Because the important moments in life just don’t fit in a status update! I started this blog when I was training for my first ½ Ironman, (70.3 miles) to record what I hoped would be growth and progress but ended up being a huge learning experience. Although fitness is one of the key ingredients to a happy life, it certainly isn't the only ingredient. My blog has evolved to document growth, progress and setbacks in other areas too. From my surprise proposal in Rome and wedding in the fall of 2013, to Mom's devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis and death 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Who knows what shape it will take, but thanks for being along for the ride.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

January, 7 Month Update

Our baby girl turned 8 months on January 26th, so for the majority of the month she was 7 months old.



We rang in the new year at Nathan's parent's home which is situated just feet from a small lake in Oregon. And by "rang in," I mean we were in bed by 10pm. With a flight home to catch on New Year's day, I wanted to be packed and rested.
First sunset of 2016

With the year ending, I couldn't help but reflect on how amazing life has become since she entered our world. I looked back on some photos of her when she was just days, weeks and months old. Surprisingly, I didn't feel that twinge of sadness I thought I would as she started to grow. Do I miss that tiny infant? Yes. But in her place is a baby who smiles at us, is crawling throughout the house, puts her fingers in my mouth, blows raspberries, tries to pick up shadows with her hands, giggles at her dog and sometimes wakes up babbling "Momommamamamam."

The flight home was really easy, and the couple in front of us commented that they could not believe how good she was. We flew home with an additional suitcase filled with her Christmas presents! It was so neat to return home and see her playing with toys in different ways than before we left. Before Christmas, she was not able to sit up without assistance. Now, she can sit for a long time on her own. She was also able to push a button to activate her elephant ball popper, and sat there for quite awhile playing while I finished taking down the Christmas decorations. There is never a right time to leave her in daycare....but, this had me thinking that if there had to be a time, this was a pretty good one. At least she is not a helpless slug, can entertain herself, and is starting to help hold her bottle, though she doesn't quite understand gravity just yet.

I started working on decorations and vendors for her first birthday. I won't reveal too much until the big day, but I am very happy to report that I made these flower balls from supplies purchased at the Dollar Tree for only $4.50! I also continued crocheting the favors, which I will also incorporate into the decorations. If you can't tell, I'm very excited! It will be on May 22nd.

January 4th was my first day back to work. I adore my job as a school counselor and was eager to return, even though I was dreading being apart from her. As it turns out, the anticipation of leaving her was much worse than the reality. I didn't even cry! By the middle of the week she was seemingly adjusted...not even crying when dropped off, or after my lunch visits.

Her new thing this month is dancing, while sitting. It's pretty much the cutest thing ever. It started out with her copying me, but then she started doing it on her own, to music. In this 15 second video, you can see her doing the head bob until she notices me, claps, and goes back to dancing.
I've probably watched this video at least 50 times in two days. Am I the only one who does that? When I'm not with her, or she's asleep, I look at photos or videos of her. I cannot get enough of her!

Her first week at daycare went so much better than expected. You can read about it in excruciating detail here. By Wednesday of the first week she was no longer crying after drop off, or when I left after our lunch visits. That first weekend was wonderful, with her sleeping in and cuddling until 9:15 am on Sunday (after a 6:45 am feeding). We don't co-sleep at night, but always cuddle in the guest room after her morning feeding, and I often fall back to sleep with her. 

I was worried about how she would do that second Monday back at daycare, but Nathan said she was smiling and waiving as he left. She is truly remarkable, and has so much of my Mom's content, easy-going, happy spirit.

After that second week of daycare, we had a three-day weekend. I cherish my time off with her more than ever, and love staying home and playing with her. Actually, I no longer want to do anything, unless it includes her. On our Monday off, January 18th, we attended a swim class with her so that she wouldn't get out of practice. It was the first time Nathan was able to go with us, and he got into the pool with us and was there to "catch" her as she was released under water.

This was also the day that she crawled for the first time! She had previously taken a few crawling "steps" but never too far. But I left her playing in her nursery while I started the coffee (after she slept in until 9:30!) and before I knew it, she was at the nursery door! So I waited and watched, and she crawled herself right out of the nursery!  




By the end of the week, she was already more competent in her crawling, and starting to pull herself up on things. By far, this has been my favorite month with her. Her emotions and sense of humor are starting to develop and it seems like she learns something new every day! She started trying to put things in my mouth, like a toy she was holding, and laughed and laughed when I bit it.

The last week of February was finals week at the school where I work; officially the half-way point to school the year! We had some minimum days and a non-student day, and I was able to pick her up early from daycare. We attended a baby art class one day, and enjoyed extra time at home. We were able to wait out front for Daddy again, only this time she sat in the grass, picking it and then examining the individual blades of grass. Huge smiles when she saw Daddy.

On the last Saturday of the month, we drove out to Ontario for an amazing deal on a new car. My husband is a great negotiator, and has actually enjoyed haggling over deals ever since he found an ad car for his family at only 13 years of age! I'm the opposite, and would pay more before I would do the back and forth. We were able to meet my friend Krista, her daughters who were my flower girls, and my brother for lunch.


I've only ever owned black cars, and am loving this red!
Then on Sunday, we went to the annual open house of the Catholic school where we plan to send our baby when she's 4 and starts pre-K. A good friend of mine started teaching science there, and we were able to visit with her and see her classroom.

Milestones:
  • Beginning of the month: get up on her hands and knees and rock back and forth
  • End of the month: crawling!
  • Can sit without assistance. This just happened while we were in Oregon for Christmas. Before that, she could sit for quite awhile, but would slowly fall over after 5-10 minutes if not watched.
  • Pulling herself up to standing and staying for awhile 
  • Independent play
  • Developed object permanence
  • Had to adjust and lower crib mattress
  • More babbling, especially when she wakes up
  • Second tooth! Bottom left
  • Holding her bottle 
  • Waving! Grandma taught her this
  • "Dancing" while sitting
  • Banging two objects, like blocks, together
  • Patting my arm
  • Clapping!
Things I don't want to forget about this month:
  • The clicking noises she makes with her tongue on the roof og her mouth.
  • "Dancing" with me. 1/2/2016. We were sitting, facing each other and I started moving my upper body. She copied me and then laughed and laughed. Then, it was my turn, then hers again. This went on for a few minutes. I Love seeing her personality develop.
  • How grandma taught her to wave. My Mom Cathy waved to her multiple times each day while we were in Oregon, and she started to try and wave back. Once we were home, my husband waved at her and she clearly waved back. It is so exciting to see her learn new things!
  • How she crawled from the living-room into the bathroom while I was getting ready for work. 1/28/2016.  
  • How she loves shredding paper and playing with dresser handles
Routines we're continuing:
  • Singing to her: You Are My Sunshine, Amazing Grace (bedtime)
  • Reading children's books to her. She has started to look at the pictures
  • Evening walks
  • Crocheting
  • Nightly prayers
  • Morning snuggle time
  • Lunch visits - every day!
Routines we're establishing:
  • Playing with food. Not every time, but some days when she's due for a bath, I will dump out some of her carrots or butternut squash on her tray so she can feel the texture and paint with it. 
  • Peak-a-boo
  • Asking "Where's Daddy?" or "Where's Trevi?" and cheering when she looks
  • After her morning feeding she's starting to sleep beside me instead of on top of me. This is a sign she's getting bigger, and makes me sad, but she's still cuddling.
  • Listening to the same record at every feeding. I have it on the floor, by her high chair, and she loves watching it spin. Its an old Disney record, "Mother Goose."
New Foods This Month:
  • chicken
  • beats
  • kale
  • lentils - I boil these for 45 minutes, then put in blender
  • turkey

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Edible Play-dough

My daughter, who is almost 8 months, puts everything in her mouth. While she has been doing sensory play with cooked spaghetti and playing in the sandbox without eating either the spaghetti or the sand, these seem to be the only two things that don't go in her mouth. I wanted her to be able to play with play-dough and not worry about it being toxic if she puts it in her mouth. Here's a super-simple recipe that I made this morning. You can store it in the refrigerator for up to three days.


  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup baby cereal - rice or oatmeal
  • 1 baby food jar applesauce (4 oz)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • food coloring, if desired
Mix the cornstarch and baby cereal together and add the liquids. Kneed or blend with a kitchen-aid. I used my hands and it was easy to mix. If it is a bit too dry, wet your hands and continue kneading. A bit too wet or sticky? Sprinkle on some cornstarch. That's it! I'm excited to come home and watch her play with this. Be forewarned if you use your hands to mix in the food coloring. I'm going to work looking like this:


But don't worry, once it's mixed into the dough, it no longer comes off on baby's skin, or yours.

**Update- It's a good thing that it was edible! After playing with it for 10 minutes, we went to visit a neighbor. When I returned, there wasn't any play-dough on the try where I thought I left it. About to look in the refrigerator, I realized that my dog Trevi had eaten it. All of it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Our Daughter's Digital Footprint

My husband is a very private person, and I am (obviously) very open. Our girl may fall somewhere in between, or she could be more like myself or more like her Dad. I have been wondering lately what it would be like for her as she grows up to have all of these photos of herself posted publicly, on this blog. An employer could search and easily find them, as could a potential beau or future classmates. Do I want that for her? Shouldn't she have a say and control over what images of her are posted publicly?

According to this study, 92% of toddlers have an online presence, and 1 in 4 actually have one before they are even born.

As a teenager, I remember being absolutely mortified when I found a picture of myself, dressed for a 5th grade field trip in a completely mismatched outfit. "Mom! Why did you let me wear that out of the house?" I asked. "You wanted to pick out your own clothes that day, and of course I let you. I thought it was sweet; you were so proud." She explained.

Now what if that photo was online, instead of tucked away in a dusty envelope and hidden in a drawer? Of course I wouldn't care right now at this point in time...I actually tried to find the photo just to show you how awful it was! But all teenagers go through "a period in which physical appearance commonly assumes paramount importance." Not most teenagers, all teenagers, according to the American Psychological Association (read more about adolescent development here). I remember going through that phase, and no amount of anyone telling me how I looked wasn't really important would have helped.

I have decided that after her first birthday, I will strictly limit public photographs of her. "Strictly limit" rather than prohibit, because I may occasionally post a family Christmas portrait, or a photo of her holding her sibling, should we have another child. But I do not want there to be photographs of her floating around that may seem cute and silly to me right now, but that future classmates could view on their phones or whatever technology exists at the time with a simple google search and use to tease her.

The only public photos of her "out there" have been in this blog, and I think anyone would be hard pressed to use them against her in a decade or so. Even so, I plan to clean up this blog and change all references to her from her first name to 'A' or 'Baby A' so that she is not as searchable. Doing that has already really helped, as I found a lot of images when I googled her before I went through and changed it in some of my previous posts.

I will continue to post to facebook and instagram, but since those are "friends only" (facebook) and private (instagram), they are not searchable by anyone outside my circle now, or in the future. They would have to be my friend/follower, and her future classmates, her boss or any suitors are not. Even if they were to be at some point, I can easily change the privacy settings on the facebook albums, or exclude them from seeing specific albums. 

The YouTube videos I upload of her on a weekly basis are "invite" only, meaning that a person would have to be sent the link (her Grandma and Grandpa in Oregon, and my Dad in Yucaipa) in order to view it. When you visit my YouTube account, the videos do not appear there, even though I have over 50 of her uploaded that I see when I'm in my account. The same holds true for Shutterfly, which I periodically use to share pictures with family who do not have facebook.

Posting images of her is not inherently evil, as it is one of the only ways that my family in England and Ireland "know" her, and one of the ways I use to back up my photos (in addition to saving them on the memory card and uploading them to Shutterfly). Plus, I love sharing because she's just so gosh-darn cute! But, the main purpose of my blog is sharing the stories and preserving the memories, which can be done without photos of her. 

I am realizing that I want to have control over who sees those images, not for me (because I would share them with the world if I could), but out of respect for her and her privacy. While she will always be my baby, I have to recognize that she is her own little person...who will grown into a big person before I know it.



Sunday, January 10, 2016

Learning About Mom

One of the basic tenants of Remembering Practices is that a relationship does not die when a person dies. Remembering practices are a narrative approach to grief psychology that emphasize the ongoing story of relationship. Drawing on practices of story telling, narrative legacy and rituals, these practices aim to keep relationships alive. Using the flexibility of stories, relationships can even develop new qualities and enhanced dimensions following death. From this perspective, grief becomes an evolving and creative opportunity for story development and change, rather than an unpleasant task to be worked through as quickly possible. Remembering practices provide people who are dying and people living with grief hope that the dead will not be forgotten.

In that vein, I love learning more about Mom, and who she was long before I was born. My father wrote to one of Mom's childhood friends in England, who describes Mom's love of music. Her childhood friend married Rick Wakeman of Yes, and she used to go to Heathrow to see bands, including The Beatles, who were returning from their first trip to America. She also describes was how religious Mom was, and that she never missed going to confession, though she doubts she ever had anything to repent for, and the time they climbed the Wellington Monument before the Irish Republican Army blew it up.






I plan to ask more of her friends about her, so that Autumn has their account and testimony to how amazing she was, in addition to mine. It also helps me continue to feel close to her, because I'm learning more about her.

Friday, January 8, 2016

First Week at Daycare

Baby A has been home with me exclusively for just over 7 months. We have never left her with a sitter, and I can count on one hand the times I've left her with Daddy. She started daycare full-time after the new year, when I returned to my career as a school counselor. I have to say that the anticipation of dropping her off was much worse than the actual experience of it. For several days leading up to that Monday morning, I imagined myself in tears, sitting in the parking lot outside my office, trying to compose myself. Surprisingly, I stayed strong, and made it throughout the day without crying or even being sad. She was, of course, on my mind constantly, and I had a persistent uneasiness, not knowing if she was hungry, scared, tired etc. Just being apart from her was challenging, but it helped to jump back into a very busy day with just over 3,000 emails. Surprisingly, by the middle of the week she had the hang of it and was no longer crying at drop off or after my lunch visits! I thought this adjustment would take much longer.

Baby A, if you read this someday, thank you for being such an easy-going, happy, well-adjusted baby! I never imagined our first week apart could go so smoothly. It must be a tough change for you, but you handle it with such grace. We fall in love with you more and more every day.


Monday- Baby A woke up for a feeding at 4am, so we were able to get in some cuddle time and both fell back asleep until 5:15am, when I got up and left her sleeping on the bed. My alarm was set to go off at 5:30, but I was afraid of missing it. I ended up ready with almost 45 minutes to spare, and it was nice to not be rushed. She woke up on her own at 6:15, and we left the house by 6:45. As we drove to daycare, the hardest part for me was not being able to explain to her what was going on. Here she was about to experience a complete break in all she has even known, and I was incapable of giving her a heads up. While I had previously thought it would be so much easier if only she were older, a good friend of mine explained that her son was older, and as a result, able to grip her tightly and say "Mommy, please don't leave me!" Surely this would be tougher, I reminded myself. 

I went to see her at 10:30am, dreading what I might see as I walked through the door. Would she be alone in a corner, crying? She was fast asleep, in one of the worker's arms, and I ducked out quickly so that I could go back later and spend time together. I'm thankful that I have a flexible schedule and do not have a set time that I have to take my lunch at. Also, she is very close. I went back just before noon and was able to sneak a look at her before she saw me. She was sitting one-on-one with one of the workers, playing with a bead toy. As soon as she saw me, she started bawling but quickly stopped once I picked her up. As I sat with her, she was still very interested in watching the other children, and leaning with her whole body to play with some of the toys. This was very reassuring. I didn't know what to expect and if she sat there clinging to me the whole time or crying it would have made it that much harder. One of the workers said that she woke up in her crib and sat up, something I have never seen! Also, she was babbling right after waking, which made me feel good, since she does that at home. 

Nathan was able to leave work before me, and picked her up. He said that she was not crying, and that the workers said that although there was some crying, her first day was "better than most." They went straight to the doctor so she could be checked for an ear infection (she has been tugging at it, but no infection) and also a booster for her flu shot. I met them there and savored every second with her that night. 

On our three mile walk, I carried her in her carrier, feeling the need to be close to her after our day apart. We brought the stroller, but didn't use it. She fell asleep a little over half way, and I kept her in there. She went to bed at her normal time, 8pm. I was worried she would fall asleep too early and I would have less time with her.

When we returned from our walk, I made it a point to put my cell phone away and not pick it up again until she was asleep. I quickly realized that I am on it way too much, because there were several times when I was playing with Baby A that I felt the need to go on it and check something: is it really going to rain tomorrow? How much is a Knott's annual pass? And of course, social media. All pointless when compared to giving her my undivided attention. I have resolved to now check my cell phone at the door every day. Now that our quantity of time together is limited, I want to make sure it is of the highest quality.

Tuesday- I had my alarm set for 5:45, but woke up at 4:45 and was trying unsuccessfully to fall back to sleep when Baby A woke me up at 5:15. I am always so excited to pick her up out of her crib, and she almost hugs back, which I love. She had 6 ounces of formula and almost fell back to sleep on me when my alarm went off. I put her in her pack-n-play in our bedroom while I got in the shower, thinking she would fall asleep. But she was laying there calmly, and smiling at me through the mesh, so I picked her up while I finished getting ready. Nathan took her to daycare because I had to be at work earlier than him. He said that she cried for just a few seconds when he handed her off, but quickly stopped and was fine when he left. That helped me get through until my lunch break, when I visited her. 

My heart sank as I walked through the door and saw her sitting, alone, and crying. One worker was feeding a girl, and another was changing a baby. It was a tough thing to walk into and couldn't get to her fast enough. She quickly stopped and we had a good visit. They said she had just woken up from a nap, and I fed her some of her bottle, which she now likes to take while sitting up. She remained curious about the other kids and toys, so I sat with her on the mat while she tried to crawl and reached for things. I didn't have anyone to hand her off to because they were busy with younger babies (remember, the ratio is 4:1), so I kissed her, told her bye and waved to her while I put my shoes back on by the door. She either didn't realize I was leaving, or didn't seem to mind. Either way, leaving was not as difficult as arriving. They also said that she cried less today and seemed to be adjusting. Nathan picked her up and said that she was resting in one of the worker's lap and drinking her bottle. We had a great evening and she went to bed at 8pm.

Wednesday - I woke up again at 4:45, and got out of bed at 5:15. By the time Baby A awoke at 6, I was completely ready, and was able to have a relaxed cuddle session while she had her bottle. Nathan dropped her off at daycare, and I received this text: A was fine today for drop off. She was being held by one of the ladies, watched me wave goodbye and then turned her attention to the other kids.

When I went to visit her at lunch, she was sitting in front of their mirror, looking at herself. She wasn't crying! Until she saw me. We had a lovely visit and she went from sitting to up on her knees, with her thighs vertical and not touching her calves for the first time. It seemed like she wanted to pull herself up and stand, but is not there just yet. I held her and we looked out the window at all of the rain, and listened to the thunder. One of the workers was feeding two of the girls and singing "If You're Happy and You Know it" which delighted Baby A. She was fixated on watching her, and excitedly moved her arms and let out a squeal. She is definitely bonding with them. She was engaged in playing with some soft rings when I kissed her, walked to the door and waved bye. As I put on my shoes she was starting to whimper, but I headed out quickly. 


Cupcake buns!
Nathan had a meeting, and I was so excited to (finally) be the one to pick her up for the first time! I rushed out of work and even slowly jogged from the parking lot to daycare...only to find her crashed out on a playmat. I didn't ask how she did after I left the day before, afraid to know, but Joan volunteered "She was fine after you left! She started to cry, but didn't, and was easily distracted by our singing." This was such a relief to me! 

We had another great evening together, walking, playing and snuggling until she fell asleep at 7:45. 

Thursday - I woke up at 5:15am again (alarm set for 5:45) and was able to get ready before she woke up at 6am. I am really liking this routine. Even though I am not a morning person, getting up earlier allows me to have almost an hour of undistracted time with her, and not be rushed. Daddy dropped her off again, and said it was easy! She smiled at the other kids as her brought her into the room in her car seat, and was passed off to the worker without a peep. I would love to be the one dropping her off, but that would mean she would be at daycare longer since I have to be at work earlier. When I visited her on my lunch break, she was quietly playing. I scooped her up and gave her 100 kisses, as we walked around the room and looked out the window before sitting back down. I also love laying down and lifting her above me, or throwing her up in the air, just a few inches out of my hands.
They said that it was by far her best day. Not only did she not cry after drop off, but she was belly laughing while visiting with an older child from the next room. They said that Baby A was sitting on one of the worker's laps and reached out her hand to the older girl, who is 16 months. The girl came over and held A's hand, and A started belly laughing! When Nathan picked her up, she was dancing! She looked at him, and kept dancing! This made me so happy.

Unfortunately, she either had too much fun, or the early mornings of the week were catching up with her. She fell asleep at 4:45pm and was pretty much down for the night. I woke her up for our 3 mile walk just before 6pm, but she slept on the walk and after we returned. I woke her to feed around 7:30, put her in her crib and she slept until morning.

Friday - Even though she went to bed early, she was still asleep when I left for work at 7:10am. This made me sad, because I have been enjoying our time together before I leave. She did wake up for a feeding at 4:30am, and went right back to sleep on my chest. I was able to lay with her like that (and fall back asleep myself) until 6am. Nathan dropped her off and said she was great, there was no crying and she was looking at the other kids and smiling.

I visited her at lunch for the fifth day and it was the best! She was quietly playing, and I was able to observe her for a bit before she saw me and then continued to play. They said she did not cry when I left the day before or that morning! And, I found out that she crawled for the very first time! She moved her knees/arms three times! Prior to daycare, I worried that missing a "first" would make me sad, but thankfully it doesn't at all. I'm just really excited to see it for myself and, enjoy the weekend with her! 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

10 Hacks for New Moms

  1. Cut their nails when they are asleep. You will be terrified the first time you have to cut her nails, and may even ask your doctor to do it, who will tell you that they aren't long enough to be cut just yet. But once you do it a few times without bloodshed, it will become one of your favorite activities, giving you a great sense of pride and accomplishment. 
  2. There will be multiple contraptions you don't have, and you will worry that not having it is depriving your child. But you will quickly realize that most baby items are not necessary. Remember, half of those things weren't even invented when were little, and we turned out alright. Things I didn't use or need: a bumpo, jumper/exersaucer, gates.
  3. Don't bother with a diaper pail! Almost every nursery has a window. Put a trashcan outside, under the window, and throw the diapers outside! Be sure to arrange your changing table under the window so that you do not have to leave them to throw it out. 
  4. If breast feeding doesn't work out, you don't need to heat their formula! There's a risk of burns, and Autumn has never seemed to mind cold milk.
  5. Spring for an expensive newborn photographer, and book them in your first or second trimester. The good ones go fast. Yes, these are expensive, but they are something you cannot ever redo, and you will always cherish. If you don't like their Christmas or Easter photos, you will have a lot of other opportunities. But if all you have done are the ones taken in the hospital, you do not know who you will get, and may not like them. Plus, newborns are at their "best" (read: less red and alien looking) 7-10 days post-birth. Splurge. Then, find a reasonable photographer for their first year. Autumn's infant photos were $650, but I'm making up for it by having a photographer that I LOVE who only charges $20 for mini sessions, which she does for all holidays!
  6. Plan for the worst and hope for the best. Plan to be sleep deprived and a ghost of your former self, and you will be overjoyed when your child starts sleeping through the night at only 7 weeks old.
  7. If your baby is crying in the first few days of life, they're starving! A baby's cry means something, and a video we watched prior to her birth had us thinking she needed to be soothed, swaddled and shushed when she was really just trying to tell us she was hungry. Fortunately, we realized this before we were discharged from the hospital and started supplementing with formula. But food is so essential in the first few days for their brain development.
  8. Make sure you keep a newborn nasal aspirator in their crib or co-sleeper, especially if they were delivered via cesarean. On day two of our hospital stay, Autumn turned red, stretched her neck out and wasn't making any noise. Almost frozen with fear, Nathan yelled for me to call the nurse. Afraid it would take too long, he picked her up and ran down the hall. They used a bulb to remove some mucus that was blocking her airflow. We brought the aspirator home and although we never needed it again, it never left her co-sleeper.
  9. Don't be afraid to buy used! Many products your baby will only use for a month or two, or maybe not at all. I purchased an ArmsReach Co-sleeper which retails for $200 for $50 and she outgrew it by 3 months. Then I sold it for $60.
  10. Change her clothes the night before, so she is ready to go in the morning, after just a diaper change. This one seems really obvious, but doesn't fit into our normal routine of doing things, since we get ready in the morning. But it has been especially helpful to me since returning to work. 
What parenting tips do you have for new moms? Comment below to share!