Friday, October 12, 2012

Creating a Sleep Schedule for Baby

My 6-week old is sleeping 8 hours straight at night! That's right! You heard it!
I am no "Baby Whisperer," nor am I a "Baby Coach." While I feel like I've achieved some victory over nighttime sleep, my son's daytime schedule is almost non-existent. I have, however, spent weeks researching the people who call themselves so, and I've compiled some helpful resources for you!

(Note: If you're going to start researching sleep training or schedule-making methods, keep in mind that even if you don't follow them to a T or if you find yourself "giving in" to what they advise against, sometimes just being aware of what they suggest will greatly help you and your baby's journey toward developing a schedule. You'll eventually find yourself implementing helpful strategies without realizing it! Knowledge is power!)

The first thing to know is that there are no right answers. Whatever strategies you choose will be right for you, your baby and your lifestyle.

There are (basically) three schools of thought about developing baby schedules. I found this information from Baby Center:
  1. There are "parent-led" schedules, in which baby eats, sleeps and plays according to the parents' schedule. "You'll sleep when I say you'll sleep."
  2. There are "baby-led" schedules, in which baby eats, sleeps and plays when the desire arises and baby will naturally develop a consistent schedule. "You'll sleep when you're tired."
  3. There are "combination" schedules which combine the "baby-led" and "parent-led" principles. "You'll generally sleep when I say so, but it's not written in stone."
Then you have different sleep training methods. The term "sleep training" is often helpful, as it reminds you that your baby needs to be taught bedtime routines and habits, that knowledge on how to "go to bed" is not innate.
  1. The "cry it out" method recommends that you lay baby down while he is still awake. Then, if he cries, you do not rush to him and sweep him up into your arms. Rather, you allow baby to cry for a short period of time, go in to reassure him with calming words and maybe some gentle patting or rubbing on the chest, and depart again, returning a short time later if baby is still crying. 
    1. This method, often associated with pediatrician Richard Ferber, is suggested to begin when baby is 4 to 6 months. (The above link for the cry it out method has step-by-step instructions on page 2 of the article.)
  2. The "no tears" method generally believes that allowing baby to cry is a betrayal of trust for your young one. Advocates suggest that you lay baby down early when he's showing signs of sleepiness. Then, if baby cries, comfort immediately by picking baby up and laying him back down when more calm. Some advocates recommend lulling baby to sleep by rocking him or use of co-sleeping.
    1. This method is often associated with Tracy Hogg (the "baby whisperer").
  3. There is a method that combines aspects of the methods above. The primary pediatrician associated with this method is Harvey Karp, creator of the "five S's," or, "the happiest baby" method. He recommends rocking baby to sleep or letting him fall asleep on your chest. Then, to prepare baby for falling asleep independently, you gently rouse baby before laying him in his crib. If baby cries, you apply Karp's "five S's" technique, which involves the following steps to recreate the experience in the womb (in this order):
    1. Swaddle baby. If that alone does not work,
    2. Side or Stomach - Place swaddled baby on his side or stomach (while still in your arms). If that doesn't work,
    3. Shhh - Make the shushing sound in baby's ear while still following the first two steps. If that doesn't work,
    4. Swing - Gently rock or make short swinging movements while still following the first three steps. If that doesn't work,
    5. Suck - Give baby a pacifier or your finger to suck on (sucking on a pacifier at night reduces the chances of SIDS)
All methods of sleep training recommend setting consistent baby schedules. To help me, I documented every nap and meal my son had from Week 2 on. (I'm still tracking every meal and nap. It's been really helpful in identifying sleep and eating patterns that my son was naturally developing on his own so I knew what consistent schedule to enforce.)

Before writing this post, I didn't think I subscribed the any method or school of thought. After this, however, I can say that I've subscribed to more of a "baby-led"schedule (I never would've guessed that's what I was doing!) and the "no tears" method. My husband finds a lot of success in the five S's method, which goes to show several methods can be used in one household.





Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Contractions and Labor: Myths and Tips

When my husband and I took our birthing class, we walked away with a knowledge base we thought would help us through the birthing process. As with many things in life, labor and deliver can only truly learned through trial by fire.

Here are some things we've learned since our labor process began:

Myth #1: Once contractions start, they'll progress consistently toward active labor. 
We thought that once your contractions start, you've got maybe 24 hours before baby arrives. I have now been in "inactive labor" for almost 72 hours. Inactive labor, for me, has consisted of:

  • contractions varying in length and severity, occurring anywhere from 3 minutes apart to 4 hours apart
  • lack of sleep due to contractions at night and frequent urination (once an hour)
  • nausea
  • heartburn
  • diarrhea/overactive digestive system
Many pregnancy websites state that once signs of labor begin, it can take up to weeks for delivery, but they don't really describe what that time in "limbo" can be like. Inactive labor is no picnic! After 24 hours of it, I was exhausted! I wanted to be induced, which is something I feel very strongly about (after having been induced almost immediately with my first child). I went to the hospital and learned that after 24 hours of constant discomfort and lack of sleep, I went from being dilated at 1cm to 1.5cm! As with so many anxious parents, we were sent home to continue our laboring at home.

Tip#1: If possible, treat your days of "inactive labor" like any other day. Don't get too excited with the onset of beginning contractions, you might be devastated to learn that you've still got days before delivery. If you notice your contractions aren't really stabilizing, or becoming consistent, or they aren't intensifying, don't waste your time on laboring activities! I spent hours walking, hoping it would stabilize the contractions. All it did was add to the swelling in my feet and make me exhausted. So today, I'm enjoying my time.

  • Eat
  • Rest
  • Relax
That's what I'll be doing until I notice that either my water breaks, I get my "bloody show," or my contractions start to noticeably intensify.

Myth #2: Contractions are easily measurable.
A coworker and I were recently discussing how hard it's been to measure the length of a contraction in early labor. Half of the time, I don't know if what I'm feeling is the beginning of a contraction or something else (like gas)! After having the honor of receiving them for almost 72 hours, I've been able to describe my contractions as such:

  1. a slight wave of nausea hits
  2. breathing becomes labored
  3. stomach muscles begin to tighten
  4. slight pain develops in back and gut at the peak
  5. gradual release of muscles and pain
Tip #2: Once you are able to identify that what you're experiencing is, indeed, a contraction, measure the first few to get your bearings. Don't worry if your measurements aren't exact and pay more attention to the time between contractions than the length of contractions (the latter is much more difficult to measure in the beginning). Don't be surprised if what starts off as an hour or more of consistent contractions (one contraction every 10 minutes, for example) suddenly gets inconsistent. Just when I thought mine were stabilizing at 7 minutes apart for an hour, I wouldn't get one for 30 minutes. Then, I'd have one 12 minutes later, then 5 minutes later, then 24 minutes later... it was frustrating! After measuring for more that 48 hours (and not focusing on much else), I'd had it! Trust your body. When your labor becomes more active, you'll notice it, even if you're not specifically focusing on it.

I'm still in the "inactive" section of my labor, so I'll have to add more as we experience it...


Thursday, August 16, 2012

DIY Floral Decor from Green Wedding Shoes

For our wedding, my sister and I made little flowers from sheet music. I loved them, but they looked tiny on the huge redwood we got married under.



These DIY giant flowers would've been amazing! 

Really, poster board and a bath poof never looked so good...




DIY Split-Tone Bridesmaid Shoes from Green Wedding Shoes

I'm planning on doing this ANYWAY, but it's a great idea for bridesmaids!! Click here for step-by-step instructions!!

Your materials...

Your awesome new shoes! 


DIY Ornament Favors for Holiday Wedding from Green Wedding Shoes

Getting married around December? Consider this DIY project for decorations or wedding favors!
Have kids? Consider making one of these each year for the kiddos!!!

Your materials... (Instead of using that squared applicator, you can use any tool with a straight edge. You can also use a hair dryer instead of the Zap. Just be easy on the heat!)


Your awesome favors!

Seriously, I have to do this for Christmas this year for the babes!




DIY Cake Stand from Green Wedding Shoes!

Oh, goodness! Where was this post a year ago!!!! Green Wedding Shoes features an awesome DIY post showing you how to make your own cake stand!!! Click on the link for step-by-step instructions!!!

Your materials

Your awesome cake stand! 

Really, that can't be any easier!


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Unique Wedding Inspiration from 100 Layer Cake

100 Layer Cake features a post for the artsy types, and it's pretty awesome!!! 
Love the dress!!! ("Aubrey," designed by Lindee Daniel of Lovely Bride)

That bouquet is amazing! (Floral done by Charlie and Olivia)

I love that the ceremony site seems really intimate and charming!





Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Creating a Nursery Using Children's Literature


I've mentioned in earlier posts that our kids' room will feature an artistic design inspired by Eric Carle, the author of such classics as The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Very Grouchy Ladybug

Carle's illustrations contain vibrant colors, complex textures and raw, choppy lines. He incorporates a variety of materials when creating a single subject, adding contrast and depth. 
From The Very Hungry Caterpillar

I wanted to decorate the room in this style without directly going with images from his stories. In order to attempt to replicate his style, I enlisted our 5-year old daughter.

While the design of the room will have a heavy Carle emphasis, I wanted to incorporate as much classic children's literature as possible.

Our first project involved a short poem by Shel Silverstein, "Listen to the Mustn'ts." You can do this with any phrase or quote.

Materials:
- Blank canvas
- Acrylic paints
- Large paint brush or small roller brush (I prefer the small roller)
- Painters tape or adhesive vinyl
- Transfer tape (optional)
- Scissors or a die-cut machine (such as a Silhouette SD or Cricut, for cutting words or letters)

1. I typed the poem into my Silhouette SD and had it cut out using adhesive vinyl. You could also cut it out by hand using adhesive vinyl or blue painters tape.
This is the adhesive vinyl I bought for my Silhouette SD.

2. I placed the words on the blank canvas using transfer tape. (Note: If you're using adhesive vinyl, getting it to stick to the canvas can be cumbersome. Put a little elbow grease in it.)
Transfer Tape can be used whether you're using vinyl or painters tape in order to ensure your words aren't crooked, they're evenly spaced and placed just how you want them.

3. I chose a background color and applied it with a small roller brush. (I recommend using acrylic paint for this step, as you will see below.)

4. My daughter and I planned what the design would look like, then she used Crayola paints and fingerpainted the design over the background color and poem.

5. Once the paint dried, I used an X-acto knife to lift up the vinyl letters. Somehow, the Crayola water-based paints bled under the vinyl letters (which is why I really discourage the use of such paints for the background color), so I had to take a small paintbrush and white out little spots here and there afterwards. I couldn't even remove the vinyl letters spelling the author's name because the paint bled so much, so I left the vinyl there. 

After this project, my daughter and I sought to replicate something we saw at Ikea:
This Olunda piece is only $12.99, but we wanted to personalize it.

Materials:
Ribba Shadow Box frame from Ikea ($9.99)
- Fine tip black marker
- paint (we used Crayola finger paints)
- glue stick
- Construction paper
- white paper (2 sheets - one for the actual painting and another to create the goldfish)
- thick foam tape


1. Using a fine tip marker, draw your fish tank and table line directly onto the glass.
2. On the white piece of paper (which should be the same size as the frame), I finger painted the outline of the water inside of the tank (using my eye to determine whether it would fit inside the tank outline on the glass), then had my daughter fill it in.
3. I painted the outline of the desk, then had my daughter fill it in.
4. I drew a goldfish on paper and then cut out the fish parts using orange construction paper. (I actually cut out individual scales.)
5. My daughter glued the fish parts onto the drawing of the fish. 
6. I cut the fish out, then taped it directly onto the "water" using thick foam tape.
7. Assemble the frame! (Note: When placing the glass in the frame, if your marker was not permanent, make sure the ink side is on the inside of the frame to prevent your image from being smeared or erased.)
Voila!











Sunday, July 15, 2012

Urban Gardening: Our First Big Harvest

The idea of growing your own vegetables is very attractive - the amount of work you put in to boast that claim is... overwhelming!
After being on vacation for two weeks (post to follow - awesome activities to do in Oregon!), we came home to a largely overgrown mess of intertwined plants, weeds and bounty ready for the picking!
We came home yesterday afternoon and have (so far) spent 12 hours weeding, cleaning and harvesting.
Here are the fruits of our labor:
Roughly 3 lbs of regular and Italian green beans. (This kind of Italian bean grows meaty, rich-tasting, purple, and long beans. Many of the beans are at least 8 inches long!)

We've got more basil than we know what to do with (we'll dry most of it), peppers (for canning), and eggplants.

Our first batch of tomatoes (some of them broke off prematurely while pruning), lemons, and oregano.

Our pepperoncinis and Italian frying peppers.

Our squash (and lonely cucumber)... Wait, here's a better pic to describe how huge these things can get:
Most of these puppies are bigger than a dinner fork, which immediately makes me wonder... What on earth am I going to do with all this squash???

This is our third year gardening, so our skills have improved over time and allowed us to get to the point where we've got enough veggies to make the work worth it. Here's what we've learned so far:

  1. Knowing the quality of your soil (and improving it for certain plants using natural plant foods and fertilizers) is KEY! We've specifically sought out plant foods and fertilizers for the plants we've selected to improve the quality and health of each plant. 
  2. Plan before you plant! This not only includes the layout of your garden, but also researching which plants are compatible next to each other and how to plant your plants. 
    1. Before planting, my husband tests the soil (checking to see if it's too acidic for the plant or not), he digs a hole about 8 inches (12 for tomatoes) below the surface and places dry fertilizer at the bottom (for strong roots and healthy stems), and researches how to plant each plant. Then he puts a layer of soil between the fertilizer and the plant.
      1. For instance, tomato plants need strong bases to be able to hold those hefty tomatoes. So, my husband pinches off any branches or leaves growing at the base of the plant and places it deep into the ground. (Notice below how much of the tomato plant's stem is underground.)
    (From MoonGrow.com.)

    3. Put in the time! Weeds grow quickly and pests flock to your plants even faster. If something's eating your leaves, or if your leaves are turning yellow, curling in or out, getting mildew or if your blossoms are dying, do your research! Don't just give up on the plant! There are ways to keep your plant alive! Your local nursery can provide a wealth of information, and there are lots of gardening blogs and sites to refer to! Plan on checking on each plant DAILY! We have roughly 40 plants and spend around 6-8 hours a week in the garden. (If you have a watering system on a timer, this will reduce your time.)
If you're planning on gardening for the purpose of growing even half of your own produce, let go of the idea that gardening is like a hobby. If you want to yield reasonable results, you have to put in the time. Lots of time! 







Saturday, June 23, 2012

Gardening: The Urban Farmer

My husband has a bit of a green thumb. Okay, he's slightly obsessed with urban farming! I know, I know! It's all the rave! However, being that our "nest" is part of this blog title, I can write about our budding farm, right??

This is what our garden looked like during Year 1 (3 years ago):
We grew some herbs...

We had a tomato plant...

We grew one eggplant...

Some flowers...

We grew a lot of lettuce that year...

We had a pond...

We grew about 30 green beans

Being our first attempt at gardening, we were pretty pumped! But with each Spring, my husband has managed to improve his gardening skills. Three years later...

Our snap pea plants have prevented me from buying them at the store for weeks!

 Our Italian green beans started from seed and are now huge!
 April

 June
(Yes, they're over 7 feet high... and growing!)

 Our tomato plants in April...
Our tomato plants now! (They are soon going to tower over my 6'4" husband!)

 Our squash plants...
 A ripe beet...


 (From the left, clockwise) Our watermelons, tomatoes, cantaloupes, peppers, cucumbers, jalapeƱos, eggplants, more peppers, spicy basil and other herbs)

From this year alone, we've been able to collect quite the harvest! Here's some of what we've picked:
Radishes

Carrots and Squash

Cucumbers

More squash, cucumbers and purple Italian green beans

Here are a few of my hubby's harvest yummies:
Some roasted beets (with roasted beet leaves)...

Wild arugula atop prosciutto and peas...

Canned spicy carrots!

This is just the beginning of this year's bounty! Has it always been a cost-effective way of buying produce. No way! Is it time-consuming? Heck yes! 
But my husband loves it and we can rest-assured knowing where our produce is coming from! (Plus it tastes better!)

Thinking of starting a garden of your own? 
Rule number 1: Be patient! 
It's taken my husband three years to learn from his mistakes and improve his gardening knowledge. Each Spring he keeps a record of his learnings for the next year, and each year he's gotten better!

Rule number 2: Have a plan!
Don't plant too much your first year. When planting something, consider the light source throughout the day, how big the plant will get (including whether it will cast shade over those around it), and research any ailments the plants are likely to get (so you know what to look for).

Rule number 3: Put in the time!
Gardens require a LOT of attention! Be ready to put in time 3-4 days a week (between gardening, feeding, pruning and weeding.)

Rule number 4: Buy plant food and fertilizer!
Yes, you need them. Yes, they will improve the quality of your plants. Yes, you need them!





DIY Homemade Baby and Children's Bedding

Okay, I'm endeavoring to create my own bedding for the kiddos (which I encourage every new mother to at least try!!). I previously wrote about baby choosing unique baby bedding in another post, and I've decided to make my own!
First off, the kids will be sharing a room for at least the first year, so I wanted their bedding to match. Second, I wanted to create something in the style of Eric Carle (without buying Eric Carle bedding from Pottery Barn... tempting, but no!)
(Pottery Barn's cute Very Hungry Caterpillar bedding, $180 for the set.)

So, I scoured the virtual world for fabric sites that could offer some inspiration. Being a huge fan of Spoonflower.com, I went there first and found these designs by C'est La Viv (who also has a blog!):
This will be used for the border of my sweet boy's quilt. (I'm going to cut out fabric sea creatures and sew them between the "waves.") ($18/yard)

This will be used for my boy's quilt also (as patchwork "wave-like" chunks in the center of the quilt). ($18/yard)

This cloud design will be used in the center of my daughter's quilt. ($18/yard)

I'm going to use this swatch as a monogram for both bed sets. ($5)

I also found these designs on Spoonflower:
This design is by Nadja Petremand. I was going to put panels of it around the cloud design to create the illusion of rainbow rain drops falling from the clouds. ($18/yard)

This design is by Patty Sloniger. I was actually going to use it to create air bubbles (coming from the creatures' mouths) and maybe a few creatures as well! ($18/yard)

Next, I found actual Eric Carle fabrics at fabrics.com! This site offered fabrics at a much better price (around $10/yard) and offered the option to buy partial yards as well (which Spoonflower doesn't offer).

This will be used to create actual rainbows on my daughter's quilt.

This will be the border of my daughter's quilt.

This design will be the primary background of my son's quilt.

My son's quilt will have an Eric Carle ocean theme, 
(from A House for Hermit Crab)

whereas my daughter's quilt will have an earthy Eric Carle theme.

(from The Tiny Seed)

The fabrics are on their way!!
Here are my initial designs:
For my daughter

For my son...