Thursday, September 27, 2012

Entrenched - a prenatal ramble

A completely unrelated photo of Espen contemplating a career in the fast food industry.

NOTE: If you get bored with pregnancy and baby talk, please look away for the next 6 months to a year! With a human child preparing to exit my body in less than two months, I find it a little hard to think (or write) about much else.

We now have the eight-week-until-baby mark planted solidly behind us, and I am feeling myself going into "hunker down" mode. We took our last overnight trip this weekend (a family party in Las Vegas), and it feels a little strange to know that they next time we load up the car for the weekend we will not only have a tiny baby with us, but we will be a family of four.

Now that we're back, I either really just want to clean and bake, or take naps and read. With Espen, it felt overwhelmingly important to buy all of the right things and have his room set up just so, but this little girl won't even have a room for the first couple of months, and we have the majority of the baby gear from last time, so there's not so much for me to prepare. So my nesting instincts have been inflicting themselves on other areas of the house instead. The guest room was flawless as of yesterday afternoon (now contains one houseguest), and I am itching to get our bedroom, closet and bathroom cleaned and organized too. After all, seeing as the baby will be in our room, we'll be spending a lot of time in there come November, so it may as well feel like a nice place to be.

I'm not entirely sure what's up with the baking thing, and suspect it might have as much to do with the sudden arrival of fall as with any nesting instinct, but nevertheless, I have about three things lined up that I want to bake in the next week. Chocolate cake, this zucchini bread and apple cake. Oh, and as of this afternoon, the yogurt cake from this book (interesting book, by the way, even if I think she over-generalizes and sells American parents seriously short).

The only thing stopping me from being a domestic goddess is the fact that I am almost 8 months pregnant, and definitely starting to feel it. I'm big, I'm heavy, I'm off-balance and sore in ways and places that could only be discussed in a room full of women who have already braved pregnancy and labor. The other day I had to moonwalk out of my socks because I couldn't reach my feet without sitting down, and I have to think long and hard about whether or not it's actually worth it to pick something up if I've dropped it. I had to carry Espen for part of our walk today, and had to sit down and recover when we got home, and by lunchtime I am usually ready to curl up in a ball of soreness and exhaustion.

So, yes, I'm a little frustrated these days. There's so much I want to do and my body is so uncooperatively unwilling to let me do it. And in addition, I really want to enjoy these last weeks of having Espen as our only child. His life is about to change so much, and I can't help but want to make absolutely sure that he knows he is as loved and adored as ever. I know it's not completely rational, because Espen won't know the difference until the baby arrives and he is promptly dethroned. I suppose the logical thing would be to ignore and neglect him to prepare him for the change, but I just want to soak up every minute of me and Espen against the world as I can. If I just wasn't so sore and tired all the time. Y'know?

So there's that.

And yet, of course I can't complain, of course I can't! I have a strong body that is amazingly capable of healthy pregnancies. I have a little baby that kicks and squirms reassuringly inside me all day long. In 55 days or so, I'll be holding that little baby in my arms. My daughter. I have a husband and a son that tell me and show me that they love me every single day. I really and truly couldn't ask for anything more.

Except maybe a nap? And a cookie.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Tamsin's Pregnancy Must-haves

As I was crawling gratefully into my maternity comfy pants yesterday, I started thinking about all of the bits and pieces we have gathered up over these past two pregnancies to help make life easier. If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy! So I rounded up a few of my best "tricks of the trade" for your perusal. And please, if you have anything to add, let me know! I may only have eight more weeks to go, but I still have eight more weeks to go.

A pair of really, really comfy pants. I got a pair of these yoga pants from Old Navy when I was pregnant with Espen, and am still wearing them today. I'd get these pretty early in the game, because you may start feeling bloated and like you can't stand anything like a waistband cutting into your tummy much sooner than you think (for this second baby, I think I said goodbye to regular jeans at about 9 weeks). Because they have a roll-panel at the waist, you can wear them through your entire pregnancy and post-partum. When your belly is small/non-existant, fold the panel down over your hips, when you're nice and round, unfold it for better coverage and support. Confession: I may actually have worn these for the entire two years between pregnancies too. There's also the added bonus that they're just black yoga pants, so if someone was to see me wearing them, I wouldn't die of shame. Oh, and I suppose you could exercise in them too, if you were into that sort of thing. 
Along those lines, I'd recommend getting a pair of good and comfy maternity jeans too.  I personally prefer the full panel ones, because I find that the ones that sit under your belly tend to slide off my hips, which can be a little awkward. These ones from Old Navy (again) are nice because they're not too frumpy, and the panel is made of cotton. I've tried other pants where the panel was made of a silkier fabric, and those also tended to slide off me. Not a great look! They probably won't fit you until you're well into your second trimester, so wait until you need them to buy them.
Long tops. As comfy as those maternity jeans may be, the cotton panel cutting across your belly is not exactly the height of chic, so you will want something long enough to cover it. And ,as your belly grows, to avoid looking like Smee from Peter Pan. I have, and like, this one from Motherhood Maternity, even if it is a ridiculous price for a t-shirt. I especially like the elasticated gathering on either side of the belly, which helps emphasize the fact that I am, in fact, pregnant and not simply a lump of lard. I also like to get my tops in lighter fabrics so I can layer them with cardigans and jackets, and also because being pregnant is a lot like carrying a little oven around with you everywhere. 

Personal care

Top of the list here would be things like plenty of sleep, naps and rest, followed by pre-natal vitamins, drinks of water and foot rubs. Other things I've liked include: 

Burt's Bees belly butter was really kind to me last pregnancy. It smells great, has a nice consistency and smooths on well. While it made my skin soft and lovely, it didn't stop me from getting stretch marks, though, which is probably why I haven't bothered with it this time around. As far as I can tell, either you get them or you don't, and guess which camp I'm in. It was good for itchy, dry skin too, which is pretty common in pregnancy.
If you get crazy itchy skin at any point like I do, I recommend using baby oil gel. I went to see my doctor in a fit of itchy desperation last time, and he told me to get baby oil gel and slather it on like it was my job. I thought he was an idiot who clearly didn't understand how uncomfortable I was, but it turns out that it works really well, and is much less messy than plain ol' baby oil. I think I just got the Target generic brand, and it worked like a charm.
If you can swing it, get a professional pedicure too, and if not, bribe a friend or partner to do it for you. After months of not being able to reach your poor feet (which are probably going to feel pretty sore and achey by now), you will probably be pretty grateful to have your nails trimmed and any dry skin removed. I just had one, and after a summer of barefoot neglect, I feel like I now have someone else's feet attached to my legs. Bonus: it will give you an hour to relax and be pampered, which I think is just what every expectant mama needs. Ooooh, and get a prenatal massage too if you can. 

This and that

A few other things I've found helpful include: 

I haven't read it as faithfully with this second pregnancy, but I found this book very helpful and informative for my first pregnancy. I still keep it on my nightstand and dip into it now and again if I have a question or there is something I can't remember from last time. I liked that it was broken up into one chapter for each week of pregnancy, and gave me relevant information in smaller chunks. It doesn't have very good reviews on amazon, and the main criticism seems to be that it is "fear-based" and discusses risks and potential problems along the way. I personally prefer to feel like I know what to expect, good and bad, so that worked just fine for me. It's also worth noting that it's written by a doctor, so if you don't like doctors being involved in your pregnancy and delivery, you probably won't like this book. 
Just because I haven't been reading a pregnancy book this time, it doesn't mean I don't want to know what type of fruit or vegetable my baby currently resembles! I've been using the BabyCenter My Pregnancy Today app on my phone, and have been pretty happy with it. I like that it sends me a notification when I start a new week of pregnancy, and helps keep me on track. I usually watch the little videos with Espen so he can see how baby sister is growing and developing, which is fun for both of us, even if it does lead to some interesting conversations. I mostly check it about once a week and don't really use the day-today checklist stuff.
This is maybe a little random, but I have really learned the importance of having a good snack stash on hand.  I'm a pretty firm believer that pregnancy doesn't mean that you're literally eating for two, but when you're pregnant you need to eat a little bit more (and if you're nursing, this need will continue) and you sometimes get hungry more frequently than everyone else around you. So I try to keep things like granola bars, fruit, nuts and even a little bit of chocolate or chips on hand to dip into when I need it. I try to not make it a meal, but just enough to keep my blood sugar and energy levels in a healthy place.
A few extra pillows in bed. It's hard to get comfortable when you're pregnant, so having an extra pillow or two around can make all the difference where a good night's sleep is concerned. I usually put one between my knees to keep my hips even (works great to help pelvic pain for me) when I sleep on my side, or if I want to sleep on my back, I pile them up under me so I'm not flat on my back. A normal night's sleep is one of the things I'm most looking forward too - sometime next year, right?

So tell me, what makes your life easier and more comfortable when you are "in the family way"?

Please note: this post isn't sponsored by anyone, because I'm just not cool or important enough to attract that kind of attention. All of the products mentioned are things I have genuinely tried and liked myself, and any opinions are solely my own. 

Images borrowed herehere and here. All others from the mentioned company websites. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Lessons to learn

Painting together. 

Without tooting my own horn too loudly (that expression always makes me giggle), I think I can say that I am a pretty good mother. I keep Espen clean, clothed and fed. He has a bed time schedule. I read him books every day, take him to the park, to story time, to play dates and to the library. I give him lots of hugs and kisses, and tell him that I love him several times a day. I set clear boundaries and expect them to be followed. I keep a running tally in my head of how much fruit and vegetables he has eaten in a day. I am teaching him the alphabet, numbers, how to pray and how to put away toys when we're finished with them. I limit his screen time and try to make sure that we get out of the house for at least a little while every day. I sing songs at bedtime and try to answer his every two year-old question as truthfully and simply as possible. In short, 90%* of the time, I know what I'm doing, and I'm pretty sure I know that I'm doing it right.

However, where I do fall short time and time again is in the one thing that Espen wants from me more than anything: in giving him my time and full attention. How many times in a day does he ask "let's play together?" and how many times do I respond something like "oh, I just need to [fill in the blank]" or "not right now, sweetheart" or, now that I'm in the third trimester, "Mama is just really tired." It's honestly painful to even admit that.

To be fair to myself, I know that I have things that need to be done on a given day. I know that I need to make time for myself to rest, especially in these last few weeks (ok, nine) before the baby arrives and we are thrown into chaos until we find our feet as a family of four.

But I also know that what my little boy needs is me. Face-to-face time with my and my full attention. A chance to really feel like he is my top priority. So I've been making a bit more of an effort lately to put down my book/phone/laptop/work and spend that time with him. Yesterday I asked if Espen wanted to play with me, and you should have seen the way his little face lit up! We raced cars back and forth across the coffee table together, and Espen was having so much fun that he was cackling like a lunatic. It only took 10-15 minutes of my day, but I could see just how much it made his.

Later that afternoon, we turned on some music, got out the water colors and painted together. Again, Espen loved every moment. He kept telling me "this is our play group!" At one point I grabbed my phone to check something, and Espen asked me to "put that away!" because he knows that it takes my attention away from him.

Message received, little Espen-friend. Maybe not "lesson learned" just yet, but I am trying.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Making me happy right now.

Baking with the bump.

  • The first cup of hot chocolate this season. 
  • The bowl of cherry tomatoes from our garden. 
  • The feeling of our little baby pushing against my skin. 
  • It's cold enough to wear jeans, but warm enough for bare feet. 
  • A made bed.
Awarded for valiant behavior while being poked with a needle.
  • Getting a prize for being good when having my blood drawn. 
  • Watching Espen enjoy story time at the library. 
  • Two loads of laundry and a load of dishes done before leaving the house this morning. 
  • 30 weeks pregnant!
  • Tasty dinner plans. 
  • Home-made foccacia dough rising in the sunshine.
  • It feels so short!
  • The feeling of having chopped a foot (12 inches!) of hair off. 
  • Reading our good friend Josh's list of 34 favorite memories of his wife Lolly on her 34th birthday. I laughed, I cried, I wished (again) that they lived closer. 
  • An upcoming weekend trip to Las Vegas with la familia North. 
  • Two new little outfits bought for Squiggle. 
  • Espen excitedly telling me "I love vegetables!" as we shopped the produce aisle. 
  • This one had little ears!
  • Trying on hats at Target with Espen and laughing too hard to take any in-focus pictures.
  • An almost clean kitchen. 
  • A chance to sit down and rest my achy self while Espen rests his respectively cute self upstairs. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Train birthday cake

Remember how Espen had a birthday party way back when, and I promised a post about his train cake? Well, only seven short months later, here it is!

If you're doing a themed birthday party, I feel like the cake should be a big part of that. Especially if there are little kids involved, who notoriously love them some cake (even if, like Espen, that's just in theory and they love every part of the process except eating more than two bites of the darn thing).  So for us making a train cake for the birthday party was really a chance to go all out. Except, oh, we really don't know much (anything!) about cake decorating.

Have no fear, the internet is here! I started out by browsing (and browsing!) through Pinterest in search of ideas that I liked, and while searching, I came across this cake that very handily had its own video tutorial (you can find the video and recipe directly here, unfortunately I can't embed the video here on my blog). We followed the instructions really closely, right down to buying a cake mix and frosting from a box - yikes! I even set aside my fear of food coloring for the occasion and dyed those little trains red, green and blue. The only real difference is that we shaped our engine a little differently because we thought theirs looked too much like a boat. Ours looked more like a truck, so take your pick!

The before shot.

A few tips from an inexperienced baker

  • Read the recipe and your shopping list closely and several times over. I didn't, and that is why we ended up with an extra box of cake mix and frosting that are still in our pantry. 
  • I don't recommend it necessarily, but it turns out that if you only have one cake pan, Betty Crocker cake mix is perfectly happy to sit and wait while you bake one cake at a time. 
  • When the recipe says to let the cake cool completely, they mean it. I put ours in the fridge until Nick was home and could help me, and cold cake is much, much easier to work with. 
  • Bake early enough in advance to allow for disasters. I baked mine in the afternoon (nap time!) and we put the cake together after Espen was in bed that night. 
  • Doing a crumb coat (ie., putting on a thin coat of frosting and letting it set before frosting again) is pretty genius. Do what the nice lady in the video tells you. 
  • Having a real frosting tool to get a nice smooth surface would be really nice, but an un-serrated butter knife does the job too. 
One actually useful thing we came up with was the cake tray. We didn't have anything long enough to fit the train, so we taped together some flattened cardboard boxes and covered them with wax paper. Definitely a bit of a ghetto solution, but it beat going out and buying something that we would use once! I thought about wrapping it in gift wrap to look a bit more festive, but I was worried about the ink in the paper soaking into the cake and whatnot, and this way the tray didn't end up competing with the cake. Another bonus was that we could make sure that we could still fit it into our fridge overnight. 

A little reality blogging: Our kitchen at 1 AM when we finally finished! 

And a prettier shot taken the next day, when we'd actually cleaned up a bit. 

Decorating the train was the really fun part. I went to the bulk candy section of our cute local grocery store, and just got as much as I thought we'd need for each part. The licorice train tracks are trim came from a big packet. I wish they had them in the bulk section, though, because we ended up with a huge amount, and I would have liked the option of using different colors on the train itself. But as it was, I didn't want to end up with huge amounts of candy just for a few licorice ropes, so I settled for just the black ones. The wheels are candy circles (the ones that taste like peaches), although round cookies would look cute too. The smoke stack is two Rolos stacked on top of each other, and the "cargo" on the train cars are as follows:

Gummy bears 

A fairly standard candy choice, but they just look like something you'd expect to find on a little train like this. They were also the most popular candy cargo by far, so this little carriage was pretty much depopulated by the time the party was over.

Candy "Lego"

These are pretty awesome! They are absolutely functional little blocks, that you can also eat. I thought they seemed like something a toy train might carry, and were a nice little nod to one of Espen's other interests. We bought ours locally, but they are also available here on Amazon.

Candy Pebbles 

I admittedly don't love the flavor, but thought these were too cute and fitting to pass up. They were kind of pricey, but it only took a handful to fill up a train, and it also turns out that they are produced here in Utah, so yay for local businesses! You can find the exact ones we got here, or get something really similar here on Amazon

And that, my friends, is how we made our train cake. 

And if you're into train parties, you might also like:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

How to dress a Squiggle*

I am back from a three day weekend! Not that we actually went anywhere, but it was so great to have Nick home with us for an extra day off. We celebrated with a family trip to the movies (Espen's second one ever, thankfully we were the only ones there!), a little shopping, some lunch and a car wash. We love a good car wash in our family, don't you? Nick also gave me an extra day to sleep in, so today I am back to reality feeling like I got a bit of break.

Today I thought I'd show you some of the growing pile of baby clothes that we have stashed in our guest room. The vast majority is from my mother (a recreational shopper with a penchant for sales), but now that a lot of stores are facing up to the fact that colder weather is coming, we've been doing a little baby shopping of our own.

Forgive that these photos are a little bright, but I took them in the bright afternoon sun during quiet time (which is the new nap time), which was the only time I had to myself all day.

Cute overload.
 I think I horrified a friend of mine the other day by suggesting that, at this rate, my daughter may well live out her babyhood in nothing but dresses and jammies, because I just can't resist either. Seriously, look at that little owl! The sailor dress! I'm trying so hard to be practical, but then I just picture a dark-eyed baby in a dress and chubby-legged tights and my resolve weakens. However, I have at least been practical enough (OK, so my mum has been practical enough) to buy these in different sizes so she has some to grow into. The four on the left are all gifts from Norway, and the two on the right are the ones we've bought. From Gap and the Children's Place, respectively (although I couldn't find the second one on their website). Also, I'm thinking little she needs some little cardigans to go with these.

This needs to be multiplied by about five. Also, I'm feeling rather smug about the lack of pink in this photo. 

Tops and onesies. I know from experience that we will be needing an enormous collection of these thanks to the rate that most newborn need to have their clothes changed. With babies that are tiny enough to not be able to support their heads very well, I love the kimono style onesies (like the top left) where you can just lie them on top and button them in without having to pull anything over their heads. Unfortunately, those are a little trickier to come by.  I'm a big fan of onesies and bought them for Espen for as long as he could fit in them for the simple fact that it keeps a kid warm and dressed without the gap in the middle that you get with shirts and pants.  The three onesies in the front are all from Old Navy and can be found here. 

I like to imagine a soft and sleepy baby inside these. 

Jammies, one-pieces and a pair of overalls. Being another winter baby who mostly stayed at home with his mama, Espen spent the first couple of months of his life in his footie pajamas. Squiggle will have much the same experience, so we need to expand this collection a bit too. The eagle-eyed reader will also have noticed that the pair of overalls in this picture makes up Squiggle's entire collection of pants. We need to get on that, but let's be honest, baby pants just aren't as cute or fun to buy. The stripy giraffe pajamas and the cream and turquoise one piece are both from Carter's, and the rest were from my mama in Norway, who is too generous for her own good (although, Mumsy, please don't stop until you get her some tights, please!). Now I want to pair those overalls with the turquoise onesie in the picture above.

Oh dear.
And finally, the miscellaneous category. With 11 weeks to go, this baby has one pair of shoes, one hat, one ruffly-bottomed pair of... whatchamacallits and four receiving blankets (we are big swaddlers in our family) and a fairly shocking lack of almost everything else. These are all killing me with their cuteness, and making me think that we do indeed need to hit the shops a bit harder. Oh, the humanity! However will we live?

This post has been brought to you by the 28th week of pregnancy, a confirmation from my doctor that Squiggle is, in fact, still a girl and a highly inspirational reading of the Mini Boden catalog. Who don't sponsor me, but I have a feeling that I will very soon be sponsoring them.

*Squiggle is a nickname that we came up with for the baby, because that is what she does all day long. Espen spent the first months of embryo and fetus-hood as Sprinkle, because I read that he was the size of a chocolate sprinkle the week we first learned of his existence.