Thursday, May 22, 2014

{Miss Maylin} Never Stop Being You

Dear Maylin,

Here we are. 14 months old. A toddler. What? When? Did this happen? You're growing up. Maturing. Moving on. Transitioning. Coming into your own skin. It's thrilling to witness. If there's one thing I've learned during motherhood, it's to cherish each phase of your life. They come and go so quickly. The changes happen so subtly. If I'm not paying attention, you'll have moved on without my even realizing it. The quirk will have passed, the obsession will be over {remember green ring?}, the expression will have morphed; the coo will have become a syllable, the syllable a word. That's okay. That's the way it's supposed to be. You're supposed to grow up and mature and transition. I'm not faulting you for that. I'm celebrating you for it. I never want my sentimentality to hold you back.

Never did I expect to be so enamoured by a 14 month old toddler. It's still strange to type the word toddler in relation to you, because in my mind you're still a teeny, two week old baby; I think of you as a cooing 4 month old baby; I see you as a smiling, giggling 9 month old baby. It's hard to fathom that you've become a toddler of over a year old. 

Maybe that's what parents mean when they refer to their 18 year olds as their "babies." You're stored up in my mind with so many precious memories at different stages of "baby" that it can cloud my real life view of you as the age you actually are.


Before I forget without even knowing I've forgotten, there are some things I want to remember about you, my Maylin, at 14 months old.

Oh Maylin. My multi-faceted little girl. Where even to begin? At 14 months old you are full of such fire, such spirit, such charisma. I never expected to be able to tell by your facial expressions or your gestures what you're thinking and feeling, without you uttering one word of communication. 

Your're independent, feisty, and insistent {especially at mealtimes}, yet simultaneously so, so sweet, tender, and sensitive to the emotions of others. You're willing to try new things, yet just cautious enough to not be reckless. 

Your laugh is infectious. Your smile is contagious. Your mood colors the whole household. Oh how great is the hold you have over us.

You love to be loved. You love to be doted on, to have attention focused on yourself. Bedtime and naptime are some of my favorite moments together because you allow me to cuddle, snuggle, and hold you closely as we rock, rock, rock. That being said, the hour that I cook supper is probably the least favorite time of my day, and yours too, because you are perceptive enough to know my attention is elsewhere. You cling to my ankles and follow me around the kitchen, wailing and staring up at me with large crocodile tears, reaching for me to pick you up, and no amount of distraction can lure you away. It's that time of day we both have to grin and bear through until it's over. 

You're very independent now. You have a "do it myself" attitude that I find both endearing and infuriating. It makes my heart swell with pride while at the same time breaking it with a longing to help. Which is another thing I've learned about motherhood: it's full of conflicting emotions.

Your understanding of the word "no" is impeccable. You are fully aware that "no" means to not do something, stop, not to touch that. Yet you don't always make the decision to adhere to its meaning. You make externally obvious the inner battle waging within, shaking your head "no" while crawling toward the dog bowl, knowing you're not supposed to touch it yet giving in to the temptation anyway. It's a perfectly innocent example of what grown-ups do in real life every day.

You're such a little walker now, Maylin. It warms my heart to watch. You toddle around, falling often, but just as often getting back up and trying again. You have yet to be stunted by something you "couldn't do." Another favorite time of the day is when we walk down the driveway to the mailbox to pick up the mail. I always looked forward to walking with you hand-in-hand, strolling along together, but in reality I can forget the hand-in-hand part! You very insistently walk by yourself. And surprisingly, I'm okay with following a few steps behind you, marveling and chuckling at the way your little legs churn and your arms help you keep balance.

You pick up on things easily. You're a quick learner. My former teacher-self is so proud. It doesn't take you long to comprehend or mimic {which your daddy and I are finding is not always a good thing} or repeat or remember. You're tenacious, determined, task-focused. 

Maylin, although you're just over a year old, you- petite, bald-headed you, are the most inspiring, profound, and effective teacher I've ever had. You have taught me the meaning of love- true, sacrificial love that knows no limits or boundries and makes me want to laugh for the joy of it and cry over tenderness of it. Daily you teach me and challenge me to live the traits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I am realizing those traits have never applied to me more than in this season of mothering a toddler. I'm certain God meant for them to be applied most specifically to mothers! I am trying to be thankful to you, Maylin, for helping me hone these traits on a daily hourly basis. 

When I sat down to write this post I had a list of facts I thought made up you. Like, your favorite food is bananas and guacamole {thankfully, not together!}; you just got two new top teeth; you're obsessed with wearing the string of pearls from my jewelry box; you make the sounds of a puppy, cow, monkey, and elephant; you blow air every time you see a jar of bubbles. But from the first keystroke I realized these are not the traits that make you who you are. They are merely a product of who you are. You do these things because of your personality, attitude, tendencies, and character. 

Oh, and one final comment. You and Deuce? Keep working your charm on him by bringing him sticks. He'll quickly become your BFF. I just know it.

 I love you, my Maylin. It is my fervent prayer you never stop being you.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

{Weekend Recap} Viking Cooking School

This past weekend Michael and I cashed in on a Christmas present from his parents and attended a couple's cooking class at the Viking Cooking School in Mississippi. I guess you can technically term the weekend a "Babymoon Getaway," because we left Maylin in the care of my in-laws and traversed into a different state for an overnight stay all by ourselves. In a hotel. It was glorious.

We left bright and early Saturday morning and landed at our destination {after a Starbuck and Target stop... I mean, what vacay is complete without those?} mid-afternoon. Since we were both famished, having consumed nothing but grande cups of caffeine, we immediately checked into the hotel and went in search of food. 

We stumbled upon this darling, eclectic little bistro in walking distance from our hotel with the most intriguing menu. I wish we stayed longer than overnight because I could have eaten at this place for every meal and been perfectly happy. I wanted to try everything!

I eventually settled on a fried green tomato BLT and a side salad with the lemony house dressing. Michael decided on the Bourbon and Coke fried chicken sliders with homemade French fries.

Not wanting to ruin our appetite for the meal at Viking later that evening, we both cleaned our plates. 

We couldn't help it.

After lunch, we walked around the downtown area, taking in the sights and sounds of the local festival that happened to be taking place that weekend. We visited a quaint bookshop with an art gallery on the second floor and a little Southern gift shop. It was the perfect way to pass the time before our 5:00 PM class.

We were met at the school by a spunky chef who introduced herself as our instructor for the evening. There were eight people taking the class, including Michael and me, so we spent the first few minutes gathered around the long table introducing ourselves and splitting into "teams" of four to cook the meal.

Michael and I chose the Date Night class because we thought it would be fun to cook a meal we'd probably order if we were to go out for an anniversary. It was really neat to learn the proper way to prepare dishes like filet mignon and raspberry tart. You can see the full menu below.

One of the best parts about the class is that you get to keep the recipes and instructions for each dish you make that night.  I vowed to recreate this for our anniversary one year... maybe not this year since our Hartlie baby will be less than a month old and I'm just not setting my expectations that high... but eventually. Maybe next year. Or for Michael's birthday.

I'm an avid Food Network fan and I cook pretty often. While I'm not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, I feel I am pretty familiar with some kitchen tips and tricks just because I've watched Giada, Ina, and Bobby model them on t.v. It was especially neat to see a chef in real life use and teach the same skills I've seen on many Food Network shows.  It made me feel more confident about putting those skills into practice.

After cooking the meal, we sat at the long table and ate what we prepared. It was the most satisfying and rewarding part of the evening. And everything actually tasted good! Better than good, even. Really, really, scrumptiously delicious. Michael single-handedly grilled the filet mignon for our team, and they were perfect. I was so proud of him! I'm envisioning many a steak this summer on the Big Green Egg.

Aside from the steak, my favorite component of the main course was the Spring Pea Pesto that was served atop the salmon. Salmon isn't necessarily my favorite, but oh my goodness, I could've eaten the entire piece as long as I had that pesto. Unfortunately, the pesto on my plate ran out before the salmon did, probably because the salmon-pesto ratio on my fork heavily favored the pesto, so I only ate half of my fish. 

BUT. As much as I loved everything else, the absolute crowning dish of the night was the rustic raspberry tart with almond filling and sweetened whipped cream. I'm not even usually a dessert person since my tastebuds lean more towards the savory, but my mouth is watering right now just remembering it's goodness! The flaky crust, warm soft raspberries, creamy filling, and slightly sweetened fluff from the cream. I truly don't think I've ever had a better dessert. I bought a tart pan from the Viking shop just so I can recreate it whenever I want. Which will probably be frequently. At least, I dearly hope so. There can be no such thing as too much of this tart in my life.

The next morning our internal alarm clocks beeped at 6:30 AM, so we helped ourselves to cups of coffee from the in-room Keurig and snuggled in bed.

It was pretty nice to lounge without waiting for the baby to get up.

At about 7:30 we trekked upstairs to the fourth floor breakfast room and ate outside on the terrace overlooking downtown. It was so peaceful and pretty, since we were the only people eating outside {why??} until right before we finished our meal.

I of course had to snap a picture of the breakfast view. Nothing but concrete and buildings, but they can be pretty in their own right with a little help from early morning sunlight.

And the Episcopalian church right next door would've been gorgeous at any time of the day. 

After breakfast we showered and then went back to bed until getting ready for lunch around 10:30. This never, never happens in our home, but it was so enjoyable! If any shops would've been open that Sunday morning we probably would've explored instead, but I'm not complaining a bit with how the morning turned out!

We snapped our first hotel selfie right before stepping out for lunch. Hello there, 36 week baby bump.

It was a wonderful trip overall, and the perfect amount of time to be away from our Maylin. We were both ready for hugs and kisses when we got back. We really enjoyed ourselves, enough that we'd like to go back and take another class. Perhaps next time we'll stay a Friday, Saturday, Sunday so we can eat at that downtown bistro an extra time. And maybe to see a bit more of the town, too.

Monday, May 5, 2014

{Lifestyle} Maylin's Nursery Tour

There have been changes galore around our house over the past month. Remember that nesting I was talking about? That's part of the reason. Besides tying up a few odds and ends around the house {we've lived in our home a year and I juuuuust got decor hung in the living room} one major project has been converting the upstairs guest room to a "big girl room" for Maylin to move into eventually. Eventually. She's still my only child and she's still my baby so let's not rush things here, but if I'm honest with myself I know this room must be ready sooner than later. Michael broke down the big double bed and moved it to storage, and I've spent a good portion of the last two weeks cleaning closets, moving items from one place to another, and clearing space for the toddler that will soon move in. It's pretty much ready for a permanent resident, whenever I decide to make that switch. I'll have a more detailed post of the Teepee Room in the future, but today I wanted to focus on etching Maylin's nursery into the stone of my blog. 

I've spent many, many, many hours over the past 12 months in this little room, and I've come to love it as much as I love my favorite book, almost as much as I love my old teddy bear. It holds such dear memories of Maylin's first year. Most of the time when I think back to special mama-daughter moments we've had, they've taken place right here in the upstairs corner room with the east window. We've wept together, clung to each other, giggled and played, met milestones, changed many a poopy diaper, taken quite a few naps, read stories, squeezed bears, babbled, toddled, smiled, snuggled, and  prayed. It was in this room that we struggled through our breastfeeding journey, flourished in it, and eventually ended it. It was in this room we both learned to love Good Night Moon. I sat outside the door of this room listening to Maylin cry until I couldn't stand it any longer {Babywise be damned}, gathered her into my arms in the pitch black of night, and rocked her with her warm, soft little face nuzzled against my neck.  I watched as the quiet purple of evening crept across the room while she took her bedtime milk; I watched as the pink of the eastern sun peeked it's way through the gauzy curtains; I prayed that she'd sleep safely and soundly at night and that her disposition would be cheery and easy with the coming day. I cannot separate this room from the deepest, most special moments of our mama-daughter relationship.

Don't mind the coffee cup that appears randomly, it was very early in the AM when these were taken.

With Hartlie Baby quickly on the way {less than a month!}, and with the big girl room ready for occupation, I've been thinking of the changes that will take place in my beloved nursery. Maylin's things will be removed from walls, taken off shelves, relocated to new places. I'm fine with this, I really am, but before the outer shell of this nursery changes irrevocably, I wanted to capture its magic. I want to keep it tucked away so I can remember it forever the way that it is, a treasury of moments between Maylin and me. So, one morning last week I straightened it up {it doesn't look this neat all the time, believe me!}, grabbed my camera, threw open the curtains, and snapped away. 

Most of the features of this room will stay the same:: the crib, the glider, the bookshelf, the dresser. Only very "small" changes will be taking place. Hartlie will have new wall decor, her own personal relics will line the shelves, the bookcase will showcase her personal property. I am looking forward to making new mama-daughter memories with her in this room, knowing in my heart that it's value will only increase with the addition of another baby daughter living within its walls. There will be twice as many smiles, twice as many tears, just as many all-nighters and dawns. New stories will be read, new bears will be squeezed, new games will be played. It is not the removal of one set of memories for another, but rather the addition of special moments to the repertoire I already have. In my mind it's difficult to fathom so much more good happening in this room, but in my heart I know it's true.

I wasn't aware I had so much to say about a bedroom, of all things, so forgive my long-winded sappiness. I blame it all on 9 month pregnancy hormones. And the fact that I am now referring to my daughter's age in years rather than months. I blame it on that, too. Or I could just wrap all the blame into one word:: Motherhood.

The last few pictures will be thrown up quickly- not to diminish their importance, but to save myself from the lump in my throat and to release you from any further loss of precious time.  

Nursery, you've been good to Maylin and me. Deeply, deeply, good. I am confident you will not disappoint with our Hartlie Baby. 

Finally, I simply had to capture the occupant in her element. Morning sleepy eyes with a bottle in her hand. Be still my heart.