Friday, July 18, 2014


James is a sleeper. And BOY, have we been LUCKY.

During the day, we aren't always as lucky. He loves to sleep, but during the day he wants to sleep next to us. At night? No problem, crib is fine (the crib is in our bedroom). But during the day? NOOOOO!!! NOT THE CRIB!!!!  Much nap sadness.
 We're working on that crib sadness. But oh, the snuggles. The snuggles are so fantastic. I know we have to get him used to taking a nap in the crib though... (so that Mama and Dad can get things done while the baby sleeps).
 Still, morning time is for snuggles. While 11-4:30 has been the norm, James seems to have increased that this week, with a typical nighttime sleep the last two nights of 10 to 6:15. And, when he gets up at 6:15, he just wants some milk, and then to snuggle in bed for another couple hours. Yesterday, he snuggled with Bob until 9!
 (James with his Auntie Laura in what she calls his "Little Prince" nightie.)

Since James has been almost 100% solidly sleeping at least 5 hours through the night since four weeks old, we know we are darn lucky. The fact that it's increased to over 8 hours the last two days is phenomenal. We'd love for that to continue... we'll see. Right now we're doing every baby sleeping dance and chant and life appeasement we can think of.
 (again with his Auntie Laura for morning "baby snuggle time")

He's such a happy boy. We know that if he's fussy, clean, and fed that he's sleepy. Pretty easy here.

I just hope it stays that way. But kiddos like to throw curve balls, so we'll see!

(James barnacled on Dad in the pack)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Breastfeeding Update

It's incredibly hard to believe this little guy is 11 weeks old. In a mere week and a half, he'll be three months. Where has the time gone!?
I'm happy to say that we're still breastfeeding, albeit still through our roundabout pumping way. The Freemie system is still a lifesaver, and I even ordered their quiet pump! I gave up my middle-of-the-night pumping, and my supply hasn't dwindled (in fact, my first pumping of the day has increased to make up for not having that 3am pumping), and I can stretch it 3-4 hours in between pumpings during the day. The results in 5-6 pumps a day, and that's more than enough to feed James.

So yup, we're able to exclusively feed him breastmilk. I realize it's not horrible to feed him formula if we needed to supplment, but still, given all our issues with him feeding, I'll take this 100% breastmilk fact as a huge source of pride and accomplishment. I know many aren't so lucky. We stopped supplementing (it had been between 10-20% supplementing) around him being 4 weeks old, and I think he got an once or two of formula when he was six weeks old. But now we're over five weeks later and no supplementing in that time. And, there are 13, 5-oz. bags of frozen milk in my freezer!

As he's settling into a more predictable routine of eating and sleeping, it's easy to determine when James will be hungry. Though he and I don't have the traditional one-on-one mommy nursing time, it is really nice to be able to have a bottle nearby when he decides to drink, get distracted, drink, stop for five minutes and grin, drink, etc. Less stripping for Mama!

What was so difficult in the beginning (made no easier by the cumbersome Medela system with their dangling bottles) has now become so much easier. What was a far-off, exhausting 6-months of breastfeeding initial goal is now an achievable one.

My schedule looks like this:
7am: pump
10:30: pump
2:30: pump
6:30: pump
10:30: pump

If I pump earlier at 1:30, I can squeeze another pumping in at 4:30, then do 7:30 and 10:30. However, I ususally stick the the five pumps above, unless I'm feeling the need to do it six times. It's pretty nice too-- James is asleep at 7am, I'm at work for the 10:30am and 2:30pm pumps, Bob usually has just come home from the gym at 6:30pm, and James is asleep for the 10:30pm pump. It is so less stressful than it was when I was home alone with the cumbersome medela dangle bottle system.

So, we'll keep on trucking with this as it is. It's clearly working James is thriving, and no one is stressed out. Amazing!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

James's Fantastic Life

James has it pretty great.

Snuggles in the morning.

Happiness on the changing table.

Ok, sometimes there is some sadness, but we're right there to fix it (and slightly baby mock!)...

And he gets to be carted everywhere in a pack, peeking out.

Which means warm cuddly surrounds while he drinks milk. Not so shabby!

Then he gets to go for walks.

And, of course, watch his boy Bailey get a tennis ball.

Then it's back home for a quick nap (which is usually pretty hard to convince him to do.).
Yup, pretty rough life. :)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Dining Room

We had this dining room table for over three years: 

It worked... but it was HUGE. It could easily fit 12 people (5 easily on each bench). Bob liked it, so I kept it... but I started noticing one thing: we never used it unless we had people over.

Plus, it took over the entire room.

I really wanted a table where we all routinely sat down as a family. This also would mean less TV in the evenings, something I really want to accomplish.

We also found that our stuff and the baby's things began to accumulate on the floor on the right-hand side of the table. And, the table was a gathering place for us to stick stuff, from mail to gardening supplies, to bags, to you name it.

So, we decided to tell our behemoth table. I ordered our new table and posted our old one. It sold pretty quicky, so we were down to the patio table outside for a dining table for about five days. :)

And, here's our new dining room with our table (we got it from West Elm):
The table looks small, but it isn't. It can easily sit four people, and it's 42" across. We could have bought the 60" diameter one, but that would have taken up a lot of room, and we wanted a more open feel. The chairs I found used at St. Vincent's for $30 apiece. I figure that with a baby, they'll get pretty abused, but the pricetag made me go for them anyway! I need to scotch guard them so we can more easily clean them. They are super super comfy. And, the table style is great because you can put your feet up on the legs on the inside!

Yes, we actually purchased something new! But, I did have a 15% off card, and they messed something up, so I got $33 of shipping reimbursed. So, while that's still not a cheapie table, it's not too bad. Plus, we have a table we'll use for a long time.

(now we just need to get those prints in the background reframed...)

For our stuff that accumulated in the right-hand corner of this room, we made another purchase. I had a gift card from Target and bought this table.

So, our cluttered corner is no more!
We're working on the organization, but it's getting there. I had originally thought about putting two baskets underneath for shoes, but now we're seeing if something else works instead since underneath that table is a perfect place for Bob's briefcase and my purse.

So, our once-filled space is now a lot more open and airy. We LOVE it, and, proof that it works: We ate dinner at the table last night together.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Before and After: Inside My Head

I like to think of myself as tough. I have a picture on my wall at home that says "WE CAN DO HARD THINGS." I thoroughly believe that if you put your mind to it, you can make it happen.

I still believe those things... but I was totally unprepared for many things when it came to being pregnant and with having a baby.  And the old me would have totally rolled her eyes at that last sentence.

I must admit to thinking people "weren't tough enough" when they took time off in the weeks before having a baby. I thought that I'd never do that-- I'm tough and won't mooch the system. It took me being nearly knocked off my feet and extraordinarily uncomfortable for months in the third trimester to open my eyes as to how ignorant I had been.

Then there's having a baby. I thought we had figured out what would be hard: The lack of sleep. Don't get me wrong, that wasn't a cakewalk... but it totally surprised me when other things were the ones that ambushed me. Things like:
  • FEEDING the baby. Who would have thought that woudl be the issue? But with our breastfeeding issues, I was quickly thrown off-kilter by having to adapt to our situation rather than the picture-perfect one in my head. But, there's also the frequency of it. Babies don't eat three times a day. They eat every three hours (at least), AROUND THE CLOCK. That leads me to my next point....
  • It doesn't stop. You think you know this before you have a child. It seems obvious... kids don't come with an off switch. But it's still a rude awakening when that stuff you did at a minimum three hours ago? Has to be done all over again. And again. And again. Your life becomes a constant rotation.
  • Your time is not yours. That project you wanted to do? That cleaning you wanted to do? That sit and not do anything you wanted to do? MUCH harder with a child. I figured I'd baby wear. Well, that works great because James LOVES being worn... but you can't move as well with a baby on you, it's heavier with a baby on you. You can't carry as much with a baby on you. Your baby likes you to move, and certain things require you to hold still (like folding laundry). Your baby may not like you to bend down. Very quickly you realize that keeping a baby happy may not mean you can do the things you want to do.
And then there's work.

I always thought that we'd eventually have a child in daycare and that woudl be the new normal. But that's hard. Hard to realize that daycare will get 9.5 hours of your child's life a weekday (8-hour workday, plus 1 hour lunch, plus time picking up and dropping off). Assuming a 7pm bedtime, you'll get about 1.5 hours, plus the time it takes to get ready in the morning. It's an ungodly sacrifice. And it's one that Bob and I are trying to figure out how to adjust in order to get that 9.5 hour amount lowered.

And I fully admit to being someone who would have shaken my head to myself if I knew someone who lowered their work schedule for their child. What was I thinking? WHY have I been allowed to develop this mindset that putting family first is the "easy" route? It's not easy.

I could do a lot of blaming. I could blame the media (totally usually not on the side of staying at home). I could blame our goverment (totally not helping to create an atomsphere where people bond and put families first). I could blame student loans (the payback and interest rates and gouging which greatens our indebtedness and leads to moreso needing two incomes).

But in the end, no matter the blame/cause, the result is the same: I was wrong.

I totally underestimated pregnancy. I'm tough, and it knocked me down. I now have a newfound respect for my body and for anyone who is pregnant. And I will defend the justifiedness of that respect to anyone who doubts it.

I totally underestimated what would be difficult with having a baby.

I totally underestimated how little things going awry would make me feel with having a baby.

I totally underestimated how my perspectives would change.

But here's the kicker: All of the above has made me a better person.

I know I can change. I know now not to let my preconceived notions control me. I also am rewiring myself for what is really important in life: sometimes it's me, sometimes it's not. I'm increasingly aware of my one life to live and how do I make the most of it (clue: It doesn't always involve me being "tough."). I'm increasingly aware of time and how fast it flies by... and thus also how much I'm missing when I am stubborn and absent from where I want to be. I know now that change is inevitable, but it involves me changing into a better person, so I need to accept it and not try to avoid it.

And I'm now more ok with admitting I was wrong and then moving forward.

I always heard the saying "Having children will change you." I never realized how much that was true, or that it would change me into a better person.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Nine Weeks

Our little guy is nine weeks old.
HOW did that happen?

Looking back, May zoomed by. So did much of June. It feels both like we've had James forever and also just for a second. He's getting so big. This was just eight weeks ago:

Seriously, what happened to the last eight weeks?
But he's been such a wonderful boy. Starting around four to five weeks old, he started sleeping from about 10:30/11 until 5am. At 5am, he'd wake up, want some milk, then fall back asleep on Bob or me and just want snuggles for a few more hours. We thought it was a fluke, and we held our breath and enjoyed it as long as it lasted... and then it continued to last. We realize how infinitely lucky we are to have such an easygoing, sleep at night, cuddle in the morning baby. VERY VERY lucky. And we're aware that it could stop ANYTIME.
He's growing like a weed. I'm convinced in the above pictures that it's my chair shrinking, not him growing. He used to sleep so much during the day, but now he just wants to be awake ALL the time during the day, absorbing as much as he can. And this awakeness usually happens from the baby carrier, his very very favorite thing in the whole wide world. I'm certain he sees Mama, Dada, and Auntie Laura as baby transporters, serving the purposes of carrying him around so he can see things.
He has such great neck strength, though he occasionally flops his head down with great force that it shocks me. He go go goes all day long. He's been working those leg muscles too, "standing" up in the carrier by pushing his little feet against our hands. I love that he does it more when we exclaim "oh, what a big boy you are! Do it again!!"
I can't wait for this week when he gets to meet his Auntie Natalie and Uncle Bill. We'll take James to some of our favorite activities that fall over the Fourth of July. And James will get to see fireworks, which will undoubtedly amaze him as all things light-related do (Christmas lights are PHENOMENAL in James's book, by the way).

We love this little guy so much, but truly wish he'd stop growing so very very fast. You growing is my greatest joy and sorrow, little man. Keep being your sweet sweet self, my boy.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Outdoor Stairs

In the midst of our busy lives with our new boy, we're continuing to make changes to our yard. This one has been over three years in the making: stairs outside.

Our backyard is comprised of four terraces. There are stairs from terrace1 to 2, a long, steep slope from terrace 2 to 3, and a slope with a gradual path from terrace 3 to tier 4.

We needed to build a better way to get from terrace 2 to 3. The slope is pretty steep, and both Bob and I have slipped. It's especially hazardous if it's been raining or if it's really really dry out.

So, here's the necessary "before" picture. The steepness of the slope inhibits weed-pulling, so please no judgment on the weediness. The worn path up the middle is from the dogs, not humans. That path is very difficult for humans to follow... darn pups and their lower centers of gravity!

I've been playing around a while with how to build stairs. I thought about pillars and then a staircase like this one:

But it just looked too utilitarian. Plus, I was worried about slipping on the steps in the rain when we'd have mud on our shoes. And sinking pillars requires cement and cement is a much more permanent, can't-change-your-minds-ever option. Finally, the slope is big enough that it's hard to measure how steep and deep each stair would be. I wasn't convinced that each step would be deep enough for comfortable, railing-less passage.

So I kept looking. I saw these stairs, but I really didn't want to deal with 4x4s and lots of bolts.

I hate installing bolts. And the stairs here are more uniform, and the slope is big, making uniform stairs harder to plan out.

Then, right before I was ready to throw in the towel and suck it up and install the 4x4 stairs, I saw this picture:

Boom! Perfect on several levels:
1) Artsy and pretty, but functional.
2) I could vary the width and depth and adjust as the stairs were made and it wouldn't look odd.
3) Gravel filling made drainage good and provided a slip-resistant surface.
4) Easily replaceable when the wood eventually rots
5) Easily buildable with 2x6 treated wood and screws (not bolts!)

So, I started work this weekend. I spent about three hours on Saturday and four hours on Sunday. Thanks to my husband and sister-in-law for watching James.

All in all, nine steps are complete so far.
We filled the bottom two steps with pea gravel... only to discover that pea gravel won't work because the rocks are too smooth and so your feet sink too much. Whups. Easy fix though-- we'll remove the pea gravel and use regular, non-smooth gravel.

Since I'm running out of room for stairs at the top and there is still some height to go, I've decided to make that current top step deeper and make that point the pivot point and turn the stairs 45 degrees. So, the stairs at that point will turn to the right, where you'll go up a few more steps and then go straight again. This will end the stairway exactly where the next tier begins, rather than eating into the next tier with steps. The end result will be a staircase with a couple of right turns, like this one (though obviously wood and gravel, not rock):

I'm also excited at how this is looking on the slope. There was NOTHING on the slope when we moved in. Now we have five semi-dwarf trees there and a bunch of grasses. The stairs will help us maintain the slope and start improving it in sections. Very very nice. Somehow, it's easier to imagine improving the area now that we can envison the aesthetic of the stairs.

I'm hoping to work on the stairs again tonight... though I'll have to be careful since I got a little sunburned yesterday. Oops.


For the first few weeks of our boy's life, we were in disposable diapers. Like breastfeeding, which turned out to be more complicated than I expected, I wondered if our desire to cloth diaper would also be more complicated than expected. We had to wait to give cloth diapering a shot until James's umbilical stump fell off (it took three weeks!!) and then healed (another few days). Then we gave it a go...

It was... more complicated than expected, at first. But we stuck with it, and about day 4 or 5, things clicked. We went from a pack of 40 diapers every 3-4 days down to a pack of diapers in about three weeks. We use disposable at night to help give us some extra absorption.

Plus, he looks so gosh-darn cute in them!

Between this and our flannel wipes (we have little flannel wipes for cleaning), we've had no diaper rash issues, and he's 9 weeks today. The only time we had an outbreak was when we were out of town for three days and he was exlusively in disposables and we were using wetwipes. He'll occassionally get a little redness from heat rash because he ALWAYS wants to be in the baby carrier, but with a little cream that goes away and he never seems to be in any discomfort.

For our diapers, we decided to go with gDiapers. They have multiple layers of protection before any kind of leaks happen. And, if a leak does happen, it stays on the diaper, not dribbling down his leg. There's a cloth shell on the diaper, a snap-in waterproof material liner pouch, and a multi-layered cloth insert that goes in the pouch. Most times when we change him, we just have to take out the cloth insert and put a new one in. Easy! For messy diapers, we have a sprayer hooked up to our toilet. We have two wetbags, one by the changing table and one in the bathroom. Zipped up, you can smell nothing.

Switching to cloth also means our garbage quantity has gone down substantially.

Is it an extra hassle? Not really. It takes about 10 seconds to rinse off the poopy ones, and we have a pail that we put them in if we can't get to rinsing right away. We wash the diapers with the wipes, and it's a small load of laundry every two days. That hassle makes up for itself by us not having to worry about running out of diapers or wipes, and the fact that he hasn't gotten irritable diaper rash.

Of course, we'll change our system if things change. Babies tend to get you used to something and then things change. But for now? This totally works for us.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The New Normal

Around 5am: Wake up.
James is hungry. We moved his crib into our bedroom when he started sleeping more regularly. Before that, one of us slept in his room so the other person could get uninterrupted sleep. It worked really well, but now that he's sleeping longer, more regular stretches, he's in our room so there's no split sleeping.

James drinks a little milk from bottle, oftentimes without opening his eyes. He falls back to sleep easily on my chest or right next to me. I love this snuggly morning baby. I rest, but don't fall back to sleep entirely (slightly terrified of smothering a baby).

6:30am: I hand James to Bob for his snuggly baby fix so I can get ready for work. I pump, pack, feed the dogs, make sure there's enough milk for James for the day, dress, and head out the door by around 8am.

Around 8:30am: James finally gets up all the way. Yup, he'll snuggle for 3ish hours every morning. He might take a nap or two throughout the day, he might not.

5pm: I head home. I coo over my wonderful baby boy and Bob heads to the gym. Oftentimes James is a bit crabby by this point if he hasn't slept much throughout the day, so I frequently put him in the baby carrier and he settles down... IF I'm moving. So, I usually poke around in the garden and then make dinner. Constantly moving equals a happy happy baby. We'll turn on Pandora and listen to the Beatles station. If I sing, he usually falls asleep... I think that's a good thing... either that or my voice is so bad or boring that sleep is a better option for James.

6:30pm: Bob is home, we eat dinner. We're thinking of changing out our dining room table so we can have an easier spot to sit and eat than our giant picnic-style bench table. I usually pump around 7:30 and then around 10:30, that way I'm good to go until 6:30am. So far, going this long night stretch works very well for me and it's not reducing my supply.

8:30-10:30pm: James gets put in his snuggly sleeper or bag sleeper. He'll get a bath if he needs one. There's usually a lot of singing and happy talking since he's starting to coo and smile. I'll read a few books to him if we didn't read books while Bob was at the gym. We try to not do anything too stimulating since this is a wind-down period of the day.

10:30/11pm: James is asleep. We don't tiptoe around-- the bedroom door usually stays open and he sleeps through the dogs and us talking and everything. I hope this ability to drown out noises stays with us a long time with him. Bob and I will talk and take care of anything that needs taking care of at this time and then we'll head to sleep around 11. Usually, James will sleep through until 5 (yes, we know we're lucky).

As he gets older and can sleep longer stretches, we'll start moving up his bedtime to an earlier time. But, with 6-7 hours being the max his little milk tummy can handle right now, this works for us so we can sleep when he sleeps.

And then the next day, this starts all over again.

My, how we love this sweet, sweet boy.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Deck Updates

Our backyard's bottom terrace has slowly undergone quite the transformation over the past couple of years.  The grass has been a constant problem since we moved in. Our natural soil isn't great, and the previous owners put the sod in right before they listed the house. So, the sod LOOKED great, but it was temporary-- there wasn't good dirt placed underneath, so the grass quickly became patchy and had poor drainage.
We knew a deck was what we wanted, so in 2012, we built deck 1: off the kitchen and it'd cover the grungy old concrete pad, dirt area by the lilacs, and a little bit of the mottled dirt/grass area.

We were pretty finished with the final product:

But, I made one mistake/bought one stupid product: I stained the deck. Now, it SHOULDN'T have been that big a problem... but the deck stain I bought was crappy (unbeknownst to me, sigh). It flaked off after about 6 months in patches. I also learned later that I likely should have waited a year to stain/seal the deck. Good to know.

The plan all along was to build another deck a step down from this one, and have it run the length of the house.

Last year, that was too much of a project to handle (we were painting the front of the house and then I got pregnant mid-July). So, we just added some mulch to the future deck space. The grass was miserable anyway, and the dogs were getting mucky in the dirt.

See what I mean about patchy grass? UGH.

 (Ignore the beams-- it was a cheap metal trellis that was so cheap I returned it grumpily)

However, after 12 months of the dogs tracking in mulch (though that was better than mud), we decided to bite the bullet and build the deck. Part 1 is now finished-- the first 10' section. There is likely another 20' or so to go! And yes, we're painting this side of the house as we go along

Even though we have a baby this time around, I feel like EVERYTHING is so much easier. The deck is SUPER low --6" high!-- so it's easier to make it VERY stable. I know exactly what to buy. I bought easier joist hangers and I knew what screws to get too. The deck is also a simple rectangle. No cut-outs or anythign complicated like we faced last time. SO much easier this way!
We are still debating whether to go all the way to the fenceline (I'd have to build cut-outs for the bushes) or stop at the house's edge and make the final 1' or so a coarse sand filling. We're doing the deck in 10' increments, so we'll have plenty of time to decide.
However, unlike the last deck which took a solid four weeks of building in the evenings and weekends, this deck took less than ten hours. Add into that the fact that Home Depot delivered the lumber (for free-- they honored Parr Lumber's free delivery on lumber over $300), and my life was infinitely more easy than the first deck.
The next two segments will be built soon. We've decided to first finish painting this side of the house (at least) and pressure-wash the first deck.
As far as staining, we're planning on cleaning the first deck and using a stain-stripper (or many) on it to get it back to it's natural state. Hopefully, it will look similar to the just-built deck's wood. We'll then let it sit for a year and then we'll clean both and stain them both. That's what seems to be the good trick. Believe me, I don't want stain flaking off again, so this time I'm being diligent!
And in case you were wondering: The baby's nearby while I'm building. He's either in his chair or on Bob. But in return, I watch the baby while Bob's off gardening or mountain biking. Co-parenting for the win!