The Adventures of Bug and Boo

A Vulnerable Sharing

Rebecca O'LoughlinComment

It's been a long time since I sat and wrote anything creatively. A LONG time. So much so that I actually started a journal entry a few days ago entitled, "Wherein I Lament the Demise of My Creativity" and then decided I was being far too dramatic and fatalistic, and quickly searched online for a creative writing prompt to get the juices flowing. If you recall, my word of the year is "do," and there were many things attached to that word - in the eco-friendly, natural, homemade space but also in terms of personal goals in writing, and pursuing social justice in some way. One thing I wrote as a goal for writing, was just DO it. Stop attaching all of my expectations to it, take all of the pressure off, and just simply write again. So, in the aim of sharing the real me in this space, here's a little from my very first creative writing prompt in well over a decade. I'm well out of practice of writing in the third person...but enough excuses. Here goes:  

image via unsplash

image via unsplash

 

She sits, waiting. Staring out the window blankly, not even registering the last stubborn remnants of snow clinging to the far edges of the garden, or the faint twittering of the first birds to herald the coming of spring. She sees and hears none of it. She is lost deep inside her mind, wandering, wondering. And waiting. 

There is so much that lies ahead and myriad things that must be done. Many would feel that call to action, and rise up in response, begin to move, to do. But not she. She feels no urge in this moment, no gravitational pull in any direction, as if Newton's law doesn't apply at all. Instead she floats in a space somewhere between earth and the stars, patiently watching the ants marching beneath her from home, to work, to home again, all to start again the next day. She sees it from afar, but does not recognize it. 

She blinks and almost imperceptibly shakes her head, as if she's attempting to shake off the somnolence that lightly rests upon her like a veil. Her eyes attempt to focus on the world directly in front of her. For a moment, it is almost as if she fully sees. Her pupils dilate in their first response to the sunlight beaming into the room, and her eyes narrow, squinting ever so slightly, as she tries to discern what she finally sees just outside the window's clear glass. 

But then, a small noise is heard from an unseen room nearby. A quiet calling, a nonsensical syllable in a voice that is too shrill, too used to being muted. And that tiny atmospheric change is all it takes; she silently retreats back into her shell, back into herself. No longer focusing, no longer seeing. She is only aware of what is inside her own head again - whatever vast and haunting things have taken up residence since she was last able to clear out the dusty cobwebs hanging in the corners of her fragile mind. There, amongst the clutter, she waits. 

 

OK, fellow writers and readers. Thoughts? Critiques? Share, please!! 

3 Perfect Date Looks for Any Occasion

StyleRebecca O'LoughlinComment

Are you guys familiar with the concept of 'shopping your closet' ? The general gist is to find new ways to wear the things you already own, rather than buying new pieces. This is a great concept for many reasons: environmentally friendly (in essence, you're 'reusing' your wardrobe), budget friendly, and you learn new ways to try items you already had and may have grown bored with wearing the same ways over and over. 

As I start mentally preparing for the arrival of baby #3, I am reminding myself of the slow season of 'one-on-one' time that a new infant heralds in coupledom. Which basically makes me want to cram in as many date nights as I can with my husband before the summer! And because I love styling outfits, I went on a search for some 'new' date outfits that I can wear on our next occasions out together. Because even on the off chance that I don't have the chance to wear all of them, looking at the outfits is nearly as good... ;) 

First up is the pretty purple top and clutch from my first Stitch Fix box, paired with The Best Maternity Jeans Ever (an extremely flattering skinny jean with low belly band), these gorgeous tan ankle boots from Anthropologie, and some skinny gold bangles and a gold disc necklace. 

OK, so for this look I technically have only owned the top and clutch for a month, but they were in my closet so I'm counting it. ;) I love the shade of purple and that cheeky little cross-x at the top of the shirt's back. It keeps it from being simple or boring, and the pattern adds a little pizzazz as well. The boots are the most comfortable ones I own and such nice leather! And those jeans are incredibly flattering, keep their shape even after a few wears, and are the perfect amount of stretch. I had in mind an evening at a funky bar, bowling, or a meal at a trendy but not overly fancy restaurant. This look would be perfect for a daytime date - meeting for coffee, a scavenger hunt - by simply sticking the clutch into a bigger bag that could hold your daytime necessities too. 

I love wearing dresses, so any time I can style an outfit around a cute day dress, I do! This is a sweet flutter-sleeve maternity dress from Zara, in a lightweight chiffon sort of material. The tie-back belt helps to flatter your bump and define a high waist. I paired a simple gold cutout flat from JustFab with it, and added a pop of color with this LV handbag. I love the bright mustard with the navy! Between the bright yellow and the gold flats, this look didn't require much jewelry so I figured I'd keep it with my standard daily pieces - double earring studs and a small simple necklace that M gave me. 

I would wear this to a museum, to a restaurant, pretty much anywhere that requires a look that is slightly more 'dressy' than 'casual' - or whenever you want to up the feminine factor a bit!

This look is my favorite! I adore the lavender lace overlay on the dress and how the suede kitten heels pick it up perfectly. I love the way the leather in the moto jacket and fringe clutch give the lacy dress more edge. I added the patterned scarf for a bit more visual interest but kept the jewelry simple and classic with a strand of pearls and my favorite (wedding!) earrings. 

This outfit is perfect for a romantic dinner somewhere nice, or an evening at the theatre - and it could equally do a live music gig too. 

What is one of your go-to date outfits? (If you're looking for date night inspiration, check these ideas out!) 

Why Leap Years Make Me Laugh + Other Awesomeness

Rebecca O'LoughlinComment

Happy Leap Year, people! February 29th always makes me laugh. See, when I was a freshman at university I really wanted to get my eyebrow pierced. I was only 17 during the first semester, turning 18 that December. But of course, I didn't want to wait until I was actually 18 - I wanted it right then. So I asked my suite-mate (who was EPIC at chalking IDs - ah the skills of youth) to utilise her brilliant abilities and make me 18 already. Well, the easiest way to make me 18 was to change the 1 in 12 to a 0 for 02. Simple, right? Yeah....until I started signing away waivers and realized they were taking a photocopy of my ID and I realized that there was no way that my birth year was a leap year and the date my license now said I was born couldn't exist...and I started panicking! I was such a good kid I started freaking out that they were going to realize that 02-29-1981 wasn't a valid date, that I chalked my ID, and they'd call the cops and arrest me for forgery. !!! HA! As if the tattoo parlor even cared. It's funny the things you freak out about when you're a teenager, isn't it? And now I always have a little wince and a laugh when a leap year rolls about, thinking about my anxieties that the cops were going to knock on my door that evening and arrest me in all of my freshly-pierced glory.  

Anywho, today it is MARCH - as in, Spring is just around the corner and Winter is nearly gone, yahoo! Granted, it also means that shortly we will turn back the clocks, thus losing an hour of sleep - plus for parents of small children for whom the idea of 'daylight savings time' is lost, we will lose days and days of that hour of sleep..!. - but still. SPRING is coming! There's been so much going on lately that it's become another season of starting blog posts on different topics but not completing them, but hey - this space is for me, right? ;) Here are a few reasons that things have been pretty awesome - albeit busy - lately: 

San Francisco. I took a (solo!) trip to San Fran two weekends ago to visit my oldest and dearest friend from growing up, meet her new little baby, and see a bit of their city. Of course, now I want to move there ;) It was an amazing time! I can't remember the last time that E and I had 3 days together, just talking and catching up and talking about literally EVERYTHING from reminiscing about the days of when we used to have sleepovers regularly at each other's houses, up until these much more adulting days. It did my soul a ton of good to have that connected time. And of course, traveling without kiddos was a true luxury - plus M pulled some strings so I got to fly first class for the first time ever, which could be dangerously easy to get used to. Tack on all of the delicious food we ate when I was there, and you can easily see how I fell in love! 

Potty Training! So the training part doesn't start awesome, but the results will be! This is day 4 of getting Bug to use the potty and so far - touch wood - we are doing great! I knew she was well able to grasp the concept but she always seemed slightly resistant whenever I asked. But seeing that she's 3 now and her tummy issues are well under control I figured, we may as well give it a real shot because soon I'll be bigger and more tired, and chasing even more after Peanut, and I really do NOT want to have 3 kiddos in diapers. So we started on Sunday and after a couple accidents on the first 2 days, she is doing marvelously - she even handled it at school yesterday morning, and a few times yesterday and today when I was putting Peanut down for a nap or taking out the dog, she ran and used the toilet all by herself...! Fingers crossed this continues as it has started. :) 

Food. I have been cooking and baking SO MUCH! The hunger factor of this pregnancy has really kicked in, which probably explains the rapid growth of this bump. ;) On top of the Hello Fresh meals we've been trying out the last few weeks, I've been attempting to do a lot more authentic and natural cooking. I've been reading about all the junk that is in packaged food and after watching "Fed Up" I've been consciously trying to not purchase so much in the packaged / processed food 'bucket'.  Why buy something from the grocery store that isn't half as fresh as literally-just-pulled-out-of-the-oven-at-home, and has more than a dozen added preservatives that I myself wouldn't be adding?! Bug loves to bake with me so we made banana chocolate chip muffins, banana bread, and zucchini pumpkin bread in the last week. YUM. A few nights ago I made enchiladas with ground turkey, black beans, and cheese and a green chile sauce (so good!) and then last night for dinner I tried a quick red lentil curry with spinach. (Meatless Mondays, giving it a go.) Man I love food! I really want to try homemade butter sometime soon. I had fresh whipped butter at my friend E's wedding years ago and it was amazing - and it sounds like it couldn't be any easier. Literally. It's churning cream around in a food processor! 

THE best pumpkin zucchini bread ever!

THE best pumpkin zucchini bread ever!

Reading. Granted, I'm still not reading at anywhere near the capacity I used to. But I did read a great thriller in January (and a rubbish romance-y kind of novel that I finished in 3 days), and I'm currently entrenched deeply in two VERY good nonfiction novels: GUT: The Inside Story of the Body's Most Underrated Organ, and Originals: How Non-Comformists Move the World. Both are fascinating on completely different levels. Gut is the ins and outs (pun intended, ha) of the entire workings of the GI tract, and how the things we eat affect it, and how it in turn affects the rest of the body. Some of the basic things I knew but none of the more detailed things. And Originals is all about how non-comformists effect change in the world, and how everyone can take learnings from them and become someone who can effect change as well. I'm interested to see where both of these go, as I'm only halfway in so far.  

Homemade. I won't get up on my soapbox (pun intended) but suffice it to say, after a while of reading and learning about what is in the foods on the grocery shelves, in the cleaning products and personal care products we use without thinking about it, I've been developing this 'ick' feeling about the preservatives and foaming agents and potentially harmful chemicals we expose ourselves to constantly. Herein lies one of my goals for the year, around 'natural' and 'homemade' living (to a realistic extent). I've started pinning recipes like crazy to this board, and have a list of all the things I want to try my hand at making - ranging from foaming hand soap and natural shampoo, to laundry detergent and dishwasher powder. Although I've had to invest a little at the beginning, for most of them I will end up saving a ton of money in the end, since you can make huge quantities of the homemade versions with relatively small amounts of the ingredients. Plus, I get to try new uses for all of my fabulous essential oils!! 

some of the ingredients I've started picking up for my ventures into 'homemade' cleaners...

some of the ingredients I've started picking up for my ventures into 'homemade' cleaners...

Reusable. I have been kicking myself for months, pretty much ever since we bought a Keurig. It seemed like a good idea at the time since M and I like our coffee very differently, and we drink it so regularly. But truly, it's another environmentally UNfriendly option that is chosen purely out of convenience, because we didn't need to measure out coffee grinds or clean the filter afterwards. I mean...how lazy can I be?! I found reusable K-cups and they even work on the 2.0 - and one set came with a 'single' and a 'carafe' pod, and they are simple to use. (There are tons of options on Amazon - look here. And these are the ones I got which I can specifically vouch for.) I feel SO much better now that I'm not chucking away dozens and dozens of pods to top our landfills each week. I'm starting to collect jars and other things that we toss in recycling to see if I can find another purpose for it first, even if it's simply to craft something with Bug. Baby steps, but we're on our way to being friendlier to our environment! 

Organic. I was referred to a wonderful - and extremely local - organic farm and signed up for a CSA share this summer! You get a selection of their harvested ripe vegetables each week from June to October, plus you can cut as much fresh herbs and flowers from their gardens as you like. They also separately sell fresh eggs and farm-raised, freshly butchered meat, which I definitely plan on trying out! It can be ridiculously hard to find organic meat in the grocery store near us, and when you can, it's exorbitantly priced (& definitely NOT local) so I'm delighted to have this option! I can't wait to show the girls how vegetables are grown :) 

What's been awesome in your life lately? Sometimes just thinking about these things can make a bad day turn around! 

Joining Anne at Love the Here and Now for an Awesome linkup

Top Tips for Traveling with Children

Rebecca O'LoughlinComment

This weekend I am traveling ALONE...which I've only done once since becoming a mom, and comes with its own crazy laundry list of preparations (mostly instructions for the care of those 'left behind'!). But it started me thinking about how much work it is to travel with children, when you're new to it. Here are a few helpful hints for any parents about to embark on a journey with children for the first time. (These tips are tailored for flights, especially long ones. Driving is a different ballgame!) 

Traveling with an infant is miles easier than with a toddler. They're not so bored with sitting in one place for long periods of time, because chances are they're not crawling or walking yet, and they're pretty content to be stuck to you for hours on end. Toddlers, on the other hand, get BORED and then irritable. There are things you can do / bring to make the trip easier for you all: 

  • Bulkhead row: after booking your airline ticket online, call the reservations desk and talk to them about putting you in the bulkhead row for your flight. It may not be available, but if it is, the extra space in front of you will be a godsend. Also, if your baby is still relatively small, many airlines have clip-on bassinets with seatbelts that can be placed on the wall in front of you once the 'seatbelts' sign has turned off. This is miraculous - it can give you a chance to run to the restroom, eat your dinner, or even just rest if you're lucky enough that your baby sleeps in it! 
  • Carrier: I'm a big fan of babywearing anyway, but when you're traveling, it's even better. There are benefits to the stroller (below), but you can't bring that on the plane. And since baby will have to be in your lap anyway, why not give your arms a rest and let her snuggle you in the carrier? Added bonus: no need to worry about whether baby's head or feet are out in the aisle when they fall asleep. (I traveled alone from NY to London with Bug when she was 7 months old and forgot to pack a carrier...she finally slept, in my arms because there was too much turbulence for the bassinet, but I had to stay awake to make sure she didn't end up an inch or two into the aisle and get clipped by the drinks cart! Ugh...) And with toddlers whose little legs get very tired very quickly, this can save on a tantrum when they've just decided they. will. not. go. any. further.! 
  • Extra Everything: Let's face it - sometimes babies do not have the best tummies. And the last thing you want to deal with on a plane is a blowout diaper or being puked on, but it happens. (Just pray it doesn't happen during takeoff or landing or you'll just have to sit and wait until you can deal with it....!) So extras are important: bring more diapers & wipes than you think you'll need, an extra few onesies or outfits for baby, and even an extra top/bra/underwear/leggings for yourself if you have the space. Even if you don't use them, it's better to be safe than flying for hours with ohmigosh-what-is-thaaat on your clothes! 
  • Toys: Distractions, distractions, distractions!  Bring as many toys as you can fit, and make at least a few of them new to the child(ren). Check out this post for specific toys that have been tried and tested with us before. For an older toddler, games on an iPad and watching movies on the plane TV will keep them occupied a fair bit. Puzzles and simple games go a long way too. Don't forget to space them out so you get the maximum benefit of each item.
  • Snacks: This one is not just for the kids - you will need snacks too! Especially if you're traveling alone - you may not be able to handle a squirmy child in your lap and a hot meal in that tiny space between your seat and the one in front of you. I have flown a 7 hour flight and not eaten a thing or gotten to use the restroom because Bug was awake and irritable the entire time, and it was horrible! Pack as many snacks as you can fit in your carryon (Btw, a diaper bag counts as baby's carryon, so you can still bring your own and your purse, if you can manage it!) 
  • Water bottle: Flying makes you thirsty, and wrangling a baby (and breastfeeding one) does too! I'm not a fan of disposable bottles of water, which are your only option in airports as you can't take liquids through security. However, you can take an empty bottle - and the reusable ones with a filter are brilliant! Because the filter is inbuilt you can even fill it in the sink in a restroom. And you don't have to wait for the air hostess to bring you one of those tiny little sample bottles three times in the flight. 
  • Bottle/breast/pacifier: The change in air pressure can bother your baby's ears when you take off and land, but unlike adults, they don't know to swallow or move their jaw around to 'pop' their ears. This can lead to a screaming frenzy from an infant in pain! The best thing I found when Bug was very little was time her next breastfeeding session to the takeoff time and the problem would naturally resolve. (Obviously a bottle would work too!) However if there are delays, an overly hungry baby can scream too much to feed, so tread carefully here. You can always try letting the baby suck on your finger or pacifier, too - just make sure they do it for the entire ascent / descent to avoid the pressure. 
  • Ride On Luggage: We have a Trunki and it is seriously the best thing ever! (see above) Not only does Bug get excited at having her very own suitcase, it's totally adorable, easy to spot, and she can either drag it herself or we can pull it with her sitting on it - very helpful for those interchanges between terminals! 
  • Stroller / Pushchair: Whether you push baby all the way to the gate and then gate-check it, or decide to check it in with your luggage, having a stroller  with you will be priceless at some point. (If for nothing other than a place to store all of your carryon items so you don't have to lug them around!)
  • Make It Fun: Find the play spaces at airports! Little ones can usually crawl around in a safe space and older ones can avail of the climbing frames or ball pits that you find. Create games out of the otherwise boring moments - count suitcases in their favorite color. Have them point out all the letters they recognize. Make up stories about where you're headed, or names of places you don't recognize. Keep it entertaining so they don't get bored before you're even on the flight!

Now in the recent past I have heard of people handing out candies or sweets to the people around them on the plane, in case of their child not handling the flight well. I've never seen it myself, nor have I done it, but it certainly sounds like a nice thing to do. Sometimes babies scream and cry, and despite all of parental efforts, there's nothing to be done. This happens in the safety of our own homes; you better believe it can happen on a plane too. Just accept that it's a possibility before you start flying or you will stress yourself and your baby out by panicking and trying desperately to quiet them. 

It can be a lot of work, but it is totally worth it! Being able to explore as a family, and show your children new places and cultures, is an amazing experience and one that we plan on continuing - even after we're outnumbered by kids! ;) 

Have you ever taken a long trip with small kids? What tips do you have?! 

Stitch Fixed Up: Verdict.....

StyleRebecca O'LoughlinComment

I always thought I hated shopping. Genuinely. Way too much fluorescent lighting, those teeny tiny spaces you have to get changed in to try anything on, not to mention the horrible mirrors at all angles when you try on something that definitely does NOT flatter. But truthfully, I actually like quite a lot about shopping: I love to browse, to feel fabrics, to check out how shops are showing off their styles for the season. I love to pick out things that I might like. I love to pair different items together to create outfits. I really just hate trying clothes on. That is why I've become such an online shopper - besides the convenience, of course. You can try things on in the comfort of your own home, the lighting you know, with no judgment from any waiting 

I am definitely late to the subscription clothing box game; I've seen blogger friends try them out in the past and considered it but never signed up. I tried the shoes (JustFab) and kept that for a long time, in the UK and in the US - until I ended up with way too many shoes to wear! And I really enjoy Rocksbox jewelry subscription because you can just wear all the pieces and send them back for a new box, as often as you like. It's especially great when you have a special occasion coming up. But clothes - I just figured there was probably no way I'd like what was sent to me. Then I got pregnant again, and realized after wearing my maternity clothes for 2 pregnancies and postpartum periods that I was just sick of the things I had left. Plus I sent off 2 big boxes of my clothes to 2 friends going through pregnancies recently - and then I saw that Stitch Fix has a maternity option...decision made! 

My first box arrived a week ago and I was so excited to check out what was inside: 

Loveappella Cross Back Maternity Top

Loveappella Cross Back Maternity Top

Verdict: Keep! 

I honestly didn't like this when I pulled it out of the box, or even the first time I tried it on. But I told myself to try everything on at least twice and on the 2nd try I decided the color was really nice on me and although it's different from my usual style (I felt it was a little 'resort wear' or vacation vibey) sometimes it's good to change it up. And case in point? I wore it over the weekend and M kept telling me how pretty I look in it. :)  

Market & Spruce Bri Knit Cardigan

Market & Spruce Bri Knit Cardigan

Verdict: Keep!

This was a no-brainer. I had been looking online for a grey open cardi and here it was!! I had just ordered a maternity one from Asos that turned out not to be the nicest material, so I was sending that back. And then this one arrived and it is soooo soft, and the perfect neutral layering piece. I love it! Plus, it's not maternity so I'll keep getting use out of it post-partum. 

Liverpool Collen Maternity Straight Leg Jean

Liverpool Collen Maternity Straight Leg Jean

Verdict: Return. (Regretfully)

I was so sad to send these back! I've been a huge skinny jean fan for the last few years so I didn't think I'd like the straight leg fit but these were AMAZING. They are the softest jeans I've worn ever and so comfortable - and the fit was like a smooth glove! BUT. They are miles too long. I have long legs for my height but these are clearly meant to be worn with heels and I rarely do that these days, what with my days at home and crawling around after toddlers. And I don't fancy wearing my jeans rolled up (plus, if I'm going to spend nearly $90 on a pair of jeans, I don't want to spend *extra* getting them tailored). So...I sent them back. 

Urban Expressions Adelade Woven Fold-Over Clutch 

Urban Expressions Adelade Woven Fold-Over Clutch 

Verdict: Keep! 

Like the cardi, this is another thing I had been looking for - a brown / tan leather clutch. It's as if my stylist was inside my head putting this box together...! This is another perfect neutral - and great quality for the price. The leather is soft and the tan hue is a perfect match for the shoes and boots I would put this together with. 

Madigan Lace Sleeve Maternity Knit Top 

Madigan Lace Sleeve Maternity Knit Top 

Verdict: Return. 

Funnily enough, I liked the look of this when I lifted it out of the box. (I'm a big fan of navy, if you've ever seen my closet...) The lace sleeves and empire waist made it that bit more dressy than a tee. I balked a bit at the price - $54 - as it's essentially a knit tee with fancy sleeves! - but I always find that quality maternity clothes are more expensive than non maternity. But beyond the price, the empire seam sits way too low on me, so it hits right at mid bump and makes the fit all very odd. At simply looking at the pictures and the item, I definitely thought I'd be keeping this one over the purple top - just goes to show how important it is to try something on, even if you think you know how you will like it! 

Blurry pic of the top, jeans & clutch together. (Ignore the horrid mustard yellow that goes so nicely with our patriotic bedding - our last bedroom was white!!) 

Blurry pic of the top, jeans & clutch together. (Ignore the horrid mustard yellow that goes so nicely with our patriotic bedding - our last bedroom was white!!) 

Stitch Fix Initial Box Verdict: 2 thumbs up! 

I was well impressed with my first 'fix'. I certainly felt like these items work for me and my style, and my lifestyle. Both tops could be casual or dressed up, and although I didn't keep all of the items, I felt happy about keeping the 3 that I did. I'm not sure that I would have found anything similar on my own shopping ventures, which are limited given the strong desire to NOT shop and try on clothes with 2 little ones tagging along! And the cardi and clutch are non maternity, so I will get to keep those ones out in my closet even after this babe comes along this summer! 

Have you tried any clothing subscription boxes? What are your thoughts on them?!