If I had a fraction of the charisma this baby has, I'm convinced I could rule the world. Mr. Leo Birch is a bubbly little force to be reckoned with. He has recently started sitting in high chairs in restaurants (instead of in his carseat), and it doesn't take long for neighboring tables to be charmed by him. I like to call him my "Tiny Goodwill Ambassador", because he makes people smile everywhere he goes (but really, who doesn't love a happy baby?).
Leo continues the trend of being a very easy-going dude. Have you ever seen a baby that would let you spray saline up his nose, repeatedly suction each nostril, and then clean it up with a tissue, all with nary a flinch? Well I have now! His motto is "Leo don't care", because he really does not!
It's incredible to watch an infant develop. A couple of weeks ago, he couldn't sit up unless he was strapped into something or leaning back with a support. Today he can sit all on his own, completely unsupported. Also, his babbling has taken on consonants. I actually had good enough luck to catch his first (coincidental) word on video, as he strung together the "M" sound to say "momma". Turn your volume up and observe the cuteness on Instagram.
We're still not entirely sure what color his eyes are. They've finally started to lighten up to what is some days brown, some days green, and others gray. I'm pretty sure we can rule out blue as an eventual outcome, but that's as far as I'll go. He has the most perfect, naturally coiffed head of hair. It's very blond, with a hint of strawberry. Though you can't really tell from my monthly photos here, he's a super lean machine (but he slumps when sitting). While he's slightly above average in height, he's only sitting in the 20th-25th percentile for weight. I was always off-the-charts-tiny, so I'll take 20 percent any day!
That's month five in a nutshell. Onward and upward!
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Leo was very bored/flaily/fussy on the day we did his photos
Little Leo continues to steal our hearts, and those of everyone he meets. He has this great smile that he won't hesitate to pull out when you walk in the room. He looks so much like me that it's uncanny, but lately, I've been seeing more and more of his dad in that smile. It just melts my heart.
He's been growing like a weed. Upwards, anyway. He's a lean little dude at an above average height, but only dips into the 20th percentile for weight. Without all the baby chub, I think he looks very toddlerish before his time. However you slice it, though, he's pretty damn cute.
I really love this baby age. Leo is very interactive. He recognizes people, he smiles, he gets excited about things (mainly eating), but he can't get into anything just yet. It's like having your own, captive, little buddy. He coos, he spits up, he poops, he sleeps (but not usually in that order). He's pretty easy to predict. I'm nervous for the crawling/walking stage, but I can't wait to see how he develops as more of his personality is unwrapped.
Every day he gets a little stronger and steadier. His head control is perfect now. While he still hates "tummy time", we can eek out a couple more minutes out of the practice, and sometimes he even giggles while doing it. He has even started sitting unsupported for a few seconds at a time—learning to lean forward and hold himself up with his hands.
In addition to all the physical milestones, we had our first not-so-welcomed event. We had a pretty big medical scare. Way back at his 2 month appointment, I stood next to his pediatrician as she once-overed his tiny little body. she flipped him on his belly, and pulled his diaper down to reveal a tiny little cleft, or dimple on his tailbone that he has had since birth. To be honest, I had forgotten it was even there. She told me that some people are just born with a dimple, and they're fine. However, it can often be indicative of a serious condition, a tethered spinal cord—or Spina Bifida.
Well, that was all I needed to go into a web-searching panic. I read up on what it could mean for him if this was the case. There would possibly be leg weakness, incontinence, and trouble walking. I can remember sitting on my couch, cradling my perfect, wiggly little man, who was so good at standing already, and imagined a future where he might need a walker. I had a phone call with a lady at the hospital, to set up an MRI that would tell us just how average of a life our boy may or may not lead. It took a long time to get an appointment. So I agonized, and agonized, and agonized. Over Christmas we just tried to pretend like nothing was going to happen. We enjoyed our holiday, despite what was looming.
MRI day came the same morning as the polar vortex seeped into the Ohio Valley. We bundled up our tiny baby and headed to Dayton Children's Hospital. It went better than I thought it would, because the staff was so caring. There weren't any needles involved, and Leo just had to drink a little bit of medication (which he promptly spit out. twice) to make him ease into sleep. Still though, seeing your 12 pound child clothed in an impossibly tiny, peach hospital gown is heart-wrenching. After the MRI, we waited a very long day and a half to get the results... And they were normal!
Everybody likes to believe that their children are special or extraordinary in some way. In this case, however, "normal" was the most beautiful word I've ever heard! My baby was normal, and was going to live that perfectly normal life that we had dreamed up for him. I came away with a whole new appreciation for the moms and dads who are raising children with conditions like Spina Bifida or worse. It breaks my heart that not every parent knows a life free of medical tests, and needles and physical hardship. Every situation is a learning experience, and I took away a lot from this.
I know now just how lucky we are.
at 10:30 AM
I haven't mentioned it on this blog yet, but I've recently switched positions at work. I've gone from a school products designer to a Home & Office goods designer (think planners, note taking, & desk accessories). This new team goes all out every year decorating their cubes for the holidays. So before my desk was even officially moved over, I was in my new space decorating. Hence, you will see no computer in any of these pictures. I assure you I have one now.
The pictures are kinda crappy, and it's so impossible to photograph things in an office environment and make them look as pretty as they are in real life. But I wanted to share this before the holidays had passed us by. The overall theme was a Winter Wonderland, and I chose to do a snow storm. I pulled a lot of inspiration from Anthropologie. While one of their windows would most definitely defeat my cube in a death match, I think I pulled off the vibe. I used lots of different textures—tule, yarn, doilies, cotton balls, copier paper, lights and glitter—to create a soft sense of depth. There's a richness accomplished, while only having spent about $20!
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It's Christmas Eve, and Leo is celebrating his 3 month birthday. It's so strange for me to think that this time last year, Rodger and I were preparing for our last pre-baby Christmas—completely unaware of the zygote growing inside me. In one year, he has grown from the combination of two cells to the sweet little baby boy that I get the pleasure of hanging out with every day. Had I any idea how rad of a little dude he was going to be, I think I would have stressed out way less during my pregnancy!
Let me tell you about the joy that is Mr. Leo Birch this month. He is sitting up so well that soon we'll probably be able to set him in a high chair for meals when we go out (which will be nice so we don't have to lug his stupid, heavy carseat everywhere). He stands like a pro now, with only us to support him so he doesn't lose his balance and face-plant. No surprise, as he's been practicing it since week one. Kid's a beast, I tell ya. Also, though he's been rolling over also since his first week, he's just now starting to do it with regularity. He was funny to watch last night. Each time we'd place him on his belly, he'd immediately push himself over, performing his new trick over and over again. The things that'll amuse a new parent. I could write a book! Albeit, a very redundant, simple kind of book.
Leo is starting to really develop his sense of humor, too. He smiles often when someone he recognizes comes in the room. He loves it when you sing to him and add in little motions. By "little motions", I mean he likes to be practically flung across the room (in a safe, controlled way of course). How is it that babies have all these inherent instincts built in for their own protection, yet their favorite thing is to be thrown around? Kinda counterintuitive if you ask me. His current favorite song is "YMCA", and he particularly loves the "Young man" verse. Don't ask me how I found that out.
Little Man has discovered how to suck his thumb (see picture above). I attribute this mostly to the fact that he is starting to teeth already. The most trying part about an early teether is that they don't quite grasp how to hold a teething ring in their own mouth. Now much of my time with Leo is spent with my own knuckle in his mouth, or holding a teething ring up to his face. He'll thank me later.
In addition to teething rings, his own hands, and anything he can put in his mouth, Leo loves himself a good burp cloth. I can't count how many times I've left the room for a second to come back in and find him basically making out with a burp cloth. It's to the point now that if he's fussy, I just hand him one, and about half the time, he chills right out. Oh, the stories I'll have for him when he's older.
That's what our Tiny Tyrannical Dictator has been up to this month. Though, to be honest, he's become such a chill little dude, that we might have to drop that title, at least until we hit the terrible twos!
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I have this friend, Angie. I've talked about her before. She's one of my favorite people on this planet. She's caring, compassionate and the most giving gal I've ever met. We've been friends for ten or eleven years now. While I've always envisioned a future with her as a part of it, I'm kind of pleasantly surprised in the turn our friendship has recently taken. We've become business partners of sorts!
Angie and I are both rather crafty ladies (though she never gives herself the necessary credit). She's been dabbling in glass etching and resin casting for a couple of years now, and I have been encouraging her to get official and start selling her goods. Then, my work had a call for vendors for a small craft fair/bazaar. I had been wanting to get back into craft vending and I thought it would be a good chance for Angie to get her feet wet in it, too. Suddenly things fell into place, and we decided to combine efforts. Sugar Camp was born!
What's with the name? Well, Sugar Camp is actually an important part of our local history here in Dayton, OH. I was born and raised as a Daytonian, and Angie has adopted it as her home as an adult. Sugar Camp is an area just south of town that has an interesting history with female naval officers—known as The Waves—during World War II. They were brought to the area to do top secret work, building machines that would eventually crack Nazi codes, generated by their ENIGMA machine. You can read about Sugar Camp here, and the history of The Waves and their part in WWII here.
We decided we love our city so much that we wanted to make it a big part of our product offering, tying in some hometown pride with a vintage, utilitarian feel. Here's what our booth looked like at our second show at the Rosewood Arts Center.
I'll share some more pictures and a couple wisdoms I've amassed as I finish my story.
Start out somewhat in your comfort zone
We're sticking to what we know best and providing home goods and accessories. Our core offerings at the moment are stamped metal serving ware, etched glasses (pints, rocks and shots), map belt buckles, bow ties, buttons, Ohio & Dayton themed magnet packs, tea towels, and a couple other miscellaneous items. For the holiday season, I've brought in a some hand-painted wood ornaments (and they've sold like hotcakes). My favorite product has got to be our "Grow Packs". It's a Ball Jar which comes with a pack of seeds and a hand-stamped vintage fork, spoon or knife to use as a garden marker. This piece was a total collaboration between the two of us. It was Angie's brainchild, and she stamps the silverware and assembles. I designed the graphics for the seed package and helped with the phrasing. These suckers are clever, and they make awesome host gifts (*wink, wink*).
So far, we have two shows under our belts. It has been such a great experience getting to work with my best friend. We make a pretty kick ass team, methinks! We've learned a lot about merchandising, and what sells, as well as what might need some tweaking. We have high ambitions about this venture. We hope to get an online store running very soon, and also to continue selling at local shows.
I love that there is a wide breadth of products. On the left (below), you can see some of our more sophisticated wares—grow packs, serving sets, bottle openers (that say fun things like "girls night"). Then the more quirkier offerings go on the right. It was so fun to see teenagers and grandmothers shopping our booth side by side, with equal enthusiasm!
I think one of the most important parts of successful visual marketing, is displaying things at different levels. Use boxes under a table cloth to elevate some items. Prop things up to create a stair step effect. Drape textiles in a casual way. I love how my sparkly old Christmas tree became the perfect way to showcase my bow ties, ornaments and embroidery hoop wall hangings. We had a pretty wide range of products, but because we merchandised in a neat, orderly way, it didn't get overwhelming.
Keep things accessible
The fastest way to deter a potential customer is to make them feel uncomfortable. If they can't get to your booth, they might just skip you all together or have the intention of coming back, but then forget or not have time to return. Be friendly, chat people up, but make sure that others have room to browse as well. Also, people want to touch and feel. They want to know that our silverware is the real thing. They want to try the bow tie necklaces on, and to mix and match buttons to create their favorite look. Spread things out and let them explore. Welcome them to touch and try on. You might sell something, or you might just chat up some interesting people!
People love free stuff. Even if it's just a little piece of candy. You'd be surprised how many conversations this little bowl of white chocolate Andes mints sparked up! Be conversational with your messaging and labeling, too. Yes, we love you! Eat our candy and buy a button while you're at it!
Prop your product with pieces that are relevant to your theme and aesthetic. Our company is about the practical, utilitarian and homegrown. Dayton is a rough-hewn city, rich with history. I about crapped my pants when I found this vintage RC Cola crate that says Dayton, OH right on it!!! My magnet sets fit in it like a dream. I purchased it from a local Flea n' Tique. Antiques sales, garage sales, and thrift stores are a merchandising gold mine. They're bursting with the cheap and unique, so hit them up!
Angie's son, Alex was a great conversation starter, as well. He made Ohio shaped cookies and sold them as a fund-raiser for his class's D.C. trip. You can't get a good look at them in the picture here, but take my word for it. They were adorable!
I'm loving how simply Angie displayed her spoon sets. Just a basic bow of butcher's twine. They were elegant and lovely, and they sold through well as a result.
I hope you enjoyed the tour! Keep your eyes on the blog for details about where Sugar Camp might be next, or how to buy online!
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