Weekend in Madison

This past weekend was the annual (big) donor sibling get-together — in Madison, WI this year. So M and I drove out there for a few days, and she was such a champ. I was really amazed at how well she did in the car; I guess all those trips down to the cities for doctor’s appointments have gotten her used to sitting in her car seat. I timed the trip to coincide with her two naps (with a break in the middle at the half-way point), which definitely helped!

Saturday was the biggest day, with an outing to the Madison farmer’s market in the morning (the very top photo in the post is of M cuddling Kitty Cat Doll while she watches the older kids run around). Then we went to Ella’s Deli for lunch. What a crazy place! I didn’t do a very good job of capturing the feel of it, but there are motorized papier mâché creations hanging all over the ceiling. There’s a carousel outside (and a miniature carousel inside), and each table has a different diorama / shadow box display under the glass surface. I know that bottom photo of M isn’t the very most flattering shot, but I love how she was entranced by the scenery. That’s Isaac (Ali‘s son) in the background. We’ve been reading each other’s blogs since before we realized we’d used the same donor, so it was exciting to meet the two of them! I was sorely tempted to order one of the pink drinks that came with cotton candy on the straw, but I decided to be a grown up and just order this fancy orange drink instead. It was basically orange syrup poured over shaved milk-ice. Good, but (unsurprisingly) super sweet!

Later in the day, we had dinner out in the hotel’s courtyard with all the other families, which I think was my favorite part of the weekend. It was nice to see everybody and to watch the kids interact. Maris had never played much with other babies/toddlers, but she has now! So it didn’t come as a huge shock to me yesterday morning when she woke up with her first cold. She was pretty miserable yesterday, but she’s been perking up today, and her temperature is back to normal.

Anyway, I’ll be happy not to drive anywhere for a little while! But what a fun trip it was!

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Nine Months

Nine months! I remember seeing nine-month-old babies when M was very little, and that seemed like so far off. But here we are, at nine months. She’s such a little person — full of opinions and creating new ones every day. We have a lot of fun, and it’s hard to imagine anybody feeling too down if they got to spend time around M. People always say that she seems so happy, and she definitely is!

Size: M is about 18lbs8oz (55th percentile) and 27.5” long (50th percentile), with a head circumference of around 18.5” (giant). We’ll find out her real size at her nine-month check-up — I always feel like my measurements are pretty rough. Most of her clothes are either 9mos or 12mos, or that strange 6-12mos size. She can still fit into some of her 6mos onesies, though.

Likes and Dislikes: Let’s get the dislikes out of the way — she doesn’t like being on her back (except when she’s sleeping). Or her front, really. She just doesn’t want to lie down! So getting her dressed can sometimes be a challenge. She gets frustrated more now that there are things she wants to do or places she wants to go — and her plans don’t always go perfectly. She’ll cry for a few seconds if I take something away that she really wants (and shouldn’t have). There have been a couple of times that we’ve been about to go outside, and then I’ve remembered there’s something I have to grab, so I shut the door again, and she gets upset. I guess that means she likes being outside!

M’s favorite object has to be Kitty Cat Doll. It’s been in her crib ever since she started sleeping in her own room (around 3.5mos). I had to wash it a while ago, and she slept fine with another stuffed animal, but she was SO happy to get Kitty Cat Doll back once it was dry! It usually stays in M’s crib, but if we take it out, M loves to hug it and bury her face in the ‘fur’.

She’s fascinated by books, whether I’m reading them to her or she’s just looking at them by herself. She likes to turn the pages over and over again. I think I Kissed the Baby is her favorite, and when I get to the page with ‘…and I’m going to do it again!’ she smiles big because she knows I’m about to kiss her. She discovered the stack of books and magazines on the bottom shelf of one of the end tables this month, and she really enjoys pulling them all down and looking at them. Even though everything else goes in her mouth, she rarely chews on books these days. She knows they’re something special!

Eating: M’s still doing great with her bottles. We switched to Level 3 nipples a few weeks ago, and she barely noticed — but she can sure drink a lot more quickly, now! I know that some babies never use Level 3s, so it’s amazing how well she does with them, considering how long it took to transition from preemie to Level 1 and then Level 2.

When M was 8.5mos, she had a swallow study, which found a narrowing where she’d had surgery on her esophagus. So then she had to have that dilated, which was a day spent in the hospital. The nurses were impressed with how upbeat she was! She’s been doing a little better with solid foods since then, but I’m not sure whether that’s due to the procedure or the fact that she chews food up now. She really likes the little baby puff cereal, and she’s been very willing to try other little bits of food — unlike her boredom with purees. She still doesn’t eat much solid food, but she tries something new most days.

Sleeping: Sleep hasn’t changed much since last month. She still takes her two naps at the same times, but I’ve been trying to move her bedtime to 7:00pm. She’s made it that late only a few times, but she’s been staying up until at least 6:30pm for a week or two. I haven’t seen a change in how late she sleeps in the morning, but I’m hoping that will eventually kick in! She’s usually up around 5:00am and amuses herself for half an hour.

Working On / Accomplishments: It seems like she’s started doing so much this month! One of the biggest milestones has to be her teeth. One (the bottom left) came through right at the beginning of July, and the bottom right one poked out about a week before she turned 9mos. She didn’t make a fuss either time!

She started using consonants right after she turned 8mos. She started with ‘dadada’ and now also does ‘bababa’. Sometimes I catch a ‘lala’, and she likes to make ‘ffff’ sounds, too. Her language comprehension also seems to be growing. She loves the wooden bird that hangs in her room (a recent development), so I started calling it ‘Flappy’ a while back. After a few days, she understood that that was the bird’s name, and she’ll look right to it if I ask her what Flappy is doing. She recognizes lines from her favorite books and seems to prefer the ones we’ve read over and over to new ones.

It’s been a little over a month since she switched to part-time brace wear, and she’s definitely taken advantage of the freedom! She still doesn’t crawl-crawl, but she’s getting better every day at getting where she wants. She’s really good at putting her hands down and pivoting around to face the other way when she’s sitting. She can combine that with some modified sitting-crawling to move a short distance, if there’s something she really wants that’s out of reach.

She also started pulling herself up to stand this month. She’s been able to pull up on my hands for a while, but now she can get on her knees and slowly stand up on her own. She also walks if somebody holds her hands, but she hasn’t done much cruising on furniture yet.

A week ago, she graduated from her hat and physical therapy! She made all the improvements she needed to, and we’ll both be happy to not have those appointments every other week from now on. We can use that driving time to do something FUN instead!

Other Stuff: M is generally very good at playing independently. She just sits amongst her pile of toys and goes from one thing to the next without needing me to entertain her too much. But after a while of that, she’ll want to have a cuddle or just sit on my lap while she plays. I’ve been reading Playful Parenting, so now I think of these times as ‘filling her cup’. Once she’s filled up, she’s happy to go back to playing on her own. I’ve got a pretty high tolerance for playing baby games, but I think it’s good for both of us to have the time to ourselves (even though I’m just a few feet from her).

I still feel like I won the baby lottery with M! She’s so sweet and happy, and not much gets her down. I’m so lucky that I get to watch her grow up!

It was really difficult to get a sitting photo this month. As soon as she realized how close she was to the windows, M wanted only to get over there to look out. She had no problem scootching over and then standing up to see what was happening outside (and put handprints all over the glass).

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A New Dress

I made a new dress for M! And this time I sort of made it up as I went. See, I had this little dress from Baby Gap, which is one of my current favorites. The construction seemed fairly straight forward, so I’d been meaning to try to copy it for a while. I also had this… nightie? It’s from the Liberty of London line that Target had a few years ago — I got it on clearance, and I think it’s been at the back of my closet since then. I liked the print too much to get rid of it, so I’m glad I finally found a use for the fabric! I cut the skirt from the bottom, so M’s dress would have that same contrasting ruffle — without any extra sewing.

I made a template for the bodice by taking a photo of that Gap dress (with a ruler for scale) and then tracing it in Photoshop and printing it out. I think it was more accurate than trying to trace it directly onto a piece of paper, which rarely seems to work super well for me. You can see in this photo of the finished dress that I lost the nice curve on the bottom of the bodice, but I think that was down to the assembly (sewing the bodice onto the gathered skirt) rather than my printed-out template. The pattern of the fabric is so busy that you wouldn’t have really noticed the shape, anyway.

I was able to skip the back buttons that the Gap dress has by using the shirred panel from the back of the nightie. It’s a small section of the back of the dress, but it’s stretchy enough to help little arms get through the arm holes. I also made the shoulder straps functional (they’re sewn shut on the original dress), so as M gets a little bigger, I can switch to undoing and then retying them once the dress is on. You can kind of see the small shirred panel in this photo:

And, yes, I let M play with dog toys so I could get some photos taken. She was NOT interested in being photographed this evening! She was happy enough, but she was far too busy to hold still. So she got to play with some dog toys, and I was able to take a few quick shots of her.

Oh, and when we went over to the windows, we saw this deer stealing bird food. Naughty! You can also see a small buck in the background of that photo, along with this year’s goose families.

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Garden Stuff, Sort Of

Look at these crazy flowers! The two smaller white ones are onion flowers, and the other, purple-y ones (including the one bursting out of its alien pod) are from last year’s leeks. My garden this year… isn’t. I had to climb around/through hip-high weeds to cut these flowers. I had hoped to at least get one raised bed planted this year, but it just didn’t happen — I have two tomato plants in pots, instead. Now my plan is to take down the garden fence (I started that yesterday) and raze the weeds with the riding lawn mower. Then I want to replace the fence posts with taller ones and put up deer fencing instead of the lower stuff that I’d used before. And I think I’ll have a series of raised beds with grass paths that I can just mow — easier to wheel my little electric mower down to the garden than to try to keep the weeds down on a dirt/mulched path.

At least other areas of the yard are doing better than my so-called vegetable garden. The grass seed (that I mentioned putting down in my recent day-in-the-life post) has come up nicely and filled in the bare spots in the dogs’ fenced area, and neither the peony nor the calla lilies have died yet. There are a few tiny tomatoes on my tomato plants (they’re out on the back patio), but we’ll see if they turn into actual good-to-eat tomatoes. I need to take a photo of my front perennial garden — it’s just gone crazy this year. I’m going to need to divide the stella lilies next spring. I divided one clump into three when I transplanted them last year, and each of the three ‘new’ plants is already massive. I guess they like this wet weather! My Sigrid rose bush is also starting to sprawl, so I need to make more room for it.

Anyway, I hope I’ll have regular garden photos to share again next year; I blame M and her diverting cuteness for the terrible state of the vegetable garden this summer. Luckily, there’s a lot to look at around here without having to catch a glimpse of my neglect. Here’s the pretty sky from this morning:

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Happy Baby

Can you even stand how happy this baby is? And this was after I had been futzing with her hair for a while. They must make itty bitty baby hair bands — I tried one of my small ones, and her little pigtail just flopped over. Even the clip (in the photo) didn’t work very well, and I’m sure it would have only wound up in her mouth if I’d left it there. Her hair is so long on top, but also so fine.

There’s going to be so much to write about for her nine-month update (on Thursday!). One thing that really amazes me is how much M loves animals. She’ll watch the deer or geese outside, and of course she adores the cats and dogs. Like, she gets really excited and wants to hug and kiss them. Nova is always game, and Henny is surprisingly patient, but the cats are less into her love. Birdy is actually pretty tolerant, but Beany just scoots away when M gets near. Yesterday, M got to play with the neighbor’s little kitten, who played back with her, batting with his paws quite gently. M just giggled and giggled and seemed like she couldn’t believe her luck. Soooo cute.

Here’s a little gif of M playing with a pair of (broken) 3D glasses. She gets the biggest ‘WOW-AWESOME’ face when she’s smashing things to make noise or waving something around (regardless of whether anything happens). Funny girl.

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Bathroom (Finally)

Because I’m a terrible person, I promised I would do a final post about my bathroom remodel — and then neglected to do so for… nine months. To be fair, I’ve been busy keeping a tiny human alive and happy during that time. But here’s that post about my bathroom (finally). I’ve given up on trying to get really nice photos of this room — it’s just too small and too white, with no natural light. But I love it in real life.

I’ve been really happy with my Ikea vanity and sink so far. The entire sink/counter is ceramic, which cleans up so nicely. The only negative is the drain: I closed it once to soak something and then couldn’t get it open again! I had to use a pliers to lift it up again (with a washcloth over the stopper to protect it from getting scratched), and it’s still not fully open. According to the internets, I’m not the only person with this problem. The cabinet drawers are great for storage, though. I don’t need to keep much out on the counter because it’s all hidden away in the drawers.

I had the cabinet over the toilet before the remodel, and I like how its louvered doors match the new closet door. I’ve mentioned this before, but there used to be a regular door there, and it swung into the closet — meaning hardly any of the closet space was usable. I have a ton of storage space now that there’s a bifold door instead! The closet is about three feet deep and four and a half feet wide. I’ve got mainly bathroom stuff in there, but it’s also home to the carpet shampooer and wrapping paper. I love having a bathroom closet!

I’m really happy with how the subway tile shower surround came out. I should mention that *I* didn’t do most of the work in here (I did finish the closet myself, though, including cutting and putting up the paneling when I was eight months pregnant!) — our usual contractor and his guys deserve the credit. Anyway, I’ve long wanted a nice surround like this, and I’m pleased to have it. The guys also did a great job with all the new trim work — it’s just how I imagined it. The tub is the only thing I might do differently if I had the chance. I love the size and shape of it, but it feels a little cheap (like the fiberglass is thinner than normal). We’ll just have to see how it holds up over the years — maybe it will pleasantly surprise me. The edges are quite narrow, so Rob got me a nice bath caddy/tray from John Lewis for Christmas. Usually it’s piled high with M’s toys! Here are a couple more photos:

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Weekend Away

We spent this past weekend in the Twin Cities. We had to be in town on Thursday for medical stuff, and then we stayed at my parents’ house until Sunday. On Friday, my mom, M, and I went to the Mall of America — I hadn’t been there in a while. M got a few new books, and I got a new frying pan. We also went to the Como Park Zoo (on Sunday, the only not-rainy day) with my friend Julie, who took this great photo of M and me. I love photos of the two of us! It’s hard to get in the frame much, as there’s not usually anybody else to hold the camera.

M seemed to have a good time at the zoo — she’s pretty good at spotting animals, since she loves the cats and dogs (and I often point out the geese and deer to her through our windows). She’s such a good little buddy these days, happy to be out and about as long as she’s close to me. This photo shows her hair color pretty well, by the way (it often looks blonder or redder than it really is). It’s a lot lighter than my hair! Also, not relevant to our weekend away, but I really need to work on my posture. I was leaning down a bit to put my arms around M in this photo, but I’m quite slouchy anyway. I’m sure that having a weak core (and too much computering) is to blame. Do you have any straighten-up-quick tips for me, so I won’t get all hunch-backed as I get older?

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Henny’s Birthday

Happy birthday to Henny! She turns seven years old today — and there’s not a single grey hair on that muzzle. I hope that means she’s going to live to and old, old age! She was three years old (and change) when she was rescued from the puppy mill, so she’s officially lived in freedom longer than she was locked up. She’s changed so much since she first came to live with me — she’s learned to play and cuddle and be loved. When my friend Mo visited a few weeks ago, Henny came right up to her for pets. Amazing! I hope Henny can’t even remember what life was like before she had nice friends all around.

Here’s a photo from each year we’ve been together (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and then 2014 up above):

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Blueberry Pie

I made a blueberry pie yesterday! Nothing fancy — I just used canned pie filling, but I did make an all-butter crust from scratch. (I used the crust recipe from the rhubarb pie, but I doubled it so I could make the top crust.) I took more pictures of the process than strictly necessary because I was impressed with the crust. Last time I made it, it was a little too crumbly, so I added more water this time, and it was PERFECT. I don’t know that I’ve ever been able to roll the crust over the pin and then drape it into the pie pan just so — until now. This was also my first lattice top. Not too shabby, eh? I know it looks like that last slice has forgotten how to pie, but now that the filling has thoroughly chilled, it’s not quite so slumpy. The crust is light and tender without being greasy-buttery.

And, of course, there’s a little M interlude while we waited for the pie to bake. Pretending to drink from a sippy cup (there was nothing in it). Her tummy kills me!

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Knitted Dolly

Hey, I did another crafty thing (in addition to M’s dress) recently: I made her a little doll using this pattern. I think the colors used in the Etsy photos are cuter than mine (she looks more like a matryoshka than a baby), but I wanted to use what I had on hand, and I also wanted to use wool instead of acrylic. It’s a really simple, fun, and quick pattern — although it says to use worsted weight yarn, which I think is the same as aran, and I used DK. The recommended needles seem like they would pair with DK, and the doll I made came out to the proper size, so maybe ‘worsted’ is an error.

M has a lot of stuffed animals but didn’t have any babies before now. She’s unimpressed. Don’t be fooled by that last photo — she was just grabbing the book. She’s still too little to understand that it’s a ‘baby’, but hopefully she’ll like it when she’s a bit older. I’ve also bought this pattern to sew for her for Christmas. It’s exactly what I was looking for — a soft baby doll that fits into real newborn clothing. I was always disappointed when I was kid that dolls had to wear tiny, fake clothes!

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