Thursday, June 25, 2015

Four months.

Little Murdo turned 4 months last week, and I can't get enough of the kid. At his 4 month check up, he weighed in at 15 lbs 5 oz and is 25 inches long. I've reached that point where I'm realizing just how quickly he's growing, and I want time to stop.

Here's an update on how he's doing these days.

How is Murdo sleeping? What's his schedule like?
In the last month he's graduated from swaddle to sleep sack, learned how to roll onto his tummy, and figured out how to suck his thumb. All of these things have helped him learn to soothe himself to sleep, so naps and bedtime are pretty easy -- once he's down in the crib, we rarely have to go back in to comfort him. We typically start putting him to bed around 7:30 to 8:00. His bedtime routine is pretty short and sweet -- change diaper, bedtime story, nurse, then a song while I bounce him on the exercise ball. He's starting to skip his middle-of-the-night feeding and sleeps straight through until I wake him around 6:15 to eat before I leave for work. Then he usually sleeps until 10 to start his day with Dad. During the day, he's awake for an hour and a half to two hours between naps, and naps anywhere from 40 minutes to two hours. Keep it up, kid!

How is Murdo eating?
He gets about six to eight feedings, and eats every three hours or so during the day. Mostly breast milk, but he'll get the occasional bottle of formula also. His pediatrician just gave us the go ahead to start him on solids. My goal has always been to breastfeed for at least six months, and I'm already pretty certain I'll continue after that. It's the best thing for him, of course, but also: Convenient! Easy! FREE! And now that I'm back at work, I really love the time we have together when I nurse him.

What's he into?
Lately he's been working on his grasping skills, and he just recently found his feet. He's gonna get that foot in his mouth any day now! He's laughing now, although getting more than a smirk or giggle out of him can be hard work. Put a camera or phone in front of his face and he freezes up and stares, so capturing one of his gummy smiles is nearly impossible. He is already mesmerized by screens. I can't believe I only have a 4-month-old and already have to make sure to limit his screen time!

And, because I get this question a lot, too...

How is it being back at work?
During the last couple weeks of my maternity leave, I wasn't really worried that I'd miss M too much or that it would be hard to leave him every day. I was more worried that he wouldn't eat or sleep well while I was gone. Well, once I got back to work I realized that there was no need to worry at all -- he'd be fine, and stressing out about it all day would not help at all. In fact, being away from him helped me realize that I can't control everything, which can be tough to grasp when you're in the trenches with baby all day, every day. So it's nice to be out of the house and doing non-Mommy things, but I do miss him more than I thought I would. I miss him every single minute. And though I don't think I could be a stay-at-home mom full time, I really wish there were a way I could spend more time with him.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy Father's Day.

He has to-do lists scattered around the kitchen. Buy stakes for tomato plants. Fix headlight. Bleach cat boxes. Lists for each day of the week, a master list for the entire summer break. I find them in the morning next to notes left for me, written the night before, telling me to have the best day ever and that my Murdos love me.

He goes grocery shopping. He sends me pictures of our boy behaving so sweetly in the cart. He texts, "Do you want cheddar brats or regular brats? Do you want tots?" I answer: "Regular. And yes!"

He puts the boy down for a nap so that he's sleeping when I get home from work. He goes outside to start grilling while I change, slice onions, preheat the oven for tots, take pictures of our blooming clematis in the backyard. The boy wakes up and I feed him while Murdo finishes making dinner. We're having brats and tots, with charred mustardy onions. They're delicious. We watch Orange is the New Black while we eat, the boy in his bouncy chair by my feet, playing and smiling happily before finally dozing off.

After dinner, I want to hold my baby. I want to feel his warmth and cuddle and kiss him. I realize I've hardly held him all day besides when feeding him. I think about the tiny newborn shirt I found the other day mixed in with the laundry -- a memory of how small he used to be, how big he's getting and how fast. Has it really already been 4 months since he was born? Was there really a time when he was small enough to fit into those tiny clothes, when he couldn't hold his head up, when he passed out on my chest after every feeding, when he ate every two hours around the clock? A part of me (a big part) is glad that we're past that. Another part is sad.

So I pick him up from his seat, lean back, and place him on his tummy on my chest. He lifts his head (so strong!) and props himself up on his arms, his eyebrows raised and eyes wide with curiosity, his mouth open and ready to smile. His daddy slides over on the couch so that he's next to us and smiles. Little M smiles big right back. They are smiling, and laughing, and talking. I hold M on my chest and soak it all in. This is everything.

To Murdo, my husband: Happy Father's Day. And thank you. Thank you for moments likes these. For taking such good care of our son, for loving him so much, for texting me pictures and videos throughout the day because you know how it feels to miss him while at work, even after just a few hours away. For making him laugh the way you do. For going grocery shopping during the week because I can't find the time on the weekend. For cooking dinner. For putting up with me when I get crazy and cranky. For those first 10 days in the NICU -- thank you for being strong, and for asking the doctors all the right questions, and for diving headfirst into fatherhood with no fear, and all the confidence in the world, like you do with everything. For those first couple months when M was just a tiny newborn and I couldn't do simple things like dress myself, and you were taking care of all of us, constantly washing pump parts and keeping track of my medications and getting me water and paying hospital bills and feeding the cats and making sure the house didn't crumble around us. For being the best father from the very beginning, from the moment he was born, when you said to me in disbelief, "He's here. He's here!" For every moment since, and every moment still to come.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Some favorite baby things.

When the time came to create a baby registry, I freaked out a little. I asked for advice from every woman I knew who had had a baby in the last 10 years. It's really amazing and heartwarming the way moms help each other out -- the way they're willing to write detailed emails with the why's, how's and where's of their favorite baby items. Because they've all been through it, and when you find that one item that changes the game completely, that somehow magically transforms your baby from wailing monster to peaceful angel, well, you want to shout it from the rooftops.

So, here I am, on a rooftop. These are my top favorite baby things that we use/have used on a nearly daily basis.

Solly Baby Wrap. 
If Little Murdo and I were stranded on a deserted island and I could only have one item, this would be it, kids. First off, it gets him to nap nearly every time, sometimes for up to four hours. I wouldn't say I get tons of stuff done around the house when I'm wearing him, but I have prepped/cooked simple dinners, and done laundry, and paid bills. What I really love about this wrap, though, is that Murdo will nap in it wherever we go. So when we went to a birthday party a couple of weekends ago and had to bring the baby, I was able to just throw him in the wrap. He got the sleep he needed and I was able to eat, drink and be merry with friends. I also love that it's super thin, breathable material. A friend let me borrow her Moby, which wraps the same way, but I thought it was too thick and bulky. The Solly is kinda pricey but for me, totally worth it.

Sprout Baby app. 
I've been tracking M's feedings and my pumping sessions in this app since we brought him home in February. I've become kind of ridiculous about it -- I time each feed, I log the ones that I missed while I'm at work, I rely on it to tell me the last time M ate or which side I left off on. I pretty much can't live without it. Having a record of all his feedings helps me track his sleep schedule, and see how everything is progressing each month. And there's a super helpful overview section that keeps all the totals together -- perfect for answering all those questions the doctor asks at each wellness visit. And! It syncs across devices, so Murdo can track on his phone, too. It's $5 but again, worth it.

Fisher Price Deluxe Bouncer.
It seems like most babies are into either swings or bouncy chairs. We tried both, and M is in the bouncy chair camp. I registered for this one because it was affordable and got good reviews on Amazon, and it has become the best way to get M to wind down after play time and get ready for his nap. I usually just set him down in the chair facing me, give him his favorite toy or his lovey, and bounce the chair with my foot while I have my hands free to eat, or check emails, or write a blog post (he's in his bouncy chair as I type this!). He'll typically doze off after 15 minutes or so, and then I'll take him to his room for a nap, or just let him snooze in the chair. This bouncy chair is how Murdo and I are able to eat dinner together while watching almost an entire episode of Game of Thrones. You guys, you can't put a price tag on that. However, this item has also been dubbed "the toe stubber," because even when you know it's there, you're gonna whack your toe on the thing, every. single. time.

Ergobaby Swaddler. 
This is one that I could probably live without, but I am glad we got it and wish we had gotten it sooner. We didn't really start swaddling M consistently until he transitioned from the Rock 'n Play to the crib at around 10 weeks. At that point, we were using the Halo Swaddle, binding his arms to his side so he couldn't move them at all. He hated it, and fought it, but he'd eventually fall asleep for long stretches in his crib, so we kept swaddling. I bought the Ergobaby swaddle on a whim at Target, and I liked how it was a stretchier material that bound his arms to his chest. So he was still able to move his arms, but any sudden flails or Moro reflexes wouldn't keep him up. He started escaping the swaddle more and more, and we stopped swaddling around 15 weeks, when we caught him rolling over to his tummy in the crib and he learned how to suck his thumb to self soothe. Now he sleeps arms out in a Halo SleepSack.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


The newborn haze was thick. So much so that Murdo even told me I had become a different person at times. I was overly worried and confused about breastfeeding and establishing my milk supply, going from obsessing over exclusively breastfeeding, to ready to give up to supplements, and back again. Nerve damage and an opened incision from the C-section left me in pain, unable to move and use my body the way I wanted to, the way I needed to. I didn't expect recovery to be easy, but I was certainly not expecting to have to wait a full eight weeks before I could complete simple tasks again, the way I could before I was pregnant, back when I put my socks on every day without ever appreciating how awesome it is to be able to put your own socks on.

It really is difficult to see a way out of the haze when you're in the middle of it. They say it just takes time, that the newborn stage is the hardest part and you just have to get past it. But when sleep deprivation turns the days and nights into one long tunnel of feeding, changing, rocking, crying, it's hard to see the light at the end. It's there, though. I only know this because I made it out alive.

And you guys, what a light it is! Sometime around the beginning of April, my incision finally healed and I was able to lift things, reach things, drive, walk around the house comfortably instead of shuffling slowly with my back hunched over for fear of another stitch popping. Breastfeeding started to click, just like that, and Little Murdo more than doubled his birth weight by the time he was 10 weeks old. He gave me his first smile and started becoming more aware of his surroundings, and in the weeks that followed, quickly went from hungry, wiggly, fussy thing to kicking, smiley, still hungry, I-can't-believe-how-lucky-we-got good.

Example: After sleeping through the night for the first time last week, he woke up at 5:30 for his morning feeding. I was so proud as I watched him on the monitor screen, kicking in his crib and sucking his thumb and cooing to himself. I knew he had to be hungry and was all ready to get up and feed him when just like that, he soothed himself back to sleep and slept for another hour. High fives, kid. You're the best.

Little Murdo is 16 weeks old now. We're getting back into a routine of sorts, in the loosest sense of the word. Making time to prepare a homemade meal is still a struggle. After going back to work and realizing just how many hours of the day I'm not with my son, every minute I am home I just want to spend making him smile, not making dinner. So we've been eating a lot of takeout and fast food, or making quick smash burgers in the cast iron skillet, or throwing a bag of Trader Joe's orange chicken in the oven. On one Sunday I made a double batch of corn chowder and froze half, and I'm hoping to do more planning ahead like that, but then other things come up. Like having to parent by yourself one Saturday because your husband decides he needs the time to dig up and replace all the soil in the raised garden bed and then plant 20 tomato plants in said garden and in containers all around the yard. Twenty! I suppose, come mid-July/August, the meal problem will be solved: tomatoes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, all day, every day!

All that said, for any of you reading this (Hello? Is anybody even out there?), I wanted to give you a heads up that although the title up there is Happy Jack Eats, the conversation around these parts, like every part of my life since starting this food blog in 2008, has changed. I struggled briefly with the idea of shifting focus, going from food blog to what? Mommy blog? Lifestyle blog? And then realizing, who cares? I started this space to write, and over the years it became my space to both escape and connect, to learn and make sense of things, and I don't want to let it go. So I'll let it change with me, and for anyone still following along, I'd love for you to stick around while I learn to navigate this new chapter. There will still be food and the occasional recipe, because I still love to eat (and I can't wait to start feeding Little Murdo solid foods), and there will still be photos, because I invested in an expensive camera so I sure as hell better use it. But mostly, there will be stories and photos of family and everyday life, which really, at its core, is what this blog has been about all along.