Nov 24, 2011

Dear Daughter: Month 9

Dear Vivienne,

You are now three quarters of a year old, and you are at such a fun age. You are full of smiles, kisses, and giggles. You are now more infatuated than ever with your father; no one gets the same smiles out of you like he does. When ever he walks across a room, you stare at him, and crane your neck to see where he's gone when he leaves the room. The other morning, you leaned over to him, slapped his face to wake him up, and said what sounded to both of us like "Hi Dad". We don't know that you were actually taking, so we haven't put it in the baby book as your first recorded word, but your father was thrilled.

This month hasn't been entirely happy for you. You had your first cough this month. You had a few coughing fits, and you sounded a little hoarse, but for the most part it didn't bother you. However, as is often the case, it led to you developing an ear infection. I arrived to pick you up from daycare just as one of your minders was trying to call me to let me know that you had a fever. As it was the evening, I had to take you to the doctor's office after normal hours. When we arrived to the doctor's office, you were smiling and shouting "dadadadada" gleefully, when I was trying to convince them you were sick enough to make them stay late at work! Once they took your temperature, they were convinced that you were in fact unwell. One course of antibiotics later, your ears were totally fine. I will mention that you did not care for the antibiotics, and you were not afraid to show your displeasure.

Not to belabour the topic of illness, but later in the month I got a call from your daycare to come collect you on a Thursday afternoon because you had vomited. You got sick a couple of times after we got home, but once we figured out how to nurse you with only small amounts, you started to hold everything down. As of dinnertime you had stopped getting sick entirely, but as your daycare has a strict rule that babies can't come back until they have gone a full 24 hours without vomiting, you and I had to stay home the next day, which essentially meant we had a nice three day weekend together. The next weekend I got the same stomach virus, and felt like I was going to die! Unfortunately, we had already planned to take you to see Santa with your Grandma, and she was on the road from New Hampshire when I started feeling ill, so I felt I couldn't cancel. However, it really cheered me up when we put you in the elf suit she bought you. Everyone commented on how cute you looked. One person even asked to take a picture of you! Having the stomach virus myself showed me what a trooper you are, because you never complained once, and in fact you were happy and smiling all through your bout with it.

When I had the stomach bug, your father was at a wedding in Kansas, so it was just us girls fending for ourselves. I just about made it through the day looking after you, longing to get to bed as soon as I got you down. However, it was not to be. You started making a very scary gasping noise when you cried, and I was convinced that you had managed to choke on something. So instead of going to bed, we took a trip to the emergency room. It turned out that you had a mild case of croup. By the next day we were both much better, and your Dad arrived home once we didn't need any help. What great timing! I only tell you all this drab sickness news, because through everything, I was so impressed by how happy and unperturbed you were by these various afflictions, especially the ones that knocked me out for the count.

We had been working on sleep training with you, as per the No Cry Sleep Solution, prior to your bouts of illness. However, it seemed pointless to try and teach you to fall asleep on your own in your crib while you were getting sick every hour, so we put in on hiatus until you got better. However, when we returned to getting you to sleep once you were well, you were on to us, having been introduced previously to all our tricks. Much to my chagrin, we had to resort to an intermediate between “crying it out” and the “no cry” approaches, whereby we come to soothe you every five minutes so you know that we are there and that you are loved, but we do not take you out of your crib. Much to my relief, you figured it out pretty quickly, although in an effort to not have to fall asleep in your crib, you have been falling asleep in record time while I nurse you before I put you to bed.

This month you figured out how to crawl! You’ve definitely known what crawling is for a few months, which means you got extremely frustrated by your inability to do it. You had all the different parts of crawling figured out, but just weren’t putting them together in the correct order. This lead to you ending up in funny downward-facing-dog-like positions when you moved your legs but not your arms. We joked that this was because I did prenatal yoga. In keeping with the yogic quality to your crawling, your first crawling movements involved you keeping one leg crossed in front of you, as if you were crossing your legs, and moving the other three limbs around it. We called in portable pigeon pose. You have since started a more regular crawling pattern.

Your milestones have come fast and furious since you learned how to crawl. The crawling felt like it took a few months to happen, but since then you have learned how to pull yourself to standing, clap your hands, and throw temper tantrums when I won’t let you play with dangerous objects like power cords, remote controls, etc. As I have said before, you are not a fussy baby at all. The exception to this is when you are angered by having something taken away. You not only cry, but you sometimes fling yourself backwards in protest. I am dreading the terrible twos! Speaking of lunging, you have reached the age where you now launch yourself like a projectile at things that catch your interest. We have to make sure we have a good hold on you! We are currently working on waving hello/goodbye and how to put shapes into their corresponding holes in your shape sorter toy. In other development news, you are so close to getting your front top teeth. I can see them under the gum, but they haven’t broken through yet. So far, they haven’t bothered you. I bet they will be here next month.

As you are half American, this month marked your first every Thanksgiving. Your Grandpa arrived to spend the day with your father, and after we spent some time with them, we went to our friend Sara’s house. You wore a little pink dress, the poofy cardigan I knitted you and tight with ruffles on the butt. You were definitely the hit of the party. I barely saw you because everyone wanted to spend time with you, and the whole time we were there I was told how beautiful you were, and what a wonderful little personality you had. Everyone was very impressed how personable you were, and how you didn’t fuss or get scared by all the new people. In particular, people noted that at the end of the day, you were exhausted, but were smiling and interacting without fussing. I was told that you were so beautiful that you could make people believe in God, star in films or advertising, or just be stared at all day long. You definitely loved all the attention!

I am again sorry that this letter is being written later than it should have been. Not only have I had my hands full with such a bright and lively little girl, but we also had a lot of packing and travelling to do. Three days before you turned 9 months old, we got on a plane and headed to England to spend Christmas with your Nana. So the first half of this letter was written while we were on vacation. I’ll write about the trip next month as the bulk of the visit happened during your tenth month.

I say it every month, but I am so in love with my darling little daughter. Your smiles and happiness have brought the truest type of joy to my life. I am so fascinated to watch your development. You are simply the best thing that's every happened to me, and I treasure every fun moment I have with you.

I love you Peek-a-boo,

Mum xxx

Oct 25, 2011

Dear Daughter: Month 8

Dear Vivienne,

Today you are 8 months old and *ahem* a couple of days. It's getting harder and harder to get to these letters because you are so busy theses days, and I need to show you all the things you want to see. You are still as sweet as ever. This month has been filled with lots of smiles and giggles.

I've always wanted to expose you to books, and start you on the right path of learning. Since you were born, I've sat down with you to read a book or two whenever I get the chance. However, when you were younger, you didn't care for this activity too much so I had to make sure you were in a good mood before attempting to sit you down for reading time, and you would invariably start fussing after one or two books. This month, your opinion of this pastime has completely changed. Now you love reading time. In fact, when you start getting fussy in the evening I know it's time to sit down to read, which cheers you up. You also sit on my lap for long stretches of time; we usually read 11 or 12 of your books each evening. Then we read a little bath-time book, and we have two bedtime books to finish the day. I forgot to mention in previous letters that you have known what "turn the page" means for a few months now, and you do so when I ask you to. The most interesting thing for me is that you have books you love (Mr. Brown Can Moo; Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See; The "That's Not My Monster/Tractor/Puppy" series; Dinosaur's Binkit), but also that you have books you do not care for (The Napping House, We're Going on a Bear Hunt).

You also have music you like to hear. Shake the Sillies Out and The Wheels on the Bus bring an instant smile to your face. We sing these songs on the car ride home each evening, to distract you long enough from the fact that you are getting hungry for oatmeal so that I can get home and make you some (you are not the most patient child I have ever met). We have improvised a few new verses for The Wheels on the Bus. By far, your favorite is "The farts on the bus go...". I'll let you figure out how that verse continues. I sang Dream a Little Dream to you when I was pregnant and as a newborn, and of all songs, this one definitely has the greatest calming effect on you.

The funniest thing that you did this month was laughing hysterically at a ball I was bouncing. I was trying to show you that a ball I had bought for you that day lit up when it was hit hard enough. However, after I few bounces, I realized that you were cracking up laughing each time I bounced the ball. It had nothing to do with the lights in that ball; I switched to another ball that doesn't light up, and you found it equally amusing. I managed to get a video of it, but when I played it back, there was a very loud hissing noise (I had radio playing in the background). Thankfully, I was able to fix it with software, and I have watched it about a thousand times since. I sent it to your father, grandparents, and great-grandmother, all of whom agree that it is adorable. Your laugh is truly the greatest sound I have ever heard.

You have eaten lots of different fruits, vegetables and cereals this month. You really love solids, and try to help me feed you. Alas, that invariably results in you flinging entire bowls of food all over the room. So far you have coated me, yourself, the sofa, my laptop, and my desk at work in Oatmeal or vegetables. I've been making all your foods myself from organic vegetables, because we realized Gerber "organic" bananas contained things like tuna oil, gelatin and several chemicals I can't pronounce (thankfully you won't eat Gerber foods). However, we discovered Earth's Best foods which don't have strange additives, and you like the Sweet Potato with Cinnamon a lot, so I have been experimenting with cinnamon in the foods I make for you. In other food news, we went with the Little Peeps to an apple-picking farm. You and Riley had a great time sitting in your strollers. Unfortunately, the organic apple farm wasn't open for picking, so instead we went to a different farm. That meant you couldn't try any of the apples we bought, so I used them to make your father some apple sauce. I did get you some apples at Atkins Farm, and made you a veggie mix with them.

The biggest event this month was a huge, and unexpected snow storm at the end of October. You were in bed, and your father and I were watching a movie together when the lights started to flicker. Then they were out. We left you in your room as it was nice and toasty, periodically checking your thermometer. However, the electricity didn't come on after a few hours, and the house was starting to get cold, so we lit a fire and camped out as a family in the sitting room. Your father and I were quite uncomfortable, but you thought the fire was fascinating and loved that we were all together. The next day we found out that there was no chance we were getting power back any time soon, so we headed to your Grandmother's house in New Hampshire. We spent two nights there, and she was so happy to get to spend time with you that she sent your father and I out to have a meal by ourselves so that you girls could get some quality time. We had your first Hallowe'en at your Grandmother's house, and you dressed like a little lamb in a costume that I knit for you. Of course you were adorable. The night itself was so low-key, you wouldn't know it was Hallowe'en. We didn't have any other costumes or decorations, and Grandma's house was too remotely located to get any Trick-or-Treaters. However, in the areas affected by the snow, Hallowe'en was cancelled altogether!

You now have two teeth! You weren't very fussy before your teeth came in, just a little restless the night before they arrived. Since then, we keep thinking that you have more teeth on the way. The biggest clue is the fact that you butt-scoot over to furniture so that you can gnaw on them like an otter. I say butt-scoot, because you haven't quite mastered crawling yet. You have all the components, but you're not putting them together in the right order. And, a little like your mother, when you don't get it right the first time you try, you go straight to being totally frustrated. At this point, I usually intervene and carry you to whatever you were trying to get to. I am trying to get better at letting you be frustrated in order to learn from it.

One thing that is not causing you any frustration is learning how to talk. You love chatting away, and I often wake up to the sound of you telling yourself stories over the monitor. Your favourite sound is "dadadadada", which your father has decided means you know how to say his name. Between you and me, I have seen you call your foot, a book, the cat, and bubbles in the bathtub "dada", so if you are communicating that word, you have serious paternal identification issues. Whether or not you know his name, you are the apple of his eye. He asked me to capture you saying "dada" with my iPod, and when I sent him the video, he watched it over and over. You adore him too, you gaze at him as he walks across the room, and whenever he looks at you, your face lights up with the biggest smile I've ever seen you make. Don't worry, I know you love me too.

Thank you for another perfect month,

I love you, sweetie,

Mum xxx

Oct 4, 2011

Dear Daughter: Month 7

Dear Vivienne,

You are now a seven month old baby. I say this every month, but the time is whizzing by. You are developing physically and mentally at a pace I never would have expected. Even your daycare headmistress commented that your mental progress is astounding. I'm delighted that my little girl is so smart and bright.

As you might realize as you grow older, your old mother is a little bit of a hippie, especially where child-raising philosophies are concerned. I'm really a believer in attachment parenting; I believe true independence will come from a place of security. As long as I let you know that you are loved, and safe with me, you will develop your independence yourself. However, I didn't think you were going to do it at six months of age! We had all been co-sleeping happily, though your father had asked that we start putting you in the crib when you turned 6 months old (the age that the SIDS risk plummets). I was decided that we'd co-sleep for a much longer time, maybe up to a year or so. However, the day you turned six months old you started wriggling and fussing in the bed with me. You also abruptly decided the bassinet in our bedroom was no good for you either. In an effort to find anything comfortable for you, I placed you down in your crib, at which point you promptly fell asleep for 7 hours. I miss my little co-sleeper terribly, so when you wake up at around 3am, I take you into the bed with me for the remainder of the night as you are usually too sleepy to notice.

To make up for the loss of co-sleeping, you have reinstated a different bonding activity between us this month. For the last couple of months, you were not remotely interested in nursing during the day, because there was too much to look at. I am glad to report that you have now decided to boycott bottles in favour of nursing. This has posed a problem for your daycare minder, as well as making outings a little more challenging (compounded by your refusal to abide nursing bibs), but I couldn't care less. I love having you nurse again.

The most momentous activity this month for you was our trip to Kansas, which marked your first flight. I was extremely nervous about flying with you, not because of the reaction of other passengers to crying, but to the idea that you would be in pain. I did lots of reading, and sought advice from many people as to how to minimize discomfort. However, it was all for nothing, as you promptly fell asleep right before each take off, and when you did awaken, you were as cheerful as always. I was given many compliments from other passengers about how well behaved you were. My personal moment of triumph was sharing a quiet cuddle with you as a two year old a few rows back was throwing the mother of all tantrums.

Everyone in Kansas was enamoured with you. Your Great-Grandmother Melva had not seen you since you were a month old, and was thrilled to see how much development you have accomplished since then. She commented on how mentally acute you are, noting in particular your fine motor skills. I've always known you were brilliant but it's nice to have it confirmed by someone who ran a daycare for 28 years.

Another concern about travel I had was the possibility that you would get sick. Luckily you didn't, but the week before our trip to Kansas, a stomach virus went through your daycare. You threw up a couple of times, but you never fussed and you didn't get diarrhea like the other children. Your father also caught the bug, and was knocked down for a couple of days with aches and chills. I ended up getting something between the two of you. I think you fared better because you are such a strong and happy little girl, but also because you have been nursed. I've read that being nursed lessens the frequency and severity of contagious diseases. As your father and I weren't nursed, I think we can attest to that theory.

Your daycare is going really well. Marie, your minder, says that you are one of the sweetest children she has looked after. She also commented on how alert and bright you are, and told me that you are really social. Apparently, you stroke the other babies when they crawl by you. I've been working on teaching you to pet the cats (as opposed to grabbing wads of their fur), and I think you might have thought I was telling you to pet anything smaller than you! Marie also said that while you are sweet, you also have a good temper! I have to agree with Marie, as I have seen you get close to terrible two levels when I try to put you in the car seat, or when I fail to get your cereal quickly enough. Your Nana claims you got that from me.

At daycare, you had your first school photo taken this month. I wasn't planning to buy anything as we take photos of you, and my friend Kristin is a great photographer, and is available to take pictures of you. However, I put you in your little "Collins Family" Sweater, and you looked so adorable that your Dad and I ended up buying one. It's very cute.

Your biggest discovery this month is that your little jumper in fact allows you to jump. It's very sweet to watch you in it. You seem to forget that it has this property, and accordingly discover with great enthusiasm every couple of minutes that you can bounce in it.

This month has seen a great increase in the amount and variety of solids that you are eating. You love your rice cereal and oatmeal, but your absolute favourite is bananas. You have started eating sweet potatoes and carrots, but avocados are being firmly boycotted. I have a confession to make: I've been sneaking them in with your bananas! And what better time to become interested in solids than the same month you cut your first tooth. You were a little restless one night, but not fussy at all. The next night you returned to sleeping happily, and when I dropped you off at daycare, Marie told me she had spotted your tooth the day before. I was a little sad to be reminded that in all likelihood, Marie is going to see you reach as many milestones as I do, if not more. Nevertheless, I am so blessed to be your mother, and I am delighted by how quickly you are meeting those milestones, so who gets to see them is less important.

This month has been so much fun. You are just the sweetest and happiest little girl I have ever met, and I am in awe of how quickly you are developing. I was watching you sitting up unassisted and playing with your activity mat the other day. You took the mirror I have hung from it, and angled it so that you could see yourself. Then you inspected the wings on one of the butterflies. You held part of its wing between your thumb and index finger, and there was a very certain purpose to your movements. I remembered how only months earlier, you would lie down on the same mat and flail your arms about aimlessly. It's amazing to watch your progress unfold before my eyes. I am so proud of my precious daughter.

I love you, Beebop,

Mum xxx

Sep 16, 2011

Dear Daughter: Month 6

Dear Vivienne,

You're half a year old now! In milestones and clothing size, you're closer to a year. I have yet again filled a box with clothing sized for children older than you into a box for storage for your future sibling. At your most recent check-up, you weighed 19 lb 7 oz, and when we weighed you more recently using your bouncer and the luggage scale (your father's idea, not mine), you weighed 22 lb.

Your reaching 22 lbs meant an emergency trip to Babies 'R Us to get you a new car seat. You seem to really like your ultra-luxurious convertible car seat, and I enjoy all the modern safety features on it. On the day of writing this section of the letter, you and I went to Deerfield to meet up with the Peeps and the Little Peeps at the Yankee Candle Flagship store. You did really well on the 30 minute car ride despite having no one in the back with you to keep you company. You napped on the way out, and we both sang along to Lady Gaga on the way home. I am so relieved that the days of you screaming in the car seem to have come to an end.

At the Yankee Candle store, we smelled all the exciting scents of candles. You really enjoyed smelling the different aromas, and invariably, you would try to eat the candle lids. You loved the different Halloween and Christmas rooms, and I thought you would really enjoy the large pumpkin but you were asleep by the time we made it outside to where it was kept.

The biggest vehicular achievement this month was our drive to New York. You always had someone to keep you company, but it was a long drive and you didn't cry once. Nana and Grandpa Nick had gone to New York ahead of us to spend a couple of days sightseeing, and we met up with them to spend a night at the historic Algonquin hotel. We took a lovely trip around Central Park, and walked along Fifth Avenue, stopping off for coffee at the Rockefeller Center. Nana, Grandpa Nick and your Dad went to Little Italy for dinner while you and I hung out in the hotel. Nana was worried that I was missing out on going to dinner, but I really enjoy spending time with you, and there was no feeling of being "cooped up" anywhere. The next day we went gift shopping for Nana's friends back in the UK, and then headed home. You didn't cry, but Nana and I nearly wore out our vocal cords keeping you amused. Of note was a rendition of Old MacDonald, in which the farm comprised cows, pigs, dogs, horses, donkeys, cats, mice, owls, butterflies and one bee (to name a few.... it was a long drive).

In terms of milestones, you have had quite the month. First, you are now sitting. Earlier in the month, you were a little like a learner driver, in that you could sit until you turned to look at something, or became distracted, at which time you would invariably topple over. Now you can reliably sit up on your own, without the boppy pillow, and I've been enjoying facing you to read books, teach you how to clap, or roll a ball to you. Now that you can sit, you are getting really good at amusing yourself with toys while I get my coffee or prepare my lunch.

The biggest achievement this month was your motility. You have been so eager to go exploring, and I can see a real determination in your eyes when you are looking at something you want to play with. Now finally you can move. There's a slight drawback; your crawling is in reverse. As a result, the more you want to get a hold of something, the further away from it you move. You find this extremely frustrating, and as much as it makes me a terrible parent to Say this, I find it a little amusing. Don't worry, I help you out long before your frustration turns to tears.

Another big milestone this month was the introduction of solids. I had wanted to make it to 6 months before giving you solid food, but Nana would have been gone by then, so we gave you your first solids at just over 5 and a half months of age. We (meaning I) decided upon giving you organic bananas as your first solids. We had prepared a mix of bananas and milk for you, and you were eager to be fed, but Nana took so long to get downstairs that you were quite cranky by the time we started feeding you. However, one mouthful of bananas was all it took for your mood to change. You very quickly figured out how to eat from a spoon and wolfed down 2 oz of bananas. Since then, you have cheerfully eaten a portion of solids each day with no problems at all. Although, I was a little scared by the black squiggles in your poop, but some googling reassured me that it was completely normal.

You have been extremely chatty this month. My favorite thing you've been doing is this extremely high pitched screaming noise. Your Dad calls you his little pterodactyl! I love that you are so verbose. Sometimes, you start talking about something, and you are very focused on your narrative and don't like being interrupted. Other times, you are happier to have others join in on the conversation. It's clear that (like your mother), you are enamored with your own voice. Luckily, so is everyone around you.

We went swimming again at the Chicopee State Park, this time with Nana and Grandpa Nick. It was a nice day, but as it was the first sun we had seen in a week, the water was cooler than before. You and I stayed in the shallower water which was a bit warmer, and you were delighted because this made it easier for you to shovel sand into your mouth. You managed to get a few handfuls, but I am sorry to say your killjoy mother scooped most of it back out.

While this month has been yet another great month with you, there was a little sadness in that it was time for Nana to go home. I really miss having her around, and I am sure you miss her too. You two spent every week day together with no one else to spoil your bonding time. I was surprised and relieved that you recognized Nana on Skype. I had been worried that you wouldn't be able to identify people on a screen. However, once she started singing the silly "Suco Suco" song that she had been singing all summer, you beamed a big smile at her. To alleviate our missing of her, we have booked our flights home to Ireland and England for Christmas, so you will get to see your grandparents in person again soon.

There is so much more I could add. You are developing so fast, and so much of your personality is coming through. When I look back at the pictures of your newborn days, it's really striking how much progression you have made. No wonder everyone comments on how bright and alert you are. I am also glad that your sweet affection has also grown with you. I am so blessed to have such a happy and loving child.

I love you, darling,

Mom xxx

Sep 5, 2011

Crunchy Granola.... Less Work than You Might Expect!

My husband calls me a hippie. I did the whole homebirth by hypnosis thing, I'm a vegetarian (worse, a vegan for a year), and we've been using reusable diapers upon my insistence.

He may have a point.

I just can't see myself as a hippie, because I remember the city-dwelling, cigarettes, vodka and nightclubs me that I was as a teen and an undergrad. But, I guess I am at a minimum on the National Hippie Association's mailing list these days.

Tipping the scales in favour of my husband's argument, I've switched to reusable wipes. Yes, yes, the environment played a pretty good role in this decision. But there were some other factors too.

1) I was becoming increasingly concerned about what chemicals I was exposing my daughter to. We were buying the most granola of the disposable wipes that we could find, but they always felt chemical-y. I was also concerned about what pesticides and fertilizers were used to grow the cotton used to make the wipes, that would not need to be listed in the ingredients.

2) Farmer's ran a commercial warning of the dangers of lint fires. In all the excitement of keeping flailing feet away from a butt coated in poop, we were frequently throwing the disposable wipes into the laundry with the reusable diapers, thus sending them through a washing/drying cycle. The disposable wipes aren't designed for much other than disposing, so frequently disintegrated in the drier. This made me worry about how much lint was building up somewhere in the bowels of our drier.

3) Economics. Pretty much the same argument as given for reusable diapers, so I'll let Google fill in this one!

Off I went to make me some reusable wipes. If you want to really hit the economic gain, you can cut up old t-shirts, flannel sheets, or receiving blankets. However, we didn't really have any of these to spare, so I opted to buy reusable wipes from Amazon. After all, Amazon supplied me with the Bummis diapers that were far cheaper than other reusable diaper sets. I guess I could have bought old t-shirts from Goodwill, but who has the time?

I looked online for wipes recipes. Most called for a mixture of water, baby oil and baby soap. The suggestion was to make this up in a spray bottle and spritz individual wipes as needed.

Are you mental?

I have a newborn. Haute couture spritzed wipes are for people who have lots of free time on their hands. I folded 20 or so wipes into a tuperware container, dumped the mixture on them, and looked forward to the smug satisfaction that comes with doing hippie things like reusing baby wipes. All was well until the third day of using the wipes. During a change, I opened the tupperware wipes container, and the smell competed with the one in my daughter's diaper. Evidently, the recipe I was using did not afford me any antibacterial protection for my wipes.

I visited the hippie mecca of baby stores, Cradle in Northampton, and picked up a bottle of "MotherHerb Make Your Own Wipes Solution Concentrate" (basically a blend of Tea Tree and Lavender oils). It calls for 20 drops to a couple of cups of water, and does prevent anything from getting stinky. However, I didn't feel it had the same cleaning power than my previous mixture had. So, I have come up with my hybrid recipe.

My Reusable Wipes Recipe
To a flat sandwich tupperware, I add about 3 cups of water.
Then I squirt in about 2 tablespoons each of Johnson's Baby Oil and Johnson's baby bath.
I add 20 drops/1 ml of baby wipe solution.
I shut the container tightly, shake it about until all is mixed and the soap is bubbly.
I add 20-30 folded wipes slowly until all the mixture is absorbed, et voila, enough wipes to last about 3 days... and no stinkiness!

Sep 3, 2011

Dear Daughter: Five Months

Dear Vivienne,

I can't believe my little girl is already five months old. It doesn't seem like a big age, but looking back at your earlier photos, your newborn days seem an eon ago. This month it has been evident that you are definitely not a newborn anymore! You are so active and alert, and you have been extremely interested in the world around you. It's amazing how much you have changed in this relatively short time. So many of the things you found comforting, interesting or funny no longer work anymore. For instance, you used to think it was hilarious to have me tease you with your pacifier, now you look at me with confusion and ennui when I do that.

That's not to say that you don't find things funny. I am so happy that my little girl is filled with mirth. You find fart noise hilarious, you respond to being tickled or repetitively kissed on your tummy with loud bouts of laughter. You are also such a smiley and generally happy girl. When you wake up at night, you rarely let me know you're awake or hungry by crying. Instead you trust that I will awaken of my own accord, and keep yourself amused in the meantime. When I come over to the bassinet to pick you up, I am greeted by a huge smile. Coming home in the evenings is also a huge pleasure. You had been giving me huge smiles in previous months, which you still do. But now, it's even sweeter, because you reach out to me, and give me a big kiss on my cheek. Your method of kissing is to open your mouth wide and deposit saliva onto my face, but it's adorable, and I love how affectionate you are becoming.

Your sweetness has now extended into your nightly routine. You were never a "fussy" baby, but recently, putting you to bed has become my favourite part of the day. After I change you, read you a story, and perhaps nurse you, we lie on my bed holding hands and smiling at each other until you fall asleep. It's such a peaceful and beautiful bonding experience for us at the end of each day. I know it's not healthy to believe one's child is truly perfect, but as I gaze at you after you have just fallen asleep, I am at a loss to find anything imperfect about you. However, ask and ye shall receive, as they say. We've had a definite roller-coaster with your sleeping this month. Earlier in the month, you hit the "4 month regression". Nana Mary says there is no such thing, but as I am walking you around the bedroom at 5am for the third straight hour, I would beg to differ. Thankfully, while stubbornly refusing to sleep, you are happy and playful, just at a terrible time of the day. Whoever said of parenting "The days are long but the years are short", neglected to mention that the nights can be long too!

This month, we have had a lot of outings. We have twice gone swimming with the "Peeps and the Little Peeps" (Riley's Mommy's name for our pregnancy group). We went to the Ludlow pond with Sean and his parents. I managed to get your toes into the water before you protested enough that I took you back to the beach. Our second swimming trip, this time to the Chicopee State Park, was much more of a success. In between the two trips I had found a inflatable car with matching canopy for you to paddle in. You were so busy gnawing at the handle like a beaver that you didn't seem to mind being in the water! We also played in the shallow water together (without floating distractions), and you managed to get a fistful of sand into your mouth.

We also have taken a lot of trips with Nana Mary. I think her favourite has been to the Bridge of Flowers. I was thrilled to discover that you will now let me carry you in a wrap. I was able to do so when you were tiny, but as you became more alert, you hated facing inward. Now you are big and strong enough to turn yourself and look outwards. That said, your interest in the Bridge of Flowers was nothing compared to how much you enjoyed the next day's outing to the mall. Let me tell you now, I will not allow you to be some loitering mall rat in your teen years, so I suggest you learn to love the outdoors.

Up until recently, you and the cats enjoyed a mutual disinterest in one another. However, you are now fascinated by them, and seem hellbent on grabbing them by the fur, something I doubt they will enjoy. I've been trying to teach you how to pet a cat, but that involves watching both your little hands like a hawk for signs of a fist-forming motion. The lessons are usually curtailed by the cats excusing themselves.

I think babies are meant to double their weight in six months, but always advanced you did it in five! You now weigh 19lbs and 7 oz; no wonder Nana's back is giving out. As you have been nursed exclusively until very recently, I am not concerned that their is any obesity in that weight, just proof of what a healthy girl you are. I say recently, because now that I am back at work, I have to pump milk to bring home to you. Expressing milk has been very successful, however, I am not able to keep up with your appetite. With Mommy;s milk alone, you were eating up to 30 ounces while I was at work, whereas I was happy to express 20! So, much to my chagrin, we have supplemented you with formula! Speaking of nursing, you are breaking your Mama's heart (a claim I will no doubt make numerous times throughout your life). As part of your desire to explore the world and see all their is to see, you refuse to nurse during the day anymore. You also refuse to be held while being bottle-fed, so we sit you in a chair and feed you like a hamster. It's pretty cute, actually. And thankfully, you cheerfully nurse at night, so we still have our time to bond.

As Nana spends such a large amount of time with you during the weekdays, I thought you'd like to hear from her this month too:

Dear Vivienne Marie

I have deferred writing this letter because you have kept me so busy
looking after you - a total joy for me, I might add - but also because
writing it meant that I was coming near the end of my stay with you.
You are now five months and almost three weeks old! I shall be going
back to England with Grandpa Nick on Monday and my heart breaks at the
thought of leaving you.

But what a month it was! When I arrived you were just three months
and 13 days old; an infant really and I was almost scared of holding
you in case you would break! You were a fine, healthy baby but a baby
nonethless and it had been some time since I had cared for such a
little creature.

At four months, however, you seemed to take a leap forward, almost
literally. You were already rolling over from back to tummy but now I
saw this done vice versa (I think you'd done it for Mom already) and
still more exciting, you began to try to crawl. Each day we had
'tummy time' where you would go on your tummy and I would hold you up
to help you get the idea of crawling. Although you never quite made
it forwards in this month, you did manage to move backwards;
frustratingly for you, this meant moving AWAY from whatever toy I had
put out for you as an enticement.

You also moved about much more in my arms, on the floor, in your
rocker, in your pushchair. Indeed, such was your movement in your
pushchair that I was scared you could propel yourself out the front of
the stroller if I didn' take good care to watch you! As the month
progressed, you became able to sit on your own on the floor (though I
was ready to support you, if needs be). You loved your new Dr Death
chair because it allowed you to swivel about to play with your toys
and towards the end of the month you also sat in your little suspended
chair which allowed you to turn about and view what was going on in
the kitchen AND the playroom. You allowed me to prepare some meals
for your mom and dad and you were never unhappy. If you got a little
fed up with something, a cuddle from me always fixed it. I can
honestly say (without offending your mom or your Uncle Ben) that I
have never met such a pleasant and happy little baby.

You developed your other motor skills too. The xylophone was a daily
pleasure for us and you played it lustily on one occasion banging out
doh ray me (or it may have been me ray doh). Whatever, it was a huge
pleasure for me to hear you play. You also turned the pages of your
books with great facility (something your darling Mom taught you) and
you were now able to take off each one of your stacking rings and
often to replace one or two of them on the stacker too!

You showed huge interest in everything; from the little mobile above
your swing (and the musical one in your crib) to the smell of herbs
which we nose tested together, to the feel of cold water on your hand
from the tap to the sights and sounds in the garden and on our
increasingly longer walks. One thing you didn't bother with however,
except when you were bored and/or sated, was holding your bottle. Why
bother when you had a willing slave (two when grandpa Nick arrived) to
do it for you? Together we survived an earthquake and later (with Mom
Dad and Grandpa Nick) a hurricane.

The development that was perhaps most exciting for me was your newly
discovered love of 'language'. Despite my persistent inability to
remember the sign language we learnt for you last month, you seemed
really to understand when I offered more bottle or told you I was
going to change your nappy. And the 'words' you spoke were like the
sweetest symphony to my ears. There was one day when we went to
Walmart with your Dad and you made loud 'AAAAAHHHH; sounds all the way
around. These were perhaps a comment on Walmart? Then another day
you would say 'bub' or 'ba' and one magical day it seemed to me that
you were repeating the A and B and even M sounds I made to you. How I
loved talking to you. We could spend half an hour or more at a time
repeating sounds to each other and I know you are going to be an early
talker - another sign of what I think will be your formidable
intelligence. Keep talking my darling and as long as I am around I
will always listen. Your voice is one of the sweetest memories I will
bring back to England with me. Yes, including the screaming sounds
you learnt to make at around five months!

Your Mom has written about our trip to the Bridge of Flowers and the
lake at Chicopee, and I will always treasure those memories, but for
me, the sweetest times were when it was just you and me. Your ready
smile when you woke from your sleeps; the kisses you began to give me,
the foot massages I gave you, yourlaughter when I sang 'Ai ai the beat
is crazy/Zucko, zucko is everywhere....' I love that you love and are
amused by words and songs.

When Grandpa Nick arrived you were five months old and the dynamic
between us changed as you welcomed another man into your life. You
took to Grandpa Nick as he did to you. Our walks became longer (he
could carry the stroller over rugged terrain on the way to Big Y) and
you laughed at the silly faces he made and the silly voices he put on
for your entertainment. It was a great help to me too, because by now
you were 20 lbs and VERY heavy to carry. But you know what? I didn't
care that my back was sore and my knees didn't allow me to get up so
quickly from the floor when I changed your diaper. The bond you have
allowed me to make with you my most precious granddaughter is one that
will never be broken and if, when I return, you don't quite remember
me, still there will always be an invisible bond between us because of
the time I was privileged to spend with you when you were growing
faster than perhaps you ever will; and learning faster too.

You are now longer an infant; you are a five (and a half) month old
baby girl now and you are lucky to have such a wonderful mom and dad
to take care of you. But even they haven't shared what we have had
and the memory of our time together will live with me (and yes, wilth
you too, even if only as a kind of body memory). For me, it has been
one of the most precious times of my life and I will never forget it
or stop loving you, my most beloved granddaughter. May you continue to
journey happily and safely through life.

With all my love, always,

Nana xxxxx
PS you started not to want to sleep in your swing and the second pic
shows us both taking a nap together on the bed in the basement (after
grandpa Nick's arrival)

I love you Princess,

Mum xxx

Jun 28, 2011

Dear Daughter: Four Months

Dear Vivienne,

What a great month this has been! You have made some serious leaps and bounds in development. You're making great strides in rolling this month. One morning early in the month, you rolled from your back to your front while we were hanging out in bed together. I'm not counting it as the first official back to front roll, because you were lying on an incline (caused by Mom's weight depressing the mattress... *ahem*). Nevertheless, I was really proud of you, and you seemed quite chuffed with yourself too! Since then, you have done bona fide rolls all one your own! From what I understand, most babies roll from their fronts to their backs first. However, you so loathed tummy-time until very recently that I doubt we'll see that maneuver for a while. Besides, you have such great muscle strength that I am not worried. Nowadays, as a refreshing alternative to screaming, you use your tummy-time to practice crawling. Nana predicts that it won't be long before that happens. You've become really good at taking the pacifier out of your mouth, and you've started trying to pick it up and put in back into your mouth. You definitely know what it involves, but it needs some fine tuning, though you have had a few successes to date. It's very tempting for me to do it for you, but it's important to let you learn, so I resist the urge. You are grabbing everything: toys, bottles, necklaces, blankets. The world has definitely caught your attention as something that needs to be explored, and you love standing up to look around, touching anything you can get your hands on, and best of all, putting things into your mouth.

My very favourite thing about this month has been your laughter. The first time I heard you laugh, I was playing This Little Piggy with you. We'd played it before, but this time you cracked up laughing. It was the best sound I have ever heard in my life. However, you are no simpleton, and things do not amuse you multiple times, so I have to find new ways of eliciting your laughter. Nana has made you laugh too, and agrees that there is no sweeter sound.

You have gotten a lot better in the car. I still don't take you anywhere that involves more than ten or twenty minutes of driving without someone else in the car, but when you have company, you do really well. We were able to take you all the way to Parsippany. NJ, for the 2011 Star Trek convention. You were a definite hit with the other nerds, and you won a $25 gift certificate for dressing up as a Star Trek Voyager ensign. We've also done lots of traveling with our Mom's group this month. We went to the mall, the Springfield museums and our first trip to the zoo. You are so alert these days that it is a lot of fun to take you places (on previous outings you invariably fell asleep as soon as we left the house).

This month has been a little hard on me, as I am back to work full time now. Before Nana arrived, you went to daycare three days a week, and I was working part time. I really miss our four-day weekends together. However, as much as I miss you, I am happier leaving you at home with Nana than sending you to daycare. To be fair, your daycare minder, Maria, is wonderful. She commented that you have the most advanced cognitive and motor skills she's seen in a baby your age. However, she is nothing compared to all the love and attention you are getting from Nana. She is just in love with you, and you have taken to her in a huge way. She's making a huge effort to read to you, sing to you, hold you, and give you everything you need. When I get home she's generally exhausted, but also delighted to get this time with you. I am very nervous about how hard it's going to be for her to leave you in September.

You're getting so big! Last month we took the sling out of your bath, and you outgrew the bassinet, so you've been sleeping in the pack'n'play. This month I packed away all the 7-15 lb diapers; you're officially in the large diapers. We had your four month check up and you weighed in at 17lbs, and 26.5"!!! You've almost doubled your weight in four months, as opposed to the average six. I'm not surprised. With Nana, you were getting through up to 30oz of milk during the workday alone!

Everyone notices what a perfect baby you are. You are rarely fussy, always smiling and extremely engaged in the world around you. Adding to your perfection is the fact that you are about the cutest thing I have ever seen. We documented that cuteness by having our friend, Kristin, around to do a photo shoot. She is an amazing photographer, and we we got loads of wonderful pictures of you. We're going to have at least one framed for your nursery. Luckily, you have managed to keep our feet on the ground by fussing occasionally, and usually with good cause, such as having just received and immunization shot. Also, you were the spit-up queen until recently, but I have noticed a definite improvement on that front. I had gotten used to going to work with white splotches down one or both shoulders. It doesn't bother you in the slightest, in fact I sometimes think you enjoy waiting until I've left the house without a burp cloth before coating both yourself and me in curdled milk. Speaking of conspiracy theories, you definitely wait for your diaper to be changed before pooping. This happens so frequently that I usually have two clean diapers beside me for each changing, and once I have changed you the first time, I sit and wait to hear the tell-tale sounds letting me know I need to change you again!

For the entire time you've been alive, I have made ridiculous expectations of myself as a mother. I feel guilt any time I place you down, even on your playmate which is good for your mental development, or your swing when you need to take a nap. I think I am a terrible mother whenever I take the time to check emails, or catch myself wishing that you would nap for a couple more minutes so that I can finish my lunch. I've also come to the conclusion that I need to retract my promise to not worry too much. I worry all the time. I worry about things that might happen now, things that could happen in the future, and these worries cover the full spectrum of eventualities. I have come to the conclusion that motherhood is a specific type of hypervigilance disorder. So, I replace the former promise with the promise to do everything in my power to keep you safe and happy, and to make your life the very best I can. And of course, to love you with all my heart.

I love you, Princess,

Mum xxx

May 31, 2011

Dear Daughter: Three Months

Dear Vivienne,

It's already been three months since you came into our lives. We've been quite busy as a family this month. You in particular have been very busy, because on top of all the places I take you, and activities we enjoy, you're growing and developing at an amazing pace. You continue to be more and more alert, and you have also started chatting and telling little stories, which I could listen to all day long.

You've started grabbing at things and exploring the tactile world around you. Your favorite things to explore at the moment are knitted blankets and t-shirts with bright and contrasting colours. You've also started sucking on your hands, and on occasion you do so while bringing knitting blankets to your face. Your mother was a proud "blankie" owner, and it seems like you will carry on that tradition! You are extremely alert, and you have taken a particular interest in gazing into mirrors. I love staring at you too, so I understand the appeal!

A big change for us has been my return to work. Until Nana Mary gets here at the start of July, I am only working 3 days a week, and you are attending daycare. Your minder, Marie, is wonderful and you are getting great reports on what a happy and lovely baby you are. However, you did have one rough day last week. This was because you got your second round of vaccinations, and I (having missed you all day) allowed you to stay up too late. I made sure to get you to bed on time that night, and you did brilliantly the next day.

The cats are still largely apathetic to your presence. They don't come to you, nor do they run away from you. If you are being particularly loud, or you make a sudden noise, they simply get up and walk out of the room in protest. The latter particularly applies to Buttons, who is a big fan of his peace and quiet. The only indication resentment from the cats has been the destruction of some papers I wanted to keep for you. I collected all my prenatal medical records and birthing class materials that I thought might be fun for you to look through some day. I left them in a box in the basement while I rounded up other documents, such as greeting cards from your baby shower. I walked into the room where I had stored the box, only to be overpowered by the stench of cat pee! I prayed that they had peed on anything else in that room, but I had a sinking feeling that I knew what the urinary target had been. I was able to salvage a few things at the bottom of the box, but the majority was destroyed. The cats have been summarily banned from that room, and many people have suggested that this was no accident, but rather a vendetta!

Unlike the cats, your Uncle Ben was delighted by your arrival. He came to spend a week with us and he loved getting to know you. He was wonderful in taking care of you and you really took to him. We visited New Hampshire with Ben, and he fired some guns with your Grandpa. His visit was timed after his initial training with the British Army, and the start of basic training, so your Grandpa's guns probably paled in comparison to the assault rifles he'd been shooting the week before! Ben was absolultey in love with you, and we are looking forward to many visits as you grow up!

This month marked you and your Dad's first Father's Day together. You bought him a "World's Best Dad" mug, and you wrote him a nice little card. Your handwriting looked a lot like your Mom's this month! I dressed you in a KU T-Shirt that was a gift from people your Dad knows, and you posed for pictures with your Dad. I know he was thrilled to have a little KU fan greet him with pancakes when he came home from Tennis.

We have continued to meet with the mother's group, and we had our official reunion. We took an adorable picture of all the babies in a big circle on the floor. You and one of the other babies, Connor, held hands all the way through the photo shoot, and kept looking over at one another and even tried to roll to one another. His mother and I joke that he was your little boyfriend!

We've now started another month (you're so active I am finding it hard to get these letters written on time!), and you are already making great achievements for me to write about. I am so proud of you, and so very in love with you. I've said it before, but I don't know how on earth I am so lucky that I get to be your Mom.

I love you,


May 10, 2011

Dear Daughter: Two Months

Dear Vivienne,

It seems like only yesterday that you arrived, but two months have passed already. I can't believe that over two thirds of my maternity leave are already done. You and I have been quite busy this month, so I guess time flew because we were having fun.

Your personality is coming through quite a bit. You are as stubborn as a mule where car seats, being dressed, and swaddling are concerned. I finally got around to doing the "Baby's First* Handprint" that I bought before you were born. I had pictured a idyllic scene of mother and child capturing moments in time together, as opposed to the nightmare that transpired of you screaming and crying, kicking me in the face with an ink covered foot, and refusing to unfurl your hand. In the end, I got a nice foot print, and chose the best of about twenty amorphous smears for your handprint.

Despite being stubborn, you are also extremely sweet. You have started smiling, and your perfect little smile makes my day. Most recently, when we're in bed in the nursery, you stare over my shoulder with such wonder at the monkey decals and smile at them. I'm sure that we picked the right theme for decoration when I see how much enjoyment you get out of them. I should mention that this is usually at midnight, because, unlike your Centering Pregnancy friends, you refuse to sleep until 1am. That said, you've recently started sleeping for seven hours at a time, which makes me very happy! I'm less thrilled about your daytime napping. You don't do much of it, and what little you do must occur in my arms, a baby carrier, or moving stroller. If I so much as think of sitting down or placing you in a bassinet so that I can eat or shower, your eyes spring open and the nap is over. However, with less than a month of bonding time left, I'm happy to give you all the cuddles you need!

As well as being sweet, you are not very fussy at all. In fact, you fuss so little that I (a neurotic worrier) became convinced you had SIPA. A spot of Googling later, and I learned that your ability to sweat means that you do no have SIPA (hence that "A"). Your father was amused that I was complaining that you don't fuss enough!

Your physical development is continuing to amaze me. Last month, you were holding your head up for as long as you wanted (something you should be starting to achieve this month!), and wowing everyone with your alertness. This month we noticed that your legs are strong enough to allow you to stand when held for balance. Your eyesight has improved enough to allow you to enjoy your crib mobile and play-mat, which in turn has allowed my ability to eat and shower to improve!

This month, we've taken a number of trips to friends houses, shopping centers, nature preserves, and spent time outdoors close to home. I've really tried to stimulate your learning by showing you different things, but you have no idea that we've ever left the house because you can't seem to stay awake in Moby wraps or strollers.

As well as leaving the house, we've had many visitors to the house. Your Great-Grandmother, Grandfather, Step-Grandmother ("Scranny") and Uncle Sam have all spent time with us, and they're all in love with you. Between the smiles and lack of fussiness, you've been the perfect little hostess. Next month, Uncle Ben and your Nana will be visiting! It's been so wonderful having people I love come to help out. I've especially loved having so many generations of my family under one roof. I hope it's the first of many visits from our family.

This month was also my first Mother's day. You gave me a darling little card, and your handwriting looks suspiciously similar to your Father's. It was so momentous for me to be a mother, as I have longed to be for so many years, on Mother's day. I am still so overwhelmed by how lucky I am that I get to be your Mummy. I am more in love with you than I would have thought possible. Thank you for being my daughter.


Mum xxx

* = this better be the last time anyone is forcefully taking your fingerprints, Young Lady!

May 3, 2011

Three Years in the Failing

Sad news. I failed in my challenge to make 10 knitted or crocheted items from 10 books in 1000 days. I just checked the timer on my blog's homepage and realized that it ended somewhat unceremoniously yesterday*. Oops. I got to within 1 project of success when there were 48 days left. I chose to make a pair of socks using the 8 Stitches per Inch Socks pattern by Ann Budd. This was more than enough time to finish a pair of socks, at least now that I have learnt how to do continental knitting. However, as I was coming to the end of my pregnancy, I needed to prioritize my knitting, and a patchwork blanket I was making for my daughter was more important. As it happens, I didn't get the blanket completed before the baby arrived, but my attempts to do so caused me to fail in my 10 things challenge. The socks are now on hiatus, but the blanket it almost complete. If my daughter enjoys the blanket, I will consider it a sacrifice worth making and wait until the next knitting challenge to see success.

*It was yesterday when I started composing this post.

Apr 20, 2011

Dear Daughter: One Month

Dear Vivienne,

A month ago you came into our lives. I've already documented the amazing experience that was your birth, and everything since then has been equally amazing. After you arrived at home, we went by ambulance to the hospital. At a mere 15 minutes old, you had started breastfeeding, and I knew you were going to be an advanced baby. We spent one night in the uncomfortable and sterile hospital room, with constant interruptions and some painful heel pricks for you. But you were happy as soon as they were done, and we got to take you home the next day with top marks for your health.

The next two nights were rough to say the least. We hadn't yet figured out each other's rhythms, and I wasn't swaddling you because I thought it was cruel to restrain your arms at night. Also, my milk hadn't come in and as a 9lb 7oz baby, you weren't getting what you needed from colustrum. On the third night, my milk had come in, and I swaddled you, and you went from howling all night, to sleeping so long that I had to wake you for feeding. The next day we all felt like a million bucks, and although we had always loved you, we now had the energy to enjoy you too.

Your sleeping success hit a snag when you went through your three week growth spurt. It felt like someone had taken my lovely, non-fussing baby away and replaced her with a rapacious locust. For about four days, you nursed constantly, spat up and cried. I was close to my wit's end, but after googling growth spurts, I felt better about it as a normal stage of development. Last night, you fed for a few hours before going asleep, but then slept for 5 hours so I feel confident that we are getting back to normal.

Speaking of Google, I am reminded that I need to apologize for failing to meet my promise to keep the neurotic worrying to a minimum. I have spent much of the last month worrying about every little thing you do, and turning to Google, WebMD, TheBump or other resources to assure myself that you are perfectly healthy. I won't begin to list the various conditions that I have convinced myself you are suffering from, but I am happy to say that you are in perfect health, and as time has progressed I am feeling more confident about my parenting skills' ability to keep you that way. I should mention that we have had our first family trip to the emergency room. I bumped your head as I was walking through a doorway. I panicked and called the pediatrician, but as it was close to midnight the answering service sent us to the ER. You were alert, nursing and showing no unusual signs, so the doctor diagnosed me as being a first-time mom. He also advised your Dad against uttering the words, "I told you so." Smart doctor!

Moms are always biased, so I will share other people's opinions of you instead. We've been told over and over that you have perfect features. Your head has a beautiful shape and your skin has a lovely tone. This is likely owing to the speed at which you were born, meaning you didn't get subjected to "molding" or the other injuries of childbirth. You have been incredibly alert compared to babies your age, and lots of people have commented on that. Your Nana Mary has availed of your alertness via daily Skype conversations and loves how responsive you are. We've also chatted with your Granddad, Step-grandmother, Uncles Sam and Ben, and Summer the puppy online. I've tried to spend your active time reading books and listening to classical music. Your Dad thinks I am silly, but I want you to have the best start, and it's a better use of my time than watching Desperate Housewives reruns on Netflix.

You have begun to show signs of smiling. You gave your Dad a huge beaming smile, but that was when you were only a couple of weeks old so no one believes us. I saw it, so I know it was more than gas. Since then you have smiled at the ceiling fan, your Dad some more, the monkey decals in your bedroom, and your musical elephant toy. No smiles for Mom as of yet, but I am your patient servant!

You have had a number of visitors already. Your Great-grandmother was the first to stay at the house, and you two got along so well that your father and I were able to spend some time together and run errands. Your next visitor is your Grandfather and Uncle Sam who are coming over from Ireland tomorrow. Then, Uncle Ben hopes to come visit but we have to see how his Army training schedule goes. Finally, Nana Mary is going to stay with us for a couple of months after my maternity leave ends so that you don't have to go to daycare too early. We also had a playdate with the Moms and babies from the centering pregnancy group I attended. We're going to make a regular meeting of it, and it was wonderful getting to show you off, and to meet my friends' little babies.

Although it has only been a month, I still can't believe you are here. I was warned by many mothers, including my own, how wholly and completely I would fall in love with you, but they failed miserably to describe fully the intensity of the love that comes with motherhood. I find myself spending large amounts of time gazing at you like and idiot. I really have become fascinated by this perfect little life that I have here, and how my purpose has become to keep your life as perfect as possible. Despite the sleep-deprivation, being pooped, peed and vomited on, and being omitted from the smiling, this last month has been the best of my life. I have loved getting to know you and I can't wait to see you and your personality grow. Thank you for letting me be your Mom.

I love you, Princess,


Mar 22, 2011

Birth Story

This Sunday, our little girl joined our family. Her birth was an amazing and, by all accounts, unique experience, and enough people have asked to hear it that I thought I would document it here (Facebook limits characters in posts!). There's a moderate amount of labour details in this post, so be warned if you don't like reading that kind of stuff.

First some background: Before we got pregnant, I knew that I wanted to have a natural birth. I had decided on this for a number of reasons, but the benefits to my child were the main motivation. I was also looking forward to having a profound birthing experience with my husband and child, which I have learned anecdotally comes best with natural births. To prepare for this goal, we did a lot of things but the main preparations were a Hypnobirthing course that my husband I took, and reading "The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Childbirth and Labour" by Stephanie Goer. Both of these resources suggesting writing a detailed birth plan for both yourself and your health care providers. We wrote out all our wishes concerning medical interventions, the delivery, how people treat us at the hospital etc. However, hospitals have set protocols, and health care providers are humans with their own opinions, so there's only so much a birth plan can control. This was something that weighed on me as the pregnancy progressed, and I learned about certain things that I would not be able to negotiate.

Another issue that crept up was the risk of being induced. I had made it to term with no sign of going into labour. At my 40 week appointment, I was told that the standard practice is to induce by 42 weeks. I had to book a biophysical foetal profile at 41 weeks (which allowed us to see Vivienne on Ultrasound, so that was good), and a stress test for the middle of the next week. If I had made it to the stress test, I would have booked the induction at that appointment. At this point, I was 41 weeks and 2 days pregnant, so time was really running out for a naturally occurring labour. My resistance to being induced is also lengthy, but briefly, it can harm the child, and the chances of a natural labour plummet. We were basically being faced with the option of 1) rejecting medical advice and going it alone, either a birthing center that we would have to track down in a matter of days or at home, with a homebirth midwife, which we would have to hire by the birth, or 2) foregoing our wishes for the labour and doing what the medical profession told us to. Neither option was particularly appealing, so we went into overdrive of trying to get labour to start. I solicited wives-tales from friends on Facebook, read internet forums and asked my Doula and midwife. I followed them all at least once, but the main attempts were lots of Evening Primrose Oil, exercise, and spicy foods.

On Saturday, we went on a 3 mile trail around the Holyoke reservoir (which was a lovely walk that I highly recommend to fans of the outdoors). We then went to get Thai food with a friend and I ordered a blazingly hot curry, and the good folks at Thai Place certainly delivered.

On Sunday morning, I woke up a couple of times around 5am feeling a little crampy, which I attributed to my ambitious curry consumption. I went in and out of the toilet a few times, but each time I got into bed I became uncomfortable again and had to get up again. It occurred to me that this may be early labour, but I had spent the week thinking any minor movement in my belly was labour, so I was trying not to get my hopes up. Also, the curry was the more logical candidate. I decided against waking my husband until I was sure, and in lieu of being able to get into bed, I ran a bath and listened to my hypnobirthing CDs. I noticed that the cramps were spaced out evenly so documented their frequency which was at about 7 minutes. These were on the level of period pains, so I decided to let Nick sleep until I was sure I was in real labour, and, if I was, to keep his energy for when I had lost mine.

I got bored (and pruney) in the bath by about 8am, so woke Nick up and told him I was pretty sure things were starting. I got back into bed and Nick patiently massaged my back (and watched basketball on mute) as I worked on hypnosis and napped between each contraction. Nick called our Doula, Marie, who arrived at about 10am, and for the next few hours I stayed in bed sleeping between each contraction. The contractions were holding at 6-7 minutes apart and still within the level of period pains. Had I been in a hospital, they would have called this Early Labour, and likely would have said it had stalled. However, you're not even meant to go to the hospital until contractions are at least 5 minutes apart. The contractions weren't getting closer or stronger, and Nick and Marie tried to convince me to got for a short walk but I really didn't want to be out of bed. Eventually, they haggled for me to walk to the bathroom which is next door to our bedroom.

Marie suggested that I may be comfortable sitting on the toilet, and I am lucky that she did, because during one of my next contractions my water broke. That was about 1.15pm. All of a sudden, I went from having mild cramps that I could sleep between to having immense contractions with no real break in-between. The next 20 minutes are a blur to me, but pieced together from Nick and Marie's accounts. The next contraction was 5 minutes apart, then four minutes apart, then three then two. They were also extremely intense and I had to grab onto Nick's arms and dangle from him while they lasted. There was talk of getting to the hospital and the midwives were phoned to be told we were on our way. I was sure I could feel the baby coming, but Nick and Marie (as well as the birthing classes we took) assured me that it just felt that way, and that I was hours away from the baby actually arriving. Nevertheless, I felt like the baby may have been crowning. After the next contraction, I knew she was coming. Marie looked to see what was going on, and instantly told Nick to call 911. The next contraction brought the baby's head. I couldn't see, but Marie said the baby was trying to cry. During that contraction Nick was out of the room to call 911 and it was awful doing it without him. He was back in the room for the next one, which brought the rest of the baby and Nick delivered his daughter at 1.38pm. She was handed to me, and we heard the EMTs arriving.

The main EMT was a really nice guy, and he checked out Vivienne with Nick. She had a great colour, and an Apgar score of 9 (at the hospital we found out that she is 22" long and weighed in at 9lb 7oz). I should point out that given my day started in a bathtub, I wasn't wearing any clothes at this point, which now had 3 EMTS and a cop standing around me. It sounds weird, but I really didn't care. I think I was so amazed by what had just happened, and in awe of holding my daughter that vanity fell by the wayside. I was given a little hospital robe and we walked downstairs to the stretcher. I hopped on, and held Vivienne as we rode to the hospital - definitely a more comfortable alternative to being stuck having contractions in a car. The hospital staff greeted us, and everyone was amazed by our story. The midwife who settled us in said in thirty years she had never heard of anything like this.

So, that's pretty much the story of our birth. Typing the portion of the active labour took longer than the active labour itself. I have no idea how it went so fast, but Hypnobirthing promises a shorter labour (though, I don't think they meant only 20 minutes of active labour!). Either way, it was an amazing experience, and looking over the birth plan we wrote, we got every single thing we asked for, just not how we expected it.

Mar 15, 2011

Puppp This!

I should buy a lottery ticket, certainly before I wrap up my pregnancy. My rationale for taking up gambling is that I have spent my daughter's gestation beating the odds on the symptom front.

I found the following statistics on the interwebs, so please don't quote them in a professional forum, but I think they illustrate my point nicely. The most oft cited side-effect of pregnancy is morning sickness, which affects about 65-70% of women. I didn't throw up once. Depending on which website you go to, swelling affects 75-90% of women. I am 4 days past my due date and I still have my wedding ring on. In fact, working my way down the "Most Common Pregnancy Symptoms" list I googled, I didn't get any acne, spot bleeding, back or pelvis aches etc. I'll admit that I have peed a little more often and have bought more antacids than usual, but I would argue that if something can be replicated by a night out drinking, it's hardly a bona fide side effect.

All in all, I was loving being pregnant. I had this little life inside me that I could feel moving around. Unencumbered by such plebeian concerns as vomiting or searing lumbar pain, I could enjoy preparing for her arrival, daydreaming about how she will grow up, and generally getting the most out of this wonderful time. After all, I had dodged all of the common symptoms of pregnancy!

Here endeth the bragging. I have already blogged about my rhinitis of pregnancy, which, if you include runny noses stemming from queuing for a taxi in the cold as part of a normal night out, can be eliminated as a sympathy-meriting side effect. Triviality notwithstanding, this was step one of my lottery ticket idea as less than 15% of pregnant women experience this symptom.

But in the last week, I have really hit the jackpot of rare symptoms. I had some stretch marks below my naval since the middle of my third trimester. Being so in love with pregnancy, they really didn't bother me at all. However, the Universe obviously got sick of hearing me say "My pregnancy has been a breeze." and "I hope this pregnancy lasts as long as possible because I am really enjoying it.", and decided to unleash the fate I had so adeptly tempted. A few weeks ago, my stretch marks got a little itchy. Nothing terrible; kind of in the range of how it feels if you didn't shower right after a good workout. But over the next few days, the itchiness got more intense and frequent. I read up on itchy stretch marks, and stumbled across the term Puppp.

Puppp, or pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (translation: itchy bumps that preggos get), starts out as mild itchiness below the belly, but spreads around the torso, down the extremities and basically everywhere that's not hands or face. The itchiness gets more and more intense and there's nothing that can be done for it, other than the pregnancy coming to an end. I think I am getting close to scratching my way to a C-section, so I may be able to accommodate that cure. And it goes without saying, that having your entire torso covered in "papules and plaques" can only make you look even sexier in those last days of pregnancy. Couple that with the image of someone vigorously scratching themselves as if they were infested with scabies and you start to paint quite the picture. I normally take photos to add to blog entries where relevent, but if you google Puppp, you'll see why I deviated on this occasion.

Puppp affects less than 1% of pregnant women, and while the cause is unknown, 70% of that 1% deliver boys. Other suspects include large babies (causing excess distension of the skin). I have been assured my midwife that my daughter is both female and normally sized. If my math isn't failing me, and I offer no guarantees on that point, that puts me in an elite group with 0.3% of pregnant women. Yippee!

As I mentioned, I am four days beyond my due date and I am doing everything I can think of to induce labour. It's been 2 weeks since I have slept for longer than 2 hours at a time, before needing to reapply my Aveeno Oatmeal lotion, which only sort of works. Another blogger summed up the misery best when she said that she would have traded Puppp for a different condition that could potentially kill her, on the condition that it didn't cause itchiness. Also, and this may be the itchiness-induced sleep deprivation speaking, but the phrase Puppp is patronizingly diminutive! Were Kittt or Bunnn already taken?

All that said, the Universe can go and bite itself. As miserable as this condition is, anytime I feel my daughter kick, hiccup or wiggle around, I am so in love with the experience that I don't feel anything but unadulterated joy. Now, if you will excuse me, I am off to buy a lottery ticket... and some Vindaloo curry!

Mar 1, 2011

A Blanket for Baby

Last weekend, I was given the gift of a wonderful handmade blanket from my friends in the South Bend knitting group. The blanket arrived to my house close to two weeks ago, but I wasn't allowed to open it. I confess that I tried poking my finger into the box to feel the blanket, but fortunately the person who sent it, Amy, knew me well enough to use enough packing tape to secure Fort Knox! The reason I had to wait was that my friend, Kristine, organized a Skpye reunion of the knitting group. We all got to sit and chat -while knitting- just like the old days. It was such a wonderful afternoon and I loved getting the opportunity to catch up with everyone.

The other highlight of the meeting was obviously the blanket. A tradition has arisen within our group that we collectively, and secretively, make blankets for members of the group that are pregnant. While many of us have moved away from South Bend, the tradition is still going strong (though involves an increasing amount of coordination via email), and is a lovely connection to a knitting group that we all held so dearly.

Prior to the gift opening, I had received a Knit Picks catalogue in the mail and was contemplating ordering some yarn to make a blanket for my daughter, to replace a recently frogged effort. It occurred to me that I should to wait to see what the girls had made for me, and I am lucky that I did because I would have picked the exact same colours they chose. My true luck is having friends that know me so well, they can pick colours I would buy myself! The blanket is now packed away in the hospital bag in anticipation of the arrival of its rightful owner (though I do take it out to peek at it every so often).

Thank you, South Bend knitters!

Feb 25, 2011

Cold Feet

In lieu of doing actual work whilst at work the other day -because that isn't going to happen- I was perusing My friends have been stubbornly refusing to keep me entertained with new project pictures or blog entries recently, so I resorted to reviewing my own projects. I have my projects sorted by category (Sweaters, Accessories, Babies, etc.). I was looking through the entries in my "Sock" category, when I rather depressingly noticed that the mortality rate for this particular type of knitted item is disturbingly high. I have completed eleven pairs of socks (I thought it was more), and a scant six pairs are still with us. One of the surviving pairs are the Earl Greys that I made for my husband. He wore them the day of the wedding, and has kept them in a ziplock bag ever since. I would like to think this protective measure was an act of sentimentality, but he informed me that they make his feet too hot, and that is why he doesn't wear them. Another surviving pair are the Universal Toe-Ups, which were the first pair of socks I ever made. The fact that they were made from the virtually indestructible 25% Nylon Magic Stripe yarn renders their survival somewhat less than triumphant. Also, as they hail from my earlier days of knowing how to measure gauge, they are a little on the baggy side and rarely worn as a result.

Alas, my favourite socks were invariably the ones that fell victim to early demises, which, while sad, stands to reason. All is not lost, though. While I have loved and lost, I have also learned. After the nascent phase of using man-made fibre heavy chain store yarns (e.g. Magic Stripes), I became consumed with hand-dyed, entirely natural fibres. While an important part of the learning curve, I have since developed a more balanced world view, where small amounts of nylon serve the greater reinforcement good, and superwash wool can protect from the heartbreak of surprise-feltings. Nonetheless, I wanted to bid adieu to my erstwhile footwarmers.

In Memoriam

2010-2010, felting accident

2009-2011, hole

2010-2010, lost

2010-2010, felting accident

2008-2009, felting accident

Feb 21, 2011


I've decided to get back to the original point of this blog and talk about the random goings-on in my knitting. After all, as I am three weeks or so away from my due date, there may not be much knitting to discuss for a while once the baby gets here!

1. Ribbit
A friend of mine is a huge fan of raglan sweaters, citing the lack of seaming as a major factor in how fast they can be done. Having slaved through several seamed sweaters, I decided I wanted something that would go faster and cast on my first raglan sweater using Addi Turbos, and my newfound competency with continental knitting and purling, to expedite the project even more. That was a year ago.

The yarn for this project was purchased in a co-op, from which I purchased ten navy and five undyed skeins of Malabrigo worsted. I dyed three skeins with Kool-Aid to make an argyle using the navy as the main colour. After completing a long and difficult argyle pattern around the torso, I tried on my nearly knitted creation only to discover that my tension control in colourwork is terrible. It was so tight around my waist that I couldn't breathe and needed help getting back out of the sweater. Through tears of frustration*, I pulled out the argyle. I decided to knit to the bottom, and work 6-10" of a fancy cable pattern in place of ribbing. After a few repeats of that pattern (which involved 48 cables per round every 4 rows), I decided it wasn't what I wanted, and pulled that out. A few inches of K1P1 ribbing (which had to be done twice as I forgot which size needle had been used for the neck ribbing) later, and a very plain stockinette body was complete. I had really wanted to make something interesting with this yarn, so it seemed an awful shame to make the whole sweater in boring stockinette. To try and get some patterning onto it, I am doing XOXO cabling down the arms. So far, I am happy with it and hopefully it makes the sweater a little interesting.

I estimate that I will have four skeins of navy and a few skeins of Kool-Aid dyed Malabrigo left, so I will make a sweater with that, only this time I will plan ahead. I have come to the conclusion that while raglan sweaters are infinitely faster than their seamed counterparts, knowledge of their speed can lead the more impulsive among us into COing without thinking. More haste, less sweater.

2. The Kindness of Strangers
I received this blanket in the mail. It's a beautiful embossed leaves pattern in white baby yarn. It was given to me by a friend of my mother, whom I have never met. It matches a beautiful white cardigan that the same lady sent to me. It really makes me happy to know that there are people out there who are so considerate, they would take the time to make a baby blanket for someone they have never met.

3. The Future Tense of Ribbit
I should have frogged this blanket a long, long time ago. It's meant to be a crocheted Care Bear blanket, but I decided to knit it after I figured out that I am not very committed to huge colourwork crochet projects. Once I switched over to knitting, it started to go a lot faster, but as I got into the pattern, I realized that the Care Bear (Wish Bear, if you're interested), looked a tad squished. I decided to soldier on, reasoning that it wouldn't look so bad. The colours I chose for Wish Bear's rainbow that shoots out of the star on his tummy (they don't teach meteorology over at the DIC studios) were terrible and the star is a bit of a mess too. I decided that the embroidery called for in the pattern will fix the star, and some clever duplicate stitching could remedy the rainbow, and persevered. I am now about two thirds done, and it looks worse than ever. I have, however, gotten to a point where I have put so much work into it that I can't bear (hehe) the idea of undoing it all. I wanted to make this for my daughter by the time she was born. I can safely assume that isn't going to happen, and my time would be better spent making a Baby's Texture Blanket or Great American Afghan for her, but being oddly superstitious or ritualistic as I am, I can't quite detach myself from the self-imposed chore I have turned this project into. Clearly, my daughter is far less likely to say "What the heck is that meant to be?" if I present her with a blanket of squished bear who has a malformed stomach tattoo, than "You don't love me because you quit making a blanket of a defunct cartoon, neither of which I knew about because I wasn't born yet!". Reading this, I see how crazy I am. I am going home to frog this stupid project right now!!

* a slight exaggeration, but I was pretty peeved.

10 Things in 1000 days

I decided to rationalize my impulse purchasing of knitting books by setting myself a personal challenge.
Here's how long I have left:

Quotation of the Day

This Day in History

Is There Anybody Out There?

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