Piper at almost 5 months and Other Stuff

Piper had her 4 month check up last week (a few weeks late!) In addition to the dreaded shots (one in each leg, she handled it with a few good cries, then some grace), she smiled endlessly at the nurse and doctor, weighed 15 lbs 13 oz, and is 25 1/4 inches long. She seems really big to me...but the weight and height put her in the 75-90%, so nothing off the charts of anything!

4 months old is so much different than a newborn. She's so strong...really wants to be sitting up or standing up. Doesn't tolerate the reclined angle of a bouncy seat or car seat very well, primarily because she is working her abs the whole time to get more upright.

And she wants to be upright because she wants to engage. That's the fun part. She smiles so easily, talks and coos a lot, laughs out loud (mostly at Rowan). She tracks what's going on in the room, who's going where, and all of this is just easier to do when you're sitting up.

She reaches and grabs for toys and makes a fast panting noise when her favorites come into view.

When she is awake, she is generally happy. I've recently gotten brave enough to take both girls to the grocery store. Not for a long trip, but definitely not and in-an-out trip, either. Piper actually stayed in her car seat the whole time (a revelation!)...happily gazing at the lights and ceiling fans, the whirring groceries as we passed. This may seem like a normal occurrence for a baby at the store, but for me, after Rowan's baby-hood, this is a minor miracle. To go to the store with my hands free, with no crying. A miracle.

And the car trips, too, are much improved. She will cry if she is tired, but that seems to be the only time she cries in the car nowadays.

I've been putting Piper's hair in two ponytails. I had to do something, it's getting so long. My friend Jill (thank you very much for doing this without asking, for helping a hairstyle deficient momma out) put her hair in one ponytail on top of her head a few weeks ago...and I realized it was possible. And sort of cute. It just makes her look so old. If old is 7 or 8 months, at least :)

Sleep has been our only frustrating category. For about a month now she's been back on her schedule of waking every 3-4 hours. Usually happy, sometimes hungry. But way too frequently for an almost-16 pound 4 month old. She isn't waking up in discomfort, as far as we can tell....she's just waking. Maybe out of habit. Who knows. Last week we decided to let her cry for graduated periods of time. The first night, she cried an hour and a half, then later in the night for 45 minutes, then later for 30. We thought we were on the right track. The next night, she cried from 4:00 AM until after 6:30 AM...it was quiet about 20 minutes (did she even go to sleep, or was she just pondering child abandonment?) and cried out again at 7:00...at which point we decided she must really be hungry by now, it was, after all, morning.

Those are the worst times. I think hell might be perpetual waking between the hours of 2:00 AM and 4:30 AM. Time would never advance past those hours...just get to 4:30 and go right back to 2:00 AM, and you're still not sleeping. Or maybe you've just finally fallen asleep, only to be woken again.

Then you just start questioning everything: does this qualify as child abuse? is she really old enough to know that we will be here in the morning, that she is safe? could she be hungry? maybe she is sick. maybe her diaper is full. maybe her foot is caught in the railing. maybe a spider bit her.

But then, at 7:00 AM, after basically 3 hours of crying, she greets me with a huge smile, wants to coo on the changing table. Huh.

So we're still figuring the sleep out. Most people say to go in and check periodically to make sure there is no pressing need...then to let them cry for graduated amounts of time. Seems easy enough. But there are still a million things to question!

She has done this 2-3 hour period of crying more than a few more times...usually in the early early morning hours....and never succeeds in falling asleep. Needless to say, we're tired. From listening and waiting it out. So we're giving it a break for a few weeks to see if she makes any improvement in her sleep naturally. The last several days she's experimented with the very fun possibility of waking, for good, at about 5:00 AM. Good times.

I've uploaded a bunch of photos to Flickr from the past month or so. A few shots from Mother's Day (of the girls with their Nana, a few with me), some more pictures from the actual day Piper was 4 months old, some pictures of Piper's evolving hair-dos, a few pics from an apple orchard, some silly dress-up. You'll also find a random shot of some retro wallpaper we found while doing some demolition at the house, a picture of Rowan working on a mural we're doing in Piper's room, and several pictures from a nice Sunday hike we took when the leaves were just budding. To see this random assortment of photos, click here.

We're just pointing out the resemblance, that's all :)

Joe should really write a post about what he's been up to. In addition to trying to finish our kitchen, he has been really busy doing some side projects for other people, and coaching pole vault a few days a week at a local high school. He has some fun stories to tell!


My New Photography Website!

It's time. I have a website for my photography! I've been working on it for awhile, and it's finally ready. Check it out at www.cebulskiphotography.com

Most of you know that I take a lot of pictures (just look at the blog and at my Flickr account!) I've loved photography for a lot of years now. Several years ago, while we lived in Jonesboro, I started to get a lot of requests from friends and friends-of-friends to take their photos. What started, quite organically and with little effort on my part, was a nice little side business/income from taking photos.

I've never done any official advertising or marketing...and have also always kind of flown by the seat of my pants when it comes to what I charge for what. It seems like I am always making up new ways to approach it...and it hasn't been very efficient.

So now we're back in West Michigan. We'll likely be here for awhile. And I've made a personal commitment to learning more and more about photography...to know my camera better, to know photoshop better, and just in general to keep improving. And part of that commitment is putting myself out there in a more intentional way. Hence the website.

This website is a big step for me. I've never liked the "business" side of taking pictures. I really don't like having to charge friends, for example...but the truth is, it's something that takes a lot of time (for every hour that I shoot, it takes 2-3 hours afterwards in editing). I also don't like charging what is clearly a higher price than you could get at a mall studio...but the truth is, I can take pictures better than most. I'm good at it. That last statement is particularly hard for me to claim. I don't know why, I just have this real hesitation and fear when it comes to confidence in this subjective creative skill. It's easier when it's "just for friends" or "no big deal." Joe has always encouraged me to be more confident in my attitude towards my photography...but my natural inclination is to lean on the side of under-valuing it. Partly out of a fear of failure, honestly.

So that's my little confession. All this to say: I'm proud of this website, of a bunch of my work gathered in one place. And I'm also a little scared: now that it's out there, I risk the chance of not getting any work!

Spend some time checking it out, and if you want to, let me know what you think. If you are a regular blog reader, you might recognize some photos. But there are new ones, too. If you are a friend and I have photographed you, you might just see your face!


there are so many moments as a mother that i wish someone, paparazzi-like, could snap a quick photo of a sweet interaction, a quickly-passing gesture between me and my girls.

there are times when i try to figure out how to take that photo myself, but i can never manage to hold my clunky camera at the right angle to include me in the picture.

this is the series of photographs from earlier today:

it is this morning, but it could have been any morning, in the early (too early) morning light. the window by our bed is open wide, and fresh, cool air blows carefully over us. a few birds are singing, but otherwise it is quiet.

at some point (i can't remember when, after too many footsteps to the nursery and back) i carry piper to bed with us, too weary to make another trip to her bedroom. i don't know how long she's been with us, but she rouses, and i instinctively, confidently, pull her to me.

we are belly to belly. i'm on my left side, she on her right, mirrors of each other. my left arm rests under and above my head. she doesn't need much help anymore...she's an expert at this nursing thing by now. her mouth makes that sweet O without much effort as she waits for the familiar breast to come near.

i never know what to do with my free arm when we nurse lying down. it always seems to be in the way. this morning, i realize that it finally fits just over her torso, no longer seeming to smother her tiny (not anymore) frame. i lay my right arm there, tugging her closer to me. we fit together perfectly.

just as effortlessly, her left arm springs up in response, she lays her hand on my forearm with purpose. by now my milk has come in, her eyes are heavy with satisfaction. we are intertwined, as close as can be.

her fingers don't stop moving, but her hand stays firmly planted on my arm. keep your arm here, mommy. hold me tight. i am warm, i am safe.

when i finally lift my eyes from this perfect child at my breast, i realize that rowan has also joined us in bed. she has a cold, and had a rough night of sleep. i don't remember when she joined us, either, but i am thankful for a king bed.

rowan is snuggled up really close to her daddy and they are both sleeping, looking surprisingly peaceful after a rough night for everyone. their skin looks smooth and flawless in this early morning light. they are both so warm-blooded, feeling comfortable in this coolness, even with significant amounts of skin exposed to the air. i am thankful for it this morning as i admire the contours of their bodies, not sure where one starts and the other ends.

piper is calm, slips off of my breast. she looks up at me with her big blue eyes. this morning light (ideal for photographs) catches their color and adds sparkle to the full-faced grin she offers, looking me directly in the eye.

we are both weary, surely, after such truncated sleep. and yet, we pass the next hour in bed...cooing quietly, smiling, snuggling, in love with each other....until i know she is ready for her first nap of the morning.

it could have been any morning, filled with actions mostly small, mundane.

of all these actions, i want a photo of her little hand on my arm.

so i won't forget.