Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Putting Together the Nursery

Putting together the nursery for Keats has been an absolute joy. Everyday I am on the hunt for the perfect little touches and one by one, little by little, they are bought, made, planned on graph paper, hung, built, and rearranged to create my own idea of nursery heaven.

Birch and I started out by painting the new apartment almost immediately after moving in. Birch comes from a family very in tune with allergies and sensitive skin, so my father-in-law's first words of advice were, "Paint now so the fumes dissipate before the baby comes." (I'm paraphrasing, of course.) So, the nursery was the first to be painted. Choosing colors was difficult, mostly because Birch is color blind so getting his opinion on very subtle differences between Lemon Sorbet yellow and Canary yellow was a challenge. We chose Lemon Sorbet (which, of course, led to me also buying some actual lemon sorbet because it sounded really, really good back during those hot days in July).

Then came the graph paper. I measured the room and marked it all down, making sure to take note of the window's width and height as well as it's distance from the floor (no tall bookcases can go there). In fact, no tall bookcases period. With the set-up prepared I thought of themes and talked them over with Birch. We settled on a Carnival theme which really just turned into a Bright Colors and Chaos theme. I mean, that's all that a carnival is, right? Oh, and animals!

Surprisingly, IKEA provided many of the textiles with curtains
and crib bedding adorned with banner flags, drums, and stylized animals galore. I immediately put these IKEA finds on our Amazon Baby Registry using my new favorite thing: the Add to Amazon Wishlist toolbar button. It's amazing, you can go to any site you want, click that button, and save whatever items you wish to one wishlist. When you click on that product from Amazon it takes you to the original site where you can buy the item. Fantastic. Thank you Amazon!

As I battled with morning sickness and exhaustion, I put in-bed time to good use with some quality online window shopping. Taking note of the measurements of curtains, bookcases, standard cribs, and changing tables. My boss, Julia, is an organizational wiz and helps people in the area organize their spaces. This was an incredible resource. At the time I was working with her son who is somewhere on the Autism spectrum and when he wanted alone time to check how the Giants were doing, I pilfered Julia's Bookcase of Glory with all kinds of interior design books. My favorite was one in particular (I can't remember the title or author at the moment) that talked about allowing your child to be a part of the design process of their room. It was a really fascinating book with tons of interesting ideas to make a room unique to your child and it's needs. Obviously, Keats isn't even born yet, so he doesn't have much of a say at this point, but it made me think about aspects I'd never thought of before and gave me some really exquisite ideas that both brighten up a room and utilize much needed space (especially in an apartment). First off, I decided to take the doors off of the 10'x2' closet (I know, right?) which extended the room a bit. On one side, I planned a space for a reading nook with a small couch or chaise lounge and on the other side, I planned a space for the changing table. Countertop lighting (also courtesy of IKEA) will be useful here placed under the shelf that extends the whole length of the closet. With 6' tall cubical bookcases placed horizontally instead of vertically, I created more storage space and a much safer environment for Keats to play and roam in. A few sheets of graph paper later, I had the perfect set-up with both baby-accessible and inaccessible storage and plenty of floor space for playing with toys and getting dressed.

To be honest, I'm not sure which part was more fun, the graph paper planning or the Etsy goodies finding. After a family housewarming party, my sister-in-law suggested that I make interior design and organization a part-time career! This really hit home with me as something I'd really, really, really enjoy doing. I wonder what kind of schooling is required for a gig like that? I'd at least like to take some graphic design classes to perfect my 3-D depictions of my bird-eye views. Currently, they leave a bit to be desired.

So now I was searching for art, toys, clocks, clothes, shoes, mobiles, and whatever else randomly crossed my path that just happened to be perfect. As usual, Etsy was basically a one-stop and window shop, and in some cases, a breaking down and buying stop. I mean, some stuff you just can't risk letting someone else buy before you get a chance at it. ;)

I came across a painting I just couldn't resist. (http://www.etsy.com/shop/amberalexander)
Amber Alexander creates beautiful paintings and I'd love to have every single one, but as a first purchase, this one stole my heart. "The Bear" was the perfect recreation of a game I made up with my great friend Leif one night at John Henry's Farm, Huggy Bears, that quickly spread to John Henry, my sister Suzie, and then inevitably, to my nephew Soren who at the time was particularly attached to me and thought this game was pretty much the greatest thing ever. Huggy Bears is just squeezing each other as hard as you can without hurting each other for as long a period of time as you can stand. Soren and I extended this to Huggy Heads which basically consists of just rubbing our foreheads, noses, chins, and in general, heads together while laughing and saying "Huggy Heads!" over and over again. So, without hesitation, I bought this print from the greatly talented Amber and framed it with an exquisitely purple frame from 2 Dogs Wood Working, (http://www.etsy.com/shop/2DogsWoodWorking).
These wonderful framers use all kinds of repurposed woods and are more than happy to do custom orders. I highly recommend checking them out for all your
framing needs. I certainly do. Amber is a genius at creating whimsical portraits of animals dressed, socializing, and looking rather gallant, and I am truly in love with all her portraits of women "wearing" live animals, like her "Groundhog Hair."

Ideas for nursery greatness flowing, "whozits and whatzits galore," I picked out several items from different shops, resulting in over one hundred pages of "Favorites." Some to purchase, some to inspire and create my own versions, and some to place on that wishlist or merely to save for later, because I've got to stay within my montly Etsy budget. Yes, I actually have a montly Etsy budget. An "overdraft" one month means a smaller purchase the next month, but as I've said before, buying from Etsy just feels so good!

So, as I expand my fabric collection to start my own projects, awaiting the right moment to snap up a sewing machine, I delve into the fabric arts online.

(From left to right: Turquoise Rainbow Love Heart by I Love Hearts, http://www.etsy.com/shop/ilovehearts; Changing Mat Lolly by Holly Chic, http://www.etsy.com/shop/hollychic; Pond Life Musical Felt Mobile by Pink Perch, http://www.etsy.com/shop/PinkPerch; and the Children Wall Felt Clock by Evgie, http://www.etsy.com/shop/evgie).

I'm sure the layout will continue to morph, the items rearranged and reconsidered, and the theme tested and reevaluated, just as I'm sure my eye will continue to fall on "The Balancing Acrobat"
by Julie McCullough of Magic Threads Dolls
(http://www.etsy.com/shop/magicthreadsdolls) until I build up the steam to purchase him in all his $70 glory, obviously to be used as decoration and not a toy (at least not until Keats is much older). Imagining and creating the nursery has been my favorite part about being pregnant and after my rant the other day, I feel even more determined to concentrate on this, my favorite thing, as I strive to enjoy pregnancy and its many amusing discomforts.

With that, one last paragraph to express my extreme gratitude to my friend Miriam. She is pregnant, too, (exactly eight weeks ahead of me) and has been a salvation to my sanity these last several months. We discuss and laugh about all the embarrassing details that the world at large refuses to discuss (or warn you about), and we laugh at our men who in their turn commiserate and celebrate together only as two men drinking a "few" beers together can do. Our dogs play together and recognize the routes to each others' abodes. Olive stands up and sticks her head out the window once we hit Highway 9, wagging her tail ferociously, realizing that this windy forty-minute drive was not just for our amusement and her torture but to visit her best friend in the whole wide world, a mutt named Kegel. Yep, you read that right. Miriam and I have been best friends for... gosh, eleven years? Twelve? How old am I again... ah yes, twenty-four, so yeah, eleven years. We've lived together, passed notes in class, driven cross-country together, and now we're having children "together." So Miriam, thank you for ALWAYS being there for me, for teaching me how to let go, how to accept myself, how to lose myself, and most of all, how to be myself. I love you! Here's to the rest of our lives and forcing our kids to love each other as much as we do!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

This is Most Decidedly a Rant

It's been almost two years since I wrote anything of any significance. My journal has been set aside almost exactly since I got engaged and the gift of a beautiful typewriter from my friend Mark and his wife, Stephanie, has been sitting lonely on the desk sans ribbon. With a great many requests from friends and family for new poems and stories, I just can't quite get passed my obsessive need to like what I write. I feel so uninspired, which is ridiculous because there is so much I could write about: leaving Virginia, getting married, the creation of a garden and a home, being pregnant! But none of it comes out the way I want it to, just jumbled words that sound to me like someone trying to write. I've never felt this way before, at least not for such a long period of time. A month, maybe, but never TWO YEARS!

Pregnancy feels like such a waiting game. Of course I'm exciting about having a baby. OF COURSE. But excited about being pregnant? Not so much. Twenty-one weeks in, just over the halfway point, and I'm completely impatient to just have the baby! I welcome labor, the pain, the sleeplessness, the mess, the complete and utter chaos of a newborn baby. It's strange to me when people tell me "to savor pregnancy." As if I should be loving every minute of not having a baby yet. What does that even mean? If I wanted to do that, then I wouldn't have planned on becoming pregnant, right? The logic is all messed up. What exactly about pregnancy am I supposed to savor? Hearing the heartbeat, seeing Keats move inside me, feeling his kicks and punches, holding Birch's hand to me so that HE can feel the kicks and punches... these are all wonderful things, but they all make me even more impatient to see, hear, and feel Keats face to face. "Savor pregnancy." I'm told this with an all-knowing I-have-kids tone of voice that I can't stand. The warning, the exhausted tone of voice that comes from experience. Only a handful of parents have told us of the complete joys of parenthood, have assumed that we of course know that it will be the hardest thing we'll ever do, have handed us links to interesting places we can take the kids to like state parks, farms, beaches, etc. We already chose to get pregnant, there's no going back now, why do so many parents insist on continuing their warnings to "not get too excited, it's not all fun and games." This reminds me of Birch's commentary on the warning of children to not get too excited when you're taking them somewhere fun. Yes, we don't want them to be disappointed or to wear themselves out before even arriving, but this particular warning seems somewhat... askew. Like teaching someone to mistrust others because people will inherently let you down. Is there such a possibility of learning something without it being taught? If so, these little "life lessons" seem like the perfect examples of experiences to be learned individually and never taught to the whole. Shouldn't we teach and encourage excitement? It can be tempting to help children along toward the awareness of adulthood, especially in this hard world, but that's all that it is, a temptation. Children should be allowed to be children and for as long as possible. I'm not saying that they shouldn't learn about balancing checkbooks, "safe" sexual practices, not to go off with strangers, etc., of course not, but taking away innocence too soon can be just as damaging to a life as anything else. A life without enjoyment is unbearable and it is much easier to become lost in it than it ever would have been had you been allowed to experience childhood.

So, I'm using this time to prepare our small section of physical world for the baby. Researching, window shopping, researching again, and then buying or obtaining through very generous friends and family the necessities (and a few extras) of having a child come into our lives face to face. Trying our hardest to fasten up the loose ends before our time undeniably vanishes--new couches that don't give us backaches, serious garden projects that take time and energy, finishing painting so fumes dissipate before Keats is born, buying a bed, baby-proofing cords and wires, and all the other projects that remain on the list I hate to look at.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Some of our favorite Children's Books

I Love You Because You're You by Liza Baker
Eric Carle books
Bill Peet books
Paddington books
Peter Rabbit books
Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
A.A. Milne books
Beatrix Potter books
Maurice Sendak books
Corduroy by Don Freeman
Ezra Jack Keats books
Babar! books
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
Arnold Lobel books (especially Frog and Toad)
Richard Scarry books
Jon J. Muth books (especially Zen Shorts)
The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don & Audrey Wood
The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss
Lois Ehlert books (especially Planting a Rainbow and Eating the Alphabet)
Graeme Base books
and obviously...
Dr. Seuss books

Some of my very favorite Etsy shops

As many of you know already, I am completely obsessed with Etsy. Easily accessible handmade items of all kinds right at my fingertips? Yes, please! On the search for unique, safe, quality clothes and toys for Keats, Etsy has been my sanctuary where I "favorite" far more than I'll ever be able to buy or even fit into our apartment. Stuffed animal foxes, hand-dyed onesies, wooden playsets, stuffed and felted eggplants, framed beetles and butterflies, spastic burp cloths, whimsical artwork, miniature bowling pins, the list literally goes on and on. The more I search through Etsy, the more I pine for a sewing machine of my own and a really big box of fluff. Having a PayPal account is more than worth the wealth of choices offered, even if just to get ideas on things I can make myself.

A definite favorite, with her affinity for foxes, is the Sleepy King shop.

Her plushies are nearly flat, making them
a welcome addition to the shelf before Keats is old enough to play with them. Foxes, raccoons, rabbits, and acorns, this shop is decidedly following the woodsy trend
spreading through shops nearly everywhere which is, of course, fantastic with the plethora of foxes to choose from!

Although, I have to admit, my eye is more fixed on a certain raccoon that I just may have to buy myself as it's the last one of the series and I'm
not likely to see its likes again. So here I go, I'm buying it. A bit of style, a bit of whimsy, a lot
of color, all for just $16.00.

It's true, Etsy prices tend to add up once you look at your cart, so I tend to limit myself to one or two items per month. This practice seems to enhance the whole experience for me. Each item is special and thought over carefully before buying, unlike several impulse buys that I've come to regret from stores like Urban Outfitters. So even though I'm paying a bit more for whatever I'm getting than I would at, say, Babies R Us, I feel a whole lot better about the purchase. Not only are these handmade individually (not manufactured in China), most sellers I've found are mindful of the environment and use eco-friendly supplies for their wares. Buying a onesie that magically doesn't have the stench of phermaldehyde is absolutely glorious, let me tell you, and I think Keats will appreciate that (not to mention Birch, with all his allergies).I love Sleepy King's textures and use of colors. Don't you just want to feel everything in her shop? Her shop is always fun to look through and it feels pretty good knowing that you're buying something that was just made especially for you and your family.

Another favorite of mine is Laundry Monster!

She hand dyes all of her fabrics and uses 100% cotton cloth diapers for burp cloths. Laundry Monster has completely spoiled me when it comes to burp cloths. The Babies R Us plain
white ones or, worse, the Barbie or way-too-close-shot of Tigger burp cloths seem either boring or just grotesque after a quick glance at Laundry Monster's simple, colorful, and often just plain perfect burp cloths. How ridiculous is it to go off on a such a rant about burp cloths?
Pretty ridiculous, I'll readily admit, but seriously, these things are awesome. She turns something that is utilitarian (and
somewhat gross, once you think of its true
purpose) and turns it into something worthy
to be called art.

So many of the sellers on Etsy are parents themselves, so I feel confident that what they make will be safe for my children as well. Most
sellers are very good about posting warnings to parents about age-appropriateness, washing instructions, and often provide detailed lists of the supplies/fabrics they used in the making of each item.

To make a very long story, short (too late), I'm in love with Etsy. I have tons of shops as favorites and even more items as favorites (somewhere around 85 pages worth). If you're looking for something specific, odds are I have some idea where to find it on Etsy, or at the very least HOW TO find it. So let me know. I love an excuse to traverse the many facets of Etsy, especially once I've already spent my Etsy quota!