InstaFriday No. 20

by LeeAnne on November 8, 2014

Happy Friday! Got any fun plans for the weekend? Tomorrow is my and Paul’s sixth wedding anniversary—what!? That flew by. He has a few days off of work next week, so we’re hoping to make a quick celebratory getaway. I love, love, love the coast, and we’ve been to Monterey and Big Sur countless times. I can’t decide if I should mix it up and plan something different (Wine Country? Mendocino?) or just stick to my happy place. I’ll let you know what I decide in the next InstaFriday batch. Here’s what I’ve been up to the last couple weeks…


1: I was a member of the in-studio audience for CreativeLive’s Scrapbooking Your Baby’s First Year with Nicole Samuels. CreativeLive offers free web-streamed live classes in crafting, photography, business, and more, plus a library of paid on-demand content. You can apply to be an audience member for most classes filmed at their San Francisco and Seattle studios. I arrived bright and early to meet my classmates, get mic’ed, and settled in for several hours of scrapbooking tips and tricks, hands-on projects, and Skype calls from industry rock stars Ali Edwards and Becky Higgins.

2: One of the six scrapbook pages I made in the class. Everything moved very quickly, and this is the only layout I completed. But I learned so many new things, from creating photo collages with PicMonkey to ideas for non-milestone page themes, such as focusing on one relationship (baby and the family pet) and capturing several of your baby’s facial expressions.

3: CreativeLive provided breakfast, lunch, snacks between sessions, and a wrap party with drinks and appetizers. We were well taken care of!

4: Me (third from left) with my fellow audience members and Nicole Samuels (in green cardigan). Nicole was such a great teacher.


5: Denali was unimpressed with our local pumpkin patch. She basically made a stank face at everything. But I’m glad we went and got some cute pictures of her in candy corn leg warmers.

6: My first beer-and-paprika beef stew of the season. It’s one of my favorite Pioneer Woman recipes. We invited Paul’s parents over to share in the feast, and we enjoyed it as leftovers for a couple more days. (Stew improves as leftovers, don’t you think?)

7: Found a hidden heart in a rooftop garden in San Francisco. These painted hearts are part of an annual city-wide art installation and hospital fundraiser, and they’re auctioned off each year.

8: I just happened to be near San Francisco City Hall on the night before the Giants’ big World Series celebration and watched them setting up the stage, sound system, and street barricades.


9: Diablo magazine’s annual Gourmet East Bay event is always a lot of fun. Some of my favorites this year included: sashimi from Sasa, mini tostadas from Maria Maria, and ice-cream sandwiches from CREAM.

10: My polling place went all out with the blue electrical tape on Election Day. Not pictured: The phrase “first floor” written in blue tape, just outside the elevator.

11: Denali was a piece of sushi for Halloween.  I shamelessly stole this idea from Etsy.  I just couldn’t stomach $50 plus shipping for something I could make myself and she’d only wear once.  It turned out pretty well, except the bottom of the tuna started peeling off the onesie.  Karma in the form of fusible interfacing.  I’m sure the real deal has better construction.

12: We had a big milestone day recently in our household: Denali had her first “solid” food. We’re starting with rice cereal for several days before I bust out the carrots, squash, and sweet potatoes.  She grimaces when the food hits her mouth, but she ends up licking her lips, so I guess that’s a win.  Btw, the bib is embroidered by my Auntie Nette, and the keepsake spoon is from Lisa Leonard.

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Hello, November

by LeeAnne on November 4, 2014


Wearing: Jeans, a sheer floral-printed shirt over a tank top, and flip-flops. California Autumn. I’ve basically been wearing a variation of this outfit daily since having Denali. I haven’t been back to (office) work, and I haven’t done any clothes shopping. After my c-section swelling went down (probably the worst part of the physical recovery, IMHO), I ended up 15 pounds lighter than when I got pregnant. Best weight-loss program ever. Don’t hate me.

Watching: Hollywood Game Night. I’m often late to the party on TV shows, as I don’t have cable or broadcast TV. But I stumbled across this game show on Hulu, and found myself laughing til I cried. Also, I’m looking forward to catching the movie Birdman soon. It’s Oscar season, you guys!!!

Listening: I’m two episodes into the new podcast Serial. It’s one true-crime story told over several episodes, kind of a throwback long-form radio show. It’s from the crew of This American Life, and it’s pretty awesome so far. I’ve also been flirting with purchasing the You+Me album (Pink does folk ballads!) and the Muscle Shoals soundtrack. Do you guys still buy digital music? I feel like I might be showing my age here…

Reading: In recent days, I enjoyed this quirky, tender, and ruthless Japanese approach to home organizing (example: thanking objects for their service before tossing), an Anne of Green Gables fan’s tour of Prince Edward Island, and this funny but moving birth story.

Wanting: These adorable hand-drawn emoji stamps from the new collaboration between A Beautiful Mess and Studio Calico.

Planning: You know that Project Life album I’m working on? I’ve been stalled a bit on how to organize it. But after taking Scrapbooking Your Baby’s First Year (more on that soon), I was inspired to change directions. I had been doing one spread per week, but the photos were starting to get monotonous. And I wasn’t sure how to incorporate the Dear Denali letters, which is great journaling that is already done. My new plan is to do two Project Life spreads per month (half the photos of previous plan) with 12×12 pages as dividers in which I will incorporate the Dear Denali letters in a traditional scrapbooking format. I’ll photograph some of these layouts as I complete them.

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Dear Denali: Five Months

by LeeAnne on November 2, 2014


Everything is hilarious. At least you think so. And it’s a whole lot of fun. After giggling a bit with your grandparents, you finally laughed long and hard at me. All I did was lean into you on the changing table. It caught me by surprise, and when I repeated it, you laughed again. Shortly after that, we found your tickle spots. You are very ticklish under your armpits and a little bit on your tummy, too. My favorite is when you laugh at the anticipation, as my hand is coming toward you with tickle fingers.

Your babble has changed a little. You are very obviously trying out different sounds by changing the shape of your tongue. You do a mean taco tongue. Mommy cannot do this, so you must have gotten that from Daddy. You’ve started “singing along” with me and the radio. You make these long, drawn-out vowel sounds with some screetching mixed in. You’re also doing what I call “angry raspberries.” You seem to think that blowing raspberries is a form of communication, and you will do them when you are happy, sad, or angry, by changing the force of the air and your tone. So, you will be in the middle of a crying fit and start blowing raspberries rapid-fire with a scowl on your face.

Because of Daddy’s job change, you saw a new pediatrician for your four-month check-up. The office has a big fish tank, which mesmerized you. The doctor suggested weaning you from your occasional middle-of-the night feeding by soothing you and putting you back to sleep without offering a bottle. You must have been paying attention, because you’ve slept fully through the night since that appointment. Like, 10 to 12 hours straight. On your own. The power of suggestion!

While you sleep really well at home, you struggle to sleep elsewhere. But Mommy and Daddy keep trying! I’d love for you to feel comfortable falling asleep wherever we are. One cute story: At a Jones family birthday party, we were trying to get you to nap in one of the upstairs bedrooms. We didn’t have a baby monitor, so we set a timer to check on you in 10 minutes. When that went off, you were crying, so I went up to comfort you and then set another timer for 5 minutes. When that went off, you were still crying, but this time, the bedroom door was open and your cousins Audrey and Andrew were with you, trying to soothe you. It was sweet.

You’re rolling over now. One day out of the blue, you rolled from your back to belly during play mat time and then kept repeating it throughout the day. Unfortunately, it took you a few more days to figure out how to roll from belly to back. During that time, it was harder to get you to go fall sleep, as you’d immediately roll onto your tummy and then get upset because you were stuck. Eventually, you learned how to fall asleep on your tummy. The first night, that made me so nervous, having spent four months making sure you were always on your back. But you clearly prefer it: You’ve slept on your tummy ever since. It’s amazing how much you travel during the night. I’ll put you to bed on your back in the middle of the crib, and when I come to get you in the morning, you’re on your tummy, turned 180 degrees, and wedged against the rails. One night, you managed to wiggle yourself out of one arm of your sleeper.

You’re getting really good at holding your bottle and will do so for a full feeding, though you occasionally need help with the angle. You’ve started (unintentionally) throwing things. I’ve found Sophie outside your car seat and have had to pick her up off the floor a few times. You’ve discovered that you can pull my glasses off my face. You’re also really into slapping—your belly, your knees, the side of the car seat, your books, etc. You smack your belly so hard it makes this loud, hollow thud! sound. You have found your toes, and you love, love, love them. Better than any toy. This makes diaper changes especially challenging, as I’m constantly pulling your feet out of your hands.

In addition to the rolling and the toe-grabbing (getting so active!), you’re arching your back to slide off my lap, pushing with your legs, and grabbing at food. You woke up from one nap while I was taking pizza out of the oven, so I held you as I ate a slice. You made chewing motions with your mouth as you watched and grabbed the bottom of my soda can. When you’re on my lap when I’m eating, you follow my fork with your eyes, from plate to mouth. Once, you grabbed Daddy’s lips after he took a bite of food. I’m thinking it’s time to start you on solids soon.

You love animals and can’t take your eyes off them, especially our cats Nomnom and Pepper. At a party, we introduced you to a guinea pig. After several minutes of staring, you grabbed him and pulled out a tuft of hair! Time to start teaching the word “gentle.” Auntie Erin introduced you to an iPhone app for cats in which you hit moving bugs. You really, really like it.

A couple firsts… We had our first girls’ lunch, just the two of us, at Spanky’s Dog House. I ate a macaroni-and-cheese-topped hot dog while you enjoyed your bottle propped up in the stroller. It was quick, and you were a champ. You also had your first “play date,” when we went to meet Mommy’s friend Amanda’s three-week-old son, Jett. We laid you next to each other for comparison, and you looked so big!

Month 5 Stats
Clothes: Larger 3–6 months, 6 months
Diapers: Size 3
Food: 5 six- or seven-ounce bottles per day.
Likes: Books, Bumbo seat, feet, animals, iPhones, sleeping on tummy
Dislikes: Loud noise, bubbles

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InstaFriday No. 19

by LeeAnne on October 24, 2014

OK, so, it’s been a year and a half since my last InstaFriday! Now that I’ve caught up on my Dear Denali letters (I back-dated a bunch of them—sneaky, sneaky), I hope to resume blogging semi-regularly, and InstaFriday will return. A small part of me wanted to recap the last year and a half in one post, picking just a dozen or so favorite photos. Not possible. If you want to see what I’ve been up to, you’ll have to check out my Instagram feed. Otherwise, here is what I’ve been up to the last few weeks…


1: I had lunch with Food and Wine magazine editor Dana Cowin! OK, actually, I attended a bookstore luncheon with Dana Cowin, in promotion of her new cookbook, Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen. Regardless, it was so cool to hear her stories about becoming the editor (no prior food-writing experience!), learning to cook, judging Top Chef, and what it’s like to work with the world’s most famous foodies.

2: Our meal at the luncheon was cooked by Rakestraw Books owner Michael Barnard, using recipes from Cowin’s cookbook. It included pork tenderloin with arugula and salsa verde, yogurt and chick pea salad, and brownies. You guys: I ate the yogurt salad and liked it. I still hate white creamy food, so I’ll chalk this one up to strong herbs and seasoning!

3: Fall has been slow in coming this year. It makes me sad.

4: And because fall has been slow in coming, there have been few opportunities to dress Denali in her pink hooded bear bunting, which is the most adorable garment ever. It’s getting snug, so I bought a second one two sizes up. Paul is going to forbid me from baby clothes shopping if I keep this up…


5: New obsession: tacos. I want tacos for every meal. Breakfast tacos, Mexican tacos, Korean tacos, BBQ tacos, all the tacos. These delicious ahi tuna ones are from Fieldhouse Sports Grille in Danville.

6: It kinda rained for about an hour last week. We’re going to need a lot more to get out of this drought!

7: My little family. I love this sweet daddy-daughter moment. I’m glad I caught it on camera. Also, that romper no longer fits her… sniff.

8: New wooden studs from Anthropologie. I haven’t worn much jewelry in the last five months, so it seemed like an occasion worth celebrating.


9: Page Mill Winery in Livermore, at a wine-tasting fundraiser for an Anastasis Ballet. I made it halfway through the tasting flight: several whites and a couple pink wines. I’m not a big drinker, but I enjoyed it.

10. Downtown Livermore was yarn bombed. Kind of. Can you call it yarn bombing when the city is behind planning it? Probably not. They’re calling them “tree sweaters,” and after they are taken down, they will be used for blankets at the local animal shelter. Regardless, yay for yarn bombing—of all kinds!

11. Miss Grabby Hands has learned she can remove my specs. Play time is getting more dangerous for Mommy.

12. A giant, messy burger at Guy Fieri’s Johnny Garlic’s in Dublin. Couldn’t get my mouth around it, so I removed the top bun and ate it with a knife and fork. I’d like to say that saved me some calories, but…

That’s it for this week!  Have a great weekend.  I will return next week with a five month Dear Denali letter and, hopefully, some crafting project updates.

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Dear Denali: Four Months

by LeeAnne on September 23, 2014


These last few weeks have been so very good. I’d read about how babies change significantly at around three months, and with you, it’s true. You are markedly more alert and happy during the day (even in the car!), and you sleep really well at night (one wake-up, usually at 4 a.m.) and at nap times. We’ve also fallen into a mostly predictable and reliable schedule. I know patterns will change and evolve, but it’s really nice right now.

You continue to be very observant and curious: feeling the texture of the wall by your changing table, staring at the pattern of fabrics, following the shimmer of my engagement ring with your eyes. You’re full of personality: You smile easily, make hilarious expressions, and—perhaps your biggest development since last month—you have found your voice. You babble all the time. You “talk” to Daddy and me, and even to toys, lamps, and the owl poster in the living room. You have the most earnest expressions when you’re babbling; you really believe you’re communicating. One morning, you started blowing raspberries, and we made them back and forth for an hour while I made two cakes for Daddy’s birthday party. Now blowing raspberries is pretty much your favorite thing ever (video).

Physically, you had a big growth spurt over the last month. You flew through your 3-month clothes. Some outfits only got only one wear! Most 3–6s still fit, but you’ve moved on to 6-month footed sleepers. You’re still working on rolling over and have only done so a few times, but you often roll onto your side while playing. We practice sitting, and you do well with a little support. I hold onto your hands and move them around, kinda like we’re dancing. You love flipping through the pages of your board books and just started holding your own bottle.

You’re a big fan of Sophie, the teething giraffe. I keep her in your car seat, and you suck and chew on her ears and hooves whenever we’re out and about. You’ve also been sucking on your hands a lot lately, especially your left pointer finger. You’ve all but forgotten about your Binkys. You spit them out immediately, so we’ve just kinda stopped offering them. Despite all this dexterity, you still sometimes seem surprised by your own hands, turning them slowly in front of your wide eyes.

You had several firsts in recent weeks. Your first BART ride was to meet my friend, Kate, for lunch in Berkeley. You loved looking at all the people, the scenery flying by the window, and even the BART signage. You stared at the emergency procedures poster for so long, I thought for sure you had figured it all out. (If we’re ever stuck in the Transbay Tube, I’m counting on your expertise!) About halfway through, you fell asleep, although the loud clap! of a passing train startled you awake. You also had your first childcare experience, when I attended my first MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) gathering at church. I wasn’t sure what to expect from your reaction. Turns out, you were a doll and charmed everyone.

The only time you’re really fussy and challenging is when we go out at night. I can’t tell if it’s just a bad time of day for you, or if you don’t like being among lots of people, or if you’re tired and can’t get settled outside familiar environs. Or all the above. But you have a hard time when we go out to dinner or spend the evening at a family birthday party. You cry loudly and will not be soothed by the usual tactics. For the first time, we’ve had to do some leaving early—and sometimes just after arriving! (For the record, you’re a great lunch date. You either fall asleep or enjoy a bottle while sitting happily on my lap.)

Let’s see, what else? We’re no longer swaddling you; it’s all about fleece and terrycloth sleep sacks now. You’re getting some color to your eyebrows, and your eyelashes have grown rather long. You also have random patches of longer hair on your head, which is kind of adorable. You respond to my voice, even when we’re in a crowded room. You watch me closely when I’m eating, and one day, you shoved your fist into my salsa. I think you’ll be ready to eat solids soon…

Month 4 Stats
Weight: 14 pounds, 13 ounces (65th percentile)
Height: 24.75 inches (64th percentile)
Clothes: 3–6 months, some 6 months
Diapers: Size 2
Food: 5 six-ounce bottles per day. Occasionally, one additional bottle in the middle of the night.
Likes: Sophie teething giraffe, OBall toy, sleep sacks, grocery stores, trees
Dislikes: Pacifiers, Ergo baby carrier

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Project Life Catch-Up Sesh

by LeeAnne on August 28, 2014


Three months into parenthood, I feel like I’m getting into a good rhythm. With Denali’s longer and more predictable sleeping patterns, I’ve transitioned from sitting on the couch browsing the Baby Center message boards and binge-watching television (the entire series of Glee) to taking on some freelance writing and editing assignments and resuming some of my favorite hobbies. Today, I began organizing Denali’s scrapbook. I’ve decided to chronicle her first year week by week, Project Life–style. I’ve only made one other Project Life spread, ever. So despite having a ton of product, I’m still new to this system. I hope to share some of the completed spreads on the blog, but for now, here are some thoughts on the highlights and struggles thus far.

Photo Editing
After a couple years on my wish list, I splurged and bought myself Rad Lab. It’s a Photoshop plug-in with 80 photo effects and instant preview. You can see how every effect will look on your photo, all lined up side-by-side, before you make your selection. Afterward, you can fine-tune the “recipe” used to make the effect (sliders for brightness, contrast, strength, etc.). You can also create and save your own custom recipes. I’m really enjoying it: It’s much faster and easier than Photoshop actions.

Page Planning
To plot out each week’s two-page spread, I’ve been using Project Life planner templates from Marcy Penner, which I downloaded forever ago. It really helps for me to sketch out an initial plan and then let it evolve from there. For example, my first few attempts had way too many photos, so I’m working on paring them down.

Photo Printing
I randomly received a 100-free-prints offer from Shutterstock, so I prepped several weeks worth of photos for that. Unfortunately, I wasn’t thrilled with the quality. They just weren’t very vibrant. And, news to me, the Project Life pockets aren’t true 4×6 or 3×4 dimensions. I had to trim every photo. I abandoned those, and soon after, I learned that Persnickety Prints offers custom Project Life print sizes, and will even round the edges for you (at an additional cost). Their UI is a little clunky, but the photos themselves turned out great.

Since I learned I was pregnant, I’ve been writing daily notes in the Notes app on my iPhone. This has been hugely helpful, and I can’t recommend it enough. I have major “mom brain” and can’t remember what I did yesterday, let alone Denali’s first weeks. With the app, I can easily pull up a list of what happened each day, from firsts to funny anecdotes to thoughts and feelings. For the theme and journal cards, I wanted to keep a consistent color story throughout the book. I stumbled across the Baby Girl Sn@p set by Simple Stories and really liked how it looked. I purchased two packs each of the 3×4 and 4×6 cards (so I can use some favorite designs more than once), as well as the sticker set. Since it’s not a Project Life product, I will need to trim these cards, but I’ll live. I also have the 3×4 and 4×6 lined Project Life journaling cards and the corner rounder. (The latter because, you guessed it, the corner size is unique to Project Life. My Crop-A-Dile corner chomper and my very old Creative Memories one won’t work. Obviously, this is a theme. I do wish all these things were more compatible.)

Whew. I hope that was helpful to anyone else getting started on Project Life. I’m off to get some scrapbooking done!


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Dear Denali: Three Months

by LeeAnne on August 23, 2014


Confession: Before having a child of my own, I thought that for most of their first year, babies were more or less like slugs. Constantly growing, sure, but not doing much more than crying, eating, filling diapers, and laying there. It’s truly fascinating to me how much of a little person you already are at three months. You have so much personality, from your pouty lips (that’s a real, inborn thing?) to your shy-like face covering to your very involved and hilarious morning stretch routine. Sometimes when I put you in your crib, you smile at me so adorably, I want to take you back out and play.

You’re sleeping less and less during the day, but when you are awake, you are so much more alert and curious about the world around you. You’ve been wonderful to take out, especially to the grocery store: You stare in wonder at the aisles of products. I used to wait for you to fall asleep before I took a shower, but more than half the time, I’d hear you start crying and have to cut it short. Lately, I’ve been laying you on your play mat in the doorway, wide awake following a feeding, and you’re now making it through my full routine (shower, brush teeth, dry hair, put on makeup) before getting upset.

You’re starting to fill out: chubby cheeks, Buddha belly, chunky thighs. And you’re so strong. People comment on it all the time. You have such good head control, you lift your chest at tummy time, and you’ve started pulling yourself from your back to your side, using the toys hanging above your play mat. You’ve started quasi crab walking when I change your diaper. Just as I’m about to secure the tabs, you dig in your heels and scoot your butt back. It’s funny and also frustrating. I know diaper changes will get harder and harder as you get more mobile! You’re able to hold onto things now. You don’t really know how to manipulate them, but you hold onto them tightly. I started giving you your owl blankie or giraffe rattle to hold in your car seat. And you grab my hair all the time.

You’re testing out your vocal chords with sounds like, “Eeeeeeeeyeah!” and “Gooooooooooguh!” and “Ahhgoooooo!” and “Guulllllaug!” Lots of G’s. It sounds vaguely German. I repeat the words back and we have a fun little conversation. And sometimes I just get silly and respond with stuff like, “Get out! Mr. Bug said what to you!?”

We had a bunch of firsts this month. We went on our first walk “for exercise,” after dropping off Daddy at BART for his new job. We went three miles around the neighborhood. You slept through the first half and were fascinated by everything for the second. We now do this 2–3 times a week and are up to four miles. We had our first post-baby houseguest, when Mommy’s college roommate, Kristin, came to visit. She thought you were very cute and enjoyed playing with and feeding you. She did not want anything to do with diaper changes, though. Can’t blame her: You have some pretty wicked poop! You had your first physical interaction with a “stranger.” A little girl in Target saw you and got really excited. She squealed “baby!” and grabbed your hands. Before I even realized what was happening, her mom jumped in and said, “Don’t touch that baby with your dirty hands!” Hehe. So, the girl admired you from afar. I’m not terribly concerned with stuff like this. You will get germs; you will get sick. I’d rather you didn’t live in fear. And I’d rather not parent in fear.

Speaking of germs… You had your first cold this month. When you woke for a feeding at 4:00 a.m. (one night-time feeding at this hour has become fairly routine), you had a stuffy nose and the saddest little cough. For the next few days, you were raspy and sneezey and just wanted to sleep, sleep, sleep. You took four-hour naps and fell asleep on my chest while burping you. It’s been several weeks since you’ve slept on me, and it was so sweet. Colds = cuddles.

You got to be in your first wedding! Auntie Charissa and Uncle Joey got married and had all their nieces and nephews in the ceremony. You were a “flower girl.” You wore a pretty white dress, frilly white diaper cover (which Mama bought in Blackhawk – fancy!), patent leather shoes, and a floral headband made by Auntie Christina. You looked so pretty. Your oldest cousin, Anna, held you for the processional and for several minutes up front for the welcome and the family prayer. Then, she handed me to you when the junior bridesmaids took their seats. You did so well! You started fussing once, but Anna calmed you down right away with a little bouncing. You were great for the wedding party photos and then cried through photos with Mommy and Daddy—of course. You stayed awake through most of the reception at the rodeo grounds—so much to see and hear! We changed you into a floral romper and some tiny cowboy boots. Those got a lot of attention. That night, you slept the longest yet, from 11p.m. to 9:15a.m.

Lastly, a funny story: I lost you and your grandmother in the mall. You were upset (you were hungry, and Mommy wasn’t prepared with enough formula), and Grandma offered to take you for a walk and to be changed while I paid for my final purchases. The Macy’s restroom was closed, so she said she’d take you to “the one out in the mall.” When I finished, I stepped out into the mall and realized that there was no bathroom on that wing and I had no idea where she’d taken you. Complicating things, my phone was in the cup holder of your stroller. At first, I contemplated checking every bathroom in the mall. Then, I thought maybe I should stick near Macy’s, in case you guys returned looking for me. Finally, clarity came, and I asked a clerk to use the store phone and called my cell. Thankfully, Grandma picked up. We laughed a lot about it later. It was only a few minutes of panic, but I can’t imagine how hungry and angry you would have been if it had taken a long time to find each other! Mommy is always overly prepared now. :)

Month 3 Stats
Clothes: 3 months, some bigger 0–3 months
Diapers: Size 1
Food: 5–6 five-ounce bottles per day, including one in the middle of the night.
Likes: Play mat, bouncer seat at grandparents’ house, being freed from swaddles
Dislikes: Tummy time

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Dear Denali: Two Months

by LeeAnne on July 23, 2014


Let’s just get right to what everyone wants to know: how you’re sleeping. I’m happy to report that your sleeping habits improved dramatically this month. At six weeks, we moved you from the bassinet in Mommy and Daddy’s room to the crib in your room. Your nighttime sounds (grunts, sighs, etc.) plus the squeaky squeak of your wicker bassinet were keeping me awake and I was ready to try something new. That first night in your crib, I worried a little and checked on you often. But guess what? That’s when you began “sleeping through the night.” (!!!) From then on, you’ve slept 5 or 6 hours at a time, sometimes 7 or 8. It’s been wonderful! Perhaps the bassinet (or Daddy’s snoring) were keeping you awake? Everyone is getting better sleep now. And we’re getting better at learning what you like best. For example, you sleep longer when you’re in a tight swaddle with your arms pinned (a variation on the “secret” swaddle that we call the “sumo” swaddle, because the extra fabric goes up between your legs and wraps around your arms again, haha).

After several days of near-smiles (your eyes would kind of sparkle and then your lips would curl up every so slightly at the edges), you finally got your smile on. You were on the changing table, and I was looking away, fussing with wipes. When I turned back to you, you were grinning up at me. It was adorable and memorable and made me so very happy. Your Auntie Erin taught you how to mimic sticking your tongue out, which is pretty cute. Sometimes when I say, “Mamamamama” to you (trying to teach you to say “Mama”), you open and close your mouth, as if you’re mimicking the mouth shapes. You’re also testing the limits of your vocal chords with some new high-pitched squeals and screams.

You’ve got quite the social life for a two-month-old. Recently, you attended a dance studio reunion picnic, a baby shower, a family birthday party, visits to both sets of grandparents, a Fourth of July party, and more. Several different people have fed and changed you, and you seem to handle it OK. Speaking of the Fourth of July… at the party, Grandma took you into her salt-water pool. You looked so cute in your little orange swimsuit and terrycloth cover-up. At first you seemed to like the pool, but then you started crying. We think it may have been the bright sun bothering you the most, though. Later, you saw your first fireworks show. The loud noise didn’t faze you, and we put a glow stick in your lap, which you seemed to enjoy.

These days, you are more alert and can spend 20–30 minutes on your play mat, watching the toys overhead. It frees me up to do small tasks nearby, like washing dishes or watering the patio plants. You’ve started swatting at the cow mirror handing from the center. Your movement is a bit clumsy and slow but you totally get it. And you stare at yourself in the mirror for long stretches of time.

Perhaps TMI, but you’ve started pooping consistently every other day, and when you do, it’s usually a blowout. Apparently, this skipping days thing is totally normal. It makes me feel so very carefree on some days, running a bunch of errands without having to worry about poopie diapers. On other days, you’re like a ticking time bomb. Your Daddy and I have gotten smart, though: We put little waterproof pads underneath you in your car seat, swing, crib, play mat, etc. Much easier cleanup!

You had your first trip to “the city,” AKA San Francisco. We went with Grandma and Grandpa and drove over the Bay Bridge. You weren’t super impressed: You slept most of the way. There, we met up with Uncle Bryan for lunch, as he was in town for a work conference.

You’re becoming quite the shopper. We took our first walk to the grocery store. We met up with Mommy’s friend Andrea and her daughter, Cora, at Peet’s first, then picked up groceries on the way back. You also had your first outlet shopping excursion, where we got a huge haul from Cater’s, Gymboree, and The Children’s Place—whoops. You used a changing table in a public restroom for the first time, at the Container Store. That felt like a really big moment for Mommy. And you had your first trips to the mall: We went with Auntie Erin to both Stoneridge Shopping Center and Blackhawk Plaza. You seemed to be able to see the ducks in the pond at Blackhawk. I can’t wait until you’re ready for the zoo. I love animals, and we’re going to get annual passes.

Speaking of animals… Daddy told me about a live “big cats” show at his work’s summer camp, and we crashed it! Unfortunately, you didn’t stay long because the show hosts wouldn’t let me stand up in the back (it can make the cats nervous), and you were too fussy when I sat still. So Daddy took you outside and you watched through the windows for a while. We saw a Cervil cat, Bondu cat, Osolat, and Joffries cat.

You had your first round of vaccines at your two-month doctor’s appointment: three shots and one oral vaccine. You cried pretty hard while they were administered but stopped as soon as I picked you up (the nurse said babies fare much better than older kids). You slept much of the rest of that day and were back to normal the next day. Physically, you’re holding your head up very well. You don’t really need support any longer. And you had your first “injury” this month. When Daddy was changing your diaper, he noticed a trickle of blood coming from your eye and called me in. Thankfully, it was your eyelid, not your eye. You scratched yourself good with your razor claws!

Lastly, a note on your peers: Your future friends will have quite unique names. So far, Mama’s friends have welcomed (or will soon welcome) Maverick, Anders, Jett, Desmond, Juniper, and Kennedy.

Month 2 Stats
Weight: 10 pounds, 6 ounces (26th percentile)
Height: 22 inches (28th percentile)
Clothes: 0–3 months, some bigger newborn, and some smaller 3 months
Diapers: Size 1
Food: 6 four-ounce bottles per day, including one in the middle of the night
Likes: Pacifiers, headbands, napping beside Mommy on couch, plush rattles
Dislikes: Being bucked into car seat, shots (obviously), having clothes pulled on over head

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Dear Denali: One Month

by LeeAnne on June 23, 2014


Well, this first month was hard. Harder than I imagined. I wasn’t sure how much to say in a letter, ostensibly, written for you. But I’d like to keep it real—even if you won’t fully understand it until you have a child of your own, as I didn’t until I had you. This experience of being a new mom is a paradox: It’s both the celebration of a new life and the mourning of an old life. Blended into the blessing of your arrival and the anticipation of our life together is a longing for the familiar: I miss work, hobbies, independence, etc. I miss my husband, even though he’s right here beside me. I cry over everything, from missing the snuggles with my cats (they don’t come near when you’re around) to the fact that I killed the potted rose my sister gave me on my last day of work. I also get sad thinking about my late grandparents, aunt, and uncle—which I’ve been doing a lot of lately—and how much they would have loved to meet you. The exhaustion only compounds the emotions, of course. Not to mention, I’m still physically recovering from a rough labor and delivery. I’ve never spent so much time on my couch. I’ve never felt more unproductive or watched so much television.

All that said, the journey from day one to day 31 has been vast. No matter how tired or stressed I was, my maternal instincts were always functioning just below the surface, and I was surprised at how quickly my confidence grew as a mother. (And in the times I lacked answers, I was grateful for the wisdom of my own mother. She has been amazing.) The more I let go of my old life and embraced my new life, the more I felt our connection getting stronger. Tiny you sleeping on my chest, with your legs tucked up like a tree frog, was a soothing balm to my soul.

I’m enjoying watching Daddy learn how to be your dad. He celebrated his first Father’s Day this month (you gave him an impression of your feet to hang up at his office), and he’s doing a great job. He took a bunch of selfies of the two of you on his iPad. When you were fussing one evening, he took you out onto the patio, which you liked, but then he walked into a cactus. He spent the next 15 minutes pulling tiny barbs out of his leg. I overheard him in your room, changing your diaper and singing the Pharrell Williams song “Happy” with changed lyrics: “Because I’m poopy…”

Speaking of diaper changes: We had one epic change in which we went through three diapers and three changing pad covers, as you kept pooping and peeing throughout the process. Mommy and Daddy did it together, pretending like we were surgeons—“Scalpel!” Humor is healing.

There were so many “firsts” this first month, of course. You and I had our first few hours alone together, when Daddy went to help his brother move. (Your closest-in-age Jones cousin, Sammy, is going to live nearby—yay! I hope you will be good friends.) You had your first babysitter: Auntie Erin watched you at home, while Mommy and Daddy went on a date to see X-Men: Days of Future Past. The following week, you had your first away-from-home babysitting at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. We had our first solo outing together, just you and I, stopping at Peet’s on the way to the resumed Monday “craft” nights with the Carson clan. While waiting for my coffee, another customer asked me a bunch of questions about you. It’s funny how strangers have started talking to me, now that I have an baby in tow. We had our first family dinner outing, just the three of us, at Sauced BBQ. You slept through it all. (Although, it wasn’t your first restaurant experience. That was Corner Bakery with the Carsons, and yes, you slept through that, too. I’ve started calling this mode “Daytime Denali” and even made a hashtag for it. Will there still be hashtags when you are older?) You experienced your first earthquake. It was a 3.0 centered in Union City. Pretty much no one else felt it, but I was sitting still with you asleep in my lap. And you had your first emergency evacuation, when the fire alarm went off in our condo complex at 4 a.m. That was… awesome.

Over the month, you grew and developed so quickly! You outgrew many of your newborn-size clothes, including the ladybug sleeper we dressed you in to leave the hospital. Your umbilical cord stump fell off a little over two weeks after your birth. You respond dramatically to me making “bbbbbbbb” sounds—kind of like blowing raspberries, but they’re actually exercises I learned in voice lessons. I tried singing to you and realized I don’t remember the lyrics to pretty much anything. I stopped singing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” at a nail-biting climax: the lamb being at school was against the rules. I’ll get it together eventually, I promise. You have great eyesight for a newborn, and you love ceiling fans: you widen your eyes and get quiet and still. While you’re sleeping, you raise your left arm periodically in this very dramatic way: It goes up slowly, and then you turn your wrist and bring it back down with your palm facing your face. It’s like it’s a choreographed dance move. Super funny. You haaaaate being at stop lights in the car. You start screaming as soon as you feel me braking.

You had your first doctor’s appointment with your pediatrician. She said you are “colicky” and suggested some drops to break up gas bubbles and hopefully lessen the nighttime cry fests. (Unfortunately, we didn’t notice a difference with these.) She also gave your Mommy some encouragement over a difficult decision: I stopped breastfeeding at three weeks. It’s not what I had planned, and I really struggled with choosing something that wasn’t the best for you. But you stopped even trying to latch, and pumping was causing a great deal of stress. By the time I finished the cycle of attempting to breastfeed, bottle feeding pumped breast milk, bottle feeding supplemental formula (my production couldn’t keep up with your appetite), pumping for future feedings, and washing the pump parts, it was nearly time to feed you again. I didn’t know when or how I was supposed to sleep, not to mention eat or shower or do something fun for myself—and I started resenting the situation. The last thing I wanted was to feel negatively about you, and I knew I had to make a change. Formula is just fine, and you will be better served by a mother who isn’t a mess with stress—and actually enjoys feeding you.

Daddy went back to work after three weeks of paternity leave. It was scary for me at first, but I soon realized it was really enjoyable to find our own rhythm together. We’re getting into a groove now.

Month 1 Stats
Weight: 7 pounds, 12 ounces (32nd percentile) – from two-week appointment
Height: 20.75 inches (72nd percentile) – from two-week appointment
Clothes: Newborn, and some smaller 0–3 months
Diapers: Newborn
Food: 8 three-ounce bottles round the clock
Likes: Infant swing, being swaddled, mittens, cat naps
Dislikes: Red lights, Mommy’s boobs

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Dear Denali: One Week

by LeeAnne on May 29, 2014


It took about a day to name you. Sorry about that. Most of your hospital stuff (bracelet, bassinet placard) says “Baby Jones.” But in my defense, I had “Denali” at the top of my list since January, when it came to me in a dream. Seriously. I had a dream while napping that I had two kids with Alaska-inspired names: a girl named Denali and a boy named Kodiak. I dashed off a text to some family members, quasi-joking about it. But it stuck. Denali is the native Athabaskan name for Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America, located in Alaska, where your Mommy lived as a child. It means “the great one.” It is meaningful, unique, and has lots of nickname potential (Deni, Dena, DJ, Ali…). I hope you will love it.

Our recovery in the hospital was rough: my sleepless, drugged-up haze; your refusal to latch; the strange duality of being both constantly interrupted and utterly ignored by nurses; lots of confusion about what we were supposed to be doing; hospital roommates moving in; going four days without showering; I could go on. After a rough delivery, it was not a place for healing. We left “early” (medically, we were clear to leave, though they wanted us to stay another day to work on nursing), and I was so very grateful to return to the comfort of home to navigate our new normal.

We arrived to a newly planted patio garden. While we were away, your Auntie Erin and grandparents planted strawberries, bell peppers, and gerbera daisies. It brightened my day (and made me cry, because I cried at everything those first several weeks). Your nursery wasn’t finished yet, but we didn’t need it to be. You “slept” (aka took one-hour naps around the clock) in your bassinet in our room, or next to us on the couch, or in what Daddy dubbed the “magic swing.”

The cats were both intrigued by you and a little nervous around you. One of the best moments was when we heard Pepper do her “fetch cry,” this kind of guttural sound she makes when a toy is in her mouth and she wants attention. We followed the sound to the bedroom and found Pepper sitting at the foot of your bassinet, mouse in mouth, looking to play fetch with you.

You had a lot of visitors in the first week, and many brought over premade dinners and little gifts for you. It was wonderful to have such great love and support. A few people told your Daddy and me that we were “calm” parents. We didn’t feel calm—we felt tired and scared—but I was amused that we could pull off normalcy. Also, many were shocked that I was up and about so easily post c-section. I kept saying, the physical recovery was the easiest part of those first days and weeks!

What was hard? Well, the typical newborn sleep stuff. Your days and nights were mixed up: You slept a lot during the day and were up for most of the night. And you cried, and cried, and cried, and the only thing that seemed to keep you from crying was to hold you and walk. And one can only do that for so long… Also, nursing was hard. You went from attempting to latch in the early days to immediately screaming when I put you to my breast. So, for every feeding, I’d attempt to nurse you, and then I’d warm up some pumped breast milk, bottle feed you that plus some supplemental formula, burp you, and then pump for future feedings.

But each day got easier, as Daddy and I figured out how to be a good parenting team and learned what you were all about. Some early impressions: You have long fingers and my turned-up elf toes (sorry). You seem to have Daddy’s pale skin, but that could change once you’re exposed to sunlight (your Mommy tans easily). And although you don’t have much hair, it looks like it might be brown. Your eyes are a brilliant blue. Right from the start, you had a very strong neck and could lift your head quite a bit. We are amused by your startle reflex and your pterodactyl cry.

We’ve taken a couple (very slow) walks around the block with the stroller to get some fresh air. On one, we saw a cheerleading sign-up sign. It said “For 6 and up.” Daddy said, “Well, she’s 6… days!” Hahaha. Maybe we’ll wait a bit on that. We made our first real outing for your well-baby check back at the hospital. Your weight gain was normal, despite the nursing issues, and the lactation consultant walked us through some additional tips and tricks. On the way home, we swung by Daddy’s work to pick up some things, and you met a whole bunch of people! Everyone thought you were so tiny, even the moms who birthed smaller babies years ago.

I’ll wrap this up with one quick anecdote: As we were walking into the doctor’s office for your follow-up appointment, I noticed you had dried milk on your lips. I instinctively licked my finger and wiped it off. Such a mommy move.

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