Painted Coffee Mugs

I’m a fan of anything hand-created. I’m not sure what other people think… but I believe there is something special about items you make yourself. Plus, the whole ‘creation’ process tends to be enjoyable!

For Christmas this year, the grandmothers are going to be receiving coffee mugs painted by little Gus. They are SUPER easy to make.

Supplies:

Cheap mugs

Alphabet stickers

Ceramics paint & brushes

Step ONE: Stick those stickers on. We’re rocking the “Nana” and the “Mima.”

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Step TWO: Paint away! Make sure to paint completely over the stickers.

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Step THREE: Air dry! Seriously. Let those bad boys sit for a few hours. The stickers are easiest to tear off when they paint is NOT tacky.

Step FOUR: …peel off the stickers! Things I learned: let the paint completely dry. Otherwise the paint will come with the sticker. I ended up using an exacto-knife to help feel them off. It can get pretty tedious, but it’s worth it.

Step FIVE: Now, with painting ceramics, you have to heat them up. You can either let the cups sit untouched for a month, or you can do what I did. I set the mugs in the oven, set the heat to 350 degrees. When it reaches that temperature, I set the timer for 30 minutes. Finally, I turn off the oven after the timer sounds.

Basically, you let the cups heat up in the oven, cook, then cool down in the oven.

These are top-shelf dishwasher safe (if you use the same kind of paint).

Our “Mima” cup didn’t turn out… because I tried to peel the letters ahead of time, but the “Nana” cup looks pretty darn good!

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Not too shabby! 🙂 Time to wrap these up and get ourselves a nice “datte” (that’s “latte” in Gus speak.)

So, your toddler has a snow day…

You spent your entire childhood (and adulthood, let’s face it) loving snow days. I mean, come on! It’s a free day at home!

 

And then you had a toddler.

 

Remember how you were going to be the best mother ever? You weren’t going to be that frazzled, exhausted mother—no—you were going to be The Best. So far, you’ve been The Okayest at the whole parenting thing.

 

And then the snow day happened.

 

It was just another day at work. You had been watching the weather reports, hoping for some snow. Come on, the brown grass just looks sooo much better under a blanket of magic. Then the clouds rolled it and the powder began to fall.

 

As you stared out the window, it hit you: you should probably go pick up your kid from daycare while the roads are still decent. So, you pack up your stuff, get in the car, and head down the road. In your mind, you’re assembling a list of things you want to get done now that you’ll have the afternoon at home.

 

Hahahahaha! I laugh at you. Hahahaha! You think you’re going to get anything done?!

 

You and your little one arrive home. You start in on your list and your toddler runs around the house.

 

Fast forward three minutes: your toddler wants pretzels. You get him pretzels.

 

Back to your list.

 

Fast forward five minutes: your toddler, who is just starting to potty train, wants to go to the bathroom. You take off his pants and diaper and walk him into the bathroom…. And he never pees.

 

So, you figure why not use the snow day to potty train?!

 

Good luck with that.

 

Your toddler will now spend the day walking around the house with his junk hanging out. Really, he’s pretty good at going to the potty when he wants to… but god forbid you go in with him. Or ask if he needs to go. He’s a grown two year old, don’t you know, mama??

 

And you’re back to your list again. But he wants more snacks. He wants you to pick him up and put him down… 3 times before you get smart and say now.

 

Then you’re starting to get frustrated. He’s a ball of energy that missed his nap.

There are just so many things you planned to do! So you turn on the TV.

 

Don’t think that’ll give you a break—it’s just going to add more noise.

 

He’s walking around the house, throwing toys, and screaming “Let it goooo, let it goooo, let it gooooo.”

 

Before you freak out, here are a few pointers:

 

  1. Feed the kid. Pretzels, cheese, crackers, fruit, milk, juice… whatever. Just shove food down his throat. They can’t talk too well if they’re chewing.
  2. Accept that you’ll have a partially naked toddler running around the house if you are trying to potty train. Bonus: he sets himself on the toilet. Minimal work for you.
  3. Whatever it was you planned on doing today, forget it. Find something else unimportant to do. Even that might not get done.
  4. Eventually that kid is going to want an actual meal. So, make sure you have some Mac & Cheese or Spaghetti O’s on hand. Don’t pretend you’re a gourmet chef, because you’re not.
  5. Have an arsenal of activities at the ready: crayons and paper, books, toys, playdough, what have you. Be prepared to redirect him every seven minutes.
  6. If the roads aren’t terrible, go to the store. You don’t need anything… but go anyway. It’ll get you (and your toddler!) out of the house (BONUS: adult contact!). Just know that you’ll probably spend a lot of money on completely unnecessary things.

 

Today has been a long day. You and I both know it. You also know that you’ve had better parenting days. You’ve also had worse parenting days.

 

That daycare provider is a saint. And you’re a pretty darn good mother.

Love You Forever

As I watch my 2-year birthday boy sleep, I think about the last couple years…

The first night in the hospital, I didn’t send him off to the nursery until almost midnight. I didn’t want to miss a thing. I didn’t want to miss a single moment with him. I wanted to spend as much time with him as possible because one day he’ll be grown up and gone.

My heart was full.

I remember getting home from the hospital, exhausted and in pain. My family was taking turns holding him. Dripping in hormones, I remember bawling as I stood in the living room, “I just want to hold my baby.” Of course they gave him back to me. I can’t shake that feeling though—that feeling that all I want in the world is to hold the most precious thing I have. He was the only thing I wanted; the only thing that could make me feel better and whole.

My heart was full.

I remember a couple weeks later, when we had finally settled into our routine, I had put him to sleep in his crib. I walked back into my room and stared out the window with tears in my eyes. I knew what heartbreak felt like—an absolutely paralyzing pain. Now, I knew what heartache felt like—an absolutely paralyzing pain. I love him so much that it hurts.

My heart was full.

I have never experienced more love than as a mother. Of all the titles I have in my life, “mother” is the biggest, most defining, and most important of them all.

My heart is full.

It is full of watching him learn to sit, crawl, stand, walk, run. It is full of his first words and his first sentences. It is full of watching him dance and listening to him sing—the sweetest sounds I have ever heard. It is full of the books I have memorized as I read them over and over and over at his behest. It is full of the toys scattered around my house because he was playing. It is full of a little boy who wakes me up in the morning, tugging my blankets saying, “wake up…wake up, mama!” There is so much I am thankful for.


There have been so many good times. Some of the best moments of my life…but they certainly didn’t come easily. So, here’s the truth: mothers try and sometimes miss the mark. But we do our best with what we have.


I wish that I knew it was okay: When I held Gus for the first time, he was a screaming, purple, cheesy, cone-headed alien mess. When the doctor laid him in my arms for the first time, I remember thinking, “how am I ever going to love this baby?”

But, oh, if only I’d known just how much a heart can grow.

I used to be ashamed of myself for thinking that until I realized that not every woman has the perfect birthing story. Not every woman is a saint. That mothers fail. But, boy, do they try their best.

I wish that I knew that this was normal: When I struggled for the first few weeks with minimal attachment to Gus, because he was much like a stranger in my house. A crying, stinking, needy stranger. I felt wrong. Mothers are supposed to love their babies from that first glance. I had cringed. And even two weeks later, I struggle to attach to Gus.

But the secret is: this is normal. That baby IS a stranger. Those first few weeks aren’t meant to be easy. He is just as hesitant as you are. And this too, shall pass.

I wish that I knew that my best is enough: When I switched Gus from breast milk to formula, I felt like the worst mother on the planet.

But that baby was fed. Gus was full and happy.

I wish that I knew sooner that people will come if you call them: When I was ready to run away because I had a screaming baby who wouldn’t let me sleep at night and barely let me take a 5-minute shower…I couldn’t handle it. I was alone. Single, new mom.

But I forgot that it takes a village to raise a child. I had a support system a mile long and all I needed to do was ask.

I wish that I knew sooner to forgive myself: I’m not going to be there for everything. There are firsts that I missed. You may miss the first steps, like I did. You may miss the first word, like I did. You may miss all sorts of firsts. But, that does not make you a bad mother. That baby isn’t going to resent you for missing these things. That baby will remember that you were there for him when he needed you most. He will remember that you read him the same book 50 times in a row. He will remember that you played with him, that you spent time with him. He will remember a home full of love and acceptance.

I wish that I knew that I am just as important: I spent the first month after Gus was born focused on him. I showered when I could…which wasn’t very often. (Yuck, I know… but I was a new mom and my lack of hygiene was OK.) I forgot to eat. I forgot to take time just for me. It wasn’t until I was run into the ground and crying to my mother for help that I realized I needed to take care of myself.

Because I can’t take care of that baby if I don’t care for myself.


Today, I am much kinder to myself, but not always.

I feel like I’m drowning. I feel like I should be there with him all day, every day. Not only because he should have his mother at his disposal, but because I don’t want to miss anything.

He’s growing. He needs the social life of a toddler best found at daycare. He needs the independence. And I won’t always be there to hold him.

I feel like I’m failing him. I complain that I don’t spend enough time with him. But when I spend extended periods of time with just him, I go nuts. I feel so guilty. How can my daycare provider care for numerous toddlers that she isn’t biologically obligated to?!

Yet, I forgave myself. I make the time I have with him count. I take care of him financially. And I take care of him by taking care of my own mental health.

One day, he’s going to leave home. He’s going to go out into the world and make it so much more beautiful than it already is. He is going to love fiercely and fight honestly. I will not be capable of being any more proud of him.

So, today, I need to hold my little 2-year-old tight to my chest. I need to be thankful for the terrible-twos that he is in now… because they won’t last forever. I need to not look back nor look forward; I need to focus on brushing his teeth and scaring away the monsters.

And my heart is full.

A mother held her new baby and

very slowly rocked him back and forth,

back and forth, back and forth.

And while she held him, she sang:

I’ll love you forever,

I’ll like you for always,

As long as I’m living

my baby you’ll be.

-Robert Munsch

Cake.

SPOILERS!!!

I recently watched the movie Cake. It is the story about Claire, played by Jennifer Aniston, and adjustment. Claire and her son were in a car accident. While the boy died, Claire survived but with a degree of paralysis and chronic pain. She struggles to cope with the loss and abuses pain medication—to treat both physical and psychological pains. Claire connects with the surviving husband and son of a woman she knew in her support group who had committed suicide. Flirting with the idea of committing suicide herself, Claire speaks one sentence that resonated with me. As she laid on train tracks awaiting death, she says, “I was a good mother.” (She changes her mind and lives, don’t worry.)

“I was a good mother.”

That’s it, isn’t it? I believe that is the heart of it all: we want to believe we are good mothers. We want to know that we are good. Not necessarily that we are great…but that we are enough. What we are doing is working and our children are happy. And I know I’m not the only one in this. Jennifer Senior spoke of the relationship parents have with their children in her TEDtalk.

In this age of intense confusion, there is just one goal upon which all parents can agree, and that is whether they are tiger moms or hippie moms, helicopters or drones, our kids’ happiness is paramount.

(Senior, 2014, 17:58)

By hiding “our kids from the world’s ugliness,” we take away opportunities to learn. We prevent them from living a full life. The beauty of pain and unpleasantness is that it helps to define just how amazing life really is. That is not something that I want to take away from Gus. I want him to struggle; I want him to experience hardship and pain. But, I also want to be there when he does. I want to hold him and explain that life is a cycle. We are ecstatic…and then we mourn. Over and over again. I want to help him understand that our struggles over and over again teach us lessons and make life that much more interesting and worthwhile. Most of all, I want to hold him, kiss his forehead, and tell him that I love him.

The single-mother of the two boys across the street who spends more time at work than at home does so to provide for her kids. The mother snapping at her child in the grocery store to “just put the cookies back! We are NOT getting them!” loves her kids so very much—everyone has their breaking point. The first-time New Mom, still in the hospital, is crying because she is terrified and unsure whether she can ‘do this’. Try as we might, not one of us is going to be a perfect mother. She doesn’t exist. But we do what we can with what we have.

A child’s happiness is a very unfair burden to place on a parent. And happiness is an even more unfair burden to place on a kid.

(Senior, 2014, 17:58)

I try to create a warm and loving home for Gus. Right now, it is easy to see him happy at two years old. However, I personally struggle with good parenting and seeing my child smile. I believe that holding up boundaries and standing by my word is the best option in the long run. It is just hard to see my son bawling when I tell him he’s had enough juice or it’s time to get out of the bath.

There is so much I want for my son. So much I wish I could provide for him. There never seems to be enough money. And there never seems to be enough time. And I never seem to have enough energy. Most of the time I can accept that.

Then there are days where I collapse in tears. I don’t feel like I give Gus enough. If I could give him the world, I would. And I know that there are millions of mothers out there who feel the same way I do.

So, I try. I talk and sing with Gus on the drive home from daycare. I play and read with him instead of doing my homework. I have dance parties with him while I’m cooking his supper. I make sure that he has clean clothes to wear everyday. I take the few hours in the evenings and weekends that I have with him and try to make them count. And I drink more than my fair share of coffee. These are the memories I want him to have—happy ones. I want him to feel loved. Unconditionally.

I do my best…most days. I need to accept that not everyday is going to be perfect.

For today, I am going to enjoy waking up at 2am to sooth a frightened and crying Gus. I am going to tear up as I hear him squeal and laugh. I am going to smile when he wakes me up faaaaar too early in the morning just to show me the tractor on his cup. Or when he tries to put my glasses on my face and hands me my phone because he wants his mama awake, too. I am going to hold onto every moment I have with him—even the frustrating ones. And I am going to let them go as they pass because I know there is SO much more to come.

In the end, I know I am a good mother.

IMG_0653Gus, 3 hours old.

Reference:

Senior, J. (2014, April) For parents, Happiness is a very high bar [Video file].                          Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talk/jennifer_senior_                           for_parents_happiness_is_a_very_high_bar/transcript?                           language=en

10 Sanity-saving Items for a New Baby

Cruise through the internet and you’ll find list after list of baby products. My own search revealed an abundance of superfluous items. (What kids needs 3 different squeaky giraffes??) To follow suit, I made my own list of items that we couldn’t have lived without. (Well, we probably could but our mental faculties would have been destroyed.)

Let’s start at the top!

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1. Bitybean ($60-80)

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Gus was very much a hold-me baby. And since it’s impossible to spoil an infant, I held him a TON. However, I still had a lot to get done around the house… I’ve used all sorts of baby-carrying methods: Moby wraps (nice, but require some serious technique to tie), Baby Bjorn carriers (totally stiff and uncomfortable), and a baby sling (awkward, hurt my shoulders, and Gus HATED it). The Bitybean was a gift from a cousin and a lifesaver. Lightweight and incredibly flexible, babies and toddlers can fit in it. Extra bonus: Gus still can fit in it! I wear him on my back now. And he still loves it.

2. Medela Breast Pump ($200-300)

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My goal was to breastfeed for a year; we only lasted 6 months. Even so, I learned a TON about breastfeeding. Since I was going to school full time and working part time, I had to pump. The hospital grade Medela pump is phenomenal. However, those are hard to come buy and even more expensive. I bought this pump myself. Yes, it was a splurge I really couldn’t afford. However, since formula is SUPER expensive, I was able to rationalize the purchase! And you get what you pay for in the pump department. Side note, those cheap store brand bottles you can buy (like $1) fit just as well as the bottles it comes with.

BONUS: Coconut oil ($10)

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One of the big problems I encountered while pumping was chafing. The flanges are plastic. Breasts are not and nipples bleed relatively easily. I used lanolin for a while, but wanted to find something more natural to use. (Lanolin is literally wool-oil. Ew.) SO I found coconut oil. It’s healthy to consume and acts the perfect lubrication for pumping. Heads up, coconut is (or should) be solid at room temperature, but melts at the touch of your finger. I just wish I had found this a lot sooner—would have saved me a lot of pain and frustration!

3. Fisher Price Newborn Rock’n’Play Sleeper ($50-80)

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Since I was constantly moving while pregnant, I wasn’t too surprised when Gus preferred movement. Bouncing, rocking, walking…any kind of moving! Reclining vibrator chairs didn’t cut it. Then I found this. The Rock’n’Play was perfect. I could rock him to sleep with my foot when my hands were busy. Because it’s a cradle-type thing, I didn’t have to transition to his crib when he finally slept.

4. Hyland Teething Tablets ($8)

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Teething sucks. For baby and for everybody else. Who wants to have something rip through your gums? Not me! And the crying, inconsolable baby is hard to deal with for longer than five minutes. Orajel is wonderful, but you have to be careful of dosage—it’s easy to give too much. These tablets dissolve on their gums (I rubbed it on for Gus). Bonus, it’s marketed as a natural pain reliever!

5. Fisher Price Space Saver High Chair ($50)

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I had two high chairs. One was the traditional “stands by itself” chair; the other was this space saver chair. It easily straps to chairs. You can recline the seat to suit the physical capabilities of your child. And to be honest, I used it for more than just feedings. So many ‘chairs’ for infants are bulky and frustrating to lug around. This one was perfect! Gus still sits in it today.

6. Baby Bath Tub  ($40)

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Gus took a lot of baths in the sink. But newborns are slippery when wet. And since they don’t sit, sink-baths were difficult for us. Bathing Gus in the tub seemed ridiculous—all that water for just a little dude. There are plenty of recliners that you can place in the tub, but that still requires a considerable amount of water. This tub conquers both problems—a sling to hold the infant and a tub that minimizes water.

7. Car Seat Cover ($15-30)

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Since Gus was born in October, the weather was chilly from the get-go. You can only layer a kid so much in clothes and blankets before it’s just unreasonable. You don’t have to buy some fancy, expensive cover. They all get the job done. There are quite a few styles of covers, but I like this one the best. It’s close to the baby and keeps more heat in with less draft. Two zippers open to plop the baby in and a face-flap velcros down.

8. Magic Bullet ($40)

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In an attempt to save money and avoid the preservatives of jarred baby food, I made a lot of food for Gus. You can buy various blenders and bullets specifically marketed towards making baby food. However, my mother bought me this one. Not only can you blend more food in one round, you can use it for cooking in general. Tip: blend a bunch at once and freeze it in ice cube trays!

9. Boudreaux’s Butt Paste & Aquaphor ($6)

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Diaper rash. Aquaphor is amazing to prevent. Boudreaux’s Butt Paste is amazing to treat. Not much else needs to be said on this one!

10. Best Bottom Diapers

Inserts ($4), Covers ($17), Packages ($90-300)

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By now you’ve probably figured out that we didn’t have a lot of money when Gus was born. My parents used cloth diapers with me because I was allergic to disposable ones. We got cloth ones for two reasons: the potential for Gus to have the same allergy (he didn’t) and to save money. “Save money,” you laugh, “they’re $300 for the big package!” Point one: the packages come with everything you’ll need. Point two: in the first year alone you’ll spend over SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS on disposables. Point three: they’re so easy!! Forget the plastic pants and diaper pins, this is 2015. We’ve upgraded to snaps and Velcro. You can still buy the pre-fold diapers, but I preferred these. The liners simply snap in. I recommend a thin fabric or flushable liner to lie on top when their poop becomes solid. (Pick up the liner and toss!) With minimal prep-work and laundering, these diapers are just as good as disposables and cost a LOT less in the long run.

Shout out to my mother who bought me my first package as a baby shower gift! Smart lady, that mom!

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It takes a lot of searching, but you occasionally may find a list of what items a baby truly needs. Hoping to help other lost, confused, overwhelmed, and hormonal women, I have made a list of the basic items a baby HAS to have.

1. Food

Be it breast milk or formula, they just need to eat. For the record, generic formula is comparable to brand name formula. Infant formula is perhaps the most highly regulated item in the entire grocery store.

2. Clothing

Infants go through clothes slower than toddlers, but you still want to have a few outfits lying around. Gus had a TON of hand-me-downs. I recommend enough clothes to get you through a week without having to do laundry.

3. Diapers

Cloth or disposables, just something to cover their bum. We used both. See the rant above for more information about cloth diapers.

4. A Place to Sleep

Cribs, pack’n’plays, bassinets, co-sleeping, rock’n’plays, a mat on the floor… it doesn’t matter. Simple as that.

Remember that babies don’t care if you have top of the line equipment for them. They don’t care that you have entirely hand-me-downs and thrift shop finds. Babies DO care that their needs are met. You don’t have to break the bank to do that. You got this, new mama! No one can parent that baby better than you; you are his/her mother. Just breathe.