A week of “Yes”

Recently a friend of mine posted some pictures of her kids having a fun day out with the hashtag “#adayofyes,  and it got me thinking. While her hashtag was in a different vein – her “day of yes” was about a day at an awesome-looking park where they got very very dirty, it got me thinking about how often I say “no.” Now I’m not talking about saying yes to things like ice cream for dinner (although I’m not opposed to that) or riding in my lap while I’m driving, but just on a daily basis. Saying “no” to things that, for some reason, have become habit or because they are inconvenient for me. Little things that might need a “yes.” Little things that don’t really affect me but do affect their joy. So this week I’m going to do my best to say “yes.”

This is my Circus.

_MG_4057blogAnd these are my monkeys. Although “monkey” isn’t really the appropriate description for the littler one. We fondly refer to her as our Sour Patch Kid. But I’ll get into that in a moment.

Brother Bear is a very inquisitive 4 1/2. I alternately am delighted at his independence and comprehension and pained that he has grown so quickly. They say time moves so quickly when you have children but I found it moves even faster when you have two. BB still loves his Brio trains and they are probably his favorite toy, and have been for a long time. He also really enjoys playing with his Duplo, and creates very long trucks out of them. Recently he has been building buildings and currently prefers building a Fire Station. Building with him is always interesting because you’re never quite sure what he has in mind and while you are allowed to build your own creations and help with the buildings, the trucks are for his creation only. BB loves trucks, construction, machines, etc. He is fascinated with the floor cleaner at the grocery store and the cart mover at Wal-mart. He wants to know what everything is and how it works. And he’s very good at remembering the things he’s learned. Thankfully, for me, he is still a cuddler and a very loving little boy. Except when his sister is being a pain and he has been known to lash out at her (she sported a nice scratch in the middle of her forehead for a few days after one such episode), he is super sweet. He likes to dance (and it’s hilarious to watch) and really enjoys reading books.

Bitty, if you have ever seen the commercials, is probably who they modeled the Sour Patch Kids commercials about. She will go from pulling your hair to giving you sweet hugs and kisses in a split second. And when she tilts her head to the side, looks up at you, and says “pees pees” when she wants something, it’s REALLY hard to say no. Even if she’s just been sour. She’s VERY independent and determined, but would be totally ok with being held 85% of the time. She’s 26 months old and can sing 85% of the ABCs correctly and speaks in full sentences. She’s still a little thing and with her chubby cheeks and curly messy hair, she looks younger than she is. She has to have all of her stuffed animals and pacifiers in her bed when she goes to sleep and she can tell you which ones are missing. And if I’m home, she is only happy with me putting her to bed at night.

Sometimes our life does feel like a circus. It seems like someone is always crying or whining and I swear they can’t be in the same room for more than 5 minutes without fighting. But then they will amaze me with their generosity and sweetness and watching BB smooth his baby sister’s hair when she gets hurt will just melt your heart. And she gets hurt a lot because she’s basically a Sour Patch bull in a china shop. They don’t always listen well and the definitely don’t always obey. But those spontaneous hugs, kisses, and “I love you”s are worth every Sophia band-aid and Time Out.

 

 

The truth about being a SAHP 

It’s a lot of people’s dream to be able to quit their job to stay home with their kids. The idea of someone else raising your kids while you work away from home isn’t something that gratifies a lot of us. But being a stay-at-home-parent (it’s not just moms that stay home) is seen as a non-job. If you stay home, you don’t work. You don’t have a “real” job. The conversation often goes like this:

“What do you do?

“I stay at home with the kids.”

“Lucky you. I wish I didn’t have to work all day.”

Anyone who has ever spent 10 minutes with kids realizes that kids, in fact, are a LOT of work. Especially little kids. Staying at home isn’t a glamorous vacation. It’s not eating Bon Bons by the pool while sipping a mimosa. In reality if you had a pool and kids you’d be ever vigilant any time the kids were anywhere in a 100′ radius of said pool. And as for Bon Bons, you’d have to hide in a lockable (from the inside) room to eat them otherwise you’d have children climbing your body to get a bite. Heck, even in the locked room you’d have to shove them down while listening to your children bang on the door because 1) you’re in a room without them and 2) you have food you’re not sharing. Plus you can’t leave small humans alone for more than about 12 seconds before they have reamed the entire toilet paper roll down the toilet or emptied the contents of every cabinet in the house. And don’t even get me started on the mimosa.

Let me state this again: children are a LOT OF WORK. They have to be fed, cleaned, changed, dressed, entertained, kept from harm, and kept from harming each other. They make MOUNTAINS of laundry that has to be sorted, washed, dried, and folded while they are literally underfoot (or climbing into the dryer). They can’t seem to eat without getting food on at least 3 other surfaces (not including themselves and their table/tray).

And before you say “well, daycare/nannies/baby sitters do the same things” let me remind you that THOSE PEOPLE GET PAID. They do their job, and then they go home. Let me say that again: they do their job, get paid for it, then go home. SAHPs don’t get paid. And there isn’t a break. There isn’t a break in the evenings. Or the weekends. Our job surrounds us 24 hours a day. Could you do your “real” job 24 hours a day? On call throughout the night? Do you go on vacation and take your job with you? If you want to go somewhere and have someone do your work for you do you have to pay them to do it? Because that is the reality of having children. Of “not working”.

Oh, and I forgot about sick days. There are no sick days when you stay at home. There is no refuge to escape to lay around and feel better before you have to go back to work. There is no leaving early or compensation for not being able to function properly. You wake when your children wake whether or not you’re up to it. You still have to feed them, change them, and keep them safe all while feeling like death warmed over.

Now before you get defensive and say that working parents don’t experience these things understand that I am aware of what working parents experience as I worked outside our home full time when my son was a baby. Plus I worked flex hours so sometimes I was home in the mornings and sometimes in the evenings and hardly ever on weekends. Parents who work outside the home are still parents. This isn’t about debating the merits of working outside the home or working within it. And I understand that working outside the home can be grueling and exhausting and the last thing you want to do sometimes when you get home from work is work some more. Because being a parent IS a job. It’s a life-long career.

Yes, I chose to be a parent. Yes, I accepted everything it entails. No, I don’t think I deserve a medal for being a mom. Or for choosing to be a stay-at-home-mom. But I do deserve the same amount of respect for people who work outside the home. I still provide for my family. I am raising our children. I get paid in hugs and kisses and seeing every “first”. I was raised by a SAHM. Her input into my life was incredibly valuable to me. Her time investment into her children was priceless. As is my investment into my own children. And that makes every bit of it worth it. Even if there are days I consider packing my rucksack and striking out to greener pastures. Because all parents feel that way at some point. My time spent at home with my children should not be belittled. It should not be seen as a “sacrifice” or a permanent vacation. I HAVE a real job. Probably the most real job there is. My job is raising tiny humans to become compassionate, strong, functioning adults. My job is raising our future. And there is no job more important than that.

 

You know you’re a mom when…

You lay down to go to sleep and reach under your pillow and find tiny construction equipment.

You don’t blink an eye when your toddler doesn’t aim right and pees on your jeans. And you’re out shopping.

You get home from the park with your kids and find wood chips in your bra.

You don’t think twice before picking up the piece of leftover breakfast waffle your baby left on the floor and popping it into your mouth. Then you stop and think, “Why did I do that??”

You empty out your purse to find: one pacifier, a plastic fork, 12 packages of Smarties, a half eaten lollipop (thankfully the push up kind with a lid), a Matchbox car, a pair of kid sunglasses, a sock, one shoe… But not your wallet. 

You know where the bathroom is in every store you’ve ever been in with your kid. 

More than once you’ve wiped your kid’s snotty nose with your fingers and wiped it on your pants. Which brings us to…

Something you’re wearing always has snot on it. 

Product Review: A Cool Gear Halloween

You might have read my last product review for Cool Gear Inc, but if you didn’t I linked it conveniently back there. I’m helpful like that. I’m sorry I’m getting to this review so late… seeing that it’s the end of October. I do have some excuses – most of them aren’t very good but the main one is that I’ve been sick with a horrible cold/sinus infection/allergy flare-up for over a week and a half and a lot of things have gone the way of in that time. But the goodies I got, while specific to Halloween and Breast Cancer Awareness are styles of products Cool Gear Inc carries year round.

Let’s start with the Halloween Goodies. First up is the 12.5 oz Halloween Zooey Flip-Top Bottle. See all the Halloween options here. The one we received is the ghost, which my 3 1/2 year old loves. Non-Halloween available here. Now, I’m a total sucker for holiday themed stuff and I love pulling the things out each year and then storing the away to look forward to the following year. The Zooey Flip-Top series, like a lot of Cool Gear products, have a removable freezable core to help keep the contents cool. I won’t really say cold because honestly, due to the lack of insulation in the bottle itself, it does help for a bit but not for long. I used it with and without the core and my son really didn’t care either way. I ended up leaving the core out just for more room in the bottle. The top (the ghost/pumpkin/skeleton) flips up and exposes the straw (which is removable for washing) which is nice because it helps keep the straw clean. The bottle sweats if there is cold stuff in it, just like a regular cup and it’s definitely not leak-proof so it’s probably not the best option for bitty ones. My 17 month old likes it but has to be monitored closely because she tends to turn it upside down and shake it or leave it sideways on the floor. So, bottom line, this bottle is an inexpensive and fun way to add a bit of holiday magic to your celebrations. I don’t recommend it for little ones who can’t be held responsible for their cup actions and I probably wouldn’t use it in a place I’d be worried about the collected condensation, but I know this bottle will be a fun thing we pull out each year to use. And, of course, my daughter will eventually have to have her own!  

 
Next up on the list is my favorite of the Halloween goodies for myself, the insulated 16oz Mason Jar with Handle. See the Halloween options here, non-festive here and here. They also have non-handle versions but, let’s face it, a handle makes it easier to hold. I love insulated stuff. It doesn’t sweat and keeps it cold longer than a regular cup. Win-win. This one comes with a hard straw that can’t be pulled out from the top (yay) and an opening that can be totally closed up if you remove the straw. Why would you remove the straw, you ask? Because there is also flip opening if you’d rather drink it that way. The lid, which is modeled after a mason jar lid, is plastic and screws on/off. Drawback is it doesn’t fit in a cup holder. Buuuuut that’s where our next goody comes into play! 

   
Our last Halloween cup is also a can, from their CoolGearCan line. The Halloween guy is 12oz, is double wall insulated (remember my love of insulated products?), screws closed and has a fake “tab” that slides back so you can drink. I’d say my biggest complaint on this is just that the opening to drink from isn’t very big. I would have liked the “tab” to slide back a bit more to allow more liquid to come through. But, I really do love this cup. It is fun to carry around, closes up tightly, and is small enough to fit a cupholder or a pocket in a diaper bag or large purse. 

If you’re like me and love fun cups (and if you don’t, well, I don’t know if we can be friends) head over to http://www.shop.coolgearinc.com and check out their products. There are a ton I haven’t shown you yet and their products aren’t just limited to beverage holders. Plus they have products for a lot of other holidays too… including (my favorite) Christmas! And just think, a CoolGearCan would fit perfectly in stocking… especially if it’s a Florida State one. Just kidding! Sorta.

A Day in the Life of an Etsy Shop Owner… or “Why my stuff is so ‘Expensive'”

Shameless plug for my shop here, because, well, I can because it’s my blog. I own a shop on Etsy – Bitty and Bear Creations. I’m also on Facebook here and on Instagram as @bittyandbearcreations. I mainly sell headbands, girls’ clothes, bow ties, and sometimes chunky necklaces. As a “crafter” I pay a lot of attention to detail, I don’t slap things together, and I try to craft each item as though my own kids would wear it.

Crafting, sewing, knitting, crocheting, etc for the sake of the craft is a totally different animal than doing it to sell. I’m going to walk you through the process for one of my pillowcase dresses. They are “simple” dresses to make but regardless of their simplicity in style, they still require effort and time.

Step one: Buy fabric – This requires a trip to the store. Picking out fabric, deciding yardage, having it cut, etc. Buying required thread and any other notions needed – in this case, ribbon for the sash.

Step Two: Wash and Dry Fabric – Anything worn needs to be washed prior to sewing to remove any coatings that are put on teh fabric as well as to preshrink.

Step Three: Initial Pressing – I hate this part. Even if you pull a cotton fabric directly from the dryer it will still require time to press all the wrinkles out.

Step Four: Cutting pattern pieces

Step Five: Sewing, Pressing, Top stitching – My pillowcase dresses (and pinafores) have contrasting bottom trims which require extra steps in the sewing and pressing process. Basically each seam I sew, I press. Pressing is different than ironing, by the way. Here is a little look at the differences. And this process isn’t quick. Sew a seam, press it. Sew a seam, press it. Pin panels together, sew the seam, press it. Because I don’t own a serger (yet) I zig-zag EVERY exposed edge (and even some edges that get tucked under. So that adds another step to the process but finishes the edges so they do not unravel when washed and dried.

Step Six: Ribbon Sash (or Fabric Sash): Most of my pillowcase dresses have a ribbon sash. Currently one of them has a fabric sash because it just looks better on that style. I charge more for the fabric sash because it takes more time and materials to create.

Step Seven: Photographing Dress – I don’t use my phone for listing photos. I might take initial pictures for my FB or IG pages but for Etsy, I use my “big” camera and then process the photo to be as true to color as possible as well as crisp and in focus.

Step Eight: Listing – Listing is not quick. For those that have never listed on Etsy, you have to upload pictures, select categories, price the item, price the shipping, describe the item, add tags (to help your items get found), etc. There is a serious art form to tagging your stuff which I am still trying to learn. Describing your item is really important too. Some people want basics, some want more info, but it’s important to give potential buyers as much info as they might need to make their decision. If there isn’t enough info some buyers will just pass you by. Others will message you, which brings me to…

Step Nine: Conversations – As a shop owner you have to be able to answer requests, questions, and general conversations from buyers and potential buyers. The faster you are at responding, the better. Some of these conversations will result in a sale, some won’t.

Now, once the item is listed, the next steps differ depending if the item is RTS (ready to sell/ship) or MTO (made to order). If it’s made to order then basically the steps to get your listing item all repeat themselves to get the product that will be sent to the customer.

Packaging and shipping is next. I ship with Etsy which is great because it automatically sends the buyer an email letting them know when their item shipping plus tracking info. I hand write a thank you note for all items I ship out because I want the people who buy my items to know I appreciate the sale. I don’t just shove stuff in an envelope – I take the time to package it so that it is protected and looks worthy of the work I do when they receive it. Again, this is something that is constantly evolving as I and trying out different packaging options and such. But it does add time to the process as a whole.

Now multiply all these steps for every dress that is listed/sold. The steps for my other items all vary, but the idea is the same. On top of the Etsy side, I also try to keep up with my Facebook page (although, admittedly, not as much because FB has changed its settings so my followers don’t often see as much as they should) and actively post on Instagram for advertising and increasing customer base. The price of an item isn’t just material costs. It’s equipment costs and upkeep, mileage, electricity, and time. My time is valuable, just like yours. I have to advertise, just like a big store. I have to pay for equipment and upkeep, just like a store. Buying handmade is paying for someone’s expertise and care. Their TIME and effort. You are paying them a wage so that they can meet expenses and beyond. You would not work for free or for minimum wage when you have a skill set everyone does not. For me this is not a hobby, this is a business. My goal is one day to be able to stay home full time with my kids and put away money for vacations and extras on top of paying bills. I am doing a job and selling a product that is made by hand right here in the USA. You are supporting a person and her family instead of a company that buys merchandise mass produced in China and is resold.

I enjoy this, for the most part. There are some days my creative juices run out and I feel like I will never again craft a respectable headband. Some days I feel defeated thinking it’s all for naught. Then I get a sale and am able to send off a piece made specifically for someone and I feel like it’s all worth it.

This is just food for thought, y’all. No disrespect, no calling anyone cheap. I simply wanted to give a little more insight into the world that is Handmade Goods. But I hope the next time you see something handmade and think “Wow, they think a lot of themselves,” just know that what you are seeing in front of you is so much more than one item. You are seeing the work of an artisan, someone who has worked on their skill and product and has put themselves and their time into it. Someone who loves what they do and enjoys when people buy their products not just for the money but for the knowledge that they personally are brightening the wardrobe, home, etc of someone else.

Week 8

Weight Lost: 3.2lbs

Boom! That’s what I’m talking about. Or for you Despicable Me fans “That’s what I’m talkin’ bout!” You have to read that in Gru’s voice and inflection, though, or it just doesn’t make sense. Or just watch this if you are unfamiliar.

Anyway, that helped a lot. I’m not totally sure what happened or why I dropped that much in a week except I know that sometimes what you weigh one morning isn’t necessarily a good indicator of your current weight due to water weight and other things. I actually weighed on Wednesday instead of Monday this week too due to it being Fit Test day for #BBMC4 (main reason my post is late). Most of my measurements also went down a bit even though I STILL haven’t been counting points and I know I ate too much junk last week again. It’s hard when someone else is staying with you and you have party food leftovers and dinners/lunches out, etc.

I drank a LOT of fruit-infused water last week. I’m honestly wondering if that helped too. Either something about the fruit or just upping my water intake.

Not much else to report. I didn’t end up making up the days I missed from #BBMC4 from the previous week but I did do all my workouts last week even when I REALLY didn’t want to which I’m proud of.