Geek Kid Costumes

This is my 200th post! It’s also the end of October, so I figured I’d commemorate by featuring my kids’ geeky costumes through the years.

2010—Doctor Who, Star Wars

Only a month old, and I subjected the kid to two different costumes.

His hair was pretty Tennant-y, so our #1 was #10…the tenth Doctor


The Captain and I wanted to be Han Solo and Princess Leia for Halloween, so I made Champ an Ewok costume, too.



I am no good at sewing, so most of these are no-sew. The pants from 2010–2011 were sewn, crappily by me, in an idiotic fashion. Basically I made no allowance for my poor child’s rear end, so the pants never fit over his bum. In 2012 (see below), I found a pair of pants from a thrift store. They were a size too small and had flowers embroidered on the back pockets, but they worked.


In 2011, my neighbor and I thought it would be cute to take Champ and E out trick-or-treating together and do matching costumes. I can’t remember how we cam up with the idea, but we decided on Aladdin and Jasmine. E already had the cute headband, so I rifled through Target clearance for mint-colored clothes for her and fashioned a bikini top, and then cut out a vest and sewed two quick fezzes for Aladdin and Abu. It was chilly, so we put them in white layers to keep warm and modest (I had no luck finding skin-toned shirts!).



I got this shirt for Champ from Woot Shirt when it was the shirt of the day. (You can get your own here!) The wig and pants came from a thrift store, the cloak was just a piece of fleece I tied around him, and the feet were tan socks pulled over his boots with fake fur hot glued to the top.



2013—Sherlock and John (from BBC’s Sherlock)

Now that I’ve got two little ones, and it’s probably the last year I can choose Champ’s costume myself, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to dress them up from my favorite show, BBC’s Sherlock.

If you are familiar with the fandom (which is completely insane due to prolonged hiatuses of the show), you might be aware of the animal comparisons between the main actors, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, to animals—an otter and a hedgehog, respectively. See Benedict otters here and Martin hedgehogs here.

So I decided to make my baby John a hedgehog and my Pre-K Sherlock part otter. Here were the results:


John: baby snowsuit + fake fur + sweater vest.

Sherlock: Hat from Amazon, colored grey; wig from thrift store; Old Navy jacket; scarf we owned; sewn pants and tail.


John after the Reichenbach fall.

sherlock2 copy

This kid is seriously a champ.

I’m hoping next year I can convince Champ that he really wants to be C-3PO so I can make Lion R2-D2. But he’s a cool kid, so whatever he picks is probably going to be awesome.

2014 update

Champ was four, old enough to pick his own costume, and he wanted to be Mike the Knight. So we went as a medieval family. I purchased all the costumes, since Captain had returned from a four-month long training just a few weeks before.

halloween 2014  2014 kids

2015 update

Champ was five, Lion was two, and they both wanted to be their favorite super heroes: Iron Man and Captain America, respectively. For the Denver Comic Con, Capt was also Captain America, and I was Agent Peggy Carter. For Halloween, we got Champ the Iron Man suit costume.



Taking Good Photos of Active Kids

How to take good photos of active kids—photography tips for moms | Bewildered Mother

You may not know this about me, because I haven’t taken pictures in a very, very long time apart from my phone, but I’m a photographer.

That’s right, went to school for it (among other things), and I have even been paid for it before I became a mom.

I took LOTS of photos of Champ when he was a baby, and he was a great model, much like Lion is now. But somewhere along the line, he started to think it was really funny to AVOID the camera, and to run away from me if I ever had one in my hand. He only wanted selfies that he took of himself on my phone.

Well, I decided I needed some legitimate, non-instagram photos of this crazy child when he turned 3. So I got out my SLR, searched all over the house for my charger (found one) and extra battery and memory card (still looking), and I took him to the park, and I took a couple hundred photos. Now I know I’m not the only person who has active children, and I also know that people want to know how to take good photos of their kids, so I thought, as a mom, as a photographer, I’d give some tips specifically targeted towards moms (or dads) of those camera-shy children.

Tip #1—avoid harsh lighting

harsh lightSo, unfortunately, I took all of these photos around lunchtime on a sunny day, because it was the only time we could do it. The best times to take photos? Depending on the season and where you live, you’ll want to avoid times the sun is directly above, creating those kinds of shadows you’d make around the campfire with a flashlight at your chin. That’s means generally trying to take photos before 10 am and after 4 pm. Overcast days are the best for photos. The sky is gray, I know, but the light is diffused and super flattering.

If you take the pictures at noon on a sunny day, there is still hope. Avoid awkward shadows from trees (you know, the ones that make you look like a dalmatian), and avoid having your subjects look directly into the sun. You can face the sun if you want some lens flares, but your subject will be darker. Try taking pictures with the sun at your side.

Tip #2—learn how to crop

Chances are, you’ll be taking a ton of photos of your kid, because the more you take, the better the likelihood of getting good photos. So don’t worry too much about framing your photos as you take them. Even if you don’t have photo editing software, you can crop your photos before you print them. If you’re uploading to Facebook, use one of the programs preinstalled onto your computer. Sorry I can’t be more help. I have no idea what programs you have on your computer. Anyway, the idea behind cropping is two-fold: One, you want to eliminate distractions from your focus. Two, you want an aesthetic composition.


Here’s an image I cropped, with a before and an after. See those big magenta bars in the photo on the left? Distracting. So I cropped it out with the photo on the left, which roughly follows the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds means you divide your canvas into a 3×3 grid—a tic-tac-toe—and then align your horizon or subject along those lines. Asymmetrical compositions are usually more interesting, but with close-up portraits, you have more freedom. In the photo on the left, Champ’s body takes up the middle third, with his face in the top middle and his legs in the bottom middle. On the photo on the left, the original, Cham takes up the lower 2/3rds of the frame. I’ll point out more thirds later.

Now look at the photo on the left. Where does your eye go? (This is what people talk about when they speak about movement in a photograph or artwork). Your eye might start at the face, but did you notice it going down his arm and lingering at his hand? That’s annoying. I want people to look at his face, not his hand, no matter how cute it is. It’s not the focus of this photograph. So I re-cropped the photo.


See? Much better. Now go impress your friends by talking about a piece’s movement.

Tip #3—focus

If you’re chasing around a toddler or preschooler trying to take photos, don’t worry about trying to manually set your camera for each photo. Set your camera to Aperture Priority (it’s usually a letter A), and change your aperture to the lowest number f-stop. (Read your camera’s manual—it’s a little different on each camera) With my lens, the best f-stop I could get was about a 4. The lower the number, the more blurred out the background and foreground of the photo will be. This selective focus is called “depth of field,” and you can Google that if you want to learn more about it.

Aperture Priority is great, because it will automatically choose the other settings (like shutter speed) for you, so your photos aren’t over- or underdeveloped.


In this photo, the focus is on Champ, so everything in front of him (the construction vehicles, in the bottom third of the photo) and behind him (the trees) are blurred. If you’ve ever heard the term “bokeh,” that’s the confetti-like pattern the background turns into when you have a low aperture. You’ll see bokeh in some of the following shots. To read more about aperture, I suggest “Exposure Made Easy” by Doe a Deery.

Why blur out the background and foreground? Because unless you are taking a landscape photo, they are usually distracting. Knowing aperture is your first step to looking like a pro.

Tip #4—let them play


This will keep them busy. It’s more fun to play with toys than to have to sit still and POSE. I always prefer candids, anyway. And if you didn’t have problems with your kids posing for the camera, why are you still reading this post?

Tip #5—Let them touch


Kids usually don’t need to be told to touch things, but sometimes, if you point something out to them, they will STOP MOVING to touch it. Snap away. If you’re at home, try handing your baby or toddler a piece of clear tape to hold. Then make weird noises to get them to look at you. For that tip and others regarding babies and little toddlers, see this post from Simply Real Moms.

Tip #6—Take close-ups when they’ll let you


The rest of the time, keep your distance and zoom in. Soon he or she will ignore your weirdness and keep playing. Close-ups are where it’s most important to have a low aperture. See how the sand has turned into a bokeh background? If you don’t have an SLR setting, you can try the “portrait” setting.

Tip #7—Know your surroundings

Even with your aperture set to blur out the background, sometimes there’s stuff back there that can’t be blurred enough. Sure, you can crop sometimes, but not always.


See how cute this photo is? I love it. But it would be so much cuter without that big ugly bathroom in the shot! When you’ve got ugly architecture, try to avoid it when you can. I took senior photos last weekend and kept maneuvering myself and my subject so that his head blocked out unsightly light fixtures. But in the case of the photo above, I had Lion on my lap and would have had to fling him on the ground to get this shot framed right. With active kids, you have to go for speed usually, like I did here, so you don’t have a chance to set yourself in the right spot. But when you do have a chance…

Tip #8—Choose your angles wisely

You can eliminate yucky background clutter by shooting down, so the ground becomes your background…


…or shooting up, so the sky becomes your background.


See that? Bokeh. This one is definitely frame-worthy. This cropping is also an example of forgoing the rule of thirds for the sake of balance, another five-dollar art word. While I could have cropped Champ another way, I pulled this one in tight as a square, and let half of the background be tree and half be sky. Symmetrical balance, on an axis. (Wikipedia has a briefer on more design principles, if you really want to sound like you know what you’re talking about and don’t have the cash to take a legitimate design class)

Tip #9—get down at their level


One of the best tips for taking photos of kids (and one of the most intuitive) is to get down at their level. I go even further sometimes, and instead of taking a kid’s eye view, I take a bug’s eye view, or in this case, a toy excavator’s point of view. See also the title photo of this post.

Tip #10—Shoot from the hip

Sometimes I like to play paparazza with camera-shy kids. That’s the female, singular form of “paparazzi”—I learn something new every day! I also like to take the skills I developed taking billions of self portraits as a teenager and apply them to taking pictures of kids. Probably half of these photos were taken by me, without my looking through the viewfinder. I use the full extension and mobility of my arms when taking photos of kids. This is definitely something that takes practice, like shooting from the hip. But the payoff is great.


Take this for example. This is the only photo I have of him with his eyes open while blowing bubbles. I missed the bubbles, sure, but I actually really like how the framing of this turned out, so I didn’t even crop it. I would not have this shot if I was behind the camera.

You’ll have to keep your focus set to Auto, which invariably means you’ll get more shots with random parts in focus and the kid blurry, but if you have a new(ish) camera, it will probably find the faces and focus on them.

Tip #11—Remember the details


I know, I know, there are about a million photos of baby feet, or macro flowers, or whatever on the internet. Taking a close-up or macro photo of something doesn’t make you a standout photographer. But this isn’t about becoming famous, this is about remembering what it’s like to have little kids. So observe, soak it up, and take pictures of those little details, like how your baby covers himself with toys and curls his toes together.

Tip #12—Be intentional about Black and White


I once spoke to an amateur photographer about black and white and was mentioning that all photos don’t look good in black and white. She responded, “All MY photos look good in black and white.” I smiled and nodded, and later Facebook stalked her to find her monochromatic wonders and guess what—she was wrong.

Black and white brings out and highlights the texture of a photo. Any architecture in your photo will be emphasized, which is why taking that bubble photo with the bathroom behemoth would look horrible in a black and white.

Will your photograph look good in black and white? Like, actually good? Here’s a checklist.

  • Do I want to emphasize architecture or texture in the photo?
  • Is there adequate value in the photo? Black and whites look best when you can get a pure white, a pure black, and a range of greys in between.
  • If there isn’t great value to begin with, but I’m desperate for this to be in black and white, do I have adequate photo editing capabilities?

The best way to make a black and white before processing the photo is to make sure your lighting is flattering (see next tip). When you are editing the photo, use Levels or Curves to get black blacks and white whites. And the best tip? Use Black and White filters. This is a tip stolen from photographing with black and white film, which is really, really fun and challenging. When you add a colored filter when taking photos, you can get really interesting variations in value. Black and white filters are on Photoshop under the adjustment filters. If you’re using iPhoto or something else, you can recreate this by taking the saturation down all the way and then messing with the color balance until you get something you like. If you pick a blue filter, the sky will be white and any yellows will be black. Choose a red filter, and Caucasians will look like ghosts. Check out the bottom of this post for a comparison of different filters, using the most colorful photo taken that day.

Bonus Tip—Use windows when inside

This tip is more relevant if you are able to get your active child to sit down in one spot. If you can do that, or if you are taking photos of babies, have the child face a window to get catchlights in their eyes—those white reflections of light that make them appear to  be bright-eyed.

Try to use the windows to cast an angled light on the subject, so their face has a range in value, from lit to shadow.

Then you can make the photo black and white, eliminating nasty color combinations like red and green stripes!


Black and White Filters

Here’s a comparison of different black and white adjustment layers in Photoshop. If you don’t have Photoshop, you can imitate the effects if you have Hue & Saturation plus Color Balance sliders.

Black and White adjustment layers via "How to Take Good Photos of Active Kids"

Both the default and max black settings worked pretty well in this photo, but I tweaked the sliders a bit to find a good medium between the two.

Champ is 3—milestones and memories


I’m all about remembering sweet things about my boys and collecting them so that I can look back in the future. I am not, however, all about scrapbooking. I think it’s fun, but I also think it’s incredibly time, space, and cash consuming. When Champ turned 2, I made him a book from Shutterfly that went from his first birthday to the month before his second birthday. It’s basically a digital scrapbook printed out. The prices range a lot, starting at $13, and you can get coupons if you pay attention. Right now they’re having sale and you can save 10%-50%. The code is on the site. If it has expired since I post this, it will not be on the site. There are other places to make the books, too, I just like the Shutterfly designs the best. And as some of you know, I’m a design snob. Anyway, making a photo book per year per kid is just not feasible for us. At least it won’t be once we have a houseful of kids. And I know the more kids you have, the fewer photos you take of each. C’est la vie.

I do plan on making the photobooks for each child at least for their baby years. This Christmas I’ll finally get Champ’s first year done, and in the spring I’ll do Lion’s first year for his birthday. But I needed an idea for a scrapbook alternative for each child as they grow older.

I’m a bit of a Pinterest addict, so I’m always collecting milestone and memory ideas for the kids in my a full house board and birthday boards (I have a TON of boards…and pin a lot, especially to my geeky boards. Fair warning if you want to follow me.) There were two pins in particular that I knew I wanted to start them with Champ when he turned 3.

Birthday Photo Letter

The first one is like a journal, photo, and letter in one. Here’s the original.

Champ 3 letter

This is the blog version. I have one using his actual name to put in an album later, with the interview below.

Birthday Interview

The second one is a list of 20 questions, and you can find the original here. I changed some of the questions to better suit our family. (I found the food questions to be repetitive). These will live on the blog until I have enough to make a book, or until Champ can start writing them himself.

Me: I’m going to ask you some questions for your birthday, okay?

Champ: Okay.

 What is your favorite color? 

Yellow. And blue and green and white!

What is your favorite toy?

My LeapPad.

What is your favorite TV show?


Magic School Bus. That’s right. What is your favorite thing to eat? 


Juice is something you drink. What do you like to eat?

Ice cream.

What is your favorite thing to wear?

[His Michelangelo mask, from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, that he bought for his birthday]

What is your favorite game?

Candy Land?




What’s your favorite animal?

Yar! [the lions at the zoo]

What is your favorite song?

Oh yeah. [Walk Off The Earth’s “Red Hands.” The “oh yeah” part makes it the only song he can actually sing along with]

Good choice, but maybe not entirely appropriate for a preschooler… What’s your favorite book?

[Little People’s Busy People.]

Who is your best friend?

Is Mommy and Daddy okay?

Yeah, that’s okay…


What’s your favorite thing to do outside?

Drive. [He means his ride on John Deere Gator]

What is your favorite holiday?

It’s happy birthday.

 What do you like to take to bed with you at night?

[Ollie the elephant, his Scentsy buddy]

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Up high [he flies his hand above his head] and with a car.

Like an astronaut?


What’s your favorite movie? [I lined up five of his favorites for him to choose from]


Who’s your favorite person in a movie? [This will evolve to favorite superhero or fictional character]

Po. [From Kung Fu Panda]

What’s your favorite subject in school?


Where’s your favorite place to go visit?

Gigi’s house!

What’s your favorite sport?

Hockey. [His cousins taught him how to play it with his toy golf clubs]

How would you describe yourself?

[Three. He hasn’t started using adjectives yet—he pretty much sticks to nouns right now]

– – – – – – – – –

I’ll keep my eyes out for 8×8 albums for the boys, and once I find some, I’ll print the photo letters to put on one side and put the interviews or Q&As on the right side, like this.

I still need to post the book and cookie lists from his birthday, as well as the photos from his birthday shoot. I’ll include some tips on taking your own photos of rambunctious camera-ditchers, too. Be sure to follow, subscribe, or become a fan on Facebook so you don’t miss them when they come!

The Birthday Party

This year I decided to go with a Sesame Street theme for Champ’s birthday. It was his first birthday party with kids his age over, and it was a blast.

This will likely be the only party he has with over a dozen kids, plus their parents attending. Not that it wasn’t super fun, and it honestly wasn’t overwhelming, but next year I’m guessing Champ will be at an age in which he has formed tighter bonds with a few kids. I’ve heard the idea of inviting one child per age of the birthday, so next year we will plan on inviting 3 or 4 kids.


The invitations

Everywhere I looked online said it was bad taste to include any mention of gifts, even if it’s to say you don’t want any. Who are you to tell people what to do with their money? People like giving gifts—don’t deny them that joy. Et cetera.

So I decided to call it an ABC party. I asked parents to bring their favorite cookie recipe and a list of three of their favorite books. Then I’d compile the list and distribute it to all the parents. We got a ton of ideas, some people didn’t feel obligated to bring gifts, and others brought really great ones. Champ loves them all, and he’s slowly, slowly coloring thank you notes for his friends.


I designed the invitations, of course, and printed them at home. I designed some cookies based on a Cookie Monster coloring page, printed those out, cut them out, and included them in the invitations. Parents wrote the list of books on the back.


Presents from us to him

We don’t want our kids to be materialistic, so we limit how much we give them. I’m really big on gift giving, so this has been hard on me, but also freeing. Here are my rules for buying gifts for our kids:

  1. Is it something my child would want or need?
  2. Is it a good deal? (I make a note to never pay full price)
  3. Is it clothing?
  4. Do we already have something similar?
  5. Will it last through at least one other child?
  6. Is it educational?
  7. Is it open-ended / can it serve more than one purpose?
  8. Will it foster imagination and creativity?
  9. Is it something that promotes group play or family time?
  10. Is it something worth buying (as opposed to borrowing or making ourselves)?

We bought him a bean bag chair that was PERFECT. He fell in love with a huge one at my aunt’s house and when we looked, ones of a comparable size that weren’t overstuffed cost $70–$200. We bought what I’ve dubbed “the prune” new at Dock 86 for $30.


We also got him a LeapPad game, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, to teach him math; a dry-erase book for practicing letters; a Look & Find treasury book; and the Disney animated Robin Hood on Blu-Ray.

Champ also received birthday money this year. We took out 10% for him to give to church, 10% to put into savings, and let him pick whatever he wanted with the extra money. When he starts to get an allowance, he can tithe out of that, so we won’t take 10% out of his gift money for church, but we will still have him put 10% of gift cash into savings.

He chose a water blaster, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle mask, a Toothless figurine (from How to Train Your Dragon), a play camera, and a tape measure.

From friends, he got play-doh sets, puzzles, a football, books, construction sets, gardening tools, bubbles, sliceable play food…and he’s been playing with all of the toys for the past few weeks. It will take us a while to get through the books!

Party games

What do you do with a dozen preschoolers? I had three mostly unstructured activities for the kids: Homemade Play-doh inside and a Cookie Monster cookie toss and “parachute” game outside.

This is the recipe I used to make a big batch of play dough, but next time I’m going to try this one, which is only slightly different and makes a smaller batch.

Here’s the Cookie Monster cookie toss game. I got the idea from here, but made up different rules and made and painted the cookies with this recipe for dough. The kids loved it, and liked the point system even more when I told them how many points they got.


How to Play:

1. Have kids line up behind one another, with the box facing the first person.
2. Give 3 cookies to each of the first few kids in line.
3. Each child gets three tosses per turn.
4. Award 1 point for hitting the box, 2 points for getting in the box, 3 points for going through the mouth.

I made a ton of the fake cookies. Some of them cracked while drying, and some broke while throwing. The ones that turned out best were not made with cookie cutters. My advice: shape the dough into balls and squish rather than rolling out and using a cookie cutter. And do not flip them over as they are drying. I turned mine because they were starting to warp, but that just made them crack when they warped back the other way. Warping isn’t much of an issue if you don’t use cookie cutters.

For the parachute game, I bought 100 ball pit balls here and a sheet from Goodwill. The kids grabbed the sheet and shook while I poured the balls onto the sheet, then they flew up like popcorn. We tried it twice before letting the kids just throw the balls everywhere. It was a bit too much structure for some kids that were really excited, and would drop the sheet to try and jump into it. Couldn’t blame them for wanting to be in the middle of that!


We made a game of picking up all the balls. With some kids I told them to pick up by color, but we just made it a race with most of them.

Party Food

Here’s what we had for treats:

  • Ernie’s Rubber ducky punch with lemon sherbet (where on earth can you get the pineapple flavor?)
  • Oscar’s trash (store bought chex mix on sale)
  • oscar broccoli tray and strawberry elmo tray
  • Big Bird cupcakes
  • Chocolate Chip cookies
  • “Slimey” sour gummy worms
  • Elmo’s goldfish

Captain also made some pizza bread (Italian loaf, toasted, with pizza sauce and cheese and toppings, heated in the oven)

plates-puzzlesI totally forgot about the fruits and veggie plates until guests started to arriving, so two of my dear friends put them together. The eyes were condiment cups from Culver’s with blueberries for the pupils. Oscar’s were filled with ranch, and Elmo’s were poppy seed dressing. The puzzles were hand-me-downs from my brothers.

I bought freezer pops for all the kids, but just realized they are still in our basement freezer. Oh well.

The cupcakes were my first attempt ever at frosting cupcakes with a frosting bag. hahahahahaha. Candy corn for the beak, and candy eyes from here. You can get them from Walmart or Michaels, too, in the cake decorating aisle.



For the favors, I bought bright colored bags ($5 for 12) and added paper cutouts to make them look like muppets.


  • a small container of play-doh from Walmart 10-Packs ($6 for 10)
  • a couple cookie cutters (ABC and 123) from this set of 50 for $17.50,
  • a snack size bag of mini-cookies (Walmart brand, 100 calorie variety)
  • a mini rubber ducky ($6 for 12)
  • a punch balloon

They cost about $3 or $4 per bag. I ordered from Prime or bought locally, so I didn’t pay shipping.

Well, I was hoping on including the book and cookies list here, but this has taken a huge chunk of time to compose, so I’ll have to do it later. I’ll link back here once it’s online.

Confessions of a Sleep-Deprived Mom of Two

Anyone that has come over to my home or talked to me on the phone recently can gather one of two things: 1) I am entirely sleep deprived and 2) I’ve lost complete control over my household.

If I weren’t so sleep deprived, I likely would have the sense to not post any of the information below. But because I am sleep deprived, I tell myself that a future sleep-deprived self will be amused by it when I see it again in a few years. Behold, life with a toddler, puppy, and newborn baby.

Confession #1


“Oh, I’m, I’m dazed and confused. I’ve been chasing this…this wee-naked child over hill and over dale.”

Oh, Doctor. You have no idea how relevant that line is to my life right now.

I just stepped out the front door, grabbed my toddler, and pulled him back inside. That seems normal enough—toddlers letting themselves outside. Mine was standing there, on the stoop, completely naked, wearing sunglasses. Then he ran off down the hall, the dog chasing after him, desperate to lick his bottom.

Confession #2

Champ has been getting quite a bit of freedom lately, as you can expect. In an attempt to stave off tantrums (or should I say, more tantrums), I’ve been giving him more leeway. He’s also regressed a bit in potty training, hence my letting him be naked (see above). The nakedness was progressive. He’s usually fully clothed—sometimes wearing the same pajamas or shirt for up to three days—but I’ve let him go shirtless like his dad a few times.


This afternoon, I had to change his clothes, and I grabbed the first pair of shorts I could find, not realizing they were 18-months. So I help him put on his underpants and the shorts, and they are super short. Like, Daniel Craig’s swimming suit in Casino Royale short. Whatever, it’s fine. But then he decided to put on his backpack, and as he’s running around with a backpack strapped to his back in hilariously tiny shorts, I was suddenly reminded of The Hawkeye Initiative, which exposes (no pun intended) the ridiculous hypersexualization of women in comic books by replacing women with illustrations of Hawkeye doing the same poses. Like this:

Sorry, son. I’ll make sure you wear appropriately sized shorts next time.

Confession #3 (aka, you can stop reading here and go about your daily business)

You know that space between two people right before they are about to kiss?


Yeah, right there. We’ll call it “the land of in-between.” THAT is where I’ve been living the past three weeks.

Abstinence is no stranger to the Captain and myself. We saved ourselves for marriage, we got through the birth (and thereafter) of our first child, and we made it through many weekends, weeks, and months away from each other when he was an Active Marine. We’re pretty familiar with sexual tension, too—from the moment we first met, there was a definite chemistry between us that rivaled the likes of these folks:


Still, we had a strictly platonic relationship for quite some time before finally coming to terms with ourselves and each other, and most of that time was spent in that land of in-between. You can read our story here.


Anyway, if you didn’t know already, several weeks after a woman gives birth are spent in abstinence, so her body can recover from labor and delivery. For most women, this is absolutely not a problem. And I think for some men who were present during the labor and subsequently traumatized, they can spend the time in recovery as well.

Apparently my hormones are completely whacked out, because I’ve got the opposite problem. I’ve got so much tension built up, just from the past 3 weeks, I could probably gnaw through a telephone pole.

You might conjure up an image such as this:

but this is to what I am referring:

I’ve been able to scrape the skin off the giant vat of pudding that is my sexual tension by watching clips from romantic comedies and commiserating with the characters.

But then the Captain comes home, wearing plaid and smelling like machines, and he goes and works on the car, or he chops some wood, or he walks across the room, or he leans up against a counter

and I’m all…

i want him bad

I think he’s secretly reveling in torturing me. This is what an average day in our house looks like these days:


Notice his cheeky grin, her looking away and not knowing what else to do

I catch him walking out of the room, walking back into the room, taking off his shirt and revealing his GLORIOUS ABDOMINALS OF SPLENDOR, and then walking right out again.

But I know it’s affecting him, too. The other day, he cried out in a voice of mock-hysteria, “WE ARE IN A TIME OF HEALING!” and I nearly choked on my lunch from laughing.

At least we still have our sense of humor. In fact, the baby isn’t the sole reason for my sleep deprivation. Captain and I have been staying up super late every night for the past week, cracking up laughing. “Super late” is midnight for us—we get up at 6 or 7 every morning. It’s like having a marathon of slumber parties. We’re totally losing it, but we’re enjoying ourselves as much as we possibly can.

Now he’s finished with school and his part time job for the summer. I’m praying he can find another job soon, because going from seeing him just an hour or two a day to being together 24/7 is going to be a shock to the system. Looks like I’m going to have to up my prescription of romantic comedies, and supplement with multiple viewings of this:

and scrolling through Tumblr gifs like this:


Misery loves company. What are your favorite moments of romantic tension? Be a dear and share links if you’ve got them!

Maternity Photos

The problem with springtime in Minnesota is that it is completely unpredictable (if it even exists at all). So either we were going to take the photos in the snow, in the mud, or in the dead grass.

Oh, it’s still March, I said. Let’s wait until April, I said. Then we can take maternity pictures outside in bright short sleeve T-shirts and rain boots, I said.

I had this grandiose idea of taking our Maternity photos with rain boots and umbrellas against the skyline of the city.

Then the day came.

And it looked like this:


I had a few ideas, which continually got shot down by weather or fear of overcrowding or traffic. Finally I got the idea of a library.


Half the time was spent chasing Champ up and down the aisles of books, but we did get some good photos. Thanks to LindseyMarie Photography for capturing the day and being so flexible!


That blur of Champ’s hand was pointing to where the baby is.


FYI, Kids can’t run away madly when perched atop daddy’s shoulders.


Most photos were achieved only with leftover Easter candy, which Champ shoved into his cheeks like a chipmunk.mat4









The computers were also a big help in distracting the little wild man.








Potty Training in One Day: Day Ten


Day Zero: Prep work
Day One: The Big Day

I know, it’s been ALL QUIET ON THE POTTY FRONT over here. Here’s my follow-up post about the first week, all disjointed because I really don’t know how to craft this post, so I’m not going to spend much time thinking about it.


Day two? Zero accidents while awake (yay!), but his cloth diaper was quite a mess after nap.

One or two accidents the rest of the week. All I did was ask him if he needed to go potty every 30 minutes or so, and if he said yes, I took him. I also took him even if he said “no” if he was doing the potty dance. He usually initiated.

After Day 5 or 6, we apparently stopped doing the sticker chart every single time. I blame the weekend.

Day 8ish, the Captain reported that he cleaned up quite the poopy pants. (J, aren’t you happy your mother blogs? Can’t wait for you to read this when you are 13.)

Day 9, two accidents. I blame the TV and the fact that I was working. He laughed when I said, “No, no potty in your pants!” and pointed at the potty. He knows, all right.

Day 10, two more in like, one hour. Now, he’s been asking to go potty every 15 minutes, and he has gone, so I don’t really know what the deal is.

Actually, I have an idea. It’s…

#2—Independence (how appropriate that number is in this situation)

Now that Champ can go potty, he is pretty sure he can do absolutely anything. Sounds empowering and lovely, like the way I felt Amazonian Warrior Woman after I gave birth to him.

But independence also means “I DO WHAT I WANT, Y’ALL.”

You’ve heard of the Terrible Twos, and the How-Can-It-Possibly-Get-Worse Threes. (I don’t really know what they call the 3s, but I know most moms will tell you it’s worse. What makes either age “terrible” is the sudden onslaught of throwing tantrums, talking back, testing limits, pushing buttons, and  ignoring authority.

Lemme tell you something. It’s not the age that makes the difference, it’s the threshold of independence. And I think it’s safe to say that threshold can definitely be potty training.

I think the reason we’ve had more accidents lately is the same reason I’ve had to deal with more tantrums lately. As soon as we gave Champ an opportunity to tell us “no,” like when we asked him if he needed to go potty, and he saw that his words and actions had an effect on my actions, he learned there was a whole new realm of possibility in stinkeriness. (That’s a technical term.)

Dealing with the terrible twos (or threes)

Having been a preschool teacher for four years before becoming a mother, and having had two brothers very much younger than myself, I’ve observed the different effects of parenting. The absolute best thing for a child is for him to feel secure. That means he needs to know 1) that you love him, 2) that you will take care of him, and 3) that you are in control. The worst possible thing for a parent to do to a child is to not parent that child. I’m not saying you need to be a dictator—certainly not!—but you do need to set rules and not let your kid(s) walk all over you. If you realize later that your rule was stupid, or that you made a mistake, apologize to your child. This confirms that you love your child, and it ensures that your child will respect you and your authority. Children that grow up with no regard for authority are the ones who either had no real authority in their life (due to neglectful parents OR doormat parents who spoil their children) or who had an authority in their life that they grew to not respect (due to parents who were stubborn or unfair OR parents who children feared rather than loved).

Now that I had that little schpiel, I’ll get back to the practical potty stuff.

#3—Your friend the Potty

We bought a cheapo potty at Walmart or Target that I let Champ pick out because I wanted him to get excited about it. It was advertised as being “cushy” and had Lighting McQueen on it.


similar to this one, with a pee guard and potty hook

It’s a piece of crap. The cushy part has no structure to it, so it sinks down below a hard ridge of plastic that cuts into my toddler’s beautiful thunder thighs.

I did some research and read some reviews and settled on the Prince Lionheart WeePod. And the best thing about it? It was the same price, maybe $1 more, than the piece of crap one. And they had it in stock at our local Target.


comfy and cool.

Either way, little boys need to lean FORWARD and point DOWN to avoid spray. They will touch the guard, so be sure to wipe it down when they are done. The Cars one came with a potty hook, that’s kind of nice, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that it left bright red indentations on my son’s hindquarters. The Prince Lionheart looks so comfy and well made, I had to check out the Prince Lionheart website to see what other kinds of quality products they make.

To sum up:


#4—Potty Training in Public.

Once I figure this out, I’ll do another post. Thankfully he made it on our first outing to the Vet and Post Office without having to pee. We are driving out to Wisconsin soon, though, so I’ll probably end up buying one of those travel potty seats.

In the meantime, I highly suggest reading “Public Toilets Vs Newly Potty Trained Girls and Boys” on, which is why I’m likely going to go purchase one of those travel potty seats FAST. If you read it, you might be likely needing to use your own potty soon, due to the laughter.

Click the image to be taken to

Have any tips on potty training in public? How about dealing with the terrible twos (or threes)?

Potty Training in One Day: Day One (The Big Day)


So apparently blogging while potty training is a bit difficult. Sorry for the delay! If you haven’t read Day Zero: Preparation, read that first. Note: I’m going to be using masculine pronouns in my directions simply to avoid constantly using “him/her” or plural pronouns. Since I’ve been potty training a boy, and I have specific tips for potty training boys, I hope you’ll understand.

THE BIG DAY went similarly to Potty Training in One Day as outlined by Krysta on her blog These Are The Days. I did do a couple of things differently and learned a few things on the way. Here’s how the day went.


I started Champ off with breakfast and then pulled out his doll, Pablo, who I ordered a while back from Sunclover’s Creations on Etsy and blogged about here.

I grabbed a Medicine Dropper and filled it with water. Holding the medicine dropper behind the doll, I made the doll have an “accident,” with Champ witnessing.

“Uh oh! Pablo went wee wee on the floor! No, no wee wee on the floor!” I picked Pablo up and ran him to the potty, pointing at it. “Wee wee on the potty!” Then I ran him back to the hallway, where he had the accident. “No, no wee wee on the floor!” I ran back to the potty and pointed, “Wee wee on the pottyI ran to the potty ten times with Pablo. It certainly got Champ’s attention! Then I said something like “Let’s see if Pablo can go wee wee on the potty.” Pablo sat on the potty and I squirted the rest of the water out of the medicine dropper into the toilet so Champ could see and hear. Then I freaked out in excitement, “YAY! Pablo went wee wee on the potty! Hooray!” and I did a little dance. “You get a sticker!” I grabbed a sticker and put it on Pablo’s shirt. Then we washed Pablo’s hands (pretend) and gave him a gummy bear.

“You can have a sticker and a gummy bear, too, if you go wee wee on the potty. Do you want to try?” I can’t remember how the first time went, if he did go right away or if he freaked out. I DID give him a little schpiel about big boy pants, and how exciting they are, and let him wear them that first morning. That might work for a girl, but for a boy, I recommend NOT using underwear the first day. See “What I learned” below.

Whether you have the underpants talk or not, just try getting the kid on the potty that first time after showing them the doll. Then fill him up with juice and snacks for the rest of the day so he keeps having to go potty. Keep activities to ones that can be easily paused, and if you have hardwood floors, try to stay on the hardwood or tile.


I brought our bird clock into the bathroom to time the 2-minute “trials.” Every hour, when a bird sang, I had him go potty. I used the timer on the microwave for the other 15-minute intervals.

If he goes potty, get excited and let him pick out a sticker and put it on the chart. Give him a treat. I did one sticker and a gummy bear for peeing and two stickers and a DumDum sucker for pooping. Set a timer for 15 minutes, and when the timer goes off, gasp and say “Oh! It’s time to go to the potty again! Let’s try!” and immediately take him to the potty.

If he doesn’t go potty after 2 minutes, tell him he did a good job trying, and he can go play again, but he needs to try going potty again in a few minutes. Set the timer for 5 minutes and repeat the 2 minutes trying, five minutes playing and eating and drinking, pattern until he or she has an accident or goes successfully.

If he has an accident, don’t get mad! Say, “No, no wee wee on the floor!” and pick him up and run him to the bathroom. The surprise will stop him peeing. Point to the potty and say, “Wee wee in the potty!” Run back to the floor (still holding him under the armpits) and say, “No, no wee wee on the floor!” Run back to the bathroom and say, “Wee wee in the potty!” Do this ten times, and then place them on the potty. I’m pregnant and tired, so I definitely didn’t run back and forth all the way. I went a few steps into the bathroom so he could see the potty, then a few steps back out into the hallway so he could see the floor where he peed (a room or two away). If it sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is. He’ll laugh, but he will get it. Again, don’t get mad—but it’s okay to show disappointment with your tone of voice. Once he’s done on the potty, if he goes, give him a reward. Then go clean up the accident with him, and talk about it not being fun cleaning up wee wee on the floor, that it’s yucky to clean up. (But don’t call him yucky or bad—and remember, he’s been peeing and pooping wherever he wanted for the last couple of years. Give the kid a break!) Set the timer for 15 minutes, maybe 10, and start over again.



Eating and drinking<—this is key. You want him to have a full bladder so he keeps going potty. I let him choose which snacks he wanted during the preparation stage. We had juice boxes, Capri Suns, water, milk, Goldfish crackers, fruit, fruit snacks, and other salty and sweet healthy snacks. One day of treats won’t kill or spoil your child. Think of it as a Potty Party. And be sure to get some snacks for yourself, too.


Squirt gun paintings Champ found his squirt gun, which I had taken away after he shot up my bookshelf of antique, hardcover books.  I let him have it again, but the rule was he could only shoot the back wall of the shower. To keep him entertained, I put up some pieces of construction paper for him to shoot. Captain is an expert marksman, so it wasn’t too surprising that Champ has a pretty good aim.


Play-doh Champ got to pick one container for himself but insisted I have one too. So I made a little potty. There was a tiny bit left over, so Champ got to drop a Play-doh poo into the Play-doh potty. Yes, I was made to be the mother of a boy, it seems.


I had this grand list of activities we could try. But much time was spent eating or drinking, he was happy with just two activities the whole day, and I was so burned out after a frustrating morning (see “What I learned,” below), we kept to the above. Other ideas: finger paints, color sorting, books, coloring, making Valentines crafts, and play kitchen. We didn’t watch TV or movies, but yes, I did cave and let him watch short clips from the PBS Kids app on my phone. The clips were each less than 5 minutes, so he didn’t get too distracted.

Nap Time and Bed Time

If you’ve never had cloth diapers, you can put your child in underpants with those Gerber “plastic pants” over them for nap time. We use Thirsties brand Duo Wrap cover with snaps, which you can put over underpants, too. Since Champ still hasn’t woken up consistently dry yet, we just put him in a cloth diaper. We’ll switch to underpants and a cover after he’s been dry a week, then a week later let him just be in his underwear. DO NOT USE DISPOSABLES. They wick the moisture away from your child, so they don’t feel wet. Sounds great until you realize it is that wet sensation that potty trains your child.

I read that 1 out of 3 kids under 3 years old have no control over their bladder at night. 15% of kids still don’t have that control when they are six years old. If you want to use disposable diapers or Good Nights at night until your child wakes up dry, I think that’s completely understandable! We will continue using cloth because it is more cost efficient for us, and it speeds potty training along.

What I learned (aka, how not to completely lose your mind)

After we both took a nap, I made a few changes. The afternoon was so much better than the morning because of it!

  • Embrace the naked. Let them run around in a shirt and baby legs if it’s cold, but don’t go straight from diaper to underpants. It’s easier for them to realize when they need to go if they don’t assume they are wearing a diaper. After his nap, I didn’t make Champ wear underpants, and it made a night/day difference to potty training.
  • Don’t spend too much time in the bathroom. Before nap, if he didn’t go potty when I knew he had to, I just kept him on the potty until he would go. I tried to distract him, I even let him drink juice while sitting there. It was absolutely miserable—we both felt like we were being punished. Don’t make them sit on the potty longer than they would sit in time out (one minute per year of age). Champ is 2, we did 2 minutes. If your child is 2.5, keep him on the potty for 2.5 minutes before you let him play again. 3 years = 3 minutes, etc. Let them play for 5 minutes before trying again.
  • Accidents are teachable moments. They learn more from having accidents (be sure to do the back and forth running, as mentioned above) than from going perfectly each time. Wouldn’t you rather your child have an accident on the day you have set apart for this thing, if it keeps him accident-free at your next trip to the store?

We had a few accidents, but by the afternoon, we were in the black! And I know Day One was a success, because Day Two he had zero accidents while he was awake.


Hopefully tomorrow, but at least some time this week, I’ll post about how the rest of the week has been going. (He’s been doing great!) I do still recommend not going anywhere the first 3 days if you can help it. On the fourth day, we went to church, but he stayed in the nursery and one of the nursery workers kept taking him to the potty. If your child is in daycare, be sure to let your provider know your child’s word for “potty”—Champ can’t say his Ps, so “wee wee” is what we ended up using.

Click here to read the next post: Day Ten—the follow up. To tune in to live updates, follow Bewildered Mother on Facebook.

Update July 2013, six months later: Champ vastly improved over his first week, and by the end of January, he didn’t have any accidents except maybe at night (I kept him in cloth diapers for overnights. Most children cannot control their bladders overnight until the age of 3, and many still cannot at the age of six!). However, we have had some major hurdles since then. In February, he went to daycare for 3 weeks before I pulled him out. The workers would not take him potty when he needed to go, instead, they took all of the children on potty breaks every hour. The bladder of a 2-year-old doesn’t work like that! Second, my baby was born in April, so we had another regression. My advice? Keep on it. Go back to stickers if you need to. We ended up using two charts and gave one sticker if he went potty in the toilet and one if his underpants were dry when he went potty. The main thing is to ask often, recognize the potty dance, and get them to the bathroom as soon as possible. I’m amazed at how much bladder control this kid has when he is engaged in one activity. It’s when he’s distracted by MANY different things that he still has accidents.

Potty Training in One Day: Day Zero (Preparation)


Update July 2013: Hello Pinterest users! I’m so glad you came upon my blog, and I wish you all the best in your potty training endeavors! See my update at the bottom of the post to see how we are doing six months later. pottytraining0
This is post number one in my Potty Training Diaries! Stay tuned—I’ll post a new blog each day.

Here we are, in the throes of potty training. My mother said not to expect anything until Champ is about 3. Since I’m expecting Baby Lion in early  May (or late April? That would be just fine!), I planned on trying in February, once the temperatures started to go up again. I read about Potty Training in a Day via a Pinterest link. In it, the mom of 4 recommends training between 2 and 2 1/2 years old. Champ is now 2  1/3 (One of my mother’s eccentricities was giving my age in abnormal fractions when people asked how old I was.)

Once he started signing to me that he was wet* or would grab a diaper from his own accord, I went ahead and bought a potty. The Cars potty that he picked out hung proudly from a hook on the toilet tank, just to get him curious.  Since I’m an at-home mom, he’s witnessed the standard procedure plenty of times.

*I started signing the standard “change diaper” when he was very young, but he quickly adapted the sign to patting his hips when he needed a change. 

On January 8th, a Tuesday, he showed me some signs that he was ready. Unfortunately my frazzled mommy brain cannot remember what those signs were. Some people say to wait until they wake up dry from naps. He didn’t do that. I’m pretty sure that was the day I finally put him in a cloth diaper again, since I had been just using disposables due to sickness, tiredness, and laziness. As soon as he wet the diaper, he told me so. Yes, I believe that was the “sign”—that he was aware of what was going on down there.

I also think he wanted to check the potty out, so I put it on the toilet and sat him down. The problem is, this kid doesn’t have an extensive spoken vocabulary. His comprehension is great—he understands basically everything that comes out of my mouth—he just doesn’t want to use words if he can sign something or point and grunt. So as he was sitting atop Lightning McQueen, I had to rattle my brain for scatological terms.

“Can you say, ‘Potty’?”

“Hottie.” Right, he can’t do P’s yet. Unfortunately “Hottie” is his how he says, “Hat.” I considered him wizzing in one of his beanies.



I had to delve into my third-grade self for more potty language. We finally settled on “Wee-wee.”

I still had no big boy underpants, or the time to devote to intense potty training. I figured I needed to reserve about three days in which we didn’t really leave the house. I thought the 13th-15th would work. Then I got an email about a job interview on the 14th. So we ended up starting on Thursday the 17th. Today is the 19th—we are on day 3, and things are going very well. (I type, right before he throws a major tantrum.) Well, Potty Training is going very well.

big boy pants


Note that the major training happens on one day, but you still need to reserve a couple of days to at least partially devote to training. If you want to try the One-Day method, here’s what you’ll need ahead of time.

  • A potty (we had a Safety 1st Comfy Cushy Potty but it got lost in the move. Now we use some cheap seat that goes directly on the toilet. Buy whatever you think your child will use.) *UPDATE*—after a few days of using the cheap potty seat, I can tell you that you need to do research. Read ratings. Don’t buy a potty seat that is “cushy” or “soft” on top but plastic on the bottom—the cushy part sinks down  below a plastic lip to cut into your child’s leg. I just sent the Captain out to buy a new one.
  • COTTON training pants / underpants. Don’t even think about buying Pull-Ups. They won’t work. Kids need to feel being wet.
  • Leg warmers, if it’s cold. We have a couple pair of Baby Legs. You can sometimes find them used at baby boutiques or diaper swaps.
  • Hardwood floors, tile, or plenty of sheets and towels. Thankfully our main floor is hardwood flooring and tile. I kept Champ on the hardwood all day.
  • Cleaning supplies for accidents. Vinegar and baking soda are cheap and effective. Check out “My Bathroom Smells: Getting Rid of that Boy Bathroom Smell” for a recipe.
  • Someone to watch your other kids, if this toddler isn’t your first. I wish I had someone to watch our dog—at least other children won’t try to consume your toddler’s accidents.
  • Diaper covers for sleeping—We use Thirsties brand Duo Wraps with snaps, but you could try those plastic Gerber Pants if you haven’t been cloth diapering. Krysta on These Are The Days uses a diaper cover over underpants. We decided to keep Champ in cloth diapers until he wakes up dry. Same effect—he feels the wetness like he would with underpants, but it means his pregnant mom doesn’t have to strip his bed in the middle of the night.
  • Waterproof mattress cover—I think every mattress needs a waterproof cover, personally, but especially any bed that will have a child in it. Buy two so you can replace the wet one immediately.
  • A timerWe used our Bird singing clock and the microwave timer. Our egg timer isn’t reliable, but you could use one of those if you want.
  • Patience—The first day is killer! Just remember that the harder you work on Day One, the easier Day Two will be. Practice some deep breathing, and have a plan for relaxation during nap time.

Read Potty Training Part 2 on These Are the Days for more ideas of what you’ll need. I didn’t use an apron, but I did have a doll and medicine dropper ready for Day One. We didn’t do a calling list, either.

The Day Before

Take your child on a special shopping trip, and tell him or her that you are going to have a Potty Party and you need his/her help to get ready. Here’s what to buy—involve your child in every step possible, letting him or her choose what they want:

  • Juice
  • Salty Snacks
  • Sweet Snacks
  • Candy or special treats (something small, like gummy bears or DumDum suckers)
  • Some cheap, new distractions (we got Play-Doh, punching balloons, and a new board book)
  • Poster board
  • Stickers

The juice and snacks help keep your child drinking and peeing. The special treats are for when they go successfully on the potty. The distractions keep them busy but also need to be activities that can easily be paused. Poster board and stickers are for a potty chart. Krysta doesn’t mention a sticker chart on her blog, but Champ has enjoyed the stickers far more than the candy.

Click here to read the next post: Day One—the day that changed everything. To tune in to live updates, follow Bewildered Mother on Facebook.

Update July 2013, six months later: Champ vastly improved over his first week, and by the end of January, he didn’t have any accidents except maybe at night (I kept him in cloth diapers for overnights. Most children cannot control their bladders overnight until the age of 3, and many still cannot at the age of six!). However, we have had some major hurdles since then. In February, he went to daycare for 3 weeks before I pulled him out. The workers would not take him potty when he needed to go, instead, they took all of the children on potty breaks every hour. The bladder of a 2-year-old doesn’t work like that! Second, my baby was born in April, so we had another regression. My advice? Keep on it. Go back to stickers if you need to. We ended up using two charts and gave one sticker if he went potty in the toilet and one if his underpants were dry when he went potty. The main thing is to ask often, recognize the potty dance, and get them to the bathroom as soon as possible. I’m amazed at how much bladder control this kid has when he is engaged in one activity. It’s when he’s distracted by MANY different things that he still has accidents.


The first time this year that Little Champ saw snowflakes, he thought they were stars coming down from the sky.

Today we finally got dumped on  enough snow to actually play in, so we bundled up Little Champ in his new snow pants and mittens and let him have at it.
snow1Neville attacked the snow with a crazed enthusiasm, even though the more he moved, the more snow accumulated in his fur. After a few minutes, he had snowballs stuck to his legs that reminded me of that scene from The Incredibles when Mr. Incredible is caught.


Champ fell down as soon as he got to the unpacked snow. He was not amused, and after I helped him up, he watched his dad plow for a while.



We are very thankful that our landlords left a snowplow for us.


But after the Captain finished plowing the driveway, we pulled out the sled…


Now Champ wants to sled and sled and not do anything else.


“I love to sled!”


This is his “Mom, you are entirely insane” after I suggested we go inside to get lunch.


So glad I captured this moment :)