Thursday, August 25, 2016

13 New Baby Must-Haves

I did so much research during my pregnancy trying to figure out the things I really needed for my newborn… and I still had a hard time deciding. Some things I wasn’t sure about I ended up loving, and some things I thought were must-haves have yet to be used. I've also found some small business brands I really love along the way. I figured there might be someone out there with similar questions, so I've compiled all my research and real-life experience into this post. 

These are my honest, thorough, and unsponsored opinions on my 13 must-haves for a new baby.  Prepare for information overload!

  1. Kekaroo Peanut Diaper Changing Pad – This changing pad is maybe my favorite baby item. Why do I love it so much? I LOVE that I can clean it with a wipe or a rag. I LOVE that it is nice and sturdy and I can move it around easily from room to room. I LOVE that it looks modern and has simple, clean design. I LOVE that it has room to grow. This changing pad is totally worth the splurge, and Ray hangs out on it all the time, not just during diaper changes.

  2. Boon Grass – If you are planning on pumping or using bottles at all, I highly recommend the Boon Grass (and twig) for drying purposes. I like having a totally separate space to let bottles and pump parts air dry, and the grass just makes me happy and looks so fun on my counter. P.S. I’ve tried a few and the Munchkin bottle brush is my favorite. The bristles aren’t too stiff, so it doesn’t spray everywhere when cleaning bottles.

  3. Board Books – Any will do, but I particularly love the BabyLit Book collection. In their words, “It’s a fashionable way to introduce your child to the world of classic literature.” They have a variety of color, number, shape, sound, etc. primers based on classic lit, and they brighten up our nursery! We also love their All Aboard! Series that hits on major cities and national parks. Some other favorites include: Goodnight, Gorilla, Little Pea, Big Red Barn, Jamberry, You Are My I Love You, Goodnight Moon, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, Alphaprints, and Dear Zoo. If you want any other book recommendations, give my mom a call. It’s never too early to start reading!

  4. Night Gowns – I really had no idea how many diapers I would be changing those first four weeks, and night gowns are nighttime diaper change’s saving grace! Who wants to deal with snaps at 3 AM? Not me! I have a few cute ones that I love (like this one from all snazzied up), but I ended up buying a few packs of the Gerber ones—their elastic isn’t too tight, they are nice and long, and I wouldn’t be too sad if Ray had a blow out while wearing one. These are on constant nighttime rotation.

  5. Marley’s Monsters Crinkle Paper – I adore this brand so I had to include them. They are all about ecofriendly solutions to many disposable products, but they also make these super cute little crinkle papers. It’s easy to throw in my diaper bag, and I can entertain Ray with it, just by setting it on top of him.

  6. Muslin Swaddles – These are basically the only blankets I use, and my two favorite brands are Little Unicorn and Modern Burlap. Both brands are bigger than the Aden and Anais ones I have, and they come in the most adorable prints. I like the muslin because it is light, which means it’s not too warm for South Florida life and Ray can get a kick out of kicking it off. We have around 15+ of these which I thought would be too many, but it’s the perfect amount. I can use it for a day, wipe up spit-up, drool, etc. throw it in the laundry, and have plenty more handy.

  7. Wildbird Ring Sling – Baby wearing really appealed to me during my pregnancy, and I debated for a long time between Wildbird and Solly Baby Wrap. Ultimately, I picked the ring sling because less fabric around me and baby seemed like it would be better for the climate I live in. It definitely took a few tries to figure it out, but now I love the sling and Ray sure seems to too. He slept soundly through two live theatre performances and multiple flights in it! I couldn’t have survived the airport without it.

  8. Augie and Lola Travel Changing Pad – Another brand that I love. This changing pad is the one I keep in my diaper bag. It’s a great size, it’s durable, it folds up nicely, and the fabric on the back just makes me happy. Seriously go check out all their cute fabric options. I also keep one of their wet bags in my diaper bag in case of emergency.

  9. Nursing Cover – This is a must! I have a Covered Goods cover and a Copper Pearl cover, and I love them both. (Covered Goods can be worn as a scarf, but Copper Pearl’s top opening is a little less wide… that’s the only difference I’ve noticed.) I love that they cover you in front and in back and stand firm against flailing baby arms so you can nurse worry-free. I’ve used them at restaurants, in the car, at church, at home, on the plane, in Yellowstone National Park… really anywhere. It does get a little warm when using it outside during summertime, but still worth it. I also LOVE using it as a car seat cover, especially when Ray was brand new. Having two is perfect.

  10. Tubby Todd Bath Soap and Lotion – During my pregnancy, I definitely became more aware of the less-than-great ingredients in some of the bath and beauty products I was using, so I turned to more natural brands. I figured if I did that for myself, I should for baby too! I was super excited to try the Tubby Todd brand, and it did not disappoint. It has a light, refreshing, happy scent, and every ingredient is 100% natural and extra gentle. We love bath time!

  11. Night Light – I’d highly recommend a night light of sorts for late night nursing sessions, especially in the first few weeks when you are still changing lots of diapers and getting baby’s latch figured out. I love our Munchkin Owl night light because it emits a very soft glow that’s perfect for seeing what’s going on, but doesn’t bother Ray or wake him up too much. It has a feature that shuts it off after 20 or so minutes which means one less thing you have to remember late at night. We also have two touch activated, battery-powered night lights that have come in handy.

  12. Freshly Picked Moccasins – I honestly didn’t think I’d get too much use out of these little mocs (their smallest size meant for newborns) because babies don’t really need shoes, but they have been worn on countless occasions! They stay on so much better than socks, they make me feel like Ray’s feet are warm and protected (from what… germs? who knows), and they are just too cute. Prepare to get so many compliments on these things. I know there are similar, cheaper mocs out there, but the quality of FP makes them worth the splurge. They are extremely well-made, easy to put on, and soft enough for little baby feet.

  13. Puj Baby Towel & Tub – Another great brand with solid products. If you plan on single-handedly bathing a slippery newborn, you should probably snag yourself a Puj Hug towel. It has interlocking silicone tabs that allow you to hook the towel around your neck so you can use both hands to pick up baby and get him in the towel. Hard to explain but totally ingenious. I purchased the Splash Gift set, and we have loved everything included. I even took the Puj Flyte tub with me to Montana, and it was perfect in our little cabin sink.

New Baby Gear Honorable Mentions

Below you’ll find more honest, thorough, and unsponsored opinions on several other items we use regularly. They may not be for everyone, but they work for us!

Newborn sized clothes & diapers – I wasn’t sure if I would need newborn size clothes or diapers because they just seem SO small, but I’m so glad I bought a few outfits. Ray wore them for the first 2-3 weeks, even though he was well past the 7lbs 17 in. limit that many tags suggested. The hospital stocked us with a few packages of newborn diapers, but I ended up needing to buy another box before our skinny-legged dude filled out a size one.

Shout – Two words: explosive poop. The bad news: it happens. The good news: most cute outfits can be saved with some stain remover.

First Aid Kit – Skip the cheap ones that are already put together for you. My friend (who happens to be a nurse) gave me a nice Tupperware box stocked with Motrin, gas relief drops, Bourdreaux Butt paste (great stuff), a thermometer (get one that can take baby’s temperature rectally), hand sanitizer, nail clippers, and more. It was a genius gift and is great to have on hand. P.S. If you are exclusively breastfeeding (EBF) there is a good chance your pediatrician will recommend that baby take Vitamin D drops, because they won’t be getting enough from your breastmilk and shouldn’t spend too much time in the sun.

Peepee Teepees -- Calling all boy moms! These things are equally adorable and hilarious, but they are definitely useful, if you remember to use them. 

Lucy Darling Baby Book – For a simple, adorable way to keep track of fun milestones without too much work… these are the way to go. If I’m taking 1000 pictures a month, I better use some somewhere!

Little Unicorn Diaper Bag – Great quality, lots of pockets, classy look, survived me dumping an entire water bottle into it in the airport security line at 4:30 AM while also carrying Ray and a backpack… this thing has my stamp of approval.

Backseat Mirror – Driving Ray alone by far stressed me out more than anything else in new motherhood. If you’re anything like me, get a backseat mirror. We have an Eddie Bauer one, and it was difficult to attach and get set up right, but it serves its purpose.

mamaRoo – We received our mamaRoo seat as a gift and we LOVE it.  In fact, Ray is sitting in his mamaRoo as I write this. It is so handy to have a secure place to put baby down for those times when you need both hands. Ray fallen asleep countless times to the soothing motion, and we use the white noise feature more often than I thought we would. Also, Ray is currently in love with the weird mobile attached to the chair and smiles at it more than anything else (including me). Is it a must-have? No. Do we love it and use it daily? Yes. The mamaRoo is perfect for our small, one-story space, however, if you want something you can easily move from room to room that is a bit more affordable, I’d recommend the Bjorn Bouncer, it gets the job done and conveniently folds up when you aren’t using it. 

Chicco Lullago Bassinet – We’ve had Ray sleep in this little bassinet in our room, and it’s a solid purchase. Great height, folds up easily, good quality, simple design, doesn’t take too much space. My only con would be the sheet is very particular to the two-piece mattress, isn’t sold separately, and is technically hand-wash only. I’ve thrown it in the wash a few times, but I’m too scared to dry it… a little inconvenient, but overall, great for the price.

Britax B Agile Travel System – I did WAY TOO MUCH research on car seats and strollers. Ask Andrew. Or Jenn (I made her go test strollers in Provo for me). I really wanted the Uppababy because I like pretty things, lots of storage, the bassinet attachment, and the seat that could face either direction. Then I moved on to the Nuna Mixx because it was also pretty, had lots of storage, and was a little less expensive. Then, I accepted the fact that we are in medical school, and we got a great deal on our Britax travel system at Target. It’s also the lightest stroller we looked at and by far the easiest to fold, and after loading the stroller into our trunk multiple times a day for two months, I realize weight + ease >>> pretty. We love our Britax travel system: car seat is super easy to install with the base and our stroller has gotten plenty of use for those debating if you need a stroller in those early months.

P.S. If you’re flying southwest, they sell a travel bag at the check-in counter for $15 that fit our car seat, base, and stroller.

Ergobaby 360 – So far we’ve only used this three times… but I do like the added support and the sun shade feature. Until baby weighs 14 pounds, you have to use an additional infant insert, which was kind of tricky to figure out and get Ray comfortable in. I know we will get lots of use out of it eventually, but for the first few months, our ring sling has done the trick.

Monitor & White Noise Machine – This was something I didn’t need for the first few months, but now that Ray has started taking longer naps in his crib, these two things have really come in handy.

Other obvious things you’ll need: clothes (duh! I liked having a variety of onesies/pants and one piece outfits), burp cloths (lots! lots!), diapers (we like pampers swaddlers), wipes, pacifiers (Ray only likes MAM brand), pacifier clips, baby brush, bibs, wash cloths, hats/sunhats, socks, the basics!

Things I don’t have and haven’t needed or do have and haven’t used: Diaper pail, wipes warmer, changing table, more than one bottle (we got a free Munchkin Latch bottle by registering at Target), bottle warmer, nursing pillow, miracle blanket/special swaddler, receiving blankets, humidifier, nose frieda (I’ve heard such great things but just haven’t needed it yet!)

That's a wrap. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask. I'm not joking when I say I did too much research on almost every baby product out there, and I'm an open book. Like what you see? Feel free to pin or share the image below! Stay tuned for my New Mama Must-Haves if you want another round of way too much information.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

pregnancy love letters

To my baby:

From the moment we found out that you were a little peanut growing inside of me, we were both just thrilled. We had felt that it was about time to get our family started, and then, there you were. I almost couldn’t believe it at first, but your dad was so happy and so ready for you to be here already.

We kept you a secret for a good long while. We wanted to tell our families of your upcoming arrival in person, and I must say, I’m so glad we did. The reactions were priceless, and I can’t wait to tell you the story someday.

I’ll never forget the appointment when the doctor asked, “Do you want to know the gender?” We said yes, and right as she pulled up the ultrasound she said “Oh, look at that!” but then you moved (of course… you always love to make it difficult to get a good picture). I hadn’t seen anything, but the giant smile on your dad’s face made it pretty clear. He knew you were a boy all along, and when we got the confirmation, I noticed he was wearing a blue shirt, blue shorts… even blue socks!

You have been so easy to carry. You kept things pretty calm until about nineteen weeks when I felt your first little flutter of movement. A perfect moment. I was lying on the couch at the home where I grew up in California, and I felt you move. I didn’t tell anyone—just smiled. That moment was for me and you.

From then on you haven’t stopped! These days you love to stretch all the way out from side to side and make my belly very lopsided. You’ve had the hiccups two or three times. I think you’ll have a sweet tooth because your mom craves sweet, sweet, sweet.

I can’t believe it’s almost time for you to arrive. You are already so loved by so many. So many have been thrilled with the announcement of your coming and have showered you with kindness and generosity. You will be welcomed into the world surrounded by people who love you so much.

We will meet soon my little one, thank you for letting me carry you these nine months.

To my body:

Thank you. Thank you for letting me enjoy this pregnancy. Thank you for having the ability to carry a child; this is something that I do not take for granted. Thank you for being strong and healthy, and letting me exercise almost every day throughout these nine months.

The sleepless nights, constant fatigue, calf cramps, crazy dreams, and heartburn have all been well worth it. I have been blessed with few symptoms, and for that I am grateful. Thank you for letting me work with ease each day to keep saving up for when this baby arrives.

I always thought that I would love being pregnant, and I truly have. I have loved watching my body change and grow. I love having a pregnant belly, and knowing that there is life forming inside of me. What a miracle! What a beautiful thing! I don’t think there has been another time in my life when I have felt so naturally beautiful. Pregnancy is beautiful.

My entire life, I’ve wanted to be a mother. Thank you body, for letting me take on this amazing, challenging, and wonderful responsibility. I hope that we will be able to take this 9 month journey together again, but whatever happens, I will be eternally grateful to have had this experience.

To my husband:

All I’ve ever wanted is to be a mom. I never thought that my husband would be more excited than even I was to find out that I was pregnant. You have been so positive, so thrilled, and so optimistic these entire 9 months. I am so excited for you to have “your bud” here, and I cannot wait to see you hold him in your arms.

Thank you for the seemingly constant back and foot rubs. Thank you for getting me my water bottle when it is only 3 feet away. Thank you for letting me have the couch and falling asleep on the ground every time we watch a movie together. Thank you for putting up with my even worse-than-normal lack of decision making and for helping me research every possible item this baby could ever need.

Thank you for smiling every time you look at my belly. I have felt beautiful throughout this process—in part because you have truly made me feel beautiful. I love the way you look at me. Thank you for that. Thank you for loving me pregnant.

 I love that you love feeling our baby move. I love that you have made yourself a part of this journey, and that you’ve been there for me and baby every step of the way. I’m grateful for your calm and collected manner when things seem awry; I’m grateful for your faith that it will all work out.

You will be a wonderful dad. You have great examples of wonderful fathers, my dad and yours, and our grandpas too. At church on Sunday, a sweet woman came up to us and said, “You will be the CUTEST dad!” I have to agree. I can’t wait to see you step into your role as a father. I know you are ready. I know you are excited. I love knowing you are excited. I love you.

I can’t wait to take this next adventure with you, my love.

To my mother:

Thank you for carrying me. Thank you for patiently waiting for 9 months to bring me to the world so that one day I could do the same.

I feel a special closeness to you at this time: I am carrying my first, you carried me as your first. We will both be 25 when we labor and give birth for the first time. I am only beginning to see and understand what you have done for me, for each of your children.

Thank you for the wise answers to my endless questions. Thank you for always being just a phone call away. Thank you for listening to me while I list pros and cons of car seats, over and over. Thank you for telling me not to worry, that I can do this. Thank you for being the most wonderful example to me.

In the endless amounts of reading I’ve done while being pregnant, I read something silly about laundry and how it overtakes you. But I don’t really remember you doing laundry, I remember you being there—towel dancing, cheering at performances and games, staying up ‘til the wee hours of the night helping me finish projects, driving me to seminary, reading to me at night until I left for college, supporting and loving me every step of the way.

I could not ask for a better example of a strong and faithful mother. Thank you for that.

I love doing this, and I love that you did it for me.

To my Heavenly Father:

Thank you for trusting me to grow a little, imperfect mortal body for one of your precious, perfect spirit sons. Thank you for giving me this gift.

I have felt so close to you these past nine months, and I have called upon you for strength many times. Thank you for being there for me. Thank you for giving us a plan, the Plan of Happiness, which fills me with hope, no matter what happens.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to be a mother. To come to understand even more the love that you have for your children, for me. I am only beginning to understand that love, and I cannot wait to hold this child in my arms and be filled even more.

If I could have one wish, it would be that every woman who struggles with the ability to get pregnant or bear children could be healed, but I have also learned to have faith in your timing and plan.

Neill F. Marriott, a leader in our church who I admire and respect said, “Love is making space in your life for someone else...

Mothers literally make room in their bodies to nurture an unborn baby—and hopefully a place in their hearts as they raise them—but nurturing is not limited to bearing children. Eve was called a 'mother' before she had children. I believe that 'to mother' means 'to give life.' Think of the many ways you give life. It could mean giving emotional life to the hopeless or spiritual life to the doubter. With the help of the Holy Ghost, we can create an emotionally healing place for the discriminated against, the rejected, and the stranger. In these tender yet powerful ways, we build the kingdom of God. Sisters, all of us came to earth with these life-giving, nurturing, maternal gifts because that is God’s plan.”

Womanhood is divine. Giving life and nurturing others in any capacity is our divine role. I have loved making space in my life for this little person who is soon to come into this world.

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for giving me the divine, miraculous opportunity to create life, to become a mother, and to further your eternal plan for me.

Photography by Nikki Vickers Photography

bumpdate - 40 weeks

i am: 40 weeks - due date!!!

baby is: probably 7 pounds by now, and the size of a (small) watermelon

feeling: so excited and ready to have this baby come. anxious for him to arrive.

seeing: the clock at night. who knew these last few weeks would mean serious insomnia. also, baby stuff everywhere! we are all stocked up!

listening: beyonce's latest. birth affirmations and breathing techniques.

craving: fresh fruit and chocolate cake. i've been craving chocolate cake for weeks and i finally had to get some the other night (thanks to some leftover money on a cheesecake factory gift card, thanks spragues!). it was delicious.

reading:  the war that saved my life , between shades of gray, and the second sequel (third book? trilogy?) to ms. peregrine's home for peculiar children. all get my thumbs up.

wearing: i live in dresses, nightgowns, and mumus. loving the mumu. #mumus4life

lowlights: baby not being here already!!! having people comment on how "miserable" or "tired" i look, especially when i feel like i'm looking pretty good. pregnancy PSA: just tell pregnant ladies that they look great or beautiful or that you are excited for them—no matter what.

highlights: getting celebrated at my last day in the office, feeling baby's hiccups and stretches, having jenn in town with us for the summer!

jenn has been here with us in florida for a month now and it is just the best to have her around!
 i've been spending lots of time in the sunshine and at the pool.
 for cinco de mayo we went to this totally legit mexican place for tacos that andrew used to frequent on the mission. it was so tasty, and after we ate they were putting on this awesome little show outside. they questioned our ability to participate but luckily 2/3 of us speak spanish.

we went on a shopping spree and finally got a carseat, diapers, stroller, and a bunch of other things we still needed. we'll see if we actually need them any day now.
i wore this dress like 4 days in a row, nbd.
 so many cool pics of this preggo.
 last week was my last day of work! crazy that less than two years ago it was just scott, veronica, and i. now look at the team!
 i felt very celebrated. can't complain about that!
 bogo slurpees anyone? living it up these last few days!
 my mom pulled out a bunch of photos of when she was pregnant and first had me. isn't she beautiful? i loved looking and comparing.
 and now grandma is in town, so baby, we're ready when you are! can't believe we are at 40 weeks.
it's been a real treat.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


On April 9th, Andrew took one of the biggest tests of his career after studying 10-12 hours a day for six straight weeks. Killer. After the test (Step 1), we decided to celebrate his one week break between second and third year with a little "babymoon" trip to the Keys. 

We hadn't been down yet, so we decided to stay in the middle in Marathon and venture around for a few days. We ate LOTS of tasty food, tried every key lime pie available (more to come on that), explored all kinds of beautiful views, and enjoyed each other's company.

We kicked off the trip with dinner at Hobo's Cafe in Key Largo.
We decided to stay at this little hotel that was fairly inexpensive called "Captain Pips Hideaway." Sounds good, right? In our confirmation email, it mentioned that the check in area was tricky to find and gave some obscure directions including non-existent mile markers, billboards, and other randomness. Eventually after driving around in the dark and making several u-turns, we realized this green shed was the "lobby." Classic. We found our check in packet and then spent the next 30 minutes trying to find our "light tropical green" room. 

Aside from the challenge of actually finding where we were supposed to stay... our room was actually really nice! We'd definitely recommend Captain Pips!
It was quite quaint during the day.

We started the next morning with a killer breakfast at The Stuffed Pig (don't mind my ginormous plate... I ate it all) and then headed to Sombrero Beach, which was just a few minutes away from our hotel. It was a peaceful little beach, and we even saw a dolphin a little bit off the shore!

Can you see the dolphin?

Had to stop for a sno-ball!
After the beach, we drove down the rest of the way to Key West. 

We like to get a piece of art whenever we go on a trip, and we got totally conned into "buying" this work of art from Jeff. We lingered a little too long and suddenly he was writing a note to our baby in sharpie on the back of the canvas and giving it to us as a "gift." Of course we gave him a good tip and had a good laugh. 
We did a lot of walking, explored Duval Street, tried several different key lime pies, and even made it down to the Southernmost Point (where we waited 30+ minutes in line to get a picture!).
On our way back up Duval street, we popped in at the Butterfly Conservatory, and I loved it! The people in front of us were using this coupon, so I quickly pulled it up on my phone and we got the discount. It's small but with the coupon it's totally worth it. We saw tons of beautiful butterflies and birds. 

After another round of key lime pie, we headed back to Marathon and went to the Seven Mile Bridge to watch the sunset.

Can't get over those cotton candy skies!
It was perfect.
The next morning we slept in and did some relaxing in our hammock at the bungalow.

Then we packed up our bags and drove up to Key Largo to for a picnic lunch and Snorkel Tour in Pennekamp Park.
We decided to snag one of those sweet underwater disposable cameras at KMart (along with a rash guard for my very sunburn prone husband), and although most of our pictures turned out like this (LOL)... we got some good ones:

We saw a very random statue of Christ and lots of fish, including some HUGE barracudas. The water was gorgeous and warm, which was perfect for a day of snorkeling. I got some funny looks on the boat while i was trying to scoot off the edge with my big belly, but it was totally worth it. Love being a submarine for this little baby.

After our snorkel tour, we decided to have one last fancy dinner and ended up at Sundowners and got a table right on the dock. The food was delicious, the view was beautiful, and of course we ended the night with some key lime pie.

I sure love adventuring with this dude!