Archive for January, 2015

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

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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.

January 5, 2015

Breathing Room

When I was counting all the reasons why the timing of Alexis’ birth was just about perfect, I forgot one little detail: I’m obsessed with photography. I not only wanted to get a ton of newborn photos, and family photos (which almost didn’t happen at all), and Alexis’ monthly photos, but also formal Christmas photos of both the girls, all in about a four week time stretch while learning out how to function as a family of four and celebrating the holidays. I took nearly 6,400 photos all totaled, including of both girls and inanimate objects like ornaments on the trees. Needless to say, I was putting a ton of undue pressure on myself. Now that it’s January I no longer feel the pressure to take specific kinds of photos. (Although I’d still love a non holiday themed family photo if I can arrange it. And some more of just the girls.)

I decided early on that the best way to save my sanity was to not try and duplicate my favorite photos between the girls. I have less time to play momtographer as a mother of two. Often my time with the camera is split between the girls on the weekends. Nicole has always enjoyed her time in front of the camera, and I didn’t want her to feel replaced by the baby so I always offer to take photos of her as well. So far the responses are about a 3/1 split between yes/no. Since I’m a mom of 2, there’s less time to be had behind the camera anyway. It would be impossible to duplicate Nicki’s baby book with Alexis. There were times when the book felt like an impossible project as just a mother of one! Getting those photos in the later months took a team effort between Domingo and I. Blocks are very enticing for a mobile baby.

I also have more skill this time around. I’ve been practicing with my camera, and off again on again in auto mode for the past two years. The first photos I took of Alexis are far superior to the first ones I took of Nicole. When I look at some of the early photos of Nicole I can’t help but think of all the ways I would have taken them differently. If I were to take the same style of photo with Alexis as Nicole, it would invite the comparison between photo quality. I already beat myself up enough when I make photography mistakes, no need to keep reminding myself of the previous ones.

So I strive for similar, but unique.

alexisblocks
This one is pretty easy to duplicate when home alone on maternity leave.

Speaking of help, I’m sure I would not have been able to take so many photos (or kept my sanity in tact) without it this past month. Between my parents visit, and Domingo taking most of the month of December off, I had a tremendous amount of help. I was able to get some sleep, and spend quality time with both girls, and even enjoy the holiday! Yet in just a few short weeks our home still started looking like a total disaster. I have no idea how other parents manage it.

My goal for the coming month: get the house back in order

January 1, 2015

Newborn Photos by the Tree

Happy New Year! Are you tired of Christmas yet? I’m sure not (although this is probably my last Christmas related posted until next December.) One thing I can’t get enough of is photographing Christmas Trees.

There are two ways of doing tree photos: shallow focus (wide aperture, short exposure) and deep focus (narrow aperture, long exposure). Personally I like the wide aperture when shooting up close. It makes our artificial tree look less artificial, and means I don’t need to use a tripod. When shooting from a distance, however, I just love the way the narrow aperture gives a nice star effect to the tree lights.

treelights
Aperture and Christmas Tree Lights

I love Christmas, and I love newborns, so naturally I wanted some newborn Christmas photos by the tree.

christmasnewborn
So Dreamy
F/16, 15 second exposure, 50mm prime lens, ISO-125

The setup was really simple. I used a pillow on top of one of our storage boxes to raise Alexis high enough that the Christmas tree would fill the entire background. Under the blanket is a water proof sheet, and under that a heating pad. I used Nick Kelsh’s tip of white Christmas tree lights (sans pizza box) to cast a nice soft glow on Alexis. I wanted the Christmas light star effect, so I needed a narrow aperture and long exposure. That meant turning off most of the other lights in our living room, and cranking the ISO way down.

christmastreesetup
The pull back. Ignore the scattered toys, my home is in perpetual mess state these days.

A long exposure requires a (mostly) still baby. Breathing is obviously okay. No babies should be harmed in the making of this photo! Once I put Alexis down I gave her a good 15 minutes to get into a nice deep sleep. Don’t forget your safety spotter! Even newborns will sometimes roll, especially if the surface their on is uneven.

Once she was asleep I needed to act quick. From start to finish I only had 28 minutes before Alexis was stirring too much for me to continue. In order to ensure I’d end up with some usable frames I made only one adjustment between frames. Between one frame I might straighten out the blanket under Alexis’ head. Before another I might move her hand away from blocking her mouth. That way there’s less risk of her waking enough to stir, and also I’m guaranteed to have some photos to fall back on in the event that she does wake up.

For comparison, here is one of the first photos I took of Alexis and the tree (barely a week old!) with wide aperture. She’s not asleep. One of the nice things about fast shutter speeds, you can catch those eyes closed, fleeting smiles moments!

christmasnewborn2
f/2, 1/50 sec, ISO-1000
(not using Nick Kelsh’s tree light trick)

My favorite photos are always from Christmas time.