Six Months of Elise

At this exact moment a half a year ago, I was lying in a hospital bed with a 16-minute old baby in my arms. Upon her arrival sixteen minutes prior, she had been whisked over to the warmer to be evaluated by the neonatologist to make sure all her bells and whistles were in good order, and when she was declared perfectly healthy, they handed her to Chaz, who handed her to me. And after that turn of events, our little family's world has never been the same, and I wouldn't have it any other way. 

It's hard to believe that was only six months ago. Every single parent on the face of the earth says, "I can't remember what life was like before Baby arrived," and we all just chuckle and carry on, but as with almost every saying that is repeated 'round the globe, it's completely true. That IS why it's a common saying, after all. But that doesn't stop me from repeating it once again. I can't really remember what life was like before Elise arrived. Heck, what did we DO with all of our spare time? 

In other news, Elise is six months old and is a ball full of energy. 

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She's gotten significantly better at holding herself in seated position once placed there, although she hasn't quite mastered getting there herself. She's trying on the regular though, so I suppose that will come in no time.

She rarely cries, but she has zero tolerance for being on her back and will flip herself over on to her stomach and get up on her hands and knees before you can say Jack Robinson. 

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She's pretty proud of herself, too. 

She talks most of the time, and has expanded her vocabulary to "Babababababa," "Bwahbwahbwahbwah" (I promise that's different from babababa), "Mamamamama," "Dadadadada," and "Brrrbrrrbrrrbrrr." She still enjoys both squealing and growling, although more often than not those sounds include syllables as well. What excitement!

Speaking of excitement, when she finds something particularly thrilling, she'll make a funny sort of inhaling gasp/squeak, accompanied with curling up into a ball and enthusiastically clutching the shoulder of whoever is carrying her. This combination of actions is usually brought on by walking down the stairs after waking up for a nap, going outside, or whenever someone says something excitedly. 

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She seems to be within days of figuring out how to crawl, as she is able to move her knees while on all fours, and often rocks back and forth trying to get herself to move forward. Once she figures out her hands need to move as well, she'll be off to the races.

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And last but not least, she cut two teeth while we were in Washington for Thanksgiving, and she is suddenly back to (mostly) sleeping through the night. Insert praise hands here. 

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Other fast facts to note:

  • She took her first flight and handled it like a champ.
  • She had her first Thanksgiving and ate no Thanksgiving food - still on a fully liquid (milk) diet!
  • She's started sleeping in her own room at night, now that she's more consistent in not waking up. 
  • She's working on moving up a clothes size, and as a result has a rather inflated closet since she fits in 3-6 month but also in 6-9 month outfits.
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And we love her to pieces. 

O Christmas Tree...

I think Christmas just got infinitely more exciting. I mean, Christmas has always been exciting, but with a baby, it became even more so. I'm not sure which is better: being a kid at Christmas or having a kid at Christmas. Perhaps we'll never know. Or at least I'll know after a few Christmases with a kid are under my belt.

Needless to say, I'm pretty pumped about this coming Christmas, and so we got started with the Christmas decorations a little earlier than usual this year, beginning with the Christmas tree.

In a perfect world, we'd go to the tree farm and cut down our own tree. I have such great memories of doing that for years as a kid and I'd love to pass that down, but it turns out that somehow cutting down our own is significantly MORE expensive than buying a pre-cut one. Someone explain that to me, please. Someone has to do all the labor of cutting, moving, arranging, selling, and attaching the trees to cars, but it's $20 less expensive than me going to the farm, sawing, transporting, and attaching everything on my own?

I digress.

Long story short, we got Elise's first Christmas tree at the local garden supply place down the road, but as far as pre-cut trees go, they had a really good selection and it was still fun. 

We headed to the lot on Saturday afternoon and perused the various tree options. There were several good ones! 

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Our living room has limited options for tree placement, so we knew we wanted something not too tall and not too wide, but not too short and not too skinny. Basically, it had to be just right. Fortunately, we found the perfect one within a few minutes and then we made sure that Elise approved. 

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When we couldn't get her attention to take a picture, we knew that was it. And so we played it like the millennials that we are and took a family selfie, then paid for our tree and got it on top of the car. 

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As one does with Christmas trees, we brought it home, set it up, and filled it with decorations while Christmas music played in the background. Midway through we made breakfast for dinner, and then finished it up after we ate. 

We tried to take one more picture along the way, but it's a little tough while baby-wrangling and this is pretty much what we got:

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And finally, because Christmas with a baby is magical, I took a few photos while she played with some lights to round out the evening. 

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Since Advent starts later this year, we have an extra week to enjoy the season. We're celebrating at our house this year for the first time, and I'm quite looking forward to slowing down, savoring the preparations, the decorations, and the holiness in which these weeks are steeped. And I can't wait to watch Elise take it all in for the first time, since there's something especially lovely about introducing holidays to someone who's already filled with wonder over the regular day to day life. May we all anticipate Jesus's birth with such childlike amazement. 

Five Months of Elise

Somehow, another month has passed already and I'm back here to document. Usually I like to have a few posts between the month by month ones, but...here I am without other filler. Besides, a regular dose of Elise updates is all anyone ever wanted, right? Ha.

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This month, Elise finally decided that rolling from her back to her stomach is her new favorite activity, and if you put her down on her back, she'll be on her stomach within the blink of an eye. Occasionally, typically in the morning when she has the most energy, she'll do a few barrel rolls and go from back to stomach, stomach to back, back to stomach, etc. until she's reached the opposite side of whatever surface she's lying on. Needless to say, it has become even more difficult to get a non-blurry photo of her while she plays, since all she wants to do is move around. 

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She continues to expand her repertoire of sounds, from the bottom of her range with growls, and the very top of her range with extremely high pitched squeals. The growls are particularly endearing, while the squeals could be considered ear-splitting. Upon experiencing them during a 3-hour car trip, Chaz said, "I think it's time to invest in some ear plugs."

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She's got a little more peach fuzz on top of her head, and it looks like she's going to be blond, at least for now. With two brunette parents, I think chances are good that she will one day join the club. 

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She has just started to be able to sit up by herself if put in position, although it's pretty hit or miss whether she'll stay up or tip over on her side. I'm guessing by the time six months rolls around, she will be doing it all on her own. She's also showing some signs of getting ready to crawl, pushing herself backwards in order to get up on hands and knees. 

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All the changes have been pretty exciting, except that she has gone back to waking up a few times a night rather than sleeping all the way through. Nevertheless, we think she's the greatest, even when we're getting a bit less rest.  

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With everything that's changed this month, we're so excited to see what next month brings!

Four Months of Elise

Things have been a little more...distracted around here these days, seeing as I'm writing this a solid two weeks late. Elise is four months old! She's growing like a weed! She's learning new things! Per usual, we must document.

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My photos weren't as good this month because she was wiggling all around, exploring the world around her. Or at least her own fingers. At the four month mark, she is able to consistently roll over from front to back, and occasionally roll from back to front. However, she still prefers to reserve this particular activity for the most special of times, namely when she doesn't want to sleep. As with last month, her most favorite activity while spending time lying on her stomach is to try to propel herself forward, so far to no avail. She is an absolute pro at rotating herself in a full circle when she has the room though, so it's only a matter of time.

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She talks all the time while at home or in her car seat, but when we're out and about she would rather observe everything than say much. Her favorite sounds include "Ummmmm," "Mmmmm," "Maaaaaa," and if we're really lucky, "Mama." I'm 100% sure that she does not associate the word with me at all, but it's rather gratifying nonetheless.

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Her four month checkup revealed that she has grown a full six inches since birth, and she's off the percentile charts for height. However, if there were a percentile chart for hair growth, that would be incremental at best, seeing as she still gets called Baldie every once in awhile by perfect strangers. Let it be known that she does indeed have hair, but it's very light and very short. And it is growing! Just very slowly. 

And last but not least, here's a smattering of non-month-specific photos from the last month that deserve to be published just because we think she's the sweetest. 

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Is there anything better than a pajama-clad baby? I say no. 

Is there anything better than a pajama-clad baby? I say no. 

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Blurry, but her face is too good to not post.

Blurry, but her face is too good to not post.

She thinks standing is the coolest. Some balancing assistance is required.

She thinks standing is the coolest. Some balancing assistance is required.

We love you, little bean! 

Apple Picking and the Start of a Tradition

When I was little, one of the key indicators that fall had arrived was going apple picking. Chapin Orchard was a couple towns over, and we'd visit the animals, take a hayride, and of course...pick apples. I don't actually remember what we did with the apples we picked, but they definitely all got eaten one way or another!

By the time I got to college, the yearly outing was treasured enough (and similarly loved by friends) that we made it a priority to go to a nearby orchard in the fall to continue the tradition despite being away from home. We added on apple cider donuts to the animal visiting, hayride, and apple picking, and that became as important as the other aspects. Perhaps more so, if I'm being honest!

I don't know if I really thought about it as a tradition until lately though. But this year, with a tiny human with whom we'd like to establish some annual traditions, it suddenly felt more important. So when my friend Meghanne suggested apple picking with our respective families, the idea was irresistible. 

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So we loaded up our babies and met at the farm, and headed out to the orchard to gather our apples. 

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Elise is still a little too small to get excited about the picking process at this point, but she did enjoy spending time in the wrap while Chaz and I did all the gathering work!

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We stopped picking long enough to take a few family pictures, which is great since I have precious few photos of all three of us together. I mean, 99% of the pictures I take these days are of Elise and Elise alone, so it's nice to mix it up every once in awhile. 

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We got some good ones of Meghanne's family as well! 

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We each gathered a half a bushel of Cortland and Red Delicious apples, making sure to only grab the good ones. That turned out to be harder than expected, because many of the apples looked like they'd been afflicted with some sort of apple-y disease, but we managed to find some spot-free ones without too much trouble. Several of the good ones were high up, so Meghanne and I stood back and let the taller ones among us grab those. 

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And before we left the orchard area, we made sure to get a group photo, because it didn't happen if it wasn't documented, right? Right.

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As we walked back to the farm center, we found one of those...cut out things where you can poke your head through a hole. I'm sure there's a name for those, but I'm not educated enough to know what it is. So Wooden Hole Thing is the official term for now. Obviously, more pictures were in order, because when a Wooden Hole Thing is available and babies are present, such an opportunity should not be missed. Behold, a series of photos: 

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Elise wasn't too sure about it. 

Elise wasn't too sure about it. 

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All the modeling tired Elise out, I suppose, since she cuddled right up and proceeded to fall asleep. 

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We ended our adventure with apple cider donuts, since we had already established that the donuts were the secondary goal of apple picking. This farm did not disappoint - I'm pretty sure they were the best apple cider donuts I've ever had, and I've eaten quite a few in my day. 

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In short, we had a grand old time. Elise definitely won't be old enough to remember this trip, but it's something I hope to repeat year after year so that we can start establishing traditions of our own. 

I love fall - I mean really, who doesn't - but it isn't just because of the pretty colors on the trees, the crispness in the air, or the sumptuous food that ends up on our tables with the change of season. Instead, it's the gathering in, to pull an idea from The Lifegiving Home (frequently mentioned here of late). I love the feeling of the pull homeward, the desire for warmth and stocking up, preparing for winter, and making things cozy. And so I made 11 jars of applesauce with our apples while Elise slept this afternoon. I took a little break when she cried a bit in her sleep, taking more time than usual to snuggle with her and breathe in her freshly-bathed baby smell before settling her back in her crib to snooze the afternoon away. Gathering in doesn't just have to be about stocking a home pantry. I gathered Elise in my arms, knowing that she won't be small enough to gather this way forever. I gathered memories of our apple adventure, storing them away for years to come. We're slowly gathering traditions throughout Elise's first year, hopefully giving her an anchor in life as she grows.

We're already planning on doing an apple picking trip next year, because traditions are important. They gives us the peculiar opportunity to gather both memories and hopes all at once. 

Three Months of Elise

Today, Elise is three months old! Insert a paragraph here about how fast time is passing and oh-my-goodness-HOWWWW. But all of that has been said before both here and by every parent in the history of ever, so I'll spare you the redundancy. Just please note that all of it - every last jot and tittle that you've heard from everyone - is 100% true. 

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Three-month Elise has recently discovered her vocal cords and has been putting them to good use, having full-on conversations with us on the daily. Fortunately, she has not decided to use her newly discovered skills in places slightly less familiar than home, which is good news for us during church. I suspect those days are coming to an end, however, and we'll have to adjust our church service strategies to accommodate. 

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She has also become the Drool Queen and enjoys chomping on her hands, making a bit of a mess wherever she goes. Toys occasionally find their way into her mouth as well, but at least for now, she enjoys looking at them more than playing with them. Her favorite toy is a stuffed cow from a school I visited for work last year, probably due to the dramatic color contrast between the black and white spots on his body. 

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While she hasn't yet mastered rolling over, she does manage to get from tummy to back with only a tiny bit of assistance, so the day is nigh! She loves tummy time and prefers to spend it attempting to move forward in a sort of crawl rather than trying to flip herself sideways. 

When it comes to routines, we've been following her cues, and within the last two weeks she's established an astonishingly consistent bedtime between 7:30 and 8:00. She spends the first part of the evening sleeping in her crib, and then we feed, change, and move her into our room when we go to bed. She will sometimes give us a full night's rest, but most nights she wakes up between 3:30 and 5:30 looking for food and a clean diaper. She usually goes right back to sleep, though, so we don't complain! 

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She has about 1000 nicknames, ranging from the formal Miss Elise to the much less formal Bean, Nugget, Goober, Grumpkin (when fussing), Peanut, and the list goes on. We think she's the coolest, and with every new achieved milestone, I'm both celebrating her achievements and begging time to slow down. After all, a quarter of a year (already!) is nothing to sneeze at. 

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We love you, baby girl! We're so blessed to be the ones who get to watch you grow.

Levain Bakery Follow Up: The Homemade Version

If you recall, when we went to New York, I tried the famous Levain Bakery cookies and decided they were alright, but not hands down the greatest cookies of all time. Remember? I even made a preposterous claim that I liked my own cookie recipe better. 

As a result, I decided that I needed to turn the flavor of my cookies into the size, shape, and texture of the Levain cookies, and set to work. My two biggest peeves with the Levain cookies were a) the walnuts and b) the (lack of) a good dough flavor, so that's what I set out to "fix." 

There are a number of food bloggers on the interwebs that have already undertaken replica Levain recipes, so I started there. This one looked good, but a friend had already tried making this one and declared it was amazing, so that's the one I ended up using as my base recipe. That one turned out to be a good one, since the baker had already done the hard work of figuring out how much flour and chocolate chips were required to make up for the removed walnuts. And so I got to work. Here's what I did:

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup frozen salted butter (grated on a cheese grater)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 cups chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the grated butter and the two kinds of sugar until smooth.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until fully incorporated into the butter and sugar mixture.
  4. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix until smooth.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until smooth. (I do this step in three batches.)
  7. Once all the ingredients are fully mixed, remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the chocolate chips. (There are a lot of chocolate chips, so don't be alarmed.)
  8. Scoop the dough into baseball-sized dough balls and place them on a cookie sheet lined with either a baking mat or parchment paper. There should be no more than four per sheet. Do not flatten the dough balls.
  9. Bake the cookies for 11 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies are the perfect shade of golden brown.
  10. Remove the cookies from the oven and let them sit on the cookie sheet for 15 minutes to finish the baking process.
  11. EAT THOSE COOKIES.

And oh. my. goodness. These were actually the best cookies I've ever had. My husband said, "I don't know how anyone could finish one of those in one sitting. I had a half of a half and I'm full!"

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Well, folks, I'm here to say that I CAN finish one in one sitting, although I will also say that I probably wouldn't want to eat anything else until the next day, so if you make this recipe, eat at your own (delicious) risk. My friend Rachael and I sat down and consumed them alongside a glass of wine and the finale of The Bachelorette. They were, as she posted to Snapchat...

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The Great Mouse Hunt of 2017

Can something still be called great if it took place over the course of less than 12 hours? I say yes, but based on the following account, let me know if you agree.*

For the past several days I had been hearing scurrying noises in the walls. I'm not one to freak out too much about the prospect of rodents in my house, as long as they don't STAY in my house, so I didn't think too much of it. I told myself I should probably buy some mouse traps soon, but I wasn't sure where to put them since I didn't know how a mouse, chipmunk, or other small creature could have invaded the premises. 

Yesterday started passed mostly uneventfully. I heard the scratching/scurrying again while sitting (and nursing, as I do on the daily several times), and then forgot about it. I am well aware that a normal person would not forget about such a thing, so I suppose that makes me abnormal. 

That all changed when I saw a pair of my shorts that I needed to put away. I grabbed them from the chair upon which they sat, turned around, and started climbing the stairs, and that's when I saw him. THE MOUSE. He was sitting at the top of the stairs, apparently playing dead, since he wasn't moving. 

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Again, a normal person might have had a normal reaction, like a gasp or a flight down the stairs. I did not. I said to myself, "I must get rid of this mouse RIGHT NOW." So I crept back down the stairs, headed for the kitchen cabinets, and grabbed a mixing bowl from the lazy susan where all our bowls are stored. Armed with a capturing implement, I headed back up the stairs to find that the mouse had moseyed its way along the baseboard on the landing and waltzed into Elise's room. Please note that Elise was sleeping in her room, which added a niiiiiiice layer of complication.

I got as close as I could, but before I could get the bowl over him, he scampered behind her bookshelf and was out of reach. He proceeded to disappear as I tried to access him from the other side. And so I declared a truce for the night and went to bed, vowing to myself to buy mouse traps in the morning.

HOWEVER.

The next morning arrived, and while Elise swung in her swing and I ate my Corn Flakes (don't judge - they're tasty), the mouse reappeared just beside our living room chair. "Aha!" I thought. "MOUSE, YOU ARE MINE." 

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I grabbed the same bowl from the previous night, tiptoed my way over to the chair (approaching from the other side, of course), climbed onto the seat, leaned over the side, and quickly set the bowl upside down over the mouse, trapping him underneath. 

I swear he must have been the world's dumbest mouse, because I'm pretty sure normal mouse behavior would have him running away from humans as fast as possible. The mouse and I are evidently compatriots in abnormality. Let's just hope it's on different scales. 

Since I still had to dispose of the (live) mouse, I took a flattened cardboard box from our recycling bin and slid it under the bowl. The mouse was now transportable. I lifted the whole contraption up, took it to our screen door, and went outside.  

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Once outside, I took a very quick jaunt down the rail trail behind our house, set the cardboard-plus-bowl on the ground, and flipped the bowl off the box. 

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He was temporarily paralyzed by fear and stayed stock still, but quickly recovered after I tipped the box to get him to move (and to get myself back inside the house). 

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Zoom lens. Don't think I'd get that close without one.

After taking one more mouse portrait, I bade him farewell and headed back inside. Please, dear mouse, STAY AWAY FROM MY RESIDENCE FOREVERMORE. 

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*Other potential titles included Mousepocalypse and MouseGate.

Tea Time with Friends

Well, I blinked and two weeks went by. Just call me Rip Van Winkle already, ok? It feels like a lot of things are going on but at the same time not much is happening. Part of it might be because I'm used to feeling somewhat stressed at this time of year due to the busy season at work, and that is only something I'm hearing about (rather than experiencing personally) this year. In a way, I feel a little guilty getting together with friends during the work day since I know that so many of my coworkers are under the summer pressure, but that's when I try to remember that I have a tiny human depending on me to stay alive 24/7. I guess that's its own kind of stress, but decidedly of a different sort.

Speaking of friends, a couple of my best ones and I decided to get afternoon tea along with our small offspring. A daunting thought, to be sure, but made easier by the fact that two of the three babes aren't mobile yet and are fairly content to sit in our laps, and the third is still in the womb for the next 11 weeks or so. It all sounded rather proper and lovely, and so we decided to risk the possibility that the babies could lose it while there and went anyway.

Fortunately, both babies were well behaved (though mine required a snack toward the end) and we had a grand old time. Initially we were headed to the Wenham Tea House, but we realized at the last minute that they weren't open every day and had to change our plans. Instead, we hightailed it to Salem and tried Jolie Tea Company, and it was well worth the extra couple of miles to get there. They offered over 80 kinds of looseleaf tea on their menu, and had a variety of either individual pastries or small combinations of pastries and pots of tea at very reasonable prices. For example, all three of us chose to get "La Petite Tea," which came with a pot of any kind of tea on the menu, along with a scone, a madeleine cookie, and a French macaron for $9.95. Considering some of the teas were around $7 a pot, I consider that a pretty good deal.

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It was so nice that we all declared we wished we could do it once a week. While that isn't really feasible, we'll definitely make it a regular event, and it inspired me to try to make time for creating that type of thing at my own home. Especially as Elise gets older, I think it would be fun for her to have a real, delightful tea party every once in awhile!

It also reinforced how grateful I am for this group of friends. What a blessing it is to have seen each other through the college years, first jobs, boyfriends, engagements, weddings, and now babies. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and they're a big part of mine!

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A Trip in Review: NYC with a Baby

Now that we're back from NYC, I figured I'd put together a summary of our trip because I'm sure everyone else is just DYING to hear about how it went. Could you get any more excited? I think not.

We went back and forth for a couple of days when deciding if Elise and I should go or not. Our last vacation with her (at one month) included rather a lot of fussing and sickness, as you may recall, so we were a little hesitant to risk that again, this time with fewer helping hands available. But Elise was a full month older, was sleeping better through the night, and was not coming down with any form of sickness, so we decided it was worth a try. And so off we went! 

We planned to head down Tuesday afternoon and return Saturday afternoon. Chaz was working on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday morning, so I planned two days worth of activities I could do by myself with a baby, and a family excursion to the Statue of Liberty. I knew I wasn't going to be able to do my typical traveling-solo style mad dash touring, but I also wasn't entirely limited to two-hour journeys only because I had a) the wrap (making yet another appearance on ye olde blog) and b) the necessary devices/body parts for diapering and feeding a small human. That essentially meant that I could do one major thing per day. 

But first - the travel! A couple of important points:

Packing: my usual rule of thumb is PACK LIGHT. Not in this case. My new rule was PACK COMPACT. In other words, pack more than you probably need so that you are prepared for anything. I packed a whole package of diapers (sticking them all in the zip pocket of the suitcase lid), two outfits per day for Elise (since I didn't want to end up having too few clothes thanks to spit up/poop/various other body fluids), and tools for evaluating sickness (in case she came down with something like she did on the last trip). We also brought her Dockatot, since she sleeps really well in it and we also wouldn't have to bring something bulkier like a Pack & Play. Between all of her stuff, the Dockatot, Chaz's work clothes, and both of our regular clothes, we had a lot of stuff, but I fit it all into one suitcase and one backpack, which doubled as our diaper bag for the days. 

Suitcase Layer 1

Suitcase Layer 1

Suitcase Layer 2

Suitcase Layer 2

Did we overpack? 100% yes. Did we have everything we needed? Well...Elise did. I should have packed one more pair of shorts for me, because I was NOT planning on sweating as much as I did thanks to excessive walking + over-80-degree weather. But apart from that, we had everything we could possibly have required. And when it comes to taking care of a baby in an unfamiliar place, being over prepared is better than being under prepared, and we'll be even more on top of things the next time we travel. 

Traveling: We took the train from South Station in Boston to Penn Station in NYC, and it was the perfect way to go with a baby. It was easy to get up and walk around if needed, there was no change in air pressure due to elevation, and there was no airport security with liquid restrictions. I call that a win. Plus, Elise loved looking out the window when she wasn't eating or sleeping. Added bonus: there was a changing table in a fairly large bathroom. 

Hotel: King-sized bed. Insert the praise hands emoji here, please. I'm slowing becoming convinced that we need one of those at home too, because HOLY SPACE. Amazing. 

Alright! That's how we got to New York. Here's what we did:

Day 1: Levain Bakery! I won't recap that whole trip again since it was already done here, so instead I'll give you a slideshow:

Setting off for the day...at noon. #morningnap

Setting off for the day...at noon. #morningnap

Post-cookie-purchase rest in the park (to eat said cookie).

Post-cookie-purchase rest in the park (to eat said cookie).

The Cookie.

The Cookie.

What a smirk.

What a smirk.

When we got back to the hotel, Elise took her afternoon nap, and then when Chaz returned from working, we walked to a nearby Mexican restaurant for dinner. It was delicious, and Elise had the courtesy to fall asleep on the way there and wake up just as we were finishing. That was a one-time deal. Future meals were not quite so easy.

Day 2: Brooklyn Bridge (viewing) plus Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory! Yet again we set off in the late morning after Elise's morning nap, although we started the whole day an hour earlier and so were out of the hotel by 11. I took a second stab at navigating the subway and ultimately decided that nearly every other city in the world has a better labeled, better mapped, easier to navigate metro system than New York. It's possible to get around, but only if you have a pretty good idea of the layout of the city in your head. And definitely don't count on there being a subway map once you've gone beyond the entrance to the station. Once you're past the fare collection, you're toast until you actually get on the train. Nevertheless, we persisted and eventually found our way to Brooklyn. 

When we got there, we took yet another selfie on a park bench. 

You'd think we could come up with a better pose, but I was feeling more overheated than creative and so it's the best I've got. My original plan was to walk over the bridge, but the heat persuaded me to cut my losses and instead just satisfy myself with eating ice cream while taking pictures of the bridge. In the end, I'm not actually sure that counts as a loss, because...ice cream.

Elise spent much time munching on her wrap.

Elise spent much time munching on her wrap.

This was taken shortly before it started melting ALL over my hand.

This was taken shortly before it started melting ALL over my hand.

We called it a day, headed back to the hotel, and yet again, Elise took her afternoon nap. When Chaz got back from work we decided against going out again for dinner and instead got pizza and brought it back to the hotel. Elise approved and got ready for bed early.

Day 3: Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island! Moral of the story - we should have packed a lunch. But regardless, it was still fun. Chaz finished up what he needed to do for work in the hotel room, and we got out of there, breaking our record by 1.25 hours and leaving at 9:45. We took the subway down to Battery Park, then hopped on the ferry that would take us to both Liberty Island and then Ellis Island.  

Elise was very enthused/interested in the whole thing.

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We saw the statue and thought about climbing up, but again, it was very hot and we decided we were fine with taking pictures...from down below. 

And so after a quick feeding, we hopped back on the boat and headed over to Ellis Island. 

Ellis Island was is an interesting museum at this point, made more interesting that my then-17-year-old great grandmother went through it when she came over from Norway in 1913. Look! Here's her ship!

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After seeing the sights in the museum, we went outside to the Wall of Honor and found her name...

...then hopped back on the boat and sailed/motored back to Manhattan. 

We were all pretty tuckered out but made it to a restaurant for dinner, but Elise had had enough and made sure that only one of us could eat at a time. But the burger was good! And bed followed shortly after our return to the hotel.

Saturday was spent visiting friends (but we didn't take any pictures, sadly) and then traveling back home by train. The longer we're away from home, it seems, the more Elise wants to be home, so she was delighted when we walked in the door. And so here we are, back at our regular routine, until the next time we decide to hit the road!

NYC Eats: Levain Bakery

We're currently in NYC. Chaz needed to travel here for work, so Elise and I decided to come along for the ride! We'll save the "Here's how we traveled with a baby!" post for another time, since not EVERY post on this here blog should be baby-focused. Instead, we'll turn our gaze toward my other great love: cookies. Though I don't have extensive familiarity with NYC (having only been here twice and only walking around at night), I have lots and lots of experience with cookies, and while I wouldn't use the term connoisseur, per se, perhaps we can consider me something close to it. In other words...I freaking love chocolate chip cookies and will seek them out if I get an opportunity.

That opportunity came knocking on this trip. When we arrived at the hotel yesterday, I spent our initial couple of hours soothing an overstimulated, travel-weary baby into slumber while Chaz went out and got us some chicken tenders for a quick dinner. While he was out, he took it upon himself to look up some things for Elise and me to do during the day, since he would be working. What he found was a bakery with a claim to the world's greatest chocolate chip cookie. Since he knows me well, he sent me the link, and I immediately added it to our agenda for the next day. Truth be told...it was the ONLY item on the agenda for the next day.

Well, today was "the next day," so after Elise took her morning nap, we set out on a mission to try the world's greatest chocolate chip cookie. Things started well. I put Elise in the wrap (looking at you with allllllll the heart eyes, Solly Baby wrap!) and stuck the diaper backpack on my back, so I probably looked like a turtle with a shell on both sides. What a sight. Speaking of...we happened to find a turtle on our excursion:

Moving on.

I could either take a bus, walk + subway, or just walk for 45 minutes. I went with the last option, because a) walking is good for me and b) I didn't feel like figuring out the bus system. Since the walking + subway option was going to take me as long as just walking, I figured that if I needed to change a diaper midway there, it'd be easier to do it on foot rather than on a train.

Off we went! We hit up Starbucks for a late breakfast, and then made our way west...until five blocks later, when I'd already developed a blister and it had started to rain. Not the most auspicious start.

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We bought some bandaids, prayed that the rain would stay a sprinkle and not convert itself to a downpour, stopped to take a photo of some lovely flowers, and found the nearest subway station.

40 minutes later we had emerged from the subway and found the bakery. From a visual standpoint, it wasn't much to look at, but I had high expectations. 

My most sincere apologies for the lack of an artsy picture.

My most sincere apologies for the lack of an artsy picture.

We went in, evaluated the choices, and selected two cookies: chocolate chip (obviously) and chocolate chocolate chip. At $4 a cookie, I wasn't getting any more than that. Off we went with our cookies to Central Park, and since around 2.5 hours had passed since both of us had eaten, I found a spot where both of us could snack. 

So! My entire tale boils down to this moment. If you're still reading, I applaud you. HOW WERE THE COOKIES, you ask? They were decent. But I would not say that I keeled over in ecstasy because I'd just encountered the worlds greatest chocolate chip cookie. In fact - and I'm about to make a very bold, very daring, highly suspect claim here - I actually think my homemade cookies are better. Shoot me.

I liked the chocolate cookie better than the chocolate chip cookie. And that's for two reasons. First, the bakery includes walnuts in their chocolate chip cookies, and while that's probably a feature for some people, it's a bug for me. I'm a bigger fan of a walnut-free chocolate chip cookie, because there are no distractions from the cookie dough plus chocolate flavor. Second, and more importantly, I was expecting the dough to have more of a substantial flavor. They were good - don't get me wrong - but if you're claiming to have the world's greatest chocolate chip cookie, I want a dough that is a little more complex rather than just a sweet base that suspends the chocolate chips.  That said, they did a couple things very well: 

1) It's hard to get a giant cookie to have a just-right crispy outside with a soft inside, and this cookie delivered. 

2) The chocolate was still nice and gooey even though the cookie wasn't just-out-of-the-oven warm. I'm not sure how they did that, but it was great!

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And so, with both of our stomachs full, we traipsed back to hotel just in time for Elise's afternoon nap. This time, it had stopped raining and the blister was remedied with the bandaid, so we walked. 

And in case you want my chocolate chip cookie recipe, here you go:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup salted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the brown and white sugar with the butter. (Cold butter will yield higher-rise cookies, but I always end up nearly melting mine because I'm impatient and I want it to mix easily.)
  3. When the mixture is smooth, add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each egg addition. Then add the vanilla and almond extract.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt, and mix with a fork. 
  5. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients in three installments, mixing after each batch. I'm pretty sure three installments are unnecessary flavor-wise, but it makes it easier on your arm while stirring.
  6. When fully mixed, add the chocolate chips and stir to disperse them evenly in the dough.
  7. Drop the cookies by rounded teaspoonful on to an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 9 to 11 minutes.
  8. Take the cookies out of the oven when the bottoms/edges look browned but the middle still looks nice and gooey. Let the cookies sit on the top of your stove for 10 minutes or so while you watch a show or something so that they continue to set.
  9. Eat all the cookies. ALL OF THEM. Or if you don't want four dozen cookies in a single sitting, put them in an airtight container and eat them over the course of the next three days.

For fear of someone disagreeing with a "world's greatest" cookie, I make no claims in that regard. I just happen to like them the best.

Lactation-Friendly Wardrobe Choices

Another baby-related post. My apologies. My life has taken a drastic turn toward domesticity.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune...wait. Not that. The universally acknowledged truth among nursing mothers is that dresses that are nursing-friendly are hard to come by. This is a particularly unfortunate truth if you are fond of wearing dresses. I happen to fall into that camp, so I recently went on a hunt for dresses that would work. 

Since the jackpot of dresses seems to be ASOS, I turned to them first. They had so many options available that I just didn't know where to start. Take this dress for example:

It comes with an amazing benefit. Nursing a baby would actually make you MORE covered up than you would be when wearing the dress sans kiddo. What an idea! Revolutionary, I say!

My next find also had some obvious benefits in terms of accessibility. 

However, the downside appeared to be the same as the upside, so it was nixed.

The third one came with an extra special feature: no part of the dress would have to be removed in order for a baby to eat! That must have been what the designers had in mind when it was created, right?

So thoughtful of those designers, really. 

I found a few more, one of which looked like it could double as a maternity dress. Thankfully I'm out of the woods on that one, so I have no need for such an attribute.

Another dress had a cutout in the perfect location for nursing, although the goth style might not be for everyone.

And last but not least, this dress boasts unparalleled convenience. I can't believe it's not advertised as a nursing dress. 

I can't believe I thought it was so hard to find a dress I could nurse in. I mean, look at all these possibilities! And this search was all with an under $40 filter, so just think of what the options might include if price were no object! 

Thanks, ASOS. You've restored my ability to wear dresses while feeding a tiny human.

 

 

 

Disclaimer: if you think I'd be caught dead in any of these dresses, you probably don't know me very well. 

A Newbie's Report on Favorite Baby Products

At two months on the job, you could hardly call me an "expert" at anything baby-related. I mean, with literally any other job, I'd still be in the training phase, so take this whole post with a hundred grains of salt. BUT. I do have a number of favorite baby products, some of which were absolute lifesavers in the first two months, and some of which I just really like and was glad to have on hand. And so in an effort to both list these things for myself because...who knows if/when I'll need a list of the things that helped me most in the newest of newborn months...and to list them in case anyone else is a first time mom in need of a minimalist's list of things to put on a registry, HERE GOES.

1) Solly Baby Wrap: This is hands down my most used, most favorite, and most baby-approved piece of gear. I started using it the day after Elise came home from the hospital and have used it almost every day since. She loves it, and if she's fussy it almost instantly calms her down. It can be used with a newborn without any fancy inserts, and it's soft, cozy, and lightweight, which is great for the summer months. I have the Charcoal Swiss Dot patterned one, but I've been drooling over the Fig and Fern colors as well. I totally need more than one, right? I mean, the thing has to be washed SOMETIME, and what on earth will I do while it's being washed? 

Kidding. Sorta. I'm sorely tempted.

My mom, me, and Elise, who's taking one of many wrap naps. Day 9.

My mom, me, and Elise, who's taking one of many wrap naps. Day 9.

2) Dockatot: This was something I didn't know I needed until Chaz's cousin (hi, Kristine!) let us borrow it. We didn't choose the co-sleeping life; the co-sleeping life chose us. In fact, if you'd asked me prior to Elise's arrival if I supported the idea, I probably would have laughed and declared that OUR baby was going to sleep in HER OWN BED, because I said so. Funny how things change once the kid actually arrives on the scene. After several very sleepless nights that resulted in me giving in to Elise sleeping in my arms in bed, we pulled out the Dockatot and have never looked back. Elise slept a thousand times better, which meant we were sleeping a thousand times better, and so better times were had by all. The only downside is that Elise is pretty tall, so she's going to outgrow it fast. We will use it to the hilt until that day arrives. Here's a photo of Elise in the Dockatot getting ready for bed:

3) Hanna Andersson (Non-Footie) Pajamas: Ok, these don't have to be Hanna Andersson. Hanna Andersson items are far too expensive for my liking, but we have an outlet nearby and I never buy anything full price, so I waited until they had a sale. Thus, Elise has a pair of (outlet) Hanna Andersson jammies, and they are theeeeee best. At first I wasn't a fan of the fact that they didn't have feet, but as my tall and lanky baby grew three inches in two months, I quickly realized that not having feet meant that she'll be able to wear them for much longer than her other already-too-short pajamas. If her feet are cold...I just put some socks on her and call it a night. Bonus: who can resist a baby in stripes?

Snoozing baby bean.

Snoozing baby bean.

4) Little Unicorn Hooded Towel: We have a couple of hooded towels, and this one is by far the best. It's thick and warm, and it's got a pretty pattern to boot. Elise doesn't always love bath time, but she does love being wrapped up, and while very biased, we think she's adorable when sporting a towel. 

Snuggled up after her first bath at home.

Snuggled up after her first bath at home.

5) Little Unicorn Muslin Swaddle Blankets: Same company again. These swaddle blankets are great. We use them all the time, whether it's for wrapping Elise up to get her to sleep, tucking her in her car seat, or draping over her while nursing. They wash and dry well (no fading!), and just get softer over time.

Coming home from the hospital!

Coming home from the hospital!

6) Gerber Cloth Diapers (for use as burp cloths): While we use disposable diapers for actual diapering, these make the best burp cloths. They're fairly inexpensive and we don't care if they get spit up or any other inescapable body fluids on them, because they just go straight into the wash. We started with one pack, and then quickly realized we used them for everything, so we went to Amazon and ordered two more packs ASAP. 

7) Gap Nursing Nightgown: This is both a maternity nightgown and a nursing nightgown, which means I've gotten a ton of use out of it. Gap almost always has sales as well, so I'd never recommend buying it at full price, but if/when it does go on sale, it's a good thing to have. While pregnant it was also one of the few things that made me feel like I looked nice (even if it was pajamas), which is a valuable thing when feeling like a beached whale!

8) OxiClean: Count this one in the "lifesaver" category. Babies = stains, so a stain remover was absolutely necessary. We've used it on Elise's pajamas, sheets, my clothes, and (happily only once...so far) carpet. We have both the powder version and the liquid version, and we use both on the regular. 

I should probably round out this list and add two more things to get to 10, but these are definitely the things that I've loved and/or used the best/most frequently and I don't want to add things that we haven't used as much. I also skipped the obvious things like a car seat, diapers, and wipes, because those are a given. In all honesty, the only items you really NEED for a baby are diapers, wipes, a car seat, a place for him or her to sleep, and a way to keep him or her clean, warm, and clothed, but these are the things that have really helped with making life more comfortable for both Elise and us during her first several weeks. I think this list is also bound to change as she gets older, so I'll probably revisit it down the line and come up with the 6 month or year version to see what's different.

And if none of this applies to you at all...well, at least you got to see a couple pictures of a cute baby?

2 Months of Elise

It's hard to believe that we've had a baby in the house for two full months now. Some days it seems like no time at all, and other days (honestly, most days) it feels like she's been here forever. It's hard to remember what life was like before she arrived! 

I meant to write down everything when she was one month, but I only got so far as taking a few pictures. Right around that time she hit a developmental leap (read: a week of fussing), we went on vacation, and she caught a cold. But she was still cute!

We made it back from vacation, her cold (plus conjunctivitis) went away thanks to some lovely Erythromycin ointment, and life carried on, and here we are at two months!

Elise, at two months of age, smiles a lot. She's happiest in the morning when she wakes up and after eating, and likes to talk, presumably telling me all about her dreams from the past night. We lucked out and she typically sleeps at least one six-hour stint every night, and occasionally sets records by going for 8.5 hours. This sleep schedule is a vast improvement from her first month, when she predictably woke up at 1:30, 4:30, and 6:30. I'm expecting that schedule to return around her fourth month, but we'll enjoy the longer stretches while they last.

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While she hasn't quite rolled over yet, she's very, very close, getting frustrated when she can't twist herself in quite the right way get all the way over. Her favorite activity is practicing standing. She'll put weight on her legs, wave her arms like she's trying to do a crawl stroke in the air instead of a pool, and do what we've come to refer to as "standing face" - opening her eyes very wide and opening her mouth to match. We didn't get the greatest picture of it, but it has been documented nonetheless! 

She's a happy, content girl unless she's tired, hungry, or uncomfortable due to digestion, which was a little tough for her during her first month. This month has seen a vast improvement in that department though! 

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She also loves hanging out in her wrap, and has taken to munching on the part of it that is in closest proximity to her mouth. Since her other most favorite pacifiers are a) nursing and b) sucking on my pinky, eating the wrap gives me a nice break! 

She's our favorite girl - since we only have one kid it's ok to say such things - and we're so glad that she's here with us. We love you, Elise! We can't wait to see how much you grow in your next month of life!

The Saga of the Sourdough Starter

I had high hopes that I would master the sourdough starter on my first try. I started with the instructions from what seemed like a trustworthy source. With a title like The Bread Bible, how could I possibly go astray? 

But to my dismay, my mix of 1/2 cup of organic rye flour (as prescribed in the book) with 1/4 cup of bottled water, after sitting for the recommended 48 hours, had not evolved from a ball of dough to the described pancake batter-consistency goop. Instead, it looked like a science experiment still in the shape of a ball of dough. 

While I realize sourdough requires a fermented starter, fermentation does not equal mold. So into the garbage it went.

I was determined that my second attempt would work. So I took to the internet and did some research, where I learned that sourdough starter should never come in contact with anything metallic. That must have been mistake number 1 with the first one, since I measured in steel measuring cups and stored the starter in a metal bowl. In addition, the internet said that measurements should be 1:1 rather than 2:1, and all measurements need to be exactly precise. In other words, I needed a kitchen scale.

So off to Amazon I went and bought myself a scale. It's one of those kitchen gadget purchases that I had thought of making on and off for years, and this is what it took to get me to pull the trigger.

BUT. Even Amazon Prime shipping speeds couldn't dissuade me from trying again that very night. Surely my metal-avoidance and oh-so-precise measuring skills would be enough to make a successful second sourdough starter (try saying that 10 times fast) without special equipment. Armed with my newfound knowledge about sourdough starters and an overabundance of confidence, I mixed up a second batch of flour and water and left it to ferment in a glass jar.

Days 1 and 2 looked decent, although I had a thin film of water on the top of the mixture. The instructions said that if that happened, the original measurements were off, but pouring off the film, "feeding" the starter, and mixing it very well could still lead to success. I did that, and Day 3 continued looking promising. 

However, by Day 4 I knew the second starter was also doomed. It now had a thick layer of water and was not developing a layer of foam as it should.  

And so now, new equipment in hand (thanks, Amazon...I shouldn't have been so hasty...), I will try a third time. If this one doesn't work, perhaps I'm just not cut out to make sourdough bread.

Taking Stock

I've seen all the Real Bloggers do Taking Stock posts every once in awhile. A quick Google search revealed that it may have originated here, but that's a bit of a guess, I admit. (It was a very quick search.) Despite the fact that I do not consider myself a Real Blogger, I thought it would be fun to do one of my own. Because why not, right? I'm once again trying to make writing a consistent thing over here, because a) it's a nice thing to do during nap times, b) I like having a record of what's going on in our lives, and c) I have to keep up my typing skills somehow. Pretty sure typing is like riding a bike and you never really forget, but I'm also a fan of typing fast and THAT might slip. Priorities. Gotta keep 'em straight.

So without further ado, here's my stock-taking:

  • Making: sourdough starter! I'm on my second attempt. My first grew mold and I had to start over...
  • Cooking: oatmeal bread. Not sure if that counts as "cooking," since it's technically baking, but that's what's I'm creating to eat at the moment. Since sourdough starter/bread takes several days to make, I needed a good interim bread that I could make in a day! 
  • Drinking: water. So much water. Feeding a baby is extraordinarily dehydrating, but that also means excessive bathroom runs. And here I thought I was done with that after giving birth...
  • Reading: this book! It's my absolute favorite and I'm now reading it for the second time. Also the Bible...sort of. I'm trying to read through it in a year, but I'm currently 13 days behind. I can catch up, I can catch up, I can catch up...
  • Wanting: a little more sleep. If the current trend holds fast, I *might* actually get more as well!
  • Looking: outside, but staying inside because it's so freaking hot. I'm not built for 90+ degree weather.
  • Wishing: that far-away friends were nearer. We're now six years post-college and the distance is still too far.
  • Enjoying: being home with Elise more than I expected I would. Watching her grow is rather miraculous. 
  • Waiting: for the next six hours to pass so we can officially start the weekend! Days when all three of us are home are the best days.
  • Loving: the way Elise sleeps with her feet tucked up under her. She's a tummy sleeper (despite all current sleep recommendations), and it's the cutest thing.
  • Watching: Anne with an E. I started watching it (another napping activity, although a very sedentary one!) and I like it a lot even though they took some clear liberties with the plot.
  • Pondering: how my tiny baby already has a personality...she's an introvert and a homebody, and it's a good encouragement for me to make sure that keeping a cozy, happy, warm home is a priority.
  • Wearing: Casual clothes every day! The novelty of not wearing office attire four out of five week days hasn't worn off yet.
  • Noticing: that the summer is slipping away fast. I'm much more inclined to spend time outside doing things when the temperature isn't so hot, so I'm not too sad about it. Bring on the fall! Too soon?
  • Knowing: that these early months are going so fast. I want to cherish them while they last. 
  • Thinking: about anniversary gift-giving. Our third anniversary is this week and I think I've narrowed down what I'm going to do!
  • Feeling: content. Tired. Happy. Quiet. All of that mixed together.

#momlife

This blog once was all about traveling, random experiences, and who knows what else. Food I found abroad? Organic house products? I guess both of those fall under the "random experiences" category. I clearly should have been a little more specific in my initial list of options.

Those posts are all fine and dandy, but life looks a tad bit different now and I'm home waaaaay more often than I will be abroad these days, so I suppose the content is going to be different. Now that I have a kid I guess that makes me a legitimate mommy blogger and thus my list of daily accomplishments has changed significantly. For example, formerly you might have found something here like, "I made it through a 7-hour flight without having to use an airplane bathroom!" (Side note: if I was listing that as an accomplishment, I was clearly not pregnant.) Now, my small feat of the day might be something like, "I made it through the last 12 hours without getting spit up, poop, or other sundry body fluids on my shirt!" Lofty goals, I tell you!

So I guess you could say life is a little slower at the moment. I spend a lot of time doing this:

I'm very aware that if there's another baby in our future, chasing after a toddler would seriously limit my human mattress capabilities, so I'm trying to soak up the opportunity now and fight against my constant urge to get up and do something productive, creative, or otherwise useful with my time. 

I haven't quite figured out that balance. I'm looking forward to the days of having an older, more interactive child so that we can do things together, but I'm simultaneously wishing time would slow down so my tiny cuddly baby doesn't outgrow her propensity to nuzzle against my shoulder while she falls asleep. At the same time, I don't think it's too shameful to admit that I do sometimes miss the ease with which I could pack up and go in a minute if need be, and the adult-only interaction that came with life in an office. Don't get me wrong - I wouldn't trade my current status for the world, this job is infinitely more worthwhile, and the benefits far outweigh the small inconveniences. But as time goes on, I'm sure the days will become more routine and we'll all feel more settled.

In the meantime, here's another photo of my favorite girl. And also my leg.

Please note that I was indeed wearing shorts.

Please note that I was indeed wearing shorts.

And that's not to say that every day is without adventure. In two weeks, Chaz, Elise, and I are all packing up and hauling ourselves to NYC for a couple days. I'm sure you'll be absolutely dying to hear all about it, so get yourselves all good and ready for that enthralling tale. 

Oh, and today's small accomplishment? Elise napped in her crib! Score!

Elise Lorraine: An Arrival Tale

Let me just start by saying right off the bat that I know birth stories aren't everyone's cup of tea, so feel free to skip this one if you're less than enthused about the topic! However, I'll spare the goriest details, since...the internet doesn't really need those anyway. Continuing with the disclaimers, I apologize about the length. This post is more for my own memory-keeping than anything else, so it's pretty much a small novel. 

I finished working on Friday, May 26th. I had honestly been hoping that the little one would make her appearance ON the 26th, since Chaz and I got engaged on October 26th and married on July 26th, but no luck - I finished working, packed up the remainder of the things left in my office, and Chaz helped me carry it all down to my car. At 39+3 weeks, I was DONE being pregnant. Pregnancy, overall, treated me extremely well - no morning sickness, no cravings, no excessive weight gain - until the last two weeks. Between swelling of all my extremities and some unpleasant side effects that caused severe discomfort, I was really, really hoping to go into labor over the long weekend. Plus, it was a long weekend! Aside from the fact that my brother had declared that May 28th was an off-limits date since it was his birthday, the timing couldn't have been better.

I'd been having consistent Braxton Hicks contractions for most of the day on both Thursday and Friday, to the point where they were timeable. But by the time the evening rolled around, they'd taper off, and I'd go to bed hoping that I'd get a full night's rest and go into real labor bright and early the following morning. 

I woke up on Saturday (May 27th) and felt the same - extraordinary discomfort due to my "side effects," with mild contractions about 20 minutes apart. Every few hours I'd get excited because they'd increase to about 15 minutes apart and start feeling mildly painful, but they'd space out again shortly thereafter. We proceeded with our regular Saturday routine. Chaz went to the dump, we cleaned the house, and then we got ready for the day. Around lunchtime, we decided to go on an excursion to Wahlburgers for lunch. While the burger was delicious, it was probably the most uncomfortable meal of my entire life. I could barely sit on the hard chair, and my "Braxton Hicks" contractions, though still not more frequent than 15 apart, were decidedly uncomfortable. We got back in the car, headed home, and spent a quiet afternoon around the house. 

The evening rolled around and we grilled pork chops for dinner and sat down to watch a show. I noticed the contractions were getting closer together, clocking in at 10 to 12 minutes apart, but remained convinced they'd go away as soon as I went to bed. But as soon as we got tucked in around 10:00, I realized sleep wasn't in the cards for me. I told Chaz to get some rest, but that I was going to go downstairs and manage them there "until they went away." 

I went to our guest bedroom and dozed there between contractions, which were getting steadily more painful and decidedly closer together. I stayed down there until 1:00, at which point they jumped from every 6 - 7 minutes to every 4. I finally convinced myself that they weren't stopping like I expected, so I gave the birth center a call, and to my surprise - I'm still not sure why I found this surprising - they told me to come in. 

Since our guest bedroom is downstairs and Chaz was sleeping upstairs, I texted him at first to see if I could avoid climbing the steps. No luck. I waited another five minutes, breathed my way through another contraction, and then went to wake him up. "Is it time to go?" he said. I confirmed, and I put in earrings (again...not sure why I felt that was necessary) while he got his bag ready and put everything in the car. 

We arrived at the hospital 15 minutes later and they sent us to L&D triage, where they put me on the monitors for 20 minutes to make sure everything was consistent. After the nurse told me that the contractions weren't the "strong, middle-of-labor contractions" variety characteristic of active labor, I convinced myself they were going to send me home. But! The doctor came to check me, and upon finding that I had made some progress, he informed me I could stay and we'd be having a baby. They had me sign a bunch of forms, took my blood (though I tried to talk them out of that...), and got me into a delivery room by 3:00am.

The hours between 3:00 and 6:00 are a bit of a blur. I spent most of the time sitting on a yoga ball beside the bed with my head and arms draped over a stack of three pillows so I could rest between contractions. The nurse came in to check on me every so often, but by the time 6:00 rolled around, I knew something needed to change since I felt like I wasn't going to be able to handle the pain for much longer. The nurse offered me a couple of non-epidural drug options that I wasn't thrilled about - I've never liked the idea of not being fully mentally present for anything, let alone delivering a baby - but then she suggested that I get into the tub. It sounded perfect, so off she went to fill it up. 20 minutes later, I was sinking into a nice warm bath, which helped immensely. Contractions were still coming regularly, but they were easier to manage when surrounded by what essentially felt like a giant heating pad. Chaz was even able to sleep a bit in a chair nearby! 

I hung out in the tub for 7:30. The contractions picked up in intensity again, and I wasn't getting much of a break between them anymore. And by then...I was done with it. I asked for an epidural, and died a little inside when they told me the entire process would take about 20 minutes from start to finish. Fortunately, they said they could do the IV while I was still in the tub, so at least I could distract myself with being surrounded by warm water while they stuck me with needles. Have I mentioned how much I hate needles? I HATE NEEDLES. Prior to labor, I thought my hatred of needles would be enough to prevent me from wanting an epidural. Ha. No. After 10 hours of labor, my mental state was something akin to "Stick me with all the needles! Help!"

And so I hobbled back to the delivery room from the tub room at the speed of an overheated, dehydrated tortoise with an IV pole, where the anesthesiologist arrived with a tray of giant needles that I steadfastly turned my gaze away from. Chaz apparently had a nice view though, and he tactfully said nothing about the size of the needles until several hours later. 

They had to do the epidural twice. The first time I could still feel the insertion of the tubing used to administer the drug and it HURT, so they pulled everything out, waited through another contraction, stuck me with the numbing needle a second time, and then did the tubing again. The second time I could still feel a little, but it didn't hurt anymore. Shortly thereafter, my legs started tingling and the contraction pain was significantly diminished, and I sent two friends a text saying, "I've concluded epidurals are God's most perfect gift to women." It was glorious and though after another 10 minutes I couldn't feel the lower half of my body at all, it was so nice to have a bit of a break.

The break was a bit short-lived, however, because about 10 minutes after that, I noticed my arms were tingling as well. When I asked about it, the nurse said she thought it was the blood pressure cuff, since it was taking measurements every two minutes. But the next thing I knew, the nurse was handing me an oxygen mask and paging the doctor. This part is all very hazy to me, but apparently my blood pressure had dropped like crazy, as had the baby's heart rate (normally around 150, down to 80 beats per minute). The flipped me every which way to try to get her heart rate to stabilize, assuming that the cord was wrapped around her neck. I heard the anesthesiologist say, "Ok, give her ephedrine," but around the same time they realized that I wasn't able to support the upper half of my body at all to assist in positioning myself to fix the baby heart rate issue. The doctor was there as well and they realized that the problem was the epidural, not the cord. The epidural drug had gone both down (which is what it was supposed to do) and up (which is not what it's supposed to do), so I had no feeling at all from my neck to my toes! 

Eventually, they got me into a position where the baby's heart rate was stable, but they also broke my water and stuck a fetal monitor on the baby's head so they could get more accurate information about her status. They turned the epidural completely off, and once I was looking a little less...zombie-like, I guess...they left us to our own devices until the effects wore off. Fortunately, my body kept on laboring during the whole thing, so things were still progressing.

About two hours later, I could feel my arms again, although everything below my navel was still numb. No complaints - I wasn't really interested in feeling much after that, so I was a happy camper. They gave me a popsicle and I took a selfie that turned out to be a very accurate portrayal of my state of affairs:

Tasty popsicle, messy hair, tired red eyes, and SUPER BLURRY because I'd been shaking nonstop probably since 3am. Labor + adrenaline = the shakes, I suppose. 

And so we waited. It was a pleasant couple of hours once I'd recovered enough to talk. Around 10:30 I made a dumb joke that if we had the baby in the next 20 minutes, we could still make it to church on time. Around 11:15, they checked me again and said it was time to push. The doctor recommended that we try every other contraction, since her heart rate was still on the unsteady side and we didn't want to rock the boat too hard. So for the next 1.5 hours, that's what we did. I was starting to feel contractions again now that the epidural's effects had mostly dissipated, but epidurals have a magical re-up button and after a bit they let me hit it since the renewed pain was distracting me from pushing. 

I knew things were getting close when people started assembling and the doctor suited himself up. In addition to the doctor, there were at least three extra nurses (aside from the one - Katy! - who'd been with us the whole time) and the neonatologist. When they called in the neonatologist I knew they weren't going to put the baby on me right away, and I was fine with that because it meant they were going to make sure she was in good shape right away. 

I guess she wasn't moving out quite as fast as her health required, because the doctor said that it was time for the vacuum. Another side note: the term "vacuum" isn't really accurate. It's really more like a suction cup. With that, they stuck it on her head, gave me a small surgical modification, and vacuumed while I pushed. And there she was! It was 12:58 pm on May 28th, and we named her Elise. We definitely missed church.

They took her over to the warmer right away and checked her all over. She screamed immediately, so we knew her lungs were doing just fine. She was pink and she had ten fingers and ten toes, weighed 7 lbs 14 oz and was 20.5 inches long, and was perfect. Then they handed her to us and we loved her.

We spent the next two days in the hospital getting to know her, recovering, taking a thousand pictures, seeing visitors, sleeping a very little, and eating some surprisingly good hospital food. 

And then we took her home and started figuring out how to be parents. It's an adventure! 

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And we love it.

This post is for my own benefit...

Last time I was in Budapest (May 2016), I was with a lovely group of people from work and to make a long story short, we found a great restaurant. The three folks with me all got Caesar salads, but I wasn't feeling lunch food and opted for French toast instead. It turned out to be the best food decision I've ever made, and to this day it remains my number one location for French toast in the world. Problem: I had taken no pictures, I hadn't noted the name of the restaurant, and I only had a vague recollection of the location ("It's somewhere diagonally away from the Parliament building..."). Not the most useful.

I returned to Budapest this week - for work again! - and I was determined to relocate said restaurant. After a solid 15-20 unsuccessful minutes searching Google maps for "cafe" in the general diagonal direction away from the Parliament building, I finally took a wild chance and Googled "French toast in Budapest Hungary," figuring my chances were slim to none for finding anything useful. LO AND BEHOLD, I found this website, which led me to the actual cafe's website. I scheduled it into my Saturday plans immediately, and it may have been the highlight of the Budapest part of the trip...again. Honestly, who could turn down French toast with cinnamon butter and a berry sauce?

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Ok, I admit...that picture is not the MOST appetizing, but it's because I took it really fast so that I could devour it immediately. Does this help?

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I suppose not. Partially eaten food never looks the most appetizing. You'll just have to take my word for it, I guess. Anyway, this post serves as a way for me to remember where to get French toast in Budapest whenever I'm here next. Or whenever I decide to make a very expensive spontaneous decision to fly to Europe for brunch.

New Year, New Post, New...Woodstock!

It looks like 2016 turned out to be the Year Without a Blog, because my last post was back in September! But...there's a good reason for that, because four days after my last post, we realized that the next weeks/months/years were going to look a little different than everything preceding them.

And so before, on, or sometime after May 31, there will be a new, very small Woodstock in the house, and we couldn't be more excited.

I've been really lucky to have a very easy pregnancy so far - no morning sickness, and apart from a near-constant headache, no other major side effects. Our one complication earned us a super fun evening/early morning in the ER at 9.5 weeks, but even that came with the unexpected blessing of getting to see our baby for the first time - wriggling around and (presumably) happy, safe and sound.

I had taken a pregnancy test early one Saturday morning before Chaz had woken up, expecting a negative result. To my surprise, it was positive, and so like the average rational person, I decided I immediately needed to go to Target - the logical response to a positive pregnancy test. I traded my pajamas for a pair of jeans, told a still-sleeping Chaz I needed to run an errand, and ran out the door. I arrived about 10 minutes before Target opened...so I sat in the parking lot and checked the test a few times over again to make sure that I wasn't imagining an extra line (again, bringing it with me was the obvious, ultra-logical choice). Once the doors opened, I hurried inside, picked up some juice, another few pregnancy tests, a small gift bag, and a pack of onesies. Upon checkout, the cashier said, "Do you need a gift receipt?" Since I responded to the negative, I suppose she was the very first person to suspect anything...

When I got home, I stuffed the bag with some tissue paper, the test, and a onesie, and waited for Chaz to come downstairs. He was awake by that point, so when he came down he saw the gift bag on the table, and much excitement abounded henceforth.

And as of this past Friday, we know it's a girl! Hooray! We can't wait to meet her.