Friday, December 30, 2011

All Caught Up!

After several days of double posts, I'm FINALLY all caught up with my half-written post backlog! I'm very excited, for the first time in ages and just in time for the New Year, to be all caught up. (I think this new picture of Eleanor will be my standard one for any "excited" post from now on. It really just captures that emotion so well.)

I met and (barely) surpassed my goal of 120 posts for the year. The year Eleanor was born I only managed 94 posts, so I'm happy with just meeting that goal. If I get to about the same number of posts again next year, I'll be happy with that!

I'm not so bold as to make numerous crazy New Year's Resolutions like I did when I first started blogging. (Read 50 books!) All I'm willing to commit to is that I will do my best to maintain the status quo, in real life and virtual life, as Declan grows into a crawling, drooling, babbling, then walking, talking baby. I'll do my best to keep eating as well and no better, clean the house just enough so that it doesn't get any grungier than it already is, and run as many races in 2012 as I did in 2011. (I think that commits me to one 5k only.) I promise to work towards continuing my mediocre email response time and relatively reliable, if not prolific, blog posting.

Happy New Year!

Photo Challenge: Black and White

I've missed several weeks of blogging about his pictures, but Keith never has. For the past 52 weeks, come rain or shine, new baby or beach vacation, Keith has taken, edited, and posted a picture by the weekly Wednesday deadline, every time. This blows my mind. As someone who often struggles to post some cogent thoughts 10 times a month with no need to set up shots and choose then edit a finished photo, I am in awe of his dedication. Some weeks were more fun and easy, and some less. But he always did it, and I feel that says something about the person that Keith is. That's the kind of guy I want to be married to.

Anyway, the final week of the year's challenge was "Black and White." As you can tell, Declan didn't really like the reindeer suit, although we thought it was adorable.
Black & White

Some of the other pictures that I've missed over the past few weeks succinctly tell the story of our first weeks after Declan was born. The first was taken a week before Declan was born: It was the picture Keith wanted to take for the prompt of "silhouette" but the prompt didn't come in time.
Silhouette - First Take

The next week, Keith had no trouble finding a "square" picture at the hospital:

And our brand new baby boy was an easy choice for "blue."

Even with a newborn, life continued on for Eleanor. Keith made the most of a gorgeous Fall day to first blow most of the leaves to the front curb then rake a special leaf pile for Eleanor, and then take some pictures of her jumping into it. (To be fair, it also helped that his parents were visiting that weekend, and his dad brought the leaf blower.)

Finally, "silhouette"! This turned into sort of a companion piece to the silhouette picture he'd wanted to take.

Keith said that he's going to sign up for another photo challenge next year. He admits that it's a lot of time and effort, but he strongly feels that his picture taking and editing skills have been challenged and improved through the Flickr challenge group in ways that he would never have done on his own. It's his photography equivalent of a workout partner. I look forward to seeing what he comes up with! (And sometimes blogging about it.)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Our Family Christmas

Once we made it through the hustle and bustle of buying, making, baking, wrapping, cleaning, cooking, decorating, and re-buying things I forgot or ran out of (like wine), our Christmas was good.

We had so much fun because this was the first year that Eleanor really got it. She knew all about Santa Claus. We decorated gingerbread houses, baked cookies, bought special Christmas outfits for the kids, visited Santa, bought presents for her immediate family and wrapped them. She loved all of it.

One of our favorite Christmastime activities this year was an interactive Advent calendar by Jacqui Lawson that my Mom sent us. There's a couple options, but we got the London one since Keith and I have fond memories of that city. There was no temptation to skip ahead, since it only lets you open that day's door and previous days. We also had a "real" paper Advent calendar that we opened at dinner with Keith, but Eleanor and Declan and I would open the computer Advent calendar first thing in the morning. Then Eleanor would spent the next 10-20 minutes opening old days or the same day over and over again. It was a cute calendar that brought back fond memories of my time in England, and it was also a nice way to ease into the day.

Christmas Eve we hosted a small family gathering in the afternoon. In the past we've had it later, but with the kids and the fact that I like to fit in church service at some point, it seemed easier to have it in the afternoon and then everyone could disperse to any other gatherings/activities they desired. It did feel lower maintenance to have it in the afternoon, and to serve the food buffet style instead of a sit-down meal.

Before I knew it, our open house party was over and Mom, Eleanor, and I headed to the traditional Christmas Eve service at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Cleveland. Keith and Eleanor and I have been to the church several times before Declan was born (that's a whole different post) and I really like their approach to religion and spirituality. I was a little leery of a Christmas Eve service there, however; there's not many parts of traditional religion that I like, but I have always loved Christmas Eve carol services. It seems like the month of December and the actual holiday pass by so quickly, I really value attending the Christmas Eve service and taking an hour to calm down, breathe deeply, and think about family and what the holiday really means to me. So although I wasn't sure what to think beforehand, it was a lovely service--traditional, true to their word--in that there were plenty of Christmas carols and the story of Jesus's birth. Yet untraditional when the homily mentions, "Some Christians believe that Jesus was the Son of God incarnate" and they mention that the Christian advent wreath is based on the pagan wheel of fire.

So I did enjoy the Christmas Eve service, as always. Then we went back home, my parents and older sister stayed a little while after Eleanor went to bed and then they headed home themselves. Keith and I took turns holding Declan and wrapping presents, and finally got to bed around midnight.

Our first (and best) Christmas present was when Eleanor AND Declan both slept in until 9 o'clock on Christmas morning. The next best moment was hearing Eleanor call, "Is it morning time? I want to go look and see if Santa left us presents!" and watching her eyes light up as she opened presents. We took the present opening very slowly, letting Eleanor set the pace as she opened a present and really looked at it and even started playing with a few before moving onto the next present. Even taking our time, Eleanor got worn out. We'd saved the Santa presents for last and she had one more to open when she called a halt to the proceedings.

We stared at her incredulously. "Do you want to wait until after breakfast to open your last present?" we asked. She confirmed her intentions and we trooped off to breakfast.

Halfway through breakfast Eleanor suddenly sat up and said, "I never got my ballerina fairy baby doll!" She'd gotten everything else that she'd asked Santa for, but not that.

"Well, you have one more present," I reminded her. "Do you want to go open it?"

We got up from the table and ran back into the living room where she opened her final present, triumphantly holding her ballerina (not fairy) baby doll aloft.

The rest of Christmas Day passed in a pleasant haze of delicious food, good company, and relaxation. We played with Eleanor's toys, held Declan, opened presents with my family, and watched as much of A Christmas Story as we could fit in between other activities. I also really enjoyed Boxing Day, when Keith slept in and Eleanor, Declan and I came down to the living room in our pajamas and spent several hours opening and playing with her toys.

Our first Christmas as a family of four was a fabulous success. I'm already so excited for next year, when Declan is 14 months old and Eleanor can help even more with the baking and decorating and present-buying. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Crafty Christmas

I've found that there's a spectrum of Christmas gift-giving through which I move, depending on my mood and our financial situation. The year that Eleanor was born, and again this year, I've made most of our Christmas gifts. My thought is that I'm home all the time, and we don't have a lot of extra cash.

And yet, I spend so much money on all the craft supplies .... I wonder if doing all of this extra work is even saving any money?!? Of course, I do enjoy making gifts, which is part of the motivation, but it's still a lot of time and effort. I promised myself that, this year, I would actually write down everything I spend instead of just guesstimating. This way, if I spend just as much as I would have if I had bought presents, next year I will buy online with no feelings of guilt.

One place my gift-giving spectrum never goes is to the malls. I have no desire to shop in overpriced stores with cookie cutter inventory. If I'm not making my gifts, I'm most likely buying them online via Etsy or Amazon, or in person at Target or discount stores like Marshall's and Tuesday Morning (that's where nearly all of Eleanor's and Declan's gifts came from this year).

I'd like to post links to some of the items we (Keith helped a lot!) made this year, but since we haven't exchanged gifts yet with Keith's family, I can't really do that. Instead, pictured is the
no-sew tutu I meant to make for Eleanor. I even bought the supplies, but ran out of time. I guess it will be a random, Thursday morning in February gift, whenever I get around to making it. Incomplete crafts: The gifts that just keep on giving!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Missed Moments: Halloween

You can tell when Eleanor started picking her own Halloween costumes. Her first two Halloweens she was a pirate and a sushi chef. Then last year she was a (pink) ballerina and this year she was a (pink) fairy princess. She had told me she was just going to pick out something from her regular dress-up clothes to wear, which was fine with me.

But then we were shopping at a discount store and I found a pink fairy costume for only $5. It looked like $5 was a fair price for the flimsy dress, plastic wings, and bent crown. But it also only had to last one night, right? We bought it, I let her try it on once at home, and then we put it away to heighten the anticipation (and keep it intact) until Halloween.

What struck me most about Halloween, and about the first few weeks following Declan's birth, was that life continued on pretty normally. After Eleanor was born our world was turned upside-down, inside-out, and any other phrase indicating a complete and total break from life before baby. I know it was partly because she was our first born, and going from married couple to parents is a big change. Even if you have pets; sorry, it just doesn't compare.

But another reason life with Eleanor had been so challenging is that we had a lot of problems with feeding her. She didn't want to eat and she wasn't reliably gaining weight. (Sometimes she would do fine, and then sometimes she plateaued, which little babies are not supposed to do.) All she really wanted to do was sleep, which her doctors told us was not allowed. So we would spend hours trying to wake her up and night and get her to eat, with very little success. On top of that, I was also pumping to try and increase my milk supply, and her feedings could easily take an hour at least. I think it would not be an exaggeration to say that, for the first few weeks, I was spending nearly 20 hours a day trying to feed her or in feeding-related activities. It was awful.

After a while we calmed down and things got better. We started letting her sleep through the night (rather than go against medical advice, we just assumed she was old enough and stopped asking the doctors if it was okay) and that improved everyone's disposition a LOT. We figured out a feeding system that worked for us, and I stopped relying on the scale to tell me if I was succeeding or failing as a parent. Eleanor was old enough that she could tell us how things were going, and she was a very happy, smiley baby.

This time around, I've done a much better job of ignoring the scale from day one. We went in for a few lactation consultations, and I specifically requested they NOT weigh him, so I couldn't obsess over the numbers (nor could they). I'm not perfect, and I nearly had a breakdown at his two-month appointment a few days ago because I thought he hadn't gained enough weight. The 15 minutes between getting him weighed and hearing the doctor say he was fine were self-imposed torture. But I NEVER voluntarily weigh him, and I'm doing a much better job of letting Declan tell me if he's hungry.

So anyway, this relates to Halloween because it was a mere two weeks after Declan was born and instead of being lost in some weird baby vortex, separated physically and mentally from the normal world, we were just getting on with things. Making and eating dinner at a reasonable hour, getting Eleanor to preschool, and enjoying her first Halloween where she trick-or-treated with friends.

Of course, her friends live down the block, and we still didn't even make it off the block before she called it quits. But we got to walk around with the other parents and watch the kids run eagerly up to every house. I felt like part of the regular world, even if I was getting up two times a night to feed the baby. At least this baby wakes up and cries, eats, and goes back to sleep. How amazing!

Said baby stayed at home during trick-or-treating, cuddled in Grandma Karen's arms while she handed out candy. But next year! Next year he will be a sushi chef or race car driver ... just preferably something not pink.

Missed Moments: The Birth (of Declan)

So my birth experience with Eleanor was, overall, even better than I had hoped for. It was very quick, I made it through without pain meds, and I woke up already in labor so I didn't spend a lot of time worrying about false contractions. The second time around, I hoped for more of the same.

Ha! First of all, as I have already extensively complained about, Declan was a week late. A week! That's like a whole other 9 months to a hugely pregnant woman. The waiting is excruciating. Plus, I had serious false contractions on 2 or 3 separate occasions. I woke up in the middle of the night with a tingle of anticipation, sure that it was happening just like Eleanor ... and then nothing.

I tried very hard to wait patiently and go into labor naturally. As we waited for Declan (or "Little Sibling" as we called the baby before it was born) to decide to make an appearance, I had several non-stress tests and an ultrasound to make sure the baby was still safe and happy in the womb. The ultrasound estimated the baby's weight at 8 lbs, 13 oz, and my doctor strongly encouraged me to think seriously about inducing.

I was adamant about waiting, though. I would let this baby come when it was ready; I wasn't going to be induced just because it was more convenient and easier for me. Plus, if I were induced that labor would probably take longer, and I would probably be more likely to need the epidural .... I felt like inducing would start a domino effect of many choices taking me further and further from the natural birth I had experienced with Eleanor, and wanted again.

And yet. I had another follow-up appointment on a Monday, exactly a week after the original due date. Sunday night, Keith and I discussed it and I was still firm in waiting as long as possible before being induced. My doctor had told me he was willing to wait until Wednesday, and that's how long I would give it. But as I stood in the shower Monday morning before my appointment, I suddenly had this feeling that this baby was NEVER going to choose on its own to come it. It was digging in its heels (quite literally, it seemed like I could feel them poking my ribs) and would not be coming out unless forced. I finished my shower, got dressed, and came downstairs.

"I want to be induced," I announced to a very surprised Keith.

We were still surprised, however, when we got to the appointment and I told the doctor I wanted to be induced. I figured he'd tell me to check into the hospital that night to be put on a Pitocin drip, and the baby would be born in the morning. Instead, he told us he's not at the hospital on Tuesdays, so I could either check into the hospital in a couple hours and the baby would be born that very night, or I could wait and check in late night Tuesday, so the baby was born Wednesday morning.

Well, since I had decided I was done waiting, hanging around for another day and a half before checking into the hospital for an inducement wasn't really an option. If I was going to be induced, I wanted to just go ahead and do it!

So we went home, made sure our bags were packed and made arrangements for Eleanor's care, and headed to the hospital. It felt so surreal, to be casually driving to the hospital on a beautiful, sunny afternoon, knowing that next time I drove home, it would be with a baby.

As I had feared, choosing the induction changed the whole progression of labor. We were at the hospital for nearly two hours before the paperwork and initial assessments were done, and I was put on the low level Pitocin drip. Then I was on that for about 3 hours with very minor cramping--definitely nothing strong enough to feel like I was in labor.

We'd asked my parents and Keith's mom to bring Eleanor up to the labor and delivery room during this low-key phase of the process. When we'd said good-bye to her before preschool that morning, we had been expecting to pick her up a few hours later and continue on with life as normal. Instead, we went to the hospital and she went to a friend's house, and it made me sad to think that it had been our last moment as a family of three and we'd missed it.

Unfortunately, with Eleanor's nap the timing worked out that they arrived mere moments after the doctor broke my water. That meant it wasn't low-key and casual anymore, but getting to serious labor very quickly. I wanted so much to enjoy some time with Eleanor and our families, but immediately the contractions were very intense. Keith saw the look on my face as I tried to refrain from showing Eleanor that I was in any sort of discomfort and he quickly shooed everyone else out of the room.

The doctor stopped by again not long after that and told me that everything was progressing quickly; if I wanted an epidural, it would have to be soon. This time around, I didn't really even try to resist the lure of a nearly pain-free labor and delivery. I'd had too much time sitting in the hospital, thinking about what was coming. Add to that the fact that the real contractions started when Eleanor was visiting, and I felt completely unprepared, mentally, to handle a natural birth.

In retrospect, I don't think the pain was any worse than it had been the first time around, but my reaction to it was the polar opposite. Instead of breathing through it and focusing on something else, I focused 100% on the pain and kept telling myself just how painful and terrible it really was. That's not really a good pain management strategy.

So, shortly after that, I got the epidural and Keith and I settled back into the low-key waiting phase. We watched Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!. By this point I was starting to feel more pressure, so I figured the epidural was wearing off.

The doctor reappeared (what do they do in-between?) and announced that the increased pressure actually meant that I was ready to start pushing. Which also meant I'd been ready to start pushing for some time, but hadn't realized it. Whoops! "That happens all the time," the nurse assured me. Well then, why didn't anymore warn me that increased pressure did NOT mean the epidural was wearing off, and I should call for the doctor?!?

But I digress. One minute we were watching Final Jeopardy in a comfortable hotel room with low lighting. The next minute, the end of the bed was ripped away, people in surgical gloves and masks surrounded me, and intensely bright surgical lamps were shining in my face. It only took a few pushes, maybe 15 minutes if that, before Declan was born.

I was honestly surprised Declan was a "he." I was surprised when Eleanor turned out to be a girl, because for some reason Keith and I both thought she would be a boy. And I guess there was a part of me expecting Baby #2 to be a girl just because that's what happened the first time, even though I know logically that there's a 50/50 chance of either sex.

But a "he" it was. Keith and I immediately started crying and smiling as I held the baby in my arms. Eleanor was now officially a big sister, and we could finally meet and hold our new baby.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Missed Moments: The Birth (of Eleanor)

Alright, so this post is 10 weeks after the big event. You may all be over this and ready to move on. But since Declan's birth, I've tried to remember with more precision what the early days were like with Eleanor, and I have no record of that, which saddens me. I'd like to better know what I was thinking and feeling in the moment, and be cognizant of how it's changed this time around.

So, with that in mind, this is really a story of two very, very different births. To review, Eleanor was born 3 days after her due date. I woke up in the wee hours of the morning already experiencing some pretty intense contractions. I got a quick shower (Why? Because people had said to, and it was stuck in my head.) By the time I got out of the shower, my contractions were more intense. Still erratic, but wavering between 4 and 7 minutes apart.

After all my worry about what we'd do with the dog, we did nothing. It was the middle of the night, and he rolled over and went back to sleep. By the time he was ready to wake up in the morning, my in-laws were at the house to let him out.

The precise times are a bit fuzzy, but I think I woke up a little before 4am, checked into the hospital by 5ish ... and Eleanor was born at 9:14am. When we got to the hospital, I was experiencing a lot of lower back pain. I told Keith through gritted teeth that I wasn't sure I could go through with a natural birth. Bless him, he tried so hard to say the right thing.

"You can do it ... if you want to ... but if you don't it's okay .... but if you do, then I'm sure that you can...."

I settled in and decided to try and use breathing and visualization techniques to at least get me through the next few contractions. Then I could always re-evaluate.

What followed next seemed very independent of time or outside influence. When I felt a contraction coming on, I started my deep breathing and focused on my calming image: Beckett and I taking a nap on the living room couch on a hot, sunny, quiet afternoon. I kept my eyes closed during and between the contractions, and even fell asleep sometimes.

"Can I do anything?" Keith anxiously inquired. "Do you want a back massage?" Unbeknownst to me, he was worried because I was acting like the contractions were very intense, but they were barely even registering on the monitor ... until the nurse adjusted the monitoring belt, and then the next contraction was through the roof. Keith breathed a sigh of relief.

A nurse (on-call doctor maybe?) came to check and see how far along I was, to see when they should call the Ob-Gyn from my practice to come in and deliver. I think at that point I was already at an 8, or at least definitely further along than they were expecting.

When the doctor arrived and checked me, he was surprised (as we all were!) to find out that I was fully dilated and ready to push. Keith tells me I pushed for about 45 minutes (I had no clue about the time throughout the entire process). Finally, Eleanor was born.

to be continued

Baby Projects: Blankets

In early October I had several blog entries about baby projects (which were really about Eleanor's new room and sewing her curtains, since getting Eleanor out of the baby's room was the most extensive part of our preparations). This was meant to the final baby project post, but we never took any pictures of the blanket until there was actually a baby in it, ergo I'm just now posting.

I made the exact same baby blanket I've made about ten times before--I'm definitely a creature of habit when it comes to knitting projects. If it ain't broke, and you're making the same blanket for a new baby, why change?

I was disappointed, though, because this baby blanket is seriously tiny. It barely covers Declan now, and he's only 2 months old! Although I used the same pattern, I did use smaller needles and smaller yarn, and that had a much bigger effect than I was anticipating.

While knitting Declan's blanket, I was also working on a second blanket for Eleanor. Her first is getting old and worn and is a little small for her. But my primary motivation for making her a new blanket was that she's incredibly attached to the first one. She calls it her "Mommy Blanket" because she knows I made it for her when she was still a baby in my belly. She always sleeps with it--not covering her, but cuddled in her arms. It is amazing to me that it means so much to her, and I turn into a puddle of goo whenever I check on her in bed and see it in her tight grasp. But I also worry about the serious meltdown prospects if something happens to it.

I let her pick the yarn (baby pink, of course!) and for this I did use a new pattern, but a really simple one. Knit 7 rows with really big needles. Then knit 7 rows with small needles. Repeat. It's amazingly simple, but looks very nice.

Unfortunately, Mommy Blanket #2 runs a far distant second to the first, and I'm not at all convinced that she would be consoled by its presence if disaster struck Mommy Blanket #1. Knowing this, and seeing how small Declan's blanket is, I should probably start on his second blanket now. Maybe I'll be more successful in getting him to adopt it and love it equally with the first.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Great Escape

My wonderful mother-in-law is visiting for a few days this week. She always tells me that I should do whatever I want to while she's here; she just wants to spend time with the kids and help out. Oh, and she always brings a bottle of wine.Who wouldn't like a mother-in-law like that?!?

I did feel a bit guilty today, as I handed her the baby and dashed out of the house into the sweet, cold free air, that I always run out the door when she's in town. I take the opportunity to walk the dog or run errands without lugging a 30-pound baby and carseat and oftentimes unruly toddler with me. I relish the opportunity to go somewhere, anywhere, all by myself during the day, because it so rarely happens.

I hope she realizes how much I appreciate the opportunity to get out. I'm not running away from her, I promise! I'm running toward peace and quiet.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

"My Baby's Got ... What?!?"

For a long time now, we've been playing a white noise CD in Eleanor's room during the night because we have squeaky old wooden floors and a dog who sometimes barks in his sleep. Now that Declan's around, the white noise is even more important.

A few weeks ago, however, she figured out how to change her iPod nano from the white noise to actual songs. Overall, I'm not sure how I feel about this. Will this keep her awake longer? There's still the benefit of background noise, but with lyrics and key changes, etc. As with so many other discipline issues of late, it comes down to the fact that I don't have enough energy to argue with her about it, so we chose a playlist of pretty mellow songs and left it at that.

I don't know if it keeps her up (any more than anything else), but I have discovered that she does listen to the lyrics. At naptime one day last week, Ben Folds's cover of "Golden Slumbers" was playing when Eleanor asked me, "Did he say 'Once there was a wedding'?"

I said, "No, he said, 'Once there was a way ... to get back homeward,'" and we then discussed the meaning of the lyrics before reading her princess stories and turning out the light.

So tonight she was all tucked up in bed, and the rest of us were downstairs in the living room. Suddenly, we heard her music start blasting and a pitter patter of feet as she hopped back into bed. Keith went up to check out the situation, and when he came back down he was laughing so hard he could barely talk.

Apparently, Eleanor turned up the music because she likes G. Love's "My Baby's Got Sauce." However, she told Keith he sang "My baby's got sores" and she liked that part. I'm guessing "sores" isn't really a part of her vocabulary yet, and I feel no need to enlighten her. We are going to have to listen to our music a little more closely, however, for profanity and the like before it makes it on her iPod and she starts singing it at school.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Congrats, Photographer Keith!

A few weeks ago, I posted that Keith entered one of his Photo Challenge pictures in a photo contest at our local library. They just announced the results, and Keith got second place!

His prize is a free photo shoot at MotoPhoto. We're excited/curious to see how it goes. I have to admit, we've never had professional pictures of Eleanor or Declan. Keith likes to take pictures, his sister also takes great pictures .... we've just never seen a need for the expense. Plus, we were a little concerned about how Eleanor would react. Whenever a stranger first talks to her, she acts shy and hides her head. How would that go for a photo shoot?

In talking about the upcoming photo shoot, we're also wondering whether we should do a full family portrait. Neither Keith nor I particularly enjoy having our pictures taken, but I sort of think it's a necessity. Shouldn't we get a picture with all of us? I guess we should at least have one taken, and if it's absolutely horrible, we just won't print it.

Which brings us to the final point: The photo contest prize is a free photo shoot. NO prints are included. (Yeah, it's a small prize, but that's not really why he entered.) What are the chances that we decide the prints are too expensive, and don't even get any? At this point, I'd put them at 50/50.

So even though all of our far flung friends and readers were not all able to vote, apparently the community at large enjoyed the photo enough for him to win second place. I'm so proud of him, both for the photo and for taking the leap of faith to even enter it. Of course, Eleanor says it's her prize too, since the picture is of her. And it's fair enough that she and Declan give us wonderful photo subjects! We're looking forward to taking pictures of them with Santa in the near future.

Congratulations, Keith! (and Eleanor)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Easy as Pie! Holiday Cooking

I'm sitting on the couch, holding a sleeping baby in my arms, and staring at the front covers of the magazines on our coffee table because it would be too much work to actually hold one and read it. Plus, even if I tried, Declan would wake up or the phone would ring or Eleanor would need help on the potty .... the interruption possibilities are endless.

Anyway, the front cover of the latest Cooking Light declares "Easy-as-Pie: Open House Menu." I think the title is a bit misleading because I read that article last week, and I'm pretty sure there's no pie involved. Surely there must be an unwritten rule of food writing that states you can't use common food expressions like "easy as pie" or "piece of cake" or "tougher than grandma's overdone turkey" unless said food is actually relevant to the topic. Otherwise, you just confuse people.

However, the topic of holiday cooking reminds me of the many Cooking Light recipes we've used and enjoyed since we moved into our house and actually started cooking for the holidays, 5 years ago. Here's some of our favorites:
  • Coconut Biscotti: a big change from most other sugary holiday cookies, and delicious dunked in hot tea!
  • Last year we made Rosemary Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Shallots for Thanksgiving, and they were a big hit. This was our first experience cooking with shallots, wherein we discovered that they are absolutely delicious and really freakin' expensive.
  • This year, we opted for a much sweeter (but still delicious) recipe in the Streuseled Sweet Potato Casserole. Another bonus with this one is that it's easy to make the day before and just bake on the big day.
  • My favorite, which I insist on making every year whether anyone else wants it or not, is the Cranberry, Cherry, and Walnut Chutney. Fresh cranberries are delicious!
  • Speaking of cranberries, for dessert last year Keith made the Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake. I think we may make it again this year. Especially now that we know it needs to chill for a day to set. Whoops!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Wheel Watcher

Starting with the night Declan was born, I've been finding myself in front of the TV during Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. We watched both in the delivery room while I was in labor, and I started pushing only moments after Final Jeopardy. I wish I could remember what the category was .... that's something for the baby book!

Anyway, it often seems to work out that I'm nursing Declan at some point between 7 and 8, and I tune into the game shows of my youth. A few observations:
  • Do you remember when Wheel of Fortune contestants had to choose prizes from these showcases? That would have sucked. To get one chair worth $800 that doesn't match anything else in your house .... the prizes have gotten a LOT better (read: cash).
  • I still don't understand why so many Wheel of Fortune contestants insist on buying every vowel. Keith argues that it's because they don't know what the answer is and they're trying to make their turn last longer and get some inspiration. I concede that's a logical interpretation, but often it just feels like they're trying to fill in the whole puzzle. Um, you do remember that you're PAYING for the vowels, right?
  • Was Alex Trebec always that much of a dick, or did that come with old age? Why does it always seem like he's mocking the contestants?
  • I would be a horrible Jeopardy contestant. I try to tell myself it's because it's all trivial knowledge, and I only fill my head with important information.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Missed Moments: Quiet Weekend

Several events happened in the past few weeks that I'd meant to blog about, but never got around to. There's no point in going back and trying to recapture everything since October 17, but I do want to mention a few of the most memorable moments.

We got home from the hospital on a Wednesday afternoon, and Keith's family visited in waves for pretty much the next week. It was nice to spend one-on-one time with each individual family, but it was also very busy. The visits ended the following Thursday, when Keith's parents left for a family wedding in New York City ... and took Eleanor with them.

When my mother-in-law first proposed taking Eleanor with them, on this 4-day trip, our first reaction was "No way!" It seemed crazy. How could she possibly survive without her mother and father for 4 days?!?

But the idea of getting a long weekend with just Keith and the baby and no distractions (Sorry Eleanor, but you are very distracting.) grew on me. Part of the sleep deprivation this time around is due to the fact that, no matter what time Declan falls asleep or how many times he wakes up, Eleanor will still be up by 7 or 7:30am. This is particularly offensive on the weekends. So we could get a long weekend of really, actually sleeping when the baby sleeps, instead of playing dress up and reading princess stories? I'M IN.

We gratefully took up Karen's kind offer, and it seemed like a wonderful idea ... until the car was loaded up on Thursday morning, Eleanor gave me a hug and kiss good-bye, and then she eagerly hopped into her carseat and was ready for the trip. Then I wanted to cry and grab her out of the car and run back inside with her. Keith held me back though, and they drove off.

Once they'd been gone for about 5 minutes, it seemed like a good idea again. The house was so quiet and peaceful. That day, we picked up the blocks and dress-up clothes and books ... and everything stayed put away. For days!

Even better, we had lots of time to watch Declan sleep, and talk about how adorably perfect his fingers and toes and nose are. We exclaimed over every facial expression he made, and picked him up immediately when he started crying--if we'd even put him down at all, which is doubtful. We got so much quality baby bonding time, which I would imagine is usually very rare for a second child.

To end this story happily ever after, the New York crew had a great time, too. Apparently Eleanor was on her best behavior for her grandparents, so they didn't get to enjoy the tantrums and meltdowns Keith and I are privy to on a regular basis. Ergo, everyone loved her and doted on her. Ergo, she also had a fabulous time and barely even missed us at all.

Yet, when she returned, I was never so happy to see her dress-up basket had exploded all over the living room floor. When I told her it was naptime and she shouted "No!" and stomped her feet and Declan started crying, I wanted to give her a big hug and a kiss. It was a wonderful weekend, but I was glad to have both my kids in the house again.

P.S. The picture is of Eleanor "dressing up" Declan while he sleeps in his carseat, by laying a dress on him and putting dress-up shoes next to his feet. It was the first time, but I'm sure it won't be the last!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Photo Challenge: A Finalist!

Keith has been participating in the Shutterboo Weekly Photo Challenge for a few years now. It's a great opportunity to improve his own photography skills and be inspired by the work of others, as well. Plus the deadline element is always a bonus incentive.

Last May, this is the picture that Keith took for the prompt "Red":
Then, a few months ago, we saw a flyer at our library about a local photo contest. Keith picked up a flyer and thought about entering the contest, but never did much about it. Contest entries were due by the end of October, and since October was a pretty busy month for us, I wanted to try and make sure Keith entered the contest before Declan's due date. (Ha! As if that date meant anything, in the end. Little did we know we still had another week of waiting around.)

I briefly considered just choosing one of Keith's photo on my own, printing and entering it, but what if I picked one that wasn't one of his favorites? Would he be disappointed? In the end, I told him I really thought he should enter, and also told him which of his Photo Challenge images I thought were the strongest.

So together, we chose the above picture of Eleanor. I got it printed and matted, and Keith dropped it off at the library. A few weeks later, we found out that Keith is one of the 10 finalists! I'm so glad that he entered the competition, and very proud of him for working to continually improve this new skill and having the confidence to enter the competition.

So just being a finalist is a "win" of sorts, especially since 5 of the 10 finalists get some sort of prize. But of course, we'd love for Keith's photo to officially be #1! Right now, an exhibit of the 10 finalists is traveling to all of the library branches, so patrons can vote on their favorite. Well, they've actually already been at the main branch and the University Heights branch.

This is the last week of voting, so if you live in the area, please stop by the Coventry library branch and vote for photo #3!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Posting Post Baby

Remember the pre-baby days, when I was so diligent about posting regularly? Ah, seems like so long ago!

Since October 13, I've posted one time, just to officially announce to the world that the baby had indeed been born. So 8 posts over two weeks, and 1 post in the following two weeks.

What is interesting to me, however, is why I haven't been posting. It's not the sleep deprivation or general business of taking care of a newborn and toddler. I've actually had a lot of help since coming home from the hospital. First, Keith was off for two weeks. As an added bonus, Keith's parents swung by and picked up Eleanor on their way to a family wedding in New York City the weekend after Declan was born, so from Thursday mid-morning through Sunday evening, it was just Keith, Declan, and me. I think we got dressed about 2 o'clock in the afternoon and put our pajamas back on again by 7 o'clock at night.

Since Keith went back to work yesterday, Keith's mom has been my significant other:) I think she's spent more time watching both kids at one time than I have! We've had people bringing us food, offering play dates for Eleanor, and buying us diapers. I had forgotten how helpful everyone is when a new baby arrives.

Of course, even with all the help in the world, it is still a lot of work. I'm breastfeeding, so right there that's several hours a day (and night) that no one can really help with. And Eleanor wants Mommy to read her stories and tuck her in and help her in the bathroom and just generally to pay attention to her. And I need to get some sleep and brush my hair every once in a while.

And yet, even though I've spent all this time talking about how time-consuming it is, I've realized over the past two weeks that lack of time isn't what's keeping me from posting. I've had many, many different ideas for blog posts in my mind, and I've started composing one or two .... but I never get past a sentence or so. We've sat and watched TV and movies for hours over the past two weeks, but I haven't written a blog post because I can't concentrate enough to actually write.

Maybe this shouldn't be such a surprise, but it has been to me. I assumed that, last time, I didn't blog because I didn't have the time. Eleanor and I had so many problems with breastfeeding that I was probably spending literally 19-20 hours a day trying to feed her or wake her up to feed her or pumping to increase my milk supply. Blogging was the last thing on my mind. Make that next-to-last; there was nothing happening in the bedroom except exhausted sleep and a crying baby.

So this time, with all of the help and easier breastfeeding, I thought that I would pick up blogging again with no problem. But I can't stay focused long enough to start and finish a blog post. Even this post, which is pretty long for me, seems to take a long time to get to the point. I find myself wondering, "Do I even need everything at the beginning? Shouldn't I revise it? Tighten it up? Get rid of unneeded material and craft a better intro?"

But there's no time or mental energy for the craft of composing. I am writing, and I am going to post this, but I'm afraid that it's not going to be my best post ever. Maybe I need to work on just posting something for now, and get back to the whole entire process of writing and revising and polishing later, as I start to settle into a routine and get more sleep.

It always comes back to more sleep.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

It's a Boy!

Right, so I know I stopped posting over a week ago ... but the baby hadn't come yet. I was just tired of saying "no baby yet" over and over again.

Declan actually arrived on Monday, Oct. 17, at 8:13pm. He was 9lbs and 21.5 inches long. He is also emphatically Eleanor approved, despite his status as a boy.

Of course, there's plenty more to say but I'm going to stop there and get ready for bed. The details, like many other things, are not nearly as important as sleep right now.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Still. No. Baby.

I don't really want to talk about it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Photo Challenge: Traffic

This week's Shutterboo Photo Challenge is "traffic." Last week I ruminated on whether Keith could catch the anal retentive planning bug that I have, and manage to take, edit, and post his picture over the weekend to get it out of the way.

He didn't. You'd think after we've been together for over 14 years, I would know this isn't going to happen. But I still thought maybe.

By Tuesday night, I told Keith that--if he really loved me--he would now wait to take the picture. It's supposed to be posted by Wednesday at midnight, so he should wait until about 11:50pm on Wednesday to run out and find a traffic picture and slap it on flickr site. Because, as everyone knows, putting something off is guaranteed to make the baby come. Right? RIGHT?!?

Instead, he went out Tuesday night and took some pictures, came home and edited and posted. So now he's neither ready super in advance, nor postponing for my sake. Completely foiled!


I'm currently operating under the assumption that making lots of plans and putting off tasks for a future day is the best way to make the baby decide now is a good time to be born. Inconvenience! That's the key! I've planned too well; the house is clean, the freezer is stocked, I've even blogged in advance! Clearly, I've brought this sad state of post due-date anticipation upon myself.

If you'll excuse me, I need to go and find some other urgent tasks that I can postpone until tomorrow. Maybe the stress of having them hang over my head will induce labor ....

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

To Induce or Not to Induce?

Well, I had my first post due-date doctor's appointment today. The appointment that, when I made it last week, I kept thinking to myself, I really hope I have the baby before this appointment!

But I didn't. So I went to the appointment and we talked induction. How long past my due date would he feel comfortable letting me go? How long would I feel "comfortable" (the term being relative) waiting?

He offered to induce me tonight/tomorrow morning, but I wasn't quite ready for that. He said the latest he's willing to wait is a week after the due date, so Monday or Tuesday next week at the very latest. Somehow, just have a firm end in mind (by next Wednesday, this baby will be here, one way or the other!) calmed me down a bit. I said "no" to being induced tonight.

Currently, I have an ultrasound appointment for Thursday morning. If the baby's not born by then, we need to make sure he/she is still doing okay in there. The doctor went ahead and scheduled an induction for Thursday night/Friday morning, but said we can cancel it if everything looks okay and I want to keep waiting.

I don't know how I'll feel by Thursday. Of course, my most fervent hope is that I don't make it to Thursday and go into labor on my own in the next 10 minutes! (To that end, I've posted the flower picture because I've read that visualizing a flower opening can bring on labor.) But I still have to consider the possibility.

I've heard that being induced can mean that labor goes more slowly, and it can be more painful/intense. Overall, I was very happy with the way that my first labor went. It was fast and ... well, that was the main point in its favor. I liked letting nature take its course, and letting Eleanor come when she was ready.

On the other hand, I must admit that I like knowing induction is an option. This pregnancy isn't going to drag on for weeks. (Weeks!) I sincerely hope that labor starts on its own, ASAP. But if we make it to Thursday or even--perish the thought!--next week, I'd imagine my resistance to induction will significantly lessen.

Monday, October 10, 2011

This Is a Post about Nothing

Today is the due date, but nothing is happening. I've cleaned the house, we've stocked up on food, Keith mowed the grass, we bought Eleanor's pumpkin .... of course, there's always other tasks that could be done. But the truth is, I have no concentration or willpower to do them. I am a little tempted to make myself clean to try and fake the nesting instinct, but the couch is comfy and I really don't think it works that way.

So I'm just waiting. But I felt the need to post this, so no one takes my lack of posting as evidence of some great and wonderful events keeping me from the blog. None of that going on here! Gomez is sleeping on the back of the couch next to me, while Beckett insists on licking his legs, curled up in the armchair.

I'm not very good at waiting. I know I should be doing more to keep my mind occupied, but all of my attention is focused on what's NOT HAPPENING yet. Grrr .... If anyone has any good suggestions for how to stop driving myself crazy, I'd like to hear them!

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Baby Projects: Sewing

In conjunction with Eleanor's room and baby preparations, I've had a lot of sewing projects going on. Most time-consuming, and most fun, were Eleanor's new curtains. She requested purple. She wanted light purple, actually, but I'm a big fan of blackout-type curtains for babies and toddlers, so I made dark purple curtains with purple and pink felt flowers.

This is the same way I made the nursery curtains, which are dark brown with green felt leaves. (Why felt? Why, no hemming of course!) I then used spray adhesive to attach the leaves to the curtains.

In the intervening three years, almost half of the leaves have fallen off or been ripped off by tiny fingers, so I did realize this time around that just spray adhesive wouldn't be enough. When making the new curtains, I did use spray adhesive to position the flowers, but this time also stitched around the edges of the flowers to make sure they're not going anywhere. Because, of course, after all of this work Eleanor will never be allowed to redecorate or change her room in any way. These curtains will last until college!

After finishing her new curtains, I went back and reattached or attached anew the green leaves on the nursery curtains, then sewed around the edges of those, as well.

Also learning from past experience, we had made cloth diaper wipes from cut-up receiving blankets for Eleanor. These did require hemming, but just a quick zigzag stitch around the edges. For diaper wipes, it doesn't have to look pretty--just get the job done! I hemmed a few more of these that we had never finished off before, because we can never have too many wipes!

Finally, completely unrelated to the kids, Beckett has twice chewed holes in our one sleeping bag, for no apparent reason other than he's a dog. I sewed up the holes when possible, or made patches when necessary.

You might think that I felt a sense of accomplishment after all this, right? Except that, as I was making progress on all of these projects, Beckett was at loose ends one day and occupied himself by puking on, and then eating, one of the dining room curtains. So a sewing project that had been finished five years ago is now back on the to-do list.

Just like so many aspects of life, the sewing tasks never end!

Friday, October 07, 2011

Continued Preschool Skirmishes

It's not an outright war anymore, and no more tears (thank God for that), but Eleanor is still not totally on board with the whole "Preschool" concept.

For the past week, I have had to wake her up and spend the 20 minutes before school arguing/discussing/cajoling why preschool is a good thing. She doesn't want to get dressed. She doesn't want to go. She doesn't want me to drop her off at the door; she wants me to come in to the classroom. (Which is a terrible idea, and will happen over my dead body.)

Yet I know she has fun while she's there. When I pick her up, she talks a mile a minute about story time and her friends and all the activities. But as time passes, she seems to convince herself that it's all terrible. She missed me and thinks I shouldn't make her go. So by the next morning, the first words out of her mouth are again, "I don't want to go to preschool!"

Why are we still having this conversation?!? I don't know what it's going to take to get her fully convinced that preschool is not the enemy, but I hope it happens soon.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Photo Challenge: Technology

Poor Keith. He was really hoping that the prompt "silhouette" would be assigned for the Shutterboo Weekly Photo Challenge before the baby is born. But this week's "technology" and next week will be "traffic." So much for that!

Luckily for Keith, even though it was a last-minute photo, he's the kind of guy who knows how to--and feels comfortable--opening up a computer and pulling out a piece of it for pictures.


Like everything else in our lives, I wonder what will happen next week with the Photo Challenge. Everything feels so up in the air, as we wait for the baby to decide when he/she is ready to arrive. Keith has managed to submit a picture, on time, for the first 40 weeks of the 52-week challenge. Keeping in mind anything from life upheavals like illness or car breakdowns to good distractions such as vacation or even the garden variety lack of inspiration, I think this is a very impressive record. Will he be able to keep it up, or will next week be the one that finally breaks him?

Keith "joked" about how lucky it would be if we hit lots of traffic on the way to the hospital while I'm in labor. I put the word in quotation marks because of how utterly humorless his remarks are.

Will he do what I would do in his situation: Make sure to take a picture and have it all processed, possibly even posted, by Sunday night? Or will he live dangerously and see what happens early next week?!?

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

My Expiration Date

It's hard to believe, but my due date is less than a week away.

With large life events that are on the calendar for ages, it's always somehow surprising when they've actually arrived. Sure, I've known since January that my due date is October 10. But that's, like, a real day. Um, this is really going to happen. We're having a baby!

It all "becomes real" to me, for some strange reason, when I buy milk and the expiration date is further out than whatever big event I've been looking forward to. If the event happens before the milk will expire, that means it is now happening very soon. By the time someone opens this carton of milk and wrinkles her nose at it, I will have graduated/moved to England/gotten married/had a baby/etc. It's when Big Life meets everyday life, and it weirds me out a little, every time.

I remember first experiencing this when I went grocery shopping the week before college graduation. I'm pretty sure I stood in the dairy aisle for a few minutes, trying to process the fact that this skim milk had a longer shelf life than the rest of my college career. I would be drinking this milk as a college graduate, maybe on the morning of graduation, or maybe even on the morning of moving out and leaving campus for the last time. I was so not ready for college to end, but there it was, written on the side of the milk carton. I had to move on.

Of course, my feelings about the event are a little different this time. I was very sad to be done with college, and a tad bit overwhelmed about figuring out the rest of my life. I did have some beer/pizza/pop college weight gain that made my clothes a little tight around the middle, but nothing like the tightness of a pregnant belly that has been stretched about as far as it goes. My skin itches all the time.

It takes me about three different positions to actually get myself rolled from one side to the other in bed at night. And a whole lot of grunting (although some of that is just to wake Keith up a bit and make sure he knows how uncomfortable I am). Physically, I am so done being pregnant. And emotionally, I'm ready to. I'm getting so excited to meet this new baby. Is it a boy or a girl? Will it cry for the first day, like Eleanor did? Or will he/she be calm and curious?

I bought milk today; it expires nine days after my due date. There had BETTER be a baby in my arms before that milk goes off, or I .... I don't even know what. I can't consider the alternative.

I've warned Keith that I am aware that having a due date of October 10 is no guarantee a baby will be born on that day. However, I am guaranteeing that my patience in dealing with the physical difficulties of pregnancy will expire on that day. I'm not particularly patient right now, but I am quite certain it can--and will--get worse if the due date comes and goes without any sign of labor.

I've been telling myself all along that this baby won't be early. Eleanor was a few days late, and I'm just going to go ahead and assume Baby #2 will be the same. I do have my bag packed, although I keep reading the novels I borrowed from the library, which are specifically supposed to be for the hospital. I keep trying to picture what my life will be like next week. Will I be taking Eleanor to Preschool on Monday? Picking her up on Tuesday? Meeting friends at a tearoom for our tentatively planned outing on Wednesday? Going to Parent/Teacher conferences on Friday ... with a new baby?

I'm trying to think of a good, solid conclusion to this blog entry, but I think I'm just going to have to accept that this is one situation that is all about questions and no answers. I don't know how or when labor is going to happen. I do know that I'll be constantly thinking about it until it does.

I'm also pretty certain that, the rate I'm going, I will have used up all the milk in my nightly chocolate milkshakes before we get anywhere near the expiration date. Maybe they can help my patience last a little longer, if needed.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Fall Blog Design

I think this will be my last meta-blogging post for awhile. I've switched from the summer blog design to a Fall-inspired image and colors. If you don't usually read on the blog itself and are looking for some inspiration for crisp autumn days, candy corn, and jack o'lanterns, be sure to check it out!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Blogging Overload

When Keith trains for races, he ends up with a few different goal times in mind. There's the ultimate goal: a ridiculously amazing time that would require perfect training and an unblemished race. There's the mid-range goal: a pretty good time, usually a PR, that falls a bit short of his wildest dreams but that he would still be satisfied with. Finally, he has a bottom "goal" time in mind. It's the lowest possible time that he might find acceptable. If he falls below this minimum threshold, his legs must be severely broken or falling off or else he will be very, very disappointed.

For me, this 3-tiered goal system is somewhat relevant to blogging. (It is not at all relevant to my running; I'm much more of a "just get across the finish line" mentality.) And truthfully, I guess I really have 2 goals. I don't have the ultimate goal. I think that would probably be something insanely consistent, like writing 5 days per week for 52 weeks a year. I said good-bye to that type of goal a long time ago. Instead, my high goal is to post at least 3 times a week, every week, which would amount to at least 12 posts a month. My minimum goal is to post at least 10 times a month on average, so I get to 120 posts by the end of the year.

You may have noticed that I've been a blogging machine for August and September. Instead of the bare minimum 10 posts, I had 15 August posts and 17 September posts. I just want to warn you, particularly new readers: don't get used to it!

I started the blog in November 2005. From 2006 through 2010, the only year I did not have at least 120 posts was 2008, when Eleanor was born. She was born at the end of July. That August, I had one sad, token post on the very last day of the month so I didn't miss out a month completely. Every month after that had fewer than 10 posts, and I didn't even make it to 100 for the entire year.

This time around, my goal was to pad my post count in the months before the baby arrives, so I can be a sleep-deprived slacker for October through November and still get to 120 posts for 2011. At this point, I can write 5-6 posts for those last 3 months and still be in the clear. Looking good so far!

Of course, the question is: why does it matter? Does anyone count posts other than me? I seriously doubt it.

But it's important to me that I'm at least somewhat reliable in my posting. I don't expect all of my readers to be constantly refreshing the home page, awaiting my latest musings with bated breath. But I do like to keep the readers I have, and I think that part of that is being around. I do think that it helps; the image above is a screen capture of my Site Meter stats. You can definitely tell that I started posting links to blog entries on Facebook in January (first tall column). There was a crazy busy month in April when I got a ton of random hits, but otherwise the traffic has been consistent.

So I guess I want to warn you in advance. I probably won't be posting as much in October/November. But I haven't forgotten about my readers or the blog! I'll probably be composing many, many posts in my head as I'm feeding the baby, changing diapers, chasing after Eleanor, and all of the other endless tasks of a Mother of Two. Maybe a small percentage of those will actually make it onto the blog, but I'll do my best to make it to 120 posts for the year.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Photo Challenge: Green

This week's Shutterboo Photo Challenge is "green." Sometimes I think Keith likes not even worrying about the actual content of the picture, and thinking only about whether the overall impression is of the right color. It's somehow freeing.

This year, it's much easier to find some green at the end of September than in years past. The amount of rain we've had--and are still having--is a little ridiculous. I take it for granted, but every once in a while I look up and realize that all of the lawns, bushes, plants are still a lush, verdant green. The leaves on the trees may be changing color, but otherwise, it still looks like the middle of summer.
The downside to this is: more grass-mowing and weeding. Also, my neighbor's house is still not done being painted. The one they started painting the first weekend in July .... of course, to be fair, I did put a stop to the work because of lead paint concerns. Then nothing happened for about a month while he found a new contractor. But even though the new (much better!) painters started work in mid-August, the job is still far from complete, due to the incessant rain.

When the first snow falls, will the house be painted? Will it fall on a freshly mown lawn?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Baby Projects: Eleanor's New Room

I can't help but feel a little guilty for Baby #2. So much of our baby preparation has actually centered around Eleanor, and the room situation is an area where that becomes very clear.

Many people have asked us if the baby's room is ready, and we say, "Oh, we haven't really done anything with the baby's room, but Eleanor's new room looks great!" We moved Eleanor into her "big girl room" after her birthday in July. She got to pick the paint colors and the general loose theme of "flowers." (Okay, if it were really up to her I'm sure it would have been princesses, but she did have some censored input.) We talked a lot about how awesome it would be for Eleanor to have her own reading corner and a big girl bed and so many amazing new features.

We thought we should move Eleanor in early just in case she wasn't fully on board, so we had a few months for her to move back and forth, and say good-bye to her old room. The room was habitable in late July, but it's taken me this long to post about it because it took us awhile to add all the finishing touches. Like how I forgot that she would need a laundry basket. Whoops! And we also bought some small speakers for her hand-me-down iPod Nano so she can listen to the all-important white noise during nap and bedtime. It also took me weeks to finish her new curtains, but sewing projects are a separate post, so more about that idea-gone-awry later.

At this point, her clothes are all moved over and (pretty much) organized. The walls are decorated (apparently her fairy friends like to sleep on the flowers by her bed, Eleanor has informed us). The only project left is the most challenging one. And, even better, it's not mine!

Keith and my Dad are most of the way finished with building and painting custom bookshelves that will be on two walls of Eleanor's purple book corner. The shelves, plus the comfy beanbag chair and soft rag carpet make me very jealous of her book corner. I've never had such a nice reading spot all for myself!

And, for the record, the baby's room is nearly ready too. We haven't forgotten about Little Sibling! It looks a little odd to be a baby's room again, instead of a 2-year-old's room. The baby boppy is back, and all of the diapering supplies have been washed and stacked. We've gotten the baby toys out of storage, and there's a pile of board books next to the rocking chair.

I'm not sure when Keith and I get a room makeover, but I'm trying to figure out where to put my reading corner...

Monday, September 26, 2011

How To: Get Rid of Drugs

I understand that the title of this post may be a bit more scintillating than the actual content, so I apologize if you feel misled. This post has nothing to do with illegal drugs or kicking any bad habits, etc. It's related to the fact that, throughout our house, we have numerous expired prescriptions, vitamins, and other somewhat-controlled substances that we can't figure out how to get rid of.

You're not supposed to flush them down the toilet and contaminate the water supply. Nor is it safe to throw them in the trash and risk someone else taking them or releasing them into the landfills. What other options are there?

Well, apparently the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) sponsors National Prescription Drug Take Back Days every six months. The next one is October 29. I clicked on the link to find a site near me, and saw that I can turn in prescription meds at the Cleveland Clinic Beachwood Family Health Center, which is my home away from home of late, since that's where my OB-Gyn's office is.

On the DEA's website, there's also a link to an FDA flyer about Disposing of Unused Prescription Medicines, which might be handy as well. So if I can't turn in non-prescription items like expired vitamins and supplements, hopefully at least I'll know what other options are safe.

I know I've talked to at least a few of my neighbors (and fellow parents) that were having problems with this same issue. So hopefully this information helps!

Friday, September 23, 2011

15-Year High School Reunion

Last weekend, Keith and I attended my 15-year high school reunion.

I saved this for my last post of the week, because I've been wondering all week what I really had to say about the experience.

Reunions, particularly high school reunions, feel like they've reached almost mythical levels of importance in our society, and I'm not sure why. It was nice to see people, see how they've changed, hear what's going on in their lives, find new similarities with people I didn't know well during high school.

It was not a life-changing event. My sense is that a big reunion (although I know 15 years is kind of an odd one; we missed out on a 10-year, and the organizers decided to go ahead and hold a 15-year one instead of waiting for another 5 years) is supposed to make me stop and really think. I will be in a room filled with people that I haven't seen on a regular basis since I was 18 years old. I thought I was chubby (although I would LOVE to weigh that much again) and my only priority in life was ME. Where was I going to college? What was I going to do with my life? What was I going to do about my hair?!?

So in some sense, I suppose that going to a reunion automatically makes a person confront her 18-year-old self, and consider what has changed. And that could provoke some deep thinking of a sort. Showing off pictures of Eleanor and, whether intentionally or not, also showing off my 8+ months pregnant belly, I did think quite a bit about how the nature of my personal relationships have changed over the years.

But this isn't really a revelation to me. I've known for quite some time that I'm not the same person as I was at 18. Or rather, my brain/the way I think still seems the same but many of my priorities and experiences have changed. To be somewhat flippant, I think this is a normal and positive development.

On the other hand, I can understand why this reunion experience wouldn't be particularly earth-shattering for me. I can't think of anyone from high school that I was constantly in touch with, very close to, with whom I've lost contact since. In July, we went to the Lakehouse weekend with about 10 other high school friends and their spouses/kids. I see my best friends from high school on a pretty regular basis (at least a few times a year). I know about their families, jobs, current hobbies, etc. So seeing these familiar faces was not a surprise.

Another part of my high school experience that may not always be the case is that, overall, people were pretty nice. I wasn't bullied in high school. There weren't any people that I really wanted to confront. I didn't have any one or two particular people in mind that I was either 1) keeping my fingers crossed to find out terrible things had happened to them, thanks to karma, or 2) trying to impress people with where I'm at and what I'm doing. Of course there were people that I liked more and some that I liked a bit less, but none that I felt ruined my life or anything melodramatic like that.

I kept thinking, all this week, that I surely must have something of greater import or depth to report about the reunion, but I was actually a bit relieved by how much of a non-event it was. I enjoyed talking to old classmates and catching up, I was proud of myself for wearing my high-heeled boots and standing for much of the evening, I was surprised by how little of the talk was about the past but that it focused mainly on the here and now.

I was not suddenly shocked into realizing that my life is anything other than I already thought it was, if that makes sense. I'm a happily married mother of 1.8 children. We have a big enough house and enough money. I have a job that is enjoyable and frustrating (sometimes simultaneously). I have good friends and family. I enjoy my hobbies and often don't get enough sleep. I am still me, and a 15-year reunion didn't change my opinion on the matter.

Currently Reading: Diana Gabaldon

Ever since school ended at the beginning of August, I've had a fabulous time reading. I've been so much more relaxed when naptime comes around, and I don't feel like I have to fit in schoolwork and housework. So I do some housework, and then I read without guilt. It's been wonderful!

Much of this reading has been dedicated to Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. I'd read the first few books years ago and really enjoyed them, but have not kept up with Claire and Jamie as later books came out. Like my mom, I liked knowing that there were further adventures to be enjoyed at some point in the future.

However, by now, book 7 is out and book 8 (the final book in the series) is expected out in 2012. With this two-month break, I thought it was a good time to try and read all of the books in a close time period and really immerse myself in the story, so I don't read one and then, months later, pick up the next and wonder, "What's going on? Who is this person?"

And immersed I have been. These books are romance, history, sci-fi (time travel) ... so many genres wrapped up into one. The main characters are very strong and unique, and the time period they experience is fascinating. Right now I'm (finally) on book 7. I'd put it off for a few weeks, because it got to a point where it felt like reading these books was all I was doing, instead of it being a nice break from other tasks. So I took a break and now, with only a few weeks left until D-Day, I thought it was a good time to finish up the existing series.

Overall, I have really enjoyed the writing and the characters and the time period. My only issue, which I haven't really decided yet whether it's a true "complaint" or not (depending on how things end up), is that as the series goes on, more and more time is spent on secondary characters. There used to be two main characters. Now, in this book, the chapters are constantly switching between probably 6 main characters, many of them in different geographical locations, and a couple in a different time period. I'm not sure yet if I like this expansion of the focus, or if I wish she would just stick with the original focus on the two characters of Jamie and Claire. Either way, I'm looking forward to finishing this book before Little Sibling arrives (maybe I'll get time to read while Eleanor's in Preschool next week!) and reading the final book when it comes out.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Photo Challenge: Game

This week's Photo Challenge is Game. Monday night gave Keith the perfect opportunity to take some pictures, because he and Eleanor went to an Indians game after work. Or I guess you could say that this is a case of Keith making his own luck, since taking Eleanor to the game was all his idea.


Eleanor loves baseball. Her favorite team is the Reds, and her favorite player is Joey Votto. She has a Joey Votto bobblehead in her bedroom, courtesy of Uncle Nick, and sometimes we find Joey in bed with her or on her headboard, watching over her at night.

She's gone to a few games this year, and enjoyed every one. She's actually surprised us with how much she pays attention to the game. I'm not saying she understands the infield fly rule (because who does, really?) but she stays in her seat and looking at the people on the field more than I would have expected of an antsy 3-year-old. The fact that hot dogs and lemonade are also two of her favorite foods on earth doesn't hurt, either.

This is the last week of regular season baseball, I believe. I'm basing that on the fact that Keith mentioned the Indians have 10 games scheduled in 7 days, with all sorts of make-up games and doubleheaders. He said this would probably be their (his and Eleanor's) last chance to get in a game this season, so he suggested that Eleanor and I meet him downtown after work and they could scoot over to the 4 o'clock game.

So that's what they did. I think I'm much more aware and appreciative of the flexibility of toddler parenting since we'll have a newborn again so soon. I dropped Eleanor off a little after 4 o'clock. The two of them had a great time at the game and then taking the train home. I has a wonderful, quiet, relaxing evening at home. Everyone wins!

Now if Keith wants to do a dad/daughter activity again in a month or two .... that will mean that I'm home alone with the newborn. Not quite as relaxing.

But it does bode well for the future. I love it when Keith and Eleanor spend time together, and bond without me getting in the way. (No listening to cries of, "Mommy do it! I want Mommy to do it! Not you!") I love that it was Keith's idea, and this is their special "thing."

Some day, it will be daddy's "thing" with Eleanor AND Little Sibling, and I will again sit home and enjoy the peace and quiet. Just like Keith will, when the kids and I go to the tea shoppe or something similar. Everyone wins!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Preschool Battles on the Bench: Week 2 (and final?)

On Monday morning, I was really disappointed to discover that, for me at least, Week 2 of Preschool was more difficult than Week 1 even. As my younger sister and I often say, it's all about the expectations. If you expect your kid to sleep until 6am and he sleeps until 7am, it's fantastic! But if you expect the child to sleep until at least 7:30 or 8 and you hear her chipper voice at 7:03, it's a bad start to the day.

Likewise, I think Monday was so terrible because I thought it had to get better after the first week. But we walked into the building behind a kid from her class who was already crying, and so she started sniffling before we had even approached the classroom. Great.

When I tried to leave her in the room, she cried and clung to me. "Stay for just a few minutes!" she kept whimpering tearfully. Last week, I was frustrated by the difficulties of separation anxiety and a little nostalgic thinking about the fact that she was moving away from me. But this week, for the first time, I was actually close to crying. As I walked out of the classroom on Monday morning, there were tears in my eyes and I was afraid that, if I tried to talk, I would seriously start crying.

I think I was more ready to cry from frustration than from sad emotions. Is it going to get harder every week, instead of easier? For months, I've been looking forward to Eleanor's being in Preschool in September. For one month, I was going to have a few hours a week to myself. Whether I choose to run errands, get some things done around the house, or go for a cup of coffee ... I could do it by myself! I only had 4 weeks of Preschool before Baby #2 is due, and I planned to make the most of it.

Yet here I am, halfway through "my free time." I haven't run errands, or gone home, or relaxed in a coffee shop. I've spent the majority of my time on an uncomfortable wooden bench outside the classroom, trying to pass the time and quell my mounting frustration.

It's been a weird limbo. I feel like we are encouraged to stay .... but we don't really do anything. We sit outside the classroom and listen to crying, and then quiet, and then some more crying. Ever since the first day, the only time a parent has been called in is for massive accidents that require a change of clothes, either not making it to the bathroom in time or when a kid got so worked up that he threw up all over himself and the teacher. Do the teachers really want us there? Or are they wishing we would go away and just let them do their job?

I don't really want to be there, but am scared that if I go, Eleanor will have a massive meltdown and it will be 10 times worse since I wasn't there to pick up the pieces. I can't shake the feeling that I have to put in the time investment now, to ensure that Preschool goes smoothly for the rest of the year.

Anyway, after all of this doom and gloom about Monday morning, today was better. Keith dropped Eleanor off because I had a doctor's appointment. After the doctor's appointment, I did stop by a coffee shop and pick up a drink, so I may not have had hours to sit and write or read, but I got a drink! When I showed up at the school , I didn't go anywhere near the classroom and that purgatory bench. I went straight into the other building, to the parents' lounge, and felt much more relaxed and at ease even though I was in the vicinity. I could plug in my computer and didn't have to listen for Eleanor's sobs.

Next week, instead of walking Eleanor into the building, we are given the option to drop the kids off at the door, and they will be escorted to their classrooms by teachers and staff. Eleanor's teacher swears that this actually makes it easier for the kids. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed that she's right.

Even though I fully understand that expectations often make for disappointment, I still expect to spend next week OFF the bench. I will run an errand, get some things done around the house, and do one fun thing for myself during Preschool time. And Eleanor will survive all this just fine!