Back with a New Addition

Three weeks ago Ella Marie joined our family. Seven pounds, four ounces and 20 1/2 inches long. Long skinny feet. Chubby checks and pouty lips. Fingernails ready for paint. And hair long enough to tuck behind her ears.

I was induced the day before my due date. So, Ella was born Nov. 28, 2011 at 1:30 p.m. We had arrived at the hospital at 6 a.m. A half hour later, as I lay hooked up to monitors, Ella’s heart rate dropped. They broke my water. Justin’s face was white. But seconds later, her heart rate was back up. And an hour later Justin was having breakfast.

At 7:30 a.m., they started my pitocin – a drug that jumpstarts labor. Four hours later, I was gripping the rocking chair. Barely breathing. A nightmare of contractions. I paged the nurse, was hooked with an epidural by noon. Then, I took a 20-minute nap.

Around 1 p.m., mid-sentence to my mother-in-law, I felt the need to push. It was go time. I waited for 15 minutes for my doctor to arrive from surgery. Gripping Justin’s hand. Entire body shakes. I couldn’t hold her in any longer. The floor doctor gave me the go ahead and just minutes later my doctor arrived as Ella was crowning.

But Ella wouldn’t move. Her heart rate dropping again. The umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. Twice. My doctor’s quick thinking and 13 minutes of pushing later, Ella was out. Loud and healthy.

Justin and I exchanged wide-eyed glances as our little El squealed for the first hour of life. During her check up, bath and bake under the heat lamp. Worried she was going to be more of a gauntlet baby than our first. But, despite our fears Ella’s been a dream ever since.

I wasn’t sure how it would be. If I would feel the same crazy love that I did when I met Jack. Would I love him less, to make room for her? But as Ella nursed in my arms for the first time, my heart grew. Her warm body now pressing the outside of my tummy. I was overwhelmed new baby euphoria all over again. My heart is bigger. My love is brighter.

The past three weeks have whizzed by. Filled with baby sister kisses from Jack. Nights of quiet nursing. Laundry after laundry. Tiny squeals and newborn stretches. We’ve all started adjusting. Even Ella. Snoozing peacefully as her brother shrieks to hold her.

I thank God daily for my amazing luck. And my two beautiful children who make my world go round.


Asking for Prayers

Today I was going to post about something funny. Pregnancy related. Or maybe the potty training saga. But instead, my thoughts are with another family. And they need prayers. Lots. 

I've known Courtney since high school. We played basketball together. Spent afternoons listening to music after practice. Typical high school girl things. We were never especially close, but we were not far apart. After college as our families began to grow, naturally we connected again. We've been sharing blog inspiration and social commentary since. 

As my two-year-old Jack and I drove to my final doctor appointment before the arrival of our baby girl, I got a message from a close friend, "Courtney's son has a tumor on his kidney, having surgery today. She said it was cancerous." 

At 39.5 weeks pregnant and mother of one, tears soaked my cheeks. This was too close to home. Next door even. Courtney is an amazing mom. Seven-month-old Easton is a beautifully happy baby. Smiling in literally every photo she posts on her blog and Facebook. I guess lightening really does strike at any time.

"Mommy, you okay?" Jack's concerned voice interrupted my sniffles. I explained that Mommy's friend's baby was sick and I was sad for the family. 

Later I read Courney's blog post today, "My worst nightmare come true," discovering that baby Easton was having surgery today to remove the tumor and his kidney. 

So today I'm writing to ask that everyone who reads this prays for the Metzger family and Easton. Pray Easton recovers quickly, no cancer to follow. And Courtney and her husband Bryan keep the strength they've already shown all the way through. I'm a firm believer of faith in numbers. 

And let little seven-month-old Easton teach us all something about strength, family and not taking the little things for granted.


Dear Baby: 39 Weeks Pregnant

Today’s post is a continued series of my final weeks of pregnancy. I began to chronicle at 36 weeks to record my thoughts, progress and happenings until we meet our second baby. Due Nov. 29. Anticipated sooner.

Dear Daughter,

We're days away from due. Most are worrying about having the perfect turkey on Thanksgiving, I'm worrying about having a healthy baby. Most of my thoughts are consumed with your day. Labor. Delivery. Your brother's caregivers. Did I do everything? Are we ready? Some days I feel like I could run a marathon. But most days now I could crumble to the floor my legs & hips feel as if they are 40 years older. Lately I've been trying to coax you out. Every trick I can find. It appears you have your father's stubbornness already.

It's a typically late-November day. Dark, drizzly and brisk. I walked the block at lunch and realized all the leaves are gone from branches. The bark is dark with winter. I'm wrapping up work from the couch today. My last day before you arrive. The doctor advised last week not to travel to my Lansing office. I took that advice as I would see you soon. But, here we are still waiting. 

So here's a bit about what's surrounding our life today:

Your brother, who's just over two, can count to ten and is progressively singing the ABC's

Your Dad started a new job four months ago. He's working "with the cats and dogs," according to Jack.

Justin Verlander, the Detroit Tiger's all-star pitcher, was just named MVP

The Detroit Lions are 7-3, a remarkable achievement, since the team hasn't had a winning season in 30 years. Our state is buzzing with playoffs talk. Currently anticipating the Turkey Day game against Green Bay, 10-0.

Dance parties are a common occurrence in the house. Jack prefers hip hop. Think Lady GaGa, Jay Z, Rihanna, Black Eyed Peas. Your parents prefer Adele, Jack Johnson or some good country, but we usually have to wait until after bedtime.

Here's to hoping we meet in the next 24 hours.
Love you already,


Favorite Etsy Shops of Michigan

I love shopping Etsy. So unique. Reasonably priced. And it supports our neighbors. I previously furnished Jack’s big boy room and the new baby nursery with Etsy finds, but now my addiction has turned to clothing, boots and hats. An obvious reaction to Michigan’s upcoming bitter season. I’m a proud supporter of Michigan things, so I decided to browse Michigan Etsy for some kid items I need. Here’s a few of the favorite children shops I found:

Trendy Baby

Located in Port Huron, Mich.
Jack hates to wear his socks around the house. Don’t blame him. I’m not a fan either. Usually the two of us spend most days toting around in our bare feet. But the crispy weather is freezing Jack’s tiny two-year-old toes. Comfortable house shoes are a must. I discovered these adorable, trendy, multi-patterned soft-soled shoes made in the Mitt. No slip, machine wash booties. Perfect.


The Sewing Fool

Located in Lake Orion, Mich.
“Unique and Cool T-Shirts” is how this shopowner describes her products. From dinosaur silhouettes to trains, these tees for boys live up to their description.

Pickletoes Couture

Pickletoes Couture

Located in Port Huron, Mich.
A top pick for me. In fact, purchased a crocheted baby hat today. Planning to buy the matches boots very soon. Features super trendy crocheted hats and scrunched boots. Also love her patterns and prints.

Rosebud Boutique and Company

Located in Plymouth, Mich.
Features crocheted baby blankets, clothing and accessories. My absolute preferred are the itsy-bitsy baby boots. Cute baby gift idea too.

Tutu LaRue Couture

Tutu LaRue Couture

Located in Milford, Mich.
I support Michigan, but I also support former classmates. I’ve known the shop owner/mother of two since high school and she's a peach - pretty creative too. I've already made plans to order one of her unique tulle & satin-ribboned tutus very soon. Each tutu is made special-to-order and for all ages. Super special. Maybe a Chrismas gift?

Good Little Things

Located in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Absolutely, hands down one of my favorites. The most unique shoes and boots custom made for babies and children. Unfortunately for us, she’s not taking orders for three months. Sigh. One day my little girl will own the most stylish, custom-made boots ever.


Coffee Lady

Located in Utica, Mich.
Items are eco-friendly and made from new or recycled materials. Products include multi-colored wool leg warmers, trendy hats, wool sweaters, sweet felt boots and an overabundance of stylish hats.

Modern Totz

Located in Novi, Mich.
The Baby & Children’s Botique offers hip, fun and unique clothing and accessories for babies and children. Bonus, there are items for parents too!

Left Right

Located in Holland, Mich.
Anyone with little boys knows how hard it is to find cute clothes for them. The selections are limited, t-shirt or polo. This Etsy shop has organic baby and toddler clothing – hats, bibs, bodysuits, gift sets – and uniquely modern tees for boys.

Giggle Rainbow

Located in Livonia, Mich.
Accessories for all ages, but my favorite are the leg warmers. Made for babies, toddlers and kids.

Cyberoptix Tie Lab

Located in Detroit, Mich.
“Ties that don’t suck.” Hand, silk-screened neckties, bow ties and scarves for kids and their dads. Seriously, these ties are chic.

Let me know if you purchase anything from the shops listed above, I'd love to hear about the products! Also, please share in the comments below any Michigan kid shops I may have missed. Stay close for posts about specific shops and my ultimate all-time favs.


Wordless Wed: Apperciate Everything

Never underestimate your children.
Jack, our little helper, blowing leaves with Dad.


Dear Baby: 38 Weeks Pregnant

Today’s post is a continued series of my final weeks of pregnancy. I began to chronicle at 36 weeks to record my thoughts, progress and happenings until we meet our second baby. Due Nov. 29. Anticipated sooner.

Dear Baby,

Our journey together has lasted longer than mine with your brother. He was born at 37 weeks, 6 lbs., 15 oz., 22 inches. I believe you will be bigger, as we’ve consistently measured ahead of schedule.

I hope daily that you’ll bless us soon and show the world your beautiful face. I pray you will be healthy and happy. While I’m still experiencing inconsistent contractions, the pressure and pain has eased. Your movements have slowed to casual rolls. And everything is difficult for me, from picking up your 29-pound brother to washing my hands.

Strangers are just as curious about your arrival. Letting me know that you have “dropped.” Asking when you are due. Quickly adding that it will probably be soon. Grocery shopping the other day, the attendant wooed as I swiftly bent to reach items under the cart. “You’ll have that baby today if you keep moving like that,” she smiled. As I pushed the cart away, she said she hopes you’re here by Thanksgiving. Common thoughts I hear daily.

Our nighttime wakings are consistent. 2 a.m., 5 a.m., then roused by Jack at 7:30 a.m., although you seem to still be sleeping until about 10 a.m. I hope this continues when you arrive. Jack’s definitely a morning person. You’re mother is not. Despite coffee.

My bag is finally packed. Clothes, toiletries and excitement. Your Dad still hasn't added his necessities into it, but as you'll discover, he's a procrastinator. I've even outlined Jack's daily routine for whoever may be caring for him, and as you'll discover of me, I'm obsessively organized. 

Everything is washed and in it's place. Even the monitor is mounted. All we need is you.

Hoping to hold you very soon.


Preparing the Tot for Baby

Ask Jack if he’s excited to meet his baby sister.
“Yeeaaah,” he’ll enthusiastically respond. Drawing out the “aaah” with a bewildered smile.

While I don’t believe many responses the two-year-old has, this one I know for sure isn’t an informed one. He loves his six-month-old cousin. And helping with the babies at daycare. But this is different. This baby is entering his personal space. Suctioning his Mommy & Daddy time. And he has no idea.

I feel bad some days. Jack’s heart is easily readable. His feelings are extremely hurt when I don’t instantaneously respond to “Mommy look! Mommy look!” after he’s stacked spiders a top each other.

We’ve tried to “prepare him.” But how much can you prepare a toddler who has no concept of time and no clue what a “sister” is? He’s still learning to count. Can’t tie his shoes. Just mastered undressing & dressing himself. So how do we expect him to understand what’s about to happen?

So far, here’s what we’ve done to “prepare” him:

1. Every night we read The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby. The perfect present, Jack received it from my Aunt Kathy for his birthday.

2. Constantly talk about the new baby. Every time a new pink item arrives, we discuss how it’s for the baby girl in Mommy’s belly.

3. Had him help renovate the nursery.  From masking off the trim to putting the baby toys away (which he claimed as all his), Jack pitched in every place he could. Anyone who comes over gets a tour of the “baby’s room.”

4. Continuously reference to the “baby in Mommy’s belly.” Seems to have worked. He asks to feel the baby move all the time. When I put away the bottles last week, he asked “for the baby in Mommy’s belly?”

5. Moved him out of his crib many months before my due date. In fact, when we put the crib back up, he didn’t even blink.

And here’s our plan for after the baby arrives:

1. Present a gift from the baby once he meets her for the first time. Not sure why, but I’ve heard this works. Makes him feel special, right?

2. Let him help with the new baby any way he can. Giving the pacifier. Helping rock the baby. Putting a blanket on her. Whatever satisfies his little desires.

3. Arrange special alone time with the Nonnas, Papa, Mommy and Daddy. Just so he doesn’t feel so un-special.

4. Constantly compliment him on what a great older brother he is. He devours praise.

5. Try our hardest not to let the baby’s needs always come before Jack’s. Just because the baby is sleeping doesn’t mean Jack can’t go play outside. And if the baby cries, a few more minutes of ball with Jack won’t hurt before responding. Jack’s still important. He needs to see that.

So, that’s the plan. We’ll see how much it works once the reality is here. I remember all the things I said I’d never do as a parent. And, well, that’s a whole other post!


Dear Baby: 37 Weeks Pregnant

Last week I began to chronicle my final weeks of pregnancy. In theme with a new weekly tradition, I will record my thoughts, progress and happenings until we meet our second baby. Due Nov. 29. Anticipated sooner.

Dear Little Girl,

Another week passed. Last week I was raking and leaping in leaves with your brother. This week I can barely walk. The Braxton Hicks contractions are now undeniable, and at times taking my breath away. Sometimes a nerve is pinched when you adjust, making me jolt to yoga poses to ease the tension. After sitting a day away at work, my ankle bones aren’t visible. And you could make maps of the lines surrounding my belly button.

Still, your presence makes me feel more than lucky. Your feet constantly roll across my belly by the minute. Your behind still firmly pressed against my right side, although noticeably lower than past weeks. Hiccups and tiny hands tickle me daily. And I can pinpoint exactly where you’re moving at all times.

Every evening is now capped with a bowl of Life cereal and cup of hot chocolate. And my morning routine has lengthened, despite your Dad pitching in with dressing Jack and unloading the dishwasher.

At this point in pregnancy with Jack, I was induced three days from today. I was placed on bed rest weeks ago with preeclampsia and high blood pressure.  Because of the high risks to both Jack and I, we were induced once he was considered “full term” at 37 weeks. I was swollen. My calves were hard with fluid. And the heat he produced could keep a room warm. If this pregnancy is any indication, you and Jack are completely different.

Your room is ready, aside from a special wall creation by an overwhelmingly artistic friend. Sometimes Jack and I read books in the glider. I cradle him. Remembering the tiny baby he once was. Dreaming of the newborn smell all over again.

Looking forward to you.


Unique Sleepwear for the Cool

Typically our two-year-old wears sweatpants and a tee to bed. But as the weather turns to ice, I’ve realized – like I did last year – Jack needs long-sleeved jams to keep him toasty. Reason No. 305,293 Jack is like his Dad: An active sleeper. He twists. Thows the blanket. Talks, laughs. Tugs up the blanket. And ends up sleeping sideways on the pillow. The need for reliable pajamas is a requirement.

Carters are everywhere. Everywhere. And although some are worthy (Jack has three pairs this year, one pictured to left) and decently priced, I’m completely over the bubble-eyed animals. So, as usual, I’ve begun my journalistic dig to find nifty jams that won’t sacrifice Jack’s “coolness.”

Old Navy: I’ve always loved Old Navy’s sleepwear.  Trendy patterns. Unique twists. And a classic touch on kid favorites. I prefer the fitted leg, then maybe we can squeeze a little more life-length into them. Gap Kids also has unique holiday sets right now.

Hatley Collection: Adorable – kinda pricey – sleepwear for all ages. Girls, boys and infant are offered in many categories include footed for infants, nightdresses for girls and big boys for boys (among many other styles for each).

Pottery Barn Kids: The holiday collection of warm, classic comfortable sets. The line features one of my favorites, the red solid classics.


Hospital Bag Essentials. 2nd Time Around.

During my first pregnancy, I packed the world in my hospital bags. A two-page itemized list stuffed into two giant duffle bags. The only things missing were most important – like extra underwear for the hubs. I was completely packed at 32 weeks pregnant. Nursery clean. Laundry complete. Car seat in the car. Ready.

Now 37 weeks pregnant (I delivered Jack at 37 weeks), I haven’t even considered my bag. The nursery is still in progress. The bottles and nipple shields aren’t washed. Car seat is still in the basement. And my new breast pump is still in the box. The humorous part is I’m not stressed. They say the second time is different, but not one ounce of me has been the same. 

So here's my take on packing for the hospital after having lived through it before. No need for trashy magazines, books or such.  Anticipation of meeting the family newbie is interesting enough. I’ve also crossed off underwear, bras, nightgowns and much of the other “suggested” items to bring. The hospital provides outfits and underwear, a godsend after delivery. Pretty sure last time I lived in them longer than my three-day hospital stay. They also have a complimentary toiletry kit, so no need for shampoo/conditioner, body wash or toothpaste.  Trust me, moments after birthing a baby you won’t care about salon products. Here’s my essential list:

The Hospital Bag

For Me:
Sports & nursing bras (just one each)
Comfortable “going home” outfit (pants, tank, sweatshirt)
Basic toiletries: toothbrush, hairbrush, lotion, hair ties, deodorant
Basic makeup: like mascara and foundation
Chap stick
Nipple shield

For Hubby:
Shirt, pants & sweatshirt
Cash (food)

For Baby:
Four PJs (Jack threw up a lot last time. Lived in his diaper.)
“Going home” outfit
Warm blanket

Ipod & Speakers
Camera (charged)

Last-minute throw in:
Wallet/Insurance card/ID
Cell phone (which has pediatrician’s number)
Laptop (if we remember)

Newborn Jack, who's now two.


Dear Baby: 36 Weeks Pregnant

Dear Baby Girl,

Your debut into this wide world is nearly here. At 36 weeks pregnant, I’m nervous we are miles from prepared, but so anxious to kiss your beautiful face. I wonder if you’ll have the captivating eyes of your brother, a trademark of my Mom’s family. And I pray you have more patience than the rest of us, although your aggressive kicks and jabs near mealtimes tell me otherwise.

The room in the womb has grown tight around you. But that hasn’t stopped you from pressing your tiny butt against my ribs or firmly pushing your entire back against my stomach, making me feel as if my skin could split in seconds. Still, I can’t complain. You’ve made our time as one much more enjoyable than your brother did. I’m 40 pounds lighter. Still wearing my wedding band. And comfortably enjoying most of my flat shoes.

I dread sleeping now. The pains of high pressure is unbelievable. My hips feel like they need desperate repair. And our trips to the bathroom are multiplying. Usually at 6 AM, your two-year-old brother crawls in bed, making me crave a king-size bed. Two kids, two dogs, a Mom and Dad aren’t sardines. Lou, our Beagle mix, has already given up. She now dozes in her over-sized dog bed.

Despite my unpleasant of pregnancy, I’m still more than thankful to have you. Every day I dream of who you will become. I picture you at five. Riding a pony, dressed with pink, a smile as attractive as your Dad’s. Or at 12. Your interests changing, maybe ballet or softball. I hope you enjoy dancing. Sports too, but there’s something beautiful about a little girl spinning on stage.

I promise not to compare you to Jack and always support your desires. And although I wish you could stay with me forever, I will let you explore every inch of the horizon. I hope you learn my compassion. Take your father’s humor. And enthusiasm and independence of your brother. I know you won’t hide in Jack’s shadow or look for my hand forever, but find the good in everything. Be gentle to all. Never underestimate yourself. And love with your heart.

I’ll love you forever
I’ll like you for always
As long as I’m living
My baby you’ll be

XO's forever,


Pumpkins. Paint. And a Toddler.

Jack loves to cut up his food. Butter knife, of course.

“Me do it,” he constantly cries. So overwhelmingly independent already and only two years old.

So, when we sat down to carve pumpkins one night, Jack was more than anxious to perform surgery. Unfortunately his parents do set limits. I decided he could complete his magic in other forms with soft, gentle paintbrushes.
For little ones too young to use a knife, but old enough to enjoy the fall pumpkin activities, here’s a few pumpkin painting projects to enjoy:

Craft a Painted Picture
Pick up the perfect pumpkin(s). Then stop at your local crafts or Halloween store to choose a few washable, non-toxic paints and variety of paint brushes. If the kids are above toddler-age and would enjoy painting a picture, both stores carry stencils or pumpkin patterns that could be taped on to create a unique design.

Use pumpkin carving patterns, some found at Martha Stewart online, as templates for painting projects. Just cut out the areas that would be carved and instead of carving, have the tot paint the areas.

One-of-a-Kind Ghosts & Spiders
A fun pumpkin painting activity for smaller children is creating a handprint or footprint ghost. Use white glossy paint for the body and black paint for the eyes and mouth. Paint one foot or hand and press against the pumpkin. Next, make small dots with the black paint for the eyes and mouth. Use leftover black paint to create a handprint spider. Simply paint both hands with black. Then apply, one at a time, with palms overlapping each other. Glue on googly eyes or paint the eyes with the leftover white paint from the ghost.

Paint a Jack-O-Lantern
Another fun pumpkin painting project is to have the little one paint a Jack-o-Lantern, as opposed to carving one. Form a reverse carved pumpkin by masking out a face on the pumpkin. Tape on the eyes, nose and mouth and let the tot paint all around.


Last Minute Costumes for Kids

Halloween is seconds away. For us, the party starts Thursday at daycare. I had all these awesomely unique ideas of what Jack would dress as. Originally thinking Evil Knievel because “daredevil” is my two-year-old’s favorite nickname.  I also thought I would go as a pregnant nun, my husband as a minister <gasp> and Jack as the devil. But true to form, I waited until last week to start looking for the tiny costume. And apparently Halloween is no longer in stores, it’s now Christmas time.

With a full-force pregnant brain, I panicked. Briskly browsed every store. Lunch breaks. Late nights. Sunday evening. Then my Mom called.

“It’s too bad you can’t use that tuxedo he wore for the wedding,” she casually said. (See photos of Jack in the tux here).

Um. Never thought of what Jack has in the closet. Since he’s known to daycare as the “Ladies Man,” why not dress him as one? Tuxedo. Flowers. Box of chocolates. Lipstick kiss.  Adorable right?

Here’s a few other last-minute children’s costumes I discovered (and what Jack’s wearing to trick-or-treat):

Handy Man

Jack’s Halloween night costume. He already has a pair of Carhartt overalls, so we purchased a Home Depot cloth work belt (less than $1) and placed his plastic Black & Decker tools in it. He loved it already. Finishing it with a bandana in the back pocket and sweatshirt underneath the overalls. Wa-la.


What kid doesn’t have a pair of overalls? Pair it with a plaid shirt, straw hat, bandana and work boots and you’ve got a mini-farmer. Pick up a tin pail at the local store to be used as the candy-holder. When out Halloween night, fill the wagon with straw and stuffed barn animals.

Homemade Skeleton (Family Fun)
Family Fun has a pretty easy cut-out to be placed on a black outfit. First purchase black sweatpants, shirt and black gloves (if desired). Should be easy to find at Meijer, Target or similar. Then, visit Family Fun for the creation process and images.

Football Player
Since Jack also owns a Detroit Lions Calvin Johnson jersey, we considered dressing him as a football player. Authentic to our favorite team. Add gray sweatpants – preferably white-stripped, - two black lines under the eyes and a football. Go a step further and purchase a helmet from the local sporting store.

80’s Rocker
Search the Internet for your favorite 80’s band then print onto a sheet of iron-on printer paper. Then, iron the image onto the front of a plain T-shirt. For girls, add a tutu, sideways ponytail, pink shoes, abundance of chunky bracelets and white sunglasses. For boys, add skinny jeans, dark cords or preferably stone-washed jeans. Electrify hair with hairspray and for a special touch add a blow up or toy guitar.


Cutest ever. Parenting.com featured this last-minute costume. All you need is an over-sized light blue sweatshirt, white felt, Styrofoam balls, Velcro and small other supplies to create the snowball. Check out how to create the tiny snowball at parenting.com.

In the future, I hope to have a “Jack” theme. Jack and Jill. Jack-o-Lantern. Jack Frost. Jack-in-a-Box. Jack and the Beanstalk. I could go on and on.


Baby Girl's Nursery: Peacock Inspired

I feel a little "nested." Now that we've completed the nursery trim, closet & repainting. And I've washed the clothes & blankets. Just needs decor. I need to unpack the bottles, boppy & other abundance of baby that she may use once or twice. Maybe then I'll feel ready. Or maybe I'll continue reorganizing every closet in the house until these next six weeks are up.

Below is the beginning of baby girl's peacock-inspired nursery: the crib blanket from Woodland Rabbit on Etsy. Where the inspiration ignited.

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He Paints His Step

The Jack Potty Training Experience continues. We started the journey months ago, but it already feels like years. Regressed a little. Gave up at times. Then after the pediatrician steered us back on course, we’re again in it to win.

When we started the trek, I discovered the difficulty of finding a unique stool to match my bathroom. We had fit the spare bathroom toilet with a tiny seat, so we needed a stepping stool that was durable and reliable. After digging and not finding a stoop to fit my desires, I decided Jack could create his own (see Stepping Up to the Job).

One night when Justin was traveling, Jack and I dressed in grub clothes and sunk to the basement for a special activity. Add a 2-year-old’s fascination with paint to an uncoated wood stepping stool from Michael’s and this is what you get. Hours of quiet concentration and imagination. I watched, never painted. It didn’t turn out exactly as I thought it would. It was better. It was Jack.

Jack’s back on with potty training. He doesn’t use the big toilet, we caved and bought a little one. I’ll detail our experience in a later post. But although he doesn’t have a “potty” need for the stool, it’s served him well to finally reach everything he’s never reached before. Cookies. The TV. Cooking utensils. Books. To help cook. Or to snag anything we’ve purposely placed above his arm’s length.


Love Letters: Papa Never Forgets

Today features a  post to the “Love Letters" series. Capturing thoughts, advice and memories for Jack and his soon-to-be new baby sister. The series is randomly posted and sprinkled among my typical discovery blogs. All from family and friends tied to Jack ‘n baby. All assorted thoughts of love and hugs. Today is featuring a reminsing note from my Dad about my younger days. So many memories that I too will never forget.

Dear Jack,

I remember a lot about your own Mom as a little girl. When she was actually younger than you are now, I used to put her in a little bouncing chair, and carry her around in a back pack. One of the first times I took her on a car ride, we hung out with her in her bouncy seat on a bar counter. I actually was working there as a softball director. On another car ride, I swerved and braked for a little bird flying in front of my car, and I had forgotten to buckle down the car seat. She was upside down on the floor of the car. After I righted her, she was fine, and just asked what happened. She was pretty happy I didn't hit the bird. Another few years later, and she saw a bunny, her favorite wildlife animal. Then I hit it with my car (we think the bunny survived, as it ran away).

One of my earliest fun times with your Mom was in the back pack when I walked around Dunham Lake. At a high ridge, I lost my footing, and we slid down the hill with the backpacked. Leah smiling all the way. Little did she know we both could have been quite hurt.

So as you can see, Jack, as parents we do some pretty goofy things, but we do create a lot of memories. Nature and sports and your Mom were always connected with me, and I think that lives on in her and will trickle down to you in some ways. Bird watching, rock collecting, you will remember some of those things as you get older, but I will remember when you shovelled sand over your shoulder when you were trying to throw it on our beach.



Fun Fall Activities Without Apples or Pumpkins

I recently teamed up with Patch.com, an online source for local knowledge and news, as a Local Voice for the Brighton, Mich. area.  I’m excited to share my Tiny Mitten Secrets on a local level, as well as discover new inspirations through the venue.

In my inaugural post, Fall Beyond Pumpkins & Apples, I outlined five fall family activities that don’t include pumpkins or apples. Not that I don’t enjoy the two, but I believe there’s much more to experience. Check it out if your nearby, or just to follow me there as well. But, here’s a bit from my post:

Fall in Michigan is a reminder of the Mitt’s beauty and abilities.  A reason we tolerate the bitter winters and humid summers. Crisp air warmed with the escaping summer sun. Vibrant apple reds and bumblebee yellows painting the leaves. Pumpkin pies & warm cider.

To many, fall usually means pumpkin patches, apple orchards & cider mills. To me, it means keeping my fanatically curious two-year-old Jack satisfied with new activities. We’ve maxed the apples and cider, which the two of us can’t drink anyway (See No More Cider). It’s time to get creative.

Since not everyone lives in my cozy community of Brighton, here’s five activities that can be practiced anywhere:

1. Take a Nature Walk: Visit your local recreation area, park or nearest woods with trails for endless explorations. I created a Nature Walk Sorting Basket for Jack to collect autumn’s treasures. By filling a plastic pale with small paper cups, Jack was able to sort and stash his desirable findings. A shoebox or similar would do the trick too. The activity kept our walk short & sweet with his toddler obsession to gather & sort.

2. Visit the Farm: Every community has a petting farm. Well at least in the Midwest, I’m sure. For Jack, a visit to any zoo or farm is like Christmas morning. We frequent Kensington Metropark’s Farm on a regular basis. Now 34 weeks pregnant, I’m thanking the stars for the cool air.

3. Play a Game of… Football, Soccer or Disc Golf: In college, Justin and I frequented the disc golf course on a weekly basis. If you’re unfamiliar with disc golf it’s a hippy-style sport where players attempt to throw a mini-sized Frisbee (disc) into a hole (chained basket). Very similar to actual golf. But today, Justin and I aren’t as luck to hit up the course. Jobs. Kids. House. Dogs. We’re even minutes away from a very nice course.

But who said just because we have a toddler we couldn’t still enjoy a game. I know Jack would enjoy throwing a disc around. Most courses are located in woodsy-scenic areas. Perfect for nature discoveries. Better bring our Nature Basket.

If you’re not into discin,’ a game of family soccer or flag football could do the trick. Take a trip to a school’s fields, local park or other open space. There’s plenty of that in Michigan.

4. Spend an Evening in the Woods: Hunting in the fall is big game in Michigan. Men perched in trees. Trucks parked on wooded roadsides. Deer scampering in the approaching crisp climate.

When I was little, my Dad and I used to walk to a nearby cornfield during fall evenings as the sun snuck away. We’d situate on a large rock, quiet & still. As the orange sky began to fade, the deer would softly filter through the fields. It was magical. A picture painted in my memory forever.

Find the nearest open field, cornfield or wooded area frequented by deer. Take a blanket and camp out with the kid(s) until dusk approaches. By sitting still as hunters, you’re bound to catch a real-life view of nature’s creatures.

5. Take Family Fall Photos Fun: Every September as we prepare for Jack’s birthday, I’m reminded that we need to take our annual family photos. Fall offers the perfect backdrop for family photos. Grab your favorite photographer and take a nature walk, feed the ducks at the local park or throw leaves in your backyard. The fall colors do all the hard work. All you have to do is dress cozy and have fun.


Bear Room Final Phase: The Great Outdoors

Jack’s love of the outdoors is now living in his customized outdoors-themed bedroom. Black bears. Camping blankets. Rocks from Lake Huron. A tiny wood table. Fishing. And a cozy warm-by-the-fire feel. Fit for an outdoorsman.

We'd finished it just in time for his birthday. And he's been sleeping soundly & dreaming in there since.

Light switch cover: Amazon.com
Don’t Wake the Bear Wood Painting: Cabin Fever online shop. The original inspiration for the room remodel.

Bed, Trundle & Dresser, Enormous Stuffed Bear, Sheets & Blanket:

Gone Fishing Pillow: Cabin Fever online shop

Locus Wood Shelf (Above bed): Wood Shop on Etsy.
Deer Antler: Found by Justin in our back woods
J: Clearance at Kohl’s. Found by my Mom
Bear Figurine: Kohl’s. Birthday gift from Aunt Jess

Tin Wall Hangings: Cabin Fever online shop (link above)
Lake Huron Rocks: (see "Lake Huron Rocks")
Glass Jar: Michael’s
Bear/Cabin Bedside Lamp: Amazon.com
Turtle Night Light: Target

Valances: Our own creation. After measuring our windows, we purchased wood cut-to-size at Home Depot. We cut a mattress pad cover to provide a softer look and pulled fabric over it all, stapling it all in place.


Tree Wall Hanging: Purchased for Jack’s nursery from the Ann Arbor Art Fair, 2009.
Personalized Bookcase: Christmas present from family in Kentucky.
Tiny Toddler Table: Ikea, LATT children's table & 2 chairs. It was originally a white top, so we covered it with light wood contact paper. Chairs too.
Cherry Wood Rocking Chair: Passed from my Mom, to me, to Jack.
Turtle Star Glow Light: Babies R Us (Actually a baby shower gift). Every night it’s placed on Jack’s bed and he falls asleep to the amber glow, which turns dark after 15 minutes or so. Eco-friendly.
I adore Jack’s new room. More than the nursery. Starting to realize that each phase of his life is more thrilling & warming than the last.

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