Sunday, May 31, 2009

Adventures in home improvement: the French drain

Ever since we moved into our house we have had some leaking in the garage when we get a lot of rain. Nothing crazy but definitely some cause for concern. It doesn't help that our house is at the lowest point in the neighborhood. You can actually see the water streaming down to our yard from our neighbors. Good times. Why our home inspector didn't catch it is beyond me...this could have been the previous home owners' problem instead of ours!

DH was getting frustrated with seeing moisture in the garage and decided to investigate the problem. Isn't that how it always starts? First you look into the problem and the next thing you know there is a huge hole and you are in over your head. Fortunately DH is very, very handy so once he starts a project he will finish it, regardless of how much time or effort it takes. This project took approximately 25 hours and a massive amount of effort. But it cost about $300 in materials vs. the quote of almost $10K we got from the drainage experts. Granted, that $10K involved a lot more work than DH ended up doing but it would have been at least $2K for what he ended up doing so we saved about $1700. I say we but really I contributed negligibly in terms of ideas and physical labor.

Our garage backs up into a hill. That meant DH was digging out a trench about a foot below the pitch of the roof and had to be careful on top of moving thousands of pounds of dirt and gravel. When the house was built a French drain was originally put in but DH determined there was some kind of blockage. First DH made sure the drainage was fine beyond the garage. It turns out that the drainage runs about 150 yards beyond the garage to end in a city sewer. Good thing he didn't need to replace the whole thing! I can't even imagine...

Once the area had been excavated sufficiently DH was going to wash all the old gravel and replace it. Apparently the drainage is better when the gravel is clean to start with. But he quickly realized that wasn't going to work and was able to have a yard of gravel (#5 - did you know there are numbers to tell the type of gravel? I sure didn't.) delivered. That is 2835 pounds of gravel. That needed to be shoveled into barrels, run up the hill to the garage (no access from the driveway because of the hill) and then dumped into the hole. So basically DH moved 2 tons of gravel. Pretty impressive!

This is a yard of gravel. Doesn't look to big does it? Go ahead and tell DH that!

DH tried to shovel directly into the wheel barrow but because of the slope of the land the first load spilled everywhere. So he switched to filling two buckets instead.Doesn't this look fun?

The steps to laying a French drain aren't that hard, just physically demanding. Dig out the trench, lay down gravel graded away from the house, put down new pipe, cover pipe with more gravel. We used the new and then old gravel to cover the pipe back up. The pipe was also covered with a cloth that I immediately dubbed the condom. DH had the brilliant idea of putting on some additional piping as "access points" to stick up through the gravel.

This is stage 1: DH removed all gravel from the top, exposing the old French drain.

After filling the trench with new gravel DH lays down the new (and improved!) French drain.

Heh, heh, heh. Yes, I have a dirty mind.

With new gravel on top of the French drain, the new access point is still exposed. Aren't you exhausted just reading about this project? Imagine how DH felt!

The worst part about this project is that when it's done, it looks like nothing happened!!

I am writing this blog post for a couple of reasons. First of all, it is a warning about home ownership. Be prepared for laborious or expensive project like this! Secondly it is to lavish praise on DH for all his hard work. So join me in telling him how fabulous he is!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Photo Friday: Too cute for words

Cameron has been very fussy for the last 48 hours which coincided with me starting Fenugreek to increase my milk supply. I had read that moving to more pumping and less breastfeeding results in a decrease in supply so I wanted to get mine up before returning to work. Unfortunately, Cameron had a very adverse reaction to Fenugreek which resulted in poor napping and fussiness during feedings. I have since stopped (as of yesterday) and my little girl is back to her happy self and napping wonderfully.

I realized I have been extremely remiss in sharing photos of Cameron . So here are a bunch from this week and a bonus video!

Listening intently to a story that Daddy is telling her. Cameron let me pose her in this Ralph Lauren hoodie.
Every time Cameron wears this onesie DH does exactly what it says and hugs her.
While she may not enjoy tummy time, Cameron still loves her playmat. Well, she does for about 15 minutes at a time!

Cameron shows her displeasure at wearing a Yankees cap. I'm sure she would be smiling if it was a Red Sox one!

Cameron has started "talking" to the toybar on her bouncer. In this clip she perseveres despite having the hiccups. She starts "talking" about halfway through the clip.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Oh, you didn't ask for my advice?

Now that we have been living with Cameron for more than two months, I have taken note of the things we can't live without in order to keep me sane. I thought I would pass my advice along to future parents. It was a challenge for me to build my registry and I had two sisters to give me advice! What else am I missing from my list that you would recommend? How about as the baby ages?

  • Prefold cloth diapers - I can't say enough about how useful these are. 3 packs are not too many! I use them for everything: extra protection on the changing pad or boppy, wiping up spit up or drool, or as a makeshift breastfeeding cover or bib. I also use one under her head while she sleeps in case she spits up. It is such a pain to change crib sheets!

  • Boppy - I have two, one for upstairs and one for downstairs. I use it for all of Cameron's feedings and sometimes put her in it for naps (when swaddled of course). She likes the "arms" around her while napping. If you haven't tried it yet for napping, I recommend it. Get the Boppy with a cover so you can throw it in the wash as needed.

  • Boppy pad liner - this is useful for changing pads. Cameron liked to pee as we were changing her diaper and we would have had to wash her changing pad frequently if not for this.

  • Bouncer - my "go to" device for keeping Cameron occupied while I'm doing things. It took her about two months to really enjoy the toy bar but the vibrations on the bouncer have always worked in soothing her.

  • Medela Pump & Save storage bags - I recommend these over the Lansinoh storage bags. I don't actually pump into them because the measurements aren't accurate but they stand up nicely (flat bottom) and work better once defrosted in staying upright.

  • Swaddling blankets - if you don't swaddle you should! Cameron is a little Houdini so I have to do the super swaddle but she wouldn't sleep half as well without it. We use two types of blankets for swaddling. The first is for nighttime and is the flannel blankets that my grandmother made for Cameron. The second I tend to use during the day and they are the waffle weave blankets. The waffle weave ones stretch easily and I can tie her up nice and tight. She will outgrow both of these blankets in terms of swaddling so I also have the Aden + Anais muslin blankets which are much larger.

  • Pacifiers - I never worried about nipple confusion and was more than happy to let Cameron have a pacifier in the hospital. However, Cameron wasn't good at holding on to the Soother brand, probably because of how it is shaped. Instead she likes the MAM button ones. We started with the 0+ months ones and have now moved on to the 2+ months ones. There is an actual difference! The 2+ ones have a wider base. I just picked up the Pacifier Keeper for use in the car and it's working great so far. Every baby is different so you may need to pick up a couple of brands to see what is right for your baby.

  • Cradle swing - I love this product for soothing Cameron to sleep. Our version is shaped in such a way that we can put her in it swaddled and be able to easily move her to her crib after she's fallen asleep. Cameron also loves the mirror and will often fall asleep looking at herself.

  • Bath pillow - based on my sister's experience with Finn, I decided to go with the Safer Bather over a plastic infant bath tub. I probably use a bit more water than if I just used a small tub but I like that it's soft and it is easy to move Cameron around to get her clean. Once I'm done I can hang it up in the shower to dry before her next bath. I have thrown it in the washer if it starts to smell a little and it cleans up great. Word of advice though, put it in the washer by itself or it will collect lint.

  • Tubside Kneeler & Step Stool - let's face it, tile floors are hard, even when covered by a rug. I came across this product and snapped it up. I love the pockets and the fact that as I lean over the tub there is padding for the side too.

  • Playmat - when Cameron gets over stimulated by the bouncer toybar I often move her over to her playmat. I received the Tiny Love Gymini Super Deluxe but really, any of them are good. I also picked up other toys to hang off the bars. I'm told that mine comes apart and can be washed but I haven't had to do that yet.

  • Bottle drying rack - we got the Dr. Brown's one mostly because that's they brand we use for bottles but we only use one of the two levels it comes with. I would probably go with this one instead.

  • Dishwasher basket - we don't use this much yet since Cameron only gets one bottle a day but I have a feeling it will be very much in use once she starts daycare and we are at 3-4 bottles a day. The Prince Lionheart one fits well in the top or bottom of the dishwasher and holds a fair amount of bottle parts.

  • Pack and play - I have this permanently set up downstairs. I used it for naps initially when I was trying to get Cameron to distinguish night from day. But now she is napping in her crib so I use it primarily for it's changing table feature. We have two floors so it is critical to have a separate changing table downstairs. It breaks down fairly compactly and it much easier to transport than a regular crib. If you get the Pack and Play, make sure you get the one that has the bassinet and changing table features.

  • Diaper Champ - I call out the brand on this one because the Diaper Champ takes regular garbage bags. Some other brands require you to buy their bags which can be a pain.

  • Cleaning agent and bucket - Cameron is the queen of diaper blowouts. My favorite was the time she as feeding and pooped through her clothes, mine and on the Boppy. Good times. If we didn't have a cheap plastic bucket and some variation of OxyClean (whatever is on sale at BJs) we would be throwing out a lot of clothes. I use the cheap 5 gallon bucket you can find at any home improvement store and keep in next to the washing machine. Fill it up with some hot water, add the cleaner and clothes and they can wait until the next time I do laundry. No need to wash right away!

  • Symphony-in-Motion mobile - similar to the toybar on the bouncer and the playmat it took about 6 weeks before Cameron started noticing and responding to the mobile. I like this brand in particular because the music plays for 15 minutes and the toys are big enough for her to see clearly.

  • Glider - we were fortunate to get a used glider and ottoman (also glides) from DH's brother and sister-in-law. This is critical for late night feedings, whether you breastfeed or not. I've also started using it when Cameron is fussy during naps to try and calm her down and put her back to sleep now that she naps in her crib upstairs. My ottoman has a nursing stool attached to it that I use frequently. Target sells a very reasonably priced glider and ottoman set.

  • Nursing stool - this could be useful for bottle fed babies as well. I find it gives me the leverage I need to prop Cameron's head up slightly and make feeding her more comfortable for me. Since I have the nursing stool on the ottoman I keep the stand alone one downstairs.

  • Breast pump - it was completely worth it to spend a significant amount of money on a breast pump, especially because I will return to work full time. I bought the Medela Pump In Style Advance and it has worked great for me. If you want to read my review of it, you can find it here.

Things you don't need to buy because you will get a million of them:

  • Bibs - lots of 4 or 5 piece outfits come with bibs. I think we have about 10 and that's on top of the ones we bought ourselves. So no need to register or buy any yourself. Once we start solid foods we will get some plastic ones.

  • Small burp clothes - similar issue to bibs. Plus I've already advised about using cloth diapers for this purpose.

  • Caps - we never really used caps on Cameron but if we needed to, we receive about 20 as gifts. Again, no need to register.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Yes, I guess I do need to go back to work

Since BigFinance's leave policy means no email or calls while I'm out, I have had little to occupy my mind besides Cameron. Hence my obsession with her feeding, pooping and of course, sleeping schedule. By the way, Cameron had her two month doctor's appointment on Tuesday and has gained almost 2 pounds in one month. Yay! That makes me feel very relieved that she is getting enough with just breastfeeding. In bad news she got two shots and one oral vaccine. It would have been 3 shots but I asked to postpone the combo one a week. I didn't feel comfortable having so many different vaccines in one day. My doctor tried to pressure me into doing all 3 shots at one time but I held firm.

Cameron has definitely regulated her naps: one in the morning and two in the afternoon. She goes to bed by 8 PM and has only one wake up at night for a feeding. The reason I know this so well is because I have been tracking her sleep with a daily log. If you are interested (and I can't imagine you would be!) here is the link:

A sleep log is a great way to learn more about your baby. I have been very fortunately with having Cameron on some kind of schedule since she was about two weeks old. But this log helped me to spot new patterns in her sleep and adjust my behaviors accordingly. If you have a baby who doesn't appear to have a "schedule" I think you will find he does have one if you use a sleep log like the one I kept. I didn't use the Quiet or Crying categories very often because I usually let Cameron swing until she falls asleep. Or she'll cry for 5 minutes so it's not worth it to record it.

Cameron is at about 8 hours of wakefulness and 16 hours of sleep. That is right in line with what "experts" recommend. We are struggling a little bit with her first afternoon nap. She falls asleep around 1 PM and should sleep until 3 PM but that doesn't happen unless I swing her a lot or keep running up the stairs for a pacifier insertion. I know that eventually she will eliminate one of the two afternoon naps but I hope it's a while before that happens. Or at least until she stops waking up for a middle of the night feeding!

Here is a nice little graph of Cameron's daily sleep log. I tried to throw in some pivot tables but it would have required a lot of formatting and I'm intellectually bored, but not that bored! I'm sure other moms or dads can put me to shame with your fancy tracking spreadsheets. But for now, I have decided to stop tracking her sleep until she changes her schedule up on me. When did other parents stop tracking your child's activities? Did you find tracking helped you to learn more about your baby?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Jon & Kate Plus 8: A new season, a marriage ending?

I love Jon & Kate Plus 8. I've watched almost every episode and am amazed at how the family manages. I can hardly function with one child! It is inspiring to me because if they can do it then surely I can too.

From the very beginning the show has been polarizing. Whenever DH watches it with me he comments about how mean Kate is to Jon. I always disagree and stick up for Kate. She was the primary caregiver and everything needs to be scheduled and planned to the smallest detail when you have 8 children. True, she could be a bit nicer in how she talks to Jon but when you tell him the same thing over and over again, sniping just comes naturally.

I was amazed to see a series of cover stories about first Jon and then Kate on my gossip indulgence, Us Weekly. I'm a fairly naive person. I usually question the cover stories and assume that people aren't having affairs only to be proven wrong time and again. So I was horrified to see the articles about Jon's supposed affair, not to mention Kate's. I still don't believe it's true for Kate but am on the fence about Jon. He flatly denied it in the season opener but he's so monotone in his delivery it's hard to believe him. Kate was much more passionate in her defense and rightly so.

As Laura commented in her post, the saddest thing about this episode was seeing Jon and Kate in separate interviews (which has never happened before) and hearing Alexis say she doesn't like it when Jon's away.

There has been some role reversal with Kate traveling and Jon being the stay-at-home parent. While I know DH would love it, Jon appears to be very bitter about it because the "choice was made for [him]." But would he be any happier if he made the choice himself? I don't think so. I felt so bad for Kate as she put on a brave face while tackling the birthday party by herself. And you can tell from the twins' behavior that they know something is wrong - they were being way too nice not to!

By the way, how fat and mellow was that rabbit? Funniest part of the show.

What do you think? Is this marriage ending or will Kate pull it through by sheer force of will? If anyone can do that, she can. I'm interested to see what happens this season. Their final interviews did not give me hope for their marriage.

Adventures in gardening: the kitchen bed

This Memorial Day weekend I tackled adding color to the bed outside the kitchen window which is the bed with the bird bath. The plants already in the bed include:
  • A couple of gardenia bushes (front) that produce fragile and fragrant blooms in the summer. I haven't done anything to them and despite needing a lot of care they have bloomed each year. My mother-in-law is very jealous.
  • Two bushes that I have no idea what they are (back)
  • A wisteria vine that I had DH cut back because it hasn't bloomed in the two years we've lived here (right). If it doesn't bloom next year I'm ripping it out and replacing it with a Clematis.
  • Some lambs' ear
  • A mum plant
  • Some bearded irises around the bird bath
  • A hosta (will probably be moved because of the sun)

Before photos

The bed gets a lot of afternoon sun so I knew I was safe in getting sun plants. DH had to go to Home Depot for his French drain project so Cameron and I tagged along to look at plants. Home Depot was having a big perennial sale for all the plants that weren't looking so good. 4 for $12! What a deal. The plants were fine, just not as covered in blossoms as you normally see. I focused on picking up plants that will propagate themselves. I've had a lot of luck with primrose in the front bed so I picked up a bunch of those.

I also spotted Yarrow which is similar to primrose in how it spreads. Both Yarrow and primrose spread out with new shoots about 3 feet and grow about 2 feet tall. I recommend primrose in particular if you want to cover a wide area in a garden. It isn't a selfish plant and can co-habitat with many others. DH made me get two Swamp Milkweeds to round out the bed. We probably wouldn't have gotten it if we knew the common name but there was no tag on the plants aside from its Latin name and really who can tell what Asclepias Incarnata is? It really stinks when there is no tag to tell you what to expect from a plant and the type of environment it needs. Apparently even with the "swamp" in it's name, the swamp milkweed should still do well in our bed.

To round out the plant selection I added two Fleabanes. I found out through my research that they can be short-lived perennials. I have to remember to split them in the early Spring so I can keep them growing. It's annoying when a plant is called a perennial when it's really a two year annual. I am attempting to plant mostly perennials to make maintenance easier down the road.

After planting everything I cleaned out the leaves and added some cedar mulch. Why cedar mulch? No reason in particular aside from the fact that it was on sale for 97 cents a bag at Home Depot one weekend. I made DH make two trips to get 40 bags of it. Much cheaper than the normal $2.97 a bag. That's my savings tip of the day: buy whatever mulch is on sale and as much of it as you can carry and store. Mulch really makes a bed look better and is decent at weed suppressing. If you have flooding issues then we have found that pine straw mulch is the best at staying put and not floating away.

After photos

Oh, and for those looking for a bird update I am pleased to report that the 3 baby birds in the next outside our kitchen are doing really well. I can hear them crying for their mom quite a bit during the day. At least I don't have to catch worms and regurgitate them for Cameron. Breastfeeding is a piece of cake in comparison!

Just a few days after hatching
And I thought Cameron is growing quickly! This is probably two weeks after hatching and they already have feathers.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Cameron: two months old

Dear Cameron,

Today you are two months old. It is amazing how much you have already grown. I didn't follow through on my plan to sneak into the doctor's to weigh you so I'm not sure how big you physically are. But you have grown up so much! You are smiling so much more now even if you smile mostly at Daddy or the bubbles in your Aquarium bouncer. Ever once in a while you see me as more than just a food receptacle and grace me with a smile. You love when Daddy gives you "lessons" in the evening and has you practice holding your head up while telling you stories. Your favorite so far is how we adopted Charlie. Right now he is telling you about installing French drains. While I may not find it stimulating you sure do! Besides holding your head up you also like to lay on your play mat and bat at the hanging toys. You even manage to grab the toys every so often. Your kicking has really improved but you still can't quite reach the toy bar on the bouncer to activate it yourself. You can definitely see a lot farther and will follow Charlie with your eyes as he walks around the room.
Even though you are an only child you seem to like the other babies in your playgroup. Good thing since you will be in day care soon enough. It's never to early to learn how to share!
This month you have taken lots of walks with Mommy in the carrier and sometimes we've even taken Charlie with us. You have also made many trips to Home Depot for plants and other necessities. Everyone who sees you tells me how beautiful you are and I can't help but agree!
What a wonderful two months we have had together. I can't wait to see what you will do next!

Mommy and Daddy

Friday, May 22, 2009

The latest in bobble head dolls

Even though DH and I are terrible about doing tummy time with Cameron she is still building her neck muscles. Sometimes she looks a little bit like a bobble head doll (or a turtle) but she's trying! Here are a couple of action shots with DH. You'll notice that Cameron is starting to lose some hair on the back of her head because she lies on her back so much. Hopefully as she starts to hold her head up more it will start to grow back. As long as it stays curly!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Playgroups are for mommies too

Over the past two weeks Cameron has had two play dates, one of which we hosted. It has been wonderful to meet other moms and talk about babies. Nothing but babies. I need to get it out of my system now so that when I return to work I don't bore my co-workers with details about Cameron's sleeping or pooping schedule. And that's one of the awesome things about the playgroups. I am never bored with hearing about other mom's issues with their children or their developmental milestones. I may not remember everything they tell me but I don't mind asking again and again. And of course talking about my own perfect angel!

Mommy, Esq. and A. are great at indulging me as I natter on and on over the phone about how many times Cameron got up the night before but nothing beats talking with other moms in person. And seeing their babies as they all hang out on the blankets or play mats. It's also a great opportunity for me to make friends. I am now helping to run the infant playgroup that meets every other Saturday. I'm very excited to continue this as I return to work. What have other moms (or dads!) done to stay connected with other parents? Will this obsession with talking about Cameron actually fade when I return to work? Experience with Mommy, Esq. and others makes me think not!

Cameron is starting to smile more often but still seems to prefer saving them for Daddy and her Aquarium bouncer. Jealous of a bouncer!

This picture is just because she's so beautiful! Cameron watches the older babies enjoy tummy time. I hope it inspires her!Cameron is surrounded by her two boyfriends, Holden and Gabe.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

AI Season 8: Final 2 perform

This is it, kids! Probably the most exciting season finale since last season's showdown between Archuleta and Cook. Similarly to last year we have two very different singers and it could really be anyone's win at this point. Will I vote? I've only voted once in my long history with AI: for Carrie Underwood. I doubt I will be voting tonight but Adam Lambert might just win me over.

I am recapping this without my trusty recapping partner, DH, who is up in Boston for a couple of days. But Cameron has been asleep since 8 PM and I have a large glass of wine sitting next to me so here we go!

This is American Idol.

Remember how far we've come since the auditions? Who knew Lil Rounds would crap out with her terrible song choices? Or Danny Gokey's widower-hood wouldn't see him through to the finals? Or that my dreams of winning my AI pool would be over in the very first week with Jasmine's elimination? Good times.

Ryan introduces the judges and I say a little prayer that Kara won't be returning next season (although reports say she will) and Simon will ink a multi-year deal. Because really, who else could be so honest and spot on with the judging?

Ryan then introduces Kris and Adam. Wow, I don't think I ever realized how short Kris is. He's even smaller than Ryan.

The format for this episode is the following:
  • Favorite performance from the season
  • A song selected by Simon Fuller (it used to be Clive Davis but considering his cadaverous appearance last season I'm not surprised he's not there)
  • The "winning" single to be released

Ryan tells us that the show will go long so we need to set our DVRs accordingly. Well, it's 9:05 as I start this so you all might be missing out on the last few minutes. Hopefully it's just filler.

Adam starts us off and we're told that he didn't sleep through the night until he was 18 months old. If Cameron pulls that crap with me I'm looking into a return policy. He goes with "Mad World" from the "Songs from the year they were born" week. He does just as well, if not better this time around. I really like when he slows things down because he tends to pick more manic songs. Randy is wearing a suit (odd choice for him) and likes the choice of the sensitive song. He gives Adam and A+. Kara also praises the song choice. Paula looks a little too tan in her lime green shirt. She tells Adam to bask in the adoration of the crowd and also likes the subdued performance. Simon called the performances a little over-theatrical but I wonder if he's trying to be a little disparaging to get voters to call in...

Kris is the antithesis of Adam in his shyness according to his parents. Ryan shells for iTunes and American Idol banks another million. Kris goes with "Ain't No Sunshine" accompanied on the piano. Kris was given the money spot on the first performance of this song and it was well deserved then as it is now. Both he and Adam did a great job picking their best performances from the season. I like this aspect of the final show. The camera flashes on his wife (yes, he has a wife not that the producers are advertising that!) and she is wearing some kind of prom dress. Randy called it one of Kris' best performances. Kara agrees with Randy. Paula says Kris "awakens the spirit." Simon takes back his doubt of Kris as a finalist and thinks he won Round 1.

"Change Is Gonna Come" is Simon Fuller's selection for Adam Lambert. Adam starts it out slow and looks pretty slick in his shiny grey suit. There is no doubt that Adam is by far the more polished and energetic performer of the two. I can absolutely see him headlining his own tour. I eagerly anticipate when Adam steps it up on the song which he does by launching into his falsetto. Another great performance. Randy said Adam can sing his face off. Kara called it his best performance and interpretation of the song. It's a love fest up there. Paula stands up and swings her arm in a lasso motion around her head. I wonder if she got a little too much sun. Simon said Adam is back in the game.

Kris gets "What's Going On" and apparently Simon Fuller is a big R&B fan. Kris "Jack Johnsons" it up with some acoustic guitar and bongo drums. Or whatever those big drums are. He does a good job but it doesn't hold a candle to Adam's performance. I predict Simon will call Round 2 for Adam. Randy thought that the song was a little "light" and I can agree with that. Kara liked the message of the song but didn't really talk about his performance. Paula said Kris made Marvin Gaye proud. Simon loved the song but didn't like the arrangement. Simon calls Round 2 to Adam. It's like Simon and I have a mind meld.

Adam gets the "privilege" of singing the first "single" song. I hate this part of AI. Aside from Kelly Clarkson's first single, they tend to not be very good. It's just not a good indication of what they will end up recording. But whatever, we all know it's part of what AI is all about. Adam sings about climbing a mountain and getting through the pain. He does his best to rock it out but the lyrics are inane to say the least. The crowd goes wild for some reason. Randy thought it was "a'ight" and a little pitchy. Kara apparently helped write the song and was moved by Adam's performance. Paula claims that adjectives can't express what she feels. I'm sure she'll try though. Simon makes fun of the mountains and the hurricanes lyrics (mind meld!) but calls Adam the best and most original contestant they've had. He believes Adam can be a worldwide star. Big praise from the big judge.

We see commercial 1000 for "Glee" and I break down and record it. Kris gets the same song, "No Boundaries." He starts out a little weak and appears to miss a few words in the first verse. He is definitely not as comfortable with the song as Adam was. In fact, I would call it one of his weakest performances on the show. I think Kris just gave Adam the win. But let's see what the judges think. Randy thinks Kris should be proud of himself (sounds like a pity comment to me) but that the pitch was a little too high for him. Kara doesn't want Kris to be judged on that song but rather on the whole season. Paula agrees with Kara. Simon thinks Kris deserves to be in the finals.

So, who wins? It should be Adam but it could be Kris with his cuteness and tween vote. Although I thought that similar combination would put David Archuleta on top but America surprised me then. Will they make the right choice and go with Adam this year? We'll find out tomorrow!

For the last time this season (because I refuse to recap the two hours of filler that is the results show), SJ out.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Adventures in babysitting

I am in the process of trying to find a babysitter for a couple of hours a week. It wouldn't be anything regular, more of an ad hoc arrangement. I posted to my moms' group and received a couple of offers from other moms to babysit Cameron. These moms have children of their own (just one in each case) and would come over with that child to watch Cameron. Has anyone every done this arrangement before? I was thinking of a more traditional babysitting arrangement but obviously these moms are qualified. Please weigh in with your thoughts on my situation. Should I give it a try or instead focus my search on a high school or college student? What has your experience been?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A slave to the clock

Cameron and I have had a lovely weekend. DH has had a dirty one as he is trying to fix a drainage issue we have with the garage and it involves a lot of digging. We were given a ridiculous minimum quote so our Puritan souls shriveled and DH decided to try it on his own. I'll update the blog with the results. Fortunately it is nothing serious so the work doesn't have to be completed immediately.

On Saturday Cameron and I went to Amanda's for a play date. Cameron ruined her two nights of uninterrupted sleep with 3 AM wake up calls for Mommy. I guess I was right that the sleeping through the night was a fluke. I took advantage of a break in DH's work to run to Babies 'R Us and then to get a manicure and pedicure. It took about 3 hours total and I felt guilty for taking the time. What is wrong with me?!? Plus I was annoyed because it takes so long to get to Babies 'R Us (why are they always placed so far away?) and I had to go there for the product for which I refused to pay $5 extra dollars in shipping costs.

So what is this post really about? Well, the title says it all. When I leave Cameron at home I feel like I'm always rushing to make sure I'm back in time before she wakes up from her nap. Or her next feeding. DH is always willing to step in but with breastfeeding, that isn't always possible. Plus I'm having trouble letting go. What if he doesn't recognize the signs that she is getting sleepy and she gets overtired? Will he know to put her in her swing for a while and then in her crib? Can he move her just as gently as I can so she doesn't even stir on transfer? It's not that DH isn't competent. Far from it. It's that I spend basically every minute of her waking life with Cameron and probably know her better than myself at this point. And because I know her schedule so well I just assume DH does too. But I'm trying to let it go...I promise!

I have to let it go because Cameron isn't a very portable infant. It is very hard to bring Cameron out with me for any longer than an hour and a half. Maximum. She is completely on a schedule which is great but makes me feel terrible if I'm out and she gets fussy because she's ready for a nap. There isn't much I can get done in 90 minutes. And usually I only have 60 minutes. Even when I'm home I still constantly watch the clock. It's weird that I haven't been wearing a wrist watch but between clocks in the house, on my phone and on my computer I usually know exactly what time it is. And more importantly how much time until her next feeding or nap! Even worse is when I write the date down for my milk storage bags every day. I feel the days slipping away until I return to work (sniff, sniff).

Have other moms experienced this slavish devotion to timekeeping? Does it get better in a couple of months or not until Cameron is much older?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Don't you just love a bargain?

Today Amanda and I went to a consignment sale to check out the deals. It is my first baby consignment trip but I've heard great things about them from other moms. This consignment sale hasn't been going on very long but they do it twice a year and I'm already marking my calendar for a return trip in September.

For less than $80 I picked up a ton of 9-12 month clothes (including a couple of OshKosh B'Gosh overalls which I love), some books and a few toys. The trick with the clothes was focusing on separates. I got a lot of sweaters and pants since it will be Fall and Winter when Cameron can wear them. DH was very happy with my frugality. I was hoping to find a couple of big ticket items like a stroller but the pickings were slim. I might sell some stuff in September so I can take advantage of the consigner early sale.

I'm a big fan of the sales and am trying to pick up all of Cameron's clothes on sale. So if I'm in Old Navy or Babies 'R Us I look at the sale rack and focus on clothes 6+ months out. Of course that means her closet is rapidly filling but she'll be growing out of her 0-3 months soon enough (sniff, sniff). What do other moms do to try and save money for clothes that are worn out through play, washings and rapid growth?

This week we've also introduced Cameron to the play feature of her bouncer. She is absolutely fascinated by the bubbles and moving lights but can't kick her feet up yet to activate it herself. I can get a few things done while she is mesmerized. I have a feeling she is going to love TV! The only caveat is that Cameron can get over-stimulated. I try to spot any impending fussiness and remove the toy bar.

Look at the pretty lights!

I'll just chill here for a while.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

And in the seventh week, she slept

Now that she's seven weeks, Cameron has decided she is a big girl. For two nights in a row she has slept from 8:30 PM to 6:30 AM. A pacifier helped with the last hour or so, but she wasn't very fussy. I'm hoping this isn't an aberration! Cameron has also been napping really well too so I guess the saying, "sleep begets sleep" is true in her case. Of course that means I am even more tied to the house so I'm going a little stir crazy. I'm looking into getting some babysitter names so I can have a few hours to myself in the afternoon. I'll definitely need that as I get closer to returning to work.

In case anyone is wondering what my secret is with having Cameron sleep so well let me clue you in. First, she is an amazingly easy baby. Yes, we are blessed and very well aware of it! DH and I frequently turn to each other and say, "She is so good!" Secondly, sleep is extremely important to me so I make it important for Cameron. I try really hard to spot the "tired" cues that Weissbluth writes about in his book. When she starts to get sleepy I know it is time to return home (if we are out) or swaddle her. She usually falls asleep in the Bjorn while we are walking which makes it very easy to put her down to nap. And I put her to bed in her crib all the time now because she seems to prefer it and sleep a lot longer. Sometimes that means several trips up the stairs to put a pacifier in but it's well worth it. I will use the swing if she's particularly fussy, but she's usually only fussy when I miss her cues and don't put her down early enough.

The last "trick" I use for getting Cameron to sleep is the super swaddling. I can't write enough about how that has helped us. Cameron has started wiggling her arms out at some point during the night but it takes a lot longer than the old swaddling method and I (or DH) just swaddle her right back up and she is good for several more hours. What tricks have you used to ensure longer and better sleep for your kids?

Daddy is already prepping Cameron for a lifetime of baseball caps. Fortunately this one is UVA and not the Yankees so it is allowed to be posted here.

Cameron still loves playing with her tongue but her latest trick is blowing bubbles. In case you can't read it, her shirt says, "If you think I'm cute, you should see my mom." Word.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

AI Season 8: Top 3 perform judges' picks

Allison's dismissal last week leaves us with an all male finale for the second year in a row. I'm trying to remember if there has ever been an all female finale but I can't remember any. I assume it is mostly tween girls who vote which is why we are more likely to have guys in the finale than girls. What happened to girl power? Someone needs to get these tween girls in line.

Ryan informs us this is the 300 episode. I'd be more impressed if 200 of them weren't auditions.

I'm still holding strong with predicting Adam Lambert as the winner. He got some unasked for publicity from Entertainment Weekly last week with a cover article questioning his sexual orientation. A little in bad taste if you ask me. You didn't? Too bad. I haven't really thought much about whether he is gay or not. Instead I focus on his over the top theatrics and fashion styling.

Paula selects a song for Danny Gokey and goes with "Dance Little Sister" by Terrence Trent Darby. Paula tells us it's because of a similarity in magical voices. I yawn. I feel like whoever Paula selects a song for should get a handicap. Girl is crazy. DH claims I should know this song but I totally don't. I think that's really going to hurt Danny. A recognizable song always helps. He does his Danny thing and I'm a little bored at this stage in the competition. Here's hoping his next song is better. DH informs me it was a really good performance and I am biased because I don't know the song. Randy agrees with DH so I am apparently wrong. Kara slams Danny's dancing but Paula pulls out her choreographer's card and says he did great. Simon thought the vocals were good but the dancing was desperate.

Kara and Randy team up to select Kris Allen's song. Apparently I can't count because I never even thought about the 4 judges and 3 contestants ratio. Perhaps it's because I assume Kara is not going to be around next season? Although Simon told Oprah he wasn't going to do another season after next year. Gasp! Let's hope that the producers throw so much money at him he signs up for many more years. "Apologize" by One Republic is the song given to Kris. He decides to accompany himself on the piano. It's actually a really good song choice for Kris - he would totally put out an album like the Fray or O.A.R. or any other trendy group these days. Kris does a really nice job and is definitely helped by the current popular song selection (take that Paula!). Randy likes the performance but Kara thinks he should have made it more his own. Paula notices a sour note but is proud of him. Simon disses both Paula and Kara in his commentary and thinks it was a decent performance.

Is anyone surprised that Simon got to select the song for Adam Lambert? Didn't think so. He goes with "One" by U2 after receiving explicit permission from Bono. Adam changes the arrangement (natch) and really uses his falsetto. Randy called the vocals unbelievable. Kara agreed and loved the arrangement. Paula called it superb. Simon complimented the song selection (ha!) and said it was a brilliant performance. He and Paula agree that it would be a travesty if Adam wasn't in the finals next week.

Randy then throws the show over to Idol Gives Back. As much as I like Carrie Underwood, this is not why I watch the show every week.

For his own selection, Danny Gokey goes with "You Are So Beautiful." Is there any woman who doesn't love this song? I am shocked that Ryan didn't use this opportunity to remind the audience about Danny's dead wife. There hasn't been a mention of her in weeks. Danny has a Joe Cocker type voice so this could be good. He changes up the arrangement enough to make it his own but still keep it as a sweet ballad. Randy said Danny can really, really, really sing. He needed those two extra "reallys" to really mean it. Kara called it stunning. Paula was breathless. Simon said it was a vocal master class.

Kris decides on "Heartless" by Kanye West. Does anyone else besides me think that Kanye is a total poseur? Do you like fish sticks? (Two points if you know what that means.) Kris accompanies himself on the guitar which makes me think he is trying to one-up the others with his musicality. He shouldn't worry because he has the cuteness factor going for him. I don't know the song (see above for opinion on Kanye West) but Kris does a decent job. I hear a few sour notes but it's good. Randy liked Kris' version better than the Fray's (they did it?) or the original. Kara called it bold, brave and fearless. And then tucked her thesaurus under the table. Paula said Kris is relevant. Simon thinks Kris redeemed himself .

And saving the best for last Adam picks "Cryin'" by Aerosmith. I loved this video and it launched Alicia Silverstone's career. Remember when she was more than just a vegetarian? Adam starts the song and I am completely distracted by the loudness of the background singers. But when they final shut up Adam does his usual bang up job. He doesn't change much in the arrangement. I am not completely wowed and kind of wish Adam selected a more unusual song. Randy loved it. Kara was amazed by the range of his voice. Paula said Adam would be flying for free and I scratch my head. Simon urges the audience to vote for Adam and not just assume he will be in the finals. Good point.

Who's out? I said last week it should be Danny and it should have been. So I'm going with him again this week. What do the rest of you think?

SJ out.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The crib monster strikes

Every since Cameron started her morning nap, it has been both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because she sleeps for 2.5 to 3 hours which means I can either get a lot of stuff done around the house or take a nap myself. A curse because she really likes to nap in her bed which means we are tied to the house. The best thing about a newborn is that she tends to be really mobile and will sleep anywhere. Now that Cameron is almost 7 weeks, we have moved away from that mobility. I manage to sneak out with her to Barnes and Noble or Starbucks for about an hour in the early afternoon and then it's right back to the house for her first afternoon nap.

I know, I shouldn't be complaining because she is such a good sleeper. She is still going down before 9 PM and sleeping until 4 AM for her feeding. Technically that is sleeping through the night although I would prefer a few more hours...I just hope that going into daycare at 12 weeks won't screw it up. I did speak with another mother whose daughter has been in the program since she was 6 weeks old and the mother seemed really happy with the daycare. So that relieved my mind a little. But I won't be reassured completely until Cameron has been there a few weeks and is still the perfect angel she is for us!

DH and I went to a picnic this weekend. I dressed up Cameron in an outfit that her Uncle Ross sent her. DH also surprised me with a beautiful locket for Mother's Day and a lunch out! Another Mother's Day surprise was that the eggs in our nest hatched. They are little furballs right now but I'm sure they will be flying any time now.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The tongue is the strongest muscle in the body

For the past week Cameron has been obsessed with her tongue. This makes feedings a little more challenging but it is so cute to hold my face up to hers and have her respond to me sticking my tongue out. I can't wait until she starts smiling at me when I smile at her! What are the best "firsts" you've had with your children that you didn't know about? What do I have to look forward to in the next month or two? Or even later?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Attempting to reinvent the wheel

For the past year I have been missing my favorite reality show (yes, even more than American Idol!), Project Runway. Bravo TV's contract with the producers was up and the show was sold to Lifetime instead. Per usual with Hollywood, lawsuits ensued and it will have been over a year since the last season (a lifetime, no pun intended, in the world of reality TV) by the time it airs on Lifetime this summer.

Not to be outdone, Bravo used it's time wisely as the lawsuits continued and developed a new show, The Fashion Show. I saw the debut and am not sure I will be adding it to my regular TV mix. To be frank, it is Project Runway-lite and not necessarily in a good way. Isaac Mizrahi is the big name draw as co-host and judge. His designs are best know through Target stores. He is delightfully gay and honest. So put that in the plus column for the show. On the negative side is Kelly Rowland. The former Destiny Child singer adds nothing to the commentary. Even the producers seem to recognize this as we only see her speaking scripted lines or giving small inane comments.

Another plus is that the contestants give a fashion show to industry insiders so it's not just the judges who review and provide feedback. It's great exposure for the designers. On the flip side, the producers decided to go with over the top personalities rather than just talent. On Project Runway there was always one or two quirky people (remember Austin? or Kenley?) but they don't completely dominate. On this new show the crazies seem to outweigh the normals.

And Isaac's parting catchphrase? Horrid. "We just don't buy it." Gah. Worse than the Top Design, "See you later, decorator." Has anyone else checked out the show? How do you think it compares to Project Runway? Are you missing Tim Gunn as much as me?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The morning nap commences

I devoured Dr. Weissbluth's book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child over the past week. Well, I read up through the chapter on months 0-4 but since Cameron is only 6 weeks old (can you believe she is already 6 weeks?!?), I figure I still have time for the rest. Because of her age, there is a lot of what Weissbluth writes that I just can't apply yet to her. But it has been very helpful in identifying her current sleep habits and thinking about how I would like them to develop before she starts day care.

Cameron definitely falls into the "easy baby" category. Yes, I know I am blessed. She has always slept well and has only had one middle of the night feeding since she was a week old. I think it's interesting that Dr. Weissbluth argues a middle of the night feeding isn't hunger related. Of course, at Cameron's age, that just isn't true. She is definitely hungry when she wakes up. I assume it won't be until she is close to 4 months old before that feeding will be phased out. More on that later.

The book also talked about how the morning nap develops first. I scoffed initially. Cameron was really set in her 6:30 AM feeding, nap for about 90 minutes and then 9:30 AM feeding. But lo and behold, she is now sleeping from 8:30 AM to 11:00 or 11:30! Cameron has done this for the past two days so I am taking it as a sign of a new pattern. My biggest concern is that this basically means she misses a morning feeding. She still eats at 4 times in the afternoon so should I be worried? She is taking 4 ounces in her afternoon bottle so I assume she gets about the same or more off of me.

Bedtime has been going really well although Cameron stays up between her 6:30 PM and last feeding (usually around 8:15) so she is very cranky by the time she goes to bed. My question for the readers is, should I be considering a "dream feeding" at say 11 PM? She gets up at 3:30 AM now but perhaps with the dream feed she could stretch to her first morning feeding? I'm a little clueless on what dream feeds are. Do I leave her all swaddled up and just give her the bottle in the crib? Or do I pick her up? Should she get a full 4 ounces or less? Please pass along any and all advice!

Cameron has also been discovering her tongue which is really cute. I'm trying to capture a picture of it but no luck so far. Instead, here is another picture of her looking adorable :-)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

AI Season 8: Top 4 perform rock

Ryan opens the show by telling us that the contestants didn't have a proper dress rehearsal because of some sort of stage collapse. We also find out that they will performing individually and in duets. That's new and could be exciting. Group performances are always a disaster but duets could be good.

Slash is this week's mentor and DH was thrilled to hear about it. Theoretically this week's theme should benefit Allison and Adam the most but Kris and Danny have a way of surprising us. Slash seems very mellow and cool but the dude is also very unattractive. Hey, I just live in a superficial world, I don't run it.

Adam picks "A Whole Lot of Love" by Led Zeplin. He's rocking it out with the eye liner and leather jacket. His voice is great, as always, but his performance is a little manic for my taste. I just feel like he's trying too hard. The last few notes were awesome but I wasn't wowed by the performance overall. Randy thinks that Adam transcended his Broadway roots (I'm paraphrasing). Kara is dressed in theme and calls him a rock god. Paula tells Adam he was perfect. Simon called the performance "understated" with his usual tongue in cheek commentary. He goes on to say it was awesome and will be hard for the other contestants to top.

Allison was introduced to Adam's hair stylist and is sporting some blue streaks in her pink hair. I think it looks good. She decides on "Cry Baby" by Janis Joplin with Slash's advice and I am excited to hear her sing it. A great song selection for her. She sings the crap out of the song and I'm very impressed. Randy disagrees with me about her song choice because of the lack of melody (agreed) but thinks she can "sing her face off." Kara thinks she shows a lot of personality in her performance. Paula calls her fearless. Simon thought it was a great vocal but the performance was a little too reminiscent of Janis Joplin.

"Renegade" by Styx is the first duet for Kris and Danny. Kris' vocal styling isn't very well suited to the song so Danny shows him up a bit here. But they both look like they are having fun. Over all the performance was a little weak which I attribute to a lack of cohesion in the duet. Randy liked the harmonies (I assume he means in the chorus which I agree). Kara thought the sum of the parts was greater. I wonder why we need judges' commentary hear. Paula called it powerful. Simon said Danny was better than Kris and I think he didn't really get the point of a "duet."

Kris picked the Beatles "Come Together" which is a differnt vibe from the other two songs we've heard so far. Slash wasn't very effusive in his comments so I'm not expecting much here. And I'm right - a boring performance. Randy liked the vocals and loved the guitar action. Did I mention that Kris accompanied himself on the guitar? I was really bored. Kara didn't think it was a good performance. Paula praised his artistic delivery. Simon didn't like it and equated it to eating ice at lunch.

Danny picked an Aerosmith song, "Dream On." I am a little nervous for him because it can be hard to top Steven Tyler's performance. He does a good job but the ending is rough. Danny makes the last note OK but the ones leading up to it are very screechy. Randy called it "alright." Kara is glad he added swagger and edge to his performance but would have preferred a different song selection. Despite being up and dancing Paula didn't think it was a good song selection but gives him an A+ for effort. Simon said the last note was like watching a horror movie. But Simon still thinks Danny will be safe.

The last song of the night is a duet between Allison and Adam. They are singing "Slow Ride" by Fog Hat. It is a much better performance than the first duet. In fact, it feels really professional to me. Is it weird that Adam's voice is higher pitched than Allison's? They both do a great job and I can see why this closes out the show. Randy called it "da bomb." Kara said it was a great duet. Paula called it a perfect marriage. Simon thinks that the duet could have given Allison a chance to stay in the competition.

So, who is out this week? Tough call. I'm leaning towards Kris or Danny being sent home. What do you think?

SJ out.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Take this broom and shove it

I have a problem. I am a cleaning addict.

Ironically, this was never really a problem for most of my life. But it seems to have kicked into high gear while I'm out on maternity leave.

Mommy, Esq. and Natalie are probably laughing at reading this since I was far from clean while we all lived together in Boston. But in my defense, neither of them were particularly motivated to clean so it was easier to just go with the flow.

When we bought our house and our furniture morphed from 80% hand-me-downs to 80% new I became a lot more motivated to clean. But the house is a lot bigger so it takes most of a morning or afternoon of a weekend day to do it right. DH used to help quite a bit but that has declined sharply in the past 9 months or so. Mostly because he is doing a lot of work in the yard or other projects around the house. Partially because I'm convinced he doesn't see the dirt and grime as readily as I do. I think that's common man vision...

I never really nested in the cleaning sense while I was pregnant but I was doing a good cleaning every 3-4 weeks. Now, however, I am all about the cleaning. I pull out the vacuum at least once a week and usually multiple times for the TV room. I sweep the kitchen floor every other day. I take the swiffer and run it over the hardwood floors once a week. And I dust.

Am I going crazy? Probably. But I think it's more a combination of nesting kicking in and the fact that I am now home all day long. I sit in the TV room breastfeeding and see the crumbs and dirt that the dog tracks in and I need to clean it. I walk up the stairs 8 million times a day and see the dog hair collecting in clumps. I walk across the kitchen floor and see the crumbs as I prepare dinner (I'm doing most of the cooking now too). DH thinks it's because I'm bored. I'm not sure I buy into that but it's true that I'm used to having a list of projects to get done for work and for these 3 months, I don't have that. So I guess I'm inventing it on my own.

I get satisfaction out of having a nice clean (and very organized) house. I suppose I should enjoy it while I can before Cameron is mobile and brings her own version of organization to the house. But right now I have the time and the energy to clean and pick up constantly. I'm with Cameron all day so I get the quality time with her and still have the desire to do things around the house. I have a feeling that will change radically when I'm back at work. I doubt I will want to take 3 hours on a Saturday to clean like I have in the past. My solution? A cleaning service. DH has been very resistant to this idea in the past because we've had the time and energy to do it (motivation, not so much). Now with Cameron in the mix that won't be the case any more. I figure with what I'm saving on formula by breastfeeding I can afford a bi-weekly service.

Help me gather some ammunition to convince DH that this is the way to go. Do any of you having cleaning services? Did you get them before or after having children? How much are you paying for a cleaning service? What problems, if any, have you had? DH works from home so he is concerned he will be bothered.

Here are a few pictures of Cameron playing on her mat or with her Daddy.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Cameron hosts her first play date

Yesterday we hosted our very first play date. 5 moms, two dads and two dogs joined us for an afternoon of fun, food, poop and a little crying. No, not the dads! This play group was organized by one of the members of the New Moms of South Charlotte and we plan on meeting every other weekend. It's perfect because a few of us will be returning to work and most of the play dates through the NMSC group are during the week.

Both Cameron and Charlie were worn out by their respective playmates and DH and I had a nice quiet night.

What's great about these events is it's a chance for us to ask each other questions. I demonstrated the swaddling technique I'm now using and we talked a lot about sleeping and feeding. One woman joked that it's impossible to go 5 minutes without saying the word boob when you have an infant. Totally true. I'm already looking forward to the next play date in two weeks!

I made sure that Cameron had a nice long nap before everyone arrived. Here is a picture of her stretching. Aren't baby stretches the cutest thing?
Here is a picture of three of the tykes awake and "playing" with each other. I'm sure they will graduate to drooling on each other soon enough.
I hosted the event in our library and there was plenty of room for the 6 of us.
You know a good time is had by all based on the number of dirty diapers!