Brecken Lately

Unfortunately, life got the best of me, so I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks. Eek! Seeing as Brecken is a whopping six months old (and some change) now, and I get a lot of questions regarding different things we are working on, I thought I would share some general updates on how things have been going with him lately.

Six Month Stats:

17 lbs. 6 oz. // 27″

Sleep

Now, please don’t hate me for saying this, but Brecken has always been an excellent sleeper. Since his first nights home, he has never woken up more than twice to eat. I think I only had one truly bad night during which he woke up a few times and then was up for the day around 6:30am. I actually overslept during most of my leave because he would sleep until between 9-10am! At ten weeks old, he was sleeping through the night. We never even experienced the dreaded four-month-old sleep regression (phew!). He is still sleeping through the night, which we continue to be very grateful for. Even on vacation, his schedule stayed the same. If I knew the secret, I would gladly share, but I think it’s a combination of him and us. I can say that we always “fill up his tank” before we go to bed, even if that means we wake him for a dream feed between 9-10pm.

Eating

We started purées around 4.5 months. We did them for a couple of weeks, and Brecken did well. Then, he got sick again. (Ugh! One of the downsides of daycare.) We were more worried about getting him well again, so the purées fell to the wayside. Then, after he got better a few weeks later, we noticed he was grabbing and very interested in our food and drinks. I did some reading up on baby led weaning and decided to focus our efforts on an approach more along those lines instead. Basically, we give him various “table” foods and let him take the lead on feeding himself. Let me be clear and say that he’s not truly eating much at this point. He is great at grabbing and bringing things to his mouth, but he has a ways to go in terms of learning how to swallow solids. He gags when the food hits the back of his throat, which is common while babies are learning to swallow more. It’s scary as a parent to see your baby gag like this. I watch his every move while he eats, and I’m not allowing anyone else to feed him solids yet (i.e., daycare or grandmas). Correction: He does have fruits and veggies at my moms, but only in a mesh feeder. (Those mesh feeders are great, by the way! You can check them out here and here.) He has been doing well with all kinds of foods! Among other things, he enjoys carrots, green beans, apples, bananas, scrambled eggs, peanut butter (yes, we’ve been giving it to him since five months, but that’s a topic for another day), etc. Our pediatrician said we can basically give him any table food (cut to an appropriate size), except for honey. We still have to get more comfortable with all of this, especially the swallowing part, so we aren’t going too crazy just yet.

Oh, and he has two teeth that have now broken through his gums! His bottom two teeth came out of nowhere, it seems. This past Saturday, he was sucking on his bottom lip a lot, so I happened to check and there was a little tooth poking through! The second one broke through a few days later. He hasn’t been acting any different lately, so I was quite surprised. Of course, he has been putting everything in his mouth and drooling more the past couple of months, but I still thought it would be a while longer. This is exciting for us! You can hear his little teeth scraping against his apple slices as he gnaws on them. It’s so cute.

In other news, I am SO happy with our Stokke Tripp Trapp high chair. It looks modern and chic while still being super easy to clean and ergonomic. Plus, Brecken will be able to use it for years to come because it transitions into a regular chair as the child gets older. (Even adults can sit in it!). It is 100% worth the investment, in my opinion, just make sure you get the full set with the baby seat and tray.

Physical Development

Brecken started rolling front to back consistently just before four months, but he still doesn’t roll back to front. He’s sooooo close, though! Around five months, he started sitting up a little more, but he was leaning heavily on his arms (“a supported sitter”). After a couple more weeks, he was sitting up and relying less on his arms. Now, he sits up independently for long periods of time without leaning forward at all. It’s just crazy how quickly things change when they are this little!

He’s also working on crawling right now. He pushes himself all the way up on his arms, and he has the leg movements down. Now, he just needs to figure out how to combine them and become mobile. We practice by doing tummy time and putting a fun toy (usually with noise and/or lights) about a foot or so in front of him. We encourage him to try to get it himself. He certainly makes a valiant effort. The other night, he actually managed to move a few inches forward all by himself!

He still loves standing, too. We went from holding him up to stand in the early months to him standing up on our own and using our hands as support. He moves his feet forward, too, but he definitely does not have the balance to begin walking yet. I’m sure that will be here before we know it, though.

I almost forgot… He also reaches his arms out to be picked up now. Swoon!

Play

I think it goes without saying that he loves anything that lights up and/or has sound at this point.

He also LOVES his Finding Nemo Jumper, which we got from Target. It’s so much fun for him. He just stands and jumps away in there. He is also at a point where he plays with all of the toys on it, too. (Bonus: We just love Disney!)

Can bath time be considered play time? Sure can! (If your baby likes baths, of course.) Brecken has so much fun taking baths. We recently got him this seat for the tub, and it works great. He loves playing with all of his bath toys, like these Sea Buddies and his bath books, and splashing around. This seat lets him do that without us worrying about him getting hurt. It doesn’t move at all in the tub. He outgrew this bath seat, but it worked very well up until him getting too big for it. I highly recommend both, depending on your baby’s age and size.

Lately, he’s been playing with these blocks. The first thing he does is grab the container and empty it! (Again, so cute.) We then have him pick up different blocks or take them from us. We do this kind of quickly so he can work on hand-eye coordination. As I mentioned above, he is really good at grabbing and bringing things to his mouth.

Have you heard of Slumberkins?! If not, you should totally check out their website. They are the softest, sweetest, cutest stuffed animals, but they also help teach about things such as coping with change, mindfulness and self-esteem. Adorable stuffed animals with intention?! Yes, please! We have almost all of them (whoops!) because I just couldn’t resist. Brecken loves cuddling with them. It’s still a small company, so they often have limited edition options and items do sell out, so always grab one you want when you see it.

I’m actually giving away a (sold out!) limited edition Sleepy Peep!

Head over to my Instagram page (@managingasmom) to enter!

(Contest ends at 12pm CT on 3/17/17. This giveaway is not sponsored or endorsed by Slumberkins or Instagram.)

Daycare

We decided on daycare as our primary means of childcare. This could, and likely will be, a topic that I will go into more detail on later, but, overall, it is going very well. I am really happy with the daycare itself. Brecken’s teachers are all so sweet and caring. They are always raving about Brecken and what a great baby he is. (Hearing that really makes this mama’s heart explode!) We have a pretty nice routine going on. Matt wakes Brecken to feed and change him (clothes and diaper) around 6am before he leaves for work. Then, Brecken goes back to bed until I am ready to get him around 7:15am. Brecken always used to sleep during that time. Now, it’s 50/50 between him sleeping or him talking quietly to himself. I have never (not yet, at least) woken up to him screaming or crying, thankfully. If I hear him talking to himself when I wake up, I will grab him and bring him in our room where he’ll lay on our bed while I get ready. I drop him off at daycare about ten minutes from our house and then I head to the train. Between my mom and Matt’s mom, he is picked up early 3-4 days a week. One day of the week he is picked up between 11am-12pm. The other days he’s picked up between 3-4pm. It been working out really well this way, and the grandmas love their special time with him. He even gets dropped off at our house sometimes, which is not necessary, but much appreciated. They are such a huge help to us, and we are so very fortunate to live within ten minutes of both sets of our parents (which was a big reason for us to stay in the area when we bought our house, aside from loving our town anyways).

The biggest and perhaps most well-known downside of daycare is, of course, the germs. We are getting through them, though, and will all *hopefully* have even stronger immune systems as time goes on. So far, he’s been sick twice. I’m hoping that being on the verge of spring means that the worst of it is over.

Overall, Brecken is still one happy baby… unless he is hangry or overtired (which he definitely gets from me, ha!). We look forward to watching him continue to develop and grow right before our eyes. We are especially excited for our next vacation coming up in about a month. This time we’ll be having some fun in the sun, and we can’t wait to get him into a pool since he loves bath time so much!

“what I wish I knew at the beginning of my infertility journey”

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I make no secret of the fact that we struggled with infertility. I think it’s safe to say that based on certain factors, at least for the time being, we still struggle with infertility. I’ve mentioned before that our son, Brecken, is the result of IVF. We tried three medicated cycles, three medicated IUIs (intrauterine insemination) and, finally, IVF with a fresh transfer of two embryos. One of those embryos stuck and grew into our sweet baby boy. We are so very fortunate to have had success with our first round of IVF, as so many others are not so lucky, but going through failed cycle after failed cycle made for a very emotional and stressful time in our lives. There were and still are many “what ifs,” as we don’t know what the future holds for our family. Unless you have dealt with infertility – YOU, not a close friend or family member, not someone you work with, not your neighborhood barista – you cannot understand what it’s like. Period.

When you first get started it can be very overwhelming. I went from knowing nothing beyond setting up an appointment with a reproductive endocrinologist (“RE” aka infertility specialist) to being consumed with researching what the road ahead may look like for us and trying to find various support and informational outlets. Thankfully, I found an incredible infertility community – on Instagram of all places! – very early on. It was and still is such a great place to ask questions, share my own journey and follow others, express emotions and so much more. I have since found a few others along the way, too. (If you are struggling with infertility, I highly recommend getting involved in a community so that, at the very least, you don’t feel alone.)

I was recently reflecting on my experience, as I often do, and thought it would be nice to put together a small collection of thoughts from other women in the community. I encouraged any and all answers, from the broad to the specific, the good and the bad. I have shared the answers below (some comments have been edited for clarity). The question:

“What do you wish you knew at the beginning of your infertility journey?”

“I wish I knew that eventually my dreams would come true so that each negative test didn’t hurt so much, but we can’t predict that.”

“I wish I’d gone to an RE sooner. We spent a year trying Clomid with my OBGYN. I would do anything to go back in time and move straight to an RE for a proper diagnosis and treatments.”

“I went into it thinking I would only have my doctors and nurses to talk to, but I’ve found amazing support groups that have helped me, too. The journey is hard, but it’s so much easier knowing you aren’t alone.”

“Not everyone will understand, accept or support what you are going through and that this is okay. I thought there would be an outpouring of support from all angles. The reality is that not everyone is gonna get it or understand infertility.”

“You have to be your own advocate. If something doesn’t feel right, ask questions. Keep asking until you are comfortable.”

“I didn’t realize how many people in my life have been or are on their own infertility journey until I made our IVF pregnancy public.”

“How much time it takes! I wasn’t prepared for all the appointments, lab tests, ultrasounds, etc.”

“Some people said I was young and worrying too much. They said we had plenty of time, and I needed to relax and it would happen. I actually started believing them. We suffered heartbreak after heartbreak, yet I kept putting off IVF. Never think that it’s too early to seek help. Trust your gut.”

“Find groups/communities for support early on.”

“I wish I knew that I would be strong enough to get through it and beat this awful disease.”

“The emotional exhaustion impacts you physically. I had never felt so tired and worn out from the mental roller coaster I was on. Also, it changes you as a person. It changes how you look at people who haven’t struggled, how you look at pregnant women, children, families, etc. Even though I’m blessed to be pregnant now, I still struggle when thinking about our journey compared to others.”

“Taking multiple pills/suppositories/shots a day isn’t fun, but it’s not forever.”

“I wish I knew that it was better to not share our struggles with so many people. Every time an IUI or IVF cycle failed or was canceled, I had to disappoint so many people. I also wish I knew there was more extensive testing that could be done on me. I kept asking for autoimmune tests, and I was getting them, but they were very basic. When I switched to a doctor that did more extensive testing through blood work and did a biopsy test, I finally got some answers. I feel like we wasted so much time, money and embryos leading up to that point.”

“I didn’t know how much really goes into treatment. It’s so much more than just a few pricks from needles and doctor appointments.”

“It’s not necessarily an immediate fix. It took a lot for me to come to terms with having to do IVF (the expense, the shots, the loss of getting pregnant on my own). I thought that would be the hardest part (thinking I’d have to ‘buy my baby’) when the reality was it was just the start. There’s no guarantee treatments will work. I was not prepared for the long battle of multiple failed cycles.”

“Google is the enemy. Every journey is so different, and so much that I had read online made me more nervous about our journey than I needed to be. I only had five eggs retrieved; I wanted to cancel. My RE assured me that everything looked perfect, but I was so nervous because I heard so many stories of 18-20 eggs being retrieved. Now, I know that my journey is so different than anyone else’s.”

“I didn’t realize how frustrated my partner would be because he feels so helpless at times.”

“It spills over into every aspect of your life. Relationships change, your time is spent differently, money is looked at differently. Diets are changed, the way you approach problems and handle stress is different. Literally everything changes. At least for me it did.”

“IVF isn’t as scary as it seems. Don’t let fear hold you back from moving forward with a treatment plan.”

“The end goal isn’t to be pregnant. It is to become a mother.”

“Learn as much as you can, like what your insurance will or will not cover, how your body works (or should work), what different meds are used for. Infertility even has its own language! Get your partner involved in the research, too.”

“I think I should have looked into more help emotionally. Many women endure infertility hardships and suffer in silence. I was very vocal about my struggle, but I neglected my own emotional health in the process. Make time for you. Meditate, journal, seek therapy. I ended up depressed during the process. I spent a lot of my time home in bed isolated. I wouldn’t socialize anymore. The physical, emotional and financial strain of it all can be overwhelming even for the strongest of women. Find a support group with women who are going through exactly what you are. Skip telling others who haven’t been through it. I’m all for being an advocate for infertility, but, in my opinion, sharing my struggle with my family and close friends was pointless because they couldn’t grasp my grief. At times, their comments were painful and insulting. It was the last thing I needed.”

“I wish I knew just how emotionally taxing it would be.”

“My journey is so different than everyone else’s. Be careful when comparing your results to someone else’s.”

“Holding your baby in your arms is worth every pain, tear in your eye, heartache, injection, dollar spent, early morning monitoring appointment and whatever else you endured on this seemingly uphill battle.”

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Family Movie Night Treats

One of the biggest nights in Hollywood is around the corner on Sunday, March 4th, so I felt inspired to have a family movie night to gear up for the event! Tonight, we are watching Coco, which is nominated for Best Animated Feature Film.

Brecken is too young to follow along – or indulge in tasty movie snacks, so more for me! – but, of course, we are still including him. In honor of our movie night, I thought I would share some yummy recipes with you. I’m also sharing some must-have items from Wayfair to help make the most of a fun night in with family.

Seasoned Pretzels

These simple snacks are always a huge hit! They are easy to make and addicting. It’s a great way to elevate store-bought pretzels by adding more flavor.

  • 1 bag of snack-sized pretzels
  • 1 packet of ranch dressing (dry)
  • 2 tbsp. lemon pepper
  • 2 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 3 tbsp. dill (dry)
  • 1 c. oil

Heat oven to 250*. Put pretzels in 9″ x 13″ cooking pan. Mix seasonings with oil and pour over pretzels. Stir pretzels and oil mixture until pretzels are coated. Cook for about thirty minutes or until oil is gone, stirring occasionally.

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Bacon Salt

Sprinkle this on your popcorn for added flavor! You can also use this savory seasoning in other ways, too, like as a Bloody Mary glass rimmer or when cooking meat.

  • 1 package of bacon
  • 1/2 c. salt (fine)
  • 1 tbsp. dill
  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 400*. Place bacon on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet lined with foil. (This helps to cook the bacon evenly and get it crispier!) Cook bacon in oven until cooked through, about thirty minutes. Put everything in a food processor and pulse until blended. (If you don’t have a food processor, you can crumble the bacon until pieces are small and mix everything together.) Store refrigerated for up to three weeks.

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Strawberry Lime Moscow Mule

  • 1.5 oz. vodka
  • 4 oz. ginger beer
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 2 large strawberries, tops cut off

Muddle the strawberries and lime juice together. Add vodka and ginger beer. Finish with ice. Garnish with a strawberry and/or lime wedge.

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I made a kid-friendly Strawberry Limeade, too!

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Ice Cream Sundae Bar

I think this one is self-explanatory. Kids love activities that are hands-on, even better if they get a delicious treat at the end. Share in some fun by building your own ice cream sundaes!

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My Must-Have Items for Family Movie Night

popcorn machine

Orville Redenbacher’s Stirring Popper

popcorn bowl

Red Carpet Movie Night Popcorn Bowl

bowl

Dessert Bowl Set

throw blanket

Eisley Double Sided Faux Fur Throw Blanket

wool throw

Madeira Chunky Knit Merino Wool Throw

pillow

Atkins Faux Fur Euro Pillow

tray

Anemone Poplar Finish Tray

mug

Moscow Mule 16 oz. Hammered Mug

juice cup

Farm Kids Juice Cup Set

  1. Popcorn Maker – No movie night would be complete without popcorn! We used to have a popcorn maker just like this one, and we used it ALL the time. You can make healthier popcorn by adding as much oil and/or butter as you’d like. You can also buy flavor shakers from the grocery store. (I love adding white cheddar to my popcorn!) Popcorn pops quickly and evenly. I’m so glad I came across this one because it’s definitely going in my cart!
  2. Popcorn Bowls – Your kids will love these fun popcorn bowls! They will really help to make your family movie night seem official.
  3. Ice Cream Bowls – Did anyone else have these as a kid?! We did (in different colors) and my sister and I still remember them. What a cute way to snack on some ice cream sundaes during the movie.
  4. Cozy Faux Fur Blanket– I LOVE our faux fur throw blankets. They are so soft and perfect for getting cozy on the couch to watch a movie.
  5. Chunky Knit Blanket – Chunky knit blankets are all the rage right now. A well-made one is super soft and great for keeping warm.
  6. Over-sized Faux Fur Throw Pillows – Of course you need some soft, comfy pillows to prop yourself up against for optimal movie viewing.
  7. Serving Tray – Because you’re going to need some help carrying all the goodies from the kitchen. These serving trays are also great for use on a couch or ottoman, if you don’t have a coffee table.
  8. Moscow Mule Mugs – Moscow Mules are a refreshing and easy cocktail to make at home and enjoy during your movie. The traditional copper mugs used for this popular drink are just gorgeous. I need to get some for myself ASAP!
  9. Fun Cups for Kids – Kids need something fun to drink out of, too! These little juice cups are adorable.

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Now, get comfy and enjoy the show!

Traveling with Baby

We just returned from Brecken’s second official vacation but his first time on a plane! We went to Montreal for five nights and, despite he and I starting off quite under the weather, we had a great time walking around and eating lots of delicious food. Traveling with a baby definitely requires some adjusting, but it’s totally manageable and worth it. If you are like us and love to travel, don’t let having a baby hold you back! Some may seem like common sense, but here are my general tips and must-haves for traveling with a baby…

Must-Have:  Crib

Of course Baby needs somewhere safe to sleep! Many hotels have cribs available for use (sometimes for a small fee), but you should always call in advance to reserve one. I think that’s a great option to have, but being a bit of a germaphobe, the thought of using a random crib doesn’t sit very well with me. That paired with the fact that we travel quite a bit, a travel crib was a must for us. We opted for the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib and love it. Setup and take down takes three seconds, literally, and it folds up nicely into a secure bag that can be checked with your luggage. The Lotus Travel Crib is another great, very similar, option. Bring an extra sheet, too!

Travel Tip:  Make sure Baby feeds or has a pacifier during take-off and landing

This will help keep the eustachian tubes in the ears open during the changes in elevation. No one likes to have their ears plugged up! Feeding and pacifier use promote sucking and swallowing, which helps to “pop” the ears.

Must-Have: Travel drying rack and dish soap

It’s no secret that we formula feed, so we always need to have bottles available. We brought six total, which was plenty. We were able to wash them and keep them ready for use with the help of this drying rack which is intended for travel and even comes with brushes. I also filled with a small squeeze bottle with dish soap (always a free and clear brand!). These items were super easy to toss into a suitcase and keep in the bathroom of our hotel room. The drying rack is also great to use after washing pacifiers and small toys.

Travel Tip:  Stroller, Baby-Wear or Both?

Depending on what you’ll be doing on your trip, it may make more sense to use a stroller instead of baby-wear or vice versa. Think about your plans in advance to figure out what will work best and which option(s) you should bring. In our case, we did both comfortably. Brecken was able to stretch out more in our UPPAbaby Vista (we brought the bassinet with us, which he has almost outgrown… **brb crying**), so we used that a lot, but we also used our Tula carrier at the airport and on a day when we visited a more crowded area. We always brought the stroller to dinner because he slept in it so well, so it allowed us (and those around us) a bit of peace and quiet during our meal. (There was one dinner he didn’t sleep through and was a little feisty instead! More on that below.) As I mentioned, I wore Brecken in the airport, which made things very easy. It allowed us to have his stroller packed up in its travel bag and checked with our luggage, too. We didn’t have to deal with packing it up at the gate.

Side note:  Both the stroller and travel crib were free to check with our luggage. Most airlines allow a couple of baby items to be checked for free (e.g., stroller, car seat, travel  crib), but it’s best to check with the specific airline you will be flying with.

Must-Have:  Extras of everything! 

I think this goes without saying but bring extras! Clothes, burp cloths/bibs, pacifiers, diapers, wipes, little toys, etc.

Travel Tip:  Pack baby essentials in carry-on(s)

While we always hope that we see our luggage coming onto the conveyor belt when it’s time to pick it up at the baggage claim, we all know that there is always the slightest chance that it doesn’t show up. (Ugh!) We packed nearly all of Brecken’s things into a carry-on suitcase and our backpacks. We were in a major city on this trip, so we could’ve walked to a store if need be, but that’s not always an option, like when we visit the Caribbean or Mexico. It’s always better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.

Travel Tip/Must-Have: Check the weather forecast ahead of time and bring appropriate clothes

You want to make sure you are packing appropriately for you and Baby! It was cold in Montreal, about the same as home for us, so we were sure to pack plenty of layers for Brecken. We are so happy with our recent 7am Enfant purchases. We used the Doudoune bunting in the stroller and the Pookie Poncho over the Tula. The Pookie Poncho can also be used as a car seat cover and as a stroller seat cover. So, win-win-win! (Who doesn’t love a good multi-use item?!)

Travel Tip: Plan for breaks and try to stick to your normal routine as much as possible

For us, this meant returning to our hotel at least a couple of hours before dinner each night so that we could all relax and refresh. Brecken would stretch out, play for a bit, eat and take another nap during this time. That nap usually carried over into the stroller at dinner. Then, we’d go home after dinner and repeat. Put on jammies, play and stretch out a bit and feed him one last time before he went down for the night.

Travel Tip:  Explore accommodation options

We stay at hotels/resorts most often, but renting a place through a reputable site like VRBO is a great option, too. (We rented a cabin when we went to Gatlinburg in November, and we have used VRBO for other trips, too.) If you are staying in a hotel, make sure you check out the size of the room. Take time to find a hotel with larger standard rooms or, if necessary (and possible), upgrade to a slightly larger room category that will allow for the crib and your belongings to fit more comfortably. Also, take note of other amenities you may want or need in your room like a mini fridge or bathtub.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

I think what is perhaps most important is to be as flexible as possible and adjust accordingly. Even the best of babies, Brecken included, will have meltdowns, get fussy, need extra attention, get hungry earlier than expected, need to nap… you name it! It’s okay to have set plans for each day, but give yourself extra time to navigate through them and cut yourself some slack if you are in public when one of these meltdowns occurs. We were very fortunate that Brecken slept through all but one of our dinners. During the dinner he was awake, we were right on top of another table and he was really needing attention. We held him throughout the meal, switching off between Matt and myself. While he didn’t have a full-blown meltdown, he was definitely fussy on and off. (At one point, he was all smiles, grabbing my cheeks and smashing his face into mine. That part was pretty cute.) I was so worried about disturbing everyone else’s dinner. In retrospect, Brecken was just acting as normal babies do, but it sure seems like all eyes are on you when this happens. (They weren’t, though. It was just my own worrying.) This is another situation that will get easier to deal with in time. It’s also why I highly encourage people to get out with their babies from early on. It helps you learn how to handle certain situations better outside of the comfort of your own home and it helps Baby get used to noises and being in different environments. It seemed stressful at the time, but looking back, it wasn’t really that big of a deal. Adapt and adjust.

Making Memories During Pregnancy

Though it may seem like the longest nine months ever, I think many women look back after the fact and realize their pregnancy actually went by pretty quickly. I suppose that also depends on how great or not-so-great your pregnancy was, too. Let’s face it, some of us are fortunate to have wonderful pregnancies and others spend countless days sick, swollen and even on bed rest or in the hospital. I imagine the majority have a combination of the two, good and bad.

Regardless of how you may feel or have felt during your pregnancy, I think one thing we can agree on is that growing a baby (or babies) inside of you from microscopic embryo to the newborn you will hold in your arms on the day he or she arrives is pretty damn incredible. I mean, wow. I still randomly look at Brecken and think, “I grew him inside of me?!” I’m sure I’ll do that for the rest of his life, too. There’s no denying that women are impressive beings anyways, but this level of badassery should definitely be recognized. I truly hope for all women to be able to celebrate and find joy during this pretty amazing time (at least as much as possible between the early trips to the toilet).

I also want to add that as a member of the infertility community, I know firsthand that for those of us who have struggled to conceive, this time means even more. We are forever grateful to be pregnant because some of us didn’t know if it would ever be possible. We try to push through even the worst of days with a smile on our faces because we know so many women who haven’t even had this opportunity yet and others that, sadly, never will. I don’t share this to suggest that women who conceive without any struggles should feel any less, rather that we should all take some time to recognize just how lucky we are to be able to expand our hearts and families this way. In honor of all of us making the most of pregnancy, I thought I would share a little list of ideas to remember and celebrate the good, the bad and the ugly.

Take Weekly Bump Photos

These don’t have to be professional, by any means. Instead, they should be quick and easy. I love the app “Baby Story” to add artwork, like weekly fruit size, to your pictures. Trust me when I say that looking back you will be glad you have these. It’s crazy to see how your stomach grew with each week that passed. I still like looking back at my pictures because it wasn’t long after delivering that I seemed to forget what being pregnant even felt like (so weird!).

Invest in Professional Maternity Photos

If you have it in your budget to invest in some professional photos, I highly recommend it. Depending on where you live, a quick session with a professional photographer should be about $250-$500 and include the digital files. We actually had professional announcement photos taken during a vacation in Park City, UT instead of maternity photos. I had planned to do both, but my hospital stay and surgery ate up weeks 34 & 35, and after that life just felt like a whirlwind with multiple doctors appointments a week and getting ready for Brecken. (This is another reason why I’m glad I at least have my weekly bump photos!) Even if you don’t want to pay for professional photos, use this as an excuse to buy a cute dress, get dolled up and have a friend or family member take some photos of you somewhere local. A great time to take maternity photos is around 36w.

Have a Baby Shower/Baby Sprinkle/Gender Reveal/BabyQ/etc.

This is probably a given, but there are so many ways to celebrate with a get-together, big or small. You don’t have to throw a party asking for gifts either; I know for some people that’s really not their intention behind having a celebration to begin with. It can simply be your close friends and family coming together to share their love for the little baby that will be joining you soon.

Treat Yourself

Don’t be afraid to pamper yourself a bit. Get a prenatal massage or two, get your nails done, buy some cute maternity outfits… whatever makes you happy! You’re growing a human, remember?!

Go to a Nice Dinner with your Partner

Admittedly, Matt and I do go out to eat a lot, but we made it a point to go out for two “special” dinners in the days leading up to the induction. We went out for hibachi (yum!!!) and a nice steak dinner (double yum!!!). It was just our little way of celebrating our last few nights before our duo turned into a trio.

Go on a Babymoon

Of course, this also depends on your budget, but whether big or small, it’s great to take some time away with just you and your partner before your lives truly change forever. Relax, reflect, laugh, indulge. We took a long trip to Paris, but a night at a nearby hotel works just as well! You could even plan a weekend of staying in together with no plans at all. You could make it extra special by picking up ingredients to make your favorite meals, grab your favorite desserts and snacks, watch some movies you’ve been wanting to see, play some board games, etc. Sometimes we take each other’s company for granted, so it’s nice to simply take time to be together.

A Final Note:  Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

I know it’s easier said than done, but your baby will be perfectly fine as long as you have the essentials. I wanted every little thing to be perfect before Brecken came, and, while I did the best I could, some projects just weren’t finished and the house wasn’t as spotless as I had hoped. Guess what?! He was none the wiser while he snuggled away in my arms. It will all get done… someday. That day just may not be today, and that’s okay. I’m continuously working on this myself because it’s a struggle, but I’ve gotten much better about letting go of the things that don’t really matter in life.

Beef Jerky for Beginners!

Matt and I love making beef jerky. It’s an especially great snack for our weekend getaways, both for the car ride and while we are away. We’ve been making it for years together, but he was actually making it long before we even met (and that was nearly nine years ago)! It is a little time consuming to make one batch start to finish, but it’s totally worth it. It’s even better if you can prep for two batches at once (three if you are feeling really ambitious!). I’m really happy with a new recipe we tried, so I wanted to share that, too.

First, it’s best if you have a food dehydrator. That is the one that we have (just the newer model), and it’s held up for 10+ years at this point… seriously. Zero issues. They are actually not too expensive, and you can use it for more than just jerky (e.g., fruits, herbs, etc,). It’s definitely a great buy.

Next, you’ll need the meat. You want to get roasts with a minimal amount of marbling (fat). Lean cuts of meat are key. We usually stick to Eye of Round, Top Round and Bottom Round cuts. I highly recommend grabbing some from Costco if you are a member, but you can find these cuts at any grocery store. The first thing we do is put the meat in the freezer. The beef is much easier to cut if it’s about halfway frozen. You want the meat hard but still able to be cut through without straining yourself too much (or breaking your knife!). When the meat it ready to be cut, you want it slice it into large pieces about an eighth of an inch thick (1/8″).

Once your jerky is cut, it’s time to marinate it! There are SO many great jerky marinade recipes. Here’s a few we use, including a new one we tried for the first time. Note that all of these are based on marinating about three pounds of meat and the longer you marinate the meat, the stronger the flavor. Sometimes we only let it sit for a few hours and sometimes overnight. It just depends on our schedule.

Recipe #1 (Sweet & Spicy)

  • One bottle of Soyaki sauce (Trader Joe’s has a great one)
  • 1 – 2 tbsp. of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp. kosher salt

Mix, coat meat and let sit in the refrigerator. This is one of our favorites and is a frequent go-to.

Recipe #2 (Smoky & Savory)

  • 1/2 c. Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/4 c. Soy Sauce (low sodium)
  • 1/4 c. Liquid Smoke (typically found near BBQ and hot sauces at the grocery store)
  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp. onion powder
  • 1 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 – 2 tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional, if you like some heat)

Mix, coat meat and let sit in the refrigerator. We love using liquid smoke in our jerky recipes. It adds such great flavor!

Recipe #3 – NEW!

  • 2 cans of Dr. Pepper
  • 1 jalapeño sliced (2 jalapeños if you really like heat!)
  • 2 tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp. onion powder
  • 1 tbsp. black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. of kosher salt

Mix ingredients in a pan over medium heat. Simmer and reduce for about twenty minutes. Pour over and coat meat. Let sit in the refrigerator. We just tried this recipe for the first time, and we are really happy with it! It’s another great sweet and spicy one.

When you are ready, lay your jerky out on the trays without overlapping. You want to leave some room for air to circulate throughout the dehydrator, so don’t squeeze in too many pieces too closely together. Put your dehydrator on high and let cook. If you cut your jerky about 1/8″ thick, I would start checking it after about four hours. If you like your jerky dryer, like me, leave it in longer. We usually leave our jerky in for about four hours and then let it sit in the dehydrate (off) overnight. It will continue to dry out a bit more. Of course, cooking times will vary based on how thick the meat is cut, how much is laid out on the trays and your texture preference. It’s best to keep checking as, after a certain point, it’s easy to dry out the meat too much.

Now, eat and enjoy!!

Snow Day!

Winter Storm Mateo is giving us a big heaping of snow here in Chicago! Mommy, Daddy and Brecken had a snow day today. How awesome that it’s Friday, too! I had lofty goals to do some serious house cleaning, but, as usual, that definitely didn’t happen. Whoops. Instead, we spent time together. (I did at least do the pile of dishes in the sink.) Even though it has already snowed this season, though nothing like this, this was Brecken’s first time really being out in the snow. We decided to test out his new bunting that we got for our upcoming trip to Montreal. It’s the 7AM Enfant Doudoune. It’s water-repellent, temperature rated to -4*F / -20*C and the bottom half can be snapped into either a sleeping bag style or two legs. It also has a little built-in scarf! It’s so cute and cozy.

What a great day! I look forward to an evening by the fire and some take out for dinner.

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mamaRoo, We Love You!

The mamaRoo is one product that I see moms asking about all the time. To be honest, I see mixed reviews. It’s not a product issue, though, because it’s an excellent product, in my opinion. It’s a usage issue. It’s a love it or hate it thing, at least from the baby’s perspective. Well, I’m here to tell you that we LOVE our mamaRoo, and we are still using it at five months old!

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My sister, Michelle, actually gave us the mamaRoo as a gift for our baby shower. (So generous!) This super high-tech swing offers five different swinging motions, including “car ride” and “tree swing.” You can further customize the movement with five different speed settings. The mamaRoo also plays four different sounds, like a fan or ocean, or you can connect your own device via AUX and play whatever your heart desires. (I highly recommend checking out the Rockabye Baby! albums. They turn modern-day music into lullabies.) Guess what?! You can control all of the setting from your phone via bluetooth! I bet you are thinking, “Why would I need to do anything from my phone?!” I thought the same thing until I picked up a fussy Brecken from the mamaRoo, walked away forgetting to turn it off and sat down on the couch to calm him down. Bingo!!! I used my phone to turn it off, so that I didn’t have to disturb my now peaceful baby.

The biggest reason I see moms not recommend the mamaRoo is because their baby just didn’t like it, which is totally understandable. All babies are different, and, naturally, some do better with certain things over others. In our case, Brecken LOVES this thing. We started putting him in it right away, though we didn’t actually turn it on until a little later. Did that help form a lasting love? Maybe. I’m sure it didn’t hurt. He has fallen asleep swinging more times than I can count. The mamaRoo has really been a go-to for us on a daily basis. If we knew he needed a nap but he was fighting it, a few minutes of swinging would easily knock him out for a long snooze. As I mentioned, we still put Brecken in the mamaRoo and he’s five months old! The movement helps him to fall asleep if he’s resisting the urge. I’m actually getting sad because I know he’ll be outgrowing it soon.

The bottom line:  I highly recommend getting this and using it from the very beginning. Be sure to get the infant insert, too. If you are worried about your baby enjoying it, just save the box until you know for sure.

Grab your mamaRoo here! Bonus… there’s a $20 off coupon right now and free (fast!) shipping with Amazon Prime!

Makeup Tips for Moms on the Go!

I love makeup! I wear it nearly every day (unless I’m playing the role of couch potato), and, admittedly, I have so many products that I’ve lost count and only wear some of them once in a great while. I do, however, wear the same few staples every time I put makeup on, such as foundation, concealer, powder, bronzer, etc. These days, I’m not going full glam as often as I used to, though I still enjoy when I have the opportunity to do so. Instead, I opt for a simple look Monday through Friday that takes me about 10-15 minutes to put on because, let’s face it, I love sleep and I sure as heck am not waking up any earlier just to do my makeup.

Because I am a self-proclaimed makeup pro (read: normal woman who just wears makeup often), I thought I would share four of my favorite “quick and easy” makeup tips to help make any mom look awake and ready to tackle the day, even if she only got four hours of sleep and is on her fifth cup of coffee (not that I would know what that’s like).

White Eyeliner

This is one of my favorite tricks, and more women should know about it! While black eyeliner makes eyes appear smaller and more narrow, white eyeliner has the opposite effect. Some white eyeliner along your waterline makes for instantly larger and more awake-looking eyes. Plus, it only takes seconds to put on!

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Apply Concealer in an Upside-down Triangle under Eyes

You’ve probably heard this one before, but it really does make a difference in lifting and lightening the area under your eyes. Not only will it help hide dark circles and bags, but it will also give the appearance of lifted cheekbones.

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Heat your Eyelash Curler in Hot Water

True story:  I do not use an eyelash curler without heating it up first. Ever. Think about it… when you are styling your hair with a curling iron or a straightening iron, how well would they work without heat? The same concept applies to your lash curler. You get a significantly better curl with a heated lash curler, and the fastest way to do this is by running it under hot water. Just be sure to do a quick wipe off of any water before using it, and ALWAYS check the temperature to make sure it’s not too hot. Eyes are very sensitive, and I don’t want you to burn yourself.

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Add a Pop of Color to your Lips

Even with the simplest of looks, adding a pop of color to your lips can make you look polished and put together. I certainly don’t wear color on my lips every day, but I do wear it often. I wear pinks, reds, and purples most frequently. Find a long-lasting lip color, and you’ll love wearing it even more! Some of my favorite lines are Colorstay Moisture Stain by Revlon, Melted by Too Faced and Matte Liquid Lipsticks by Kylie Cosmetics (yes, I know, but the products are actually awesome).

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Ta-Da!

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PS:  My robe is from PinkBlush. Get one here!

PPS:  In case you were wondering, I am not a model. I know, it was hard to tell. 😉

My Pregnancy Style

I was actually incredibly body confident during my pregnancy with Brecken, way more than I am when not pregnant. I felt great, inside and out. I stayed true to my “normal” style and found some really cute maternity clothes along the way. I was even able to wear some of my regular clothes, the loose fitting ones anyways, the entire pregnancy.

My favorite places for maternity clothes were PinkBlush, Destination Maternity, Old Navy and Target.

Here are some of my favorite pregnancy looks! I’ve made note of where most of the pieces came from, whether the store or the brand.

Top:  Old Navy // Sweater:  Target // Watch:  Nixon

Top:  Old Navy // Bomber Jacket:  Forever 21 // Jacket:  North Face // Jeans:  Destination Maternity // Shoes:  Jessica Simpson // Ring:  Kendra Scott

Top:  Old Navy // Jeans:  Destination Maternity // Shoes:  Sam Edelman // Necklace:  Bauble Bar

Top & Pants:  Destination Maternity // Sweater & Shoes:  Target

Top & Pants:  Destination Maternity // Sweater:  Target // Shoes:  Tory Burch

Top:  Destination Maternity // Shorts:  Old Navy // Earrings:  Loren Hope // Bracelets:  Kate Spade // Sunglasses:  Prada

Top & Pants:  Destination Maternity // Necklace:  Bauble Bar // Shoes:  Ted Baker

Dress:  PinkBlush // Shoes: Charles by Charles David

Top & Jeans:  Destination Maternity // Shoes:  Sole Society // Bracelet:  David Yurman // Lunch:  Chipotle (lol!)

Top & Jeans:  Destination Maternity // Necklace:  Bauble Bar // Shoes:  Old Navy

Dress:  Old Navy // Earrings:  Bauble Bar

Top & Jeans:  Destination Maternity // Sweater:  Target // Shoes:  Kate Spade // Necklace:  Kendra Scott // Earrings:  Bauble Bar

Dress: PinkBlush // Bracelets: Alex & Ani