Wednesday, May 13, 2015

little gardener.

Last time I wrote on the blog, we were held hostage in the house by 10 foot piles of snow outside, while soaking up as much sunshine through the windows as we could. This morning, while Delia napped, Silas and I spent time outside, bare feet in the grass, watering our little pallet garden, our rows of baby sunflowers, and the rhododendron bushes in the front yard.

He takes his job of gardener very seriously, making sure each growing leaf gets a good long drink of water, checking on the tiny green strawberries, and trailing the hose behind him as he goes. His little toes get covered in wet grass and dirt, as he goes through the checklist of each plant in our yard. Chris usually waters the plants with him, but ran out of time this morning, so I just observed as he did the job just as his Daddy has shown him so many times.

One of the first DIYs on my list for the spring was this pallet garden. I wanted to create it last year, but I couldn't find any pot holders like I had seen people using. And then I stumbled upon Kelly Moore Clark's pallet garden post, and the lightbulb went off-- they're hose clamps! Genius. So in case you are wondering where the heck people buy those pot hangers, the answer is-- the plumbing section at Home Depot. This project is ridiculously easy and cheap, and perfect for small spaces.

 We have plenty of space in our yard, but I just love the architectural quality of it. We'll probably end up moving some of the plants to bigger garden beds or pots soon, since they'll grow better with more space. That poor rosemary was sad when we bought it at Home Depot and didn't stand much chance of survival from the get-go. But oh, how I love the fuzzy texture of those sage leaves, the scent of that mint, and those gorgeous orange and fuschia flowers.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

giving away some sunshine.

The week we moved to Boston, I got an email from a photographer named Ruthie. She said, "I know what's it like being in a new place", and extended a hearty New England welcome to me. A year and a half later, and I consider her a dear friend. She's helped me out on many photo shoots for HelloHue, took family pictures after Delia was born, has shared countless sushi lunches with me, and is always up for good conversation over coffee.

Today, I'm over on her blog as part of her new interview series and I'm sharing about community, comparison, and some thoughts on Instagram. I'm also giving away this bright 8x8 acrylic painting! Head over to her blog to read my interview and enter to win. If you're anything like me, you probably good use a little bit of warm sunshine in your life right now! 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

hello sunshine.

I was looking through some blog posts from when Silas was tiny, and I realized that I used my DSLR to capture his tinyness much more than I do with Delia. Most of my pictures of her since birth are taken with my phone, which is okay, but I forgot how much I loved capturing Si with my "big" camera. So, I've been taking it out a little bit more this week. Usually it just evolves into Silas stealing it to take blurry "pitchers" of the ceiling and walls.

But yesterday, while I was changing the bed sheets from our winter flannels to our light and airy spring sheets, the sun was shining in our bedroom just right and the kids were rolling around on the fresh linens. I grabbed my camera and abandoned the bed making in exchange for a few minutes of recording those tiny toes and silly faces forever.

This winter hasn't been exactly picturesque. Bundled up in mismatched layers, cold snotty noses, and more snow than I ever want to see again in my life. But it seemed as if the light at the end of the long, dark, cold tunnel finally appeared yesterday. We sat outside on the (snow-free!) front porch and felt the warm sunshine on our faces, played with trucks and chatted with neighbors. Even though the next two weeks will be cold again, that's the little taste of spring I needed to get through.

Delia will be 6 months next week, and I'm trying to figure out where the time went. Many mamas bemoan their babies growing older, but we're just arriving at my favorite baby stage, and I couldn't be happier about it. The way she gazes adoringly at Silas while he dances around for her is enough to make me melt into a goopy puddle on the floor. Those moments alone make me want to have a million more babies.

Today I'm thankful for seasons that come and go. I think God was generous to us when He created winter, spring, summer and fall. They're a great reflection and reminder of the fleeting seasons of our lives. The exhaustion of newborn babies, the lunacy of toddler tantrums. They're this big hurdle in the moment, completely consuming. And then the sun breaks through the clouds, and you head into a season of baby giggles, and sweet toddler conversations, and maybe a little more sleep, if you're really fortunate. And I've got to say, life is good in the sunshine.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

what i've learned: seven tips for a smooth C-section recovery

Silas and Delia were both born via C-section, after long labors and no progression. After Delia's birth, we learned that the end of my spine is tilted in such a way that prevents my labors from progressing. So, even though I sometimes grieve the fact that my babies were born surgically, and most likely any subsequent babies will be as well, I'm above and beyond grateful for modern medicine that allowed them to be born at all. It makes me incredibly sad to see the guilt and regret that sometimes comes along with C-sections birth stories, but that's a topic for a completely different post. Today, we're chatting about recovering from a C-section, whether it was planned or not.

When I wrote out Delia's birth story, I received a lot of responses asking for any advice for recovering from a C-section, so I've been brainstorming this post for awhile. This probably goes without saying, but I'm not a doctor, so these are simply personal tidbits that I found particularly helpful in the first hour to ten days after my babies' arrivals. Take and use what you want, and add your input in the comments!

In the operating room...

1. Make picture-taking as low-stress as possible. 

(Ok, this one isn't really about recovering, but I'll share it anyway...)

My experience: My mom got to be in the OR for Silas' birth (along with Chris), so I was able to explain the settings on my DSLR before they wheeled me in. During Delia's birth, I just handed my phone off to Chris and I'm pretty sure it was the anesthesiologist who used it to get some shots of Delia and the three of us together. Those first shots that we have of our freshly born little girl are precious to me, even though they are phone-quality.  The next day, we used my DSLR to get some better shots of all four of us.

There are going to be many things that will be occupying your mind before the baby comes. Try not to let the photos stress you out. Make sure to have the camera settings set, expect bright lighting and small spaces (a 50mm lens is not the best one to use in this case!) If you have a decent camera on your phone, I'd recommend using that. Almost everyone knows how to use those, and it will make it easy for one of the staff to snag it to snap a few pictures of your new family.

Recovering at the hospital...

2. Pack nursing nightshirts in your hospital bag

My experience: I was trying for a VBAC with Delia, and that's probably the reason my mind wasn't completely on C-section recovery. So I foolishly packed PJ pants and tops for my hospital stay. There's no way in heck that you want a waistband pressing on that incision area those first few days. No bueno.

Pack some nursing gowns in your hospital bag! As soon as I got home, I hopped on Amazon to order some nursing nightshirts for sleeping in. I have this pretty one, and something like this would be great for the hospital and first few weeks too!

3. Try laying the bed flat to sleep

My experience: I slept sitting up the first few nights in the hospital so that I could easily nurse Delia. But I slept pretty poorly. By the third night, I decided to just lay the bed flat while sleeping, and have Chris adjust it when I needed to nurse D. I slept much better and felt much less sore the next morning, since I wasn't scrunched up in bed and my incision didn't have any pressure on it.

This seems like a complete no-brainer, but it took me until the last night in the hospital with Delia to figure it out. Do what feels best to you, but you probably don't sleep sitting up at home, so why would you at the hospital?

4. Walk (and take the pain meds!)

The nurses will tell you that walking will help you heal faster. They're right. It sounds absurd because you'd think (well, I would think anyway) that resting would help your body heal faster. And it's going to feel like you're going to rip open your abdomen when you stand up for the first time (don't worry-you won't!) Take slow walks in the hallway with your new little fam, check out the new babies in the nursery, and read the cute names on the doors around you. Once you're home, don't try to do too much, but make sure you get a little bit of walking in each day.

 Taking your pain meds will help you be able to actually get up out of bed and start the healing process. Make sure you call in your prescription to your pharmacy as soon as possible, so you don't have to skip a dosage once you're home! By the time I was home, I was down to taking the prescription Ibuprofen, but do what works for you!

Oh, and random sidenote on pain-- I was surprised when the most painful area was the far ends of my incision. It felt like a searing pain with some movements (especially getting out of bed or standing up). This might be a bit graphic, but from my understanding (from what a doc told Chris), tears heal better than cuts, so a small incision actually gets torn into a larger opening for the baby, and the nerves at the edges of the incision are greatly affected. Again, I'm not a doc (and if you're worried about something, call yours!), but if you're wondering why the ends of your incision sting like hell, that could be why. 

Once you're home...

5. Improvise and plan ahead if you can. 

My experience: For me, the toughest part of recovering from the C-section the second time around was that I couldn't lift Silas, or even have him on my lap. At the time Delia was born, he was still eating in a high chair and sleeping in a crib, and couldn't climb into either by himself. This was fine when I had Chris and my mom around to help, but as soon as I was on my own, I had to improvise. I moved Silas to a booster seat at the table, and I also devised a step stool system for him to climb into his crib-a kitchen chair next to his crib, and a step stool on his mattress. I took both to the other side of the room once he was in.

If you can plan ahead and he/she is ready, it might be helpful to switch your toddler over to a toddler bed or to a booster seat a month or two before the baby arrives. That way they have time to transition and learn the ropes. Otherwise, plan on improvising. Help your toddler learn to do some things on their own. Be patient-- simple things will probably take a little longer for awhile. It's going to be a learning and growing process for all of you, but it can also be a really sweet time of seeing the way your older baby grows and learns.

6. Accept help

My experience: We kept both Silas and Delia in a pack'n'play bassinet in our bedroom for the first week or so. They were loud grunty sleepers, so they got booted to their own rooms real quickly. But whether they were in our room or in their own nurseries, it was so helpful for Chris to get up to change their diapers and bring them to me in bed. The most painful part of the recovery (for me) was getting into and out of bed, so while he changed their diaper, I was able to slowly shift into a good nursing position.

We were also really fortunate to have my mom stay with us for about two weeks after each kiddo's birth. She's amazing, and the help she provided was absolutely priceless. If you are able to have someone that you love and trust come to help for the first little while after the birth, take it! I know many people like to remain in their private bubble for the first few weeks-- but I don't think you'll regret it if it's possible to have someone truly helpful (no stress, no drama!) stay with you for a little while.

7. Let yourself emote, but don't beat yourself up.

There are so many ways that your labor could have ended up as a C-section. Maybe it was a last-minute emergency, maybe you planned ahead and had months to plan for it. Either way, there are so many complicated emotions that come along with C-sections, and I would never tell anyone to 'just get over it'. I only began to really feel the regret and dismay after Delia's birth. Realizing that I'll never even have the chance to experience birthing my babies naturally saddens me a little bit. Some natural childbirth books and articles will have you believe that a C-section is the worst thing that could happen to your child, but I call phooey on that one. I'm thankful for the doctors, nurses and staff that had the skills and tools to bring my babies into the world safely and quickly, and ultimately, that's all that really matters, right?

I'd love to keep the advice rolling in the comments below. What's your #1 tip for recovering smoothly from a C-section? The more practical, the better!

PS. To read Silas' birth story, here's part one and here's part two. Read Delia's birth story here.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

a more confident smile: review and giveaway with SmileBrilliant!

When I got an email from SmileBrilliant asking if I'd like to review their product, my first thought was "That's really random..." I mean, a teeth whitening system? But then I thought about all the times I've gone to post outfit photos and have chosen a different one because my teeth were too yellow in this shot, or I honestly just ended up edited the heck out of it. And I thought about the times I've looked in the mirror and thought, "Ugh, I really ought to do something about my teeth..."

So here's that something. As women (which most of you are...), there are often so many things about our appearances that we can do nothing about. Sometimes I'd prefer my nose to be more dainty, and my eyelashes are quite short, and my face shape seems to be getting more round with each babe. But I'm never gonna get a nose job, I don't really have an interest in getting fuller lashes at the moment, and well, ya know, the effects of child-bearing and aging are inevitable, so there ya go.

Teeth whitening though-- that's something I can do. A few minutes during the week to help me feel more confident about my smile? That seems worth it to me. If you feel the same way, keep reading for my some of my do's and don'ts for using the Smile Brilliant whitening system or scroll to the bottom for the giveaway!


...have reasonable expectations. 

Teeth whitening (any system) will only return your teeth to their natural shade, which is unique for every person. I already knew that I was not born with blindingly white teeth, so I wasn't expecting that. Despite the fact that my teeth are not perfectly white, I'm really pleased with how they've brightened up, and even more so, evened out. One of the things that was most noticeable to me before I started whitening was that each of my teeth was a different shade of dull yellow. Ick. Now my smile is bright, and even and I'm more confident in it than I've been since my wedding almost 6 years ago. 

... feel free to whiten anywhere! 

My favorite time to use my teeth whitening trays is in the shower, or after breakfast when I know I won't be eating for awhile. I've also used my trays during a 30 minute FaceTime conversation with my parents and chatting in person with Chris, and no one could tell I had them in. I also think a trip to Target would be the perfect time to use them (unless you're planning on a Starbucks treat, of course), or during a road trip. You can have them in for up to 3 hours, but I'd usual just have them in for about 20 minutes at a time, twice per week.


... fear the process of creating trays. 

In order to make custom-fitted whitening trays that are molded to your teeth, the first step of the process is to make molds of your teeth, using putty-like impression material. I was expecting it to be a messy, gross, complicated process, but it was actually pretty fun and fascinating. SmileBrilliant makes it incredibly easy, even providing extra impression material for mess-ups (which I ended up having to use, but it turned out fine!). I mailed in my impressions (they include a pre-paid, addressed package just for this purpose), and within a week, my custom-fitted whitening trays were on my doorstep. The process was simple and quick.

... be afraid of over-sensitive teeth.

In my past experiences with teeth whitening systems, my teeth have been super sensitive afterwards. Even drinking water was painful. SmileBrilliant provides desensitizing gel that you use after each treatment and it prevents the teeth whitening gel from reaching the nerves inside each tooth. I was really impressed with how it kept me from having any sensitivity at all, and I even went straight to eating ice cream after one teeth whitening session without any problems at all!

Okay, so I'm really excited that I get to give away a teeth whitening kit to one of you this week! I'm stoked that one of you will get the chance to grow more confident in your smile, within just a few weeks. Enter below! Giveaway ends in one week, and the winner will be displayed on the Rafflecopter widgit below, as well as emailed notification.

I was provided a teeth whitening kit from SmileBrilliant in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

snow days.

I think our snowfall total has reached over 7 feet, which is inching us closer and closer to the snowiest winter in Boston history. Because of the record snowfalls, public transportation closed down, and Chris wasn't able to get in to Cambridge for over two weeks. So, we savored an unexpected abundance of time with him as he worked from home.

When I think about the past month, I think about all the fun memories we've made, and I get a little sad thinking that Silas most likely won't remember the snowiest winter of his life. So, I'm remembering for him here. 

When I tell Si about this winter, I'll recount...

... how Daddy spent hours and hours perfecting the sled course that ran from the back of our house, around the corner of the front porch, and across the front yard. How he got so excited every time he took you out to sled, almost like he was a kid himself. 

... how you asked for "hot choclick" the minute your cold, red cheeks appeared at the back door. And I'd sit you down in the your booster seat for some warm milk with a little bit of chocolate in your special red and white striped mug. 

... how some of the piles of snow were five feet above your head. 

... the adorable way you looked when you had your snow bibs on, and how you finally perfected getting your thumb into your red mittens by the 12,000 time we put them on. 

... the way we'd look for the patterns of frost on the windows each morning, and stare amazed at the tiny bursts of ice painted across each pane. 

... how we'd sleep soundly in our warm beds as Daddy was outside morning after morning shoveling yet another foot of snow from the driveway and sidewalks in front of our house.

... how Mommy and Daddy would just laugh and shake our heads every time we'd read predictions of yet another foot of snow coming our way. And we'd laugh as we watch the snow swirling down, knowing it would total well over a foot... again. 

... how Mommy would hold Delia in her little red and white polka-dot footie pajamas and walk from window to window watching you and Daddy play outside.

... the pile of snow in the backyard that you called "the mountain", and climbed up like a champ, only to tumble down it in a fit of giggles. It was as tall as the garage roof.

... how you watched probably too much Little Bear and Backyardigans, but we balanced it with getting you exhausted outside, so I don't feel too bad about that.

I physically ache for the warmth of spring and summertime, but thinking back on this month makes me thankful for the chance to slow down and savor the season with this little family of mine, even if it's not my most favorite season ever.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

silas says.

Two years old. He's hilarious, infuriating, sweet and precocious, all wrapped up in one blonde-haired, green-eyed little boy. And the things that come out of his mouth leave me snickering with Chris long after Silas is in bed at night. 

While poking a cooked onion on his plate with a little pointer finger... 
"This feels stinky."

After finding a bobby pin on the ground, kneeling in front of an electrical outlet...
 "Lemme just stick this thing in here real quick." 

(Don't worry--I caught him in time, we had a serious chat, and a wayward socket protector was returned to its rightful place.)

After spitting an unwanted bite of food into my hand, and before I tossed it into the trash...
"Noo! Don't throw it away, Mom! Put it in your pocket!"

While holding his nativity scene's baby Jesus...
"I'm sucking on baby Jesus. I think him a lollipop"

Moments after a particularly powerful sneeze...
"I bless you'd in my hot cholk-lik"

After a loud crash in the other room, rather than "Everything's okay...
"Something's oookay!"

While rubbing my dad's bald head...
"You have sunshine on your head. I'm trying get it off."

Peering over at my plate, which had the same food his did...
"Mommy's food is my favorite food!"