Matinee Coat

Whew, I finally finished M’s matinee coat — just in time for her to outgrow it. Whoops. I started the 3-6mos size right after Christmas (when she was only two months old), and then I… didn’t finish it until now. I had made good progress and thought I’d fly to the finish when I started the sleeves, but stockinette stitch is just so boring. So the project sat unfinished until a few days ago, when I became determined to finish it NOW. And, of course, it didn’t really take very long to knit up the sleeves, block it, and piece it together. The sleeves are just the right length, but it doesn’t quite come together in the middle when the ribbon is tied. Now that I see how cute M is in it, I wish I would have finished it a long time ago, although it’s extra sweet with this dress she’s wearing, which has only begun to fit (it’s a Gap size 6-12mos). She can wear it for a while longer without the ribbon tied, though. (My pal Em gave me both the Debbie Bliss book — I think this is the American version — with the pattern and the yarn for Christmas.)

Now that I’m done with this project, I’ve started my Fezziwig cardigan. I’ve only ever knitted baby sweaters, given my attention problem, but this one is knit with bulky yarn, and the going isn’t too slow. It would be nice to make a good dent in it this weekend, since we’re newly snowed in again, so let’s hope M takes some good naps!

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I’m in the process of cleaning out my closet. Again. It feels like I’m always doing this. I can’t remember what prompted it, but I’ve made the decision to only buy quality items from now on. No more trying to be thrifty and winding up with stuff that doesn’t last or is ‘only okay’. It started with clothes (hence the closet cleaning), but I want to extend it to all future purchases. We bought a sofa and love seat for the living room after we got this house, and although they seemed decent (and they’re comfortable enough), the fabric has not held up well. After only two years, the seat cushions are pilly, and the backs sag where the cats (+ Nova) sleep. And the cat hair! My old sofa (which is now in Rob’s skyroom) used to collect a certain amount of cat hair, but it always vacuumed right off — these new ones embrace the cat hair, inviting it to become one with their weave. Yuck. Anyway, I’m setting aside part of my tax refund to go toward the eventual purchase of a Chesterfield sofa and chair (I think — Rob and I are agreed on the Chesterfield part, but we haven’t talked actual arrangements yet). Hopefully, they’ll last for decades and get better with some wear.

I’m trying to replace parts of my wardrobe with durable items as it makes sense. I bought Sorel boots last spring, and they got a lot of use this winter. When we were in Texas, I stopped into a J. Crew outlet store and found a few shirts and a pair of shorts that I’m very happy with. I’ve never shopped at J. Crew before, but it seems like a step up from the Gap — I bought several tops at the Gap earlier this year, and some of them are already starting to look tired, which is disappointing. I already wash everything with cold water, but what else should I do to help clothes last longer? Would tumble drying on low/no heat be better than medium heat? I can’t really stand the feel of line-dried clothes (with the exception of jeans, since I daren’t tumble dry jeans and risk having them get shorter), but maybe I just have to deal with it and try to soften shirts up with a minute in the dryer before I wear them.

I’ve just ordered a pair of well-reviewed leggings, and I’m waiting for yarn to arrive to knit this cardigan (in a ‘if you want it done right, you have to do it yourself’ move). I’m not suddenly a millionaire, so I’m not going to replace everything just for the heck of it, but what quality items are ‘musts’ for you? I think we all have a few items that make us feel like we’ve struck gold, right? (I sort of love this spray conditioner.)

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My Little Helper

My little helper testing out the freshly-laundered bed linens. When I take photos with Hipstamatic (on my iPhone), I often take a bunch right in a row because the ‘shutter’ is less predictable than my DSLR’s, so I can’t be positive that I’m capturing the smile and not the silly eyes-closed lip curl in between. Then, when I flip through them on my computer, I get an excellent stop-motion-style mini movie.

I washed my bedding yesterday, and M ‘helped’ me put it back on the bed. First, I had to threaten to trap Birdy under the fitted sheet, since she was sleeping on the mattress pad (it turned out she didn’t care, so I scooted her off). Once I had the pillow cases on, I put M at the head of the bed and got the flat sheet and blankets just right. She loves when I flap them up, so a big puff of air gets her before the sheet settles down. What a funny bunny. Five month olds are excellent.

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Galveston, TX

So, how about that trip to Texas, eh? Rob thought it would be fun to have a ‘spring break’ trip somewhere warm, on account of how it’s been such a long winter, and his birthday is coming up. Except that we didn’t actually realize it was spring break time until we started trying to book a rental home in Florida and everything was taken. So we went through a few other destination ideas and decided on Galveston, TX — it was easy for M and my mom and I to fly to Houston from MSP, and it wasn’t too terrible for Rob to fly from the UK. He’s got, like, a billion frequent flyer miles, as you might guess, so the domestic flights were free — even M got a seat! (Which made traveling with an infant SO much easier, and I was able to bring her car seat with us.)

My mom stayed for the first five days, which luckily had the best weather of the trip. We were able to walk on the beach a bit and enjoy the sun and HUMIDITY. M put her little baby feet in the ocean for the first time and wore shorts and a ridiculous sun hat.

We went to Moody Gardens to see the aquarium and rainforest exhibits (which are in big glass pyramids). Both were fun, and I was glad that M was old enough to look around at things, even though she obviously didn’t know the difference between a penguin and a seal. She used her stroller for the first time when my back got tired from carrying her, although my mom later wound up holding her as she napped in the rainforest pyramid. She missed out on all the cool critters there. The photo of the bat isn’t particularly amazing (some camera shake on his head), but I was surprised how well it came out considering it was very dark (darker than it looks), I didn’t have a tripod, and I didn’t use a flash. The D5200 has some insanely high ISOs! There were several little monkey fellows running around freely — looking for ways to cause trouble, I imagine.

Rob and I (and M) stayed a few more days after my mom left, and we went to the Johnson Space Center on one of those days. It was great seeing all the NASA stuff, including this Saturn V — the only one to be made up of stages intended for launch, according to Wikipedia. We got a kick out of seeing the original mission control room, and we touched the moon! (They have one of only eight or so moon rocks available for the public to touch. So probably I just touched a layer of other people’s germs.)

M was such a good sport during the trip. Her naps were all pretty short, around 30 minutes long instead of the usual 1-1.5 hours, but she was happy to nap just about anywhere. Like when she SHOULD HAVE BEEN LOOKING AT THE SATURN V! Honestly, how does she expect to become the world’s youngest rocket scientist if she doesn’t start now? But when I think about what a struggle it used to be to get her to nap, I’m really proud of how easily she could just nod off while we were walking around. Not that she never fussed (she IS a baby, after all), but she dealt with all the changes to her routine better than I would have expected.

There were quite a few lousy-weather days, but it was still a great break from all the snow. I think this sunrise was on Tuesday, which wound up being fairly sunny. It was probably right around 60F that morning, and I was able to grab M and the camera and walk down to the beach to take some photos. What a treat!

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Five Months

Wow, five months! This update is a few days late because Maris, my mom, and I were living it up in sunny (actually mostly cloudy) Texas with Rob. Her outfit this month is in honor of the warmer weather, since we’ll have to have a freak weather day to be able to wear those shorts around here before M outgrows them! The last month passed by so quickly, and five months seems like such a more grown-up age than four months. Before I know it, M’ll be half a year old. She spent a lot of the last month being slightly harder to please than ‘usual’, in terms of getting bored with her toys, but she also made a lot of big leaps that have made life easier. And this might be the first time I can really say ‘this is such a fun age’ — she’s so interested in everything, and I love watching her explore the world around her.

Size: M is 15lbs8oz and about as long as she was at her four-month appointment. She seems a lot taller, though — her feet reach the floor in toys when they didn’t before. Sometimes I look at her and can’t believe how big she already is. I keep throwing clothes in the ‘too small’ bin as she outgrows them, and it’s weird that she has a completely different set of clothes now from what she was wearing a couple of months ago. She has some zip-up 3mos jammies that she still (barely) fits into, but she can also wear the 6mos ones without them flopping around at the feet.

Likes and Dislikes: I’m happy to say that she now really enjoys bath time. It seemed like a shame that it used to make her cry, but now she loves playing with toys in the water. Right now, her favorite thing is to suck on a wet washcloth over her fist while doing lots of splashing with her feet. Noisy toys really went up in the ranks this month. She loves to rattle things and to bang them on hard surfaces. It must be so exciting to her that this noise making is within her power. She still never tires of her crinkly book, which amazes me. I should probably wash it, as the tails are constantly in her mouth.
She tried out her stroller(s) for the first time this month, and I’m surprised by how much she enjoys going for a ride. We have a small umbrella stroller in the house, and when she’s a little tired and fussy, I’ll put her in that and push her around for a tour of the rooms. And she enjoyed her stroller time in the bigger umbrella stroller in Texas. I guess she must just like looking around at everything while moving.

Eating: She’s been doing great — it’s ALMOST hard to remember how much worrying I used to do when she didn’t want to eat very much. She stopped getting a bottle in the middle of the night, so now she eats 3-4oz when she wakes up and another 3-5oz when she goes down for her first nap. Then she usually eats 6oz before both of her other two naps, maybe an ounce or two after that, and then 5-6oz before bedtime. She gets a bottle at 10:00pm and usually eats 3-4oz then. In total, she eats around 30oz/day — sometimes a little more or a little less.
She tried ‘solid’ food (really purees) for the first time this month, just for fun. I don’t think she’s ready to eat solids for real yet, but she’s had fun tasting things. She’s had bananas a couple of times, and she’s tried sweet potatoes and pears. To my surprise, black beans have been her favorite! She also likes to taste my ice cream — I hold the cone up for her, and she opens her mouth and gently sticks out her tongue for a tiny taste. I’m glad she’s getting to the age where she can start trying these things, but I’m also really happy that she can stick to a 99.9%-milk diet for quite a while longer.

Sleeping: Sleep has really improved this month. I decided that she probably didn’t need her middle-of-the-night bottle, since she was hardly eating anything then anyway. It took a couple of difficult nights of crying in the early AM hours, but she quickly settled into sleeping straight from 10:00pm until the morning. Lately, she’s decided she can wake up between 4:00-5:00am, which I’m not very happy about, so I might see if a later ‘dream feed’ helps keep her asleep later in the morning. She’s usually sound asleep when I come in at 10:00pm, and she stays asleep when I pick her up, although she opens her mouth, knowing that a bottle is coming. It’s so cute. She takes three naps a day, usually at 8:00am, 11-11:30am, and 2-3:00pm. She’ll sleep anywhere from half an hour to 1.5 hours, which is why the second two naps vary.

Working On / Accomplishments: What a month it’s been! I think the biggest new thing for her is standing up. All she needs is a little help with the stability/balance — she supports her own weight. This developed over just a couple of days. It was like she realized she could bear weight on her legs and then never looked back. She loves when I lie on the sofa and stand her up on my tummy so she towers over me.
She also spent a lot of time in her new saucer this month, and I was really impressed by how quickly she figured out the buttons and toys on it. She seems to understand cause and effect much better now. And her hand-eye coordination is excellent.

She went through a quiet period and wasn’t talking much at all for a while, and then all of a sudden she felt chatty again. That’s happened several times since she first started cooing, and I think it has to do with concentrating on physical developments instead of verbal ones. Her babbling is still mostly all vowels, but she’ll give long monologues to anybody or nobody when she’s in a talking mood.

She rolled over for the first time this month. She had gone from her back to her side once or twice when she was younger, but this was the first time she purposefully rolled to her side and then onto her tummy. She seems to find that MUCH easier than rolling tummy to back, which she’s done only once on her own.

Everything is up for grabs these days — I can barely eat with her on my lap now, because she tries to put her hands in and on anything that comes near. I was trying to eat cereal the other day, and she wouldn’t let go of the rim of the bowl, trying to pull it down to see what was inside. It’s amazing to me that she can simply reach out and grab what she wants without seeming to need to concentrate very hard. And anything she get her hands on goes into her mouth. Her two bottom front teeth have been just below the surface of her gums since she was three months old, and I’m sure they’ll make their appearance one of these days!

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Saucer Time

M’s been keeping me busy lately! I feel like when she hit four months old, I could finally start saying, ‘This is such a fun age!’ She’s actually needed much more ‘help’ in keeping occupied (she gets bored easily and fusses), but she’s so interactive and understands what’s going on so much more now. I finally broke down and bought her a play saucer last week, and she loves it! I was given a hand-me-down exersaucer before M was born, and that one lives at my parents’ house. I was sure I didn’t want such a big contraption at home, and it seemed really unnecessary — until I saw how much fun M had in it! Saucers are definitely on the list of baby items that you don’t need to survive, but they’re also exactly what a baby wants at this age.

Of course, M went straight for the only little tag on the whole thing. How’d she even find it? She’s been big time into developing her motor skills, both gross and fine. She loves to stand up with help only to balance, and she also spends a lot of time delicately feeling objects with her fingers. She figures things out so quickly now that it surprises me. The saucer has a sort of ‘keyboard’ with buttons that play sounds or music, and she realized right away that pushing them made noise. And she pulls the cord on the dangling turtle over and over and over, since that also plays music. There’s a small track with beads on it, and the first time she moved one from the bottom to the middle (the highest part), she looked up at me to make sure I’d seen what a good job she’d done. My clever girl

So we’re pretty happy with the new big lump of plastic in the living room. It’s this one, if you’re interested. It seemed like the best quality one that wasn’t pushing $100, which felt like too much to spend on something she’ll use for just a few months. I wish it had more rattle toys (there’s really only one, which requires pushing down to operate, and she can’t reach quite far enough yet), since that’s what she likes most right now, but she still manages to make a lot of noise with the music, etc. She was a little paranoid that the clown fish (that she’s staring at in the picture above) was constantly watching her, but now she just wants to figure out how to get it into her mouth. I particularly like that when she starts to get bored in the saucer, I can just turn the seat around for her, and she’s suddenly looking at a bunch of different toys (when she gets bored with those, it’s back to more hands-on activities). Hooray for plastic baby junk!

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Little Shirts

I’ve been doing some sewing lately. There are/were a couple of pieces of Liberty cotton lawn lying around that I thought would be nice for blouse-y shirts for M, and I also want to make a sweatshirt for her. So I hit Etsy to look for some patterns. This is the pattern I used for the shirt above. It’s so girly! M doesn’t have many really girly clothes, because I don’t like the ruffles and puff shoulders and gathers you see on a lot of typical baby girl outfits.

How sweet is she? She’s wearing some little shorts, even though it’ll be a long time before she can wear those around here. I was worried that the pattern of the fabric would be too crazy, but I think she pulls it off!

I haven’t made the sweatshirt yet, but I got this raglan-sleeve shirt pattern and made a little thermal shirt to test it out. With the sweatshirt, I’ll do ribbed cuffs on the arms and waist instead of just folding and hemming. I might still put cuffs on the sleeves of this shirt… or I’ll just leave it as it is. That would be easier!

Too cute! I can’t stand it. When she looks up like this and sticks her chin out, I feel like I can see the toddler she’ll be someday. The collar of this pattern is a bit wide, since it’s not lapped and has to fit over a big baby head. I don’t love how wide it is, but it’s much easier to sew — I can picture making lots of these to put over short-sleeves onesies when the temperature is mild!

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We went outside yesterday! The temperature got up to 40F, and the sun came out, so I bundled up M and scooted outside as quickly as possible. Besides rushed trips between building and car, M had never been outside! The winter has just been too cold. I keep trying to explain to her that the world isn’t always so white — there’s so much snow (and so little of anything else out here in the country) that it’s actually painful to look across the landscape on a bright day. You can kind of tell that M was a bit skeptical of the great outdoors.

Here’s part of the snow ridge that lines the driveway. I wasn’t joking about how big it is! Not to beat a dead horse, but it’s really an unbelievable amount of snow. It’s going to take a long time for the ground to dry out this spring. The only benefit to all this snow is that it’s stopped the frost line from moving down, even with the extreme cold. (This is according to our contractor. He’s been all over town — where the snow doesn’t cover as much of the ground — thawing out pipes, and I’ve heard that municipalities are having problems with main lines freezing as the frost moves lower than usual.) I wonder if that will mean the ground thaws sooner — not that it will matter if it’s completely waterlogged.

We had a lovely weekend, did you? I can’t tell you what a difference it makes to have M sleeping well. And eating well. She’s not been very independent lately, needing me to hold her and move her here and there to play with different things all the time (basically being fussy), but that’s small potatoes compared to worrying about whether she’s eating enough and sleeping right. Now that she stays up longer, she goes down for naps so easily. She treated me to some long naptimes on Saturday, and I was finally able to watch the not-so-new-anymore Hunger Games movie!

She looks so sweet on the video monitor (she’ll wiggle around for a bit if she’s still awake after I give her her bottle, and then she’ll just turn her head to the side and be asleep — weird baby sorcery); it’s hard not to want to go down and just watch her sleep. But I’ve been getting more done during the day, and that feels good too. And there are still plenty of hours during the day for us to be together!

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State of the Sleep

A while back I said I could write an entire post about M’s sleeping habits, and this is it — what things are looking like at not-quite-four-and-a-half months. The short story is that things are looking up. I feel like we’re close to having something that works for both of us, which is a relief. Of course, what works changes so quickly with babies.

Naps, for instance, seem to change constantly. A newborn sleeps all the ding-dang time. Like, if you put them down just for a second, they fall asleep. It’s the one advantage that newborns have over older infants (everything else about newborns, if you ask me, is utter chaos). By the time M was two months old, she was staying up for forty-five minutes between naps. A few weeks later, she was awake for an hour at a time. It seems like we just transitioned into 1.5-hour activity times, but I realized recently that they weren’t working for her anymore. She’d go down for a nap very nicely, but after thirty minutes, she was awake again — and happy. There seems to be a lot of over-tired vs under-tired confusion in the baby world, but I’m pretty sure that when they wake up from a short nap happy, it’s because they weren’t tired enough in the first place.

So this week, M started staying up for two hours at a time. The Baby Whisperer forum is full of schedules and methods for extending baby’s awake time from 1.5 to 2hrs. I just… started keeping M up longer. She gets sleepy towards the end, and I have to do a lot of entertaining to keep her happy, but she makes it to the two-hour mark and then is out like a light at nap time. And I’m seeing naps in the 1-1.5hr range for the most part, which is sweeeeeet.

Nighttime sleep improved vastly when M moved to her own bedroom. Instead of 4-5 wakings (and keeping me awake in between with her wiggling), I was able to count on only 1-2 — sometimes she’d squeeze in a third, but not often. She went through a growth spurt a few weeks ago, where she’d take full bottles at each waking (4-5oz), but they were seeming more like a habit/comfort thing this past week, with her taking only an ounce or two. So I decided I would — DUN-DUN-DUNNNNNNN — let her cry it out (CIO). She’d formed a clear association with having the bottle and falling asleep (also being in my arms and falling asleep — which is so lovely and sweet, but I cannot hold her all day/night long), and it seemed like she was ready to drop most of those nighttime feeds.

So I got Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems, because when you’re going to make your baby CIO, you go straight to the most demonized sleep expert, Richard Ferber. I’d heard that his method wasn’t as bad as attachment parenting types make it out to be, and I agree. I mean, it’s not easy to hear your baby cry when you know what could make them stop (rocking, a bottle). But I need M to sleep better — and on her own — and she needs it, too.

The first night, she went to bed at 6:00pm, as usual, and she had another full bottle at 10:00pm. When she woke at 2:00am, I let her cry. I went in after three minutes, then after another five, rubbing her tummy and talking to her for a couple of minutes each time. Then I was going to wait another ten minutes, but she stopped crying before I reached that limit, and soon she was asleep. She grumbled a little bit around 4:00am, and then she was up for the morning at 6:00, full of big smiles and as joyful as always. She was more eager to eat than she usually is in the morning, but she didn’t seem traumatized by her crying. (I mean, some babies cry longer than she had just as a matter of routine!)

Last night, I again gave her the 10:00pm bottle, and she spent about four minutes grumbling (not crying) at 3:00am, and that was it. (Birdy, on the other hand, kept yowling in the hallway until I had to get up and scold her.) I’ll be happily surprised if that’s really all it takes (ie, I expect there to be a bit more crying in our future), but these two nights have proven to me that she really is big enough to go that nighttime stretch without eating.

Something — either that brief CIO episode or just being more tired going into each nap — has improved her naps, so that even though she still falls asleep while eating and wakes briefly when I put her in her crib afterward, she settles right back into sleep on her own. And she’s been doing a better job at connecting her sleep cycles during naps (you read a lot about connecting sleep cycles when you have a baby). It seems to me like she’s had this ability all along, and she was just waiting for me to figure out what I had to do to give her the chance. Fingers crossed that the next growth spurt doesn’t ruin everything too completely.

The downside to M learning to fall asleep on her own is that she can… fall asleep on her own. She was up earlier than usual this morning, and I’m trying not to let her nap until 8:00am, but she snuck in a few Z’s in her Rock’n'Play when my back was turned. That hasn’t happened since she was a newborn!

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