Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Exactly one week ago, I was at the Whole Foods in Lincoln Park (Chicago). Now this was no ordinary visit to the store. Nope. I was treated to a tour of the store - it was amazing! How much thought and care they put into every aspect of that place - it really made wish that I lived much much closer so I could be there all the time (and also, there is a great little cafe/sitting area to just chill out in!). How much more fun would grocery shopping be if you could take the kids for lunch, treat them to something and then get the groceries? Well, that might be just my dream - but it sounds so nice!

If that wasn't enough, I was there with some pretty amazing women - ecochic, Duong Sheahan, Mary Beth, Miss Lori, Serena Beltz, and Kim Moldofsky! In addition to these great women - who I am in awe of - we got to meet with Eric Schnell, the co-founder of Steaz.

We had such a wonderful time. We were able to try out a few Steaz drinks (and bring a few more home to try out - which my kids are SO excited about! LOL!). It was such a nice time! And I have to tell you that the Steaz drinks are pretty good - I am in love with the berry energy drink. Like, I would be happy drinking it all the time. And for a girl who is seriously addicted to drinking too much soda - it's nice to find an alternative that tastes good, is good for the earth, is made responsibly and has no high fructose corn syrup. Because every time I open a can of pop, these things are on my mind and I know it's not only bad for me to drink, but it's not all that great for the environment. But Steaz is all that and more!

And I could go on and on about how awesome their products are - fair trade, organic, sustainable - this is a company that cares about so much more than just making a product. This is a company that cares about me, you, the planet, those who produce the ingredients ... well they care about a lot of things! And it's amazing. And for me, that makes them an awesome company. And oh yeah, I actually like most of their drinks. I even liked the tea - and I'm not generally a tea drinker. I will admit the diet drinks weren't a hit with me. Although, I've never met a diet drink of any kind that was a hit with me. My kids are over the moon about the sparkling green tea though! Which is nice - because they are asking to drink soda more and more and so far I've mostly been able to steer them back towards other alternatives, because frankly, I don't want them drinking pop. So it's great to find something they like and I like!

Anyway, I could keep raving about how great all their products are - but I'm thinking by now you get the picture! And I love that the drinks taste good and are good - but that's not the biggest thing I walked away with last Wednesday.

While we were eating lunch, Eric (one of the co-founders) was talking to us. He said he didn't really want to talk about himself, but we encouraged him - and that for me was the best part. He talked about the company, how it came to be, and he talked a little bit about growing up and the path his life led him to get to this point. I was fascinated - I wish we had more time to talk with him about all of that. You could tell the passion he has, you could see how this company was just a natural extension of who he was, how he was raised and what he believed in. He talked about his family - and his mom. And let me just say, I hope in 20-30 years, my son talks about me like that. I was so touched and moved (and also, I want to meet his mother!). Steaz now has a blog, and I am crossing my fingers that Eric shares more about himself on there because I have a feeling he has amazing things to share with us! And in a way, learning about him and how he came to be a founder in this company really helped me fall in love with Steaz even more!

Notes: I did take pictures that day and I lost the little thing I need to pull them off the memory card. :( But some other bloggers put together some whrrl stories so you can see the here and here!

If you want to try Steaz - it is available at Whole Foods and most Targets. On their website you can also put in your zip code and see where it's sold by you! And here is a coupon to buy one, get one free!!

Disclosure: I did receive free product samples from Steaz but no monetary compensation. The
opinions expressed here are my own. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other
representation about the product should be verified with Steaz.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Jump in!

Greeblemonkey is hosting a photography contest this month and the theme is inspiration. Normally I don't enter these sorts of things - a photographer I am not. But this contest is unique in that for every entry, $1 will be donated to UNICEF. So I'm tossing this photograph into the mix because how could I not!

So my picture is Jump In!

Jump in!

Because I love how kids just jump into a pile leaves, with all their might and strength and joy!! It's awesome! It inspires me to jump into life with the same vigor!

There isn't much time, you have to enter by 10pm mountain time tonight! Which is only about 6 hours from now! So hurry over, find a picture, and jump in and enter it. And who knows, maybe you'll be picked as a finalist! =)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Donating Breast Milk

So, this will be a non-crafty post - but I hope you'll stick around and read it because it's about some giving back I did a few years ago that was really important to me!

My middle child (who is now 7) was born in September. When she was born I had just one semester of school left. That last semester was my student teaching - essentially it was like working a full time job. I started that semester in January - my daughter was 4 months old.

At the time we had our 3 year old too, dh was working, we had a house, I was in school full time and the girls were in daycare full time too. All that means money was super tight. And I felt breastfeeding was important. Some suggested nursing part time and using formula for when she was with her sitter. Both because of how I felt and financial issues, I knew going in, I'd have to pump breast milk.

A typical day looked like this: I woke up, pumped, got myself ready. Woke up 3 year old, got her eating breakfast, woke up baby - nursed her, dressed both girls, took them to sitter, pumped, went to school. I had originally planned on pumping during the student's lunch time, but alas that never worked. So after school, I would pump while grading papers, then go pick the kids up, come home - grade, lessons plans, sometimes cook dinner (often hubs did that), nurse on demand, put everyone to bed, work and pump, and go to sleep. Yes, I pump lots. Pretty soon my freezer was full of pumped breast milk. We quickly learned my daughter was doing what I called reverse nursing - wherein she wouldn't eat much during her time at the sitters (almost like what her typical nights had been) but nurse often and lots when she was home with me. At the time, the sitter was giving her about 2 bottles a day. I was able to cut out the last pumping at night, but didn't want to stop pumping during the day because I was nervous going 8+ hours without pumping would affect my overall supply.

I mentioned this problem on a message board I was part of at the time. And someone suggested I look into donating breast milk. I admit, I didn't even know breast milk banks even existed. But once I heard about it and read about it, I just knew I HAD to do it! I mentioned the idea to my husband and he was SO supportive. So I started calling around. Despite the need for milk, most banks couldn't accept my milk. There were only 5 actively taking donations and the first 4 I called couldn't accept shipped milk - and were too far for me to hand deliver it to. Finally, the Iowa milk bank said they'd take it from me, they could take it frozen, and I could ship it in since I was close enough.

They sent me containers. They also sent me some empty vials and a LOT of paperwork. I needed to send them in essentially my entire health history and lots of blood. I also had to get my pediatrician and my doctor to sign paperwork saying that a) my daughter was healthy and wouldn't suffer if I donated milk and that I was healthy (and also not taking any medication). I had a hard time getting someone to draw my blood though. Finally my midwife stepped in and helped me out. Except when I went to have my blood drawn - they thought they had to draw my milk and imagine my surprise when the women walked in and said "I've never done this before but I'll do my best. Please take your shirt off."

Anyway, I had all the paperwork done, the blood drawn. I agreed to several things (including exactly how I would wash and store all breast pump parts, how I would wash my breasts and how often, and rules about medicine - i.e. if I had to take tylenol/advil/etc, I could not pump for them for an entire 24 hours).

I started feeding my daughter from the stash I had in the freezer already and began to exclusively pump for the milk bank. She was about 6 months old at the time - and I had until she turned 1 to get all that I could - but the most they could take was 400 ounces. (I am not sure why the age mattered, but the rules/regulations required that). The other deadline was milk couldn't be used after 6months, so that was always on my mind too.

I pumped like mad. Husband was SO supportive. We didn't really tell friends or family though. We weren't sure they would be so supportive and decided we wouldn't even open ourselves up to strange looks/weird comments/etc. Maybe they would have been supportive, but I had lots of support from my on-line friends and that with my husband was beyond enough for me!

It was summer -4-5 months later when I knew I was pretty close to 400 ounces (that was the most the cooler could hold). I called them up - and they sent me a cooler. I called the overnight service to schedule the pick-up. My job was to fill it up at the last possible second, stuffing in newspaper to insulate it (not ice), taped up the cooler and sent it off with the delivery guy.

It was pretty emotional. I was sending a piece of myself off in that cooler. Lots of hours of pumping (or at least what felt like lots of hours). I cried. As silly as that sounds, I did. I thought about how that milk might go to feed another baby and help another family - who for whatever reasons needed breast milk for their baby and couldn't provide it themselves. I thought about how when so many around me thought breastfeeding your own baby was gross, disgusting, something only to be done behind closed doors where no one would have to actually see it there were people out there who so firmly believed in it that they would use my milk to feed their babies. I also thought about how my breast milk might be used in some studies (I did sign a waiver saying if they couldn't get the milk to a baby in time, I would allow them to use it for research purposes). And that even if it didn't go to a baby, it might help scientists understand breast milk and how wonderful it is even more!

A few weeks later I received a card in the mail from the milk bank - a lovely card thanking me for all I had sent (it ended up being 390-some ounces!) and just a huge thank you for all I had done. I didn't do it for the thanks. Trust me - there were a lot of hurdles to cross (including the pediatrician who thought milk banks were silly and although he signed my paperwork, he did so begrudgingly). It was hard to find someone to draw my blood. Without doctor's orders it seemed no one wanted to touch me. Although my midwife was so supportive and glad I was doing it, so when I ran into that brick wall, I called her and she wrote me the orders and set up my appointment! Once I had the idea to donate, it never occurred to me not to do it - even when it seemed hard. And I'm so thankful I did it. And I would do it again in a heartbeat!

I hear there are shortages at milk banks again (most notably Colorado). So if you are a nursing mom, I really encourage you to look into doing this. And if you know a nursing mom, pass this information along to her.

Some links:
Denver Mother's Milk Bank
National Milk Bank
Banking on Breastmilk article
List of Breastmilk Banks

Note: I don't believe Iowa can take shipped milk anymore.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Last holiday project!

Well, at least I think this will be the last holiday project!
These are for my mom ... all she asked for this year was a pair of socks. I tired so hard to finish them by 12/25, but it just didn't happen :( However, we had a family Christmas party this past weekend and so I decided I would give them to her then.




It's nice to be done. To have survived. However, I hated, hated how stressed I was in December - I definitely procrastinated way too much over the holiday season and it just was too much (I still feel like I'm recovering and trying to get into normal sleep patterns!!)

So, I've already started on next year's gifts. It's true. I am in progress on one, and have materials for 3 others. I even created this google doc to help everyone plan their homemade holiday. You can see it here! That's a blank copy. I have one that I'm already filling up with lots of ideas!

But of course, I can't show you pictures of what I'm working on just yet. My plan is to alternate between non-holiday and holiday things so that I don't get overwhelmed with it all. The neat thing is, since I'm starting now I can do things that are a big bigger/more complicated to make. And that's pretty exciting - at least during this planning stage =)

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Christmas Round-Up Part 2

So here are the rest of the Christmas gifts that I was working on!

First up, my oldest asked for a robe for Christmas, so I set out to make all three kids robes. They aren't hard to make, but definitely took more time to make than I was anticipating. I think there's just a bit more fabric there than what I usually work with, but they turned out really well I thought!







And yes, they are all hooded. I'm a bit jealous. I might have to make one for myself as well! As fro the kids, they really like them! They've worn them a lot. The youngest was a bit confused - he kept wanting to wear them as pajamas, but I think he finally gets what they are for


I also gave the two girls new scarves


The fleece one is for my middle daughter. The fuzzy one is for my oldest - she asked for it. A fuzzy pink scarf. The small one is for her American Girl doll (also something she asked for!)

I did some freezer-paper stenciling too. I made each child a shirt with a mouse head on it:


One of the "gifts" they unwrapped was a trip to Florida, complete with 2 days at Disney World, so these shirts were bundled in with that. Interestingly enough, the 4 year old was way more into the shirt than the trip! ROFL!

I did a bag for my sister, who is a new sorority girl and the other bag is an iron-on for my other sister:


My husband got a Bears blanket:


(the back side of the blanket is the footballs you can see in the lower right - I flipped up part of the blanket for that pic)


Of course, the Bears didn't have the best season this year but let's hope the power of the blanket helps them do better next year!

My oldest also got a blanket - which she hinted very heavily to me about it LOL!


The back side is the purple that you see in the corner. The pink side also matches the robe I made her.


I feel like I made a lot for Christmas this year and I love all that I made! It was so worth it ... but next year, I need to plan ahead a lot better so I'm not rushing so much at the end LOL!!

To see my Christmas Round-Up Part 1, click here!

Monday, January 04, 2010

2009 Round-up

Just a small round-up of things of things in 2009!

I read about 28 books. I didn't keep great track though. Also, that's less than I normally read. I hope to get back up to reading more books next year and keeping better track of them all! (you can see all about them at my librarything page!)

I completed 12 knitting projects! Which you can check out Ravelry!

I did a lot of sewing projects. Just the ones I can remember add up to about 30. I don't really keep track of those in a easy way though. So who knows! I put all the pictures I took of said projects into a set at flickr!

My creation

We eliminated more debt - not as much as we hoped, but we chipped away at it! We ended with more money in savings than last year. Again, not by too much, but I consider both of these things forward progress and that is a good thing. We just need to keep that forward momentum into the next year!

We got to take an unplanned vacation to New Hampshire that was so wonderful!

The kids and I did a lot of great exploring - museums, the Sky Deck, Make-A-Messterpiece, walks in the woods! So many fun things!

Overall, there were a lot of great things in 2009. I also felt like I got my butt kicked on so many levels - the loss of a loved one, husband's pay cut and lots of uncertainty for a long time about how long his job would even continue. Trips that we had planned and had to cancel because we just couldn't budget for them. Lots of cutting back on things, lots of anxiety through the year.

I want to look back and say overall the year was more positive than negative. And in some sense it was. And yet, 2009 in my mind is a dark year, a heavy year, a year that I do not ever wish to repeat again. I entered the year with so many goals and hopes and dreams and plans, and so many of them never happened.

But I look forward to 2010. I didn't make resolutions for this upcoming year. I just want to keep plugging along with long-term goals already established and I just pray this year is a good one. I'll take a great one too, but right now, I just hope for a good one!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

New Year, New Project!

This New Year's Eve I started a new project (I did this last year too - except I started something I still haven't finished ROFL!). Not only did I start a new project, but I started a whole new craft!

For Christmas a good friend gave me The Happy Hooker (no, it's not about that, it's about crocheting!)

Last night we celebrated the New Year with my parents. Since the current project I'm working on happens to be a gift in the works, I couldn't bring that to their house. So I grabbed my new book, yarn I had in the stash, and decided I would try to give this crochet thing a go. I have tried before, but never made it past a couple of stitches before completely not getting it and giving up, having decided a while ago that only knitting was in my crafting future!

But last night, I started this scarf and made some really good progress! I decided today that I simply must finish this project. That finishing it would be a great way to start the year ...

So I present to you my first project of 2010 and also my first crochet project ever!



I think I shall do this every year ... pick off a small project to start on the 31st and work through the first few days of the new year! It feels like such a nice way to start out the year =)