Wiksten Harem Pants for Andy

Sewing for others isn’t always my preferred way to spend my sewing time, but sewing is how I show and share my love so it is something I enjoy doing from time to time. ❤

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What I’ve learned in my first year of motherhood

It is hard to believe, but it has been a full YEAR with Andy in our lives!

Now that the roller-coaster first year of parenting is under my belt, I felt like it was a good time to reflect on what I have learned in the beginning steps of this journey.

Andy, 10.5 months {Portrait by Studio 46}

 

1. I respect my body more now than ever before

Watching your body grow and change so drastically in such a short period of time can be a tough adjustment. For nearly a year, watching your stomach expand and grow was celebrated, but suddenly [literally overnight] the extra weight you’re carrying is less exciting.

In the early days, I was in such a daze from lack of sleep that giving a $h!+ about my jiggly midriff wasn’t even on my radar.

Undeniably, the luxury to care about such trivial things made its way back onto my to-do list. Only this time I had a different perspective. My body created another human. It nourished that little body until every piece of her had grown to perfection and she was ready to enter the world on her own. My body even provided life-sustaining nutrients for this sweet little child for another few months after she was born.

How cool is that?!

Ridiculously cool if you ask me.

So I had a little extra fluff in my mid-section (and still do). If you find yourself in this position, do what I did: buy a good pair of high-waisted leggings (favorites: work and play). Then wear said-leggings as pants for the next year because YOU CREATED LIFE WITH YOUR BODY (which, in my opinion, exempts you from any obligation to be stylish…ever again).

 

 2. My style has completely changed

I wasn’t expecting this, but the clothes I prefer to wear now are completely different from the outfits that filled my pre-pregnancy wardrobe.

My style was already tilting towards frumpy, but now I’ve totally embraced a preference for what I like to call “uncomplicated silhouettes” (aka: I like the fabric skimming my body not hugging it 😉 ). On the bright side: These styles are so much easier to sew.

I’m not sure if this is more specific to Cesarean births (likely), but previously worn waistlines (some would call these “mid-rise” or the never-worn-by-me “low-rise” pants) are no longer comfortable for me. I happily accepted that and donated all of my jeans to a local middle school.

Also, I now totally understand the phrase “Mom jeans” and I will never, ever [again] judge my Mom for wearing them.

 

 3. Clicking “share” feels like a monumental responsibility

Let’s talk social media.

The urge to share every milestone is intoxicating (in fact, receiving “likes” on Facebook can trigger the release of dopamine). But once something is out there, it moves from being a private experience to a public/shared experience.

As someone who researches social media strategies for fun, this may sound a little wacky, BUT: my husband and I made the decision to share less when it comes to Andy. We are not opposed to sharing pictures and snapshots into our lives with Andy (and we still do), but we try to be conscious with our sharing by reflecting on why we are posting the content before we do.

I could go on and on about this decision, but it really boils down to our focus on Andy as an individual. Her accomplishments are not OUR accomplishments. While we undoubtedly helped her (and will continue to do so throughout her life) to reach these milestones, they are hers.

 

 4. Breastfeeding doesn’t work for everyone (and it really doesn’t matter)

I thought breastfeeding would be a magical bonding experience for Andy and I.

It. Was. Not.

I’ll save the drama for a later post, but needless to say: It didn’t work for us…despite lots of help from Lactation Consultants.

Looking back now, I couldn’t care less.

Andy and I worked our way through a tough season and are forever bonded – not because I fed her at my breast, but because she is a part of me and I am a part of her.

 

 5. Medication is not the enemy

Whether you get an epidural (check) or take medication for your postpartum depression (check), modern medicine is available for a reason. You do not need to suffer to prove you are worthy.

I’m not ashamed that science played a role in both my birth experience and on my parenting journey. I am healthy, happy, and proud to be the person I am.

 

 6. Prioritizing self-care for myself AND my husband is equally important

Self-care for me (sewing, yoga) looks different than it does for my husband (hockey, lacrosse, mountain biking). Before Andy arrived, we had identified the activities that made us feel like our best selves and were already in the habit of setting aside time for these activities. We vowed to continue to do this. And I think we’ve done a good job!

Pouring into ourselves allows us to be the best parents we can be (because you can’t pour from an empty pitcher, right?).

 

 7. Mama doesn’t need wine

As someone who has been sober for many years now, I was already annoyed with the number of gift suggestions for women that always involved wine or that 90% of adult socializing involves alcohol, but being a mom who doesn’t drink wine can really drive home that outcast feeling.

Luckily for me I was already in a comfortable place as the community “Sober Sally.” My avoidance of alcohol bothers others far more than it bothers me.

Yet I can’t help but notice the Mommy-Needs-Wine culture around every corner. Some say it’s masking alcoholism or our need for self-care – whatever the reason, over-simplifying the complexities of motherhood to something that can be “fixed” with a glass of wine devalues the importance our role.

{If you’re interested, here’s a brief-but-good read about Being a Sober Parent in a Wine Mom Culture.}

 

8. Babies create space in and for relationships

Andy’s presence has created both space in existing relationships as well as created space for new relationships.

Distance has slipped into some of my existing relationships. While I may not be in as regular contact with some friends as I was pre-Andy, it does not mean that I’m not thinking about them regularly, sending love and light their way, and also appreciating the space they are allowing my little family. My appreciation for them may be higher than ever before – rather than demanding my focus or energy, they are kindly allowing me to focus that energy on nourishing my budding relationship with Andy. As Andy gets older and our relationship’s foundation grows stronger, I know less of my focus will be required and I will be able to return my energy to these long-standing relationships.

Additionally, Andy’s presence has created space for new relationships. I’m not talking (much) about new people. Rather, becoming Andy’s mother has softened my edges and allowed me to connect with others [who were already in my life] in a way I wasn’t able to before. Not to say “now that I’m a mother, I get it” because I DO NOT, but becoming a mother changed me in ways I could never have foreseen – including allowing me to become closer with certain people who were already in my life.

 

 9. Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint

Over the holidays I had a few days off work. Andy went to daycare for several of those days while I stayed at home sewing. I would describe Andy’s current stage as “busy” – she teeters between entertaining herself and demanding more interactive play. It’s a fun stage, but it also requires mental vigilance – my focus can never fully be on a project I’m working on when she’s around. All that said, I took advantage of a few days to myself.

One night I was wondering aloud whether this made me a bad mom when my husband looked me straight in the face and said: “Jordan…parenting is a marathon, not a sprint.” He elaborated that there was no finish line, we were in it for the long haul, and would have [hopefully] endless opportunities to connect with Andy. We are building a life-long relationship. Sending her to daycare for a few hours so she could play with friends and maintain her routine was not something worth worrying over.

 

 10. Routines are soothing for everyone

In the early days when I was exclusively pumping for Andy, I read Baby Wise cover-to-cover…twice (it helped keep me from falling asleep during those middle-of-the-night pumping sessions). My main take-away was that Andy needed a predictable routine. We mastered the recommended SLEEP > EAT > WAKE cycle and began implementing an “evening routine” (bath > bottle > sleep).

To distract Andy (and ourselves) from the “witching hour,” we would take her for a long walk around the neighborhood before her bath. As she got older and the days got shorter (walking around the neighborhood with a baby after dark is a little too scary-movie-esque for me), we replaced walking with “dinner.”

Not only did this predictable cycle of events help Andy acclimate, it also helped US (the parents). We knew what was coming next (or how much longer til bedtime on the hard days).

 

11. It was easier to judge other parents before having a baby of my own

We all know that “Comparison is the thief of joy” and as cliche as it may sound, you know it’s true. Becoming a parent made me realize how complex this role truly is. Every kid is so incredibly different in so many ways that comparing what works for one to what works for another is bonkers.

I also realized that, as parents, we are all just trying to do the best we can with what we have and what we know. Expending energy to compare your kid to my kid or my parenting style or yours is exhausting and so pointless.

Instead, when I see a new mom, I try to make eye contact and give her the most genuine smile I can muster. I want her to know that I see her and I support her. We may walk very different paths, make very different decisions, and have very different children, but we’re doing the best for our families.

 

Andy, 10.5 months {Portrait by Studio 46}

 

What a journey it has been!

Having Andy in our lives is such a gift. I’m continuing to keep my mind (and my heart) open to what lies ahead. So far, nothing has been what I expected. I’m excited see what the future holds!

The Making of Baby RBG: A Halloween DIY

It started out innocent: I was picking Andy up from daycare a few weeks ago when one of her teachers said they were going to have a Halloween celebration and the babies could dress up. At first I shrugged it off. Halloween has never been a real source of excitement for me so I was thinking I’d just put her in a festive onesie and call it a day.

BUT THEN I REMEMBERED I SEW (Ha! As if I’d ever forget). And that the internet exists (thus, “quick and easy” costume sewing tutorials would be in abundance…and they were).

Inspiration

I sent some ideas to my sister-in-law (because she always entertains my craziest ideas).

Initial costumes considered: Rosie the Riveter, a ladybug, a cookie sandwich, Cookie Monster, aerobics instructor, Iris Apfel, Frida Kahlo, Tina from Bob’s Burgers – we had some serious choices to make.

Ultimately, the vote was for Ruth Bader Ginsburg!

Originally I thought we’d go with a black onesie and a fabric doily (easy-peasy), but I decided to use what I already had on hand (aka: over-complicate this seemingly innocent costume adventure) with the picture below as inspiration:

Material

I’m really proud to say that I did not buy a single thing for this costume!

  • The black fabric (crepe I think – donated from someone’s attic) for the robe was in my stash (as was the fabric used for the bias bindings).
  • My Mom gave me a stack of vintage handkerchiefs a few years ago she got from an antique shop (I used some ivory rayon challis fabric [similar] scraps from my stash for the body of the bib).
  • A friend let me borrow some snaps* (for the front of the robe & the bib closure) from her stash.
  • The glasses belong to the Hubs (no prescription – they are blue light blocking glasses).
  • I made the bow a few weeks ago for a separate occasion (tutorial).

If you are looking to make your own RBG costume you might be surprised at what you already have that could work. Any type of black fabric (a bit of drape/flowiness would be preferable) can work for the robe. The costume just needs a black “backdrop” so alternatively you could use a black onesie or solid black outfit of any kind.

Rather than making a separate bib, you could just safety pin a vintage handkerchief or some lace to the front of the onesie/outfit (that was my original plan) or pin that to an existing bib (try to stick with a light color/no print so you don’t distract from the detail of the “collar.”

A toy gavel* would be a great addition to the costume.

The Pattern

I was limited on time so I immediately decided that the robe would be kimono style with no set-in sleeves. To get the “pattern,” I used a jacket she had that I knew fit her currently. I laid half of the jacket on top of the black fabric along the fold.

When cutting, I added space around the jacket for seam allowance. I wanted it to have a little extra volume (like an actual judge’s robe) so I graded out a little extra in the body. I didn’t include extra space on the length of the sleeves because I didn’t want them to be too long (and, again, to more closely resemble the fitting of an actual judge’s robe).

For the back of the robe, I cut on the fold. For the front of the robe, I cut the fabric on the fold the same way, but then cut up the fold afterward to create two separate pieces. I knew I wanted the front to open so it would be easy to get on a squirmy baby.

Since finishing a Dress No. 1 recently, I’ve been on a bias finishing kick (great tutorial from IndieSew here). I knew I wanted to – at least – use bias binding to finish the neck. After cutting the pattern out and sewing the front to the back, I tried it on Andy and realized that I didn’t want to lose much length. So, rather than flipping-and-stitching the hem, I decided to bias bind the bottom too.

Sewing the Costume

The Robe

I considered French seams (because you know I love them), but ultimately decided to use the overlock stitch on my machine to eliminate the extra step.

I stitched the shoulder (& sleeve) seams together at the top and then the front-to-the-back (including the underside of the sleeves) down the sides.

This is where I stopped and tried it on Andy to see about the fit.

Then I used scrap fabric to create bias binding which I used to finish the bottom hem > the front closure (like a faux button placket) > and the neck – in that order.

Last, I attached the snaps every 2 inches.

The collar

Because of the laciest part of the handkerchief as at a corner, I wanted to make a bandanna style bib to show it off. I traced a bandanna bib Andy already had that fit well and used that as my pattern (if you do this, be sure to include an extra 1/2 inch around the edges for your seam allowance…or you can use this tutorial and pattern).

The rayon challis scraps I was using for the bib base were [obviously] super slippery. So, I used a tip I heard recently on the Love to Sew podcast and laid the fabric on top of some terry cloth (a towel would work) to keep it from slipping while I cut. That worked so well!

I constructed the bib by sewing RST, leaving a few inches unsewn at the neck, and flipping to WST. Before top-stitching, I placed the handkerchief where I wanted it on the front of the bib. I folded the top of the handkerchief by the neck since there was no neat way to get it to fold over the curved edge. I top-stitched around the bib like normal which held the handkerchief down without any extra (messy) stitching.

Here you can see where the handkerchief was folded over and how only the edges of the bib are top-stitched. This held the handkerchief on perfectly and once around Andy’s neck, it looked much more unified.

I tried the bib on Andy before attaching the snap to see if I needed to adjust the placement of the snap before attaching. Then I added the snap.

Lying flat the bib looks a little wonky, but you can see here how the handkerchief is attached.

Accessories

The glasses

Originally I had asked the Hubs to buy some baby sunglasses that we could pop the lenses out of. Our local Target only had bigger kid glasses according to him and the two he brought home weren’t quite right (though one pair would have been perfect for Iris Apfel so I’m saving them for the future!).

On that note, I remembered that he had some blue light blocking glasses* that could work!

The bow

Obviously, RBG doesn’t wear bows, but I needed something to hold the glasses on so the elastic band bows I’ve been making came in quite handy.

You can see the elastic from the bow holding the glasses on here. (Also, please excuse the dinosaur feet. This was on our wear-pajamas-all-day Sunday).

More inspiration

We are certainly not the first to dress our baby up as RBG – check out these others:

I was also excited to see Alex dressed as RBG on this week’s episode of Modern Family:

I especially love the necklace!

Not gonna lie, when I see Kate McKinnon slide on the screen during SNL‘s Weekend Update, it makes my day! Her impersonation is so funny.

Rock your RBG inspiration all year long

If you love RBG and want to stay inspired beyond Halloween, I found these super cool gifts (just in time for the holidays if you have an RBG lover on your list!):

 

*This post contains affiliate links. If you use the link to make a purchase, I may receive a small compensation at no additional charge to you. 

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.

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, while this post now contains affiliate links, it was written at a time before I understood how they worked 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!

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.

5 ways I balance creativity, self-care and motherhood

I feel like the title of this post may be a bit misleading – I don’t have the answer for balancing it all, BUT I have done a few things that have really helped carve out space in this “new life” so that I can maintain my creativity and the self-care that I need.

While my experience is tunneled through my own rose-colored, FEMALE glasses, self-care is incredibly important for Dads too. My husband has sacrificed a lot already for our little family. I make an extra effort to encourage him to maintain his hobbies – if he misses hockey one week, I encourage him to take his bike for a trail ride that weekend. He needs this. Without fail, he always returns re-energized and ready to entertain Andy while I sew 🙂 It’s a win-win.

 1. I’ve made caring for myself a priority

Shortly after Andy was born I realized those familiar feelings of depression and anxiety were sneaking back in. I was overwhelmed. I was having a tough time adjusting to having a tiny human fully dependent on me for survival.

There are many influential turns I took on my path to motherhood so it’s hard to credit just one thing, but I will say that by prioritizing my needs was what needed to shift so that I could be the best parent possible. When I made that shift, suddenly Andy was a happier baby, my husband was happier, and so was I!

How I do this

Just before Andy was born, I took the opportunity to change my work schedule so that I arrived half an hour earlier and left half an hour earlier. That said, now I start my workday shortly after Andy wakes up for the day.

If I were to go straight to work from home, I would likely have about 15 minutes with Andy before I would need to leave. Instead, I go to the gym in the morning before work like I did before Andy was born. This allows me to go to the yoga class I love, catch up with the friends I’ve made at the gym over the years, and/or jump on the treadmill and listen to a podcast without sacrificing a large chunk of “quality time” with Andy.

And…I don’t feel guilty that I am using my morning time to work out rather than to get Andy ready for daycare. WHY? Because this time is also important for my husband and Andy’s relationship. They need time together without me. My husband has a routine he has constructed for the two of them that kicks off their day on a positive note before they are off to work and daycare.

 2. I make time for myself

How I do this

Some days I take my lunch to work and eat at my desk. I continue to work while I eat so that I can use my lunch break to do something even more nourishing. Sometimes that is going home to sew a few stitches on whatever project I’m working on. Sometimes it’s running errands or folding laundry so that I can check those off my to-do list without sacrificing my time with Andy in the afternoon. One day it was going to Target, treating myself to a matcha latte and a new bathing suit because that was what I needed that day 😉

 3. My husband & I negotiate “free time”

As I said before, I try to encourage my husband’s time for self-care too (he might not call it self-care, but still 😉 ). We do this as a balancing act. We take turns being Andy’s primary care provider during the weekend so that each of us gets the time we need.

How I do this

As the weekend approaches, the Hubs and I touch base about our plans. If there’s something that he wants to do one morning, I agree to entertain Andy during that time so long as he agrees to entertain her that afternoon so I can do something.

My husband did a really great job of implementing this in the beginning. When I was on maternity leave in the early weeks of feeling like a new-mom-zombie, the Hubs made me pick somewhere to go (outside of the house) one afternoon every weekend. He wanted me to have time by myself and to get used to being away from the baby before I went back to work. Honestly, it was an incredibly thoughtful gesture and one that really helped with my transition back to work and now our balance of remembering to prioritize “me” time.

 4. We protect our “family time”

My husband and I are on this parenting journey together. That being said, we prioritize our relationship (as a family unit) as much as we can.

Sometimes that means saying “No” to something else.

 

How I do this

Both my husband and I work away from the home during the week. Weekends are the primary time we get for our hobbies and to spend time with Andy.

While we take time during the weekend for ourselves individually, we also set aside time for the three of us. We make sure that we have several hours of uninterrupted time together. So, if family or friends want to get together, we protect this as time we are not available.

With a newborn, family and friends often want to come visit. Sometimes this is a much-needed break so that someone else can hold or entertain the baby while I use my hands for something else (like laundry…it never ends!). And it’s nice to see family and friends forming a bond with Andy too. But sometimes it can be draining (I’m an introvert!)

We love spending time with friends and family and we do so almost every weekend. However, we understand the importance of our time together (especially with Andy) so we do not feel guilty if we don’t have time to spend with others that weekend (there’s always the next weekend 😉 ).

 5. I outsource what I can

I highly recommend that if you have the opportunity, outsource as many tasks and duties as you are comfortable with emotionally and/or financially. If you can shift your spending to afford a service you have been wanting, do it! The best way to save money is to cut a recurring expense (example: cancel your cable in lieu of an antenna for local channels & time outside).

OR find someone willing to “trade” their skill set. You could offer a service or task that you enjoy in exchange for them taking on something for you.

How I do this

I am someone who needs a clean house to keep my stress level down. I know this about myself. Trying to keep the level of “clean” I desired through pregnancy had gotten tough even with my husband taking on a lot of the cleaning. Andy arrived and I realized I couldn’t do it all…nor did I want to! Instead, I wanted the time to care for and bond with Andy. I didn’t want to spend what little bit of free time I could get cleaning or stressing about how badly I needed to clean.

So I hired a house-cleaner. I’d been debating this for years, but hadn’t because I felt like that was something only “rich people” did and I didn’t want anyone to pass judgement on me… UNTIL my therapist recommended doing this before I returned to work (apparently she saw how valuable this would be for me 😉 ).

I’m so happy that I did. And I think you’d be surprised at how much more affordable this service is than you think! (Take the time to search around until you find someone you trust in your house and can afford!)

*Disclaimer: I realize that the fact that I can construct this list and share the experiences I have with you is a luxury in-and-of-itself. Not all of my “tips” are going to be adoptable for everyone. I realize that. However, I hope that by sharing some of the things I’ve done, it sparks an idea of something you can do for yourself – or encourage for someone else who may need it.