Lamb-themed baby shower (and my new etsy shop!)

Corban and Mara got their first cousin this April when my sister had a baby. In October they’ll welcome another! Peter’s eldest brother and his wife are expecting and we are thrilled to see our family grow.

I had the privilege of co-hosting a baby shower for my sister-in-law the other weekend in St. Louis. Planning from afar was low-stress since my co-hostesses took care of the food and venue. I was in charge of invitations, games and some of the decorations (a.k.a. my favorite parts!)

Since the mom-to-be, Jenny, is planning a lamb theme for their gender-neutral nursery, we ran with that as the theme for the shower. It was a lot of fun incorporating sheep into every aspect of the shower — I was especially excited to come up with some puns.

I’ll share details from the baby shower, but first I have some exciting news: I opened up an etsy shop! After planning several showers and themed parties over the past few years, I’ve designed a small collection of printable items — games, favor tags, invitations and the like. I definitely would have paid a few bucks to have modern designs for printable baby shower games at my fingertips when I was in planning mode, so there have got to be some people out there who would appreciate having these designs available, right?

I guess we’ll find out. I’ve listed a handful of instant download baby shower games (two of which you’ll see below) and plan to add a couple more listings, including one for the gold confetti themed invitations I designed for my sister’s baby shower and some lobster/sea creature art I designed for Corban’s room. I’m excited to see where (if anywhere) this goes — right now it’s just fun to see my work listed on the site!

On to the lamb-themed baby shower details. First, the invitations (from zazzle):

jennyshower1

front and back.

Now, the party itself!

jennyshower12

Table decorations were fun and simple to make. Jenny made an impressive diaper cake for my baby shower (here it is) so in a nod to her diaper artistry I made very unimpressive diaper circles wrapped in burlap.

jennyshower01

To keep with the lamb theme, and the sub-theme of books (the invitation suggests — not demands! — that guests write a note in a baby book instead of a card) I topped the diapers with a lamb book. There are quite a few cute options out there.

jennyshower02

Here is what the tables looked like in action:

jennyshower09

Love this book!

Also seen on the tables: games! And glittery pencils from Michael’s, and favors (which I’ll get to in a minute).

jennyshower03

These are my lovingly designed table games, some of which you can purchase for a few bucks in my new etsy shop!

Name the baby animals (buy here). Harder than you may think! My mother-in-law won this one.

jennyshower04

Name the children’s book (buy here). I thought this one was going to be too easy, but everyone was sufficiently challenged by it.

jennyshower06

Gift BINGO (guests fill out a BINGO card with items they think she will open). I downloaded it for free from here and customized it a tad using Photoshop.

jennyshower05

We also played “Don’t Say Baby,” where everyone starts with a bracelet, and if you get caught saying the word “baby” you have to give your bracelet to the person who catches you. At the end, the person with the most bracelets wins. It was a hoot seeing some of the ladies get into it.

My favorite games are the ones that involve the dad, so we played one called “Dad Knows Best.” I had my brother-in-law James answer some questions about the baby in advance and we all had to guess his answers. The questions I asked:

Will the baby be a boy or a girl?
Do you want the baby to be a boy or a girl?
Will the baby be born with a lot of hair?
If Jenny had no say, what would you name the baby?
If you had no say, what would Jenny name the baby?
Will you or Jenny be the disciplinarian?
Will you or Jenny be the first one to hear the baby cry at night?
Out of every 10 diapers, how many will you change?
What personality trait do you hope the baby will inherit from Jenny?What personality trait do you hope the baby will inherit from you?
Bonus: What sport will the baby play in high school?

Jenny did impressively well; the rest of us did not. Here is the little prize stash I picked out from the dollar bins at Michael’s.

jennyshower07

I also made a burlap bunting that Jenny can now hang in the nursery — “baaaby sherwood,” get it?

jennyshower11

The food was simple — chicken salad sandwiches, fruit salad, veggies and spinach dip.

Lamb detail on the bunting was my favorite. It’s just cut out of paper and hot-glued on, as are the letters.

jennyshower08

Lamb cupcakes were homemade by a friend of one of the co-hostesses, and they were divine.

jennyshower3

My mother-in-law found two lamb vases that she received — get this — when James (the dad-to-be) was born(!) and had them filled with beautiful flower arrangements.

jennyshower6

The guest book was fun to work on. I bought a burlap canvas, punched a bunch of circles from three different patterned sheets of scrapbook paper and hot-glued the dots (and some black legs and a head) into a lamb. Nursery art?

jennyshower4

Yes, but also a guest book! Everyone signed their name on a circle to be glued onto the canvas (either on the lamb itself or across the bottom).

jennyshower2

My co-hostess/partner in crime made these cute diaper decorations.

jennyshower10

And one last lamb pun: “Thank Ewe” tags (designed in Photoshop) for the favors, yogurt-covered pretzels tied with burlap strings in these bags.

jennyshower00

The mom-to-be (pictured with my co-hostess) had lots of laughs and (hopefully) felt very loved by the lovely group of ladies who attended.

jennyshower13

Meanwhile, these ruffians had fun at home with the men.

jennyshower5

It was a fun weekend overall, with the shower being the centerpiece. I’ve got a few more party recaps to share with you soon, so look forward to some more fun details!

Bye bye, pacifier!

After months of thinking about it, talking about it but ultimately putting it off due to one thing after another, we finally (finally!) said bye bye, pacifier. For Corban, mind you. Mara is still more than welcome to soothe herself through the long night with hers.

Ultimately it came down to the fact that I discovered dirt/mold inside Corban’s one remaining pacifier and I just couldn’t stomach giving it to him anymore. There’s no easy time to go through this transition, but with four weekends of travel in the past month behind us and another three weeks until we go camping, we had a window to take advantage of.

So last night we pulled up some youtube videos. First, the brilliant “Bye Bye Binky” song by Elmo (thank you, Elmo, for using your influential position among toddlers to make the world a better place for parents).

Then we trolled around for videos of other little kids saying bye bye to their pacifiers. This was enlightening. Apparently many parents tie them to balloons and send them off into the sky “for other babies who need them.” Some put them in a box and leave them overnight for the Binky Fairy to replace with a toy. Corban was enthralled by all this, but thankfully the video that resonated the most with him was one of a little boy simply throwing his pacifiers into a large garbage can in the garage.

We had been talking with him for months about someday throwing his pacifier away, and about how he doesn’t need it and he’s becoming a big boy, so this wasn’t a novel concept for him. We had even attempted a paci-trashing session a few months ago, but he genuinely seemed so disappointed to say goodbye to it that I relented and backpedaled. Maybe it’s my own memories of pacifier-sucking bliss as a child or just my reluctance to admit Corban is growing up, but even watching the darn youtube videos of kids saying bye to their pacifiers had me misty-eyed with compassion.

But this time it was happening. After all the video motivation, he was excited about getting in on the action (and possibly even more excited about watching the garbage truck come and take it away, which is a weekly highlight we enjoy together).

So we pulled out the big garbage can, let Corban sing Elmo’s binky song, and without so much as a second of hesitation he tossed the thing in. Bye bye, pacifier.

I did my part and posted the video on youtube to motivate other little ones who may be headed for Pacifier-holics Anonymous.

Of course, come bed time (a few minutes later) he was like an addict in withdrawal. Seriously. Kicking, fidgeting, crying, rolling around in bed. He begged to “put Mara’s pacifier in my mouth.” Sorry, sir. Our bedtime routine distracted him for a while, but when we left his room he would not stay in bed. After nearly an hour of whining and crying in the Pack N Play, I lay down with him in bed for about 5 minutes before he passed out.

Thankfully, he napped perfectly for our nanny today and tonight was better than last night. He only brought up the pacifier once and instead of crying he just lay awake singing and talking to himself in the Pack N Play, and eventually fell asleep on his own.

No matter what the next few nights hold, I’m glad to finally have the pacifier gone!

Mara at 10.5 months

My little Marabelle (not her real name) is 10 1/2 months old*. My tiny baby girl is no longer tiny, but she is still very babyish to me, or at least she was up until the past several weeks. It seems like right when she hit 10 months, she started to mature at lightning speed with first words, waving, first teeth, rolling around, wanting to crawl… more on all that in a minute.

sherwood_62

But In a nutshell… Laid back. Social. Content. That’s Mara right now (and how she’s always been).

Mara is the happiest baby I’ve ever seen. She is almost always content, whether she’s sitting on the floor with toys in reach or being carried along to the various adventures we head out on with Corban and friends. Nursery volunteers at church comment every week that she’s the easiest baby in the room (she just chills with a few toys in the middle of the floor) and I don’t go anywhere in public with her without being stopped by strangers thrilled that she returns their baby talk with smiles. Whenever Corban is being stubborn or throwing a tantrum (a.k.a. being two years old), I am extra grateful that Mara is calm as ever and not adding to the stress.

mara10months00

I don’t want to simply compare her to Corban, but they have been so obviously different in the timing of their developmental milestones that it’s hard not to note. Compared to Corban, Mara has been slower with gross motor skills. She didn’t roll over until just the past week or so! I don’t think it was that she couldn’t before (she’s been sitting since around 6 months and that uses the same muscles as rolling) but more that she just didn’t feel the urge to roll. She isn’t crawling yet, but is starting to want to move more. No pulling up on furniture either.

But socially, she has been earlier than Corban for the most part, with early smiles, coos and laughs as a newborn. She started waving right at 10 months, and shocked us a few weeks ago by very clearly starting to say “Mama” in reference to me. Now she sometimes says “bye” (or something vaguely resembling it) when people are waving goodbye. I wasn’t expecting that for a while!

sherwood_42

Teething
Mara was toothless until 10 months. The past week she sprouted two bottom teeth and I think it makes her look much older. She has had a fussy few days — which isn’t saying a whole lot, but she’s been clingy and had a rough morning at the beach last week when I wouldn’t let her stuff handfuls of sand in her mouth. Mean mom am I.

Eating
Mara loves her solids. We has a slow start with baby-led weaning, but at around 8 months she really got the hang of it and has embraced every food we’ve given her. She enjoys beans, eggs, steamed veggies, soft fruit, avocado. Bread is a little more confounding, and perhaps harder to down with essentially no teeth. Next we’ll try plain yogurt and maybe small pieces of meat.

mara10months01

She’s still breastfeeding and still very efficient and to-the-point with nursing. I am in no rush for Mara to wean and I hope she continues to be interested in nursing for a good while.

Sleeping
Maybe it’s the steady diet of solids, but Mara has started sleeping through the night enough that I’ve lost count of the exact number of times it’s happened (10 or 11 now?). I was astounded and almost didn’t believe it the first time, more than a month ago. But this week it has become normal. Amazing that it just happened naturally! As much as I love getting uninterrupted sleep, it makes me a little wistful thinking she is outgrowing her habit of nursing in the middle of the night. I know that sounds completely crazy.

We finally kicked the swaddle last month when she simultaneously outgrew it and it became too hot to be wrapped in fleece, so now she sleeps with this creepy little torso-less knit clown that was mine as a child, a random stuffed ball and a blanket crocheted by the same friend who made Corban’s favorite blanket. Those items were not chosen intentionally (aside from the blanket) — they just happened to be thrown in her crib at one point and then stayed because they work.

Sibling love
Mara is highly amused by Corban. She loves any attention from him and laughs at his antics. Every night after dinner, she gets in her pjs and I bring her out to say goodnight to Corban and Peter. C says, “Goo-night Mara!” in the sweetest little voice and kisses her on the head, and she just giggles hysterically. The girl loves kisses in general, but especially from her brother.

sherwood_27

Stats:
Weight: 21 pounds 6 ounces
Height: 28.5 inches
Naps: 2 (9 a.m. and 1 p.m.)
Sleep: 6:30 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Clothes: Size 12 month for pants and onesies, 6- and 9-month still fit in dresses and shorts. Love little summer dresses with cloth diaper bottom!
Hair: Light, light brown, soft and wispy
Eyes: blue/gray on the outside, brownish in the inside (in transition?)
Diapers: Charlie Banana with two inserts during the day, size 4 disposables at night
Words: Mama, bye
Tricks: Rolls her tongue all the time, waves, claps and cheers, high fives
Favorite foods: Steamed zucchini, banana, avocado
Favorite toy: Fischer Price xylophone/piano

*she was 10.5 months when I started writing this, but life is busy and she is now almost 11 months as I hit publish AHH!

Summerfest with kids

Summer is like a highly competitive sport in Milwaukee. The goal of the game is to cram as many festivals and as much outdoor fun as you possibly can into three short months (give or take). It’s fun, but exhausting. I like to think that winter (a.k.a. the season of hibernation) is a necessary break in order for our wild and energetic summer to be possible, but it might be the other way around (likely summer is the necessary break in order to keep us from going insane/moving away during winter).

The festival of all festivals is, arguably, Summerfest, the world’s largest music festival, held on the shore of Lake Michigan for 11 sacred days each June and July. It’s 12 hours a day of live music on 10 stages, with acts covering every genre. I’ve enjoyed Summerfest as a high schooler (road tripping up from Chicago with friends several summers to see the likes of Guster and Ben Folds), a newcomer to the city (busing in from bars, popping over on your lunch break, just wandering with no particular act in mind to hear… these are things locals do) and as a journalist (this is the first summer in six years I’m not shooting videos, meeting bands and running around like a madwoman covering the Big Gig — kind of sad!).

But this year, I decided to experience Summerfest as a parent. There are plenty of folks who I’m sure would not dare to bring their kids near the world’s largest music festival, and I don’t really blame them. But I’m crazy, so even after the friends I invited couldn’t make it, I hit up Summerfest with the kids Friday afternoon (yes, solo). It was a blast.

summerfest05

The logistics (perhaps this is helpful for others thinking of taking little ones to Summerfest):

Timing: Morning is prime time for kids, but, unfortunately, Summerfest doesn’t open till noon. So my plan was to get Corban to nap earlier than usual and arrive mid-afternoon, hopefully when crowds were still smaller. We arrived at 3 p.m., which, on a Friday, was starting to get pretty crowded, but on another weekday probably wouldn’t have been as packed.

Parking: I wasn’t about to pay $20 for parking, so I found a metered spot on Water Street in the Third Ward. It was about a 10-minute walk to the gates, but only cost $3 for two hours. The downside was I had to be back by 5 p.m. sharp, because Milwaukee parking folks don’t mess around. I once watched a meter lady write me a ticket literally the second my meter expired as I was racing to my car.

 

Tickets: Kids under 3 years old are free (yay!) and I had a free ticket from work (woo hoo!) but normally weekdays before 4 p.m. are $11. Good deal.

Stroller: I opted for the single stroller (City Mini), with Mara (10 months old) in the Ergo, figuring once we got to the grounds Corban (2.5 years old) might want to walk, so I could switch Mara to the stroller. I am so glad I didn’t bring our double stroller. It was difficult enough navigating the crowds with the single stroller. There was also no way Corban would be walking any distance on his own – he stayed safely in the stroller most of the time, and I was perfectly fine keeping Mara snuggled on me (it’s fun to dance with a baby strapped to you!)

Activities: There are quite a few kid-friendly activities. Corban would have spent our entire time there at the splash pad by the mid-gate. There’s also a playground area and a few designated stages with kid shows. They have paddle boats, a skyglider and a (new this year) Ferris wheel. Here is more info on all the kids activities. During the day, I like to just wander up to stages and check out bands I’ve never heard of, so I tried to get the kids on board with that. They’re young enough that they didn’t know any better (for the most part).

Our adventures:

We walked right in the gate to the tail end of the Summerfest parade – cute, but massive crowds. After popping by the Johnson Controls World Sounds Stage (one of the few spots under a roof – good to know in case of rain), we headed over to the U.S. Cellular Connection Stage and sat down to listen to a band called Friendly People.

summerfest00

Corban was more interested in people watching (can’t blame him). He was still coming to life after being woken up early from his nap.

summerfest02

Mara might have been the only one in the audience dancing (although you wouldn’t guess from this pic).

summerfest01

Friendly People were near the end of their set, and Corban actually climbed back in the stroller – a definite sign it was time to move on. I consulted my Best of Brew City app and saw that Kohl’s Wild Theater was happening (an animal-themed show), so headed toward the opposite side of the grounds. After passing the splash pad, though, Corban started freaking out and attempting to escape from the stroller, asking to go to the fountain, so I complied.

He stood on the edge of the splash pad for probably 10 minutes just watching the other kids run around while I small talked with another mom.

summerfest03

Finally, he dipped his toes in, and I began to worry I’d never be able to pry him away from the water.

summerfest04

 

The promise of a “special treat” finally, miraculously got him back into the stroller, and we walked over to the KNE New Music stage (a small stage showcasing mostly local music) where the Land the Big Gig contest 2nd place winner, Doozey, was playing.

summerfest06

(The guy in the yellow is this amazingly ridiculous man whom I see EVERY year dancing his heart out at different shows. I swear, he’s everywhere at Summerfest. It was good to see him still doin’ his thing.)

Doozey was so much fun! I loved their music and they knew how to work the crowd. Corban wasn’t going to forget his promised special treat so easily, though. Sil’s Mini Donuts was nearby, so we split a small order fresh out of the fryer while watching the show. The best.

Eventually, Corban noticed the Ferris wheel behind us and asked to go up in it. Sure, why not?!

I thought he might be scared, but he loved it. We both did, actually.

summerfest08

The views from the top were gorgeous.

summerfest07

summerfest09

Scary selfie, but Corban looks too cute not to share.

summerfest10

After that, our time was up, and I had to race as fast as I could back to the car before the meter expired. Corban wasn’t happy about leaving, and, frankly, neither was I. I debated just feeding the meter, but once we were at the car I was too exhausted to push my luck and head back in. Better to end on a high (literally) note.

Though not for the faint of heart, Summerfest is definitely doable with kids. Earlier in the day is better and going with your spouse or a second pair of hands is preferable, but I would totally go back even alone with the kids. I’m hoping my next visit is with adults though!

 

 

2.5, 9 and 28

What do 2.5, 9 and 28 have in common? They’re the ages Corban, Mara and I all turned this week. Mara was 9 months old on Sunday, I turned 28 yesterday and Corban will be 2.5 this Sunday.

28thbday

2.5/9 months/28 and doing all right.

I feel like my age is finally starting to match my stage of life. I got married at 22, had a baby at 25 and another at 27. Statistically speaking, that’s not normal.

Up until the past year, I’d say my mind was still in my early to mid-twenties even if my lifestyle wasn’t. But now, at 28, I actually feel 28. I am not only OK with a night at home with no plans; I look forward to it. I’m happiest sitting on the living room floor laughing with Corban or bouncing Mara in my lap. My focus isn’t as much on doing something all the time, but just enjoying time itself with loved ones.

My aunt sent me a horoscope yesterday describing those born on June 5, and this line is particularly true for me:

These active, mercurial people have a high level of energy and never seem to sit still.

I think the biggest change I’ve seen in myself this past year is that I’m learning to sit still, even preferring it at times. I spend a lot of time doing things and going places and seeing people, and I need that (when I read those “you know you’re an introvert when…” lists I absolutely cannot relate to needing alone time. Let me socialize day and night, please!). But as much as I love and need that, I also have come to treasure my time spent relaxing and playing at home (maybe it’s because with two kids I’m almost never alone).

As I enter the home stretch of my 20s, I’m dreaming of big adventures for the future, but content with the small pleasures of now.

This week’s small pleasures:

Cutie pie Mara at 9 months in our blooming backyard.

mara9months

Cousins.

maraisla

Birthday lunch date with Peter – downtown dining week special at Coquette Cafe.

bdaylunch2014

Udon noodle salad for birthday dinner, prepared by our nanny (a.k.a. not me!).

bdaydinner2014

Corban’s first Oreo (er… Roundy-O. Sorry, kid.) He really savored it.

corbanfirstoreo

Zoo today with friends.

zoo2014

The Tiny Closet Challenge

I may be the only person to have this feeling, but I was a little bit sad to pack away my maternity clothes after each of my kids were born.

It was actually really nice being limited to such a small number of clothes that fit during pregnancy. I invested in a handful of decent maternity items and could clear out a good portion of my closet for a few months. Sure, it was frustrating at times, when nothing seemed to look or feel right (I think that’s just pregnancy), but if I stuck to my maternity staples, getting dressed was easy. Toward the end of my time being pregnant with Mara, I just resigned myself to the fact that I had about five dresses that I was going to rotate through until she was born. I don’t think anyone noticed or cared, least of all me.

When I pulled my normal wardrobe back into my closet, it was nice seeing some fresh items I hadn’t worn in so long, but it was also overwhelming. I am a clothes accumulator. It seems like no matter how many times I go through my closet and fill bags to donate, I still have so much that I don’t wear, yet I’m afraid to let go of it. And that can wear on me.

Starting June 1, I’m taking a minimalist wardrobe challenge. For six weeks, I’ll limit my entire wardrobe (including shoes, jewelry and accessories) to 33 items. You can read more about the challenge here. I’m going to blog about the experience for Fresh, the site I manage at work.

I don’t anticipate this to be a permanent change for me, but I think it will be a great opportunity to learn and grow, and hopefully make some positive changes to my wardrobe and life.

If you’re looking to simplify and think your wardrobe would be a good place to start, I’d love to have you join me in this! Here’s a form you can fill out to “officially” join the challenge. If you’re scared to commit… know that I am, too. But I think it will be worth it in the end (in fact, I’ve been told it’s worth it by several people who embrace a tiny wardrobe year-round).

Snapshot of right now

I didn’t intend to let this blog sit on a negative note for so long, but somehow days, weeks, months pass and I just don’t get around to posting all that I would like to write about.

Right now I have a few minutes (hopefully a bit longer than that) while both kids nap. This morning we woke up early – 6:30 a.m. is the norm these days, especially for early bird Mara – and read and played in the nursery for a while before breakfast. I’m off work on Wednesdays, and while typically we head to a 9 a.m. women’s Bible study at church, today the study is on “spring break” so we had the morning to ourselves.

After early bird Mara went down for her first nap at 8:30 a.m., Corban and I washed dishes (he could stand on his step stool at the sink all day rinsing things) and made a broccoli salad to bring to a playdate set for later in the morning. He played independently in the sunroom while I blow dried my hair, then we got to work “training” for the Easter egg hunt our nanny is taking him to tomorrow morning. I showed him the concept, then hid some empty eggs around the sunroom and had him search for them while toting around his cloth Easter basket. Instant success in the fun department.

Mara didn’t wake up from her nap until 10:15, so as soon as she woke up I quickly fed her and got us packed up and out the door to our playdate. I’ve been part of a really fun, active moms Meetup group since Corban was 9 months old, and while my schedule doesn’t allow me to make it to a ton of playdates, there’s almost always something planned for the days I’m looking to get out with the kids. This morning it was an Easter party at a fellow mom’s house. The Easter egg hunt tomorrow is organized by a few of the moms in the group, and Friday (my other day off work) we may head to a meetup at a bounce place. Most weeks we are not nearly this active with the group!

The playdate was a hit – there were tons of toys, kids from 6 months to 3.5 years old, brunch food, a craft (which Corban lost interest in after 2.5 seconds so I meticulously finished). I got to catch up with some of the moms I hadn’t seen in a while (I can’t remember the last time we were able to make it to a meetup!). Mara just chilled (as usual) and ate a few bites of egg yolk (the one food besides milk in her diet at this point). It was a really fun morning.

snapshot041614-00

We didn’t leave till close to 1 p.m., which is Corban’s usual nap time, so I was faced with a dilemma. I needed to stop at the dollar store to pick up a few larger Easter eggs and then drop the eggs off at another mom’s house for the hunt tomorrow. I debated, do I push my luck and get this over with while we’re already in the car, or wait till after Corban’s nap? I pushed my luck, and Corban was overtired and crying by the time we got home at 2 p.m.

Thankfully sweet Mara was (barely) OK with hanging out in the jumperoo while I put out the Corban fire and finally got him to sleep. Next was Mara’s turn to eat and go down. She fell asleep rocking in my arms and I held her longer than I needed to after she was out, just to relax and enjoy her snuggled up there.

Since my last post, I’ve really tried to avoid being out of the house by myself with the kids anytime close to Corban’s naptime. It’s the easiest way to avoid meltdowns and it works – no surprise – because crabby goes hand in hand with exhausted. Today clearly I failed at that (sorry, Corban) but thankfully it wasn’t too bad.

Corban is at such a fun age – he loves to sing, read (by himself and with us), play boat (on any piece of furniture) and airplane (in any small space), wrestle, help me in the kitchen, spot animals in our backyard. He picks up on new phrases and concepts all the time. He loves being outside (spring, we are so ready for you!), stuffed animals, playing with his friends from church and being around people. He’s also able to play independently more and more, which is so sweet to watch. He calls lemons “lemonades” and requests the “teacher song” every time we’re in the car (it’s a song about the 10 commandments on a children’s catechism CD). When I close my eyes and picture him I see his little eyebrows raised in surprise and delight as he gasps, “oh!” at an exciting discovery. Everything is exciting.

snapshot041614-03

Mara is amazing. She’s along for the ride, whatever it may be on any given day. Her legs are epic-ly chubby and her cheeks are just so kissable. Most people comment on her eyes, which are a striking gray-blue-turning-brown color. She is a happy girl and laughs a lot. She loves shaking rattles and toys, grabbing books and stuffed animals (really, anything), practicing sitting (still wobbly and will occasionally face-plant and make me feel horrible for not catching her) and “flying” up and down in my hands – an excellent arm workout since she weighs probably close to 20 pounds.

snapshot041614-04

Other notable items in this snapshot of right now: We are now aunt/uncle/cousins thanks to the birth of my sister’s little girl last week, Peter started a new job this week and I got my first Stitchfix in the mail yesterday (I know that absolutely pales in comparison to the first two items, but it made me giddy and if I had more time right now I would blog about it. Maybe later.)

snapshot041614-01

Hope you’re having a good week and can stop to capture the “right now”… in words, a photo or just in your memory.

The border of crazytown

After Mara was born, I just knew that working full time was not what I wanted for my family at this precious stage. I am grateful that my employer was supportive of my request to switch to part time and feel so thankful that I am able to continue with the job I love and still be home with my kids two days a week. It’s close to a perfect situation for me.

But it’s still really hard. It’s hard to leave them when I go to work… it’s hard to leave my work when I go home… and on days like today it’s hard just making it through the morning with a disobedient two-year-old.

If you want to drive yourself to the border of crazytown, try getting a toddler who doesn’t want to listen/obey/leave strapped into a car seat. Then try doing it again when you leave your destination. If you’re feeling really masochistic, then follow through with your desperate promise to stop for a treat (snack/coffee for mom at Starbucks) and go through it all again when it’s time to head home.

So many tears. From both of us (almost… I didn’t actually cry but I wanted to).

It’s enough to make me question whether I really want to be home instead of at work.

OK, I know I do want to be home and it is a huge blessing…

But some days are just a struggle. I guess that’s just parenthood/life in general.

It would be hard if I were working full time. It would be hard if I were home full time. It’s hard when I’m somewhere in the middle.

It’s all a reminder to rely on God. In my frustration I forget that He’s in control, that He’s bigger than me and that these two are His beautiful creation. And we have so many more lovely moments than tough ones!

20140321-151403.jpg

Being a mom is a humbling experience.

On a practical note, though, anyone have advice for getting kids to cooperate when getting in the car? Is this a universal two-year-old thing or am I just lucky?

Mara at 6 months

My baby girl is six months old today! In my mind she’s still fresh and tiny and helpless, but in reality she’s a solid little snuggler who loves two activities more than anything: grabbing and bouncing. Mara could spend all day and night in the Jumperoo and be content. Or so it seems.

I want to say these past six months have gone by so fast, but they haven’t really. Warm fall days seem so distant from where we sit now in this never-ending winter. The truth is Corban is so demanding (and deserving) of my attention right now that I don’t notice the little changes in Mara as much. She’s just my happy little baby sidekick, and I half expected her to stay a little baby forever.

4months

5months

6months

Mara is so easy. She is just happy. Like, all the time. I feel so in tune with her needs (I think paying attention to how long she has been awake is the biggest key to this) and that just makes everything a lot less stressful.

A bit has changed since my last Mara update (at two months!). Here’s the rundown.

Sleep

She started developing more of a routine around two or three months old, and as long as we don’t keep her awake longer than her maximum, she’s (usually) a cinch to put down for a nap. We’re up to around two hours of awake time between naps. Mara naps three times a day – the first is always around 9 a.m., then after that the schedule changes a bit each day depending on how long her naps are. Usually she’ll take two 45- to 50-minute naps and one longer nap that can be 2+ hours. We still swear by the swaddle for naps and nighttime.

6months2

She was close to overstaying her welcome in the baby bunk in our room when we finally moved Corban into his big boy bed and let Mara take over the nursery. That was around 4 months old. Unfortunately (but not surprisingly), her nighttime sleep habits haven’t changed much since two months. We’ve had some better and worse patches, but she always levels out to about two wakings/feedings a night. We’ve had a few unexpected full nights of sleep (6:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. for first waking, or something similar) but based on how long it took Corban to sleep through the night I don’t get my hopes up. Mara likes her 6:30 bedtime and has been extremely consistent with that, which I’m thankful for, though a little sad if I get home from work late and have to put her straight to bed.

6months4

Speaking of work, I went back when Mara was four months old. I am so grateful for such flexibility with my maternity leave. Four months didn’t seem long enough, but it was the right time for me to return. We had to find a new nanny, and Mara and Corban have adjusted quite well to her. I’ve been working three days a week, so it’s nice to still have a couple weekdays with them. It was much, much harder going back to work this time – not really because of Mara, but because Corban is at such a vibrant stage. He’s exhausting, but so much fun.

Eating

Mara still is on a 100% breast milk diet. She nurses (or has a bottle) after each nap or about every three hours. She’s still a fast eater – five minutes on one side and we’re done. Since she moved into the nursery, I now feed her in our new glider (yeah, it took us 2 years, but we finally got one) with the Boppy pillow instead of lying down in our bed.

Now that she’s at the 6-month mark we should be starting solids, but I’m not exactly in a rush. It’s just… more work, ha. We unofficially did baby-led weaning with Corban, and I’d like to do it again and maybe learn a bit more about the official method this time. From what I remember, they recommend you start when your baby can sit up, and Mara’s not at that point yet so I’m okay with not rushing into solids.

6months8

Milestones

Let’s see… laugh, vocalize, grab… check. Roll over? Sort of. She has rolled front to back a time or two, but I’ve never seen her go back to front. She really wanted to at one point and got close, but recently she hasn’t seemed to be as interested in rolling.

6months5

Play

Mara is very social – we look at her or talk to her and she smiles. Laughing comes easy too.

6months14

I mentioned her love for the Jumperoo – just being in that thing and bouncing makes her smile and laugh, and those little legs just can’t stop jumping once they start. For a while she just loved hanging out on her play mat and grabbing at her “friends,” as I call them (little birds and toys hanging from it). But now she’s all about the bouncing.

6months1

I love giving her new toys and textures to grab. She has pet Biggles a few times and (bless his heart) he hasn’t seemed to mind.

6months7

She grabbed my glasses off my face today and tried to eat them. That is, of course, the next step after grabbing – tasting. We read cloth books so much more with Mara than I remember with Corban because she is so happy to grab and touch the pages.

6months11

 

 

She’s still very easy to take along on whatever adventures our days hold.

6months12

Sibling love

Mara will smile and laugh if Corban and I are doing something silly, and Corban just gets a huge kick out of her reaction. While most of the time he is still self-absorbed, he has started to interact with her more. Every night he says, “Night night, Mara,” and gives her a kiss on the head. He loves to give her kisses and involve her in his play. Except when she’s interfering with his fun, of course.

6months9

One of my favorite moments was lying in Corban’s bed reading with the two of them, and they just turned to one another and started giggling. It was one of the first true one-on-one interactions I’d seen between them, meaning I wasn’t the one facilitating it. I almost felt left out for a second, which is silly, and something I’d better get used to since I’m sure it won’t be long before they’re plotting together without me.

6months13

 

5months2

 

It’s pretty much impossible not to love this little bundle with all my heart.

6months6

 

Stats

Height and weight: To come after her 6-month checkup
Hair: Finally starting to grow! Her fuzz is getting fuzzier.
Clothes: Size 6 month, but moving quickly into 9 month
Diapers: Cloth snapped at maximum tightness, but size 2 disposables at night (which leak often enough that it’s time to move up to size 3)
Nicknames: Marabelle, Mariella, Marzipan, Ladybug, Miss Mara Mack (love it when Corban calls her by her nicknames)

Toddler Valentine’s Day

In all the hype surrounding the romantic side of Valentine’s Day… gifts, cards, dates, chocolate recipes (especially when you’re planning content for a lifestyle site – I have been living and breathing all of those topics), I had almost forgotten how much fun Valentine’s Day was as a kid.

Disney Princess valentines torn along the dotted lines. Candy hearts. Stickers. A pink hair bow. An exciting whirl of an afternoon slipping cards into your classmates’ decorated shoeboxes.

Peter and I did go out for a nice dinner this year on Valentine’s Day eve. It was romantic and very adult. I tried foie gras. But Friday morning I was reminded how fun and festive the holiday of pink and red is for those to whom a kiss is the thing that makes an owie better and a heart is one of the five shapes you can identify.

We went to a little party with some of Corban’s best buds and their moms. It started with lots of playing – with 11 kids ranging from age 5 months to 5 years it’s more like strangely choreographed chaos interrupted by occasional tears – and eventually moved to craft time for the older kids.

vday2014-7

vday2014-12

Yes, Corban is now one of the “older kids.” I don’t know when that happened and why it now seems like he’s always been one.

vday2014-9

They decorated picture frames for their dads with fun Valentine’s Day stickers.

vday2014-10

Then they made drawings to put in the frames.

vday2014-11

Somehow the pictures make this seem like a calm and controlled affair, but it was more like trying to keep a bunch of cats sitting at a table. I’m glad I was able to sneak away to snap some pictures, but crafts with a two-year-old are always very hands-on adventures!

vday2014-8

After Corban completed his frame, he decided to rip all the stickers off and throw them on the floor. I may have done a bit of reconstruction.

vday2014-15

Next on the agenda: cupcakes.

vday2014-5

Not hard to keep kids still for the approximately 2 minutes it takes to eat a cupcake!

vday2014-13

Then, the valentine exchange.

vday2014-14

There are so many cute ideas out there for DIY kid valentines. Oh, the puns! I promised myself I wouldn’t get too ambitious this year, but I wanted Corban to have some sort of hand in what he gave to his friends. Here’s what we ended up making:

vday2014-4

These were very easy to throw together the day before. I made a heart stamp from an empty toilet paper roll and had Corban (admittedly with the help of his nanny, not me) stamp hearts with white paint onto folded pieces of red construction paper.

vday2014-3

Then I filled resealable sandwich bags with about an inch of Valentine’s Day M&Ms…

vday2014-1

…and folded the tops down and stapled the construction paper sandwiched over the bag.

vday2014-2

So simple and fun to put together.

If you’re wondering what little Mara looked like on her first Valentine’s Day… well, I’d be happy to show you.

vday2014-17

vday2014-18

Sweet and smiling as usual.

Hope you had as lovely a Valentine’s Day as we did. I’m hoping to get back here with some more updates soon since it’s been a while!