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“Lava” Inspired me to Learn the Ukulele

24 Aug

lava animated filmI found myself sobbing in a movie theatre recently while sitting through previews before the movie, Inside Out. The reason? The short film “Lava” from director James Ford Murphy and producer Andrea Warren. It’s the heartbreaking tale of a volcano longing for love. Here’s a clip:

Weeks later, I was still humming the tune, “I have a dream” and got in into my head that I should learn to play it on the ukulele. It was probably 2 AM when I decided this, so I quickly found a good beginner ukulele thanks to the handy site Ukulele Tricks, studied a few tutorials of the chords I needed to learn, (in addition to a few other songs), and am happy to report that it wasn’t a completely crazy purchase. Since unwrapping my new ukulele a few hours ago, I’ve almost mastered the 3 chords for the song and even made it through twice while singing.

good beginner ukulelehow cute, right? I love the dolphin.

I chose the Makala Dolphin ukulele because it had great reviews as a beginner/under $50 option and I like that it’s plastic, so I won’t feel guilty if it gets a little banged up with a little kid in the house. If I really like playing, maybe I’ll upgrade to a solid wood one on a return visit to Hawaii someday. Wouldn’t that be a lovely souvenir of a return visit to my honeymoon spot?

Now I’m just working on perfecting my strumming patterns and the muscle memory to be able to play AND sing at the same time. I could credit years of playing the violin to knowing how to play by ear, but the truth is, it’s a pretty easy instrument to self-teach if you have the patience to learn a few chords. I think it’d be fun to take a class at some point though too. It’s been years since I played in an orchestra and I’ve really missed playing an instrument I realized.

I played a little for Emilia before bed tonight and she was mesmerized. She was in my lap and kept grabbing the fingerboard. It was adorable. I can’t wait to really master a few other fun tunes, like Hallelujah, Jason Mraz’s I’m Yours, and Taylor Swift’s Style so I can play for us and have little jam sessions. For now, I’m going to keep it in her nursery so I can entertain her with little bits of nursery rhyme songs as I teach myself to play.

10 Tips for the First Weeks Home with Baby

5 Aug

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It’s hard to believe I have a 4-month old. Where did the time go??! Memories of those exhausting and exhilarating early weeks home with a newborn start to get fuzzy quickly so here are some of the tips I discovered as a new mom.

  1. Take care of yourself
    Taking a shower and getting outside for a few minutes every day were really important for my mental health in those first few weeks. I remember just standing in the steamy shower with washcloths protecting my chest because I was so sore from breastfeeding some days. Other days, drying my hair and putting on makeup was what I needed. And then there was the heavenly sitz bath. It’s so important for your body to heal that prioritizing whatever will make you feel good on a given day is crucial for your well-being.
  2. Find a mom’s group
    A friend told me to join while I was still pregnant but I didn’t join one until Emilia was 4 weeks old. Big mistake! Those get-togethers quickly became the highlight of my week. The format of groups can vary so take the time to find a good fit. My group is run by a midwife and we usually spend the first 45 minutes taking turns sharing what’s going on with our babies and answering each other’s questions. Every few weeks, there are guest speakers too. I’ve had massages, chiropractic adjustment, physical therapy consultation, and listened to a great presentation by a sleep specialist; it’s great.I also belong to a few Facebook groups, but my favorite (without question) is my breastfeeding group: The Leaky Boob. Each time I wanted to give up or had an issue I just couldn’t figure out (like Emilia’s nursing strike) my “leakies” offered support, solace and encouragement. Same for my moms group. I can’t tell you how many times a new mom would come in with a baby a few weeks younger than mine and share the exact same problem or frustration that I’d had when Emilia was the same age. If the other moms hadn’t been there to offer advice, I don’t know what I’d have done.
  3. Don’t be afraid to go out with baby.
    The pediatrician’s office was the destination of our first post-hospital trip out, then we took a quick walk to a favorite bakery, but my first “big” trip out with Emilia was to the mall to find nursing tops. Glamorous, huh? My sister Vicky accompanied and was such a help, rocking the baby to sleep while I tried on everything in stock at Destination Maternity. I nursed Emilia in the ladies room lounge at Nordstrom and later, a dressing room, but that trip taught me that it was possible to get out with the baby. Soon after, I took a solo trip to Marshall’s and even met my sister for lunch in Boston one afternoon after perfectly timing a nap and feeding. It is possible with some preparation and it only gets easier with practice. For both you and baby.
  4. Enjoy skin-to-skin time as much as possible.
    Pardon me if this is TMI, but I spent a lot of time topless, just snuggling my daughter, in the early weeks because bonding with her was really important to me. Granted, her poor latch left me with so much damage that I didn’t have much choice but to go shirtless while I healed between feedings, but we also snuggled in bed together when we co-slept and some of my favorite memories are of watching her wake up each morning, nuzzled in the crook of my arm. This is largely the reason I never bothered with dressing her in more than a diaper, too. We snuggled together around the clock and it was heaven.
  5. Try baby wearing sooner, rather than later.
    Emilia didn’t take to her Moby wrap or her Ergo carrier on the first few tries, so I almost gave up until I mentioned it at my mom’s group and received the tip that changed it all: Put her in a start walking. Worked like a charm. I had to watch a LOT of YouTube videos and practice tying the Moby wrap a few different ways to see what Emilia liked, but we eventually landed on one she loved: the hug hold. The conditions need to be right though, which means that she’s fed and has a clean diaper. Otherwise, I just slide her in and start moving and she usually conks out immediately.
  6. Sleep when the baby sleeps.
    I’ll listen to this advice the next time around — only I’ll probably have an active toddler to contend with by then. It’s difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you’re in the newborn haze and I railed against the limited time constraints of my new life as a mom, squeezing in laundry and blogging and photography when I should have been catching some zzz’s. I didn’t realize that Emilia would eventually settle into a more predictable eating/sleeping pattern and I’d soon long for the days when we could spend whole days just napping and nursing together because they’re over in a blink.
  7. Don’t be afraid to say no to visitors.
    You need to bond with your baby and it can be difficult when (well-intentioned!) visitors want to drop in. Our first day at the hospital, I’d only had one hour of sleep since delivering but entertained visitors from 11:30 in the morning to almost 9 PM. I wore myself out trying to accommodate everyone’s schedules and later resented how little time I’d spent alone with just my husband and daughter in the first 24 hours of her life. I remember feeling so guilty for taking her back from someone to hold at one point and that’s just not right. Next time, we’ll invite visitors to the hospital at specific times that work for us and probably limit visitors to the house until after the first week home.
  8. Take time to enjoy your baby. 
    Similar to the above, too many times, I’d hand my peacefully sleeping newborn off to my husband after struggling through a grueling, 45-minute feeding and then run to the kitchen to grab gel packs to ice my chest while he brought her out to greet company. Not only did I miss seeing people’s faces when they saw our daughter for the first time (or held her), but I was missing the most rewarding part: the moments immediately following feedings were some of the absolute sweetest, most contented, and snuggly. And lets not forget the adorable “milk drunk” face! It wasn’t without a heaping side of guilt that I eventually started taking 5-10 minutes for myself with her and also talked to Brian about how frustrating it was to miss that initial “meet and greet” with visitors.

    If you’re breastfeeding:

  9. See a lactation consultant ASAP.
    I was wincing in pain, absolutely dreading every feeding and knew something just wasn’t right when I made my desperate call for help on our first day home from the hospital. Insurance completely covered the 2-hour, in-home visit and I received instruction tailored to our nursing issues in addition to a comprehensive crash course in all things milk production. I learned so much more than I did in the breastfeeding class I took through my hospital! Our LC even showed us how to cut our baby’s fingernails, swaddle her, and a neat trick for keeping her contained if we need to clean our a stuffy nose.
  10. Get some APNO and Lansinoh Gel Soothies.
    APNO stands for “all purpose nipple ointment” and should be used sparingly since it contains a steroid, but it’s the balm of the gods as far as I’m concerned. I was very anti-medication throughout my entire pregnancy, refusing the flu shot and cold medicine and even Tylenol for headaches, but I loved my APNO so much, if you’d told me there was cocaine in it, it wouldn’t have mattered. God bless my friend Shawna for immediately mentioning it when I told her how damaged I was from nursing. Without getting too graphic, let’s just say that I referred to my daughter as “my little vampire” and nursed with tears streaming down my cheeks, sucking down quarts of water through a straw to distract myself from the pain. The first time I used it, the relief was almost instant and within a day or two, I was nearly healed. It saved my breastfeeding relationship, so thank you Shawna.Lansinoh Gel Soothies were another saving grace for me in my first two weeks of nursing. These little reusable gel pads chill in the fridge during feedings, then you just pop them on afterwards and wear until the next feeding. They’re kind of a pain because you’re supposed to wipe off the gel residue before nursing, but the relief they offer is worth the effort. Thankfully, someone recommended packing them in my hospital bag but I’d have at least 3 boxes to get you through your first two weeks. They’re pricey, but so worth it.

Emilia’s Baptism

1 Aug

DSC_0622What a beautiful day celebrating with our closest family and friends. Emilia was absolutely perfect during the ceremony and so well-behaved and mellow at the party we hosted afterward.  I couldn’t be prouder of my sweet little girl.

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The day didn’t start off well with grey skies and rain and Emilia was uncharacteristically fussy. I’ve noticed that she will get like that when Brian and I are stressed and running around, not engaging and playing with her as much as usual. She probably picks up on the tension as we fly around trying to get out the door.

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We were already running late because of this and she’d not napped more than 20 minutes that morning so she fell asleep as soon as we got into the car to head to St. Catherine’s.  But the worst moment of the day happened right as we pulled up to the church.  As I opened the car door to wake her and get her out of her carseat, a firetruck drove right by us and sounded it’s alarm. Her eyes flew open and there was a moment of open-mouthed, absolute, terror before she WAILED.  The rare times that she cries are always hard, but this was gut-wrenching because she was so scared. All my mom-nerves were electrified and I couldn’t have cared less about being late as I tried to help her catch her breath, calm down, and sop up her tears.

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Thankfully, as soon as were settled into the pew she calmed as she looked around at everything: the cathedral ceiling, the candles, her dress; she drank it all in and was smiling in no time. We were seated closest to the front of the sanctuary, so Father Jean-Pierre came to bless her first and she absolutely beamed at him. He exclaimed in his French accent, “Oh my God, what a bea-u-tiful bebe!”

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Now I know we’re biased, but she really did look gorgeous in her gown. It didn’t escape notice that he didn’t repeat this to any of the other babies. Father Jean-Pierre definitely took a liking to her though, especially after she didn’t cry as he poured the water over her head as she was baptized. She actually seemed to enjoy it even though the water was quite a bit cooler than anything we’ve used when we bathe her. I just remember smiling down at her really forcefully, so she’d know everything was OK and whispering “It’s OK, love. You’re OK!” and “Awww, is that so nice??” Like I was willing her to stay calm by being all “la-la-la- isn’t-it-fun-to-have-water-poured-on-you-with-an-enormous-clam-shell?”

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After, all the families and godparents were asked to remain standing to complete the ceremony and Father Jean-Pierre chose Emilia to hold as he completed the blessings and, again, told us again, how beautiful (and cute) she is.

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After the ceremony, we spent some time taking photos at St. Catherine’s, I nursed her quickly, then we headed back to get all the food going back at our place. To say that we were a little daunted hosting so many people in our tiny apartment is an understatement but thankfully, everyone pitched in and we were only an hour and a half late getting the food out. Ahhh.

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We wanted to keep the menu simple and easy: a large garden salad, meatballs with sauce on mini bulky rolls, sausages with peppers, and chicken broccoli ziti. I prepared this recipe the morning of the Baptism and was really please with how it turned out! And of course we had a cake.

It was a wonderful day spent with our immediate families and friends.

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