Monday, June 11, 2018

SNOO review - the first two months

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First things first, if you want to judge me for purchasing a very expensive robot bassinet, that's fine. As someone who has a lifetime of experience with periodic insomnia, I place a really high value on sleep. Which isn't to say I didn't have qualms about this big ticket item. So many qualms. But I read a million reviews and then they had a big Black Friday sale and we decided to go ahead and order. If you're considering a purchase, keep in mind that they frequently have 30% off sales, last year the Black Friday sale was 40% off, AND you can select your desired ship date to coordinate with your due date (critical, since they also offer a 30 day trial period in case your baby is not one that loves the SNOO). I also feel pretty confident that I'll be able to resell it when we're done with it in six short months (yes, it's only intended for the first six months or so, which I realize makes the price harder to swallow).

This is a completely unsolicited and unsponsored review, just in case that wasn't clear. Along the way it kind of turned into a sleep diary of the first two months, so there's a lot of detail in here that doesn't necessarily relate directly to the SNOO. Also, some of these notes I wrote as we were going through it and some I added later on, so the tense is inconsistent throughout and guess what? The baby is waking up right now so I've decided to I'm not going to fix it because otherwise I don't know when I'll get a chance to finish this. Sorry.

If you don't want to wade through my week by week thoughts, here is my summary after two months with the SNOO: There isn't any way to say exactly what is making a baby sleep, but I do think the SNOO is contributing to better sleep, especially as we get her acclimated.

PROS: The SNOO is good looking, I looooooove the app which gives me a really clear picture of her sleep patterns, and the SNOO swaddles are amazingly easy to use (you can also buy their swaddles for standalone use if you don't want to get a SNOO). By week 8 we are consistently getting 6 - 7 hour sleep stretches (knock on wood) and we can even sometimes lie her down drowsy but awake and she'll put herself to sleep with the help of the SNOO. The customer service is great and they are happy to talk through your situation and troubleshoot with you on sleep issues (see my notes from week 6, when I broke down and asked for help).

CONS: It's really expensive and they usually grow out of it by six months. However, they have big sales regularly and I think I'll be able to resell it pretty easily when we're done. The only other con I have is that you can't see through the sides of the bassinet, so in the beginning I would get up a lot to see if her eyes were open. I've thought about clipping a little camera on the end of the SNOO so that I could check on her from my phone but at this point she's sleeping longer stretches so it doesn't feel as critical anymore.

Okay, deep breath. If you want allllll my sleep deprived thoughts about our first two months with the SNOO, read on ...

Initial thoughts: The SNOO arrived exactly the day we asked for it to be shipped, a couple weeks before she was due. I went with the earlier arrival time because our doctor told us there was a chance she'd have to be delivered early. Ha! She hung out until 41 weeks and the SNOO just sat there taunting us. It's super easy to set up (based on my observation - I watched D do it while I lay on the couch) and it's very sturdy (also heavy). It fits right in with our blend of midcentury modern and Ikea furniture. It comes with one fitted sheet and one swaddle sack in each size. I went ahead and registered for an additional sheet and an additional sack in each size, assuming we'd need to do laundry.

Critical - the SNOO can be operated without the associated app, but you really want the app. It's beautifully designed and lets you control the SNOO from the comfort of your own bed, but the real advantage is that it keeps a log of your baby's sleep times, and how often the SNOO has to step in and soothe the baby. This is amazing, especially in the blur of new baby craziness. I love being able to look back and see how she's sleeping (bearing in mind that in my case, I do wear her a lot for daytime naps, so I don't have any data for that). Every morning we check the log and I realize that my sense of time is not great at night - sometimes I think she was awake forever and it turns out it was just 30 minutes, other times I'll think we had a decent night and realize that I spent 2 hours rocking her at 3am. In the app, the light blue represents peaceful sleep, while the dark blue shows where the SNOO steps in and comforts her by increasing the motion and the white noise. Most of the time she isn't anywhere near fully awake at these points, she's just going through a light sleep cycle and struggling to get back to a deeper sleep. If she fully wakes up and opens her eyes, we can usually tell within 30 - 60 seconds that she isn't going back to sleep without our intervention, and then we just take her out and soothe her ourselves. The SNOO has a time out function, but we have only ever let it time out once early on. We learned pretty quickly how to recognize when she needs us, vs. when the mechanical comforting is enough.

snoo logs months 1 - 2
Example nightly logs from SNOO (I just picked out a few to show the general progression of her sleep during this time - the light blue shows her sleep, the dark blue is where the SNOO is soothing her)

Week 0: 4/10-4/17 We started her in the SNOO the first night we brought her home, and we were getting 2 - 3 hour stretches within the first day. We didn't count on the SNOO to rock her to sleep, so I would usually feed her, hold her a bit and then put her down. The SNOO swaddle sack is super easy to use, even when you are exhausted. The only concern we had is that it's super light and breathable and partly mesh, which will be amazing in summer but we were having chilly nights. It's not a huge deal because you can just put them in warmer pajamas. The sack slides into guides to secure it in the SNOO, and you can't operate the SNOO unless the sack is in place. We alternated between putting the sack in place in the SNOO and setting her down and zipping her in vs. getting her settled in the sack, rocking her to sleep and then setting her down and securing the sack into the guides. Either way, the moment of transition is the awkward part when you have to be super careful not to wake her up. By week 5 we'd realized we could improve our odds of success if we gently pre-heated the mattress by placing a heating pad in there on low and then pulling it out right before putting her in. The last day of week 1 she slept for almost 7 hours straight and we nearly broke our hands patting ourselves on the back for our genius purchase (spoiler - this was an anomaly in those early weeks!).

Week 1: 4/17-4/24 Still sticking with 2 - 3 hours stretches at night. We mostly accepted that she didn't want to go to bed until 11pm, and the hours between 8pm and 11pm were the hardest of the day. We took turns jiggling her in a dark room, with lots of white noise, to try to get her to fall asleep deeply enough to transfer her. But once we got her down, she'd generally sleep from 11pm - 2am (or sometimes 3:30am!), wake up to eat and go down easily and sleep for another few hours. This felt super manageable. We weren't being super consistent about putting her in the SNOO for naps, because we were both home and it was too tempting to either hold her while she slept or go on little outings while she slept in her carseat.

Week 2: 4/24-5/1 No real change, but towards the end of the week we noticed that her sleep was much more broken, and the SNOO was having to soothe her a lot more. In practice, that meant that we weren't getting all that much sleep, because even though we didn't have to get up and rock her back to sleep, I would still wake up whenever she got agitated and then I'd watch her to make sure she fell asleep again (again - these aren't full wake ups with crying and open eyes, it's just her going through a light sleep cycle and struggling a bit to fall fully asleep again). She barely made any noise that this point, so a deeper sleeper probably would have been able to sleep through it, although I think most moms will wake up. I think the SNOO was hugely helpful here, because if it wasn't soothing her back to sleep one of us would have had to get up to rock her each time. 

Week 3: 5/1-5/8  Mostly the same as week 2. We're averaging 1 - 2 wake ups per night (really just for feeding, though, and she usually would go back down easily) and can usually count on a 3 hour stretch and even get a few 4 and 5 hour stretches. The time between 8pm and 11pm is still our hardest but once we get her down around 11, we at least know that she won't fight going down after feedings for the rest of the night (babies are weird - I'm not sure how to explain this but it was incredibly consistent). We're feeling pretty decently rested at this point, partially because we're still both at home on leave and can sometimes nap during the day.

Week 4: 5/8-5/15 Dustin goes back to work and Adrian's sleep starts getting off track (I don't think those things are related but it does mean that we can't take turns napping during the afternoon so things start feeling hard). We still have some nights that follow the usual pattern but we have others where she wakes up multiple times and we struggle to get her back to sleep in the SNOO. She will fall asleep easily after nursing, but then get angry when we try to transfer her. I start keeping her on my chest for longer and longer after nursing, hoping that she'll be deeply enough asleep to move her. It sometimes works but sleep deprivation is setting in. I am super focused on making sure she sleeps during the day so she doesn't get overly tired. I wear her for hours each day and it does seem to help because we no longer have to jiggle her for three hours to get her to sleep at night.

Week 5: 5/15 - 5/22 All hell breaks loose. Our longest sleep session in the SNOO this week is an hour and a half. We have mostly solved the transfer problem (by pre-heating the SNOO mattress and rocking her deeply to sleep before putting her in) but now she's waking up 30 - 45 minutes after we put her down, almost like clockwork, and the SNOO can't soothe her back to sleep. She is AWAKE. I am totally desperate, and end up letting her sleep in our bed for a few nights, which I really, really, didn't want to do (note - let's not have a co-sleeping debate here. I am 100% supportive of safe co-sleeping, but we just aren't set up for it, mostly because I'm not willing to kick Circe out of our bed - she is 13 and going through enough transition already). Adrian is a champion sleeper on my chest at night (and in her wrap during the day), going for up to six hours, but I'm barely getting any sleep because I'm so worried about her. We get a Dock-a-tot from a friend and test that out for a night and it works okay because at least we don't have to get out of bed as much to check on her, but I still want her in her bassinet if at all humanly possible.

Week 6: 5/22 - 5/29 I email SNOO in desperation, asking for advice and they immediately set up a phone call with one of their sleep consultants (if you get a SNOO, don't wait to ask for help!). The consultant calls as scheduled and I'm shocked and a little star struck when it's Dr. Harvey Karp himself (not sure if this is normal or if everyone else was busy). He is incredibly nice and asks a lot of questions about Adrian's sleep patterns, age, etc. and offers his recommendations, some of which might have sounded weird if we weren't already half delusional from lack of sleep. Per his advice we:
1. Elevate the head of the SNOO a little bit. They sell risers for this but in a pinch you can do it by placing tuna cans under the legs, which is hilarious.
2. Raise the baseline setting for the SNOO, so that it rocks a little more throughout the night (done through the app).
3. Increase the white noise, possibly by using a hair dryer. We haven't gone this far and just increased the volume on our noise machine.
4. Elevate her legs by placing a folded receiving blanket under them, inside the SNOO sack. We folded up a blanket into a square, placed it so that it was pressed against her butt and her legs would rest on it.
5. Place a one pound bag of rice on her chest, to mimic the pressure she feels when she sleeps on us. I weighed out a pound of rice into a sandwich size ziploc, wrapped it in cloth and we zipped it inside her SNOO sack. Between the rice and the blankets under her legs, we had to size up to the medium sack and the entire set up looks totally crazy.

But it's working! After a few nights she actually seemed to associate all these things with comfort, because even if she was fussing when we laid her down in the SNOO sack, she would start to calm down as soon as we started zipping her in, and she seemed much happier. A few times we were even able to put her down drowsy but awake (the ultimate goal) and she would go to sleep on her own. Her sleep started improving and we were getting back up to four hour stretches. I started making an effort to put her down in the SNOO for at least one daytime nap, to help her adjust faster. They recommend having your baby sleep in the SNOO for all naps for best results, but at this point sleeping is her main activity, so if I set her down for every nap I'd almost never get to hold her and I'm not willing to do that.

Week 7: 5/29 - 6/5 Regression - she spent a couple days sleeping all the time, then a couple days not wanting to sleep. I guess this is a wonder week for her (she's a week ahead on that timeline because she was a week overdue) so maybe that's the reason. She isn't cranky, but it's so crazy to spend an hour rocking and soothing her to sleep, then the second I lie her down her eyes pop open and she looks at me with a huge grin. After a few days it clears up and she's willing to settle down again.

Week 8: 6/5 - 6/11 We finally start getting longer stretches of sleep! I'm not sure how much is due to the SNOO, how much is due to her age (and the fact that she's finally over 10 lbs), and how much is due to the fact that we have finally been able to get her to take a bottle. She has always had a hard time eating at night and she'd cry to eat but then pull off and cry every minute or two, leading to a ton of frustration for both of us. When I frantically googled "baby fussy in evening" all I got was a million hits about the witching hour and cluster feeding. She's usually a really efficient eater and doesn't do much comfort nursing, so it's a stark contrast to her daytime behavior. The night we were finally able to get her to take an evening bottle she drank five ounces and then went right to sleep with no bouncing and slept for six hours straight. Our new routine is for D to give her a bottle every evening before bed. I often just pump and then pour it directly into a bottle and for some reason she's much happier taking it that way. She's been really consistent this week with sleeping a 6 - 7 hour stretch, waking to eat and then sleeping another 3 hours or so. I never thought that consistently getting five hours of uninterrupted sleep would feel so good.

It's nice that the first two months wrapped up on a high note, but of course I'm worried that by posting this I'll jinx us and she'll go back to refusing to sleep. I just keep reminding myself that everything (the good and the bad) is just a phase, but it will gradually get better over time if we keep working at it.

If you have questions about the SNOO let me know and I'll do my best to answer based on our experience. My plan is to post three of these reviews, each one covering two months (since they usually stop using it at six months).

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Monday, April 30, 2018

Pre-baby splurges

We made a couple of indulgent purchases for ourselves right before the baby arrived, since we figured that we'd be spending more time at home for the foreseeable future. We stepped things up in two specific categories, both of which directly related to being new parents:

new coffee grinder

Caffeine - we'd been using a 20 year old coffee grinder that we inherited from my parents over a decade ago. It had finally gotten to the point where it needed to be held together while in use, because otherwise it popped apart and spewed coffee everywhere. It took us six months of debate to finally pull the trigger on a really nice (and very expensive) coffee grinder (the Baratza Virtuoso), but I have no regrets. Our coffee tastes better, the grinding is quieter, and it's much easier to use and clean. We've been putting it through its paces since we went on parental leave and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we get many years of use out of it.

new bedding

"Sleep" (it's probably more accurate just to say "bed" since these days we spend a whole lot of time in bed but NOT sleeping) - when it comes to sheets I like having just one really nice set that we use every day (plus a set of flannel sheets that we'll use if it gets really cold in the winter). It takes up less storage space, and I don't mind just washing them every Sunday and putting them straight back on the bed (no folding!). I'm a little crazy about sheets and I tend to read a million reviews before purchasing. I want to feel like I'm sleeping in a hotel, and I want them to be crisp and heavy, nothing sateen. I splurged on a set of Parachute's percale bedding a little over two years ago, and we really liked the sheets. They had a good texture and held up well to daily use, but two weeks before the baby was born they finally gave in and the fitted sheet ripped right through. I considered just repurchasing the same ones, but decided to give Matteo a try instead. They have a showroom in Los Angeles, so we made a trip over there to check the sheets out in person before committing. We ended up getting lucky and we were able to find the exact bedding I wanted in the showroom, which meant we got 50% off (and I think there was some additional discount? I was extremely pregnant and not super aware of the math, but it ended up being so much cheaper than I expected). If you love heavy hotel bedding, I highly recommend Matteo's Nap line. I can't speak to their longevity yet but they are thicker than the Parachute fabric and I'm sure they'll last at least as long. And yes, we did discuss how insane it was to purchase new white bedding with a dog and a baby, but I really, really love a stark white bed and we decided to just go with it and see how bad it got. A few weeks in and we're doing fine, although I have stepped up the washing to twice a week for the time being (this is definitely necessary because we're in bed at least 14 hours per day, it feels like, and I've given up and now eat some meals in bed too). I have to say that having really great bedding makes the long, sleepless nights and the bleary eyed breastfeeding sessions feel much better.

And yes, that is the SNOO next to our bed, and yes, I will definitely be posting a review once I have a better sense of how it's working for us. Technically, this is our biggest indulgent purchase (although we got it on a big holiday sale and I have high hopes that we can sell it once she outgrows it). We've been using it since we brought her home and I *think* that it helps her sleep longer, but at this point we're all still adjusting to life and every single day is different, so it's hard to really say how big a difference it makes. But I'll update! I know I scoured the internet for reviews when I was trying to decide if we should purchase.

P.S. NOT a splurge but the accidental best purchase we made is this lightweight Gladom side table from Ikea - it's super simple, looks decent, weighs almost nothing and you can pull the top off and use it as a tray (which I do if I'm sitting on the larger couch). We got one for the nursery and one week after Adrian was born we realized it was so indispensable that we ordered a second. They are both in constant use, and we move them all over the house. I never start a nursing session without one.

ikea side table

living room set up

P.P.S. - It hurts my heart a little to have all these cell phone photos on the blog and this morning I alllllmost broke down and got out my real camera because I miss having real pictures, but the process for getting actual photos up is so much longer (my phone uploads directly to Flickr for me whereas getting photos off the DSLR is a four step process that requires loading Photoshop on my ancient computer). Perfect is the enemy of good, right?

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Welcome, Adrian Elaine!

This little girl is just over two weeks now, but it feels like she's always been here.

Adrian

I went off work the day before she was due, but she decided to take her time arriving. I was fine (and appreciating all the extra naps) until I hit 40 weeks and 4 days and I suddenly woke up feeling like I was going to crawl out of my skin. My doctor had already made an appointment for an induction at 41 weeks and 1 day, and I finally just gave in and accepted that nothing was going to happen before then. We used the extra time to see friends, mostly just trying to keep me distracted.

I was surprised by how disappointed I felt when I realized I might not go into labor naturally. We'd done zero labor prep (no classes, no reading, nothing) and I was feeling really unprepared and I had no birth plan other than knowing I was going to go for an epidural, but somehow the idea of being induced made me feel like I'd be leaving something unfinished. I'd made it through this entire pregnancy, and I wanted that moment when I would suddenly realize I was going into labor. But I made it to 40 weeks and 6 days with absolutely zero signs of labor approaching so I was increasingly resigned to the induction.

Well, at exactly 41 weeks I woke up to a painful contraction. By mid-morning I knew I was for sure in labor. I held out for as long as I could at home, but in the early afternoon I told D that I needed to go to the hospital. I couldn't tell if my contractions were six minutes apart or three minutes apart (it turns out they were three minutes apart but every other one was super strong), but they were getting increasingly hard to handle and it felt like they were ramping up quickly. At the hospital they hooked me up for the standard 20 minutes of monitoring, confirmed that I was 4.5 cm dilated and they went ahead and admitted me (probably partly because I was already a week overdue). Within 30 minutes of being admitted, I had an epidural placed and when they checked me again (about 45 minutes after my first check) I was 7.5 cm dilated. At this point, things suddenly started moving really quickly - the nurse got me an oxygen mask and asked me to put it on and started to say something about the baby and then the doctor on call came in and introduced himself and told us that the baby wasn't handling the contractions well and her heart rate had gone way down. He strongly recommended that we do a c-section right away, especially because of the umbilical cord (they'd found out that I had an SUA at our 20 week anatomy scan so we'd been doing extra monitoring during the third trimester). He was willing to let me try laboring a little longer but he felt 90% certain that we'd end up doing an emergency c-section. All of this feels really blurry but Dustin and I both interrupted him and just told him to take her out, whatever they needed to do. I remember feeling panicked, thinking that I'd carried her for so long and there was no way I was going to fuck it up at the very last minute. Since I already had the epidural placed they wheeled me straight into the OR. We had been in the hospital for maybe an hour.

I hadn't done any reading about c-sections so I was surprised when they strapped my arms down and I started to panic. Between the arm restraints and the oxygen mask and not being able to move my legs I was feeling really claustrophobic and I was terrified that I'd throw up and I wouldn't be able to take the mask off. They kindly found me a nasal canula to use instead of the oxygen mask which made it a million times better. Everything felt like it was moving at warp speed. They had the baby out in mere minutes and the NICU team started evaluating her and D was able to go back and forth between us and show me pictures and videos. It took another 20 minutes to close me back up, which felt like an eternity but I was able to relax as soon as they told us that the baby was okay and then the doctors started talking about their weekend plans and I remember thinking that I was probably not going to die because they would definitely not be chatting casually if anything was wrong.

Once the surgery was finished they brought Adrian over to me so I could hold her and then they wheeled us both into the recovery room. Everything had happened so quickly that I was in a bit of shock. We hadn't even had time to tell our families that we'd been admitted to the hospital. I was having a hard time believing that this was the baby who I'd been carrying all these months. She had a full head of jet black hair and the longest fingers and toes. I remember feeling overwhelmed and happy but I didn't have that instant sense of recognition that some people talk about. She was just this sweet, adorable stranger that we were suddenly in charge of. Over the next few days we slowly got to know her and fall in love with her. It feels like the craziest thing, creating a human being, bringing her home. Even at two weeks in we're still constantly turning to each other in disbelief. We have a baby, an actual BABY, who is going to become a tiny person and then an adult. I want everything to speed up and slow down at the same time. I love listening to the little noises she makes and we're already noticing how she changes from day to day. This is going to be such a crazy ride, guys.

Adrian, 2 days and 2 weeks
{two days vs. two weeks}

P.S. - I'll probably post about c-section recovery once I'm a little further along. Unsurprisingly, I hadn't prepared myself for a c-section so I had no idea what the recovery was going to entail. I'm incredibly lucky in that I also hadn't spent any time preparing for a vaginal birth (apparently I was just hoping this baby would magically appear?), so I didn't have any major disappointment that it worked out this way, but dealing with the recovery is more intense than I anticipated.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Around here

I have lots of thoughts about pregnancy, and how strange and sweet and scary it is but I have zero time to write about them. So here are some photos, and then a few thoughts at the bottom, which are probably pretty scattered.

painting in progress

tiny clothes

territorial

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Things I want to write about: body image during pregnancy, anxiety during pregnancy, the annoyance of nearly constant contractions that apparently don't mean anything, the fact that I've been so busy at work that I forgot to sign up for any of the classes our doctor asked us to sign up for and now it's too late and I feel like I'm already a bad parent, how our house basically hasn't been clean since my first trimester, that I seem to have lost my ability to read for pleasure because my brain is all over the place all the time but not the least bit foggy (thank god) just thinking about a million different things.

What I can write about:

- We painted the nursery! We decided on green pretty early on but then spent over a month painting more and more swatches on the wall while we tried to figure out the perfect shade and tone. I would like to say that the one we finally selected is absolutely the best thing ever but actually it was more just that we finally realized we had to make a decision, any decision. We have since second guessed it a million times but there is no way that we are taping up all that woodwork again, so I have decided I love it. (I do think it looks good, honestly - more pics once we have everything else in place in 3 years or so)

- I've been overwhelmed by all the love from our family and friends. It's been so amazing celebrating with everyone over the last month or so and I feel so grateful for the people we have in our lives. I had the most beautiful family baby shower (a joint one with my cousin - we are due less than a week a part, which is so much fun!) and then last weekend Emily hosted a gorgeous lunch with some of my dearest girlfriends. I tend to get really uncomfortable with being the guest of honor, but both of these parties were so thoughtful and felt just right (still can't get over the fact that Em made my favorite cookies, which are a huge pain and a true labor of love).

- I have been taking photos pretty much every week, which is so weird for me, but it's fun to look back. The one above is from 35 weeks. At this point, I'm not even sure how much my belly is changing. It doesn't seem noticeable bigger week to week lately. Maybe something crazy is going to happen during these last few weeks, though.

- Starting last week I feel like going to the hospital is my second job. I'm there 2 - 3 times a week for non-stress tests, growth scans, and regular old appointments. We had a complication (an SUA which seems to not be causing any problems, fingers crossed!), so there is a good reason for all the extra screening, and I'm so grateful that they are keeping a close eye on her, but man, it is a lot of appointments.

- I am on some kind of crazy fruit bender. Basically all I want to eat is blueberries this week, but last week it was oranges. I honestly haven't had much in the way of cravings* or aversions, but I think I'm going to bankrupt us with this produce habit.

 * Except for wanting Caesar salad ALL THE TIME throughout the entire pregnancy, which is hard because most good versions have raw egg and I've been trying to be good about following the rules even though it kills me to give up runny egg yolks. I can't tell you how many restaurants have gotten phone calls from me asking about their dressing ingredients. In a pinch, I'll make it at home using Brianna's Asiago Caesar, which is the best bottled version I've found.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Christmas 2017

It was a pretty emotional holiday season this year. A lot was the same - we had the gingerbread house party, I baked a million cookies, we decorated the house.

cookie assembly line

christmas cookies 2017

christmas cookies 2017

christmas gifts

gingerbread house party 2017

holiday mantle

yule log 2017!

Yayoi Kasuma

But a lot was different too. I'm pregnant, and it felt extra special during this season. Something about pairing the holidays with this fleeting period in my life felt big. I mean, yes, it was a little sad to skip all the festive cocktails, and I had to buy a couple of holiday maternity dresses that I'll never wear again, but I was extra aware of how short this time is, and it felt crazy to think that this is the last year it will be just the two of us.

My sister moved back down right before the holidays and the best part of the season was getting to spend a ton of time with her family. My niece and nephew light up our lives, and being able to see them for casual hang outs or to have them stay with us for a few days is so, so sweet. I'm not sure how we survived apart for the last three years.

And yet, it was the first year without my stepmom, the first year where we didn't go to my dad's house and sit around the tree. It's been the hardest part of the pregnancy, knowing that I can't tell them this news, wishing we could all be together again. I waited a long time to announce to our families and friends, because telling people really highlighted the fact that I was missing two of the most important people. I take comfort in our time with family, and knowing that my dad and Claudia would have been thrilled. I'm in this crazy space of feeling happy and excited and broken all at once. I navigate it as best I can.

A few more prosaic notes about the holidays this year -

I made a lot of cookies. This year I did my usual almond crescents, melomakarona, and gingerbread, and then added in my favorite rosemary butter cookies and some peppermint pinwheels (which are so cute and tasty, but I only make them every few years because I forget just how annoying they are - the dough always wants to crack and rolling the layers up sucks, and usually one roll looks perfect and the other one is all wonky and sad). As usual, I packaged them up using boxes from Papermart and then printed some labels for them (I just buy some full sheet labels and cut them up after printing). The little decorations are from my stash of wrapping supplies. We made the laser cut snowflakes a few years ago, and the mini ornaments are from Ikea.

Emily and I were able to make our yule logs together this year and it was so much fun. Also a little exhausting. We followed my notes from last year and it went pretty smoothly.

We didn't exchange any gifts but we did get a few things for the kids, and we bought a bunch of lottery scratchers as a Christmas Eve activity (buying scratchers in bulk really proves how terrible an investment it is - we've done this two years in a row and have never come close to making our money back but it's fun).

The week after Christmas D and I waited in line for five hours (!!!) to get tickets to Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrors show. I'm normally incredibly impatient about lines but I can do it if I'm mentally prepared. It helped that the Broad is so close to Grand Central Market, so I took a couple walk breaks to grab good coffee and finally got breakfast sandwiches at Eggslut (which I've always refused to do because the line is usually 40 minutes long, but when it's a choice between waiting in one line or waiting in another it's less frustrating). The show was really fun, and I think the baby will appreciate that we documented her first (?) time in a room of adorable stuffed phalluses.

I'll be back with more posts soon, although they might be about pregnancy for the time being. I'm not sure what else I would write about, since I've more or less stopped cooking, and I'm currently just re-reading the complete collection of Miss Marple mysteries.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Gingerbread house party 2017 - toddler edition!

Whew. It's been a while, guys.* But I can't let December close out without documenting this year's gingerbread house party, which was pretty special. When I was looking at our guest list (um, two weeks ago, because this fall has been insane and I feel like I'm constantly behind) I realized that all our regulars have kids that are old enough to more or less work independently. So obviously it made sense to make this a toddler focused party, which is both much more fun and much more chaotic.

gingerbread house party 2017

gingerbread house party 2017

gingerbread house party 2017

gingerbread house party 2017

tuckered out

We had 7 toddlers (okay, one of them was a straight up baby, so he didn't participate this year) and 19 adults, which I was afraid was really pushing the limits of our house but it worked out so well. We only made houses for the kids, since even I am not crazy enough to try to tackle close to 30 gingerbread houses. Having a kid focused party was a little different than anything we'd done before, so I wanted to make sure that we had things set up for them.

The biggest adaptation we made was to set up a toddler height table, and this was a lifesaver. I had nightmares of trying to prevent kids from falling off of benches and chairs the entire afternoon, and bringing the game down to their level meant that we could supervise without having to hover anxiously. We just pulled out our long office table (which is just an Ikea tabletop) and temporarily swapped the hairpin legs for simple coffee table height legs which D picked up at Lowes for $30 ($5/leg, 6 legs needed for a table our length). The legs take up almost no space, so we can easily stash them away which is good because I think this is what our party is going to look like for a few more years.

I also ditched the pastry bags, because let's be honest, even adults have some difficulty managing those things and we didn't want to deal with royal icing explosions. I originally ordered a few squeeze bottles that have icing tip adapters (I ordered these ones from Michael's - I looked alllllll over to find ones that weren't teeny tiny, since most are intended for decorating sugar cookies and only hold a few ounces) but then realized that the kids don't really need fancy tips yet, so I also grabbed a six pack of condiment bottles from Smart & Final for way cheaper. The tips on these are pretty narrow, so I snipped them off a bit to get a wider opening. To fill them, I loaded the icing into a pastry bag and then piped it into the bottles (the necks are a bit narrow, so spooning icing in would take forever). These worked great! The kids still needed some help, but we had zero explosions.

We also covered our rug in plastic tablecloths, for obvious reasons, and put all appetizers (and the hot spiked cider) up on tables out of kid reach.

It was a little nutty in the best way possible, and I think the kids ended up having a really good time. I'm glad we managed to pull it off, even though it was a little last minute this year.

(See lots of details on past gingerbread house parties here, including the recipe I use, how I do the stained glass windows, and how we glue the houses together, and a general overview post of the party logistics)



* I miss this space! I miss you guys. Thank you for the sweet comments and concern. This year has been a little crazy and I'm barely keeping up with general life but I do want to make a point of getting back here more often. I'll have a few more posts up soon, on general holiday and life stuff.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Ladies' trip to Palm Springs

Jumping back in time to the beginning of May, when I got to spend a weekend with some ladyfriends from college/beyond. We don't all live in the same city anymore, and when we do get to see each other we're usually surrounded by children and husbands (not knocking this - our group is pretty fun and their kids are adorable). But getting away for a couple days was exactly what we needed. We rented an AirBnB with a pool and movie screening room and we drank and ate and talked and re-watched 10 Things I Hate About You and talked more and generally had the most relaxing, life affirming weekend. Oh, and we got massages. It felt indulgent but was actually not too bad cost-wise, since we split the rental four ways and cooked almost all of our meals.

Palm Springs

Ernest Coffee

Mirage

Mirage

Also, Palm Springs continues to get better and better. It's always been lovely, but the food and drink offerings were lackluster. I'm happy to report that things are looking up.

What we did (besides lying around the house, which occupied most of our time):

Coffee at Ernest Coffee - we went four times over the course of three days. It's that great. The place is adorable and has legitimately great coffee (when I was there they had a date shakerato that was out of this world) but also has boozy coffee options for late afternoons (their Irish coffee was so much better than any other version I've ever had that it could have been a different drink altogether). And here's the really fun part - the back half of the coffee house is a tiny, adorable tiki bar that opens up in the evening. Which leads me to ...

 Drinks at Bootlegger Tiki - as I mentioned, it's tiny and only has a few booths, but you can also take your drinks outside to the Ernest Coffee patio. Tiki drinks are one of those things that I would never in a million years consider making at home (so many ingredients, so incredibly sweet) but I love a good tiki bar, especially on vacation. This is a good one.

Breakfast at Cheeky's - always worth a stop.

Morning run to the Doug Atkin installation, Mirage. Running up that hill was brutal, but the sweet reward was an utterly deserted mirror house at the top. When D and I went to see it back in March it was crowded and still blew me away. Seeing it completely empty was next level. The website says it closed on April 30th, but we were there the following week and it was definitely still open (there was a guard and everything). Maybe they've extended it?