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.

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.

Learning to Let Go as Mothers

Happy one day before Mother’s Day! Last Mother’s Day, people wished me a Happy Mother’s Day, and I thought it was very kind, but I felt like I didn’t fully deserve it. I did not feel like I was technically a mother yet. I hadn’t done the hard work of changing diapers, drying tears, losing sleep. But, of everything I have learned in this past year of motherhood, it is the fact that what makes a mom has nothing to do with those things. Yes, diapers, crying (both baby and mom), and little sleep is part of the job description; however, it is not what makes a mom. It is love that makes a mom. Before all the sleepless nights, the never-ending nursing sessions, and the massive diaper bag that has replaced my cute, little black Kate Spade; I was actually already a mom. I had the belly and love to prove it. This has been probably one of my greatest lessons I have learned so far. Especially in those first couple months, I felt so overwhelmed and unsure with my new title as mom. I felt completely inadequate. I felt like a fraud. Who am I to mother this child? I have no idea what I am doing! Simple things like taking the car seat in and out of the car was a struggle for me. Even holding him, I felt awkward and unsure. I lacked all confidence. I would sit at home, terrified to leave the house with him by myself.

Back then, I thought I had to prove to others (and myself) that I was a good mom. I thought my title of mother was based on what I did. Thankfully, just like my identity in Christ, it is based on nothing that I do. It is based on love. It is not even my own love because even that falters. It is a perfect love, the love of God. I am almost a year in to this whole motherhood thing, and of everything I have learned, one thing that I am even more certain of is my great need for a Savior. Motherhood has revealed within me a heart that is selfish and insecure. It has been made very clear that I cannot do this alone. It also has been made very clear that I am not in control. This past year has been full of letting go. Letting go of expectations. Letting go of my tight grip of control. And letting go of what other people think about me. I do these three things better on certain days, and have days where I hold on to everything. But I am learning to let go and this letting go is making all the difference. I am becoming such a better mom the more that I have learned to let go. Things are just not going to be perfect. The spoon will be dropped a thousand times. He will refuse to sleep. He will cry during the wedding vows. I need to let it go. I wrote a previous post about some of the specifics I have learned in the first 6 months of motherhood. You can read that post here. While I broke it down into more specific lessons, much of what I wrote revolves around letting go. It is letting go of the things I simply cannot control and learning to lean in to the one thing that actually makes me a mother: love. This whole letting go thing is not a passive excuse to not care. It is not an “oh well” mindset. It is actually quite the opposite. It is active and intentional. When I choose to let go of the things out of my control, I pray. I ask God to enter. I hand it over. I admit my lack, my need, my limits.

So mama, if you are feeling tired, overwhelmed, and uncertain in your mom abilities, I hope these words can act as encouragement. It certainly can feel overwhelming, but if you can break it down more simply to loving and letting go, I think you will ultimately find so much greater joy.

To all the mothers, thank you for everything you do. It is so much and it really matters. Enjoy your day and if possible let go of a few things and ask God to enter and take over. This might just change everything for you. Special thanks to my amazing mother that has set such a beautiful example of what it looks like to be a mother that sacrifices and loves so well.

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.

 

Running to Remember

On Sunday I ran the 10K at the Run to Remember LA, which is dedicated to all the first responders that have lost their lives serving our cities.  This race was an important one to me. Not only was it my first time racing in nearly 3 years, it also meant more as my dad just retired last week from the Los Angeles County Fire Department after serving for 30 years. I was running for him and all his years of service, dedication, and sleepless nights. When registering for the race back in January, the form gave the option to check the box for what department you were running for. That was an easy check for me. LA County Fire. Even though I was wearing the navy New Balance singlet jersey Lance bought for me online to look “more professional,” I wish I would have been able to wear one of my dad’s station 14 shirts. While cotton is not the best racing material, I could have done it, especially considering there were firefighters running in all of their gear: jacket, pants, and helmet. I am so thankful for my dad and so thankful for all the first responders of our city that keep us safe. I am so thankful for those men and women who have sacrificed their lives defending our country. I am thankful for their families. As I ran, chasing the motorcar in front of me, I heard sirens blaring, I saw American flags everywhere, and I felt a freedom in my step that I have not felt in quite some time.

It was right around Christmas time that the urge to not just run, but compete slowly started to trickle back to me.  This is significant because back to the summer of 2016 after graduating, I specifically told Lance that I was done with running. I was done with the pressure, the high mileage, the workouts that make you want to collapse. I was done with running alone, running with people. I was done with running for a coach, a school, a scholarship. The 4 years of collegiate running sucked something out of me. It blinded me and somewhere along the way I forgot the whole point of running. I forgot why I originally loved it. I forgot the simplicity of laced shoes, pavement, steady miles. I forgot what it feels like to just run because you can, not out of requirement or obligation. I forgot what it feels like to race with a smile. And finally on Sunday, I remembered. It took three years, a baby, and that quiet tugging at my heart to finally step back into it. To run. To compete. To win.

I won the 10K. Did I run a super fast, impressive, PR time? Nope. But I ran with a calmness and a confidence that I have not felt probably since high school running. I felt controlled and steady and confident in my abilities. I breathed with rhythm and control. I believed I would win the race from the moment it started even though a group started at a faster pace than I did. I wasn’t running scared. I wasn’t running with fear. I was running with faith.

Like college, I woke up 3 hours before the race. Since the race started at 8:15, I got up at 5 am. I used this time to sip coffee, eat my Coach’s Oats with almond butter and sliced banana, and be in the Word. That morning I was in Mark. The Lord specifically gave me the very verse I needed to read that morning: “Don’t be afraid. Only believe” (Mark 5:36). Those are the words spoken by Jesus to the synagogue leaders. My heart needs those 5 words on a daily basis. Don’t be afraid. Only believe. I so easily become enslaved to fear and doubt. I am learning that I am an incredibly fearful person. I tend to lean into fear and doubt more than I lean into belief and faith. My fears are often irrational. I trained for this race. I put good, strong workouts in. I stayed committed. I went to the track weekly. I did not skip runs. Yet still the day before the race, I questioned if I would even be near the front of the race. I questioned if I could even be in the top three for female. I wondered if I would even be able to finish the race. These fears are not rational. I put the work in, yet still the fears tend to dominate my thoughts. That verse from Mark brought me such ease. The words only believe echoed through my mind as I walked over to the start line. And something changed when the race begun. Something connected with my brain, heart and legs. The fears, the doubts, the worries washed away. I am not exactly sure what it was. Maybe it was the lightness I felt running in my flats that I had to dust off from the back of the closet. Maybe it was again wearing a jersey. Maybe it was the words of Jesus I read a few hours prior. Whatever it was, something clicked within me. I was back to that girl in high school. The one that ran with joy and intensity in the same step.

The race was definitely not as competitive as I was hoping it would be, but I must admit, I was okay with it. I didn’t need a qualifying time. I just needed an opportunity to remember how running and racing make me feel. And to be honest, it was super fun to run through the finishing tape. I never thought I would get to do something like that. It was also fun chasing a motorcar, I never thought I would get the chance to do that since most collegiate races I was in the middle of the pack. After the race, and after giving a really bad interview to the race director where I basically just said “I love to run!” I held my sweet Hudson boy, who cried every time I ran past him. He snuggled against me and I again was reminded that I love to run, to compete, to win, but it is by no means my everything. That was the problem in college. I was in an environment that wanted me to put running above all things and I could just never do that. I love to run, but I love snuggles with my baby so much more, and even more than that I love Jesus. That is where my identity lies. Not as a runner, or as a mom. But as a daughter of Christ.

So after the race, as I sat in the front seat of the car nursing Hudson, I couldn’t help but smile. This is my life now. After my race there was no time to wander or cool down much at all, I knew someone was hungry and needed me. Things no longer are revolved around running. Things revolve around our sweet Hudson and the running just fits in the small windows that are available. It is about balance. I love being able to run through finishing tape and then a few minutes later be back to being a mom, nursing in my sweaty, navy blue singlet. This is the life.

Again, so thankful for the great career and sacrifice of my dad at his very busy station in South Central. So thankful for all the first responders of our city. And thankful for this race, the Run to Remember, for being dedicated to first responders and for allowing me to not only remember the great freedom we have because of them, but also the freedom I feel with singlet on and racing flats laced.

If you are interested in running this race next year. You should! I am linking to their website here.

8 Essential Baby Products You Actually Need

As a soon-to-mom, I was completely overwhelmed with the amount of baby products out there.  I can distinctly remember the first time Lance and I went to Buy Buy Baby to register. We walked up and down the aisles and it seemed like in order to be the best prepared parents, we needed it all.  This is exactly what all the brands and stores want you to think.  But it simply is not true.  We definitely got sucked into some of the hype over brands and the newest baby tech products, but the truth is some of the most basic, simplest, and lowest price tag items we got, were the ones that were most useful and are still the ones we are using on a daily basis nine months later.  Hopefully, this list can help guide you through the aisle as you determine what is essential and what is just not.  Side note: this list became very long, so I chose to not include any nursing/feeding items and will dedicate a full post to those items in the very near future.  Second side note: This will probably be of little interest to current parents.  This list is really intended for those beginning to plan for baby.

  1. Travel System Carseat/Stroller

To me, this should be your first priority because it really is the first thing you will actually need before going home from the hospital.  The hospital literally will provide you with everything you need for baby those first few days.  Diapers, wipes, and swaddles are all provided for you.  And to be honest, that is mostly all you need those first few days anyways.  We brought a diaper bag full of things for Hudson.  The reality is we did not need really any of it.  But, the one thing you will actually need before you can leave the hospital is a carseat.  You will definitely want to get a carseat that is part of a travel system, so you can easily snap carseat from base in the car to the stroller.  Especially in the early days, this made such a difference when he would always be sleeping in his carseat.  It made the transition out of the car so easy.  There are literally so many options and some very steep price tags.  I know there is a lot of hype around certain brands and I think if you can afford it and really value name brands then buy that UPPAbaby stroller, but paying over $1,000 for a stroller is just not our jam.  We were gifted the Chicco Bravo Travel System and we have found it to be very reliable.  It might not be as fancy looking, but it does the job it needs to.  When finding the right carseat-stroller combo, don’t feel like you need to get the most expensive one.  There are so many great and durable ones that are less than half the price of the super expensive ones.

2. Bassinet and Crib 

I know everyone has their opinion on what is best for where baby should sleep those first few months and honestly it really comes down to personal preference.  For us, we chose to have Hudson sleep in a bassinet right next to our bed for basically the first 4 months.  We were able to borrow a bassinet from my sister-in-law which was very helpful.  It can really start to add up with all the new things you need to purchase, so if you can borrow or inherit someone’s bassinet I think that is a great way to go because the reality is that you will only be using it for a few months.  We really liked the Halo Bassinet Swivel Sleeper.  I know there is a lot of talk about the SNOO bassinet and how helpful it can be to getting your baby to actually sleep, but again the price tag is over $1,000.  It is one thing to spend that much on a carseat/stroller that you will use on a daily basis for over a year, but your baby will likely only be in a bassinet for the first few months.  Along with a bassinet, you will likely want to have a crib that you will be able to transition baby into.  We chose our crib based off the style we were going for the nursery.  This is another big expense, so I think it is important that you make sure you choose a crib that grows with baby.  The crib we got, which I am linking to here, will literally be able to become a big kid bed for Hudson.  While cribs are also pretty expensive, this is an investment that your baby can use for years!

3. Velcro Swaddles and Muslin Swaddles

This is one of those items that we found extremely useful and necessary for getting Hudson to sleep, but I am also aware that some parents find that their babies hate to be swaddled.  According to Dr. Harvey Karp, author of Happiest Baby on the Block and creator of the SNOO, swaddling is an essential step to getting your baby to sleep through the night.  Babies have the startle reflex, so without a swaddle, they can easily wake themselves up.  I can remember being in the hospital and obsessing over how perfectly and tightly the nurses swaddled him.  We would ask over and over again for them to show us, in hopes that by the time we were home that we would be master swaddlers like them.  No matter how hard I tried or how many Youtube videos I watched, I never seemed to swaddle Hudson tightly enough and he almost always got his arms out.  Hence, the velcro swaddles quickly became our friends and were the swaddles we used every single night.  There are a ton of brands out there, but we really liked the SwaddleMe ones.  A piece of advice with the swaddles: start by registering for just a couple so you can try it out and see if it works with your baby.  I know a lot of people end up with a ton of swaddles and a lot of them will just sit in the closet. For us, these really worked so we used multiple ones per day.  I would also suggest registering for larger sizes, so you can continue using them once baby gets slightly heavier, but remember you definitely need to stop swaddling baby’s arms once they begin to roll. Along with these velcro swaddles, we also used muslin swaddles all the time.  We did not swaddle him in these as much, but they were super handy to have around, especially since we had a baby with acid reflux that was spitting up multiple times every feeding.  We really like the prints and feel of the Aden & Anais swaddles.  These really are multi-purposeful and we would go through 5 plus a day early on, so it is nice to have a large stash of these.  They also are great to use as a cover over the carseat and stroller and act as the perfect blanket especially during the hotter, summer months.

4. Diapers, Wipes, and Changing Table Scale

Obviously, you are going to need lots of diapers and lots of wipes. But like I mentioned earlier, you really do not need to pack any for the hospital because they will provide all of that for you.  You will use plenty of diapers at home, so I would really take advantage of using the supplies offered to you at the hospital.  The amount of diapers we went through was shocking to us as new parents.  Early on, were going through 10-15 diapers a day.  That number decreases over time, but the fact is diaper expenses can really start to add up.  I know Honest diapers are beautiful, but I really do not think they are worth the extra cost.  I found that they did not feel as soft as Pampers.  While they are very stylish and I loved the fun prints we were gifted (thanks mom!), they just are not as practical and they end up in the trash in just a few hours.  It is also nice to get diapers that have that yellow line that turns blue to indicate a wet diaper.  The Pampers Swaddlers are the ones used in the hospital and were my favorite for him as a newborn.  As he got older and we moved to size 1 and beyond, we started getting the Kirkland Signature Supreme diapers from Costco.  These are slightly more affordable and they feel very similar to Pampers.  With wipes, I wasn’t too particular and personally did not notice a huge difference, but I think it is always best to get wipes that are unscented or sensitive.  We get the Amazon brand wipes and love them.  Again slightly more affordable and they are durable, but still nice and soft. Along with diapers and wipes, it is nice to have a spot to consistently change baby.  A changing table is definitely not needed. We just put a changing pad on top of his dresser.  In terms of changing pads, I really wish we had gotten a changing pad that also acted as a baby scale.  This is something we did not have and it is the one thing I wished we received. I had no idea how obsessive I would become over his weight gain.  I literally drove to the hospital every week to use their lactation room to nurse Hudson and then weigh him to make sure he was gaining sufficient weight.  It was a bit of a hassle to make this trip every week, so it would have saved a lot of stress if we had a baby scale at home.  From what I have heard and just based off what I have read, the Hatch Baby Grow seems to be amazing.  This is definitely one of those high-tech baby products I wish we invested in.  It functions as a scale and connects to an app that tells you exactly how much baby is eating per feed.  Especially for nursing mamas, this is such a useful tool because it can be extremely stressful when you are uncertain how many ounces baby is intaking.  This product would have saved me a TON of tears and drives to the hospital.

5. Onesies, Zip-Up Footie Pajamas, and Socks 

Clothing is the one thing everyone will want to gift you and it is super fun to add adorable pieces to your registry, but especially early on the basics are what really matter.  Also, your baby will likely outgrow clothing SUPER quick.  We found that we barely needed to purchase much clothing at all since we were given so many pieces.  Of all the cute, little outfits we received, the items that were most useful and practical early on were lots of onesies, zip-up pajamas and socks.  Hudson was constantly spitting up the first few months so we went through a lot of outfits per day.  It was super helpful to have a good assortment of simple onesies to change him into throughout the day.  For pajamas, the footie zip-up ones were by far our favorite.  Especially in the early days when you have to change diapers in the middle of the night, it is so much easier to have pajamas that simply zip, rather than have to struggle in the dark with those dreaded little snaps.  We also were gifted some really cute pairs of shoes, but we found that Hudson would always just kick them off and hated having them on his feet.  Even now at 9-months, Hudson still just wears socks!

6. Baby Bath

Basically from the time we brought Hudson home we have been giving him baths every night in his bath tub, which we place on the kitchen sink.  For the first month this just consisted of placing him in the bath and pouring water on him and using washcloths, but after his umbilical cord fell off, he has had full on baths in his baby bath tub.  We have really liked the Boon SOAK tub.  It is nothing too fancy, but it is a great size, fits on our counter well, and holds Hudson in just the right position. This is one of those products that we literally use every night.  Along with the tub, we are obsessed with Johnson’s Bedtime bath and lotion.  We have also used baby Aveeno products, but it just does not compare to the sweet, lavender smell of Johnson’s.  The smell is just the best and the use of the lotion after his bath has become a part of our night time routine that we both enjoy.  I will dedicate a whole post in the future to go in greater detail on our entire night time routine.

7. Baby Carrier 

Strollers are not always the most convenient especially when you want to walk on the beach or take a hike.  For these situations, a baby carrier is essential.  Again, there are lots of brands and different types.  There is Ergo, BABYBJORN, the Moby Wrap, and the list goes on and on.  We have the Ergo 360 carrier, which we love.  It seems like there are a lot of great brands for carriers, but whatever brand you go with, I do think it is best to have the function to face baby both in and out.  Facing baby in is great for the first few months, but by six-months it is likely your baby will be much more interested in the world around you and will prefer to look out.  You also want to check what the weight requirements are for each carrier.  The Ergo 360 carrier was one we were not able to use right away, but we also were given my sister-in-law’s original Ergo, which comes with the infant insert, so this was a carrier we were able to use even in his first month. I personally never got very into the baby wraps.  I found them to be way too complicated, but I know a lot of people like using the wraps when baby is very small.  It really is all a matter of preference.

8. Pacifiers

I know not all babies take a pacifier, but Hudson did and we found it to be especially helpful.  It was a great way to soothe him down when he was especially little and fussy.  We would never leave the house without an emergency binky.  It has definitely saved us a few times.  Pacifiers are especially helpful at the doctor’s office during shots and for sleeping.  Before Hudson was born, I would always see babies with the WubbaNub and thought Hudson would like them too, but he never liked them.  I am not even sure the brand of pacifiers we use, it is just the really basic ones, but he loves them! The nipples of each brand can be very different so if you plan on offering a pacifier, maybe try a few brands before you buy tons.  And I would recommend getting tons!  Binkys seem to be like socks.  They are lost so easily! It is always a good idea to have an extra in the diaper bag.

 

 

 

 

Seasonal Reflections & New March Series

Happy March!  It is crazy to me that spring is almost here.  I don’t know about you, but I definitely have a case of spring fever.  I am ready for more sunshine.  I am ready for later sunsets.  I am ready for Easter and pastel dresses.  I am ready for renewal and blooming and change.  There is something about springtime.  I love it almost as much as I love fall.  My moods often seem to be cyclical with the seasons.  In summer, I feel bright and happy and carefree. In fall, I feel a sense of warmth and harvest.  In winter, I feel a little down.  And in spring, I almost always feel a sense of hope and renewal.  Change is coming.  My heart knows He will Rise.  There is so much hope at this time of year.  The impossible feels possible.

A year ago, I had a growing belly and a heart full of hope of new life.  Fast-forward a year later, and I now have a curious, joyful, and playful 9-month old.  A year ago, Lance and I anticipated Hudson’s arrival with a sense of longing and hope.  Now, we have this little boy and our hearts are still brimming with hope.  Hudson is still very much a baby, but recently I have been getting strong glimmers of what this little baby will be like as a boy and eventually as a man.  This crinkly-nosed baby with lots to say, points me to a boy that will be playful and silly and confident.  That boy then points me to a man that will have a bold faith in the Lord.  Do you see what I mean?  There is so much hope!  I can see our sweet Hudson figuring out things daily.  I see him hold things with a look of puzzlement and pure wonder.  I see him slowly figuring out the world around him.  He knows what he likes (milky from mommy, Nala kisses, warm baths).  He also is very certain as to what he does not like (anything green, sleeping, a clean face).  He is becoming a little person! And Lance and I are loving this time.  We are filled with hope for the man he will become.

Speaking of babies, for the month of March, we will be entering a new series on all things babies.  While I am literally just nine-months into motherhood, I feel like I have learned a ton in these past few months and want to pass it on.  This will be a 4-part Saturday series covering the following:

  1. Essential Baby Gear
  2. Nursery Inspiration
  3. Food Making for Baby 
  4. Baby Sleep and Play Schedules 

Riveting topics, I know!  Hopefully, I hooked you and I will see you back here next Saturday morning for all things baby gear.  To me, this was really overwhelming as a first time mom because I felt like I needed to get everything top of the line and have all the best gadgets for baby.  Truth is, there are a lot of things you don’t need, but there are some key things you really do need that will make life so much easier.  To find out more, come back to this very place and read all about my top list of essential baby products.  And don’t worry it won’t be things as obvious as cribs and diapers, but I will talk about these things as well.

 

 

 

Coffee

This mama needs coffee.  We have a frame in our kitchen that holds the Pinterest-worthy quotation: “All I need today is a little bit of coffee & a whole lot of Jesus”.  Okay, okay so in reality I don’t truly need that bit of coffee, it is all Jesus, but that is not to say that a few sips of coffee hurt after a night of waking up every hour for your sick babe.  Coffee and prayer are two parts of my morning routine.  They go hand in hand.  Literally.  I have one hand around my bible and the other around hot ceramic.  As I sip and read, I truly wake up to the Word, the Truth.  While of course I do not need that hot cup of coffee in the morning, there is something about sipping coffee, while reading my Bible that allows my mind and heart to really focus in on Jesus.  When Lance and I used to attend church at Reality LA, we both served on the coffee team.  I loved serving on this team.  I loved making the big batches of coffee.  I loved meeting new people and handing them hot coffee or even iced coffee in the summertime.  I still so clearly remember what one of the leaders said in an initial meeting before we joined this team.  They told us the importance of coffee ministry.  They told us that it is more than just pouring out coffee and tea.  Just like with hospitality and opening up your home, there is power in the details.  While it is and always will be centrally about Jesus, that doesn’t mean that a glass of good wine or a latte from a really good coffee shop, can’t be part of the ministry to turn people to Him.  Coffee is not going to bring people to Jesus (that is the Holy Spirit), but as I attended that meeting before serving on the coffee team, I was reminded that everything we do has the power to help bring people closer to knowing the grace and love of God.  It can be as simple as handing someone a cup of coffee and a kind smile.  I don’t know about you, but I definitely seem to think better and be more inspired and more creative and motivated, when I have a pretty mug in my hands.  Again, it is just small details, but I truly believe God made coffee for us to enjoy whether that be alone at 6am with tired eyes or together in a crowded coffee shop.

So do I need coffee?  No.  I survived nine months of pregnancy without it.  I don’t need it, but it does help me get up early even after a night of extremely broken sleep so I can pray and read scripture and be reminded that the Lord is faithful and He sees my weariness.  Just like there is something powerful that happens when people gather around a table with good food and conversation, I think something similar can happen with good coffee.  For Lance and I, coffee shops are important to us.  Before we even began to date, it was a slightly run down coffee shop in Venice that brought us together.  Coffee was the excuse.  Work was the excuse.  Really what we wanted was to better know each other.  So we spent hours at that cafe on Pier Street.  Drinking coffee, talking, working, dreaming.  The coffee at this cafe was not even that great.  It definitely was not like Intelligentsia or Blue Bottle, but for us it was the experience.  There was something charming about the place.  It was not fancy, it was actually quite grungey.  The coffee was served in paper cups.  Everyone inside seemed to either be brilliant or homeless or both.  And it was one of our favorite places.  For us this cafe, was not even about the coffee, but it was through the coffee and the need to work, that our relationship started here.  After a Sunday evening working at this cafe together, Lance drove me home and told me he liked me.  I can remember every detail of it.  I remember his nerves, his Honda Passport, the conversation that began with “So I have been talking to my mom…”.  And I think even  in that moment I knew this was more than just an “I like you” conversation.  This was serious.  This was real.  There was gravity in his words.  This was more of an “I am in it with you for everything” conversation.  Even then, I knew that conversation in the LMU parking garage was the start of our lives together.  You might not believe that, but I truly did have a sense that everything would change from that point forward.  This moment is one of my very favorites with Lance and I think it will forever be linked to the mediocre coffee on Pier Street.

See?  Coffee brings people together!  Actually, Jesus brings people together.  Coffee is just a little detail.  Coffee is good, but Jesus is better.  Much better.  Think of the most expensive, fancy cup of coffee.  Think of that $15 cup of coffee they sell at Blue Bottle.  Obviously that must be good coffee, but Jesus is infinitely better.  Of course He is, you’re thinking.  What a silly comparison to even make, you’re thinking.  But I would question, do our lives always reflect this?  Do we wake up in prayer or do we wake up first grabbing that coffee?  Do we say I am so exhausted I need Jesus? Or is it coffee we ask for? Coffee is good.  Coffee wakes us up. But, Jesus saves.  In my life, I hope to always first chase after the Lord and if I happen to find a good coffee shop on the way, that won’t hurt.