Gift Guides, life, Parenting, Uncategorized

Hey Mama: 8 Great Gifts to Give Yourself This Valentine’s Day

With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, I wanted to put together a little self love gift guide for my fellow mamas with some of my favorite “treat yo’self” goodies to indulge in this month – though, personally, I indulge myself at least once a month. Because motherhood can be difficult, and self care & appreciation for yourself is so important as a mother – we have to be at our best to be our best for our children! So feel free to bookmark this post to come back to through the year for self love inspiration & spur of the moment self care shopping sprees!

Hair dye (or a hair cut!)

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Does anything make you feel as good about yourself as freshening up your look!? It is always a huge boost to my self esteem when I touch up my hair, get a hair cut or get my eyebrows done. Been dreaming of #mermaidhair for months but afraid to take the plunge? Mama, treat yo’self! I personally use Manic Panic or Arctic Fox hair dye. Both are vegan, and deeply conditioning so they don’t damage your hair.

A New Mug

I drink a lot of coffee & cocoa, as well as use mugs all around my house & studio to hold pencils, pens, markers, mail, nail clippers & baby combs – basically everything I don’t have stuffed in my own Mon-stors, haha! A ton of my mugs come from thrift stores, but I also have a huge collection of mugs from makers & artists. This Strong as a Mother mug by Callie Garp is on my treat yo’self wishlist!

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Bath Bomb & A New Book

I love bath time. I always have. It is like pressing a reset button on the week, a simple escape. Wouldn’t it be dreamy to sink into a steamy, rose scented bath with this sultry Roses are Red Bath Bomb from Sun Basil Soap, a good book & your favorite beverage (whether it is a glass of wine, chocolate milk or a beer – you do you, mama). Be sure to post the submergence of the bath bomb on Instagram, or it doesn’t count, though.

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Decadent Handmade Soaps

I love supporting other makers, but honestly, I buy handmade soap because it is so decadent, moisturizing & typically smells sooo much better than generic brand soaps. Thumbprint Soap has some amazing scents, like this Pink Sugar soap, but the reason I especially love buying Katie’s soaps is because she donates a portion of all proceeds to animal rescues! That keeps me coming back, time and again. Additionally, Katie has offered an exclusive discount to Lu & Ed fans so they can treat themselves to something special this season: MOMMY18 – 18% off any order of $15 or more through the end of 2018. How rad is that?! Go on, mamas, treat yourself to some amazing handmade soap, lotions, lip balms & more from Katie’s shop!

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New Jewelry

I have a huge collection of handmade earrings and necklaces, and my latest obsession is basically everything Lin of Turquoise T-rex makes. I have two necklaces from her that I wear pretty much all the time!

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A New Shirt

I recently treated myself to a “Support Your Local Mama Gang” shirt from Punky Moms and I feel like an ultimate bad booty mama rocking it! Adding a new item to my wardrobe is always a thoughtful process, because I don’t often buy myself clothing, so it is a slow process picking which item to add!

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Their “Kicking Motherhood in the A**” shirt is another one on my wishlist, and a perfect one to treat yourself to during this season of self love, because that is just what you are doing, mama!

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A Custom Baby Wearing Portrait

I am so in love with these custom baby wearing portraits by Taynee of Grrl Gang Art. If your baby wearing or breastfeeding journey was exceptionally special to you, you can message Taynee about a custom portrait of you to commemorate that beautiful bond! Nothing makes me feel more beautiful, strong & confident as a mother than looking through my images of me baby wearing or breastfeeding, and I just think this is such a beautiful way to reward yourself for the hard work, sleepless nights, and special moments of motherhood!

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Artisanal Coffee or Tea

For a lot of mamas, that first cuppa coffee or tea is our greatest form of self care every day, so the occasional brew of the finer variety is it’s own form of self lovin’! For the coffee drinkers, Burial Grounds Coffee has a wide flavor variety of small batch roasted artisan coffee with fun fandom themes & Angie (the mama & brains behind the beans) offers a subscription service – so you don’t need to remember to reorder your favorite blends!

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If tea is more your jam, Albion Tea Company also has a fun fandom themes for their small batch, loose leaf teas, like their Magical Collection which is based on Harry Potter or their Sherlock collection!

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I could go on & on with goodies I indulge in for self love, but I want to turn the handles over to the readers:

What is your favorite self care goodies & go-to habits? Share your self love advice in the comments & let’s chat about how we, as women, can take better care of ourselves so we can take better care of our loved ones!

home schooling, life, Parenting, Uncategorized

Flourish: how I’m letting one little word shape my year

Flourish: verb, to grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as the result of a particularly favorable environment.

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Each year, I pick a word to set the tone for the entire year. Last year’s word was Achieve, and I really feel like that word carried me well through the year. I hit & exceeded all of my production goals, sales goals & smaller goals for my business, like getting some wholesale accounts & attending big shows in the area. I laid a lot of groundwork in 2017 to because I knew that I needed 2018 to be a year of growth and personal development – as a business owner, mother, and human.

I set some really lofty goals for 2018, and by acting upon my word for the year, I am already seeing things begin to Flourish! I knew that part of growing this year, I wanted to attend a lot of large events in order for Lu & Ed to grow & thrive. I started applying for shows all over the East Coast & Midwest, including some huge shows I have always dreamed of doing but never thought I would get accepted into. And it paid off! Most events are still taking applications so it will be a bit before I find out my entire show schedule for the Spring/Summer, but a week ago I reached out to – and was invited to! – Mommy Con, the biggest parenting convention in America! I will be at their Charlotte event May 5th! I am so flipping excited – this is an event I have always DREAMED of doing with Lu & Ed, and now that it is on the books, I feel like I could fly!

In addition to booking several large shows alongside smaller markets to build my local audience, I set other goals for my business to facilitate my word of the year manifesting – I set a production goal of 1000 monsters in 2018! I am already just over 5% of the way to that goal! In 2017 I was able to make 514 monsters, with a new baby, homeschooling my son & life in general, so I am feeling really confident that while it will be difficult, I can hit that goal! By doubling my production, I will be able to take on more bulk/wholesale orders as well, which turned out to be great for Lu & Ed last year, so I am excited to expand on that more this year!

As a mama, I am working on patience, and creating an environment in which my children can Flourish as well. Which means less clutter, less screen time, more family time, more conversation and more time spent connecting with humans! I recently launched a local Asheville chapter of Punky Moms, a group for alternative mothers, and am building connections & fostering community through that group as well as through our tween homeschool group & the local artist community. For Gauge, we also recently applied to a local charter school – it has all the features of a public school (sports, band, swim team, etc) but  it has a high focus on college preparation, advanced curriculum, and a much lower rate of bullying & social issues with higher diversity than the local public schools offer here.

And for myself, I am focusing on the word Flourish to help me regain my health. I used to eat an all raw/organic diet, and worked out every day, did yoga, walked at least a mile a day, and all that. I’ve strayed so far from that healthful lifestyle since I moved to WNC, but this is the year I restore that lifestyle and mental attitude! I want to gain at least 10 pounds by the end of the year, as I have always struggled with weight gain and one year postpartum, I am only weighing 98lbs. So my goal is to gain weight, get healthy, and exercise regularly so I can Flourish and keep up with my intentions for my business & family!

Do you pick a word for the year? If you do, share below what your word is! I would love to know!

Parenting

5 Fantastic First Birthday Gifts Crunchy Parents Will Love

With Zoey’s 1st birthday just 3 weeks away, and my niece’s first birthday TOMORROW (what?! how?!) I had this great idea to compile a few lists of great gift ideas for 1st birthday celebrations that won’t inundate parents with noisy toys. Today’s list is compiled of sustainably made gift options for those crunchy type mamas like me!

Pretend Wooden Camera or Smart Phone with Non-Toxic Earth Friendly Paints

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Clicking mamas everywhere will adore these handmade toy cameras that inspire imaginitive play! Made from naturally cured lumber, all natural water based non-tosic paints and vegan sealants. Handcrafted in NC. Available from Outside Everywhere, $16.00.

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Tiny hands will love having their very own “smart phone” to play with – that won’t break when they fling it across the room! Also from Outside Everywhere, $12.

Handmade Quilt, Printed with Earth Friendly Inks

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These gorgeous quilts are handmade in NY with fabrics that are printed & made in America using Earth friendly, biodegradable inks. They are designed to last through several children & be passed down as heirlooms. Available from Create Custom Critters, $110.

Small Mon-stor for Car Clutter Control, Made from Discarded Textiles

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From my own shop, these Small Mon-stors make excellent first birthday gifts. Babies are just getting to that age when they will love learning to clean up by “feeding” the Mon-stor over and over in the house, and moms will love being able to tame car clutter by hanging one by the car seat so toys, snacks, diapers, wipes & a change of clothes for babe is always on hand. Made in NC from textile discards, in a closed loop textile recycling process. Available at Lu & Ed, $29

Eco-friendly Dining Set

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As babies turn a year old and starting eating more “adult” foods, a set of dishes just for them is a great first birthday gift! These amazing toddler dishes are made from bamboo and melamine – no plastic! They are dishwasher safe, come in a variety of colors and last for decades. Available from Ekobo, $25

Essential Oil Plushie Diffuser & Board Book Set

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Crunchy mamas love EOs, so they are sure to love Smelly Faces – adorable plush toys made from cotton & infused with your favorite Essential Oil blend! This set includes a diffuser & fun board book to read with their sweet little one year old monsters! Available from Smelly Faces, $35

And that concludes my gift list for crunchy mamas! What was the best gift you ever received for your child(ren)’s first birthday?

Business, home schooling, Parenting

Made for kids, by a kid – Handmade Monster Scarves by Gauge!

One of my favorite things about homeschooling has been how Gauge has been able to pursue his passions & come up with new ways to learn on his own – like becoming an entrepreneur.

It all started last year, when he was still in school, and he told me about an idea he had for a monster product he wanted to make – kid size monster scarves with mouths for pockets to keep your hands warm while you wait on the bus, or between throwing snowballs. But with being in school, and then homework, we never had time to really suss it out. Over the summer, when we started homeschooling (since I was pregnant, we started in July to get a headstart for the inevitable break when she arrived and those days when we just wouldn’t feel like doing school work with a new baby in the house) he mentioned again his monster idea. A few weeks later, he sketched up a design and showed it to me, and we brainstormed how to convert it into an actual product.

Then the fun stuff started! His first prototype, he sewed the mouths in backwards. His second, he wasn’t happy with how the teeth were sewn into the mouths, and his third, he didn’t like his eye stitching. All part of the learning process. He got upset when he discovered how hard creating a new product from scratch was – but learned how to channel his frustration into action to resolve the issue at hand.

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By his next round of monster scarves, he had worked out pretty much all the kinks and was whizzing through a scarf or two a day!

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This was a great opportunity for many lessons, besides sewing. He learned about pricing for profit, structuring a sustainable business model around his products since they are seasonal, future planning, budgeting, measuring, graphing sales, targeting a demographic of potential customers, creating a marketing campaign, writing product copy, utilizing keywords to maximize SEO (search engine optimization), projecting ROI (return on investment), taxes and so much more. Skills he would most likely never have learned in public school, but that will aid him in a variety of professions. (plus taxes, why don’t they teach taxes in public schools?!)

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The end result? One proud, accomplished, educated, driven, hardworking, enthusiastic, passionate little person who isn’t afraid to follow his dreams, set goals, and is dedicated to working hard every day to make things happen and learn through life.

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Now, thanks to all his hard work, he is launching his first ever product line into the world at age 11 – kid size monster scarves! I listed them in my shop, and you can check out his work here. Thank you so much to everyone who cheered him on through social media as we posted photos of his progress – you have NO idea how happy you made him, how much you encouraged him, and how proud he is thanks to all of your support!

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Business, Parenting

On mothering a new baby & running a handmade business

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The last time I blogged, I was 40 weeks pregnant & had been struggling with prodromal labor for weeks. Though the last few weeks were incredibly painful and exhausting because of daily contractions that lasted for hours upon hours at a time, it was a painful, uncomfortable, difficult pregnancy from the get go. Zoey Rose was born October 12th, and it was a traumatic birth experience. Basically, it was all super rough. Pregnancy, birth, and new motherhood.

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I still get really emotional when I think of it, so I won’t go into details of her actual birth, but in my last post I talked about my frustration with the constant contractions & false alarms, and with everyone telling me “You’ll know when you’re really in labor”. I didn’t, actually. I had chorioamnionitis, an infection that spread from my amniotic sac & amniotic fluid to my placenta, uterus & cervix. I started having bad stomach cramps, followed within a few hours by a fever of 103.7 & uncontrollable shaking and vomiting. I thought it was just a stomach virus. My doctor wanted me to come in for fluids, and by the time I got there I was in so much pain I couldn’t walk or talk (except to scream a few choice words). It wasn’t contraction pain, it was constant, excruciating, sob-crying producing pain from the bottom of my ribs to my hips. By then my fever was 104.2 & I found out I was 9cm dilated. Thankfully they were able to get an epidural in to relieve some of my pain, and she was born a few hours later, through a fast, traumatizing birth. She spent an equally traumatic week in NICU.

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Finding out that I had a life threatening infection that could have taken both me & my daughter if I had waited just an hour or two longer to get to the hospital, followed by her NICU stay, shook me to the core. In the weeks immediately following her birth, I suffered from severe depression and what felt, inexplicably, like survivor’s guilt. Because of her NICU stay, our breastfeeding journey was a little rocky starting out, which any breastfeeding mother will tell you is an emotional battle to begin with. Due to the antibiotics she received, she had gastrointestinal distress for the following week and a half after leaving the hospital and cried & vomited almost constantly. After that, she was in a hip brace for weeks and constantly screamed and cried, and vomited, because of that.

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My pregnancy, birth experience and the early weeks of caring for Zoey were not bubbly, beautiful moments of motherhood. I struggled a lot with depression & anxiety as I tried to care for an extremely fussy baby, home school a 5th grader & somehow plan to return to my business, as NOT working at all was not an option because we simply couldn’t afford for me to not work at all for several months, unfortunately.

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I won’t lie – in those early weeks of fresh, angry, projectile vomiting babyhood, when she would scream no matter I did to comfort her, nurse to the point of projectile vomiting then scream some more, then wanted to nurse to comfort herself after screaming and crying, then back to screaming as soon as she finished nursing until she projectile vomited again, rinse and repeat, I would weep and tell my partner I was just going to have to go back to work outside of the home because I just didn’t think I could balance caring for her, schooling Gauge & running my own business. I was devastated at the thought of having to give up my monster making, but at the time could not see any way I could manage it all. I would get her to sleep and before I could take five steps or touch my fabric she would be awake screaming angrily again. I just felt so drained & like I would never be able to feel creative again.

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Then somewhere, around that fourth or fifth week, she finally started to chill out a little. That’s around the time she gave me her first smile and it was like the dark sky split open & kittens puking sunshine and farting rainbows spilled out of the crack. I started to put her in a Beco baby carrier my friend Magda sent me or the ring sling my friend Kimberly had mailed me while I was still pregnant, and was actually able to sew a little here and there. We readjusted our schooling schedule & lesson plans a bit, and my son quickly caught up on missed lessons & surpassed our semester goals.

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Over this last month, things have done a total 180. I surrounded myself with positive affirmations, positive people, and started meditating on positive thoughts every morning again, something I hadn’t been able to do in those early weeks no matter how hard I tried. I was able to get a large batch of monsters made & into the shop in time for Christmas – thanks to baby wearing. I think baby wearing literally save my sanity – she only sleeps when she is being held or very rarely, sometimes in her swing for 10-20 minute spurts. But thanks to wearing her, I was able to start sewing every day again while she napped against me, allowing me to slowly settle back into the mindset being a business owner. In the past two weeks I’ve even been able to outline ideas to make 2017 the best year ever for Lu & Ed – with lots of flexibility and options, because with this little firecracker, who knows what the next year will hold?

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Maybe it’s because I had unrealistic expectations about being able to dive right back into monster maker while I wore my happy, gurgling baby right out of the womb. Maybe it’s because I had rigidly blocked off the week following her birth from visitors at our house, unaware that week would be spent sleepless in the NICU unit. Maybe it’s because my son was such an easy pregnancy, birth and baby a decade ago, maybe that is why I felt so helpless & spent. Maybe it’s just because each pregnancy and birth experience and baby is so wildly different and unique, but these past two months were nothing at all like I anticipated. They were dark, difficult weeks & while the past month has been better and I am feeling more like my old self, and I am finally reclaiming and revitalizing my business from it’s stasis of the past several months, I would be lying if I said I was totally out of the dark emotionally and mentally. But I have learned a lot about what it means to be a small business owner & to mother a new baby at the same time, and these are important lessons for maker mamas because the stigma that new mothers should be basking in a happy glow with a pep in their step is just another one of those things that puts pressure on new moms & keeps them from reaching out when they need help & support. Motherhood and small business ownership isn’t some picture perfect Instagram feed. So here’s what I’ve learned about mothering a new baby and owning a handmade business:

It’s okay if you didn’t plan well enough for your maternity leave and unexpected  expenses, losses or struggles arise because of it. There’s no way to plan for every possible scenario, no matter how hard you try. I had a solid plan set in stone for my maternity leave but my last trimester was spent in so much pain I couldn’t even lean over to cut out monster bits, I couldn’t sit to sew, and I was unable to follow through with that plan because I wasn’t able to make the inventory to make the income needed to actually even take a maternity leave, not to mention our NICU stay drained the savings account between gas, lodging, and having to eat out constantly. And that created a lot of stress for me, but you know, c’est la vie.

It’s okay to avoid (or even remove from your life completely) negative, toxic people. I didn’t/don’t have the capacity to handle drama, negative degrading remarks or toxic people – and I’m pretty sure my mama fans know that nothing like a new baby brings out the judgmental and unintentional meanness of others. The first weeks when family members kept lamenting “She’s SO fussy, how do you stand it?”, “Haven’t you tried to get her to stop crying?”, “Does she always cry? Why don’t you do something about it?”, “Maybe she has a disease, have you asked her doctor why she’s always crying?” or “Why don’t you give her formula instead of breastfeeding if it’s so hard?” alongside remarks about how I had a BABY now, it was time to shelf my business; it was soul crushing. From there, I only made room in my life for people who empowered me, comforted me or gave me positive energy. I was not in a good place mentally to allow anyone else access to me without being reduced to a sobbing mess. And that’s okay.

It’s okay to feel guilty. Trust me, no matter how much grace you give yourself, there’s guilt. Guilt for working, for not working, for wanting to work, for not wanting to work, for not being able to work because your baby is needy, for never wanting to work again because you just want to soak up these peaceful, sweet sleepy moments with your baby, for asking someone else to hold your baby for a little while because you’re overwhelmed, haven’t peed all day & just need to breathe for a few minutes. So much guilt. So much stress.

It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to lose sight of your goals, it’s okay for things to not go how you planned, it’s okay to miss deadlines, it’s okay to be frustrated, it’s okay to feel like giving up, it’s okay to be unsure & insecure. You can make new goals, you can make new plans, you can set new deadlines. No number is worth unnecessary mental stress, especially during this already emotionally jacked up time of new motherhood.

It’s okay if what worked for someone else doesn’t work for you. You have to try absolutely everything to find what works for you. No one has any magic advice to make all the pieces of new motherhood & business ownership to go together seamlessly. (I don’t even know if they can go together seamlessly).

It’s okay to be frustrated and unsure. What worked yesterday may not (probably won’t) work today. What worked for your business last year may not work for it this year, or next year. What worked to keep your baby happy yesterday, may not work today. I learned you have to try new things, try a new schedule, try new content, try new creations, try new ways to make your baby happy, every single day. Some things work. Some things don’t. And that. is. okay.

It is all okay. All of your feelings are valid. All of my feelings are valid. There is no wrong way to feel. There is no right way to feel. Being a mother is an emotional shit storm. Being a mother to a baby who was in the NICU is an emotional hurricane. Being a mother to an extremely fussy baby while trying to run a business, is like an emotional nuclear explosion. It is all okay.

It. is. all. okay. That is what I learned.

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life, Parenting

40 Weeks Pregnant – Life Currently

Hello, 40 weeks! My son wanted to take some baby bump pics today, commemorating what is *hopefully* my last week of pregnancy!
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I’m so ready to meet baby Z – these last few weeks have been mega rough! I’ve been having what the doctor calls prodromal labor for almost three weeks, with on & off again contractions daily (most recently lasting 21 hours straight, 1-2 minutes apart, so painful I couldn’t breathe or talk through them over this weekend). So naturally, there’s been a few false alarm trips to labor and delivery, lots of wondering if THIS IS IT & lots of frustration when told to come back when I “feel like it’s the real thing” and then more frustration when having acquaintances & family tell me “you’ll know when it’s really happening, stop worrying about it” (because obviously I rush to the hospital crying in pain at midnight when I don’t think I’m actually in labor – ha!). I’ve struggled a lot emotionally with being told “you’ll know when it’s real” because I didn’t feel a single contraction with my son, and I slept through him crowning – so no, I’m not actually sure I *WILL* know when it’s the “real thing”. I mean, contractions 1-2 minutes apart that are so intense I’m crying & can’t breathe or walk? That SOUNDS like the real thing to me, that’s the sort of thing the doctor tells you to hurry in for – but it wasn’t the “real thing”. Just stinky prodromal labor contractions. This entire pregnancy has been so different compared to my pregnancy with my son 11 years ago! Especially this last trimester – whew, it’s been a doozy!
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That’s life currently, and why I’ve been so quiet on social media. I work when I can between contractions, home schooling, and getting the house ready for baby Z. I sleep as much as I can, since the super intense contractions like to wait until bedtime to start happening.I’m up to 1-2 appointments a week because the doctors insist I measure too small on the outside to have a healthy baby on the inside, even though every ultrasound & test shows she’s growing fine & perfectly healthy. You know how doctor’s like to fixate on arbitrary “average” numbers like fundal height measurements, without taking into account the woman was 110 lbs prior to baby so obviously she’ll measure different than  the 130 lb woman of the same height just because that’s the “average” means of measurement.
So yeah.  Life is chaotic but beautiful.  I have a feeling AFTER Z gets here I will be able to get SO much more accomplished than I have this entire last trimester, ha!
So until I have some cute pictures of my babe to show off, here’s a cute picture of my sister’s new baby, Leah Alaska, my newest niece (making me an aunt ten times over!). She was born 9.23.2016, weighing a squishy 7lb 1oz! Isn’t she precious?! I keep going over to hold her in hopes it will start labor for me. No luck yet, but I’m not giving up. 😉
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Monsters, Parenting

Making Back to School Monstrously Awesome – Qiana K Photo Shoot!

Just because we’re homeschooling this year, didn’t mean I didn’t get to have fun with back to school photos! I was honored to be able to send some of my monsters to the awesome brand photographer Qiana K to be a part of her Back to School shoot – and boy, I love love love what she did! Here’s a collection of images from the shoot – Qiana made it easy to make back to school monstrously fun, with cute clothing, great fall accessories and fun monster toys to give as back to school gifts from yours truly. 😉

Other brands featured:

Little Nugget KnitsThe Wishing Elephant Bright Eyed Baby  / Greyson & ColeFJ’s Pop ShopPegheads / Sunshine by Channon / Spunky Onion

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Aren’t these images darling?! Those grins! Gah, these little dudes stole my heart!

If you are a maker looking for awesome brand photos, definitely be sure to book a session with Qiana – her work is amazing, she is incredible to work with and her fun style & great attitude is infectious! Coming soon: A gallery of images from my monster mash Halloween collab shoot by Qiana, with Opposite of Far!