Wednesday, May 18, 2016

That Moment

There is a thing in the life of infants they call the 9 month sleep regression, or sometimes the 8-10 month sleep regression, based on when it's likely to hit. It's pretty consistent, consistent enough to have a name and a number of websites dedicated to helping sleep-deprived parents through it so, if you have an infant, you're probably going to experience this. It tends to be a drastic change in sleep patterns; for one example, the baby who once slept through the night and self-soothed like a champ can no longer do either. It is important to note that this phase is just a phase - so they say - and, while it can last days or weeks, it is going to end.

Elora seems to have hit her 9 month sleep regression. She used to sleep wonderfully: nurse for a bit (or a while) and then I put her in the crib and she's down for the next 8-10 hours pretty solidly. Now, she nurses for a bit (or a while) and wakes up immediately as I try to set her in the crib. If I do put her down (and, let's face it, I do), she will sit up, grab onto the rail of the crib, hoist herself onto her feet, and reach for me zombie-like, all while screaming at the top of her lungs. There's no getting back from this. She'll lean over the rail in exhaustion before lying down when we all know she would fall asleep if she just lied down. She wants to be held, rocked, cuddled, maybe nurse some more, but do not, for the love of cats and little fishes and your sanity, put her down. Sometimes, don't even sit or attempt to lie down yourself, because she'll scream bloody murder for that too.  And we're fast learning that what worked one night to eventually get her to sleep won't work the next night.

Last night was rough. I put her in her crib and she woke up screaming. We nursed some more and I was finally able to get her in the crib without waking her up. It took me a good 20 minutes to sneak out of the room, praying that the floor, my ankle, the door wouldn't creak and wake her up (it has happened before). She slept about four hours in this attitude before waking up, standing up, being inconsolable. The previous night, my husband brought her downstairs and slept on the couch, where she could be held all night. This time, after some fuss and bother, he brought her into our bedroom. She woke up when he climbed into bed with her, but was happy to see me nearby and settled on me to sleep. I did not really have a cozy night in that position (an old back injury necessitates quite a lot of moving to keep me comfortable and pain-free in the night) though I had all the baby snuggles I could want. And she did sleep, which is what we all really needed in the end. My sleep and my husband's sleep doesn't matter nearly as much.

In the morning, but before any of us was ready to wake up, she adjusted her position and I adjusted mine. She sighed and I looked into that sweet, sleeping, gently smiling face.

It's all for That Moment.

Whatever we, as parents, must endure so she gets a few precious hours of sleep is worth it for that one moment when she stretches, wiggles into a new position, and that tiny little smile forms across her sleeping visage. That Moment.

Friday, May 13, 2016

More Breast Milk Beads

At the risk of blogger TMI: I was convinced a month ago that my breastfeeding days are nearing their end. I'm disappointed because the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for a year at least and Elora is just nine months. We'll be supplementing with formula these last few months since I can't just will my body to produce more milk. A month ago when I started writing this post, I didn't think we would make it another month. I'm still hanging on, but just barely. It's time to move on. That makes this project that much more important to me.

Our breastfeeding journey started out pretty rocky. I couldn't feed her in the hospital at all. When my milk finally did come in, nursing was excruciating due to her shallow latch for the first three or four months. Then, we both seemed to figure it out and I looked forward to feeding my baby and giving her the one comfort that I have that no one else can offer. It is ending too soon for me; I'm definitely not ready to be done and she's not at an age where I can explain that there simply is no more milk. But it seems she is ready and I've no choice but to follow her lead here.  

In my last post, I mentioned round 2 of my breast milk bead experiment. I wanted to redo a couple pieces that didn't come out as I had hoped and I finished mounting the rest. I also learned a method for creating a galaxy-like background and wanted to play with that.

This is the tutorial I found for the galaxy effect. It looks super awesome! I skipped the glitter step, though I might try one with the glitter too. It might be neat.

 So here they are, set in their molds, colored and curing. I popped them out after three days. The thing about the galaxy background is that it involves "painting" the mica powder on the back of the first layer of resin while it is still tacky. I messed up and waited a day instead of a few hours so my resin, while still curing, was completely dry and the powder did not stick. I gave it a quick burst of resin spray and worked on that. It still wasn't all that sticky and I was sure it wasn't going to work, but I trudged ahead (and made some more clay pieces just in case. I'm almost out of milk clay!). The tutorial also says to use black as the final layer. I used a blue glass paint to color my resin. I think it worked wonderfully.

Fresh out of the mold! 
 The pink heart (this is actually mica powder that is a mix of red and blue) was a redo because my earlier padlock wasn't exactly center. The blue lock was also a redo, remember I tried to color it brown in the previous attempt (yep, it's not exactly center. Redo!). The key has the gold background I wanted but didn't get in the first round. And, despite my mistakes, the galaxy effect looks awesome behind the cameo and the buttons. These pieces still need to be sanded and glossed.

 Again, wet sand paper is best when working with resin, but I don't have that so I just used what I had. Long sides were sanded with the round sandpaper and small bits and details were sanded with my jeweler's file. The pieces were then coated with resin spray to make them shine.

A hand drill is handy! 

This owl was from my first batch. I picked up some larger split rings at the craft store so I could actually make it through the thick resin pieces.

It takes some wiggling, but it will fit!

Even with larger split rings, I had to almost completely straighten one end to get it through the resin. It worked and now all my original pieces and most of my new pieces are pendants!

I didn't want to drill through some of them. The placement of the clay charms or how I wanted them to hang wasn't conducive to drilling on some pieces. For those, I used flat-backed bails and glue. I've had good luck with Weldbond, so I just used the bottle I already had.

 And here they are! I have to say the cameo is my favorite. The key on gold is for my daughter, in that time many years from now when she will wear necklaces (even if she never wears this one).The one with two hearts (representing her father and me) in the drop is for her as well. And now I have a variety of pendants to change out and coordinate as I wish!

Some of these are just fun shapes: the owl, the ducky, the flower. The two different locks represent me, the key is my daughter. The cameo is both of us. The two buttons are for my family: my husband and daughter, and the three buttons are all of us. While the breastfeeding journey is definitely hers and mine, I couldn't have done any of this without my husband, without his support, his care, his patience, his love.

Faux Opals
 Bonus! Faux opals! I love opals and I'm lucky they are my birth stone. One of the resin videos I came across was how to make faux opals. They turned out great! I haven't mounted the top three yet. I'm not sure what I want to do with them. I used the glass paint again to color the backgrounds on these.

A while ago, my mother saw me pressing more milk clay into molds. I want to use all the clay I have, even if I never set these pieces in resin, and its storage life was coming to an end. I told my mom about the artists who make breast milk jewelry and how I figured out a way to do it myself. She really liked the two pieces I made with the silver charms. She said the milk clay looked like mother of pearl. It kind of does!

For my full breast milk bead tutorial, see this post! If you make milk beads with my method, I want to see! And I'm happy to help if you have any questions.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

The Things That Change

There are few weather events that fill me with paralyzing terror the way tornadoes do.

I remember a day in an August long ago. I think I was eleven. It was a Thursday and we had to go to church that evening. I was playing at a friend's house that afternoon and it was time to go home. My friend's house was on the next street over from mine, not really far. I remember opening her front door and seeing the blackest clouds I had ever seen. I ran home, not wanting to be caught in the rain that I knew was coming. I walked into my front door, my mother said "good, let's go" and herded my brother and I into the garage, and then she opened the garage door. In the space of time it took me to walk in through the front door and out through the garage, the tree in front of our house was on the ground, bent over by the fierce wind. That black cloud was overhead and my mom made the decision not to drive to church after all.

This was an odd storm. All the neighbors were outside talking about the wind, that came and went, and the blackness that made the summer evening look almost like night. I remember we played outside with a friend who lived on our street while everyone stood around and discussed this unusual storm. We each had our favorite stuffed animals. Suddenly, my brother looked up with an expression of absolute fear that I never want to see on his, or anybody's, face ever again. We asked what was wrong and he just pointed behind us. The sky turned eerie green, the funnel cloud formed right over the house at the top of the street as we watched. Shingles flew everywhere.

We ran for it, into our house and into the pantry: a tiny room under the staircase with no windows or outside walls. I have no idea what the adults were doing. My mom and our friend's mom found us in the pantry. The rain was falling now. They said it was safe to come out. Apparently, that funnel touched and left. We were commended for our hiding place and for knowing what to do. My father came home from work shortly afterwards, bringing the mailbox inside with him because he found it rolling down the street.

That image - that ominous green cloud that touched the roof of the house beneath it, the brown cloud of dust gathering around it - was burned into my brain. This particular funnel wasn't bad as funnels go, but tell that to an eleven-year-old who was mere yards away when it touched. Every time I heard of a tornado even remotely in my area, I was overcome with fear. There were two more cyclones that touched the ground within my eyesight since, all of them relatively minor.

Eleven years later in April - so almost exactly 14 years ago - the worst tornado in Maryland history touched down some 20 miles away. Interestingly, the main thing I remember about that storm was that my father and I were driving to Tennessee in the morning for my great-grandmother's funeral and we decided not to drive through that town. It was somewhere in the Carolinas, when we stopped for gas and food, that we caught a news report giving that cyclone an F5 rank. It was later changed to an F4. This one is significant in my life not because I saw it, but because I now live in the neighborhood that was in that F4's path. There was another small funnel the week after we moved in, actually. I remember everyone standing in front of the hardware store with their phones pointed at the eerie green sky as the funnel formed. That one didn't actually hit ground until a bit later, but it was trying. You could see the cloud twist downward and a finger rising up from the ground to meet it, only they didn't connect just yet. It brings my total of observed funnel clouds to four.

Anyway, we had a tornado warning last night. A warning means the clouds are turning and conditions are right for funnels to form. The rotation was less than 10 miles away. Considering that the F4 was on the ground for 24 miles, less than 10 is really nothing. I don't know if a tornado actually touched anywhere last night, but that's not the point.

In my attempt to conquer the crippling fear that tornadoes have over me, I will usually wait. I will hear about a tornado in the area, or get the warnings on my phone that say "take shelter now," and I'll move to a window and watch. And wait. And if I see a funnel forming, then I'll take shelter. For an actual funnel that I see, not just a warning. Maybe this isn't smart, but it's really what keeps me able to function and think clearly when storms roll through because, before I started doing this, they would reduce me to a shivering, sobbing heap.

Last night was different. My husband was at rehearsal. My dad had just left, after babysitting all day, for his own rehearsal. I got out of the bathroom and my husband was calling. This is actually unusual - that he calls, particularly when I know he's at rehearsal and would be for several hours. I didn't take my phone into the bathroom and it's constantly on silent lest it rings or beeps or buzzes and wakes the baby so I completely missed the warning on my phone to seek shelter now. I probably wouldn't have seen it at all if my husband hadn't called (though my dad did text about 10 minutes later). This time, instead of running to the window and watching the sky, I gathered Elora's socks, a couple toys, a blanket, my water bottle, and a flash light and took the baby down to the basement. We weren't in an interior, windowless room, but I wasn't right in front of the glass doors either and could easily move to one in a second.

And that's what changes. It wasn't just me. It wasn't just me and the cats. It was me and her and taking care of her is the most important job I have ever had and will ever have. Even more important than heading upstairs to collect the one cat who didn't follow us to the basement. I wasn't a shivering, sobbing heap either, though I'm sure an observer would say I was obviously agitated and anxious. We got through just fine and, 30 minutes later when the warning expired, we went back upstairs and watched a movie and practiced standing and had a fine evening. I don't think taking the warning seriously was overreacting in the least.

It got me thinking that there were so many things I would have done differently if I was alone last night. My regular way of dealing with these things had to change. And I think I got through alright.