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    Life Lately

    Life Lately: The Holiday Edition

    I’m not sure what’s more shocking: that Christmas is in a week, or that Hudson is going on 2.5 hours for this nap. The 2-to-1 nap transition has been kicking our butts around here for months now, so ’tis a true Christmas miracle.

    I don’t even know what to do with myself. I’ve cleaned, gotten a bunch of work done, and made a batch of Christmas truffles, so I thought I’d share some recent photos and updates from this month.

    To be honest, this month has had some major lows: primarily in the loss of my beloved grandfather. He was a remarkable man and I hope to find the words soon to write about his life and what he meant to me. I have always loved the holidays and while this month has had so many beautiful, fun moments experiencing Christmas through Hudson’s eyes, it’s also all been tinged with sadness when I slow down enough to remember how much I miss him and try to wrap my head around never getting any more of his patented Grandad advice or pats on the cheek. But I know that this is the case for most people during the holidays: something about all of this celebrating brings into sharp focus all of the loved ones who aren’t around to celebrate with us. I’m trying to focus on how grateful I am for these special moments with my own little family and savor every second.

    Thankfully, I don’t have time to think about much because Hudson is NON-STOP these days and we’ve been trying to pack in all of the holiday fun possible to expend some of that insane toddler energy. Can someone bottle that? I’d pay good money. He loves Christmas lights (which he calls “WHAAAATS,” much to my delight. Never change, bud.) so when it’s not too cold, heading out at 4 or 5 for a lights walk has been an easy win.

    I am proud to report that our little Grinch has done remarkably well not destroying our tree this year. We did move it into a less prominent location as we originally put it up basically right in the middle of his play area, which was a recipe for disaster. Since the move, he’s been so good. The cat, on the other hand… hopeless.

    I can’t believe I didn’t take any better photos than this one, but attending my mother-in-law’s annual holiday luncheon always feels like the true kick-off to the holiday season to me. We didn’t win anything in the raffle or auction, but as my sister-in-law Tina said, great food and great company! Even better 🙂

    We walked to Pioneer Plaza one night to see the Christmas tree all lit up. It is spectacular and I have thought a million times this month how grateful I am to live within walking distance to things like this.

    While we’ve been busy little social bees lately, this is how most nights really look: Hudson chilling, dipe on, tum out, watching one of three thousand variations of the Wheels on the Bus on YouTube on repeat. But he doesn’t have a favorite (or at least not that we’ve figured out yet), so you just have to click through them all as he says, “No. No. No.” until you find the RIGHT WOTB of the day… to which he grins and says…. “BUSSSSSS.”

    In what is possibly the biggest development of the year, we finally found a babysitter. Game changer. She’s a master’s student in the neighborhood and she’s amazing with Hudson. J and I went out for a day date (because mama’s bedtime is 9pm so really there’s no point in dinner) to check out a few new places and pay a visit to a few old standbys. For my fellow Chicago dwellers, the biggest mind-trip was visiting the new Somerset at the Viceroy hotel… which was beyond stunning, but I could not get over the fact that it used to be the Cedar Hotel. Memoriesssss.

    Our neighborhood parents group organized a cookie decorating party for the little ones, and while I don’t have any actual cookie decorating pictures because my hands were full trying to keep Hudson from making it rain sprinkles… I love this picture of Hudson and his little pals so much. Seeing him start to engage with other kids and say their names is the cutest thing ever.

    Well, it’s official. These are beautiful Christmas flowers from my team at ThoughtWorks to wish me well in my new venture. I will always be grateful for my years there: I made a lot of great friends, traveled all over the world, and learned a ton. But I am so, so excited to strike out on my own. 2018, here I come!

    The “snowball fight” tent at Navy Pier’s Winter Wonderland. We went with some friends on a weekday afternoon and had a BLAST. It was pretty empty given the odd hour and even though most of it was geared towards bigger kids, we found plenty to do. Hudson’s favorites were the choo-choo and this ball tent, which had hilariously unnecessary strobe lights. He decidedly did NOT like their Santa (like, wouldn’t go within 6 feet of him) or the bounce house. He ran straight into the bounce house and then dove back out in horror once he realized what he’d gotten himself into.

    Christmas jams! Hudson’s clapping in most of his pictures lately because singing “If You’re Happy and You Know It” is the only way I can get him to a.) hold still b.) look at the camera and c.) smile all at the same time.

    Hudson is just like his dad in that he can take or leave most sweets. To be fair, however, I’m basing that statement on things like… sweet-ish cereal. Peanut butter and jelly. I’m a mean mom and don’t give him that much real kid sugar yet. So maybe now that I’m typing this, it’s no surprise that he went bananas when I gave him the spoon from the peanut butter cookies I made, ran around the whole condo with it, and sobbed when I took it away… because all the dough was long gone 🙂

    This picture cracks me up. I was sitting on the floor wrapping presents and looked up to see this. He is always within 3′ of Hudson and I, unamused with it all as he may be. Best kitty ever.

      

    Santa pictures 2017 officially on the books. Like last year, we went to the Driehaus Museum’s Santa Saturdays, which is so well done. He is still a little too young to fully appreciate it all, but they do crafts, story time, caroling and snacks… such a nice set-up. But let’s be honest, we’re really in it for the ticketed, no-long-line super-legit Santa pictures!

    Most importantly, Hudson didn’t completely freak out. But credit for that is due to this savvy Santa, who took one look at his face and said, “Mom and Dad, why don’t you just hang on to him?” So for the second year in a row, we have family Santa pics (and I love them.)

    For posterity, I need to record that when Santa said “ho ho ho!” to Hudson, Hudson dramatically cried, “NO NO NO.”

    Not to brag, but I definitely have the most handsome men in town. This was at brunch at D4 after our Santa pictures. Hudson ate bacon and eggs while Jason and I ate with our plates basically in our laps because all of the salt shakers/jam/water cups/etc have to be pushed out to the edges of the table beyond his swiping reach or the party is over.

    Ugh this little face and his expressions just kill me. We say: big ‘tude, little dude. Hudson does everything big lately. Big love, big smiles, big laughs, but also big drama and big sass. Toddddddlerhood!

    Zoolights!! This was so special. So special, in fact, that my claustrophobia and I braved a major, free public attraction at peak hours… a list of adjectives that gives me shudders just to type. Jason and I went to Zoolights the first three or four years that we were dating and haven’t been back in the last few years, but have been talking about how great it would be to take Hudson for at least the last year. We bundled up on a Saturday evening and headed over to Lincoln Park Zoo, where we all oohed and aahed over all of the lights. It was short lived due to the cold weather and the fact that Hudson would prefer to “walky-walky” these days over chilling in his stroller, which was a definite no-go with the crowds. But it was a lot of fun and by next year I’ll be ready to go back 😉

    We hosted an annual college friends Christmas get together on Sunday. Seeing Hudson and his little BFF Katrina looking so grownup, just chilling on the couch like little people makes me realize (again) how much they’ve grown from the snuggly infants they were this time last year. They are so cute together. Katrina kindly shushed everyone when Hudson was napping–that’s a good friend if I’ve ever seen one 🙂


    And that brings us up to speed. This week before Christmas should actually be much quieter than the last few have been, and my only goals are to not totally overdo it on Christmas cookies before our Mexico trip in early January, and to catch up on all of my Hallmark holiday movies. I’m already dreading the end of the holiday season and the return to depressing news and soul-killing reality tv. No thanks. I prefer all of the happy endings, improbable scenarios and sweater vests that Hallmark has on tap.

    I hope your December is filled with lots of lights, cookies and fun. Or maybe just champagne, that always does it for me too. And if your holidays bring with them a little bit of sadness alongside the festivities, I’m sending hugs and love. Cheers, friends.

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    Illustrations

    Illustration: Super Girl

    (This blog post was originally shared on my design + illustration portfolio site at ll-creative.com

    My new friend Alicia recently shared this quote on Instagram:

    “And one day she discovered that she was fierce, and strong, and full of fire; and not even she could hold herself back because her passion burned brighter than her fears.”

    This quote is attributed all over the internet to Mark Anthony—but whether that’s the ancient Roman politician, a misspelling of the living Latino singer or a relatively unknown other Mark Anthony is apparently un-Googleable.

    Whoever Mr. Anthony may be, he translated my feelings to words nicely. Saying that you’re an illustrator, a designer, or a writer is scary. Saying: I made this, and I think you should see it (and potentially pay for it) is super scary. I remember having to choose my major in college and wanting to find the business major that most aligned with my love of art. I chose marketing. What if I just chose art?

    If I’m being generous with myself, I would say that I’ve gotten braver since Hudson’s birth because I want to show him that he should chase whatever he’s passionate about regardless of how much it scares him. If I’m less generous, I think that thing is happening that my mother has always said will happen: you simply care less about what people think as you get older. The subtle art of not giving a f*ck, as Mark Manson so eloquently puts it. Whatever forces are conspiring in my favor, I have shared more of my illustrations, writing, and myself in the last year and a half than ever before and have as a result been three to four billion times happier.

    So I recently took a big leap, and am winding down my role in marketing at ThoughtWorks by the end of this year in order to pursue design and illustration.

    And the craziest, most amazing things have happened almost instantly upon making that decision. I remember reading the Secret back in the day because Oprah told me to and thinking she’d officially lost it. Change the world with your thoughts? Come on, Op. I later recall hearing Arianna Huffington speak and share Rumi’s advice to live life as though everything is rigged in your favor. Maybe these ladies are on to something, because I can’t help but feel that just saying, seriously, universe! I’m doing this now! has sent incredible opportunities my way. Design projects, branding work, and the most exciting, dream-come-true illustration project ever, ever, ever.

    I’m so thankful, and so excited for what 2018 will bring. So here’s Super Girl, scared of maybe a lot but going for it anyway in her cape. Cheers, friends!

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    Milestones

    Month 12-15 With Hudson

    After Hudson turned one, I decided I could ease off the monthly recaps. But now that I’m sitting down to catch up on the last few months, I feel like it was actually easier to write about Hudson monthly than try to write about months 12-14 because he changes so much! And I’m sure I’ve already forgotten little quirks and habits from 12 months. Ah well. Here we go.

    The best part about this age is the emerging personality. And there is a lot of personality in that little bod. Hudson is funny, sweet, stubborn, serious, naughty, nice… so many things at once. I’ve watched him get much more comfortable with other people–both adults and other little ones–over the last few months. In group settings, he does his own thing.. very busy checking everything out but not overly concerned with the other people there… also not overly concerned with staying too close to me! Which is nice and also a little sad.

    He loves positive reinforcement. Whenever we say, “Good job!” He’ll clap for himself and look at us expectantly like, are we forgetting something here? This is helpful because there are a lot of no’s and things we’re telling him not to do at this age so positive reinforcement is a nice accompaniment to all of that.

    He likes to be the center of attention in small groups. He’ll pretend to be shy with people in the elevator and play peekaboo around the corner of his stroller. The elevator is his moneymaker and he expects to be the star of every ride. On the off chance someone is not paying attention to him in the elevator, he’ll start saying “Hi, hi, hi” until they are.

    Walking

    Now that he’s 15 months, I think we would all finally say he’s walking. Around his first birthday, I thought it was just around the corner… and it kind of was? Lots of walking holding my hands around that time. I’ve thought so many times that the walking/not walking question is kind of a mystery, because when do you say he’s walking? When he takes his first step alone? I remember his first real step that I saw: around 13 months, Grandma was over and I was getting ready to head to work and he took two little steps towards me. But then he never really did that again for a couple of weeks, favoring crawling or walking holding our hands. (Which by the way, I miss so much already. Sob.)

    Interestingly, he finally switched from army crawling to real crawling after he started trying to walk.

    So after 13 months it was a very, very slow slide into him trying to walk more and more. I think, without exaggeration, Hudson must have fallen 1000+ times over the last 2 months. I’m not talking about dramatic face-plants, thank God. Just that he can’t keep his balance so he’ll be walking and suddenly he’s on his bum. Or he’ll try to turn and I’ll see him windmill his little arms… and then he’s on the ground. And even now, while he’s sturdier, he still goes “boom” frequently and I have to be very, very careful when we’re out in the real world. But he rarely cries and always gets right back up! Hudson Bean is my personal, walking (kind of) inspirational poster.

    12-month doctor appointment!

    We have a theory that he’s extra tipsy and klutzy at the moment because of his size and proportions. 18-24 month onesies are tight and a stretch on his extremely long torso, but we have to cuff even 12-month pants, which fall down on his skinny little waist and legs sometimes! And he’s just barely in a size-5 shoe, which is appropriate for his age… but he’s actually he size of most 2-year olds so I think his feet are pretty tiny for his size. So there’s a lot going on there, bless him.

    Talking

    “ssssssssshow.”

    I’ve read that babies either pick talking or walking to focus on right around their first birthday, and Hudson made a firm decision in going with TALKING. We realized a few months ago that he will mimic pretty much anything we say with varying degrees of success.

    Some of Hudson’s favorite words: Blitz, up, down, cheese, no, please, help, shut (“SSSSSSUT”), this, yellow (everything is the color yay-ow), hi, bus, zoom-zoom, truck, bear (“buh”), show (as he’s waving the remote at us, whoops), and a mysterious word that sounds like “SHUMMY”—the leading theory is that he’s saying “show me”, but typically when he says it it’s during times that he isn’t really looking to be shown anything… so, it remains a mystery.

    He’s great with saying hi and bye to the people in our building, and if Jason and I are having a conversation of our own he’ll say “hi, hi, hi, hi” until we pay attention to him. He’s started to say with a TON of gusto, “buh-BYEEEEEE” as people are leaving.

    He also recognizes so many things. Out of mealtime desperation I started pulling out his little picture flashcard-y style books and using them like a picture finders… so I’ll go to the farm animal page and ask him to find the pig. And he can! He gets really still and moves only his little finger over to where the pig is. He can find most of the things in his little books, so apparently he’s been absorbing more than we thought. This also caused us to realize we need to lock it up with the language around Hudson 😃

    Going for Walks

    I think a chapter ended with Hudson and thankfully I didn’t know it at the time, because I would have been really sad. At some point, Hudson became totally unwilling to walk for the sake of walking (and for him, that obviously means riding in his stroller.) He has THINGS TO DO and cannot be constrained like a little baby!

    Our walks these days have purpose and a destination: a walk to the park or a walk to the grocery store. Anything much longer than 15-20 minutes and he is trying to figure out how to escape the harness and saying “out out out OUT OUT” in increasing volumes. I bought a few $1 Hot Wheels cars from Walgreens and keep them in the stroller, which I can hand him one at a time to keep him entertained for a little while… that and the motherlode—a snack cup filled with salty snacks like cheddar bunnies or veggie straws are the two saving graces when we need to keep him in the stroller. But once the magic of those two things run out, the best approach is to give him little breaks and let him walk around a patch of grass or something for a little bit.

    Oh, and bonus points if there’s a construction site nearby. My wiggly baby will hold VERY still for a surprising length of time if you park him in front of a construction site.

    Sleeping

     

    Hudson continues to be the world’s best night sleeper. (Knocking on wood.) We had a weird week where he was up in the middle of the night a few times, but over the last 6 months that has literally been the first time he woke up at night and generally sleeps from 6:30-6:30. On that note, he’s had a lot of early wakeup calls lately–awake by 5! And now of course we’re figuring out the time change and how to manage that. But for the most part, we are extremely lucky with his love for night time sleeping. Thanks, bud—this has been a lifesaver.

    Naps, as has been the case over the last 15 months, continue to baffle us all. Sometimes he takes two awesome naps in the morning and afternoon. Sometimes one is long and one is short. Sometimes both are short. Sometimes he skips one altogether. Sometimes when he skips it he cries and then is cranky all afternoon. Sometimes he just plays in his crib and is totally fine. Can a mom get a pattern?! At one point I tried going down to one nap but it was way too early and pretty much a disaster.

    I pretty much just assume I have 45 minutes of naptime to do whatever I need to do at this point: shower, clean, work—and then any extra time I get is a huge bonus.

    Eating

    He got a little finicky right around 12-13 months and was not super excited about all of his old standbys. Meat, in particular, he pretty much refused. A lot of mac & cheese around that time! Thankfully, he’s back to eating pretty much whatever we put in front of him. Salmon is a strong favorite: he will eat a 6-oz piece of salmon like nobody’s business. Cheese is always a winner, and so is broccoli. I finally broke down and bought him yogurt squeezes and he LOVES them. He loves snacking on cheddar bunnies and veggie straws, though both Jason and I ALSO love snacking on those things so it’s dangerous to keep them in the house.

    Obsessed with my water bottle

    Mealtime itself is not unlike the stroller and can be a battle, however. Lots of grunting and pointing if he’s not constantly entertained. While he loves food, being stuck in his high chair is the ultimate offense. He can SEE all of his toys and the whole condo to explore around him… he just can’t. get. out. Once in a while, I cave and let him watch Sesame Street during mealtime and it’s seriously a dream. He’s quiet, happy, and will mindlessly eat whatever I put in front of him. But because I’m not looking to raise a zombie who can’t eat or sit still without a screen in front of his face, I really do try to limit that to desperate times, ha.

    So we do a lot of books with meals, talking about his food and listening to music with Alexa. Jason figured out a good trick: he says, “Hudson, can you do it?” and hands him the fork and Hudson will try to feed himself. He’s gotten pretty good at it, and now he’s starting to try to poke the food off his tray himself. This takes for.ever. and Jason has far more patience than I do, so I should try to take a page from him and work on this too since he’s into it 😃

    Some other miscellaneous Hudson updates:

    • He is obsessed with the washer and dryer. He “helps” me take everything out and put it back in—which is mostly to get to the button pushing part.
    • He loves looking out the window in our room and pointing at the buses and trucks.
    • He’s surprisingly good with not touching the shelves behind the baby fence….
    • But on that note, he is such a troublemaker with touching the TV. TV-touching is my biggest challenge with Hudson at the moment. (#MOMPROBLEMS) I dream of the day that we live somewhere that the TV is mountable. He knows “it’s a no!” and will go over there if I’m not paying attention to him and touch the TV while looking over his little shoulder at me saying, “no, no, no, no.” It’s funny but… it’s not 😃 That and trying to open the patio door. I could not even count how many times I’ve said no to those two things.
    • Hudson’s favorite things: construction sites with all of the trucks, farm animals, Elmo (though I tried to buy him a realistic Elmo toy and it completely freaked him out and he sobbed), standing on the couch (whoops), playing the Puppy counting game on my phone, the Wheels on the Bus song, B-I-N-G-O
    • Mom’s favorite things: once every like… three days, I’ll ask for a hug and he’ll kind of stop moving for 2 seconds and lean on me. I’LL TAKE IT! He has also mastered blowing kisses. Reading books, because this is like a pseudo snuggle. How he asks to share my smoothie every morning. His insane Einstein-style nap hair.

    “Give me your HA mama”

    So thankful for the weather this year. This picture was from early OCTOBER!

     

    So to sum it all up: he’s just the greatest. It feels like we’ve hit a fun stride as a little family, even if it’s an unholy amount of work trying to keep him from eating cat food and unrolling ALL of the toilet paper on the daily.

    Next up–the HOLIDAYS! Last year was fun just having him around, but this year he’ll be able to participate in it all a little bit more. Having Hudson in the picture definitely makes me appreciate so many little things again, so I’m sure with the holidays this will be the case tenfold.

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