Mal Smiles

Monday, March 30, 2015

Boulder, CO and a Baby Bear

Taking a Spring Break as an adult seems a little silly but I've taken a trip every March or April for years as a student or a teacher. Now that DLW is the student in the family, we wanted to take a little trip and celebrate our anniversary a little early.

My next door neighbors from Ohio were in Colorado for the week and wanted to meet up on Friday afternoon. I found a cute little town, Idaho Springs, between Vail and Denver to meet for lunch at explore.
We love the Flowers family and were so happy for them to meet Collins. We need to make a trip back to Ohio soon to introduce Collins to all of our friends and family there.
After lunch, DLW and I continued up to Boulder, CO. We had heard great things about Boulder and decided it was the perfect overnight trip for our mini Spring Break. We stayed at the Boulder Marriott; they did not offer a military discount that weekend but they did offer a AAA discount- make sure you check both if you have both.
We had a delicious dinner and drinks at Mountain Sub Pub & Brewery and walked around the Pearl Street Mall.
Saturday morning we strolled across the parking lot to The Buff. Hands down the best breakfast we've had in a looooong time. I devoured my Ole´ skillet and an Ice White Buffalo latte in a Mason jar.

We checked out of our hotel later that morning and headed to the Flatirons Vistas Trailhead.
After about twenty minutes of pushing our stroller up the rocky path in high winds we accepted defeat and turned around. Our Graco jogging stroller's tires were low and not meant for this kind of activity.
Our Spring Break continued on Sunday when we went to Serenity Springs Animal Sanctuary. Serenity Springs is home to over 120 animals including lions, tigers, ligers, bears, lemurs, and many others. All of the animals were surrendered and will live out the remainder of the lives at the sanctuary where they are well fed and cared for.
Serenity Springs often has baby lions and tigers available for photos and playtime for an additional charge. This weekend was the first weekend they had black bear cubs! We couldn't pass up an opportunity for a family photo with a baby bear.
I couldn't have asked for a better weekend with my little family. Collins is a great little traveler and is already a road trip pro like her parents. We will consider this our first of many family Spring Breaks.
  • Do you take a "Spring Break" every year?
  • Have you ever held a bear cub?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Turn Your Pictures To Portraits

We use photographs to capture moments in time, document special memories, and share big news. My pictures are some of my most prized possessions and I was so excited with Cait offered to turn a few pictures into paintings.
Cait is a friend and sorority sister of mine who started painting for fun after graduation. She takes your pictures and turns them into high contrast canvas paintings. She specializes in portraits but I challenged her to paint the Puppy Princesses and she knocked it out of the park. She even surprised me with our family portrait and it is gorgeous.
I had originally intended to hang the paintings in Collins' room but when they arrived I knew they were perfect for a mini gallery wall in our bedroom. Our room is the least decorated room in the house and this mini gallery makes me smile every morning when I wake up.
Pay no attention to my clutter shelves...
Cait has created a Facebook page for her paintings and we would love for you to check it out and give her a 'like.' She is just a few 'likes' away from 200 and I would love to  help her reach that milestone.

If you are looking for an engagement, wedding, family, or even a celebrity portrait- let Cait know! You can view her portfolio and contact her on Facebook if you're interested in a custom painting.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Bath and Bedtime Routine

I was a clueless new mom. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing with my brand new 6lb, 14oz baby. When it was time to give Collins her first real bath I turned to the Internet for help. I read blog posts and watched YouTube videos until I was confident enough to give it a try.

We have polished our bath and bedtime routine over the last six months and I want to share it with you today. I'm sure I'm not the only new mom who had no clue how to bathe her baby or establish a routine, or what gear she would need to get the job done.

Our bath and bedtime routine works like a charm and Collins very rarely ever fights me on going to sleep. We keep is the same every night and work together like a well oiled machine. Collins' bedtime is between 5:30-6:30pm depending on the night and her mood. We start the routine at the first sign of fussiness, no matter what time it is (one day I started at 4:45pm).

This is a general outline of our bedtime routine:

Pre-bath - Bath - Lotion - Diaper - Jammies - SleepSack - White Noise - Lights Out - Feed - Sleep

Pre-bath: Lay out everything; Collins can get cranky after her bath so we make sure we waste no time. Jammies are out, diaper is open and ready, lotion tops are off, SleepSack is unzipped, white noise app is cued up and the iPad is charged. DLW runs her bath water while I get her undressed but if I'm alone Collins and I run her water together before we go get her nakey.
Bath: Collins gets a bath every night. I am especially strict on this if she's been out and about and held by other people or played with other kids. It is usually a team effort unless DLW is at his night class. I have a few tricks to safely accomplishing bath time by myself but it's become easier as she has gotten older. We enjoy bath time as a family and laugh and play a little before bed.

You Need:
Baby tub
Hand towel
Binder slips
Sponge or scrubby
Small washcloth
Plastic cup
Bath towel
Rock n' Play or other bouncer (only if you're alone)
When the water is ready, I carry Collins into the bathroom with the washcloth covering her lady parts just in case. I place her in the water and put the now wet washcloth on top of her tummy to keep her warm. The hand towel is binder clipped to the back to keep her from sliding on the plastic tub. The clips were my brilliant idea after months of pulling the towel up. If I'm alone I will sit on the toilet but if DLW and I are together, he sits on the toilet and I sit on the green step stool. This was necessary to help support Collins when she was smaller but now it's just a place for me to sit. We use the plastic cup to pour water all over and use the owl scrubby with California Baby Calming shampoo and body wash. We wash arms and tummy before legs, back and tush. Then we wash her hair using the cup to pour water over her head. We finish by washing her face with the smallest, softest washcloth. If she's still happy we will let her splash and play with the cup and washcloth for a few minutes.
When it's time to get out, I lay the towel across my lap and DLW lifts her into my arms. If I'm alone, the towel is laid out in the Rock n' Play and I lift her straight into there, wrap her up, and let her hang out while I dump out the bath water and hang up the washcloths. Then I carry her into her room wrapped in her towel and on to her changing pad. Ta-da! Clean baby!

Lotion: We always rub California Baby Calendula Cream on her feet and chest. I will lather it on her legs and arms if she'll let me.
Diaper: Diaper goes on next with a generous layer of coconut oil to protect her tush. I don't change her diaper overnight and she hasn't had any diaper rash since we switched to Luv's and started using coconut oil.

Jammies: Her footie pajamas are already laid out and open. I move her from her changing table to her pajamas while DLW hangs up her damp towel.
SleepSack: SleepSacks are the safest way to keep your baby warm while she sleeps. DLW zips her into her SleepSack while I get setup to nurse.
White noise: The 'womb' sound on the Sound Sleeper iPad app is what we've used since she was just a few weeks old. The free version will play for 30 minutes or you can pay a few dollars and it will run all night. We keep the sounds on all night and it barely makes a dent in the iPad battery.

Lights out: DLW says goodnight and hands me the baby before he hits the lights on his way out the door.

Feed: Yes, I nurse her to sleep. All the sleep websites will tel you not to but it is what has worked for us from the beginning and I'm okay with it. Some nights, feeding her to sleep doesn't work so I put her down in her crib and she gets herself to sleep within a few minutes. I don't think I need to nurse her to sleep because she can soothe herself but it's a special time for us before bed. I may have to deal with some consequences when she stops nursing but I guarantee I won't be nursing her to sleep when she goes to college.

Sleep: When she's asleep in my arms or very drowsy, I carefully walk her over to her crib. I lay her down facing whichever way she was while nursing; sometimes her head is towards the wall and sometimes towards the window. I turn on the video monitor and carefully tiptoe out the door.

This bath and bedtime routine can take anywhere from 15-45 minutes depending on playtime and how long it takes Collins to fall asleep. Some nights she's out within a few minutes and others we sit and rock together for a while. The routine was the same when she was sleeping in our room but I nursed her on our bed and she slept in a pack n' play. What's important is that it's the same every night and she knows it's time for bed. I can only think of a few times she struggled to fall asleep and I know this routine is why she's such a great sleeper.

  • Do you have a bath and bedtime routine?
  • What other bath and bed tips do you have to share?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Staying Smart While Staying Home

Each morning after I wake up, I stay in bed checking overnight emails and social media. This beautifully and comically written post is floating around Facebook this morning and hit darn close to home.

I feel dumb. Like my brain is turning to mush as my Summa Cum Laude bachelor's degree goes to waste in an envelope in the back of my closet. If you look between my ears you might see tumbleweeds blowing across a dusty plain. I may know all the theme songs on Disney Junior but I know very little about current events and definitely can't name all the state capitals.

I love Collins but days at home with her can be downright boring. We laugh and play but we also just sit around and stare at each other. I find myself eager to help DLW with his homework because it makes me feel smart again. I never thought I'd be so excited about a college algebra class. Slope intercept form? Bring it on. Blogging and BODYPUMP help too but I still feel like my brain slowing atrophying.

"Mom Brain" is real and I am fighting back. I don't want to waste this noodle of mine for the next 6-8 years while I'm at home. I may not be working full time but there are plenty of things I can do to keep my brain active and less mushy. Studying for fitness certifications, writing real blog posts (not just cute baby picture posts), reading, and even crossword puzzles will bring back the brainpower I seem to have lost.

I want to be the mom who can sing the theme to Sophia The First and name the muscles of the body. I want to be a stay-at-home mom who knows what's going on in the world and wears real pants sometimes. I want to keep my brain working because someday my kiddo(s) will grow up and I don't want to be left at home wondering what to do next.

  • How do you stay smart while staying home?
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