bestof · books

Favorite Books in 2016

There’s nothing having a baby hasn’t made me great at if not being late to EVERYTHING. Better late than never, right?

I had a decent book year this year… looking back, I read 12 more books than last year. I shall try to read even more next year, although I make no promises to myself.

Wayward Pines Trilogy by Blake Crouch

I flew through this series like it was literary crack. It’s not great literature, but it had me at the edge of my seat and gave me nightmares. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing, but it was a great read.

The Help by Katheryn Stockett

I finally read this book and it had me crying great big tear balls. I highly recommend, and it made me want to rewatch the movie. The end makes you want to fist pump.

Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

This is another book that made me immediately go find the movie after reading it. I loved the way this was written. The plot is simple, but the writing and setting are beautiful.

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

As much as the third book descends into the realms of chaos and is at times meandering, the first two have a soft spot in my heart. I love the cast of characters and the story.

As You Wish by Cary Elwes

This was written so lovingly and I learned much about the actors and making of the movie. It was fascinating and sweet.

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

This is a sneak peek into next month’s reviews, but I loved this book. I could not put it down, and it was so interesting and disturbing.

These are the books that left me with the most feeling even months after reading them, although I enjoyed many this year. I hope I can catch up next month to share what I’ve been reading, since I missed a month or two.

I’m linking up with Steph & Jana for SUYB / Favorite Reads of 2016.

christmas · currently

Currently… Christmas Edition

Reading: I just finished reading Market Street Cinema by Michele Machado. It was a NetGalley read that was short and not bad but didn’t leave a strong impression on me. Next on my list is Graceling by Kristin Cashore. I downloaded the Overdrive app to check out Kindle books from my library, and it’s perfect because I can read with one hand while holding Ellie. I am a big fan of physical books, but it’s way more practical to use my Kindle right now, and even better that I can still check out library books.

Watching: I haven’t been watching anything lately, because I’ve been trying to catch up on reading, but I watched a lot with Penelope in the first month or so. I love Call the Midwife on Netflix. I may be a bit baby obsessed, but it’s a great show, anyway.

Feeling: Like we are totally crazy for taking an 11 week old on a normally 10 hour road trip. My family really wants to see the baby, so we are taking a trip to visit them over Christmas.

Enjoying: Ellie’s smiles – she has recently been loving when I burble my lips at her, and she tries to do it back at me. It is so adorable!

Wanting: All I want for Christmas this year is sleep and maybe a date night. Ellie has been fighting the bottle, so I’m not sure if my mom will be able to watch her or not. There are so many good movies out right now we would love to see, like Rogue One.

Eating: I cut out dairy again *bye cheese, miss you,* because Ellie has lots of spit up and no dairy for me seems to help. We made these vegan chocolate chocolate chip cookies, and they are delicious – so chewy and perfect.

Wishing: Everyone has a perfectly awesome Christmas holiday! We are traveling down to SC and plan to stay for a week or so. We aren’t doing gifts for each other or Ellie this year, because we have too much going on and our finances don’t leave room for extra spending. It’s totally fine, because we don’t need anything and the only things I want are immaterial, like sleep, relaxation, or maybe a hair cut. 

We already got the best gift this year, duh, and she is too sweet. We are waiting to find out lots of things about our future plans, about when we are going to move etc… I just want to know more.

Hope you are all having a wonderful week and enjoy your Christmas plans, whatever they may be.


Our Experience With Cloth Diapering

When I first found out I was pregnant, I spent months researching baby gear and how to prepare. At no point in those first few months did I consider cloth diapering. I knew other people did it, but I was so overwhelmed by baby stuff, I thought no way was it for us. It wasn’t until a couple of months before Penelope was born that I really started getting into it.

What got me into it? I’m not going to lie – it wasn’t the earth-saving factor, it was the cost-saving factor. I was really interested in saving lots of money. Other things I like about it are that it’s better for the environment and makes less trash for our tiny living space, and the prints make your baby’s butt look so cute! I also think it’s softer on her skin and is less likely to cause diaper rash.

There are lots of ways to cloth diaper, and it can be overwhelming deciding what you need. We are still figuring out what works for us, but we’ve had a good experience so far and I wanted to share what we’ve been doing.

What we use:
– Green Mountain Diapers Cloth-eez prefolds*
– Blueberry Capri covers
– Thirsties Duo Wrap covers
– Diaper sprayer
– Diaper wet bag

*This is their website, where we bought everything except for the diaper sprayer. They have pics of the diapers on babies so you can see how they fit (click “see this on a baby” on a diaper page; here’s one example) – it’s really helpful.

Why we use prefolds:
There are different types of cloth diapers, which you can find explanations of on sites like Fluff Love University. We went with prefolds after I did some research. They are basically a thick absorbent cloth that you place inside a diaper cover. They are cost-effective, because most times you only need to change the diaper and can reuse the diaper cover. So instead of buying a lot of pocket diapers or similar ones, which could be slightly costly and have to be washed after every change, we bought 24 prefolds and 5 covers from Green Mountain Diapers.

Here’s a pic of how we set up our diapers to explain what I mean. It’s super easy! There are other folds you can do, but this one is simple. We might have to change it up soon since she’s getting a bit bigger.

I change out the white fabric in the middle, and unless she’s had an explosive poo, I reuse the cover.

The prefolds are also great to use for other things like burp cloths. We leave one on the changing table for when she pees/poops between changes.

Our routine:
Our current routine looks something like this:

  • Change diaper, put old diaper in wet bag if just pee.
  • If there’s poo, we put the diaper in a plastic bin on our changing table, and as soon as we get a chance take it to spray it off in the toilet (we sometimes collect a few in the bin before we spray it off).
  • Wash diapers once a day, usually when wet bag starts filling up. Our wash routine is: wash once on cold with no soap, wash on hot with soap, and then throw them in the dryer.

And that is basically it. We do laundry daily, and for us that is okay.

I have recently started using disposables at night since she’s been soaking her newborn diapers and I haven’t moved her up to the smalls yet. The disposables keep her a bit drier for extended times.

I dug around and watched YouTube videos and read things here and there about cloth diapering before deciding what to use. You can find lots and I love looking at the different kinds of diapers. I would still like to try pocket diapers and other kinds once we have a little more expendable cash. This system works for our small budget right now, and I am a fan. I would also like to get some more covers once she sizes up – I am crazy about prints.

Tiny Penelope!

One other good thing about cloth diapers is that they retain some value. If you don’t want to keep them for if you have more kids later, you can resell them to get some of your money back.

We started using them around week two, and I’m glad because although it was scary to start, we are now comfortable with them (until she changes her routine up on us or grows, of course – then we have to adjust, but that’s baby life). I think with either disposables or cloth, you get used to what works for you. Every baby has a different fit/brand that works better for them.

I have also heard the advice that when starting with cloth to buy a few different kinds to see what you like before buying an entire set. I think that’s definitely a good idea, too, although we went ahead and bought a small set of what we wanted.

penelope · photos

Penelope’s Newborn Photos

We recently got back Penelope’s newborn photos. These were taken over two and a half months ago! It’s a nice comparison for how tiny she was vs how big she is now.

I talked to the photographer about ideas we had for her photos beforehand and she was willing to work with us on all of them. I was so happy since I knew I wanted some nerdy ones for her nerdy parents.

 Her stats – 20 in, 7 lbs 6 oz, born Oct 3 at 1:02 PM.

Our little circus lion.

Future Harry Potter fan, I hope. I’d love to read it with/to her one day. We have more Harry Potter themed ones and are waiting to get the full library of our photoshoot on a flash drive from the photographer. This is just one of my favorites! I’m so happy my set of Harry Potter books made it into the photos.

Doctor Who was a theme I was really excited about, and I think this might be my favorite photo. We had a bunch of Doctor Who items already, like the TARDIS and sonic screwdriver, and our photographer brought in her own Dalek and made a little tutu.

We did some classic style baby photos, which I’m glad for because she looks so sweet.

 Tiny hobbit feet!

The day of her photographs was a long day but totally worth it! I’m so happy with how they came out. Our photographer said it was the highest number of successful sets she had done for a newborn shoot. I felt like we really put her to work, but we were working hard, too. The first week of having a newborn is exhausting, and this was just a few days after she was born. I plan on keeping these to remind me how tiny she was.

penelope · photos

Two Months with Penelope

First of all, can we have a Blogger app invented for iPhone 7 soon? I don’t know how people get things done with babies. My bedtime is 8 PM after Penelope goes to sleep and I am not willing to give up any precious sleep.

Penelope is two months already! Two and a half, now. I am so excited for her first Christmas, but it’s also nerve-wracking prepping for her first big trip (long drive) and being somewhere other than home for a bit.

Walking with dad when the weather was still nice.

Boba trying to get some snuggly time, since I spend all my time snuggling baby now.

She was really excited about bicycle legs for a while. We are waiting for her first laugh, but she smiles all the time!

Being silly and cute.

First time we tried her sitting up on the Boppy by herself.

I’m addicted to Snapchat-ing my baby.

Getting ready for Christmas by trying on her hat.

Her first encounter with the wild house beast.

We found out her weight and length at her two month appointment.

Our attempt at tummy time. She tried to eat the mat and then promptly began crying.

She smiles at me in the car seat and it is the sweetest thing ever.

Looking like such a big baby. She can hold her head up really well now, although she doesn’t have perfect control.

She cracks me up with her faces. She was looking at me like this – guess I must have looked funny to her.

We are at 10 weeks and every week has its challenges. The past couple weeks have been figuring out naps, which we are still working on. There’s so much she wants to look at, she doesn’t always want to sleep. She’s so sweet and adorable. I will love when she can play toys with us. Right now our faces are interesting enough for her.

penelope · photos

6 Weeks With Penelope

I’ve been wanting to make a post for the longest time, but baby seriously takes up 24/7 of our time! Not that I’m complaining. The first few weeks were really rough but things are a little better now, and she is changing all the time. She smiles so much now, I love it! She still smacks herself in the face, so I can’t wait till she learns how to use her arms.

She’s six weeks now and she’s a happy little crazy beast most of the time. She still eats, sleeps, and poops for the whole day, so we look forward to one day when she’s able to play with us, but I am enjoying her cuddles and spend my time taking about 1000 photos of her. 
I’ve also been watching a lot of Netflix when it’s just her and I. I’m on Call the Midwife right now. She just woke up from her nap, so I’ve already got to stop writing for now, but I hope I will get to update with our (so far) very positive experience with cloth diapers soon.

Penelope’s Birth Story

I’m going to work on this while it’s still somewhat fresh in my mind. Penelope is two weeks old, and life with a newborn is totally different and overwhelming at times. I definitely haven’t had much time for things other than baby. We are doing well, and there are good times where she naps for long periods of time, which is when I can do a few things.

I always liked reading labor stories when I was pregnant, so I wanted to share hers for myself to remember and for anyone else who is interested.

October 2nd
9 PM
We went in to the hospital to begin my induction, since I was at 41 weeks 1 day and only 1 cm dilated. I was ready to get things moving and my doctor recommended the induction to make sure the placenta stayed healthy.

We checked in and got all set up in our room and met the nurse who would be taking care of me for the night. I immediately rammed my knee into the side of the bed as soon as I tried to get in, so you could say it started off very well. Once I got in the bed, monitors were hooked up to my belly, so it was interesting to be able to see the contractions on the screen.

10:30 PM
They started with the foley bulb, which goes into the cervix and is blown up like a small balloon to help dilate the cervix. A doctor placed the foley bulb, and when she was done, I asked her if the bed was heated, because I was feeling really warm where I was lying. She looked puzzled and said no, then checked on things down there and found that she had accidentally broken my water. Oops, but it just meant that they would prefer me to have the baby in the next 12 hours or so.

I waited in the bed (with about 12 layers of cloths under me to soak up the water) with Greg sitting in a chair beside me, holding my hand, and my nurse left to let things start moving. The contractions started getting stronger after about half an hour or so, and I began squeezing Greg’s hand through them, although they were still manageable.

October 3rd
12:30 AM
Greg actually fell asleep at some point, and I was squeezing his hand trying to wake him up, because I needed to pee and needed his help getting to the bathroom, but I had to say his name and poke him. I went pee and that’s when my foley bulb popped out. That was good news and meant the induction was working, so I called in the nurse and she started me on pitocin to get contractions going.

I stayed on the pitocin working through contractions by squeezing Greg’s hand for the next couple hours, and made it to 3 or 4 cm before I asked for the epidural. The contractions were getting stronger at that point. I knew that I wanted an epidural before I came in, but I wanted to wait as long as I could hold off because I wouldn’t be able to walk around afterward.

3:30 AM
They placed the epidural, which was not nearly as bad as I expected. I sat up in the bed while it was placed and Greg sat right in front of me, holding my hands, and the doctor was very quick.

After that, things got much better and I couldn’t feel the pain, just pressure, and I could still move my legs.

10:00 AM
I was checked on every hour or so to see how things were going and things got to where they needed to be for me to be able to push when I felt the urge. I was 10 cm dilated and baby was at zero station, meaning she was ready to go.

11:15 AM
My midwife had me try a few practice pushes, which went well, but I couldn’t feel too much. I still hadn’t made further progress or had a strong urge to push after a while, so she gave me two options: continue waiting to see how things go or stop the epidural to give me more feeling and increase the urge to push. I was really scared to stop the epidural, but I looked to Greg for support and we both agreed to stop it.

12:00 PM
That was definitely a turning point where things got more intense. I fully intended to do epidural all the way, so finishing it without meds was not in my plans. The contractions got stronger and stronger, and things are a little fuzzy in the timeline after that. I know sometime after that, I called my midwife back in because I wanted to try to push.

I could be off on the timeline, because I was focusing on getting through each contraction, but I began pushing, which was really hard. That’s probably an understatement – it was the hardest thing I’ve done. My midwife was really great in guiding me through it, telling me exactly where to push and how to use the rest of my body doing it. To me, it felt like forever that I was pushing, but my family tells me it was a really short time. Greg thinks it was only about 20 mins, and my mom, who was also in the delivery room, thinks it was about an hour.

I also ended up using the mirror, which I didn’t think I would want, but my midwife suggested it may help me to see her. I actually think it did help, since then I could see if I was making progress and actually see her head (full of hair). My mom told me afterward that I was just letting out small yells/screams, but I felt like I was screaming bloody murder. It was an intense experience, but I kept telling myself how badly I wanted her to come out, and Greg, my mom, and the midwife were all there giving me lots of support.

1:02 PM
Every contraction was extremely strong and painful at this point, but finally as one big contraction hit, I pushed as hard as I could (if you’ve ever seen Total Recall with that scene with their eyeballs about to burst out of their face, that’s I felt like!), and Penelope was born, loud and screaming, into this world.

After that, they immediately put her on my chest and she knew right away how to breastfeed. I held her for about an hour doing skin to skin, feeling totally exhausted and relieved and happy, and then they measured and weighed her.

We have been trying to get used to living with a tiny person ever since. It’s definitely life-altering. Some days are hard, really hard, but other times are better.

I haven’t had any time for reading blogs and it may take me a bit to get back into any routine, but I appreciate everyone who has been reading and/or thinking of us – all the comments have been really kind and I hope I can catch up again one day. I haven’t gotten to my computer much, but I’ve been reading comments on my phone and I appreciate them, even if it takes me a while to respond!