Making it through the first months - or how to win at baby showers

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Okay, first can we take a moment you gawk at my professional blogging prowess?

I get a lot of questions about what products I use with Margaret. Let's face it, there's a lot of stuff that babies use and the first time I went into Babies R Us to register, I turned right around and walked back out. It's crazy. While I'll be the first to admit that I've never owned a real diaper bag, think a wipe warmer is useless, and my diaper genie is a $10 Ikea pail with a grocery bag in it, there are some handy things that make life easier for new parents. And if you bring any of these things to a baby shower- you're a winner. Everyone else will bring clothes- you'll bring the real goodies.

Every single one of these things is personal. This is just what has worked for us. I'm not going to shame you for using a different car seat, pacifier, or bouncer (how mean do you think I am?).

1. Bright Starts Bouncer- This is basic, but it's got a removable toy bar and a vibration feature. That vibration feature alone is worth the $25. We needed nothing fancy, just a safe place for baby to hang while I grabbed a shower. This stayed in our bathroom until Margaret was 7 or 8 months old. (I found a version of this one at Ross for $18).

2. OXO Perfect Pull Wipes Dispenser- I know some of you are questioning this $20 expenditure, but Thomas and I agree on this one 100%. It has a weighted insert that holds down the wipes so you can pull out just one at a time, one handed (that is SUCH a big deal). Then you just get these dirt cheap refills and stick them in!

3. Gerber Gauze Diapers- Nope, not for cloth diapering. These make the best, most absorbent burp rags out there. Target has the best price (about $15 for 10) on these and get at least 10, but 15+ is good to have, especially when they go through their spit up phases. Too plain? Dyeing them or sewing some fabric on them spiffs them up quickly.

4. Chicco Caddy- Or any simple frame stroller that goes with your infant car seat. Lifesaver. You need to get toilet paper, but the baby just fell asleep in the car? No problem, just click the carseat in the stroller and go. That huge storage basket, 2 cup holders, easy fold, and key box make this one a winner (thanks Ken!). My advice: skip the travel system everyone tells you to buy (heavy!) and skip buying a real stroller. Get this one and a car seat you love- then at 6 months when you've used a stroller and know the important features you want, get an umbrella stroller or a big, full featured one. Take this all with a grain (or a hundred) of salt.

5. Burts Bees Baby Face Wipes- Or Johnson & Johnson makes a similar product. So your baby's umbilical cord is still attached and you're forced to give sponge baths that result in screaming like your sponge is made of knives? No? Just me? Well then, I guess you won't need my advice and these awesome wipes that scrub everything, full head of hair to toe.

6. Itzbeen Timer- Also known as the FLIPPIN' BEST THING EVER. Sorry for the yelling, but I cannot love this thing more. I should have taken it to the hospital- that's how awesome this is. It's not really a timer, more of a stopwatch. You press the button (bottle for nursing/feeding, diaper for changing time, ZZZs for sleep, and the * for whatever- I recommend it for any postpartum meds) when you start feeding or change a diaper. It eliminates the need to store all of that in your really tired brain. It's been 3 hours since the last diaper change? Check that stinker. It even has a little switch at the bottom to tell breast feeding mamas which side they last nursed on. It has a nightlight and a backlight, so you can check it out at 3 am. Breastfeeding or not, this is amazing. Another winner for both me and Thomas.

7. Nuk Orthostar Pacifiers- There are a million out there and it's really more about what your baby will take, but I loooooved these for the simple fact that they were all one piece (100% silicone). No water to get stuck in the various parts. The only downside- I've only ever seen them at Babies R Us and they only seem to exist in 0-6 month sizing (we just switched to another Nuk pacifier when we moved up sizes).

8. Chicco Keyfit30- Love this car seat! It was a gift from a very good friend/coworker of Thomas' and I will be forever grateful (thanks Jasmine!). It's very highly rated and installation is a dream. If you are a one carseat family, like us, you'll appreciate how easy it is to get the base installed (2 minutes, really) and just click the seat in. It's also very easy to fly with and install in a car without the base. It's a little more expensive than a Graco SnugRide, but for us, the installation was a big selling point (of course, in addition to how safe it is).

9. Aquaphor- This stuff is a favorite of my mom and my late Aunt Tina, so naturally, my uncle got us 2 huge jars for Margaret (best gift ever, Uncle Tim, thank you!). We use it as a diaper ointment almost every change, only using a little zinc oxide ointment if she's starting to show a little redness. This also works great for dry and chapped skin. A little goes a long way- it took us 8 months to get through our first big jar. Also comes in tubes for your diaper bag.

I just listed 9 things, but just thought of at least 7 more while doing it! So prepare yourself for another awesome round of How to Win at Baby Showers coming soon.

*A note about pricing. Baby stuff can be wicked expensive. Stock up on 20% coupons at Babies R Us, and price check wherever you are. Car seats go on sale eventually, lots of daily use items can be bought via Amazon's subscribe and save feature. Places like and also offer subscription features for things like diapers, ointment, and baby wash. Update: Zulily! This week is baby week and I've heard there are going to be some pretty amazing deals on Chicco car seats and more! Hurry!

Stock photos from Amazon

I'm on Instagram daily, if you want to check out the behind the scenes stuff (and stay updated during the crazy that is our cross-country move), click here.

On Moving

Thursday, June 19, 2014

 Green below, gray skies above. Coolest little random park off the highway.

You know what stinks? Moving. The packing, the cleaning, the goodbyes. But you know what I love? That in recounting any bit of my crazy, fast, and always-drawing-the-short-end-of-the-stick move to my military or military spouse friends, I always get a "dang, that does suck" instead of a "whelp, this is what we signed up for!" Signing up for things may mean that Thomas knows the gist of what's going to happen. Marrying Thomas means that I'm along for the ride. But it doesn't make it any easier, you know? And I know that it's really okay to be frustrated about what's going on.

We are under contract for a house, and we are very grateful. But nope, I won't be sharing any pictures because the deal is far from done. When it is, I'll blow your mind with photos of this swank 80's masterpiece (he he). So we are 3,000 miles away, trying to read inspection reports and make very big, very expensive decisions from afar.

Backing up, a bit: we spent a week out in Washington last week (see above). We flew out at the last minute, and went on a whirlwind of a tour of the area we will be living in. We looked at well over 15 homes in 36 hours and made a decision the next day. We spent a few days signing contracts and finalizing some things before catching a red-eye and flying back to our baby girl. Then my milk stopped flowing.

I know, you're thinking Hold up. What? To make a long story short (and I may write about this later): Margaret had an epic slumber party with the grandparents while we were gone. I hauled 2 (!!) breast pumps out to Washington to keep my milk supply up - pumping in airports, parking lots, and hotels (bless the women who do that daily- I am beyond impressed). But despite all of that work, I came back home with major supply issues. I'm probably producing about 40% of what I was. Maybe even less. I can only feed Margaret in the morning and maybe at night. After going strong for ten months, it is incredibly disheartening and sad. It makes me cry. It has nothing to do with formula (which, praise be, she has taken to with few issues). It has everything to do with not ending this on my terms or Margaret's terms. As far as increasing my supply- I try to let Margaret nurse as much as I can, I started drinking mother's milk tea, and am praying hard. It's just not as flexible as it once was.

Summertime is a huge military moving season, so our move date has gotten pushed further back than we would like. We are still trying to figure out the best way to handle everything. We wanted to avoid moving ourselves, but we will have to see what happens. I don't like to speak ill of the Navy/my husband's employer, but suffice it to say that things are and have been rough for the past month. Certain things have not been handled properly and we are suffering as a result. That's all I will say.

That being said, it will be okay. People have done moves on shorter notice and a further distance, and we will handle this one just fine. Maybe not with the grace I would like to have all the time, but most of the time, that's what I'm going for. We will be fine. We are stressed and short-tempered and tired and over-worked and beat but we will be fine.

I know. I took a picture of my food. Know that it pained me to do so.
Also know that it was insanely freakin' good. (@Matt's in the Market)

In good news, we might have just the teeny, tiniest, littlest bit of excitement about moving out to the Pacific Northwest in a few weeks. It is insanely beautiful out there and everyone we met was just so kind and friendly. Thomas did try to order sweet tea the first day (didn't pan out so well), and there's no Chick-fil-a, but the seafood is pretty spectacular and we can make our own tea.

Look at me, being all optimistic.

Eight Months

Thursday, June 12, 2014

USAA called about my life insurance today at 8. A not too-unreasonable time if I were back on the East Coast, but since I'm house hunting in Washingon state, 5 am is a little early. Unable to fall back asleep, I'm going to crank out this update while Thomas continues to slumber.

For a while my parents had my sister's fish tank at their house and Margaret would sit on the counter and stare at it every single time we went over there. It was just her favorite thing. Thomas had never been to the aquarium in Charleston either, so one weekend, we went over. Thomas and I would look at her and then look at each other going "worth every penny!"

This girl. She is just pure joy and sunshine. We definitely have our rough days, just like any other family, but she's just the bee's knees in my opinion. She's expressive and happy as a little clam. She's content. It seems like a strange word to use to describe an eight month old, but she really loves playing on her own (supervised, don't freak out) or intently studying an object for long periods of time. I'm not just saying this because I haven't seen her in 2 days.

This picture. What more is there to say?

This was Margaret's first kid's meal! She had a cheese quesadilla with guacamole. She thought it was delicious. No teeth at 8 months, but she could get through just about anything we gave her. She's very determined when it comes to food. We feed her just about anything and she just eats it up!

I'm on Instagram daily, if you want to check out the behind the scenes stuff (and stay updated during the crazy that is our cross-country move), click here.

Catching Up

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

 Unrelated photo. But- pigtails!

Lots of stuff to catch up on. Life here has been a little bit insane, made even more so by the fact that we just found out yesterday that we are moving to Washington. EEK!

I know everyone has lots of questions, so here we go:

1. What about OCS?
Thomas found out that he did not get in on Tuesday afternoon. We really don't know why and we aren't sure if he's going to apply again. The Navy does what it wants. We got lots of confirmation that he was a great candidate- it could be that he just needs to stay in his current job or that they don't have space in what he applied for. I'm still crazy proud of my hard-working husband. I married my husband, not his job title.

2. When are you moving?
Thomas starts work August 4, and technically detaches from Charleston early July. We don't have a set date of departure or arrival yet, but ideally, we'd like to have a few weeks to settle in before Thomas starts work. It will probably take us about a week to drive cross-country. Nothing like the joy of 50 total hours of driving. We are thinking of taking the southern route and then up the California coast. We'd love to see the Grand Canyon. Any suggestions from other cross-country travelers?

3. Where are you going?
Bremerton, Washington! It's right across Puget Sound from Seattle. We may end up in another small town nearby. Which leads us to...

4. Where are you living?
Umm... we don't know. Yet! We are planning on buying our first house. We are leaving next week to look at some houses and find a place to raise Margaret for the next few years. I am really excited to have a space of our own and to put some equity into our first house.

5. How do you feel about this?
Oh man. Totally overwhelmed. We have pages of things to do, clean, pack, cancel, apply for, and figure out. We are also sad. I'd be lying if I said that this feels like a grand adventure. I'm really going to miss the life we've built here and the friends we've made. Charleston (and the many special people who call it home) will always be dear to me. It's going to be hard to move so far away when it feels like we have so little time to say goodbye. Right now, we are trying really hard to stay afloat and be as optimistic as we can about the opportunities that Washington holds for us. I know it will get easier with time, so maybe in a week I won't be so weepy!

If you have other questions, leave them for me here and I'll do my best to answer them.

I know I've been slacking on this blog, but life has been a little crazy, as you can see. Maybe if I have a spare minute this week, I can pop up some pictures and a short 8 and 9 month post.

If you want to catch up with me on the daily, check out Instagram. I'm sure there will be tons of house-hunting photos, road-tripping pics, and everything in between!