Thursday, July 31, 2014

News! Hitting The Books

I've been keeping a secret. It's kind of a scary secret. Well, scary for me. I'm taking a big jump, a risk. I'm making a bit of a sacrifice now, in the hopes that it pays off at some point in the future. It's only a secret because I've been too nervous to talk about it too much.

I'm going back to school.

I am enrolled to take a two year Masters of Information program with two specialties; Archives and Records Management and Library and Information Science. Essentially, I'm going to learn about how we preserve information on one hand, and how we access information on the other. Some of it will be awesome. Some of it will be dreadfully dull.

So, why? Over the past 4 years, I've developed a career in communications, working as a technical writer, marketing writer, and training content writer - yes, all at once. I take information and make it useful, readable, as interesting as possible. Some of the time, I'm good at it. Some of the time, I really think my communication skills could use a little development. While I'm on my maternity leave - a delightful year here in Canada - I'm going to do just that.

A Masters of Information (or MI for short) will do two things for me: improve my skills for the career I'm currently in, and give me a new direction, towards a new career, should I choose to pursue further change in a couple years. With the Library and Information Science specialty, I will be fully qualified for librarianship - public, private, institutional; they all sound like a dream job to me.

It's a scary move. Isabel will be just 2 months old when my first day of classes comes around. My schedule looks pretty good so far - just one full day of classes, and a couple more days with night classes. But the idea of leaving her in the care of someone else and leaving, even just for a day... it makes me a little nervous. And what about my course work? Will she nap enough so that I can get everything that I need to done? Will I ultimately fail as a student while being nothing but a mediocre mother for my daughter? And, what about my relationship to the Husband and our relationships as a family - the dogs and Isabel included? How much will they suffer with me spending so much time working my butt off for a degree that, in the end, might not move my career forward at all? And then, of course, there's finances. Oh, finances. It's bad enough that I'm not getting my full salary while on maternity leave. Adding tuition on top of that, with a second year of no income looming just 11 months away worries me to no end. I know we'll be fine if we're careful. Have I forgotten how to be careful in our years of double income and no kids? Or, will I need to return to work in a year and have yet another thing to juggle?

The Husband and I have been talking about this for a year. We carefully worked Isabel into the plan, knowing that, while I wanted to go back to school, we didn't want to put off having children. We've been examining all these questions and fears since last August. We're not letting them stop me.

I'm working really hard to not let these fears overwhelm me. Some days, I'm not successful.

But, some days, I am.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

One Month




Isabel is one month old today.

Sleeping: She only makes me get up one time in the night these days. Of course, night time doesn't start for her until 11 or 12. But, I'm grateful for the nights she gives me 3-4 hour stretches of sleep. On the nights she doesn't, we both love snuggling down in bed after the Husband goes to work and napping the morning away.

Eating: She's growing, and growing well, which means eating is going well. Some days, a little too well. Even when it's going well, breastfeeding is not always fun, especially when she decides to go through a growth spurt and doesn't want to do anything all day but feed and fuss.

Pooping: I can't talk about how she's doing without talking about this! Because she's eating so well, she's doing a really good job of making diapers too. I've got an order in for a few cloth diapers in order to try them out and see if we might want to switch over. Feel free to share any advice and experience you have with them! I'm a little nervous about transitioning, but I hate how much garbage we're making right now.

Growing: I started my first box of clothes she's grown out of earlier this week. It doesn't contain a lot yet, since we avoided buying newborn sized clothes as much as possible, but even a few of her 0-3 month sized outfits seem to be getting a little tight on her. At this rate, she won't make it to 3 months before she's fitting into all 3-6 month sizes. I'm going to need to go shopping soon.

And, what about me?

Sleeping: I am. I get less, yes, but I feel way more rested these days than I did when I was pregnant. However, I fade faster. I get worn out by 6 pm or so, right about when Isabel decides to wake up and fuss and cluster feed until midnight.

Eating: I do. A lot. Maybe too much. But, post partum eating when breastfeeding is confusing. I need to keep my calorie intake up in order to keep my supply up, but it can be hard to find a moment and the free hand to make a proper, healthy meal, especially since Isabel's eating schedule always seems to end up being the same as mine. So, I end up eating a lot of things that aren't good for me: cookies, squares, brownies, all the goodies left over from the baptism on the weekend.

Staying Sane: I read if I can keep my eyes open during middle of the night feedings. I watch Netflix while she sleeps on me and won't let me put her down. I've reached out to our neighbours and other nearby moms in order to hold on to friendships and a little adult interaction. Some days, I do nothing but sit on the couch and snuggle her sweet self. I expect nothing more from myself.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Faking It: A Stair Solution

Because our attic is brand new living space, one of the things we needed to address during our renovation was a brand new set of stairs. Have you ever looked in to new stairs? Even low-end models made with cheap wood and no extra details go for thousands of dollars. Of course, that includes measurements, manufacture, and install - easy peasy.

We're not easy peasy people though, and we don't have multiple thousands of dollars floating around to spend on a set of stairs. DIY time!


It's not quite done yet, but the hardest parts have been figured out and executed, and the Husband is pretty proud of his work. So, how did we do it?

We started with this:


The Husband and his dad built a strong, but not exactly pretty set of stairs out of fairly cheap wood. They felt amazing after months and months of living with a kind of rickety set of temporary stairs. These stairs became the base for the final product.

We found a company nearby that specializes in restoring and recovering stairs. Most of the work they do involves ripping up carpet and covering the basic wooden stairs beneath with higher quality wood. This is essentially what we were doing, except that we never started with carpeted stairs. We called them in, had them take plenty of measurements, and ordered all the pieces. We thought briefly about hiring them for installation too, but, in the end, the Husband wanted to take a crack at putting it all together.

When the pieces finally arrived, it took the Husband a little bit of a learning curve to put them all together. There were still cuts to be made to get the standard pieces down to the right size and a little creative thinking necessary for figuring out how our railing fit into the whole picture. But, finally, many weeks later, we've got a set of stairs stained and sealed and only missing some white spindles. (The company made a mistake in ordering our spindles and didn't order any longer ones to go up the angle of the stairs. So, we only have half for the stairs.)


Other than trim, these stairs are pretty well the last thing to finish in the attic, and certainly the last thing required for us to close out our permit. Of everything, in some ways, these stairs were the most exciting part of the attic renovation to see come together. We had no stair building expertise before we began, and yet, by carefully muddling through, we figured it out and have ended up with a finished product that, to me, looks just as good as something installed by professionals.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Isabel's Baptism

Isabel was baptized on Sunday. She didn't sleep well at night or during the day for two days before hand. She was bright eyed and fussy; I was stressed and running on 5 hours of sleep and caffeine.

But this event was so important to us. From a theological standpoint, baptism is one of only two sacraments celebrated in our church. It's more important than a graduation from catechism, the ordination of a pastor, time spent volunteering, or the passing of a collection plate. A baptism is even more important than a marriage.

So, together, the Husband and I presented Isabel for baptism, promising, in doing so, to raise her with the knowledge of our faith and the knowledge of grace so that one day, she may accept the promise God has already given to her.

I know she might not. In fact, I know that the way in which I hope to raise my daughter may result in her father and I watching, hearts breaking, as she struggles and fights against faith and ultimately walks away from God. I'm willing to take that risk. It is my hope that whatever faith she claims for her own is not followed blindly, accepting the rules and regulations of religion without question, but a faith developed through questions and and doubt, a faith made stronger by uncertainty and a healthy respect and acceptance for new perspectives and ideas. In baptizing her, the Husband and I place our trust in God that he will guide her through that journey to a place of full trust in him, and help us to walk alongside her in love, no matter what.

But now, on to the pictures of our adorable sweet baby in a 65 year old baptismal gown.


Our church's pastor was away on Sunday, so we got the incredibly special privilege of having Isabel baptized by her grandfather, my dad, aka, the Farminarian.


The baptismal gown was purchased many many years ago by my grandmother's parents for the birth of their first boy. Yes, a little ridiculous that their first children, daughters, didn't merit a new dress, but none-the-less, it's pretty special that Isabel wore a dress that has been worn by 4 generations of my family. I love the symbolism contained in those yellowing folds of fabric.


Throughout the day, I tried to think of the photos I have cherished through the years of myself as a baby, making sure to snap a few for Isabel to one day flip through. She is lucky to have four great grandparents alive, so I did my best to capture photos of her with each one, snuggled in the arms of people I hope she will grow up to know.


Ultimately, it was a good day, full of love and joy from so many directions for her new, little life. And I survived, despite the stress and the caffeine jitters.

(The Husband and I are both members of the Christian Reformed Church of North America if you're curious about our theological background.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

When Your Dogs Are Your Babies, Until You Bring Home A Human One

Anyone who has read this blog for any period of time knows that the Husband and I are dog people, through and through. True, we have a cat too, whom I love nearly as much as Mocha and Kingsley, but there is nothing quite like the relationship we have to our two four-legged canine fur-babies. We even used them to announce the anticipated arrival of Isabel.


I'll admit, I was a little nervous about how they would react to a new little one in our household. How would they handle those hours upon hours of screaming and fussing? Would we have to worry about aggression, never fully trusting them in her presence? Would they act out, angry and upset that our attention had been diverted away from them?

In the months before Isabel's delivery, I read article after article about mixing dogs and babies. They all say the same things - never leave baby alone with the dogs; send something, like baby's first hat or blanket, home for the dogs to sniff before bringing baby home; learn to read your dog's signs of discomfort so you can act against it. All useful advice, but I'm not sure any of it actually prepared me for what it was going to be like bringing Isabel home.

We brought her in, sleeping in her car seat. The dogs were thrilled to see us. After all, we had been gone for two days. I took some time to greet them. I had missed them too, after all! And then, Isabel squawked. It was a little noise, but it was enough to divert their attention toward the car seat. Kingsley started to bark, his loud, protective, territorial bark. Mocha whined, crawling up on the back of the couch and wiggling her butt, the exact same reaction she has to the first squeak of a new toy. She thought Isabel was a squeaker toy, brought home just for her.

It was chaos.

I'm not sure how we got Kingsley to stop barking. Some of the details of those first days home with Isabel are a little fussy in my head. But eventually he did and eventually Mocha realized that this noisy thing was not a squeaker toy, but a living thing. And, in a matter of a day, they settled into a role of mild curiosity and curious affection.

 
They seem to have settled in contentedly to this new life with a baby. They're learning to sleep through 2 am and 4 am nursing sessions. They're getting used to walking with a stroller. They're being taught to give her space when she's napping.

Shortly after the Husband and I decided that it was time to grow our family, I remember looking at Mocha and wondering how I could love a baby as much as I love my dogs. Almost simultaneously, I began worrying about the opposite thing. How could I love my dogs as much as I did when a little human being arrived, demanding everything I had?

Neither worry has blossomed into fruition. In bringing Isabel home, as the dogs settled into a quiet acceptance of her presence, I realized there was space for all of them in my life. Isabel is getting most of my snuggles these days, and sometimes I miss the puppy snuggles, but just having them there, sleeping beside the couch as I nurse, or sniffing beside the stroller as we walk Isabel to sleep has become a constant that I cling to just a little. Our life has been turned upside down, but Mocha and Kingsley are still exactly the same.


See the tongue? This kid is going to grow up covered in dog slobber.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

So Much Progress: Attic of Awesome Update

It's been a while since I properly updated about the attic. In fact, it's been a while since I've updated about our house at all. But, believe it or not, there has been a lot going on with our attic renovation and our little dusty bungalow. With the help of a cuddly baby carrier, I somehow managed to clean up and finally take some more or less decent photos of all the work we've accomplished over the past month or so.

Before I share those photos though, let's flash back a little. Our attic started out as your typical unfinished space, not even designed for storage.

  
We spent a lot of time reinforcing everything, ensuring the joists were strong enough to a) hold a floor and the weight of people and furniture and b) allow for us to take out a supporting wall on the main floor. We ran new electrical and plumbing for radiators. We added in knee walls and closets. We spray foamed. We drywalled.


With drywall up, we primed, put down beautiful dark engineered hardwood floors, hung closet doors, and moved our bedroom into the nearly finished space.


The attic stayed pretty much like this, other than a few furniture rearrangements and the addition of a duct-less A/C unit for a couple months, until my first week of maternity leave. At 39 weeks pregnant, I painted the walls with the help of my mom, somehow defying my usual failure at picking paint colours and ending up with a steely grey I was incredibly happy with. During the week following Isabel's birth, the Husband worked away at the stair railing.




We're not actually done yet, surprise, surprise. There are all sorts of little details to finish: trim, lighting above the stairs, painting the closet doors, and a little decorating. But, we're at a point now that it's comfortable, nothing huge hanging over our heads. So, for now, we're settled in, enjoying the space, proud of the transformation we accomplished.


Friday, July 4, 2014

Introducing Isabel Sonya


Isabel Sonya was born with an impressive cone head on June 24, 2014 at 8:38pm. She was 1 week and 1 day overdue, and a beautiful 7 lbs, 9 oz. Bringing her into this world and the subsequent first week of her life have been the hardest things I've ever done.

Moving through a bit of a fog, day to day, diaper change to feeding, to burping, to feeding, to diaper change, to nap, I'm not sure I've fully come to terms with the drastic change in our lives. One day, we're driving the dogs for a quick visit to the dog park and sitting up late watching movies on Netflix, waiting for a baby to come, and the next, any trip anywhere requires an extra 15 minutes so we can clumsily strap Isabel in her car seat, and late nights only happen because Isabel just dirtied yet another diaper and will need another good 20 minutes of feeding and half an hour of comforting before she'll sleep for two hours, if I'm lucky.

People are very quick to tell new moms that it gets better. I've already seen the truth of this in small ways as we've settled into something that looks almost like a routine for night time feedings and diaper changes. I'll be completely honest: I'm looking forward to it getting better and better and better. I'm looking forward to the day she really smiles at me, the night she sleeps through, the moment I realize she can hold her head up on her own. I know she'll never be so tiny again; I know time will move fast and one day I'll be wishing for these days back, so I'm doing my best to savour them through a haze of contented exhaustion and confusion, but I'm also looking forward to the days ahead and all the changes I know are on their way.

I can't wait to meet the person she is to become.