If you've been wondering why my posts have slowed down (again) recently...where's why: we're moving! We're checking off #1 on my 2017 goals and moving across the state to Spokane, WA, the city where I grew up. When I left for college 10 years ago, I honestly didn't expect to move back. But a lot of things happened last year that caused me to open my heart to the idea (the main ones: having a baby, quitting my job, our rent going up, housing prices shooting through the roof in Seattle, and a persistent plumbing problem at our current place). Suddenly, Spokane felt right for our stage in life, and we found that it fit most of our criteria for a place to live. It's way more affordable than Seattle, there's beautiful nature nearby, we have lots of friends there--including friends with babies, and it's close to both of our families. The last piece of the puzzle was getting Ben a job, which I thought would be a challenge as Spokane's job market is almost entirely healthcare. But everything fell in place pretty quickly and Ben actually got the first job he interviewed for! Thank you, Lord. After that, things continued to align really quickly, which felt like confirmation that this is the right move for us. On the exact same day that Ben got his job offer, our landlord gave us permission to break our lease early (which he had been resistant to before). And all of our family was supportive of the idea--we'll actually be living with my parents for the first few months over there.
I'm really excited for this next chapter in our lives! We've spent the last couple weeks packing up all of our stuff, hanging out with our Seattle friends, spending time with Ben's family, and going to some of favorite spots one "last" time (actually, Ben's parents still live here so I'm sure we'll be back a lot).
With everything going on, I feel like blogging probably won't be a huge priority over the next month or so...which has been the theme of my life over the last year. I've been considering that, and how to let go of some of the guilt and pressure I put on myself to be a good mom, a good wife, a good friend, a good daughter, AND a good blogger. When I evaluate what makes me really happy, spending time with people definitely comes first. I still love blogging, so I want to keep it up...but it just isn't my top priority right now. And I'm realizing that I'm ok with that. I'm ok with not churning out tons of content. I haven't been doing a very good job of "keeping up" anyways. :)
So I'm going to try the "slow blogging" thing. Instead of trying to blog at least once or twice a week, I'm just going to post when I have something I really want to say--which might be once a week, once a month, who knows. In those posts, I want to try and share more of my thoughts and personal life, and make the posts more writing-heavy and less reliant on photos. Quality over quantity, you know?
As I'm adjusting to my new role as a mom, I'm realizing that those are the kind of posts I'm drawn to on other blogs. They're the ones that seem worth my time to read, and make me excited to write. They also feel more genuine to the stage of life that I'm in right now. I'm not hopping on every interior design trend, and I'm not buying a ton of stuff for our home...so trends and wish lists feel a little off. And I'd like to get a little more personal with you guys!
So anyways...I went off on a tangent. The point is...we're moving!!! Wish us luck, and if you're in Spokane, give us your suggestions for what to do over there! I'm super excited to rediscover the area. It's been over 10 years since I lived there, daaaang...
This post is sponsored by Mixbook.
Happy February! Valentine's Day is coming right up, so I wanted to share this quick and easy idea for a fun, oversized "card" that's not overly cheesy. Since V-Day comes so soon after the New Year, I thought it would be fun to celebrate all of my favorite dates, vacations, and everyday moments with Ben from the past year. I printed out some 5x5 photos on Mixbook, then taped them to the wall in a heart. And because I love games, I decided to quiz Ben and see how many of the photos he could recognize. It was a fun way to look back on an amazing year, and relive some of our memories.
All you need for this project is a blank wall, some tape, and a stack of photos. Mixbook prints square photos, which makes it super easy, but you could also cut rectangular pictures into squares.
I made a heart graphic with little squares representing each photo (46 squares total), and used it as a key to make sure I put the photos up in the right shape. Download the heart graphic here, if you'd like to use it.
It would also be fun to do this with photos from the beginning of your relationship til now...especially if you've been together for a long time!
It was so much fun creating this giant valentine to surprise Ben with. I originally planned to take the photos down after Valentine's Day and put them in an album, but it's kind of sweet to walk by everyday. Maybe the heart wall will stay for awhile longer!
I was sent some of these products to review. All opinions are my own.
A few months ago, I posted a list of my favorite baby products for newborns. I still stand by the recommendations on that list, but thought I'd add a few more products we've discovered as Ian has gotten older. He's now almost seven months! We've slowed down on buying baby stuff, so this list won't be quite as long as the first one, but I thought this might be helpful to some of you with babies around the same age.
1. Boppy pillow - I originally got the Boppy for nursing, but did you know it has lots of other uses? Lately, I've been placing it around Ian's waist to give him some support while sitting, since he's still rather wobbly. I also have a Bumbo, but the occupational therapist at the NICU told us that it's actually not good for babies' development since it locks them in a passive position. I still use ours occasionally because it's so dang convenient, but I try not to leave him in it for too long.
2. Books - I've been reading to Ian since the day we brought him home. It's fun to see him get more engaged and interested as he gets older! I also prop up open books for him to look at and reach for during tummy time. Our latest favorites are Shh! We Have a Plan, Where's the Giraffe? and of course the classic Guess How Much I Love You.
3. Toys - I read that the best toys for early development are ones that are open-ended and encourage your baby to explore and interact with them in lots of different ways; toys like blocks, stacking rings, balls, rattles, and shakers. Luckily, these are also the toys that tend to look prettier and annoy parents less (aka: not the plastic gizmo that lights up and makes a bunch of noise when the button gets pressed). Just make sure they don't have chokable pieces!
4. Stuffed animals - Ian is at a stage right now where he looooves stuffed animals. He especially loves chomping on their arms, legs, ears, and tags...haha. His current favorite is Pierre the bunny--it's so soft!
5. Teethers - We've tried a few different teethers, and so far Ian's favorites are the Comotomo (it's sort of finger-like) and the Oball Grip & Teethe keys. They're not the prettiest, most designer-y teethers out there, but they're both really inexpensive and he likes them, so win-win.
6. Baby gate - We made the conscious choice not to get an exersaucer, johnny jump up, or activity center because 1) we don't really want big, unattractive, plastic things in the house anyways and 2) the occupational therapist at the NICU did not recommend them...in fact, she said that they can actually delay baby's development (similar to the Bumbo). But we can't always be entertaining Ian. Sometimes, I need him to be playing by himself somewhere safe, so I can get dinner done or take a shower in peace. So we got a baby gate so we can block off a baby-proofed area for him to play in.
1. Food processor or blender - We've just started feeding Ian a little bit of solid food, and instead of buying canned baby food, we decided to make it ourselves by blending up fresh fruits and veggies. It's really simple, cheaper for us, and (I think) yummier for him. So if you don't already have a blender or food processor, here's your excuse to justify the purchase! We use a Vita-Mix and I love it, but there are lots of cheaper options that would work as well.
2. Boon GRASS & TWIG - Now that we have even more baby dishes, I finally got a dedicated drying rack for all of them. I really love this set by Boon, as it's super functional and also really cute. The "grass" is flexible blades that hold bottles, baby spoons, etc. and the "twig" tree is perfect for hanging bottle nipples and other small accessories.
3. Boon PULP - Another innovative product by Boon is this silicone mesh feeder. We found that Ian kept trying to grab the spoon when we were feeding him, so we thought we'd try this self-feeder out. It looks kind of like a popsicle with holes in it, so Ian can suck his own baby food out.
4. Bibs - Ian is a big-time drooler these days, plus babies eating solid food is a cute but very messy affair. So I got him a few bibs. So far, I've just been using the super-simple terry cloth ones as they're more comfortable for him and are easy for me to throw in the wash. But I've also heard people love the wipeable silicone ones that have a tray for catching food spills at the bottom.
5. Full coverage nursing cover - I originally got this for its function as a car seat cover (to keep the sun out of Ian's eyes)...but ended up loving it for nursing. The 360 degree coverage is super nice and it's a light, breathable, stretchy fabric.
1. Boon CARE - We got a baby first aid kit when Ian was born, including a bulb aspirator, nail clippers, and a thermometer...but Boon sent me this modern looking set so I figured I'd try it. Even though it includes a lot of repeat items, they're all a little more innovative (and better looking too). The nasal aspirator works by you sucking through a tube (instead of squeezing the bulb), which gives you more control and is easier to clean. The thermometer is a lot quicker than the one we had before--definitely a win with a squirmy baby. There's also a silicone toothbrush, cradle cap brush, nail clippers, and a medicine spoon. Basically, it's your baby's must-have toiletry kit!
2. Diapers & wipes - We tried several brands of diapers and wipes including Huggies, Pampers, and a few others. So far, our favorite for price and quality are Costco's. However, we don't have a Costco membership...so I was excited to find that you can purchase their "Kirkland Signature" brand on diapers.com without having to be a member!
3. Crane humidifier - Ian just had his first cold, and a humidifier really helped him to breathe easier. I like that this one has a cool mist so it won't burn you, turns itself off when the water tank is empty, and adds to the decor instead of being an eyesore. Beautiful products that function well are my absolute favorite.
3. Baby bathtub - Ian has outgrown his Puj tub, so it's time for us to find a new bathtub that'll work for the next stage. I've been loving all things by Boon (in case you can't tell from this post), so I'm thinking of trying out this collapsible baby tub. On the other hand, I could probably start bathing him in the regular bathtub soon, now that he's starting to sit up. It just kind of scares me a bit!
Hope these recommendations are helpful! And fellow mamas, I'd love to hear the products that made your life easier when your babies were 6-12 months. I know Ian has some exciting milestones ahead (crawling, walking, talking, etc.)
Tomorrow will be the six month anniversary of the day we brought Ian home from the NICU (read his birth story here)! I can still remember the day so vividly...the excitement, the nervousness, the sheer fear that we were going to mess something up. The day we brought him home will always be significant to me, because it was the first day I felt like he was really ours. I think every new parent feels kind of uncertain caring for a tiny helpless newborn, and when you're surrounded by professionals who are really quick and knowledgeable, it's kind of hard to build up your confidence. Not to mention the fact that simple diaper and onesie changes are even more difficult with a bunch of wires, and when you're in the NICU your baby is extra tiny and nerve-wracking to care for. Recently, a new mom reached out to me on Instagram for advice, as her baby was born at 33 weeks (same as Ian) and is spending some time in the same NICU as Ian did. As I was writing out a few things I remembered from our experience, I thought I should share them here as well, in case these tips can be helpful for other nervous moms (and dads).
1. This too shall pass - This is true for most stages of life & parenthood. Time marches on. So soak in the good stuff and be encouraged that the hard stuff won't last forever! Ian's time in the NICU already feels like a distant memory now.
2. Take pictures - I was kind of embarrassed to bring our big camera in, since there were more serious concerns than getting a cute picture of my newborn...so I never did. I kind of regret that. Still, we took tons of phone photos and I love to look back at them. It's awesome to see how much Ian has grown in seven short months! You may not think you'll want to remember this tough time, but it's really amazing to look back and see how far your baby has come.
3. Do skin-to-skin - Otherwise known as kangaroo care, start doing skin-to-skin time with your baby as soon as you can. It has all kinds of health benefits for your baby and you, and will really help with bonding. The first time I held Ian, I was terrified...but feeling his squirming body relax the instant our skin touched made me feel like a mom for the first time. It was my favorite part of every day in the NICU!
4. Pump it up - While pumping sucks (literally and figuratively), it's sooo important to provide your baby with your own breastmilk if you can. Did you know, if your baby is born early, your body knows that and makes milk with exactly the nutrients that he/she needs for that stage of life/development? So if your baby is born at 33 weeks, your milk will be different than full-term milk. Isn't that amazing?? Plus, breast milk has antibodies to protect your baby from disease and is easier for their little digestive system to handle. I also found that pumping helped me feel like I was actively doing something for my baby that no one else could do, during a time when it sometimes felt like my role as a mom was overshadowed by the medical team.
5. Get a hands-free pumping bra - Speaking of pumping, do yourself a favor and get a hands-free bra right away. It is a game-changer to be able to read, eat, text, and just generally feel like a human being while you're pumping. I used & recommend this one.
6. Eat & stay hydrated - Sounds basic, but when you're going back and forth from the hospital and trying to make your baby's care times/doctor's rounds, etc., sometimes it can be hard to fit in meals. BUT with all that pumping, your body needs the calories and hydration even more than usual. So bring a big water bottle and some healthy snacks with you, and make it a priority to eat real meals.
7. Accept help from other people - Ben and I are both kind of awkward about accepting help. It's our tendency to say, "we're fine!" and try to take care of everything ourselves. But we had some friends and family that insisted on bringing us care packages and Starbucks gift cards, taking us out to dinner, cooking us meals, and helping us with practical stuff around the house. That was so helpful and cherishing, and really allowed us to focus on Ian.
8. Take advantage of the services offered - In addition to your personal support network, there's an entire staff of professionals in the NICU that are there are help and support you. Take advantage of that! At our NICU, the social workers helped us get free parking passes which really helped financially, the lactation consultants taught me how to pump and how to breastfeed, and the nurses showed us how to give Ian baths, take his temperature, feed him bottles, burp him, change his diapers and onesies, and more. It's actually pretty cool to have experts personally educating you on how to care for your infant...ask questions and learn as much as you can!
9. Give yourself time away from the NICU - I felt a little bit guilty whenever I wasn't at the hospital, but it's super important to take some "me time" and spend time with your partner to recharge and feel like yourself again. Don't spend every waking moment in the NICU...allow yourself to do some things that you enjoy. Go for a walk, take a relaxing bath, go out to a nice dinner. Think of it this way--this is the last time you'll have a free, highly trained, round-the-clock team of "babysitters." So go on a date, and take some time to recover from the delivery.
10. It's okay to feel sad - Not only is it okay to cry, it's good for you. Allow yourself to grieve for what you missed...the "normal" delivery you expected, the baby shower you never had, the ability to bring your baby home right away. Find someone to talk to, whether that's your spouse, your mom, a friend, a fellow NICU parent, or a counselor at the hospital.
Sending hugs and love to any parents with babies currently in the NICU! Hope you get to bring your sweeties home soon. And before you know it, they'll be seven months old and sitting up and you'll be like, "whoa, where did the time go?!"