Istock Flames!

I have been contributing photos to istockphoto for about a year now. Istock is a great micro-stock photo site where people can download photos for a reasonable fee (for use on websites, brochures, whatever) and I get a cut of each download. Actually, I submitted a bunch of photos at first, got over 90 accepted, and haven't submitted any more since the Spring! So I need to work more on that soon....it's a nice little way to make money :)

When a photo gets 100 downloads, it gets a cool little flame symbol above it, because it's "hot" I guess.

I got my first flames this week! Check it out here. It's a photo of Joe and Rowan on the beach off of Highway 1 in CA.


She laughs

Hard to believe that Piper is already one month old.

She laughs. The first time it was in her sleep, like those dreamy smiles that babies give that everyone attributes to gas. I'm pretty sure a giggle is proof that an actual dream was going on. The first verifiable, lucid giggle came while Rowan and I were watching High School Musical, of all things. Scary but true. That movie was created to get songs stuck in your head, and during the last song Rowan and I were dancing. Piper happened to wake up during this, so I picked her up and kept dancing with her. I guess she liked the song, too, or maybe the dancing....because she laughed out loud.

Smiles are coming much quicker, too. It's just the best.

She's also started to coo. Amazing to watch the beginning of language, to see her brain firing and trying to communicate back with all the sweet talking people do to her.

It's clear that she is discovering her voice and that it gives her pleasure.

Rowan hasn't been feeling well the last few days (welcome to winter in Michigan), so we've had our first times of real jealousy and Rowan feeling frustrated by my divided attention. Rowan has wanted to snuggle while I'm nursing, or has some other urgent need when I'm walking or soothing Piper. She has said things like "I'm tired of being a big sister" or "I wish we never had a baby"...all understandable things, for sure, and I'm trying to just communicate to her that it's normal to feel that way.

My dad was noting recently that most of Rowan's imaginative play the last few weeks has surrounded the idea of protection or safety (and my dad should know, since he does a LOT of imaginative play with Rowan!) She got a horse barn for Christmas, and for weeks now she has wanted to gather up all her horses and animals closely to each other, then has my dad kind of lay down around them....and they play that a snow storm (or other such storm) is coming, and they have to protect all the animals. This can go on for a long time. They were also building with legos and she started to put a fence around a house...but she insisted that it wasn't a fence, but "protectors". Not only has her life been turned upside-down by the birth of Piper, but her sense of "home" has also been a bit shaky for the last year. We have lived so many different places and referred to each of them as "home"... it's no wonder she wants to fiercely protect what she has!

The clothing sensitivity issue has much improved, thanks in no small part to the seamless socks. That, and we've gotten more firm with what is and isn't acceptable behavior to cope with her discomfort!

Our nights have been really up and down with Piper. Some nights have been decent...she's slept for 3 or even 3 and a half hours between feeds. But then other nights have been brutal....like she's up every 30 or 45 minutes, and we never really get to sleep. Joe and I started sleeping in separate rooms so that at least ONE of us is getting some rest every night...but that's getting old. I've been doing a much better job with baby #2 at taking care of myself and accepting help at night. I never missed a night-time feed when Rowan was a baby. That wasn't good for me, or her probably. With Piper we started giving her a bottle of breast milk at 2 weeks old....and now, at least 2 or 3 times a week, either Joe or my mom has been doing a middle-of-the-night feeding, so I can string together 4 or 5 hours of sleep. That has been wonderful!

I can do anything, really, if I'm well-rested.

Piper is an amazing nurser. Rowan was this way, too. Piper nurses so quickly that I'm often questioning whether she has gotten enough (she has: yesterday she weighed 10 lbs, 8 oz!). It's a combination of my milk production and her sucking ability....but I'm not exaggerating that it takes her about 5-8 minutes to nurse. Usually just on one breast and she's good to go. I always offer the second, but most of the time she's already full. I've been pumping in the middle of the night when my mom or Joe has her....and I can get 5 ounces in less than 3 minutes. Talk about milk! Joe says we need to sell it on Craigslist.

This quick nursing is a real blessing in most ways--less time to have to negotiate a baby on the breast and all the other needs around me...easy to quick nurse if we are out and about, and not have to miss much, nice to have shorter wake times in the middle of the night. But sometimes I wish she would nurse longer...like when she is fussy, and it would be nice to have quiet for 20 minutes! Like her big sister was, Piper is not interested in nursing for comfort or to fall asleep...she will only take the breast if she is hungry. She's all business.

So it's 3:00 PM, I'm still in my pjs (even though they are damp with breast milk), I haven't brushed my hair or put my contacts in...and it seems like half of the days are this way. I have to plot out when I will get food in me, plan ahead to take a shower, and just in general use time very wisely if I want to get a load of laundry done or accomplish any other seemingly mundane, daily task. Hence the lack of blog posts the last week or so.

As my sister-in-law Stacia said the other day: my hands are always busy, even if my brain is not.

That's something I have to figure out as the weeks wear on. While I am doing this all-important work of caring for little children, and while I really enjoy most of it, I crave some creative or intellectual outlet, too. It's weird that I can feel bored when there is so much going on. I'm constantly holding someone, making someone food (or nursing), changing diapers, walking, patting, shushing, picking up....the tasks don't really end, and yet this nagging sense of boredom arises.

I'll have to figure out how to carve time into the week that engages me as an adult, a creative person, and as someone who has skills other than mothering.

Important for my daughters to see me interacting with the world, too. I want them to grow into strong, confident, capable women....so they need to see me being those things!

To see a few more photos, click here.


Dreaming of Seamless Socks

So a few weeks ago I had a dream that I was at the store and came across some seamless socks for kids. They were $20 a pair in my dream, which didn't deter me a bit...I bought 3 pairs and was really happy about it.

Pretty bad if I'm dreaming about seamless socks, right?

Dreams always tell us something. Well, I figured this dream was telling me to go and google seamless socks, because surely they existed and could help with our morning dressing situation.

They do exist. They are $8 a pair, which compared to the $20 in my dream didn't sound too bad. I ordered 3 pairs last week, they arrived Monday.

And mornings are back to semi-normal.

Who knew that I could be so happy about a pair of socks!

If anyone has heard of seamless panties for kids (not the fancy ones for adults that make it look like you have no underwear seams...but TRULY seamless panties in kids sizes) let me know.

A quick update on sleep since the last posting about Piper: they always say sleep will get better and better as the weeks go on. Not true the last 4 days. We've had some really rough nights...and the thought of sleeping 2 hours straight now seems like a pretty good deal. Hasn't happened lately.

Socks: much better.
Sleep: not so much.


Mini Photo Shoot of Piper at 2.5 weeks

To see more photos from our mini photo shoot at 2-1/2 weeks...click here.


Do we produce fussy babies?

The jury is still out on what kind of baby Piper will be: calm and typical, or gassy and fussy? This week there has been a lot of evidence towards the latter....and it makes our hearts sink a bit. Rowan was a challenging infant (never slept well...didn't sleep through the night until 9 months, cried in the car always, cried during lots of her wake times, required lots and lots of stimulation to be happy)...so we were hoping for a more relaxed second child! Many of the days this week have felt like those early days with Rowan. When a baby is fussy, you're always questioning what the cause is--once hunger, sleep, and a clean diaper have been ruled out....there is lots of mystery. Piper has seemed uncomfortable this week, like her body is trying to process the gas and digestion and something just doesn't feel right. So I start paying attention to what I'm eating, and eliminate the common culprits: onions, broccoli, grapefruit, chocolate. What a guessing game!

Let me make this clear: what an amazing blessing to have a healthy child. Babies are miracles...sounds cliche, but it is so true. We are thankful. We are blessed. We marvel at her every day. Her body is perfect. Her skin is amazing.

And yet...these first weeks are hard. Poor sleep, trying to figure each other out. All of us adjusting to new roles and responsibilities as a family of four. Some good friends of ours found out they are pregnant with their first child last week...and they stopped by the house to share the news with Joe. Upon reporting the visit to me, Joe said that he was aware that he needed to show excitement about the pregnancy....and had to dig deep to offer genuine words of congratulations. He said that as he was saying "wow, that's great!" in his head he was thinking "what are you thinking?" and when he said "congratulations" he was really thinking "don't you guys like each other?" During this newborn phase especially, Joe maintains that kids are no good for a marriage. And he's probably right. We get through it...and learn some things about each other in the end, and come to a deeper appreciation for each other, and ultimately share a different, deeper kind of bond because of parenting together. But there is nothing romantic about waking up together every two hours, changing dirty diapers, and enduring unexplained crying.

Some days with Piper have been better than others....but there are always at least a few moments of calm sweetness during the day, of staring into each others' eyes, of cooing and talking and just memorizing each other. Rowan seems to love baby stuff...wants to hold Piper a lot, help change her diapers and clothes, and it is so cool to watch them together.

There has been one significant way that Rowan has reacted to having a new sibling. We haven't seen any direct jealousy or acting out towards Piper...but Rowan's clothing sensitivities have elevated to another level, and we're figuring that it is at least in part a reaction to her life changing. I think I've written in the past about some of Rowan's sensitivities and particularities...she definitely perceives her environment in an acute way, and oftentimes the stimulation is just too much to handle. So for example, she doesn't have a single pair of jeans...they are too uncomfortable for her. And socks are always an issue...it takes quite awhile each morning to get them to fit just right. The seam has to be perfectly centered over her toes, the heel pocket exactly where it should be. Barrettes or ponytails? Forget it. Her sensitivities have been an annoyance for sure...but we've all been able to cope and adapt to them. Her wardrobe consists of all soft, comfy things...this winter her outfit of choice has been cotton leggings with a loose cotton dress. Winter has been a new challenge because of all the layering that is required...coats are a pain, boots don't feel right, and you can imagine how mittens or gloves go over. Anyways, not long after Piper was born, Rowan decided that her panties didn't feel right...and it has kind of spiraled into a ridiculous situation at dressing time. Lots of crying, negotiating, and gnashing of teeth and stomping of feet (by Rowan, then by us).

Because if the panties don't feel right...putting something over the panties, say leggings or pants, just complicates matters. And by the time we get to putting on socks (30 minutes later), things are in really bad shape. As this scenario has played out and intensified each day when it is time to get dressed, we've had to figure out how to deal with it: empathize with her sensitivities, sure, but at what point is this a discipline issue? We're trying to figure out how to help her cope, how to set boundaries on what's acceptable behavior to deal with her discomfort, and finding that line between being patient and being firm. A child psychologist might say this is a classic case of a child with a new sibling vying for attention...even if it's negative attention. Thing is, Rowan has quite possibly had MORE attention in the last 3 weeks than she ever has had in her life...between 2 grandparents being around and me being mostly home bound, she has had ample undivided attention. So we're working on the situation.

There are moments in the day that feel like I have everything under control. I took a photo of one such moment above. When Piper is sleeping on her own, when Rowan is fully engaged in something independently. I look like I know what I'm doing. Heck, I even feel something like a competent parent.

I asked Rowan the other day what has been something unexpected about having a new baby. After talking about what 'unexpected' means, she thoughtfully replied "how much she cries and how much she nurses are two things I didn't expect." Well, I should have expected those things....I've done this once before...but the mind has a funny way of forgetting that stuff, otherwise we might never do it again!

I love the way they are looking at each other in this photo. Piper looks like she is talking with her hands. Rowan is gently touching Piper's head.

I have a feeling that watching these two girls grow up together, watching them play and fight and love each other, watching them develop into adults and relate to each other as friends...I have a feeling that witnessing their relationship will be one of the great privileges of my life.

To see a few more photos from the week, click here.


Another Piper Update

A few days ago we were sitting down for lunch and Rowan abruptly got up, retrieved her dolly, and went to the couch. “I have to nurse the baby before I eat,” she said matter-of-factly. She hoisted her shirt and did just that…very seriously….for several minutes. Then she returned to her lunch, announcing to no one in particular: “babies are a lot of work.”

I was glad that she tolerated me snapping a few photos…you can check them out on flickr. Pretty cute. And it makes sense that she would pretend to nurse….a big part of her new reality as a big sister is that mommy nurses every few hours. So she’s seen plenty of it these past days!

We had another appointment with the pediatrician this week and at exactly one week old, Piper weighed 8 lbs 10 oz…so she continues to gain weight beautifully. She’s sleeping like a newborn should…has periodic wakeful times of an hour or so during the day, and is on continual sleep at night except for waking to nurse every 2-3 hours. 3 if we’re really lucky! Mornings have still been nice and lazy for me….I can stay in bed with Piper because Rowan goes to play with Grandma and Grandpa. The other day my mom came to get Piper mid-morning and I slept another few hours without even thinking about the baby—that’s a luxury! Then she even made me scrambled eggs when I finally rolled out of bed right before noon. Moving back in with the parents has been a great idea for the first few weeks with a newborn! Seriously, it has made for a very relaxed and restful transition for all of us. My mom and dad go back to work on Monday….then I’ll be in for the reality of parenting 2!

Rowan was not an easy baby…and we’ve been holding our breath to see what kind of temperament Piper will have. I maintain that the first few weeks don’t reveal much…newborns are on such sleepy mode, it’s hard to tell if they’re going to be fussy or calm. One piece of what made Rowan hard was that the car was not a calming place for her. She just cried in the car….if it was a quick trip to the grocery store or a long trip back up to MI. We were in Jonesboro when she was a baby, so in her first year we made several 11 hour road trips up to Grand Rapids…and they were not fun. She would literally not sleep for 11 hours, and would cry for over half the hours. It’s so exhausting when you can’t do much about the crying, but have to listen to it for that long. And even short trips were aggravating…I had to really consider whether an errand or date with a friend was worth it!

Again, 10 days is a bit young to know patterns…but so far there has been lots of crying in the car. My first time driving with the girls alone was to the pediatrician the other day (Joe met us there)….and Piper was crying harder than she ever has, which made Rowan really uncomfortable, so SHE started crying, saying “I don’t like the crying, I don’t like the crying!” over and over again. I don’t think a 15 minute car ride has EVER felt so long to me!

We’ve been looking at baby photos to try and determine where Piper came from….she was really baffling us, not just the hair, but all of her features. We looked at Joe and Steph’s baby pictures last week and didn’t see much in common. We hauled out me and my brother Tom’s newborn photos a few days ago….and her soft, stick-out hair is very similar to Tom’s when he was born. Then we checked out my photos…and there are some strong similarities! Yeah for me! She definitely doesn’t look like I do NOW, but in those newborn photos…especially the profile ones…the eyes and nose look just alike. Her face is a bit rounder than mine was (which is definitely a Cebulski baby trait), but it’s kind of fun to think that she might look a little like me! People always say Rowan looks like Joe….which is fine because I think Joe is quite handsome…but wouldn’t it be fun if Piper favored me?

To see a few more photos, click here.