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Thursday, April 26, 2018

Baby Margaret - Four Month Update

Baby MCVA - July 22, 2017
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Our sweet girl has reached four months of age at the time of this photo - so July 22, 2017. She loved being propped up on my Boppy nursing pillow at this point, sitting up with some support behind her and playing with toys, putting them in her mouth. She loves this frog, which is part of an Infantino play mat we were given as a shower gift. The play mat is great because you can take down or put up the toys - she still loves the toys (some have crinkle paper, others have rings that clink together, another has a teething-friendly surface) now that the mat is put away! Here it is:

The Boppy pillow cover is not one of the standard ones, the one pictured is a Classic Plus cover. A cousin gave me a Classic Plus one in pink polka dot with stripes on the other side. The material is softer, more like a microfiber material than the basic cotton of the original. They also seem to not shrink or stiffen up when machine-washed, and fit onto the pillow much more easily between washes. I definitely have found that the Boppy Classic Plus covers are better long-term purchases, especially if you are exclusively or frequently breast-feeding!

Between her third and fifth months, things were a blur due to busy summer activities and comings and goings. So as I share things for her fourth month of life and things that have happened, please don't blame me if I post some duplicates of events that I may have mentioned last month, haha!

  • 11 pounds, 6 ounces
  • 25.5" long (officially over 2 feet tall/60 cm!)
  • No more swaddling due to Margaret's mobility
  • Started her on oatmeal due to her continued low weight gain (but still showing general growth and good diaper output)
  • Reaching for dangling objects (like on tummy time or on the mat)
  • Brings both hands together
  • Her first laugh! Finally!
  • Can see across the room
  • Vowel-consonant sounds
  • Sits by self with minimal support
  • Opens mouth for spoon - she hates/hated oatmeal. We diluted it with pureed apples and it still was a struggle bus for our girl. She knew right away we were tricking her. It made getting her to gain weight hard. Having to have her go on some solids so soon was my first moment of "Mom guilt" - you question yourself - is my breastmilk not enough? Did I do something wrong? It was one of those moments where I had to tell myself that guilting is silly and does not solve anything. Don't let yourself drown in anxiety of things you cannot control. I tried my best to help her gain by EBF but it didn't pan out, at least she still was able to enjoy breast milk! This point was just another stop on our journey of mommy-daughter time. Plus, adding some solids this early was great for M as he could spend more time bonding with our girl!
  • Rolls over and back
  • Makes two-syllable sounds - MAMA was her first word!!
  • First babysitter happened at this point in time - our cousin Emma - she is one of Margaret's favorite people now! We are so lucky she is in college nearby and hope she can have fun with Margaret some this summer.
  • She started trying to hold her bottle herself.
  • Peek-a-boo fascinates her
  • Loves to chew on objects
  • Sleeps on average 12 hours a night and two quasi-naps a day (more like 1 and only occasionally)
  • Rolls all the way around!

So many developments happened during those four weeks of time! Babies are amazing little humans learning so much so quickly. As I said above, the summer was busy. Our good friends The Lins finished his medical fellowship at UVA, so they returned home to Mississippi which was super sad. We were happy that their life would follow a more normal schedule, but we knew we would miss them and having them around Margaret! MCVA's first July 4th happened which meant typically we would go to my hometown for fireworks and fun, but M had to work so I made us country style ribs, bought him some Pearl's cupcakes for his birthday (the 5th) and dressed MCVA in a cute outfit. Lemons - lemonade! I got a weird summerlike flu bug and it happened to hit when M's childhood friends were passing through town. Since the wife has Stage IV metastatic breast cancer I didn't want to give her what I might have which was heartbreaking but they had a lovely time meeting our sweet baby girl and having a nice lunch visit. Another group of friends got to see us when I was feeling better - the husband was a childhood buddy of M's and the wife (might as well be a professional runner!) came over with their daughter to meet MCVA on her 4 month bday. Lastly we enjoyed a weekend at my parents house to have a quasi-belated birthday for M and to visit my Grandmothers. We felt like at this point in the summer she was in the clear and ready to socialize! It was wonderful to hear from everyone that she appeared to be social and didn't dislike being passed around the room which made me so happy. Apparently not all kids are like that and that's fine, but since I am social it definitely made me feel good to know she wasn't having a hard time around strangers.

Cute as a button in a bow made by my cousin LCJP and an outfit that was both my brother and mine growing up!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Vacation 2018 - Day 2 at The Sea Pines Resort

Well the RBC Heritage weekend has come and gone for about a week, but during our recent family vacation last month we enjoyed a few days on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, and more specifically at The Sea Pines Resort! We arrived right after they had put up the bleachers for the tournament. Baby Margaret was a champion (albeit a tired one) from the long first leg of our family vacation, but we had wonderful weather and time outside to make up for it. From RVA metro it takes about 7-8 hours to get to Sea Pines (including going through the gates to actually arrive at your residence, and depending on if you pay the toll/have a pass to take the Cross Island Parkway).

While I have spent lots of time here over the years, it was M and Margaret's first visit and they both would definitely like to return. I'm assuming that for our baby girl as Margaret was smiling and loved being pushed in her stroller under the canopy of the Legacy Oaks! My gluten free picks while you are on the island? Mellow Mushroom is of course a hit if you want a reliable chain restaurant (but very popular as usual). For local eats you cannot go wrong with The Salty Dog Cafe, yummy smoothie spot Delisheeyo, Truffles Cafe, and Coast at the beautifully situated Sea Pines Beach Club. These are all restaurants "behind the gates" of The Sea Pines Resort. We were there during an unusual cool snap, so be sure to bring a cardigan and some warmer pieces to keep your "Spring Break" or family trip outfits more flexible. I was so glad I had my Lilly P long pants to grab when we headed out in the morning before it warmed up!

We know of many places to stay as well as know people who live full time or part time on the Island, but there is a big difference between Sea Pines Resort and Hilton Head Island as a whole. There is a high end resort, rentals of homes and villas and even a few AirBnbs to choose from when at Sea Pines Resort. There are many more options at all price points on Hilton Head Island as a whole. We just liked the idea of a lower traffic, more quiet private community environment on this leg of our vacation. If you are a homeowner or house hunting for a place at The Sea Pines Resort or on Hilton Head Island and are needing a property management company to keep an eye on your home when you are out of town, please contact my college classmates and business owners, The Smiths of Caretakers HHI! Their team manages homeowners residences to ensure maintenance, inspections, and care for your home is continually monitored and keep you up to date on any changes!

While we love golf, that is not a Hilton Head Island or Sea Pines Resort requirement! You can enjoy a lazy beach visit, boating, live music, historical landmarks, bike rides, horseback riding, great food and drinks, or just curling up with a good book while you get that needed Vitamin D. The entire scene is beautiful and full of activities for people of all ages. You can really enjoy yourself and set your own schedule. Seeing all the wildlife and having your camera on you helps when you go for sunset walks.
What's your favorite spot on Hilton Head Island, or in the more private paradise of The Sea Pines Resort? We cannot wait to return sometime soon so Margaret and M can make more memories with me at Sea Pines!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Baby Margaret - Three Month Update

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Ahhh there's our sweet girl. Three whole months at this point, last June 2017. Less than a year ago. It was a beautiful time of day when I took these photos. She was in a playfully mellow mood, learning to wave. The sun was filtering in so nicely through the nursery window (room has since been rearranged). So I could place her safely in her changing table for photos from time-to-time. I documented on this day how she still had this funny bald spot across the back of her head where she had been moving her head from side-to-side when looking around in her crib. Her muscular arms and back developing from tummy time, like a miniature swimmer. Her wrinkly tushy in the newborn diapers - still seeming a bit too small for the cloth diapers we had bought (now I know how to fold them down for next baby!) - and still too small for typical sized diapers of her peers... long and lean. How her onesie with her month on it was just SO big in the middle for her... incredibly baggy (made for her by one of my friend's as a shower gift - all from Carters bodysuits!). She loved looking at the shapes, animal friends, and colors on those soft muslin Aden and Anais changing pad covers (her latest fave is one with foxes on it).

I was still struggling with swaddling at this point, while Michael was a pro. I was successfully breastfeeding still, but as I noted in my previous post, had started to pump before bedtime so I could get a full night's sleep without feeling too full due to my PCOS medication. Margaret's three month 'birthday' came at an extremely hard time for me, as it was when my Grandfather, JAJ III, was finally laid to rest one year after his passing. It was just impossible to consider flying with a barely 8 week old, in Florida, in mid/late June. Just too much for me post-partum. So we didn't go, and so that month is kind-of a blur for me. I know I went to the store and bought a bunch of his favorite flowers and filled our house with them (tropical ones you'd see in FL gardens). My brother JAJ V met Margaret on his way home after the services and his subsequent road trip afterwards. I discovered the fun of Snapchat filters when used with your infant. She really enjoyed chewing on things at this point - her hand, various toys esp. this frog that came with the Infantino play mat she was given. She was a sweet doll baby one day when M and I took her with us to the Lilly Pulitzer store so I could get a couple outfits for summer.

Baby MCVA laying on a blanket someone made her, wearing a bow from my cousin's bow business, wearing my vintage Feltman Brothers gown [updated version here].

I really felt like the days were starting to melt together, especially since Michael had returned to work and Margaret and I were starting to learn what being together ALL DAY LONG was like. I got swept into Bravo and E! shows like never before - and that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. I tried to get back into cooking again. But breastfeeding was a lot more time consuming than I had ever anticipated - part of that was PCOS medication but also anatomically complicated. But I need to revisit that in another post later. Anyway, I wasn't necessarily depressed (at least not yet) but I was overwhelmed but how days could run into another and I really needed to find an outlet. I think that's why blogging fell to the wayside. I didn't want to do the work at that point in time to blog, I wanted to do something quick and easy like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat. Texting with friends. They were great outlets. Margaret was changing everyday and it was wild to witness the transformation. Here are some of the things that happened that month for our sweet girl:

  • She started holding her head straight up while lying on her back
  • Finally over 2 feet "tall" aka 60+ cm long
  • Napping 1-2 times a day. But not really. Little cat naps throughout the day on and off. Not a reliable set napper unless she is in her Rock N Play.
  • Can hold her bottle up some when she has it if she isn't too sleepy!
  • Enjoys peek-a-boo!
  • Chewing on all kinds of things!
  • Sleeping 10+ hours a night, sometimes 12 hrs with maybe a brief milk top off moment that makes her go right back to sleep. Surprisingly not leaking a lot, rarely ever spitting up.
  • Rolls all the way around.
  • Grabbed my phone and made her first accidental selfie - put my phone away more often after that - terrified me how easy it was for her to figure out!
  • Opens and closes her fists.
  • Grasps and shakes her toys.
  • Loves spotting things from a distance (like Dada coming in the door after work) and imitating expressions/sounds/movements/arm gestures.
  • One of my favorite things is hearing her amuse herself in her crib with new sounds and noises first thing in the morning or when she wakes up from a nap.
  • Spots and fixates on small objects.
  • She had her first laugh! Which for her is more of a high sweeping sound and a giggle than other kids who have a haha or hee hee laugh. Very cute.
  • Pushed herself up onto her elbows while lying on her stomach.
  • Rolled from front to back.
  • Reached to grab her toy from Dada, Mama, and her grandparents.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Baby Margaret - Two Month update

I cannot get over how absolutely darling she looks in this two month old photo! It's funny that I'm publishing this post now, which I plan to do with all of her other month updates - just to have them preserved here and I can also print them to put in her baby book. I know it's weird since this was drafted LAST YEAR and I am just getting to it... but, that's why it's my blog and not yours! Everyday she seems to develop more of her personality and here are just a few highlights from the past month - the Ovia Parenting app and looking through my Photos definitely helped jog my memory here:

  • Learned to recognize M and my face
  • Repeated us saying 'Oooh' and 'Ahhh' and other vowel sounds
  • She could lift her head up 45 degrees
  • Responded to her rattles, bell, crinkle paper
  • Open and closed her fists
  • Pushed down with legs when placed against a hard surface, later on the same month she would bear weight on legs when we held her arms.
  • Reached for her mobile and dangling toys if we held them above her.
  • Grasped and shook hand toys
  • Followed with her eyes and her head of objects moving closer and then further away. Later on she would look and focus at things in the distance (like people coming in the front door or entering a room).
  • Brought both hands together
  • Imitated facial expressions, sounds, movements.
  • Sleeping through the night - well, over 6 hours straight
  • Lifted head up 90 degrees from tummy
  • Following objects (esp a favorite toy) 180 degrees
  • Loves putting things in her mouth to explore them!
  • We started to give her pumped breast milk by bottle around 4/17 as she kept wanting to feed for like an hour+ on each side (I had an oversupply due to my prescription medicine).
  • Around May 1 we assumed she was hopefully around 8.5 pounds at that point (such a tiny girl weight-wise!)
  • 9+ diapers a day of both wet and dirty ones - hadn't started cloth diapers yet.
  • On 5/23 we had her 2 months old appointment with the Pediatrician. She had MCVA's HC at 15"/50%ile, L at 22.5" of 56%ile, weight at 9 lbs 3.5 ounces in the 8%ile. When we had bottle feedings Ped. said 4-4.5 oz at each was fine. She gave 4 shots.
  • I started pumping before going to bed at night, storing 1-2 bottles in the fridge for M to give her if she woke up overnight, so I could sleep fully and try to stay as healthy as I could mentally and emotionally - a HUGE supportive gesture from my husband!
  • Her favorite toy is probably her Teddy Kompaniet rabbit rattle that was in her first Easter basket! Also sold in the USA at Baby's First Gifts in Lexington, VA. Her Steiff bear is a close second - she talks to him a lot in her babble which is so sweet.
  • She is still trying to figure out who Lily is (our dog) and she adores the ceiling fans and thinks they are people.

What fun advances did you baby's show at this age?

This is Us inspired post on home fire safety

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Fire safety in the home is incredibly important. And when you become parents, it's no longer about just you, there are innocent parties you need to make plans for, your children. The NBC hit show This is Us made my husband and I as first time parents of our little family come to the realization that while we have some idea and plans in the event of a fire in our household, we needed to do more to really prepare ourselves in the event of an emergency. As if Motherhood and Fatherhood weren't more overwhelming, the potential for any disaster can either cause great anxiety and procrastination (due to fear and denial) or you can embrace this potential disaster as a chance to really embrace what you can control - preparedness - for the better.

Besides crying over the emotions in the song tied to this scene, it also made me think about different home appliances I had maybe "inherited" from family members since we purchased our home in 2009. The bread machine that had sat dormant in a basement for 10 years, the plug in electric insect lantern ("zapper") with the slightly sketchy cords, the nice stand up vacuum that had been my great-grandmother's with a lifetime warranty (brand I will not name) that ran great but did have a weird belt issue that had us retire it to the attic, even some inherited older surge protectors. I realized these are all risks. Maybe small ones, maybe not ones I will lose sleep over... but maybe things that if we went to Lowes or an outdoors/home goods shop I should consider replacing for good.

This scene gave me goosebumps. I grew up in a historic, old Folk Victorian-style farmhouse. From post-Civil War but it had 3 chimneys and 5 fireplaces/heat stoves (a couple had been walled in). The fireplaces could be finicky. We had 2 chimney fires that I can recall as a child in that farmhouse - keep your chimneys clean and have them inspected regularly! We lived 4.6 miles or 11 minutes from our main fire station - I think we were mostly lucky with both fires due to the fact that we had a standing seam metal roof. Anyway, it always made me aware of fires and fire risks. So when we purchased our house, the first thing we did was replace all of the batteries in our smoke/carbon monoxide detectors, and we also bought backup plug in monoxide detectors (pictured below). Also buy a huge package of batteries and either set an alarm on your cell phone or calendar alert OR have Alexa/etc remind you to replace the batteries every SIX months.

In our home each bedroom has a fire escape ladder, fire extinguisher and a fire blanket. We have a fireproof waterproof safe with our documents inside in a fireproof document bag. We have 2 fire extinguishers in our lower level (one by our fireplace as we enjoy using candles - responsibly!) and one in the kitchen. Another fire blanket is in the kitchen if something comes up. Unplug counter appliances before going to bed for the night. Another kitchen tip is to have some oversized pot lids you can use to smother fires if needed. Ironically, though we live in a more rural location (Goochland) than where I grew up (Rockbridge), we have a brand-new state-of-the-art fire department only 2 miles or 4 minutes away (they existed previously for a long time but didn't have the facilities they deserved until now)! That said, we never want to be unprepared. The ladder goes over the window sill and helps people safely escape from that room. The fire blankets can put out a fire quickly if it isn't too big, otherwise the fire extinguisher can help if used properly. Other tips you can see that they used in This Is Us - while it can make the air in your room stuffy (which is why a floor stand fan or ceiling fan in a bedroom is highly recommended) sleeping with your bedroom door closed can literally save your life and prevent excessive smoke inhalation. Having doors to bedrooms closed overnight can give you precious minutes of safety.

Safe fire extinguisher use - learn the phrase PASS:
  • Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you, and release the locking mechanism.
  • Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
  • Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
  • Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.

Do you have a wood burning fireplace or a gas propane fireplace? A wood burning fireplace means you should keep yourself awake late enough when burning a wood fire to properly put out the fire. Keeping a METAL bucket full of sand and a small spray bottle of water by your fireplace can save your entire family's life to properly put out the embers and COOL THE ASHES. Yes, I am saying that you should dirty up your in-home wood burning fireplace by treating it like a campfire. Smokey the Bear knows his stuff. That's why you have a shovel in your fireplace set right? To dispose of your ashes! Wouldn't it be better to have a messy COOLED fireplace that you clean up the next day or so instead of waking up to the lower level of your home, or worse, the main door to the outside of your house on fire because you dumped embers in a plastic bucket next to your front door before heading up to bed? Get a metal bucket.

Another tip: CLEAN your clothes dryer vent/filter between each laundry load. It adds a couple minutes but prevents build-up in the vent/pipe (the outside end you should clean as well, and keep it from being blocked by landscaping... our holly bush is a little bit one-sided but its on the house side so no one knows!). Maybe if you buy a home you could even be more fire aware and replace the metal duct when you move in so you know it isn't full of sneaky pockets of fire-friendly lint!

'If a Fire Starts' by the Red Cross:
  • Know how to safely operate a fire extinguisher
  • Remember to GET OUT, STAY OUT and CALL 9-1-1 or your local emergency phone number.
  • Yell "Fire!" several times and go outside right away. If you live in a building with elevators, use the stairs. Leave all your things where they are and save yourself.
  • If closed doors or handles are warm or smoke blocks your primary escape route, use your second way out. Never open doors that are warm to the touch.
  • If you must escape through smoke, get low and go under the smoke to your exit. Close doors behind you.
  • If smoke, heat or flames block your exit routes, stay in the room with doors closed. Place a wet towel under the door and call the fire department or 9-1-1. Open a window and wave a brightly colored cloth or flashlight to signal for help.
  • Once you are outside, go to your meeting place and then send one person to call the fire department. If you cannot get to your meeting place, follow your family emergency communication plan.

Learn more fire safety from the Red Cross here. Learn more fire safety from the National Fire Protection Association ("NFPA") here. I know this post wasn't typical for me, but I hope you appreciated it! Here's a link with all of the items featured shoppable from Do you have any safety tips - whether for fires or in general, to share?

This is Us inspired post on home fire safety