I Did It!

In January, I said I was going to finally learn to use my sewing machine.

I registered for a Sewing 101 class a few weeks later, and was … totally underwhelmed.

Long story short, the class description and the actual information covered were not really the same thing. In fact, the instructor took one look at everyone who brought their own sewing machines and said, “I will not answer any questions you have about your own machines.”

Oooooook then.

Then I sat through a three-hour class, and we actually used sewing machines for the last 15 minutes.

So I came home sad and angry, with a threaded machine I had no idea how to re-thread or troubleshoot.

Thankfully, my sewing machine manufacturer had a lot of helpful how-to guides online, and I just taught myself athank you very much!

Then I just dove right in, and made a damn quilt. (Sondra at A Calm Persistence made one for baby Nora, and I thought it was so pretty!)

I started with this tutorial, which basically said your skill level needs to be can-sew-in-a-straight-line. ✔️

I started by measuring coordinating strips of 6-inch and 4-inch flannel.

 

I layered the strips as directed, and sewed right down the middle (mostly in a straight line), and laid out my pattern.

Then I took a break, and quickly made two pillowcases, using this tutorial, with some adorable Curious George fabric I stumbled across.

Gus was SO EXCITED about his new George pillow, and he has slept on one every night ever since. 

Back to the quilt! 

I started at one end, and just added one section at a time, and it probably took three days, working mostly at naptime to finish. 

I opted not to bind the outer edges, because that seemed a little intimidating (and I ran out of fabric). I figured I could always bind it later. 

So I ragged the seams (the rag side) and the outer edges and the flip side is the more traditional quilt side.

It still needs to be washed a few more times for all the little loose threads on the rag side to work their way out, but Gus loves it, and I am super proud of myself. 

  

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Ho Ho Home

Tonight Gus and I were invited to my family’s annual Gingerbread House decorating party.

I was perfectly happy to eat pizza (and, let’s be honest – candy) while all my nieces and cousins decorated their little cookie houses, so I was really excited when I found out they had one for Gus too.

Since he was busy climbing up and down the stairs and dismantling the Christmas tree, I took it upon myself to decorate his house for him.

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“That looks really good,” my cousin told me while my house sat between those belonging to 2–5 year-olds.

Well, it should. I’m 33.

I want to decorate gingerbread houses for a living. Is that a thing?

I also got our Christmas tree up and decorated (sort of).

I wasn’t thrilled about just decorating the top half, where Gus couldn’t reach. Despite rarely putting the laundry away, and having dusty ceiling fan blades, and whatever else I don’t do that drives my mother insane – a half decorated tree would make me crazy.

So I quickly grabbed the leftover, mostly baby-proofed decorations from Gus’ birthday party, and got to wrapping.

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It’s no where near as fancy or festive as I’d like, but start to finish was about 20 minutes, and that’s OK by me.

We also had Gus’ Christmas pictures taken earlier this week, and while I can’t show you my absolute favorite until I mail my Christmas cards, I can show you some others.

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While we were at the mall for pictures, we also stopped by to see Santa…

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…which did not go well at all.

Baby Photo Project

I get a lot of comments about Gus’ monthly pictures. Most are from friends and family who tell me they wish they had done something similar, since before you know it, you’re sending your kids off to college, apparently.

So, while I’m no expert, I DO like to take pictures, and in the last eight months, I’ve figured out some of what works, and what doesn’t when babies are involved. If you’re thinking about starting a photo project, here are my two cents:

Lighting & Position: Unless you have a lot of fancy flashes, and a diffuser, natural light is your best bet. I like to pull a chair up as close as I can facing a large window head on — I only leave enough space in between for me to sit in front of the chair. This way the shadows will be minimal, and if you use the same set-up every time, your pictures will be consistent. When I took Gus’ first monthly picture, I didn’t think about positioning the chair — I just used it as-is, right next to the window. You can see the difference in the shadows from one month to the next (and it drives me crazy).

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I also shoot at Gus’ eye-level, every time. Since he’s oblivious to his chubby cheeks and occasional double-chin, he never objects.

Schedule Smart: This will take a little troubleshooting on your part. You want to pick a time when your baby is happy, and fed. Once you know when naptime(s) might be, you can plan more accordingly. Gus is great first thing in the morning, right after his first feeding, or in the early afternoon after a nap and some food.

Sit Up: This is a little tricky in the beginning. I was lucky, in that Gus had amazing neck strength and head support from the start. I was able to sit him up and as long as I shot fast, he didn’t move. There were a few times he’d tip to one side or the other, but I was never more than a foot away from him, and nine times out of ten, I would reach up to steady him, and my hand was just outside of the frame.

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It … doesn’t always work.

You can certainly start out with your baby laying on a blanket or in their crib, but gooooood luck getting them to keep doing that when they’re seven months old, and spinning like a top.

Be Consistent: If you decide to just take some pictures, willy-nilly, sitting/laying/standing, wearing whatever, in a different room each time, more power to you. That would drive me crazy.
Furniture — I started Gus in an old chair that cradled him really well before he could really sit up, but the back isn’t super tall, so I had to switch it up as he got taller. In retrospect, I would have used the same (taller) chair from the start.
Clothes — One of the decisions I made early on, was to dress Gus in the same thing for every monthly picture: White shirt. Grey pants. I’m so glad I did, because now when you look and all the pictures side-by-side, you don’t really notice his outfit or the background (more about that below) — you just see the changes in his face (and belly! And hair! And feet!) from one month to the next.
Background — Even though I had to switch chairs, no one noticed, because I covered both with the same patterned blanket from the start. Since his clothes were simple, I wanted a little color in the background so that if I ever display them side-by-side, they looked consistent.
Props — When you look at Gus’ pictures all together, you can really see the changes in his face, but you can’t really appreciate how much he’s grown overall. Next time (shout out to future babies!) using a stuffed animal or other meaningful toy for scale would be a good idea.

Distract & Bribe: Babies are easily distracted, so have a small toy that squeaks or rattles ready to go. I hold mine up over my head so he’s looking toward the camera while I shoot with the other hand. Now that he’s mobile, all he wants to do is crawl off the chair, or pull the blanket down over his face, so I’m forced to bribe him with puffs (which he is addicted to). I’m genuinely worried about what will happen when he can stand and walk, so this is not a facet of baby photography I feel I’ve mastered.

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Shoot Fast & Shoot Extras: In addition to being easily distracted, babies aren’t super patient (at least mine isn’t). So I don’t waste a lot of time trying to get the best picture. I just take a lot. Like, whatever you think is enough, take a dozen more. Shake that rattle, squeak that toy, and snap, snap, snap.

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For every published monthly picture, there are usually 40 that get deleted.

Think About Your Final Product: I have a few uses in mind for Gus’ monthly photos. 1) I plan on framing them in something like this, with his first birthday portrait, and eventually doing the same with his K–12 pictures. 2) I’ve been periodically working on a photo book of his first year, and the last sections will use all 12 pictures side-by-side. 3) I’m also planning on making him/us a DVD for his first birthday (videos, photo slideshows set to music) and will use them there as well.

That Time I Made a Scene at Walmart

Remember when I used to talk about things that aren’t my beautiful, bouncing, baby boy?

They were usually embarrassing stories about my mother. Or hilarious accounts of pre-baby hormone injections. Or glorious, dairy-filled food.

I miss that.

But babies are demanding little tyrants, even when they’re not getting over double ear infections, so I haven’t really done much else for the last seven months.

Until last week.

See, it was my friend Stephanie’s birthday, and I wanted to get her something nice. I started with a bag full of candy, because who doesn’t want a bag full of candy, obviously. But it didn’t seem special enough.

Stephanie and I share a love of all things Harry Potter (and Hunger Games, and GoT, etc.) but while my heart will always belong to one Ronald Weasley, she loves… Lucius Malfoy.

I know, right? What a horcrux.

So, I thought I’ll get some photos of ole’ Lucius printed and framed for her. It’s funny, and cute, and not a huge time commitment (hello, sick baby), and she will LOVE it.

So I find two high-res photos online.

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I send them off to Walmart for same-day printing, and go to pick them up a few hours later.

They give my photos, tell me I can pay for them up-front if I have more shopping to do, which I did.

At the register, the barcode doesn’t work. I show them the online confirmation with the price so they can just charge it manually, or whatever, but they call someone up from the photo department.

“These look professional, do you have a photographer’s release?” he asks me.

“Ummmmmm. It’s Lucius Malfoy. He’s not a real person. It’s from the Internet. I don’t think it’s copyrighted.”

“Well, but do you have a release?” he asks me, again.

“It’s the Internet. I found them on at least six different websites. I think it’s ok to sell them to me.”

“Well that violates our copyright policy.”

(I’ll stop here and say, I get it. I would never, ever, steal artwork or photos from someone. But as someone who makes and sells artwork, I always, ALWAYS protect my digital work with watermarks. There were plenty of pics of Lucius that had watermarks, and I didn’t try to use them, obviously. So is this a grey area? Maybe? But I feel like these were some sort of studio/movie release/marketing stills, and last time I checked HP did pretty well at the box office, and Warner Bros. probably doesn’t really care.)

“You’re telling me you’re not going to sell me my photos of Lucius Malfoy, which are a GIFT, by the way, but that you were fine with actually printing them? And you realize I can go home and just print them myself as many times as I want? Will you be turning me in to the police?” I wanted to know.

Blank stare from photo department employee.

“So what will you do with them since they’re already printed,” I asked him.

“We’ll shred them in the back,” he says.

“Oh, no. How do I know you’re not a HUGE Lucius Malfoy fan? You could take those home! Or hang them in your locker! Tear them up right now. In front me me.” I demand.

And so I stood there, and watched him tear them up, one at a time.

And I must’ve said “Lucius Malfoy” at least a dozen times, very loudly.

And so Stephanie had to settle for Lucius à la laser printer — which did not stop her from rubbing the frames all over her face.

New Shop Item: Printable Birthday Chalkboard Signs

My friend Kristen throws more parties than anyone I’ve ever met, and she is — without a doubt — my most loyal customer.

Sometimes the things she asks me to make are so adorable, I turn right around and add them to my shop.

I’ve actually had my eye on these chalkboard-style prints for a while, and planned on making one for Gus’ birthday in the fall, so I was excited to get started when she asked me to make one for her adorable baby girl’s first birthday.

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They’re perfect for your little one’s birthday (not just their first!), or as a photo prop for their birthday pictures! Colors, size, and each category is totally customizable! Enter coupon code SPITEORFLIGHT during checkout to save 25% on your entire order!

Mr. Baby’s Room

So, I’m having a baby in two weeks, if this wee one doesn’t make an appearance on his own in the meantime.

And he is wee.

Once I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, all my doctors were concerned we’d have a giant baby. So at my growth scan a few months ago, we were all shocked to find out Mr. Baby was measuring smaller than expected. Like, a few weeks behind-small. Physically there doesn’t seem to be an explanation for why that might happen — he looks fine, and is doing all the things he should be doing for his gestational age — he’s apparently just … wee. They said it could be a combination of my blood pressure (which has been fine for months and months) and my clotting issues (which have also seemingly been fine) OR, he could just be little.

I mean — he’s not like, freakishly small or anything. We had another growth scan yesterday, and he’s just over five pounds, and I still technically have three weeks left to go. He’s already bigger than his father was when he was born, and I’d much rather give birth to a five-pounder than a nine-pounder, so everyone wins!

We’re about as ready as we can be to bring this fella home. I officially finished his nursery last night (which was sort of pointless, since he’ll be in our room for a few months anyway — but whatever! progress! to-do list is getting smaller!)

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Please excuse the somewhat blurry pictures — my shutter finger was tired from putting up all those birds!

I love, love, LOVE the room. Some things we knew we wanted to include from the beginning, and others we sort of stumbled across as we went along. I can’t tell you where I got everything — some things were gifts, and others were hand-me-downs I cleaned up, but here’s where you can find most of the bigger items we used, if you see anything you like:

Crib
Rocker
Ottoman
Quilt
Felt Balls
Wall Decals
Cloud Mobile
Balloon Prints
Pixel Roller Coaster Print
Under The Sea A-Z Print
Giraffe Print

The bookcase is an old Ikea number I bought when I moved off campus about eight years ago, and the dresser used to belong to my grandfather. It was my dresser in my nursery 32 years ago. Both needed some attention (the dresser more than anything) so I opted to paint them both white to help camouflage any scratches and dings. One of the dresser drawers sticks a little, but aside from that they seem like they’ll get the job done. The rug is a blue-ish/gray super-soft shag number we randomly found at the annual Rug Bazaar at our local Home Depot, which we stumbled across and just happened to find a rug we liked in the right size, for a decent price.

Those felt balls? I originally bought them and turned them into a mobile, which I liked. Then I went to my baby shower and my cousin Ali gave me that cloud mobile, and I was in LOVE. I immediately went home, disassembled my obviously handmade mobile and turned it into garland (because I didn’t know what else to do with it, and I wasn’t about to let the dog eat $40 worth of felt, which she really really wanted to do). I envisioned making it a lot longer, and swooping along the crib wall, but I got lazy (too many knots) and then fell in love with the birds.

One of our favorite things is the Pixel Roller Coaster print — the artist is a retired graphic designer and WWII veteran with macular degeneration, who’s almost 100 years old. He makes everything in Microsoft Paint, so he can zoom in and work one pixel at a time. Each of his prints takes years to make from start to finish. Go look at his website — there’s a video, that I can’t even think about without crying happy tears.

Baby Showered!

Saturday was my baby shower, and it was full of adorable clothes, delicious cookies, and heartfelt wishes from family and friends.

I warned my nurses in advance I’d be eating cookies over the weekend. ALL the cookies.

I kept that promise.

In other news, here’s photographic proof that there’s a baby in there (and that my boobs are huge).

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I didn’t get to take a lot of pictures, because I was busy stuffing my face with mini quiche and mustache-shaped cookie bars, and by the time I got to use my camera, the party was almost over.

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My friends and family filled out Wishes Cards for Mr. Baby — which wasn’t a total surprise, because, well — I had to make them — but I didn’t mind. We had them at my cousin’s baby shower last year, and I really, really wanted the same thing for my shower. What I didn’t know though, was my mom mailed blank cards to the people who couldn’t come to the party so they could still participate. Man, that lady sure is thoughtful.

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The common consensus? Everyone thinks I’m hilarious, and Mike’s beard is amazing.

But we already knew that.

Mike and I were so touched by what everyone wrote for Mr. Baby, and all the gifts we received. And now I have a dining room full of adorable clothes, books and stuffed animals, and strollers-and-bouncers-and-playmats oh my!

And since 1) I got my hair cut for the first time in more than a year, 2) used a hairdryer for the first time since February, and 3) put makeup on my face (as opposed to my usual getup of chapstick and a sweat-stache) — here are some more pictures of my face (and some other faces).

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That last one right there? Parents in sixish weeks! Say what?!