Atlanta Greek Festival

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We love the annual Atlanta Greek Festival. This year was Savannah’s 3rd Greek festival.

She was only 7-ish weeks at her first one:
Hanging out at the Atlanta Greek Festival

A little over a year at her next one:
Greek festival

Inside the Greek Orthodox church

And this year, we got Savannah a belly dancing skirt. She really enjoyed running around with it, and pretty much everyone we passed commented on how cute she was. Maybe next year she’ll be up for the face painting. :-)
Atlanta Greek Festival

I asked Paul to distract her while I ducked into a few of the shops with breakables. When I came out, they were ordering dinner. I snapped this picture – I love Daddy/daughter pictures. :-)
Atlanta Greek Festival

I enjoy our annual tradition, and it always makes me want to go visit Greece! Someday, someday.


throwing a Cookie Monster 2nd birthday party

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In my blogging absence, I completely missed Savannah 2nd birthday! I mean, I missed writing about it – we certainly acknowledged it in real life! :-) I was busy preparing for it in my blogging silence before her birthday, and afterwards I actually got really sick and ended up laying on the couch for three days straight. I even wrote her a 2 year old letter and didn’t get a chance to post because getting to the computer those days was just not happening. Anyways.

Savannah’s party came together very, very last minute. I spent way too long deliberating about where to have it – last year, we were outside at a park near our house. It was fun but also hot. Late August in Atlanta is unpredictable – it will surely be warm, but will the humidity be stifling or will it be okay in the shade? I inquired about having it at our church, but my emails were never returned and I was frustrated (and also dealing with some unrelated stuff at the time, and my mind was about burnt out!). Then 7 days before Savannah’s party, I was talking about it with a friend and she suggested using the clubhouse at her condo complex. Score! It ended up being PERFECT. I was SO grateful to her for helping me out.

I never actually sent out invitations since I didn’t even have a location confirmed until 4 days before the party. So it was all word of mouth and though not many came, I think it ended up being perfect (especially since we are a family of 3 introverts!).

As I said, we chose a Cookie Monster theme. It was fairly easy – I brought Savannah’s Cookie Monster doll with me to the store and looked for blue things (since it’s impossible to get Cookie Monster-only paraphernalia – Elmo and Abby Cadabby are all the rage right now!). I enjoyed playing with the possibilities of a blue party. Hobby Lobby, Party City, and Target became my best friends, and I think the decorations were fabulous.

Lots of delicious food

Here was the main table. The food wasn’t themed – just various snacks, enough to be a complete lunch but still able to eat without being at a table. I made sure to get some blueberries as a nod to our blue theme! I printed off my favorite 8 pictures from Savannah’s past two years, and displayed them around the room. I also bought 3 small Cookie Monster dolls to use as decorations and later as favors for the three children who attended.

Pitcher of cookies, cups, and blue drinks

Blue themed drinks! I found blue Mountain Dew for the soda lovers and blue gatorade for the sports drink lovers. In retrospect, I wish I had removed the labels to make it slightly more classy. I used my glass pitcher and poured Cookie Crisp cereal in it for decoration – I was thrilled with how that turned out!

Water for those who don't like blue drinks

Next to the drink table was a shorter table with water bottles in ice. I meticulously removed all the labels from the water bottles, and was pleased with the look.

Cookie Monster photo op chair

We also had a Cookie Monster photo op chair. I got a picture of each of our guests in the chair with Cookie Monster and wearing the feather boa. I will say, I am definitely going to repeat this – it was great to have on camera each person who came! Sometimes candid shots don’t get great pictures of everyone, so some posed shots are nice to have. Also, including the doll and the feather boa made people feel more relaxed and silly about the whole thing.

Mommy, Daddy, and the birthday girl

Here is our family at the party – what a fun picture!

Fun gifts!

Gift table. I got the basket because it was the perfect blue, and in the end couldn’t find a good place for it, so I stuck it here.

The kiddie table

We borrowed a picnic table for the kiddie table, and it worked out great. We had three kids, and I had favors for each of them: a blue beaded necklace, Sesame Street coloring book, crayons, and Cookie Monster activity cards. (They each took home a small Cookie Monster doll, too.) These kept them entertained while we waited for the food and guests to arrive.

Party time!

The whole room, with the streamers and balloons. We blew up a bunch of balloons, and ended up just leaving them loose around the room because we couldn’t get them to attach very well to the walls. That was a big hit!!

Playing with balloons

You can see in that last picture Savannah’s outfit – a Cookie Monster onesie with a pink skirt and sparkly silver shoes. She looked adorable! She also had a fancy blue bracelet that you can see in other pictures.

Cookie Monster cupcakes!

My favorite – these were the cupcakes I made (instead of a cake). They were surprisingly easy, and I had a lot of fun. There were several left over that Paul took to work, and I was told that pictures were taken by his coworkers and submitted to an iReport. :-) I served each cupcake with some ice cream topped with Cookie Crisp cereal, which was a big hit and a fun continuation of the theme.

Happy Birthday Cookie Monster cupcake

Blowing out her candle

We all enjoyed eating and socializing, and then it was present time. I’m happy to report that this year, Savannah did not have a meltdown and have to leave in the middle of her party. In fact, she was totally living it all up!

What's in the bag?

Fun family picture.

Savannah tried to give her presents away

Savannah handed her gifts back to the person who gave them to her. I think she was a little confused. ;-)

Giving away presents

When she opened the present from my mom (“Grandma!”), she handed it to the person in the room who most looked like my mom, which I thought was really cute!

Presents

Savannah teases Maddie

She’s silly!

Group effort

By the end, all the toddlers were helping her unwrap!

Changing Baby's diaper

She loved her new baby doll and the diapers I made for the baby.

Have a Cookie Monster!

Happy birthday, Savannah! You can see all the pictures here, mostly taken by my brother-in-law, Tim. Here’s a birthday party tip: hand someone else your camera! I got much better pictures than if I had tried to host and photograph at the same time. He did a great job!


a gift idea for a new mom: the breastfeeding basket

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A friend of mine here in Atlanta is pregnant, due next month. As is my typical approach to gifts, I wanted to get her something special and meaningful. I knew she was planning to breastfeed, and since it is a topic very close to my heart, I thought a gift of things to make that journey easier for her would be special for both of us. I had a lot of fun putting it together!

As with any kind of basket gift (i.e. collection of items), this can get very expensive if you are not careful. It’s a great gift when you have a lot of time to find items at good prices to avoid the total cost being like $300. :-)

Here is the basket I gave to my friend:

A rundown of the things I included in my gift basket, with notes and other suggestions:

* Book: “The Baby Book” by Dr. Sears

I wanted to include a book, and debated about which one. I finally decided an overall baby book would be best, but here are a few other suggestions if you want something specifically about breastfeeding:
“The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” by La Leche League International
“Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding” by Dr. Jack Newman
“Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding” by Ina May Gaskin
Peaceful Parenting
‘s Amazon store of recommended breastfeeding books: http://astore.amazon.com/peacefparent-20?_encoding=UTF8&node=1

* Baby Carrier: Moby Wrap

Baby carriers go hand in hand with breastfeeding because not only does it hold your little baby close, but you can also feed them while they’re in the baby carrier. I think the Moby Wrap is especially good for little newborns. I had promised mine to this particular friend, but hadn’t actually given it to her yet so I was excited to include it in the basket. I also printed off the instructions for how to use it, and a few cautions about wrapping it safely, and folded it up in the Moby. This might add significant cost to your basket, but if you have a carrier you’re willing to give away or if you are handy with a sewing machine, it can be a really nice touch. Some other ideas:
Bbay K’Tan – similar to a Moby but much simpler to put on/take off
Ring Sling – easy to make
Mei Tai – I’m told this is also another easy one to make
An extensive list of everything you’ve wanted to know about baby carriers, to give you other ideas

* Nursing pads: reusable

I was going to just get the Lansinoh disposable nursing pads, since those are what I used, but a friend of mine makes them and offered me a good deal on 4 pairs. Two were made with minkee and are soooo soft. I hope she likes them! I’m sure you can find reusable nursing pads without too much trouble anywhere that sells cloth baby/mama related things (cloth diaper retailers, Etsy, etc). 

* Pain relief: lanolin

This is a must-have for any breastfeeding mother! I used this stuff like crazy when Savannah was a newborn.

* Pain relief: Gel Soothies

I put the question of what to buy for the basket on one of my forums, and one of the moms suggested these. I had never heard of them, but when I saw them in the store I thought they sounded brilliant. Perhaps it was because Savannah was a summer baby, but I would have loved the cool relief of a little gel pack. I added these to my basket, and I hope they are as useful as they seem they would be! I found these at Babies R Us made by Lansinoh, but I think there are other brands that make them too.

* Distraction: nursing necklace

Nursing necklaces are for the baby to play with while he’s nursing, to distract him from playing with Mama’s hair or her shirt or her other breast… I was going to buy from Etsy but I actually ended up making it, and it was very easy. I happened to find a local bead store going out of business, so I picked up the doughnut stone for a very good price. I just used a leather suede cord and knotted it around the stone, and added a wooden bead for decoration, and I was done! I made it extra long so my friend can choose to cut it to the ideal length. There is a picture later in the post.

I had a lot of other ideas for items that I didn’t end up including for various reasons (cost, etc.), but I’ll list them here in case you’re looking for something else for your basket.

* Water bottle (because it’s important to keep hydrated when you’re a nursing mama!)

* Healthy snacks like granola bars or crackers (for those long nursing sessions!)

* Lactation cookies like Milkin’ Cookies (a cute idea, but when it came down to it I decided not to include anything that might make her feel that her supply is inadequate. Chances are she’ll be fine!)

* Lactation tea (for the same reasons as the cookies above)

* Puzzle books

* E-Reader gift card, if the mom has an e-reader

* Nursing bracelet (I found some really cute beaded ones on Etsy that help you count how many hours between feedings and remember which side you nursed on. I decided not to include it because I didn’t want her to think she needed to schedule her baby’s feedings or be concerned about how many hours had passed. It can be a useful tool, though!)

* Burp cloths

* Nursing cover

And now, a few other things in my basket. I made a little bookmark and stuck it into the chapter on breastfeeding in “The Baby Book”:

I designed and printed it on cardstock. It has the name and number of a friend of mine who’s an LC, the website address for a local breastfeeding online support group, La Leche League’s local hotline, the website for our nearest LLL group, and links to kellymom.com and infantrisk.com. Quick reference for those middle of the night stress times!

And a close-up of the nursing necklace I made:

One last thing… In the card, I included a letter that I wrote to her. I shared briefly my breastfeeding story (I had a really rough start), and talked about how my struggle led me to doubt my own abilities to mother, and how the encouragement of friends was the only thing that got me through it. I wrote how she could always call me if she had any trouble and that I would be happy to help or just be a listening ear. I also included the different local breastfeeding support groups and numbers she could call – basically everything on my quick reference card, with more detail and explanations of what these numbers/websites were actually for. I really wish I’d had this available to me when I was a new mom and overwhelmed with EVERYTHING (I’d also bought a house, so maybe that added to the stress?). The thought of trying to find an LC was just too much at the time, though I really do regret not seeing one sooner. (I ended up going to one when Savannah was 8 months old and I had that breast abscess – but that’s a whole ‘nother story!) I think just making those numbers available to her will make a huge difference.

I hope she likes it and finds it useful! I really had a lot of fun putting it together!