>> 10.31.2012

Happy Halloween! Ada is dressed as a lion today if you didn't gather that already. Or, in her words, another kitty. I doubt we'll go out much door-to-door tonight, since she's too young for candy -- though we might visit with some neighbors. A couple parties we were going to hit were canceled due to the storm. Next year!

For now, we'll enjoy dress-up at home. I absolutely adore the fleece costumes from Carter's. Too bad they don't come in bigger sizes (for her, not me!). Maybe we'll go homemade next year. I loved all the Arc play costumes in Moonrise Kingdom. Better start stocking up on felt.

What's your little one for Halloween?

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Stuck Indoors

>> 10.30.2012

Upstate NY escaped much of Sandy's wrath. Thankfully. (We hope the rest of you impacted are doing OK today!) Regardless, we were stuck indoors yesterday with all the wind and rain. Everything was closed, including the roads. So, I attempted to take Ada's birthday photos.

Problem was: I could not get her to stay still.

Looks like I'll need to try again. What I've learned in my adventures with toddler photography is that kids Ada's age until about 3 are difficult to capture. Plain and simple. They want to run, climb, and dance. They don't really listen to me. Or their parents. Or anyone else. Nothing occupies them for more than a few seconds. This is only my experience, but I'm pretty sure it's valid.

I wasn't thrilled with my setup either. I was using the Pack 'n Play to hang the backdrop and it wasn't tall enough for when she's standing. The backdrop (the back of the quilt in her revamped nursery) wasn't really large enough either. It seems now that Ada is bigger, all my newborn photo tricks aren't working anymore.

Speaking of do-overs, though. This one was a success:

Chocolate-chocolate chip pumpkin cake. Delicious! Lighter, fluffier, and sweeter than the more muffin-like cake I made over the weekend. Now I just need to refine some frosting recipes and we'll be set. I am mostly making cupcakes with one smaller cake for the party.

Cakes intimidate me -- the size makes bake-time difficult to determine, multiple layers are tricky, the decorating is totally out of my league. Cupcakes, on the other hand, are much easier. Less time spent cutting the cake, too! I always get stuck doing that at parties.

Did you make your child(ren)'s birthday cakes? What kind do you make? Now I'm off to take photos of what I plan to post today on (never)homemaker.

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>> 10.29.2012

I have some last-minute before-the-storm stuff to do, so I'll make this brief and mostly in pictures. This weekend was good, but I didn't exactly get anything done that I set out to accomplish.

That's not to say I didn't get anything done, however.

Birthday cake trial #1: Pumpkin chocolate with a modified version of this raw chocolate pumpkin frosting (for Ada, the rest of the guests would get regular butter-and-sugar frosting).

Success. But could use tweaking to be lighter and fluffier. The texture reminded me more of a muffin than a cupcake.

* Some party supplies * Furniture rearranging * Toppings. We JUST got a froyo place up in this town * My favorite (original tart with sour gummies) * A photo-shoot of an adorable 5-week-old named Olive * 

The winds here are just starting to pick up ever-so slightly. Stephen's school is letting out early, so he'll be home soon. And I'm off to tackle one of the biggest first-world problems I can think of: Batteries for the white noise machine. Here's hoping the power doesn't go out.

If you're in the path of Sandy, stay safe, my friends!

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Birthday Decisions

>> 10.25.2012

I considered waiting to do one big giant birthday post once the day came/went. I'm too excited now that I have a theme. So, I thought I'd share where I'm at in the planning. Still very preliminary. And you might be thinking: "Theme? You said no theme!" That's right. I did.

And then I saw this 1960s dress on Etsy.

I don't know why I'm always browsing for vintage baby clothes. Kathy at Farmhouse Vogue Kids (based in Burlington, VT) has some cute, reasonably priced stuff I've been eying. If you'll remember, we call Ada "balloon" (this is why). I've decided her favorite color is yellow. And she absolutely adores the cats.

So, when I saw this dress, my brain exploded. VINTAGE KITTEN PARTY! It's not a theme trying to be cool or trendy or adult. Every time Ada sees a cat or kitten in a book, she laughs. Every time one of our cats walks by her, she laughs. Kitty or, rather, "kittssss" was one of her first words. It all made sense.

Then I went to look for some vintage-inspired postcards.

Cats riding bicycles, cats in dresses, cats playing tennis, etc. Ridiculous. I remembered images like this from my own childhood; my mom used them in her mixed media art. We'd go to antique stores and I'd look through piles of postcards while she shopped.

Anyway, I picked out twelve of them, from various eras,  that I'll use in making a banner -- alternating with photos for each of her twelve months.

As for favors, I didn't really think we'd do any. But then I thought they could also duty as decorations. I found these cute -- again, vintage -- Golden Books.

The Kitten Who Thought He was a Mouse 
Colorful Kittens
The Shy Little Kitten

I don't want it to look like a mismatched cat explosion (it sort of looks that way on this post), so the rest of the decorations will be simple. Probably yellow balloons, maybe some yarn poofs, simple party hats, etc. I haven't even thought about the cake yet (I think replicating my first birthday might be harder than expected).

That's all for now. I'm looking forward to seeing how it all turns out. Above everything, I think she's going to get a kick out of all the kitties everywhere! That dress? I bought it. But it's a 2T, so it'll be a bit big, but then fit her for a while! Expect lots of photos.

Psst: If you'd like to read my race recap from the Runner's World Half Marathon, check out (never)homemaker.

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On Food at 11 Months

>> 10.24.2012

I have Ada eating solids for a breakfast, lunch, and dinner these days. Since she's almost a year, I feel like many of my resources (my favorite) say to aim for three. At this stage, I definitely thought she'd primarily be feeding herself, but we are still rocking a mixed approach of spoon-feeding and baby-led feeding.

It's working for us, so I figure we'll just go with the flow.

  1. Usually breakfast is 2 tablespoons of baby oatmeal mixed with yogurt or fruit or sometimes almond milk. 
  2. Then lunch is tough, which I'll get to in a minute. 
  3. Dinner is any finger foods she'll eat. We really try and have her feed herself since she's most enthusiastic about this last meal. Favorites are any beans, tofu, peas, broccoli . . . and then usually a puree and sometimes more yogurt, depending on how hungry she is. We've tried toast and pasta, too, but she's not showing a ton of interest.
Lunch has been quite an issue, even after the worst of her solids strike passed us. I can't get her to eat much of anything, so I've stopped trying. I give her some leftovers -- for example, kidney beans and spelt cornbread -- and whatever is left from breakfast, be it puree or yogurt. When she starts fighting it, pushing the spoon away, or crying, I give up.

Today, we did something different!

I tend to dread 1 PM, which is when lunch falls, usually an hour after her late-morning nursing session. I decided to make myself a green smoothie since I've been feeling better on my New Leaf plan. Anyway, I brought it into the living room and sat down to play. Then Ada started crawling all over me and trying to stick her hands in it.

I thought I'd get rid of her curiosity by giving her a small sip. Then she took another. And another. She liked the smoothie! I took out the glass I had put in the refrigerator for Stephen and stuck a straw in it. She probably drank 1/3 cup. I was absolutely dumfounded.

I then saw her in her high chair and offered her a few bits of table food. Nada. And then some puree, which she ate reluctantly. I offered the smoothie again, and she sucked it down happily. In all, he probably had 1/2 cup.

We may need to try different things for lunch. Who knows. But I'll take it.


On another food-related note, now that the half marathon has passed us, we're attempting to drop Ada's 11 PM nursing session. We started on Monday night, and -- I hope this doesn't jinx us! -- she's been sleeping all the way from 7:30 until 7:30 with only a few peeps here and there.

I was so scared, OK -- terrified,  to drop this feed because she tends to eat quite a bit, and I've fallen in love with my stretch of sleep. So far? She hasn't missed it. I've tried giving us extra insurance by making sure she eats a good dinner and nurses well before bed.

You may remember how we dropped the 2 AM feed way back when. I imagine if she starts waking again, we'll follow that same type of plan.

Here's hoping for a good night #3!

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Old Video and Memories

>> 10.23.2012

I've been preparing for Ada's party. Gathering photos for a month-by-month banner and the like. Anyway, I came across this video I took back in February when Ada was three months old. I intended to share it, but I think at the time I had trouble uploading it.

It's somewhat Blair Witch Project with my shaky videography. I love it, though.

Pouring over all the photos and videos from the past year has me astounded at how much Ada has changed. How we've all changed, really. It feels like it all went by so quickly, but looking through everything shows me how much we've gone through. It's been quite a journey, to use the biggest cliche ever.

I am happy I have a blog where I can read about my thoughts and Ada's milestones, etc. Otherwise, I would have lost a lot of it in the craziness.

I had the best intentions to keep it all organized.

We bought a memory book (this one), well it's actually a memory book at box combined, a couple months before she was born. I keep forgetting to enter this type of information into it. First word. Favorite food. Nicknames, etc. And there's a whole section for photos of each month, along with weight and other stats. Oops.

Thankfully it has a nice drawer to toss mementos into -- of which I have many. Anything from her hospital bracelet to the knit cap she came home in to my pregnancy test (yeah -- might sound super weird, but I feel like keeping it). I can use this stuff to help fill in the gaps. I think I have a project for tonight.

I also think I'd like to pull together a photo book of her entire first year and get it printed professionally versus a photo album. My mom has a huge album of my baby years, but the photos are fading and some are missing.

Have any of you pulled a project like this together? Any suggestions on which printer to go with and which service has the most customizable, yet user-friendly layout tools?

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First Family Cover

>> 10.22.2012

In a word: Sore. That's how we feel after this weekend. But it isn't all bad. We had a blast running through the gorgeous, hilly streets of Bethlehem, PA, for the first Runner's World Half Marathon. I'll be writing a race recap soon on (never)homemaker.

Stephen's third place (overall) finish earned our family the distinct privilege of being featured on next month's cover.

OK. I'm only kidding. The cover-photo station at the expo was lots of fun, though. I imagine this will be a favorite family photo for years to come. Even if we aren't all looking at the camera. And Ada's bare belly is exposed. Sigh.

Here's a little-known fact: I went to college for expository writing. A fancy way of explaining that I'm not a fiction or poetry writer. Anyway, for the longest time, it became my all-consuming dream to one day work for Rodale, which is the publishing company that produces Runner's World. My life took a different path, but I must admit that being around all those writers and editors brought back the memory of that dream.

I couldn't get over how strangely beautiful Bethlehem is.

The city has done such an amazing job of reusing/re-imagining long-abandoned steel mill structures versus letting them fester into ugly urban decay. They feel more like monuments to the industrial revolution than eyesores. Our own hometown could learn a lot from this particular revitalization project. We live in an area similarly forgotten after big business left first in the 60s and then again in the 80s.

As for accommodations, we stayed in nearby NJ with Stephen's parents. The foliage up in NY is definitely past its peak, but I think we caught a second wind by heading a few hours South.

Only a little over a week left in this favorite month of mine. I intend to savor every second. Oh, and if you'd like to catch up on how I'm trying to turn a New Leaf as the seasons change, head over to (never)homemaker.

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Ada's B-Day Wish List

>> 10.19.2012

My brother Ryan called me the other day to let us know he's making it all the way up from D.C. for Ada's birthday party! We're more than thrilled, as our party is now less than a month away. I haven't seen him since, uh, early summer? I think.

In the course of the conversation, I told him how one of Ada's favorite toys is a Smartwater bottle. (He works for the company.) Then he asked me: "So. Presents: What the heck does a 1-year-old play with anyway?"

At first, I laughed. Ryan is 4 years younger than I am, and his exposure to babies is minimal. Kid brothers don't know these things! Then I quickly remembered that before we had Ada, including when I was pregnant, I -- too -- was relatively extremely clueless when it came to young children's birthday gifts.

I tried my best, but I'm sure some of our friends have raised their eyebrows at our presents. I think we pushed the suggested age in the wrong way either direction at one time or another. Always with the best of intentions. And then there were the noisy, flashy gifts. Yeah. We totally didn't get why to stay away from those back in the day.

Now we know! We've also caught up so much with all the learning stages and milestones of infants -- but before we had our own child, I knew very little about when sitting, crawling, walking, talking etc., really began.

So, for parents or not, I thought I'd compile a list of things Ada would love (or things she's loving currently) for her birthday and/or Christmas. I sort of wish I had this kind of list handy back when I needed help.




And if you'd like even more frugal and age-appropriate gift ideas, you can see our post on Beautiful Board Books, including adaptations of Romeo + Juliet for babies, among many others, as well as some incredible Classic Toy Remakes from Fisher Price.

Do you have any go-to gifts for birthdays? For example, one reader mentioned she always buys wooden blocks as first birthday gifts. Or with your own children's birthday parties -- how do you handle presents?

We considered having a gift-free or books-and-puzzles-only party, but the idea got more complex and negative reactions than we had anticipated. We're just so focused on Ada's special day, we don''t want conflict hampering it. Our gift to Ada? That membership to the Discovery Center and Zoo. It'll keep on giving the whole year!

Also: I think handmade gifts are awesome. I plan to write another post devoted entirely to stuff I want to make.

*Links contain affiliates.

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11 Months and Molars

>> 10.17.2012

This toothy grin just got, well, toothier!

Yesterday afternoon, Ada refused to nap and proceeded to have a mini breakdown of sorts. At some point, Stephen returned home from work, so we took turns trying to calm her down. She screamed and wailed, and then I saw it. An angry first year molar poking through her poor, swollen gums.

I felt around and discovered that the others are also close to the surface. Of course, we're adding to the collective agony from last weeks' addition of her bottom left incisor.

I think this monster tooth explains a lot of our issues lately.

I thought I'd do a brief update for Ada's 11-month birthday. The last couple months have gone by so quickly, I don't feel I've taken good note of everything that's been going on. 

Clothing size: 6-12 months, but we've fully broken out the 12-18 month stuff, too. Like the sweater she's wearing above. I got it on sale at baby Gap. (I often get her clothes in the boys section so if we ever have a boy -- double duty!)

Teeth: 9 going on 12.

Meals: 5 breastfeeding sessions and 3 meals. One of those meals -- breakfast -- is always light. Just some oat cereal. Lately we've been doing baby food for the others because she won't feed herself/chew. But before that, she was eating broccoli, peas, tofu, cheese cubes, berries, bits of bread, yogurt, quinoa, couscous, brown rice, and pretty much anything.

Naps: Two currently. The morning is usually 1.5 to 2 hours. The afternoon is usually 1 to 1.5 hours. I am hoping to hold onto two naps for as long as possible, despite being slightly tethered to the house.

Walking? A.l.m.o.s.t. I thought she would be walking months ago, but she's been cruising since 8 months and seems now to be working up the courage to take larger jumps from thing to thing on her own. She has also started walking around with her push-toy and laughs hysterically while doing so.

Words: Mama, Dada, Kittsssss (kitties -- she calls all animals this), wawa (she said this only twice, but did mean water at the time). Her favorite word by far is bye-bye -- and she initiates saying it now if you walk out of a room or something. She also says "hey" sometimes.

But mostly, she laughs. At EVERYTHING. Especially animals. She thinks they are ridiculous.

Favorite activities: Still swinging at the park. Loves her pop-up circus tent (the one from Ikea we bought over the summer) and crawling through those pop-out tunnel (we need to get one of our own).

Favorite toys: Still ignores most of her toys. Lately, her favorite has been a plastic water bottle. But if I had to pick one actual toy I think she likes, it would probably be her Busy Gears set that her cousin Tessa got her.

Weaning plans: I don't plan to fully wean for a while. However, at a year, I would like to get closer to 3 feedings. Eventually, just morning and night would be good. But there's no rush and if this doesn't jive with Ada, I'll reevaluate my plans.


As far as her schedule goes, lately it's been like this:

Between 7:30/8:00 wakeup, nurse
9:00 breakfast of oats
10:00 nap
12:00 wakeup, nurse
1:30 lunch
2:30/3:00 nap
4:00 wakeup, nurse
5:30/6:00 dinner
7:00 bath, family play-time, etc.
7:30 bed, nurse
11:00 nurse*

* I would like to cut out this feeding starting after my half marathon on Sunday. Because Ada hasn't been eating much food, I've figured it couldn't hurt to keep it. She still eats this feed heartily, but there have been a few times that she hasn't been too enthused. So, we'll see.

As for me 11 months postpartum, I think I'll wait to do an update. I'd like to recap the entire year in regard to mind, body, and mothering. So, I'll write that within the next (mere) 4 weeks! Now that Ada has gone down for her afternoon nap, I'm going to sneak in some birthday planning!

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This Time . . . Last Year

>> 10.16.2012

Ada turns 11 months old today. Yesterday marked one year since we had my second baby shower. I know I shared some photos from my shower in NJ with Stephen's family. But did I ever share these photos with you?

I can't get over my big belly! I also can't believe I was still running at this stage in my pregnancy. I distinctly remember running 3 miles on the treadmill before the party. (I had to stop several times to pee. TMI?)

I really have to hand it to my mom for her decorations. I helped, but she did such an amazing job. She's already said she'll be here for Ada's birthday decor needs!

I remember so well when those little ultrasound photos were all I had. I'd look through them over and over and over again. Now I think I have at least 1,000,000 photos of her.

But not long ago, friends, family and you all knew her only as Baby A. The little one kicking at me from inside my tummy. (And thanks again to Jesslynn for all her help on this special day!)

Speaking of photos, I had another professional shoot this weekend! A gorgeous family with two very beautiful sisters.

Here are some favorites:

I'm off to try and feed Ada some lunch. If breakfast is any indication, it'll be tough yet again today.

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Ada Threw it on the GROUND

>> 10.15.2012

So, over the past week or so -- this has become Ada's new attitude toward solids:

I try my hardest not to laugh, but it's hilarious when Ada takes a piece of food and hides it under her high chair, thinking I didn't see. I guess now that she's almost a toddler, the real parenting is just starting to begin.

Frustrating to say the least. We're still nursing 5 times a day -- and that includes her 11 pm feed, which she eats heartily -- so I'm not terribly worried (yet). But I've tried literally everything to get her interested in eating again.

At 11 months, it seems like most babies take to table foods. So, we've been offering her all sorts of things from softened apple slices to bits of grilled cheese to hummus. She was eating everything in sight, then one day, she stopped eating.

Sort of like this:

(Image from Parenting: Illustrated with Crappy Pictures. If you haven't checked out that site, you must do it -- RIGHT NOW! Cannot. Stop. Laughing.)

I know there are many reasons babies might stop eating. From benign things like developmental changes (which is what I think this might be) to things like teething, ear infections, etc., etc., etc. She is otherwise healthy, though another tooth poked through this weekend. That may have been part of it.

But even after the tooth appeared, we struggled. In desperation, we started offering purees again, too. You know, when absolutely everything chunky we give her ends up, well, on the ground, the idea is to get SOMEthing in there.

Even that's been an epic struggle.

At this point, I've tried making her mini pancakes, mac 'n cheese, all different sorts of softened fruits and veggies. I've even given her a couple of those arrowroot biscuits. (She ate those, but I can't just give her what are essentially cookies!) So, I doubt her disinterest is from lack of choices.

My friends and family have assured me that solids strikes are perfectly normal and expected. I just can't believe the level of frustration I feel when I toil over a meal and she immediately tosses it away like garbage! I have to stop taking it so personally, that's for sure.

The good news: She did eat something last night! But get this -- it was a vegan, macrobiotic Thai dumpling we got while we were out and about. Sigh. We can't get that sort of fancy food for you all the time, Ada!

What have you all done during solids strikes? Any advice? How long did it last? Did you ever figure out the cause?

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1984 and 2012

>> 10.12.2012

There have been many, many times when Ada has been mistaken for a boy. I don't blame the strangers. We don't dress her in particularly feminine clothing or colors. We don't do much with her hair besides the occasional whale spout. At least to me, babies -- boy or girl -- look relatively gender neutral for the most part.

We were in the checkout line at CVS last week when a woman passionately remarked how "handsome" Ada is . . . and I decided then and there to stop correcting in situations like these. Instead, I smile, say thanks, and move on with my day.

My mom, on the other hand, made sure everyone knew I was a girl. Well. Not purposefully. She's just really into frills. I was dressed in lace and bows -- even for bedtime.

I suppose it's no surprise that of the few baby outfits she kept from those days in the early 1980s, this one made the cut. I thought it'd be fun to play a bit of dress-up with Ada and capture it for the memory books.

Whether or not you're into the whole girly clothes trend, I will never understand why these weird bonnets were ever in style!

So, there's a little fun for your Friday. Speaking of baby clothes, I have already decided I am going to keep key outfits and make a quilt someday. Something to hold onto. Perhaps even baby quilts for my children's children. Who knows!

Have you dressed your little one in your baby clothes? Or in your partner's? It's cute and hilarious. If you haven't tried it, you should!

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First Birthday Time

>> 10.11.2012

I may have cheated a bit on that 11-month photo -- that's still 5 days away. It's crazy that Ada's first birthday will be in a month. That it's been almost a year since I gave birth. And in that year, so much has happened. Changed. How much Ada has grown. How much we've grown together as a family.

I haven't started any real birthday planning yet. I suppose this post is almost selfish in that way. An excuse for me to outline my ideas.

#1: Location: Our house. We're having a low-key gathering versus a large party. Partially because November is cold. The summer afternoon park parties of my youth won't be Ada's reality, unfortunately. And our home can't accommodate lots of guests.

Besides that, we'd rather not have a blowout with her being so young. I don't think she'd enjoy a room full of 50 (or more) people. OK. I don't think I would enjoy that either.

#2: Time of day: We debated this one. We're doing a noon party and saying it "ends" at 2 pm. The reason for the end time? Ada's nap schedule. We don't want to overwhelm her, but if she's doing OK, we could probably hang out a bit longer.

#3: Cake: I'd like to recreate my own first birthday cake -- at least in aesthetic. It was a small, round cake. Yellow, I think, with some white piping. A few strategically placed animal crackers as decorations. I might add some rainbow sprinkles for flair.

Oh, and I'm thinking chocolate. I am hoping to make a lower-in-sugar cake, but I'm not going to fret over it too much. I want the rest of the guests to enjoy it, too.

#4: Decorations: There are so many creative ideas I've come across. We're definitely on a budget, so I don't think we'll do anything particularly extravagant or pin-worthy. However, you'd be surprised what Stephen can do with streamers and balloons.

I'll have to report back on this one once I wrap my mind around it better. I don't think we'll go for any specific theme either. I feel like that would require to much coordination both in planning and with supplies.

#5: Food: We're doing pizza, cider, and a few other small snacks. Nothing too elaborate or finicky. I don't feel like cooking a ton either because every party we've ever hosted had left us with way too many leftovers. People seem to like pizza and cider. Can't really go wrong.

That's where we are at the moment. My parents mentioned making a slideshow to me today (that's sort of a family tradition), but we'll see if I get time to do that. I've bombarded the invited guests with enough photos on Facebook this year, I'm sure they've seen them all! Overall, we're just looking to have a good time with good people that Ada knows and loves.

I know many of you are also gearing up for first birthdays. (How did this happen?!) What are you planning? Any special family traditions? Any suggestions for sticking to a super tight budget?

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DIY Baby Booties

>> 10.10.2012

I made boots for Ada this weekend. I used an old clutch for the soles and sweater sleeves for the rest. They aren't perfect, but they are cute + functional + stay on her feet. FINALLY. A pair of boots that stay on her feet!

Plus, they were free and only took about an hour of my precious time.

This post probably comes across as world's laziest DIY tutorial EVER. But, really, it's because I need to tweak my method before I go into details. I have another pair of sweater sleeves waiting for me to try this whole thing again so I can refine my process.

But for those of you who are better at sewing and putting together patterns, I just thought I'd toss the idea out there.

Here are some visuals:

Basically, I trimmed off the sleeves of a sweater I've been done with for years (I know I wrote that three times already). I then took the (p)leather from an old clutch and traced the feet from her sleeper onto it -- leaving 1/4 inch extra to account for stitching.

I then pinned the sole to the sweater sleeve -- inside out, of course. And I sewed around the whole thing. I looped elastic bands (it was hard getting them the right size, which is one area I need to fine-tune) at the ankle and calf. Then folded in the sleeve so it was double-thick and stitched it to the sole.

Far from perfect, but they came out ridiculously good looking (said Derek Zoolander). I've received several compliments and questions about where I bought them while out and about, too.

I'll be honest. I am really cheap when it comes to buying baby shoes. Ada isn't walking yet, so I'm sure I'll change my tune when she actually needs the shoes for running around. Figuring out her ever-changing size is annoying. And I've lost a few shoes, too.

Of course, this pair won't be for stomping around in the snow. But for around the house and quick trips to the grocery store, I'm pleased. I'm hoping the next pair will be even warmer. I just need to find some material for the sole. I'll be sure to write better instructions soon.

Watch out, old purses. One of you might be next. Snip. Snip . . .

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