Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from our family to yours! We had a blast taking Ella out trick-or-treating, and our neighbors got a kick out of seeing her in her costume. 

After taking a gazillion family photos this afternoon (thank you to our awesome friend and amazing photographer, Bob), Ella was not particularly pleased to put on her pumpkin costume and have more photos taken. Here she is riding in style:

She did, however, really like all the Halloween decorations. 

Unfortunately she got scared of a few, and the combination of scary decorations and being up past her bedtime meant that we didn't get around to as many houses as I would like. 

Our little pumpkin is now sound asleep in bed, so Jim and I are going to put our feet up, watch Hocus Pocus, and eat some candy. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

You win some, you lose some

It's going to be a two-for-Tuesday here at Two Nerds. Jim and I both finished up a couple of craft projects we've been working on (although I'm sure he would apply a much more masculine word to describe what he's been doing out in the garage for the past few weekends).

My project was to make a trick-or-treat bag for Ella. Originally I was planning on buying one for her. Then my thoughts about consumerism and mass-production, coupled with Pinterest and pictures on Facebook of cutesy little bags other moms had made, convinced me that I would be failing my daughter if I did not make her a Halloween bag.

I found this tutorial while browsing Pinterest. It looked cute. It looked easy. It looked like it could be accomplished during a baby's nap. All excellent points in my book.

Somewhere along the way, something went wrong. Here is a picture of my finished product.

I think the main problem is that the proportions are off somehow, and that it probably would look okay if it was a Frankenstein design instead of a pumpkin. Or maybe if the face was bigger, or if there was more of the green stuff along the top. Perhaps it's simply that it's closing in on a decade since I last used a sewing machine. Definitely took me significantly longer than 40-60 minutes to accomplish. (Note: This is in no way a reflection upon the original tutorial. The fault definitely lies with me.)

You know it's bad when your husband tells you things like, "Well, it's made with love" and "You tried hard." Now instead of mom-guilt about having my daughter carry around a mass-produced trick-or-treat bag most likely made by child-labor in a developing country (holy hyphens!), I now have mom-guilt that my child will hate me for making her carry around such an ugly trick-or-treat bag. 

Jim had significantly more success with his project. This crappy picture doesn't do it justice, but he built me an amazing butcher block for our kitchen. It's not 100% finished yet- he still wants to add on a towel bar and a wine rack, and possibly more shelving or drawers (that's one of the best parts about doing stuff yourself- you can always change things up). Even so, I think he did an amazing job, and I'm incredibly excited about it. 



Tonight we carved our jack-o-lantern, and let Ella paint the little pumpkin she's been dragging around for the past week. Messy, yes, but most definitely fun. 

At first she was a little apprehensive. Possibly because it seemed strange that we were not only making a mess, but encouraging her to do so as well, instead of saying, "Eww, yucky!" at everything. 

She very soon lost interest in watching Jim carve the jack-o-lantern, and decided that the gourds were way more fascinating than my attempts to get her to paint her pumpkin.

Demonstrating for the camera her amazing ability to stand up on her own, and rocking some wild hair.

The finish product. Yes, I know she ate some paint. It's non-toxic. I checked in a panic after she decided to try and eat it when I glanced away for a second.

Here's the jack-o-lantern Jim carved. It has the same number and placement of teeth that she does.

One very happy, very messy little baby.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Flying with a baby: Then vs. Now

Over the weekend we flew down to OK to make up our minds whether we wanted to take the job (we are). Flying with our now-mobile baby made me think about how much different it is to travel with her at this age versus when she was younger.

We took Ella on her first flight when she was almost three months old. I remember being so stressed in the days leading up to the flight. What if she cried? How was I going to manage nursing her on the plane? What if she had a diaper blowout? Oh, and airport security! I sought out advice from everyone I knew about what I should do to make things easier. I panicked over whether her little ears would be bothered.

Turns out, flying with a small baby is easy to manage. It seemed like everyone offered to help us with one thing or another. The flight wasn't completely full so they let us bring the car seat on board and have an extra seat. We got on board, got settled, she nursed, and fell asleep before we even took off. She slept through most of our layover, nursed again, and slept the rest of the trip. I was even able to take a brief nap myself.

Flying with an almost-toddler is a whole other story. I swear she saw the plane and thought it was a giant jungle gym. Tray tables and arm rests are obviously there to climb on. Seat belts are for swinging back and forth. Seats are for jumping. Windows are for banging on. Mom and Dad are naturally good for all of the above. All those fun toys and books that I schlepped through the airport in my 100-lb diaper bag? Forget about them. There are airline magazines to shred, drinks to spill, and stuff to throw. Getting her to nap on the plane was laughable. I worked up a sweat trying to get my squirmy baby to settle down and nurse in the cramped airplane seat. The other passengers still seemed to be nice about everything, but I can tell we are rapidly shifting from, "Ooooh, a baby!!!" (with inner squee) to "Oh, a baby" (with inner groan).

I'm starting to think that the airline rule requiring children two and older to have their own seat is more for the parents' sanity.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Some (potentially) big news

Once again, I've sucked at keeping up with this blog. This time for good reason. A few weeks ago Jim interviewed for a position down in Oklahoma, and a few days later he got the phone call saying he was offered the job. 

Like most people, my initial reaction to the thought of Oklahoma was, "eww" (no offense to anyone who is from Oklahoma). When he first started talking about this position after the ACS conference in August, I told him if they offered an interview to go ahead and take it, but there was no way I was moving there. 

Now that he's been offered the position, we've started re-evaluating potentially living in Oklahoma. The job itself would be fantastic- that part is a no-brainer. The town is significantly smaller than where we are currently living- perfectly fine with me. There is potential for me to actually get a job in my field. It's a low cost of living area. We could have the big garden we've always envisioned. I could raise chickens. 

I guess the one huge thing I'm getting hung up on is that we really want to move back to the East Coast, and taking this job would mean moving in the opposite direction. Leaving the Chicago-area would mean that we really would have no family anywhere near us. 

Then again, I am the woman who decided to move up to Chicago at 18 years old, having visited once, and knowing absolutely no one. I made it work then, and if we decide to move to Oklahoma, I can make it work there, too. 

Right now we are about 95% sure we are going to take this job. We fly down there this weekend to look at houses and make our final decision. Currently we are in a whirlwind of talking to realtors, navigating our way through obtaining a mortgage, and figuring out how to say goodbye to the people and places that we've made home for the past seven years. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pumpkin Patch

Some of my fondest childhood memories were going to the pumpkin patch every year. Naturally, I was beyond excited to take Ella this past weekend.

A rare photo of the three of us on our way in

Pretty much as soon as we got there, we had torrential rain. We hung out inside the shop while we waited for the weather to clear.

Ella figured out clapping this past week, and now does it constantly. 

They had some gigantic pumpkins that we of course had to take pictures with. My sister-in-law and I contemplated actually getting some, and I'm not quite sure why I didn't go back and get one before we left.

I told Ella this is how my belly looked when I was 9 months pregnant

One of the advertised attractions was a pumpkin eating dinosaur. What's not to love?

They also had live pig races (how did I not know such a thing existed?!), and a corn maze. I remember corn mazes being a lot more fun, perhaps because I wasn't tall enough to see over it. 

They also had a hay-bale maze for the little kids. Auntie Beth and Uncle Mike took her in.

 And finally, the main attraction- the pumpkins!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

International Babywearing Week 2012

In honor of International Babywearing Week, I thought I'd do a post regarding my thoughts on babywearing.  This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of ins and outs of babywearing; rather, what our experience has been as parents who babywear. If you interested in learning more, Babywearing International has a fantastic website with a ton of info.

Don't mind the awkwardness of this photo. Here's Ella hanging out in the Ergo before we went out to rake leaves. 
Why do you wear your baby? Well, why not? Babies love being held, yet it isn't always practical to do so. There are days when Ella is fussy and crabby, and all she wants to do is be in my arms. As much as I wish I could, I can't stop everything I have to do to carry her around. On those days, she goes in the carrier. If she's up against my chest, it often soothes her enough that she will fall asleep. If she's on my back, she thinks it's fun to ride around. 

Babywearing also increases and enhances our time together. When I wear her, she's up at my level, and she can more easily hear what I am saying and see what I am doing. On the flip side, it also allows me to more easily read her cues. Is she hungry? Bored? Excited? I'm pretty good at figuring these things out now, but when she was a newborn, having her closer to me helped me learn more about her faster than I think I would have otherwise. 

Why not put her in the stroller? I do. A lot, in fact. Contrary to what some believe, most parents who choose to babywear don't have some grudge against The Stroller. There are times, though, when it's easier to wear her or I think she would enjoy being held more than hanging out in the stroller. 

Think about it this way. Say you were to go out to the zoo. Would you rather spend the day staring a other people's behinds, or to be up on adult level where you could actually see things? It's not a tough choice.

Other times, I choose not to take the stroller because the vast majority of strollers are heavy and bulky, and it's not worth it to drag the stroller out for a short trip (and I'm sometimes lazy. And I have arms like a T-Rex). Quick errand can go one of two ways. Option one: Lug the stroller out of the car, wrestle her into it, navigate the stroller through the store, go back outside, get her out of the stroller, wrestle her into the car seat, collapse the stroller, and have the super-human strength necessary to lift it back into my trunk. Option two: Toss her in the carrier, run into the store, wrestle her into the car seat, go home. *Side note: If anyone knows any tricks to convince my child that her car seat is not a torture device, please let me know.*  

There are also places that it's simply impossible to take her in a stroller. Like the Smoky Mountains. 

Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in April 2012
What carriers do you use? We own two carriers. The first one is a Moby wrap. The Moby was fantastic when she was a newborn. It's one big long piece of fabric that looks super intimidating. In actuality, it's quite easy to learn how to do the various wraps. Jim got to be the master Moby wrapper. I swear he could put that thing on in record time. 

There are a couple of downsides to the Moby. First, it can get really hot. Since Ella was born in December, it didn't matter that much. I can see, however, if you lived in a warmer climate or had a baby in the summer that you might not want to use it. Second, it has a relatively short use-span. We used it a ton for the first three months, and once she got bigger and squirmier, I simply did not feel as comfortable using it as when she was a newborn. 

Ella passed out in the Moby after a several-day long nap strike. She's about 2 months old here. Oh how I miss my snuggly little baby! 
Our second carrier is an Ergo. I seriously could write a novel about my love affair with my Ergo. These days it comes pretty much everywhere with us, and it's extremely rare that she doesn't hang out in there for at least a bit of each day. I can have her in there for hours upon end without my back hurting. It has a little hood that I can pull up over her head to make it darker so she can nap in peace, protect her from rain, or so I can nurse discreetly. There's a nifty little zipper pocket that I can toss things into instead of having to drag our gigantic diaper bag in everywhere. You can do front, back, and side carries with it. It comes in neat colors that look neither too girly nor too masculine. I really can go on and on about everything I love about my Ergo. 

There is one thing, however, that I did not like about the Ergo- the infant insert. Others may like or love it, but it simply did not work out well for us. I never felt like she was particularly comfortable in it, and I never felt particularly comfortable wearing her with the added bulk. Because of it, we didn't start using our Ergo much until she was big enough to use it without the insert.  

I'm sure I could say a lot more about babywearing. If my scintillating observances about the world of babywearing haven't convinced you to give it a try, I'll leave you with this last thought. It's great exercise and what I swear helped me lose the baby weight so quickly. On days when I'm too tired/lazy to work out, I figure that I pretty much did weights all day long, which totally justifies eating the cookies I've been eyeing for the past half hour. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Another Easy Fall Project: Halloween Sign

Jim had some wood scraps out in the garage. I had some paint. This is the end result: 

Because it's for Halloween, I don't think it matters that the wood isn't perfectly even, the writing is a bit off-kilter, or the ghosts look a little wonky. All part of the charm. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Trying to stay organized

I often have no clue how other people keep their houses clean. It seems like no matter what I do, it ends up being a wreck. Of course, there could be an obvious explanation....

I don't think it got this way on its own. And this is on a good day.
Anyone with a halfway-decent looking house is (a) lying, (b) has a maid, or (c) does not have a child. Those are the only logical answers.

Usually what happens in my house is something like this: 

1. Vow that I will not let housekeeping get on top of me. 

2. Start off strong. Dust, pick up the kitchen, sweep the floors. Bring out the vacuum. The baby starts screaming because the vacuum is the absolute most terrifying thing in the world. Put the vacuum away and try to explain, once again, that even though the vacuum makes a loud noise, it will not eat her. Resign myself to not vacuuming until Jim can take her out somewhere. 

3. Work on cleaning up the kitchen. It actually looks somewhat decent. Feed the baby. Well, it did look somewhat decent. Husband offers to cook dinner. Yay! Sit down with a glass of wine. Eat delicious dinner husband prepared. Walk into kitchen. Have this go through my mind:

*Sigh* Tell myself I will deal with it later.

4. Think about cleaning the bathroom. Walk into bathroom. Remember how much I dislike cleaning the bathroom. Walk out of bathroom. 

5. We have company coming over. Panic. How the heck did my house get to look so bad? Spend half the day furiously cleaning. Have company over, tidy up, go off to bed, and vow that I will not let the housekeeping get on top of me. 

So in an attempt to keep up with everything, I am implementing a housekeeping schedule. Here is what I have planned out: 

Daily Upkeep
Make beds
10 minute tidy- 3x/day
Wipe down counters
Sweep kitchen floor
Laundry as needed
Bathrooms- Wash the floor and shower, clean toilets, check shower liner, wipe down mirrors and counters
Bedrooms- change bedding, wash sheets, organize clothing. Vacuum the floor and clean windows and mirrors
Kitchen- Organize pantry, clean out refrigerator, wipe down appliances
Grocery shopping/errands- Plan meals for the week, get food/cleaning supplies as needed
Floors/Dusting- Dust, including all knick-knacks, blinds, surfaces. Vacuum, including baseboards
Outside work- mow the lawn, rake leaves, tend to garden
Any miscellaneous projects for the week
Garbage night- Empty garbage bins, take trash and recycling to the curb

Hopefully by breaking everything down into chunks that can be accomplished during the little mayhem machine's naps, I can get keep on top of things. I'll see if this actually work and what modifications are needed. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Fall Wreath

Our current place has a rather bland look on the outside, and I've been wracking my brain for weeks as to something that could help spruce up the place. Today I came up with the perfect idea- I'd get a fall wreath for the door. So Ella and I went out in search of one, looked at a few, and promptly went back to the drawing board. Why? Because I'm cheap poor frugal- whatever you want to call it, it means that I was not going to pay $100 for a wreath.

Figuring that the internet would not fail me, I picked up some random stuff to make my own wreath. Basically, I wandered around Hobby Lobby tossing autumnal-looking things in the cart, and grabbed one of those dead grapevine things to put it all together.

After Ella went off to bed, I grabbed a pumpkin ale and my hot glue gun, turned on Dr. Who, and went to work. Having grand delusions that I would write up the whole process like a crafty blogger, I dutifully snapped the picture below of all my purchases laid out on the craft surface (aka a summer tablecloth laid out on the living room floor).

The wreath base and all the decorative "stuff"
Yeah, that's where the picture taking ended. Partially because no one really needs to see the intermediate steps, and partially because in the midst burning my fingers off with the hot glue gun I wasn't exactly thinking about taking photos.

If I had to write up the process, it would go something like this: 

  1. Look at pictures of wreaths on pinterest. Decide that you are going to be super ambitious. 
  2. Lay out your materials- dead grapevine thing, random stuff to stick on the wreath, hot glue gun. Figure out what you are going to use in place of floral cutters because you forgot to buy some at the store (scissors + pliers work just fine). 
  3. Cut off pieces of the decorative stuff. Arrange on wreath. 
  4. Once the final layout is achieved, glue said pieces onto wreath. Note: the hot glue gun, is, in fact, extremely hot, as is the glue that comes out of it. 
That's pretty much how to make your very own fall wreath for significantly less than $100. Here is a picture of the end result: 

Not too shabby if I do say so myself