Unicorns Are Real

Back in March, a friend let me know that a traveling photographer was coming relatively close (Fredericksburg, VA) and was doing unicorn photoshoots. Yep, you read that correctly. UNICORN. PHOTOSHOOTS. A PHOTOSHOOT. WITH. A UNICORN.

Okay, fine, so it’s a horse with a fabric horn on top of its bridle. Still, I’m not sure if I’d ever gone from hearing about something to purchasing something faster. I booked a session with my own little unicorn for May, planned out our outfits, and anxiously awaited the day of our shoot.

Fast-forward a couple of months, and the day was finally here! I piled Penny and our outfits into the car and drove the hour+ to the photoshoot site (with me being super thankful that Penny is such a good car-sleeper, lol.) Once we arrived at the farm where the shoot was taking place, Penny and I got dressed and ready for our closeup with Teapot the Unicorn (I did my hair & makeup before we left the house.) And it went pretty smoothly, considering I was dealing with an eight-month-old baby who had no idea what was happening or why I was making her wear a hundred thousand yards of tulle.

There’s a lot of people that actually end up in and around your photos, especially you’re dealing with a live animal, babies/kids, and the kind of rapid-fire mini-sessions that this whole photoshoot entailed. So, of course, I knew that most of the real magic was going to happen thanks to some editing software, but above and below are examples of unedited photos (horse lead, assistant’s hands, and giant horse penis included hahahahaha):

Penny was SUCH a good sport, really, only getting fussy and upset at the very end when she got tired (our actual shooting time was only like 15 minutes, but there was a good bit of waiting around.) Things were so go-go-go right when we arrived that I realized I hadn’t taken a photo of her solo in her dress, so I tried to take one of the crumpled mess of tulle it had become before taking it off to go home, lol, but she was D-O-N-E.

 
We went home and awaited the results of our photoshoot with even MORE anticipation. I knew that we had to have gotten SOME good shots, even with Penny looking all over the place. Alas, it would be another solid month before I’d get to see the proofs from the shoot, and another 6 weeks before I got the final photos in hand (and that’s after paying for rush delivery, lol). I tell ya, having a pair of professional photographers for a brother and sister-in-law has really spoiled me! 😉

Anyway, all that waiting was well-worth it, as I finally received the finished photos last night and I JUST– I DON’T– I CAN’T EVEN– I– I– I– I mean, just see for yourself:

The package I purchased from the photographer included 4 fully edited photos and 5 additional, unedited shots. I had to parse through every single shot taken at the shoot (over FOUR HUNDRED OF THEM for us alone!) to decide which ones I wanted, and ended up choosing the above four for the full editing treatment. Then below are two more of the unedited shots they handed over to me, that I edited on my own. I may not know how to photoshop things out of a picture, but it’s pretty amazing what some well-intentioned cropping can do!

I have to admit, the particular photography company that offers these shoots isn’t the best at handling their communication, and all the waiting with no updates did kinda blow, but I’m obviously very happy with the final result. And believe me, I know how extra it is to have a unicorn photoshoot with your baby… but I mean, c’mon guys. It’s me. ARE YOU EVEN SURPRISED?

I can’t wait to get a really nice canvas print of one of the shots of Penny for her room. But which one do I even choose? Magical Unicorn Teaparty or Cavalry Penny?!

Penny: Nine Months Old

Today you are NINE MONTHS OLD, Penelope Spencer!

I can’t believe we’re 3/4 of the way through your first year of life! Nine months just sounds so… monumental! It’s bittersweet, but that there really is no stopping you growing up, sweet pea. You weigh nineteen pounds, ten ounces and are 28.5″ long (75th and 84th percentiles!). You’re stretching out and starting to lose some of your sweet, squishy rolls. Thankfully, your delicious cheeks remain!

As my last humblebrag post detailed, you’ve reached some seriously incredible achievements this past month. This period between your 8-month and 9-month birthdays has honestly been jaw-dropping! You’re now crawling for-reals-for-reals, you’re pulling yourself up to standing, trying to cruise (!!), pushing yourself up from laying down, reaching for toys, trying to kill yourself by rolling off of every surface I try to change your diaper on… you’re just always on the move! Which certainly made trying to get these photos a bit of a challenge. This was my view most of the time:

My milk supply has gotten back to normal after the severe dip I struggled with last month, and you’re back to nursing & eating like a total champ. We’re working on self-feeding techniques — you’ve got your pincer grasp down, and even get your food into her mouth like a solid 75% percent of the time! You’re a meat-lover like your daddy right now. Protein!

Napping has gotten much longer and more predictable (when you’re at home, that is; it’s a total roll of the dice at daycare, lol). You’ve been giving us pretty solid 1.5 – 2 hour naps more often than not! You also do a very solid 11 – 12 hours overnight, so I’ve actually gotten to the point where I’m Googling “is my baby sleeping too much?”. I know some babies just need more sleep than others though, and that a lot of other parents would kill for a baby that sleeps as much as you do right now, lol. I’m chalking it up to the fact that your little brain is doing SO MUCH right now, and that it’ll probably lessen as you master all of these brand new skills.

It’s really fun to see you play with toys so much more purposefully and intently. Your current favorite toys are your Sit-to-Stand Walker and your Rock ‘n’ Glow Unicorn, and your favorite way to play with every other toy you own is to pull them out of your toy bins and throw them all across the living room, hehe.

You also finally (FINALLY!) seem to really like the dogs. And since you keep tossing your food down to them when you’re done eating, not to mention just straight up feeding them your teething crackers, they’re finally starting to really like you too. 😉

We love you so incredibly much, you funny, sweet, wonderful little thing, you!

Leaps & Bounds

So since Penny was born, I’ve been following her progress in an app called The Wonder Weeks (it’s also a book.) The basic gist of it is that all babies follow the same pattern and timeline of mental development, and they go through very specific “Leaps” when they reach certain ages. This timeline is also helpful because it helps predict (to a certain degree) when your baby will be going through a fussy phase.

I’ve found that the Wonder Weeks has tracked relatively well for Penny in terms of predicting when times might be a little tougher with regards to sleep, fussiness, etc, but I never really saw the total transformation that it touted your baby would go through after conquering certain leaps. The app made it sometimes seem like all of the sudden my baby would be able to do X, Y, and Z. Sure, Penny was developmentally on track, but hitting her milestones and gaining new skills always seemed to happen incrementally — one thing at a time, bit by bit, over time.

That is, until this past week.

In the past week alone (honestly, over a period of like, 4 days), suddenly Penny can:

Crawl!

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Wave!

Sit herself up from laying down (and vice versa)!

 
Pick up tiny bits of food and feed herself accurately! (She can also sign “more” and “please”!)

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Share food! (Lol)

Pull herself up to standing!

And as if ALL OF THAT wasn’t enough…

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…she also said her first purposeful word!

WHERE DID THIS GENIUS BABY COME FROM?!?! Leap 6 is awesome man, that’s all I gotta say. 100% worth the sleep-regression and nap-fighting that has come with it (and I mean that non-sarcastically!). The night before last was admittedly a little tough, with her waking up 3x, totally ready to be up, at ’em, and ready to party, lol. And as she’s now figured out how to sit up in her crib, going down for naps is pretty much just a continuous cycle that looks like this:

I know I’ve said this with like, every age she’s reached so far, but Penny at 8.5 months really is my favorite (I know, I know, so far at least!). She is so much FUN, and it’s so amazing to watch her acquire and practice new skills! She’s just this smiley, happy, giggly, crawly, roly-poly ball of joy. Ugh, I just love her so much!

Anyway, I think that’s probably enough gushing for now. This mama’s got a busy, busy week with an event tonight, planning for my big annual Yelper Party bash (pssssst to my local readers — it’s free and open to anybody!) in two weeks, and getting ready for CM Week in San Francisco in mid-June (which I’m on the planning committee for this year.) Whew!

So, as Penny can now say… bye!

First Mother’s Day Weekend Recap

Aloha, everyone! I hope you all had an awesome weekend, whether you were celebrating Mother’s Day or just enjoying some time to yourself. Mine flew by, as is typical, in a total whirlwind — there was a bit of car drama, time with other mamas, and, of course, a supermegaton of Penelope!

I’m actually going to back up to Thursday, since that’s really where our weekend story begins…

THURSDAY: Spontaneous Failure to Start

Penny goes to daycare on Tuesdays and Thursday, so bright and early Thursday morning, I packed her up into the car and got ready to go. I actually had intended on capturing my day on Thursday for another “Day in the Life” post, so I’d already made a point to take photos of all her daycare stuff, of the pups, and of our morning in general as we went through it.

No sooner had I snapped the above image and climbed into the driver’s seat, however, my car wouldn’t turn on. I have a push-button start car, and the “low key battery” indicator had been flashing for a couple of weeks, so I thought that it might be the key fob itself causing an issue.

With an increasingly impatient Penny still strapped into her carseat, I started the painstaking process of breaking my nails to remove the battery from my key fob… only to continue to have nothing happen when I pushed the start button again. Guffffff. I was about ready to give up when, suddenly, without me doing anything new, my car suddenly started! Hoorah! Off to daycare we went, with me thinking it must have been the key battery thing and it must have just taken a second to start working.

Weeeeeell, turns out that wasn’t the case at all. We go to daycare, I drop off a happy little Penny poo, get back in my car aaaaaand…

Yup. Dead car. And this time, it doesn’t randomly turn back on after trying a few times. The radio and AC work, but the engine just doesn’t seem to be connecting at all. No clicking, no turnover, no nothing. Le sigh. So I spend the next two hours creepily hanging out in my daycare’s parking lot while roadside assistance first sends out someone to try jumping my car (doesn’t do anything), and then finally a tow truck.

I have it towed to the dealer, who informs me that there’s a known issue with the make and model of my car concerning one of its engine parts. One of the symptoms? Spontaneous failure to start. Bright side? It’ll be covered by an extended warranty on the affected part, as will a rental car! Downside? Their transmission guy can’t look at it to confirm that’s the issue until tomorrow morning anyway, which means I’m car-less in the meantime. Womp womp.

And man, if I thought that it was inconvenient to be without a car BEFORE I had a kid? Yeeeeesh. Thankfully, I have an awesome and accommodating mom who drove out to help me pick up Penny later in the afternoon so that Sean wouldn’t have to leave work early.

FRIDAY: Housebound but Happy

Enter Friday, where I get to spend the morning at the house with my little love who is in the absolute BEST mood. I don’t know if it’s because we’re dogsitting my brother’s pup, and she is super into Pixel, or if it’s because she’s finally (finally!) feeling 100% better after being sick for so long, but she is all smiles and giggles and it’s just the BEST!

Her being such a happy, content little princess definitely helps with the continued car drama, as I don’t receive an update on the status of my car until the afternoon, and while it is the covered issue (phew!), they won’t have a rental car available until the NEXT morning (ughhhhh.)

Fortunately, I don’t have too much on my plate today other than getting some work done on my computer and getting the mongrels groomed. And doubly fortunately, we use a mobile groomer that comes to our house!

  
It’s a beautiful day, as well, so Penny and I get to spend a little bit of time enjoying the fresh air while the pups are getting groomed. Despite being stuck at home, we’re successfully able to stave off the cabin fever!

 
When Sean gets home after work, I do have to snag his car and head over to my mom’s to help her with a few errands before she goes out of town. It’s nice to spend some time with her before she leaves, too, since she’ll be gone on actual Mother’s Day (we celebrated early with a dinner last week as well.)

SATURDAY: Mama’s Night Out

Penny’s great mood yesterday comes at a cost, apparently, as she has a bad night sleep-wise (uncharacteristic for her lately!). After fighting going to bed for a good 45 minutes in the beginning of the night, she wakes up at 4:30 AM! I thought she might be hungry since her last nursing sesh the night before was kinda early, so I feed her… but instead of returning to sleep, she’s simply wiiiiiide awake and super chatty for the next full hour. It’s both absolutely adorable and incredible annoying, hahaha.

She finally falls back asleep around 6, sleeps for 45 minutes, and then poops herself awake, lololol. Soooo I change her diaper and then she finally falls back asleep from 7 – 10 AM! Super weird, super irregular for me, it gets us started on our day pretty late. But luckily, by the time we were up and about, the car rental place is ready with a car for me, so Sean drives us over to go pick it up.

We have lunch and hang out for the rest of the day, and after putting Penny to bed, I get dolled up because I’ve got a lady date to get to!

 
I head out to Trio Grill in Merrifield to meet up with my fellow hot mamas Lara and Anne. Lara’s daughter is 15 months old, and Anne’s babe is almost 6 months, so even though we’re trying taking time to celebrate ourselves (an early Happy Mother’s Day celebration!), we’ve still got babies on the brain, hehe. We do our best to talk about things other than our littles, but the conversation is still mostly babies, bedtime routines, and breastfeeding, lol. Hey, you can only expect so much of us!

The drinks, apps, and noshes are damn good though! We share a bunch of stuff, including tuna tartare and oysters as appetizers.

 
And I get an awesome shaved asparagus salad and an Asian-inspired salmon entree.

 
Not pictured: my faaaabulous cocktail, the Blackberry Beret. Gin-based, crisp, sweet, and delicious. Yum!

SUNDAY: My First Mother’s Day

Penny sleeps better — she still wakes up earlier than normal at 6:30 AM, but I’m not complaining too much since I want to be able to soak in every minute with her today. It’s officially Mother’s Day!

She and I lounge around in bed for a bit, nursing and getting some happy, chatty cuddles in, while I hear Sean puttering around in the kitchen. We emerge to find he’s made waffles for breakfast! Both Penny and I eagerly scarf ours down — she eats almost an entire half-waffle by herself!

We have a lovely, lazy Sunday morning all together as a family before heading out to a late Mother’s Day lunch. When I open the car door, there’s a gift waiting for me in the passenger seat! A lovely card and this even lovelier figurine commemorating this very special time in our lives.

Sean takes us out for Mother’s Day lunch at Fogo de Chao, which is fabulous (aside from me accidentally knocking over and totally SHATTERING a pepper shaker to keep it out of Penny’s grasp — whoops) and puts me in a serious food coma.

As the most wonderful Mother’s Day gift, Penny behaves AMAZINGLY the entire time. She’s so happy watching all the gaucho chefs toting their meat popsicles around, and enjoys eating bits and pieces of our meal (big fan of the mashed potatoes, jury’s still out on the green beans, lol.)

All things considered, a pretty perfect way to spend Mother’s Day weekend! Well, it would have truly been perfect if I didn’t have all the stuff happen with my car, of course, but hey, you gotta take the bad to get the good, right? And Sean says I’ve still got a gift on the way, which means the good’s just gonna keep on comin’, hehe.

Okay, okay, I swear, I’ll stop gushing now. I just can’t get enough of my awesome little family! Must be that obsessive personality thing I have going on… but hey, I can think of worse things to be obsessed with. 😉

Have an awesome day!

Poor Li’l Penny

Happy (?) Monday, folks!

The end of last week turned out to be a bit of a doozy — our precious little Penny got hit with her first bout of real sickness! Sure, she’s been congested before, been a li’l less spunky than usual, that sort of thing, but this was the real deal. We’re talking fever, chills, sweats, loss of appetite, total exhaustion… the works. It was tough for all of us — toughest for her to get through, I’m sure, but it was also admittedly hard on Sean and me to watch, witness, and only be able to do so much. 🙁

It all started on Wednesday — she slept in pretty late (and, in retrospect, she had actually been sleeping a lot the day or so before as well so she was probably trying to fight something off before we noticed). But she was still her happy little self throughout most of the morning and drank like 5 ounces of milk (I normally nurse her first thing, but actually had to pump and give her a bottle that morning since she slept later than me!) so I had no reason to think anything was wrong.

 
While I worked, she spent time with our nanny and her daughter, enjoying the beautiful weather outside (and giving me serious FOMO when I was stuck inside working), but she started getting increasingly more fussy as the day went on. She’s generally a very chill, happy girl, so fussing for no reason is very out of character for her. She also didn’t seem to want to eat or drink much, and kept tugging at her ears. The ear-pulling is something that she often does when she’s tired, but combined with her lack of appetite and increasing irritability, I started to worry.

Then, around 3 PM I was coming out of a meeting when I got a text from our nanny saying that Penny felt warm, so she took her temperature and it was over 100 degrees. I called our pediatrician and described what was going on, and they asked me to come in for a last-minute appointment, so off we went!

The doctor checked her out and eliminated both the flu and an ear infection — which was good news! But on the flipside, the bad news was that she was definitely sick and there wasn’t really much he could do, either. We’d just need to “let her be sick” for a little while. Which is definitely a lot harder than it sounds when you have a sad baby who can’t communicate what’s hurting or how you can help. The doctor told us to keep an eye on her temperature, that her not wanting to eat was very normal (which of course, did not stop me from fretting about it constantly), to monitor her wet diapers (also warning us that there would probably be slightly fewer than normal), and that things might get worse before they got better, but to call back if we were concerned.

I was hoping that another night of solid rest would help her kick this thing, but alas, it seems that Wednesday afternoon really was just the beginning of her being sick.

I slept in the nursery that night so I could keep an eye on her, and her temperature actually spiked up to 102 overnight! I kept her home from daycare on Thursday and tried my best to make her feel loved, comfortable, and cared for. I gave her some Tylenol sparingly (I’m always so torn about whether doing so is good because it makes her so much more comfortable and brings her fever down, or if it inhibits her ability to fight off the illness) and we spent most of the day doing this:

 
With her also sleeping a TON (she seriously slept like 12 straight hours overnight and SIX more hours during the day!) and me trying to get her to nurse and drink milk. She pretty much refused all bottles, but did nurse for short bursts on-and-off throughout the day, so that made me feel a little better that she hopefully wasn’t getting dehydrated (and I can’t lie, I kind of loved all the snuggles… which in turn made me feel guilty for liking it since she felt so crummy, but that’s #momguilt for ya…)

Her fever finally broke Friday morning, and her mood seemed to immediately improve, although she was still feeling puny and continued being very sleepy through Saturday. I am counting my blessings that she was still sleeping so well overnight, despite being sick, since I feel like all that sleep was crucial to her recovery, and I understand that many kiddos have a hard time sleeping when they’re feeling bad. So far, Penny doesn’t seem to be one of them!

Thankfully, when she woke Sunday morning (after sleeping for a whopping THIRTEEN HOURS!!) she finally seemed like she was back to her old self: happy and hungry! Hooray!

 
So, hey, we survived our baby girl’s first bout of true illness and all came out the other side. Although, who knows, underneath all this purple hair dye I may have just sprouted a few grey hairs from the experience. And, yes, I know full-well that this absolutely will not be the last time that I have to watch my poor baby be sick, but there’s just something about that first time, y’know?

Now let’s just hope she doesn’t pass her illness right back to her dad and me (my guess is that we gave her the sickness that we got hit with a couple weeks ago ::sniff::) and that the cycle of sickness ends here. I mean, hey, a girl can dream, right?