Andy’s Journey

I have been holding onto this story for a while – guarding it with my Mama Bear paws. This innate desire to protect my child is not unique to me. However, through this parenthood journey I have found that my most vulnerable moments have lead to my most powerful connections. I have decided to lean into this discomfort and embrace what comes out of it.

Today is International Children’s Growth Awareness Day which feels like just the push I needed.

I have been struggling with what and how much to share since this not entirely my story – it’s really Andy’s story. And she’s not of an age yet to voice her opinions about what she is comfortable with sharing publicly.

I’ve discussed this hesitation with my husband who shrugged it off and made a very valid point: This is not something we want Andy to ever be embarrassed of. It is who she is.

So, I share with you today: the story of our family.

Enjoying our local public library, August 2018 (Andy at 7-months-old).

Jeremy and I were wide-eyed and bushy-tailed as we went into our 12-week gestational appointment. This was the appointment where we’d be able to opt into genetic testing – testing that would reveal to us the gender of our growing baby.

I had tossed the idea of keeping the gender a surprise (opting out of the genetic testing), but Jeremy quickly objected and we agreed that finding out was best for both of our personalities. 🙂

Our giddiness deflated pretty fast as the Nurse Practitioner who performed the ultrasound explained to us that the amount of fluid at the back of our baby’s neck was just at the minimum measurement for concern (i.e. it may be nothing, but it could be something).

My world started spinning.

As my mind raced through what this may mean, I looked over at my husband and saw the joy disappear from his eyes. He was no longer listening. He, too, was spiraling.

I don’t remember much of what was said after that point, but I remember trying really hard to be strong for our little family – there were three of us depending on that right now.

It’s been so long I barely remember how the moments after this played out, but I know I cried hysterically by myself at some point. And I know Jeremy definitely had his own intense moments of processing the news.

A few days later I got a call. I stepped out of my office and started walking the block around our building. The same thoughtful Nurse Practitioner who had performed the ultrasound was making this fateful call to me.

She handed me the news gently like the unknown gift it was: Our daughter (it was a girl!) had Turner syndrome.

Immediately I felt dumbfounded – what on Earth was this?! I’d never heard of it (which is no surprise: it is pretty rare – affecting about 1 in every 2,500 girls – source: Kids Health).

My only response was “What’s the quality of life for a girl with Turner syndrome?”

She let out the faintest hint of a chuckle and exclaimed “it’s usually good! They can live completely normal lives.” She described complications our baby may have or issues she may face (that would be lifelong), but all-in-all, this diagnosis was fine – we would be fine.

Andy at 1.5-months-old {Fun fact: I made this hooded towel from a towel wrap I never used}

So, what is Turner syndrome?

Generally speaking, females have two complete X chromosomes in each cell. Females with Turner syndrome are missing a complete or partial X chromosome.

The most consistent features of TS are short stature and lack of ovarian development, however, there are other symptoms and characteristics that can appear in varying degrees, depending on each person’s unique genetic makeup. – source: Turner Syndrome Society

While Turner syndrome is a genetic condition, it is not inherited (despite the fact that I am also very short 😉 ).

I am oversimplifying my description of Turner syndrome because (frankly): I’m no expert. There are amazing resources out there if you are interested in learning more about it: The Turner Syndrome Society & the Turner Syndrome Foundation are two personal favorites.

  • THIS is a really good video about what it’s like for youth living with TS.

Andy at almost 3-months-old {yep, asleep in the yard}

I have said it a few times and I know it is very blunt, but this is the best worst-case-scenario after an appointment like that. My heart breaks for the families who go through such an experience only to receive devastating news. I may not know your struggle, but I know the fear you felt. I know the decisions you faced. My husband and I stared them in the face. It was a dark place to find yourself during one of the “happiest times of your lives.”

A few weeks later we met with a Genetic Counselor. She was amazing. Not only did she explain Turner syndrome to us in a very-technical-but-easy-to-understand way, but she was so warm and understanding.

She also explained the lab results in more detail: At this point, the chances of Andy actually having Turner syndrome was closer to 50% – really a flip of the coin. The only way to know for sure was amniocentesis (testing the amniotic fluid during pregnancy) or waiting until Andy was born (to test her blood).

Because of the risks associated with amniocentesis (which are still very low, btw) and the fact that the results wouldn’t change our decision to continue with the pregnancy or impact the path of care we were/would be receiving, we decided to wait until Andy was born to have her cord blood tested for TS.

Andy at almost 4-months-old.

The Genetic Counselor and her group followed my pregnancy until we were released around the beginning of the third trimester. Their ultrasound technician was the happiest person I think I have ever met and every time she found Andy’s heartbeat and confirmed her organs were functioning as they should she cheered.

Her contagious, uncontrolled excitement could have been because she knew the statistics.

My sister and Jeremy had found them too. They ran across the stats when we first found out.

Approximately 98% of fetuses conceived that have Turner syndrome will spontaneously miscarry early in pregnancy. – source: Turner Syndrome Society

During pregnancy, I refused to google anything. I wanted to put my head down and do.the.work. I knew we were fine – I was going to do all that I could to ensure a healthy pregnancy for both souls sharing my body.

Plus, as a researcher by trade, I couldn’t bring myself to believe that was a real statistic, but apparently it is (I’m not going to go into the research I finally did after Andy was born, but it’s a real stat).

Andy’s first 4th of July {almost 6-months-old}

The potential of losing Andy held me back emotionally. Subconsciously knowing the odds were stacked against her forced me to retreat into myself. My therapist once told me that I do a pretty good job of putting myself in a protective bubble when I need to. I definitely did this during pregnancy.

BUT…

Andy arrived.

Safe and healthy.

And a post-birth echocardiogram confirmed what the ultrasounds had indicated: she did not have any cardiac issues (this is at the top of the list of concerns for TS babies).

However, it would be a few days before we would hear the results from testing Andy’s cord blood for TS.

Andy around 7-months-old {Her great-Aunt & great-Grandma sent this dress from England. I made the bow!}

As anyone’s first few days with a newborn are, they were a fog. One evening, my friend (and Andy’s pediatrician) called. It was a little late for office hours so I wasn’t sure she was calling with the results. But she was.

She told us that Andy did, in fact, have Turner syndrome, but she has what is called “mosaicism.” Only about 50% of her cells are affected.

Mosaicism is when some cells in the body have two complete copies of the X chromosome. Other cells have only one copy of the X chromosome. – source: Mayo Clinic

At this point, we had done enough research to have an idea of what living with Turner syndrome might be like. We knew Andy would have lots of doctor’s appointments (yep) and she may be low on her growth curve (yep, but as her pediatrician says “she’s following the curve which is all we ask” and “Jordan, you’re short. She was always going to be small.”).

Andy at 7-months-old {also, mama-made bow}

So, what now?

Right now, Andy is doing amazing. She is 8-months-old and following her milestones. She’s small, but so am I. I know how to function in a world built for tall people. I will teach her all of my tricks (like having her Dad reach everything) and buy her own folding step stool so she can carry it around the house like I have to 😉 (…and hem all of her pants).

We feel so incredibly lucky to not only have Andy here, but to have her diagnosis so early. We didn’t have to wait until she had a handful of issues pointing to TS. Andy is being followed by a wonderful medical team. We have the luxury of prevention and early intervention. We are so grateful for this.

Andy at 7-months-old.

Life is so incredible.

One of my coworkers has a daughter who lost her hearing as a baby. She has cochlear implants and is doing amazing. Whenever we discuss the girls she always tells me “God gives us our special babies for a reason.”

Andy was always meant to be ours. This was always supposed to be our journey. Life was always going to play out like this for us. We are not in control. The universe has a plan for us and we are trusting in that – because so far we have not been let down.

Andy at 6.5-months-old.

Finding our community

The desire to share this story more widely has been pulling on my heart. Close friends and family were following our journey all along. They prayed for us, held our hands, and didn’t question us relentlessly about it but gave us the space to share what we wanted to when we wanted to (to all of you: you mean more to our family than you will ever know).

When we first found out Andy had TS, someone said to me “I know you have tons of support, but you need to find your community. We will support you in any way you need, but none of us will know what you are going through. You need to find other parents with daughters who have TS. They will be able to relate to you.”

For the past few months I have been on a journey to find that community.

In the spring, I ran across information for the Turner Syndrome National Conference. I told my husband about it as a “tuck this in our back pocket as something we can take Andy to one day,” but in true Jeremy fashion he immediately insisted that I go. He knows I hate to trust the internet with medical concerns and I want to hear about TS straight from the doctors, physicians, researchers, and women living with TS. We weren’t quite ready to travel with Andy so he suggested I take my sister for a girls weekend.

I told my sister and before we could even make plans, she had already emailed the conference hosts for information about sessions. {She is literally the most amazing person on the planet. I wish everyone could have a Katie.}

In July, my sister and I attended the conference. The best part was seeing all the women and girls – of all ages – living and thriving with Turner syndrome. They were (& are!) amazing. They embraced each other in the most heart-warming ways. We met other families and connected with parents of daughters with TS that I am still in contact with.

While I am absolutely thrilled about the connections we made, I have been struggling to find and connect with families of girls with TS around Andy’s age (she’s 8 months old now!) in or around our area (South Carolina). As someone who is absolutely relentless in my pursuits of just about anything, if I am having a hard time finding this community, I KNOW there are others out there having the same struggle.

Our lives are much messier now, but so very fulfilled. {Andy at 7.5-months-old}

If you know someone affected by Turner syndrome, please share this post with them. If you are that person, reach out! Let’s connect – you can find all my information here.

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What I’m Lovin’ in August

Does August always feel like summer’s Sunday? It’s still summer-level-hot where I’m at, but that doesn’t mean I’m not giddy that fall is just around the corner!

Ch-ch-ch-chaaaannnnggeess

Did that make you start singing?! 

I realized while constructing this month’s post that most all of “what I’m lovin’” fall into one of two buckets: Sewing/Creativity or Motherhood. In true Type A fashion, I’ve decided to start organizing my monthly What I’m Lovin’ posts into sections. Because some things I’m lovin’ may not fit into either of those 2 categories, I’ll start the list with my un-categorized loves (aka: the random things I’m lovin’). After I share those, I’ll separate the things into 2 sections: Sewing/Creativity & Motherhood.

As a follower of many blogs (and many blogs whose content evolves along with the blogger…like this one), I was hoping this would help you – as the reader. Whether you are following this blog for sewing content or my ramblings about parenthood, now you can hop-skip-jump right to the section you’re interested in when it comes to reading all about what I’ve been lovin’ that month.

This will be the first post organized into the sections so please share your feedback!

Random Things I’m Lovin’ this Month

1. Adopting Zero Waste Habits

Photo Credit: Jess With Less

I ran across these 10 Zero Waste Habits that will save you money a few weeks ago and found them really helpful! There are several I’m working to adopt – like storing my leftovers in glass jars (and reusing glass jars more often instead of tossing them carelessly into the recycling bin) and using a safety blade razor.

2. This friend and all the work he is doing around body positivity

Kelvin {aka Notoriously Dapper} and I attended the same high school. Following his blog over the past few years and watching his status in the male-modeling-world grow has been really refreshing. He is doing some really incredible work around body positivity and I love reading the messages he shares on Instagram.

{Click the image to read an article from The State about his latest work}

3. This diffuser

I’ve had this diffuser for three years (still love it!), but I have found myself recommending it a lot recently so I thought I’d share it here 🙂

Dare I say: I like it better than the super expensive version that came with my oil subscription. I admit that I haven’t been using essential oils as much as I used to, but I have a ton and reach for them often. Diffusing is definitely my preferred use.

If you are looking for diffuser-blend-inspiration, my sister & I have some idea saved on our Pinterest board. My favorite is lavender – plain and simple. It’s my very favorite oil for everything.

Motherhood

4. No longer saying or listening to someone say “oh, you just wait”

Earlier this month I shared a post (rant?) about why I will not be saying “you just wait” to anyone. Shortly after, a friend shared this article with me – apparently I’m not the only one who finds this saying annoying.

And whether you are running a marathon, doing yoga or taking a walk down the street – I can assure you you’ll have zero regrets you ignored the nay-sayers of the world and did your thing.

Live in the moment… in YOUR experience (don’t let someone else’s experience cloud your view).

{Click the image if you want to read my post 😉 }

5. These reasons why no mother should ever feel guilty about having a Cesarean Birth

This was my favorite quote from the article:

C-section mothers should be extra proud of themselves. When offered the choice between risk to their unborn baby and risk to themselves, they chose taking on the risk in an effort to protect the baby. If that isn’t the essence of motherhood, I don’t know what is.

Photo Credit {because I did not look anywhere close to this poised after birth}

I do not feel guilt about how Andy was born. The shame and stigma around C-sections / Cesarean births / Belly births needs to go.the.fluff.away.

No matter how I got there, I’d made it to the finish line of my pregnancy, and won the real prize: A healthy baby.

6. This article about rebranding motherhood

I found so.much.truth. in this article! Like the author, I have found myself in quiet moments confessing to myself that I am enjoying this journey. Parenthood is so different than what I expected (and different in the best way).

Sewing / Creativity

7. This post about doing something [sew / knit / quilt / eat eggs] for the joy of it

Without space and time and joyous freedom, my work as a human, not just as a mother, is substandard.

I felt like I could really relate to Felicia’s message in this post. We are so often stretched thin with tasks we “must” do.

Over the past few weeks I have felt a little shift. One Sunday I found myself sewing into the evening finishing a quick little project to be gifted to a coworker. I should’ve been getting Andy ready for her nightly routine, but instead she was rolling around under her baby gym – having a great time entertaining herself. My husband was upstairs cooking dinner. My dogs were taking their thirtieth nap of the day somewhere in the house. And I was downstairs lost in the process of sewing – feeling pure joy in the process.

I had to stay up a little late to get my things ready for the week, but it was worth it.

Sometimes we need a little reminder that being lost in our own moments of joy is worth the sacrifice of all the “shoulds.”

What have you been lovin’ this month? Let me know in the comments so I can jump on your bandwagon!

{Catch up on all of my monthly What I’m Lovin’ posts here.}

5 Ways to Make Your Sewing More Eco-Friendly

After stumbling upon #plasticfreejuly, I’ve been feeling super inspired to decrease my family’s wasteful behaviors. {Easier said than done when you have a baby in diapers.}

Since I can’t control how often my husband buys bottled water at the gas station, I started reflecting on things that are in my control – what can I do to decrease my impact on the planet?

Because sewing is my self-care and something that I do a lot of, I felt like it was the perfect area to focus on improving.

“Zero waste” feels completely un-achievable (for me), but I am a firm believer that small steps add up to a big impact. So, today I’m sharing 5 totally-manageable, realistic ideas to help you become a more environmentally-friendly sewist.

FIRST, what do I mean by “eco-friendly”?

According to Dictionary.com, ecofriendly is…

having a beneficial effect on the environment or at least not causing environmental damage

I like this! It feels achievable – don’t we all want to live a life that benefits the environment?! (If you answered No, this may not be the post for you! 😉 )

Like with just about anything, there is always room for improvement – sewing is no exception.

Below are 5 environmentally-friendly ideas to influence your sewing habits.

1. Sew reusable items

Is there something disposable that you use regularly? Is there a way you could make a reusable version?

Example: I pack my lunch/snacks everyday for work. I like to wrap my silverware so they stay clean. For a brief time, I was using paper towels for this. Then it occurred to me that I could (DUH) make some reusable napkins to wrap my silverware. So I did. They were super easy to make and opening my lunch box to find fun fabric peaking out at me makes me so happy. Win-win.

There are loads of tutorials out there for sewing napkins – this is the one I used.

The utensil holder below by @greenindyblog is way fancier than mine – the flap can be used to set your food on! Genius.

{Click the image to read how this can be made!}

More ideas of reusable items to sew:

  • My friend Shanika recently shared a tutorial for making your own produce bags.

2. Alter and repair your existing garments

I can’t tell you how many garments I have made (or purchased) that just don’t fit right. I love the fabric or the style, but there’s just a little something off that’s preventing me from enjoying wearing the item.

I have a bad habit of finishing sewing a garment and being done with it forever. Rather than taking the time to take apart the garment and/or alter it so that it fits better, I either try to make it work/get used to the imperfection or hang it carelessly in the back of my closet to collect dust.

A better idea would be to take the time to alter it. And if the finished product is too small to alter to fit, you could wrap it up and gift it to a friend or rip it up and make something new (like an outfit for your little one, a bag, some coasters or any other small project) with the scraps.

Just a wee bit obsessed with how fun these mended leggings look {source}

Additionally, as garments become well-worn, take the time to repair them. I’m guilty of wearing garments with holes in them or with buttons missing because I’m lazy. I’m on a mission to love my clothes more and I need to pour the investment of time into a few of them so that they will serve me longer.

Inspiration for repairing garments:

  • This slideshow from Martha Stewart has some really great tips for how to mend knit sweaters.
  • If you have a garment with a grease-stain that has already been through the dryer, try this to remove the stain so it’s wearable again.
  • To make mending more fun, you could use fabric scraps to DIY this mending kit!
  • This mended butt.
  • Cover a hole with an embroidered patch – like this.
  • This post has some great resources to get started.
  • Visible mending is less desirable in the crotch area, but let’s be honest: if your thighs touch (hello, everyone), it’s the first place to go. Here’s some inspiration.

3. Upcycle with material you already have

I love the challenge to refashion existing garments! As proof (& hopefully inspiration): check out my Thrifted Thursday posts!

One of my very favorite upcycled sewing projects was an old t-shirt from my Grandpa that I turned into a Montlake Tee. You can read more about it in this post from Me-Made-May 2017.

Top right: My Grandpa’s original shirt | Bottom right: My freshly sewn Montlake Tee.

Taking apart a garment to then reconstruct it into something new is so much fun! It’s a challenge to fit pattern pieces into a limited amount of space, but what results is a re-purpose of something that would have become trash and very little fabric waste/scraps {look at the video in Trish Stitched’s recent post to see what I mean!}.

Need some inspiration? I got you covered:

Another idea: The other day I bought new sheets for our bed. I saved our old worn-out sheets to use to make muslins for new garment patterns I’m trying. When I create a bodice muslin, I save the fabric to reuse for a smaller project to keep reuse of the material going.

Speaking of bed sheets, if you have cool printed sheets, here’s a tutorial on how to turn them into a dress. Or if you’re like me and have boring white sheets, you could try dyeing them!

4. Make use of your scrap fabric

It’s very tempting to toss your scrap fabric because at some point you’ll run out of storage {and if you’re a neat freak like yours truly, storing scraps is a bit annoying}.

BUT Meg of @sewliberated recently shared a Metamorphic Dress that Jen made from scraps of rayon fabric that blew.my.mind.! I’m already working on a Metamorphic dress, but I may be incorporating patchwork into a future version!

This makes my heart go pitter-patter! {more photos here, here, here}

Below are more ideas for using your scrap fabric:

  • Make fabric twine – a member of one of my quilt guild’s showed us how to do this and it’s super easy! The twine is great to have on-hand for gift wrapping embellishment.
  • Use knit scraps to make a headband & woven scraps to make a neck scarf.
  • Find someone willing to use your scraps. Maybe you have a friend who sews or is learning to sew and could use scraps. Maybe you know a teacher or childcare center worker, etc. who could use scrap fabric for art projects. I have a friend who is crazy creative with scrap fabric so I pass mine on to her and at some point I will see a bag, fabric planter, shirt, etc. that she has made with fabric I recognize from my stash.
  • Make a scrunchie. {I heard they’re coming back in style so pack up your judgement and leave it at the door}
  • Make a mug rug – these are great for gifting with a coffee mug, some tea, etc. {You can download my free printable tags in this post}

Mug Rugs are perfect for fabric scraps & make great gifts!

5. Pre-wash new fabric with sheets or towels

It’s tempting to toss your new fabric by itself in the washing machine to pre-wash, but try washing it with sheets or towels that you wouldn’t mind if the new fabric bleeds/stains them. This will cut down on water waste and be more efficient overall (plus, we all love a lower water bill, right?!).

Photo borrowed from my recent purchase of the Metamorphic Dress Kit from Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics

For the safety of your fibers, try to wash your new fabric with similar material (i.e. try washing light weight / delicate fabric with bed sheets instead of towels).

What are some ways you make your sewing practice more eco-friendly? I’d love to gather more tips!

What I’m Lovin’ in July

July’s saving grace (because #WayTooHot) is that it’s my sister’s birthday month – in fact, TODAY is my sister’s birthday!! Happy Birthday to my very best friend and favorite person in the whole world.

My sister during our trip to DC this month – enjoying the hotel jacuzzi to its fullest.

This year we took a trip to Washington, DC together! It wasn’t specifically for her birthday, but it was close enough that it was the perfect excuse 🙂

1. These 10 Asheville Airbnbs worthy of a getaway from Cola Today

Asheville is one of my favorite places to visit! It’s not too far of a drive and the weather is always a little cooler which is a nice escape from the relentlessness heat of Columbia. It’s also a vegetarian foodie’s dream destination 😉

The Hubs is going to Asheville this month for a lacrosse tournament, but unfortunately I didn’t see this list until after we’d already booked his Airbnb. Hopefully next year Andy & I can tag along (or else we’ll have to make an excuse to visit soon!).

How gorgeous is the inside of this BUS?! Click on the image to go to the Airbnb listing – this one’s really neat!

2. This Weekender bag pattern

I’ve been following Trish Stitched for a long time now and absolutely love her blog! I really like her style and rely a lot on her garment sewing posts to see what kind of alterations she made to the patterns she shares (she’s also petite!). She’s really talented and I was excited to see her Weekender Bag Tutorial on fabric.com! I wish I had found time to make one of these bags before my trip to DC this month – it would’ve been perfect!

I’m definitely adding it to my queue – I’m trying to work on traveling light & this bag would be the perfect motivation 😉

3. This Peach Pie Scone recipe

Earlier this month, a friend brought me a bag of beautiful, fresh peaches!

I wanted to do more than just cut-and-freeze (my usual go-to for fresh fruit so I can toss it into smoothies). I jumped on Pinterest and searched for peach recipes and ran across this recipe for Peach Pie Scones with Vanilla Glaze. It sounded easy enough so I gave it a shot!

They were delicious! I will definitely whip up a batch of these again.

4. Sewing Baby Bows

I’m on a baby-bow-sewing kick lately. They are super easy to whip up with scrap fabric and of course Andy always needs more bows. This quick fabric bow tutorial is our favorite lately. It’s the perfect scrap buster.

Andy is wearing the 4-inch bow from this tutorial. I made hers from a Lilly Pulitzer dress I found while thrifting!

She seems fascinated with the sewing machine lately so she helped me sew a few bows for one of her friends!

Andy helping me sew a bow for her friend.

5. Our Local Library

I renewed my library card earlier this month and Andy and I have been loving visiting our local library!

Andy dressed festively for our first library visit 😉 This was during our stop in the Parent Lounge.

They recently renovated and the interior is so great. There is a lovely play area for kids and a Parent Lounge with a big, comfy chair for feeding, a changing table and a sink. I love that addition – it makes it so easy for parents to come and explore with little ones without the worry of where to feed or change them. Being that Andy is not a huge fan of the heat & humidity (who is?!), we may be spending many summer days at the library.

6. Ideas sparked from #plasticfreejuly

I recently discovered #plasticfreejuly and enjoyed browsing the hashtag for inspiration. I really love the plastic storage alternatives @ecowithem_ shared in this graphic!

Other awesome #plasticfreejuly posts:

7. Plants

I went to a Plant Swap last month {read my friend Shanika’s recap of the event here}. Andy & I were way late so we missed some of the fun, but it worked out so Andy could get lots of cuddles from one of our favorite friends (you can see pictures here).

Before | After – the plants & seeds I adopted at the Plant Swap

I took some leaves from our office succulents and propagated them a few weeks before the event. I planted them in teacups from the thrift store and gave them names and backstories (yes, I’m THAT nerdy).

Before | After – my succulent trimmings propagating in the teacups I thrifted for the Plant Swap.

If you’re a plant lover, check out these neat DIY planters from upcycled items!

8. The idea of Zero Waste Grocery Shopping

Ok, so this is not something that I am actually doing, but I am really intrigued by the idea! These Practical Tips and Ideas for Zero Waste Grocery Shopping from Green Indy are really great.

Click the image for 7 Ways to Make Zero-Waste Shopping Second Nature

In addition to the obvious (bringing reusable bags to the grocery store which I already do because they hold so much!), I plan to start attempting to shop in bulk. There are a few stores nearby that have bulk sections. I’m planning to take my own jars too! Wish me luck.

What have you been lovin’ this month? Let me know in the comments so I can jump on your bandwagon!

{Catch up on all of my monthly What I’m Lovin’ posts here.}

9 Favorite Children’s Books

Whether you have a little one (or twelve) of your own and are wondering what books you haven’t discovered yet, are expecting your first child and wondering what on Earth you’ll do to entertain them, or have friends/family with little ones you might want to get a gift for at some point, this list is for YOU!

Andy has always loved “reading” (yes, we realize our #BabyGenius cannot actually read yet). The Hubs and I genuinely love reading to her. Children’s stories are so fun – I love the rhyming and excuse to get really animated while reading (#Nerd). We started reading to her in the beginning because, honestly, what else are you going to do with a newborn? Plus, we knew how beneficial talking to her is for her language development and it’s kind of hard to come up with your own stories when the listener can’t respond yet…so books are great! 😉

Before Andy was born, my sister (who is not only a Reading Coach, but also a true love of books!) stocked our nursery with more books than we ever thought we’d read (wrong…we’ve read almost all of them. Most of them over & over). If you don’t have a book-loving sister willing to dump stacks of baby reading material on you, check out your local Facebook sales groups (Moms love to hang out in these places & they sell some pretty amazing “used” things) or browse your local thrift stores (great place to find classics!).

The books below are in no particular order – we love them all equally!

 1. Cloudette

This book is about a cloud that’s smaller than all the others (as a short gal raising a fellow tiny gal, I truly appreciated this perspective!). While she acknowledges the advantages of being small, she struggles with the limitations. In the end, she shows that with hard work she was able to make the impact on the world she wanted to.

Perfect for: the vertically challenged tots on your list 😉

Buy Cloudette here.

2. Bear Says Thanks

Bear wants to throw a feast but his cupboards are empty. One-by-one his friends show up with something to contribute to the gathering. I like this book because it shows how special time together with loved ones can be (even if you have nothing to contribute but stories – like Bear).

The first time we read this book together, it was before we were heading to gather with family for a potluck lunch. It was very appropriate!

Perfect for: Because of the theme of gratefulness and the gathering of friends (with food!), it would be a great book to read at Thanksgiving. It could also be a good book to read when learning about manners (Bear thanks each of his friends as they bring food for the gathering).

Buy Bear Says Thanks here.

 3. Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon

This is a great story about embracing what makes you unique. Molly Lou encounters a bully at her new school. Because of the confidence her grandmother has instilled in her, she knows how to handle the bully and ultimately (no surprise 🙂 ) they become friends.

Perfect for: This would be a great story for a child who is moving and/or starting a new school where they will be making new friends. Also a great story for children dealing with bullying.

Buy Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon here.

 4. Olivia and the Fairy Princesses

A few books from the Olivia series arrived on our doorstep unexpectedly one day. Andy’s Aunt Olivia had sent them to her!

While I try to be cautious about Princess-y books (and clothes and nicknames…), this story is a good one! Olivia is fed up with everyone wanting to be Princesses – honestly, I really like the way her fierce personality shines through as she rants about this.

#SpoilerAlert: I do wish that in the end she decided to be something other than a Queen (sorry for giving away the ending!). Nonetheless, this is still great inspiration for being unafraid of standing out.

Perfect for: Encouraging little ones to follow their heart – there are no wrong choices on the path to discovering who they are. While the title and cover (and most of the images) are very gendered, I think this is still a good story for both girls and boys. It’s also a great book for newborns because a lot of the interior images feature red, black and white – good contrast for little ones who can’t yet see all colors.

Buy Olivia and the Fairy Princesses here.

 5. Lily the Unicorn

The author of this story also illustrated the book which I found really impressive (having the imagination to create a meaningful story + the ability to illustrate such beautiful pictures is quite an impressive pair of skills!).

The story is [obviously] about Lily the Unicorn. She loves making new friends, but her newest friend doesn’t feel quite the same way. She works hard to find ways they can connect and shows him all the fun possibilities that await him.

Perfect for: While the cover print may make you think this is a “girly” book, I assure you: it’s one for all children! The high contrast of the drawn images inside (notice the thick black lines around the images and letters on the cover) are great for newborns. This is a great book for a wide range of ages – the pages contain short sentences/few words, but are scattered with accompanying images with smaller text…a great option to incorporate more discussion/lengthen reading time as the child gets older. The story is perfect for children who are entering a phase where they will be making news friends (i.e. starting daycare or school).

Buy Lily the Unicorn here.

6. LMNO Peas

This is the Hub’s favorite book! He reads it to Andy every morning and then sings the ABC’s to her (he is literally the best, right?!). I was hesitant to read it at first because some of the ABC books are quite boring, but this one is really creative! I love how the peas are all sorts of things (as the Hubs pointed out when he was trying to convince me to read it, there’s a quilter and a weaver!).

Perfect for: Not only learning the ABCs, but also learning about all of the cool occupations and hobbies that exist!

Buy LMNO Peas here.

7. She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World

No surprise that this book is an absolute favorite. It was one of the first books I read to Andy. The nonfiction stories within the book are truly inspiring.

There’s another version of the book, She Persisted Around the World: 13 Women Who Changed History – it’s on our wish list!

Perfect for: Any kid! But because of the strong message of female empowerment: especially girls.

Buy She Persisted here.

8. Lily Wool

I found this book when the Hubs and I took a day trip to Greenville a few weeks before Andy was born and stopped into M.Judson Booksellers.

I love the story of Lily Wool! She is an endlessly creative sheep who doesn’t fit in. She learns to use her creativity to contribute to her herd in a positive way and becomes a creative entrepreneur!

Perfect for: Inspiring young ones to follow their passions and find ways to use their creativity for good. Also a great book for those with an entrepreneurial spirit.

Buy Lily Wool here.

 9. Beautiful

This book is so cleverly illustrated! My sister got it for Andy. I love that the statements in the book are sayings that we hear about girls all the time, but the illustrations show a spin on the saying by flipping it to show basically the opposite of the stereotype. It’s really a neat book!

Perfect for: Any and every girl! The content paired with the illustrations is really powerful, but not in a hard-to-understand kind of way. It’d be a great gift to a girl in your life to show her that beauty is defined in so many ways.

Buy Beautiful here.

*Disclaimer: For convenience, I’ve included links to the books so you can buy them online, but I highly encourage you to try to find used copies OR (better yet!) visit your local library and rent them! #SaveThePlanetOneUsedBookAtATime. Also, I don’t understand affiliate links and I’m certainly not popular enough to be bribed into a good review so you can rest-assured the statements in this post are totally unbiased.

PS: I’ve posted about several of these books on Instagram. If I did, I’ve linked the picture to the original post so you can read more there and see what others shared in the comments. Just click on the pictures and they’ll take you there!

What I’m Lovin’ in June

June feels like the official start to summer (despite the temperature telling me otherwise for months now…). I’m so excited to share with you some of the things I’ve been lovin’ this month!

1. Smoked Cheddar Mac & Cheese with Baked BBQ Tofu

Image source: Oh My Veggies

This recipe is so yummy!! As someone who hasn’t tasted bacon in 6+ years, the smoked cheddar hit.the.spot.! To me, it had just the right bacon-ish taste to satisfy my cravings. I was able to find a block of smoked cheddar pretty easy at my local grocery store in the “fancy cheese” area – worth it!

If you make it, double the tofu (1 block isn’t quite enough to go with all the noodles).

The mix of the flavors in the recipe is the perfect vegetarian comfort dish!

2. These 4 ways to make your closet more earth friendly from tonlé.

I really loved this post! The tips are really great! While I love making my own clothes, sometimes that’s not always the most eco-friendly method (see hierarchy below 🙂 ). A few years ago I hosted a swap meet and it was tons of fun! I may have to host another soon…

Photo credit: tonlé

Check out the post for more tips!

3. This perspective on a “We love well-behaved children” sign

I don’t remember exactly how I discovered her, but I’ve been following Becky Vieira (@wittyotter) on Instagram for a few months now. As a new parent, my perspective on many things has really shifted. There are so many things I thought I understood before that I see now I really did not. Living the experience is a lot different – though being empathetic goes a LONG way.

Photo credit: BabyCenter blog

I’m sure I have seen a “We love well-behaved children” sign before and not given it much thought. BUT I really appreciated hearing how the sign so deeply impacted Becky’s experience at this restaurant.

4. Carving out a few minutes here & there for creativity & self-care

As you all are quite aware, I haven’t had as much time for sewing as I used to (babies have a way of stealing all of our free time, right?!). I recently saw Meg’s post on Instagram and appreciated her reminder – taking a little time here and a little time there to pinch out time for what you love (i.e. sewing!) is worth doing.

Lately I’ve been very slowly working on projects. I’ve been taking my time to enjoy the process rather than rushing through because I “need” whatever piece of clothing I’m working on. I’m trying to let the process feed what I need right now rather than fulfill a want.

Read more about how I’m balancing new motherhood, creativity & self care in this post.

5. This article about how home sewing has shifted from being a way to opt IN to the consumer fashion scene and more about opting OUT.

My favorite quote from the article:

…sewing is no longer a necessary point of access to consumer fashion but a means of changing the way they consume fashion through increased mindfulness, often with an eye toward greater authenticity and self-expression.

I also appreciated how Cayley defined the term “sewist” at the end of the post. Really a great read!

6. This quote

Someone posted this earlier in month and with all the news lately, it was so timely. When I started struggling with depression a few years ago, I realized that withdrawing socially was a pretty consistent symptom. Since then, I’ve tried to be mindful of this. Rather than feeling sorry for myself because so-and-so hasn’t reached out to me, I reach out to them. More often than not, I hear back that they have been dealing with their own issues (aren’t we all?). It’s so important to be there for those you love and sometimes it’s the ones who don’t tell you they’re struggling who are having the hardest time.

7. Plant Swap

Photo Credit: Shanika

One of my friends is hosting a Plant Swap this weekend and I am so excited! I even ordered Andy & I matching t-shirts (hers, mine), but I’m pretty sure I ordered them too late for the event 😦 so I guess we’ll have to rethink our outfits.

If you’re local, join us this weekend! Get all the event details here.

What have you been lovin’ this month? Let me know in the comments so I can jump on your bandwagon!

{Catch up on all of my monthly What I’m Lovin’ posts here.}

My new Parkside Shorts and thoughts about the postpartum body

As you all know from Andy’s Birth Story (and other musings), I’m still trying to “get to know” my postpartum body. I can’t sew as fast as I’d like, but I’m working to build a wardrobe that makes me feel good…and I’m excited to say I finally finished making my first piece of clothing post-baby!

My first postpartum handmade wardrobe staple: A pair of Parkside Shorts in Essex Linen

Due to the fact that I live in a climate that is ridiculously humid and HOT in the summer (our city is nicknamed “Famously Hot”) + my sweet, squishy baby has caused all of the shorts I enjoyed last summer (and the summers prior) to no longer fit (at least not comfortably), shorts were at the top of my sewing priority list.

Pattern

Before discovering Sew Caroline’s Parkside Shorts {read about my 1st pair here}, I thought I wasn’t a “shorts person.” Turns out – I just hadn’t found shorts that fit right. Knowing this now, I knew it would be worth the effort to construct a pair of Parkside Shorts based on my new measurements so I could comfortably get through summer.

PLUS POCKETS! I love the pockets in these shorts – they are in a comfortable position so you can rest your hands there and they’re large enough to actually hold stuff.

As you know, I had a cesarean birth which means not only do I have a pretty wicked scar, but my stomach is also still numb and tender in certain areas. That said, regular waistbands and fitted pants are not comfortable (I’m okay with that considering I don’t really wear pants all that often and loose-fitting clothes are what I gravitate to). The thick elastic waistband & the slightly higher rise of these shorts make them super postpartum friendly (I read somewhere that elastic shorts with a drawstring are a good postpartum investment so that they can continue to be worn as you “shrink” so adding the optional drawstring may have been a good idea, but I really didn’t want any negative body-talk/desires-of-bodies-past going into these shorts 😉 ).

Fabric

I’ve been very slowly working on a pair of Harrington Shorts for the Hubs using some of the Essex Linen I got from Trailer Stash Fabrics many moons ago. I had enough of the green left over to cut out a pair of Parkside Shorts for myself! {SO.. one day the Hubs & I will have matching shorts #Nerds. Maybe I’ll even make Andy a pair of matching bloomers #FamilyOfNerds}.

The material is really breathable and felt great when I wore them last weekend. Being that they are my only currently-fitting shorts, I’m pretty sure I’ll be shamelessly wearing them every weekend (thank goodness I chose a neutral fabric!).

Process

Over the past few weeks I’ve been stealing a few minutes here and there to work on the shorts. I could’ve rushed through the shorts, but I took my time to over-stitch all of the interior edges to prevent fraying and so that it would look a lot neater 😉 With sewing time being a little more sparse, I tried to relish every step when I got a window of time to sit down to sew.

More than ever sewing has truly become my outlet for self-care. The quiet time with my machine is such a gift. Utilizing my skills to construct clothing that makes me feel good in my body is such a blessing. When I have the time and the energy, those moments of sewing serve me in such an enormous way.

Andy watching me work on my Parkside Shorts.

On the weekends, we spend a lot of time in our lower-level (kind of a “basement”) where my sewing space is. While I sew, Andy plays on her baby gym or takes a nap in her seat. I love having her near me while I’m sewing. As time goes on, I hope she continues to enjoy our quiet, recuperation time – maybe one day she’ll have her own creative project to work on alongside me 😉

Andy enjoying a slumber while I finished my Parkside Shorts.

As soon as I finished the shorts, I tried them on and I could have melted. They fit perfect which felt incredible. It’s been a very long time since I have put on clothes that were made for me and fit in the way I wanted them to. It’s tough when your body changes (especially if it’s in the larger direction 😉 ). When you don’t feel comfortable in your clothes, it’s hard to feel comfortable in your skin.

My thoughts on the postpartum body

As we’ve passed the magical “4th trimester” and are approaching 5 months with Andy being earth-side, I’m being bombarded with “How to lose the baby weight” emails and diet marketing.

As someone with a degree in Public Health (including a graduate level nutrition course) and a strong attachment to my local YMCA, I understand the importance of physical fitness and nutrition. HOWEVER, I have zero tolerance for society’s pressure to “get my body back.”

Newsflash: My body never left. It may look a little different, but it’s here. And it has served me and my family pretty damn well.

In the beginning/shortly after Andy was born, I had some low points where I felt uncomfortable with the extra “fluff” my body had retained. Some of that weight has sloughed off, but some hasn’t…and I’m okay with that. When I talk about it with friends/family/coworkers, their reaction is usually: “Don’t worry, you’ll get your body back!” I know they are well-intentioned with this reaction, but the truth is: I do not desire my “old body.” Not to say I’d be sad if I woke up tomorrow and all of my old clothes suddenly fit perfectly again, but it’s not a priority of mine right now nor is it a concern.

For the better part of a year, I shared my body with another soul. My body nourished her until she was ready to thrive in her own body. That’s incredible! The extra padding in my midriff was the cushion that kept her safe. I can’t help but admire what what my body has been through. It has served me so very well. I continue to work my hardest to serve it well too (but Fridays are pizza night and I’m not willing to give that up 😉 ).

I refuse to cave into feeling sorry for myself and/or obsessing over what I’m eating or spending hours at the gym.

I am active every day. I try to eat real food as often as possible. I don’t judge myself when I want a treat, and I don’t judge myself when my old clothes don’t fit. I knew they wouldn’t. Maybe one day they will. Maybe they never will again. Maybe one day Andy can wear them. Maybe she won’t. Maybe they’ll be eaten by moths before then. Maybe not. Honestly, who cares. They’re replaceable possessions.

What I really need are clothes that fit and make me feel good when I wear them. I don’t need for clothing to be a reminder of the weight I’m still carrying.

Recently I read an article written by a personal shopper/stylist about how [before having her own baby] she was surprised at how many of her clients were new moms. One thing she said really stood our for me…

You can’t derive your self-worth from the contents of your closet.

What you might get though, is a little confidence in yourself. Confidence that you look like you which translates into feeling like you.

THIS. This is why I make my own clothes. THIS was the reminder I needed.

I think we need to stop pressuring new moms to get in shape. We need to stop complacently allowing big-box-shops to create clothing for one body type (aka: definitely not the new-mom-bod). We need more postpartum-friendly [affordable] clothing available. We need friends to share their closets with us. We need other moms to tell us that it’s okay to abandon your old body. We need our husbands to tell us they don’t give a $h!t whether our ass shrinks because that baby it made is pretty darn cute. And all those pregnancy/new-baby newsletters we signed up for in hopes of cracking the how-to-be-a-great-mom code have no right to repeatedly send emails titled “How to get your body back.” BECAUSE LADIES: Your body never left. You look amazing. Your baby is wonderful. And life is good.