Saturday, August 31, 2013

Easy, breezy, comfortable...?

I can't really call this tutorial "beautiful" to finish the Cover Girl quote above but it is definitely easy and breezy AND comfortable so there you go.

I originally saw this idea on Delia Creates and basically just copied her tutorial. It's super quick - no sewing required! - and if you have hair like mine, it's pretty awesome to keep all those crazy fly-aways in check.

Step 1: Find an old shirt lying around that you can cut up. Alternatively, you can pick up one for cheap at a second-hand store. I chose this shirt because it was right before we were leaving on our trip to OR and we'd be right near Astoria :)

Step 2: Cut off one of the sleeves on the INSIDE of the seam (i.e. you DON'T want the seam on the sleeve).

Step 3: Cut off the hemmed edge. You can cut extra if you want your head wrap a bit skinnier, like I did.

So this is what you'll be left with for your wrap. Since it's made from a t-shirt which is jersey fabric you don't have to worry about it fraying. It will probably roll a bit but that just adds to the comfortable styling.

Step 4: To give your wrap a bit more style you can make some cuts in it so it looks like three bands but they're still all connected at the bottom.

I ended up cutting off one of the slits because it felt too wide on my head but even with just the two it really holds all of my hair back and is pretty cute looking to boot! (Just don't look too close or you'll see all my gray hairs.)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

K's 5 Year Photos

Well it's that time of year again when I gussy up the girls and take them over to JC Penney for an annual photo. It's funny how many more photos I have of them now since we go twice a year instead of just once when K was younger.

We had a different photographer this time which I was a little concerned about but I think she took some nice poses and coaxed pretty smiles out of the girls. I put on some music for K to try and make it more fun and that kind of backfired on me because she got too wound up and silly for the remaining pictures. Plus E really just wanted me to hold her the whole time so I had to keep ducking out of sight which was a bummer since I wanted to watch.

The other thing we did differently this time was that there were two sets of two pictures where they were very similar and I couldn't decide which one I liked better so A had the great idea to let K pick. I think she liked having a say in the decision and I'm quite happy with the ones she picked. So, enough talking. Here are her 5 year photos:

Instead of using their wooden number 5 we went with a 5 balloon.
(This is one of the photos that K picked.)

This is the other photo she picked. The other photo had her looking straight
into the camera but this smile is so genuine and her eyes are really twinkling.

This is where the craziness started but I love this picture collage because
K is ALWAYS dancing and twirling with Lily.

We got Sis in on the dancing action too. I love how her little
foot is pointed. She's been walking on her tip toes a lot lately.

I had purchased a Groupon for a photo package and part of it was a 3-image
CD. I chose this as one of my images because although I probably won't
print it to hang on the wall their goofy faces were too cute not to include in
their annual photo book.

I totally got suckered into getting this one on a canvas as part of their monthly
promotion. I couldn't help it - the price was right and it's a great family shot. We
got another family one that's a little different but you'll have to wait until Dec. to
see that one in your Christmas cards ;)

So there you have it. I'm happy with what we chose although it's unusual for me not to pick the more "posed" photos but I've been trying to realize that sometimes a more natural photo will be the one that I'll treasure the most. I love our family!

Monday, August 19, 2013

What we did on our summer vacation

I can't believe my baby is starting kindergarten tomorrow! How is it possible that she is old enough to start "real" school already? I know she's going to do great because she's an amazing kid. I just hope I do ok.

We've had an awesome summer and even though school is starting, I'm not calling it quits on summer fun just yet. So long as we still have nice weather we're going to keep on plowing through our Summer Passport to Fun. What is a Summer Passport to Fun you might ask? Well, let me show you!

I got this idea from one of the local park districts when we went to one of their programs and they handed out these passports to all of the different parks in their district. There were short descriptions and addresses to each place and a small square at the bottom where you can get a stamp from each location once visited. K thought the stamping part was super cool and she proceeded to use her own little self-inking stamper to place a stamp in every single square in that little passport. Well, seeing how much she enjoyed that and knowing we wouldn't be able to make it to all of the places listed in that other passport book, I decided to make my own filled with fun summer activities that I knew we would be able to do so she would be able to stamp a great majority of the book, and maybe even the whole thing. After I spent an evening making her Passport to Summer Fun, we went out the next day and bought a rainbow stamp pad, a four pack of little rubber stamps and one big capital K stamp. Now all we had to do was get out there and start having fun!

Some of the activities are specific to a certain date, like seeing the fireworks for Independence Day or a movie at the Wednesday Morning Movie series...

...but most of them are free from dates so we can accomplish them at our own pace.

I geared several pages in her passport around our vacation to Washington, Oregon and California since I knew I had some special activities planned with her and E in mind.

If you are interested in making one of these for your little Adventurer, I just used Microsoft Word and the clipart that comes with it (except for the picture of the train above which was from their actual website). Then I hole-punched the pages and bound them with silk cord. If you're looking for ideas on what to put in your own Passport to Summer Fun, check your local park district website. I listed all of the playgrounds in our area as well as all of the splash pads near us. You can also check your local library for special events, the Kids Bowl Free program or movie theatres that host a kids summer program. Here are a few of the non-location-specific activities we have:

Ride your bike
Take a walk with Great Grammie & Grampie
See a fireworks display
Get ice cream with Nana and Papa
Give Delmar (our van) a bath
Visit a farmer's market
Build a sandcastle (this was while we were at the beach on vacation but it doesn't have to be location specific if you have sand near you)
Fly a kite (again, this was while we were at the beach but any location with some wind will work)
Ride on a carousel (if you have one near you)
Play miniature golf
Visit an aquarium
Play in a sprinkler
Blow bubbles
Visit a petting zoo
Go camping (even if it's just in your own backyard, like we did)
Draw with sidewalk chalk
Go on a train ride
Have a picnic
Ride in a paddleboat
Go bowling with Mommy and Daddy
Make a terrarium
Go to a Renaissance Faire
Go swimming
Go to a children's museum
Go on a nature scavenger hike
Have a water balloon fight
Go to a local carnival / festival
Visit a car show
Make a sun print

Here's how I ended her Passport to Summer Fun:

I can't wait to hear what she picks!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Why I think Despicable Me is a great movie

My daughter has been a huge fan of the move, Despicable Me, since the first time she saw it. This summer we were anxiously awaiting its return with Despicable Me 2 and while it definitely had some funny bits and heart warming scenes, it lacked the relationships that I feel make the first movie such a great film.

First off, there aren't too many animated movies that star a single dad as the main character (at least not that many that I know of) and Gru is such an unlikely character to turn into such a great Dad. But throughout the movie we witness the changes he goes through while falling in love with these girls. Plus the movie highlights adoption which is another great talking point and identifier for those families that have adopted children. Also, we see the relationship between Gru and his own mother and how it evolves and becomes more supportive and loving. Despicable Me also tackles two other issues that are great conversation starters; trust and how, even when that trust is broken, we can forgive and learn to trust again, as well as peer pressure and letting others talk us into doing something we don't feel comfortable with but then learning how to follow our hearts to do what we know is right.

Despicable Me is a hilarious movie and the minions are totally awesome. I'll admit though that the first 20 or so times we watched it I really only took it at face value. But as I was thinking about this movie today while driving around with my own kids, I noticed how much deeper it is than I initially thought. So if you haven't seen Despicable Me, I definitely recommend it and if you have, try watching it again with a more focused eye and see if you don't notice how much more this movie has to offer.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The "Other" Baby Essentials: part 2

Did you know that it was World Breastfeeding Week 2013 this past week and August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month? Yeah, me neither. But in light of their whole, "I support you" campaign focusing on supporting all mothers no matter how they feed their children, I figured this was a good time for my next installment of Other Baby Essentials since it's all about items I used to help make breastfeeding easier for me and my child.

1) A nursing pillow - Newborn babies are so tiny and weigh so little, until you spend long nursing sessions holding them in your arms, trying to jockey the baby around into the right position. That's where a good nursing pillow comes in handy. The pillow I heard of and saw most at retail shops is the Boppy. My sister-in-law let me borrow hers when K was a baby and it was never quite right for me. The problem with it for me is that it slipped down too far on my waist to keep K in the right spot for breastfeeding. (*Update: Boppy has updated their nursing pillows and they now come with an adjustable strap and feature a firm side for nursing and a soft side for snuggling. I think this is a huge improvement and I'm glad they worked with lactation consultants to improve their product.) After some research online I came across the My Brest Friend nursing pillow. I love this pillow! It has a highly adjustable strap that wraps around your waist (or ribcage, like I did) and really holds the pillow right where you need it. When E was little I used to carry her around on that thing (holding onto her of course so she wouldn't roll off) when she would fall asleep after nursing. That's how well it stayed in place. The pillow itself is firm enough to keep the baby in the correct position but comfortable enough that she often fell asleep on it. Plus it offers a higher back for better support and a pocket to store smaller items.
It comes in other cuter fabrics but this is the one I have

2) A comfortable nursing bra - Here's the scoop - I can't stand underwire. It always seems to dig in or jab me in the armpit but wire-free bras tend to not offer enough support. Like with most things I buy, I turned to the internet to read reviews on basically every nursing bra that's available. I came up with the Bravado Body Silk Seamless Nursing Bra and let me tell you, it's SO comfortable. The cup comes all of the way down which is good for achieving the correct latch, especially in the beginning when you're just trying to figure that out. The fabric is stretchy enough to allow for growth but supportive enough to be comfortable.
I like it so much I have it in 4 different colors

3) Nursing pajamas - In the beginning, when you're feeling sleep deprived and you're up nursing (again), a convenient nursing pajama top is really nice to have instead of fussing with a baggy t-shirt that just ends up getting in the way for you and your baby. I have a few different tops and nightgowns and no particular brand is really any better than another so long as you find one that fits comfortably and is convenient for you.

4) Somewhere comfortable to sit - I've nursed our baby in pretty much any place you can think of but my favorite place is in the girls darkened bedroom sitting in our hand-me-down rocker / recliner from my Grandma. It's highly padded in all of the right spots and it's super comfortable which is great because we all spend a lot of time in it. I use it mostly for breastfeeding E, A uses it when he's putting her to sleep, and K loves to read books in it. I know a bigger chair like ours may seem overwhelming in a nursery, especially if it's a smaller room to begin with and you have to fit a crib and changing area in there as well, but I'm so glad we have our rocker because it gets a ton of use on a daily basis.
This isn't our exact chair but it's similar

5) Nursing cover-up - In the beginning stages of nursing, particularly in public or when guests were over, I used a cover up. I think a cover up makes nursing in public a lot more comfortable for "the other guy", even more so than it may for the mother. I'm incredibly thankful to say that I've never been subjected to any negativity or criticisms toward my nursing in public. Maybe that's because I do try and maintain a certain level of modesty, but it may also be that nursing in public is becoming more common and accepted. Plus, using a cover up can help your baby nurse better because it blocks out all of the other distractions that might be drawing her attention away from the business at hand (or mouth, as the situation may be). The great thing about the particular cover up I have is that it has a RigiFlex neck which means it stands out away from your body so you can look down and see your baby but it's still flexible enough to fold up. Also, with the way the strap attached around your neck, your little one can pull it off when she gets a little older and wants to see everything that's happening around her. And as a bonus, a nursing cover up acts as a great lightweight blanket if you happen to be out and need one but forgot to pack one in your already full diaper bag.
This is the one I have and I love the pattern

6) Lightweight cardigan - I love these lightweight swing cardigans from Meijer (so much so that I have 3 and am looking to buy at least one more). On our recent plane ride to the Pacific Northwest, I wore one of these and was able to use it as a nursing cover up, a blanket for E, and a great layering piece for myself. A lightweight cardigan is so versatile and can really extend your wardrobe into the cooler months. The great thing about wearing something like this is if your diaper bag really is too crowded you can still nurse in public and be completely covered up by just taking it off and draping it over your shoulder and the baby.

I would like to wrap up this post by echoing the World Breastfeeding Week's theme of "I support you". Before K was born, A and I talked about the fact that I really wanted to breastfeed. Unfortunately, I was unable to breastfeed K and I felt like such a failure as a mother. It was the support from my husband who told me that it was more important for K to be eating and healthy than it was for me to be so hard on myself because things weren't going according to my "plan". Before E was born, I stocked up on formula because I didn't want to find myself in the position (again) of wanting to breastfeed but not being able to and being completely unprepared to offer an alternative option. Call it Murphy's Law but E has been exclusively breastfed from day 1. But even though I used different methods of feeding my babies, they are both healthy, happy, intelligent, wonderful little girls. I support you, moms out there, doing the best you can for your children and for yourselves, and I thank you for your support while I do the best I can.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Shower Like You Mean It

As I was standing in the shower this evening, it occured to me that my showering routine has changed significantly over the years, but specifically after having kids. I've never been one to stand under the running water for an extended period of time. Call it an aversion to being wet or probably just my inner hippie thinking about all that wasted water just pouring down the drain, but over time I've developed a quick, chock-full shower routine that works for me. And hey, maybe it can work for you too.

First off, I shower at night. Now that right there might be off-putting to some (many?) people. I used to shower in the morning but two things changed this: K & E. My girls LOVE to play in any form of water they can get into to. Whenever I'd start the water my girls would come running into the bathroom, K already stripping her clothes off in order to get in the shower with me. Now don't get me wrong, the first few times this happened I thought it was adorable. I love my girls to pieces but sometimes I just want those 10 minutes to myself. Holding a slippery baby in your arms while to trying to shave just isn't going to happen. So now I shower at night when they're both in bed. This also ensures that I DO actually shower because E doesn't always sleep through the night and between getting up with her (several times a night lately since she's sick) and sometimes going to bed too late, I'm tired in the morning and I don't want to get up before the kids to shower because that would mean I'd be up at like 5:30 and I'm not a morning person. Also, I kind of feel refreshed and I like feeling like I'm going to bed clean. I've cleaned off the "grime" of the day and I'm starting fresh for a new day.

Ok, now if you're still with me, on to my showering routine. I combine a few nightly tasks during my shower to A) conserve water, and B) conserve time.

Step 1. Turn on the water, grab my toothbrush and toothpaste, and brush my teeth in the shower while waiting for the water to reach it's peak temperature. Since the water has to run anyway to get warm, I'd rather brush my teeth in there and actually use that water instead of just letting it go down the drain and then also using the water in the sink to brush. Besides, while spitting is one of my highest pet peeves, spitting while standing up in the shower is kind of cool. I know it sounds weird but just try it some time. You might giggle. I also get myself wet during this step.

Step 2. Wash and rinse your hair.

Step 3. Now that you don't have to worry about soap getting in your eyes, wash your face. I keep my facial cleanser in the shower to again, save water and time. I don't wear makeup on a daily, who am I kidding, monthly basis so I don't use a makeup remover or anything. Two squirts of Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser and I'm a happy girl.

Step 4. Apply conditioner.

Step 5. While the conditioner is making your hair soft and magical, soap up your body. This is also when I shave (also once a month. Ok, I'm kidding, kind of.)

Step 6. Rinse your body and hair at the same time and your done.

Seriously, it takes like 10 - 15 minutes and I'm done with the majority of my nightly routine. When I get out of the shower I put on a facial lotion, then a body lotion, run a wide-tooth comb through my hair to get any loose hairs out, wash the lotion off my hands, apply a spray-on gel, scrunch my hair with a towel (that way my hands don't get all sticky) and I'm off to bed.

I realize as with all personal hygiene choices, it's very, well, personal. However, I hope maybe by reading what I do, you might think of ways you can conserve water and help streamline your routine to give yourself a few extra minutes each day to do something for yourself. Because we all know that women in particular do so much for others that we rarely take the time to do something for ourselves.

Happy showering and good night!

The "Other" Baby Essentials: part 1

Anyone who has had a baby (or has shopped for a baby) knows that the amount of "stuff" you can buy for your baby can be extremely overwhelming. And many of us have bought or been gifted things that seemed like great ideas but then are never used. There are few things more frustrating than spending hard earned cash on things that add to the already mounting pile of clutter. So that's why I'm going to do a two part blog post about a few items that I felt were truly essential. (I'm calling this the "Other" Essentials because obviously things like a safe place for the baby to sleep, diapers (consider using cloth!), a car seat, perhaps a portable crib are more of the truly essential items.)

1) A diaper bag - When you first start going out with your little one, you're going to want to bring extra diapers, wipes, maybe a bottle and formula (depending on your feeding preferences), a change of clothes, maybe a pacifier... you get my point. And then when they get older, the kind of stuff changes but somehow the amount doesn't seem to get any less. I would highly recommend trying out a few different kinds of diaper bags before settling on the one you like. I got the diaper bag I've used for the past 5 years and through two kids from a second hand store. Honestly, I don't even like the looks of it but over the years I've bought other cuter diaper bags (I kept the tags on them) and did a side by side comparison as to the amount of "stuff" that I can get in and I always come back to my original. We travel to see family and friends on a fairly regular basis so I need to be able to pack a lot of diapers and wipes, snacks, sippy cups, bibs, books, games, sometimes a portable DVD player in mine so my situation may be a bit different than yours. But since you'll be using this bag on a daily basis, it doesn't hurt to purchase a few, fill them up with the stuff you think you'd most likely use, and see how it all fits. Just remember to keep your receipts!
My ugly, second hand diaper bag (by Andy B)

2) Rear facing mirror for the car - When your baby is still young he or she will need to be in a rear-facing car seat and being able to see your baby while driving or riding can be very reassuring. We've had three different mirrors between the two kids and quite frankly, most of them aren't very good - the reflective surface is all wavy like those Fun House mirrors and they aren't very easy to adjust. However, the Diono mirror we got for E is awesome! The reflective surface is amazing (just like a normal mirror) and it's incredibly adjustable. Plus, it seems like you could install it in any kind of car.
Baby mirror in action (and the reflection really is that clear)

3) Winter Bunting - If you have a baby (or a young child) in the winter months like we did, a warm bunting comes in really handy. A bunting is basically a snowsuit for babies but it has a hood, hand covers, and foot covers all attached so you don't have to scramble around trying to find these accessories as your trying to haul your baby, diaper bag, purse, car keys, cell phone... you get the picture We had a pink version of this one and not only was it super warm and soft, but it looked adorable on E.
I love the feet and the ears on the hood

4) Infant car seat cover - This is another item that is extremely helpful for winter babies. I recommend looking for a car seat cover that you install over the carrier with elastic (like a shower cap) because then you don't have any straps underneath your car seat that could potentially get in the way of the car seat locking into the base. And then easy peasy, you just zip this up around your baby and they'll be nice and warm without the extra bulk of a winter coat that could interfere with the seat belts being tight enough. Two things I really like about these covers is that they are water resistant with a fleece lining, and there is a space for their head to poke out but can be zipped closed if needed. It looks like the main difference between the Deluxe version and the Arctic version is the Arctic version has an attached blanket for swaddling around the baby inside the carrier.
Staying warm in style