5 Tips for Planning the First Year Birthday Party

Before I was ever even pregnant, I would dream about being a mom. These dreams always consisted of two things: snacks and parties. I thought about making fun snacks for my kids when they got home from school. I thought about the snacks I would bring after their soccer games for the whole team that would be tied together with cute ribbon that matched the colors of their jerseys. And I thought about the elaborate, themed parties I would plan. I thought about the organic, homemade cake I would make for our babies. I thought about the different games I would make up that would go along with the theme. I thought about the millions of little crafts I would do to make the party unique. This is my brain. I know some of you reading this probably think I’m nuts, but this is truly the things I would dream about and get excited for. Then, reality hits. The fun snacks become squeeze packs you quickly grab as you rush out the door. The organic cake becomes boxed funfetti cake. The truth is, it is so much easier to be the “perfect” mom from a distance. I think this is part of the reason it is so easy for us to judge others when we aren’t living through their experiences. It is so easy to say, when I am a mom, I will do it this way. I won’t do x, y, and z. And I will absolutely do all these things. And I can’t believe she chooses to do that! Everything becomes different when you are actually in it. I never understood parents letting their kids co-sleep with them. Now, I totally do. When you are exhausted and they are again waking up for the 5th time and its 2 am, you do what you need to do to get sleep for everyone. I never understood allowing your kid to use the iPad at a restaurant. While I am still trying to not do this one, I totally understand now why parents do this. You have to choose your battles. There are worse things.

I always want to be the best mom I can be, but some of the expectations and goals my 13-year old self dreamed up is much harder to follow through on then I expected. It just is not always going to happen the way I dreamed up in my head. That is just life. I tell this story to remind you it is okay if the first year birthday party is not perfect. It is okay if you used boxed cake. It is okay if you are scrambling to put all the decorations up as people are arriving. It is okay. I think the thing I forgot about when I dreamed up these mom expectations is that I will have my hands already full with babies and responsibilities. Sure, I could pull off a really great party with all the stops if I had unlimited time and wasn’t tied to nap schedules and feedings, but obviously that is not my reality, and I am assuming it is not yours either. So, when it comes to that big first year birthday party, no matter how you choose to celebrate, I hope you can give yourself some grace and really enjoy this big milestone, rather than stress out about that organic cake.

For those of you in the middle of party planning or beginning to think about it, I have compiled a list of five tips I learned along the way.

1. Keep It Simple

Some of you reading this, might be thinking, obviously, but if you are anything like me, you will find a way to make even the simplest things overcomplicated. I am pretty sure I chose Hudson’s party theme, which was “Hudson’s Rookie Year” when he was 6-months old. This gave me tons of time to overthink and make everything far more complicated than it needed to be. The reality is that this is just a first year birthday party. In the whole scheme of things that should be occupying head and heart space, this should not rank super high. There is nothing wrong with desiring to create a well thought out and creative party, but the danger is when you overcomplicate something that is meant to be light and fun. I really wish I kept things a little simpler for myself. You don’t need to do everything DIY. There is no need to make mason jars look like baseballs to hold the utensils. You can just put utensils out in the box. The simpler the better. Choose maybe one or two things that are especially important to you. Spend time crafting and investing into those things, and then make everything else easy and simple. For example, maybe to you, a homemade banner for the high chair is a special piece to you. Invest time, energy, and care into that banner and then buy a few other decorations that you don’t need to make.

Besides feeling the need to make a craft out of everything, I also tried to do way too much. There were the 4 banners, one of which I cut out a picture of him from every month. There were the cupcakes and the smash cake, which my amazing friend Hannah helped make look like a baseball. There was a time capsule for people to write notes for him when he turns 18. There was the party favor cookies. There was a guess how many peanuts in the jar game, which I made my poor husband count out for me. You know something is wrong when the night before the party you spend over an hour at FedEx printing and cutting out time capsule cards, and other random printables I found on Pinterest. This was too much. I made things too complicated. Don’t be like me. Keep it simple.

2. Setup as Early as Possible

This is a tricky one when you are having the party at another location outside of your home. As much as I wish I could of gone over to the park 2 hours earlier, it was just not fully possible since I had Hudson and that was during his nap time. I probably should of planned ahead and had my parents bring him to the party as I set up even earlier. It all was fine, but it felt more rushed and chaotic setting up, so I didn’t get time to take photos of how everything looked before people began to come. I wish I got more photos of how everything came together. If you also plan on having the party at a park or different location, I definitely recommend having a plan for someone to watch your little one so you can fully focus on getting everything together.

3. Limit Pinterest Intake

I love Pinterest just as much as the next person, but just like Instagram for me, it can quickly become unhealthy. I remember when I was initially planning Hudson’s party and beginning to pin things to the “H Turns 1” board, I would walk away feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and not enough. Maybe for you there is no issue with Pinterest, but if I am being fully honest, my people-pleasing, comparative heart can’t take Pinterest in large doses. Know yourself. Limit Pinterest when needed. I think I was on it a bit too much, and I tried a bit too many pins for the party. Pinterest is an amazing resource for inspiration and initial ideas, but be careful not to get too carried away with it all. The thing is, we see all these amazing displays and DIY crafts everywhere, but it is just ONE pin. They did one pin very well. I am sure their whole party was lovely, but I doubt they also did every pin they had on their party board. We can’t do it all! Don’t get weirdly comparative or overwhelmed, like me. Like my first point, choose 1-2 pins to recreate. There is no need to go Pinterest crazy. Use it as a start part for inspiration and then just focus on your party, not theirs.

4. Designate People to Help in Specific Ways

Our families are the best. They are so helpful in everything. They helped out so much by bringing food, setting up, and cleaning up. If you don’t live close to family, seek out a friend or two that could help give you a hand. I also would recommend being very specific with what you need help with. Ask them to bring a specific food type so you don’t even need to occupy headspace for that area. I would also have a set plan for day of setting up. This is one thing I wish I had done. I was so focused on all the little crafts I was doing for the party that some of the bigger concepts, like where everything will actually go, was not as thought through. Make a plan that includes exactly where you want everything. Then designate each of those tasks with the people that are helping you out. This way there is a clear plan and everyone has a thing to do.

5. Let Go of Perfection & Have Fun

You survived the first year! You have changed hundreds of diapers, endured sleepless nights, and poured out endless amounts of love. If you are anything like me, you have also cried a ton this past year. You have been down, exhausted, unsure. But if you also are anything like me, you have never smiled so hard, laughed as often, or been filled with as much joy as you have built an unbreakable bond over the course of this year with your little one. This bond did not happen over night. Like with any good thing, it takes time, patience, love. And you did it. You endured. You got up off that bathroom floor. And you have this amazing little baby that seems more like a kid than a newborn. Isn’t it amazing what type of change a year brings? All this is reason to celebrate! So whether you choose to throw a massive party or would rather just gather close family and sing over cake, celebrate and enjoy this huge milestone. It does not need to be perfect. It does not need to resemble Pinterest. Of all that I learned this year, the biggest thing is that I need to let go of all those expectations in my head. I need to let go of that organic, sugar-free carrot cake I was planning on making from scratch for Hudson. Boxed funfetti is just fine. The reality is, they don’t even eat much of the cake. So don’t make things too hard for yourself. Perfection is not possible. Let go of it. Have fun and celebrate your sweet little one who has changed your world in the very best possible way.

New York City with a 1-Year Old

It was around when Hudson was just a little over a month old that Lance and I booked tickets for New York. At this point we were still relatively idealistic when it came to the demands of life with a baby (and maybe we still are), but we felt this longing to take Hudson to see a city that means so much to the both of us. While I would not say we named Hudson after the river, the connection the name has with New York made the name for our first son feel even more right. New York is an important part of our story, I don’t want to go into the details, but New York changed things for us. God moved in that city for us, he brought renewal and forgiveness and hope. The summer going into our junior year, I made the decision with my friend Lyndsey to live on the campus at NYU. You are probably assuming I had a job or an internship in New York. You would think, but it wasn’t the case. No job, no internship, no true reason, but a feeling. I write this with a thankfulness that I was able to make this type of decision without logic or reason, I fully understand the privilege in this. I am grateful for loving parents that allowed for this to happen. So, I booked a ticket, arranged my living situation in a dorm at NYU and trusted God that there was a reason this city was placed on my heart. While I never ended up landing a dream internship or a job that made my resume look extra impressive, I did spend quite a lot of time on the Upper Westside with a little girl named Shira. For some reason or another, this is where the Lord wanted me. He didn’t want me in an important office. He wanted me in an apartment playing with all the dolls that Shira lovingly called her “sisters.” He wanted me in the Barnes & Noble on Broadway where we spent hours reading books. He wanted me in Riverside Park to help show Shira what kindness and sharing looks like. Looking back, I am so thankful for this time, but I would be absolutely lying if I were to say at the time I wasn’t insecure or embarrassed about it. Where are you working? What impressive internship do you have? Those questions were the common ones asked to someone who is living at NYU for the summer. It is hard to not feel disappointed when my answer to that question was being a babysitter. It just didn’t seem to stack up to everyone around me. But here’s the thing. When I think back to that summer, I was exactly where God wanted me. While what He handed me did not look nearly as fancy or impressive as those around me, it was what I needed in that season. With the flexible schedule of my role as nanny, I got to have much more adventure. That summer created a heart within me that is so fond to this bustling city. New York is much more than pizza, the Empire State Building, and the Statue of Liberty. To me, New York is getting out of comfort zones. It is the steps at the MET. It is Yankee games. It is black dresses and rainstorms. It is being truthful at Washington Square Park. It is lobster rolls and soda. It is 10 mile runs at 9 pm. It is baguettes in Central Park. It is new friends and the Brooklyn Bridge on the 4th of July. And it also is a lot of soft-serve ice cream.

All this to say, I love this city. And now I love it even more because it is filled with all the memories listed above plus all the new ones we made with Hudson. On the surface, a trip to New York might not seem extremely baby friendly, but we had a great time in the city with a baby. To be fully honest, it was absolutely exhausting, but if you are strategic with the things you choose to do, see, and eat, New York City with a baby can be a blast. Like with a lot of what I write, babies change things, but that doesn’t mean a trip to New York cannot still be busy and fun. Here are 5 tips for a New York City Trip with a 1-Year Old:

1. The Baby Carrier is Your Friend

While you can definitely use a stroller throughout the city, we found the baby carrier was the better option. We only took out the stroller for our runs, every other outing we used our Ergo baby carrier. The carrier makes navigating around all the people so much easier and it also makes traveling by subway smoother. We also found the carrier a great way to get Hudson to nap on the go. We were always out in the afternoons during his typical nap time.

2. Parks, Parks, Parks

While New York is more known for their main parks, the city is filled with tiny parks that are perfect for little ones. We literally went to a new park every single day. We had specific plans to go to Central Park and Washington Square Park, but all the other parks we visited were ones we organically stumbled upon. We found that Brooklyn Bridge Park was extremely kid-friendly. This should definitely be on your list if you are traveling to the city with little ones. Not only does this park offer beautiful waterfront views of Manhattan, there is a nice boardwalk to walk along, plus great little playgrounds. There is also Jane’s Carousel, which is a fun attraction for kids that only cost $2. Riverside Park was another favorite of ours. This park is in the Upper Westside. If you are in this area, this is another great park for walking or running, and there are a variety of playgrounds scattered throughout. We went to Dinosaur Park. This is a fun one to visit especially if you have a dinosaur lover in the family. There is a triceratops and hadrosaur sculpture. We got some pictures with Hudson on top of the dinosaurs, which was fun. Along with a playground and swing set, there is also a splash pad that a fair amount of kids were playing on. A lot of parks have splash pads, which is one thing I wish I planned for. If you plan on visiting New York in the summer, definitely pack swimsuits for the kids. Central Park, Washington Square Park, Hudson River Park are also great options that are filled with playgrounds. While we didn’t visit any of the play areas in Hudson River Park, we ran through it nearly everyday and there were always tons of kids and babies out. This is another very kid-friendly location. We found that when Hudson was beginning to get antsy from being in Ergo or stroller for extended amount of time, stopping by at a park was a great break for all of us. The amazing part of this city is how wherever you are in the city, it is likely a park is very close to you. Take advantage of all the amazing park options New York City has to offer.

3. Picnic, Picnic, Picnic

While you might be tempted by all the amazing restaurants the city has to offer, the reality is that they are not always the most kid-friendly. We literally only went to one sit-down restaurant on our entire trip. There are so many great markets, food hauls, and take-out places. Our favorite spot was Chelsea Market. Not only is it in a pretty central location (and right off the high line), it offers a large variety of food options. This is great, especially if you have a family with different taste preferences. One of the nights, we got Korean noodles from Mokbar and took them to eat on the high line. We ate yummy noodles, while having a clear view of the Statue of Liberty. Grabbing food to go and eating at all the various parks I mentioned above is really the perfect option for little ones. You will be so much less stressed because you don’t need to contain their noise level. We also found that Hudson was in the carrier a lot during the day, so picnics gave him some much needed time to crawl and explore. If you are visiting during the summer, I would highly recommend Smorgasburg in Williamsburg. This happens every Saturday in the summer. There are so many amazing food options. Again, great variety for the whole family. It is also in a beautiful waterfront location with grassy picnic spots. It is a really pretty place to get some family photos in. If you are in the mood for lobster rolls, I highly recommend Luke’s Lobster. This is definitely one of my very favorite meals in the whole city. There are various locations. We went to the Union Square location and had a nice picnic in the beautiful Washington Square Park. On our last full day, we visited Columbia University. After walking around campus, we stumbled upon Milano Market. This was an amazing spot. The food was so fresh and the overall feel of market felt very New York to me, from the strong accents of the men behind the deli counter to the beautiful display of cheesecakes. This is a great spot to grab picnic things and take to either Central or Riverside Park.

4. Take Hotel Breaks

New York is not the most restful city to visit. Part of what makes the trip fun is squeezing in lots of things; however, if you are traveling with a baby, it is important to schedule in rest for both the parents and the little ones. While we were not in our hotel much, we made sure to have at least an hour at the hotel before dinner to recharge and give Hudson some time to roam free and play with toys in the Pack ‘N Play. Not only was this needed for Hudson, it was very much needed for us as well.

5. Skip the MET

The MET is one of my very favorite places in the whole city. I love it. We bought our tickets ahead of time and planned to go before we went to the Yankee game. We barely had any time before the game and visited the museum for literally 10 minutes. Thankfully, the tickets lasted for three days, so we were able to return on Sunday. While it was still nice to get to visit one of my favorite places, it did feel a bit forced with a baby. Hudson had zero interest in the Degas paintings I usually admire when visiting. The one amazing part of the MET is the rooftop garden, which I highly recommend for amazing views and photos. If you do have kids, this can be a nice place for them to roam around and for the parents to sip something bubbly. However, if you do have babies, it might be better to just skip the MET. Instead, I would visit somewhere a bit more kid and baby-friendly. There are children’s museums and zoos throughout the city, which I think might make a better family outing. Here is a list of more kid-friendly things to do in New York.

Hopefully you found this helpful! I would love to hear if you have any good suggestions or tips when it comes to New York and little ones!

6 More Lessons in the First Year of Motherhood

Happy 1st Birthday to our sweet Hudson Boy! I cannot believe a whole year has gone by! These past couple days I have been very sentimental as I have thought back to what we were doing exactly a year ago. We were waiting. And waiting and waiting. We went into the hospital Wednesday evening after my water broke. We literally walked up to the check-in counter, and I was crying. I felt so overwhelmed and nervous and no one seemed to care that I literally was standing in a puddle of amniotic fluid! Was this normal? I was expecting to be rushed to a hospital bed. I was expecting urgency. This is important people. I am about to have a baby! But, it was quite the opposite. No rushing, no urgency. Just me, crying, as I stood in a puddle. After eventually being situated into our room, the real waiting began. Like 43 hours of waiting. Those long hours were filled with pocking and prodding, lots of jello and bone broth, prayers, and an epidural that finally allowed for sleep. There were some anxious moments in those hours, especially when we were getting close to the second day of waiting and Hudson’s heart rate began to drop. I can still hear the nurse’s voice when she shakily said my name. My heart has never dropped so low. She delivered the news that I needed a C-section in the most heart-stopping, terrifying way. I literally thought the worst case scenario was happening the way she looked at me and said my name. I could handle a C-section. At that point, it didn’t even matter. Did we type it up into our neat and tidy birth plan? Nope, but most of what we had in there didn’t happen. The C was the least of my worries, all I wanted was my Hudson Boy. Finally, Friday at 4:11 pm, Hudson was born. And let me tell you, our world shifted in the best possible way. As I type this, I literally am crying because when I think about this moment it truly brings me to my knees in thankfulness to God. What a good, good Father. I remember lying numb in that OR just praying. I remember hearing his first cries and the warmth of my own tears flowing down my face. It no longer mattered that things didn’t go as planned or that my tummy will forever have a scar, none of it mattered because our sweet boy was finally here.

I tell this story because as I wrote about when Hudson turned 6-months, one of my first lessons was learning to be okay when things do not go as planned. You can read those first 6 lessons here. This lesson is only more true now. I am daily reminded that I am not the one in control. While this is a really hard lesson for someone like me that has a heart gripped to control and self-reliance, I am beginning, emphasis on beginning here, to not only let go of control, but develop the ability to laugh when things don’t go the way we planned. I immediately think about the Proverbs 31 woman.

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.

-Proverbs 31:25

Before becoming a mother, I read that verse and thought it sounded nice, but it didn’t fully sink in or connect with me. It makes so much more sense to me now. I picture her house being a mess, her toddler throwing a tantrum, her clothes stained in spit up; and despite it all, I picture her laughing with a confidence and peace that can only be explained through the presence of the Holy Spirit. I am not there yet, but I desire to be and I do believe the Lord is continuing to do a work in my heart to eventually get me to this point. While I am not there, I think back to the way I handled situations in the first few months. My heart rate probably stayed at 110 all day long. The littlest peep or cry from Hudson put me into a downward spiral. Man, was I gripped by an anxiety I have never felt before. There was definitely not a lot of laughing happening, but there certainly were a lot of tears and fear. Just yesterday, in Costco, as we were shopping for food for his birthday party, I was reminded of the work the Lord is doing within me. Hudson spilled half of his water all over himself and on the floor beneath the cart. His pants were soaked and he slowly began to get more fussy as he wanted to be out of that cart. Kelli 9-months ago would have lost it! She would of panicked and made up lies about how the cashier probably thinks I am not a very good mom. But instead, it didn’t affect me. Wet pants? Who cares, we will change it when we get home. A little fussing? Who cares, babies make noise. A bit of a mess on the floor? A casual sorry will be enough. It will be okay. The world is not ending. This may seem like a small thing to you, but let me tell you, this is huge. This confidence, this growth, it amazes me. So, if you were anything like me and are currently in those early months where everything is new and scary and anxiety-inducing, I really hope these words can encourage you. It is incredible what the Lord can do in a year. Hold on. It gets better.

Okay that was a lot, but I think all of that is important. Here are 6 more lessons I have learned as mother to sweet Hudson.

1. Don’t Sweat the Small Things

As I have already alluded to, the small things, like water spilled everywhere and crying, do not grip me in the same way they used to. One of the biggest lessons I have learned in this past year is to let go of all the little things. I will drive myself crazy if I try to control everything: naps, floors, attitudes. There are so many things that could go wrong in life, a little sand eaten by Hudson or a spill in a restaurant, are minor concerns. The world will keep spinning. I will still be a good mother.

2. Time Goes Quickly

It is easy to eagerly look ahead and think I can’t wait until fill-in-the-blank. I can’t wait until he doesn’t wake up multiple times in a night. I can’t wait until he can crawl and walk. I can’t wait until he can talk. I can’t wait until he eats solid foods. And the list goes on. Those are all exciting milestones and it is easy to dream about the next stage where things seem easier, but I have learned that things change so quickly and it is so much better to be present and grateful in the season you are in. Things are already moving way too fast. I would love to go back to myself a year ago and tell her: “These next few months are going to be hard, but stay in it, soak it up, watch him sleep as often as you can, and it will get better.” I had too many days where I dreamed of easier times, when I wish I had just accepted the season for what it was.

3. Trust Instincts

I had a lot of my doubts in the first few months. I questioned everything I did. I was too easily swayed by the opinions and advice of others. I would watch one YouTube video and implement one strategy and the next day I would read something completely opposite and try that instead. Early on, external factors were the driving force behind how I mothered. For example, if we were out and Hudson was crying and someone would say “oh, he must be hungry!” I would immediately feel this pressure to nurse him, even though, deep down, I knew hunger wasn’t the issue. I just fed him. My internal mother instinct knew his needs, but I didn’t trust it yet. Now I do, and we are both so much happier because of it.

4. Breastfeeding Can Become a Dear Friend

My relationship with breastfeeding over the course of this year has changed drastically. I used to hate it. I know hate is a strong word, but I really did. I dreaded every couple hours when it was time to nurse again. It felt like rejection and failure all in one. It felt incredibly weird and uncomfortable to me. I am a slow learner. Change is hard for me, it takes me a while to adjust and learn. Those first few months I could not even fathom the possibility of making it to a year of breastfeeding. But here I am, a year later, unsure if I want to give it up quite yet. While I would not gush about it in the same way others have talked about it, it has become part of who I am. It is like sleeping, breathing, running. It is how I start and end my days. While it used to feel weird and uncomfortable, it now only feels natural and familiar. Side note here: while I was able and chose to exclusively breastfeed, this is not for everyone, nor is it always possible for everyone. Fed is always best. This is another thing I really wish I could tell myself a year ago. I was so hard on myself. Every night was a meltdown. I wish I could have told myself that it would be okay. That I would make it, but I also wish I could tell myself breastfeeding is not the goal. I put way too much emphasis on it, and that created a lot of stress for the both of us. Just like any relationship, it can’t be forced. Take it slow. Trust the process. And you might break up and move on, or you might just find a dear, reliable friend.

5. Don’t Compare

It’s the thief of joy. It really is. You will find so much joy especially in those early months if you just focus on your baby and family. I really wish I deleted Instagram in this season. It was more harmful than helpful. My heart could not handle it. Your baby is different. You are different. Don’t compare.

6. Let God Take Over

Let the Lord enter your sleepless nights. Let him enter with you at the grocery store. Let him enter when you don’t have the energy or the words or wisdom. He can fill in all the holes, all the areas of weakness. Let Him takeover. Give him the reigns. Say Lord I can’t do this on my own. Help me! And He will.

5 Tips for Postpartum Marathon Training

Marathon training is a commitment. It is hard work, requires lots of miles and time, and takes a lot out of your body. While not everyone would recommend training for a marathon a few months after having a baby, I am finding that not only is it very much possible, but the goal of completing my first marathon and getting a Boston Qualifier is such a positive outlet for me as I adjust to my new role as mother. For 8 years prior to baby, I ran competitively on the high school and college level. By the time I graduated college and ran my last race at the NCAA Regional 5k race, I thought I was for sure done with running. I was burnt out and over it. The part I didn’t realize was how important running was for me. Not only just for my lungs. It was important for my heart. And not just the health of my heart. Running fueled much more than just health for me. Yes, it has given me a low heart rate and toned calves, but more than that it has given me a heart that is disciplined, hard working, dedicated, and passionate. As much as I wanted to walk away from running, I couldn’t. Those 8 years of running, changed something within me. It built up an endurance and love for a sport that sometimes causes a lot of pain. I now know how I feel not running, not competing, not dreaming about PRs, and I much prefer who I am when I am running. It is good for me. I need the steady rhythm running gives my life. I need the structure, the mileage, the discipline. Running looks different for me now then when I was a collegiate runner. I have a baby. I sleep less. Things revolve around baby, not training. While my training is much less intense and timely, I still believe there are still some good times left in these legs of mine.

Since life is now much different compared to college, I need to adjust the way I train. I have definitely been faced with a desire and pressure to train like I used to, but then I’m faced with the reality of broken sleep and less energy and time. I also am still nursing Hudson so this is another factor that needs to be considered with my training. Marathon training is one thing, but specifically postpartum marathon training is something that needs to be handled differently. Here are five things to consider if you are training for a marathon postpartum:

1. Take Days Off

This is a good idea for any athlete, but especially if you recently had a baby, it is important to give your body ample rest and recovery. I started running about 4-months postpartum. When I started, I was only running a couple times a week. I slowly, very slowly, built in mileage and frequency. Now at almost a year postpartum, I am not that far off from college mileage. I have been still taking two days off a week. This will be my first week running 6 days. The main point to note here is that I didn’t go from having a baby to running 6 days a week. As you can see, it was almost a year process to build back into fitness and the type of mileage my body was used to pre-baby.

2. Fuel & Hydrate

Again, this is another one that is important for all humans, especially active ones, but proper hydration and fueling is even more important when you are breastfeeding. You burn on average, 200-500 extra calories a day breastfeeding. It is super important that you consider these extra calories plus the calories burnt running. Marathoning, milk producing mamas also should be sure to get in enough calcium. On average women lose 3-5 percent of bone mass while breastfeeding. It is a good idea to continue taking prenatal vitamins to help with this loss of nutrients. Along with fueling, it is also necessary to keep up on water intake. It takes water to make milk. Sweating also causes you to lose water. In combination this is a lot of extra fluid that is needed. Your body needs this extra hydration. A couple weeks ago, after running 15 miles and then nursing my baby 30 minutes after, I experienced severe dehydration. I lost way too much water and was not properly hydrating before and after. This is just another reason why hydration is so important, especially with high mileage and milk production.

3. Adjust Expectations and Goals

This is a big one. I find myself training or wishing I was training the way I used to in college. My body is simply not the same. Not only that, but my life conditions are extremely different. I cannot expect the same results when I am still getting very broken and minimal sleep. Life revolves around Hudson, not a PR (personal record). That is just the fact of the matter and I wouldn’t want it any other way, but this means that I need to adjust pace expectations and overall running goals. I think you can still have high expectations and goals. Postpartum running does not need to hold you back too much, but I do think it is mentally important to accept that your body and life is different now; therefore, training will need to be adjusted.

4. Schedule Baby Care for Long Runs

I just wrote a post all about running with the baby jogger. You can read it here.While I am still running 2-3 runs weekly with baby jogger, you definitely will want to have someone watch your baby for the long runs. My baby’s max is 70 minutes in the jogger. This takes more planning, but it is important that you can schedule out when you will get good, quality long runs in without baby. Lance and I have been doing our long runs in Palos Verdes. On our drive over, we drop Hudson and Nala off at their grandparents’ house. This is super helpful and even allows Lance and I to spend some time just the two of us. It is necessary to get runs in without jogger so you can run a bit more honest of a pace. The jogger definitely slows me down, but it still is good training. It just needs to be paired with training runs without the jogger as well.

5. Don’t Compare

It is so easy to look at your training and compare it to others. I do this all the time with my husband. I get jealous and feel behind when I see how many more miles he is logging compared to myself. He is doing more intense workouts, while I am just trying to build in mileage. The big difference here is that he didn’t have a baby 11 months ago. I can’t compare his training with mine. It is and should be relatively different.

Training for a marathon postpartum is totally possible. Like with most baby-related things, it does require a tad more planning and intentionality. While this marathon training postpartum thing is not for everyone, I have found it to be a really key element in helping me get back to feeling normal. It has given me an outlet. It has shown me I still very much have a body that is capable of handling mileage and intensity. It has given me a goal. Especially as a stay-at-home mom, marathon training has given me a purpose to focus on. So when it comes to postpartum marathon training be sure to make adjustments when necessary, drink lots of water, and allow room for lots of grace.

The Art of Running with a Baby Jogger

There have been a few memories in Hudson’s first month of life that seem to be engraved in my mind. One of them is our first major outing a week after he was born. We went on a walk in Manhattan Beach. I remember it all so clearly. I remember how uncomfortable and insecure I felt when I saw my reflection in the store window. I had milk stains on my shirt, my belly still looked very pregnant, and my eyes drooped with exhaustion. That was just the physical parts I saw in the window. I also deeply remember how I felt on that walk. I was gripped by anxiety. I felt completely overwhelmed. We were literally just going on a walk. Something Lance and I would do all the time, but now everything was entirely different. I was paranoid and panicky. I had this new baby and this new stroller and this new body. All of it was foreign to me. The thing I remember most is the way I felt pushing the stroller down the hill to get to the strand. My heart was racing. My palms have never gripped something so tightly. All I could think about was my fear of losing grip of the stroller. I felt so awkward and incredibly unsure. The reason I tell this story is to show change and progress and illustrate how quickly transformation can happen. Fast-forward 11 months, and I run with the jogger one-handed with a casualness and confidence that June 15th Kelli would not have believed she was capable of. My relationship with the stroller is very telling of my progress as a parent. The stroller used to be a place of fear and sweaty, anxious palms. Now, it is a place of freedom and confidence.

Our faded orange, BOB stroller we bought on Facebook Marketplace was one of the best, low-cost investments we made in baby products. While the first month I barely touched it because I was nervous about using it, I slowly adjusted and figured out the art of running with a jogger. Like most things, it takes a little time to figure out your stride. It took some trial and error. There were runs where Hudson screamed the entire run. There were runs I had to just stop because I was so exhausted from the extra work of pushing it. There have definitely been runs and moments where I felt held back by the stroller and even annoyed by it, but as a whole our 2008 BOB has a special place in my heart. It has taught me something. It has shown me a strength and confidence that I had forgotten I possessed. It has pushed me to get out of comfort zones and it has revealed how much harder hills can become. It ultimately has shown me that I can do the same things I loved pre-baby, it just takes a different form. My pace is absolutely slower. The routes are slightly different; more pavement, less dirt. However, the jogger doesn’t hold me back too much. I’m still able to throw in some surges and can still pass some guys along the way. And let me tell you, that feels pretty good. So, yes the jogger changes things, but I am convinced it doesn’t need to change too much. If you are struggling with running with the baby jogger or want to and are unsure about it, here are 5 tips to help you master the art of the jogger.

1. Wait

There are different numbers people throw out as when the appropriate age is for baby to be in jogger. I have heard as young as 4-months and as conservative as 8-months. Definitely consult your pediatrician, but we began running with Hudson around the 5-month mark. And to be honest, I don’t think he was quite ready for it. Physically, it was totally fine, as he had very strong neck control, but I don’t think he was quite mature enough to be able to sit in jogger for an extended amount of time without getting fussy. Both Lance and I experienced a lot of crying in these early runs. I would wait to run with baby until he or she is clearly as at an age where they can occupy themselves. It really hasn’t been until recently, around 9-10 months, that Hudson has been a champ in the jogger. We are at the point that I can run 60-70 minutes without him fussing once. So if you can, wait a bit to start consistently running with baby. They will make it pretty clear when they are ready for it.

2. Start Slow

Physically pushing a jogger is demanding. Especially if you are getting back into shape, it is going to feel pretty hard to push jogger and run at a decent pace. I would not even look at your pace for the first couple runs with baby. Start by just going off of effort. I run at least 30-seconds slower with the jogger. Allow yourself some grace in terms of pace. You are out pushing a jogger, no need to break records. I also would recommend starting your runs more conservatively. You can always end your run faster, but it is especially important to ease into pace with jogger and not go out too hard.

3. Run During Nap Time

This is a tip I have recently figured out. I used to run with him right after he woke up from naps. From my experience this is not the best option. He had lots of energy and did not want to be strapped in. While I am all about being home for naps so I can get things done, I have learned to sacrifice this nap time in order to have a nice, quiet, cry-free run. I think it’s worth the nap sacrifice. I now always run during his first morning nap around 9 am. He sleeps for most of my run. It is also nice to get the run done early. Once we get home, he is happy and rested, and we have the rest of the day to do something fun.

4. Be Consistent

Like with most things in life, the more consistent you are, the easier it will become. I do not do every run with him, but I run at least 2-3 times per week with him in the jogger. This consistent pattern has allowed for both of us to get used to the jogger. Running with the jogger has not only trained and strengthened me, it also has trained him to be patient and capable of handling sitting for an hour. It is building within us both a strength and independence, and for that I’m thankful. Be as consistent with the jogger as you can. The more you do it, the more second nature it will feel for you and the more used to it baby will become. Since we go on runs on a consistent basis, Hudson has not only become accustomed to our running routine, he has come to enjoy our rides. It is deeply relaxing to him. He loves taking in the wind and the new environment he sees from the comfort of the stroller. The jogger itself also seems to ride smoother and smoother the more I have used it. Consistency really is key when it comes to running with baby. If you only use it every once and a while, it is likely it won’t feel as good for both you and baby.

5. Increasingly Build

This might sound obvious, but you don’t want to start your first run with baby on a super long and hilly run. Increasingly build. Start small and build from there. Start by just going out for a run around the block and see how it goes. Then next run, go a little further, and so on. Also, I would recommend starting in places that you are familiar and comfortable with. Find a route that suites the stroller and that you know well. Once baby has proven to handle jogger well, then you can venture out to trying longer runs and different terrain. Take it one day at a time. No need to prove anything.

While the jogger used to be a burden to me, I am learning to run with it with a sense of gratitude and grace. I am thankful. I am thankful for our BOB jogger. I am thankful for a healthy body. I am thankful for a child that I get to push up steep hills. While I used to awkwardly run with the jogger in hand, I am learning to run with greater ease and confidence. The stroller no longer feels as heavy. The stroller has taken on a lightness that I didn’t think was possible. The stroller is a great source of pride for me. I am proud to run with my jogger. It is like an orange badge of motherhood. Now, when I am out running solo, I feel naked. I feel like I’m missing something. And I am. My baby and my BOB.

Hope these few key points are both helpful and motivating. You don’t need to be extra strong or fast to push a jogger. Just a consistent, determination to do it, even amidst the extra crying and weight.

5 Tips to Survive a Road Trip with a Baby

We just got back from our first major road trip with Hudson. We had a wedding in Arizona, so we made the decision to drive and turn it into a little family trip. We both were a bit concerned with how Hudson would handle the 6-hour drive. Overall Hudson is a pretty easy-going, mellow baby, but 6 hours in a car seat at 11-months is not an easy ask. He did so great on both drives and we had a really enjoyable couple days. Really random, but I would say it was one of our best trips as a family. They say everything changes when you have a baby, which is totally true, but I feel like an underlying implication when people say that is that things become less fun. Ironically, we are finding that we seem to be doing more and having even more fun with Hudson. We are finding that you can really incorporate baby into the same things you would do prior to baby, you just need to make small adjustments, bring a few more things and plan ahead. While we are definitely not experts when it comes to traveling with a baby, I do feel like we intentionally did a few things that really helped make our trip a success. Also, side note here, I get that not all babies are the same, and some might respond a bit differently to such a long car ride, so be sure to adjust and change these tips based on your own baby’s needs. Here are my top five tips to not only help you survive a road trip with baby, but truly enjoy it and make memorable times as a family.

1. Leave Early

Especially when traveling with a little one, leaving early in the morning is a huge benefit. We left around 4:30 and it worked out very well. For one, there was zero traffic and we made excellent time. Leaving early also allowed for Hudson to sleep the first couple hours. This made it so his awake time during the drive was only a couple hours, since he also took his first nap on the drive out. He was sleeping for over half the drive, which was amazing. Maybe leaving at 4:30 am, is not you thing, I get it, but I do think you should try to be strategic when you leave in terms of your baby’s sleeping schedule. The more they can sleep during the drive, the happier everyone will be. The other great thing about leaving early is that we got to our destination at noon, so still had a full day. We were able to go to Target and get a few essentials and even go to the pool to give Hudson some time to burn off the extra energy he had built up from being tied to his car seat. Waking up at 4 am also is a lot easier when you are excited for your trip! Those first couple hours of driving were so nice for Lance and I as we sipped our coffee, chatted, and watched the sunrise.

2. Make Activity Bags

This is a tip that I have heard from a lot of other moms when it comes to traveling with a little one. The more distracted baby can be, the better. The same old toys can get pretty boring after a few hours, so I found it helpful to pack three separate ziplock baggies with a variety of different toys. We were gone for three days, so I made each bag dedicated to a different day in the car. I created these bags by intentionally putting in toys I know he really likes, while also including toys he hasn’t seen in a while. I also tried to make each bag as varied as possible. I put at least one electronic toy, a book, teether, and a ball (his very favorite thing right now) in each bag. This system proved to be helpful. It not only mixed up the toys he was exposed to throughout the trip, it allowed for me to stay organized with the toys as I had three separate storage containers. I would bring one bag with us in the diaper bag, and the others I would just leave in the car for the next day.

3. Sit Next to Baby

While I didn’t sit next to Hudson the entire trip, it is a good idea to make sure there is room for you to move to the back if needed. Our car is pretty small, so we needed to do some shuffling, but after moving a few things around, I was able to squeeze in the back to act as entertainment for Hudson. This seemed to also just calm his overall presence. He seemed to enjoy my company. If you have more than one kid, you obviously don’t need to do this, they can entertain each other, but if you just have one baby, you should definitely have a plan to make it easy for you to sit in the back row for a bit of the drive.

4. Keep Snacks Accessible

Just like toys can be a good distraction mechanism, so can food. I would recommend packing a separate bag full of snacks for the little ones. Keep this bag in a place that is easy for you to reach throughout the drive. I also would pack a separate baggie within the snack bag to put any trash in. This is one thing I didn’t do, but I wish I did. It would have kept the car a bit more tidy.

5. Stop Often

As tempting as it is to just plow through the drive and get there as fast as possible, the more stops you make, the easier it will be on your little ones. Be sure to use this time to change diapers, feed baby and allow baby to see new things and burn a bit of energy before returning to the car seat. We did not need to do this since we just have one baby, but if you are also traveling with kids a bit older, try to front load them and be very specific when and where stops are being made. Try to get them excited for the stops you are making so the trip as a whole can feel more broken up.

Road tripping with a baby can actually be a ton of fun. But like with most things in life, it is much more enjoyable the more planned and prepared you are. So, plan ahead, make a list with all the essentials baby will need, and mentally be prepped to listen to lots of Mickey songs on CD. Creating a checklist and having all our bags packed and by the door the night before made the morning leaving super smooth. Also, making sure we had something that seems to automatically soothe him and put him in a good mood, saved us a few times. For Hudson, this is his personalized Mickey CD. I know there is tons of controversy with screen time, but we did allow Hudson to watch a couple shows on the IPad when we needed to help occupy him for a few minutes. Don’t judge. Sometimes you just need to do what you need to do. If that’s not your thing, that’s great but I would think about the things that work well to entertain and occupy baby and implement those. Overall, if you are debating between road tripping and flying, I think road tripping was a fun and less stressful environment to introduce Hudson to travel. In a couple weeks, we will be taking him on his first flight to New York, so a flying with baby post will be coming soon. Hope these tips are helpful and if you have any baby road trip tips that worked well for you, I would love to hear them. Leave a comment below!

Why I Wake Up at 5 am as a Stay-At-Home Mom

I wake up around 5 am every day during the week. You might be wondering: why? It is not like I have to get ready and commute to work. My job is right in this home, being mom to sweet Hudson. There is no commute. No need to get dressed. No need to do my hair. Why would I wake up nearly 2 hours before my baby? The short answer: because I have tried sleeping in and waking up when he does and I hate it. I start my day with the sound of crying and serving. Crying and serving is just part of my job description but in order to best handle the crying and to be able to serve and love Hudson the best I can, I need time before he wakes up. Most people would not think twice about the need to be awake at least an hour before starting their job. You can’t roll out of bed and start working and expect to do a quality job. It is easy to apply this to jobs that require you to go into an office or be dressed professionally or in some type of uniform, but for some reason this logic seems to not always be applied to being a SAHM (stay-at-home mom). This mom thing, is the very best job of my life, but it is even more challenging than getting a room full of 14-year olds excited about semi-colons. Just like I needed that hour drive to work to sip coffee, pray for my students, and listen to The Daily podcast; I need that same hour to sip coffee, read my Bible, write down memorable experiences with Hudson from the previous day, and pray. I am not able to do my best job as mom and wife, if I don’t allow myself this time before the sun rises to process, pray, and prepare.

Some of you reading this, may be thinking there is no way I would wake up at 5 am, if I still have sleeping kids and a quiet house. I get it! I never truly want to get out of bed at 5 am either. My brain immediately starts flooding with excuses. You’re tired, sleep a little more, you deserve it, you don’t technically need to wake up right now. Those are usually the first words I hear. And if I’m honest, lots of mornings I listen to that voice. However, the mornings that I choose to ignore those lingering excuses, and actually fully be out of bed right around 5, are so much more balanced and productive. I get nearly a two-hour block of time for myself. Of course this varies, depending on when Hudson wakes up, but if I’m up at least by 5:15, I know I’ll have a solid hour, usually more. This time allows for me to wake up to the day through writing, praying, and planning ahead. I am allowing myself to wake up to my day, rather than it waking me up. I am intentionally saying my job as mom is so important that I need to prep for it just like any other business executive would prep for their all-important job. So here is the thing, we might not need to wake up at 5 am, but if so many successful career people do it, why shouldn’t we moms? They might be getting up at 5 am or earlier to run businesses, countries, worlds, but isn’t raising future generations just as important? I get it, making snacks, park play dates, and library story time does not seem to fully stack up to board meetings, conferences, and emailing important people. But here’s the thing, it might not feel as noteworthy in the present time, but it is. We are raising the future. This is everything. We are changing lives. We are giving them memories and experiences that hopefully one day they will tell their kids’ kids’ about. These are the types of things I think about to motivate me on those hard days where it feels like all I do is change diapers and fold laundry. As a Christian, I view my responsibility as a parent to not only raise my kids well with good heads on their shoulders and kind hearts, but to help point them to the cross and to develop their own personal relationship with God. And from this perspective, our jobs as parents suddenly has eternal implications. We are talking about souls here. I don’t care how successful an empire or brand you build here on earth, what is going to be left afterwards? All this to say, it is easy to get stuck in that earthly perspective, but if we are able to take a heavenly approach to our days and see the snacks, the park, and the library as sanctuaries to build up our children’s characters to one day hopefully choose to follow Christ, well then I think I can get up a bit earlier to prepare for that. Don’t lose sight of your job as a parent. Regardless of what you believe, parenting is such an important job. It should be handled with just as much care as CEOs and presidents. So if they get up at 5 am, maybe we should too.

5 Tips for Bringing Baby to Disneyland

On Monday, we took Hudson to Disneyland for the first time! The night before I was watching lots of Youtube videos on tips and tricks when it comes to Disneyland and babies.  Some of it was helpful, but like most things in life, the best way to figure things out is by doing them and learning along the way.  Overall, we had a great time, and we are pretty sure Hudson did too, I mean just look at that face on the teacups! I have always been a fan of trips to Disneyland, and I have been a handful of times.  Of all the times I have been, I have to say our trip this past Monday was probably my favorite.  It was not my favorite in the sense that we rode lots of rides.  It was not my favorite because there were no lines because there were plenty of those.  It was my favorite simply because of the way Hudson’s eyes lit up when he saw bubbles through the window of the submarine, met Mickey, and swirled on teacups.  There is nothing better than experiencing Disneyland through the eyes of a child. As I already wrote about in my post about bringing a baby to a wedding (you can read that here), babies change experiences. In ways, bringing Hudson always makes things slightly more complicated. We have to pack more, plan ahead, leave early. But, seeing those big, curious eyes and that goofy 8-toothed smile, made everything more than worth it. Things are different now. I nurse in lines. I am concerned where the best changing tables are located. I care more about visiting Mickey at his house than Space Mountain. And, I couldn’t imagine it any other way. All this to say, I think bringing your baby to Disney is so much fun. But I also think what makes it fun is being prepared and unattached to expectations. You can’t compare it to previous trips. It is going to be so different, but as I detailed above, I think it ultimately is better. So if you are planning a trip to Disneyland with your little one, here are 5 practical tips to consider.

1. Arrive Early + Skip the Tram (if crowded)

I wish we got to the park before it opened. Both parks open at 9 am. After we finally got through parking and to the ticket gates, it was closer to 10 am and it was already getting full. I wish we aimed to get there as early as 8 am because it really can take a long time to park and the tram gets crowded. Since it was so crowded and we had a stroller, we chose to walk over and skip the tram. If you get there at a busy time, I think walking over is a time saver. It might have only saved a couple minutes, but we felt more productive. We were able to skip the long tram ride and avoid the hassle of folding up the stroller. It was also nice to have a few minutes away from the crowds. I get that not everyone would want to walk over or is able to do so, but if you are willing and don’t mind, it really is a short walk and like I said, it’s nice to escape the crowds even for just a few minutes.

2. Take Advantage of Waiting in Lines

The reality is that you are going to spend a lot of time waiting in lines.  Especially when you have a baby it is important to use this time effectively. Use waiting in lines to take care of some of baby’s basic needs. Lines are great feeding times. While not my first choice, if baby does get hungry or fussy, you can use lines to nurse. Pirates was such a long line that I had to use this time to nurse Hudson. People are so in their own worlds that lines are actually not a terrible nursing spot, as long as you don’t mind standing and being surrounded by people. If your baby also eats regular food, you definitely are going to want to have snacks in line to help distract baby. We also used long lines for naps. I would aim to plan for the afternoon nap at the same time as you are in line for the attraction with the longest wait time. For us, we chose to wait in line at Mickey’s house as Hudson napped. We knew this line would be long (nearly an hour wait). He woke up a few minutes before and was awake and in a better mood for the picture with Mickey. You can’t control everything, but if you can try to be strategic with lines and naps, it will pay off.

3. Pack Light

It is easy to over pack. I literally packed 10 diapers. At this point Hudson does not go through nearly that many in a day. Even though I know that, there is something about being away from home for more than a few hours that makes me over prepare and over pack. This mostly is a good thing, but the reality is, I packed more than we needed and I forgot to pack things we could of actually used, like a bib! The point here is to really just pack the essentials. There is no need to stuff your bag with diapers- just a few will suffice. I also packed multiple outfits for him. He stayed in the same outfit all day. Maybe just bring one extra shirt and jacket, but there is no need to pack the whole closet. One thing I did pack that was handy was a pair of pajamas. It was nice to change him out of his clothes and put him into his comfy pjs before making the drive home. In terms of bags, we just did one backpack with a Lululemon bag to put snacks and miscellaneous things in. While you could manage without a stroller, it was handy having the stroller for extra storage space and as a place for naps. The other essential to pack is a baby carrier. Hudson ended up spending way more time in the carrier than the stroller. When you aren’t using it, you can easily put it underneath the stroller. If you don’t want to deal with stroller the entire day, there are tons of stroller parking locations. It also is handy to tie something to mark your stroller with to make it easy to find. We tied a bright orange bandana to ours.

4. Use Baby Station

This is a tip I did not follow, but I wish I had. There is a baby station that has changing tables, nursing chairs, high chairs, and all types of baby supplies you can purchase. It is located right on Main Street. You can get a whole tour of it through this YouTube video here. It is such a nice and peaceful space. It really is well thought out and has everything you would need. In terms of nursing, it was fine to nurse Hudson on the go, but this would have been especially helpful in the early days. I wish we had planned better to go to the baby station to change his diapers because the changing tables in the regular bathrooms are out in the open and are not padded. It is totally doable to just change baby in the regular bathrooms, but it would have been nice to use the more convenient and thought out facilities at the baby station.

5. Let Go of Expectations + Be Home for Bedtime

One of the best ways to ensure you have a great time with baby at Disneyland is to let go of any expectations. Do not expect to go on tons of rides. Do not expect baby to stay on regular nap schedule. Do not expect baby to be happy the entire day. If you are able to let go of some of these expectations, you are going to enjoy yourself so much more. Things did not go perfectly for us. We only made it on a few rides, he woke up when we wanted him to sleep, he fell asleep when we wanted him up, and he definitely had some unhappy and overwhelmed moments. However, as a whole the experience was amazing. While we only went on a few rides, he mostly enjoyed each one. He especially loved Nemo (minus the really dark parts). Pirates was also a hit for him! He was a champ on the drop. I have never seen his eyes get so big. While he did not stick to his typical nap routine, he did get some rest and never became too cranky. And while there were definitely some moments of fussiness, it never lasted long, especially with all the fun things for him to take in around us. If my expectation was a perfect baby the entire day and to go on over 10 rides, I would of been disappointed. I really had no expectations, so everything exceeded my expectations. Hudson was overall so good and some of the pictures and videos we captured of his pure amazement will be some of my favorites. Final tip is to leave early and get home by bedtime. Yes, you miss the parades and fireworks, but I think it is worth it. You end on a good note. We left around 6 pm and at this point Hudson was still in a great mood. The tram was empty and parking lot was nice and quiet. It was the perfect conditions to change Hudson into his pjs and nurse him before driving home.

It was a successful first trip to Disneyland! While Hudson will definitely not remember the day, I can’t wait to show him all the pictures and videos. Disneyland is fun, but I really think it is even more magical when you have your little one along for the ride.

 

9-12 Month Baby Routines

As promised, this is the last part of the baby-related series of March.  I have written a lot about the importance of routines and patterns in my life.  I have found that routines have become an even more important aspect of my days since Hudson’s arrival.  The tough part with baby routines is that babies are changing SO much from a month-to-month basis that I have found our routines need to be adjusted relatively frequently.  Nap times and nap frequency changes a lot and this has a big impact on the whole day’s routine.  Since Hudson is already almost 10-months old, I am going to focus on his current routine, which I imagine will stay relatively similar for the next couple months.  Every day is different, but I have found that ever since he has turned 9-months, his naps have become extremely predictable.  He is now down to just two naps a day.  He usually has his morning nap at 9 am and his afternoon nap at 2 pm.  There could be a slight variance if his morning nap was shorter, but for the most part, these are the two times he naps.  I have loved having these very predictable times because it allows me to fill in the spaces between naps more easily.  I would probably bore you if I went hour by hour and explained Hudson’s typical routine, so instead I am going to break it down into the three parts of the day and give general ideas and inspiration for 9-12 month old baby routines based on what we have found successful.

Morning Time: 7:00-11:00 am 

  • Wake baby up at a consistent time.

 I used to not do this.  If he slept past 7 am, I would let him.  It is so hard to wake up your baby especially when they are finally, actually asleep.  However, I have found, especially at his age now, that it is much better to get him up around 7 am.  As tempting as it is to allow him to continue to sleep, so I can continue to enjoy my morning quiet time, I am learning that sticking to a wake up time is better for the both of us.

  • Start day slowly.  

The day always seems to be better when I allow those first couple hours of the morning to be a slow start.  I typically never plan anything before his first nap.  This allows for a solid two hours in the morning with the ability to slowly wake up to the day.  We usually read a book or two.  We say good morning to the tree and wall and neighbor’s house outside the window.  We pet Nala and tell her good morning.  I re-heat and sip my coffee.  Now that Hudson is a full-on crawler, I usually let him explore and crawl around in the living room a bit before breakfast.  Of course not all days allow for slower starts, but especially during the week, I really try to move things slowly before 9 am.

  • Get all ready for the day BEFORE nap time

I used to leave Hudson in his pajamas for his first nap, but recently learned it makes much more sense to get him all cleaned up and dressed before I put him down for his nap.  Part of the reason I do this is out of necessity.  He usually is a complete mess after his breakfast.  Quinoa cereal is usually smeared all over his little body.  Bananas are stuck in his hair.  Prunes cover his face.  The other reason I get him all clothed and ready is that I don’t want to waste the time once he wakes up from his nap.  When he wakes up, all I have to do is quickly nurse him, grab the diaper bag, and we are out the door!

Afternoon Time: 11:00 am-2:00 pm

  • Schedule an outing.

Typically, right when Hudson wakes up, we leave the house.  This outing will vary based on the day.  As of recently, it usually is a trip to the park to play with friends in our MOMS Club or a grocery store run at Trader Joe’s or a run in the jogger on the strand.  Sometimes the outing is fun, like baby yoga; and sometimes it is more practical, like running errands.  Especially at this age, what seems to really matter is that we are getting out of the house and he gets the chance to interact with other people and babies.  Anytime I have to go to the grocery store or go to an appointment, I know to schedule it during this time slot.  I also try to have specific outings for certain days of the week.  For example, Wednesdays are usually story time or yoga, Thursdays we always go to Trader Joe’s, and Fridays we usually go to the park or beach.  I find it really helpful to have these weekly patterns.

 

  • Be home for nap time.  

Just as important as the outing is the nap time.  I used to be out during nap time and Hudson would often take his second nap in the carseat.  There are definitely certain days where there is no getting around that, but as much as I can control it, I plan to be home for that 2 pm nap time.  The afternoon nap is a really important time for me to get some rest and get a few things done around the house before Lance gets home.  Also, I find that Hudson gets an overall better rest when he naps in his crib.  I always try to cap our outing to around 12:30-1:00, so we can get back home, feed Hudson lunch, and allow him some freedom to play before he has his last nap of the day.

Evening Time: 4:00-7:00 pm 

  •  Allow for independent play time. 

Hudson typically wakes up around 3:30.  By the time I’ve nursed him and changed his diaper and read a book with him, it is time for me to start dinner.  I use this time to give him some alone time to play on his own.  Hudson is around people a lot of the time, so I really want him to learn how to also be adaptable and learn how to entertain and play on his own.  Usually, I will put some toys in the pack ‘n play for him to play with as I begin to make dinner.

  • Eat dinner together.

We are early dinner eaters.  We usually eat around 5 pm or sometimes even earlier.  Since Hudson has been in a high chair, eating together at the dinner table with all three of us is very important.  It can be hard especially when it takes a lot of energy to get Hudson to eat anything at all, but I think this routine is an essential one for our family. No matter what happened in that day, we will find ourselves together again around the table.  We pray. We eat. We slow down.

  • Create a bedtime routine.

After the dishes are cleared, Lance usually takes Hudson and Nala for a walk around the block.  This is another important part of our routine because it gives Lance some alone time with Hudson, which they both enjoy.  It also gives me time to clean up or take a shower.  Once they return, the bedtime routine officially begins.  This is going to vary from family to family.  Create a routine that works the best for your baby and family.  For us, we give him his bath early.  We used to bathe him right before bed, but found that he needed to play between bath and bed to get fully tired.  Lance is in charge of everything bath-related.  He is the master bath giver.  Again, this time allows for me to just watch Lance be an amazing dad or get a load of laundry folded.  Did I mention that Lance is the best? He really is.  This is a slight side note, but it is so helpful to find routines and parts of the day that your spouse can be in charge of.  Lance and I function as a team.  For the days and weeks to work, we both need to hold our weight.  After bath time, the rest of the evening unfolds with pajamas, a little more play time, a story read, prayers, and milky.  Sound machine is on.  Night time teddy bear is playing music.  Hudson is snuggled up in his sleep sack. And I tip toe out of the room.  Unfortunately, even at 9-months the day does not end here and he typically gets up 3-5 more times until the next morning.  But we’re working on that, aka praying he sleeps through night soon!

Obviously, no day is exactly the same.  Some days we hit this routine spot on.  He naps perfectly.  He plays perfectly.  He sleeps soundly.  But, there are days, many days, that just don’t look like that.  This is our routine for the most part, but the fact is, when you have a baby, sometimes you need to let go of routines on those days that are just a struggle.  You have to be okay with that short nap.  You have to be okay when you cancel the outing.  Routines are good.  Actually, they are great and incredibly helpful, but at the end of the day, they are just a guide.  They need to be adjusted, changed, and added to.

5 Ways To Not Go Crazy Making Baby Food

Before I was even pregnant, I used to dream about being a mom. In these dreams, I would imagine two specific things: planning birthday parties and making my kids snacks. These were two aspects of motherhood that I was so excited about. I am literally living my dreams right now! I am making food for my baby and I am beginning to plan his first birthday party. Why does it not feel as exciting as I had dreamed about a few years ago? Why has my excitement turned to stress and anxiety and control? Don’t get me wrong, I am super excited to plan Hudson’s birthday, but the whole making him homemade, organic baby food is getting old and tiresome. I had this vision of what it would be like. I would create these nutritious and tasty meals for my kids and they would neatly gobble it up and praise me for being such a caring and loving mother. They would eat every crumb. They would thank me for all the time I spent in the kitchen. They would ask for seconds. They would tell all their friends about the amazing meals and snacks their mom makes. I know this all sounds crazy but if I’m honest this is the picture I had playing in my head. I am just a few months in to the food making process and I already know how false this picture is. Most days Nala ends up eating more of the food I make for Hudson. Most days he spits it out and throws his spoon in my face. Most days he gobbles up the sweet store bought applesauce but turns his nose to the chia pudding or kale sweet potato purée I freshly blended up in the Baby Bullet. By the end of the day I am left overwhelmed and frustrated with a dirty kitchen and one very messy baby.

I am learning a lot in the kitchen right now. I am learning my efforts will not always be returned. I am learning that part of feeding a baby is learning to let go of control. And let me tell you, that is a hard one for me. I truly did not realize how controlling I was until I had a baby. What a sin of mine! I am slowly, emphasis on slowly, beginning to let go and be okay with smeared beets all over his high chair and crumbs completely covered on the floors. I am letting go of my ever-so tight grip on that spoon and learning to offer it to him, to allow him to try on his own, to give him more freedom and be okay with the mess that comes with that. This is easier said than done. This is especially hard when I spend so much time looking up recipes, boiling fruits and veggies, grinding up quinoa, and lots of blending. It makes my whole body tense when I see the chicken coconut curry recipe I made thrown on the floor. It drives me slightly crazy when I bake pumpkin flax biscuits and he turns his nose to them. I have said “I give up” countless times to Lance at the dinner table. But, for some reason I find myself in the kitchen the next morning trying something new. It usually ends in the same way, messy floor, messy baby, food mostly eaten by the dog, but I am learning the importance of consistency and trying again and again. There are lots of disaster meals, but there are little victories that keep me returning back to the kitchen, back to the baby cookbook, back to the blender.

I am absolutely no expert when it comes to baby food making. Just a mama that desperately wants a happy, healthy and well-fed little one. So from one mama to the next, here are a few ways to help you not go crazy when it comes to making food for baby:

1. Allow Room for Grace

Like the whole title of my blog, this mama needs grace when it comes to baby food. There seems to be a lot of pressure in the arena of feeding baby. I see other blogs and flip through cookbooks and wonder how anyone has the time or patience? It feels overwhelming. It feels unachievable. Allow room for grace. Realistically, you’re not going to be able to make a new, gourmet recipe every meal. Use leftovers. Dig into that freezer stash. Keep it simple. You don’t need to be a top chef to feed your baby well. Just good ingredients and lots of patience.

2. Be Well-Stocked

The fact of the matter is I just don’t have the time or energy to make fresh, homemade food for every meal. Don’t be afraid of the occasional pouch bought at the store or teething crackers from the package. Hudson loves Happy Baby Organic teething crackers and literally did not even want a bite of the made with love pumpkin teething biscuits that came hot out of the oven for him. Some battles are just not worth fighting. We both are happier when I just buy the packaged crackers. Also, when I am pinched for time it is super helpful to just pull a veggie or fruit pouch from the cabinet. I also think it is a great idea to make baby food ahead of time and get a freezer stash going. I wish I did a better job at this, but I always have at least a few servings of pears or peas in the freezer. On those crazy nights, I can just pop it out and it will be ready in just a few. Also I love to have at least one leftover serving from the dinner meal that I can use as a lunch for him the next day. I also found myself on days where the freezer and cabinet were empty and I did not want to go through the tedious process of chopping, boiling, and blending; that I gravitated towards easy foods like avocados and bananas. It is nice to always have a bowl of these easy to mash foods. Final thing that helped in terms of being well-stocked is to have a big container of applesauce on hand. Apples blend great with all sorts of other fruits, veggies, and cereal. I tried making homemade applesauce at the beginning, but it honestly is just easier to buy it. I found myself putting the time in to make it and it barely made much at all. I just get the organic jar at Trader Joe’s and this saves time and allows me to quickly add it to his oatmeal in the morning.

3. Be Adventurous at Home

Restaurants with a baby or kid are already stressful, there is no need to add to it by brining foods they don’t already eat well. Introducing new flavors and textures and even spices early on is super important, but there is a time and a place. A nice restaurant might not be the best place to bring beets. And I am saying that from lived experience. It happened and let’s just say there was red everywhere. Now, when we go out, I try to plan accordingly. I’ll try and give him a veggie or some type of food he doesn’t eat as easily before we leave and then when we are out, I’ll feed him something I am confident he will eat well. For example, I might order a side of avocado or bring a pouch that he has shown to already really enjoy. Be adventurous with your little one. Try new foods. Throw in chia seeds. Add the garlic. But maybe try these more out of the box foods at home.

4. Make Meals for Whole Family

This is a big one! You can’t really do this for the first couple months they are eating, but once they are around 8-9 months they can really eat what you are eating as long as it is blended or chopped tiny. Finding recipes that worked well for the whole family has been the best thing for us. I checked out this book from the library, Growing Up Gourmet. I think I’ll need to eventually just purchase a copy because I use it basically every day. There is a whole section of the book dedicated to meals for the whole family. Most of the recipes are relatively healthy, delicious, and easy to keep dairy-free. It makes my life so much easier to just have one dinner to make. The only thing I need to do differently is blend up Hudson’s portion. Hearty soups are great because they have lots of veggies, flavor and are easy to blend.

5. Don’t Give Up

“I give up!” is my go-to phrase at the dinner table. Making homemade meals for baby is no joke. It’s hard work and it’s even harder when your baby throws it everywhere and cries every time the spoon is near. You are going to be tempted to just buy the purées packed with sugar and close up the kitchen. I know I have. But there is something really fun about making your own meals for baby and trying new flavors. Keep trying. Stay consistent. Keep offering lots of vegetables. Don’t give up. Also make it fun. Hudson’s pediatrician reminded me at our last appointment that feeding baby should be fun. At this point, most of their nutrition primarily comes from milk. This is really just for practice and starting healthy habits. As much as you can, keep it light and fun. I definitely fail in this area a lot of time, but I am trying.

No matter how you choose to feed baby: homemade, store bought, purées, baby led weaning, formula, breastmilk; what really matters is the heart behind it and a growing baby. Each family is different. What works for you, might just not be possible for the next. As long as baby is given the nutrients and love he or she needs, then you are doing a great job! It is easy to let the stress get in the way of it all, but I am daily learning to let go and enjoy the messy and unpredictable process of feeding baby.