Saturday, December 31

So Long, 2011

The last two weeks of 2011 were busy ones for the Wells family. Aside from celebrating Christmas, we spent our time visiting with family and (when I wasn't working overtime at the museum) spending time with each other. Eric was off and I had some time away from work, so it was nice to have a pause in the relentless pace of our day-to-day routine and just hang out together. As with last year, Liam still doesn't yet have any idea what Christmas is about, nor did he take much interest in other holiday traditions like opening presents and decorating. However, I saw glimpses of what future Christmases have in store for us and just how much fun it's going to be when Liam finally catches on to the excitement.

Liam's "2nd Christmas" ornament.

On one of our days off together, Eric and I visited Sea World in San Diego with the entire Wells clan. Even if he's too young to be excited about seeing sea creatures, there was a lot for Liam to look at and point to and generally be overstimulated by. He's a pretty observant little boy, but he's still going to be more interested in a baby mum-mum hidden in my hand than a shark swimming by in the tank overhead. Even so, I think he enjoyed himself. Obviously with a little toddler we weren't into the rides, but we did play a few games. At one point Eric challenged me to play the basketball game (buy 3-5 balls and if you make a shot, you win). This was a significant challenge because ever since he took me to Santa Monica pier on our first date I have beaten him each time we've played this game. Initially I said no thanks, since I'm happy to rest on my laurels and hold on to my record, but Eric bought five balls and challenged me anyway. He took three of the five shots, missing every one, and then offered one ball to me and one to his Uncle Mike. I stepped up and took my ONE shot, fully prepared to shatter my unbroken record, but what do you know? She shoots, she scores!--and my perfect record against Eric in the basketball game remains intact! (Mike took his shot after me and missed too--Amber FTW!) My prize was a cute little stuffed Shamu, which I of course gave to my baby boy. It was a tiring but very fun day. We got a year pass with our one-day entrance fee, so I'm sure we'll be back in a few months for another family fun day.

It was a sunny yet chilly day in San Diego--hence the hoodies!

The last week of December my parents came out for a visit. It was Dad's first visit with Liam since last April, and I think he had more fun with Liam the unceasingly active, walking, running, giggling toddler than Liam the baby. Mom, of course, enjoys any and all time with Liam, and I enjoy having someone around to give me a break from constant mommy duties like diaper changes, feedings, and baths. It's amazing how much even a little break from that constant parent-mode can help recharge my energy. I took advantage of having live-in babysitters for a few days and went to the movies, which is one of the things I miss most from my life before motherhood. (In case you're curious, I saw "War Horse" [alone] and "Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows" [with Eric]. Two thumbs up on both.)

My dad, mom, me, Liam, and Eric.

Now it's time to say "So long," to 2011. Here's hoping that 2012 will be as blessed and full of adventure as 2011, and that all of the lessons I learned in the past year stick!

Thursday, December 1

Meeting Santa

In the spirit of the season, and like any good parent who wants to provide properly traumatizing early childhood experiences for her son, I recently took Liam to meet Santa Claus for the first time. Naturally I expected that the photos from this obligatory kid-freaking-out-with-Santa encounter wouldn't be the best, but I certainly didn't expect to be so tickled by them. Yes, there were tears, but it was over quicker than a shot and as soon as Liam was back in Mommy's arms he was all smiles and contentment again. Now, looking at the pictures, after an initial sad, "Awww," I can't help but chuckle at Liam and the look of deep suspicion he is giving Santa. I look forward to showing these to him years from now when he's old enough to chuckle at them himself.

Tuesday, November 15

Liam's One Year Portraits

Ah, portraits. Grandparents, family, and friends love them. They casually carry these photographs around in their wallets and display them on walls and mantles, likely never giving much thought to the harrowing and exhausting experience of "picture day" itself. Granted, up to this point I've had a wonderful experience with Liam--he is an incredibly good-natured baby and has an easy smile. But since he became bipedal, taking pictures of him has been like trying to capture a baby version of the Flash on camera. He's in constant motion, so he's a blur in most pictures these days. I have a great DSLR camera and initially entertained grand ambitions of a do-it-yourself photo shoot for his one year portraits, but thanks to me having only two arms and no ability to be in more than one place at a time, it didn't work out. When he is older and able to understand directions, I'll definitely try again, but this year it just wasn't meant to be.

This year we relied on the professionals, and even that was a bit dicey. I had him napped, fed, and freshly diapered, but Liam was immediately suspicious of the portrait studio, so the photographer and I had an uphill battle from the start. Fortunately, she seemed experience with working with toddlers and was as patient as a parent could ask under the circumstances. Thinking back on it, it was a lot easier for her to be patient--she stayed behind the camera while I chased Liam back and forth across the backdrop, repeatedly moving him back to his mark so we could try to get a picture. After a few minutes of what for me was an unexpectedly physical photo shoot, I broke out the big guns--Baby Mum-mums. Mum-mums are dry, bland rice crackers, but they are like crack for babies. Liam LOVES them, and every smile or sweet expression you see in his portraits is due to the influence of a mum-mum. Those little rice crackers totally saved the day.

Hmmm...We're not even close to the "terrible twos" yet, and already I'm bribing my child. What can I say? As a mom, you do what you gotta do to get the shot. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 9

Liam's Big Day

"Smash cake" time!
Last Saturday the fastest year of my life wrapped up with Liam's first birthday party. It's hard to believe that the little newborn we brought home from the hospital is now a toddling, chattering one-year-old. We celebrated Liam's big day with family, hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill, and cake and ice cream. Between the "smash cake" and the ice cream, it's safe to say Liam consumed more sugar that day than he has ever had in his entire life. He loved the balloons and toys got got for his birthday, and was especially delighted when everyone sang "Happy Birthday" to him. Of course he doesn't know what it's all about quite yet, but he didn't question us inviting him to smash up an entire cake and offering him bites of yummy ice cream.

Liam loved it when everyone sang "Happy Birthday" to him.
As bittersweet as it is to look back and think of how much Liam has changed and grown in the last year, I'm looking forward to what's ahead. It is going to be fun getting to know his personality better and watch him make more discoveries about the world around him. His adventures are only just beginning, and I have no doubt the coming year will be as eventful as the last!
Birthday boy.

Saturday, November 5

Liam's First Year

My baby boy is a year old today. It is amazing that a year full of days that seemed so long can be so short, but here we are. In celebration of Liam's first year, I made the two videos posted below. The digital age makes it very easy for a parent to indulge in such saccharine reminiscing, and so I've done so!

Wednesday, November 2

Liam's First Halloween

My little baby bat.

This was Liam's first Halloweeen, and he went as a little baby bat. Thankfully his baby costume was soft and comfy, so he tolerated wearing it very well. The only thing he eventually started tugging at a lot was the hood, because it kept falling down over his eyes. It was a chilly evening along the coast when we went out trick or treating, so I was glad he had such a fleecy and warm costume.

He wore his new boots, which didn't seem
to hamper his walking at all.
Is it time to trick or treat yet?
This was the best picture we could get of the two of us.
He doesn't stay still for a minute these days!

Of course Liam has no idea what Halloween or trick or treating is, but the folks in the neighborhood enjoyed having such a cute trick-or-treater stop by. We went trick-or-treating with his cousins Genna (11 years old), Abigail (~20 months), and Jeffery (almost 3 years old). I let Liam down to walk as much as I could, but all he wanted to do is take off in all directions, so I ended up carrying him most of the time. Since Liam can't eat most candy yet, we only covered a block or two before calling it a night. It was getting chilly and it wasn't easy hauling my squirmy little bat around--all of the kids out in costume, the lights, and decorations had him excited and all he wanted was to get down and explore.
Jeffery the Cop, Abigail the Angel, and Liam the Bat (as usual, more interested in the ground than anything else).
Mommy and Liam.

Thursday, October 20

A Fall Day in the Mountains

I have always enjoyed seasonal activities, so last Sunday Liam and I joined some friends at Riley's in Los Rios Rancho, near Yucaipa. It's a great little place you can go to pick apples and pumpkins and enjoy some great BBQ and apple pie. There's even a little country store there if you'd like to do a little shopping while you're at it. It was great to get out of the city for awhile and enjoy a beautiful mountain day. This was the first outing I've had with Liam that I felt he was ready to get down and walk around, and--as you can see from the pictures--he had a lot of fun exploring his surroundings. I admit a major motivation for me in making the trip was to get a few cute pictures of Liam playing in the pumpkin patch and toddling around the ranch. I may be biased, but I think it's safe to say, "Mission accomplished!"

Look at that big boy getting around in shoes!

Liam did a great job getting around in spite of the uneven ground. He did take several tumbles, but none of them seemed to phase him. I was also happy to see that he doesn't seem to mind having shoes on--they didn't seem to trip him up very much, either.  Since Liam is still new to walking, I was able to keep up with him pretty easily this time, but I have a feeling this job won't be so easy in the near future! On this particular trip my main responsibility was to keep him from putting things he picked up off of the ground in his mouth. For the most part he was far more interested in the dirt than the bright, orange pumpkins, which is why in most pictures you see his little hands holding the dirt and other debris he collected during his explorations. Yay, dirt!

Mommy and Liam--this one is my favorite. 

I call this one, "Baby of the Corn."

Sunday, October 9

Chasing Liam

Over the past year I've enjoyed taking Liam to the Villa's Outer Peristyle garden for little photo shoots with a beautiful backdrop. It used to be so easy--I'd lay him on a baby blanket, try and make him laugh, and snap away as he remained (pretty much) in the same place. Those days are no more. My baby boy has learned how to walk, and there is no getting him to hold still anymore. As you can see from the pictures, all I can do now is chase him around with the camera and hope that the shutter speed is faster than he is!

Saturday, October 8

Our New Home

It was a daunting task, but over one weekend we moved out of our old apartment and into our new one. It was a hectic and VERY long weekend, but now it is over and it is time to begin unpacking and settling in to our new home. Actually, although we still have a couple of stacks of boxes left (mostly books, of course!), I was able to  unpack most of our stuff over the past week or so. I tried to unpack a box or two each night after supper, so by the time my work week was through we were much closer to making our living room a box-free zone. Unpacking is definitely easier than packing, although it's a challenge deciding where things should go. Anything that is of questionable value to have around on a daily basis is now being relegated to our garage space. With the luxury of storing things in the garage, I find that our new closets are quite spacious. Even after everything is unpacked, I think we may still have a little room to spare.

We have been in our new place since the first of October. As you can see from the pictures, we are settling in, but we don't have our family pictures or other decorations up, so the walls still look rather bare. Once we have more homey things up, I'll take pictures of the other rooms, but for now the living room is the most settled. I admit that, looking at the empty apartment, I wasn't immediately sure how "liveable" the space would be for us, but the more we've settled in the cozier and homier it feels. In part that is what happens to a space with you fill it with your things, but Eric and I both agree that this apartment feels homey in a way that our other one never did. Why that is, I don't know, but there you have it. At first Liam was a bit wary of the new place, but after fifteen minutes or so of fussiness and confusion, looking around with wide eyes, he started puttering around and didn't look back. It's only been a few days, but so far everything that I thought I would like about the place is proving true, making the drawbacks fade into the background. I'm looking forward to continuing make the place our own and adding more homey touches, like getting our pictures and wall hangings up.