Monday, March 25, 2013

Belly Cast Bust

What my results should have looked like!
I'll be the first to admit I've been a bit preoccupied over the last few weeks.  My main thoughts and actions have all been based on trying to get all things "new baby" ready for Piper's arrival.  Which, by the way, could be pretty much at any given moment, but I'll get back to that in a minute.  I've been finishing up last minute touches on the nursery, trying to get my own self in gear (such as packing a bag for my time in the hospital during delivery), and tying up all loose ends at work in preparation for my maternity leave.  Let me tell you, that last part is a bit of a bitch because it is also our busy season due to people getting their tax refunds...I work in the family furniture, electronics, and appliances business.  We have eight locations plus our corporate offices and warehouse facility.  I'm the buyer of all things furniture, among the many other roles I play.  So right now I'm not only trying to juggle trying to keep all of our locations fully stocked during the tax season rush, but I am also trying to make sure the main inventory needs of the company will be fulfilled while I am on leave.  I will be working from home as needed during my time away from the office, but that's a whole other can of worms.

I hate to admit that the hectic pace of the business right now is one thing that has kept me from posting as often as I would like.  Yes, during those slow days I tend to use my free time at the office to work on the blog.  That is just one of the perks of the family business, I suppose.  But as of the last month or so, that free time has been down to just about zilch! I'm spending most of my days running around like a crazy person.  Most of that crazy coming from the overload in hormones.  All the running around does take its tole, too.  I find myself needing to sit down and catch my breath quite often as I'm pretty much a whale right now when it comes to my size.  And I like my whalishness, it's cute in its own special way.

Aw, it's so cute!
As of this past week, I have begun cutting my working hours back.  I'm pretty much coming in about thirty minutes late in the morning, as it takes me a bit longer to get myself together in the mornings.  Then, depending on how I feel and the amount of time spent on my feet during the day, I'm heading out around 3 o'clock.  By the time I get home, I am completely exhausted and just want to chillax.  This means I do not pull out my laptop and write about my life on a regular basis.  It is a bit selfish, as I know there are readers who are wanting me to post more, and I apologize for my selfish laziness.  But in the end, I really don't feel like I can help it...this whaling around is more tiring that I expected.  Plus my mind has been all over the place.  Trying to focus on a single train of thought has been pretty much impossible.  That and I tend to be more forgetful lately.  Speaking of scattered brain function, I do believe I began this post with the intention of parlaying a story about me trying to make a belly cast last weekend.  Well, now that I've smoothly segued into that topic...

Right after I became pregnant I was invited to a friend's baby shower.  On her registry was a pregnancy belly molding kit.  I immediately thought "how cool is that?"  My mind went to instant work imagining the fun things I could do with a belly cast.  My final thought on the matter was that I would make one of my own belly towards the end of my pregnancy and then have my nieces and nephew paint it for me and Piper.  We have a family museum in my parents' house, and wouldn't that just be perfect to add to our collections one day?  Anyway, that was my goal.  So, I also registered for one when the time came, and when no one purchased one for me, I went out and got one for myself.

Since my purchase, I have been waiting for the perfect moment to use it.  I wanted to be good and round-bellied as I figured that would make the best cast.  Last Sunday was just perfect.  I was having one of those days where my belly was perfectly round and poking way out.  I seized the opportunity and broke out the casting kit.  The kit of choice was the one made by Pearhead.

Looks easy enough, right?
It's not like I had another choice in kits as this was the only one at Babies 'R' Us, but oh well.  It looks really simple, and in overall concept it is.  It comes with five rolls of plaster which you cut into small, medium, and long strips.  It doesn't tell you what they mean by these sizes, so you just have to wing it based on your own judgement.  It also comes with a giant tarp to put down on the floor to keep from making a mess (back to this in a second), and a jar of petroleum jelly to lube up with before applying the plaster strips.  Oh, and gloves for the stripping part.

The basic instructions, and believe me they were BASIC, were to cut the strips into the three sizes (do this before you begin, although it doesn't tell you that), lube up, wet each strip individually and place across the body in overlapping layers, let dry for about 10 minutes, remove the cast and set it somewhere to finish drying.  See, easy-peasy right?  WRONG!

First off, the tarp is not nearly effective enough when it comes to not making a mess.  Every strip you get wet drips and wet plaster flies everywhere as you are trying to put the strips on your body.  By the time I had finished applying all the strips there was plaster on every surface of the bathroom!  Hell, I'm not at all sure how it managed to get on the walls, the mirrors, both the vanities and everything item sitting upon them, the floor area the tarp didn't cover, the rugs, the drawers, the bathtub, shall I go on?  Seriously, this shit was a messy as it gets!

Speaking of the plaster strips, once they're wet, beware.  These bad boys want to fold up once wet and if they do, well just be prepared to either toss those particular strips or use them as the wadded up mess they have become because there is no unfolding them.  This is one reason the damn things got so messy.  Since it was necessary to drag them through the water and then onto the body as quickly as possible before they had a chance to attack themselves, that is why the plaster soaked water ended up all over the damned place.  I tried at first to remove a bit of the excess water from the strips after wetting them, but that is when they went all crazy on me.  So I changed my method and just went for the wetter method.  It kept them from wadding up, for the most part, but it made a much larger mess in the end.

I should backtrack here and talk about that oh-so-much-fun petroleum jelly that came with the kit!  Lube used to be a good thing in my head.  I haven't had any sexy time with lube involved in an embarrassingly long time, but I digress.  This little trip down lube lane, however, might just have ruined me from ever wanting to touch the stuff again.  Now I will admit this wouldn't be the lube of choice for sexy time, but that's besides the point.  What it was was a big ole jar of very dense generic Vaseline which had to be rubbed over the entire body surface area being used for the cast.  You know, I really didn't realize just how big I was until I had to grease myself up for this adventure.  It literally took the entire jar, and it was literally the most disgusting concoction of goo I had ever run across. It was very thick, and very slick, and very much not coming off once on.  It took three showers in two days before it was finally all off, and don't even think about washing it off your hands after the lathering process is complete.  I had to soil a perfectly good towel to remove enough off my hands to continue with strip-laying process.  I really think there is probably a much better, yet similar, product our there that would work better.  However, this goo was just cheap like a two-dollar crack whore down on the street corner working for half price cause she needs a fix.  Yeah, that cheap!

After I finished lubing myself, which made me giggle quite a bit, and then began the strip-layering process, I thought for sure all was going to be a cake walk.  Sure I screwed up a few initial strips due to them folding up on themselves, but for the most part it seemed like I was doing a pretty good job.  No matter what I thought of my plastering skill level. nothing could have prevented the disaster that was to come.

I began the plastering process with the boob area.  Once the area was sufficiently covered, I began working down the belly.  Well let me tell you, once the strips start to dry, they begin to detach from your body.  So here I am with plastered boobs, one belly strip in the works, and wouldn't you know my tits fall off!  What the hell?  So I try and place the boobage back on, sort of holding it to myself with one elbow as I'm trying to wet the next strip thinking if I can just get a few belly strips attached to the boob mold that all will be saved.  WRONG!  No matter how hard I tried, those boobs were just not staying on.  So I said fine, and removed the boob mold and moved on to the belly.  My thought at this point was that maybe I could make two separate casts and join them later or just have a belly cast, perhaps.

The belly casting was smooth going at first, just as the boob mold had been.  However it also, once the drying process began, started coming detached from my body.  Well as you probably know, the boob area of the body is not quite as large as the pregnant belly area of the body.  Therefore, when the strips began to dry, I was only about halfway through the plastering process.  Once again I tried holding the upper belly area mold onto my skin with an elbow as I quickly and desperately tried applying strips to my lower belly area.  And once again, no such luck salvaging the belly cast.  It just ended up caving in the middle, which made it look like a pair of fat, plastered lips.  The belly cast was so big and round that the partially dry section couldn't hold up the partially wet section and vice versa.  It ended up a deformed heap of semi-soggy-yet-semi-dried plastered mess more similar to a Jabba the Hut belly mold than that of my own belly.

Kinda creepy...
Uncanny resemblance, huh?
In the end, this kit was a piece of shit!  Maybe if I wasn't a single gal and I had a partner to help out with the cast it would have worked, but I doubt it.  I could only imagine it working if perhaps someone else plastered me while I was laying down and perfectly still.  But when you lay down as a pregnant woman, your belly doesn't stick out like it does while standing up, so this doesn't seem like a brilliant method either.  I think it sucks it didn't work because the concept is so dang cool.  I would have loved for it to have worked and then I could show off my amazing belly-cast masterpiece.  I would then forever have a part of my pregnant self to admire.  I guess I'll just have to settle for having Piper to remind me of my once pregnant self, and that isn't too shabby of a trade-off.  She'll do in a pinch, for sure.

Speaking of Piper, one quick update before I get this published.  I'm now 38 weeks along and I'm thinking she will be here any day now.  I awoke with unrelenting pelvic pressure and a bit of pain this morning, and it's been going strong all day.  I'm also now experiencing a dull ache in my back, so that may also be a sign of her pending appearance.  I wasn't dilated or anything at my prenatal last Friday, but my doc said that could change in a matter of hours.  My mom never dilated with any of us until she actually went into labor, so I'm not placing too much weight on the dilation thing.  I've been having Braxton-Hicks for some weeks now and piercing cervical pains for many weeks, also.  Those suckers can stop you in your tracks!  No one ever told me about those and they are not necessarily pleasant.  But then again, each one makes me smile afterward because I know they are a sign that I'm getting closer to meeting my baby girl.

She definitely is out of room in there (which is why she needs to go ahead and just be born already) and watching her trying to move around is entertainment in itself.  It is so cool to watch my belly do waves and little body parts try to poke out.  It's like an alien trying to bust out.  I could literally sit and watch her squirm around for hours!  As a matter of fact, she's going into action right now!  You know what that means?  I gotta bounc, pop some popcorn, and get ready for the show!  I'll keep you all posted if any new developments occur.  I know everyone will be anxious to hear when I go into labor, and I will let everyone know the moment it begins.

But for now, go ahead and drop a vote my way on Top Baby Blogs by clicking the button below.  Also come follow Piper and I on Facebook and/or Twitter.


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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Adventures in Nurseryland Part IV

The final edition!
I have gotten so much accomplished with the nursery, that I'm going to do a little something different with this entry.  I'm going to try and compress all the new information into simple picture with description format.  As I get closer to my due date, I'm spending more time on getting prepared than I am writing about getting prepared.  Easiest way to solve this issue?  Pictures!  I know my last entry was titled "Pictures Say A Thousand Words My Ass,"  but I'm not writing an instruction manual for building a nursery, just simply sharing the magnificence of the one I've created!

To begin with, I'm going to offer up a recap on the dresser and chest that were refinished and hand painted by Tracey over at TraceysFancy on Etsy.  I know I've been over these items before, but I think proper before and after pics are necessary.  So here goes!

First, let's start with the chest:
Before...


After...
Notice the checkered legs and damask pattern on doors, adorable!
The painted drawers really make the inside POP!
Love the monogram!
Next, the dresser!
Before...


After...


The checkered feet and harlequin top...phenomenal!
Amazing detail and custom quote
The striped sides just add to the overall awesomeness!
Thank you for bearing with me for the repeat pics of the dresser and chest.  I'm just so absolutely thrilled with them that I had to share once more.  Now on to new things.

I've previously covered the window treatment for the room, but now I officially have the curtains and cornice board completed.  Both were in the black and white harlequin pattern, and both turned out beautifully.

View of cornice board in early morning light.
Close-up of the jewel and bead work.
Yes I did all that by hand!


A bunch of fairies came out to play! 
A view of the full window area (taken at night).
I love how the curtains and cornice board came together.  Notice that is the same fabric used for the crib panels?  Now I'm thinking about bejewling the crib panels in the same fashion as the cornice board.  It's a lot of work, but totally worth it.

The next series of pics will be random shots of the nursery from various angles.  Enjoy!

Chair/breast feeding area to right of window.
Large flower from Tipton Hurst
Dresser area with newly added wall decor.
(Ignore woman in bathrobe!)
Close-up of area above dresser.
Bookcase area to right of dresser.
Teacup bookcase, still being filled!
Chest area to right of nursery door, love the name and butterflies!
Larger view of chest area.
Close-up of letters.
Thanks to Lindsay @ LewisCourt on Etsy!

Crib area with newly added butterflies.
Alice picture on wall right of crib and left of window.
Began decorating the ceiling fan, it is still in progress!
Okay, that about finishes up the 360 degree tour of the nursery.  Here are a few panoramic shots to give an even better idea of the layout.

Before all the wall decor was added.
A little dark, but you get the idea!
A little confusing with both front and closet doors.

While everything looks pretty much complete, and it pretty much is, I do have a few other projects in the works as far as decor goes.  I am still waiting on a handmade, quilled mobile that will go above the seating/breast feeding area, I am repainting a wooden bird mobile that will go above the crib area or to the right of the chest (still contemplating the placement), my mom is working on a shelf which will hold the Alice characters seen in the box on the second shelf of teacup bookcase (probably go where the Dr. Seuss book bag is hanging), and I have some work to still do on the ceiling fan.  Oh, I also have this awesome pinwheel that I bought for Piper's garden, which will be on the outside of her window, but I have decided to hang it in the corner to the right of the chest. I am redecorating it's wooden post with the harlequin ribbon used in the bunny lamp's bow-tie and around the base of the ceiling fan.

All of these additions I will share as soon as I get them complete.  For now though, here is a look at the work of the woman who is handcrafting the mobile to go above the seating area.  She does quilled mobiles that are absolutely exquisite.  The pics are just a sample of her work, my specialized mobile will have flowers, butterflies, hearts, and rabbits, I do believe.  My mom purchased it for me, and I'm thinking those are the quilled pieces that will be a part of it once complete.  It will arrive from Greece around mid-April, so it will be the last piece added to the nursery.


You can find these @
http://www.etsy.com/shop/tsipouritsa

I hope you all have enjoyed this trip through the nursery.  It feels amazing to be practically finished with all of it and completely ready for Piper's arrival.  I love that it is one-of-a-kind, just like my little girl will be, and I hope she appreciates it as she grows up.  One thing is guaranteed, her eyes will never get bored!  It has been a long process with more expenses than initially anticipated, but I feel it was all totally worth every second and penny put into it.  Now the next step is to get her here so I can fully enjoy the space!  Less than four more weeks to go, woohoo!!!!

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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Picture Says A Thousand Words My Ass!

I would like to give a big virtual high-five to all the morons in the world who have systematically destroyed the ability of any company to provide written instructions for building products.  It is you who have forced us all into a world where pictures are deemed adequate replacement for the written word.  Oh, and by the way, you can all suck it!

Yep, that about covers it!
Why the harsh criticism of the moronic class?  For starters, I spent this weekend building many items for my nursery.  This process actually began Friday with a relatively simple build and proceeded on a downward spiral through idiot land ending up in ridiculousville!

The first item for which I began my adventure in assembly was the Fisher-Price papasan cradle swing.  Even though the building of this swing looked daunting at first, the instructions were very well written and it only took this 7 1/2 month pregnant chic less than 30 minutes to put it all together.  Notice I said the instructions were very well written.  This was an oh so important part of me not dropping the f-bomb continually throughout the process.  Although I am pretty good with visual learning, and there were pictures to go along with the writing, the writing part is still uber important when describing detailed work.  For example, there were times when the swing had to placed on it's side in order to attach certain parts.  A simple picture of this may leave you scratching your head, but a written instruction?  Well let's just say that's what makes you breeze through the steps without wasting so much time rotating the instruction manual in circles trying to figure out what the hell is going on.  I will give props to the pictures included with the manual, however, as they were quite detailed in and of themselves.  I give a two-thumbs up evaluation of the entire manual.  Kudos to Fisher-Price for making my life easier on this one.

Here are some sample pics from the manual:

Notice the use of Left and Right markings...genius!

"Tip the assembly on it's side"...genius!
Gives me bolt size along with picture...genius!
 As you can tell from the pics above, which are directly from the instruction manual, the pictures are used to compliment the written instructions.  My saying "genius" regarding each written instruction is a bit tongue-in-cheek as this should be common sense...."should be" being the operative words here.

As for the completed swing, it is totally awesome!  I have the twilight gender neutral swing already built for the office and the all-girly butterfly swing for home (still awaiting delivery).  The swing plays 16 songs, eight for day and eight for nighttime; two nature sounds, birds chirping for daytime and crickets for night; both forward and side-to-side swinging actions; there is a rotating mobile which has a monkey, moon, and star (twilight model) which move up and down along with a star light show (can be operated separately); it also has a cute little canopy and and the legs conveniently fold together for easier storage when not in use.  In other words, it rocks!  Get it?  It rocks?  It's a swing.  Damn it, nevermind!

Shot of the Starlight model
Here's a quick video of the swing in action.  Hope you can adequately hear the music playing.  

video

Now that I have the swing out of the way, let's go on to the next portion of today's entry...the beginning of the downward idiot spiral, aka, assembly of the stroller!

To be perfectly honest, assembling the stroller was not all that bad.  For the most part the instructions were tolerable, yet the written portion was quite lacking in descriptives.

My stroller of choice is the Graco FastAction Fold Click Stroller in Mena.  Let me preface the following by saying I love the stroller!  The bonus on top of the stroller sundae is that it has a matching infant carrier, the new Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40 model that is the only newborn to two-year-old infant car seat on the market.  So yeah, it's a great product that is adorable and multi-functional, bonus!  But let's get back to the assembly instructions.

Here are a few pics directly from the instruction manual:

No wording but completely understandable parts section, I can live with this.
Very little descriptive, but doable for the most part.
Here's where I ran into some issues...
Although the pic above is pretty self explanatory, there is a glitch to the written instructions.  First off, how about letting the assembler know to flip the stroller on to it's front.  Not necessary per se, but some people may not notice that you've laid the damn thing down with the back legs sticking up in the air.  Secondly, and this was a bit annoying, there are no left and right directions for the back wheels.  This would be fine if they were exactly the same, but they are not.  There is a definite right one and a definite left one.  They are not marked, so basically it's all about whether you hear that snapping sound!  This is okay up to a certain point.  Some assembled pieces require quite a bit of pressure to "snap" into place, however.  Last thing anyone wants is to think they are just not applying enough pressure, and next thing you know you've broken something.  So a simple stamped L and R on the wheel parts, or some sort of descriptive explaining the difference one should be looking for, would greatly help.  The picture isn't clear enough to spot these differences, so it's not really all that helpful in that regard.

Now this shit pissed me off!
Can you tell from the pic what to do to lower and raise the seat?  Well believe you me, if you had the stroller in front of you you'd be scratching your head!  First off, the pic and the back of the stroller don't exactly look alike, so there's issue number one.  Next, I kept looking for those dangling strings that look like they're attached to the undercarriage.  Guess what, there are no dangling strings to look for since they are tucked up inside the stroller back.  To get them you must grab a little plastic lever-like thingy and pull them through...sort of like working a bolo tie or a backpack with a cinch-up closing mechanism.  Finally, those other dangling straps you see in the pic, they don't do anything in regards to lowering and raising the seat, but it does look like they are being yanked on in the pic.  Once you figure out exactly what you're supposed to do, it really is simple and you feel like a total ass for cussing the stroller and the instruction writers.  But seriously, would it kill the manual writers to offer up some better guidelines?  "To Lower" and "To Raise" really don't cut the mustard in this scenario!  Instructions of that nature are the equivalent of looking up a word in the dictionary that uses the same word in the definition but gives no actual definition....pointless!  

As Forrest Gump would say, that's all I got to say about that.  Let us move further down the dunce spiral and discuss the assembly instructions for my new bouncy seat.

Now let me reflect for a second, in my head, on the putting together of the bouncy seat so I can get into the correct frame of mind.  Godd***n, son of a bitch, motherf****er!  Okay, that seems about right.  Now I will admit that at this point in the day I had already been through a lot of assembling.  Right before I got to the bouncy seat, I had to deal with the Diaper Genie.  While that wasn't too horrible, I had issues with it at first and had to back up and start over.  Since the title of those instructions were "getting to know your Diaper Genie," this consisted of me being formally introduced to it by my mom, giving it hugs and letting it know how special and adorable it was, and then trying to assemble it all over again.  Guess what?  It worked!  Apparently hugs are necessary to a Diaper Genie's ability to take on the stank!  Sometimes ya just gotta do what ya gotta do!

See, I'm not joking!
Okay, back to the damned bouncy seat.  Anyways, by the time I got to it I was no longer in the mood to have to decipher poor instructions.  Too bad, because the instructions had downgraded from idiotic to just plain retarded!  (I apologize to any retarded people I may have just offended as they could do a better job with the instruction manual than Comfort & Harmony did).

The particular bouncy seat I am referring to is the Comfort & Harmony Cradling Bouncer in Cinnabloom.  Once again, I adore the bouncer.  I wouldn't have registered for it if I didn't.  So my irritation with building it is not a direct reflection on the quality of the product whatsoever, so please keep that in mind.  As a matter of fact, here's a pic of the bouncer so you can see how adorable it is.

See, cute as can be!
Although it is cute, the assembly manual was not!  Here is a sample pic direct from said manual.

Yep, absolutely no words!
Talk about a lack of written instructions!  Not a damn word in the whole manual!  Now it may not look all that bad, but in person all the damned semi-circular metal pieces were kind of similar to each other and the pictures didn't help to clarify the differences between them. On the plus side, those little left and right pieces from step 1 were labeled nicely, so that was good.  But those same sort of shaped pieces you see in step 3,well those weren't!  Also in Step 3, that front bar with the little indention in it, well it is not labeled upside and downside, and this was uber important to get correct as the seat wouldn't "bounce" if it was attached the wrong way.  Way to go manual with no words and shitty pics! And to top all this off, once all the bars were forcibly locked into place, there was no way to get them unlocked....well not unless you scoured the internet and found some hapless victim who had gone through the same ordeal who could inform you that there is a secret little screw thingy you can jab with a small, sharp object that will release the death grip connection of the misplaced pieces!  Seriously!  I'm not sure why this little tidbit of info could not be printed somewhere in the manual.  Oh yeah, words are too damn taxing and waste so much paper!  Needless to say, there were quite a few f-bombs involved by the time step 3 rolled around.

After the frame assembly, next it was time to attach the cover.

This is where I gave up the manual and just winged it!
Answer me this, can you decipher these damn pics?  This part was a bitch because the cover is one hell of a tight fit, but if you were a complete moron and had to rely on the pictures to attach this thing, could you do it from what you are looking at?  Maybe it is just me, but this is all kinds of convoluted.  A few bits of written advice would be a nice addition to this mess, for sure.

All in all, I managed to get the damned seat put together without breaking it, which is pretty much a miracle.  Had my patience not already been worn down, maybe I wouldn't have gotten so damned irritated, but I can't go back now.  And at least everything worked and I loved the finished product, right?

By the way, have you picked up on the downward idiot spiral pattern yet?  If not, let me let you in on it.  If you begin with the swing and work your way toward the bouncer, you will notice how each manual gets lazier and lazier with the instructions (and pictures for that matter).  First you have very detailed written instructions with nicely complimentary pics (swing).  Then the written part gets more and more vague, as do the pics, until you end up with absolutely no written directions and the most convoluted pics one could imagine.  I seriously chose the wrong order to assemble all these items.  Had I known, I would have done everything in reverse.  I think I would have handled the bouncer a lot better had it been first on my list.  Then again, it might have set the tone and I might have been pissy from the get-go with all the other delightful baby products.  I guess we'll never know!

I've got some more things to tackle this weekend, so my days of building things is not yet complete.  Next I have to get to work on my co-sleeper and the other lightweight stroller.  I also have a high chair that needs assembling, but I think it can wait till it's ready to be used.  Although, I'd hate to not build it now and then discover it has a missing part or something and not be able to get a replacement.  Oh well, something to think about.

It seems that I'm going to have to wrap this up or suffer never getting it out there.  Been absolutely swamped at work and physically exhausted from toting this little girl around, she's getting so big!  A bit of a rough ending, but the best I can muster under the conditions of needing to get back to work, stat!  Don't worry, I plan on not being such a stranger as I have been recently.  I have some baby shower pics and updated nursery stuff I want to share.  All in good time, but the plan is sooner rather than later.  I will leave you all with an updated belly and nursery pic.  The belly is me at 35 weeks and the nursery pic is a panorama I took last night.  It only shows part of the nursery, but I think it will give you all a good idea at how far it has come over this past weekend.
Getting larger by the second!
Coming right along!  
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