Shunky Monkey 1st Birthday Party!

8.01.2016

Our little guy turned one last Saturday and we had a small family birthday party for him - "monkey" style.

It included paper decorations - paper monstera leaves, kraft paper vines, handmade party hats - thrifted monkeys (washed, of course) and banana desserts. A couple of cards/gifts, some songs and laughter, and our boy was ready for his afternoon nap. :-)














Birthday hat template, monkey face, monstera leaf silhouette, monkeys: thrifted, vine inspiration: this pin

Preemie Update: Look who's a year!

7.29.2016

He's quintupled (I know, right?) his birth weight at 3lbs, 8oz.

He's grown an entire foot.

He's almost done with his hardcore reflux med.



He is fat and happy.

He loves to talk and make noise and squeal and cries very well, thankyouverymuch. (Preemies don't cry - it takes too much energy).

He has 8 teeth.

He crawls, pulls up, cruises and climbs stairs.

He gets into and tries to eat everything he shouldn't - cords, electronics, phones, paper, etc.

He also eats almost everything he should! He loves sweet potatoes, bananas, broccoli, chicken, greek yogurt, blueberry pancakes, watermelon, cantaloupe, and almost anything else he can get his hands on.


Our sweet boy has come so far - we are so thankful! (If you need to catch up on our NICU story, start here.)

Side table Makeover!

7.28.2016

A little table was sitting by the dumpster one day. It looks incredibly similar to the nightstand in our daughter's room that I found for $5 at the thrift store. (Dad, you still get the credit for painting it!) Small, but sturdy. And solid wood.

This one had a really sad, weird, spray on finish that was obviously a DIY fail.



Ew. So I thought the best (read: easiest and fastest) thing to do was take a little stripper to the drip spots, call it good and paint over everything.

Well, I used the stripper outside, and I quickly found that wasn't the best idea. For some reason the stripping solution immediately dried in the sun and was then worthless. What was supposed to be a quick fix turned into several hours of applying more stripper (this time in the basement), realizing it wasn't taking all of the finish off and proceeding to strip AND sand the entire rotten piece down.

It got pretty ugly.


But after a couple of painful moments, she was ready to paint! It took several weeks for me to find the time and energy to paint, burnish and wax (my son is quite the handful these days) but I finally finished it last week.

And here is the after!








It's lightly distressed although I was attempting to not distress at all. In the burnishing (sanding) process, more of the paint came off than I wanted to because of all the edges to sand, so I just went with it because I was planning to sell the piece anyway. I used a furniture wax to seal it, painted the stained drawer bottom, and drilled a hole for the pretty new knob. Voila!

It sold tonight and now I have money to buy more paint to move on to my next furniture project: my handmade hope chest.

summer simplicity

5.31.2016

The first of our meager crop. A little tart, and some are less than beautiful. But all picked by these little, sweet hands in daily excitement of these hidden red jewels.



Love the simplicity of summer through our little girl's eyes.

Golden Birthday (party)

3.28.2016


Our girl turned FIVE last fall and I'm finally able to share a few details from her sweet and special birthday party - her first party with friends! It was her golden birthday (five on the 5th) so we celebrated with all things gold and sparkly. We kept it pretty simple. Friends were invited to wear something gold or sparkly to paint pumpkins, take pictures, have faces and fingernails painted and, of course, eat cake. Strawberry and buttercream with gold sprinkles, of course! Each girl took home a helium balloon with several gold gumballs as a weight and a handmade golden/pearl tiara.

I originally wanted all things champagne gold (prettiest gold, in my opinion) but it was quite difficult to find and I was limited in my ability to find them both because of new baby at home and budget. So I compromised and there were several shades of gold - and no one cared. It was beautiful! And fun.










* tutorial for super fun, easy and super cheap photo backdrop found here.
* I made a glitter paper (glitter cardstock from local hobby store) Happy Birthday banner inspired by Miss Mustard Seed's Merry and Bright banners
* my attempt at tulle covered balloons failed, so we used the tulle on the chairs instead.
* Parties don't have to be expensive to be fun and special! I did this party really cheaply, except for the cake. Normally I would've made it myself, but I needed to give myself a break - like I mentioned before, new baby home - and didn't want the stress of baking/decorating a cake so we paid a friend with a small cake business to do it. That was the most expensive part! And completely worth it, it was so pretty! And tasty too. (Support small business!)

NICU life, what you can do to help a NICU family.

3.25.2016

Know someone with a child in the NICU? Here's a few ideas on how to help.

Buy them gas cards, restaurant giftcards, or a little cash to get food at the cafeteria or snacks they can store. (Snacks would've been the last option for us as there was no food allowed in the rooms).

Cook them a meal and go out of your way to deliver it hot and ready-to-eat on their schedule. By the time parents might get home at night, there is no time to prepare or even cook a freezer meal, but they will most likely be hungry!

Babysit the other sibling(s). ALL DAY.

Offer house cleaning services.

Run errands for them.

Offer to do their laundry.

Buy them extra cell phone minutes, depending on their plan. 

Find out if they want visitors and visit them (but only if you are completely healthy). See the baby if they invite you but not as a spectacle sport. Then visit again.

Ask how they are really doing and be prepared to listen. Every day, sometimes moment to moment is different - they might've just gotten some disappointing news, they might be processing some new information, they might need to cry, or vent, or even talk about something other than NICU life! It all depends on the day. Or the hour.

Please:
Don't bring flowers.
Don't look at them sideways if you just washed your hands for 3 minutes and they want you to use hand sanitizer.
Don't remind them to take care of themselves. Most likely they've already been told this (several times) but it's an impossible thing to choose between yourself and your child at this point. Let them do what they need to do.
Don't be offended if they need something you can't offer - don't push, but let them know how to get ahold of you and what you are willing to do.

And after they come home? Offer to clean their house or do their laundry or bring them a meal! It's just like bringing any new baby home from the hospital - it's just as or more overwhelming. Feel like a lot? It is. It's a long road - walk with them down it.



Are you a NICU nurse? Here are a few do's and don'ts from a NICU mama:

Always ask if they want to be involved in baby care as soon as possible. Most likely they will jump at the chance. Ask every. single. time you can. Every diaper change. EVERY ONE.

Don't do anything unnecessary without the parents' consent (read: medically unnecessary, obviously). Parents have already had to grieve so much. Please don't snatch away the small firsts they can have. Unless you discuss otherwise, let them do the first bottle, dress their babe in the first "real" clothing, etc. This is unimaginably important no matter how normal, every day it may feel to you.

Ask if they have questions. Answer questions as thoroughly as you can. Don't give them more anxiety but don't sugar coat your answers either. If you don't have an answer, don't make an educated guess. Get the NP or ask the neonatologist. If they ask the same thing again, explain it again. It's an overwhelming amount of information on very little sleep and high emotion. Soon enough they will be the expert on their child.

Respect the parents' wishes. Follow them as closely as possible. If you aren't sure and need to know, call them.

Treat them like real people; don't talk down to them.

Night nurses, make sure they know they can contact you at any time! Encourage them to do so.

Help them advocate for themselves and their child. Be honest but be on their team.


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Did I miss anything? Feel free to share your experience in the comments!

NICU life, lessons from the NICU

3.24.2016

Six months out from our NICU stay, we are in a good place. Sleep deprived, but in a good place. And after thinking about it, I've decided to share some lessons we learned from the NICU. (To read about our experience there in 2015, read Part I, Part 2, Part 3).


A NICU stay, no matter how long, is hard. But the longer it is, the harder it gets.

When I was first there, a couple of parents were SOOOO ready to take their (first) child home. I would smile knowingly and behind their backs chuckle at them. "If only they knew. It's just as hard at home, but you have no help." Which is true. And not true. It's difficult when you finally get a baby home - finding your new normal again, figuring life out. But there was a point (maybe 6 weeks in?) where I went from "He's better off here" to GET US THE HECK OUT OF HERE almost overnight. Then I understood where those parents were coming from. And, I humbly admitted to myself that I was wrong. (Happens to the best of us.)

If there is a chance baby might come early, have a name picked out early. There was so much pressure to name our little one!

Holding your preemie guy for the first time is SO good.




















There is not enough to be said for how much skin-to-skin time benefits everyone involved!



















No doctor is perfect. You are the one who knows your child best, if you are there, you make the decisions with them.

Doctors don't always agree with each other! There is much, much less agreement in the medical community than I thought. You can always ask for another opinion.

If at first your pediatrician doesn't satisfy, try another one.

If you want to exclusively breastfeed your preemie, it is possible. (Maybe not for everyone, no judgement! But it was my number one desire and it happened!) The lactation consultants were some of my favorite people. Not only did they support my desire to breastfeed but they also supported me in other decisions. They were my biggest help! And because there were less of them in rotation, I saw them more often and got to know them more readily. They were amazing, they answered a million and a half questions, and were my biggest support.

Did I say already that I love lactation consultants?!