Hello, is it me you’re looking for?

23 Sep

It’s closing on three months since you’ve heard a peep from me. When last I wrote I had what I thought would be a bad case of poison ivy and nothing more. I thought I would take my antibiotics, use some Vitamin E oil on the scars, switch to oatmeal soap to keep my itching skin from driving me crazy, and go on enjoying the rest of my summer.

*insert maniacal laughter here*

Nine days after my last post I was in the hospital with meningitis. I remained there for seven days (five of them on contact prevention) and clocked another 10 days in a skilled care nursing home. For a whole variety of too-boring-to-get-into reasons, the doctors were not able to confirm what kind of meningitis I had. They ruled out viral and fungal, but both bacterial and aseptic were (and are) still on the table. Oddly, those two forms of meningitis are extremely different. One (bacterial) is fatal for as many as one in nine people who have it and requires aggressive treatment, the other is never fatal and goes away on its own.

Any guesses as to what happens when you can’t confirm the source of your meningitis?

Oh yeah. Full course of aggressive treatment, baby!

Even after I was discharged from the nursing home, I remained on anti-virals and antibiotics for many weeks. Finally on September 2 I took what I sincerely hope will be my last antibiotic for a really long time.

Since I wrote, lots of interesting things have happened re: adopting and raising a baby. The Bird has teeth (five of them), learned how to crawl, learned that he prefers walking while holding your hands and became a great eater. Our adoption was also finalized on August 6 and the Bird’s last name was officially changed to our last name.

As for me, I feel much better and look forward to less stressful fall.



So Long, Farewell

23 Jun

My good friend Kelly is moving. Not down the street or even to another town, but to another state. Sure it’s a neighboring state, but one that is six hours away.

Kel and her husband have three boys; it seems so cruel to take away some of the Bird’s role models and playmates, doesn’t it? She should be forced to stay, right?

Sadly, the moving van comes today and on Tuesday morning the family will follow. I waited as long as I could to give her this gift in the hope that they would change their minds. Alas, it seems to be a done deal.

Next week they will add Charlotte, NC to to the list of cities where they have made their home. *sigh*

As for how I made the sign, it’s pretty simple. A basic knowledge of Photoshop helps, but I think you could modify this idea without it.

Family Journey Art

You Need:

  • picture frame, possibbly an uncut photo mat as well
  • paper cutter, scissors or x-axcto knife
  • photo prints of your cities


Decide what size you need your images to be and what kind of frame you need. This part is hard for me to help you plan since the number of cities and frame sizes could vary wildly. But, for sake of simplicity, I had three cities to highlight so I decided on prints that ended up being 5 x 6 once trimmed (printed on 5 x 7 and cut an inch off).

Visit the watercolor section of the Stamen maps website and enter a location. In the example below, I entered Ocean City, Md – my hometown. Play with the size and perspective until you get want you want, then click on IMAGE in the top right corner. Choose your size. I made my cities square, but other dimensions may work for your needs (especially if you don’t use Photoshop). I also downloaded them in the highest pixels measurements so that  they were easier to work with in Photoshop. It’s a lot easier to make something smaller than bigger.  So in the example below you’re seeing 500 x 500 but when I made the images I actually used for Kelly’s print I used 2000 x 20000.

Using Photoshop, I created a new canvas – 5 x 7 at 300 dpi. I opened my city images and sized them to fit with equal border at the top, left and right. There was more white space at the bottom where I typeset the name of the city. Each city name is written in the same font, but a different color. All of those colors were chosen from the watercolor maps. The font is EcuyerDAX and it’s free.

I saved the images as jpgs and had them printed at the drug store. Once home, I trimmed off one inch of white space from the bottom of the 5 x 7 prints and using double sided tape carefully mounted them on an uncut piece of photo matting material. Then I just had to pop them in the frame.

If you are not a Photoshop user, I suggest making your map in 4×6 or 5×7 photo ratio and simply sending it to print without the city name label. Buy a collage frame that has the right number of opening and insert your pictures. If you want to label the locations, think of a way to do so on the photo mat.

That’s it. Pretty easy, right? Here’s a closer look at the three cities in the piece I made for Kelly.

Do you have any friends packing up and moving away? How have you marked their departure?

Monthly Photos: Six Months

17 Jun

Late as usual, but totally worth it I think. The Bird was six months old on June 10. He is so darling that it almost makes us think we could have another baby (don’t get too excited, grandparents). Then we remember that we probably wouldn’t be so lucky next time. The adoption process could be much harder OR we could just have a crankier baby, or a baby who is not a good sleeper, or one who has colic.

You can see the full size picture here.

The Bird is getting extremely active. This month he fell in love with his Johnny Jump-Up. It hangs from the door in the kitchen and we created a playlist that amuses us. Among the selections:

Jump – Kris Kross

Jump Around – House of Pain

Jump – Van Halen

Brown Derby Jump – Cherry Poppin’ Daddies

One Jump Ahead – Aladdin soundtrack

We love to watch him in that thing and it makes us wish they made an adult-sized version for us. We could build one like this:

He can also roll over like a champ – sometimes both ways, but usually just onto his stomach. That’s his preferred method of sleeping now, much to Don’s dismay.

In other news, I have REALLY REALLY awful poison ivy. Or oak. Or sumac. Or, apparently, even Virginia Creeper.



Flag Day Printables

14 Jun

Don happens to share his birthday with the most important of the lesser known American holidays – Flag Day. Every year, I get to throw a big party for his birthday as long as I bill it as a Flag Day party.

Basically this means decorating for the Fourth of July a few weeks early and serving lots of red, white and blue foods.

This year I made two new pieces of decor I thought I would share with you.

Our front door will be adorned with this little sign (minus the Sweet Little Nest logo at the bottom):

I had it printed on poster board at Costco, but it occurs to me that it won’t be weather resistant. If I like the way it looks, maybe I will make a slightly smaller version next year and put it in a frame on the door.

I also had this sign printed on poster board. This one will be placed inside the house right next to doors that lead out to the patio.

I’m into the chalkboard backgrounds lately as you may have gathered from the Bird’s monthly photo projects.

Here is what the images look like without the Sweet Little Nest logos:

If you’d like to print your own signs for Flag Day or Independence Day, here are the files you need:

If you print them at home, you should be able to print on whatever size paper you have handy.

Monthly Photos: Five Months

18 May

Gosh, a five-month-old kiddo keeps one busy. I just realized the last post I wrote was his four month post.

This was a big month for our little guy.

The weather finally warmed up so the Bird got to spend more time outside. We went on a boat cruise on the Potomac River. He went to several playgrounds and took a turn in the baby swings. Our whole family (including Casey) participated in a charity 5K for the Animal Welfare League of Arlington. Back at home there were some significant milestones as well. The Bird tried rice cereal several times and wasn’t too impressed. He also rolled over twice. In fairness, his play mat was half on and half off the carpet so Don thinks the Bird had an unfair advantage.

Here’s the larger version of the Bird’s five-month photo if you want to see it.

One day I’ll have to write a post with some of the outtakes from these photo shoots. There are some good ones.

Monthly Photos: Four Months

22 Apr

I can’t believe it’s been four months since we got the call that The Bird had arrived and we’d been selected as his very lucky parents. Although it was starting to happen in his three month picture, this month it’s safe to say that our little bird has crossed the threshold from newborn to baby. Take a look at our happy boy.

You can view the full size photo here.

This month we decided to list some of the places Harris has visited in his short life.

  • We went to Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf when we were in California during our ICPC stay. Suzanne and Trish were with us and Tori was working over at Alcatraz. We could, of course, see Alcatraz from Pier 39 so we we waved and took pictures.
  • Way back in January we had a warm spell. Dean and I took Hayden and Harris to the zoo. I actually went ahead and became a member of Friends of the National Zoo that day so I expect we’ll be back a few more times before next January.
  • The Bird has been to Baltimore a lot, unfortunately. He normally has to come with me when I go for my eye check ups at Hopkins. Poor kid. He’s been there so much he might end up with a Maryland accent.
  • We went to visit Grammy and Granddaddy in Ocean City for my mom’s birthday in March. The Bird even went to Assateague  Island for the first time, but it was too cold so he slept in the car with Grammy while Casey ran off some puppy energy on the beach.
  • When Grandma and Abuelo visited in earl April we went to Washington Nationals game (we won!) and took in the cherry blossoms at the National Arboretum. The Arboretum was packed, but we got some nice pictures.
What have you been up to this spring? Any baseball game or blossom peeping for you?

Expressing His Independence

21 Apr


The Bird rarely spits up. In his four and a half months, he’s spit up only around 10 times. Maybe 15. At least half of these occurrences have taken place minutes after someone asked us, “Does he spit up much?” and we have answered, “Hardly ever.”

I’m fairly confident he doesn’t speak
English yet … but these events make me wonder. They also concern me. If this is the Bird expressing his independence to prove us wrong, we’re in trouble later.

“Does he make good grades?” a coworker might ask one of us.

“Straight As,” we’ll answer just before he comes home with a failing report card.

“Is he well behaved?” someone will ask.

“He’s a very good boy,” we’ll reply even as he’s being given a suspension notice at that very instant.

“Is he good with the dog,” an animal-loving friend will inquire.

“Oh yes,” we’ll say as Casey comes into the room with a large chunk of missing fur.

Or maybe he just had to spit up.

What We Learned from Parenting Books

17 Apr

Like all parents, Don and I bought, downloaded and borrowed a myriad of parenting books. You’ll note that I did not say we read these books, only that we obtained them.

This is because:

1. We have an infant. There is no time for reading about him. We are too tired to read and would rather gaze upon him than read anyway. And also,

2. They are sort-of pointless.

When my friend and new mom Karen shared the Portalandia clip above with me, I laughed for five minutes.

“Ryan, did you actually read the book?”

“Of course I read the book!”

No one reads the books.

Actually, we did read a little bit of all the books.  About three pages or so. I’m pretty sure that makes me an expert at parenting techniques so I thought I would share my wisdom with you and save you the trouble of acquiring these books yourself. Unless you want them to fool people into thinking you are well read on the subject of your baby’s development and want to place them in strategic locations around the house. In that case, by all means purchase a few. Don’t forget to leave one open on the coffee table for unexpected visitors.

Let’s start with the book above, Your Baby’s First Year Week by Week. In this book we learn that every week your baby will do things things radically different than the week before. For example, in week one your baby will focus on objects 8 – 12 inches away and in week two your baby will stare at objects 8 – 12 inches away. Wow. It’s crazy, right? I didn’t make that up; it’s in the book.

In Baby 411 we learn that all parents have questions. In fact, all parents have the same questions. For example: “My baby usually poops with every feeding. Now he hasn’t gone in 24 hours. Is he constipated?” The answer, I am both happy and sad to tell you, is no. Turns out constipation in infants is determined by the consistency of the output, not the frequency. That’s why as a new parent you will spend far too much time thinking about poop. People who don’t have children think that they will never be that parent. But you will. It’s inevitable. And really, you won’t even care.

I read my three pages of What to Expect the First Year on the plane ride to California to collect the Bird. I read those three pages for six hours because it was hard to concentrate for some reason. Therefore I am an extreme expert on pages 49  and 54-55. In the edition of the book we have those are the pages on infant reflexes (bottom line: he has them) and bottle feeding. I got to skip over pages 50 – 53 since those were the pages on breast feeding. Skipping pages was exciting to me. I felt like I had been promoted a grade in school. I stopped reading when I realized a HUGE portion of the bottle feeding section was about sterilizing the bottles and I had no idea how we might accomplish that in a hotel room. I mean, I’ve seen the “Dateline” specials. Nothing about hotel rooms is sterile.

For reasons we didn’t fully understand, we knew we would be swaddling the Bird from birth until he started Kindergarten. We knew it was valuable, we just didn’t know why. That’s why I checked out a copy of Happiest Baby on the Block at the library. A note about checking out library books as the parent of a newborn: Don’t do it. In my sleep deprived state, the book languished on a side table in the living room for weeks after I learned all I needed from it and I never made it back to the library to return it. The overdue fee would have paid for a new copy on Amazon, I think. Plus, you don’t even need this book because I am going  to tell everything you need to know. If your baby is fussy, turn him on his side and make a loud SHHHH sound. It sounds horribly cruel – like a really mean librarian. But honest to Pampers it works. We were already swaddling so we didn’t learn anything new about that, but the shushing was helpful when the Bird turned 6 weeks old and went crazy. I even downloaded a shushing app for my phone because I was getting dry mouth.

We put copies of Dr. Spock’s Baby and Childcare on our Kindles. Every time I have turned on my Kindle since December 13 I have fallen asleep so I can’t tell you much about this one. Nonetheless, I still feel I can offer two pieces of expert advice on this book having tried to read it a dozen times. 1. It’s an excellent sleep aid and 2.  Your parents read an earlier edition of this book and look how you turned out. Interpret that in any way you like.

Finally, I was excited to learn that Cindy Crawford wrote the forward for Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. Did you know she was a correspondent for “Good Morning, America”? I didn’t either until I read this book. See how much I learned? Actually, along with Happiest Baby on the Block, this book has been helpful even though I read so little of it. We started putting the Bird to bed earlier and even though it hasn’t stopped him from waking up twice a night to eat, we get a little more rest because of it. We had been putting him to bed between 9 and 10 p.m. when he fell asleep and he would wake up at 1 a.m. for a bottle. Now we put him into his crib at 8 p.m. and he coos to himself for 10 – 20 minutes before drifting off. He sometimes still wakes us up at 1 a.m., but we have an extra two hours of down time.

I think those are all the books I “read” to gain my expert parent status. Do you have a parenting book you would like me to review? I won’t actually read it, but I will be happy to read ABOUT it on Amazon and then tell you everything you need to know.

All the Lyrics are About Us

9 Apr

A long time ago I wrote a short post about how at some point in the adoption process everything seems like it is about the adoption process. Especially music. Every song I heard seemed to be about adoption, even songs about romantic love. This obsession with finding the hidden adoption connection has not passed despite the Bird’s arrival and full integration in our lives.

In fact, it has probably gotten worse. Almost as soon as the Bird was born, I confess that I was singing Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe to him. Only my version went like this:

Hey, I just met you
And this is crazy
But I’m your mama
And you’re my baby

Terrible, right?

The last two weeks the song that has been giving me an ear worm is actually a song about teenage vampires in love, but I’m sure it’s secretly about adoption. It’s “A Thousand Years” performed by Christina Perri for the Twilight saga.

I have died everyday, waiting for you
Darling, don’t be afraid, I have loved you for a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more

And all along I believed, I would find you
Time has brought your heart to me, I have loved you for a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more

Christina Perri- A Thousand Years (Official Music Video) from W3ndy on Vimeo.

What do you think? It’s totally about adoption, right?

DIY Air Freshener Made with Coffee Grounds*

26 Mar

The Bird’s nursery has one of those odor trapper diaper pails that does an okay job of keeping the room from smelling like a public toilet … but it’s never as fresh as I want. It always smells vaguely of baby pee (better than the alternative, I suppose). I bought one of those plug-in liquid air fresheners, but the scent (while pleasant enough) was just too strong.

Then I saw this great idea on Pinterest. While I was thinking about a container, I noticed that Don was sprinkling coffee grounds in the diaper pail in the The Bird’s room. Coffee grounds are a natural odor neutralizer. Great idea, Don.

You Will Need:

  • Coffee grounds, dried well (as not to promote mold)
  • Small tin container
  • Small piece of breathable fabric like tullle
  • Scrapbook paper
  • Glue or double sides tape


My container had a plastic insert for the lid so I popped it out. If yours has an all metal lid, you will need a rubber band and a ribbon.

Cut your scrapbook paper into a strip that will fit around your tin. Attach to tin with double-sided tape or glue.

Fill your tin with coffee grounds.

Place small piece of fabric over the top of the tin. If your lid was all metal, secure the fabric in place with a rubber band and top with a ribbon. If you had a lid with a plastic insert, put the lid without the plastic on top of the fabric.

That’s it. Give the tin a shake when the air is a little stale. Refill with fresh grounds from time to time.

* I realized that shoving a DIY tutorial onto the end of a post largely not about air fresheners demonstrated poor organizational technique, so you may have already read this trick in its original location.