Oct 15, 2014

My Summer/Christmas Bucket List

Summer is coming to New Zealand and I feel so excited thinking about it. It's in the air.
Last Summer I was pregnant and I definitely didn't feel this way. But now I am unpregnant - I feel alive!

Since being pregnant I am constantly aware that I may or may not end up spending the better part of the next decade being deathly ill, marginally ill, or totally sleep-deprived-with-toddler-and-newborns. Suddenly this "I'm so tired because I have a baby" stage seems laughable because some people.... 2 babies! 3 babies! I'm perma-grateful for the now. For not being nauseous at this particular point in time. For only having 2 sleeping schedules to juggle... And it makes me want to run around and do ALL THE THINGS while I can.

So, here's a look at some of my Summer bucket list.

1. Finish making playfood for my daughter. I think I have a problem because she is 4 months old and not interested in anything she can't cut her gums on... BUT what if when she is turning 2 years old I am pregnant and bedridden and can't get her anything for her birthday? Uhhh? And she needs something made with love, high quality yet inexpensive and not limited by the small imaginations of mass-producers of children's toys? What then?????? Bet you didn't think about that. #stockpiling

This photo isn't mine but I've been making donuts so I did a google search for felt donuts and voila, you get the idea:
[from here]
In my donutty google travels I also came across this donut ring (like actual jewellery ring) which you should get for the baker in your life, and mini-donut playfood for doll houses. Now THAT is something I would have been into as a kid. I mean I may have been scared of dolls but at least I knew how to craft a jillion varieties of fimo pastries for their kitchen.

2. Cooking real food. 
I recently became obsessed with Chelsea Winter and her perfect-every-time recipes. I cooked pork belly and lamb shanks all in one week! For the new-mum on cooking hiatus that was a big deal. Calum even asked me what was happening. Anyway, next on my list are the ribs. They almost make me want to watch rugby they look so good and... rugged.

[Photo from chelseawinter.co.nz]

The other thing I crave on summer nights is this raw fish salad with coconut, chilli, lime, coriander that we had in Nantucket from the fanciest chef on the earth. Actually his were served in mini taco shells and it put the icecream bar to shame! Never thought I would say it but... I have to make raw fish this summer.

3. Build the shelves in our living room

Here's an amazing quality photo of our living room right now:

Gorgeous or what.
Those green strips of painter's tape will eventually become shelves and a tv unit. The plan was to make it all ourselves but after calculating all the prices for the wood (we want it to be proper timber, not MDF) I don't know if we'd be saving anything by DIYing - a tradie might be able to get better prices!

This should probably be in a blog post of its own but the idea is that everything will have a place - at last! Piles of DVDs, baskets of baby toys, spare cushions, etc will all have a proper home so they won't need to be heaped on the floor in every spare corner. With Ella starting to move around sometime soon it's pretty important to get that sussed out.

I have some fun colour ideas for it too. And to give you an idea of where this room is going, here's an adjacent wall...


Slowly but surely!

4. Sew Christmas decorations + make a wreath for our front door

{Image from here}
Oh I feel so jolly just looking at it! I don't know where you get those felt balls from tho. They're nicer than the pompoms you can buy. The only problem is I will crave gumballs every time I see it.

Also, I want to make Christmas decorations out of felt. I don't know how and I don't know what, but I want to.

5. Yarn-bomb some twigs and put in a vase.

{pic from here}

SO basically a smaller,  simpler version of this, in a vase masquerading as flowers that can't die.
I just like colours.

6. Finish up the guest room - paint and all
I upholstered this headboard the other day. Again, I should be writing a blog post on this topic alone but... I'm not so here it is!

I'm not totally convinced, to be honest. I'm not normally a fan of dark blue furniture in our house but I thought going with something more 'standard' like this (it's a bit darker in real life) would be the sensible, stain resistant choice.
Lesson learned - just do what you like! I now feel pretty ho-hum about the whole thing and may end up putting a different fabric on. Which isn't hard, just annoying and I don't want to waste fabric. It's hard to get the padding smooth as you have to pull it ridiculously tight, but I think I did an alright job at it.

Oh and in case it's not obvious - repaint the walls and tidy up the rest of the room are on the list too. Also, the previous owners thought having about 5 different styles of odd light fixtures around the room would be eclectic and cute. You can see the alien-cone-head one here and then on the other side is an ornate frilly haunted-house-style one. Aah, homeowners.

7. And last but not least - design all our house renovations for the next 10 years.
Like I said, when you have an urge and you are not presently pregnant... you have to do all the things. Here are my plans for our kitchen:

The inspiration struck so I'm rolling with it. You know you have struck gold when your not-caring-about-details husband looks at you with fire in his eyes and says "I love it!"

In case you were unaware, our present kitchen is untouched 70's glamour. And by glamour I mean dark-brown-everything and archways. Lots of archways. If you are unlucky, you may get a peek of it here.

8. Win the competition to win a room makeover from Freedom Furniture.
I entered and heck, there's no harm in hoping. Reach for the skies I say! I think I would choose our bedroom for sure. Let's just say it's full to the brim of baby gear and our 4-month-old sleeps in the same room so I never go in there except to make mess and/or sneak around Her Sleeping Highness in the dark. It could use some attention, is all I'm saying.

Oct 8, 2014

4 months

Motherhood is so full of cliches.
But they are cliches because they are over-used...
And they are over-used because everyone can relate...
And everyone can relate because they are true.

Example: I love her more every day.
No really. I do!

At 4 months Ella has developed quite a personality and her social interactions are at an all-time high.

When she wakes up in the morning and sees me watching her, her smiles are so huge and beaming, sometimes breaking into a joyful giggle, it feels like I just won lotto.

When she is sitting on Daddy's lap and keeps turning around just so she can GAZE at him with the huge baby blues and a hint of a smile on her lips. Without blinking. For aggggggeeesss.

When I catch him, through the kitchen window, showing her the garden and the world.

When we take a moment from our usual "She's growing so fast! She's so big!" to stop and suddenly realise, "She's so small."

When you leave the room and she follows you with her eyes, and is still waiting expectantly when you come pack.

The peals of laughter when you play any game with her. Especially something that involves suddenly coming closer to her, or nodding your head from side to side. Hilarious, apparently.

When she says "Mummm! Mummmm! Mummmeeeh!" when she is crying or just trying to get my attention. Her crying sound just recently changed to that at around 3.5 months. It makes me realise why almost every language in the world has a "M" word for mother.

When I showed her the new big painting we just bought for our lounge (update coming sometime soonish) and whispered "Isn't it beautiful?" and no kidding, she was absolutely transifixed by it and smiled ear to ear for minutes while she studied it.

Her budding musical abilities, (I like to think!). Sitting at the piano with Grandpa watching every key being played. Smiling like a sunbeam if we play a note on her muscial octopus. Starting to "sing" with her own voicebox at church.

How around 3-ish months she became more vocal - first making soft sound and looking surprised when they came out of her mouth, and then now making long loud "Ah-uh-ah-uh" sounds all the time and varying the pitch from high to low, sometimes painfully screechy, and looking quite pleased with herself. How she will stop "talking" to listen to you and let you speak, then do some more talking, and hold quite a nice little conversation.

How expressive she is. Showing every emotion in her little face, including the wobbly lip before crying.

How she clings on to my clothing when she is unsure of where she is or who the people around us are.

How she amazes air-hostesses with her shy smiles - smiling at them then hiding behind her hands, then peeking out to smile again.

How absolutely happy she is, most of the time.

How tiring 4.5 months of sleeping no more than 3-4 hours in a row can be.

How surprised I always feel to have energy to get through the day and get dressed in the morning!

The blessed relief of hitting the 4 month mark and finally, months after "all" the other babies, have some kind of routine where I can actually predict when her nap times will be.

Learning to let go and accept our feeding issues, while still trying to find an answer.

How horrible the world can appear when you watch the news, and you have a child.

How fierce a mother's love and protective instincts can be.

How much we adore her!

Oct 2, 2014

My best and secretest baby tips [Part 1]

Because we all know I'm an expert at babies and pregnancy....
(Not really but I think I can call myself a veteran of extreme pregnancy and baby-feeding issues. :) )

I have lots of preggo friends and I have lots of thoughts in my head about surviving things to do with babies, so I thought why not write it all down, and then next time I am pregnant I can refer back to it as well because you forget everything immediately!

1. Stretch Marks
I read a blog by a 3rd time mother of twins who had no stretch marks and swore by L'Occitaine Organic Shea Butter. I rubbed it on my belly every day from the first time I could do so without vomitting (I can't remember when exactly but was it the end of the second trimester? Something like that, which was about the same time I started showing more obviously). It's pure FAT so yes it's greasy and I got so tired of having clothes sticking to my oily belly - as if wearing clothes wasn't bad enough already! - BUT but but it seemed to work as I avoided stretch marks. My only extra tip would be to put it on any other stretching places too - hips, boobs, anywhere you think is growing.
It's not cheap so ask for it as a baby shower gift or whatever but I think it's worth every buck. Also, zero chemicals.

2. Pumping your boobs. {aka Do I need to buy a breast pump?}
No, but if you ever want to go out and get a babysitter and not have to teleport your boob back home for feedings then it's probably a good idea. The best one according to everyone, and the one that I bought, is the Medela Swing. It can be battery operated so you can pump in the car. I would know! We have had feeding issues so I had to hire the hospital double pump ($4000 to buy so... ). But we couldn't have known that in advance. If you suspect you will do a lot of pumping (though how can you know??) then buy the Medela double pump.

3. Bottles and Teats.
Oohhh here's where it gets tricky. We have spent hundreds trying different teats and bottles and so has everyone I know. The only one that everyone seems to have success with is Dr Browns. It's anti-colic, recommended by lactation consultants, and the same one they use in neonatal units in hospitals. We went straight for the large one as you don't want to have to buy more every time your baby increases their appetite. I would get a 3-pack of the large one, and you can buy spare teats too.

Oh and not that I'm into defamation but I don't recommend the Medela Calma Teats. I have not yet met ANYONE who can get their baby to feed using these teats. I'm sure it must work for some but yeah, stick to the tried and true Dr Browns. Just because one brand makes the best pumps, doesn't mean you should buy their teats :)

4. Nappy Bag
 I never bought a nappy bag, I just jam everything into my handbag, which is a Kelly Moore bag and already has compartments as it doubles as a camera bag. The only advantage I could see to the usual nappy bags are that they come with a change mat that you can fold out. So here's my solution that works fine:
{Fold-out plastic change mat with pockets for nappies + wipes}
{Kelly Moore hangbag/camera bag}
My only complaint is that the change mat isn't as small as I hoped, but it's still handy for changing a baby on someone's nice carpet, or in the boot of the car on a road trip, or anywhere that you really don't trust the germ count (read: public toilets).
You can buy packs of small disposable change mats from the supermarket, too.

5. The Darkness
Which room will your baby sleep in for daytime naps? Wherever it is, make it dark! We have only just started putting Ella in her own room for daytime sleeps and she is sleeping Soooooooo much better because it has blackout curtains. I'm sure there is some rule (there always is) about having daytime naps in a light place so the baby learns the difference between day and night. But after 4 months of shallow napping I really don't care. It works for us and hopefully it will work for you too.

6. Cots and things
I never really considered that we didn't even need a cot when our baby was born. There's no rush to buy one - baby will be in a bassinette or even a pram for quite a while most likely. And I won't go into the boring details of those, but you should get a pram-top attachment for your buggy. Handy for rocking an unsettled baby to sleep, too. Our pram lived in our bedroom the first few months as Ella looked way too tiny for her bassinette.

7. Car seats
Oh here's where it gets tricky. In New Zealand you need a different seat for 0-6 months than you do for 6 months +. So, hire the first seat (around $60 from Baby on the Move depending which brand you get), and then maybe buy the big carseat when your child is 6 months. Baby on the Move have a few branches and will help you choose the right one. The safety standards change so fast that it's not worth buying that carseat (unless you are planning to have another baby 2 months after your first, which happens but....)

8. Bedding
I have such a vivid memory of coming home from 5 days at hospital where midwives did everything, and looking at the bed I had made up in the bassinette before Ella was born, and bawling my eyes out because it was all wrong and I didn't know how to do it. Answer: Wrap baby in a muslin or swaddle (arms in or out depending on your baby. Ours is an arms-up girl) and place on a bottom sheet that is tucked down. If you're smart, put a small towel under the sheet! Poonamis coming your way. Then tuck woollen (not synthetic, they make baby sweaty and uncomfortable) blankets around them. For a brand new baby you could also put a wee hat on their sweet bald head so they don't get a chill.

There is no way around the fact that your carefullly made bedding will get pooped on frequently, sometimes several times a night. I don't have any great tips for that - keep spare muslins and cloths nearby, maybe?

Ok, that's enough for now, any questions?
I'm thinking the next Baby Tips posts should be on: Organising a Nursery, What to Pack in your nappy bag, What Babies Wear (important! Get alll the buttons and allll the nighties!) and.... let me know if there's anything else.

All the pregnant ladies! (All the pregnant ladies) All the pregnant ladies! (All the pregnant ladies) Put ya hands up!

Sep 13, 2014

A little update + the best trip ever in the most beautiful town in the most beautiful country

So we hung out here last weekend...
[Our view of Lake Wakatipu from the Crown Range. iPhone photos for the win!]
We had planned a ski trip with some family members from the South Island before Ella was even born, but actually getting there and surviving the 1.5 hour flight with our 3 month old baby was kind of amazing. After all the feeding issues we've been going through, it felt like the most needed holiday ever, and boy did it deliver.

[Golden hour by the lake in Wanaka]
I thought going on holiday with this little poppet would be stressful and not really feel like a holiday, but it did and everything was amazing. 

From the Spring skiing at Cardrona... (best learner slopes EVER and so user friendly + zero queues):
[Cardrona Ski field, looking out over the Remarkables mountain range with not another soul in sight]
...to the family time with just the 3 of us...
[Picnic by the lake in Wanaka]
 ...and the adventures that we went on by just following our noses and driving through fords and along back country roads...
Matukituki River
[My loves discovering the Matukituki river on an accidental adventure... Don't mind the cow!]
... everything was perfect. The skies were blue and sunny every day and the poppet was completely cool almost all the time. I mean she was just a happy little bundle of love and cuddles. Never mind that since we returned home she has been a bit crazy at times... (teething already??).

We also ate so much good good gooooood food and ate our last meal at Botswana Butchery which is nothing like what it sounds and only the fanciest fancy pants restaurant ever. Obviously we brought the standard down a little bit by sitting at the candlelit table mixing up bottles of milk for our little bean sprout who was hanging out in the carseat by our feet.

I thought writing this post as a reminder of the awesome time we had and what a sweet sweet blessing the trip was would be a good idea. I'm so thankful for this trip. I know it's a cliche but... it was good for the soul! The totally drained and emotionally exhausted mamma-soul, that is.

(If you are wondering how life is going in crazy town (aka breastfeeding-ville) as per my last post... it's going ok :) Noone can prepare you for the trauma of attempting to breastfeed a tongue-tied baby for 3 months. But without going into a whole nother topic filled with boobie-jargon, let's just say we are doing the best we can and I'm allowing myself to be ok with bottle feeding.)

Aug 20, 2014

Everything you never wanted to know about tongue ties and breastfeeding

I have literally been trying to type this post for 5 days.... wish me luck.

***Warning: this post contains lots of mummy-jargon. If you don't want to read about breastfeeding in great detail, turn back now!***

Everyone tells you that motherhood is hard. And it is hard - but in ways that you couldn't prepare for even if you knew what was coming.

Our sweet little bundle of happiness starting getting a little bit aggro whilst feeding when she was about a week and a half old. I felt like something was really wrong but I didn't have the jargon or experience to really know or explain what was happening. I googled "why is my baby crying during feeds" more times than I can count, and the possible reasons were so numerous it was overwhelming. I started painfully eliminating all the possible suspects - we bought reflux medication incase it was silent reflux (also known as GERD which stands for Gastrointestinal something something); I applied antifungal gel incase the white film on her tongue was the problem; burped her furiously; and ruled out over-supply and hyperactive letdown.

In a few short weeks I was swimming in a sea of scary terms and my brain was so, so tired of trouble shooting. I just wished someone would come and feed my baby for me. Like a wet-nurse from the olden days...

I sought help from Plunket, a breastfeeding clinic, midwife, and ran it past the pediatrician, but no-one really was any help. They suggested the things I had already ruled out and it just made me feel more hopeless.

Ella's screaming during feeds got worse and there was a point where I never saw her happy - from the moment I tried to feed her after waking, until she cried herself to sleep, she was unhappy. The only time she seemed herself was when she first woke up (before the feed) or when she was distracted by something else.

I KNEW this was not my baby. Her natural personality is one of the sweetest and most placid around. But she was only a few weeks old and people told me 'it's normal for them to get more fussy around this time'.

She started to be permanently overtired because she wouldn't fall asleep for naps. I NOW realise this was because she wasn't feeding properly. At the time however, I thought maybe she wasn't feeding properly because she was too tired. And I thought that meant I should be sleep-training her. Which I attempted for a while but it was horrible - try putting a hungry baby to bed and see what happens!

All this time I didn't realise know if she even WANTED to feed or not. I thought maybe she wasn't hungry.... but then it she started doing it on every. single. feed and I realised she must be hungry but something, something, SOMETHING was stopping her from feeding.

One day I took a video and it wasn't until then that it really hit me how bad it was. The video showed her latching on, trying to swallow, pulling off, screaming.... and screaming and screaming. It was horrible to watch and realise that this is what I'd been putting up with for, umm, 9 weeks!

The next day we splurged for a private lactation consultant. I'd been on the waiting list for a free Plunket appointment but the waits were several weeks.

Anyway, the consultant popped a finger in Ella's mouth as soon as she arrived, and immediately declared a tongue tie, a lip tie, and a high palate.
(Interestingly, tongue ties are a controversial topic in the medical realm with some doctor's calling it 'a bit of a fad' and saying it doesn't affect feeding... I joined a support group and let me tell you that the evidence from these women about the effect on feeding is overwhelming!)

From there we went in for laser surgery for Ella. It was horrible and we both felt pretty shaken after witnessing it. But... I was glad to have found a diagnosis and so relieved that I would soon be able to feed my child without all those issues. You know, because feeding your baby is a built-in instinct and it kills you to be unable to do it!
My happy girl on the morning of the surgery. Actually tho, she was really antsy that day and soiled 4 whole outfits before the surgery. It's almost like she knew what was coming. :s

Well, that was 12 days ago and I'm still struggling to get this girl fed.... she gets so frustrated and upset when she's trying to feed and now we have further issues thanks to a low milk supply (caused by the bad feeding because breastmilk is a supply-and-demand issue) and the fact that she is now accustomed to a bottle. Tongue-tied babies can drink easily from a bottle but not from a boob - bottle is easier and doesn't use the tongue as much.

What is the point of this post?
Well, no point yet... except that I'm praying that in a few days I'll be able to report back with some kind of success story, or that at least someone out there can relate and feel less alone?!

I currently spent my entire days pumping milk until I feel like my nipples are falling off, supplementing Ella's measly diet with stinky formula (literally it smells like poo. How??), and attempting to breastfeed her which can take 3 hours or more each time because.. well I don't know why. Either because the supply is low or because she can't suck properly. Hopefully the consultant can shed some light on that tomorrow...

I never would have guessed 3 months ago that breastfeeding could be so spirit-crushing. But it is really, really hard. I don't even know if I'm explaining it right because this issue has been my daily bread for 12 weeks now and I can't remember what 'normal people' know about it...

Motherhood is rough!

If you have a tongue tie success (or survival) story I'd love to hear.

P.S You have just witnessed the day my home-decor blog become about breastfeeding. Congrats