Saturday, July 11, 2015

Life-Changing Magic of the Fringe Hours

"It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it."
-Oscar Wilde

Although I like to read, often I would rather work on creative projects than spend an afternoon curled up with a book. But there are so many books out there that I want to read and learn from; I often have hard time picking out the next great title (I don't want to waste my precious reading minutes!)

Am I the only one out there who suffers from this book paralysis? 

Lately I've been going for non-fiction because is easier to predict than fiction. It also fits better into my small chunks of time in the morning as I get ready for work (my fringe hours!!) because I can't get totally wrapped up in a story.

Here's what I've read lately!

The Fringe Hours by Jessica N. Turner
One thing that I realized from reading this book is that I'm already good at "fringe hours." My mama is good at fringe hours (as I'm sure her mom was before her), and she taught my sister and I to make the most of these small chunks of time. She modeled for us that craft projects/sewing/family time/etc. fuel the soul... dishes/laundry/dusting/cooking can wait.

I'm amazed that the author does as much as she does... work full-time, scrapbook, blog, plan parties, hang out with her kids and husband, wake up early, write a book, etc., etc. But, when I look at my own life from an outsider's perspective, it probably looks just as full. I think that Jessica and I would be good friends in real life.

Jessica, too, has an infant son (in addition to two other kids), and on several podcasts recently, I have heard her explain that her fringe hours look different during babyhood. That... I completely understand! Although I know that a normalcy will return again at some point, I wish I could sit down with her to talk about how to make fringe hours work best during this season of life.

A few inspiring Fringe Hours quotes that I highlighted as I read:
  • "A friend once said to me, "If it isn't a heck yes, then it's a no."
  • "And by taking care of ourselves and using our talents, we are a blessing."
  • "The goal of using your fringe hours well is to take time to do something that rejuvenates your soul."
  • "Muller writes in Sabbath: 'Without rest, we respond from a survival mode, where everything we meet assumes a terrifying prominence... Sabbath time may be a Sabbath afternoon, a Sabbath hour, a Sabbath walk - indeed, anything that preserves a visceral experience of life-giving nourishment and rest.'"
  • "I prioritize [sleep] over all other tasks - chores, hobbies, everything. It is nonnegotiable, because when I get enough sleep, everything about life is better."
  • "I love this Marianne Williams quote: 'Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.'"

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
It seems every blogger and Instragrammer I follow has been celebrating the life-changing magic of this little book. As I watched them document bag after bag of stuff headed to Goodwill, I, too, wanted in on this decluttering action.

I was very inspired by the KonMari method and am now repeating the question, "Does this bring you joy?" to anyone who will listen. Like most things, I will never be a 100% convert, but I do see a shift in my perspective already. I've made progress on my clothes and tackled my kitchen appliances/utensils/etc., but I haven't yet found the time or energy to tackle the next category... or even to decide what the next category should be! And, although he, too, is making an attempt, I really wish that I could get Rob on board with a major overhaul. That would really help bolster my momentum!

A few inspiring Life-Changing Magic quotes that I highlighted as I read:
  • “The best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one’s hand and ask: “Does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it.”
  • "Tidy by category, not by place."
  • "We should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of."
  •  "To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose."
  • “Clutter is caused by a failure to return things to where they belong."

So now that I've finished those two books... what's next on my list?

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Five months with Silas...

"You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel."
-Pau (Pablo) Casals

A few highlights from the month (both positive and negative!):

Our amazing daycare that I loved so much closed at the end of June. We had only three weeks' notice, and it was a surprise to everyone. As soon as I got the email, I dropped everything trying to find a new place... hoping to land on something before the market was flooded with the other babies who now needed a spot. We did secure a place for him at a center that is even a little closer to home, and Silas started there last week. Baby is doing great! Mama is having a harder time with the transition.

Silas met his Aunt Stephanie and his biggest cousins when they came to visit for the weekend. The older boys had a blast taking care of the baby, and Silas didn't mind all of the kisses from Aunt Stephanie. We went swimming a few times and made a few trips to Target, but otherwise stayed pretty low key.

What's Silas up to?
His head and neck control has gotten much better this month. He loves to sit or stand (with help of course). He thinks it's a much better perspective of the world... until he finds his feet and topples over. Hooray for toes!

And, he is rolling all over the place. Once I set him down on the carpet in the living room and watched from the kitchen as he completely rolled across the room, moving off of the rug and bumping into the entertainment center. I just know that this trick is soon to become the new normal.

Silas always has his hands in his mouth. The record that we've seen so far is eight fingers. Even his new teachers noticed that once he finds his thumb, sleep is not far behind. He'll also put your fingers in his mouth, or a toy, or your shoulder, or your chin... whatever is closest!!

Silas makes the sweetest little noises especially when riding in the car or trying to fall asleep. I often turn off the car radio just to listen to his little coos. Speaking of noises, Silas loves for us to make loud noises. Off-key singing, clucking noises with our tongues, and big clapping bring the biggest smiles. I'm glad there's no camera around to capture the crazy things we do for a giggle.

Our "wonderful little sleeper" has been waking up several times in the night lately. Darn four-month sleep regression! I can handle one wake-up in the night (and kind of expect it), but these two-fers are kicking my butt! When trying to put himself back to sleep in the middle of the night, Silas turns his head back and forth like he's trying to find a comfortable spot. In the middle of the night it's often difficult to distinguish between "I'm so hungry I could eat a whole elephant," "I missed you, can we cuddle?," or "Hold on, I'll fall back asleep on my own." Luckily, he hasn't had a night where he wouldn't go back to sleep after nursing.

From Mama's perspective...
The daycare fiasco kind of threw me for a loop this month. Leaving the little guy all day is hard enough, and much more so when he's not at your first choice facility. But I also enjoy time to be productive during the day and often remind myself that I would be going crazy if I was home with him 24/7.

This month I also got a little distracted professionally. I spent the first half of the month putting together a rad portfolio for curriculum/instructional design (with dreams of working part-time/remotely from home), but then found myself in a whirlwind applying for a director position (with added travel and stress) where I currently work. When they passed over me, I was both disappointed and relieved at the same time. Now I have me fingers crossed that more doors (the right doors!) will open in the near future.

Rob and I had a chance for a date night this month when my friend Jane offered to babysit. I had this crazy "OMG... I am a real adult. And, I have a baby." epiphany as we drove home to meet the babysitter. Speaking of date nights, Rob and I are also in a really good place right now. Granted, most of our interactions are related to the baby, but to be honest, most everything in my life is baby-related right now.

Most exciting for our family... Rob started a new job this month. Besides it being an amazing experience in a field that really interests him, the best part is that the new location is a mere five minutes from our house. This feels like such a luxury, considering he's never had a commute shorter than 45 minutes. He's now around in the mornings and home earlier in the evenings. He has graciously volunteered to take on more responsibilities, but I have to admit I'm having a hard time relinquishing control. As hard as it can be to juggle it "all," I really want to be the juggler, and I really want it done my way :) 

A few of Silas' favorites...

  1. Britax Back Seat Mirror Silas is a good little car rider. He stares in our backseat mirror without blinking for most of every trip. When I look back in the rearview mirror as I drive, it seems like he's looking straight at me, but I'm guessing he's more entertained by his own reflection.
  2. Oball Grip and Teethe Keys Silas loves this set of keys. The thin ring and the holes in the keys make them really easy for him to grasp. Just watch out... they may come flying at your head if he swings them too fast. 
  3. Ergobaby Performance Carrier Now that Silas is a little bigger, the Ergo is our number one choice for carrying Silas around a store. Rob and I can quickly adjust it to fit both of our sizes, and Silas usually falls asleep as he bounces around the store. 
  4. Circo Mini Monkey As much as I hated that Aunt Stephanie spent more money on Silas during her visit (that's a loooong story!!), this gift has quickly become his favorite toy. Once again, the skinny arms, legs, and tail make it easy for Silas to hold on to, and he loves to chew on Monkey's hands.
  5. Baby Spring Float Sun Canopy We took Silas swimming a few times this month, and this float makes a trip to the pool much easier. Silas can chill in the water while protected from the sun by the canopy. Silly baby also loves to suck the pool water out of the cloth covering.
  6. Your Baby's First Word Will Be Dada The first time we read Silas this book by Jimmy Fallon he giggled and giggled. Apparently the word "dada" is very fun to hear. Time will tell if it is his first word.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Silas meets his cousins... a photoessay

"I may argue with my brother, but I fight beside my brother against my cousin, and with my cousin against a stranger."
-Old Arab adage

"Photoessay" may or may not be an excuse to avoid writing a boring "this is how we spent the weekend" post about a not-so-boring weekend.

Silas met his Aunt Stephanie and cousins when they came to visit last weekend. He loved playing with Chase and T.J., even if we were all exhausted and needed a break by the time they headed home on Sunday afternoon.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Four months with Silas...

"Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."
-Elizabeth Stone

Considering the last post I wrote was called "Three months with Silas...", I'm guessing you have a pretty good idea of what we've been up to lately. :)

Believe it or not though, Silas is four months old. It's so crazy to think that he's the same age my nephew was when we saw him at Thanksgiving.

What is Silas up to?
Silas doesn't look like a little newborn anymore. Sometimes I even see glimpses of what he'll look like as a little boy. He's solidly in size 3 month clothes, but still fits into some 0-3 months, yet also some 3-6 months. He's built up some good rolls on his arms and his thighs, and his daddy alternates between the nicknames "Pudgeball" and "Plumpkin."

This month he has gotten really good at holding his neck up; he really enjoys to "sit" and "stand" like a big boy, with help of course. He often clasps his hands together which looks so deliberate and poised that it makes me laugh. And, after several days of almost, Silas is now turning over from his back to his tummy almost as soon as you lay him down. In the mornings, we find him rolled over with his bottom in the air. He can't always figure out how to roll back though, and when he gets tired of holding his head up, he just buries it in the floor. However, I know that the days are numbered when I can lay him on the floor and he stays there. See evidence below: 3... 2... 1.

Each time Silas sleeps through the night feels like a miraculous gift! For most of the month, Silas was on a pretty consistent schedule of waking once in the night (usually between 3:00 and 4:00 am) to nurse. Most recently though, he seems to have hit the 4-month sleep regression, waking also at 12:30 am. We're hoping to nip this little bad habit in the bud by encouraging him to put himself back to sleep.

Silas gets easily distracted while nursing these days, especially if Daddy is around. His wide eyes, little smile, and cute expressions as he looks around are some of my favorites though. To help him focus, he often grabs a hold of the edge of my bra or my necklace and pumps his fist up and down. Those little fingers... so sweet!!

From Mama's perspective...
I'm back in the work routine, which means a lot of pumping milk at work. Pumping at work sucks... literally and figuratively. But it's one way that I can be present with Silas when I can't physically be with him during the day. My office-mate is kind and swears she doesn't mind the noise, but three times a day my "Pump Mama, pump" alarm goes off, I hang my curtain between our cubicles, and the chug-a-chug-a-chug-a begins.

Wednesday mornings are hard. I don't know what it is about Wednesdays in particular. Maybe because it's the halfway point of the week, I am completely overwhelmed by the number of things left on my to do list, and yet can't see how they'll possibly get done by the end of the week either. It also seems to be the morning when Silas goes through three outfits before we even leave the house. Then of course we're running late. I feel so guilty for getting so frustrated with Silas when he's just being a baby, doing baby things. Needless to say, many a tear has been shed on Wednesday mornings lately (and maybe one sobbing phone call to my mom, crying that I didn't want to go to work... thanks for talking me down, Mama!).

But, the thing that I'm most proud of and excited about is the daily centering prayer ritual that I've started with Silas. No matter how crazy the morning was, when we arrive at the daycare parking lot, I climb in the backseat and grab a hold of Silas' little hands. I say a prayer over him, asking that he be surrounded by grace, peace, and love throughout the day. These few minutes to soak him in before we go our separate ways for the day fill my soul until we're reunited in the evening.

A few of Silas' favorites... 
  1. IKEA ÖMTÅLIG bibs Oh the drool! Oh the spit up! Sometimes it's just easier to keep him in a bib all day long. I love these bibs from IKEA... they're cheap, and they're absorbent. I especially love that they're small enough to accessorize his outfit rather than completely cover his body.
  2. Fisher-Price Easy Stack 'n Sounds Blocks These are Silas' favorite toys right now. He's just getting good at grabbing toys, and the holes in these blocks make them easy to hold. We were concerned at first that he might get his hand stuck between the ball and the block, but that hasn't happened (and none of the Amazon reviews mention this). Curiously the Amazon reviews mention that it's a negative that the balls can't be removed, but that hasn't been an issue for us.
  3. Arden All in One Nursing and Handsfree Pumping Bra : If I'm going to be pumping at work for months upon months (which is my goal), I decided to treat myself to a pumping bra that both looks pretty and functions better than anything else I've seen. Although pricier than I usually spend on stuff like this, I have been more than pleased. It's truly hands-free, but I can wear it all day long.
  4. Medela Pump in Style Advanced : This is the workhorse of my life right now! Although I hate washing and gathering all of the parts each day, I've only left a piece behind once. My insurance paid for the pump itself (no special bag like the retail product), but I just carry it back and forth in a totebag, which is more my style anyway. I'm thinking a Mama Says post about pumping may be coming in the future... so be on the lookout!
  5. SleepSack Swaddle : Silas has been breaking the swaddle for awhile now, but I think that he still likes to be wrap up tightly. The SleepSack Swaddle has been perfect. We swaddle him up with his arms out, and then keep our fingers crossed that he sleeps through the night!
  6. B-Safe 35: I mentioned this one in passing last month when I listed the stroller as a fave. But, our infant car seat has sure gotten a workout this month. We held our breath hoping that the new model would be released before Baby B was born, and we're glad we waited. We have no doubt that he's safe back there!

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Three months with Silas...

"The world is as many times new as there are children in our lives."
-Robert Brault

 We began the month with a wonderful visit from Lovey, Aunt Callie, and cousin Luke for Easter. Not only was it invigorating for Mama to be surrounded by her tribe, but the cousins were able to meet for the first time. (Although I'm not sure that Silas realized Luke was there.) It was really neat to see what milestones Luke had reached (he's six months older) and know that Silas would be reaching them in just a few months. Lovey spoiled us with Easter baskets, a shopping trip, and handmade baby shorts. And, the conversations between Callie and I are always so authentic and energizing. We can't wait until we see them again... hopefully this summer!

The excitement for the month... Silas started running a high fever late on Sunday night. With doctors' offices closed, we had no choice but to take him to the ER, where his temperature was measured to be 102.6°. Because he was just shy of 3 months old, they had to do the full work-up, including taking chest x-rays, drawing tubes of blood, inserting an IV port and giving him fluids, inserting an in-and-out catheter for urinalysis, and admitting him for two nights on the pediatric floor of the hospital. Watching him get poked and prodded hurt this mama's heart, but he was such a trooper. Turns out it was just a cold virus, but better safe than sorry. By the time we were discharged on Tuesday evening, he was almost back to his normal smiley self; although a cough and snotty nose still linger, and he was nice enough to share his cold with Mama. Hopefully that was a once-in-a-lifetime experience... we could do without another hospital stay ever!

What is Silas up to?
The spit up... oh my goodness, the spit up!! The most memorable quote from Aunt Callie while she was visiting: "wow, he really does spit up a lot!" This month Rob and I noticed a pattern of it happening most often when his stomach is compressed, so we cut down on tummy time for a few weeks and stopped throwing him over our shoulder to burp or carry him. Although it hasn't totally eliminate the mess, it does seem to help.

As hinted at in the 2nd month summary, Silas slept the whole night through for the first time on the first night of his third month. Mama was thrilled!! Although this still isn't yet the norm, I really can't complain about his sleep routine: it could be much worse! His usual pattern is to go to bed around 8:30 pm, wake to nurse for a few minutes sometime between 3:00 and 4:30 am, and then I wake him for the day around 6:30 am. The hospital stay and cold messed with his routine for the few days following, but we have been graced with a few more all-nighters here and there.

We have been swaddling Silas at night since he was born, most recently with the Velcro swaddle blankets from Summer Infant or Kiddopotamus. When his hands are wrapped inside, he expends a lot of energy trying to break the swaddle and free them. We have started just leaving his arms out. Lately he has also been spinning himself around during the night. When I come in to wake him in the morning, he has rotated 180 degrees around.

We knew early on that Silas was going to be a thumbsucker, but until just recently his lack of coordination usually kept him from getting it to his mouth. It was so funny to watch him miss his aim, hitting his forehead or cheek. But then all of a sudden, this month he started hitting the target! Sometimes he will prop his other hand up to keep it in his mouth... which is just about the cutest thing ever! When the thumb hits the mouth, it's a sure sign that a nap is soon to follow.

This month Silas started officially giggling. The first time was in the backseat while Lovey made silly faces. He is a often smiley, happy baby, but that little laugh is the best! Kissing just under his ears or moving his arms along with a song is a surefire way to get a cackle.

From Mama's perspective...
When Silas was almost 10 weeks old, I returned to work part-time and started full-time a week and a half later. As expected, I have struggled a little bit with the idea of going back to work and leaving Silas with other people. It's the strangest oxymoron... I don't want him to know that I've left him with strangers for the day, but I also kind of want him to miss me while I am away.

It's been especially difficult, given my choice of "present" as my One Little Word for this year. Although I chose that word hoping to make the most of all the time I'm with my little guy, it makes me sad that it's not possible for me to be physically present with Silas for much of the day. I hate that our time together has to be squeezed into 30 minutes in the morning and a couple of hours at night.

Despite all of my reservations and feelings, returning to work/leaving him at day care has actually gone better than I envisioned. I have always been comfortable with the childcare facility that we chose, which has helped ease my mind. I am also glad that we are beginning these routines early before he is really aware that I'm leaving him.

Transitioning into it by working half-days was the way to go. (I would totally recommend this to other new moms!) At first I told myself that I could go pick him up in "just four hours," and on the first full day, the morning routine felt just like the half-days. Now I am just counting down until the weekends!

A few of Silas's favorites...
  1. Aveeno Baby Lotion : The latest skin care regimen for Mr. Silas. At his two-month appointment, his pediatrician recommended Aveeno for his dry skin. I've been giving him mini massages with the lotion every morning and night which he loves... And, his skin is getting softer and less scaly!
  2. The Very Hungry Caterpillar Teether Rattle : Silas is just beginning to hold onto toys, and one of his favorites is this caterpillar rattle. It makes a crunchy sound when it flexes and jingles when you rattle it, but Silas's favorite part is the soft felt legs that he likes to put in his mouth. 
  3. Helium balloons : The highlight of Silas' hospital stay was the helium balloon he received to wish him well. We lightly tied it around his ankle, and he was entertained for a long time. I'm not sure that he ever realized he was controlling it, but because he kicks his legs so much, it was constantly bobbing around.
  4. NoseFrida : Even after he was discharged from the hospital, Silas battled (and still is battling!) a cough and snotty nose. So twice a day we have to hold him down to suction his nose, which he HATES! Luckily the NoseFrida Snotsucker sucks up the mucus much better than those darn nasal bulbs. Unfortunately I haven't yet figured out how to use it solo: I have to hold his hands and position the funnel at his nostril, while Rob holds his head and sucks through the mouthpiece. But because it's more efficient, the "trauma" doesn't last very long.
  5. Britax B-Agile 4 : Rob and I fell in love with this stroller when planning our registry. (It's manufactured just down the road in Fort Mill, SC.) We paired it with the brand new B-Safe 35 infant car seat model, and Silas is riding in style. The nice spring weather has been perfect for long neighborhood walks or spectating a bike race.
  6. Boken Every Day Bag : I wanted to find a super functional diaper bag (read: backpack straps) that didn't scream diaper bag and didn't cost an arm and a leg. The Boken bag meets all of those qualifications and more. It is made of out a lightweight windbreaker fabric that looks a bit wrinkled, which may not be everyone's style, but I love it. It has been quite the workhorse going back and forth to daycare... bottles in the side pocket and several changes of clothes (did I mention he spits up a lot!) in one of the interior pockets.

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