Lamb-themed baby shower (and my new etsy shop!)

Corban and Mara got their first cousin this April when my sister had a baby. In October they’ll welcome another! Peter’s eldest brother and his wife are expecting and we are thrilled to see our family grow.

I had the privilege of co-hosting a baby shower for my sister-in-law the other weekend in St. Louis. Planning from afar was low-stress since my co-hostesses took care of the food and venue. I was in charge of invitations, games and some of the decorations (a.k.a. my favorite parts!)

Since the mom-to-be, Jenny, is planning a lamb theme for their gender-neutral nursery, we ran with that as the theme for the shower. It was a lot of fun incorporating sheep into every aspect of the shower — I was especially excited to come up with some puns.

I’ll share details from the baby shower, but first I have some exciting news: I opened up an etsy shop! After planning several showers and themed parties over the past few years, I’ve designed a small collection of printable items — games, favor tags, invitations and the like. I definitely would have paid a few bucks to have modern designs for printable baby shower games at my fingertips when I was in planning mode, so there have got to be some people out there who would appreciate having these designs available, right?

I guess we’ll find out. I’ve listed a handful of instant download baby shower games (two of which you’ll see below) and plan to add a couple more listings, including one for the gold confetti themed invitations I designed for my sister’s baby shower and some lobster/sea creature art I designed for Corban’s room. I’m excited to see where (if anywhere) this goes — right now it’s just fun to see my work listed on the site!

On to the lamb-themed baby shower details. First, the invitations (from zazzle):

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front and back.

Now, the party itself!

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Table decorations were fun and simple to make. Jenny made an impressive diaper cake for my baby shower (here it is) so in a nod to her diaper artistry I made very unimpressive diaper circles wrapped in burlap.

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To keep with the lamb theme, and the sub-theme of books (the invitation suggests — not demands! — that guests write a note in a baby book instead of a card) I topped the diapers with a lamb book. There are quite a few cute options out there.

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Here is what the tables looked like in action:

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Love this book!

Also seen on the tables: games! And glittery pencils from Michael’s, and favors (which I’ll get to in a minute).

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These are my lovingly designed table games, some of which you can purchase for a few bucks in my new etsy shop!

Name the baby animals (buy here). Harder than you may think! My mother-in-law won this one.

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Name the children’s book (buy here). I thought this one was going to be too easy, but everyone was sufficiently challenged by it.

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Gift BINGO (guests fill out a BINGO card with items they think she will open). I downloaded it for free from here and customized it a tad using Photoshop.

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We also played “Don’t Say Baby,” where everyone starts with a bracelet, and if you get caught saying the word “baby” you have to give your bracelet to the person who catches you. At the end, the person with the most bracelets wins. It was a hoot seeing some of the ladies get into it.

My favorite games are the ones that involve the dad, so we played one called “Dad Knows Best.” I had my brother-in-law James answer some questions about the baby in advance and we all had to guess his answers. The questions I asked:

Will the baby be a boy or a girl?
Do you want the baby to be a boy or a girl?
Will the baby be born with a lot of hair?
If Jenny had no say, what would you name the baby?
If you had no say, what would Jenny name the baby?
Will you or Jenny be the disciplinarian?
Will you or Jenny be the first one to hear the baby cry at night?
Out of every 10 diapers, how many will you change?
What personality trait do you hope the baby will inherit from Jenny?What personality trait do you hope the baby will inherit from you?
Bonus: What sport will the baby play in high school?

Jenny did impressively well; the rest of us did not. Here is the little prize stash I picked out from the dollar bins at Michael’s.

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I also made a burlap bunting that Jenny can now hang in the nursery — “baaaby sherwood,” get it?

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The food was simple — chicken salad sandwiches, fruit salad, veggies and spinach dip.

Lamb detail on the bunting was my favorite. It’s just cut out of paper and hot-glued on, as are the letters.

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Lamb cupcakes were homemade by a friend of one of the co-hostesses, and they were divine.

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My mother-in-law found two lamb vases that she received — get this — when James (the dad-to-be) was born(!) and had them filled with beautiful flower arrangements.

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The guest book was fun to work on. I bought a burlap canvas, punched a bunch of circles from three different patterned sheets of scrapbook paper and hot-glued the dots (and some black legs and a head) into a lamb. Nursery art?

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Yes, but also a guest book! Everyone signed their name on a circle to be glued onto the canvas (either on the lamb itself or across the bottom).

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My co-hostess/partner in crime made these cute diaper decorations.

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And one last lamb pun: “Thank Ewe” tags (designed in Photoshop) for the favors, yogurt-covered pretzels tied with burlap strings in these bags.

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The mom-to-be (pictured with my co-hostess) had lots of laughs and (hopefully) felt very loved by the lovely group of ladies who attended.

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Meanwhile, these ruffians had fun at home with the men.

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It was a fun weekend overall, with the shower being the centerpiece. I’ve got a few more party recaps to share with you soon, so look forward to some more fun details!

Bye bye, pacifier!

After months of thinking about it, talking about it but ultimately putting it off due to one thing after another, we finally (finally!) said bye bye, pacifier. For Corban, mind you. Mara is still more than welcome to soothe herself through the long night with hers.

Ultimately it came down to the fact that I discovered dirt/mold inside Corban’s one remaining pacifier and I just couldn’t stomach giving it to him anymore. There’s no easy time to go through this transition, but with four weekends of travel in the past month behind us and another three weeks until we go camping, we had a window to take advantage of.

So last night we pulled up some youtube videos. First, the brilliant “Bye Bye Binky” song by Elmo (thank you, Elmo, for using your influential position among toddlers to make the world a better place for parents).

Then we trolled around for videos of other little kids saying bye bye to their pacifiers. This was enlightening. Apparently many parents tie them to balloons and send them off into the sky “for other babies who need them.” Some put them in a box and leave them overnight for the Binky Fairy to replace with a toy. Corban was enthralled by all this, but thankfully the video that resonated the most with him was one of a little boy simply throwing his pacifiers into a large garbage can in the garage.

We had been talking with him for months about someday throwing his pacifier away, and about how he doesn’t need it and he’s becoming a big boy, so this wasn’t a novel concept for him. We had even attempted a paci-trashing session a few months ago, but he genuinely seemed so disappointed to say goodbye to it that I relented and backpedaled. Maybe it’s my own memories of pacifier-sucking bliss as a child or just my reluctance to admit Corban is growing up, but even watching the darn youtube videos of kids saying bye to their pacifiers had me misty-eyed with compassion.

But this time it was happening. After all the video motivation, he was excited about getting in on the action (and possibly even more excited about watching the garbage truck come and take it away, which is a weekly highlight we enjoy together).

So we pulled out the big garbage can, let Corban sing Elmo’s binky song, and without so much as a second of hesitation he tossed the thing in. Bye bye, pacifier.

I did my part and posted the video on youtube to motivate other little ones who may be headed for Pacifier-holics Anonymous.

Of course, come bed time (a few minutes later) he was like an addict in withdrawal. Seriously. Kicking, fidgeting, crying, rolling around in bed. He begged to “put Mara’s pacifier in my mouth.” Sorry, sir. Our bedtime routine distracted him for a while, but when we left his room he would not stay in bed. After nearly an hour of whining and crying in the Pack N Play, I lay down with him in bed for about 5 minutes before he passed out.

Thankfully, he napped perfectly for our nanny today and tonight was better than last night. He only brought up the pacifier once and instead of crying he just lay awake singing and talking to himself in the Pack N Play, and eventually fell asleep on his own.

No matter what the next few nights hold, I’m glad to finally have the pacifier gone!

Mara at 10.5 months

My little Marabelle (not her real name) is 10 1/2 months old*. My tiny baby girl is no longer tiny, but she is still very babyish to me, or at least she was up until the past several weeks. It seems like right when she hit 10 months, she started to mature at lightning speed with first words, waving, first teeth, rolling around, wanting to crawl… more on all that in a minute.

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But In a nutshell… Laid back. Social. Content. That’s Mara right now (and how she’s always been).

Mara is the happiest baby I’ve ever seen. She is almost always content, whether she’s sitting on the floor with toys in reach or being carried along to the various adventures we head out on with Corban and friends. Nursery volunteers at church comment every week that she’s the easiest baby in the room (she just chills with a few toys in the middle of the floor) and I don’t go anywhere in public with her without being stopped by strangers thrilled that she returns their baby talk with smiles. Whenever Corban is being stubborn or throwing a tantrum (a.k.a. being two years old), I am extra grateful that Mara is calm as ever and not adding to the stress.

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I don’t want to simply compare her to Corban, but they have been so obviously different in the timing of their developmental milestones that it’s hard not to note. Compared to Corban, Mara has been slower with gross motor skills. She didn’t roll over until just the past week or so! I don’t think it was that she couldn’t before (she’s been sitting since around 6 months and that uses the same muscles as rolling) but more that she just didn’t feel the urge to roll. She isn’t crawling yet, but is starting to want to move more. No pulling up on furniture either.

But socially, she has been earlier than Corban for the most part, with early smiles, coos and laughs as a newborn. She started waving right at 10 months, and shocked us a few weeks ago by very clearly starting to say “Mama” in reference to me. Now she sometimes says “bye” (or something vaguely resembling it) when people are waving goodbye. I wasn’t expecting that for a while!

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Teething
Mara was toothless until 10 months. The past week she sprouted two bottom teeth and I think it makes her look much older. She has had a fussy few days — which isn’t saying a whole lot, but she’s been clingy and had a rough morning at the beach last week when I wouldn’t let her stuff handfuls of sand in her mouth. Mean mom am I.

Eating
Mara loves her solids. We has a slow start with baby-led weaning, but at around 8 months she really got the hang of it and has embraced every food we’ve given her. She enjoys beans, eggs, steamed veggies, soft fruit, avocado. Bread is a little more confounding, and perhaps harder to down with essentially no teeth. Next we’ll try plain yogurt and maybe small pieces of meat.

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She’s still breastfeeding and still very efficient and to-the-point with nursing. I am in no rush for Mara to wean and I hope she continues to be interested in nursing for a good while.

Sleeping
Maybe it’s the steady diet of solids, but Mara has started sleeping through the night enough that I’ve lost count of the exact number of times it’s happened (10 or 11 now?). I was astounded and almost didn’t believe it the first time, more than a month ago. But this week it has become normal. Amazing that it just happened naturally! As much as I love getting uninterrupted sleep, it makes me a little wistful thinking she is outgrowing her habit of nursing in the middle of the night. I know that sounds completely crazy.

We finally kicked the swaddle last month when she simultaneously outgrew it and it became too hot to be wrapped in fleece, so now she sleeps with this creepy little torso-less knit clown that was mine as a child, a random stuffed ball and a blanket crocheted by the same friend who made Corban’s favorite blanket. Those items were not chosen intentionally (aside from the blanket) — they just happened to be thrown in her crib at one point and then stayed because they work.

Sibling love
Mara is highly amused by Corban. She loves any attention from him and laughs at his antics. Every night after dinner, she gets in her pjs and I bring her out to say goodnight to Corban and Peter. C says, “Goo-night Mara!” in the sweetest little voice and kisses her on the head, and she just giggles hysterically. The girl loves kisses in general, but especially from her brother.

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Stats:
Weight: 21 pounds 6 ounces
Height: 28.5 inches
Naps: 2 (9 a.m. and 1 p.m.)
Sleep: 6:30 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Clothes: Size 12 month for pants and onesies, 6- and 9-month still fit in dresses and shorts. Love little summer dresses with cloth diaper bottom!
Hair: Light, light brown, soft and wispy
Eyes: blue/gray on the outside, brownish in the inside (in transition?)
Diapers: Charlie Banana with two inserts during the day, size 4 disposables at night
Words: Mama, bye
Tricks: Rolls her tongue all the time, waves, claps and cheers, high fives
Favorite foods: Steamed zucchini, banana, avocado
Favorite toy: Fischer Price xylophone/piano

*she was 10.5 months when I started writing this, but life is busy and she is now almost 11 months as I hit publish AHH!

Summerfest with kids

Summer is like a highly competitive sport in Milwaukee. The goal of the game is to cram as many festivals and as much outdoor fun as you possibly can into three short months (give or take). It’s fun, but exhausting. I like to think that winter (a.k.a. the season of hibernation) is a necessary break in order for our wild and energetic summer to be possible, but it might be the other way around (likely summer is the necessary break in order to keep us from going insane/moving away during winter).

The festival of all festivals is, arguably, Summerfest, the world’s largest music festival, held on the shore of Lake Michigan for 11 sacred days each June and July. It’s 12 hours a day of live music on 10 stages, with acts covering every genre. I’ve enjoyed Summerfest as a high schooler (road tripping up from Chicago with friends several summers to see the likes of Guster and Ben Folds), a newcomer to the city (busing in from bars, popping over on your lunch break, just wandering with no particular act in mind to hear… these are things locals do) and as a journalist (this is the first summer in six years I’m not shooting videos, meeting bands and running around like a madwoman covering the Big Gig — kind of sad!).

But this year, I decided to experience Summerfest as a parent. There are plenty of folks who I’m sure would not dare to bring their kids near the world’s largest music festival, and I don’t really blame them. But I’m crazy, so even after the friends I invited couldn’t make it, I hit up Summerfest with the kids Friday afternoon (yes, solo). It was a blast.

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The logistics (perhaps this is helpful for others thinking of taking little ones to Summerfest):

Timing: Morning is prime time for kids, but, unfortunately, Summerfest doesn’t open till noon. So my plan was to get Corban to nap earlier than usual and arrive mid-afternoon, hopefully when crowds were still smaller. We arrived at 3 p.m., which, on a Friday, was starting to get pretty crowded, but on another weekday probably wouldn’t have been as packed.

Parking: I wasn’t about to pay $20 for parking, so I found a metered spot on Water Street in the Third Ward. It was about a 10-minute walk to the gates, but only cost $3 for two hours. The downside was I had to be back by 5 p.m. sharp, because Milwaukee parking folks don’t mess around. I once watched a meter lady write me a ticket literally the second my meter expired as I was racing to my car.

 

Tickets: Kids under 3 years old are free (yay!) and I had a free ticket from work (woo hoo!) but normally weekdays before 4 p.m. are $11. Good deal.

Stroller: I opted for the single stroller (City Mini), with Mara (10 months old) in the Ergo, figuring once we got to the grounds Corban (2.5 years old) might want to walk, so I could switch Mara to the stroller. I am so glad I didn’t bring our double stroller. It was difficult enough navigating the crowds with the single stroller. There was also no way Corban would be walking any distance on his own – he stayed safely in the stroller most of the time, and I was perfectly fine keeping Mara snuggled on me (it’s fun to dance with a baby strapped to you!)

Activities: There are quite a few kid-friendly activities. Corban would have spent our entire time there at the splash pad by the mid-gate. There’s also a playground area and a few designated stages with kid shows. They have paddle boats, a skyglider and a (new this year) Ferris wheel. Here is more info on all the kids activities. During the day, I like to just wander up to stages and check out bands I’ve never heard of, so I tried to get the kids on board with that. They’re young enough that they didn’t know any better (for the most part).

Our adventures:

We walked right in the gate to the tail end of the Summerfest parade – cute, but massive crowds. After popping by the Johnson Controls World Sounds Stage (one of the few spots under a roof – good to know in case of rain), we headed over to the U.S. Cellular Connection Stage and sat down to listen to a band called Friendly People.

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Corban was more interested in people watching (can’t blame him). He was still coming to life after being woken up early from his nap.

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Mara might have been the only one in the audience dancing (although you wouldn’t guess from this pic).

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Friendly People were near the end of their set, and Corban actually climbed back in the stroller – a definite sign it was time to move on. I consulted my Best of Brew City app and saw that Kohl’s Wild Theater was happening (an animal-themed show), so headed toward the opposite side of the grounds. After passing the splash pad, though, Corban started freaking out and attempting to escape from the stroller, asking to go to the fountain, so I complied.

He stood on the edge of the splash pad for probably 10 minutes just watching the other kids run around while I small talked with another mom.

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Finally, he dipped his toes in, and I began to worry I’d never be able to pry him away from the water.

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The promise of a “special treat” finally, miraculously got him back into the stroller, and we walked over to the KNE New Music stage (a small stage showcasing mostly local music) where the Land the Big Gig contest 2nd place winner, Doozey, was playing.

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(The guy in the yellow is this amazingly ridiculous man whom I see EVERY year dancing his heart out at different shows. I swear, he’s everywhere at Summerfest. It was good to see him still doin’ his thing.)

Doozey was so much fun! I loved their music and they knew how to work the crowd. Corban wasn’t going to forget his promised special treat so easily, though. Sil’s Mini Donuts was nearby, so we split a small order fresh out of the fryer while watching the show. The best.

Eventually, Corban noticed the Ferris wheel behind us and asked to go up in it. Sure, why not?!

I thought he might be scared, but he loved it. We both did, actually.

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The views from the top were gorgeous.

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Scary selfie, but Corban looks too cute not to share.

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After that, our time was up, and I had to race as fast as I could back to the car before the meter expired. Corban wasn’t happy about leaving, and, frankly, neither was I. I debated just feeding the meter, but once we were at the car I was too exhausted to push my luck and head back in. Better to end on a high (literally) note.

Though not for the faint of heart, Summerfest is definitely doable with kids. Earlier in the day is better and going with your spouse or a second pair of hands is preferable, but I would totally go back even alone with the kids. I’m hoping my next visit is with adults though!

 

 

2.5, 9 and 28

What do 2.5, 9 and 28 have in common? They’re the ages Corban, Mara and I all turned this week. Mara was 9 months old on Sunday, I turned 28 yesterday and Corban will be 2.5 this Sunday.

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2.5/9 months/28 and doing all right.

I feel like my age is finally starting to match my stage of life. I got married at 22, had a baby at 25 and another at 27. Statistically speaking, that’s not normal.

Up until the past year, I’d say my mind was still in my early to mid-twenties even if my lifestyle wasn’t. But now, at 28, I actually feel 28. I am not only OK with a night at home with no plans; I look forward to it. I’m happiest sitting on the living room floor laughing with Corban or bouncing Mara in my lap. My focus isn’t as much on doing something all the time, but just enjoying time itself with loved ones.

My aunt sent me a horoscope yesterday describing those born on June 5, and this line is particularly true for me:

These active, mercurial people have a high level of energy and never seem to sit still.

I think the biggest change I’ve seen in myself this past year is that I’m learning to sit still, even preferring it at times. I spend a lot of time doing things and going places and seeing people, and I need that (when I read those “you know you’re an introvert when…” lists I absolutely cannot relate to needing alone time. Let me socialize day and night, please!). But as much as I love and need that, I also have come to treasure my time spent relaxing and playing at home (maybe it’s because with two kids I’m almost never alone).

As I enter the home stretch of my 20s, I’m dreaming of big adventures for the future, but content with the small pleasures of now.

This week’s small pleasures:

Cutie pie Mara at 9 months in our blooming backyard.

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Cousins.

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Birthday lunch date with Peter – downtown dining week special at Coquette Cafe.

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Udon noodle salad for birthday dinner, prepared by our nanny (a.k.a. not me!).

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Corban’s first Oreo (er… Roundy-O. Sorry, kid.) He really savored it.

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Zoo today with friends.

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