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What’s New: Settling In

Our last day on Guam, enjoying breakfast at our favorite island coffee shop.

As promised, this will be a long one. There’s so much to catch up on, including two weeks worth of Mamatography photos.

Not only has a ton happened in our lives since I last had the opportunity to write a thorough update, but so very much has changed with Annabelle, too. The biggest change I have seen is with her play and her incredible imagination, but it seems like I notice something else every day.

On the 25th, we moved out of our house on Guam and into a hotel downtown, where we stayed while we sold our cars, tried to get in some time with friends, ran errands, and otherwise prepared to leave the island. That week in the hotel was necessary to get everything done, but it was not easy to keep Annabelle happy and engaged in interesting things. I was glad when it was over!

I didn't manage to get any good photos on our travel day, but this one is a pretty realistic representation what it was like. Annabelle was constantly wiggling!

On the 1st, we left Guam and headed for Washington, D.C. The trip was mostly uneventful. It was wonderful, for once to have the daddy’s help on a flight, and Annabelle and I were both pros at surviving a long trip together already, so the added help made it totally manageable. I brought a pared down list of things, most of which had worked well for us on our last trip. We got to DC several hours later than expected due to some severe weather, so we were relieved when we finally made it to our hotel to crash.

The next morning, we drove into our new town, stopped by the farmer’s market, and finally got to scope out the new house in person. We checked things out here before heading off to get phones and try out some new restaurants, then spent one last night in a hotel. I was so very happy to make that our last one!

That next day we finally got to start setting things up in the house, making beds (an air mattress and a futon our landlords kindly left behind), and stocking the pantry and bathrooms with a few essentials. In the morning, the daddy would head off for his first day of work in D.C.

Exploring our new back yard for the first time.

During the first part of the week, Annabelle and I focused on exploring the neighborhood and making things comfortable at home. There’s a great playground right nearby where the community play group meets three mornings a week, so we scoped that out and started finding our way around town. We washed and put away the things (cups, pots and pans, toys, and books, mostly) that our wonderful landlord had coordinated with the neighbors to loan to us while we wait for our shipment, and we slept. Oh, did we sleep.

On Wednesday afternoon, I had the long awaited first appointment with one of my midwives. After some of the experiences I’ve had during this pregnancy, I can’t tell you what a joy it was to welcome her into our home and have a slow, relaxed visit.

Having a snack in the yard after a busy morning of watching tractors.

My natural-friendly OB on Guam was sweet to try to get a fetal heart rate with the fetoscope I purchased, since we wanted to avoid too much exposure to ultrasound waves via doppler, but she wasn’t ever successful. We weren’t worried, as this baby loves to move, but it was so sweet to see the smile on my midwife’s face when she picked up a strong and healthy heart rate, and to have her feel the baby’s position. I was already feeling good about having a homebirth, but now I’m looking forward to it so much more, knowing the baby and I will be in loving and capable hands. It’s already such an altogether different experience from the previous one, in the best way possible.

Creating her own activities: Annabelle was intensely focused on transferring these borrowed coffee mugs from the box to her stroller.

The rest of our time has been filled with more settling, more exploring, shopping for a car, buying birth supplies, and recovering from the jet lag. I’m happy to say that we recovered sleep-wise fairly easily and we have been thrilled by all the things we’re discovering in our new home. We’re finding so much for each one of us to do, and so many great resources right at our fingertips. We started off the week by taking Annabelle to her first “Rise and Rhyme,” which is a series of performances aimed at under fives that is being held at a local coffee shop/restaurant/venue called Busboys and Poets.  It was so neat to see Annabelle among a group of children in a new environment like that. I love that there are so many explicitly kid friendly opportunities to expose her to music and culture.

I can’t believe how incredibly adaptable Annabelle has been throughout this entire process: watching nearly all of her belongings hauled away in a moving truck and then living in a nearly empty house for weeks only to leave said house after packing up what’s left of it and move to a hotel before flying across the world to another hotel and finally ending up in another nearly empty house. All of that, together with many schedule changes, and many days when the agenda involved far too little in the way of child-friendly activity, and I would have expected a far less settled child. She has put up with all of it, and with two stressed out parents. I couldn’t be more grateful! Of course there have been some very challenging moments, but not at all on the scale that I was expecting.

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Discovering another great playground at lunchtime. This is such a classic and quirky Annabelle expression.

I’m not sure whether it’s the exposure to so many new people or places, or simply a natural unfolding, but she has suddenly become so friendly. We were exploring downtown this weekend and stopped in the grass very near the White House to have a quick snack. There was a steady stream of tourists walking by and Annabelle waved and said, “hi” to each one whether they looked her way or not. This from a child whose usual response to even the most friendly of new people has been silence. She has become quite social!

I have been so disappointed by how little we’ve been able to offer in terms of independence over the past few weeks. Our hotel was not equipped with step stools, of course, and our new kitchen is still waiting to be made child-friendly with the arrival of our Learning Tower and child-sized table. I am doing a lot of lifting up so that Annabelle can get on the potty, wash her hands, and so on. Despite it all, her independence has increased in a huge way. At the coffee shop performance, I sat back and sipped a latte at a table while Annabelle sat among children she had never seen before and took everything in. She preferred to be a quiet observer rather than a participant, but she was perfectly comfortable despite the unfamiliar situation.

Playing in boxes is one of the best parts of moving!

While shopping for a car today, we happened upon a playroom in a dealership and Annabelle’s eyes lit up at the sight of all the toys. I opened the door so she could go inside and she did so eagerly, turning around only to say, “Mommy, walk away.” Well, okay then. She didn’t want to be hindered in her exploration, I suppose. Fortunately the room had all glass walls, so I was able to give her the distance she craved while also keeping an eye on things. She also loves going into the various rooms in our new house and their closets, and closing the door so that she can enjoy them all by herself.

Showing off her fancy new 'do.

Her language skills are ever-increasing, naturally, and its really fun to see the sorts of things she comes up with. Her pronouns are still completely switched around, but every once in awhile she’ll surprise me by using them correctly, so I suspect that it’s only a matter of time before that changes, too. She is very interested in having her daddy and I repeat things to her that we have said before. Something came up on our flight about planes landing in water, and Andrew explained that a plane only goes into the water if its broken, and when that happens everyone has to get off and another airplane comes to pick them up. Every day, she will ask one or both of us to, “Talk about when a plane gets broken and its in the water.”

What has really taken me by surprise is how incredibly imaginative she has become. She was given a balloon on the car shopping trip today and she stood holding it by its string directly over her head, and said, “Is it raining outside? Do you need to have your umbrella?” She knows full well that balloons and umbrellas are two completely different things, so it was really neat to see her using her imagination in this way.

Taking it all in at Rise and Rhyme. It doesn't look like she's loving it, but she has not stopped asking to go again.

Not all that long ago, I noticed that she didn’t really play with things in a symbolic fashion at all. Dolls were just another thing to move. Animals were something to identify and to carry around, but she had not yet begun to interact or pretend with anything. Little by little, she started to make friends with her animal models and to take an interest in dressing, undressing, and even nursing dolls and other toys. Lately, however, this play has taken on an entirely new dimension. She is constantly nursing toys or bringing them to me to nurse, but she’s also feeding them and telling us all about what they want and need, and how they feel. “Does your tiger want to go to the park?” “Is your girl hungry?” Not only are the pronouns switched, but everything is phrased in the form of a question, making her conversation a bit confusing for those who don’t know her well, but that’s alright.

It may be that this sort of play has helped her process all of the changes going on. I’m also thinking that this is the perfect time for her to become a big sister, since she is so interested in caring for things.

She still loves to simply move objects from one place to another, however, in gross motor transfer activities of her own design. Recently there were the coffee cups, as in the picture above, and today she moved an entire box full of toys and stuffed animals in the car dealership toy room from a box to a table before proceeding to climb into the box.

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Taking over the toy room at the car shop.

One other small change this week has been in Annabelle’s preferred hair style. She has never been keen on letting me do anything with her hair. While she did take a temporary interest in clips, she would always remove them within minutes of asking me to put them in. After seeing a book with a little girl wearing a ponytail on top of her head, however, Annabelle requested the same and has since asked me to put a hair tie in her hair every morning. If it comes out, she asks that it be put back in, and she loves looking at it in the mirror.

So that’s the long and not at all short of what has been going on with us over the past few weeks. It has been crazy, but things are good and I’m so very grateful. I would love to know what’s new with you, too, so feel free to link up a recent update of your own so that I can check it out!

23 Responses to What’s New: Settling In

  • What a few weeks you’ve had! So glad everything in the new house is going so well. Annabelle’s way of talking is so quirky and sweet! I imagine there is a lot of reflection of your interactions with her in that, because it is just the way I talk to Gus as well!

    • melissa says:

      Thank you, Amy! It has definitely been crazy – quite possibly some of my busiest weeks ever!

      I am definitely hearing a lot of my way of speaking in Annabelle’s – especially when she walks around repeating phrases like, “So, here’s the thing…” :) It makes you realize so much more about how you use language, doesn’t it?

  • Soooo glad to see this post, finally! It’s nice to hear what you’ve been up to. Did your heart break a little bit when Annabelle said “Walk away?” I love her independence and courage, but I definitely would have had a hard time in that moment!

    • melissa says:

      It definitely did! I love that she’s so comfortable in the world, but it’s not always easy to pull back. I’ve been trying to give her slightly more gentle words to use, too. “Mommy, get out of the way,” was her way of asking me to move after unbuckling her car seat so that she could climb out on her own, but fortunately she was willing to switch that to, “Mommy, would you move, please?” It’s interesting to see how these things are phrased when they come direct from the mind of a toddler!

  • mindy says:

    what an adventure! glad to hear you all made it safe and sound and that Annabelle is taking it all in stride.

    Declan has really been getting into pretend play lately too. his food often has a motor that goes “vroom” and drives around his plate. several weeks ago now, his little wooden person had to go poop, apparently. he took the figure to his little potty then to the changing table, retrieved a wipe and wiped him up and then discarded his wipe. i was floored!

    looking forward to hearing more updates as you get settled! welcome to state side.

    • melissa says:

      Thanks, Mindy! It sounds like Declan must be doing well overall – I hope both of you are! Isn’t it great fun to watch their imaginative play in action? I love that he used the wipe, and even put it in its proper place afterward! :)

  • I am so glad to hear you guys are getting settled (well as settled as you can in an empty house). I have been thinking of you often over the past few weeks as you went through this stressful move, Im glad to hear that it turned out to be slightly better than your expectations. Annabelle is a little trooper… and SO cute with a ponytail!

    • melissa says:

      Thank you, Christine. I’m touched that you’ve been thinking of us – I really think that having so many wonderful people pulling for me has a lot to do with the fact that I made it through! :) The stress has been high at times, but we’re definitely settling – and we should have our things within a week or so! Hope you’re doing alright, too! xoxo

  • teresa says:

    You continue to amaze me! Just to be already involved in activities and doing so much in your new area. I’m sure that really helps Annabelle too. I believe her adaptability is partly her nature, but also due to you and how she sees you interact in the world and your ease about things. Or the fact that you took her on the magical Italy trip! What adventures she’s already had!
    I know I keep saying it, but she reminds me so much of my girl. I love the imagination play. It’s the best. We’re constantly in awe. And luckily we’ve captured some on video or audio. I’m so happy your back to posting. I’ll be next… The last day of school is tomorrow, we’re one week away from listing our house and then… I can breathe.

    • melissa says:

      You’re so sweet, Tree. I wish I could have you and your encouraging words on my shoulder all day long :) I don’t know that I’ve had much of an ease about me the past couple of weeks, but Annabelle seems to have made it through alright in any case, so I’ll count the a success!

      I can definitely see why you’re constantly in awe of miss Em. I’m in awe from afar over some of the things you share! I hope the last week of school goes smoothly, and I’ll be looking forward to hearing how everything is going when it all slows down. Congratulations for (almost) making it through all of the preparations for listing your house! I’m sure that will lift a huge weight off your shoulders! <3

  • Laura says:

    How exciting to read about all your moves. I am very happy for you. Just a second ago, as I was showing Marina Annabelle’s pics, I’ve been surprised by how much her language is evolving, as well. She was describing the pics to me: “girl, car, girl, teddy, cake… and then some of the words in Catalan as well, which I didn’t know she knew (I’ve had to ask the daddy). I have to write a “what’s new” post, I really have to, but I am soooo tired after dinner that I fall asleep. Sorry!!
    I wish you all the best in settling in. I wish we could take a 30′ train ride and come to visit you. I am curious about the “rise and rhyme” event. I am sure both marina and me would be delighted.
    Thanks for sharing!!

    • melissa says:

      I have had at least two or three phases just like you describe, where the day winds down and I just can’t fight sleep anymore, no matter how much I’m wanting to accomplish first. I’m glad you’re getting some rest! Hopefully it’s enough!

      I would love it if you could come visit us easily. It would be such fun to hear M and her quickly advancing skills in both languages, and see what sort of adventures she and Annabelle find. I’ll settle for a written update from you just as soon as you have the energy needed to write one – no rush! :)

  • It’s so wonderful to read this update, Melissa! I’m glad to hear that you clicked with your midwife, that you’re settling in at your new place (as much as you can), and that the transition seems to be going fairly smoothly. I’m excited to hear more as things continue to unfold! =)

  • Things will definitely settle down now, seems like a lovely place to live! Is that a hydrangea in the garden/yard? Simply beautiful!!

    • melissa says:

      It is a hydrangea! We inherited a lovely garden, since the owner of our house is an herbalist. I really need to step up my knowledge and skills now so that I can make full use of it! :)

  • claire says:

    Glad you guys have all settled in! I love this blog.

    • melissa says:

      Thank you, Claire! I love yours, too. It’s always wonderful to hear from you – here or there! You should post more often! xoxo

  • M.J. says:

    Oh it is so nice to get an update like this!!! So happy things went smoothly and that you all are well. DC! I do love DC! What a drastic change, but what an exciting one! And another yay to finding a great midwife!!! Looking forward to reading more my friend! Happy settling!
    xo

  • Amy says:

    I’m glad things are going as well as can be! It seems as though Annabelle has taken it all in stride, and it is wonderful to hear about the healthy, happy growth of your future family member!

  • Else says:

    Hey Melissa, it is really fun to read about your new life up there. Your house and garden are beautiful! Have fun and I will keep on reading your wonderful posts. A wave of our ocean for your baby belly and flower kisses for all of you, Else

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