Internet & Etsy Finds: The Baby/Toddler Edition

6.26.2017

***This post was written and all photos taken before J's arrival last weekend. I am still trying to wrap my mind around the concept of taking care of two children (hashtag so tired), but I wanted to share about these products with you in the meantime! p.s. Happy birthday today to both my brother and my mother-in-law!
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Hello! I've hit the jackpot with some fun finds lately and wanted to share a roundup of links with you. These are all baby/toddler related, FYI.

*I was provided items from Finn + Emma in exchange for an honest review. All other items mentioned in this post I have purchased and loved myself and are not sponsored in any way!

I've been eyeing a few products from Finn+Emma for a while and was excited to get the chance to choose a few things for Baby Bum! Their clothing is all made from organic cotton and non-toxic, eco-friendly dyes. 

I also picked out this raccoon rattle buddy. This little guy is hand-knit by an artisanal women's collective in Peru using organic cotton and sheep's wool stuffing. So cute! Get 15% off your order of $50 at Finn + Emma by using the referral code from this link.

A few months ago, Sarah posted about a blanket she got from Bearcubs Co for her daughter, and I knew I had to get one for Baby Bum. I got this Dino Print in the smallest "lovey" size, and it's sooooo super soft and adorable.

You all probably know by now that we've had some issues with R biting at daycare. Let's just say I know way too much about strategies for biters and the psychological reasons kids bite than I ever wanted to. (If you have questions or want to chat about that, feel free to email me!) Anyway, one thing that was suggested to us was "chewelry," which is basically a bracelet or necklace for R that we can teach her to bite when she's frustrated instead of her friend's arm. I looked at a couple of different websites and ended up purchasing this personalized bracelet and this necklace

I could not be happier and highly recommend! While these have not completely solved her biting problem, I do think the bracelet in particular has been awesome for her to wear around and gives her something to chew/bite when she needs release. Plus the turnaround time on these was amazing, and I think they came in the mail just a few days after ordering.

I feel remiss for not telling you about this a long time ago. Before R was born, I saw a deal on Brickyard Buffalo (I've only mentioned them a billion times on this blog; seriously, they need to start paying me to advertise for them already) for a Gathre highchair mat. We have carpet in the area where our kitchen table is, which is also where R's highchair is, and I knew I'd want something to go under her highchair to catch spills, etc.
This mat has probably been one of the best if not the best baby/kid things I've purchased. It's super easy to wipe down and doesn't attract a lot of attention with its minimal design. Their mats are ethically made of bonded leather with a suede backside, free of toxins, and really I just can't recommend this enough. We love it and have literally used it every day since R started sitting in a highchair to eat.

Last week I was perusing Craigslist and saw this wagon (in blue) for $20! I snatched it up and am so excited to use it with R (and later Baby Bum too). Obviously buying a new wagon is not going to be as cheap as what I found on CL, but I still think it's useful to have. Jordan has already taken R on a walk in the wagon, and she loved it!

Personalized name puzzles from South Bend Woodworks. A good friend of mine got R a name puzzle for her first birthday, and it's been the best gift! R loves playing with it and learning the letters of her name. Recently I purchased a name puzzle for a friend of mine's little girl and my friend absolutely loved it. All the wood used is sustainably sourced in the Midwest, and all products are handmade in the United States. I might have bought a name puzzle for Baby Bum too ;)

So those are a few things I wanted to share with you that I'm loving lately for babies/toddlers. Hopefully you found something fun you want to check out!

The Perfect Father's Day Present... Baby Bum is Here!

6.21.2017


The most perfect Father's Day present arrived at 9:28 a.m. on Sunday, June 18.
J weighed in at 8 lbs 3 oz, 20.5 inches long.
He passed all his tests and got a good report at his first pediatrician's visit.
We are home and feeling so thankful.
Praise God for this tiny blessing.

More to come soon.

Baby Boy Bum[p] Update: 39 Weeks

6.16.2017


For the last couple of weeks I’ve been feeling super anxious about the baby coming. For whatever reason I had it in my head that he would come if not before R did, than at least on or near when she did. I never reached 39 weeks with R, but Baby Bum seems to be comfortable where he is, and baby #2 has officially not come sooner than baby #1. 

Even though I am still a week out from my due date, I feel overdue because I was already not pregnant by this point with R. But I’ve made my peace with it and feel much calmer and more mentally prepared to go the distance, if not longer, with Baby Boy. I’m so anxious to meet him, but the longer he stays in, the stronger and more developed and hopefully healthier he will be!

My Stats: I seem to be holding steady at about 30 pounds total gained. For the last four appointments the scale has read: 161, 160, 160, 159. I take those numbers as an invitation to continue eating ice cream and chocolate. Don’t try and stop me. My blood pressure has been excellent this entire time, hovering around 112/60, which to be honest shocks me based on how stressed out I’ve been with all the sickness and other stuff we have going on, but I'm not going to question my superior genetics.

Baby’s Stats: Baby Boy’s heartrate is always around 130 at my appointments, and I’m measuring spot on the number of weeks I am. With R I measured 2-3 weeks big for nearly my entire pregnancy, and I even got a few bonus ultrasounds in the final few weeks so the doctor could make sure I wasn’t growing The Incredible Hulk. I’m incredibly thankful to have had a low-key pregnancy, but I haven’t seen baby boy’s sweet face since our 18-week anatomy scan and it’s killing me! Just one more ultrasound, pretty please?

Symptoms: I have honestly felt really good for most of this pregnancy, but as I’ve mentioned a few times now, the week of R being sick and the next week of me being sick totally destroyed any good vibes I had going. Since then I’ve felt heavy and large, and my hips hurt 24/7. This absolutely did not happen to this degree with R. I am literally limping everywhere and I'm sleeping on the couch every night because it feels more comfortable than our bed (our bed is TOO soft, if you can imagine that), and it’s hard to be at work all day. Sitting makes my butt and hips so sore, but standing makes me tired and makes my feet swell up, soooo…. there is no good solution here. Yes, I am stretching and that helps a lot, but I can't just stand/sit in a constant state of stretch at all times. I am still wearing my rings, though!

Feelings: I am feeling all the feelings. You name it, I feel it. My coworker walked by my desk yesterday and said, “Hi, how are you?” and I promptly burst into tears and sobbed, “I don’t even know why I’m crying.” So basically just no one talk to me.

Cravings: I have had little to no appetite lately, which probably explains why my weight has plateaued. Nothing ever sounds good except ice cream and cookies, and when I do eat an actual meal I don’t eat very much. I’ve skipped lunch a few times in the last couple of weeks because I just wasn’t hungry at all. Although actually a hot dog is sounding really good to me right now. I don't know.

Work Things: I planned on working up until the day Baby Boy arrived because the longer I wait to start maternity leave, the more time I have with him before I have to go back to work. (Don’t even talk to me about THAT, by the way. #emotions) But a month or so ago I decided that since my due date was on a Friday, it sounded appealing to work until my due date and then start maternity leave instead of coming back the following Monday. No thank you. 

But THEN, I started thinking about how much my hips hurt and how much I don’t want to be at work right now, and I decided my last day will be Wednesday, June 21. I will finish up a publication we are sending to press on Tuesday, and then peace out, homeslice. It’s only two days earlier than my due date, but now that I’ve resigned myself to the fact that Baby Bum seems comfy, I’m actually loving the idea of having a few days off work to spend with R. Of course, that probably means he will come on Wednesday, but if not, that is definitely my last day and I can’t wait!

Birth Plans: Ugh, you guys, I am still undecided about an epidural. I think I’m just going to do what I did last time: say no initially and see what happens. Here’s the deal: I am not against epidurals. I don’t care what anyone else does, and I don’t care about silly debates about this birth plan vs. that. Everyone has to do what they feel is best. 

I know I can deliver without one, because I did it with R, but while I don’t remember the specific feeling of the pain, I do know that it was the worst I’ve ever felt in my entire life. I very seriously asked my doctor multiple times if I was going to die. Am I looking forward to a repeat experience? No, I am not, and if I let myself think about it for too long I start freaking out. 

But whether or not they make sense to anyone else, I have my reasons for not being all gung-ho about epidurals, and so I just don’t know. I obviously can't say for certain, but I really do think if I had gotten an epidural with R I would have ended up with a C-section, but who knows.

Either way, I just want Baby Bum to come meet us, and I want him to be okay and be breathing, and I really don’t care how it happens or what it looks like.

I will tell you, however, that Jordan has requested multiple times that I have the baby on a Friday or Saturday and that I have him during the day, not in the middle of the night. I told him we’ll see how that works out for him.

Things to Do: Pack a hospital bag. I suppose I probably should have done this already. 

So there you have it. I’ve been hanging out at 3cm dilated and 50% effaced for almost 3 weeks now. I’ve felt some contractions but nothing serious or regular. At this point I’d put money on making it to my due date, but he could come tonight! THE SUSPENSE. 

We are continuing to pray for a healthy (and fast!) delivery and are excited to officially become a family of four very soon. I would greatly appreciate your prayers specifically for Baby Bum and I as we approach the end!

*I didn't do weekly updates with R, but here's a link to Week 37. And here's Week 28 with Baby Boy, which is the last time I did an official bump update! Of course I'm still doing weekly pages in my pregnancy journal, just not on the blog. And I'm about to run out of pages. RUDE.

Current Obsession: Lorena Canals Machine-Washable Rugs

6.15.2017

*I was provided a rug of my choice in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and photos are mine.

When we originally decorated R's nursery two years ago, I wanted to buy a rug but could never find one I liked. Plus I knew that any rug I bought for the nursery would most likely end up getting dirty, and a lot of the rugs I looked at seemed hard to clean or just didn't add much to the space, so I didn't want to waste my money.

When I was given the opportunity to try a rug from Lorena Canals, I knew I wanted to find something for the nursery. Their rugs and cushions are all machine washable and fit in a standard washer/dryer! They are handmade in India of 100% cotton, and proceeds support schooling for children in India. The production process consists of non-child labor and uses all-natural dyes, so they are safe for children. (And pets too, I suppose, if you're into that kind of thing.)

It was hard to decide which rug I liked the best because all the designs are unique and fun. These aren't rugs you see anywhere else! I couldn't get away from the idea of a round rug, and I ended up going with the Round ABC in Vintage Blue. I also loved this world map rug and this Azteca print! This puffy cloud rug is really fun too. It has a built-in pillow, how cool is that?
^^^ A note: The color of this rug is more of a muted gray-blue than a true blue, which is perfect for our nursery space and I'm very pleased, but I just wanted to point that out.

Obviously these rugs are not cheap, but for a fun splurge, I honestly couldn't be happier with my rug from Lorena Canals. When it came in the mail, it had some wrinkles, and the instructions said to pop it in the dryer for 10 minutes or so to get them out. 

To me, the rug feels just thick enough without being too thick and isn't super heavy. I'm pleased with the quality of the stitching and fabric, etc. Since it's on carpet in her room, I can't say whether or not it would slide around on wood or another surface, but if so I think a thin rug pad would do the trick. (If anyone reeeeeally wants to know, I can take it into my kitchen and see how it feels on the tile. Let me know.)

I love that Lorena Canals Rugs are made with non-toxic dyes, an ethical production process, and can be tossed into my washing machine when it's dirty! It's suuuuper soft and just what I was looking for to complete this space. Also a bonus is that R can practice her letters while we're hanging out in her room on our new rug! Win win for all.

Currently June

6.13.2017


reading: I'm in the middle of The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder, which normally I would be all over because I have all the heart eyes for the Little House on the Prairie, but I seriously lie down in my bed to read at night and get about three pages before my eyes start to close. Some day I won't be tired, but that day is not now.

watching: Jordan and I are obsessed with The Flash. The first few episodes are super nerdy and kind of cheesy, but oh man this show is so good. Plus you can barely find good shows these days that aren't full of swearing and sex!

feeling: Anxious for Baby Bum to join the party on the outside. My due date isn't officially until the 23rd, but I keep hoping he will take after his big sister and come early. The week of R having hand, foot, mouth followed directly by a week of me having the strep totally killed it for me, and I am over everything right now. My hips hurt all the time, I basically can't roll over in bed without a colossal effort, and being at work is dumb. Motivation, where are you?

working on: The crib to toddler bed transition. And by that I mean we going to make this happen because Baby Boy will be using the crib in a few months, and we can't be dealing with this bed madness once he comes. I like to think my mom and Jordan's mom have useful and helpful parenting advice seeing as how they each raised four kids, but in this matter they give us a blank stare and respond with: "Hmmm, I'm not quite sure how we did that." Thanks for nothing, moms! It's just confusing because no one seems to have any specific advice about this. Not even the Internet, which is weird because usually the Internet has a lot to say about everything. Needless to say, we don't know what we are doing, but like everything else involving parenting, I suppose we just move forward and hope for the best! Would anyone like a post about this? I fear it might bore everyone to tears, but if there's interest I might write something up, at least for my own reference later on when we are doing this with Baby Bum #2 down the road.

eating: Let's just say if you cut up a watermelon and want to eat any of it yourself, don't tell me there's watermelon because there might not be any left after I'm done with it.

making: Gifts for our L&D nurses! I didn't do this for R because I didn't know people did things like this, but I saw a printable on Rachel's blog and thought it was so cute and also easy and cheap (important!), so I made some last weekend. I don't have a hospital bag packed, but I do have M&Ms for the nurses so I'm winning at one thing, at least. Also making padsicles for post-delivery because they were the best ever last time. I'm living a glamorous life right now, friends.

organizing: The nursery closet! I mentioned a few posts back that Jordan was going to put a shelf in the closet. I'm thankful it's a walk-in, although it isn't huge, but he did finally add a shelf to one side, and I feel like it gives me more space to work with. My mom stayed for a few days last week and helped clean my house and organize things, and I do think this is an improvement! I totally forgot to take a picture of the before closet, but I have a during and after for you. P.S. That recliner/rocker is from Babies R Us, and I looooooove it.

I don't know how many more posts I'll get up before the baby comes. My motivation and ability to stay away in the evenings after R finally goes down is dwindling quickly. I do have a couple of sponsored posts coming up that I'm excited about, and I also want to do a roundup of baby stuff I've been loving lately from around the Internet! Until then, I hope you all have a great week!

Getting Sponsorships & Working with Brands: Tips from a Small Blogger

6.09.2017

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I definitely support bloggers who take a lot of pride in the fact that they’ve never done a sponsored post and don’t use affiliate links. On the opposite end are blogs where every other post is “provided by” or “sponsored by,” and I don’t like to follow those bloggers because at some point it stops feeling real and starts feeling salesy. (I mean I love Doritos as much as the next girl, but an entire post about it complete with photos, really?) 

My personal philosophy has always fallen in the middle of the two. I don't like the idea of writing a sponsored post just to get money, and I try to make sure my regular content heavily outweighs sponsored content. But I am also not against letting my blog work for me, and I don’t begrudge bloggers for doing sponsored posts every so often. After all, I spend a lot of time on this blog, and if I can get a bit of cash or some free stuff, I’m going to take advantage of it!

There are a ton of blog posts out there about working with brands and how to make money blogging, so I’m probably not going to tell you something you don’t already know. That said, most of those posts are written by bloggers with followings in the thousands, if not tens or hundreds of thousands, and of course they are getting brands to work with them! It only makes sense.

But there is room for those of us with smaller followings to utilize the magic of sponsorships. Later this month I have the opportunity to share about a couple of awesome products that I'm getting for free! 

I wanted to share a few tips and tricks to show you how I—a lifestyle blogger with a small following—approach brands and work with companies to either get free/discounted product in exchange for a review or a (small) amount of money that I use to pay for my morning donuts. I hope this is helpful to some of you who are interested in doing the same with your blog!

1. Directly Approaching a Company

Here’s the deal plain and simple: I’ve gotten some free products just by asking for them. Don’t be afraid to approach a brand just because you have a small blog. The absolute worst thing they can say is either no or ignore you completely, and if that happens you have lost nothing at all. (And yes, it's happened to me.) But they could say yes, and if they do, you’re in! Most bloggers who know about these types of things will suggest you have a fancy media kit and a nice little form email to send out, and I am not saying that isn’t a good thing to have, but you don’t necessarily need it.

This is what I do: I see a product I’d like to buy myself, so I decide to see if the company will send me a free one in exchange for a blog post. I locate the “contact us” form or email that is on their website, and I write them an email. Simple! It usually ends up looking something like this:

Hello, my name is Amanda Bumgarner, and I am a lifestyle blogger based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. I am the owner of [insert blog URL], and I receive approximately [x # of pageviews] per month. I have a loyal and engaged readership, and I would love to share about [insert product] with them! I am interested in discussing a collaboration by way of a blog post with hi-res original images in exchange for [insert product]. In the past I have collaborated with brands such as [insert 2-3 brand names, ideally big names if possible]. Here are a few examples of past review posts: [insert direct links]. I look forward to hearing from you! Please let me know if you have any questions.

It’s my opinion that the most important thing is to sound professional, mention details about your number of monthly pageviews or social media following, and tailor your email specifically to the brand. If I am approaching a brand who sells baby-related items, I mention that I am due with my second child and that many of my readers are new moms. Anything that will help show why you would be a good fit for this product and why your readers would enjoy hearing about it.

Just one example: Last year I collaborated with Freshly Picked and got R a pair of moccasins in exchange for a blog post. I felt dumb asking because I thought I wasn’t a “big enough” blogger, but they were great to work with! I have also worked with brands who won't give me a product completely free, but I can buy it at a 50% or more discount, and that can be nice too depending on how much you are interested in spending.

2. Influencer Campaigns

You can directly email companies yourself, but it can also be handy to be part of an influencer program, where the program contacts the brand and notifies you if you are a “match” for a particular collaboration. Usually you have to apply and be accepted based on how many other people want to receive the product, and sometimes there are specific qualifications to participate such as must have a child between the ages of 2-6 or must live in X city or must be under the age of 25, etc.

Some bloggers are part of multiple influencer programs, and it’s really whatever works best for you. I am just involved with one: Linqia. (<<<< That is my referral link for the program, FYI. I get a few dollars if you sign up through it.). Through Linqia, I have gotten some awesome things like the MamaRoo Infant Seat and a free Shutterfly book. Oh, and this light, which Jordan is totally obsessed with.

You have the option to decline a sponsored post, so they never make you do a post about something you don’t want to do a post about, and I have declined posts in the past. It’s all about your timeline and what works for your blog, which is why these types of programs can be fun to be part of because you can do as much or as little as you want.

3. Blogging for Books

This is specifically for book lovers! Blogging for Books is a free program and totally awesome because hello, free books. I’m not explaining it any more than that. All you have to do is choose which book you want and they mail it to you! Then you write a review post about it when you’re done and post it on their website. There are other book review programs where you get free books, but this is the one I use.

4. Referral/Affiliate Links

So far it hasn’t been worth it to me to do affiliate links where I share about a product and link back to a website and get a couple of cents if you buy it. First because I’m not totally sure how to actually do it, second because I’m not sure I’m cool enough to blog about things people actually want to buy for their own house, and third because I don’t really care to spend the time looking up links while I’m writing a blog post. However, you can make some easy money (a little bit of money, let’s not get crazy ideas) by joining referral programs. 

I have been getting the Graze box monthly for years, and I love it. Occasionally I will post about Graze and link to it using my referral code and get a free box for every ten or so people who sign up. (If you use my code, you can get your 1st and 5th boxes free!) I’ve also posted about the grocery rebate app called Ibotta (which is awesome), and if you sign up for the app using my referral link, I get a few dollars. It’s not much at all, but it’s a little something!

5. Google Ads

This is extremely passive advertising where I literally do nothing and get about fifty cents a day. It’s embarrassingly little, but it adds up, and it’s fun to get a notification that there is money in my PayPal account.

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Those are just a few ways I get my blog to work for me by allowing me to work with brands and get free product or a little bit of cash. I have no illusions that I will ever have a giant following or make tons of money off my blog, and I’ll just be honest that I get rejected for sponsored posts probably as much as I am accepted. But, I just choose to focus on the free stuff I am getting and the opportunity to share about it with you! 

I know sponsored posts can be annoying, but I try to make sure it fits the standard and feel of The Lady Okie Blog, and I know that I personally have found out about some awesome things from sponsored posts of other bloggers. It’s also good experience trying to market yourself and work with companies, and I think of it as I literally have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

I hope this has given you some ideas or maybe just some encouragement that free product isn’t just for the big bloggers! Even those of us on the smaller end of the blogging scale can get in on some of the action too, and you shouldn’t feel like you’re selling out if you do it. Best of luck!

Sprinkle for Baby Bum

6.07.2017


A few weekends ago, my mom, sister, and sisters-in-law threw a little sprinkle for Baby Bum! I totally understand now why showers are usually only thrown for first babies, because that's when you need the most stuff initially, and the excitement of a first baby is so new and fun.

It's not that I expected or needed a shower for this baby, but I also really wanted to do something to celebrate the new life that will be joining our family, even if our list of things we need is short.  "Sprinkles" for second, third, etc., babies are getting popular right now, and I love the idea of a small celebration for the new babies. It was so kind of them to host a little party and get to all be excited about Baby Bum together!
My coworkers threw me a surprise sprinkle a month or so ago, and it was unexpected and so kind of them. We also had a church shower over the weekend to conclude our celebration of Baby Bum. We are incredibly thankful for our community of family and friends who love us and support us and are excited to meet Baby Bum very soon!

We have all the big stuff we need for the baby (car seat, bassinet, play mat, crib), but what we didn't have were boy stuff like clothes, burb clothes, bibs, blankets, towels, and teethers that aren't pink elphants.

I really don't have a problem with a boy using pink stuff, and it's not like we had all pink to begin with anyway, but it still would be nice for Baby Bum to have some things not angled toward the feminine color pallet. Our showers have been so helpful with that! Plus we've gotten a good stash of diapers. We've also had some friends drop off some of their old boy clothes for us, and I've taken a few trips to garage sales and consignment stores, so we haven't had to spend very much money at all on this baby's wardrobe, which is a huge blessing.
I'm not sure how much R actually understands about there being a baby coming, but if you ask her where her baby brother is, she run over to me, pulls up my shirt, and pats on my stomach and shouts, "HI, BEEBEE!" She is really sweet with her baby doll, and I seriously can't wait for her to meet her brother very, very soon!

p.s. I have a couple of non-baby-centric post that I am working on, lest you fear I will only talk about babies and kids and pregnancy until the end of time. But that's what's on the brain right now! I'm sure you understand.

12-Minute Memoir: Savor

6.05.2017


Savor it.

That’s what everyone tells you when you have a baby. It goes so fast, they say. Savor it. Enjoy it. Take it all in.

It goes faster than you can blink, and one day, you're going to miss it.

It’s not that I don’t think that’s good advice. I really do believe in savoring the moment, because it does go fast, and somehow that extremely long and exhausting Monday turned into Tuesday, and now it’s Friday and then it’s next Monday, and suddenly it’s the start of a new month and you’re looking back not quite sure how you’re halfway through the year.

Savoring the moment is hard when it’s 2:30 in the morning and your baby is awake and you really just want to be asleep.

Savoring the moment is hard when you come home from work exhausted and your toddler runs sprints all over the house, dumping out all the Legos and crawling on the table, even after you’ve told her a hundred times not to do that (hypothetical scenario, of course).

Sometimes it’s hard to savor the chaos and noise, and to be honest, I don’t think all moments need to be savored. It’s okay to wish certain times away. Puking and sickness and the mental and physical fatigue of sleeping in two-hour bursts aren’t something I’m going to miss, and you just won't be able to convince me that I will.

But the sweet moments? I've been thinking a lot about those.

What exactly does it mean? How do we truly savor it?

I try to put my phone away and turn off the TV and just sit and play with R. We draw letters and shapes and build towers and throw balls, and I focus on her. I sit and watch her playing, and I wonder what else I should be doing to savor it.

I am deeply aware in that moment that this is once in a lifetime. This moment, right here, will never happen again precisely in the way it is happening now. Photos and videos are wonderful to have to look back on, and of course I take them somtimes, but I am not convinced that taking picture after picture, video after video, all day is the best way to savor.

In those times, I don’t want to do anything to take myself out of the moment.

So I sit.

I watch her climb into her chair and cross her legs, pointing her toes just so. I watch her position the bowl of yogurt in her lap and carefully pick up her spoon put some into her mouth. ("No, mama," she says when I try to help her.) 

I watch the yogurt land mostly in her mouth but also on her chin, and I try not to stress about the sticky mess I will have to clean up later. She turns to me and asks for “wa wa,” and I hand her the cup. She is really into drinking from a straw right now, which she always turns upside down so the long part is facing up and the bent part is in the water.

Her hair curls out from behind both ears and parts down the middle of her forehead, which also has yogurt on it from when she rubbed at her eye with a yogurt-covered finger. Her cheeks are flushed from playing outside, her legs scraped from a fall on the deck earlier. She’s not wearing any shoes because even though she demands to put them on, as soon as we are “otshide” she tears them off.

She turns to look up at me, her eyes big and brown, and she gives me a cheesy grin before going back to her bowl of yogurt. 

Am I savoring it enough?

Part of me wonders if there is something else I can possibly do to soak in more. I don't know, maybe there is.

But for the moment I just sit.

And I watch.

Projects: Documenting Life

6.02.2017


My sister-in-law calls me a "life documenter." I've always enjoyed making scrapbooks and taking pictures, and of course my latest discovery of putting together home video collages, which I think are so much fun. 

Lately I've been feeling the desire to work on a couple of "life documenting" projects and wanted to share them with you! I really don't think doing stuff like this has to be as overwhelming as it might seem at first. The beauty of something like scrapbooking is that you can make it as complicated or as simple as you want! And no one can make anything like what you make, so each one turns out totally unique to you. 

1. Pregnancy Journal for Baby Boy Bum
I made a pregnancy journal with R, and I've loved being able to compare weeks with this baby. I knew that I wanted to make another journal this time, but I wasn't sure what form it would take. I have been writing weekly updates and taking weekly bump pictures, but until recently I haven't been able to find the perfect book to keep it all together. I took R with me to Hobby Lobby one day after work, and back in the scrapbooking section I found this little booklet! I used the 40% off coupon, so it was I think less than $5.

I put a picture of Baby Bum's first ultrasound in the front and used stickers to put the number of weeks at the top of each of the pages. I am working on transferring over all of my notes! Since there are only 30 pages in the book and 40 weeks of pregnancy, I am combining a few of the weeks where I didn't have much to report. I'm so happy with how it's turning out!

2. R's Baby Book
I kind of wish I had just gotten one of those fill-in-the-blank books for R, but for whatever reason I liked the idea of having a blank book and making it my own. This is a Creative Memories book with blank pages, and I am adding things as I think of them. 

It's not extremely detailed, but I plan on using this as a scrapbook just for her and adding pages as she grows. There are a couple of pages of her first birthday, plus the "guest book" page where I had everyone who attended her first birthday party sign a page with her handprint on it. I saved some of her art projects from daycare and a few other things. I hadn't worked on it in a while, but recently I added a couple of pages, so it's coming along. I'm referring to my blog a lot to fill in some of the stats and monthly updates, which has been really handy!

3. Simplified Project Life Album
Some of you veterans of this blog might remember that in 2015 I made a Project Life album. (You can see all those pages here.) I loved the process and love how my book turned out, but I found it to be too time consuming to keep up with once the year ended. I decided to start a new album using a much more simplified version of the Project Life idea. Basically it's more photos and less art cards and embellishments. It's turned out well and it's fun to have a reason to print out my photos! The pink and gold album is from Hobby Lobby.

I am trying to do things that I don't feel like will be too much work to keep up with even after Baby Boy Bum gets here. I also really want to be aware of the old saying that first children get all the baby books and memories and subsequent children don't have as much. Obviously I do see why that is, but I also feel like that doesn't necessarily have to be the case if you're intentional about it. I already bought this baby journal for Baby Boy Bum and hope to be intentional about filling it out during his first year! I also plan on making a week-by-week scrapbook for Baby Boy's first three month like I did with R. But of course we will see. Those are just my thoughts at this point.

How do you document life? Do you like scrapbooking? Did you make a pregnancy journal? I'm interested to know! I love talking about crafting projects like this. If you can't tell, scrapbooking and just saving memories in general is something I really enjoy. I hope that maybe I've given you some ideas about how you can start some easy projects to document your own life too.

Hard Things and Smiles

5.31.2017

Last week was a really, really hard week for all of us. Last Sunday R woke up from her nap sick. I stayed home with her on Monday and ended up taking her to the doctor Tuesday morning after two days of a fever that didn't get below 101 and general grouchiness and a total lack of appetite, which is highly unusual for my little girl who eats almost anything. She tested negative for strep, but the doctor suspected a case of hand, foot & mouth.

She was sick all week long and was only somewhat well enough (and not contagious) to go to daycare on Friday. She got sores in and around her mouth and refused to eat anything because it hurt too much. She continued to run a fever, be irritable, and had a very difficult time sleeping. She would wake up every 45 minutes to an hour screaming in pain, and there's no medicine for HFM except rotating Tylenol and Motrin every 4-6 hours until it goes away on its own.

One thing about being a working mom that I never thought about being challenging is what to do when your child is sick. In the interest of sharing more about the life of a working mom, here is some insight: Your child is sick. You've been up most of the night comforting her, stressing about her temperature, and trying to make sure she's comfortable. You got minimal sleep, yet you still have to get up and get dressed and go to an office and pretend to function as a professional. Or, you can use one of your limited sick/PTO days and stay at home. Let's say you do the latter, but then the next day your child is still sick. They can't go to daycare, so you either use another PTO day or scramble to find childcare.

Let's say you find childcare. You head to work feeling not only super tired but also incredibly sad and guilty that you just left your sick child, who just wants her mama, in the care of someone else. I honestly don't say this to be all "woe is me" but to say that it's hard being a working mom in ways some people don't even think about. I know I didn't ever think about it before I became a working mom, but it's a real struggle that we all face at some point!

Thankfully, my mother-in-law lives close and has a flexible job where she can switch her days off, so we tag-teamed watching R during the week when I had to be in the office and she had to be at work. I'm just thankful it didn't happen this week, because we have some VIPs in the office all week, and I really couldn't have taken off due to some meetings and the need to show up and actually look nice for once.

Friday and the three-day Memorial weekend could not have come sooner. We were all totally exhausted and running on empty, and on Saturday night I actually came down with something that is causing me to feel less than awesome (aka terrible). My throat is killing me, and I have chills off and on. At work yesterday I was pouring sweat for over an hour, meanwhile no one else thought it was hot. By the afternoon I was wearing a blanket. I am a mess. At this stage it's impossible to forget that I'm pregnant, but sometimes I forget that I'm super pregnant, like, could-have-the-baby-at-any-time-now pregnant. I probably just overdid it what with all the craziness that was going on with R, but prayers for good health appreciated!

I find myself wondering how we are ever going to manage both working full time and having two kids when one is sometimes too much! I know in my head that it will work out, but it's weeks like the one we just had that make me feel very overwhelmed and anxious about how it actually works out.
It was such a joy to see our sweet girl smiling and eating and playing over the weekend. She is still having a hard time sleeping at night (which means we are having a hard time getting sleep! send help), but she is acting so much more like herself and it makes me happy. 

She is full-on toddler sass and toddler funnies and it's hilarious and frustrating and basically my favorite ever. I know every parent says this about their child, but honestly she is so smart. She's learning more and more words, and I can tell she understands more of what we say every day.
It seems like last week was long and hard for a lot of people, so I hope that so far you are having a smooth week, maybe even enjoying the start to summer if you are a teacher or finishing up the last week or two of school. 

Depending on when Baby Bum comes, it's just a few more weeks left of work for me and then I have a summer off too! Of course, I know I'll be even more sleep-deprived than I felt last week, but I'm still excited to spend more time with R (and Baby Bum, of course!). Even if she is crazy and runs me ragged half the time, I will never as long as I live, get enough of her smiles.

Recent Reads vol 3.

5.29.2017


5 stars
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson 
*giveaway for this book at the bottom of this post!

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review. To be honest, there weren’t a ton of books to choose from this time, and this seemed like the best option of what was available. I had no idea what to expect, except that it has a ton of great reviews on Goodreads.

Well, wow. This book was fantastic. So well written and extremely well edited (hard to find these days!), heartbreaking but also filled with hope. It is written by a lawyer who provides legal defense for criminals on death row, juveniles condemned to life in prison, and justice for those who have been wrongfully convicted and/or received unfair sentences. It definitely gave me a lot to think about and is so timely for this decade. I wish so much that we as citizens could put full trust in those who have sworn to protect us and those who work as part of the justice system, and I know that there are many who do their job well and I appreciate their sacrifice! It is not all bad or all good. The system is broken, and the stories shared in this book are real evidence of this sad fact. As the author states at the end of the book: there is still work to do.

Just Mercy would be a great way for someone to explore the criminal justice system and issues of race and poverty within the United States. Honestly, I wish everyone would read it! 

I am giving away my copy for free to anyone who would like to read this book. Just enter the giveaway at the bottom of this post, and I will choose a winner next week!

4.5 stars
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

Those who have been reading my book reviews for a while are probably aware of my love for Erik Larson. To put it simply: he is one of my favorite writers of historical nonfiction. These books are based completely on a real event but read for the most part like fiction. His use of sources and his giant section of annotated notes show careful, detailed research that amazes me.

I found this book fascinating, tragic, and a book I stayed up way too late reading one night. If you are not a fan of history and want a book that is just about the actual sinking of the Lusitania, this might not be for you. Erik Larson builds backstory surrounding the world's history at the start of the 20th century; information about U-boats, the captains, and life on the submarines; and also introduces us to the characters who sail on the ship. The book has 4 parts, and the final part deal entirely with what happens after the sinking, including how the United States finally became involved in WWI. I learned a lot I didn't know about this period in history and found it all quite interesting!

4 stars
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

I’ll just say it: I read this because everyone else is reading it. I like to be a leader, but sometimes I’m a follower. Initially I found the story a bit hard to understand some of the science stuff, and you have to suspend disbelief and sort of just go with it, but this is definitely a page-turner. The style of short, choppy sentences makes the book move quickly. It has a really creative plot, and I liked all the characters. This is intense but not scary or too graphic, although there are a few short violent scenes and occasionally the F word. I liked the author's overall point about accepting the choices we've made and enjoying our lives for what they are. If you are worried this book will be scary like horror, don’t be! I can’t do horror or scary of any kind, but this was more of a thriller.

4 stars
A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner

This book follows two women from two time periods: 1911 and 2011. It was interesting and a nice change of pace to read historical fiction from a time period other than WWII, and I thought the author did a great job crafting the story and moving between time periods. The majority of the story takes place in the past.

2.5 stars
The Lavender Garden by Lucinda Riley


This story takes place in two different timelines (1943/44) and (1999/2000) and traces the connection between two families and their experiences during WWII. The first quarter of the book was slooooow and I considered quitting, but then it did pick up once we went back to the earlier time. In both timelines, there were characters and plot lines I really enjoyed and others I didn't.

The characters of both eras in many ways (intentionally by the author) mirrored each other, and I honestly found both main female characters extremely annoying. Also, without spoiling it, there was also a character I KNEW something was up with from the beginning and the main character just kept making excuses for his behavior and it was quite ridiculous and I was like come on already! I normally am bad at guessing things, but this was pretty obvious.

I ended up skimming near the end because I wanted to know what happened but also wanted to be finished with the book. I don't know if I'd straight up say don't read this, because I think it was an interesting story and was a pretty quick read, but it's also not one I'd highly recommend. It has good reviews on Goodreads, but I’ve read a lot of historical fiction from this time period, and this one didn’t do it for me.

Now for a giveaway! Enter to win a copy of Just Mercy.

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