"Look at all that hair!" was probably one of the first things Donny and the 16 hospital clinicians hovering around my lovely lady parts said as Kyler was forcefully making his debut. We figured he’d have a mop. He IS Asian. Plus, my mom told me he’d have a lot of hair because I said yes when she asked me if my maternity belly was itchy.

last of the baby hairs, alfalfa sprout

He was blessed with a dark, full mane. I liked fauxhawks. I liked to coerce my baby into doing things that babies wouldn’t do on his own. It was a win-win.

last of the baby hairs, alfalfa sprout

Then, I started going bald at the 3-months postpartum mark, and he decided to join me as an act of camaraderie.

"Hey mom, thanks for being in labor for over 12 hours and pushing me through that dungeon you call a womb. Here’s my show of support."

First it went patchy around Christmastime.

last of the baby hairs, alfalfa sprout

And now? Now the little alfalfa sprout is just hanging around. It’s at the sweet spot where he’s not rubbing it off against his mattress sheet or able to reach it with his arms.

last of the baby hairs, alfalfa sprout

I thought I was going to be all voodoo mom-crazy and save a baby hair for the scrapbook I will never work on because when I have free time, I’d rather do something crazy, like shower or drink some wine and watch a DVRed season of Revenge. (That is some good shit.) But, this picture will play nicer in my digital album, if I ever got a chance to design another one of those too. But then again, having his hair handy would be good for future coercion of things like checking my bubble bath water temperature or uncorking aforementioned wine. I suppose I could always keep one of his adult hairs for that too.

Ah, the last baby hairs. Next up, adulthood and then putting me in a nursing home.

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Occasionally, I zone out on Wanelo. On the one occassion that I did, I found a picture of a handmade ring of someone’s name on it and immediately knew I had to track down the artist/company.

intial name ring in handwriting font - sterling silver names ring
Image from silverpromo.com

Christmas was around the corner and I wanted to give my sister (and myself – comon, who can really JUST buy for others around the holidays?) something special to commemorate her entrance into motherhood with me.

The rings are handmade from Vietnam – even better as it’s our motherland. You can get sterling silver or gold-dipped sterling silver. I put in an order for two.

MANY weeks later, the package arrived. They did send it in the published window of time, though.

intial name ring in handwriting font - new mom gift idea

Wrapped in a pretty bow, both rings were found in one box.

intial name ring in handwriting font - new mom gift idea

Unfortunately, namesring.com (now, silverpromo.com), messed up my order and Kyler’s ring was dipped into yellow gold instead of being left as sterling silver. I wear more silver. I had to go back and forth with them on PayPal, but they willingly offered a refund or replacement.

I wear it a LOT! Though, not with delicate knits. It does have a tendency to snag on stuff.

intial name ring in handwriting font - new mom gift idea

(That is a stupid picture of it, by the way. It’s like a mutated floating hand. Refer to the picture up top from the website.)

Anyway, I may be biased as I made the purchase, but these rings truly are sweet for the moms in your life. They’re easily stackable for any future additons too.

Silverpromo.com did not ask me to review their product. I paid for it and wanted to share the experience.

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Custom Board Book {Design & Review}

by Thao on 03.04.2013

My family grew like a weed since Kyler came. That’s because I also gained a nephew when I found out my sister was expecting a baby boy, Lincoln, just 6 weeks after me! I have to say, it’s one of the coolest experiences going through the "new mom" phase with your baby sister. By the way, do you ever really grow out of that phase?

As a fun gift for Lincoln, I wanted to make him a board book of his family. It started with an intent to DIY, but that quickly went out the window while I was attempting to figure out the whole "mom" thing. So as any dedicated Gen Y-er would do, I googled and found Pint Size Productions. Not only could you purchase an existing design and personalize it, you can make a completely custom design, which was exactly what I needed.

I made the template and pages in Photoshop, then used Bridge to generate the final print quality PDF. I didn’t even to attempt to write a story for Lincoln, so instead, I designed it as a "Who Loves Lincoln" theme. We aren’t all co-located in the same city, so this way, Lincoln would know who’s who in his family. Each page has a picture of the individual (or couple in some cases – there were only 7 allowable page spreads), what their relationship to him is, and their names.

I loved how it turned out.

custom diy baby board book via pintsizeproductions.com


custom diy baby board book via pintsizeproductions.com


custom diy baby board book via pintsizeproductions.com

Best idea ever, if you ask me. So no matter where Lincoln may be, he will always have his family with him.

custom diy baby board book via pintsizeproductions.com

When I mistakenly sent in one too many spreads, someone from Pint Size Productions contacted me and I just resent a new file. I had actually sent an updated file after I hit ‘submit’ because I found an error and it was no problem for them to change for me. The customer service was seamless.

They were fast and the quality of the book was great – like any other board book you can get in a Barnes & Noble or Toys ‘R Us these days. Their starting photoshop template included a Pint Size Productions logo for the spine, but I just removed it to keep the design completely custom and they still ran with it. Loved that. The last thing I wanted was to advertise on the side of the book.

Pint Size Productions did not ask me to review their product. I paid for it and have just been a happy customer.

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Groundhog’s Week

by Thao on 02.28.2013

Why didn’t anyone ever tell me that your week nights become the same thing over and over again when baby enters the schedule?

5:00-5:30 wake up, brush teeth, put on makeup AND pump
5:30-5:40 transfer milk, wash parts, heat up breakfast water
5:40-5:50 work on my ‘do, set up bathroom for baby eczema spa treatments
5:50-5:55 scarf down oatmeal for breakfast with aforementioned hot water, take vitamins
5:55-6:10 set up car seat, stuff diaper bag with cloth diapers (may need to stuff diapers that were washed the previous night), collect other day care things
6:10-6:30 baby spa treatment (oil, brush hair, wash his face, apply VaniCream, wash his hair, brush his hair), clean up bathroom
6:30-6:40 identify something to wear and put it on – yes, it takes me that long sometimes, leave off outer layer of outfit in case Kyler pukes on me (very strategic)
6:40-6:45 load and start car
6:45-7:00 play with Kyler, make coffee, load him up in car seat
7:00-7:05 kiss Donny, put coffee in the car while Donny says bye to Kyler, put the boy in the car
7:05-7:10 drive to day care
7:10-7:20 talk to his teachers and drop him off
7:20-7:35 drive to work
7:35-3:45ish work, pump, eat, work, pump, pump
3:45ish-4:00 pick up boy
4:00-4:05 drive home
4:05-4:30 unload car, bring boy in, put milk in fridge, unload dishwasher, change clothes
4:30-5:30 play with boy or put him down for a nap depending on when his last nap was
5:30-6:00 feed the boy
6:00-7:00 eat dinner, tidy up, put away his daycare things, fit in whatever else I can get done
7:00-8:30 Donny feeds boy again and puts him down to sleep while I make day care bottles for the next night, wash pump parts, pack lunch, shower
8:30-9:00 veg out for a second in front of the laptop
9:00-9:20 pump and continue vegging out in front of laptop
9:20-9:40 get ready for bed
9:40-10:30 somewhere in there… pass the F out
11ish-3ish the boy wakes me up because he’s broken loose of his swaddle to scratch his face, kicked himself out of his sleeper, or wedged himself against the crib sides

Repeat until the weekend

During the week, it feels like we have no time for each other, ourselves, or with the boy. It’s so rushed! Pushing his bedtime for later doesn’t work because he needs all that rest. Staying up later doesn’t work because it’s a crap-shoot on if he actually sleeps through the night, so if you go to bed at 11pm and he’s up at 1am and 3am, you’re almost rendered useless the next day. Luckily, he’s a pretty good sleeper, but I recently had a night of being up every 2 hours! Crap shoot.

I thought I looked forward to the weekends before, but it’s even MORE of a tret to get to spend time AT HOME with my two favorite guys. We’re scheduling "no social plan" weekends (or DO NOTHING weekends) now just to capitalize on the time together. It seems un-spontaneous to do this, but it’s the best way we could find to make the time.

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On Marriage After Baby

by Thao on 02.24.2013

Stroller? Check.
Diaper bag? Check.
Crib? Check.
Nursery design? Check.
Cloth or disposable? Check.
Cool mist or warm mist humidifier? Check.
Marriage? Check …wait, what?

We all knew child-rearing would be hard work. We were prepared to put our needs aside to meet the little man’s needs. We understood, or at least made the expectation, that sleepless nights might require a LOT of coffee the occasional clumsy episode or two.

On marriage after babyBut, nowhere in the realm of ‘expecting baby’, did anyone tell us that Marriage After Baby was difficult. And I mean difficult with a capital ‘Damn you *insert husband’s name* for everything’. You mean, we still have to work on our marriage? Yup. While you’ll probably come across differences in how to discipline (thankfully, we aren’t there yet) or when to start solid foods, you don’t think that the marriage part of the family unit would require more effort. Read: SO much MORE effort.

Almost immediately, motherhood sends you down this enamoured, obsessive path of unconditional love for a new #1 man (or girl) in your life. You hold off running to the bathroom to drop the kids off because the baby just decided to empty his stomach in your lap, OR more pleasantly, is flashing a gummy smile at you. And even though you’ve seen the gummy smile before and have a kajillion pictures of it on every mobile device (that you can easily take into said bathroom), nothing beats seeing it firsthand.

What about the husband? What ABOUT the husband? He doesn’t bond with the baby right away and is ridden with a sense of guilt for NOT being as attached as new mom is. But, over time, as the baby progressively reacts to mom and dad, he will cultivate that same love that mom already has.

OK… so what does that have to do with marriage? Exactly. Building upon that innate and not-so-innate love for the child doesn’t involve the marriage. AT ALL, at least when you first observe what has been going on for the past several months. Unless you realize it right away and continue growing it {marriage, that is}, it sits on the back burner until you either wake up one day forgetting that you’re married or worst, realize that your spouse isn’t even in the house. No, we didn’t get to that point, but I wouldn’t be surprised that others have had to trudge through that path. We dated right up until the point I went into labor. I am lucky… he is a real great guy who still WANTED to date me even though I felt like a beached whale towards the end of maternity. I’m not just talking fancy, candlelit dinners either. Sometimes, we would spontaneously stop at the IHOP to indulge in our favorite foods of the day: breakfast, but at Brunch time.

Your friends with their new baby most likely didn’t warn you about this because most couples will suffer through it silently. It’s embarrassing. Who wants to show weakness? Who wants to publicly share that you seem to be failing at your marriage? I know we didn’t. Until, I reluctantly, but thankfully reached out to my girlfriend who had just had a baby a month before us and a sigh of relief was instantly upon me. Upon us! We weren’t alone. For them, it was around the 5-month mark. It was the 4-month mark for us, but the slow toll of managing a not-so-routine routine and the constant worry for things like allergies, baby’s weight, and eczema among you know, feeding, changing, bathing, loving the kid took several months postpartum to surface or at least build up into severe frustration.

And it will suck. Two type A, OCD, stubborn first children with principled-centers, fight HARD. The score-keeping was rampant and there was so much resentment from both parties focusing on what the individual did and why the other did not notice or did not ‘do as much’. I found this parents.com article which did a great job of being a neutral source and of describing what apparently many couples go through as they become parents. It was probably the article that saved us! Had we read it sooner, it may not have stuck. So is there really a right time to learn to anticipate a mega-blowout? Probably not, but I wished that close friends would bring this up to us… or even those birthing classes that failed to prepare us for my delayed postpartum hemorrhage emergency, could at least touch on an ‘other things to be aware of’ category? There’s no right answer, but I’m happy to say that we’re coming out on top of this explosive fight.

We’re more understanding, better equipped to help the other, and will be better parents to Kyler. THAT is the silver lining behind this and I am hopeful that I may be able to help someone else. At the risk of being vulnerable and labeled imperfect, this is my attempt at warning others or providing a friendly reminder to love your partner too, not just the adorable mini-version of you. Remember that the marriage takes work, as it always has; it’s just not always the number one relationship anymore.

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Whether you call it a security blanket, blankie, or lovie, they’re just cute.

I think I made this more for me and the sake of making one than for the boy who currently, at 5 months, doesn’t quite appreciate it yet as one of his precious toys. Give it time though, I’m sure he’ll want to snuggle with his ninja soon enough. I mean, there’s no more security than a small blankie with a ninja attached to it.

diy soft, fuzzy ninja blankie lovie

Tools for entire project:

  • fuzzy fabric
  • satin fabric or whatever else you want to use for trim
  • interfacing… or reuse a dryer sheet like I did!
  • batting
  • sewing machine
  • thread, needles
  • buttons if you want button eyes
  • pins
  • scissors

I essentially combined two of my tutorials to create this lovie.
1) {DIY} Ninja Baby Blanket with Mitered Corner
2) {DIY} Stuffed Toy: Ninja Plushie

I made the blanket from item #1 above first, except it was much smaller than in the original tutorial, I made it approximately an 18" square with black fuzzy fabric as the framed fabric and turquoise satin as the framing fabric. (Verbiage dictated by the first referenced tutorial.)

Once that was complete, I moved onto the second tutorial and made a smaller ninja. Since the stuffed ninja was smaller than the plushie I made and the fuzzy material was black, I pinned and sewed both sides together WITH the template I made out of paper in order to see what I was actually sewing. Note: one side had the paper template and the other had interfacing (dryer sheet).

diy soft, fuzzy ninja blankie lovie


diy soft, fuzzy ninja blankie lovie

Paper can be easily sewn through and after you’re done, you can just rip it out, much like if you ever ripped out a tag from your shirt.

diy soft, fuzzy ninja blankie lovie

Turn the ninja or whatever stuffed object you made rightside in and stuffed him with batting. Then, sew line across the entire bottom to keep the stuffing inside.

diy soft, fuzzy ninja blankie lovie

Fold the bottom up and pin it shut. Run some hand stitching across it to finish the bottom edge. The black fuzzy material made it very easy to haphazardly do this while hiding the messy stitches.

diy soft, fuzzy ninja blankie lovie

THEN, the fun part was pinning the ninja to the middle of the blankie you made in part 1 above and securing everything with your machine. Remember, babies will tear this up, so be generous with the thread and run the sewing machine forward and in reverse.

diy soft, fuzzy ninja blankie lovie

And here’s my dorky husband demonstrating how the boy will probably snuggle with it one day.

diy soft, fuzzy ninja blankie lovie

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I know that putting socks on your baby’s hand is clearly a fashion statement that is well before its time… but I don’t think Kyler knows. Whatever, he’s just stylishly conservative.

I put his sense of style in mind and started looking for alternative scratch-relief options for his little hands aside from the mittens that NEVER STAY ON to the socks that are supposed to be for feet, or so he says. I’m sure any parent with an eczema-suffering baby understands. Google quickly led me to Scratch Sleeves from the UK.

What a life-saver.

Let’s start by saying I clearly want my kid’s hands to touch and feel things, but there are occasions where I can’t monitor him 24/7 and he gets free of his socks, mitts, and swaddle to satisfy the urge to scratch an itch. Not that running across a room to pin his hands back when the socks do get rubbed off is great exercise… it’s just not the kind of aerobic workout, coupled with anxiousness on identifying which chunk of skin he removed next, that I’m looking for.

Well, the English have it right. I don’t get why no one has invented these in the States… hmmmm, maybe I need to quit my day job, but they are such a life-saver. When I found these online, my immediate reaction was, "this is an EASY DIY!", but I did not have the time to work on it and I needed them FAST. He was going through all of his hand-hiding options like it was some sort of record to break.

They came fairly quickly even having to jump across the pond. We bought four and took advantage of the bulk buy discount.

scratchsleeves review for baby itchy from eczema

As soon as we received them, they were washed and he was hanging out with them. They have been miraculous in our home. He can get used to being unswaddled and we’re relieved that he’s not going to hurt himself constantly.

scratchsleeves review for baby itchy from eczema

I can’t say enough about how much I am thankful for these "mitts that stay on". They really do stay on. He can still play with them, hitting Sophie and swatting at his toys. The mitten parts are silk, which was was worried about the fibers scratching him, but have turned out to be very nice and smooth. I think the ‘cool’ touch to them also relieve him when he does try to scratch. The peace of mind for us has been invaluable. I would recommend these to any parents with itchy babies to help manage their symptoms.

ScratchSleeves did not ask me to review their product. We paid for them and have just been happy customers.

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Love Ninja Valentine

by Thao on 02.14.2013

Happy Valentine’s Day from this little ninja.

love ninja graphic on plain white baby onesie valentines day greeting

Kyler made a card for his day care teachers and brought in cupcakes and cookies as a thank you for taking care of him. He insisted, that a little charmer.

love ninja graphic on plain white baby onesie valentines day greeting & treats for day care teachers

I took pictures of him in a white onesie that I knew I could later go back and add a picture to, instead of wandering around town for ninja onesies. Gotta love quick customization.

That picture was from him 3 month photoshoot. The 4 month photoshoot would have been more recent but he was a grump bear with the eczema and uncomfortable itchies. He had also gotten smaller with weight loss due to the poor absorption of food :(. I figured the teachers would prefer a card of Happy Kyler, the way we all know him to be! He’s already getting chunkier!

love ninja baby and flowers to mommy for valentines dayThe little charmer also sent me flowers to work from day care. I have got to say that I have the best son (and husband, who made me a dinner from scratch this week and has continued to pull his fair share of parenthood) EVER. We decided for Valentine’s Day this year, to just hang out. It was hectic running across the state for Chinese New Year last weekend, especially after just learning about the allergy. So, we’re going to enjoy our family of three. I might go pick up some vegan chocolate on the way home Friday just so I can have my Valentine’s Day Box of Chocolates!

valentines day flowers and card from baby boy to mother


valentines day flowers and card from baby boy to mother

I especially loved how he signed the card. We’re going to have to work on his penmanship.

Hope you enjoy the day – whether you disdain it for being Hallmark or enjoy the fact that Love is in the Air.

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On Mother’s Guilt and Mommy Blame

by Thao on 02.11.2013

Going to the allergist was the best idea ever. Two weeks ago, Kyler was taken to the pediatrician for his very itchy face. At that point, the eczema was not all over his body (he just had dry skin), but the itchy boy had pretty severe patches on his head and face. They were oozing and caused me to wake up one night to him with a bloody face. Then, it spread to his body, so it became evident that we needed to do something different.

itchy baby with eczema from milk baby, black and white, babyfaceWe spent Thursday morning at the allergist… and left with answers and education. As it turns out, he has a severe allergy to milk (cow’s milk). When I say severe, I mean the milk prick swelled up bigger than the positive control and that the allergist called his skin ‘angry’.

There are inevitably a lot of things racing through my mind and most of it is what I call "Mom Guilt". I read about the signs – green poop, tummy issues, developing eczema, but I was assured that these things were normal via my own research and the Ped. It wasn’t until the eczema spread to his entire body and he was trying to scratch himself on any non-cotton surface that we, including his Ped, realized it was bad. He was just miserable.

So, you go the specialist, they tell you what’s wrong, and then you kick yourself in the ass for not changing history by doing something different or sooner. I document everything. I know exactly when the first itchy dance happened… when the first bowel movement was lime green, and when the skin weeping wouldn’t stop, but sometimes, you just don’t connect the dots. That hindsight quote comes to mind…

THEN you also go through this mindset of "don’t be the freak-out, hypochondriac parent, he’s fine" phase. We do this A. LOT. Too much. Instead of down-playing what the baby is going through at the risk of looking like crazy, overbearing first-time-parents, just trust your gut. I should have. And now I am suffering more with mom-guilt. In the scheme of things, is a severe milk allergy the end of the world? Of course not. There are far worse things that we’ve been fortunate to dodge. Trust me, I know we’re lucky. But I bet the mom-guilt is the same.

What I AM thankful I did, was once we realized it was bad and had spread to his body, the specialist was immediately called, a first-available appointment was made, and we got answers. We almost considered cutting out the main culprits of food allergens from my diet, but I’m an engineer. That kind of time and guess-and-check trial-and-error approach really irked me if I knew I could take him down the street to get an actual, accurate test done. And thankfully, we did. Had I just cut out the milk like I assumed I would have to, I would have increased my concentrated soy intake and he could have developed another allergy. The topical creams, lotions, ointments, and oils that we experimented with, did not cut to the root cause of the problem. They only attempted to address the symptoms and I spend all my time at work identifying root cause and implementing solutions.

allergy prick test for 4 month old baby with eczemaSo we went. It wasn’t the most delightful experience, but Donny and I are good at mentally preparing ourselves for the worst. And the boy took it like a champ. He fussed a bit, but for the most part, stayed still and allowed the itchy Milk poke to flare up on his tiny back. Also good news: it’s likely that this allergy is the cause of his inadvertent un-weight-gain – putting him in the category of Failure to Thrive. The word ‘failure’ is not good for my personality type.

I can logically talk myself through how we did everything right given the timeline of all the events, but it’s hard in a mother’s mind, to not blame yourself for not fixing it sooner. We changed and tried all kinds of things as soon as we could, but I still feel like my reaction was slow. Writing this out is my attempt at accepting that we actually did good and our little trooper will be fine… and not blaming myself for it. Attempt. But Mom-guilt will never go away. I suppose not experiencing mom-guilt would make me a worse mom…

Lesson learned: trust your instincts and the worry never stops… and no matter how things could have been done differently a week or month ago, you’re doing the best you can by caring and taking action. I’m glad I didn’t leave our problem up for chance or to see how it plays out. But then again, I’m a control freak.

And for any mamas out there debating about whether or not you should take your itchy baby to the allergist, just do it. When I had the inkling that I should cut out typical allergens, I would have just cut out dairy. Had I not gone to the allergist, I would not have known to cut out concentrated soy as well, i.e. don’t drink soy milk as a replacement. I also never would have received the amazing prescription cream that has been alleviating Kyler’s itchiness.

On the topic of finances: the cost of visiting the allergist was LESS than taking him to his Pediatrician, at least for our insurance/HSA. Each allergy test prick was about $12 or so… can’t recall. But we spent WAY more money trying to find the silver bullet topical lotion, cream, or ointment that would help him. Over hundreds of dollars guessing and checking and trialing the numerous swaddles and mittens that they put out in the market just to address the symptoms, not the root cause.

Now what? We’re using Neocate formula temporarily until I get all of the cow’s milk and concentrated soy out of my system. Yep, I’m committing to changing my diet so that I can continue to give him the best nutrition. I am too damn stubborn to have someone/something else tell me when to quit breastfeeding. I have to be the one to decide that! Plus, he doesn’t like the formula so much. It might be this transition period, but he just does not like it. AND it’s expensive. Boob milk is mostly free save the initial cost of pumps and storage items. I like free.

If I ever wanted to lose weight, I would have NEVER gone the diet route. THAT is how much I love food. But, for my little guy… anything. And I mean anything. Milk, cheese, and chocolate are among my favorite foods. After getting home from the allergist, I realized that 90% of the food in our house had MILK on the label. Seriously?! Bread, chicken nuggets, CUP O NOODLES! The this-is-going-to-be-a-lot-harder-reality-truck hit me, but again – I’m stubborn.

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This is the final installment of a three-part crib skirt tutorial. It’s not that the project was difficult, requiring three whole parts, but I was lazy and didn’t want to write it all up for one day.

If you want to do this and didn’t start from the beginning, check these out:
1) The short crib skirt panels
2) The long pleated crib skirt panels

diy easy to adjust modern pleat crib skirt

Now, for the cheating part where it all comes together. With all four sides of the skirt done, take them to the crib, apply the sticky hook side of the velcro to the crib frame where you want to adhere the skirt to the frame. For the long panels, use three 1.5" sections (two at the ends and one in the middle). For the short panels, use two 1.5" sticky Velcro sections (two at the ends, about 4.5" in from the sides recommended). Here’s a top view of the sticky Velcro on the long side of the crib with the long panel…

diy easy to adjust modern pleat crib skirt

See how I placed the sticky Velcro to match up or align with the sewn Velcro on the panel? With the sticky Velcro in place, adhere the fabric panel to the crib frame. This was repeated for the remaining 9 Velcro sections.

diy easy to adjust modern pleat crib skirt


diy easy to adjust modern pleat crib skirt


diy easy to adjust modern pleat crib skirt

Velcro all of those sides on and you have just made an inexpensive crib skirt that isn’t a full crib skirt. No one can even tell the difference and it’s height-adjustable as you lower your crib mattress for your growing baby – you just re-velcro the skirt to fit.

To protect our dual-sided mattress, we placed a piece of cardboard on top of the springs, underneath the mattress. I figured this step would ensure that the mattress doesn’t get damaged since our skirt doesn’t have fabric covering the springs like sold skirts do.

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