Sunday, November 16, 2014

Week 11: The First Birthday Party

WOOHOO! Caught up, baby. We're doing this thang, Meghan. :)

The topic for Week 11 is our kids' first birthday parties! 

After months of swearing to myself that I wasn't going to go overboard on a party that Reese isn't even going to appreciate or remember, I actually ended up putting a lot of time and effort into it. I made a lot of the things myself and ended up being soooo pleased with the way it turned out! I did stress a little more than I should have at times but I generally feel like I found a good balance. Go me!

First, the venue.  I did NOT want to have a party at my place. Our house is kind of small and our dogs are cray cray. Plus, I didn't want the added stress of cleaning up beforehand enough so I wouldn't feel judged. Instead, we opted for Round Table Pizza around the corner from our house.  No charge for the banquet room. Sold. 

Next, the invitations. My mom let me raid her craft room (she's got a TON of stuff) and I designed and made them myself! I didn't spend much money either. The most expensive part were the envelopes which ended up being about $10. That, and postage. Not too bad!

Here's a pic with the personal info cropped out. :)

I also made the smash cake. One box of cake mix, two cans of frosting, and sprinkles (all on sale) came to under $10. I made the "1" stencil out of card stock I had laying (lying?) around. 

I saved Reese's baby food jars and used them to add a twist to the cupcakes. Turns out baking in jars is not much different than baking in pans. I used 2 boxes of cake mix and about 6 cans of frosting. And then the cute fall sprinkles. I made 30 cupcakes and the total to make them all was less than $20. 

The decor was probably the most fun to make. I bought foam boards from the dollar tree store and a pack of metallic sharpies from Target and went to town. I did a little each night after Reese went to sleep while Justin and I watched true crime shows together.  I found a free template online to make polaroid style portraits. I modified the template with photo editing software and printed them out as 4x6s for only $.10 each! Then I cut the extra white part off so it was very close to true polaroid size. I used twine from the Dollar Tree Store and clothespins I'd bought with a coupon at Joann's for about $2. All 4 boards ended up costing less than $20 to make.  

The favors were also fun to make. I used some of the baby food jars I'd saved (repurposing FTW)! I bought a bag of mini Reese's (haha, get it? For Reese's birthday?) for $10). I bought 3 fabric squares for about $2 total (with a JoAnn's coupon). I used a free online template to print out the shape of the tags and designed/printed the message and picture of the tag myself. I used twine I bought at the Dollar Tree Store aaaaaand…. 

And a close up of the tag.

The most expensive part of the party was probably the balloons - 18 balloons for about $20. Ouch. But they were cute soo. Worth it. 

The pizza and drinks would have been the expensive part but my parents very graciously paid for it all. Very sweet and generous of them! I sooooo appreciated it!!

The night before the party, my friends Melissa and Alisha came over to help assemble the favors. I also roped them into making a paper bunting banner for the highchair and a little hat for Reese to wear - all with materials we had here. I LOVED the way it turned out. 

The day of the party, I couldn't have timed Reese's nap more perfectly. He woke up around 11am and the party was 12-2pm. He was mostly in a good mood the whole time. He spent the whole party getting passed around from one family member/friend to another. My little social butterfly. 

Here we are on the day of the party. Doesn't he look THRILLED?

Another one with his Auntie where he looks a little happier.

Another not looking too thrilled. This one with Aunt Missy. 

About 30 people total came! He got so many sweet gifts (that we opened at home since the party was already a little long for him). I know Reese had no idea what was going on with the party but I really appreciated everyone who came. It was really nice to see everyone. Reese is lucky to have so many people in his life who care about him. 

Here are a few more fun party pix!

And look who came! Our friend Grayson and family! :)

Week 10: The First Year Recap

I'm almost caught up on blogging! This calls for champagne (cuz everything calls for champagne, in my opinion).

The topic for Week 10 is to recap the first year of our babies' lives. As evident from my previous posts, Reese was a challenging newborn. Sleep didn't come easy and I was pretty much nursing around the clock. The first three months were rough for us all.

Adding to the chaos was the fact that while I was on maternity leave from work, I did not take any time off from law school. I literally took my Con Law I final 8 days after Reese was born. Yeah, not my best idea (but I'm not known for my good ideas). My mom drove me to school so she could stay with Reese while I took the test. I breastfed him in the parking lot right before the exam and again right after. It was an... interesting experience.

We moved when Reese was 10 weeks old to be closer to Justin's new job. This was also a HUGE stressor. Especially since our new place turned out to be not-so-great. It had a leaky roof that the landlord "fixed" on the six different occasions we complained about it. We ended up breaking our lease, demanding our deposit back, and moving AGAIN when Reese was 5 months old.

Poor Reese - in his first 6 months of life, he lived in 3 different houses! He is quite well traveled for his young age.

So the first few months were rough. BUTT! (__)__) After we moved into our current place, things got kind of awesome. In May, I graduated from law school. For 10 weeks (mid-May through August 1st) Reese was in daycare (which he loved!) while I studied for the bar. After that, nothing at all stood between me and my sweet boy.

I really struggled with breastfeeding at first. I loved the connection but I did not love that it controlled pretty much every aspect of my life - what I ate (no dairy for Mr. Reese), what I drank (limited caffeine and almost no alcohol), what I wore (need easy access to boobs at all times), when I slept, when I could leave the house (Mr. Starvenheimer insisted on eating round the clock and I wasn't all that comfortable nursing in public), and what I talked about (it's ALL I talked about). When Reese was 2 months old, I swore off breastfeeding for good. That lasted all of 2 full days. I started back up with a new appreciation for it but we also found a formula with which we could supplement for when I couldn't pump enough or when I just really wanted a break.  This took some of the pressure off of me which REALLY helped.  Now, at 12 months, I have almost completely weaned Reese and I although I am relieved to have my body back to myself, I am sooooo glad I stuck with nursing. I really did end up loving it - especially after life calmed down a bit for all of us - and I loved the bond we forged during that special time.

While I didn't particularly love the newborn stage, I absolutely ADORED what came after. When Reese began laughing and playing more and more, I was in heaven. It was magical to watch him learn new things and become his own little person. He grew and changed so much in such short periods of time. Before I knew it he was crawling. And standing. And climbing.

At 12 months he shows little interest in walking on his own but BOOKS it around crawling. He babbles constantly but has yet to say actual words.

Around 8 months, he started only getting up once a night. At a year old, he sleeps completely through the night about 4 times a week. We're talking 10-12 hours a night. I can't believe it! It's a dream come true for me.

While I always loved him - even in those dark, difficult, early days - I never imagined I could love him THIS much. I am amazed daily at how incredibly sweet and precious he is.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Week 9: Expectations and Surprises

Meghan and I are so behind that we decided the skip Week 8.  That means I only have to make up two weeks worth of missed blogs! WOOHOO! I think I can do it.

Week 9's challenge is to discuss our expectations of motherhood versus what played out in reality.

I'm not sure what I was expecting actually but I sure as heck wasn't expecting THIS. People tell you that having a newborn is hard work. Not that I thought I would breeze through it, but I figured, HEY! I work full time, attend classes at night, commute an hour each way to school, and use most of my vacation time to study. I can handle the work a baby requires, right?

I figured I would handle sleep deprivation like a pro. After all, I was a law student.

Oh, naive, pre-mommy Tamara. There is so much I wish I could warn you about. And yet, sadly, I cannot.

The sleep deprivation that comes with having a newborn is unmatchable. I could pull those all nighters for school like nobody's business. But staying up all night rocking, patting, walking, singing to, nursing, and doing whatever else it takes to get the baby to sleep??? And STAY asleep? Yeah, no. Not at all. There were nights that I got a combined total of 20 minutes of sleep. I just kept thinking, "I'll just wait him out. He has to sleep at some point, right?!" WRONG. Oh, so wrong.

That's another thing people tell you: that babies sleep a lot. No, no they don't. Not all of them anyway and definitely not mine.

People also love to say, "Sleep when the baby sleeps!" Wow! What a wonderful concept. I never would have been able to come up with that one on my own. But just one more question since you're an expert on everything: what if the baby doesn't sleep? Like, ever. Like, not for more than an hour if you're lucky and even then it's only when you're holding him. Oh Wise One, WHAT THEN, PRAYTELL?!?!

I'm aware I sound bitter. That's another thing I didn't expect about motherhood: the naggy, bitter, BITCH that now lives in my house, uses my toothbrush, and forces me to chain eat chocolate to cope my problems.

I cannot explain the physical and mental toll it takes on a person to endure severe, prolonged sleep deprivation. More than once, I was on the brink of mental collapse. I'm talking about handing off the baby to anyone stupid enough to take him from me so I could go and scream into a pillow in the other room and question every decision I'd ever made.

I also cannot explain the toll having a difficult baby took on my marriage. I'm still completely confident that Justin is the one for me. I believe we still have a good relationship and hopefully we will come through this stronger than before. But MAN. This baby has brought out personality traits, habits, and issues, I didn't know existed. In both of us. What once was a near perfect union with open communication, respect, and give and take has been… rocked, to put it mildly. I think we're through the worst of it but if I'm being honest, I still think we'd benefit from some marriage counseling. I have some resentments that I need to work through and I'm not sure I'm capable of doing it on my own.

Another thing I expected in motherhood was for the weight just to melt off of me as I was nursing. That's all I hear from people is how they lost all the baby weight and then some just by nursing! I was SOLD. Bond with my baby, give him the very best nutrition, AND lose weight while doing it?! Yes, please.

So.Naive. Needless to say, that's not what happened. As I sit here, over a year postpartum, I still have about 10 lbs of baby weight left. I am weaning currently so maybe my insatiable appetite will calm down a little. He's also started sleeping through the night which has helped me be more patient and eat less junk. Hopefully that helps, too.

And honestly, I look about like I should for how much effort I've put into losing weight. I eat crap a lot of the time, and I don't exercise near as much as I should. But the way those ladies made it sound… "It's like I couldn't eat ENOUGH calories!" Bitch, shut your pie hole.

So this entry is, once again, all over the place. I should start outlining before I start. :)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Week 7 - The Heart Melting Moments

Much of my writing about parenthood tends to center around the challenges and ignore a lot of the rewards. This week, Meghan came up with a topic that forces us to focus on the magic - we're writing about the heart-melting moments!

I really wish I'd written down more during Reese's first year so I'd have more from which to draw, but I didn't. So I'll have to draw from memory. 

I love reading to Reese. He sits in my lap and points at the pictures and occasionally babbles. He is a very good helper and turns the pages at just the right times. Sometimes he gets a little over zealous and starts turning them quickly so Mama starts pointing to the words hoping to distract him. Now that he's mobile, we have much less time together where he is just cuddling with me so I REALLY cherish these times. During our story time, I also make sure to sneak in lots of kisses on those meaty cheeks of his because they're just so kissable. 

I love when Reese first wakes up in the morning.  When we hear him cooing in his crib, his dad and I go in to see him and he's usually standing by the rail waiting for us. He gets the BIGGEST smile on his face and he looks sooooo sleepy. He's in such a good mood in the mornings! And he doesn't fight me too much when I smother him in kisses. 

When we're riding in the car, Reese likes to serenade me. He has such a beautiful voice and makes the cuuuuuutest noises! I just love hearing his babble. We have a mirror set up so we can see him and he can see us. Sometimes he gets so involved in his playing and looking out the window that it's like he forgets we're there. So I look back at him in the mirror and say, "Pssst!" and he looks at me like he hasn't seen me in months, smiles SO big, and giggles that sweet giggle. Heart melts. 

I LOVE LOVE LOVE when this boy claps. It's the cutest thing I've ever seen in my life! I'll sing, "If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands!" and Reese claps right along. He's very deliberate in his movements and keeps his hands together between claps. His hands are just so tiny and perfectly formed. Everything he does is just so precious!

BATH TIME! This is probably the thing I will miss the most about being a mom of an infant. From the day we brought him home from the hospital, bath time was always something enjoyable the 3 of us could do together. Reese LOVES his baths! In the first few months when we battled colic symptoms and sleep deprivation baths were our salvation since they were almost guaranteed to put him in a good mood. Now that he's a bit older and more interactive, he splashes and plays and giggles like nobody's business. He is BUSY in those baths! Sometimes we'll play a light game of tug of war over the wash cloth - that's probably his favorite thing to do. He will sit there and splash for hours if we'd let him. But since his skin is pretty sensitive, we limit bath time to around 10-15 minutes. 

ANYTHING to do with his feet. I kiss them constantly. I act like I'm smelling them and jump back, astounded at how bad they stink (Reese thinks this is extra hilarious). I take tons of pictures of them even though none do the feet any justice.  They are just so darn CUTE!

And a few miscellaneous things that melt my heart:
-The look on his face when he's examining a new object. 
-How excited he gets when he sees a banana. 
-His sweet laugh when I blow raspberries on his belly. 
-Watching him and his dad chase each other around the nursery. 

I could go on… and I might write some more later or edit this post. But I'll end now so my heart doesn't explode with love. :)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Week 6 - Our Animal Babies

I have always been a huge animal lover. Growing up, my family always had an array of cats and dogs and I absolutely loved it! Luckily, the man I fell in love with and eventually married shares my affinity for our four legged friends.

When we first met, Justin had a basset hound named Pynchon. Justin worshipped the ground Pynchy walked on and it didn't take me long to fall in love with the hound, too. He was the center of our world.

I worked full time and Justin and I were both in law school which meant Pynchy spent many hours alone at our apartment during the day. We adopted a cat, Henry, from the local animal shelter to keep him company. The two got along famously!

Then, a little down the line, a sweet stray cat in our apartment complex adopted US! She absolutely adored Pynchy and we got sick of watching her shiver outside in the cold. Justin, who swore we would take in no more animals, was leaving food out for her at night. We eventually made it official and now she is a happy, healthy indoor-only kitty.

When I was 8 weeks pregnant with Reese (and while Meghan was delivering Grayson!!!) Pynchy passed away suddenly. He woke up sick one morning and we rushed him to the vet. The news was not good: he had cancer that had spread to his organs. He was bleeding internally and had no chance at recovery. We were devastated. Not wanting to watch our precious baby boy suffer any more than he had to, we made the choice to say goodbye.

Our world was rocked in a major way. We literally built our entire lives around this dog that we loved soooo much. We put our queen bed in our living room since the house we lived in at the time had no downstairs bedrooms and Pynchy's short little legs couldn't do stairs. We took him on all of our vacations. Our house was full of pictures of him.

And now he was gone.

We mourned his loss for months. Eventually, we missed the pitter patter of basset feet and, wanting to fill this huge void Pynch had left in our lives, we looked into getting another hound. Justin found a breeder he liked. I talked him out of the whole thing. After all, we had a baby on the way. Our lives were going to be hectic enough. A few weeks later, Justin approached me again saying he really wanted another dog. In my infinite wisdom, I convinced him that we should get TWO dogs so that they could keep each other company while we were caught up with the baby. Eventually, we welcomed Walter and Greta into our family.

Seven weeks later, Reese was born. And the fun began.

I have to say, this has been the most hectic, challenging time of my life. Not only because of our little bundle of joy but also because of these two puppies. I severely underestimated the amount of work involved in raising a baby and training two puppies simultaneously. Or maybe I was just ignorant? Either way, it was a major mistake.

Several times over the past year, I have broken down with regret about getting these dogs. They are CUTE and soooooo sweet. But soooo much work. My mental health and my marriage has really suffered. But I just can't bring myself to part with them.

Before I had a baby, I always SWORE that I would love my pets just as much as I love my children. Boy, was I… stupid? Ignorant? I still adore my cats. I feel bad that they don't get as much attention as they used to but they are mostly self sufficient. And it's getting easier to give them more attention now that Reese is older.

But the dogs. OHHHH, the dogs. It's hard to love them. They are just gorgeous creatures. And they just don't know any better. They are just puppies after all. But sometimes, at the end of the day, after caring for Reese, trying to be there for my husband, trying not to go off the deep end with my own stuff, I just have nothing left to give them.

We've had a tough year - 3 family deaths, 2 moves, a bitter fight with a rapacious landlord, going down to one income, Justin's job change, my last year of law school, the bar, a colicky newborn, and severe, prolonged sleep deprivation. I keep telling myself that maybe things will get easier. They will get older and calm down a little more (it's the basset way after all). Maybe they will. But in the meantime, they don't get the love or patience they deserve.

They adore Reese and are so sweet and gentle with him. The other day, Reese grabbed Greta's ear and yanked it before I could stop him. She just licked his face a little and went about her business. I have a dream that my three babies grow up together and are best friends. Some days I think we are on our way to that, other times I think it's too lofty of a goal.

They spend their days inside - mostly hanging out in the living room. We have a huge yard but they prefer to be inside with us. At night, Justin and I have been letting them sleep in bed with us.

I think part of my struggle is that I didn't have a significant amount of time to bond with them before Reese got here. Justin and I were looking for a replacement for Pynchy and that was just dumb on our part.

But we have some good times. They get better. We are able to be more patient and spend more time with them. Moments like these get me through the harder times.

Week 5 - Baby Clothes!

I missed last week's blog post so I am doubling down this week to get caught up!

Topic: Baby Clothes 

Where do I start? In the beginning, we didn't have to worry much about clothes. Well before Reese was born, we were stocked up on clothes for him. Our awesome friends and family showered us with enough clothes for 3 babies. In addition to that, Justin and I would frequent baby stores or department stores with baby sections and buy up the cutest outfits. We could not resist anything even remotely baseball related! I thought we were set. 

And mostly we were. I had to buy a few things once he got here - like a few more pairs of footie pjs because they're just THAT amazing - but nothing too major. My awesome friend, Meghan, also generously gave us lots of her son's hand me downs which were so so soooo helpful and appreciated!

This was all awesome because BABY CLOTHES ARE FREAKIN EXPENSIVE! And they only can wear them for a few weeks/months tops before they grow, grow, grow (too quickly. Sigh).  It wasn't until Reese was in around 6-7 months old that I had to buy a significant amount of clothes for him.

And I gotta say, I felt a little cheated out of the "baby" clothes stage. Reese is a little on the large side for babies his age. He is average weight for his height but his height has always been off the charts. At 6 months, he fit comfortably in size 12 month old clothing and was quickly growing into size 18 months. I'd go around looking at gimmicky shirts that said things like "My first Easter" only to realize they didn't carry them in his no-longer-baby size. Oh well, there are worst things in the world, LOL. 

One thing about baby clothes - especially newborn baby clothes - is that some are just soooo darn CUTE but not that practical. Reese spit up constantly so it made no sense to EVER put him in anything remotely nice unless there was a chance he would end up in pictures. He also had (and still has) horribly sensitive skin so anything except light cotton was out of the question. 

Something that was DEFINITELY a waste to buy - BABY SHOES. Reese is over 11 months now, I've bought countless pairs of shoes, and we've never managed to keep any pair on his feet longer than 10 mins. They're purely ornamental anyway. For what does a baby need shoes? But that didn't stop me from buying them. 

Carter's was (and is!) by far my favorite brand. Their layette sets are just the best! A little pricey but so worth it. They fit true to size, are lightweight cotton, and are just soo adorable. In a market dominated by baby girl clothes, Carters is the only brand IMO that even comes close to bridging the gap. 

Reese's growth has leveled off quite a bit and at 11 months, he is still in size 18 month clothes, although they are getting a little tight. Now that we have emerged from the newborn/needy baby phase and it's easier to take field trips, I LOVE going to thrift stores! I seriously wish I'd started this sooner. I pay less than $1 for onesies, $3 for jeans and footie pjs, etc. and the brands are all the best - Carters, Old Navy, Jumping Bean, Osh Kosh, etc. I am amazed at what great quality I've found for a fraction of the cost! Most of the stuff looks barely used. I have always been a bit of a thrift store junkie (thank you, Grandma) so I know a lot of the good ones in the area. The hard part is maneuvering the stroller down those aisles and holding my own against the other bargain hunters. But I'm usually up for the challenge. :)

So that's it! I've been saving most of Reese's clothes in the hopes that if/when we have another baby, we will have another boy and then he'll be set with all the hardly used clothes of his big brother. Or maybe Meghan will have another boy before then and she can use them (no pressure Meghan)! :)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Week 4 - A Reese By Any Other Name

This week our topic challenge is to tell the story behind our babies' names. My little pumpkin is named Reese Raymond (last name omitted). I wish I had a fun story to share but, really, Justin and I agreed on the name pretty early - about 16 weeks into the pregnancy when we first found out we were having a boy. We both had an abundance of girl names we liked but very few boy names. I always assumed I would have girls (no idea why - maybe because my mom had two daughters so that's all I knew growing up). So we had to brainstorm a little.

We were driving to LA for a wedding and I threw Reese out there. I'm pretty sure it wasn't the first time we discussed that name but now that we knew it was a boy we were taking things more seriously and actually considered it.

We both loved it. We drove for awhile and discussed other names but kept coming back to Reese.  By the end of the drive, we'd settled on it.

I had a few requirements for names. First, I wanted to pick a name that is easily pronounced. Growing up, both my first and last names were horrifically butchered constantly. Not only did the mispronunciations sound awful but as a shy kid, it drew a lot of attention to me that I could have done without. I constantly had to correct people (or not correct them and just be called something that wasn't my name) or answer questions about my name story/history (mostly my last name - my first name isn't that uncommon).  I didn't want my kid to have that issue so I was determined to pick a name that is easily pronounced.

Reese. It sounds almost exactly how it's spelled. We considered the alternate spelling of Rhys instead WHICH I LOVE but we were too afraid he would be called "Rice." He is almost 11 months old and we haven't had any mispronunciations yet so I think we did a pretty good job. Woohoo!

While I didn't want a difficult name, my second requirement was that I didn't want a name that was too common either.

I struggled with how common of a name we picked. According to the Social Security Administration, Reese ranks 549th in the most common boy names. That's stomach-able. BUT! For girls, Reese is about the 128th most popular. Not horrible but I was hoping for something a bit more rare than that. Justin and I talked a lot about it and ultimately decided that we needed to pick a name WE liked and not worry so much about how common it is. And if we picked a name that absolutely no one else had, it would probably be bizarre and ugly anyway. So, Reese survived the second prong.

Finally, and this sort of goes with the second, the name needed to be a little unique and distinct since our last name is verrrry common.

I really like the way Reese sounds with our last name. It has just enough flavor to offset the commonality of it.

Reese's middle name, Raymond, was a lot more straightforward. Raymond is Justin's first name but his parents have never called him that or any variation of it. It's also Justin's dad's first name and he went by Ray. Justin's mom told me she'd like Raymond to be worked in the name somehow. So we settled on it as the middle name.

Just before Reese was born, I started backtracking and wanted to change the middle name to Justin so Reese would have the same initials as his dad and they would share the same middle name. Justin talked me out of it though. I'm glad he did because Ray passed away this last July and it meant the world to Justin that his dad knew that Reese was named after him.

Reese was actually due on Ray's birthday, November 2nd, which was another reason we liked Raymond for a middle name. He surprised us though and came two days early on Halloween! I loved this because Reese's Peanut Butter Cups have and probably always will be my favorite candy so it's like I got the ultimate Reese's treat that Halloween. And yes, we call him Peanut Butter Cup. :)

That's it! My little Reese Raymond.