About six months ago we got a save the date for Aa’s cousin’s wedding in Savannah, GA. We weren’t sure where they were going to get married, he’s from Tulsa, she’s from Dallas, and they go to school in Savannah. But when we found out, the very first thing I did was call my parents and ask if they would babysit O for a few days. They said yes and we planned a long weekend in Savannah, a place I have ALWAYS wanted to go!
It was really hot, (90’s) and pretty humid which is kind of my least favorite weather ever, but I still totally fell in love with the city. Savannah is unique from an urban planning point of view because it was planned in a grid with 24 squares or little parks throughout what is now the historic district.
The squares are these beautiful little urban oases full of live oaks, fountains, gardens and benches every few blocks. If more cities were like this, I think we would all be happier.
Of course when we are on vacation without O we get our fill of nuts. Imagine our joy upon checking into our hotel and opening up our welcome bag from the bride and groom to find this:
We checked out the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum which I enjoyed a lot more than I thought I would. I mean, I only have 4 words: Ships in a Bottle. Enough said.
We also took a trolley tour of the city, stopping along the way for one of the most amazing meals I have ever had. It was a little place called Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room (Yes, there used to be an actual Mrs. Wilkes) in the middle of a quiet residential neighborhood. This place is only open M-F 11-2pm, and you have to arrive early and wait in line. We got there about 10:10 and waited for 50 minutes to get in. It’s a family style restaurant where you are seated at a big table for ten with whoever is next to you in line. And when you sit down, the table is completely filled with southern cooking. I think there were something like 25 different dishes. Aa had what he says is the best fried chicken of his entire life, and I enjoyed at least 20 different vegetable sides. There were only a few things that weren’t vegetarian. The spread included, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, greens, lima beans (the best ever!), cabbage, biscuits, cornbread dressing, creamed corn, okra and tomatoes…you get the idea. You even get iced tea and dessert for only $18. It was such a unique experience that it was well worth the wait. We left stuffed and happy!
And of course we saw lots of beautiful historic architecture.
But I think my favorite part was that this is one of those cities that is just so full of texture and history everywhere you look. Do you know what I mean?
The wedding itself was held at a beautiful site outside of Savannah called the Majestic Oak–a HUGE tree that they think is over 300 years old. It was one of the most heartfelt and beautiful ceremonies that I’ve been to and we got to spend lots of time with Aa’s family catching up and having fun (I hit the in-law jackpot, they are awesome!)
And after four fun-filled days with my parents, O looked like this!
Too much fun!
All in all, I can’t wait for another excuse to go back. Have you ever been to Savannah?
I’m sure you’ve heard of Lacing cards, right? They’re usually a shape or a picture with holes around the edges that toddlers and preschoolers can use to practice “sewing”. They’re great for hand eye coordination and learning about patterns etc. So a few months back, I wanted to get one for O, but being the cheapskate that I am, balked when I saw the prices. I didn’t see any on amazon for less than $12. Which is more than I wanted to spend on an activity I wasn’t sure if O would like.
Instead, I poked around in my craft closet and came up with a quick way to make them out of materials I already had! They were good for ten or fifteen minutes of entertainment for O, not the most favorite toy he has but definitely a win. Also this is the kind of craft I love making for kids because it takes about five minutes and cheap materials so if they aren’t that into it or they destroy it right away, as my Aunt Mary would say, “It don’t matter!”
Anyway, when I was planning the Very Hungry Caterpillar Birthday Party, I thought they would be a great thing to put in the goody bags for his friends and I took some picture to show you how to make them too! And of course, apples with holes in them are perfect because the Hungry Caterpillar eats a hole through an apple in the story!
To start, you need:
Craft foam shapes (I get mine in the Dollar Spot at Target, they almost always have something. This time I had apple shapes, purchased sometime last fall, but I just saw them again at my local store. I’ve also seen leaves, eggs, stars etc. Any of those would be great. )
A regular hole punch
This is where it gets complicated…ok ready? Are you sure you’re paying attention? Ok! Punch evenly spaced holes around the edge of your foam shape.
Next, cut a length of yarn equal to about 1 1/2 the circumference of the shape. Tie it to the shape, putting the knot on the back.
Next tear off about an inch long piece of scotch tape, put the other end of the yarn on it and start to wrap it with the tape.
Keep wrapping until the tape is used up and the end of the yarn is secure and stiff like the end of a shoelace.
That’s it! You’re done! Let your little one start sewing and lacing!
O had plans to see both sets of Grandparents within two weeks on either side of his birthday so we decided to just have a little playdate on a weekday morning with a few of his friends to celebrate this year. The theme…A Very Hungry Caterpillar! I’m sure you know the book, right? A Caterpillar hatches from an egg, eats right through a lot of delicious food, builds a cocoon and (SPOILER ALERT!) turns into a beautiful butterfly! It’s a beautiful book by Eric Carle and I decided, if this is possibly the last year that I really get to choose the party theme, we were doing Very Hungry Caterpillar! But don’t worry, O does actually love the book, I wasn’t imposing some random theme on him. But he loves a lot things so I picked what I thought would make a cute party (and be the most fun for me to plan!). I was thrown for a bit of a loop when about five minutes after I got out of the shower all the water went off in our building and stayed off until noon. Note to self, next time plan drinks that aren’t only water based like coffee and lemonade! Luckily my nine months pregnant friend saved the day and ran out to get a couple liters of water so we had something to drink!
Anyway, with the help of Pinterest and some brainstorming, here is what we did!
For decorations, I scanned some pages from the book and used them in various ways like this Birthday Pennant Banner:
I also had some caterpillars hiding around the house
And even a life-sized very hungry caterpillar enjoying a “nice green leaf”!
But my most favorite decoration was an idea I got from Pinterest to make a Very Hungry Caterpillar out of balloons. I think it turned out pretty well, Pinterest WIN!
One thing that made the Very Hungry Caterpillar a great party theme is that is has built-in menu ideas! Of course we ate foods that the Caterpillar enjoys in the book!
There were two plums, one slice of watermelon, four strawberries, and one apple…
Once slice of salami, a pickle and one slice of swiss cheese…
And of course, cupcakes and “lollipops” for dessert. The cupcakes were white cake with chocolate chips and vanilla frosting.
And the “lollipop” cookies were vanilla sugar cookies. Hey look! The Caterpillar already ate a hole through the lollipops!!
I set up a little coloring station (washable crayons are the best invention EVER!) and the kids got to color in their own Very Hungry Caterpillar. (Printable coloring page available here, directly from Eric Carle’s website!) Other than that, the kids just played with O’s toys. For the most part a successful, party. Although when everyone got a little too hopped up on sugar and had a hard time sharing, we may or may not have turned on an episode of Fireman Sam on Netflix…
I have a few other fun Caterpillar related projects coming up soon including how to make the cute birthday shirt O is wearing, so stay tuned!
So last weekend was my birthday. It often falls on or around Labor Day which is pretty awesome because, THREE DAY WEEKEND! This year I didn’t have any specific plans but I ended up having a lovely weekend (am I the only one that milks their birthday for the whole weekend if at all possible?).
I started off with a haircut which was way overdue. I had a new stylist and I liked her a lot which is saying something. I’ve had a hard time finding someone who can handle my wavy, almost curly hair and has the right balance of chatty and not chatty, do you know what I mean?
I also went window shopping at some new stores that opened up near our house. And then on Sunday we went to check out the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL. It was kind of hike but nice once we got there and I think Sunday mornings are a good day to go, it didn’t get too crowded until closer to 11 am.
We checked out their Tree House Tales exhibit. Verdict? Great idea, kind of underwhelming execution…
And then we enjoyed the Children’s Garden which was a big hit with O. There was a lot to look at, a nice place to stop and eat lunch and a fun play area with slides and ladders. We left around 11:30 when the Children’s Garden started to get crowded and some of the older kids got a little pushy.
On Sunday afternoon, I learned that apparently I married a secret cake baking ninja! I mean, look at this thing!
Aside: we need a cake plate, that penguin platter from Christmas is just not cutting it!
Then we had a couple of friends over to watch this week’s episode of Breaking Bad. It did not disappoint!
On monday we went out for breakfast at our favorite place ever, a little cafe in the Ukranian village that makes New Mexican food. We have a very very short list of restaurants that we feel comfortable eating at and this is one of them. One of the head waiters has a daughter with a severe peanut allergy and so not only is New Mexican food largely free of nuts, (not 100%) the restaurant has NO peanuts at all because otherwise she wouldn’t be able to continue working there. So anyway, we had a nice breakfast, stopped at a fun playground and then went home where I relaxed, did some knitting and drawing and got some awesome presents!
I also got a sale in my shop that day too which was a great birthday surprise! And even better, it wasn’t from a friend or family! Not that I don’t value those sales just as much but it’s always kind of exciting to get one from a stranger!
What did I get for my birthday you ask? Why, I’d love to share! I got this pretty:
A new bigger camera bag:
I already have one Jo Totes bag and I totally love it, it’s sturdy but soft, the colors are amazing and the inside is soft and padded but you can configure it however you want to store your camera and accessories. I’m a big fan.
I also got a couple of gorgeous things from West Elm which turned out to be even cuter in person than they looked online!
And finally, AA surprised me with some new art supplies which I totally loved. All in all, it was a lovely birthday!
It’s back to school time, a busy and anxiety producing time for most parents (and kids). Add a food allergy and the thought of someone else caring for your child, and it’s downright scary, especially for a young child. O is turning 3 this week which is a great age but it means he’s still so young he doesn’t completely understand what food allergies are and he certainly can’t be trusted to keep himself safe all on his own. But AA and I thought that trying preschool was an important step for us (it’s hard to let go when your child has a life-threatening condition) and also an important step for O. We want him to be social and good with other adults and kids so that he can grow up to be a good advocate for himself. That’s really really important to us.
So, like I talked about here, we sent him off to Preschool. There were some important things we did first though and I thought I’d share them for other parents who might be going back to school, or to school for the first time at the Pre-K level. As always, talk with your allergist for the final say if you have questions about food allergies.
1. Take a tour of your school.
Find out what their policies are regarding food and food allergies. At the Preschool level, we felt it was important that the Preschool be peanut and tree nut free because the kids are so little. For us, if it wasn’t peanut and tree nut free, it was off our list. If your little one has another kind of allergy like dairy or eggs, find out if the school has had any experience with that allergy. In a way we are lucky that more and more people are becoming familiar with nut allergies so most schools have some kind of policy on nuts.
2. Schedule your yearly appointment with your allergist.
Have them do any necessary re-testing and talk to them about going back to school. Ask them for advice on what questions to ask, what to look out for etc. And while you’re there, have them renew your EpiPen prescription so you have enough to take to school (always pack TWO!) and have the doctor fill out any necessary paperwork. In our case, there was an allergy action plan. Ours looked kind of like this:
The allergist also gave us another form called the Rescue Mediation Form that authorized use of the EpiPen and Bendryl as well as a rescue inhaler (Albuterol) for asthma. This form is signed by the doctor and provides evidence of a valid prescription as well as tells what doses are appropriate. And then finally we also got an Asthma Action Plan which tells a caregiver what to do for asthma symptoms. I made sure that copies of these forms went both to the school office and to his teachers.
3. Meet the Principal
If you are deciding between schools, I highly recommend scheduling a meeting with the principal before school starts. This really put us at ease that we had chosen the right place for O. Questions we asked included: What is the school policy on food allergies and Epi Pens? What kind of training to teachers and staff have in First Aid? Do teachers receive EpiPen training? Have you had children with food allergies before? Have you ever had an anaphylactic reaction at your school? (Obviously the best answer to this one is no.)
4. Meet the Teacher(s)
Once O had been assigned to a classroom, we scheduled a meeting with his teachers. I emailed the head teacher, introduced myself, and set up a meeting. Make sure you don’t wait til right before the start of the school year to do this, teachers get so busy! This meeting is where you go over the logistics of how to make sure your little one is safe. This is also where you ask what are, in my opinion, the most important questions. And you should trust your gut, if you are not comfortable with an answer or a policy, speak up. At our meeting, we brought O along, we think it’s important that he’s involved in these conversations (even if it’s only peripherally at this age) so that he learns how to talk about food allergies. And we were very pleasantly surprised when we sat down and the teacher had her own list of questions for US! This is a really good sign that you’ve found a conscientious caregiver. Things we talked about at this meeting included:
-Where do you store EpiPens? (They should NEVER be locked up, if your school tells you they have to lock them up by law, that’s not true. You don’t want someone fumbling for keys in an emergency.)
-Do you take EpiPens and Benadryl with you when you leave the classroom? (The answer to this should always be yes. At our school they have a “Go Bag” packed with that kind of thing that they just keep next to the door and always take when they go outside (which is really the only place they ever go). But in most schools this should also include “specials” like gym or art. It’s not enough for the EpiPen to just be in the building, it should be near the child at all times.)
-Have you had EpiPen training? (We brought our training device along and showed them how to use it, they said that was extremely helpful)
-What is the policy on food in the classroom? (just re-confirm the school’s policies)
-What is the policy on birthday treats? (our school only allows fresh cut fruit)
-When do kids wash their hands? (they usually used hand sanitizer but suggested maybe for O’s classroom the kids would wash their hands with soap and water in the morning instead)
Questions they asked us, included:
-What kinds of situations are more dangerous for O?
Our answer: snack time, any crafts involving food or things like the sensory table (sometimes filled with beans etc, and O is also allergic to lentils) and time outside the school (other people bring PB&J to the playground all the time).
-Can he handle acorns, we sometimes use them in craft projects?
A great question that we had to ask our allergist about. Our nurse told us it was fine and that acorns are thought to be really pretty safe for people with tree nut allergies (but you should always ask your allergist). We just asked the teachers to have O wash his hands if he does handle them.
-Is it ok for us to tell the other kids about his allergies?
Another good question and one that has a very individualized answer. We were ok with it but some parents feel that they don’t want their child singled out which is also a valid concern. We thought at this young age that was unlikely and some of the older kids in his class (it’s mixed age up to age 5) could be helpful in keeping an eye out for problems.
-Can he sit next to the other kids at snack time?
We said yes as long as they watched out for danger foods like granola bars. We felt like the social aspect of snack time is important and the teachers stressed, throughout the meeting, how vigilant they are about making sure no one ever shares food.
All in all, after these meetings were really reassuring. We felt like everyone we talked to was on the same page and would make O’s safety a priority. But again, if you aren’t satisfied with the way something is done, speak up. We noticed that the official policy that was sent out to parents said, “The Pre-K classrooms are peanut free, please don’t send food containing nuts such as peanut butter, almond butter or nutella with your child.” We felt like that was confusing and asked them to change it to say, “The Pre-K classrooms are peanut and tree nut free…” and they did!
Don’t forget, when they are little, you are your child’s only and best advocate. Don’t be afraid to be “those parents.” In my experience most people will be understanding and compassionate. How do you handle back to school with food allergies?
Did I get the song in your head? Last weekend, as an early birthday present for O, we went to check out Day out with Thomas at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, IL. It took us about an hour and fifteen minutes to get there from downtown Chicago and it turned out to be a really cool museum. We definitely want to go back on a less crowded day.
The star of the attraction was a real life Thomas the Train, who, if you have a toddler or preschooler, I am sure you are familiar. O loooooves trains so we knew this would be a big hit but honestly, while the ride on Thomas was fun, the museum itself was cool enough that I’d go back.
The museum is pretty big and they had several huge barn that were just full of old trains. O really liked this part and I did too.
But of course, the main attraction was a ride on Thomas the Train! Well actually you ride on a train that Thomas is “pulling”. The event sells tickets by time of your train ride, I recommend going as early as you can to try and beat the crowds. When you get there, you wait in corral areas to board and the kids all pretty much go nuts when Thomas pulls up. (You also get to listen to really loud music, the kind of thing Aa called, “Thomas Rock!” i.e. pop songs about the Island of Sodor and the Troublesome Trucks etc.) We waited for less than 10 minutes and then got a nice 20 minute ride through the museum and out into the area surrounding.
We waved at all the kids watching Thomas go by:
looked out the window (and then got yelled at for putting our heads out–it wasn’t moving yet! I swear!):
and just generally had a good time:
On the ride you pass lots of old decrepit trains on the tracks, the textures and colors of those were Aa’s and my favorite part.
Aren’t they kind of beautiful??
And then when that ride was over, while the next group of passengers is boarding you can go see Thomas and get your picture taken!
This is O’s “say cheese!” face, lol!
Thomas runs throughout the day so we brought our own lunch (I also recommend this!) and sat at picnic tables right next to the track and watched him go by at least 5 times. They also had lots of other activites, including a giant pile of sand (which of course was O’s favorite thing! Why?! We have sand at home! I did not pay $20 a person to play in a pile of sand!) bouncy houses, Thomas arts and crafts and Thomas temporary tattoos. And, of course, you could meet Sir Topham Hatt himself! (It was a guy in a cartoony costume who must have been sooo hot! Couldn’t they find a chubby bald guy and give him a suit and top hat?)
(It’s spelled HATT with two T’s, thank you very much!)
All in all, it was a fun day and I totally recommend this museum even without Thomas and his friends!
I’m not generally the kind of mom who has a hard time separating or gets weepy about things like this. Nervous? Yes. Excited for him (and me! I get time off!)? Yes. Taking a thousand pictures? Yes. But not so much weepy. That’s not to say I don’t get the weepy parents. I totally get it! But I’ve had many months to get ready for this so I was really ok at dropoff. And anyway, he’s only going two mornings a week, it’s not so much time.
But also I’m feeling so lucky that we found a wonderful school that works for us because until this spring I was convinced preschool just wasn’t in the cards for us. For one thing, there are many daycares in our neighborhood, but not very many preschools. I wanted an actual preschool with a curriculum and certified teachers. And the preschools that I did know about are were waaaaaay out of our budget. (The neighborhood montessori school is $20,000 a year! No, I did not add any extra zeros!) And then I heard about the school that we chose which had started a fairly new pre-K program. Turns out it was awesome. And it is also actually affordable. We had to have a few additional conversations with the principal and teachers to make sure it would work in terms of O’s food allergies but they have been completely wonderful and we are so so happy we found this place. (How to talk to a school about food allergy needs is a post for another time!)
My separation anxiety was helped by the fact that O has been sooooo excited to start. We went to the open house earlier in the week and he walked around the room, looked at everything and announced, “I REALLY love this place!” We barely even got hugs this morning when we dropped him off because he was so excited to go in. I get it because I always really liked school too.
To be honest, one of my favorite parts of back to school was always school supply shopping. So I got really excited to buy O a backpack. I looked all over and settled on a cute one but when we went to the open house for O’s preschool on tuesday we got a handout saying the kids should have a tote bag, (NO BACKPACKS and NO ZIPPERS!) I’m guessing so the teachers can easily put things in them? So cue record scratch, I was back to the drawing board. I figured instead of running to Target I would just make O a little tote bag using things I had (I have an embarrasing fabric stash!) for a grand total of $0.
I took some pics so you could see how I put together a simple tote bag. If you’ve never made a bag before, a tote is the easiest place to start. And you can always leave off the pocket and magnetic snap to make it even easier!
Preschool Tote Bag
1/2 yard outer fabric
1/2 yard lining fabric
cotton quilt batting
optional, lobster clasps and d rings if you want o add a cross body strap
1. O’s school was very specific about size, they said the bag had to be at least 10″ x 15″. (I’m assuming to make sure papers and folders fit?) so I cut two rectangles of 11″ x 16″ our of each of my fabrics and the batting. I also cut two rectangles that were 4 1/2″ x 16″ for the straps.
2. Next make your handles. Lay a strap rectangle right side down and fold over the long edges by 1/2 inch and press. I added a layer of quilt batting in the middle.
3. Then fold the strap over one more time and topstitch along both long edges. Your straps are done!
4. To assemble the lining of your tote bag, first you need to insert the magnetic snaps. If you haven’t done this before, don’t worry, it’s not hard. I always start by adding some iron-on interfacing to the spot where I’ll be putting in the magnetic snap to keep it from ripping.
(aside: “Purse-n-alize-it” ?! really??)
Each half of the magnetic snap has the snap itself that goes on the right side of the fabric and a flat plate that slides over the prongs on the wrong side of the fabric.
5. Mark the center of your bag lining, decide how far down from the top you want the snap, and holding the two prongs up, mark where you will need to cut holes for them.
6. Using sharp scissors, cut two small slits where you made the marks for the prongs. Push the prongs of the snap through from the RIGHT side of the fabric.
7. From the wrong side, put the flat plate over the prongs and then bend them flat to secure. The jury’s out on whether you’re supposed to bend them out or in. I’ve seen it both ways. This time, I bent them out because it was easier.
8. Repeat for the other half of the bag lining, making sure to line up the snaps.
9. Put your two lining pieces right sides together, with one piece of batting on either side and sew along three sides, the long sides and the bottom and be sure to leave at least 6 inches OPEN along the bottom of the lining so you can turn the bag later.
10. Next you want to box the corners of the bag lining so your tote bag has a flat bottom. Match up one of the side seams with the bottom seam so you have a triangle like this.
I wanted a flat bottom that was three inches across so I measured up 1 1/2 inches from the point of the triangle and drew the blue line across. Then I sewed along that blue line.
11. Cut off the extra fabric from the boxed corner.
12. Repeat on the other bottom corner of the bag lining.
13. If you want a pocket on the outside, you need to make and attach it before you assemble the outer bag. Start with a rectangle for your pocket, and iron down the edges 1/2 inch on all four sides.
Topstitch across one edge of the pocket. This will be the top edge. I also attached a little patch with O’s name on it so the teachers could tell whose bag it is.
14. Center the pocket on one of the outside pieces and stitch the pocket to the front of the bag along three sides, the two sides and the bottom. Leave the top edge (the topstitched edge) open.
15. Next you will create the outer part of the bag by repeating steps 9-12 but this time don’t use any batting and sew ALL the way around three sides, do not leave an opening across the bottom. Box the corners just like you did for the lining.
16. It’s time to assemble the bag. Turn the bag lining RIGHT side out and put it inside the outer part of the bag (which is still WRONG side out).
Be sure to carefully line up your side seams.
17. Insert your straps in between the right sides of the outer bag and the lining. Make sure they are spaced evenly and not twisted, it will look like this:
I also added two little tabs with rectangle rings on each side of the bag so I have a place to attach another strap. I made the tabs exactly the same way as I made the bag handles.
18. Then pin carefully all the way around the top of you bag and sew all the way around with a 1/2 inch seam.
19. Turn your bag inside out through the opening in the bottom of the lining so it looks like this:
20. Now pin and sew closed that opening in the bottom of the lining.
Some people carefully sew this by hand with an invisible stitch but I’ve found it’s in the bottom of the inside of a bag, no one ever sees it so I just stitch across.
21. Now stuff your lining down into your bag, straighten it all out and top stitch all the way around the top of the bag 1/4 from the edge and you’re done!
The straps are a good length for O to put over his arm but they’re a little short for Aa or I so I decided to add and optional detachable cross-body strap that we can use to carry the bag when O doesn’t want to. I made that strap exactly the same way as the other straps, only longer, and then I sewed lobster clasps onto both ends. Then I can attach it to the rectangle rings on either side or remove it and store it in the bag’s pocket.
O loved it and it was way cuter than the standard totes the school had for sale so I consider it a successful project!