmm!" and after drinking, sometimes you'll go, "Aaah!"
- Love to dance. Sometimes if we ask you to dance, you'll start slowly spinning in a circle, like a little ballerina! And one morning, you were sleeping and heard your daddy's alarm go off. It's a song, and you usually will dance to it. But this morning, you were still sleeping but still managed to put your fist in the air and do a couple fist-pumps along to the music before drifting back to sleep! You have also started nodding your head along to the beat. Thanks to your love of music, we finally found a video that will keep you occupied (usually when it comes time to make dinner in the evenings), and that's sing-along videos from Baby Genius. When you see us load up Netflix, you get really excited and start pumping your hand in anticipation because you know what's coming next!
- Went on your first family vacation. We went to Breckenridge, Colorado and made a little day trip to Vail. You stayed on East-Coast time, which meant we were up every day around 5 or 6am, but that gave us time to tip-toe out of the suite we were sharing with family and go explore the town at sunrise. We found some cute coffeeshops and a couple of playgrounds that you enjoyed running free in.

- Enjoyed your first encounters splashing and playing in the pool in our neighborhood as well as the resort pool on vacation. Sometimes you are timid about it and other times you love getting to splash. (Especially when Daddy took you down the water slide on vacation!)
- Love push toys as well as toys that other people will push you around in!
- Blowing bubbles!
- Have started taking to carrying purses or bags around with you wherever you go. You have a couple that are your favorites, including a brightly colored garden-tool-holder bag, an adorable little floral-print chain purse I held onto for years in hopes of someday having a girl, and a little vinyl pink pouch that has a carabiner on the end.
- Are still fascinated by people watching and love engaging with people anywhere we go. You love saying hi and I love watching how a small little girl can light up a stranger's day with a simple smile and acknowledgement. To an introvert, it's so impressive and admirable.
- Are getting adept at helping mommy when she asks you to "Clean up your mess!" (Because you are forever making little messes!) You don't seem to mind though, and sometimes enjoy the clean-up just as much as making the mess! You still love to throw things away (I fished out a handful of felt toys from the trash this morning).
- Recently took up coloring with crayons and splashing in the kitchen sink in the morning.
- Graduated into size 4 diapers, which gave us the chance to try out Walgreens' exclusive baby-care brand Well Beginnings brand for the times when we need disposables. They've proven tto be pretty soft and quite absorbent. We haven't had a single leak with them and no diaper rash, thanks to the fact that the inner liner features natural botanicals, vitamin E, and aloe to soothe your baby’s bottom. We've also enjoyed their sensitive wipes (moisturizing and clean up messes well with few wipes needed) and baby bodywash that is tear-free, soap-free, dye-free, paraben-free and hypoallergenic (making it milder than baby soap) and smells nice and fresh! We haven't had any need for the electrolyte drink, but it's great to already have on hand when the need arises. (Thanks to Walgreens and Mom's Meet for the opportunity to add these essentials to our baby-care arsenal!*)

All in all, it's been quite the summer for you, and with the leaves starting to change already, I'm looking forward to all the changes this next season will bring for us, too!


* I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms MeetSM program, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms MeetsSM blogger, I agreed to use this product and post my opinon on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC or the manufacturer of the product.


Riding in Style: Getting Around the Neighborhood in the Zuzu Stroller

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Mom Central for GB. I received a gift card to purchase a GB stroller to both facilitate my review as well as thank me for my participation.

I've mentioned before Claire's love for being outside. Multiple times a day, she grabs our hand and pulls us to one of the doors to go out and play. And recently, shes started pulling us to her stroller to let us know she'd like to go for a nice long walk.

That's one of the things I love about our new neighborhood. it has lots of walking trails that weave in and out of woods, greenspaces, playgrounds and even around a lake. It's a nature lovers dream come true!


That is, so long as you have a stroller that can withstand all those outings! That is why I was excited to get to review the new GB Zuzu stroller, available exclusively through Babies R Us.

It's a lightweight travel stroller that includes a lot of features normally only available on a more full-size model—making for the best of both worlds.

After putting it together, Claire was eager to hop in and go for a test run (well, walk) with it. Immediately I was impressed by how soft and comfortable the handles were. Our sidewalks can be really uneven, which was problematic for our old stroller, which couldn't even make it over the bumps without you stopping to lift it. This stroller however took the bumps like a champ. It made them almost imperceptible, and I didn't have to stop once. Also, it is very light weight so it's easy to push for long distances, which I appreciate for how often Claire wants to go on walks, sometimes!


As for her, Claire seemed quite comfortable riding in the stroller although she did un-Velcro the strap cushions and pull them off about halfway through. I liked that I could check on her by unzipping the canopy and peeking through the mesh to see how she's doing. It does have a nice size basket beneath where you can stow any belongings or toys. However, there is no tray for mom or child to put things like keys or beverages, which I enjoyed on our other stroller.

Finally, it folds up into a surprisingly compact size to make for easy travel or storing. It's not quite a one-handed operation (at least not for me yet, after having only used it for about a week), but the stroller is small enough as it is that I don't foresee having to compact it down all too often for that to be an issue. It fits fine in the trunk of our car when laid down on its side. Additionally, while this does not affect me, I was impressed that it also is compatible with select Graco® and Chicco® Infant Car Seats.

If you ask me, it's a pretty well-rounded stroller. Although it lacks a couple of features of more full-size strollers, you get that in exchange for a really lightweight and compact-able item that I personally think is worth the difference. I anticipate lots of long walks in my future!

And if you'd like a snapshot critique, here are my thoughts, in bullet-form:

Pros of the Zuzu Stroller
  • Handles are really comfortable
  • Stroller is lightweight, making for easy pushing for mama!
  • provides a smooth ride; our sidewalks can be quite uneven and it took the bumps without a hiccup
  • Large canopy to keep the sun out of child's eyes, but also features a zip away window in the top of the hood so that you can still see your child
  • Good-sized basket underneath
  • Folds down into compact size easily
  • Can customize the recline and leg-rest angles to fit your child's size and needs
  • Gender-neutral color and silky soft cushioning
Cons of the Zuzu Stroller
  • Does not feature any kind of beverage holder
  • Does not feature tray for child

A Sneak Peek at the New House!

It's been about a month since we bought our house, and we've spent the past weeks doing project after project to make it look like it's been our own all along.

There still a ton to do (and frankly there probably always will be) but I figured it was time to give it to share a little sneak peek (with slightly blurry cell-phone pics).

The first thing we did when we bought the house was give the living room, dining room, and kitchen fresh coat of white paint, thanks to a lot of help from friends and family. That change alone did a lot to update the house and make it feel a lot brighter and show off the natural light that streams in from all the windows.

After that were a series of other projects, like repainting the kitchen cabinets, removing the doors to make open shelving and adding new hardware. Previously the owners had given the cabinets a really bad faux bois paint effect, so sanding and painting them white was a huge improvement right there. But I've always had a thing for white kitchens so I was pleased to finally have my own. The one thing I didn't expect however with how much dirt the white would show. That's why I was excited when Mom's Meet and Walgreens sent me some of their new cleaning products from their exclusive natural-products brand called Ology.

They make cleaning up any of the fingerprints left on the cabinets or food splatters a breeze. Plus, the all-purpose spray has a lovely basil lemon scent that freshens up the kitchen beautifully, and I adore the fun packaging. There are tons of other Ology products, from household cleaners to baby products (which I can't wait to try!), toiletries to toilet paper. I have also been using their free-and-clear laundry detergent, which I've found to be gentle on clothes and our sensitive skin while still fighting stains well. I love that like all the brand's products, they are free of dyes, artificial fragrances, phosphates, harmful chemicals and instead feature natural plant-based and mineral-based ingredients.

The last stop in the kitchen (which I didn't photograph), is a corner nook. I'm searching for a table and chairs to fill it, but for now a tableclothed card table is doing the trick. And I envision a lot of fun, colorful artwork hanging on the walls but those are usually finishing touches for me.

Because we lost a lot of kitchen space compared our old house, I had to get smart about creating storage in other places around the house. For instance, I made a China cabinet fashioned from an old cabinet that was in the garage of our old house by painting it white and adding classic gold cup pulls. Inside you'll find a lot of our plastic Tupperware and extra cups and mugs that don't look pretty with the open shelving. It sits in the dining room that adjoins the kitchen, so everything is still at hand whenever it's needed. (Pretty sure that artwork will hang here but as I mentioned earlier, I like to save art-hanging for last.)

The dining room segues directly into the living room, which features some really great, tall walls with windows at the ceiling that allows for tons of natural light. (And hence, plenty of potted foliage!)

Oh and did you notice anything else? We finally broke down and got a television as our Christmas present to ourselves this past year. We got a Roku and a digital antenna and have been quite pleased! They've made for a great way to rewind after a day spent toiling over project after project.

One of the things I was excited about with having wooden floors in nearly every room. Along with that, however meant upgrading to more rugs, and finding ones with personality proved to take some sleuthing but I think we hit the jackpot with the living room one. I love the lived-in feel it adds and the spunky color that ties in with the lampshades I picked up at a thrift store.

That is pretty much the main level, save for the entry way but there's really nothing to showcase there. I'm going to suspend the tour here because this is where most of the work has taken place and the updates are most evident. I'll try to post another update of one of the other floors in another couple weeks. Till then, I'll be keeping myself busy with projects aplenty and a cute little kid running around the place!

(I received the Ology products for free from the sponsor of the Moms MeetSM program, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms MeetsSM blogger, I agreed to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC or the manufacturer of the product.)

Dear Claire: 15 Month Update (and a Look Back at a Year Ago)

(I've been writing monthly updates to my daughter, Claire, documenting all the changes that come with the passing weeks. You can catch up on past letters here.)

Dear Claire,

You keep on growing, growing, growing! We had your 15 month appointment, and you weighed in at 19.5 lbs and 30 inches. And, I recently just had to get you new shoes in size 5!

I got you dressed the other day and realized it was nearly the same outfit you'd worn a year ago when I did one of your first real photoshoots, back when you were only three months old, that we had done on our old house's back deck. So I went on and captured the moment, taking you out on our new deck to document the differences a year can make. See for yourself:



and for fun, because it was too adorable:

Speaking of the new house, we've been here full-time for a couple of weeks, and I don't think the transition has phased you much (except that it still isn't quite as dark in your bedroom as the basement was during naptime). So far, you seem to love it. Especially the outside. We have told you that you can only play outside if you have shoes on, so you say, "Shoe, shoe" when you want O-U-T. (We've had to start spelling it!)

Your Mimi bought you a new swing for the swingset, which you love to play on, as well as have people take you down the swingset's slide. You also discovered the surprise strawberry patch that popped up on the side of the yard and (on your own accord) picked off the only two red strawberries to eat. Between you and the birds/bunnies, the vines are now clean!

Otherwise we've just been settling in here, which you've been keen to play a part in, yourself. You are big into "helping" right now. You love to make a mess and when I tell you it's time to pick things up, you eagerly help. Sometimes, though, you take it a bit too far and pick things up when they shouldn't. For instance, you really like throwing things away--shoes, cell phones, Tupperware. I am on the lookout for a new trashcan whose lid you can't so easily lift. You also love flipping the light switches when we go into or out of a room.

Also, you've started to make some friends in the neighborhood. All around us are little kids (boys, mostly) within a year of your age. Across the street is a boy who's only a day younger than you! We've only hung out with them once or twice for a homemade music class, but I imagine that over the next few years, you all will get to know one another quite well!

Here are some more notes I made over the past month of changes you've shown:
  • You know where your belly button is (a trick Daddy taught you!) and if you see a picture of him, you can say "Da." (If I point to a picture of myself, you just stare at me blankly, though!)
  • You love to say uh-oh and then drop things.
  • Your Mimi loves to sing a nursery rhyme to you about a blackbird snipping off your nose and as soon as she starts to sing it, you pinch your nose because you know that's coming at the end!
  • You can make monkey and seal pup sounds (which you learned from one of your animal-sounds books).
  • You love to try to make people laugh and you discover something that makes us laugh, you will keep doing it over and over again.
  • You love to empty drawers!
  • You can climb up and down stairs pretty smoothly, so we haven't even bothered to try to babyproof the stairs here. (We have however, babyproofed a couple of drawers, if you see the point above!)
  • You love anything that is your-sized for sitting. I finally found you a little wooden chair at a thrift store that you sit in quite a bit!
  • You also are getting into baby dolls and if I ask you, "Where's baby?" you run off to find the one your Grandma got you for Easter!
  • Your hair is long enough for a ponytail although your bangs are still growing out and get in your eyes.
  • Foods you've liked over the past month include hummus, sloppy joe meat, raspberries and raisins. You go through phases with nearly everything, but your morning oatmeal is a staple.
  • You also went swimming for the first time! The neighborhood pool is just down the street, so we took you on opening day and you loved the baby pool. I can foresee quite a few afternoons spent there this summer!
So, as you can see, it's been a big month! I love watching your personality blossom and your insight and intellect grow. Here's to another month and a summer full of fun!


A Week In Our New Home

It's been a week now that we've been living in this place that we now call "home." And a little less than two that we've owned it. And yet, it seems so much longer than that.

In that short amount of time, we've had friends and family give up their own busy schedules to help us paint and organize, drop off meals, watch Claire. We've put together new furniture, started dozens of projects, made incredible progress and already mopped up a geyser of water from a washing machine gone ruly. 

Our sweat and elbow grease are all over this place and it shows--it finally is starting to feel like us.

It is a grand thing, this place of home. And Claire already understands that, somehow knowing that the room with the room with the brightly-colored carpet and neon walls is hers. She loves opening all the cupboard doors and playing on the open deck. I think she understands this is home, our home.
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