Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z is for Zoo and Zero

Wow, folks! We've reached the end. There are zero days left in the A-Z Challenge. Thanks for stopping by and following all the 26 posts of the month. I've really enjoyed connecting with everyone and finding new, awesome blogs. I thought this was a really great idea. If you're ever stuck on what to write for your blog, go through the alphabet. It's a fun way to think up new ideas.

I'm closing the challenge on an easy note, using someone pictures I took of zoo animals. I'll be back in a few days. Have a wonderful weekend!

Funny meerkat

Lazy monkey

Majestic and blurry all in one
Elephant from the safari ride in Animal Kingdom

Friday, April 29, 2011

Y is for You Might be an Exceptional Parent

Are you an Exceptional Parent? You might be if...

1. You make the best decisions, all the time.

2. You know everything there is to know about everything. You don't need anyone's advice - ever, even if you ask for it. You were just being nice.

3. You make sure everyone knows how well you know your child, and that no one else does. It's important everyone's on the same page about this matter.

4. You make sure everyone knows that anything bad your child does is clearly from an outside influence (specifically those other kids). You had nothing to do with it.

5. You know anything good your child does is a reflection of you and your amazing parenting skills.

6. You know that when your child misbehaves, it's not because she's being bad or typical. It's because your child is so incredibly advanced, and she just continues to outsmart everyone - which is something she learned from you.

7. You feel sad for those people who make any parenting choices that differ from yours. How unfortunate.

8. You let others know how amazing your children are. This is actually a nice, gentle way to showcase your abilities as a parent. You are careful to word your boasts so they don't sound like competition, but just friendly conversation.

9. You know how hard it is being an exceptional parent. Sometimes you have to let others know just how stressed out you are. It's just not as easy as they think!

10. You are feeling slightly uncomfortable by now. ;)

Congratulate an Exceptional Parent today!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

X is for X Chromosome

"My husband is so stupid. 
Why, if he were lying face down he wouldn't have sense enough to turn his head to breathe. 
That's why I do his thinking for him."
-Brian Regan, Epitome of Hyperbole

I would like to spend a little time today addressing the female population and a common occurrence among them: bashing their husbands, boyfriends, or men in general.

I often wonder why women insist on doing this. Whether it's to their faces, behind their backs, or in front of family/friends, I see it all the time. Women bash their men. I really can't understand it.

Oh, I know what you're thinking, But men are jerks! Trust me, I know.

Trust me, I know too. We've all been there. We've all been with or known that guy who definitely was not Mr. Right. We've all seen the guy who couldn't commit to one girl even if he was given a million dollars. We've all seen the guy who uses women. We've all seen the guy who lies, cheats, or is abusive or mean.

But news flash: girls do all that too. (Uhh...grumble grumble, no they don't.) Girls can be just as shady, hard to read, dishonest, backstabbing, etc. It's not like women are perfect angels who always make sense and never mistakes, and men are the evil population we all have to be wary of. It's actually really embarrassing being around a woman who takes every opportunity to put her man down. Even if she's trying to make it a joke, it's really not funny. It's awkward.

Now, I totally think there's a difference between doing what I just described above vs. innocently teasing your significant other. I'm married to a great guy (<-- post about him, if you care to read) who made my jaw drop at the difference. Before him, I had been around guys who would "jokingly" put me down, laugh their butts off, and wonder why I didn't think they were the most hilarious human beings to ever walk the earth.

But when Ian and I started hanging out, I was actually shocked by how different teasing could be. He would tease me to make me laugh, not anyone else. He really does have a great sense of humor, and it's great being around someone who is truly funny, trying to make me smile. ("Bacon??" lol)

And at the same time, I understand: your S.O. isn't perfect. I get it. No one is. I could sit here and complain about how Ian insists on living only by candlelight after 7pm, or how he brushes his teeth in the dark, so as to not throw off his circadian rhythm. Or that he reads through my blogs, calling out corrections while I'm tidying the house. And how he will probably be doing so when he reaches this point in today's blog. (You don't have to, darling; I'm just exaggerating.)

Take a little time today to be 100% grateful for your husband, boyfriend, fiance, etc. Stop bashing your men. It doesn't make you look like a strong woman - it actually has the opposite effect.

::steps down off the soap box::

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W is for Ways to Piss Off a Pregnant Woman

Pardon my French. I usually say "tick off" but the article title says the "p" word, hence I allow myself to be manipulated into repeating it.

So...yes, the article!

Definitely check this out, 10 Ways to Piss Off a Pregnant Woman. It is hilarious! I can't even pick a favorite one. They're all so true. As a pregnant momma myself, I've started to hear these same things. Granted, it's not as bad as it was the first time around with Little Olive. Number 8, for example, has been the big one. People comment on how big or small they think I am already. At 17 weeks, I admit I am not as enormous as I was with L.O. (But maybe I'm just carrying differently. Or maybe this baby doesn't have legs. That would affect her/his size, right?) People ask when my due date is and then start calculating in their heads how big I really should be by now. They then assume I have my conception date wrong...I mean, who can trust a young mom to know about things like that anyway?

I'm actually telling the truth. With my first pregnancy, people said I got my conception date wrong...or that I thought I got a period when I really didn't. (Oh, I'm serious.) After all, how could a healthy, 8lb baby be born three weeks early!? Um...the same way a healthy 11lb baby can be born at full term. And maybe because I ate like a horse my entire pregnancy.

How do I feel about Number 10 (touching a pregnant belly)? I don't mind too much. If you're family or friend, it's probably okay - just ask first, or else I might just reach out and touch yours so we're equal. If you're a stranger/creeper, it's probably not okay.

Number 7 is really good. "Just wait until the baby comes." Because after that your. life. is. over. I see this in all situations, not just pregnancy. It almost seems like people don't want you to be happy! Or maybe they can't be happy until they make sure you're as miserable as they are.

"I'm so excited to get married!"
Just wait till you're sick of your husband.

"I can't wait to graduate and get a real job!"
You say that now. In a year you'll be wishing you were a kid again.

"I'm loving this sunshine!"
Seriously? I am way too hot.

"I bought a new car today! It's awesome."
Now watch your insurance rates skyrocket. 

"Yes! New cell phone. Totally excited."
Keep it away from the baby or else they'll puke on it.

"Look at this picture of my cute child."
...What is she WEARING?

"I'm actually getting along with the dog! Hooray."
No, you're not. You're lying. 

This is what I got when
typing"glass half full"
into google images.
They're so creative.
I once heard a great piece of advice. It came from a class at my community college (my favorite college ever!). My teacher told us it was important to find happiness in whatever area of life we happen to be. You couldn't think the grass would be greener on the other side. You couldn't depend on another stage of your life making you happier. "When the semester's done, everything will be perfect." Naturally, students feel stress during their school year and relief when it's over. That's normal. But it's about enjoying life at every stage while you can, not just waiting for it to get better. You have to make that happen yourself.

So if you notice someone being optimistic about life, don't squash their happiness simply because you're miserable.

If you notice someone being optimistic, learn from them! The glass can be half full. They can find the bright side of things. There's always a silver lining.

Your job today is to pass along a positive, hopeful, happy piece of life. You can do it, I promise. :)

Monday, April 25, 2011

U is for Ukrainian Easter Eggs (Pysanky)

I hope everyone had a Happy Easter! I thought my daughter would be the only one with a sugar crash at the end of the day, but I found myself in her shoes as well. With only one week left of the A-Z Challenge, I start this Monday off with my "U" post and a bit of a chocolate bunny headache.

About 11 years ago, a Polish family taught my family how to make Pysanky, Ukrainian Easter Eggs. Also known as "pisanki" or Polish Easter Eggs, this meticulous and beautiful art form can be fun and addicting. We didn't get to it this year, otherwise I would have written it as my "P" post, saving myself from choosing to highlight Polish or Ukrainian. (Don't hate me; it's both!) Nonetheless, enjoy the pictures.

Pysanky involves many steps and little tools that hold melting beeswax. First, you poke a hole in the bottom of the egg and drain everything out (and make a delicious cheese omelette while you're at it). Next, take your little tool (as seen in picture to the right) and cover any part of the egg that you want to stay white. Then, you dye your egg the next lightest color (yellow, or light green/pink for example). Then add more to your design by covering sections in beeswax. You continue doing this, one step at a time, going darker in your colors, until you have completed your design. The egg will look messy, black, and unattractive. This is normal.

Then, you *carefully* remove all the wax with a hair blowdryer, wiping away the black wax with a soft towel. I highlight carefully because too much heat can cause the egg to crack. You don't want this after all your hard work! As the wax melts away, all the colors and designs come through, revealing a beautiful egg.

I found these pictures from Google images, but the blue egg above is the exact design I tried one year! Mine looks a little different. Doing something so precise takes a lot of patience and a steady hand, something I'm not really known for. My pride and joy of an egg is one colored dark green with "Lord of the Rings" designs all over. I even remember writing Legolas' name. It's a gorgeous egg. If I get a picture of it, I'll be sure to post it for you all to see.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

T is for Teething

Teething can be such a sad and painful time for a baby. The discomfort they're feeling makes them miserable - I mean, wouldn't you feel the same way if sharp teeth were cutting up through your gums at such a young age? Sure, you might think, but there's always Oragel. I'm not adamantly against Oragel or other medicines that numb the pain. After all, they work. But I am hesitant because they can numb other parts of the mouth, making feeding difficult, or inhibiting their gag reflex. Not always a good thing!

Thankfully, there are several natural options for teething relief.

Boiron Homeopathic Medicine Camilia Teething Relief Single-Use Oral Doses, 20-Count Boxes (Pack of 2)The first is Boiron Homeopathic Camilia. Its main ingredient is the remedy, chamomilla. Have you ever heard of chamomile tea? Known for its relaxing qualities, essentially, chamomilla is a remedy for teething, as it works to ease restlessness, sore gums, and irritability. I went through so many of these packets as Little Olive was starting to teethe. They worked almost immediately, and they were low enough in potency so that I could repeat a dose when needed. I found these at our local grocery store, but you can also find them online, such as on

The next is just plain, old Chamomilla. For those of you who are not being guided by a well-trained homeopath, you can give doses of 12c or 30c. Dissolve 3 tablets in water, and give a teaspoon of the solution to the baby every 4 hours until they're better.

Another idea that my husband and I really liked was wetting washcloths, sticking them in the freezer, and then letting L.O. chew on them to relieve the pain. She loved it.

And then if you want to destine your child to alcoholism, you can always rub whiskey on the gums. Maintaining my title as the Exceptional Parent, I have to say: I prefer a safe remedy any day!

Friday, April 22, 2011

S is for Sign Language Baby

Have you ever thought of teaching your baby sign language? I know people have different opinions on this. Oh, what a great idea versus No thanks, I want my kid to actually speak instead.

Signing "again/repeat" when she was young
I'm one who recommends sign language for babies. My husband and I both took classes in college and learned from our friends, but he wins when it comes to fluency. But for anyone who has no background in ASL, don't worry! Teaching a baby doesn't require one to be fluent - at all. Signs are very easy to learn and teach. Start by picking just a few signs to help your child communicate.

The reason I think sign language is so helpful for parents is because babies really understand it. At first they might just mimic your hand motions. But soon they learn that by hearing/seeing "repeat/again," you will play their favorite song again. It encourages them to mimic for a reason, and then be able to ask on their own. Before they are capable of speaking, they will be able to tell you what they want (or at least most of the time).

We started with signs like "more, repeat/again, and all-done". These were helpful when it came to eating table food, listening to music, or taking a bath. We always said the word with the sign, so it never replaced speaking for her. She learned both at the same time, but obviously she couldn't speak them so young.

As she got older, we added more relevant signs to her vocabulary as they were needed. Right now she knows more, please, all-done, thank-you, different, again, music, food, water, drink, milk, book, bowl, bacon, piano, computer, apple, poop (hey, it comes in handy), hungry, thirsty, cereal, happy. 

I'm sure a lot of exceptional parents shy away from communicating through sign language with their advanced child because, well, they simply don't need it. "I already know what my baby wants, even before they try to speak." I know where they're coming an extent. But coming from a stay-at-home mom who is with her kid 24/7, I even think it helps - especially during this babbling stage. Little Olive speaks some words clear as day - but then others I'm so clueless trying to figure out what she means. When she does the sign with it, then it all makes sense. Her spoken word for "music" sounds nothing like it. But when she waves her little hand across her forearm, I know she wants her songs. It's so adorable.

Here is a great link to help you get started or learn more:

I love this because it has videos for each sign and explains how to do it. Give it a try and see how quickly you can pick up some signs!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

R is for "Really, I can handle it."

I have to admit something, I get a little nervous when I think about the baby's arrival. (Oh my gosh, it's 5 months away. Just relax for now.) But it's not about the baby, necessarily. I'm beyond excited for that. But all the joys that come with a newborn are also accompanied by some outside stress. Not sure what I mean? Read on. 

Disagree if you like, but everyone, everyone is such an expert when it comes to parenting. Even those who aren't parents have strong opinions about what works and what doesn't. Whether or not they have had any experience in that particular issue, they already know the answer - and they are always ready to tell you.

Enjoying a moment
last fall
Don't get me wrong. I like when I bring up an issue among family and friends looking for help, "Why won't my baby eat anything besides toast and avocados?" and they offer their views: "Maybe try this," or "With my baby, this really helped." I'm still learning, and I really appreciate some great advice I've been given.

However, I always struggle with unasked-for advice, especially when it does not sit well with my personality or way of parenting. I also struggle with how to tell people, "No, thank you." For example, when Little Olive was brand new and she cried, I wanted her back right away. 

And clearly, this is because I was a horribly controlling mother who had a spazz attack every time my child made the slightest fuss.

Actually no. This is how it went: the sound of her crying tightened every muscle in my body. I could feel my blood pressure rise. I couldn't relax for anything. It's not that I was overreacting - instead, a fresh, necessary, motherly instinct was kicking in right on time. The sound of a baby crying is supposed to make you anxious, because otherwise we'd let our kids cry forever. As someone who has been around babies for almost my entire life, I understood what this felt like. When babies cried at the day care, I couldn't just block it out. When my nieces or nephews cried, we carried them right to their mommies.


But when I became a parent, this reaction was a million times stronger. I didn't just need her to stop crying; I needed her to be okay
 - pronto. But people would try to do it themselves and calm her down. They'd bounce and rock and shush and sing and walk and move farther away from me. Everyone wanted to be the hero! But in my mind, they all became little villains because they were not helping the situation. 

And little did they know that the sound of my baby crying was causing a physical reaction inside me that I couldn't just announce, "Hey everyone, just so you know - my milk is letting down now!" That's right - hearing the sound of a baby crying causes a mother to have a milk letdown, which essentially means fresh milk floods into the breasts, ready to be nursed away. It can be an uncomfortable feeling, especially when the mother is already anxious. I think moms who haven't breastfed in a while, or ever, do not realize this when they're keeping a crying baby away from the mom. (Just as I forgot until reminded by a friend. Thanks, Megan!) 

And I felt like I had to pretend to be okay with the fact that my child was not calming down. I was expected to look like the well-rounded, laid back mom who would brush it off saying, "She's fine. She just nursed...she shouldn't need anything."

But I was not that kind of mom. I just didn't know how to say it. How was I to be respectful of my elders, visitors, peers, and of relatives, but still do what I feel was right as a mother? A few times I had to just take the baby away from whoever was holding her...because apparently my pounding heartbeat and polite requests couldn't be heard by those around me. I felt uncomfortable even having to do it because 1) it made me look like a b*tch, 2) I was aggravated I even had to stand up and remove the child from their arms, and 3) I know they always meant well. They never intended to keep my baby crying; they wanted her to be fine too. After she was snuggled at the breast (whether she had just eaten or not), she was fine. 

I mean no disrespect to the many women who tried to calm Little Olive down. I know they just wanted to help. After all, from their perspective, I was a brand new mom who couldn't have possibly known what I was doing. Older moms especially want to know they "still have it". They wanted to show me the ropes. But unfortunately, when a baby is crying, it's not the time to shine a spotlight on your exceptional parenting skills. It's about doing what's best for the new baby, and if that means giving the baby back to her mother, so be it. Doing that simple thing shows you respect both the new mom and the baby the way you would want to be respected. 

So I'll admit, if I let myself worry about it, I get nervous at the thought of another round of polite "Can have her back for a minute?" requests. I have a feeling I'll have to be much more forward when it comes to this issue for Bambino Two. If other people are annoyed by what I do as a mom, I'm truly sorry, but they are adults and can deal with it. As my mom always said, "They raised their children, and I'm raising mine."

Thank you in advance for your understanding. :)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q is for Quiet and Quality

I feel like I've been running a lot lately. I started to feel worn down this week; not as if I'm getting sick, but just feeling the need to relax. When I try to squeeze too many visits, errands, or chores in a day, my little pregnant belly starts to grumble. Just go sit down. So today I did. Little Olive surprised me in the afternoon with a wonderfully long nap, giving me more than enough downtime for myself. It's naps like this that have me glancing at the clock, itching for her to wake up. When she did, she was so cute and cuddly.

We had some awesome moments together today. We didn't do anything unusual, no crafts (surprise! lol) or projects, but we didn't need to. I just focussed on her.

Are You My Mother?We read her favorite book, Are You My Mother by P. D. Eastman. She loves that book, and I couldn't tell you why! She always has...she sits through the whole thing. Lately, she enjoys drawing in it. With pens. Always around the little bird too. It's a sign. She's so advanced.

We ate snacks of yogurt, oatmeal, GF pasta (which I must have cooked wrong because, my goodness, it was gross), and juice boxes.

She has been (more than usual) very affectionate lately. Maybe she's catching onto how sweet it is? Whatever the reason, I totally love it. She gives the best bear-hugs - and the best toddler kisses ever. She wraps her little arms tightly around my neck and just smacks her little lips against mine. If I smile, she does it again. If I try not to, she'll wait until I do.

I just relish these moments.

Have you ever heard of The 5 Love Languages? You should go take the quiz and see which one you are. I'm quality time. I love, love, love just spending meaningful time with people, especially Ian. I love when we go on walks, sit on the couch and talk, drive together, or even go grocery shopping (though he doesn't care too much for that). I start to feel cranky when we haven't spent that kind of time together. So it's no surprise that when it comes to L.O., I feel the same way. I love being with her...even if all we're doing is making a diaper change funny, or pretending I understand her serious sentences of complete babble.

It's little moments like this that make me stop, look upward, and say "Thank you".

Be sure to take some time today to just be thankful. And take the quiz! It's really cool. :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

P is for the Passion of Christ
In the Catholic Church, we've just begun Holy Week - the week leading up to Easter. It started with Palm Sunday - a beautiful, tradition-filled Mass, with all the congregation holding palms in remembrance of Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem. Extra blessings, readings, and focus was put on this week, and what we can do to prepare for Easter.

Families handle Holy Week differently. Some turn off the tv and computer. Others go to church more often, say more prayers, perhaps fast or abstain from desserts or treats. Growing up, my family went to the Triduum each night for Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil. We kept Good Friday very solemn and holy.

For those of you not too fond of the Catholic Church, let me shed some light on why we do these things:

We don't make sacrifices because we like to be miserable.
Or because we feel we have to beat ourselves to be good.
We don't do this to guilt trip each other and other people.
We don't do it just because it's what the Big Bad Church has forced us into doing.

We do this because Christ went through crap during this week. He went through more misery and pain than any of us could imagine. (You think you have it bad sometimes? Do some research about Roman scourgings and crucifixions...I bet your life will look pretty nice afterward.)

We do this because Christ loved us.  He loved me, and you, and everyone you can think of, so much that He endured all of this for us. 

Here's what I think: by sacrificing and meditating on Christ's Passion, we become closer to Him. We start to understand how much love He has for us. By bringing Him inside our hearts, and with His passion filling our minds, we naturally want to be better people. We want to live good lives, be charitable, forgiving, and gentle. We want to do this because we realize how beautiful our Savior is, and it makes us want to be as amazing as He is. 

But it all starts with Him; it starts with what He did for us.

Even if you're not Catholic, Christian, or anything, you can still read or think about this week's events. It certainly won't hurt you. To think that a Man, over 2000 years ago, chose to die just for you because He knew you were worth it...

It certainly makes me feel very humbled. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

O is for Ohh, Politics

Oh, politics. I cannot help being annoyed with you. Every candidate promises to save the world from people like him/herself, fix schools, cut taxes, and give you a billion dollars - just because. Then they get elected, fall into their party's stereotypes, and you're sitting at home, swearing at the radio, waiting for your free money. "Hello...? This is why I voted for you..."

For all the political issues going on in the world, I chose an ugly font color for today...what is this, pukey brown anyways? In a paint store, they would name it, "Mocha Sunbeam" or something impossible like that.

To bring a lighthearted view to politics, enjoy this video from none other than Mr. Brian Regan. 
It's so true. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011


I used to tutor college English and writing (I'm so smart). While I know I'm far from perfect when it comes to the technical and creative aspects of our language, there are some mistakes that sound like nails on a chalkboard to my eyes.

1. There, they're and their. If it's possessive, then use their: "Their house looks great." If it's a contraction of they and are, use they're: "They're putting a new roof on the house." If it's referring to a place, use there: "Look at that house over there."

2. It's and its. It's either a contraction or possessive. Don't write "Potty training at it's worst." That translates to: Potty training at it is worst. I don't think so.

3. Should of, could of, would of. It's how we all talk, but it should be should have, could have, would have.

4. The word that is overused. I learned this from a great teacher, and it has jumped out at me ever since. "I know that we all love to talk about our pets, but I've realized that it gets a little annoying." Take both of them out, and the sentence works just fine.

5. We all know there are times when a comma is desperately needed to separate clauses otherwise the reader isn't sure when to start or stop or where a new idea begins and the old one ends and this often not only creates a comma problem but also a run-on sentence problem so use your commas and we'll all be happy!

6. On the other hand, too many commas, often inserted for dramatic effect, or where we think we would naturally take a breath, if we were to read it out loud, can make the reader also unsure, of where a different ideas begin, and end.

7. Incorrect use of the semi-colon; when people use it for commas, or periods; or to be creative. It just looks plain silly;

8. Uses of the number zero to replace the letter "o". Call me when y0u get 0uta w0rk t0night. Stop it!

9. Being Creative By Capitalizing Every Word In Every Sentence Doesn't Work And Is Beyond Difficult To Read.

10. not giving proper names or beginning of sentences capitalization for whatever reason people come up with. i actually tutored a guy once who refused to capitalize "new york yankees" because he hated the team. it was a little ridiculous.

I'm sorry you're bitter because they're just that good, but please be mature about it.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

N is for Nature Trail

Last summer, my husband, daughter, and I took a nice walk one afternoon 
at a local nature preserve. Here are some pictures I took that day. 

Mr. Frogman

Those dam beavers

I still see nature behind you!

I know you're all just dying to copy these amazing pictures of mine. I am quite the photographer.
If you want to use them for any reason, link back to my blog. Please and thank you!

Friday, April 15, 2011

M is for Movie Memories

A couple days ago, my husband and I took Little Olive to her first movie in the theaters. I have been wanting to do this for a very long time...probably because I love going to the movies so much. I know she is young (just 17 months) and probably wouldn't understand what was going on, but we figured as long as the movie had music, we were safe. (Have I ever told you just how much L.O. loves music? Someday, I'll write a blog about it.) We went to a theater that Ian and I have visited often and affectionately named "The Cheap Shows" - due to its $2.00 Wednesday movies. You can also buy a Big Deal which includes a drink, popcorn, and your ticket for $6.00. Since L.O. was free, it only cost us $8.00 to go. At a nice Regal, we would have paid about $28.00 for the show and snacks. 

Exactly. Hence, the Cheap Shows.

We went to see "Tangled" - the Disney movie about Rapunzel. It was pretty cute! Nothing like the old classics, but enjoyable enough for all of us. Little Olive wolfed down her popcorn like it was nobody's business - probably because we didn't put any of the Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil (aka, buttery topping) on it. It's just so much better plain - or with real butter! We got lemonade instead of pop too, so she had a pretty decent little snack there. 

She actually sat through almost the entire movie on our laps. She cuddled, bounced to some of the music, and smiled at us. It was almost like she knew it was a special time (so advanced, eh?). She was great until the very end...she was getting antsy and probably sick of sitting still, so we stood in the back and made it till the end. 

Overall, I'd say it was a success. Not that we'll be making a habit out of going, but it was special for us to have that with her! 

Here she is stuffing her face with her new favorite snack

Thursday, April 14, 2011

L is for Life Well Loved

Today, I wanted to take some time and thank all my new followers: Dyana T, Susan May, Mountain Mama, Cindy, Tomara, Rebecca, Little Yogini, Jasmin, Jade, Wren, Justine, Moira, Dan, and Anibel. You each made me so happy, excited, and flattered when you followed my blog. Thanks for visiting and leaving comments! I read every single one. And in turn, I have enjoyed reading your posts, especially during this A-Z Challenge.

I was also given an award! Deirdra, over at A Story Book World, gave me a Beautiful Mommy Writer Award. How awesome is that. :) I'm excited to add it to my blog.

Because the blogging world is just full of kind people who are always looking for another great writer, I wanted to highlight a follower of mine who keeps up a beautiful blog. I totally recommend that you head over and visit A Life Well Loved. This blog is well-grounded in exactly what its title says - love and life. I'm always looking forward to her new posts and checking out her different pages to see what she has added.

She also recently started another blog about unschooling, Picasso Was Once a Toddler Too. She has great ideas for turning every day activities into a teaching/learning moment. If you're looking to connect with and support a Stay-At-Home mom who has great ideas and loves spending time with her kids, definitely check her out.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

K is one of my favorite letters

I couldn't tell you why k is my favorite above most other letters. Some of my favorite words start with it. I love the sound and the look, especially of names.When I was younger and went through phases of picking different nicknames for myself, one of them was Karla.

Back in 2007, my sister and I got brand new kittens.
The orange one was Mr. Tumnus - my kitty.
The black one was Captain Jack Sparrow - B's kitty.
           K is for...
Kitten                               King
Kind                                 Keepsake
Kindred                            Knight
Kindle                              Koala
Katherine                         Knowledge
Kila                                  Keys
Kiwi                                 Kettle
Kyle                                 Kangaroo

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J is for Just in case...

When Little Olive was baptized at one month old, she wore the christening gown I had worn as a baby. My mom made it for me. It was in the same perfect, beautiful condition years later. I'm all set for the christening if the baby is a girl. But since we're not finding out the gender until the birth, I have to be prepared for a little boy! I don't like the idea of a boy wearing a gown, but I wouldn't be against the idea if we were desperate. Because I thought about it with enough time in advance, I'm making our Maybe Baby Boy his own Baptismal suit.

This morning, I worked on the pants. I decided not to spend any time or money on such a tiny pattern. Instead, I used one of Little Olive's newborn pants as a model. I folded the pants and placed them on a folded edge of material. I cut around them, leaving enough room for seam allowance, hems, and the elastic waist casing. I did this twice, giving me two pieces for the pants. Usually pant patterns require four pieces (two for each leg, front and back), but I eliminated the need for four by cutting on a fold. This took care of the outer leg seem.

Cutting on a fold

The next step was sewing the inner leg seem for each side. See the point sticking out in the middle below? I started there and sewed a seem down to the ankle. I did this on both legs.

Before sewing
After that, it was time to connect everything. This is the hardest to explain. With the "right" sides together (the inside of the pants, what you don't see in the picture), I started at the top in the front and continued to the back. Be sure not to sew all four layers together as you make this seem. Separate them so you create the space for the torso.

After sewing

Once that was done, I folded the waist down, making a simple casing for the elastic waist. After feeding the elastic through, I secured the elastic ends together, smoothed the waist out, and closed off the opening in the waist.

The trickiest part was the last - hemming the tiny legs. It was a slow process but they turned out great and even. It had been like sewing doll clothes. I want to emphasize how simple this little project was. From start to finish, it took about 25 minutes. I had the fabric left over from my wedding dress, a simple white satin. The elastic I had in my sewing box. Easy peasy.

Finished, ironed, and right-side out :)
Next will be the shirt top. I was going to use the rest of the fabric, but I don't want the Baby to be slippery. I may go with a different fabric. When I decide what I'm doing, I'll let you all know!

Have a good Tuesday!

Monday, April 11, 2011

I is for Independence

All links in today's blog are to older posts of mine. Feel free to read away!

As she gets older, Little Olive is reaching those autonomous, independent stages. It's crazy to watch her change so much, so quickly.

At the beginning of March, we decided it was about time to move Little Olive into her own bed. Call it co-sleeping, bed sharing, or the family bed - we've been doing it since Day One with her. And we've seriously loved it. I expected her to stay in the bed with us until she was much older than 15 months, but Exceptional Parents are the ones who make the best choices for their families - and that would be us! I never really felt crowded in our queen size bed, but I knew it wouldn't fit four bodies comfortably. And once finding out there would be a fourth body come October, we decided to make some changes.

It wasn't just my pregnancy that got this started. For most of her life, Little Olive would take great naps...sometimes 2-3 hours long. But once we put her to bed for the night, she was guaranteed to wake up within 40 minutes. After trying the consistent bedtime routine, we truly saw a difference - but it was short lived. Eventually, she crept back to her old habits of wanting to be with Mommy or Daddy. She wouldn't move, or even want to play - she just wanted us to be next to her till she fell back to sleep.
My sleeping beauty

It sounds sweet, and you might be quick to think, "Just do what she needs." But we literally had no life after 8 or 9 pm. We took half-hour shifts of laying in a dark room for hours, waiting for her to doze off.

The other driving force behind this transition was the fact that Little Olive is such a cuddly, touchy-feely, little mush bug. I absolutely treasure the snuggles we have together. But there were times when they became a little more sour than sweet. When laying beside her while she was awake, she felt it was necessary to touch as much of my skin as possible - no matter what. Her little hand would softly touch my face, then block my nose, then find its way into the collar of my shirt, after
which she would twist her wrist inside my bra, happily find my boobs, get tangled in the straps of my tank top, somehow end up around my belly button, and emerge out of a mysterious hole in my shirt. 

I literally had to make a blockade of blankets between us and only offer her my hand to prevent this every night. One night, I was at my wits end, so Ian offered to sleep in the middle - for the first time ever. The next morning, he told me, "I have no idea how you handle that every night." 

Thankful for his understanding, we discussed how we would go about the change. I wasn't ready to move her into the other bedroom of our house - which is upstairs. That was not even an option for me. Instead, we took the crib mattress from the upstairs bedroom (which has barely been used) and made a cozy sleeping place for her on the floor at the foot of our bed. We made a big deal about her "Big Girl Bed" and put some books and stuffed animals nearby. She is so advanced, she knew right away this was special for her and started to say "big girl bed" in her own little way.

I started with naps. For this, I waited till she was very tired, sat on the ground next to her, and she fell asleep. At night, we started doing that too, but realized she would just stare at us for a creepy amount of time until she finally closed her eyes. Ian discovered it was better pretending he was going to sleep too, and laid on the bed above her. Worked like magic.

As always, it wasn't easy at first. The first few nights were choppy and exhausting. We actually turned our sleeping positions the other way, so that we could reach over in the middle of the night and give her a comforting rub if needed. Sure enough, she got the hang of it, and she is such a champ in her BGB. A lot of times, she sleeps right through the night - not even waking up after her usual 40 minutes. When she does wake up, it's a breeze putting her back to sleep. Maybe only 5 minutes. Sometimes her pacifier is lost and all she needs is for us to find it. Sometimes we find her half-way off the mattress snuggled into the wooden floor...but this is something we don't quite understand.

I always advocate co-sleeping because the benefits are phenomenal. I never expected to have sleep issues fixed by moving her out of the bed. For a toddler, it was just right. I love having her so close by, because she still needs us - even if it's just to answer her sleepy little voice asking, "Mommy? Daddy?" in the dark of night.

Follow your heart, be flexible, and do what works for you!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dream Big

Sundays we take a break from the A-Z challenge. I hope you'll enjoy this song...I've loved it since it came out years ago. It's so pretty and uplifting. 
Happy Sunday! 
(Or do I need permission to say that?) :P

Saturday, April 09, 2011

H is for Handwriting

I can think of about seven people whose handwriting I absolutely adore. Most of them are women who don't read my blog (I'm making this assumption based on the facts that they don't comment or haven't become a follower yet. *ahem ahem* ).

Speaking of followers... 
I'm holding another promotion to encourage/manipulate/lure people into following my blog. 
So if you come here and like what you read, follow!
Here's my agreement: Instead of offering a promotional product for a prize, I will pick a new follower every week and feature them in a blog post. 
If you have a blog, this will be great "airtime" for you. I'll talk about your blog. 
If you don't, I'll just talk about you.  

Back to nice-handwriting people, I won't go listing their names here. But maybe someday I'd go up to them and tell them this tidbit of information to tickle their ego. Oh, I can just see their faces: happy, but denying it saying they think it's dreadful, while knowing in their heads it's really beautiful. Why do we do this? Another future blog post idea has just been born.

Unfortunately (pity party!), I don't think anyone would ever approach me and say, "I like your handwriting." That's because mine is pretty bad! Well, Ian has said a few times that he likes it, but that's because I would always written him sweet things, using great pens. Yes, Johanna, I can control my handwriting - when I have the perfect writing tool. It does make a difference. Think about it: would you rather write with a dull, gray pencil - or a sharp, fine-tip pen? I'll take the latter any day, thank you very much. And I think Anne Shirley would agree with me on this one.

Another thing that makes a difference in my legibility is the writing paper. I just completed one of my journals the other day and began writing in a random, blank Lord of the Rings one we had around the house. Horrid...the lines were so tiny I felt claustrophobic trying to complete my sentences. How nice it would have been to write in a wider-ruled, cute, notebook.

I'll keep an eye out.

Friday, April 08, 2011

G is for Going Gluten Free

My husband had a visit with our homeopath this week, and she suggested trying a gluten free diet for 30 days - just to see how he feels on day 31. She explained that Irish and Italians (that would be us) crave gluten, and it ends up taking over much of our meals. I can agree with that. They're staples in our house: pasta, bread, and more pasta and bread - not that I'm complaining. I guess gluten is not the best thing for our bodies. No, you're not going to die from it, but it's difficult for our systems to process it. Always up for a challenge, we've decided to try it. We'll clear out all the perishables first and then give it a go in a few days.

I looked around our kitchen yesterday and saw so much gluten: boxes of cereal, bagels, bread, pie crust, pizza, pancake mix, cookies, pasta boxes, croutons, cream of wheat. They make up so much of our diet. I was concerned about the cost of substituting other foods for these easy, cheap ones. Here's what I figured out though. On an average shopping trip, I spend:

$10.00 (on cereal)
$3.00 (bread)
$2.00 (bagels)
$5.00 (frozen pizza)
$2.00 (pancake mix/croutons, pie crust, etc.)
$3.00 (cookies)
$3.00 (pasta)

I realized I could take that money and spend it toward vegetables, fruit, rice, gluten free cereals (not even expensive ones, but rice-based would work), and maybe some gluten free breads if they're not too crazy. I plan on purchasing some rice/almond flour to keep it on hand for baking - especially for our cookies and banana bread. 

The hardest part will be adjusting our mindsets. We're used to throwing a few pieces of bread into the toaster for a quick snack...with lots of cream cheese and jam on top, of course. Now I'll have to figure out other easy meals. Sounds like an adventure!

Any suggestions from all the gluten-free folk? What are some of your favorite substitutions for gluten? Is oatmeal okay to eat? I'm reading conflicting sources. 

Share recipes, thoughts, ideas below!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

F is for Flannel Wipes

My wonderful cousin, who introduces me to so many cool things, has been telling me for almost a year now to use cloth wipes. She said it's super easy and so worth it. I've finally, finally made the switch!

Why I'm switching: We use cloth diapers (<-- real blog post by yours truly) for environmental, cleanliness, natural, and economical reasons. We're using cloth wipes for the same reasons too.

How I made the switch: I could have bought them for a nice, high price on Etsy, eBay, or any other online store. But I knew I could easily make them myself for less - and not pay for shipping! I went to the fabric store and bought 3.5 yards of different designs of flannel. Flannel is great because it's so soft for the babies' little bottoms. The material was on clearance, so I ended up spending about $9. (When I got home, naturally, I learned all clearance fabric would be an additional 50% off this weekend. So it could have been about $4.50!)

I sat on my living room floor and cut out squares. I went a little bigger than your average wipe so that I will hopefully use less during a diaper change. My squares are about 8x8 inches. Even going big, I was able to get nearly 60 squares out of my fabric!

Because flannel will fray, I had to finish the edges. This is where those Etsy cloth wipes are nice - people use their sergers and make them look so professional. Well, I don't have a serger. So instead, I hugged the edges of each cloth wipe with a tight zig-zag stitch on my regular sewing machine. I'm about half-way through the pile now, and I just wanted to share a picture of the three finished wipes.

I know people use different things to make the wipes moist. Some simply use warm water. Others use a mixture of water, oil, and scents. I'm looking for suggestions! :) Feel free to share yours below!

*Update from the next day: 
As it turns out, my stitch was not the perfect solution. After half of the wipes went through the washer and dryer, I was left with a mess of jumbles and frayed edges - because I didn't go to the very edge of the material. I went close, but not overlapping. This left about 1/8 of an inch of open material. I had no idea such a tiny amount would go so crazy in the machines! For the second half of the wipes, I'm going to do a regular, folded hem. It will take more time while I'm sewing, but it's okay. I'm spending just as much time untangling the wipes fresh out of the dryer anyway. :) 

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Dressing your kid like a little fashionista

Right now, my daughter is running around the house, giggling, while being chased by our puppy. She is clomping around in her little shoes...which I bought on sale at Target. I was quite proud of myself - until I found out last night my friend got them for a 1/3 of the cost. If only I'd waited a couple weeks. Those are the deals!
Somethin' like that ;)

The reason I'm writing about Little Olive's outfit is because I would like to say, quite proudly, that she actually matches today! In her brightly colored fleece and little jeans, she is totally hip right now. More hip than myself, mind you. I don't always put a lot of time and effort into her outfits, so to see her all cute is really nice.

I'm not the kind of person who will spend a ton of money on clothes - not my own, not my daughter's. So when I find a good sale on kid's clothes, I jump right on that. I once found tops and bottoms at a store for $0.50 a piece! That's better than a garage sale. And they were beautiful too. Or if I come across an adorable kid's shirt that is meaningful to my daughter, I'll get it. Probably thanks to the horrible Christmas sweaters, I'm not a huge fan of dressing up with corny holiday attire. Thanks a lot, horrible Christmas sweaters. :P

E is for Exercise

Sorry for the weird image - this is my favorite comedian, Brian Regan, talking about working out.

I have to give a little shout-out to my brother, Tim, who has tried to get me into P90X for several years. He says it's amazing, it works, and I'd love it. But I disagree, Tim, I would not love it. How do I know this? Easy - because everyone who's doing P90X on facebook feels it's necessary to inform all their friends exactly where they are in the program and how miserable they are doing it. "Man, just started abs day 4. Totally dying over sore. LOVE IT."


Do people really enjoy feeling like they can't move? That their muscles ache so badly that they can't even lift their fancy water bottle to their mouth?

Well, maybe some people do. But not me. I danced for 11 years while growing up, taking 3 - 4 classes per week, and was in great shape. The word "exercise" seemed like a chore to me. I was getting a great work out during the week doing things I loved. Why would I put on sneakers and pump myself up into a cardio sweat?

Because...after you stop dancing, go to college, and get a job, life happens. And before you know it, your resting pulse is alarming. My heart is working that hard to do nothing? Oh dear...
I took yoga off and on during my college years and loved it. When I became pregnant with Little Olive, my husband bought me a great yoga dvd. I attempted it for a while but soon became discouraged as I could barely keep up with the modified, simple third trimester lady in the back. I had no motivation or flexibility and soon retired the lovely Shiva Rae to my bookshelf.

This time around, I'm determined to do something for my health, so I found a dvd set on Amazon and jumped into the 2nd trimester dvd. It's actually - dare I say - enjoyable! Lindsay is like the happiest, perkiest, prettiest little workout instructor imaginable. She's not screaming at you to keep up in order to see results. She's calm and encouraging. There's also a 20 minute yoga session at the end of every cardio, and I can actually do everything. It's cool!

The cons of the dvd: sometimes the three girls are off-beat with the music. It's annoying. I've decided it's less stressful to just follow the music and be two counts behind the girls. (I'm so exceptional, I need to be on beat.) Near the end of the cardio (2nd trimester) dvd, she gets a little nutty with switching up her exercises. A bit hard to follow. I fixed this by picking my favorite exercise and doing it while she flies around trying to fit in 19 variations.

It also comes with a "post baby" boot camp dvd. I have no idea if I'll be able to fit that one in, but I have it and I just might give it a try come October. :)

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

D is for Dog Update

Would you believe me if I told you that I do not, in fact, hate our dog?

I feel like it's necessary to inform people of this truth since my last post about Kila might have given the impression that she's a perfect puppy, and I'm the hormonal housewife who loathes all furry, domesticated animals. Neither are accurate. She has started giving me kisses once again. Oh yes, she stopped for a while. I think we're on better terms. I credit this to:

Taking a stroll together
1) Warmer weather. We're able to leave her outside longer, which gives her more exercise. This also allows her to drive our neighbors insane by barking at any hint of movement or noise. "Omg omg omg you came out of your house! I will not stop barking until you get into your car and drive away!" (Sorry, Coni.) Or "Omg omg omg the kid on the other side is bouncing his basketball, and yelling at me that he's sorry it's making me bark! Attention, attention!"

2) No snow. She's been given a lot more walks now that our sidewalks are clear and her little paws won't freeze.

3) The sun being out more. It just helps everyone.

4) Ian's suggestion one day where he said, "You just have to appreciate her more."

Oh yes, darling. I will appreciate her as she eats other dogs' poop and then pukes the rest of the day. As she then sits on my lap and burps this wonderful breath up into my face, trying to give me puppy eyes and show me how cute she is and why, oh why, wouldn't I want to give her kisses? I will appreciate it all!

But in all seriousness, it helped because I looked at her in a different way. I started to play with her more...secretly to wear her out so she'll sleep the whole afternoon. I stopped taking the hairbrush away from her, even though she sits at the edge of the couch and purposely drops it (creating a loud "clunk!" every minute or so). Whatever. It's a hairbrush. I taught Little Olive how to give her a treat once a day. It's actually pretty cute.

So am I a dog person yet? I wouldn't say so. But hang in she gets older and calms the crap down, and as I learn to tolerate all her quirks, we'll be just fine.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

C is for Cars, Coffee, and Chicken

This pregnancy, I'm craving a few different things. Not like intense "Omg, I need these now or else I'll go bonkers" kind, but they just always sound good: coffee, tuna fish, and driving. The problem is...I already ate way too much tuna fish during my first trimester. We have to watch the mercury, for heaven's sake! So can I tell you my utter joy upon discovering canned chicken...which makes the most delicious tuna-like sandwich - with none of the harmful metal! Ding ding down! 

Coffee...I love the smell of it, the taste of it...just not the crazy caffeine effects of it. So I drink decaf. We have never even used our coffee maker once in our home. I don't think it has all the parts, to be honest. The other day I bought instant decaf coffee. It'll do. Two down!

The third thing I have been loving recently is driving. (C also stands for my big, carbon footprint.) I don't go on afternoon-long rides in the countryside, but I love taking it slow when I run my errands. Today while driving with my husband, I was thinking that cars have come a long way in the past 100 years. I'm sure the inventors of the first automobile never could have imagined all the different designs, companies, or hybrid technology. I'm also sure they didn't anticipate the vast range of expenses a car would cost the average person.

"Cars aren't that expensive," you might counter in an exasperated fashion, as you remember my last negative comment about cars a while back. But yes they are - and that's because cars do nothing but deteriorate. I mean, sure, they DO other things, but their value always decreases. Despite all the maintenance you put into the thing, it's eventually going to die. And at $4 a gallon, gas doesn't help!

Did I ever tell you about my idea of The Town? Well, pretty much it would be this absolutely perfect little place with brick or dirt roads, cozy homes, farms, small communities, a dome where snow is allowed for the people who actually want to deal with it, yummy food, and an awesome beach. And of course, horses and buggies. Yes folks, that's right...there would be no cars. No clunkers, no trucks, not even some fuel efficient cars.

Except my husband's dream is to someday have a Mini Cooper or a Jeep Wrangler. I guess we could make exceptions for special people who've worked hard all day plowing the fields, shoveling all the cow's poop around. Maybe by the time I build and become Queen of The Town, they will have invented a hybrid Mini Cooper for my HSOAH (Handsome Stallion of a Husband). 

Then I will rename my blog, "My Town is Very Advanced". You just wait...give me a few years.   

Saturday, April 02, 2011

B is for...Breast and Boob (weaning, that is)

Weaning from Breastfeeding 101

8 Months
I have loved breastfeeding from the very beginning. Absolutely loved it. People asked quite often, "How long do you think you'll breastfeed?" I was always vague in my reply because I just didn't know! I know in the attachment parenting world, a lot of people like to breastfeed well into toddler/childhood. My one friend actually told me once not to do so past 2 years, because... that was just weird. I needed a better reason than just other people thinking it was weird, though, so I decided to just wait it out and see what happened.

Around Little Olive turning 13 months, I noticed my milk supply was definitely decreasing. I freaked out the day I tried pumping and barely got 2oz. I bought some wonderful Mother's Milk Tea to naturally increase the supply. It worked, but I quickly ran out of the tea. I could keep buying it, but I started to wonder if it was simply happening for a reason...

My daughter's diet was extremely picky. She would eat avocados, cookies, and breastfeed. That's about it. She nursed constantly during the day. Then I happily learned I was pregnant when she was 14 months. My breasts became extremely sore, and it hurt so much to nurse her as often. I was also a little hesitant to nurse two children at the same time (often called tandem nursing). I know a lot of mothers do this, and I don't judge their choice. Though, I felt it wasn't meant for me just yet. It just seemed right to start the weaning process. I looked at our day and decided to keep nursing at our special moments: after she woke up in the morning, from her nap, and then around dinner. We loved those sleepy, snuggling times.

Then we started weaning. The first two days were very hard and sad. She was used to climbing up at any point and rubbing my boobs, saying, "Peeese?" My heart broke the first time I ever had to tell her no. But I had a plan. I offered her the binky, and after she was cuddling, I offered her food and a drink. Practically every time, she ate. A few days later, she didn't cry when I said no. She learned pretty quickly! (Advanced, I tell ya.) Our nursings together were very special, and I found I was more full for them, which also made them less painful!

Two months later, it's going awesomely. Gradually, we cut out the dinner nursing, then the nap, and now she is going on several days without her morning nursing. The wonderful news is that her diet seriously blossomed during our weaning months. She eats so much now, and I feel very happy with our decision to stop at this time.

16 Months
Another reason I wanted to stop when I found out I was expecting is because I know what it's like to feel "touched out" at the end of the day. I didn't want to be tugged on by a toddler and a newborn. I felt like it would be overload. Also, my first daughter had my undivided attention as a baby. I know I won't be able to do the same for Baby Number Two, but I want to give him/her as much as possible. I think nursing can be one of those special times. :)

Feel free to share your thoughts (respectfully, please) on this topic!