Thursday, November 21, 2013

MaterniT21 and Me

So about three weeks ago we had our 20 week anatomy scan on the spawn. When my midwife gave me the ultrasound requisition form she had checked "suspect fetal anomaly" but she told me that they just check that so that insurance has to pay for it, not because they had any reason to think something was wrong. No one goes in for their 20 week scan thinking that something is wrong. They go in all happy and excited to see the baby and find out if it's a boy or a girl (or not, whatever your pleasure).

So Jeff and I went to the ultrasound and we found out that it's a boy. They also found out that he has a single umbilical artery, normal cords have three vessels- 2 arteries and a vein. Well Liam has one artery and one vein. Apparently it's not terribly uncommon and they recommend having two additional ultrasounds in the third trimester to make sure there is no growth restriction. My first thought was, "Well, I had a 10 lb 4 oz baby the first time, maybe a little growth restriction would be alright!" The SUA is also apparently a soft marker for other abnormalities and genetic conditions so they did an extremely thorough scan of all of his organ systems to check for other anomalies. They found no specific birth defects. Finally at the end of the scan they explained that when they did all of the physical measurements, his femur came up short in relation to his head size. Another soft marker for Down's Syndrome. They recommended that we talk to a genetic counselor about the findings.

After much back and forth in my mind we decided to see the genetic counselors. My arguments with myself were:
  • All of his measurements were within the normal range except for his head, which was in the 91st percentile, so basically his femur was normal length and he had a massive head. I have a massive head. Jeff has tiny T Rex arms in relation to his height. He's probably fine. 
  • Even if he does have Down's, he has no physical birth defects (heart, bowel, etc) beyond whatever mental deficiencies might exist and I wouldn't terminate the pregnancy because of that so why bother?
  • I will not do an amniocentesis because of the risk of miscarriage, however small it may be.
So basically, I just asked Jeff, do you want to talk to them? He said yes, so I made the appointment.  
So we went off to the far off land of Beechwood to talk the the UH Genetics department. Basically, we talked for awhile about what the realistic odds of Liam having Down's Syndrome were. I did not have the quad screen done so they estimated my starting odds based on my age at about 1/890. Two soft markers on the ultrasound moved the odds to about 1/560 or about 99.5% probability that everything was fine. Then they went over our family history, no genetic conditions except Marfan's Syndrome (which they now want me to go get another echo, even though the one I had six years ago was fine). Then they told us about a new way of testing the unborn for chromosomal anomalies called MaterniT21. Basically, there are pieces of his DNA floating about in my bloodstream and this test separates the fetal DNA from the maternal DNA and then runs standard genetic testing on it. The only downside of this test is that it's new and it's still expensive after insurance. With our insurance plan, they said it would cost no more than 200.00 but it's non invasive, no risk of miscarriage and would give us a definite answer rather than a probability. 

We thought about it for a few minutes before deciding to go ahead with the test. Even though I had no intention of doing anything other than preparing for a special needs child if the results came back positive, I had no desire to continue torturing myself with "what-ifs" for the next 4 months. So the vampires took my blood, sent it off and told us they would let us know in 7-10 days. 

Well it's been a long 13 days (9 business) but the results finally came in this afternoon. Liam is fine. He has no extra chromosomes (21, 18, 13, X or Y) and he is definitely a he. Now all I have to do is relax and make sure he continues to grow on pace with that massive head! 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Recycled Crayon Ornaments!

So I'm not one to discuss Christmas before it's due time. Which is not before Thanksgiving. However, I'm making an exception this time for two reasons:
  1. It's a craft and you need time to make it before your schedule gets crammed with holiday parties, concerts, shopping, baking, decorating, etc. 
     B. I wanted to take part in the latest Pintester Movement which is Christmas themed this time

I first pinned these ornaments even before I heard about the Christmas ornament theme because I saw them and I was all "OMG, THOSE ARE SO AWESOME!!!! MUST MAKE THEM!!!!!!!!!!" then forgot them until this came up.

So finally, last night, Makayla and I got ready to make them.

First, we sorted through her art roll (which is my amazing idea for organizing writing implements, if I do say so myself) and took out all the broken pieces of crayons. Then we peeled all the labels off the crayons and took the tops out of clear glass ornaments.
Photo bomb by Makayla

 The original post says to use a hair dryer to heat the bulbs but I have approximately 27lbs of hair and it takes about 3 hours to dry it with a hair dryer so I wash it at night and let it air dry. After the last hair dryer I had crapped out I didn't bother to replace it. So instead I decided to heat the ornaments up in my amazingly wonderful anniversary present counter top oven. I started out by setting it at 150F.

I let the preheat for a couple minutes while Makayla picked out some colors to go together. Then we broke off some chunks, put them in one of the ornaments and put it back in the oven.

We waited for the crayons to melt.

Cranked the temperature to 250F and waited some more until finally they started to melt. I waited until the crayons were mostly melted and then grabbed the ornament and swirled the hot wax around until the entire inside was coated. I should mention that to most people, this would probably be too hot to do bare handed. I'm not most people. I lost sensitivity to heat after spending a few years in powder coatings and being too lazy/ impatient to find the tongs to take the hot panels out of the oven after curing. So you might want to grab them with a towel or something. Definitely don't let your little fellas do this part. They cooled down pretty quickly and then we put the tops back on. They actually came out really great!

 I particularly loved how the white crayon added really nice highlights to the darker colors. Unfortunately, it seems that white was not a commonly broken crayon so we only had one of those. We tended to stick to three colors per ornament but more might be nice too, just keep in mind your color mixing or you might end up with a lot of brown ornaments!

Overall, I am thrilled with how awesome they turned out! We still have a sack of broken crayons to use so maybe I'll get some more clear glass ornaments and make another batch!

Monday, November 4, 2013

What you REALLY need for a baby: The Nursery

When I was pregnant with Makayla I spent weeks pouring over "registry checklists" and baby guides trying to decide what I really needed to buy/ register for. I had no experience with babies outside a couple baby sitting jobs when I was 14 and really had no clue what I needed. I ended up doing pretty well overall but there were still a few essentials that I missed and a few things that I really never needed. With Number 2, I did a quick mental inventory of what I had and what I hated and finished my list in less than a day. For fun, I went back and compared that to the registry checklist at Babies R Us and realized that there is a lot of fluff in there that you really don't need. So here is my very own guide to what you really need for a baby as well as what is nice to have and what you can skip. As I was writing this, I realized that to put everything in one post would be way too long, so I'm starting with the stuff needed to set up the nursery. Future posts will cover other areas of baby products.

The Nursery- Must Haves

Crib: I know some people do the whole co-sleeping thing but it's not for me. The American Academy of Pediatrics warns against co-sleeping as it may increase risk of SIDS or death by suffocation from blankets and pillows on the bed, etc. With Makayla, I also had a bassinet that she slept in for the first three months in my room. I didn't really need it. We lived in a one floor duplex and it would have been just as easy and quick to walk across the living room to the nursery as it was have her in our cramped little room. In our current house though, the nursery is on the second floor and I know that I'm not going to want to walk up and down the stairs every couple of hours to nurse him so I will be using both. As far as what crib to use, drop side cribs are out- they're not safe and have been recalled so if you have a hand-me-down crib and it has a drop side, don't use it. Personally, I love the convertible cribs that go from a crib to a toddler bed to an adult bed. I've gone through all of the iterations with Makayla and they have all been easy enough to convert to and I haven't had to buy multiple pieces of furniture every year or so as she outgrows the previous one. I bought furniture that is built to last, and I have not been disappointed. The only downside to a convertible crib is that you need a new one with each baby. 

Crib Mattress: It seems self explanatory but cribs don't come with mattresses, you have to buy that separately. I bought a two sided mattress, infant and toddler. Theoretically, the infant side was firmer and the toddler side was more like a standard mattress. I'm fairly certain the infant side would have sufficed for the toddler years. The important things to remember about crib mattresses are: they need to be firm and fit tightly in the crib. There should not be a gap between the walls of the crib and the mattress. Gaps are suffocation hazards for newborns.

Bedding: If you haven't heard, the latest in crib safety says that cribs should have nothing in them except fitted crib sheets. No bumpers, no blankets, no stuffed animals or toys. All of these things are said to increase SIDS risk.

  • Fitted crib sheets: Most lists that I've seen recommend a large number of fitted crib sheets. I personally needed no more than two. One to be on the bed, one to be in the washer. 
  • Waterproof mattress pad: Depending on the type of crib mattress you buy, this may or may not be necessary. Many mattresses are already waterproofed. If yours is not, buy two, one for the crib, one for the wash.
  • Wearable Blankets/ Swaddling Blankets: I tried several types of swaddlers and the only one that I liked was the Halo Sleep Sack with Swaddle. They have velcro positioners on the back to keep them from riding up and you can swaddle easily and securely. I never got the hang of swaddling with just a blanket and I hated the Kiddopatumus swaddlers, they didn't stay put at all. 

Dresser/ Changing Table: I am a big fan of the combination dresser/ changing table. A separate changing table seems like a complete waste of money. After the baby is out of diapers what are you going to do with it? I've seen several types of combo dressers, as long as it's at a comfortable height, you can put a changing pad on top of any dresser.

Changing Table Pad: I've used several different changing pads. My favorite was one that was made of a dense foam (Kuster Jelly Baby mat) that wiped up easily. Several of the cheaper ones that I bought simply fell apart and shredded in a short amount of time (LA Baby, Summer Infant).

Glider/ Rocker & Ottoman: You need somewhere to sit when you're feeding the baby, reading stories or just snuggling. Choose whatever type of chair you're most comfortable in but make sure you get some type of footrest, especially if you're breastfeeding. It just made things so much more comfortable.

Nightstand/ Side Table: Somewhere to put a lamp- no one enjoys a bright overhead light in the middle of the night. Also useful to set up a monitor on and a white noise/ music player. It shouldn't be near enough the crib that the baby could pull the stuff inside the crib as it grows, it's more convenient and useful to have it near the chair, in my opinion.

Lamp: Like I said, no one wants to be woken up with a bright overhead light. A simple lamp is a necessity.

Hamper/ Laundry Bag: You need somewhere to put dirty clothes!

Trashcan/ Diaper Pail: I didn't go for an expensive diaper disposal system the first time around- I just used a smallish Simple Human trash can (small so that it had to be emptied before the smell got too bad!) and was as happy as one can be with a diaper disposal system. After Makayla was mobile, I found that I needed a locking lid because ain't nobody got time for toddlers playing with dirty diapers. I added a stick on lock designed for baby proofing things like refrigerator or washing machine doors. I know that Simple Human makes some now that have locking mechanisms built in. I used disposable diapers so if you're using cloth, I've got nothing.

The Nursery- Nice to Have Extras

Diaper Stacker/ Changing Table Organizer: Having an organized system to hold diapers, wipes, lotion, etc. is nice to have. It makes things easier to find and more functional. Plus it looks neater.

Curtains/ Window Treatments: Black out shades can be nice to have, especially if you have a baby who doesn't like to nap with too much light. Decorative curtains are cute and make the nursery prettier. Whatever type of window treatments you choose make sure they are cordless. If you have standard mini-blinds, take them down and figure out a cordless solution. Babies/ toddlers can strangle themselves not only in the pull cord of mini-blinds but also in the cords that lace together all of the blinds.

Storage Bins/ Closet Organizers: Bins can be helpful to store toys and stuffed animals (which you will always have too many of) and there are lots of nice closet systems that make things neater and easier, but they're not really necessary.

Decorations: While not strictly necessary, most parents will want some type of decor in the nursery.

Sound/ Light Machine/ CD player: Something to provide background/ white noise can help some babies sleep better. Makayla had a CD player with a CD of lullabies and a ladybug nightlight that put stars on the ceiling. She still can't fall asleep without them.

The Nursery- Things you DON'T Need


  • Sheet Savers: Sheets are easy to wash. Don't waste your money.
  • Bumpers: I know they're cute and I know that you're worried about your baby getting an arm or leg stuck in the rails but soft, pillow-y bumpers are a suffocation risk. If you simply must have a bumper, they make breathable mesh bumpers that prevent arms and legs from getting through the rails
  • Quilts/ Loose Blankets: Loose blankets and quilts should also not be used in the crib. If you want to have one for decoration, so be it but really, babies shouldn't be too warm anyway and most babies stay plenty warm with a wearable blanket. 
Changing Table Pad Covers: Changing tables are for changing diapers. Changing table pads will get poop and pee on them without fail. It's far easier to just wipe up a waterproof surface than it is to change the pad and wash the dirty ones.

Of course, not everything needs to be new. If you are using hand-me-downs or purchasing things from thrift stores check to make sure that the used item has not been recalled. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Pumpkin Pancakes

I woke up early this morning and really wanted breakfast but when I eat breakfast before Makayla is up on the weekends she gets super whiny and makes me sit in the kitchen while she eats, so it's best to just wait. While I was waiting, I decided to peruse Pinterest to see if I had anything delicious pinned that I wanted for breakfast. Well my breakfast board had these pumpkin pancakes that I pinned last fall and never got around to making. It just so happened that I had 26,000 pounds of frozen pumpkin puree from last years highly bountiful crop that I needed to start using. Perfect!

So when I went to make them I misread the recipe and ended up adding in 3 tsp salt instead of 1/4 tsp. Well that would have been awfully salty, even for me. So I dumped out the mix and only then realized that that was the last of my flour. I was all excited for pumpkin pancakes and now it looked like I was SOL. I perused my pantry and found the box of Bisquick- my usual pancake mix. So, I decided to wing it and make my own recipe for pumpkin pancakes. 

Pumpkin Pancakes

2 cups Bisquick 
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
Approximately 1/2 cup milk (enough to make it pancake batter consistency)

Mix all ingredients together until reasonably smooth. Pour on to buttered griddle and cook. Flip and cook other side. Put more butter on them, top with syrup, eat. Rejoice! 

They were quick, easy and delightfully pumpkiny. Enjoy!

P.S.- in case you don't have pumpkin pie spice on hand (McCormick sells a commercial version) here's the blend I made last year.

3 Tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 1/2 tsp ground cloves

Mix all spice together, store in a little jar. Use for all things pumpkin.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


Today, something showed up in my Facebook news feed that shocked me. It was this:



Put me in charge of food stamps. I'd get rid of Lone Star cards; no cash for Ding Dongs or Ho Ho's, just money for 50-pound bags of rice and beans, blocks of cheese and all the powdered milk you can haul away. If you want steak and frozen pizza, then get a job.

Put me in charge of Medicaid. The first thing I'd do is to get women Norplant birth control implants or tubal ligations. Then, we'll test recipients for drugs, alcohol, and nicotine. If you want to reproduce or use drugs, alcohol, or smoke, then get a job.

Put me in charge of government housing. Ever live in a military barracks? You will maintain our property in a clean and good state of repair. Your home" will be subject to inspections anytime and possessions will be inventoried. If you want a plasma TV or Xbox 360, then get a job and your own place.

In addition, you will either present a check stub from a job each week or you will report to a "government" job. It may be cleaning the roadways of trash, painting and repairing public housing, whatever we find for you. We will sell your 22 inch rims and low profile tires and your blasting stereo and speakers and put that money toward the "common good.."

Before you write that I've violated someone's rights, realize that all of the above is voluntary. If you want our money, accept our rules. Before you say that this would be "demeaning" and ruin their "self esteem," consider that it wasn't that long ago that taking someone else's money for doing absolutely nothing was demeaning and lowered self esteem.

If we are expected to pay for other people's mistakes we should at least attempt to make them learn from their bad choices. The current system rewards them for continuing to make bad choices.

AND While you are on Gov't subsistence, you no longer can VOTE! Yes, that is correct. For you to vote would be a conflict of interest. You will voluntarily remove yourself from voting while you are receiving a Gov't welfare check. If you want to vote, then get a job.


There is just so much wrong with this entire rant that it's hard to even know where to start. 
  • No one lives on beans, rice, cheese and powdered milk. As anyone who has ever tried to eat healthy can attest, junk food is a hell of a lot cheaper than real food. When you are receiving the average amount of food stamps, 133.85 per person per month, buying cheap food stretches that paltry amount farther. I spend around 150.00 a week on groceries for my family of three. Food stamps would only get us about 2/3rds of the way through the month, and we certainly wouldn't be eating well. 
  • Forced sterilization? Fucking really? What is this, Nazi Germany? 
  • The drug testing of Florida welfare recipients proved how useless this truly is. While you may think that this will save the government tons on money by getting all of those crack whores off welfare, think again. Only 2.6% of the people tested in Florida failed the drug test. The cost to administer all the tests was 118K, the amount that would have been paid out to the drug addicted welfare recipients was 73K. So the program ended up costing the state of Florida 45K extra dollars. Money well spent obviously.
  • If there were a magical glut of government jobs that needed doing, we wouldn't have a 7.4% unemployment rate. This isn't the Great Depression when FDR created jobs by funding public works projects. There is no money to fund the necessary upgrades to our infrastructure.
Basically here is what I see that this person wants to do: Round up all of the people on welfare in to concentration or "work" camps, sterilize them and feed them beans. How is there ANYTHING right about that? These are PEOPLE! People just like you and me, who have fallen on hard times and need help getting back up again. That's what welfare is, it's a safety net so that if, (insert deity here) forbid, YOU lose your job, and you don't have any one to ask for help, you and your kids don't wind up starving in the street. 

And speaking of religion, I hear over and over again about how America is a Christian nation yet things like this prove that we do not act like one. If you know me, you know that I am an atheist but I know what Jesus said about helping the poor. Matthew 25:40 says "And the King will say, 'I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!" So tell me, if Jesus showed up tomorrow, would you also treat him like an animal?

If you look at your 2012 federal tax receipt you will see that for a 50K income family with 1 child, $73.48 went to food and nutrition assistance (including SNAP, WIC and the school lunch program). If you stretch that over a whole year, it's only 0.20 a day. 20 whole cents! If you add up all of the public assistance items in the federal income tax receipt (including food and nutrition assistance, TANF, and Medicare) it is still less than we spend per day on national defense. 

The common portrayal of the drug addicted "welfare queen" with 6 kids is a gross exaggeration. YES, there ARE people who scam the system but the overwhelming majority of people on welfare are not out to suckle the government's titty for the rest of their lives. Most people are just looking for help in a world where help is hard to find. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Taking on arm knitting

So like a month ago, I participated in The Pintester Movement, courtesy of my favorite blog Pintester. I wrote about how not to make a homemade lotion. Well I got a ton of new readers so when Sonja announced that she was hosting The Pintester Movement 2.0, I knew I would be on board. The rules this time were a little more specific. I had to pick a post that Sonja had already tested. After a little browsing (and a lot of laughing) I settled on Arm Knitting because I've been knitting since I was like 10 and I have a the yarn stash of an 80 year old woman.

Except, I've never been accused of being a lady, so here's a picture of my actual yarn stash. Or.... stashes, I guess.

Don't you judge me! I made 15 hats and scarves for homeless people one year and it barely made a dent in the hoard. It's way more useful than all the liquor bottles Jeff has to display.

So anyway, I have the necessary supplies- my arms, and yarn. Since Sonja failed miserably in her attempts to arm knit, I went to the original pin's site, Simply Maggie where she conveniently posted a video tutorial. Unfortunately, I did not actually have the right kind of yarn (I recently used every last bit of my extra chunky yarn) and so I decided to use 4 strands of regular worsted weight yarn. I'd like to take this moment to point out that this is exactly why any knitter has a stash- 5000 kinds of yarn, but none of them is the right one for the project you want to start.

Step 1: Cast on. It's pretty much just like casting on regular needles. First, tie a slip knot, leaving a long tail. The way I've always thought of tying a slip knot is to make a pretzel shape then lift the bottom piece of yarn up and tighten the loop. Put the loop of the slip knot over your right arm and tighten it some, but leave it plenty loose so you can work with it. Honestly, it's easier to watch Maggie's tutorial than for me to explain how to actually do the casting on. So once you get it, you just loosely cast on enough stitches to make the scarf as wide as you want it to be.

Step 2: Proceed to knitting. This part is actually fairly easy. Hold the working yarn in the hand that has all of the stitches on it. Then, pull the first loop over your hand. Put your other hand through the loop you just pulled over your hand and pull a new loop through the first loop. Then put the new loop on your other arm. 

It was really hard to get good pictures since both of my hands were in use and Jeff was at school, so I enlisted my 4 year old's help. She didn't do too bad considering most of the pictures she takes are of carpet or crotches. It was here that I realized the fatal flaw in arm knitting. It really only looks good if you have skinny arms. I've made things on speed stix (or dildo needles, as Jeff calls them) using 4 strands of worsted before and they turned out great. But 4 strands of worsted on my chunky arms was not nearly enough. I feel that maybe with 4 strands of super chunky, it might look good, but as I was knitting I could see it was just turning out more like fishnets because there wasn't enough yarn to fill in all the space.

So anyway, then you proceed to make the scarf as long as you want, or until you get bored, either way.

Step 3: Binding off. Binding off is pretty much just like in regular knitting. Knit two stitches then pull the first stitch over the second stitch and let it go. Proceed until the last stitch remains on your arm then cut the yarn and put it through the loop on your arm, take it off your arm and pull the end tight. Here's my final product:

I guess I succeeded in making a scarf but it's not one I would ever use. It just looks like a whole lot of yarn wrapped around my neck. When you stretch it out, it makes a better cargo net. My wonderful husband, star of my other blog (Shit My Husband Said), says that I should turn it into stripper whore pants or maybe make some g-strings. If you have some super chunky yarn to use up and feel like spending an hour or so, you too can arm knit with a little bit of practice!

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Songs of my Life

I've been feeling nostalgic lately, probably because my 30th birthday is fast approaching. I've been thinking for the past year or so that I just don't relate to music the way I used to, probably because I'm in a happy, committed relationship and that got me to thinking about all of the songs that I've said "OMG! THIS IS MY SONG" to in my life. So here they are.

Music has always been a huge part of my life. I started violin when I was around seven and switched to viola at thirteen. In third grade, I started the French Horn so that I could play in the band as our school system did not have an orchestra. I played both of my instruments in the Northern Ohio Youth Orchestras for the majority of my adolescence. Mom played violin all of her life and both she and my Dad sang in the choir and played guitar. Most of the music I knew as a child was classical and the "oldies" that Mom and Dad played (Loggins & Messina, Simon & Garfunkel, John Denver, etc). One of the earliest songs that I remember was "Darcy Farrow" by John Denver (we always just called it the sad song). We always asked Mom to sing this one because she couldn't sing it without crying and I guess we were jerks and liked to make Mom cry.

When I was 10, Dad started listening to country and I fell in love with "Wild One" by Faith Hill. I think it was with this song that I started relating music (more specifically, lyrics) to my life. My parents would be the first to tell you I was a "spirited" child and "Wild One" just spoke to me. Well a couple years later, Dad stopped listening to country but I had fallen in love with it. I rarely told anyone that I listened to country for many years because it wasn't "cool". Telling people that I listened to classical was equally as weird but I couldn't bring myself to say I liked pop groups like N'Sync or the Backstreet Boys. I couldn't relate to them at all. I was kind of a weird kid, I liked to sew and spin wool on my spinning wheel and I played with dolls and my bazillion pets/ farm animals. I couldn't have cared less about the opposite gender until the summer before I started high school when I realized that the lifeguard at the swimming lake was totally hot and spent the summer pining after him.

There were many songs that defined my high school years. One of the first was "Don't Laugh at Me" by Mark Wills. Like I said, I didn't fit in with any of the typical groups at school. I was a loner, kind of a dork and a reasonably good student. I hated being made fun of but not enough to change because I'm stubborn as hell. Things started to pick up for me in my junior year when my sister started HS. Sarah and I had always been close and while she was weird in her own ways, she wasn't an introvert like me and I was already friends with her bestie Vanessa, the most extroverted person I know. So together we made friends with two other girls and formed the Quinto. We went on all kinds of crazy adventures together, well, as crazy as we could get in small town Ohio. One of our favorite things to do was drive out to Wellington under the cover of darkness and run through cornfields, clothing optional. Don't ask me why, I honestly couldn't tell you, but it was fun at the time. One time we were trying to get to the outlet mall in Lodi and ended up in Homerville aka the middle of nowhere Ohio. Since I was the oldest in the group I was usually the one driving, and so I chose the music. It always seemed like as soon as Vanessa got in the car "Come On Over" by Shania Twain would come on the radio and we would roll all the windows down and scream it at the top of our lungs. Also on the playlist was "Goodbye, Earl" by the Dixie Chicks, because songs about women murdering their abusive husbands are totally appropriate for teenage girls to yell while driving down Center Ridge Road.

Around this time, I also joined 4-H and met my first boyfriend. I remember laying in my tent at the fair listening to Rascal Flatts self titled album on a loop and feeling giddy in love. I also remember crying my eyes out several months later when we broke up and the songs that got me through it- "Why They Call it Falling" by Lee Ann Womack and "Without You" by the Dixie Chicks.

One of the best decisions I made in HS was joining Drama Club. It wasn't because I had any big plans of being a famous actress or anything like that. I don't really even know what inspired me to try out for that first play but in drama, I found people who were willing to accept me for me, which I guess is a little ironic since acting is all about pretending to be someone else. Maybe it was because we were all a little weird or maybe because we had a great leader as our Cap'n, whatever it was- it worked for me. I became comfortable with who I was and was not. My songs at this time were "Who I Am" by Jessica Andrews, "Dare to Dream" by Jo Dee Messina and "Born to Fly" by Sara Evans.

Of course I have my story of unrequited love, who doesn't? I was obsessed with this one guy for probably a two years. At the time, it just seemed like the timing never worked out. I played "Complicated" by Carolyn Dawn Johnson like it was my theme song. Looking back I realize that it was probably because he wasn't really in to me. Also in hindsight, I'm sure glad it didn't work out- he turned into an emotionally abusive ass.

Then in my senior year a series of things happened that let me know who my real friends and supporters were. I was a big fan of "Bad Reputation" by Joan Jett during this time. Side story- I first heard "Bad Reputation" while watching "10 Things I Hate About You", the movie in which I developed a life long obsession (his life anyway) with Heath Ledger. As bad as things were for me then, it has certainly shaped the person that I am today and though I can't say I'm happy that it happened, I am happy for the things I learned because of it. By the end of my senior year there was only one song playing in my heart "Ready to Run" by the Dixie Chicks.

So I ran away to college, escaped from my horrible parents and my annoying siblings and my small hometown and.... wait what? It didn't take long for me to realize how silly all of that sounded. I wasn't one of those girls who got to college and went crazy. My parents had never really tried to control my life, so it wasn't like I was suddenly allowed to do all the things I hadn't been allowed to before. Funnily enough, I went to college to get an education. I actually managed to come out of my shell enough to make friends with some of my dorm-mates (either that or they were just persistent enough to not let me hermit myself). I dated some, but mostly I went to class, did homework and went to work. It while we were in college that Sarah and I discovered Brigid's Cross, and Irish festivals in general. We followed the festivals all summer and fall, traveling as far away as Indianapolis but mostly staying in the Cleveland area. One of my favorite songs, sung by Brigid's Cross but originally done by Tommy Sands was "There Were Roses". The song is about Northern Ireland and the religious conflicts but I loved the lyrics "An eye for an eye, was all that filled their minds, and another eye for another eye til everyone is blind". I try to use this philosophy when I think about how I am treating others and remember that revenge is not the answer. In our festival years, I started dabbling with the bagpipes, because I didn't play enough instruments yet.

The summer after my "senior" year of college (I had to do one extra semester) my parents sent me out to Germany for two weeks to visit with my brother and tour the country. I did all that, and had a great time. I also had a one night stand with my (at that time, future) husband. Apparently, we both really sucked at one night stands. We stayed in touch and in September that year, I decided to fly out to Germany for the long weekend to go to Oktoberfest because I was about to graduate college and I hadn't done a single silly, irresponsible thing the entire time I had been there. My Zune was playing "You Will Be Mine" by Faith Hill. Well, Jeff got out of the Army that October and moved back to his hometown, conveniently only 2 hours from mine. When I graduated and moved back home that December, we started casually dating. We had our ups and downs and one time after he stood me up, I told him to fuck off and we broke up for awhile and "saw" other people. One song that sticks in my mind from this time was "Linger" by the Cranberries.

That winter, the company I was working for relocated it's R&D facilities to Nashville, TN. It was a major opportunity for me to move from temp to salaried chemist and though I didn't want to, I decided to make the move. At some point, Jeff and I has started talking again and I asked him if he wanted to move to Nashville with me. For some reason, he said yes and we shacked up in Tennessee. For the next year and half life was just like "This Everyday Love" by Rascal Flatts. We got engaged and then Jeff found out he was being recalled to the Army from the IRR. To avoid being sent to Iraq as "needs of the Army" he took a job with an independent contractor, but he still had to go back to Iraq. Just before he deployed, I got knocked up. During the next year, Carrie Underwood's "So Small" became my anthem. Well Makayla was born November 22, 2008 and she turned out to be the "best mistake I ever made" (Kevin Fowler) and I'm so thankful for her, even when she makes me crazy because she's a carbon copy of me. Jeff and I finally got hitched October 10, 2010. Our first dance song was "Lullaby" by the Dixie Chicks. Even though Jeff has a hatred for country in general and the Dixie Chicks in particular he let me pick the song I knew was perfect for us. I did compromise and allow our entrance to the reception to be the Imperial Death March.

Which brings us to today (minus another year of deployment in Afghanistan). We've been struggling with infertility for a long time now and conveniently, the Dixie Chicks sing a song for that too "So Hard" but most of the time I'd say we've got a good thing here. "When You Got A Good Thing" by Lady Antebellum.

Well I guess I was wrong. I do still relate to music.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

My peas!

I hate peas. They are probably the most disgusting food on the planet besides fish, which wins by the slimmest of margins. My husband also hates peas. So you may ask- "Why on earth are you growing peas?" I guess taste is not inherited and our daughter fucking loves them. If given a choice between french fries and peas, she would pick peas every time. Weirdo. So I'm growing peas.

I love gardening, particularly vegetable gardening. I've been doing all the gardening for the family since I was thirteen or so. I've tried many things over the years, some successful, some not so. Every year I try to come up with "the best" way to train my vine and climbing crops. I've made A-frame trellises for cucumbers and gourds that worked fairly well except they were large and bulky to store in the winter and they fell apart after two seasons. I made two T posts strung with wire and twine in a V shape to the ground that started out well but I didn't have the posts deep enough in the ground and as the beans grew, they weighed down the wire and made the whole system sag. This year, I think I have it. It's going to be awesome. I'm utilizing the picket fence (set in concrete and not going anywhere) and some twine and garden staples.

So here's how I did it:

  • Weed the peas. (Don't you judge me, weeding is a June project)
  • Tie twine to fence.
  • Run the twine to the ground next to the first pea plant.

  • Secure it to the ground with a garden staple. Push it in at a slight opposite angle to the way the twine will be pulling.

  • Bring the twine back up the the fence and loop it around a picket. 
  • Gently guide the plants around the twine. Peas send out tendrils to climb so in a day or so they will all be attached to the twine. 

  • Continue down the line.
When you get to the end, tie off the twine around another picket and job's done! It's a thing of beauty. If you like gardening that is.

When climbing plants have support, they really take off. I expect in a week or so we will have much bigger pea plants. My lil fella will be thrilled. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Think this is a good recipe?

I love Pinterest- I really do. I love to find things that I didn't know I needed and inspiration for things I want to do around the house and yard. I also love to get patterns for sewing, crochet and knitting. There are many great things pinned on pinterest. Recipes for making your own lotion from stuff in your kitchen are not among them. I have seen so many bad recipes. I would love to review them all but my sensitive skin would literally be on fire with some of the stuff I've seen. So in honor of my newest favorite blog, Pintester and her Pintester Movement, I'm writing a review of a homemade lotion using just three ingredients.

Making cosmetics (lotions, soaps, shampoos, face masks, etc.) is about more than mashing an avocado and an egg together and smearing it on your face. You can't make a wonderful lotion out of Crisco and water. And you cannot defy the laws of chemistry and physics just because you really want beeswax to be an emulsifier. I found this recipe on pinterest a few weeks ago. I knew from looking at the recipe that it would not work because I am a chemist and I do this all day. Beeswax is a wax- it has no emulsification properties. Emulsion is the act of bringing two disparate parts together in a stable way, in the case of lotions, oil and water. The emulsifier must have hydrophilic and lipophilic parts in order to create a stable mix. Most lotions made by homecrafters will use something called "ewax" or emulsifying wax because it is easy to use. Commercial lotions use the HLB system to create a blend of high HLB and low HLB values that will emulsify all of the various components of the oil phase. The HLB system is not an easy thing to learn in my opinion but once you know it, you can do it in your sleep. So anyway- even though I knew this wouldn't work I decided to make it in the lab anyway for demonstration purposes.

First- the recipe- converted to grams because it's a much more accurate way to measure things. Side note- weighing ingredients in baking results in much better baked goods as well.

My ingredients, I used distilled water, beeswax and olive oil.

I weighed the water into a beaker large enough for the full formula and put it on my stand mixer with my high shear dispersing blade. Also, it is important to note that the original blogger did not say to heat the water, so I did not. Normally, when creating an emulsion- you heat both parts (oil and water phase) to the same temperature (70C) and hold them there to kill any microorganisms present in the water. To create a stable emulsion, the phases must be the same temperature when they are combined.

I weighed the olive oil into another beaker, added the beeswax and let it melt in my steam table.
The recipe says to let the oil phase cool for two minutes- using a thermometer to measure the temp would have been much more valuable but whatever- two minutes it is.
Now we turn on the agitation and add the oil phase to the water phase.
This is not at all what an emulsified lotion looks like. An emulsified lotion is a smooth, white liquid. This is water, a lumpy, curdly layer of wax and oil floating on top. The recipe says that at this point you should spoon it into jars and give it to all your friends because it's amazing! Would you like some?

I went a little farther and turned my dispersing blade up as high as it would go and forced the wax into the blades. Basically after about 10 minutes I has a sort of whipped wax that if you squeezed, water would come out.
I put some on my hands and the wax coated my skin and the water beaded up on top. Exactly as I predicted- the "lotion" was not at all emulsified. This doesn't even cover the inherent problems with a recipe that uses unheated tap water and no preservative. This lotion would spoil and grow beasties in a matter of days. The original poster says that you can store it in the fridge- because there is nothing I like better than smearing ice cold wax on my skin.

I left it sitting over the weekend and this morning it was clearly in two layers again. I poured out the water for you to see.
Buy some lotion at the store or at the very least learn about how to make safe cosmetic products at home. There are things you can make at home that are safe and awesome, check out one of my other posts- So You Want To Make a Sugar Scrub? for ideas. Save your Crisco and olive oil for baking.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The REAL Facts about Sunscreens

There is a lot of nonsense out there about how sunscreen ingredients cause cancer. ALL OF THEM. This is simply not true. Here are some things I know for sure:

1) UVA rays cause cancer.
2) UVA rays cause premature aging of the skin including wrinkles and sagging by destroying the elastin and collagen in your skin.
3) UVB rays cause painful and serious burning of the skin.
4) A base tan does not protect your skin from UVA or UVB rays
5) Tanning in a tanning bed is as bad or worse than tanning in the sun.

Fortunately, we have these wonderful products that can prevent all of these from happening. They're called sunscreens. There are two types of sunscreen ingredients; chemical blockers and physical blockers. Now before you start raging about putting CHEMICALS on your skin, please refer to my post on why chemical free anything is a lie. Ok, so now that we have that out of the way- chemical sunscreens work by absorbing UVB and in some cases UVA rays. Physical sunscreens work by forming a physical shield that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. A good sunscreen will provide both UVA and UVB protection and it will say "Broad Spectrum" on the package. Sunscreens that claim an SPF value must be validated to perform to the stated level and are sold as a drug product. SPF (Sun Protection Factor) means that for an SPF 15 product you will be protected for 15X the amount of time you would burn in with no protection. So if you would burn in 10 minutes without sunscreen, you should reapply an SPF 15 product every 150 minutes. The problem with high SPF products is that, yes, an SPF 70 product will block the sun for 700 minutes (using our previous example) but ONLY if the product remains in a continuous film on the skin that long. Which, if you're working in the garden on a sunny day and sweating, chances are slim to none that your SPF 70 product will still be an effective coating after 11 hours in the sun. In my opinion, you're better off with an SPF 30 product applied more often.

So let's review all the different ingredients that could be in your sunscreen so you can make a wise and informed decision about which sunscreen to purchase. Some ingredients can have two names, one for when used in drug products (or products claiming SPF) and another for when they are included in the formula but no specific SPF is claimed.

UVB Blockers (also have some protection against UVA but are mainly for UVB)
1) Octinoxate (AKA Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate) A very common chemical blocker. A recent study concluded that octinoxate  and other chemical sunscreens do not penetrate the skin in sufficient concentration to cause any significant toxicity to the underlying human keratinocytes. It does have some effect as an endocrine disrupter in rats. While I would not actively avoid this ingredient based on this, I do think there are better choices.

2) Octocylene - this is an excellent option for blocking UVB rays. A small number of people do have a sensitivity to this ingredient. If you happen to be one of those who has a reaction (contact dermatitis) when using this ingredient, avoid it. Otherwise this would be my top choice for UVB.

3) Oxybenzone (AKA Benzophenone-3) As with octinoxate, oxybenzone was studied to see if it penetrated this skin in this study. It does not. Therefore, the myth that these chemicals are causing increased cases of melanoma is false. The FDA and governing agencies in Canada and the EU have approved the use of oxybenzone as a safe and effective sunscreen ingredient. The safety of oxybenzone has also been reviewed and confirmed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review expert panel.

4) Padimate O Some preliminary studies indicated that padimate O was a phototoxic ingredient, meaning it caused cell damage or death with UV exposure (something that would be undesirable in an ingredient designed to protect you from the sun) however, multiple in vivo studies conducted in hairless mice following topical application of padimate O have demonstrated no carcinogenic effects and that padimate O reduces the number of and delays the appearance of UV-induced skin tumors.

UVA Blockers (also block some UVB)
1) Avobenzone (AKA Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane) absorbs all of the wavelengths of the UVA spectrum. It also degrades significantly in light, which is one of the reasons sunscreens need to be reapplied. It can be significantly stabilized by using it in combination with octocrylene or another photostabilizer. Avobenzone can also react with minerals like iron to form colored complexes that can stain.

2) Titanium Dioxide is a physical sunscreen. Most sunscreens that use titanium dioxide use nano-sized titanium dioxide because it scatters visible light less (meaning it doesn't look white, it looks clear) but it still provides UVA protection. There has been controversy over the nano-sized titanium dioxide products because as with the chemical sunscreens people are afraid that they are being absorbed by the skin and in to the blood stream where they are wreaking all kinds of havoc. As with the chemical sunscreens however, studies have show that this is not true. Titanium Dioxide is not absorbed at any significant level by the skin. As with nearly all ingredients, some people can be allergic to titanium dioxide.

3) Zinc Oxide also a physical sunscreen. It's thick, pasty and white unless nano-sized zinc oxide particles are used. Refer to the titanium dioxide discussion above.

Now for the specific points of the "controversy":
1) The absence of UVA filters combined with a longer exposure time of the sunscreen user causes more melanoma than a non sunscreen user.

  • This one is easy- use a broad spectrum sunscreen. UVA rays are mostly responsible for the DNA damage that causes skin cancer. Make sure your sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB. Recent changes to how sunscreen products are labeled ensure that only products that protect against UVA and UVB rays are labeled "Broad Spectrum" 
2)  By reducing the exposure of the skin to UVB radiation, sunscreen suppresses the skin's production of the natural photoprotectant, melanin, and the lack of melanin leads to an increased risk of melanoma. 
  • This has been disproved multiple times. Getting a base tan (increasing the melanin in the skin) offers an increase in SPF of 4 or less. The larger issue is that any darkening of the skin indicates UV damage to the skin. So you're not helping yourself, you're hurting yourself.
3) Melanoma is caused by free radical generation by sunscreen chemicals that have penetrated into the skin. 
  • As I have cited in this post, multiple studies have disproved the notion that any of these chemicals are absorbed in any significant amount deep enough to cause damage to the keratinocytes. 
4) Melanoma is caused by the pathogenic cytotoxicity and carcinogenicity of micronized titanium or zinc oxide nanoparticles. 
  • Again, as I have cited in this post, multiple studies have confirmed that nano and micro sized titanium dioxide and zinc oxide do not penetrate into the skin in any significant amount to cause any health effects. 
5) Malignant melanoma has been found more frequently in sunscreen users compared to non-users in some studies. Other studies found fair skinned people used more sunscreen and had more skin cancer, but did not address cause and effect.
  • This is a case of confusing correlation with causation. Several metanalyses have failed to demonstrate any causative relationship between sunscreen use and cancer rates. 

There can be only one conclusion in my mind. The sun causes cancer, sunscreen doesn't. Use sunscreen!

Friday, April 19, 2013

How Makayla got a brother- as told by Makayla

One day, no wait, once upon a time, it was dark, but it was also sunny. So it was dark and sunny on the community rug. We were sitting on the community rug and I was sitting next to TY! We had to sit criss cross applesauce with our hands in our laps. So we were sitting on the community rug and I was next to Ty and we started talking and he became my brother. So Ty is my brother at school. And I'm his sister!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

My TMJ Odyssey

    Around the age of 20, my jaw started clicking occasionally when I opened it or ate something hard to chew. It wasn't terribly bothersome at first but over the course of several years it degraded to me being unable to open my mouth without feeling like I was breaking my jaw. I couldn't eat ANYTHING without my jaw popping. I couldn't even kiss my husband or talk without pain. While my jaw was disintegrating, I also had headaches everyday, constant pain in my jaw, painful and stuffy feeling ears and pain in my neck and shoulders. I did do some research on the internet about TMJ (Temporomandibular joint) disorders to see what the options were. I had my only two wisdom teeth removed when I was 23, hoping that it would help. It didn't. Everything I found said surgery or tooth remodeling were the only options and that it was expensive with no guarantee that it would work. After 6 years the pain and inability to function normally finally got to the point where I had to do something about it. I was living in Nashville, TN at the time and I went to my regular dentist who had some familiarity with TMJ disorders but she did not treat it. She evaluated me and immediately wrote me a referral to Dr. H Clifton Simmons DDS a TMJ specialist in Nashville.

    Dr. Simmons has a busy practice and it took three months before I could get in for an evaluation. At the evaluation, I filled out a questionnaire with all kinds of questions about pain and symptoms of TMJ. At this point, I did not know that nearly all of my pain was actually linked to the problem with my jaw. In a two hour  appointment Dr. Simmons explained what had happened to my TMJ, how all of my symptoms were related to my TMJ, what I could expect with treatment and how much it would cost to treat it. 

In a person with a healthy TMJ, the jaw works like this:

The head of the mandible sits in the socket with a disk of cartilage on top, cushioning it and preventing bone from rubbing on bone. When you open your jaw that disk slides forward smoothly with the head of the mandible. Dr. Simmons told me that at some point I had suffered an injury to my TMJ and caused the head of the mandible to press against the back of the socket, compressing all of the nerves and blood vessels in the joint and causing pain. My jaw functioned like this:

So every time I opened and closed my mouth, the cartilage pad slipped over the head of my mandible, making an audible pop. Then when I closed my mouth again, the disc slipped back over the head of the mandible, again making an audible pop. Each time the disc got squeezed out of place, I was basically dislocating my jaw. If you've ever dislocated a joint (an elbow, shoulder, etc), you know that you can't move that joint without pain until it is reduced (put back in place) and that the reduction itself is also very painful. Dr. Simmons' theory is that because there are only two joints in the head (the mandible and neck), when one of those joints is injured, all of the muscles in the head and neck go in to spasm and it results in headaches. He said that it was very likely that with treatment, I wouldn't need my morning aspirin just to dull the constant ache in my head. He also said that the ear canal is located just behind the mandible head and when it is compressing the nerves in the joint, it also compresses the ear canal and can cause pain and a "stuffy" feeling in your ears. So basically, he told me that all the pain that I had been suffering through for 6 years stemmed from my TMJ disorder. 

So then we talked about how he treated TMJ disorders. His approach is to reposition the lower jaw forward to relieve the pressure on the nerves and blood vessels using first splints and then braces. Phase 1 was splints. First, they make a splint that sat over my bottom teeth to adjust my bite forward (I previously had a small overbite). It looked something like this:

I wore this splint whenever I was awake. It works because about 3 times a minute, everyone gently clenches then unclenches their teeth when they swallow their saliva. The top of the splint was formed to match my top teeth in the desired bite position. So every time I swallowed my jaw moved in to the corrected position and then came back to rest. I also had another splint for sleeping. This splint was all one solid chunk of acrylic that locked all of my teeth in the desired position. When you sleep your jaw slips back (because you are relaxed and laying on your back) and back is the opposite of what we were going for. 

I noticed improvement in almost everything almost immediately. It took about 2 months for the popping to stop but it was instantly lessened. My daily headache stopped, my ears felt normal and the pain in my neck lessened. I still get headaches and neckaches from time to time, but I'm pretty sure that everyone does on occasion. Once my symptoms were stabilized (Dr. Simmons calls it "as good as it's going to get" because not every one gets to 100% symptom free) for six months we were ready to move on to Phase 2: moving the teeth to fill in the repositioned gaps. 

At this point in my treatment, I moved to back home to Ohio. When I told Dr. Simmons I was moving I found out that there is nothing standardized about TMJ treatment and that if I wanted to continue my treatment, I had to keep coming back to Nashville every three months. Obviously I didn't want to go back to being in pain every day so I moved on to Phase 2. 

Phase 2 began by cutting off the backs of my splints and putting brackets on them similar to this:

I had to keep rubber bands on them (of varying strength) all the time to close the gap that moving my jaw forward created. This was the longest part of the process because they did one tooth at a time. So every three months they cut of more of my splints and put more brackets on my teeth. Complicating things for me were my two crowns on my left side molars (from cracking my teeth on a tongue ring in my intemperate youth, just say no to mouth jewelry). Dental adhesives do not stick well to crowns so they put metal bands around them, but they still have to be cemented in place and it just never worked well for me. I was constantly pulling the bands off my crowns and because I was not in Nashville and couldn't afford to travel there more than every three months, treatment got set back a lot because I couldn't keep tension on the teeth on the left side of my mouth. Eventually though, my teeth had filled in the gaps in the back. It was finally time to finish up with the front teeth as I had developed an "open bite" that had to be corrected if I wanted to be able to bite things with my front teeth. So they put brackets on all of my teeth and strung them up. Lord, it was painful when they tightened them. I had metal brackets in the back and tooth colored ceramic in the front. The ceramics did much less damage to the inside of my lips but they also got broken much more easily.  I never needed braces due to crooked teeth or anything like that, so this was my first experience with braces and I hated every minute of it. It took twice as long to clean my braces after eating as it did to eat. I couldn't eat the things I wanted because I broke brackets off so often. I'm still convinced I have some sort of adaptation in the enamel of my teeth that makes them more slippery than every one else's because I had at least one bracket off (and the bands on my crowns) every time I went to Dr. Simmons. Over the next year and a half, my teeth were moved to their final positions. Last week, they removed my braces, put in permanent retaining wires and made me a new sleep splint that I will have to wear for the rest of my life. My teeth look great, they are beautiful and straight but really I don't care about that, they were pretty straight before treatment, I'm just thrilled that I can eat a bagel, kiss my husband and talk to people without dislocating my jaw. It has most definitely been worth it.

As far as how much this shit cost- a lot. I don't actually remember the exact prices but Phase 1 was around 2,000.00 and Phase 2 was around 4,500.00. Insurance covered nothing. Dental insurance doesn't cover it because it's a joint disorder and my medical insurance at the time would not cover Dr. Simmons as he was not on their preferred list of providers (the two on their list that treated TMJ both treated TMJ by surgical breaking of the jaw, something I did not want to do). That also does not include my travel costs from Cleveland to Nashville every three months. There is really no comparison between my quality of life before and after treatment though. It's like night and day and 100% worth it. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Creating Order from Chaos: Part II

So like I said, I love my little artists' "masterpieces". I don't want to stifle her creativity by telling her that I really DON'T need another picture of a three legged person, a sun or a flower. When Makayla was about 1, I bought an expanding file folder with the intention of storing all of her creations in it. Well, that worked fine until she was about two and a half and started spitting out new art by the dozens. Then after she started preschool this fall, the art work quadrupled again. I was getting buried in sweet little creations that I didn't want to throw out but I didn't know what to do with them!

This is actually the file of all of her art from 4-5 (and she's only 4 and a half right now!) So I decided to take control of the clutter and turn all of her artwork in to a collage that I can display instead of sitting in a file folder that no one sees.

I started by sorting all of her work by age: Age 1-2, 2-3, 3-4, etc. Then I got out my scissors and started cutting out all of the "good" parts. I don't know about your kids, but Makayla rarely uses the whole page. She puts one or two people on a huge sheet of paper and calls it a day. So I started by removing all of the extra white space. For her baby art, I cut out shapes from her full page finger paintings. When she actually started making recognizable things, I cut those out. Then I decided what I truly liked from her art and threw out the rest.

There are a few pieces that I didn't cut, like the watercolor she entered in our county fair this summer and won Best in Show for the under 5 set. Things that are truly special can stay.

I bought a 5 pack of 16 X 20 canvas boards, some Perfect Paper Adhesive, and a large brush.

Then you just start gluing. You can create the collage dry first if you want then glue it down or glue as you go. Generally, I try to start with the biggest pieces on the bottom and embellish with smaller pieces. Some washable inks can run with the glue, so brush gently. Once you get everything glued on, spread a layer of the glue over top of everything to seal it. You can use any finish you like, I'm using matte but PPA comes in a variety of sheen levels. Then let it dry overnight.

Here are the two that I've finished, age 1-2 and age 3-4.

I think it turned out neat, kind of "modern art" like. The best part is, my files are no longer exploding AND we get to see our lil fella's art every day!