{embrace the camera} october 25

embracing autumn in our yard, a ticklish baby, and a boy who wouldn’t pose with us but tossed leaves on us instead…

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6 Months (“Better Late Than Never” Edition)

Gwendolyn, you’re 6 months old!

By the numbers: 6 months old. 15ish lbs. 6 feedings per day. 1 night waking, typically. 1 time sleeping through the night! 2 naps per day. size 3 diapers. size 6-9 month clothes.

When we put you to sleep, we often sing you a lullaby* that goes like this:

Hey, beautiful girl,
Daddy loves you, loves you,
Most beautiful girl in the whole wide world.

There’s a bridge that includes these words:

…Sweet little girls get older.
But when your tooth aches, or your heart breaks,
Will you still cry on my shoulder?

I know 6 months is not really that old. Yet, you’re already half a year old. Your babyhood feels like sand rushing through my fingers, as you rush to go and do the next thing.

You started solid foods this month, a step I would have taken slower if not for your obvious desire to speed into it. You had been eyeing my food for a while, but I resisted your interest. (I prefer waiting to introduce solids until babies can sit up well). However, one night as we ate applesauce with dinner, you watched your daddy longingly, your open mouth following his spoon from bowl to bite. You were clearly desperate to try this new thing, so we gave you some. Oh my word. You lapped it up. When you had eaten it all, you burst into tears, wailing to express dismay that there was no more. You’ve eaten two to three meals of solids per day ever since.

In your sixth month, you’ve also discovered more sounds you can make. You added a consonant to your coos. Now you express contentment with a repeated breathy “ba.” You also like thumping your hands. When you wake up from a good sleep, you lie on your side, rhythmically patting the bed with one hand and softly uttering “ba, ba, ba.” When you’re excited at play–on your tummy–you smack both hands on the floor fast; on your back, you delightedly kick your feet. “Baby stomping!” your brother says, as your heels pound our wood floors. And you’ve figured out the fun to be had if you carry that hand-flapping, foot-stomping behavior into the bath. You splash vigorously now, stopping to splutter when you slosh water over your face, then grinning and starting again.

As I recently thought about how to sum up your personality, I decided the best word is “independent.” You are generally happy to play wherever I lay you down. You occupy yourself pretty well. There would be times–when your brother demanded my attention for lengthy periods–that I would almost forget you were awake, enjoying your own little corner of the living room. You’re so alert and engaged with your toys that you don’t need me to entertain you. That makes you a rather easy baby. But I want to make sure I don’t let your independence cause me to miss out on playing with you, soaking up your sweet baby days. Because…

Hey, beautiful girl,
Mommy loves you, loves you,
Most beautiful girl in the whole wide world.

*”Beautiful Girl” by Andrew Peterson, on the album Slugs & Bugs & Lullabies

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934 Words about Upholstery

I originally planned to finish this project before Brandt’s second birthday. Then I was going to finish by Gwendolyn’s due date. (I did at least get the ottoman done before she was born.) Then I was going to finish before the new school year started. Now it’s October, and at last I have upholstered/slipcovered my chair!

BEFORE:

AFTER:

I bought the chair and ottoman for $12 at a garage sale a year ago. Looking past the furry cow print fabric, I liked the lines of the chair and the style of the legs. (If I can indulge in nostalgia, I also liked the style of legs – pudgy baby ankles – on that sweet little boy.)

The chair lived on the porch for a while as I searched for the right fabric to recover it. I estimated that I needed about 7 yards. I wanted something with red in it and with a pattern that had some graphic punch. I also wanted a durable fabric priced such that it wouldn’t turn my $12 chair into a $200 chair. After looking at fabric stores, local furniture outlets, and online, I finally found a red-and-white striped canvas at IKEA. At $5ish per yard (clearanced at the time), the price was right. I bought 8 yards just to be safe.

I started with the ottoman, since its boxy shape made it more straightforward. Because of some structural damage – a collapsed corner, a loose spring, and a split board – I definitely needed to take the old upholstery off to repair the innards (rather than just slipcovering it). I wanted to use the original upholstery as a pattern for my new cover, so I carefully pried all the staples off to remove the fabric without cutting it. This part was tedious, tedious, tedious.

When I finally had it all apart, I could see exactly what supplies I needed and how to reassemble things. I reattached the spring, repaired and braced the broken board (actually, my dad and Aaron did that part), and replaced the dustcover, foam cushion, and batting. Then I used the old fabric as a pattern and guide to sew my red-and-white striped material into a new cover and staple it onto the ottoman.

The trickiest part of the ottoman project was the piping (or welt cord). At first, I thought about skipping the piping, figuring it was just a decorative detail. But as I read about upholstery, I learned that piping actually strengthens seams, which is important on furniture that will get a lot of wear and tear. So I went for it. This tutorial was very helpful. But even so, it took a couple tries before I got the technique right, and my results are far from perfect. (Note: that tutorial says you need a welt cord foot for your sewing machine, but I read elsewhere that a zipper foot works, too, so that’s what I used.)

So I finished the ottoman, had a baby, and then a few months later began to tackle the chair. I originally wanted to reupholster the chair completely, but the process of taking the old fabric off the ottoman was enough of a chore to put me off repeating the process on a bigger scale. I opted to slipcover the chair instead.

First, I made a new cover for the cushion. Since the old cover was removable, I took it off and used it to make a pattern. For guidance, I referred to the same tutorial that I used for the ottoman. By now, piping was old hat, but this time I had to learn how to sew a zipper. The cushion foam was still in good shape, so I stuffed it into the new cushion cover once I had it done.

Now things got more complicated. Around the time I bought the chair, I saw a slipcover tutorial on a blog called Pink and Polka Dot (the post I read is no longer available, but it seems she’s made the content into an e-book). The basic gist is that you drape your fabric – wrong-side-out – over the piece of furniture, trace, add seam allowances, cut, put pieces (wrong-side-out still) back on the chair, pin, and finally sew. (You can get an idea of the process here.)

I spent a long time studying my chair to figure out how to section it out into fabric pieces. Because I was slipcovering rather than upholstering, I couldn’t always use the existing fabric as a guide; for instance, some seams that worked for fabric stapled into place just didn’t make sense for a fitted slipcover. After I cut and pinned my fabric, I had to determine where piping needed to be sandwiched between seams. Finally, I had to deduce the order of assembly, so that seams would match up and tuck in appropriately.

Sewing the slipcover became a process of trial and error. I’d sew an arm, then put it on the chair (right-side out this time) to check the fit. Sometimes I had to take out seams and start again. Sometimes I had to cut new fabric pieces, if my original cut was too short or too narrow. It got easier as I went, since the process on one side could be replicated for the other (provided I remembered what I had done!). Eventually, I prevailed!

My new chair has plenty of imperfections, but it’s good enough for me. In fact, I love it. It’s already become our favorite reading chair. It’s so satisfying to enjoy something I made with novice sewing skills (really! I’ve only had sewing machine since January), a smidgen of geometry, and lots of problem-solving.

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4 and 5 Months (Must. Hit. Publish. Before. 6 Months.)

Gwendolyn, you’re growing faster than I can write! We’ll have to lump months four and five together…

By the numbers:

at 4 months old… 14 lb 12 oz. 26 inches long. 17 inch head circumference. (70th–80th percentile for all.) 6-7 feedings per day. 1-2 night wakings. 2-3 naps per day. size 2 diapers. size 3-6 month clothes.

and now at 5 months old… 6-7 feedings per day. 1 night waking. naps per day. size diapers during the day, size overnight. size 6-9 month clothes.

I need to record all these things more frequently, because I already forget so much of the last couple months. Here are some memories in a few categories of baby life.

Sleep (always important to the mommies and daddies, even if the babies themselves don’t care)

For the first three months of your life, you slept swaddled–in the swing during the day, and on your back in your bassinet (or our bed) at night. At four months you literally broke your bonds and changed every habit. During your daytime sleep, you kicked your swaddle blanket off, so you started sleeping–in the swing still–simply snuggled with your swaddle blanket instead. Nighttime swaddles held on a little longer, until you started waking up with every appendage free and your blanket belting your middle. Then you’d sleep on your back with your arms and legs splayed like a frog.

At five months, things changed again, when you outgrew your bassinet and started rolling over. You wanted to sleep on your tummy so badly that you’d try to roll over even in your swing, straining against the straps. At that point, we moved you to a pack-n-play with a bassinet-style insert. Now you do all your sleeping there on your tummy,  day and night. You join us in bed after your early morning feeding and spend the last couple hours of the night there. I love how you greet me in the morning with freshly awakened smiles!

Once you no longer had the motion of the swing to lull you to sleep, you needed some more, um, aggressive tactics. Plenty of babies need bouncing, pacing, or rocking to encourage sleep. You? You need running or speed-walking. Anything slower, and you want to keep looking around or interacting with us. But a faster pace temporarily overrides your curiosity, making your eyes roll back and droop closed. This quirk seems in keeping with what we see of your busy little personality so far.

Milestones

As mentioned above, you began rolling over in earnest these last couple of months. You went from the occasional unintentional flip to quick and regular rolls–mostly from back to front as you try to reach toys. You often get yourself into pickles now, rolling until you’re face-to-face with a radiator or until a limb gets caught on a chair leg. Then you complain loudly until someone rescues you.

You’re not only somewhat mobile now; you’re verbal, too. Right when you hit four months, you started cooing constantly. Then you learned how to blow raspberries. And you laugh frequently–when we tickle you, when we play peek-a-boo, and most of all, when your brother goofs off for you. The other day, we were in the car, and Brandt started banging his sippy cup against his car seat buckle. You cracked up again and again, and I thought how blessed my back seat is.

Odds and Ends

You love your toes. You grab them and suck on them whenever you can–in bed, on the floor, in your bouncy seat, in your car seat. You love when others play with your toes, too. If I blow raspberries on your feet, you invariably giggle. And you’re delighted when your Papa lays you on his lap, grabs your feet, and says, “Whose toes are those?”

You’re a hot-blooded little girl. You sweat when you cry (taking after your mama). You sweat in your car seat if it’s even marginally hot, so with the summer we’ve had, car rides and walks would often leave your fuzzy hair dripping with perspiration. I try to dress you in cool, lightweight outfits, but I can only do so much to combat your inner hot water bottle.

And in keeping with your zealous spirit, you eat ferociously. You took to nursing easily as a newborn, but then we had a couple iffy months. Your dwindling but fierce eating times left me sore and worried that you weren’t getting enough. But then I added my observations of your equally rapid draining of bottles and your increasingly chubby thighs to my observations of your generally eager nature, and I decided there was no need to fret and force you to nurse for more than a few minutes every few hours. You’re just fast, and now we’re doing just fine.

However, your mama’s heart wouldn’t mind if you slowed down the rush through babyhood, Gwendolyn-do-lindo.

Love, Mama

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{embrace the camera} august 30

How Gwenny and I do the forest preserve:

How Gwenny and I do the park:

How Gwenny and I do the beach:

How Gwenny and I do the fair:

Catching a theme? Girl loves her some carrier.

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{embrace the camera} july 26

Today is my mom’s birthday. Today is also my half-birthday. Tomorrow, Gwendolyn will be 4 months old. If we had gone ahead with the scheduled C-section, three generations of women would have shared a “26” birthdate. (I think Gwenny’s birth was more than worth having her birthdate miss the pattern by a day.)

Here are a few favorite pictures of my mom and her granddaughter, back when Gwenny was still brand new.

And here are a few recent self-portraits of me and Gwenny, taken at arm’s length in the lovely light on our front porch.

Not quite in the frame…

In the frame, but now Gwendolyn’s out of focus…

Smooch!

So there you have it, the “26” birthday ladies with the “27” birthday baby.

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Pretense

Recently, Brandt’s imagination has burst forth, and I’ve had so much fun watching it. He engages in all sorts of pretend play these days. His games run along three themes: music, baseball, and transportation.

He uses anything stick-like as a bow for imaginary violins and cellos. Items he’s turned into bows include thermometers, measuring tapes, and curtain rods. Sometimes he does air violin, and sometimes he pretends his toy guitar is a violin or cello. Here, he told me he was holding his instrument on his neck (close, son), and he’s using a still-packaged curtain rod to bow:

We live across the street from a small community baseball field. During the first half of summer, Brandt constantly wanted to walk over to watch the games. His enthusiasm for the baseball players generated his first foray into dress-up. He of course needs his baseball hat, which he’s decided must be worn forward for throwing and hitting but backward for catching. Sometimes, though, a plastic firefighter hat makes a superb baseball helmet. Then he adds whatever accessories he deems necessary for the game: sunglasses, Daddy’s work glove, even an airplane held between the teeth. Once attired for the game, his play is punctuated with shouts of, “Run!”, ” Safe!”, “Field!”, “Home run!”, and “Going, going, gone!”

If frequency gives any indication, his favorite imaginary realm is filled with things that go. We build construction machines out of any sort of blocks – bristle blocks, Mega blocks, wooden blocks. Brandt tells me what we should build (“tuck dum,” “excalalaler,” “mint kicker,” and so forth*). I devise a sturdy base suitable to his truck of choice. After that, Brandt overrides my attempts at realism with abundant towers and arms, getting ever more precarious. But in his eyes, the original truck is still there (usually with a seat for a doggie or a guy).

Brandt also likes to create trucks out of pillows. When he first started doing this, I thought Aaron must have shown him the idea, but Brandt actually came up with it on his own. He clambers onto our bed and starts to arrange our four pillows. He declares the vehicle he wants (“Loader!” “Fire engine!”) and solicits assistance (“Mama help”). I prop the four pillows into a square, and he gets in and out until it collapses. Then we start all over again.

The Boppy pillow also makes excellent vehicular source material. Added to the four bed pillows, it can be the drum of a cement mixer. Or, on its own, it functions as a “moker” (motorcycle). The other day, Brandt strapped his baseball hat under his chin, declared it a “holmp” (helmet), and rode that Boppy full throttle.

With a little imagination, chairs become pretend transportation, too. I showed Brandt how to line up a row of chairs as a train; he quickly realized this works just as well as a plane. He puts stuffed animals in each seat (leaving a spot for himself, of course). He or I will serve as conductor/pilot/flight attendant, calling, “All aboard!” or offering (pretend) lemonade to passengers. Good times.

What a treat to watch a little mind full of big possibilities.

*translation: dump truck, excavator, and cement mixer

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