Parenthood

Kaia is 10 months old!

July 17, 2017

Bittersweet is the best way to describe how I feel about the fact that my baby is nearly a toddler. The further away I get from the first moment I looked into her eyes, the more pronounced that feeling becomes. I realize, however, that the further I get from that time, the closer I get to the exciting things coming our way. Pretty soon we’ll have a child who can stand unsupported, who can walk, who can eat smoked turkey on Thanksgiving, who can pet the cat without having her parents say “gentle” over and over again. Well, okay, maybe the cat thing is pushing it a little.

Now that we are getting closer to her birthday, we have planned a cake smash and a playdate party with other babies/toddlers for late August, and I’m thinking about what kind of cake I’ll be making for our low-key family celebration on September 1st (chocolate cake with a peanut butter buttercream frosting sounds right up Kaia’s alley). I get all weepy just thinking about these things, so I try to keep my mind focused firmly on the present and how I can keep her from picking up the white fuzz from our rug and putting it in her mouth.

Kaia’s personality has really started to bloom as of late, and I feel like I learn more about her with every passing week. She is willful, determined, independent, brave, and social, and I love to watch her interacting with the world. I’m pretty sure that my own child is my spirit animal. I spend much of my time these days laughing because she is hilarious, and everything she does — from the way she furiously turns the pages of her books to the way she attempts to twist herself backward in shopping carts — endears her to me even more.

At 10 months, life is about keeping up with an increasingly active baby, preventing her from injuring herself on a nearly constant basis, finding every soft food imaginable to feed her, dealing with some pretty intense teething, and becoming acquainted with the new ways she expresses herself.

Kaia at a glance:

  • Has 5 teeth, with two or so more coming in
  • Can often be found clicking her tongue
  • Eating like a champ! Her favorite food these days is toast with peanut butter, though some honorable mentions include apple, banana and cheerios
  • Arches her back and tosses her head backwards when she is frustrated
  • Is cruising more and more
  • Seems to have a firm grasp on the word “no” and usually won’t even try to do something again once she has been told not to
  • Loves the books “The Pout-Pout Fish,” If You Take a Mouse to School” and “I Like Myself”
  • Holds her own cup and drinks from a straw
  • Can usually be cheered up with a game of peekaboo
  • Slaps her hands on everything, especially when she is eating
  • Is very social and loves to interact with other babies and adults
  • Frequently takes 1.5-2 hour naps
  • Throws herself forward onto the floor when she is upset
  • Fascinated by drawers and doors
  • Likes bubbles
  • Has a fondness for empty bottles
  • Bounces up and down when she is excited
  • Goes for gold with her gymnurstics routine. She climbs up my body, twists and turns, planks, and otherwise does everything but stay still while nursing

Life with a 10-month-old is hilarious, unpredictable, challenging, and a whole lot of fun. Some days are hard, some days are remarkably easy, but every day I get to spend with her is so precious to me. I’ll never be able to predict the ways in which things will change as the weeks pass, but I can say with certainty that it is bound to be interesting!

Parenthood

Home

July 7, 2017

When we first moved to Washington, we lived in a shiny high rise on 1st Avenue, a short walk from Pike Place Market. I loved the view of the water from our balcony, the contagious roar of the Seahawks fans you could heard from the stadium during a football game, and the smell of salty air. It was something we never wanted to give up, and so for the next several years we lived in shiny high rises with water views, never more than a mile from our previous location, and for most of it, in apartments that were approximately the size of a matchbox. We were just so happy to live in the center of Seattle, and never questioned that the city was where we belonged.

We swore each time we flew into SeaTac airport that nothing could beat knowing that just over Lake Washington, and just south of Lake Union, all of our belongings sat in a tiny apartment in a glistening building riiiight over there. From the ground, the sight of the skyline was equally comforting, and for me, driving into the crowded city was like taking a Xanax during a panic attack. Whether we were returning from a hike, or backpacking, or camping, or a daytrip to Whidbey Island, or even an afternoon shopping in Tukwila — Seattle was comforting. It was predictable and familiar, it was home.

Being home meant watching the sunset over the Olympics, using flashlights to transmit messages via morse code to random people in hotel rooms at the Westin, walking to work, walking around on weekends wearing inappropriate shoes to find a tucked away restaurant with mediocre food and really good drinks, or venturing out on a quiet weekday with a friend just to grab breakfast at a french restaurant downtown, and somehow finding ourselves on a hike miles and miles from the city at 3 PM. It meant knowing that if you take the exit for the convention center and make a left at the first light, you can beat all of the traffic on the ever-popular exit ramp for Seneca and get to where you’re going a little faster. It meant knowing that It’s damn near impossible to make a right onto Union from 2nd Avenue without being rear-ended or side-swiped by a bus or two. It meant knowing that avenues run north to south, and streets run east to west, and never being lost. Sometimes I really miss it. Sometimes I feel like I am grieving the loss of home.

We moved out to the suburbs in mid-May, and nowadays you can find us sipping scotch in the yard, strolling with the baby down the street before bedtime, and doing very suburban things like not spending 5+ minutes driving out of a parking garage when taking the car anywhere, driving a quarter of a mile on a Friday evening in under 1.5 hours, and becoming acquainted with things like block parties, neighborhood watches, and backyard chickens.

Like many urbanites, our decision to move was prompted by welcoming a baby into our family. There is more space for her to play here, less noise (which is to say it’s totally quiet), and it’s less of a hassle to do basically everything but get to work and go to the doctor. It was a change we wanted, a change we chose, and yet when we packed up and drove the miles to our new place, the change was jarring. Being a Seattleite was the very last thing that tied me to my old life. It was always there as my secure base whenever navigating the new terrain that is parenthood and a dramatic shift in my identity became overwhelming. I changed a lot when I became a mother, but where I lived stayed the same, and familiarity was essential to me.

Just recently I sat in our yard on a waterproof blanket, in the shade of a tree, with Kaia who was tearing apart leaves. Even though I didn’t have my bearings, and was just beginning to come to terms with the loss of my connection to my pre-baby life, I felt it deep in my soul, the understanding that this place is definitely my home. It’s where this version of myself belongs. I don’t know how to get to a single place without the use of Google Maps, I’m asleep before the sun sets, I don’t know shortcuts to get to where I want to go, I’m pretty sure that shining a flash light into someone’s house would end with police at my doorstep, and I don’t even know if a French restaurant exists in this town — but this home means so much more to me than familiarity, flashlight communication, and a breakfast of Chausson aux Pommes.

Now, being home means being in the place where my daughter will take her first steps. It’s where she will one day call me mama, where she’ll giggle and play, where we will return after trips to feel at peace. It’s where I’m going to send her off for her first day of kindergarten, and maybe even her last day of high school. It’s where she crawls over to me as I put away laundry, it’s where I play Ella Jenkins on repeat and hug her tight under the midday sun, it’s where we read together, and eat together, and laugh together. It is to her what Fair Lawn, Bethesda, Athens, and Seattle were and are to me: the place that holds the memories of my past and the promise of the future. I point out flowers, and pretty houses, and schools, and kids riding their bikes, and I tell her that this is where she is going to grow up, that this place is her home. And I know it is one of many she will come to know over her lifetime.

I’m lucky to have had Seattle to call my home in my mid-late 20s, and I know that I am luckier to have Bellevue as my home in my 30s, which will arguably be one of the most important, significant, magical decades of my life. I’m going to make many happy memories here, just like I did in Seattle. One day, this, too, will be my old life. Someday, when I’m no longer sitting on waterproof blankets under a tree at 2 PM with a child crawling all over me, when I hear the very last bell ring on Kaia’s very last day of school, and when I’ll hug her for the last time in what could very well be years, I’m going to say goodbye to this. I’m going to lose my last connection to my childrearing years, and the word home will once again be redefined.

It is through that realization that I find I am not saying goodbye to the old me, but rather, hello, to the new one. I didn’t consider that to truly move forward, it often means letting go completely from the life you once knew to be fully prepared to grasp on to the life you will come to know.

The truth is that I miss the old versions me, I miss Seattle, I miss the many places I have called home. But I’m excited to have the opportunity to embrace the new me, to find new places that will become home, to find new places to miss. What I have been internalizing as an end is really just a new beginning. I think it was just so hard for me to see it that way when becoming a parent truly does mean making sacrifices, and “to sacrifice” means “to surrender.” Like many new parents, I was so focused on what I was surrendering and so terrified of it all that I often lost sight of what I was gaining. And it’s true that there are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.

I think I am finally ready to move ahead and to embrace my new beginning. There is no better place to start as I am right now, right here, somewhere I’m so glad I get to call home.

Hello, hello — always hello — to the future.

Parenthood

Kaia is 9 months old!

June 20, 2017


I’ve been trying to deny the reality of this situation: our little newborn baby is just a few months away from toddlerhood. She is in her last single digit month, and there is something about it that is exceptionally bittersweet.  Of course, I’m excited to see what the world has in store for her in the future, but I’m sad that I’ll never get to see her just as she is right now ever again. I think I have to find a way to stop blinking because she is changing so fast, and growing up at lightning speed.

But, as always, I feel like we’re in a really good place 9 months in. We’re having a lot of fun. Alex and I are feeling more confident (the person who isn’t driving actually sits in the passengers seat now rather than in the backseat with Kaia), and Kaia is in this sweet spot where she is able to move herself around and crawl, but she can’t actually walk, bolt into the street, or scale the shelves of the refrigerator. We get all the perks of having a mobile baby, but none of the anxiety that comes along with having a child that can run away from you. I’m pretty sure this level of mobility is all I can handle without living in a state of full-blown panic! In the next few months I’m either going to need to be medicated, find a way to baby proof hardwood floors, buy her a padded suit, or have her live inside of a bubble.

Kaia has now been outside of my body for about as long as she was inside of it, and I can only vaguely remember life without her. I know that I had fun when I was childless, but having a child and watching her grow, and learn, and laugh, and smile — I’m having more fun these days than I think I ever did. I know without a doubt that I am happier. I’m certain that there is nothing better in life than the way she smiles when I look at her, how she crawls over to me just to sit on me, her little arms stretching up when I go to lift her, and how she looks at me when she is unsure of something or thinks something is fun.

These are the days. Life is good with our not-so-little 9 month old.

Kaia at a glance:

  • Fits into 9m and 12m clothes, depending on the brand.
  • Is pretty tall — around 30 inches! She’s definitely related to us.
  • Has 2 teeth with another two (possibly 3) on the way!
  • Expresses herself more and more. When she’s upset or frustrated, she’ll throw her head back in protest. When she is happy or excited, she’ll bounce up and down.
  • Often stands supported using one hand, or using her elbows while she is holding a toy.
  • Stood unsupported for a second or two.
  • Takes a step or two while holding on to furniture or our legs.
  • Can now stand in her Zipadee-Zip.
  • Imitates sounds.
  • Is becoming more and more interested in eating solid foods, but still doesn’t really like chunks of food if she is being spoon-fed.
  • Developed a pincher grasp and can now pick up lint from the floor and food from her high chair tray with no problem at all.
  • Is visibly excited when she sees food coming.
  • Explores things using one or two fingers.
  • Fascinated with the cat’s ears.
  • Thinks it’s hysterical when the dog jumps around in in circles.
  • Hates her carseat 75% of the time.
  • Loves to turn the pages of her board books.
  • Needs a toy to play with while being changed.
  • Really doesn’t enjoy having her face wiped.
  • Her favorite books are “Is Your Mama a Llama?” and anything by Todd Parr (she loves to look at the pictures).
  • Her favorite toys are stacking cups (which she mostly just chews on), and shape sorters.
  • Loves when I sing
  • Smiles at everyone who looks at her.
  • Responds to her name.

I’m not sure what the next month holds, and I can barely fathom how different she will be a few weeks from now, but I’m soaking her up in this moment, enjoying her little personality, and in awe at how far she has come.

Parenthood

Parenting, in GIFs

June 10, 2017

When Kaia simultaneously puked down my shirt and blew out a diaper

How I feel when Kaia laughs, squeals, and screeches

Weighing my response to a person who comments on how much Kaia weighs

How I feel when turning on Craig David makes Kaia stop crying

When Alex is getting Kaia from her crib in the morning

Realizing that I need to meet with a friend, nurse, put the baby down for a nap, and prepare a meal within a span of 2 hours

How I’ll always feel about my parenting skills

Trying to make it from 3PM-5PM on a particularly crazy day

Giving a new mom (solicited) parenting advice

My reaction when someone says breastfeeding is the magical postpartum weight loss solution

When Alex asks how long Kaia’s naps were

My reaction when a person without kids tries to give me parenting advice

When someone addresses me as “mom”

How I feel every time Kaia eats anything

When Kaia is getting her vaccinations

The story of my life as a nursing mom

When Kaia has been awake for 1.5 hours and we’re debating whether or not to go to lunch

How I feel whenever anyone tells me how beautiful/funny/smart Kaia is

When people will. not. stop. staring. when I’m breastfeeding in public

My reaction when another mom brags about how clean her house is, how much weight she lost, how her baby never cries, how she never orders in food, and how she is basically better than anyone at being a mom/wife/person

When I’m spending 20 minutes baby-free, in public, and no one knows I am a mom

When someone rings the doorbell during Kaia’s nap

After handling the diapers of a tiny human who eats solid food

When someone scares Kaia and makes her cry

Putting Kaia to sleep at night

When someone questions the decisions I make for my daughter

How I feel when I’m carrying the baby in one arm, holding three bags on the other, and I unlock and open a door

When a stranger tries to touch Kaia

In the suburbs, trying to fit in with other moms like

When the assembly instructions for baby gear make no sense whatsoever

How I feel when I’m holding Kaia

Walking through life as a mom like

How I feel after giving birth

Parenthood

Kaia is 8 months old!

May 19, 2017

I don’t quite understand how Kaia managed to age 8 months in the 45 minutes she has been living outside of my uterus. Wasn’t she just in there kicking my ribs and having dance parties at 2 AM? I’ll never know why I blink and all of the sudden find that she is two pounds heavier and two inches taller. But I do know that instead of being kicked in the ribs, I’m being accidentally head butted by a nursing infant, and I’m definitely, mercifully, asleep at 2 AM (at least for now).

Things have gotten both more peaceful and more chaotic now that Kaia is 8 months old. She is on the move, standing with support, and seemingly always on a mission to find ways to injure herself, or scare and/or amaze her parents. Now that she is not interested in staying still for any amount of time, I’m always playing safety net and killing her joy by preventing her from diving off the couch, crawling off the bed, or rolling off of her changing pad. I’m thisclose to covering the floor in pillows, putting the mattress on the floor, and never using a changing pad again out of fear for her life — you know, just typical new mom stuff.

Kaia is so much fun to be around. She is funny, and determined, and happy. I get so much joy out of watching her interact with the world and the people around her. I’m so proud of her, and watching her develop new skills is  awe-inspiring. Her laugh is the most wonderful sound, and her smile lights my life. She has only been with us for 8 months, but I feel like I have known her forever. Motherhood just keeps getting better. Harder in some ways, easier in other ways, and better, always.

How we’re doing

Things are going so well over here. We seem to be out of the terrible sleep trenches which has really made all the difference. Lately, parenting is really about finding balance between our needs and Kaia’s needs and less about sheer survival. I’m still not quite sure how to manage my time in such a way that I can make dinner, attempt to feed Kaia, and attempt to actually get in a few bites myself before we start the bedtime routine and put her to sleep. Alex and I have been eating after Kaia is in bed for the night (after 7 PM), and while this works pretty well for the sake of having a meal that isn’t interrupted by needing to entertain a baby, I’m starting to stress out about the idea of family dinners and trying to get her to eat what we are eating. The struggles we have these days are about practical, easy-to-solve matters that just seem like a much bigger deal than it probably is because we are so new at this. It’s a relief to have such superficial problems.

We’re finally starting to get into the groove of going places with Kaia without fear that we’re somehow going to destroy all of our lives. While we are still concerned about sticking to a general schedule, extending an awake time before nap because we’re not home or we absolutely need to do something at her usual nap time isn’t anything we stress over any more. Now that Kaia can sit up for long periods of time without wobbling or falling, we can go to restaurants and put her in those little highchairs (that used to give me so much anxiety), and little things like going out to eat really help us to feel like real people rather than just parents. We still have to work on actually sitting in the front of the car together while we are driving (one of us is always sitting in the back with Kaia just in case she starts to get really miserable) — but, ya know, baby steps.

Our favorites this month

  • STILL the Pack n Play (now used for safe supported-standing)
  • Stroller toys
  • High Chair
  • Sassy Wonder Wheel Activity Center (a high chair toy)
  • OlaSprout training spoon

How Kaia is doing

Kaia is now crawling and standing supported! One evening she was scooting around on her knees, and the very next morning she was making a beeline for the dog. About a week later she grabbed onto the couch and pulled herself to a stand which I was so not expecting for at least another few weeks, and I was so impressed. Since then she has attempted to stand without using her hands to hold onto anything, though she definitely doesn’t have the balance to accomplish this quite yet. She never gets frustrated, though, and keeps standing right back up and trying again.

She has also started teething! Her two bottom teeth have erupted which hasn’t seemed to make her too miserable. She hasn’t had a fever, been drooling, had disrupted sleep, or been incredibly fussy, so all seems to be going well. It looks like her top teeth might emerge pretty soon, and we’re hoping that goes just as smoothly. However, the biting while nursing has officially commenced, and it’s both hilarious and horrifying. It hurts (obviously), but she is just so cute, I can’t be too upset over it. I feel like I get bitten the most when I’m mistaking her cues that tell me she is done nursing for distraction, but hopefully I’ll figure it out before any blood is shed!

Stats

Still not sure about a weight or a length these days, but we imagine she is close to 17 lbs. She’s looking pretty big these days! She is still in 6-9 month clothes, and some 6-12 depending on the brand. She has an appt with her doctor in a couple weeks, so we’re interested to see how long she is and how much she weighs these days. Until then, I think I’ll go ahead and keep denying that she’s no longer a little tiny baby.

Likes

  • Sophie the giraffe teething ring
  • Stacking cups
  • Spending time outdoors
  • Watching the dog run around
  • Trying to touch Em and Aries
  • Occasionally sucking on a pacifier
  • Standing
  • Crawling
  • Little details on toys (the ears on Sophie the giraffe, the tiny spinners on her Sassy Wonder Wheel, etc)
  • Time for Bed (her current favorite bedtime book)

 

Dislikes

  • Staying in the same place for over a certain amount of time
  • Sitting still when she could just as easily be crawling
  • Being changed (especially without a toy)

Firsts

  • First time crawling
  • First time standing with support
  • First time in a restaurant high chair (it’s really not as scary as I imagined…)
  • First attempt at standing unsupported

Sleep

Before teething came into the picture Kaia was getting 8-10 hours of sleep before waking to nurse. On one occasion she slept from 7pm-6am before nursing, and then went back down until 8am! Now that teething is a thing she has been getting 6-8 hours before waking to nurse, and will usually go back down until 6am or 6:30 (and sometimes 7, which is pretty cool). She is a pretty great sleeper in my book, and has come SO FAR in this department. I can’t believe there was a time where she didn’t sleep without being held. That’s just so crazy to me now that she rolls right over after being put down and is out like a light. I’m so thankful for the sleep, but Alex and I both say that we miss holding her as much as we used to!

Eating/Drinking

Kaia has been eating more food, though is still getting the majority of her nutrition from breastmilk. We’re still doing mostly purees, and despite knowing infant CPR, I’m just not ready to give her finger foods without Alex around. She absolutely loves sweet potato, will tolerate applesauce if it has a little cinnamon in it, and seems to be a fan of blueberry. She loves avocado (and mashing the avocado everywhere), but is a little skeptical of banana. I’m looking forward to introducing mashed sweet potato to see what she thinks of the texture, and have been thinking about trying some other fruits like strawberries. Now that she is moving some of her finger individually, I’m curious to see what she would do if given some rice or ground beef on her tray.

Up until a week or so ago we were using a ZoliBOT straw cup for Kaia, though she only ever took a few sips, and very infrequently at that. The water was hard (even for Alex and me) to suck up through the straw, so I bought her a Tommee Tippee straw cup which she can actually drink from. She got about an oz on her first try which I was so impressed with, and I feel a little less like I’m completely failing in some area of motherhood that basically everyone else succeeds in.

I’m always trying to remember that this stage is experimental and about teaching and learning skills — not about eating and drinking like an adult or surviving on solid food and water. That helps to lower my anxiety about whether or not I am screwing her up for life a bit, though it’s hard sometimes. I do feel like I need to offer her more food and water (sometimes I skip a day or two depending on how interested she is, etc), but I’m really just trying to honor her needs and wants.

Parenthood is hard, guys.

Things I want to remember

  • How she screams with delight when Em and Aries come near her
  • How she laughs hysterically when Em does typical dog stuff like sit or lay down on command
  • How she lifts her arms when we’re about to pick her up
  • Her squeals when we pick her up
  • The way she smiles and laughs when Alex comes home from work
  • How she will crawl to Alex or me when she wants to be held by one of us
  • Her fondness for Alex’s watch and how she somehow manages to change settings and set alarms with the sporadic movement of her fingers
  • How she leans forward and cranes her neck to look at people/things when she is in her stroller

Life is getting interesting now that we’ve got an active, mobile baby on our hands. I can’t imagine what toddlerhood has in store for us, but for now, I’m just enjoying what little time I have left with this infant of ours. It’s hard to believe we’re close to double digits, and creeping ever closer to her first birthday. This month, especially, I’ve just wanted time to stand still.

Seattle

A Guide to Seattle

May 9, 2017

There is so much to eat, see, and do in this beautiful city of ours. Here are some of the places we’ve enjoyed during the four years we have called Seattle home. I’ll be working on adding more neighborhoods and recommendations to this list, but this is a good start!

*= places I’d definitely try to make it to if I were visiting Seattle
**= places I’d visit if I was in the area or during a certain season

 

Ballard

*Ballard Locks (a Seattle icon! cute park with walking trails and lovely gardens)
Ballard Farmers Market (every Sunday)
Cafe Besalu (delicious pastries)
Delancey (especially for the pizza)
Full Tilt Ice Cream (artisan ice cream)
**Golden Gardens (visit in the summer during sunset)
Li’l Woody’s (burgers)
Red Mill Burgers (a Seattle burger staple)
The Fat Hen (a cute brunch spot)
The Walrus and the Carpenter (an oyster bar)

Belltown/Downtown

*5 Point Cafe (one of Seattle’s best dive bars. open 24/7!)
Barolo Ristorante (an upscale Italian restaurant)
Bell Street Pier Rooftop Deck (located at Pier 66, and has beautiful views)
Black Bottle (gastropub)
Bookstore Bar and Café (a cute bar for happy hour)
Boston Street Baby Store (cute and unique baby clothes)
Café Fonté (good coffee and good food)
Central Library (a huge, beautiful library)
Cinerama (a landmark movie theater. come to see a movie, stay for the chocolate popcorn)
*Dahlia Bakery (delicious baked goods)
DeLaurenti (a specialty foods market, we visit mostly for the pastrami from the Carnegie Deli in NY)
Farestart (food for a great cause)
Freeway Park (not really a park, but interesting to walk through)
Macrina (bread and pastries)
Marination (hawaiian-korean cuisine)
Market House Meats (a mom and pop deli/sandwich shop. known for their rueben, pastrami dip, and corned beef sandwiches)
Matt’s in the Market (delicious food with a view of the market)
Michou (a deli)
Myrtle Edwards Park (walk along a paved path with beautiful views to the west)
*Olympic Sculpture Park (an outdoor sculpture museum)
*Pike Place Chowder (a seafood institution)
*Pike Place Market (see the fish throwers, visit shops, walk through Post Alley and grab lunch)
Le Caviste (french wine bar)
Le Panier (French bakery)
*Le Pichet (amazing French food)
Liave (beautiful gift shop)
Lola (great food, though the made-to-order doughnuts are the star)
**Lowell’s (if you’re already at Pike Place [and you’re not in the mood for french food] grab a bloody mary, a fresh tuna sandwich, and enjoy the view)
Mick’s Peppourri (if you’re going to buy pepper jelly, make it from this stand at Pike Place Market)
The Pink Door (italian food and burlesque)
Piroshky Piroshky (the best Piroshky in Seattle)
Seattle Art Museum (a quiet art museum)
Serious Pie (good pizza with inventive toppings)
*Sky View Observatory (observation deck on the 73rd floor of the Columbia Center, the best view in the city)
Tilikum Place Café (good food)
*Top Pot Doughnuts (huge, delicious doughnuts)
Watson Kennedy (home goods boutique)

 

Capitol Hill

Ada’s Technical Books & Cafe (part cafe, part math/science/engineering bookstore)
Bakery Nouveau (pastry heaven. the twice baked almond croissants are awesome)
Caffe Vita (coffee shop)
*Elliott Bay Book Company (a huge selection of books)
Frye Art Museum
Garage (billiards, bowling, and food)
General Porpoise (delicious doughnuts)
Glasswing Shop (a gorgeous boutique)
Honeyhole (great sandwiches)
Lark Restaurant (small plates)
Oddfellows Cafe + Bar (nice atmosphere, good food)
Poppy (a restaurant with thali-style food)
Sitka & Spruce (a restaurant serving small plates, beautiful industrial setting)
Skillet Diner (locally-sourced comfort food)
Totokaelo (a clothing boutique)
Volunteer Park (stop by the conservatory, and climb to the top of the water tower)
Volunteer Park Cafe (for lunch and/or a cookie after spending time at the park)

 

Fremont/Wallingford

Archie McPhee (a huge store of random oddities)
*Book Larder (cookbooks galore)
Fainting Goat Gelato (delicious gelato)
*Fremont Sunday Market (part farmers market, part flea market)
Fremont Troll (a Seattle icon)
Gas Works Park (a park located on the site of the former Seattle Gas Light Company. beautiful views of Seattle can be found here)
Molly Moon’s (ice cream and gelato)
Open Books (a bookstore for poetry)
*Paseo (amazing caribbean sandwiches)
Trophy Cupcakes (delicious cupcakes)
The Whale Wins (european and nw food in a beautiful setting)

 

Pioneer Square

Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour (a tour of subterranean Seattle and what existed before the city was rebuilt on top of itself)
Cow Chip Cookies (tasty treats)
Damn The Weather (a gastropub)
Fireworks (a cute gift shop)
Salumi (delicious sandwiches)
Smith Tower (an iconic building with a unique view of the city)
Tat’s Delicatessan (for a quick bite/philly cheesesteaks)
*The London Plane (part cafe, part specialty foods grocery, part floral workshop)
Waterfall Garden Park (a quiet pocket park, a hidden gem)

 

South Lake Union

Brave Horse Tavern (gourmet pub grub)
*Center for Wooden Boats (a maritime history museum of the PNW)
Lake Union Park (a small park with some green space and views over the lake . also home to the center for wooden boats and the MOHAI)
Meat & Bread (tasty sandwiches)
Museum of History and Industry (a history museum with a primary focus on Seattle and the Puget Sound area)
Now Make Me A Sandwich (a food truck with incredible sandwiches. the “thanksgetting” is awesome)
**Portage Bay Cafe (if you’re in the area, stop by this very busy cafe serving local, organic, sustainable and seasonal fare)

 

Queen Anne

Bhy Kracke Park (a queen anne hidden gem with a pretty view. much quieter than Kerry Park, but tricky to get to!)
**Dick’s Drive-In (basic and delicious burgers, a Seattle icon. if you’re at the Seattle Center, why not grab a bite?)
Canlis (a landmark fine dining restaurant)
*Kerry Park (for the postcard view of Seattle)
*Seattle Center (home of the Museum of Pop Culture, Chihuly Garden & Glass, Pacific Science Center, and the Space Needle (+ SkyCity restaurant)
Parsons Gardens (a small but beautiful park near Kerry Park)

 

U District

Burke Museum (a small natural history museum)
Henry Art Gallery (an art museum on the UW campus)
Suzzallo Library (a gorgeous hogwarts-eqsue library located on the UW campus)
UW Quad (to see the cherry blossoms in the spring)

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Getting around:
Seattle is a fairly walkable city. If your plan is to stay around downtown, South Lake Union, or even Pioneer Square for most of your visit, a car is not necessary. You can even take the Light Link Rail from the airport to Westake Station downtown. If you are up to explore other neighborhoods, you can also take the Light Link Rail to several of them including the International District, Pioneer Square, Capitol Hill, and the U District. If you prefer a little more flexibility but still don’t want to rent a car, we do have taxis, Uber and Lyft to help get you around.

There is a streetcar that can take you from the Westlake Hub in the retail core to Lake Union (where you can find the Center for Wooden Boats and the MOHAI) and back in just a few minutes. The walk from the Westlake Hub to the lake is only about a mile, but the streetcars can get you out of the rain which is always welcome. There is also a streetcar that connects Pioneer Square to Capitol Hill.

Of course, we have also have buses. Some of the lines are sketchy, some are super crowded (especially after 3 PM), but most are average and get you to where you need to go. The express buses are particularly awesome and can take you from Downtown to neighborhoods like Ballard with either no stops or just a few stops between your starting point and destination.

Lodging:
There are many hotels here to suit many price ranges. We have boutique hotels like Hotel Max (near the retail core), Kimpton Palladian (in belltown), and Kimpton Alexis (near Pike Place Market) — all of which are beautiful. Of course we have hotels like Four Seasons (with absolutely gorgeous views), The Westin hotel (an iconic hotel, also with beautiful views) Hilton, Pan Pacific, Holiday Inn, and Marriott just to name a few. You can also find lovely airbnb’s, some of which can be found in several of the beautiful high rises downtown. There is not a shortage of places to stay, that is for sure.

Shopping:
Our “retail core” which begins roughly at 5th and Pine is home to shopping malls like Pacific Place and Westlake Center, as well as stores including Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, Arcteryx, Columbia, H&M, Loft, J.Crew, Nordstrom and Macy’s. University Village in the U District is home to stores including Madewell, Land of Nod, Apple, Microsoft, and Crate and Barrel.

Food trucks:
If you’re looking for a good meal without having to wait for a table, you can check this website  to find out what food trucks are available in a particular location and on what day.

Weather:
Seattle winters are notoriously overcast and rainy. While our total volume of rain is lower than places like, say, New York, we see many more days with measurable precipitation. We don’t have many downpours here, but we get anywhere from drizzles to moderate showers very often. The average temperature in January is 50*, though we see many days in the 40s and even upper 30s. Layer up! Umbrellas will serve their purpose if you decide to bring one along, but I recommend a rain jacket with a hood to free up your arms. Rain boots or hiking boots will make sure that your socks aren’t soaked by the end of the day. Ballet flats or shoes that are mostly mesh are really not your friend if you plan on walking everywhere, and I’ve learned that from experience.

Summers (especially from July-September), however, are beautiful. The average temperature is 75, and the rain all but stops completely for two glorious months. With daylight hanging around until past 9:00 PM, and mountain passes and hiking trails open, summer is a great season to visit.

Everyday Life

Real Talk About What Happened On The Night You Were Born

May 8, 2017

(There is this really sweet book called “On The Night You Were Born” that always makes me cry when I read it. It’s beautiful, and truthful in it’s own way, but it doesn’t paint a realistic portrait about what the night someone is born really looks like. I mean, this would probably freak out the kids, but still. A few friends and I had some fun rewriting the story to be a little more true to our realities, and the results were pretty funny to read. This is mine.)

On the night you were born the moon smiled with such wonder, and your father sat silently in a rocking chair while your mother whispered “this is freaking insane.”

So enchanted was I with the thought of your imminent arrival that I repressed memories of other people’s terrible birth stories, and had the wherewithal to ignore the woman in another room screaming “I can’t!” from the top of her lungs.

I sailed through contractions, trying to breathe, low-moaning, and attempting to relax my muscles. Until everyone heard it and everyone knew that I was in transition, and stuff was going down for real.

Not once had I felt such exhaustion, such pain. I felt like my body was being torn right in twain.

 When the polar bears heard they said, “You really should have gotten yourself drugged up for this.”

From far away places the geese were like, “LOL, it’ll just keep getting worse.”

The moon was somewhere, I’m sure,  but I hadn’t opened my eyes in hours.

And none of the ladybugs told me about rolling contractions.

So if you ever doubt just how special you are, just think of how I rocketed you out on a night so bizarre.
Listen for the geese honking high in the sky
(they’re apologizing for that time your face was mashed against my pelvic bone).

Or notice the bears asleep at the zoo
(it’s because they waited 42 weeks and sat through 36 hours of my contractions to meet you).

Or drift off to sleep to the sound of the wind
(know that I was so high on oxytocin that I couldn’t fall asleep until 5 AM the next day).

For never before in story or rhyme
(not even once upon a time)
had I ever experienced a night less zen
and I’d never want to, not ever again
(though I’m going to take one for the team and give you a person to hang out with in the woods).

On the night you were born, there were no dancing bears or doves in the sky.
And all I really wanted to do was lay down and cry.
The entire experience is a painful blur.
But were you worth every second?
Yes, Kaia, you were.

Parenthood

On not “bouncing back”

May 2, 2017

I was looking at pictures of Kaia as a newborn, a form of self-torture akin to reading “If I Could Keep You Little,” and it brought me back to the early weeks of motherhood when I’d spend hours snuggling my sleeping baby, stare at her face and breathe in her smell, completely astonished that I created her, and ate every meal with one hand. I have so many fond memories of that time — of the warm weight of Kaia on my chest, of her lifting her tightly-clenched fists over her head whenever she woke up, and of the chirps and squeaks she’d make during tummy time. While those early days were some of the happiest days of my life, there was quite a bit of sadness thrown in, and when I see pictures of myself from that time, I can remember it like it was yesterday.

In the early days, I was running solely on oxytocin, coming to grips with my new reality and a new dimension added to the definition of who I am — calling myself someone’s mom. I found myself flabbergasted each time I nursed Kaia, each time I held her, each time I pushed her in her stroller, when it would hit me that she was my daughter, she was not going anywhere, and this was now my life. For the next several months, after the initial shock wore off, I am not ashamed to admit that I felt nearly as low as I did when I had depression. I wasn’t upset about being a mother, and I didn’t regret making a decision to have a child — and yet, I was deeply unhappy. Most of my unhappiness stemmed from the dramatic shift in my relationships with the people I loved. Alex and I, mostly in our tiredness, all but completely stopped speaking to each other. The person who I had considered my best friend for nearly 10 years, the person who I used to talk to for hours at the end of the work day, didn’t feel like my best friend anymore. Some of my close family members seemed to stop caring about me at all. They would text or call to ask about Kaia, never once taking the time to ask how I was feeling or how I was doing. None of my family members came to visit me and meet my daughter. My friends without kids disappeared into thin air. When Alex returned to work, I would go a week or more without talking to a single other human face-to-face. I didn’t listen to music, which always had the ability to make me feel better, for months. Along with the loss of a majority of my social support, I lost myself, too. There was a stranger living in my body, and I didn’t recognize myself. I looked in the mirror and saw someone 20-25 lbs heavier than they were pre-pregnancy, I would stand up and walk only to feel excruciating pain, I was always dizzy, my eyes were red and swollen due to my nearly-constant crying, and I looked and felt completely empty.

In 2011, a study conducted by Dr. Julie Wray found that it can take one year for a woman to recover from childbirth. This is certainly much longer than the 6 weeks most often cited, and in my case, is far more true to my reality. Eight months after Kaia’s birth, I am only now beginning to feel like myself again. I’m starting to remember who I am outside of being a mom, outside of being eight months postpartum. It has been a few weeks now that I have been able to take steps without searing pain. Only recently have more people asked about how I am doing instead of asking only about Kaia — and talking about myself has helped me remember that I am a real person. Since Kaia started sleeping a few weeks ago and I got more time to actually speak to Alex before we went to bed, I feel like I have my best friend back. I’m definitely not near my pre-pregnancy weight and still 20-25 lbs heavier than I was (depending on the day — ha!), and while some days I am hard on myself about that, I’m feeling better about what I’m working with (my worth isn’t defined by the number on the scale or the hoard of clothes I possess that no longer fit), and starting to care about putting in the effort to look like myself again. My non-parent friends have started coming around more often, and with that, conversations that don’t involve children have started becoming part of my life again — and that. is. so. important. I am starting to feel passionate once more about the things that used to matter to me like mental health research, my thesis, therapy, writing books, writing in this blog, and photography. Slowly but surely, I’m starting to feel like myself again.

Beginning in elementary school, I was inundated with messages that told me it was shameful to look or seem like you had ever given birth. I heard men shame the bodies of pregnant and postpartum women, and listened as they said that all their wives did after having a baby was sit around, get fat, watch daytime TV, and give up their dreams. They used a woman’s accomplishment, their pain, their inability to push themselves to the limits because of silly little things like putting their child first or potentially hemorrhaging to death as weapons against them. Women in my life boasted about how they were back in their old jeans two weeks postpartum, or how they never stopped socializing, or how they never stopped doing the things they loved, or how they changed absolutely nothing about their lives to accommodate their new motherhood or their infant, and they wore these things like a badge of honor. I started to feel like there was no other choice but to have that same experience or else I was somehow less of a person, less of a mother, less of a woman. I thought I had to pretend like nothing ever happened by the time I was wheeled into my postpartum hospital room, have a dinner made from scratch on the day I came home from the hospital, socialize with my friends the next week, and fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes by 3 months, maximum, postpartum. Looking back, I feel a little ridiculous for ever taking those messages to heart and for even thinking that there was a possibility that all evidence that I had grown a human for 42 weeks could simply be erased so quickly. I feel more ridiculous for believing that I somehow owed the erasure of my pregnancy, my painful labor, the changes in my brain, the changes in my body, and the changes in my life to the world.

There has been no bouncing back over here, just a whole lot of adaptation. I had to adjust to my new physical limitations, adjust to far less free time and learn to incorporate my hobbies into my life once more, adjust to my changing relationship with Alex, adjust to life with a new human being in my household which meant navigating new waters in friendship, and eating more sandwiches than cooking hot meals. There was also that whole exclusively breastfeeding thing I had going on which made me ravenously hungry and contributed to my inability to lose weight at warp speed. My life changed dramatically, and I’m not ashamed.

Comparison really is the thief of joy, especially in motherhood. There is no use in comparing myself to my best friend with two babies that slept through the night by 12 weeks, or the friend that lost 40 lbs in two months, or the friend that was able to run 6 weeks postpartum, or the person who continued with business as usual hours after coming home from the hospital, or the woman who declared that she could never understand why people thought having a newborn was so hard. Those are their experiences and their realities — and those experiences are okay and those experiences are valid. But this is my experience and my reality. It isn’t a test, or a failure, or a wrong answer. It just is — and it is okay and valid, too.

Some days are easy, some days are hard. Sometimes I don’t mind that I have had to change my life so drastically when it feels like Kaia is my little best friend, or when I look at her face and feel like I’ve looked into the face of god. Other times I cry because I haven’t had a chance to read a book, or I cry in a fitting room because I just don’t look the way I used to. I’m still adapting and adjusting, and I feel like that’s just what motherhood is all about.

What has been helping me most lately is getting out of the house more often, making plans for the future, and attempting to dive back into my work, my hobbies, and the things I am passionate about. While standing still for a long while is what I most needed, what I need now is forward motion. I’ll never be the same again. I’m Deena with more facets. The wonderful thing, though, is that I don’t want to be the person I used to be. I desire more than anything to become so comfortable with the person I am now that it feels so natural, like I had never been anything different. I want to do it all again when more children enter my life. The person I am meant to be — the person I want to be — is the person that accommodates those children and the journey I had to navigate to bring them here and raise them. I am starting to feel like myself again simply because I am learning that my self has changed, and this is just who I am. I don’t want to bounce back. And even if I did, that’s just not realistic.

Everyday Life

Kaia is 7 months old!

April 13, 2017

Seven is a pretty big number when we’re talking about how long Kaia has been Earthside. I can’t believe Alex and I have a baby so big, and I’m pretty sure I say that every month. This stage that we are in is so much fun. I feel like we learn something new about Kaia each day, and it’s a privilege to become more and more acquainted with her personality. She is most content when she is outside being worn or being strolled (because it combines her two favorite things: her parents and stimulation), and she works extremely hard for the things she wants. She is so inspiring, and watching her grow makes me want to try harder, to do more, and to be better.

I was just looking at pictures of her when she was a newborn, and it’s hard to believe that the person in those photos is the one sitting up in front of me, trying to crawl, eating food, drinking water, babbling laughing, playing, and discovering the world around her. Having a child has made the months (which were already passing so quickly) fly by at warp speed.

How we’re doing

We are doing well. Most of month 6 was a lot like the previous month, and not much happened weren’t familiar with for most of it. We were confused and terrified for most of the month knowing that we had been in the middle of the really tough stuff (namely, not sleeping), but just as it started to seem like things were definitely not going to change, and just as every last book, friend, family member, and random person on the street made it explicitly clear that we somehow failed as parents by having a baby that nursed all night and would not sleep without being held — things changed. They changed a lot. Right before Kaia turned 7 months old, on a night where we  spent over two hours of attempting to nurse and rock and otherwise soothe her to sleep, we put her down in her crib so we could have a bit of a break, and she rolled over and slept for something like 6 hours straight before waking to nurse. On that night, pigs flew and snowmen were made in hell. Since then, Kaia has continued to sleep 5-9 hours before waking to nurse, and will often go back to sleep until 6-6:30 AM or even 7:30 AM some days. We have been much happier, I haven’t had any migraines, and we generally just feel like different people. My bedtime anxiety faded, so I was actually able to fall asleep faster, and Alex and I actually got time to spend alone together, which is something we really needed and missed.

While the sleep only started to improve less than 2 weeks ago, it was the catalyst for me, especially, to want to start to feel better in other areas. I was coming up on 1 year of constant pelvic pain when I decided that I needed to either do something about it or learn to live with it, or both. I stopped being active in the middle of my pregnancy when things got especially bad, and after pregnancy, gave up entirely on hiking, walking long distances, or doing anything physical that used to bring joy to my pre-pregnancy self. I called a physical therapist, but before ever setting foot into an office, I decided to see what my limits were. I started to walk 5-8 miles a day, and after the first few days, it was like I was a different person. I’m very happy to say that I am no longer in excruciating pain every time I take a step, and I am feeling far more like myself than I have in at least a year. I would definitely like to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight, and hopefully my ability to actually do things will help me with my goal. I’m so happy that things have gotten better around here, and truly, it has changed so many aspects of our lives. I’m always terrified that the other shoe will drop, but I’m very much enjoying the rest we’ve been given. Honestly, I’m so overjoyed that I could cry.

Our favorites this month

  • Pack n Play (when filled with toys, this keeps her entertained while we eat dinner)
  • Books written by Todd Parr (she loves the illustrations)
  • Netflix app for our iPhones and iPads (for entertainment during the shifts we take at night to hold her)

How Kaia is doing

Kaia spent most of her 6th month of life learning so many new skills. She started babbling, started sitting up, and started to make her first attempts at crawling. Of those things, I think the babbling has been what has brought me more smiles than anything (I usually just stare in awe as she is sitting or trying to crawl) because it is just so funny. She practices her “b” sounds a lot, so she ends up saying babababa over and over until she eventually starts screaming it, which is hilarious. As she got closer to 7 months, she started sleeping without being held, and since then, she has been far less fussy during the day and generally seems a lot happier. We realized that our fear of not sleeping at all prevented us from allowing her the freedom to explore what works best for her, and it turns out, sleeping on her stomach is her preference — and that’s hard to accomplish when you’re always on your side, being held by your mom. Sleep, combined with the mastering of the new skills she worked so hard to develop means that she is doing better than ever.

We started solids a week or so after she turned 6 months old, and she was confused by all of the new flavors and textures she was exploring. We just recently started to give her actual pieces of food instead of purée on a spoon, and she seems to be enjoying herself more (but we’ll talk more about that next month). We also introduced her small amounts of water in a straw cup which has been going okay, though most of the time she doesn’t actually drink anything. Baby steps!

Stats

We haven’t weighed or measured her length in a while, but she is definitely over 15 lbs! 6-9 month clothing now fits her very well, with Carter’s pants and onesies fitting too loose in the waist but perfectly in length, while clothing from primary.com seems to be best for her. We have also found great fits in clothing from the Gap, OshKosh, and Gymboree, and we are just so thankful that we had so much clothing stored and ready for her to use when she started to outgrow all of her 3-6 month outfits. It’s always sad to put away clothes, but if there is another little one in our future (not tomorrow or anything — I’ve come to realize that talking about kid #2 when kid #1 is so young is taboo AF), we are definitely prepared.

Likes

  • Same as last month, plus…
  • Stacking rings
  • Taggies toys
  • Spending time in her pack n play
  • Going on walks
  • Looking at pictures and listening to stories when being read to
  • Facing forward in her carrier
  • Board books (holding them, trying to turn the pages, and putting the corners in her mouth, specifically)
  • Todd Parr’s books
  • Little Owl’s Night (her favorite bedtime book)
  • Blankets, pillows, and soft toys
  • Zippers
  • Attempting to reach and pick up the things she is interested in

 

Dislikes

  • Same as last month, plus…
  • Unfamiliar people talking to her or making eye contact for too long
  • Diaper changes
  • Putting on shirts and onesies
  • Falling
  • Not having the ability to crawl

Firsts

  • First babbles
  • First time sitting unassisted
  • First time getting herself into a sitting position
  • First attempt at crawling (she moved forward with one knee and one hand before falling over)
  • First time drinking water
  • First time eating solid food

Sleep

A week or so after she reached 6 months, we moved Kaia into her own bedroom. She was outgrowing the weight limit in her bassinet so we had to have her sleep (or attempt to) in her crib, and she wasn’t really able to co-sleep successfully (putting her down, even in bed right next to me, was the opposite of what she wanted), so the timing felt right. Of course, because she only slept while being held, this didn’t actually change anything, but at least we felt like we were moving forward. Just before she turned 7 months old, she started sleeping independently, and it has been glorious. She’ll get 5-9 hour stretches before waking to nurse, and will usually wake up after another 3-5 hours before nursing again very early in the morning. She’ll stay down until 6:00 AM on most days, while we’ve seen a day or two where her wake time is 7:30. I think we’d feel less like screw ups if she could sleep  from 7 PM – 7 AM (with night waking, of course) but 11 hours and two wakings to nurse is nothing to scoff at, so I’m pretty cool with where we are for now. We know that we still have so many developmental milestones ahead of us that will likely mean disrupted sleep, but we feel confident that the worst is behind us.

Eating 

Kaia is still mostly exclusively breastfed because we’ve only given her solids maybe 6 times. She nurses every 2-3 hours around the clock, though sometimes I sneak in an extra feed or three just to see if that’ll somehow help her sleep better (which, by the way, it doesn’t). I’ve been terrified to give her solids without Alex around for fear of her having an allergic reaction (I’m incredibly paranoid given that she’s already dairy and god-knows-what-else intolerant, and at an increased risk for a peanut allergy as it is), though I do much better when it comes to offering her water. I offer her a straw cup with 1 oz of liquid twice a day, and while she hasn’t really gotten the hang of it, she has reliably taken a few sips. It’s fun to watch her experimenting with solids and water, but breastmilk is still her number one source of nutrition and hydration, and will be for the foreseeable future.

Things I want to remember

  • Her cute little babbles
  • Her scream-babbles
  • How she kicks her legs and flaps her arms when being carried
  • How she laughs when I look at her through the bars of her crib
  • The way she squeals when she sees the books she loves
  • Her smiles when we sing “the wheels on the bus”
  • How she watches the cat and dog with fascination
  • Her happiness when it’s time for her first nursing session after she wakes for the day
  • How she grabs my hand and puts her foot in it when she is nursing
  • Her fascination with the rain cover, sun shield, and zippers on her stroller
  • The faces she makes when she eats and drinks

I used to be so afraid of life with an older baby. I pictured chaos, not knowing what to do, feeling lost, and feeling overwhelmed a lot. I wasn’t sure I could handle it. My experience has been the opposite, and I feel like with every passing month life gets easier. Life with Kaia feels so natural. I can’t wait to see what the next month has in store for our girl and our family.

Parenthood

Kaia: 6 month update

March 12, 2017

6months

And just like that, we have a 6 month old. It’s exciting to have made it through 6 months of parenthood, breastfeeding, and life with a baby. Aside from meaning time is going by way too quickly, each new stage brings on a new set of anxieties. Four months was all about the sleep regression, five months old was all about getting out of the sleep regression (this never actually happened), and six months old is all about starting solid food. Yes, our baby who is barely coordinated will soon be eating actual food. THINGS WILL BE IN HER MOUTH, no big deal. I cannot believe that we are here, and that we all survived without any injuries or mental breakdowns. Parenthood thus far has been quite the learning experience, and truly the best thing that has ever happened Alex and me.

How we’re doing

Alex and I have really gotten into the groove of this parenting thing. Kaia’s rough “routine” has really made everything easier on us, so most of what is going well for us has everything to do with her. She can usually stay awake for about 2 hours now before things really start to go downhill which makes doing “normal people” things like going out to eat, leaving the house even if Kaia has been awake for over 20 minutes, and driving longer distances less scary. We recently had lunch outside of the house for the first time since she was born (we reeeeeally don’t like to rock the boat, as you can tell). Kaia joyfully screeched the entire time, and an older man spent most of it glaring at me and covering his ears. I feel like we experienced some kind of parenting rite of passage as we ruined the ambiance of the Johnny Rockets (outside seating area) at the mall food court by bringing a little human. We finally joined the ranks of people who are hated on airplanes, in libraries, in restaurants, and basically in public wherever childless/childfree people are, and I was proud. I was proud to ignore guilt, to move past the fear of things not being completely perfect, the anxiety of not being able to control everything, and to get out there and just start living again.

While things are going well, I’m admittedly a little sad to have reached the 6 month milestone because no one in my family has met her yet. 6 months of life, and she still hasn’t met half of her family. Obviously, when you have a brand new baby who hasn’t had all of their vaccines, bringing them on a plane is really not a smart move.  After that, the whole cross-country flight, 3 hour time change, and baby sleep (or, really, not sleeping) thing made the idea of heading over to New York AND Florida seem really intimidating, and honestly, just incredibly annoying (especially now that there is baby gear to haul). A two or three hour flight wouldn’t be anything terrible, but this long cross-country trip can go wrong in so many hilarious ways. Is it possible to lose more sleep? I’m really not sure I want to find out as I sit in a hotel room on the East Coast! I’m sure we’ll get there one of these days, we just need to find a time that works for both of us and get brave enough to make the attempt.

Overwhelmingly, we are doing well. We seem to be in the sweet spot of having a little bit of a clue as to what we’re doing, but because Kaia isn’t mobile, and still loves nursing more than anything else in the world, things are still relatively calm in the Fort household.

Our favorites this month

  • Mei Tai carrier
  • Foam floor tiles
  • Water wipes
  • Indestructibles books

How Kaia is doing

Kaia is as happy, funny, and amusing as ever. She is starting to get her move on, and can always be found leaning over to grab whatever she is interested in, or spinning around on her floor tiles to find the toy she wants to play with. Pretty soon she is going to be crawling, which is crazy to think about. She is screeching a lot, laughing more and more, and is so active while nursing. Unless she is falling asleep, she nurses while holding onto her feet, kicking, grabbing my face/hands/shirt, and generally not being still. I hear this morphs into “gymnurstics” down the road, which I’m sure will be quite amusing. Recently she began to listen to stories and look at pictures in her books without being super distracted, and it seems like she is interested in what’s going on. It’s actually one of the sweetest things I have witnessed, and it makes me excited to think of all of the years we have together to read, go to the library, and learn new things.

Kaia’s symptoms associated with her dairy allergy disappeared (mostly), but then reappeared when I accidentally introduced some traces of dairy back into my diet. It can be a little complicated to keep up with a dairy free diet, I’m learning. Since then, I’ve been very strict and careful about not eating dairy, but things haven’t gotten any better which means eliminating soy is my next step. That is going to be even harder, but it’s worth the effort, and I’m hoping that this will help her return to “normal.”

Stats

Kaia is a string bean. She’s tall (not sure exactly how tall anymore because she is so wiggly when she is being measured), but only just over 14 lbs. She is growing and following the growth curve, but, admittedly, I’m a little insecure about her weight. Upon telling some people her weight, I’ve had responses that include “wow, she’s too tiny” and “she needs more food,” which is a bit frustrating and disheartening. Unlike moms with chubby babies, I can’t be the “valedictorian of breastfeeding,” or get told that I’m doing a good job. Instead, I face a lot of criticism, shaming, and “concern” for my baby. Healthy apparently equals chubby. I’m trying to remember that every human — even the baby humans — comes in different shapes and sizes, and it’s all okay. I’m doing anything wrong by having a tall, thin baby. Kaia’s growing and healthy, her doctor is not concerned, and that is really all that matters.

Likes

  • Same as last month, plus…
  • Nursing in the bedroom
  • Being on her changing pad
  • Having her picture taken
  • Playing with tags
  • Feeling her ears and hair
  • Sucking on a wet washcloth while in the bath
  • Shiny things, particularly soda/sparkling water cans
  • Cellphones (to try to chew on, of course)

 

Dislikes

  • Same as last month, plus…
  • Having things taken from her
  • Having things hidden from her
  • Not having the ability to reach or get to the things she is interested in
  • Nursing in the living room during the day
  • Being in one place for too long

Firsts

  • First time eating out with mom and dad
  • First time touching our pets
  • First real belly laughs
  • First time grabbing non-toy objects to explore
  • First time facing forward in the Lillebaby

Kaia’s favorites this month

  • Tags (the larger the better)
  • VTech Touch and Swipe Baby Phone
  • Garanimals My First Doll
  • Indestructibles books

Sleep

Shortly after last month’s update, Alex and I decided it wasn’t cool that I was losing so much sleep while he got decent enough rest. We started taking one hour shifts with Kaia so we all could get some sleep. Alex would rock her for one hour while I slept, and I’d hold/nurse her the next hour while Alex slept. On all but two occasions this month, she only slept while being held.

Lately, I have found myself holding her for 2-4 hours at a time in the middle of the night. She stays latched almost the whole time, and I’ve gone with the flow because it has given me a bit more rest. I’m not sleeping during this time, but I’m not fully awake either, so it saves me from having to wrestle with my insomnia in an attempt to fall asleep before Alex’s shift is up, and also helps Alex to sleep a longer stretch.

The lack of sleep we’ve been dealing with has really started to take a toll now. Alex and I both have frequent headaches, and I get a migraine 1-2 times a week which renders me a complete mess. Having so many migraines truly feels unsustainable. the pain, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound makes it so hard to parent. Things are definitely getting harder around here on the sleep front, and we fear that there is no end in sight.

We’ve tried to help her to sleep independently, but to no avail. We’ve tried earlier and later bedtimes, longer and shorter wake times before bed, longer and shorter wake times between naps, and have established a bedtime routine. We have tried fleece, cotton, and terry pjs, lighter and heavier weight Zipadee-Zips, and different room temperatures. We’ve experimented with putting her down after holding her for 10 mins, 20 mins, 30 mins and 1 hr. We’ve used white noise and blackout curtains for many months, and started to sleep on the couch just in case our opening the door to go into our bedroom is what causes her to wake for the first time at night.

She seems to be having a problem connecting her sleep cycles, so it doesn’t seem like anything we’ve tried was going to help anyway, and we’re not sure there is anything we can actually do to help her. I think sleep is going to continue to be our biggest challenge going forward.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Eating

Kaia is still exclusively breastfed. She nurses every 1.5-3 hours, and has been doing a lot of snacking lately. She has also become more distracted while nursing, and pulls off the breast frequently to look around. If she does stay latched, she’s constantly grabbing my hands, face, and shirt, often while making sounds. Nursing is a lot less relaxed these days, but a lot more entertaining.

Now that Kaia is six months old, we do plan on starting solids soon (maybe this week). It took us a little while to finally decide on the high chair we wanted, and we’re still coming around to the idea of actually giving our baby solid food to eat. Neither of us is anxious to get started immediately, and I wish we could wait another month or so longer before making the leap! Kaia is not yet sitting unassisted, so we may delay introducing finger foods (starting baby-led weaning) until she can, and may delay it further if she is just not showing interest in picking up her food to explore. We will start with purées and see how she does. I’m so nervous!

Things I want to remember

  • How she’s so active when nursing
  • The way she laughs when having her picture taken
  • Her sounds of frustration (or boredom, or…something?)
  • How she purses her lips and puffs her cheeks when she makes her sounds of frustration (or boredom, or…something?)
  • How she extends her arms when she is being picked up

Six months have absolutely flown by. It’s definitely bittersweet. Somehow, every month with her is better than the last. I do wish sometimes that time would slow down, but if it must continue to pass, I know that there is no other little girl in the world that I’d rather have by my side. Happy half birthday to our little bear. Kaia, you are so loved.