BEACH GEAR FOR THE BABES
DISCLAIMER: I HAVE EXPERIENCE WITH SOME BUT NOT ALL PRODUCTS LISTED BELOW. SOME CAME RECOMMENDED FROM MOMS IN THE MRS.NIPPLE COMMUNITY + I FOUND OTHERS. I HAVE RESEARCHED EACH PRODUCT + FEEL THEY WOULD BE GREAT ADDITIONS TO YOUR BEACH GEAR!
We brought Charlie to Nantucket for his first beach trip. THIS tent was small enough to fly with, easy to fold, + held up on a pretty windy beach. Since Charlie was crawling + very fast at 10 months old so it was hard to keep him in the tent. I threw in a few toys + he had lunch in the tent but other than those times I was chasing him around. If I had a do-over I would have brought THIS. I was pregnant + could have used some R + R. The pop in play came highly recommended from many moms in the Mrs.Nipple community. A few said the top would fly off. You could place a large umbrella next to the pop in play OR place the pop in play in a large tent if you have the same issue.
THIS tent came highly recommended from moms with young babies. It’s perfect for beach naps, offers protection from the sun, + zips closed. For babies that are pre crawlers or just started crawling this would be my pick! It’s a small tent.
If you are looking for a small tent with a pool THIS would work. Just make sure to put away when the baby is not using the pool feature as it could blow away.
Need a larger tent? My two picks are THIS + THIS. I had the Wolfwise tent + I really liked it but I had so much trouble closing it. The Pacific Breeze tent came highly recommended + with 3k positive reviews it seems like you can’t go wrong.
Which ever tent works best for you I highly recommend finding videos on YouTube around how to close down each tent + practice before you get to the beach.
I feel like there’s opportunity in the beach market for a good chair. These were the number one recommended + I would agree. My picks are THIS ONE + THIS ONE . Want an easy beach travel chair for the babes. THIS one is great.
THIS option looks so cool + is super innovative! My kind of baby product. For a more traditional option THIS had great reviews. THIS one could be a great option for your home!
I love Beauty Counter sunscreen. With two redheads it’s never failed me + it’s made with ingredients I can trust. It comes in three different forms. My favorites are THIS + THIS for the body + THIS for the face.
Bathing suits, hats, + towels. I’ve always shopped at H&M for all of it! Charlie wore the suit I bought him during his first summer today + it still looks great. You can find all my picks below.
I Love THESE! I have them for both the boys + they pretty much have not stayed on for more than 2 seconds. GOOD LUCK :)
SWIMMIES for the pool
We use THIS puddle jumper but you can’t take your eyes of your kids when they are wearing them. They do not protect your kids 100 percent from drowning so it’s still important to keep a careful watch. I also have THIS cover for them which I LOVE. THIS also was recommended from a few moms.
I don’t have any experience with wagons, but these all come highly recommended. THIS one for a splurge + THIS + THIS for two other great options.
My go-to are THESE but the boys have very wide feet so THIS version will work if your kids feet are wide.
I found THIS one as an awesome option for sand proof beach trip + I fell in love with THIS one for its size even though it’s not waterproof (comes in 3 colors). My friend was on a boat with me last weekend + jumped on board with THIS bag. I immediately ordered it with a zipper HERE 🙌🏻 but then found THIS one in gray and I’m torn
Check out the ones I added below. They are all part of this very cool modern beach toy line I just found called Quut.
I always bring our Dockatot to the beach for naps + cover it with THIS universal sleep cover.
Use baby powder to get sand off the kiddoes + use THIS as a sand free snack bowl at the beach.
KIDS & TEETH
After high school I had zero clue of what I wanted to do in life. I mean I wanted to get married and have babies, but in order for that I needed to find my future spouse and I hadn’t yet. I was a typical teenager working a minimum wage job, somewhat attending classes at community college, and trying to figure out my next step. Then, one day I decided to just get out of my comfort bubble and go to career college to be a registered dental assistant! I was so proud of myself for making it through school, graduating with honors, passing all three tests-one being hands on and terrifying for me, and then finding a job as a pediatric assistant!
I had no idea what was all involved in the pediatric field, but I learned quickly and even became the back office supervisor and lead assistant. Pediatric dentistry involves infants and children, children with special needs, and adults with special needs. I saw everything from a hospital setting for special needs, toddlers being put under general anesthesia for full mouth dental work, and parents that just did not care. It became too emotional for me and I needed to do something else in life. It was such a good learning step in life for me though.
In my almost 4 years working in the field I learned so much about dentistry. I have tried my best to take what I learned and put it to use with my own sons. I haven’t found a local pediatric dentist yet, but that’s next on my list. I wanted to share tips with other mamas because without working in the field I wouldn’t know any of this either. Diet and hygiene are huge in taking care of teeth!
Finding a dentist:
Find a pediatric dentist through the American dental association, not just a dentist that says they see kids too. A play area does not mean they are trained in pediatric dentistry.
Never leave your child. I’ve heard stories of children being strapped down, luckily I worked in an office that didn’t believe in this.
Brushing– 2 times a day, if you want to battle just once, pick night to remove everything from the day! Start when they get their first tooth, you can use a cloth to wipe teeth, a finger toothbrush, or a soft toothbrush.
What to use: ” For children younger than 3 years, parents and caregivers should begin brushing children’s teeth as soon as they begin to come into the mouth by using fluoride toothpaste in an amount no more than a smear or the size of a grain of rice.” ADA
For children 3 to 6 years of age, parents and caregivers should dispense no more than a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
Teeth should be brushed thoroughly twice a day (morning and night) or as directed by a dentist or physician. Children’s brushing should be supervised to ensure that they use the appropriate amount of toothpaste.
How to brush: toddlers are hard! I battle my 17 month old every night! Make it as fun as possible! Stand behind them and brush that way. Make sure to brush in circle type motion, not just back and forth. The top teeth are more sensitive! Eventually they will get use to it if you do it daily!
Flossing– only worry about this if their teeth touch. If they have gaps, no need yet!
What to use: any floss, the pickers will be the easiest!
Diet: Diet plays a HUGE role in cavities!
What causes the most cavities:
Apple juice should never be given! It has SO much sugar, and it’s what caused a lot of problems. I saw it daily.
Never give anything Gummie- even vitamins!
Soda as we all know has a lot of sugar-the lighter in color the more sugar!
Of course, on occasional anything is okay. These should never be consumed daily.
A few good snack ideas:
Yogurt- although check the sugar, Greek yogurt is most likely the best option.
Peanut butter- natural
Water or milk to drink only, and make sure brush after final milk at night.
“It’s genetic, our family just has bad teeth!”
I heard this SO much. Sure, your family may have bad teeth, but it’s not genetic. Children do however get their mothers bacteria, meaning without good hygiene or diet, their chance is higher from cavities. Once again mom is to blame, not dad. Orthodontic wise is a totally different story!
I am in no way an expert, but this is what I learned from working in the pediatric dental field. Hope these tips can help more mamas out there! Tickle those sugar monsters away, their health depends on you.
Check out The Brushies Finger Puppet Brush and Book ! So fun for kids!
MY GO TO FOR HATS & BAGS
WHAT I WORE
WHAT I WORE
I SIZED UP FOR THIS LACE TOP. THIS PIECE IS WELL MADE AND WILL NOT GO OUT OF STYLE, SHOP IT HERE
I’VE HAD THESE JEANS FOR OVER FIVE YEARS. THEY ARE EXTREMELY SLIMMING BECAUSE OF THEIR LOOSE FIT. I ENDED UP GETTING THIS SAME CUT IN THE WHITE WASH AS WELL. THEY ARE A SLIM BOYFRIEND CUT. HERE ARE THE ONES I WORE (ALMOST IDENTICAL), HERE. HERE ARE SOME OTHER OPTIONS HERE AND HERE. YOU CAN CHECK OUT EVERY WASH IN THIS SAME FIT I LOVE, HERE. (IT’S THE EMERSON FIT)
I WAS GIFTED THIS BEAUTIFUL BAG BY PERSIFOR IT IS HAND MADE IN COLOMBIA YOU CAN FIND IT ON ETSY, HERE
I’VE ALSO HAD THESE WHITE SNEAKERS FOR YEARS. ANOTHER STAPLE. I’VE WASHED THEM OVER 5 TIMES AND THEY ARE STILL IN GREAT SHAPE. SHOP THEM HERE.
THE HAT I’M WEARING IS HAT ATTACK. THEY ARE MY FAVORITE HAT BRAND. YOU CAN CHECK OUT THEIR WEBSITE, HERE.
YOU MIGHT HAVE SEEN ME WEARING MY UGG RAIN JACKET ON SUNDAY. IT’S ANOTHER STAPLE OF MINE. I BOUGHT IT FOR IRELAND A FEW YEARS AGO. IT ACTUALLY KEEPS YOU DRY, NEVER WRINKLES, AND IS EXTREMELY EAST TO PACK. SHOP IT, HERE.
I HAD SOME QUESTIONS ABOUT THE EARRINGS I WAS ROCKING ON FRIDAY. THEY ARE REALLY COOL BUT SLIGHTLY HEAVY….OBVIOUSLY WORTH IT :) YOU CAN FIND THEM HERE.
PARENTING WITH ANXIETY BY CAROLYN STACK MATERNAL WELLNESS RN
I am so excited to share this piece today for so many reasons.
It will 100 percent help every mom dealing with anxiety that will read this
It will help those be better support systems to those who are living with anxiety
It’s written by my sisters best friend who is basically my older sister because being four years younger than your sister makes all her BFFS your sisters as well. Carolyn seriously makes every person around her laugh and smile. She has a larger than life personality that makes you just simply want to be near her at all times. When you read Carolyn’s story below you will find that she lives with anxiety but it does not define her. She has dedicated her life to help those around her.
Carolyn is a Maternal Wellness Nurse at The Center for Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, NJ. One of only 10 comprehensive programs in the entire country for PMADS. She is a two time survivor of Postpartum Anxiety, Intrusive Thoughts and Birth Trauma. She is a maternal mental health advocate and a peer group facilitator for The Bloom Foundation for Maternal Wellness. She lives at the Jersey Shore with her 2 little boys and amazing unicorn of a husband who helped her out of the dark.
Parenting with Anxiety: Coming Along for the Ride.
You know that meme about anxiety that goes something like, “Hold on. I’ve gotta overthink about it.” ? That’s pretty much me. The majority of the time. In some form, anxiety has always accompanied me on my journeys. Sometimes in the back seat quietly peaking its head up over my shoulder every once in while, and other times, like when I suffered from severe postpartum anxiety and intrusive thoughts, it has been the pilot of this ship. For the most part, I had a pretty good handle on my anxiety in my early 30’s. Life was moving along nicely. That was until I had kids. There’s nothing like babies and kids and pregnancy and childbirth and PARENTHOOD to wake up that backseat driver and push you right out of the front seat. But if you have anxiety as a parent it doesn't mean you have to always be teetering on the edge - holding on for dear life from that shriveled up fossilized french fry you've found lodge into the carseat. Postpartum goddess and guru, Karen Kleinman, author of Dropping the Baby and Other Scary Thoughts, says it best: “Recognizing and understanding your anxiety might mean the difference between unnecessary suffering and healthy coping.”
So what does parenting with anxiety mean for me? It means a lot of self care. And I don't mean in the form of manicures and massages and GNO’s (although don't get me wrong - these are important much needed time outs that can FEED your soul). I’m talking about the type of self care that involves doing the hard work, the heavy lifting. For me it means still going to therapy every other Monday to make myself accountable for my anxiety and to figure out what I can do to make it better. It means that I do a lot of checking in, grounding and mindfulness when I feel my brain going to that place. Stoping. Taking a deep breath. Fact checking what my brain is telling me vs what is really going on. ANXIETY IS A LIAR, and when we take the power away from our thoughts, they become that, just thoughts.
If I feel my heart starting to race or a tightness in my chest, it means pressing pause on whatever I'm doing and (if possible) splashing some water on my face, sticking my head in the freezer ( silly sounding but totally effective), or using some yummy smelling hand cream to get in touch with my five senses and to ground myself back to the present.
Sometimes doing my best also means taking medication. There is SO MUCH stigma around medication - everyone, everywhere wants to be the one who “doesn’t need it” - myself included for a long time. I would advocate for everyone else, but when it was my turn to take that little white pill I’d come up with every excuse in the book. My favorite analogy for taking medication for anxiety goes something like this: “I wear glasses. Can I manage without glasses? Well, yes, probably. I could squint a lot, constantly move up close to anything I want to see…I could just accept that I’ll never be able to see eagles flying in the sky or whales jumping out of the ocean.But why? Why try so hard to manage life when I could just put on a pair of glasses? No one would ever suggest a near-sighted person should just work harder. No one would say ‘Maybe that’s just your normal’ to someone that needs glasses. They would say ‘Let’s go to the eye doctor and get you a prescription so you’re able to see again.’ So, I’m here to tell you its ok. Its ok to take medication. Its one tool in your toolbox. It doesn't make you weak. It makes you strong, mama.
Sleep. I know that sleep is huge for me, so making sure that I get at least seven hours a night is a must. No screen time right before bed (easier said than done) so my mind can relax. I found checking Insta or FB right before I went to bed made my mind race with all sorts of thoughts. Find a little nighttime ritual that sets your body up for a deep sleep. We play ambient sounds thru Alexa and use some lavender spray on the sheets before bed. You could always put on your essential oils diffuser or do a quick mindful meditation thru one of many free apps available. I LOVE Insight Timer and Calm!
Lets go back to social media for a second, I know that this can be a huge trigger for me and a lot of other parents. Social media can be amazing and give us a support system and help us connect with other parents - just like in this platform. I find personally and professionally, that social media can also be fuel for the fire. I refuse to read sad or upsetting stories about babies and children. It doesn't make you a bad person to not read it - you must protect yourself - JUST KEEP ON SCROLLING! It’s like a social media version of ear muffs.
Exercise and clean eating is also a must to keep my anxiety at bay. It’s no secret that exercise helps improve our mood thru the release of endorphins. This was a major hurdle for me, but something that I had to commit to because I knew how important it was to my over all mental health. Doing some moderate to light exercise 3 x week makes me feel more level headed and clear. It makes me feel like a good mom! I’m not talking about anything crazy (but if that’s your thing by all means go for it). For me, it is 20 mins on the bike or a 30 min jog in the park. Just pushing your stroller around the block or getting out in the fresh air and running around with your kids at the park can be invigorating. And it’s a win/win for everyone involved.
Here’s another tough one: learning how to say NO and then doing it! If you’re anything like me you're a people pleaser and you want to do all of the things, all of the time. There would be some weekends we’d look at the calendar and see that we had committed ourselves to too many things, and that would send me into a complete tailspin and my anxiety would go into overdrive. I had to learn to under schedule. CRINGE. To say no to that second birthday party in 1 day or that playdate when your kid had a crappy night sleep, or your husband’s brother’s girlfriend’s BBQ that interferes with bedtime. Its OK to say NO!
And the big finale - the concept of radical acceptance. For years, I fought the fact that I was an anxious person. If someone mentioned that I was anxious, I’d almost physically wince. I’d get defensive and angry. When I was struggling with severe Postpartum Anxiety after my first was born, it took me OVER A YEAR to accept help. When I finally completely and totally accepted that anxiety was a part of my life and probably always would be— I stopped letting it define me. I was no longer an “anxious parent”. I was a parent who had anxiety - along with a long list of other wonderful traits.
So what am I saying? - I’m saying OWN IT. Talk about it - speak its name. Call yourself out. Tell your family and friends whats going on - they can’t begin to understand if they are left in the dark. I also started finding the humor in it. “Anxious mom, over here!” I’d say if the after school playground banter turned to something that would start to make my heart race. And you know what? I realized when I let my guard down - that I wasn't alone. That there are plenty of other parents out there having the same struggles, and we are all just doing our best and TRYING to do our best for our kids. At the end of the day, healthy moms equal healthy families and we owe it to ourselves and our children to be present and available.
Carolyn is a Maternal Wellness Nurse at The Center for Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, NJ. One of only 10 comprehensive programs in the entire country for PMADS. She is a two time survivor of Postpartum Anxiety, Intrusive Thoughts and Birth Trauma. She is a maternal mental health advocate and a peer group facilitator for The Bloom Foundation for Maternal Wellness. She lives at the Jersey Shore with her 2 little boys and amazing unicorn of a husband who helped her out of the dark.
MOTHER’S DAY GIFT IDEAS FOR YOU & FOR YOUR MAMA
A FAVORITE FOR MY MOM & FOR MYSELF! DUDLEY STEPHEN’S FLEECE STYLES ARE MADE IN BROOKLYN FROM SUSTAINABLE RECYCLED YARN. YOU CAN’T GET US OUT OF THESE FLEECES. AFTER YOUR FIRST PURCHASE YOU WILL BE HOOKED. IT’S ALSO RUN BY TWO MOMS SO WHAT BETTER DAY TO SUPPORT BUSINESSES RUN BY MOTHERS. YOU CAN FIND THEIR SITE, HERE.
ONE PIECE OF MEANINGFUL JEWELRY TO ME IS MY ZODIAC PENDENT NECKLACE FROM ASHA. THIS PIECE FEATURES A LARGE ZODIAC MOTHER OF PEARL PENDENT (SCORPIO) FOLLOWED BY TWO SMALLER MOTHER OF PEARL PENDENTS FOR THE BOYS ( LIBRA ) & ( ARIES ). I ALSO WEAR THIS PIECE NONSTOP. YOU CAN WEAR IT LONG OR STYLE IT BY WRAPPING IT AROUND YOUR NECK FOR A LAYERED LOOK. YOU CAN USE MOM20 FOR A DISCOUNT CODE. I KNOW THERE’S A COMMON THEME GOING ON, ASHA IS RUN BY A MOM AS WELL. YOU CAN FIND THE ZODIAK NECKLACE, HERE.
PERSONAL TRAINING WITH COUNTDOWN FITNESS, GREENWICH
SOMETIMES WE CAN FEEL LIKE THE WEIGHT OF THE WORLD IS ON OUR SHOULDERS ,SELF CARE IS SO IMPORTANT. WHAT I LOVE ABOUT PERSONAL TRAINING WITH COUNTDOWN FITNESS FOR BUSY MOMS ARE 30 MINUTE SESSIONS , THE SLOW BURN METHOD (THINK TONING TO THE MAX) & ONCE A WEEK TRAINING. COUNTDOWN FITNESS IS OWNED BY A TODDLER DAD SO HE GETS IT! YOU CAN CHECK OUT THE WEBSITE, HERE.
MODERN DERMATOLOGY, WESTPORT
ANOTHER SELF CARE ITEM WHICH IS AT THE TOP OF MY LIST. EVERYTHING SKIN! A GIFT CARD TO MODERN DERMATOLOGY WOULD BE AT THE TOP OF MY LIST FOR A MOTHER’S DAY GIFT! YOU WILL BE IN GOOD HANDS AS BOTH DERMATOLOGISTS /OWERS OF MODERN DERMATOLOGY HAVE FOUR KIDS EACH. MY FAVORITE TREATMENTS, THE VAMPIRE FACIAL AND HYDRO FACIAL. YOU CAN FIND THEIR WEBSITE, HERE.
ALSO A MAMA! I LOVE A GOOD MONOGRAM. LIKE MY MOMS PINK TURTLENECK A GOOD MONOGRAM ADDS SUCH A FUN PERSONAL TOUCH. I LOVE THE MORE MODERN LOOK WHEN MONOGRAMMING WOMEN’S WEAR WITH THIS ADORABLE WHITE SWEATSHIRT WITH THE FIRST LETTER OF YOUR KIDS NAME SEPARATED WITH A HEART. YOU CAN FIND IT, HERE.
INNERLIGHT WELLNESS, DARIEN
INNERLIGHT OFFERS SELF CARE ON ALL LEVELS FOR MOMS. THEY OFFER ‘INFARED SAUNAS’ WHICH PROVIDE HEALING BENEFITS AND ARE CLINICALLY PROVEN TO DECREASE INFLAMMATION, BOOST THE IMMUNE SYSTEM, AND ASSIST THE BODY IN IT’S NATURAL DETOXIFICATION PROCESS. AT ILW YOU CAN ALSO FIND THE ‘STUDIO’ WHERE COACHING SERVICES AND WELLNESS EVENTS ARE HELD. THERE ARE SO MANY GREAT OPTIONS FOR NEW MOMS. NEED SOME CBD? YOU CAN ALSO PICK IT UP IN THEIR STORE. THE OWNER IS A TWIN MAMA!
INDIGO ACCUPUNCTURE & WELLNESS, STAMFORD
ANOTHER GREAT MAMA RUN BUSINESS. SARAH IS AN ACUPUNCTURIST AND CHINESE HERBALIST. “SARAH IS PASSIONATE ABOUT PROVIDING HEALTHCARE FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY- FROM PEDIATRICS TO SPORTS INJURIES TO FERTILITY—CHINESE MEDICINE CAN TREAT IT ALL” I’VE BEEN TO HER SUPER CHIC STUDIO. I FELT A SENSE OF CALMING UPON ARRIVAL AND REALLY ENJOYED MY TREATMENT. SHE ALSO HAS A WELLNESS SHOP ON HER WEBSITE WHICH INCLUDES A BUNCH OF WELLNESS GIFTS & YOU CAN ALSO PURCHASE A GIFT CARD. I’VE BEEN THERE, MY HUSBANDS BEEN THERE & MY MOM HAS BEEN! WE ALL LOVE SARAH. YOU CAN FIND HER WEBSITE, HERE.
After our engagement, my good friend sent Ray a list of questions she asked Ray to answer so she could share them at my bachelorette. They were pretty simple questions. She read the question out loud and I had to guess what his answer were. Hearing his answers was one of the most special moments of my wedding season. Reading them this afternoon brought a smile to my face, that time in my life feels like decades ago. It seemed to be just what I needed.
I want to start out by saying, if you are struggling in your marriage you are not alone. Many women can relate and have been there. I can confidently say both new moms and seasoned moms have as well. Sometimes it can feel like you are all alone, you might often wonder if the distance you feel between yourself and someone you once called your best friend is normal, or if you have bigger issues to tackle.
If you are feeling like you don't know how you can get through this week or month or year.....I'm here to tell you that you can. Having babies is a wonderful thing but it can also flip your world upside down. We deal with crazy hormonal changes, grow an actual human, birth that human and then pretty much don't sleep for ten or so years. It's normal in my opinion to go through some serious growing pains in the relationship department. Don't be too hard on yourself and take one day at a time, it's NEVER to EARLY to reach out for help.
I'm no expert but I spoke with one and here are some tips she wanted me to share:
-Plan a date night with just the two of you once a month and leave your phones at home. If there are triggers that create conflict in your relationship agree not to talk about them during date night.
-Double date. Sometimes being around others will make you realize, "Hey, my spouse is fun :)” and you will naturally avoid most triggers mentioned above. Go out with other couples!
-Put the kids down and have a meal together once a week while sitting across from one another, no phones or television. Eye contact is key so make sure you are sitting across from one another, not next to each other.
-Focus on physical touch....holding hands, cuddling, kissing, sex (I know your exhausted but physical connection is so important)
-Plan an activity together once a quarter or twice a year without the kids that will incorporate some sort of team building. Cooking class, workout class, hike, wine tasting. Think 'something fun' where you will work together.
-If you can get away for a weekend or longer once a year without the kids, do it.
-If you have older memories of when you were in a better place, revisit them…what did you love about your spouse at that time?
I will be having a mom and a professional both share in-depth articles in the near future that will really get into marital issues after kids. For now, I wanted to give you some takeaways and let you know you are not alone.
I also want to share the question + answer game I briefly discussed above. I encourage you to try and get your husbands to play along. Send them the questions below. Have them answer them but don't have them show you. Then when you are together at date night have them ask you the questions and try and guess what they typed out. I know it sounds super corny but I promise it will get you laughing + connecting. If that’s something you haven't done in a while it could be a nice activity. Remind your husband that this is important to you. It might take some negotiating :)
Below you can find the list of questions to share with your spouse and here are Ray's answers ….from 2014:
What date did you meet Liz? March 17th, 2011
Where did Liz and you go on your first date? Well technically we went to Morimoto, but you can’t really count that, back then she wouldn’t go out with me alone for about two months (group dates only), so our first "real" date was at Locanda Verde, the same place we went after we got engaged
Where was your first kiss? On the lips. Just kidding. It was at Morimoto, about 30 minutes before we got kicked out
Describe your first impression of Liz in one word. Stunning (it’s Liz chiming in real quick…. I remembered this and I answered funny and then I also answered funny for the next one. Then I soon realized Ray doesn’t actually think I’m funny) lol
What's your favorite quality of Liz's personality? (ie - funny, trustworthy, kind, hardworking...) if I had to choose just one, I would say her loyalty/trustworthiness
What's your favorite body part of Liz? I’ll keep this PG and say her eyes...but I really love her butt. Don't say this in front of my 100-year-old grandmother, please.
What thing does Liz do that annoys you the most? when she doesn’t clean up after herself/leaves dirty pans on the stove
If you could get rid of one item of Liz's clothing what would it be? Sports bras. All of them.
What item of clothing would Liz throw away for you? That already happened. Nothing was left behind and she dresses me now. But prob her ex-boyfriend's t-shirt that I am actually wearing as I type this
What's Liz's most embarrassing moment? (if you can think of it) When she accidentally walked out of her apartment naked and locked herself out. I'd like to note that this was before she met me
Who is the one celebrity you would be worried Liz would leave you for? Prob Ronaldo Christiano, the soccer player
How many kids will you and Liz have? I say two, she says at LEAST 4. We will prob meet in the middle.
If you and Liz had a perfect day in NYC, what one place would you have had to visit? I actually think this is your hardest question and I am going to give you a very indirect answer. Before I met Liz, I was a lazy person not really living my life. I would get generally drunk on weekend nights and sit in my apartment all day watching TV. She taught me how to embrace this city and explore every corner of it. My favorite times with Liz are when we start out going for a walk and end up discovering the city for the next 6 hours, and I love that we have taken that zest for life and exploring to so many other parts of the world together. So there really isn’t one place, but I credit her with not only changing the way I appreciate this city but the way that I live my life. She will prob say Five Points for brunch...
If you could live anywhere in the world with Liz where would it be? California. Cheesy answer, but we both want to do it
What moment did you know Liz was your main squeeze for life? After our relationship continued to persevere through a lot of challenges early on (you guys remember Liz when she was a single 25-year-old right? juuussttt kidding), I knew it was for a reason, and we continued to grow closer. I’m not sure when it exactly happened for me, but the deciding factor was that I simply never wanted to do anything without her, and it was the first time in my life that I have ever felt this way. Whether it was happy hour, watching a movie, or going to watch football with friends at a bar, I always wanted her by my side no matter what, and I had NEVER been like that before, that is how I knew. My life is simply better when she is alongside me.
Reading that brought me back to the us before kids. I wonder how it would sound now :) You can find the questions below to send to your significant other xx Keep a lookout for the in-depth relationship post from both a mom & an expert coming soon.
QUESTIONS TO SEND TO SIGNIFICANT OTHER
What date did you meet?
Where did you go on your first date with your wife?
Where was your first kiss?
Describe your first impression of your wife in one word
What's your favorite quality of your wife’s personality?
What's your favorite body part of your wife?
What thing does your wife do that annoys you the most?
if you could get rid of one item of your wife’s clothing what would it be?
What item of clothing would she throw away of yours?
What's your wife’s most embarrassing moment? (if you can think of it)
Who is the one celebrity you would be worried your wife would leave you for?
How many kids will you and your wife have?
If you and your wife had a perfect day, what one place would you have had visited?
If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
What moment did you know your wife was your main squeeze for life?
BABIES & RELATIONSHIPS
Hope Is Not A Strategy....Until It is Written by: Krysten Beaven
A former colleague and great friend used to love to remind me (and our team) that “hope isn’t a strategy” when we were creating and setting our team’s objectives and goals. I heard many times throughout the years that one must use concrete, action verbs (you know, the whole "SMART" - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound statements) when creating them so that you can ultimately measure whether or not you are making progress toward and, ultimately, meeting your objectives and achieving your goals. This is helpful and works quite well in the business world. Not so much, however, when you are looking to start your family and are faced with infertility.
It was almost exactly two years ago that we began IVF (in-vitro fertilization) after extensive testing, a definitive diagnosis (something I was ultimately thankful we got as many couples suffer from “unexplained infertility”), a treatment plan and two (or was it three?) other failed less-consuming treatments. As someone who was used to leveling up when the going gets tough in order to meet professional goals I set, this whole journey to start a family threw me for a huge loop. My husband and I wanted to become parents. To put that dream into a SMART-type objective statement sounded ludicrous or at best came across as an aggressive attempt at manifestation (not to mention phrasing such a precious wish in that manner made my superstitious self squirm). This was precisely one of those times in your life when you have to give up any illusion of control and look to hope and faith. Since so, so much of the process is out of your hands when you are going through it, hope is really the one thing that you can cling to throughout.
And cling to it I did. In this fight, there were no guarantees. I vividly recall sitting in our Reproductive Endocrinologist’s (or RE’s) office, staring at her computer screen that displayed our fertility testing results and blinking back tears, wishing she would just tell us that the odds were good that we would be successful. Unfortunately, she had limited data to go on and was not able to give that type of reassurance. “But what if this doesn’t work out?”This panicked question swirled through my head multiple times per day, every day. That period when we were going between lab visits and doctor’s appointments, unsure of whether or not there would be a baby at the end of it all was a hard space to live in. I led a dual existence: going in to work each day and showing up, contributing to and being present in meetings, meeting my deliverables and gaining a clearer understanding of my professional value while personally I was spiraling into doubt and feeling “less than” as I struggled to understand why something that happens to so many people unintentionally every day was not happening for my husband and me despite all this effort. And if one more person told me to just relax…
I tried to look to the next appointment, the next step in order to maintain some optimism. It was so hard. I felt like I was walking around with a heart that was a little bit broken and I cried a lot during those days - often times while driving to and from work but also in the doctor’s office, my acupuncturist’s office and probably some other places as well and made for some awkward times. I also prayed during that time as well. I won’t say that I just went ahead and “let go and let God” - noooo I am way too much of an overthinking control freak for that but I did find myself talking to God, St. Anthony and the other patron saints of mothers and those who wished to become mothers. I also was happy to receive any communication from the universe when it came about: that time one morning after a failed treatment round, I drove into work behind a car with the license plate “ITCANB” and found it comforting.
There were so many points in the process where I was pushed to the limit of what I thought I could handle but in those instances I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and some days those steps were tiny, but they were steps nonetheless:
Being told we had to take an IVF class before we could proceed with treatment. What? Yep. We ultimately did it and were certainly not alone as the room was full of couples seeking the same end. We left there with a binder of information on all the ins and outs of IVF (and who said babies don’t come with manuals??)
The fertility drug regimen. That box filled with hella expensive medications seemed so intimidating when it arrived. We read each and every label and all of the instructions and then lived by the alarms on my phone. I also got very used to needles.
Our first round of IVF that resulted in an ectopic pregnancy. This was certainly not the outcome we had wanted but I ultimately felt encouraged that I did get pregnant. For this, I had to go to regular lab visits as well as some additional doctor’s office visits to confirm that the pregnancy was, in fact, ectopic as they closely monitored my hormone levels. Once they had final confirmation, they called me in the middle of my work day and informed me that I had to leave work to go to the hospital for treatment.
The hours I sat in the hospital waiting for my name to be called for me to receive treatment for my ectopic pregnancy were some of the worst and lowest I had ever experienced. I grew numb as I sat and tried not to make eye contact with anyone. There were pregnant women all around me and I knew most would be leaving there that day still pregnant, but I would not. I saw an expectant teenage couple walking by, a little reminder that no, life is not always fair. The treatment itself was a Methotrexate shot that was administered in under five minutes. The hours of waiting among pregnant folk were just icing on the cake. I asked my doctor if there was a chance I would have a normal pregnancy and she said that she had a patient who was recently in my same position and who was now pregnant again and was 25+ weeks along. Thank you, universe. I needed that glimmer of hope so very much then.
When we returned to the RE’s office three months later, I found myself looking at that same computer screen, but this time the doctor’s words were different. “Based on the last round and the fact that you responded so well to the meds and you got pregnant, I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t be able to have a successful pregnancy.” At last, the phrase I had wanted nothing more than to hear. Happy tears welled up this time and I offered a silent thanks to the universe. Data can be a beautiful thing.
After our first loss, returning to yoga helped me see clearly how angry I had been at my body for so long and allowed me a space to truly witness that I could do more than I believed I was capable of physically (aside from self-administering fertility meds like a pro). It flipped my thought process on its head to be gentler, softer, and more hopeful. At the opening of a yoga class shortly before that second round of IVF, the reading that the instructor did felt like it was being delivered directly to me: it was about how sometimes there is something that we want but can’t have and that it can be so incredibly hard, but that we must keep an open heart as miracles can only happen when your heart is open. I felt the tears well up in my eyes and began class with goosebumps, a grateful heart, and hope. As we went into our embryo transfer on that cold January day a week later, we had no idea what would come of it, but we did believe that miracles were possible and hope carried us. Throughout everything, I was able to keep moving forward thanks to more than a little support and encouragement from my husband. Those two and a half years plus were hard. Yet, he always knew we would become parents. Many nights I asked him how he knew. He replied that he just knew. As frustrating as that answer was at times, it was just what I needed to hear. His hope was unwavering and helped renew mine. As my acupuncturist told me many times “families are built in many beautiful ways,” and if IVF ultimately didn’t end up being our path then there would most certainly be another way to parenthood for us.
Nine months later, the greatest little miracle came into our lives. I still look at him and marvel, thinking back to all the heartbreak and tears I shed during that dark time and his little face and smile are so much more than my heart could ever have imagined. Trying to comprehend and then convey the magnitude of the blessing we received in our son is overwhelming to me still and it feels a bit like staring into the sun. Suffice to say, even on the periphery it is pretty wonderful. Hearing his babbling and giggles each morning when he wakes up brings a smile to my face. In a world that at times can break your heart and take your breath away with its cruelty and injustice without a second thought, miracles and magic do exist as long as you believe in them. Any attempt to articulate the dream that has manifested into a small human form that I see in front of me now could never have been summed up into the tidy goal statements I was so used to setting and then achieving. Ah, no. He is so much more than that. This quest in realizing the dream of parenthood far surpasses anything that small SMART box could ever hold and it would have never revealed the beauty, grace and gifts that only come from struggle, uncertainty and hope when that is all you have to hold onto.
Becoming Me in Motherhood: Letting Go of the Guilt and Perfection
I love turning on the 90’s on 9 or Hits from the 00’s while I am in the car and sing or rap all the songs from my years past. I never realized what a cliché that was with moms listening to the songs of their youth and embarrassing their kids until, here I am. Because every time I hear one of those songs it brings me back to a great memory- of doing things. Things that brought me so much joy. Dressing up and going out on dates. Singing and dancing with my friends before we went out together to sing and dance even crazier. Running to a really good beat while I trained for a triathlon. When I hear and sing those songs in the car, I can remember a time when making those memories was my only focus.
Having kids has changed that. I LOVE my kids more than anything in this world. Becoming a mother fulfilled a lifelong wish of mine, and it’s everything I could have ever wanted. But the focus of my priorities shifted so drastically and so quickly, as I was trying to keep up I forgot to hold on to a lot of what made me, me. I was so busy trying to check all the boxes for both of my children- enrolling them in activities for their enrichment, making homemade purees, photographing all of their milestones that I forgot what I even liked to do. I work full time and my new manager asked me to write up a little paragraph of what I like to do in my spare time and I honestly couldn’t come up with anything other than “spend time with my family”. I felt fake writing down “I like to run, do pilates and travel” because I hadn’t done any of those in a while. I used to be really creative and spontaneous, and when a mood struck me I did whatever it was I felt like doing. Even if that mood was just to sleep when I was tired. On my schedule.
For two years I was still adjusting to how no matter how carefully laid out my plans were, after having kids, I had no more control. Their needs came first. Their meals, their activities, their play time and I didn’t even question if that was the way it was supposed to be. If I actually did plan to go to the gym but one baby was fussy or needy, I wouldn’t even think twice for not going because they needed me more than I needed the gym. I was meticulous with the foods they ate- all homemade and according to the latest baby nutrition books. I had perfectly planned outfits laid out for them. Until I realized the care I put into their appearance and health was inversely proportionate to mine. They were thriving, looking adorable and fully engaged in activities. I had been gaining weight, not going out with friends like I had used to, and just feeling so unattractive I didn’t even want to go out on date nights with my husband anymore. I have a quote framed in my home office that says “Happiness is pretty simple: someone to love, something to do and something to look forward to” -Rita Mae Brown. I was so focused on surviving the days as the best mommy I could be that I stopped making plans I looked forward to as me. My daughter was getting older and I wanted to make it a point that she saw me have my own personality and have friends and have a healthy routine. I knew that them seeing me in action would be a better lesson than simply telling them to be healthy. I decided I needed to put my own needs into the schedule again despite the nagging excuses I had seemed to easily fall back on. Instead of my normal gym membership, I signed up for Orange Theory, an intense hour long exercise class with fun loud music and enough stimulation to make me forget I was away from the kids. The class also runs on a policy where you sign up ahead of time, and if you cancel within an 8 hour window before class you get charged a fee. It held me accountable to go when I signed up. I also made it a point to sign up in the early morning classes before I let the day get away from me and I found an excuse to not go. I could get to class and back before the kids needed to be dropped off in daycare and before my work. The first few months I struggled with letting my husband- who was completely supportive of me getting back into what I loved doing – get the kids ready. I felt guilty I wasn’t doing it, since this was the time I normally played with them in the morning, and would also get upset when he dressed my daughter in mis matched clothes and her hair was a disaster. But as my energy increased and my mood got so much better from this little me time I carved out I realized: no one but me cared that she had a bow in her hair that didn’t match. No one cared if I didn’t have homemade purees in my toddler’s lunch for daycare but me. I was becoming a happier mama to them because of the little time I took care of myself in the morning. I didn’t need to facilitate every minute of the time we were home and together- their play could be independent during the hour I was working out. I learned to practice grace for myself over perfection. I recently joined a women’s league to network with other moms. I love that I can plan ahead to these meetings, which take place after the kids have gone to bed and share in great female/mom/work conversations again. I also looked back at my quote and realized I needed to book things that got me excited in advance. I just signed up for my first race in a long time for two months from now, and a family vacation for later in the summer. Having the excitement of training for the race and planning for the vacation has me excited and focused on my goals.
I talked to a lot of my mom friends about what their thoughts and best tips were for rediscovering themselves after they had kids and I was surprised how much of the theme revolved around letting the little things go. Here are some of what they said:
“I was surprised how much of myself I had lost (and how guilty I felt for feeling that way). My whole world flipped upside down in the first two years of motherhood. When I was 7 months pregnant my dad got diagnosed with cancer, he finished his last chemo treatment the day my son was born and died right after my son turned 1. A couple of months later I was pregnant with number 2. Not only was he gone, my North Star in many ways in my life, but I had disappeared too. My life pre kids was filled with adventure, challenge, travel and well, freedom. All of a sudden I woke up in a life where I was idle. I LOVE my kids but craved anything that used to make me feel alive. I signed up for Body Back through Fit4Mom and a Ragnar race- a crazy 200 mile relay race where you run for 36+ hours. Nothing like a crazy adventure to get me back where I was. I then decided to become a Fit4Mom running coach to connect with other like minded moms local to me” -Missy, 39 Seattle, WA.
“I don’t sweat the small stuff (my kids don’t need a bath every night, they eat mac and cheese more than I thought I would be ok with and I take help whenever I can. I am ok with things not being perfect and instead taking me time in lieu of a perfectly cooked meal.” -Kate, 34, NYC NY
“I think working full time gives you extra guilt as a mother. Being away already for so long during the workday I don’t want to spend more time away from the kids. But I have had to learn to really say ‘no’ to things. I can’t volunteer for everything and I am more protective of my time so I can put my needs and my family’s on equal playing field.” Nicole, 38, NY
“As a mom I want the best for my kids. Sometimes wanting the best for them can lead you to compare your situation to others and that’s when the feelings of insecurity and nagging guilt can creep into your thoughts. I have learned that all my kids want is to be loved and feel safe. What my kids want is for me to be happy. Letting go of keeping up with what others are doing can be liberating!” Christina, 41, San Francisco, CA
“Since becoming a mom there has been an element of guilt when I splurge on something for myself. Recently I’ve realized that by not treating myself occasionally I may start harboring a tiny bit of resentment which ultimately detracts me from the fulfillment of being a mom... so now I buy the outfit or the pair of shoes. I still don’t spend on myself like I used to but I’m no longer rostering the same 4 outfits.” Rena, 39 Oakland, CA
“I realize the days of extravagant girls’ trips are on hold for now but it doesn’t mean a weekend getaway with girlfriends is impossible. I should feel confident enough in my spouse that my children will still be alive after 48 hours, after all it makes me a happier mom and wife”. R 42, CT
I will still listen to the songs and reminisce about the days before becoming a mother and enjoy the memories. I am learning and accepting that there is a difference between putting my kids’ needs first before mine vs.not tending to mine at all. I am exercising my “no” muscle and prioritizing my needs above anything else that isn’t mandatory. I’m still a work in progress, but slowly rediscovering that I am, indeed, more than just a mom.
TRAVELING WITH KIDS
The NEW article below is specifically speaking to traveling with kids domestically. HERE is a more detailed post packed with information around traveling with your baby internationally or for longer flights.
I remember how nervous I was the first time we took Charlie on a flight at five months old. It was an overnight flight to Ireland and I was most worried about the pressure affecting him. What if I had a baby that was screaming the entire flight and there was nothing I could do? I soon realized planning and having the right tools in place is all you can really do and there is no reason to worry about something that is pretty much out of your control to a certain extent. Think about all the parents that have traveled before you and survived….I guess what I’m trying to say is, there’s hope!
Parenting: Something I think that is important is that if you have two kids each parent is responsible for one. Figure it out before you go away but traveling this way was much easier for us. Ray and I did this until halfway through the flight and then we switched. Figuring out ways to keep cool and keep your husband cool can sometimes be half the battle. Flying with kids will probably be stressful at times. That being said, mentally prepare for the stress. Kids feed off of our energy so half the battle is keeping as cool as possible. Being on the same exact page as parents can help avoid any unnecessary tension. Come up with a plan TOGETHER.
I covered so much around planning in the older blog post I linked above, but one thing I don’t think I mentioned is how important airlines are when traveling with kids. I recently traveled on a United flight from LA to NYC and I was alone and felt extremely claustrophobic. I don’t know what I would have done with kids. There was hardly any room. When we took our Jetblue flight from NYC to Florida with the kids, we had a ton of space. Makes all the difference. Maybe it was just as much to do with airplane model but it’s something to consider.
Suitcase: I try and pack as little as possible when flying with kids. If there is a washer and dryer where we are going I will pack two outfits a day for three days and then wash anything that needs to be worn again. I’ll also pack a “blow out” outfit for my diaper bag. I gravitate towards jumpers or one-piece outfits that are easy to throw on the kids. I love the top and bottom matching bathing suits for boys because they can wear them around as outfits as well as pre-beach or pool. I also love the Natives. They are the only shoes I need to bring on vacation for both of the boys. I like having as few checked bags as possible so instead of each of us having a suitcase I pack one large suitcase for both boys and myself. I get one side and the boys get the other. All of our clothes and toiletries go in these suitcases. With all of our baby gear sharing a suitcase is great, it’s one less thing I need to worry about keeping track of. I will do this as long as possible. I can’t imagine keeping track of a small suitcase for each child even when they are older.
Stroller bag: Always check with your airline but most let you check a stroller bag free of charge with no weight limit. I use the XL Dockatot bag, (this bag is worth it) and I stuff it with the boys Dockatot and everything they need to sleep. Blankets, swaddle, stuffed animals, noise maker, extra diapers, all the last minute things I need to pack…..the extra pair of shoes I definitely didn’t need :) I also put any carriers and feeding gear in this bag. Even our foldable highchair can go in here. I don’t ever travel with a big stroller so instead of throwing it in the designated stroller bag I gate check it or bring it on the plane and store it in the overhead compartment. I’ve only had one person question the stroller not being in the “stroller bag”. In that case, it’s $30 to check but still worth it.
Carseat bag: I use the $5 red gate check bags you can grab on Amazon for our car seat. We rent as much gear as we can where we are going if it makes sense. If there are any heavy items I throw them in this bag. I taped the slumber pods to the inside on our car seat during our recent trip to Florida. It worked out perfectly as they would have added too much weight to our luggage. Some people like to bring a car seat on board. I’ve heard it can be a great idea for very active toddlers during long flights. There’s this new travel car seat I CAN’T WAIT TO TRY: find it, HERE. You can also throw extra diapers in this bag as well. I prefer to buy diapers when we arrive at our destination.
Carry on bag: I learned the hard way that I really prefer a big bag that has a zipper. That way things are not falling out of your overstuffed bag. Also, put everyone's tickets and IDs in one pocket. In-flight entertainment is the most important. Here is a list of things we brought for Charlie 2.5 and ford 11 months..they didn’t see any of this until we were in the air:
-Paw Patrol headphones
-Many many paw patrol stickers
-i-pad in a rubber/plastic case that sits up. We downloaded many Paw Patrol episodes the night prior to our trip
-Kids water bottle
-Paw patrol coloring book
-A few toys for Ford
-Noise canceling headphones for the baby
Other things in my diaper bag:
-Many of the kid's favorite snacks or things that take a while to eat like bagels
-Wipes & 5 diapers
-Extra pair of clothes for both kids
-Xantex for us …haha j/k
TWO THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW:
1) Formula, breast milk, juice, baby food, and liquid medications in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces are exempt to the 3-1-1 liquids rule! When it comes to baby bottles and sippy cups you are in the clear. Just make sure to remove these items from your carry-on bag to be screened separately from the rest of your belongings. Before the TSA worker inspects your milk make sure they change their gloves.
2) Things you can keep on: Children age 12 and under can keep their shoes on while going through security. You can also keep your baby carrier on with a baby inside as long as it doesn’t have a metal ring.
PRE-CHECK/GLOBAL ENTRY: Do your self a favor and get your kids registered if you are traveling internationally. They will have to do an in-person interview just like you need to do one as an adult. For domestic travel, kids under 12 do not need to register to be able to go through TSA pre-check with you.
OUR SET UP: We had our Babyzen travel stroller which I had Charlie sit in (best stroller ever), I wore Ford in our Artipoppe baby carrier (we have the cheapest one, which is still expensive but doubles as a wrap and carrier because it’s so soft and light. Only negative is you can’t face the baby out) and I had one big bag with the kid's items which Ray held. I told Ray that even though his bag was small to check it. LESS IS BEST. Also, a great tip is not to put any loose items under your stroller or in any stroller pockets when in the airport. Keep everything in one bag. It ends up being a huge hassle when closing the stroller.
When we had one baby, I would bring our stroller and store it in the overhead compartment. The flight attendants might stop you and say you have to gate check it but that’s not the case. It fits in the overhead compartments even on the small planes. This stroller was expensive so I like keeping it close by :) Now that we have two kids, I really stick with the LESS IS BEST rule and gate check it.
TIPS FOR TRAVELING WITH BREASTMILK
1) Make sure you stay super hydrated while traveling.
2) If you will have to carry a very large quantity of milk through the airport I highly recommend looking into Milk Stork, HERE They will ship your milk home from anywhere in the US.
3) You can carry on breastmilk and freezer packs. This will be checked by a TSA officer. I froze my milk and put it in a soft cooler with ice packs and it held up fine for a short flight. I threw it all in a backpack.
4) Checking the milk could be easier but I think I would be too nervous something might happen to it after all of that hard work. I personally would rather carry in a backpack. Just remember to proactively tell a TSA officer during screening.
5) I had two plastic bags. Bag for clean pump products and a bag for used pump products) Bring a little soap in a small container and wash parts on the go. They also make small sanitizing bags you throw in the microwave which is also great for travel.
I’ve never traveled with a pack n’ play. When the kids are in the pre-crawling stage I use a Dockatot. You can place it anywhere. It’s the best on the go sleeping tool. Now that Charlie and Ford need a confined place to sleep I always rent gear. I’ve never had a problem finding rentals and it is usually pretty cheap and easy. Other items I’ve rented….car seats, walkers, mini bouncers, and highchairs.
We had a seat for Charlie as you need to purchase one for kids two years and older. It was really nice having an entire row for our family. I put Charlie in the window seat and set him up with Paw Patrol. We downloaded episodes and it actually held his attention for most of the flight, that and the snacks and stickers. ALL lifesavers.
I sat in the middle and Ray sat on the end and we both shared Ford. We kept Ford occupied with toys and food. We did have one really stinky diaper and I honestly wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. I ended up changing Charlie while he was standing on the toilet seat cover in the tiny bathroom. I took a poll on Instagram and some people said it was socially acceptable to change them on the seats and other people said NO WAY. I think it’s fine for a wet diaper but I felt most comfortable changing the baby in the bathroom.
LET’S TALK ANXIETY: I received many questions around what to do to ease your mom anxiety while your kids are acting up on the plane. Honestly, I think in my head prior to traveling that I hope for the best but meltdowns are very possible and I actively imagine myself keeping my cool. I also remember that even though this seems like hell not to get too embarrassed. Most people on the plane were children, have children, had children at some point or have extended family that are children. They know you are not trying to disrupt the plane. Once in a while, you might get a rude person but most of us have been there. Remember that.
JETKIDS BY STOKEE
We tested out the JetKids Bedbox on our recent trip to Florida. I knew I wanted to try it out the moment I saw it!. It’s a small carry on suitcase for kids that doubles as a fun object to ride through the airport and it turns any airplane seat into a bed. I think it’s such a wonderful idea, especially for long trips. Though we loved ours I think one thing I would point out is it does add one extra carry on bag to your luggage. Though it is approved for kids age 2+, I would recommend it to families with kids age 4+ OR at whatever point your kids can be responsible for pulling their own suitcase through the airport. Definitely check out the website, HERE.
This is another very innovative product. It’s a very user-friendly travel tent that pops up over cribs and pack n plays. It’s great for travel when you need more privacy for your baby. We can not share rooms with our kids because they won’t sleep so this is a perfect baby product for situations when your kids need to sleep in the same room or you have to sleep in the same room with your kids. Set up and take down was super easy and it really does create the perfect sleep environment. It’s very dark and we put our noisemaker right under the bottom. We set it up before the kids went into the tent. My only recommendation is to use it at home a few times before you travel so you kids can get familiar with the product and get them excited about it. We will be using these all summer. A mom I know just used two on her vacation and gave very positive feedback. You can check out their website, HERE.
BOOKS & UNIQUE TOYS
LOVING THIS SMALL CROSS BODY BAG, HERE.
I LOVE HOW THEY STYLED THIS LONG FLOWY PIECE, HERE.
THIS PLEATED WHITE DRESS, HERE.
THIS POPLIN SPRING STAPLE IS A MUST HAVE, HERE.
THIS WHITE TOP WITH A POP OF COLOR WILL BE MY GO TO FOR CASUAL WEEKENDS, HERE.
THIS COZY SWEATER FOR CHILLY SPRING DAYS, HERE.
SPRING TRENCH, HERE.
MY GO TO WHITE JEANS, HERE.
BOYFRIEND WHITES, HERE.
BABY LED WEANING BY MADA LEIGH LAVEY, WWW.MADALEIGHBLOG.COM
Introducing your LO (or “little one”- a hand abbreviation I used often) to solid foods can be both an exciting and super nerve-wracking time. I did lots of research and found that the combination of baby-led weaning and baby-led purees would be best for our family. Sound like I’m speaking Chinese? Don’t worry – I get into the nitty-gritty later in the post + why I chose these particular methods for Temple.
I know baby-led weaning can seem intimidating and even scary. BUT, once you do your research, I think you’ll find it both simple and safe, not to mention beyond beneficial for Baby’s development. Temple is LOVING it and we’re only one month in. It’s crazy how quickly they catch on, chewing and grabbing their food all on their own.
I want to remind you that I am no expert, just a mom who did her homework and created a plan that works for us! Every child is SO different and ultimately you need to do whatever you feel comfortable with. If you start BLW (baby-led weaning) and find you’re constantly stressed about choking, then maybe this method isn’t for you. Your baby can pick up on that stress, so just go with your mommy gut, do your research, and find what works best for your LO!
Okay, let’s dive in! - Mada Leigh
WHEN TO START FEEDING BABY?
Baby should be fed exclusively breast milk or formula until at least 6-months. Breastmilk/formula has more calories than any vegetable, fruit or grain – so that’s what’s best for your LO in the beginning. Once they hit the 6-month mark, their digestive system is matured and ready for solid foods. You can read more on why this is the best age to consider solid foods in this article.
Even once 6 months have passed and your baby is technically ready to start trying real food, it’s important to check for the Signs of Readiness:
Baby is at least 6 months old.
Baby should be able to sit up unassisted.
Baby is starting to develop their pincer grasp, or the method they use to pick up food – or other objects – with their fingers. Practice makes perfect, so they will get better as they continue their food journey! Most 6-month-olds cannot pick up a small piece of food. That’s why it’s best to start with strips or fry-shaped foods first (more on that below).
Baby is eager to participate. Does your baby grab at your food, or seem interested when you eat? If so, then your LO could be ready to start eating! So what are all the things to show they are ready for food?
I’m often asked, why no cereal before solids? After reading articles and talking with my pediatrician, I’ve determined the whole “rice cereal makes your baby fuller + a better sleeper” theory is a complete myth. Introducing rice cereal before real food goes against the baby-led weaning method, so it’s just not for us! With BLW, you go straight to food- no traditional “baby food” necessary. Your LO’s main source of nutrition is breastmilk/formula for the first year anyway, so at this stage food is all about having fun, growing sensory development, and exploring textures and flavors!
Some people also believe you shouldn’t introduce fruits in the beginning, because once Baby tastes the sweetness, they’ll be the only things they want. Personally, I disagree. Vegetables are obviously super important, but I gave Temple a banana during her very first week of eating real food! In our experience, this has not affected how well she eats veggies. Making sure your LO is trying a wide variety of foods is most important!
SO WHAT EXACTLY IS BABY-LED WEANING?!
“Baby-Led Weaning” is a term that refers to skipping the spoon-fed puree phase and going straight into solids. The method involves offering age-appropriate foods softly cooked and cut into pieces Baby can pick up on their own.
With BLW, you actively encourage self-feeding. We never put food into Temple’s mouth, even when we let her feed herself purees. There is no spoon feeding, and babies mainly gnaw on things to start. They need to learn about their gag reflex so they know how to eat regular food when they’re bigger. Even if you take the more traditional route and start with pureed baby food in the beginning, eventually baby will be introduced to regular foods, and without any previous experience, they could still gag and choke. The difference is, that’s when the calories really start to matter! It’s important to allow time for learning and experimentation when baby is still somewhat relying on nutrients from breastmilk or formula.
“The more variety in flavor, texture, size, and shape you offer baby, the more skilled and open-minded he will be with different foods!” – Feeding Littles.
BLW is heavy on the finger foods but can involve some self-serve purees (or “baby-led purees”) as well. However, you may choose to skip purees all together! As far as the solids go, make sure to start with spears, strips or fry shapes. Once they start mastering their pincer grasp and chewing, you can add in smaller soft chunks. This method lets them eat at their own pace, develop their fine motor skills, and learn to chew and swallow their food before it really counts!
I HIGHLY recommend purchasing Oh Baby Nutrition’s Baby Knows Best Guide. She includes videos, recipes, and great information on all things feeding baby! I love her guide because she dives deep into both baby-led weaning and baby-led purees. We are mainly doing baby-led weaning but we do experiment some with purees, so I found her guide incredibly helpful. In fact, I printed all her recipes so I can review them every Sunday when I meal plan for our little family!
Use code TEMPLE15 for 15% off this guide.
I also recommend looking into Feeding Little’s Online Course. They are the OGs of BLW, so they really know their stuff! I purchased this guide too, mainly so I could feel extra informed before sharing tips with you guys! IMO, the best part of their online guide is the videos of babies eating and gagging (safely). Sounds weird, but this really puts my mind at ease and let me know what I should expect. I learned so, SO much from both guides – you can’t go wrong with either (or both)!
BENEFITS OF BLW:
Better table manners. They sit and eat with the family, instead of you having to feed them. Eating with baby is encouraged; they learn from watching you eat!
Research shows BLW eaters are less picky. This makes sense when you think about it! Temple has had roasted broccoli, spinach muffins, and lentils, all by 7-months.
Helps develop motor skills earlier on. They are using their hand-eye coordination daily when picking up food to eat. Great sensory play and fine motor skill development.
Introduced to more textures more quickly.
Easier on the whole family/less time-consuming! You don’t have to prepare special food for baby (like purees every day). They can have what you have (for the most part, especially after the first month or so), but in slices instead! You just have to watch salt/seasoning for them.
Restaurant friendly! Offer them what you’re eating. They can eat with you instead of you feeding them and then scarfing down your own meal while trying to entertain them.
They practice intuitive eating. They stop eating when full instead of you feeling like they need to finish a full serving of puree. No airplane spoon to the mouth to trick them into eating more!!
BLW gives your LO a healthy relationship with food. They choose how much and what they eat. You just continue to offer them things but you don’t stress about how much they eat or force them to finish the food. I know it can be frustrating when they don’t even touch a food you made, but just keep trying and they will decide when they’re ready for it! Example: Temple does not like greek yogurt. The second time I gave it to her, I added a swirl of almond butter and she ate 3-4 bites! That’s a win in my book!
TIPS FOR STARTING BLW:
Start with strips of food that they can grasp on the table. Small, bite-sized foods will frustrate them and could potentially be a choking hazard at first.
Start with only 2-3 pieces of food at a time.
Until their pincer grasps get better, you can pick up pieces of food and hand them to baby, but you should not put the food directly in his/her mouth. The goal is for Baby to eat with the family on their own, so try foods that can be enjoyed by everyone to make your life a little easier (and cheaper)!
Foods should be soft, but not so overcooked that they slip out of Baby’s hands. I steam or bake my veggies and hard fruits. This is recommended until baby is comfortable biting and chewing safely. Softer fruits and veggies can be offered raw (like the inside of a cucumber).
Foods should be soft enough to squish between your fingers.
Think about adding grass-fed, unsalted butter when baking fruits and olive oil with roasted veggies. Those extra fats are so good for Baby!
Small, round foods should be cut in half, lengthwise (like grapes and cherry tomatoes) to avoid dangerous choking.
As Baby gets older, you can give him/her smaller pieces. This means a transition from strips to clumps to small pieces.
At first, unseasoned foods are best. Once familiar with different foods, you can begin adding seasoning and spices (like curry powder or cinnamon) to broaden their palates.
FEAR OF GAGGING OR CHOKING?
The hardest part of BLW is the inevitable gagging in the beginning. This is totally normal at first and I highly recommend getting CPR certified- you can never be too prepared when it comes to your baby! For me, this made me much less nervous knowing I could act if Temple were to start choking.
I mentioned this before, Feeding Littles’ course features videos of babies eating and gaging. It helps to actually see what you should expect and what is extremely normal! Gagging is a good thing! It’s Baby learning how to chew and swallow foods.
Choking in very different than gagging. Choking is when their airway passage is blocked. They will make no noise if they are choking. Gagging is normal and safe, choking is not.
They WILL gag in the beginning, but Temple honestly only did it a handful of times and hasn’t since those first 2 weeks of BLW. They learn quickly that they have to gnaw on foods longer so that they won’t gag.
Baby’s gag reflex is in the middle of their tongue (instead of way back), so yes they are gagging, but the food isn’t really near the back of their throat! Knowing that helped put me at ease a bit. That’s why they gag a lot- the reflex in right there in the middle.
DO NOT buckle baby into a highchair EVER when doing BLW. If choking occurred, you want to easily get them out.
The key is to let them gag and not to grab them or try to pull the food out of their mouth. You could actually lodge the food further down their throat and cause them to choke if you do this. They have a gag reflex for a reason.
Research shows that the risk of choking is the same when comparing baby led weaning and purees as long as you aren’t giving Baby foods that could be choking hazards!
OTHER NORMAL THINGS THAT OCCUR DURING BLW?
Chewing followed by spit up. This is totally normal – they’re just figuring out this whole eating thing.
Weird faces from Baby.
Lots of play! I know it can be frustrating to see food go uneaten (or on the floor!) but this is part of the fun for babies! Don’t think of it as wasted food – look at it as an opportunity for Baby to explore textures and learn sensory aka make a little mess! Yes, it’s freaking adorable, but bath time has become so necessary now that Temple is eating. I usually let her eat in a diaper only to avoid a bigger mess.
Baby doesn’t like something. No worries – keep on trying! Wait a few days and try serving it again. If you don’t, Baby will end up only eating what he/she wants and they will train YOU! Those little boogers are smart!
Spills. My dogs have definitely put on a few pounds since we started BLW, but that just means less clean up for me!!
This is when you cook the food (usually by steaming), puree it, and then let Baby take the lead with the actual feeding. Your baby is essentially “spoon feeding” his/herself. I am personally combining the BLW and BLP methods (aka, the BLISS Method).
Tips & Tricks for Temple’s purees:
I don’t scrape food off the top of mouth or off her face.
Use the loaded spoon- I put the food on her spoon then set the spoon on her high chair or hand it to her. This way, she brings the food to her mouth by herself. This method still allows her to develop fine motor skills, without expecting her to do too much of the heavy lifting in the beginning. I love NumNum GOOtensils for this!
Dump purees directly on her high chair and let her enjoy! It’s a fun mess and great for sensory development.
Three spoon circus– I learned this from Feeding Littles. It’s when you load two spoons with food and hand them to your LO (or place them on her tray). Once one spoon is empty, you load the third spoon and offer it to them. They will learn to drop the empty spoon in their hand to grab this third loaded spoon. Again, great for development!
Follow Baby’s hunger cues– do not bribe or force-feed baby. They will not overeat on their own.
WHY I CHOSE THE “BLISS METHOD”:
The BLISS method is a combo of Baby-Led Weaning and Baby-Led Purees. I was a little too anxious to commit only to BLW and knew I wouldn’t want anyone else feeding Temple solid food without me there to supervise (at least for the first few months). My reason? Choking! I want to be honest with y’all and I know there are other mamas who worry about choking with BLW. I get more and more comfortable every time Temple eats and don’t worry anymore when I’m there to monitor the serving sizes we give her. However, I like knowing that some days I can just puree something and have it ready for whoever is watching her. TBH, I won’t even let Caleb feed her the BLW way when I am not there. Call me crazy, but I know my baby, and I feel more comfortable when I am there to make sure it’s done correctly. I’m sure that by the time she is 8-9 months I’ll feel more comfortable with others feeding her, but for now, this is what works for me and makes me feel most comfortable!
MY BABY ISN’T INTERESTED IN SOLIDS?
Give them confidence- encourage them and praise them by telling them good job!
NO distractions- no TV or music playing in the background, or older siblings playing around them. They need to focus on their food.
Set an example by eating when they eat.
Patience- let them lead. There is a reason it’s called Baby-LED weaning there is no rush!
Remember every baby is different! Your baby leads the way. Be patient and enjoy the journey!
WHAT TIME OF DAY SHOULD I FEED BABY (AT 6-MONTHS OLD), AND HOW MUCH FOOD SHOULD I OFFER?
Food should be served 45 minutes to an hour after milk feeding, and not too close to nap/bedtime. You don’t want baby to be too full, too tired, or sick. That might set you up for a bad feeding.
At 6-months, I only fed Temple her solids once a day around 4:30-5:00 pm. She wakes up from her last nap of the day around 3:30 pm and I nurse her immediately. Then, I wait about 45 minutes before feeding her dinner (the real foods). After dinner, we bathe and get ready for bed. She goes to bed between 6:30-7:00 pm.
Temple is about 7 months now, and I’ve started feeding her twice a day. Usually lunch (11:00 am) and dinner ( around 5:00 pm). At 9 months, I will start serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I try to always serve two veggies and one protein. And be sure there is a fat included in every meal at this point!
IS MY BABY GETTING ENOUGH CALORIES?
Baby’s main source of calories, fats, and nutrients are still coming from breast milk or formula for the first year.
I offer Temple 1 or 2 pieces of each food to start. I often try to eat with her to show her how it’s done. That’s the best way to get baby interested! Baby probably won’t eat a lot to start. It’s totally fine for your LO to be uninterested or just play with the food.
Follow your LO’s cues. If they seem to be interested in what you’re feeding them, then offer more! Trust me, you will know when they are over it! Don’t stress about how much food is actually going into their belly. They will do a lot of playing and dropping food on the ground until their pincer grasp gets better. Let baby lead the way and have fun with it!!
BABY’S POSITION WHILE FEEDING:
Baby needs to be in the high chair, upright and no leaning backward. If you follow me on Instagram, I have a whole BLW section saved to my highlights. Check it out to see exactly how I position Temple in her high chair. When she was really small at the start of BLW, I would roll up a towel to place behind her so that she was upright to prevent choking.
Don’t EVER buckle Baby into the high chair when eating the baby-led weaning way. If they were to choke, you must be able to pull them out of the high chair super easily.
Elbows should be over the table, this ensures they are not leaned too far back.
ALLERGENIC FOOD AND MY APPROACH:
After researching, I decided to introduce allergenic food soon after Temple started her food journey! Waiting to introduce allergenic foods may actually increase the risk of an allergy to that food. But, check with your pediatrician before tackling this, especially if your baby is especially at risk when it comes to allergies (runs in family, eczema, reacted to breast milk when mama ate certain foods, etc).
Only introduce allergenic foods when Baby will be up for a few hours so you can keep an eye out for reactions. Offer each food 2-3 times without mixing with any other allergic foods. If baby reacts with hives, rash, difficulty breathing or anything that doesn’t seem normal- call your doctor!
Introducing allergic foods while still breastfeeding is great! Breast milk is known to lessen reactions to allergies, so I highly recommend introducing all the foods below if you are still breastfeeding and your LO isn’t considered high-risk. But again, talk to your pediatrician first and do what feels right for your family.
Dairy – Always give them full-fat. We love full-fat Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or strips of cheese
Wheat- We like strips of whole wheat toast (love Whole Foods bread from their bakery), and spiral whole wheat noodles and gluten-free brown rice spiral noodles.
Finned fish (like salmon or cod)
Citrus Fruits and Strawberries- known to cause a rash on face/butt. If reaction, then delay for a few weeks, reintroduce and watch for a reaction.
Egg Whites- I introduced when Temple was almost 7 months. Some say to wait till 9m, but Temple wasn’t showing signs of any other allergies, so I felt she was ready. The yolk is more nutrient-dense, so you could offer this as an omelet cut into strips before the egg white if you want!
Foods I will delay:
Honey- can cause infant botulism. Do NOT introduce till at least 12 months.
Stringy foods (like green beans or parsnips) and foods with tough skin – I will delay these until I feel Temple is comfortable and not gagging too much anymore.
Milk- breast milk and formula should be the main milk until 12 months.
WHY DON’T I LIKE TO USE PACKAGED AND JARRED BABY FOODS?
Pouches do NOT teach chewing skills. There’s no sensory input and they are usually too sweet. Even the ones with vegetables tend to be much sweeter than when you cook from home. When eating out of a pouch, baby is going to be sucking it down very quickly and not realizing that they might actually be full. Most of these packaged purees have the same textures, and a variety of textures is so important for development. When you go from same textured purees to real food at age of one, it can be tough for your LO and cause picky eating.
If you are on-the-go and a pouch is your only option, I’ve read that using a straw with your own purees is best. Or, try bringing a bowl and spoon with you and pour the pouch in. That way, your LO can feed themselves the baby-led puree way!
I try to cook all her foods and choose organic as much as possible to ensure the max amount of nutrients and higher enzyme activity than packaged or jarred food.
Read this article for more on why you should rethink baby food pouches!
BLW RECIPE IDEAS:
Food high in iron is best in the beginning. Baby’s iron stored from birth starts to deplete after around 6 months. I would hold off on meat until you see that baby can safely chew and swallow. Then, offer it in strips that can be held easily and sucked or chewed.
Avocado strip (you could lightly roll it in breadcrumbs to help them grasp)
Softly cooked broccolini (longer stem for them to grasp)
Instant pot sweet potatoes
add 1 cup water to bottom and cook on high for 15 minutes. SO EASY!
Cooked sweet potato “fries”
toss carrot sticks in olive oil and 1 clove minced garlic. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, flip, and bake another 15 minutes on the other side.
reminder- they should be able to squeeze between fingers.
Banana with peel handle
Full-fat Greek yogurt (I like Stonyfield Greek or regular yogurt, and Forage Cashewgurt) with add-ins like:
Mashed or pureed berries
Drizzle of nut butter (peanut, almond, cashew)
Egg cooked into an omelet and cut into strips
Bone broth to sip on- use this as a guide for making bone broth but keep seasonings to a minimum for baby.
Toast strips with a thin layer of hummus on top. I love Ezekiel 4:9 bread and Whole Foods whole wheat bread from the bakery. Whole wheat bread is best. Make sure there aren’t too many large seeds in the bread you choose.
Peanut butter and smashed blueberry toast strips
Baked pears in coconut oil (remove peel for younger babies)- love this recipe in OhBabyNutritions guide.
Mango strips- helps loosen up baby’s stool. So if you are including foods that constipate in the meal (such as rice or carrots) add mango as a fruit to balance and help!
Boiled till soft and smush them with a fork. I don’t puree these.
Rice or quinoa mixed with hummus or avocado- helps stick together for easier grabbing off the table or to load on a spoon.
1 organic peeled and cored apple and dash cinnamon. Add to blender and done!
Banana Pancakes: whisk eggs, mash banana and combine all ingredients. Heat skillet over medium heat in a little grass-fed unsalted butter. When hot, cook blend into pancake shapes. Cook, let cool, and cut into small stripes. (image below) This is a great make-ahead dish for easy meal during week.
Mashed berries (optional)
Pork, Apple, and Cheddar Meatballs (again, don’t recommend meat until baby is better at chewing)
IMPORTANCE OF WATER AND BONE BROTH:
Breast milk or formula is the main hydration for the first year, but small amounts of water can help with digestion and constipation. Temple LOVES her sips of water. We started offering sips of water from the start (6 months). When she drinks water, I offer her water in this cup but I actually take the lid off and do open cup drinking. Sippy cups aren’t the best for feeding development. I always bring the water glass up and let her come to the cup. Then, I count 1, 2 and take the water away. If she reaches or leans for more, then I will do this again.
At 9-10 months, we will start offering her 4-5 ounces at each meal.
Bone broth is another great liquid to include in Baby’s diet. I add bone broth when pureeing food and small sips at the end of her meal. Temple loves it! I learned all about it through OhBabyNutritions Ebook (use code TEMPLE15for 15% discount).
There are also other liquids you could offer every so often, like coconut water. However, regular water is obviously #1! Remember, water does not replace breast milk or formula for the first year.
PRODUCTS WE LOVE:
Inglesina Fast Table Chair- we NEVER leave home without this chair. Actually, we usually just leave it in the trunk of the car. It’s the best travel high chair that actually keeps them from wobbling or being super low on the table.
Oxo Tot Waterproof Roll-Up Bib– we NEVER leave home without this bib. I love the food catcher and how it rolls up easily to fit in bag. It’s insane how much food you will catch at the table haha.
BapronBaby Bib (honestly, I usually just strip her down to only diaper at home!)
EZPZ Happy Bowl We ALWAYS bring this to restaurants. It’s the smaller bowl and I love putting food in the bowl and on the sides. Plus, it sticks super well to the table.
Hydroflask– the only cup we use!
Gathre High Chair Mat
Branch Basics All-Purpose Cleaner and YoungLiving Thieves Cleaner- I love either of these for cleaning her high chair.
INSPIRING BLW ACCOUNTS/WEBSITES TO FOLLOW:
Instagram: @OhBabyNutrition and ebook: Baby Knows Best (Use discount code: Temple15 for 15%)
Instagram: @FeedingLittles and online course
Instagram: @Babyledweaningideas and website for recipes
Instagram: @Inspiralizedkids and website for recipes
BABY SIGN LANGUAGE:
I bought this super simple book to learn a few signs to communicate with Temple. She doesn’t know any of the signs yet, but I make sure to practice with her every day. For instance, after each meal, diaper change, and bath I sign “All Done.” When I offer her water, I do the sign for “water.” And when I load more food on her high chair I do the sign for “more.”
TIPS & TRICKS: EVERYTHING FAMILY PHOTOS WITH JULIA DAGS
Julia Dags has been shooting our family for seven months. She is extremely talented and I am always so impressed with her work, shoot after shoot. She also has such an incredible personality which is so important when shooting families & businesses! When you find a photographer that is super talented they will capture the shots that are not planned…the ones you don’t even see. The photos I’m speaking about are the lifestyle shots of your kids just….being kids.
A talented photographer sees the shots you would never even think to take and that’s where Julia shines. As moms we are so used to booking photography sessions trying to get that perfect shot where the family is sitting together, looking forward, with the perfect smile. How many times have you shouted, “Everyone look at the camera!” GUILTY!
I want you to take a step back and think about booking lifestyle sessions vs. posed family photos. I’m confident that in 30 years when we are all looking back at the days our babes were little it’s the lifestyle, movement type shots that will bring you back the most memories. If you only want to do one shoot a year instead of booking a photographer for that Christmas staged photo think about booking a pool summer session or fun family activity. I promise you will get some amazing authentic photos of your kids being crazy :) Their personalities will shine and bring that photo to life for that Christmas card. Julia talks more about this during her Q & A below.
FINDING A PHOTOGRAPHER
Finding a photographer can be tough. Here are some of my own tips, especially for someone shooting with kids:
1) Love their work. If you don’t absolutely love their style you won’t 100 percent trust them during the shoot and that stress will come out. One thing kids pick up on is stress! So book someone who’s work you are obsessed with so they can do their thing and you can do yours.
2) Price. I would find someone affordable enough that you can do a few shoots a year. You can always ask if the photographer has any packages. Photography sessions also make great gifts from the grandparents. Remember these sessions do not have to break the bank!
3) Personality. Finding someone that is great with kids should be top of the list. You want your children to be themselves during the session. I have worked with two photographers through Mrs. Nipple, one being Julia, and both always walk in and immediately gravitate towards the kids. Julia is so wonderful with the boys which is so important. A Warm and friendly outgoing personality works best with my kids. You can always get a sense of someone over the phone so don’t be afraid to book a call before you book someone.
Q & A WITH JULIA DAGS
Julia will take it from here!
I didn’t have time to shower this morning let alone put together coordinating family outfits for our family photo shoot. What do I do?
Okay, listen. Family photo shoots truly sound stressful. The pure thought of getting yourself together on top of getting your kids together, and hoping your husband or wife can also pull themself together - shit do you need to clean the house - to look decent sounds impossible.
I’m going to do my best to take you step by step how to be prepared for a photo shoot.
First, discuss with your photographer when your kids schedules are best. What is that golden hour of the day for your family when everyone is happy after a meal, energy isn’t depleted, naps aren’t needed, and crankiness usually hasn’t set in yet? That’s the most important factor. You want to make sure your kids are in a great mental state before you sign up for a photo shoot during one of your kid’s nap time. Disaster! Ideally for photographers, at the end of the day, around an hour and a half before sunset, is the best light to start photographing in. When photographing bloggers, I am able to direct each blogger in regards to the light. With family sessions, if your family golden hour matches up with that last hour and a half of the day, take that time slot. Kids run around and move… constantly. A photographer can’t, and shouldn’t if you’re going for that lifestyle look, direct your child to the inch of where and how to move. With the light being softer at the end of the day, it is easier to photograph without worrying too much about the sunshine impacting the images at this time.
Typically, photo shoots will run for one hour. If sunset is at 7:00pm, beginning your photo shoot at 5:30pm is an ideal time. It gives you time to be a little late to your photo shoot if one of your kids put on two different shoes and you need to run back home to grab both matching pairs. It gives time for you and your kids to get to know your photographer. It’s so important for a child to be comfortable with the person who is photographing them. The photographer should give time to interact with each of the kids before photographing them. The most important part of that hour that you’re given to photo shoot? Meltdowns. They happen. Someone gets sand in their eye, someone throws sand at someone else, someone wipes ketchup into someone else’s hair. We’ve all been there. An hour gives you time to literally breathe in case any of the above and beyond happen.
Next, WHAT DO YOU WEAR?! I think this has to be my most frequently asked question. Well, to start, putting a shirt and pants on your child is cool. Or not! Want to have a photo shoot of your kids enjoying a hot summer day in the pool? Let’s do it - but I’ll get to more on that later. My point is, dress your kids in something they’re going to be comfortable in and something that shows who they are. It’s even more important for you, as a mom, to wear something you’re going to be comfortable in. You don’t want to wear a pair of jeans that are too tight, no matter HOW great they make your butt look, if you don’t feel comfortable being able to lean over, grab your kid off the ground and swing him or her up in the air to give them a kiss. You’re going to be interacting with your kids for an hour - tickle fights, playing in the sand, swinging them around the park isn’t easy with tight jeans. Stick to things that you know look good on you. If you don’t own a single red shirt in your closet and you suddenly think you need a red shirt for your family photo shoot, I’m going to highly suggest against that notion! Generally, the same color scheme is just fine. Light colors are great in the spring and summer, deeper and darker hues are great for fall. Keep it plain and simple - the photos are most importantly about the moments you’re sharing with your family.
Now, going back to taking photos in the pool. What kind of family session is that? It’s a lifestyle session, a day in the life, a family activity you can be caught doing on any particular Saturday with the whole family. Baking a whole assortment of breakfast goodies on a Sunday morning, making a fort in the upstairs playroom, going ice skating down at your local ice rink, swimming lessons, family picnics, playing on the neighborhood playground. Your kids will look happiest in your photos when they’re doing what they want to do and when they’re having fun doing it. My favorite images that I take of families are the ones of kids playing on the playground or playing in the sand on the beach. It’s not always about “smile, look at the camera, cheese!” A great photographer will capture those giggles and laugh of your child, the interactions between your kids, and those images will be what will make you happiest. If your kid is being ticked and hugged on the ground by your other child, you’ll never say, “I wish he was looking at the camera,” you’ll love it just the way it is. These images are also perfect for your holiday cards. It’s a great way to show each of your children individually and your family as a whole through different images instead of a yearbook-like image for your family + your kids.
Finally, reward your kids! Take them out for ice cream, bring them jelly beans, or surprise them with toys to play in the sand with. This gets your kids so happy and excited, and it ends the photo shoot on a happy note and may even result in some extra little smiles towards the end of your photo gallery!
Don’t stress! Your kids will have fun, and you’ll be sitting there smiling at them having such a great time, and you’ll have the best time with them. Even with some booger wiping, drooling, sneezing, screaming or running away photos, lifestyle photo shoots will capture your entire family’s personality.
You can find Julia’s website, HERE.
A BIG thanks to Julia for everything she does!! She captures the moments that are right in front of us that sometimes we miss. I’m so grateful for her incredible work. There are so many local businesses and families that rely on Julia, thank you for making our visions come to life 🙌🏻
Self care is so important and something I try and fit in especially as a new mom, but it seemed to never happen during those first six months postpartum. It’s also something that is extremely hard to make time for. As moms I’m sure many of you can relate to taking care of everyone else but yourself.
I’ve been having trouble shedding my baby weight from being pregnant with Ford (now 11 months) . That mixed with exhaustion leading to unhealthy eating choices left me low on energy and feeling pretty bummed out. By the time I feed the kids and get them to bed the last thing I want to think about is cooking for both myself and Ray. I decided to take a month and try out different food delivery services in the area. I wanted the plans I chose to be centered around using fresh and healthy/anti-inflammatory ingredients, being easy to follow, breastfeeding friendly, and delicious. I chose three local brands and one national brand.
If you are local take advantage of these great options. So many moms reached out to me expressing how lucky I was that I had such great services at my finger tips. For moms that are not local, Sakara Life is a wonderful nationwide delivery food service option.
Maikana foods is my go-to for everyday clean eating done right.
MANTRA: “Today's world is filled with diets and fads and an insane amount of information of what and how you should eat. Maikana believes in a simpler world. We use whole real foods. We use fresh ingredients. We believe in all things in moderation (except love and laughter). We believe eating a wholesome meal should not be a stressful ordeal. We want to make the healthy world one that is easy and convenient to navigate. We want to make eating healthy as straightforward & convenient as possible. Simply satisfying, healthy and delicious meals- made with love- and delivered right to your door. It can't get easier than that.” -Maikana
Things I loved:
SCHEDULE: The meals are made and delivered on the same day.
MENU: The menu changes every week so you won’t get tired of the same choices & everything is as fresh as you can get as it’s prepared and delivered on the same day. You can also order one-off meals, you don’t have to do an entire program to still benefit from eating healthy.
DELIVERY: Convenient delivery to your home or work every day.
SUPPORT: During the New Year Reset that I was a part of I had access to a nutrition and health expert, Katie Diehl and I was also part of a facebook support group for the week. This was so helpful, especially when going from unhealthy eating to trying to make good choices. I also loved how Maikana Food incorporated other great brands in their delivery, including Nit Noi. I loved the Nit Noi Provisions bone broth. I also really enjoyed using the adaptogenic powder they included in the reset. I highly recommend jumping on the next reset to kick off changes in your eating.
EASY TO FOLLOW: Everything was so clearly outlined and incredibly well organized. My first shipment arrived with a packet that went over every aspect of the program and answered every single question I had. It was extremely informative and really set me up for success.
MINI MAIKANA: It’s not always easy eating clean but having the option to order nourishing foods for you kids as well really helps set you up for success.
You can find Maikana Foods website, HERE.
Kinney Lane is my go-to for meals the entire family can enjoy while you still feel like you are making great healthy choices.
MANTRA: “Our food philosophy is pretty simple. We think healthy food should taste good and be easily attainable. We know that the food that is best for us isn’t usually fast or easy and we don’t always have the time to prepare the nutritious meals we need to fuel our busy lives.
At Kinney Lane, we realize there is a need for readily available and prepared wholesome foods. When life gets busy, making healthy choices isn’t always easy. Kinney Lane’s goal is to help busy families and professionals eat well by providing them with healthy choices that are already prepared - giving you more time for work and family.” -Kinney Lane
Things I loved:
SCHEDULE: The meals are delivered twice a week.
MENU: I love that there is a super simple ordering system online but I also love that they can pick for you. I really didn’t have the time to go back and forth around what I was going to order so I simply told them I wanted it to be whole 30 compliant and I was delivered such a delicious weeks worth of food that was also family friendly! I told them I was breastfeeding and they included a special overnight oat container just incase my supply dipped from the whole30 meals. I loved that! Their menu also changes every week which is nice.
DELIVERY: Convenient delivery or pick up.
FAMILY MEALS: It’s really hard to stay healthy when I’m responsible for feeding my family as well! Having meals, especially dinners that were big enough for the whole family was a game changer.
EASY TO FOLLOW: Very simple and easy to follow!
Owner,Rachael, shares some thoughts:
“All meals are ready to heat and eat. We serve our entrees in oven-friendly containers equipped with heating instructions. This allows for easy heating and clean-up.
We believe in using organic, simple and natural ingredients: no refined sugar, gluten, or artificial ingredients. Many of our options are also dairy-free. Meals are designed to taste good but also fuel our clients busy lives with nutrient dense meal options.
As a local mom (I live in OG) I felt there was a need for a healthy, prepared foods service that could help busy moms and professionals get meals on the table and feel good about the food their families were eating. I am a classically trained chef, who has a passion for health and wellness. Being a mom I understand the flexibility that moms need which is why I provide several sizing options for different family sizes.” -Rachael
You can find Kinney Lane’s Foods website, HERE.
GREEN & TONIC
Green & Tonic is my go-to for the most cleanse like plan
MANTRA: At Green & Tonic, we want to help you make informed choices that positively affect your health, everyday.
G&T is delicious. We believe that healthy food should be fresh, vibrant, and full of interesting flavor and textures. “Good enough for health food…” said no one ever at G&T.
G&T is easy. On the run or taking it slow, we offer easy solutions for a healthy fuel-up on the go or an afternoon catch-up session with a friend. We feed your healthy lifestyle.
G&T is good for you. We put plants at the center of your plate and serve non-GMO, locally and sustainably-grown ingredients. We count quality, not calories. We embrace healthy fats, sweeten mindfully, and celebrate food in its least-processed form.
G&T is the real deal. We pride ourselves on being authentic, honest and transparent—with our employees, our customers, and everyone with whom we get to do business.
G&T makes sense. We feed your healthy appetite for information, inspiration and motivation so you can make better-for-you choices
Things I loved:
SCHEDULE: Depending on what food delivery service you choose you will be picking up your meal one or two times during the week.
MENU: The three food cleanses that are offered are the 1 day reset, the 3 or 5 day seasonal cleanse, or the G&T til’ dinner (You go off the cleanse at night to eat with your family). You can choose a cleanse that is juice based or choose one that incorporates clean eating.
PICK UP: No delivery offered but G&T has locations all over CT.
CLEANSE: What makes this different than the other services is this is much more cleanse focused in my opinion. You are incorporating multiple juices per day on top of the clean meals. Sometimes I feel like my body just needs a break and that’s where this cleanse comes in.
EASY TO FOLLOW: Very easy! There was a print out that went over each day and what I should be eating.
You can find Green and Tonic’s website, HERE.
Sakara is my go-to for out of towners
MANTRA: “THE SAKARA SECRET. Our philosophy is a combination of cutting-edge nutrition science and ancient healing wisdom. We source the highest-quality organic ingredients and powerful superfoods from trusted farmers and suppliers. Our meal delivery program brings everything to your door, fresh and completely ready to enjoy.”
Things I loved:
SCHEDULE: This was delivered to our front door two times during the week at 5 a.m.
MENU: Sakara offers a signature program (what I did), a deep cleanse, and a program specifically designed for brides.
THOUGHTS: Honestly I was impressed with this service. I didn’t think I would like it because it was not local and I was worried about freshness and taste etc. Everything was delicious and tasted fresh. I would highly recommend as a wonderful option if you don’t live in Connecticut and you can not take advantage of the local services. You can use my code for a discount, REF_NIPPLE15
EASY TO FOLLOW: Everything came in a box and was very easy to follow.
You can find Sakara’s Food website, HERE.
MY PICKS / WHAT I’M BUYING
THE MAMA SERIES
Surrogacy: A Peek into the Lives of a Surrogate and Intended Mom Pair
WHY I decided to use a surrogate...
Stephanie O’Hara, Intended Mother:
My son Aidan was 5-years old and had just lost his first tooth when I realized he was a genuine miracle. He was jumping around in rain puddles, wearing his cute little plastic boots with monkeys on them. As I watched him splash around with his gap-tooth smile, I flashed back to each of the six failed pregnancies I’d had since his birth. Sitting there on the front steps of the porch, I was lost in my thoughts.
“What am I doing?”
I was pregnant again, this time via IVF. My bloodwork had come back at a dangerously high level. Doctors thought it was a molar pregnancy, where the cells multiply at a rapid rate. Here we were talking about the possibility of cancer.
I was in shock.
I was already blessed by being Mommy to this precious little boy. Each one of my pregnancies had become more dangerous than the last, and now there was a chance of leaving Aidan without a mother. I had exhausted my mind, my body and my spirit. A voice in my head told me if this pregnancy didn’t work out, then it was time to hang it up.
I ended up miscarrying that weekend for the seventh time --during Sunday School, no less. I will never forget seeing the blood swirling in the bowl of the toilet. It was absolutely devastating. Once again, I felt like my body was failing me and my husband.
Fortunately, we had an incredible and cautious specialist who told me I shouldn’t try getting pregnant again. He told me that my body needed the assistance of a gestational carrier. Using a surrogate wasn’t our Plan B, C or even D but we knew we weren’t ready to give up. We already had frozen embryos, so my husband and I couldn’t bear the thought of not trying to have someone else carry our baby for us.
WHY I decided to be a surrogate...
Tiffany Jo Baker, 3x Surrogate:
Never in a million years would I have guessed that I would become a surrogate and carry five children for three families dealing with infertility plus our two. Had you asked me as a teenager or young adult, being pregnant or a mom was a thought, but really I thought more about what my career was going to be or how I was going to change the world by being a successful CEO, sought after speaker or first female president.
It’s funny how life works out differently than we expected. It turned out that one of my gifts was being pregnant. My husband and I were blessed to quickly and easily get pregnant, I had amazing pregnancies and loved being pregnant. The excuse to gain weight, wear comfy clothes and have food cravings fulfilled by a wonderful husband… was like a dream job for me.
So when I told my friend that we were pregnant with our second just after Trinity’s first birthday and the intense look of joy and pain flashed across her face all at the same time, God began to put something in my heart. In that moment I realized two things. One, she must be having a hard time getting pregnant (since she never said anything to me) and two, I have been given a gift. I remember thinking, “I would do that for someone, I would carry their child.” And so my journey began.
About four years later the timing was right for our family to begin the process. I researched agencies and submitted my application waiting to see what God would do with all this. While driving around doing errands less than 24 hours after placing it in the mail, I received a call from the director of the agency saying she had a couple that had been looking for a surrogate like me for almost two years. In that moment it was like time stood still. I remember it being almost like a holy moment, a divine moment, a moment of destiny. I haven’t had many moments like that, but I knew this was a pivotal moment in my life and I clearly remember God speaking to my heart, “If you make the dreams of others come true, I will make your dreams come true.” Yep… it was powerful and you know the ugly cry quickly began under my sunglasses as I continued to drive around taking it all in.
Since then I have walked the journey of being a surrogate with three amazing families. Each family had different medical reasons for needing a gestational carrier from cancer to suffering through seven miscarriages. The truth is that we were all created with unique gifts and talents. There isn’t one of us that has all the gifts, talents and resources we will ever need in life to be successful. Why would getting pregnant or becoming parents be any different? We were made to need others and be in relationships. We all need help to be successful in our businesses, relationships, mindset and life. Couples dealing with infertility often live in a world of secrecy, loneliness, stigma and shame, but why should we ever feel shame about needing help or having a struggle? Sometimes God performs miracles, sometimes we work hard and work through our struggles and sometimes God uses others to meet our needs.
Surrogacy: A Peek into the Lives of a Surrogate and Intended Mom Pair
WHAT it was like to use a surrogate…
Stephanie O’Hara, Intended Mother:
Once we had made the decision to hire a gestational carrier, we were inundated with applications. One agency sent them individually and another sent them in groups of four at a time.
I printed them all out so I could look through them thoughtfully. Ever judicious, my husband cautioned me to consider the agency as much as the applicant. It was unchartered territory for both of us.
Dirk and I were surrendering, obeying and trusting in the direction in which we were being guided. I knew in my heart our surrogate would feel like a sister or a good friend on paper.
In addition to our specialist’s high standard of physical health, my husband and I had our own benchmarks that were important to us.
For practical reasons, we hoped to find someone who had prior experience as a surrogate. And because we wanted to be part of the doctor appointments, we wanted her to live within three hours of us. It was also important for us to find someone who was a Christian.
We had a lot of boxes to check but our faith kept us from being worried about finding someone. About a week into the process, a profile came through that made me look twice.
Her name was Tiffany and she lived in Dallas (within the 3-hour range we wanted). She had advanced degrees, was in good health and had her own family. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I read on and saw that not only had she been a surrogate before - she worked at a church and was a pastor’s wife.
Tiffany’s photograph was printed on the application. Her beautiful smile jumped off the page. I knew she was the one. I was so excited that I couldn’t help reading through her profile several times and praying over it.
I showed my husband the profile when he got home from work that day. I left the stack of applications on his dresser with hers on top. He looked through them as he was undoing his tie and taking off his shoes.
"Yep. She's the one."
A week later the surrogacy agency set up a conference call with Tiffany and her husband. At the end of the forty-five minute phone call we agreed to meet for lunch in Dallas where they lived.
The next week, we arrived at the cute little Mexican restaurant Tiffany had suggested for lunch. It was Cinco de Mayo, so the restaurant was busy and festive. Tiffany and Brian were waiting for us at the table. They smiled, got up and we hugged briefly. She was absolutely darling. The real litmus test was that she was someone I would be friends with if she weren’t carrying my baby.
The first thing she did was ask to hear our story. As we talked about our infertility journey, a few tears ran down her cheek. Once we finished, I felt that she was connected with us and wanted to help. I could tell by my husband’s facial expression he felt the same way I did. There was no question for either one of us. Tiffany was our angel.
I won’t sugar coat and tell you that the legal and medical aspects of surrogacy were easy or fast. From the time we met Tiffany until the time of the embryo transfer, it was almost nine months. But we believed in God’s perfect timing and trusted the process.
Three weeks after the transfer, we learned that Tiffany was pregnant with our biological twins – a boy and a girl. We were absolutely over the moon!
Our experience with Tiffany was nothing short of wonderful and perfect. She was so organized, communicative, and sweet. She had virtually no complications from the pregnancy, other than high blood pressure towards the end (which is common).
I was worried about having feelings of jealousy towards her when she was pregnant with our babies, but that never happened. Instead, I was completely grateful for this “bonus” round that God had given us and for finding a surrogate who became like a sister to me.
When she was about eight months pregnant, her belly jutted straight out. It was August, and I knew she was miserable. Still, she never complained. Instead, she was positive and upbeat.
‘We are doing great!” she would say.
We had a lot of funny moments – from our parents rubbing on Tiffany’s belly within five minutes of meeting her, to lots of stares in the OB/GYN waiting room. “We are sister wives!” I would joke with people as they stared at me and my husband when we walked back with Tiffany to the exam room.
We also had lots of questions and comments…although people were curious, they were always kind and supportive.
It was definitely surreal and emotional to watch someone else give birth to your children. Tiffany gave us the most precious gift on earth – life. It brings tears to my eyes every time I think about it. How do you ever thank someone enough for such an act?
To be able to hold those babies in our arms after dreaming about them for six long years – well, it was nothing short of magical. We also wanted Tiffany to meet them right away – after all, she carried them for nine months.
We still keep in close contact with Tiffany and her family. In fact, our twins call her our “Special Angel”. They will know their special story – how much they were wanted and loved. And how because of someone else’s faithfulness and selfless act, they were brought into the world.
We are so grateful for the opportunity and give all the Glory to God.
Sidenote: Although I can’t promise you that you will get pregnant or have twins (ha), what I do know is that having a balance between Mind, Body and Spirit will help to set you up for the absolute best chance of success.
Remember – if you are truly open, it’s not a question of IF you will have a baby, but a question of HOW.
Will it be through IVF? A surprise normal pregnancy? Hiring a gestational carrier? An egg donor? Adoption? Fostering?
Think outside the box. Pray for wisdom. Take action.
WHAT it was like to be a surrogate…..
Tiffany Jo Baker, 3x Surrogate:
Two words that express what being a surrogate is like, but at the same time, they don’t even come close to describing the experience accurately.
I remember the first ultra-sound after the positive pregnancy and beta tests with Stephanie and Dirk’s embryos. The three of us walked into the small doctors’ office room with an ultrasound machine prominently in the middle. The sonographer got me situated and as modest as possible and Dirk and Stephanie came into the room. Two sacs quickly became visible and the sonographer confirmed that there were twins.
Stephanie practically jumped out of her chair and shouted for joy. What a moment! It is forever etched in my memory and heart.
From the beginning Stephanie and Dirk were at every Doctor’s appointment with me. The three of us, along with our friends, family and medical professionals, joined forces to become the dream team for Team O’Hara. We shared tears, cheers and lots of prayers.
The surrogacy journey is full of ups and downs, just like anything worthwhile. There are countless injections and medications involved with IVF (and since I’ve carried for three families, I’ve undergone five IVF cycles, plus two dropped cycles). So if I would give a third word to describe the journey, it might be – “hormotional.” Fertility medications are no joke. (If you know, you know.) I sometimes did this laugh-cry thing while pregnant. I would start laughing at something and then seemingly out of no-where, it would turn in to a cry. My family thought it was hilarious.
I hear it all the time. The first question I get asked when someone finds out that I am a surrogate is, “was it hard to give up the babies after delivery?” My response is always the same, “No, it wasn’t hard at all.”
I’m a very logical person and I know what my role is. I see myself as a piece of the puzzle to birthing their dreams and more like an Aunt or a God-mom.
It’s hard to put into words the feelings that come after you birth someone else’s babies. Aside from being pregnant or being in God’s presence, I’m not someone who normally cries, but during these times I cry. The tears come from a place so deep. A place of humbleness. A place of thankfulness. A place of awe and wonder. A place of seeing someone else’s dreams come true, being humbled that God would choose me to be a part and thankful that God was faithful each step of the unexpected way.
Meet Stephanie & Tiffany:
Stephanie O’Hara is an American Mom, Wife, Entrepreneur, Community Leader, Former Rock Singer and Advocate for women experiencing fertility challenges. Stephanie collaborated with Brenda Aréchiga, a Los Angeles based editor whose client list includes Candy Spelling and Rachael Ashwell. Her memoir is completed and is slated to be released in late spring 2019. For more information on their step by step process to obtaining a gestational carrier, please visit Stephanie’s website at www.yourangelwings.net Or follow her on Instagram, Facebook or find her Podcast on Anchor (Steph O’Hara).
Tiffany Jo Baker is a caffeinated mom of two teen girls, surrogate mom of five (two sets of twins + 1), mom to two fur-babies (dog and bunny) and wife to one outdoorsman. As a 3x Surrogate, Speaker and Goal-Getter, she thrives as a Right-Hand Woman, Dream Carrier and Dream Project Manager for Entrepreneurs, Ministry Leaders and Couples dealing with Infertility. Find out how Tiffany can help you love your life, live your dreams and leave a legacy at www.tiffanyjobaker.com and on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. Blog subscribers get instant access to her 17pg “Don’t Quit Survival Kit” full of soul-care, self-care and dream-care goodness to help you while you’re in the fight for your dreams. Click HERE to sign up.