Thursday, August 30, 2012

Goodbye, Grandma David

Two weeks ago, Jon and I took Alice to Michigan to say our final farewells to my Grandma David. Alice never met her Great-Grandma David in person, but we were able to have some video chats over FaceTime whenever my dad went out to visit, including his last visit over Mother's Day this year.

My dad, his brother and three sisters were all able to be with my Grandma during her last week. They hadn't been all together since our wedding, seven years ago. The entire family was able to be there for the funeral, traveling from Georgia, Florida, Colorado, Texas, and California. We hadn't all been together since a family reunion in 1998, when this gem of a photo was taken, and a firecracker landed on the deck under my Aunt Sue's chair and almost lit her skirt on fire. This trip was a little less explosive - and much less humid, the weather was beautiful.
David Family Reunion, 1998. 
Alice did great with every aspect of the travel. She entertained herself on the plane, did great in the car, stayed up late (really late, like past midnight) without melting down, ate well, and was quiet and well-behaved when she needed to be. We hope that she was a bright spot for everyone during a sad time, and a nice reminder that the next generation will carry a part of us forward with them. I know my dad was especially glad to have her there, and I was glad to have a little bitty someone to squeeze when I was sad. And it was really nice to see everyone all together. After the funeral, all the families took photos, just like the last family reunion. Here, the cousins are doing their best "bear screams" in honor of my Uncle Randy who recently confronted a mama bear outside his house... More on that later, I hope!
Bear screams eventually turned into bear impressions. You had to be there...
My Grandma lived a full and interesting life. I always thought it was so cool that she played the trombone in high school, and that she had a job scooping ice cream (just like me). During the war, she worked at the Willow Run bomber plant doing electrical wiring in the cockpits of B-17 Bombers. After the war, she taught dance lessons at Arthur Murray. When Jon and I visited for Thanksgiving a few years ago, she told us how when she was first married, all the ladies in her neighborhood thought she was so stuck up because she did all her housework in high heels, but ALL her shoes were high heels, they were the only kind of shoes she owned!

My brother made a beautiful slide show of photos from Grandma's life, and with each of her children and their families, and many of her travels after she retired. Here are a few of my favorites...
When Alice sees this one, she says "Alice."
So young and lovely.
Seriously, what a dish!
Papa David, my Dad, Papa Murray, Uncle Don, Gommee
In the photo above, Papa David (my paternal Great-Grandfather) is holding my young dad (looking an awful lot like Alice), and my Grandma's parents, Papa Murray and Gommee, holding my Uncle Don. They all lived together, with my Grandma and Grandpa David, and kids in the Garden City house my dad grew up in. Papa David died during Papa Murray's funeral. The way my dad tells it, Papa David was so distraught that Papa Murray had died, younger than he, that he had an asthma attack while everyone was away at the funeral. My Grandpa David left the funeral to go to the hospital, but I think Papa David died before his son got there. Gomee died when I was four, and my dad wasn't able to go out to Michigan for her funeral because my sister had just been born 9 days earlier.  All three are buried side by side, along with Grandpa David and now, Grandma David.

I think my dad's family has used Casterline Funeral Home for every funeral they've had. My Grandma worked for Dr. Atchison, whose daughter later married a school mate of Grandma's, Fred Casterline. Fred's father started the family business, which is now run by Fred's grand-daughters. They were lovely and helped entertain Alice during the services. She even got to take a few spins in this grand old family heirloom.
Alice in the funeral director's chair.
My dad swept the dirt from his father's headstone.
At the cemetery, we paid our respects to our family buried there. Alice walked around and visited the neighbors as well. I hope she brought a little bit of good energy to everyone resting there. She was very respectful, keeping her voice low and her hands to herself, but she couldn't stop flashing everyone in sight. Alas, it couldn't be helped, and I'd like to think that no one can help but smile at a toddler tummy? You can make her out in the background below, baring her belly...
Alice takes a walk with her Grandma. I chose to follow behind and take photos instead of fixing her dress...

Family photos, back at the house. Alice couldn't stop showing off her "nose wrinkle."
And we couldn't stop laughing at her...

Walking over a bridge in the woods, with Auntie.

Reading stories with Grandpa.
We somehow ended up doing a champagne toast in the garage, at an unreasonably late hour. My cousin explained that while they were with my Grandma in her final days, they were talking about what a party they'd have to celebrate her life, and she said, "Champagne, champagne." So we toasted her years with champagne, in whatever glasses we could find. The next day, Alice kept saying "Champagne, champagne." I hope my Grandma heard that.

Alice had a great time with all of the adoring Grandmas and Aunties around. She especially took a shining to my Aunt Sue and her cool older second cousin, who let her watch things and play with apps on her iPod. Here they are together, Alice sipping some "coffee" like a big girl.

We were so grateful to stay at my Aunt's neighbors' house next door. Alice also had a wonderful time playing with all the toys they had set up for her, so much so that she kept asking to go back there to play. We finally had to bring the little kitchen set over to my Aunt's house. I was glad to see that she played with it for looooong stretches at a time. Don't tell Alice, but I understand that Santa may be bringing a little kitchen to our very own house this year...
On our way out of town, we stopped for a quick lunch and ate at Panera for the very first time. Alice thoroughly enjoyed her grilled cheese sandwich dipped in tomato soup. 

Before we headed to the airport, we stopped by the house in Garden City where my dad grew up. I was hoping to sweet talk the current owners in to showing us around inside. I haven't been back there since our Thanksgiving visit when I was about 12, the house was sold not long after. I would have loved to show it to Jon and take some photos of Alice there. Alas, no one answered the door. I would have taken a few photos with Alice on the porch but she was fast asleep in the car and I didn't want to wake her, so I just snapped a few with my phone before we moved along.
The Garden City house years ago, and today.
From the outside, it looks like the current owners are taking good care of the house, even building a garage and a porte-cochere. Maybe next time we're in Michigan, I can write in advance and make a date to visit the house.

Here are a few photos from inside the house, in the living room just behind that big window on the right.

Me (age 2-ish?), with Gommee, cousin Jad, dad, mom, Grandma and foxy Aunt Bee.
My dad, in the near left, looking ADORABLE and his brother and sisters. I think we just threw away the last of that Christmas tinsel...
Christmas carnage. That lovely, large window is just out of frame to the right behind Gommee.
Our 5:30pm flight was delayed by almost two hours, but Alice did great. She only got fussy in the last hour-ish of the flight. I let her cry for a bit, hoping she'd fall asleep, but she was asking to sit in my lap and I couldn't resist her pleas. Unfortunately, she's not a great cuddler and wouldn't sit still, despite my best efforts, so I had to strap her back in her own seat. We were less than a half hour from our descent, so I asked a stewardess to explain that he had to stay buckled in her own seat, and distracted her with the "real-time" map of our flight. About 10 minutes away from landing, she tucked her chin into her shoulder and fell right asleep, without any fuss. She stayed asleep through the landing; while everyone else disembarked (we were at the very back of the plane); while I picked her up and carried her down the aisle, bumping her against every seat in the plane; while I dumped her into her stroller; while we retrieved our bags, transferred her into the car and white-knuckled it all the way home (our driver was a little worrisome). She only woke up once I pulled her out of the car at home.  All in all, she was a pleasure to travel with this time.
I'm sorry that we didn't make it back to visit again before my Grandma died, and that we didn't get to personally introduce her to Alice. It's hard to get together when everyone lives so far away. I hope we're able to take Alice and her sister to Michigan some day for the grand family history tour. I'm glad we were all able to take this trip and be with the family as we celebrated Grandma.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Baby Gear: Round 2 - Upgrading

Earlier this week, I shared some of our favorite baby items. Here are some of the new things I'm looking to add to the mix, or to upgrade a few items we weren't as happy with.

1. Hushamok Baby Hammock: Until Alice transitioned into her crib, she slept in a Pack 'n Play in our room, in the "newborn napper" attachment. This worked OK but our bedroom, house, hallways and doors are too small to make the Pack 'n Play a perfect option for us. I didn't consider the Hushamok very seriously with Alice because then it was only available with a separate stand, with a large footprint and price tag. However, now they offer it with a kit to mount it from the ceiling. You can install several mounts and move it around the house, which is great for day-time use.

It seems like the Hushamok provides more organic support and motion than the vibrating Pack 'n Play nest. If it works as easily as in this video review to calm baby in the night, I am all for it. Plus, it seems like baby could easily learn to move the hammock by themselves, which must better help them learn to self-soothe. And it's just cool!

2. Naturpedic Organic Crib Mattress: We're planning to use Alice's mattress on her toddler bed, which means we'll need a new mattress for the crib. We bought Alice's mattress from Pottery Barn Kids when we ordered our crib, and I didn't do much research beyond that (shame on me). When my bestie was researching her baby registry, she showed me these organic mattresses. After a little bit of research, I agreed that they were totally the way to go. These are all-natural, organic, non-toxic, naturally flame retardant, and free of chemicals and allergens. There is plenty of concern and lots of evidence that the chemicals in the foam and flame-retardant ingredients found in conventional mattresses can contribute to SIDS and an increase in other disorders (for vulnerable babies and everyone else). An organic mattress is a great way to limit exposure to hazardous chemicals, especially when babies spend 12-14 hours a day sleeping in their beds!

3. Tummy Tub with Stand on Amazon: This tub is really popular all over the world, the U.S. was one of the last places to discover it in the last few years. I'd only heard of it recently (from my mom, of all people) but it really looks like a way better way to bathe little ones. The shape mimics the womb and puts them in the fetal position they are so comfortable in, and keeps them confined and covered the way they were used to. It seems like it would keep babies much warmer than the traditional plastic tubs and slings, too. I'd love to give it a try!

4.  Blooming Bath: This cushy flower folds up into your sink to cushion and support baby during bath time. It looks way more comfy than the hard plastic tubs and slings, and keeps them warmer by allowing more water to cover them. It can be hung up to dry or thrown in the dryer, and then easily stored away between baths.

5. Baby Jogger City Select on Amazon: This double stroller is at the top of the very short list of options that we're considering. We love that it is a short and narrow single-wide stroller (instead of a side-by-side) and that the kids have some great visibility with the stadium seating arrangements. I also think the the versatility of the different seat positions is amazing. The seats are super easy to switch around, have great recline positions and sun shades, and you can pop off the extra seat and leave it in the car or at home if you only have one kid to cart. It has a small footprint, will easily fit in store aisles, folds up quick and slick, and will fit in our trunk, which is a huge plus. There may be some cons, as other reviewers have noted, but I think the size, configuration, and versatility will hopefully outweigh any negatives. If I were doing this again, I'd invest in this as a single for the first kid and then buy an additional seat if and when we needed it. There are plenty of pricier single and double options that aren't nearly this versatile!

6. WubbaNub: This little guy keeps baby's pacifier in it's mouth so there aren't any annoying wake-ups when the pacifier falls out and rolls away. Plus, they are just cute. We'd need the giraffe, obviously!

7. Bloom Coco Go Lounger: This brand-new lounger has three incline positions (fully upright, reclined, and fully flat), can rock or stay stationary, is low-pro and lightweight, and folds flat into it's own carrying bag for easy travel. We don't really need a new lounger seat, but I'd definitely get this one if we did!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Baby Gear: Round 2 - The Favorites

We have a few things to do around the house to get ready for the Littlest Senge's arrival. We're thinking about a big girl bed to transition Alice out of the crib, and working on plans to improve storage and function in the nursery to make it work better as a shared space. I also need to sort through Alice's baby clothes and get the rest of our baby stuff ready for action again!

Since this isn't our first rodeo, we already have almost everything we need (except a way to cart around two kids at once) but I'm thinking about replacing a few pieces of our arsenal. Now that I know what I'm doing and our gear has some miles on it, I have a better idea of which items work well, what works for us and our home, and what can be improved upon. Plus, I now have 2+ years of mom/baby/nursery/gear blog-reading experience. I've been keeping my eye on all the things I didn't know about or that didn't exist yet on our first go round (and pinning it all here).

I thought I'd share some of the things that worked well for us when Alice was a baby, and some of the new items I'm thinking about. This is all stuff that we researched, registered for, received as gifts, or bought ourselves - none of these products were sponsored, and the opinions are all my own. Though I do a lot of research, I haven't personally tested or compared other varieties of these items. These have all worked really well for us (or at least for me). I can only give my opinion and experience, this things may not work at all for you and your little one!

These are my "can't live without them" favorites that I used and loved more than anything else, these are the exact things you'll find at our house.

1. Angel Care Movement Monitor: This monitor sounds an alarm if your baby stops breathing or moving (or climbs out of the crib). The hope is that the alarm will give you enough time to respond to your baby and awaken or revive them early enough to prevent SIDS (or choking, strangling, anything else awful that can happen while you aren't watching). There are plenty of reviews from parents who believe this saved their babies' lives. We haven't had any close calls, but I do think that even the single-beep warning alarm can be enough to awaken a baby enough to make sure they keep breathing. It was vital for my piece of mind and helped me feel confident in letting Alice learn to sleep by herself and self-soothe.

2. Video Baby Monitor - not as vital for baby's safety, but super useful and entertaining. This tool definitely helped practice le pause, since we were able to check on her remotely to assess her needs. It is especially great for "cry it out" and confined tantrum situations, we are able to make sure she was OK without having to interfere with and undermine our strategies. Plus, I almost always want to look at Alice and this way, she can have her peace and sleep and I can still be amused by her! AND I can take overhead photos of her various crazy sleeping positions without waking her, and that alone is priceless.

We started with a Summer Infant monitor that we weren't super impressed with. The night-time infrared camera broke just a few weeks ago and we ordered the Motorola monitor pictured above to replace it. I can't remember if this wasn't an option when we were first shopping, or we didn't want to spend that much, but we are way happier with it. I'd recommend spending a little more for a better quality monitor that you'll hopefully only have to buy once. We're planning to add another camera to cover Alice's toddler bed when she transitions, so we'll be able to zoom and pan in on everyone in the nursery!

I should also note that we live in a teeny tiny house and don't use either of these monitors for sound. We can hear when Alice is awake or upset. We travel with the Angel Care sensor pad and parent monitor and turn on the sound when we are out of earshot, like at my parents' house. The sound on the new video monitor is also way better than the old one, and now I like to listen in when Alice is squishing around and reading before bed, or when she wakes up. The other morning, she was singing our song about Eli; "baby guy, baby guy..." Hilarious.

3. Exercise Ball: I bought one for labor, on the recommendation of many books and websites. I used it for maybe 30 minutes during labor before I couldn't keep myself on it anymore. It really came in handy once we got home though. As a few books/sites mentioned, it was the perfect mechanism for soothing a fussy Alice. It was much less exhausting to bounce her on the ball than to walk and jiggle constantly, and it strengthened your core like crazy while you watched TV!

4. Sophie Giraffe on Amazon: Ok, we probably could have lived without this one. Alice didn't go crazy for Sophie like some kids apparently do, but it's just one of those things. You definitely have to get one (or five) if you have a giraffe-themed nursery!

5. Boppy Pillow on Amazon: I never tried any of the other pillows, but we loved our Boppy. I always used it for feeding when Alice was tiny, and we used it to prop her (and ourselves) up.

6. Ergo Baby Carrier on Amazon: We didn't get ours until Alice was about 6 months old, but it became a quick favorite. As an newbie expectant mama, the Moby wrap seemed like the most basic and accessible choice for a brand-new little one, and the others just seemed too intimidating with all the buckles and straps and newborn inserts. Turns out, the Ergo is super easy to use and super comfy for baby and wearer. I haven't tested any other carriers, and I have no need to!

Before I used it, I had no idea how the carrier + newborn insert would work for brand new babies. This time around, I definitely want to try out the newborn insert and use the Ergo in conjunction with the Moby. The Ergo is just a bit more streamlined and quick to use, better for more extensive activity when out and about, and can be easily adjusted from wearer to wearer, so switching off is quick and easy.

7. Kiddopotamus SwaddleMe: Swaddling worked beautifully for us and this was our favorite swaddling contraption. We used lightweight organic cotton in the warmer, summer months, and cozier fleece for the cooler, winter months. We called Alice our little pupa and loved how she would smile so big and pop her arms out for a nice big stretch when we unbundled her in the mornings.

8. Jogging Stroller - Baby Trend Expedition: I am really glad we opted for a jogging stroller. It's not the best or fanciest choice (BOB, I'm drooling on you), but I thought the Baby Trend was a great price (and the newer models come with mp3 speakers!). It was a good enough value that I would have wanted to buy it purely for the exercise factor if we'd chosen a different type of stroller. I'm personally partial to the sturdy and rugged ride with the single front wheel and air-inflated bike-style tires. Though I haven't done it as often as I would have liked, I enjoyed being able to take Alice along with me for some serious exercise.

9. Thirsties Diaper Covers: We used a diaper service until Alice was ten months old and then we bought a supply of about 100 cloth diapers from the service and started washing them at home. We haven't tried any other cloth diaper cover, but have been really happy with the Thirsties Duo Wraps with Velcro closures. We've kept a stock of about six covers in every size, with some overlapping periods (we're still using both the mediums and the larges with Alice right now). We tried one of the snap closures and didn't like it as well, though I'm interested in the snap/velcro hybrid.

Overall, the velcro kept the diapers on very well, and the Thirsties covers contained almost all of the mess, almost all of the time. We've had minimal wet outfits, just a few wet spots here and there, and virtually no blowouts (under 10, for sure).The velcro has deteriorated a bit over time, we may need to replace a few covers in each size. Otherwise, I think they are awesome. All in, we've probably spent about $350 on our own cloth diapers and we probably have to do laundry less often than the same investment in BumGenius (totally unscientific opinion). Diaper services generally cost the same or less than disposables, month to month, so I figure we've spent our diaper dollars pretty wisely. We'll probably stick to our own diapers from the beginning this time, but we haven't quite decided.

10. Moby Wrap: I LOVE the Moby Wrap. It was THE best for carrying around a tiny newborn. And when I realized I could wear my baby inside my house and actually get some things done, I felt like I'd just discovered the key to the universe. I'm sure that will come in exponentially more handy this time around, when we have an active two-year old underfoot as well. I might use the black one more often since the Littlest Senge will be a winter baby. I definitely recommend the lighter colors when using outdoors in warmer weather!

11. Ameda Gel Pads: My dear mother-in-law gave me a pair of these after I got home with Alice and they were the best thing that ever touched my skin. Even when all goes well, the first few weeks of breastfeeding is a pain like no other. But these, straight out of the fridge? Heaven. I will make sure to take a set to the hospital with me this time, and to have a few replacement sets on hand.

12. Medela Pump in Style: I went back to work when Alice was four months old, so a good pump was vital to our routine. This time, I'll make sure to pump from the very beginning, to build up my supply and my stock, so the Littlest Senge can practice bottles earlier than the week before I go back to work...

13. Baby Rocker Seat: Sometimes, you need a place to put your baby when you need to shower, pee, eat, get something done, or just give you and your baby a little space. We liked our Fisher Price model pictured above because it wasn't too plastic-y or garish, fit in with our decor relatively well, and was pretty low-profile.

14. Doorway Jumper: Once baby has more strength and motor control, it's great to have somewhere else to put them where they can strengthen their little muscles and burn off some energy. Bonus if they are contained and immobile, like in a doorway jumper! Alice loved her jumper; so much that we actually had to hide it recently because she's maxed out the weight limit but cries if she sees her jumper and we don't let her jump. We loved being able to park her in a doorway while we cooked or ate, or did any number of other non-baby-friendly activities, where she could amuse herself and still be part of the action.

Friday, August 10, 2012

{Baby Bump} 20 week tummy

Twenty-week baby bump! Halfway done cooking this baby! Shame on me for not taking weekly photos for the first half of the pregnancy. Must try harder for the second half...

Started feeling little thumps and bumps at sixteen weeks, now she's bopping all around in there. She kicks so much, she keeps me up at night. But I don't mind! (I'm still getting used to saying "she" instead of "this baby.") I'm so glad I'm starting to look and feel pregnant, instead of just fat and sick. The kicking makes it so much more fun. 

We got to peek at her again via ultrasound at our doctor appointment today. We always love getting to see the baby moving and grooving in there. We can't wait to see her in real life!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Alice’s Favorite Songs (Video)

Please enjoy a few selections from Alice’s growing song repertoire: “Winner Song ” from Winnie the Pooh (2011), “Happy Birthday,” and her very clear favorite, “Mamma Mia!

Monday, August 6, 2012


image found here
So it's official - I've seen it with my own eyes twice now - Alice is getting a little sister for Christmas! We weren't hoping for anything more than the other, but Jon and I have both said we feel that we're meant to be parents to daughters. I guess we were right!

Sisters are really something special, and I am really happy that we'll have daughters who get to experience that relationship. I hope that their closeness in age will translate into a close relationship from the beginning, so they can enjoy all the benefits of sisterhood their whole life.

My best friend got teary when she found out and told me how much having sisters meant to her growing up. My own sister also got teary, and I hope it's because our relationship means something special to her, too. No one makes me laugh harder than my sister, and no one understands the things that make me laugh the way she does. I don't know what I would do if I didn't have someone to laugh about our parents with, or to laugh about things that no one else finds funny. 

I hope my daughters have that in each other. I hope that Jon and I can help ensure that there is more laughter than sibling rivalry in our house. I hope I can teach Alice how important it is to be a big sister, and to be a better big sister than I was growing up. Here's to sisters, a little bit of childhood that can never be lost.

Me & my baby sister.