Monday, July 30, 2012

The Five Gift Rule

I've seen the four gift rule all over Pinterest.  It's a great idea, but I feel like something is missing.  So, I have an addition.  Here is my five gift rule.

Ok, so it doesn't flow quite as well, but I think it's time to get back to creating with our hands.  Back to giving gifts we've poured our time and love into.  Sure, I know not everyone is crafty or wants to be, but there are so many great tutorials out there that require zero special skills (think Napoleon Dynamite).  Why not give this t-shirt scarf a try?  Or this one? This sugar scrub would make a great gift for a teenage girl.  Have some old crayons hanging around?  Melt them into fun new shapes your kid will love.  If baking is more your speed make an extra special cake for your child's special day.  Or try your hand at poetry.  Maybe your mother or grandmother is an excellent quilter.  Then get them involved in the process and have a quilt made from your child's baby clothes like this one here.  I still have some of the gifts my mom made for me and someday I'll pass them on to my children or even their children.  So, all you craft-tastic folks out there and those of you willing to give it a try, go ahead and pin this five gift rule.

I am all for giving a reasonable number of gifts and I struggle with this.  Really, who doesn't want to give their kids the moon - in theory?  But I felt like the four gift rule, while a great start, just wasn't complete.  So there you have it, my five gift rule.  We have two birth days coming up and I'll post on how we incorporate the five gift rule for our kids.

Update: Check out the Five Gift Rule in Action to see how we applied it to Ada's first birthday!

I'm linking up at:
The Shabby Nest
The Humble Brag Link Party

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Fabric Storage From Diaper Stacker

I have a problem.  I'm addicted to fabric.  There I said it.  It's the first step to healing, right?  Or maybe I don't want to be healed.  Maybe I love being a fabricaholic.  Of course I love fabric cut straight from the bolt at the fabric store, but I REALLY love finding sheets at the thrift store with cool prints, crisp white sheets that are perfect for everything and fun t-shirts that deserve a second chance at life.  And it's so cost effective AND preshrunk!  Here are some fabulous sheets I found recently. (Ok, so one is a pillow case and one is a curtain panel, but same thing, right?)

I apologize for the wrinkles.  Salvation Army doesn't do folding and I don't do ironing (at least not before I'm ready to sew).

Where to store all this glorious fabric can be a serious problem.  I don't have a craft room, sigh, so I use my dining room.  I try not to keep all my supplies in there, though let's be real here, that's where they usually stay until I have to move them for some gathering of friends and/or family.  I've been trying to find ways to make my closets hold more of my supplies while not displacing other items, which might happen if I added additional shelving.  So that brings me to the handy dandy diaper stacker that often comes with nursery crib sets.

Photo from

Someone out there probably uses these, but I do not.  Never have.  The picture above doesn't show it, but they usually have a hanger at the top to, well, uh, hang.  So I have repurposed one that we had laying around and now it is a fabulously easy and convenient fabric holder.  Yay for repurposing!

No, I don't store it outside on my clothesline, but seriously, you want to see my closets?  I think not.  As for the polka dotted turtle wearing the ever-popular propeller hat, it doesn't bother me a bit because it's in the closet.  If you have cute closets (don't ever tell me about it because I may vomit) try sewing one of your own using one of the many tutorials out there like this one from Sew Dang Cute Crafts or this one from Frugal Crafty Mom ( I would use a heavy duty hanger though if you're using it for fabric storage.  Like one from a retail store and then the metal part of the hanger can swivel so your fabric stacker can either face sideways or forward.)  How do you store your fabric?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Feeling Down and Getting Dirty

Yesterday was rough. Some days are just like that. And I was starting to feel pretty low about my abilities as a parent.  So, while my kids were napping (yes, all three of them) I finished making the blueberry sorbet we had started (before the youknowhat hit the fan and I declared nap time for all) and then I sat on my butt with the computer. I turned to one of my favorite blogs, Here We Are Together, for calmness, clarity and inspiration.  And I found it.  I'm not a neat freak, not even close, but I still feel like I spend a lot of time telling my kids to keep things clean.  They don't often get an opportunity to really let lose and get dirty.  So, I took a page from Miri's book (or technically a post from her blog :) and we set out to build a mud pit.

I let them help dig the hole because hard work is good for them and it was part of the fun.  They took turns carrying water in buckets (and causing some grief threatening to spray each other with the hose, argh) and pretty soon we had a nice mud pit to play in.  The kids looked at me with impish smirks and wide eyes when I told them to jump in - a sign that we need to do this more often.  The hubby's response, "Oh my.  What are you doing?  And why?"  Always good to keep him on his toes.


Where was Ada during all of this?  Right there with us of course.  By the time her knight in shining armor arrived to rescue her she had a few mud splatters on her bald head and a big one on her cheek.  And she didn't mind a bit.

I can honestly say that the day ended about as rough as it began, but this middle part, where we all got down and dirty, was pretty fun.  I can understand why people go to spas to take mud baths, it's pretty therapeutic, but we'll save our dough and use the dirt that nature provided in our own backyard.  What soothes you and your kiddos when you're having a tough day?

I linked up with Capri +3: Artsy Play Wednesday.  Stop by and check out the other great ideas.
Artsy Play Wednesday with Capri +3

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Personalized Baby Bunting

My cousin recently had twins, a precious boy, Charlie, and sweet girl, Layla.  Born at 32 weeks they are true miracles.  I was passing on lots of stuff from my kids, but wanted to give her something that I put my heart into.  Something personal for each of her blessings.  I have been collecting vintage sheets, pillowcases, and other fabric to make flags for Ada Marie's first birthday, which is coming up WAY too quickly.  It got me thinking that this could be a fun gift for my cousin.

So, I riffled through my fabric collection to see what I had laying around.  And I was able to gather enough to make two sets of flags.  The babies share a room and I was told the room does not really have a theme but half the room is blue and half is pink.  That made things even easier.

I didn't photograph pictures of the process, but hopefully I will when I finish Ada's flags in the next few weeks.  After selecting my fabrics I cut out a flag pattern (simply a triangle) from a blog that I cannot seem to find, but it offered the pattern in three sizes so if you know what blog it was please comment below so I can give credit where credit is due.  Then I laid out the flags to choose an arrangement.  I then used a combination of receiving blankets and fabric to make the letters for the name.  I decided on two different fabrics for the letters to get them to show up on the different flags.  I then ironed the letter fabric to heat n bond, downloaded the font I wanted from and used a silhouette to cut out the letters (you can cut them by hand if you don't have a fabulous neighbor with a silhouette). I recommend doing a double cut just to be sure it cuts all the way through on the first try.  Then I ironed the letters onto the flags.

Time to sew the flags together.  Quilt binding is a super quick, easy way to attach the flags and it is available in a variety of colors.  I used this for some flags I made for spring decorating, but this time I wanted something with a bit more personality.  You see, my cousin has lots of personality.  I like to think she has a very earthy side, but she also has a very girly, bling side, too.  I thought the flags were a bit earthy, especially since they were upcycled, so, I went out in search of some fabulous ribbon and this is what I found.

It's a shimmery light pink with shiny pink stars - perfect!  I folded the ribbon in half and ironed it to get a crease to line up the flags.  (One of the stars came off on the iron so I used a tea towel in between the iron and the ribbon.)  I trimmed the top of the flags to make sure that they were even then inserted the flags into the middle of the folded ribbon and pinned them in place.  I spaced them about 1/2 - 2 inches apart, but do whatever looks best to you.  Then I sewed a straight line down the ribbon to connect the flags.  I started sewing on the ribbon about 1/2 inch before the first flag.

And here's Charlie's flags.  After I found Layla's ribbon I knew I wanted to find something with stars for Charlie, too.  Thankfully it was nearing July 4th so there was no shortage of star ribbon.  I wish I had chosen a darker fabric for the H and I, but it's ok I love it anyway and it would be easy to use a sharpie or fabric marker to outline it or fill it in so it would stand out more.  

I love how they turned out and am so excited to finish Ada's.  I'm trying to choose a font, which can suck hours out of my life.  Any recommendations for an easy-to-read, girly, but not too girly free font?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Carrot Cake with Dates and Cream Cheese Glaze

Don't let the rough phone photo fool you.  This is delicious!

We've started a new daily rhythm at our house and it is going splendidly.  Each morning we have a different themed activity.  Monday's theme is baking or cooking.  A few weeks ago, Leon (almost 5), upset with his father's request, said to his dad, "I was going to surprise you and bake you a carrot cake for your birthday.  Now I'm not going to!"  Keep in mind that Steve's birthday is in February, not like next week.  When I asked Leon about the incident and how Dad might have felt about it he clearly felt bad.  At first he claimed that it was all a cover up so that Steve would be REALLY surprised when Leon got him the cake.  Then he admitted that he said it because he was feeling angry.  He wanted to make it up to Steve so he asked if we could make him a carrot cake.  It just so happened that the next day was our baking day and I had all the ingredients.  So, here is our recipe for homemade carrot cake.

4 eggs
1 1/4 cups vegetable or canola oil (or 3/4 cup canola oil and 1/2 cup applesauce)
1 8oz can crushed pineapple, drained well
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3 tsp cinnamon
3 cups grated carrots (I just finely chopped mine in the food processor)
1 cup chopped dates (optional)
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts (optional, I usually prefer it without)

For the glaze:
1 4oz package of cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioners sugar, sifted (If I have kids tugging at my pants I just fluff it a bit with a fork)
1 tsp vanilla (I've also used almond extract with yummy results)
1 tbsp milk (added slowly as needed)

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease and lightly flour a 9x13 inch pan.  Set cream cheese on counter to soften.

In a large bowl beat together eggs, oil, sugars and vanilla.  Add pineapple. Mix in flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg and cinnamon.  Stir in carrots.  Fold in dates and pecans.  Pour into pan.

Bake 40 or 50 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.  (Mine is usually done at 40 mins.) Cool in pan for 10 minutes and then place on a wire rack to cool.

While cake is baking beat together cream cheese, confectioners sugar and vanilla.  Add milk slowly until desired consistency is achieved.

When cake has cooled apply the glaze, sprinkle with cinnamon and devour.

This cake was a huge hit.  It was perfectly moist and just sweet enough.  I use a lot less sugar than most recipes so while you can usually get away with decreasing the sugar, just know that it's already a conservative amount.  And hey, it has carrots, so it's healthy, right?

I linked up at Miz Helen's Country Cottage for Full Plate Thursday.  There are some great recipes over there so check em out.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Summer Bucket List

With our oldest son about to enter kindergarten, this summer feels a bit like our last hurrah.  Realistically, I know that there is much more fun ahead, but emotionally I can't help but wonder if we've done everything we want to do.  Have we made the most of our time together during these pre-school years?  So, in an effort to make sure we got out and had some serious fun this summer we made a summer bucket list.  The list really helped us prioritize all the things we wanted to do.

Our Summer Bucket List:
  1. Lakeside camping
  2. Date with each of the boys
  3. Movie with my hubby
  4. Craft retreat
  1. Canoeing
  2. Slot car racing
  3. Baseball at the park with hard bat and ball (so easy to please)
  4. Fishing
  1. Canoeing
  2. Playing music with some guys in the hood
  3. Mountain biking
  4. Camping
  1. Go to the girls' house - the girls are our neighbors, whom he adores.  (Another easy one to check off the list - done)
There's some nice overlap between our lists so those are definitely the biggest priorities.  In fact, we've already been able to cross a few of these off our list.  We've managed to fit in lots of baseball and we've booked a lakeside campsite for later this summer.  Actually, we booked two as we're going during the week so there was lots of availability and it will give us added privacy and flexibility with naps and sleeping.  We're planning on having our fire at the second campsite so that the hubby and I can hang out by the fire after the kids go to sleep.

Last weekend we took all three kids to Devils Fork State Park and paddled to a great swimming spot.  There are no pics of all of us in the canoe as Ada was miserable in her life jacket so we canoed as fast as possible to our destination and got her out of that bulky, thumb-sucking preventer super necessary life-saving vest.  We had a great time, Ada included, and we managed to get some cute pics even thought our camera is on the fritz so we only had our plain old basic cell phone.

Ada kept sticking her head in the water to drink it so we took it as a sign that she was thirsty. 

We totally canoed with the stroller - you know, just in case we wanted stroll through the red clay or sandy hills, lol. 

Leon loves life under the water.  He spent most of his time searching for fish. 

The boys enjoyed a snack break in the canoe. 

You can barely make out the boys in the distance canoeing back to the boat ramp.  Ada and I returned on foot.

Leon finally caught a fish!  We didn't see a single fish (unless you count the dead one on the shore) until we returned to the boat ramp and then he caught one in a ziploc!  He was thrilled and then heartbroken when we had to leave.

Since our life got a little less crazy (read about our -or my - craziness here) we've really been trying to focus on our family and spending lots of time together doing the things we love.  Our bucket list has helped and the kids felt like they had a say in our summer plans.  Why shouldn't they?  So, what's on your family's summer bucket list?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Freedom of Parenthood

I am sometimes guilty of focusing on the the restrictions of parenthood - we can't come and go as easily, the bedtime hours are shot (lately that seems to be from 8 - 11, argh), vacation is expensive, the cost of eating out adds up and our two-year-old often struggles in such settings so why bother, laundry is an endless chore, naps restrict us to the house during certain hours (not that I'm complaining about nap time - trust me), and so on.  So, in keeping with the spirit of the Fourth of July holiday I am reflecting on the many freedoms of parenthood.

My awesome baby-daddy doing some serious puddle jumping with the boys on  Mother's day.
  1. The freedom to be silly
    We adults tend to worry a bit too much about what other people think.  Kids, especially young ones, don't really care.  Not so great when they bust out a full blown tantrum in line at the grocery store (candy at the checkout should be illegal), but pretty fabulous when it comes to their imagination and playfulness and some of this rubs off on us adults.  I've seen some really awesome dads playing various roles during rousing games of princess, moms pretending to be evil villains so their miniature super heroes can defeat them, puddle jumping, hill rolling, bad-basketball-playing, mud fighting, and everything in between.  You never have to worry about looking foolish because you're doing it for your kids (and you know you're having a blast), so go on and be silly.
  2. The freedom to be frumpy
    Don't get me wrong, I love dressing up and looking my best, but parenthood does not lend itself to that everyday.  I know some mamas will disagree and say that you should look your best everyday, but that's just not for me.  Some days I like to steal those extra minutes of sleep, role out of bed and into a full blown kid-centered day.  And I'm pretty confident that when I roll into the grocery store corralling my three kiddos with my hair looking a bit too greasy shiny, not-so-slight circles under my eyes, and more than one spit up, paint or obvious food stain on my clothing ain't nobody gonna say nothin.  And I like it that way because for me that's real.
  3. The freedom to see things through the eyes of a child
    In the time between being a kid and having kids how many times did you stop to watch a deer by the side of the road or watch the ripples when you threw a rock into the water?  How many times did you strike up a conversation with the garbage man because his truck and his job are fascinating?  Or try for hours to catch minnows in a stream?  Everyday I see things in a different, more colorful and more beautiful way because of my children and I am so grateful.
  4. The freedom to be a big dork
    Remember in high school when you would purposefully not wear pink on Valentine's Day or orange on Halloween or red, white or blue on the fourth of July?  Well, I do.  And now I stress just a little if I don't have something festive to wear.  For Valentine's Day this year I made my own heart sweater from this super simple tutorial.  For real, I didn't just wear pink or red I rocked a homemade heart sweater (sweater itself was from Goodwill, but I DIYed the heart).  And I got lots of compliments from other moms, my kids loved it, and so did I.  For St. Patrick's Day I upcycled a too tight green tank top (see picture below) by adding some shamrock print to the sides and bottom and you better believe I wore it in public.  It's fun to get just a little too into the holidays and right now my kids think it's great.
  5. The freedom to be assertive
    I've never been the most assertive person, but now that I have kids I really don't have a choice.  I need to teach my kids to stand up for themselves so when there is a wrong we point it out, talk about it and try to make it right, if it's within our control.  It can be taking from others, cutting in line, or speaking up for those who can't speak for themselves.  I distinctly remember waiting in line at the gas station with my brother to buy a pack of gum.  We must have been about 8 and 6.  As we started to step up to the counter a man, more than old enough to know better, stepped right in front of us and began to checkout.  The cashier said nothing, but I remember her looking at us.  My mom must have walked through the door just in time to see it because she marched right up to him and said, "Excuse me. My children have been waiting patiently and you cut in front of them."  He grumbled, but moved out of the way.  I will never forget her standing up for us like that.  Of course, there are many more dramatic examples of her standing up for us - it's just what you do for your kids - but this example illustrates how even the smallest situations can have a big impact.  Thanks, Mom!
  6. The freedom to find myself
    I studied marketing in college, went on to work as a marketing assistant at a local mall, and then became the communications director for our local chamber of commerce.  It was all great, but it was what I did, not who I was.  After my first son was born I went back to work at 3 months but my heart wasn't in it.  I didn't feel like I was giving 100% to my job or my sweet babe.  I decided to quit my job, start a super small business that I could do with my son and try to eek out every precious moment of his infanthood.  That started me on this journey.  The journey to discover who I am and who I want to be.  To discover what is important to me and what is worth my precious time.  My children led me back to my sewing machine, deeper into my roots and on this road to become a DONA certified birth doula.  I can't imagine going back to the work I used to do.  Not because it's not important or not fun, but it's just not me.  A birth-loving, breastfeeding, scatterbrained, craftaholic mama to three amazing kiddos - yup, that's me.
The plain-tank-turned-festive-shamrock-shirt, lol.

So, while it is true that parenthood can be restrictive, today (technically yesterday, but I have yet to go to bed so it's still July 4th in my book) I am celebrating all the ways that my kids have set me free.  Thanks, my brilliant babies.  I'd love to hear how your kids set you free?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Welcome Home Baby

There we were, two midwives and I, the doula, sitting around a beautifully inviting circular table inside an obviously loved and cherished home.  As we contemplated stages of labor and who would be the first to sample the just-sweet-enough smelling muffins the couple had baked in the earliest stages of labor, it seemed fitting that we were seated at this open, welcoming, soft, yet strong table surrounded by sturdy walls and protected by the dark of night.  It seemed fitting that this, my first home birth experience, would begin in this way and so I asked, "Other than the obvious, how is a home birth different from a hospital birth?"  I originally thought I meant the logistics, where supplies are kept, who does what, who cleans what, etc.  But I now know that the answer I was looking for was something more of a feeling and it all became clear shortly after the clock signaled the start of a new day on June 27, 2012.

I sat barefoot in the soft, creaky glider used countless times to rock her first son to sleep and watched the immediate bond form with her second son while they snuggled and cooed in her bed just moments after his birth.  She rubbed the feet that only minutes earlier had fluttered and kicked inside her as he made his journey from the world that only they shared and into his home, his little place on this big earth.  To be born into that place where he belongs unconditionally, into that place where his arrival has been anticipated with hope and joy since his conception is something words cannot explain.  You have to be present to feel and appreciate the beauty and the rightness of starting his life right where he is meant to be.

It was around midnight on this fresh, dark night when we heard the unmistakable sounds of a woman nearing the end of her labor.  We went quickly, but gently to where the mama clung tightly to her husband as the waves compounded and released the ocean inside her.  I was completely present in both mind and body, applying counter pressure and using affirmations, but make no mistake I was a guest on this journey.  Mama and papa were in a world by themselves, she rocking and moaning and bearing the weight of the final stages of labor and he, genuinely in awe of this strong, courageous woman who would soon bless him with their fourth child.  I was simply there in case they lost their rhythm or in case fear briefly took over I would help lead them back.  But they walked through it in complete synchronicity - papa guiding and reassuring mama - and they were rewarded for their hard work with a babe who knew just when to arrive.  He knew just what his mama could handle and before his head had been completely born he let out a small, muffled cry to greet his parents.

Look at their faces - papa's filled with pride and joy and mama's filled with relief, both filled with love.

And as these parents bonded and loved each other and their new babe, we visitors returned to that welcoming round table and sat in tired and contented silence until the elder midwife looked up from her just-sweet-enough tasting muffin and asked me, "So, how is a home birth different?"

My three perfect miracles were all born with the support of my husband, a midwife and a doula, without pain medication, in the hospital and each birth was beautiful, peaceful and perfect.  I've attended several serene hospital births as a doula, but this experience was life-changing and left my womb aching, just a little, to bring forth life in our home with complete and pure love and acceptance.  And since some of you will ask, no, there are no current plans to do so.

Leave a comment and let us know where we can read your birth story.