A journal

Thanks for visiting me at Experiment MOM (Mother of Multiples). My digital Scrap for Hire business, ScraPicts, is coming soon so please check back with me again or Click the Follow Me button on lefthand side of my blog.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A new hobby - Digital Scrapbooking

Oh wow.  I recently discovered digital scrapbooking and I have to say that I am AH-DICT-TED!  I am crafty and I love photography and I have long been a fan of making photobooks for myself and family to collect and share memories. I really tried to get into paper scrapping especially since the kids were born but there were just SO MANY choices of papers and embellishments etc and I could never get to a critical mass of enough STUFF to makes the pages I envisioned and I certainly don't have the space to spread out all the stuff to do it. ENTER digital scrapbooking.  Now all I have to do is think of a theme (first baseball game, trip to the zoo, beautiful nature picture..), search for a digital "kit" of fun matching elements like papers, alphabets, embellishments etc. and after a quick download I am ready to scrap. It takes me an average of 2 hours to design a really nice page with many layers of elements but it can also go very quickly with NO CLEANUP!!  I love it!!  And a bonus is that there is no layout "regret," in that if you cut and paste paper elements you are pretty much committed to that layout. With digital scrapping, you can change and update the layout as often as you like!!

Here is how I got started in digital scrapping.

Google it. Of course. I hit upon ScrapGirls and started reading in the forums about how to get started. I ready about a freeware layout program that was similar to Photoshop Elements called GIMP2.  It works similarly to Photoshop in that you add "layers" of elements and you can control which elements float over or under other elements, their opacity, their size, color, shape. etc.  It works great for me and I love that it is free.

Get "stuff."  In the digital scrapping world these are called elements. Papers, embellishments (like frames, flowers, buttons, tags and cards for journaling, etc), alphabets aka Alphas etc. Well there are a lot of ways, actually. There are a lot of digital designers out there who are very generous and often give out freebies to fans of their facebooks pages, subscribers to their newsletters and/or if you register on their website.  There are also digital stores that offer up many beautiful kits and separate elements at very reasonable prices and often on sale.  Many even offer coupons for a future purchase once you purchase one of their designs.  Coupons are often embedded in the download so be sure to open all the files. Depending on the size of the file and your internet connection, downloads can be slow but worth the time.

Some of my favorite stores are:
ScrapGirls Boutique
Sweet Shoppe Designs
Pixels and Company
Digital Design Essentials
Digital Scrapbooking Studio

Some of my favorite designers are:
Libby Pritchett Designs
Sugar Plum Paperie
Traci Reed Designs

Get inspired.  Google scrapbook pages. Check out designer layout (aka LO) suggestions attached to kits or in their newsletters. Many of the digital stores also have member forums that you allow you to connect with other digital scrappers.  There are often galleries where members share their layouts and this can get you inspired on how to start scrapping.  If you paper scrap, then your ideas can easily translate to digital format.  Subscribing to several digital scrapping email newsletters can also get you inspired.

And since this is my blog I am going to showcase some of my favorite LO's  I hope they get you inspired to give Digital Scrapping a try.

Credits for Marbled Godwits:
Papers: An Innocent Heart Collection from Digital Scrapbooking Studio: AIH6copie, The Urban Fairy
Embellishments: An Innocent heart collection designers: The Happy Heart (thh), Fayette, Sugarplum Paperie
Others: Sugar Plum Paperie Wanderer, Gina Cabrera, Snickerdoodle Designs, Digital House Designs Sara Schmutz Indian Summer

Credits for Sweet As Sugar:
Papers: LLO_BoyJoy (Laura Louie)
Embellishments: An Innocent Heart Collection from Digital Scrapbooking Studio Designers: Happy Scrap Girl, Mandy King, Dianne Rigdon,
WordArt: Libby Pritchett from A Spoonful of Sugar collection

Day at the Beach credits
Paper: Mommy Me Time Scrapper_Popthecork
Embellishments: Erika Zane_Grow, Journaling_Prompt by Gina Cabrera

Make sure you have a good firewall, that you have enough memory to run your layout program and store your digital files and that you only download and open files from sites you trust. You also will need an unzip program.

In my future posts I will talk about many Digital scrapping topics like (not in any particular order)
1. getting organized
2. printing your digital creations
3. crediting the designers who created all the elements you use in a Layout
4. designing your own nameplate for blog post
5. What is a TOU? What does S4H/S4O mean? and other abbreviations
6. my creative process

Monday, January 14, 2013

Kids' Room Jungle Decor - Update

So I have been working on the kids' room for a couple of months now and I thought this was a good time to give an update. We decided on a Jungle theme as I already had some crib sheets in the Zoo Menagerie pattern that I made before the kids were born.  You'll recall from my Inspiration Board post that I had assembled a few ideas for adding some mix and match giraffe and elephants to the room.  So here is what we have done so far.

Walls: My mother-in-law gave us these really cute wall decals called Jungle Adventure from RoomMates that we absolutely love. In fact, we loved them so much we shared some picts of the decorated room and they wrote a very cute blog post about our nursery. I'd like to thank Nicole at RoomMates for the awesome articles that you can find here.  (PS Full disclosure: I was awarded a small gift certificate to use in a later purchase for submitting pictures of the room but I wasn't given any of the products by the company to test out or give my opinions about beforehand.)  They are so easy to use, repositionable, reusable and Made in the USA in York PA as well as being very affordable.  Here are some picts of how we used the various animals....
Here you'll see my decorated wooden letters (purchased from Michaels) that I then painted navy and Mod Podged cutouts from the Zoo Menagerie fabric to each letter. The letters are hanging on the wall with command hook poster tabs. Here is a close up of the letter Y.

 You'll also notice that I bought two of the Etsy art pieces of the elephants on the navy chevrons and mounted them with double sided tape to canvases and hung them up over the changing table.
Cheeky Monkey

The green lanterns that you'll recall that I used for the Very Hungry Caterpillar birthday have been repurposed and decorated with fabric cutouts of navy elephants. They are hanging by fishing line on command hooks from the shelf.  You can see here as well that the RoomMates can also be used on furniture (see that alligator on top of the bookshelf?)

Here are the adorable Growth Charts and Matching 8x10 print from Eric Sturtevant adorning the entry of the room.  We decided to get the Growth charts laminated (at Kinkos for like 4$ each) because we knew the kids would just pick at them and destroy them otherwise.  They are hanging my command hook poster tabs.

Furniture and lighting:
We haven't changed much in terms of furniture although I did reupholster the two miniature rocking chairs that I got from my paternal grandparents in a green chevron material.

We also added this very cute Barnslig Ringdans rug and the Skojig Pendant Lamp (plug-in) from Ikea.  At some point I think I'll get the matching table lamp now that we are not using the changing table as a changing table any longer and maybe even some of the Barnslig sheets and duvet covers in the chartreuse color.

Curtains - work in progress
I started making some curtains for the big window but I haven't hemmed them up yet.  Here is what they will look like eventually.

The next big thing other than finishing up the curtains is to decorate the very plain sliding closets doors.  RoomMates is coming out with a large scale tall giraffe and tree branch with toucan (seen here in their 2013 sneak peeks blog post) which I think will be awesome for decorating the large plain white closet doors

as well adding a peel and stick Wall clock if they come out with a kids version (or maybe I'll use this colorful one..)

SO that about sums it up. I am pretty happy with it so far and the kids love to do elephant, lion and snake noises.  Too adorable!!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Rainy Day Craft - Building Blocks

Here's a pretty simple and fun craft that you and the toddlers can do together.  To make some fun and durable stacking blocks from cardboard boxes, you'll need:

Sturdy cardboard boxes - I used 2 cleaned and dried 1/2 gallon milk containers and doubled them (i'll show you how below) and some sturdy larger boxes from products from Costco, like the Goldfish cracker box and the 4lbs of raisins outer box. I figure they have to be able to withstand the sitting and standing from my 24ish lb toddlers to not be immediately crushed and worthless for stacking.

Sharp knife if using 1/2 gallon milk containers

Colored tape - I used Scotch Decorative Packing Tape and colored Duck brand duct tape

Scissors (if decorating without the kids)

So basically you tape up the boxes and decorate with tape.  Pretty simple.  In order to make a more sturdy 1/2 gallon box, cut the spout portion off the tops of your milk jugs with a sharp knife and insert one box into the other.  Push together until you have one box completely inside the other.  Then decorate as you see fit.

I decorated a couple of the boxes while the kids were sleeping. I tried to make nice straight diagonal lines and found that the packing tape is very see-through and some of the colored duct tapes are also kinda see-through.  But who really cares?  I also let the kids decorate some of the boxes.  Well, they tried anyways. They mostly just got tape stuck to their hands.

The duck brand duct tape doesn't rip as nicely as regular silver duct tape, so the edges aren't very clean (and i didn't want to have any sort of scissors with the kids..)

 My kids love to stack and as a bonus the colorful rings of duct tape are fun for stacking AND fun for wearing as bracelets...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Travel NIGHTMARE - warning Foul language ahead

So here is the story...We were in Pittsburgh PA visiting my husband's family over the holidays.  There had a been a big snowstorm (the first of the season) on the day after Christmas, but everything was pretty well cleaned up by the 29th, the day that we were flying back to CA.  We left my mother-in-law's house at about 615AM for a 9AM flight.  The roads were slippery as it was snowing lightly but we figured we had left plenty of time, especially since it takes at least an hour to get to the airport form her house anyways.  It was a Saturday so no regular traffic on the roads.  The drive out was fine - it took us more like a hour 15 to get there and then we gassed up and returned the rental car.  So far so good - running a few minutes behind but nothing crazy.  That is until we get to the baggage drop LINE!  It was seriously a mile long. They have two people working.  Kt was madness. At this point the kids are awake enough to not sit in their car seats so we have to take turns running around the airport with them. It too about a half hour to get through the baggage drop and we hadn't even gotten to the security line yet, which was 2 miles long!!  This puts us at about 845 and we were like - no way are we making our 9AM flight. Getting through security with two kids and all their stuff that has to be hand checked etc take a good extra 5-10 minutes. Ugh. We were resigned tot he fact that we were already going to miss our flight.  So we get through security at right about 9AM and they announce that the doors for our flight will be open for another 3 minutes.  OH WELL we better RUN!!  RUN!!!  To the last gate at the end of the terminal of course!!!  And then we have to get our tags for the gate checked car seats - OH MY GOD we actually made it.  I am sure everyone is glaring at us for making them 5 minutes late taking off but i wouldn't know because I am trying to hurry up and pack myself and my kid and the diaper bag and my winter coat into the tiny window seat. Oh and fun surprise - my husband and my other baby are across the aisle in the middle seat of a three seat row. CONVENIENT!  Turns out my husband hadn't been able to access the seat plan the night before when he printed out the boarding passes and we didn't have any options to change seats because we were so late boarding. Oh well it's only a couple hours to Dallas, I say in my head.  SO then we are waiting and waiting for the doors to close and it gets to be about a half hour later and the pilot comes on and tells us we have to go through the de-icing line because of the snow...of course we do.  So we taxi over and get de-iced, another half hour - that's already an hour late taking off.  But then he comes on and tells us that he is waiting for some paperwork from the ground and something about using a different wing angle or some nonsense that he was waiting for approval from the main office (in Dallas) and then we would be "all set to go." Another half hour and suddenly we are low on gas and have to RETURN TO THE GATE!!  to get refueled. At this point, people are pissed. We are two hours sitting on the tarmac.  People demand to get off the plane (really, have some patience people. Shit happens..do you really think it's going to be better if you get off??) Anyways, the lady in the row with my husband ended up getting off so he was like SWEET, an extra seat to spread out in....We got our obligatory granola bar (because, as the many aggravated folks around us gossiped, if they don't feed us after 2 hours the airline gets fined heftily..)  They did left us have our electronic devices turned on for some of this sitting around which was actually super annoying because all people were doing was calling relatives and complaining about the situation.  And then almost everyone gets the call from the airline that our flight is delayed..Yeah no SHIT SHERLOCK!  So another half hour (luckily both kids are napping by this time...) and the people who had deboarded actually got back on the plane after they realized (DUH) that their options were no better than just waiting out this flight. UGH.  Back to sardine squashiness.  As soon as we do that we have to - you guessed it - go back through the de-icing line!!  YEAH!!   And I think at one point the airplane actually got stuck in the snow on the tarmac.  SO we ended up taking off at 1230PM. Yep 3.5 hours after our scheduled departure.  and it doesn't end there...

OK so we get to Dallas about 10 minute before our connecting flight to Orange County (aka John Wayne aka Santa Ana) is supposed to leave. UGH.  We didn't want to push it because the kids needed some running around and feeding time o luckily by the time we got to the gate the flight had departed. In hindsight maybe we would have hurried our asses up and got to our flight.  The gate agent tells us that we are "booked" on the next flight to the OC which leaves around 6PM. OK great. We go and have some food and let the kids run around for an hour and saunter on back to the gate about a hour before the flight.  Well it turns out we were not indeed booked on the flight but put on the Standby list.  We were 9 and 10 on the Standby list. So we talk with the Gate agent and she gives us this spiel about how Santa Ana airport has short runways so they have to fly the plane with weight restrictions and for this flight they would have to fly with 11 open seats!  Just great!  BUT, the gate agent adds, we could get on the flight to LA that departed at about the same time. Oh super!  And how exactly we were going to get home from LA? Taxi?  We had "planned" on having a friend pick up up at John Wayne but due to all the delays that plan had fallen through.  It would only add about 45 minutes onto our trip but at least we would be in CA and not in TX.  Ok so we get on the LA flight...where did our bags end up? Who knows!  So we get to LA at about 7PM Pacific and we get us and the kids off the plane and the airline tells us that they have chartered a bus to take us to John Wayne where our bags will meet us.  Cool.  This was actually the least stressful part of the whole trip because it was a big touring bus and there were tons of empty seats. The kids were fascinated to look out the windows and we didn't have to be squashed in by our carry on bags. So we get to John Wayne, get our bags and hail a  cab.  We got home at 9PM. Yep that is 18 hours of traveling with two toddlers.  They were amazingly good (except for a mini meltdown in a restaurant).  And now I remember why I hate snow!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Traveling with Toddlers!

So this past December we took on the foreboding challenge of traveling across country with our twin 16month old toddlers.  Most parents I talked to said "Good luck - hahaha!!"  and as a result I was a tad terrified.  I consulted friends, blogs, mom's groups etc. for tips and tricks for traveling with kids and all their stuff.  Prechildren, my husband and I were used to traveling light and efficiently; we usually packed for a week in our carry-on, and got through security in a flash by wearing slip-on shoes, no belts or jewelery or coats, only the minimum of toiletries etc.  With kids, not so much.  Car Seats, winter gear (heading from sunny southern CA to wintery Western PA, in December...), diapers, snacks, toys, books, that sleeping turtle that projects stars so the kids can sleep etc etc etc....I knew that in order to assuage my anxiety I had to get organized. So I've assembled a few tips that worked for us..and THEN I'll relate our NIGHTMARE traveling home story...stay tuned.

1. Ditch the stroller.  We have a huge double CityMini stroller that is great for the malls and walking in the parks but in reality we knew we would only be using the stroller in the airports, if at all.  The kids are 16 months so don't even want to ride in the stroller and we like to let them walk to tire them out if it is convenient and safe to do so.  We also were heading to Western PA where it probably would be snowy and cold so we weren't planning on going out for a nice family stroll around the block and we also were planning on visiting a lot of relatives, all of which live on hills with gobs of steps or hills to mount to get to their houses.  Not stroller friendly anyways!!  So instead of the stroller, we heard about theses gadgets called Travelmates from GoGoBabyz. GENIUS!!  These are little wheeled carts that you attach with a couple of straps to your carseat and the kicker is that the kids can actually ride in them!!  Basically you turn your kid into wheeled luggage!!  This worked out brilliantly for us.  We had to bring the carseats anyways because we would be getting a rental car at our destination and even though the kids were riding on our laps on the plane we just gate checked the seat with the cart attached and voila they were always waiting for us on the jetway by the time we gathered all our stuff and actually disembarked. The kids though it was great fun to be wheeled around and it saved our necks and backs from hauling around the toddlers when they decided they didn't want to walk anymore.  During our layovers, we used the seats to haul our carryons while the kids ran all over the terminals checking out christmas decorations and looking out the windows at the planes on the tarmac.
Here are some picts of my hubby and the kids in the carseats with the Travelmates attached...

Luckily we have a mommy network through which I was able to borrow two of these gadgets instead of having to buy them but if you travel often with kids and carseats, I HIGHLY recommend these!!!  Just as a sidenote, we always asked for the carseat/travelmate to be hand-checked through security so we didn't have to take them apart but they were pretty easy to take apart  and put back together once you watch the video on their website on how to do it. It's simple, I promise!!

2. Make diaper/changing kits before you go.  So you all probably know that I have been cloth diapering the kids since they were born, but when we travel I have personally found it easier to use disposables.  I decided that I would try to make traveling a tad more efficient by making up 8-10 diaper changing kits (for the two kids, traveling for an estimated 6-8 hours). I HATE fumbling around in the diaper bag for a diaper and the wipes package while trying to wrangle a squirmy toddler on a plane, so I made these kits consisting of three disposable wet wipes in a small sandwich ziplock and a diaper, both packed inside a sandwich-sized ziplock.  So this might seem like a bit of overkill on the ziplock front, but the outer ziplock serves as a containment bag for that inevitably super-stinky diaper you will be changing on a plane-full of people.  Believe me, your flightmates will thank you for bagging up that dipey before you leave it in the restroom.  Extra unused wipes can stay in their own ziplock for future use (and small enough to stick in your pocket unlike a giant pack of wipes) and you are done.
Here are a couple picts of my kits:

My husband especially really liked these little kits which were easy grab-and-go so he didn't have to haul a big diaper bag into the restroom.   One little trick to making these kits is to make sure you squeeze out all the air of both ziplocks before you seal them.  That way they will take up as little space as possible in the diaper bag.  These are also great if you don't want to haul your whole giant diaper bag into, say, a relative's house, you can just throw one or two kits in your pocketbook.

3. Organize your diaper bag carry-on.  Chaos make me anxious.  So I decided to TRY to organize the diaper bag as much as possible. I knew of course that everything would get all out of whack on the journey but at least it's nice to start from an organized place.  I packed two sets of emergency clothing changes (t-shirts and athletic shorts) laid in the very bottom of the bag, followed by a few books laid flat and a couple of small toy cars in one of the inside pockets.  One side was packed with snacks - goldfish, pretzel goldfish, small 100 calorie packs of snack mixes, raisin and dried cranberry snack boxes, and yes some cookie packs.  When your kid is melting down in the airport, you have to bring out the high value bribes!! I am not a fan of traveling with perishables.  You never know when you are going to be traveling for 18 hours!!  (see my NIGHTMARE travel story...).  Bottles fit in the outside pockets and I generally carry milk (and buy milk at the airport, although we were able to get milk on the plane on one leg of our journey) and bottled water.

4. Put the kids in rubber-soled slipper socks instead of shoes. I really liked the Skidders rubber soled socks or the Rubberoos or Skidders soft rubber bottom shoes.  They are both great for airport and airplane surfaces and just as a note, you don't have to take kids' shoes off to go through security.  The socks are great because you don't have to take them off for dipey changes (I always take their shoes off, easier to get their pants back on). They are also harder to kick off and thus lose under an airplane seat that you can't reach with your diaper bag and kid on your lap.  Just makes things easier and it's two fewer thing to lose.

5. Take liquids!!  When you are traveling with kids, I found that the security guards are pretty lenient about liquids. Now, we were traveling on Christmas Eve (and back on December 29th) through smallish airports (Santa Ana CA and Pittsburgh PA) so maybe the guards are lenient anyways but I was able to pass through sippy cups and bottles with milk and water (just send them through the xray and tell the guard they are formula) and they will probably hand check them once they pass through the xray machine.  I also put through several kids' liquid medications (4oz and larger) packed in quart ziplocks (more for leaking than anything) and didn't get any hassle about them. As long as they are marked for kids you can usually get away with it.

6. Backpack harnesses for safety's sake.  Ok, I know some of you one-child or childless people are saying sarcastically, "so you put your kids on a leash, like a dog" while rolling your eyes. "How about teaching your child to hold your hand and walk nicely beside you"?  Um, yeah I was that person two years ago. But you know what, when you have two toddlers walking running in different directions when your husband is going to get the rental car and they REFUSE to sit in their carseats for one more minute you will be thankful you had them.  This happened to us and though I know I got some weird looks, it was better to be able to hold onto both children than have them run all willy-nilly around the baggage claim area.  We got a couple of the inexpensive Goldbug harnesses that are like stuffed animals and their tails are the leashes and the lids loved to snuggle with them and look over their shoulders at the monkey or puppy face. We also used them at Disneyland this past weekend and it worked for us.  On a side note I will not be taking another under-2 year old to Disneyland - ever!

7. If you travel with multiple lap children, book front to back seats. Did you know that you cannot have two lap children  in a two or three seat row?  This is because there are only enough oxygen masks stored above any row for the number of seats +1. In an emergency (god forbid), if a full 3 seat row had two lap children, one person would be without a mask.  So it makes sense to book back to front (and I prefer the window) seats on the plane.  That way your kids can look over the seats at you and dad and you can pass stuff back and forth easily. And if you have a seat kicker, put him in the back seat so at least you are annoying only your own family.  This all being said, also pack yours and the other adult's carry on with snacks, diaper kits and some toys in case you get separated or you cannot get back to front seats.  This happened to us twice (we ended up in one case back to front but one on the aisle and one in the window and another time across the aisle.) and people were willing to hand stuff back and forth between us, but it was annoying and I hate to annoy people if I can avoid it.

So I think that wraps up the tips and tricks portion of my traveling posts.  Oh, a lot of people bring ipads, iphones and ipods for kids to use on the plane. That is all well and good once you get in the air, but consider bringing some non-electronic entertainment, especially for the unlikely but extremely aggravating event that you are on the tarmac with electronic restrictions for 3+ hours. Yep, it happened to us...and onward to the fun part..our NIGHTMARE travel story.....(my next blog post when I get a chance to write it!!)

Do you have some tried and true tips and tricks for traveling with kids!!  Would love to hear them!!


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