Thursday, May 29, 2014

An Octopus Garden Party

I know, months have gone by since I've posted!  I keep taking pictures and videos, and filing ideas away under "Blog this Later" in my head.  But when I finally sit down in the evening, my brain goes all foggy and the best I can do is catch up on Facebook or take a Buzzfeed quiz.

This past weekend, an expecting friend allowed me to throw her a baby shower.  I say, "allowed" because she was initially kind of anti-shower, but recognized the benefit.  After I promised no cheesy games, activities, or fuss, she warmed up to the idea and even suggested a theme: An Octopus Garden, because that is the theme for their nursery.

At first I thought, "What is in an octopus's garden, anyway?" But I needn't have worried, because, Pinterest.  So, we hosted An Octopus Garden Party, with cupcakes and mocktails.

I found some perfect table supplies at Party City, with blue and green sea creatures.  I had the most fun making the octopus decorations, though.  Because, of course, there are octopus in an Octopus's Garden.

This guy was easy.  We saved toilet paper rolls for about a month.  I painted him and five of his siblings in light blue, sea green, and coral.  I meant to take a picture of the whole family, but forgot.  After letting the paint dry, I cut eight slits about halfway up for the arms.  I put a rubber band around the center of the tube to make sure I cut the arms (fairly) evenly.

Then, I gently rolled the arms out.  I wanted to put something on the bottom of the tentacles to be like the suckers, and settled on pom-poms.  A little hot glue:

I originally thought I'd use them the whole way up the arms, but one at the end of each was perfect.  And, of course, the googly-eyes.

I also made these guys:

My intention was for them to be octopus, but I think he might look more like a jellyfish, so, you know, whichever.  These felt more time-consuming to me, and required a bit more an assembly line approach.

First, I painted paper plates, although I certainly could've used colored paper plates.  I also thought paper bowls would've worked well.

I then cut all the lengths of streamers for the tentacles - I just guessed at the length, and then used one as a template for the rest.  I think they're about two feet long.  I used eight per critter, and just scotch-taped them around the inside.

I also cut two lengths of string with which to hang the octopus/jellyfish, and taped it at the four edges, and in the middle for good measure.  What a mess, right?  So, I took a plain paper plate and attached it to the bottom.  I intended to use my go-to, hot glue, but it didn't work out with the ridges.  So, I used double-stick tape all around, and that held up fine.

So here's how everything looked the day of the party:

In the center of the table is a gummy-fish bouquet, with gummy-fish skewers I found at Wegmans and fish lollipops from Amazon.  There's a tiny fish bowl (a candle holder from Michael's) with assorted colors of Swedish fish, and the homemade cupcakes have either a gummy-lobster or gummy-whale on top.  I thought maybe we needed something to balance out the cupcakes, so I made fresh fruit bouquets...maybe not in an underwater garden, but garden-y, yes?  And I can't believe it didn't occur to me to get goldfish crackers to put in the tiny fish bowls, as well!  Oh well.

I lived dangerously and did plan one (possibly) cheesy activity.  Ok, two, but one is more interesting than the other.  The less-interesting one was just to have slips of paper out, asking people to give advice to the expectant parents.  However, I also encouraged people to give advice or their favorite inspirational quote. Not everyone is a parent, and I remember always being at a loss at baby showers when I was asked to give advice before I was a parent.  Not that I have great advice now, necessarily! But I hoped that helped non-parents not feel as awkward.

I wish I had a better picture of the second activity.  I bought a small, cheap-o wooden frame at Michael's and painted some coral-looking stuff on it, and left the rest of the frame blank.  I put out paint markers and asked people to doodle their favorite sea creature on the rest of the frame.  We had everything from starfish to a crab to one of those glow-in-the-dark fish. I was a little worried about how it would turn out, but it came out better than I expected.  Here's a picture of one of the guests working on her fish:

You can kind of see the frame.  If the guest-of-honor sends me a photo of the frame, I'll update with it.

Finally, or I guess, it was really first thing since it happened before the shower - I asked everyone to send me their favorite children's songs, and I made a compilation CD, with who submitted each song in the track listing.  I think it was the mom-to-be's favorite bit of the shower.

I should add that I travelled to Pittsburgh alone for this shower, leaving Miss A home with her daddy.  I missed her so much, but enjoyed hanging out with the one guy at the shower.

This is one of the guest's little guy.  The shower really zonked him out, but he was most charming during the party, in his little suit!  

Ok, ok, for CERTAIN friends and family who will be disappointed they read this whole post, and didn't get a single picture of Miss A, and who say, NO, a cute picture of another baby WILL NOT CUT IT:

Here she is getting tickled by her Daddy on Memorial Day.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Cabin Fever

I know it's pointless to complain about the weather.  I wish it wasn't, though.  I wish there was someone I could complain to, like the manager of a restaurant when the service is bad.  I want to scold the weather like a naughty child, and say sternly, "That's enough. "

Today's 60-degree weather was like the child who you're just getting ready to send to timeout, but then does something really sweet and adorable.  So, Miss A and I headed to the Lyn Stacie Getz Creative Playground after we ran some errands today.

She was so happy to be swinging again!

For contrast, here was the last time were at this playground, in September or October.

Since she's started scooting around a bit, I've been looking forward to seeing what new things she might be able to do at the playground.  Now that her balance is better, she really enjoyed going down the slide.  It's hard to spot a baby going down a slide and take a picture at the same time, so here's one from last October.

Anyway, I wanted so much for her to crawl through this pipe to get to me.

She wouldn't do it.  She won't do it at My Gym, either.

She goes in part of the way, then decides to back out, no matter how cheerfully I exclaim, "Come to Mama!"

Today, at the playground, she was too busy looking at the other kids playing...

...or picking up pieces of...bark? mulch? rocks?

Oh, well.  Once Mother Nature starts behaving herself, we'll have plenty of more times to try!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Crawling at a Snail's Pace

If there weren't already a thousand other reasons to know that Abby is definitely our daughter, her "slow by little" approach to...well, I guess just certain things, is definitely one of them.  For example, after starting to teeth at around four or five months, Abby was over eleven months old before poking through those first two teeth.  To be fair, though, she has no control over how fast her teeth come in.  If she did, I'm sure she would have them in faster so we might give her apple slices and tortilla chips.

What she has taken her time with, is crawling.  We've watched our friends' babies, three and four months younger than her, start scooting right past her, while Abby sat like a lump. She's aging out of her class at My Gym, but I'm keeping it on the down-low.  How can she go on to the next class when half the kids in this class are crawling or even walking, and Abby is still just a world-class reacher?  It really is kind of amazing how far she can reach - Kevin and I swear she has "Go-Go-Gadget" arms, and she can fold herself in half to reach something she wants.  Or, if she can't reach it, you can almost see her thinking, "Oh well," as she decides to play with something else, like her pant legs.  Our pediatrician actually suggested that Abby might just be lazy, and we couldn't disagree.

We weren't particularly worried.  Crawling is actually not an "official" developmental milestone, and the age-range for first steps is up to 18 months.  Kevin has probably been a little more anxious to get her moving than I have been - he won't have to chase around the house once she gets going!  But, on the other hand, that baby is getting heavy, and it might be nice to not have to carry her everywhere.

We've followed the pediatrician's advice to "leave her own defenses" (I think she meant "devices") when playing, so she'd be forced to get things on her own.  Another friend was advised to keep her kiddo on his knees as much as possible, so we've been doing that, too.  And maybe it all paid off, or maybe she would've crawled for the first time on Valentine's Day, anyway.

I always thought it would be our cat or the iPhone that motivated her to crawl for the first time, but it was her books!  I think she may be more of the bookworm type, anyway.

With her Great Grandma at Christmas.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Nursing Dreams and Dream Feeds

Tonight is Kevin's last "dream feed" with Abby.  A dream feed is a bottle you sneak to your baby in her sleep, right before YOU go to bed, with the hope that the little extra will be enough to keep them asleep the rest of the night.  We didn't really start off with that intention.  At the beginning, when we gradually weaned to breastfeeding from full-time bottles, and were still trying to get in 9-10 feedings a day, Kevin wanted to hold on to this one.  It was one less nursing session I had to figure out how to fit in, and Kevin loved this special daddy-daughter time.

When I mentioned in an online mommy-group that we were still doing dream feeds around six months, some gently mentioned that most babies dropped the dream feed around this time.  Kevin practically turned pale when I told him this.  At this point, Abby was sleeping through the night, while most breastfed babies wake at least once during the night for a feeding for at least the first year.  "So," I told Kevin, "maybe the dream feed is like, her night feeding, so you might as well keep giving it to her."  We agreed to wean her off of it around a year.

Abby is nearly 14 months old, now.  We've kept it a little longer than originally planned, because our girl had some other plans.

See, I had planned to breastfeed at least until I get pregnant again, if I do.  Which, if things go as we have planned, would be around 18 months.  I figured she'd probably wean herself around then, anyway, since my supply would most certainly drop.  I always intended for her take the lead, though, and while I don't love the idea of nursing while pregnant, I would've tried it for her.  I imagined we'd drop a feeding every couple of months until we were down to one or two, and gracefully stop.

After a feeding, around 2 months
She did take the lead.  She surprised and confused me by weaning during her eleventh month.  It was very unusual, because it was early (before 12 months), and abrupt.  Both of those usually signal a nursing strike (where a baby won't nurse for a few days for some reason, then hops back on the train).  Around Thanksgiving, she began biting more often than not after nursing...then at the beginning of nursing, repeatedly, so no nursing actually happened.  Within a few days, it was every feeding except for the morning one, and then it was that one, too.

I tried for weeks.  All time, at first, then once or twice a day, then every few days.  I tried every trick in the book to discourage biting.  I was firm, I was calm.  I offered her a teether, I fake cried, I put her down, I left the room.  As it stretched from a two-week, "Well, maybe this is just a long strike" into Christmas, I had to accept that our nursing relationship had ended.

This was the last time she fell asleep after nursing.

I think you may have to be a mother, but maybe not, to understand how devastated I was.  I want to tell you, in case you've been through it and you can tell me I'm normal, or in case you're going through it and I can tell you you're normal.  I loved nursing, once we got the hang of it.  I know not all mamas do, and that's okay.  I loved the calm, the sweetness, the excuse to just "be" with my baby.  It was special to nurture my baby in one way no one else could.

When I wasn't sure if she was striking or weaning, I was almost as emotional as I was postpartum.  I'm sure it was partially hormones. But a lot of it was also the "not knowing," and the intense feeling of rejection every time she would bite me or turn her head away.  One of the worst things was, she had just learned the sign for milk, and would do it.  I'd offer her the breast, and she'd bite.  But she kept asking, and it broke my heart.  I don't think she thought the sign meant what I thought it meant.  I cried a lot, and I cry thinking about it now.    I would think crazy, irrational things like, "She doesn't love me," or, "I bet she never did like to nurse."  I had to stop trying, because I couldn't take her refusal.  I was so heartbroken.

I'm mostly past it, now.  Although it happened in an unusual way and at an unusual time, I know it's just the first of many things that I'm going to let go of as a mama, as my baby girl grows up.

Which brings us back to the dream feed.  When Abby's first birthday rolled around, we still didn't know what she was doing with this nursing business, so we thought it would be good to continue the dream feed to make sure she was getting enough milk.  Now that she's pretty well established with cows' milk, I'm weaning off of pumping, and her daddy is weaning from the dream feed.  He's been gradually skipping more nights in between feeds for the past few weeks.  At first, we thought she'd wake up hungry, but not a peep.  Not a single time.

I know it's a little the same for him.  Probably without the crazy hormones, though. But that special, quiet, daddy-daughter time that has become so familiar to him.  How he still holds her like a tiny baby when he feeds her, although she has grown so much since he started.  How he has cuddled and snuggled her the same way before putting her back into bed, although it's been months since her head would rest comfortably on his chest.  He will have to let go of this, too.

I didn't have any pictures of him giving her a bottle, so here's just one of their first pictures.

Our little girl still needs us.  She'll just need us in new ways as she grows up!

Friday, January 10, 2014

A ONEderful Birthday!

Abby had a spectacular first birthday weekend.  She started off the day by playing peek-a-boo with a yet-unnamed moose from her Great Grandma.

Maybe we'll call him Peekaboo Moose?

Then, we had lunch at Brooms Bloom.  No ice cream for Abby, though.  Just mac and cheese and chicken salad.  We wanted to take her to Christopher's Train Garden, which is right there.  Unfortunately, she was terrified of the loud train noises.  Maybe next year!

Abby would rather be playing with Peekaboo Moose
Grandpa made a special lasagna for Abby's birthday dinner.  Lasagna is one of her favorites!

Now, I had assumed that Abby's first cake would be at her party.  This didn't sit well with her Daddy, who insisted we get her at least a cupcake.  Since this gave us an excuse to get cupcakes from Flavor Cupcakery, I agreed.

We put on Abby's party hat...

As you can see, she wasn't a fan.  This might have influenced her lack of enthusiasm towards her cupcake.

She just didn't know what to make of the icing.  She kept grabbing it and trying to fling it behind her back.  She eventually ate a little, but wasn't thrilled.  Kevin wondered if she thought the icing looked like...something that usually comes out  of the other end.

Then, it was present time!

Daddy showed her how to show off he new pants...

...and she modeled her new cupcake hat.

Also, Grandpa made her this beautiful table and chair set.  I knew he was making it, but I didn't know he was making something quite this lovely!

Abby tries it out at breakfast the next morning.

After all this excitement, she still had a full-blown birthday party with all of her friends that weekend!

Photo courtesy of Sarah Prindiville

I love the picture of these kiddos playing!  They will be priceless one day!

Photo courtesy of Sarah Prindiville

Photo courtesy of Sarah Prindiville

Unfortunately, Grandma and Grandpa had to leave early.  But not before Abby played with balloons with Grandpa!

By now, Abby was a pro at opening presents.  Thanks to Miss Jenny for taking these!

Daddy photo bomb!

It was funny - Abby's gifts were quite indicative of the adults in attendance.  When you invite a bunch of teachers and librarians to a one-year-old's birthday party, you're bound to end up with a bunch of puzzles and books, which we love!  Abby also got an awesome baby laptop, as well as adorable shoes from the geneticist-now-stay-at-home-mom-who-loves-shoes. Really, it was easy to remember who gave what! 

Then, it was cake time!  Abby loved shaking her party hat around.  Wearing it, not so much.

Her opinion on cake had also not changed, although we did get her to try it, and, by the end, she was really sort of going for it!  I think it was too dense for her to really get a bite of!  As Danielle said, though, she was the first kid anyone has seen that cried at her birthday cake.

If you really like watching babies smash cake, here's a video:

What a busy day, with so much excitement!  Miraculously, she did take a short nap in the afternoon after cake.  Then, it was PJs and snuggle-time with Daddy.

A pretty good end to a ONEderful birthday weekend!