Friday, December 31, 2021

A Merry and Magical Ending of 2021

The holiday season was simply magical. Though COVID is still around, things were as merry and bright as ever with Zoe here. We set up the Christmas tree, hung up personalized stockings, took Zoe around to see the lights, dressed her up in holiday garb, had a massive rib roast, and played Christmas music every day. We even went snowshoeing three times!  Zoe has also grown so much.  We’ve had to lower the crib and upgrade her carseat, both changes that we didn’t see coming. One day, we saw her pulling her mobile down onto her face and that settled it.  One day, Wes found a deal on the carseat of his dreams (lol), and before we knew it, Zoe was no longer in the carseat that she rode home from the hospital in. On top of that, Zoe learned to crawl and has just made mindblowing developments in her communication skills!  It was officially our first Christmas as parents, and it was truly an intimate and joyful one.

In addition to simply experiencing the fun of the holidays through Zoe's eyes, I was pleasantly surprised that this month would bring so many new and exciting milestones.   The difference between her abilities between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day has been drastic.  I am just so grateful that I got to be home all of the time to witness everything happening for the first time.  The thing that freaked us out the most was when Zoe started turning her head and looking directly at the Christmas tree every time we uttered the words, "Christmas tree," in either English or Cantonese!  I had to confirm a few extra times because I just couldn't believe it.  We also realized that she would look at the ball and the acorn, so we have begun to intentionally label things so that she could learn what things were called.  Stocking!  Fireplace!  Highchair!  Cereal!  Car!  She also has been babbling like crazy, but now with even more inflection and using a mixture of recognizable consonant-vowel syllables, including "mama," at last!  Waking up to the sound of her talking to herself every morning (without having to rush to work) is one of those little things that I really enjoyed this break.  

We kicked off our break with a trip to Yosemite with Uncle Andrew and Auntie Margaret.  We were really hoping that it would snow before we went, because we wanted to take Zoe snowshoeing for the first time.  Plus, we were craving some beautiful winter sights.  Luckily, Yosemite ended up receiving a few feet of fresh snow right before our trip!  The tree branches were just coated in white, and snowshoeing was everything we wanted it to be.  We didn't go too far on the trail because she needed to be fed, changed, adjusted, etc., (and us too), but we felt that we got what we came for.  It was at the end of that trail as we were exiting that she figured out how to say “mama," and I'll never forget how she just wouldn't stop saying it right after she figured it out, the whole way back to the car while bouncing up and down in Wes's carrier pack.  Now we hear her say “mama” all the time, especially when she’s fussing or when she first wakes up!  She also somehow figured out how to crawl during this trip, even though she was contained for a lot of the time.  I guess when it's time, it's time.  Amazing!  It was on the wood floor in our AirBNB that she really took off, and you should have seen how she lunged for those zucchini fries that we were eating for lunch during one of our picnic pitstops on the way home.

We also did our best with the pandemic to take Zoe out to see various open air Christmas sights around town.  We visited Pasadena City Hall for the huge Christmas tree, Descanso Gardens, the Harbeck House, and of course Christmas Tree Lane right here in Altadena.  We even took her to a snow play night at Loma Alta Park, but it was absolutely nothing compared to what this girl has seen in Mammoth and Yosemite!  It was just cool to check out what the neighborhood had to offer, and for Zoe to witness grown-up children having snowball fights and being absolutely chaotic before their bedtimes.  Actually, it worked out because Zoe has been starting to push her bedtime by taking longer naps and staying awake for a glorious three and a half to four hours at a time, so we are able to get one more hour in with her before she crashes.

Though the Omicron virus has begun to gain a lot of speed, we still had everyone come over for Christmas so that Zoe got to spend quality time with her grandparents, her other uncle and aunt, and cousin Maddie.  

Then, it rained a lot for the days after, but it was so nice to spend time indoors without anywhere to be or anyone to see.  Of course, we still went on neighborhood walks whenever the weather allowed.  This girl has seen all kinds of weather, so why not!  After so much commotion though, Zoe must have really loved being back in her comfort zone, especially with her newfound mobility.  Though we didn't go out or plan anything, Zoe kept us on our toes and continued to surprise us with her skills.  She just started to gesture the last week, sticking her hand out at random things around her, making us wonder what she wants or whether she just wants to know what something is.  The thought of taking down the Christmas tree broke our hearts, because that was the first thing that she identified!  But honestly, she must know so much more that we just hadn't uncovered.  Just the other day, she's also starting to use her voice to express things.  Ever since she was a newborn, she’d always been fascinated by the dangling pompoms in her room and now that she can “point,” she’s been doing that and when I say “ball,” she repeats, “ba” pretty consistently and with the same tone.  Now, it's been a few days of her saying "ba" and looking right at those pompoms, on her own!  So... "ball" is probably her first intentional word.  She’s also gotten much better at drinking from an open cup and picking up the smallest little objects, whether it is a tiny leaf on the floor or a regurgitated piece of cucumber on her tray. 

We squeezed in one more snowshoeing trip before the end of the year, since all of that rain brought tons of snow to our local forestlands.  We drove less than an hour up the Angeles Crest Highway and ended up hiking through a lovely area that Wes discovered a little ways away from where the road was closed off.  We didn't even need snow chains, since they blocked off whatever was unplowed.  Zoe was probably not expecting another snow trip so soon after Yosemite, but that is what happens when you're born into a family of snow lovers.  She napped on the way up and on the way down, and got to enjoy the scenery without becoming grumpy!  The snow was plushy and soft, just as great as it was in Yosemite.  However, we spared Zoe the agony of making a baby snow angel this time around.  We also made some bomb sandwiches with that leftover Christmas prime rib!

On New Year's Day, the sun decided to come out and so we spread out a blanket on the front yard and lay down together.  Zoe and I used to lie under the trees like this at least once a day for the first six months of her life, while I was still off work. The weather was always great and she always has had an affinity for looking up at the leaves.  I used to even do yoga while she lay under the tree next to me.  Now, it all looks and feels so different.  I found myself spending most of that time plucking leaves out of her mouth and blocking her from crawling into the grass.  She only would lie still for a minute or two before jetting off in the other direction!  It’s wonderfully entertaining but also wow, I don’t think I recognized how fleeting that period of time was going to be.  I think this has just been a running theme over the past year of raising Zoe. One day life’s a certain way, and the next day it’s changed. The last time something happens is never actually recognized in the moment that it is happening. And even the knowledge and awareness of this does not make it any easier to notice! By the time we’ve picked up on a change, the next tide is already turning. Let’s just say that the end of the year came before we could even count down.  2022 snuck up on us like the stealth bomber that flew over the mountains and across the sky for the Rose Bowl football game (we eagerly pointed it out for Zoe to see, but she was oblivious).  

It’s been a whirlwind of a year, even though some of the days have felt impossibly endless. Now that the end of the year has come and gone, I am just speechless at all that has come to be and all that has changed within me. I don’t think that I can put any of it into simple words between my identity as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, an OT, a member of society… my own self.  Someday maybe I'll try to synthesize it all, but for now I’ve just been surviving the days and trying not to give myself a hard time.  I still feel guilt coming at me from every angle, and I still catch myself judging myself for not having gotten anything done while Wes marks task after task off our list.  In addition to comparing myself to him, I compare myself to other moms, other friends, other daughters, other OT's, other wives...but when it comes down to it, I'm getting better at asking myself straight up, what it is that I want to be doing most with my time right now, and telling myself that it's okay if the answer won't please everyone.  Though in the earlier months of 2021 I've tried to fight against the overwhelming changes in order to preserve my self, I've come to realize and welcome the fact that I'm not that person anymore.  But heck, there's not going to be much time to embrace the new me.  A year has already gone by, and we only get to do this about seventeen more times before Zoe will no longer be here and I'll be wondering who I am again!  Each successive year will have different challenges to face and new things to celebrate, and I'll keep changing, I'm sure.  I want to do this short time justice, and I want to be fair to myself.  Bring it on, 2022... we're ready(ish) and very excited.

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