Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Penelephant, Halloween and Attitude

Mommy didn't get her way

Our first Halloween as parents... was...
not what I romanticized it would be. 

But... Penny looked adorable in her costume, 
even when she was screaming.

Just as the 400+ trick-or-treaters who came to our front porch 
appreciated the glow sticks Dan handed out to them, 
even when I was inside the house pouting 
because everything didn't turn out how I imagined it would.

Sometimes things are even better when they aren't the exact perfect way we wanted them to be.

See? Much better with the hood down.  

Lesson learned.

Happy November Tomorrow!

Tomorrow is my first day back in the office.  That means I have to get dressed up in grown-up clothes.  And pump breast-milk at work.  And be away from my baby for too long to even think about.  Sigh.  Please keep me in your thoughts throughout the day.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Double Bubbles

When Penny was a newborn, I started spending time with other new moms once a week at a breast-feeding support group.  Not what you would expect ["Hi my name is Julie and I'm lactating"]... just a bunch of moms and their babies hanging out talking about things and getting to know each other.  It is here that I get the best exposure to the world of mothering an infant, and of what babies are like at different ages.

In the beginning, the other babies seemed so old.  And big. And engaged.  They would make eye contact and smile at you, hold their own heads up, and flail their arms and legs with excitement.  The really old babies could laugh and hold things in their hands.  And they drooled everywhere.

Not my little peanut.  In all her preciousness, she was delicate and smooshy and sweet and silent.  Her very essence was quiet, even her cries.  In my sleepless delirium I couldn't  imagine her being anything else but tiny and [relatively] still.

After about a month and a half, when I was feeling much more agile, I started to get out of the house a lot more and spend less time at home staring at my child.  It felt good to change scenery.  It felt good to take her places.  This also made the time seem to go by much faster.

Now with moms groups and band gigs and volleyball camps and weddings and going back to work, my life is soaring by. Wonderfully, but swiftly.

Penny is three months old.

... processing...

Penny is three months old.   She has literally doubled in size since she was born, weighing in at 10 pounds 14 ounces last Friday.  She has also doubled in energy.  When she is awake, her body is passionately working -- all the time.  Growing, squirming, talking, examining, experiencing the world.  She even sleeps passionately.

And the drool.  Apparently a pre-cursor to teething, the bubbles of spit exuding from her mouth do so with such innocent fervor.

Nostalgia, already?

I was just thinking the other day as I was nursing her that I can't remember what she nursed like when she was a newborn.  I know she was much much shorter in length and less likely to punch me in the sternum, but I can't feel her newborn body anymore.  I can look at pictures of it, I can close my eyes and try to imagine it, but I can't visualize any other Penny besides the Penny I am holding in my arms today.

Who I think I love double double as much as I did yesterday.

The chapters are short and the pages turn rapidly.

I guess all the baby stages blur together.  And every day is like a new stage.  My advice; take lots of video.

Visit our family YouTube channel: BeingTheGriffins

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Confessions of a New Mom: Between the Sheets

Changing the sheets has been something Daniel and I do together, pretty much since we got married.  I don't know why we've always treated this as a two-person job, I'm sure plenty of women (if not most) change the sheets all by themselves.  Maybe it's a testament to what a lousy house-wife I am.  Or -- as I like to see it -- an example of how much we enjoy doing mundane things together and sharing the chores.  (To my credit, I do wash the sheets all by myself, it's the making the bed part... just wanted to be clear on that...)

"Babe. We have got to change our sheets."   

A comment made the last few nights as we were going to bed, just when we were too tired to do it.  The five minute process of getting the other set, removing the comforter and the whole deal, had been too much to even consider once we finally made it to our bedroom after a long day of work and baby care and who knows what else.  It became somewhat of a joke. Maybe tomorrrooowwww night we will change the sheets.  They had gotten pretty bad.

I guess our standards for sleep-worthy sheets have slid a little since we had a baby.

A lot happens in our bed now that didn't happen before.

Even though she sleeps in her nest most of the night, I breast-feed PJ in our bed at least twice a day and once in the middle of the night.  What's between the sheets? Baby drool, milk dribble, sometimes spit up, maybe a little deodorant.  Daniel "plays" with her every morning in the bed: leg workouts, tummy time, funny faces and the like.  Baby drool, sometimes spit up.  She often naps on our fitted sheet during the day, unswaddled.  Baby drool, sometimes a little pee from a diaper leak, baby tears, sometimes baby eye goop or boogers.  The dogs, well we have a little daily flood situation in our backyard (another chore we just haven't gotten around to) so in the mornings they often have wet paws and let's face it, our pups have been known to place a gentle paw on the side of the mattress to say 'good morning' from time-to-time.  Wet dog paw residue, maybe a few pieces of grass, maybe a smidge of mud.  And me... well, as any breast-feeding mother knows, if your baby usually wakes up every three hours to eat and then all of a sudden one night she sleeps six hours... you're likely to wake up in a small puddle.  Milk.  And it's not every day, but I do eat a morning granola bar in bed every now and then if I'm starving while Penny has her morning snack.  Crumbs.

OK stop judging me.

If we were to have clean sheets every time we slept, I would have to change them at least five times a week.  At least I draw the line at poop.

This just falls into the category of Changed Priorities.  Life with a new baby is different.  This morning as I stripped the bed I chuckled at how much these sheets had truly earned their wash.  I wouldn't have them any other way.

Penny Jane, 12 weeks old, leans on some naked pillows before helping Mommy wash the sheets.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Anticipating The Holidays & Tiny Prints Promo (sponsored, CLOSED)

(pssst… there’s a $50 Tiny Prints giveaway at the end of this post)

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I’m seeing all kinds of buzz about pumpkin lattes, pumpkin doughnuts, pumpkin candles… everybody all excited about Fall, putting pumpkins on their front porches.  As much as I love me some pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting, pumpkin stuff isn't what gets me going.  Talk to me when the candles smell like cinnamon.  And everygreen.  And when people replace the pumpkins and hay wreaths adorning their homes with white twinkly lights.  That's when I get excited.

I just got the happy chills thinking about it.

“The Holidays” – that time between mid-November and my birthday – is my absolute favorite time of year.   Aside from my zeal for Christmas music playing everywhere, ugly sweaters and hot chocolate, what I love most about the holidays is connecting and re-connecting with people.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

One of the best ways to connect with others in the spirit of the holidays is sending and receiving Christmas Cards, which Dan and I are gung ho about!  Last year we even hinted at my pregnancy in our letter, even though we hadn't told anyone yet.   

The best cards are the ones with photos. We have used Tiny Prints for a couple of years now, for other things too but especially our Christmas cards -- aside from quality paper and how easy it is to order through the site, we simply love their designs.  And... we. are. picky.

Have a look at all the new Tiny Prints Photo Holiday Cards.  (there's like eight hundred great designs... narrow your search by choosing options on the left).  These three are my favorites:

Win $50 Off Your Tiny Prints Order

How? It's easy.  I'm taking a poll.  Should the Griffin Family photo card this year feature... 
  1. Just Penny 
  2. Penny, me and Daniel  
  3. Penny, Luna and Apollo (the dogs)  
  4. All five of us
  5. Just Dan wearing a Santa hat

To enter to win, simply comment below with your vote.  I will select one winner randomly Monday, October 29th at lunch time.  ($50 off total order does not include shipping and cannot be combined with any other promos).  

And while you're here at a computer, why not check out Tiny Prints on Facebook?  Even better, why not follow my blog (Join This Site on the left) and check out the Tiny Prints Blog too?

May this serve as an inspiration for all of you to get excited about the holidays!  (and send the Griffins a photo card!)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

I Choose You: Staying Connected After Baby

Engagement photo from 2010.
Jane Z Photography

The Stages of Team Griffin

Engagement was so glamorous.  The anticipation, the planning, the excitement.  The question marks and hypotheticals of single life turning into answers and decisions and a confident way forward.  Myself on my wedding day was the most beautiful I have ever felt in my entire life. 

Add a deeper dimension of intimacy, shared closet space and a whole new set of challenges, and that was Newlywed-ness.   Just as fun but way more rewarding, and thus, that much harder.   And that much more 'worth it'.

Once I got past my round the clock nausea, Pregnancy was like being engaged -- but with a whole new level of anticipation and planning.  Amazingly enough, Daniel would say that I was even more beautiful pregnant, swelling and all, than I was on our wedding day.  Gotta love him.

I’ve found that having a new baby is unlike any of these other stages.

Bubble Busters

When I was pregnant, it really really bothered me when other men would say things to Daniel like: "it's all downhill from here" or "your wife will never be the same again" or "have sex now while you still can"…

Whether or not these things would be true, they shed such negative light on what I believe to be the utmost beautiful expression of married love (a child), and I didn't like it one bit.  Daniel never let it get to his head and has always been Mr. Supportive and Mr. Positive, but it always made me wonder: what will our romantic life be like after Penelope is born?  Will it cease to exist?

“I Choose You”

During the hardest times of all the aforementioned stages, Dan would remind me that we are both on Team Griffin, and say to me “I choose you.”  On my ugliest of mornings, at the summit of an argument, following the humblest apology.   These three words have grown to be even more impactful than “I love you.”   A reminder that it’s not just a loving feeling that keeps us together, but a choice that we make every day to believe in each other and believe in our marriage, even when we let each other down or disagree.

These words and this sentiment have become increasingly important since Penny was born.   With my extra pregnancy weight, stretch marks and giant scar on my belly, I’m feeling far-from attractive.  Add the fact that we barely know what we’re doing and don't agree on everything, some serious breastfeeding hormones, a complete change in how we spend our time, and a heavy dose of sleep deprivation... the natural result?

New parenthood for us is inherently the least romantic stage so far.

Keeping Connected

In the midst of the exhaustion and new lifestyle, how do we keep connected?  I don’t have all the answers, nor would I ever claim or even imply that Daniel and I accomplish this every day.  But like a lot of things, I think it comes down to maintaining perspective, flexibility and realistic expectations.  This also means recognizing jealousy and resentment as soon as they rear their ugly heads.   And last; finding time, getting creative and laughing together.

Maintaining Perspective, Flexibility and Realistic Expectations:
To expect that our life (or our love life) with a new baby would resemble our life before baby would be a disservice to our marriage and our parenthood.  Instead, we look at our offspring and we marvel at one another in our new roles as parents.  I choose to admire and love Daniel the Daddy more than any other version of Daniel I’ve known.   Likewise, Dan sees me as beautiful Julie the Breast-feeding Mommy and doesn’t require me to pretend I’m Julie the Newlywed anymore.  Perspective and expectations are huge.

Recognizing Jealousy and Resentment:
It would be so easy for Daniel to be jealous that I get to stay home all day and "hang out" with the baby, or jealous that Penny gets to be physically-on-me pretty much all the time (I love #babywearing).  And it would be easy for me to resent the fact that I haven’t gotten more than five hours of sleep at one time in three months, but Dan can go sleep in a separate room if he needs to catch up on some Zzzz’s.   But no.  These feelings do not belong on Team Griffin.  However they may manifest themselves, jealousy and resentment must be called out and forcefully booted out of the relationship arena.
Words of Affirmation expressed with
a dry-erase marker and a bathroom mirror.

Finding Time, Getting Creative, and Laughing:
We love each other in new ways, sometimes by coming up with fresh ways to speak one another’s love language, sometimes just by reminding one another that we choose this – willingly and lovingly. I confess that Daniel is better at this than I, but I’m working on it.   Today, I packed Daniel a humble light breakfast and put it on the seat of his car before he left for work.  Last night, Daniel watched a (seriously bad) chick flick with me while Penny took her early-night nap, and only made fun of it a little tiny bit.  Little things really add up (and sometimes "little" is all we have time for).

Reaching Out

I would love to hear of other ways that couples with young kids keep the fire burning.  Please message me or comment here if you like.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Five Things I Couldn't Live Without: The Newborn Edition

Quite a few people have asked me for advice about which products to register for, or buy for themselves or as a gift, when a new baby is on the way.  Since I've got a whopping two+ months of motherhood under my belt now, I figured I could share my take on a handful of products that have made my life easier during the newborn phase.  Of the hundreds of items I've used every day for the last ten weeks, these are my top five I wanted to share with the world.  None of these 'endorsements' are sponsored, I just really really like these things.

1. The Five S's by Dr. Harvey Karp
The Product: The Happiest Baby on the Block book or DVD 
Where we got it: We watched the DVD in our birth class but you can get the book or DVD online or in stores. You can get the jist by watching Dr. Karp featured in tons of YouTube videos, but to master the technique, get your hands on the DVD.
What it does: Teaches you to use the "fourth trimester" concept to simulate the womb for your fussy infant, calming him/her almost instantly. The five S's are Swaddling, Side/Stomach position, Shushing, Sucking and Swinging.
Why we love it: It works like magic on a fussy Penny. Dan has become a pro at calming her, which is wonderful for Daddy/baby bonding and what a relief for Mommy that the boob isn't the only thing to sooth her.

2. The App That Keeps Me Sane
The Product: Baby Connect smartphone app
Where I got it: app store. best $4.99 I ever spent.
What it does: very simple app for tracking the fundamental baby stuff. no notepads necessary. no need to rely on mommy-brain-memory.
Why I love it: I don't ever have to try to remember how long she's been asleep, when she last ate, how many diapers she's had today. Also can be used to track growth, doc visits, milestones. Stores all the info and even produces charts and graphs so you can identify trends.  Syncs up with any computer (online) or can be accessed by multiple devices, so other care providers can plug in information too and it goes right to your phone.  I would seriously lose my mind without this app.

3. Ultimate Sleep Swaddle Blankets
The Product: Swaddle Designs Ultimate Receiving Blanket
Where we got it: Nordstrom
What it does: A swaddle blanket that we use exclusively for bedtime swaddling
Why it's our favorite: Material is thick and stiff enough to hold a tight swaddle that baby will rarely squirm out of, but flimsy enough to still feel like a blanket and not feel starched.  It's cozy but not too hot (like some other thick swaddle blankets).  Perfect size.  And the tag even has easy 1-2-3 instructions for swaddling... in case you forget how.  Apparently the founder of Swaddle Designs also worked with Dr. Karp.

4. Penny's Nest
Where we got it: Buy Buy Baby. I've seen other models on Amazon and Target as well.
What it does: Provides a convenient place for Penny to sleep safely on any flat surface, including our bed.
Why I love it: She's able to sleep in our bed, so I don't even have to get up to check on her or nurse her, but we have no worries about her safety.  The light feature enables me to look at her in the middle of the night without turning any lamps on.  The womb-sound noise feature puts her to sleep every time.  Its fold-up design makes it super portable for naps on the couch, table, bedtime at someone else's house, or trips to the cabin.  I am so glad we didn't invest in a bassinet or co-sleeper furniture.

5. My Favorite Bra
The Product: "Emma" by Bravado
Where I got it: Target
What it is: A sports-bra-like nursing bra, in the sleep bra category
Why I love it: of the dozens of nursing bras I've tried on or purchased, it's simply the most comfortable and definitely most effective at holding the girls in. I can wear it to bed or under a t-shirt during the day.

And in the Honorable Mention Category
Some other favorites of mine...

Baby Sleepwear: Side Snap Mitten Cuff Shirts from Gerber (and a diaper and under a swaddle) -- perfect for newborns needing multiple diaper changes in the middle of the night.

Non-sleep nursing bra: Padded Cup Wireless Full Coverage Bra from Motherhood Maternity

Softest Sweetest Blankets: Aden + Anais Bamboo Collection

Change Diapers Anywhere: WaterproofChanging Pad Liners by Boppy -- I always have one with me.

Babywearing: She basically lived in my Baby K'Tan Wrap for a month and a half (*Note: I found the K'Tan to be the best fit for Penny as a newborn and wore it almost every day for about a month and a half, but now that she is a little older and stretching her legs, I find myself wearing my Moby more than the K'Tan. And Dan loves wearing her in the Ergo.)

Feel free to contact me about any of the products I've listed above, or for any other product recommendations.  I love baby stuff!!


There's more where this came from... Five Things I Can't Live Without:

Nobody paid me or gave me anything for free... I wrote about this stuff on my own volition because I couldn't live without it!

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