Finding the Perfect Diaper Bag

When I was pregnant and building our baby registry, I had no idea how important it was to have a great diaper bag. I registered for and received this one, which was cute, compact, and easy to carry around. There were a lot of things I liked about it, but I didn’t love it. I’m the kind of over-packer that needs to have everything in my bag, and this one just wasn’t cutting it. It didn’t have enough pockets and pouches for everything, and I quickly grew frustrated with always digging though the whole bag to find things.

A few months in, I started searching for a better bag. And when I say searching, I mean scouring the internet for the perfect bag. I read reviews on every diaper bag I could find, but nothing was checking all my boxes. I even looked into the pricey designer bags, willing to pay a little more to get a great product, but even those weren’t cutting it. They all had a few of my “must-have” qualities, but not all of them. I wanted backpack straps for those days when my hands are full. I wanted stroller clips to hang it on the stroller or shopping cart. I needed plenty of pockets, and I wanted it to be cute but not overly girly, as I knew my husband would be toting it around too.

Then around Christmas time my hubby and I were strolling the aisles of Target, and (surprise, surprise!) we ended up finding something we had absolutely no intention of shopping for! We were cruising the baby section, and I found this beautiful, magical diaper bag. I looked it over, counted up all the pockets (TEN!), and was practically jumping for joy. My husband must have thought I was crazy, but I suppose he’s known me long enough to expect these kind of things. We bought it on the spot, and I’ve been in love with it ever since!

We can easily fit everything we need in this bag, it even has two insulated bottle pockets inside (bonus!), and it has stroller clips, backpack straps, purse handles, and a shoulder strap. You can also remove the straps you don’t want and store them in the built-in pouch. It’s a pretty large bag, but it’s been perfect for us!

My advice to new parents – don’t underestimate the importance of a good diaper bag! I’m sure other moms don’t always carry around quite as much stuff in their bag as I do, so if you’re a little more low-key, this bag might be too big and bulky for you. But I’m a huge fan of Amazon reviews, so if you’re building a registry, I’d recommend doing some research on diaper bags before adding one to your registry! That bag will be your best friend through many blowouts, spit-ups, tantrums, crying fits, hungry meltdowns, and so much more. So make sure you do you research and find a bag that’s going to work for you.

Summer Highlights – Week 1

Our first week of summer break has officially drawn to a close, and it has given me a glimpse into all the summer fun that is to come!

Our first weekend of summer featured a fabulous summer photoshoot by my amazing friend, Jennifer! This amazing lady is just breaking into the photography business, but she is phenomenal! She is super creative and has such great ideas for beautiful shoots. Every time she does a photoshoot for us, I spend at least the next week constantly looking at the photos! If you’re looking for photography of any kind, you should definitely check her out! Needless to say, I’ve been looking at our new photos of our sweet girl ever since!

We kicked off our first official weekday of summer with a zoo trip on Monday! I’ve been dying to go to the zoo again ever since our all-school field trip in May. I absolutely love the zoo, but it doesn’t have quite the same effect when experienced as a teacher, toting around a group of 2nd graders on an 80-degree day. So I’ve been begging my husband to go back ASAP, and he willingly obliged. We made sure to get an early start on Monday morning, packed our lunches for the day, and were pulling into the lot of the Milwaukee County Zoo right at 9:00 when they were opening. I’ve never experienced the zoo right when they’ve opened, but it was AMAZING, and I’d totally set my alarm for another early morning the next time we go. We made it through several of the indoor animal exhibits with virtually no lines or crowds, and it was so enjoyable! I grew up at the zoo, so I’ve been there quite a lot. But I’ve never seen it so uncrowded! Maybe it was the fact that it was a cooler, slightly-overcast day too… or maybe there just aren’t a lot of early birds this first week of summer! Either way, it was great. We brought back our souvenir soda cup we bought earlier in the season, and made sure to pack plenty of snacks. Save for the buck we spent on a soda refill, our zoo pass made it a virtually free day of fun! The best part with the zoo pass was that we didn’t feel guilty ditching out shortly after lunchtime to get our daughter home in time for her afternoon nap! We closed out Monday afternoon at the softball fields for my husband’s softball game. It was definitely a long day, but it surely felt like a great way to kick off our summer!

The rest of the week was pretty low-key. We’ve been dealing with some teething again, so our daughter has not been sleeping well at night. This obviously means that no one is sleeping well at night, so we’ve enjoyed not having much going on this week! We spent some time with family and friends, enjoyed lots of snuggles and play time at home, and caught up on some binge-watching. We also did some yard work, caught up on cleaning around the house (how do other moms find time to mop their floors?!?), and made a trip to Costco. We went for lots of walks around our neighborhood, splashed in our blow-up unicorn pool, and cut some fresh flowers from our yard to brighten up our kitchen table!

Testing out the pool before we took it outside and filled it up!

My favorite part of summer so far has been the afternoon naps! Now that I’m off, I’ve been laying down with my daughter for her afternoon naps. She sleeps well when she’s snuggled up with mama, and it’s been nice catching up on some of the sleep I’m missing at night!

Can’t wait to see what this next week of summer will bring!

Dog Treats

When my daughter was first born, it was a tough adjustment for our dog, Sawyer. She was used to being our only “child,” and she wasn’t too happy to be sharing our attention with this new little creature who was sucking up all our time and making lots of noise! You can read more about this adjustment in my previous post about dog mom guilt.

However, my dog has recently found a whole new reason to love her baby sister. And in true dog fashion, this reason has everything to do with food!

Now that my daughter is eating a full plate of real solid foods, she has discovered a fun new game. Dropping Throwing food off her tray to the waiting mouth of our little vacuum dog! Initially our dog just did the cleanup duty of picking up the stray crumbs that the baby dropped, but my daughter has now started purposely feeding the dog. She picks out her favorite foods first, and tosses her least desired foods to the dog. Sometimes she even holds her hand out, covered in sticky mushed up raspberry or scrambled egg, and lets the dog lick it clean.

I will say I am grateful to our dog for saving me from having to mop the kitchen after every meal, but when my daughter looks me in the eye, smiles, and throws the dog a piece of chicken that I just cut up for her, I can’t help but imagine the future. I’m sure we will see many peas and green beans discretely tossed under the table for our sneaky dog to munch up!

While I don’t love this new trick my daughter has discovered, I’m grateful for this new bond between my girls! The dog still doesn’t love the slightly-too-rough pats on the head or tugs on her ears, but boy is our daughter enamored with that dog! She squeals with delight when her doggy walks into the room, and she loves chasing her around the house. So if this new game is a way for them to bond, I guess I won’t be too upset about my balsamic roasted broccoli florets being wasted on the dog!

An Ode to Pumping

Let me start off by saying that my breastfeeding and pumping journey has not always been an easy one! I have struggled with recurring thrush throughout this journey, which has been painful and challenging. If you don’t know what thrush is, a quick google search will clue you in, but it’s a painful infection that is relatively common in breastfeeding moms. I’ve tried all the recommendations – I modified my diet, I take herbal supplements, I use vinegar in my laundry, I sterilize my pump parts daily… it still keeps coming back. There have been days I wanted to just give up altogether, be done with breastfeeding and pumping and pain, but I pressed on for my daughter.

But now that summer is here, one part of my breastfeeding journey has come to an end, and I am bursting with excitement! As a teacher, I have the next three months off to spend with my daughter. This means: No. More. Pumping.

I had started my pumping journey before I even came back to work. My last few weeks of maternity leave, I started pumping in the mornings so that I could build up a freezer stash before going back to work. Then, once I returned to work, I added in two pumping sessions during the work day, taking up both of my prep periods. And because I was so worried about not keeping up with my daughter’s demand, I added a fourth pumping session after I’d put my daughter to bed at night. For a while there, it felt like I was hooked up to my pump almost constantly!

Some time around the 6-month mark I ditched the night time pump session, but throughout the school year, I was pumping 3 times a day on work days, and every morning on the weekends too. It truly felt exhausting. I was up before 5 on weekday mornings to have time to pump, feed my daughter, and get everyone ready for the day before leaving for work. It almost felt like I was working a second job!

Needless to say, the prospect of ditching the pump was exciting! I didn’t realize how time consuming, exhausting, and stressful this journey would be. And honestly now that I’m done pumping, I feel like a large chunk of stress has been lifted! At work, I always had to worry about a prep getting moved or changed. If we had an assembly or special event or field trip, I had to plan accordingly and find someone to cover my kiddos so I could pump. If we had plans on the weekends, I missed out on sleeping in so I could be up early to pump before leaving the house. I wasn’t fully aware of how much stress it had been causing me, but now that I’m done pumping, I feel so relieved!

I will say that while this journey has not always been easy, I’m grateful for it nonetheless. I’m grateful to have been able to nourish my daughter all these months. I’m in awe of my body’s ability to respond to my daughter’s needs and meet her ever-changing demands. I’m thankful for all the money we’ve saved. I’m grateful for the bonding experience that it has been. It has been a path of many obstacles, but it was a memorable and worthwhile trip.

Top 10 Uses for the Ergobaby Carrier

Before my daughter was born, I loved the idea of Ergobaby carriers. I had obviously never used one before, and I really hadn’t heard many reviews one way or the other from my friends with kids. But I thought it seemed fun and practical to wear baby in a carrier rather than lugging around a bulky carseat or stroller. So we put it on our registry, and ended up with our Ergo a few months before baby arrived. My husband and I enjoyed trying it our with our dog, who wasn’t necessarily a willing volunteer, and then we packed it away in the closet until baby girl made her debut.

It took a few weeks after my daughter was born for me to pull out the carrier and give it a try. Understandably, my mind was a little preoccupied with other things, and I’d honestly forgotten about it. But when we finally tried it out, I was wishing I’d remembered it sooner. My daughter loved skin to skin contact, so snuggling up against my chest in the carrier was her favorite thing in the world! We quickly incorporated the carrier into our daily routines, and I found that it made life so much easier in so many ways! Check out the list below for my top 10 favorite uses for our Ergo!

1. Chores around the house. My daughter would seriously sleep in our Ergo while I vacuumed! If I put her in the bassinet or her bouncer seat, the vacuum noise always woke her up, but in the Ergo she slept so soundly! I always avoid anything that involveS chemicals (e.g. cleaning the bathroom), but vacuuming, washing dishes, and laundry are easy ones to accomplish with her in the carrier.

2. Grocery shopping. Now that she’s a little older and can sit in the shopping cart seat, we don’t do this as much now, but when she was real little, I always used the Ergo when we grocery shopped. So much easier than lugging in the car seat and taking up half the cart with it, plus my daughter was so much more content in the Ergo for our weekly Walmart trip.

3. Walks. While I was home on maternity leave, I took my daughter and our dog for daily walks. I used the stroller a new times, but with our crazy dog pulling on the leash and me trying to navigate the bulky stroller, it wasn’t ideal. The Ergo made walks so much easier! It left both my hands free to hold the dog leash (and pick up her little presents), and my daughter was so much more content than in the stroller anyway.

4. Traveling. When my daughter was a few months old, we went on a weekend trip to Door County with my family. The Ergo was perfect for bumming around downtown, dropping into the shops, and grabbing a bite to eat. Ever since, we don’t ever travel without it. In fact, I even got a second Ergo carrier once my daughter got a little older, and now we keep one carrier in our car at all times!

5. Yard Work. Just today, my husband and I were working in the yard. If I’m being perfectly honest, my husband was doing most of the work and I was mostly providing moral support, but nevertheless… I strapped my daughter into the Ergo, and she napped for an hour while I “helped” with yard work. Our carrier is an open-air mesh one, so baby always stays comfy, even when it gets warmer out. Again, I wouldn’t recommend it for use when chemicals are involved, but watering plants, sweeping the patio, and raking leaves are all a cinch with the Ergo!

6. Day trips. With summer just around the corner, I’m excited to put our zoo pass and museum pass to good use! You can bet I wouldn’t even attempt these kind of day trips without our Ergo. My hands stay free for whatever I may need, and baby stays happy in the carrier!

7. Sporting events. We went to Brewers opening day this year, and of course the Ergo came along! She obviously didn’t stay in it throughout the whole game, but we were glad to have it on hand, especially when entering and leaving the stadium. I’m sure it will get more use this summer for Brewers games and my husband’s softball games!

8. Calming a fussy baby. With very few exceptions, this carriers works like magic to calm my daughter when she’s fussy. Sometimes when she just can’t get comfortable for a nap, I can put her in the Ergo and she quickly nods off. This thing is seriously a miracle worker!

9. Easing mom guilt. Especially when I first went back to work after maternity leave, I experienced a lot of mom guilt when I was home but not directly interacting with my daughter. For example, I hated making dinner when it meant having my daughter in the other room and not with me. So the Ergo helped to give me the best of both worlds! I was able to wear my daughter while I got dinner prepared, and it eased some of my mom guilt because I wasn’t having to spend that time away from my daughter.

10. Quick stops or busy places. Last weekend we went out for coffee on Saturday morning. The little shop we went to is small, and almost always busy. This means there’s not a lot of room for a bulky car seat, stroller, or fussy baby. So as soon as we pulled in, we decided the Ergo was our best bet. My daughter was so happy in the carrier, and I wasn’t anxious about my daughter having a melt down in the middle of the coffee shop!

There are so many amazing uses for Ergobaby carriers! Ours has definitely made life so much easier, and I can’t imagine not having it. What are your favorite uses for your Ergobaby carrier?

Lazy Saturdays

This morning I was up around 4AM with a cranky baby. She’s been cutting a tooth for the last week, and that combined with the thunderstorms we had overnight made for a tough night of sleep. After numerous (failed) attempts to get her back to sleep in her crib, I snuck her back into bed with us and we all got another few hours of sleep.

Once we were all up for the day, I nursed our daughter while my husband caught up on Game of Thrones re-runs. We all got dressed and ready for the day. We went for coffee at the little bakeshop where we got our wedding cake. We came home, and I snuggled up on the couch with my daughter for her morning nap. Later we have some yard work and laundry to do. Maybe some cleaning around the house. It’s a day filled with little tasks here and there, but all in all, a relaxed and lazy Saturday.

In the days before my daughter, we rarely had lazy days like this. We filled our weekends with day trips to the mall, visits with friends and family, projects around the house, and errand running. We liked having our weekends busy, and looked forward to weekend plans. But now, I live for days like today. Sure, I still love visiting our family and taking fun family day trips on the weekends, but it’s crazy how exhausting the workweek can be as a working parent. I spend my days teaching, loving, and caring for other people’s kids as a teacher, and my nights doing the same for my own child. When the weekend finally rolls around, I look forward to having no plans, and getting to enjoy these lazy mornings with my family. I love lazing in bed until the morning sun filtering through the blinds wakes us up. I love coffee dates with my husband and daughter. I live for these nap-time snuggles on the couch, watching out the living room window as people zoom by, eager to get on with their busy days. I love that time seems to slow down on these lazy mornings, and I can soak up these precious moments with my family.

Life already moves too fast. Sometimes it’s nice to slow down, enjoy the ride, and appreciate all the little blessings!

Colorful Clutter

We bought our house in March of 2018, just 5 months before our daughter was born. We were beyond blessed to have found our perfect home after only a week of serious house hunting. But after our first showing of the house, we fell in love! It was perfectly located, an even half an hour from BOTH of our families and our work. It was an older home with character, lots of charm, and a fenced in yard for the dog. It met all of our “must-haves” and nearly all of our “wish list” qualities for a home. We were simply in love from that first showing, and knew in our hearts that this was our home. We had to contend with another offer, and waited almost 24 painful hours to find out that we had gotten the house!

Fast forward two months, and we were signing the papers and moving in! We set about making this little dream house into our dream home, filling it with our furniture, adorning it with our own decorations, and hanging our pictures on the walls. We tackled little projects; fixing up the flower beds, replacing light fixtures, installing a new kitchen faucet, and painting the nursery. It quickly started to feel like our dream home! We had made it our own, and we took a lot of satisfaction in our sweet little house.

Then our daughter came along, and suddenly our dream home that we’d worked so hard for was overtaken by a world of baby toys, foam flooring tiles, and child-proofed cabinet doors. Everywhere you turn, there are signs of our daughter. A baby gate at the staircase, toys jammed under couch cushions, a little rubber whale on the faucet in the bathtub. A pack ‘n play takes up one corner of our living room, the end table is strewn with board books, and even my bedroom nightstand is adorned with pacifiers, a burp cloth, and an elephant-shaped noise machine. It’s not the home we once thought it would be when we bought our dream house just over a year ago. Our home has been overtaken by the tiniest member of our family!

I expected our lives to change drastically with the birth of our daughter, but somehow I’d overlooked the fact that our home would be changing too. In retrospect, I should have realized. But nevertheless, it took me a bit by surprise when our daughter started crawling, and almost overnight our living room transformed into a colorful jungle gym of baby-proofing and toys.

I know that this is just our season of life right now. A season of our home being overtaken by baby gear and toys. And I welcome it with open arms, even if it took me a bit by surprise. When I look around our house, I sometimes miss our sophisticated adult home with our rustic wood coffee table and cabinets that opened without a key. But I also love the colorful foam letter tiles on our living room floor, and the baby blankets that hang on the back of our couches. I miss the uncluttered space we had before all the baby gear, but I strangely enjoy the colorful clutter that our daughter has brought to our home.

Someday, I know this season will pass. Our children will outgrown the need for baby proofing and pack ‘n plays and toys, and someday we will get our adult home back. But I’m in no rush for that to happen! I will enjoy this colorful, cluttered, baby-proofed home while I have it. Cause like they say, “You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone!”