Ring... Take Two

After my first silversmithing class at Brookfield Craft Center where I created a bezel set ring, I was so excited to get back in the jewelry studio that I signed up for another class. This time was with a different instructor and a slightly different project. We were still creating a ring (and hopefully additional projects if there was time) but this time we were using different methods. Not to mention, just taking a class with a different instructor, I knew I was sure to learn different techniques for accomplishing some of the same tasks. I always think it’s great to learn from a variety of people. You take what you want from each person, find what works for you, and then make it your own. I knew this was a chance to improve upon what I already learned - and most importantly to get more “torch time”!!! Once you get the hang of soldering, it just very well may be the most exciting part of making jewelry… or maybe it’s pulling your piece out of the tumbler all shiny and bright. 

Finished Ring

Anyways, it turned out that the techniques used to make this ring were very different than the first. Instead of a thick and simple metal band cut from pre-shaped metal wire, we got to design the width, shape and texture of this one. In addition, on my first ring, I actually made the bezel setting versus this ring where I used a pre-made bezel setting. I decided to create a wide band and did some hammering. I then cut, filed and soldered it together, shaped it on the mandral, etc. After that, I soldered the pre-made bezel setting onto the band and then set the stone. I’ll admit, I can definitely use more practice in setting stones - it’s way harder than it seems. In any case… by using the pre-made bezel setting, and already having some experience with the tools and torch, I was quite efficient with my time and was able to go on to create a finished pendant as well (future post!!!)… and another pendant, which hopefully one day I’ll get around to finishing - unfortunately it still needs some fine tune sanding and another round in the tumbler.

After soldering and shaping on mandrel (Left); After filing to smooth soldered seam (Center); Bezel setting soldered on before setting stone (Right).  

Frosted Birch Window

If you’ve been to the flea market and love DIY projects, most likely you’ve bought and completed AT LEAST one window project. There’s unlimited ideas for reusing old windows online…. It truly seem endless.

This is actually my second window project - I haven’t shared my first one yet, as it’s still waiting to be hung up in Myla’s room. This window was actually given to me by someone who had quite a few sitting around after getting their windows replaced - free is always awesome… yay!!! It was originally white with a lot of chipping paint and I was almost going to leave it as is. But then I remembered I had bought some chalk paint - for what, I don’t remember anymore - BUT I had three colors and wanted to try some out. So I went with the green. I applied it after I did a light scraping and sanding to remove any large pieces of paint that were coming off. After two layers of green chalk paint, I went to town sanding and distressing it and finished it with a wax to seal it and give it a bit of a sheen.

The fun part wasn’t the painting of the window though… it was using a frosted spray paint and stencils to create a birch tree pattern on the glass panes on the back of the window. I made my own stencils using the same stencil film I used for this Ikea Table project. Unfortunately all the walls in our house are painted an off white color (picking paint colors is still on my to do list) because the frosted glass image definitely looks better against darker colors. But for now, it’s a subtle design that you’ll only be lucky enough to see if you happen to catch it in the right light - OR in the case below, just hitting it with a camera flash.

Once I hung the window, I decided to dress it up with some dried flowers I bought by wrapping hemp cord around the stems and adding a metal star (just like the ones from this ladder).

Burlap Mirror

I’m always on the lookout for good, antique frames at the flea market. There’s always a lot of junk frames (in my opinion - or at least not what I’m looking for) - ones without detail or ones that would need to be painted or made to look antique. Sometimes I do spot some interesting ones, but then the vendor is usually asking a fortune and many don’t budge on price, or at least to the price I’m willing to pay. So... I was kind of really excited when I found this old, framed mirror that the vendor seemed anxious to get rid of - seemed like they were anxious to make any kind of sale that day. A win for me! 

Back of the "ruined" mirror and panels I pulled off - love seeing how something that looks like trash can be turned into treasure.

The mirror itself was completely ruined. All the silver had been flaked off, but the frame itself was cracked and peeling in the perfect way (if that even makes sense to you). I contemplated replacing the mirror but decided to do something different with it. I had bought some pieces of printed burlap at JoAnn's a year or so prior - just because I liked it, not that I had a reason to buy it at that time. So, once I pulled off the back panels of wood and pulled out about a hundred mini nails, and pulled out the glass and cleaned it up - I framed a piece of that burlap. And after a few weeks of staring at it hanging on our wall, I thought I would make some mini burlap roses and add those for a little pop of color - and it would pick up on the wreath I made above our bed. My original thought was even to add some chicken wire on top of the burlap and use it as a place to hang photos or other little pieces of collected memories - but Justin vetoed that idea. So, it’s staying as is.

Framed Burlap hung on wall.

Closeup of the "perfect cracking and peeling".

Little Ladder

Here’s another flea market find that was a quick and easy project like the Barn Door - but first I must digress. Originally, I was in search of a ladder to go above our front door in our foyer where we have this pretty large, loft type space - it’s not usable space as you need a ladder to access it… it’s just a space to be decorated. Currently, I have this old trunk there which I also found at the flea market. I wouldn’t say it’s a ‘gorgeous’ trunk, I was just drawn to the color. You can certainly find some absolutely beautiful ones that have been restored to their original condition - which also cost a pretty penny - but that’s not what I needed. I have yet to do anything other than just clean this one up, which is fine as I’m not sure I really need to do anything else with it. But, it does need some other items to share that space with as it’s looking a little lonely. Interesting story behind this trunk though. It was found at the monastery where actress turned nun, Dolores Hart, Elvis’s supposed first onscreen kiss, now lives AND it supposedly belonged to her. Although, there is no proof of it, and I certainly didn’t pay what it would cost if there was proof. It does however, make for an interesting story and gets my imagination going of where this trunk has traveled to... as well as all the other pieces I pick up at the flea market.

Anyways, back to the little ladder. I thought that finding an old ladder might help fill the space above the loft if placed in one of the corners. I didn’t want a really tall ladder, but it turned out the one I found was ultimately too short for the space and looked lost when viewed from downstairs - BUT I still found a place for it. I just propped it up against an empty wall in our living room. But before doing so, I cleaned it up, waxed it with Briwax and added some grapevine garland I bought at Michael’s. It also came with the top rung cut in the middle where an old, rusted tin can was attached in between with two nails. I wasn’t sure I wanted to buy the ladder at first when I saw that, but then something about it I really liked. It gave me a good place to add some more decoration - a bit of moss and some hanging berries. And at Christmas I found these star ornaments, which I decided to just leave on there year round.

Now I just need to figure out what else will go up in that loft space. Good thing the flea market opens back up again this weekend!!! Although a part of me is fighting whether I want to go shopping at the flea market or hit up bootcamp... decisions, decisions...

Easter Piggy

Smaller holidays (or should I say, less promoted, marketed, or advertised than Christmas) have a way of creeping up on me in which I’m usually scrambling last minute to pull something together. As I was talking with Myla last week about Easter, she reminded me that the Easter Bunny leaves coins in the eggs at our house (instead of chocolate or toys). A few years ago, the Easter Bunny made a special Patchwork Piggy Bank for Myla when she was old enough to collect eggs - and understand that something was supposed to be in them. When she was Maddox’s age, we got away with just doing an empty egg hunt - just finding the eggs alone was joy enough for her. BUT, since Maddox will be able to collect eggs this year, I’m sure Myla will question why he doesn’t have a special piggy bank like hers to put his coins in. Alas, I realized I had a project on my hands despite how busy this coming week was going to be.

Therefore, starting this past Saturday I began working on Maddox’s special Piggy Bank. I’ll admit that I was in a rush and was thinking that maaaaaybe I should have come up with some cool design to paint on the pig - like make it into a racecar pig, a camo pig, an argyle pig, or an airplane pig. Instead, I went with what I already knew and did another patchwork type piggy bank. Luckily I still have a HUGE book of scrapbooking paper in all sorts of colors and interesting patterns. I chose the colors we are hoping to do his toddler room in - blue and orange - because seriously, the way this kid climbs, I’m sure he’s going to be out of his crib even sooner than Myla was and he’ll need a big boy bed all his own.  

Finished Piggy Bank

Back to the Pig… I used my paper cutter to cut one inch squares from 5 different blues, and 4 different orange/browns. I started by marking on the pig where the color would change and then began Mod Podging the orange and browns from the bottom. Since the legs make it a little difficult to work around, I didn’t try to keep the pieces in any specific pattern until I made the last row where the color changes to blue. Then I kept working all the way to the top and when finished made sure to give the entire pig another really good coat of Mod Podge. I cut some brown felt for the ears, eyes, and nose and glued those on with tacky glue. And finished it off with a piece of twine detail where the color changes. (Twine does seem more masculine than ribbon, right?) You can view the steps in pictures when I made Myla's Piggy Bank.

Back and Top Views

I’m so looking forward to Easter morning - not only is Maddox really into working his fine motor skills, so I know he’ll enjoy putting the coins into the bank, BUT Myla will be so excited to see that her little brother got his very own bank for all the Easter Egg coins that will arrive that morning. She's truly such a sweetheart who loves her brother immensely - it makes my heart smile.

Barn Door

This post will be short and sweet as I’ve been a bit of a stress ball this past week or so. Between packing up the kids for a short weekend trip and helping to run the book fair at Myla’s preschool, there’s been some extra to-do’s on my plate causing my anxiety to rise… also resulting in a little extra flowing of the wine. Because face it, packing the kids up to go anywhere, even for a short trip takes just as many days as the trip is long. And trying to help run a book fair for the first time ever is a bit mind boggling especially when you still have mommy-brain.

Anyways, back to it… I wanted to share with you a simple project, so simple that all it took was three steps… well, ok, maybe four. Rewind a little first… I’m always in search of items to hang on our walls. As I’ve mentioned in the past, our new house has a lot of wall space compared to our last house… along with high ceilings and even some cathedral ceilings. Finding pictures or decor that is big enough to fill the space and not look awkward can be quite a task. Which is why, when I came across this ‘barn door’ at the Elephant’s Trunk, I thought it would be perfect and had to have it. For what I believe was a measly $17 dollars, I took this big hunk of wood home. After some Briwax (1), a nail hammered into the center (2), an old, white berry wreath I had sitting around (3) and screwing in a really nifty wall mount bracket for super heavy objects (4)... I had a pretty interesting piece of work on my wall that fits in with the rest of my rustic decor that I’m trying to fill my home with. This may quite possibly be one of my most favorite finds at the flea market when comparing design, uniqueness and price.

Full Circle

I love those moments in life when you can look back and realize that you were meant to meet a specific person at some very specific moment in time… and know that through meeting that person, your life took a course that it may not have otherwise. And not only that but they were a bigger puzzle piece of your life than they maybe even realize. It’s interesting how we may never know how we touch another person’s life. And, if we don’t keep our eyes and hearts open, we may not realize how much someone else has impacted our own life.

A few years ago, Justin, Myla and I, headed downtown to a Summerfest celebration where there were various vendors, activities for the kids and sidewalk sales. I had spent some time looking at this one vendor’s handmade, custom jewelry - her name is Erin De Luca. It was all so beautiful. After a few minutes, we decided to make our way down to one of the kid activites taking place and the whole time I sat there, I told Justin that I was curious where she learned her craft because I really wanted to learn some of what she was able to do. I knew of a nearby craft school called Brookfield Craft Center - and even had some friends take classes there in years past. I had even looked into their classes a few times, but I found out that they didn’t receive enough funding to keep the school going and were in a holding pattern until things turned around.

Through talking about Erin’s jewelry with Justin (who was urging me to go back and ask her about her educational background) I told him I was thinking about a little “M” pendant I saw at her table and I knew I had to go back and get it - to represent Myla so I could always keep her close to my heart. I did go back to buy the pendant, but for some reason I couldn’t bring myself to start asking her a bunch of questions. I sort of felt like a weirdo if I did and as I’ve mentioned before, I can be pretty awkward sometimes.

A few months after Summerfest is when we lost our baby and if you read my post back then, you will know that I had a special pendant created. I had kept Erin’s business card and reached out to her about making it. We met at a local coffee shop to go over the design - she was truly so sweet and was happy to be working on this special piece. Even by then, I still hadn’t worked up the nerve to ask her anything that I had been curious about concerning silversmithing and jewelry making.

Fast forward another few months, I get notified that Brookfield Craft is holding an Open House to view some of the instructors practicing their craft - everything from wood turning, blacksmithing, silversmithing, weaving, glass fusing, pottery, etc. The school was working on a new schedule of classes and I was so excited to go check it out. It turned out that Erin was one of the instructors showcasing some silversmithing techniques that day in the jewelry studio. It was a pretty awesome feeling to walk in and say hello and also to share the news with her that I was pregnant (with Maddox). We talked that day about me taking a class with her and we kept in touch up until class started to figure out the safety precautions I should take (including what breathing ventilation mask and filters that I should wear) to protect the baby. She was so helpful both before and during the class - and very inspiring. In an odd way, taking the silversmithing class with her was also a part of my healing process and I felt it brought me full circle back to a place of being OK and being inspired to do “more” again. 

So, as for the project I worked on… I created a bezel set ring. I took many pictures along the way as I felt the process was truly amazing. To take straight pieces of wire, flat sheets of silver and a stone - and work to cut, saw, anneal, bend, hammer, solder, pickle, file, set, polish - it’s just such an exciting process and a huge jump from the beading projects I was so into. Creating pieces completely from scratch allowed for so many more possibilities. 

Here are some pics I took of the process. I missed some steps but it’s so cool to look at how rough pieces of metal can be worked into something beautiful… and with my own two hands.

(Top Left) Ring I made from straight silver wire - soldered, filed, sanded and then shaped on mandrel. (Top Middle) The beginning of the bezel setting that wraps around the stone made from fine silver, thin metal strips. (Top Right) The soldered bezel ring sitting on a flat sheet of silver, soon to be soldered together. (Middle Row) Process of creating bezel setting once soldered and then sawed and then filed smooth. (Bottom Left) You can see how smooth it is after filing and sanding. (Bottom Middle) View of crescent moon shapes I sawed into bottom of bezel. (Bottom Right) View of ring band from top left image soldered onto bezel setting. 

View of completed ring once stone was set in bezel.

Cakes a Swingin'

Recently I shared two cakes I made, one for Myla’s 4th birthday and the other for Maddox’s 1st birthday. So why not continue the cake theme, right?  

If you read my recent post ‘Return of the Blogger’, you would know that towards the end of last year I joined a gym called Max’s Best Bootcamp. Each month they hold a membership appreciation party called First Friday with clean eats, fun games, a bit of craziness and a bit of party punch too! Back in January I learned that the following month was Max’s (the owner’s) birthday and we’d be celebrating it at the February First Friday. I’m not even sure how we got on the subject of cakes, but I said I’d make the cake because obviously I have a thing for cake making. I sort of remember getting all excited and almost screaming at Max: “I’m going to make you a kettlebell cake!” (That was probably the party punch altering the volume of my voice). I’m not sure he realized what I was thinking or even that I was serious about making a cake, but my hamster wheel brain started turning and I was doing this. I was so ready for another creative challenge. 

As I got to thinking, I remembered I had a ‘ball’ cake pan made by Wilton from Myla’s 1st birthday that would be the perfect start to a three dimensional kettlebell cake. I just wasn’t sure how I was going to do the rest. But… once something gets stuck in my head, I’m always determined to figure out a way to make it work… so off I went.

I experimented with my favorite cake recipe which I know holds its shape well. I discovered that regardless of how perfect I was able to make those two half spheres, that I was going to need an extra layer between the two halves. Once the cake was baked and placed in the freezer (an awesome trick to sealing in moisture and it makes it easier to frost when it comes out) the cake compacted down a bit. By making an extra 6 inch round cake, about an inch high, that I placed between the two half spheres, I got the perfect sphere shape. I also made another 6 inch cake for the kettlebell cake to sit on - which would soon be covered in green buttercream ‘turf’. 

Then for the toughest part to figure out… I wasn’t exactly sure how to make the handle. Using fondant alone wasn’t going to work - I would have had to let it dry for several days to harden up enough so it wouldn’t collapse and I felt that was taking too big of a risk. So, I took a trip to Home Depot and found some really thin pvc piping. I wrapped some fondant around the straight pieces (after thoroughly washing and scrubbing it of course) so it evened out with the elbow joints. I gave that a day to dry and stiffen up. Since no one was going to be eating that part anyways, it didn’t matter that the fondant would get a bit hard. Then I covered the entire handle with the gray colored fondant and let that dry out a bit too before assembling the rest of the cake. 

Test cake (L) and Buttercream Turf Base for Final Cake (R)

I began by covering the round cake in a crumb coating of buttercream and placed it in the fridge for about 30 minutes to stiffen up. Then I smoothed the rolled out fondant around it. I’m so glad I did a practice cake, because I learned quite a bit about how to get the fondant to fit over a sphere cake without it folding or falling apart. My test cake had some issues near the bottom as you can see. Definitely tougher than it looks - I’m pretty sure I held my breathe the entire time and demanded complete silence in the house. (And maybe even threw the kids out of the kitchen despite Myla asking to help - next time sweetie). Then, I created the lower portions of the handle completely out of fondant. I had to rework them slightly into the proper shape after adding the fondant-covered pvc handle to them. Once it was all set, I placed it onto the fondant covered ball cake. 

As a side note... Max told me his favorite kettlebell was the red one - after I insisted to know so I would know what color to make the cake. So red it was. And although I believe the red kettlebells at bootcamp are of some other brand, I chose to imitate the CFF FIT logo as I thought I had come up with the most brilliant way to write Happy Birthday… "HBD MAX"… and instead of the normal (32 kg) numerals that should have been on there… I had to make it 38 for his age. At that very moment, I felt like a creative genius. Ha! As a side note, I was able to make the white logo pieces a few days ahead of time and store them in a sealed container until they were ready to use - made for less stress on the day of putting the cake together.

Final Cake

It was so awesome to see this cake come together - I absolutely love when an idea that pops into my head, can actually be made with my own two hands. However, I wasn’t completely thinking straight when I decided I was making this cake (darn that party punch)... because I was left trying to figure out how in the world was I going to transport this VERY top heavy cake in the car. It also happened to have JUST snowed that evening, so the super hilly and curvy roads I needed to take to get there were also slippery. It was an adventure getting there and again, I might not have breathed the entire way there... ever so cautiously stepping on the gas and brake pedals. Luckily, I did happen to find a tall box to transport it in and after the drive, the cake only had tipped to the side a little bit - I never did claim to be a professional cake maker, so it’s OK. I’m just thankful it arrived in one piece. 

In addition to the cake, I decided to make some cupcakes too - Because seriously, what else would this OCD, over-thinker do? (I DID forget to take some pictures though - doh!.) I felt so bad that I was going to be bringing a “super carb-filled, bad for you, refined sugar, white flour” cake to a “clean eats party” that I wanted to make some “cleaner” cupcakes too - paleo ones without gluten, refined sugar, or dairy. It was fun to experiment with those recipes too as I did find some healthy alternatives that Myla liked and which are definitely better for her sensitive belly. Not to mention - they are super delish and I feel better about myself indulging in them… Currently I’m thinking about the almond flour, vanilla cupcakes with dark chocolate frosting. Mmmmm.

MBB Crew - Absolutely love these people.

Maddox Turns One

After the crazy first year we had with Maddox, I can’t believe we celebrated his first birthday just a few short months ago. The first birthday is such a monumental milestone - and much more so for the parents than the actual child. When Myla turned one, me and Justin pretty much high-fived each other and said “we friggin’ did it.. we survived a full year as parents and Myla is still in one piece”. Myla, on the other hand, had not a single clue that the party was even for her, nor did she realize how much alcohol her parents (and grandparents) had consumed that night. We definitely toned it down a bit for Maddox’s birthday - not sure if it was a second child thing or that we were thankful that life seemed to be finally slowing down and we were just relishing the moment. 

Anyways, as much as I love the newborn/infant stage and all the sweet moments with them as teeny, tiny cooing babies, I admit it feels so good to get past that stage. I may shed a little tear occasionally when I look back, but I’m definitely looking forward to all the adventures ahead. As for Maddox, I now have a little walking and, well, not quite talking, but definitely communicating in his own language, little guy as my sidekick now. I love seeing his personality blossoming. Besides being a silly, inquisitive, mechanical, fearless, climbing little fellow - he’s pretty laid back and goes with the flow (Sooooo different than my mini-me Myla). Therefore, I figured he would probably never really care if he looked back and realized that I did a bit less planning for his first birthday than his sister’s. Plus, I knew deep down that I needed to take it easy on myself.

While searching for party supplies, I came across an adorable whale and octopus themed party set that I really loved - plates, decor, party bags, invites… and rather than trying to recreate or “one-up” what I already found, I decided to just buy it all. Checked that off the list - and it felt great! I even skipped on making him a party hat like I did for Myla - I had all the intentions of making one, but I knew with the limited time I had, it just wasn’t going to happen and instead I found a plush little crown. Awe, my little prince.

Obviously not thrilled... about the crown or the singing.

What I did decide to spend my time on was the cakes… and chocolate covered pretzels of course (I mean, who doesn’t love those?), along with some chocolate whale lollipops for the favor bags. I even had the party catered, so besides setting up food and decorations, I had very little to worry about. It was definitely hard for me to let go, but now that it’s past, I can say I’m happy that I was able to just 'be happy' with what I had.

So easy to make and so delish.

As for the cakes, I created two - well, actually three, as I made a special one for Myla because we were also celebrating her birthday with family (her party at Sky Zone was just friends). I wanted to use the sheet cake pan again that I used for Myla’s Paw Patrol Everest cake and I wanted make a smash cake for Maddox too. For the 'flat' whales and octopuses on the sheet cake, I used melted chocolate (left over from the pretzels) to make the forms on wax paper and added candy eyes. They easily peel up when cooled. For the three dimensional ones, I used fondant. Both of those I was able to make ahead and store until it was time to bake and decorate the cakes. 

Maddox's Smash Cake

Myla with her purple cake.

As I said before, I’m happy with how everything turned out. It was nice to focus on spending time with loved ones rather than getting wrapped up in “creating” - and with two back to back parties a week apart, it definitely saved my sanity… slightly.

Paw Patrol Party

If you have young kids, you’ve probably heard of Paw Patrol. In our case, it's all we ever hear about. It’s a show on Nick Jr. about a boy and a group of pups who do rescue missions around Adventure Bay. This show - or more like the idea of it - has been Myla’s obsession for well over a year - although Wild Kratts is starting to nudge the Paw Patrol out of that top spot. (Watch out Ryder!) Myla will wake up first thing in the morning and start assigning us characters and stating the missions we are about to embark upon. The thing that might drive me the most nuts, is that Myla is extremely imaginative - a good characteristic, of course - but she prefers to act out everything rather than playing with figurines (which by the way, she owns them ALL). All this acting makes for some exhausting play when you’re expected to run, jump, roll, stand up, sit down and fly…. I now understand the insanity I put my own parents through. Like mother, like daughter.

As Myla's 4th birthday came rolling up, what else would she want as the theme but Paw Patrol, right? Although it was my intention to do mostly store bought party supplies this year, that wasn’t entirely possible. You see… Nick Jr. decided to add a NEW PUP last year to the line up named Everest. She is now one of two girl pups on the show. The other girl pup, named Skye, is pretty girly and dainty flying around in her helicopter. As where Everest is a bit more of a tough girl - driving around in her snow rescue mobile and snowboarding down mountain sides. She’s definitely a bit sillier too - all which Myla relates to better. So of course, she wanted her theme to revolve around Everest. The only problem is that Nick Jr. has been really slow to release any products with Everest on them which left me needing to figure out how I could do the least possible in the handmade department. I decided that the invite, cake and a touch of handmade decor would be my limit. And I actually stood my ground against my own creative hamster-wheel mind.

To begin, I found some decent resolution images of the pups on the internet and went to work on the invite and table decor. The invite was pretty simple showcasing Everest and Skye on the front - but of course I needed to add Ryder (the boy) and his main pup, Chase, on the back - just to make sure it appealed to both the girls and boys invited to her party. And I opted for some fun chalkboard style text (that is the trendy thing to do now, right?)

Front of Invitation

Back of Invitation (sorry about the bad print job - our printer just finally kicked the bucket - this invite ended up being it's last job)

As for the table decor, I used those images I found online and blew them up to fill almost an entire sheet of paper. I also flipped the image using photo editing software and printed both images on card stock. I used double sided tape to stick them together once they were cut out. I then cut out bands of green to make a ring which the figure would sit on by making small slits in both the band and the figure so they would stand upright on the tables. Pretty simple and a lot less time consuming than it looks. And of course, I made sure that Everest would be standing on the table by the birthday girl.

Table Decor

Pup table decor on tables.

And finally, I had to make the cake. I decided a simple sheet cake would be the way to go here since I had to transport it to Sky Zone where the party was held. Typically, I don’t like to eat fondant, but I do like using it to decorate cakes - it’s the “play doh” of the cake world. I made the large Everest head out of fondant and placed it in the middle of the cake after I used buttercream frosting to cover the cake and decorate the edges. Myla also insisted on those large, round sprinkles along the border - and I have to admit, I like her style. And finally, because I was afraid of writing “Happy Birthday Myla” on the cake for fear of messing it up, I made a little banner (and used the leftover straws from her Frozen party last year as the poles). The rest of the party, I left up to Sky Zone... and BOY did it feel good to let someone else take control… and cleanup too.

Everest Cake

Myla blowing out her candles.

Coffee Talk Table Piece

On another Sunday adventure to the Elephant’s Trunk, I found an old soda crate unlike others I had seen there before. What drew me towards this one in particular was the grayish-blue hue to the wood. Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m going to do with the piece I buy, but I know I must have it because I like something about it. In this case, it was the color. Plus, when it comes to old soda crates, there are a million DIY ideas out there, so I knew it wouldn’t be wasted. When deciding what I would finally do with it, I thought I’d make a centerpiece for my coffee table in the family room. The room is currently decorated in natural browns and grays with hits of bluish-turquoise and a toned-down lime green. I knew this piece would fit. 

Finished piece

I brought it home and cleaned it up - just had to figure out what to fill it with. One of the inside boards was broken so there was a double wide spot. I had seen a lot of books at “The Trunk” and thought it would be a nice idea to find some books with titles that “struck a cord” with me to fill that space. It took me a few trips to find the fours book in there. I also didn’t want to spend a lot as it was purely for decoration - not collecting purposes - so that made it a little more difficult. I searched for ones with titles that would represent each one of us… Me, Justin, Myla and Maddox - the inside content didn’t matter. 

The first book I found was “The Rainbow”… for Maddox, my rainbow baby. The next I found was “Eat and Be Healthy” - I thought it was appropriate for both me and Justin, but I leaned towards Justin on this one. After we started dating, he decided to begin eating a vegetarian diet when at home with me, and with that his health improved too. Next, I found “The World’s Best Poetry” - which I felt fit me and my never ending search for beauty in the world. And finally, I found “The City’s Perils”… for Myla. Ha! Our spirited, strong-willed, overly dramatic, crazy, hysterical, imaginative, little princess, tom-boy whose always on the move and upside-down. What other title could fit this little girl, who calls herself “Dangerous”, more appropriately? One day she may hit me for saying that. The best part, the books look good as a grouping.

Make sure to add felt feet to any piece that could potentially scratch your furniture - this piece has metal banding that wraps underneath the box.

Finally, I bought some old glass milk bottles from The Glass Guy at The Trunk and filled them with interesting moss and dried/wood flowers. I finished off the piece with four candles I picked up for a great price at Homegoods. To add some holiday spirit this past Christmas, I added some artificial poinsettias… and again, like my dining room table centerpiece, I forgot to get photos. Oops... next Christmas.

First Flea Market Find

Almost two years ago, about the time I was first pregnant with Maddox, a good friend of mine and her mother introduced me to the local flea market called The Elephant’s Trunk. I had wanted to check it out for many, many years, so I'm not sure why it took me this long to finally go. It was always a passing thought and I never made it a priority on my weekend schedule - but with their convincing, I was game... and it turned into my new weekly routine. It was also a nice break for some "me" time which up until this point, I never really took any, at least on a consistent basis. I looked forward to going each weekend (and when it got rained out, I was always totally bummed). The flea market is the perfect place to find a starting point for all sorts of DIY projects - and I've been known to get ahead of myself with purchasing stuff faster than I was able to work on them. But, we had also been living in our new house for several months by this point and I needed more decor to fill our space... at least I had a good excuse to go a little crazy. 

Anyways, one of my first project ideas was a new centerpiece on my dining room table. On our first trip, we found the perfect wood box - an old wood tool caddy of sorts - and at a pretty good price. It certainly helps to go with “flea market veterans” who also happen to be good negotiators. (My quiet/shy nature certainly doesn't help me in this arena). We also found some old mason jars from “the glass guy” who is there every weekend and specializes in... you guessed it - all sorts of old glass bottles and jars. The mason jars I found had glass lids and metal hinges and I bought them in two sizes which I planned to place inside the box. I brought home those pieces and got to work. 

Finished centerpiece

I started by using Briwax on the wooden box. Briwax is amazing - it brings out all the natural patina and color of the antiqued wood and gives it a natural sheen - the more you buff, the glossier it will get. Briwax comes in a variety colors/shades too so even if you wanted to darken a piece, it’s possible using this wax. 

Next, I wanted to figure out a way to put candles in the mason jars to keep them elevated and peeking above the rim instead of placing them on the bottom where they would be hidden once I added the moss and flowers I had in mind. I decided to use some heavy gauge metal wire we had in the basement and experimented a bit to make these little “candle holders” that wrapped around the edges of the mason jars. They keep the candles elevated at just the right height. As you can see, I bent the wire to make a platform for the candle, and then little arms that wrapped around the top of the jar. 

Supplies: Heavy Gauge Wire, Mason Jar, Wire Cutters, Pliers and Candle

Steps to make elevated candle platform

Finally, I used moss and artificial flowers and berries to fill in around the jars. By using moss as a filler, I made sure not to add any extra weight to the piece so it can easily be picked up and moved when setting out food on the table. The wood caddy alone is quite heavy and once adding the mason jars, I didn’t want it much heavier. As for the holidays this year, I switched out the white and cream flowers and berries for red ones to make it more festive. Only thing… I forgot to get some pictures. Maybe next Christmas I’ll update this post with new photos.

Return of the Blogger

It’s been a long while since I’ve blogged… A. Real. Long. Time. Well over a year in fact. A few months ago, I decided to make a change in my life - one that has created new motivation to get back to blogging. I’ve still been busy baking, party planning, crafting, making and creating in between the time I’ve been focusing on my family - and therefore have plenty to share. The only thing is that “writing” can sometimes suck hours from my daily life - as I do tend to go off on tangents and always need refocusing. So, I think going forward after this post, I’ll be doing a little less “writing” and concentrate more on just sharing what I’ve done.

I need to back track here for just a moment and explain a little bit about why I’ve been slacking heavily in the blogging department - so please bear with me. As much as I hope writing all this can help someone else, it is also a form of therapy for me. I’m not trying to win some “my life is harder than your life” contest, nor am I trying to seek attention. I know several other strong mommas fighting much bigger battles… longer battles, more serious battles - ones I could not contemplate fighting myself. All I am trying to say is that sometimes being a mother, or parent for that matter, can be so down right exhausting - no matter how much you try to tell yourself that “this too shall pass.” When you’re in the moment, it can be hard to believe that things will change (it’s sort of like those first few sleepless days/weeks/months after having your first baby - you almost forget that little baby is going to grow up… and essentially move on to a whole new set of challenges). It’s those days when all your energy is gone and the only things you can think about are the issues your kids are dealing with. Waking up in the middle of the night, googling any information you can find, because after all, you’re the parent, the one who is supposed to figure it all out and no matter what you do, you still feel lost. It’s thoughts like this that most parents feel, but very few ever talk about. On social media we see all these glimpses into everyone’s lives of happy, joyous moments, but hardly do we see the moments where we, as parents, are at our worst. We may be feeling depressed, worn out, or are truly not acting in a way with our children that we can be proud of. So here I am, saying… I’ve felt it and have done it. And it’s been refreshing to see a few of my friends come out on social media and admit to it too. I am human, they are human, and it’s what humans do. The one thing I remind myself of daily: Simply thinking that we are never doing ‘good enough’, means we ARE doing good enough - it means we care and want to be better parents. And sometimes we need to forgive ourselves just a little.

Going back a year… Maddox was born, pissing right out of the womb. He’s still such a little stinker. Anyways, that whole “two kid thing” - it definitely threw me for a loop - not in the beginning, the beginning was easy. I just didn’t expect to hit so many hurdles during his first year of life. These hurdles were all lined up back to back, if not overlapping. I kept telling myself that once things seemed to settle into place, I’d get back to my blog. I had already given myself a break from blogging after losing our baby and again when I became pregnant with Maddox. But even now… things still aren’t as quite “settled” as I’d hope they would be - but they’re better. I guess they are now at the “norm” that I would expect for being a parent. Most importantly, since finding my new motivation, I can focus better on dealing with those rough days and not let them bring me so far down.

Our crazy year began a few weeks after Maddox was born. Silent reflux reared it’s ugly head. We had trouble feeding him from birth so this added to our frustrations (looking back, it was certainly foreshadowing things to come). After trying a few different formulas and getting him on the right medicine, he began to seem more comfortable and life became more enjoyable. Except that his silent reflux eventually turned into full on reflux and nothing in his way was safe from puddles and puddles of spit up. Despite the disgustingness of it all… we managed and life went on. 

Then at 6 weeks old, Maddox was diagnosed with Developmental Dysplasia of the Hips just like his older sister. No big deal right? I’ve been through the whole pavlik harness ordeal and biweekly appointments, ultrasounds and xrays. This time around, I skipped on making him special bloomers like I did for Myla and bought some 2T sweatpants which fit over the harness and I rolled up the bottoms. BAM, problem solved! My only issue was working his appointments around Myla's preschool schedule and his nap/feeding schedule.

Hip Baby 2.0 - Maddox Edition /// His first day (L) and last day (R) in the Pavlik Harness.

Less than a month into the harness, Myla brought home a lovely little cold from preschool… which turned into a monster. Myla was diagnosed with bronchiolitis and the doctors warned me to keep an eye on Maddox. When I said he began coughing that morning, they had me bring him in. They did a nasal swab to confirm what virus he had so we knew how the following few weeks would play out. My heart sank when they confirmed it was RSV. Our doctor told me not to google “RSV” because of how scary the virus can be which I had already known. The next number of days were an absolute nightmare. Justin and I also came down with what were probably the worst colds and sinus infections of our lives and here we were trying to take care of a sick 3 year old and a VERY sick 2 month old. Each day progressively got worse. Maddox drank less and less until we were trying to force feed him with a syringe every few minutes and giving him breathing treatments at home. We had almost daily doctor visits and multiple daily phone conversations with several doctors trying to get over the “hump” of RSV which occurs on about day 5 or 6. 

We called the breathing treatments "the elephant nose" which Myla thought was funny and she cooperated taking them.

Long story, short… On day 5 we carried a lifeless little body into the doctors office. I had never, ever felt this helpless before. With an elevated heart rate, ear infection, dehydration and so much mucus he was having trouble breathing, they admitted him directly to the hospital. It was anticipated he would be there for about 48 hours to get some fluids and we would be able to continue getting him healthy back at home. Once at the hospital they did some more tests and confirmed he also had a rhinovirus/enterovirus causing severe diarrhea making him even more dehydrated. He needed IV fluids for 4 days “to get over the hump”. We ended being there for 5 days until he began to take an upwards swing in relation to his feedings. From beginning to end… RSV took a good month or so of our lives.

Eventually everyone got back to healthy… the harness came off and things were going good for a short period of time. We were getting him back on a good feeding and sleeping schedule. Then at our next sick visit to the doctor (because Maddox had a cold and a burst ear infection - maybe his third one by now) the doctor suggested getting a consultation for a helmet as the back of his head was looking a little flat - it’s called Plagiocephaly. And according to our insurance company’s standards, he qualified for treatment. He had been born with a slight flat spot on one side and regardless of the repositioning I did, the other side ended up flattening out a bit too causing flattening across the entire back. At least it was symmetrical by now. The harness didn’t help matters - tummy time was limited being in that contraption. And once again, we were back to biweekly appointments - this time, the office was over an hour away. Add this on top of a specialist we were taking Myla to every three weeks for some digestive issues, which was also an hour away. I feel like I spent more time in the car and at doctor appointments last year than actually doing anything else. I won’t go into Myla’s issues as we are still figuring it all out… but it was her issues which weighed on my mind day and night through all of last year and affected almost every minute of our daily lives. Everything that happened with Maddox just postponed working with Myla or even set us back if we had made any progress.

I never did get around to decorating his helmet with the crazy summer we had, but Myla and I did make time for a fun little project... we cut out different shape eyebrows to try on Maddox.

Before we knew Maddox would have a helmet, we had planned three vacations for the summer months (which was a crazy idea to begin with). Maddox’s helmet went on a few days before our first trip… to a beach. Warm weather and water DO NOT MIX with the helmet. The helmet couldn’t get wet and also caused mass amounts of sweating. Our second trip was to sesame place on probably the hottest days of the summer, which is mostly a water park with very little shade. Not that the helmet was a major issue, but as if taking an infant on vacation isn’t tough enough… the helmet proved to be such a nuisance - trying to keep him cool, out of the sun, out of the water, wiping down his head, cleaning the helmet nightly, making sure he was bathed nightly before putting the helmet back on - all I’m saying is that it would have been a lot easier to deal with the helmet during the winter months.

The many doctor appointments continued all summer and we were finally going away on our last trip of the summer. Maddox just had two back to back ear infections (again) and was prescribed Augmentin a few days before leaving - what a nasty little antibiotic that is. It wreaked havoc on his belly so we had to stop. All the while he was coming down with a stomach bug. After days of going through the same ordeal as with the RSV (the refusal to eat)… we ended up back in the hospital in the Outer Banks getting IV fluids. It’s so amazingly frustrating when medical professionals keep telling you to feed your baby binding foods and keep his fluids up when he JUST WON’T EAT… despite holding him down and syringing fluids into his mouth. It was coming out the back end in such mass quantities and faster than we could get anything in. I’m sorry for the graphic description, but I have never seen or heard of anything quite like this - Not a single diaper could hold what came out. After spending a day in the hospital, they sent us home (or back to our vacation home) and we ended back in the hospital two days later needing more IV fluids. They blew two veins trying to get the IV in which was heartbreaking to watch (they had already blown one on our first trip to the hospital). We needed to do something differently.

First visit to the hospital in The Outer Banks (L) and the second visit (R) with the feeding gadget my husband rigged up.

BUT THEN… my brilliant husband Justin came up with a plan. We asked for a feeding tube and syringe and hooked it up to Maddox’s pacifier… very, very slowly, we were able to drip enough liquid into his mouth that Maddox took it. He probably thought it was just saliva and started cooperating. We ended up feeding him this way for several days as he was still refusing bottles and food, and would scream if he saw a syringe. (We ended up having to feed him this way on two other occasions in the coming months when he had gotten sick again - what a lifesaver that gadget turned out to be - it kept us out of the hospital).

All prepped for his ear tube procedure.

Now a few weeks later, we got past that and he finally gained back all the weight he lost (this kid’s weight curve on his chart looks like a roller coaster). School finally began for Myla. We knew she would bringing home some more colds as cold season was fast approaching. It was decided to go ahead and get ear tubes for Maddox since he already had six ear infections in the nine months since he was born. I had been through the whole anesthesia thing three times with Myla for her obstructed tear duct, so again, this wasn’t too big of an issue… more so just an annoyance with several doctor appointments and follow ups. Our insurance company must love us. Two days after he got ear tubes, the helmet came off. Woohoo!!! I felt like I was checking things off a list. DONE!

Things then got easy again… but they got busy. I had to plan for TWO birthday parties right before Thanksgiving. Myla and Maddox’s birthdays are 8 days apart. We wanted a party with family and close friends at home for Maddox. And, Myla wanted a party at Skyzone with her little friends. I took it easy on myself this year and went with a lot of store bought things… except for the cakes!!! Keep an eye out for those posts. 

Anyways, around this time we also switched specialists for Myla as we weren’t feeling very confident in the first one. This new one… was also an hour away - can you hear the joy in my voice? She went through a ton of tests including an endoscopy the day before Christmas Eve. We began to get some answers. Yay!

During the later part of December, our dog Gunther was diagnosed with Anaplasmosis and Cushing’s Disease (which made him have very frequent accidents all over the house for the entire year - fun times) - we are still working on a plan for that, but again, we have a diagnosis and are working towards a solution. And here I thought he was just upset that we brought another human home.

There were several other worries beyond the kids too this past year, which had been taking an emotional toll on me as well. Thankfully all that is pretty much resolved and everyone is pretty healthy. There’s a lot less weighing on my mind now - I feel like I can breathe a bit easier.

So here I am, almost at the end of January… feeling better than I ever have regardless that there is still a lot on my plate. Partly because we have made it through a very trying first year with Maddox and that’s all behind us now, and because we now have some answers and a plan in place for Myla, and a plan for Gunther… and mostly because this momma is taking care of herself. Which is what ties back to the beginning of this blog post. I’ve been motivated to do more again… including keeping up my blog.

Justin and I agree that we never want to experience another summer like we did. It was stressful, chaotic and pretty much sucked. Yes, there were MANY wonderful parts (many that I will cherish for my lifetime), but we were definitely “in the thick of it” then more so than ever before. Since this is my platform for being real and completely honest, I’ll tell you that I pretty much lost it this summer. I had two breakdowns where I really felt I couldn’t take it anymore. It drained me. I was trying so hard to grasp onto anything to keep my spirits up and keep me inspired and fulfilled. And I certainly was not a poster child for being the perfect mom - there’s many moments that I was not proud to be who I was. It all just felt too hard because I was putting all my energy into everyone but myself. I knew I had to do something to take care of me while giving myself a little break from the day to day… and that’s when I found my new love. No, don’t worry, Justin is still my TRUE LOVE. ;) And he’s so extremely supportive - I truly couldn’t do what I do without his support and love.

Ah, but I digress.. I knew I had to find something that was already scheduled. Trying to plan a girls/moms night out can sometimes take days or even weeks of planning - emails and texts flying back and forth working around everyone’s schedules. I knew I wanted something that was already set at certain times that I didn’t have to plan myself, that would get me out of the house and get me meeting new people - especially because I’m kind of quiet and shy and usually pretty awkward, ha. Anyways, that’s when I saw some videos on Facebook of a local bootcamp class. I love moving my body - be it running, biking, snowboarding, or dancing - and this looked like a ton of fun. I showed up for my free trial class and was hooked… just like that. When I met with Max, the owner, to go over some of the sign-up information for the ’30 day challenge’ they offer, he asked me questions about my goals, etc. I told him my goals were to get out of the house, away from the kids and not have to deal with the kids’ morning or evening routines on occasion. I guess those were the wrong answers… the right ones were lose weight, burn fat, strengthen core, etc. To me, all those were just a bonus at that point. 

Well, after the first month, I never felt better. I was already stronger than I’ve ever been. And as for my mental state - it improved big time. It allowed me to be more present in my kids lives and it gave me the strength to get through the rough days. After the 30 day challenge, it was a no brainer… I signed up. And what started as a 3 times a week escape… turned into 4, 5 and even sometimes 6 or 7 days. I simply love it. I love the trainers. I love when they push me and make me realize I’m capable of more than what I thought I was. I love the community and everyone I’ve met and how we all push and encourage each other. I love the funny comments that keep us smiling through the burn. I just love how awesome it all makes me feel… and that good spirit carries throughout my day. They say the most OVERused form of anti-depressants is food… the most UNDERused - EXERCISE!!! Although, I’m not sure where my wine and chocolate fit in there.

Overall, I’m feeling awesome… better than awesome. Which is certainly the most important thing. I have the energy to deal with the kids, their doctor appointments, the dog and all his appointments and tests, and I even have time left (even after working out) to think about the next creative project I want to work on and share. I really hope that if you are a stressed out, tired, overworked momma, that you can find something to keep your spirit alive. I can’t stress enough how important it is - and how life changing it can be. It will not only benefit you but your entire family as well. And hey, if you live near me and want to try a bootcamp class, I’d love for you to join me.

The Coolest Party in Town

…Is a FROZEN birthday party of course.

Sometimes I look back at the things I do and say, “Yup, I’m kind of crazy”. I’ve told myself time and again to give myself a break especially with birthday parties - kids appreciate store bought items just as much as homemade and it’s a lot less stressful and time consuming. But once my mind gets going and an idea starts branching out, I just can’t “let it go”.

I was 36 weeks pregnant when I threw Myla her third birthday party. I chose to hold it a few weeks early because Maddox was scheduled to arrive the day before her actual birthday, not leaving much wriggle room. As I mentioned in my last post, he had other plans and arrived early, which made me that much more thankful we chose to hold the party when we did. 

This year, I let Myla choose her party theme (as compared to the trains and owls I chose for the last two). It’s no surprise she chose the ever popular Frozen theme. What I should have done, being 9 months pregnant, was to buy all the Frozen theme decor at the party store and buy a cake. But do I allow myself to do this? Nope, of course not. After all, I enjoy doing this stuff. But seriously, I probably should have been relaxing with my feet up. 

I did, however, allow myself to consult Pinterest to fill in the gaps where my fatigued pregnant brain couldn’t. And, as much as I love Elsa and Anna - I didn’t want the party to focus on princesses. There was going to be three times as many boys than girls at her party and I know that Olaf would be the most popular character among all the kids. In addition to Olaf, a general "frozen/snowy" theme was my focus.

Unlike previous birthday party posts, I’ve put EVERYTHING into a single post, so it’s long. For easier searching, here’s what I’ll be sharing below: Activities, Favors, Food & Drink, Dessert, as well as the Invite and Thank You card designs.

Activities

Three is probably the earliest age kids look for, or maybe can handle, organized activities in a party setting. Two may work as well, but you’d probably end up with a lot of kids looking dumbfounded or refusing to participate - or maybe that was just my child. So, I figured I would plan just enough to have some organized fun before I let them run rampant from the sugar overload they were about to receive.

I planned two crafts and a slightly free-for-all snowball toss with Olaf. The first craft is the ever-popular “Build a Snowman” with marshmallows (jumbo, regular and mini), mini pretzels, caramel candy corn (I think these look more like carrots than the regular ones), and chocolate chips. I supplied edible markers and candy eyes to complete the face and made up bags of Royal Icing (aka gingerbread house frosting) to glue the snowmen together. This way it was completely edible. Even though the kids received some guidance on how to assemble them, they really used their own creativity to come up with some of the best (and funniest) looking snowmen I’ve seen - check ‘em out. Then, they got to devour their little creations.

The second craft actually came completely from my pregnant brain (I even impressed myself). Since Christmas was soon to follow, I thought making a snowflake ornament would be a fun project that most of the kids would be able to admire on their tree the following month. I put together bags with the following art supplies: popsicle sticks, pom poms, ribbon, and snowflake felt stickers. The kids then assembled them using Tacky Glue (this glue works much better than regular Elmers or glue sticks). 

And finally, I created a “Snowball Toss with Olaf” game. I had some leftover plywood (from the fabric-backed bookshelf I made) and used that to paint a huge Olaf. My original plan was to do Marshmallow instead - you know, the mean snowman Elsa created at the North Mountain - but he’s kind of scary and not so much fun for 3 year olds. I cut out the large circle for the balls to pass through and secured the board on a stand made from scrap wood. I bought a bag of styrofoam balls to be used as the snowballs - they were light weight, looked like snow, and I figured could always be recycled into a future project. We let this game kind of be a free-for-all and let the kids play with it as they saw fit. It turned out to be quite popular - after all, what three year old doesn’t like to throw things?

Favors

This year we didn’t take on such a large project like the wood trains Justin built last year… but this year’s favor was still pretty time consuming as a lot of experimenting went into it. Frozen Glitter Slime!!!! I tried a bunch of different recipes I found online and even messed with some of those to find something I liked. My only regret is that it didn’t last as long as the one experiment I did using regular white Elmer’s glue (instead of the clear), but the clear glue gave me the effect I was looking for. Unfortunately some batches got stickier/runnier than others within a few weeks. All that’s needed to fix it and bring back it’s perfect consistency is a little Borax and water solution - see recipe for ratio

Anyways, I found the clear 8oz PET jars and lids at the best price from Nature’s Garden. I created my own circular Olaf 'labels', cut them out and used Mod Podge to glue them and coat them on the lids.

In addition to the Frozen Glitter Slime, I assembled little bags of Hershey’s Hugs and Kisses since Olaf loves hugs… and the kisses (Cookies 'n' Cream flavor) came in the perfect blue wrapping. I also created the Thank You tags which I tied onto each baggie.

Food & Drink

At the party we served lunch which allowed us to tie the theme right into the menu - this is where I used Pinterest for some of the menu item names. For the kids’ sandwiches, I used a snowflake cookie cutter (kept it simple for the kids with a choice of cheese or peanut butter & jelly). You can also view the recipes for the Frozen Waters Punch aka "Tiffany Punch" (please excuse the photoshopped picture below, I forgot to snap a photo with punch in it - also, instead of a 1:1 ratio, I used less lemonade to keep it bluer) and the Troll Stones, which were Lentil ‘Meat’balls served in a mushroom thyme gravy which everyone couldn’t get enough of. (Tasted like Thanksgiving - yum!). I also made water bottle labels to carry the theme through.

Dessert

Hello sugar overload!!! I might have gone a little crazy here. To start, I made a “smash cake” of sorts decorated with sugar snowflakes found on Amazon. I also made cupcakes which I find easier to serve to a large group than having to slice and plate cake. I also made Jello Jigglers for Kristoff’s Ice, chocolate dipped strawberries for Frozen Hearts, and chocolate dipped pretzel rods for the Frozen Wands. For the dipping chocolate, I used Candy Melts, available at Michaels, Jo-Ann, party stores and I believe even Walmart. They already come pre-colored - just pick your sprinkles to decorate. I found using the microwave to melt them was extremely easy. I suggest using a tall pint glass for melting the chocolate and dipping the pretzels. (A shallow bowl worked better for the strawberries.) After dipping the pretzels and decorating with sprinkles, just lay on wax paper. Once cooled, package them in sealed plastic bags until ready to serve. As for the strawberries, store them in the fridge.

Invite and Thank You

I kept the invite simple sticking with a snowflake theme. Simply printed it on white cardstock, and used colored cardstock on the back. For the Thank You card, I kept it even simpler (no colored card stock) and made it like a notecard without a fold.

And finally…

In addition to some of the store bought decorations I did buy, I drew an Olaf to put by our fireplace where we stacked the birthday gifts. Maybe my “fire” looks a little cheesy, but Myla loved it as well as the rest of her “frozens birthday”, as she said. And that’s all that really matters. Overall, I was so happy to see Myla enjoying her party and her friends… and so happy that Maddox decided to wait another few weeks before making his appearance. I got a little bit of time to rest after all that work. 

Later that evening... Queen Myla got her cake.

Meeting Our Rainbow

Wow… it’s been months since my last post. I’m completely backlogged with blog posts I want to write and share, pictures that need to be taken, and project ideas that I want to get working on… I literally have a whiteboard with ideas and to-do’s written all over it - just when I’ll get to them is a completely different story. And for now, just knowing that I’m organized enough to get started back when time allows is a huge positive in my eyes. Everything about this past year and pregnancy definitely drained the life from me - but amid the fatigue, worry, pain, healing and general craziness of everyday life, I still found some time to keep my creative juices flowing. Although I didn’t do too many projects, I still can’t wait to share everything I’ve been making and learning, including my new loves - flea market projects and silversmithing. 

Back to the subject of this post… if you’ve been following my blog, you know this past year has most certainly been a tough one, emotionally and mentally - but I didn’t even realize how much so until about two months ago. 

Two months ago!!! That’s when all the hope we’ve been storing up in our hearts exploded into our world as we welcomed our rainbow baby boy into our family. Please meet Maddox…

After 50+ hours of continuous prodromal labor (didn’t even know something like this can happen - contractions every 7-10 minutes, never getting closer together just more intense), my doctor was finally able to say it wasn’t “false labor” and make the call that it was actually “real labor” and performed a repeat c-section at 38 weeks 1 day. What I’ve never talked about on my blog was the crazy experience I had with my first c-section with Myla. She was breech and we had a c-section scheduled, although Myla had other plans, just as Maddox did - to arrive early. Only with Myla, the contractions started quickly and progressed to 2-3 mins apart in the matter of two hours and were not letting up. (A little foreshadowing to her personality perhaps?) They performed a spinal block which didn’t take very well. I was on the OR table as they began the surgery and I could still move my legs and even worse… feel pain… I only had patches of numbness. Because I was already in labor, and possibly other reasons unknown to me (I could sense concern in their voices), they needed to move fast and the answer to this was to knock me out. Within seconds, my eyes rolled to the back of my head and I missed everything about her birth. It was a few hours before she was brought in to see me in the recovery room and by that point, I could only see straight by closing one eye. It took me a long time to get over that birth experience. But, what I realize today and try to let others know, is that it doesn’t really matter much anymore - what does matter is how much my love grows for my little girl every single day. And now, it’s just a crazy story to tell. However, I admit that I was still very excited about the chance to be awake this time around to meet our rainbow. 

And I was!!! It was truly a beautiful birth - and maybe everything that happened the first time was the universe’s way of making this experience extraordinarily special. It was calm and relaxed and a very light mood filled the room; music played in the background and the same doctor who delivered Myla, and performed my D&C for our loss, was about to deliver our rainbow too. (Needless to say, I feel very close with this doctor after those other experiences and it meant a lot that she would be the one delivering.) Justin got to sit next to me and hold my hand - we had the opportunity to talk and laugh and look into each others eyes with excitement and anticipation as the doctors worked to get our little rainbow out. Maddox was pulled from my womb crying… and peeing!!! A little troublemaker already in the making. There was zero anxiety and I was still in total disbelief that after what felt like over a year of being pregnant - as I guess in a way I was - that we were finally meeting him. He was so little and so cute and I couldn’t get enough kisses and snuggles in within those first few moments.

Once we eventually made our way out of the OR and the recovery room and finally to our room, we got in some more bonding time with our new little man. Justin turned to me and said something which I myself wasn’t yet able to put into words… he said:

“I finally feel we are complete.”

And it was true… Since our loss, maybe because we had been expecting to grow our family from that first positive pregnancy test, that something really felt missing. It was as if we were waiting for that little soul to finally come join us. Even throughout our pregnancy, we felt hope and excitement - but it wasn’t until those first little cries, that my heart was so full it wanted to explode - I felt like this crazy journey had come to an end. He was here, he was healthy and my heart healed even more. I look back and realize that although I thought I was ‘OK’  for this past year that I truly wasn’t because he wasn’t yet in my arms. 

I like to believe that his little soul was not ready to join us back then - but was ready now… and it needed, or maybe knew that I needed, or even Myla needed, a little more time to keep things exactly where they were. Perhaps for some reason I needed to have this experience - that maybe there was something I needed to complete or change before Maddox came into this world. I know for certain that my patience has grown immensely - and things that once triggered anger and frustration, actually trigger smiles because I’m so much more thankful for everything in my life. This healing journey has been long, and I know it’s not over - not sure it really ever will be - but I can’t deny that having him here now, has been the biggest healing leap I’ve had.

Now to begin all those Maddox-inspired projects.

Fabric-Backed Bookcase

Now that we have a baby boy on the way, I decided it was time to re-do Myla’s room - giving her a “big girl” room - since we need the crib and other furniture for the nursery. Myla, super-lucky girl that she is, inherited my bedroom furniture from my young teen years. It’s a beautiful, white, vintage-country-esqe style. It’s much like what you see advertised for young girls and teens in Pottery Barn. (Glad I had such good taste so many years ago… wink, wink). It’s in pretty good shape and sure to grow with her throughout the years… which is exactly why I finally decided to finish her unfinished bookcase. 

Finished bookcase.

I actually got this bookcase years and years ago… it’s made its way through my many apartments and different rooms throughout our old house before it landed in her nursery. Since I knew the nursery was only going to last a few years, I decided to hold off painting it until now.

I thought it would look best if I painted it to match the furniture - PLUS I wanted to add a splash of color to her room. But, I didn’t want to paint the bookcase itself with a ‘pop’ color, but instead add a color backing to it that would be visible when viewing it from the front. And, I wanted to make sure that I could always change out that ‘pop’ of color if Myla decides that she wants to re-do her room down the road.

I started by filling in the screw holes on the bookcase with wood filler and painting the entire bookcase with a primer. I followed that up with two coats of paint that I matched to the furniture (an off-white, slightly creamy color) and finished it off with a spray clear, gloss coat. (Don't worry, I used the spray finish outside and wore a respirator to protect the lil' bub in my tum - it's probably a good idea to wear one even if you're not pregnant... those fumes were wicked). 

For the backing, I picked up some fabric that matched some colors in the quilt for her bed. A bright pink with polka dots seemed like the perfect fabric to not only add a ‘pop’ of color, but also some fun, to her room. Next, I went to the hardware store and bought a sheet of plywood which I had them cut down to size (slightly smaller than the actual width of the bookcase and long enough to cover the openings in the bookcase). 

Once I brought it home and tested it against the bookcase, I cut the fabric a bit bigger than the board. I mixed together Modge Podge and water (about a 1:1 ratio) so it looked like milk. I used a large, old paintbrush and spread it over the entire piece of wood. Then I carefully laid the fabric down on top, making sure there were no wrinkles or creases in the fabric. Once set in place, I brushed another layer of the Modge Podge mixture on top of the fabric making sure it soaked completely through. Once dry, I applied one more layer of the Modge Podge mixture. 

After I let that dry overnight, I used a piece of sandpaper to rub along the edge just enough to break the fabric fibers, while slightly tugging on the hanging fabric, leaving a perfect edge around the board. After that, it was simply a matter of laying the bookcase down, positioning the backer board (nailing in diagonal corners first to make sure it was square) and then nailing around the rest about every 6-8 inches. 

What I love about doing a bookcase this way, is that I can always pull the backer board off and apply a new fabric color on a new piece of plywood without ruining the painted part of the bookcase. I loved this bookcase so much that I just ordered one (although shorter) for baby boy’s nursery (from Wood Bin in Brookfield, CT). I will once again wait until his “big boy” room to finish it to match the furniture we buy for him then.

I also used the same fabric to make simple curtains for her windows (hung with tension rods - I love the wide molding too much to cover it). I still have extra fabric which I plan on using to make a few toss pillows or covering some frames for some artwork we created. We’ll see how far I can stretch the leftover fabric. 

Burlap Rose Wreath with ‘Pop’

In my last post I shared the large, burlap rose, grapevine wreath project I completed for our family room. I mentioned I had originally bought a smaller wreath which I found to be too small for the space above our fireplace and decided to keep it anyways. Since we recently redid our bedroom - new furniture and all new bedding - I needed to work on some decor for that room (and still do) and liked the idea of adding a wreath above our bed. And because our new bedding has fun colors in it like ‘desert rose’ and orange, I thought this would be a great opportunity to add a little ‘pop’ of color. (I believe I may be addicted to creating burlap roses.)

I used the same technique to make the flowers as I did with the first wreath. This time I used primarily white and gray with a few pops of orange and pink. To offset the flowers on the wreath and add a bit more detail, I cut a large rectangle of white burlap and created folds using hot glue on the ends - like making pleats. I then wrapped it around the wreath, tacking again with hot glue. I completed it with two strips of gray burlap that I wrapped at the top and bottom of the white burlap and tacked again with glue on the back. And that was it. Adding those bits of “pop” is a great way to add or tie in additional color around a room.

Burlap Rose Grapevine Wreath

I finally have a clear mind now that I’ve emptied my brain in my last post. I never thought of myself as much of a writer, or having the "need" to write - but writing really made me feel better. Now, I can finally focus on my crafty projects again. Yay!!! 

So back to it we go.... Months ago, I created a few burlap roses with stems and felt leaves for a fabric-covered, wine bottle vase I had sitting around. When I went shopping for burlap for that project (and the framed burlap art piece), I discovered the numerous colors and patterns available - both fabric by the yard and in “ribbon rolls”. I got carried away and purchased quite a few colors and patterns. However, to date, I’ve only completed two additional projects.

Since moving into our new house, one of my top priorities has been to decorate above our fireplace. We have a two-story family room with massive amounts of empty wall space. I found a wreath at Michael’s that was about 3 feet in diameter. I brought it home, but it still looked rather small for that area. I kept telling myself I need to think bigger. I decided to keep the wreath anyways as I got a good buy on it and I was sure I would find another place for it down the road. 

A month or so passed and I went back into Michael’s and found a wreath that was even bigger!!! This new one was about 4 feet in diameter. I brought it home and figured it would work pretty well. I still had wanted a bigger one, but that meant custom ordering it for some exuberant price and I wasn’t sure I was ready to do that especially if I discovered all my efforts to complete this project failed. 

I found this new tutorial on how to make roses from burlap, or any material for that matter, which allowed me to make the flowers as large or small as I wanted simply by changing the width and length of the burlap strips. (It’s a different method/tutorial than I used for the burlap roses I made for the vase - very similar, but I found this one to be simpler.) I couldn’t believe how easy it was, once I got the hang of it. It almost became second nature. I found it to be quite a relaxing process too… folding, twisting, gluing… repeat.

I wanted to keep the wreath pretty simple as we have other decorations along our mantel. My style is definitely about simplicity, firmly believing “less is more”. Therefore, I kept the roses to three colors: white, tan and dark brown. I did work on making leaves out of burlap as well (pictured below). I watered down some Modge Podge and covered the burlap with the mixture using a paint brush. Then hung it to dry - the glue dries clear and the fabric becomes stiff and moldable. Most importantly, the glue prevents shredding when you cut out the leaf shapes. However, after placing them around the wreath, I felt it was becoming too busy and removed them.

Burlap leaves which I decided to omit from this project.

I simply attached the flowers with a hot glue gun. Ditched my original plan of wiring them on… and that was it! Although I made this one pretty simple, there are so many other elements you can add such as the burlap leaves, or other materials, like lace, feathers, beads, pearls and roses in additional fabrics. (Something else to add to my craft to-do list.)

Expecting A Rainbow

I’ve been asking myself why I want, or need, to write this. I’m not even sure that my “craft blog” is the appropriate place to post this. I’m not an incredibly open person when it comes to sharing experiences like this… especially with those outside of my closest family and friends. But the thoughts and emotions keep swirling through my head and I find myself talking through what happened, over and over again. It’s my hope that by writing this, that it helps to slow down that hamster wheel of thoughts. Once it’s out of my mind and all written out, hopefully there will be a little more space in my brain for new, and happier, thoughts to take root. I’m also hoping it allows me to concentrate more on crafting and writing for my blog again.

Most importantly, it is also my hope that by sharing this, it reaches another woman who has experienced (or will in the future) something similar. I hope it makes them feel a little less alone in a time when she may feel complete isolation and may even be suffering in silence. 

And lastly, since this seems to be such a taboo subject in our culture, I hope to bring a bit of awareness to those who may be close with a woman (and/or even their partner) who has to deal with this type of experience. Hopefully by reading my words, they can better understand what she may be feeling at a time when she may have a difficult time putting her own feelings into words. Although, I am truly aware that it is almost impossible to completely walk in another’s shoes… as we are all individuals and no single experience is exactly like the next.

I’d also like to begin by saying two things… First, don’t feel pity on me. It’s not the reason I’m writing this as I’ve clearly stated above. I believe writing this is part of my healing journey and this experience has really brought about some positives in my life. And second, don’t judge me - whether you may think I’m overly sensitive or don’t agree with the actions we chose to take. As I said before, every person’s experience is unique. Many times, people find themselves in situations where the choices they thought they would make suddenly change when faced with new information. And sometimes, those choices go against their personal values and become the most difficult decisions they ever have to make in their life.

So let me begin…

This past October, Justin and I found out we were to be expecting our second child. We had held off trying for another because we were in the process of selling our house and I wanted to make sure I had a stress-free pregnancy. So when the test showed positive soon after moving into our new house, we were overjoyed. We were so excited that almost immediately we began to share the news with our families. We hadn’t put much thought into sharing the news so early this time around as we already had one healthy pregnancy from which we got a beautiful, charismatic, little girl. When we were pregnant with Myla, we were much more worried about sharing the news as that is what our society expects and our culture believes is the thing to do - we even waited until the end of our first trimester to tell family. But for some reason, the worry wasn’t there this time around. We figured everything would go the way it did before. And we enjoyed celebrating with our families.

Our First Doctor Appointment 

I knew we were far enough along that we should expect to see the heartbeat and get a good measurement of the baby. Only, that’s not how our appointment went. My doctor started the ultrasound and found the baby but couldn’t locate the heartbeat. I knew the machine in the main office was not as strong as the ultrasound technician’s machine. We dealt with a similar situation with Myla. She measured 4 days behind at our first appointment, and the doctor thought she could see a ‘flicker’ but couldn’t get a good measurement of the heartbeat and had to send us to the tech. However, this time, the doctor then said that the baby was still too small to measure to calculate a due date - which in other words means, the baby was measuring less than 6 weeks. According to my calculations, this meant baby was at least 10 days behind! The doctor said, perhaps I just wasn’t as far along as I thought - which is what I know they tell many women, as many women have longer cycles or ovulate late, etc. But I knew my dates! And it didn’t make any sense to me. By hearing what the doctor said, it meant she was trying to tell me that we conceived this baby the day I got a big fat positive on a home pregnancy test. As most people know, that’s impossible. I began crying right there. Justin still had hope - bless his heart - and reminded me that Myla measured behind, and that we also had trouble seeing her heartbeat as well. But I knew this appointment was further along in the pregnancy than with Myla… I knew my dates… I knew something was not right. The office then scheduled me for an ultrasound with the tech a week later.

From there I went home and researched and researched more. I discovered that anything measuring 10 days to 2 weeks behind at this point, was a bad sign. But I kept faith and continued to research for any positive outcomes. That coming weekend was Myla’s 2nd Birthday Party. Family was going to be traveling in and I was about to have a house full of friends and family. I called my OB’s office to see if I could get in before the weekend for that next ultrasound. I needed to know what was going to be happening - there was no way I wanted a house full of people and family staying overnight if I was about to lose this baby. I did my research about what women experience during a miscarriage too (which I discovered is much more difficult than I ever thought before) - I wanted to prepare myself for what may come. Because of that, we almost decided to cancel Myla’s party. Luckily, the technician was able to fit me in right before the weekend. At that appointment, we found the heartbeat, which again gave me a little bit of faith - enough to keep the party going as scheduled. But the baby hadn’t grown the amount it should have in those days. It was growing, but slowly. It’s heart rate was also slow - probably less than 70 beats per minute and at this point, it should have been at least double that. The tech kept trying to get a measurement with the machine but it wouldn’t measure - we could see it, but it was too slow for the machine to pick up. We kept trying to look for the best possible outcome - perhaps the heartbeat only JUST started, which then of course, it would be on the slower side. My doctor confirmed that the heartbeat may just be starting and that she has seen women who thought they knew their dates, but ovulated late, and where implantation took place later than expected and the embryo just took a little longer than usual to start developing - she was trying to give me a shred of hope. She said it was still too early to call it. We got to take home pictures of our little bean that day - which I’m eternally thankful for. Then, they scheduled me for a third ultrasound the following Wednesday - the day before Thanksgiving.

Waiting Game Continues

I did more research on heart rates the day before Myla’s party - still searching for more hope - still debating if we should cancel - still wondering how I would be able to handle seeing everyone and act like everything was ok. However, the only concrete information I could find was not positive. A heart rate of 70 bpm or less means a 100% risk of miscarriage… or also in medical terminology: fetal demise. I read those words over and over again in all the research I did. Gosh, how much I hate reading those words.

So here I was… This little tiny baby living inside of me, fighting for life, hanging on but slowly falling away… and there wasn’t a single thing I could do about it. Nothing… absolutely nothing I could do. I’ve never felt so helpless in my entire life. The only thing I could do was wait and see and continue to hope for a miracle baby. There was a part of me that wished I just had a blighted ovum (gestational sac but no baby), or that I had already began to miscarry - because this waiting felt torturous.

That weekend, we celebrated Myla’s birthday - and for some strange reason, I felt really calm - perhaps I was just feeling numb from already having cried so much or perhaps because I had so much going on with the party that my mind had a chance to take a break from worrying. I know I isolated myself a lot during that weekend and felt it was difficult to make conversation as I couldn’t really talk about what was truly going through my mind. The words Justin and I used to describe the situation to family was “we are cautiously optimistic”. At this point, none of my friends knew what was going on, but my closest ones suspected I was pregnant - they just didn’t realize what we were facing at this point.

Final Ultrasound

That next Wednesday, at our third ultrasound, I remember sitting in the waiting room, gripping Justin’s hand tightly, and breathing heavily… so nervous to find out what was happening.

We went into the room. I’m pretty sure I already had tears in my eyes, preparing myself to receive the worst news of my life, but still hoping for that miracle. Just as before, the tech found the baby and again, it had grown, but just a tiny bit. She tried over and over and over and over again to get a measurement of the heartbeat - I could still see it, but I could tell it was even slower than before. It would flicker a few times, then again… then again… but it was soooo slow. I can almost remember just holding my breathe, staring at the ultrasound screen, waiting to hear the words. Then she said them: “it’s not looking good”. All that air I had been holding in my lungs came screaming out as I closed my eyes - but when I closed my eyes, I couldn’t escape the ultrasound image - the black and white reversed as it was burned into the inside of my eyelids. I felt Justin come over and hold me and between my sobs and screams, I could see the tears in his eyes too. Our world suddenly stopped. The tech continued to try to get a measurement of the heart rate… it seemed as though she wanted to see this baby make it as much as we did. After a little while, the tech and Justin held me and walked me out of the room, through the waiting room of other pregnant ladies, whom I’m sure all heard my cries, and back into my doctor’s office. 

We then had our chance to talk with the doctor. Before I heard anything she had to say, I was certain that I wanted to miscarry naturally, at home, whenever the time was right for baby to leave us. I knew it meant hours, days or even weeks before it could happen, but it’s what I believed was the right thing to do. As if my head wasn’t spinning enough, I was then given some information which made me second guess everything I had prepared myself for. I was told that I was at a higher risk for hemorrhaging than usual and that going in for a scheduled D&C would be my safest option. I was told that since the following day was Thanksgiving and we had the “holiday weekend” upon us, that hospital staff might be lighter than normal. I was told that I could wait until I started bleeding, but as soon as I did, they wanted me at the hospital immediately - even if that meant the middle of the night, at which point, I would get an emergency D&C - a less safe option than a scheduled one - combine that with possibly having to go in during the holiday and fewer people on staff makes for a riskier/scarier situation. I was also told that the heart was still in fact slightly beating, meaning that in effect, it would be a termination if I went in that afternoon for a scheduled D&C - which was my doctors suggestion. I was told that if I wanted to wait it out, that they wanted me to return in two days if I hadn’t already started bleeding for another ultrasound and we would continue that pattern until we knew the heart completely stopped beating and then schedule the D&C. However, we knew there was still a good chance that my body would begin to miscarry before we even reached the next ultrasound. After hearing all this - I couldn’t believe how easily it was for our world to be flipped up-side down and all my values to be second-guessed. I knew that making the wrong decision could potentially have a huge impact on my health. And making the right decision could also be the hardest thing I ever had to do.

Making a Decision

Justin and I went home, where we sat with my mother who had been there watching Myla. We talked about the different options and as I watched Myla play, I knew my priority was her. I had to make sure I was healthy for her and that I needed to do the safest thing possible. As I sat there with my mom and Justin, and my heart started to accept the fact that this baby was not going to make it, I began to feel like I just wanted it over with. I didn’t think I could handle the ‘sit and wait’ approach any longer as this entire experience had already been going on for a few weeks - all this sadness mixed with little bits of hope - I couldn’t take the emotional roller coaster anymore. Could I possibly continue to wait? To continue feeling this pain for longer? I just wanted to get past this and start on my healing journey. A little while later, I called the doctor and told her to have the hospital schedule me for that afternoon. 

I laid down on my couch for several hours before we had to leave for the hospital. I spent that time staring blankly at the walls and ceiling, crying, and even shaking uncontrollably … it’s pretty much how I spent a lot of my time for those past few weeks since our first appointment. I kept asking my baby for forgiveness and telling it how much I loved him/her. I kept hoping that its heart would stop beating by the time surgery was to take place. I hated myself for making the decision I had, but I knew it was the best choice every time I thought of Myla. Plus, I have this unfortunate history of being in the 1% when doctors tell me what could go wrong - I don’t get it, but it usually happens to me. This was one situation where I didn’t want to take that risk. 

Saying Goodbye and the Months that Followed

When the time came, Justin drove me to the hospital. By this point, I couldn’t believe I still had tears to cry, but I did. I met with my doctor there and was prepped for surgery. I remember being on the hospital bed, getting wheeled around - I couldn’t handle the numerous, random staff around having normal conversations or even hearing the occasional laughter. Not that it was their fault, but here I was, dressed in hospital gowns, laying under the white sheets about to be taken into a room where I’d be saying goodbye to a baby I never got to hold. I remember not being able to handle looking at anyone and decided to take out my contacts before I had to - without them, I can not see more than 12 inches in front of my face. I spoke with several people who would be assisting in the OR - nurses, anesthesiologists, doctors… I remember kissing Justin goodbye. I remember sobbing so hard that they decided to inject some medication into my IV before they even began to wheel me into the OR. 

Then… I remember waking up as a few nurses took care of me. I remember them being really sweet with me. Helping me stay warm and get comfortable and simply placing their hand on mine. Unfortunately, I also remember how much my body hurt, as it did for days… my shoulders, sides, back - I must have been coughing pretty hard from the breathing tube… combined with the amount of crying I had done. I couldn’t believe how much I ached for days after that - in addition to the cramping from the surgery. To add to that, I ended up with strep throat and a double ear infection the next day - as if the hurting in my heart wasn’t bad enough, my entire body felt like it was thrown under a truck.

After leaving the hospital, I went home and just laid on the couch - I don’t think I understood everything I was feeling - it just simply felt like it was all over - which it was. There was no going back. There was no longer a little life inside my belly. I was empty and felt empty. This is when my world truly started to feel like it had stopped. I guess that’s kind of what mourning and grieving feels like to me. You look around at the world, and its still moving - life is still happening and going forward. But to me, it all halted. I had trouble speaking, moving my body, listening to anyone who tried to speak to me. I remember not knowing how I was ever going to move forward myself. I didn’t want to talk to anyone but Justin and my family. I had so much trouble sleeping that night. I woke up before the sun and wrote my Thanksgiving Wish blog post… I truly didn’t want to accept that this was over. All my hopes and dreams for this little one that I carried inside of me for a few short months - were all gone. 

The next three months were beyond hard - it was the amount of time my doctor said we had to wait before trying for another baby. During that time, I felt little hope. I almost didn’t know what to do with myself besides think of all the things I possibly did to cause this to happen. I still couldn’t accept that it was most likely just a “chromosomal fluke” and that it was nothing I did that caused this to happen. I wondered if it was the cold medicine I took before I knew I was pregnant, or the hot bath, or maybe even the flu shot I got. I didn’t want to accept the statistic that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, 90% due to a chromosome issue - none of these stats made what happened any easier. I still wanted an answer. It also made me wonder, why with such staggering rates, that the subject of miscarriage is so taboo in our culture - why very few people talk about it. It’s made the women who have experienced it feel so alone - many who suffer in silence or without the proper support to heal. And furthermore, I can not even begin to imagine the pain of those who experience stillbirth, or give birth to a child who only lives a few months, weeks, days or even hours. I wonder where those parents turn to for support as so much of the world doesn’t want to talk about it. It’s for these reasons that I want to be open and share my experience and feelings. I certainly did not experience the typical loss of a baby and still wonder if I can even use the term miscarriage to describe what happened. I’m reminded of this each time a doctor or nurse questions me about number of pregnancies, number of living children, number of miscarriages, etc. I’m still having a hard time with the decision I made, even though I know it was inevitable the baby wasn’t going to make it. But, I know my first priority was making sure to take care of myself so I could take care of Myla.

During those months, I also experienced things I never knew would be quite so hard for someone having just lost a baby. Don’t get me wrong, I knew these things would be hard, but not to the degree in which I felt them. Being so close to Christmas, there was one day we grabbed the mail and as I opened up Christmas cards, we received 4 birth announcements and 2 baby-on-the-way cards… every time I looked on Facebook, I would see another friend announcing they were expecting around the time I was due (pretty sure there was about 5)… everywhere I went, all I saw was pregnant women… I would cringe if anyone asked me if I only had the one child when they saw Myla, or asked if I was planning on having any more (questions I vow to never ask anyone again) - because all I wanted to do was scream “I just freaking lost a baby you jackass”. And not that I was really mad at them for asking, but my emotions were still running so high, it’s what I was bursting at the seams to say. I also had been invited to baby showers, and would see pictures of other friends on Facebook having just given birth to their children. Of course I was happy for them, but everything was just a constant reminder. Each time I was reminded, I would retreat into my mind, become quiet and have a hard time functioning normally. At other times, I found myself getting very agitated with people, even towards Justin for no particular reason, and it would take me awhile to realize why, but it all stemmed back to a reminder of our loss in some way.

Finding Hope and Our Good News

When the three month mark came, I really thought I would be quite upset and I was bracing for that. Justin and I even planned a dinner out for just the two of us. However, something I didn’t expect began to happen. I suddenly began to feel hope and my negative emotions slowly started to turn positive. Everything just began to look a little brighter.

About a month later, my period was late and I waited a few days to take a test. I was scared to take the test because I knew I was either going to be faced with disappointment (negative) or worry (positive). Justin and I looked at the test together - it was positive! What a crazy mess of emotions I began to feel. I was terrified that I would experience the same thing all over again… and I knew that if I did, this would be the end of trying cause the pain was just too much to go through again. I couldn’t say the words: I’m pregnant. All I could say was that I had a positive pregnancy test. We shared the news with my parents (as I knew I needed my mother’s support) and I shared with my closest friends (again, because I needed their support too). There was no celebrating this time but instead a lot of talking about emotions and what was going to happen next. I had to wait a few weeks for my first appointment - and gosh, how long those weeks felt.

We finally got to our first appointment and had an ultrasound. I won’t lie… it was so hard walking back into that doctor’s office. I cried while walking into the back as memories flooded right back into my mind. The doctor began the ultrasound and cautiously gave us the measurement and checked it against my LMP (last menstrual period). I truly couldn’t have asked for better news - baby was measuring exactly to date and its heartbeat was nice and strong. What a huge sigh of relief I let out. I know we were not out of the woods by any means, but I knew this was starting better than before. 

I continued going back for weekly ultrasounds during the entire first trimester so they could track baby’s measurements making sure it was still growing as it should. Then we were sent to the high risk doctor for an NT scan - everything looked good and my fears started to subside. We also opted to do a genetic screening test, which all came back negative for Trisomy 13, 18 and 21. We also found out we are expecting a little boy. At this point, I was finally able to say “I’m pregnant”. Another number of weeks passed, we got to hear baby’s heartbeat on doppler a few more times, and then we had the Level 2 anatomy scan last week - again, everything looked good. And now, I can finally… just finally, now breathe easy. And as I sit here writing this, I can feel the little guy kicking and just how miraculous it feels. It’s crazy how it’s taken me so long to begin to really feel joy during this pregnancy after experiencing our loss. I know we are only about half way to the end… and there is still a chance that any number of things can happen… but I finally feel like I can share the news… We are expecting our rainbow baby boy at the end of November!!! 

Here is a quote I came across that accurately describes what I’m feeling:

“Rainbow Babies" is the understanding that the beauty of a rainbow does not negate the ravages of the storm. When a rainbow appears, it doesn't mean the storm never happened or that the family is not still dealing with its aftermath. What it means is that something beautiful and full of light has appeared in the midst of the darkness and clouds. Storm clouds may still hover but the rainbow provides a counterbalance of color, energy and hope.

As much as I’m overjoyed that we are now expecting a little boy, there is still a part of me that feels guilt over being so happy for this baby when I’m still mourning our last. I’ve read that this feeling is normal, but it’s still hard to actually feel it. There is still not a day that goes by that I don’t think of that baby. I should have been holding that baby in my arms right now. It’s hard to think of how my life would be so different at this very moment in time. 

I’ve also spent a lot of time doing things in remembrance of our little peanut. Most importantly, we named our baby before we said goodbye. In addition, I worked with a local jewelry designer to make a pendant that I wear along with my “M” for Myla - so my babies are always close by. I’ve planted a butterfly bush for “our little one with wings”, I made a Christmas ornament for “our angel”, and I’m working on a special project using the ultrasound picture we got to take home during our second appointment, along with the positive pregnancy test I kept, and hospital bracelet from the day we said goodbye. I will never forget and don’t want to forget. The pain may ease over time, but there will also be a part of my heart that’s forever broken for our little peanut.

As sad or depressing as all of this may seem, a lot of positives have come from it too. I truly believe my relationships with Justin, Myla and my family and friends have strengthened. I’m so thankful for my friends and their support, for my family and their unconditional love, so thankful for Justin (who’s still my rock, my love, my everything), incredibly thankful for my crazy little girl, Myla, who makes me smile and laugh daily, and has made my heart grow a million times over, for the little life growing inside of me right now who I can not wait to meet, and for everything else that I have. I truly feel lucky and blessed.

For My Friends

It’s been weeks since I’ve shared my last project, but trust me it’s been for good reason. I’ll share the big project I’ve been hard at work on soon. But for now, I just want to talk about friends, and for how grateful I am for the ones I’m surrounded with.

Almost 7 months ago I dealt with what was quite possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever have to deal with in my life. It’s something I continue to struggle with and think about on a daily, if not, hourly basis. I’ve come to terms with the fact that it is something I will NEVER forget - And that’s ok, as it’s something I don’t want to forget. Many people sent me thoughtful words and I appreciate them all. But, if it wasn’t for seven particular, absolutely wonderful, ladies, (and of course my hubby and family too) I’m not sure I would have accepted what happened as quickly as I have and ultimately be in such a good place today.

These seven ladies reached out and opened the way for me to talk with them about what happened. Talking was something I soon realized I really had to do, and do often, to whoever wanted to listen BUT ALSO who was willing to really hear me. 

One friend checked in on almost a daily basis asking how I was feeling “today” - I walked her through my daily ups and downs, which soon turned into weekly ups and downs. Eventually I was able to say “today, I’m doing good” and carry on the conversation about other things in life. One thing I learned from this experience, was that I needed people to invite me to talk. Not only this friend, but others asked each time they saw me, or more importantly, consistently reached out or called me. There’s not a bigger invite to talk about something than a phone call or face-to-face where someone says, “I’m here, I’m listening, now talk to me”.  

A couple of other friends brought me small gifts (magazines, chocolate, tea) - they told me to take some time out for myself. This became another lesson learned. Sometimes, it was best for me to just hide out for a bit and allow myself to feel and grieve. Being told to do this, let me know it was OK to just step away from the daily grind for awhile and not feel guilty. 

These friends and a few more shared personal stories of similar situations. They made me feel like I wasn’t alone, helped me sort out of my feelings, and let me know what I was feeling was normal and OK… and that it WOULD get easier, but also, that I would NEVER forget. “Never forgetting” - another lesson learned and important thing to remember many times throughout life. Knowing you will never forget can help you accept what has happened and give you the strength to move forward.

As a way to say “thank you” to them, I made them each a jasper pendant necklace. Last year at the Oyster Festival in Norwalk, CT, I met a jewelry maker who used jasper stones in his pieces which inspired me to create these necklaces. Each stone varies from a beautiful and simple blue to deep blue with lots of dramatic brown/tan veining as pictured below. I made two styles (large rectangle and small oval) and chose the style and pattern for each friend based on their personality, as each of them is unique and I wanted their necklaces to be as well. 

So, to you ladies: Thank you and I love you. You’ve helped me heal and your words and actions, both big, small and in-between have touched me in a way that I will never forget. And, I most certainly will NEVER forget YOU. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I hope the necklaces I have given you will serve as a reminder that small actions can have huge and lasting impacts. I hope to one day do for someone else, what you've all done for me. Hugs to you all!