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Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Princess of Halloween (Week 29, Day 2)

Fall has officially overtaken Chicago, and with it comes all the fun holidays and events. Every holiday has a new meaning now that we have a child - I’m no longer terribly concerned about my needs or wants during the holiday, and usually overly excited about the first experiences for my daughter - even if she has no idea what’s going on, I still look forward to each new experience.
With the end of October fast approaching, I've been thinking for weeks about what Madeline should be. Halloween is always tricky in Chicago, as you never know if it’s going to be 90 degrees or 30 by the end of October - it’s really anyone’s guess. I wanted to make sure she had a costume that would be cute, and warm enough for her to be comfortable outside. Not that we intended to take a 6 month old door to door trick or treating - in fact, we didn't really have any plans for Halloween, but I was sure something was going to come up, and wanted to be prepared. Plus, Maddy’s school was doing a Halloween parade, and I wanted to make sure she could participate.
And something did in fact come up - the weekend before Halloween, a mom friend of mine asked us to join her and her family at the Farmers Market Saturday morning for a children’s costume contest. Challenge accepted.
Saturday morning we got ourselves together, packed up Maddy's costume, and headed off to the farmers market. We met up with my friend for coffee and a lttle catch up, before heading over to the market. It was a nice sunny day, windy and blustery.  I was happy I had chosen an outfit for Maddy that would allow her to wear warm clothes under her costume - it wasn't terribly cold, but layers were needed. And now the time had come to transform her from your everyday average Princess Leia.
That's right. After months of posing with her buddies Darth and Yoda, it was time for our little lady to join the Force. I had found a women that crocheted Princess Leia hats online- they couldn't have been cuter AND it would keep Maddy's head warm in the cold. All I needed after that was a white sheet to go over her clothes, and voila! A Star Trooper is born. What worked out even better, was that I could put Maddy in the baby Bjorne, and put her dress over it- therefore showing off her costume while comfortably carrying around the market.
Her costume was a BIG hit. In fact, she won the contest!! I couldn't believe it. Actually I could- she looked absolutely adorable, how could she not win?
People at the farmers market kept stopping us to ooh and ahh at Madeline- one woman even asked to take a picture of her. Madeline as usual ate the attention up, and grinned and flirted with all who came her way.

Once home, we made sure to reunite Princess Leia with her Star Wars buddies for a photo opp. The pictures turned out great- I don't think I've ever been more excited about a Halloween costume!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

(Week 28, Day 3-5)

It’s Coming! It’s Coming! Today after work and school, Maddy grabbed my husband’s hand and started sucking away at it, and he responded with a “Look at that!”. I let Maddy take my hand and she immediately put it in her mouth, and there was a new sensation on her lower gums - a hard, sharp object starting poke through - her first tooth! You can’t quite see it yet, but you can certainly feel it! And thus far, there has been no drastic change in behavior - no diaper rash, fussiness, etc. Just pure Maddy joy and a whole lot of putting everything in her mouth, which isn't exactly a break from the norm.
There are so many things happening with Maddy’s development these days, it’s hard to keep up. She’s teething, she’s so close to crawling that we are days, not weeks, away, and she’s firmly in the world of solids. This is opening up all sorts of new and fun opportunities and challenges. It’s exciting to think about introducing her to new kinds of foods, starting her down a healthy track, and the whole idea of making homemade food for her is very appealing. The idea of my little girl getting teeth and moving from gummy grins to an actual toothy smile is crazy to me, but terribly exciting. And crawling. Don’t even get me started. She is already fairly mobile - scooting and rolling everywhere. When she starts crawling - watch out, there will be no stopping her!
And then there are the challenges. Now on top of washing bottles, freezing and storing milk, and all the coordination that comes with pumping, there are solids to think of - what should we introduce next? Where am I going to find time to make food? Once she has teeth, when does the biting start? When should we start brushing her teeth? Once crawling starts, how often should I wash my floors? What about childproofing the house - how can we make sure she doesn't get into something? And how am I going to find time in the day to do ALL this STUFF??
As with every new stage, there are feelings of excitement, nervousness, and frustration. I know we’ll figure it out, just as Maddy figures out how to get her legs under her and moving in the right direction. Have children is truly a lesson in change management - ready or night, the change is coming, the platform is burning, and soon, it will be time to jump!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Baby Baptism Adventures (Week 28, Day 3)

What an eventful couple of days! After a few days back at the office, we took Friday off to welcome family from out of town to celebrate Madeline’s Baptism and our membership into our Church. We’d spent the last few months going to different churches in Chicago, to find the one that Phil and I felt as a couple we’d like to be part of. We knew that as a family we wanted to have one church to raise our family in, and had discussed around the kind of religious upbringing we’d both had, and what we’d like for our daughter. After visiting a few churches near us, we had attended a service at St Pauls United Church of Christ, and both of us left the service feeling like this was the right place for us. Now, after attending the new member and baptism classes and meeting a few more people in the congregation, we were sure that this was the place we wanted have Madeline baptized.
We had a great weekend our families. Friday, my older sister and her son flew in from Boston, and Phil’s Aunt Caroline flew in from New Jersey. We spent Friday afternoon in the suburbs letting all the babies play together - including Maddy’s cousin Jake. It was fun to see all the babies in their different stages of development - watching Maddy struggling with getting on her knees, and so close to crawling. Jake, now walking but still awkward on his feet, but loving to explore his independence. And Jack, the oldest of them all, barely able to sit down because there was WAY too much exploring to do. Seeing them interact was awesome, and you could see a glimpse of the fun they will have when they are all walking/talking little people. The Aunts/ Great Aunts loved sitting back and watching and relishing these first few days with the babies.
As part of the weekend adventure, my sister Meagan and her 17 month old son Jack were staying in our shoe-box apartment with us. I wouldn't have had it any other way - with baby bedtimes between 5-7, I was certainly not going to miss seeing my sister for the rest of the night while we sat in two separate places. And as we have a two bedroom apartment and sleeper sofa, this meant the babes were going to have to sleep in the same room. Meagan and I were both nervous about how this would work - with Maddy not yet sleeping through the night, that meant Jack could potentially be waking up throughout the night as well. Friday night was the first test, and both Maddy and Jack did surprisingly well! Maddy still woke up throughout the night, and while Jack would rustle around and at one point stood up in the pack and play to look and me, he laid right back down and went to sleep. Win for the mommies!
Saturday my parents came in for the weekend, and we had a great time taking Jack and Maddy to the Lincoln park zoo to see the animals, and playing at home. Having both my sisters, my parents and Jack and Maddy together was such a treat - I didn't want the day to end. Phil's parent's and Aunt came down for the afternoon as well, and our little shoe-box was packed to the rafters with people that love our little girl, and we spent a lovely afternoon together eating dinner and catching up.
Sunday was the big day - Maddy’s baptism. It unfortunately followed a rough night - after being off nap times and sleeps times for the last few days, Maddy wasn't enjoying crib time any longer, and at about 2 AM I conceded and slept in a chair with her in my arms for the rest of the night. Before I went into her room, I found my sister sitting up on the side of the sofa, saying she didn't feel well. When I emerged from Maddy’s room at 6 AM, I learned that my pregnant sister had been sick all night, and had either food poisoning or a very strong virus. She hadn't slept at all, and was feeling terrible.This was not exactly the way I thought the day was going to go.
Luckily, no matter how old you are, parents always come to the rescue. After a 7AM call to mom and dad, they were showered and over to our place in a snap, ready to help with Maddy and Jack so that we could get ready for the baptism. Meagan was in no condition to go to the church, so she crawled into bed, and my Mom stayed with Jack. I was sad not to have them all with us at the church, but knew it was the right thing to do.

The Baptism ended up being a very special ceremony. It was new membership day at the church, so along with Maddy being baptized,Phil and I became members of the church. The church had recommended this, and it was a special way for us all to be welcomed into the church’s community. We had met several people through our new membership class, so it was neat to see them again and know they would part of the congregation.
When the time came for the sermon to start, it was also right around Maddy’s nap time. She fell right asleep, and slept quietly in my arms throughout the sermon. She continued sleeping right through Phil and I walking up to the front of the church and saying our new membership vows. She even slept through most of the baptism, right up until the moment I needed to hand her over to the pastor to have the baptismal water put on her forehead. She couldn't have been more of an angel through the whole thing - she opened her eyes, happily went to the pastor, and looked around at him, and the entire congregation, as if to say “What’s the big deal?” There was no crying, no stranger danger, just my confidant and curious little girl, facing the world head on. I couldn't have been more impressed with her. Although the day didn't turn out quite as planned, it was memorable none the less.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

California Dreams (Week 27, Day 4)

What an eventful couple of days!! Our little family has just returned home from a trip to visit friends out in California. The weekend was filled with new experiences for the whole family. Plus, it was a much needed vacation for all of us - with me being back at work for a few months now, we definitely needed a break from the grind to recharge our batteries.
The trip started off fairly stressful, with traffic to the airport heavier than usual. There was a very real chance of us missing our flight, but luckily things started moving and we made it to the airport with a little time to spare. Once we got through security and got to our gate, we found that our flight was also delayed and we'd be arriving late to San Francisco.
Playtime at the airport
After the long flight (on which Madeline was a dream, taking a whopping 2 hour nap and winning over all the surrounding passengers with her gorgeous gummy grin and cheery coos) we arrive in sunny California. Now it was time to head into the city, pick up one of our friends, and drive to Sonoma to meet up with all of our friends at the house we were renting. Except our luggage didn't arrive. Nor did anyone else's on the flight. For over an hour. So we stood there, waiting, with Maddy strapped to me and getting heavier, and antsier, by the minute. Eventually, I found a corner of the luggage area in which I could lay Maddy down and let her roll and squirm for a while as we waited. When we finally had our luggage, we headed over to the car rental, and were greeted with a massive line to get our car. Again, I located a quiet corner to allow Maddy some wiggle and squirm time. When we finally got our car (and installed the car seat, got Maddy settled, and luggage stowed, whew!) we were ready to hit the road. Or should I say, the 5 o'clock traffic. With all the delays and mishaps, we'd now managed to get caught in rush our in 2 separate states on the same day. Luck was not on our side today. The one thing we could be grateful for was Maddy being an absolute dream the entire trip - she slept, she ate, she charmed everyone around her. I had worried that now that she was 6 months old and a lot more alert and awake than the first time we flew with her, that she would be a lot harder to manage. While she needed more entertaining when she was awake, she was still a delight. I count my blessings for her cheery disposition daily.
Once we picked up our friend Stephan and made it through the traffic, we finally arrived in wine country. We had rented a house with some friends and their children, and were so glad to finally arrive and settle in. We had a challenging time finding a place for the weekend, so while the place didn't have a glamorous look and feel, it had enough space, and a pool, hot tub, fire pit, grill and outdoor seating for dinner- all the elements needed for a great weekend with friends.
While at this point we'd been traveling for over 12 hours, and I was certainly ready for a glass of delicious California wine, there was still the matter of getting Maddy changed, fed, and to bed in this altogether new time zone. This proved to be a challenge. Maddy had a serious objection to the pack and play we had set up in our room, and wasn't afraid to let her opinion be known. Phil and I made it through dinner and some social time alternating turns in the bedroom with Maddy, until I eventually just gave up and went to bed with her. She refused to sleep anywhere except on my chest or next to me, so for the first time ever, she slept in the bed between Phil and I. I was nervous about it as I'm a restless sleeper, but we all made it through just fine.
Pumpkin Picking
Saturday, after spending the early morning playing with all the children, we packed up the babes and headed to a local farm that allowed you to pick out pumpkins and other fresh veggies from their gardens. It was a gorgeous morning, and we had a blast roaming their crops, picking out tomatoes, peppers, carrots, and beets for our dinner salad- talk about farm to table! There were also several pumpkin patches with the pumpkins still on the vine, and we helped our local friends choose their Halloween pumpkins. Our friends had children that were older than Maddy, so it was fun to see them get excited about choosing their pumpkins or playing with the straw, or riding in the wheelbarrows. It was a gorgeous morning with friends, and it made Phil and I super excited about the years to come and the experiences we can have with Maddy.
The rest of the morning was spent at one of the oldest wineries in Sonoma (Buena Vista). They had a gorgeous outdoor space, and we spent a couple hours sitting outside, sharing a bottle of white and enjoying the fall sunshine.
The afternoon revolved around nap times and visitors from SF, which meant relaxation time by the pool. It was wonderful to have the space and downtime to catch up with our friends - this California crew has known Phil long before we ever met, and are his closest friends. They welcomed me into their circle of friendship when Phil and I started dating, and all have become dear friends to me. The last time we were all together, only one of the couples had children, and we were spending the weekend enjoying wine country sans children. Oh how times have changed. While it's harder to relax, unwind and catch up while chasing after, feeding and comforting the babies, there was an added bonus to knowing we were all in it together - we all understood each other's challenges and helped each other out when a baby needed holding, a face needed wiping, a child needed attention or focus.
Daddy I love wine country!
Sunday was much of the same, with a lovely visit to a winery in the morning, and hanging around the house in the afternoon. The highlight of the afternoon was being able to get Maddy into the pool in the backyard. I had been wanting to get Maddy in the water for a long time- I grew up swimming, and feeling confident swimming and in a pool is something I want to pass on to my daughter. While Maddy has been exposed to water during bath time (and tolerates it- but I wouldn't say loves it) she had yet to be immersed in a full on pool situation much less gotten her head underwater.
We lucked out with a pool and hot tub combination. The hot tub temperature could be adjusted, so we were able to turn the heat up enough to make it comfortable for the kiddies without getting it too hot for them. Maddy’s first pool experience was a very positive one - she absolutely loved being in the water and passed between mommy and daddy, and even tolerated being dunked underwater. I for one could not get enough of the experience.
Our final night was spent sitting out by the fire with our dear friends, laughing and enjoying our time together. After several nights of Maddy protesting bedtime, we were finally able to get her to sleep (albeit in the middle of the bed with pillows around her) and able to enjoy some uninterrupted adult time. It was the perfect end to the great vacation with friends.
Our trip home ended up being almost as eventful as our trip to California - while we had a much easier time getting to the airport, through security, and to our gate, halfway through our flight, Phil started to feel bad - really bad. Holding the barf bag bad. Maddy did great throughout the trip, again sleeping, laughing and cooing at her neighbors. She did great when we got off the plane, got our bags, and rode the train to our car. She really was fantastic throughout the whole journey - right up until she was in her carseat and on her way to home sweet home. Then she was done. She’d had quite enough of the trip, and wanted to make sure we knew it. At this point I was driving us home, and Phil was in the back seat with her, trying to calm her down, and not lose his lunch. At one point in the trip, I had to pull over and get her out of the car to calm her down, at which point I thought Phil was actually going to lose his cookies. We somehow made it all the way home, and I started the task of getting Maddy changed, fed and ready for bed. Phil made a bee line for the bathroom, and I didn't see him for the rest of the night. I spent the rest of the night in Maddy’s room, sleeping in a chair and trying to console her to sleep.
It wasn't quite the perfect ending to the trip, but it did justify our plans to take one more day off after traveling, to recuperate and get settled back into our daily routine. After the trip we’d had, it might have been the most relaxing day of the whole trip!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Magic Moments (Week 26, Day 6)

I cannot believe what happened last night. It's been a long week at work, and Maddy hasn't been sleeping quite as well as she normally does. Two nights ago, she woke up at 4:45, and Phil got up and rocked her until it was time to go to work. Needless to say, it was a long work day for Daddy. Last night, I sent him to bed early to catch up on sleep, and took Maddy duty.
She slept soundly for a few hours, and then started her mid evening fuss. Sometimes this means a quick trip to the crib to replace the binky, and others it's nursing and getting cozy for a long haul. You never quite know what you are going to get.
Once in Maddy's dimly lit room, I could tell she was somewhere between sleep and awake - not so alert that she was awake and wanted to be held, and not so asleep that she would roll over and go to bed. I stood by her crib and rubbed her belly, and attempted to get her back to sleep. Once she was close to drifting off, I slowly backed away and tiptoed out of the room.
This is when the magic happened. I returned to my computer to get some work done, and brought the baby monitor out to check in and make sure Maddy was doing alright. I could not believe what I saw. Maddy eyes were wide open, and she was taking her binky in and out if her mouth. She wasn't crying or upset in the slightest, so I resisted the urge to go in and put her to sleep - I decided to watch and see if she was learning to self soothe. Maddy laid there, playing with her binky and staring at her mobile for a while. Once she got bored with that, she rolled over, scooted across her crib to the mobile, and began swatting at the base until SHE TURNED IT ON. By herself. At 6 months old. I could not believe it. I stared in amazement as the mobile started to move, and she rolled on her back to watch it. Every time an animal made it's descent on the mobile, Maddy would reach up and attempt to grab it - and wasn't too far off from getting a grip on a few of them. When Maddy would get bored, she'd roll and scoot around her crib, testing out binkies or throwing them out of the crib. Then she eventually came back to the mobile and stared, and decided she was done, and rolled over and went to sleep.
I watched the whole encounter with my mouth gaping. I could not believe she was able to turn on the mobile all by herself! I could barely believe what I was seeing, and wanted to wake up Phil so he wouldn't think I was making it all up. It was absolutely amazing, and the best part of my day.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Class Pictures (Week 26, Day 5)

Ready for my closeup!
We’ve decided to take another breather on the solids, and Maddy has immediately gone back to her normal sleep habits, which are pretty reasonable for a 6 month old. This week, there was great excitement at daycare, as it was time for school pictures. Yes, school pictures. While this seems reasonable for some of the older kids, even the infants get involved - there are individual pictures and class pictures of the whole crew.
We had been told this was coming up, so we spent time this morning picking out just the right outfit for Maddy’s first school pics. We started out in a cute little hipster outfit a friend had bought us. While adorable, we realized that with Maddy being an adorable baby sans hair, we needed to maybe go a more girly route. So, we pulled out the pink dress, pink bloomers, and pink headband. And while we don’t girl it up that that all too often, I have to admit Maddy looked absolutely adorable.
When we got to daycare all the nannies ooh’d and ahh’d over how cute Maddy looked, and I have to admit I couldn't stop taking pictures. It was so fun to see all the little babies dress up for the big day - it was the first of many school pictures to come, and while future class pictures will be more memorable for all the children, it was a great first experience for all the new parents.
Picking up Maddy after work, I got a full report on how the pictures went. Maddy got rave reviews, and everyone said not only did she love getting her picture taken, the photographer loved her and said her pictures turned out great. I can’t wait to see them!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Liars! (Week 26, Day 2)

Our experiment with oatmeal did not go as planned. Everyone tells you “Once your baby starts eating solids, that’s it - they’ll sleep through the night!”. Well, all those people are big fat liars in my book. On our second attempt at solid foods, Madeline once again was thrilled with the experience - she loved watching the spoon full of food come at her, and gobbled up the food. It was adorable.
Then came sleepy time. Maddy fell asleep for about an hour, and then was up - FOR THE REST OF THE NIGHT. The only way she would even consider sleeping was in my arms or my husbands. It was clear she had a belly ache - she would not roll onto her stomach in her normal sleeping position, and just seemed uncomfortable with the prospect of laying flat in the crib.

As so it was, on a Sunday night before a long week of work, and after my first 10K run post baby, I slept sitting up in a chair, my little girl in my arms, wondering why my daughter decided to buck the trend of having solid foods be the cure all for a full nights sleep.