Design Mom http://www.designmom.com The Intersection of Design & Motherhood Thu, 18 Dec 2014 18:40:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.5.1 $100 Worth of Washi Tape & Party Supplies http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/100-worth-of-washi-tape-party-supplies/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/100-worth-of-washi-tape-party-supplies/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:00:34 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=52492

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By Gabrielle.

Okay you guys. This is it! The final Design Mom giveaway of 2014. And it’s a good one. It’s sponsored by Cute Tape, and they’re offering a $100 store credit. Hooray!

Washi from Cute Tape - Hundreds of styles, patterns and colors.

Cute Tape offers a vast selection of washi tape — Japanese washi, and other kinds too. And you are welcome to use your prize to buy every color of washi tape under the sun. But Cute Tape also offers fantastic party supplies and craft supplies!

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If I won, I would be tempted by the favor bags, and pillow boxes, plus hangtags and baker’s twine, and definitely rubber stamps and nut cups. I LOVE having my supply cupboards prepped with these sorts of things. They make it possible to turn any old day into a festive celebration. Plus, they are the trick to hosting last-minute parties, and giving last-minute gifts, that don’t feel last-minute.

I would also fill my shopping cart with washi tape!

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Feel free to connect with Cute Tape on FacebookInstagram or Pinterest to be the first to know about new products and find about about discounts and sales.

Visit Cute Tape and leave a comment below to enter. The winner will be announced on Monday. Good luck!

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Are You a Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall? http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/are-you-a-winter-spring-summer-or-fall/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/are-you-a-winter-spring-summer-or-fall/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 13:00:37 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=52484

bobbi brown smokey nudes palette

By Gabrielle. Eyeshadow palette by Bobbi Brown.

When I mentioned I had an appointment to go blonde tomorrow, there were a few comments that talked about certain hair colors not fitting the coloring of certain people. Those comments totally put me on the path down memory lane! When I was in middle school and high school, I think I went to a dozen different parties where a make-up specialist or fashion stylist would determine whether we were a winter, a spring, a summer or a fall. Then, once we knew what season we were, we would then be told what colors we could wear, and which we should avoid. I usually ended up as a winter, and I remember that basically no season seemed to be allowed to wear yellow. Hah!

Did any one else do this? I assume it was happening across the country, but maybe it was just in my home town. (My town was very Mormon and very white, so many this was a Mormon thing? Or a white people thing?)

I haven’t thought about what “season” I am for maybe 15 years or more. And the realization made me wonder: how many of us avoid wearing certain colors because we were told at some point they didn’t look good on us?

That seems like such a silly thing to me now! I would say the cut and fit of clothing can make a much bigger difference in how we look in certain pieces than the color. And I would also say that colors come and go with trends, and whatever color is trendy magically seems to look good on the general populace. Over the years, I think I’ve worn every kind of color. If I decide I don’t like how I look in one item or another, it’s more likely to be because I don’t like the style, not because I think the color “doesn’t work for me”.

Beyond clothing, I would say makeup trends have completely changed as well. I remember at around age 13, being told that only blue-eyed people could wear blue eyeshadow successfully. But these days, I can’t imagine anyone giving that sort of restrictive beauty advice! I feel like over the last decade, I’ve seen every color of eyeshadow worn gorgeously on every color of person. And there are lots of articles like this one that share makeup colors that look good on all skin tones. Which of course, makes me conclude all the color advice from my youth was totally bizarre, or, that we’ve redefined what we think is beautiful.

The “coloring rules” for hair have also changed. The categories used to be black, brunette, red, and blonde, but now people sport hair color in every shade of the rainbow. Or, someone might have dyed blonde hair, but intentionally keep dark roots as a contrast to the blonde — meaning, she’s not trying to pretend she’s naturally blonde. Consider someone with blue hair. The whole idea of certain skin tones looking better or worse with blue hair seems odd to me. Who gets to say who looks good in blue hair? If the person with the blue hair likes the look, isn’t that enough?

Anyway, this is for sure on my mind because of my hair plans. Will I like how blonde hair looks on me? Will my skin look different? Will my eyebrows seem unusually dark? At first those seem like normal questions to me, but then they suddenly feel weird. Because among the billions of people on the earth, there is most certainly someone out there that has skin and eyes and eyebrows that match mine, and hair that is naturally the color I will end up tomorrow. And if I saw that person, would I think: geez, that hair color doesn’t look good with her coloring, or, she sure needs to lighten her eyebrows. Well, of course not. None of us would. Having never seen her any other way, we wouldn’t know the difference.

Related, if my hair was its current natural color, it would be almost completely silver — which is very different than the dark brown hair color I grew up with. Does that mean my coloring has changed to match the silver and I don’t know it? Or is my coloring the same, and the whole idea of hair color and skin color relating somehow totally wrong? Same for Ben Blair, he had very red hair when we married, but it has faded to a light brown. He was told not to wear red as a redhead, but I’ve always like him in red. So many questions!

That was long and rambling, and frankly, I don’t even know what my conclusions are. But I’d love to hear what your take on “seasons” is, and what you think of having hair that “looks good with your coloring”. Do you feel like there are certain colors you look best in? Were you ever told you didn’t look good in a certain color? Or maybe you feel very different than me. Have you had good luck following color advice you heard at some point? I’d love to hear!

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Growing A Family: Twins, Truth, And Lots Of Tears http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/growing-a-family-twins-truth-and-lots-of-tears/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/growing-a-family-twins-truth-and-lots-of-tears/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 15:00:34 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=52006

By Gabrielle. The sweetest calendar by Shanna Murray.

McKay Smith is a lovely storyteller, so I know you’re going to enjoy this recounting of her birth experience. The honesty with which she writes – even when she’s admitting weakness or impatience with her doctors! – is comforting, especially for those of us who may feel like we can’t give a voice to all those shattering emotions raging inside. Maybe we’re afraid of sounding bratty or maybe we’re afraid of sounding…afraid.

But it’s hard to get through a pregnancy without breaking every so often, don’t you think? And that’s when things are progressing according to our plans! Here’s a tale of twins, one with a potentially life threatening defect, and how their mom truthfully felt throughout her journey.

Please enjoy McKay’s words.

I was alone at my second ultrasound when I found out I was having twins. I had excused my husband from the appointment as we’d just had the routine eight week scan a week prior. When I got home and was able to quit crying to tell him the news, we felt like the luckiest people on the planet.

I was not alone at my fourth ultrasound when we found out my boys were, as far as we could tell, identical. We also discovered that day that my Baby A had a birth defect called an omphalocele.

“What’s that circular object above his tummy?” I asked the ultrasound technician about Baby A. The doctor, who I would later refer to by an unkind nickname due to his poor bedside manner, attempted to explain what exactly an omphalocele was. He was really impressed I already knew what it was. I didn’t tell him it was because of a Grey’s Anatomy episode. Basically, the majority of A’s intestines and part of his liver were developing inside the umbilical cord instead of inside of the abdomen. The doctor listed approximately one million different statistics but it boiled down to this: There was a sixty percent chance he would live, and there was a forty percent chance that he wouldn’t due to a chromosomal trisomy.

We no longer felt very lucky.

I don’t know how to describe the next “ten business days” that we had to wait for the trisomy test results without being dramatic. But I am dramatic, and it was dramatic. The first time I saw my oldest sister she hugged me tightly and said, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry the doctor had to come in.” She had her second baby at twenty seven weeks so she knew.

I cried for nearly five day straight. The ultrasound happened on a Tuesday, and I got sent home from work by a very understanding boss on Wednesday and Thursday. I would get a handle on my emotions only to crumble minutes later.

That Friday, I was lying on my parent’s couch. My three year old nephew was there, driving his cars on the coffee table, sneaking glances at me every once in awhile. Finally he asked in his funny baby accent, “Which one of your babies is sick?” He was so sincere. I made a more concerted effort to be happy after that.

On Sunday I proudly proclaimed to my mom that I had not cried yet that day, which I think made her cry. Friday we got the call that there were no chromosomal abnormalities. Well…I called and hassled them on Friday so that we didn’t have to wait for news over the weekend. Blessedly, they broke protocol and told me directly instead of going through my OB.

We’d crossed our biggest bridge but there were still a few more in the coming weeks. We actually were lucky. The omphalocele was determined to be isolated. No trisomies. No heart problems. No spinal issues. No kidney abnormalities.

However, there were still a lot of worries, unknowns, and wait-and-sees. Mostly concerning the number of surgeries which rested on the amount of intestines out of place and how much skin and muscle they had to work with.

We met with more doctors and surgeons. I made up more unkind nicknames. I made a tear stained note card with questions for our neonatologist (I actually liked him) like, “Can I hold him?” and “Can he be with his brother?”

I tried to put my worry on hold. I had a fantastic social work professor who taught her students a trick to cope with the baggage that comes with such an emotion-laden job: Take a few minutes out of your day – look at the clock, even – and let yourself worry. During my 25-minute commute to work every morning, I cried. I cried for my Baby A who I was so worried about, and I cried for my Baby B because I already felt guilty for paying them uneven attention. But! I would get to a certain street as I neared the elementary school where I work, and I would stop crying. And then, I would simply put it on hold until the next day.

I was sentenced to bed rest at 30 weeks and had to take a leave of absence from work. I missed that silly ritual almost as much as I missed my job and students.

On Friday, January 31st, I was 35 weeks and three days pregnant. I knew because I triumphantly updated it every day on my board in my hospital room when I was allowed to get up to go to the bathroom. I had been in and out of the antepartum unit for most of January and every day counted. On that particular day, Baby A had been unusually inactive. I spent a long portion of every day with my hand on my left side willing him to move enough to pass my inspection. He did not pass that day. After shift change, the nurse put me on the monitor after I asked for some peace of mind, promising she would take me off in twenty minutes unless she was concerned. After an hour, my husband and I called my mom.

We fell into a pattern that night. Baby A’s heart rate would fall and mine would rise. An alarm would go off and nurses would come in. Eventually, they turned the monitor down so I wouldn’t know when it happened. I slept uncomfortably and fitfully. Every time I opened my eyes, I would see my mom. She sat in an uncomfortable wooden rocking chair all night to watch the monitor for me so my husband and I could rest. I never saw her eyes leave the screen until morning – not even when she quietly spoke to the nurses.

My OB came into the room around noon on Saturday. He and I decided it would be best to do a c-section that afternoon.

My Baby B was born first. The whole twin baby thing had seemed so abstract until I heard him cry. My husband and I looked at each other! A real baby came out of me! And then two minutes later, another baby! The neonatologist, finally able to actually see A’s omphalocele and not just an ultrasound photo, proclaimed it to be “textbook.” I kissed A’s fat cheek and they took him to the NICU. Baby B was to go to the nursery for observation, but was later sent to the NICU as well.

I spent a few hours in recovery. I was HIGH. ON. LIFE. My husband and mom sent me pictures from the NICU. Later, my nurses wheeled me and my enormous bed to the NICU to visit. I didn’t remember this event happened until I looked at photos on the camera a few weeks after the fact.

The next morning, my husband and I got to spend some time with Baby A in a pre-op room. He held my index finger for over an hour. He’d never done that before and wouldn’t really do it ever again. It’s probably a good thing I was in a wheelchair. In hindsight, I can’t really imagine willingly walking away from him.

I wanted to be alone while we waited. My husband stayed with Baby B for me (and waited for the surgeon) and my mom kept me quiet company in my room. It really didn’t take long, it felt like minutes, until my husband called me to let me know the surgery went perfectly and they were able to get all his organs back in and fully close his abdomen. The surgeon even fashioned him a belly button! We had a kind nickname for our pediatric surgeon. We still talk about him frequently.

A spent the next two days coming out of his anesthesia haze. It took him longer than they expected. He was very still and quiet. My husband was concerned that he didn’t cry and brought it up to the nurse one day. She explained that he was crying but due to the breathing tubes, we just couldn’t hear it. He was comforted by this fact and shared it with me later. It had never occurred to me to worry that he didn’t cry. Bless his heart, but when my husband excitedly told me the baby was actually crying silently I was devastated! It still haunts me to think about that.

Baby B got to come home with me the day I left the hospital after my c-section recovery. He had met his eating goals of 25 mLs from a bottle. My sweet nurses let me hold the babies together before we left that afternoon after some finagling on all our parts since they were in separate units. It was the babies’ first time being together since birth.

I called my mom that morning at 4:00 am. “He won’t sleep!” So she came over to relieve me. Which she would continue to do every other night for the next two months. She also kept B every day so I could visit A who was still in the NICU (it was RSV season so B wasn’t allowed back in).

Every morning I would wake up, hook up my pump, and call A’s nurses to see how he had done during the night. He was starting to eat, but not very well. But he did better every day. One day I walked into his pod to find him in a swing. They told me he had gotten pretty vocal and crabby – ha! A couple days later they moved him to the continuing care unit with private rooms since he was disturbing his neighbors with his complaints! That told me he was a big (4 lb. 13 oz.!), healthy baby almost ready to go home.

As he grew, he became more aware. One day I only had time for a short visit. My husband and B were down in the car but I needed to drop off milk and get some snuggles. When I put him down to leave, he cried and cried. I can’t completely remember, but I tell myself I was able to go back later that evening for a longer visit.

There were a couple days I couldn’t visit him because I was feeling sick. In some regards, it was almost easier not to see him because then I didn’t have to leave him. I don’t like to think about that, though.

He only had to spend 15 days in the NICU. Which is basically no time at all considering how long some babies stay in for. But it felt long. I was so excited to bust him out of there that it became very unceremonious. Mismatched going home outfit, no real pictures. But we were free!

I was back at that hospital last week to visit my sister and her newborn baby. It gave me the chills. Good and bad, I think.

We really had a best-case scenario. Some babies with omphaloceles (or a similar condition called gastroschisis) require multiple surgeries, months of skin grafts, g-tubes, months or years of hospital stays, etc. I don’t know why we were blessed to have none of this. I try to be respectfully grateful for our situation. I try not to take for granted healthy, living babies. I try to be a better mom of twins since I had a tiny taste of what it might feel like to not have two with me. That’s the best I’ve come up with so far. It’s something I still consider daily.

My guys are almost nine months old now. They are darling and perfect, needy and loud. But every once in a while I catch them smiling at me from across the room with identical grins and squished eyes, and I feel like one of the luckiest people on the planet.

–-

Thank you, McKay! This is the part that got me: “He was very still and quiet. My husband was concerned that he didn’t cry and brought it up to the nurse one day. She explained that he was crying but due to the breathing tubes, we just couldn’t hear it.” Oh! Imagine that for a minute. I know we probably have all groaned at the beginnings of a wail, but consider if you couldn’t hear it. For some reason, that just breaks my heart!

I also think it’s hilarious that McKay was so anxious to get her son home that she dressed him in a mismatched going home outfit. I know many moms really put a lot of thought into that outfit and mark the occasion with a ton of photos, only to get in the car and drive five miles per hour all the way home! Do you remember those slow rides? Me, too!

P.S. – Find all the stories in this series here. Do you have a story about birth, pregnancy, adoption or infertility? Send your story to me, will you please?

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Living With Kids: Alison Faulkner http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/living-with-kids-alison-faulkner/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/living-with-kids-alison-faulkner/#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 14:00:14 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=52418

By Gabrielle. Photos by Jessica Kettle Photography.

I always love reading people who sound exactly the same on paper as they do in real life, which is why Alison’s tour today makes me grin so hard! I think I edited six hahas and a few triple exclamation points, but I left all her capitalized words for emphasis. Alison’s life has lots of emphasis! You’ll see!

I couldn’t wait to share her with you, especially now as the holidays are racing toward us. Her festive philosophy, as you’ll soon learn, is super timely. I know it will inspire you to do more with what you have this very minute, and open your arms wide to welcome every celebration in your path. (Even the ones you’d like to ignore!)

Welcome, Alison! And Happy Tuesday, Friends!

Q: Tell us all about the family who lives here.

A: Hello! I’m Alison of The Alison Show and I live in this little 1920s house in Provo with my music-producer husband Eric, my tyrannical and adorable 4-year-old Ginger, and my precious overly coddled 1.5-year-old angel boy Rad.

My husband and I both work for ourselves, so our house is in a constant state of disarray. We both prefer to be hustling and working on our projects rather than doing dishes or, like, laundry. Who does laundry? People with clean clothes, I guess.

I have a studio in the home that honestly gives most people an anxiety attack to just look at. I regularly post pictures of it and my desk littered with 32 oz soda cups on Instagram. Once every four months I clean it, but most of the time it looks like a bomb of promotional swag, sprinkles, and party supplies exploded.

Ginger has an army of stuffed animals – she calls them “stuffies” – and they are an integral part of our lives. She lugs them around the house and they are EVERYWHERE. She also creates backstories for them. There’s a monkey named Ellen who is allergic to bananas, I kid you not, and a unicorn named “Uni” that inspired her Unicorn Parade birthday party. The stuffies seem to multiply like gremlins, and Eric and I are fairly sure Ginger is using them to plan a hostile takeover. We’re all just stoked when Rad finally surfaces among the fluff-filled friends.

Q: How did this house become your home?

A: My husband bought our house when he was in college! So I had NOTHING to do with choosing it. Eric lived in it and rented the rooms to friends. It’s zoned for dual family living, so he thought of it as an investment and rental property. The house has two kitchens and two entrances. When we got married he moved into my apartment and we rented out the whole house the first two years of our marriage.

But the zoning regulations specify that the house must be owner occupied to rent, so we finally had to comply with the law and I was DEVASTATED. By the time I moved into the house it had been inhabited by dozens of dirty boys. So naturally I walked in the front door and started sobbing. Yes, I can be a spoiled brat sometimes. The carpet in the family room was horrible. It looked like someone had unearthed a dead body. The college boys had painted every room a different color. One room had purple walls with forest green carpet. There is NO closet space, old junky appliances, and linoleum every which way you turn.

So when we moved in, we did the best we could. We recovered the original hardwood in the family room but didn’t have enough money to do much else. And because I couldn’t do what I wanted with the house, I just kind of ignored it. Yes, yes, I’m an all or nothing kind of girl. Plus we never intended to live in the house this long, so we didn’t really invest in it.

We rented the basement at first, but with the birth of Rad and our burgeoning businesses, we decided to take over the whole house.

So now I have two kitchens and five tiny bedrooms. There’s still pretty bad linoleum in more places than I’d like, and no closet space. But we have a yard, a very low mortgage, lots of living space, and a fantastic neighborhood.

Every time we make some money, we basically put it back into our businesses or pay off any debt we have. So now, after five years of living in the house, we are trying to make it more of a priority and place we are proud of.

Q: Tell us why you love the place you live.

A: I think one reason we didn’t expect to stay in the house is we didn’t expect to love living in Provo, Utah so MUCH! But we are both obsessed! Provo is a fantastic place for families. It also has an awesome music scene that is great for Eric’s business, and it is an amazing place for social media and building my online empire. Students are an excellent labor source, and the creative community is really top notch. Our mortgage is so low that we’ve been able to start our own businesses without taking out business loans.

It really is THE place to be for entrepreneurs.

I also just renovated and am now renting a studio and events space called Club Alison. There’s no way I’d be able to do that in a larger more expensive city.

We feel so fortunate to each be making a career out of our passions. So, really, living in Provo has enabled us to live the life of our dreams – even if we don’t live in the house of our dreams YET!

Q: How would you describe your aesthetic? What are the must-haves in your home that make you crazy happy every time you catch sight of them?

A: Even though there are lots of things I don’t love about the actual bones of our house, I’m pretty good at making it festive! Which is why you’re getting a tour of our Christmas decor.

I do my best to make every holiday special. For so many years I had very little money to spend on stuff like that, so I relied heavily on my crafty skills! I’m really good at using garlands to cover up nail holes and paint chips. And now as we make a little more money, and I can spend more money on the house, I look for clean, modern pieces that I can embellish with my festive decor later.

Q: Why does your space work for you? Have you designed spaces that meet your needs, or are you surrounded by your favorite things…or are you in a constant state of chaos?

A: I think we are starting to realize we are in a constant state of chaos because we haven’t taken the time to focus on making our house really work for us. Also, it just hasn’t been a priority as we start our businesses.

But we have enough space and enough creativity to make it work! So I’m excited to start saving some money to problem solve and make our home more joyful to be in.

Q: You and your husband both freelance, right? That’s often a difficult thing to manage – especially in terms of knowing when to start and stop your work and family time. How have you sorted it all out? What works and what doesn’t?

A: My husband Eric has a studio outside of the home, and I plan on getting another office (Club Alison is best for events and photo shoots) outside of the home as soon as possible. After doing the working at home thing for so long, we both see that being able to take our work out of the house helps us live our life more. It’s easier to be focused on the kids and the family when you’re not trying to sneak off to your office in the next room to finish one more thing.

I know lots of people LOVE having a home office, and that’s cool, too! We both just like being able to separate things a bit more, and that took us some time to realize.

Q: You dance. A lot. You make people happy. A lot. And you are really turning those skills into a fabulous career. Tell us about your next steps and bigger dreams!

A: Haha! Well, thank you! My main goal with my business is to enable other people to feel awesome about whatever it is THEY are doing. So I try to do that in a number of ways. Dancing like a fool is one of them, but another way I do that is by going after my dreams.

One thing I’ve wanted to do forever was create and sell an online course about my sugar cookies, which I’ve been making for seven years. So I released that in October. It’s called Alison’s Cookie Party, and it has been going super well! So I’m so relieved and happy.

Another dream of mine was to create a space where I could host events, workshops, and anything else fun! But also a place that I could rent to like-minded creative people so that they could make their projects a reality. Our rental rates are really low so that small business owners, just like us, are able to afford it.

Club Alison was an old door-making warehouse, and the owner of the building has worked with me to turn it into a really fun venue. I found it on the side of the road – there was no “for rent” sign. But I could tell the space was perfect just by looking in the windows. So my husband (can you tell how insanely supportive he is?) and I asked around until we found the owner, drove to his home, and had him show us the space! Then we signed a lease and got started on construction.

Seriously, I’m not even sure what I’m doing. I can’t believe I actually did that. I operate on very little sleep and lots of caffeine so I’m just SO stoked when things work out.

Q: What do you hope your kids remember from this very moment in their childhood in this very house? And what do you hope they conveniently forget!

A: I hope they remember how blessed we are and that we really do have everything. It’s not a house from a magazine – though these pictures aren’t too shabby! – and it’s quite often a mess, but we always have food, fun decorations, and mom and dad are both super happy to be living their dreams. There’s a lot of love in our house. Stress? Yes. Swearing? Cough, occasionally. But more than that they are allowed to be who they are and are loved for that.

Q: What has been your very, very, very favorite part about living with your own kids?

A: My favorite part about living with my own kids is watching them turn into people. They go from being a tiny lump of cuteness – an accessory, really – that you can dress how you want and tote around where you want, to being full fledged humans with opinions. Ginger likes pictures of the family in her room, and special places for her “stuffies.” She also notices when we make her bed, and loves it.

But mostly I’m just constantly amazed at how happy the kids are when you just spend time with them at home, even if you don’t have subway tile in your kitchen. GASP. There is something special about being together within your own walls.

Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish someone had told me…

A: I wish someone had told me to fully commit to what you have at the present moment. They probably did tell me and I didn’t listen! But I wish I hadn’t spent so many years ignoring my house just because it wasn’t exactly my dream house. Or not working on the house because we planned on moving. I didn’t know we’d end up starting two businesses and that moving wouldn’t be an option for a while. I could have been enjoying this house more!

Then again, I didn’t have any money to change things…so, oh well!

But I think committing to what you have at the present, and doing what you can with what you’re given will always bring happiness and I’m glad I see that now.

Love what ya got, even if it’s not a lot. Is that a country song lyric? It should be.

–-

Is everyone smiling? I sure hope so! Thank you, Alison, for adding your cheer to the day. I told you your interview would probably change a few moods, and I was right: you changed mine.

I had to giggle at this line: “I’m just constantly amazed at how happy the kids are when you just spend time with them at home, even if you don’t have subway tile in your kitchen. GASP.” We often overlook the obvious when all we see is what we don’t have, right?

P.S. – Are you interested in sharing your own home with us? Let me know! It’s a lot of fun…I promise! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.

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A Random Monday Update http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/a-random-monday-update/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/a-random-monday-update/#comments Mon, 15 Dec 2014 20:00:59 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=52463

Christmas Tree & Bucket

Image and photo by Gabrielle.

I woke up today thinking of 3 things:

1) I have been Oil Pulling for over a year now.

What? That’s crazy! But I still love it. I feel like I’m so much gentler on my mouth than I used to be, yet my teeth are cleaner and healthier than ever, and they feel like they get a daily polish as well. The biggest benefit I’ve seen (and that may or may not be attributed to oil-pulling), is that I haven’t had a head cold or sore throat or cough — or any congestion at all — since I started. And that’s unusual for me. Historically, if I go a few days without enough sleep, I’ll wake up with a sore throat. But over the last year, that hasn’t happened. And it should have, because it was high-stress, not-enough-sleep kind of year.

Is the oil-pulling responsible? Or is it all in my head? Who knows! But I’m sticking with the oil pulling. I had a conversation with a dentist the other day  (not my own dentist), and he mocked oil pulling mercilessly. I tell you, it didn’t even phase me. The oil pulling is not hurting, and it seems to be helping. If it’s the placebo effect, I’ll take it. : )

2) Speaking of my high-stress, not-enough-sleep kind of year, I have a little report on my mental health medication. My prescription ran out the day before Thanksgiving and I was only able to get it renewed and refilled a couple of days ago, so I’ve gone about 3 weeks without Wellbutrin.

I wondered if I should use the unexpected circumstance to go medication free. I did okay over the 3 weeks, but there were a couple of days where a deep desire for my own death started to creep in again, so back on the meds I go. For me, it’s a no brainer — I experience no side effects that I’m aware of, and the benefits are beyond beneficial.

That’s just a little side note for anyone reading who is feeling shame about being on mental health meds. I want you to know that I am not ashamed at all, and you don’t need to be either.

3) Lastly, I’ve talked a few different times over the last six months about doing something different with my hair (beyond trying bangs). And I’ve finally got an appointment on the calendar to go blonde. It’s scheduled for this Friday!

The goal is go white blonde, like Jihan, but, I’ve talked to a dozen hair stylists about it, and they all agree this will not be a one-day process, and that I’ll have to chop off some, or most of my hair to get there. So I really have no idea what I will look like when I leave the stylist’s chair on Friday. I’m guessing my hairs will be somewhere in the yellow-blonde range, and at least several inches shorter, or maybe I’ll have a full on bob. We’ll see.

I’m just so pleased to be taking some action. My hair has been a wreck for months! I feel like I’ve been on pause while I figured out what I wanted to do, and then made time to do it.

I know that is some random stuff to share on a random Monday. Hah! I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of it.

P.S. — More rain this week in the Bay Area — we have a bucket out ready to catch any drips. A friend at Loeffler Randall sent me the cutest rain boots and I’ve been putting them to good use!

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A Few Things http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/a-few-things-239/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/a-few-things-239/#comments Fri, 12 Dec 2014 16:00:33 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=52210

Santa and Gabrielle Stanley

By Gabrielle. Image of me as a kid — I think I look like Oscar.

Hi Friends. How are you? We are still in the middle of this crazy West Coast storm. Such a different feel from the big nor’easters we experienced during our years in New York — though it’s wet outside, it’s far from cold. But the instinct in response to the storm is still to seek out coziness. Our Christmas twinkle lights are on in full force, candles are lit, throw blankets are accessible, hot cocoa is on the stove. And Maude made the best gingersnaps in all the world.

The kids had off school yesterday, but are back in class today. The Treehouse sprung a tiny link — a very slow, manageable drip — but otherwise, we haven’t had any drama from the storm. Our power has remained intact (knock on wood!) and the roads have been navigable when we’ve had errands to run. We are counting ourselves super lucky and hoping everyone has access to a warm, dry place to be.

What about you? Any weather excitement in your neck of the woods?

My brain needs a bit of cheer this week, so I’m sticking with mostly light-hearted links. Here are a few things I hope you’ll find of interest:

- Carrot Clarinet.

- Body Image Story of Identical Twins healing body issues after their mother passed due to complications from obesity.

- 25 Days of Christmas in Sweden.

- FREE e-book of Family Giving Ideas.

- Are you racist? This test can tell you.

- For all of us Gilmore Girl fans, here’s the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge.

- ”She wasn’t doing a thing I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.” 51 of the most beautiful sentences in all of literature. Thanks, Erin.

- I am a huge Williams-Sonoma fan, but this still made me laugh (Heads up: lots of cussing).

- Thoughts on Bridge to Terabithia by the author. Thanks, Kelsey.

- The Big Bang may have created a mirror universe where time runs backwards. Thanks, Carlos.

- The trailer for The Little Prince. I’m not sure how I feel about it. It’s one of my sacred books.

I hope you have a really amazing weekend. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — Ralph & Olive get home in 9 days. I CAN’T WAIT!

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Gingiber Giveaway http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/gingiber-giveaway-3/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/gingiber-giveaway-3/#comments Thu, 11 Dec 2014 20:56:04 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=52397

DMgiveawayBanner

Yes! Another awesome Giveaway. Three cheers for December! Today’s prize is sponsored by one of the cutest Etsy stores on the planet, Gingiber. You could win $150 to the Gingiber Shop!

Fox Tote Gingiber

Is Gingiber new to you? It’s a home wares store based in the Midwest. Gingiber offers goods that are sweet enough for children but smart enough for adults. The shop is the work of illustrator Stacie Bloomfield — a childhood doodler turned full-time illustrator. Stacie is living her dream of being a working artist!

Antler Tea Towels GingiberPig Pillow Gingiber

Gingiber offers prints and tea towels and tote bagsPillows and calendars. Even holiday ornaments and cards. And everything in the shop is ideal for holiday giving. If I won, I would plan on gifting the 3-piece Antler Tea Towel Set, the Cat Calendar, and the Pig Pillow, to some of my favorite people. It’s always fun to spruce up your house with some fresh and pretty home goods!

Visit Gingiber and leave a comment below to enter — I’d love to hear what you would pick if you win. The winner will be announced on Monday. Good luck!

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DIY: Wooden Peg Doll Ornaments http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/wooden-peg-doll-ornaments/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/wooden-peg-doll-ornaments/#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2014 22:53:16 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=52327

DIY: Wooden Peg Doll Ornaments — make a whole family!

By Gabrielle. Image by Amy Christie.

I’ve got the cutest DIY I just shared over on Babble. Use wooden peg dolls to make a little family of ornaments that looks just like yours! I kept the patterns really simple — so even non-crafters can handle this project. Wouldn’t they make a cute gift for a family you know?

Find the full tutorial here.

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Book of the Week: The Christmas Wish http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/book-of-the-week-the-christmas-wish/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/book-of-the-week-the-christmas-wish/#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2014 17:44:18 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=52307

A Christmas Wish — plus 32 other Wonderful Holiday Books

Images and text by Gabrielle.

What are your favorite holiday books? We have a tradition of adding a new Christmas book to our collection each year. I love this tradition because it’s easy, it’s something the whole family can enjoy (and can continue to enjoy for many years), and it’s typically under $20 to get a new book, so it’s a tradition that doesn’t break the bank.

A Christmas Wish — plus 32 other Wonderful Holiday Books

Ben Blair found this year’s pick and it’s a good one! It’s called The Christmas Wish, and it had us reminiscing about our trips to Sweden and Norway. We’re not the only ones who like it, apparently it’s a New York Times Best Seller. And it’s no surprise. It just oozes Christmas and wintertime — her clothes, the polar bear and reindeer she meets — every little detail is delightful.

A Christmas Wish — plus 32 other Wonderful Holiday Books

Looking for more holiday books? I’ve shared tons of great picks over the years — click through for a full list. For those who don’t celebrate Christmas, my apologies in advance, because my list is very-much Christmas focused. But obviously, there are lots of other winter holidays, so if you have favorite non-Christmas holiday titles to share, please do!

- The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

- A Child’s Christmas in Wales (If you can find this one as an audio book, you will especially love it!)

- The Christmas Alphabet

- A Christmas Carol (You can also try the Young Readers Edition or the Picture Book Edition)

- Christmas Day in the Morning

 

- The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey

- Corgiville Christmas

- Dream Snow

- Every Man Heart Lay Down

- The Gift of the Magi

 

- How the Grinch Stole Christmas

- The Night Before Christmas

- The Nutcracker

- Olive, the Other Reindeer

- The Polar Express (I’m not a fan of the movie, but I adore the book. It’s even a Caldecott winner!)

 

- Santa Calls

- The Little Match Girl

- The Snowy Day (Not holiday related, but a great winter time book that we like to keep with the Christmas titles!)

- The Twelve Days of Christmas

- Who is Coming to Our House?

 

An Orange for Frankie

Flicka, Ricka, Dicka & Their New Skates

The Birds of Bethlehem

The 12 Days of Christmas

Babar and Father Christmas

 

Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama

The Trees Of The Dancing Goats

My Wonderful Christmas Tree

Chanukah Lights

Stick Man

 

The Christmas Quiet Book

Great Joy

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New-to-Me Ghee http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/new-to-me-ghee/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/new-to-me-ghee/#comments Tue, 09 Dec 2014 16:00:39 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=52239

Blue Apron Shrimp & Rice4

Photos and text by Gabrielle. // This post is brought to you by Blue Apron — get two free meals on your first Blue Apron order. Details below.

——-

Last week, in my post about persimmons, I asked if you’d tried any new tastes lately, and one reader mentioned that she’s been trying new flavors via her Blue Apron deliveries. I thought: Me too!

It seems like every delivery includes an ingredient or two I haven’t tried before. Last week, it was ghee and bagoong, both of which were completely new to me. I won’t lie, turns out I’m not the biggest fan of bagoong, which was used in the Shrimp & Mustard Greens recipe pictured here. But ghee? I’m totally into it!

I didn’t know it until I watched this video, but ghee is an oil made from milk. Apparently, because it’s such a purified product, there are many people who feel ghee is loaded with health properties. And though it’s made in cultures around the world, it’s especially associated with Indian cooking. One tidbit I also learned: those who don’t tolerate lactose can usually eat ghee without a problem.

The ghee Blue Apron uses is made by Ancient Organics, a small artisanal company based here in California. It was founded in 2003 by two Ayurvedic practitioners, and is currently owned and operated by Matteo Girard Maxon. I LOVE that about Blue Apron — they work hard to source ingredients from local, responsible sources.

Blue Apron Shrimp & Rice1Blue Apron Shrimp & Rice3

I started using Blue Apron this past summer, and I continue on as a big fan. If you haven’t heard of it, here’s the 411: Blue Apron delivers chef-designed recipes, and all the farm-fresh ingredients you need to make the recipes, right to your doorstep. No trips to the grocery store and no waste from unused ingredients. Boxes arrive with three meals per week — for two or four people, and the price is $9.99 per person with always free shipping. They offer a large selection of recipes and they add new dishes to their menu every week — and you can access all the recipes online, even if you’re not a customer. Blue Apron is probably available in your area, because it ships to over 80% of the country.

Want to give it try? Well you’re in luck! The first 100 Design Mom Readers get two free meals on their first Blue Apron order!

Blue Apron Shrimp & Rice5Blue Apron Shrimp & Rice2

A couple of other things you should note, if you’re planning to try it. Blue Apron ingredients arrive in refrigerated boxes. So don’t stress out if you’re not at home when your package arrives. There’s no commitment — you can skip or cancel the service at any time! And my favorite parts: all their meals can be prepared in 40 minutes or less, and like I mentioned above, ingredients are incredibly fresh and sourced from quality local suppliers and artisans.

Blue Apron Shrimp & Rice7

I didn’t realize how much I would appreciate using this service. On busy evenings, knowing there are ingredients and a recipe waiting for me is invaluable. And I love how it gets me out of my same old dinner ruts, and keeps me from relying on take out. I’m thinking Blue Apron would be a great gift for any over-scheduled parents on your list!

Now I’m curious: Have you ever tried ghee? Or bagoong? I’d love to hear!

P.S. — Know where the name comes from? I found out when I started using their service: chefs in training around the world wear blue aprons — it’s a symbol of lifelong learning in cooking. You can find Blue Apron kitchenware products here.

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Living With Kids: Danielle Lindberg http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/living-with-kids-danielle-lindberg/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/living-with-kids-danielle-lindberg/#comments Tue, 09 Dec 2014 12:00:19 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=52251

By Gabrielle.

For those of you who still haven’t gotten around to setting up holiday decorations and feel guilty about it, let me introduce you to Danielle. Her calm attitude about enjoying Christmas is certainly contagious, and a sweet reminder that the most beautiful traditions are rarely about perfection or the latest trends or elaborate advent calendars (although this one sure was cute!); they can be as simple as a bowl of oranges on the table.

Sigh. Refreshing, right? Well, just wait until you hear the rest of what Danielle has to say about her holiday decorating. Cheers to reasonable and relaxed traditions. Let’s embrace them with open arms, Friends!

Q: Tell us all about the family who lives here!

A: Our family currently consists of myself, my husband Randy, our 11 year old tender-hearted son Aiden, and feisty nine year old daughter Maia.

I have the wonderful opportunity to stay at home, but I have worked in various positions in health insurance, escrow, and even as a notary public in California. My husband fills his days as a Respiratory Therapist at a local hospital and NICU, along with being the best handyman around. Our house rarely has a broken anything and I so appreciate that!

We have 17 laying hens and one silky rooster, along with three cats. We are in the process of becoming adoptive and foster parents. I am hoping to add one or two more stockings to our mantle next year.

Q: How did this house become your home?

A: We purchased our home two years ago, and to say it was in disrepair is an understatement. Tree limbs were growing back into the ground, nicotine stained the walls, and the septic tank was overflowing, but it sat on an acre of useable flat land in the middle of an urban city.

I think friends and family thought we were crazy, because the home we were selling was a brand new semi-custom beautiful home with all the bells and whistles. While that was a wonderful home, it just wasn’t our home. So we took a plunge and bought a huge fixer. We were not scared or nervous – just determined to see our new disaster evolve to our family home. This house was so bad that we did not even take our kids over to see it until we had done a few projects; we were afraid of their reactions! But, to our surprise, they were on board with the change.

It took a while for this house to feel settled, and we still have a list of projects, but I am so proud of the work we have completed so far. When we are able to share fruit from our apricot, cherry, or apple trees with a neighbor, or run a dozen of our eggs over to a friend, I know how right this house was for us.

That being said, I wouldn’t call this our dream home. In fact, I don’t believe in the concept of a dream home. Each home that we have lived in has special things about it and have served different purposes for us at that time. It might be because I enjoy change, or that I don’t see the need to restrict myself to the notion of the perfect home, but each home we have lived in is my dream home.

Q: Tell us why you love the place you live.

A: Boise is a hidden gem in the United States. We actually moved to Boise six years ago from Southern California; my husband was raised in Fullerton and I was raised in the Bay Area. We love California and always will – we miss the ocean! – but our day-to-day life in Boise is simple. Stores are close, traffic is rare, elementary schools are supported, and we have four seasons.

Our local ski hill is affordable and close and open for night skiing. Summer time mountain camping is a must. The mountains in Idaho are raw and gorgeous and wild. Some of our favorite camping spots are less then two hours away. The DMV is accommodating, and thrift stores are abundant. Plus, Trader Joe’s recently opened in downtown Boise. What more could you want?

Q: How would you describe your aesthetic? What are the must-haves in your home that make you crazy happy every time you catch sight of them? (Besides your family, of course!)

A: I would describe our home as an evolving collection that reflects our current needs. For example, this house has more of a farm house/rustic vibe, but our last house had more of a modern aesthetic.

One of my favorite pieces is a large farmhouse dining table that was generously gifted to me from my mother-in-law and mom as a birthday gift. It represents togetherness and warmth. It also represents that a growing active family with kids and pets resides here and uses this table. From kitten scratch marks to glitter glue, this table is well loved and I love it for that reason.

I try to have a more simplified approach to decorating, but the reality is I love depth, texture, and layering!

Q: How does your home work for you? Do you think about utility when you’re designing a space to share with your family? Or is it more important for you to be surrounded by beautiful things?

A: Utility and beauty are both very important to me when I design a space for my family. I don’t separate the two at all.

Any space can be organized and function well while being beautiful. I firmly believe in two things when it comes to designing a space: the motto “a place for everything, and everything in its place” and using what you have in a different way.

For example, we turned a old piece of galvanized roofing tin that was left by previous owners into our headboard. The master bedroom in this house is extremely small, so we had to find a solution for a beautiful, space conscious headboard. I love it!

Q: You mentioned that you’re in the process of becoming licensed foster parents. What does that process involve, specifically? And what led you to that family decision?

A: My husband was adopted as an infant and raised as an only child. As an adult, he had an opportunity to reach out to his biological family, which included two younger siblings. Over the years, we have been able to visit them and even take a family trip to Hawaii, which was amazing. Our kids have ten cousins from his family!

Adoption has always been an option for us as a way to grow our family, and through my husband’s adoption experience has always felt right. We were fortunate to get pregnant very easily with our two children, but I was sick the entire pregnancy up until the moments they were born.

We have chosen to become licensed adoptive and foster parents through the state of Idaho. We are still new in the process, and I can see that being organized and determined are key ingredients to becoming licensed. It is a step by step process through the health and welfare office. So far, everyone that we have worked with has been extremely nice and easy to work with. I try not to look at the whole process, so as not to feel overwhelmed, but rather each completed step as movement forward.

It is exciting, scary, humbling, nerve wracking, and every other emotion one can feel. I am not sure what the end result will be. I am not sure what it will look like for our family, but I do trust that we are doing our best to understand the foster care system better and what our role will be in it. For anyone that is interested, I would suggest referencing your state department of health and welfare online and just start reading about the process.

Q: Describe your holiday decorating philosophy. Do you enlist your kids, or do you prefer to take it on by yourself? What are the traditions that you all look forward to every year?

A: My holiday decorating is pretty relaxed. We all trim the tree, and then I secretly rearrange the branches loaded with ten ornaments. I display oranges on the table and a handful of passed down family treasures. Every year, we gift our kids one new ornament, which is something my mom did for me, and follow the days with a chocolate advent calendar.

I listen to Christmas music like crazy, and usually most of my shopping is done by the time December rolls around. We host Christmas dinner at our house for my mom and in-laws and just fully enjoy Christmas Day. Some years we even make it up to ski on Christmas Eve.

I would love to have a more themed or decorated space, but it just has not been a priority at this point in my life. Truth be told, it probably never will be.

Q: What do you hope your children remember from this very moment in their childhood in this very house?

A: I know my kids will appreciate our house as a warm and loving family home. I know that me and my husband have always created a safe place for them. What I really hope they remember is that we were quick to love, quick to forgive, and quick to apologize. I truly hope they remember that we were not perfect parents, but we always did our best to accept mistakes and move on. I want them to not only visualize a comfortable home, but feel it. So when they go on to create and lead their own families, they do it with kindness and love and a warm spirit.

Q: What has been your favorite part about living with your own children? What do you already miss?

A: My absolute favorite part of living with my kids is seeing holidays, birthdays, and family trips through their eyes with their excitement. It makes all events so joyous and exciting! I love seeing them look for Elfie, which is our family version of Elf On The Shelf.

I love seeing joy on their face when they collect unusual eggs from our chicken coop. I love seeing them proudly display a school award. I love seeing them show off a new fort they have constructed in our pasture with random wood and beach blankets.

Those are the things I will miss the most; the simple everyday excitement of having kids around.

Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish someone had told me…

A: I wish someone had told me not to take that toy away from my 14 month old to share with another baby in the effort to teach him the concept of sharing. What was I thinking?! I still feel guilty about that.

I also wish someone had told me that I am an introvert. It would have made it way easier to say no to some of life’s social commitments!

–-

Thank you, Danielle, and our best wishes on your foster parent/adoption journey! May it be as wonderful as you’re dreaming it will be. (On a personal note, thank you for your words about being an introvert! You know I love that!)

I have to tell you I laughed out loud at your secret rearranging of the ten ornaments on one branch! I’m pretty sure we’ve all resisted micro-managing the tree trimming at one point or another, too! I’d love to hear all of your best and worst moments of holiday decorating, so please share with the rest of us if you’ve got a minute.

P.S. – Are you interested in sharing your own home with us? Let me know! It’s a lot of fun…I promise! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.

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Hour of Code http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/hour-of-code/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/hour-of-code/#comments Mon, 08 Dec 2014 19:59:46 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=52216

chris-bosh-poster

By Gabrielle.

What’s your take on learning coding? Do you think it’s an important thing for ALL kids to know, like math and spelling? Or do you feel like it’s something you’ll introduce to your kids only if they show an interest in it. I’m not sure where I land on the subject. I feel like people speak about coding the same way they talk about speaking Chinese — like in the near future, no one will have a chance for success unless they’re a proficient coder and fluent in Mandarin. But I think I still approach coding as if it’s a particular expertise instead of general knowledge everyone should have.

Mark Zuckerberg thinks differently than me. He’s quoted as saying, “In fifteen years we’ll be teaching programming just like reading and writing… and wondering why we didn’t do it sooner.” Quotes like his are getting me to shift my thinking, and make me feel like it’s urgent that my kids should gain some coding skills. And infographics like this make me think that programming could be an amazing tool for bringing more equality to people of color, and to women in particular, in the work place.

So, over the summer, we started having the kids go through coding tutorials and they seem to enjoy it. (I don’t think that means they’re natural coders, I just think kids enjoy learning things!)

Amy Hackworth (you may remember the terrific posts she contributed last year), just sent me a link to a really cool campaign going on right now. It’s called Hour of Code and it’s an educational event geared toward helping kids all over the world, aged 4 to 104, try an hour of code sometime this week.

The lofty goal is to have 10,000,000 kids participate! I love the idea and can’t wait to tell my kids about it. Oscar & Betty’s school has early out dismissal all week, so this could be a really cool thing for them to try with their extra hours. If you’re interested in learning more, here’s the main site. And here are fun and easy tutorials for learning code (including one with Anna and Elsa — smart!).

Have your kids tried any programming yet? Perhaps Hour of Code is a good excuse to introduce them.

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A Few Things http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/a-few-things-238/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/a-few-things-238/#comments Fri, 05 Dec 2014 22:00:41 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=52189

Rainy Treehouse

Image and text by Gabrielle.

What a week. How is everyone doing out there? Will you get a chance for some calm this weekend? Maybe get a minute to catch your breath? I sure hope so.

I’m hoping for a very home-focused weekend. I want to bring the Christmas boxes down from the attic and go get a tree. I want to bake with the kids and just sit around and absorb some of what I’ve read this week. I’m craving my own family so much. Ralph and Olive will get home in 16 days and I’m fully counting down the minutes!

But before I leave my desk, there are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- Like many Americans, I’ve read a ton of essays and articles, and watched a bunch of videos, in response to the recent verdicts out of Missouri and New York. Here are four I’ve made note of:

How to be an Ally.

The development and growth of the hashtag #CrimingWhileWhite.

An opinion piece on why so many people are oblivious to white privilege.

And,  The Stages of What Happens When There’s Injustice Against Black People.

- A new way to look at the solar system.

This made me smile: Your adult siblings may be the key to a long, happy life. (I know!)

- 35 things to do for your career before you’re 35.

Chris Rock on racism in Hollywood. It’s so good. Every essay and interview of Chris Rock that I’ve seen this week has been amazing.

- Cranberry wreath placecards.

- Question: When we moved from France, we gave our WiiU to some French friends, and we’re thinking of getting another one for Christmas. Do you have a preference between WiiU and XBox or other gaming systems?

I hope you have a fantastic weekend. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

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Did You Pay Your Own Way Through College? http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/did-you-pay-your-own-way-through-college/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/did-you-pay-your-own-way-through-college/#comments Fri, 05 Dec 2014 20:32:22 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=52194

scholarShare411

By Gabrielle.

Can we discuss a parenting topic that is sometimes a stress trigger for me? College savings for kids.

I would say the standard thinking in an average American family is that parents want to, and intend to, pay for their child’s college education. But for many (or most) families, having a fully funded college savings account when little Jimmy or Janey turns 18, isn’t realistic. (Raising my hand here.) And oh man. Those “college calculators” on savings sites and bank sites are so depressing. They basically tell you you’ll need a quarter of a million dollars to pay for child to go to a university. (In my family’s case, times that by 6. Yikes.) And if you’re like me, when you see that number, and feel like you can’t hit it, you just want to ignore it altogether.

For sure, a part of me wishes I could say we dutifully set aside $1500 each month per child, the moment they were born. But it’s not true, and frankly, it was never in the cards for us — we already had 5 kids as Ben Blair finished up his PhD (about 5 years ago). We were still paying for our own education while we should have started saving for our kids’ education. Hah! In fact, we didn’t make room in our financial life for college savings until our oldest was about 11 or 12. Obviously that is not ideal. But it is what it is. And we’re not the only ones. Life rarely works out the way anyone expects.

Then, even when we were finally in a position to start saving for college, I found I was feeling paralyzed about starting, knowing we were so late to the game. I had to consciously let go of my regret at not doing it perfectly from the beginning, and I just had to start. Just start.

On Wednesday night, I was invited to a dinner in the city hosted by ScholarShare. ScholarShare is California’s 529 college savings plan, and it’s managed by non-profit, TIAA-CREF. You know how a 401(k) plan is for retirement savings? Well, a 529 is similar, but intended for college savings, and they give you an important tax advantage — there is no income tax or capital gains tax on the earnings as long as it is used for education. Even though the topic can stress me out, I totally get how important it is, so I made sure to attend, and I’m glad I did.

At the dinner, I asked the head of ScholarsShare what are the top 3 pieces of advice she would give to people like me, who felt (or are feeling) like they didn’t do it right from the beginning, and have ignored saving for college for one reason or another. She said:

1) Don’t be intimidated. Don’t get overwhelmed by the calculators. Think of college expenses in chunks. Tuition. Dorm. Books. Semesters. Maybe you’ll start saving now and have enough saved for books. Or maybe you’ll save enough for housing — and you’ll pay for tuition some other way, perhaps a combination of scholarship and financial aid. Maybe you’ll save enough for tuition, and Grandma will help with housing — or your child will live with relatives nearby the college. You might not be able to save up the whole cost, because it’s massive! But perhaps you can save a year’s worth. Or a semester. It all helps.

2) Anything is better than nothing. Try $25 per month per kid. When you feel like that seems normal in your monthly expenses, say, maybe six months later, try increasing it to $50 per month per kid. And slowly go up from there, if and when your budget allows. If windfalls or bonuses come your way, you’ll have a ready spot to put the funds.

3) Let people help. There may be people in your life that want to help with this. Maybe grandparents or aunts or uncles or close family friends. But they don’t really know how to get started or get involved. You can make it happen. You set up the account and let people know it’s there and that they are more than welcome to contribute to it. It’s an awesome place to put gift money! In fact, after they’ve made a contribution, they can download a “Gift of Education Certificate” to place in a card or wrap with a bow. When grandparents or relatives don’t know what to send for a birthday or holiday gift, this is perfect.

At the beginning of the post, I mentioned this topic can be a stress trigger for me. If you’re the same, I can tell you, that one of the things that helped me let go of the regret at getting started saving so late, is that I paid my own way through college. My parents were hugely supportive, but simply didn’t have the funds. So, I earned some scholarships. I received some pell grants (that’s the student financial aid you don’t have to pay back). I kept a part time job during school. I worked summers. And I supplemented with student loans, graduating with about $10,000 in debt, which I quickly paid off.

Would it have been easier to have my college paid for? Sure. But I managed to figure it out, and if you can’t fully fund your own kids’ college, you’ll help them figure it out too. My current thoughts on paying for my kids’ college education is that yes, I’m planning on it and saving for it. But, if life surprises us and it’s not working out, we’ll figure out other options.

Bottom line: if this topic throws your guilt meter into high gear because you haven’t started a college savings fund for your child, let that guilt go. Being able to pay for your child’s college education is not a measure of how good a person or parent you are.

Your turn. Do you have a philosophy regarding paying for college or grad school for your kids? Do you feel responsible for paying for your child’s college education? Did you pay for your own way at university? Or contribute funds for your housing or food? I’m always curious about this sort of thing because families handle it a million different ways, and I feel like I learn so much from the comments and discussions. I remember hearing from my brother-in-law, that his father was willing to pay for any university he could get into. But for grad school (my brother-in-law is a lawyer) he was on his own. How did your parents handle it? And how do you plan to handle it?

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post, shared in partnership with One2One Network and ScholarShare. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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My Sweet Muffin Giveaway http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/my-sweet-muffin-giveaway-9/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/my-sweet-muffin-giveaway-9/#comments Thu, 04 Dec 2014 17:36:54 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=52178

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By Gabrielle.

One thing I love about December is all the giveaways! And I’ve got a great one for you today. The sponsor is My Sweet Muffin and the prize is a $150 store credit. This is a terrific opportunity to find gifts for all the littlest ones in your life!

My Sweet Muffin is one of my long time sponsors and I always get a kick out of seeing their new collections. Shina, the owner, does a really wonderful job of seeking out the most interesting, unique, beautiful and quality gifts and toys. Her wares are perfect for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.

My Sweet Muffin Holiday Toys 2014

If you’re shopping for little ones, My Sweet Muffin is definitely a go-to online spot for finding a really good gift. Their gifting section is super helpful — you can find gifts suggestions by age, or check out their gifts under $25. If I won, I would be tempted by the Moover trucks and prams, the Stack & Scare block sets (4 different versions!), or basically anything by Moulin Roty.

To enter, visit My Sweet Muffin and leave a comment below — I’d love to hear what toy your child/niece/nephew/grandchild would love! The winner will be announced on Monday. Good luck!

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Sheri is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing!

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If It Was Legal, Would You Use It? http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/if-it-was-legal-would-you-use-it/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/if-it-was-legal-would-you-use-it/#comments Wed, 03 Dec 2014 16:00:07 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=52101

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By Gabrielle. Image taken in my back yard. Kidding! Image found here.

Question: do you have an opinion about pot?

I know very little about it, and I’ve never used it, but it’s been brought up in a dozen conversations I’ve had over the last couple of months so it’s on my mind. It seems to come up because it’s becoming legal in more and more places, and it’s also been brought up by people in my life who are using it to manage serious illness.

The discussion often turns to the history of the drug/plant, and several people have told me marijuana should never have been classed with illegal drugs in the first place, because the effects of the drug are far less harmful than many legal substances.

So I’m wondering, as marijuana becomes legal in more places, will using it become commonplace and completely socially acceptable? If you’ve never tried it, and marijuana becomes legal where you live, will you give it go? And if you already use it once in awhile, do you think you’ll make it a more regular thing if/when it’s legal in your state?

I was thinking about why I’ve never tried it and I could identify three reasons. First, it’s been illegal for most of my life and I tend to have rule-following instincts. I have zero idea of how and where to even buy marijuana. Second, in Mormon culture, illegal drugs of any kind are a big no no. Even legal substances like alcohol and tobacco aren’t consumed. And third, I tend to resist anything that I perceive as possibly making me feel out of control. Hah! So drug use in general has never been tempting for me.

The Mormon aspect has me especially curious. There’s really nothing specific about marijuana in Mormon doctrines about health and diet. Tobacco is mentioned. Alcohol is mentioned. But we don’t call out cocaine or meth or heroin or marijuana — grouping them all instead under “illegal drugs”. So if pot becomes widely legal, will Mormons feel free to use it or still feel like it’s taboo?

I’m also fully aware that most Americans steer clear of illegal drugs. It’s not just a Mormon thing. So I’m wondering about the population at large. Will people that have never considered using an illegal drug make a mental switch with marijuana and put it on their “approved” list? While it’s been illegal for us, will it be normal for our grown kids?

What’s your take? Do any of you feel strongly that it should NOT be legal? Or the opposite, do any of you feel strongly that it should never have been illegal? If you live in a place where it is legal, have you found there is still hesitation from the population about using it recreationally — even legal, does it carry a bad reputation? Do you talk to your kids about avoiding pot the same way you talk to them about other drugs? Or does marijuana feel different to you? If it’s legal but I still have no interest, does that make me close-minded (or maybe just old)?

Or, do you have a better framework for thinking about legal/illegal drug use? I’d love to hear!

P.S. — Good gracious. I just had to look up how to properly spell marijuana. Clearly I’m out of my depth here. : ) I’m sure I sound like an idiot even admitting to be thinking of this, but what I can say? I’m curious. Also, related, this video of 3 grandmothers smoking weed for the first time has been making the Facebook rounds.

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Growing A Family: Veronika Bush http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/growing-a-family-veronika-bush/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/growing-a-family-veronika-bush/#comments Wed, 03 Dec 2014 14:00:39 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=52152

By Gabrielle. Baby Super Hero Cape and other hero accessories available at LoveLane.

Veronika Bush cracks me up. If you’re ready for a fairly raw portrayal of her birth, I’m pretty sure she’ll crack you up, too. Beyond her humor and honesty, there are some real lessons in Veronika’s tale. First, it’s important to surround yourself with a team you adore and trust. Also, this birthing business is a pretty unreliable industry, especially in terms of timing. But mostly, you’ve got to trust yourself… especially if you’re the one delivering.

The truth is, births rarely go as imagined! They may be messy, they may be embarrassing, they will probably be exhausting, and all we can really hope for is a wonderful ending. (But even then, we’re allowed to complain a little, right?)

So please join me in welcoming Veronika. (And just in case you’re reading, I’m sure there are no hard feelings, Terri!)

Warning: I talk in depth about poop for a bit.

With Eva being born at 41 weeks and five days after a 26-hour terrible induction, I was determined to do everything in my power to not have to be induced this time. This included hiring a doula to be my advocate and help me try to not have an epidural. With my low pain tolerance, I knew if I ever wanted a chance at a natural birth I’d need more help than just George.

At my doctor’s appointment on Friday June 6th, which was also my due date, I was dilated to a 1 and 20% effaced. The midwife at the practice recommended inserting evening primrose oil pills every night to help soften up my cervix even more. So I obliged, along with drinking pregnancy tea and red raspberry leaf tea. I also felt like it was helping things along that Eva was still nursing, because breastfeeding releases oxytocin which causes contractions. My next appointment was a week later, Friday the 13th, full moon and all. When they checked me this time I was at a 2 and 70% effaced. They also did a non-stress test (NST) to determine if my baby’s heartbeat was reacting normally. Unfortunately the machine at their office was a bit wonky and kept losing the heartbeat which resulted in not being able to get a good reading. The midwife, Chastain, sent me over to the hospital to do another NST with a better machine, and to get an ultrasound. Three unnecessary hours later (except the part where Eva and I got to ride around in a wheelchair) I was sent home and they said everything looked perfect. During these days I was having contractions from time to time, usually for a couple hours at night, but nothing consistent.

Sunday night after I put Eva to bed, my contractions started coming regularly every 10-12 minutes. I tried to sleep from midnight to about 2:00 am but they were too painful and I had to get out of bed. I started timing them for the next few hours, and when they were regularly ten minutes apart I called my doula, Carissa, because I felt like I should give her a heads up that I could go into active labor soon. I also asked if she had any pain management recommendations and what she thought I should do as far as getting my contractions to be closer together. She told me to try to sleep and get as much rest as I could – so not exciting! At 4:30 I laid back down and eventually fell asleep, and mostly stayed asleep. The contractions became fewer and farther between, although still there.

The next day, Monday afternoon, I had another appointment at my doctor’s office for another NST. They hooked me up, and like before, the heartbeat kept getting lost and it seemed ineffective. The nurse came in, looked at the test results paper, and then I heard the midwife, Terri, call out from the next room “Tell her she’s going to the hospital to have that baby today!” So then, of course, I got all teary-eyed because I did not want another induction, while the nurse told me my baby was having decelerations in his heartbeat and that it’d be for the best. Terri came in to talk to me and decided to check me again, and I was at a 4 and mostly effaced. She showed me the paper strip from the NST and said things like “Your baby has decels – this can be terrible and lead to brain damage and other scary things.” I can’t remember the specifics, but she made sure to weave in a whole bunch of medical terminology so I would have no idea what she was actually saying. She also told me if I were her daughter, she would’ve never let me leave the hospital last Friday because I was having decels on Friday, too. I told her at the hospital they said everything looked great and I asked her if she saw those results from the NST test done there. She admitted she didn’t, and then dismissed it. She just kept going back to “The same thing is happening today on the NST that was happening Friday – this is not good – and you need to go into the hospital so we can break your water.”

Everyone assured me that with being as far along as I was and with this being my second baby, that things would progress quickly and everything should be fine. The fact remained it would be an induction, which I was scared of and against. Because Terri kept comparing the most recent NST results to those done on Friday with the wonky machine, it was hard for me to believe this was truly a medical issue that warranted an induction. I still had five days until I hit 42 weeks, which was the agreed upon induction date should no complications arise earlier. I asked Terri if I could just go to the hospital and have another NST done there and if it looked fine if I could go home. She said I could negotiate with whoever was there, but as I left she said she’d see me and the baby the next day, as that was her scheduled day to be at the hospital.

I then went home and decided I needed to be sure my baby boy was safe, so I would meander on over to the hospital, but I’d take my time in doing so. I got home, put Eva down for a nap, and then tried to sleep myself but my contractions kept me awake. They weren’t regular, but they were regular enough that I couldn’t sleep. I ended up getting all my stuff together, dropping Eva off at my mother-in-law’s, and George and I finally left for the hospital around 7:00 pm. I knew they were expecting me, and when we got there the lady at the desk said I was supposed to be there five hours ago, and that my doctor’s office called and told them I was in labor. Weird. They sent me back downstairs to wait for 45 minutes until they got a room with a nurse ready. My doula, Carissa, met us there in case I actually did have a baby. As we got called back upstairs and were leaving the front desk, all the ladies were saying congratulations to me – as far as they knew I was about to have a baby! I heard one of them say I was here for an induction, and just hearing that made me cringe. When we finally got put in a room, I immediately told the nurse that I did not want to be induced, and she put me on the monitors.

The monitors were on for an hour, and then Chastain came in to talk to us. She confirmed that indeed everything was normal, that the baby has decels associated with my few and far between contractions, but that they were normal decels. She said she talked to the OB on duty and they wanted to keep me on the monitors at the hospital overnight, and also do an ultrasound. When she left the room, Carissa told me there’s no reason I should still be at the hospital. The monitoring proved my baby was fine, I definitely did not need to stay the night there, and it just meant I’d be really uncomfortable all night. When Chastain came back I told her I’d feel more comfortable going home, to which she agreed, but wanted an ultrasound done before I left to make sure fluid levels were good. She said she’d try to make sure that happened before midnight. When she left the room, Carissa again said an ultrasound was unnecessary and that I should just walk out and get as much rest as I could. Chastain came back in and I told her I wanted to leave with no ultrasound, that I would monitor my baby with kick counts, and that since I already had an ultrasound scheduled the next day at the doctor’s office I would just go to that. Chastain really advised me against leaving, because she had to professionally, and she said if I left the hospital it’d be against medical advice, or AMA. While it was scary to hear that, I said I still wanted to go, and signed a waiver and left.

It was incredibly hard for me to be that assertive and go against what the doctor and midwife recommended, and I’m sure I never would have left had Carissa not been there to talk me through it. She, George, and I were all in agreement there was nothing wrong with the baby and the best thing for everyone (except maybe the hospital it seemed) was for us to go home and wait for labor to take its course. Chastain must have known how I was feeling about the whole thing because she gave me a hug on my way out, told me there were no hard feelings and that we were welcome back anytime. I will also add she was the most natural of the four midwives in the practice, so if anyone were to deliver my baby I’d want it to be her. Terri, the midwife who sent me to the hospital, on the other hand, was the most aggressive.

As soon as we got in the car my contractions picked up big time, and baby boy started moving around a ton more. I definitely believe there is something to be said for the environment one is in, and that I would labor better outside the hospital.

We got home around midnight, and as Eva was still with her aunt Lizzie at a sleepover, I was hoping I could get some sleep. Unfortunately my ideas were all wrong and I couldn’t sleep at all because my contractions wouldn’t let me, despite how tired I was. I also noticed they hurt a lot, lot more when I laid down as opposed to when I would be sitting on my exercise ball or standing and trying to walk/rock my way through them. On top of the pain, I was freezing cold with an achy back due to lack of sleep, and super emotional. I saw Eva’s stuffed foxy on the couch and started crying because I missed her and was disheartened due to this baby taking seemingly forever to come out. I remembered my friend Melissa had an annoyingly long birth with her last one so I found her birth story online and re-read it, which helped me feel the slightest bit better.

Just before 6:00 am my contractions started coming five minutes apart, which I conveniently was timing with my Time Your Contractions app. This thing seriously was awesome and I don’t know how anyone had the patience to time their own contractions before apps were made. For about 45 minutes they were consistently staying five minutes apart, and I called Carissa to see if I should go back to the hospital. She said she would still wait if she were me, and that I didn’t sound like I was in enough pain (which was really annoying to hear). I told her I’d wait another 20 minutes or so to see how the hour finished out, because the doctor’s office advised going to the hospital for your second baby when contractions are 5 minutes apart for one full hour. I waited, and sure enough by 7:30 they were getting further apart. At one point I took a long, long shower and that helped greatly with making me feel better and the pain issue.

The next day we let Eva stay with Liz for the morning while George and I went to my ultrasound. They told me the baby looked super healthy, my fluid was at a level 14 (8-10 is when they start to worry), and the tech warned me that by her measurements my baby boy was nearly nine pounds, and that I really should go in to deliver him today because he was big. I’m not sure if she gives unsolicited advice to all her patients, but I thought it was weird how she just saw how healthy the baby was, and then told me I better go get an induction today just for the heck of it. I told her I knew Terri was working in the hospital today so I’d rather not.

After we got home, George picked up Eva, we chilled out at home, my contractions kept coming, and I felt like giving up because I was so tired and exhausted mentally, physically, and emotionally. I was worthless to do anything, and I was ready to give the doctors (and even George because he was getting frustrated too) what they wanted and go check myself into a hospital so they could break my water. But I kept going and just told myself it had to be tonight. As I was trying to keep myself motivated to have a natural birth, I of course turned to googling and natural-birthing-website reading, which actually did help. Through these websites I read about a movie on Netflix called The Business of Being Born. Of course I immediately turned it on, as it was produced by none other than Ricki Lake. That definitely helped strengthen my resolve (and George’s too) that I didn’t want an induction. (There is a lot of pregnant nudity in the film so be prepared for that if you watch it.)

When it was time for Eva to sleep we decided to put her to bed at home so she could have some sense of normalcy in her crazy week (she is a terrible sleeper and especially bad at falling asleep without her mama). Immediately after I nursed her and she went to sleep, my contractions started coming every four minutes. I figured they were only this close because I’d just nursed, but I called Carissa anyway to let her know. Once again she said she’d wait a bit longer, so I held out and stayed home. I told George to go to bed around 11:30 so at least he could get some sleep. I kept praying that this baby would come, that my water would break, or something would tell me to go to the hospital, because I couldn’t handle another night. Again, I was so completely drained physically and mentally.

My contractions continued, but they slowed (like always) to maybe every five to seven minutes or so. They were not super consistent and were getting farther apart. Finally I was half passed out sitting upright on my couch and a contraction came from which I was startled awake, and thought it felt a little different and that maybe it was time to get to the hospital. Then I passed out again and seven minutes later was startled awake again, and again thought I should go to the hospital now.  I was also paranoid because so many people told me that this second baby might come really fast, and I definitely did not want to have the baby in the car on the way to the hospital. Since my contractions were not five minutes apart or regular, I felt a little silly just leaving for the hospital, so I decided I would leave but I’d get in the shower first because of how great it felt the day before. This also would give my contractions a chance to get closer together. After I was done showering, as soon as I turned the water off I was pretty sure my water broke. It wasn’t a big gushing, just a little bit of fluid coming out that I was pretty sure wasn’t pee because it wasn’t warm and I hadn’t had any bouts of incontinence recently.

It was now 12:45am, I woke up George to tell him we were leaving, and he was annoyed because he had just fallen asleep – he suggested we leave in two hours. I called Liz and she came right over to sleep with Eva (or not sleep from what I heard later), and I also called Carissa and told her I was pretty sure my water had broken and that I felt like it was time to go to the hospital, so I was going. I didn’t ask her opinion because I knew she would tell me she didn’t think it was time yet based on my voice, but beforehand we had discussed that as soon as my water broke we would go to the hospital because things could escalate quickly. And also I wasn’t waiting around any longer; I was more than ready.

We got to the hospital around 1:30am and I went up to the front desk and told them I thought my water had broken. The ladies there said “Trust me, you’ll know when your water breaks, there’s no doubt,” but they sent me to triage anyway where a nurse did a swab test to see if my water had ruptured. She said sure enough it had, so I felt vindicated that I wasn’t imagining anything. Then she checked me to see how far along I was and she said I was at a ten(!), fully effaced, and the baby was descended to a zero (from a scale of -5 to 5).

This was great news to me of course, and I was glad I trusted my instincts as to when to go to the hospital. I was ready to go to my room and start pushing this baby out already!

A nurse wheeled me to a room, and all the while I was feeling so great about my pain tolerance coping abilities, as everyone was commenting on how calm I was for being at a ten. We got to the room at 2:15 and they hooked me up to monitors and put a hep lock in, as I said I didn’t want an IV to tie me down. Carissa got them to bring be a birthing bar, which attached on top of the bed and was awesome. After they monitored for 20-30 minutes they let me get off the monitors and then I realized I had to get this baby to descend a bit more before I would/could start pushing. Carissa had me do some squats and rocks and she really encouraged me to grunt/growl through my contractions, which was weird because I didn’t feel a need to, but I did it all anyway. I was also taking sips from my juice box and eating graham crackers intermittently to keep my energy up, as one of my biggest complaints in Eva’s birth was not being allowed nourishment. An hour later the nurse checked me again, and the baby hadn’t descended at ALL. I kept trying to rock and will the baby to move down, and at 5:00 am (almost two hours later), the midwife, Terri, came in and checked me and told me my baby is still at a zero. Then she told me that most second-time moms who come in at a ten have a baby fifteen minutes later…and here it’s been four hours. She said maybe the head was too big, and that I still had intact bags of water somewhere inside so she wanted to rupture what was left in hopes it would allow the baby to descend. I obliged because it made sense to me, and they had already ruptured by themselves so I saw no harm in it.

Terri also told me to start pushing and trying to push that baby down into place, even though I didn’t feel an urge. The most comfortable position I found was kneeling on the bed holding onto the birthing bar – seriously, that thing is great. The midwife and nurse told us about “McRoberts Manuever,” which they said helps a lot in opening up the pelvis so the baby has room to descend. I was super hesitant because it meant being on my back which made my contractions hurt more, but I had to try. The nurse pushed one of my legs up so my knee was by my ear, bent like a frog leg, while Carissa did the same with my other leg. I grabbed under my knees and lifted my head and pushed. I absolutely hated it but I did it through three or four contractions. Then I quit that and returned back to my bar. I kept pushing to try to make the  baby get down into position, and eventually I actually started developing an urge to push. Except it was just an urge to push out poop. All modesty thrown out the window, I was kneeling on the hospital bed with my body forcibly trying to empty my bowels, yet nothing was coming out and it was super frustrating. It hurt so, so badly. I thought I could feel the baby down there somewhere, but mostly I was focused on needing to get the poop out of my body, and it was the WORST constipated feeling/pain I’ve ever experienced. But what made it even more worse is that I couldn’t not push – even though I tried really hard to will my body to stop.

At this point I was full on screaming and yelling and George claims roaring, but he doesn’t have proof. Pushing was taking everything out of me and I just wanted to quit. Eventually I got the poop out and George cleaned it up, and then my body still wouldn’t stop pushing through contractions even though I wanted it to stop and needed a break. I was telling everyone I couldn’t do it anymore and that I quit and I said I wanted an epidural. I didn’t know they could still give me one at this point, but they said ok. They explained that first they had to get a full bag of IV fluids pumped in me, which would take about fifteen minutes. I told them to hurry. They attached the bag and I didn’t know how I was still surviving. I had George give me a Priesthood blessing so I could survive until my epidural came.

At one point during all this (I’m not sure exactly when) I was sure I felt the baby crowning, but when they called the nurse in she said I wasn’t.

I remember thinking It was weird how the midwife hardly ever came in my room during this whole time, I’m pretty sure it was because she hated me for defying her orders from my Monday office visit. The nurse also kept asking to put the monitors back on me (they would do 20 minutes on every hour) but I kept not responding or saying no because I was in too much pain. Also around this time, the nurses switched, and the new nurse came in and my eyes were closed the whole time but I just heard a really annoying voice start talking a mile a minute, and when she left I asked my first nurse to tell her to stop talking. She said she would.

I just kept hanging out, dying, draped over the birthing bar, waiting for my IV bag to drain so I could get the epidural, and the nurses kept saying “We have to get the fluid in you” and I kept thinking “Yeah, I thought that was happening right now.” Apparently since the IV was in the crook of my elbow I needed to keep my arm straight for the fluid to drain in but they didn’t tell me that so I didn’t know it wasn’t working. Finally, Carissa realized and immediately told me I had to keep my arm straight and I was super annoyed nobody told me sooner. All the while my body kept pushing uncontrollably, I kept yelling, the annoying nurse (AN) came back and started talking as much as she ever did, but fortunately I was able to drown out most of her annoying noise. George told me later that Carissa tried to tell the AN to shush and that I wanted it quiet, which irritated the AN and she said she would talk and say whatever she needed to say. Then she got up in my face and was asking me questions and telling me what I’d have to do for my epidural and asking if I could do it. George said he was positive I was going to punch her, but I just remember not answering her and looking ahead with dead eyes.

Now it’s all a blur, but at some point I could definitely feel the baby’s head start to crown, despite all my efforts to stop the pushing and wait for the epidural. I was kneeling, holding on to, keeled over the birthing bar on the bed, not opening my hips up so the baby would stay in and also because I was scared of pain and it hurt. Carissa tried to talk me into laying back down on the bed in that McRobert’s position again. I reluctantly agreed but made her and George pretty much move my entire body into the right position because I couldn’t move as I was in too much pain. They got me into position, both said they could see the baby’s hair, called the nurses and midwife in, and I was pushing out a baby.

The nurse told me about an hour beforehand that when the baby crowns many women refer to it as the “ring of fire” because it burns so bad. I told her I didn’t want to know that and she responded with “Well, I’m not trying to sugarcoat it.” I would now describe the experience the same way. So the baby was coming out, I wanted to do controlled pushing so I wouldn’t tear, but Terri was giving me zero guidance. George and Carissa later told me that Terri stuck her hand in and got her fingers around the baby’s head and pulled it out. Then she proceeded to twist it 180 degrees (my pediatrician said to help get the shoulders out) before pulling out his body while I pushed. I’m fairly positive the baby would have come out on his own so hearing this happened annoyed me a bit. It was a great relief getting his head out, and then finally getting his body out, but not as relieving as I thought because I was in so much pain down there. I ended up tearing (six stitches worth) which I couldn’t feel distinctly happening at the time, but definitely could feel it lumped in with the awful awful pain that was a baby coming out of me. As soon as he was out I immediately asked for Motrin, and it took them at least 15 minutes to give me that and Percocet. Next time I’m bringing my own Motrin.

They put little boy on my chest right away, but his cord was a bit short so it was more like on my belly while Terri stitched me up. She injected a needle full of numbing stuff before she started stitching which was great and I couldn’t feel the stitching at all, but she didn’t tell me about the needle shot itself until I was kind of yelling about what was going on. Once I knew what it was I was fine, as needles don’t bother me, but I thought it was rude on her part to not say anything. Then it was time to deliver the placenta, which hurt a fair bit but nothing like before, so I could deal with it. Terri held up the placenta for me to see and explained where the baby fit in it, so that was pretty cool.

And finally my labor was over! I could feel my legs, move around, eat some graham crackers and juice, and hold my baby. They weighed him an hour later and he was 8 pounds,  7 ounces, 21 inches, and born at 7:08 am when I was 41 weeks and five days, which is exactly the same amount of time I carried Eva before she was born by induction. We decided to name him Theodore Bruce Bush.

I immediately told everyone I was never ever ever not in a million years doing that again – meaning the no epidural portion. Afterward, a nurse asked me what the marks were on my hands …Oh yeah! Those are just my teeth marks. Nothing to worry about.

I do feel like if I wasn’t so sleep-deprived, if I wasn’t pushing for so long, and if I had an enema before hand, that I possibly could handle not having an epidural again.

As for George, he went from being super duper anti-doula to now wanting to BE a doula! Ok, just kidding, but he is so supportive of them now, so that’s awesome.

I’m not sure which birth was worse, this or my induction. Truthfully, I hated both experiences.

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I know you laughed at Veronika’s last thought, didn’t you? She is too funny. Thanks for adding your humor and honesty, Veronika!

For all you out there waiting to be moms, does it help to read these very real accounts of the birthing process? Does it make you nervous or empowered? I hope the latter!

P.S. – Find all the stories in this series here. Do you have a story about birth, pregnancy, adoption or infertility? Send your story to me, will you please?

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Living With Kids: Revisiting Julie Thomas http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/living-with-kids-revisiting-julie-thomas/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/living-with-kids-revisiting-julie-thomas/#comments Tue, 02 Dec 2014 13:00:13 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=52114

By Gabrielle.

Remember Julie? She was the lovely one who moved to the country – 30 minutes outside of Seattle – with her family, and enthusiastically embraced all that the outskirts has to offer. Like relishing any opportunity to mention that someone or something is “in the barn.” That still makes me smile! One year later, I wondered how life had settled into itself and changed. Julie was kind enough to respond, and Mother Nature sweetly sprinkled some snow to accessorize her holiday photos. Welcome back, Julie!

Q: One year later, how is country living suiting you and your family?

A: Our family is really enjoying country living! It’s been amazing to have the extra space (a little over two acres) for our boys to play and explore, the ability to have more animals, room for a garden, more outdoor entertaining area, and the general sense of privacy and freedom we have here.

Q: What do you miss the most about the convenience of city life? What have you learned to adore about the country?

A: Since we live just past the city limits, we still have easy access to most city amenities, though we are further from a grocery store. I think what we miss most would be the sense of community we felt in our last neighborhood. We have wonderful neighbors here; we just don’t see them as often.

We actually went back to our old neighborhood to trick-or-treat this year!

It’s similar with Christmas lights. Our old neighborhood was lit up like a Christmas tree. Think Griswold Christmas vacation! Where we live now, you don’t see as many…but we’re trying to change that!

We miss those little things that city living brings. And yet, there are so many things we have come to adore about the country. There is a lot of natural beauty here that is very life-giving and refreshing to us.

Our family seemed ready for the room to breathe. With three active boys, we’re not exactly a quiet family. It’s nice to have a place to spread out and not worry so much about disrupting the neighbors.

We’ve enjoyed having family and friends over, having campfires, picking blackberries in our yard, gathering eggs from the chicken coop, taking our dog for walks…the simple things you think of when you imagine country living.

Q: How has your daily life changed? Have you learned more about yourself in this process?

A: One reason we wanted to move to a country setting was so that there would be more reasons to be home, together. And there are! We rarely get stir crazy at home anymore.

However, we are finding that the simple country life turns out to be a lot of work! Though we love our animals, I think we underestimated the amount of time they require. In addition, between the extra land (mowing!), garden areas, barn, and chicken coop, it seems there is always something that needs to be done. That being said, we love it here, so all of the work becomes a labor of love.

We have also learned that at this busy stage of life, raising our three young sons, our little farmstead will not be perfectly manicured…and that’s okay.

So far, we have had one foot in the country when we are home, and one foot in the city  with school, church, sports, etc. We haven’t had to give one up for the other, and that’s been a blessing. On the other hand, it can be overwhelming at times to juggle the number of activities we are involved in and also keep everything going on the home front.

As a friend of mine said, “You can have it all, just not all at the same time!” So, we’re learning to evaluate new commitments and the impact they will have on our day-to-day family life as we try to figure out what balance looks like for us here.

Though, truthfully, I don’t know that we’ll ever find it completely. It seems to change weekly, if not daily!

Q: Scariest moment since you moved? And how about the most decision-affirming moment that made you think “We did the right thing!”

A: The most frightening moment of our first year living here was when I looked out of our laundry room window and noticed a bobcat was staring right at me from across the driveway! Unfortunately, the bobcat got to a couple of our chickens.

My husband was out of the country on a business trip, but in a matter of hours, neighbors rallied, a fish and game warden was scouring the perimeter of our property, and our remaining chickens were on coop lockdown. Thankfully, the bobcat was most likely passing through and hasn’t been sighted since.

There have been many moments when the realization has hit us at how thankful we are to have moved here! My husband would say that it happened the moment we moved in, and I know he’s right! We were so ready for this change, and we immediately recognized the blessing this little farmstead was to our family.

I would also add that we realized this place was a good choice for our family as we watched our boys play football in the yard, help care for baby chicks, play capture the flag with their cousins, and pick the first vegetables from the garden that we planted together.

I remember one summer night, after our boys were tucked into bed, my husband called me outside to see the starry sky. We looked across the property, over to the fire pit where we had roasted marshmallows, to our little chicken coop, and to the house that now felt very much like home, and we offered a prayer of thanks.

Q: What’s next for your family? How will you be celebrating the holidays this year?

A: Christmas is our favorite holiday and we’re busy decking the halls! Last year, we had just moved in and were still getting unpacked at this time.

This year, we hung advent buckets from the chicken nesting boxes we use as display shelves in our family room. Inside the buckets will be little treats or an activity we’ll do together that day, as we count down to Christmas. We’re looking forward to having family and friends over. The candlelight Christmas Eve service at our church is always a special time, as we remember the reason we celebrate.

And, some of the best moments are the ones we don’t plan – those times when our family settles in for a Christmas movie and hot chocolate, enjoying the comfort of home and being together.

Inspired in large part from participating in your Living With Kids series last year, I’ve started a blog called Little Farmstead. The blog primarily focuses on farmhouse style decorating, DIY projects, and bits and pieces of our daily life. You’re all welcome anytime!

–-

Thanks for the update, Julie. Honestly, except for the bobcat story, I can’t imagine you and your family anywhere else! And I know I’m not alone in loving your unique advent calendar!

Speaking of December traditions, I’d sure love to see some of yours. If you have time, will you send me a pretty picture or two and a few sentences about how your family customs add to your festivities? Come to think of it, are there any traditions you wish you could edit a bit as your family has changed? I do enjoy your stories! Send me a note!

P.S. – Are you interested in sharing your own home with us? Let me know! It’s a lot of fun…I promise! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.

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Olive Juice Kids Giveaway http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/olive-juice-kids-giveaway-9/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/olive-juice-kids-giveaway-9/#comments Mon, 01 Dec 2014 18:00:06 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=52093

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By Gabrielle.

Since today is the first day of December, I’m craving a holiday-focused giveaway to share. And happily, I’ve got a great one! Olive Juice is the sponsor, and they are offering a $150 gift certificate. Hooray!

Pink Velvet Dress by Olive Juice

Olive Juice is a long-time Design Mom sponsor and it’s always a delight to feature their clothes here on the blog, because I’m a huge fan myself, and because I know how much readers love their wares as well. The quality is excellent, the styling feels classic and European, and best of all, their clothes truly are made to be worn by kids — the cuts and materials are comfortable and realistic.

Red Velvet Dress by Olive JuiceCorduroy Dress by Olive Juice

Like so many of you, I’ve started thinking about holiday clothes for my own kids, and what sorts of dresses I’d love to see our girls in this year. I went straight to Olive Juice for inspiration and ideas, because their holiday collection is terrific. It’s full of classic silhouettes in rich velvets with interchangeable ribbons. My favorites are the Birdie Velvet in Ruby, the Becca Dress (which is on sale!) and the Classic Wool Cardigan — it’s available in pretty jewel tones.

Olive Juice Holiday 2014-1

Visit Olive Juice and leave a comment below to enter — I’d love to hear what your favorite piece in their holiday collection is. The winner will be announced on Thursday. Good luck!

P.S. — Not shopping for holiday clothes at the moment? Olive Juice also has darling school and play clothes for girls and boys.

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Carolyn Mackie is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing!

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Persimmons http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/persimmons/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/12/persimmons/#comments Mon, 01 Dec 2014 13:00:40 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=52109

seasonalfruits

By Gabrielle. Seasonal Fruit poster from Chasing Delicious.

Something light to start your week! Persimmons were heroes in my Thanksgiving arrangements this year, I must have used about a dozen. But I was embarrassed when I realized I’ve never actually tasted one. Maybe I’ve had a bit mixed into a salad and I didn’t know it, but I’ve never intentionally sliced one myself and taken a bite.

I’m not totally sure why, but the realization caught me a bit off guard. I expect taste surprises when I’m traveling, but I guess I assume that as I walk through the produce department of my local grocery store, I’ve tasted everything they have to offer. No doubt that’s way off. I’ll bet if I was to pay more attention on my next visit, I’d realize there are dozens of commonly available veggies and fruits that I have yet to “discover”.

Have you experienced any new tastes lately? If yes, what was it and how did you like it? And do you have an opinion on persimmons? My kids describe them as a mix between an apple and a tomato.

P.S. — Realizing my lack of persimmon tasting reminded me of Maggie’s goal to taste a thousand fruits.

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