Wednesday, October 31, 2012

7 Things To Make Breastfeeding Suck Less

Pun intended, hehe. I was going to title this something earnestly helpful like "7 Nursing Essentials", but that was too boring.  Can I also say that I am so much more comfortable with the euphemism of "nursing", like somehow it's bad for me to talk about breasts?  Sigh.  I'm working on it, though.

Anyway, as you may recall, I did not like breastfeeding at first. In fact, at this point with BabyT, 4 weeks in, it still hurt like a mofo, and I was spending upwards of 4 hours a day feeding her because she was sloooow. Luckily with BabyM, she's pretty efficient and has a picture-perfect latch, so it never hurt. A-mazing.

Why is there a pumpkin on my head??

However, like all newborns, she eats several times a day, so there are some things that make the experience even better.  

1. All-Purpose Nipple Ointment.  My doctor calls this stuff "magic ointment" and good lord she was NOT kidding.  This made breastfeeding bearable the first time, and I'm convinced it's also kept us thrush and infection-free as well.  For the second baby, I was smart enough to get the prescription filled *before* the baby came and took this stuff to the hospital.

2. Washable nursing pads.  Most people just buy the box of disposable Lansinoh nursing pads to avoid embarassing leaks on clothing.  And don't get me wrong, they're pretty great and I have a small stash of those on hand for long outings.  But I felt really bad about generating *so much* trash - tossing a few pairs of these every day for months made me feel very eco-guilty.  I found these wonderfully made washable nursing pads by wooldins on Etsy and bought a set with each baby.  They're WAY better than the 100% cotton ones sold in stores - those get clammy and gross.  These stay comfortable, and wash well.  Love.

3. Electric breast pump x2.  We started BabyM on a bottle this week, so I had my first grown up dinner away from the baby. So nice.  Of course, this requires me to pump, but I have to anyway, since I need to start the freezer stash for my return to work in March.  I'm lucky to have inherited a nice Medela pump from a close friend (8 years old but still going strong, surprisingly!).  What I found out last time was that lugging the pump and parts back and forth and setting it up at home and at work *each day* was a royal pain.  So I got another one for work and left it there.  I only brought the parts and bottles home to wash and had plenty of extras.  Well worth the extra cost.

4. My Brest Friend Nursing Pillow. I know, real women can nurse standing up, walking around, etc. and don't need any stinkin' nursing pillow.  But I'm just not woman enough.  I'm still pretty awkward without it, though I can get it done if required.  But with the pillow, it's so.damn.easy.  Baby is at the right height, I can sit up straight without a crazy backache, and it leaves me with a free hand to snack, surf the web, shop online etc.  Ridiculous name, but great product.

5. Ugly Glider.  I scored a screamin' deal (twice!) on Craigslist for a Dutailier glider-rocker.  These things are so ridiculously ugly, but so damn comfortable for breastfeeding.  Ours has a charming (puke) pastel animal theme.  But the angle of the chair is perfect, it's a rocker, and has comfy padding.  I can get over the sheer ugliness of it for the year or so we'll need it.

6. Medela Nursing Stool.  When I first saw this, I thought it was another way to separate new parents from their money.  I mean, Ugly Glider comes with its own ottoman so why would I need a separate tiny hard footstool?  Except that the ottoman is not the right height for nursing, and I am short and had a ridiculous backache for the first few weeks of nursing BabyT. The lactaction specialist recommended this stool, and desperate for relief, I shelled out the money for it.  Worth.every.penny.  Seriously.  It fixed all my posture problems.  Love.

7. Smartphone.  Yeah, I know.  You don't *need* this for nursing.  But OMG, having Internet access on a tiny device I can hold in one hand?  Priceless for those long feedings.  I've shopped online, kept up with Facebook, read the news, and cleaned out my email, all while growing a baby. How awesome is that? I could even watch movies and TV if I wanted to. Definitely an essential.

So there it is - the things that make breastfeeding easy-peasy for me.  Hope it helps.  What do the experienced mamas out there think?  Any essentials I missed?  I'd love to hear about them in the comments.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Traditional scrapbooking scares me

My friend Jenn is an avid scrapbooker.  She has TONS of albums completed, and is one of those people who actually reaches the mythical state of being "caught up".  I've been eyeing her craftiness for a couple of years now, but could not bring myself to take the leap and do traditional scrapbooking.  You know, making one and two page layouts, either 12x12" or 8.5x11".  Selecting pictures, coming up with a title, finding embellishments to match and telling a story.

When I think about a blank page in front of me, especially a 12x12" size page, I freeze up.  Too many decisions to make.  Too much creative freedom paralyzes me.  I don't know where to start.

The projects I like are more constrained.  Mini albums from a kit, with assembly instructions.  Simple mini albums of my own design, but with a repeating design theme throughout.  Project Life with its convenient grid-like slots to fill. Cards for specific occasions and people.

I read about a "Favorite Photos" scrapbook album in one of Cathy Zielske's books.  I love the idea because it's non-chronological and I can keep adding to it.  Plus, it consolidates all of my favorite photos ever into one physical album we will always enjoy looking through.  Right now some are framed and the rest are hidden away on our hard drive.

I took an online class a few months ago at Studio Calico to explore current trends in papercrafting.  There were weekly assignments to make cards and scrapbook layouts.  I figured this was as good a time as any to get over my fear and jump right in.

The album I wanted to store these in is 8x8", so I didn't have to face a blank 12x12" page.  I made one layout which I'm not terribly excited about and need to redo.  

But I did a second one for the lesson on ombre and like it enough to show you.  

I stumbled on the color combo of light blue and hot pink, and am officially in love.  I used my extensive collection of washi tape to make the circle grid card and my brand new Hero Arts neon pink ink to stamp the little envelope and color the doily.  I'm not usually a doily kind of person, but thought it was ok here.  (Now I'm the crazy person who takes clean doilies home from restaurants when we get them!)

When I posted this layout in the gallery for my class, it was slightly different, with big stickers for the date that were not the right proportion.  I knew it wasn't pleasing, but wasn't sure how to fix it.  And then a wonderful classmate suggested stamping the date with an office date stamp instead.  I thought it might look nice on a piece of washi tape (you know I love me some washi tape).  I love being able to crowdsource crafty ideas!

The photo was taken by the most excellent Kristi Lloyd at T's 2.5-year photo shoot.  It's in one of the lounges at Microsoft.  The funky couch pattern and her expression make this one of my favorites.  I also love that we're in the background but you have to look hard to notice.

It took me a long time to put this together, but I'm still happy with it every time I look at it.  This gives me hope that I might actually be able to put together a decent "Favorite Photos" album.  I've got 2 more photos waiting for me to make pages, and the original layout to redo, so plenty of fun things to work on!  Now, if only I could find the time...

Friday, October 26, 2012

The loose affiliation with the real

I had a surreal moment this week.  I went back to my doctor's office for a quick check of my C-section incision, and they took me back to the same room I had all my pregnancy checkups with both babies, and I had the stunning  realization that I was NOT PREGNANT.

I know, I've spent most of my life being not pregnant, but in that doctor's office context, it was very weird.  It seemed so abrupt - every week they checked the baby's heartbeat and measured my enormous belly, and this time they didn't, because that same baby was sleeping in her car seat on the floor next to me.  So strange.

I enjoyed this second pregnancy a lot more, probably because I knew what to expect.  The first trimester was definitely worse (hello hormones!) but the rest of it, not so bad.  I didn't stress about my weight gain, because I knew there would be so much fluid retention that I wouldn't know how much actual weight I gained.  On the bright side, I have lost 30 pounds in 3 weeks, and I'm still retaining some water.  So yay for that.

In the last few months of pregnancy, I was round and glowing like the sun.  Seriously, despite being huge, I felt great and happy. Strangers would smile at my giant pregnant waddling self or ask questions about when I was due. Other pregnant mamas would smile too, like we were all part of some happy secret club.

Now it's different.  I'm tired, wearing sweats or loose maternity clothes, and obviously have some baby weight to lose.  I'm probably grimacing from lugging that ridiculous infant seat around, or glancing around nervously trying not to expose myself while nursing in public  Not exactly attracting positive energy, right?

It's such a weird transition.  I can see why women grieve not being pregnant anymore (especially with sleep deprivation and hormones addling one's brain as well!)

But we have a BABY.  And she is (so far, knock on wood!) as cooperative as her sister was.  Which makes it pretty darn awesome.  I'm not dragging myself through the day and I am actually getting a little time to myself.  I get to cuddle on a baby who's plumping up (love that!) and getting over all the weird newborn skin stuff.  Sometimes we go to Target.  Because where else do mamas and babies go during the day?

The new normal is working out pretty well so far.  I suspect it will only get better.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Halloween is not my thing

My Facebook feed is full of people bursting with excitement about Halloween.  Adults, mind you.  I've got friends planning elaborate costumes, parties, and outings.  Some of them are making gorgeous costumes for their kids.  I've always been envious of people who can sew and bring their vision to life.  I'm more of a buy-or-assemble a costume kind of mama, since I can barely sew on buttons.

I'm not going to dress up.  I'm just not into Halloween.  As a kid, I dutifully went trick or treating, because that's just what we did.  I'm sure I had fun, but I was never super-excited about it.  I had some cool costumes on occasion.  I think my mom was probably more excited about it than I was.  I don't have a sweet tooth, so collecting candy was never a big deal.  Plus in the 80s there were all those scary stories of people putting razorblades and drugs in the candy so it put a damper on things in my overly cautious little kid mind.

The other thing?  I am a ridiculous scaredy cat.  I startle easily, can't watch horror movies or I will have nightmares for days, and hate gore.  In fact, even on Grey's Anatomy there are scenes I can't watch because they gross me out.  So haunted houses are more stressful than fun for me.

I know, I'm no fun, right?  But so far, I can dig the toddler version of Halloween.  She's just excited about her ladybug costume. T decided her baby sister should be a ladybug, too, so I found a cute swaddle blanket and hat combo that'll work and hopefully won't make BabyM uncomfortable.  

We haven't really clued her into the candy thing, since she's got a ridiculous sweet tooth already.  She's not sure she wants to go trick or treating, so we'll try it and may end up coming home early.

T decorated pumpkins with paint and glitter. And of course, we'll visit the pumpkin farm again.  Now those are Halloween activities I can be excited about.

What about you?  Love or hate Halloween?  Got any fun traditions?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Project Life: October 2012, New Baby Edition

Obviously the big news around here for the first 2 weeks of October was the birth of BabyM.  In general I'm not a fan of the "pink for girls, blue for boys" school of thought, but lately I've been digging pale pink.  When I had to choose nail polish for my last pedicure, I chose pink with silver sparkles, in honor of BabyM's impending arrival.

So when I got down to work on Project Life for the past 2 weeks, I felt a strong pink vibe for my cuddly baby girl photos.  I thought the Studio Calico Heyday 6X6 Paper Pad would work well with its pastel color scheme.  I've also been hoarding some Dear Lizzy Neapolitan paper, and one of the floral patterns I didn't care for had a lovely pale pink on the other side with a cool number pattern on the part that usually gets thrown away.

At first I was reluctant to use the WRMK page protector with the giant skinny strip down one side, but I realized it would work for some short journaling/photo captions and then I could use all of the other slots on that page for photos.  The page has a convenient combination of landscape and portrait orientations and thankfully, either works for the Instagram square photos.

Click the photos to see a larger version.

Oct 1-14, 2012: Welcome BabyM!

Oct 1-14, 2012:  Painting pumpkins, playing at the park and meeting BabyM

This came together pretty quickly once I finally sorted through the photos the nurses took at the hospital, plus the ones from my new DSLR at home, *plus* all the baby Instagrams I've been taking.  I am actually planning to make a mini-album for BabyM's first week (or maybe first month) so I am "saving" a lot of the photos for that.  Not to mention a few need to go in her baby book as well.

While I love using 6x6 paper for Project Life because the smaller patterns work better, I'm always left with a 2x6 inch scrap after cutting what I need for the slots.  So I decided to get crafty and layer my scraps together for one of the 4x6 slots above (the one with my mom and BabyM).  This also helped tie together the patterns I used on the facing page, without requiring me to add yet another pattern to the mix.  I think that helps my pages look a bit more cohesive, which is something I struggle with because I just love all my STUFF and try to cram it all in.

I love that the chevron washi tape I got in one of my Studio Calico monthly kits matches perfectly with this paper. I also realized I could use it for an actual purpose - to keep the photos from sliding out of the slots.  I hate the side-loading slots on some of the page protectors.  As we flip through our album, the stuff never stays in those pockets.  So I'll be going back through the album, washi tape in hand, to tape those slots up so things don't fall out.  Good times.

I was worried that BabyM's arrival would result in me dropping Project Life for the rest of the year.  So far, so good. I love doing it, and it's a quicker form of craft therapy than some long involved project.  So I have high hopes about finishing the rest of the year - only 5 more layouts left for the year!

Linked up with The Mom Creative for Project Life Tuesday.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

I'm learning to live

It's been a little over 2 weeks as a family of four and so far it's gone much better than I expected.  Most of this is due to the fact that TJ is home so we're pretty much always dividing and conquering.

Things that are going well:

No meltdowns yet, from anyone.  I'm pretty surprised, to be honest.  I suppose it's too early to get too excited about that, though.

Everyone is fed, clothed, clean and mostly happy.  That's a big deal, right?  BabyM sleeps in pretty good stretches usually - 2.5 hours up to 8 hours once (!).  It's all over the place - sometimes during the day, sometimes at night, but I'll take it.

I'm off the pain meds.  I can drive!  Things (mostly) don't hurt.  I can leave the house on my own! (In theory anyway.  In practice I need to take The Baby since I'm the only one who can feed her.)

I'm pretty well-rested.  I am one of those people who can nap anytime, almost anywhere.  TJ holds down the fort with T since I've got all the night duty with The Baby.  (I know, he is so awesome.)

I'm (mostly) accepting that I don't *have* to do anything right now except take care of my family.  It's hard for my Type-A self, but I keep reminding myself I have about 20 weeks left at home.  That's a long time.

Nursing.  So easy this time.  And efficient.  Loving the snuggly quiet time with BabyM, and also sometimes T keeps us company and "reads" us a book.

Things I'd like to be better:

T is waking multiple times at night and requires soothing.  Not surprising considering the circumstances but very rough on TJ who is NOT a napper.  I can't help much yet since I'm already up a couple of times with The Baby, but I'm hoping it'll iron out soon.  Sort of wondering if cosleeping will fix it - the one night she came to our bed, she slept through *everything*.

I had forgotten how ridiculously hard it is to leave the house with a baby.  T has gotten pretty self sufficient - she can put on her own shoes/jacket, use the bathroom and mostly dress herself.  We're starting over.  It took us 90 minutes to get out the door this morning to go to the Children's Museum.  Thankfully we didn't need to be there by a certain time.

BabyM hates the carseat.  I don't know why.  On the bright side, she almost always falls asleep after a few minutes of driving.  But this is the only time she really cries, and it's awful.

I still don't want to make a lot of plans with people.  First, it's hard to get out of the house and be somewhere at a certain time, not to mention, I may not want to be awake at that time.

Then I have to figure out the nursing-in-public thing, made more complicated by the fact that I can't find my nursing cover up.  The blanket over the shoulder trick is NOT working for me.  Also, it's so much easier with the enormous nursing pillow.  Sigh.

I miss my big girl.  I miss having uninterrupted time with her.  I'm often still asleep when she leaves for preschool in the morning.  She is here and awake for such limited hours that I feel like I'm missing out.  Sniffle.  Nearly every book-reading session or art project is interrupted because The Baby needs to eat and right now I'm the only one who can feed her. 

Which leads me to Introducing the Bottle.  We need to do this, but I'm afraid.  One of the nurses at the hospital gave her a paci (I know, too early!) and she took to it right away, but it screwed up her latch for the *entire next day*.  I was really upset about this, thinking we had broken our perfectly-nursing baby.  Fortunately, the following day she was fine and we haven't tried a paci since.

But it would be nice if TJ could feed her occasionally, *and* she's going to need to take a bottle when I go back to work in March.   Which means I need to start pumping anyway, so that we can stockpile milk.  Blergh.


Not bad for the first few weeks, though.  Fingers crossed that the relative peacefulness and Baby Good Sleep will last!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Parental Leave Checklist, Part III: Just Before and After

If you missed, them, here are:
Part I of the Parental Leave Checklist
Part II of the Parental Leave Checklist

Just like the previous set of tasks, these are hard to plan in advance since you don't know *exactly* when your baby will arrive.  I like to do as much as I can beforehand (remember The List?) but there are a few items that can *only* be done once the baby is born.

Just Before or Just After Parental or Maternity Leave Begins:

  • Post the note on your office door saying you’re on leave  - If you work from home before your due date, you can post this on your last day in the office.  Or ask a coworker to do this for you once your leave starts.  Some people think it invites theft, so decide if that's an issue for your workplace before doing this.

  • Turn on your voicemail extended absence greeting and email OOF message - If you prepared these ahead of time, actually turning them on should be quick and painless.  If you're planning to take some time off before your due date, you can obviously turn these on when you're no longer working.

  • Contact HR with the baby’s birthdate to start the official leave process - The information you'll need to provide depends on your company.  You may need to wait until the baby has an official birth certificate or Social Security Number.

  • Enroll new baby in health insurance plan - Same as above - you may need specific info before the baby can be added to your plan.  Read over the docs carefully and make sure you've made the appropriate changes for your baby.  You usually have a limited amount of time to add a new baby, so make sure you're within the correct timeframe.

  • Sign up for childcare flexible spending account (FSA) - if your company offers this, and you'll need childcare within the year, it's a good idea to set aside money in your dependent care FSA account.  The max in 2012 is $5000 per year per family which doesn't even begin to cover infant care for a year here, but it's tax free so we do take advantage of it.

  • Send email to your team announcing the baby’s arrival - this is the fun part!  Send a cute photo, but maybe not one where you're looking all disheveled in your hospital gown (personal preference).  

this was the photo I sent out when BabyM was born

I'll post the next section in a few weeks, which is Things to Do While You're On Leave.  I created a handy downloadable checklist with the whole thing, for the impatient folks out there.  It's my first experiment with Google Drive for shared downloads.  Let me know if you have trouble accessing the files.

Parental Leave Checklist Downloads:
Download the Word version (.doc)
Download the PDF version (.pdf)

If you find this helpful, please contribute to my Starbucks chai fund :)
Thanks in advance!

I'd love to know if I've missed anything.  Let me know and good luck with your leave preparations!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Ain't that America, something to see baby

I spent several hours today trapped under a baby who just wanted to nurse.  For hours.  I can't remember if there's some kind of growth spurt at 2 weeks, but it sure did throw a wrench in my plans to get a bunch of stuff done around the house.

What it did allow me to do was watch a lot of TV on  I finally got to check out The Mindy Project, a new show on Fox created (and starring) Mindy Kaling, who plays Kelly Kapoor on The Office.  (Which I don't watch because I find it more annoying than funny.)

I read Mindy's book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? earlier this year. I didn't expect to love it, but I did.  I've watched a lot of TV and movies in my life, and there is almost NEVER anyone who is "like me" on screen.  Sure, there was the Indian female doctor on ER and the one on Royal Pains, but both of them are British.  And they're relatively recent.  All I had before that was Apu on The Simpsons (don't get me started!).

I'm used to TV and movies having those caricature Indian roles, with the thick accents and cow-and-curry jokes.  Not that funny once you've heard them on the school bus as well.

So when I read Kaling's book, about growing up the awkward child of Indian immigrants in the US, it was like reading about my own experience.  Though she's a lot funnier and has a much more interesting career.

I cheered for her (silently, in my head, of course) when I heard she got her own show and is also the executive producer.  I held my breath as I watched the first episode today.  I wanted it not to suck, because I want her to be successful.

And it totally delivered.  It was cute and funny.  The characters are likeable.  No cow-and-curry jokes.  In the first episode, Mindy's character gets drunk and gives a horribly embarrassing toast at her ex's wedding.  Let's just say that I can relate, having dated someone who got engaged *to someone else* while we were dating.  Just to be clear, I did not go to their wedding or get arrested afterwards.  :)

What I really, really, really liked is that Mindy's character doesn't follow the typical Hollywood acceptable dating rules.  She doesn't get matched up with Indian guys, and there's no story line about some mythical arranged marriage looming in her future (because don't you know, that's the only way Indian girls find a dude.  If they exist at all.)  She speaks her mind, she has a booty call arrangement with her work colleague, and she goes on dates.  She has an American accent and not some fakey Indian accent that Hollywood makes her put on (don't talk to me about Outsourced, either!).

I watched all three episodes in a row, and was sad there weren't more.  I'm totally a fan.  Can't wait for the rest of the season!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Subscriptions: It comes and it goes

My love affair with magazine subscriptions started in college when I had hourly jobs.  I'd plunk down the $12 to get a year of Glamour, Cosmopolitan, or InStyle and loved getting new issues in the mail.  After a stressful day of math and physics it was great to lose myself in something mindless, plus it gave me new reading material for the treadmill.

When I got a "real job" after grad school, I got even more crazy.  Buying a house meant I needed a subscription to Sunset "the magazine of Western Living" so I could get recipes, travel ideas, and other domestic stuff.  Their recipes are awesome and always turned out perfectly. 

I also loved Real Simple which is pretty and domestic, but not at all simple, just expensive minimalist design.   Cooking Light was another favorite for healthy recipes, when I learned I could trade in frequent flyer miles for free magazines on airlines where I wouldn't accumulate enough to get a free flight.  I had a job which required plane travel weekly, so having all these magazines helped pass the time.

When we moved to Seattle and my job became more demanding, the magazines piled up.  My new swanky gym had its own subscriptions to things I liked to read.  I didn't have much time to be domestic.  So slowly I cancelled all the subscriptions, except for a few.  I loved the topics and writing at Wired, and got a free subscription to Blender, a music magazine that was surprisingly interesting and well written.  But still, I didn't *need* them so I let my subscriptions lapse in the interest of saving money.

I also had a portable satellite radio gadget so we could listen to XM radio in the house or at the gym.  I LOVED the variety of music, but not so much the monthly fee.  When we were getting ready for T's arrival, we looked at all of our expenses and cut where we could - no more XM, no more DirecTV, no more home phone.

I have acquired my husband's dislike of monthly subscription fees.  I get it - from a financial point of view, it's a regular outflow of money that you're often locked in to, you may not be using it as much as you're paying for it, and it's sort of "invisible" because you either pay up front or it gets billed automatically, making you more out of touch with where the money is going.

So for a long time I had no regular subscriptions to anything - no magazines, no online services, no TV, nothing.

But they've crept back in.  I signed up for a subscription to the gorgeous CARDS magazine.  I also found out from my friend Jenn that there are scrapbooking kits you can subscribe to monthly.  I didn't need to know this, given my tendencies to shop for and hoard craft supplies.

I signed up for Scrapscription, which is a monthly mini-album kit.  They're wonderfully complex, and the projects take me days to complete.  In fact, I've only finished two and I've been subscribing for 4 months now (yikes!).   But they're beautiful and I feel a huge sense of accomplishment when I finish one, not to mention they make fantastic gifts for relatives, or quick mini-scrapbooks to capture things we do.  The one I'm currently working is going to be about our girls' trip to Portland in July.

And of course craft hoarding begets more craft hoarding, so I also bought a small monthly subscription to the Silhouette Online Store, which allows me to download files to use with my electronic die cutting machine.  I've made T's birthday invites, lots of cards, and doo-dads for my Project Life pages this way.

Roller Rink Kit by Studio Calico. Droool.
My biggest temptation/money sink is my Studio Calico subscription.  Every month they release a new kit, plus several "add on" kits that coordinate.  I'd be fine if I just stuck with the main kit, but the "extras" are so gorgeous and fun that I usually end up getting one or two of those.  And recently they came out with a Card Kit, which I also "had" to have.  The nice thing is that everything in those kits matches, so for projects I can just grab a kit and get going and end up with a nice cohesive look.

So really, I just need to STOP with the monthly subscriptions.  I certainly have enough supplies to last me a long, long time.  Probably more than I'll ever be able to use!  In a month or two, I'm planning to re-evaluate these choices and see if I really need to continue *all* of them.  I'm sure I can scale back and still feel like I'm getting my little "treats".

What's your financial "vice" - the thing you can't get enough of?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Brown paper packages tied up with string

Our days are fragmented by the schedules of our two little people.  T has to be at preschool exactly at 8:40 and picked up at 12:40.  M eats approximately every 3-5 hours round the clock, which also includes one or more diaper changes and some extra cuddling when she just doesn't want to be put down.  

We have doctor's appointments for M, T, and me, as well as errands like prescription pickup and grocery shopping.  I can't drive until I stop taking pain meds.  I can't stop taking pain meds until it stops hurting.  So we do everything, "all four together", which is kind of nice, but also means neither adult can "tag out".

Not unexpected, and thankfully being on maternity leave frees me up to think about nothing else than what's going on here at home.  Our second time with a newborn has been easier, mainly because my expectations of "getting things done" are low.  And this one sleeps and eats better than I expected (sleep gods, don't strike me down).

gratuitous baby picture.  blanket knit by my mom!

While I was thinking about not much else besides our day-to-day routine, two awesome things happened.

Today I got email from a BlogHer editor telling me they are featuring one of my older posts about contentment on their front page.  Woot!  I still love me some external validation.

 But even bigger and MORE exciting than that was an email I got last night as I was trying to convince myself to spend a little time in the craft room before falling into bed. 

Create magazine, part of the gorgeous Northridge Publishing family, wants to publish a project I submitted!!  I sent in the photos months ago, but since I hadn't heard from them, I figured they didn't want it.  I was a little sad, but honestly, not surprised since this was the first mini scrapbook album I've made on my own. 

But they want to publish it in March!  I need to send it in this month, with some additional info.  This is one of the items on my Mondo Beyondo list.  I honestly was going to give up on this one, partly because of the lack of time I have right now to focus on crafting, but also because of some customer service issues I've been having with Northridge regarding my subscription.

But when I got the email requesting my project, I just couldn't say no.  It's on my dream list!  The album itself is very special to me - it's a list of all the qualities I want to have as a mama, kind of a scrapbook version of a "vision board".  So you can be sure I'll be taking a ton of photos of it just in case it doesn't come back to me.

So to quote John Lennon, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

Update:  One more awesome thing I forgot to mention - BabyM weighs 7lbs today, which is 3 oz more than her birthweight.  Which also means we don't need to wake her to eat.  Woohoo!

Now your turn.  Tell me about an unexpected good thing in your life!

Monday, October 08, 2012

Project Life: Sept 2012, All 3 Together

On Sept 30, the night before I was scheduled to go to the hospital to have BabyM, I stayed up late to finish my Project Life pages through the end of September. Becoming a family of 4 is such a momentous event that I wanted to start a new layout on October 1, so I "cheated" a little and squeezed the last 20 days in September into one 2-page spread, instead of 2 weeks like I'd normally do.  Also, I was huge and pregnant and tired.

I love using coordinated kits for my pages - it helps rein in my tendency to include a little of everything, and keeps me to a cohesive look and color scheme.  For the first half of September, T was starting her new preschool, so I used Fancy Pants Design's Off to School line.  I love the alphabets, numbers and retro-bright colors, and settled on a color scheme of aqua and red.  I'm also in love with the simple designs of the fake "washi" tape from Target - I find myself using it more often than my more expensive "designer" tape.

(Click to see a larger version of each photo.)

Aug 27 - Sep 9: zoo, Granny & Robin visit, T's Smartcar and art

Aug 27 - Sep 9: T's first week at new preschool, yardwork, food in a box

For the rest of September, I used the Studio Calico 35mm kit which I bought from someone online.  I had been coveting that kit for several weeks, but it sold out quickly, and was thrilled to find it at a decent price.  It has lots of hexagons, which I love, because it reminds me of OChem.  Yes, I'm a geek.   I had lots of photos from my new fancy DSLR camera.

Sep 10-30: my new camera, Redmond Town Center, fingerpainting

Sep 10-30: Indigo Girls + Seattle Symphony, T's birthday, grandparents

We've had a couple of professional photo shoots this year - family pics in March, Microsoft shoot that T and I volunteered for (I love free photos!), and T's birthday.  There are way too many for me to include in Project Life, plus I usually get the photos back weeks after I've completed the pages.  So I make simple collages using Photoscape and print them on letter-sized photo paper.  The 8.5x11" page protectors fit perfectly in the 12x12" Project Life binder.  This is a fast, easy way to include more photos from specific events.

Sep 15: T's birthday party collage (partial).  Photos by Phani Kowta.

I try hard to make Project Life about all of us, and not just T.  I'd like to do a better job capturing some of TJ's interests and plans.  But I definitely put in my own stuff, like the Indigo Girls + Seattle Symphony concert I went to (alone!).  I also wrote down my thoughts on T turning 3 (how/when did that happen?!) and how I felt on the brink of having BabyM.  I don't think about what will happen to this album "in the future", but I do know our families like it, and T also loves looking at it repeatedly.  That, and the fact that it's fun for me to work on, is enough.  I don't have great aspirations to document our lives for posterity or future generations.

On a more practical note, it's also encouraged me to take more photos of all of us.  My photography has gotten SO much better just in the past 9 months, thanks to this.  And I'm "caught up" in putting those photos in our online gallery, so making our yearly photobook and calendar will be easier this year.

I love that this project gives me a chance to reflect on what we've done as a family, and think about the myriad special moments that happen each week while we're just going about our business.  In the immortal words of Ferris Bueller:

"Life moves pretty fast.  If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Linked up with The Mom Creative for Project Life Tuesday.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Blessed and lucky

So here we are on the Other Side.  I've been meaning to post something since Monday, but have been too tired to sit down and write anything more complex than a Facebook status.

Meridian Rayna made her way into the world on Monday morning, weighing 6 lbs 13 oz and measuring 18.5 inches. Surprisingly, everything was right on schedule.  We showed up at the hospital at 7am, they took us back almost immediately and got me prepped for surgery.  I had less time to freak out this time than last time. But, I still dislike hospitals, and hate having an IV.  Especially when they have to poke me more than once to get a good spot.

The anesthesiologist, Dr. L, was *amazing*.  She got the job done right on the first try and chatted with me the entire time to distract me from what was happening.  We talked about The Checklist Manifesto which I read earlier this year.  I was thrilled to note that as part of the procedure, my doctor ran through a checklist/intros before they got started.  So cool to read about it, then see it in action.

Both TJ and I are very squeamish, so we had them put up a screen, and asked the docs not to tell us what they were doing and that we were perfectly happy to assume that babies come out perfectly clean and wrapped in blankets :)

Just like last time, I cried when I heard BabyM's "voice".  She has a ton of dark brown hair and deep blue eyes, both of which are probably temporary.  The time holding her in the recovery room passed quickly, as did nursing her for the first time.

The nurses who took care of us were FANTASTIC, again.  We were lucky to have them looking out for us and responding to my requests for help getting M in and out of her "crib",  swaddling her tightly, getting me up and walking, and working with me to find a painkiller/schedule that worked.

With that, a short list of things I am grateful for:

1.  Feeding - Baby M is one of those mythical babies "born knowing what to do".  She latched on right away. She's quick. It doesn't hurt and is actually kind of a nice peaceful cuddly time. (Did I really say that?!)  This was definitely *not* the case with T in the early months.

2.  Husband - I count my lucky stars to have TJ (sappy alert).  M would not sleep in the hospital's Baby Tupperware (aka "crib") so he slept with her in his arms every night and for some naps.  We are currently practicing "divide and conquer" to shepherd T through her schedule and keep BabyM fed, clean and happy.  I can't imagine if it had to be all Mama, all the time. 

3.  Sleep - Of course we could be getting more sleep, uninterrupted, but after the last month of pregnancy, what I'm getting now is amazing.  Plus, BabyM sleeps in 2-4 hour stretches, which is more than I expected.  So far, so good.

4.  My mom - She stayed with T at our house while we were in the hospital.  T somehow convinced her to co-sleep, so I'm sure my mom didn't get much rest.  She also left us a huge pot of chili which we are still eating (when we remember to eat).  T is at her house today to play. Hooray.

5.  Narcotics - It's really too bad I don't enjoy them more.  My doctor is very thorough and sent me home with a bunch of different ones to try, since both of the options I used in the hospital made me dizzy and nauseous.  But honestly, all I need right now is the high dose ibuprofen, alternating with Tylenol + codeine.  When I remember to take them on schedule, nothing hurts.  Hooray for modern medicine.

Life is good around here, if a bit hazy from lack of sleep.  I think there might be nothing better than cuddling a sweet, sleepy baby, with nothing else on the agenda.

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