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Valentine's Day Books

MotherhoodCatharine KlepacComment
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If I can be honest, I’ll find any excuse to add more books to Olivia’s library and Valentine’s Day is no exception. Now, I didn’t want to just fill her shelves with cutesy themey books that scream Valentine’s Day (I see you end cap at Target). I wanted use this as a way to empower Olivia (even at a young age) to know that she has value, worth, and that she belongs here for a reason and so does every other friend she meets along the way regardless of their differences. I also added some of the books she already had that had a general theme of love, romantic stories from history, or floral themes to balance out the heavier topics.

— from left to right top to bottom —

Bloom - this is the beautiful story of fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli who didn’t even fit into her own family. She defies society’s narrow view of who she should be and blossoms into the incredible and quirky designer we know today.

Olivia and the Fairy Princesses - when I first saw this book I was like ugh princesses. But knowing Olivia (the pig) there had to be a twist. This book is so funny and so anti your typical pink fluffy princess, and I just love the message of being an independent person rather than someone’s princess.

How Do I Love Thee? - this is such a beautifully illustrated version of Elizabeth Barrett Brownings Sonnet 43 explaining the many ways one can love another.

Spot Loves His Daddy - this is just a simple and sweet story where spot gets to spend the day with his daddy

Paris - this is a fun book of shapes that can be found all over the most romantic city in the world: Paris!

Romeo + Juliet - how could I not include this classic? Don’t worry, this is just a counting book without the depressing ending your little one probably isn’t ready for.

Pantone: Red - this is from the Pantone Box of Color and includes a bunch of cut outs of things that are red.

In My Heart - this is such a fun book about the different emotions your heart can feel. Each page reveals a new cut out heart that gets smaller and smaller as the pages turn.

Dragons Love Tacos - this book is hilarious especially if you’re a taco lover. Obviously there are many things in the world that people (and dragons) love and tacos shouldn’t be excluded on this holiday.

She Persisted - this is such a beautifully written book highlighting 13 different women throughout history who persisted even when the world was against them. From Hellen Keller to Oprah. So well done.

Guess How Much I Love You - this is an oldie but goodie, where little nutbrown hare continues to find ways to show big nutbrown hare just how much he loves him.

Spot Loves His Mommy - just like the other version, this is a sweet story of spot enjoying a special day with his mommy.

Counting With Frida - Frida Kahlo’s life and art have such an intense love story and I just had to include this even though it’s just a counting book haha. Also it’s bilingual

Max and Tallulah - this is such a sweet story of Max the zebra who keeps trying to impress Tallulah by acting a certain way or doing different things, when in the end Tallulah loves Max just the way he is.

Pride & Prejudice - another literary classic that I had to include. This is another counting book.

Gaston - this is such a sweet story of two puppies who were switched a birth. While they made not look like (or act like) they belong in their families, they love them just the same. Also the French theme felt Valentines-y to me.

You Belong Here - this is by far my favorite book on this list. I bought this for Olivia for her first birthday and it just melts my heart. It’s such an incredibly written story about how everything in the world has a place and belongs to something or somewhere, and how your child is no different. Also I’m a sucker for gorgeous illustrations and this does not disappoint.

Coco Chanel - I’m obsessed with this series, and added this one for it’s French theme for the fact that Coco Chanel is the reason women stopped wearing corsets. Did you know that? Thank. You. Coco. I seriously buy these books for every little girl in my life.

Fairy Friends Counting - I included this one for it’s floral theme. This whole series is so beautiful with it’s pressed flowers and greenery.

Mama and Dada - Okay Jimmy Fallon your children’s book side hustle was a slam dunk. I love how sweet and simple these books are, and let’s face it. Olivia’s first word was mama, but dada was a close second thanks to these books.

Fairy Friends Colors - another beautiful book from this collection. Seriously just get all of them.

It’s not too late to order these by Valentine’s Day if you’re looking for a non sugary gift for your little one. Also, if you are looking for other baby or kids books to add to your collection:

Favorite Books

Christmas Book Advent Calendar

Easter Books

Summer Books

Olivia's Rainbow 1st Birthday Party

MotherhoodCatharine KlepacComment
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I have literally been planning Olivia’s first birthday party since June. With her birthday falling a month after Christmas I knew that I wanted to have the bulk of the planning out of the way so that I could spend the month of January working on the finishing touches. Some people think that this is overboard, but I just love any excuse to throw a great party. And let’s face it. Her first birthday is just as much for Derek and I as it is for her.

I vacillated over a couple of themes early on, but I really just kept coming back to rainbows. After all she is our rainbow baby. Little did I know that rainbows were going to be such a huge trend a few months later. You saw it here first people.

I loved the idea of a rainbow theme, but I really hate primary colors so I went with less saturated palette which felt a little more like her personality anyway. I seriously painted about 100 different rainbows before settling on the perfect four colors in the perfect order. Design is in the details okay? I knew it was meant to be when her Cuddle + Kind Avery doll arrived and matched my rainbow perfectly. So clearly she had to become part of the decor. Along with this really cool wood rainbow stacker I found on Etsy.

I wanted the party to feel full and thoughtful, but not break the bank so I made most of the decorations myself (all except for the yarn tassel garland I scored at Crate & Barrel during the holidays). I knew that I wanted to make a rainbow for her room that would then hang above her crib, so after settling on the perfect color combination I quickly painted this canvas using craft paint from Michaels. I wanted it to have a sort of painterly quality so I just measured out the center and freehanded each row. I knew I would never find a birthday banner in the exact colors I wanted so I made that as well using felt and tracing letters in the font from her invitations I designed. Full tutorial on that soon! I spelled out her name using decoupage letters and painted them with the same craft paint.

For the backdrop I bought a roll of white butcher paper and cut it into long strips (that covered the wall) and accordion folded each one in random widths and hung them in all different directions to achieve this look.

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For the food I wanted to keep the menu simple and snack-y since the party didn’t start until 2pm. I made a charcuterie spread including some of our favorite meats, cheeses, and the best fig jam I’ve ever had. I also made little rainbow sugar cookies using my family’s sugar cookie recipe that goes back several generations. I felt like that was a really special touch.

For Olivia’s cake I didn’t want her to coke out on sugar, so I opted for a grain free, dairy free, nut free, oil free version (which still tasted amazing thank you very much). I followed this recipe from Detoxinista with this delish coconut whipped cream icing. For the big cake I made my favorite vanilla cake with buttercream icing. I have been making so many cakes all year, and it was so fun to finally be making one for Olivia’s party.

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For the party hats I couldn’t find anything that matched the palette so I made them as well using matching felt and yarn poms. These were not my finest work, but they were a huge hit with the kiddos. And shockingly, Olivia kept hers on the entire time.

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I’m pretty sure these “many faces of Olivia” were my favorite element of her party. They were such a fun (and hilarious) little detail that I ran with for her straws and favors. I literally just printed out back and white photos of Olivia on cardstock and cut around her face, then used matching scrapbook paper for the hats. No detail was spared for this party.

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For the rest of the decor, I just had the guys blow up a zillion white balloons to make the whole space feel like a big cloud (which Olivia just loved).

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After everyone was through mingling and munching on snacks I made everyone come into the living room to play OLIVIA TRIVIA. I mean when your name rhymes with trivia how did you not see this coming? Plus my favorite Friends episode is the one where the girls lose their apartment to a heated game of trivia. So I whipped up this board and made up some questions about Olivia’s first year starting with easy ones like “what was Olivia for Halloween?” (turtle) and diving into some really specific ones like “who was Olivia’s first friend?” (the air vent). Sorry Sophia. There was even a lighting round!

I made the board using white foam core and cut out the letters and cards on matching scrapbook paper. Obviously I used the same font throughout her party because I’m not a crazy person.

After Team 2 whooped Team 1’s butt, it was time for cake. Don’t worry Olivia devoured her cake and clapped while we sang to her. And waved to everyone while she ate.

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While everyone was enjoying their cake I had them watch a video I made of Olivia’s first year. Up until that point I had watched it probably 25 times, but there was something about having her on my lap while we watched it together and I got super emotional.

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For her favors I packaged up cotton candy (clouds) and made rainbow salt dough ornaments with the leftover dough from her handprint ornament at Christmas. So thrifty.

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We were so nervous that Olivia would have a meltdown at some point because she only had a morning nap, she was going through a learning leap, was getting two top teeth a few days prior, and there would be a lot of people she hadn’t seen in a while. But honestly, she just had the best time. She could tell the day was all about her and she was just laughing and scooting around all day. Our sweet girl.

Olivia West | Eleven Months

MotherhoodCatharine KlepacComment

I can’t believe we are only one month away from Olivia’s first birthday. Compared to last month, her eleventh month was a breeze.

| STATS |

There isn’t an official eleven month checkup, but based on our own measurements she currently weighs in at 17lb, she is 28" long, and I have no idea how to measure her head.

| EATING |

This girl loves to eat. Now that all of the solo fruits and veggies have been tried (and loved) without any allergic reactions we are full steam ahead into the land of finger foods. I prepare 3 meals a day and sometimes a snack in the late afternoon depending on how her naps fall. I dove straight into finger foods, but will use the occasional puree in her oatmeal in the mornings (which is still spoon fed). But after the oatmeal-pocalypse of last month I still only give her oatmeal like once a week. Oatmeal constipation PTSD is real. We have added corn, rice, cheese, sweet potato, black beans, tomatoes, chick peas, and puffs to her menu. Before starting finger foods I wanted to have her practice with puffs so that it was less messy and less wasteful. I did a bunch of research to find puffs with the least sugar and additives, and the most nutrients. Sprout Quinoa Puffs are where it’s at. They only have 1g sugar per 1/3c and the only ingredients are organic flours, real fruits and veggies and rosemary as a preservative. She took to them very quickly and now I just use them as my secret weapon if she gets fussy when we’re out and about. For her meals I just cut up fruits and veggies super small (no larger than the width of her finger) and let her self feed. Since she only has her bottom two teeth, I make sure that everything is steamed / soft enough that I can squish it between my fingers which means she can squish it between her gums (which are freakishly strong by the way). Apples are the “hardest” food she eats and hasn’t had any issues with them. So far she does really well with this method. At the beginning she was just a bottomless pit, but now she’s starting to learn when she’s full. I’m still nursing when she wakes up, before every nap, and we give her a bottle of breastmilk before bed. This whole process has naturally lowered my supply so I feel like she’ll be weaning pretty soon, or I’ll be exclusively pumping. I can see her get frustrated at how little she gets each session. I still pump every night before I go to bed and I’m only pumping 3-4oz now when it used to be 8-10oz. I just don’t know if I’m ready for that transition and if she will nap well without getting to nurse before bed. We still have quite the back stock of frozen milk though so even if my supply plummets we’ll be okay for a while to help her slowly wean. But with the increase of solid food I feel like this is a natural progression and she won’t be as hungry or feel the need to nurse anymore. Maybe?

| SLEEPING |

Olivia is still sleeping like a champ. We have been pushing her awake times lately (especially on the weekends) and she has rolled with it very well. I still let her tell me when she’s ready for her nap rather than having her on a set schedule. She will literally stop playing, crawl into my lap, look up at me and say “mum mums” which means that she wants to nurse and go to bed. For the most part she sleeps for 1-2 hours 3x a day. But sometimes she’ll sleep for 2.5 hours in the morning and then 40min in the afternoon and that’s it. As long as she’s happy and content, I just let her do her thing until she’s tired. Sleep training is a magical thing, but sometimes I’m kind of sad that she is too conditioned to fall asleep while I hold her or when she’s in her stroller. BUT the other day my mom and I were out Christmas shopping and I had her in my Solly wrap and she fell asleep in it while we were walking around for a couple of hours. I could have melted. She hasn’t done this since she was probably 3 months old.

| DOING |

This girl loves to crawl. She is super fast now too! She will dart all over the house trying to find Geoffrey or whoever isn’t paying attention to her really. When she starts crawling after something she breathes really fast like she’s hyperventilating out of excitement. It’s the cutest. While Derek is getting ready for the day she will crawl into our room and “hoo” at him until he looks at her haha. She isn’t pulling up on furniture yet, but if we position her against it she will stand for a long time patting her hands on it and wiggling her butt. Santa brought her a wooden shopping cart for Christmas to encourage her to walk and she has taken a few steps with it so far. She’s kind of having a difficult time with the concept, It’s like her entire torso will contort and she will hang on for dear life before taking a single step to rebalance herself. She’s in no rush and will be ready when she’s ready. She also learned to clap! I have been working on this for months and then one day out of the blue she just started clapping! She mostly does it to music which is incredible, but also when she’s excited. Lately she started yelling. A lot. Whenever she’s hungry she doesn’t cry or fuss she just yells very loudly. I hope that once she get’s older and can reason a little more this will stop, but right now she is very demanding while you prep her food until it’s placed in front of her. Even picking her up or distracting her doesn’t work. Food is the only solution. Please tell me this is a phase.

| MILESTONES |

She is definitely learning what different words mean. I can say “do you want mum mums?” and she’ll repeat “mum mum mum mums” which means she wants to nurse. I can say “are you ready to go night night? and she will say “na na” and rub her eyes. Whenever we say “oh no George!” (her favorite book) she says “de de de de” every time. I can say “clap clap clap” without clapping and she will immediately start clapping. I can say “say bye to Geoffrey!” and she will wave. It’s kind of amazing. Learning to clap was a huge milestone, and basically my favorite thing ever. Also, getting her to enjoy solid foods and self feed has been such a huge moment for us. We celebrated her first Christmas and New Year together, which she enjoyed so much. She met Santa and absolutely hated him. She completed her first craft of hand print salt dough ornaments for her grandparents. She also attended her first holiday symphony and danced the entire time. We took her to the playground for the first time to test out the swings and she absolutely loved to swing! So much so that her Grammy and Grampy bought her a swing for her to use at their house. She said her first word which was drumrolllllllll….. MAMA! She had always just said mamamama or dadadadadada but one morning she crawled into my lap, looked up at me and said “Mama!” and my heart exploded. She is still wearing size 3 diapers 6-9m clothing. Our little peanut. In this photo she’s wearing 6-12m and you can see how baggy it is on her.

| FAVORITE MOMENTS |

Sharing the Christmas season with her was my all time favorite moment this past month. We took her to do all of the Christmasy things and even drove around looking at lights while she “hoo-ed” in the backseat. I love when she claps and dances to music. She comes from a long line of musicians on her dad’s side of the family and this is very apparent even at such a young age. She starts up music class next week and I’m so excited!

Olivia West | Ten Months

MotherhoodCatharine KlepacComment
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This month. I mean besides the first month, I think that her tenth month had the most changes, growth, progress, events, hiccups, everything. Get ready, this update is a long one.

| STATS |

There isn’t an official ten month checkup, but based on our own measurements she currently weighs in 16lb, she is 27.25" long, and I have no idea how to measure her head.

| EATING |

I have definitely felt the pressure to ramp up her solids eating adventure, so this month I made sure she at least had 2-3 “meals” a day to sort of start a routine and get her solo fruits and veggies checked off the list so that we could dive into the deep end of self feeding. We have added green beans, apples, pears, peaches, bananas, and oatmeal to her menu. She still loves any and all foods we put in front of her. I started giving her oatmeal in the mornings and diluting it a bit with apples or pears to also give it some flavor. She LOVES oatmeal. Her digestive system? Not so much. She literally went 7 days without having a dirty diaper, which I know is normal for breastfed babies during this transition, but I could tell she was very uncomfortable. We gave her probiotics and lots of fibrous veggies but nothing would work. I called our pediatrician and they suggested prune juice so I headed to Central Market to find the purest most natural option. $8 later, and we were in business. I was worried she wouldn’t like it (I tried a sip first and honestly it’s not that bad), but she drank it and that night we had a dirty diaper! Phew! I have since spaced out her oatmeal servings because honestly that experience was a little traumatizing for all of us ha. It is so hard to see your baby in pain when you want to help her, but can’t explain it to her. Each time I have been giving her a puree lately I have made it thicker to help her transition to having to “chew” a bit. 

| SLEEPING |

Oh boy. During this month Olivia had her first cold, which lasted about a week (but felt like a year). Runny nose, horrible cough, warm flushed cheeks, the works. This congestion mixed with entering her seventh learning leap and 9 month sleep regression we hit a wall. Normally she rolls with her sleep regressions because she is so good at self soothing and putting herself back to sleep. But with her congestion keeping her awake she had a much harder time ignoring her active brain learning all of the new things and would wake up every couple of hours just like when she was a newborn. While this felt like eternity, it honestly ended as soon as her cold subsided. But whoa, that was rough. We ended up having a new sleep routine of: steam shower, nose spray, eucalyptus + lavender chest / foot rub, humidifier on, booger sucker, bed. It definitely seemed to help break up her cough (which sounded so so horrible).

So my PSA for the day (year) is WASH YOUR HANDS. Even if you’re not sick or not around babies, you have no idea what you’re coming in contact with and having a sick baby is just the saddest thing ever. It’s not about being a germaphobe, it’s about being a decent person. Okay I’m done. 

| DOING |

We officially have a crawler! She is slow and meticulous, but it felt like overnight she could go from sitting to crawling back to sitting without toppling over. She’s extra adventurous too. She will find any random speck on the floor and crawl toward it and try to put it in her mouth. So clearly she’s keeping us on our toes. Whenever she is too quiet, she’s into something. She attended her first kids birthday party for her friend Sophia who turned 5. We quickly learned that she loves balloons, watching other children play, and decorations. Her cold kept us pretty under wraps for a lot of the time especially because it was also in the low 30s that week.

| MILESTONES |

We celebrated her first halloween as a turtle and she was pretty much the cutest turtle ever. She cut her second tooth 5 days after her first tooth, and now has both bottom teeth. She learned how to wave and will wave at anyone she sees. Its actually really cute how there can be a couple fighting behind us in line and she starts waving, and they stop and wave back and start laughing. She’s basically fixing relationships left and right with her sweet spirit. She had her first cold, I’m not sure that’s a milestone, but we got through it! During this time when she wasn’t sleeping one time we let her cuddle on the couch and watch Moana, which made her feel better. We’re typically against screen time, but we felt so bad for her. She celebrated her first Thanksgiving and had butternut squash, green beans with pears, and broccoli (all pureed ha!) She picked out her first Christmas tree and slept while I decorated it (it was a big day). She had her first overnight weekend slumber party at her grandparents while we were at our friends’ wedding in Austin. And the most emotional part of all.. we finally lowered her crib mattress after we found her just sitting up in her crib after a nap haha. We also had our first poison scare. I had brought in our rubber plant because it was below freezing out and I thought it was out of her reach. While she was in her activity center she somehow stretch armstrong-ed herself and grabbed a leaf and broke a piece off and put it in her mouth. I didn’t worry at first until I saw this milky sap coming out of the ripped leaf and saw some on her face. I quickly wiped out her mouth with a wet rag and looked up the plant online. It turns out it is poisonous to dogs and children. I wasn’t sure in what capacity so I called poison control and they had me feed her milk, keep her upright for 4 hours (it was almost 6pm) and watch her for any swelling, a rash, trouble breathing, vomiting, or lethargy. So we decided to so some Christmas shopping and stroller-ed her around until 10pm. She ended up being completely fine so either she didn’t get any of the sap in her mouth or it was a minimal amount. Either way she gave us both heart attacks and her poor daddy even raced home from work. I think she just wanted an excuse to stay up late and go shopping. Ugh. Also, that was my first poison control experience and they are extremely nice and helpful and calm, and I think that is actually really great and kind of rare these days. She is still wearing size 3 diapers 6-9m clothing. Our little shorty.

| FAVORITE MOMENTS |

Watching her wave to strangers is my all time favorite thing right now. I also love this time of year and getting to show her the magic of Christmas, and the beautiful lights. I love how much she loves to eat and am excited to transition to more “solid” solids. It was fun seeing her get so excited at a birthday party, which makes me even more excited for her own first birthday that is just around the corner. I know.