Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Small Business Saturday (and Cyber Monday) Round-Up

Happy Thanksgiving Week!  This first holiday season as a new mom, two of the things I am so thankful for are online shopping and the blogging community!  I've been a fan of online shopping for years, but the struggle to haul two chunky babies and a massive stroller in and out of the van has given me a whole new appreciation for gifts delivered straight to my door.  Now if only I could lose my control issues about gift wrap and let the stores handle that, too ;-)  Since the kids have been born, I've also found a couple of intentional blogging groups that help foster relationships between bloggers in certain niches, which helps me feel connected when SAHM life gets to feeling a little isolating.

So I decided to combine these two lovely "thankful list" items and bring you a list of some of my favorite online shops and small businesses, many run by ladies in these blogging communities :-)  Many of them are running special sales and promos for Small Business Saturday (the day after Black Friday) and Cyber Monday (the following Monday), so when applicable, I'll list them here as well.  
  1. JoHo Baby - This is one of the companies that I get to be a brand rep for, and we LOVE our new ring sling!  It's the sapphire blue, and the color is so fabulous.  Like ocean water :-)  She is offering a code - shopsmall - for 15% off any order, or you can use my referral link.  This link will give you $20 off an order, and give me $10 toward my next purchase (which, you know, I wouldn't hate).  If you're just ordering one carrier, my code is the better deal... if you want more than one, the 15% off code may be your better bet.  :-)
  2. Baby Jack and Company - This is another of our brand rep brands, and they make educational loveys for babies.  Our babies have four now, and love them!  Sam, especially, can't get enough of their scripture lovey with it's smooth, cool side and it's soft minky side. :-)  They're having a big sale, with items starting as low as $10.  These make great stocking stuffers, baby shower gifts, etc!
  3. Lovelies by Lesa - The third company we brand rep for on Instagram!  Abbie and I love our bows.  That's right... I got so jealous of Abbie's adorable bows, I had to order some matching ones for myself.  Her messy bows are almost as cute on old ladies like me as they are on adorable cherubs like my Abigirl!  Lesa has a 40% off code - LOVES40 - that you can use from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday.
  4. December Caravan - My beautiful friend Rebecca's shop, where she sells gorgeous paper crafts. Save 15% on any order with code christmasjoy. All sales benefit her ongoing treatment for Advanced Late Stage Lyme Disease and cancer.  If sparkly stuff is more your thing than paper crafts, consider shopping her Chloe + Isabel boutique
  5. Cheeky Cheeky Baby - This is the online shop where we bought the twins' coming home outfits, and the owner was fantastic to work with, even letting me customize colors on the set. :-)  She's dropping a new line of little kid jewelry this week, and the previews are adorbs!  She is offering a 25% off code - BLACKFRIDAY25 - and a surprise gift for a random customer. She's also a TTC sister, working to save toward another IVF baby, so if that's close to your heart like it is mine, you're going to want to support her shop a little :-)
    Abbie and me in our Sapphire Ring Sling by JoHo Baby.
  6. Kut Kloth Boutique - Lots of pretty infinity scarves and some cool bracelets, too!  The owner also happens to be a super-nice person, which makes you feel even better about shopping small, amiright? :-)  Check out this navy and gold infinity scarf... lots of heart eyes!! ALL items in her shop will be $10 from Thursday until Monday, too!
  7. Vintage Honey Shop - Pretty teething/nursing/baby-safe jewelry... I love their fabric necklaces! (This one matches the Tula baby carrier I've been eyeing!) Perfect for the mom like me who loves accessories but realized that 99% percent of the jewelry she owns is a choking or breaking hazard with new babies around ;-)
  8. Sip of Sass Designs - A small etsy shop with cute mugs.  This one is my favorite, perfect for the blogger in your life who's maybe not QUITE famous yet! I'm not sure of any discounts or promos yet, but I'll keep checking and update this post if needed :-)
  9. Gameday Belles Boutique - Team spirit - focused fashion and accessories, but even this "meh" sports girl found some super cute things in this shop! Like this scarf... it's probably some team's colors, but I just like it ;-)  They are going to have markdowns across the site, as well as a 30% off all sale items code - blackfriday.
  10. Leelee Made This - Handmade accessories and printables... she is offering a whopping 50% off code - SMALLBIZSAT.
    Abbie and her messy bow from Lovelies by Lesa
  11. His Purpose In Me Designs - This shop sells cute and fun prints and handmade art, and is offering 40% off any purchase of $3 or more with code - BLACKMONDAY40.
  12. A Beautiful RAWR - Fun tops and jewelry celebrating RAWRs (Real Amazing Women Representing).  She is offering 30% off everything with code - save30.
  13. Geeky Loot - Just like it sounds!  Fun gifts for geeky girls, very reasonable prices!  I have a couple of dear friends who may need marauder's map necklaces :-)
  14. HBL Design - Fun printable gift labels that would be great for tying together your Pinteresty teacher/mailman/hairdresser gifts. Plus, buy them once, print them forever!  Gotta love the downloadable printables :-) 
  15. Blooming with Joy - This shop has such beautiful-looking tea tins and tea accessories that would make great stocking stuffers!  She has a coupon code - B5G1F - for a buy 5, get 1 free deal.
    Abbie snoozing in her jumperoo with her prayer lovey from Baby Jack and Company
  16. A Tiny Traveler - Prints and mugs with pretty handlettering. I have so much respect for great handlettering, as my handwriting looks like chicken scratch when I hurry and ultra-juvenile when I take my time ;-)  Natalie is offering a 15% off code - SAVE15 - from Black Friday through Cyber Monday.
  17. CraftivityDesigns - Beautiful prints! I love this scripture print (would be great for my TTC sisters) and this Christmas printable download, too. There's a code - 20FREEGIFT - that will get you 20% off and a free downloadable gift!
  18. xoLorey - Another printable shop with a TON of printables to choose from! I think some of my WV family needs this one, or any of the mounted deer downloadables :-)  And how fun would this be to frame by your mirror/closet/makeup? With code Save40, you can get 40% off and a free emailed gift.
  19. Gather for Bread - These fine art printables are food-themed scripture images, and they literally made me salivate while I was checking them out!  You probably need a collage of them framed in your kitchen.  Just sayin'.  Use code - 40THANKSWEEKEND - for 40% off entire purchase this weekend.
  20. Trine Hansen Designs - Save 30% off planning printables with code SAVE30.  These would be great for getting yourself organized going into the new year!  Check out this recipe binder if you have a bunch of loose recipes laying around or if you want to finally have your Pinterest recipes at hand in hard copy ;-)
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    Monday, November 9, 2015

    Planning Ahead for an Easier Christmas (Round Up)

    I am a procrastinator.  I just am.  Some of my favorite blog posts and pins lately have been about organizing yourself early for an easier and more peaceful Christmas season.  Since it is our first Christmas with babes in arms (not in utero, haha), I know that if I want everything to get done, I'm going to have to start early and pace myself.  While I've let "early" slip later and later, I'm planning to wrap the gifts we've already purchased and maybe make some freezeable cookie dough to thaw closer to Christmas this week. :-)

    If you're in a similar boat, check out these great posts by some other bloggers!

    This first post is from Creative Home Keeper, and it's straightforward and useful.  We have already made our gift-giving budget, but I was glad she pointed out that Christmas expenses like extra food or party supplies can add up, too.  We may need to reevaluate the budget we made to make some wiggle room for the little things. 

    Chicken Scratch and Sniff (I'd be lying if I said that name didn't make me laugh out loud!) published a great list of things that can be done ahead of time - it's where I got the idea of freezing dough this early - but the comments also have some good ideas.  I'll also start stocking up on some of the baking/kitchen essentials I fly through, like sugar and flour.  

    If you're planning on giving/doing a lot of handmade things this Christmas, AmberLee is going to blow your mind.  She has made her sixth annual set of weekly chores, starting in OCTOBER, y'all.  Clearly, we're past that, but the checklists are still helpful and the lists can be adapted to whatever point in time you pick them up :-)

    Kaley at Cha-ching on a Shoestring did a great series on organizing and planning ahead, including some roundups of organizational ideas.  Getting organized will definitely save you time and energy when we're in the middle of the Christmas season.  I mean, so I've heard.  Can't say I've actually ever succeeded in having a super-organized holiday ;-)

    If you're a lists and planner kinda person, you will flip for this round-up by orgjunkie!  I am going to finish this list up right now and go print a bunch of pages and dig out an old college binder to put them in :-)  One of the sets in the round up even has an ornament inventory, which I've been trying to figure out how to do for a while!  (I'm still thinking about doing a photo book of our special ornaments and their stories, but that's a whole 'nother blog post, haha!)

    I hope some of these posts can help you get organized and remove some of the stress from one of the most stressful times of the year!! As amazing as Christmas is, imagine it without the last-minute panic, surprise expenses, and all-nighters! ;-)

    Merry Christmas!
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    Friday, November 6, 2015

    Twins' 3 Month Pictures and Update

    First: thank you all for all the love on my last post.  The internet CAN be a friendly place, and I so appreciate all of your messages, comments, and prayers.  Thank you, thank you, thank you <3

    Now, on to some adorable pictures of babies, and some catch up on what the last couple months have held for us :-)

    This was our second session with Robert at No. 9 Images Photography, and really solidified with us that as long as he's willing, he's our family photographer :-)  The session was so easy on all four of the humans in our family (Charley wasn't thrilled at being leashed a few yards from the action, haha).  We dressed the kids, and Robert did the rest.  Ethan and I pretty much sat back, held babies as needed, and smiled for a picture here and there. Robert captured the little details - hands, feet, profiles, Abbie's tendency to tuck her knees up under her chin, Sam's tight fists ;-) - that make a momma melt, and caught lots of sweet expressions and moments that will always remind me of that time in our family life.  We did this session as their three month pictures, and they just turned five months a few days ago, so I've been hanging on to these photos for a while ;-)  Good news is, hopefully we'll have some more to share in just about a month! Haha!

    At five months, both babies are very interactive, smiling and laughing.  Sam has a very ready smile, and laughs fairly often.  Abbie is a little more serious, and while Momma, Daddy, and Charley get lots of smiles, other people have to work for them :-)

    Why, yes, this face DOES get him anything he wants.  How did you know?
    On our pediatrician's recommendation, we introduced rice cereal at about four and a half months.  They did fairly well eating it, but some extra fussiness and... interesting... diapers made us decide to back off and try again in a few weeks when their little systems had had a little more time to mature.

    Sam rolls from belly to back and back to belly.  He has been sleeping on his belly for a month or so now... we lay him down on his back, and within a few seconds, he's on his belly.  Abbie has successfully rolled from back to belly a couple of times, but never from belly to back.  She HATES tummy time with a passion. We brought down the pack-n-play and put one of our floor mat gym things (what are those really called?) in it for Sam.  He rolls and scoots so effectively, he can be halfway across the room before we know what's happening.

    They have been sharing a crib in their nursery since about 13 weeks, and we don't have any immediate plans to separate them.  For now, they seem to soothe each other back to sleep when one wakes up, resulting in 8-12 hour nights, and a much better rested Momma. ;-)  As soon as they do more aggravating than soothing each other, we'll separate them, but for now... sleep is nice!

    Momma and Abbie have been having fun on Instagram as brand reps for an etsy shop that sells really cool hair bows and headbands.  So cool that I actually had to get a couple for myself so Abbie and I could match ;-)  Visit Lovelies by Lesa if you'd like to see what I mean.  :-)

    We have committed to a church home.  Our movement doesn't have membership rosters, so I can't say we've "joined" or "become members," but we are at home there and intend to worship with that family for a long while.   We've scheduled the twins' baby dedications there for a Sunday in December, and look forward to raising them in the most loving congregation I've seen in my adult life.  :-)

    There we go... I think you're all caught up on what the twins are up to these days :-) I think each stage so far has been my favorite... what is the best thing I have to look forward to in the next few months?
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    Wednesday, November 4, 2015

    A Twin Mom's Struggle with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

    This post has been rolling around in my head for the better part of a month, and I just haven't known how to form it.  I've been working a little here and there during my blogging hiatus to clean up some old posts that had good content and poor share-ability, so I've been conscious of the "correct" ways to write a post.  And I just don't think what I need to say fits any of the ideal formats.  So... let's just chat.

    It's no secret around here that I have struggled with anxiety and depression to varying degrees for years.  I've shared about it a few times, most notably in this post about Christians with anxiety and depression.  

    Before IVF, it was under pretty good control.  My general practitioner and I decided to stop medication since my indices were coming back so positively and - while my maternal-fetal medicine specialists consider the risks of antidepressants during pregnancy to be less than the risks of a depressed mother - it's not ideal to be on those medications while pregnant.  I felt great, very positive and relatively angst-free during pregnancy, but I knew that I was a prime candidate for postpartum depression.  

    Sure enough, by the time my two-week postpartum appointment rolled around, I had decided to ask my doctor to prescribe an antidepressant.  It wasn't bad, but I am all too familiar with what my symptoms feel like, and I wanted to get ahead of them before they got crippling. She gave me a prescription for a drug that had worked well for me in the past, it kicked in quickly, and I started feeling like myself around week five or so, just in time for Ethan to go back to work :-)  

    We were cruising along, doing pretty well, until Abbie and Sam were about three and a half months old.  My milk supply had been dwindling, and I suddenly needed an antibiotic that wasn't safe in breastmilk.  We decided instead of "pumping and dumping," I would just be thankful for the three and a half months I was able to give our babies breastmilk and call it quits.

    I was confident and comfortable with this decision.  It made me a little sad, because I never got them to latch and I know I may never get another chance to breastfeed a baby, but overall, I was at peace about it.  Until I wasn't.  The PPD hit me like a ton of bricks, and it was rough.  I cried constantly, barely slept (despite our babies being champion sleepers), ached, couldn't eat or couldn't stop eating, had no interest in people, blogging, anything... questioned every move I made and every thought I had.  It was ugly.  One of my friends told me that quitting nursing/pumping can cause PPD symptoms to spike because of the sharp drop in oxytocin.  Made sense, so I was able to hang in there for the couple of weeks it was at its worst.  

    After a couple of weeks, things re-stabilized.  I'm still blue, a little listless, and just flat-out exhausted - physically, mentally, and emotionally.  This is really hard.

    The hardest part is the guilt. I am so in love with these babies, and I have everything I've ever wanted since I was in kindergarten and we were asked what we wanted to be when we grew up.  But I'm sad. And I feel guilty and confused about it.  I KNOW, and BELIEVE, that depression doesn't mean I'm unsatisfied or ungrateful, but it's hard to fight those guilty feelings. Part of the reason I have had trouble deciding if/how/when to talk about it publicly is that I'm afraid of those negative perceptions, too.  

    There's enormous pressure to have it together, to be a Pinterest mom who just glows and radiates happy, especially for those of us parenting after infertility.  We're supposed to be the happiest, most grateful parents in the world - and I think we probably truly are - but it's a cruel plot twist when brain chemistry complicates the joy and thankfulness we really do feel.  

    That's it... there's no happy wrap-up or neat "ending" to this story.  It is what it is, and it is really hard.  I'm hoping sharing this will help me cut through some of the almost mental block I've had about blogging.  If you notice a tone of sadness or tiredness seeping through into my posts, please offer up a quick prayer for me.  I'm going to be fine, but I'm going to need my "village" to make it so.
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    Saturday, October 31, 2015

    Twin Halloween Costumes - Salt and Pepper Shakers

    When I was a little kid, my mom made us Halloween costumes every year.  They were always comfortable, always cute, and always different from what all the other kids were wearing :-)

    I'm not a seamstress by any means (I can kinda sew a straight line.  Sometimes.)... but it meant a lot to me to be able to finally make Halloween costumes for our long-awaited babies.  

    I had two-ish requirements: 
    1. They had to either be "twin" costumes, or somehow specific to our kids (like plays off nicknames).  and 
    2. Abbie's needed to include a tutu!
    I used the tutu tutorial (tututorial?) from The Hairbow Company to start with, then adapted the tututorial a little bit to better suit our purposes.  I made the tulle strips a little bit shorter (18" instead of 22") and only did one layer, since Abbie would be held or in a carseat or bumbo the whole time.  Double-layered tutus will be SO CUTE when she's walking around!  Using the stretchy headband as a waistband was a wonderful shortcut, and made for a comfy-seeming and "finished" looking waist!

    Sam's "S" was hand-basted (because my sewing machine needle is bent and I haven't done the research to learn to replace it yet) onto a white onesie that I'll detach the felt letter from and use again and again, and Abbie's "P" was actually on a little belt I rigged out of felt, buttons, and a little bit of elastic.  Totally winged (wung?) it!  But the black onesie that I used for hers had an adorable black cat on it, and she wore it a few times right up until the night of our trunk-or-treat. :-)

    So Poppa Bear and I threw on some aprons and tossed some candy in the bowl of my stand mixer, and took the cutest little salt and pepper shakers ever to their (and actually, my) first trunk-or-treat!  They were kind of a hit - but I don't know that that had anything to do with the costumes ;-)

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