Caelan Vaughn – Months 1-3

August 15, 2011

Today is my first day back at work after my maternity leave. It’s hard to believe I’m back to sitting at this desk all day rather than hanging out with my baby, but that’s how it is. I’m not sorry we have him in daycare – I want him to have that experience of interacting with other children and adults – it’s just rough going back to work after being at home for so long. And before today I’ve not been away from Caelan for more than an hour or two and that is rough too. I’m sure he is having a great time at daycare and I’m sure this transition is harder on me than it is on him!

I’ve been meaning to try to write something down about how Caelan’s first few weeks were for him and for us because I know I’m not going to remember later. And now all of the sudden, he’s almost 11 weeks old and I have only foggy memories of his first couple weeks.

Sleep deprivation wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The thought of having to feed the baby every 3 hours and thus never sleeping more than 2 hours at a time sounded impossible. How can anyone function like this?? Well…your body adjusts. I was tired for sure, but I didn’t feel like a zombie. I did all the middle of the night stuff myself. Bill always told me to wake him if I needed help, but after the first couple of days I just got into a routine with getting up with the baby. I had to get up since I was breastfeeding so it’s not like we could have taken turns anyway. We had Caelan in a bassinet in our room for the first 5 weeks. It worked out well. I didn’t jump up at his every snort or whimper so I was able to get some sleep. And the transition to his crib was easy on all of us. His room is close and I can hear him loud and clear on the monitor (audio only) and that was fine. Once we got to about 5 weeks, I felt the urge to move things along. I wanted things to get back to normal – or the NEW normal – hence getting him settled in his room earlier rather than later.

Having Bill at home for the first 4 weeks was invaluable. I know not all dads have the luxury of taking an extended leave and I’ve even heard some moms say that they didn’t care that their husbands wouldn’t be home because their mom would be there or they’d have other help. Or worse, that they’d hate having their husbands home with them for a long period of time. I have to say, I just don’t get it. I’m raising a baby with my husband, not my mom, so having him there in the beginning when we’re both learning how to be parents just makes sense to me and we’re thankful that we were able to both be home. And not only were we both home taking care of the baby, but we were both home and able to spend time together. There were a few mornings where we’d bring breakfast upstairs and eat it in bed with the baby and the cats – our whole family all together.

When Bill went back to work and I was on my own with Caelan during the day, it was an adjustment for me. I found that I was very frustrated with how unproductive I was during the day. I was able to take care of Caelan, feed him, play with him, etc but there didn’t seem to be time for anything else. So by the end of the day, I felt depressed that I hadn’t got anything done. Caelan isn’t a very good napper, so I barely had any downtime. My few spurts of “free” time were spent making food for myself, doing laundry, washing dishes, or washing and making bottles. I had originally planned to work from home a bit but that turned out to be impossible. I knew being a stay-at-home-mom was a full time job, but it’s even more than that. A full time job is 40 hours/week – if you take out the 6-ish hours a day I end up sleeping, this is 126 hours/week.  Of course Bill is there in the evenings and on the weekends so I tended to get more things done then.

In some ways, the first 3 weeks or so were the easiest. Caelan woke up every 3 hours, Bill changed his diaper, I fed him, and then he went back to sleep. Rinse, repeat. But now he spends much more time awake and his sleep is very unpredictable. He sleeps for short spurts during the day and nighttime is hit or miss. Most nights he sleeps 6 or 8 hours straight, but some nights he’s up every 3 hours. But on the flip side, in those first couple weeks we couldn’t really interact with him. Now he smiles and gurgles and almost laughs, all while staring around soaking up all of his surroundings.

Breastfeeding (BF) went better than I expected/feared it would. And “feared” is the right word too because I was really dreading it and was ready for it to be horrible. Just the thought of being the ONLY person who could feed him and therefore NEVER getting a break EVER was crushing to me. So much so that I almost didn’t want to do it at all. In the beginning, there were definitely a few very frustrating nursing sessions that brought me to tears. And there is no doubt that I felt isolated and restricted by having to nurse, which often required hiding out in a room away from anyone else. But it did get better, and supplementing with formula (FF) definitely helped. I wanted to BF and FF at the same time, but I had a hard time finding any information about how exactly to do that. I think that’s what stressed me out the most beforehand – wondering HOW this would work. And what ended up happening is that we just…did it. For most of his feedings I nursed him, and then also gave him a small bottle of formula. Eventually I started dropping nursing sessions. I never thought I’d make it past 4 weeks with BFing. But 4 weeks came and went, and then 5, and then 6. To my surprise, I found that I wasn’t ready to quit BFing – I actually enjoyed it. But the combination of BFing and FFing really worked for us. We had the freedom that bottle feeding provides, plus he was still getting the benefits of breastmilk. Of course it may be different for each child, but given the relatively positive experience with Caelan, maybe for our next child, I might try to continue nursing past 7 weeks. I know 7 weeks sounds really short, but I never expected to make it past 4…

So now that we’re coming out of the fog that is the first couple of months, I’m looking forward to when it will be time for us to do this again. Not to say I’m ready for another NOW, but my pregnancy, delivery, and the first few weeks weren’t so traumatic that I don’t want to think about another child for a long time. It’ll be different of course because we’ll have a toddler underfoot next time around, but we’ll manage. Bill’s boss told him “it doesn’t get easier over time, it just gets different” and that seems like a really good way to put it.

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Can’t Wait To Meet The Cheat!

August 14, 2011

Heidi is a dear friend who just welcomed her beautiful daughter into the world just this past week! We met about 3 years ago when we were both planning our weddings and have stayed in touch, along with several other girlfriends, since then. I was very excited to be able to make the cake for Heidi’s baby shower which was a couple weeks ago!

This cake was the first cake I’d made since Caelan was born. It was…challenging…but I was able to do it over a Friday and Saturday when Bill was home, so he could watch the baby while I baked and that worked out well. I don’t think I could make a cake without having someone watch the baby – it just requires too much time.

Heidi and her husband, Brian, nicknamed their baby “The Cheat” while she was pregnant. I decided I’d make a round cake and draw a picture of The Cheat on it. I was all excited about this idea until I saw a picture of her cake for her family shower and realized that it was almost exactly what I was thinking of! Not sure why I was surprised, it was kind of an obvious (and appropriately cute!) idea for a cake.

I have a set of cake pans that my sister-in-law gave me for making a 9” round checkerboard cake. I used box cake mix – one vanilla and one chocolate. Heidi said she liked chocolate so I made a chocolate mousse filling. I covered the cake with vanilla buttercream. I printed out a picture of The Cheat and traced it onto wax paper which I then used to trace an outline onto the cake. I colored some of the frosting yellow, black, and green to fill in The Cheat and do the writing.

This cake turned out to be one of the best ones I’ve ever made. I was really pleased with it, and I am normally so critical of my creations that I’m not often really happy with anything. Somehow I didn’t actually eat this cake. That often happens – I’m more interested in making cake than eating it – but I should really make it a point to sample my creations! But I’m happy it went over well at the shower!


Gardening is not my thing

August 3, 2011

For the better part of this past year, Bill and I have been preoccupied with things like my pregnancy and preparing for the baby, getting the basement and the nursery done, etc. We didn’t have time for taking care of the lawn or garden. But to be honest, we’ve never put much time time into it. I hate to be that house on the street with the overgrown weed garden but we kind of are. I’ve tried getting the garden together a couple times but I can’t handle the maintenance it requires.

Our neighbors are always helping us out. The husband often cuts our grass for us and the other day I looked outside to see the wife and one of the neighbor kids working on our garden. Now we hired the kid to do some weeding so I knew he’d be out there. But the wife was just helping out to be nice. I felt horribly guilty as they slaved away out there in the heat putting down weed blocking, arranging the rock border, pulling out the ridiculous weed forest, trimming the few actual plants, and even putting down mulch.

I thanked the wife profusely and we planned to give them a bottle of wine as we often do to express our thanks. But I decided I wanted to bake something for them also. Gardening is clearly a domestic task I am not good at, but baking is something I can do! Or so I thought.

I decided to make margarita cupcakes. I made them last summer and they’re fresh and summery and they look pretty too. I used my basic yellow cake recipe and added some lime juice and zest. Then I was going to make a lime and tequila flavored Swiss meringue buttercream icing.

The cupcakes came out fine. I had an issue with the liners peeling off and that was annoying but the cupcakes themselves were delicious. Then I made the icing. Swiss meringue buttercream is always hit or miss. I have about a 50% success rate with it which is annoying since you’d think it would improve over time. But I never know if the egg/sugar is exactly the right temperature or if I’ve correctly identified “stiff peaks” when whipping the eggs. This time I had been whipping the icing after adding the butter for about 30 minutes and it just wasn’t firming up – it was a soupy mess that I had to pour down the drain. I tried again the next day with the same disastrous result. I was very angry and frustrated. Finding the time to bake is so much harder now that I have Caelan. I tried to bake during his nap but I never knew if he was going to wake up or if he was even going to sleep at all. So now I had wasted two big blocks of time and I still had no icing. I have to assume that humidity was what defeated me with the meringue. Maybe it’s just not possible in high humidity? Anyway, then I made a normal buttercream icing which turned out fine – I added some lime juice and tequila. I garnished the cupcakes with lime zest and a lime slice.

The wife said she loved the cupcakes and offered to help drum up business for me if I wanted. If only I had tons more time and a baby who naps reliably – I don’t think there is any such thing!


Nightstands: The Conclusion

August 3, 2011

  

If you’re not familiar with my ridiculous mission/obsession with nightstands you can catch up with these two posts here and here. If you don’t care about my mission, I don’t blame you, but you might want to skip this post in that case 🙂

It’s been about 3+ years since we bought our bed and we now finally have 2 matching nightstands to go with it. As Bill said “we have real matching furniture now…like adults”. And it’s true that this is pretty much the only room in the house where we have new furniture that matches.

You’ll remember from my last post that Bill bought me 2 unfinished nightstands for my birthday earlier this year. Once we picked them up, we went to Home Depot in search of a stain that would match our bed. We picked out 2 jars of stain and Bill took the stands to his parents’ garage to test out the stains with his dad’s help.

Somehow, Bill’s dad ended up adopting this project and made it his mission to match the color perfectly. He tested each of the samples we had purchased and of course neither of them were even close just because the stain looks so different depending on what kind of wood you’re staining.  So over the course of a couple months, Bill’s dad tried out various stain samples and even mixed different colors together to try to find the perfect match. He finally gave us 2 to choose from and we picked one that we thought was pretty damn close to the bed color. But even then, Bill’s dad wasn’t totally convinced. He mixed up yet another color, stained both stands, and added a coat of polyurethane.

They look FANTASTIC. They seriously match the bed exactly. I took several pictures in an attempt to accurately represent what the colors look like and this one is the best I got. The stands came with wooden knobs, but I think one of them got lost in the shuffle, so I picked up 2 knobs at Home Depot in a “Venetian Bronze” finish that matches our lamps. They look great and I am SO happy with them!!

A million thanks to my father-in-law for taking on this project for us 🙂

**I wrote this post back in May but then I got sidetracked by the small matter of having a baby and so I’m just getting around to posting this now 🙂