Thursday, July 31, 2014

Treats for Pumping Moms in the Office

I spend the majority of my time with the kids so I rarely had to pump when either of them was little.  During my last freelance job though, I worked part-time in the office and had to start pumping twice a day on my in-office days so Axel had milk while with the sitter.  Since I had to take time to pump, I felt I could never take a lunch break.  The company only had me for a limited amount of time and I wanted to be as productive for them as possible.  That meant self-imposed, quickly scarfed, lunches at my desk.
I also had to walk around the building at pumping times searching for an available room to pump.  It generally took some time to find an open one and I ended up pumping in the bathroom (gross!) on a couple occasions.  I started figuring out when the busy pumping times were for other moms so I could try to work around them.  This of course didn't always work with meeting schedules so some days I would only manage to pump once.
The extra effort and skipped lunches were frustrating, but I of course knew it was worth it.  I thought about the women in that office working full time who needed to pump 3+ times a day to keep their supplies up.  Most of the pumping moms I knew came in early and skipped lunches every day so it didn't interfere with their work.  They were making a huge sacrifice for their babies. 
Those moms didn't need someone to tell them how awesome their efforts were.  It is nice once in a while to have someone acknowledge it though.  On my last day in the office there,  I decided to make cookies and put them in the busiest pumping room with a simple note letting those moms know they are appreciated.
If you work with pumping moms, and want to do the same for them, here is a PDF of the notes I created for my cookies.  One of the options has the recipe I used on it.  It's a no bake cookie recipe that I modified so more moms could partake.  A lot of women don't eat dairy while nursing and I know so many people who are gluten free or vegan now that I figured I would accommodate them with the recipe as well.  There is also a PDF without a recipe if you want to make your favorite treats instead.
Another idea is to make cookies to put in the nursing mom's room at church or any other location you can think of where frequent pumping and/or nursing occur.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

IKEA Portland Has a Gift Registry!

Disclaimer - I was not paid for this post.  I am eligible to receive minor compensation for items purchased from registries created with the below affiliate link.

I get a lot of promotional e-mails from companies and almost always say no to promoting what they have to offer.  I don't want people to feel like I'm always trying to sell them things.  It's important to me that my content is either fun, helpful, or both.  When I was contacted by Jifiti about the new IKEA Portland registry though, I knew it was something worth sharing.  
The majority of our home is furnished with IKEA items.  We registered a couple places for our wedding, but mot of the money we received went toward IKEA furniture.  How great would it have been if we could have actually registered there instead?
The registry is currently only available for the Portland, OR IKEA store.  It is perfect for weddings, baby showers, house warming parties, college graduation, or basically any occasion where you can get people to buy you sweet stuff from IKEA.  My favorite feature is the "chip-in" option.  People can choose to chip-in the amount they have available to spend on larger items.  This way, you get what you want and don't feel like you have to register for a ton of $25-$50 items just so your friends and family have something to buy in their price range.
If you sign up from a desktop computer by clicking on the below image, it will take you to the sign up page.  After you have signed up, you can start adding items from your computer or you can use the handy app on your phone that has been created for the registry.  You can also register for items at the IKEA Portland store.
Sign up by clicking on the below image from your computer:
 photo IKEAgiftregistry_zps153784e4.png
They have a great FAQ page.  The registry is new and has features that may be unfamiliar to some.  All of your questions can be answered there.
A few items from the IKEA Portland website that I would immediately register for if I were getting married or moving.
Happy registering!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Pearl Plays PDX #6 - Happy Valley Park

Happy Valley Park is relatively close to our house.  It is located in Happy Valley which is technically it's own  small town on the edge of Portland.  It is up on Mt. Scott in Clackamas County.
The park has a big playground, trails for running and walking, a scenic wetland boardwalk trail, a dog park, soccer fields, baseball fields, and a skate park.  The main attraction though is the splash pad.
You will find us at the splash pad once or twice a week in the summer.  It's a great way to beat the heat and a perfect location for play dates.  There is grassy space to put down blankets to sit and they also have plenty of picnic tables under cover if it's exceptionally hot.  There are bathrooms right next to the splash pad and the parking lot is right there, too.  I appreciate the short walk since my hands are usually full while carrying the kids and their things.
The splash pad can get very busy in the afternoon on hot days.  It rarely feels hectic though, even when packed.  The best time to go to avoid crowds seems to be in the morning.  We often visit the splash pad around 10-11 am and there are usually only a handful of people there.
I know there are plenty of great splash pads in the Portland area that we need to check out, but this one is so convenient that it's our go-to place if I don't want to take the time to plan.  I would love for Portland area parents to let me know what splash pads you love in the comments section.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Teaching Toddlers to Sew

Yesterday, Pearl asked me to teach her how to sew.  I told her I would show her after I got back from running errands.  While I was out, I considered how I might actually show my 2.5 year old how to hand sew.  To be honest, I figured she would have forgotten about the idea by the time I got home.  I'm glad I thought about it while I was out though because she was waiting for me by the door and immediately said, "Ok, you show me now?" when I arrived home.
I grabbed a piece of construction paper, a hole punch, yarn, and a plastic needle.  The idea of giving her a real needle freaked me out so I was glad I had that plastic one on hand.  We could have done it without a needle at all though and she still would have been able to grasp the basic idea.  I punched holes around the outside of the paper and explained to her the basic idea of alternating over and under through the punched holes with her needle.
I was pleasantly surprised that she understood it right away.  Once she was finished stitching, I let her color her piece of paper with markers and we put it up on the wall.  This will be a great activity for when I would like her to be quiet for a bit.  She was concentrating really hard!  Next time I will play around with punching holes into shapes so it's like a connect the dots drawing.  Maybe a heart or star to start out.  I hope this post helps you think of ideas to get your kids sewing, too!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Oregon Summer Vacations

We had the opportunity to go on two back-to-back local vacations in June.  The fun started off with yurt camping at Ft. Stevens State Park.  We went with a group of friends.  There were five couples all with two kids each.  It was so fun to spend that time with friends and to watch Pearl playing with their kids.  The hope is to make it an annual event.
A couple days after returning home, we headed to Sunriver, OR with my family.  Pearl stayed in my sister Kara's room and shared a bed with her cousin Maleah.  They even watched Frozen one night in bed.  She thought it was the best thing ever.  My sister Kacy also gave Pearl her first haircut while we were there.  We had a lot of fun riding bikes, swimming at the aquatic center, and watching the deer.
Jeremy has taken up long distance bike riding.  He rode his bike all the way out to Ft. Stevens with our friend Chris.  It was 110 miles!  Then he rode around 70 miles while we were in Sunriver.  The below photo is of him on his way down Mt. Bachelor.  I'm amazed that he can quickly pick up athletic pursuits like that.  I was completely out of breath riding just two miles in Sunriver with the kids in the bike trailer.
I'm hoping to have more time for the blog this summer.  I just wrapped up another great freelance job and I plan to take a couple months off to hang with the kids while the weather is nice.  I hope you are all enjoying the start of summer.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Pearl Plays PDX #5 - Gymboree Play and Music

Pearl has been attending classes at the Gymboree Play & Music Bridgeport location for the last six weeks.  We started off with an art class.  Pearl gets excited about art projects at first, but is usually over it in about ten minutes.   I rarely make the effort to do more than handing her some paper and markers because she loses interest so quickly.  I wasn't sure how her attention span would be in an hour long art class.
The people at Gymboree seemed to have kids like Pearl in mind for this class though.  There were generally three or four art projects per class so whenever Pearl would get bored of a task, we were already onto something else.  The teacher also did a short break in the middle of class to read a book while the kids ate a snack.
A lot of the projects were things we could have found on Pinterest and managed at home.  It was so nice to go somewhere else to do them though.  I didn't have to cut out a bunch of tiny things or clean up glue, glitter, and paint when it was all over.  The social interaction was also nice.
After three weeks of art class, we moved onto the play gym.  Pearl was pretty nervous to try a lot of the equipment for the first two weeks.  She wasn't excited about going and kept asking to go to her art class instead.  I felt bad about moving her to a new class so quickly.
She flipped a switch in the last visit though.  Pearl listened to the teacher so well and was very brave. She tried a bunch of things that she was afraid to do the first two classes and had a great time.  I guess it just took her a couple weeks to warm up to it.
The class consists of loosely structured play time.  There is generally a theme and the teacher encourages the kids to imagine different scenarios while they are climbing, jumping, dancing, etc.  When we were there it was all about insects so they did things like pretending to be caterpillars and then jumping off a structure to become a butterfly.
If you have a hard time with cheesy things, you will cringe a lot.  I felt like I had to dance and sing along because everyone else was.  There is also a stuffed clown involved.  Kids love that stuff though so I just had to suck it up.  Pearl really enjoyed Gymbo the clown and talks about him all the time now.
Both classes were a bit of a challenge to take a baby along with you, but the teachers did their best to accommodate us.  They offered us an exersaucer for Axel to play in.  When he needed a change of pace, I would put him in the Ergo.  Although it was difficult with Axel at times, it was still manageable.  A lot of other parents were doing the same thing with younger babies.  Gymboree also has classes for babies.  They even have some that both of my kids could have been involved in.  Those just sadly didn't work with our schedule.
We definitely recommend Gymboree Play & Music.  If there was a location near our house, I would love for Pearl to continue classes.  Sadly, we are a 30 minute drive from the nearest location.  If you live near one, it's worth checking out.  Your first class is free!
Full disclosure: We were offered the opportunity to take these classes for free.  All opinions in this post are my own.
These are the exact classes Pearl took:
Family Art
Gym Play & Learn 6

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Garden Growing

We planted our first garden this year.  I was intimidated by the idea of gardening because I don't have a great track record with house plants and taking on new projects for which I have no experience generally stresses me out.  I don't like failing and knew there was a high probability that a garden under my care would not thrive.
Thankfully, the majority of the plants have grown.  I know most of it has nothing to do with me.  My husband built the garden beds and ordered the soil.  The weather has been pretty ideal as well.  Even so, I feel good about how things are going.  I have taken a small part in helping our garden to grow.
Things have been really busy for us recently.  The garden has become a great place to release some stress.  It sounds silly, but I like hanging out with my plants.  Spending time out there has helped me to understand their needs.  I haven't done a ton of research on varieties of plants.  If you asked me about specific plants in my garden though, I could tell you a lot about them.
The garden has been a wonderful lesson in patience for Pearl.  Every day we check our strawberries.  One day she took a nibble of one on the vine because I told her it wasn't time to pick it.  She seems to understand now that we don't pick (or eat) them until they are ready.  The garden has also helped her with restraint.  She has learned to be careful when checking out the plants.  At one point, she accidentally pulled two cucumber plants out of the ground.  She felt terrible and has been so careful ever since.  Amazingly, it has also gotten her interested in trying new foods.  Pearl wouldn't even touch a salad before.  Now she wants to try everything we pick.  It turns out she really likes chives and regularly asks me to cut her one to nibble on while I water the plants.
The whole family is reaping the benefits at the dinner table.  I have much more motivation to come up with new healthy meals when they are based around the food from our backyard.  Jeremy and I never considered buying a radish before.  In the last month, we have eaten around 100 of them.  We always have fresh spinach on hand so I make green smoothies to share with the kids.  The garden has really changed the way we eat.
If you are on the fence about starting a garden like I was, I absolutely recommend going for it.  There have been so many benefits to it that I never even considered before we started.