Monday, October 22, 2012

Adorable, you are.

Dear Elliot,
A full post to come (including pics of you and your cousin Maddie trying to eat each other's faces at tonight's family pumpkin carving party), but I just have to share this picture of you in your Yoda Halloween costume.


Seriously, I can't get enough. Two of my favorite things in this world: Star Wars, and you. For trick-or-treating, I am going to be Princess Leia. The two of us are going to kill it! 

For anyone out there still in need of an easy costume, this was actually not hard to put together. The hat is from Esty (but if you're better at crocheting/knitting than I am, you could make it!), and the robe is made from a $1 Goodwill curtain, with a belt cut out of an old pillowcase. 

To make the robe, I folded my fabric in half, roughly drew a jedi-like robe on it, folded it in half, cut out the two pieces (on on top of the other), and sewed it together. Then I cut it down the middle to make it a robe. For the hood, just take a long rectangle, fold it in half, sew down the right side (like this), and attach to the robe. I am horrible with a sewing machine and was able to do this without any issues.

When Maddie pulled your hat off tonight, Dad said, "now he's Obi Wan!" So it totally works if you don't have the awesome hat, too :)

I have been looking forward to our first Halloween together since I first found out you existed. And it's totally surpassing all expectations.

Love you so much!

XOXO,
Mom

Monday, October 8, 2012

DIY Alphabet Book

Dear Readers,
I'd been wanting to make Elliot a special ABC book for awhile. Ever since we first read through the one we have at home and found weird things like "J is for Jam Tart" (seriously, what the heck is a jam tart??). I thought it would be fun for him to learn his ABCs through things he actually recognizes from around the house. So one afternoon while he napped, I went around snapping pictures and then designed a book. I am so in love with how it turned out that I decided to share it with you all!


So this book was actually pretty easy to make. The first step is to simply take pictures of things in your world that start with the letters in the alphabet. Whenever possible, I tried to think of things that would be useful for Elliot to know someday. For a few of the letters, I used people (and animals!) he knows vs. things:





Some of my other favorite pictures were just of things in our house and backyard:




To design the pages, I used picmonkey.com. I just cropped all the pictures into squares and added the text to the corners. 

Then, I used Shutterfly to create the book itself (though you could use just about any photo printing company). I chose an 8X8 photo book and simply uploaded my already designed my ABC pictures as the pages. 

I also designed a cover that looks like this:


And a title page that looks like this:

Look at that--my dreams of being a published author have finally come true ;)

My awesome friend Kerri was sweet enough to give me a promo code she had for a free photo book, so all I had to pay for was shipping! Shutterfly has deals on photo books all the time, but right now their 8X8 books are on sale for $14.99. You can also get a $100 credit a Picaboo (another photo printing place like Shutterfly) for $35 on Living Social right now if you want to make, like, a bunch of books!

I had so much fun with this project, and from the looks of it, El is pretty happy with his new book too:


Have a great week everyone!

XOXO,
Kristin

Monday, October 1, 2012

6 months old...and a new job!

Dear Elliot,
So I'm about a week late with this post, but last Sunday you turned six months old. Has it really been half a year since I finally heard you cry and looked into your eyes for the first time? In some ways it feels like that day was forever ago, and in others, like it was just yesterday.



It's hard to believe that my little baby boy is sitting, trying to stand, eating solid foods, and even saying 'mama' when he wants me (you can roll your eyes and not believe me if you want to, but I swear it's true!)

Anyway, part of the reason I am so late in updating this blog is that I finally got a new job! I have been looking and holding out hope for a job that would allow me to stay at home with you during the day and I am so, so excited that I finally found one! The position is about 30 hours/week, 100% work from home, writing for a deals website (sort of like groupon). Yes, it is totally legit :) I started training last week and I think I am really going to love it. I love finding sweet deals, I love sharing them, and I love to write, so it seems like the perfect fit for me right now. And of course the best part is that I have the most adorable little assistant to help me out during the day:

There you are, sleepin' on the job :)

I am just so happy right now. You light up my life and bring so much joy to my world. I love you, big boy!

XOXO,
Mom

Friday, September 21, 2012

Personality

Dear Elliot,
You are at such an incredibly fun age right now. It is such a joy to watch your personality really begin to emerge. From the moment I knew you existed inside me, I wondered what you'd be like; who you'd become. And now I get to watch it happen. It is just so exciting!

The most obvious personality trait that is really coming out these days is how social and friendly you are. Just like your mama as a baby, you are 100% a total extrovert. You love meeting new people and always want to be the center of attention. It is so much fun taking you out and about because you smile and charm and flirt with just about everyone we cross paths with. I swear it takes us 10 minutes to make it down every grocery aisle because we are constantly stopping for your admirers :) I need to get a video of it somehow, but my favorite is how as soon as you notice someone looking at you, you start grinning and kicking your feet and rocking back and forth in the cart, so excited.

Happy in your swag cart cover :)

You are also very interested in what the people around you are saying and doing. For example, we started going to ECFE (Early Childhood Family Education--kind of like preschool for babies) classes on Thursday nights and you sit and pay such close attention to the 'teacher' whenever she is talking. I think it's so neat that you really seem to understand who/what to focus on amidst so many distractions in the room. I watch you watching her and it's like you're trying so hard to figure out what she is saying. I love it.

Along with that, you are a really great communicator. Obviously you aren't speaking yet, but you have so many ways of letting us know what you want/need. We started doing a few basic signs about a month ago and it so amazing to see you starting to recognize them. Your favorite, of course, is 'milk.' You can't actually do the sign yourself yet, but as soon as I start making the motion with my hands and saying 'milk?' you get so excited and smile really big and grab my hands like, "yes!! Milk!!"

The other day we were laying in bed singing one of your favorite song, 'Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes,' and you discovered that if you pushed on my mouth after I finished singing, I would sing more. How cool that you a) figured out that the singing is coming from my mouth and b) came up with an easy way of letting me know that you wanted more of it. Here's a video of it:

video

You are also developing quite the sense of humor. You think it's absolutely hysterical to put your pacifier in my (or Dad's) mouth. You also laugh like crazy whenever we pretend to eat your hands or feet:



One thing about your personality that might be challenging down the line is I can already tell you are not a big fan of sharing. You seem to have a pretty developed sense of 'mine.' I'm not sure if that's just how all (almost) six-months olds are like or what, but you like to have all the toys in your lap whenever you're playing with friends. I'll take one and show it to your buddy, and you drop whatever you were playing with and grab for it. 

Right before you grabbed Junie's paci right out of her mouth!

I think you're going to end up being pretty independent, too. You are very content to play on the floor by yourself for pretty long periods of time. You also like to do everything yourself, whenever possible. Like if I put your paci in your mouth for you, you'll usually pull it right out and pop it back in yourself. And then there's the whole bottle thing: you refuse to be fed a bottle, but you'll gladly drink from a cup. Even when we're feeding you food, you like to grab onto the spoon and help direct it into your mouth. 


And you already want to be standing on your own (slow down, kid!!):


But as independent as you are, you are equally as cuddly. You are my sweet little mama's boy who loves to snuggle:


I sure hope that part of your personality never goes away :)

I love you so much, little El--who you are today and who you'll be tomorrow.

XOXO,
Mom




Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My favorite photos yet??

Dear Elliot,
It's official: there is no possible way you can get more adorable than you are at this precise moment in time. I know, I know, I've said that before, but seriously. I'll just let these newest pics from tonight speak for themselves.











Your goofy little grin and big blue eyes just melt my heart to mush. 

I love you more and more each day.

XOXO,
Mom

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fun baby activities!

Dear Readers,
I'm always looking for easy and cheap activities to do with Elliot, so I thought I'd share a few that we've done over the last couple weeks that have been really fun. I can't take credit for coming up with any of them myself; who knew Pinterest had so many baby activity ideas in addition to crafts involving chalkboard paint and ways to turn every single food item into something cake batter-themed??

The first thing we tried is the sensory treasure basket (or in our case, treasure box):


The idea is to fill a container with found objects in a variety of shapes, sizes and textures, and then let your baby spend time taking things out and exploring them. I spent literally less than 10 minutes going around the house finding things to add to our box, including:
  • Whisk
  • Wooden spoon
  • Large polished rock
  • Fabric scraps (felt, lace, silky scarf)
  • Part of a crocheted hat I messed up
  • Crunchy leaf
  • CD
  • Small wooden bowl
  • Piece of thick ribbon
  • Small plastic bag
I sat Elliot on the floor and put the box in front of him. He really enjoyed getting into it and pulling things out, one by one. As he did this, I would tell him what each thing was and talk about its size, texture, etc. For example, "look at that rock. See how smooth it feels? Does it feel cold?" Pretty basic stuff here! I plan on switching out the 'treasures' often and recreating the experience a few times a week. 

We've also been having a lot of fun with finger paint! My best friend, Jersa, got us edible (veggie-based) finger paints for Elliot's 'meet the baby' shower back in April. The purple is actually made with blueberries, the green with spinach, etc. You can find them here. Or I'm sure someone has figured out how to make them yourself if you search for it on Pinterest :)

Anyway, Elliot really loves to get messy so this is a super fun activity, I just put him in his high chair, squirt some paint on a piece of paper, and let him go to work! Since the paints are okay to eat, it doesn't matter that he spends half the time sticking his hands in his mouth!


After we do some painting on paper, I put some paint directly on the high chair tray and let him just play for awhile; he loves it!



The end result is not as nice-looking as real paints (my little brother looked at one of the paintings and joked, "oh look, he painted his diaper blow-out from Sunday! Ha!), but at this age its more about the process than the product, right??


Another craft we tried was DIY handprint molds:



 I found a recipe for the dough that couldn't be easier to make:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • Add cold water until the consistency of play dough
  • Bake for 2 hours at 250 degrees
For how easy they were, these turned out pretty well. One thing I'd suggest is taking them out a few times during baking and pricking some little holes to keep them from puffing up. I also burned the edges a bit, but you could probably pretty easily paint these to cover something like that up. Either way, Elliot seemed to enjoy 'helping' me make the dough and smashing his hands into it. The whole activity only took about 15 minutes which was great too.


Last thing I thought I'd mention is an awesome kid's music album we've been loving: Justin Roberts' Jungle Gym. It's seriously the most clever and intelligent children's music I've ever heard. Hilarious! Yesterday I was actually listening to it by myself while Elliot was upstairs napping. We got to see him live last weekend at the Target Children's Book Festival in Minneapolis and he was totally great. Here's a video of one of our favorite songs:



Alright, that's all for now. Anyone else have any great baby activities to share? Please leave a comment if you do! Have a great end of the week everyone!

Love,
Kristin

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

You're still here

Dear Stevie,
It has been way too long since I've started a letter with those words.

I've been feeling really guilty about that. I've wondered if people look at this blog and think, "well look at that, she had another baby and forgot all about Stevie." I remember after you died people would tell me, "you're young, you'll have other children," and I'd get so mad. I swore it didn't matter how many other babies I had, you would always be my first; I'd never move on or stop thinking about you.

But then Elliot was born and I guess, in some ways, I have moved on. Of course I haven't forgotten about you, but I'd be lying if I said I think about you as often as I used to. My focus in life has certainly changed. I spend less and less time engrossed in 'babyloss things' and more and more time immersed in parenting things. I go to baby yoga and new mama groups and plan play dates and craft activities and read child development books. I spend way more time in my cloth diapering and baby wearing facebook groups than I do in my babyloss groups.

And I'm happy. Truly happy.

I honestly feel like a horrible person for even saying that. As weird as it may sound to some people, there are times I really miss being sad. Times I really miss feeling so close and connected and focused on you.

So the other day Elliot and I went for a little walk. It's finally starting to feel like fall, and the trees back behind our house are already starting to change colors and sprinkle their crunchy leaves all over the ground. It's beautiful.

Anyway, we were walking along and I almost walked right past this big, full tree on the left without thinking anything of it. Then I remembered. That tree was not just any old tree--it was your tree. I turned around and went back. and there, on the trunk, I saw this:


Over two years later, your name is still there. Seasons have come and gone. Snow, sleet, wind and rain. But your mark remains.

I'm not really a big believer in signs, but I couldn't help but feel like you were gently reminding me that even though things have changed, even though I'm in a different season of life, you're still here. It's like you were whispering, "hey Mom, it's okay, I haven't gone anywhere." 

I really needed that. 

I still love you, Baby Girl. I'm still here, too. Always and forever.

XOXO,
Mom

Monday, September 10, 2012

First solid food!

Dear Elliot,
I was trying to wait as close to the six-month mark as possible before starting you on solid food, but you are showing all the signs of being ready (sitting on your own, reaching for food like crazy, weighing in at over 20 pounds), so we decided to whip up a little meal of yummy sweet potatoes and breast milk and see what you thought...


Well, contrary to what your face in the middle picture may lead you to believe, you loved it!

You were so happy about it you didn't know what to do with yourself. You kept reaching both hands out for more and kicking your legs all over the place in excitement. It was so hilarious and fun to watch.


I seriously can't believe you are old enough to be sitting in a high chair and eating food. How did this happen so quickly? Where has my little baby gone??

To top everything off, you slept through the night (well from 9:30 to 5:30) for the first time last night. Not gonna lie, I kind of missed our middle of the night nursing sesh! I love love love seeing you grow up and meeting all these milestones, but I am having a hard time with so many changes happening at once! 

We were reading one of my favorite books this morning, The Runaway Bunny. I teared up as soon as we got to this part:

"If you become a bird and fly away from me," said his mother, "I will be a tree that you come home to."

I know you won't be flying away on your own anytime soon, but just the thought of it is already hard to think about. I hope you know you'll always be my little baby, no matter how big and old and independent you get.

I love you so much,
Mom

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sitting!

Dear Elliot,
And just like that...you're sitting and playing all by yourself!


I don't know what it is about the sitting milestone, but it makes you seem so, so much older. So independent, so toddler-like. I'm so proud of you, but kind of freaked out at how quickly my (not so) little baby is turning into a (not so) little boy.






I love watching you play and explore. You can just see the gears in your head turning as you reach for, grab, handle, and--of course--put different objects in your mouth. 

I love your curiosity.



Sometimes I really wish I could freeze time and keep you this perfect, fun age forever. But as much as I love you in this moment, I'm equally excited to see what you'll do next. You make life so interesting. So totally, completely wonderful. 

I love you so much, big boy!

XOXO,
Mom

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Insecure


Dear Elliot,
Lately there have been many times when I just look at you and am totally overwhelmed with emotion. Like when I'm cuddling you before bed and you quietly play with my hands. Or right after nursing when you're grabbing my face with both of your hands and covering my cheeks with slobbery, open-mouthed baby 'kisses.' Or when you're fighting your afternoon naps while sitting on my stomach, and laughing and squealing in delight at every goofy noise I make. Or when I'm laying next to you, patting your tummy and singing 'Rockabye Sweet Baby James' and your eyes start rolling back into your head and you begin to snore as you drift off to sleep.

I look at you during those times and feel both completely filled with love, and completely inadequate. Or maybe insecure is a better word? You're just so amazing, so perfect, and I'm afraid I won't be able to give you everything you need; everything you deserve. Being your mom is the single most incredible thing that has ever happened to me, but honestly--it's also the scariest.

Sometimes it seems like no matter how many parenting books I read, how many hours of tummy time I make you have, how many stimulating activities I plan, how many well-written and age-appropriate books I read to you, how many quality toys I buy you, or how many cuddles, kisses, and 'I love you's' I give you each day, I always feel like I should be doing something more. Something better.

I'll come across things like '56 sensory play ideas for babies' and feel like I need to hurry up and do all 56 things. Like now. Seriously, the other night I saw something that mentioned how much babies like bubbles and almost had a meltdown thinking what kind of horrible mom I am to have been depriving my kid of the joy of bubbles for all this time. I may have even grabbed for my phone in a panic and set a 'BUY BUBBLES!!!!' reminder for the very next morning.

Maybe it's the perfectionist in me. Maybe it's that I just love you so freaking much. Probably both. But that desire to do everything 'right' is so overwhelming sometimes. The logical part of my mind knows I'm being silly, that I'm a great mom, that a lack of bubble play isn't going to somehow stunt your growth and development, that I'm doing the best I can. But there's always that annoying little voice in the back of my head that whispers, "what if your best isn't good enough?"

I look at you, with your sweet, innocent, totally trusting little smile and I just want to do right by you.

I want to give you the world. A bigger house, a nicer car, the coolest toys that money can buy.

I guess I'll just have to settle for giving you all the love in my heart.

You are so special, so cherished, so very precious to me. When I get all annoying and over-the-top with this stuff, please remember--that's why :)

XOXO,
Mom


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Crafting bug bites again!

Dear Readers,
Between giving birth, having a baby that would only nap on top of me, and the crazy hecticness (yeah, I know that's not a real word) of summer, I became a major slacker in the crafting department. My poor Pinterest account even sat lonely and ignored for a few months. Just thinking about all the homemade bath salts and things involving mason jars I missed out on in all that time makes me want to cry (ha!)

But no fear, dear readers, I'm back! Crafty Kristin is making her triumphant return with not one but two easy project ideas.

I've been trying to find ways of actually doing something with the 10 million pictures I have of Elliot just sitting on my computer. I love the photo canvases you can have made through places like Shutterfly, but we just can't afford them right now. So I decided to make my own:



Both of these projects are super easy, cheap, and fast (totally doable during a long naptime, now that E will actually sleep on his own!)

What you need:

  • White canvases in whatever size(s) you want; I got the two 10X10 canvases last Black Friday when they were on sale at Joann Fabrics for like $2.00 a piece. The 12 mini 4X4 canvases are from Amazon and were something like $17 shipped for all 12. 
  • Plain white tissue paper; I got mine in the gift wrap aisle at Target for $1.99 for a big pack.
  • Mod Podge; I used the glossy coat kind but matte would look really nice as well.
  • Large paint brush
  • Scissors
  • Home printer
  • Regular 8.5X11 printer paper
  • Scotch tape
  • Black acrylic paint (optional)
The first step is to get your pictures ready for printing. I use iPhoto to crop/resize my pictures to the size I am going to print. For the mini canvases I used all instagram pictures because I liked that they were already squares.

To print the pictures on tissue paper, you have to get kind of tricky. First, print your picture out on normal printer paper so you can see where and how its going to be lined up on the paper. Then take a new piece of printer paper and tape a piece of tissue paper around where the picture will be printed. You need to make sure the corners are really secure so it won't get jammed in the printer. Then just print like normal and cut around the taped corners to get your tissue paper print. 

If you want to do quote canvases, you can use www.picmonkey.com to create your picture for printing. There might be easier ways, but what I do is find a 'white background' image/JPG using google images, then go to picmonkey and choose 'edit a picture' and upload the white square. Then you can add text in whatever fonts and colors you want. Works great!

Okay, so once you have all your pictures and/or quotes printed out on tissue paper, you are ready for the fun part--mod podge! Apply a nice thin layer over the entire front surface of the canvas, making sure to get the edges as well. I suggest using a pretty wide brush--the less distinct brush stroke marks, the better.

Working quickly (mod podge dries really fast!), carefully lay your tissue paper picture on top of the canvas. Make sure you have it lined up well because once the delicate tissue paper hits the mod podge, you really can't move it without messing the whole thing up. Once the paper is in place, I use the palm of my hand to press down, then use my fingers to carefully push down any little bubbles and get the edges all smoothed down. It's okay (actually preferred in my opinion!) if it doesn't turn out perfectly--the little bubble marks and brush stroke lines make these look really cool and unique.



Let the canvas dry completely, then add 2-3 thin coats of mod podge over the top, being careful that each coat is totally dry before applying the next one. When you're done, you shouldn't be able to see any paper edges on your canvases--it will look like the pictures are printed right on there, super neat!

For my 10X10 canvases I used black acrylic paint around and slightly on top of the pictures because I wanted them to match the black frame they were going up next to:



I hate to brag, but I'm really happy with how these turned out. I can't wait to stock up on more canvases and cover my walls with even more of my adorable boy--I have just a few photos left on my computer :)

Happy crafting!

Love,
Kristin
 
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