Tuesday, December 14, 2010

We won a dollhouse!

The Simple Living Media network had 25 giveaways at the start of the month. I entered just about every one, and we won a furnished solid wood dollhouse made by Melissa & Doug. It retails for $150! M&D's products are all over Madison-- in the kids' corners of the local coffee shops to the homes of the kids that are in our playgroup. Their toys are intended for open-ended play, and from what I can tell by the toys I've seen around, they are well-made. We have a little wooden puzzle by them that LE has enjoyed gnawing on and clapping the pieces together like symbols. What's great is that Michaels craft store sell some of their collection, which means that you can get them for 40% off with the popular Michaels coupons.

Moving right along...

Like I said, we won the dollhouse! It arrived yesterday, and Mindy, LE, and I put it together today. LE pulled the stairs out of it about three times, but other than that, she's shown close to zero interest in it. It's just as well since it's intended for kids 3+, and she'll be interested in it some day. In fact, I'm almost certain she'll love it some day.

While I was assembling it with Mindy, I was thinking... Oh! I could paint the walls inside! Oh, this bed needs me to make it some pillows and a comforter! What about a little yard outside? Put up a little hanging artwork and... and then I realized. My house needs paint on its walls. I have a few paintings that I have left unfinished. What about our yard? So, maybe it's a good thing she's not quite ready for it because it's probably going to take me a couple of years to get to her dollhouse's "needs."

I want her to like it just today, though. I stood her up and had her hold onto the third story for dear life stability.

She just knocked off the stairs again.

Then she sat down, looked back at me, and thought... wait a minute! I see something much more interesting than an all wood, pepto pink and fuchsia furnished house without dolls...

Alright, so maybe she's not quite ready for the dollhouse yet. I know a few little 2-3 year old kiddos that would love to come play with it, though. For now, LE is content babbling to her sock for 10 minutes at a time (like she was doing when I wrote this post) or waving around a page that she tore out of a book.

{Sorry about the poor lighting. I didn't want her to see me but that didn't work out.}

Sunday, December 5, 2010

LE at 8 Months

Here's what's going on in LE's life at 8 months and some change:
  • Crawls around like a pro
  • Pulls up on everything
  • Kneels
  • Bounces on her knees
  • Laughs at everything and laughs really hard if you laugh with her
  • Loves peekaboo
  • Babbles
  • Drools when she is concentrating on something or excited
  • Breathes through her nose and bounces when she's excited
  • Loves Cheerios and any food that we're eating; prefers finger foods to spoon fed foods
  • Cries before going to bed
  • Naps twice a day
The Havercamps lent us a couple of their son's toys since he has outgrown them, and they are perfect for LE's age. She seems to really like playing with the activity table.

I got myself up! Now what?  
I know! I should try to eat it!
That's a pretty standard reaction-- she tries to eat everything. Here are a few very short videos that show some pretty typical Lauren-isms.

Thanks to Nanny for the cream colored outfit and to Christi for the green outfit!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

New Home Initiation

We woke up this morning to a find a few inches of snow covering our home and everything outside. It's our first real snow of the season, which is a time when everyone is still eager to shovel the snow. Ok, so maybe that's a slight exaggeration. It's more like, if you are ever going to be eager to shovel the snow, now's the time.

John and I have lived in condos or apartments up until now, so the snow always got cleared away for us. This is sort of like a rite of passage into new home ownership in the Midwest. I insisted let John take the first turn at shoveling since inevitably, there will be plenty of opportunities for me to have get to shovel us out when he's traveling.

This weekend is also the busiest Christmas tree shopping day of the season, so we went out with everyone else to search for the perfect tree. Luckily, Madison has a lot of tree farms, and one just so happens to be 2 miles down our road. 

LE was thrilled that we opted to go tree shopping instead of having nap time. Can't you see the excitement on her face? 
View of the Christmas tree farm

We arrived at the cute farm, and did you know that trees are expensive?! Holy smokes. We are looking just for a tiny tree-- one that can sit on top of our table-- and we weren't going to pay big-size tree prices to get it. We took a quick walk around and then promptly got back in our car. After going to another place that had an if-we're-desperate tree, we ended up buying our little guy at the grocery store. Lame-o, but cheap-o and just the right size-o.

Also, did you know that everyone likes to go to Target today, too? Oh, and don't bother going because they are sold out of all of the good lights. I'll speak on behalf of all Targets everywhere.

We got our little beauty home, plopped her on the table, and decorated her with every ornament that we own and a string of lights from Janet (aka Nanny) from last year. It looks cute and is just right for us this year. I can't imagine having a full-sized tree with LE pulling up on everything and Sweetheart (our cat) who likes plants. I'll pass on that, thank you.

Hi! I'm cute and apparently can't eat without spilling on my shirt. Why didn't my parents put a bib on me?
How about you just ignore that, ok?

And here's our little tree all jazzed up, one of my favorite ornaments up top (sock monkey from Gamama a couple of years ago), and our first and only present under the tree (thanks, Cindy and Dave!).

How was your Saturday? Are your decorations up?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It may be worth it to procrastinate buying Christmas gifts this year!

Have you heard of Free Shipping Day? This year, on December 17, over 750 stores have already signed up to participate in giving free shipping with a Christmas Day delivery guarantee. Granted, who knows if what you want will be in stock by then, but it sounds like a great way to avoid shipping costs! From Neimans to Moosejaw-- there are a lot of great stores participating! Go to http://www.freeshippingday.com/ for more info and to see if the stores you're shopping from this season will be participating.

Monday, November 15, 2010

One of two completed... Thanksgiving Crafts

I finished up the little pilgrim hats that I said I was going to do for this year. These were inspired by this post at Jellybean Junkyard.

Here's the inspiration shot:

And here's how mine turned out:

These were cheap, easy, and not time consuming! 
Here are the supplies for my version (I bought everything from Michaels):
  • One small clay pot for each person
  • One 8.5x11 sheet of yellow felt (I used the stiff type and less than half the sheet for all 7)
  • One 8.5x11 sheet of gray felt cut into strips across the short side
  • Black cardstock or paper
  • White pen (mine was a paint pen that I already had)
  • Paintbrush
  • Hotglue gun and glue
  • Scissors 

As you can (kind of) see with Kate's place card, I made them so that the names could be removed for different guests in the future. I went ahead and wrote out some other family members' names on cardstock so that I can keep them all together in a Ziploc.

You can follow Jellybean Junkyard's tutorial for most of it, or you can wing it like I did. It's that simple. One thing I do recommend is keeping a little part of the price tag sticker to put on top of the hole at the bottom of the pot. Then paint over it when you paint the rest of the pot. Good luck and have fun!

Now onto the more elaborate one that I may or may not get to this year since the paper mache part takes a few days.... the cornucopia.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

First Teeth Captured... finally!

It took a couple of weeks, but I finally managed to capture on camera LE's first teeth! Her right one came up on the Friday before Halloween, and the left one came up the Tuesday afterward.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thanksgiving Decoration Ideas -- cheap!

This year is our first time to be in a house of our own {no moving in sight!}, which means I am allowed to start thinking about holiday decorations. John may have other thoughts on that, but as he said to me last week about some other decorating-related item... it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission. (note: we really don't live by this rule.)

I try to subscribe to Simple Mom's way of thinking when it comes to what is in the house: only keep what is useful or beautiful. It has to be one of the two. In addition to that, for holiday or seasonal decorations, I would really love to only add items that were handmade, whenever it's possible. Stores sell items so overpriced, and there are so many great craft ideas out there that can turn spaces into awesome places. Seriously, the amount of creativity floating out there in cyberspace is overwhelming! 

I'll post photos of the ones I do. Here are two that I think I'll be doing this year (images are not mine; credited in the caption)

Love the cornucopia idea, and I'd put dried corn husks, small pumpkins, wheat, and squash in there.
This is from i am an aspiring artist.
I'm doing my version of this for sure-- already started it! Mine will be less expensive, though, since I'll be using craft paint instead of spray paint, no chalk paint, and all felt for the belt. The names will be in the middle of the buckle.
How cute are these? Found at Jellybean Junkyard
Are there any fun crafts that you'll be doing or wish you had time to do for the holidays?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Removing the "huh?" out of starting solid foods

At LE's 4 month mark, I was eager to get her started on cereal in the hopes that it'd help her sleep longer than two hours at a time. I went out and bought the cereal, attempted to feed it to her, and she refused. She didn’t know what the heck a spoon is and the bland, sticky stuff on the end of the foreign object was not appealing to her. Four attempts later, I still only managed to get a spoonful here and there in her. Then, after waiting a week, adding cinnamon, and trying again… she opened her mouth for it!  I couldn’t believe the amount of pride that I felt for her doing such a seemingly simple task that I do so mindlessly as an adult.
Even though I was really eager to get her to start eating, I quickly realized I didn’t know much more than that. I could figure out how to mix up the cereal, but how much should she eat? How often? In addition to or in place of her milk?
I'm hoping this post will help show you first-time moms out there that it's not hard to introduce solids, and please, please make your own baby food! Not only is it more nutritious and way cheaper, but it's so (reiterate: SO) simple. If you already have a pretty well-stocked kitchen, you probably won’t need more to buy any more equipment other than what you already have. Although some people I’m sure swear by them, you don’t need the special baby food puree systems like Beaba.
Here's What You'll Need:
  • Small to medium sized pot (preferably with a lid)
  • Steamer (you could just use the pot if you want, but this is better for some veggies)
    • Mine is the stovetop kind (see photo of the carrots below). You could use the countertop ones, too.
    • THRIFTY TIP: If you don’t have a steamer but want to steam veggies, you can use a metal colander that rests on top of a regular pot. Put some water in the pot and the veggies in the colander.  
  • Ice cube trays (I have just 2; you can find them at the dollar store, Wal Mart, etc)
    • Or, you can use any small freezer-safe containers that you want.
    • THRIFTY TIP: Some places will say that you should buy a whole slew of containers or trays, but you really don’t need to. If you have more puree than what will fit in your containers, freeze what you can and refrigerate the extra. A few hours later or the next day or so, pop out the frozen ones into Ziploc baggies or larger freezer-safe containers. Reuse the trays for the rest of the refrigerated food.
  • Ziploc style baggies or large freezer-safe containers, used to store the food in the freezer.
  • Plastic wrap (optional)
  • Writing utensil to label the bags or containers
  • Blender, immersion blender, potato masher, manual ricer, or food processor.
    • I use this immersion blender, and it works wonderfully. It's under $30, and you can use it for a ton of things other than just baby food. 
  • Your baby will most likely not be eager to take that first bite off of the spoon. They may be curious, but after the first taste of something other than their formula or breast milk, they may get turned off. Don’t be dismayed or force it. Just stop and try again a couple of days later. Rumor has it, breast milk fed babies take to solids faster than formula fed babies because breast milk tastes different depending on what foods the mom ate.
  • Until your baby is one year old, breast milk or formula should be the primary source of nutrition. That means that the solid food that you are giving is in addition to the milk! It is not a replacement of a meal. The goal is to work up to getting your baby to eat solids at breakfast time, lunchtime, and dinner time.

Let's Get Started!

Cereals  (as early as 4 months old, or when your doctor advises)
I did not waste my time making my own rice cereal. The box of cereal can run from $1-3, and it will last you a long time. My first box lasted 3 months! Plus, it’s important to buy cereal for babies so that it’s sure to be fortified with iron.
Start with just a tiny bit mixed in with formula or breast milk. Don’t anticipate success the first couple of times that you are trying to introduce it, so don’t waste a lot of your precious milk by making more than a spoonful. Simply add warmed breast milk or formula to the cereal keeping in mind the cereal thickens as it’s mixed in; a little bit goes a long way. Make the first tastes very runny, and feel free to add some cinnamon! 

Veggies (as early as 6 months old, or when your doctor advises)

The first tastes of veggies are really so, so simple to make.  These are veggies that have a low risk of allergies and are easy to digest.
  • Carrots (see image below!)
  • Sweet Potato – same instructions as carrots
  • Green Peas (see image below!)
  • Apples (ok, this is a fruit, not a veggie) Wash, peel, and core then follow the green peas method, increasing the cook time until the apples are tender
  • Squash (I didn’t do squash yet because summer squash isn’t in season) same instructions as carrots
  • Avocado – give little tastes that are mashed in your fingers; Must be consumed immediately as it will not keep!
  • Bananas – use bananas with brown on the peel to ensure it’s sweet enough; mash some with a fork and stir in a little breast milk or formula to thin out; Must be consumed immediately as it will not keep!  

General Tips for First Tastes
  • Most baby foods are freezer friendly. You can defrost in the fridge overnight, on the counter for an hour or so before feeding, or just heat it up frozen in the microwave or on the stove.
  • Applesauce can be used in just about everything! I keep some in the fridge at all times, and when something gets warmed up too hot, I spoon some of the applesauce into it to cool it off.
  • Cereal can be used to thicken up anything that’s a little too runny. LE really liked cereal made with really runny carrots + pumpkin pie spice. Cereal can also be used to tame the taste of something, like tart apples.
  • Don’t be afraid to add spices! Experiment, but use your head. Don’t add hot spices, and steer clear of salt in the starter foods. LE’s favorites are curry powder, cinnamon, apple/pumpkin pie spices (which are mostly cinnamon plus cloves and ginger).
  • Until after 12 months, stay away from trouble foods, like peanut butter, nuts, honey, eggs, sugar, and cows milk. Also, be extra careful if your family is prone to an allergy of a certain food, and some sources say to stay away from wheat and berries (especially strawberries but blueberries are fine).
  • One ice cube = about one ounce.
  • As with all of my groceries, I adhere to the dirty dozen, clean fifteen lists when deciding whether or not to buy organic. You can do as you want. Here's a link to the list and a link to a PDF wallet printable. 
  • Only introduce a new food once every few days so that if there’s a sensitivity or allergy, you will know what it’s from without further trial and error.
  • THRIFTY TIP: Coffee mugs are great for microwaving and serving the food when they aren't spooning food to themselves yet. 

    After the First Tastes: 
    • Make soup purees that you would eat, too, like Butternut Squash Soup. Or, if you are making soup for your family, make a separate pot with similar ingredients for your baby.   
      • For example, make a simple chicken soup with water, chicken meat, celery, carrots, onion, a few peppercorns, some thyme or oregano, and a bay leaf. Simmer on the stove until it’s all tender, remove the bay leaf and peppercorns, and puree. This freezes well! 
    • Feed foods that are in bite-sized pieces instead of just purees.  Get creative! You'll probably notice that you baby will want to taste all of your foods, too. Give tastes from your plate if it’s tender and small. Remember to stay away from trouble foods, like peanut butter, nuts, honey, and cows milk. Also, be extra careful if your family is prone to an allergy of a certain food, and some sources say to stay away from wheat and berries (especially strawberries but blueberries are fine).
    • Buy some Cheerios-style cereal to let your little one try to feed himself with. They'll first start with palming the whole thing, then using three fingers, and then just the two fingers to pinch the cereal. It's great for their fine motor skills, it is fortified with vitamins, they get to practice chewing, and they tend to like the different texture.
    • Instead of feeding pureed carrots, give a few bits of cooked carrots that are broken into bite sized pieces. Or, give some cooked beans or bits of cauliflower. Anything that can get broken up by gumming it to death is great (once again, stay away from trouble foods as mentioned twice above). Your baby will try to stuff as much in his mouth as possible, so give small quantities at a time and monitor him to be sure he doesn’t choke. 

      Some Good Resources I Used:  

      Have fun with it! It’s such a great time!

      Saturday, November 6, 2010

      Jesus was a baby

      This morning I read to LE from her children's Bible, and I don't know if the passage is one that affects me differently after giving birth or if there's something about the way that it's written for kids made it hit me in a different way. Whatever it was, I got chills and was on the verge of tearing up when I read about how Mary was told from the angel that she was to have the Son of God.

      I cannot imagine how Mary felt when the angel told her. Think about it. For all of Mary's life, she was told about how God will be sending a king of kings to save them. Everyone in her time was wishing and hoping and thinking and praying {oops-- I didn't really mean to get that song stuck in everyone's head} for his arrival. Now, think about all of the people who stumble over words when they get to talk to a famous person. Think about all of the screams you hear when [enter boy band name here] get out of their limo, not to mention the number of people who faint in their presence. All of that for a person they've only known about for sometimes less than a year, and that person is only musically inclined {arguably} and presumably attractive. That is it. They are so lame compared to how great Jesus is.

      So that's one part of how Mary must have felt-- completely shocked that she was chosen to be the mother of the much awaited for Son of God. Add to that the pressure of being a good parent. All of you parents and soon to be parents out there know what those 9 months of waiting for your first born are like. Shock at first. Then anxiety. Then just being ready (and then realizing you really weren't really ready because there's no way that you could be). We go through months of preparation and excitement for our own little miracles. I can't imagine what that would have felt like if I were told that LE was going to be THE one.

      One last point and then I'll let you go. As I was reading the Bible to LE about Mary having a baby, LE was trying to get at the pages, kicking the book with her toes and lunging towards it when she could. I've pictured Jesus as a baby, of course. How could I not have given the popularity of the story of his birth. What LE brought to life is the idea of Jesus in that stage past newborn and before toddler. Can you picture him discovering his hands for the first time, sticking his feet in his mouth, struggling to figure out how to crawl, drooling everywhere while he teeths, blowing raspberries, giggling, pooping out of his diaper, and Mary needing a peepee teepee? Think about the pressure that we put on ourselves to make sure we're fostering our child's development in the appropriate ways. How do you think Mary felt? Do you think she was more carefree because she knew that God sent Jesus to save us and God would take care of it? It's not like God was going to say, "Nevermind, Mary. You didn't give him enough tummy time, and you ate too much deli meat during your pregnancy. I've decided Jane over here is going to give birth to the Light of the world instead. You just have a baby, and good luck explaining to everyone how you got preggers." Or, do you think she felt more pressure to be sure she didn't let God down? Even though I may have liked to think that I was always right growing up, I don't think my parents felt the same way (still puzzled by that one. ;) ) Mary and Joseph knew that their child was different. I wonder if they had to teach him how to share and be gentle to his baby peers. It was probably an odd feeling for them to raise God's child. Yes, I know that we are all God's children, but I'm pretty certain LE is not Jesus disguised as a baby girl who came for his second coming.

      Speaking of LE, she's waking up from her nap now so I must go.

      Monday, November 1, 2010

      Happy Halloween!

      It was a busy weekend for the Reises! Granny and Gramps (John's parents) arrived Friday afternoon to spend Halloween weekend with us. Among other things, we toured the new buildings at Epic, carved our pumpkins (FINALLY!), roasted pumpkin seeds, had chicken and dumplin's (a Reis Family tradition), and dressed LE up in the lamb costume that Granny made. We didn't have a ton of trick or treaters, but considering we're at the end of an uphill dead end street at the edge of our neighborhood, we had a pretty good turnout.  On Saturday night, Granny and Gramps babysat while John and I went out on a date for the second time since LE was born 7 months ago. {I guess it's actually 4 times if you count going to wedding festivities, but since it wasn't just the two of us, it doesn't seem the same.}

      Eating rice cereal puffs on Halloween Eve while wearing her Halloween jammies from Nanny
      Sweetheart dressed up like an elephant.
      Surprisingly, she purred the whole time.
      Waiting for the first trick-or-treaters to arrive.
      LE thought the bearded guy in a red sparkly hat was funny.
      Surprise! It's just Dad! (oh, that's not as funny)
      The jack o lantern on the left is John's rendition of LE-- check out her lashes, and yes, that's right...a TOOTH! It came out to play on Friday. :)

      Hello, curl!
      Finishing off the night with some candy. (ok, not really)

      Friday, October 29, 2010

      Happy day to me from Shutterfly!

      In early October, I received word that I was selected to host a Shutterfly party, which meant that I got supplies to host a party for friends with balloons, candy, sample holiday cards, and promo codes for free photo books and cards. A few years back, I was skeptical about the quality of Shutterfly's services, but I have since become a believer. We have received a number of books from them, and compared to other companies, like blurb, the books have really turned out well and they make it really easy to do.

      I spent some time looking through Shutterfly's website today at their 2010 holiday card collection, and I must say that I was surprised at the variety of the designs. They have lots of different types of designs from contemporary to traditional. While I'm partial to sending cards that are reminders of Christ's birth, sometimes I have a mini silent battle inside my head with the cool, trendy card designs that just show the fun nature of the winter.

      Their cards are reasonably priced (starting at 30 cents a card on sale through Nov 3) and incorporate the ability to add an additional photo and write a message on the folded cards. If you add personalized [holiday] return labels, you'll have the best looking cards around.

      Here are some of my faves:

      In the past, I've tried to find cards that are more than just a card... I want something that will give to a charity or organization I believe in. I was thrilled to see that Heifer International is one of the companies you can opt to give to if you select on of those card designs. Have you heard of Heifer? They give animals to people in poor countries to help them build their infrastructure. We've given to them in the past, and fully support them as an organization. Alternatively, you could support the American Lung Association and LIVESTRONG. If that's something you believe in, you should check those out, too.


      I'm excited to do the final selections and attempt to get a good photo of us as a family. It will be Lauren's first Christmas!

      Full Disclosure: Shutterfly is giving us 50 free photo cards in exchange for a blog post 
      about their holiday cards; HOWEVER, I stand by everything I wrote.

      Saturday, October 23, 2010

      Ve're Going Back in Time Ven Tings Run Slower

      A few weeks back, we did what everyone with kids do who live anywhere near a rural area: we went to pick our own pumpkins and attempt to get the picture-perfect photo of our daughter with pumpkins. The place we went to is just a couple of miles from our old condo, and is an "apple orchard vit da Norvegian exposure..., an old fashioned orchard featuring selv plukk (U-Pick) apples, raspberries and pumpkins for lots of old fashion rural farm fun." It's exactly what you'd think of when you picture a pumpkin patch, complete with Radio Flyer wagons for just about everyone; a Eplebutikken (a little store with already picked apples, apple butter, and cider); pumpkins, and fresh cider; a 150 year old barn; a model T; horse drawn hayrides; corn maze; and loads of people on a Saturday afternoon.  The day we went was in the 80s, which is exceptionally hot, especially given we had our first snowfall by the end of last October.

      We parked our car at the end of the row and walked down the dusty parking lot to the entrance. We found a wagon and made our way out to the middle of the pumpkin patch where most of the pumpkins were still connected to the vine. 

      Did I say it was a hot day? Yeah, we were sweaty, and we all got a little bit tan-- including LE, which is the mark of a bad parent. Strike one.

      Finding the perfect pumpkin was not at easy as it sounds.
      Getting the perfect photo of LE with the pumpkins was not as easy as it sounds, either.

      She didn't hate it as much as it looks... she is just a serious baby when she's thinking about something, and you'd probably be thinking hard too if your parents plopped you down on some strange, bumpy orange things that you'd never seen before.

      The trip wasn't at sweet as we had hoped, but when I went back this past week on a bright, cool fall weekday when the farm only had 3 other visitors, it was just right. Driving home made me appreciate, once again, how much I love living near the conveniences of a city and the beauty of the country. There's not a day that goes by that I am not in awe of God's creation.