Making a Swaddle Quilt

DIY, Home, Parent Life

One of my favorite aspects of newborn life was wrapping my son and daughter up in those super soft swaddle blankets. Made from muslin and printed with adorable images, they brought so much comfort to those early days. Each time I wrapped them up I remember thinking, ‘I would really love being wrapped up in this fabric, too – it’s so dreamy.’ As my kids grew I couldn’t stomach getting rid of their swaddles. Aside from the soft fabric, the memories of those early days were also in each and every one.

To be honest, the decision to make a quilt out of all their swaddles was a bit spur of the moment. I needed the closet space and didn’t want to part with them. The perfect solution – make a quilt!

The Process

Something to know about me and my quilting skills…I’m not a perfectionist. I’m more of a progress-over-perfection quilter which, for me, means just the right amount of planning and execution. I love love love working on my sewing machine and care for measuring, ironing, and pinning much less. I still do all of those things, but definitely don’t get as much joy out of them. I see quilting as a fun creative outlet verses a serious craft. That likely puts me in the minority among quilters, but that’s ok, I’m comfortable here.

Luckily, as I discovered, all of the swaddles we had collected were perfect squares of 44″ x 44″. This made planning out the quilt super simple. Not so lucky for me, swaddle fabric is very stretchy and super difficult to work with. They make amazing swaddles but can also be a nightmare when it comes to ironing, measuring, and cutting. Unsure of how to proceed, I called my quilting expert Aunt Jan. She confirmed the fabric would make this tricky and if I wanted to have perfectly cut and sewn squares I likely would be investing serious time on the front end to spray starch, iron, and measure each swaddle before cutting and sewing. I made the decision this quilt would be made with love and care, but wouldn’t be perfect. This approach isn’t for everyone but it worked for me!

I started by taking each of our nine swaddles and cutting them in half and then in half again. (Yes, I skipped the ironing and measuring.) This resulted in 36 equal(ish) squares, which would become the blocks of the quilt. I decided to make this quilt a perfect square with six blocks across (rows) and six blocks down (columns) so all 36 blocks would be used.

Next, I laid all the blocks out on our basement floor – the only place large enough in our home for a quilt to be spread completely out. With all the blocks laid out, I did my best to arrange them in a loose pattern with varying colors so the quilt felt balanced, though not a perfect pattern.

Now came time for pinning – one of my least favorite aspects of sewing BUT also one of the most important! Just about every time I approach my sewing machine I ask myself if I can skip the pinning part. Then I hear my grandma’s voice in my head, sigh, and get out my pins. I pinned together all the blocks from one column before taking the full strip over to my sewing machine. While my kids were less interested in me cutting squares and arranging blocks, they were super interested in the sewing machine. Veda helped me sew just about all of the blocks together. This quilt was made with love and contains all perfect imperfections I was hoping for.

Once all the columns were done, I joined them together strip by strip to form the top quilt. You’ll notice from the picture a few of the blocks have trim. We had two plain white swaddles with a decorative trim that I loved. I didn’t want to loose the trim in the quilt, so I sewed those blocks with the edges up so the trim would remain visible. It adds a nice dimension to the quilt.

Ok, with top quilt done I had some choices to make about what to do next. Option one: add a backing, finish it like a traditional quilt, and call it done. Option two: add a backing to strengthen the muslin top, then turn this into a duvet cover that could be stuffed with a fluffy comforter. After consulting the family, the consensus was to make this a fluffy duvet.

Time for a trip to Joann! While soft and scrumptious, the muslin top quilt was still very stretchy and a tad bit fragile. I was concerned the quilt wouldn’t stand up to the test of time OR use by two rambunctious kids. I found a slightly thicker and more sturdy white flannel for the backing. This gave the muslin some security and shape while still protecting the softness of the original swaddles. To make the duvet pocket, I selected a light gray jersey fabric that I knew my family would find super comfortable and snuggle-worthy. Yes, I know, jersey is another tricky fabric to use. But since this quilt is a standard square with no fuss I figured I could make it work.

Back in the basement it was super simple to add the backing. Honestly, the most time consuming aspects involved maneuvering the largeness of this now king-sized quilt. It’s heavy and massive and took some finesse to get it over to and through my sewing machine with pins around the edges.

Since this quilt was so large, the backing needed to be secured to the top with more than just edge sewing. Generally, quilters will sew patterns in the top to help secure the top quilt to the backing. Since I do not have the machinery necessary to do that on such a large quilt AND I wasn’t about to sew it all by hand, I decided to knot tie it with yarn. I used an embroidery needle to knot tie short pieces of yarn through the center of all 36 blocks.

To add the duvet pocket I duplicated the same maneuvering I did for the backing, but left one side open. This is how the quilt, or should I now say, ‘duvet-quilt’ currently stands. I haven’t finalized the pocket with buttons just yet because this thing is so big and heavy I’m not sure we want to add a king size comforter to the inside. Yes, it would be fluffy and amazing. But, where would I store this massive thing?!

The (almost) Finished Product

So, the duvet-quilt remains slightly unfinished. Do I close the pocket and keep this a quilt? Or do I add the buttons and make this an official duvet? What do you think?

Either way, we tested it out this weekend and it makes for the perfect nap blanket! Tucker the Pug agrees.

Sustainable Gift Wrapping for All Occasions

Home, Parent Life, Sustainability

When it comes to gift wrapping, I used to fall into one of the following camps:

  1. I have wrapping paper, but it’s themed (Christmas/birthday) and doesn’t fit the need I need right now (occasion and/or recipient)
  2. I have the right wrapping paper, but not enough of it to wrap the gift/s
  3. I don’t have any suitable wrapping paper and need to go buy a roll (and tape) while on my way to the event
  4. Screw this, just use a gift bag. Wait, I don’t have any tissue paper. FML.

It was annoying and wasteful, which just made me even more frustrated. Like most people, I don’t have unlimited space to store a Paper Source’s worth of cute wrapping paper in my home. My closets are filled with linens, craft supplies, and clothes. Wrapping paper ranks pretty low on the storage priority list. It’s also really expensive, shockingly expensive given it’s only going to be ripped apart and thrown away.

There had to be a better, more sustainable way.

Wrapping Paper

I scoured the internet and landed on my perfect solution: brown craft paper. Yes, it is plain and boring. BUT, it’s made from 100% recycled materials, works for any occasion and recipient, can be used as coloring/craft paper and other house projects, and can be repurposed after use. Another added bonus is that it can be purchased in bulk and will match another roll perfectly, so there’s less of a chance you won’t have enough on hand. The neutral brown allows you to customize any gift/package with ribbon and/or bows depending on the occasion and recipient. Win-win-win- win!

Tape

My next search led me to find eco-friendly paper tape made from brown craft paper. I love this stuff for so many reasons, but mostly because it’s easy to tear and works well with my wrapping paper. It also blends in nicely, and since it’s recyclable, I don’t have to separate it from the paper before the whole things gets recycled.

Ribbons

For the final step in any gift wrapping process, ribbons, bows or other accoutrement add a visually appealing touch. I love to use multi-colored compostable twine. It’s perfect for adding a touch of color and better for Mother Nature than plastic-based alternatives. I purchased the 11-yard, multi-color pack linked above over a year ago and so far it’s lasted two Christmases, countless birthdays and several housewarmings. When the gift has been opened, I pull aside the twine to reuse or compost.

While my wrapped gifts are not the most shiny or flashy, they do make a statement in their simplicity. Choosing this less common route also opens up a conversation about sustainability; one I’m always up for having. How do you bring sustainability into gift giving? Do you have alterative gift wrapping methods that are good for Mother Nature? I’d love to learn from you!

More…

Making a Swaddle Quilt

One of my favorite aspects of newborn life was wrapping my son and daughter up in those super soft swaddle blankets. Made from muslin and printed with adorable images, they brought so much comfort to those early days. Each time I wrapped them up I remember thinking, ‘I would really love being wrapped up in…

Creating a Zoom Worthy Home Office

When my partner and I moved to a new city in 2016, I had to find a new job. Thankfully, I found a position within my current organization that allowed me to work remotely. Most of my new team was based in New York, with a handful of us working all across the country. Adjusting…

Our Compost Bin Make Over

We started backyard composting back in 2018 and have never looked back. For the longest time, we had a fancy compost pail that sat in our second sink. It would fill up quickly and took up enough space that we stopped using the sink for anything other than compost. I hated the cluttered look and…

5 MLK Day Activities for Little Kids

Parent Life

1 | Read

Reading is one of the best ways to teach littles about a topic. There are countless books about MLK for all ages and I encourage you to read them all year long, not just today. Some of my favorites include…

Who Was Martin Luther King Jr.

Good Night Martin Luther King Jr.

I am Brave: A Little Book about Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

2 | Listen

Listen to MLK speeches and talk about them. What words do they hear? What’s the message he’s telling us. Does he sound happy, sad, passionate? Why? Listening during meals or art projects is a great way to incorporate multiple senses into each activity. You can listen to MLK’s five most memorable speeches online.

3 | Create Art

Art is a great way to connect with a message, especially for little kids. Consider making handprint doves while discussing peaceful protesting or cloud & rainbow pictures while talking about dreams.

4 | BINGO

Create a BINGO board with social justice phrases like civil rights, racial equality, discrimination, boycott, protest, freedom, etc. As you go through the day, encourage your kids to listen for these phrases and discuss them.

5 | Visit

Visit your local MLK park or memorial. Talk about his life and non-violent approach while you and your kids walk and play together. You can incorporate the BINGO activity above while you read about his life and legacy.

More…

Sustainable Gift Wrapping for All Occasions

When it comes to gift wrapping, I used to fall into one of the following camps: I have wrapping paper, but it’s themed (Christmas/birthday) and doesn’t fit the need I need right now (occasion and/or recipient) I have the right wrapping paper, but not enough of it to wrap the gift/s I don’t have any…

How to PICK Toddler Consequences That Work

When my son was 3 years old he snuck out of his room after bedtime, found my work bag, and preceded to make several murals along our staircase, down the hall, on the door and walls of his room, and on various pieces of furniture with permanent maker, washable marker, and a full pack of…

IKEA Play Kitchen DIY Hack for Under $100

The kid play kitchen. It’s become ubiquitous in the homes of most millennials with kids, and ours is no exception. I originally got the idea to take a base model kid kitchen and spruce it up into something that would blend better in our home from our cousin, Priya. She had taken her daughter’s IKEA…

How to PICK Toddler Consequences That Work

Parent Life

When my son was 3 years old he snuck out of his room after bedtime, found my work bag, and preceded to make several murals along our staircase, down the hall, on the door and walls of his room, and on various pieces of furniture with permanent maker, washable marker, and a full pack of gum. The devastation to our walls, banister, and furniture was epic.

Upon discovering this masterpiece my blood began to boil and I immediately sought out my partner, who was working late in our basement office, BEFORE I approached our son. I knocked lightly on the office door, interrupting his board meeting prep. “I need you for the next 30 minutes of parenting we have to do.” What unfolded next was a mix of strong parenting and not-so-stellar-parenting as we attempted to make this situation a learning moment for everyone.

We found my son still awake in his room sorting through the rest of the contents of my work bag. The second he saw us he started to cry – he knew he was in big trouble. While I had a chance to preview Pax’s handy work, my partner was just now seeing the full effects of our son’s actions. Regardless, neither of us had any clue what we were going to do when we confronted Pax. It was late, we were both tired, and it stung to see our clean walls defaced with black permanent marker. We both yelled.

“What were you thinking?!” “Why did you do this?!” “I can’t believe you would do something like this!” “You’re in big trouble!!”

Pax responded with uncontrollable sobs and a desperate plea for us to understand his ‘why’. Apparently, he was drawing monsters to scare away all the spiders. SMH. Not cool, dude. Not cool. If I’m being honest, I think we should both get medals for attempting to talk to Pax before we went in hard with any consequence. That night tested our patience like no other; I’ve never been more angry with him than I was in that moment. We put Pax in bed, sobbing, and left his room.

After debriefing the episode downstairs, we talked through what his consequences should be and decided to go back into his room that night for a quick follow-up conversation. We didn’t feel good about how we had yelled and then left him alone to cry himself to sleep. While his actions were not acceptable, he was still just a little guy learning boundaries. It felt right to go back in and remind him of a few things, most importantly that we still loved him. Pax had stopped crying, thankfully, so we all sat down and communicated a few things to him directly:

  1. We love you, and always will.
  2. You made bad choices; you are NOT a bad person.
  3. Your actions were unacceptable and there will be consequences.
  4. Your consequences are x, y, and z. We will discuss this again tomorrow morning.
  5. Goodnight, we love you and always will.

All in all, the entire episode took about 30 minutes and left us feeling like we had the right next steps in mind. Below is the framework we used to PICK his consequences. It’s a framework that can be applied for all consequences, big and small.

P: proportional

Does the punishment fit the crime? The consequence should be in line with action so the toddler can gain a healthy understanding of how actions have repercussions in real life. Small mistakes should be met with smaller consequences, and big mistakes bigger consequences.

I: individualized

The consequence should speak directly to that specific individual toddler, meaning, it should focus on something they can relate directly to. For example, if your child is allowed to watch TV, then limiting or cancelling TV time would be a consequence they can relate to. If they are not TV watchers, clearly this won’t work. Try to pick something that they will really feel and experience as a loss while keeping in mind the proportionality mentioned above. I would also recommend never putting any comfort items on the consequence list – taking away a favorite lovey or stuffed animal that your child uses for comfort verse play would be cruel and might undermine the entire consequence altogether.

C: concrete

Toddlers are very literal beings in that they need to see, touch, and experience something before they can understand it’s meaning and context. As such, consequences should be concrete so they see, feel, experience the repercussions of their actions. I give an example below of one consequence we implemented then later took away because it felt too abstract for Pax to grasp.

K: known Time

When will the consequence take effect and how long will it last? Time is a tricky thing in toddler land – 5 minutes can feel like a week and things that happened last year can be recalled as ‘yesterday’ experiences. For this reason, you need to be clear and purposeful when setting time boundaries on consequences. In most cases, the consequence should start immediately, or at least be communicated immediately, and last no longer than a few days to a week. Anything beyond a week and toddlers tend to forget why they were given the consequence in the first place and it loses its power.

Consequences in Action

Pax’s actions were pretty extreme; he had never done anything this naughty that left this much devastation before. That being said, he was still just a 3-year-old with a developing brain. While shame is an emotion 3-year-olds can process easily, guilt and regret are still in development. We decided on a handful of consequences that would both send a message and help teach Pax a lesson.

First, we locked his door that night and told him the lock would be on until we could trust him again. Pax was an early climber, which meant he transitioned into a toddler bed at an early age. We had to install a toddler lock on his door to prevent him from roaming the house in the middle of the night before age 2. The lock wasn’t used anymore, but we decided it was necessary after this epic post-bedtime adventure. His door remained locked at bedtime for the following three nights and we talked to him daily about why so he could internalize the idea of a consequence for bad choices.

Second, I had Pax help me the next morning in cleaning up his mess. I gave him a wet wash cloth and made him wipe down all the walls and banisters that had marker on them. The washable marker came off easily, thankfully, but the permanent wouldn’t budget. While he did that, I scrubbed away the best I could at the permanent marker and we talked about how some markers last forever and some wash away. We also talked about when to use makers, paper only, and why it’s important to only use markers supplied by adults, verses going through Mama’s work bag.

Third, we canceled a weekend play date planned with Pax’s good friend Harrison. Since the marker debacle happened on a Tuesday, this meant Pax had three full days of playing with Harrison at school before the scheduled playdate. As the days ticked on it became clear that Pax wasn’t really bothered by this consequence and it was losing its power. So, we backtracked and decided to keep the playdate. It didn’t feel concrete anymore AND it wasn’t very fair to Harrison. This was huge for us as parents, too. We were still angry at the damage but also recognized cancelling might have been a little too much. It’s ok to change your mind and share the reasons why with your kids. Humans make mistakes. How we respond to and learn from the mistakes is what makes a human different. In backtracking on this one consequence we were showing Pax that adults can make mistakes and that we can always do something to make it better.

Lastly, we put Pax ‘on consequence’, as he called it, which meant no dessert after dinner. This was lifted at the same time we took the lock off his door and he was officially ‘off consequence’.

All in all, the marker debacle of 2020 was a big test for us as parents and helped us lay the foundation for healthy consequences. Pax has never colored on anything other than paper since that night, and is the first to alert us anytime his little sister attempts to. He also has a strong understanding of what ‘consequence’ means, contextually, which makes it much easier to preemptively stop bad choices in the moment with, “Pax, think about your choices and make a good one.”

What’s Next?

What do you struggle with most when it comes to consequences and your toddler? Do you think PICK will help you the next time you need to implement some? Share your thoughts and questions by commenting below – we always enjoy learning from other parents on this crazy journey.

#BetterTogether

More…

5 MLK Day Activities for Little Kids

1 | Read Reading is one of the best ways to teach littles about a topic. There are countless books about MLK for all ages and I encourage you to read them all year long, not just today. Some of my favorites include… Who Was Martin Luther King Jr. Good Night Martin Luther King Jr.…

8 Pregnancy Truths Nobody Talks About

Yes, babies are tiny miracles and it’s truly unbelievable that our bodies are made to grow and nurture these tiny miracles inside for 9 months. It’s also true that being pregnant can really, really, REALLY suck. While every pregnancy is different, below are the 8 gruesome truths I wish I had known beforehand. No, it…

3 Tips for Creating Healthy Toddler Boundaries

For the past three years I’ve been living with at least one toddler. My son, thankfully, is now 4-years-old and no longer considered a toddler. My daughter is 2-years-old and right smack in the worst of the toddler years. How can I tell? “No! I do it!” “No, mine!” Basically anything with NO in front…

IKEA Play Kitchen DIY Hack for Under $100

DIY, Home, Parent Life

The kid play kitchen. It’s become ubiquitous in the homes of most millennials with kids, and ours is no exception. I originally got the idea to take a base model kid kitchen and spruce it up into something that would blend better in our home from our cousin, Priya. She had taken her daughter’s IKEA play kitchen to the next level with minimal DIY supplies, and I was inspired!

I purchased our IKEA “Duktig” play kitchen on sale, bought some easy supplies from Amazon and at our local Lowe’s, and got started. In total, I spent just under $100 on this play kitchen and it’s been totally worth it!

Getting Started

Like all IKEA purchases, the Duktig play kitchen came in a flat box and required assembly. It took me just over an hour to assemble alone. Since I wanted a ‘before’ picture, I chose to assemble it completely. I would later take some parts off for the ‘hack’ before putting the final piece back together.

The Hack

After completely assembled, I took off all plastic accessories (sink, faucet, knobs, hanging bar & hooks, and stovetop) and spray painted them copper, our kitchen’s accent color. I did this in May when the weather was hot, so it didn’t take long for the 2 coats of paint I applied to dry. Regardless, I left them drying overnight before adding them back on just to be safe.

Next, I took the top half of the set off, which allowed me to remove the counter top. I applied a piece of butcher block contact paper from Amazon to the entire counter top. I then reassembled the top half of the set.

The original kitchen set does not come with a backsplash. We definitely wanted one so the wall this sits against wouldn’t get dinged up from playing. Using a large leftover piece of cardboard, I covered it in subway tile contact paper from Amazon to match our kitchen’s backsplash, and attached it to the back with tiny pin nails.

Voila!

Play Time

This kitchen gets a ton of use! In fact, I’d say it’s the most popular toy in our home. Both our kids (2 & 4) still play with this set, as does every visiting kid. It’s become a staple in our home and the anchor for several other learning-toys like chef costumes, these color sorting fruit baskets, and the Melissa & Doug Ice Cream Counter, Keurig, and smoothie sets.

Have you completed an IKEA Duktig kichen hack? I’d love to see your before and after pics…comment to share below!

More…

Sustainable Kitchen Products You’ll Love

When I first decided to take my family 100% single-use plastic free, the kitchen was an obvious starting place. We spend nearly all of our time together as a family in the kitchen. Everyone, no matter our age or gender, has duties and responsibilities in this room. It makes a perfect backdrop for our attempts…

3 Tips for Creating Healthy Toddler Boundaries

For the past three years I’ve been living with at least one toddler. My son, thankfully, is now 4-years-old and no longer considered a toddler. My daughter is 2-years-old and right smack in the worst of the toddler years. How can I tell? “No! I do it!” “No, mine!” Basically anything with NO in front…

Let’s stay in touch!

8 Pregnancy Truths Nobody Talks About

Parent Life

Yes, babies are tiny miracles and it’s truly unbelievable that our bodies are made to grow and nurture these tiny miracles inside for 9 months. It’s also true that being pregnant can really, really, REALLY suck. While every pregnancy is different, below are the 8 gruesome truths I wish I had known beforehand. No, it wouldn’t have changed our decision to start a family. However, if I had known these were possible I wouldn’t have felt so isolated and alone.

#1 | Acne and Backne

Yep, I suffered from both. My daughter caused painful, cystic acne that was unlike anything I had ever experienced, and I am already acne prone. I wish someone had told me it was all hormonal and not to pick at it. I was so focused on clearing my skin that I picked, frequently, which led to really bad scars I’m still trying to rid. With my son I had horrendous backne (back acne) that was painful, super unsightly, and all thanks to those lovely pregnancy hormones. Since he was born in August, I was largely pregnant most of the summer and left unable to wear all the super cute dresses that had any type of back cut-out or strappy straps. Nothing helped, and I tried it all. Then, magically, about three months AFTER giving birth it all cleared up. Hormones are crazy.

#2 | Gastrointestinal Issues

Ohhh…where to start with this gem. Heartburn I had heard about. “Oh, you have heartburn? That must mean your baby will have lots of hair.” Horse crap. My baby’s hair is on top of it’s head, currently pointing down towards their exit. What’s actually causing my stomach acid to torch my throat is the fact that there is NO ROOM in my belly for all MY organs and this tiny human I’m growing. Pass the Tums and mind your own business. Or, better yet, if your heartburn is super bad, tell your OB and get a Rx for serious relief. My daughter sat so high in my abdomen that even the Rx heartburn meds were not sufficient. Now, on to the lower GI issues…

Constipation started almost immediately after conception and lasted the entire time. There are several ways to combat this easily.

  1. Incorporate more fiber into your diet by eating lots of leafy greens.
  2. Take fiber supplements alongside your prenatal vitamins. This was my preferred method because it was easy to remember and didn’t rely on me eating something specific at meals.
  3. Grab a Costco sized bag of dried prunes and eat a few every day.
  4. Drink lots of water. Do this anyway to help prevent stretch marks.

If you choose to ignore the constipation, you will be blessed with hemorrhoids, guaranteed. Yep. If you choose to treat the constipation, you will still most likely be blessed with hemorrhoids. Being pregnant is such a blessing, isn’t it?

#3 | Swelling

Sure, sure, everyone has seen how pregnant women can get swollen feet and how foot massages are the parental duty of the father. What you might not know is that your feet won’t be the only things to swell. All appendages will swell. Your face will swell. Rings, watches and braclets might not fit anymore. You will feel like you weigh a million pounds. Fear not, if you’re pregnant in the summer this will be dramatically worse. I remember being 38 weeks pregnant with my son and just terrified of the numbers on the scale at my weekly OB appointments. I kept asking my husband, “do I look big to you? I feel really swollen.” He would lie , “no, of course not. You look good.”

#4 | Sight Changes

Yes, your eye sight may change during your pregnancy. But that’s not exactly the “sight” I’m talking about. At some point in the later part of your pregnancy, your belly will get so big you won’t be able to see your feet. Before that happens, your belly will get big enough that you won’t be able to see your own lady parts. Seriously. And this happens at a point that isn’t too dramatically big. After two pregnancies I’m and 100% confident that there are millions of old men out there with potbellies so big they haven’t seen their own dicks in years. It’s physically impossible, I don’t care what they say.

#5 | All-Day Sickness

Sure, we’ve all seen the newly pregnant lady run to the bathroom and puke in movies. “Oh, morning sickness” the directors and writers want us to believe. What they don’t tell you is ‘morning sickness’ can last all damn day. Yep. From the time you wake up to the time you go to bed. Sick. Neausa, vomitting, headaches…all just a mixed bag of all-day sickness. The lucky ones will have this end with the first trimester. The not so lucky ones will be sick the entire 9 months. If you’re seen Amy Schumer’s documentary or read about The Duchess of Cornwall’s pregnancies, you might be familiar with hyperemesis gravidarum already. Totally not fun.

#6 | Frequent OB Visits

I remember how excited I was to visit the OB when I first discovered I was pregnant. It made it all seem so real and fun! What I was not prepared for was the frequency of those visits. During your last trimester, OB visits jump from 1x every couple of months to just about every week. Had I known this I would have strategically picked my OB based on one thing alone: parking. Newly pregnant with our son in Chicago, getting to my OB required a ride on the El, transfer to a bus, and a 15 minute walk OR a $45 parking pass and a 15 minute walk. Oofta. We moved to Indianapolis when I was 8 months pregnant and was blessed with a new OB who had FREE PARKING on the premises. Hallelujah! My swollen feet rejoiced! She also happened to be a pretty fantastic OB who delivered both my babies, so I really lucked out. (Hi, Dr. Hahn!)

#7 | Fear and Dread (trigger warning)

Saving the biggest for last. When I was finally in my second trimester I remember so clearly how excited we were to tell EVERYONE that I was pregnant. Each time we were greeted with, “CONGRATULATIONS!!”. Eventually the shine wore off and the fear and dread kicked in. And, if I’m honest, it was there from the moment of conception. Am I pregnant? What if I miscarry? What if something is wrong with the baby? What if I fall and the baby gets hurt? What if we lose the baby after the first trimester, like so many people do yearly? What happens if I go into early labor? What if I get preeclampsia? What if something terrible happens during delivery? If the baby comes and everyone is healthy, what do we do with the baby now? How can we take care of such a tiny, fragile human? What if, what if, what if!!! The fear and anxiety can be really crippling. No one talk about that – instead the focus is on what a blessing this is and how happy the mother must be. My advice? Find a mom-group and lean on them for support. They will be your lighthouse in the storm, during pregnancy and afterwards.

#8 | Post-Partum Depression

This is a biggy and one that I will likely dedicate an entire post to later on. The basic thing to know here is that post-partum depression hits so many mothers and fathers every year. You don’t need to have a former history of depression to get post-partum; it can strike any mother/father anytime during the first year post-delivery. Get help and don’t wait too long to do so! That first year of your baby’s life is so precious and you deserve to be happy and healthy, just like them.

More…

Let’s stay in touch!

3 Tips for Creating Healthy Toddler Boundaries

Parent Life

For the past three years I’ve been living with at least one toddler. My son, thankfully, is now 4-years-old and no longer considered a toddler. My daughter is 2-years-old and right smack in the worst of the toddler years. How can I tell? “No! I do it!” “No, mine!” Basically anything with NO in front of it is a frequent expression of hers. She also demands to be picked up and walked around…a lot. It’s exhausting. I’m exhausted. Anyone with a toddler is exhausted. Anyone listening to someone with a toddler complain about them is likely exhausted, too.

With Veda’s temper tantrums ramping up and my will to survive chipping away, I know it’s time for a change. I want to enjoy my kids, not just survive them. But how? What do I do? Both my partner and I are former teachers. I hold a master degree. We’ve done what all the books say to do: implement a routine, provide structure, involve them in chores around the house, encourage their independence, etc. Why is this little person still destroying us (well, me mostly)?!?!

And then it clicked one day. Okay, it didn’t happen magically like a thunder bolt of understanding sent from God. It was actually a small piece of advice given to me by a counselor. She told me quite plainly, “you need to set boundaries or you will continue having a hard time and she will struggle more and more as she gets older.” Boom. Just like that. I’d been trying SO HARD to be there and do whatever was needed to raise good humans that I neglected to see that I was the problem. I was too available, too present and tuned in. This was effectively handicapping Veda’s ability to fully see and experience her surroundings, identify her own needs and then vocalize them in an appropriate way. Screaming at me to bend to her demands was all she had ever known because that’s the only option I had given her.

Here are three things I’m currently working on to help transform my toddler monster into a more normal toddler. Sorry, no magic transformations here! She still has her tired, hungry, angry moods just like the rest of us AND she’s still developing her frontal lobe.

#1 | Decide what you want the outcome to be, and hold firm to that.

This seems basic, and when we first had our kids I was overly aware of not ‘giving in’ to cries and tantrums. But somewhere along the way my kids caught on to my methods and started manipulating me. Here’s an example many can relate to…Veda spilled a cup of Cheerios on the ground this morning and refused to pick them up. I looked at the Cheerios spread across my kitchen floor and decided on my desired outcome: Veda will pick those up, not me. I immediately told Veda to pick them up and she looked away. I repeated my command and she walked away from me. Rather than engage in a power struggle and struggle/force her to do it, I went on with what I was doing and waited. About a minute later she came over and asked to be picked up. I said, “no, not until you pick up your Cheerios.” She walked away again. Another minute went by and she came over and asked for a banana. I repeated, “no, not until you pick up your Cheerios.” This pattern repeated a few more times over the span of about 10 minutes. In the end, she begrudgingly picked up her Cheerios (with the help of our family pug, Tucker). There were screams and some tears from her, but I stuck to my desired outcome. After the mess was cleaned I gave her the requested banana and picked her up. In the past I would have gotten impatient, worried about all the Cheerios crumbs likely getting smooshed into the floor cracks, and picked them up myself. The lesson Veda learned would have been, “mom will do it,” instead of “I’m responsible for my own messes.” Had she continued to refuse to pick them up, I likely would have tried to do it jointly while singing the “clean-up, clean-up, everybody do their share” song. This way she still would have some sense of responsibility – much better than me doing 100% of it.

#2 | Pay it forward

One of the biggest triggers for Veda and me is my transition from work to home. I have the flexibility to work remotely and have been doing so for years. However, Veda and Pax have only been working/schooling/playing from home since March. When my work day ends and it’s time to relieve their nanny, Miss Sherri, I just pop up from the basement office and I’m home. Without fail, as soon as I come up the stairs Veda wants in my arms. The screams of “UP! UP! UPPIE!!” would make my stomach sink. Of course, I love holding my daughter and relish any chance I have to get snuggles. But these weren’t cries for snuggles. She wanted up and she wanted to dictate what I would do for the next…10, 15, 30 minutes or longer. Clearly that was not possible. This nearly always led to a giant tantrum and a major anxiety spike in me. Neither of which was how I wanted to start our evenings off.

To get ahead of this tantrum I started something new: when I come up from the basement I greet both kids and immediately start participating in whatever they are currently doing. Whether it is reading books, playing Legos, or watching a show, I would get down on their level and spend time totally immersed in their activity. After a reasonable amount of time, 5-8 minutes, I would quietly excuse myself with a quick, “I’ll be right back” or “I need to start dinner”. No tantrums. No cries of “UP!”. The kids always continue playing OR come along to help me with the next task. Tantrums avoided!

#3 | Follow through on (reasonable) consequences

For the past few months my kids have wanted to sleep in the same room. I think it’s adorable and try to encourage sibling bonding whenever I possibly can. We have moved a sleep mat into my daughter’s room for my son to sleep on. Since naps are still done independently, Pax brings his stuffies, blanket, and pillow over to Veda’s room, with her help, every night. It’s really sweet. While I would love to say that both kids lay in their beds and fall asleep quietly after we say goodnight and turn out the lights, that would be a bold-faced lie. They usually spend anywhere from 30-60 minutes playing in Veda’s room until finding their way back into bed and passing out. It’s all harmless play and my partner and I have decided we are OK with it so long as it remains safe and doesn’t go on too long.

There have been many occasions when the playing hasn’t stopped and an intervention was needed. In the beginning, I was going back upstairs to tell them to be quiet 5 or 6 times with no luck. Each time I would say something along the lines of, “that’s enough, time for bed, go to sleep now or I’m sending Pax back to his room.” You can guess how that worked out for me. Nothing changed until one day I decided to set and then stick to the firm boundary of implementing the threatened consequence. I went up to Veda’s room, gave them a final warning and left. The next time I went up I moved Pax back to his room. It was a loud, screaming-cry fest that neither kid liked. Pax threatened to “just sneak back in” many times and Veda sobbed while calling out for her brother. It was heartbreaking. But I kept replaying my mantra in my head, “I’m making our lives easier in the long run. I’m making our lives easier in the long run.” After a few minutes of me patiently waiting while sitting next to them, both settled down, I would explain the poor choice and the resulting consequence to each kid. They were so tired they passed out shortly afterwards, each in their own beds. The next night at bed time the now familiar routine of moving Pax’s things into Veda’s room would unfold. What changed was my firm, yet loving reminder of the consequence that would be executed if they made bad choices. It’s working so far, just a few days in. I promise to keep you all posted!

Let’s stay in touch!

Favorite Kid-Friendly Christmas Traditions

Parent Life

My partner and I are raising our two kids, Pax (4) and Veda (2), in a truly blended cultural home. Our day-to-day lives reflect mostly Hindu values and traditions. However, on an annual basis we recognize and honor all the major holidays in Muslim, Jewish, and Christian faith, including Christmas.

I grew up in a non-religious Christian home where Christmas was a big deal. While we never went to church or talked much about Jesus, my mom always made sure this time of year was filled with fun traditions. Now that I have a family of my own, I’m bringing back my favorite traditions and starting new ones.

The Nutcracker | Back before COVID made it impossible to be out in public, going to the Nutcracker was a must for me! The act of getting dressed in fancy clothes, heading downtown to the ballet, finding our velvet-lined seats amidst the rows and rows of people….all of it sparks fond memories. The music, costumes and dancing are all beautiful and strike the tone of Christmas just perfectly for me. I’m very much looking forward to taking my kids once the virus is under control and local productions start back up.

Santa | The big man is a source of pure joy and excitement for my kids. The talk about where he lives, what he eats, when he comes to visit, and if he’s been sick from the virus is never ending. My son has been asking for Santa to bring him presents all year long, which is kinda cute and also a little terrifying. In our house, Santa brings basic, inexpensive gifts that nearly all children can expect to get. Think underwear, socks, pajamas, etc. Now that my kids are slightly older, I’m needing to pay a little more attention to how these gifts arrive and what they are wrapped in. My mom wrapped all Santa gifts in plain old newspaper because it was cheap and he was always in a hurry, naturally. So, that’s what I’ll be doing this year!

Presents | While our kids have plenty of toys, we definitely keep things on the more slim side compared to other families. Christmas is a tricky time where it can be really hard to avoid going overboard. All year long whenever my son makes a request for some toy, I got into the habit of adding it to the “Santa List”. This ended the conversation with him knowing it wasn’t going to happen today but also planted a seed of hope it would come on Christmas. Well, I’ve really dug myself into a hole with this one. My partner and I have decided to get each of our kids one main gift, and as I mentioned above, Santa isn’t bringing anything extravagant. I’ve done all my shopping and wrapping and the gifts are currently stashed in our bedroom, hidden haphazardly under a blanket. Now, when do I put them under the tree?? I honestly can’t remember what my mom did for us when I was little. I do remember presents collecting under the tree slowly starting when the tree went up after Thanksgiving, but was that always the case? There’s no way I can put presents out now, have my two toddlers see them, and not expect some kind of trouble. For the foreseeable future I think we will put them out after the kiddos are asleep.

Sullivan’s North Pole Express | OMG, if you live anywhere near Indianapolis I HIGHLY encourage you to check this out!! The geniuses at Sullivan’s Hardware on Keystone have gone above and beyond to provide an epic train ride to the North Pole. It starts with each family loading into their own personal train car. The conductor then drives us through many (8, 9?) different vignettes all winter and Christmas themed with animatronic animals and people. The journey ends at the North Pole where the four families on that train ride get a total of 20 minutes to meet with Santa and take pictures. While we wait for our turn with Santa, there are coloring and crafts set out to occupy little hands. Once the 20 minutes is up, we load back into our train car and leave the North Pole, going by several more vignettes, just as amazing as the first set. Tickets are hard to come by – this year they went on sale at 4pm the Sunday after Thanksgiving and all weekend times were gone when I logged on 9am Monday morning.

Winterlights at Newfields | This is one of our favorite Christmas traditions put on by the Indianapolis Museum of Art (now called Newfields) in their outside gardens. With over 1.5 million lights, the entire experience is straight out of a fairytale. My favorite part is the light and music choreographed scene on the lawn in front of the historic Lilly House. Lights dance along in beautiful patterns as music from the Nutcracker plays. Top it all off with hot chocolate and smores and it’s really a winder wonderland. We will NEVER miss this. Oh, and it happens to be the brain child of our dear friend Jonathan Wright – former neighbor and now uncle to our kids. Even if we weren’t partial to Uncle Jonathan we would still love Winterlights:)

Lights | The past few weekend evenings we’ve loaded our kids into the car and driven around in search of the best Christmas decorations in various neighborhoods around the city. Since it gets dark pretty early right now, we have no trouble finishing up an early dinner and light-spotting for at least an hour before our bedtime routine starts. Listening to the kids squeal and giggle at light displays is probably one of the best noises I’ve every heard. My son especially loves the multi-colored lights and inflatable snowmen. If you know of neighborhoods in central Indy with good lights, please do tell! We are always looking for high-density lights.

Is the magic of Christmas alive and well in your house with young kids? What traditions to you practice with your family this time of year? I’d love to know!

Let’s stay in touch!