Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Be Grateful Instead of Lacking

Along with my post yesterday about fixing up and maintaining (rather than constantly improving) (with the exeption of the backyard which needs some bigger help to make it more usable) goes this article. I'm putting it here because I need to remember this when my mind goes to "IMPROVING ALL THE THINGS."

As I said: we need to fix and maintain, but otherwise, focus a bit more on ourselves and our family.

http://momastery.com/blog/2014/08/11/give-liberty-give-debt/

Monday, August 11, 2014

Fixing up

Bob and I sat down this weekend and pieced out the house, room by room. We made a LONG list. Not of big projects or remodels. Instead, it was what needs to be fixed and improved in each room.

We have a few projects in the yard to finish up this summer, and we finally have a plan for the backyard.

Other than those yard projects though, we've decided to just focus on improving and maintenance.

Oy, it's a long list.

We're tackling the upstairs first because Bob's sister is coming to live with us in a few weeks. I don't expect to have everything done anytime soon, but we're getting started. I'll try to chronicle things here, as we go room-by-room and improve.

Maybe we'll finish up by the time James is crawling or walking. We'll see...

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Crazy

I am plumb drunk crazy over these boys.
 

Oh my James. My happy happy James. He's so actively soaking up the world like a little sponge. His eyes follow me around the room. Yesterday, he was playing in his chair happily while I sat and talked with him. After a bit I went and sat down across the room. James stared after me and later got so excited upon my return.

After two fussy sleep nights last week (an oddity for this child), James slept last night from 10 until 6:30. He drank a little milk at 6:30, and then snuggled up against Bob. When I left those two cuddlebugs at 7:40, they were still all snuggled up.

James now routinely "hugs" you as you carry him, and it's such a joy to feel this happy little guy cling onto me.

On the special news front, James met his other grandparents (Bob's folks) for the first time yesterday. More on that later, but it was such a joy to share him with them.

Oh honey, just freeze time, ok? I'm loving this so much.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Sleeper!

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.