Whale Watching

We live in Hawaii but since Cameron was born and Johnnie deployed, I really haven't gotten out to experience any of the "paradise" that people think this island is.  Tourists who come here usually only see the best parts.  Those who live here see the everyday reality of awful traffic, graffiti, homelessness, and houses crammed together with laundry hanging off the balconies.  Luckily all of that is surrounded by views of the mountains, glimpses of blue water, and a lot of rainbows.  Unfortunately it's far too easy to go days, weeks, or even months without touching foot in the sand or even relaxing outside in the sun!

Last week, Cameron and I joined friends for a Whale Watching cruise.  Floating off the coast of Waikiki, I was reminded of the beauty that surrounds me here even if I can't see it every day.  Sure, whales are great, but I really went on this cruise simply to get out of the house, to do something new, to spend time with friends, and to experience some of the paradise that this island has to offer.  It was a beautiful day and we had a really great time.

We went on the 2.5 hour Premier Whale Watch on the Star of Honolulu cruise line.  You can purchase tickets for this cruise with or without a buffet lunch which adds an additional $16.  We did eat the buffet lunch and in our opinion, it wasn't worth the $16.  It is a pricey cruise (like everything else here) but if you can prove you are military or Kama'aina (local) then you can get a 20% discount if you ask for it.

The Star of Honolulu offers a "Whale Guarantee" so that if no whales are spotted on your cruise, you get to cruise again for free until whales are sighted.

Posing with my friend and our babies (who are about 2 months apart) for the obligatory and way overpriced tourist photo:

The water was an insane shade of blue!

Downtown Honolulu and Diamond Head Crater:

There were 3 floors of tables and chairs with plenty of room for everyone to spread out.  The top deck (4th floor) had the largest open area with some lounge chairs but it was really windy up there!

The buffet lunch and activities were all on the 1st floor of the boat.  The activities were geared towards children and included lei making, hula dancing lessons, and an ukulele lesson.

Cameron really seemed to enjoy the sights and sounds and was eventually lulled to sleep by the rocking of the boat just in time for us to eat lunch.

So did we actually see whales?  Yes, but it was rather anticlimactic.  A few spouts, a few humps, and a few flukes (tails), all a good distance from the boat.  We didn't see anything close to the amazing photos that adorn the company's brochures but it was still neat to see whales nonetheless.  I only had a 24-105mm lens on my camera so the photos below are very cropped and pixelated but you get the idea.

"Nothing is better than the wind at your back, the
sun in front of you, and your friends beside you."
~Aaron Douglas Trimble

Family Friday: Jan 25

20 Weeks Old

Last Friday night, Cameron slept in her crib at night for the first time.  Up until then, she was sleeping in a bassinet on our bed.  To make the transition, I put her bassinet in the crib.  She slept in her bassinet in the crib for three nights before I removed the bassinet.  The first night without the bassinet, she spent a few minutes looking around before drifting off to sleep.  The transition was easier for her than I thought it would be.   It has been harder for me.  I'm actually having a hard time falling asleep now that I'm in our big bed alone.  I watch Cameron on the monitor a lot while I'm in bed at night and in the morning.

Without the bassinet, Cameron has more room to move around.  She manages to move quite a bit despite being swaddled!  The photo on the left below is just after she fell asleep.  The middle photo is when she woke in the morning - that's a big shift for still being swaddled.  She then spent 20 minutes quietly wiggling around until she got both arms free of the swaddle which is the photo on the right.

Since she can escape the swaddle (with a lot of effort), we tried no swaddling last night.  I put her in pajamas and a sleep sack.  When I swaddle her, she falls asleep within minutes.  Without the swaddle, she thrashed her arms and legs around for 15 minutes before she fell asleep.  She did still sleep over 11 hours unswaddled, BUT she woke up three times throughout the night which she never does when swaddled.  Each time she woke up, I gave her a pacifier and turned on Sleepy Sheep and she fell back asleep within a few minutes.  It took much longer for me to fall back asleep each time which really affected my energy level today.  I need some uninterrupted sleep tonight so she's back in the swaddle.  We'll continue to try "no swaddle" sleeping every other night until she gets used to it.

Cameron has learned to roll onto her side this week!  She seems quite proud of herself and thrilled that she can see things from a new angle :)

Her neck and head control has greatly improved so we tried sitting in the Bob stroller this week!  She loves that she can sit up and look around!  I put a Summer Infant Snuzzler in the stroller which adds just enough padding and support.  I am not jogging with her sitting up yet, we're only going for walks.


Cameron will touch and grab everything in her reach now.  Dulce has discovered that if she is close enough to Cameron, she'll get some lovin'.  This is a win-win situation because Dulce loves being touched and touching her is a fantastic sensory experience for Cameron!  There are many studies that say babies raised with pets (especially dogs) during their first year of life have a lower risk for colds, ear infections, asthma, and allergies.  I won't let Dulce lick Cameron but I'm fine with having the two of them close and touching, especially if it could possibly boost her chances of staying healthy.

This is a video of Cameron petting Dulce.  There is also some cooing and bubble spitting :)

They get along so well :)  It won't be long before Cameron passes Dulce up in weight and size!

It's been well over a year since I last got my hair cut.  It hadn't been this long for over a decade.  I always wondered what it would be like to have long hair again and honestly... I hate it!  It's healthier than it's ever been but I just don't have (nor do I care to spend) the time needed to style it.  It's heavy, it hangs, it gets in the way, and it ends up in a ponytail every single day.  To make it worse, a week after I stopped breastfeeding, my hair started falling out like crazy!  Luckily it's too thick to notice a difference.  After I wash my hair in the shower, there is so much hair in the drain that it looks like a drowned rat... I kid you not.  I swear I'm shedding worse than Dulce lately!

This week I finally got the haircut that I've been desperately wanting for months now.  I will never let it get this long again so I took some before and after photos as a keepsake.  I got over 4 inches cut off which is short enough to make it manageable and bouncy while still long enough to pull back.  My hair is still falling out but at least now with shorter hair, the rat in the shower is much smaller :)

"Infants always do what they can do and they should not
be expected to do what they are not ready for."
~Magda Gerber

Family Friday: Jan 18

19 Weeks Old

As I'm finishing this blog post tonight, Cameron is sleeping in her crib for the first time!!  She has been sleeping in her bassinet on our bed until now, mostly because Johnnie is gone and it's comforting for me to have her near.  However, she is quickly outgrowing her bassinet and she should be sleeping in her crib at night anyway so the transition has to start now.  She is used to sleeping in her bassinet on our bed so I simply put her bassinet in the crib for this first night.  It worked like a charm and she fell asleep just as quickly as she normally does.  Now I have to see, in the next few nights, if she'll fall asleep in the crib without the bassinet surrounding her.

We have a baby monitor mounted on the wall in her nursery that has infrared vision so that I can still watch her when it's dark in the room.  I can view and hear the monitor's video and audio output on my iPhone and on our iPad.  I can also move the camera on both of those things (thus the arrows on the photo below).

This week Cameron, Dulce, and I have started taking sunset walks every evening.  I wear Cameron in a sling so that she is sitting up and can look around.  She loves being able to see everything!  She has to actively engage her neck muscles to hold and move her head the entire time which I really think is contributing her awesome nightly slumber.  Each night that we walk, she sleeps for 12 hours straight!  Carrying her is also good exercise for me and Dulce loves getting out as well :)

Cameron has learned to blow spit bubbles this week.  She is fascinated with this new sound so she does it very often.  Her shirt gets wet even faster than before now that she's forcing the drool out!

This week Cameron has also developed a fascination with double-fisting the toys hanging from her playmat.  She is no longer satisfied playing with only one hand.  She needs things in both hands now and she needs everything to go in her mouth.  It's so fun to sit back and watch her play :)

Cameron is consistently putting weight on her legs this week.  She will do this when I hold her and also when she is playing in her Exersaucer.  Just look at those straight legs and that look of determination!

I made one of my Pinterest pinned projects this week!  I used these directions on Hobo Mama's blog to make some leg warmers for Cameron out of some adult knee socks.  Our local Target store currently has a great selection of colorful and cheap women's knee socks available so I picked some up to try this project on.  They were quick and easy to make and they are so fun to look at!

Dulce has discovered the comfort of the Boppy pillow this week.  If I leave it on the floor, she's on it.  I try to keep Cameron's things out of Dulce's reach as much as possible.  Dulce will bring me Cameron's toys, burp clothes, pacifiers, and anything else she can find or reach.  I'm very grateful that she doesn't chew any of it and it's sweet that she's being "helpful" but I still have to wash the things that have been in her mouth.

My favorite moment of the week happened while I was doing the dishes.  Luckily I had my iPhone in my pocket for a quick photo!  I should've taken video because Cameron was actually kicking her legs and bouncing them off of Dulce's back.  Dulce didn't mind in the least - I see that as proof that Dulce really loves her baby sister :)

“What infants need is the opportunity and time to take in and figure out the world around them.”
~Magda Gerber, RIE Founder

Family Friday: 4 Months Old

18 Weeks Old

Cameron had a 4 month wellness check-up on Tuesday, the day she turned 4 months old.  She now weighs 13lbs 1oz (a 7lb 4oz increase since birth) and is 23.2 inches long (a 5.2 inch increase since birth).  She got another round of vaccinations that were the same four that she got at her 2 month visit - one was a liquid done orally, the other three were shots in her thighs.  At two months, she had no reaction to the shots.  This time she developed a slight fever after getting the shots and was fussy for a couple days.

Cameron is always following action and sound with her eyes and by turning her head.  I can tell her vision has improved even more because she now watches Dulce and I from across the room.  She has great head control now and really enjoys sitting up so that she can see everything around her.  She still drools constantly!

As a teacher, child development fascinates me, especially language/communication and art.  It's so fun to see Cameron's language and communication skills developing!  She has her own little language going on, complete with multi-syllable "words" using most of the vowel sounds and many consonant sounds.  She has great inflection (variation of pitch) in her voice and also varies the volume with whispering, shouting, and everything in between.  She talks a lot!  I engage her in conversation often and other times she'll happily talk at Dulce or to herself.  I'm trying to incorporate as much Spanish as I know into her day in hopes that she'll be bilingual someday.  Johnnie and his family all speak Spanish so they'll be a big help in this aspect.  Also, many of Dulce's commands are in Spanish so she hears those words often.  I joke that Cameron's first word will be "dejalo" which is Dulce's command for "leave it" :)  Every night before bed, we read Buenas Noches, Luna (the Spanish version of Goodnight, Moon) and Cameron actually listens and stares at every page.

As of Wednesday, Cameron is now exclusively formula fed.  I exclusively breastfed her on demand until 3.5 months and then I started introducing formula.  She is doing fantastic on formula!  Her bottle skills have improved so much in the past 3 weeks that she's now on a medium-flow nipple and can drink from all the bottles that we have.  The Playtex VentAire Standard bottles still are our favorite.  Since we started formula, she has started sleeping longer at night.  She was sleeping 8 to 9 hours a night, but now she sleeps 10 to 11 hours straight.  Two nights ago, she actually slept 12 hours straight!  Is it the formula or is it because she's just gotten older?  Perhaps both.  Despite switching from breast milk to formula, her eating schedule hasn't changed.  She still eats every 4 hours with the final two feedings a little closer together.

Cameron is a great sleeper.  She takes three naps during the day: sleeping about 2 hours in the morning, about 1.5 hours in the early afternoon, and about 40 minutes in late afternoon.  She still gets fussy after 6pm until we start our evening routine.  At 7:15pm she gets a bath and dressed for bed, then she has a bottle followed by a short cuddle story time, and then she's in bed at 8:15 and falls right asleep.  I still swaddle Cameron for naps and for night.  She'll fight sleep if she's not swaddled and if she does fall asleep, she wakes herself up with her flailing arms.  When I swaddle her, she relaxes and falls asleep within minutes (literally)... it's as if she knows that swaddling means sleep time.  I credit a full belly and a tight, inescapable swaddle for her awesome sleeping.  She still sleeps in the bassinet on our bed.  I know I have to transition her to her crib soon but it's so comforting having her near me and hearing her move and breathe.  I think I'll aim to have her in her crib by 5 months.

Cameron's weekly photos are taken on the floor of her bedroom next to a big window.  I lay out a piece of fabric, holding it in place with hand weights, and then I stand on a bench so I can look down on her to take the photos.  I usually have to lock Dulce out of the bedroom or else she would be in every shot.  She loves being close to Cameron!

I have loved watching their relationship blossom over the past four months and I know it will only get better as time goes on :)

I am now 4 months post-partum and my body is almost back to normal.  Now that I'm no longer breastfeeding, my chest has returned to its original size which is awesome because I can wear all my old clothes and bras again!  However, weaning has caused my hormones to suddenly change and is causing a couple zits and hair loss - both of which should stop after hormone levels return to a normal balance.  My C-section scar is a healed red line but some parts of my belly around the scar are still slightly numb.  I'm pretty much at my pre-pregnancy weight but my muscle to fat ratio is different than before although I'm in the process of changing that!  I am halfway through a 60-day Beachbody Insanity challenge and though I haven't lost any weight, I have lost 1.5 inches off of my waist so far and I'm definitely rebuilding muscle all over my body.

Now that Cameron is on formula and I can drink unlimited caffeine again, I have an insane amount of energy!  I am working on cleaning and organizing our house, decorating with photographs and art, finishing crafty projects and working on new ones.  I even cooked an actual meal tonight that I can eat for the next few days :)  I will hopefully start blogging more often now and get caught up on posts about last year's travel adventures.  I have big ambitions this year for every aspect of my/our life!


Honest Thoughts on Breastfeeding

"There are three reasons for breast-feeding: the milk is always at the right
temperature; it comes in attractive containers; and the cat can't get it."
~Irena Chalmers

The day Cameron turned 15 weeks old, I gave her some formula for the first time.  I was overwhelmed with a guilty feeling as I watched her suck it down.  Cameron, on the the other hand, didn't even appear to notice the difference.

I never thought I would breastfeed my children.  Ever.  In fact, I was downright adamant that I never would, even after I got pregnant.  But a few months before Cameron was born, I suddenly decided that I wanted to at least try it.  I thought perhaps that breastfeeding her, even for a short while, would give her a better start to life.  Has it?  Breastfeeding versus formula feeding is quite the controversial subject.

When I was pregnant, I was addicted to the community forums on babycenter.com.  Breastfeeding is one of the most touchy subjects on there.  If someone wrote that they didn't want to breastfeed, they were verbally attacked.  It was vicious at times!  Not everyone can or wants to breastfeed for long or at all and their decision should be supported regardless.  Whether you breastfeed or formula feed, the only comments made should be "Good job! You're feeding your baby!"

I exclusively breastfed Cameron for 3.5 months and just this week have her completely on formula at 4 months.  I can only imagine the comments I would get on babycenter if I wrote this there!  I know that exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months and encouraged to continue up to two years.  There are many women who do six months or a year or two or more.  That's just not for me.  I was adamant about never doing it in the first place, remember?  So four months is a huge accomplishment for me.  I don't feel selfish for stopping at four months, I feel proud that I lasted this long!

Breastfeeding is not easy when you first start.  For me, the first two months were downright AWFUL.  Engorgement, soreness, leaking, cracked nipples, unbelievable sensitivity, forceful let-down, shooting pain that may or may not have been thrush, a torturous blocked duct, worry about not producing enough milk, worry about producing too much, worry about everything I ate and drank affecting my milk, having to only sleep on my back, having a very limited wardrobe, and having clothes ruined with breast milk stains (yes, it stains!).  I want to remember all of this because I feel stronger for having endured it.

I heard so often "if the latch is correct, it won't hurt"... that is total bull.  Nipples are a very sensitive part of your body (at least for most people) and babies have a very strong suck.  If you put a vacuum hose to any sensitive part of your body over and over, day after day, it's going bruise no matter how perfectly it attaches.  Once your nipples toughen up and desensitize, then it won't hurt.  For me that took two months and yes, a lactation consultant even said that Cameron's latch looked perfect.

There were many times I nursed Cameron with tears streaming down my face and my teeth clenched because of the pain.  I hated every minute of it.  Nipple shields helped some and a few times I had to give her pumped milk in a bottle because I felt I couldn't physically handle the pain for another feeding.

I was determined to breastfeed for at least two months so I kept going despite the pain.  I considered quitting as I approached the two month mark because honestly nothing about it was enjoyable, but then suddenly it completely stopped hurting.  I'm not kidding... it was an overnight miracle that I can't explain!  Nothing changed, it just no longer hurt.  Once this happened, every breastfeeding session became an easy, somewhat-enjoyable, bonding experience.  This also happened to coincide with me finally falling "in love" with Cameron... what a coincidence!  I'm sad that it took that long but I'm not surprised, as those first two months were so difficult on so many levels.

Even when breastfeeding finally became bearable, it still had its downsides.  Cameron's stomach and bottom responded to many things I ate so I had to adopt an extremely limited diet.   I couldn't have dairy of any kind, no tomatoes, no citrus, no spicy foods, no gas causing foods (a lot of veggies and beans), and of course little to no alcohol or caffeine.  I ate very bland food and a lot of Cheerios and oatmeal because it really helped boost my milk supply.  I still could only sleep on my back (I'm normally a stomach sleeper) and I still had a very limited (and mostly stained) wardrobe.

As Cameron started going longer between feedings, I would become so engorged that milk would literally shoot out of my nipples in a steady stream.  Yes, it really was as funny as you can imagine :)  Cameron couldn't keep up with it and would pull off, choking, only to then be sprayed in the face.  It was a no-win situation for the poor girl :(  Other times, especially after a shower, my nipples would drip like leaky faucets.  I went through multiple breast pads a day and could never be without a supportive bra for more than a few minutes.  When I started running again, I had to layer two extra tight sports bras just to keep things from painfully moving up and down.  Not fun.

Before I had the baby, I was excited by the popular idea that "you can let daddy take a night feeding with pumped milk in a bottle so that you can sleep."  Hahahaha!  Sure, there is a small percentage of women who can do that but there is a larger percentage who can't.  Some women need to pump or nurse on a regular schedule in order to keep their supply up.  Other women, like myself, need to pump or nurse on a regular schedule or else they have to deal with painful engorgement and a very wet shirt.

Since I had to wake up to pump anyway if I wasn't going to nurse, why not just nurse?  It took about the same amount of time and there was a lot less involved.  Therefore, lucky daddy got to sleep through the night.  But I feel it was fair enough since he did have to go to work everyday (after his paternal leave) and couldn't exactly take a nap to make up for lost sleep like I could.

Before I gave Cameron formula, I first had to find a bottle that she could use.  Her bottle skills were awful and she choked and gagged on even the slowest flowing nipples from bottles that were supposed to be most like the breast.  We currently have six different brands of bottles in our house.  After finding one that she could successfully drink pumped breast milk from (Playtex VentAire Standard), I started introducing formula.  I gave her 2 ounces once a day and gradually increased the frequency and amount over a period of two and a half weeks.  Today was the first day of her getting nothing but formula.  I have to mention that Cameron started sleeping longer at night when I started introducing formula... love that!

A part of me will miss breastfeeding.  There was great bonding and feeling of closeness (only after it stopped hurting).  It's also free and there is no preparation or clean-up involved... it doesn't get much easier than that!  Cameron grew and thrived for three and a half months solely on a substance that came from my own body.  It's absolutely incredible to think about and I know that it was beneficial for her.

However, a bigger part of me is rejoicing!  I feel such a sense of freedom now!  Cameron had my body for an entire year (from conception in January 2012 until now) and it's so relieving to have it back!  I'm drinking coffee daily now and the caffeine gives me a TON of energy which I seriously could've used months ago!  I can once again eat whatever I want which really excites me because there are many favorite foods that I have badly missed.  I can wear my normal bras, shirts, and sundresses again!  I can sleep on my stomach... oh how I've missed that!  I can exercise comfortably again without having to wear double extra tight sports bras.  As a normally small-chested woman, I hated having a large chest and I'm so glad to have things back to normal!

I was never comfortable nursing Cameron outside of our house so I feel much more mobile now that I can give her a bottle wherever we are.  She is doing fantastic on formula (we are using Enfamil Infant) and gets excited when she sees a bottle!  I know that I made the right decision for both her and I weaning her now at 4 months.

I am very glad that I did choose to breastfeed Cameron and I hope that the benefits of it reach far into her future. Now the question remains... will I breastfeed our future children?  I don't want to say no but I can't guarantee that I'll say yes.  Perhaps exclusively pumping would be a better option for me, though there would certainly be more work involved.  I don't feel that I'll be able make those decisions until I have another new baby in my arms.

"A newborn baby has only three demands.  They are warmth in the arms of its mother, food from her breasts, and security in the knowledge of her presence.  Breastfeeding satisfies all three."
~Grantly Dick-Read