20 May 2016

A Quick Trip to Boone, NC

In early April, right around the time Zoe turned 7 months, I had to travel for work. Since Zoe still wasn't that big of a fan of solid foods, and I'd been trying not to give her too much pumped milk from the fall, I ended up bringing the whole Miller family on my trip. My destination, Boone, NC, is only about 3 hours from Raleigh and is in the mountains of western NC. We decided to head out two days early to explore the area and get settled before I had to work. Unfortunately for us, we happened to go just as the weather turned very cold in North Carolina. We took our time heading west and decided to leave after lunch (during nap time) so the girls would sleep. They did and by the time we checked into the hotel, got dinner at Our Daily Bread, and settled in to the room, we didn't have time for much else. Colin and Rose squeezed in a trip to the hotel pool as I unpacked and got Zoe ready for bed, but that just meant that Rose went to bed close to 10pm.

Rose loves the pool
The girls both managed to sleep fairly well despite all of us being in the same room (including Darwin). I never sleep very well in a hotel...I really dislike the recycled air. And both girls did make some noises throughout the night. I kept checking on Rose, who slept on the pull out couch with pillows all around her, to make sure she wasn't going to fall out of the bed. The girl moves around like crazy throughout the course of the night, so it made me nervous.

On our first full day in Boone, we took our time getting up and dressed for the day. The hotel had breakfast available, but I'll admit the selections were pretty awful. The biscuits were not fresh tasting, the sausage, bacon, and eggs were fairly rubbery. Thankfully, they did have plain oatmeal and we could add the raisins we had on hand from traveling the day before. We let Rose indulge in whatever she wanted. She ate some of the oatmeal and a few bites of muffins, waffles, and yogurt. 

After breakfast, we spent some time at the pool, allowing both girls to have some play time before getting lunch and driving to the mountains. Once everyone dried off and dressed, and we were packed for the day, we set off to grab lunch at Black Cat Burrito. I'm glad we got there a little on the early side because it filled up fairly quickly. The highlight of our lunch was not the food, but rather Zoe having a poop explosion that required a massive clean up in the back of the car (no changing table in the bathroom at Black Cat), and getting ourselves cleaned off.

With bellies full, we assumed the girls would nap on our drive into the mountains. Zoe can't stay awake when we get in the car, so she was out fairly quickly, but Rose stayed awake during the 45 minute drive to Grandfather Mountain. Both Colin and I had been there before, and we knew it was a good place to go with the girls on a cold day. You can drive up the mountain, there is a general store at the top, and a "zoo"/museum about halfway up. By the time we got up the mountain is was late afternoon and still fairly cold. The sun was out, but it didn't provide enough heat to warm us up, so we make a quick trek across the mile high swinging bridge. Surprisingly, Rose had no problems crossing it, and maneuvering the rocks on the other side. The view was nice, but not so nice that we wanted to freeze our butts off admiring it. Zoe was awake for most of our adventures at Grandfather Mountain, but I doubt she saw much because she was so bundled up.

Walking across the Mile High Bridge at Grandfather Mountain
On the way back down the mountain, we stopped at the zoo and the museum. Colin and Rose got to spend time exploring the wildlife while I fed Zoe. Once we joined them, they showed us the highlights. We missed the cougars, but got to experience the bears up close. There were also deer and otters. The museum closed at 5pm, not giving us much time to explore the indoor exhibits. Staff were practically kicking us out as we got everyone changed in the bathrooms before we left.

Seeing bears up close at the wildlife exhibit (ie zoo)
The Miller clan at Grandfather Mountain's wildlife exhibit on a cold April day
On the topic of bathrooms, the trip to Boone was the turning point in potty-training Rose. Up until then, she had been wearing underwear, but having accidents regularly. We'd have to remind her to go all the time and practically force her to try to go before leaving the house. In Boone, she continued wearing underwear and we just brought lots of changes of clothes. Rose did not have a single accident during the two days, and asked to go to the bathroom each time she felt the need. While most kids have problems pooping on toilets that are not in their house, she had no problem doing that one our trip. The potty training was another reason why Grandfather Mountain was a nice place to go for the afternoon.

From Grandfather Mountain, we headed back to Boone. This time, both girls fell asleep so we decided to pick up some burgers at Come Back Shack, which came highly reviewed on Yelp, and eat them back at the hotel. Colin is always looking for burger joints comparable to his favorite Shake Shack in NYC (which as a side note seems to have gone down hill since we left the city). To me, most of these places are similar. I wasn't overly impressed with Come Back Shack, but we did enjoy our meals.

Rose managed to get in the pool one last time before bed. Over the course of the two days she became a fairly confident swimmer with her flotation device. She's now ready for the neighborhood pool this summer! Thankfully, we got the girls to bed much early the second night and they both slept well once again.

Though I had to work the second morning, we were still able to have a fairly leisure time at wake up and breakfast. While I complain about the food, it was nice to have breakfast available in the hotel so we didn't have to pack up a diaper bag and other things to get in the car to drive somewhere. Unfortunately, I had to stay at a hotel that accepts the state rate, and the one we found was not withing walking distance to many restaurants or things to do. 

Colin, the girls, and Darwin all dropped me off at work and went to story time at the library in Boone. Thankfully, my colleagues were well organized and had sent me lots of materials to prepare for my visit, which allowed me to take an hour for lunch to eat, pack the car, and check out of the hotel. Colin picked up Melanie's Food Fantasy, which came highly reviewed on Yelp and through the locals. We had wanted to eat there instead of Black Cat Burrito, but the line was way too long the day before. Melanie's was my absolute favorite food of the trip. They were just sandwiches, but they were very meaty and flavorful.

After lunch, I had a few hours of work to complete, so Colin took a recommendation from my colleague to check out a nice park/playground in the area. The weather finally felt like spring again, so Colin, the girls, and Darwin were able to enjoy a nice afternoon (along with short naps in the car). Late afternoon, they picked me up, and after feeding Zoe we were back on the road heading home. 

Overall, the trip went much better than I had anticipated. I was nervous about how Colin would be able to handle both girls plus Darwin while I worked, but they seemed to be just fine. I was grateful they could come with me and I didn't have to deal with pumping while away, and storing/transporting milk. Traveling away from a baby the first year when you breastfeed is really hard. Maybe others are not like me, but in my experience with both girls, I have not been able to cover what they drink by pumping when going back to work. With Zoe, I pumped as much as I could months 2-4, but I still might run out before her first birthday. Avoiding formula and providing breastmilk exclusively is important to me. I certainly will not deny my daughter milk if I run out, but I will do whatever I can to give her my milk for her first year. 

Stay tuned for more updates on our spring adventures!

16 May 2016

Zoe's Personality Shines at 8 Months

Zoe Lucia at eight months
April was a busy month in the Miller house. Zoe's seventh month started with a trip to Boone, NC to join mommy (and daddy, Rose and Darwin) for work. We extended the trip an extra day to see the mountains and check out things to do and places to eat in/around the NC mountains. Unfortunately, the trip corresponded with a cold spell, and record low overnight temperatures, so we took our time getting out there and limited the activities we had planned outdoors. Both girls did great (better than Darwin), though they had a very late bedtime the first night. Thankfully, they proved themselves capable of sleeping through the night with lights on and through each other's sleep noises. They did most of their napping in the car, but that was to be expected. Since I had to work one day, Colin was able to manage both girls and Darwin while I was busy.

Except for that one cold weekend in April, most of the month has been very comfortable temperature-wise. There have been several weekends that have called for high chances of rain, but few have been wash outs. We mostly stayed in and around the Triangle, getting to: check out some local farms one weekend with the Piedmont Farm Tour; going strawberry picking another weekend at a Cary, NC farm that also had some kid-friendly activities; visiting the Durham Museum of Life and Sciences (where we have an annual pass); going on train and carousel rides at Pullen Park in Raleigh; listening to music and bouncing in the bounce house at Park West Village in Morrisville; and having picnic dinners with some events at Waverly Place in Cary.

The Miller ladies on the train at the Durham Museum of Life and Sciences
I have lots of pictures to share from many of our adventures and will try to post some over the coming days and weeks. Most of the pictures and videos are of Rose because Zoe often falls asleep while being worn in the baby carrier. She's on a schedule of napping about 3 times a day and could take or leave a pacifier. Sometimes it is used to calm her, but she has no problems falling asleep without it. Her first nap is usually 9 or 10am for an hour or so. The second one is mid-day (1ish) for about 2 hours, and the third is usually around 4 or 5pm. This final one is difficult on school days because I am often picking her up just after she has fallen asleep, or she falls asleep on the 5 minute ride home. Thankfully, she continues to sleep through the night, from about 8pm to 6am (give or take 30 minutes). She wants to eat at 6am, and sometimes goes back to sleep with me (if I nurse her in the bed), or gets up and hangs out with daddy. They sometimes take Darwin for a walk together, and Zoe usually watches daddy make breakfast in the kitchen while I get Rose ready for school. At night, Zoe sleeps all night on her back, but it seems she sleeps on her belly at school and at home during naps. As she becomes more mobile, she has started pulling herself up in her crib. It's almost time to drop the mattress a little farther down.
Getting ready to have breakfast
On the topic of being mobile, Zoe is getting very close to crawling, and is fairly sturdy at pulling herself up to standing. Sometimes she forgets that she can't stand on her own and she'll grab a ball or toy with both hands while standing (and let go of whatever is holding her up). Sometimes she cries at the fall and other times it doesn't bother her. She is able to crawl "backwards" where she gets on all fours and can go in reverse, but hasn't figured out how to coordinate hands and knees to move forward. A few times she has tried crawling forwards with one knee down and pushing herself with her other foot. She often gets from point A to point B through a series of maneuvers, but it is not yet efficient.

A few days after our trip to Boone, Zoe developed a spotty rash all over her belly that did not look like her typical ezcema. When it didn't go away after 3 days, we took her to the doctor, who was baffled by her lack of itching. Since the rash did not spread beyond her belly, she didn't have a fever, and she didn't scratch at it, the doctor assumed it was viral. But, there was a possibility of it being chicken pox, and all we could do was watch it to see what it did at day 5 (when it was suppose to blister, or "pox"). On day 5 Zoe did develop a fever and her appetite was pitiful, but the spots never changed or spread. When they didn't go away after 10 days, we were back at the doctor. He had to bring in a colleague for a second opinion and both doctors thought an antibiotic cream was the best course of action. They believed it still was viral, but it is uncommon for a viral rash to last more than a week. Thankfully, after just a day or two of the antibiotic cream, Zoe's skin cleared up. At the same time Zoe had the rash, Rose was also battling a rash on her bottom. My suspicion is that one of them picked up something on our trip and passed it to the other. We had to keep Zoe out of school for a week (on what would have been her second week of school) but thankfully she has been back since it cleared and hasn't had further problems.

Once we got her past the belly rash, her entire skin has looked much better. It seems the weather is the #1 factor. When the weather turned warmer and more humid (which it has been for most of the second half of April and early May), we noticed the eczema improved. I've even brought dairy and food baked with eggs back into my diet (yay for cheese!!), and she has remained mostly clear. She's even been more smiley (even for the camera).
She's so happy her skin is less dry
For most of her seventh month, Zoe was pooping once a day, except for the week she had her rash. During that week, we went 5 days without a poop, which has been the longest she's ever gone. With her eating a combination of solid foods and breast milk, her poops are smelly, soft and sticky (sorry for the description for those who'd rather not know). We continue to cloth diaper, and this is the phase when a diaper liner works well to provide a barrier between the diaper and the poop. Some people like the diaper sprayer, but we've pretty much given up on that. Zoe wears a disposable diaper at night, and cloth diapers the rest of the time.

The solid foods Zoe now consumes include soups (with onions, carrots, celery, beans and a meat like chicken or sausage), chicken, beef, hummus, carrots, cauliflower, lentils, oatmeal (plain or with fruit like bananas, raisins, or strawberries), sweet potatoes, and avocado. She loves bananas, and does pretty good on her oatmeal, carrots, cauliflower, and beef.  We basically blend what we are eating and try to introduce a new food item every few days. At school she broke out in a rash after eating hummus on two separate occasions, but we did not notice it happen at home. Both times, the rash cleared as quickly as it came. In addition to foods, Zoe can also drink from the straw on our camelbak water bottles, drink from a sippy cup, and she can drink from a regular cup (with one of us holding it). A lot of the water lands on her shirt, but it's good for her to learn.

During my work days, Zoe continues to drink more milk than I pump, so I am going through my freezer stash of pumped milk, but not yet stressing on it getting too low. She takes about 3 bottles of 5-7oz each, and sometimes a 4th bottle with 3-4 ounces. I'm hoping we can introduce more solid foods this month and get her to eating fairly well by 10 months so I won't stress when I get close to the end of the frozen milk. Occasionally, I will have an opportunity to pump an extra bottle of milk on the weekends to store for future use, but it isn't enough to make up for the extra bottles she takes during the week. In addition, she still has not cut her first tooth. She rubs her gums all the time, salivates often, and acts like she is teething, but I don't feel any teeth coming through her gums, nor do I see any starting to show.

As Zoe grows and phases out of a the infant stage, her personality continues to present itself. She is a very shy girl and often hides her face in my shoulder when new people greet her. I've started seeing a few glimpses of separation anxiety at school, especially at the start of a new week. She is startled by loud noises and I can tell when she's unsure/afraid of something because she will cling to me. She is extremely tolerant to her sister's roughness, and will protest when someone tries taking away something she wants. Just about every evening at dinner, she tells us she is ready to be done and to get in her pajamas. Once she is changed and ready for bed, she's a happy girl again.

I love this age. Zoe is the chubby baby that can sit up and stand holding on to things. When I nurse her, she fits so perfectly in my arms and feels solid, but squishy. She reacts to us, and knows who we are. She loves laughing with her sister and giving mommy and daddy big smiles. One of her latest favorite things to do is to make bubbles and lip-flapping noises with her mouth. She gets very excited and squeals with delight when she is successful. She likes flipping through books, figuring out how to make noises come from the various toys in the house, banging utensils on the table, and putting everything in her mouth (including sticks and sand). The silicone water bottle mouthpiece is one of her favorite things to chew on. She also loves petting Darwin and grabbing at his paws.

Rose pushing Zoe in a cardboard box
Rose loves taking her picture with Zoe
Rose and Zoe seem to love each other, though I often have to teach Rose to be more gentle. Rose also likes to be the mommy and be the teacher. Sometimes it is helpful, like when she comforts Zoe and plays with her. Many other times, however, she tries to discipline Zoe or take toys away. We try to encourage and praise the positive behaviors. It is really hard to discipline and/or correct the negative behaviors. Rose sometimes gets very jealous of Zoe, especially when I need to care for/nurse for Zoe (which happens often in the evening). We strive to model good behaviors and actions, hoping they are picked up by the girls.

We don't have any new stats for Zoe's growth from the doctor. They didn't do height and weight measurements for her visits this month. Her next checkup will be in June.

Stay tuned for pictures and short recaps of our spring fun adventures and an update on Miss Rose!