Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Hello/Goodbye!

I now present you with my obligatory New Year's post! 

I can say without a doubt that 2011 and 2012 were not-so-great years in the life of Katie Lewis/Katie Ball. 2011 brought a nasty tornado that made me and my new husband homeless. 2012 brought unexpected joblessness and an unexpected pregnancy that turned into unexpected joy. 

But, ah, 2013. 2013 brought us a beautiful baby girl. A little girl who was sent to us because God knew she was just what we needed. She changed the course of my career and, ultimately, reminded me of what I always wanted to be - a mom. I'm happy to look back on the past year and, for the first time in a few years, it's hard for me to choose the highlights. But, I must, because that's what you do in a New Year's post!

Top Five 2013 Moments

1. HAVING A BABY! I mean, does it even need to be said? But I literally mean HAVING a baby. It was the most amazing experience and I felt like (and still feel like!) superwoman after having been through labor and delivery. Moving along...

2. Being a mom! Motherhood suits me. I get to nurture and teach a little one day in and day out. I love all the little moments with her... her sitting on the counter every morning "helping" me get ready (she loves when I put the blush brush to her sweet little cheeks!), talking to her about each step of dinner preparation, reading stories to her, hugging her, and seeing her smiling face each morning. I pray Blake and I have the ability to add to our family, but I remind myself all the time that we are not guaranteed another. I hope another child (or two) is in our future, but I am trying not to wish away the time with Maleah. I'm trying to enjoy each and every moment we have with her!

3. JERRY SEINFELD AND JOHN MAYER. We saw them both live this year - Bucket List items checked and checked!

4. Moving into a HOUSE! We are still renters, but living in a house is SO much better than living in a tiny apartment! We love having more living space, bigger bedrooms, and... a YARD!

5. Another wonderful year being married to Blake! You know, Blake and I have only been married 2 1/2 years and we've only KNOWN each other for 3 1/2 years! This year definitely challenged us - after all, becoming new parents AND working on PhD comps is tough work! - but we have learned so much. We tell each other all the time just how awesome it is to be married to one another. I love our relationship!

2014 Resolutions

1. Fold, hang, and put away laundry IMMEDIATELY after the clothes are finished drying! (Or do my best!) Basically... no more piles and piles of clean clothes that are folded and laid out but still sitting around because I'm too lazy to put them away.

2. Spend money on things that MATTER and on things that LAST. 

3. Take back my mornings! Having a baby means a lot of sleepless nights which means a lot of sleeping 'til the last minute. Now that Maleah is consistent with her sleep, I want to take back my mornings. Get up when I'm "supposed" to, do my quiet time, start to get ready... do what I can before she wakes so I can spend a little time with her before work!

4. ENJOY SUMMER! The past few summers have not be terribly enjoyable for me. 2011 was spent rebuilding a house. 2012 was spent pregnant and sick. 2013 was spent with a baby too little to endure the Alabama heat. I hope this year we can spend more time outside, at the pool, enjoying nature with our girl!

5. Read more! I want to really get back to reading for fun! Magazines, novels, kid's books... read, read, read!













Friday, December 27, 2013

11 Months!

Let the party planning/cry-fest begin! Maleah's first birthday is in less than one month. Holy moly that is scary! Wasn't I just holding a teeny tiny newborn? A year goes faster than you think. People try to explain it to you, but it just doesn't make sense until it flies by before you can say "happy birthday, baby girl"!

I remember feeling extremely overwhelmed in the first days and weeks of parenthood. It seemed the sleepless nights and crying fits and time spent at the pump (not of the gas variety) would never end. But, it did. After a few months of getting to know Maleah, life became "normal". We figured out a routine and figured out her personality and we've been sailing pretty smoothly ever since. But, I don't want to get into too much detail about my thoughts on her first birthday! She is ONLY 11 months, after all!

Stats
According to our scale at home, Maleah weighs about 19-20 pounds. And I guesstimate she is around 29-30 inches tall. She wears a size 3 diaper, clothes in the 9-18 month range, a size 4 (okay, 3.5 but we don't own any 3.5s because baby feet grow really fast) shoe, and seems to be the perfect size for cuddling in my lap!

Eating
She still takes four bottles a day, about six ounces at a time. She usually takes a bottle at 6:30/10:30/3-4/7. I am excited about not having to buy formula after the transition to whole milk and have vowed to do whatever it takes to nurse/pump for a future child. I have intentions of writing a blog on my thoughts about parenting a first child in the near future... so I'll save my reasonings for that post! Anyway... Maleah is solely on table food at this point. I thought we would take more time to transition to table foods in order to find the things she likes to eat, but it was actually pretty easy to find wholesome, nutritious foods for her to eat. She is a great eater!

Some of her favorite foods are: eggs, waffles, avocado, mandarin oranges, spaghetti, chili, cheese, carrots, and peas! Oh and she loves Nilla wafers!

Schedule
6:30-7 ~ Wake up, 6 oz formula
7-7:30 ~ Get ready for the day, play with Mommy & Daddy
7:30-8 ~ Either go to school or play at home
8:15 ~ Breakfast
9:30-11:30 ~ Nap
11:30 ~ (or when she wakes up) 6 oz bottle
12:15 ~ Lunch
1:30-3:30 ~ Nap
3:30 ~ (or when she wakes up) 6 oz bottle
4:15 ~ Snack, if she wants it 
5:30/6 ~ Dinner
7 ~ Bath, bottle, book, bedtime! (In bed by 7:30)

Maleah has done really well adjusting back and forth between home and school. She only goes to daycare 3 days a week and we try to keep her days as similar as we can so she isn't thrown off by two very different schedules. However, she still has longer wake times at school because of the activities, but she still usually gets two good, solid naps. 

Development
We think we're on the brink of seeing some first steps. She's taken a few teeny tiny "steps" but definitely not the real thing yet. She has been standing on her own A LOT the past few days - just randomly standing up in the middle of the living room (with no help from anything). She'll just stand there, looking like she wants to take a step, and then she either falls on her butt or squats to finish playing. Blake is REALLY excited about her walking and I am a little terrified!!! I'm happy with her being relatively contained!

Maleah has made huge strides in language development over the past few weeks. It is clear to see that she understands a good bit of what you're saying and she tries to mimic a lot of words, too. Some of the words she can "say" and understand: Mama, Da-Da, Pop-eye (my step-dad's name), puppy, hmm-hmm (Maleah for "ruff-ruff"), meow (when she sees a cat), baa (when she sees a sheep), boom, beep beep, diaper (yep. Sounds like "bah-puh"), poop (thanks, Daddy), bottle ("bah-bul"), and her favorite - NO, NO, NO ("nah, nah, nah")! She also shakes her head and gives you the stink eye with that last one. Not kidding! I am amazed at how quickly she has picked up so many words! 

We are also working on teaching her some sign language. She can sign "all done" and I think she understands when we sign "more" and "eat". We really haven't done them consistently until lately, but we're hoping to also teach her the sign for "please" and "thank-you". 

Other Thoughts
Crying It Out... yeah, yeah, I bragged about doing a "gentle" CIO method when Maleah was 5 weeks old. It really wasn't all that bad and there were no 30-minute crying fits from anyone. I am glad we did it because I contribute working with her to go to sleep that early helped her tremendously in the long run. She has since been a great napper/sleeper and consequently she is an extremely happy, content baby when she's awake. Lately, though, it's been harder to hear her cry if she is having a hard time getting to sleep. For MONTHS, crying was practically non-existent before sleep-times because she was just so tired and wanted to sleep. But now that she really knows what's going on (and I think maybe she is in one of those 'if I can't see you, you don't exist' phases), her cries are different. There is one cry where I know she will cry for MAYBE 5 minutes and drift to sleep and then there is another one that just breaks my heart. I can't handle it so I go in and rock her to sleep. I really don't want to start any habits with her that make it more difficult for her to sleep at daycare or when we're out & about, but I know this time is fleeting so if my baby needs a little rocking, her mommy will be happy to oblige. :) 














Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Monthly Meal Planning

When you have a baby/kid/busy life, it can be hard to prepare home-cooked, nutritious, and tasty meals every night of the week. For us, this often leads to us going through the drive-thru or picking something up even though we have plenty of food at home. This month I wanted to try to crack down on eating out and so far, it's been a success!

Normally, I do a weekly meal plan. Lately that hasn't really worked because it takes a lot of time each week to look at the sale ads, put together a plan, go to the grocery store, and then prepare meals day in and day out. So, this month I tried my hand at planning for an entire month. Some people might say this would never work for them because a) they would get to a particular day and want something different instead, b) they don't always know what they will be doing each night so they can't plan that far in advance, or c) they don't have time to plan it and prepare those kinds of meals.
Let me quickly address those issues.
1 - I make a monthly meal plan with some flexibility. If I really don't want to cook something on a particular day, then I just swap it with a different recipe from another day/week. There are very few times I don't want to cook what I have planned.
2 - Again, flexibility. I plan for leftovers/Fend For Yourself (FFYS) once a week and then also leave one night of the weekend open because I know our plans will probably change and we also don't eat a lot on the weekends. This allows me the ability to swap things around if our plans start to change. Say we have BBQ Chicken planned for Thursday night, but we end up getting invited to a friend's house instead. So, then I'd just hold off on the BBQ chicken and make it over the weekend for lunch & dinner. Or if that chicken is frozen, I can just wait and make it another week.
3 - You're going to spend time "planning" meals regardless. You can either do it in a matter of minutes once a month (and then spend a few hours planning your grocery list, shopping, and prepping the food all at one time) or you can spend time day by day wondering what you're going to eat, running by the grocery store/fast food restaurant, and possibly try to cook something from scratch each night. I prefer to do my work in bulk so that I can maximize my time during the weeknights.

The old saying goes... "where there's a will, there's a way..." If you are determined to save money and time for your family, then you can totally make something like this work. :)

Anyhoo... back to the meal plan. To make planning simple, I went with a simple weekly theme to help get my plannign started:

Monday: Spaghetti/Pasta or Tacos
Tuesday: Crock-Pot Meal
Wednesday: Leftover/FFYS
Thursday: Baked Potatoes & Soup
Friday: Frozen Pizza & Salad
Saturday/Sunday: Casserole, Crock-Pot, and/or Leftovers

With this in mind, I then looked at what we had going on for the month of December. It's a very busy month with all sorts of events happening. I tried to plan the best I could around what we already knew would be happening and then leave plenty of room for inevitable changes. I also thought about things I could make in bulk or freeze (i.e. soup) so that prep/cook time/clean-up would be minimal. We're only ten days into this plan and it has already changed some. That's the beauty of it - it's not so much that you're determined to have a particular meal on a particular day. It's more about having the ingredients for meals on hand (or having pre-made & frozen it) so that you can eat healthy, home-cooked meals every night!

Once I have determined the meals, I then plug my list into a spreadsheet with four columns: Day, Meal, Ingredients, Recipe. I write every last ingredient - even things we normally have on hand. When I have the spreadhseet made, I print it out. I go home and look over my igredients list and highlight the things I need to purchase. Now, some things I can purchase a month in advance (pasta, seasonings, pizzas, etc.) and other things (milk, produce, eggs, etc.) I do buy week-to-week so I highlight those things in a different color. I also look over the ingredients list before going to the grocery store to make sure we haven't run out of anything we need for the week. Then, I go shopping!

Here's a Sample:

Day
Meal
Ingredients
Recipe
Monday
Tacos
1 lb ground beef, taco seasonings, tortillas, shredded lettuce, cheese, sour cream, black olives
You know how to do this J
Tuesday
White BBQ Chicken sandwiches, black eyed peas, corn on the cob
1 lb shredded chicken, white BBQ sauce, black eyed peas, corn on the cob, butter
Put chicken in crock pot with 1 c sauce mixed with 1 cup water. Cook on low for 8 hours ~ shred when cooked. Boil peas in pot of water with salt; Boil corn in pot of water with salt.
Wednesday
Leftovers/FFYS
J
J
Thursday
Baked Potatoes & Chicken noodle soup
3 baking potatoes, 1 qt size bag of chicken noodle soup
Microwave potatoes; thaw & heat soup
Friday
Frozen Pizza & salad
Frozen pizza, salad mix, shredded cheese, croutons, bacon bits, dressing
You know how to do this J
Saturday/
Sunday
Double batch of chili
2 lbs ground beef, 1 chopped onion, 4 cans dark red kidney beans, chili seasonings,  2 cans taco sauce, 2 can diced tomatoes, 1 box beef broth (use as needed)
Brown ground beef and onions, drain meat. Put all ingredients in stock pot. Bring to a boil, let simmer for 1 hour.

Lots of smiley faces going on there!!!

Lastly, I get to cooking! At the start of this month, I made a double batch of taco soup and pinto beans for burritos & bean dip. I also went ahead and cooked 4-5 chicken breasts in the crock pot to shred in order to make really quick chicken casseroles (Poppyseed chicken in 20 minutes? Yes, please!!!) This past Saturday, I made crock pot chicken noodle soup - again, another large batch so we could freeze some. So, you can see some of the things in next week's meal plan are things that have already been prepared.

This past week got changed a bit because I forgot Blake had orchestra rehearsal tonight. So, what I originally planned to make will get bumped to another night or a weekend and Maleah and I will have sweet potatoes for dinner instead! See, it's very flexible!!!

Now... what about breakfast and lunch? Well, I don't really ever make breakfast because we really don't eat breakfast. I keep things on hand, though (and for Maleah, of course). We have waffles, cinnamon rolls, yogurt, frozen biscuits, and eggs available all the time as well as frozen and some fresh fruit. For lunch, we do keep sandwich fixin's on hand, but we also eat a lot of leftovers for lunch. I made bean burritos to freeze and those are an easy go-to lunch, as well (just thaw through the day and heat in the microwave).

Meal planning is a great way to save money and time. I love being able to come home and prepare something quickly so my family can enjoy spending time with each other - not with the pots & pans!!!




Monday, November 25, 2013

Ten Months!

Ten months goes by fast when you're having fun! Maleah turned ten months old this past Friday, and... obviously I'm a little behind getting her monthly update completed!

Stats
I think she's at least 19 pounds and is still about 28 inches tall.
 
 
Schedule
6:45/7 ~ wake up, 6 oz bottle, get ready for the day
8:15/8:30 ~ breakfast (yogurt) and sippy cup of water
10:15 ~ 6 oz bottle
10/10:30 ~ nap
12:15/12:30 ~ lunch (fruit/vegetable) and sippy cup of water
1:30/2 ~ 6 oz bottle
2:30 ~ nap
5:30/6 ~ dinner (table food) with sippy cup of water
7 ~ bath, 6 oz bottle, bed time

...or something like that!
 
 
Eating/Solids
We are transitioning into table food this month. For the past couple of weeks, we've tried to give her mostly table foods as we eat dinner. Some nights, I give her pick-up foods and other nights I spoon-feed her, just depending on what we're having. Lately she's had rice & broccoli, spaghetti, roasted zucchini, chicken tenders & cheese, tacos, and poppy seed chicken, and a Thanksgiving dinner! I have tried to let her eat table foods here and there for the past few months, so it seems to come rather easily to her to chew the food. She's also great about refusing food when her mouth is full, so I don't worry too much about her stuffing her face!!! We are going slow, though, since table food is yet another "unknown" (how much, what she likes/doesn't like, change of schedule, etc.) so we're doing it in stages - stage 1 is table food at dinner, stage 2 is table food at lunch, stage 3 is table food at breakfast. The hardest part for us is learning how to have things that are either easy to make or things that freeze well, since I really don't like to buy a lot of the packaged foods. If you have some great easy go-to toddler meals, PLEASE SHARE!

Activity & Development
The biggest change that has happened recently is the addition of a third tooth (front left)! I finally felt it pop through her gums Sunday evening after what seemed like YEARS of teething symptoms (okay, weeks is more accurate). Maleah is not a fussy teether, thank goodness! I wouldn't have known she was even teething if it hadn't been for the massive amounts of drool she has been collecting on her shirts. A fourth tooth (front right) is also right at the skin and should pop through any day now.

I think Maleah will start standing on her own this month, but I am not sure about seeing the first steps too terribly soon. Over the weekend, she stood independently a few times for 5-10 seconds. She REALLY likes to crawl. That is A-O-K with me!


Maleah has said and UNDERSTOOD her first word. "Bye!" She finally gets why/when we say it and, of course, she waves like crazy.


Other
Now that she's ten months, we are going to start weaning her from the pacifier. Or at least we're going to try! Now that she is cutting more teeth, I really don't think she needs to sleep with it at night much longer. At six months, we started to limit the paci to only nap/bed times (with the occassional use when she's really fussy, teething, or bored and we've run out of other options...). That worked beautifully - she didn't really "need" it aside from those times. So, now I have to figure out how to take it from her at night. I think my first approach will be to let her fall alseep with it, but to go in and remove it from her mouth after she's out. But, I'll leave it in the crib so she can grab it if she wakes up and wants it. If I see that she leaves it out most of the night, that'll make things a lot easier. But, if she continues to wake up with it in her mouth, well... then I'll need to think of what to do next.


Sleeping
For honesty's sake, I think I should reiterate that Maleah DOES NOT sleep 12 hours EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. She is not a baby robot. She mostly sleeps 11-12 hours without any issues, but usually once a week (sometimes more), she will cry out in the night and Blake and I may go in there to give her a hidden paci (crammed between the mattress and bumper, usually) or pat her back... and some nights, like this past Tuesday night (at 2:30 a.m.), she requires some rocking back to sleep. :) That night, in fact, we had to let her "cry it out" to get back to sleep. I rocked her, fed her, patted her, checked her diaper - even brought her to our bed! NOTHING worked - she kept wanting to play or look around rather than go back to sleep. She cried for about five minutes when we put her back in the crib and then she passed out! So, I just wanted to put that out there - she mostly gets good, sound, lengthy sleep. But, she's still a baby and still causes some sleepless nights from time to time. Usually those instances coincide with teething, sickness, or a runaway paci. And sometimes it's just because she's a baby. And some mornings, she also wakes up REALLY early and that's another story entirely!!! Anyway.... I just wanted to clear that up!
 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Christmas Craze

Like most new parents, Blake and I are wondering how to go about "doing" this whole Christmas thing. We've been discussing Christmas traditions long before Maleah ever came along and now it's time to start putting those things into practice. We have made some thoughtful decisions that I hope help teach our children that celebrating Christmas means celebrating Christ. But, don't just read! Share what you're doing, too. I want to hear others' ideas on shifting the focus off of consumerism and back onto the hope of Christ.

Disclaimer: I'm not judging anyone. Let's just get that out there, okay?

Santa
First things first: Blake and I will be the weirdos who don't "do" Santa for our kids. Working in elementary schools totally ruined the whole Santa thing for me. I hated talking (read: lying) to kids about how someone could possibly travel the world in one night, how he could fit down the chimney, and how the Santa's in the malls are just his "helpers". I just hated it. Essentially, we have no problem with the story of the real Saint Nicholas or even about letting our children enjoy the character of Santa Claus. Heck, we already have plans to take her to get her picture made with the jolly old elf! I'm cool with that. I just don't want to get caught up in the lies and stories and all that. Oh, and I especially don't want to play the "bad kids get coal" game because let's face it - the bad kids usually get the best gifts. Santa won't be used as a bribe for good behavior and we won't be writing wish lists to him. I hope my kids won't need therapy for this.

Gifts
Gifts are my love language, so this is what I struggle with most at Christmas. I love to give and to receive. We hope to teach our children that Christmas is a time for giving to others and enjoying what others have given us. I love the "something they want/need/wear/read" thing going around, and we've decided to base our gifts around that. While I can't promise we'll stop at just four presents, we will definitely give our children an assortment of those types of things. We want to avoid the onslaught of random toys that will only hold their attention for a millisecond. That's what grandparents are for, right? :)

Blake and I do exchange gifts, but we set a very modest budget because we usually get money as a gift from our families. Last year, we went shopping together with that money and it was so much fun! We bought some things we had been wanting to better organize our apartment, and we each got something "fun" for ourselves. We loved it!

As far as giving goes, we really want to place an emphasis on enjoying giving to others. We want to do some sort of charitable giving that involves our children each year. I'm sure the means we'll use will change as our children grow, but one idea Blake had that I love is that we have our kids give away items (in good condition) they no longer use/need before Christmas. I love this because I hate keeping things we no longer use/need and it teaches them how to sacrifice for the sake of others. I also like the idea of giving them money to spend as they see fit for those in need.

Advent
I've never really intentionally celebrated Advent at home and I'm really excited about what we're doing this year! My mom is crocheting 25 mini stockings for me to turn into a garland and use as our Advent calendar. This year we'll follow a guide of 25 Scriptures to read each day before Christmas (I'll put the passages in the little stockings). In the future, we'll do more kid-friendly activities that really involve them in the waiting.

I am also looking forward to having our own Advent wreath that we can light each night at dinner. I'll post a picture once I've made it, but my plan is to buy five white pillar candles, pink and purple ribbon (I already have white), and some burlap. I'll wrap purple ribbon around three candles, pink around one, white around another, put them in a circle with a candle in the middle and use the burlap as the "wreath". Easy, inexpensive, and usable!

The Tree
I love the Christmas tree. I also love ornaments. Two years ago, I spent over $100 on ornaments in one day. Yup. Obviously this is a habit I need to get control of FAST! My ornament plan is as follows:
1. Each family member gets one new ornament each year.
2. We make a family ornament each year.
PERIOD, KATIE. PERIOD. (This is gonna be hard. They're so sparkly!!!)

Other Traditions
I love getting new PJ's on Christmas Eve, so I'd like to continue that in our family. Blake and I would like to try to give the PJ's and read the Christmas story before bed on Christmas Eve while drinking hot chocolate. So special! (I am obsessed with hot chocolate, FYI. It WILL be a part of Christmas.)

Before opening presents on Christmas day, I would love for us to light the final Advent candle and spend some time together as a family. Maybe we have breakfast and sing a few carols, read some Scripture, and pray for others before rushing into the living room. I'm really not sure how this will play out since it will still be a few years before Maleah understands what is happening. So, if you have some ideas about how to avoid the OHMYGOSHITSCHRISTMASMORNINGANDTHEREAREPRESENTS mania, please share!!!

That's about all I've got at this point. I'm reading Treasuring God in Our Traditions by Noel Piper and I must say, it is a beautifully written story. I am a person who LOVES traditions and I want to pass those things along to our children and grandchildren, while helping them understand that we do those things because they help us focus on Christ. Please share some of your holiday traditions that help keep the Christmas Craze at a minimum at your house!!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Officially 9 months!

I know I just posted about Maleah at 8 1/2 months but, by golly, I'm her mom and want to post again already! She's 9 months now. This is SUCH a fun age!!! She is no longer a helpless little baby but she's not quite a toddler yet. I LOVE it!!!!
 
Stats
She weighs 18 pounds 5 ounces and is 28 inches long. That puts her in the 25-50th percentile for weight and 50-75th percentile for height.
 
Schedule
6:45/7 ~ wake up, 6 oz bottle, get ready for the day
8:15/8:30 ~ breakfast (oatmeal w/ fruit) and sippy cup of water
9:30/10 ~ 6 oz bottle
10/10:30 ~ nap
12:15/12:30 ~ lunch (veggie or fruit) and sippy cup of water
1:30/2 ~ 6 oz bottle
2:30 ~ nap
5:30/6 ~ dinner (veggie) with sippy cup of water
7 ~ bath, 6 oz bottle, bed time
 
Eating/Solids
We have started making bottles at 6 oz instead of 7 and usually she takes the majority of it. She's still on the low end of what a baby her age "should" be taking in, but she's growing and healthy so I think we're doign just fine! We were also told by her pediatrician NOT TO WORRY ABOUT MEAT. Did you hear that? NO MEAT NECESSARY! Maleah just does not like the puree nastiness so we were given the green light to forego meat for now. Thank the Lord because that stuff SERIOUSLY grosses me out. We will continue to let her nibble on the meat we're eating but we won't be doing the puree stuff ever again. (Anybody wanna buy some jarred meat?? I have a lot...)

Oh, and no more dream feed. She must have been going through a little phase. Funny how things change so quickly.

Activity
Basically Blake thinks our child is the greatest, most developed, smartest, cutest little baby. It's so funny how opposite we are. Obviously I think she's doing great when it comes to hitting those infant milestones, but a lot of babies develop quickly. Maleah is one of them. But Blake... oh man... he could go on for hours about just how amazingly developed she is. Last night he was trying to convince me how straight she can stand up, where other babies tend to lean more. Anyway, yes, she stands up very straight and can stand on her own with minimal help. But she does not stand on her own yet - though it's coming! She has let go a few times and stood on her own for a few seconds, but nothing major. I bought her a push toy yesterday and she has taken a few steps behind it, but she's very timid. I think she'll be standing before 10 months and probably walking before 11 months. I'm happy with her the way she is!

Yesterday, Maleah got her first boo-boo. I'd say we've done pretty well if she just had her first boo-boo at 9 months old! She was playing with the cardboard box her push toy came in and she slipped and one of the flaps scratched her across the stomach. It took me a minute to figure out what happened (I thought maybe she had cut her hand), but once I figured it out I scooped her up in my arms and comforted her. Maleah has never been easy to comfort - she needs to have her little feelings heard and is only satisfied when she is done "telling" you what's wrong. So she cried for a long time in my lap. No amount of lip smacking or raspberry blowing or singing or hugging helped! But, once she was done crying, she happily went back to playing as if nothing ever happened. Lord, help me when she's a teenager.
Maleah has also picked up on a new trick... I don't know how else to explain this except to put it this way: you know how when you make a sound with your mouth and then tap your mouth with your hand and it makes a fun sound? Good, I'm glad you followed that. That is what she has learned how to do last week. Except she hits her mouth with her forearm, not her hand. But she gets the job done and she's super impressed with herself when she does it! She has also started "clapping" - well, at least she hits her hands together. She likes to splash in the tub and - oh yeah - she finally started feeding the puffs to herself. Before, she would literally eat them out of your hand! So cute!

It is completely amazing how quickly she has changed even in just a couple of weeks. I can't believe her first holiday season is quickly approaching as is her first birthday! I just love this sweet little girl and am so proud to be her mom!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What a Weekend Will Do

Every now and then, Blake and I have this amazing weekend that just knocks our socks off. This past weekend was one of them.

Friday night, we had our Sunday School get-together and it was SO fun! Blake & I played charades with about twenty of our closest pals! And ate food. And laughed. And stayed up WAY too late (until 10:30 p.m. - too much, right!?).

When we picked up Maleah from Parents Night Out (like how that coincided with our get-together? Perfectly planned!), she was WIDE AWAKE. At 9:30 p.m. This is the kid who sleeps something fierce, so this was very unusual. Of course, she was out like a light once the car started going. But, when we got her out of the car seat and into some pajamas, she was wound up again. She was still crawling around in her bed at 10:30 when I turned on the sound machine and walked away... I figured, she'll crash eventually.

And, boy, did she crash! Blake and I were up by about 7am, but she was still asleep. So, we let her sleep. While she slept, Blake and I talked about some things we've never really discussed before. We talked about the time when we were both "saved". At length. We discussed points in our lives when we really felt God changing us and how difficult it was to adjust to a new life.

We woke Maleah up at 9 a.m. and fed her while we watched a little Shark Tank. We all got dressed and ready and hopped in the car to go to Birmingham! Aunt Ashley offered some free baby-sitting, so we dropped off the baby and bee-lined for Patton Creek. Blake and I went to lunch at Zoe's where we made decisions about new vehicles (we're not getting one, for the record! Corolla all the way!), discussed how much I love feta cheese, and examined our teeth. Turns out, Blake and I both have crooked bottom teeth that don't line up with the top. I will probably be getting braces in the next few years... ANYWAY.

After lunch, we went to Buy, Buy Baby to buy Maleah a new carseat. (What else do parents do on dates?) This took well over an hour because we have a small car and needed to see the seat in the car before we could purchase. Thankfully, they let us test it out and we wound up with a Chicco NextFit for 30% off. Score!

The car seat purchase led to a quick trip to DSW where Blake "let" me buy some cute shoes. Then we were off to the movies - loaded up with popcorn, a huge Coke, and even huger 3-D glasses for GRAVITY. The movie was amazing!

After the movie, it was time to go get our little girl. She was very happy to see us and we were so happy to see her! She slept during the drive while Blake and I talked about all sorts of different things. He told me stories about his time in Peru and I googled the different animals and places he was telling me about. I learned how to escape the grip of an anaconda. He told me about the different snakes and spiders (I googled them and creeped myself out). And he told me about the time he went over a whirlpool (in a boat) on the Amazon. I didn't have such amazing stories to tell, so I just listened!

Sunday was great, too. We went to church, ran to Wal-Mart after, took a good long nap and just spent some time together as a family.

This past weekend left me feeling refreshed and excited about being married to my amazing husband. We are still learning new things about each other every day and this weekend was full of discoveries!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Maleah at 8 & 9 Months

I forgot to post at 8 months, so we'll just do a combination 8/9 months since Maleah is now 8.5 months. Are you okay with that? Good. Let's get started! :)

Stats
I think she weighs around 18 pounds and I don't even have a clue how long she is! She seems tall but not tall at the same time. All I know is the girl has some chunky, chunky thighs!!! I love 'em!

Schedule
6:30 ~ wake up, 7 oz bottle, get ready for the day
8:15 ~ breakfast (oatmeal and a little fruit) with sippy cup of water
9:30/10 ~ 6 oz bottle
10:30 ~ nap
12:15 ~ lunch (fruit or veggie) with sippy cup of water
1:30/2 ~ 6 oz bottle
2:30 ~ nap
5:30/6 ~ dinner (veggie) with sippy cup of water
7 ~ bath, 7 oz bottle, bed time

Of course she doesn't follow this to a "T" every day. I am much less regimented about her "schedule" now that she's older because she's a little more predictable, so going 30 minutes one way or the other doesn't seem to shake her little rhythm as much as it used to. And, she's at home 4 days a week and at school 3 days a week and the two can never be exactly the same!

Eating/Solids
We realized Maleah wasn't taking as much formula as usual, so we stopped trying to force it down her throat! We were trying to give her five seven-ounce bottles a day. Usually she'd take 4-5 ounces, then we'd try to convince her about an hour later to finish off the bottle. It wasn't happening. So, I looked online (thank you Internet!) and realized that 35 oz/day was on the high end of the scale. We started giving her two seven-ounce bottles and two five- or six-ounce bottles instead. That has worked wonderfully! She gets the exact same amount she was before, except we aren't chasing her around with a bottle all day! I am starting to try to make her purees thicker and also let her try more table food. She doesn't seem to like purees with chunks but she'll eat purees and she'll eat bites of food. But mix the two together and she'll projectile vomit everywhere! It's awesome! :) Some new things she's tried recently: corn, baked potato, butternut squash, and Greek chicken. She is starting to like the sippy cup more - I'd say she might drink an ounce of water at each meal.

OH!!! I can't believe I'm about to type this, but we are totally having to do a dream feed again! Not every night, but some nights she won't take her night time bottle. And when she doesn't take her night time bottle, she wakes up like a crazy person in the middle of the night! This makes me think she doesn't get enough formula during the day, but we can't force the kid to take any more than she already does. Little tummy, just like mama.

Activity
Maleah has been pulling up on things for a few weeks now and it's clear to see she prefers standing to sitting! She cruises a little, but not much. Her favorite new thing is to climb over obstacles. My legs, Blake's face, a cardboard box... she seems to love a challenge! This has also meant she's taken a few dives head-first into the floor, but she seems to like that part, too! Lately I honed in on what sounds she can make after reading about the consonants babies her age should be able to pronounce. She makes sounds with: D, B/P, M (Ma-ma-ma-ma!), and most recently - G. I love listening to her "talk"!

Personality
This kid. She is so funny to watch. She likes people, but she is still just so shy and reserved. And she puts her little bottom lip under the top and gets this serious look about her when she's deep in thought or trying to figure someone/something out.

Other (You might need Kleenex...)
Last night, I was rocking Maleah before bed and we were playing with her pacifier. She thinks it's so funny when I put the paci in my mouth and try to keep it from her. Then she was hitting me in the face with it, which was even more hysterical to her! And then this little moment happened. She was playing with the pacifier in her own mouth and just started staring into my eyes. It took me back to the first time I held her and she looked straight into my eyes. Each time I look into those little baby blues, I remember what a gift God has given me in Maleah. I mentioned in my last post that I have had problems with my reproductive organs for many years. At 15, I had endometriosis and had surgery to remove the spots. At 16, a doctor told me I would have difficulty conceiving. At 23, I was told I had PCOS. So becoming pregnant with Maleah and having a healthy pregnancy are not things I take for granted, ever. And now that I only have one ovary, I treasure these little moments with her even more because I have no idea what the future holds for growing our family. But what I know now is that God gave me this sweet little girl and I don't want to let the little moments slip away. (You can cry now!)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Comps, Surgery, Santa Rosa

The past three weeks have been absolutely nuts-o in the Ball household. Scratch that - the past three months have been nuts-o in the Ball household. We moved, we changed daycare schedules, Blake took comps, I had surgery, Maleah started sprouting teeth...

Really, I'm complaining about nothing. Things haven't been that bad - just different. And this coming week, Blake is going to California for nine days - right after I just had abdominal surgery! We're crazy.

Comps
Blake's PhD comps started the last week of August and ended this past Friday. Anyone who has not lived through this has truly not lived! Comps are every bit as awful as they sound. It's just a terrible time for the whole family because the person taking comps, in our case - Blake, becomes a different person. He was staying up late at night, constantly worried, constantly reading, easily frustrated, etc. I feel like I earned a PhD, too, because somehow I managed to stay relatively sane during all of it, as well. But, comps are over and now all my husband has to do is write a small book, have it approved, and get a job! Yay! We are praying that he will be able to secure a job for Fall 2015. Praying!

Surgery
On Monday, I had surgery to remove an ovarian cyst. The cyst turned out to be a teratoma (google it, it's really gross!) that had caused damage to my ovary, so my ovary also had to be removed. The surgery was laparoscopic so the damage isn't too extensive, but it has definitely been painful! This is the second surgery I have had like this, so I was a little nervous going in. At 16, I had my appendix removed and while they were in there, they also found that I had endometriosis and removed those adhesions. So, naturally, having a second surgery on my reproductive organs was unnerving. My doctor said that everything looked great, though. She did see some spots of endometriosis, but nothing concerning and she actually left those spots where they were because they have not caused any problems.

Santa Rosa
Blake is leaving tomorrow to go to California on a research trip. Yay for him. That means Maleah and I will be roughin' it (literally, since I still am not "allowed" to pick her up). Thankfully we have help lined up all week and I will just enjoy the time with my sweet girl and our helpful friends and family! Blake wanted me to be able to go on this trip with him because he went by himself last year. After having to use a lot of my PTO for sick time (for me and Maleah) since January, we decided that I should stay home and save up my PTO. Well... now I'm using all my precious PTO to heal from surgery but... WHATEVER! I will get to go to Santa Rosa eventually!

That's about it for us. I haven't blogged in so long and for that, I'm sorry. I promise to get back to it. But I am running out of topics other than my boring life. So if anyone has anything they'd like me to discuss, let me know! You name it, I'll write about it!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

7 Months



Stats
At her very first sick appointment at the doctor last week (summer cold), Maleah weighed 15 pounds 14 ounces and was 26 inches long (up from 15 lbs 1 oz at 6 months). I can tell those ounces have landed in her belly & thighs. :) And, for the record, she had her first official cold. She has had congestion and she has had fevers post-shots, but never both together. She was sickly for about five days, then the fever went away, and then the congestion lasted another 5-7 days. Thankfully it wasn't TOO bad... except for one night when her fever spiked and she woke up every hour from 11:15-4am. :) And I still went to work the next day!!!

Schedule 
We had another month of transition since Maleah started a new daycare class, but we're finally settling back into a routine. She is now only going to daycare three days a week so we've been trying to figure out what those days will be like so we can keep a similar routine on the days she's home. Lately her days have been something like this:

6:45/7 - solids & bottle
9:45-11 - nap
11:15/11:30 - solids & bottle
12:45-2 - nap
3:15/3:30 - bottle
4-6 - somewhere in there she takes a 30-45 minute nap 
6 - solids & some water
7/7:15 - bath, bottle, bed-time!
7:30 - nighty night!

Eating/Solids
Maleah now takes 7 ounces in her bottles and eats 1-1.5 containers of store-bought baby-food or 4 cubes of the homemade stuff. Some of the new things she's tried over the past month: strawberries, blueberries, plums, mango, and potatoes. I have learned what I feel comfortable making and what I do not - mostly I stick to making squash, zucchini, apricots, plums, pears, avocado, carrots, and sweet potato. I buy the rest! I also learned to buy unsweetened applesauce instead of the baby-food variety - lots cheaper and just as good! She still loves rice crackers and from time to time I'll give her a piece of produce to gnaw on, as well. We still haven't tried meat because the thought of pureed meat still just totally grosses me out. But we might try it next month. Okay, we probably won't! Oh, and the holding-her-own-bottle was a fleeting thing because now she practically refuses (okay with me!). 

Activity
Those of you who follow my Facebook feed already know Maleah is crawling! We are pretty shocked with this because I didn't think it'd happen for another few weeks. She had been getting up on all fours for a couple of weeks, but she'd just rock back and forth. Then, last week, she'd take a couple of moves and then collapse. And on Saturday, she just went for it! She is still very methodical and robotic when she crawls which is just the funniest thing to watch. But I'm impressed that she wants to move so much! I think she's impressed with herself, too, because she likes to practice A LOT! 

She has also been "talking" a lot and has a fancy for "Ma-ma-ma-ma-ma". I think she understands what she's saying, of course science and Blake tells us she probably doesn't. But, who knows? She certainly says it a lot when I'm around! 

Personality
Maleah is a fun-loving little girl, but it's easy to see that she is a little timid and cautious. It's so funny to be with her at home and hear her squeal and yelp and laugh, but then to be "shy" in front of others. She does get warmed up though - she was partyin' it up with our Sunday School class this past weekend! I wonder how this will play out as she gets older - will she be bashful or will she be more outgoing? Who knows. I like her just the way she is!

Note: Please ignore any formatting issues on this post. I really don't care to go back in and fix them!!!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Happy [Half] Birthday!

Y'all, I cannot believe I am writing this. I almost don't want to write it because if I write it, it's true: Maleah is six months old! Six months! SIX MONTHS! To say this time has flown by is a gross understatement. I know every parent says this. But when it's your first time to see this happen right before your eyes, it is truly amazing. Anyway, let me climb back down to reality!

Still not into smiling for pictures...


Stats
Maleah weighs 15 pounds 1 ounce and is 26 inches long! She is in the 30th percenile for weight and 50th for height. She has officially doubled her birth weight - finally!!!

Schedule
The past month has been a little weird because we went on vacation and moved. So, we're trying to get back into something more predictable. She seems to be moving towards going 4 hours between feedings, so we're just letting her lead the way there! She goes back and forth - she'll go 4 hours one day and then only 3 the next. We're not pushing anything, just letting her tell us when she's hungry. So, I can't really give a sample schedule we haven't totally kept one this past month! We are trying to move to something like this:

7am - solids & bottle
9-10 - nap
10:30/11 - bottle then solids (for fun ~ gum on rice crackers, fruit, etc. - not a full solids feeding yet)
12:30-1:30 - nap
2:30/3 - bottle
4-5 - nap
5:30 - solids & 2-3 oz formula
7:30 - bath, bottle, bedtime (usually in bed by 8)

The evening nap is still a touch-and-go thing - some days she needs to sleep around 6:15/6:30 and some days she doesn't. We just keep playing it by ear!

Eating/Solids
Maleah takes 5-6 ounces per bottle, usually. She is a good eater and really likes different flavors and textures of food! So far, she has tried: avocado, banana, apples, pears, peaches (which she does not like!), apricot, prunes, sweet peas, green beans, zucchini, carrots, sweet potato, and squash. We have also let her try watermelon, which she really enjoyed! In coming weeks, I hope to let her try: asparagus, blueberries, plums, and maybe meat. The meat thing grosses me out - I refuse to puree it. If we let her try it, I will just let her gnaw on it! Now that she is six months, I am going to try to let her gnaw on more foods more often - this morning I let her gum a large piece of apple - she loved it! Oh, did I mention she LOVES water and likes to hold her own cup/bottle!? She doesn't hold the bottle for too long - just during random bouts of independence!






Activity
She can sit up fairly well on her own, which really happened so quickly! The daycare ladies told us they let her sit up to play for a while one morning and we were like, "What???". We hadn't seen her hold herself up - but this is probably because we only had her in the evenings when she was tired. So this weekend, that's all we did - practice sitting up! She still needs the Boppy around her if she's sitting for a long period of time because she leans too far, but she'll learn! She also gets up on all fours and "crawls" backwards. She gets really frustrated that she is going the opposite way of what she wanted, but she'll learn! She loves to grasp onto things, too - her favorites being my earrings, necklaces, and our phones! Quite possibly our favorite new development is that she will lean towards you if she wants you to hold her. Blake & I passed her back and forth about a dozen times one night because she would lean towards us! So cute. She's a very noisy baby, too - once she gets warmed up, she will blow raspberries or "roar" or just let out a good squeal! Love it!




(Please ignore all the mess surrounding her - we are still unpacking!)

Personality
Maleah seems to be a teency bit bashful, but once she opens up, it's hard to get her to settle down! Sound like anyone we know? (Me!) She loves to be active, but can sit through a book or two (and likes to help flip the pages). I can't wait to see how her personality develops in the coming months as she becomes more active!
We are loving this little girl! Today she had a little shots-hangover from her doctor's appointment yesterday, so I spent the morning with her. It becomes more and more difficult to let her go each day because she is so precious and I just love spending time with her. She is a joy, for sure, and we are so grateful for her!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ways to Prevent the Unthinkable

We have all  heard story after story of a child's accidental death after being left in a car. And we wonder, how does this happen? How can someone forget their most prized posession - their child? My heart breaks for those families because I am certain none of them forgot their child on purpose. When stories of these horrible accidents come out, they make me panic a little - especially now that I have a child of my own. I am a creature of habit - take me out of my routine and I become extremely forgetful, even with important tasks.  Yesterday's news made me start to wonder, what are some ways we can prevent this from happening to us? None of these are 100% fool-proof, but here are ten tips that I realized Blake and I already have in place to help keep this tragedy from happening to our family.

I thought of a few, but I am also interested to hear from you!

1. Keep your purse/backpack/phone in the rear seat.
Keep something near the car seat that you always take in with you wherever you go. This way, even if you are doing something out of the ordinary (like going somewhere you usually don't take your child), you will remember the item and, therefore, see your child.

2. Have an accountability system.
In terms of daycare, Blake does the dropping-off and I do the picking-up. Blake is starting to text me in the mornings to say he dropped off Maleah at daycare. If he hasn't texted by 8:15 (they usually arrive around 8:00), I can text him to make sure he got her there. Do this with anyone who drives your child around - a grandparent, aunt/uncle, friends. It's not that you don't trust them - but year after year as these stories come out, we see how easily someone can forget. It's just an added measure of safety. You can also ask your child care provider to call if your child doesn't show up for school.

3. Take the car seat out.
We only have one car seat and two bases. Since Blake drops off and I pick up, we have to leave the car seat at daycare and take it out when we get home. Always taking out the car seat means we always take out the baby. This helps on those busy routine mornings/afternoons. And we know if we have the car seat in our car, something's fishy.

4. Don't stray from your routine.
Try not to make last-minute decisions before taking your child to daycare or after picking them up. Many of these accidental deaths revolve around a parent/guardian going somewhere before/after daycare on a whim. Run your errands after drop-off or before pick-up if you can. If you are planning to do something out of the ordinary, go back to Tip #2. Tell someone where you are going and when. Have them call or text you to make sure you are where you were supposed to be and that you have the baby with you.

5. Get a forward-facing seat.
As soon as your pediatrician agrees (some say 1-year, others say 2), get the forward-facing seat. Obviously this still isn't fool proof, but have you ever seen the rear-facing seats for older children? Honestly I am not sure how safe they are because you can't really see over the top of them from the driver's seat. So if you can't see the child, I'm sure it is easy to forget they are there - especially if they are quiet or asleep. The new "official" recommendation is two years so I am not recommending anyone do this any earlier, but many pediatricians will say it is okay to turn the seat at an earlier age - particularly depending on the child's weight.

6. Put the car seat in the center of the backseat or behind the passenger's side.
For whatever reason, some people put their child's car seat behind the driver's seat. I am sure they have valid reasons, but I am not sure it is a good idea. If the car seat is somewhere where you can see it as you are turning around or looking in the rear-view mirror, you will more than likely realize you have your child with you.

7. Use mirrors so you can see the baby.
We have a mirror set up in my car so I can see Maleah's face in my rear view mirror. We haven't yet set up one in Blake's car, but need to ASAP - especially after yesterday's story! Being able to see them is key!

8. Keep an item in your car that reminds you of the baby.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website has many, many more great ideas. One I hadn't even considered was to keep a toy or other item in your car that reminds you of your child. Place a stuffed animal in the car seat and when you put the child in the seat, put the stuffed animal in the passenger's seat along with your things. When you get to your destination and begin to gather your items, you'll notice the toy and the child.

9. Call 9-1-1 immediately if you notice a child left in an unattended car.
In many states, it is illegal to leave your child in an unattended car for any length of time. Did you hear that? Illegal. Even if it isn't illegal, injury or death to a child left will result in prosecution. If you see a child and do not report it and the child is injured or dies, you can also be held responsible. In addition to calling 9-1-1-, you can also go into the place of business where the car is parked and ask for an announcement to be made so the driver can get the child quickly. Or stand by the car for a few minutes to see if the driver is nearby. A few years ago, I went to a gas station with Arnold (our dog) and left him in the car while I ran inside. It wasn't terribly hot  and I was nervous about leaving him, but I knew I would literally only be inside for a few minutes. When I came out, two women were standing by my car giving me these nasty looks. It was awkward and, honestly, I felt a little offended. But I appreciated what they were doing and understood their concern. I would hope someone would do the same should the unthinkable happen and I leave a child in the car.

10. NEVER leave a baby/child in an unattended car - EVER.
Practice makes perfect, right? If you are in the habit of always taking your child out of the car, then that will become your habit. Just like locking your doors or turning off your headlights becomes habit. Don't even think that leaving the car running is a good option. If you are going to be away from your car for any period of time, take your child with you. It is a hassle, yes. But it is worth it.