Search This Blog

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Creating Family Holiday Traditions

As Thanksgiving, Saint Nicholas Day, Christmas and New Year's Eve are slowly (or not so slowly) making their way towards us on the calendar, I have been thinking more and more about family traditions.  This is Aidan's first Christmas, so I honestly can't wait to get the season started!  Traditions evolve, and when you're just starting out as a "new" family, it's fun to think about each person's background, own unique traditions, and how you will incorporate them into your new family unit.

Here are some of ours:

1. Thanksgiving:  Growing up overseas, Thanksgiving was always that "American" holiday that we got to celebrate.  For me, personally, if I get to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, I'm good to go!  Dan is a stickler on "no Christmas until after Thanksgiving", so we usually start decorating for Christmas after dinner, and listening to Christmas carols.  Love, love, love!

2. Black Friday:  This day baffles me.  I love a good deal as much as the next person, but weren't we just saying how thankful we are for all the things we have???  On top of that, stores are opening on Thanksgiving Day, at 6pm.  THAT'S DINNER TIME!!!!!  THANKSGIVING DINNER TIME!!!!  Seriously?!  I am very glad to see that many retailers are ditching this trend, and not opening until midnight.  I get the midnight shopping, and online stuff, it's just the mob mentality over material things that drives me crazy.  SO, what we have started doing, is we donate our gently used clothes at our local donation center. I love this "after-thanksgiving" tradition.

3. Pre-Christmas: Our church does and annual Operation Christmas Child drive.  The Children and Youth Departments usually have a competition, with the losing department's pastor having to do something embarrassing, as incentive.  This is so much fun!  In case you're not familiar with it, you fill a shoe box with items for a child living in a third world country.  We do some toys, school items, and hygiene items.  If your church doesn't take part in this, you can very easily do it on your own.  You can even track your box!

4. Saint Nicholas Day:  On December 6th, children across Europe get chocolate in their boots.  Now, that may seem weird, or gross.  However, the night before, the kids clean off their boots, put them outside their bedroom doors, and then Saint Nicholas (ehem - mom and dad), put chocolate in their boots.  You always get a gold switch too, to remind you to be good! :)
Last year's Saint Nicholas Day
5. Pre-Christmas/Advent: Growing up, my mom made us the prettiest Advent Calendars.  She would put chocolate, small gifts (nail polish, matchbox cars, barbie outfits, legos), and sometimes money in them.  I would love to make something like this for Aidan some day!

6. Christmas Eve:  Two years ago, we started going out for breakfast on Christmas Eve, and we LOVED it!  I'm already scoping out places for this year.  
In our family, we open our Christmas presents on Christmas Eve afternoon.  My parents always made us take Christmas cookies to the neighbors, while they finished wrapping our gifts.  As an adult, I bake/make things for our friends.  So, we open our gifts, watch It's A Wonderful Life.  One NEW tradition I'd like to start, is one I found on pinterest.  Every year, on Christmas Eve, kids open a box, with Christmas pajamas, a Christmas book, and hot chocolate mix. I love this tradition so much!  I can't wait to pick out Aidan's pjs and book.  Do you have any favorite Christmas books?

7.  Christmas Day: We all stand on the steps in our pajamas, and got a family picture.  
We get to open our stockings.  Some of my favorite things were always in my stockings.  I always got a magazine (like Vogue - one of the expensive ones :)), some jewelry, and some cloudberry jam.  Amazing stuff.  
Since we've been adults, with our own family units, I've made us a family ornament every year.  The first year I made ornaments in the shape of Hungary.

One of the family traditions we've adopted from Dan's family, is that on Christmas Day, we go to the movies.  New movies open on Christmas Day a lot, and the last couple years, we've gone to see the Hobbit movies together (because we're all J. R. R. Tolkien nerds).
We've also adopted Dan's family's Christmas dinner - prime rib, Yorkshire pudding, and yummy sides.  No complaints here! :)

So, these are our family traditions.  Do you have any, that you especially love?  Some you couldn't wait to move out of the house to quit?  Some you can't wait to do?  Please share them in the comments!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Breastfeeding Story

Before I get into my story, I want to say that I firmly believe, that everyone does what is best for their family.  I don't think that breastfeeding is the only viable option for nourishing your child.  There are women whose milk never comes in, babies who don't latch right, crazy work schedules, and plenty of other factors that mothers have to take into consideration.
All I'm going to share, is my story.

For me, breastfeeding was very important.  I was willing to do just about anything to make sure that it happened.
After Aidan was born, the doctor gave him to me right away, we had wonderful skin-on-skin time (one of the sweetest moments I've ever experienced), and as soon as possible, I nursed him.

Your body is so amazing, in that, as your baby nurses, that signals to your uterus to start shrinking back down to size.  (How cool is that!?)  However, it hurts.  So.  Very.  Much.  Pain meds are a great start, but after all you've just gone through, you really just want something to be pain-free.  Not happening yet.

Next, there's the lactation consultant.  I loved the one at our hospital!  She was very informational, supportive, and not at all pushy.  Best thing she said, "When in doubt, whip it out!". I lived by that, and I think it helped a lot.

So, then you get to go home.  This is when it gets interesting.  Mastitis affects 2 out of 10 breastfeeding women.  Say what!?  That's a pretty decent number!  And yet, when we went to the E.R., the nurse practitioner didn't know what it was.  Let me back-track.
A couple weeks after we've been home, I passed out in the shower, and had a pretty decent fever.  Of course, this all went down on a Saturday, just to make things more difficult.  My breast was getting harder and harder over the course of a few days.  Aidan literally yelled at my right breast every time it was time to nurse.  Pretty comical, but also heart-breaking.
I used a hot compress, tried massaging my breast (some yellow stuff came out, but nothing really impressive), and took some more pain meds.
We went to a Minute clinic- they couldn't do anything.  Then Care Plus- them either   Finally, we went to the E.R.  I thought I was ruining my precious new 2-week-old, by taking him to the E.R., around all those hacking people!  Yikes!!!  When the doctor saw me, she was like, "Wow!  That looks painful!"  And prescribed me some antibiotics.

They didn't work.

I went to my gynecologist.  They literally had a staff-meeting about me, and told the weekend people to prescribe me whatever I needed if I called- ha!  

They referred me to a breast center.  There, they ended up aspirating an inch and a half long lump.  They got out 40 CC-s of green-tinted gunk.  It finally didn't feel like my breast was going to explode!  Ladies, (and brave men), I can't tell you how painful this whole experience was.  I'm playing it down now, but it's nearly 9 months later, and I still have phantom pains.

Next comes pumping.  Oh dear, the pumping.
We got our Ameda pump free from out health insurance, which was great. However, at first, I was having a really hard time with it.  I borrowed one from a friend.  It worked great, except the tubes kept sucking up milk.  It started oozing black stuff.  So I thought I might be ruining her pump, rested it in rice, made sure it was in working order again, and gave it back.  Miracle of miracles, my original one worked.  Thank you, Jesus!
Then, there's the finding time and a place to pump at work.  You may know, I'm a teacher, so I don't exactly have a flexible schedule.  So, I have to rely on the grace of others covering for me, and our daily 1/2 hour resource period.
During my first months back, I pumped in my principal's back storage room while my kids ate lunch, and once in the afternoon.  
The next year, it got really interesting.  Now, I pump in our storage room/teacher's bathroom/dance room/occasional book fair.  One day, I looked around, and realized I was pumping between a carpet cleaner and floor waxer.  One of my friends told me, she used to pump in her car.  In winter.  In Minnesota.  Oh, the glamorous life of a breastfeeding mother!

On top of all this, you have to pray to God, that your baby is a genius, and can switch from breast to bottle with ease.  At first, Aidan loved the bottle, and wouldn't nurse, unless I stood the entire time, and sang "You Are My Sunshine".  Then, in the summer, he only nursed, so he wouldn't take a bottle once August rolled around.  Now, he seems to do pretty well going back and forth.

And finally, there's nursing in public.  There are laws that protect nursing mothers, but you also hear awful stories about public shaming, and inappropriate comments.  Personally, I like using a cover, but I do understand that some babies can't eat under them.  Either way, it's definitely a juggling act.  For example, on the 4th of July, we took a little mesh tent with us, and I nursed him crouched in that.  I've nursed on a tourist trolley in Boston, lots of back seats of cars, the back cafe in our youth room, and the beach, with a storm on the way.  It's not fun, it's not pretty - but it feels so good.  Breastfeeding feels like such an accomplishment!  Especially after all the hurdles Baba and I have been through.  I love how he nuzzles me when he needs some comfort, I love the feeling that I am someone's favorite "lovey", I LOVE that I can sustain a human being, and I cherish the residual cuddles.

I didn't have post-baby blues, but I am foreseeing a couple teary days when my sweet boy decides he is done breastfeeding.

If you are able to, and decide to breastfeed, here are a couple things you can't do it without:

1. Support system: My mom was an AMAZING help!  Sh drove me, when I couldn't drive yet, stayed up with Aidan, so Dan and I could sleep, and did anything and everything she could think of to help.  Also, a sweet friend from our church came over with lunch, and watched Aidan for us while we napped.  Boy, oh boy, she will never know how good that nap felt!

2. Research: The internet can be scary, and all symptoms online seem to indicate cancer.  But, do make sure you look into things, ask your doctor questions, and don't feel bad about it!  It's your right to find out whatever you need!

3. Get in touch with a lactation consultant or your local la leche league.  I went back to see the lactation consultant, and she really helped.  When I told her all that was going on, she told me she was impressed I was out of bed, and had clothes on.  That already made me feel better!

4. Only push yourself as far as you feel comfortable.  Breastfeeding is not the end-all, be-all.  If you feel you can't do it, formulas nowadays are so researched, and so comparable!  They really know what they are doing!

5. Trust yourself, and your body.  Listen to your own body's cues.

If you're able to breastfeed, that's wonderful!  If you're not, don't beat yourself up about it, hold your head high, and know you're doing the best for your baby.  I'm just sharing my own experience, and hoping maybe somebody will feel like they're not alone in the world, if they're dealing with something similar.

If you've had any crazy breastfeeding experiences, please feel free to write me about them!  Have a great day!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Halloween Fishers Of Men Trunk Or Treat Idea

One of the things about growing up overseas, is that we never celebrated Halloween.  Even if we did live in the States, we probably would've been the family hosting the harvest party at church.
So, I get really excited about the fun, costume and candy aspect of Halloween.  Of course, I don't like the evil and scary aspect of Halloween (the scariest movie I've ever seen is Jumanji).  I do, however LOVE costumes, as I've mentioned in the past, and candy - well, I love candy too.  So, yeah, this is right up my alley.

Our church started an annual "Light Up The Night" Trunk or Treat event last year.  We love it!  Last year we did a David and Goliath trunk.  We painted a Goliath face on foam board, cut two holes in it, and had a bean bag toss game for the kids.

This year, I really wanted to make a sushi costume for Aidan.  I had seen it on pinterest, and thought it was adorable!  So, we went with Matthew 4:19.  "Jesus said to them: Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."

Here's what I used for Aidan's sushi costume:
- white onesie
- felt (peach, salmon, pink, green, black)
- thread
- scissors
- fabric glue

1. Draw out a basic pattern on paper.
2. Cut them out, pin them on felt, and cut them out as well.
3. Glue pieces on top of each other.
4. Finally, glue and/or sew pieces together.

After that, I took to the actual trunk.
You'll need:
- Large piece of cardboard, cover with blue bulletin board paper
- Blue plastic table cloths
- Different shades of blue balloons
- Chinese lanterns
- Googley eyes
- Colored paper
- Duct tape
- Rod
- Yarn
- Large magnet
- Clasp-type paper clip
- Swedish Fish Halloween candy
- Hot glue gun

Chinese lantern fish:
1. Cut out fins and such, out of colored paper, and glue them to the Chinese lanterns, to make fish or other sea creatures. 
2. Then, using hot glue, glue them on, along with the google eyes.

How to put it together:
1. First, we took the lid off the part of the trunk that has our spare tire.  And then, the spare tire.  We then laid the blue plastic tablecloths down, and the large piece of cardboard in the back.
2. Using the duct tape, attach balloons to the piece of cardboard.
3. Turn rod and yarn into a fishing pole.  Add magnet to the end.
4. Hang fish, and other sea animals from trunk.
5. Put large clasp-type paper clips on the bags of Swedish Fish.
6. As the kids walk up, let them use the magnet to "fish" for Swedish Fish!  Just make sure you remember to take the paper clip off before handing it to the kid.  Can you imagine how much a mom might freak out, to find a paper clip in their kid's Halloween bag!?  Yikes!

7. Also, Dan and I bought Sriracha shirts from Target.  Have I mentioned yet?  I love Target!

Our Sushi Baby

"Fishers Of Men"
I'm already thinking of ideas for next year... it may involve spandex.  Or lava lamps...  Shag carpet?  Or capes...?  

So, have you or your family ever done anything for a trunk or treat?  What ideas do you have?  What are your thoughts on celebrating Halloween?

I'm so glad you stopped by!  Please leave me your thoughts!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Fall Family Pictures - 5 Tips On What To Wear, What To Do

One of the reasons I love the Fall, is because it means it's time for family pictures.  It's one of those things that Dan lets me indulge in.  I love thinking about the colors, the location, and the feel.  I thought I'd share my top suggestions for achieving the pictures you dream about.  
Again, full disclosure; I am not a photographer, and have not taken photography lessons.  I just love colors, and think I have a pretty good eye for things.  We loved our photographer, Hilary from Southern Sisters Photography and will be using her again.

1.  Colors 
Think about where you're going to display your pictures.  If you have a very dominant color in the room you will be displaying it in - say red - don't go for clashing colors - like purple and orange.  Neutrals are usually a pretty safe bet.  Also, think about colors already in your wardrobe.  For example, we bought Aidan's outfit, and loved it.  We coordinated our colors around it.

2. Black and White
Some pictures look better in black and white, some don't - it's worth a try, either way.  Different textures make for more interesting black and white pictures.
3. Lighting 
After sunrise, and before sunset are the prettiest times of day.  We opted for morning light.  We met with our photographer at 8:30 at a beautiful park here in Jacksonville.  I love what the light did in the pictures!

4. Work with what you've got / be patient
For the first little bit, Aidan was really into the whole process, and smiling at the camera, and being a ham.

After a while though, he needed a break, so we did some more candid shots.
5. Know the shots you want
I really wanted a sweet picture of Aidan with each of us.

I wanted a cozy snuggly one.  Now here, we ran into a little trouble.  The blanket wasn't big enough to wrap around all of us (hence the slightly awkward arm in one of the pictures), but I love how we all look!

And lastly, our photographer brought a "Merry Christmas" banner for us to hold.  I really love how this picture turned out, however the picture we used last year was very similar, and we wanted to do something different.  So, what I'm going to do, is have it printed, and bring it out as a Christmas decoration.

I hope these tips and suggestions helped you with planning your pictures!  Please let me know if you have any extra ideas you would add!  Thank you for stopping by!

I'll Eat You Up, I Love You So - Where The Wild Things Are Costume

You may remember from last year, that the Literacy Parade is my FAVORITE day of the year!  It's a Halloween- alternative costume parade my school puts on.  The idea is, that you choose a character from a book, dress up as that character, bring in the book, with your book project, and parade around school.  I look forward to it all year long, and have costumes picked out years in advance.  Obsessive?  Perhaps.  But it combines everything I love most - books and costumes.
My first year, I dressed up as Amelia Bedelia, last year I dressed up as Ms. Frizzle, and this year... baby boo and I dressed up as Max and a Wild Thing from Where The Wild Things Are.

I have always loved the book, Where The Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak.  The idea of a rowdy little boy, who comes up with a whole imaginary world - and then realizes his misses his mama - is a really sweet notion to me.  Growing up with brothers, I can totally get that!
To top all, this year is the year's 50th anniversary, and Aidan's grandma and grandpa got him the book... so it just seemed very fitting.

Firstly, of course I had to find Aidan his costume.  This was much easier said than done.  You may not believe it, but white footie pajamas with a hood are hard to come by.  So, I gave in, and bought his costume at Party City.  I can tell you though, it is well made, comfortable, and REALLY soft.  Aidan seemed to like it!

Now for my costume.  I didn't take pictures of the process, because most of it was just finding the right pieces.

Here's what I got:
Patterned leggings (I found mine at Target)
Orange and brown sweater/shirt (I found mine at Goodwill)
Faux fur collar (which I pinned together to make a hat)
Horns (Toilet paper rolls I cut a slit into, and rolled to make cones)
Wild Thing Feet

For the Wild Thing feet I took a sheet of gray felt, cut it in half.  Then, I took white felt, and cut about inch long triangles.  I sewed the triangles to the piece of felt.  Then, I sewed elastic to the back and bottom of the large pieces of felt.  Tada!  Wild Thing feet!  (This would also work for dinosaur, monster, or animal feet too.)

I assembled them all, and the end result was:

We all know it's not a party unless the snacks are AMAZING, so I knew I had to come up with something fun.  I reused my acorn idea from two years ago.  I also found Alpha-bit cereal (Literacy Parade - get it?), and found a really cute idea involving clementines and celery.  You peel the clementines, and stick 3/4 inch piece of celery in it, and low and behold, it looks like a pumpkin!

My kiddos had so much fun during our Literacy Parade!  They had such cute costume ideas!  I had a Cat in The Hat, a Thing 2, two firemen, a Sister Bear (from the Berenstain Bears), two Olivia-s, David from the Bible, the pig from If You Give A Pig A Party, Woody, a Doc McStuffins, Fancy Nancy, and more!  

I gave my best rendition of Where The Wild Things Are, with my special helper, and the kids loved it!

It was a wonderful day!  I love dressing up, and if it promotes literacy, it's just that much better!  Aidan was such a great sport about it too, and stole the show!
Stay tuned for Aidan's costume for our church's Light Up The Night event next week!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Book A Day...

It might be the Kindergarten teacher in me, or it may be an inherited trait from my mom, maybe it's the illustrations, or perhaps I'm a sucker for rhymes - but whatever the reason, I have always loved children's books.  With a passion.
For Aidan's nursery, we went with an Around The World In 80 Days theme, his baby shower had a library theme, my favorite day of the year is my school's annual Literacy Parade, I've even listed my top picks for must-read children's books in A Life Long Love Affair With Children's Books.  Needless to say, I'm a fan.
So, when we were on vacation in Boston this summer, home of the ducklings from Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, I could feel a new family tradition coming on.
The gist of this new family tradition (which, by the way, you are more than free to copy and make your own), is that I try to get a book from wherever we're visiting (either set there, or the author is from there), and take a picture of us in some sort of connection to the book.

For example...

1. Boston, MA - Make Way For Ducklings

This is an adorable story about a Mallard duck couple looking for a place to raise their family of ducklings, and how they end up at the Public Gardens in Boston.  Lucky for us, Bostonians have placed statues of them in the Public Gardens.  Fun, fun family day!

2. Boston, MA - Paul Revere's Ride

Did I mention, that I also love history?  Buddy boy was asleep when we got to Paul Revere's house, but I waved at it for him... :)

3. St. Augustine, FL - St. Augustine A to Z

We found this gem in a little local bookstore in Jacksonville Beach.  Aidan celebrated his first 4th of July at the St. Augustine Castillo De San Marcos fort.  St. Augustine is the oldest European city in the continental U.S.  This book is really cute, and is even by a local author!

4. Florida - Count To Sleep Florida

This is just my "Florida" book, for now.  It's really cute though, and is a perfect bedtime book for babies and toddlers.  The ultimate goal is to go manatee watching and get the book Manatee Winter.  It is such a sweet book about the oceanic and river wild life in our area.  I read it to my class, and got so emotional at one part, where the mama and baby manatee get separated (spoiler alert, they find each other), that I nearly started crying.  It may have had a little to do with the fact that the manatee baby was 6 months old, and so was Aidan at the time... not sure, but regardless, you may want to have a tissue or clean sleeve nearby.

5. Florida - Good Night Florida

Our dear friends got Aidan this book.  It's by the same company as the earlier book, and I just love it!  Good news is, that the company, has a book for just about any place you can imagine!  So, if you're stuck, and can't come up with a book from a particular place, you can always use one of these as a back-up!

So, now that I've started this, of course I feel the need to travel, and buy books!  We spent the day in Old Town Alexandria, and drove through D.C. on our way home, so I guess I just HAVE to get him a book from there... maybe a history one?  Or I could do Woodrow, The White House Mouse.  I actually think I have a signed copy of that, that I got from my aunt somewhere...
I can't wait to show Aidan Budapest.  And I love the story of Vuk.  So, that might need to find its way into our library.  Or maybe Ludas Matyi...

My question to you is: Do you have a favorite book, that's based in a certain place?  Or by a local author?  Please leave me a comment, it just may inspire our next family vacation!

Friday, October 17, 2014

DIY Newborn Photo Shoot

If you're like me, you want amazing pictures of all the special moments in your life, but are bound by something husbands like to call a budget.  That's where DIY and creativity come into play.
This is where I found myself when it came to baby Aidan's newborn pictures.  Photographers charge a pretty hefty price for their newborn shoot packages, and with good reason.  Babies are fussy, not on schedules, take hours to shoot, and mommies really want that adorable picture.  So, I'm absolutely not knocking on photographers or their prices.  Just saying, that I don't have $400 to drop on a baby photo shoot.
What I do have, is a helpful husband, mom, a cooperative baby, and props.
For Aidan's nursery, we went with an "Around The World In 80 Days" theme.  (Pictures to follow, btw.)  So, our props kind of went with that.  But many of them could be altered to go with whatever you're doing.
*Quick disclaimer, I am not a photographer, I've never taken a photography class, I just love pictures, have an SLR camera, and think I have a good eye for colors, symmetry and angles.

- Large sheet.  (We had an AMAZING airplane sheet from Restoration Hardware.  Mom sewed one queen sized into a baby mattress size for Aidan, and we kept one.  Good call.)
- Boppy, other pillows.
- Blankets - babies get cold easier than adults
- Basket
- Antique suitcases
- Teddy bear
- Metal letters (that are hung on his wall)
- Knitted pilot's hat
- Metal toy plane
- Globe
- Letter wooden blocks
- Our wedding rings
- Passport

- Location, location, location.  Choose a space that is well-lit by natural light.  Either by a window, or glass door.
- Plan.  Know when the sun comes through your window, and at what angle.  You don't necessarily want direct sunlight, but you also don't want a bunch of shadows.  Play around with your camera settings, positions and angle beforehand.  Also, photographers suggest doing the pictures before 2 weeks.
- Get baby nice and full, so he'll sleep.  Newborns are easier to take pictures of while they're asleep.
- Set your thermostat to a little warmer than usual.
- Get everything ready, and have a helper on hand.
- Decide not to get frustrated.  That's just a good rule for new parenthood. :)
- Place Boppy pillow on couch, bed, etc.  Cover with sheet, and tack up to wall behind it, to create a backdrop.
- Set up the props you want.  We started with a basket, with a blanket inside it, so it wasn't too rough.

- Next, we stacked the antique suitcases, and laid Aidan in them.  Have I mentioned how adorable he is?

- We also got some shots of Aidan with our wedding rings

- Aidan LOVES his daddy!  As soon as he heard his voice when he was born, he was looking for him.  We got some pretty precious pictures of the two of them.  Also, I love Dan's tattoo of his family crest.  Aidan got his middle name, Judson, from that side of the family.

- And of course, I had to get in on the action.  This little boy is too cute not to get a picture with.

I know I didn't get everything just so (the sheet should've been tighter, and I'm sure my camera settings weren't perfect), but I was really happy with the results, and love that we did them ourselves.
Let me know what you think, if you have any tips for me, for next time, or what you've done that seems to work!