Monday, January 31, 2011

A little bit of love makes the world go 'round

Free printable gift tags--available HERE

I've had a rule for myself about comments for quite some time now.

This is the rule:
Don't talk about comments on the blog.

Simple enough, right?  And I've had the rule for multiple reasons, but mostly because I personally think it's not so tactful to talk about/beg for comments on your own blog.  Just my personal opinion.

But today I'm going to break that rule.  Not to beg for comments, but to just discuss them a little bit.  I hope you'll hear me out.

A couple of weeks ago I was in a funk.  About blogging.  It was right about the time I changed my layout (which helped) and revised my sponsorship contracts to be a whole lot better (which also helped).  And I've been feeling much better about it all since then, but for a little while I was just, well, in a funk.

I talked to Bryan about it.  He's both a good listener and a good helper/fixer at the same time.  I've always loved that about him.  And as he listened to me talk through some things on several occasions he said, "You've been really emotional about your blog lately.  I don't know why."

He was right.  I had been really emotional about my blog lately.  But I didn't know why either.

Although one lame excuse did keep coming to mind and it was this:

I wasn't getting as many comments.

Really?  A lack of comments was contributing that much to all the emotions over my blog?

I felt sheepish about it.  Well, let's be honest here, I felt outright dumb about it.  To get emotional about something that doesn't even really exist.  Or does it?

It's a funny thing we do--living in the future.  Leaving aside the aliens, time travel, and teleporting (which I will be ecstatic about when the time comes), the lives we live have already far surpassed the expectations of our ancestors.  And our lives have complexities they never dreamed of.

How to keep up a piece of real estate that you can't set foot on?  How to be tactful about things that come into (and go out of) existence with the click of a button?

It's tricky business sometimes.  And, like anything in life--whether it's tangible or not--it can have real impact on our lives, on our feelings.

Now, what this post is not is a mopey post about not having enough comments and boohoo to me.  Because I honestly don't feel that way.  I'm honored and delighted by the comments you leave.  You remind me each day how wonderful this big world is and just how many nice people there are in it.

What this post is is a reminder of all the good we can do in the lives of others, even in small and simple ways.

After my own little realization about how effective comments can be in lifting others up I decided to really take it full circle and put my thoughts into action.  And this, once again, was largely due to one of Bryan's thoughtful observations.

A very whiny Me: "Sometimes it just feel like nobody leaves comments on my blog anymore.  I put all this time and energy into the things I share and then it seems like nobody really appreciates it."

Bryan: "Well, do you leave comments on everything you see that you like?"

Bryan made a good point.  And it's that that I've been trying to put into action lately.

In other words, I've really been making a conscious effort lately to comment on the things I see on others' blogs that brighten my day.  Because they do put a lot of time and effort into the things they share.  And I do appreciate it.  The things I see on others blogs inspire me and challenge me and make me smile and laugh.  And it makes me sad to think of all the times I've just clicked away--closed the tab, shut the computer, moved on to something else--without so much as a "Thanks!  I like this!"

Sometimes it can be intimidating to leave comments.  To say something to somebody that you've never met.

Will they care what I have to say?  Will I be accepted here?

The more I've commented on others blogs, the more the answer rings out loud and clear--YES!  People love feedback, especially when it's positive.  I've loved all the fun little reply e-mails from other bloggers who's blogs I've commented on lately.  It's like making new friends.  And it's great to know that I could give back a little to all they've done to share their work with me.

So, my message today is this:

There are so many good people out there.  There are so many good ideas out there.  Perpetuate that good.  Leave good comments.

Online stuff doesn't always seem "real."  But the good that comes from it all most certainly is.  :)

Sweet New Ride

Olivia has always been nuts about dolly strollers, but we held off on getting one for her until she could actually walk.  (We're sticklers, I know.)  But since she's been walking for a while now, we've been on the lookout for one.  We checked out buying one brand new from a couple different stores, but I was less than impressed by the selection and the price tag ($10 at the very cheapest).  So when we hit the jackpot on a dolly stroller graveyard at one of the local thrift stores, we picked one out and brought it home.  For $2.99.

The frame of the stroller is in perfect shape, and even though the fabric it came with was ugly (a gross purple with orange-tinted butterflies), it was holding up pretty well too.  ...Or so I thought.  It had a fatal rip the first night we brought it home.  I had already planned on making a new cover at some point (inspired by this tutorial I saw a while back), but that rip brought a new stroller cover up to the top of the project list.

By the next day, Olivia had a fun *new* stroller to play with.

To make the new cover, this is basically what I did:
  • Carefully picked out the stitches around the existing purple stroller straps so I could reuse them.
  • Carefully cut apart the old cover, cutting at the seams.
  • Used those pieces as pattern pieces--pinned them right onto the new fabric and cut around them, adding a bit for seam allowances.
  • Sewed the seat bottom to the seat back.
  • Cut and sewed strips of bias tape for the little loops on top.
  • Pinned the straps in place.
  • Pinned the bias tape strips in place.
  • Sewed bias tape around all raw edges.
  • And done!

Although I realized after I was sewing it together that, though my fabric choice here was cute, it was not very wise.  This fabric is pretty thin and is likely to rip easily.  Unfortunately, I foresee myself making another one of these in the future.  So, just in case, I saved the original seat cover pieces in a bag with my other patterns so I can use it next time too.  And I think next time I'll use much more heavy-duty fabric.

Still, in the mean time, Olivia loves it!  And it really is cute.  :)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mormon Messages: Create

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Heart Sweatshirt

While we're on the topic of clothes I've made for Olivia lately, I thought I'd share a few pictures of the little sweatshirt I made for her a few weeks ago.

Sadly, the pictures didn't turn out quite as great as I'd hoped.  But that's what happens when you take pictures of a toddler.  They move.  Without warning.  So things get blurry.  Such is life.  And such is my excuse for the not-so-great quality of these pictures.  Feel free to lie and say that they are awesome examples of impressive photography.  (I mean, you know, if you want.)

This pattern gets five stars from me.  This is the second time I've made a sweatshirt from it (since I got super lucky and won it from a giveaway a long time ago).  It's a dream to follow with lots of pictures and step-by-step instructions.  And it follows a super easy method for construction.  Always a big plus.  The only reason I haven't made more is simply because Olivia doesn't outgrow anything, so we haven't really needed more sweatshirts for her.

I made this particular sweatshirt out of three old t-shirts.  One green one, one stripey one, and one plain white one (seen on the hood lining and the little side tag).

I also used a freezer paper stencil (my own free-hand drawing) to add the little heart.  I mean, she is a girl after all.

Oh, and I made those sweet little shoes using this wonderful pattern from Winter Peach.

Despite my terrible job at photographing it, this really is a great sweatshirt.  :)

We love it.  :)

Kimono Shirt #2

Okay, okay, so it looks a little like a hospital gown.  Or some nurse's scrubs...
After having such great success making the first kimono shirt for Olivia, I thought I'd try another.  This time, instead of using old t-shirts for fabric, I used an old sheet.  (Apparently I have a thing for making new things out of old things lately.) 

I basically made the shirt following this method, but differed in the following ways:

  • Since I was using an old sheet, I just lined up the bottom edge of the sleeves and the bottom edge of all shirt pieces with the existing hem on the sheet.  This made it so I didn't have to hem anything or add any bias tape around the sleeve edges.  Jawsome.

  • Rather than having the bias tape go in one continuous piece all the way down the front edges, I just did a piece of bias tape going from the bottom edge up to the armpit (the place where it turns).  Then I did another piece of bias tape that went all the way around from the end of one tie, around the top of the front, around the back neckline, and back around to the other side of the front and the tie on the opposite side.  (Hope that makes sense.)  That way I didn't have to cut and sew extra tie pieces. 
  • I omitted the cute little pleats on the sleeves.  Well, initially I did include the cute little pleats, but I was making the shirt when Olivia was sleeping and when I tried it on her the next morning it was kind of a tight squeeze with the pleats, so I had to take them out.  (Sigh.) 

Other than the fact that it really does bear a striking resemblance to hospital attire, I'm very pleased with how it turned out.  Mainly because... fits her!

That always means success in my book.   
(Because you know how much that is not always the case.)

And here's a little tribute to all of you fellow-sewers out there without sergers. 
Yes, all of these seams just have a little zig zag finish.  And, yes, I feel lame about that.  But you know what?  It's okay.  Things can still be worth making even without a serger.  (I think I need to write that on something and hang it in front of my face while I sew.)

And besides, once it's on Olivia, who would ever know?

Nobody.  That's who. 

(Well, except you of course.  But that's only because I told you.  You know what I mean.)

Final verdict:
Kimono shirt success #2

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Five things every girl should know about having an emergency C-section

Olivia and me at the hospital
Edited to add: Having an "emergency" C-section doesn't necessarily mean you were rushed to the hospital in an ambulance or something like that.  In my case (and in many cases) it's more accurate to refer to it simply as being "unplanned."

I know a lot of women right now who are about to deliver any moment.  So, while I'm definitely not pregnant myself, I have been thinking a lot about pregnancy lately.  And while I'm hopeful (and with every reason to be) that all of these women I know will have wonderful, regular deliveries of their little ones, I am a firm believer in prospective parents knowing a few things about having a C-section.

First, though, a little background info on my own C-section.  Because I think you should understand your source.

If you want to read a little about my/Olivia's birth story and why I needed to have a C-section, skip down to the bottom.  I'm including it for those who are interested, but in case you're pregnant and sick of birth stories and this is already freaking you out, you can skip that part if you want.  And I'll just continue on to what I think you really need to know.

Let me begin by saying that I'm not the research type.  We had one of those pregnancy books that I bought out of excitement, but I didn't actually spend much time looking through it.  I skimmed over the occasional "your baby is this big right now blah blah blah," but that was about it.  And--whoa--did the chapters on regular deliveries and C-sections ever freak me out.  Suffice it to say, I was not a know-it-all when it came to pregnancy.

Or delivery.  Bryan and I took one birthing class which proved to be more informative than practical.  The rest of my information about delivery came from what I remember to be a very short conversation with my sister.  And it is the contents of that conversation which I would like to pass on to you all now.  But let me preface this information by saying that I'm not putting it out there to terrorize you.  I'm sharing this so that, if you do happen to have an emergency C-section, you will be significantly less freaked out about it.  Okay, here we go.

1. Make sure you have someone (other than a nurse) to be with you after the baby is born.
This may seem fairly obvious, but I honestly hadn't thought about it until my sister mentioned it to me.  See, after your sweet baby is born, your husband will be given the choice of either A.) staying with you or B.) going with the baby to give her a bath and do all that fun stuff.

We knew ahead of time that we wanted Bryan to be able to go with Olivia, so I asked my sister to stay with me.  And I am so, so glad I did.  I'll leave out as much of the cringe-worthy details as possible, and just say that, including a painful start to an epidural and whatever other stuff I went through, the worst pain I experienced during the entire labor process was the pain I experienced right after they wheeled me back from the operation room and into my regular delivery room.  On a scale of 1-10, the pain was somewhere way beyond the realm of numbers.  And there was no nurse in there.  It was just me and my sister.  And I would not have been able to reach for a nurse call button even if I wanted to, so I was so grateful that my sister was there to keep calling the nurse and telling her to get her booty in there to take care of me.

And in case you're freaked out (or maybe just curious) I was in so much pain because the epidural and other nice drugs they had given me for the operation had worn off and they were waiting on approval from the pharmacy before they could give me the next thing to help with the pain.  Not like they couldn't have totally seen that coming before the other stuff wore off (don't even get me started on that) but apparently this seems to be a regular policy.  Lame, I know.

So make sure you have someone to stay with you.

2. You will be strapped down during the operation.
In order to keep you from moving when you shouldn't during the operation, they will strap your arms down (you'll already be numb from the waist down anyway--or at least I was).  And they won't be strapped down to your side, it'll be with your arms out, away from your body.

Being strapped down this way will feel scary, but just know that everything will be okay.

3. You will shiver (a lot)
Because your body loses so much heat (your baby, your bodily fluids, your organs being taken out of you and then put back in) and because it happens so fast, your body will shiver.  And it will be more intense than any kind of shivering you've experienced before.  Combine that with your arms being strapped down away from your body and it may conjure up the mental image of someone laying on their back and trying to use their arms to take off like an airplane.  This is about what it will feel like.  And it can be a little scary.  But, again, everything will be okay.

4. The anesthesiologist is your friend.
During the actual C-section, the anesthesiologist doesn't actually have much to do.  So their job is to be your friend.  And they are very good at it.  They sit by your head and tell you that you're doing a great job and that everything will be okay.  Anesthesiologists are nice.  And they don't lie.  You are doing a great job.  And everything really will be okay.

5. The more you walk, and the sooner you walk, the less your scar will hurt
My sister (who had had two emergency C-sections) told me that with her first baby, all she wanted to do was sit as much as possible and baby her scar so it wouldn't hurt.  And she was in pain and had a hard time really getting around for at least a month.

With her second baby, she got up later that day (after he was born) and took just a few steps.  It was all she could handle, but she did what she could.  And each day she'd walk just a little bit more to keep things moving.  And she healed exponentially faster.

After I had Olivia I followed my sister's advice.  I got up and got moving later that day.  Just walked around my hospital room.  And each day I could walk a little more and things didn't hurt so much.  And I healed really fast. 

I hope I haven't totally freaked you out.  Again, I didn't write this with that intention.  I wrote it for those of you out there who may not have a big sister to go on a walk with and tell you what to expect.  I know that, for me, knowing these things ahead of time made such a big difference for me--mentally, emotionally, and physically. 
Olivia and Daddy in her first days at home
Ok, on to the birth story and why I needed a C-section at all...

Note: Out of four girls in my family, three of us have had C-sections.

When I finally went into labor with Olivia (after my due date--bah) my contractions warranted a trip to the hospital, but once I got there I wasn't really progressing well enough to have the baby on my own.  Given the option to go home and keep working at it on my own or stay at the hospital and have some pitocin to help things along, I chose the "don't send me home I just want to have this baby" option.  So they started the pitocin.  Then it was putting the baby in distress, so they stopped the pitocin.  Somewhere along the way (I honestly don't remember, but I think it was before they stopped the pitocin) I chose to have an epidural.  The pain from the contractions actually wasn't that bad yet, but I decided to get the epidural before the pain intensified.  And, given my personal circumstances, this was a wise choice.

I remember at some point (toward the beginning of the whole ordeal) asking the nurse about how much longer she thought it would be before I had the baby.  She told me that, of course she couldn't be sure, but she thought I'd have the baby no later than that evening.  She said a specific time (which I can't remember at the moment) and I remember watching that time come up on the clock and then sinking into despair as I watched the clock keep ticking on, with still no baby on the outside of me yet.  And as the clock kept ticking this thought kept playing over and over in my mind, like a broken record stuck on panic: "I don't want to be cut open.  I don't want to be cut open."

I knew it was coming, but my coping skills were shutting down.  Having an emergency C-section is a complete emotional drain.  That's not one of my numbered points listed above, but that really is the first thing you should know about having an emergency C-section.  Because it's not what you plan on.  It's not what you hope for and dream about.  And coming to terms with that is what I think is--emotionally--the hardest part.

My doctor came in and told me he was going to have to do a C-section.  I cried.  Which I think startled him, actually.  Haha.  He said that her head was just too big and she wasn't going to fit.  I only ever dilated to an 8.  Then they got me into the operating room and started getting things ready while Bryan got suited up.

And, by the way, real operating rooms are not the way they always look in the movies and on tv shows.  On the big screen, operating rooms are always kind of dim and calm (and there's always a big window for people to look in through--why is that?).  But in reality, operating rooms (or at least the one I was in) are bright and not pretty and very COLD.  It's not a dreamy place to have a dramatic conversation with the occasional "Scalpel!" thrown in.  It's an operating room.

And by the time I found myself in the operating room it was well into those wee hours of the morning.  I had been in labor for almost an entire day.  I was exhausted in every way possible.

Things happened quickly after that.  They put up a big blue sheet so I wouldn't have to/be able to see anything.  And I was glad about that.  Bryan got to peek over and watch it all happen.  He said it was amazing, watching her come out.  Medically-assisted miracles are still miracles.

And although it's an abrupt ending, I'm going to stop there.  Because I think anything more would just be blabbing about a birth story and not really anything very helpful to you.

I wish you all the best in your own birth experiences.  
May you never need to put this advice to any practical use.  :) 

Much love (and hang in there all you pregnant ladies),

Purse with Pockets

My old purse was starting to wear on me.  I've loved it for at least a good year or so and used it almost every day during that year.  But I needed a change.  My old purse was fun.  But it was a blob.  And it was beginning to drive me nuts.

Then, a week or two ago, Bryan put in a request for a new school bag.  More specifically, a messenger bag.  After one failed attempt at making him one out of pants (like Chris' bag) I suggested we go and just buy fabric for it.  Luckily, I'm terrible at calculating how much fabric I'll need, and we bought way too much.  So after I finished Bryan's bag (it turned out great by the way, but I haven't been able to take any pictures of it yet, seeing as how he loves it and uses it every day), there was still quite a bit of fabric left over.  And it was pretty gray corduroy.

Ahem.  What I mean to say is, it's handsome, mature, masculine corduroy that Bryan's school bag is made of.  It was just the leftover pieces that were pretty.

Anyway, after talking to Bryan and making sure he would still love his bag just as much if I were to make a matching purse for myself (he said it was fine) I got to work.  No tutorial since I was totally making it up as I went, but perhaps there will be one in the future.  Perhaps.

Anyway, enough chit chat.  On with the grand tour of my new purse!
Back (with one of my handmade tags)
Handy dandy side pocket

A peek at all the great front pockets

The ever-useful permanently-attached key fob

And now, let's see this baby in action...
Keys!  Easily accessible for unlocking/locking car or home.

Zipper pocket--for do dads (and the occasional feminine necessities)

The big inside pocket!  Featuring (from left to right): my water bottle, Olivia's sippy cup, my wallet, Olivia's diaper changing gear.

The many many wonderful front pockets all decked out in my daily necessities.

This pocket is perfect for my camera.  Unfortunately, I can't have it in there and take a picture of it at the same time.  You'll just have to use your imagination.

I used my new purse for the first time yesterday and I am definitely in love.  Everything is so much more accessible.  And the few things that do end up in the big pocket stay put much better.  Sometimes we just need a little bit of structure in our lives.  Even if we're things like diapers, wipes, water bottles, and wallets. :)

Three cheers for organization!  
And a fun new purse!
(with cute lining)