24 July 2011

Nerd in Utero Project: Week 26


The double-chin I already had (thanks, genetics) is starting to get to me.  Anyone know any good neck-and-chin-strengthening exercises?

How Far Along: 26 weeks, 5 days
Size of Baby: Still an eggplant.  Although, the Baby Bump app on my iPhone describes her size in comparison to a hothouse cucumber.  This makes her sound really long and skinny.
Total Weight Gain/Loss: I plead the 5th.
Maternity Clothes: The stretchier, the better!  Only one pair of shorts fits me (a pair I wear to the gym), so I tend to wear jersey knit skirts in this unbearable heat.  No matter what I wear, though, my body feels constricted by the end of the day.  I daydream about being in my PJs.  Too bad I can't wear them to work every day.
Baby-related Purchases: 
  • Bought a new bookshelf for the nursery from IKEA that is an exact match to the one I purchased a few weeks back for our music room.  Even though it's a bit darker than the rest of the furniture, all those picture books have to go somewhere.
  • We are borrowing a changing table from our friends Robert and Sandra since their little girl is now very much potty trained.  It's a pretty close match to the other furniture, and now the dresser isn't cluttered with diaper-changing amenities.
  • Michael's Aunt Shirley handmade and mailed us two really cute gifts!  The first is the purple/blue/aqua octopus seen in the picture below.  I must have laughed loud enough to be heard on the next continent because I have another hand-made toy octopus a friend and former co-worker, Peter, made for me 5 years ago.  While working at GHP (the Governor's Honors Program) back in the summer of 2006, Peter crocheted a personalized octopus for each of the residential advisors: a squinty-eyed octopus for an Asian RA, a sleepy face one another for an RA who liked to nap.  The one he made for me, Slurpy, was extra large for students in my classroom to squeeze on when they needed a little pick-me-up.  When we found out we were expecting, Slurpy came home to be a part of Mallory Olivia's collection.  Now I have a pair of perfect, handmade octopi for our daughter to love!  The other gift Aunt Shirley made was a "lovey" with Baby Nerd's first initial.  I love the shade of turquoise she chose.  The stitching on it makes me reminisce my days of when I knew how to crochet.
Slurpy (on bottom) and his new mate.  Baby Nerd will christen him/her with a name of her choosing.
This little monogrammed "lovey" will make the perfect binky.
Gender: There are lots of "girly" outfits in the nursery, so I'm going to say "female".
Movement: I'm quite surprised an expectant mother doesn't bruise from her growing baby's kicks.  Mallory Olivia is currently mastering the art of head-butting and shaking her jazz hands.
Sleep: Some nights are great.  Others are torture.  It's obvious that it's asking too much for a mere 5 hours of sleep each night.
Belly Button In or Out: I'm running out of interesting things to write here…
What I Miss: My summer.  Sure, I have another week "off", but I will be spending it going to doctor's appointments, running errands, setting up maternity leave with the county, and working in my classroom.  Pre-planning starts next Tuesday.  This is the first summer since I started teaching that I have not looked forward to going back to work.  I usually crave the routine, but all I want to do is finish growing this baby!
Cravings: I made dark chocolate brownies this week.  Yeah, yeah, I know I don't usually crave sweets, but brownies are so stinkin' amazing.
Symptoms: 
  • Oh, the back pain!  And hip pain!  And ankle-and-foot pain!  I think I need a prenatal massage.
  • Acne.  Really?  Again?  I'm 29, not 14.
  • Fatigue.
  • SEVERE thirst.  I could down an entire glass of ice cold water and still feel as if I just hiked the Sahara for 3 days without an ounce of hydration.  I tend to leave glasses of water all over the house for easy access.  Michael says I'm like the girl from the movie "Signs".
Managing the Stress: I worked out in the yard a lot this past week.  Naturally, it had to be late in the evenings as the sun was setting.  Even though it was still muggy, it felt good to have my hands in the dirt and put more seed in the ground.  Now there are 3 new rows of bush beans coming up.  Fingers crossed my heat-tolerant lettuce will show itself soon.
Worries: My water breaking in front of my students.  M-O-R-T-I-F-I-C-A-T-I-O-N.  I can picture it now:

Me: "Let's look at a map of the US, kids, so we can mark where the important battles of the Civil War took place.  We will start here with Manassas, or the Battle of Bull Run."  *pause to glance down at a puddle that wasn't there 2 seconds ago*  "Uh-oh..."
*kids screaming, gagging, and pointing*
Kid in Front Row: "Mrs. Wynne, why are you peeing on yourself?" 
Me: "That's not pee.  It means the baby's coming.  Someone push the call button for the office!"
Heckler Kid in Back: "Whatever!  My mom says pregnant women have to pee all the time.  I bet you couldn't hold it anymore."
Me (wincing from oncoming contractions): "Don't make me call your mother right now!  Someone page the office!"
 Concerned Kid: "It's OK if you peed on yourself, Mrs. Wynne.  My brother still wets the bed."
Me: "Sweet Lord, help me…"
I could care less if it happened in front of a friend, co-worker, family member.  But in front of my kids?  There's a fact of life some kids would never be able to get past in order to concentrate on their studies upon my return from maternity leave.  I'd always be the teacher that "gushed pee everywhere" (even though I would remind them 10,000 times it's not pee).  Please let my water break anywhere but my classroom.
What I Look Forward To: Getting the nursery done.  It's a lot closer than it was just a couple of weeks ago, but there's still a lot we need for it.  Good thing we have a few showers in our future!
Celebrations:
  • The garden is putting out so many tomatoes, it's time to can them.  This way, we can make pasta sauce throughout the winter.
  • Michael has a week off work coming up soon.  He has to endure a week of working nights the way he used to at the hospital, but it will be so nice to have him at home for a straight week afterward.

22 July 2011

Four Corners, USA and Moab, UT

Location: The Four Corners--AZ, NM, CO, and UT; Moab, UT



Where we ate: 
  • Amigo Cafe (in Kayenta, AZ).  In this tiny desert town on the far east corner of Arizona, we were rather limited in our choices for a meal.  Sure, they had a McDonald's, but we almost never eat at chains while on vacation, and we definitely don't eat at McDonald's.  From the outside, Amigo Cafe looked rather ramshackle.  In fact, at first glance, we weren't even sure it was open.  Desert dust can have that effect on a structure.  But we were starving and went in anyway.  There were only 3 women on staff on the restaurant floor, only one of them truly serving the public.  She was an attractive young woman with shiny raven hair, librarian's glasses, and a machine gun tattooed on her left forearm.  She was scrambling to help every table while the other two on the floor swept and wiped tabletops.  We made sure to give her our entire order (enchiladas and tacos for me, tamales for Michael) when she was able to get to us so we could save her a trip.  The cuisine was authentic Mexican, and it perfectly pleased our palates.  There is no official website for this place, but after looking up ratings from other guests who have stopped in for a meal here, you can tell there is good reason why they are still in business.  Everybody likes this place!
The Amigo Cafe in Kayenta, AZ, where we had lunch.  Doesn't look like much, but their enchiladas were incredible.
  • Lamplight (in Monticello, UT).  Let's start with this: If we had only known Moab was less than an hour's drive from here, our appetites could have waited…especially since it happened to be the day of our 3rd anniversary.  We had been driving a while.  We were starving.  And every "town" that popped up along the drive looked far less promising than the last (think post-apocalyptic…and your best bet on getting food was to drive up to someone's garage and ask for their bologna sandwich).  So when we hit Monticello, we were relieved to see actual restaurants.  Even so, these choices were limited to 3 categories: restaurants that were independently standing, restaurants that were inside a smoky pool hall, and restaurants that were closed.  We chose Lamplight because it was the only one that looked at all promising.  When we walked in, only 3 tables were sat with customers.  It still took 10 minutes for someone to seat us.  Upon being seated, no one asked us for a drink order.  So we waited another 5-6 minutes.  (Yes, OF COURSE I time this--I waited tables all through my undergrad years, and you are trained to meet time specifications).  Michael and I skimmed the menu of approximately 13 meal items (we both chose NY strips), ready to order everything upon the first encounter with a server so skeptical, she wouldn't look at you straight on.  When we finally brought our drinks, we noticed something very peculiar: there were children (4 of them between the ages of 3 and 14, give or take a year--and the 3-year-old was BAREFOOT!!!) walking between the main floor and the kitchen.  *vomit*  I don't know what the health codes are in Utah, but out here, civilians are NOT allowed in the kitchen!  Our server just happened to be the mother to all 4 of them.  She was ordering them to stay in the kitchen to roll silverware and wash dishes.  *double vomit*  We were contemplating leaving when our steaks arrived.  I requested mine be cooked mid-rare.  Instead, I had a cold, red piece of cow ass still in tears from its confrontation with the butcher.  Being almost 5 months pregnant, I couldn't stomach it.  Michael stepped up and offered to switch steaks.  The server noticed this and came to inquire about our swap.  She gave me the stink eye when I told her I wasn't satisfied with the way the steak was cooked.  We trudged through our meal, realizing that we had gotten gristly ribeye cuts of steak rather than the much leaner NY strips we ordered.  Just one disappointment after another…  And when I finally took a restroom break after the meal, the barefoot 3-year-old was running through a back storage room at the end of the hallway.  The room was full of cooking equipment and old furniture stacked in unwieldy positions, and no one was watching him.  I had to get the hubs and Baby Nerd as far away from this place as fast as our rented Toyota Matrix could take us!
  • Pasta Jay's (in Moab, UT). We stopped here after hiking all through Canyonlands NP and Dead Horse Point State Park our first full day in Moab.  Michael drank his first local brew here (the Dead Horse Ale) and chowed down on an enormous pasta platter that 2 could have easily shared.  I ate an entire pizza (it was a personal-sized one) and a Caesar salad.  We dined outdoors, soaking up the scenery.  This is where we fell in love with the culture of this Utah town.
  • Moab Brewery (in Moab, UT).  This was the epicenter of all the town's activity, so naturally we chose to dine here for the only dinner we would have in Moab.  You have to get there early to avoid waiting.  We were lucky to have waited only 20 minutes for a table.  They serve several local brews, which only Michael was able to enjoy (this time he chose the Raven Oatmeal Stout).  While the atmosphere was electric and lively, the food was nothing exceptional.  I guess when you are known for your microbrews, your cuisine takes a back seat.  We stopped by the gift shop on the way out to purchase our anniversary gifts.  Your server gives each customer a wooden token for $1.50 off an item at the gift shop.  A coupon an a wooden circle.  Score!  For year number 3, you traditionally do gifts of either leather or glass.  We're not leather people, so we decided to get ourselves a pair of drinking glasses designed with the 2 brews Michael had tried (OK, I admit it--I took a sip of each, and they were terrific).  There was also a gelato stand near the door of the restaurant, but we were far too full for anything else.  We heard, though, that the gelato is exceptional here.
Accommodations:
    The grounds at Sunflower Hill.  This is the main house where the rooms, living area, library, and laundry facilities were located.  We walked to another building next door for breakfast the two mornings we stayed here.
  • Sunflower Hill Luxury Inn (Moab, Utah).  Where do I even begin in describing this B&B?  The Nantucket-style shingle siding?  The mature evergreens and gardens on the property?  The friendliness of the staff?  We originally thought we would be arriving very late and surprised the woman at the front desk (Debbie) when we walked in 3 hours before they anticipated us.  She whipped out maps of the nearby national parks--Canyonlands and Arches--and started circling points of interest.  We held onto those maps for our visits to the park, taking into consideration everything that she recommended.  Breakfast each morning was served as a small buffet in the second building on the property.  They wrote the breakfast specials on a small chalkboard above the perfectly-arranged platters.  Seating was broken up into 3 areas: the main room with the buffet line, the foyer (where we sat and gaped at the lush gardens out front), and the patio.  The inn keeper made his rounds, chatting with guests at each table.  Two of his oldest teenage children, adorned in aprons and name tags, removed empty casserole pans and brought in trays of fresh fruit.  If you needed bottled or canned drinks, or even a Klondike Bar, there were fridges in each of the buildings with prices for each item listed on the door.  You simply placed your cash in a bucket on top of the fridge and walked away with your purchase.  The library in the main house's living area had a variety of books on local attractions, desert flora and fauna, and even biographies on John Muir.  Classical music played all day in this room.  And they served home-baked cookies and muffins on a silver tray every afternoon.  You could even make yourself a cup of hot coffee or tea to match your pastry choice.  There is a pool on the property, but we merely walked past it on the way to breakfast.  There wasn't a thing about this B&B we didn't like.  We would recommend it to any traveler!
Our suite at the Sunflower Hill Luxury Inn in Moab, UT.  All the credit goes to my husband.  He chose the B&B and the room.  It was absolutely one of my favorite places to stay on our road trip.
Our suite's bathroom.
This would be my relaxation spot of choice in the suite!  Warm bath, ambient light, and a good book to read…great way to shake off a day on the road.
Memorable sights and experiences:
    When Antelope Canyon didn't work out, we stopped here.
  • Navajo National Monument.  It's a squiggly 9-mile drive off highway 164 to get to it, but worth it.  A short hike out to a canyon leads you to a cave-like cut-out in the rock where ancient Navajo tribes once lived.  The dwelling was full of sculpted rock that formed walls, wells, and steps.  It didn't look very comfortable, but the dwellings were in a location where food and water were easily accessed, and they were able to stay out of the harsh elements of the changing seasons.
After walking less than a mile, you come upon an outlook from which you can see the cliff dwellings of ancient Navajo.  
They knew what they were doing.  Just look at how perfectly-cast the shadows are across their cut-out in the rock.
Close-up of the dwellings.
  • Four Corners Monument.  Ever since I was a child and noticed the point at which 4 states met, I had yearned to stand on this very corner.  I was under the impression it was part of the National Parks System, but we discovered it was on Navajo land.  Set up on a large square concrete walking area with a flea market-like stand of shops on each side of the square, you are free to mill about each of the states' corners.  Four ramps near the center allowed you to take a photo of the Four Corners from a higher viewpoint.  There were many people trying to get their picture as they stood on the junction, swapping their cameras with strangers on the ramps in order to get their entire party in the shot.  We joined in the fun, taking pictures for a leather-clad biker couple while we were on a ramp, and then turning to a woman and her girlfriend to take our picture while they stood above us.  Baby Nerd has been in 4 states at once!
  • Canyonlands NP.  The hike to the Mesa Arch was by far my favorite part of experiencing this park, even though it was crawling with dozens of other tourists.  Sure, the Grand Canyon was stunning, but there was something different about the canyons here.  They seemed more alive with plants and animals along the trails.  The drop-offs were more titillating.  The wind gusts coming up from the bowels of the canyons were far stronger.  There were snow-capped mountains in the distance.  It was something I wanted to experience later in our lives with our children.  Maybe we'll go back with another family or two and rent a couple of RVs.
  • Arches NP.  While you spend your time bending your neck to look downwards in Canyonlands, you are craning it in Arches for a view.  You steer your car around steep red walls, surrounded by layers and formations of rock that could only make one believe in God and science all in the same visual sweep of the landscape.  Our favorite rock outcroppings were the Three Gossips (towers that looked like 3 women huddled together in conversation), Sheep Rock (near the Gossips and looked exactly like a giant, red sheep), Balanced Rock (watch your back here), the Windows (when you walked around the backside of these formations, they looked like a pair of dragon eyes rising out of the Earth), and Delicate Arch (we took the "cheater's hike" to see it from afar instead of the 3-hour round trip hike it would have taken to walk up to it).  The photos at the end of this entry don't do it justice.
  • Dead Horse Point State Park.  Known for its horseshoe peninsula carved out by the mighty Colorado River, this vista was a short drive off of one of the main roads that took you to Canyonlands.  According to history, cowboys fenced in their horses on this very peninsula.  There was no easy way for the cowboys to access fresh water for their horses.  The herd of equine met their fate due to dehydration with a clear view of the Colorado below.  They say the horses' bones can still be found here.
Dead Horse Point.  Holy gorgeousness, Batman.
Drawbacks:
  • Some sites were a bit too pricey.  The whole reason why we chose to stay in Page, AZ was to visit Antelope Canyon.  It is a slot canyon on a Navajo reservation that attracts more photographers and movie makers than any other southwestern wonder.  We picked up a brochure for tours of the canyon, which cost $32 PER PERSON.  What was worse--the tour only lasted an hour and a half.
  • Only saw a glimpse of New Mexico.  There will be a next time…hopefully.
  • Only saw a glimpse of Mesa Verde NP.  This one should also have a next time.  There just wasn't enough time for tours of the cliff dwellings here when we had to be in Moab by the evening.  Maybe we'll bring kids back here one day.
Traveling while pregnant tip I learned from here:  There are still nice people in the world, and they take pity on the pregnant!  The only con of the restaurant in Kayenta was that there wasn't a working overhead light in the ladies' room.  I had downed a couple of glasses of Coke, so I wasn't going to last a whole lot longer.  To resolve this issue, we simply drove next door to the gas station for their restroom.  Except, the ladies' room there was out of service for cleaning.  A very nice gentleman in a Celtics T-shirt noticed I was pregnant and quite frustrated over the fact that I had struck out at TWO establishments' restrooms.  He said he didn't mind waiting another minute and offered for me to use the men's room ahead of him.  I thanked him more than was socially necessary and practically ran for the door.  Even after I came out, I continued to thank him.  He looked at me as if anyone else would have done the same thing to help out his fellow (wo)man and offered, "Hey, it was nothing."  Still, it was a very nice gesture.  Even though I wasn't seeking preferential treatment for being pregnant, it sure helped move things along when in a pickle.



Family of 3 standing in 4 states!  This moment prompted a few "awwww"s from the other tourists.

Signage at the monument.

Inside Mesa Verde NP.  Extremely windy here, but the views were breathtaking.

Beautiful Colorado.

When you can't make a road on the side of a mountain, you dig a tunnel through it.

A slanted rock served as our tripod for this shot.

We saw this arch from the road after entering Utah.  Michael climbed the sandy hill to get to it while I took his picture.

So a guy named Albert Christensen decided to build his family a 5,000 sq. ft. home out of rock in the UT Canyonlands.  It is aptly named "Hole N The Rock".  He didn't finish the home before he died in the late 1950s, but his family continued to develop the property, including ways to attract tourists and visitors with a gift shop and interesting sculptures on the grounds.  Tours of this intriguing spot stop at 4:00pm.  Michael and I were driving past it at around 5:00.  Shucks!
Oh, glorious days that are overcast!  This made for a much easier haul around the park.  If you make it to Moab, Canyonlands is a must.

Looking through the Mesa Arch into the canyon below.  Can you say "vertigo"?

Baby Nerd and I took in the sights.  I would love to see this place at sunset.

Michael with the Mesa Arch.  Apparently, you can walk across the top of it.  Those strong winds kept us from trying that part of the trail.


A woman with a shirt from Victoria, BC, Canada took this shot for us.  It was the beginning of a beautiful day in a memorable national park.

The Three Gossips.

Balanced Rock.  Watch out there, hubby!

North Window.  Love that bright, rusty red.

Both North Window and South Window.  See what I mean about dragon eyes?

We took the primitive trail back to our car from the Windows.  Here, the trail got a little tricky.

Delicate Arch.

You can see how far away from Delicate Arch we were.  There simply wasn't time (or energy) for a hike all the way up to it.

My turn with Delicate Arch.

Pose with a ram statue: check.



19 July 2011

Nerd in Utero Project: Week 25

Too hot for pants…or shorts…  Loose cotton dresses from Target will suffice.




How Far Along: 25 weeks, 7 days
Size of Baby: The size of an eggplant.  This veggie always reminds me of my friend and former roomie, Macy.  When we lived together, she was the master at making meals out of eggplant.
Total Weight Gain/Loss: 22 pounds…seriously need to balance my eating and work-out habits a little better...
Maternity Clothes: Wear them all the time, and I just bought a few more for when I go back to work this fall.  Maternity PJs might be next on the to-be-purchased list.  Unless…maybe I can raid Michael's old T-shirts and find one to wear to bed?
Baby-related Purchases: My mom and grandmother took me to the Tanger outlets in Commerce where they happen to have a Carter's outlet store.  I bought 4 outfits for our little girl to wear next summer for only $15.  One of them has a smiling crab on the butt of the outfit.
Gender: Definitely female.  Nicknames have begun: Malo (or Marshmallow), Mo, and Liv.  And when she wears that crab outfit: Crabby Butt.
Movement: She moves all the time.  And not just in the gentle "I'm enjoying this amniotic fluid" float I expected just a few short weeks ago.  It's as if she's preparing to be a Rockette or a female Jackie Chan.
Sleep: I'm trying to stay awake later (until 11:00, sometimes midnight) so that I'm not waking up at an hour that even a rooster would deem early.  It seems to help somewhat, but it makes me want to sleep until 8:00am.  This will not do when school starts back.
Belly Button In or Out: It can't make up it's mind.
What I Miss: Shopping for normal-sized clothes.  Whenever I see a pair of jeans on sale or a nice shirt that I would buy for work--and they just happen to be my pre-pregnancy size--I have to remind myself to wait until after the baby.  It's not that far off.  I guess it's just more exasperating now since I'm getting big enough that I don't fit into the oversized clothes I already had, and I'm starting to get uncomfortable.
Cravings: Still no stand-out cravings, but I'm eating a minimum of 4 meals a day, plus 2-3 snacks in between.  It's not largely different from the eating patterns before I got pregnant where I ate 3 squares plus snacks, but the calories seem to "stick" a little more than before.  This is why I need more physical activity than I'm already getting.
Symptoms: 
  • I now see how extra weight on the body affects your joints, back, and feet.  I'm moving at a pace a bit slower than before, and it doesn't take long to feel achy in these areas.  I must return to my pre-pregnancy size so I can move without this pain!
  • Pregnancy brain.  It's real, folks.
  • Sweaty.  All the time.  Thanks to my friend, Julie, her idea of using baby powder in the undergarments is greatly helping with this.  Yeah, baby powder.  Saving me, one sweaty boob at a time.
  • Reaching around for an item that may be behind me is pretty much impossible now.  When you don't have a waist, you don't have a pivot point.
  • Fatigue, as always.  Short naps help.
Managing the Stress: I worked out in the yard a little more this past week.  I also completed the nursery paintings (as posted in the last blog entry).  I always forget how much fun crafty projects can be.  Last night, I took a relaxing candlelit bath (don't worry--it wasn't too hot, nor did I use bubbles) while I read a good book.  I also want to go back to the pool.  Julie had me over for a couple of visits to their pool the week before, where I got to float on my belly in the pool.  It was heaven to be on my stomach for once!
Worries: Going into labor way too early.  I don't think a week or two early would scare me too much, but several weeks early?  Even Michael expressed concern about it the other day with: "You know, if she were to come now, she's considered 'viable'.  She has all the parts she needs, even though they're not completely developed.  One way or another, we will be delivering an actual baby."  He's right.  She's no longer an unrecognizable nugget on the sonogram screen.  Baby Nerd has arms, legs, internal organs, blinking eyes, fingernails, and layers of fat.  Something in my gut tells me she will be an early arriver, but we're hoping that she won't be too much so.
What I Look Forward To: I cannot wait to hold her.  All the other mommy stuff will follow, but I am really looking forward to the first time where I can actually have my arms and hands around her tiny, wrinkly body!
Celebrations:
  • I enjoyed a Sunday supper at my grandparents' house over the weekend after a spend-the-night at my house with my mom (Michael was in Dublin attending a wake).  All the family wanted to talk about was their future great-granddaughter while we dined on country fried steak and corn on the cob.  I love that they are so excited about her arrival.  They referred to her by her middle name, Olivia.  She's going to have to get used to being called many names and variations on her name.
  • It took 20 months to get pregnant, and now we're down to double digits in days left in our pregnancy.  Whoa.
Quote of the Week: As we're sitting around the table at my grandparents house enjoying our meal, my grandmother reaches over, pats me on the belly, and says, "Just look at this!"  I smiled, enjoying the attention my pumpkin belly was receiving.  Then, my grandmother reaches a little higher, gives my left breast a slight jiggle, and says, "And look at these!"  I can't even begin to imagine what must have been going through my grandfather's mind after witnessing that!


15 July 2011

Getting Crafty for the Nursery: Paintings

When I began planning our daughter-to-be's nursery, I figured we would splurge a little on furniture and bedding (you want that lifetime crib to actually last through toddlerhood), and then pull the purse strings on everything else.  One place where I knew I could save $$$ would be on decor.  More specifically, the art.  Being a little ambitious and having weeks away from work, I would admire pieces of nursery art on the internet and think (rather arrogantly) to myself, "I could do that."  Nothing complicated or full of excruciating detail.  Something along the lines of simplistic and modern, like…


…this one with just a few colors and simple shapes...

…or like these, focusing on a figure or two per panel….

My only problem: I'm not artistic.  In fact, my capabilities when attempting to sketch or doodle barely go beyond drawing stick figures in skirts or baseball caps.  I try very hard to draw comprehensible pictures for my students who are visual learners during lessons, but I'm usually met with giggles or questions like, "Is that supposed to be Abraham Lincoln? He kinda looks like a horse."

*sigh*

My brother, on the other hand (who is a landscape architect, might I add), got the lion's share of artistic abilities when swimming around in our parents' collective gene pool.  While my proficiency remained stagnant at the developmental level of a 12-year-old who knows how to draw the apostrophe on an apple to represent its reflective qualities, my brother has designed intricate gardens, lavish swimming pools (complete with waterfalls and grottoes), and mighty stone walls with his colored pens and shading tools.

I had to come up with a foolproof step-by-step plan that not even I could foul up.  I did a little more internet research and chose my materials:

  • blank canvases
  • acrylic paints (matched to the crib bedding)
  • paint brushes
  • pencil
  • stencils
Here's a photo montage of the process:


Blank canvases I purchased at Michael's.  Altogether they cost less than $30.  The paints were 99¢ apiece.  I already had brushes, so they were FREE!

There are only 3 colors in Baby Nerd's bedding, so I used each one as a background.  It took 2 coats to completely cover each canvas.

The stencils!  This took the most internet research, as I refused to pay for any.  I took my friend Tamela's advice to have "characters" in the nursery to make it feel like a baby's room.  I chose elephants and birds.  Once I found the images I liked, I sized them, hit the print button, and cut the suckers out.

A close-up of the tree stencil.  I found this one on an image of a baby quilt.  It took forever to cut it out.

Then I traced each stencil onto its canvas.  In order to make the leaves "fit", I cut 3 of them off the original stencil and traced around them individually.  This helped make gapping in between the leaves and branches.

Next, I filled in each stencil.  Again, it took many coats.  2 for the tree, 3 for the bird, and 4 for the elephant.

See how you can still see the ivory through the green of the leaves?  They needed 2 more coats before they were opaque.  A fine-tipped brush helped me make the ends of the branches more pointed.

Finished tree!

The final product!  Each canvas has all 3 colors, and the total project cost me roughly $30 and maybe 5-6 hours of painting.

Another angle.  I'm still in shock over the fact that my hand painted this.  Guess that means I can paint by numbers, huh?  :)

This craft proves you don't have to be an artist to be able to create something of which you are proud and that your future child will love.  I even impressed my artsy brother when I sent him a text message for his "approval".  Hopefully, the next time you see these paintings is in a picture of the nursery…which still has a looooong way to go before being finished.  Thanks for checking in!

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