February 17, 2015

In the Box Thinking

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paintwarrier
I love this photo. It reminds me of something out of national geographic. In concept at least.

Meeting the needs of an active, rambunctious toddler and young baby simultaneously is still proving to be a bit challenging for me, especially when confined to our apartment. There aren’t that many activities that are both mentally stimulating and relatively quiet that hold Nicole’s interest for long. Then there’s the mess factor. I’d really like to avoid losing any of my deposit, but with my arms full, I can’t always get to the mess right away.

A recent discovery I made is that underpads do a great job at protecting the carpet from paint to play doh. I’d even surmise they work better than laying out junk mail, as junk mail is so thin and light it’s easily disturbed leaving exposed carpet. I swear exposed carpet is a finger paint magnet. I recently purchased these disposable underpads for newborn photography and they work great for art time as well. Incidentally, the number one complaint about the underpads I linked to, that they’re super thin, makes them ideal for newborn photography. They’re so thin they don’t create any bulges in the fabric, unlike the previous brand I used. Since newborn bladders are so tiny, they’re still plenty absorbent. If your cheap like me, you can also reuse them for multiple art projects.

But underpads still aren’t fool proof. Play doh can roll off of them, getting stuck in the fibers of the carpet. Crayons and chalk have a tendency to roll too, although they are less prone to mess.

Last week we had a subscribe and save Amazon delivery. We have quite a few subscriptions, so the deliveries tend to be brought in giant boxes. Nicole is always climbing on them, and in them. It just now occurred to us that large cardboard boxes are excellent creative mess containers. I put her in the box with a set of crayons, markers, and anything else I’d rather keep out of the carpet and let her decorate to her hearts content.

The above photo was from her first time with finger paints in the box. It didn’t take long for her to realize that she was in the box, and thus a member of the class of paintable objects. She seemed surprised I didn’t object to her painting her legs purple (which says something about how much of a control freak I’ve been over messes so far.) At the moment the photo was snapped, it was just occurring to her that she could intentionally paint her face as well. I adore her expression.

February 14, 2015

My All

roses

I have a lot to be thankful for in my life, and having a wonderful spouse would be one of the top ones. We’re approaching our five year anniversary, and as cheesy as it sounds, every day I love him more and more.

He loves me for me, even my idiosyncrasies and internal inconsistencies. He cherishes my weird personality quarks. Every year on valentines day he buys me a small arrangement of flowers because he knows that even though I say I don’t like flower arrangements, I only mean it most of the time. He managed to make me laugh as the anesthesiologist was placing the epidural. He stayed up all night just to sit by my side and offer moral support when an unrealistic deadline set by my supervisor meant I wouldn’t be going to bed any time soon.

I’m so grateful that someone so wonderful fell in love with me. I cannot imagine spending my life with anyone else.

February 9, 2015

Head Start on Hallmarking

The Hallmark ornament season seems to get earlier and earlier every year, doesn’t it? This time around I blame insomnia after a middle of the night child waking. While I was up at 4 am last night I noticed the keepsake ornament club offer is available, which got me curious as to what new ornaments have already been revealed for this year.

I’m not too terribly excited about this year.

Between Digital Dreambook and Hooked on Hallmark, I’ve already seen most of the ornaments I’m interested. This year they’re all just ‘ok’, none I hate, none I love. I might get Cookie Cutter Christmas in an after Christmas sale. I’ll probably skip Snowball and Tuxedo this year (a tree on a tree is a bit too meta for me, unless it’s an ice tree.) Seaons’s treatings will either be another after Christmas sale purchase, or skipped all together depending on how it looks in person. Of the series I tend to collect, that just leaves the miniature gumdrop ornament. Could this be the year I buy one ornament? Or None?

I will also be skipping the membership this year. I didn’t like any of the three ornaments you pay for with your membership dues. I do like Cozy on Ice. Mrs Claus’ Kitchen is ok, although I prefer Mrs Claus’ Cupboard, which way in excessive of anything I’m willing to pay. Both the ice skate and the sink they’re extras available only to members, meaning I’d have to pay for them on top of the membership. Too rich for my blood.

In terms of new series, I’m intrigued by Mary’s Bears. The bear ice skating is totally cute. The fact that it’s not dated is another big plus, as it means I can collect only the bears I want, and it won’t be obvious that I’m missing some. (This was the stratagy I used for Visit From Santa Series. Loved the Bear, Doe and Squirrel, but the Fox and Dove ornaments were lacking in the details department.)

Since I wasn’t seeing much that I liked, I decided to splurge on the One Sweet Gingerbread repaint. I love the gumdrops, and wanted to have a white gumdrop as well. I’ve also been price watching Baby’s First Christmas 2014, so I can have a spare.

Domingo and I are considering getting two trees this year (assuming we move into a big enough house as planned.) I’ve always found trees with colored lights warm and friendly, but there’s something so elegant about trees with classic white twinkle lights. We’re thinking of having our usual tree with the colored lights and fun ornaments by the fireplace, and a smaller/thinner tree with just white ornaments and lights as decoration piece in the dinning room.

I do so love Christmas time.

February 5, 2015

Nicolies

Nicole’s nickname at daycare is ‘Nicolie’, so I think of ‘Nicolies’ as the things she says or does.

I’ve been making an effort to blog less about Nicole these days in order to protect her privacy, but an article in The Atlantic reminded me why I started in the first place: so I will always be able to look back and remember. In that vein I thought I’d share some cute, but rather benign stories I hope I never forget.

Mommy I’m drawing!

While I was driving her home from daycare a few weeks ago she exclaimed happily from the back seat “Mommy, I’m drawing!” I responded with a casual “that’s nice, sweetie” without a glance. I knew those were dangerous words to ignore, but it’s not like we have any writing instruments back there and I needed to concentrate on driving.

A little while later Nicole starts screaming something that sounds like “My Sock! My Sock!” She went through a phase of taking her socks and shoes off in the car, so I’m thinking she took them off again and accidentally dropped her sock. I tell her I will put her shoes and socks back on when we get home, but she starts crying harder “Sock! Sock! Sock!”

When we get to a red light I turn around and notice both her shoes are still on. That’s wierd. I glance up and my car door is covered in green CHALK. I did not even notice she had taken it from daycare.


chalk
Chalk. It’s toddler war paint, basically

You’d think I’d have learned my lesson about checking the contents of her hands before leaving school, but that would be a big ‘Nope’. A few days latter the green chalk was joined by it’s yellow brethren.


cardoor
Nicole’s artwork, a few weeks (and smudges) later

Wipers

Nothing says you’ve been in a drought too long than your two year old being fascinated by light rain, other than perhaps same said two year old being terrified of windshield wipers. We made this discovery last November during a rare day of rain. From then on every time it rains I warn Nicole that I have to turn on the wipers. She’d usually protest so one day I asked her if she could be brave.

“Yes, mommy.”
I’m going to count to three and turn the wipers on, ok? One… Two… THREE!
“Do again.”
One… Two… THREE!
“Do again, mommy!”

This continued throughout our entire drive. I kept remarking how brave she was and she kept asking for more wipers without so much as a whimper. We arrive at daycare, I stop the car, look back and see…


eyescovered
Nicole covering her eyes so she doesn’t have to see the wipers (after we parked the car, obviously. Momtographer may be obsessive, but not stupid!)

Hands covering the face the whole time. Since then she has also used Fuzzy Bunny (her toy for the car) to shield her eyes. My silly California girl prefers her sunshine.

February 2, 2015

Capturing Sisterly Love

I’ve gotten so much better with my camera, and photographing Nicole, that I didn’t really give much thought to how much more difficult it would be to photograph the girls together. I thought I’d be able to hammer out a few good photos in time for our Christmas card. In retrospect, the difficulty should have been obvious.

When I’m photographic Nicole I can easily take ten frames to get that one good frame. That’s why I always shot on burst mode – better odds that I’ll hit that perfect hundredth of second moment. Some frames her eyes may be closed, the framing is off, the exposure is wrong, etc. And she’s mostly a cooperator! If we treat the photographing the two girls as independent events (a not unreasonable assumption when they’re both in a good mood, terribly inaccurate if one of them is upset for whatever reason), then it’d be 1 in 100 frames to get a good shot of both of them simultaneously. Mathematically the probability of getting a good shot of one kid (1/10) times the probability of getting a good shot of the other (1/10).

We can extrapolate out for n kids getting the function: probability_of_good_shots = photographer_hit_ratenumber_of_kids. Thus the number of frames needed when photographic n kids to get one good frame as a function of n can be plotted as follows:


number of frames needed
f(n) = 10n

In other words, it gets exponentially harder with each additional kid.


concerned
Hmm. Alexis looks mighty concerned.

My hit rate is less than 1%, so I might be underestimating the difficulty. Or overestimating my skill.


going in for a kiss
My best one so far. I just wish I had panned a little more to the right and the lighting was a little better on Alexis’ face.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Swaddle the Baby. It helps keep the baby calm and, as an added bonus, helps the baby appear more newborn like. That’s very handy when it may take you multiple tries to get those 10^n frames! Alas, Alexis is now a champion swaddle buster.
  • Have an Assistant. Not only are you going to want a safety spotter (depending on the age and activity level of your toddler, a total must!) but getting the girls ready in unison helped maximize our in-front-of-the-camera-time. Daddy swaddles while mommy assembles the camera.
  • Bribes. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out! I’ve found that my energetic, rambunctious toddler exhibits a little more self control when a piece of candy or new toy is on the line. When photographic near a baby, that’s a trade off I’m willing to make.
  • Patience, Patience, Patience. I feel like a amateur photographer again, which can be frustrating. Nicole is pretty perceptive. If I let my frustrations get the best of me she’ll pick up on it and will instantly be done with photo time. It’s better to keep it fun, and hope I get lucky.
  • and Learn to Love the Outtakes. Hi, my name is Sarah, and I’m a recovering perfectionist…
January 29, 2015

Alexis at Two Months

Dear Alexis,

Another month has just flown by. If I had to sum up this month in just five words it would be “just the two of us”. Your Daddy returned to work from his extended paternity leave on the 5th, and big sister Nicki’s daycare resumed from the holiday break on the 2nd. You have been incredibly gentle on your mommy during our time alone together. You are so sweet, mellow, and undeniably a very happy baby.


alexissmile
I cannot get enough of this smile!

You continue to be completely fascinated with the world around you. Since you love your bird mobile in your bouncer, we decided to break out your activity gym this month. For now you mostly twist around to explore the toys around you, but every once in a while you kick or flail in their general direction. Daddy is convinced you will be an early roller, and now I’m starting to think so too.


gymlove
Gym love

We’ve also been working on tummy time this month. It was tough going in the beginning, but the first time you managed to lift your head and survey the world around you, you had such a huge grin. Ever since then you seem to enjoy tummy time, provided it doesn’t go too long. Mommy doesn’t blame you. It’s gotta take a lot of muscle to lift that massive cranium of yours. Like your sister, your bobble head was in the 90th plus percentile at birth.


tummy time head lifts
Tummy Time head Lifts

In fact you are so good with your head control that at my postpartum checkup, just seven weeks since you were born, the nurse guessed you were three months old already! Do mommy a favor, try not to grow up so fast.

Love Always,
Mommy & Daddy

January 25, 2015

Outsourcing

When Domingo and I first moved into our town home, Domingo wanted to hire a cleaning service. I was reluctant. I hate spending money, especially on something I can do myself. Since I was still in grad school and not really contributing to the family income I felt extra guilty with the added expense. Time passed and we never quite got around to that cleaning service.

Domingo again advocated for a cleaning service when we moved into our apartment, but the place was so cluttered with things I was sure they wouldn’t be able to get to most surfaces in order to clean them. This time I was also better able to stay on top of things myself, especially when pregnant and nesting kicked in. That is until Alexis was born. Before she came I was washing the carpets. In the past two months our place looks like it’s never even seen a vacuum.

Well, we finally decided to go ahead and booked a cleaning service.

Another area we started outsourcing is dinner for the adults. I had the notion that we would all sit together and eat meals as a family like I did growing up, but rarely are we able to these days. The time between when I arrive home after picking up Nicole from daycare and the start of the bedtime routine is about an hour, and includes dinner and bath time. There isn’t enough time for both of us to eat with Nicole, especially when Alexis needs her dinner as well. So Domingo and I have taken to ordering ahead for our food to arrive just after the girls go to bed some nights. The nice thing about many of these meal delivery services is you can order them in the afternoon and specify what delivery time window you’d like. Domingo and I don’t have to waste time cooking a second dinner, or running out to pick something up ourselves.

When bedtime is a little later, and we no longer have to devote as much energy to making sure the toddler eats her food instead of plays with it, we will return to family dinners.

We tried to have food arrive in time for Nicole’s dinner as well, but alas the service was proven two unreliable. In early January there was a problem with our water. It was brown. The apartment complex claimed it was safe to cook with, and in all likelihood it probably was, but I couldn’t get past the fact that it was brown. When the water wasn’t fixed by two in the afternoon, we decided we’d just go ahead and order in. We scheduled the delivery for 6:15, around our typical dinner time. Shortly after the scheduled arrival time Domingo gets an email saying they would be unable to fulfill the order. A few minutes later we got a phone call explaining why: the restaurant we were ordering from was closed, and failed to notify the delivery service. While it wasn’t the delivery service’s fault, we were left high and dry for dinner. It was too late to order from somewhere else, and I didn’t feel comfortable cooking with the brown water. This isn’t the only time there was a hiccup in food delivery, but it was certainty the most disruptive.

In general I think I’m doing pretty good about managing my time with two kids. It helps that Nicole is still in daycare (seriously, how do you stay at home moms do it with multiple kids?!) so the times that can become crazy hectic are typically only weekends, mornings and evenings. It sure feels good to do a little outsourcing and claim some of that time back.

January 23, 2015

Sleeping Again

sleeping with the boppy

I am now convinced Domingo and I had nothing to do with Nicki’s amazingly awesome newborn sleep. When Alexis was born I made the cardinal second time mom mistake of assuming raising her would be just like raising her big sister. I just assumed she’d have similar sleep patters. By the end of the first week or two, she’d already be sleeping 5 hours straight. Right?? She didn’t. Nor the next week. Nor the next. I didn’t blog enough the first time around to remember all the details of Nicki’s sleep pattern so I kept hoping, but by one month there was no denying that Alexis’ sleep patterns were more typical of someone her age than Nicole’s ever were.

I tried everything I could think of trying to find the magic combination that worked for Nicki: swaddled/unswaddled, breastfeeding/bottle feeding before bed, “tanking” her up by encouraging her to eat a little more when she was showing signs of being full. It was a colossal mistake. Rather then make her belly super full it made her bladder super full, and then her diaper super full. The worst nights was when her digestive track was out of sink and shed wake up hungry but sans pee, or with pee but sans hunger. You’d know another wake up wasn’t far behind.

A week or so ago it looked like we were in for a second round of day/night reversal. Alexis would wake up after only 90 minutes or so, and take another hour before falling back asleep. This was happening at the same time that Nicole decided to rebel against night time sleep. I’d be rocking Alexis whose eyes were just starting to close and hear Nicole wake up in the monitor. It was a no-win situation. If I’d put Alexis down before she was in a deep sleep in order to tend to Nicole, she’d start crying and wake Nicole back up. If I ignored Nicole, she’d start screaming and wake up Alexis. Domingo and I were taking shifts, as it was the only way we could each get a couple hours of sleep. In theory anyway. It’s hard to sleep through your child crying, even when you know your partner is tending to them and there’s nothing more you can do.

Then, out of the blue, something changed this week. She did seven to nine hours three of the past four days, completely on her own. My sanity is once again returning.

Hear that future self (should you decide to have more, and find yourself in the same prediciment): it does gets better

January 13, 2015

Framing Ideas

Disclaimer: This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links. Read more about how I use affiliate links.

The bloom has come off the rose of our apartment. To keep from feeling completely cramped and closed in, I’ve taken to thinking of our next home – the place we hope to start look for in a few months and ideally like to live for a few decades – and imaging how I’d like to decorate it.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’d like to frame and hang photos.

Watercolors

Ever since I discovered the waterlouge app I have been in love with the idea of a water color photo print. I’ve been playing with various photos to see what works best and have decided on a beach photo for the girls’ future bathroom.


nickiwatercolor
Nicole (14 months) while visiting relatives in Florida

Of course the photo I will actually use will have both girls in it. Luckily for me there’s a nice beach near by. Watch out Alexis, we’ll be making a visit as soon as you learn to sit!

The one potential hiccup is the humidity. High humidity plus rapid changes in temperature equals condensation, which can get into the frame and damage the photo. I’ve read some home improvement websites that say don’t worry about it, and others that advocate specialized frames. I’d like to save myself the time and cost of reprinting the photo, especially if I end up wanting a print larger than what can be done with a home printer. I got this specialized water resistent frame during a price drop as an experiment. We’re still a few months (at least) from buying, so in the mean time I’ll hang the above photo in our bathroom and see if it suffers any water damage.


watercolors
Test frame up. Love the look of watercolors on resume paper. It looks like an actual watercoloring!

Teddy Bear Shelf

I was recently going over old photos and rediscovered this one of Nicki, taken right around the time she turned two.

nickibear

There’s nothing special about the bear. I can’t even remember where I got it (other than a vague feeling it was once my moms). Yet when I was looking for a stuffed animal for Alexis’ newborn photos, I serendipitously grabbed the same bear. Wouldn’t it be nice to have two photos, one of each of the girls, with the same toy, and the toy itself preserved for posterity?


bearshelf
The Concept

Although I already have photos of Alexis and the bear, I’m thinking about taking a few more with the bear towards camera and Alexis turned away like the above photo (though not the same pose!). Maybe when when she’s around one. I like the idea of Nicole being older in her photo than Alexis in hers, and that way if we have a third child I can extend the concept to include him/her. I’ll be out of luck if we have four or more, but if we have four or more I’m sure I’ll never be able to keep up with these kinds of photos anyway!

The only question is where to put something like this. The laundry room? The guest bed room? (I’m not sure if we’ll have a guestroom, but I allow myself to splurge on a huge house complete with a craftroom, finished basement, and tons and tons of closet space.)

January 10, 2015

Finding Time

“You think you gave up all your free time when you go from no kids to one kid. When you have your second you realize how much free time you still had left.” – Paraphrased wisdom from a friend. I can’t remember who because my memory has turned to swiss cheese as of late.

I often feeling like the end of the day has arrived and I’ve gotten nothing done. I’m roughly halfway through my maternity leave, so time is ticking by. It’s time to get my act together.

After reading advice from happiness and productivity efforts I realized I needed to do several things: (1) Priorities, it’s not possible to do everything all the time; (2) Identify tasks I can do each day to start chipping away at my list; (3) recognize my limits so I don’t paralyze myself with frustration when I can’t do 2.

The first thing I read was to pick no more than five areas to focus on outside the day-to-day needs-to-get-done list. Since I’m out on leave I picked just four areas, leaving space for professional development when I return to work. In no particular order they are:

  • Alexis’ Development, particularly sleep It’s easier, (and tempting!), to get her to nap in the rock n’ play or bouncy seat, but I want to work on getting her to nap in the crib so we can have an easier transition than last time.
  • Quality Time with Nicki Nicki is doing very well with Alexis. She loves to help, whether it be by sitting by Alexis’ side during diaper changes, holding the bottle, or fetching the binky. I think prioritizing special Nicki/Daddy and Nicki/Mommy time is helping stave off any jealousy she might otherwise feel.
  • Getting a handle on our home. It’s a mess, and messes stress me out. We also want to move within the year, and the more picked up and organized we are the easier the move will be.
  • Photography (obviously).

Each day I set out with one or two goals in mind: a family photo (it’s harder than you might think, get Alexis to nap in the crib for more than 30 minutes, take Nicole to the park, etc. I strive for the sweet spot between reasonable-achievable and feeling-like-I-accomplished-something-big. It can take several attempts to get Alexis to fall asleep and stay asleep in the crib which can easily add up to an extra 90 minutes in my day. The park is a couple hour endeavour.

So far the new approach seems to be helping. I’m certainly taking more photos this time than last time, and Alexis has now had several good naps in the crib. I wish I was making more progress on the house, but I guess that’s why the experts recommend step 3.

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