Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Weekend: Winnie the Pooh & Ronald Reagan

My parents were in town for a visit this past weekend and we did some fun things instead of just sitting around and playing with the baby like we normally do.

On Saturday, we celebrated the upcoming release (July 15th!) of the new Winnie the Pooh film. Our office had a picnic and screenings for employees and their friends and family. Alice napped through the screening- as we'd hoped and woke up just in time to see her name in lights! We were afraid she wouldn't last long enough for us to enjoy all the festivities, but she was enamored with the bluegrass band and the other babies playing in the grass and let us hang out for several hours. But she was especially excited to meet Pooh, Tigger and Eeyore!

In all of our trips to Disneyland, she's never met a character. She has no concept of who or what they are, and I was afraid she'd be scared of them, if not completely ambivalent. When we got there, Pooh was just hanging around, waiting to meet a new friend. Alice looked a little uncertain as we approached, but once she got up close she was all smiles and laughs. She petted Pooh's fur and squeezed his hands and nose. It was absolutely adorable. Since there weren't a million other kids in line to ambush the characters, she got to spend a lot more time with them than she would have at the parks. She was so into Tigger, I actually got a little uncomfortable. He was very sweet with her though, stroking her little cheek and patting her back and dancing with her a bit. After the millionth hug, though, I finally had to pry her off and drag her away. Perhaps on our next trip to Disneyland, we'll make it a higher priority to track down some of her new friends!

Alice, meet Winnie the Pooh.
I was pretty bummed that I didn't get an awesome airbrushed tattoo. I was also pretty bummed that I forgot to bring both my camera AND my phone. It's a good thing there were plenty of other phones in the group to capture the day and Jon got some great video of Alice and her new friends from the 100 Acre Wood.

Somehow it came up in conversation with my parents that we'd all been wanting to see the Reagan Presidential Library, so we decided to make that happen on Sunday. We headed out to Simi Valley for a lovely afternoon of museum-ing. I thought the exhibit was very interesting and informative, a comprehensive look at the person and the president. The building and grounds were lovely to stroll around and we had a nice lunch at the "pub" beneath the Air Force One plane, which was a particular highlight for Jon. After we saw everything inside, we spent a little time lounging outside in the grassy area inspired by the White House South Lawn. And of course we had a little photoshoot, because how can I resist a cute baby in a sunhat, playing in the grass?! 

She doesn't love touching the grass and sometimes refuses to actually put her legs on the ground.
She isn't walking by herself yet, but she totally could. If she wanted to.

Alice's favorite souvenir? A mustard packet.
She didn't like the pickle she tasted at lunch, but she kept asking for more mustard...
As always, I took an embarrassing number of photos. You can see more in the Growing Up Senge Flickr gallery! There are a few that refused to come off my camera the first time I tried, so I may have to post just a few more. How awful, I know...

Monday, June 20, 2011

A great-grand-daughter.

We celebrated Father's Day with all the dads in Jon's family and Alice got comfy on her great-granddad's lap just before he was ready to leave. We got some priceless photos of their nice little cuddle.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day to the fantastic dads in our life, and all the wonderful dads out there!
Baby Jon with his grandpa and dad.
Baby Alice with her great-grandpa and dad, almost thirty years after the photo above.
Baby Alice with her great-grandpa, grandpa and dad
One new dad and one new grandpa.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A little princess-in-training

Sorry for the lack of posts, this past week have seemed both really busy and really uneventful. But we did go to Disneyland last weekend! A friend of ours is moving away in August and needs to get in as much baby time as she can before she goes. We thought an all-day epic trip to Disneyland sounded like a good way to accomplish that!

There are a few new things at Disneyland that we wanted to check out. Unfortunately, we scrapped the first of the only four things on our agenda right away. We opted not to experience the new version of Star Tours after learning how Disneyland does the "Baby Swap" situation. We determined that babies can't wait in line with the rest of the party if they aren't going to ride. If you want to do the baby swap to let both parents enjoy the attraction, one parent has to wait alone with baby while the rest of the party waits in line. Then they can swap. We figured we'd rather experience the attraction later when one of us didn't have to spend 75 minutes hanging out with Alice while the other waits in line. So don't tell me anything about it, I can't wait to check it out!

With that off the table, we went about our usual favorites (Haunted Mansion, Pirates, Jungle Cruise) and Alice seemed about as ambivalent as the last time we visited. At this tender age, she neither particularly dislikes or enjoys any of the attractions. Not even Winnie the Pooh got a reaction from her! She did start to cry a bit in Pirates as we sailed into the darker area past the Blue Bayou. I was afraid the entire boat was in for a long thirteen minutes, but she collected herself and didn't even seem to mind the drops! 
waiting in line, walking off the crankies
We wanted to try and squeeze in a whirl on the carousel before we had to save a spot on the curb to watch the parade. We planned to feed Alice once we were sitting down but were pushing our luck, timing-wise.  The afternoon had really warmed up and Alice was starting to get tired and hungry and cranky while we were waiting in line for the carousel. Again, we feared that the next three minutes could turn out to be the longest of our life, stuck in a spinning vortex of Disney organ music with a screaming child. Happily, though, Alice really enjoyed her introductory carousel experience. Dad kept her on her horse while I took pictures from the row ahead and our friend recorded the entire adventure from the horse beside them. I'd share the video, but you wouldn't believe from her unchanging expression that Alice was actually having a good time. Hopefully next time I can capture expressions of delight and squeals of glee. Just trust me, she liked it - Jon had to pry her off the horse when we were finished.

Jon fed Alice while we waited for the parade, and then Alice fed Jon some of her puffs. Yum!

And then we saw Mickey's new Soundsational Parade! Love that piano skirt, Minnie!
It's a fun and colorful parade but it didn't unseat the previous parade, the Parade of Dreams, as my very favorite. The floats boasted some awesome elements by Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily, and I was delighted to see both Tangled and Princess and the Frog featured. 

A really fun float with Ray, Tiana, Louis, and dancers with fabulous Mardi Gras costumes.

My favorite part of the princess float was the little tween girl standing behind me, singing along with Rapunzel. She was absolutely belting it out with such heartfelt emotion, it was just a magical Disney moment.
I couldn't get a great detail photo, but Belle is wearing the most beautiful version of her iconic dress that I have ever seen. I thought it was so exciting and inspiring to see such a new and fresh interpretation of something so recognizable, without it being jarring or even noticeable to most. 

We also made sure to visit Ariel's new Undersea Adventure. Alice even got to ride like a big girl, sitting on a lap instead of safely contained in the Ergo. It was so fun to see a brand-new version of a dark ride and Alice was definitely enthralled, if not actually emotive. It was so shiny and colorful and the animatronics were pretty amazing. I couldn't help but think how it would have blown my mind at the height of my Little Mermaid phase, when I was flipping my hair all around in the pool in my best Ariel fashion and wishing I had fins of my own to flip...
watching the newt play the flute and the carp play the harp

Though this was Alice's fourth trip to Disneyland, we'd somehow never needed to use the Baby Care Centers before. For some reason, we thought we'd check them out this time and I was so glad we did - they are great! They have private booths for nursing, high chairs for feeding bigger kids, and a whole room with changing tables and pint-sized potties for all your baby bathroom needs. It's also where lost kids are corralled and they get to watch Disney movies and meet characters until their parents are tracked down. The whole place is looked after by a lovely group of castmembers dressed as Victorian nursemaids. Delightful.
really enjoying her dinner.
Anyway, we had dinner and hung around a bit before we decided to park at DCA's Cove Bar for a drink or two before the World of Color show. We snagged a table by the railing, overlooking Paradise Bay. We were having such a good time, we decided to pay the $10 cover charge and stay there for the show. Jon has been angling to see World of Color from as far back as possible to get a panoramic view. This vantage point didn't quite fit the bill but was still cool. The show is definitely meant to be viewed straight-on only, and since we were off to the side, we couldn't see all the projected effects and could hear how the soundtrack is out of phase which was a bit distracting. Still cool though, and a really low stress way to do it.
We passed through the gift shop on our way out, looking for a souvenir to send to a friend. Alice took home the Alice in Wonderland Pookalooz after her visit to the park and I've been thinking that she might need another Wonderland friend to keep her company. I held up this Cheshire Cat Pookalooz to see if Alice showed any interest and she immediately grabbed it from me and gave him a big hug. So naturally, I couldn't put it back on the shelf after that. Please note, I would not have given it to her in the first place if I had no intention of buying it. I'm not a sadist... Alice clutched it all the way from the store to the car, here she is in the parking structure:

And the next morning, the Cheshire Cat officially joined the violet dog among the ranks of most favorite and honored toys, in the cat bed with Alice.

Can't wait until our next trip, maybe we'll even get to ride Star Tours!

Thursday, June 9, 2011


standing at the fridge.
Alice isn't walking yet, but she's getting so close. She'll cruise along until she gets to the end of the line. She'll see something that she wants to go to, just out of her reach. Her body almost continues moves forward but it seems like her brain is holding her back. I tell her, "You can do it!," because I know she can. But she doesn't understand those words.

She has just started to stand unsupported. Sometimes without thinking about it, sometimes very deliberately, because she wants to hold a toy in each hand. I stand her at the edge of the tub while I fill it and line her toys along the side. She'll clutch a toy in her right hand, her left hand on the tub for balance. She widens her stance and plants her feet, bends her knees and bounces to test her form, and then lifts her hand from the tub to grab her toy. She does this at the fridge, too, playing with magnets. She'll clap her toys together and wave them around without wavering, forgetting for a moment that nothing is holding her upright except her own legs and her own balance.

I know that she has the strength and the coordination to stand, and to walk, on her own if she wanted to. I'm sure if she were around other kids, or older kids more, she would have figured it out by now (or not, who knows?). I want to teach her to balance, and then to let go; to trust her body and her instincts. But this cannot be taught - not now, and not later. It comes only from within and from experience.

For the first time in a long while (ever?), I'm feeling balanced. I am eating well, I am exercising, I am feeling inspired and am finding a little time and opportunity to indulge my creativity. I don't feel like I need as much sleep as I once did, or as much time to mentally recover from too much fun or too much stress. I feel energized, ambitious, optimistic.

I've think I've always had a fairly delicate internal system of weights and balances, and it's taken me years to learn how listen to my body and my mind and my heart to know what I need to be happy and healthy. I'm finally starting to feel like I have a handle on all the pieces of my life and can finesse the balance of these weights without any one demanding all of my attention and energy. I've either found my groove or the groove found me. Maybe I've just become accustomed to the constant marathon of parenthood and adjusted accordingly. I would have never dreamed that parenthood would be what balanced me.

I certainly have room to make improvements in every area of my life but I don't feel like I need to overhaul my whole life in order to make those improvements. Or even just to function. I'm going to do a little goal-setting, a little mind-mapping, and keep working on accomplishing everything I want and dream of, without upsetting the balance I've achieved.

I want to teach Alice to listen to her heart and figure out what she needs to be happy, and then how to work toward that happiness. I want to teach her first to dream, and then to chase her dreams. She'll need to learn to walk before she can run. But first, she needs to find her balance.

Monday, June 6, 2011

[Jon] Project Back Yard: Beginnings

Guys, I'm so excited. I've finally convinced Jon to contribute some material to the blog. This is his first post (if you don't count his original guest post), but I hope there will be much more to come. In addition to providing me with 24-hour tech support for the blog and social sites, he's also tweeting from the front lines of fatherhood. Follow Growing Up Senge on Twitter!

He's sitting on all kinds of gems as he hangs out with Alice all day. And as the brains and muscle of all our home improvement endeavors, he should have lots to share as we gear up to tackle the next round of projects. Without further ado, I present his introductory post!

The time has finally come. After three years of living in our little house, constant brainstorming, planning, even several attempts at starting, after our little girl's first birthday, it is really time to put in a back yard. The site has been cleared of its hearty Southern California chaparral and this weekend, I spent a morning unearthing, cutting, and removing runner roots from the enormous jacaranda tree we’re all but certain used to shade our entire back yard.

When we were shopping for a house, we’d use Google Earth to research the neighborhood -as much as you can glean from dated satellite imagery, anyway. It was helpful for us. So before we looked at our house in real life, we looked it up on Google Earth. The photo showed a huge purple tree smack in the middle of the back yard, 100% visible from space. However, when we saw the property, there were only two orange trees tucked away behind the garage. We asked about the tree. The seller's agent said he'd ask, and then told us the seller didn't know anything about the tree. We didn't really buy that, but couldn't imagine what motivation she'd have to lie. She was only the second owner of the house, and her grandparents were the first. Surely she'd have remembered a tree in her grandparents' back yard? Plus, the Google Earth photo is dated 2006 and we bought the house in 2008, so she must have had some dealings with this mysterious tree?

one mysterious jacaranda.
our house is the blue-gray roof below/left of the tree.
No matter, the tree was gone, but the roots and stump were still haunting our yard. The stump had been cut off flush with the ground, otherwise I would have considered keeping it for yard interest and a spot to chop firewood atop (if you’ve ever split firewood on anything other than a stump, you know why people prefer a stump).

the back yard (sans jacaranda), as of this weekend. it looks virtually the same as when we bought it, save for the added bamboo panels on the block wall fence (for added height and privacy) and the avocado tree in the foreground - a container tree added to the patio a few weekends ago.
In last year’s attempt to get started on the yard I removed as much of the stump and root system as I could, and got just about all of it. Because dynamite stump removal is frowned upon in suburbia, and a front-end loader was out of the question, I hacked everything to about 12-18 inches below finished grade. I called that good enough to plant grass over. However, the horizontal runner roots were still there, taunting me. These needed to go because they sit just under the surface of the soil, in the way of all the infrastructure that will have to go in there. That all ended on Sunday.

There were only two linear feet of root visible above the dirt, but they were pretty far from the actual stump, so I knew I was in for a bit of digging. I used a trenching shovel to carefully cut a deep trench all around the roots that were visible and followed them as far as I could in every direction—sometimes they had only two ends, sometimes five! It was quite a knotted mess of dead tree. I’m not a pro, and don't really know anything about tree roots, other than this stuff needs to come out. And what’s the worst that could happen? Decisions needed to be made along the way: leave a long root in tact or break it up to make things easier to work with? I cut a few of them apart with my trusty ax/maddox combo (a great tool for busting up just about anything in a yard), and one root I left completely intact and tore the entire twenty-foot length of it out in one go. I can't tell you how great that felt!

one giant root. busted. you can't tell from the photo, but it's almost as long as the garage (on the left).
I have a bit more work to do to finally seal the grave of our mystery jacaranda for good, then move onto the next step: tilling and solarization for the summer. More on that next time.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Birthday dress & bunting

When I told Jon that I was planning to make a flag bunting banner AND a matching birthday dress for Alice, I think he braced for the worst. I haven't attempted to sew anything for at least 4 years, and that involved a lot of tears. I haven't even touched my sewing machine since we moved into our house. I assured him it would be fine, I had a plan.

Days, weeks, maybe even a month or two went by and he started to gently suggest that I might be running out time, perhaps I should get started on my projects? I knew he was right. Even though there was still plenty of time for meltdowns, I didn't want my sewing to interfere with the cooking that needed to happen closer to the party date.

I don't remember what my initial idea was, but it was probably more complicated than necessary, and harder than I was capable of. Just as I was gearing up to get started, I came across this great tutorial for the adorable "Ice Cream Social Dress" from Craftiness Is Not Optional and immediately changed my plan.
Ready to stitch.
I was a little bit nervous, since I'd never actually completed a sewing project without the help and supervision of my mother. The dress is super simple and the tutorial is so easy to follow, I was able to sew the entire dress and a diaper cover in a weekend's worth of naps. I couldn't believe that I was able to complete my first solo sewing project so easily and successfully, without any tears or even any mistakes! 
I guess technically, the project wasn't entirely unsupervised. 
Sewing the sleeve casing.

One flutter sleeve!
I also found an awesome free diaper cover pattern and tutorial from Prudent Baby. It was also super easy to stitch up, but I was halfway through sewing when I saw the note to make sure your computer didn't automatically resize the pattern when you print it out. I'm pretty sure that didn't happen, but the finished pants were a little snug for the Thirsty diaper covers we use with our cloth diapers. I think next time I'll enlarge the pattern just a bit. As long as the elastic fits, it never hurts to have a little extra room in the pants!

I was able to finish the dress and the diaper pants over a weekend, sewing while Alice was napping and just a little bit while she was awake on Sunday evening just so I didn't have to stop in an annoying place. This is how everything looked by the end of the weekend, I still needed to make the flag banner so I could use the leftovers to embellish the dress:
After the first weekend, before flowers/ruffles/pockets!
I made my dress using the same measurements as the tutorial but I think her model is a little older and a little bigger than my birthday girl. If I make another of these dresses again right away, I think I'll use a little less fabric in the dress body and make the sleeves a little narrower and possibly shorter. As is, though, I think Alice will be able to get a lot of mileage out of it and if it gets too snug around the chest, I can always put in a longer piece of elastic. I wouldn't be surprised if she can wear this as a shirt long after this birthday! This dress pattern is great that way, in that it is easy to get the exact size/fit you need, which I understand better now that I am such an accomplished seamstress!

With the dress mostly done, I turned my attention to the banners. I'm sure there are plenty of good ways to make bunting banners. I had devised my plan of attack and when I saw Amy from Diary Of A Quilter blog about that method, I was sure it was the way to go. I tried to make it even easier though!

I did some quick math (not my best subject) and figured out how many triangles I could get out of a fat quarter of fabric, leaving a bit of room all around each flag. I cut a template out of regular printer paper, a triangle 5 inches wide and 5 inches tall. Then I did a bit more quick math to figure that I could fit about 13 flags in 3 yards of banner, leaving 20 inches or so at the ends for tying. I forget how many flags I made, but I only ended up with one or two extra!

I think I had about eight different fabrics to play with, so I decided which would look good together as the front and back of the flags and matched up the fat quarters wrong sides together. I pinned my triangle template in one corner, with the long edge along the outer edge of the fabric and stitched around the sides making sure to backstitch a few times at each top corner. When I finished stitching one flag, I just repinned the template next to it, leaving a bit of room between the seams. After I finished a whole row, I started a new row with the template filling the negative space left between the first row of flags. Then I cut between the seams with pinking shears to separate the individual flags. Super easy!

stripes & cherries, one finished flag
I trimmed the top edges once all the flags were sewn and cut out so they were all roughly the same size and weren't all straggly. Then, it was time to assemble the banners! I used double fold bias tape and just sandwiched the flags into the fold and stitched the tape closed just like the tutorial. I started sewing at one end of the bias tape and inserted my first flag about 20 inches in. I left a few fingers' widths in between each flag; just insert flag, stitch, space, repeat! Continue and repeat, continue and repeat! I made four banners total; two regular, 3-yard lengths of bias tape, and two long banners using two 3-yard lengths of bias tape.

This method was super easy, I forgot to keep track of how long it took from start to finish but it was really only a few hours. Since I don't have any permanent space to sew or craft, I set up a little temporary spot in the living room so I could sew and watch TV. A few late (for me = past 8:30pm) nights, and I was all done - and I only stayed up late because I was having so much fun!

finished (un-ironed) banner!
When the banners were done, turned my attention to embellishing the outfit. The plain diaper pants were very cute on their own, but I knew this birthday outfit had to have RUFFLES! Against my better judgment, I had finished the pants before putting on the ruffles. I think I just didn't want to get too invested. I wanted to make sure I actually had pants to put ruffles on, just in case I ruined something along the way. Next time I make a pair (and there WILL be a next time), I'll definitely sew the ruffles onto the seat before stitching up the side seams and doing the elastic. I think I may even sew the elastic directly to the leg openings (instead of making casings), the way most big kid/grown up underpants tutorials recommend (including this one from Crafty Stylish). Anyway, I basically used this method for the ruffles, cutting strips from the fabric leftover from the flag banners. The only tricky part was making sure I didn't sew the diaper cover to itself, that happened a few times but was easy enough to remedy.

I folded some of the strips lengthwise to make flowers (sort of like this method but a little bit different). I basted and gathered opposite the folded edge, and then sewed the ruffly tube onto a circle of felt starting from the outer edge and spiraling inward. I stitched one to the dress and saved two for the headband. I measured a length of elastic around Alice's head and stitched the ends together. Then I stitched that into a felt/elastic/felt sandwich and glued the flowers on top. Then I whipped up some pockets, basically following Made By Rae's pleated patch pocket tutorial, and the dress was finished! Here's my "all done!" shot!
all done!

And here it is on the birthday girl's big day!

A big thanks to Jess from Craftiness Is Not Optional, Prudent Baby, and Diary Of A Quilter for the great tutorials and inspiration. It was so fun, and so satisfying to be able to make a dress and decorations for Alice's party. I'll definitely be making more of everything and want to make it a birthday tradition for Alice to have a new, handmade dress for the occasion! 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Growing Up Senge interviewed on Ohdeedoh!

I can hardly believe I'm saying this, but Growing Up Senge is being featured on Ohdeedoh today as part of their "Big Blog Family" series. I still kind of can't believe those words are true, I hardly trust my eyeballs. I feel like the coolest girl in school the blogosphere just asked me to sit at the popular kids' table. 

I thought I was excited when Ohdeedoh posted a photo of Alice's crib nook a couple of weeks ago. I was practically speechless when they contacted me to ask about sharing my blog as well. Ohdeedoh is one of my very favorite sources of parenting and designing inspiration and I've started following many of the blogs they've featured in this series. I am so honored (and beyond excited!) to be invited into such good company and can't believe the nice things they said!

You can read the full interview here on Ohdeedoh!

12-month check up!

We had Alice's 12-month well-baby check this morning. She was excited to play with the crinkly paper, I was excited to hear that her weight jumped from the 10th to the 25th percentile! We also got some reassurance that we probably don't need to worry so much about food sensitivities, so we're going to let her be a more adventurous eater. She's in for a treat!

Here are her stats, if you're into that kind of thing.

Height - 30.5" (90th percentile)
Weight: 19lb 10.6oz (25th percentile)
Head: 17.52" (25th percentile)

No shots today, but we have one planned for tomorrow and then the following week, and then some more boosters and new immunizations over the next few months. Good times!