Saturday, January 31, 2009

Baby's First Walk

Since bringing Topher home from the hospital in late October, it's been too cold to take him out, or he's been too little and we were afraid of exposing him to too many germs. Which has meant for us many days, weeks, and months of being very cooped up. Sure, we've taken him into town and run him from the car into Walmart a few times, but it's a pain to bundle him up in his coat, buckle him into his seat, and stuff blankets all around him while hoping he doesn't have a breakdown in the middle of grocery shopping. Today the high was 40, which feels like a heat wave compared to the minus 45 degree weather we had a couple weeks ago. And since it's a Saturday and we were all home together, we decided to try out his all-terrain stroller. So we put him into his hoodie outfit, then into his coat, then buckled him into the stroller, then tucked 2 blankets tightly around him. We didn't want him getting sick, after all. And then we had our first walk...all the way down the block to the post office and back. Topher did great, didn't make a peep, and seemed to enjoy looking around. It sounds like a small thing, but it's really the first time we have purposefully taken him outside for any length of time. I have a feeling that, come Spring, we'll pound the pavement a lot with that stroller. And at least if he does have a breakdown, we won't be standing at the checkout line with the checkout lady saying, "Hang in there, mom and dad" and everyone within earshot cringing at the sound of our baby's lungs exploding. (Yes, that really did happen at Target a couple weeks ago but we had to purchase that Transformer for TJ--sorry, I mean for Topher--before we could take our wild child out to the car.) I'm bundled up and ready to go! I really am in here somewhere... Mommy strolling baby down the street. There's our house behind that big tree: This is different, but I don't hate it. Who's driving this thing, anyway? And here we are strolling in "downtown" Cambridge: We can't wait until it's warm enough to just throw a t-shirt and diaper on Topher and go jogging together. It will cut down on the loading/unloading time, anyway. But for now, we're just happy to have the weather warm up enough to introduce Topher to a little something called fresh air. --KC

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The carpet is in!

The carpet guys said it would take 2 days, but they finished everything today. We've been wearing shoes downstairs in our house for so long now that it's hard to break the habit. It smells so nice and new and it's all soft under our feet...it's wonderful. I know there's still a lot left to do. I know we still need to tile the entryway and bathroom, put in a pedestal sink, put doors back in the doorways, and finish the trim work. But this carpet, more than anything so far, feels like we're finally getting to the end of the work. Yay for carpet!
Here's the entryway and view looking downstairs before the carpet guys came:
The carpet arrives and has to come in through the window because it is so long:
The tack strips are nailed down and the carpet pad is rolled out (I make the mistake of saying it looks pretty because, well, anything looks better than dusty concrete and the carpet guys say they could leave it this way--yikes): And finally, the finished product: It won't be long before we're up and running again and able to house guests, even if it is just on an air mattress. At least if you roll off the mattress, you'll land on soft, clean carpet. --KC

He did it!

Every single night before we go to bed I say, "Maybe this will be the night that Topher will sleep all night." And I say it with a smile because it's a joke but I figure eventually it has to be true. Last night it WAS true--he did it! He had an incredibly fussy evening and cried for a couple hours and finally, finally fell asleep just before 8pm (when I was at my wit's end, by the way.) Then he faked me out a few times during the night making noises and sounding like he was starting to stir. But I only had to go into his room once to move him back to the middle of the crib (he likes to scoot himself all the way to the top so his head is pushing up against the bars) and I told myself I wouldn't pick him up unless he actually made a cry. And that didn't happen until TJ's alarm went off just after 5am. That's about 9.5 hours of sleep! We are so excited. And it only took us 14 weeks to get to this point, which, in all honesty, has seemed an entire lifetime. But the very very best part was that when I took him out of bed this morning to change his diaper, he was actually smiling at me. It was like he was proud of himself! Usually he's crying because he's so hungry. And he did start whining near the end of the diaper change but at least he had some smiles for me first. Today is a very exciting day for another reason. Seven months after the flood destroyed our home, we're getting carpet put back into the lower level of the house. When I think about all the work that has gone into our house in order to get to this point, I'm amazed. There was the pumping out of the nasty flood water (twice, since the house filled back up the first time), the removal of all our ruined possessions, the gutting out of our walls, floors, insulation, absolutely anything and everything that came close to touching the water, the sanitizing of every exposed surface (did I mention that there were worms everywhere?), cleaning of the air ducts, replacement of the appliances, and re-wiring of all electrical outlets, the professionals coming in to rebuild all our walls and put in new insulation, the painting of of all the new wall surfaces (which TJ and his dad did themselves) and the trimming of the floorboards (again which TJ and his dad started and TJ finished by himself). Just looking back at the pictures is a little traumatizing for us. Again, I can't think of a natural disaster that is more cruel than a flood (mostly because it's the only disaster that insurance completely ignores). However, we have been extremely blessed during this whole process. There was a time we thought we would have to foreclose or file for bankruptcy, so we have come a very long way with a LOT of help. The carpet will make our home usable again, and it symbolizes a lot of hard and dirty work thus far. It's a 2-day job, but I'll post updated pictures as the work is completed. --KC

Friday, January 23, 2009

Shutter Bug

I know people always say that you go camera crazy with your first child, but I'm out of control. In the 13 weeks of Topher's life, I've created 37 albums on Dotphoto, many with hundreds of pictures. But I'm so glad we have all of those, because it's already getting hard to remember how tiny he started. I've been looking through some of them this morning and even though it has happened very gradually, Topher really is changing a lot. Take, for instance, his first bath. He was a tiny, red, screaming little wiggleworm. Then this morning when we gave him a bath he was chubby, content, and even gave us a smile when it was over. Here's the Topher of old (these pictures make me so sad!)... And here's Topher this morning (much better!)... What a difference! I'm so glad we've been (well, I've been) so diligent in taking zillions of pictures. Topher, you're growing up so well and we're so proud of you! P.S Ryan and Katie, we love the new frog towel, thank you so much!! --KC

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Few of My Favorite (baby) Things...

Warning: this post probably won't be remotely interesting if you don't have kids yet (and maybe not even if you DO have kids, haha). This is just how bored and cooped up I am at the moment. I need to get out. I know this about myself. So babies come with a lot of stuff. In cleaning up the house today, I noticed that Topher, small as he is, has taken over. There are mountains of baby clothes, brightly colored toys in every room, and so many baby-oriented gadgets that I wonder how the pioneers ever survived with just a cradle and a blanket. So I'm making a list of our baby must-haves: 1) Angelcare monitor. This one is #1 because it's awesome. It's a monitor that goes under Topher's mattress and has 2 hand units that we keep in our bedroom and in the kitchen. Not only is it a regular sound monitor, but it detects movement as well. It's so sensitive that it knows when he's breathing. And if it ever goes 15 seconds without detecting any movement whatsoever, it'll give a warning beep. Another 5 seconds of no movement and it will sound an alarm. It has gone off a few times, but it has always been because he has scooted himself off the sensor pad. And with battery backup in case of power failure, it has really given us enough peace-of-mind to sleep well at night without going in and checking to see that he's breathing every few minutes. We love it. I vote it the best baby invention ever. 2) Diaper Champ. There's a variety of diaper-disposing cans out there, but I love this one because you can load it with regular trash bags instead of having to buy expensive refills. It's kind of fun, too. You just throw the diaper in the top, flip the handle, and it disappears. Very handy, keeps the changing station clean and fresh. 3) Baby Trend car seat/stroller combo. I spent months choosing this set. Literally, months. I read reviews, compared models, tested them out in stores...I was so serious about getting it right. At first I thought I would need a couple strollers in order to get everything I wanted. It seemed like I would need a travel system (which is a car seat and stroller that snap together so you don't have to take the baby out of the seat if he's sleeping), and a separate jogging stroller for helping me get back in shape. Anyway, after much research, I finally found a jogging stroller that was ALSO a travel system. And best of all, it has a front wheel that swivels (for maneuvering through stores and malls) and locks (for jogging without having the stroller change direction every time it hits a rock or crack in the road.) People at my work were highly annoyed by my constant research on the stroller, but I'm so happy I took the time to get the right one. And it gets a lot of compliments! 4) Rainforest mobile. Even though we just got this at Christmas, I don't know how we lived without it. Topher has "happy time" every morning where he'll just gaggle and coo and kick his legs at the mobile while it plays music and jungle sounds. It's how I get my shower in, or house cleaning, or laundry, whatever else done that needs to be done. He'll stay entertained for a good 20 minutes or so before his squeals start sounding a little more like cries and he'll need to be picked up again. And the best part is that every single day he acts so surprised, like he's never seen it before. It's adorable, and anything that makes my baby smile like that is well worth it. 5) Changing pad covers. I gave birth to a little pee monster, and he loves to pee on us. When we first brought him home, he would try to get us at every single changing. So instead of having a big mess to clean up, we'd just whisk away the old waterproof pad and throw on a new one. Luckily, he's learning to control himself a little better, and we hardly ever have to change it anymore. But for a while there, those pads were lifesavers. 6) Well-stocked diaper bag. This one probably goes without saying, but it's peace-of-mind on the road and I LOVE being prepared. Our bag always has the following: 2 changes of clothes, several diapers and wipes, pacifier, a few toys, extra formula, diaper rash cream, nail clippers, nail file, ear thermometer, nose bulb sucker, bottle of water (for mixing formula powder into when we're in the car or in a store), and a bottle. 7) Pacifier. Mam Pacifier to be exact. The hospital sent us home with 3 different kinds and Topher didn't like any of them except for the Mam. He's actually not dependent on it at all and will usually spit it out before he goes to sleep or as soon as he's happy enough without it, but it's nice to have when he's just a little fussy and needs some soothing. 8) Bottle and Formula. Breastfeeding turned out to be more difficult than I imagined (and yes, I took a breastfeeding class before the birth, met with lactation consultants in the hospital, met with a specialized lactation consultant later on, and saw my personal doctor, but we just couldn't make it work and after 8 weeks we started weaning Topher.) Anyway, this is probably my most favorite invention because it turned our baby experience from one of frustration and pain into one that felt do-able. Topher had gained one pound in the course of a month on breastfeeding alone. Then, once we started formula, he gained over 2.5 lbs in exactly 2 weeks! It was like his body was desperate for the added calories and he was saying, "Look mom, this is how much I've been wanting to grow and I just couldn't." Honestly, our entire family has been MUCH happier since switching. And I was incredibly stubborn about it. I know all the benefits of breast milk and I was dead set on sticking with it. But when you start crying every time your baby needs to eat, and when you have plugged ducts every other day that make wearing a shirt hurt (let alone letting a hungry child go to town) you know something has got to change. And he did have breast milk for a solid 8 weeks, so hopefully he got the antibodies he needed to start off with a healthy immunity. And hey, I did my best. 9) Microwave sterilizer. Look on the instructions for any product that touches a baby's mouth and it will say to boil it first to make sure it's clean. Well call me lazy, but I'm not one to drag out the big pot and boil bottles and pacifiers. Plus it discolors a lot of items. So my mom got me this microwave sterilizer and all you do is throw the stuff in, add a little water to the bottom, and stick it in the microwave for 5 minutes. Voila, sterilization by steam. I love it. I use it on his pacifiers whenever we've dropped them on the floor somewhere germy. I know you can't keep germs away from your baby forever, nor should you try, but I'd rather know that he's not sucking on something that fell on the Target parking lot. So there we go...all the things that are helping to make our baby-rearing a little more convenient and enjoyable. Does anyone have a #10 they would add to the list? --KC

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Johnston's Come To Iowa

After a busy and often trying last couple of weeks, and after we all had our own experience with a nagging cold that's worked its way through our family, we were paid a most welcome visit from our friends Ryan and Katie. The two were anxious to meet our newest family addition, and in doing so became the first of our Mizzou friends to see Topher. After a morning of making the house as immaculate as it's been in several months, we were able to enjoy lunch with Ryan and Katie, which Macie did an excellent job of preparing (I put together a pretty mean samich bar, myself).
We all spent the afternoon admiring Topher and all his funny cold-amplified snorts. Although Ryan and Katie were quickly in agreement that Topher is the most adorable infant ever to drool on Earth, I have a feeling they found the visit to be a useful form of birth-control. Definitely not making it a bad experience, but a very valuable one, not unlike when Macie and I would visit her numerous nieces and nephews in Kansas City when we were a newly-married couple. What a remarkable experience it was to visit a baby, and then be able to leave it with its parents and resume a normal adult life.
After lots of sitting and chatting, we were able to leave Topher with Grandpa and Grandma and drive into Ames. The four of us ate at Olde Main Brewery, which was the evening out with friends that both Macie and I needed. Ryan and Katie stayed at a hotel in Ankeny, not a bad plan considering our 1:30am and 5:00 am morning feedings; and joined us the following morning for breakfast. All and all, it was a very fun time (had by us at least). We really do enjoy hosting friends and hope to have many more visitors as Topher grows older and sleeps longer :)
Thank you Ryan and Katie for making the trip up to see us. We enjoyed your time, stories and of course Katie, your candy most of all... j/k :) Definitely will be our turn to buy dinner when we make our next trip to K.C., Tomfooleries (sp?) on us.
-T.J.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Clark Circus

Since the baby came, we haven't given enough attention to our family of pets, so this post is dedicated to all our furry creatures. First and foremost is our "little" girl, Sassymuffin (Sassy, for short.) TJ bought her for me when he was living in Oregon, and he definitely picked the right one out of a litter of 11. She's 125 lbs of loveable-ness. Although she's 4 1/2 years old, people still ask if she's a puppy. We think it's because she stayed so gangly, with a bouncy step and more energy than we expected from a St. Bernard. We also thought a Saint would be a little--how shall I put it?--thick in the skull. "Dum, duh, dum, I'm a big dog." But she's not. She has always been incredibly sharp, the star student of her puppy class (although we think she has conveniently "forgotten" all the manners she learned back then.) Her list of tricks include sit, stay, down, speak (loud bark), whisper (small puff of air with little sound), shake, high-5, dance, kisses, and hug. Her hugs are the best. If you love dogs, that is. Big dogs that wrap one massive arm around you. She's been great with Topher, just ignoring him for the most part. Her one big flaw is her hair, which is always shedding. We like to say that she's leaving little pieces of love everywhere she goes. Literally, everywhere. But those big brown eyes are really impossible to get mad at, and we have a vacuum after all. Squash the Persian joined our family the day after Sassy turned 2, and the shelter said she was 2 years old too. We're not cat people, but we think they are strange and funny enough to share our home with one. We chose Squash because the minute we saw her flattened face (which won her the name "Squash") and botched "poodle" haircut, we couldn't stop laughing. She and Sassy had a rough first meeting (she hissed, Sassy ran), but since day 2 they have been best friends. We'll find them snuggled up together or Squash will come and rub her face all over Sassy's or sometimes, as Sassy is walking by, Squash will reach out a paw and bat her on the head. She's been totally nonchalant since we brought Topher home. If anything, she's become more friendly since she doesn't get quite as much attention. She does enjoy the baby's toys, though, and will watch intently whenever I dangle anything over Topher. I thought she was particularly clever when she learned how to work the rattle ball on the new jungle gym Topher got for Christmas (see video below): video Truman is last in the furry lineup. Because of his natural musk, he lives in the lower level of the house. He has been de-scented (like a pet skunk), but he still has a certain "perfume" he likes to wear. We've had him the longest. We bought him when we were in college in Columbia, MO as a precursor to getting a dog. He's a funny creature. We were in a pet store once and there was a large clear bin of ferrets and I reached in to pet them and they started biting me, hard. That surprised me to no end because Truman has never bitten anything or anyone, but I guess that's the exception when it comes to ferrets. Apparently most of them are quite bitey and we just got a super-nice one. Truman is curious, clumsy, mischievous, and a thief. If he comes across a trashcan, he'll jump up, hang on the edge, and wait for it to fall over on himself. Then he'll start digging through. If he comes across a cup, he'll tip it over, full or not, and help himself to your drink. Once he came across a candy bowl with Hershey's kisses in it and couldn't resist that shiny foil. He grabbed one and ran away, looking for somewhere safe to stash his treasure. On our move from Oregon back to Iowa, he stayed in our hotel room and we lost him. We roamed the halls and tried to look innocent as we kept passing the front desk but he was gone for good. Until we opened the hotel room's dresser drawer. There was a spare pillow in there and he had curled up and gone to sleep (he must have crawled in from underneath and behind the drawer.) He yawned and blinked up at us like, "What?" It was pretty funny. It sounds like it would be hard to have a newborn in addition to all the pets, but we wouldn't have it any other way. We also have a ball python, Sheila, who's very calm and easy to care for, but she obviously doesn't connect with people like the mammals do. I always say this is what happens when two Animal Science majors get married. And this is tame for us. In the past we've had a rabbit, a multitude of rats, a couple hamsters, several attempts at fish, hermit crabs, a few parakeets, and 2 high-maintenance guinea pigs. Topher will always have animals around. We like to keep things spicy here. --Macie