Monday, December 28, 2015

Holiday Tips From Franceth Manor

I see a blog going around Facebook that's all the reasons Christmas sucks for moms. My kid is only 5 months old, so I don't profess to be an expert, but I am really not into busy bragging and negativity. Rather than share that link and be critical, I decided to tell you the reasons my Christmas was excellent.

1. My husband who doesn't suck. If you're going to have a spouse, you should pick one who doesn't suck. Mine helps with decorations, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, baby baths and poopy diapers, basically everything. Sure, maybe sometimes I follow behind him to make adjustments, but a husband who doesn't suck is a huge time saver!

2. My job that doesn't suck. Trust me, I know how a rigid office schedule and awkward holiday parties can make the holidays stressful. Become your own boss! The best thing about being self employed is that I don't have to shop when 90% of other people are shopping. I went to the mall for fun three days before Christmas, and I sang songs the whole time I was looking for a parking spot. That, my friends, is a low stress life. Plus, I sell stuff that is essentially a luxury item, and rarely am I yelled at for it.

3. ONE CHILD! I hear some of the weirdest reasons for having more than one kid. Your only child will have friends and a support network in life even if you don't provide them biological relatives, I promise. And it makes holiday travel so much easier!

4. My family is not crazy about gifts. The extended family does a $10 fun gift exchange, and the great aunts & uncles kick in for one present for the littles. For immediate family, this year I tried to buy almost all gifts from small businesses, direct sales, or fair trade. It made gift giving more thoughtful than it had been in years, which felt good! Francis and I have never really done gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, or Christmas. Instead, we travel, and this year we are going to Disneyland.  Experiences. Travel. Dinner out. Museum memberships. So many things that are not just buying random crap on Amazon or swapping gift cards.

5. I donate to charity and did a food pantry can drive because it makes me feel good. I hope I will teach Lilly to be charitable from the heart. I know for sure that me bitching about having to buy canned goods for poor people on my mommy blog would not be teaching her anything worthwhile. Kids aren't dumb.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Happy Holidays, I Can't Get My Sh!t Together

We (I) spent so much time trying to decide which photos to use, it is now too late to order, receive, address, and mail Christmas cards. Here are this year's contenders:

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Franceth Manor!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Newsletter: Month 4

Dear Lilly:

Today you turned 4 months old! The last couple weeks of October we managed to squeeze in a lot of fun, but November is not anyone's favorite month around here, so we have been spending more time indoors. You learned a lot of things this month! You are babbling like crazy, learning to play with toys, sit in your Bumbo seat and exersaucer, and have started to spit out your binkie just to get a hand to hug.

We had one week this month that felt like it was spent entirely in the pediatrics lab at Mercy. We saw a GI specialist about your weight, and you had to have several time consuming lab tests, two of which had to be redone. Mercy feels like a second home now! They have a nice play area in the lab, the staff is nice, and I like the chocolate Elvis smoothie from the coffee shop. I don't wish you to spend anymore time there, but for routine lab work it's not an unpleasant place, and you were really a trooper for such a little baby. We even spent naptime by a waterfall outside the lab one day, just because you fell asleep when I stopped to check my email. It seems all you needed was some more calories, and we are back on track now!

On the fun side, we had our first family trip to the zoo and went to Owlfest at Treehouse Wildlife where your owl hat was a huge hit. Sometimes we go out and do things just because you love to look at faces other than mom and dad, and your delight stops people in their tracks. I hope you spread that kind of joy your whole life!


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A festival of birds at Treehouse Wildlife

If there's one thing I love to photograph, it's animals. I like the challenge of capturing wildlife reacting in their natural state. There's no posing or ego to animals, just their own movement in their surroundings.

Which is why Owl Fest at the Treehouse Wildlife Center, nestled on the Mississippi River bluffs between Grafton and Alton was a perfect chance to grab some shots of owls, hawks and other birds of prey being showcased.

Treehouse Wildlife has been in operation since 1979 and combines both wildlife rehabilitation and public education. They rely on public donation and volunteers rather than government funding, and their yearly Owl Fest not only gives you a chance to meet the birds, but also enjoy music, local vendors and great food.

Even if you missed Owl Fest this year, it's still a great place to visit. The Fall colors are in full effect and there are precious few days left to enjoy the Great River Road before winter. If you get a chance, get out there soon.

Most Bird sanctuaries take in animals who are injured and would not survive the wild, like this bald eagle missing a wing

Friday, November 6, 2015

Fightin' Weight

For the last six weeks or so I have been slaving to get Lilly's weight up. I started to type out everything we've been doing, but as with most things involving parenting and the internet, I had to go back and say, "Is this boring? Yes." If you have a 3 month old baby who just won't gain and you need some ideas, feel free to comment. For the purposes of today's blog, let's just say that my baby was sleeping through the night and then I had to go back to a newborn schedule, which is pretty much akin to torture. As I have mentioned before, though, hormones are a bitch and once you start the breastfeeding, your brain becomes convinced that there is no other way. Also, formula is EXPENSIVE. So I pumped.

After 6 weeks of weekly weight checks where she was gaining 1-2 oz a week when she should be gaining 5-7, the pediatrician sent us to a GI specialist, who started in with the "failure to thrive" and "we'll have to hospitalize her" talk. It's amazing that I did not cry. Lab work was ordered, including a sweat test for cystic fibrosis that was not explained at all, and I was turned away from the lab that day because they don't start the sweat test after 1pm. Then the next day, I was there for five hours because the bag for urine collection kept leaking, and then the third day it took two tries AGAIN. This week has been hellish.

BUT. But. The thing the GI doctor prescribed in the interim was just to add formula to the milk I am pumping. 1 scoop per ounce of breastmilk that I pump, and I pump about 6 oz a day. The rest of the time she breastfeeds. And do you know, according to our home scale, this baby has packed on 12 oz in 5 days? How is that even possible from a grand total of 30 oz of breastmilk with formula in it?? It seems impossible, but you can see it. She is fatter. I can't wait to hear how they explain this.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Counting Blessings

One of my favorite things about being self employed is that not being able to fall asleep is actually kind of pleasant. No longer do I have to lay awake wondering if I made a mistake on a job. Is that carpet going to ship on time? Is someone going to chew me out today for something I have no control over? You would think I would still find things to worry about, but no. This morning I fed the baby at 4 am and had a hard time falling asleep again, but I was happy as a clam under my down duvet in my drafty old house, thinking about how fortunate I am.

One of the things you hear over and over when you have a baby is "enjoy every minute. It goes by too fast." I was thinking this morning that I'm so grateful to be self employed, and to enjoy my work, because it really does allow me to treasure every day. We only plan to have one child, so I take a moment every day to remind myself that there is never going to be another day like today. I think that if I still had a stressful job, if I still had to be at an office at 8am Or Else, I wouldn't have this appreciation of the small things like early morning snuggles, the way she sticks her butt out and grabs my neck like a baby monkey when we go down the stairs, and her bright eyes intently studying my face.

I was telling Francis the other day that I nearly always cry when I hear Mumford and Sons song The Wolf, even though it has been on the radio every two hours for six months now. It's always this part:

Leave behind your wanton ways
I want to learn to love in kind
Because you were all I ever longed for

Hold my gaze love, you know I want to let it go
We will stare down at the wonder of it all

And I-I will hold you in it and I-I will hold you in it

I don't like to get into the meaning of lyrics, but I think that I get so emotional when I hear this song because my brain deeply associates it now with all the emotions leading up to Lilly's birth, and then the other side of it, actually being a parent and having this baby that I stare at in wonder every day. The bridge of the song is a crescendo that feels like Marcus's heart is exploding, and that really resonates with me right now.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

4th Trimester: Officially Over!

Dear Lilly

Today you turned 3 months old! I wasn't sure what to say about this month, so I stared at the screen for a bit before taking a break to feed you. That was when your dad said to me, "You're so good at this." He did not know I had started this letter, and I started laughing. This was the month where I doubted everything and didn't feel like I was good at anything.

At the beginning of this month, I suspected you had lost some weight, which is hard to guess at when you only weigh 9lbs. Typing out the whole saga would ultimately be pretty dull, so the nutshell version is that we've had four weight checks with the pediatrician and two meetings with a lactation consultant in the past month. For whatever reason, my milk supply had dropped, and we spent most of 3 weeks at home trying to solve the problem. Two days ago was the first time Dr Kebler was ok with waiting two weeks for the next check, and today was the first day where I was fully confident that you were getting enough milk again without frequent pumping and supplementing.

Through it all, Dr Kebler said that you were perfectly healthy and hitting all your milestones. You have been happy and smiling and even started laughing this month. Everyone thinks you are adorable and the lactation consultant asked how I ever get any work done when you are hamming it up. You might just be a skinny kid, and that's ok! It does make it tricky to find pants, though. 3m size pants fall off your skinny butt and newborn pants, if we can even find them, are too short.

I never thought that I would care either way if I couldn't breastfeed, but those hormones are crazy. There were points this month where I wanted to give up, but at the same time my brain was telling me that was not an option, and woe to the person who said "formula" to me. I still think that moms should not feel like they have failed if they can't continue to breastfeed, but now I understand why it is sometimes so upsetting for them. You just can't help it.

Of course, I have selfish reasons for wanting to exclusively breastfeed. It's so much easier to go on adventures! Even though pumping and bottles kept us at home more this month, you still went to two vendor shows with me, we got a Zoo membership and made new friends, we went to the Drive-In to see Gremlins, Hotel Transylvania 2, and Rocky Horror Picture Show, and we spent an afternoon at John G's again. We will always find ways to have fun, no matter what!


Monday, October 12, 2015

This morning during Lilly's 4am feeding, as I was browsing Facebook on my phone, I came across a post looking for crafters for an event at the Waldorf School in Webster Groves, which led from one private school website to another, thinking about all the options available to Lilly, and the staggering tuition that goes with them. This early morning jaunt around the internet coupled with a conversation I had with my sister in law last night got my brain spiraling out of control, and I finally got up at 6 am to get the laptop and purge some of it.

The convo with Sarah was about one of the major obstacles in my life in the past year and a half, which requires me to begin with a Stuart Smalley moment: I am good enough, I'm smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me! I am an open and honest person who enjoys connecting with people and helping them, and I won't be shamed for sharing my experiences, which I am going to do now.

At my last job, our household income was solidly upper middle class. A tuition bill of $1,000 a month would have been within our means. That job also meant 50+ hours a week at a company where everyone was bullied by one of the most unprofessional people I've ever worked with.  Monday morning meant you were going to get chewed out, and people trying to work in the conference room in the middle of the office were frequently pushed into conversations about race, religion and politics that were completely inappropriate for the office. I took a Xanax every Sunday night to fall asleep. There were less than 25 employees, and the turnover rate in the 27 months I was there was 30%. I didn't witness any unprofessional exits, but the ones who put in their two weeks did so only because they were staying in the industry and were smart enough not to burn bridges. They all quit for the same reason. The same person.

Here's a visual of Fall 2013. The Before picture was taking September 10. Francis and I had just returned from a trip to Disneyland for our anniversary. I had worked 70 hours a week from the day I returned from my honeymoon in May until this day in September, trying to manage $5 million in projects inherited from one of the aforementioned people who quit. I was docked the equivalent of a day's pay from my SALARY for that 3 day weekend, because I used my 5 (yes, only 5) vacation days on my honeymoon. You can see that I look pale and sick, and Francis looks pinched. Shortly after this photo was taken, I got pregnant, and then had a miscarriage. Low progesterone from the constant cortisol spike of being ambushed every day.

That short paycheck was the beginning of my new life. The two Disney trips in one year gave me the idea of becoming a travel agent and Disney specialist, which I did. I also read an article about how young people are turning to direct selling as a source of income in a difficult job market, and around that time I discovered Jewelscent on Facebook. That article opened my eyes to the idea that direct sales is the same as any other sales job, and that it's quite similar to a turnkey business or franchise. You buy a kit and you build the business you want. Eight months later, waiting in line for Aquaduck on the Disney Dream, I told Francis I was quitting my shitty job when I got back to St Louis, and I did. My last day was in June, and the "After" picture is September 10, 2014. As you can see, we were looking PRETTY HAPPY at the end of that first summer of freedom.

When you are self-employed and run a business, some days it is really, really tough to get around the haters. Some days it's not even hate, it's just a complete lack of support. It's even harder when you are working in two misunderstood industries and even "friends" say one is dying and the other is a scam. But at the end of the day, or rather, in the wee hours of the morning, I know my husband is happy and proud of me, I have a daughter who wouldn't even exist if I hadn't taken this road, I have made so many amazing, entrepreneurial, supportive friends, and I can always justify a Disney vacation. These days, Monday is my favorite day of the week.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Can You Escape The Beast?

I don't know if you heard, but being smart is fun and cool these days, as evidenced by the popularity of trivia nights and now escape rooms. We were offered the chance to try the Beast Escape Room last week, and like many people I have talked to, I was a bit apprehensive. For some reason "escape room" seems to conjure up images of those extreme haunted houses, especially this time of year, maybe because the first one we  heard of in St Louis (Can You Escape?) involves a zombie chained to the floor. So let me first say this: escape rooms are family friendly! It is not scary (unless you are claustrophobic) and escaping simply involves working together to solve puzzles. I have considered inventing a company just to do corporate team building ropes courses, so once I heard "team building activity", I was all in.

Our adventure started at a little office park off 159 in Glen Carbon, IL. You may think you have the wrong address, but it really is in the office park. When I saw the keypad on the front door, I checked my email to see if we had to start by figuring out to get into the building. The answer is no, the door is open. We went inside and met the owner, Kyle West, who gave us a run down of the rules, many of which are the result of previous teams' behavior. Some of the current ground rules include:

1. Everything you need is within arms reach and you don't need to stand on anything to find clues.

2. You do not need to unscrew anything.

3. There is nothing in the electrical sockets and you don't need to plug anything in or stick anything in the sockets.

The story of this escape room is that an alien race has taken over and all but a few humans have been captured. Half of your group has to get the other half out of a dungeon, and then you all have to work together to escape. Amy and Kevin were locked up in the "dungeon" and Francis and I (along with Lilly) were locked into a sort of lab/office. There is a TV screen in each room counting down to the Beast's return, and you are given absolutely no starting point whatsoever. You can talk to your friends through the connecting door, and you just have to start exploring and looking for keys or clues to unlock all the locks in the room.

One of the first things we said, as we were describing the room to each other through the door, was, "Do you think we can pass things under the door?" And Amy said, "I think that would be breaking the rules."  Kyle can give you hints on the countdown screen, and a message came across that we could exchange anything that fit under the door, so I'm not giving anything away. Just ask yourself, "Would I do this if I was literally trying to escape a dangerous beast? If they answer is yes, and it doesn't involve breaking things, climbing on things, or sticking a knife into an electrical socket, you're not breaking "rules".

I'm afraid that if I describe too much more of the experience, I will inadvertently give away puzzle hints, and there is no fun in that. I wish I could forget everything I saw so I can do it again, so the last thing I want to do is give you hints! I will say that we did NOT beat the clock, but we were really, really close. We knew what we needed and just needed to finish, so we only went over by about 5 minutes. There was no scary beast banging down the door when the clock ran out, just Kyle asking if we wanted to finish.

Family Friendliness: I have had a lot of people ask a lot of questions, trying to gauge if this is appropriate for their kids. As I said above, I did have Lilly, who is 11 weeks old, and I would call this "advanced baby wearing". I only brought her because I know she can sleep in the sling in any level of noise and light, as well as with me bending down, sitting on the floor, and getting up again. If your baby is not a hard sleeper, then no. Children who are between 1-9 would probably require too much supervision and would find the puzzles boring or frustrating. Ages 10+, it depends on the kid, but I think it's worth trying! Just remember that no matter the age of the kid, you will want them to be able to focus for an hour. All four of us have different skills and came out of it feeling like we had contributed in a meaningful way, so there's no particular type of intelligence required.

The Beast Escape Room is $25 per person and you can make reservations on their website. Have you tried it or any other escape room? I want to hear your reviews!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Best Naptime in Town: Citygarden

If you followed Craves, Caves, & Graves, you may remember my Scenes From Citygarden series, which is still one of my personal favorites, because that ended up being such a transformative year for me. I no longer work downtown, but I still like to get to Citygarden regularly. Sit me next to a fountain or waterfall and the whole day will be sucked away. Lilly must agree, because we spent the afternoon there today, and she was out like a light as soon as I sat down next to the splash pad fountains.

Citygarden is probably one of the best mom hangouts in the city, especially in the summer when the pools are open and the kids can play in the water. In the fall it is quieter, but you can get some fresh air while the baby naps, let the bigger kids run around, get a snack from food trucks at lunch time, or get a delicious tuxedo latte made with Kaldi's coffee at Six North Cafe at Peabody Plaza (honestly, this is 95% of the reason I go down to Citygarden). It's the perfect place for sitting under a tree and relaxing.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Newsletter: Month Two

Yesterday you turned two months old and I can't believe how much things have changed! You continue to be an excellent baby and we had many adventures this month!

I started off "babywearing" for the sake of convenience, because I find it much easier than a stroller most of the time. It also allows me to work during the day while you nap (and meet up with friends at the winery).  Dad started working at home a couple weeks ago and I started babywearing full time, and what a difference it has made! You sleep much better, are not fussy in the evenings, and naturally assumed a predictable schedule with a normal bedtime. Last week you started sleeping 5+ hours at night and can even put yourself to sleep in your bed. After 4 months of waking up every two hours, this feels like the most restful week of my life, but I still love to hold you for an hour after your early morning feeding.

Memorable Moments:
You started smiling at us and love big noisy smooches on your feet.
You may love the octopus on your Baby Einstein bouncer more than us.
We went to the Zoo for the first time (mainly for mom to walk around).
We went to the Museum of Transportation (again, for mom to walk around).
We went to the top of the Arch at night!
We saw the St Louis Symphony's annual performance on Art Hill
We went to Washington, MO and spent the afternoon on John G's Bier Deck (and Month Three will include more of the same).
We went to Aerie Winery for Val's birthday and met lots of friends. Two months old and you've already been to Grafton twice!
We started Disney Movie Family Night.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Dr & Mrs Morton Update the Family Portrait

Francis and I have always said yes to literally ever souvenir photo presented to us, probably to the surprise of many photographers. There is no question or debate. Yes, we will buy the photo. We buy Memory Maker with every Disney Vacation, and we used it to announce we were expecting a baby. We bought the photo with the sea lions. Wax Museum? I think you mean photo opportunity. So when it came time for family photos, we accepted the Bella Baby session from the hospital, and then we set out to add Lilly to our souvenir photo collection. Taking her up to the top of the Arch was #1, but for our first family portrait, only a tintype would do. Luckily, we have The Tintypery on Main Street in St Charles.

When we had a tintype made at Silver Dollar City years ago, Francis made up "Dr Morton", the original owner of our 130 year old house in Carondelet, and jokingly tried to pass off the "remarkable resemblance." The real original owner of our house was a German immigrant and real estate agent, but that is neither here nor there. The Dr Morton family announces a new addition! Schedule a photo with Santa Claus for your imaginary historic family today!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Relax in Washington, MO!

Oh man, we fell HARD for Washington this weekend. We'd only been there once before, late in the fall when it was chilly and we were out hunting the last of the STL250 Cakes. We had breakfast at Cowan's and then moved on to some other "outlying" cakes that day. This past Saturday, we had our first weekend where we were ready to travel a bit with the baby and Francis didn't have any Army obligations. We spent the entire week debating where to go - Washington, Hannibal, Hermann, Jefferson City? We thought about taking the train, but Amtrak is really just to expensive for a day trip. Blog reader Yvonne H. laid out a case for Washington and we liked her itinerary, so off we went!

Our first stop was Cowan's, once again. Francis finds their food to be "just ok" but I love this place. The crucial difference, I think, is that breakfast is my favorite food group and nothing makes me happier than "breakfast served all day". Francis will always order a chicken sandwich if it's after 11am. The Cowan Scramble gets two thumbs up from me! We also had fried cheese curds and split a piece of french silk pie.

After brunching, we walked down to the riverfront park and Waterworks Antiques. I'd love to learn more about this building! I get that it was a waterworks, obviously, but it looks like people lived on the second floor, and I want to know how the lower levels functioned. The riverfront park is really nice, and I wish we had something as nice near our house. Great spot for a picnic or just reading a book all afternoon! And if you are a boater, there is a big parking lot and boat launch here.

After feeding the baby at the park, we walked back up to John G's Bier Deck, and this is where we started looking up Washington real estate on our phones. The deck overlooks the river and they have two levels of shady seating and an outdoor bar, and the NICEST outdoor bar restrooms I've ever seen my life. Ladies, you know what I'm talking about. They have a bocce court, as well, and there was a large birthday party there with the moms drinking wine, the dads playing bocce, and the kids were so chill I couldn't even tell you what they were doing. Lilly had her first biergarten nap and was very popular with everyone. Everyone was so friendly and we want to go there every weekend now, the end.

(For those on mobile devices who can't view the Picasa slideshow, I'm including the photos at the end now.)

Friday, September 4, 2015

Anniversary at the Top of the Gateway Arch

This photo was taken at 9pm

Can you take your baby to the top of the Gateway Arch? I don't know about your baby, but for my baby the answer is yes. Longtime fans of our old blog, Craves, Caves, & Graves will remember that Francis and I were married at the top. Every year on our anniversary, we go back to get our souvenir photo at the bottom, and a picture at the top. This year, we still wanted to get the photo, but we didn't want to take a little baby when it was crowded, which was as much for her sake as for everyone else in case it turned out to be a bad plan. After we were married, we shared the elevator down with a baby having a meltdown, and I know that mom was anxious about it. So we went a week early, while summer hours are still in effect.

The baby fell asleep in the elevator on the way up, and didn't wake up until we put her back in the car seat (at which point she had an epic meltdown because she sees being removed from the sling as a betrayal). I would not attempt this any other way besides some sort of wearable carrier. I have no idea what you do with a stroller at the Arch. There were only two other people at the top when we were up there, which is typical of my limited experience. Not many people know it is open until 10pm in the summer!

HOT TIP: The Arch grounds and museum are being renovated right now and it is a MESS. The riverfront is inaccessible and the garage is gone. If you go at night this weekend (you have until Labor Day to take advantage of evening hours), park in the Old Cathedral parking lot. During the day, if they have services, they will tow.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Hot Pocket

I use a newborn, legs in carry with the ring sling, like in this video by A Nest on My Chest, which makes a kangaroo pouch, and I call Lilly "Pocket" when she's in the sling. She sleeps deeply and happily when she's in the sling, but after a couple hours she tends to wake up hot and hangry. I just cracked myself up calling her Hot Pocket. I need coffee or a nap.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Missouri Botanical Garden Chinese Lantern Festival: Magic Reimagined

Big news! The Chinese Lantern Festival has been extended through the end of the month! Fans of Craves, Caves, & Graves may remember that we covered the 2012 Chinese Lantern Festival, and heck yes, it was amazing at night time! A once in a lifetime opportunity, until they decided to do it twice! But.... when you have a new baby, maybe $52 for two adults is a bit rich for your blood and you're wondering if visiting in the daytime is just as good. Honestly, if you can swing it you should see it at night. HOWEVER,  the Garden is free on Saturday morning, and the lanterns are really quite impressive in daylight. I was happy to spend the money we saved on lunch at Sassafras, because their chicken salad is soooo good.

The Botanical Garden on Saturday morning is very much the stroller and gray hair set. I was surprised that even though the parking lot seemed full, the garden didn't seem crowded at all. It was very peaceful, and that may be compared to my memory of seeing the first lantern festival at night. Expect the evening to be crowded!

I have to give a shout out to the Flap Happy hats they sell in the gift shop. We've had a heck of a time finding a good sunhat to fit a newborn and with SPF 50 protection, this is worth every bit of $20. Lilly wears it every day, and it's funny to see the reactions of people who see a big floppy hat sticking out of a ring sling!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Newsletter: Month One

Dear Lilly:

One month already! It flew by, and yet seems like forever. Your dad and I say it's like we've always had a baby but forgot to take pictures for the past 4 years.

You came screaming into this world on July 18, 10 hours and 19 minutes after your due date. You were SO CLOSE to sharing your birthday with Disneyland, a fact that our friend Kathy was eagerly anticipating because, as she said, "Think of all the merchandise with her birthday on it!" If only I had known sooner why I would be in labor for 40 hours, we could have sped things up. I'll save the story of the 40 hour labor until after you've had your first child. It's okay, though, even though you missed a Disneyland birthday, your Grandpa Wiltsch is thrilled to share his birthday with you.

You are, as friends say, a magical unicorn baby. You love the ring sling so much that we have to watch the clock to make sure you don't sleep too long, otherwise you will wake up hangry and shrieking like you are on fire, As long as we anticipate meals and naps, we can take you anywhere, and have. We have already been to Stacked twice, the Missouri Botanical Garden, and Grafton, IL to see the Nina & Pinta replica caravels.

Dad was off work for an entire month and if we'd gotten more sleep, I would say it was very much like a vacation.  We started a new travel blog, Franceth Travels, just to share fun adventures for families and the things we learn about traveling with babies, and our favorite daydream right now is that some day our "job" will be sharing our family adventures. For now, we are looking forward to cramming as much weekend adventure into your life as we can manage! We want you to have a childhood full of fun and learning.

We are also so optimistic about traveling with you that we have already booked your first Disney Cruise and trip to Walt Disney World. Mom and Dad have withdrawals if they are away too long, and we can't wait to share it with you!

Fun Facts About Month One:
The Mercy nurses said we are champions at breastfeeding, and you have backed that up by growing like a weed!
When you were born you were small enough to nap on a pillow on my lap, and at the end of month one you are too long to do that anymore.
The dogs are very concerned when you are unhappy.
You have received many, Disney dresses.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

DIY Curse

Despite working in the commercial flooring industry for 15 years, I really hate carpet. I think it's gross. There, I said it. Our 130 year old house has an absolutely gorgeous dining room with original gasolier, tons of natural light, box beam ceilings, and of course, an area rug inlay. When we remodeled the room and took out the ancient and dirty area rug, I said to myself, "No way am I getting a custom rug made for this huge space and then having to take it to be cleaned 3x a year because every animal in the house makes it their barf bucket." So we put down a no-glue vinyl that looks like parquet. Pretty snazzy, eh?

With a baby on the way, no soft surfaces in sight, and sticker shock from the price of activity mats ($70!?), I decided to make a blanket/rug/mat that can do tummy time duty and also go in the washing machine. Of course, I picked this Bernat Baby Blanket yarn and was thinking I could get by with 4 skeins. $40, maybe less with some coupons, yay, I saved money! I'm so smart and skilled and frugal!

Welllll of course, I didn't really like the weight of it with just one strand and the recommended hook size, so I decided to double up on two colors (Lemon Lime and Sweet Cream), which meant 3 skeins in each color for a mat that ended up  The end result is hefty like a rug while still being machine washable, and is a pretty easy weekend project, but let's be honest, with some coupons or even thrifting, I definitely could have found SOMETHING for less than $60. I did spend less than that on the yarn thanks to coupons, but I do firmly believe that crafters need to pay themselves for their time, as well, which makes the cost of this project at least double that of buying an activity mat. Is there a word for when you spend too much when you intended to save money?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Hang in There!

In the last 3 weeks, I have had this conversation a dozen times:
Parent Friend: How are you guys doing?
Me: Great! Maybe a little sleep deprived, but Lilly is such a good baby. She is so easy to soothe and we have been able to go to the gym and visit family and have even started our travel blog again!
Parent Friend: Hang in there! It gets better/worse after about a month!
Me: Thanks?

Since I quit my job a little over a year ago, I have really come to appreciate the power of positive thinking. You may call it being lucky, being blessed, having good karma, or having a magical unicorn baby. Whatever it is, I never take it for granted, but I thought I would share some things that are helping us.

Paternity leave! Nothing else comes close. I am convinced that if we had more family leave in this country, there would be a lot less people acting like you have to build a bunker to cope with a newborn. I am pretty sure my "baby blues" would have been a lot worse or lasted longer if I had to think about Francis going back to work in a week or two. To be able to tell myself that I had an entire month to figure things out was very calming. Also, it has been amazing to spend so much time together as a new family.

Have babies with a decent person. Of course, you need a husband and father who is useful if you're going to get any benefit from paternity leave. Mine takes care of household chores, making sure the pets eat and go outside/have a clean litter box, changes diapers, and brings me water and snacks. If I let him sleep at night, he takes the baby in the morning so I can catch a couple more hours. Am I "lucky"? No. I chose a spouse who would be a partner. 
Strategic Snacking. People say have "freezer meals", but I come from a grazing people. We loaded up the (station) wagon at Costco and have nutritious food that can be eaten by the handful. Blueberries, trail mix, granola bars, Naked Juice singles, yogurt. Right now I am snacking on brie and crackers while I work. Also, have a water cup for which you know the volume and can easy count how many glasses of  water you've had today. I learned early on that dehydrated nursing mom means pissed off baby. Be sure you are getting enough calcium, because that can have long term health consequences for you if you do not. 

Breastfeeding. Look, I firmly believe that this is a personal choice, so you're not going to hear me shrieking BREAST IS BEST!! For me, 97% of the reason I breastfeed is because I am cheap and lazy. No matter where you land on boob vs formula, this one thing is indisputable: breastfeeding is the only way to feed a newborn hands-free, and as you can see from all my tips, it is crucial for me to not feel stuck at home. I know I am exceptionally lucky that Lilly and I figured this out very quickly and I am already comfortable nursing her in the ring sling, in public, while walking, after only a couple weeks. From what I am told, that is not typical, but there is help out there for you if you want to try it. Read as much as you can in advance, and know who to ask for help if you need it. But most importantly, it's ok if it doesn't work for you. It's NOT the only way to feed a baby.

Babywearing! As with breastfeeding, I have no deep-seeded commitment to a certain way of doing things. I am sure that some people can give you a list of the benefits of wearing your baby. I just do what is easy and makes the baby happy and allows me to move around freely. I registered for a Boba wrap but my sister in law handed down a ring sling and Lilly LOVES it. I never bothered to get the Boba wrap, though we have a Boba Air that daddy will probably use when she hits 3 months. When I stick her in the sling, I have to keep an eye on the clock to make sure she doesn't waste away like a Sim who won't leave the hot tub. (What really happens is that at the 2.5 hour mark, she wakes up screaming, either because she is hungry or hot.) I am shopping for slings like I used to shop for purses now. Check out A Nest By My Chest on YouTube for soothing ring sling tutorials to boost your babywearing confidence!

Technology. Speaking of watching the clock, there is an app for that. I use Baby Daybook. It's so easy to reference when you can't remember how long it has been since this crusty punk had a bath, in the middle of the night when you are sure she was only asleep for 20 minutes but it has actually been two hours, or if you have time to finish your chicken salad at a restaurant before she wakes up hangry. It's like a virtual personal assistant.

What kept you from losing it, moms and dads?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Fun Freebies for Babies!

Baby Lilly is two weeks old already! I went into labor on Thursday afternoon and she was born on Saturday morning weighing 7lbs 8oz and 20" long. Yep, 42 hours of labor. It was quite a saga that I might type up at some point, but suffice it to say, it is really for the best if your birth plan is more of a birth ideal, or even a goal to work for if you'd like to have a natural birth. Please don't be so married to the perfect plan  that you will feel traumatized if it doesn't work out.

We had some challenging moments in the first 10 days or so, mainly that she would not sleep on her own, but  last week we swapped Pack and Plays with Jill to have the newborn napper attachment, and hallelujah! Baby slept all night the first night, which means mom got a whopping 7 hours of sleep between feedings. Since then, sometimes she sleeps most of the night and sometimes she doesn't, but we got the all clear from the pediatrician yesterday to let her sleep as long as she wants since she is eating well and gaining weight, and last night she slept for almost 4 hours in one stretch. Hooray!

There were a couple times the first week that I wrote up some rant-y blogs in the middle of the night, and I'm happy now that I never published them. I'm an optimistic person most of the time and try to appreciate every single day as the one and only day of its kind. Every day Lilly grows, and every day is the last day I'll have a baby this tiny. Today I thought I'd share a couple fun freebies for new babies!

1. Request a Presidential Greeting! Whether or not you like the president the year your child is born, you should  set your politics aside, because your kid will think it is super awesome. Francis and I did this for our wedding, too, and included the President's postcard when we framed all the other postcards we used as a reception guestbook.

2.  Baby's First Circus - Your child's first ticket to a Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus is FREE! All you have to do is register on the site in their first year of life, and you will get a personalized baby certificate that you can print right away, and your free ticket voucher will arrive in 12-14 weeks.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

39+1 - Nursery is Done!

"Decorating" is not something that comes naturally to me. When I manage to put a room together by myself and it turns out looking like someone else told me what to do, I  will walk around all puffed up like a peacock for weeks. That's how I feel about the baby's room! Our original inspiration was Adventureland at Walt Disney World & Disneyland, particularly Swiss Family Treehouse. We wanted to use furniture we already had and only buy furniture that could be used in any room after the baby outgrows it.

The "changing table" is a mini bar cabinet/dresser combo we got from Paradise Hospitality, a hotel liquidation company, here in St Louis. I think it is from a Mariott. We picked up the vintage attraction posters on our last trip to WDW, and used the rest of the pack our bedroom. The photo series on the left are the ones we took as announcement photos on that December trip, at Pete's Silly Sideshow

The bookshelves were built by my dad to solve a unique problem with this room: it connects to every other bedroom in the house. Behind that bookshelf is a door to our roommate's room with a transom, and we insulated behind the shelf for sound masking. The giraffe was build by my late Uncle Ed for me when I was a baby! It's very top heavy and we will be putting some chocks on the rockers to keep it from rocking.

The high heel shoe chair under the World Market Bed Canopy is standing in for the Ashley Oberson glider recliner (purchased from the Exchange) we bought that is currently in our bedroom. The Disney lithographs over the crib are a gift from Francis's cousin, and we won the Inside Out poster at a silent auction/trivia night.

Francis found the shelf on top of the radiator in the alley one day, and the dresser from Paradise Hospitality was wrapped up in that curtain to prevent scratching. Score! I really did not want to spend $500 on a "lifetime" convertible crib, because chances are this little girl will want some other themed room when she is older and I will cave on a pirate bed or something like that, so we went with the London Euro Style Crib from Buy Buy Baby.

Some presents from friends, some stuff we already owned, and baby's first Mickey ears from our announcement photos.

The original inspiration for the "Swiss Family Treehouse" theme was this chifferobe, which I did not want to sell or try to move to storage. The matching dresser became linen storage out in the hallway. The little drawers and clothes rack are perfect for baby clothes and the top is nice storage for stuffed animals. I wanted some of the Adventureland signage from the Disney Store, but it is reeeeeeeeal expensive, so I went with plates instead!