Keeping the blog eclectic

Freckles in April OTI

I started following Kayla’s blog about four months ago. Another friend whose blog I read was participating in her 21 Day Challenge, and it looked interesting, so I started kind of participating too. I would do the challenges, but not always on the day I was supposed to, and I never posted pictures in the linkups. Anyway, I liked the feel of Kayla’s blog, so I kept reading even after the challenge was over. I especially love her Sunday Shares. 🙂

Anyway, tomorrow is another challenge/link party, an open-to-the-public version of the weekly Open to Interpretation column she does with a couple of friends. We’ve been asked to use this photo

as inspiration for an outfit of our own. The key is to use it as inspiration and not just copy the outfit, which is good because I own no tan sweaters, red pants, stripey shirts, or huge furry hats. And even if I did, I know that rolling up my pants like that would make my legs look even shorter than they already are.

I thought it would be fun to participate this time around, even if I’m pretty fashion backward. So, without further ado:

I decided immediately to swap the colors of the shirt and pants. The star of the show of this outfit, to me, is the striped shirt. It’s the most surprising element (okay, other than the hat, which is not my favorite), and it makes the rest a whole lot less serious and stuffy. I’m glad I had a week to plan this, though, because it was only this morning, after a week’s worth of wondering what to put under the sweater (I do not have a striped shirt or the money or, really, desire to buy one), that I decided upon this brown rhinestone-studded shirt. I like how it added some sparkle to the outfit.

I also debated whether to use the color of the shoes in the inspiration outfit as inspiration or whether I should go with my gray boots since the model is wearing boots. I tried both and eventually decided upon brown heels.

In the end, I felt so Christmasy that I had to pose in front of our stocking-bedecked mantel. My five-year-old son told me I look pretty today. Win.

How to put a baby to sleep

This post is going to be a bit of a departure from my regular posting topics. I’ve just been thinking a lot lately about all I’ve learned about getting babies to sleep and how much better I am at it now that I’m on my third child. There are some mistakes I made with my first, especially, that I wish I could go back and undo to save myself months of frustration and sleep deprivation, not to mention stress for him.

I wrote a post about Craigslist etiquette a long time ago, and for some reason, it comes up among the top results when you do a Google search for “Craigslist etiquette.” I doubt the same thing will happen here, but if I can help someone looking for advice, I’d like to.

I don’t know any parent who hasn’t at one point wondered, “How do I get this child to just GO to SLEEP?” or, “Is there an off button?” or even, “Would it be so bad to give him or her benadryl?” (Yes, it probably would, by the way.)

I hope for this post to be a short guide to getting young kids to go to sleep. You’re on your own with your teenagers. Sorry ’bout that.

0–6 Weeks

Babies this age should be pretty easy to put to sleep. The key is to determine your child’s preference: held or left alone. I’ve had both kinds. Both are easy to soothe, but if you try to rock a left-alone baby to sleep, it probably won’t work very well. Likewise, if you put a baby this young down who wants to be rocked to sleep, you’ll end up with a lot of crying. I’ll give instructions for both varieties of baby.


  1. Feed the baby. Usually this does the trick.
  2. Swaddle the baby.
  3. Cradle the baby in your arms and slowly move your hips side to side while the baby stares at the ceiling. This will kind of hypnotize the baby and put him to sleep before long.
  4. Say “Shhh!” at a moderate volume as you rock if the first three steps don’t work on their own.

Left Alone

  1. Feed the baby.
  2. If #1 doesn’t work, swaddle the baby.
  3. Place the baby in a crib, swing, bouncer, or car seat, and leave the room.

IMPORTANT: For both types, if your baby starts drifting off to sleep in your arms, place her in her crib and let her fall to sleep there. This will save you all sorts of headaches later.

Also, start putting your baby to sleep when he first appears drowsy. Do not wait until he’s crying if you can help it because everything will be much more difficult then.

6 Weeks to 3 Months

This is the age when your baby first starts learning to self-settle, but also learns to dislike going to sleep. What I didn’t know with my first child is that if your baby hasn’t ever experienced something like self-settling before, you’re going to have to do some painful teaching. That’s why putting her to sleep in her crib when she’s almost there anyway is so important in those first weeks. If you are reading this too late to start doing that, you may have to let your baby cry it out for a few minutes to go to sleep a few times until she figures out how to do it more calmly.

  1. Start when your baby is a little drowsy, not too tired.
  2. Begin speaking softly to your baby and saying soothing things like, “Are you getting tired? I love you, baby. Let’s snuggle.” Use a voice not much louder than a whisper.
  3. Go into a dark, quiet room. If your baby’s room has windows, put up some curtains that will block out the light some. Babies this age increasingly respond to darkness as a signal that it’s time for sleeping.
  4. If your baby is hungry, feed him. My babies begin to like to nurse lying down in a dark room (like on my bed) when they’re tired, so I often do that. Then I carefully move the baby to his crib.
  5. If your baby is not hungry, hold your baby in a way that he likes to be held. Swaddle if your baby still likes it. The rocking side-to-side method you used when your baby was littler may or may not still work.
  6. When your baby seems calm, and when his eyelids start to droop, place him gently in his crib. Your baby may complain a little, but soothe him by stroking his hair or cheek and saying, “Good night, baby,” and smiling.
  7. If your baby is still crying 5 minutes later, go get him. Do not leave the dark room. Repeat steps 5 and 6. [Aside: I have actually found that if a baby is REALLY upset about being left in his crib and you’ve done everything right otherwise, he may not actually be tired enough for sleep yet. You have to be careful, though, because babies this age usually shouldn’t be awake more than 2 to 3 hours in a row. The longer you go past that, the harder it will be to eventually get your baby to sleep.]

3–6 Months

The main difference between this age group and the previous is that babies begin to be more aware of their surroundings, including noise and movement. This is the age when babies start to wake up when you move their car seat, or if they hear a loud noise. Thus, it becomes more important to allow your baby to sleep in her crib with the door shut as often as you can. If you have done a good job teaching your baby to self-settle, this won’t be hard. She will probably prefer sleeping in her crib to sleeping anywhere else. (Unless she’s like my current baby and loves her car seat instead.)

  1. Go into a dark, quiet room.
  2. If your baby is hungry, feed her.
  3. If not, hold your baby gently in a way that she likes to be held. Rock slowly side to side. Gently stroke your baby’s hair with your entire hand, from the crown of her head to her forehead. Repeat slowly, occasionally brushing your hand down over her eyes to gently close them.
  4. If your baby likes lullabies, sing one at an almost inaudible volume.
  5. Place your baby in her crib before she falls asleep.
  6. If she stirs or begins to fuss, place one hand on her chest gently, so she feels the weight. Speak or sing a little to her if necessary, but mostly just stay there quietly until she calms down a little, then leave the room.

If all is going well and your baby is not overtired, you should be able to put your baby down within five minutes of starting the winding-down process. In fact, some days, your baby will get sleepy on her own. If you notice this happening, place her in her crib with a smile and a “good night,” and she will probably go right to sleep without crying for more than a moment, if that. It’s such a great feeling when you have this down!

6–12 Months

This is the age where sleep habits become true habits and become harder to break. If your baby is a poor sleeper and still hasn’t figured out how to fall asleep on his own, putting him to sleep will become a real chore. If he is used to falling asleep in his crib alone by now, putting him down will be almost effortless. There are a few things that do change at this age, though.

The first is teething. Many parents find that a baby who had been sleeping well suddenly wakes up screaming at night and won’t go back to sleep. The second is increased mobility and strength—each of my babies has gone through a phase where he can stand up in his crib when he doesn’t want to sleep, but he can’t or won’t lie back down. Luckily for you, this is only a phase, and a pretty short one at that. Your baby will be sleeping normally before long. (Teething not so much. It goes on and on and on.) The third is increased intelligence and awareness, which necessitates the introduction of a true bedtime routine.

For the purposes of this guide, I will only discuss how to put a baby at this age to bed for the night. Use the 3–6 month guide for naptimes.

  1. Tell your baby it’s almost time for bed.
  2. Give your baby a warm bath, if desired. (In fact, this is a good idea for any age of baby, as long as your baby is the kind that winds down instead of up with baths. My boys are not that kind of child, unfortunately. They love baths, so it’s like I am putting them on a roller coaster before bed.)
  3. Put on your baby’s pajamas. Talk the whole time about what you are doing: “Let’s put on your pajamas so you can go to bed. Mmm, aren’t these comfy?”
  4. If your baby has any teeth, brush them.
  5. Read a story or two that your baby enjoys. Sandra Boynton’s The Going to Bed Book, Peggy Rathman’s Goodnight Gorilla, and of course Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon are some of our favorites for kids this age.
  6. Take your baby into his darkened room. Snuggle for a moment or two if you want. I mean, that’s part of what makes babies so much fun, right? Sing a lullaby if you’re the lullaby type. Give your baby one last feeding if needed.
  7. Place your baby in his crib and leave the room.

The biggest trick is to keep the whole process positive, easy going, and subdued. Keep your voice low, and turning down the lights in the house doesn’t hurt either. Mention sleeping and how great it is often. Soon your baby will look forward to the routine, even if he still doesn’t like the actual going-to-sleep part.

12+ Months

I want to focus the most here on transitioning your baby out of the crib. Many parents dread the move to a toddler bed or the day their baby learns to climb out of the crib. I went through a horrible time with my first child once he realized he didn’t have to stay in his bed until morning. He was a little boomerang, returning to us only moments after we put him down. This went on for months, and it was not only exhausting but often even more of a problem because sometimes putting him down for nap took over an hour, while his younger brother also needed me (like to nurse). I had to decide between being consistent with the Super Nanny method of quietly putting the child back in his bed over and over and over and over (I never had it work, by the way) and taking care of my baby but giving up on the nap that my two-year-old clearly needed.

I got lucky and found out how to put him to bed and get him to stay there while on vacation with my parents. Turns out they know a thing or two about raising kids. Funny how that works. Anyway, one night Lego was doing his usual thing of climbing out of bed over and over and getting more and more exhausted and fussy/hyper/stressed with each moment. Finally my dad sat down with him on his lap and talked to him about what he was looking at. Then he kind of stopped talking and just stroked Lego’s hair (the same method I mentioned earlier). Sometimes his hand would go down over Lego’s eyes, and eventually, after about 15 minutes of this, Lego fell asleep.

Of course, it isn’t practical to put a two-year-old completely to sleep and then put him to bed each night. But I learned that being extremely soothing while the child is in bed is of utmost importance. What I learned is that if a child has been lying in bed in a dark room for 5 or 10 minutes calmly listening to a story or a lullaby or, honestly, even a grocery list in a hushed voice, he’s going to get sleepy enough that he doesn’t really want to get out of bed even after you leave.

I put this method into practice after we returned from vacation. At first I had to stay and do the stories/songs thing for a long time. Maybe close to an hour. Each night, though, I stayed a little shorter, and eventually that was just 10 minutes of his bedtime routine. He, and Duplo, have never really done the out-of-bed-every-two-seconds thing since. There are bad nights, but they’re the exception to the rule.

The short version:

  1. Do your child’s bedtime routine (pajamas, teeth, whatever).
  2. Place your child into her bed and turn off the lights in her room.
  3. Sit beside her bed and tell her a story and/or sing her lullabies for about 10 minutes, or longer if you’re trying to undo a long history of bouncing out of bed the moment you leave.
  4. Say goodnight, give her a kiss, and leave the room when you feel she’s tired enough to stay put. Ideally, don’t leave the room when she’s still wound up because you’ll have to go back in and redo step 3, and then she might learn that getting up gets more time with you. What you want at first is to make it so that she successfully stays in bed, even if you have to stay a while that first night (or even the first week).

Well, those are the basics. Of course, all sorts of problems crop up, even with the best sleepers. I’ll deal with solving specific problems in a future post, hopefully before long. Stay tuned!


Our House, part 2


I’m finally getting around to posting the rest of the photos of our new house. This time we’ll focus on the boys’ room and the bathroom. Our master bedroom is . . . not ready to show off, and I’m not sure it will ever be in this house. I’m just feeling pretty uninspired regarding it. Anyway, on to the main event!

Note: If you click on the photos, you’ll see them bigger.

This is what you see when you walk through the door into the boys’ room: a whole wall of drawers. Well, the bottom half of a wall anyway. Warning: my boys insisted in slipping into each of the photos as I was taking them. At first it kind of made me annoyed, but as it went on, I found it increasingly hilarious.

The boys’ bunkbeds:

Note Lego hurrying to get into the picture. I love the two huge windows in this room. I need to remember to open the blinds and curtains more often than I do. The above picture is the only one that kind of shows everything at once: the drawers on the left, the bunkbeds in the center, and the crib on the right. Here’s a shot of the crib itself.

At first I thought this was the only picture where the older boys didn’t get into it, but then I noticed Duplo in the mirror playing with the globe. Can you spot him?

I absolutely love the two afghans that are draped on the back rail of the crib. The zigzag one was done by my friend Ambrosia, and the one behind it was a gift from my new sister-in-law (or maybe her grandma? I don’t remember the specifics). I dread the day when El Guapo gets so big that he pulls them down constantly and I can’t put them there anymore.

The white door to the left of the crib is the door to our extremely tiny laundry room. Still, it’s a room, with a door, and our laundry can mostly be contained in it. I consider this combination mostly a total win. The door with a mirror on it to the right of the crib is the door out of the room.

And last but not least is one of my favorite features of the room: a comfy armchair. It ain’t pretty, but it’s great for nursing, for reading books, and for just sitting in while the kids play or do their morning chores and need assistance. I have wanted a comfy chair in the kids’ room for five years now, and this one was $10 on Craigslist. It may be the best $10 I’ve ever spent.

Since taking this picture I have hung up a couple more pictures on the wall behind the chair. Oh well. If you want to see them, you’ll have to come visit. 😉

One thing I didn’t get a good picture of is the rug in their room. I love our floors, but they aren’t soft enough for little boys to play on, so I spent some time at yard sales looking for a rug. There’s a guy in our hometown who sells new stuff at his yard sale every single week during yard sale season. I’m not sure why he does this or how much money he makes doing it, but whatever. I bought this rug from him for $40 soon after we moved in, and it was new in the shrinkwrap. It’s nothing super exciting, but it’s pretty and it brings the room together.

On to the bathroom! You’re on the edge of your seat, I know.

I have mixed feelings about our bathroom. First off, the lack of baseboards bugs me almost constantly. Second of all, the toilet nook at the back right of the bathroom almost always smells like pee, no matter how much I clean it. Third of all, the mirror/medicine cabinet is ancient and totally beat up. But, you know, the pinkish 1960 countertop is pretty groovy. I was a little scared of pink at first, but I’ve tried to make it more classy with some red and sage green accents. The wreath on the far wall was free at a yard sale, and I kind of love it.

A closeup of the countertop and backsplash tile:

Also, I had to laugh when we moved here because a while back, a lady in our last ward gave me the pink bath salts and rose-petal soaps. I never knew what to do with them because, really, who decorates their bathroom with pink? But at the same time, who actually uses stuff like that to bathe with? I almost just threw them out or gave them away, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

One of my favorite features of this house, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, is the plentiful storage. The bathroom has 16 drawers under the countertop, plus this little door/drawer combo beside the bathtub. This bathroom has about five times as much storage, at least, as our last bathroom did. It almost feels indulgent.

There’s another large closet with shelves built in in the hall that links the two bedrooms and the bathroom, and a set of drawers and a door built into the wall in the master bedroom. There’s also a coat closet and a little pantry thingy in the kitchen. These built-in storage spots double as great hide-and-seek lairs for the boys. The one in the above photo has an added bonus: there’s toilet paper in there to sit on to make your hiding time even comfier.

Anyway, that’s more or less everything in our new house. A lot of family is coming to visit in the next week or so, so they/you will get to see it firsthand. I’m really excited to be hosting Thanksgiving this year. We’ll be eating in the living room, and our large kitchen will be great for all the preparation work and the cleanup. My entire family will be coming for that, but my sister Kenneren and her new husband will be up in Idaho for Thanksgiving Day—at least we’ll see them the day before for a few hours. And then next Sunday my husband’s family will be joining us for the blessing of El Guapo, so both families will be in town at once. I hope it all goes well.

I’m losing it.

And by “it,” I don’t mean my sanity, though that might not be far behind. Stay tuned.

No, “it” is my hair. This happens every time I have a three-month-old baby, but this time is a bit different. I’ve been growing my hair out long again, and so when I’m in a stage of losing hundreds of strands a day, it looks like more because each one is so long.

I brush my hair in the morning and end up with a fairly large pile in the sink. I brush over the sink so I can find the hairs and gather them up to throw away. I then put my hair up to contain the hair loss as much as I can during the day. At night, I take out my updo and comb through my hair again, ending up with another large pile. It’s, quite frankly, gross. I’m so ready for it to be over.

To make matters worse, El Guapo is learning to grab things, so he thinks my long hair is a perfect handhold made just for him to stabilize himself while I’m holding him. He often ends up with five or six hairs wound all around his fingers, and I have a terrible time trying to untangle them.

So I’m in a situation where I need to put my hair up every single day, both to minimize mess and to keep El Guapo from pulling on the hairs that are actually still attached to my head. I can’t do a simple ponytail because my growing-out bangs are not quite long enough to stay put in it all day.

I’ve been twisting my bangs into a barrette and then putting the rest into a low ponytail, which is fine. It’s a good everyday style, even if it isn’t super great looking. But I’m interested in any suggestions my readers might have for what else to do with my hair that will a) contain my bangs, b) not take all day to do, and c) keep my hair far from El Guapo’s grasp.

C’mon, Internet! Do what you do best: present me with a deluge of information. 🙂 Ready, set, go!

Our House, part 1

We moved in the beginning of June to a new house in the same town (still a rental), mostly so we would have more room for a new baby and partly because living in a basement was slowly making us crazy and possibly making us sick. The summer has been insanely busy, so I’m just now getting it looking just how I want it. Our master bedroom is still not quite right, but I did want to share pictures of the rest of the house so that those of you who are far away can picture us in it.

Here’s our entryway. I really like the  front door, and the boys love the mini door you can peek through. It’s also nice to have a place that generally stays clean so that if and when people just drop by, they aren’t immediately in the kitchen or living room or whatever.

Next is the office/piano room. It’s just on the other side of the wall on the right-hand side of the previous photo. It’s great to be able to have a designated place for teaching piano, and the computer is even handy for times when we’re learning a song by ear, or I want to use supplemental games or whatever online.

Next up is the living room. I didn’t take a picture of the fireplace from the office/entry side, but it’s in the center of the house and opens on both sides. You can see the entry to the left and the office to the right. I don’t know why the actual opening of the fireplace is so off-center so that the mantel is also badly off-center, but I do like the mantel a lot, so I try not to let it bug me. 😉 Also note the beautiful purse my sister gave me in front of the fireplace. It’s a work of art.

I was a little worried before we moved in that our red couch would clash with the pale blue walls, but I think it works okay. It’s not like it looks totally planned or anything, but the couch is far enough away from any of the blue that it’s not visually jarring either. Not like our old forest-green carpet was with the couch.

Another view of the living room, with the bookshelves, which I’ll get to later:

One of my favorite features of the house is the built-in bookshelf. I love the different shapes and sizes of the shelves, and I love that every single book we own fits on them. I love the personality they lend the room too.

Another of my favorite features of the house is the yard. Here’s a view through the window into the back yard. You can see a grassy area with some trees and bushes behind, and an archway to the right of center. Through that archway is the back-backyard, as we call it. It’s mostly weeds, but it has a big cast-iron firepit, a swing set, and my garden back there. Maybe I’ll take pictures of the yard another time.

And now into the kitchen. The kitchen is on the left-hand side of the house as you walk in the front door. There’s a doorway from the office and another from the living room. As you can see, it’s really long—the whole length of the house.

It has pretty granite countertops:

But the cabinets leave a lot to be desired. It’s even worse than it looks in this picture. I’m not sure what the intended look was, but I’m pretty sure smeary, streaky brownish gray wasn’t it. The landlady said when we walked through the house that she would paint before we moved in, but she didn’t get a chance to because the previous tenant moved out late. She said she’d still do it, but we have yet to see any progress on that front, despite my nagging her about it several times over the course of the last few months.

And there’s parts of the kitchen that aren’t even finished.

I honestly thought at first that the kitchen would drive me nuts because of the aesthetic failings thereof, but I really haven’t minded too much. Honestly, my biggest complaint is that the cupboard doors are extremely annoying to close and keep closed. It’s a silly thing, but it is something I run into all the time. I do love love love the acres of counter space, the gas stove, the deep sinks, the lazy Susan in the corner that fits almost all of our nonperishable food in a very easy-to-access way. I also love having a window over the kitchen sink for the first time in my life, and two more windows at the back of the kitchen that let in light and allow me to keep an eye on the boys when they’re in the back yard.

This post is getting hugely long, so I’ll put the rest in another one.