A little bit of holiday

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My two favorite holidays as an adult are Thanksgiving and 4th of July. Both are centered around social gatherings with family and friends and plenty of good food. Unlike Christmas, there isn’t a ton of preparation with a month’s worth of shopping and decorating (I do enjoy the Christmas season as well). As a kid, my 4th of July consisted of watching (or marching in) the local parade in the late morning/early afternoon, a gathering at my parent’s house, and an evening topped off with a private fireworks show in the backyard. Now that Mike and I are married, we’ve merged our 4th of July celebrations to be inclusive of both families – so we spend the late morning/early afternoon at a large town gathering in the park with his family (a longstanding tradition for Mike), and then have dinner and did fireworks with my family. Last year was the last year for the firework show in the backyard, it had gotten quite large and we’ll just say that it rubbed someone nearby the wrong way, so that was the last year of that. Not that I would have been awake for fireworks this year anyway.

With Mike working the entirety of the long weekend, Luke and I were on our own for the day. He took a stellar early morning nap, during which time I was so excited for the rest of the day’s festivities that I laid out our clothes, our back-up clothes, and everything else that we’d need for the day. Since Luke concluded the “4th trimester” as some call it (basically the first three months when a baby sleeps a bunch and doesn’t do much else), I’ve learned that days when we’re off of our usual routine (we’re not on a schedule, but there’s a usual flow to our day) the goal becomes to keep Luke happy on what little napping he’s willingly going to do (my Mother-in-Law correctly labeled him a Party Baby, aka doesn’t want to miss out on the action when lots of people are around). I’d hoped that he’d stay awake long enough to us to make the 1 minute drive to CVS to pick up bug spray that would be safe for him (which we didn’t even end up using hah) and then for him to fall asleep for the rest of the drive to my in-laws.

Luke was out cold by the time we got to CVS (seriously, 1 minute, 2 if there’s traffic) and I carefully held him as we made a bee-line for the bug spray. As expected, he woke up in CVS – but thankfully was back asleep for the next 15 minute leg of our journey. The goal was to then transfer him into his stroller and let him take the rest of his nap at our picnic site. But he was awake by the time we reached the rest of the family. He held out as well as could be expected for a baby who had only taken a fraction of the nap that he would have usually taken, and we lasted long enough to celebrate my sister-in-law’s birthday with gifts and cake.

After he peed on me (somehow that never happens at home or at my parent’s house… where I actually have clothing readily available – though I thought I’d packed an extra pair of pants for myself, but apparently I just packed shirts) and eventually became quite whiny (we got a solid 2.75 hours in), I decided it was best if we made our exit and went home instead of straight over to my parent’s house. I drove as slow as possible and took a less-than-direct route to ensure as long a car nap as possible (sometimes he’ll stay sleeping after a car ride, and sometimes his eyes will pop open upon reaching our destination). After the 20 minutes that I made it take to get home, Luke stayed asleep for another hour (!!!) and I puttered around my bedroom trying to figure out the parental logic of: if you have two pairs of jeans that currently fit, and your baby has spit up on the first pair (this was before we even left the house) and peed on the second pair, which pair do you wear to your next event? The answer ended up being neither when I noticed that the chocolate ice cream on my sleeve wasn’t coming out (I gave Luke a couple of tiny tastes of ice cream and he wiped his mouth on my sleeve) and I changed into a maxi-dress.

Luke was a bit of a roller coaster the rest of the evening, but that’s par for the course starting around 5pm each night. He ate bananas while the rest of us got to dine on delicious BBQ grilled chicken + sides, and we dipped a cheerio into the BBQ sauce (not spicy) to see what he’d think – after a thoughtful/pensive face at first, he seemed quite okay with it (though that was the only taste of that that he got). As we were leaving my parent’s house I noticed how light it was outside. It felt strange heading home so early (8pm), but honestly, after I put Luke to bed, the tired set in and I doubt I could have made it out and about much longer myself. So after I wrap up this entry, I’m going to go listen to the fireworks from my bed, hope that they don’t bother Luke, and thumb through Martha Stewart Living before falling asleep.

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Seven Months and Nothing Was Ever the Same Again

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In the span of a week and a half, Luke mastered sitting up, crawling and using his vowels (insert what’s sounding suspiciously like dada here). With those new skills his curiosity for the world around him has heightened. As I write this, he’s occupied examining and scratching every square inch of our new living room carpet, despite his toys being readily available. He’s also babbling to the carpet – it sounds like a very engaging conversation.

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If Luke could will his own teeth to sprout, I think he’d be sporting a full mouth of them by now (he currently has none). Every night at dinner he looks longingly at whatever we’re eating (especially if there’s meat on the plate) and then looks up at us with the biggest sad eyes as if to say, “where’s my plate?”. With the exception of a few things that either need to be a certain temperature per his tastes (peas), or that he flat out doesn’t like (beets), Luke’s a great eater. This morning he wolfed down the bananas and Greek yogurt that I made him, getting fussy if I didn’t have the next spoonful ready for him before he finished swallowing what he already had (with non-banana foods it takes a little longer and there’s no fussy impatience).

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We’re finding a good balance around the house thanks in part to consistent cat napping (usually 3-4 a day) and being able to entertain himself, I’m able to accomplish more for Studio255 and around the house even on days that Mike isn’t around to watch Luke while I work. There are still times/days that I feel overwhelmed (who wouldn’t with a baby, a job, a company to run, and a house to keep up), but more often than not Luke and I are now starting to function as a well-oiled machine. Part of that might have been the recent cleaning spree that I went on, which made things easier to find, easier to just straighten up in passing and overall more calming.

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I knew before I even set up for this month’s trumpet photos that it was time to stop using Mike’s fancy trumpet (thankfully, he’s got 4 trumpets for me to choose from). I pulled one of the older silver trumpets so it would look similar to the one that we used for months 0-6. Since Luke’s sitting up on his own now, I wanted his trumpet photo to feature him sitting up. After I took the first photo (which is also the first photo on this blog post) I decided that the trumpet needed to be more next to Luke instead of behind him. Well, that was the first and last photo that I got of Luke calmly sitting next to the trumpet. The rest of the photos pretty much all look like this:

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and this:

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It’s a good thing I thought to switch out the trumpet! I also tried moving it to the other side of him and in front of him:

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And even shot a few of him laying down – though he no longer just lays there and smiles like he used to (note how far the trumpet has to be away from him to keep him even remotely in the spot that I put him down):

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So I ultimately decided that the Month 7 photo would be what best represented where he is developmentally:

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Baby Clothes

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As I was giving Luke his bottle this morning, I was absentmindedly playing with one of the little orange horns on one of the monsters on his feet. A thought popped into my head as I further examined that monster, and then the rest of the garment. This is well made. There’s embroidery, other fabrics sewn on, lots of seams, snaps, edged in navy blue, soft material and tons of detail, like the little monster faces with horns on each foot.

It’s Carter’s brand, so you know the price was totally reasonable (Carter’s has good prices and quality clothing). The creeper’s (No joke, that’s what they’re called. It’s a one-piece outfit with short sleeves and short shorts that snaps all the way down) from Carter’s thought I bought Luke for summer were $4.99, the most expensive thing that I’ve bought him from their website was a onesie + pants set, for $12.99. What I’m getting at is this impossibly cute onesie must have cost less than pretty much anything I was wearing at the moment (a t-shirt, pajama pants, socks and underwear), except for maybe my socks and underwear – which both consequently cost more than the aforementioned creepers. But even the creepers have more going on than a pair of underwear. There’s more fabric, more sewing, snaps and fun patterns.

Sure, there is expensive baby clothing out there. At the hipster baby clothing store at the mall you can buy a pair of baby corduroy pants for $50 (Luke only owns things from that store that were gifts or on sale, and no, he doesn’t own $50 cords). But I’d hazard to guess that the majority of Luke’s clothing costs less than a generic adult t-shirt. I guess what I’m getting at is this, why does a basic adult t-shirt costs more than a footed onesie with more seams, more stitching and way more effort involved in making it.

Life Hacks

Wearing so many hats (mom, wife, business owner, commuter, employee, artist, myself) I’m finding it increasingly important to find the little things that make a big difference in my day/week.

One of THE most important little investments that we’ve made was purchasing a Microsoft Surface Pro 2. It’s lighter and more portable than a laptop, and since I can work pretty much anywhere in the house, it is significantly easier to get non-design-work done on than my large desktop computer in the upstairs studio. This way I can e-mail Etsy customers through Etsy’s site, order and print shipping labels, order supplies for my brides, do the books and research while at my parent’s house, while watching TV with Mike, and while Luke is otherwise occupied – without having to make Luke play up in my office (which he and I have learned is not a very exciting place for a baby). At least once a month I find myself thanking Mike for suggesting that we purchase the Surface.

I get a lot of e-mail. Be it from wedding, home and lifestyle blogs that I get delivered to my inbox, brides (current and prospective), Etsy customers, vendors, retailers with coupons, shipping notifications, and lord knows what else. When I was in the hospital for the 2 days after having Luke, and stayed off e-mail, I had hundreds (plural) of e-mails in my inbox. It was easy to stay on top of all the incoming mail when I worked full time and spent my entire day in front of a computer, but more recently I’ve been having a hard time keeping up. I tried unsubscribing to anything that 1. I never signed up for in the first place and 2. no longer interested me. The only successful unsubscriptions were from bloggers since they use delivery systems such as Feed Burner and Mail Chimp, systems take that stuff seriously. The retailers and stuff I never signed up for… yeah, no such luck, that was still coming. Enter Unroll.me – it’s this fantastic (free!!!) service that manages one’s inbox. The way it works is this, after you enroll it scans your inbox for any ‘subscriptions’ that you have. It found 247 things that I had allegedly subscribed to. It puts them in a list for you and you click either ‘roll-up’, ‘leave in inbox’, or ‘unsubscribe’. Anything you tell it to leave in your inbox will continue to get delivered as it normally would. Anything that you say to unsubscribe from, it takes the time to unsubscribe you, and if the pesky website keeps sending stuff your way, Unroll.me blocks it. Lastly is the roll-up. It takes anything that you ask it to ‘roll-up’ and stores it in a folder (making it easy to delete in one click later on). At a time of day that you specify, it will send you your roll-up in an e-mail that you can view from your inbox or on their website. Your roll-up is a bunch of thumbnails of those e-mails, making it easy to quickly scroll through and decide what you want to read. When you find something that you’d like to read, you click on it. This has helped keep me off of my phone during the day, constantly reading/deleting non-business related e-mails to keep my inbox from piling up.

If you’ve ever planned a vacation, you know that trip planning can be a serious time-suck. Doing it online is like going down the rabbit hole, you start clicking on link after link after link. Next thing you know, you’re on Amazon shopping for scissors, and not quite sure how your Google search for Kentucky got you there. And you have yet to even book a hotel. Plus, with a baby and a company, who has time to spend hours scrolling through websites that consist mostly of other people’s opinions of ‘top travel destinations’. What I found to be significantly faster: going on each state’s website that interested me… and ordering a free travel guide (they even make city-specific ones as well for once you’ve narrowed down your route). Spending 30 minutes, one day a few months ago, and ordering about 15 travel guides made planning this year’s trip much easier. I can thumb through the guides as they arrive, file away the ones that definitely didn’t make the cut for this year, and then read in more detail the ones that interest me… while I’m on the train, while Luke is playing, while I’m reading in bed before I fall asleep. Oh the flexibility. And, and, and!!! Next year I already have guides waiting for me – no internet required.

This next one seems a little counter-intuitive: make your own baby food. Just the sound of it sounds time consuming and overly complicated. With something like the Baby Bullet, it’s actually fairly simple and quick and yields a ton of baby food with only a little mess to clean up afterwards. And if you’re anything like Mike and me when it comes to grocery shopping (despite our best intentions, it only happens 1-2 times a month), it’s much easier to defrost one of the 30+ servings of baby food that’s currently in our freezer than to run out to the store because Luke needs breakfast and we’ve run out (he obviously doesn’t have the luxury of eating toast like we do when our typical breakfast food has been consumed). Don’t have time to defrost something? As long as you have some form of produce at the house, it takes between 2-10 minutes to whip up something fresh.

Last one for the time being, but certainly not the least: have a bedtime for yourself. Mike’s encouraged me to do that long before I was even pregnant and it has made a significant difference in my life. Rarely am I not in bed (I might not be asleep, but the legwork of getting to bed has already been accomplished), after 10:30. Even when Luke was first born, Mike would usher me off to bed while he stayed awake with Luke until it was time to feed him. Having that kind of consistency and self-discipline keeps me from burning the midnight oil at my computer. There’s always more work to do, and if I stay up late into the night doing it, then I’m going to be useless the next day and the work will pile up again. It’s way easier to just walk away from whatever I’m working on around 10 to start getting ready for bed and to pick up where I left off in the morning. And sometimes, if Mike isn’t ready to head to bed yet and knows how to do whatever it is that I was working on, he’ll finish it for me 🙂

Note: None of the products or services that I mentioned are in any way affiliated with or sponsoring my blog – I’m just letting you know what works for me and my honest opinions of it.

I’d Map That

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Mike has never been an avid traveler. It’s not that he doesn’t enjoy himself when he goes on vacation, but in getting to that point he 1. has to take time off of work – something he’s pretty terrible at doing, unless it’s taking time off work to go work another gig (something that’s encouraged in his field), and 2. plan way ahead/spend money, two things he definitely doesn’t love doing. Knowing this going into our marriage, I made it a priority that we’d go on at least one vacation a year. Each year, I’ll plan it and since Mike prefers to drive his vehicle (not fly and obtain a rental car) it’s pretty easy to keep the money spending to a minimum.

It was pretty easy to hash out the guidelines for trip planning. While I do love a good European vacation, that will be a treat every several years instead of annually. Instead, we’ve decided to focus on seeing the states, all of the states. Driving to the 48 contiguous ones. And popping up into Canada every so often to visit with my Aunt/Uncle/Cousin and see more of what’s got to be one of the most overlooked country by Americans, that is in-fact totally worth visiting and exploring.

So far, we’ve ticked 9 states off of the list with 2 more getting checked off later this summer (we’ve actually been to more individually, but the official tally is a ‘we’ thing). In order to commemorate each of our adventures, both big and small, we purchased a large ‘school-style’ map of the United States that includes a sizable amount of Canada (bonus!). Since Mike’s busy finishing up the second in-house studio for Studio255 and preparing to start work on the new deck, the task of finding/purchasing/hanging the map and pins fell onto my project list.

My initial plan was to buy cork squares, nail them into the wall (the adhesive that comes on the back isn’t rated well at all) and pin the map to the cork. I found a few flaws in that plan. Mainly that doing it this way would make the map a permanent fixture on our bedroom wall, if we ever wanted to re-paint the room or move the map to another wall or place in our house, we’d have to take out all of the ‘places we’ve been’ pins, separate the map from the cork, separate the cork from the wall, and try to put the whole thing back together. I also figured that if the map was just pinned onto the cork, it might sag overtime and would be more susceptible to suffering the wear and tear of having exposed edges.

I evolved my plan to include mounting the cork onto a thin sheet of wood and using spray adhesive to stick the map to the cork, and then screwing the whole thing into the wall. Then I decided that I should probably make a frame to keep the whole thing from looking jenky. There I ran into the problems of weight, thin wood bowing, and the potential of wanting to move the map down the line – would taking the screws out rip the paper?

It wasn’t until I roped my Dad into the project that it got its sea legs. He replaced the thin wood and cork with lightweight foam core, solving both the weight and bowing problems in one fell swoop. At Home Depot we found some lightweight decorative molding to use as the frame (instead of the crown molding I was initially envisioning) and my brother used his building expertise to show us how to best sandwich the whole thing together.

My Dad and I decided to assemble the map/frame on Sunday at my parent’s house before I was to attend a matinee performance of Evita with my in-laws. My usual 1-2 hour morning napper decided to sleep for 2.5 hours, which threw off our departure time. While my Dad waited for Luke and I to get to his house, he decided to use the spray adhesive that we bought to make the double thick foam core base. When we arrived at my parent’s house, I deposited Luke with my Mom before helping my Dad carefully adhere the map to the foam core. After using a rolling pin to smooth out the bubbles, my involvement was pretty much done. See, we were waiting for my brother to volunteer to help out with the cutting of the wood… and that took a while. In fact, it still hadn’t happened at the point when I needed to leave for the show.

When I got back to my parent’s house that night after the show and a birthday dinner for Mike’s grandmother, I was pleasantly surprised that my Dad had happily finished the framing of the map. After clipping a few long nails on Monday, he triumphantly walked the map over to my house (it was too big for the car). Later Monday evening, when I had a quiet half hour, I happily added pins to the map, looking up specific places where we’ve stopped along the way and wondering where 2015’s adventure will take us and what it will be like to plan a vacation around the energy-level/attention span/tastes of an 18-month old.

Note: The Badlands and Toronto have not yet been pinned since I ordered some pin flags to mark significant yearly trip destinations – they haven’t come in the mail yet, so I’m not sure if I’m going to actually like/use them or not.

Another Note: If you’d like to purchase this map for yourself, it’s 47″ wide and 39″ tall and you can purchase it from AllPosters.com (link here). This blog entry is in no way sponsored by or affiliated with AllPosters.com.

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Uniform

One of my greatest challenges day in and day out has always been dressing myself. Sure, I’ve got some great clothing, but the combination of articles looking good together AND being clean AND fitting properly AND being weather/situation appropriate AND the list goes on… always left me scrambling. It got even tougher when I had to factor in my in-between pregnant and regular size figure that I refuse to spend more than a few dollars ($25 total thus far, more on that in another post) to dress since I’m still slowly losing weight. Add to that Luke’s level of patience for multiple outfit changes for both him and me (even though he’s a baby, he’s still a guy: I get one chance to get each of us dressed before his patience wears thin haha) and there’s no room for outfit-making-errors.

Since the summer heat has started to become a factor, I was pretty much relying on jeans + either my one unstained-by-hot-chocolate polo (that makes it sound like I have multiple stained polos, I just have the one) or a lace shirt with a tank top underneath for the two days a week that I work downtown. Neither was an ideal solution since I 1. was sweating walking to/from the train and 2. didn’t love how I looked in either one.

A solution inserted itself into my wardrobe rotation on a particularly hot morning when I threw on my dark jeans,  two tank tops layered and tucked a blazer into my bag to put on at the office. It was such a simple solution. Tank tops breathe more than polos, the blazer looks hipper than the old lace shirt, and I own plenty of both so I can mix-and-match and still have options left over for times during the rest of the week/weekend when I need to look presentable. No more pre-work scrambling, no more didn’t-finish-laundry-last-night remorse, no more spending the day wondering why I even own the shirt that I’m wearing.

Side by Side

I noticed today after Mike dressed Luke, that Luke was wearing the same onesie that we dressed him in the morning after his first night at home. He’s probably worn it more than any other onesie that he owns, which leads me to wonder why we dressed him in a onesie that was clearly too large for him so often. There really isn’t anything special about this particular onesie, it’s a hand-me-down from Luke’s cousins, basic blue stripes, well worn.

Since the light today was similar to that of Luke’s first morning at home, and he happened to be wearing that same onesie, I decided that it would be fun to snap a comparison photo. This particular photo of Luke at 3.5 days old was the one that I deemed the most accurate portrayal of him at that time. So accurate that it was the first photo of him that I had printed.

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Everyone says that baby’s faces change a lot after they’re born. At the time, I couldn’t believe that Luke would ever not look like the Luke that we first met back in December. Well, I got news for you, everyone was right – his face has dramatically matured. I’d say most notable would be that his cheeks have finally given up their hold over his nose. His eyes are still blue, albeit a few shades lighter, his hairline is relatively the same, though the hair he was born with has been mostly replaced, he’s still got that little button nose, and of course, he’s still got my grandfather’s chin – a hallmark that my siblings, my mom and myself all sport.