Introducing Conri

11 days old

11 days old, photographed by the amazing Angie Griffith

Forgive my absenteeism… but there’s a pretty good reason for it this time. We welcomed our little bundle of joy, Conri, into the world a little over 3 weeks ago, just in time for spring!

 

11 days old

Tiny feet! Photo by Angie Griffith

We’ve had quite a ride and this has all been much more challenging than I anticipated. Maybe there’s no truer statement for all new parents.

After a very speedy labour and delivery that was a little complicated (nothing really serious, just that he needed a little extra help getting into the world), we were right back home that same afternoon. But a few days later he was getting quite jaundiced and dehydrated, so we ended up back in the hospital for a night of phototherapy and rehydration via formula and bottle. This little hiccup put us on a difficult road regarding breastfeeding, and three weeks later we’re still working very hard to get him back to the breast and off the bottle. Talk about a hell of a lot of work. I’ve considered throwing in the towel and giving in fully to bottle feeding a few times, but I just can’t stand the thought of constantly having to buy formula, making it up all the time, endless sterilizing of bottles and nipples, and frantically warming it while my kid is freaking out hungry. Breasts are always at the ready wherever you are and no sterilization is required. Just pop out a booby and serve, right?

I always expected and planned to breastfeed. It’s not that I thought it would be super easy or straightforward — I expected it to be hard and have a steep learning curve. But after your baby gets used to the fast flow of a bottle it’s pretty hard to convince him that there’s a meal to be had at the boob. So we’re currently in a spate of days of working very hard with a lactation aid to feed him every meal at the breast. Thankfully he’s pretty willing to take the breast now, and I think his latch is decent (I’m still learning how to judge this part), but the problem is he tends to get frustrated unless we have a lactation aid (feeding tube) there to convince him there’s flow (and therefore a meal to be had).

 

11 days old

Photo by Angie Griffith

We’ve got great support in this from a breastfeeding clinic and lactation consultant, and we’re there at least once a week to get help and to figure out the next steps. I’m encouraged every time we’re there by their HUGE wall of “graduation photos” (moms and babies who have gotten breastfeeding going).

I’m pretty stoked actually that for the last four days he’s been at the breast for nearly all feeds (aside from a few bottle top ups and the occasional full bottle while mommy catches some Zzzs). Yesterday we even had what seemed like a full feed (about 50 minutes) at the breast without the tube with full on drinking happening. But today he wasn’t having that. It was breast with tube and nothing less. As Chris puts it, it’s one step forward and two and a half steps back. But there is progress, for sure. My hope is that before Chris goes back to work in another three weeks, we’ll be fully breastfeeding…because all this paraphernalia (tubes, bottles of formula or expressed breast milk) is a pain in the butt to coordinate on one’s own. I can do it, but it’s helpful to have more hands at the ready.

 

11 days old

Photo by Angie Griffith

I’ve chatted a bit about this on Facebook and numerous very supportive friends who mean well have told me not to worry if I have to bottle feed — it’s not the end of the world. They had to do it and their kids turned out fine. And I get it — I really do. But I don’t want to — or rather, it feels to me like it should be my last resort. I understand that these women want me to know it’s a totally okay decision to make — everyone has to do what’s right for them and shouldn’t feel guilty about it.

But I really want breastfeeding to work. It just seems like a simpler approach to feeding my kid, if we can get it going. I’ve been working hard at pumping for two solid weeks plus taking herbs and meds to get my milk production up. So I’m not ready to quit. I want to feel like I’ve made my very best effort to make this work. If we get to a point where it feels like it’s truly time to throw in the towel, I will. But not yet. I’ve heard stories of women getting it going as late as nine weeks old (yeesh!) or even later. Stories of induced lactation that worked. And we’re told that for a lot of babies, something clicks in the five to nine week window — they finally get it. Babies are hardwired to breastfeed, and we’re half way there in the sense that he’s taking the breast. He just either needs to figure out he has to work at getting his food, or my flow needs to improve further (or quite probably, a little of both).

 

11 days old

Photo by Angie Griffith

I got incredibly emotional about it for a good week or so. I hear this is pretty normal but it was terribly intense. I completely recognize this was due in large part to postpartum hormone changes but it was also mixed with intense feelings of guilt and inadequacy, timed with the anniversary of the still very fresh passing of my Dad. That made things extra hard. I had to make a concerted effort to divorce my emotions from the breastfeeding issue because dissolving into a frustrated mess of tears and anger when trying to put him on my breast and being constantly rejected wasn’t helping the situation at all.

Somehow something clicked and I got over it. I mean, I’m not totally over it of course — these last four days of going mostly bottle-free and working with the lactation tube have been incredibly trying (imagine putting all that stuff together in the middle of the night after several feedings where your kid decides it’s going to be a two hour party and no one is going to get any sleep). And I’ve had a lot of help from my therapist (thank goodness for her!) and my midwife, as well as amazing friends who’ve had similar challenges. Anyway, I realized that if I didn’t get a hold of myself, I would not be able to enjoy any of Conri’s early weeks, and there is much to enjoy. There’s much to make us crazy too, but he is pretty darn cute when he’s not screaming bloody murder.

 

First 2 weeks with baby Conri

Being a little badass at the hospital

And so we work at it. We’re figuring each other out. He has his bad periods of the day and his good ones. I cannot express how thankful I am that my husband has six weeks off. We’re tag teaming it and making a go of it. I’m certain our breastfeeding efforts would have ended after our first week without him here. He has been invaluable. And he’s getting lots of good time to bond with our new little boss — good times and bad, warts and all.

 

First 2 weeks with baby Conri

Spending some time in the tanning bed

And when I’m really frustrated, I can look at the amazingly gorgeous newborn photos my dear friend Angie Griffith has created of our little man, and imagine how perfectly serene he can be… maybe it’s not all the time but her photos remind us that there are moments when he is a quiet, happily sleeping little angel.

 

Baby’s room on a dime

Baby's Room - Bunting

Bunting

Any parent-to-be will tell you that kids are expensive. They are indeed. But it’s also amazing how much stuff you can get your hands on for either a really great deal or even free. For instance, we put the baby’s room together for just slightly over $400.

Yes, babies need stuff. But they grow so fast that most baby things get used for a very short period of time and are generally in excellent shape by the time you’re done with them. I’ve been very fortunate to get a lot of used goodies for free, and when the time comes to pass them on I will do so happily, and share my good fortune with others.

Friends of mine with youngsters have looped me into the informal Frugal Mommy Club, a smattering of Facebook groups and other resources that completely outshine websites like Kijiji and Craigslist for free or very inexpensive used goods. We’re even considering going cloth diapers, once we get through our first week or so, and I’ve found a Facebook group that is all about buying/selling cloth diaper accessories (which might sound gross, but cloth diapers are one of those things that actually get better — i.e. more absorbent — with more use, and the covers hold up well since babies grow pretty fast). We’ve got our eye on a diaper service that seriously rivals disposable diapers for cost — not to mention the environmental benefit.

So back to the room. My colour scheme started with the orange curtains. They were the first real thing I bought. Chris and I were at Ikea and I was looking for the style of curtains I’d put in our bedroom about a year earlier, but in a baby/kid appropriate colour. I couldn’t find the particular style of curtains and was going to give up until I saw these orange ones in a bargain bin marked $4.99. And it turned out they were the exact same style as the ones we had in the bedroom (called Vivian). Low and behold they were obviously being discontinued. Could I live with orange? Chris and I hummed and hawed for about 2 minutes and then I thought what the heck, for five bucks even if they weren’t what I wanted in the end it’d be no big loss. I already had the curtain rod system from our old house.

Baby's Room

Baby’s room

I thought about repainting the room another colour but in the end my husband’s argument that we’d just painted the entire house as part of our giant renovation less than a year earlier won out. I had chosen neutral colours for most of the bedrooms because I had no idea what kind of decor choices I’d be making down the road. The paint colour I chose for this room back in 2013 was called Greenmont Silk (more of a soft yellow) from Benjamin Moore.

The orange curtains grew on me as a concept, and I happened to have some small fabric bins from a dollar store that were blue and orange and green and orange, and I realized that the room could work really well accented with orange and blue, and hints of green. I tried really hard to find a large rug that had these colours for a reasonable price, but it wasn’t to be. One night I popped into Home Depot to see what they had for rugs, hoping for a deal. In the back of the store I found what are essentially carpet ends that have been bound nicely along the edges and turned into area rugs. Colour selection left a lot to be desired — most of the carpet was of an industrial quality and were either in dusty greys or blues. While this rug isn’t exactly sexy, it’s neutral and it has a very nice texture compared to most of what they had, and you just can’t beat $60 for a 6×8 foot rug. Yes, it’ll probably get barfed on, among other things, and beige isn’t exactly a colour that agrees with a black dog, but the price just couldn’t be beat.

I got the change table, changing pad, crib and mattress entirely for free from a few very generous moms. They aren’t the same colour, but they are the same Ikea style (Gulliver), so they at least have a similar look. The crib mattress is also a very high quality organic soy mattress — how awesome is that?

I did buy the dresser and shelving for the room. The dresser is the 3-drawer Brimnes version for a respectable $90, and we spent $150 on Ikea Kallax shelves, as well as about $25 on the Dröna bins that fit them (conveniently available in orange and blue and on sale).

Baby's Room

Baby’s room

For decor, the Ribba picture frames were about $25. The window blind, also from Ikea, was about $40. Add the Önsklig bins that hang on the side of the change table for $13 and that was about it for what we spent on the room. I made the bunting using fabric I had on hand already; the same for the fox and hedgehog pillows (and recycled some pillow forms from pillows that were no longer matching our house decor). The chair is also Ikea but easily about 15 years old; we had it up at the cottage for the last several years and brought it back to have in the baby’s room.

Other awesome freebies we got were the bouncy/massage chair (thanks Meredith!), two big boxes of books (thanks Tahnie!), tons of baby clothes and linens, a baby sling (thanks Alice!) and those adorable shelves on the wall, from my Mom. Not pictured but no less appreciated hand-me-downs are a swing chair and an Ergo Baby infant insert (we did purchase the actual carrier — thanks Bronwyn!), a used Medela breast pump (thanks April!) and misc other goodies such as baby bottles and such. Plus there have been plenty of gifts of clothes, books and other baby accessories.

Add in the incredible deal of the Graco car seat and stroller combo from Costco.ca for $300 and we’re set to go. Now we’re just waiting for baby!

Meet Fox & Hedgehog

Hedgehog and Fox Pillows

Hedgehog and Fox Pillows (design by Elizabeth Hartman of Oh Fransson!)

One of my bigger projects I’ve had on my baby-prep to-do list has been to make some quilted pillowcases for the baby’s room. I have an old Ikea chair that I’ve put in the room but it has quite a lean on it (it also bounces lightly which should be good for those unhappy hours when baby doesn’t want to sleep). I wanted to have extra pillows in the room for propping myself up for breastfeeding and just general baby usefulness.

I am an avid follower of Elizabeth Hartman’s quilting blog Oh, Fransson!, and she recently came out with these adorable fox and hedgehog patterns, which perfectly go with the blue and orange accent colours I’ve been working with for the baby’s room. She even conveniently wrote up a 20″ pillow block pattern (just for me, I’m sure). There are numerous variations on the patterns so if you want this 20″ pillow specifically, check out her pattern shop.

Hedgehog and Fox Pillows

Pillow back

I did the backgrounds of each character in a neutral gray print that I think works perfectly with each character. I can’t remember what these were called but I know I got them at Fabricland — they’re probably a Michael Miller print. The fox has what looks like a tiny forest in the background, and the hedgehog has a tiny hill pattern. I wanted to avoid anything too white in case these get barfed on (which they probably will, repeatedly).

I’m so happy with how these turned out. Hedgehog is definitely more work than Fox, but I worked these up in a little more than a day, so they are actually pretty straightforward. I’m tempted to do a baby quilt in them too, to match. Who knows. Since my due date is still a few days off, I just might be able to pull that off too.

Hedgehog and Fox Pillows

Hedgehog detail

Hedgehog and Fox Pillows

Fox detail

These pillows might also serve to help keep the cat off the white Ikea chair… this chair has been at the cottage for years now, and we recently brought it back since we now have space and a purpose for it. I had forgotten how much kitties loved this piece of furniture. Smokey has been spending his days in it for the last few weeks and it has the hair on it to show for it. I just may have to move Smokey’s cat basket into the chair, if these pillows don’t work to keep him out. Anywhere Smokey decides to spend his leisurely hours is always quickly covered in a fine silken mat of super sticky hair (especially come spring).

Baby's Room

Pillows in situ

 

39 weeks and counting

39 Weeks

39 Weeks

The sun is shining, the snow is melting and I’m enjoying week two of vacation while we wait for baby to arrive. It has been so incredibly refreshing to have all this time to myself. I am knocking projects off my to-do list like nobody’s business. In fact I have about a half a dozen blog posts to queue up with all the projects I have been working on! Oh and yes, I’m feeling pretty great (everyone has been asking)!

 

Car Seat Canopy

Car seat canopy

This one is a car seat canopy that I made with a favourite flannel that I’ve been hoarding, backed with a very soft fleece. This should be a nice cross between being warm enough for those early days of spring but also light enough to use all summer, I hope, although it will be easy enough to crack out another one of these in a lightweight fabric if needed.

 

Car Seat Canopy

Car seat canopy

I used the free pattern found over at Fleece Fun, which was super quick and easy. I had just been to the fabric shop and bought the fleece before I really knew what I needed, so I didn’t have enough piping/cord on hand (an optional feature called for in the pattern), but it was quicker to make leaving that out. Speaking of the fleece, I was originally going to the store looking for some soft and cozy chenille, but seriously Fabricland, $20 a metre? I don’t think so. This grey and polka dot fleece was $5/metre instead (so of course I bought a whole bunch). The sides feature velcro closures to keep the wind or snow out, which is very smart. I was looking for a use of this awesome pinwheel flannel by Sarah Jane for Michael Miller, and finally found it.

Stay tuned for more crafty baby project updates!

 

Loveable Elephant

Did you know there are apparently two ways to spell loveable? Lovable and loveable. Who knew.

Loveable Elephant

Loveable Elephant

I made this guy once before for my friend Alice’s little boy, her first child. I’ve wanted to make him again ever since, so this time I made him for my baby. The pattern is Lovable Toys from the book Last Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson, and it’s a regular go-to for me in making baby gifts.

I used some really nice Brier Run Alpacas yarn from a little place called Oil Springs, Ontario, that my Mom bought for me for my birthday one year at a local tractor show with my Dad. I’ve been saving it for something special and this seemed really appropriate.

I had to bump up the needle size because this yearn is heavier in weight than the Blue Sky alpaca yarn that’s recommended in the pattern. This created a few false starts as I realized as I tried to get started that doing the double-strand as called for was too much on 4mm needles. I then tried doing it single stranded but I started to feel like the toy was going to be too small, and the fabric potentially too leaky once stuffed with fibre fill. So last weekend while I was at the cottage I opted to start over on 4.5mm needles double-stranded, which was perfect. But of course I didn’t have all the right tools, so I made it work with the magic loop method (see video below). I was able to make all the toy parts except the trunk, which I finished last night.

 

Loveable Elephant

Loveable Elephant behind

Going with the magic loop method made for some tension issues moving from knitting the legs to knitting the body of the elephant. This pattern is made in a bunch of parts so it’s easy for this to happen. Despite this, I’m happy with how he turned out.

One more week of work left and then I hope to enjoy a couple weeks off before our bambino arrives! Can you believe the time has already come?! Whoa.

 

Baby Drool Bandanas

Before Christmas I had a whole day visit with my pal Angie and her baby Nathan wherein Angie downloaded virtually every bit of new-mommy info she possibly could — and I gratefully ate it all up. One of her words of advice was to make a whole bunch of baby drool bandanas. You can buy these things through Amazon or Etsy, but they’re pricey. And apparently they aren’t that easily available at your usual baby shops. She said do it now, because you sure as heck won’t have time later. Advice heeded.

Drool Bandanas

Baby Drool Bandanas

I roughly followed the tutorial offered up by Vivian at See Kate Sew, making most of mine as triangles with 11″ sides. It’s really hard to know if these are going to fit properly. They aren’t needed right away; the drooling really kicks into high gear when baby starts teething around the 4 month mark. I made a couple at the 13″ size as well but they seem rather huge. I suppose toddlers still do their fair share of drooling so I’m guessing we can make use of them all.

 

Drool Bandanas

Baby Drool Bandanas, reversible, with a velcro closure.

The first bunch I made were just two layers of complimentary coloured fabrics, but then I realized that they might be more absorbent if I used some flannel, so I made a bunch backed with flannel. These are ridiculously easy to whip up, and since I was reading that some people are changing them a half dozen or more times a day, having plenty on hand is a good thing, and saves having to change whole soaked outfits as often.

 

Drool Bandanas

Baby Drool Bandanas, backed with flannel.

Here’s to the drool days of summer… only 4 months away!

 

Leafy Baby Blanket Redux

I don’t usually repeat a knitting pattern too soon after having done it once, but I really liked this one and wanted one for myself (or rather my baby) after gifting the last one to a coworker.

Leafy Baby Blanket

Leafy Baby Blanket #2

The pattern is Leafy Baby Blanket by Leyla Alieva, only this time I cast on 145 stitches, which is 9x the width of the leaf lace chart, instead of the 6x repeat the pattern calls for. I also knitted 9x the repeat of the chart for length.

It’s a really great pattern that’s not to difficult to do, and this mercerized cotton (Paton’s Grace) is luxurious but easy to wash and hard wearing.

For the bind off I wanted something that looked more integrated into the pattern, so I tried out Elizabeth Zimmerman’s sewn bind off. I think this is my new favourite bind off. It makes the bound off edge look much more like the cast on edge, while still being really nice and stretchy (not so essential for a blanket but it can be very useful for lots of other bound off edges). Tutorial below.

Leafy Baby Blanket

Leafy Baby Blanket #2

This blanket will be good for travelling around in the stroller or lounging about on the floor. Unfortunately I was reading recently that blankets with lacy holes can be a problem for small babies to get their little fingers or toes caught in, so that was kind of a bummer. But you don’t leave a baby with any kind of blanket on unsupervised anyway so I’m not too concerned. I’m sure we’ll have many uses for it for years to come.

 

34 weeks!

I can hardly believe it myself but here I am marking the 8 and a half months mark! How did that happen??

34 Weeks (8.5 months)

34 Weeks (8.5 months)

I’ve been feeling pretty good although I have to admit the work weeks are starting to feel awful long. I’m kind of bushed by Wednesdays, especially if I happen to have had a night or two of poor sleep. Four more weeks of work left and then (hopefully) two weeks off before baby arrives.

People have been bugging me for belly shots so here are a few. I’m not exactly the selfie type so I have to keep reminding myself to take a photo now and then.

 

28 weeks (7 months)

28 weeks (7 months)

I’m chipping away at various knitting, sewing and home decor projects before baby arrives. I’m trying to finish getting artwork hung around the house — a task that has waited until now because there was a perpetual bunch of painting touch ups happening over the last year, but I’m close to being done all that — very close. Baby’s room is coming along; I’m rather pleased with how frugal we’ve been able to be, getting lots of the needed items as either freebie mom-to-mom things or hand me downs, and a few other items on deep discounts. I’ll post photos once all the elements are in.

Stay tuned for knitting and sewing posts! Oh… and I yeah, I got my hair did. What do you think? I probably won’t bother straightening it like the salon did but I wanted to get a good chop in before baby arrives. My hair grows so incredibly fast that it won’t be long before laziness kicks in and I’ve got it up in a pony tail again (enjoy it downwhile it lasts!).

 

Baby Quilt for Us

Quilt for my Baby

Triangles quilt for baby Kebbel

Having the plague over the holidays — once I had the energy to do more than move between bed to sofa — provided the time I’d been craving to get some sewing projects under my belt. I’d been meaning to get a quilt started for myself (or rather my baby) for months. Once I decided on a pattern and fabrics, it took a little over a day to complete.

 

Quilt for my Baby

Detail shot

I don’t have all the fabric designer names for this but the main feature is Zoology and Dumb Dots by Michael Miller. The solids are mostly Kona. The back is done in Dumb Dots flannel.

It was a really quick quilt mainly because the triangles are quite large at 10 inches tall and about 7.5 inches wide at the base (if I’m remembering correctly).

 

Quilt for my Baby

Dumb Dots flannel backing.

I did the stitching in a grey thread that complements the overall colour scheme, and a black binding to set off the contrast.

I’m totally in love with this quilt. I’d been saving the Zoology fabric for myself… and I still have some left. I’d like to get another quilt or two done for us, but I’ll have to see how everything works out with timing. I’m thinking of doing a quilted pillow, or maybe a pair, for the baby’s room, to help tie the colours together. Stay tuned!

 

Nesting

Pressure Canning

Pressure canned chicken stock for the pantry.

Now that the holidays are over (which I mostly missed due to the cold from hell) I’m chipping away at my maternity prep to-do list. One of the biggies was to devote a weekend to cooking a whole bunch of meals for the freezer, to help ensure we have lots of food easily ready to go when little baby chaos arrives on the scene.

Among the items to be prepared was a new batch of pressure canned chicken stock, using the carcasses of roasted chickens past that I’d kept in the freezer. It’s the first time I’ve used my pressure canner at the new house, and let me tell you once again I appreciate the design decisions we made in my new kitchen.

I’ve posted about pressure canning stock before, so I won’t repeat myself. It just takes a bit of planning and the right equipment. While some people think it’s a lot of work, the only real extra work is the time pressure canning takes. It takes much longer to process pressure canned goods, but the benefits are so worth it. I love that my stock doesn’t need to take up space in my freezer, and that I don’t need to thaw it before I use it. It’s just there and ready to go. If my energy levels keep up with my ambitions, I’ll try doing some full on soups, perhaps in some 500ml jars (meals just for mama). So far I’ve only pressure canned stock and tomato sauce.

In addition to the stock, I cranked out four large lasagnes, four cabbage roll casseroles, seven chicken pot pies, and a half dozen calzones.

Lasagnes for the Freezer

Lasagnes for the Freezer

 

Chicken Pot Pies

Chicken Pot Pies (pre-pastry lids), including one for dinner this week.

All of these meals lend themselves really well to doing in large batches. Make a giant pot of  meat sauce and turn it into lasagnes. Make a giant pot of chicken pot pie filling, divvy it up and let it cool before adding pastry lids and then freezing. I almost got worried that I wasn’t going to have enough room for all these in my freezers!

Planning my time was key here — I started the chicken stock as soon as I got home on Friday night, and by the time I went to bed it was ready to go into the fridge to cool. I also washed my jars and got all my equipment ready. First thing Saturday I strained the stock and got it heating again on the stovetop, along with my jars sterilizing in another pot. Since I can only get 5 1-L jars into the pressure canner at a time, I did two batches, which admittedly took the better half of the day. I got some pizza dough going in my bread maker for the calzones, and filled and then baked those in between canning duties.

By late afternoon I was prepping for the next day: chopping veggies for the pot pies, shredding cabbage for the casseroles, and I even had time to cook the meat sauce. This meant that Sunday was basically just assembly and baking (or in the case of the pot pies, cooking the filling). I was pooped by the end of the day but it felt great to stock up on all these meals.

My friend Angie, expert new mom that she is, suggested a couple of burrito recipes that look like they’d make for great breakfasts and lunches for a busy new mom. I’m planning to stock up on these a little closer to my due date.