Monday, December 28, 2009

Holiday Traditions

This was Sweet Pea's first Christmas. We got her a set of blocks and she got to taste a Christmas cookie. Her stocking wasn't finished in time for Christmas, but she didn't seem to mind. Now I am thinking about future holidays and imagining what traditions we will continue from our own childhoods and what we might decide to start new with our children. I definitely want to include some outdoor activities as part of our winter plans, and like the thought of decorating the tree and cooking together. What are your favorite family holiday traditions?

Here is a photo of Average and Sweet Pea at the ski lodge a few weeks ago.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Saga of the Worst Afternoon Ever

I am recovering from a bad cold that is possibly a flu. Yesterday and the day before all I felt up to doing was sitting on the couch and folding a little laundry. Today, thinking that some fresh air would be good for me, and feeling energetic enough to try, I take a walk around the neighborhood with Sweet Pea in the stroller and Glen on his leash. We have been working on the command "heel" and he is actually doing OK, so I walk for more than 30 minutes, even though it is quite cold. Sweet Pea is bundled up in her wool pants, sweatshirt and down jacket, and two blankets. She falls asleep in the stroller on the way home. We arrive home, tired and hungry and needing a tissue, to discover that I have locked the door to the house and neglected to bring a key. Well, I usually forget to lock the sliding glass door in the back, so we'll just try that. Locked. My phone has a blinking red light in the shape of a battery so I'm praying that there's enough juice left to make one call, and speed dial Average. Luckily, he answers right away and drove a car to work today so he will be able to get home fairly quickly and let me in. Phew. My phone turns off two seconds after I hang up. We wait a while in the back yard, play fetch with Glen, pick up some more of the garbage that he had strewn around a week or so ago, and Average arrives, lets us in, and drives back to work. Lunch is uneventful. Next, I decide that I really need to clean the floors because we are having company tonight and hosting Christmas for my family in just two days. I know this will be a challenge with my two little creatures around, so I go to my default plan for mommy-only activities: Sweet Pea in the pack n play, Glen back outside. This works for 20-30 minutes before one or both of them gets bored or impatient and becomes fussy and/or destructive. I get the house swept and mopped, and let Glen back inside after carefully wiping his muddy muddy paws. We take a nursing break with Sweet Pea on the couch. OK, now it's time to tackle the carpeted areas of the house: living room and bedrooms. I get out the vacuum, and Glen freaks out, barking and darting at it, trying to bite it. Sweet Pea also starts crying. I pick her up, and drag Glen to his crate to sit out the vacuuming. I vacuum each room with my baby in one arm and a serenade of barking in the background. This is not the way I prefer to clean, but Average is working every day until Christmas, and our evenings are full of events so now is the time. Things are starting to look pretty good but I know I still have a long way to go. Sweet Pea gives me some sleep signals, and I consider different options for putting her to sleep. I decide on wearing her while I try to continue to clean, and then remember that the ERGO is out in the car. Since she is fussy I know that leaving her inside while I go out will cause a furious bout of crying, so I hold her in my arms, head for the door, and grab some shoes. Glen sees, and gets right in front of the front door, not wanting to be left behind. Here is where I should have a) put his leash on him and taken him to the car with me; b) put him back into his crate until I returned; c) put him in the back yard for a few minutes. Any of these options would have been better than what I decide to do: try to squeeze past him without letting him out. Of course, he gets out. He walks to the car with me and hops in when I open the door. He doesn't get back out at my command, so I close him in, walk back to the house, drop off the ERGO, and then walk back to get him. When I open the car door again, he jumps out and starts racing around the yard. I try calmly walking back to house, and whistle for him at the door. He comes to me, then darts away again, looking like he wants to play. I don't want to play. I walk in the house and leave the door open behind me, expecting him to follow within a minute. He doesn't. I go back outside and whistle for him while he completely ignores me and frolics around the neighbors yard, stopping occasionally to gobble something up from the ground (cat poop?). This has happened twice before, and both times he returned to the front door within 15 minutes. Twice, I step outside again and whistle and call for him, to no avail. But that's OK, I can wait it out. No, I can't - I hear him barking, look out the window, and see a mail truck. Outside again in bare feet, Sweet Pea now securely strapped into the ERGO, I whistle and call Glen. The mail man thanks me as he drops a package off on our neighbor's doorstep. Glen circles close to me, then darts away again. I am calling him and whistling and he continues to act like this is a game, even though I have never ever played a chase game with him. He comes close, but not close enough for me to grab his collar (which is actually the lower part of the harness that he chewed up while we were gone last weekend, so it is loose). I head back inside and grab the leash, head collar, and some treats. The mail man drives off, and I decide to get serious. I follow as Glen trots into another neighbor's backyard. Ah ha! I might have him cornered! Nope, there is only fence on one side of this yard and Glen weaves back and forth between this yard and the one behind, sniffing everything in his path. I consider giving up again, but then he runs into another neighbor's yard, which I can see only has one opening and the rest is fenced. I follow after, whistling, showing him the treats, trying to convince him to come to me. He comes close, but hops away when I try to grab his collar. I realize that I'm going to really have to go for it the next chance I get. I station myself by the opening to the yard, and he passes by a few times before trying to dart through. I lunge for him, and feel the collar slip through my fingers as I fall to the ground, my foot sliding out of my shoe. Sweet Pea's head hits the ground too, although I'm doing everything I can to protect her body with mine. I hop back to my shoe on one foot. The other foot feels sore but I don't think much of it. Sweet Pea is sobbing as I pick grass and pine needles out of her hair, and I head back towards our house. Every swear word I know is running through my head, I am so mad at this dog, but I say only soothing words to Sweet Pea. Glen sees us leaving and runs up behind me to catch up. I put my hand down, and... easily grab his collar. I have to twist it around my finger to make it tight enough for him to not slip out, and he doesn't like being held this tightly but I know he can get away again if I don't. As we're about to cross the street back to our side, a UPS truck drives up and two guys jump down to take a package to a neighbor's house. Glen starts barking and lunging to chase after the delivery guys. I can't maintain my grip when he turns to chew my hand and his collar, and he once again slips away, this time leaving the collar in my hand. I yell out a SORRY! to the delivery men, and walk quickly back to my house, holding back tears. My crying begins as soon I get inside, just as Sweet Pea's starts to ebb. She seems confused by my sad face and strange noises, and just sits there with me for a few minutes. I think I might hear something at the door so I walk across the living room, and peek out but there is no sign of Glen. Heading back to the couch, I notice spots of blood all over the newly cleaned floor. Apparently I gouged it pretty badly when my foot slipped out of my shoe. I check it out in the bathroom, and see a big chunk of skin missing as I pick the dirt out, running my foot under water in the bathtub. After I've gotten all the blood off of the floor and rug and bandaged my foot, this story ends with a neighbor bringing Glen back (he ran into his house!). I know I'm supposed to welcome my dog back happily after something like this, so he thinks it's a good thing to come back to his owner, but it is so hard to be affectionate with him right now because I am so mad about hurting myself and my baby chasing after him and embarrassing myself in front of my neighbors and three delivery men. And remember my cold, and the cold weather, and the fact that we have a guest staying the night tonight. Ugh. Tomorrow has to be better, right? The worst thing might be that I can see that I brought most of this on myself: I forgot my keys, I didn't plan for the vacuum, I let Glen slip out when I opened the door, and I haven't fully trained him to come on command yet. Oh, so frustrating.

Tucson and Saguaro National Park

This post is to share some of my favorite photos from our recent trip to Tucson. It was different from any place I've ever been before, beautiful in a strange, dry way.




Monday, December 21, 2009

So, What IS a Serger Anyway?

A serger is a type of sewing machine that uses between two and four threads continuously, giving you a finished seam like the one you see on the inside of manufactured clothes. A regular sewing machine generally does a line of thread, always using two threads. Using a serger you will typically get a kind of a zig-zag appearance with thread on both sides and all the way around the edge of the fabric, but you can achieve a variety of types of stitches depending on the setting you choose. It is a very strong seam, and allows you to do just one pass through the machine per seam, avoiding multiple steps of folding and ironing, to get a finished edge that won't fray or unravel. Thanks to Ann for asking what a serger is!

Mine is a New Home MyLock 234D. Apparently it is made by Janome because that is what came up in Google Search when I typed that in. Unfortunately, I don't have the manual for it, but I do have the original receipt from when my grandmother bought it in the 90's! It seems similar to this Janome MyLock 204D Serger Overlock
at Amazon.

Here is an example of a serger seam, not perfect but OK:

And an example of a serger seam with something wrong with it. How do I fix this? I swear I have tried every single tension option on the machine. But isn't Sweet Pea's hand cute?

You can see I'm using my "cloth kleenex" as test fabric. It needed to be hemmed anyway and it doesn't matter to me if it's not pretty, as long as it doesn't unravel.

I used a friend's serger to do a set of napkins for myself about two years ago and they are still going strong. So, my first project on my own serger is napkins for friends and family. Since my last update I haven't made any more progress. We went out of town for a couple of days and have been very busy with holiday events and plans so I haven't had the chance to get any more napkins done. Tomorrow will be the day, hopefully. Cross your fingers for me because there are only a few more days until Chirstmas!

Lastly, just because I took a picture of it, here is all of the tangled thread I cut off the napkin fabrics after running them through the washer and dryer - always very important when you're making something that should be machine washable.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Serge It!

A few days ago I finally took the time to try to get the serger going. I've had it for maybe two months now, and this was the first time I attempted running a piece of fabric through it. Well, it took a couple of hours to get the threads all going the right directions through their assorted slots, the tensions correct, and the stitch I wanted chosen, but now I want to serge everything! Got a loose seam? Serge it! An holiday project? Serge it! A cut on your finger? Well, maybe not, but you get the idea.

I have one set of napkins done and about half of my cloth "kleenex" edged, and have lots more to do before Christmas comes, including making Sweet Pea a stocking. I can't believe I didn't think of that until just last weekend!

Update: 12:30 AM
Got my second set of napkins done, cut the black and white ones, and decided that black thread would look better than the white I had been using. I thought I was really smart and changed out the thread color by tying the new thread to the old and pulling it through. Now it is all in the right holes, woven through the right parts of the machine, but I just CAN NOT get the tension right. The loops are way too loose, sticking out beyond the edge of the fabric. I have tried increasing the tension for each thread, one at a time, changing the differential feed number (I don't even know what that means but it is a knob on the side of the machine), and nothing is helping. Time to go to sleep and try again tomorrow.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Diapering My Active 9-Month-Old

Sweet Pea is a very active baby right now, working hard at becoming a toddler. She wants to move move move all the time, unless she is very tired. She pulls herself up to standing maybe a hundred times a day right now. This incessant activity makes it difficult to change her diaper at times. I blow raspberries on her tummy, hand her toys (usually safe ones unless I am desperate - nail clippers are OK, right?), and talk to her nonstop to try to get her to remain laying on her back. But she is like an alligator and can flip right over in half a second. So, I end up changing her while she kneels, while she crawls, while she stands, or while I hold her pinned in my lap. All of this means that diapers that are easy to put on are a top priority for us right now. Are we switching to disposables? Of course not! My love for cloth continues unabated, and I am just using a particular type of cloth diaper more often than before. I have found myself relying on my BumGenius 3.0 and other pocket diapers mostly because they are one step to put on, and have elastic in all the right places to fit snugly even with a rushed dressing. You can see them front and center in the photo of my changing table. I also want to use my snapping fitted diapers more right now, and think that wool longies would be a great match for the current cold temperatures around here. Unfortunately, I only have 5 fitted diapers (3 Goodmamas, which are super adorable and soft) right now and one pair of wool longies so that only gets us through about a half a day. Now I'm trying to decide, is it worth the cost to buy more fitteds and longies, or more BumGenius or similar pocket or AIO, or should I just tough it out through the wrestling matches when I run out of those types and need to use prefolds and covers, which take two steps? Making me lean more towards buying the fitteds and longies is how absolutely ADORABLE they are (check the Goodmama site, or Bagshot Row Bamboo for holiday prints), and the fact that Sweet Pea is hitting a new size right now and her 9 mos. clothes are no longer fitting, 12 mos. fits great but I bet not for much longer so we will need some new pants for her soon anyway. Soooo, should I start doing some online shopping? I can also make some recycled wool longies from some wool sweaters that I have and save myself a bundle. I have made soakers before that came out OK, so I might give it a shot. What do you think?

Here is Sweet Pea, age3.5 months old, in a cashmere soaker that I made for her.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dresser Painting Project Update

The weather here has been extra cold over the last week, so my dresser painting project is on hold for now. I had been painting in the garage with a heater, but the heater can't get the temperature high enough for the paint to work well (55 plus) with our freezing temperatures right now. Overall, I have really enjoyed using the paint sprayer, even though I have had a few frustrating times. Like, when I realized that not enough paint was spraying out because the air hole into the canister was clogged, after nearly an hour of working on it. So far, I have put on three thin coats of primer and two thin coats of paint. The original stain color (shown here <-- )underneath is still showing through a little, even with all of that paint, so I have a few more coats to go, I think. The color comes through the most on the parts where I sanded all the way through the top finish, but didn't sand down to bare wood. It seems as if the stain is able to seep up through the paint in these areas, giving it a pink tinge. Hopefully I'll be able to get that covered up soon. I have also been able to paint our quilt stand (just two coats worked) and the frame of a bulletin board, so far.

The dresser drawers, primed but not painted.

My refreshed bulletin board, ready to go up on the wall above my sewing table.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Potty Time

I first learned of elimination communication from a New York Times article, back in 2005. This was well before I had even begun planning a pregnancy, but I found the concept fascinating. The basic idea is that you work with your baby's signals and daily rhythm and establish cues for him or her, and can begin using a potty for elimination, from birth onward. Some people completely avoid diapers with their babies, but more common is using a potty at the same time as using diapers. Diaper Free Baby has this explanation: "This practice is followed worldwide and is known as Elimination Communication, Natural Infant Hygiene, and Infant Potty Training. The process involves observing one's baby's signs and signals, providing cue sounds and elimination-place associations, and can be done with or without any diaper use." There seem to be many benefits to this practice, including health (less diaper rash), environmental (fewer diaper changes),  and connection to your baby. Natural Birth and Baby Care describes elimination communication as "a natural and wonderful way to respond to your baby's elimination needs." According to this site, it can be "deeply satisfying and helps build an intense bond with your infant."

We started putting our baby on the potty (the little green thing on the right side of the above photo) about three weeks ago. Right now Sweet Pea is consistently using the potty for pee whenever I offer it, which is usually two times a day, and we've caught two poos now too! I had always been drawn to this idea, but up until recently had felt like it was too daunting to try. Then I realized that Sweet Pea always pees right after waking so it felt easy to put her on the potty at those time, when I'd be changing her diaper anyway. I knew she was going after waking because I always change her diaper first thing in the morning because it is wet from overnight (haven't changed a diaper during the night since about 5 weeks old), and then it would always be wet again as soon as I checked it. I started checking earlier and earlier and realized she was going very quickly after I re-diapered her, i.e. very quickly after waking. A week or two ago I bought the BABYBJĂ–RN Little Potty. Before that I was sitting her sideways on the toilet, but she got too distracted by the toilet paper and grabbing the lid. Now she sits on her potty on the floor, facing the toilet, which I'm sitting on. I say psss psss pss, and am trying to remember to do the hand sign for toilet too. Sometimes she tries to crawl off and I hand her a catalog (notice J. Crew on the floor) to play with until I hear her go. If there's nothing after 2-3 minutes, I pick her up and diaper and dress her then. She's only NOT gone pee maybe 5 times total since we've started doing this. I am super happy because this saves me at least 1 diaper per day, and I feel like she likes it. I'd like to use the potty with her more and more, but don't expect her to be out of diapers for a quite a while.

To get started, some people spend a day or a weekend without a diaper, (or if your baby is in cloth you can just go without a cover), so that they get to know about how often the baby goes and can give the baby the cue when they catch them going. During this time, you can determine how often and at what times your child typically goes so that you'll be more likely to have success when you do offer the potty. This also helps the baby to recognize the sensation of eliminating so that they can exercise control with it, which is something that disposable-diapered infants may have more trouble with, initially. I didn't do the no-diaper thing, but we might try going cover-less this spring when the weather is warmer.

What do you think? Is this something you would try with your baby? Or if you have tried it, how did it go?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Growing Up

There was a part of me that felt that after Sweet Pea was born, I was going to be parenting a baby for the rest of my life. I just accepted the that idea that my life from now on was going to include wearing nursing bras, carrying a diaper bag everywhere, and waking up at night. I wouldn't go on rafting trips, mountain bike rides, or do anything else that a baby couldn't come along with me to do. How odd is that? Well, my baby is starting to get older. I can see glimpses of toddlerhood in our future. She is now pulling herself up, playing with toys, eating food, and interacting more than ever. I keep having the realization that, hey, she's going to keep changing and growing forever! This little baby phase is extremely short! Of course, I have heard that a million times, even said myself "they grow so fast!" But somehow I had to get to this age before I could really really see it myself.

Maybe this is why strangers are so compelled to come talk to me when I take Sweet Pea out. It's like, once you have a baby, you feel like you are forever, a "parent of a baby" and feel a kinship with other people with a baby. Also, she is extremely cute. Also, people are naturally drawn to babies. It's part of evolution, or so I've heard.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Baby/Puppy Relations Update

For about the first 6 weeks of owning a puppy, I felt exhausted at the end of each day, frustrated at my lack of skills at dog-training, and guilty for not having gotten more done. Well, Glen is over 5 months old now, we have had him for over two months, and life seems to be getting back to normal. I have time to do some cleaning and some relaxing with Sweet Pea nearly every day, I have time in the evenings for projects (update on the dresser painting to come soon!), and Glen is behaving well for the most part. Phew!

Just in the last 2 weeks we have gotten to the point where I totally trust him to be good with Sweet Pea, enough for me to leave the two of them on the floor and walk out of the room briefly. He still occasionally licks her face or mouths her feet, but much more gently than before, and for the most part he just lets her do anything without reacting. She has climbed over him, pulled his ears and tail, and taken his toys and food. He takes it all in stride, although he does seem grateful when I pick her up and give him back his toys. I am so glad that he seems to be becoming a dog who is good with children! It took quite a bit of work, but he has accepted her as above him in the pack order. Now we just need to work on cats... haha!

Sweet Pea definitely loves him, too, which is one reason we decided to get a dog in the first place. She has always gotten really excited whenever she sees a dog. Even now, she will squeal happily when he comes into the room if we haven't been with him for a while. She sneaks her food to him under the table, and pats him. It seems like 9 months old is too young for this behavior but I swear she does it!

Here are a few photos of our two babies together: