September 17, 2012

A Wreath a Day...

Thanks to great parents, I've got lots of special, lasting memories associated with each and every major holiday.  They really made an effort to make sure each holiday was recognized in some special way - from Valentine's to Christmas and every special day in between, each holiday had its own traditions in our house growing up. (Note to self: Write a blog post for each of Bryson's first holidays, at least before his second of each holiday arrives!)

I didn't fully appreciate their efforts until my first year of college when the holidays rolled around. 

Wait a minute, where are all the pumpkins? Who's got the Christmas tree?? It looks like any other day in here...

Lesson learned: Holidays are what you make of them. Traditions aren't automatic.

When Bryson was still a twinkle in our eyes and it was just the two of us, we kept our  holiady decor pretty minimal. But once the holiday season of 2011 got closer and closer, I felt compelled to change that. I was a mom now, and Bryson would depend on me to create happy and fun holiday memories for him!

The urge to make festive decor came right about this time last year, in the weeks before our little one was born. My nesting instincts took many forms, and one of those forms was circular.  

I got busy making wreaths. 

My first wreath, Pinterest and sis-in-law inspired, was for Halloween. I can't find the original pin, but this one is similar! The base is a straw wreath, which I spray-painted black. I then cut and tied several strips of black toulle around it and added the ribbons. Once it was finished, I liked how it looked on the back side more than the front side, so the back is now the front!



Next was Thanksgiving. Inspiration for my first yarn wreath came from here. This is a very simple one, but wrapping the wreath with yarn took a loooooong time. The flowers are made of felt which was cut in a swirl pattern, rolled, then hot-glued at the base.


While we love all holidays, Christmas is the most meaningful. While we're still working on what traditions we will employ to celebrate the birth of Jesus as Bryson and future Brownies grow, we got a jumpstart on our decorations last year. And Christmas gets two wreaths. Mmhmm!

First is the ornament wreath. It's made from a styrofoam wreath, and the ornaments are just hot-glued on. I took the silver tips off of each ornament and stabbed them in the wreath with hot glue to create an inner and outer circle first, and then it was a free-for-all to fill the space.

While looking for a helpful link, I found one tutorial that suggests wrapping the wreath in garland before gluing to avoid the blank spots. Not a bad idea!



Then I made the candy cane wreath. Again, I was directly inspired by Courtney who made one almost just like it! Since the yarn-wrapping is a mindless and time-consuming task, I packed it with me on our stay-cation at Aulani, the fabulous Disney resort we have on Oahu (more on that another day). I may have gotten a few bewildered stares as I hung out in the shade with my newborn sleeping in the stroller beside me, wrapping a straw wreath with red yarn. 

What...you've never seen a person crafting a Christmas wreath on a Hawaiian vacation before?


 Last but not least - the balloon wreath! The newest addition to my wreath collection was made for Bryson's first birthday in just over a month. (What?!?!) While it ties in perfectly with his birthday party theme, we can bust it out for each special birthday week throughout the year. Why not?

I had seen a number of balloon wreaths on Pinterest, and my friend Chelsea shared her tips with me too! You need balloons, a wreath, and some floral greening pins. Very simple.

I wanted to try something a bit different with mine, so I alternated between solid blocks of colors instead of mixing them all up. I started off mixing them, but then I found myself getting crazy about trying to make sure each color was equally represented, and that was taking too long. I also just prefer the look of the solid color blocks. I tried half and half (that's how quickly you can do this), and the blocks won out. To add some fun, I added some pipe cleaners, which I first curled around pencils - inspired by this wreath!


Whew! That's it for now. Five wreaths, basically all designed for use in the last three months of the year. This door gets lonely January through September. 

Guess I better get back to pinning.


P.S.  This post is not related to my business, which is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. HOWEV - if you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!

September 7, 2012

Breech of Contract: Trying to Turn a Breech Baby

As I've mentioned before, my pregnancy with Bryson was pretty perfect, with one exception. Somewhere between 29 and 31 weeks, he flipped to be upside-up, or breech. As someone who prefers to plan, plot, and otherwise control pretty much everything possible, I struggled with this.

How do you turn a breech baby?

I knew that he still had time to turn around, but I also knew he might not. On one hand, I'd had such a perfect pregnancy - surely he'd turn around in time! On the other hand, I'd had such a perfect pregnancy - why wouldn't this be the one (big) bump in the road?

As the weeks went on, I cried a little, read some more, and prayed a lot. My big fear was that he'd still be breech at delivery time, and I wouldn't get to have a good ol' fashioned go at pushing. It was really hard for me to determine his position by feeling around. I was afraid if I tried tactics on www.spinningbabies.com (yes, that's a real site!), I could flip him the wrong way.

I decided to try and put it out of my mind. If he was still breech at 36 weeks, I would take matters into my own hands. Sure enough, despite all my hopes (and WOW were they high leading up to this make-or-break appointment!), the doctor determined that he was still breech at our 36-week checkup.

I was almost mad at him for saying it so casually, too, with no idea how disappointed this news made me. Bryson's head was still up in my ribs (vindication for my terrible heartburn), and his feet were up by his face. He was what they call frank breech. And I was what they call frankly upset.

All this head-hand-foot cuteness in my ribs = Zantac once daily
When you're that far along and still breech, you don't have many options. They wanted to go ahead and schedule me for an external cephalic version (ECV) and a c-section. An ECV is when they try to manually turn the baby from the outside. It can be very painful, but it works best when the uterus is relaxed, so I'd get an epidural. An ECV can also put mom or baby in distress, and it doesn't always work. In the case it didn't work and/or Bryson didn't react well, we scheduled a c-section for the same day, just in case.

The date was set for Friday, November 4th. I tried to stay optimistic, but I felt defeated.

I was sad, disappointed, and a little scared. This wasn't the birth plan I'd envisioned over the past nine months. Oh, who am I kidding? This wasn't the birth plan I'd envisioned over the past 20 years!  I'm not too cool to admit that in my elementary school days, I once pretended to be in labor in my best friend's mom's Maxima, parked safely in their garage. It was an emergency car delivery, and miraculously, we all made it out okay. (I think this happened shortly after the Saved by the Bell earthquake episode when Mrs. Belding gave birth in an elevator...don't judge.)

The point is: In make-believe labor and delivery, you don't fake a c-section. You fake push.

Don't get me wrong. I had experience with (and knowledge of) c-sections. I was a c-section baby, Jeremy was a c-section baby, and I have countless friends (including one sister!) who had great c-section experiences. I knew c-sections were a completely valid way to bring a baby into the world, and they're certainly not the "easy way out" some people mistakenly believe. Still, it was a major surgery, a complication I had hoped to avoid, and at this point, the only way to avoid it was for Bryson to get (head) down with his bad self.

In the days that followed, I tried every wacky trick in the book (or on Spinning Babies), including, but not limited to:

As comfy as it looks. Go for pillows instead.
The tilt in action. I took this for Bryson :)


















  • The Breech Tilt: Laying on the floor with my hips elevated, feet on the ottoman. Frozen peas at the top where his head was, heating pad down below where his booty was. Spent at least 15-20 minutes, three times a day like this.
  • Musical Uterus: Kind of like musical chairs, but not at all. Earbuds in the waist of my sweatpants, trying to lure his head down and into position with cool music. Tried slow, soothing music, fast, fun music, classical, instrumental music....you get the idea.
  • The Forward-Leaning Inversion: Carefully leaning off of the couch, booty in the air, holding the position on my elbows for 30-60 seconds at a time. Husband on the sidelines trying not to laugh.
  • The Webster Technique: I was going to go to the chiropractor two to three times a week for the last weeks, but Bryson had other plans. I only had time for one appointment before he arrived!
  • Hands and Knees: Cat stretch, walking around on hands and knees, as demonstrated by Tia Mowry on Tia & Tamara. I followed her story very closely, hoping I wouldn't end up with the same result. So much for that!
  • Public Humiliation: Front flips and headstands in the neighborhood pool. Yep. I drove to the pool in a bikini I had NO business wearing at nine months pregnant, hopped in the water, did flips and headstands for about ten minutes, then dried off and drove away. (And YES, it was - and looked - as completely ridiculous as it sounds. Pregnant Chicken calls this gem the underwater piƱata.)
In my head, I had three weeks of this wacky regimen ahead of me before the ECV and potential c-section. After a week or so, I was wondering if maybe the doctors would let me change my mind. I decided I didn't really want to do the ECV. If all of my acrobatic moves didn't get him to turn, maybe he wasn't meant to. In an ideal world, I'd get to naturally go into labor on whatever day God and Bryson had worked out, then he could be delivered safely via c-section.

I'll never know what the doctors would have said, because I didn't have time to call and ask. Didn't have to. My water broke sooner than we ever anticipated, and thanks to my Spinning Babies efforts, I felt confident that I had done all I could do. I was perfectly happy with a c-section on what was clearly meant to be Bryson's birthday.

I was all about the Bs with this pregnancy - Baby, Brownie, Boy, Bryson. Breech just wasn't in my plans!

And that's quite alright. If there's one lesson that was reinforced during the final weeks of my pregnancy, it was this:

If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans while upside down on an ironing board draped in frozen produce.

 

So. Tell me! What's your spinning babies story? Did any of the above tips or tricks work for you? Better yet - if not, how did you come to terms with the fact that your little one was just more comfy "up-side up"?



P.S.  This post is not related to my business, which is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. HOWEV - if you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!

September 5, 2012

I get to be his mom.

CHEESE ALERT: This is a really mushy post. Proceed with caution.

I always knew I wanted to be a mom. I always knew I would love my baby.

What I didn't know is that I'd like him this much.

One day I may look back on this still-new mom post and laugh at myself, and that's okay. (Laugh away, older self.)

One day when he's old enough to read (and old enough to appreciate my characteristic mushiness), he may look back at this still-new mom post and laugh at me too, and that's also okay. (Laugh away, older Bryson, and don't you have some homework you should be doing?!)

Even in the face of imaginary future ridicule, today I want to record some of the things that make me so thankful to be the one Bryson calls (albeit by accident at this stage) Mama.

1. He's cute. Really cute.


I don't mean to sound obnoxious, and I realize (hope) every mom thinks her baby is cute. But mine really is. Really cute. {Liiiike I talk to him through gritted teeth a lot because I just want to squeeze him but can't aaaand smooch his cheeks at a rate of at least five per second.}

I say this as humbly as I possibly can, because I sincerely don't feel responsible for his miniature handsomeness in any way. One day I will feel responsible for the more meaningful things, like his manners and behavior (a direct result of my attempts at good parenting), but for his looks, what did I do?

I grew up hearing about how beautiful my mom and three older sisters were. My response? "Thanks; I had nothing to do with it!" While sweet and appreciated, it was kind of a weird compliment that didn't have anything to do with me.

I used to think when I had my own children I would feel a bit more responsible, like I did have something to do with it. Well I don't. I'm keenly aware that the miracle of life is waaaay beyond my doing, and his ingredients are from God's design, not mine.

While his looks are certainly not his most important attribute, he's kind of a baby stud muffin. I know there's an expression "a face only a mother could love"....but his little mug brings smiles to many more faces than mine alone. Fact.

His smile changes with every new tooth, and it always melts my heart. For infinitely more reasons than just his objective cute factor, walking in to his room and seeing his face light up after a nice (or not-so-nice) nap is like walking downstairs on Christmas morning. The. sweetest.

2. He's very easy to get along with.


Who knew that a ten-month-old fella could be funny, sensitive, sweet, and so inquisitive?

Most people who haven't been around babies may assume that (for lack of a better word), they're human-shaped blobs, just watching and going with the flow. Sure, we had a phase like that, but we are now in full-on little person mode.

He's got a Texas-sized personality and keeps us entertained. He loves to laugh and is a total thrill seeker. When it comes to his daddy throwing him up in the air, the higher, the better. Dip him backwards and upside down? Sounds great!

From even his earliest days, he's just used his cries to tell us something - he's hungry, sleepy, cold, or uncomfortable. Otherwise, he's one of the most laid back guys I've ever met.

He's an inquisitive observer who loves to watch people and let his eyebrows do the talking. He can be smack dab in the middle of a bustling room of 20+ family members, and he's content just hanging out and playing with some toys (ideally holding some with his feet so he can keep his hands free for other options).

He's pretty patient with us, too! In the early days (and still now), we'd take him out to run errands or go do something fun and just wait for the other shoe to drop. Surely he's going to get mad here shortly and we'll have to leave.

Nine times out of 9.5, he'd wait to have his meltdown until we got home. How very considerate of him! Did I mention he didn't even give me real morning sickness? He was even considerate in the womb.

Who knows what the toddler years will bring (well, I have a pretty good idea....) but for his first ten months of life, strangers and loved ones alike have continually remarked about what a great, calm, happy disposition our little man has, and I don't think it's a coincidence.

Thanks to a recommendation by my dear friend Liz, I read a book titled Praying through Your Pregnancy while B was in the figurative oven. The book includes a chapter for each week, including an anecdote from the author, developmental milestones, a few bible verses, and a prayer for baby that week.

While I'd be too sleepy (read: lazy) to read it some nights, a line from one particular prayer always stuck out to me: "I pray that my child will have a happy heart and a joyful spirit." I'd say my prayers were answered quite literally in this case.

When we get to "terrible twos" and the teen years, well, I'll let you know.

3. He's a cool guy.


I'd want to be his friend, but even better, I get to be his mom.

I get to be his mom.

I got to be the one who he first snuggled with (okay really that was Jeremy because I was still in the OR...). I got to be his sole source of nourishment for the first (almost) six months of his life. I got to be the one whose voice he recognized first. I get to nurse him and put him down for bed each night.

(In addition to his loving daddy,) I get to be the one he reaches for/crawls to when he  needs a shoulder to cry on (and man...he's even cute when he cries!). I get to be the one he clings to when he just doesn't feel sure.

When he wins the Super Bowl, the presidential election, or Wheel of Fortune 20-30 years from now and says "HI MOM!" to the camera, I get to be the one he's talking to. I get to be his one and only mom.

I can't remember exactly when or where I realized this important lesson, but it kind of relates back to #1: He is my son, but I didn't create him. He is not mine (as much as I secretly and only half-jokingly wish he'd live with us forever).

He's a child of God that I have been entrusted  with, and along with my husband, it's my awesome responsibility to do what I can to raise him to be a kind, funny, responsible, smart, hard-working, honest, God-loving, contributing member of society.  

NO PRESSURE.

While he may not be mine in the heavenly sense, he's mine in the worldly sense, and in terms of raw materials, I won the jackpot. Bryson is my perfect tiny match. My little dream guy. Raising him (and any future brothers or sisters) is and will be the great honor and privilege of my life.

I pray I'm up to the challenge.

I know. I told you this was gonna be cheesy.

Our life isn't perfect, and I don't need it to be. Some days I don't get out of my pajamas. Some days, despite my best efforts at playtime, I just need to watch some grown up TV while he's awake and in the room (you have no idea how much it pains me to admit that...I'm one of those).

Some days he just cannot sit still for a diaper change, and Baby Mozart buys me the 90 seconds of stillness that I need. Some days he uses my shoulder/arm/knee/mommy parts as a teething ring.

Some days I'm overwhelmed at all the things I *could* be doing to be a better mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and colleague, and I really want to do is take a nap!

We have to have some dull, upsetting, and/or frustrating days in order to appreciate the really great ones. (You can't have a rainbow without the rain, right?) I embrace that.

The truth is, even on our "worst" days, we are blessed beyond what we could think to ask for. We're happy, healthy, and living in one of the most beautiful states in the US of A. In addition to all that, we've got some really great people in our lives who bring us so much joy.

One of those great people just happens to be about two feet, five inches tall, and he sleeps right down the hall.


I get to be his mom.


P.S.  This post is not related to my business, which is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. HOWEV - if you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!

The Little Man Cave

I've never been one for decorating much. In college, I usually provided hand-me-down furniture options (thanks, sisters!), and my roomies would handle the decor.

I know what I like and what I don't like, but it's hard for me to plan it all out.

That, my friends, is why my son is ten months old and I am just now able to tell you that his room (can I call it a nursery any more?) is now COMPLETE! Wahoo!

You see, I was one of those highly-motivated pregnant women whose nesting instincts took hold early and didn't let up until my water broke. Almost literally, as I've mentioned before.

My nesting took various forms, but it was mostly about crafting. As the youngest of four daughters born to an extremely creative and talented mom, I grew up being around crafty genius. I've always thought of myself as a crafty and creative person by association, even though I never really crafted much in my "adult" years.

The crafting planets aligned when my Pinterest membership and nesting instincts began at the same time. I had a nursery to create, and it had to be just right.

While I didn't know exactly what I wanted, I knew I didn't want a packaged theme. This could change for future Brownies, but for Bryson's room I didn't want pastel "baby" colors. No animals, no cartoons, no boats, no wall stickers. I drew inspiration from a toy given to us by B's Aunt Courtney early on in my pregnancy. In case you've never met him, I'd like to introduce you to Captain Calamari:


So that was it. People asked what colors I wanted, and I responded with "All of them!" I wanted fun, bright colors. Stripes, squiggles, and polka dots. I got tired of seeing the same stuff over and over online. Nothing really matched what I'd envisioned, and I started feeling a bit hopeless, until I found the perfect crib sheet.

I also knew that we had to consider the queen-size bed we would have in his room. We live in Hawaii with limited space, so before it was a nursery, our second bedroom was a guest room. That bed was staying put, and I liked the black, white, and blue color palette we'd already established in there.

Still, a bed, a crib sheet, and an octopus left a lot to be desired.

Because I'm a huge nerd who happens to have trouble visualizing things, I started a PowerPoint file to house all of my ideas. I had Captain Calamari, of course, the sheet, some virtual swatches of colors and patterns I was looking for, and all sorts of other ideas - rugs, furniture, and wall decor ideas...you name it, I had it all in one spot. [This was early in my pregnancy, before I knew of Pinterest, which is basically a cooler and more detailed way to keep your inspirations in one spot!]

Here's my confession proof of nerdiness, in case you don't believe me:


Between my PowerPoint of ideas, Pinterest for even more inspiration, and my own nesting compulsions, it all started to fall into place. I painted, taped, tied, Cricut-ed, mod-podged, paper-punched, and fabric-glued my crafty decor until I had just ONE blank wall left. I also had help from my handiest, craftiest family members.

Here's what we came up with:



While reading Parenting magazine one day, I snapped a photo featuring a "little man cave" sign. My extremely crafty twin-sister-in-law Courtney made Bryson his very own, and it now hangs proudly at his man cave entrance. The photo collage frame on the right took its sweet time to come to life. The month or two before B was born, I emailed everyone in our "immediate" family - all of his aunts, uncles, first cousins, and grandparents. I shamelessly tried to guilt them into sending me photos for this project so I could have it completed before he arrived. (Since his newborn eyes would be able to identify them all?!) Anyway, he came early and those plans went out the window until, like, a month ago. WOOPS! It was worth the wait. Even though we live an ocean (and a few time zones) away, we say good morning and good night to them every day!

Idea for military families: Before it was a "Fan Club" collage frame, it was a "Welcome Home" collage frame. I had them each send me photos holding up "Welcome Home" signs after J's last deployment!


The beautiful cross on the wall was a gift from my mom and sisters, made in Texas. It was part of the decor at my Texas baby shower, and we carefully brought it back in our luggage. It suffered a minor crack, but J was able to fix it with some wood glue and clamps. (My hero!) The tiny black shelf up there is the perch for the baby monitor when it's on the other side of the bed.


This embroidery hoop wall art was inspired by Pinterest. I had the guys (aforementioned handy husband and twin-bro-in-law) take apart some embroidery hoops (including the metal pieces that hold them together) and wood glue them back together. Most of the examples I saw had the metal included, but I didn't want that. Just the circles! I then used fabric and glue to cover each one. They're not perfect, but hey. Neither are we. They are a fun way to cover some wall space, and Bryson loves looking at them!





Before I painted stripes and his name all over it, the giant canvas above his crib was painted black. We used it above the bed as a faux headboard. I used some painter's tape to help me with the stripes, painted his name (almost) to my perfectionist heart's content, and then added some buttons to give it a little texture. I wanted a plain blue crib skirt that didn't cost a lot of dough. You can't see it in this photo, but my mom sewed it using fabric from the blue curtains we'd had in this room before the transformation. Voila!

A favorite of mine - the Texas corner! When we were just married and living in a small condo down the road, I painted these two square canvases. One was a take on the Texas flag, and one said "Home is where the heart is." We had these canvases in the kitchen until I decided to revamp them for B's room. I painted the blue and red different shades to match his colors, then used the Cricut to cut some signature lyrics to a Texan's favorite tune.


I mentioned my husband and his bro are handy, right? From scratch (meaning wood, paint, and nails), they built the dresser here on the left, inspired by the DaVinci Kalani combo dresser! Pretty amazing, right? We wanted a version with the tower on the left side, not the right. We also wanted one that didn't double its total cost just to ship it to Hawaii. The beautiful red B was a Christmas gift from our twin-laws, and the frames were from Pier One. We had those in the guest room already.


Inspiration for this little stinker was pulled out of a magazine by Courtney, who let me use her Cricut to cut allllllll of these tiny little circles! They're made of card stock and held together with tiny silver jewelry rings. Each column is hot glued  to the painted embroidery hoops, which are tied together with fishing line. Yeah. While simple, this took way longer than I thought. Transporting it outside between our two houses, Hawaiian trade winds blowing with full force, may have been the most stressful part. Needless to say, Bryson can't get close to it without me getting a bit anxious. It has already been moved and raised quite a few times :) In the above photo you can also see the Texas Star finials we found online at Bed, Bath, & Beyond! Our location didn't have them, but my mom brought some for us from Texas and Jerm spray-painted them black to match. And no, I didn't know what finials were until I was looking for a pair.

This, my friends, was the last of the decorating. This wall was big, white, blank, and mocking me for months, but now it's complete!

Jeremy built the little shelf while B and I were in Texas this summer. The small canvases hiding down there were painted by our nieces and nephews when we visited back in February, and the stuffed animals have been gifted to us from loved ones near and far.




Over the past year, the extremely talented Brenda Van Photos has been able to document so many special moments for us. Of course we wanted to bring some of those images to B's room! After a few canvas print Groupons gone wrong, I went back to Pinterest and found an idea to cover canvases with fabric and add photos on top. Less expensive than actual canvas prints, and you can swap the photos out when you're ready for a change! Great idea. Instead of buying new canvases, we used spare wood that J had in the garage. He cut the circles for me, stapled fabric to them, and I added the photos. I was going to order some actual photo corners, per the Pinterest post, but opted for colorful buttons instead, since we've got those in a few other spots....which leads me to the last segment of the room.


The last project I'll tell you about is actually the first Pinterest project I ever completed - the B of buttons. Inspired by Courtney's pin and B of buttons, I decided to create one for his room.


This was another "simple" project that took way longer than I expected. Once I finally had all the buttons placed how I wanted them, I went back to glue each one in its final resting place. It took a while, yes, but I love it. I snuck a little pineapple in there as a nod to Hawaii, along with a star to represent his other home state, which is evident throughout the room!

There you have it, world. That's the story of the very personalized labor of love that we call "The Little Man Cave." True, B didn't sleep in here until he was over six months old, but it was worth the wait. I was a little worried about it being TOO stimulating, but hey. He doesn't sleep with the lights on, and from what I can tell, he's pretty happy with it.


P.S.  This post is not related to my business, which is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. HOWEV - if you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!