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. :)