By Victoria

Tales of a New Mom

Tales of a New Mom – From the Trenches at 5 Weeks

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It’s been 5.5 years since I’ve done the new mom thing. Some things are coming slowly back to me, and some feel/are new.

Tales of a New Mom

New Babies Are So Tiny (and Floppy): R was 6lbs 2oz at birth, and we’re currently working towards 8lbs. Words like peanut, nugget, itty bitty, etc. all spring to mind when I think to describe her. She’s very strong and squiggly, though. The number of times she has made my heart stop by tossing her head around or trying to launch out of my arms is already countless. “Support the head” is my constant refrain.

New Mom Brain (Where Did It Go, and Will I Get It Back?): It’s “funny” how things that would normally be cause for great alarm are just par for the course when you’re the parent of a new infant.

New Mom's Memory...

Memory loss: I have had so many conversations that I simply do not remember. We’re not talking conversations where I remember when I’m reminded. We’re talking conversations where my husband recounts it to me, and I have no memory that it ever happened.

Difficulty distinguishing dreams from reality: I’ll think about a conversation or event, and I cannot remember if I dreamed it or if it really happened. (#1 – At least dreaming is a sign that I’m getting more sleep. For a while I wasn’t even dreaming.) (#2 – Okay, not all the time. I’m pretty sure that the time I had to line up in line as a soldier and choose my weapon, one option of which was a block of wax, didn’t really happen.)

Feeling like I’m lucky if I can attend to even 50% of a conversation: Part of my new mom brain is always somewhere else – trying to listen if the baby is stirring, figuring out the last time she ate, have a complete thought while simultaneously listening to a story from the 5.5 yo, be a functional human while half my brain is asleep, etc. (I’ve heard that river dolphins only sleep with half of their brains at time. They should do a study on new moms, I think we may also do this.)

Having Trouble Accepting Help: I’m fortunate, in that I’ve had several people genuinely say, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.” I know I need help, but coming up with something that they can do AND actually bringing myself to make the request – is frequently beyond me. At least this time, when we are offered specific help, we don’t turn it down or feel bad for accepting!

Wondering If I’m Going to Get My Body Back/ Learning About My “New” Body: Bleeding, bladder, belly, boobs. Enough said.

Returning to the Silly Patter, Stream-of-Consciousness: I was already in silly mode with my older one (which animals do we think have the biggest poop. Whose poop is the stinkiest. Now I’m realizing how largely, poop related the humor is. Well, that and knock-knock jokes.) Now, as I’m trying to hear noise besides the screaming of an impatient infant, I’m making up songs where I narrate making a bottle or changing a diaper and trying to find rhymes for words like “sha-boopy.”

Having 2 Kids Is a Whole New Ballgame: As a new mom who is an only child, the sibling thing has always been a bit of a mystery to me. Now, I’m struggling to gracefully balance time and attention with a preschooler and a newborn, and I’m trying to help my older one navigate feelings of responsibility, love, alienation, and insecurity that I’ve never felt before. It’s one thing to know, intellectually, that this was coming, but it’s a whole ‘nother thing to experience it.

As Much As I’d Prepared, I Can’t Get Everything Right (But Preparation Can Help): With my first, I was only able to breastfeed for 3 weeks. Five years later, I could still be brought to tears by the topic.mother and child statue This time, I started conversations with healthcare providers months before I was due. I talked to my health insurance company about coverage for breast pumps and lactation consultants. When my supply again failed to manifest, I saw an amazing lactation team, I pumped, I took herbal supplements, I felt like I was losing my mind, I got amazing help and support from friends and family, and again, I decided that the best decision for myself and my family was to stop trying. Again, it’s the most painful part of this process, and I know I will always second-guess myself and my choice; however, this time I feel more like I took the time to make the best decision I could, rather than giving up in a haze of confusion and despair.

A new mom has so many conflicting urges/ emotions:

  • I want to stay inside in a cocoon, snuggled with my adorable new baby.
  • I want to experience my previous autonomy where I do not have to be 100% attuned to the needs of this tiny new life.
  • I want to take her out into the world everywhere.
  • I want to protect her from people and illnesses of this germy winter season.
  • I want to buy her all the new, cool things that have come out for babies since I last had one.
  • I remember how little was actually necessary with the first one.
  • I want to see her grow now, so I can hear her voice and see her walk.
  • I want her to stay tiny forever.
  • I want to cherish and devote every spare minute I have to being the best mother I can be.
  • I want to figure out who “I” am apart from my identity as a mother and get started on making that happen – right now.
  • Feeling utterly alone.
  • Feeling a part of a large, caring, supportive community.
  • Feeling like, I’ve been here and done that already.
  • Feeling like this is a whole new experience, and I’m lost.

Is the Big Bad PPD Coming? I suffered from mild postpartum depression after my first. Other than some major drama with the breastfeeding, I feel a little saner this time around; however, PPD can come on months after childbirth. I’ll be wondering for a long time if I’ve really made it past the danger zone. PPD is serious stuff. If you think you might be experiencing PPD, get help. It’s not only for you but for your family, too.

Does this sound familiar to anyone? I’d love to hear that I’m not the only one experiencing some of these things! Are there things that you’re experiencing that I left out? Please share!

Related Links:

How to Help a New Mother

Great News! Mommy Brain May Trigger Brain Growth

Wash Your Freaking Hands Before You Touch Someone’s Baby

Postpartum Depression Quiz

4th Trimester Bodies Project

Miracle of prenancy with text

The “Miracle” of Pregnancy

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Pregnancy may be a miracle, but it sure isn’t dignified!

Warning: This post contains proper names of body parts, frank discussion of bodily functions, and details about things that happen when you’re pregnant. If this sort of thing offends you, don’t read this (or get pregnant for that matter).

Miracle of prenancy with text

 

 

At 7 months into my second pregnancy (I have a 5 year old son), I’ve learned 2 things. 1) When you get pregnant, take your dignity, put it in a box, and place that box on a shelf in your closet. You won’t be needing it for a while. 2) I will have a least one humiliating episode per pregnancy.

Embarrassing Story – First Pregnancy

All of my initial ultrasounds had been internal ultrasounds (this means a phallic shaped object is encased in a condom like sheath, lubed, and placed inside your vagina to better visualize your internal organs). This was the first time my husband had come to an ultrasound with me. After we were let into the exam room, before the tech arrived, I started to take off my pants and underwear. My husband looked at me, and asked what I was doing. Silly man. With a been-there, done-that tone of vast experience, I let him know that I had to take my pants and underwear off for them to do the ultrasound.

A few moments later, the tech came in then stopped, staring at me. “Um. You know, you don’t, uh, need to actually take your pants off for an, um, ultrasound. I’ll just, uh, yeah, I’ll be right back. When you have your pants on.” Needless to say, that totally busted my: “I’m the woman, so I know way more about this” credibility for at least a month.

Embarrassing Story – Second Pregnancy

Since it was determined that I had preeclampsia at the end of my first pregnancy, my specialist OB wanted a 24 hour urine sample for a baseline protein count. When my OB was walking me through the process, she explained that I needed to collect all my urine, during a 24 hour period, and return it in the provided jug. (Ewwwww!) She noted that after the visit, I should walk over to the lab next door and pick up the “jug and hat.” I thought to myself, “I must have heard wrong. Surely she said ‘cap’ not ‘hat’.”

I go over to the lab. The very kind gentleman tech searches, finds the jug, but notes that they are out of the “hats.” I couldn’t help but note, “You actually said ‘hat’ didn’t you?”

The poor, puzzled tech responded, “Yes, you use the hat to collect the urine.” (The “Duh” was unspoken.)

Still trying to understand the terminology, I ask, “You mean a receptacle?” “Sure, if you’d rather call it a receptacle.”

I don’t know why, but I feel the need to explain, “It’s just that it’s right before Halloween. When you say ‘hat,’ I get these images of a little, pointy, witch’s hat.”

The tech goes still, with a forced blank expression, “I don’t know how to respond to that. I’m not going to say a thing. Nope. There’s just no good response to that.” Realizing that my response could be interpreted in a more risque manner than intended, I try to diffuse the situation with, “I admire your restraint. I started that, I apologize.”

He was still a little stuck, “You can say those sorts of things. I cannot say those sorts of things.” At this point, I just want to get out of there, especially as there are now other people observing this interaction. Finally, the tech gives up, gives me the collection jug, and tells me to go back to my OB’s office to see if they have any ‘hats.’

Continuing the never ending search for this mysterious hat-thing, I approach the OB’s receptionist and say, “The lab is out of hats for my urine sample collection. He said you might have some.” At the receptionist’s blank look, I realize that I have now become one of these strange people who casually talk about using hats to collect urine. After a few moments, she gets up and goes to find one of the nurses.

She returns with the nurse, grumbling about how they lab is supposed to have these, not them (finally, someone using language that make sense!) and carrying:

Urine collection hat
The hat!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AHA!

Bonus: When I got home, I just dumped everything (paperwork, glucose bottle, unused jug, unused hat) on the counter. When my husband came home, I hear, “What is this hat-thing, and why is it on my counter?!” I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. I exclaimed, “You called it a hat! I have a funny story for you!”

Random Pregnancy Thoughts

1st Pregnancy

  • Oh my, this nausea is unpleasant; however, as long as eat 2 of each meal, I seem to be doing okay.
  • I love this! I’ve never slept better or felt more rested!
  • This is so cool – my food cravings are so healthy!
  • My mood is so stable and pleasant – and I was so worried about mood swings!
  • My boobs are getting even bigger?! How is this physiologically possible? How much do they weigh? (For the inappropriately curious, 1.5 lbs each.)
  • Okay, I’m slightly uncomfortable.
  • (Direct quote from 12 hours before my water broke at 36 weeks) “I’m finally ready to say that I’m more ready for pregnancy to be over than afraid of childbirth.”
  • (Upon water breaking) Where the heck is my pregnancy book? What do you pack in a hospital bag? Where in this book will it tell me what to pack to go to the hospital?! (Spoiler Alert – nowhere)
  • (In labor at the hospital) No one ever told me that it could be “too early” for an epidural.

2nd Pregnancy

  • This kinda sucks.
  • How can it be evolutionary beneficial to be repulsed by food, water, and other liquids when you’re trying to grow a human?
  • I want to go back in time and punch my prior pregnant self in the face.
  • Why am I crying?
  • I hate everyone.
  • My husband must really love me.
  • My back and butt really hurt.
  • Why can’t I sleep? It can’t be good to not sleep more than 2 hours a night. (Upon consultation with my OB, “Well, yes, that happens sometimes.”)
  • (While the baby is frustrating the heck out of the ultrasound tech with non-stop motion) Heh. At least I’m not the only one she’s giving a hard time to!
  • My husband brought me chocolate cake for no reason. I love him so much, I have to cry.
  • My back hurts so badly, I can only lay in bed and cry. (Upon consultation with my OB, “Sorry, it’s like that sometime. Take some acetaminophen.”)
  • Oh, yay. Now I’m peeing on myself every time I cough. And my human petri dish (my 5 year old) keeps giving me colds. I thought I wasn’t supposed to be doing this much laundry until after the baby is born!
  • Hello my little pugilist. You better be very cute, or at least extremely mild mannered, because you’re an awful lot of work.
  • What fresh hell is this?! (Dizziness so bad that I the room is spinning while I’m lying down and barely make it to the toilet for the vomiting.)(According to the OB, this can happen sometimes. Call them back if it persists.)
  • Seriously, I’m still crying.
  • So that’s what the inside of my belly button looks like. I really wasn’t missing anything, was I?
  • Actual Google search: “Can a fetus kick the mother in the urethra?”
  • My husband better love me if I’m going through this!
  • Did I ride a bike for 12 hours yesterday and forget about it? Why am I saddle-sore?
  • My husband just licked his popsicle too noisily. He. Must. Go.
  • Why does it feel like I’m being stabbed in the pelvis and vagina when I walk, stand, or shift positions? (Upon consultation with my OB, “Well, yes, that happens sometimes.”)
  • Seriously, bladder, is that what you were making all that fuss about? That’s all that’s in there?!
  • Is it possible to become dehydrated from crying?

Anything Can Be a Pregnancy Symptom

  • As noted from above – debilitating back pain, severe nausea and dizziness leading to vomiting, stabbing groin and vaginal pain, severe insomnia
  • Stories from friends: craving non-food, increased energy, decreased energy, increased appetite, decreased appetite, euphoria, depression, skin/hair changing color and/or texture, visual changes (including astigmatism permanently changing from one eye to another), skin tags, hair growth in strange and unusual places, hyper-sexuality, sexual monasticism, bloody swollen gums, bloody noses, discharge, crusty nipples, “interesting” new smells, onset of new and life-threatening food allergies, pelvic separation due to over-lax ligaments, the list is truly endless!
  • I strenuously assert that my arm could fall off, and when I told my OB about it, she would simply respond, “Well, yes, that happens sometimes.”

Ways to Win Arguments

Yes, fine, I get it. No one wants to hear anyone complain all the time. I even get sick of myself. However, sometimes, when you’re pregnant and feeling rotten, other people just need to suck it up and let you win.  I find these techniques to be especially effective with my husband.

  • The always classic, “I’m growing a human inside my body that is either going to be squeezed out of my vagina or removed by my being cut upon on an operating table.”
  • When faced with why you’re uncomfortable or having weird torso sensations, show them this web page (totally SFW).
  • Yelling, “My vagina hurts!” Especially while spreading your legs open and wildly gesticulating at the area in question. (In my experience, this strategy has the added benefit of ending the argument by making my husband crack up.)

What about you?

Please tell me I’m not the only one out there! Do you have any funny or embarrassing stories to share about attempting conception, being pregnant, being a parent? Please share! I’ve got 3(?) more months to go and need to feel the love (or laughter)!

Other people telling it like it is with humor:

  • I think I’ve linked to this before, but Beth Woolsey is my hero as far as “putting it out there.”
  • For the male perspective, you can’t beat How to Be a Dad
  • A book that was recently recommended to me, Pregnancy Sucks (Evidently there’s a whole “Sucks” series)
Halloween image with text

Halloween Ideas Round-Up

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There are so many ideas for Halloween costumes and decorating! Here is a small selection for people ranging from the “I-don’t-know-how-to-use-a-needle-and-thread” non-crafter to the Super Crafter.

Halloween image with text

Costumes

Face it, Star Wars is hot. With episodes VII, VIII, and IX starting release later this year (not to mention the stand alone movies), it’s going to be hot for a while. If you or your little ones want to celebrate Halloween with a nod to the force, here are some ideas for you:

Looking for a variety of cute ideas that aren’t DIY?

Want to DIY your child’s costume, but don’t sew?

Waited until the last minute to put something together? Need some ideas?

For the Ambitious DIYer

Decorations

Socially Conscious Halloween Ideas

What Are You Doing?

Do you have any favorite tips or links to share? Did you find anything here that you’re going to try? We’d love to hear about it!

 

Practical ideas for maintaining long distance friendships

When Good Friends Live Far Away

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I live on the East Coast. My closest friends live in Austin, Chicago, and St. Paul. We’re all moms of young children without the time or funds to travel easily. For a long time, we did the usual – have a 2-3 hour phone conversation every 3-6 months. These conversations were great, as these are the types of friends that you can just start talking to, but with that type of schedule, the conversation tends to focus on the big highlights and what’s going on right now. It’s hard to get a sense of the day-to-day rhythm of life. Over the years, we’ve done some different things that have helped us stay close.

Practical ideas for maintaining long distance friendships

Regarding Pregnancies and Babies

Kids can happen to the best of us, and they tend to take up an awful amount of time and attention. When my Austin friend got pregnant with her first child 9 or 10 years ago, I knew that this meant a big change in our carefree stay-in-touch schedule. Not wanting things to ever get to an awkward place, I had a conversation with my friend before the baby was born. I told her that I was worried about bugging her with calls, as a schedule with a baby could be so chaotic; however, I didn’t want to just stop calling her or be forever questioning if it was a good time. I offered her a deal: I would call when I felt like it. She was under no obligation to answer or call back, and she was not allowed to feel guilty (another path to faltering communication). If I was bugging her with my calls, she would tell me (so I wouldn’t be second guessing myself). Neither of us would “keep score.” If I called her 9 times, and she hadn’t called me, we would assume that everything was okay unless one of us said otherwise.

This worked really well for a while. I had a really long commute, so I called and left her a message almost every day. Most of the time, these messages were light anecdotes or “I’m thinking about you and hope you’re doing well.” Sometimes I’d talk about something that bothered me. When she got a chance to call me back, she’d tell me how much she appreciated the messages and how much they helped her feel connected when she was sucked into the mother-of-a-newborn world.

Tangible Contact

This idea is still in Beta testing. After I sent a package to my friend in Chicago, she suggested that we save the box and use it to send things to each other that we (or our kids) have made. I absolutely love this idea, but we haven’t really implemented it, yet. (Which leads to a really important rule with all of these suggestions: We have lives, and stressing ourselves out about friendship rituals isn’t good for anyone. These should be fun and flexible, not anxiety provoking!)

Skype Tea

(We actually use a program called Zoom, but I thought more people would understand what I meant with Skype. I love Zoom though – the video quality so much better!) My Chicago friend and I love drinking tea, Jane Austen, good literature, knitting, all that stuff.

Skype Tea with Friends
Almost as good as the real thing!

Of course, after she moved to the Mid-West, we realized all the opportunities lost for chatting over tea. But then we realized that in this age of technology, distance doesn’t have to be a barrier! Every couple of weeks(-ish), we have a “teleconference” where we sit down with our tea and talk about what’s going on in our lives. We’ve been a little off with Summer schedules, but I know we’ll get back to our rhythm. The scheduling that seemed to work best for us, before we ended each chat, we’d set up our appointment for our next chat. Every week seemed a little burdensome, so we average every 2 weeks, although, sometimes if we’re having a busy month, we might only do one chat that month. I really don’t like looking at myself on the video of the chat; however, the quality of the conversation with being able to see each other is worth overcoming my vanity.

Staying in Touch With Daily Life

My Austin friend and I were roommates in college, and our friendship is the age equivalent of an adult. When we saw each other last year (We usually manage to see each other every year or 2), I told her about my MS diagnosis. We took a moment to process; the following conversation ensued:

Her: “Do you need anything?”

Me: “Yes.”

Her: “What?”

Me: “I don’t know?”

The next day I got a text message from her with a picture and the caption, “Image of the day.” Almost 15 months later, we’ve only missed a handful of days and never more than 3 days in a row. Some days there isn’t a picture, just a message or a funny thing that happened. Sometimes the pictures are stunning, sad, or heartwarming, but most of the time, it’s just daily stuff that happens in life. Some of my pictures have included pretty foliage (what’s the use of living in New England if you can’t rub it in during the fall?), a picture of my son’s socks that he asked me to take, and the slice of pizza that we woke up to find in our yard one day. My friend has a huge advantage, she’s a youth librarian and a public library, so she has lots of interesting pictures; however, yesterday’s picture was of the pile of reading logs that she’d spent the day reviewing.

Chilling and texting with friends
What my ideal version of texting with friends looks like

I feel like we are much more connected with each other’s daily lives, and every once in a while, a photo will turn into an extended back and forth about a big issue that’s going on in one of our lives. I don’t know how long this will last, but right now it’s the best friendship thing that’s ever happened. Interestingly enough. . .

I was hanging out with my St. Paul friend (who comes to Massachusetts once a year), last year, and I told her about the picture a day texts with my Austin friend. She really liked the idea and suggested that she and I do it, too. I said, “Of course!” although I never told her that I was initially apprehensive. I was only about a month and a half in this with my Austin friend, and it seemed like something that would be easily promised but challenging in practice.

I’ve never been more happy to be wrong! She and I have also kept this up for over a year. I cheat a little, I’ll often send the same picture and message to both friends, but it’s amazing the different paths that the conversations take from that initial text. I had my feeling of connectedness confirmed when we briefly saw each other a couple of months ago. My friend noted, “I know we didn’t get to talk that much, but I feel okay with it. I feel like we’re caught up through the daily texts.” I felt exactly the same way.

Do you have any rituals that you use to stay in touch with good friends who live far away? Do you think you’ll try any of these ideas?

Back-To-School Crafting Roundup title

Back-to-School Crafting Roundup

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Back-to-School: whether it makes you want to shout, “Hooray!” or plug your ears in denial (sorry, teachers!) the beginning of the school year is just around the corner.

Back-To-School Crafting Roundup title

If you love to craft or want to make a little something special to celebrate the season, here are some ideas to inspire your Back-to-School Crafting:

Book Bags and Pencil Cases

Gifts for Teachers

  • What teacher wouldn’t love these notebook paper-style tote bags?
  • The technique for these Sharpie tie-dye book marks also works on fabric (t-shirts, tote bags, etc.)
  • I love the idea of this Teacher Emergency Kit! For those of us who don’t have vinyl stencil cutting machines, a red cross made out of washi tape or a decoupaged laser printer image with modge podge would work great.
  • This Apple Jar will never go bad, and you can fill with your favorite treat for your teacher.

Tech-related Makes

Simple Accessories

  • Infinity scarves are still trendy. This is a simple tutorial from Martha Stewart on making your own Infinity Scarf.
  • How about making a bunch of friendship bracelets to give to friends? This post has links for 15 Friendship Bracelet tutorials.
  • Make your own Lunch Bag (or 2 or 3 extras!)
  • Check out these 17 New Ways to Cover Your Books – not your typical tacky book covers!
  • These cute Monster Bookmarks are a great way to mark your place (and maybe help cure the corner-turning habit)!
  • Is your young person interested in learning to knit? These knitting instructions are kid-friendly and knitting is a great meditative and relaxing activity – a perfect way to take a break from studying.

Home Study & Organization DIY

  • If you have access to a staple gun, you can make a cute, fabric covered Lap Desk, no sewing required!
  • Back to school schedules can sometimes be hard to organize, this Magnetic Calendar DIY allows you to customize your family’s calendar in way that’s neat and organized.
  • Let your little person choose their perfect study are with this Portable Desk.
  • Does packing school lunches drive you crazy? Use this How To Pack Your Lunch printable to help foster your children’s independence and get them packing their own lunches.

See anything that inspires you? Have any favorite Back-To-School DIYs that we didn’t include? Please share them with us!

Check out these awesome craft ideas for kids of all ages!

Summer Crafting Ideas for All Ages

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If there’s something about Summer, the break from the usual routine, the longer days, that makes you feel like experimenting, trying something creative – this is the post for you.

Check out these awesome craft ideas for kids of all ages!

Whether you’re looking for new crafting ideas to try with kids or wanting to try something new yourself, there are SO many options out there. Here’s a sampling:

For the Younger Set

A Little More Adventurous

Building Some Skills

Getting into Some Really Cool Stuff

Truly Crafting

Is there any other crafting idea that isn’t listed, but you’ve always wanted to try? Let us know what it is, and we’ll help find you a tutorial to get you started!

Alternatively, are there any crafting DIY’s that you love that we didn’t list here? Let us know, and we’ll add them!

This is the only father's day gift guide you'll ever need!

The Only Father’s Day Gift Guide You’ll Need

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This is the only father's day gift guide you'll ever need!This is not a sponsored post, but I do want to thank Groupon for getting me started thinking. I received their email, “What Dads Really Want for Father’s Day” and started thinking. Have I been going the wrong way all these years with thoughtfully handcrafted gifts, making notes throughout the year of little things that my husband might like or find meaningful? According to Groupon, yes.I decided to compile this list for people out there, like me, who might need help in finding a product that the Dad in your life “really wants” for Father’s Day (as opposed to the sentimental clap-trap that we usually get/make him.) Let’s start with a suggestion from Groupon, who got this whole thing started.


I find that men spend an inexplicable amount of time on the toilet. In the past, they had newpapers, magazines, and books to help them pass the time, and now it’s cell phones. Evidently, this bathroom time is a missed opportunity for activity, and this is just the product to help him out.

If you would like to focus your gift more on what’s going in, rather than what’s coming out, perhaps this classy drink accessory is more your speed.

Bacon Wallet
Or are you thinking more along the lines of food? Have you explored every opportunity to incorporate bacon into his wardrobe?

Superman Caped Logo Adult Blue Boxer Brief
Letting the Father in your life know that you see him for the super-hero he is can also be a good choice. But why get him a boring old t-shirt, like everyone else?

Finally, maybe your shopping for the perfect accessory that screams says, “I’ve totally got this!”

No matter the gift you end up choosing, we at Up Parenting Creek are wishing all the father’s out there a very Happy Father’s Day!

Father's Day Gift! DIY T-Shirt. Easy t-shirt for kids to make for dads.

Making T-Shirts for Father’s Day!

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Father's day t shirt title image

I’m passionate about making things, so any occasion means a new occasion for which to make something, usually for someone else. Father’s Day is no exception.

It can be hard to find something that can be made and can actually be used. And there have definitely been some fails (maybe sometime I’ll get my husband to tell the story of opening a box and asking me why I was giving him a dinosaur butt).

Over the years, I’ve found T-shirts to be a nice balance. They’re something that a wide variety of age ranges can participate in, and almost everyone can use a T-Shirt. This tutorial shows you 2 techniques for making personalized T-Shirts. The first one is easy enough that kids 18 months and up can help. The second is a little more adventurous.

Super Easy Father’s Day T-Shirt

What you’ll need:

Father's Day Shirt Supplies
Supplies
  • Plain T-Shirt to fit the recipient
  • Fabric Markers/ Fabric Paint Pens
  • Masking tape
  • Contact paper or clothes roller sticky sheets
  • Paper Grocery Bag

 

 

Getting Started:

*Note – If this shirt seems small, it is. Since we were making a couple of shirts, I thought one of them could be for my little guy.

  1. Masking tape relief for shirt design
    Laying out the design

    Optional but recommended step – I recommend stabilizing the back of the shirt. You can use those sticky sheets on clothes rollers, contact paper, masking tape (although, unless it’s really wide, using masking tape will take a while.) Turn the shirt inside out and place your stabilizer or choice on the back of where you’re going to draw on the shirt. (I forgot to do it on this shirt and was regretting it.)

  2. Place a paper grocery bag inside the shirt. (This helps make a stable surface. If you didn’t stabilize the shirt, it also helps the markers from bleeding onto the back of the shirt.)
  3. Putting paint pen to shirt
    Let the fun begin!

    Flip the shirt right side out and set out a border in masking tape (If you’re ambitious, you can iron it before you begin. As you can see, I’m don’t.)

  4. Lay out a “relief” pattern with the masking tape. This pattern will keep the fabric makers from transferring to the fabric, so anywhere you place masking tape, you will not get marker color.
  5. Turn the markers over and color! Make sure that you get color around the edges of the tape, this helps the design stand out.
  6. When the coloring is done, follow the instructions for “setting” markers. Some require ironing, some require time, some require nothing. “Setting” the color helps it last over multiple washings.
  7. Father's Day Shirt with Fabric Marker/ Pant Pen
    Easy shirt for almost any age.

    Wrap it up to be opened on Father’s Day (and try to keep your kids from talking about it before then)!

Tips:

  • A light colored shirt will show the widest variety of colors.
  • If you choose to use a dark colored shirt, use fabric paint pens rather than markers.
  • If you’re using fabric paint pens, open them and get them “started” before you begin working with kids. They can take a while to get the paint going, and it can be hard for little ones to wait.

Solar Ink Father’s Day Shirt

What you’ll need:

Materials needed for Solar Ink Shirt
Supplies
  • Plain T-Shirt to fit the recipient
  • Inkodye or other brand of solar ink
  • Object(s) to make images on the shirt
  • Masking tape
  • Contact paper or clothes roller sticky sheets
  • Paper Grocery Bag
  • Recommended – Inkodye Fabric Wash

Getting Started:

*Note – I highly recommend going to Inkodye’s website to read about working with their product. The individual ink packages do not come with very detailed instructions.

  1. Optional but recommended step – I recommend stabilizing the back of the shirt. You can use those sticky sheets on clothes rollers, contact paper, masking tape (although, unless it’s really wide, it will take a while.) Turn the shirt inside out and place your stabilizer or choice on the back of where you’re going to draw on the shirt. (I forgot to do it on this shirt and was regretting it.)
  2. Place a paper grocery bag inside the shirt. (This helps make a stable surface. If you didn’t stabilize the shirt, it also helps the ink from bleeding onto the back of the shirt.)

    Masking tape and contact paper shirt
    Preparing the shirt
  3. Optional Step – Flip the shirt right side out and set out a border in masking tape (If you’re ambitious, you can iron it before you begin. As you can see, I’m don’t.)
  4. Important notes about the ink:
    1. There is a finite amount of ink in each packet. If you’re not okay with a random color border, either make a small border or buy multiple packets. The instructions say that it will cover a 12″x12″ square. It didn’t go that far for me.
    2. The ink has a powerful amonia smell. Make sure you spread the ink in a well-ventilated area!
  5. Take the shirt, ink, paper towels, and relief object(s) into a dimly lit area or area with no natural/ UV light. Shake the ink packet well then bend it and snap it open at the seam in the back. The ink will come out of the packet, and you can use the packet to spread the ink around.
  6. Blot the ink on the shirt so that it is damp rather than wet. (I just blotted it once.)
  7. Place the relief object(s) on top of the ink-covered area on the shirt, carry outside, and set down in a sunny spot.

    Soaking up those UV rays!
    In the sun!
  8. Let it sit. Inkodye recommends 15 min for bright sunlight, 20-30 for an overcast day. My day was pretty overcast (fully clouded sky with no breaks of blue), so I left it out for 45 minutes.
  9. Check to see how the ink is developing. If you’re satisfied, bring it inside. If not, leave it out longer.
  10. Once you’re ready to bring it in, pick up the whole kaboodle, keeping the relief object(s) in place while it’s still being exposed to the sun.
  11. Once you have returned to your dimly lit prep area, remove the relief object(s), the masking tape, and the backing.
  12. Wash the shirt on hot/cold setting immediately (the ink will continue to develop until washed. Inkodye recommends using their wash for 2 cycles. I’ve had bad experiences with garments shedding ink, so I washed for the 2 cycles. I used their fabric wash, splitting a single packet between the 2 loads.
  13. After you get your shirt out of the dryer, admire your and the sun’s work and wrap up that Father’s Day gift!

Tips:

  • Final image of shirt
    Headless Boulder

    Be creative with your relief items. For instance, you could print out text or write on transparency sheets to put text on your shirt.

  • There are a variety of colors of Inkodye ink. Play around with color combinations between the shirt and dye. (I let my little guy pick out the colors, so that meant blue all the way.)
  • If you want to get a (very general) idea of what your image will look like, hold it up a little off the shirt while you shine a flashlight over it. (Thanks for the idea, Beren!)
  • Any part of your object that is raised or translucent will likely allow the sun to get underneath, meaning that detail won’t show as well or at all.
  • If you want a crisper outline/ sharper details, choose flat objects (on the Inkodye website they feature things like paperclips and shapes cut out of manilla folders). If you have a flat object, you can place a sheet of clear plexiglass over it while sitting in the sun – just make sure the glass does NOT have UV protection!

Takeaway and Bonus Shirt Idea

  • Another Father's Day Idea
    Fabric paint

    The only limit in creating T-Shirts is your imagination! Just look for colorants designed to be used on fabrics (they’ll last better). There are even additives that you can mix with plain acrylic paint to turn them into fabric paints. (We made this shirt with fabric paint. Can you guess what we used to apply the paint?)

  • Have multiple kids? Have them work together on the shirt. If that isn’t a good idea for your bunch, use the masking tape to create different blocks/sections and have each child work on their own section. Or you can always make multiple shirts!
  • Have some examples of shirts you’ve made with your kids? Share them with us!
  • Have question about how to do something or where to buy a supply? Ask!
  • Would you like to find a Father’s Day DIY that’s not a shirt? Let me know! I have literally thousands of ideas!

 

Vulnerability II and Friendship

Vulnerability (Part II) & Friendship

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Woman Hiding Face with Mask

As I’ve been reflecting on what it means to be vulnerable, I’m realizing -for me- it keeps coming back to friendship and allowing myself (for better or worse) to be connected to other people. Oh – and it’s really hard!

One of the areas where I’ve been focusing on being strong, being an island (therefore closing others out) is with my health. About a year ago I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (although I was being followed for “lesions consistent with a demyelinizing disease” for a year and a half before that), and, at least in my mind, I was amazing. Don’t get me wrong, I had my moments where I broke down in private, but I was able to talk about it, laugh in the face of the disease, be objective, not have an existential crisis about it, take life a day at a time, while recognizing that the future might hold challenges, etc. Considering that the year had brought me: a layoff from a job that I took pride in, a milestone birthday, and the loss of my engagement ring, I thought I was doing a pretty good job of holding it together.

Having struggled with depression for decades, I was particularly impressed that I didn’t succumb to an episode in the face of all of this. I knew what depression was – it was breaking down, non-stop crying, with the belief that things would never get better. Again, I had my moments, but I was impressed with my relative non-breakdown-ness.

It was about the time I started allowing myself to connect with friends again, that I realized how not okay I was. As Beth Woolsey has written about Depression coming in disguise, I didn’t realize that I thought I was okay because I had just turned everything off and given up (except for bouts of extreme pissyness). I floundered with trying to start a business – one that I really cared about. I didn’t reach out to friends. I didn’t “suffer” from my disease because I just preemptively decided that I just couldn’t do things and participate in things because if it. No big deal, I just “can’t do that” (go on walks, go out, do things that require endurance, do yoga classes, etc.)

Being vulnerable gets real
No problem, right?

Oddly enough, breaking out of this “I’m fine” shell has been painful, like the pins and needles you feel after a limb has fallen asleep. My husband is doing a biking fundraiser to help raise money for MS research (you can learn more here!), so I’ve been putting my story out there. Even though I’m trying to be more open, I still falter for asking for help when *I* need it (see, the fundraising is for *him*, not me, so it’s easier than just telling people my story for my own sake). For example, I’ve been going out to more social events where people stand around a lot. When it gets physically painful for me, I just suck it up, look for a chair (and feel so embarrassed when I’m the only one sitting), or leave because I don’t want to be “that person” who needs a special accommodation.

Recently, though, I made a huge stride in that area. My friend (the same one who started my whole thought process about vulnerability) put out an invitation to a concert at a nightclub. I expressed interest without thinking about the venue, then tried to pull out once I realized that it there was no seating, it was just standing. Instead of accepting my withdrawal, she did some research on the venue and found out how to ask for seating. Within 2 phone calls, they had a plan to reserve a table for us in the mezzanine. (You know those cool “Reserved for” tables that they have in nightclubs?)

Of course, I was feeling grateful for my friends’ push and great attitude about not being down on the floor close to the stage (for which I felt guilty), when she said, “I’m so glad we have this table!” I was too busy feeling guilty to realize that the accommodation that the club made might actually be a benefit! The concert was amazing, we walked around downtown Cambridge in perfect Spring weather, and a barrier was dismantled for me. Concerts at night clubs are now something that is within my range of possible. Only now, I realize that sharing my vulnerability is what led to this breakthrough.

I still have no answer for how to positively reframe the look of disappointment on my son’s face when I try to explain to him that I’m too tired to play with him or take him to the park or why the Mother’s Day trip to the Children’s Museum made me cry because I was so tired that I was nauseated but felt too guilty not to go, but I am working on beating myself up less about it.

And look at me go! I can say it. My Mother’s Day was not “fine.” It was physically exhausting and emotionally painful. I love my son and husband, and they showered me with love, cards, and homemade gifts, but I still struggled. But you know the thing that made the biggest difference? Being kind to myself. Don’t get me wrong, being kind to myself is right up there with going to the dentist for me, but even I have to acknowledge that I experience the most amazing change in attitude when I talk to myself and treat myself as I would a friend (aka nicely), rather than my usual mode of dealing with myself (not so much).

So, my work at vulnerability is definitely being made easier by friends who are near me and help; however, long distance friendships can require some different strategies/ skills. Luckily, I also have amazing friends who live in different parts of the country. We’ve developed some pretty cool habits that make it so much easier to share when things aren’t going well and feel more clued-in about day-to-day details of each other’s lives. (More about that next time). Have you had any experiences where you’ve experienced amazing support from your friends?

Woman in Mask Image courtesy of graur codrin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

A Letter to My Son for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

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Sexual Assault Awareness MonthDear Lil’ C,

Even though you’re only 4, and some might think it’s a little early, I’ve been thinking about your sexual health for a long time.  As a woman, I was always taught that it is my job to keep myself safe. As a mother, I feel it is not only my job to help you keep yourself safe, but it is also my job to make sure that when you go out into this world, you respect others and help keep them safe, too. I want to share a little of what I do and think about to try to help you grow into the best you that you can be.

Things I am doing now to try to raise you to be an ethical sexual person:

  • Recommended by your awesome Aunt Maggie, I made sure that we always (even before you could talk) used proper terminology when we talked about body parts.
  • Starting about the same time, I urged you to always tell me if anyone touched you in a private place or in a way that made you feel uncomfortable.
  • I’ve tried to talk with you about your body in a way that makes you feel good about it, but help you learn that some parts of our body are private. This is a challenge. Your penis is a part of your body that you are very comfortable with – yay! However, I’m finding it challenging to help you understand about keeping it private when you’re not in the house but without attaching shame to the private parts of your body. (We’re still working on “privacy.”) I love your innocence. I love how you do not understand why there needs to be privacy, and it’s hard to be the one to have to teach you that lesson because there is so much not-innocent baggage that comes with it.
  • I want you to understand that each person has the right to make decisions about their body, and you need to respect people if they tell you that something doesn’t feel good or ask you to stop touching them. This goes for you, too. You have the right to have decisions about your body respected (Again, this is especially hard to explain when we have to hold you down at the doctor for shots and allergy testing.), and this might change from moment-to-moment. You know how sometimes you want us to tickle you, but then you ask us to stop? We try our best to respect your choices about your body. We do this because it is so important to us that you are learning that we respect each person’s bodily autonomy. Stop means stop, and No means no.

Things that I think about and wonder how I’m going to handle in the future:

  • Media is not an accurate reflection of the world. Television, movies, music, video games, magazines, and easily accessible online pornography are a part of the world that you live in. Your are a valuable income source for these industries. They are going to show you things that they think you want to see. Please remember to stop look at the real world around you. You don’t have to try to be like these artificial things you see (yes, even “reality” shows). You are real. Your life is “real” life.
  • The “right” things isn’t always obvious, and sometimes it’s hard.  Sometimes the “right” thing to do isn’t what everyone else is doing, and sometimes doing  the “right” thing ostracizes you from people who you think are your friends. My hope for your future is that you will be able speak up, and be a leader when you see another person (or animal!) being harmed, and not just physically harmed. Bragging about sexual experience (real or made up), talking about what others have done sexually, to make yourself feel better or for the amusement of a group, persuading yourself or someone else to have a sexual experience just for the sake of the experience, sexting (sue me, I’m old), or any number of other things where you have an intimate experience for any reason other than it being the right choice for which you are ready.
  • Your body will most likely be ready for sex before your brain, and there’s not necessarily an easy way to know when your brain is ready. I’m sorry, that’s just the way it is. The best way you can do is have someone you trust and respect to talk about this stuff with. Remember, if you can’t talk about this stuff, you’re not ready to do it. I found the right person, but probably could have waited a little longer for my first time. It’s hard for me to think of an example where waiting longer would be a bad thing.
  • Sex isn’t a part of how I, or anyone I know, determine who is an adult or a “real” man. However, being able to wait until you find the right person, being able to listen to and wait for that person if they aren’t ready, are part of maturity and respect for others. Those things are part of how I define an adult or real man.
  • If a person you want to date, acts tentative or cautious, you will respect that person and applaud them for taking care of themselves To be clear, if you are EVER this guy, you will be in so much trouble with me. I will love you, but I will be furious.

Finally, please always remember:

This stuff is hard for me, too. Given that the sex talk my parents gave me consisted of, “We don’t believe in pre-marital sex, so we’re not going to talk about it.” I’m doing the best that I can. I promise that I will always try to do my best to listen to and try to understand you, even when I disagree. I hope that you always know that I am here for you and always love you, no matter what.

Love,

Mom

 

Resources for Sexual Assault Awareness Month:

Statistics: CDC and RAINN

Types of Sexual Violence

Ways to Get Help Following Assault

 

Resources for talking with your kids about human sexuality:

From Diapers to Dating

Secrets to Surviving Your Child’s Sexual Development

Our Whole Lives

 

Photo Credit:

Mother Son – Blue Skyz Studios