A Perfect Way to Open the Season

Go Crazy, Folks! Go Crazy! Happy Opening Day! Will you be watching some baseball today?

I think I might have watched about 1000 hours of my brother's baseball games as a child, which kind of burnt me out on baseball game watching (except during the playoffs, of course), but Jason and I are hoping to get to at least one game at the stadium this season. (My favorite place to sit is the bleachers.) But other than that, I will support the Cardinals through my fashion choices and keep updated through family, Facebook, and SportsCenter. 

Instead of watching baseball, I am going to use today as my own personal restart switch. What better day than today, not only opening day of America's favorite past time but also the first Monday of my 29th year and the (almost) beginning of a new month? I didn't make much progress in March with my health and fitness goals, but I am ready to recommit today and already have. No more party planning or cupcakes to use as excuses! Do you have anything you want to restart? Thirty teams are getting to start a new season today. You can too!
Also, while trying to take a picture of William and me together in our Cardinals shirts, I captured this gem that shows where William gets his ears.

Happy Monday! I hope your week is filled with many good reasons to Go Crazy!

Happy Day!

Piper and I are partying in our party hats non-stop for the next few days to celebrate all of our family's birthdays! But I just wanted to stop by really quick today to let you know that I have something for you! More giveaways coming up in the next few months! Giveaways for your pups and giveaways for you! How exciting is that?! I feel like I am living this scene from Love Actually...
Except my message is not about drugs; it's about products. Become a blogger and they give you them for free... and they give them to the people who read your blog a.k.a your friends and family. 

Also, on a somewhat related note. I started getting offers to review products and do giveaways when I joined two sites, Top Baby Blogs and Top Mommy Blogs. If you are ever here and have a free second (and think I'm the tops!), I'd appreciate it if you would click on the Top Baby Blogs and Top Mommy Blogs buttons over on the right under my blog archive. You can click/vote once per day from each device, and it doesn't require you to input any information. It also doesn't actually enter you to win anything, but I'd really appreciate it... and it is my birthday... so you can count your vote today as your present to me if you didn't get me anything. That's my gift to you. 

Estimated Date of Delivery

Will's original due date or estimated date of delivery (which is what medical professionals really call it but I've always thought sounded more like retail terminology/very similar to the subject line in emails I get from Amazon and the Gap) was March 26th, one day before my birthday... and two days before Jason's mom's birthday and on Jason's brother's birthday. (Happy Birthday, Josh!) A year ago yesterday was supposed to be my last day of work, but there was a late March snow day on the 25th, and I remember my maternity sub asking if I wanted to come in the next day. Umm, no. I wanted to have a baby that day. March 26th was a Tuesday, and Will decided not to come on that day or the next day or the next. I'm not sure if he ever would have decided the time was right on his own, but he did finally show up a week later.

Last night, after his bath, while we were rubbing Will down with lotion and putting his pajamas on, Jason and I both spontaneously started telling Will the story of his birth. "You didn't want to come out, so we waited and waited until finally they had to give Mama some medicine to make you come out." "And even then, you still didn't want to come out, so you wrapped yourself up in the cord, once around your neck and again around your body." (Will started to whine at that memory.) "But then you finally came, and you were such a mister."

Happy EDD Will! You can always take your time. We'll be waiting.

Also, even though Will worked really hard to distance himself as much as possible from all the end of March family birthdays, we are still having his party this weekend. I've been busy with my hot glue gun getting the decorations ready. For the longest time, I couldn't decide on a theme until I realized that the theme could just be "Will" and "party," which worked perfectly with the simple invitations I had sent out months before. The more sparkly pompoms I hot glue to the tops of party hats the more excited I'm getting. 

A Thrilling Way to Start the Week

Last Thursday, to celebrate the first day of Spring, William and I planted some seeds. We'd been diligently watering them every other day... so like one time. And LOOK! Can you see the little green sprout?! We found these little kits in the dollar section of Target, and to tell you the truth, I didn't really expect that much from them. But I thought it might be a fun and cheap activity that William and I could try out together. Each kit came with a little plastic pot and a brown tablet (about the size of two quarters stacked on top of each other) and a packet of seeds. When you add water, the tablet fills the ENTIRE pot with the "growing medium" you see above. Then, you add your seeds and just a few days later, Wallah! I really felt like I got my money's worth just from the thrill of what happened when we added the water to the tablet (and William was just delighted to open and close and open and close the poppy box), but now that we have some growth, I'd say that was the best three dollars I've spent in a while. What if we actually get flowers?
Happy Monday! I hope you can find the simple thrills in this week... but I really can't imagine how the week could get any more thrilling than what you see above. Maybe a sea monkey kit?

Also, I'm considering going back to Target to get the strawberry and herb kits this afternoon. Then, we could have flowers and strawberries and herbs all just growing on our buffet! 

Embrace the Camera

My favorite pictures from this week's challenge are these ones that Jason took of us on Monday.  I told him I just wanted some pictures of us doing what we normally do, not posed or even looking at the camera, so we sat down, picked up a book, and started reading. Then, Lola found her spot, and we found a funny page. For most of the day, my boy is filled with an endless amount of giggles and squeals and the need to be chased, but whenever we cozy up in our chair, I'm able to sneak in a snuggle, just barely resting my chin on the side of his head. I know I'll always be happy to have these pictures.

I wanted to post more from the rest of the week, but I broke the internet on Friday and now that Jason has fixed it, I can't seem to get any more pictures to upload to Blogger, so this is what you get, my favorites. That's it... until I try again tomorrow.

Will's Go-To Meal

Will and I eat all of our meals together, every single one, and for the most part, we eat the same thing. Tonight, we had pork tenderloin, broccoli, pineapple, and Fudge Stripes. I also had some wine, and Will had some cheddar bunnies, but besides that, we both really did eat the exact same thing... mostly with our hands. Sometimes, we both eat peaches and pizza. Sometimes, we both eat stir fry
And this eating together and eating the same thing idea touted in books like French Kids Eat Everything and Bringing Up Bebe is working... for the most part. I'd say about sixty percent of the time Will is a happy, adventurous eater. Then, about twenty percent of the time, one of us eats, and the other cries and refuses to try tortellini or cries and refuses to eat the shrimp that he happily ate the week before. (So he has to wait unitl his next meal or bottle, which I'm not gonna lie, has never really seemed to bother him and is probably harder on me than it is on him. I just reassure myself that he is fine by loooking at his cheeks, the cheeks of a true American child.) Another twenty percent of the time, I just want to eat a Lean Cuisine French Bread pizza for lunch or to go out to dinner without William, and that's where Will's Go-To Meal comes in. This is the meal that he is always happy to eat that also seems like it includes most of the essentials to a balanced (toddler) diet; I present to you: Annie's White Cheddar Shells and Cheese with wilted, chopped spinach. Protein? Check! Dairy? Check! Carbs? Check! Antioxidants, Fiber, Vitamins, Minerals? Check! Check! Check! Check! 
I've tried mixing peas and carrots and chopped chicken into the shells and cheese before, and Will picked out the shells and left the rest. So for us, the beauty of this meal is that the thing that the Will loves, shells and cheese, is literally stuck to the the thing that is super healthy, the spinach... with the added bonus that it is really simple to make and really simple to eat a.k.a easy-to-grasp. I like to chop fresh spinach before and after I wilt it so that it is super small when I stir it into the shells and cheese. If you have never wilted fresh spinach before, it is so easy. While you are boiling your shells, just throw the spinach in a pot or pan, turn the burner on medium, cover, and stir every minute or so until it looks wilted, darker green, and about one tenth the size. 

Also, I think steamed spinach could be a great add-in to whatever your child's favorite meal might be. I have even served steamed spinach in yogurt.

Do you have any Go-To Meals or tips for feeding your baby or toddler? Besides eating the same thing and always eating together, Will (and I... for the most part) don't ever snack, and I've noticed that he does better if his food is cold. When I was still spoon-feeding him, he always did much better if he got to hold something like a spork or plastic lid. Below, I was trying to get him to use the spork as an actual utensil by putting a shell on the end. You can see what he thought of that.

Bangs for Days

I've been talking about it for months, but yesterday, after getting some quality pictures for William and me and seeing our matching sweepy bangs, I finally made the appointment. As of tomorrow afternoon, the Air Force brat in me will finally be at peace when the hair creeping into Will's eyes, over Will's ears, and the back of his collar finally gets a trim. For a moment after I made the appointment, I started to doubt myself, but then I remembered that Will already lost all the (reddish-brown!) hair he was born with and has already had many different spectacular hair moments in his short life...
The fuzzy-headed newborn hair that all fell out (above).
The transitional faux hawk (below).
Baby bedhead (above), which I desperately hope to see again.
And the mullet (below), which I'd be fine never seeing again.

So wish us luck. I have no idea how the first haircut will go. If you have any advice for making a baby's haircut safe and easy, I'd love to hear it! Should I give him a sucker during or after or at all? Should he sit on my lap? I know that if all else fails, he can just keep growing his hair out like his grandmas would prefer.

Also, I have pinned back my equally distracting sweepy bangs today. It's amazing what the world looks like without bangs in my face... mostly I just noticed I need to do some eyebrow maintenance.

A Perfect Challenge to Start the Week

I have so many great pictures of Will and his Papa and even more great pictures of William and his puppa but not so many great pictures of all of us or even just the two or three of us. One of the reasons for this is that I have never been a huge fan of portrait sessions with professional photographers. Everyone else's always seem to turn out beautiful, but I always end up disappointed in my own (which I know is due to my own issues and not the many talented photographers we have worked with over the years). I find that the pictures of myself that I like the most are the ones that other people take randomly with their phones at different events. So this week, I am going to take on the Embrace the Camera challenge from Ashley to actually get myself in some of the pictures I take. Ashley gave some great tips, and the one I am going to try out today is giving up the camera to someone else with specific directions. Jason kind of has the day off today, so we'll have plenty of opportunities... poor guy.  He doesn't even know what he's in for yet. I'm pretty sure I am going to have to rely on selfies for the rest of the week, but whatever happens, whether I love them or hate them, I promise to post an update at the end of the week with at least one picture from each day. What do you think? Do you have this same issue? Are you up to the challenge?

Also, depending on how this week goes, I'd really love to try out this Family Portrait Challenge too.

Playground with Papa

I'm not sure what more William could have asked for yesterday when we discovered this playground. All week, we had been going to the park, enjoying the different jungle gyms and swings with a myriad of other adults and children, but yesterday, we went to the nearby elementary school and found this treasure, abandoned by all for the weekend. There were tunnels to crawl into and bubbles to peer through, chimes to ring and swings to swing, slides (for climbing up!) and most importantly, Papa!
Everything is just a little bit more fun with Papa.
Also, if you ever want to capture some pictures of your child looking like a smurf, this would be the place to go.

Autobiography of a Cold Sore

Last night, I called my mom to see if my sister was still alive. Maggie hadn't responded to a cryptic text I had sent her that morning about St. Euphrasia and another from that afternoon about my desire that both of our children sport Chuck Taylor's, so I was starting to get worried. After my mom assured me she had recently had contact with Maggie, who was not feeling well, and we had been off the phone for a few minutes, I realized what was going on. First Maggie... and Jason was working late, and after I thought about it, my mom seemed to have gotten off the phone with me rather abruptly... I was pretty sure that they were planning a surprise party for me for that very night. 

Earlier that afternoon, after leaving Kohl's, where, standing in line at the register to buy Will's Chuck Taylor's, a girl stared at my face for many minutes while her mom shuffled through her wallet to find all of her Kohl's Cash and Kohl's receipts to combine with today's purchase towards more Kohl's Cash and ended up owing $39.94, I was strapping Will into his car seat, no longer thinking about how I would have responded to the girl if she asked about my face or wondering how her mom might be responding to her at that very moment, no. I was pondering the necessity for teleportation. I had planned on one more stop--Target, of course, to return the third baby gate that didn't work with our stairs and buy random Target treasures like the candles I didn't yet know I would find on sale that said they smelled like meadows but really smelled like my Grandpa whom Will is named after and of which I bought every one I could find--and teleportation would both make the car seat unnecessary (I imagine) and allow us to be home in time for Jeopardy!. When I turned the ignition and my console reminded me that my car is due for "maintenance" and that the tire pressure in the spare tire is low, I continued to ponder the virtues of teleportation while we cut through five or six parking lots on our way to Target.  

This morning, I woke up with a slightly crustier cold sore, wondering if Maggie was feeling any better, completely sober and well-rested myself after absolutely no partying last night, planning my outings for the day between nap times and lunch time and snack time after checking my Facebook feed and not seeing any excitement about any new travel methods, and excited to start the day and puzzle any children (or adults for that matter) that I meet with the large growth on my face that I know won't go away completely for another four or five days and will probably leave a scar that will mirror the misshapen contour from previous cold sores on the other side of my lips. 

And all the while, even without surprise parties and teleportation, I am just feeling so grateful. Grateful that my biggest annoyance of the day is not even my cold sore but contemplating what William will (and won't) choose to eat... and also very grateful that I am not in high school any more (or middle school for that matter) because you know what sucks even more than having a painful, weeping sore on your face? Having a painful, weeping sore on your face whilst spending the day with a jury of your school-aged peers. How's that for perspective? 

Also, the inspiration and title of this post came from Lucy Grealy's Autobiography of a Face, a wonderful memoir that all people should have to read in middle school and high school and once or twice as adults.

Showing Brand New Mamas Some LOVE

Two weekends ago, one of my best friends texted me on Saturday around noon to announce that her son had decided to enter the world a few weeks early. Then, that same night, one of Jason's best friends texted to tell us he and his wife were on the way to the hospital, also a few weeks early. And my mind was blown! So many miracles! So much to celebrate!

It hasn't even been a year, but I can just barely remember those first few weeks at home with Will, which is good, because what I do remember is that it was overwhelming and scary time for me. So whenever I know someone else is bringing their new baby home, all I want to do is surround them with encouragement and love. The number one way I try to do this is through prayer, and the second way is by giving them things. (In my opinion, presents are the best!) Whenever I was a new mom, our wonderful family and friends showed us love by bringing delicious meals and snacks for weeks. But I couldn't eat most of it because I was abstaining from dairy and soy because of Will's milks/soy protein allergy. And I've known other mamas who had to give up food like tomatoes, so even though my first inclination is always to make and bring food, I have tried to come up with ways to show my new mom friends some hospitality that involves something other than food.

1. If you live nearby and want to go all out, there is, of course, the Post-It Note Reception.

2. If you live far away, you can send books to the new family. Using Amazon, we just sent Dad is Fat, Baby 411, Not a Box, and Global Babies to Jason's good friends. For a personal touch, Amazon lets you right a note with each item. I addressed each note from William to the new baby with a funny message on how he could use the book.

3. If you are loaded, you could hire a night nanny for the family. If my mom hadn't spent the night with us a few times during that first week, I don't know if we'd all still be here. Also, that's what I would like with my next baby if you are taking notes.

4. If you are planning a visit, you can make up a hospitality basket. This combines food and drink with fun essentials for the new mom and family. See below for instructions.

Are you aware of hospitality baskets? People sometimes give them to guests when they arrive for destination weddings, or you can make one for a guest who is spending the weekend at your home. They usually include anything a guest might need as well as some fun/local items to welcome them for whatever their event might be. Fun, right? I can't think of anyone who deserves a hospitality basket more than a new mom. All you need is a basket, some post-its (because the notes of encouragement are probably the most important part), and your items, and you are good to go. See below for some ideas on items to include in a hospitality basket for your favorite new mama.

Food: Easy snacks for eating while nursing (because she will pretty much always be nursing), beer for a boost in milk production or for the papas if she'd prefer to abstain, steel cut oatmeal with flax seed for a quick snack and boost in milk production. (I lived on oatmeal and fruit for weeks as it was one easy meal that was both dairy and soy free.) Also, any of her favorite food items will be appreciated. My sister got me Fruit Roll-Ups!

Gift Cards: To local restaurants that deliver or have carry-out, for books, apps, and music. Also, a gift card to her favorite clothing store would be fun. Tell her to buy some postpartum clothes in her current size for an easier transition back to her normal size, or you can include some easy clothing items in the basket too...

Clothing: You are probably pretty close if you are making this hospitality basket, so you might feel comfortable buying your new mama clothes. (I think figuring out what to wear was one of the most annoying things postpartum.) I included yoga pants (my favorite postpartum clothing item), a loose-fitting tank top, and a button-up dress (easy for nursing) that she could throw a cardigan or jacket over. Also, if you don't feel comfortable buying clothing, slippers and/or a robe are always great.

Essential Items for a Nursing Station: Along with her lanolin and water, gel pads, lip balm, gum, and face wipes will be appreciated to keep her taken care of during the hours and hours of nursing/pumping. Also, magazines, books, or even a subscription to Netflix can make nursing/pumping more enjoyable.
Also, as I mentioned before, notes will be greatly appreciated. So even if you don't have the time or the resources to make up a basket, checking in on her with encouragement and funny notes will always be appreciated.
Top Picture: Will at five days old... always tired, NEVER sleeping.

Another Day, Another Chambray

Under a cardigan, vest, scarf, or all three. With a sparkly necklace and heels, a sweater and boots, or just some mom shoes (and pants, of course). At parties, at church, definitely at Target. If you have encountered me in person this past fall or winter, you have seen me in a chambray. They are my momiform. Impervious to stains, pockets for the essentials (chapstick and cell phone), and the perfect weight for a wide range of weather, you can bet I'll be wearing them through this ditzy spring. Combine the fact that they are so easy to wear with the fact that they are everywhere and go on huge sale, and it's a wonder I only own four. Old Navy has this floral print one for ten bucks right now. Get it so we can be chambray buddies... kind of like bosom buddies... okay?

Also, I attempted to take pictures of myself wearing my chambrays in every which way that I do so I could share them with you, and it was really funny and bad. So if you need some inspiration for how to wear yours, come visit me in person, or even better, just check Pinterest.

Baby Battles

All winter long, William has been putting things on his head like it is his job. Hats, lids, hammers, blocks, socks. He puts them all up there. 
But sunglasses? No. Yesterday was a bright, warm (80 degrees!) Monday. We went to the park to swing and slide and took Lola for a big, long walk around our neighborhood and soaked up the warmth and vitamin D, and Will sneezed... a lot. Not because of any allergies but because of the sun. Ever since Will was a little bitty baby, he has always sneezed when the sun got in his eyes. Can any of you other blue-eyed beauties relate? I haven't gone as far as Googling or talking to our pediatrician (like those are the same... ha!), but I think there might actually be some health benefits (in addition to how cool he looks) to him sporting some sunnies. But no matter how hard I tried, Will felt that his sunglasses were better for holding and chewing. And so begins the war of the sunglasses. My prediction is that if you meet us at the park or come swim with us at the pool this summer, you will hear a lot of, "God Bless You"s and "Gesundheit"s.

Also, I'm really excited about warm weather because it means I can give up on the sock battles... for the most part. 

The Best Photo Editing Apps (for iPhone)

Instead of learning how to use my DSLR like I had planned, I have been relying more and more on apps to edit my iPhone pictures. And here's why: 1) My iPhone is almost always with me. 2) I know how to use it. 3) It requires no wires to download, edit, or upload pictures to various places. And 4) The pics are fine. I know they could be better quality, but that would mean a lot of extra work (which I don't actually mind) and time (which I don't actually have).

So if you are also a primarily an iPhone photographer like me, you will want to check out the following apps (which are all very affordable) to help make your iPhone pictures better with just a few easy taps.

For collages, adding words (like you see above), and simple filtersA Beautiful Mess is still my favorite, and you can read my review and see examples of how I use it most often here.
Runner Up for Adding Words/Doodles: Rhonna Designs is similar to ABM and has many more options if you want to get even fancier.
Runner Up for Collages: Moldiv offers more options for making collages and adjusting the size and shape of your picture. And it's FREE!

For Adjusting Light/Filters: Most of the time, I have found that I just need to lighten my pictures. You can do this with almost any photo editing app (VSCOcam, Afterlight, FX Editor) by adjusting the brightness, but my favorite app for lightening is PicTapGo.
For example, I took the picture below...

And then used the "Lights On" filter in PicTapGo twice...
And got the picture you see below.

PicTapGo also offers cropping and many other great filters. So if you were only going to buy one other picture editing app besides ABM, I would recommend PicTapGo.

For EVERYTHING (exposure, saturation, temperature, sharpening, vignette as well as more filter options, borders, and many other features): Afterlight is the most user-friendly out of all the other apps I have tried and would be the third app I would recommend buying after AMB and PicTapGo.

ALSO, if you want any of your iPhone pictures to look good before or after using these apps, you need to do THREE things before you take your pictures. 

1) If at all possible, take the pictures with as much natural light as possible. Your pic will be even better if the light is not behind your subject.

2) Frame your shot. Look around whatever you are focusing on to see if you have everything in the picture you want in and everything you want out of the picture out. The less you have to crop, the better quality your pictures will be.

3) Take a moment to move the angle of your phone to see how the light changes the image AND give your phone a second or two to focus. You would be surprised how much crisper your photos will turn out if you wait even one second. 

Now, go capture your child/pet/food/self so you can get to editing and posting for the rest of us to enjoy!
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