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Personalized Portraits

January 3, 2014

Since we didn’t have a whole lot of money for gifts this year I decided to make some that were more personal.

My sister had asked me to make her a cross stitch portrait but since that takes months without a baby around I figured I would make her a different, less time-consuming version instead.

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I made a rough sketch and scanned it into the computer to add color and to refine things a bit. I included my sister, her husband, and all of their pets, even a recently deceased kitty in angel form.

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After I printed it, I added some gold paint to give it a little something extra. It was a huge hit. My sister told me she loved it so much she cried. Much better than anything I could have bought!

 

I also made my parents a house portrait. The actual version had their names and address on it, but since they probably don’t want that plastered all over the internet, I’ve just shown the house portion here.

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I’m considering opening an Etsy shop to sell versions for others. It’s really fun to make them and they’re such a nice, personal touch around the house!

New Year, New Start

January 1, 2014

2013 was a roller coaster of a year for me. It began with the joy of finding out I was expecting a little one, was tempered by the loss of both my grandfathers, and got pretty stressful after I lost my job mid-pregnancy. Luckily, the end of the year got a boost with my husband landing his dream teaching position and the birth of our little girl. I can say without a doubt that this was the most tumultuous year of my life, filled with both more joy and more sorrow than I could have possibly anticipated when it began.

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Throughout the year there have been many times when I’ve despaired, especially with regard to losing my job. I’ve been angry, hurt, and upset and often asked “why me?” And it has been hard. But looking back, I feel it’s important to acknowledge that I am so very lucky in so many ways. I have a loving husband and family, we are happy and healthy, and despite a rough arrival our little girl is perfect in every way. We never go hungry, we laugh more than we cry, and even though things are tough we get by.

There is always room for things to get better, but this year has taught me that even when it feels difficult to see how things will work out, it’s important to count the blessings that you do have. It’s so easy to overlook how central health, love, comfort, and security are to how we experience every day of our lives.

I’m hoping that 2014 will be a better year in many ways for my family, but this year has taught me that no matter what happens we’ll be ok. We may not have all the things we want, or may even struggle with the things we need, but we’ll always have each other and that will give us the strength to hang in there.

Hope everyone has a wonderful start to their new year. Here, it’s snowing hard so that means a day spent curled up indoors with my favorite people and pets!

Holiday Card 2014

December 25, 2013

I’ve been making my own Christmas cards for over 6 years now. At first, I made each one by hand, but as the list of recipients expanded, I began to make just one, scan it, and print it. It’s still a fair amount of work, but it’s much easier on my poor hands and takes a lot of stress out of the process.

I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make our card this year with watching a baby full time but hurried sessions during naptime were enough to put together my favorite holiday card to date.

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I came up with a few ideas but this one was the only one approved by my husband, and I think it’s a lot of fun. Hopefully we’ll be able to continue the tradition going forward and come up with new and exciting situations to put our little family in as we go.

Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and got to spend time with those who are near and dear!

Making Ornaments from Quick Dry Clay

December 20, 2013

SONY DSCBeing a new parent, I didn’t have as much time this year to make crafts as I had in years past. I wanted to do something but needed it to be easy and fast. I had wanted to try out making clay ornaments for some time and located this product which seemed like the perfect solution. La Doll clay is designed for making, unsurprisingly, dolls. Since I’m not really into that kind of thing, I opted to make some ornaments and gift tags instead. 

It was pretty easy to work with, though very sticky. I simply rolled it out with a rolling pin onto  the counter. Next time I use it I’ll use wax paper because it does really like to adhere to anything and everything that isn’t a smooth surface. After rolling it out, I simply used cookie cutters to make shapes.

The coolest thing about this clay is that once it dried, about 24 hours later, it could be sanded, which helped to make a really smooth surface even in places where I had kinda messed up the pieces I cut out.

I decorated the finished products with a mixture of markers and acrylic paint. Both worked quite well. I’m pretty keen to see how Sharpie paint markers would work on it, as they’d give the precision of a pen with the look of paint. Next time, that’s what I’ll try.

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I ended up with a nice selection of stars and snowflakes in the end! I think the process needs a bit of tweaking, but not bad for a first-time, spur-of-the-moment project! The snowflakes were decoration for homemade marshmallows for my husband’s coworkers. This is the second year I’ve made marshmallows and it is such a super simple process. I’ve used a few recipes, but this year I opted for Alton Brown’s version, which came out really well. They were nice and fluffy and sweet!

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Holiday Decorations 2014

December 15, 2013

Here’s a peek at how we decorated our house this holiday season!

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The tree in all its glory!

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The bookshelves got some trees, snow, and glass to go with the cameras. 

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A little garland and lights finished things off. 

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I put up a second tree this year. It was woodland themed. 

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We always go to the Christkindlmarkdt to get ornaments each year. This year we got a little peanut for our little peanut. 

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Entryway decor. 

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Everyone needs a little festive chalkboard art. 

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This year’s snowflakes. We use a variety of paper and maps. 

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Coffee table decor. 

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Card tower! 

 

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Dining room. 

IMG_1820These were my great grandma’s and they’re my favorite! I want more of them, but they’re super pricey on eBay and Etsy. 

 

Baby Bird Has Landed!

September 30, 2013

I’m post-dating this post to when I actually should have posted it, seeing that I’m a full three months late in actually typing this out.

That’s not entirely because I was super busy caring for a tiny human. That carpal tunnel that was supposed to go away right after delivery? Yeah, that stayed around for another 6-8 weeks. I think the fact that I ended up with preeclampsia may have rendered my midwife’s initial assertion that it wouldn’t last long incorrect. Regardless, I didn’t really feel up to typing anything until fairly recently.

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It has been completely amazing watching my little mini-me grow and change and discover the world around her. She is incredibly sweet, always happy, and generally the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen. While she has a lot to learn about sleeping, she’s pretty much everything that I could have asked for in a little baby girl.

Getting her here, however, did not play out as I expected. I had planned for a natural labor, and knew that it would be painful but thought that the dozens of books that I had read would help equip me with methods that would make it easier to cope.

The problem is that my labor didn’t go like any of the books said it would. Pre-labor? Yeah, didn’t really experience that. I saw my midwife about 36 hours before I started having contractions. At that time, I had made no progress. Nada. My body went from nothing to contractions that were incredibly intense and strong in just over a day. I was told to wait until my contractions were 3 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute, for 2 hours before coming to the hospital. Instead of building up to that intensity, they started off that way. I was at Trader Joe’s at the time and let me tell you that was one profanity-ridden drive home as I screamed at everyone to get the hell out of my way because I was pretty sure I was dying.

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Because things started so fast and furious, my body had no time to build up endorphins. No natural pain relief meant that I was in serious pain. Not two hours into labor and I was already screaming for the drugs. Crazy labor does have one perk though: it goes really fast. Three hours into things I was already 6.5 centimeters dilated and by the time I got upstairs to get those drugs, I was at 9. I ended up opting to stick it out.

Unluckily for me, even sticking to the original plan didn’t make things any better. Thinking I was ready, my labor team urged me to push. It turns out that I still had a teeny tiny bit of cervix in the way which made hours of pushing pointless. It also meant that I couldn’t stop pushing even though I needed to, which was the most excruciating pain I have ever felt in my life. Seriously, that’s not an exaggeration. I was shaking, crying, and screaming. I finally ended up with an epidural anyway so that I could wait to push again.

Of course, the whole reason I didn’t want an epidural was because I knew it could slow or stop my labor, which is exactly what it did. I then had to get loaded up on pitocin, which, just as all the natural birth advocates tell you can happen, it immediately put the baby in distress. There was just no winning at this labor thing.

Especially since my little one refused to budge. Even after I was ready and pushed for HOURS again she didn’t move. At all. I was thinking this had to be some huge ass little baby if she couldn’t fit through my pelvis. Nope. After getting a c-section we discovered that she was only 6 pounds 14 ounces- not exactly a big girl. The doctor had no idea why she wouldn’t come out. There was nothing blocking her, she was actually pretty far down in the pelvis. She was just not ready to make her entrance.

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Things in no way went as planned or as expected, and after the experience I wasn’t sure that I ever wanted to go through it again. But three months out I can already feel myself thinking about how I’d like to give it another try. It was painful. It was hard. It was nothing like I expected. But all of that seems like a distant memory when I get to look at her sweet little face, see her smile, and think about all the fun we’ll get to share in the years ahead. It is cheesy and cliché as hell, but it’s true when people say that you forget the pain and that it’s all worth it. It totally is.

IMG_2864I still think I’ll need a few more years of not being pregnant and giving birth to realllllyyy forget it though, so don’t expect any more pregnancy posts anytime soon!

 

Avery’s Nursery: Final Walkthrough

September 11, 2013

I haven’t posted anything here in awhile but it hasn’t been due to laziness or even a lack of things to post. Late pregnancy has left me with very painful carpal tunnel syndrome, which makes it really hard to spend much time typing or even just tooling around on the web. It has derailed a lot of my plans for getting things done in the weeks before the baby arrives, but I have managed to catch up on watching TV, so there’s a small upside.

Anyway, before the big day arrives, I did want to get the photos of the completed nursery up. If there are typos or something doesn’t make sense, sorry, I’m working with some numb, sausage fingers over here and they’re not exactly good for anything but mashing and failing about at this point. Luckily, my midwife assures me that this awfulness will go away within a day or less of delivery, so let’s get a move on, baby.

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This is our reading and rocking corner.  The shelves are from Ikea and are loaded up with books we’ve gotten as gifts, at the thrift store, or that we had from our own days as kids. The chair was a gift (from Babies R Us), the ottoman is from Kohl’s, and the cute cloud pillow was a gift card purchase at Land of Nod.

This entire basket of stuff came from the thrift store and garage sales. All in all, I think I only spent about $8 for the two sock animals, basket, and blankie. Not too shabby.

Next to the glider is a low bookshelf from Ikea. It’s home to toys and books and blankets, as well as a few other essentials for a baby room like a humidifier and a sound machine. Some items will have to be relocated once she’s mobile, but they have a good while to hang out just where they are. Most of the things in this area I already had (lamp, all the decorative things, most of the stuffed animals) or were gifts (the hedgie nightlight), so aside from the shelf, the baskets, and the baby-specific things, not much was purchased for this area.

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Here’s little girl’s sleeping zone! I made the mobile, the pillows, and the sheets (I highly recommend this. It’s tedious, but easy and cheap). The bed itself was a gift, but is a pretty inexpensive option from Target so it won’t break the bank. The bumpers I got at the thrift store for just $5, which was awesome because they are a fancy brand! The pillows and the bumpers are all going to be removed from the bed when she arrives so we don’t suffocate her, but I think they’ll be useful down the line for keeping little limbs inside the crib when she’s a bit older and not so weak in the neck. Though, honestly, if the bumpers don’t go back up it’s not the end of the world because they were so darn cheap.

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While she won’t be able to use this for awhile, I couldn’t resist this table and chairs when I saw it at a garage sale for just $10. It was not so cute before but after a little paint, it cleaned up pretty nicely. I made a runner from the table to coordinate with the room from some Heather Bailey fabric I found on clearance.

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I also made some teeny tiny pillows from a fabric remnant I picked up at the Needle Shop. Perfect for a tea party (or some arm wrestling) with Mr. Monkey over there (who was also an amazing thrift store find at just $2 since BlaBla stuff is very pricey).

He was really too cute to pass up anyway.

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On the other side of the room is her changing table, which is really just an Ikea Hemnes dresser. It was probably the thing we spent the most on in the room, but because it’s so basic it should last for a really long time. The changing pad cover is from Land of Nod (also purchased with a gift card), the easel and the wall light from Ikea, and the little letter A from Joann (they come plain, you have to paint them). I also managed to snag that little Bumbo seat at a garage sale for just $10! The artwork was a wonderful addition created by my husband.

He also made these cuties for the other part of the wall.

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We also kept the bed we had in here when it was just a guest room. Luckily, the bed linens already coordinated, so we didn’t have to do anything there. Just decorated the bedside table with some stuff from around the house. It’ll be nice to have an extra bed for late night feedings and in case we do ever want to have anyone stay at our house again.

Close up of the artwork I made for the wall over the guest bed. Frames are all from Ikea.

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Here’s an overview that gives a good idea of where everything sits in the room. I think the space could use a cute rug, but it’s not in the budget at the moment, so boring old carpet will have to suffice!

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Another overview shot. The curtains and bedskirt were made by me, though the white part of the curtain is from Ikea, I just modified it to be  bit cuter.

I also made some modifications to the closet. I added another wire shelf, taken from our bathroom, so that there’s more room for little clothes. Clearly we needed it because our friends and family (and a few amazing scores at the thrift store) have ensured that this little lady is gonna be one fashionista.

Overall, we didn’t end up spending an insane amount of money to decorate her room, even though it is a pretty big space. Of course, a lot of that owes to some generous friends and family who helped with some of the bigger purchases, but it’s definitely possible to create a really great space for a baby or child on a pretty limited budget if you’re willing to bargain hunt, hit up thrift stores, and do a lot of the work yourself.

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