Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Just for an evening

OK, I’ll admit to being one of those people who didn’t believe that Twitter/Facebook would ever replace blogging, but yeah, it’s totally doing that for me. Rather than sitting down to write up a whole post, I can post all those scintillating nuggets of poo information all day long. From my laptop, my phone, at work, at home, wherever.

So if you read any of my tweets or Facebook posts on Monday night, you figured out I went to see Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds play. It was a charity show at McCaw Hall in Seattle, which is the home of the Pacific Northwest Ballet. Between the fact that the entire ticket price went to charity, the rarity of these acoustic shows, and the fact that it was at a venue designed for music, I *had* to go. And TJ was helpful in convincing me it was worth spending the money, which is surprising, since he’s usually not down with the willy-nilly spending of cash.

So I bought a ticket for myself, since I couldn’t find anyone else to go with me. Turns out they released tickets just before the show, so I got a fantastic 1st tier box seat with a great view. I guess buying single tickets pays off.

I felt weird going by myself, especially before the show when everyone was milling around in the lobby, but McCaw Hall is very pretty and had lots of interesting Nutcracker costumes and statues around. I got myself a very expensive diet Coke and a cookie and settled into my seat when the doors opened. By the way, don’t get the cookies at McCaw Hall – they are nasty.

The opening band, The Head and the Heart, were good, but not my taste. Pretty alt-country songs, and great energy on stage, but they just didn’t wow me. The rest of the crowd was pretty into them, though, and they’re local, so I imagine it must have been HUGE for them since Dave Matthews specifically asked them to open for him. Word on the street is that he doesn’t usually have opening bands.

Dave and Tim came on around 8:30, and played until after 11pm. They played a lot of songs I didn’t recognize, since I haven’t been keeping up much with their newer stuff, but played enough of the old stuff to keep me happy. The sound was really good, the inter-song banter was odd but amusing, and Tim Reynolds did not say a word the entire time.

The crowd was a crazy mix of college age folks, yuppies in their 30s, and oddly, a bunch of older folks (50s and 60s). Then again, DMB has been around for 15+ years, so I guess that’s not surprising. I’m a lot older than I think, I guess.

Anyway, it was an evening well spent. I’m so glad I went, even if I had to be the loser who goes to a show by herself. DMB was the soundtrack to my life in some of the best times I’ve had. I took my last Caltech final while listening to ‘Under the Table and Dreaming’. I listened to their ‘Live at Red Rocks’ album for hours on end while working out in 1999 and it eventually made me skinny ;) Unfortunately, while that didn’t last, I still love their music.

So I’ll leave you with ‘Satellite’:

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Mama, ooo, didn't mean to make you cry

Two weeks ago, we reached a milestone I never thought I'd see. I have breastfed BabyT for 11 months! 11! That's one month short of a year! When I wrote this, I never imagined we'd make it this long.

Around 4 months it actually got EASY, and quick. Easier than pumping and heating up bottles. So when we hit 6 months and I gave myself permission to quit, we kept going.

I've still never been comfortable nursing in public - I've done it a few times in a pinch, or at a mom's group where other people are doing it (lemming, I know). But T is way too big and wiggly to be happy under a blanket or nursing cover so we just nurse at home, and give her a bottle or cup when we're out and about.  Every time I see someone nursing in public, I want to give them a high-five for being brave and kicking ass but of course, they'd think I was crazy.

The weird thing is that I'm not planning to quit at 1 year, which I totally thought I'd do (if I ever imagined in my wildest dreams that I'd make it this far). BabyT is still allergic to dairy so no cow's milk for her. We started her on soymilk which she likes - I tried it and it's YUM.  We buy the vanilla flavor so it's nice and sweet.

Plus, September is going to be super-busy for us, with trips and parties and starting daycare, so introducing another transition might not be wise. So for a few more months, we'll keep nursing. Of course, where we live, it's totally normal - I've known tons of people who kept nursing until 18 months, 2 years, or older. 
I know a lot of people just don't get the extended nursing thing.  Heck, even I didn't get it until the last couple of months.  Someone commenting on AskMoxie nailed it- she said she had been planning to wean at a year, but when her baby turned 1, the mama realized that she was *still* a baby.  That's where I am.
BabyT is not yet reliably drinking a large volume from a cup and we've tried several different kids of sippy and straw cups with various beverages:  water, soymilk, watered down juice.  I think she's just not ready yet, and will get there on her own time, like everything else.  In the meantime, I don't want to offer her *more* bottles since we're trying to phase those out.  So nursing it is.   
I am phasing out pumping milk at home - if she needs milk when I'm not around, we've got formula to finish up, and of course, the yummy soymilk.  I'm really excited about not having to buy any more formula - I didn't love feeding it to her, with all of its special handling rules and how processed it is.  I do think it helped get her iron levels back up to normal, so I can't hate on it too much.
My next step will be to phase out pumping at work, and then I will do my happy dance.  Because there is nothing stranger than sitting in your office hooked up to a breastpump while trying to answer work email. 
I know we've been working towards weaning since 6.5 months when we introduced solids, but quitting the pump seems like an even huger leap forward.  Like many paradoxes in this new life of mine, I'm both happy and sad.  Yes, I'm actually sad to contemplate that in a few months, BabyT will  no longer be nursing.  Did I really just say that?  Who am I??

Sunday, August 22, 2010

How sweet it is to be loved by you

 Birthday Cupcake Test
Since BabyT's 1st birthday is coming up next month, I had to find a cupcake recipe without dairy. And for a while we thought she might also be allergic to soy, but we've given her tofu a few times recently to test that and she tolerates it well with none of that telltale redness on her hands and mouth.

However, when I was looking for recipes, we thought she was allergic to both dairy and soy, so I found this simple recipe for Vegan Chocolate Cake. It works really well as cupcakes, and I added a teaspoon of cinnamon just to make it interesting.

I've made them twice now, and they come out great each time. The fascinating thing is that they don't have any dairy or eggs - they just use baking soda and vinegar for leavening.

Personally, I don't care for frosting. I like plain cake donuts, and I've asked frou-frou cupcake joints to give me unfrosted cupcakes. But some people think it's heresy to have an unfrosted cupcake so I figured I should research frosting recipes since other people besides BabyT and me are going to eat these birthday cupcakes.

Dairy-free frosting recipes are harder to find. A lot of them use Crisco, which is just gross, or lots of eggs. BabyT is ok with eggs so far, but I didn't want to overload her with a ton of egg whites since they're pretty allergenic. We haven't yet given her a whole egg, though she's definitely had things with egg in them.

So I was quite pleased to find this Vegan Chocolate Frosting recipe. BabyT and I made a trip to Whole Foods to buy the good dark chocolate (Scharffenberger) and grapeseed oil.

I can't recall if I've ever made frosting before. If I needed some, I used that nasty shelf-stable Betty Crocker stuff in a tub (shudder) or just made a simple powdered sugar glaze. The stuff I made today was *serious* frosting.

I melted the chocolate into the oil in the microwave instead of a saucepan, so that I could use the same glass bowl for freezing and whipping the mixture.

It turns out that I shouldn't have bought unsweetened chocolate, because it took a ton of the agave nectar plus some additional powdered sugar to make the frosting mix sweet enough (and I prefer things to be not that sweet!). Next time, I'll try the bittersweet or maybe even the semi-sweet.

I had a small hiccup at the whipping stage - when I froze the mix for 15 minutes and then used my hand mixer to beat it, it turned all gross and oily. I was very depressed (that was some expensive chocolate!) but figured I'd stick it back into the freezer for a while as per some of the comments on the recipe post.

Bingo! With about 40 minutes in the freezer, the mixture hardened, and then when I beat it, it turned into a gorgeous, fluffy light brown frosting. It was an amazing transformation.

For the first time in my life I used a pastry bag and made some small frosting "poofs". Clearly I need more practice to make these look like fancy cupcakes. Also, I realized that I couldn't just use a ziploc bag instead of the pastry bag. The ziploc split and the frosting oozed everywhere except through the tip. Sigh.

I frosted some using a spatula, and those looked fine, too, so that's probably what I'll do for BabyT's birthday cupcakes.  At Whole Foods, I bought some pink nonpareils, which are colored with beet juice.  I don't really get the idea behind "natural" junk food.  I mean, you're decorating a cake, which isn't exactly health food, so who cares if the tiny sprinkles are made from all natural ingredients or not?

So I think we have a winner here, both with the cupcakes and the frosting.  We're having two parties for her - one with her baby friends here in Seattle, and the family party in Tucson, so I'll get to make these cupcakes twice more.

Any tips on using the pastry bag?  I was trying to get an elegant swirly cone of frosting on top of the cupcakes but I'm not sure how to do that.  Mamas out there, what did you make for your baby's first birthday?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I will find a way and I will have you

When I was a kid, I LOVED back-to-school shopping - all those new writing implements, pristine notebooks, folders, planners, yay!

I would start out perfectly organized, using my best handwriting for my notes (this was in the Dark Ages, before laptops were common). In college, I even had a system of using multiple colored pens and highlighters to take lecture notes. And those were some pretty notes. It pained me to put them in the recycle bin after lugging them from house to house for 10 years without using them.

As an adult, I have free access to decent office supplies at work (for job-related stuff) so I don't have any occasions to shop for stationery or school supplies. But I crave them.

I found a pen on my desk the day I returned from maternity leave and it was a Marvelous Pen. It was like the Pen Fairy had left me a present welcoming me back to work - the perfect combination of rollerball/gel pen, with a nice squashy grip and unbelievably smooth writing action. I loved that pen. Until my coworker Michelle saw it one day, and told me it was her lost pen. She knew it was a Marvelous Pen, and she wanted it back, so I grudgingly gave it back to her.

For months I sought that pen: Target, Office Depot, Staples. For some reason I never bought the right one - I knew the brand (Uniball Jet Stream RT), but every pack I bought wasn't quite right.

The Target pens were too light and plasticky and were more traditional ballpoint than rollerball.

TJ bought one pack for me at Office Depot, but those were too inky and not "gel" enough.

I bought another set that were ok, but the point was far too fine. At that point, I had enough pens that we'd never need to buy more, but the quest still continued.

Yesterday, I bought what I thought was a set of 3 Marvelous Pens. Bold, rollerball, from Office Depot, with a nice weight to them. But sadly, these are not the droids (um, pens) I was looking for either. They are too ball-pointy, and don't have the nice squishy grip.

Aaaghh. Am I destined to never find these pens again?

Monday, August 09, 2010

I'm the kid who ran away with the circus

Because I'm impulsive, and I'm afraid I'd chicken out, I already put in my application for the UCU show I mentioned previously.

It wasn't a complicated application, and I had already selected my photos over the weekend, so I just spent a bit of time answering their questions about my craft, the process to make my items and my pricing - all things I've had to either write up or think about previously.

Here are the photos I chose.  I wanted a mix of product types and materials, plus the show organizers specifically requested a group shot of several items together.

So now I just wait.  They won't post their selections until the end of September, and I have to start preparations long before that if I'm accepted, so now I'm going to focus on writing up my "project plan" for what needs to be done, and of course, making things.  Even if I'm rejected, having the stock on hand will be great for holiday sales, not to mention just fun to do.

It's nice to have something big to work towards - the world of BabyT has a lot of small, repetitive tasks that are roughly the same week to week.

So wish me luck and better sleep in the coming months so I can work on crafty goodness!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

On the road to madness

A few weeks ago, BabyT and I were looking for something to do on a Saturday while TJ was working.  We decided to attend the Urban Craft Uprising show - a few of the people I've met through Etsy were selling there, and I'd never been to it before. 

It was by far, the hippest craft show I've ever been to - lots of eco/recycled items, edgy themes, and nearly every booth had something I wanted to buy.  No crocheted doilies or country-style dish towels here! 

I spent a lot more money than I intended on a bright purple recycled T-shirt summer hat for babyT at moth and squirrel, gorgeous glittery hairpins and a big shiny cocktail ring for me from glamscience, Matthew Porter's ABC book for BabyT (should have asked him to sign it!), a screenprinted paramecium T-shirt from Katy and Zucchini, and this awesome handmade bear (for both of us!) from Maluhia Designs:

The bear was nearly as big as Trillian and they both rode in the stroller through the show.  She loves it.  I like it because it's got really cute Japanese animated characters all over it, though TJ pointed out most of them are frowny or angry (in a really cute way). 

I came away from this craft show totally amazed and excited to make stuff, lack of sleep be damned.  (woo hoo!)  And I got a tiny thought in my head.  What if I applied to sell there?  I know I swore off craft shows in the past, but this one seems different. 

And, it turns out the application process for the Winter 2010 show starts next week.  The fee to apply is minimal, and there's a huge chance I won't get in - from the numbers I've seen posted on their site, it looks like they accept less than 30% of their applicants.  So I've been waffling about it all weekend, and I even got 5 product photos together for the application.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

So in order to make this work, I need to start making things now.  On the bright side, even if I don't get in, I'll have enough product listed online for the holiday season, which is always busy.  I'm going to focus on ready-made stuff online this year, rather than custom items. 

So yeah, that's the plan.  We'll see where this path takes me...

Thursday, August 05, 2010

It'll chew you up

 No one ever told me how much fun it is to introduce food to a baby. Except for the milk and soy intolerance, we give T a lot of different things to try. Sometimes it takes 2 or 3 offerings before she'll actually try something or decide she likes it.

Meals are fun and relaxed (I love Baby-Led Weaning! no stress!) - I plop bits of things down on her high chair tray and she eats them, or not. What she doesn't eat, the dogs eat. Lately she's been eating like a CHAMP - Miss Baby finished a pint of blueberries in about 4 days. Which is no small feat since we cut them in half, and she picks them up one by one. It's like watching a mini zen master doing active meditation.

Breakfast takes a long time - BabyT signals the end by picking up the things on her tray and deliberately dropping them over the edge, or sweeping everything off her tray with her arm, which I think is pretty funny. (Ask me again later.) Sometimes we spend 45 min to an hour eating so it's also a nice time for me to catch up on email while I sit and make sure she doesn't choke. (I have some paranoia about choking.)

Before we started T on solid foods I read most of Ellyn Satter's book "Child of Mine" and really liked her philosophy around the "division of labor" regarding meals. It's my job as parent to provide a range of healthy options, and BabyT's job to decide whether and how much to eat it.

No power struggles about how much she's eating. No "airplane" games or coaxing her to take "just one more bite". Babies and toddlers have great inborn sense of how much they need to eat, and over time will consume all the different things they need (as long as you offer a variety of food groups, etc).

The few times we tried to spoonfeed her in order to get her to take her iron supplement (massive FAIL), it was stressful, and I felt like this horrible, food-pushing mother. So I quit. It's easier to just shoot the supplement into her cheek during changing time - she hates it but at least I'm not also making her eating experience miserable. We usually follow it up with some milk and lots of snuggles and cheers so she gets over it pretty quickly.

Current favorites are ham and sausage, and of course, blueberries. Our girl likes her meat. Which I'm sure she inherited from her daddy. Oddly, she also likes really garlicky hummus, and the spicy black bean soup I made. I guess all those salt 'n' vinegar chips I ate when I was pregnant made a difference :)

I'd love to hear your suggestions on what to feed a baby who's gotten good at feeding herself.  We can't quite just give her what we eat yet, due to the milk/soy issue, but we're getting close.  I'll just need to modify what I cook sometimes.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Fifteen there's still time for you

I had a crazy thought last night when I lay in bed trying to fall asleep.  I'm closer to BabyT's 15th birthday than my own.  (14 years vs. 20!)  How the heck did that happen?  When did I get old?  It was long before my conversation with TJ last week that began with "I was listening to NPR, and ...".  Because dude, only old people listen to NPR.  Arghhh.

Anyway, I must have been a resilient 15, because that was a tough year for me.  The kind of stress I was under then would send me to bed for weeks if it happened now. 

Let's see, there was senior year in a high school I was *SO* done with, the stress of applying to (and getting into!) a decent engineering college, extracurriculars after school and every freakin' night of the week, dealing with the obligatory horrible high school breakup and resulting drama, a weekend job at Arby's, and the usual teenage angst with my parents and life in general. 

It would have made a world of difference to know with certainty that all that stuff would come together and I'd have the life that I wanted.   I often marvel at how lucky and blessed I am, and how much easier life seems to be now, even with the current not-sleeping, baby-hubby-work-house-dogs-craft craziness.  I feel like I have choices and leisure time, rather than everything barrelling down the train tracks at 150mph with every decision and activity needing to lead to the Right Choices to set me up for future success.

Wow, do I not want to relive my teenage years.  And hopefully I'll have the grace, strength and understanding to guide T through hers.  And I'll be even more OLD then.  Sigh.

When did you realize you got old?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Saturday, wait

TJ is on his parental leave right now so my life just got a LOT easier.  Now I don't have 100% baby duty from 7am-7pm on the four days he usually works. 

We can go out and do random things during the week, like meet up with our friends Dave and Baby Max and Adrianne and Baby Rae for cupcakes in the middle of the day.  After the cupcake adventure, we got some Thai food and walked over to the Olympic Sculpture Park on a bright sunny Friday afternoon.  A good time was had by mamas, daddies and babies alike.

Babies chillin at da Sculpture Park
But TJ has this crazy idea that he wants to spend part of his 8 week leave doing things he likes to do, which are usually things he does by himself.  (What a novel idea.)  So today he's off on his motorcycle to ride around Mt. Rainier for most of the day.  Which makes this a sort of usual Saturday for me and BabyT. 

I go a little crazy just staying in the house all day with her - I love playing silly games and singing those dumb songs I make up on the fly, but I can't do that all day or both of our heads would explode.  So we try to find Baby-Mama Outings.

Today after a short morning nap, we went to the Redmond Saturday Market.  It's the closest farmer's market, and is only on Saturdays (duh) from 9-3, May-October.  I always forget about it, and realize on Sunday that I meant to go.  Or in November. 

But this year we've been three times already, or two and a half, since the first time we brought the stroller, which doesn't navigate the bumpy gravel or the crowd very well.  So BabyT rides close to me in the Ergo.  My girl is getting way too heavy for the front carry, sadly, though she still likes it, and so do I because it allows me to talk to her about what we see, and allows her to snuggle close when she gets a temporary bout of stranger anxiety. 

The last two times we've shared a crepe.  More accurately, I snork down a crepe and T gets 2-3 tiny little pieces.  Is it bad that a hot crepe is the highlight of my farmer's market experience?  Sigh. 

But we also buy blueberries, because that seems to be T's favorite fruit yet.  She eats most fruits I've put in front of her, though after the very first Avocado Day, she's pretty much rejected them every other time.  Blueberries are a special favorite, though.  Miss Baby went through 2 pints of blueberries in about 4 days.  Which, considering most of her calories still come from breastmilk, is no small feat.

Today there were also hip-hop dancers and live music at the market, not to mention LOTS of dogs, kids and other babies.  We saw several babies in Ergo carriers and it emboldened us to learn how to do the back carry, which is going to be much easier on my back now that BabyT is > 25 lbs.

I also realized that it's now difficult for me to drink something through a straw with T in the carrier, because she wants some, too.  And unfortunately she can't have any of my iced chai, so I had to distract her with the aforementioned blueberries while I enjoyed my frosty beverage.

After such a busy morning, Miss Baby slept for over 2 hours, the longest nap she's had in a few days.  So hooray for the Saturday Market!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cuts you like a knife

I was chatting with a pregnant coworker a few days ago and she mentioned that she might have to schedule a C-section due to her baby's position. She wanted to know how the recovery went for me, and of course I was enthusiastic as ever about my experience with BabyT's birth, which was perfect for us.
In the ultra-granola, hippie Northwest, it seems like most pregnant women are really terrified and/or dismissive of the C, especially those with the perfectly-detailed natural unmedicated "birth plans".

From the parent-baby group we briefly attended, it seemed like the women who *really* didn't want to even think about the C-section as a possibility were really traumatized/disappointed in their birth experiences when it had to be a C for various medical reasons. It was pretty sad to hear that their baby's birthday included stress and regret, even 6 months later.

And on a side note, I feel like I should get a medal for staying through the whole meeting where people discussed their birth experiences, because I am super-squeamish.  But I sort of felt a responsibility to tell our positive C-story after hearing so many negative ones, if only to show that it doesn't have to be a horrible experience and one to avoid at all costs.

I wrote a sort of "Lessons Learned" a few months after T was born for a friend of mine.  Yes, it's the Project Manager in me, and I can't help myself. 

Many of the tips apply for any sort of giving-birth experience.  Hopefully this helps out some apprehensive first-time pregnant mamas out there. 

22 Tips to Prepare for a C-Section and the Resulting New Baby

When you're hugely pregnant
  • PRIMP: Schedule a haircut/waxing/pedicure/massage as close to your due date as possible but far enough in advance that you won't miss it. It was nearly a month or more before I had time for even a quick eyebrow wax and I didn't get out for a haircut until 8 weeks post-baby.

  • PHOTOS: If you want professional pictures of your cute pregnant self and pre-baby family, set that up for your 33-36th week.  You don't want it to be so late you'll miss it but you want to be nice and round for the pictures.  If you want brand-new-baby pictures, find a photographer and book a tentative appointment before you give birth as the first several weeks are usually a blur of sleeplessness and adjusting to your new reality.

  • SHOWER: The night before, or the morning of, your surgery - take a very long shower. It will probably be a few days before you can shower again, and for sure, weeks, before you have the time to take a nice leisurely shower. I swear BabyT knew when I was going to get in the shower, and exactly 5 minutes in, would decide she was hungry.

  • TRACK: The TotalBaby app for the iPhone ROCKS for tracking baby stuff like diapers, sleep, feeding etc. which you need to do for the first several weeks - doctors always ask about those details at early appointments.

  • COMFY: Set up the spot where you're going to feed the baby at home to be super-comfy. Chair, cushions, music, a table for your snacks, laptop, whatever. You will spend a LOT of time there.

  • CARSEAT: Practice getting the infant seat into/out of the car and clipped to the stroller before the baby comes. Some babies HATE the carseat so it's a lot easier to practice without a screaming baby first :)

  • PUMP: Figure out your breastpump. You might need to use it right from the beginning while your body adjusts its supply, and those first weeks are not the time to struggle with putting the little pieces together or realizing you're missing something.

  • VISITORS: Discuss your plan for early visitors with your husband/partner and make sure you're on the same page.  Do you want family to come and stay with you to help out from the beginning, or do you want time for yourselves first?  Visitors at the hospital or not?  The first few days and weeks are blurry and chaotic so plan for this up front and communicate it to all parties involved.  You don't want to be surprised by too little help or unexpected guests.

  • ANNOUNCE: In the same vein, discuss how you want to announce your baby's birth to the world.  Facebook, Twitter, and blogs enable you to share all the gory details as they unfold, but make sure that's what both partners want.  Also discuss what (if any) hospital photos to post/email.  It can be a little weird to send those disheveled "just-born" mama/baby shots to coworkers so make sure your partner knows your wishes.  

  • FOOD: Before the baby comes, stock up your house with things that are easy to eat with one hand, and little to no prep. You will be spending *so* much time feeding your baby, and napping, that you need to eat quickly. I ate pop-tarts, bananas or sandwiches while feeding her. Literally in the beginning, a nursing session can take a whole *hour*.

Bring to the hospital
  • PILLOWS: theirs suck. 

  • NURSING PILLOW: much easier to learn how to feed your baby using the same pillow you'll have at home. I wish I had done that. BTW, the "My Brest Friend" is way better than the Boppy, more supportive, less back pain. Horrible name, but awesome product.

  • LIP BALM: They have nearly everything else, but I needed lip balm a lot.

  • SUPPLIES: Change of clothes/pajamas/snacks for your husband/partner. We forgot to bring something for TJ to sleep in, so he had to leave to get a pair of shorts at home, and I was so sad (hormonal) to be left "alone" with the baby. Also bring toiletries for him since you'll be there for a couple of days.
At the hospital

  • H20: Drink water like crazy before/after your surgery. It helps with everything.

  • ADVOCATE: A friend had a not-great experience with the postpartum nurses. Enlist your husband/partner to be your advocate, and ask all the questions you need re: breastfeeding, etc. Also, if they have you supplement with formula at the beginning, instead of going straight to the bottle, they have these little syringe/tube thingies that you can use so that you don't risk the chance of messing up breastfeeding later. But you'll need to ask for this - they might not even tell you this is available.

  • MOVE: In the hospital, the nurses had me cough, sleep on both sides, and eventually get up and walk, to help me heal faster. I swear it worked because after about a week I only needed Advil every 6 hours for the pain/soreness. And within 4 weeks I didn't feel *anything*.

  • HELP: Even if you think you're getting the hang of breastfeeding, ask different nurses for help at each session. Different ones had different tips and tricks, and we learned something from each of them. (Well, except the one who came in and told me I was doing it all wrong.)

  • PAIN MEDS: Don't be a martyr about the pain meds, esp after a C-section. Confirm that what they're offering you is safe for breastfeeding and then take what you need. A side benefit is that they help with the pain of learning to breastfeed. 
After you're home
  • DIVIDE/CONQUER: Feeding a baby is HARD work, and takes a LONG time in the beginning so make a deal with your husband/partner/family members for them to do diaper duty and keep the house running so you can focus on feeding and getting lots of naps.  Even at 10 months, I'm pretty sure my lovely hubby has changed more diapers than I have.

  • CAPTURE: Take quick pictures daily or at least a few times a week, even if it's only with your crappy cell phone camera.  Babies change SO MUCH in those first few weeks.  It's fascinating to look back at those early pictures.  Don't worry about processing/uploading them, just take them and deal with them when you're ready.

  • NO GUILT: It's ok not to love every minute of it (or even most of the beginning) even if your baby was long-awaited. Don't let anyone make you feel guilty about that.

Other mamas out there in Internet-land, what would you add to the list?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Can't sleep at night I just toss and turn

I realized this morning that in the past 3.5 months, I've only had about 5 nights of uninterrupted sleep (7 hours or more). And I'm not a complete mess, surprisingly. I think it's the combination of the Vitamin D supplements I'm taking and the fact that BabyT does sleep in until about 8:30 or 9am, though she gets up 2-4 times to eat through the night.

It also helps that My Awesome Husband(tm) takes the night feeding on Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights so at least I don't have to do anything when BabyT wakes, and I can get back to sleep relatively quickly. (Because I have not yet developed the ability to sleep through baby crying.)

I suppose this is karma and the universe righting itself after giving us a baby who slept through the night (12 hours!) around 9 weeks, and who slept 4-6 hour stretches from the very beginning. I'm still very grateful for that because it allowed me to recover from the birth and sort out the breastfeeding business without being too much of a zombie. Plus I got a LOT of Etsy orders made last Christmas, thanks to our baby's amazing sleep schedule.

Now, not so much. I was starting to get that crazy stressed feeling, and realized it was the combo of work + broken sleep + Etsy orders (more work!) + trying to keep our house in reasonable shape + being a good mama to BabyT when she was awake. Something had to give, and sadly it was Etsy. I didn't want to feel like my craft was becoming an obligation so I've decided to just stick with selling things I've already got made, until I'm getting better sleep and work is less crazy.

And work. Sigh. I do love my team and my job, but my awesome friend Michelle who was doing my job while I was out on maternity leave, then sharing my job when I came back part-time, is away for 100 days (!) on a mandatory break as part of my company's rules for contract workers. So I'm trying to do a roughly 50-60 hour a week job in 25 hours.

As you can imagine, that's not really going well, because I don't have a Time Extending Device. I'm also a Type A perfectionist about work, so it's hard for me to not do *everything* at 110%. Which isn't exactly possible in half-time. So I'm learning to prioritize and really figure out what needs to be done NOW, and what could possibly wait until I have some breathing room.

I'm also learning how to compartmentalize so that I'm not doing work all day on my days off, in between taking care of BabyT. Sure, while she's down for a 2 hour nap, I can squeeze in a glance at my email or get a few short tasks done, but I don't want to plunk her down with her toys while I spend hours on conference calls, etc. Obviously, at times that's unavoidable, but in general it defeats the purpose of me staying home with her.

So of course, it's a work in progress, but I'm learning. As per ZenHabits, I've started making a "Most Important Tasks" list each day with only 3 items on it, and I make sure I get those done. Anything else is gravy. But getting those three tasks done makes me feel like I've accomplished *something* on these crazy fragmented days.

Other mamas out there, how do you deal with those competing priorities? What are your time management/sanity tips?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Come out and play

Toys! One of the best parts of being someone's mama is that I get to browse and buy toys. Tiny baby toys aren't that interesting - mostly just soft stuffed things, with an occasional rattle or squeak. We got lots of toys as hand-me-downs from awesome friends, so we haven't bought much.

And of course, like everything else, I have strong opinions about the toys BabyT plays with. We'd like to hold off on the onslaught of commercial licensed characters for as long as possible (Dora/Kai-lan/Elmo/etc), sort of for the same reason I'm not a fan of her (or me!) wearing clothes with a designer name or label emblazoned across the front. I don't need her to provide any corporations with free advertising, nor do I want to start training her so young to recognize these characters then ask for every single item that has them on it. I'm sure that'll come soon enough, so while I have some control over the situation, we're going to start without it :)

I have a real aversion to toys that make buzzing beeping electronic noises. Personally, I find them annoying and overstimulating, so I can't imagine that it's great for my baby. (Kind of like watching TV - sure it's an effective distracter when needed, but day-to-day, I don't want her assaulted with noise and flashing lights. Not to mention it'll drive me batty to hear it all the time as well.)

And plastic. I'm now paranoid about lead paint and BPA, and whatever else is lingering in all that plastic. And every single baby item is made of non-recyclable plastic. I'm not especially environmentally aware, but even I cringe at the amount of plastic we bring into our house. I try really hard to find the large things used, like the ever-popular Fisher-Price Rainforest Jumperoo which has been a favorite since T was around 5 months old:

We got her matching rainforest swing used as well. At least if we're going to bring giant plastic contraptions into our house, they can be pre-owned so we're not contributing to more plastic being sent to a landfill in a few years.

For Christmas, Aunt Susie gave BabyT Jacques the Peacock, who Trillian loves very much, because of his bright colors and cool textures:

Jacques has remained a favorite since December, which is pretty impressive!

One of the toys I'd been eyeing for a while was a set of stacking cups:
I love the pastel colors, and the fact that they're free of some bad chemicals. (Of course, there are probably other bad compounds in the plastic that we think is safe now, so you really can't win.) BabyT got a nice gift card from her Grandma and Grandpa so we used some of it to buy these cups. She likes them a lot and is very intent on making sure they're NOT stacked, nor do they have things inside them. She doesn't like it when you put parts of other toys into the cups or try to stack them all back together. It's pretty amusing to watch her little personality start to emerge.

A few weeks ago we were wandering around Redmond Town Center and saw a very cute little guy in a shop window. He had to come home with us. He's not suitable for babies, because he breathes fire :) TJ is good at naming people and dogs (he gets credit for Spike and Trillian) so he came up with a great name for this little guy. Say hi to Snap!

While we were at Target this week, I spotted a toy that I thought BabyT would really like - her own set of keys. She's always trying to grab mine, which would be fine, except that she likes to put them in her mouth and that's gross for everyone (or "gwoss" as we imagine Trillian would say if she could talk).

This set caught my eye, and when I did some research on the company, they seem sort of interesting - recyclable packaging, interesting color schemes/design aesthetic, and supposedly eco-friendly with good manufacturing policies. These keys do have a "remote" with a tiny light, and four noises each activated by a different colored button. Sounds annoying, right? But the sounds are pretty quiet and short, so they don't grate on my nerves even after the 20th button press. Plus T hasn't quite gotten the hang of pressing the buttons yet, so it's still a fun surprise for both of us when she does.

So that's what we've been playing with lately. What about you? Any new interesting toys at your house?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

I hope you choke on the words

Ugh, this has been a crappy couple of days.  But first, the good - BabyT had her 9-month checkup yesterday and is growing well - 23lbs 8oz.  She's apparently now in the 90-95th percentile for height, which is music to this short mama's ears.  I know that's no indication she'll actually be tall later, but it's nice to hear.  (Though I'm not sure how accurate baby length measurements are - T was pretty wiggly.)

why did mama make me wear this silly tutu?
But then we also learned that T is low on iron, which means that I'm probably *really* low since she's still getting most of her calories from nursing.  (side note:  hooray for 9 months of breastfeeding!)  So she needs to take this icky tasting iron supplement, with a yummy vitamin C supplement to mask the taste and enhance absorption.  We'll see how that goes.  Giving her liquid antibiotics in her milk didn't really work for us a few months ago - by the end of it, she was *very* wary of drinking out of the bottle. 

And then the doctor mentioned that she was a little concerned that T wasn't trying to pull up to standing yet.  My mama intuition (such as it is) isn't actually too worried about it, given T's size, since that's a lot of weight to try to move, and the fact that she's doing fine otherwise (feeding herself, sitting up like a champ, social and smiley, even with strangers).  But of course there are the inevitable comparisons to other babies we know that are her age, and they're all mobile.  So if she doesn't start pulling up by 11 months, we need to go somewhere to get her evaluated.  Ick. 

2 months is pretty much an eternity in BabyT-time, though.  2 months ago, she was barely eating anything I'd put in front of her, and now she's an expert at picking up and getting even little pieces of stuff in her mouth, including the beans from the spicy black bean soup I made.  2 months ago, she still needed some support to sit up and would often flop over.  Now she can sit up with no support, lean waaaay over to get a toy that's out of reach, and comfortably sit for 30 min+ to play with her toys.

Given that, I think, in 2 months she'll be in good shape.  The doctor pointed out that she's already using her 'pincer grip' to grab things.  I thought she was still working on it, so that's good news.  Which means we might be able to break out the Cheerios - yippee!

And speaking of food, I'm now running into what is probably the first of many times I live to eat my words with respect to raising a kid.  The advice I've read and gotten from our doctor on introducing solids to babies advocates a very slow approach - introducing a new food only every couple of days, and starting with just individual fruits and vegetables, then rice, then other grains, then yogurt and cheese, etc.  So if you follow the recommendations, it would be nearly forever before your baby could eat complicated table foods. 

When T was around 2 months old, I read a book by a local Seattle food writer called Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father's Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater.  It was a very entertaining read, and got me excited to introduce T to "real food". 

Since we have no family history of food allergies, I figured after we got through some of the first fruits and veggies, and a few grains without incident, we'd just be able to go hog wild on the rest and start feeding her what we eat. I was pretty disdainful of the uber-careful approach to introducing things. Especially after yesterday's doctor's appointment, where she told us we should be getting to a point where T should be eating 3 meals a day around the time she turns one.

And that all came to a screeching halt today. I brought a yoBaby yogurt with us to lunch so we could feed it to T while we ate. She had a few spoonfuls, and once we cleaned her up, her mouth and hands turned a very bright red, which then started spreading up to her ears. By the time we got home, there were little bumps and she was getting itchy.

This was her third yogurt experience, and I did notice the first two times, that she got a little bit red around the mouth. Plus there was the vomiting incident with the tomato soup (which had cream in it). But I wasn't sure at those times whether there was really a correlation. This was REALLY obvious.

She wasn't having any other issues (no breathing problems, thankfully!) but I figured I should call the doctor just in case. And of course we didn't have any baby Benadryl in the house either. Sigh. The nurse who returned my call said their diagnostic protocols said we needed to go to the ER at Children's Hospital because her reaction was so immediate after eating the yogurt and that we needed to call 911 *if* she started having any breathing issues.

Not exactly calming advice - I was pretty sure she was fine, since she had just fallen asleep and the rash was already fading. But it's not something I wanted to take a chance on, so I woke her up and we drove over the lake to the ER.

By this time the rash had totally faded, and T was smiling at all the nurses. Our ER experience was surprisingly quick, and we got sent home with a prescription for an Epi-pen (but the doctor said it would be very unlikely we'd ever need it) and a recommendation to *not* give her any more dairy until after her first birthday. He mentioned that allergy testing was pretty unreliable for babies, so we might just need to try dairy again after 1 and see if she's outgrown the reaction. He also suggested that we go a lot slower with introducing solid foods - one at a time, and wait several days to make sure she's tolerating them.

So much for eating what we eat. And I'll have to figure out a cupcake recipe for her birthday that has no dairy in it. And now it sounds like I'll need to put more effort into pumping milk for her, to make sure we don't run out of our frozen supply, since milk-based formula is not an option anymore.

In the grand scheme of things, none of this is a big deal. Lots of people have bigger issues. And Chublet is still healthy and happy, so that's really what matters. But this was a tiny little black rain cloud over our otherwise blissful existence.

So fingers crossed that she outgrows the milk intolerance, and in the next couple of months she gets moving, and that baby and mama get our iron levels back up. Hooray for babies!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

A new mother cries

We've just returned from the Worst Vacation Ever.  Two stressful days in an unfamiliar house with three creatures who needed to be looked after constantly.  We're using this as a learning experience.

I had imagined another mellow, blissful weekend like we had a few years ago on the Olympic Peninsula.  Of course it would be different with a baby, but with both TJ and me around, we'd each get some time to ourselves to just relax.  And BabyT is pretty mellow, so she's usually happy to play by herself near us for relatively long stretches of time.

Seas the Day house at Seabrook WA
We rented a house at Seabrook, a totally manufactured "beach town" on the Washington coast.  The drive over there with puppies and baby was pretty uneventful. Thanks to the massive amounts of baby stuff we need to carry around with us (stroller, diapers, her own clothes and toys), we had to put both dogs in the back of the Nitro together, and stuff all of our luggage in the seat next to the baby's car seat (which itself takes up a huge amount of room). We stopped once to feed Miss Baby and get me a diet Coke, but otherwise she napped or entertained herself in the back seat.

The house was lovely, and the neighborhood very nice to walk around in (despite the massive amounts of construction). We bought a few groceries at the Extortion Market located onsite, and TJ made a larger grocery run the next day, to Ocean Shores, which was about 15 miles away.

The bed was king-sized which meant we didn't need to bring a place for BabyT to sleep, and they even had a high chair and Pack N Play, which was a welcome surprise. That all sounds good, right?

But it was surprisingly stressful. The yard wasn't beagle-proof so we had to take the dogs out on a leash every time. We worried about the dogs getting into something or having an accident in the house since it was new and they didn't know where "out" was. If BabyT was on the floor, we had to keep a hawk's eye on the dogs. (We've solved this problem at home by installing baby gates so we can separate dogs and baby when needed.) We had to change BabyT on the floor. Basically, one of us was always watching the baby, and the other one was watching the dogs.  The first night was wretched.  Either BabyT or Peanut was up EVERY hour, as if to say "hey guys, did you notice we're not at home?".

Add to that the fact that I also forgot some of the parts to my breast pump, which meant we'd have no "easy milk" in the bottle for T. Which also meant that *I* was tethered to the baby for feeding. On a side note, hooray for 8.5 months of breastfeeding!

So yeah, not relaxing. A friend told me that vacation with a baby just seemed like the "same stuff, different location". I totally agree. But we had the house for 4 days so I thought we should make the best of it.

Until the Spectacular Vomiting Incident.  BabyT has been doing GREAT with eating solids.  We introduced bread (at Tropea, our favorite Italian restaurant) and a few strands of spaghetti, as well as the usual fruits and vegetables and she was literally eating it all up. But not with a spoon.  BabyT likes to feed herself, yo.

So I figured we were in the clear to just start feeding her whatever we were eating (except for the still-forbidden things like nuts, honey, egg whites and dairy).  I had some tomato soup for lunch on Friday, and for thought it was just tomatoes and spices. (Bad Mama Mistake #1)  So I offered some to BabyT.  She LOVED it.  Even let me feed it to her from a spoon.  She ate less than a tablespoon total, and all was well.  We went out for a walk, and went to the beach to let the dogs run around.  All was still well.  She took a nap.  All continued to be well.

I fed her again in the evening just after her last nap of the day.  As I was getting ready to take her downstairs for a few hours of fun before bed, it happened.  It actually wasn't that *gross*, just alarming.  Whoever said that babies' stomachs are the volume of a closed fist is a dirty rotten liar.  She was drenched, I was soaked, and so were the lovely bed linens (thank god for mattress pads!).   I had never seen BabyT do this so I was freaked out.

And of course, it was after our pediatricians' office closed for the day so we had to leave a message and wait for the nurse on call to return it.  In the meantime there was more (small) vomitiness.  The nurse just said to stop giving her solids, keep an eye on her for fever and more vomiting and give her milk as usual.

At that point I was ready to take my ball and go home.  We were an hour round-trip from the nearest grocery store and at least that from the nearest medical facility, which may or may not have had a pediatrician.  We had a limited number of outfits and laundry detergent.  I wanted to be in MY house where everything is set up the way we need it. 

Fortunately, BabyT was fine for the rest of the night and slept and ate pretty well. I discovered there was cream in the soup, so either she had a bad reaction to the dairy or is allergic to/doesn't tolerate tomatoes.  We're going to hold off for another month or so before introducing yogurt and cheese, and will go back to our "whole foods" plan for solids.

We're all fine but SO happy to be home.  We'd like to try another trip later, without the dogs, will remember to bring all parts to the pump, and will not introduce new foods while traveling :)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Who are you taking coffee, no sugar?

It has been a fabulous food week for me.  The highlight, of course was our 5th anniversary dinner at Canlis on Saturday.  It's so cool to be able to go back to the place we got married on every anniversary (I don't think we've missed one yet!)  Fortunately TJ's parents were in town, so they babysat for us.

TJ is not a food adventurer, and prefers to have a predictably good meal rather than trying someplace new, especially on a special occasion.  I love food, and trying new fancy restaurants and cuisines.  That makes it hard for us sometimes.  While Canlis has always been good, there were times I was yearning to go somewhere else just to try something new and different.

But now there's no conflict, because Canlis got a new executive chef about a year ago.  And he's young (younger than me!  I feel old!).  I recently read an article in a local magazine about how he experiments with molecular gastronomy techniques, but mostly saves those for the tasting menu, while leaving the old standbys on the regular menu.  So it's the perfect restaurant for us.  TJ can get the teriyaki beef appetizer (not on the menu, but TO DIE FOR) and the Canlis salad which have been around for decades, and I can try stuff I've never even heard of on the tasting menu.

Which is exactly what we did.  I opted for the vegetarian tasting menu because I'm always curious to see what awesome chefs can do to make veggie dishes interesting.  It did not disappoint, and even better, I wasn't rolling out of the restaurant with that foggy, overly full feeling either.  Satisfied, but not stuffed.  TJ got (and shared! so nice!) his teriyaki beef appetizer and the Canlis salad (with bacon! yum!).  I had the truffle fries and malasadas (Portuguese/Hawaiian donuts! woot!).  I'm drooling just thinking about the sweet coconut sauce that went with the malasadas.  So yeah, an amazing food experience and I'm already trying to devise ways to go back there more often. 

And if that weren't enough, on Sunday, I got a small delivery from Curry Aroma, a new Indian-Pakistani food delivery service.  Their prices were reasonable enough to get me to try it once based on a Facebook ad I saw (yes, FB ads really do work!) and the first delivery was excellent, so I ordered again last week.  I tend to order things I either don't know how to cook myself or don't want to bother with.  Protein is especially challenging for me.  I hate cooking meat because raw meat is gross.  But I like eating it. 

Most Indian restaurants don't have beef on their menus, so I think I can count on one hand the number of beef curries I've had.  This week I got a dry masala shredded beef curry that blew my mind.  It was the exact same consistency as the Mexican shredded beef in an enchilada, but with Indian spices instead.  A-MAZING.  Not too greasy or fatty, and no chunks of vegetables or sauce to interfere with the meaty yumminess.  Even TJ thought it was good.  I'm looking forward to eating the rest of it, with the Pillsbury brand roti I bought at the Indian grocery store.  Can I just say how odd it is to see a picture of the Pillsbury doughboy on Indian food?  Crazy. 

But wait, there's more!  Last night I went to see Vienna Teng play at the Triple Door, my all-time favorite music venue.  They serve food from Wild Ginger, which I'm not crazy about in general, except for the roast duck.  (Yes, there is a meat trend now.)  I'm not usually a fan of eating cute animals, but for this duck I will make an exception.  With a side of coconut milk roti bread, plus the puffy white steamed buns that came with the duck, I was a happy girl.  (More on the music in another post later.)

And since we're on the happy Asian food trend, lunch today (surprisingly) did not disappoint.  Some folks from the lab I used to work in at the Hutch were getting together to celebrate our former boss's birthday.  Since BabyT and I love an outing, we trekked over to Seattle, to eat at the Malay Satay Hut.  When they chose the restaurant, I was very disappointed.  We have one near home, and it sounds all promising and yummy (Malaysian food and meat on a stick!) but I've been there several times and disliked it each time.

Except for twice - today and the last time I went there with my labmates a few years ago.  I think the secret is Phil, a former coworker, who is from Singapore and does the ordering for us.  He seems to pick the right things, because the roti canai, mango shrimp, and mysterious beef curry were all YUM.  So either they know he's an expert and make it extra-yummy, or he's ordering something different from what I usually order.  I guess I'll never know, and don't plan to go there unless Phil is going to be there too.

Peanut is also enjoying some good food as well.  Our vet told us he weighs too much, which is not surprising since he's become really inactive lately since his knees and arthritis are bothering him.  So we've had to replace a cup of his food with canned carrots.  Which he thinks is the greatest thing EVER.  So it's win-win all around.  Hopefully that, plus the pain pills and anti-inflammatories, will make him a little more comfortable so that we can go out walking again.

BabyT is also enjoying solid foods.  Baby-led weaning is going marvelously well.  She's finally actually eating things - some apple, mango, pear, sweet potato and carrots.  We just steam them and hand her pieces and she seems to have gotten the hang of what to do with them.  It's still really fun to watch, though messy.

And that's the food situation here!  Anything interesting happening for you?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

How do I know when it's love?

Stephanie commented on my last post asking how to find a good family photographer and I figured it deserved a post of its own.  I'm sure the Internet has made this task a LOT easier, because most pro photographers have nice websites with portfolios of their work, and you can browse at your leisure (or at 2am when everyone in the house is sleeping!).  I thought I'd also include some other helpful tips for the shoot itself.

The Search
When I was searching for a wedding photographer, I had no idea what to look for or how much it would cost.  I started with one of those local wedding resource pages and just started browsing other photographers' work.  I found one I completely fell in love with, but alas, they were already booked for our date. 

However, I found out the style that I liked so much was called 'photojournalism' - less emphasis on posed pictures and more on just capturing the event and the unexpected details.  So I started using that term in my web searches and found more photographers, and also found a site for the Wedding Photojournalist Association - bingo!  This site gave me a lot more options in my area, within the style I was looking for.

I then browsed a LOT of photographers' sites.  My method isn't scientific - it couldn't be, because what I was looking for was *art*.  So I simply sat back and browsed.  Looked to see whose pictures jumped out at me. 

Some photographers had a style that just didn't do it for me.  Others had a few pictures that caught my eye.  But there were a few where nearly every photo in their portfolio was a WOW shot.  Of course, these portfolios are heavily edited compilations of many events, but I felt confident that if nearly the whole portfolio wowed me, then that was a pretty good bet that I'd like their work at our wedding.

If forced to articulate what I was looking for, here are some of the characteristics:
  • Interesting small detail shots, like trim on a dress, or a closeup of a shoe
  • Capturing shots with a definite "vibe", almost like you can *feel* what the subjects were feeling
  • Few posed shots, but if there were posed shots, ones where the subjects look like they're having fun with each other and not looking *at* the camera.
  • Both black and white and color shots, but more importantly, choosing which shots looked better in b&w and which were more suited to color
  • Pet photos that capture the "dog soul" 
Since this is an artistic judgment, it's like trying to outline what I like about a piece of music. I can't say for sure, but I know I like it when I hear it.
Some photographers have the gift of being able to capture pets well on film, and some don't, even those with mad skills with people-pictures.  So if you want to include your pets in a family shoot, make sure the photographer you pick has samples of pet photos in their portfolio and that you love the style of those too.  This is why I love Nicole's work.

First Contact
So the next step was to review the prices (if posted) and then reach out and contact the short list.  Because I'm lazy like that, I eliminated anyone who didn't have a way to email them. I asked a few key questions:
  • Rates (if not posted clearly) and whether there was a print order minimum $
  • Availability for the dates we were considering
  • Whether we could get all of the pictures on a DVD and if that was an extra charge
Surprisingly, in this digital age, there are photographers who *won't* give you the digital files or charge ungodly amounts to give them to you.  You need to order all prints through them, and you don't have copies of the pics to share on Facebook, websites, etc.  We're social networking kind of people, and we don't print a lot of photos so this was a deal-breaker.  Obviously, I respect intellectual property and copyright, and try to give credit to the photographer, but I want those pictures in digital form.

Making the Decision
Once I got the answers back and have narrowed the list based on availability and budget, we had to make the big decision.  For things like weddings, or family portrait shoots on weekends, you need to book early and decide fast because the good photographers are BUSY.  We got around this for our family portraits by booking them on a Friday afternoon and thus could get Kristi on relatively short notice.

That first wedding photographer whose work I fell in love with sent me a short list of other folks with similar styles, which was super helpful. In the end, I chose one of those and we were REALLY happy with our pictures.
Depending on the significance of the event, you may want to *meet* with the photographer in person before deciding who to hire.  After all, for a wedding, this person is going to be following you around for most of the day, and it's a pretty big responsibility you're entrusting them with.  There are no do-overs. 

We did this for our wedding photographer, and meeting with Bradley was what really sealed the deal for us.  He and TJ talked about motorcycles, he talked to us about his philosophy of work, and showed us some recent wedding photos he'd taken.  We liked him, and really got the sense that he was a professional.  We also felt he wasn't going to be intrusive, which was a big deal for us.  We didn't want to be constantly aware of the photographer, or worse, interrupted by him to "look here at the camera!" or "hey, can we recreate that moment?  I missed it."

On the other hand, we met with another guy who was starting out in the business, and he was sort of timid and shy, and didn't give us that confident "I can handle this" vibe.  He might have done just fine, but our wedding was not a time for experimentation.

Most photographers have you sign a contract and put down a deposit once you've made your choice, and that holds the date for you.  This is especially important for weddings - you don't want to get close to the day and then find out the photographer wasn't really holding the date for you.  It's really hard to find a great photographer on short notice.  For a summer wedding in Seattle, the good ones book over a year in advance.  Crazy, I know.

Your Homework
So you've decided on a photographer.  Some people think the work is done, and you just wait for the day and look good, and get some pictures taken. 

But I picked up a tip from one of those ubiquitous wedding-planning magazines:  make a list of the shots that you want for sure, both candid and posed.  Now, you've hired a professional so you're not trying to micromanage their creative process, but if you want a shot of you in your wedding dress holding your beagle, you need to let the photographer know.  And on the big day, you might not remember the list.

For our family photos, I emailed a short list to Kristi, and asked for her feedback because I wanted to be clear that I wasn't trying to micromanage.  I made the list fairly vague and just discussed the subjects, not the style:
  • All five of us (people and dogs)
  • Baby and each dog interacting or at least looking at each other :)
  • One good chubby baby arms and legs and bare feet shot
  • Baby and mama, and baby and daddy
  • My husband and Peanut
It's also helpful to ask the photographer what you all should wear (unless it's for your wedding, duh!).  Typically solid colored shirts are good because they're not distracting, and Kristi recommended that we wear shirts in the same color family so they don't clash. 

We also asked her if she needed any 'props' and she suggested a neat idea where we'd all be wearing white, in our bed, with a white comforter and sheets, snuggling with the baby.  That worked out really well, even though it was the last set of shots so we didn't change T back into her white onesie:

For family shoots, ask your photographer for locations if you don't have your heart set on one.  Some people like outdoor shots.  We love our house and wanted to capture that as part of the photos, so we chose to do our family shoot at home.  It made it easier to change T into different outfits, and keep her happy, as well. 

We did my pregnancy shoot at a local park with our dogs, because the lighting was better outside that day (though it was 98 degrees, but that's another story!).
If you're getting pictures done at home, make sure the areas you're using are clean.  You don't want piles of dirty laundry or dog hair-covered blankets in the background of your shots.  Photoshop can only do so much :)

The Big Day
For our family shoot, Kristi advised me to choose a time when the baby was fed and well-rested.  (One out of two wasn't bad!)  This sounds obvious, but really think about it.  If your baby is asleep when the photographer shows up, do you really want to wake her?  How will she be if you do?

Have all the outfits and props, plus any additional payments ready to go.  Once the photo shoot is underway, you don't want to disrupt the "flow" by trying to deal with business details.  Of course, if a baby's diaper needs to be changed, or the dog needs to go out, you'll deal with it, but it's best to get everything else ready ahead of time.  Then again, I'm a planner like that.

And then just do your thing.  Try to ignore the fact that there's a photographer there and go about your business.  Eventually you'll stop noticing him/her, and that's when the magic happens!

Monday, April 26, 2010

You make me happy when skies are gray

I can't get enough of the pictures that Kristi Lloyd took of us all last month.  I've got them as my slide show screen saver at work, and every now and then I'll catch myself staring at them and missing my sweet baby, who is, of course, at home with her Daddy and having a Fun! Daddy Day!

We used to marvel at how Peanut and Spike were so happy to see us at the end of each work day. Even their happy tail-wags and licks pale in comparison to the way BabyT's face lights up when I come home from work, or when her Daddy comes home for lunch. It's pretty freakin' awesome.

For me, good pictures are important. If money were unlimited, I'd get a great photographer to come out here every month and photograph us. It's not just about snapshots that record moments (though of course, we have plenty of those), nor is it about posed photos of different family permutations.

I like the artistic shots that capture details I might not think of. I like that with a certain kind of great photographer, you can just be there and hang out, and that person will capture the whole essence of an event or group of people without us really noticing.

This is why I spent hours poring over websites for wedding photographers in 2005. Other than the dinner at Canlis, we spent the most money on our pictures, because we wanted amazing ones, which we got from the awesome Bradley Hanson.

I spent more hours poring over photography sites to find someone to do T's 6 month pictures. But when I found the right person, I got the pictures I had envisioned. And actually so much more, because a great photographer has that special artistic eye, and of course the mad skillz to turn that into reality.

I met an awesome photographer via Etsy but she lives in Maine. I'm still working on getting her to come out here but she needs 3 or 4 families in Seattle to make it worthwhile.

When I was little, we had lots of the obligatory JCPenney or Sears portrait sessions. Heck, I still get coupons from them, which tempts me to go. But it's not what I'm looking for. I disliked having to get dressed up and go to the studio and look happy while the photographer poked and prodded us to get in exactly the right position (turn your chin a little this way, put your hand on his arm, etc. etc.). To me those pictures look too staged, without any sense of love or life.

But our wedding pics and the recent family pics? Woo hoo! We were actually having a good time. We mostly forgot about the camera being there. T got to wear a few different outfits. And now we have a (digital) stack of images I enjoy looking at over and over again.

So we're definitely going to hire a professional again, to capture BabyT as her life unfolds.  Then when she's 16 and doesn't like us, we'll still have cute squishy baby pictures to pore over and remember :)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The girl at the rock show

Trillian Mira by Kristi Lloyd PhotographyWe were such hip Seattle parents yesterday. Or at least we tried to be.

Since it was a rare Saturday that TJ was home, thanks to my parents' visit last week, we made plans to have brunch with our friends Dave and Lisa and Baby Max at Norm's Alehouse. It was odd to go to Norm's without the pups, since it's one of the few places that lets you eat with your dogs inside. Peanut especially likes it since he gets a hamburger if he behaves. Spike likes it because the WHOLE PLACE SMELLS LIKE FOOD!!!

But we went with Trillian and no dogs, since we weren't sure how long Baby Good Humor was going to last and we are new enough at this to know we'd be bad at managing both baby and dog(s) in the event of Baby Meltdown 2010.

The car trip over to Seattle (Westside, yo!) was uneventful and we were rockin' out to Star Anna and the Laughing Dogs while BabyT stared out the window from her new big-girl carseat.

Walking from the car to the restaurant, we passed a bunch of people standing outside of Cafe Lladro and I thought to myself "hey, that girl looks like Star Anna" and figured it was just because we had been listening to her in the car. As we got closer, I realized it actually was her, and we saw Justin (guitarist) and my friend Dave (their manager) as well. So they got to meet BabyT, since the last time they "saw" her was in my belly last August when we saw them play the Triple Door. Anyway, it's totally random occurrences like that that make me love living in Seattle. It's even more astonishing since we rarely get into "the city" since T was born.

They invited us to their show later that day, which was a free performance at a record store downtown. They were scheduled for 6pm which was still early enough for us to consider it and Justin actually used the words "kid-friendly" which I doubted, but wanted to give it a try. (I not-so-secretly yearn to be one of those baby-wearing hip mamas who goes to rock shows and still maintains some semblance of her old life while toting her cute baby around with her.) I had visions of wearing T in the Ergo and dancing with her to "Hawks on a Pole" - what could be better than hugging on my baby and listening to awesome live music at the same time?? Yes, I know the experienced mamas are already laughing at me.

Brunch was good, though rushed. We didn't get to chat with Dave and Lisa much, and Max peacefully slept through the whole thing. I felt nostalgic for the time T was little enough to hang/sleep in the infant seat through a whole meal. She hung in there long enough for us to eat, downed a bottle of milk, and then decided it was time to go. Fortunately it was loud enough that we weren't THOSE people, and in a place that has an occasional dog barking I wasn't too worried about it either.

So we headed home and got T some quality napping time before heading downtown for the show. We did get to see Exene Cervenka (former lead singer of X) do some of her solo stuff. Her voice is still really great. Trillian was pseudo-cooperative, but the room was hot, so we took a lot of breaks and walked around outside. Eventually we had to feed her more milk on the sidewalk in front of a sketchy bar (from a bottle, thankfully!). We saw about 3 minutes of Mark Pickerel's set, and then made the call to go home. Star and Justin probably wouldn't have been on before 7, and that's our pretty strict Baby Bedtime, or else we risk Major Meltdown and Multiple Night Wakings. But it was a valiant effort.

Sadly, we still paid for it at night. I think all the activity was a bit much for babyT, who woke up at 11pm and 4 am to eat and fuss a little. We're hoping for a better night tonight.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

You change your mind like a girl changes clothes

Life is good. Somewhere around the 5.5 month mark, the Chublet started eating less frequently, and napping on a more predictable schedule, so I don't feel like I'm always worrying about the next time she'll eat or sleep. Though now more than ever, I *need* to be home when it is time to sleep, or we PAY THE PRICE later.

I joked when I got pregnant that I'd start keeping a list of everything I had to give up for the baby: sushi, wine, trip to Ireland, and hot-tubbing while pregnant, wine,floofy drinks, sleep while nursing, etc. And then I'd post the list on my blog to somehow make myself feel better about all these sacrifices.

I didn't get around to it, of course. Now that she's here, and is actually interactive, it's all good. I do miss having long stretches of time to get projects done (even after she goes to bed, lately she's been waking to eat a few times), and I miss being able to do crafty stuff whenever I feel like it.

But in a way, life is more relaxed now. It's about her schedule, and not overscheduling our days. I try to remind myself to be aware and mindful about the time I spend with her because it's going by so fast - she's already an "older baby". How did that happen?!

I still waffle about my decision to stop doing custom tags and jewelry in my Etsy and 1000Markets shops, and I haven't made any GeekMagnets in ages so the shops are a little bare. But in the end, I don't want to have custom orders hanging over my head when I am trying to enjoy time with BabyT, or even better, with BabyT, the pups *and* TJ (our weekend is precious now!).

And honestly, it's not as painful a sacrifice as I thought. I am so much less stressed out than I was in December when the orders were pouring in. I get to spend tons of time with BabyT, but I also get to spend 2 whole days at work, and can work on projects that require concentration and focus. The 12-hour day I spent last week at work was awesome: I was motivated, excited and READY to GET STUFF DONE. On the downside, I only got home after T went to bed, but of course she obliged me by waking up for an extra feeding at night, but considerately, before my own bedtime.

So goes the balancing act that'll continue for the next 18 years, I guess. So far, so good :) Next, we'll need to tackle that trip to Ireland, though the loooong plane trip is daunting. I don't want to be THAT person on the plane but it's only going to get worse before it gets better. I just need to convince TJ...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

It's in the way that you use it

BabyT in Ergo carrier We made it! BabyT has been exclusively breastfed for 6 months. I had trouble imagining this point in the first difficult weeks. But somewhere around month 4, it really became no big deal, thanks to baby efficiency getting the feeding sessions down to < 10 minutes (almost not enough time to check email!). And in the last month or so, she's only eating every 3 hours or so during the day.

I imagined that once we got to the magic 6 months, I'd just quit and go on about my life. Yeah, yeah, I *know* the AAP recommends it up to a year, and WHO recommends it up to 2 years, but the first 6 months was supposedly the most important.

BabyT weighed 20 lbs 2 oz, and was 26.5" long at her 6 month checkup last week, 75% for height, and 97% for weight, so clearly she's growing like she's supposed to. So here we are at 6 months, and it seems a shame to stop doing something that's obviously working so well. Plus (and dare I say it?) it's kind of nice to have that quiet (short!) snuggly time with my ginormous baby a few times a day.

So yeah, in a surprising turn of events, I guess I'm going to keep going. Today we're introducing her first "complementary food" to start her on solids. We're waiting for her to get up from her nap to introduce her to the wonders of avocado.

I'm totally becoming one of those crunchy Seattle moms. I prefer carrying her in the Ergo to using the stroller, the aforementioned breastfeeding business, we nap together in the bed, and her first solid food is going to be avocado slices.

Since we waited until 6 months to introduce solids, we're giving "baby-led weaning" a try, which is essentially letting the baby decide what to do with table foods, rather than spoon-feeding purees. It's messy, but looks like fun, and also lets the baby do more "exploring" with different foods. Supposedly it leads to less picky eaters, but that's not a scientific fact. I just like the idea since she still doesn't *need* the nutrition from food, she just needs to get used to eating it, so that after she's a year old and really needs it, she'll be used to eating what we eat.

That's the theory, anyway. We'll see how it goes. But don't worry, no matter how crunchy I get, I still believe wholeheartedly in vaccination ;)

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Brown eyes I hold you near

I've done a decent job of keeping up with Trillian's baby blog, but at the cost of my own. Plus that whole work thing is getting in the way of my life of leisure :)

I've survived 4 work weeks so far, and it's going ok. I like that my two days in the office are long because I can just concentrate on work and get a lot of things done. I'm so much more efficient when I know I have limited time. As a full time person, the work sort of expands, and there's technically always more hours you could put in, so there's time for that occasional game of pool, or the coffee break, or whatnot.

But the part time schedule affords me time to do some fun stuff, in addition to the seemingly endless cycles of feed baby - change baby - get baby to sleep.

Yesterday, Lisa and I did CRAFTS! Woo hoo! We got the idea from Stephanie, a friend from Caltech, who told us about creating stencils from freezer paper so you could make cute designs on baby onesies with fabric paint.

I Binged, found some instructions, and collected all the supplies. You know how I am about craft supplies. I got several packs of plain onesies from Old Navy (great quality!!), two starter sets of Jacquard fabric paints - 18 different colors in little 2oz bottles, which is plenty, plus a couple of fabric markers. I also dug out my brand new Xacto, and some old silver fabric paint I got a couple of years ago to decorate the puppies' Christmas stockings.

Here are the results - I was pretty pleased, given that this was my first try. I've got a bunch more blank onesies so I'm excited to work on more designs. Now that I know I can print on the freezer paper directly, and then cut out the designs, I have a lot more freedom, since my drawing skills are non-existent.

trillion stencil geek onesie
pink baby flower stenciled onesie

Lisa used her fabric markers to draw a bunch of really cute designs - she's an amazing artist. Baby Max is a lucky guy and will be very stylishly dressed this summer!

sharing is nice

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