Friday, December 31, 2010

What a Year!

I thought 2007 was a pretty good year.  We got married, bought a house, started new jobs, watched one brother graduate from college and the other brother get married, and said goodbye to birth control.  All in all, it was a great year.  But in my book, 2010 beat the socks off of 2007. 

If you think about it, I was "with child" for the entire year.  My last cycle started on 12/18/09, and I conceived somewhere in early January 2010.  I stayed pregnant all the way up until we induced on September 30th.  Since that amazing day, I've enjoyed these last three months at home with Ella to finish off the year.  So yes, I've been "with child" for the entire span of 2010.

I loved just about everything about this year from start to finish.  After that big talk with my husband (the one where he confessed that he thought that I was sad 40% of the time), I resolved to focus on "showing him more of my inner joy" (those were the words I used at the time).  And so I did.  After abstaining from any alcohol at the recommendation of my RE for most of 2009, I let myself enjoy a glass of champagne with him to ring in the new year.  We were celebrating the holidays with my husband's family in Montana, and my mother-in-law would like to think that we conceived there (when I pointed out that the timing wasn't quite right, she tried to take credit for helping me to "relax" during our visit which thus apparently enabled me to conceive...I had to tell myself that this wasn't a battle worth fighting with her--let her think what she wants).  I got the positive pregnancy test in late January, but held my breath until February 16th when we saw that beautiful little flicker of Ella's heartbeat.  I admit that I was so scared of losing another baby, but God surrounded me with a peace and a comfort that I hadn't experienced before.  With each day, my faith and confidence grew, and aside from a few little internal freak-out moments, I truly enjoyed my pregnancy.  And now I love having Ella in my life.  It's so weird to think that she's only been with us for three months, and yet has already had such a huge impact on us. 

I thought I had it all in 2007.  Then the struggles and losses we faced in 2008 and 2009 changed me in unimaginable ways.  But those years helped prepare me for the unmeasurable joy that I experienced in 2010.  And now I earnestly look forward to all that God has in store for us in 2011.

Happy New Year!

Today's blessing is not only the chance to celebrate all that 2010 held for us, but to also celebrate my grandma's birthday.  It was wonderful to see her while we were home, and I'm so glad that Ella had a chance to meet her great-grandmother.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

It's Decided

I brought my husband in to check out the daycare which I think is "the one".  He felt good about it too.  So it's decided--we officially have a daycare center for Ella...a whole four days before I go back to work on Monday.  I'm totally dreading leaving Ella, but at least we feel good about the daycare center so far (and I pray that I'll still feel the same way once Ella starts attending full-time).

Today's blessing was visiting with my hairdresser as I got my hair trimmed in preparation for my return to work.  The last time I got it cut was a week or two before Ella was born, so it's been a while.  I've been going to her ever since I moved here seven years ago, and it's always such a pleasure to chat with her.  And I love that she doesn't judge me for being super boring and low-maintenance with my plain old long straight hair.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Home Sweet Home

We made it home, and it's never been so sweet!  We had a wonderful visit with my family, but it was most definitely time for us to come home and try to re-establish some sort of normalcy in our lives.

We spent just over a week at home with my family, and it made me realize just how different it is to go on vacation with an infant.  As if it's not enough to throw a new house and new sleeping arrangements at her, every day and night was something different.  We traipsed Ella all over Northern California to meet new family members, kept her up late to visit friends and look at Christmas lights after the Christmas Eve service, and pretty much expected her to adjust to our crazy schedule.  Poor girl--everything about the visit was different.  She handled it as well as could be expected, but we ended up returning home a day early and opted to drive through the night again to try to be as good to her as possible.  We had initially planned to split up our return trip into two days and visit my childhood friend after whom Ella is named, but my mom came down with a nasty cold and our extended-family Christmas gathering ended up being pushed to the 28th, so we just left from there and drove through the night and got home around 10:00 am this morning.

My husband and I both feel that Ella did better on the return trip than on the trip up to Northern California.  She seemed to sleep for longer periods, woke up less, and calmed down quicker when she was put back in her carseat.  She did have a pretty major blowout when we stopped to get gas just outside of Los Angeles that required an outfit change, but after our recent shopping adventures, I made sure to have three spares.  Now that we're home, she seems to be rested and happy.  The true test will come tonight when we see how she sleeps in her own cradle again.

It was such a blessing to visit my family, but we're also equally blessed to have made it home safely.  It rained on us all the way until we reached Los Angeles, and again as we crossed into Arizona.  But my husband and I took turns driving and didn't run into any problems.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Shopping Adventures

I spent the afternoon shopping with my sister-in-law and Ella yesterday.  My sister-in-law is 32 weeks pregnant, and so she and my brother are trying to get everything in order.  We started by checking out a baby consignment shop.  Since Ella was sleeping peacefully when we arrived and I wasn't going to buy too much, I opted to just pick her up out of the carseat and hold her and let her snuggle up.  We weren't in the store for even five minutes when I heard the unmistakable poop sound.  I waited just a bit longer to see if she had any more in her, and then brought her out to the car to change.  Perhaps I waited too long, or perhaps it was because she was cuddled up against me, or perhaps it's because she was wearing a cheap diaper (the only Size 1 package we could find in my whole little town), but by the time we got out to the car, she had leaked.  No biggie--I had a change of clothes.  So I got her cleaned up and into the new outfit and rejoined my sister-in-law as she was finishing up her purchases.

Then it was on to Babies-R-Us to update my sister-in-law's registry and return the carrier that I had gotten her (she had registered for it and then received a hand-me-down from a friend).  As I picked up Ella, I was a little surprised to realize that she smelled like poop again (I had just changed her about a half-hour ago).  But not to worry--I figured that they would have a "Mommy Room" which would make it easy to change her, and I figured that I would feed her as well.  Sure enough, Ella had a little more poop, so I changed that diaper...and started to worry that I only had one more clean diaper left.  I started calculating the amount of time that we had left shopping and trying to figure out if I could make it home with just that one remaining diaper.  Well, apparently I was thinking too much about future diapers and not focusing on the diaper at hand...because the next thing I know, Ella is peeing all over the changing table and soaking her onesie--yes, the change of clothes that I had used from the last change.  Well goodness.  I figured I might as well feed her while we were in the Mommy's Room, and then buy her a new outfit.  So there I am, carrying my nearly naked baby around Babies-R-Us in the middle of winter.  I grab an outfit as quickly as possible, pay for it, and ask the cashier to cut the tags so that she can wear it right away (I'm a bad mother for not washing it first).

So we continue with our shopping, meet up with my husband and dad and brothers for dinner, and then head back to my brother and sister-in-law's home for cheesecake.  As I was slicing the cheesecake, my husband brought Ella over to me and asked to borrow my nose (he's still queasy about poopy diapers).  Sure enough...another dirty one...and another little mess.  She had somehow managed to get poop on the outer pants, but hardly any on the onesie (I guess the knock-off diaper "helped" this time by letting it trickle out the leg instead of out the back or front).  So much for the new outfit!  Luckily, I had been able to rescue the pants from the change in Babies-R-Us before her pee made its way across the changing table (though I lost a burp cloth in the process of cleaning it all up).  So in one day, she dirtied two onesies and two pairs of pants within a four-hour shopping adventure.  I thought I was a smart mom for bringing a change of clothes...but now I'm thinking that I might need to pack two--if not three!

Aside from the diaper and wardrobe changes, it was such a blessing to spend some time with my sister-in-law.  I really enjoy her company, and I am so excited for her to have this baby and for Ella to have a cousin soon.  They will be 20 weeks apart, and I hope that they can be good friends despite the distance.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

We had a wonderful time celebrating the birth of Christ last night at the Christmas Eve service, and the celebration will continue today with my immediate family and tomorrow with the extended family.  Here is a sweet shot of me and Ella from last night:





I love that I look (and truly am) so happy!  I think back to this time last year when I had a big heart-to-heart conversation with my husband in which he told me that I seemed sad 40% of the time.  What a difference a year makes!  Last year, all I wanted for Christmas was a baby...and I finally got her.  This year, I truly have everything that I need.  What a special gift to celebrate my baby's first Christmas!

Among so many other things, I'm blessed to be able to celebrate Ella's first Christmas with my husband and my family.  We're surrounded by people who love us, and God is so good!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Great-Grandparents

Ella met her paternal Great-Grandmother and Great-Boppy (Great-Grandfather) on Monday, and then met her maternal Great-Grandmother yesterday (my other Grandfather passed in 2002).  My dad wasn't with us for the visit with his parents, but we'll see them again on the day after Christmas.  I was able to get a picture of the four generations with Ella, my mom, and her mom, but I haven't been able to download the picture yet. 

It was really special for me to be able to share Ella with my grandparents.  When me mom's father passed away in 2002, I remember thinking that 1/4 of me comes from him.  I have his genes--I am who I am because of my parents and my grandparents and so many other family members who shaped me, both through nature and nurture.  They care about me so much, and I'm so thankful that they got to meet Ella, and she got to meet them.

Today's blessing was the chance to do some stocking-stuffer shopping with my dad.  Although I was definitely a "Daddy's Girl" when I was little (and butted heads with my mom), my relationship with both of my parents has changed over the years.  My mom and I have gotten much closer, and while I still totally love and respect my dad so much, he was replaced as the #1 man in my life when I met my husband.  I know that this is totally normal and appropriate, but it's still nice to have that sort of quality time with him.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Safe and Sound...and Spiders!

Well, we made it home to my parents' house, safe and sound, at 5:30 am. Believe it or not, it only took us one hour more than what the GPS had predicted.  Not bad for traveling with an 11-week old infant!  Ella--though not pleased to be locked in her carseat for so long--was a great trooper...for the most part. 

My child is definitely NOT the type to fall fast asleep the moment the engine turns over.  From the very first trip home from the hospital, she has never seemed to like the car (in fact, perhaps I should have had some sort of indication that this was going to be the case because she always kicked like crazy during my drives to and from work when I was pregnant with her).  On our trip last night, she would cry for the first 3-5 minutes or so after getting her strapped into the carseat (actually, the crying usually started as we were strapping her in...as if she knew that we were about to start driving again).  We aren't fans of the "cry it out" method at home (I admit that we tried it a handful of times and it broke our heart each time), but there's not too much that we can do while on a 14-hour road trip when we know that she is fed, clean, and warm.  So whoever wasn't driving would sit in the back with her or reach over her carseat to stroke her cheek and offer her a pacifier (which she's not a huge fan of either...but sometimes works) and "shhh" or try whatever way possible to calm her.  I don't know if it actually did her any good, but at least we were trying to comfort her in some way.  Anyway, after about 3-5 minutes of "why the heck do I have to be strapped in here again?!?!" crying, she would tucker herself out and fall asleep until our next stop...where we would go through the whole routine again.  I did feed her (from the boob) twice--once when we stopped for dinner, and once when we stopped for gas.  Other than that, I pumped and she took a bottle beautifully despite being strapped in.  (I do admit that while I refuse to jeopardize her safety to nurse her in my arms while driving--as convenient as it would be--the thought crossed my mind that perhaps I could find some way to lean over her carseat to offer her the boob...but I figured that wouldn't be safe either...especially since it rained pretty much the whole trip). 

So like I said, we got home around 5:30 am this morning and Ella was so happy to be out of the carseat!  It's like she somehow knew that we were home.  The car stopped, she woke up without crying, and she gave us the biggest smiles and coos when we plopped her on the floor to stretch and play.  And that's when my brother emerged out of the guest room...where I thought we would be staying.  Turns out that he had planned on sleeping on the hide-a-bed in the family room at the back of the house, but when they opened it up, they found a happy little family of black widow spiders!  (And my brother was kind enough to sleep on top of the blankets so that my husband I would still have clean sheets when we finally made it to bed).  So my poor mom has been spraying and cleaning and laundering and vacuuming the back family room all day long to get rid of the spiders, and Ella is limited to the front of the house...not that it really makes any difference to her.  I don't freak out about creepy crawly things that much...but the thought of them getting near Ella definitely gives me the goosebumps.

Aside from the spiders, it's really nice to be home.  Ella and I went to church this morning while my husband caught up on some sleep (I drove for about five hours and he drove the rest), then came home and had a glorious nap.  She's now playing happily with her grandparents, and I'm hoping that she'll be able to get a "normal" night of sleep tonight (which has been to wake up for a 3:30 am feeding these days...still not quite ready to sleep all the way through the night, though she got close a couple of times).

Today's blessing was sharing Ella with everyone at my parents' church.  We moved here when I was seven, so these people have truly watched me and my brothers grow up.  Knowing our history of loss, so many of them prayed fervently for me through my pregnancy, so it was such a blessing to share her with them.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Packing and Traveling Suggestions?

We will be leaving on Saturday to drive up to Northern California to spend Christmas with my family.  We opted to drive this year for a couple of reasons.  First, she's still rather small so I don't know how she'll do on a flight (though I am now flying back in early January for my Sister-in-Law's shower, but more on that later).  Second, I feel like she has so much "stuff"--and while we don't need all the stuff, it will probably make our lives easier to have it (ie, her bouncer seat that she does so well in).  Third, we left the pack-and-play at home in NorCal after my shower with the intent to use it on our trip (and I don't think it would have fit in my SUV with all the other amazing gifts).

So aside from clothes, diapers (still disposable for now, but I did order one GroVia AI2 and sent it home so I can try it out), and the aforementioned bouncer, what else do I really need for a 14 hour drive and the 1-2 weeks at my parents' home?  My  husband and I discussed leaving the stroller here (at around 12 lbs, she's easy enough to carry in the Baby Bjorn and seems to prefer to be close to us anyway).  Like I said, the pack-and-play is already there, and has the changing table and bassinet built in.  What are the other "essentials" that I'll need?

Secondly, any trips on driving such a long distance with a newborn?  We'll leave her early Saturday morning, but we'll need to spend some time on the way to visit my husband's grandmother and attend a friend's baby shower.  These little stops are about two hours into the trip, so we're looking at about a 12 hour drive starting at about 4:00 pm.  I'm leaning towards driving through the night and praying that Ella will sleep most of the time.  My husband crinkles his nose at this thought and complains that I don't drive my share and that I complain that my back hurts after an hour of driving (to which I had to point out that I was seven months pregnant on our last road trip...so yes, it did in fact hurt...and no, I probably didn't drive my fair share...but I was seven months pregnant!).  What do you think?  Do we drive through the night?  Or plan on staying in a strange hotel somewhere along the way?  Or drive as long as we (and Ella) can handle and stop if we need to?  And what do you suggest for feedings?  If we were to stop every three hours to feed her for an hour or so, it would take us forever!  I'm not opposed to pumping in the back seat as my husband drives and feeding her that milk.  What do you think?  (Oh how easy life would be if I could just nurse her as we drove...but I'm not able to put her in that sort of potential danger).  Any other suggestions for a long drive with a newborn?

I am really excited to go home and see my family and finally introduce Ella to her Aunt and Uncle and Great-Grandparents, but I am a little bit anxious about the drive and remembering all of her items.  It's one thing to pack for myself, and I can usually get all of my husband's stuff as well (I think I forgot his belt one year, but that's it)...but it's so new and different (and wonderful!) with a newborn.  So I really appreciate your thoughts and suggestions.

Today's blessing is knowing that two women who have struggled with infertility and loss are due to have their babies today.  Kate is scheduled for a c-section today, and Christa was induced last night and will most likely give birth today.  Both of these women were so special to me along my journey, and I am so excited for each of them.  Please keep them in your prayers today and in the weeks to come.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Told You So!

I told you I was--and apparently always have been--a "blue girl"...and now I have my proof.

Earlier this week I received a baby gift from my aunt (my dad's brother's wife). In addition to some of her kids'--my cousins'--favorite childhood books, she also sent along four little dresses and a note. The note indicated that after I wore these dresses as a little girl, my mom then sent them along to my little cousin (now in high school) to wear. As you can see, every dress was--you guessed it--blue.




(Notice that Ella is wearing one of my much-thought-about cloth diapers...I might as well use the ones I have for now until I decide whether or not I'm going to take the full leap!)

I admit that I only recognized one of the dresses--my uncle had picked it up for me when he was in Switzerland, and there is a Polaroid picture hanging in the hallway of my grandparents' house of me wearing it and smiling proudly. (I'm hoping I can locate a scanner while I'm home for Christmas and get copies of some of these pictures from my childhood to compare to Ella). It's so darling, and the tag clearly says "Made in Switzerland".

The next two were made out of the same material by my Grandma, but as you can see, the short-sleeved dress got a lot more wear out of it over the years. I've mentioned before that this amazing Grandma made me two quilts with the leftover pieces from the various dresses that she made me over the years. If you look closely, you might be able to see those pieces in the quilts behind the dresses.


Lastly, this little blue corduroy romper is absolutely timeless! My Grandma made this one as well, and I am totally looking forward to when Ella can wear it.




No wonder I still gravitate towards blues--they were apparently engrained into my subconscious since childhood! As is customary with little girls, Ella has a ton of pink clothes now, so I'm thrilled to have some blues for her to wear in the future.

I am so blessed to have a family who appreciates these sorts of traditions and recognizes the value of family keepsakes. And all of my Grandma's dresses, nightgowns, and quilts are such a wonderful blessing as well.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mary's Song

First of all, thank you so much for so many wonderful responses to my questions about cloth diapers.  I really appreciate all of the feedback immensely.  Since we'll be travelling a lot for Christmas (not just to visit my parents in Northern California--but while we're there, we'll be headed all over the place to visit friends and family), I'm going to hold off on purchasing any additional cloth diapers quite yet.  And then I'll go back to work and see how things go that first week in January, and then decide from there.  (Have I mentioned how anxious I am about going back to work?  That's a whole new post for another day...)

Okay--to preface this post--I am NOT in any sort of way comparing myself to Mary, the mother of Jesus.  So please don't cry "blasphemy" on me.  But our pastor preached on the "Mary's Song" passage today, and something in the verses really resonated with me.  Before I go any further, let me share some of those verses:

"My soul glorifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my savior,
for He has been mindful
for the humble state of His servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
For the Mighty One has done great things for me--
Holy is His name."
Luke 1:46-49

I've shared before that I really feel like God did some amazing things in my life as He brought me through the the despair of loss and into a new hope with my successful pregnancy.  I was knocked down with each loss, and somewhere through the process I was humbled.  I was humbled in the sense that I felt defeated by the losses; but then I was also humbled when I began to sense God's goodness in my life in the midst of the losses.  So the first part of the verse that touched me was Mary's "humble state".  I wasn't like this before.  I was proud and competitive and boastful.  And while I do still struggle with these flaws, I think that God has also brought a new humility into my life as well.  I also like how she says "all generations will call me blessed".  From the name of my blog and my attempts to recognize my daily blessings, I do realize that I really am blessed--even through the losses.  But now with Ella, we have the chance for "all generations [to] call me blessed".  She is the beginning of a new lineage in our family, and truly embodies a new generation.  I pray that she will come to recognize that I really am blessed...and so is she.  Lastly, I love the verse "for the Mighty One has done great things for me".  Ain't that the truth!  He gave me Ella, which is truly great; but He has grown me and changed me in the process as well.  

Perhaps it feels different to read and relate to "Mary's Song" because I can now hold my child in my arms.  I know that after experiencing this pregnancy and childbirth, I'm looking at Mary's role in the Christmas story with a whole new appreciation.  Again, please don't think that I'm somehow trying to compare myself to Mary.  Rather, I guess I'm just rejoicing along with her--not just for Ella, but for all the great things that God has done--starting with giving us his son.

Today's blessing was the chance to hang out with my very-dear friend and share my husband's new camera with her so that she could take some amazing pictures of her son.  Her camera broke, so the last time that she took pictures was when he was 10 days old (and he's now approaching 9 weeks).  Her birthday was yesterday, so I'm going to get some printed for her as a gift.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Cloth Diaper Dilemma

I'm having a dilemma.  I'm really torn about cloth diapers, and I'd totally appreciate any feedback.

I grew up in cloth diapers, and I remember helping to change my brothers' cloth diapers (and since my youngest brother just turned 26, you know I'm not talking about the new fancy cloth diapers--oh no!  These are the old school rectangular pieces that you have to fold and pin...and I vividly can remember learning how to rinse them out in the toilet...oh what fond memories).  I think I want to use cloth diapers, and I did some research on them while I was pregnant (wow--they sure have evolved since my childhood!).  At the time, I had a discussion with my husband about how I wanted to invest in cloth diapers.  He didn't like my use of the word "invest"--arguing that he wouldn't be getting a return on something that his precious Baby Girl would be pooping in.  Have I mentioned lately how much he freaks out about her poop?  He gets really grossed out at any sort of mention about bodily functions, so the best that I could get from his was an agreement that I could register for a couple and try them out once she arrived.

Well, she's been here with us for 10 weeks now...but I admit that we haven't made the leap into cloth diapering quite yet.  Although she is tall, Ella is pretty lean--and she just seemed so tiny when she was born (she was 7 lbs, 6 oz...so she wasn't that tiny...she just seemed so tiny to us!).  We received two pairs of cloth diapers--two one-size-fits-all Bum Genius, and two medium-sized FuzziBunz.  It's definitely not anywhere near the stash that we would need to make the move to exclusively using cloth diapers--it wouldn't even get us through one day!  But it's a start to seeing what we think of them.  A couple of weeks ago, I tried out one of the one-size-fits-all...but apparently Ella doesn't fit into the "all" population.  We had a major blow-out, so I chalked it up to her little butt and hips being too small and put the diaper back up on the shelf in her closet (washed, of course) until she grew a little bit more.  Since we're home all day today, I figured that I'd try it out again, so she's in it now...and so far, so good.  (Update:  By the time I finished this post, she had dirtied a diaper...but it was all contained, so perhaps she does finally fit them!).

I realize that the fitted might fit better...but that would mean multiple "investments" (to use the word against my husband's wishes) in multiple sizes.  I admit that while I do want to be good to the environment, that's not my main motivation behind cloth diapers.  I'm cheap, and I want to save money.  A standard estimate is that parents would spend $2,000 on disposable diapers, but only $500 on cloth diapers (the new fancy ones, that is--not the old school rectangular pieces like my brothers and I wore).  So I'm really only considering the one-size-fits-all styles (assuming that Ella can indeed finally fit into them now that she has a little more fat on her bones).  So Question #1:  What brands and styles do you like?  And do you use the disposable liners as well?

Now let me add some more kinks to my dilemma.  For starters, the day care center that I think I finally like won't accommodate cloth diapers--and I don't blame them!  They are no where near as convenient as disposables; and when it comes down to it, I'd rather them be playing with Ella than cleaning up her dirty diapers.  But that argument also could be made at home as well.  I'd also rather be playing with Ella than cleaning up her dirty diapers (and it goes without saying that my husband is out of the equation when it comes to poopy diapers--it's enough of a challenge to get him to consider changing a dirty disposable one!).  If it's true that "time is money", then I need to consider if it's really worth it--cost wise--to spend even those few extra minutes cleaning up the mess.  Granted, I first started grappling with this question after that first attempt at the cloth diaper when she had a blow-out and was still rather "needy".  In those weeks since she has physically grown into the one-size-fits-all, she has also developmentally grown and is now a pretty happy baby who can easily entertain herself...at least long enough for me to clean up after her.  Perhaps I just need a "system".  So Question #2:  What is your "system" for cleaning cloth diapers?  Do you do them one-by-one after each changing, or throw them in a pail and clean them all at once?

But the whole cleaning question brings up yet another issue.  I live in the desert, where water usage is a big deal.  To be environmentally conscious means not just considering the landfills, but considering the amount of water we use as well.  When I brought this up to my husband previously (partly as my own internal excuse when I was trying to balance the "time is money" argument to myself), he tried to assure me that we're really good about recycling and composting almost everything else that we possibly can, as if to say we're being "good enough" to the environment while still using disposables (but then again, this is the man who is squeamish at just the mention of poop).  Ultimately, I don't want to be wasteful by doing multiple laundry loads with just a handful of cloth diapers.  I don't want to trade one environmental concern for another.  So Question #3:  How do I balance these conflicting concerns about the environment?

Given that she will be in disposables while at day care (let's say that's 10 hours--including the commute), do you think it's still worth it for me to use cloth diapers in the evenings and weekends when she is home with us?  And like I just said, I want to be careful about water usage--I'd rather do one full load per week of dirty diapers, rather than multiple little loads.  And like I said earlier, I want to maximize the amount of time that I have to spend with her.  So, Question #4:  Is it possible to efficiently wash cloth diapers once a week?  If so, how many diapers would we need to get through a week of evenings and weekends (with using disposables during the work week hours)?

When I see friends posting on their blogs or facebook about using cloth diapers, I am oddly jealous and proud of them...and ashamed and disappointed in myself--all at the same time.  I want to get there...I just don't know if it's going to be the right thing for us.  So please--I would welcome any thoughts, reactions, or suggestions.

Yesterday's blessing was the chance to go for a nice walk with my husband and Ella and have a good chat.  He had Army Reserve Drill last weekend, and will have it again this weekend to make up for the weekend that he missed when Ella was born.  So it was really nice to have that quality time with him and Ella.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Finding "The One"

After my first date with my husband (the first time he took me out to dinner--not when I met him in a drunken haze at the bar), I was pretty darn sure that he was "the one".  I had that certainty--I just felt right.

That just hasn't been my experience in looking for a day care center for Ella when I return to work in less than a month now.  When I was pregnant with her, I read all the timelines about securing a place in a center before she arrives.  So back in July, my husband and I spent an afternoon driving around town and thought that we found one that we liked.  But we never filed the paperwork or paid the deposit--I guess I just wasn't 100% convinced that it was "the one".  My major concern with that center--it was 10 minutes beyond my work, resulting in more time in the car and less quality time with Ella.  So last week we checked out another facility that is part of a larger chain.  This chain has a facility on campus near where I work, but they only have 5 spaces for infants, and are always full--but they suggested that we start at one of their other facilities and then Ella could transfer there when she was one.  So we checked out the other facility that was accepting infants, and it was nice enough.  But again, I just wasn't 100% convinced it was "the one" either.  My major concern with that center--the price.  It was $25 a week more expensive than the other facility; and again, it was a bit out of the way.  We were still tempted to do it, if it meant sacrificing the time and the money for the next nine months so that Ella could be closer to me when she turns one.  But it still just didn't feel right.

So I headed into town this week to check out a few more centers.  There were two that I knew of that were just out of the way from my regular route to campus.  The first was definitely cheaper than either of the two that we had thought we had settled on, but the place spelled like pork and beans.  The director was very friendly, but it just didn't feel right--even though it was the cheapest and most convenient that we had yet to find.  Even if it made my life easier, I wasn't willing to subject Ella to sub-par standards.

So on to the second location a further down the road.  My husband and I had actually pulled into the parking lot and "judged the book by the cover"--but never actually went in.  Looking back, I sure wish that we had.  When I did go in this time, the first thing that I noticed was children's art projects all over the wall--something I don't remember seeing at the other locations.  It looks like the facility was formerly a large office building that was renovated to become a day care center--which I think explains why my husband and I initially stuck up our noses at it. From the outside, it just didn't fit our idea of what a day care center should look like.  But inside, as cheesy as it sound, I could really feel the love.  The director was a bit older, but was very kind as she escorted me to the infant room, which is currently towards the back of the building but is soon moving to a new location when they finish some renovations.  But it allowed me to see the whole center and get a feel for the whole operation.  When we stopped momentarily in the two-year old room, they all wanted to see the baby, so I knelt down with Ella...and then they all wanted to kiss the baby, at which point I tried to stand back up, but a little boy was hugging me from behind!  I told you there was a lot of love in the place!  There are currently five babies in the infant room, and though state law dictates a 1:5 ratio of care givers to babies, I was impressed that they had two workers in the room, thus creating a 1:2.5 ratio.  The director explained that they try to keep the ratio at 1:3, when possible (and my visit was just a drop-by, so they couldn't have possibly "staged" an extra worker, so I take her at her word).  The kids seem happy and well adjusted.  The current youngest one is five months, but she gave us a huge smile when we arrived.  Another little girl--probably close to nine months--fell through the big foam blocks that she was leaning on, but just looked up in surprise and crawled over to the carpet area to play--no tears or fussiness.  They support breastfeeding, and are even willing to prepare the bottles for me as long as I sanitize them every night.  This means that I can even bring in frozen milk in the storage bags for the entire week and they'll handle defrosting them and everything.  They won't, however, handle cloth diapers (but that's a whole different post).  They give a 10% discount to university employees, which makes their prices very reasonable (only $9 a week more than the frank-and-beans location).  It's a little bit out of my way, but it's still "en route to" instead of "beyond" my work--I'll just have to do a little investigating to find which is the quickest way through campus.  I want my husband to check it out with me one more time before we decide for sure, but I think that, maybe...possibly...finally, we may have found "the one"!

One more thing today--please continue to pray for my friend Nina who is going in for surgery today to have her thyroid removed.  I shared a couple of weeks ago that when she was pregnant, Nina found a lump on her thyroid that turned out to be cancerous.  It did not harm the baby, so she carried him to full term, and then gave birth (via c-section) just before Thanksgiving.  She has had the last couple of weeks to recover and prepare for today's surgery.  Please keep her and her family in your prayers for a safe surgery and a speedy recovery. 

Today's blessing is a day to stay home with Ella and bake cheesecakes.  I love baking, and I love sharing my creations with friends and family.  Some women from church are coming over on Saturday for some cheesecake, tea, fellowship, and girl-time, so I plan to have four cheesecakes:  Brownie, Pumpkin, Peanut Butter (with mini chocolate-covered peanut butter cups), and Blueberry.  I've never made a Brownie Cheesecake, but it was the request of my very-dear friend...and it's her birthday that day, so it should be interesting to try it out.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"Wow--She's Tall!"

Okay, so I addressed the biggest part of Ella's two month appointment yesterday--the shots.  But aside from the pain of the immunizations, everything else went well.  When our pediatrician pulled up her growth chart, she laughed and proclaimed "Wow--she's tall!".  Sure enough, Ella is right up there with the tallest/longest babies (sorry, I don't know the exact percentile).  I wish I had a copy of the growth chart to show (perhaps I'll ask for a printout next time), but you can see the "average" curve, and all the other "normal range" curves, and there are Ella's three little measurements from birth, one month, and two months--along the curve for the longest babies.  She is now 24-1/2 inches--or already about a third the length of my husband!  Her weight is pretty much average, and her head circumference is just a little bit on the smaller side--not that it necessarily made child birth any less painful.  I have a long and lean baby.

I talked in more detail with the pediatrician about the tiny occasional bits of blood in her stools, and my perplexity about milk allergies or a foremilk/hindmilk imbalance.  I cut out the main areas of dairy, but I haven't gone to extremes in checking every label for milk proteins--which are in so many items.  Even without dairy in my diet for the last week, we had another little episode with the blood yesterday morning.  So I brought that diaper in, and she confirmed that it was indeed a tiny tiny amount.  She checked with the attending pediatrician (who I also really like--though he's not quite as fabulous as the pediatrician who is retiring any day now), and he said that it seems like the amount and the frequency are so minimal that it's okay to just keep an eye on it but not to worry too much.  He said it's probably even okay to feed her the milk I had pumped before eliminating dairy--slowly but surely--and just to monitor her diapers to see if things get any worse.  This feels really reasonable to me, but I think I'll continue to cut out dairy where I can, just to be safe.

Today's blessing was a good heart-to-heart conversation with my husband about breast-pumps.  As if it's not going to be hard enough to go back to work and leave Ella at day care, the thought of pumping 3-4 more times per day makes me miserable.  And then to have to lug the pump around with me (not to mention the various pieces and the milk itself)...that was just too much for me to consider.  I am 100% committed to breast feeding Ella, and I would tolerate bringing the pump to and from work, but I am so grateful that he agreed to let me buy a second pump so that I can have one at home and one at work.  I know that there are plenty of women who get by with just one (and my mom had to rely on a hand pump!), but it will be such a blessing to have two (and it's also a blessing that one was given to us and I only had to buy new parts for it).

Monday, December 6, 2010

It Hurts Me More Than It Hurts You

Ella had her first round of immunizations today.  I wish I could say "it hurts me more than it hurts you", but I know that she's the one who had to tolerate the physical pain.  Yes, it "hurts" to see my child in pain, but I'm not the one wearing the band-aids.  It was hard to watch though.

Ella seems to have survived the first round of shots well enough.  She screamed, and her poor little face turned bright red.  I nursed her afterwards--mostly for comfort (for both of us), and she fell asleep by the time I got back out to the car.  She has been perhaps a tad bit more fussy tonight, but she's also given us some of her gorgeous smiles and adorable coos as well.

As a parent, I'm finding that it's tough to have an infant go through this sort of inflicted pain.  If she were four years old, we could "prepare" her for it, and could "reward" her for her bravery afterwards.  But I can't exactly explain to her at this early age why it's important to have the shots, nor can I treat her to ice cream after enduring them (especially if she has a milk allergy..more on that later). 

I realize that there are parents out there who are choosing not to vaccinate, or who are postponing them, and ultimately I believe that is there right to choose.  But I trust my doctor, and I trust my very-dear friend (who is also a doctor, and will be vaccinating her son next week).  For me, I feel that vaccinations are the "responsible" thing for me to do as a parent--not only for Ella, but for every other kid out there with whom she will come in contact.  I don't want her to be sick, and I equally wouldn't want her sharing a serious illness with another child if I could prevent it.  (Likewise, I hope that the parents of the children that she comes in contact with have had them immunized...but like I said, I believe it is the right of the parent to choose...I just hope that they choose to have their children immunized).

Today's blessing was a warm winter day.  I know that I was praising God for the cool and brisk weather a few weeks ago, but it makes it tough to go for walks with Ella when it's so chilly (well...chilly for Arizona standards).  The weather is supposed to be in the mid-70s all week, and I'm loving it!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Dude, Where's My Thumb?

Ella may be super sweet...but she's not super coordinated--at least not yet.  For the last week or so, she has diligently and determinedly been trying to get her thumb in her mouth.  But she typically has her thumb tucked into a fist under her other fingers, making it a challenge.  But she doesn't seem frustrated by it at this point.  Rather, the challenge is keeping her (and us) highly entertained. 

I thought that perhaps it was a developmental stage; that babies start to look for their thumbs somewhere around 8 weeks.  But apparently, my youngest brother found his thumb on Day 3 (my mom says that she was elated, because it meant that she wouldn't have to go looking for lost pacifiers in the middle of the night).  So either my brother is extremely gifted...or Ella is totally uncoordinated. 

I know that there is a lot of debate over thumb vs. pacifier.  As my very-dear friend pointed out--you can take away a pacifier, but you can't take away a thumb!  She has a point...but so does my mom with the late-night pacifier searches.  We figure that we'll wait and see what Ella prefers (that is, if she ever truly finds her thumb).  She's not really a big fan of the pacifier.  She'll take it from time to time, but if its intent is to "pacify" a fussy child, then it doesn't really do its trick with her.  We didn't introduce it right away--I was afraid that it would interfere with breastfeeding.  But when I went into surgery on that return trip to the hospital, Ella (9 days old at the time) had a meltdown and the nurses helped my husband out by giving her a pacifier.  Perhaps she would like it more if we introduced it sooner...or perhaps she's just the type of kid who doesn't really like them.

It's kind of fun to watch her try to get her thumb in her mouth.  I realize that babies are born with a desire to suck, and she's definitely a pro at the breast.  But what tells our brains--as infants--to try to get something attached to our hand into something built into our face?  Why does thumb-sucking (or pacifier-sucking) have a self-calming/self-entertaining effect?  Why isn't it rubbing your elbows?  Or patting your knees?  Human development amazes me!  Her little brain is such an awesome thing!  I just hope she doesn't give herself a black eye or a bloody nose from her flying fists!

Yesterday's blessing was the chance to hang out with my very-dear friend and her little boy (who, at 7 weeks, is comfortably wearing 6 months clothing!) and another mom and boy from church.  We made baby hand-print and foot-print ornaments, and had a really nice visit.  God has blessed us with friends who are at the same stage as us, and it's so reassuring to have someone to chat with about all of these new parenting adventures.

Friday, December 3, 2010

One More Month

It dawned on me last night that today is December 3rd.  I go back to work on January 3rd.  That gives me just one more precious month at home with Ella.

I'm really resenting going back to work, but I know that it needs to be done.  My husband and I can't live on his salary alone--at least not at this point in our lives.  I work in education, so I make less than half of what he does, but at least I contribute with the better-than-decent insurance.  My husband is finishing his masters degree this spring, at which point he feels that he can either ask for a raise and/or look for another job (there is another facility at which he could potentially work that is just six miles up the road from us, rather than his current job which is sixty miles south of us).  We've run (well really I should say "he ran") the numbers, and it makes sense--financially--for me to return to work and Ella to go to day care.  (If and when we have a second child, then it would probably makes more sense for me to stay at home, rather than have two children in day care).

I do love my job and I know that I am effective at helping my students, but I love my job of being a mom so much more.  It's just not the time for me to be a "stay at home mom"...at least not yet.  My husband asked if there were any jobs I could do from home.  Sadly, I don't think I would be very effective.  When I do something, I want to do it right, so for me, "working from home" and "being a stay at home mom" are two independently exclusive roles.  I know that there are plenty of amazing women out there who do it, but I think I would suck at it.  I know myself--I would want to play with Ella all day, and would totally slack at the "work" I was supposed to be doing.  So as much as it breaks my heart, I know that the best thing to do is to put her in a day care facility where people will be able to focus their love and attention to her all day long. 

Until then, I'm going to simply enjoy this last month I have at home with her...and what an exciting month of holidays and celebrations it will be!

Today's blessing is recognizing that even though it feels too short for me, it is such a blessing to have this time at home with Ella on maternity leave.  I've been working at the University for seven years now, so I had plenty of vacation and sick time saved up.  Even if I had simply taken FMLA unpaid, it would have been worth it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Milk Allergy? (Or Perhaps Over Supply?)

On Thanksgiving morning, I noticed that Ella had a tiny bit of what appeared to be blood in her stool.  She seemed perfectly happy and didn't appear to be in any sort of pain or discomfort.  Since it was Thanksgiving, I didn't want to bother the pediatrician, so I figured I'd just wait and see.  She had a tiny bit more on Saturday morning--but again, since it was the weekend, I didn't want to bother the pediatrician.  Again, she didn't seem upset--if anything, like I previously mentioned, she has seemed happier than normal lately.  I also did a little research on my own, and found that most of the time blood in the stool indicated some sort of allergy--typically milk.   She has her two month appointment scheduled for next Monday, but I promised myself that if it happened again during regular office hours, that I would call.

Sure enough, I found the tiniest amount of blood on Tuesday morning, so I called and spoke with the triage nurse, who consulted with the pediatrician, who said that it didn't sound like an emergency but that I might as well bring her in sooner than her appointment on Monday.  So we went in this morning, and the resident who we saw confirmed that she thinks it's probably a milk allergy.  I had already started cutting out dairy from my diet, so hopefully it helps.

Life is boring without milk and dairy.  My husband insists on "Taco Tuesday" every Tuesday night, and I give in to his quirky request.  But my tacos just weren't as much fun last night without cheese and sour cream.  I realize that there are so many foods out there that have milk protein in them, but since Ella doesn't seem to be upset and the blood in her stools is so minimal, I think I'm going to start with eliminating the main sources of dairy and see if that is enough before I start checking every label.  Perhaps it's a "mild" allergy...her symptoms just seem so minimal.  Concerning, yes...but minimal.

It's interesting that she just now developed this allergy at two months of age--just when she's starting to get happier and sleep longer.  The resident explained that sometimes it takes a while for babies' little bodies to essentially realize that they don't like a particular substance.  I understand that babies can also "grow out" of milk allergies, so I'm hoping that's the case. 

The thing that sucks the most...I'm afraid I'm going to have to throw out all of the milk that I've pumped for the last month.  I've been drinking rice milk all along, even through my pregnancy, to eliminate some hormones (and thus hopefully balance mine), but I ate cheese on my sandwiches, cottage cheese for breakfast nearly daily, and an occasional bowl of ice cream.  The appointment today was rather rushed and wasn't with our regular pediatrician, so I'll be sure to go in with more questions on Monday for the real appointment.

I also admit that I'm not 100% certain that it is a milk allergy.  I was looking on the LLLI website and found an article about over supply which could also match Ella's symptoms.  I've noticed that my supply has been increasing when I pump, and I can feel a pretty intense let-down (both when I pump and when I nurse).  I can't help but wonder if she's getting too much of the "thin" stuff and not enough of the "thick" stuff, thus making her intestines a little sensitive.  So in addition to chatting with the pediatrician, I think I'll put in a call or an email to my lactation consultant as well.

Thoughts?  Suggestions?  (Dawn, I know that you struggled with some of this with Addy...)

Today's blessing was running into one of my student leaders when I was doing a little shopping after Ella's appointment.  It's nice to be able to introduce Ella to some of the students who are so important to me and my job.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Morning Girl

Ella is apparently a "morning girl"--at least at this stage in her life.  She is so so so happy in the mornings!  She wakes up with a huge grin and just wiggles with delight.  I'll then bring her into our bed, where she's very content to just smile and stretch next to my half-asleep husband while I get up and eat breakfast, take a shower, or do whatever else I need to do before feeding her.  She really is so sweet in the mornings!

Like many babies, she seems to have a bit of a "fussy time" in the evenings--but she's been improving there as well.  It seemed like she always wanted to be held right when it was time to prepare and eat dinner.  I tried to plan our meals around when she would be fed and happy, but even then, sometimes she wanted our undivided attention.  My husband was great about helping to cook and caring for her.  It got to the point in the two weeks or so leading up to Thanksgiving that we would take turns between eating and holding her.  I admit that I was looking forward to my parents and brother coming because it meant three more sets of hands in our rotation.  But she seemed to turn the corner when they arrived, and sat peacefully in her bouncer through our evening meals (at least long enough for me to quickly stuff my face).  And she's continuing to "behave" in the evenings--I was able to finish all of the ironing for the week while she hung out in her bouncer (just as a sidenote--my husband and I use the bouncer as a seat, but we have opted not to use the vibrating function--she, however, can get herself bouncing simply by kicking her legs, which I imagine is great exercise). 

Now if only I could convince her that it's not the end of the world to get out of the bath or shower at night...  I'm sure it must be a rude shock to go from the warm water to the cool(er) house, but she absolutely hates it!  Any suggestions for how to make it a more pleasant transition?

Today's blessing is that my husband gets to go to the Cardinals vs. 49ers game tonight.  He's a big 49ers fan, and I'm glad that he'll get some quality guy-time with his friends.  They made plans for the game a long time ago--before Ella was born--and he was very sweet about recognizing that he would be leaving me alone with her while he went out and had fun.  I'm totally fine with him going, but it was still really sweet that he was concerned.  So his mix of excitement and concern is a blessing to me.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Newborn Photo Shoot

As a shower gift, a family friend from back home gave us a newborn photo shoot.  She was in town just a week or so after Ella was born to visit her parents, so it worked out perfectly.  She then sent the disc of pictures down with my parents for their Thanksgiving visit.  Here are some of my favorites*:


  


 



Ella was 12 days old in these pictures.  She was 8 weeks old yesterday on Thanksgiving.  I have so much for which to be thankful.  As is customary, we went around and said what we were thankful for.  In addition to being thankful for Ella, I shared that I was also thankful for the work that God has done in my life as we waited for Ella.  My mom agreed that she has seen a change in me, which makes me happy.  I want to be the best mother, daughter, wife, and friend that I can be--and I'm learning so much from loving Ella.

Today's blessing is the chance to buy a Christmas tree.  Since we are always traveling to visit one set of parents or the other for Christmas, my husband and I have always skipped on the tree.  But since we now have Ella, we want her first Christmas (and all subsequent holidays) to be special, so we're heading into town soon to purchase our first tree as a family.

*The rest of the pictures can be viewed here, then click on "View Your Pictures", then "Kids/Babies", then select the picture of Ella on the scale, and the password is simply "Ella".  Special thanks to Georgia Gannon for the beautiful pictures!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I have so much for which to be thankful!  Ella is at the top of my list, but my husband and family and friends are right up there as well.  God is so good, and I'm so thankful for all of the blessings in my life.  I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends!

Today's blessing--among so many others--is that Ella slept seven hours last night!  It's great to feel extra-rested today so that I can thoroughly enjoy the holiday with my family.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy-Baby-Wisdom

I don't claim to be an expert on parenting, or even on parenting books. Nor do I claim to be a good critic. When it comes to books, I don't think I'm very critical. If someone makes a good argument, I tend to agree and say "sure--that makes sense". Like I said before, I try to take it all with a grain of salt; but for the most part, I'd say that I lean more towards the "agree" side than the "disagree".

So when my mom suggested that I read On Becoming Babywise, I did; and thought "sure--that makes sense". And when my colleague (the one who left who I really appreciate) recommended that I read Happiest Baby on the Block, I did; and thought "sure--that makes sense". And when it comes down to it, I think that they both offer some valuable input...though I wouldn't say that either of them is perfect (I do, however, wish I had read them in reverse order--I think that the techniques in Happiest Baby would have been helpful to learn before Ella arrived, and perhaps now would/could have been the right time to implement Babywise).

And while all of the "expert knowledge" in the books is helpful, I feel like the true wisdom in caring for Ella in the day to day moments has to come from God. There are so many times throughout the day that I pray "God, please give me the wisdom and the patience to care for Ella". Sometimes it's a desperate prayer when she's crying and I'm exhausted; sometimes it's a prayer of admiration when she's sleeping peacefully or smiling at me; but usually it's just a constant I-want-to-do-what's-best-for-her prayer throughout the day.

So I guess when it comes down to it, I've created my own "Happy-Baby-Wisdom" approach to incorporate all three--with an emphasis on relying on God's wisdom to help me know what to take and what to leave from the "experts". So with that, let me share some of the things that I like--and a few that don't work for us--from On Becoming Babywise and Happiest Baby on the Block (and if you have any other parenting books that you've enjoyed, I'd be open to reading them as well!).

Let me start with Happiest Baby on the Block. The book is really about colicky babies, and Ella is definitely not colicky (at least by the rule of threes), but she does get fussy at times (definitely less and less as time goes on, but she's a baby...and she's bound to fuss). Because colic seems to end by around 12 weeks (when babies can sooth themselves), the author argues that babies get colicky because they are missing the "fourth trimester".  So he advocates that parents simultaneously use the "5 S's": Swaddling (keeps them tight), Side/Stomach (minimizes Moro Reflex of feeling like she's falling), Shhh-ing (any white noise), Swinging (any quick, little, tight movements), and Sucking (pacifier, boob, finger). He says that parents of fussy babies should recreate a womb experience. He looks at babies from other cultures, throughout history, etc. It was written as a really light and pleasant read, with lots of analogies and parental quotes.  I kind of wished that I had read it before Ella arrived because I think I would have been able to better help her through the couple of sad fits that she had (there weren't many, but my heart broke when I couldn't easily console her).  By the time I read it, we had either figured out some of the techniques on our own, or Ella had grown out of her fussy-phase, or a combination of both.  As for the techniques, we stopped swaddling Ella around three weeks...and she doesn't really rely on a pacifier too much.  But we do a lot of Shhh-ing and Swinging, and those seem to work.  After looking at the book a bit, my husband developed what he calls the "airplane hold", and now drapes Ella across his arms on her stomach, thus applying the Stomach/Side position...and she absolutely loves it!  He had her from almost-fussy to fully-asleep in less than five minutes last night.  He's my hero--I'm so proud of him!

As for On Becoming Babywise, I hadn't originally realized just how controversial it can be.  If I had to sum up in one word what I liked about Babywise, I would say "routine".  I recognize that the book is all about establishing a "schedule", but that doesn't really work for us.  Rather, I like that the book suggests a routine of Eat-Play-Sleep.  Even though I'm the oldest in my family and did plenty of babysitting through high school, I admit that I was a little bit lost when it came to figuring out what to do with Ella once we brought her home.  So the routine of Eat-Play-Sleep really helped us.  Even though the author suggests that parents control the schedule, he does advocate for flexibility, so I've taken fully advantage of that freedom.  On the other hand, the author does suggest that parents allow babies to "cry it out".  We tried a handful of times...and it broke my heart each time.  My husband and I said we would give it fifteen minutes...and then we would sit there, just watching the clock, counting down to when we could rescue her.  So I don't think that we'll really let her cry herself to sleep much in the future (on the other hand, if she's crying and I have to pee or get something out of the oven, I'm not about to pee my pants or burn the dinner, so I'm not afraid to put her down for a moment to attend to whatever it is I need to do). 

As you can see, there are elements from each book that we are taking into account in how we care for Ella.  Like I said before, I'm open to other approaches as well, so please feel free to make suggestions. We're not perfect--but our favorite pediatrician told us it's okay.  He pointed out that we live in an imperfect world, and the best thing that we can do for Ella is model for her how we adjust to imperfections--starting with ourselves.  And that's where the wisdom from God comes in.  I need to listen to Him everyday in how He guides me to be the best mother I can be.

Thoughts?  Reactions?  Feedback?  I'd be interested in hearing what you think (I'm even open to criticism--just please don't "attack" me if you think I'm doing something wrong).

Today's blessing is that I get to see my parents!  They are about an hour away, and I am so excited to see them!  This is the first time that they are coming to our place for Thanksgiving, and let's be honest--they are really coming mainly for Ella.  But I'll gladly share her with them.  Besides, today is my dad's birthday.  It really will be such a blessing to celebrate and give thanks with them.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Prayers for a Friend

Please keep my friend Nina in your prayers in the weeks to come.  She is pregnant with her second child--a little boy they will name Lukas.  She will be induced on Tuesday, November 23rd (unless he comes before then).

Halfway through her pregnancy or so, Nina noticed a lump on her thyroid.  When she had it checked out, the doctors determined that the growth was cancerous, and that her entire thyroid would need to be removed shortly after the baby was born.  So she will be induced this week, and will then have the surgery to remove the thyroid on December 9th. 

Once the thyroid and the cancer is removed, the prognosis is pretty good.  She and the baby have been monitored, and it does not sound like this has hurt Lukas at all.  But I can imagine that it would be rather overwhelming to know that you're going to face surgery just over two weeks after giving birth.  And it's always concerning to hear the words "cancer" and "surgery"--even if the prognosis is good. 

Nina has been a great friend and support to me through our journey.  Having faced some similar struggles, she has been really understanding.  She has a great husband, and a beautiful three-year old little girl.  Please keep their little family in your prayers in these next couple weeks as she gives birth, prepares for surgery, and then recovers.

Today's blessing is my brothers.  As I mentioned yesterday, today is both of their birthdays.  I love them both very dearly, and I'm so glad that they are part of my life.  I admit that I was a rather bossy big sister when we were growing up, but I do pray that God has helped me to become a better sister in the last couple of years as I began to appreciate my family more and more.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Birthday Celebrations

Yesterday was my Boppy's (my grandpa's) birthday.  Today is my Sister-in-Law's birthday.  Tomorrow is both of my brothers' birthdays (yes, they have the same birthday...no, they are not twins).  And Wednesday is my Dad's (now Ella's "Boppy") birthday.

I admit that I've been so caught up in caring for Ella that I neglected to send cards or gifts.  I will get to see my Dad and one of my brothers over Thanksgiving when they came to visit, and I sent my Sister-in-Law a text-picture of Ella with a sign that said "Happy Birthday Aunt Heidi".  Oh well...I'm sure that they understand.

Today's blessing was watching my husband really step it up today in caring for Ella.  He loves playing with her when she's happy...but he tries to hand her off to me when she gets fussy.  Sure, I could "rescue" him each time...but I need him to be the care-giver that I know that he can be.  So I gave him some pointers entrusted her to his care.  Sure enough, he stepped it up big time, and even exceeded my expectations!  He also effortlessly introduced a bottle to her for the first time!  He was so proud of her, which makes me so proud of him.  I really am blessed with this partner that God has given me, and Ella is equally blessed to have him as her Daddy.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Office Visit

I brought Ella into my office for the first time yesterday.  Aside from her little announcement that she was hungry about halfway through our visit, she was fabulous.  It took her a moment to warm up to having so many people want to see her, and I'm sure that the florescent lights probably didn't help either.  But soon enough, she was smiling and cooing for everyone.  While they IT guy updated my computer, she was perfectly content to just happily squirm on a blanket on the floor in my office, much to my delight.  Many people commented on how happy and content she was, which made me really proud of her (and myself).

The main purpose behind going in to the office was to attend a going-away party for a colleague who I really admire and respect, and will deeply miss when I return.  She has been with our college for 12 years, and is quite popular, so plenty of people were in attendance to wish her farewell and good luck.  I put Ella in the Baby Bjorn (which this colleague actually handed down to us, along with so many other helpful and thoughtful baby items), and she conked out and slept through most of the commotion.  She woke up--happy--when everyone quieted down for the "good-bye" part of the party, but patiently waited till it was time to head out.  Again, I was really proud of her for being so well behaved!  I was a little worried that she might have a meltdown and ruin the party, but all my worrying was for naught. 

It really was nice to visit with all of my colleagues again.  I know that I'm good at my job, so I do feel like I am contributing to society (or at least the university) through my work with my students...but like I said previously, I'm still dreading leaving Ella and going back to work.  At least it's nice to know that I'm missed and they will appreciate having me back when I do return in January.

It was such a blessing to attend the party and celebrate the 12 years that this colleague has contributed to our college.  She brought so much joy and energy to our office, and she will really be missed.  But she is leaving to pursue her dream of being a nurse, and I couldn't be more proud of her for listening to her heart.  I know that she will be wonderful in her new role. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

100

For the most part, I've done a really good job of not doing any work while I've been on maternity leave.  To be honest, it takes more time to care for Ella than I had originally imagined.  Prior to bringing her home, I think I had these grand illusions of having all sorts of free time.  Yeah...that hasn't happened. 

I've really tried to make a conscientious effort to leave work at the office, but I admit that I couldn't totally ignore it.  I missed out on my students' registration time, and even though I had an out-of-office auto-reply on my email to explain that I was out and to provide them with their other options, I still worried about them.  So all along, I've been logging into my email every other day or so to forward any necessary student emails on to the appropriate advisor (and to delete spam).  But there were plenty of other "keep for later" emails that I left on the server.  Oh--and I should mention that I was just checking my email remotely online through our home computer--my work laptop has stayed stashed away in the corner since I brought it home in late September (aren't you proud of me!?!?).  Well, I got an email yesterday from our IT department explaining that they need to do some sort of conversion for our whole college, and they gave us some different dates and times of when we needed to schedule an appointment.  Turns out that they are available tomorrow, and I'll actually be heading into the office to attend a going-away party for my colleague who I really admire and appreciate.  So I figured it was about time to pull out my work laptop, see if I could remember the password, and download the remaining "keep for later" emails.

Perhaps I should have done this earlier...because I had 100 "keep for later" emails.  100!  And like I said, I've already forwarded the student question emails and deleted all of the spam emails.  Granted, I'm on a couple of listservs that don't necessarily know that I'm on maternity leave--I can delete some of those emails, but others I'll need to keep.  And that information will still apply to me, so I feel like I'll have a pretty big learning curve when I go back to work in January.  I'm afraid I'm going to be playing catch-up for a couple of days...if not weeks!  I guess it's a good thing that I go back on January 3rd but classes don't get started until a week or so later.  (How I dread leaving Ella to go back to work!!)

I'd like to say that I'm going to be more consistent about checking my email to avoid another 100 emails, but I'm pretty sure that's not going to happen.  After getting my computer updated tomorrow, something tells me that it will go back to its little corner and stay there until January.  And why not?  Ella deserves to have me focus on her as much as possible while I can.  (I don't know how I'm going to balance it all out when I go back to work...but that's a problem for another day.)

Today's blessings is my OB/GYN.  I had my postpartum follow-up appointment with her today, and got the all-clear to return to regular activities.  She really was so good to us throughout the entire pregnancy, delivery, and even came by to check on me after my return trip to the hospital.  As we said our goodbyes, she said "Well let's do this again sometime!".  We'll focus on Ella for now, but I sure hope that we do have the chance to do this again in the relatively near future.  

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

New Appreciation

I have developed a new appreciation for mothers of twins.

My very-dear friend's son will be five weeks old tomorrow.  She and her husband are in their very busy season of finishing up med school and interviewing all over the place for their upcoming residencies.  I know that they are juggling a lot, and I have the luxury of staying at home and doing nothing with Ella (and "nothing" actually turns out to be quite a lot!), so I offered to try to help out today.  Since she pulled an all-nighter last night at the library and left her husband home with bottles, she took me up on the offer so that she could first sleep, and then study.

I arrived around 9:30 am (it really was the earliest I could be there--getting myself and Ella ready and out the door is proving to be more time-consuming than I imagined), and her son, Silas, was fed, wide awake, and happy.  Ella, on the other hand, was ready to eat again.  So I sent my very-dear friend to bed, fed Ella, and entertained Silas to the best of my abilities in his bouncer.  When Ella finished up, she was more than happy to check out Silas and all of his toys.  Aside from a few little squawks from each of them, I was able to avoid any complete meltdowns, and miraculously was able to get each baby to sleep for a little bit, thus allowing my very-dear friend to get in a much needed nap.

When everyone woke up, we all ate, and my very-dear friend headed to the library to finish up a project.  Again, both babies were happy.  I'd like to think that they were curious in each other, but really--that probably won't happen for another fifteen years or so.  We joke that it would be great if they did grow up and fall in love, but we'll just let them be "best buddies" for now. Here they are..happy as can be:
(Did I mention that Silas is just about two weeks younger than Ella...and yet he's so much bigger!)

And then, not even two minutes after I snapped the picture, it all fell apart.  I heard a big poop from Silas, and knew it was the type that would require some changing.  My very-dear friend had mentioned that he needed a bath, so I had planned on trying to cover that for her to make her life easier.  Ella was really content at that time, so I put her in his bouncer, brought the hangy-toy within reach, and headed upstairs with Silas to change and hopefully bathe him.  On the way to the nursery, I started the water to get it warm enough for a quick bath.  By the time I had the dirty diaper off, I could hear Ella crying from downstairs.  So I decided to forego the bath efforts, and headed back down.  Halfway down the stairs, I hear a knock at the door, and am pleased to see that it's the parents of my very-dear friend.  So with Ella crying, I hand over their grandson and go to console Ella...only to find that Silas' bouncer has the same effect as our bouncer at home:  major diaper blow-out.  So there I am with my screaming and poopy baby in front of my very-dear friends parents, looking totally incompetent.  But they were wonderfully understanding, and were more than happy to take over the care of Silas--who, even without the bath, was much cleaner than poor Ella.  So even though I had intended to bathe Silas for my very-dear friend, it was Ella who ended up getting the bath.  By the time that I had her, the bouncer, and myself cleaned up, Ella was fast asleep and my very-dear friend was home to feed Silas.

What a day!  I didn't leave her house until almost 4:00 pm, so really, the first five hours were great!  It was just that five minutes of chaos when first one baby, then the other baby, decided to poop.  I joked with the parents that I don't know if they came at the absolutely best time, or the absolute worst!  All I know is that I have a whole new appreciation for mothers of multiples, and I'm glad to be home where I can devote all of my time and energy on Ella. 

Even though I didn't get my own nap in, it was still such a blessing to be able to hang out with my very-dear friend while we fed the babies and catch up with her.  She and her husband--and now Silas--are a great source of fun and support to my husband and me--and now Ella.  We truly are blessed to have them in our lives, and it was also a blessing to be able to help her out a bit today.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ella's Accomplishments

As I was formulating this post in my head, it dawned on me that I had written a post about around this time last year about all of my accomplishments while my husband was in Djibouti.  Then when I went back to find the link, I realized that it was exactly one year ago--November 15th--that I had reflected on all that I had done while he was out of the country.  And what a year it has been!  But back to Ella and her accomplishments...

She doesn't like her tummy-time all that much, so she quickly discovered (at about 2-1/2 weeks) that she could roll over from her tummy back to the comfort of her back.  The first time, I figured it was just an "accident", but she did it three times that first night.  I think that she often forgets that she can accomplish this maneuver, because she doesn't do it every time, but she has started to do it more and more regularly.  My husband finally got to witness it for the first time this morning as well.

Everyone has been really impressed with her neck strength and head stability since pretty much the day that she was born.  When she is up on my shoulder, she usually has her head up and looking around.  Our favorite pediatrician noticed this as well at one of her early appointments.  I'm still careful to support her, just in case she tilts her head back just a little too far, but it's great to see her looking around so much.

Speaking of looking around, she has really become so much more alert in the last couple of weeks.  She makes amazing eye contact--and usually smiles and coos when she does.  She's also starting to notice other objects--like the toys hanging from her activity mat or bouncer--which is great for me, because she's starting to entertain herself for longer periods at a time so that I can prepare a meal, eat, clean up around the house...or get in a dreaded pumping session.

She has become so much more audible.  I came into the living room on Saturday morning to see my husband on the ground singing our fight song to her, and she was just cooing along with him.  It was so sweet!  And her little giggles are just as sweet.  I heard the first one a week or so ago when I was putting her to sleep, and it totally warmed my heart.

Ah...sleep.  No, she's most definitely not at the "sleeping through the night" phase yet (and I admit that I think that we have a ways to go before we get there...we're at the five-hour mark for now).  But she is learning how to fall asleep in the cradle with only a little bit of help.  We stopped swaddling her at around three weeks--mainly because she likes to have her arms free.  Even when I swaddled her up as tight as I comfortably could, she still found a way to bust her arms out and stretch them above her head.  So now we just make sure that she's warm enough in foot-pajamas and cover her up with a blanket.  By placing my hand on her chest and singing to her or "sh-sh-sh-ing", she can usually (I admit it's not always) fall asleep within a few minutes (perhaps this is as much of an accomplishment for me as it is for her--it feels so good to know that I can usually find a way to comfort her and help her fall peacefully to sleep).

Now for a not-so-fun trick...I previously shared that she has a knack for peeing or pooping in that half-second between when I take the old diaper off and put the new diaper on.  We have three changing pad covers, and it's not uncommon for us to go through all three in one week.  Perhaps I'm a bad mother, but I've gotten to the point that if it's not too wet or too dirty, that I'll just turn the cover inside-out and make use of the clean(er) side in case it happens again (I know...I'm so bad!).  But her talent isn't restricted to the changing pad.  Oh no!  She is also really great about having a blow-out diaper in the swing, car seat, or bouncer immediately after I've reassembled them after getting them out of the laundry for yet another blow-out.  I think it must be something about that semi-reclined position that just opens up her bowels. 

I know that there will be so many more little and big accomplishments in the days, weeks, months, and years to come.  Good and bad, it's so amazing to see her grow and develop.  There is so much more to which I'm looking forward!

Today's blessing is a quiet day at home with her.  I'll be heading into town Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for various commitments, so it will be nice to just hang out around the house with her today.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Don't Tell

Don't tell my husband that I played around with his fancy new camera today without his permission...







Today's blessing is a happy and photogenic baby...and a big memory card.  I really had fun with her...and I don't think that my husband will mind too much.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day

Last year, I shared my appreciation for all veterans--but especially my husband.  At the time, he was halfway around the world in Djibouti for work.  I'm so glad that he's here with me and Ella this time around.

I realize that unlike Mother's Day or Father's Day or Administrative Assistant's Day, you don't necessarily give any gifts to veterans on a day like today.  The typical mode of operation is simply to thank them and recognize their selfless contribution to our country.  But I can't help but think that I was able to give him the gift that he always wanted--he now has Ella.  I look forward to explaining to her that her daddy is a brave and honorable officer in the US Army.

Today's blessing was that my big, strong veteran showed his soft side and stayed home with Ella so that I could go into town and have lunch with my friend.  It was the first time that I had truly been completely alone (beyond going to the bathroom) since that afternoon in the hospital.  Sure, I missed each of them in their own special way, but I know that it was healthy to take some time for just myself.  Aside from a diaper blowout, they did just fine without me.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wardrobe Changes

It seems as though both Ella and I are in need of some wardrobe changes.  Hers need to be a bit bigger...mine need to be a bit smaller.

We didn't get many "newborn" outfits for her, but the few that we did get seem to be too small for her these days.  She exceeded the 9 pound mark at her appointment last week, so she is definitely too big for the 5-8 pound items.  But sometimes it seems that even the 8-12 pound pieces are too small for her as well--at least in the length, though not quite in girth.  My husband and I are both fairly tall, and she also seems to have our length.  Poor thing--she's going to be running into all sorts of wardrobe issues for the rest of her life if she has my long torso (though I finally appreciated my extra-long torso when I was pregnant with her).  Sidenote on baby clothes...I find it so funny that some "0-3 month" items seem so tiny, and others seem so huge!  Depending on the brand, she may have already outgrown some 0-3...and may be in others for months to come.

As for me, it's about time for me to put away the maternity clothes.  To be honest, I should have put them away weeks ago.  Since I'm on maternity leave until the new semester starts in January (have I mentioned how much I'm dreading going back?), I admit that I've been living in yoga pants and old t-shirts when I'm at home.  So I really only have to get dressed in "real clothes" for church and if I have to run into town for any errands.  And as I previously explained, my pre-pregnancy wardrobe ranges in sizes from 4-12...4 being at my healthiest and fittest as a result of implementing the recommendations that our RE laid out for us, and 12 being at my un-healthiest and un-fittest after our second loss.  But since I'm so reluctant to get rid of any clothes, I've got a spectrum of sizes from which to choose.  So yes, it's time to put away the elastic waistbands and extra-long shirts (though I might keep some of the maternity tank-tops in my regular rotation...like I said, my extra-long torso is hard to cover).  I'll box them up today, and pray that I have the chance to wear them again someday.

Today's blessing is fall weather.  Yes, I realize that we're almost half-way through November, but Fall comes a little later when you live in the desert (and it could easily be 90 degrees again next week).  It's nice to be able to wear sweatshirts and cuddle up with my husband--and now Ella--under cozy blankets. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Familiar Pain

Yesterday afternoon, I was saddened to see a facebook post from my former hair-dresser and the wife of our music director for my church back home that they had lost their baby.  It was a "surprise" type of pregnancy--they have three children ages 16, 14, and 9, and she found out she was pregnant just days before her 40th birthday--but I doubt it makes it any easier to cope with the loss.  I read the news with Ella snuggled up against me in her carrier, all warm and cozy and precious, and yet my heart still broke as the familiar pain of loss crept in.

I realize that my hormones are still a little on the whacky side, so I'm "allowed" to get extra emotional, but I was a little shocked at how sad I was--for them, for my own losses, and for so many others who have experienced loss.  I guess part of my reaction is because this was my first exposure to loss since the birth of Ella.  I am just so overwhelmed at God's goodness, and it makes the fragility of life so much more visible...I guess.

As she said in her post, "things happen for a reason and God is in control".  I believe this whole-heartedly, but believing it isn't necessarily a quick-fix.  There is no anaesthesia that can instantly take away the pain.  God can--and does--comfort and heal, but the pain and confusion of loss can linger.  Please pray for Starr and Jeff and their family as they are saddened by the loss of this baby.  Even though this baby was a bit of a surprise, it was still dearly loved.

I was blessed by the visit of my extremely-caring friend who brought over a delicious enchilada casserole for us.  It was full of cheesy goodness, and I lived on leftovers all weekend while my husband was out of town for Army Reserve drill.  I have one more serving that I'll eat up for lunch today, but it was such a blessing to not have to cook when it was just me and Ella.