Jack’s Big Announcement Photoshoot

Announcement

 

Jack finally spilled the beans! He will be a Big Brother in September! We tried to let Lilu be part of the announcement pictures also, but she was just eating the jelly beans.

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Oh well. I made the signs with some paint and my Cricut. The eggs were from Target, and I just used crayon to write on them. I had a great time making them even though I don’t know what I’m going to do with them now, maybe put them in the new baby’s memory box.

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When I found out, it was during one of the few snow storms we had this year. Matt was outside shoveling, so I left a note on the door that said “You make me sick!” He came in saying “What’d I do? and I told him to open the note. Inside read “Because you knocked me up.” He already had a hunch that I was pregnant anyway, and we celebrated with him drinking some wine and me having some ginger ale.
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I’m 14 weeks along right now. It still feels surreal, and I am a bit nervous still.  Jack is and this baby will be a Rainbow Baby, a term I only recently learned.  A Rainbow Baby is a baby born after a family has suffered a miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death or infant loss. These babies are rainbows after terrible storms. Even though I am passed the “safe zone,” I am still worried. (I have gone through two miscarriages, and it was terrible. I cannot imagine the pain that accompanies full-term loss). I have been trying not to worry too much though. I believe that keeping in a positive state of mind and thinking good thoughts while pregnant will mean a happy thinking baby, so here’s to optimism and wonderful thoughts. We can’t wait to see who has been growing inside me all this time!
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Grinch Ornaments for Giacomo’s 1st Birthday

It’s crazy to believe a whole year has gone by since my Mr. Man came into the world. I always say that the day he was born it felt like an explosion, that my heart grew 3 sizes that day like the Grinch. So for his first birthday, we had a Grinch themed party. Giacomo had such fun playing with his cousins, family, and friends.

Jack s party 2

I would have just had pizza and subs, but my sisters and mom took over and insisted on cooking a feast of antipasto salad (Truffula Salad), chicken cutlets (Roast Beast), sausage and peppers, kielbasa, pierogies, baked beans, pasta, potatoes and peas (Who Hash), and a 6 foot sub.  For I took over and went crazy.I couldn’t have done any of this without their help. I definately have the best family!

Jack s party 3

For dessert nieces made chocolate dipped marshmallows and decorated sugar cookies, while I went nuts making cupcakes, chocolate pretzels, Rolo pretzels, Oreo balls, pumpkin cheesecake, Rice Krispie Treats,  a regular cake and a smash cake for Jack, and Who Pudding. The kids even enjoyed a Hot Cocoa bar.

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To thank everyone for celebrating, I made Christmas ornaments of the Grinch and his heart.

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For the Grinch ornaments, I swirled green paint inside the ornaments and left them upside down to dry. After two days I had to recoat. I let them dry about a week before adding the Grinch face.

Grinch

I layered yellow vinyl over black vinyl cuts for the ornament. Using the Cricut Explore, I cut the Grinch face by uploading  as a simple image. (I uploaded it twice, once for the face and once for the eyes). grinch clipart

I’ve made glitter ornaments with Glitter-It in the past, but I finally decided to try the mop & Glo method I’ve seen on craft sites and Pinterest. It does work, and it’s super quick! Just swirl the M&G in the ornament, drain out the excess, add in glitter, shake it up to coat, and tap out the extra glitter. Glitter-It works great, but so does M&G, and the giant bottle is way cheaper.

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I feel like the heart ornaments went with my whole year’s theme. All year I’ve been writing about the joys of the heart as well as heartache. The year started with my heart growing with Jack’s birth, and since then I’ve written about the joys of being a mom, the heartache of leaving baby, The Mighty Quinn’s Heart surgery, my dad’s heart attack, and now again, the joys of being a Mom.

Jack s party 1

I was driving home from the party, I was thinking how it was the first time I did something really “Mom,” and it was the first time I felt like Mom. Feeling like mom is subtly different than feeling like a mother or a mommy, and I’m not sure how to explain it, but giving my son a fun birthday made me feel like a Mom, and I loved it.

Jack’s Christening

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Since going back to work, I really have been working for the weekend. I always thought I was busy all week, until I had someone else to care for everyday. I can’t imagine how people with more than one child do it, let alone people with twins! We christened Jack 2 weeks ago, and I figured that I did a lot of baking and crafting for all my nieces’ and nephew’s parties, I should at least make some favors for my own baby’s party. In order to do any of it I had my nieces come over and entertain him. (Something I never thought about needing to do before). The girls were great. Jack loves them. They played and danced with him while I filled chocolate molds and baked and decorated cookies.

Jack and Nancy_Christening

Our family’s tradition is to have the baby’s godmother bathe and dress the baby before church, so Nancy came over and immediately started yelling at me and Matt because we weren’t ready either. I’m no fool. If she was going to get the baby ready that meant I’d have more time for myself. 🙂

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At our church, they christen several babies at once. Jack was the loudest baby there. He DID NOT like being so hot in his outfit, or the fact that his bottle wasn’t warm enough the whole time. Surprisingly, he didn’t cry at all when he was being baptized. He loves baths, and I think he was expecting to be allowed to jump into the water. It was a lovely ceremony and my niece was picked to help the Deccan.  We were so happy to celebrate afterwards.

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For his party I wanted a lamb theme. It was so close to Easter, so there was a lot of lamb baby things around, and it’s a nice, neutral baptism theme. The girls were able to help me make the centerpiece for the favors (apothecary jar filled with yarn balls), and they made the centerpieces for everyone’s dining tables. These cute lambs doubled as a kid craft and a party piece. The girls were entertained and knew they helped with the party. A win-win!

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For favors, everyone helped themselves to a variety of treats. I Made lots of chocolate crosses and a tall jar of white and blue sprees and whoppers for people’s treat bags, and I made 3 different kinds of cookies. I decorated chocolate covered Oreos with a blue chocolate cross. The lamb cookies were basic cream cheese cookies iced white (royal icing) with some white edible pearls. I added cinnamon, nutmeg, and some black pepper (just a touch)to the cream cheese dough to make the cross cookies.  I decorated them with royal icing and a lamb chocolate mold.

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The non-edible favor was tiny finger rosaries. They were so sweet! Instead of a cross, they have an angel. I twice the amount needed so everyone could take more than one (which everyone did). I put a set on my car’s emergency brake for luck. I ordered them from this Etsy shop. I love them!

It was Also Angelina’s Birthday. She’s 14!!!!!!!!! I can’t believe how time flies!!IMG_7710

Using my Cricut Explore for Giacomo’s First Craft Project

I’ve been dying to use my Christmas gift since Christmas, the new Cricut Explore. I had a Cricut Expressions and thought it was silly to buy a new machine, but I wanted the new model so badly! It has easy material settings, can cut, score, and write on all kinds of material, and the design space online is awesome. All cartridges are uploaded into one space, and you can use multiple cartridges at once while designing each project.  I was so excited when Matt got it for me for Christmas.

I haven’t had the time to play with it until our recently. Giacomo takes up lots of time, and I had to wait for a day Matt was off of work. I started a simple design for Giacomo’s first craft project!  I saw the idea on Pinterest, of course.

Hand Sign

The phrase reads: First we had each other (12/12/00), Then we had you (12/12/14), Now we have everything.

We did the hand prints first. Matt’s first, then mine, then Giacomo’s tiny hand! How cute! I had to wait for him to sleep to do it, but it was still a bit difficult ( I see now why there are so many baby feet crafts as opposed to hand crafts). I did two signs in case one got messed up. Both came out great, so one will go into his memory box and one into his scrapbook.

After the hand prints dried I loaded the pages for the Cricut. I wrote the phrase directly on the page because I didn’t want to cut the letters and have to glue them onto the page, plus I wanted to try out the silver pen the machine came with. Loading the pen is easy. The Explore has a separate pen loading spot because it can simultaneously write and cut.

Cricut Pen

I used the design space to figure out where I wanted the phrase. In hindsight, I should have done the writing first and put the handprints around the phrases, but this happened to work out.

When designing something in design space, if you want your design to print and cut exactly as it looks on screen, you have to select all your design boxes and attach them in the layers panel.  This is as opposed to cutting to conserve paper, like if you were going to glue letters onto a bigger project.

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Just hit print and go! I think it came out great.

print Printing

I put one copy on the lid of his memory box.

Memory Box

So far, his box has his birth announcement, the box of chocolate cigars, His first little toy my niece got him, his hospital bracelets, his first Christmas hat, and the first blanket, shirt, hat, socks, and gloves from the hospital.

Memory Box

So far the box fits right on his bookshelf. Hopefully I won’t need a bigger box by the end of the year!

Memory Box

Life with Jack

Oh wow; babies are exhausting! I know you’re supposed to know that, but I don’t think the fact can ever be truly appreciated until you actually have your own baby. See I have plenty of baby experience thanks to my nieces and nephew, but I was always able to return them at the end of the night. This new parent thing is totally different.

Jack's first bath

I never in a million years thought that I’d be unfazed by someone peeing, pooping, and/or puking on me, but I haven’t thought twice about cupping my hands to catch whatever might get squirted at me. Sure I’ve changed some gross diapers, but it was always gross. To really not care that my shoulder smells like spit-up, my hand has been pooped on, and my baby just peed across the room is an Angela who never occurred to me would exist even just two months ago.

Mr. Man

In my head, babies slept all the time. So I’d change and feed him, but I’d have time to clean my house or rest or maybe even read a magazine. Oh what a fool I was! Babies are more than a full time job. Especially colic babies. Many nights he’s up for hours crying. It’s a pretty helpless feeling when he’s crying and nothing at all makes him feel better. What works one night doesn’t necessarily work the next. I’ve even altered my own diet to see if that eases some discomfort for him. So far, it hasn’t. I think he has reflux too. My poor baby!

The weirdest thing about being a new mom isn’t the all-nighters or the sloppy clean-ups. It’s how much those things don’t bother me at all. I love it. I always loved kids, but babies were too much for me. The fussing, the helplessness, the fragility, it was all too intimidating. How would I even know what to do? But I love that I know how to soothe him, that I am responsible for taking care of him, that he is safe in my arms. It all came second nature.

People tell you “sleep while baby is sleeping.” Instead I often just watch him sleep.  I’m told I shouldn’t spoil him by holding him too much or rocking him too much or letting him fall asleep in my arms. But there’s part of my head that panics because I know that in a few years it’ll be a fight to get a hug from him. So I let him snuggle and I dance around with him in my arms.

 

This little man has also made a change in Matt. To see him dote over our baby has made me fall in love with him all over again. He can calm Jack when no one else can, not even me. Sometimes Jack will stop crying the second he is in Matt’s arms. I think every woman finds nothing more attractive than a man loving his child.

Matt and Jack

I’m trying to enjoy my baby now while I’m home. Even though I still have some time off, I get myself upset thinking of going back to work. I guess every mom goes through the feeling. It doesn’t make the feeling any easier. I’m hoping that by the time I have to go back I’ll at least be more comfortable with leaving him.

In the meantime, I’ll be trying to finish his nursery, start his scrapbook, and get as much snuggle time in as possible!

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! Unfortunately my hands have been so swollen and my carpel tunnel  has gotten worse, so I haven’t been as crafty as I’d like to be. But even still, in these past few weeks I’ve certainly have had a lot to be thankful for. Two weeks ago, my family threw me a beautiful baby shower. They really surprised me, too. I thought my shower would be the next day, so when I walked into a room filled with my friends and family I was truly surprised. Based on a bunch of owl ceramics I’ve made for the baby’s nursery, my sisters and mom planned an owl theme shower, complete with a cake and even an owl basket.

Owl ThemeOwl Theme

The amount of loved ones and the generous gifts they brought for my baby was so overwhelming.

My Wonderful Guests My Awesome Family

I still haven’t disassembled my diaper cakes, owl, or carriage because they’re so pretty!

Diaper Creations

My favorite gesture was all the books everyone brought to start baby’s library.  My friends at my weekly ceramics class also threw me a small shower. Even though I haven’t been able to paint, they still made sure I had opening gifts and eating some adorable cupcakes.

Ceramics Shower

Since the showers I’ve been spending my spare time putting together baby furniture and toys (which takes a lot longer with swollen hands)and trying to get everything in order.  I could go any day now! I actually really enjoy being pregnant. I’ve been very lucky. I didn’t get any morning sickness, and my biggest complaint is some back pain which mostly comes at night.  It’s so amazing feeling a little person dance around inside me. I think feeling the baby’s movements is what I’ll miss the most.  Of everything I’ve ever been blessed with, this baby is the greatest gift I’ve ever received.

Owls!

Last night I designed a Thanksgiving shirt to show my gratitude. I designed the shirt on my computer and printed it on iron on paper I had left over from a few other shirts I’ve made. You can buy iron on paper and print your own designs to custom make anything. The shirt may only be good for one time use,  but I love it!

Thankful

Thankful Me and Mom

Sweet Start to Spring

What a wonderful few weeks I’ve been having. I feel like every week has been crammed with  one happy blessing after another. For example, my niece Angelina was recently named the “Most Improved Student of the Year” at her intermediate school.

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I am so proud of her. She works so hard and has come so far. To recognize the accomplishment, she and other “Most Improved” students from neighboring schools were recognized at the Lakewood Blueclaws stadium. Her fun didn’t end there, though.

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Thanks to my dear friend Lisa (!), Angelina and her sister Jenna were able to be “Mini Manager’s” for the game.

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They got to meet the coach, the players, and Roy White was visiting the stadium, so they met him too!

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After their meet and greet, they opened the game shouting “play ball” to the crowd with the Blueclaws mascot, Buster.

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A week later I had the greatest birthday ever. The day before my birthday, Matt successfully defended his dissertation.

Chatting up with the dean

After 6 years at Rutgers, he finally was able to show off all his hard work and research findings.

Congratulations, Matt!

His defense was interesting, insightful, and very well received.Yakoby Lab

He is now officially Dr. Matthew Gene Niepielko! I am so proud to be called his wife.Me and Dr. Cheese!

We celebrated that day with a bowling outing, and later that weekend at our town’s food festival.Food galore, and Mister Softie was there too!Angelina Getting Mister Softee

My birthday is close to my niece Olivia’s, so we had a joint celebration on Sunday.

Happy Birthday, Liv!

This past weekend, Matt’s cousin got married, and I sat behind the cutest groomsman ever!Cutest Groomsman EVER

We celebrated our beautiful mothers on Sunday, and we almost finished with our rock garden.

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It was another fabulous weekend! This week, I’m planning my May wreath so I can keep that wreath resolution. Woohoo!

Happy Birthday Nancy!

Maria, Nancy, and Me <3
Today is my oldest sister’s birthday. Nancy is 8 years older than me, which is a relatively large gap. The other day I found this BuzzFeed that really nails our relationship:

 
 
For the most part, it’s all true. We never ever fought growing up, she was very motherly to me when I was a kid, and as we get older we get closer. I must have been such a nuisance to her growing up. She was always babysitting me, and I was not the most pleasant child. I’m sure I didn’t listen, I was mean, I was annoying, I was a picky eater (so taking me with her to eat must’ve been a hassle), and a brat. But she took me with her everywhere and dealt with me. And can’t ever remember Nancy being mean to me. Ever. I don’t think much has changed. I’m probably still a brat and still annoy her, and she still endures me.
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Yesterday we had dinner at her house for her birthday, and I took my nieces on a wild goose chase for an Alex and Ani bracelet for their mom. They had saved up money to get her one for her birthday, but of course the closest store with the bracelets was closed. We did find Wind & Fire bracelets, which look very much the same. Jenna picked our the slot machine bangle for her mom. How fitting 😉 Her girls also made her lots of gifts, including rainbow loom bracelets, beautiful pictures and these adorable clay figurines Angelina sculpted.
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Most people don’t know it, but I get some of my crafty side from Nancy. About 15 years ago, it was Nancy’s bright idea to go to ceramics class every Tuesday. We went to that class for a long time before life got too busy, but I started going back about 2 years ago. It was also Nancy who taught me how to use chocolate molds to make handmade candies, and from that came my love of baking and decorating. Every now and then she’ll ask me for help with a craft project, and I always try to remind her that she actually is the crafty one. She just pretends she isn’t.
 
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That will be harder now that she was the organizer of my niece’s school play. Nancy not only organized the play, she and the other mom’s also designed and created all of the sets and costumes. She did such a fantastic job with the play, and Jenna did a wonderful job with her role as “The Flower Selling Villager.” 
Jenna's Play
 
Happy Birthday Nancy! I hope you had a wonderful day! 
  

 

Birthdays and Weight Cake

Last weekend we celebrated Dad’s birthday, and after weeks of keeping quiet we celebrated my brother-in-law’s surprise 40th birthday.

Nancy was able to plan the surprise party without Ben having any idea. She themed the party “Fit and Forty,” and we designed invitations and favor labels to match.

For centerpieces, Nancy used foam circles and paper towel tubes, hot glues them, and painted them to look like dumbbells. Even the cake was in theme. It was actually very simple to make.

We used 2 paper towel rolls as the bar and baked a 6 inch, 12 inch, and two 8 inch round cakes as the weights. We cut the cakes in half and placed them but side down on opposite ends of the cake board. We iced the cake and the tube with fondant* and colored it with Wilton spray food coloring.** We sprayed the bar first, then once it was dried, we covered the bar with a towel and sprayed the cake with black food coloring.

*You can’t ice a cake with only fondant. In order for the fondant to “stick,” and for a smooth look, you need a layer of regular icing over your cake.

**Certain colors, like black, red, and metallic colors, are much easier as sprayed on than actually dying the icing. The sprays smell kind of strange at first, but once they dry, the smell is gone and they are pretty tasteless.

We had extra  fondant and silver coloring, so we made tiny toppers for cupcakes. We used stirrer straws as tiny bars, and small fondant balls as the weights.

The cake and cupcakes came out great, and the party was fantastic. Ben was genuinely surprised, and we had a great time. A weekend of good food, family, and friends. I was wonderful!

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Happy New Year!

Happy new year! I hope your holiday was as blessed as mine! This year I was very excited to host Christmas lunch at my house with Matt’s family. It was the first time in a long time that all his brothers and sisters were able to make Christmas. Unfortunately we didn’t even think to take any pictures until the end of the afternoon after Mindy left, so I poorly photo-shopped her into a picture.

My mom hosts Christmas dinner every year. If you read about our Italian picnics  or Thanksgiving dinner, you’d guess that Christmas dinner  is about 7 hours long and filled with food, presents, and dinner theater  (the kids singing Christmas carols between courses).

I was lucky enough to have the whole week between Christmas and New Years off and got to spend the time catching up with some of my friends. My ten year high school reunion (holy smokes) was over the break, and I got to see people I haven’t talked to (outside of Facebook) in years. It was so fun to see everyone and I hope we can manage to stay better in touch! I also met up with my team punctuation (who I owe my * name to), minus our !, so again, I poorly photo-shopped her in here.

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We spent new years eve at my sisters house, where we karaoked and played heads up until 3 am to ring in the new year laughing. I never really make new years resolutions because I think they never really work. Every week I feel like I’m making a new goal to eat healthier or save more money or be more kind to people, so I guess those are my general all year resolutions. But I am mking a crafty resolution this year. I want to have a different wreath for each holiday and/or season for my front door. I love wreaths and think they are so welcoming, but I only put one up for Christmas.

Texas Craft House

blood, sweat, and glitter y'all