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Visiting Family in Central California

9 Dec

So here I am, writing from my broken laptop in California, watching reruns of Chopped and trying to love on all the cats like there’s no tomorrow. It feels just like every day I spent in my second trimester of pregnancy waiting for Jonathan to get out of boot camp. Not kidding. I spent the whole time trying to tune out the TV and gather my thoughts, and failing miserably, and as a result  just churning out rambling blog posts and run on sentences and trying to remember why I’m staring at a text box and… anyway. Allow me to share my visit to California thus far via Instagram! Cuz it’s really not gonna happen any other way. (And forgive me for the rambling. We’re watching Kid Snippets on YouTube now.)

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Tessa and I spent the morning yesterday lazing around the apartment with Jonathan, not getting packed till the very last minute. We barely made it to the airport in time, because what kind of adventure starts with timeliness and promptness and all that boringness? Not baby Tessa’s first adventure, that’s for sure!

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Tessa was completely enthralled by all of the people in the airport. If I suspected before that she is a freakishly, abnormally awesomely chill baby, I know it for a FACT after yesterdays travels. With 8+ hours of travels, Tessa did not cry ONCE! She flirted with everyone, got a trillion compliments on her pixie hat, and had every passenger on the planes going on and on about how cute and calm and wonderful she was. She was giggling and chattering and watching the world when she was awake (which gave me great company when I’d finished reading through the two books I’d brought) and she was sleeping snugly and soundly in her ring sling when she was conked out. It was the easiest thing on the planet! Tessa kept watching the passing clouds out the window, completely entranced. She gets so focused and calm when she’s encountering something new. She’s already such a smart baby. Have I mentioned how much I just love her!?!?

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My flight was about 40 minutes behind schedule. Which meant I left my dear friends (whom I’d never before met in person, haha) waiting at In and Out Burger for awhile. I first “met” Josh and Kristen when I was looking for breast milk donations for baby Tessa awhile back. Kristen provided Tessa’s early colostrum heavy milk and has become one of my favorite people. We like to tease each other about how we’re mutual blog / Facebook / Instagram stalkers. I am so blessed to know this lovely couple and Tessa is blessed not just with amazing nutrition, but with an amazing Auntie and Uncle in Southern California! I was so dang excited to meet these guys!! We spent so much time visiting we didn’t hit the road for Hanford till.. what? 8ish? I think?? (I stole some of these Instagram images off of Kristen’s page.. cuz I’m baaaad like that.)

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So when we finally hit the road, my mom was all like, “Waaah wah waaah, I have to pee!” So we started to pull over at the nearest exit (Lyons Ave in Valencia) and then we realized, hey! Dennis from Billy Hill and the Hillbillies at Disneyland usually plays with his bluegrass band The Grateful Dudes on Saturday nights at a pizzeria right off of Lyons, let’s see if they’re still playing! And lo and behold they were! We stuck around for an hour or so to listen to the band and catch up on old times, then when we hit the road for the Central Valley it was well past 10pm. See? Timeliness = BORING.

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After much coffee and soda and other unhealthy caffeine laden beverages, we finally made it home past 1am. Lots of visiting and settling in ensued and finally, around 3:30am, we headed to bed. Look at Tessa, all snug as a bug in her borrowed bassinet!

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This morning we headed to Marshalls so I could buy the Christmas gifts for family that I didn’t have room to pack in my bags. Jessica had fun trying out the ring sling with Tessa. Check out their matching penguin hats:

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My brother Jeremy and his lovely wife Angie visited from the coast to meet baby Tessa for the first time. Tessa LOVED them. It just kind of dawned on me today… she’s going to have an auntie and uncle that are going to spoil her rotten.

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We headed over to Grandma Ree and Steve’s house in Lemoore for a kind of impromptu family reunion. Look, here’s my brother, me and my sister as babies!

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Grandma Ree and Steve meeting baby Tessa for the first time!

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THEN! My Aunt Peggy stopped by and Tessa got to meet her Great Aunt. It’s funny to me that Tessa was an angel on the flight -didn’t fuss or cry ONCE – but once we got to visit with family she decided to go all teething infant on me and drool on everyone. She got a tiny bit of a fever today, and kept trying to bite everything (but mostly her overalls). But still, Tessa was being a super cutie, and loving on everyone with her perpetually alternating “oh!” and “wtf?!” faces.

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After the family get together, we all headed back to my old apartment (now my dads super secret lair) and spent some more time loving on Tessa. My mum sniped this shot of all three of us “kids” with the first grandbaby. I can’t wait till Tessa has some cousins to play with!

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Anyway, I’m going to head to bed now. SO. VERY. TIRED. It’s only been a day and a half and we’ve already had some fun little adventures. Sorry for the rambling nature of this post. I’m tired, I’m distracted, and I’m… I can’t even remember what I was going to say. Yeah, that’s my cue for bed time. Goodnight, ya’ll!

DIY Baby Pixie Hats from Old Sweaters

2 Dec

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It’s starting to get a bit nippy out here in the sunshine state, and baby Tessa is in need of hats, having outgrown her little infant beenies. But even when they fit it, I’ve discovered I don’t really like baby beenies. They are awkward, they slip off tiny heads, and I spend more time adjusting them and keeping them from slipping than they actually spend on her head keeping her baby ears warm.

I finally decided to make Tessa a couple of bonnet style hats that tie under the chin and completely cover her ears and cheeks to keep her warm on family outings. I was ruing the fact that I am still far too impatient to learn the art of crochet or knitting, and then the lightbulb went off. Just buy some old sweaters at the thrift store and turn them into pixie bonnets! Brilliant! I could even use the finished edges and hemlines of the sweaters for decorative trim! Woohoo!

So, as with every “original idea” I have, I ran online to find that… well, it’s already been done. Many times, in fact. *shakes fist at the internet heavens* So rather than reinvent the wheel, let me point you to a few good tutorials on turning an old sweater into a do it yourself baby pixie hat.

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Ella Bella blog has a great no sew tutorial on upcycling sweaters into pixie caps. The only warning I have with this method is that the fuzzier and looser knit the sweater is, the more likely it is that the “steam a seam” or “stitch witchery” won’t hold. Likewise, some knits don’t do as well and the no-sew method works better. (We’ve used BOTH sew and no-sew methods in making our pixie hats.) Also, this tutorial leaves raw edges on the bottom of the cap, which will cause your hat to unravel and not be machine washable. So do whatever works for you!

I Am Momma Hear Me Roar has a great tutorial that involves using bias tape to edge the hat so it is machine washable. I personally prefer not adding any accents to the hats, but this is definitely a good sturdy tutorial. If you’re looking for a long term keepsake hat, I’d recommend this method.

Sew Liberated also has a sewn pixie hat tutorial, this one from scratch in case you’re itching to use some fabric you had no idea what to do with up till now.

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For my pixie hats, I used the basic outline of Ella Bellas pattern, only I lengthened the points to various legnths to get more of an exaggerated tail and to change it up a bit (I also found that the 6 by 7 inch measurement was spot on for Tessa’s 3 month old head). Then I sewed the seams. For the neckline, I gave it an inward curve so it fit Tessa’s head more snugly. I also turned the raw corners in and hemmed them with very light interfacing so the hat won’t flap around on her when it’s tied, and so there’d be no loose edges for machine washing.

And voila! The husband and I cranked out 6 hats out of 3 different sweaters in about 1 hour on Thanksgiving. (Yes, we have odd date nights, I know.)

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Anyhoo, if you make one of these, post some pix and share! I think they’re crazy adorable!

10 Geeky Songs to Sing Your Baby To Sleep To

25 Nov

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I know I’ve been spamming my blog with “4 Things To…” and “Top 10 Ways…” and “30 Things I’d Like To..” lists, BUT!

1) I’ve got an unhealthy attachment to lists.

2) Lists help me gather my thoughts.

3) Lists remind me to stop talking. If I didn’t limit myself with “Top 10’s” I just wouldn’t stop typing. Ever.

And see what I there? I even listed my reasons for making lists. I’ve got a real problem, I know.

Anyway, when I was in the hospital with Tessa – just hours after having her – I held this newborn baby creature in my hands, watched her slowly blinking off to sleep and thought, “Quick! Sing her a lullabye! Be all maternal and junk!” And I kid you not, the first thing to pop into my head and pop out of my mouth was, “Link.. he come to town.. come to save the Princess Zelda!”

Now, I’ve since expanded to, ya know, normal songs. Things like, “Oh You Beautiful Doll” and “Dream A Little Dream Of Me” and other sweet songs slightly more in line with conventional parenting bedtime ballads. But I got to thinking. There are SO MANY songs out there that would transition perfectly for the living-with-parents nerd that has become a nerd-turned-parent cooing into a baby bassinet.

Besides. You gotta raise that child right. A baby without nerd cred is just, well, just another kid. That will probably grow up to like sports. *shudder* I kid, I kid!

But anyway, here’s my list of 10 Geeky Songs to Sings Your Baby To Sleep To. Let me know which geeky lullabies you would recommend. ^_^

1. Biblo Baggins by Leonard Nemoy

2. Legend of Zelda by System of a Down

3. Star Wars Song by Chatting Kids Space Camp

4. Momiji Song from Fruits Basket

5. Everybody to the Limit by Strong Bad

6. The Ultimate Showdown by Lemon Demon

7. Ballad of the Noob by Stone Falcon Productions

8. His Cheeseburger from Veggie Tales

9. The Galaxy Song from Monty Python

10. Guten Tag Hop Clop from The Producers

Four Harmful Things to Avoid With Disposable Diapers

25 Nov

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So I’m planning on visiting my family in California next month, and my mom is busy making preparations for Tessa and I to visit (poor hubby has to work). I was giving her a list of things to buy so I don’t have to pack as much, and when telling her which diapers to get, I thought – hey! Blog post! Nothing like chattering into a void to help you formulate and better articulate your thoughts and research…

When it comes to diaper selection, I must first clarify that I consider myself to be only a semi-crunchy mom in that my concern is NOT primarily for the environment. (Sorry hippies.) I mean, I will, when given a feasible option, choose products that are nicer to the planet. I firmly believe that God has charged us to be good stewards of the Earth. But I also firmly believe that my little girl comes first. If “saving the planet” breaks the bank or strains my family financially, Earth can go whining to Michael Moore.

My one and only concern is my daughter and reducing her exposure to unnecessary chemicals and toxins.

Cloth diapers, which reign supreme in the crunchy mom circles, are not a realistic option for us. We don’t have a washer and dryer and only do laundry every other week when I have the car to run errands. Frequent trips to the Laundromat, with me dropping husband off at work to have the car (an hour drive there and back) would break our budget at this point. Additionally, our apartment complex has a strict “no hanging clothes out to dry on your balcony or patio” rule that they expect us to adhere to, or face a fine. (Really, it’s like Arcadia from X-Files around here.) And besides those facts, neither Jonathan nor I are overly interested in hand washing poo on our down time.

So with cloth diapers out, when approaching the world of disposable diapers, I’ve discovered that there are four major concerns about what will be placed on my baby’s skin every day for the next 3-5 years. And they are as follows:

Perfumes and “Mystery Ingredients”

Perfume fragrances are sometimes used in disposable diapers, under the assumption that parents would prefer a “spring rain” scented turd in lieu of simply changing a smelly diaper. The scents found in many diapers are strong and chemical-laden, harboring unnecessary irritants with potential to cause such health issues ranging from diaper rash to respiratory symptoms to allergies or worse.

As I talked about in a previous blog post, infants skin is unbelievably sensitive to product. Babies skin is ten times thinner than adult skin and doesn’t have a natural acid mantle yet, which in adults has a pH value of 5.5. The acid mantle protects the skin from irritants, allergens, pathogens, and from drying out. Babies do not have this protection. Additionally, their ratio of skin surface area to body volume is significantly larger than in adults, so their skin soaks up even minute amounts of chemicals, and it directly effects their fragile developing systems.

My biggest concern with perfumes in disposable diapers (and any product I put on my baby) is the “Mystery Ingredients” that get slipped in. As reported in the Huffington Post and elsewhere: “…due to the ‘trade secret’ status of fragrances, manufacturers are still not required by the FDA to disclose their ingredients on the label or in any other way.”

As a result, a manufacturer can legally bury dozens of potentially toxic chemicals under a “Fragrance” ingredient listing. (This is how Johnson & Johnson has gotten away throwing in downright toxic ingredients for so long.) Anything with “Fragrance” in it’s ingredient list will NOT be going on Tessa’s skin.

Chlorine Bleach and Dioxins

The process of chlorine bleaching diapers leaves tons of chemicals in the fibers of disposable diapers.  These chemical toxins are called “dioxins.” Based on animal studies, dioxins are believed to have the ability to cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer. The Environmental Protection Agency has identified dioxins as a “likely human carcinogen.” You can read all about dioxin from the World Health Organization here.

Dyes and Skin Irritants

Dyes are usually added to diapers to color them. (Duh.) This is really the lesser of all the disposable diaper evils, but still one that I choose to avoid.

The biggest downside to dyes is that they are known to cause skin and diaper rashes and have provoked allergic reactions in some babies. In a study published in Pediatrics in 2005, switching to dye-free diapers was shown to eliminate skin rashes which occurred in areas exposed to colored portions of diapers.

I’m not anti-dye (after all, the fabric on your babies onesie is likely dyed) but when it comes to prolonged exposure on my babies genitals, why not go with a dye-free version? I don’t care if a diaper is colorful and pretty, it’s just gonna get pooped on.

Phthalates and Harmful Chemicals

Phthalates are mainly plasticizers, added to products to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability and longevity. In some disposable diapers, phthalates may be used as part of the process to create a waterproof outer or inner liner. The problem with phthalates is that they are not tightly chemically-bonded to the plastic, and therefore they continuously release through leaching into liquids.

Phthalates have been a concern in the medical community for its use in bottled water for some time now due to potential toxic effects to endocrine and reproductive systems – to which infants are particularly vulnerable. (This is why phthalates are a main concern with baby bottles and why I will soon be switching to glass bottles for Tessa.)

Not all diapers use phthalates, but here’s the kicker: US law does not currently require disclosure of phthalates. The only way to know that diapers are phthalate-free is if the manufacturer declares that they are.

So the good news is, there ARE natural diapers out there that are free from these four poopy ingredients listed! (If there weren’t I’d be switching to cloth in a heartbeat.) There are a number of manufacturers who offer complete transparency in their diaper ingredients, though not many. You’d be surprised how many companies do NOT practice full disclosure with their ingredients – the biggest brands guilty of this are Huggies and Pampers.

I personally use Earth’s Best brand disposable diapers on Tessa, as it meets all my personal disposable diaper requirements and then some – it’s also environmentally friendly – and it does not break the bank. They are priced only slightly more than the toxic mystery ingredient leading brands. A really awesome source for side by side comparisons of natural disposable diaper brands is available over at Baby Lab in their Battle for the Best Disposable Diapers.

Do you use disposable diapers or cloth? And if so, which ones and why? ^_^

10 Things I Learned in 10 Weeks of Motherhood

22 Nov

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My beautiful baby Tessa turned 10 weeks old on Tuesday! I really, truly, have no idea how time has passed so quickly. How did time creep by so slowly when she was in my tummy and I was anxiously awaiting her… and now 10 weeks have passed in the blink of an eye? You need proof that time is relative? Get a baby in your arms and watch seconds melt into weeks.

Being a mommy is everything I’d dreamt it would be, and more. The only thing lacking from my visions of mommyhood?

I don’t feel like crap. I feel great.

Hearing the horror stories and warnings in pregnancy and mothering books had got me all prepped for sleepless nights and a dirty house and stress and loss of freedom and no more home cooked meals and no more showers and so on and so on.

Yes, I’ve been tired. Yes, I did get a few weeks of the baby blues (which I mostly took out on my husband… sorry honey!) And yes, I’ve gotten a little overwhelmed with mounting chores and housework, I’d be lying if I said we didn’t cave and order a pizza now and then and I do now shower like I’m in some kind of speed bathing competition in case the baby wakes. But it’s not “bad” or “hard”. At least not hard in the conventional sense.

As I reread the warnings and cautions found in basic “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” type books, I think I’m starting to see a couple of areas where some new mommies sometimes go “wrong”, in my opinion. As my husband likes to say, “Opinions are like a$$holes, everyone’s got one and they all stink.” So if you think I’m way off track, you might be right, who knows? I’m just speaking from my own experience. I know I’m a new mother, and I’m very new to all of this, but my 10 weeks with Tessa have made me realize what works best for me as a mom.

Maybe I have an amazing, easygoing, textbook perfect baby. Or maybe I’m on to something. Maybe it’s a little bit of both? (Probably.) But regardless, I’d like to share with any other mommies out there the ten things I’ve learned that has helped me in my first ten weeks as a mommy:

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This article needed an imagery break. So I present to you: The many faces of baby Tessa!

1. Don’t listen to the nay-sayers.

This is probably going to piss some people off when I say this, but I firmly believe that the widespread insistence that having children means you automatically inherit a messy house and a lack of home cooked meals is just an excuse for laziness. Now I understand that once a child (or two, or three, or four) are walking and getting into everything and being tiny little maniacs, order and cleanliness get hard. And I think “clean” clutter and mayhem in an environment can be HEALTHY and in some cases NECESSARY for a child. I plan on having my home being a delightful jumble of homeschool projects splattered all over the place.

But I think too many people propagate the myth that having children means there must therefore be a departure from domestic duties. In other words, too many women nowadays are using their children as an excuse for their slovenliness, in my opinion. And to excuse their messy house and chronic fast food meals, they ferociously stand by the ideal that children are to blame and “it will happen to you too”.

Maybe I’m just blessed to know a lot of awesome moms who can raise happy healthy kids AND cook and clean too (and teach their children to join in the housework!) or maybe I’m just stubborn, but I refused to believe this from the start. Entering motherhood with the attitude that I can be a mommy and maintain a house as part of my daily duties has helped enable me to do so. So when the going gets tough, I don’t just cop out. And I’ve spent every day since Tessa’s birth sticking by my duties as a stay at home housewife with an “I can do this” attitude.

Yeah, it’s somewhat harder to accomplish housework and social obligations and recreational time with a baby, and I’m sure it’ll be much harder when she’s toddling around and eventually running all over the place. To get chores done or run errands or even meet with friends I have to plan my day now, and work around her naps or carry her in the ring sling while I work and play. But maintaining the house and living my life while still giving Tessa my all as a mother is do-able. And if it’s ever not, this brings me to the second thing I’ve learned…

2. Take all the help you can get.

When I came home from the hospital, my in-laws were visiting from Washington State. When the dog needed walking, or a prescription for that sweet, sweet miracle of Tylenol-3 needed picking up or if mommy needed a nap, the in-laws would walk the dog, pick up the prescription or watch Tessa. My husband made a point (and still does) of taking care of as many dirty diapers and bottle feedings as he can when he’s home, to give me a break.

After the in-laws left, my parents came to visit, and the baby watching and chore helping happened all over again. As a result, I was one of the most well-rested, bright-eyed new mommies you’ve probably ever seen. I’d have had a spring in my step right out of the hospital if it weren’t for that damn perineal tear. Whenever people were amazed I was “so awake” or “out and about so early”, I thought I was just one tough cookie. A champ if you will.

Then the in-laws and parents went home and Jonathan’s paternity leave went away and he went back to work, and I realized, HOLY CRAP caring for an infant solo is no walk in the park! While I CAN take care of Tessa alone, it is far better for myself and by extension far better for her if I take all the help I can get.

So I’ve made a point of swallowing my pride (like a little kid trying to assert her independence, I still have a tendency to shout, “I can do all by self!” and try to take the reins on… well… everything) and now I ask for help when I need it. While I am lucky to have family and a husband that can and want to be involved in carrying the blessed and beautiful burden of raising a baby girl, I am convinced that if ever I can’t turn to them for help, I will – for my sake and for my daughters – find a network of people who can.

Most churches have mommy’s night out daycare nights. There are tons of friendly mom groups out and about in the community – from Crunchy Moms to Military Moms to Christian Moms – that are an amazing resource for babysitting co-ops, housework swapping or simply available as a shoulder to cry on. Not to mention lots of babysitters aren’t opposed to an extra few bucks for doing housework.

Just don’t be afraid to ask for a hand. I would not think being a mommy was such a walk in the park if I’d had to go through the baby blues alone.

3. Know what kind of a mother you want to be.

Know why you’re doing what you’re doing. Any business, corporation, heck even student clubs in elementary school campuses have a mission statement. It you know what kind of a mother you want to be, and what you expect to accomplish by your children, it will steer you in the right direction when the waters get choppy. I am convinced that clarity of vision and focus will get you through the darkest of hours.

I wrote a Mission Statement on Motherhood last Mothers Day, when Tessa was still just a wiggle in my belly. Jonathan and I were in Washington State visiting his parents before he left for Navy Boot Camp, and we were staying at a cabin in the gorgeous Olympic Peninsula. Surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of God’s creation (and the location of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight, haha) I spent a weekend just pondering what being a mother meant to me. And then I put it down in writing.

By charting out my course beforehand, I don’t feel so overwhelmed now. I don’t suffer the nagging doubt that I’ve heard so many fellow moms confess to: Doubt in their ability to be a good mom. Fears that their children won’t love them. Fears that they’ll “mess up” their upbringing or won’t be good enough.

When I look at my “Motherhood Mission Statement” I know that as long as I stay true to those principals, as long as I give my all in those areas and commit to staying true to my ideals, I will be the best mother that I can be. Even when I’ve fumbled in areas, I have no regrets over the past 10 weeks because I have kept my eye on my goals as a mother and have given Tessa my 110%.

I am convinced that more moms wouldn’t feel so lost or confused or doubtful if they simply determined beforehand what kind of mother they will daily strive to be.

4. Know that you are an imperfect person.

While we strive for perfection as mothers, the simple fact is, there are no perfect people on this planet. (Well, there was this one guy, once…)

Having a Motherhood Mission Statement is vital, but we must also realize that there is no such thing as a Supermom. We can’t do it all. And sometimes, even when we have the help of friends and family, it’s still not enough to feel “on top of it all”. And that’s okay. You are not perfect.

That doesn’t mean that you are valueless. You are loved by God. You are unique and you are indispensable to your child. But knowing that you aren’t perfect and that you can never be perfect gives you the freedom to try your best and accept grace when your best doesn’t seem to be enough.

The thing is, you WILL fall down as a parent. You WILL drop the ball and make some mistakes. But you just need to get back up and keep trying. Because your baby is worth it and your all is all that she needs.

Resting firmly in the knowledge of that fact makes my “failures” seem like learning curves and not an assault on my qualifications for motherhood. God gave me this child for a reason, and as long as I keep trying and keep moving forward (to quote that amazing Disney motto in Meet the Robinsons) I will do right by her when I give her back to God. So when I am too busy to water the plants or take the trash out, or so tired I change the litter box but put the lid on wrong so that the cats end up pooping all over the floor (sigh), it’s not a huge issue. I’ll plan better next time and I’ll do this next little thing I’ve learned…

5. Laugh at everything.

Laughter really is good medicine. When you’ve got a tiny little human on your hands, nothing is in your control anymore. Things are gonna get pooped on, peed on, spit up on.

So just laugh! Here are some benefits of laughter that I totally didn’t just steal from this website:

Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.

Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.

Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

So laugh! But even better than laughter…

6. Give everything to God.

Pray about every little thing. The good, the bad, the funky. I started praying for Tessa when she still in the womb (and before she was even conceived, truth be told) and I blogged earlier about Praying Through Your Pregnancy. While it’s important to cover your child in prayer, the benefits for you are impossible to exaggerate.

Can you think of any greater honor than to have an audience with the One who rules over ALL creation? We have been invited to talk with the one who put the stars in place. We are invited to seek counsel from the One who is truth and wisdom. We are invited to sit down with the One who knows all things.

And prayer makes a difference! Circumstances change when people pray. Diseases are sometimes healed, strength is imparted, guidance is given, hearts are softened, needs are met. I know that when I pray for others it helps them. But I also know that when I pray, I am changed. Into a better person, a better wife and a better mother to my little Tessa.

7. Don’t stop doing what makes you happy.

This was a BIG point that Jonathan and I heard a lot when we found out we were expecting. “You won’t be able to cosplay anymore once you have children.” “Eat up now while you can, you won’t be cooking anymore gourmet meals with a baby.” “Your poor cats, you won’t have time to play with them once Tessa is born.”

I will admit, I actually feared that these statements would be true. Like some inexplicable and irreversible virus in a zombie apocalypse flick, I feared that the infection of becoming a mother would render me hobby-less and passion-less for my personal pursuits, completely outside of my will. It was the thought of losing myself that scared me the most.

Because while my baby girl is my little baby world, I am not my child. If I find my identity in her and her alone, I am not living my life the way God intended. While my priorities have undoubtedly changed, I still think it is important – if not vital – to pursue you personal interests. From personal observation, the healthiest and most emotionally adjusted mothers I know take time to pursue interests, foster friendships, and make time for the things in their lives that bring them joy – both with and without their kids. So Jonathan and I are both making a point of taking time for the things we liked to do as a couple before we became three.

Again, it’s harder to, say, try out that new recipe in my New Orleans cookbook with a baby in tow, but it’s not impossible. It brings me joy, therefore I will make time for it and plan for it, even if it means hours of prep time between naps and feedings.

Just don’t lose yourself. Keep growing and cultivating who you are.

8. Don’t neglect your marriage.

Your baby needs two loving, devoted, madly and passionately in love parents. So flirt like a sexually frustrated pubescent teenager and indulge in some cheese-ball level romantics with your honey.

Find time for intimacy, in any and every way. After Tessa made her grand debut via vaginal birth, I couldn’t have The Sex for about 6 weeks post-partum, so Jonathan and I made a point of giving each other massages, making our own aromatherapy massage oil concoctions. (I don’t know what was sexier, playing mad scientist with tiny vials of smell pretties with my husband, or massages by the fireplace.)

While we aren’t alone anymore, we’re making a point of becoming closer than ever. We take our baby into the tub with us and have long talks about our hopes and dreams for her future. We watch Muppets Tonight reruns while hugging her between us. Just gazing down at a sleeping Tessa is one of the most romantic things we’ve ever done.

Keep the romance going. Your husband will be the one still by your side when your little baby is off making babies of her own someday.

9. Don’t neglect your friends.

In the same vein of people warning that we “won’t have time to pursue hobbies anymore”, we didn’t want to be the couple that neglected our friends once we had kids. We’re lucky because a combination of Jonathan working constantly and us being a country away from our friends and family has made it easy to neglect our friends out of necessity and not out of baby induced negligence. Haha!

But we have made a point to socialize with our little tot in tow. We attend community events from art walks, to book signings to anime conventions. We meet up with new friend at movie releases and church events.

No man is an island, and no family should be either. Get in the habit of fostering active friendships and maintaining relationships with loved ones. I know I sound like a broken record, but it’s good for you emotionally and what’s good for you, makes you a better mother. (Plus, you’ve got a really frikkin’ cute baby to show off!)

10. Take time for yourself.

Last but not least, take time for yourself. When the baby is sleeping, give yourself a foot soak. Read a book. Watch some anime. Write a blog post. Go on a hike. Take a nap. But don’t forget to take care of yourself.

Your baby needs a healthy mommy. So make sure you meet your own needs. When you are well-rested you can enjoy every minute with your baby that much more!

WELL! Those are the ten things I’ve learned these past ten weeks. I think these points really are the “secret formula” to healthy and happy parenting. I’m sure I’m overlooking some other vital points. So help me out. What have YOU learned as mother? Let me know, I’d love to share trade secrets! ^_^

Product Review of the MamaRoo, aka “Robot Mom”

18 Nov

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I’ve been meaning to write about this awesome super futuristic gizmo for some time now. It’s a cutting edge, state of the art, robotic baby swing created by 4moms…. Or as we like to call it here in the Freeman household, “Robot Mom”.

At around two weeks old, Tessa had her first encounter with gas, and she was convinced a demon was attempting to escape her innards. Her pitiful wails – more from fear than from pain it seemed – would only be alleviated if she was safe in momma’s arms, being rocked and cooed at. I would pace the floor, singing to her, soothing her, and feeling like an awesome super mom. She was especially soothed by being held tight in the ring sling, pressed up against my chest.

But then I’d have to shower. Or use the restroom. Or make dinner. Or do something best accomplished whilst not holding an infant clinging to you like an adorably gassy koala. So I’d set her down…. and the wails would start up again.

Now, a baby swing was filed in our B list of “things to get baby”. As long as she’s content in my arms, or the ring sling, or sleeping snugly in her bassinet, we saw no need for a swing. But after a couple of days with floor pacing – often going well into the night – I finally decided we needed to get a swing.

We were browsing the aisle at our local Babies R Us, eying the various swaying chairs and buggies that were all pretty much the same thing with only slight variations in color and size and yadda yadda yadda – when we suddenly saw it.

The MamaRoo. AKA, Robot Mom.

The MamaRoo, I imagine, is what would happen if Ikea and Apple products made a baby. It is a smooth – almost creepily smooth – gliding robotic swing that offers 5 motion patterns: Kangaroo, Car Ride, Tree Swing, Rock-A-Bye and Ocean Wave. The manufacturer basically studied how parents move while holding their baby, and created the MamaRoo to move in the same ways.

If you know me, you know I am fascinated and slightly fearful of advancing robotics. Remember when I freaked out for days over those Japanese dancing robots? First it’s dancing robots grooving to da music like so many fancy geishas, next it’s robotic baby swings violating the three laws of robotics and enslaving mankind. But I digress.

We ended up buying our potential robot overlord, even though it was way out of our price range, and even though we had a broken TV, Xbox, PS3 and camera lens to fix / replace. I’m sensing the dawn of a new age of never having new toys for ourselves. All our things are belong to Tessa now.

So! This chair! It reclines to any position along the curve underneath the seat, it takes up FAR LESS space than just about every other swing on the market, and it was laughably easy to assemble. Seriously. I decided to take a couple of pictures of Jon putting it together, and by the time I snapped a few, it was already done. Oh! and it plugs into the wall, so there’s no need to worry about batteries. With how often we run this thing, that’s a win.

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While there are nature sounds built in to the base (crickets, running water, waves, white noise, etc.) they all suck so I don’t really care for those. But what is awesome is that is has an MP3 dock with speakers! So I can play all the classic Baby Einstein music to my sweetly slumbering genius, just like I did when she was in the womb!

The only, only, ONLY downside to this swing is that is would be significantly more effective if it moved just a tad faster. Tessa is a bit of a motion junkie and the MamaRoo doesn’t move fast enough to soothe her out of a full on hissy fit. Of course, I have never owned any other swing, nor tried to soothe any other babies with a moving piece of plastic, so I’m not even really sure if it works like that. Besides, when she is upset, I firmly believe she needs her MOM, not a chair. So the chairs inability to soothe her when she’s frantic is really a moot point with me.

But I can say that I can put her in it when she’s already asleep and she’ll stay that way. And if she’s drowsy she’s happy to doze off with her robot mom. And if she’s calm and awake, she’ll be happy in the chair long enough for me to get some simple chores done.

It seems the older she gets, the more she is content with her Robot Mom. For instance, when we first got the chair I thought the mobile was really lame. It doesn’t move. It’s just some oval balls with funky designs. Big whoop. But now, Tessa LOVES those things. Seriously, they’re her first genuinely loved toys. We’ve actually taken to calling them, “Her friends.”

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She’ll stare at them, coo at them, talk to them, bust up laughing in squealing giggles as if they are just the most clever, entertaining companions on the planet. Jon and I will watch her hold actual 2 month old babbling conversations with these things, and more than once I’ve found myself genuinely asking, “What are they saying to her?!” Her imagination is already so active, and I’m immensely grateful for the stimulation those static cloth balls provide her.

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Another unexpected plus? My cats love the chair. As I type out this blog post, little miss Fae Fae is curled up it. The chair is LITERALLY never empty. Ever. I’ll barely pull Tessa out, and one of the cats will jump in as it’s still moving. I’ve found that the cats are partial to “Car Ride”, but aren’t overly fond of “Kangaroo”. Hm. The more you know.

So overall, would I recommend this chair to new moms? Abso-freaking-lutely. It’s awesome. I want one for myself. And I hate to say it, but after Tessa and any future kids are done with this chair, I’ll probably keep it as a bed for the cats. Yes. Crazy cat lady just got taken to a whole new level.

Hiking Along the Gulf Islands National Seashore

17 Nov

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When Jonathan and I had just met, the one event that launched us from “just friends” to “future mother / father of my baby” was a three day, 22 mile backpacking trip along the High Sierra Trail in the Sequoia National Forest in California. We went into those woods all prettied up, looking our best, full of energy and secretly crushing on one another, and came out rugged, dirty, exhausted and madly in love.

I love hiking. And backbacking. And camping. So so so much. So does my handsome husband. It’s one of our many “things” we share, made even more special by our earliest memories forged together – trudging mile after excruciating mile over rocks, rivers and meadows, savoring campfire coffee while laying out under breathtaking starry night skies, talking about God and grace and cosplay and fantasy novels and everything in between. Sparks flew as we chopped firewood, dried out socks, purified alpine spring waters to fill our canteens, tended to blisters and hoisted 80 pound packs in the towering trees so the bears couldn’t reach them. We fell in love with our hiking boots on.

So now that baby Tessa is here with us, and I’m finally feeling up to being active again, I’ve decided to hike on one new hiking trail (or two) every week. I am a sucker for National Parks, and since we’re an easy 30 minute drive from the Gulf Islands National Shoreline, I’m making it a fun challenge to hike as much of the 80 miles of Florida District trails as I can while we’re stationed here in Pensacola.

I so want my little girl growing up feeling at ease and a fondness for nature and the outdoors. I don’t want her to be a stranger to the beauty of God’s creation, from the macro to the micro. And I figure, she’s never too young to start, eh? Wrapped up snug and warm on my chest with our ring sling, my baby girl has seen more of the world than most two month olds! It’s a habit I don’t want to break.

I started this little challenge just four weeks ago, and have had the joy of hiking with my tiny baby girl on the Trench Trail, the Woodland Nature Trail, the Brackenridge Trail and the Fishing Trail. That’s 5.9 miles down! Can I get a w00t w00t?!

These trails are far different from the giant redwood, majestic sequoia, waterfall lined, mountain vista views I’m used to. While part of me longs for the crisp alpine air of the John Muir meadows, I must say I am quickly growing fond of these new sights and smells on my outdoor treks.

The air is humid and salty, with the sound of ocean waves mingling with the sounds of tropic insects and palms fronds swaying in the gentle breezes. Exotic seashell fragments and stark white sands line the trails underfoot. Spanish moss and tropic vines hang from oak and hickory trees overhead, and every once in a while you can catch glimpses of brightly colored lizards and vibrant green tree frogs in the foliage. Everything is so tropic here (it is a stones throw from the Caribbean, after all) that I often find myself exclaiming asinine geeky things like, “That tree with the mushrooms on it looks like something out of Ferngully!” or “The moon over the waters looks like Pirates of the Caribbean!” or, most often, “OMG, this looks just like Jurassic Park. I keep expecting a dilophosaurus to jump out and spit at me!”

This park is chock full of history and mystery – more than 80 percent of the park is submerged lands teeming with marine life. It’s America’s largest National Seashore and one of the oldest “discovered” portions of America.

Europeans first visited the northern Gulf of Mexico in the early 1500s. Spain, in 1559, established a settlement in Florida on Pensacola Bay, but the place was abandoned soon afterward. Spaniards revived the settlement in 1698, surrendered it to the French in 1719, regained it by treaty in 1722, ceded it to the English in 1763, and repossessed it by force in 1781. The park is cluttered with historic forts, buildings, relics, and historic points of interest. I mean, how could it not be?!

The Gulf Islands are vibrant and fascinating in a very energetic way… far from the serenity and absorbing nature of the Sequoias. They’re two different beasts, and each appeals to my sense of adventure. (Though in my heart of hearts, I am a mountain girl through and through.)

I’m excited for the many more miles to hike before the Navy whisks us away to who-knows-where. And I’ll keep posting our adventures here on my blog. But in the meantime, here are some snapshots of the trails we’ve trekked thus far:

The Woodland Nature Trail by Fort Barrancas:

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The Trench Trail by Fort Barrancas:

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The Brackenridge Trail by Naval Live Oaks:

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The Fishing Trail by Naval Live Oaks:

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