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 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!

You Just Can’t Do It All

Obviously, I know this. There is no way I can do it all, let alone do it all well. However, I live and plan out my days acting otherwise. I think part of the issue is the fact that my main job is being a mom. Since I don’t have a typical 9-5 job, I tell myself the lie that I should be doing more. The problem here is this logic is ignoring the fact that being a stay-at-home is an all-consuming, 24-7 job. If I was still working, I am pretty sure I wouldn’t feel the same type of guilt when I run out of time to go to the grocery store or fall behind on 1st birthday party planning. Actually, I probably still would, and I’m sure working moms can attest to this as well. The point here, is no matter what type of job or lifestyle we live, none of us can do it all and mom guilt is a real thing. Just because I’m a stay-at-home mom does not mean I have the time to have every cabinet in my home perfectly organized or be able to make everything homemade. The truth is, my floors never even look that clean and it almost is always a scramble getting a relatively good tasting meal on the table. I can’t do it all.

Back to my previous point, about guilt and staying at home. I think since I am not physically bringing in a pay check to help support our family, I feel a tremendous amount of pressure (solely created by me) to hold my end of the stick by ensuring the house is kept orderly, healthy meals are on the table, and parties look like Pinterest. Not to mention that Hudson is well-fed, clean, and happy, which let me tell you, just that is a full time job. And that is the problem. Just doing that sometimes doesn’t feel like enough, so I tack on all the other things. Train for a marathon. Be involved in MOMS Club. Teach bible study lessons. Create fun experiences for Hudson. Plan playdates. Organize all the cabinets and closets and drawers. Substitute teach. Write a blog. Create a podcast. Go to yoga. Wake up early. Budget. Buy all the gifts. Plan and host events. And the list could go on. I don’t want this to sound like I’m complaining because I really am not, I feel so thankful to be in the place to do those things, but what I am saying is that it can quickly feel overwhelming, even if my main job title is “mom.” I can’t do it all.

I tell myself I can do it all because I see through the windows of social media what other moms are doing. But here’s the thing, I am just looking through a window, I don’t get the chance to see the things that she has chosen to let go of or say no to. This is huge. This is what I need to constantly remind myself. No one can do it all. I see the perfectly made lunch, but I don’t see the mess in the kitchen. I see the miles and miles of training she logged, but I don’t see the nanny. I see the beautifully laid out blog, full of amazing content, but I don’t see the strained relationships. We are just seeing windows. Remember this. We can’t do it all.

This is a lesson I am currently learning. If I’m honest, even typing this up I feel a bit phony, as Holden Caulfield would say. I am still figuring this lesson out. I say I can’t do it all, but I still convince myself I can run 50 plus miles a week, write 2 blog posts a week, record a new podcast every week, keep the house clean, plan Hudson’s birthday party, and most importantly be the most present and loving wife and mother I can be. This last one is the most important to me, but sadly my days do not always reflect this priority. That needs to change. And it will. Words and miles will always be there for me to come back to, but this time with my husband and sweet little boy, that I can’t get back. So I will keep typing it until it sets in. I can’t do it all.

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.

 

A Letter to My Grandma

Last week was one of those very unexpected hard, hard weeks.  My 99 year-old grandmother passed away.  This woman was much more than just a grandma to me. She is one of the woman that has most inspired me to strive to be a woman of grace, kindness, and poise.  This past week I have been flooded with all my fondest memories of her.  While unfortunately a lot of them take place ten plus years ago, I am so thankful for her last years that I got to visit her in her nursing home.  Some of those last memories I have of her, while she no longer was quite as talkative or energetic, are still some of my fondest.  While not much went on and not much was spoken, I now treasure those last raw moments we had together on her bed, holding hands, and her telling me to “run along now…Lance is waiting for you.”  She was always so concerned with me getting home to him.  This was just who she was.  My heart aches.  I already miss her so much.  While I wish I could of written this letter prior to her passing, I wanted to share this letter in memory of my grandma (May 9, 1919 – October 24, 2018).

Dear Grandma,

Remember that night I called you to pick me up because my sister was sick and I wanted to be out of the house? I remember that night so clearly.  I think I was probably just 7 or 8 years-old.  I can still see you pulling up in front of our house to pick me up.  To me, you have always been such a place of comfort and happiness.  I loved our evening together.  I remember driving to the Ralph’s to get popsicles.  I remember sleeping with you in your bed.  While I don’t remember this, I am sure you made eggs, bacon, sourdough toast, and half a grapefruit with a cherry on top for breakfast.  I love sourdough and grapefruits because of you.  Honestly, I don’t even particularly love the bitterness of grapefruit, but it is one of my favorite morning fruits because it reminds me of you.  Grapefruits now are much more than a pink, bitter fruit.  Grapefruits are happiness.  Grapefruits are peace. Grapefruits are fun (especially with a cherry on top).

I hope you know how much I love you.  As a little girl, I adored you.  As a young woman, I admire you.  I admire your strength.  You are one of the strongest woman I know.  Not everyone can make it 99 years.  I know that is a long time, and I know those latter years were probably not your favorite, but you endured.  You held on and even in the harder last days, you laughed and you loved. You even met your first great-grandson, Hudson.  I was so touched by the amount of gratitude you demonstrated in being able to meet him.  You just kept repeating his name, and stated how lucky you were.  We are the lucky ones.  We have been so blessed by your life, grandma.  You have taken such good care of all of us, and continue to do so as Lance, Hudson and I live in your house.  Now that you have passed, in some ways it has been hard living in your old house.  However, I am also thankful for it.  I am daily reminded of you as I look out the kitchen window and see the purple flowers (purple was one thing we always had in common).  I smile as I play with Hudson and Nala in the side yard and think about you chasing after me as a little girl.  I feel your presence as I prepare dinner for our family in the kitchen using the very same rice cooker you used to make so many delicious meals for all of us.  While at times, my heart feels so heavy as I look at all the things that remind me of you, my heart also feels so much gratitude for your life, for the fact that I had 24 years with you, and for everything you have done for our family.

Not only do I admire your strength, I admire all the skills and talents you possessed.  You were so incredibly gifted. While it has been years, dinners at your house were always my favorite. I loved all the Japanese flavors you always incorporated.  There was something about the food you made.  Even something as simple as eggs, it always seemed to taste better coming from your kitchen.  I can still remember picnics we had with you and grandpa.  You would make a certain type of chicken. It was the most delicious chicken. These memories now are faint because these picnics were about 20 years ago, but I loved them.  I loved being with both you and grandpa and I loved that chicken you made.  Besides your food, you also made beautiful blankets.  I think your knitting largely helped keep your brain so sharp.  When I packed for college, I can remember one of the few things I packed that I felt like I needed was the beige knitted blanket you made me.  This might have been one of the last things you knitted.  It was around my sophomore year that I decided I wanted to learn to knit.  At the time I did not make the connection, but reflecting back, I am certain this was because of you.  I was only able  to make a knitted rectangle, but I hope to one day pick it up again and make blankets just like you.

Of all that you taught me, the piece that sticks with me most is the way in which you loved.  You loved with such an open heart.  You loved your family, your friends, the Dodgers, playing cards, the color purple, and hummingbirds.  You loved everyone in your life so well, and you were loved so incredibly much.  I think back to the day you picked me up when I could not stand to be in the house because my sister was sick.  I think that memory is so imprinted in my head because it captures the abundant love you had for me and the equally abundant love I had for you.  This love will never stop. I will forever love you, grandma. Thank you for everything.

P.S. I cannot wait to show Hudson the pictures of you and him, and tell him about his amazing great-grandmother.

Love Your Granddaughter,

Kelli