September 30, 2013

Childhood Cancer Awareness (and a Pro-Vaccine Plug)

One of, if not the, longest friendships I have is with my friend Bridget:


This was taken last month when I got to visit her in New Hampshire before attending a wedding in Rhode Island (accomplishing #1 on my 30 Before 30 List) . If I was less lazy, I would dig through some old photo albums and share some funny pictures of Bridget and I as kids and awkward teenagers. I'd share pictures from summer swim team and Jr. High prom. I'd share pictures of us playing with Play Mobile, and pictures from Halloween Parties. I could also share pictures of us while Bridget was undergoing chemotherapy for Leukemia at the age of eleven. I have a clear memory (and picture) of Bridget when she was over at my house holding a kitten and she is puffy and swollen from all the steroids and drugs that saved her life.

I remember when my mom told me Bridget was sick. It was my first experience with cancer. I remember crying when she said Bridget got a haircut so that she hopefully wouldn't lose all of her hair. You may think that seems really vain of an eleven year old, but I just remember thinking that you had to be really sick for your hair to fall out. I remember sleeping over at her house and watching her older sister inject medicine into the picc line that was inserted in her chest. I can still picture how her hospital room was set up and driving to visit her often during the summer between 4th and 5th grade. My favorite memory, that makes me tear up thinking about, was calling her hospital room one night and she said "can I talk to you tomorrow? My dad is reading to me."

Picturing that Bridget is almost hard to do when I then picture the Bridget I know today. The Bridget who has been cancer free for almost 17 years. Who ran competitive cross country in college and runs marathons with times that most men cannot accomplish. The Bridget who is an engineer, and brilliant, and active, and healthy, and still, after all these years a really good friend.

The reason I share all this is because of this blog I read today. Fellow Monkees may have already seen it. But I wanted to share because it's the last day of September and until I read that post, I didn't know that this month was Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Like the woman who posted her son's story, it just doesn't get enough attention. Just as I feel every October when Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month is hardly spoken about outside the baby loss circles. I get it - there are a million worthy and important causes. And let's keep talking about those and advocating for them. But today is the last day of the month that is specifically for Childhood Cancer. So I just wanted to share. And maybe raise a smidgen more of awareness in the process. (And also because it's a good segue to sharing this article on being pro-vaccine. If you haven't read it yet and joined the herd, I think you should. I think you should for your own children, but also for all the others out there - like my friend Bridget who fought hard enough to reclaim her childhood and her life and I'm so thankful that wasn't further complicated, as it unfortunately is for other kids battling childhood cancer.)

The end. Stepping off soapbox. Momentarily, anyway.
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September 28, 2013

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September 26, 2013

Play Room Makeover

We are very fortunate that the house we are renting right now has a great space for a playroom. It's just this open room between the back two bedrooms (one is the nursery where Finn still resides, and one the messy guest room that will eventually become his big boy room thus forcing me to find a space for all my sewing/project/storage crap).

We have a big chair, bookshelf, and the IKEA expedit shelf in the room to house all Finn's toys. It's a nice area to contain all the kiddo things even though they do trickle throughout the house each day. This is what it looked like when we moved in and set it up:


The board in the far right picture is the Growth Chart that has yet to be redone. The space and the room is great - but I wanted to add some flare to it. I had been planning on decorating Finn's big boy room with a map/world theme since I'm obsessed with maps, but decided it would make for cuter play room decor.

So I spray painted a bunch of frames and printed off some printables and maps I've been saving and framed some others that I had ordered awhile back. I'll include links to those, but this is what we ended up with:


Here's a closer look at some of the details.

Inflatable globes purchased on Amazon - all three for $10. They are thumb tacked to the ceiling with string.

 Target Find. Bought it over a year ago.

 Top Right: DIY "Places we've been" Map. Map was purchased off e-bay and I stuck it to a framed bulletin board.
Bottom Left: Layout of the city of Paris. From ETSY but it was a gift so I don't have a link.
Bottom Right: Finn's art work. Age 1

Top Right: Zulily purchase. Just love this saying. The font is in a map print too, just to make it extra cute
Bottom Left: US watercolor purchased off ETSY (shop link), found this on Young House Love
Bottom Right: Finn's artwork on a cut out of Texas. Age 2.
The state printables in the top left picture are Arizona (my home state) and Wisconsin (Miles' home state) - I don't have one link for these as it seems there are several sites that offer these free downloads (like anywhere shown here)

Left: Another state map printable, this one Georgia, where the boys were born. Also a little Dr. Seuss quote I put on powerpoint with clipart. Not crazy about it, but I love the saying. Especially since Oh, Baby, the Places You'll Go is a book I read to both Cale and Finn in utero.
Right: Framed map from our trip to the Dallas Zoo and a map of Berlin, where Miles was born

Other side of the playroom:

Recovered an old pillow with this state print fabric from Hobby Lobby. Finn likes Utah's choo-choo train.

Found the big world map at Hobby Lobby (used 40% off coupon), and already owned all the globes, Lamp, and metal city wall art.

Finn will either be really good at telling time or totally screwed up. If daddy deploys we will change it to the time zone there, so we will always have Daddy time.

Some other little touches I like include this wood hanging that was in my playroom growing up:



And this cute little craft table that I purchased off Craigslist:


So, there you have it, Finn's playroom with far too many toys. At first I thought maybe it was a little too busy and colorful, but then I remembered it's a play room. That's exactly what it should be - busy, colorful, fun, and most importantly, messy!


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September 21, 2013

Bye Bye Binkie, Hello Unnerwear

Two big things have happened for Finn in the last month. First, he ditched the binkie and most recently he ditched (the daytime) diaper.

Let me preface this all by saying that I started this blog a way to document our lives and what's going on. That is my only intent. Some day I might forget when and how Finn transitioned away from the binkie and diapers and I will be glad I kept this virtual log of it. I know that binkie transitions and potty training can be very challenging so I don't want this to come off as "look how awesome my kid is" but seriously, this kid is really awesome and I got really, really lucky. Because I went into neither transition with any tricks up my sleeve or any preparation, yet Finn made them pretty low stress, so he deserves all the credit here. I fully expect, should we be so lucky as to do this again with another kid, it won't be this easy (but fingers crossed it will and we get that chance!)

First went the binkie. I realize that some people won't ever struggle with this because their kids were just never binkie babes, either by their choosing or their parents, but Finn was a binkie babe from the get go and I was totally on board with that. I am sure I'd be signing a different tune if taking it away was a battle, and I'd maybe regret giving him one, but it wasn't, so I don't. Around one year old we took it away during the day and he only got it at nap time or bed time. He'd also get it on a long road trip because holy hell those are lifesavers when you are only 2 hours in to an 18 hour drive to Wisconsin all the way from Texas.


Shortly before Finn's cousin was born I started to tell him that we were going to give Jenny's baby all of our binkies. I figured this was a good way to test him out - without having to take the binkie away when his own sibling arrives so as not to have any resentment issues. I suppose this could have backfired and he could have resented his cousin instead, but alas he is very fond of baby Wyatt. So a few days before Jenny gave birth I just took them away cold turkey. I put him down one night and when he asked for his binkie I just said "binkie is all gone, we gave it to Jenny's new baby" and that was that. He asked for it a couple more times at nap/night, but never fussed when I didn't give it to him and amazingly it didn't impact his sleep much. His naps for a few days seemed a little shorter, but he has since gone back to his regular nap duration. I also think it helps that a few weeks prior to all this we started giving him a monkey at night that Miles once referred to as "snuggle monkey." The name stuck and now Finn requests "nuggle monkey" if he's not already in the crib waiting to snuggle each night.


When Wyatt was born I had Finn actually give him a binkie, just to connect it all. He got a firetruck in return. That baby Wyatt is so thoughtful:


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The potty training began last weekend. I hadn't planned on starting now, as I just didn't think Finn was ready. He's been sitting on the potty for awhile, just to get familiar with it, but never had any interest in doing anything on it. But then last Friday he said "poo poo" before actually going poo poo, so I asked if he wanted to do his thang on the potty and sure enough, he ran to the potty and went. The same thing happened the next time he needed to go poop. So I figured I may as well try full on potty training. Again, we just kinda of switched him cold turkey. I put him in underwear "unnerwear" in the morning and just kept taking him to the bathroom. He went the first time I took him and I was so proud, I let him watch "George Monkey" (curious George) on youtube as a reward. When it was over he asked for "more George Monkey", but I said "not until you go potty again." Well, the smart little boy just stood up on the chair in the office and went pee. Well played Finn, well played. So we washed the chair pad and used that as a lesson for both mom and babe - you're all wet because you went pee, if you need to go pee pee, you go on the potty, we want to keep our underwear dry, etc. Obviously this was all new to him, but he fortunately did not like to be "all wet" and by the second day was able to stop peeing when he realized he was wet and finish going on the potty. By day three he started telling me when he needed to go and since day four he has been accident free. Like I said, I really did not do much and am amazed it happened so fast. I cheered him on when he would go on the potty and make a big deal of it. And when he was wetting his underwear I would just say in a sad tone of voice "we don't go pee pee in our underwear, we go pee pee in the potty." I also took him to the potty every thirty minutes or so the first few days then started stretching that out longer and longer. When he's busy playing or reading books I'll ask him if he needs to go potty, just to make sure he is paying attention to when he needs to go. We've been able to run errands and kinda just continue on our normal routine which has been really nice, thanks to a portable seat my sister-in-law lent me - it makes leaving the house much easier as I take him to him to the bathroom as soon as we get to the store (and by store I mean the grocery store or Target because that's where we spend most of our time). He's wearing a pull up during naptime and a disposable diaper at night (as he's not going through enough cloth for it to be worth the extra wash cycle). I'm not going to mess with nap/nights for a bit yet, probably not until he's out of the crib. My only complaint about all this, is how much it ages him! I mean seriously, look at this grown up. Two going on Twelve!


It's great that I haven't had to wash any diapers in a week, but there's something about a kiddo in diapers that makes them so very baby and I already miss that:


But, this kiddo is no longer a baby. He's a little boy now. He may even be skipping boy and jumping straight into being a man, after all he does a much better job with pooping on the potty if he's allowed some reading material:


So there you have it. Two years, three months and just all sorts of grown up.


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Update: In the interest of full disclosure, three hours after posting this blog, Finn went poop in his underwear before saying "go potty"  . . . sooo, disregard that "accident free" comment. We're getting there.

September 18, 2013

The Gender

When I was pregnant with Cale I had hoped that he would be a boy because I loved the idea of a big brother. Probably because that's how my family is - my brother is the oldest followed by my sister and then me, the baby. Obviously yes, we just wanted healthy - but I think it's very normal to have a desire one way or the other. At 15+ weeks we went to a 3D place to get an ultrasound and find out the gender. As we drove there I said to Miles that I would feel guilty for being a little disappointed if we were having a girl, but I suspected we were having a boy. I don't really think it was mother's intuition as I've never had a strong sense of that - I think I just was hoping for boy and guessed correctly. Miles had said he didn't really care either way, but when we came home from that ultrasound he posted this to facebook. It's worth mentioning that this was probably one of the last posts Miles put on facebook as he's never on it - probably doesn't remember his password now.

We're having a boy! I now get to think of all sorts of cool man things to teach him, like ninja skills, game with the ladies, home repair, etc. I really wish I had taken an auto shop class somewhere along the line.

So needless to say, he was excited and I think he did have a preference all along.

With Finn, I needed him to be a boy. Miles again said he was fine either way, but I knew that even though I would have grown to love the idea of a girl, it would have taken a lot longer for me to digest. Cale can never be replaced. Ever. And Finn didn't do that. But he gave us the chance to still parent a son and fulfill a dream that had been so cruelly taken from us in June of 2010.

But finding out his gender was not nearly as exciting as it was with Cale. We were going to find out around the same time (15 weeks) but it would be at the MFM appointment I had scheduled. But just prior to that appointment, I had a regular OB appointment, in which my doctor had not planned on doing an ultrasound. My OB, who was a Saint during that pregnancy, had put the doppler to my belly and picked up the heartbeat only to lose it after the baby moved away. He was relaxed, but I was not. He immediately said, "I heard it - I know it's there, but let me get the ultrasound in here to show you that everything is ok." I nodded while I cried and he smiled and said "you just wanted to find out the gender!" And yes, that was a perk - but I was crying because I was a hot mess and oh my god hurry up and find that heartbeat again. He did right away, and I was able to calm down. And then he took a peek to see if baby would cooperate and before he said anything, my eloquent and charming husband said, "I think I see a dong." My OB laughed and said, "yeah, I think I do too." My tears kept coming but they were really happy tears at that point.

So with the boys I knew from around 15 weeks. I'm currently 25 weeks. And we don't know gender. And we're keeping it that way. This time I genuinely don't have any hang ups and will be happy either way. All we need is healthy. All we need is to get to bring this baby home. A girl would be amazing - I'd love to have a daughter and the clothes, oh the clothes! I'd love for Finn to have a baby sister and see what kind of a brother he would be to her. But a boy would be so incredible too. My son should have a living brother right now. So I would love for him to get that chance. I think same gender siblings are often times closer and I would love to be a mama to all boys. So there will be so much happiness either way. But the truth is there will be a little sadness too - for having another boy would mean that I most likely will never have a daughter. And a girl would mean that Finn's only brother is one he doesn't get to wrestle with and get into trouble with.

The only reservation I have about not knowing the gender is the scary "what if..." If we lose this baby, will I regret not knowing ahead of time what we are having? I don't know. But went into this crazy ride hoping that wouldn't happen, despite knowing it could. To be honest I don't think it would be any harder - losing a baby is awful. Losing a boy versus a girl? Just as awful.

But I am still hopeful. I am still excited. I'm bonding with this baby, taking pictures, and enjoying every little movement. I think not knowing the gender is also the right thing for us during this pregnancy as not only is it very likely my last rodeo when it comes to pregnancies, but it also helps keep an element of excitement that I know I'll need, especially near the end.

Lad or lassie - doesn't matter. We love you already little one.

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September 14, 2013

Soliciting Feedback: Book Suggestions

I'm behind in my goal to read 30 books before I'm 30. But I think it's still attainable. I just need to be better at reading during downtime, and bringing a book with me wherever I go. Waiting at the doctor? Or for a prescription? Oil Change? Etc? Stop messing around on your phone, Caroline and read your book!

Anyway, I do have a good list of books I want to read and I'm enjoying being on Goodreads - you should join too! But I need some suggestions of books that are decent and quick. Like I'm tempted to re-read the Harry Potter series because I could knock those out quickly and be seven books closer, but I'm trying not to read anything I have before. And don't even tell me Harry Potter isn't decent. If you think that, then I probably don't want your other suggestions. Kidding. But not really.

I know I could just read a bunch of James Patterson / John Grisham type books as they are fast reads, but I'm really hoping to hear some more unique recommendations - books you enjoyed that stuck with you longer than a murder mystery, but they didn't take you too long to get through. My poor friend Brooke is probably sick of me asking her every two weeks for another recommendation (though she is reading one hundred books this year so is a good person to nag), but I know there are lots of other book worms out there (Amelia, Megan, cough cough) so please leave a recommendation or two (or 14!) as I need to get crackin! Muchas gracias.

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September 9, 2013

Look! I Made a Quilt!

At the beginning of the year I had attempted to share the Pinterest Projects I did each month, buuuuut after three months I gave up. So this post is my attempt at getting back to sharing my Pinterest inspired projects, but instead of it being "look what I did each month" since that hasn't happened since March, this is really "look! I did ONE thing in the last five months!"

But I am super proud of this as it was my first quilt and am really sharing to brag because holy crap, quilts are really tedious and take a long time to make! As I made this quilt for my new nephew I couldn't help but be humbled by all the lovely quilts and blankets Cale and Finn have received. They really are a labors of love and while I did love making this, it also makes me appreciate buying things for people too. Because sometimes that's just as special and twenty million times more practical.

When it came to making this quilt I had a few patterns in mind, and knew that my colors would be the colors my sister-in-law decorated the nursery in: mint, gray and white. I ended up going with this pattern and followed the tutorial (as well as the links she shared), only sized mine for a baby whereas she made two twin blankets. My little bitty baby blanket was even smaller than I had intended and I cannot fathom making something bigger.

I first searched for some graph paper to sketch out my design:


And where did I find this paper you didn't ask? Well, we happened to have some left over from the late 90's when my husband saved all these:


 Yes, those are hand made cheat sheets to whatever video game he was playing at the time. Who knew I'd marry such a hunky nerd??

But back to the quilt. My biggest piece of advice is to just buy the pre-cut squares if you are working with something that involves squares/triangles. Since I was going to make a herringbone pattern, it involved cutting out a bunch of half square triangles, but I had to first cut out a bunch of squares from my gray and white fabric that was placed together:


Then I drew a line down the middle, and stitched 1/4 inch on either side to make my square into two triangles (there is a gray piece of fabric under the white):





Then I cut along the line, and folded the triangles over, ironing them in the process to flatten them out, and cut off the little extra ensuring that each gray/white square was the exact same size:





Then I was finally ready to piece together my quilt which just required turning each square in the appropriate direction to make my pattern:



Then came the sewing - first sewing one square to the next until I had a full row done, then doing the same to the next row, and eventually sewing all the rows together:



After each row was sewn together, I ironed them all nice and flat and laid it all out on the batting and the backing of the quilt that all got pinned together:


Then I sewed along each line in the quilt and 1/4 inch above and below - I wanted it to have a "quilted" look without having to do anything other than sew in a straight line because that is challenging enough! After all the quilting was done, I gave up on doing anything fancy for the binding and instead just took the mint backing and folded it over to the front for binding and I like how there's a little bit of color on the front:




There are some definite (and noticeable) mistakes, especially in the binding. But whatever. It's done and I'm pleased with the end result:


And most importantly, I think Wyatt is too:


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September 3, 2013

Pregnancy Announcements

When I got pregnant for the first time I unintentionally started a little tradition of how I would inform Miles I was pregnant. The morning I got a positive test, I was so excited and Miles had already left for work so I had no choice but to just sit with the information all day and during that time I came up with how I wanted to tell him. I wanted it to be in special and memorable way, and I wanted Miles to be the first person I told. Well, Roscoe has always been the very first to know, but he's a good secret keeper.

With Cale, I let Roscoe do the honors when Miles came home from work:



With Finn, I got up early, took the test, and then went and made Miles a little breakfast in bed:


With my third pregnancy, I decided to write on our bellies and Finn and I would share the news together. We had just eaten a large dinner of chicken parm and Miles went to get the bath ready for Finn. While he was doing this, I took a crayola marker to our stomachs and then as Finn and I walked into the bathroom I said "let's go show daddy what's in our belly's":


It worked. Miles was shocked. I believe his reaction was "no way!" and it created a happy little memory of a far too brief pregnancy.

So this most recent time when I learned I was pregnant I really had no clue how to tell Miles. I had used up all my clever ways, but still wanted to stick with tradition and 1. come up with something special and 2. inform Miles before anyone else (ie my sister). So, I kinda cheated and just decided to reuse the same idea as last time. I had tested that morning and planned to tell him when he got home from work, only he came home a little early to grab Finn and I and head out the door to meet some people from work for dinner. So I decided to just wait until we got home (it's hard sitting through a meal with that kind of news on your mind). When we got home, I quickly wrote on Finn's belly when Miles wasn't around and let him discover it when he went to change Finn into pajamas. I made sure to be in the room to see his reaction. As soon as he lifted Finn's shirt and saw "grilled cheese" he turned to me with big optimistic eyes and smiled and lifted up my shirt which revealed "baby."

Even though it was a repeat way of telling him, it was still special and his reaction, knowing what the writing on the belly indicated, was really priceless. I made him and Roscoe get in on the action too and these pictures ended up being the way we shared the news with family a few months later: 





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