Adventure Monday: The Crayola “Factory”

AdventureMonday

A new thing we’re doing around here to keep the adventure alive during the winter doldrums are Adventure Mondays. Each Monday we go on a brand new adventure. It can be anything at all, the only rule is that it has to be somewhere we’ve never been.

Yesterday we visited The Crayola Factory in Easton, PA and I don’t have many nice things to say about it so I’ll try and stay mostly informational. I had heard mixed reviews from people but since Xavier has been really into how things work these days, he’s been asking to go.

1. It took a full 2 hours of driving each way (4 hours total in the car) from Manayunk with no traffic.

2. It cost $18.99 per person (children over 2 are the same price as adults) so that’s $56.97 just to get in the doors – which I think is very expensive.

3. There are 4 floors:

The 1st Floor is home to the crayola store: where you are forced to walk through and be enticed to buy Crayola products that you can find literally ANYWHERE else in the world for 1/2 the price.  The Crayola Cafe: where you can buy a stale soft pretzel for $5 (I’m not joking), a bottle of water for $2.99 or some artificially colored “fruit” drinks. Security checked our bags before entering to make sure we weren’t bringing in any of our own food or drink.

"Fruit" Drinks for Sale (and old ass salads)

“Fruit” Drinks for Sale (and old ass salads)

The 2nd floor was all about crafts. You can print a crayon label with your name on it that takes all of 1 minute, color a page on an iPad that you could do at home, or choose a workshop like sand art, fabric art and more for additional exorbitant fees ($19.99 add on to make sand art!) Lastly, you can watch a show to see how crayons are made. That’s right, there is no factory or actual crayon making here, folks. Wah wahhhhh.

Floor 3 had an 85 foot water table that no ones child was tall enough to reach, so all the parents were doing it and the kids were standing there watching. Except mine, he boosted himself onto the table and then we had to buy a $25 t-shirt at the store because he was soaked. Also on this floor you can do more crafts that you can do at home, like cutting and gluing! The best part about the 3rd floor was the playground which resembled the show Wipe Out. You can bet that I got in there :)

Look at his feet

Look at his feet

The 4th floor was all about melting crayons and painting, dripping and molding them. That was pretty cool except once the art dries, it all chips off the waxy paper that they supply, so be prepared for a meltdown – like that pun?

Overall, I do NOT recommend going to the Crayola Factory. It’s a huge rip off and you can do the same things closer to home (or at home!) and for a fraction of the price. Of course, we made the best of it and Xavier thinks it was great like he would mostly  anything :)

How to Stay Married Forever

Our Beach Wedding in The Florida Keys

Our Beach Wedding in The Florida Keys

Today Mike & I celebrate 6 years of making shit happen together. 6 years ago on a warm beach in The Florida Keys, we vowed to adventure through life hand in hand before we spent the night dancing in a Russian cabaret and the next few weeks in Thailand :)

I have read my fair share of marriage advice over the years, as a self help junkie, I literally cannot help myself. I’ve heard some crazy tips (advocating cheating), some disturbing ideas (lying, stealing), and some genuinely good ones (be vulnerable, be open to change, don’t rely on the other person for your happiness). But I think I’ve narrowed it down to one simple rule to keep things in the green zone.

I know what you’re thinking. 6 years is chump change in the big scheme of life and you’re 100% right. But in our 6 years, 4 of them have been spent raising a strong willed, spirited, high needs kiddo – while managing to better ourselves individually and as a couple and continuing to reach our goals. We are a happy family that continues to grow together and challenge one another. We have walked through the fire together so to speak and keep coming out on the other side, still holding hands. So you don’t have to listen to me, but what have you got to lose?

You ready?

Treat your spouse the way you did when you were first dating.

Remember those days? When you were trying to impress one another? When you cared what your mouth smelled like in the morning, when you had sex no matter the place or time, when you were genuinely interested in what they had to say and felt intrigued by them? The days when you made each other feel important and you each knew it. The days when you were digging deeper into each other’s souls, trying to figure one another out. This is the good stuff and this is where its at, still today.

As humans we are ever changing and we always want to know that other’s find us interesting, especially our spouses.

I realize that a lot more goes into every relationship and it’s not always this simple. Life happens and we might not have the energy for extras. Trust me, we have spent a lot of the last several years in survival mode over here, so I get it. But that’s just the problem. We need to stop thinking of our spouses as extras. Stop putting them on the backburner and bring them back up front a little closer. No matter how busy your day is, you always have time to scribble a little note before you leave the house in the morning, or send a cute/sexy text throughout your day to let them know you’re thinking of them. It literally takes 10 seconds and means a lot to the other person.

If you have a solid base and things are generally healthy and peaceful in your relationship, this advice will work to help you keep the spark alive.

Go ahead and try it, right now, and see what happens!

Breaking the Glass on sand is tough :)

Breaking the Glass on sand is tough :)

 

 

Happy Birthday Xavier Marat!

IMG_2830

Happy 4th Birthday to the most vibrant little boy I have ever known!!

Xavier has filled our lives with such an abundantly pure joy – in a way that I never knew existed before he made our family whole. I thought I knew what love was before – but there is nothing like the love a Mama has for her baby.

When I was pregnant, I became obsessed with reading other family’s birth stories as a major source of inspiration for the type of birth I wanted to experience. So today, on Xavier’s 4th Birthday, I will share his birth story with you guys.


Xavier’s Birth Story: A Natural Birth at The Birth Center

Our midwives gave Xavier an approximate birthday of February 7th, 2011.

He had been kicking and somersaulting around in there for 40 weeks and 2 days on February 8th, when I decided to do some things to coax him out, gently. I drank red raspberry leaf tea, ate some spicy Thai food, danced around the house and made Mike have some uncomfortable sex with me :). Because, you know, what got you into this mess will get you out.

Around dinnertime on February 8th, I was feeling a little bit crampy and generally off, but nothing crazy. Hearing the echoing words of my midwife, “Eat something before labor that you won’t mind throwing up”, I made some bland pasta with veggies and popped in a movie to watch to try and relax.

During the movie, I continued moving around on the exercise ball to keep things flowing and alleviate my minor cramps. Mike was cleaning and finding it difficult to relax. He kept saying, “I think we should be timing these contractions, I think we should call The Birth Center” but I was playing it cool and not 100% convinced that I was in actual labor. My biggest fear was to get to The Birth Center and be only 3 cm dilated, so I was determined to wait as long as humanly possible to make any moves. I got in the shower and putzed around the house until about 930pm, when finally I agreed that I was in fact, in labor. The contractions had suddenly gotten stronger and I had to move through each one to get to the other side. I stayed with my ball almost the whole time. Mike called The Birth Center to let them know my contractions were about 6 minutes apart, but this was my first baby so Jamesina told us to relax and stay home, it would probably be a while.

I got in a warm bath to ease the back pain I was having with each contraction. During birthing classes, I was told to “not come to The Birth Center until you are unable to talk through your contractions”.   Around midnight they were coming fast and strong, about 2-3 minutes apart but I was still able to talk through them so I figured I’d wait a little longer. Mike called Jamesina to keep her in the loop and she told us to come right away. By this point, each contraction required me to make some type of awful noise (Oh what my neighbors must have heard!) and it took me a while to get out the door. Mike packed the car and came back to help me down the icy steps, stopping in the middle of the street to yell like a maniac, although I’m certain it was more graceful than that :)

This car ride was probably one of the worst in my life. They were tearing up our neighborhood streets and it was BUMPY! I put the front seat back down as far as it would go and got on my knees (butt facing the front of the car for a visual) and used the seatback to hold on to as each contraction came & went. I will never forget that car ride. I don’t remember much except that I was making jokes and my friend and doula, Susan said I was texting her that we were on our way but not to come just yet because it was still early.

We got to The Birth Center at 1:45am and Jamesina gave us the yellow room. She asked me if I wanted to be checked to see how far along I was. I was so nervous for this part. But I had to know, so I laid down and boom! I was at 8cm dilated! I had never felt happier in my life than at that very moment. I jumped up and hugged her. And no wonder that car ride was so awful, I was in transition.

She started the whirlpool for me while Mike called Susan and my Mom and told them they better get there… quickly. The conversation went like this:
“Hi, its Mike, we are at the birth center and Sarah is 8 cm dilated, you better get here, like, now”.

I got in the bath and soon Susan was there (within 12minutes of the phone call – she’s ON IT) by my side talking to me, soothing me and rubbing my lower back. Her, Mike and I were hanging out in the dimly lit bathroom when Jamesina came back in to ask me if I wanted to push. I wasn’t sure, and she reminded me to listen to my body. I stayed in the tub a little longer and then decided I’d like to start pushing.

I started out standing up holding onto the side of the bed, bending my knees and giving in to each contraction. In the beginning I was only pushing once with each contraction. Then my mom showed up and I will never forget the look on her face as she walked into our room mid-contraction.

We shifted positions a few times but I spent most of my pushing with Susan behind me, supporting my thighs with hers, my mom in front of me, allowing me to pull her hands and arms for counter pressure and Mike to my right. I think I was holding onto him as well, but I remember him wiping off my neck and head with a cold washcloth.

My body wasn’t 100% ready, but our baby was coming fast and hard regardless, so I had to move to lying on my side to make things easier on my body. Mike held up my leg while Susan and my mom still had my hands and back with each push. Jamesina and a nurse came in and put on their gowns. I asked them what they were doing and they said, “Getting on our party gear, are you ready to party?” I was so ready to party. Let’s Do This!

Now I was pushing 4 times with each contraction and soon Xavier Marat Kurliand was born @ 3:37 am! Mike got to catch him and announce that we had a baby boy. He was surprised because he was convinced we were having a girl. Mike put him right onto my bare chest for skin to skin contact and he immediately began sucking. He was 6lb. 13oz, 20 inches and completely bald. He had the longest fingers and toes and was just so perfect.

Because my body wasn’t fully ready for him to be born, I experienced 4th degree tearing. With no medication, my midwife and nurse stitched me right back up. When I asked how many stitches, they would only say, “more than 100″, but that’s a story for another time. My vagina hurts just thinking about that. Ouch.

It was the most peaceful entrance into the world I could imagine and everything I had hoped it would be for all three of us (minus the tearing of course). The Birth Center was outstanding and I couldn’t have asked for a better support team.

By 3pm the next afternoon we went home to begin our life as a threesome!

 

Wellness Wednesday: Healthy Breakfast Cookies

With our newly changing schedule and more time away from the house lately, I wanted to come up with a filling, healthy option for a quick energy boosting snack that wouldn’t make a mess in the car.

Enter the Breakfast Cookie. Because if you call it a cookie, your kids will eat it.

DIY Healthy Breakfast Cookies

DIY Healthy Breakfast Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 cups organic steel cut oats, uncooked
  • 2 very ripe bananas
  • 1 cup organic unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp bourbon vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp raw organic honey
  • 1/3 cup organic dark chocolate chips

(Other options to add in: chia seeds, hemp seeds, coconut, cranberries, peanut butter, nuts)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl
  3. Spoon onto baking sheet (I spray mine first with non-stick coconut oil spray)
  4. Bake for about 25 minutes or until browned on top
  5. Store in an airtight container for up to a week

You can add in your favorite ingredients. Add more honey (or even maple syrup) if you want a sweeter cookie.

Enjoy!

Motherhood: On Holding On & Letting Go

A Heart Shaped Icicle in Valley Forge Park

A Heart Shaped Icicle in Valley Forge Park

Xavier came home from school yesterday very upset. He had a yucky start to the day when one little girl walked up to him and pushed him over as he said good morning and held the door open for her before school had even begun. When I got him home, he told me another kid stole his favorite gloves from him and thought it was funny. He cried for over an hour and begged me not to go back tomorrow.

Before his little eyes were fully opened this morning, he asked from his room, “Ma…is it a school day?” As I told him yes, his entire face sunk and my heart ached for him. The tears flowed and he begged me not to go. Pleading his case quite well, he said he just needed a break and he’d go back next week.

What is the right thing to do here? How far do we go in protecting our kids?

I thought back to a situation when I was in middle school. I was bullied every. single. day. for about 2 years. I’m talking followed home from school, things thrown at me, my locker and bathrooms covered in mean words. It was horrendous and I remember waiting for someone to stick up for me, rescue me. Anyone.

What never occurred to me was to stick up for myself. Why? Well, that’s another blog post (or book). But I didn’t. And that’s when it hit me. Here was my opportunity to teach my son that people only treat you how you allow them to and the importance of getting to the other side of adversity.

So I told him a little bit of my story. About how those girls were mean to me and I didn’t want to go to school either. Then we discovered that there are a lot of other nice kids in the class that he can play with too and maybe just steer clear of the mean ones for a bit. We talked about the different reasons kids might act mean to their friends and he decided to put on his Love More shirt to help them think happy thoughts :)

He hemmed and hawed for a little while and I just let it simmer. Then, about 30 minutes later he asked if there was still time to get to school. And there was. So I reminded him that if he felt like he couldn’t handle things, that I could be there in under 5 minutes.

I didn’t get a phone call :)

When I picked him up I said, “Xavier, I am really proud of you for coming to school today even though it was hard for you.” and he replied,

“I’m very proud of myself, Ma”

And there it was. My eyes filled with tears of joy and pain and relief and so many other feelings, but mostly a sense of contentment . He got it. He gets it. He didn’t do it for my approval, he did it for himself and that’s what’s important in all of this. He trudged through something that felt uncomfortable, made it to the other side and gave himself credit for all of the hard work that he did. YES! YES! YES!

I know that this is just the beginning. As he grows his needs are becoming less physical and more emotional… and for me, it’s one of the most difficult things about motherhood.

When do you listen to your intuition and hold on tight? When is it important to let go and trust that you’ve taught them enough to handle it on their own?

I guess we just have to wing it and hope for the best but I am flying pretty high right now and am going to go score myself some cuddles!

And P.S. We got his gloves back :) 

Rosea Pityriasis Survival Guide

About 2 weeks ago, I was diagnosed by my primary care doc with Pityriasis Rosea after several weeks of a sore throat and the start of an itchy skin rash on my belly (that is now everywhere).

Unfortunately, no one knows how you get it and no one knows how to get rid of it.

It lasts on average 6-8 weeks, and sometimes longer. No working out, no heat (hot yoga, hot showers, etc), and generally do nothing to enflame it. This is NOT gonna fly, I am determined to cut its time short.

So today marks the end of week 2 and it’s beginning to clear up :)

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Clip your nails really short so you can’t scratch yourself. I’m serious. You’ll do it in your sleep without thinking about it & then wind up with scars.
  2. Head to the drugstore and pick up the following:
    1. Head & Shoulders extra strength shampoo. Use this as body wash every night in the shower. I do 2-3 washes with it head to toe. Tip: Keep water warm, not hot – heat will inflame the rash.
    2. Colloidal oatmeal bath to soothe the skin when you need it.
    3. Raw, unrefined, organic coconut oil for after the bath.
    4. Trader Joe’s Coconut Body Butter for after that bath. I found this to be the most soothing.
    5. SheaMoisture Raw Shea Butter infused with Frankincense & Myrrh (sold at Target and online) for after the bath and when your skin feels dry.
  3. You’ll need sunlight to hit the rash daily so if you don’t live somewhere that this is possible, get a tanning package. (Sidenote: I am NOT an advocate of tanning beds, but recalled doctors used to treat acne and other skin conditions this way). I go in the lowest stand up booth for 3 minutes every other day.
  4. Wear loose fitting cotton clothes and no bra or undies when possible. It helps with the itching.
  5. Drink a gallon of water every single day along with upping your Vitamin C intake and boosting your immune system with things such as leafy greens, spirulina, and elderberry.

UPDATE: Today marks the end of week 3 and the rash is 100% gone!!! I still have some dry patches left on my skin, but it’s no longer itchy or spreading! 

I just want to tell the world that you don’t have to suffer through this and there IS something you can do!

Wellness Wednesday: Sneaking in the Healthy

Green Smoothie Date - Chestnut Hill, PA

Green Smoothie Date – Chestnut Hill, PA

When I first began my healthy lifestyle journey, I found it difficult to include some of the most nutrient rich foods simply because I didn’t like the taste. Fortunately for all of us, we can re train our taste buds to like the good stuff - just as they’d been trained to go for the garbage.

It takes some time and deliberate, healthy choices – but mindful eating has the powerful ability to change your life from the inside out.

If you’re not quite ready to grab a head of broccoli as your afternoon snack with delight, sneaking in the healthy stuff works wonders. This also works for picky kids :)

  1. Smoothies: The easiest way to hide the most green veggies like spinach and kale. You can also add chia, flax, or hemp seeds. Bananas drown out the taste of most other things. Pro tip: put this in a colored cup so that kids cannot see that its green.
  2. Oatmeal & Applesauce: The perfect place to add flax meal, chia seeds or spices such as turmeric and cinnamon.
  3. Marinara Sauce: Chop veggies very fine and cook right into your sauces.
  4. Pancakes: Mix in some flax meal and mash up bananas before throwing them onto the griddle.
  5. Eggs: Chop veggies very fine (think just the tree tops of broccoli) and bake into eggs, frittata style or in a cupcake pan. I enjoy spinach, broccoli & sundried tomatoes the most.
  6. Cream cheese: DIY veggie cream cheese by chopping thinly and mixing in. Try bell peppers, broccoli, carrots & chives.

These can serve as some good starting points to rewire your brain. Until then, Buen Provecho!

 

DIY Throat Lozenges

I reached a new level of crunchy mama yesterday, when I decided to make my own throat lozenges.  I’ve had a nagging sore throat for weeks and I’m over it.

DIY Throat Lozenges

 

Ingredients

  • 5 ounces raw organic local honey
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • 5 drops of peppermint essential oil (or to taste, it’s very strong)
  • zest of 1 lemon

Instructions

  1. Combine honey & water in a saucepan & heat over a low flame – bring to a boil
  2. Cover while on low for 4 minutes
  3. Remove from the heat & let cool for 5 minutes
  4. Stir in the lemon zest & peppermint oil
  5. Use a spoon to drop small amounts onto a cookie sheet (Tip: Do NOT use wax paper like in my photo-it sticks!)
  6. Allow it to harden (about 30 minutes) or stick in the fridge to speed up process

Through Xavier’s Eyes: A Photo Journey Through Manayunk

Children are born with an incredible sense of wonder and curiosity. I am a big believer that if we join them in their astonishment of the everyday things we grown ups take for granted, we can cultivate a love of learning they can keep with them their whole lives.

We have always strived to make everything we do an adventure, even the grocery store can be a fun time if you stay present, talk through what you’re doing and make them a part of whatever you’re up to.

As a photographer, I always have cameras laying around so its been a normal part of Xavier’s life. I began explaining the buttons and dials of my Nikon D90 to him when he was about 1 1/2 and get more into detail as he asks more questions.

Showing Xavier Some Buttons

Showing Xavier Some Buttons

Children are able to understand and take in SO SO SO much more than we often give them credit for. Around age 2, Xavier started asking to hold the camera so I made sure my insurance policy was current and told him Of Course! I showed him how to properly hold it, where to look and what buttons to press and he took it from there.

Making Friends in Pretzel Park

Making Friends in Pretzel Park

The other day he woke up from him nap and asked to go on a “photo adventure” where I could push him around Manayunk and he could take pictures :)

Here is what Manayunk looks like through the eyes of Xavier along with his thoughts:

"My favorite old van on Baldwin Street"

“My favorite old van on Baldwin Street”

 

"The BEST Old Car Around - It's sooooo rusty"

“The BEST Old Car Around – It’s sooooo rusty”

 

"My Favorite Tree in Manayunk"

“My Favorite Tree in Manayunk”

 

"Oh Hello Friends! Would You Like Your Picture Taken?"

“Oh Hello Friends! Would You Like Your Picture Taken?”

 

"Look! More Friends on Main Street!"

“Look! More Friends on Main Street!”

 

"What are you working on little buddy?"

“What are you working on little buddy?”

 

"HEY! Do You Guys Have Chocolate Croissants?"

“HEY! Do You Guys Have Chocolate Croissants?”

 

"Hey Jimmy!"

“I really like that blue door, Ma”

 

"Heyyy!"

“Heyyy!”

Aren’t all these smiling faces nice to see? We love Philadelphia :)

Holiday Toy Guide -2014

Play Is the Highest Form of Research

Play Is the Highest Form of Research

When I buy a toy for the house or as a gift, it has to meet some criteria:

  1. Be able to be used for several years and have many functions
  2. Encourage imagination play
  3. Be sturdy/indestructible

I still highly recommend these items from my previous list for children ranging in age from 1-5, but this year we are expanding our skills and honing in on the details of our play, which include tasks such as planning, critical thinking, teamwork and testing/rebuilding.

Here’s what’s on our wish list:

  • Magna Tiles or Mag Formers
  • Lauri Tall Stacker Pegs Building Set
  • Elenco Snap Circuits Jr. Kit
  • Playhouse/Dollhouse – This should be wooden & plain so it can be whatever your child wants it to be. One time it can be a fire station, the next a barbie mansion. They can also spend hours decorating the house with supplies you already have (paper, glue, glitter) Melissa & DougEtsy, or check local consignment stores!
  • Ikea has a number of great, cheap items for open ended play:
    • Fundera Building Blocks
    • Playmats
    • Balance Beams
    • Art Supplies & sturdy Easel
    • Doll furniture for your play house

Happy Shopping!