Thursday, 18 December 2014

DIY ottomon and a new playroom

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When Terry and I were scoping out new houses, a place for a playroom for our kids was on the top of our priority list. We really wanted the kids to have a place of their own, a place for all of their toys and a space where toys could live which wasn't our main living room. But once we found our house I found myself trying to somehow transform this extra living space into a playroom/adult living room. I put my fancy Pier One silk pillows on the couch, added breakable vases on top of the piano and searched out beautiful artwork for the wall...while the rest of the room filled up with kids toys. 

But clearly, I realized very quickly that this just wasn't going to work. It was supposed to be their space. Their space where they could use the pillows on the couch as beds for their baby dolls, a space where the artwork represented them, and a fun colourful space which they could call their own. The vases came down--I stopped looking for beautiful artwork, and the fancy pillows now sit all pretty on Terry's and my bed. This was now officially a kid zone--and I wanted the decor to reflect that. 

So I stepped out of my comfort zone of neutral colours and decided to just go for it--adding lots of colours, bold patterns and comfy pillows that are completely kid friendly. But I was missing something for the kids to sit on, drive cars on and put their feet up on while they hang out on the couch reading stories. 

An ottoman. 

But if you've ever gone ottoman shopping before, you know how difficult it is to find something within a reasonable price range and which matches the specific colours of your space. I found myself flipping price tags over and being shocked at the $250-$300 price tags--and I was even more disappointed that I couldn't find something in the colour that matched my pillows and colours of the room. So, I figured I'd just make my own. 

 But you see...I get these great ideas as if I actually know what I'm doing. But I really have no clue.

So I spent a lot of time researching how to make one of these suckers--what type of fabric to use, what tools I'd need, etc etc. And then a few weeks later...


My very own DIY ottoman. With tufted buttons to boot!

It's bold. It's got a funky pattern. It's a strong, kid-friendly (aka wipeable) fabric. It has cute little buttons that I made myself and a it's soft and comfy--so perfect for toddlers who are learning how to walk.

And the pillows? Well, the green one is from BouClair, and if you remember from last year when I made my own bench cushion, I also made this pillow to go on top--so I stole it for our playroom and picked a fabric almost identical to my bench cushion fabric so that it would coordinate once again.

Scroll to the bottom of this post to see step-by-step instructions on how I made this ottoman...and I promise you, it's easier than my bench cushion, so if you're not too crafty, you might even be able to pull this off. And the best part? Well, it cost me a whole $40 total...instead of hundreds. It's worth a try!

But before I go ahead and bore you with the details of how to make this thing...I figured I'd provide you a bit of playroom inspiration...on the cheap, and totally kid-friendly.

So after deciding on the colours of our couch cushions and ottomon, I headed to Ikea and bought these simple white (empty) frames. They were only $7 each. Then I got my dad (who is in the sign business) to create these images--ABC's, polka dots and Playroom Rules...all in the exact colours of the room. Perfect. And in total, it only cost me about $38 for the artwork. If you don't have a dad in the sign business though--you can easily take images off of the internet and play with them until you get what you want, then take them to a sign shop and have them print them for you. Much much cheaper than buying framed artwork yourself from a store--and you get exactly the colours and images that you want.

Then we set up our little Ikea book shelves (which are actually spice racks!), the kids Ikea table and I bought cute little marker/pencil holders from Ikea as well (and got the little medal buckets at Target for only $1 each!).

This is Mya's favourite space of the entire room. She'll spend hours here each day drawing, colouring, and making crafts...with everything at her finger tips.

Then you get your dad, the sign guy, to print out Master Pieces and stick the letters on your wall--and he made us this simple artwork holder out of a piece of wood painted black and then added some clips from Staples.

And the rest of their toys? Well they're all tucked away all neat and tidy (when the kids aren't home) in our Ikea expedite shelving unit.

And when the kids are home?...well, the room explodes with toys and movement and noise--exactly what the room is meant for.

SO...if you want to make your own DIY ottoman, here you go...step by step instructions, from my house to yours:

Go to Home Depot and buy a piece of their scrap plywood (this piece cost us a whole $3). Then buy some table legs at any hardware store (I bartered at an overstock hardware store for these and talked them down to selling these to me for only 50 cents each). It's always worth asking.

But if you don't want to make your own table, just use an old coffee table from a thrift store--works well too.

Glue and screw the legs onto the bottom of the table top, then add simple, small brackets to help to support little people who will surely jump on this thing and roll all over it.

Buy some 3inch foam from any fabric store and cut it down to size (I used a bread knife and measuring tape--drew a line with a marker onto it, then cut it...and it worked perfectly).
Using spray glue or a hot glue gun, attach the foam to the board (use only a bit of glue from your glue gun--a few dots and strips of glue along the edges and in the middle).

Then spend a ridiculous amount of time, and shoot yourself in the foot trying to get the math right for where you should be placing each of your buttons...and use a marker on the back of the table to mark your spots.

Then buy some batting from a fabric store, cut it to size and staple it under the table top...pulling it tightly.

This is what it will look like when you are finished stapling the batting all around.

After ironing your fabric, flip the table over and start stapling the fabric tightly around the edges of the table--pulling really tightly as you go.

When you get to a corner, spend the time to carefully fold the edge over and line it up perfectly with the original line of the foam, then quickly staple it down tightly.

 Keep working your way all around the table, pulling the fabric tightly and using lots of staples to keep it all in place.

Once your fabric is all stapled down, put it aside and head over to start making your buttons. I bought this button making kit, and some extra button refills. Follow the instructions on the kit and you can make the cutest little fabric buttons out of your original fabric that you're using for your ottoman.

Aren't they adorable??

So then get some super long needles from a fabric store, and use some strong string to thread the needle..then from the back of the table, thread it up and through the wood, through the foam, and through the fabric...then add your button and try with all of your might to thread the needle back down through the fabric, foam and wood until it comes out the back of the table...

then tie the string around a washer to keep it snug and in place.

Then once you've pulled your hair out finally getting all those buttons in'll finally have your funky ottoman...all done!!

Give it a try.

Happy last week of school everyone!
Erica xo

Saturday, 13 December 2014

A Love Request (again)

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The countdown is on, and I was at the store last night until after 10pm trying to scramble to get the last of our Christmas gifts bought. I'm usually done my shopping in November-for the sole reason that it avoids me having to fight for parking spots or feel any type of Christmas stress or pressure whatsoever. But this year? Well, I've got 2 little kids now, a pregnant belly and a job that I love, but that leaves me absolutely exhausted by the end of the day.

This year, I'm not exactly on the ball. So 10pm shopping is just what had to happen last night.
But as I was scoping out the aisles, filling up my over-sized shopping cart with toys, checking off my list in front of me, making sure that I didn't miss a thing...I remembered the girls who we helped last year, who would give anything to be able to just go to the store and fill up a shopping cart as I was doing. The young girls who are just trying to get by--trying to scrape together enough money to just buy a box of diapers or some warm winter sleepers. So I thought I'd re-post my request from last year, since the needs are unfortunately the exact same this year as well. Hoping that if we remember these girls, if they're not forgotten, we might be able to support them again--because last year the donations from you all were incredible. My shopping cart on my next trip to the store is for these girls alone.

Please...please..."share" this blog post on Facebook--pass it along and tell your friends about it...because these girls really do need our help.

I sat in the hospital, rubbing my very pregnant belly three years ago, waiting to register and fill out all of the paper work for my upcoming delivery.

I remember it like it was yesterday.

I nervously tapped my foot on the ground as I sat in those uncomfortable hospital chairs and looked over at Terry, who carefully took my hand in his and smiled nervously at me as the reality of what was about to happen was all of a sudden becoming very real. We would be parents soon. Our world would be changed forever, and we were about to fill out the paper work to prove it.

We sat in silence, listening to the sounds of the hospital, watching nurses rush by and trying to imagine what it was going to be like for us in this very hospital--only a few short weeks from then, delivering a baby of our own.

As we waited patiently I watched as a young couple stepped up before us and went over to answer a few questions and fill out their forms.

The young girl couldn't have been more than 17years old and was incredibly skinny except for the basket ball that she looked like she was hiding under her shirt. Her dark hair was pulled back in a pony tail and a tattoo was peeking out from under her sleeve.

Her boyfriend looked even younger than her. His baseball cap was tilted to the side, his baggy pants hung below his waist and his running shoes made him look even younger than I'm sure he even was.

I all of a sudden wasn't nervous anymore.

I couldn't stop staring at them.

Not because I was just curious about this young couple who were expecting, but because I was trying to imagine how nervous, terrified even, they both were feeling as they filled out the exact same forms as us.

Here I was, beyond ready for becoming a mother, wanting it so incredibly badly...everything was in place. My life (on paper at least) was in perfect alignment for making me feel like I was ready to start a family--married to a wonderful man, educated with an honours degree and Masters, in a secure career that I loved, supportive family to back me, owned a house and two cars, had ridiculous amounts of experience with children...everything on paper told me that we were beyond ready for this. BUT I WAS STILL TERRIFIED.

So as I sat there trying not to stare, my heart broke even more for them as I overheard the nurse ask the young girl what her address was.

"Umm...well, I'm not exactly sure of the address", she said. "I'm going to be living at Marillac Place, so I don't have the address memorized yet".

My heart sank.

I know this place well.

It's a house for young, homeless mothers who have nowhere else to go with their babies. It's a house that takes these girls in, loves them, cares for them, teaches them how to be a mom, teaches them how to take care of themselves and ultimately supports them, all done of course with very little funding.

Just before Mya was born, before I had a baby of my own to then care for, I volunteered every Tuesday night at Marillac Place, looking after these babies and getting to know these young mothers,

I would sit and chat with pregnant teens who were terrified, alone, kicked out of their family homes or abused by their boyfriends...all while being pregnant. They had nowhere to go. No one who cared about them. No one to love them at their most vulnerable time.

I heard stories that would break your heart and not let you sleep at night.

One night while I was there, I held a tiny newborn in my arms as she shook uncontrollably, going through withdrawal from the anti-depression and anti-anxiety drugs that her mom had taken during her pregnancy, I was told. I sat holding this tiny baby, not being able to take my eyes off of her as her body shook against mine, while her mother told me her story. A story that would bring you to tears and make you grateful for every single thing that you have in your life. A story of abuse, abandonment, fear and sorrow. She was only 17. But after I finished wiping my tears as I held this young mom's hand and after telling her how amazing I thought she was...I saw a sense of relief come over her. All that she was looking for was someone to show her that they cared, that they would love her without judging her...that she and her baby would be okay.

I heard another story from a 16yr old girl who was left to bring herself to the hospital in a taxi cab when she was in labor and was all alone as she had a C-section that night. She told me, as her eyes didn't look up from the floor, that it was okay that noone was there with her though since there was a nice nurse who held her hand as they delivered her baby.

Can you even imagine??

That feeling of being completely all alone.

So, as I sat there pregnant myself, three years ago, eavesdropping on this young couple registering at the hospital, I was staring at them since my heart broke for their story that I hadn't even heard yet.

My heart broke because I knew that if they were going to be living at Marillac Place, it meant that they literally had nowhere else to go. Homeless and pregnant, and just young teens.

I wanted to tap them on their shoulder and ask them if they wanted to come live with us. We'll take care of you, I wanted to say. We'll take care of your baby. Whatever led you to this place right here doesn't even matter--we'll take you home and love you and love your baby and love your boyfriend with the baggy pants. Because everyone deserves that.

But in order to not seem like a creepy stranger inviting them into my house, I sat there uncomfortably, hoping and wishing that they'd both be okay in the end.

My plea though, to you today, is that you help me. I may not be able to invite each of these girls to live in my house, but we can still do a lot for them. I was talking with the director of Marillac Place and asked her what the girls needed right now since Terry and I knew that we wanted to make a significant donation to them this year. She was thrilled and excited that I was asking.

She sent me a list of items that they're trying to collect in order to give these girls a Christmas. Because, well, Christmas is a really lonely time for a lot of people who don't have family or anywhere to go. And although some of these girls have a mom or dad or other family members who they are sometimes in contact with (but don't always have a great relationship with), some of them don't have anyone at all.

So, my plea here to you is that you take a minute and help me. I didn't realize how many items they really needed, and although I'd love to have the means to be able to buy them all--I thought we'd make a donation ourselves and then ask for help for some of the other items from all of you. They're not asking for much. Just the essentials. Bed sheets, shampoo, hair brushes, baby items, diapers. Just the things that I take for granted that I can just go out and buy for myself and my family.

The director gave me a Christmas wish list for the teens--new items that they'll wrap up and put under the tree for the girls and their babies. But they are also always looking for gently used items--maternity clothes, baby clothes and toys or anything that a new mom would need.

Some of you will be able to help a lot--you'll be able to go out and buy a ton of the items on this list--and I thank you for that. Some of you will be able to donate one small item and that's wonderful's one more gift that some young girl gets to open on Christmas day--and for that I thank you a million times over. And some of you are just able to cheer us on, watch as the donations come in and send your love our way--and I thank you so much for that as well. I want to be able to tell these amazingly brave young girls that someone cares. Because really, it's not about the items. No, not at all. It's about the feeling that they will get when they open their gifts and realize that someone out there cares for them, loves them and is willing to help them. They're just all so young.

I've copied the wish list below of the items that these girls need. If you are able to donate anything from this list, please let me know by leaving a comment directly on my blog or via Facebook or email so that I can keep track of what we have and what we still need to get. You'll notice that they're asking for 10 of some items..and that is because there are 10 girls living there right now--the house is at capacity.

P.S. Please if you could share this post, tweet it, email it...whatever you can do to get it out to see if others can help too I'd really appreciate it.

Thank you again,

Erica xo

Check out if you would like more information or if you would like to know where to drop off your items.

Marillac Place – needs list

Household Items:
·         Bed in a bag sets (single beds)
·         Single bed blankets
·         10 bed bug covers - single bed
·         10 bed bug covers - crib
·         Crib sheets & blankets
·         Pillows
·         Bottle warmers
·         Diaper genie refills (blue)
·         Dish towels/ cloths
·         Baby wash cloths/towels

Items for moms:
·         10 brush/ comb sets
·         10 house coats sets
·         10 pairs of slippers
·         10 pajama sets
·         10 winter hat/glove sets

Items for babies:
·         Baby boy and girls clothes/sleepers preemie-24 months
·         Diapers preemie-size 6
·         Baby toys up to 24 months
·         Wipes
·         Diaper cream/Vaseline
·         Bath products (baby wash, shampoo, lotion)
·         Baby oil
·         Baby powder
·         Soothers
·         Socks
·         Bibs
·         Bottles/sippy cups
·         10 bottle brushes

·         Adult bus tickets
·         Gift cards (Tim Hortons, Shopppers, Grocery stores, Walmart)
·         10 scrapbooks
·         10 photo albums
·         10 weather covers for strollers
·         10 laundry baskets
·         10 disposable cameras 

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

My advice on boys: A Letter to Mya

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Dear Mya,
     I remember when your dad and I first found out that we were having a girl. That little ultrasound image told us that you were ours, and our first baby would be a GIRL! We were so excited. So excited, but also all of a sudden nervous...because we were having a GIRL. A girl who would steal our hearts before she was even born, then completely sweep us away the moment that she was placed in our arms. I might be a bit biased, but you were (and are) quite possibly the most loved little girl in the entire world. And our nerves about having a little girl came purely from the fact that we knew that we loved you so much, and one day a boy might come into your life...and he might just break your heart.    
      So as I sit here in the quiet of the night, thinking of what I can tell you as your mom...what advice I could possibly give you about one of the most important decisions of your life, I'm not even sure where to start. But let me begin by telling you that the person who you choose to spend the rest of your life with IS one of the most important decisions you will ever make. So choose wisely.
        I'm not sure why people don't talk about it much. Why it's not discussed from the time that you are little. But choosing someone to spend the rest of your life with impacts literally every aspect of your life. So I hope that when you are finally old enough to read this letter, when you are in the midst of searching for or deciding on your life partner, you will sit down and read this again--and again...because I can't stress to you enough how important this decision is...choosing the right man.

Now, I also realize as I write this that I'm making a huge assumption that you'll one day fall in love with and marry a man--but just know that if I'm wrong and you fall in love with a woman, your dad and I will also be there cheering you on and toasting to the beautiful couple on your wedding day...just so you know.

But for now, I'll make the assumption that we're talking about boys, so if I had a say in this at all, here is what I would tell you:

Please find someone who is just like your dad.

On our honeymoon...almost 7yrs ago

*Handing out school supplies to kids in a very poor area of the Dominican 

Find someone who will put you first and support your every move. Find someone who will be trustworthy and kind...because one day you will need that kind of a man to help you raise your future children. You need a man who will rub your belly when you're pregnant and remind you that "you have a baby growing in look beautiful" when you feel as huge as a whale as he's watching you throw each and every piece of clothing out of your closet in the morning, trying to find something that fits (true story). 

Pic taken almost a month ago now...finally resigning myself to the stretchy pants

A man who will sit on the nursery floor trying to keep his eyes open, watching you as you nurse and rock your crying baby in your arms late at night...knowing that he can't necessarily do anything in that moment but be there for you. Please find someone who you know will do this for you--because believe will need it. 

I know at the tender age of four, you're watching our every move. You're watching how we laugh together, how we love each other and how we kiss each other goodnight. You're watching as we speak to each other, as we help each other and as we manoeuvre through the days when life is hard, and when life is so so good. You're watching the mundane routines that come with every day life--the dishes that we scrub together at the sink, the laundry that we transfer from the washer to the dryer, the vacuuming that seems to be never ending and the lunches that get packed every night. You're watching as we smile at each other when life is blissful and when we talk to each other when we're frustrated. You're watching every last bit of it.

So please, keep watching. Watch as we make mistakes--and learn from them, as we are. Watch as we get frustrated with each other sometimes, and instead of yelling, we talk about it, work it out or just let it go. No relationship is ever perfect Mya. But never go to bed angry...even if you have to stay up all night long figuring it out...never go to sleep mad.

And I'll give you a piece of advice that your Papa (my dad) once told me long before I met your daddy. He told me to never seek out drama in a relationship. Never settle down with a man who brings drama to your life--who makes you cry often, or who makes you experience incredible highs and incredible lows. Bouquets of flowers for no reason are much sweeter than flowers sent to you as an apology. There will be so much drama that will come into your life, your papa told me, with your job, your future kids, family, friends and finances that your home life with your husband should be steady. It should be calm, it should be loving, predictable, and happy. It should not be a roller coaster ride of emotional highs and lows. While the rest of the world might bring you down, your partner should be the one who builds you up. Please find someone who does this for you. And don't settle for anything less.

*very serious game of Snakes & Ladders with your Papa

And you know what else your Papa told me? He said, if you are in a relationship with a good man "You need to wake up every morning and look at your partner and tell yourself that you love him and want to be with him...because whatever you say and believe will be true". If you continually wake up thinking negative thoughts about your spouse, the relationship will never move past the negativity. So be positive and let go of the petty, negative thoughts that could ultimately destroy the two of you.

Oh, and the "fireworks" that people talk about? I wouldn't let a good guy go just because those fireworks aren't happening right away. It's important to be picky--it certainly is. But it's also important that you don't disregard a man simply because there is no spark right away. Sometimes the best relationships grow slowly and steadily...and the sparks come later. There are so many good guys out there--so if you find one, don't just throw it away simply because this Hollywood idea of sparks flying and fireworks going off isn't happening on the first date or two. You could be missing out on the best relationship of your life.

But please, just please...before you get married, ask yourself "Would I start dating this man, just as he is today?", because sometimes we're still in love with the idea of who that person used to be. The man who wooed us and swept us off of our feet when we first started dating. The man who treated us with kindness and love all of those years ago. But today--knowing what you know about who he is today and how he is treating you right now, would you start dating him? Never stay if your answer is no.

And ultimately, please remember that you have to work on relationships. You have to sweep him off of his feet as much as he sweeps you off of yours. You need to tell him how much you love him, how much you admire him and how much you appreciate him--and he needs to do the same for you. Both of you need to say "thank you" to each other as often as you can, and don't go a day without saying "I love you". Nothing will ever be perfect, but if you can find a man who respects you, admires you and loves you then I have no doubt that our fears of your heart being shattered will subside.

But for now, enjoy your four year old life. Enjoy the care-free freedom that your childhood brings. Enjoy the free cookies from the Cookie Club at the grocery store that make you so darn happy. Enjoy the tickle fights with your brother that make you laugh until you just can't take it anymore. Enjoy the feeling of snowflakes falling on your tongue that you love so much and bedtime stories with mom, dad and your brother. I'll save this letter for you for when it feels right to give it to you. And I'll write one for your brother too.

But until then, please just know how much you and your brother are loved. That's really all that matters right now.

your mom xox




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