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Friday, July 29, 2011

July's sightings - Web sites, that is

A few good Web sites I found in the back of a book I recently reviewed.

(Note: Not all opinions and information shared in these sites are things the author of this blog agrees with. Read with caution and your own smarts!)
This is a Web site and blog written by the author who wrote the book I recently reviewed, "It'll get easier - and other lies we tell new moms." It's got tons of information about being a mom, new parent, babies, and just other interesting things women may enjoy reading about.
This site looks like it has tons of great information about getting pregnant, pregnancy, and then all ages of having children from babies to teenagers. Good info! Too much to write about here, you'll have to check it out for yourself.
Looks packed with info! There is even a "birth club," where you type in your due date in order to find other moms in the same boat as you are with pregnancy. Seems interesting.
This looks like a cool site. I haven't signed up yet, but apparently it's free. It's a site where you can chat on message boards with other moms. There are various categories you can sign in for - babies, pregnancy, mom of toddler, single moms, military moms, etc. I'd love to hear if anyone is currently using this site and what you think of it.
This one looks awesome! I've barely skimmed the surface of this mom blog, but it's great so far. The author, Liz, seems witty and fun and like some mother I'd love to get to know at a play group someday. The best part? The title of her blog is "Mom 101 - I don't know what I'm doing either." LOVE IT.
This site is for anyone wanting to write about mom-related stories. It looks interesting, but I haven't really figured out how it all works yet. Anyone heard of this?

more books in July

I reviewed a few more books out there about parenting. Check these out!

(image from Google)

Touchpoints - Birth to Three - Your Child's Emotional and Behavioral Development by T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. - I just skimmed through this book, as it's pretty similar to others I've already read. It goes through each stage of a baby's first couple of years, in detail about sleeping and eating habits, etc. It's definitely a hands-on book. His sleep routine sounds similar to what we have tried with Owen, having the infant go to sleep awake (not wide-eyed and ready to play, but sleepy and still with open eyes), letting him know you are there if they cry but trying not to pick them up after the routine starts going. I also believe in having a good routine for baby to go to sleep with - music, rocking chair for a minute or so, a blanket or stuffed animal (when they are bigger), same time every day if possible, etc.

Two points in this book I think may be helpful to some of my friends here with newborns or having babies:
-Many new parents wonder if they will know when the baby is hungry and when is appropriate to feed her. Dr. Brazelton says that crying is the last sign of hunger. Other signs include: an alert state, more physical activity than at other times, rooting and mouthing (putting hands to their mouth and moving their head around), nuzzling at mom's chest, bobbing her head looking for food.

-You also will wonder how often to food a newborn. The nurses at the hospital told me to pump every hour to two hours and feed him every two hours, no longer than that. So that's what we did, and honestly Owen was on that schedule from the beginning until at least 4 months old, but it was more him asking for food every two hours like clock-work than it was us sticking to what the nurses told us. He was always alert and hungry every two hours, even in the night waking us at midnight, 2 a.m., 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. religiously.

Dr. Brazelton says to feed a newborn whenever she wants it, even if that's every hour. You will soon realize which cry means hunger, after trying to change a diaper or hold a crying baby. Try food, if she doesn't want it she'll refuse it. You should not let a newborn sleep longer than 4 hours without food in the beginning, so waking a sleeping baby to feed her is good.

(image from Google)
It Gets Easier - And other lies we tell new mothers - A fun, practical guide to becoming a new mom by Claudine Wolk -
This was such a fun read (well, skim... who has time to read every word anyway?!)! It was totally real and honest, one of the best I've found so far on pregnancy, birth and bringing home baby. The chapter, "Uncensored tips on labor and beyond" was great! I did not have a natural child birth, having a C-section, so I can't comment much about labor. This chapter seemed to give really good information, straight up truth (wearing ice packs after birth!), and helpful tips.

One tip was cool that I hadn't thought of, having a small treat or gift certificate to thank the nurses who helped you the most during your hospital stay. The author wrote that these nurses are oftentimes forgotten, but they are the ones who help you the most during and after labor. Thanking them would be appreciated. Even as I write this I can remember the several nurses I would have thanked tremendously. In fact, there was one nurse who I sent a thank you note to a few weeks after my son was born. She came in one morning when the nursing just was not happening. My husband was asleep, in one of those typical new-dad-comas that many of my friends' husbands also experienced (one of my friends even tossed a box of tissues at her husband's head, fearing he was dead he was sleeping so soundly in the hospital one night!). My son was screaming in my arms. I was sobbing, feeling completely overwhelmed, defeated that breastfeeding was not coming naturally to us, and so exhausted, having not slept in 48 hours straight. The nurse walked in, helped me hold the baby and get him comfortable, and then just whispered that it was all right, I'd figure this out. She said something else totally profound that I kept repeating to myself over and over for days, weeks after the baby was home, that now I can't remember. It was something along the lines of we expect it all to come naturally and just happen, that mothering should be easy, but it's huge, all consuming, and it's complicated and it doesn't happen that easily. I wish I could remember her exact words, but they got lost somewhere with the changing of diapers every hour, attempting to pump moments after talking to her, and the sleep deprivation. I am forever grateful to her though. I don't even remember her name now... but at least I sent a thank-you note!

But back to the book... lots of good info in here about everything you are probably wondering about already, written in a format that it's from your best friend or sister, someone you can trust to tell you like it is. It reminded me of the Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy book I read, but this seems easier to read, shorter, something you could easily skim in an hour. The Girlfriend's books are great, too though, I read all of those.

I will review some of the resources this book included in the back in another post, so look for that soon.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

smile for the camera... you and your baby bump!

This is a special post for my dear friend Heather who is half-way through her pregnancy and coming home to Maine in a couple of weeks, just in time for me to photograph her growing baby bump! She is nervous about it, not sure that she even wants photos of her bump that she doesn't think is such a little bump anymore. I told her she'll love it, and because I'm one of her best friends she is listening to me and allowing me to take a few shots! I can't wait!

So to get ready I told her I'd post some pictures I've taken of others and some photos by my good photographer friend, Beth Wallace, who took pictures of me when I was 7 months pregnant with my son a couple of years ago. I would say the best time to take the photos is after 6 months when your belly is most likely showing pretty well and before 9 months so that you are still feeling comfortable and have some energy left in you to take some pictures.

(NOTE: All photos of me, big belly in the maroon or bright green sweater, are taken by photographer Beth Wallace of Beth Wallace Photography in New Hampshire, all other photos are taken by me, Angela Avery)

Maternity shoots are fun. I promise they are! I definitely cherish looking at the pictures of my belly when I was pregnant. It's something I want to remember, because I know it won't ever look just like that again. I think pregnant women are beautiful, honestly I do. I also am a person who loves taking pictures. So of course I'd encourage anyone to get some maternity photos taken.

However, I should add here that despite my own personal opinion that it's nice to get pictures done, I'm not oblivious to the fact that many, I'll say it again - many, women are just not comfortable with their growing bellies, changing bodies, and they don't want to remember looking the way they did while pregnant for 10 months. I do acknowledge that. If you are in this category, which many of my close friends are, it's OK. You are not alone. You just might not want to read anymore though because I'm going to try to entice you to get some photos done!

Taking daddy-to-be along
It's nice to take dad along with you while getting the photos done. I couldn't find a day that my husband wasn't working so we did our shoot without him, but I do encourage people to take the dad along. They make the photos that much more special. It also puts you more at ease, knowing you aren't the only one feeling stupid with the camera pointed directly at you. It's also nice to get pictures done of your second child in the belly or beyond. Your belly is never the same with each pregnancy, and your growing family around the baby bump makes the pictures even more special.

What to wear
It's best to wear solid colors like this wonderful mommy, Kristen, did this summer. It's great to bring a couple of changes of clothes, too, if you're feeling up to changing. It just changes the look of the pictures and can be nice for different photos. Try to wear something you feel most comfortable in. For me, that was my favorite maroon sweater. I just felt like it was fitted and really cute on me (and it's hard to find something you actually feel "cute" in when you're 7, 8, 9 months pregnant, so even if the shirt isn't something spectacular wear it anyway because you'll feel good in it, which will show in the pictures.)

You will also want to make sure you are well hydrated before and during your photo shoot, but also make sure you go to the restroom just before so you are most at ease and comfortable. Your photographer wants to get good shots of you so you enjoy the pictures later, however she also is not expecting you to do acrobats or walk for hours to get those good shots. If you're uncomfortable with a pose she suggests just say so or offer up another idea. Pregnancy is all about being in tune with your body and your needs, so remember that especially when you're in front of the camera.

Close-ups of that glow
I think it's also nice, as the photographer, to try to get at least a couple of photos of the mom-to-be's face. It's usually glowing, happy, full of anticipation. It's nice to capture that look on a gal's face.

Take along some baby items
When I went on my photo shoot with my friend she asked me to bring along some cute baby items to include in the pictures. It was such a cool idea. I love the pictures now of the baby socks and bear I took. Whenever I see that bear in my son's room I remember taking it to these pictures, one of the first things that made me realize a baby was coming.

So think of taking some booties, small shoes or socks, a hat or two, a bear or other stuffed animal, a favorite book, a rattle, etc. They add to the pictures and make it seem more real like a baby will be here soon in place of that belly!

What do you want to remember?
The best thing my photographer friend, Beth, asked me to do was think of my pregnancy and if there was something I would always remember about it, something interesting or a weird feeling. I said the first thing I think about when I think of pregnancy was not being able to see my feet! She took a picture of that feeling. I LOVE this!

Strike a pose
As for other poses, it's really up to you and your photographer with how comfortable you are, what your style is, and which aspects of pregnancy you want to remember. Of course belly shots are the most important. Just have fun with it! When else will you feel like showing off your belly?! Many people don't feel comfortable showing off the bare belly, but if you do it's definitely a good thing to capture, to remember just how different your belly looked.

Honestly, it is a fun thing to get some maternity photos done of you. You can frame them in your living room like I did with one of my belly, or you can lock them away in the back of the baby book for only you and your husband to see. Either way, you don't get this chance back, so if you're at all interested in having pictures done don't wait, get them done.

Most of all, relax and have fun with it!

out to eat... no more!

My cousin, Jocelyn, and I went out last night to dinner with the kids (her 2 and my 1). We didn't do anything fancy. Our kids were messy from playing outside in the dirt and from picking raspberries in the yard before heading off to supper. We went to the best place we know, Ocean Pizza in Old Orchard Beach, where her mom owns a pizza and Italian restaurant.

Knowing the cook has its benefits when you have three kids under age 6 running around. We walked right in, didn't even place an order, but instead my cousin made our two pizzas herself. One of the pizzas was the best kids' pizza ever including slices with an assortment of broccoli, ham, pineapple, green pepper, tomatoes and black olives, and of course a few cheese pieces for whichever kid decided to be picky tonight.

Within 10 minutes of getting there we had drinks, napkins, two high chairs and a big kid-friendly pizza on the table for those three hungry boys. All was going great. We even had a few moments while the workers entertained the boys for my cousin and I to catch up ("How is Tyler's new school going?" and "Are you still nursing Brady or is he totally weaned now?" and "Wow, Owen's gotten so big. How much does he weigh these days? He must be the 90th percentile in height!" Yes, this is what we moms talk about now... and honestly I love it and have never had more in common than I do now with some people!)

(Look at her youngest and my only... only a year ago... so innocent!)

So moving on toward dinner... we rush to cut up and cool the piping hot pizza for our kids, sneaking bites ourselves because we're both realizing we haven't eaten in hours.

And then it starts.
The crying because the food is taking too long to cool down and be edible for babies to eat.

The whining that he didn't want that kind of pizza, he wanted another kind.

The throwing of the food that yesterday he would have eaten but now is deciding not to touch.

The ugly stares from tourists at the table next to us, just trying to go out on a dinner date.

The incessant questions from the very kind but probably secretly annoyed waitress asking if there is anything more she can get us.

So finally we give in. Our kids have eaten... well, something, we think, surely some of this mess got into their mouths right?!

We let them down, out of the contained high chairs, just as our pizza arrives, the first piping hot meal we've seen in probably weeks, as is per usual to feed the kids first and eat last when it's cold.

Within seconds one child is throwing an airplane across people dining in the restaurant, as another child chases him, almost tripping 14 times, causing us to gasp and almost choke on our own food. Food, that we are shoveling into our mouths, somewhat out of sheer hunger having had no time to feed ourselves all day, but mostly because we know any second now the kids will have a melt down, want to get to bed or trip and fall or...

And spoke too soon. Just then, after we've eaten maybe one piece of pizza, my cousin's youngest trips and falls, cutting his lip. Insert screaming crying here from her hurt child and from my sensitive-to-other-babies-crying child... and we have our anticipated melt down.

A few moments later my cousin has a huge red spot of blood on the shoulder of her shirt where her child was crying and bleeding. She decides perhaps it's time to go. Back in the kitchen of the restaurant I agree it's time to leave, after we've barely had five minutes to talk to each other, and we're both laughing... hysterically, like, "Yup, this is our lives... crazy right?!" I flash back at that moment to when we were kids, sleeping over her house, riding her horse, and just being silly little girls, without a care in the world, and endless hours to just talk.

It's at that moment, after having giggled and felt like a kid for one second, escaping from the responsibilities of parenthood... that my son decides to grab a huge knife from the kitchen counter, while he's in my arms no less, and wave it in front of him as if he's about to lick it for some reason. I scream, out loud, and toss it onto the counter. Every worker and customer in the place turns to look at this horrible version of a mom who has somehow managed to allow her child to grab a knife while she was holding him.

And for the second time in 10 minutes I say again, "OK, I think that's enough fun for one night. We're leaving!" My cousin says she's right behind me and starts to say something like "we'll have to do this again soon" but I cut her off and tell her next time we'll put all three kids to bed at her house while I run out for take out pizza... and margaritas!

Yes, it's real. None of this is made up. It's just a night out with the kids. I shared this with you for a couple of reasons. One, to let you know the truth of how crazy it can be sometimes. Two, to show you that you really should stop yourself when you think, "You know what, I want to go OUT!" and instead stay inside, for the love of God, just stay in! Three, I share this with you to remind you that it's SO fun having girl friends who are moms, who know just what it's like. Keep those gals close to you. You'll need them when you decide that yes, you deserve a night out, too.

Finally, to those naysayers out there who are just trying to eat quietly, CHILL OUT. We moms (and dads) deserve to go out sometimes, too. Believe me, however annoying, frustrating, stressful or terribly ruined your night is because we are sitting at the table next to you with our loud children... trust me, it's doubly worse for we, the parents who were just honestly trying to have some small piece of normal back in our crazy parenthood lives. Please excuse us. You probably won't see us again anyway. We're ordering take-out next time.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

weekly photos

My friend, Sarah, gave me one of the greatest ideas to do with my son - weekly photos. Every Tuesday (he was born originally on a Tuesday) I would set up the boppy in the beginning and then just clear the couch, write with black marker the number of weeks my child was, and set the paper near my child as I took picture after picture, waiting for a good one of him looking at me, ideally smiling at the camera.

Sarah did this for 52 weeks, until her son Eli turned a year old. She encouraged me to do it with Owen, saying it was one of the best things she had done that first year. I decided I would try it, being a photograph lover and all. However, I told everyone I would probably just do the first month, if that, thinking there was no way I'd have enough time, memory or energy to do it for an entire year.

Well... I did make it a whole year. I have 52 pictures to prove it! It just turned into something I had to do, something I enjoyed every single Tuesday morning. It was a bonding experience, too, for Jared, Owen and I. We loved trying to get Owen to smile at us. Now when I look back at all 52 of the pictures, I'm so incredibly happy I spent that much time taking them. I intend to put them all into a book to see his growth over his first year.

To look back on his first week's picture, I get teary eyed every time! It is totally true what everyone says, it does fly by so fast. It was nice through these photos to stop time every week and capture the rapid growth that first year.

However, I acknowledge that it was not easy and that I don't blame others for not wanting to commit to doing this. It is one of those things that once you start it you are not going to want to stop taking the weekly pictures.

After Owen turned a year old I knew I didn't want to do the weekly photos anymore (despite everyone on Facebook begging me to continue to show them cute poses from my son!), but that I wanted to track some of the growth (even though it totally slows down in the second year, does not compare to the first year). So I take a monthly picture now... which are trickier than ever since he's moving everywhere now as a toddler. It's still fun though!

If you are interested in doing this project, here are a few tips that may help:
1. LOCATION - You can take them in the same spot every week like I did, or you can change it up and take a weekly picture some place that your child just happens to be, like my sister did with her weekly photos.

2. PILLOW - Using the boppy pillow in the beginning was helpful, as babies aren't too good at holding up their heads or staying upright well.

3. TAPE or BLOCKS - Once your child starts moving and trying to eat things it gets trickier... so that's when I needed to tape the paper above my son's head. I also have seen people using blocks to spell out the weeks, those are really cute. I wish I'd thought of doing that ahead of time!

4. BLOOPERS - Keep the mess-up pictures, you know, the ones you take trying to get that perfect cute one of the baby looking at you. They will be cute in an album when you put the pictures all together.

5. ALBUM - Putting the weekly photos all together in an album is the cutest. It's like a flip book of your baby's first year, all the cute phases and growth and chubby legs they showed over the course of 52 weeks. I loved posting them to Facebook each week, putting in a small note about what was going on that week - sicknesses, celebrating somebody's birthday, etc. I had the idea to put them together into a sort of guest book for people to sign at Owen's first birthday party... but I didn't get to doing it. Perhaps you can take my cute idea and actually get it done! I wish I had started the album early though. It took me weeks to find all the weekly pictures in my files on my computer, so long that I did not have the album ready for his first birthday like I planned. I wish I had uploaded the pictures every week to an album in Shutterfly or Kodak to start it early.

6. DISTRACTIONS - Have something around to distract your child while taking the pictures once they get moving. It's really tough to keep a new crawling baby sitting still. I had to wait for my husband to help me when we got to those phases. Two people was better than one in this case. We also always had some toys around to let him play with or to at least look at.

7. CUTE OUTFITS - One of my favorite parts of the weekly photos was showing off Owen's adorable outfits at each stage. People gave us so many cute outfits that it was nice to every week show one of them off as a sort of thank you (not that I recalled who gave us which outfit each time, but still it was nice). I would pick out Owen's outfit the night before sometimes just to have it ready. I know, lame, but these are the crazy things you do when you're a new mom!

8. REMEMBER THE REASON - When you get to week 27 or 41 or when you are running out of cute outfits or your child is totally sick of this weekly picture ordeal, don't forget why you started it in the first place. You are doing this weekly photo project to capture the rapid growth of your little one, who will never be little again. It's a fun thing to do, but it is also memorable. You honestly will be so happy you kept up with it when it's over and you flip back through the pictures.

9. BE FLEXIBLE - There were times that I took Owen's picture on a Monday or even on a Sunday, a couple of days ahead of time, and other times when I took it a day late because that's just how the schedule worked out or because Owen was sick on the weekly Tuesday photo day. It's OK! There were times he was dressed in just pajamas because no cute outfits were clean. There were photos of him just staring at us like he hated the process because we tried for 10 minutes to get him to smile but he was teething and did not feel like appeasing his parents with the camera. It is going to be what it is. Let it go, don't have expectations, just have fun with it.