DIY Kid’s Swimsuit Alteration: No More Falling Straps!

IMAG0420_1So, I’m not sure what clothing manufacturers are thinking, but McKenzie’s straps always fall off her shoulders: tank tops, swimsuits, dresses, etc. She doesn’t have super-broad shoulders, but I think she’s a pretty normal-sized kid. Am I alone here? Either way, I don’t like it. I prefer to keep my 4-year-old’s chest completely covered, thank you very much.

Anyway, as I mentioned in this post, we’ve been going to the YMCA lately for swimming. Last summer, I had actually tied dental floss in the middle to keep her straps from falling off (see above)! I was sick of it. Sooooo, today I decided to alter the shoulder straps (ie: cut & re-sewed them…just a needle & thread). I am SO pleased with the end-result. They stay perfectly and don’t fall off…it worked so well that I had to share!

swimsuit

The “after.” The straps were originally two inches out to either side.

In the future maybe I’ll just look for halter swim suits, but if you have the same problem with your daughter’s clothes, I highly recommend this simple fix. =)

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You spent $1,000 on a…WHAT?!?

Yes, it’s true. As I alluded to in this post, we got a 2012 Bugaboo Cameleon! (Pictured below is the color scheme we got.) If you don’t know anything about these strollers, it’s probably because they start at $979 brand new. Which is insane. I mean, who spends that much on a stroller?! That’s a lot of dough. It’s pretty sweet though…just look at it. But you know who turned me on to it? My momma. Bugaboo

You see, before McKenzie was born, my mom practically begged to buy us this stroller. She thought it was super cool. Awesome even. But I vehemently opposed the purchase of a $1,000 stroller.  I was like, “Geez Mom…for that price, would you please just buy the entire bedroom set AND a cheaper stroller/car-seat set?” But at the time, I wasn’t personally aware of the awesomeness that is the Bugaboo Cam. Until now.

When we found out about Baby #2, I started thinking about strollers immediately, so of course my mind drifted to the Bugaboo, which my mom had liked so much. I did TONS of research. Read hundreds of reviews. Etc. And I came to the same conclusion: it’s pretty awesome. It has a sweet bassinet (w/ a foam mattress!). It’s car-seat compatible. It can be forward or rear-facing. It has 6 different positions. Adjustable suspension (no kidding!). Heavy-duty foam tires. A reversible, height-adjustable handlebar. On top of all that, it’s relatively compact, and everything is machine washable…and according to the legends, you can push this bad-boy with one hand, no problem.

McKenzie will be 5 by the time the baby is born…which, I’ve decided, is a little old to be using a stroller…don’t you think? So I quickly ruled out double strollers. ((As a hilarious side-note, check out www.toobigforstroller.com for photographic evidence of this phenomena, if you could use a laugh.)) BUT, that said, if I’m going on a long, work-out-style walk, it might be too far for her little legs. Enter: the Bugaboo’s roller-board! I had never heard of these…but it folds up or detaches easily when not in-use…the perfect solution to my problem! I can still use a single stroller, but my kindergartener can ride along if she’s tired. Brilliant.

bugabooboard

Anyway, so I decided to go ahead with my Mom-inspired purchase, but I was still completely opposed to paying full-price. No freakin’ way am I dropping $1,000 on a stroller. So I began obsessively checking Craigslist and eBay. Unfortunately, not a lot of people in Madison, WI (or even Milwaukee) use Bugaboo strollers. And on eBay, they were pretty beat-up. Then, I had a genius idea: my step-dad lives in Orange County, California…so I searched the Craigslist there, and there were pages of Bugaboo listings. Score!

I kept my eye on them, and found a 2012 stroller, listed for $450 with car seat adapter + other accessories included. My lovely step-dad swooped over and scooped it up at my request…and after some bargaining, the final price was $375!  It’s still a lot for a stroller (I know), but we didn’t spend $1,000 on it. We managed to get a *mint* condition Bugaboo Cam for almost 65% off. I’m stoked, and I can’t wait to push Baby #2 around in it! And the best part is: I know my momma would approve. ;)

“Masking Tape Racetrack” & Some Other Things

racetrackwithmaskingtape

McKenzie doesn’t have school (4K) on Mondays, and I can never figure out what to do during the day. The Children’s Museum is closed on Mondays. It’s snowy and crappy outside. What do I DO? Urgh. I’ve been taking her to the mall (across the street) to play on the kiddie playground inside. It feels so…trashy. Anyway, I remembered seeing this idea on Pinterest (don’t know where), and decided to give it a shot. The “Masking Tape Racetrack” was a hit! Hours of entertainment with her MatchBox cars. Tomorrow we’re going to build a town with her wooden blocks and set up some train tracks nearby. She can entertain herself with imagination play for hours. =) *Note: I used regular masking tape & a black Sharpie marker…I triple checked and it did NOT bleed through. And it’s super easy to peel off!*

6 Other Things in My Day:

  1. A moment of nervousness: We had Part I of our “First Trimester Screen” for Baby #2 this morning. Just some blood-work and informational stuff. It made me nervous though. Just thinking something could be wrong with the baby. Ya know? When I was pregnant with McKenzie, one of the blood tests came back showing a higher risk for Down Syndrome (her odds were 1/180…which was very high for being age 21 at the time). We opted not to have the CVS or Amniocentesis done with her, but I was nervous the whole time. The first thing I asked when she was born was, “Is she okay?” Of course, she was fine. But if one of the tests is flagged this time around, I might opt for the CVS or Amnio simply to have the peace of mind. Hopefully it’s a non-issue.
  2. A moment of disappointment: At the aforementioned appointment, they dashed my hopes of finding out the sex at the ultrasound on March 7th. BOO! I hear there’s a private ultrasound center that will do it for like $65, so maybe it’s worth it? I know it’s still early, but I really want to know before Jon leaves (if we can). Did anyone have accurate results early? =/
  3. A moment of hilariousness: Today we saw a homeless man walking down the road while we were driving by our local grocery store, and McKenzie said, “Look Momma, I think it’s a ZOMBIE!” Oh. My. God. I laughed SO HARD! [[She was dead serious though…so we had a long talk about homelessness, mental health, and addiction. And yes, I really did that with my 4-year-old (with age-appropriate dialogue, of course). I firmly believe honesty is the best policy, and sheltering her will only make her naïve. It was an excellent “teachable moment” and I don’t think it’s ever to early to start reinforcing the dangers of drugs and alcohol. She’s gonna be a realist!]]
  4. A moment of elation: Vincenzo is GONE! Hellz-to-the-YEAH! I confirmed with property management that his sister removed him from the premises on Saturday. It’s so much quieter already. And his name is gone from the mailbox and everything! Woo! It made me a little giddy. ;)
  5. An update:  Cali’s tail is completely healed! The tip is growing hair, and it almost looks normal again…even though half is shaved. (That’s what she said! Haha.) Anyhow, it doesn’t look too weird either…I guess her tail was super-long, because two inches is barely noticeable. =)
  6. A future post: I know it’s long overdue, but my next post will be about my awesome new stroller, although I don’t physically have it in my possession yet. And don’t worry, I didn’t pay full price…not even close. I’ll let ya know how I pulled that off, too. ;) And I’ll explain my emotionally-motivated rationale for choosing this particular stroller in the first place (other than the fact it’s the Rolls Royce of strollers). Have a great week, everyone!

I have an obsession with seat belts.

Maybe it started when I was little…my dad would routinely say, “You will die if you do not wear your seat belt.” (Well, that’s an attorney for ya…he also told us we couldn’t have a tree house because it was a “liability.” And in case you’re wondering, my first sentence was: “Daddy, will you buy me an irrevocable trust.” Truth.) So perhaps that’s the origin of my obsession? I don’t know. All I know is this: McKenzie must ALWAYS be buckled in properly. Always. And I always wear my seat belt.

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Why would I do anything to jeopardize the life of this precious little girl? (The chest clip here is even a little low for my taste…I’d move it up an inch.)

I absolutely CRINGE when people post “cute” photos on Facebook of their children in their carseats sleeping and their 5-point harness is buckled wrong. Oh. My. God. CRINGE. All I can think is, “Seriously?!?! Do you want your child to die?!” Now, perhaps I’m being a bit dramatic…but am I?

According to the CDC’s Child Passenger Safety Fact Sheet, “Motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of death among children in the United States.” Furthermore, “Child restraint systems are often used incorrectly. One study found that 72% of 3,500 observed car and booster seats were misused in a way that could be expected to increase a child’s risk of injury during a crash.” To translate: nearly 3 out of 4 children are not buckled in properly.

So maybe I’m not overreacting? Parents.com made a list of 8 Common Carseat Mistakes to Avoid. My biggest pet peeves are: #3 Infant turned forward-facing too soon (American Association of Pediatrics recommends 2 years! Better a broken leg than a broken neck.) and #5 Using the retainer clip incorrectly (“The retainer clip should be at armpit level, resting across your child’s breastbone. The clip assures that the harness straps are in the right place. When the retainer clip is in the wrong place, the straps can easily slip off a child’s shoulders, and the child is at risk of being ejected from her seat in a crash.”)

Two more facts for ya: The safest spot in the car is the center seat in the back (next is the rear-passenger seat), and children are not supposed to wear coats in their carseats (although I have been known to break this rule, I’m not perfect).

Sometimes McKenzie says that the clip is choking her…but I know it’s not. I’d rather have her be safe & uncomfortable than the alternative. And she gets over it quickly.

Sorry for the lecture. But not really. Keep your kiddos safe. Proof I practice what I preach:

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Cuteness for Every Season

I’ve been planning a seasonal collage of McKenzie for our hallway, and I’ve got 3 out of 4 photos now! I took the winter one today since we have some fresh snow. I think it’s so fun! Maybe I’ll start doing 1 every month so I can make a calendar next year. Just thought I’d share…I can’t wait to order the 8×10’s so her adorableness can adorn our hallway. It will be super-easy to replace one every 3 or 4 months, nothing too crazy. =) Any ideas for spring? I was thinking something with Tulips maybe…? Or maybe in a puddle? I’m sorta drawing a blank…

McKenzieCollageOh. And FYI: Netflix currently has Pocahontas, The Aristocats, and Fox & the Hound! Some of my favorite kids movies (thanks for the tip Jesse)! I LOVE the songs in Pocahontas.

10 Awesome Holiday Gift Ideas for Preschoolers & Kindergarteners

If you’re like me, every year I struggle to come up with awesome kid’s gift ideas for the holidays. And if your child is like mine, they probably have a lot of stuff that they rarely play with already…so why add to the junk? That said, over the past few years McKenzie has gotten some pretty cool stuff that she regularly plays with and/or uses. In my opinion, the best gifts are those that encourage creative family play, and are ones that I actually enjoy playing with her. Here are my top 10 (mostly) gender-neutral gift ideas, that are fun and reasonably priced…we either have these already, or they’re on our wish-list!

  1. Marble Race ($24.99) McKenzie got this last year for Christmas, and both Jon & I have fun building it with her. She still needs help at age 4, but it’s a great way to spend time together. It provides hours of entertainment! Just be careful if your child has younger siblings, the marbles could be choking hazards!

    Marble Race $24.99

  2. Melissa & Doug Wooden Blocks ($69.99…currently on sale $48.99) I love these because they’re gender-neutral and full of potential…the possibilities are endless! Towers, castles, bridges, etc. They are extremely good quality and come in a convenient, matching wooden crate for easy storage. These will easily last for whenever we have a 2nd child, or even grandchildren!

    Melissa & Doug 60-Piece Wooden Block Set, $48.99

  3. High Five Magazine ($34.44 for 12 issues) Perfect for a boy or girl, this gift keeps giving all year ’round! McKenzie loves the “Tex & Indi” stories in each issue, the “hidden pictures,” and also the interactive activities at the back of each magazine (ie: matching games, build-a-book, etc). She really looks forward to getting her own “mail” each month!

    High Five Magazine (Ages 2-6) $34.44 for 12 issues

  4. Discovery Kids 77-Piece Build & Play Construction Fort Set  ($24.99) I got this for McKenzie this year, so we haven’t opened it…but it just looked really fun for building forts! Maybe regular ‘ol chairs and blankets would be better, but it looked pretty cool. You can make rockets, tunnels, castles, or whatever their little hearts desire! My husband mentioned that you could probably buy two and combine them for an even more awesome fort. We’ll see how she likes it! Blanket not included. ;)

    Discovery 77-Piece Construction Fort Set, $24.99

  5. IKEA 20-Piece Train Set ($9.99) If you’re fortunate enough to have an IKEA nearby (or maybe a relative does?!) this little set is great for preschoolers & kindergarteners. McKenzie got this when she was 2½, and she still plays with it. For $9.99 you can’t go wrong!

    IKEA 20-Piece Train Set, $9.99

  6. Melissa & Doug Sandwich Making Set OR Wooden Food for Slicing ($19.99 each) These foods are fun, gender-neutral, and encourage hours of imaginative playtime away from the TV. Who can complain? As with all Melissa & Doug toys, the solid wood quality and craftsmanship ensure the product will withstand preschooler/kindergartener play. In my opinion, the only down-side is the multiple small pieces eventually disappear over time…but they always seem to re-appear, too. ;)

    Melissa & Doug Food Sets, $19.99 each

  7. KidKraft Fire Station Set or KidKraft Dollhouse ($109.99|$99.99) Although we don’t have the fire station, it could easily be fun for a girl or boy. I love that all the pieces are included and it sits atop a lazy-susan, so it swivels around. If you’re looking for something more girly, McKenzie has the dollhouse. Again, all the pieces shown are included, and I love that it has a removable roof. I chose it because it’s portable, and we can easily move it around from room to room. I’d recommend purchasing a couple extra dollsthough, ’cause it only comes with two. Assembly is super-easy, and it has stood up to hours of play.

    KidKraft Firehouse ($109.99), KidKraft Dollhouse ($99.99)

  8. Annual Family Zoo Pass ($109 in Milwaukee…check local pricing!) Although Madison has a free local zoo affiliated with the University, Milwaukee’s Zoo is much larger and has a lot more animals. Check your local Zoos to see how much an annual family pass costs! In Milwaukee it’s only $109 for the Membership Plus package, which includes parking. Great for making memories together as a family!

    Annual Family Zoo Pass “Plus,” $109

  9. Huffy Bike ($39.97) According to the LiveStrong website, 12″ bikes are ideal for ages 3-5. Kids always love a new bike, and at less than $40 (including training wheels!) you really can’t go wrong. Hopefully McKenzie will be getting one this year. She was lucky enough to get a hand-me-down from a neighbor, but there’s something about having a sparkly new one to to call your own, ya know? She already gets enough thrifted clothing and toys, she can be spoiled by her Grandpa a little. ;) Maybe we’ll even jazz it up with these cool princess accessories. Also, since we don’t have this bike yet, I can’t speak to the ease of assembly, so if you’ve done it, please let me know. Annnnd of course if you do get your kiddo a new bike for Christmas, be sure they start practicing bicycle safety early and always wear a helmet!

    Huffy 12″ Bikes, $39.97

  10. Disney Sleeping Bag Girl or Boy ($19.99) These sleeping bags could be used anywhere, from Grandma’s House to a sleepover, to a sick day in the living room. They are inexpensive, and yet they take up a lot of room under the tree…which is awesome. Although this sleeping bag is clearly not intended for outdoor/cold-weather use, it would be really fun for a kid to curl up and snuggle in it, even in his/her own bed! As an added bonus, it comes with a pretty cool carrier backpack. Score. Please note, the suggested age is 4+

    Disney Sleeping Bags, $19.99

**If you’re looking for an awesome 1-year old gift, I like this KidKraft Deluxe Activity Walker ($46.99). We’ll probably be getting it for our friends who have 8-month-old identical twin boys. =)

KidKraft Deluxe Activity Walker, $46.99

Do you have any great gift ideas for kids? I’d love to hear them!

A break from all things political…

Here is a short, heartwarming story…at least I think so:
When I arrived at school today, McKenzie’s co-teacher approached me and said, “I just have to tell you something that happened last week. We were all walking back to the classroom from outside, and I fell behind because of my bad leg. All the students and the other teacher were already around the corner, and McKenzie came back for me and said ‘Don’t worry Miss Mary, I’ll wait for you.’ I just had to tell you, she is such a little treasure. The most genuinely caring child I’ve ever met.” This woman has been a teacher for 30+ years…talk about making a momma proud! Maybe it’s because her Daddy’s a Marine: “leave no man behind.” Haha. ;) But seriously, I am so thankful for that little princess. She is literally our pride & joy.

Parenting Tips & Tricks: Pandora Lullaby Station

I’m going to be starting a section on this blog for Parenting Tips & Tricks…just things that I have found work very well with our daughter. I understand these tips/tricks might not work for every parent, or every child, but they have helped me immensely and it would be selfish of me not to share!

“Parenting Trick” number 1: Create a “lullaby” Pandora station to help your kids fall asleep.

By the time McKenzie was two weeks old she was sleeping through the night. She was an angel baby, and she’s still a really calm, mellow kid. We are definitely fortunate! ((Does that make us bound to have a hellion when we have a 2nd child?! Crap.))

Anyhow, I know it’s a developmental “independence” thing for children to have sleeping issues around age 3-4, but getting her to sleep at night can be a nightmare. [Insert tantrum here.] We keep the same routine every night: bath, brush teeth, read 3 books, go to sleep. She gets 1 “protector” in her room (aka dog), and multiple hugs & kisses. Yet she still comes out of her room 4-5 times, and sometimes screams & cries. It’s so frustrating!

It occurred to me that music might help soothe her to sleep more easily…so I created a “lullaby” Pandora station on our iPad (you could also use a laptop computer) and set it up in her room. I just typed in “lullaby,” and a bunch of wonderful songs popped up. I prefer the piano ballads because I think some of the songs can be a little shrill for a child who is trying to fall sleep, so I just kept giving a “thumbs up” to the soft piano ones.

It has worked like a charm! She falls asleep much, much more easily! It’s so wonderful. And it’s nice to have more time with my husband too. ;)

If you don’t have an iPad or laptop (or if you’re using it after your kids are in bed!), a CD player or iPod/dock would work just fine. I just like having the variety of Pandora! All in all, the lullaby music has made our lives much easier at bedtime, and I highly recommend it!

A Fire Truck Parade.

We are fortunate to live in Madison, an amazing college town where the community is super-involved and there are always TONS of fun events planned. This past Sunday, there was a firetruck parade from campus to the Capitol building. Since McKenzie currently wants to be a firefighter when she grows up, it was the perfect thing to do on a Sunday afternoon!

There were over 30 trucks from surrounding cities. During the parade, the firemen passed out candy, and afterward, the trucks surrounded the Capitol Square and they opened up the trucks and put up the ladders so the public could have a peek. McKenzie even got to sit in two firetrucks! She had a blast. Annnd she got to roll down the hill at the Capitol with her awesome Daddy. =)

DIY Chalkboard Tutorial

A fellow photographer (Megan at Megan Ramminger Photography) used some chalkboards in a recent photoshoot…and it turned out so cute! So of course I had to give it a try…after all, “imitation is the ultimate form of flattery.” Or so they say.

Anyway, I can’t believe how incredibly simple and inexpensive this project was! For around $20 (and that’s very conservative) I was able to make 5 chalkboards (3 are pictured)…and I would have made more if I had more frames! There was plenty of chalkboard paint left. Here are the materials & steps:

MATERIALS: 

  • Wooden picture frames (I found these at Goodwill for $1.99 each)
  • Chalkboard paint (I got mine at Home Depot, $9.79)
  • Newspaper (to avoid a mess!)
  • Paintbrushes
  • Hammer
  • Nails (and maybe a pliers & screwdriver to remove staples from the frames.)

Step-by-step:

  1. Open backing and remove photos or pictures from frames. The ones pictured had staples in them, so I used a flat screwdriver to pry them up and pliers to get them out. Keep cardboard backing for later use.
  2. Carefully take out glass and set it on the newspaper…start painting the glass! Be sure you have adequate ventilation.
  3. Do 3 coats, let dry completely between coats.
  4. Once dry, place glass back in the frames, followed by the cardboard, and reattach backing. If the previous photo was held in by staples, use 4 small nails and hammer in securely (see photo below). Be careful, thinner frames might crack, so be very gentle!
  5. And you’re done! According to the paint can, let the paint set for 3 days and then your new chalkboard is ready! Condition the surface of the chalkboard before use by rubbing the entire surface with the side of a piece of chalk. This will provide the best erasability.

I plan on using these chalkboards for my photography business, but the possibilities are endless! I also made one for McKenzie’s room, which is larger. I plan on making another one for our kitchen, too! Do you have any other ideas for a chalkboard? Gook luck!