Petals & Pinwheels.

DIY-girls-first-birthday-party-pink-orange-pinwheel-centerpieces

Really grainy and yellow shot for this post, but you get the idea where this is going.  And for the record, there was terrible light just before A’s party when I took these shots, and I’m not up to snuff yet on using Photoshop to fully fix things yet…

Anyway, these are some shots of the centerpieces I made for A’s first birthday.  Along with the colorful Gerber daisies my MIL found (they matched the color theme perfectly!). I wanted to share a tutorial in case it’s helpful to anyone else looking to make pinwheel centerpieces in mason jars.  You know, because there are so many of you out there and all.  Actually, there could be a decent amount of you based on some quick googling I just did.  So let’s do it.

The shot below shows the supplies I used.  I had a few on hand already  and picked up the rest for under $25 at A.C.Moore.  You are looking at (from L to R): Paper Pinwheels (made using my own method, which combined a few tutorials found on the Googles), paper filler, floral Styrofoam  two different widths of pink and orange grosgrain ribbon,  a Ball mason jar (I had both quart and pint sizes for decor, only the quarts are used in the shot above for the food table), craft dowels, and extra hot glue gun sticks.

DIY-pinwheel-centerpiece-supplies

The first thing I did was set up the mason jars as a base.  I played around with ribbon before cutting it to see how long of a piece I’d need.  To do that I just wrapped it around the top, tested a bow, etc.  Once I had the right size I cut 3 more so I had 4 in total.  Then I dabbed my hot glue gun onto the rim of the jar from the back all the way around the sides, leaving about and inch and a half to 2 inches open at the front so I could still tie the bow.  Before doing that I let them dry completely.  And if you think this sounds simple, it kinda does, but trust me when I say that I tied and re-tied those darn bows several times to get them just right.  Like so:

DIY-pinwheel-centerpiece-mason-jar

Next I shaved some of the outside of the Styrofoam so the circles were a little smaller and would fit inside the mouth of the jars.  Once I had a piece was nice and settled, I added the paper filler to the jar.  I had to use one of the dowels to poke it down and around the Styrofoam to hide it, which was also kind of tedious, but it made a big difference.  Seeing the Styrofoam is a little JV.  You can see a filled jar in the background of the shot below.

DIY-pinwheel-centerpiece-styrofoam-in-jar

Back to the hot glue gun.  Any project involving a hot glue gun is infinitely more fun.  Even B’s curiosity piques when he sees me bring that thing out.  I cannot wait until A is old enough for arts & crafts days at home.  Literally can’t wait.  I dream about what our arts & crafts projects will be, and about the craft room I’m going to design and build in the big suburban house B buys for me one day…

HA!  Pipe dreams.  Don’t get me wrong, I REALLY want a craft room, but we’re not moving to the ‘burbs any time soon.  We like the city.  And I’ll of course be chipping in on our abode.  I wouldn’t leave B stranded like that.  Teamwork!

But back to crafts…it was now time to assemble the pinwheels.  I hot glue gunned some of my larger paper pinwheels to craft dowels and trimmed the bottoms so they’d be a good height in the jars.  Once those dried my last and final step was the stick the pinwheels in each jar, being sure to get them nice and tight in the Styrofoam at the bottom.  I had to play around with them a little bit to get them just right, but anchoring them was a huge help.  Below is a final shot.  I wasn’t sure how big I wanted the pinwheels to be in the jars, so I had two test sizes for comparison purposes.

And I really have to point out that the pink pinwheels do not look NEARLY this large in person.  It totally dwarfs the jar in this shot, but if you scroll all the way back up you’ll see they worked perfectly.

So there you have it.  An easy and inexpensive way to DIY pink and orange pinwheel centerpieces, if you happen to be in the market for that kind of thing.  But actually you could do a lot with the jars other than this – I can totally see leaving the ribbon and doing other things like tea lights or flowers, etc.  Love all things functional.

DIY-pinwheel-centerpiece-finished

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A was 1!

Today is a perfect day for this post for two reasons: 1) we’re getting rocked by Hurricane Sandy so I had some time to sort through (and edit!) the pictures I wanted to use for this post and 2) it’s been exactly one month since A’s birthday and birthday party, the main event for showcasing all these fun decorations!  Happy 13 months to my girl!  (That’s my attempt at putting a positive spin on the fact that it’s taken me a month to get this post together…)

So I already posted a sneak peak of her party here, but I didn’t get into any of the details.  That’s where this post comes in.  We didn’t want one of those huge first birthday parties that are overwhelming and absurd, but with two big families (and with one having LOTS of cousins with kids), it’s kind of hard to avoid a larger party.  So we had to host it at my awesome in-laws house, which works better because they have lots of space for kids to run and play, both indoors and out.

To get ready for the party I had several lists going: guest list, food, decor, supplies needed for decor, etc.  At one point I decided that was ridiculous so I consolidated onto one sticky note on my desktop:

first-birthday-party-planning-lists

Let’s start with food.  A’s party was from 12-2 (her best time of day – smack in the middle of naps), so we served lunch, but we wanted it to be easy so we ordered hoagies for pick-up that morning (it was on a Saturday).  We did PB&J for kids and a salad, a side of mac and cheese since it’s A’s absolute favorite, and chips.  Fruit, cupcakes, and birthday cake rounded out the day.  After settling on the menu I divvied up a few items between A’s ever-helpful grandma’s, and figured out a timetable for everything (what needed to be bought/ordered, when to make things, when to pick up, etc.).

Deciding on what kind of decor I wanted to do was trickier.  I pinned a ton of ideas, but eventually settled on a pink and orange pinwheel theme since A loves watching the pinwheels our neighbors have in their window boxes.  And pink and orange are just super cute colors for a girl’s party.  As for what to make, I decided I really wanted to do something with A’s monthly photos I took all year so a monthly photo banner was definitely a must!  I also thought that with the supplies for that banner, a ‘Happy Birthday’ banner wouldn’t bee too difficult to make as well.  Lastly I wanted to make pinwheel centerpieces for some of the tables and for the food table, and use some of the materials to make pinwheels for hanging/decorating.  Oh – and pom-poms!  I wanted to make those too since they are pretty darn cute.

Here are shots of the 2 banners (with pom-poms on the spark guard!):

DIY-girls-first-birthday-party-monthly-photo-banner

DIY-girls-first-birthday-party-pink-orange-pinwheels-banner

For both banners I used scrapbooking card stock as the background/base.  For the photo banner I did add an extra layer of card stock for more contrast before gluing down the pictures.  I downloaded fonts from Scraptivity for the birthday banner, printed them in a very large size and in a fun color and glued them on top.  I punched holes in the two top right corners of each letter/photo, and strung them on satin ribbon picked up from the craft store.

Oh – one additional thing I did for the party, which you can kind of see in the background in the pic above, was make a kids art table.  I covered a folding table with craft paper and since it’s fall we had mini pumpkins (also following the orange theme!), with markers for the kids to decorate them.  Then I bought a few mini boxes of crayons of scattered them around for drawing.  It turned out to be a big hit – with the adults!  Definitely going to be a stable at future parties we have.  Here is a better shot:

DIY-girls-first-birthday-party-kids-drawing-table

For the pom-poms, I used this tutorial, and they were super easy.  Another item that will be a party staple in years to come!  Here they are hanging in the doorway that leads from my in-laws’ den to their dining room and formal living room.  You can see other pom-poms hanging on the fireplace in that room too.

DIY-girls-first-birthday-party-pink-orange-pinwheel-decorations

And the focal point of that shot is the centerpiece.  You can see my pinwheels in mason jars, alternating with brightly colored gerber daisies that my mother in law spotted and grabbed for me.  Don’t they match perfectly?!  It was uncanny.  Here is the last shot I have for the party decor, a little closer up of the main table, with the paper goods set out.  The food went all around the other sides of the table.

DIY-girls-first-birthday-party-pink-orange-pinwheel-decorations

I got the paper goods from PartyPail.com – they had every color you could possibly want, and free shipping over $50.  I was a little shy of that total with my order, so I was browsing for a $5ish item to toss in (I refuse to pay shipping), and found that cute little felt “1” hat in the background.  Sure I could have made something, but I was running out of time, it wouldn’t have looked as good, and it saved me shipping costs.  Deal.

The centerpieces were probably the most time-consuming of all the decorations so I snapped some shots along the way and will share a separate tutorial.  Depending on if we still have power tomorrow and if A cooperates, I’ll get that post up in the evening.

But these shots should give you a good feel for how things looked.  I was very pleased.  And it really wasn’t expensive or taxing to throw it all together.  With adequate planning, of course.  I was all over supplies early in the month, and then I worked on things slowly here and there at night after work.  And it all came together.  That’s what a good list (or ten) can do for you…

One.

pink-orange-pinwheel-1st-birthday-party

This past Saturday, we celebrated our little A’s first birthday.  I know, I can’t believe it either.  The shot above is a sneak peak of the setup at her party we threw over the weekend at her Gammy & Pop-Pop’s house.  The theme was pink and orange and pinwheels, and yes, yours truly made all the decorations.  It’s been a few really busy weeks with work, marathon training, and getting ready for the party, so I haven’t been able to blog about the party planning process at all, but don’t worry – it’s coming.  I had multiple lists going, most of which had their own lists.  It was list-making bliss.

One of my favorite decorations from the day was a banner showcasing the monthly photos we’ve taken of A since she was born.  It’s amazing to look back at the pictures of that little newborn, with a full head of black hair (where did that come from anyway?!), the tiniest most delicate little fingers and toes, and that sleepy little face.  And then that little six month old sitting up perfectly straight with her kissable round cheeks, smiling face and big blue eyes.  Now I look at the real life A in front of me and it’s amazing.  She’s sweet and playful and curious and funny.  She loves to dance (and by dance I mean roll her shoulders and shake her little butt…), and is dying to start walking (although truthfully I could wait for that day – thinking about her toddling around our 13 foot wide house with hardwood floors, and super steep steps puts my stomach in my throat!).

It’s cliche to say, but the time has flown by.  The days felt long sometimes, but the weeks were short.  And the months were like nano-months.  And now I have a one year old.  Wow.

Happy 1st Birthday, Pumpkin Face!

A Perfect Ten. {Part 2 of 2}

breastfeeding-pumping-nursing-tips-tricks-tidbitsAfter your eyeballs have recovered from reading my novel of a post yesterday about my 10 months of nursing and pumping that came to an end last weekend, here are a few lists I have for those looking for more easily digested reading material.

 Random Things Learned:

  • Breastfeeding is HARD WORK.  It is physically and mentally tough, and it’s all on you.  No one tells you this, so I am.  Be prepared to want to stab your husband as he sleeps peacefully while you nurse in the middle of the night those first few days and weeks.
  • Does this kid do anything but eat?! Newborns nurse very frequently (think 10-12 times a day), and sometimes a nursing session can be up to 45 minutes!  So by the time you finish it’s basically time to start again.  Because of this, you will not sleep as much as your formula-feeding friends, and will probably want to claw their well-rested eyes out on a few occasions too.
  • Your boobs are more like a sprinkler than a faucet.  Who knew?!  No real relevance here but this blew my mind.
  • Pumping is confusing.  Figuring out how and when to pump is difficult and confusing (if you’re trying to establish nursing when do you have time to pump?!).  Wait a few weeks to try it, and try pumping a little bit after each nursing session.  You won’t get much but that’s not because you suck at pumping, it’s because a) obviously you just fed your kid, and b) they only take a few teaspoons at a time in the beginning so your body hasn’t ramped up supply yet.
  • Building a freezer stash seems impossible.  But it’s not.  Try getting those little bits at a time and eventually you’ll have enough for a full bottle.  Try having your husband feed that to your baby one time while you skip the nursing session and pump instead.  You should be able to get almost a full feeding and can add to that the other little bits that you keep getting after feedings  All of this will snowball into a full blown supply and you will be amazed.  At one point I had over 150 ounces of B-milk in our freezer (just over a gallon!)
  • Breastfeeding makes you thirsty.  VERY thirsty.  I mean just think about all that liquid your body is producing and giving away to someone else.  I guzzled water like none other for the first few months.

Products That Are Awesome:

  • Nipple Shield.  Already mentioned them, but in case you skipped my sob story yesterday, the Medela Contact Nipple Shields are very helpful in the beginning.
  • Nursing Pillow.  I thought these were gimmicky.  They’re not.  So helpful with a C-section, and even weeks and months later they help keep your kid propped up and in place.  I was even able to go “hands free” in the beginning when A didn’t move.  I usually replied to emails during this time.  If you heard from me via email in October or November there’s almost a 100% chance I was nursing when I sent it.
  • Nursing Tank Tops.  Comfortable, supportive, and don’t scream “I’m a lactating mom!”.  These particular ones were extra thick and long so I felt really “held in”.  The top flaps down for convenient and more discreet nursing (no post-partum belly popping out while your shirt is up).
  • Medela Freestyle Pump.  Big price tag, but beyond worth it if you’re in this for the long haul.  Cannot say enough how convenient this small pump was.
  • Hands Free Bustier.  All that being said about the pump…it is NOT hands free as advertised.  Well, it is, if you are going to stand still and let yourself look like Robo-Boobs.  The system they provide does not allow for what I really consider to be “hands free”.   I wanted to be able to do anything and everything with my pump on.  Couldn’t have done it without one of these bustiers.  I used this every single day for my 10 months of nursing/pumping.
  • Medela Quick Clean Wipes.  Quick?  Yes please.  Clean?  Gimme!  A very necessary product to have if you are pumping on the go.
  • The Internet.  There is so much information out there and so much dialogue between nursing moms.  You can find the answer to almost anything if you search long enough!  Some of the ones I found the most helpful:

 

Pumping at Work (and in the car, and on an airplane, and at bachelorette parties, and at weddings…)

I had pumping at work down to a science.  From when A was 3 months (when I returned to work) until 6 months I pumped THREE times a day at work alone!  At 6 months I went down to twice during the workday, and at 9 months I went down to just once a day until I stopped last weekend.  I can’t even begin to guess how many ounces of B-milk I brought home during that time…

What helped (at Work):

  • All of the products mentioned above make pumping WAY easier.  For long term pumping on the go, invest in a good pump, the bustier, and the wipes.
  • Having a duplicate set of pump parts and tubing (usually available from your pump’s manufacturer’s website).  I left these at work so I didn’t have to lug my entire bag of equipment back and forth every single day.  I just carried my bottles (empty in the morning, full in the evening) and the actual pump unit.  I used one of these bags to hold what I was carrying back and forth, and no one ever knew that it wasn’t my lunch bag.
  • I’m lucky enough to have a lactation room in the building which obviously is a huge help.  But I’ve heard/read lots of stories of moms having to rig screens in cubicles, or find janitor closets, etc.  If you work for a company larger than 500 people I believe there are legal requirements for providing you with a sanitary and safe space to do your thang.  Google should be able to help you here.
  • No need to wear nursing clothes, but do think about what will be easiest to lift up/take off for those months you are pumping several times a day.  I actually found dresses were great because I could unzip them to my waist and remain (almost) fully dressed.
  • Having a smartphone/blackberry.  I didn’t like feeling unproductive while pumping, it made me feel anxious and guilty.  Being able to take care of any calls or emails was a bit strange to do in our lactation room, but made me feel better about the time away from my desk.

Car:

I pumped in the car on several occasions.  It’s difficult because of the possibility of people seeing you, and the seat belt situation.  A nursing cover or blanket can cover up what you’re doing though.  I also only ever used my hand pump since it was more discreet to just slide under the cover.  This wasn’t that difficult and a great way to kill 2 birds with one stone.  I mean what else would you be doing in the car?!

Airplanes:

You may remember my trip to Miami for AC’s bachelorette party while I was still pumping.  Fun times.  You probably don’t remember that I pumped mid-flight.  Probably somewhere over DC/Virginia if I had to guess.  I was still pumping every 4ish hours during the day at that time so I pumped before I left my house, and wanted to squeeze in my next session on the plane rather than when I arrived and reunited with all my friends (“HI!  So excited to see you!  I’ll be right back, I have to drain my boobs!”).  I used my hand pump because I didn’t feel like freaking people out and bringing a foreign electronic object into the lavatory.  I covered the seat and all surfaces with paper towels and got down to business.  I used my clean wipes afterwards and kept the milk in a smaller bag with a mini cooler in my carry on.

Bachelorette Parties/Weddings

Well, AC’s bach and wedding were the only two where I’ve had to do this, but I did bring my hand pump to 2 other weddings when A was 6 weeks old and again when she was 3 months.  I ended up not using it because I didn’t like the bathroom situation and we weren’t out that late.  So I went about 6 hours without pumping.  Probably a lot longer than most people do when their babies were that age but it didn’t seem to hurt my supply, or my boobs.

AC’s wedding was different since I was in the wedding and we were out for pictures/ceremony/more pictures for several hours before we even got to the reception.  So if I didn’t pump at some point throughout the day it would be 12+ hours without.  Not fun.  So upon arriving at the reception site, I casually mentioned it to a female member of the staff who was like, “No one told me!  Oh come with me, we’ll get you a private place right away!”  Could. Not. Have. Been. More. Accomodating.  I was floored.  It was a perfect situation.  I brought the real deal freestyle pump for this (and bustier!) and used my quick clean wipes for parts and mini cooler for the milk.  It was awkward to have a bag (I used a small tote to conceal things), but since we were in the wedding a couple of people had bags with extra shoes, make-up, etc.

Pumping at events like this can be awkward, but I’ve found people to be very accommodating if you just explain to them what is going on and what it is that you need.  It also helps if you have awesome friends who don’t care that you lactate while everyone else is getting their bachelorette bash on.  Thanks guys.  🙂

A Perfect Ten. {Part 1 of 2}

ten-months-breastfeeding-nursing-pumpingTo start this post I have lots of disclaimers for everyone.  Can you tell I’m married to an attorney?

Disclaimer #1: A very big warning to any male and/or squeamish readers: the post you are about to read is a long and intricate tale of my 10 month experience with breastfeeding that ended with mixed emotions last weekend, and it’s going to be TMI central.   I can’t help it.  I learned so much from the process and wished so bad in the beginning there were more “good to know” tips/guides out there for the modern mama, that I feel like I must share my experience.  So for those of you that are going to stick with me here, prepare yourself for a very long and personal sob story post about my 10 months of nursing and pumping.  You might want to take a bathroom break and grab a snack, because this is going to be a long one.

And of course…

Disclaimer #2: I am by no means an expert on this topic, nor do I purport to be one.  Every woman and every baby will have a different experience when it comes to breastfeeding, so what I am sharing is just my personal tale, and a few things that I learned along the way.

Now with that behind us, let’s begin.  To help organize my thoughts so that people can actually take something away from this rambling tale post, I have broken things down into a few categories.  Today I will share my Personal Nursing Story.  Tomorrow I’ll be back to add Random Things Learned, Products That are Awesome, and Pumping at Work (and in the car, and on an airplane, and at bachelorette parties, and at weddings…. )

My Personal Nursing Story

While pregnant, I was both intrigued and horrified with the idea of breastfeeding.  I knew there were loads of personal and health benefits for me and A, that it would save us money, etc., but I’m also not really a “boob” person so the thought of the whole thing freaked me out a little to be honest.  Not wanting to have anything set in stone that I didn’t know squat about, I decided I was going to try to breastfeed A and hopefully make it to 6 months (as recommended by the AAP), but I was also keeping myself real and also preparing for it to possibly just not work for me.

With that decision made, I actually enrolled in a Breastfeeding class offered at my hospital BEFORE A was born.  I just wanted to know more – I literally knew nothing.  The class was great.  Some people are going to call BS on this, but I honestly credit a lot of my breastfeeding success to have come from taking this class.  I don’t mean the “how to” aspect – no one can possibly prepare you for that – but just the general gist of how the whole thing works.  I was able to build a foundation of knowledge before the baby came, which was helpful because in those frantic first newborn days you won’t retain squat.

A ended up being a planned C-section because she was breech at our 20 week anatomy scan and never flipped in the 19 ½ weeks after that.  (We’re just waiting for her teenage years when this innate stubbornness is going to rear its ugly head again.)  Of course I was terrified that I wasn’t going to be able to nurse, but of course that was silly.  Although it was uncomfortable in the midsection for a few weeks,  the surgery had no direct impact on lactation and nursing.  About 2 hours post-surgery (we did not have success with the immediate post-birth-plop-the-baby-on-your-chest nursing attempt), and with the help of one of these, we had our first successful nursing session.

Throughout our hospital stay A seemed to be nursing well.  It’s very hard to tell in the beginning but wet diapers and spit-up can give you good clues.  I realize I am very lucky to be writing this. Just to make things clear – I did have some serious boob discomfort so this wasn’t all peaches and roses here people.  But I was able to leave the hospital happy with how we were doing, which also made me more confident and relaxed about things.  Being relaxed can do wonders for “let down” and nursing in general.

I nursed A exclusively for the next 8 months (when we were together, while apart she drank pumped milk).  We introduced solids at 4 months, but her only drink was breast milk.  At 8 months I stopped nursing and switched to bottle feeding her B-milk.  At that age she was getting distracted during our sessions and I was  interested in having my body back to myself since it was summer.  I also wanted her to start understanding the concept of feeding herself, so I liked being able to give her a bottle to hold.  It wasn’t until 9 months that I started supplementing her bottles at daycare with formula so I could give myself a break with all that pumping (more on that insanity tomorrow).  Now at 10 months she’s almost fully weaned to formula (she still gets about 5oz a day of frozen B-milk while we use up my freezer stash – also included tomorrow).  She’ll be on formula for another 2ish months until we can switch to cow’s milk (again, as recommended by the AAP).

Things were NOT always easy.  I was EXHAUSTED in the beginning.  I had sore boobs.  When my milk came in I thought my boobs had caught on fire.  There were times I just felt like a big milking cow.  Learning how/when to pump was beyond confusing (and I’m a relatively intelligent person with 2 graduate degrees…).  Keeping up with nursing and pumping to maintain milk supply was tiring and got old.  The stress of being A’s only food source could have killed me at times.  But it was worth it to me.  I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished and wouldn’t change any of it.  I’m sure when another baby comes around it will be hard to make it to 10 months again, but that’s OK.  Every baby is different.  This worked for me and for A and that’s what made us so successful.  We never forced it.

Moral of my nursing story: keep an open mind.  Don’t make decisions before you know what you’re talking about.  Learn to roll with the punches, and learn to relax.  The only “right” thing to do is what will work best for you and your baby and your family.  And yes, it’s all a LOT easier said than done.

Tidbits, Tips and Tricks coming tomorrow…