Archive for August, 2012

August 28, 2012

Weekend Milestones

Disclosure: This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links. I may earn a small commission with each affiliate link click. For more details please see my full disclosure about blog profit.

We hit another couple of milestones this past week. As of today, Nicki is now officially in size 0-3 month clothes. Even though I knew it was coming, it was still a little tough for me, but I was looking forward to putting her in her new clothes and that helps. She can still fit in the newborn onesies, but getting them over that big bobblehead she inherited from Mommy and Daddy can be a bit of a challenge. I’m kind of surprised we didn’t hit this point earlier, to be honest, given that the scale says my little peanut is now 10 lbs! According to the size charts, she should have moved up 2 lbs ago. She may have a big head, but I doubt it accounts for all of that 2 lbs difference!

How did Nicki celebrate moving up a size? Sleeping almost nine hours straight! Mommy’s little champion sleeper!

We also started a night time routine this past week. Once asleep, she sleeps very well. Getting her to fall asleep, however, can be difficult. We thought a bed time routine might make falling asleep easier for her. Our routine consists of bath, PJs, nursing, and then being rocked to sleep. We start the process around 9pm, but given she’s under 2 months we keep it pretty flexible. Wide awake? Then we hold off. About to pass out in mommy’s arms? We’ll start early. Passed out in mommy’s arms? Then we skip it. It’s amazing how quickly she picked up the new routine. She seems to already know and anticipate what’s coming next which helps her settle down.

Dressing Nicki up in adorable PJs has got to be one of my favorite things right now. I think I may look forward to it even more than she does.

We also had our first couple of outings to places other than the doctors’ this weekend. We went first to Target on Friday, then to a craft store on Saturday. (Anyone surprised?). She was a little fussy, but overall did great. The diaper bag looks like it will suit us nicely. It’s not that big, which is nice since it fits in the basket of the Snap N’ Go. The changing pad is cheap and flimsy, but that wasn’t an issue since we have the Skip Hop Pronto.


Nothing says first time parents on their first outing with the baby like dual camera phones taking pictures of the baby as we walk down the isle of Joanns

As for a mommy milestone, I filled up memory card for my DSLR camera with photos of Nicki for the first time! That’s over 3000 photos of (mostly) Nicki! I put the card in my camera the day we were off to the hospital. Of course, I’ve always been one to take multiple photos of everything, and with a newborn that’s increased 3 fold. I take so many to ensure I have at least one where she’s not squirming and blurry, and dare I hope my newborn is even smiling. I won’t delete them off my camera’s memory card until they’re backed up. In triplicate. Even the blurry ones. They are memories after all!

The funny thing is, I don’t feel like I took enough pictures. That’s probably partially because so many of the photos are near duplicates, blury, or otherwise unusable. The fact that I’m a crazy mom-tographer plays a part in there too.

August 26, 2012

Discounts Ahoy!

Disclosure: This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links. I may earn a small commission with each affiliate link click. For more details please see my full disclosure about blog profit.

I predict Amazon Prime is going to save us money in the long run even though I don’t expect I would have paid for expedited shipping frequently. Prior to baby, I never previously paid for expedited shipping. I was the gal who would hunt for additional items so my shopping cart would hit that magical $25 to avoid shipping costs. I was buying extra stuff I wouldn’t ordinarily buy. (Ask me how useful that spaghetti measurer is sometime.) With prime, everything ships free with no minimum order. That means I can use camelcamelcamel.com to wait for price drops, and I don’t have to worry about filling my shopping cart when they occur. I’m really looking forward to testing this combination out for Black Friday! Price alerts & free shipping? Sign me up! The combination of camelcamelcamel and AmazonMom has already saved me $14 in under two months. I’m well on my way to recouping the cost of membership.

A report last year linking prime membership to greater spending, causing some to speculate that prime entices customers to spend more. Sure, that’s possible. I know in my case, however, I signed up for prime because I anticipated increase in shopping with the arrival of our daughter. I guess it’s just one more case where correlation does not imply causation, or at least the causal relationship in this case is the reverse of what was predicted.

Another good source of discounts I’ve been taking advantage of lately came with my maternity clothes purchase. I purchased about half of my clothes online from Motherhood Maternity during one of their spring sales. Turns out they send you a set of coupons with each purchase that includes $20 off from Shutterfly, and 25% off a $40 purchase from Carters among others. Well, apparently my order got split into two shipments so I received two sets of coupons! I used one set of $20 off Shutter fly for birth announcements. Each one ended up costing me 46 cents including tax & shipping! Yes, that’s only 1 cent more than the cost of the postage. I plan on using my second $20 off coupon for the canvas print I’ve been wanting.

As for carters, I ordered the next size up in baby clothes a few weeks ago – 9 onesies and a sleep and play averaging $4.50 each! The sleep & play was the most expensive, but totally worth it. It’s a glow in the dark skeleton. Nicki will 3 and a half months by Halloween, but I think there’s a good chance she’ll still be in the 0-3 month size given that it’s a little just two months away. I also figure we’ll get more use out of it earlier in October than November.

I wouldn’t go out and purchase maternity clothes just for these coupons. Shutterfly routinly does a $10 off $20 purchase, and carters does a 20% off $40 purchase. But they were a nice add on, that amounted to an additional $24 in savings on things I was going to buy anyway.

August 25, 2012

Newborn Photography Recap

Now that Nicki is on her way to two months, I think our ‘newborn’ photography days are over. It was fun, and I certainly learned a lot. I wish I could photographer her in this stage forever! I wish I could cuddle with her in this stage forever!

newborn

Tips:

I know I’ve said this before, but apparently I don’t follow my own advice, so it bears repeating: Take lots of photos! Even if you think you have ‘the shot’ take a couple more from different angles and different distances. I loved the photo of Nicki and Phia (the second). I wanted to have a canvas print of it, but what looks good as a 3:4 aspect ratio, does not necessarily work for a 4:5! It couldn’t be cropped without cutting off some of Nicki. I spent two weeks trying to recreate the shot, but lightening did not strike twice. I did get a similar photo to use, just not one I liked nearly as much. I would have saved myself a lot of grief if I had just taken multiple photos when she was sleeping in the perfect pose.

Practice, practice, practice! I can not tell you how much more I loved the photos of each successive iteration over the ones from the last. The first ones? They’re okay, but I like them no where near as much as the one on the top of the page. I wish I could take everything that I learned and go back to when she was just days old. What I should have done was offered to photography my friends’ newborn babies. That way they would have gotten free extra photos (they can still hire a professional, of course), and I would have had the experience.

Comfort is king! Try and make your baby as comfortable as possible. Turn off the A/C, fill their belly’s with milk, etc. Don’t force them into any pose that your baby seems to be resisting. You wouldn’t want to risk hurting your baby, after all! I find that the more comfortable Nicki is, the easier I have posing her, and the more likely she will remain in that pose long enough for me to take a picture. You can hold her (gently, of course!) in a pose for a few seconds and she’ll keep it. If she’s uncomfortable, she’s much more likely to wake up and move.

For older babies, once you place them down on your setup, give them a few minutes to settle back down – even if they remain asleep. At least in our case, if I started fusing with her diaper, or trying to pose her too early she would wake up again. Even just the sound of the shutter could wake her if she wasn’t in a good deep sleep. Similarly if she wakes up in the middle of a shoot, take a break to see if she’ll go back to sleep.

Props are nice, but they don’t need to be expensive and you don’t need to go overboard. I tried several different backdrops, including ‘professional’ ones. The backdrop I kept coming back to? A 2 yard block of fabric I bought at Joeann’s for $5. Not only was it beautiful and amazing soft, but at $5 I won’t care if the baby stains become permanent!

Remember, you only need a few good shots, and no one has to see the bad ones. There’s a lot of elements at play here, baby’s mood (or her sleepiness), lighting if you’re using natural light, baby’s bladder, etc. When working in manual mode, I’d have all the settings that I want. Then the sun would go behind a cloud, and all of a sudden my exposure is too dark. I’d correct it, and the sun would come back out. The first day I attempted to photography Nicki, I hated every photo I took. It’s easy to get hung up on what isn’t working, but try and focus on what is instead. Each time you pick up the camera, you will have better results. Don’t stop because you think your baby is ‘too old’. While babies grow fast, they don’t change that much day-to-day. You will have another opportunity.

Side Note: I know talking about Money is typically taboo, but I hope you’ll forgive me anyway. Since we’re talking about really small sums of money (under $10 total) I figure it’s probably not too offensive a topic. I also personally find the topic of blogging income fascinating, and I’m sure someone out there does as well. I pledge to be as open and honest on this topic as I can, as allowed by the terms of service that I’ve agreed to.

Six months ago, on my one year blogiversery, I mentioned I pipe dream of one day supplementing my grad school income with revenue from my blog. To be honest, I never did and still don’t expect it to happen. At that time, however, I had already earned a dollar. Now, that I have a few more data points the math geek in me couldn’t help but crunch some numbers.

The first thing I did was plotted my total revenue and fitted a trend line.


That’s a quadratic trend line with an R2 of .947 (which is statistical speak for the trend line matches the data fairly well).

Using the trend line I see it will take 24 years before I have a profitable year, meaning in 24 years I can expect the ad revenue to equal the cost of the webhosting and domain purchase for just one year. It’ll take an additional 25 years until I’m out of the red completely. Yes, it will take a predicted 50 years from the day I first installed wordpress before I recoup the costs of blogging. Guess I won’t break out the Champaign anytime soon.

On the other hand, in just 615 years I’ll be a millionaire, and in 861 years I’ll be a multimillionaire.

Since the amount of revenue is so small, I really can’t do much analysis of what types of content generates the most revenue for this blog. I can see that my visitors appear to be mostly internet searchers looking for answers to questions or general information, and not specifically for me. The most common search key words and phrases that lead to my blog include ‘do it yourself’ and ‘diy’.

termcloud
Term cloud of keyword searches for my blog last month

In terms of content, the do it yourself maternity photography posts seem to be the most popular, although they will soon be eclipsed by the newborn photography posts. According to google analytics, the maternity pages have the lowest bounce and exit rate of any of the popular entrance points. Visitors who view those posts are more likely to also read other posts on my blog. Dare I hope that this means some of you out there like my photography? Or at least prefer it to my other content?

While I don’t have much in the way of repeat visitors, the traffic to my blog is increasing. The monthly number of visitors has increased 226% over this time last year. (Of course there were no maternity nor newborn DIY photography posts at this time last year!)

I will have to find more adorable subjects to photograph so that I can retire before I’m 640ish. Either that, or convince Domingo we want a really large family.

August 17, 2012

Confession Time

I already miss being pregnant. It’s been a little over a month since Nicki’s arrival, and while I’m excited she’s here and love staring into those beautiful dark blue eyes, I miss being pregnant.

I was reading a recent blog post about someone else who recently found out the gender of their baby, and it brought back so many memories. I remember all the excitement I felt when I first heard “it’s a girl!” We were only 12 weeks along, in the middle of our NT scan. I was so scarred that Zippy would have potter’s syndrome. I was so scared that something would go wrong in those first 12 weeks, and when it wasn’t an ectopic pregnancy, or a blighted ovum, I had convinced myself it was potter’s syndrome. So it was a huge wave of relief when the technician remarked “aww, baby’s bladder is full, just like’s mommy!”

Zippy was not cooperating at the NT scan, doing headstands and mooning the technician, during all the important measurements, I remember seeing the ridges in her brain during the scan, and counting her ribs. But when it came to checking the gender she had no problem showing off the goods. Just like in the blog post I was reading, I was in disbelief that the baby was a girl given the number of boys born into my husband’s family. Since it was the NT scan, and very early to make a gender prediction, the news didn’t really sink in. I made some comment about holding off on painting the nursery, you know, just in case, to which the ultrasound technician responded, “No seriously, it’s a girl. If it’s not a girl, you’re need to call me, because it’s a girl.” It was the neatest experience, one I will never forget.

I remember our first OB appointment at just 6 weeks along. Zippy was so small, all I could make out on the ultrasound was the solid little body attached to a yoke sack nearly twice her size, and the tiny flicker of the heart. And then we heard it for the very first time – 150 beats for minute. Girl territory according to the old wives tale. Of course, at the next appointment, baby’s heartbeat was around 130 – boy territory.

I remember at the 1st Anatomy Scan turning to Domingo and said “This is the last time we will see her brain. Hopefully.” I was thinking specifically when she was out of utero, but how ironic that statement given the follow up anatomy scan to see that very organ.

I miss feeling the flutters, kicks and somersaults for the first time. I remember how we all laughed, Domingo, I and the midwife when Zippy kicked the sonogram wand off my stomach during one of our mid pregnancy appointments. Domingo and I had a running joke that Zippy would get ‘not a cooperator’ on her kindergarten report card.

I even miss the labor and delivery aspect of being pregnant – the excitement of ‘this is it!’, the contractions (at least the mild ones). I wouldn’t say I’m ready for another yet, but I do miss the pregnancy phase, and the excitement that comes with starting a family.

August 14, 2012

Nipple Soup

What do you do when you’re a first time mom and your baby starts acting sick? Make Nipple Soup!


mmm, yummy

It’s been a tough week for all of us.

Even though I’ve declared myself on maternity leave, I am a grad student, and the world of research doesn’t stop for anyone. I’m taking the summer ‘off’ which means I’m not working on a specific project (or getting paid). When it comes down to it, however, I’m only hurting myself by not working. I submitted a paper about a month before Nicki’s due date and a few weeks ago I found out it was accepted as a short paper. That meant I needed to pare it down from ten pages to five, and it needed to be done by 2pm Sunday or it wouldn’t be published. Needless to say, I didn’t really sleep on Saturday. This week I have another, albeit much less important, deadline.

Then there was the heat wave. The temperature climbed outside to well over 100 for a few days, and inside the A/C just couldn’t keep up. Everyone was miserable. Napping during the day was difficult. We had every fan in the house going. Poor Nicki baby kept wanting to cuddle with Mommy for comfort, but Mommy’s body temperature wasn’t helping matters.

At least the heat wave is starting to abate now, Nicki doesn’t seem to be feeling better. This morning she started spitting up more than usual. She’s a bit of a grumpy gus and only wants to eat and nap. I’d be more worried if she wasn’t having the requisite number of dirty diapers (so I know she’s not dehydrated) or had a fever. Still, to be on the safe side, I decided to re-sterilize her bottle nipples and pacifiers.

Here’s hoping a good night of sleep turns things around.

I love baby fingers and toes. (Who doesn’t, really?) These were some of the hardest DIY Newborn Photos for me to take to date, and I don’t really have advice other than to be patient and keep trying until you get the shots you want.

What makes them so hard? Well, their teeny tiny for one, and baby tends to move them around a lot. Keeping focus on a teeny tiny moving target can be a bit of a challenge. And when you want to take a photo of the baby holding your own hand, well, it just adds another bit of complexity. I even tried a sleeping baby, and while that helped, she still moves her hands and feet even when zonked.


Nicki holding my finger

In the above photo she’s holding my left hand, which enters the frame from the right. Yes, my wrist is bent backwards and awkwardly positioned to keep my arm out of the way as I take the photo with my right hand. I’m also blocking the light, and on top of that the background isn’t smooth. C’est la vie.

holdinghand

Those are Domingo’s hands in the next two photos. Much easier!

I was happy with our last iteration of new born photography. One thing about me, though, I can never have enough photos!

For the DIY maternity photos I used two props: a pink ribbon and my stuffed unicorn, Phia. I thought it would be fun to use the same props with Nicole, so I could compare in-the-belly with out-of-the-belly.


With Ribbon

Props are also great because they give you a point of reference as to how big the baby actually is. Nicole has been on the smaller size on height/weight charts. She was under 8 lbs and only 20 inches at two weeks, so I doubt she’d be much more than 9 lbs flat now. Some babies are born larger than that at birth! Yet her full head of hair and tendency to stretch out tends to make her look older than she actually is. I also have a tendency to fill the whole frame with the baby, which gives the perspective that she’s much bigger than she is in reality.

The fact that she can now lift her head, if but just for a second, and follow people with her eyes also makes her look older. But it’s darn cute to take of picture of her doing that!


Hi, Mama!
I need to find some craft project to do with that ribbon. Maybe a picture box with the pregnancy and newborn photos.

One new trick I learned was to use a heating pad under the blankets. Nicki is much more inclined to stay in the newborn “frog” position on the heating pad. The bunched up look also makes her look a little smaller and more ‘newborn’ like. She’s also much more inclined to sleep on the heating pad. And I thought my days of sleeping baby photos were over! I think she looks much more ‘newborn’ in these photos then the ones I took over a week ago. (I ended up retaking some of the same poses from last time for just that reason!)

I set my heating pad to low, and placed it under the waterproof blanket. It is electric after all! Alternatively, I could have left it on to warm up the spot, then turned it off before placing the baby on it.

She was so content on the heating pad that I was able to experiment with a lot of different angles and camera settings. I’ve found that shooting from a low angle, with the camera perfectly parallel to the baby tends to make the baby look a little longer and leaner. Shooting high and at a slight angle will make her look a little more chubby and cute. Getting her to arch her back a touch while she sleeps also helps. I also found a wide aperture really does wonders for making baby’s skin look smooth. For the one with Phia, I set the F-stop to f/2.5.


With ‘Phia’

If Phia looks a little different it’s because, well, she is. Someone had a little accident on our first photography attempt, and someone else made the mistake of putting Phia in the washing machine and dryer. Phia came out of the dryer looking like she had had one of those army buzzcuts. Her main and tail were so matted down they were completely flat. I was able to brush them out using corn startch, but they are still quite bushy rather than straight and wispy like before. She’s still drying out. At least I can now add “restore a stuffed animal that was destroyed in the washing machine” to my list of skills. Of course, I can also add “destroy a stuffed animal in the washing machine” too. In the mean time, this is Phia’s stand in, Phia #2.


Phia and Nicki before the great Pee Incident of 2012. It’s not the best photo, but we only got three in before the event happened.

We’ll try again with the real Phia later.

August 5, 2012

Nicki at One Month

Dear Nicki,

Yesterday we switched you over from newborn sizes huggies to size one huggies and this morning we retired some of your newborn onesies that had shrunk in the wash. I got a little misty eyed thinking how much you’ve grown. (I’m not ready for you to trade in your ‘newborn’ title for ‘one month old’!)

Sometimes it feels like you are so much older than you actually are. You’re sleeping through the night, which both of us greatly appreciate. You slept six and a half hours last night! You also started to make sounds with your vocal cords, not just your lungs, this past week. Don’t get us wrong, you’re pretty good at using your lungs when you want to!

You liked being swaddled at the hospital, but once we got you home you preference for stretching out became apparent. You like to extend your arms and legs as far as they can go. You started busting out of your swaddle by the end of your first week. Even the swaddle sleepers with velcro were not enough to contain you by two weeks.


All Swaddled up at 10 days

Though you’re a a little smaller than average in terms of height and weight, you’ve inherited both your parents’ big heads. (You’re in the 70th percentile on that one!) Despite this, you have an amazing amount of head control. Your dad thinks it’s from all the protein the doctor had me eat while pregnant with you. I think it’s from the way the pediatrician told us to hold you when we give you a bottle. Regardless, you seem to be holding your head up completely on your own while sitting in our arms. You’ll lift your head off our chest to look us in the eyes. (I love it when you boop your face into mine. I like to think you’re trying to give me a kiss the way I kiss you.) You can even throw your heads, and you’re entire body, forward when you see something you like – like the bottle.


Looking like a mini person all stretched out at 11 days old

Speaking of sight, did you know at your age you’re only supposed to see 3 feet in front of you? Your Dad and I are so curious why you’re always looking up at the vaulted ceiling fan. That has to be at least 15 feet away! Is it the shadow of something there that has you so captivated?

Your movements are getting stronger and you seem to have more control over them, although you still get frustrated when you’re hands get in the way. You rolled over from your back to your stomach during you’re three week photo session, and from your back to your side while napping in your crib!


I swear I did not put you down that way!

We’re so proud of how much you’ve grown and changed, but do mommy a favor and don’t be in such a hurry to grow up. If you thought Mommy was emotional when Grandma and Grandpa flew back to Pennsylvania, you should have seen me when I thought you had outgrown all your newborn outfits seemingly overnight!

Love always,
Mommy & Daddy

August 3, 2012

Baby Footprint Magnets

Disclosure: This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links. I may earn a small commission with each affiliate link click. For more details please see my full disclosure about blog profit.

magnet

I really wanted to have a footprint keep sake, but the local craft stores didn’t have any footprint kits. Wierd, no? Since I wasn’t as interested in all the fine detail you get with the ink pad as the general shape of the foot, I decided to just use non-toxic fabric paint. My mom held Nicki in the cradle position, and I painted a little fabric paint on her foot. I’d then take a piece of paper, place it on cardboard for support, and press it up against her foot. I found it easier to move the paper to the baby, than the baby to the paper. Less messy that way too. We took about a dozen footprints until I got a reasonable one. (Someone likes to wiggle her toes a bit.)

I scanned the best footprint I had into the computer and make duplicates. I was planing on sending a footprint magnet to family and figured I’d need about a dozen magnets. Even if I got better at taking her footprints I was still going to really be testing my newborn’s patience if I sent everyone a real footprint and not a digital duplicate. Scanning them into the computer also allowed me to alter the color of the footprint, and let me clean up any issues like stray marks left by wiggling toes as well as preserve them for posterity!

If you’re making one or two, it’s cheaper to go out to Michaels and by magnet backing. If you’re sending them out with your birth announcements (which is what we did), or planning on redecorating the grandparents’ fridge, you might want to consider Xyron Creative Station with Magnet Refill Cartridge. I refer to it as my “sticker making machine” and used it to adhere my wedding invitations to the pocket fold. It’s definitely a handy device if you like to make a lot of paper crafts.

See, super easy. Added bonus: you can use the left over magnet backing to make photo magnets!