All posts by Autumn Green

About Autumn Green

Autumn Green is an artist-turned-writer who traded the sweet tea of the south for the deep dish pizza of Chicago. Her favorite subjects include art, culture, design, small business/entrepreneurship and healthful living.

a woman applying makeup in a mirror

How To Revamp Your Makeup Routine with Kids

Now that you’ve got a tiny child taking over your life, demanding your constant attention, you may begin to feel like you’re losing your sense of self. That feeling is perfectly normal, and incorporating some of your old routines into your new schedule can help. For many women, this means returning to their beauty regimen as a form of quiet time and self care.

That said, you probably won’t have the time to return to your full routine, especially if you’re fond of time-consuming methods like the Korean beauty technique and Kardashian-like contouring. That’s OK; here are some quick tips to revamp your routine that will leave you feeling just as beautiful as before:

1. Speed up your cleansing routine

Chances are you won’t have time to cleanse, tone, exfoliate and moisturize every day anymore, let alone add any serums and beauty creams. That’s why facial wipes are a godsend. They remove dirt, oil and even makeup with just a few quick wipes.

For a bit of a deeper clean, try micellar water. This French favorite isn’t water from the tap; it actually contains a surfactant that allows it to break down and pull away oil. Just soak a cotton pad and wipe over your face a few times; you’ll be amazed at the results!

Keep in mind that micellar water isn’t strong enough to remove a full face of makeup, so you may still need to use makeup remover beforehand. That said, it’s a much easier way to clean your face than the typical method.

A close up of a woman's closed eye with water droplets running down her face.Micellar water is a great way to quickly clean your face.

2. Always moisturize and use sunscreen

The healthier your natural skin is, the less concealer and foundation you need to cover up blemishes. A good skincare routine always includes moisturizer and sunscreen to keep your skin hydrated and reduce sun damage. When combined, years of using these products helps prevent wrinkles and discoloration.

Always choose non-comedogenic products (meaning they don’t block your pores) and go for a sunscreen that offers both UVA and UVB protection. Also, be liberal with your application; most people don’t use enough of either product to get the most benefits.

3. Stick to the basics

Now that your skin is all good to go, it’s time to take a long, hard look at your makeup routine. Moms usually don’t have a lot of time in the mornings, so you may have to cut back on a lot of products.

Lucky for you, the natural makeup look is still in! In fact, makeup trends are more diverse than ever these days, ranging from glittery show makeup to nude looks. As such, no one should look twice when they see you rocking your natural or almost-natural face.

To get the perfect natural look, you only need a few simple makeup basics:

  • Eyeliner to sweep across your lash line and enhance your eyes.
  • Mascara to make your eyelashes pop.
  • Eyebrow pencils, powders or gels to enhance your expressive face.
  • Lip tints for a beautiful pout.

If you want, you can also add concealer or BB cream to even your skin tone and cheek stain for a bit of color.

As a new mom, you may not have time for your full-fledged makeup routine anymore. Set aside your primers, powders, contour kits and finishing sprays, and adopt this simple routine instead.

Autumn Green is an artist-turned-writer who traded the sweet tea of the south for the deep dish pizza of Chicago. Her favorite subjects include art, culture, design, small business/entrepreneurship and healthful living.

Shot of an exhausted young businesswoman sleeping at her desk during a late night at work

The Top Common Pregnancy Sleep Issues

What do you do when you can’t sleep and you’ve got a baby developing inside your belly? Certainly countless women have asked this question throughout the ages, as sleep issues are common during pregnancy. Here are some of the most universal:

1. Insomnia

According to the National Sleep Foundation, 78 percent of pregnant women struggle with insomnia. Luckily, as the American Pregnancy Association noted, this condition isn’t harmful for your baby. That doesn’t mean it’s OK for you, of course; not getting enough high-quality sleep is detrimental to your health in numerous ways, slowing reaction time, hurting performance at work and possibly contributing to mental health problems.

Insomnia during pregnancy can arise from a number of causes, including:

  • Back pain.
  • Heartburn.
  • Hormonal changes.
  • Discomfort from your abdomen.
  • Frequent nighttime urination.
  • Anxiety or anticipation of delivery.

Some of these causes are related to the other sleep issues listed below.

To help fix your insomnia, try some of the suggestions below:

  • Sleep on your left side with a pillow between your legs and, if necessary, under your abdomen. Not only does this alleviate pain, but sleeping on the left increases the amount of blood and nutrients delivered to your baby.
  • Prop up your upper body with pillows if you have heartburn or are frequently short of breath.
  • Avoid sleeping on your back or stomach, which causes pain and interferes with your circulation, digestion, blood pressure and breathing.
  • Prepare yourself for bed by taking a warm bath, getting a massage or engaging in relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation.
  • Exercise during the day. This helps tire your mind and body in the evening.
  • Avoid daytime naps unless absolutely necessary, as they make it harder to fall asleep at night.
A pregnant woman taking a nap.Sleeping on your left helps deliver nutrients to the baby.

2. Frequent urination

Pregnant women are no stranger to frequent trips to the bathroom. Unfortunately, because of your hormones and the pressure on your bladder from your baby, there isn’t a lot you can do about this one. If you’re really struggling, however, the following suggestions may provide some relief:

  • Drink lots of fluids during the day, but start cutting back in the hours before bedtime. This way, you’re properly hydrated but your bladder is relatively empty at night.
  • Use a night light when going to the bathroom after bedtime. Harsh lights from overhead wake you up more than a soft glow, thereby making it harder to fall back asleep.

3. Sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition where your breathing is repeatedly interrupted while you sleep. It’s associated with complications like low birth weight, preeclampsia and gestational hypertension. Also, sleep apnea can increase daytime sleepiness, increasing your urge to nap.

According to the Mayo Clinic, sleep apnea symptoms include the following:

  • Loud snoring.
  • Waking up abruptly, especially if you’re short of breath.
  • Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat.
  • Insomnia.
  • Morning headaches, attention issues or irritability.
  • Pauses in breathing noticed by another person.

The only true way to diagnose sleep apnea is through a sleep study. Luckily, there are a number of home tests available for purchase. That said, they’ll set you back a few hundred dollars.

If you just want a way to breathe more easily and reduce snoring, try some of the following:

  • Use a humidifier at night.
  • Sleep on your side.
  • Sleep slightly elevated by propping your upper body with pillows.
  • Exercise for weight loss (studies show a link between obesity and sleep apnea.)
  • Wear a nasal strip to bed.
  • Avoid sleeping pills, alcohol and tobacco.

That said, if you suspect your sleep apnea is a major problem, contact your doctor for specialized treatment.

4. Heartburn

Pregnant women often experience nocturnal gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also known as nighttime heartburn. Unfortunately, pregnancy hormones relax the muscle that keeps stomach acid down where it belongs, according to What to Expect. In addition, the baby bump pushes on the stomach during the last trimester, further shifting the acid.

If heartburn keeps you up at night, experiment with the strategies below:

  • Take an over-the-counter antacid. These are deemed safe for pregnant women and fetuses.
  • Eat frequent small meals throughout the day.
  • Avoid fried, spicy and acidic foods.
  • Using gravity to your advantage by propping yourself up with pillows at night.
A woman picking up medication at a pharmacy.OTC antacids are safe for pregnant women.

5. Restless Leg Syndrome

RLS is a crawling or tingling sensation in the legs. It tends to worse at night and is usually relieved by movement. Of course, you can’t move when you’re trying to sleep, so try the following instead:

  • Avoid taking medications for RLS; the pose a risk to your developing fetus.
  • Instead, make sure your prenatal vitamins include folate and iron supplements, which both reduce the risk of RLS. Note that folate is best absorbed when it’s in food form, so eat more whole grains, cereals and bread.
  • Increase your vitamin C and cut back on the coffee to improve folate absorption.

6. Leg cramps

Leg cramps are often thought to be a side effect of weight gain or vitamin deficiencies. If these problems plague you at night, here are some tips:

  • Take calcium and magnesium supplements.
  • Exercise and stretch your legs during the day.
  • Wear support hose when you can.
  • If you experience a cramp at night, straighten your leg and gently flex your foot. Avoid pointing your toes.
  • Talk to your doctor if you have severe pain, as this may indicate a blood clot.

While most sleep issues aren’t a problem for baby, you’ll definitely want to make sure you’re as rested as possible during your pregnancy.

Autumn Green is an artist-turned-writer who traded the sweet tea of the south for the deep dish pizza of Chicago. Her favorite subjects include art, culture, design, small business/entrepreneurship and healthful living.

Bedroom for kid

Is It Time To Transition to a Toddler Bed?

Your toddler sleeps safe and sound in her crib, but now you’re starting to wonder: Is it time to make the big switch? Is your little one ready? Will he or she squabble and scream or take to it like a champ?

I’m talking, of course, about the transition from crib to bed. Of all the difficulties of parenting a toddler, this one might not have hit your radar. Truthfully, some children make the switch easily, while others put up a never-ending fuss. But all have to make the move sometime, which means you need to understand how to best help. Here are signs your child is ready for a big-kid bed and tips to help him or her adjust:

A child peeking over a crib.Your child will outgrow his or her crib in what will seem like no time.

Reasons to transition from crib to bed

Some kids will show you they’re ready for a new bed however they can – by refusing bedtime, by constantly escaping the crib or even by trying to sleep in other locations. While technically, there are only a few reasons why your child needs to graduate to a toddler bed, it’s a good idea to consider the transition when your little one hits 18 months of age. That said, some children don’t need a new bed until they’re 2 1/2, possibly even 3.

Still, the age at which your child switches is ultimately up to you. Below are a few signals that your little one is ready:

Your child is outgrowing the crib

At some point, your toddler will grow big enough to crawl over the crib’s railing. This presents a definite safety issue; you don’t want your child to fall, after all!

So how big is too big? According to Parents Magazine, 35 inches in height is what you should keep an eye out for. At this size, your little one can easily climb out of the crib. That said, a shorter frisky child may still be able to escape, while a taller one may have no desire to and simply stay put. You’ll need to keep an eye on your toddler’s size and energy levels and gauge the risk for yourself.

You’re expecting another baby

Many parents decide to transition their toddler when they’ve got another child on the way. There’s no reason not to take this approach, but keep in mind this is an emotional time for your toddler. He or she is already changing at a rapid rate, trying new foods, potty methods and ways of navigating the world. A new baby throws a major change into their lifestyle and understanding, and switching beds during this time just increases the pressure. You’ll have to be ultra-sensitive to your baby’s needs.

Also, keep in mind that jealousy may become an issue if you plan on reusing the crib. Your toddler may suddenly develop an emotional attachment to his or her first bed, fearing that being separated from it means being replaced by the new baby. To ease the transition, get your toddler acclimated to the new bed as far in advance of your delivery date as possible. Parents Magazine suggested dismantling the crib and storing it out of sight so any existing attachments fade away.

A little boy sleeping and holding a teddy bear.Be patient as your child transitions from crib to bed.

How to make the switch easier

Change is never easy for children, and the switch to a toddler bed is no different. Here are some tips for softening the transition:

  • Let your toddler choose his or her new bed. Make an event of going to the store and shopping for a toddler bed, sheets, blankets, pillows and toys. Kids are more likely to use the things they choose for themselves, and giving your little one freedom to design it creates a sense of ownership and attachment. Pretty soon, your child will love the toddler bed far more than the crib.
  • Remove the crib from your child’s room. Many growing children thirst for independence. But, when forced to grow up by sleeping in a new bed, they cling to the security and comfort of being a baby. Removing the crib helps your child break old habits and explore her new role as a growing big kid.
  • Keep your bedtime routine the same. Too much change will frustrate your child. Stick to the same bedtime habits and, if possible, install the new bed where the crib originally sat. You may need to start bedtime earlier in the beginning to account for any fussiness, but otherwise, keep changes to a minimum.
  • Praise your child for a job well done. A simple, “Great job!” will boost your toddler’s confidence tremendously and make him or her more prone to using the bed.

With a little patience and good timing, your toddler will sleep soundly in a big-kid bed in no time.

Autumn Green is an artist-turned-writer who traded the sweet tea of the south for the deep dish pizza of Chicago. Her favorite subjects include art, culture, design, small business/entrepreneurship and healthful living.

Shot of a baby boy looking shocked while his father holds him

Peeping Toys? The Disturbing Trend on Internet-Connected Devices

Smart homes – those with appliances that are connected to the internet and accessible via an app – make refilling the fridge, adjusting the temperature and locking the front door so much easier. It makes sense, then, that parents would be interested in “smart toys” for their infants and toddlers. These internet-connected teddy bears, blocks and tablets come equipped with all kinds of nifty features – GPS trackers to locate little ones at all times, cameras so parents can see his or her face and microphones so the toys can respond to spoken words. With the holidays so close, moms and dads everywhere are no doubt thinking getting their infants a smart toy.

And while these devices do have their benefits, security issues may pose risks for babies and families.

An infant sleeping with a teddy bear.Smart toys collect sensitive information that could be hacked.

Is teddy spying on us?

Smart toys come with GPS trackers to provide local suggestions, microphones to respond to speech, sensors to react to motion and many more features. These benefits offer convenience, but the FBI warns that these attributes can be hacked.

For example, cybercriminals could break into a toy’s microphone, forcing it to record any conversations within earshot. A baby’s gurgles might not mean anything, but parents may casually talk about their infant’s name, age, day care or interests. They may even discuss more damaging information, like their own names, home address or occupations. In the hands of the wrong person, these details could be incredibly dangerous.

In addition, most makers of internet-connected devices request sensitive information during the setup process. Parents are directed to give their names, addresses and billing information, in addition to creating a password. Data breaches expose these details to potential criminals, which can lead to fraud and identity theft. What’s more, data like location history could provide clues to a family’s habits. A child may bring his or her GPS-enabled teddy bear everywhere the family goes. Over time, criminals can analyze this information and uncover a family’s home, preferred grocery store, favorite restaurant or other frequently accessed locations.

These ideas aren’t just hypothetical; they’ve happened before. In late 2015, VTech announced the customer database for its Learning Lodge app was hacked. While no credit card information was stored in the database, hackers did obtain customer’s names, encrypted passwords, security questions and answers, email addresses, mailing addresses, IP addresses and download history.

Unfortunately, time hasn’t solved this issue. Network World reported earlier this year that CloudPets suffered a breach exposing more than 800,000 customer accounts. While the company denies that any voice recordings were stolen, this doesn’t change the fact that the FBI warning specifically alludes to this feature.

What should parents get their children for the holidays?

Parents must first consider the risks when thinking of buying an internet-connected toy. If possible, it’s best to read the item or company’s user agreement contracts and privacy practices so mom and dad understand how their data is collected, stored and used. Will usage information be sold to a third party for marketing purposes? Are sensitive details like home addresses encrypted in a protected database? Answering these questions helps parents evaluate the potential dangers of a specific toy.

That said, even the best security measures aren’t impervious, and mom and dad still run the risk of the device itself getting hacked. For those who are concerned about privacy, it may be best to go with an old school toy like regular blocks, dolls and picture books.

Autumn Green is an artist-turned-writer who traded the sweet tea of the south for the deep dish pizza of Chicago. Her favorite subjects include art, culture, design, small business/entrepreneurship and healthful living.

a mom typing on a laptop

A Mom’s Guide to Buying Maternity Wear Online

Buying clothes was hard enough when you weren’t pregnant. Now, you’ve got an ever-expanding belly and achy feet to go along with. Buying things in stores is the last thing you want to do, so thank goodness for online shopping.

That said, there are a few things you need to know about buying maternity wear online before you make your first purchase.

A pregnant woman resting on a couch.Relax at home and do your maternity wear shopping online!

Taking your measurements

Theoretically, maternity sizes are equivalent to regular ones. If you’re a standard size 8, you should be the same in maternity wear.

However, every woman’s body reacts differently to pregnancy. Some gain a lot of weight in the hips and thighs, while others remain slim everywhere but the belly and breasts.

The key to finding the right fit is to know your body measurements. Even if you’re confident in your size, never go online clothes shopping without taking your measurements first. Fashion lines and clothing retailers don’t use a universal sizing chart, so a size 8 in one brand can be a size 14 in another. But inches and centimeters don’t change, so figure out your measurements, look at the outfit’s size chart and buy your clothes accordingly. Make sure the size you choose fits in every area – don’t buy a shirt that fits in the belly but is too small in the bust, for example.

What to measure

Your body looks very different when pregnant, so of course you measure in some different places. Get ready by running through the following checklist:

  • Make sure you have a note pad, tape measure and pen within reach.
  • Wear the same undergarments that you plan to wear under your clothes to ensure your purchases fit properly around the bust, hips, waist and thighs.
  • When taking measurements, stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Measure each part of your body (except for the inseam) straight across, keeping the measuring tape parallel to the floor.

Got all that? Good; here’s what and where to measure (you may need a partner to help!):

  • Bust: With your bra secure, measure around the fullest part of your breasts. Keep your arms down.
  • Empire: With your arms still down, measure right below your bust around the band of your bra.
  • Bump: Normally, you’d measure the smallest part of your waist. However, now there’s a tiny, growing person occupying that space, so measure the largest part of your belly instead.
  • Hips: Your bump is usually big enough to accommodate any gain in the hips, but if you want to be extra accurate, measure the widest part of this area.
  • Inseam: Your inseam shouldn’t change, but it’s a good idea to take this measurement if you’ve never done so before. With your feet flat on the ground, measure from your ankle to your pubic bone.

Not all maternity wear websites will list every one of these measurements in their size charts, but this list gives you enough guidance to confidently click that ‘Add item to cart’ button.

A pregnant woman taking notes on a clipboard.Know your measurements so you choose the right size.

Finding maternity outfits

Knowing your size is half the battle. Now, you need to figure out what outfits to buy. Maternity wear has a bad reputation; many women think their only options are empire-waist blouses and jeans with a three-inch elastic waistband. Thankfully, most department stores now realize that pregnant women want to look good, too, and have added cute maternity outfits to their floors. Try experimenting with bodycon maxi dresses, stretchy high-waist pencil skirts and cropped jackets. What’s more, there are options for every budget, from big box retailer to high-end department store.

Whatever you choose, just make sure to note the store’s return policy in case your order doesn’t look like you expected.

Breaking out your non-maternity wardrobe

Some women absolutely refuse to buy maternity clothes – and that’s perfectly fine! There are lots of ways to adapt your traditional outfits into baby-friendly wear.

  • Your favorite pair of jeans will need some extra room, so discreetly loop some elastic through the buttonhole.
  • Your belly will cause any short, stretchy dresses to sit higher. Why not wear them like tunics and throw on some leggings underneath?
  • Go through your closet and pull anything with a waistline below your bump, especially drop waists. These clothes will feel awkward and restrictive against your belly.
  • Avoid anything even the slightest bit uncomfortable. After a few hours of wear, an outfit that is just a bit too tight will become unbearable.

Ultimately, what matters most is that you feel completely comfortable in whatever maternity wear you choose.

Autumn Green is an artist-turned-writer who traded the sweet tea of the south for the deep dish pizza of Chicago. Her favorite subjects include art, culture, design, small business/entrepreneurship and healthful living.

A young mother is breastfeeding her baby in a cafe while she is having a coffee

Why is Breastfeeding in Public Still Controversial?

Ask five different people their thoughts on breastfeeding in public, and you’ll probably get five different answers. It seems everyone has an opinion on the subject, regardless of whether or not they’re a mother themselves. Some people see the act as indecent, while others view it as a normal aspect of motherhood. The latter camp tends to be filled with moms who have been through the struggle of fussy babies and achy breasts.

In fact, many of these mothers simply refuse to be shamed by people who would call them indecent for breastfeeding in public. Some even go to extreme lengths to assert their rights. Take 28-year-old Avery Lane of Fort Gordon, Georgia. According to TODAY, Lane was nursing her two-month infant without a cover while accompanying a friend at an H&R Block on a military post. A manager approached her and asked her to cover up.

“No, but I have a muslin if you would like to cover your face,” Lane responded, according to her Facebook post quoted on TODAY. “You must not know Georgia’s breastfeeding laws.”

The situation didn’t end there, however, and the manager asked her to leave. In response, Lane, whose husband is in the army, called the military police and asked them to inform the manager of her legal rights.

Lane isn’t the only woman who’s had to remind a stranger of breastfeeding laws. According to Parents Magazine, Jacqui Blue of Los Angeles had to do the same when breastfeeding at a restaurant in Florida. As more and more women confront shamers and share their public breastfeeding stories on social media and news outlets, one has to wonder why the concept still strikes so much controversy.

A mother breastfeeding her child.Why does this still cause so much controversy?

Why do some people object to breastfeeding in public?

Some people believe seeing a breast in any context counts as indecent exposure. However, some public breastfeeding advocates counter by saying the true issue is the sexualization of women’s breasts. In their opinion, people who criticize public breastfeeding are really reacting to the idea of a body part typically portrayed in a sexual manner being used in a nonsexual way.

“Women buy into that idea,” Raivon Lee, author of a parenting blog, told CNN. “If we use our breasts for anything other than ‘play’ it’s not okay.”

It’s hard to determine whether or not this is true without surveying every individual against public breast feeding. That said, the fact of the matter is more and more women are choosing to breastfeed their infants wherever they are. Almost every news story about a mother being shamed for breastfeeding creates a public outcry, and more women are sharing their stories on Instagram and Facebook. Social media websites still ask users to censor exposed nipples no matter what the context, and many mothers who shared pictures of themselves nursing have had their images taken down for violating terms of service. But they continue to protest in the hopes that attitudes towards public breastfeeding will grow more progressive.

Deciding whether or not to breastfeed in public

“Breastfeeding is a private choice.”

Breastfeeding is a private choice for every mother. Some feel completely comfortable feeding their child in public while exposed; others would rather use a nursing cover and some prefer to find a private area.

For moms who do want to breastfeed in public, here are a few tips:

  • Know the law. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 49 states (all but Idaho), the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands legally allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location. However, only 29 states plus D.C. and the Virgin Islands specifically separate breastfeeding from public indecency.
  • If you want to nurse in public but still wish to be discreet, a nursing cover will be your best friend. Nursing covers are particularly handy for women with larger breasts, who may have a more difficult time keeping themselves covered. Just make sure you purchase one that is well ventilated so your baby gets an ample supply of fresh air.
  • Plan your response. Unfortunately, you’re likely to encounter someone with a negative opinion about public breastfeeding who will make their views known. Knowing what to say beforehand makes it easier to stick up for yourself in the moment.

While overall attitudes are changing, breastfeeding in public is still controversial in some people’s eyes. That said, these opinions shouldn’t have any effect on a mother’s decision. Legally, most states allow women to nurse in public, and many places are creating designated areas for women to nurse or pump. Who knows – maybe soon every public space will accept the idea of public breastfeeding as perfectly normal.

Autumn Green is an artist-turned-writer who traded the sweet tea of the south for the deep dish pizza of Chicago. Her favorite subjects include art, culture, design, small business/entrepreneurship and healthful living.

A very happy baby sitting among pumpkins at the farm.

Cute Ideas for Baby’s First Thanksgiving

Right in the middle of the holiday season is Thanksgiving, which is the perfect combination of family and food. As a new mom, it’s also the first time a lot of your relatives will see your baby. So, how do you make the most of the occasion? Thanksgiving is a chance to create amazing memories, and you don’t want to pass it up. Read on for tips on making your baby’s first Thanksgiving the best it can possibly be:

DIY a cute Thanksgiving outfit

Romper listed some absolutely adorable Thanksgiving outfit suggestions. However, if you’re more of a DIY gal, instead of heading straight to the kids’ clothing aisle, go to the craft store with a plan to make your own ensemble. Grab a plain white romper, a sponge brush and some fabric paint in the fall colors of your choice – yellows, reds, oranges and browns are classic options. On your way out of the store, pick up a sales flyer or two; trust me, you’ll be grateful you did.

Once you’re back home, clear a space for crafting and follow the steps below:

  1. Take the craft store sales flyer – or cardboard or an old magazine if you forgot to grab one – and place it between the front and back of the romper. This way, the fabric paint won’t seep to the other side and glue the outfit together.
  2. Squirt some fabric paint – any color will do – onto a disposable plate. Dip your sponge brush and spread the paint over your baby’s palm.
  3. Press the palm flat against the front of the plain romper and voila: You now have the beginnings of a classic turkey hand print.
  4. Wash your baby’s hand and use the other paint colors to decorate the romper and turkey however you like. You can even add your hand print to the back once the front of the outfit is dry.

If you want to make this craft a family-wide affair, have dinner guests layer their paint hand prints over each other, varying the colors evenly. The end result may not look like a turkey anymore, but you’ll definitely wind up with a very unique pattern.

Set the table with custom placemats

A table set with forks and knives. An arrangement of pumpkins and autumn leaves acts as a centerpiece.Create a beautiful spread surrounded by your baby’s handmade placemats.

Imagine the joy on your parent’s faces when they gather around for dinner only to see the table has been set with placemats bearing your child’s hand print. Yes, this Thanksgiving idea also involves turkeys, but this time your little one makes the tail only. Here’s how to make them:

  1. During your trip to the craft store, grab brown construction paper, sponge brushes, acrylic paint and sheets of cardstock measuring at least 11 by 14 inches. Grab a laminator (or use the one in your office) if you want to reuse these placemats.
  2. Take your baby’s right hand and, using the sponge brush, cover the palm with acrylic paint. Place the palm slight left of the center of the placemat. Repeat with the left hand, only place the palm slightly right of the center. The fingers should all be aligned the same way, and the pinkies should slightly overlap.
  3. Cut two circles from the construction paper, each different sizes. Arrange them in the middle of the hand prints, placing the big circle on bottom and small one on top to form the turkey’s body. If you happened to get some red and yellow paint, add a little beak and snood. Wait for the placemat to dry, then use as is or laminate for extra durability.

Of course, this Thanksgiving idea requires a headcount of everyone who will be attending dinner, which isn’t exactly easy to get if you have a large extended family. You might want to make a few extras just in case.

Create natural toys for sensory play

A collection of colorful gourds and pumpkins.Small gourds are great for sensory play.

Childhood educators and specialists agree: Hands-on experiences that involve multiple senses are great for an infant’s cognitive development, which then sets the stage for everything else learned in life. Combining sight, touch, sound, taste and smell whenever possible helps your little one develop creative problem-solving abilities by teaching them how to classify different objects and environments.

Given all the tasty foods and delicious smells of Thanksgiving dinner, don’t you think this holiday is a great opportunity to let your little one engage in sensory play? Here are some ideas:

  • Pour a bit of your seasoning blend into a bowl. Hold the spices up to your infant so he or she can smell them, then offer a small taste. You may even be able to gauge your little one’s food preferences early!
  • Scoop some cranberry sauce into a shatterproof bowl and let your infant squish his or her fingers through it.
  • If fresh pumpkin pie is on the menu, save the pumpkin innards and wrap them in a resealable sandwich bag. Cover the open edge with packaging tape, then let your infant play to his or her heart’s content. The mixture of fleshy, stringy material and small, firm seeds is great for holding a toddler’s attention.

Make sure you offer experiences that let your infant use a number of senses, not just sight and touch.

Don’t forget the photo op!

It’s true: Thanksgiving is a stressful time of year. Still, there’s always a way to create fond memories during this holiday. Maybe your little girl spilled pureed yams all over herself, or your boy decided to take a snooze curled up against the family dog. In all the madness of cooking, cleaning and watching parades and football, don’t forget to grab your phone and snap a couple of photos.

Baby’s first Thanksgiving is a remarkable time, so try not to let it pass you by. These fun craft and play ideas will surely help you make memories for years to come.

Autumn Green is an artist-turned-writer who traded the sweet tea of the south for the deep dish pizza of Chicago. Her favorite subjects include art, culture, design, small business/entrepreneurship and healthful living.

open notebook with blank pages on wooden table

10 Fun Finishing Touches For Your Baby Registry

What goes on the baby registry for the mom who has everything? Well, maybe you don’t have everything, but you certainly have enough. Maybe you’re expecting your second child, or maybe you’ve already stocked up on diapers and bottles. Yet your friends and family insist on getting you something.

Alternatively, maybe your baby registry looks a little dry, and you want to add a few nonessentials so your friends have fun as they’re shopping. Below are 10 cute-but-useful gifts for new moms:

1. A swim ring

Safety is of the utmost importance, especially come bath time. Turn your eyes away for a second, and disaster can strike. A swim ring keeps your baby safe by keeping his head above water. This inflatable device gently wraps around the neck, reducing the risk of drowning.

2. A portable bottle cleaning kit

These kits are perfect for family trips out of town – especially when you have to travel a long distance. The last thing you want to do after reaching your destination is search for clean bottles.

3. A bottle sterilizer

If your tap water isn’t chlorinated or you simply don’t trust the local supply, Consumer Reports advised sterilizing your baby bottles before each use. You can boil them for up to 10 minutes, but a sterilizer is much easier to handle.

Parents feeding a baby.A sterilizer easily destroys germs.

4. A drying rack

Baby bottles and breast pumps are made of tiny, intricate pieces. Having a drying rack makes it easier to clean each part and means your less likely to lose them. There are many options available specifically for baby products rather than normal dishes.

5. A wipe warmer

No one likes a cold feeling on their bum – especially not babies! A warmer heats up baby wipes to a comfortable temperature so you can avoid tears when changing diapers.

6. A humidifier

A humidifier prevents all sorts of minor ailments, including dry skin, chapped lips, sinus problems and even eczema. The moisture in the air helps break up mucus and reduces viruses and bacteria. Not only does it help your baby breathe better, but it also wards against infections.

7. Baby’s nail clippers

Trimming your baby’s nails can be a headache. Not only will your little one squirm during the first few sessions, but all that movement makes it hard to avoid cutting delicate skin.

8. A baby thermometer

When your baby’s forehead feels warm, the last thing you want to do is spend time rushing to the store to get a thermometer. Best to have one on hand already. Go for a rectal, ear or forehead thermometer; infants usually can’t keep an oral one in their mouth for very long.

9. A night light and lamp dimmer

Night lights aren’t just for fending off monsters; they make it much easier to see your little one during nighttime checks. That said, sometimes walking from a dark hallway into your baby’s lit room is just too much.

10. An immersion blender

An immersion blender comes in handy when your baby starts transitioning from milk to actual food. This convenient kitchen tool makes it easy to create healthy, homemade baby food blends. Unlike with a food processor, cleanup is quick and easy.

Autumn Green is an artist-turned-writer who traded the sweet tea of the south for the deep dish pizza of Chicago. Her favorite subjects include art, culture, design, small business/entrepreneurship and healthful living.

Mother and a baby / Location: Schonbrunn Park, Vienna

How To Take the Best DIY Fall Family Photos

Fall is possibly the best season of the year. The heat of summer is long gone, and winter’s chill hasn’t set in yet. Plus, the splendid colors make a gorgeous setting. The great weather and beautiful landscape are perfect for taking family photos.

But how do you best use fall’s colors to your advantage? And where should you take your pictures? Use the following fall photography tips to make the most out of this time of year:

Shoot during golden hour

Autumn lighting is spectacularly bright and warm, which is always great for photography. The best time to shoot in the fall is during golden hour, the time right before the sun sets. The light during this time is dramatic in a way that enhances the cozy, warm feeling of the season.

Before taking childhood photos of your kids, make sure they’re fed and in a good mood. Few things are more frustrating than asking grumpy children to pose on an empty stomach.

Trees changing colors.Golden hour is the best time to shoot fall photos.

Play with shutter speed

Shutter speed dictates the length of time your camera lens is open, allowing more or less light inside. A faster shutter speed freezes action, while a slow one causes motion blur.

Play around with this camera attribute, along with focus and white balance, for some interesting effects. For example, have your toddler play in leaves and use a faster speed. In your picture, the leaves will appear suspended in midair. Alternatively,  you can use a slow speed to capture your child’s movements.

family, childhood, season and people concept - happy family playing with autumn leaves in park

Use contrasting colors

Fall has dramatic hues: oranges, yellows, reds and golds. To make sure your children really pop against the background, dress them in contrasting colors. Just imagine how cute your kids will look dressed in baby blue while playing in a pumpkin patch! Or, if they’re standing against a bright red bush, how about something in green?

Let nature frame the photo

When it comes to composition, nature is a great asset. Trees, branches and leaves can all frame the photo or direct the viewer’s eye to its focal point: your toddler. Have your little one stand between two tree trunks or at the end of a row of apples. The diagonal perspective created by the trees and ground leads the viewer to look straight at your child.

Why fall photography?

Taking photos of your little ones every autumn is a fantastic way to create lifelong memories. You’re sure to look fondly at these childhood photos over time, and holding annual fall photoshoots lets you see your children grow through the years.

Autumn Green is an artist-turned-writer who traded the sweet tea of the south for the deep dish pizza of Chicago. Her favorite subjects include art, culture, design, small business/entrepreneurship and healthful living.

a Halloween setting

How To Make Your Infant’s Halloween The Best Ever

Ask any child what their favorite holiday is, and there’s a good chance they’ll say Halloween. Sure, Christmas comes with presents, but Halloween lets you dress up and get candy. Few things are better than that. If, however, you’re the mother of an infant, you may feel excluded from the fun for a few years. Don’t worry; just because your child is too young for trick-or-treating doesn’t mean Halloween is out of your grasp. Here’s how to make baby’s first Halloween amazing:

Host a party

Everyone loves a good Halloween party! Just because you have an infant doesn’t mean you’re limited to hosting a gathering for parents of young children. You can throw a shindig for people of all ages. If most of your friends have children of trick-or-treating age, start your party early so the kids can get their candy afterward. This has the added bonus of letting you get to bed early as well, assuming you don’t have many trick-or-treaters coming to your house. If most of your friend gang has infants, have them dress up their kids and host a mini costume contest. Since the kids are so young, there’s no need to worry about hurting the feelings of anyone who didn’t win.

Otherwise, if most of your friends haven’t had children of their own yet, start your party later in the evening for a nice adult gathering. Show off your little one in her adorable outfit for a moment, then put her to bed and return to your friends. Just keep your baby monitor on hand in case someone wakes up crying.

Two white pumpkins with spider glitter around them.Parenting an infant doesn’t prevent you from enjoying Halloween parties!

Create a clever DIY costume

Sure, you could snag something for infants at Party City, but isn’t it better to create something yourself? DIY costumes are more creative – and often cuter – than something mass produced. Here are a few ideas if you’re struggling to come up with something:

Flower pot

Line a basket with baby’s favorite blanket, then place her inside. Lay brown fabric on top of the blanket to look like soil. Then, glue some fake flowers to a bonnet or headband. For a cute finishing touch, glue fake leaves to a pair of green wrist bands.

Candy corn

This outfit is incredibly easy – all you need is some orange and yellow fabric and hemming tape. Dress your baby in a white onesie. Cut a piece of cardboard into the shape of trapezoid, eyeballing to make sure it’s big enough to cover your baby’s body. Use this to cut the yellow fabric into shape. Do the same with the orange fabric, but cut some off the top so the yellow will show through. Lay the orange fabric over the yellow and adhere with fabric glue or iron-on adhesive. Seal the sides and top, leaving room for your infant’s arms and head, then dress your little one.

Take photos to your heart’s content

Of course you’ll want to memorialize your baby’s first Halloween forever, so why not hold a “haunted” photo shoot? Grab a black tri-fold presentation board and decorate with themed stickers or stencils. Throw in fake webbing or mini pumpkins for good measure. Avoid small plastic spiders or other critters, as these are a definite choking hazard. If you want to step things up a notch, grab a table cloth with spiders or a haunted house and tape over the poster board. Place your baby in front in an adorable costume, then, get out your camera phone, point-and-shoot or DSLR and snap away.

A baby playing with a pumpkin.Take tons of photos during your infant’s first Halloween!

Create some healthy Halloween treats

Your infant isn’t ready for candy and cookies – the sugar content alone is a bit too much for them. Plus, most Halloween-sized goodies are choking hazards, and soft treats like caramel and honey aren’t good for your little one’s teeth.

Thankfully, you can make your own sweet snacks that are light on sugar yet still tasty.

Pumpkin smoothies

This soft treat uses real pumpkin and your choice of sweetener. If you want to make this from scratch, slice a pie pumpkin in halves or quarters. Roast in the oven at 350 degrees for at least an hour or until the flesh is completely soft and cooked through. Remove the skin, and puree the pumpkin in a blender.

If you don’t have time for all of this, canned pumpkin is just fine.

Mix your puree with your choice of milk (organic, almond, coconut or what have you) and your preferred sweetener (maple syrup, brown sugar, honey or agave nectar). Add premixed pumpkin pie seasoning, or combine nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and clove to taste. Throw in a bit of vanilla extract, then mix all ingredients in a blender. Add ice and blend until smooth.

Pumpkin ice pops

Use the recipe above to make a smoothie, but leave out the ice. Instead, put your puree mix into a popsicle tray. You can also use spooky ice molds like spiders or witches hats for a bite-sized treat. Just be mindful of any choking hazards. Leave them as is, or throw in a popsicle stick once the pops are half frozen.

If you’re OK with adding some more sugar, fill the molds half way with the puree mix. Place in the freezer until semi-firm, then fill the rest of the mold with whipped cream. Pop your treats back in the freezer for a while, then enjoy.

Autumn Green is an artist-turned-writer who traded the sweet tea of the south for the deep dish pizza of Chicago. Her favorite subjects include art, culture, design, small business/entrepreneurship and healthful living.