Happy Easter 2013!

Happy Easter everyone!

It's amazing how much things have changed since last year...

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
~John 3:16

Family Friday: March 29

29 Weeks Old

I cannot believe it's the end of March already!  I've been a "single" parent for five months now.  It feels like forever ago that Johnnie actually left but at the same time, it feels like time has flown by.  The good news is that Johnnie is due back next month!  To celebrate his impending return, I will be having our blog's first giveaway soon.  Look for it within the next week.  It... will... be... awesome!

Cameron is still teething but she doesn't have any teeth yet.  It could take days, weeks, or even months before the teeth finally erupt.  There are times when she gets really fussy and I can actually feel the sharp tip of a tooth but then later it's gone.  It's like that darn tooth is teasing us.  Cameron has always been a big drooler but lately she has been drooling so much that she often chokes on it.  This week she has also started sucking and chewing on her lower lip.

A while ago, I bought Cameron an Amber Teething Necklace.  Amber necklaces are not for babies to chew on, instead they are simply to wear.  The claim is that "amber contains succinic acid, an all-natural anti-inflammatory with antibiotic and pain-relieving properties" so when babies wear the amber necklace (or bracelet), the succinic acid gets absorbed into their skin and helps relieve the pain, inflammation, and irritability associated with teething.  Do I think that it works?  I'm not sure yet.  Cameron doesn't even notice that it's on and she seems calmer when she has it on but it could be a coincidence.   The necklaces are not that expensive so I figured it was worth trying.  Besides, it fits around my wrist perfectly when looped twice so I can always wear it myself as a bracelet.  The healing properties of amber (assuming there really are some) are beneficial for adults as well.

One of Cameron's new favorite things to do is shake her head side to side.  Sometimes we will sit looking at each other and take turns shaking our heads.  It's obvious that she doesn't know that the gesture means "no" yet but it's still fun to ask her "no" questions just to see her shake her head in correct response :)

Cameron also loves to move around and reach for things all the time now, especially when I'm holding her or when I'm changing her diaper.  I swear that it's like trying to diaper an octopus at times.

I recently bought a Summer Infant Play Safe Play Yard for Cameron.  Honestly, this is more to keep Dulce out than to keep Cameron in.  I'm not worried about Dulce being around Cameron and they actually interact really well.  However, I am very tired of having to wash Cameron's toys and quilt practically every single day because Dulce licks them.  It's also nice having an area free of dog hair for Cam to play in.  For now, the fence is simply set up as a barrier.  As soon as Cameron starts pulling herself up, I will connect the fence which will make it more sturdy.  I was actually surprised by how comfortable Cameron seems to be in her play area.  She crawls all around and plays with her toys, content as can be.

I've mentioned my love of the RIE approach to parenting before.  One of the things this approach recommends is to provide a safe, enclosed area for your baby to encourage independent and uninterrupted play.  When babies are in a safe, child-sized environment, they feel comfortable to relax, play, and explore on their own.  Think about how differently you would feel being at a large amusement park as opposed to being at a neighborhood playground.  The world living room is a very big place for babies.  By giving them their own space, it helps make it less overwhelming for them.

Dulce on the other hand, doesn't like it so much.  She misses her play buddy.

“Play is the answer to how anything new comes about.”
~Jean Piaget

Care Packages

A care package is a box of goodies (food, clothing, gifts, useful items, fun items, etc) that you mail to a loved one who is away from home.  USPS Flat Rate Priority Mail boxes are free to use and you can even go to the USPS website and have a pack of ten or more sent to you for free.  You don't have to use the specific APO/FPO boxes but I like them because they say "America Supports You" on the sides.  You pay a discounted rate when you mail a large flat rate box to an APO or FPO address, regardless of how much it weighs.

I did not try to mail Cameron but she does look cute in the box!  This was a very simple photo setup.  I draped a large flag for the background, sat Cameron up in a mailing box (the front flap of the box is folded inside and taped in place), and handed her a marker to hold!  I actually Photoshopped the writing onto the box which was easier than trying to write it perfectly by hand.  The font that I used is Violety Crumble which is a free download from dafont.com.  If you are a Photoshop junkie like me, then you'll also want to know that I rasterized the type and slightly rotated some of the individual letters to give it a more handwritten look.

I managed to send Johnnie eight care packages since he deployed in October.  That's not bad considering that I have a baby that keeps my days very busy!  If I had more time, I probably would've mailed him one every other week.  Care packages are so fun to put together and a great way to send your love.

Before Johnnie deployed, I started a "Deployment Inspiration" board on Pinterest.  That is where I got the idea of decorating the insides of the boxes.  It's very simple to do with the large flat rate priority boxes and the decorated boxes are such an unexpected treat to open!  Each box I mailed him had a theme for the decorations and what was inside.

The large flat rate USPS priority boxes are 12x12.  Scrapbook paper is 12x12.  See where I'm going with this?  To decorate the inside of a box, you need five pieces of scrapbook paper: 1 whole sheet for the bottom, 2 sheets cut in half for the flaps, and 2 sheets cut in half for the sides.  You can also use wrapping paper, photographs, the Sunday comics, your child's artwork... the possibilities are only limited by your imagination!

I have a paper cutter (which is worth it's weight in gold if you are a crafter) so it takes no time at all to trim the paper to fit.  I then use double-sided tape to secure the paper to the box (put the tape close to the edges of the paper for best results).  You can find large rolls of double-sided tape, and of varying widths, in your local craft store.

My first boxes were simply decorated with paper.  Each box got a little more elaborate with stickers and pictures.  You can purchase scrapbooking stickers to use or you can create your own stickers by printing images or words onto sticker paper.

A few care package tips:
  • Don't pack soap or other scented items in the same box as food because the scent transfers
  • Using a FoodSaver to vacuum seal baked goods will keep them fresh for the long journey
  • Anything that could potentially leak, ooze, or melt should be sealed in one or two ziplock bags
  • Anything that could be damaged by getting wet should be sealed in a ziplock bag.
  • Pack the boxes very full, filling extra space with crumpled paper or bubble wrap.  This keeps the contents from shifting and the box costs the same to ship regardless of weight anyway.
  • Don't forget that you are allowed to decorate the outside of the box too!

* Halloween Care Package *  Johnnie deployed at the very end of October so I sent him a small flat rate box filled with some candy.  I was inspired by this post on craftsbyfriends.com I found via Pinterest to create the sayings that I printed out on sticker paper and wrapped around the candy.

*  Good Night Care Package *  Johnnie needed some sheets for his bed so that was the inspiration for this package.  Along with two sets of sheets, I also included soap, face wipes, toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, a notepad, pens, stamps, and envelopes.  I've since then learned that deployed military can mail letters for free so the stamps weren't needed but we can always use them when he gets home.

*  Coffee Care Package *  You can tell by this package that Johnnie wasn't exactly camping in the wilderness for this deployment.  He is a Seattle boy who loves his coffee and had access to an electric water kettle so I sent him our little French Press coffee maker, whole coffee beans along with our bean grinder, disposable coffee cups, and some biscotti.  The coffee bean heart sticker in the box is simply an image I found in a Google search and printed out on sticker paper.

* Thanksgiving Care Package *  I am very proud of this package because I managed to send an entire Thanksgiving feast in a flat rate box!  I included turkey and stuffing (turkey jerky, turkey spam, Hormel Turkey & Dressing microwavable bowl), mashed potatoes (instant mashed potatoes cup), vegetables (a small can), cranberries (Craisins), breadsticks (the hard cracker type), dessert (homemade cookies and "apple pie" snack pack pudding), sparkling cider (mini bottle), and a pack of plastic utensils for eating everything.

I did a little turkey handprint art with Cameron to send along in the care package:

* Birthday Care Package *  Johnnie's birthday was in December.  This was a "fitness themed" care package which I describe in detail below.  I also baked him some homemade sugar cookies using my new all-time favorite recipe.  I found a Vanilla Almond Sugar Cookie recipe from the blog Bake at 350 via Pinterest and it is AMAZING!   It is super quick and easy to make, the dough doesn't need chilled like other recipes, it holds its shape perfectly when baked (roll thick 3/8" or 1/2"), the cookies are soft and delicious, and they freeze (and thaw) flawlessly!  I used Bake at 350's royal icing recipe as well (my first time ever working with royal icing!) and I'm pleased with the way they came out.  I vacuum packed the cookies in bags using my FoodSaver which helps them stay airtight and fresh until they reach their destination.

* Fitness Care Package *  Johnnie is exercising and running as much as he could on this deployment so I sent him things that would be helpful:  protein powder, a Blender Bottle, a men's multi-vitamin, Emergen-C mix (1,000mg of Vitamin C per packet!), energy bars, protein bars, GU energy gels (my favorite for long runs), mixed nuts, and two different sized handheld running bottles.  Johnnie has an unlimited supply of Gatorade at his base or else I would've included Gatorade powder as well.

* Christmas Care Package *  This was our first Christmas apart... we've been lucky for the past five years! I printed a photo from each year onto sticker paper to add to the box decoration.  This package was filled with a variety of homemade Christmas cookies (including some homemade decorated sugar cookies), some store-bought Christmas treats, and a Christmas present.  This year I got Johnnie a Garmin Forerunner 610 GPS Heart Rate Monitor to help him with his running goals.

* Valentine's Day Care Package *  This was an easy theme of love and shades of the color red.  It's actually a lot of fun walking through stores to see how many items of a certain color you can find!

* St. Patrick's Day Care Package *  This was another color theme... green!  St. Patrick's Day was perfect timing for Girl Scout cookies so I added Thin Mints which have a green box and Samoas (not pictured) which I covered with green stickers so it would match :)

The St. Patrick's Day package was the last one that I sent.  I'm very happy to know that if I sent another package now, he might not get it before he heads home!

They don't know how long it takes
Waiting for a love like this
Every time we say goodbye
I wish we had one more kiss
I'll wait for you I promise you, I will
~Lucky by Jason Mraz

Family Friday: Mar 22

28 Weeks Old

I am PMSing and Cameron is teething... Johnnie is missing all the fun!  Seriously, being a "single" parent during a week like this sucked.  Big time.  There were nights when I desperately wanted a break but all I could do was grit my teeth and pray for bedtime to come quickly.  Coincidentally, those were also the nights when all I wanted for dinner was chocolate chips.  That's right... Nestle Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips straight into my belly without a cookie surrounding them.  It helped.

Cameron doesn't have any teeth poking out yet but they are coming.  She has recently developed many of the teething symptoms and her gum feels rough so I don't think it will be long now.  Thankfully she is still sleeping well at night for the time being.  Her Baby Merlin's Magic Sleepsuit is still magically working, keeping her from waking herself (and me) throughout the night, so that she wakes up happy and rested.

Solid food feeding is going great.  Cameron still insists on feeding herself but now lets me hold onto the end of the spoon.  I have quite a variety of frozen 1oz portions of food built up in the freezer.  For the time being, I make and freeze one type of food at a time and then I thaw and mix together portions of two different types to create combinations.

My favorite was the yam-banana combo.  However, Cameron flat out refused to eat it!  It was her first time with bananas which are sweeter than anything she has had yet.  Apparently it was too sweet.  Cameron's favorite so far is broccoli combos!  She has had broccoli-apple and broccoli-pear and gobbled those combos up like they were candy and then spent ten minutes licking the spoon clean each time.  So she doesn't like bananas but she loves broccoli... crazy kid :)

Dulce and Cameron have had their first real play interaction!  Dulce has a game she plays with us where she will drop a toy near you and only grab it if you grab it... like a see-who's-quicker kind of game.  She just discovered she can play this game with Cameron.  Being a good big sister, she let Cameron grab the toy first before taking it :)  I can't wait until Cameron can keep Dulce entertained!

Cameron caught a wagging tail :)  Dulce let her hold onto it for a while before moving away.

So far Cameron has only shown interest in Dulce's dishes when she sees Dulce eating.  Thank goodness Dulce eats all of her food as soon as it is put in her dish.  It's always gone by the time Cameron makes her way over to it.  Still, we will have to do something about the dishes in the near future since the water dish is always full.

"Watching teething babies is like watching over a thermonuclear
reactor - it is best done in shifts, by well-rested people."
~Anthony Doerr

St. Patrick's Day 5K

There was a St. Paddy's 5K on the base yesterday.  Cameron and I joined a group of ladies and their babies from our neighborhood to run it!  This was Cameron's third race.

It's just a bit chilly in the mornings and evenings here so I always dress Cameron in footed pajamas when we go running.  I actually didn't have anything green for her to wear for the race but her pajamas do have lime green flowers on them... close enough!

I love running skirts so I was thrilled to find this gray and green Under Armour Escape Knit Skort II at Sports Authority on a sales rack!  It was very comfortable for running and short enough to fit my 5'1" frame well.

For the past month, Cameron has been sitting up in the Bob stroller for our runs.  I have a Summer Infant Snuzzler in the Bob which adds soft comfort and support for her.  She does awesome when we go running.  I attach a pacifier and some ring toys to the harness for her and she just zones out and enjoys the ride.  I usually only run 30 to 40 minutes with her.  I am waiting to do longer runs until Johnnie gets home so that she doesn't have to sit longer than that in the stroller.

We ran at a comfortable pace (I could still carry on a conversation) and still finished in 33:58 - that's faster than last month's race and I physically felt better running this month as well.  I really look forward to running races, especially when I have friends to run with.  The level of energy and excitement exuding from everyone who participates is contagious and exhilarating!

Happy Saint Patrick's Day and may good luck smile upon you today!

"May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow
and may trouble avoid you wherever you go."
~Irish Blessing

Family Friday: Mar 15

27 Weeks Old

Cameron used to talk and coo constantly but lately she's been less vocal and more observant.  She is becoming super active so perhaps she has transferred her talking energy to mobile energy.  This girl cannot be stopped.  She wants to be everywhere and touch everything.  She is still creeping vs crawling but she can make it across the floor in no time.  She goes from one thing to the next... first exploring her toys and then heading after the dog toys, my shoes, the furniture...

For the past couple weeks, Cameron has been breaking out of the tightest swaddles at least once during the night.  She cannot sleep well unswaddled.  She rubs her face with her hands which half-wakes her into a fussy, tired, zombie-like state.  Her tossing and noises wake me up so I have get out of bed to go reswaddle her.  She falls fast asleep again within seconds but it has still interrupted our night .  This has not been good for either of us because we both need a good night's sleep to be happy people during the day.  If she doesn't get enough sleep, she gets very grouchy in the evenings... and honestly, so do I.

After doing some research, I ordered the Baby Merlin's Magic Sleepsuit from Amazon.  This is marketed as a product for transitioning babies out of swaddling by "providing them with a cozy and secure feeling, and muffling their reflexive startles."  I was skeptical but figured I could always return it if it didn't work.  The suit arrived yesterday and we used it last night for the first time.  The verdict?  It IS a magic suit!  Cameron fell asleep within minutes and slept for 12 hours, without waking herself up at all!  She actually would have slept longer but I woke her up to keep her on schedule.

This is a plush poly-fil suit that has a microfleece on the outside and a breathable t-shirt knit material on the inside.  Cameron can bend her arms but not far enough that they reach her face to wake her up.  I imagine it's almost like being in a thick soft snowsuit.  I did worry about her getting too warm so I turned up the air conditioning.  She stayed cool and didn't sweat at all.  Under the suit, she had on a diaper and a short sleeve onesie, and socks (since the suit is footless).  I bought the 3-6 month (12-18 lb) size and it fits Cameron perfectly since she is less than 16 lbs.  I hopeful that by the time she outgrows the suit, she'll be ready to sleep without it.

Cameron has been fascinated with noise makers lately.  When she picks something up, it first goes in her mouth for a taste, and then it gets violently shaken to see if it makes noise.  I am taking advantage of this new noise-making interest to introduce the piano!  I have played the piano all of my life and in my adult years have also taken up the guitar, ukulele, cello, violin, flute, and tambourine.  My parents spent goodness-knows-how-much on piano lessons so the least I can do is pass my musical knowledge onto my children.

At first, Cameron touched the keys softly and then grabbed my hand and hit the keys with it :)  Now, she pounds the keys by herself and has a blast!  She likes the lower octaves best and often shouts sings as she plays.  We sit in front of the keyboard for as long as she stays interested each day (usually about 10 minutes) and I let her explore on her own though occasionally I excite her with a chord or scale.  I plan on letting her see and hear me play different instruments to develop interest and curiosity, letting her explore and play on her own, and eventually (in a few years) start guiding her with lessons.

My hair is still falling out but new hair is finally starting to grow.  I now have tiny bangs growing that look just like Cameron's hair.  This new fringe along with my incredibly thin hair just looks ridiculous.  I've given up on it... it's in a ponytail or a clip every single day.  It will probably grow back just in time to fall out again with the next baby.  I should've appreciated my hair more when it was nice and thick :) 

"May love and laughter light your days
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours
Wherever you may roam."
~Irish Blessing

Family Friday: 6 Months

26 Weeks (6 Months) Old

Cameron is exactly 6 months old today!  It is truly remarkable how fast babies grow and change, both physically and mentally.

Cameron had a six-month wellness check up yesterday.  She now weighs 15lb, 9oz.  That is in the 45% percentile so she's just about average for her age despite starting out at only 5lb 13oz.  She is now 25.2 inches long (a 7.2 inch increase since birth).  She had to get more immunization shots but now she is done with those until 12 months.  She developed a slight fever again and got a little fussy but otherwise did fine.

At 6 months, Cameron is now wearing size 3-6 month clothing and size 2 diapers.  She sleeps from 8pm to 7:30am every night and takes three naps during the day.  She is still being swaddled for sleeping at night, otherwise she continually wakes herself, but I'm starting to leave her unswaddled for naps.

She drinks four 8-oz bottles a day and we are currently doing solids once a day.  She has had avocado, pears, butternut squash, and peas.  The butternut squash has been her favorite so far - she couldn't get enough of it!  I am making all of her food myself and doing simple, one-food purees for now.  We do each new food for a few days to test for allergies before moving on.  I have a feeling that she is going to love multi-food blends when we get to that.

Cameron is not teething yet and I'm not anxious for that to start.  She can sit very well with support but cannot sit long without support yet.  If you hold her on your lap with her feet touching the chair or ground, she will sit then stand over and over for at least 20 minutes.  She loves looking around outside and when she sees something that excites her, her whole body will tense and shake!  She has just recently started grabbing and playing with her feet while she is laying on her back.  She is also getting very good at picking up a pacifier and putting it in her mouth all by herself.

Cameron is creeping like a champ, almost crawling.  She gets her whole body off the floor and moves up to six inches at a time, quickly getting to what she's after.  She is starting to get her knees under her body but hasn't mastered moving that way yet.  She also can't go backwards yet so if she moves up against something and can no longer go forward, she gets stuck and cries.

I am 6 months postpartum so I'll add one final update about me.  Cameron was induced 3 weeks early due to my sudden high blood pressure.  It remained elevated for a couple months after she was born, then it jumped around for a while, and now it is finally consistently normal.  I do worry about developing blood pressure issues when I become pregnant again.  My history of pre-hypertension, along with the fact that I am 35 years old, will make me an automatic "high-risk pregnancy" next time around.

I am completely back to my pre-pregnancy weight and measurements!  I always worried about that, seeing so many women battle with weight or wider hips after having children.  I continued exercising while I was pregnant and only ended up gaining 23 pounds.  I lost most of that within the first few weeks but my body held on to the last 5 pounds and a few inches.  In December I started a 60-day Beachbody Insanity Challenge that I finished in February.  I actually didn't lose any weight during the challenge but I did regain muscle and I lost 2.5 inches off my midsection.  After finishing the challenge, I started running again and really watching what I ate and that last 5 pounds and the final inches finally came off.  It was hard work getting back to "normal" but the way I feel now makes it so worth it.  I highly recommend the iPhone app, MyFitnessPal, which is a free app for calorie counting (which was necessary near the end) and so easy to use!

My body now looks exactly like it did before having a baby with the exception of two things: my c-section scar (which is still slightly numb on one side) and my deflated boobs.  Breastfeeding advocates say that it is a myth that breastfeeding ruins your boobs... well maybe for some lucky women but not everyone!  Breastfeeding (even for only four months) completely ruined my boobs.  I was a 34B before getting pregnant, went up to a 34C/36B while breastfeeding, and now I am a 34A.  They are a sad, sad sight.  sigh...

My hair started falling out like crazy when I stopped breastfeeding two months ago... and it's still falling out!  My hair has never been this thin in my life.  The thinner hair is actually kind of nice if it would only stop falling out!  I am so sick of my hair being everywhere... on me, all over the house, on the baby, on the dog, clogging the vacuum and the drains, ughh!  I have been shedding worse than Dulce for the past two months and I can't wait for it to stop.

So many changes happen to your body while you are pregnant and just as many changes happen after giving birth.  We definitely want more children and plan on having them close together (like getting-pregnant-again-soon close) but the thought of going through everything all over again is honestly not very appealing.  If only the guy could do it all the second time around!

"Isn't it funny how day by day nothing changes,
but when you look back, everything is different..."
~C.S. Lewis