Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Kenny's 100th Day Celebration

In typical new mom fashion, I'm posting something like three months after the fact, because my blog is no longer my baby...  forgive me!  But I wanted to share about Kenny's 100th Day Celebration from back in May.

In Korea, a "baek-il" celebrates a baby turning 100 days old.  Before more modern times, infant mortality was pretty high, so people often didn't show off their new baby until it was a few months old.  That indicated it had a better chance of survival, having made it to the 100-day milestone.

Now, it's an opportunity for families to show off their baby and have a party!  In Korea, many people now throw huge parties  for the baek-il as well as the "dol", or 1st birthday party.  We do plan to throw Kenny a Korean-American style dol next year!

Since Kenny came early, my original plan to visit Indiana with him during my maternity leave wasn't possible.  That meant most of my extended family hadn't met him yet.  So we planned on having some "open house" hours at my parents' house for people to come visit.  Well, once Gigi (my Mom's grandmother name) figured out she could show off her first grandchild, suddenly this was a bigger deal!

One of the traditions at a baek-il is to offer ricecakes to 100 people, to bring longevity to the baby and good luck.  Since Kenny is 1/4 Korean, we thought that maybe something like cookies would be fun!  We handed out cookies at the party, and the leftovers came with me to work.  We gave away well over 100 cookies, all individually wrapped and decorated by Mom and me.

The day of the party, tons of family and friends came to visit, including Mom's coworkers.  It was nice to show off Kenny, who behaved pretty well!  He wasn't (and isn't) at the "stranger danger" age, so he was content to be passed around.

I was really happy that my Mom could share this Korean tradition with Kenny.  I feel like she sometimes held back with us when it came to her culture, so my sister and I grew up very much all-American, English-speaking kids.  Now that I'm older, I want to embrace more of my heritage; I embrace my father's side through the DAR and genealogy, and I'm finding ways to incorporate Korean culture and language into my life where I can.

P.S.  Kenny's 100th Day weekend was also my first Mother's Day weekend!  Kenny did a potholder project at daycare (let's be real... his teachers used his feet as a stamp!) for me, and Dan gifted me a digital photo frame for my desk at work, so I could rotate photos of Kenny all day while I work.  I look at it every day!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Review: Rothy's Flats

I purchased my own pair of Rothy's and decided to review them here on my blog.  Click here for a coupon for $20 on your first pair, and I'll get $20 credit towards new shoes!

If you're like me, you've been getting hit left and right with targeted ads for pricey flats like Tieks and Rothy's that people are raving about!  I didn't bite on the Tieks, mainly because I go through cheap flats like crazy, because my feet sweat a lot (#truth) and they get smelly.  I don't usually splurge on shoes as a result; I buy $20 Target or Payless shoes and then toss them after a season.

But then I started to notice friends and coworkers wearing Rothy's flats, and I was intrigued.  They raved about how comfortable they were, but the kicker that got me was they were supposedly machine-washable.  That in itself felt like a game-changer for me.  The catch?  The price range is $125-$165, depending on if you go ballet flat, pointed flat, or loafer.

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Unboxing my Rothy's Flats

The only shoes I've ever paid over $100 for were combat boots or running/hiking shoes, something with a ton of function and not a lot of style!  So I was definitely intimidated by the price tag... but after days of waffling about it, I finally took the plunge and ordered their signature ballet flat in the Taupe Heather color, a good neutral to match the most possible outfits!  I also ordered an extra pair of insoles, because of my stinky/sweaty feet thing.

Rothy's Rubber Sole

When my shoes arrived, I got a little bit nervous; they looked narrow!  But once I put them on, I was impressed.  I felt like my feet were in house slippers.  They were as soft and comfortable as TOMS, but way cuter and with a non-slipping rubber sole.  I ordered a 6.5, which is my normal size in flats. Some people have been saying to size up for the pointed toe versions, but I haven't tried those yet.

Extra Insoles and Care Instructions

One complaint I saw in a Buzzfeed review of Rothy's was that you can see some stretch where your toes are.  I find this to be minimally noticeable.  The seamless feature of the shoes makes them so soft and comfortable from the get-go!  I even went on a 1.5-mile walk during the work day in these shoes with NO BLISTERS.  These are basically the only shoe I want to wear this summer that isn't a sandal!  That said, if you require arch support and struggle with the lack thereof in normal flats, you're not getting much more out of these.  You can probably slip your orthotics into them, but these are definitely for folks who wear flats all the time without issues.

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After about a week of 90-degree temps and sweating in my shoes, I decided to wash them.  I took the insoles out and tossed all four pieces into my washing machine on cold, delicate cycle.  I used our everyday detergent because it's what we use even for the baby's laundry: All Free & Clear.  Then I air dried the shoes.  Rothy's flats looked brand-new and kept their shape even after washing!  I found that they mostly dried overnight, too.  The bad smell from my sweat left them easily.  In the future, I may sprinkle in a little scent boost, just to give a little fresh smell to them, since my detergent lacks perfume.  They didn't smell anymore after washing, but I think adding a little scent will keep them smelling fresher for longer.

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Rothy's after washing

When it came to comfort and machine washing, I LOVE my Rothy's!  The sustainability aspect (they're made of recycled materials) is a great bonus.  The only thing I don't like is the price.  I really wish these were $99 instead of $125-$165, because I WANT MORE.

I've already got my sights set on their pointed marigold flats, black loafers, and a red or leopard pair of flats.  I would love to have a half dozen pairs of these to replace all of my cheapo flats.  (Which, in my mind, would cost around the same ONE pair of Jimmy Choos, but it's still hard to justify in my head.)  So I think I may buy one more pair this year, then ask EVERYONE to give me Rothy's giftcards for Christmas.  I don't think I've ever had a pair of flats I've liked so much!

If you're thinking about purchasing Rothy's after reading this review, I'd love for you to get a $20 discount through referral, so I can also get a $20 credit towards my new favorite shoe.  For once, I bought something from an internet ad that was legitimately perfect for me!

Update 7/2/18, The Point Shoe & The Loafer:  I next purchased a pair of Rothy's Point shoes in Marigold, a mustard yellow color.  I ordered a 7 (my Flat round toes are a 6.5) based on some advice from the "Rothy's Addicts" Facebook group. They felt a little too snug on my outer toes, so I exchanged them for a 7.5.  The 7.5 was perfect!  Sometimes they feel a little loose, but they don't slide off my feet.  I've also seen in the group that some of the newer colors are fitting more snug.

After trying two colors of loafers, I figured out that 7.5 works best for me, which also happens to be my Point size.  So to me, both the Point and the Loafer run smaller.

Ugh, that is my one gripe about Rothy's...  the quality control by style and color in terms of fit/size seems inconsistent. 

I purchased my own pair of Rothy's and decided to review them here on my blog.  Click here for a coupon for $20 on your first pair, and I'll get $20 credit towards new shoes!

Monday, June 4, 2018

2018 TSDAR State Conference (& Navigating DAR with a Baby)

This site is not an official NSDAR Web site, and the content contained herein does not necessarily represent the position of the NSDAR. The President General is the official spokesperson on issues that have not been addressed as policy of NSDAR.

In April, the Tennessee Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) had their annual State Conference, and once again I served as a page!  I served again as a personal page to our State Regent, the head of Tennessee's DAR.  (If your only reference for the DAR is Gilmore Girls, I have some links to past posts at the bottom of this one in case you're curious!)

I went into more detail about what my conference was like last year, including duties and public speaking, etc.  This year was similar, so check out last year's post for more details on that.  The main difference for me this year?  I was a brand-new mother!

2018 Pages with President General Dillon and State Regent Reynolds

When I tell people that I'm in the DAR, they often tell me they are interested but don't have time for it.  I've come to realize, even more so now with a baby, that EVERYONE is busy, and that balance doesn't exist... Prioritization exists.  You have to do what is important to you, and trim the rest.  For me, community service and fellowship through DAR are a priority, and my husband supports that.  So while it surprised some that I remain as dedicated now that I have an infant, to me it was important to continue the good work I've put my heart into, so that Kenny can see me working hard as a positive role model in our community and country!

State Conference (and Paging) with a Baby
First off, I let my Page Chairman know that I would need an assignment that would allow me to care for Kenny.  I actually managed to have the same assignment as last year, but since I had two other pages working with me, we were tagging in and out of events.  I was straight forward with my State Regent, who knew I was a new mom (she attended my baby shower just months before!) so she was incredibly understanding.  And I think that my need to sneak away to pump actually encouraged my peer pages to take a little R&R time when I tagged back in... healthy behavior for hard-working pages!  One example?  I skipped a breakfast so I could eat breakfast with Mom and baby, making sure she got a break too.  Then I headed downstairs to work and allow my fellow page some free time to shop and enjoy the conference.

Even though our conference is held a few miles from my apartment, I've been booking a hotel room for two nights there for the past couple of years, since I basically work 12+ hours a day.  This year, that was especially necessary!  My Mom came to stay on site with Kenny, and that was perfect.  I would go up to our room to pump throughout the day, see Kenny and Mom, and be just a text message away.  And every time Mom brought Kenny downstairs, the DAR ladies would come up to her and say, "Oh, is this Aubrey's baby?"  I even took Kenny downstairs when I went to vote, and the ladies took turns holding him while I was in line.

I had to get creative when it came to pumping timing... more so for my own comfort than meeting Kenny's needs!  For example, I snuck away after eating in the middle of a formal banquet, and I had my friend text me when the program was starting up.  It was much less complicated than it sounds.  But I figured out a good schedule, and my Apple Watch was AWESOME for receiving texts from both my Mom and my fellow pages without having to pull out my phone while working on the platform!

One of my paging partners, helping me tremendously!

Saying No
I didn't attend all of the meals at State Conference, both to save money and to make time to pump or see Kenny.  This year, I also missed some DAR chapter meetings due to Kenny's birth and childcare.  I said "no" to attending Continental Congress in DC and reprising my attendance at Indiana's State Conference like last year.  I'm hoping to do both next year, with lots of advance planning!

Making It Work
I hired a babysitter one evening so I could make a chapter meeting.  I took Kenny with me to a cemetery dedication.  I took a weekday off work, while Kenny was in daycare, so I could present an award at the state capitol.  All of these things are ways that I've been able to attend DAR events.  And you know what?  Every time I've chosen not to bring Kenny with me, the DAR ladies are disappointed.  If I bring him, they're cooing and playing "pass the baby" to help... or just to get their snuggles in.  I've never gotten dirty looks for bringing him anywhere, and I've been told that if I need to have him at a chapter meeting, he is welcome!  Sometimes I forget that most of the women I know in DAR have children, grandchildren, or nieces/nephews, are school teachers and librarians, lead Children of the American Revolution, or teach Sunday School. They're really supportive of me in every way, and they make it easier to manage!

I brought my pump bag with me, just in case... LOL

2018's State Conference was one to remember, with Kenny being less than 12 weeks old at the time!  But I'm learning how to navigate my role within the DAR, and manage to attend key events and participate actively, by saying no to some things and prioritizing others.

Curious about the DAR?
Read my post on why I joined, information about paginglast year's state conference,
and my trip to the 125th Continental Congress in Washington, D.C.!
Or you can just click here to see all of my DAR posts to date.

Also, because some people have asked me about diversity and the DAR, here is a link to our minority research page which provides guidance and sources for those trying to research African American, Spanish, Jewish, and Native American patriots!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Adulting after Baby

As I mentioned in my pumping post, I feel completely unqualified to give advice on motherhood, because I've been doing it for just a few months.  But I'm more than willing to share what I've been going through as I've transitioned back to work, navigated motherhood, and more!  #adulting #momlife

I put down a deposit at a daycare center near our apartment when I was 15 weeks pregnant; I hadn't even told my boss yet!  Where we live, if you don't act quickly, you get waitlisted and sometimes have to move from one center to another.  Ever the planner, I scheduled multiple daycare tours the same day that I had an OB/GYN appointment in the middle of the day, and I took a day off work so I wouldn't feel rushed or guilty about stepping away.

What did I look for in a daycare?  Honestly, I just went with my gut, and I only toured places where my coworkers have enrolled their own kids.  Most spots in our area are priced similarly.  I looked for happy babies, cleanliness, convenience to our home, and overall feeling.  I instantly fell in love with our daycare; I actually got a little teary-eyed in one of the infant rooms because it looked so sweet, and that's the same room Kenny is in today!

Nannies, family, and a stay-at-home parent are all options for childcare when one parent works.  But since we're a dual-working household with no family in-state, daycare or a nanny were our options.  I am so pleased with our daycare, as I can see that Kenny is cared for, stimulated, and learning... in just a few weeks we could see his development in positive ways!

Need more toys...

We don't live near family, so having them around for childcare is not an option.  There are apps and websites you can subscribe to in order to find a babysitter, but for me it was super easy... word of mouth!  My coworker gave me the contact info for FOUR of her babysitters, and I was able to look them up on Facebook because they were her friends there.  Having a bona fide recommendation and being able to put a face to a name really helped.  I wanted to attend my DAR meeting on an evening that Dan was at a work event, so I hired a babysitter for three hours.  She was wonderful, and she had no issues getting Kenny down to sleep.  If she had questions, she texted me.

While we've only used a babysitter once so far, just knowing it's an option gives us a feeling of independence and levity.  It costs a pretty penny, but sometimes it's worth calling for help!

Travel without Baby
I went on my first overnight trip for work, and it was smooth sailing!  I gave Dan a couple of weeks advance notice, so he could adjust his work schedule to handle both daycare dropoff and pickup.  Kenny was great, and they seemed to enjoy some quality bonding time!  Dan even sent a photo of them twinning in matching shirts.  I FaceTimed with them before Kenny's bedtime, and Dan made sure to send me plenty of pictures.  Our daycare also sends photos throughout the day, so honestly I didn't go more than a couple of hours without seeing or hearing my sweet baby.

While I was away, I didn't fret or cry... I let myself be me.  I saw old friends, took a hot shower, watched HGTV, and slept like a baby in a king-sized hotel bed.  I took my time getting ready and walked around.  Recharging my batteries like that was perfect, and when I got home, my happy guys were there to greet me.

Picture sent during my work overnight trip

Road Trip with Baby
We had a smooth first road trip with Kenny, 4.5 hours each way.  We chose to depart around Kenny's bedtime, putting him in PJs and feeding him before we hit the road.  He slept the entire way, even when we stopped once for a bathroom break, then slept the rest of the night once we arrived.  My parents already had a pack 'n' play at their house ready for him.  They also had toys and an activity mat (we'd received a second one as a gift) ready to go.  Mom has also picked up items at garage sales, like storage drawers for toys and a booster, so we have less to haul!

On both drives, one of us sat in the backseat in case Kenny woke up.  We had toys and other things ready for him, and on the return trip (which was in the daytime) we also had a bottle prepped so we could feed him while he was buckled in his seat.  We chose to leave when we saw Kenny getting sleepy after eating, and it worked; he woke up about 45 minutes from home.  So we stopped and fed him, and I kept him entertained.  It was smooth sailing, though I know it might be different once he is older and awake more!

Waking up to see Mommy

I'm working on friendship.  I don't get to go to all of the happy hours and things I used to!  Mostly, text messages have been the best.  I tell my friends, leave me a message and I promise I'll text back, even if it's at 4am.  And that has sustained me thus far.  I do see my friends at work and DAR events, and even on maternity leave I'd tote Kenny along and meet for lunches.  I just can't do things at the drop of a hat anymore, and I've had to come to accept that.

I think that Dan and I talk more now than ever, because sharing childcare responsibilities requires it!  I love that I don't have to ask him to do things.  If I'm playing with Kenny, he'll wash bottles for the next day.  If he's taking out the trash, he always checks the diaper pail.  We don't really have assignments for who does what, but it works... we ask one another what needs to get done, what Kenny needs for daycare the next day, whether his laundry needs done.  And since Kenny goes to sleep around 7-8pm, we can usually manage to stay awake at least an hour to talk to one another about our day or just stare at our adorable baby.

We try to do little things for one another.  Dan made sure my first Mother's Day was sweet.  And when I had a business lunch near Dan's work, I popped in and sat with him while he ate his lunch.  It was like 10 minutes, but it was 1-on-1 time and a nice surprise for him.

We also take advantage of our monthly visits with my parents, either when they come to us or when we go to them!  They always push us out the door for a date night, which is usually a nice sit-down dinner and a drink.  We've managed to have a date night once a month ever since Kenny was born, and it's something we intend to continue!  I used to worry about our marital happiness when it came to having a baby, because honestly children aren't always great for marriage (read the statistics!).  But we're really happy right now, and that makes it all easier.

This photo is unrelated to my content.  It's extraneous.

The thing that has helped the most in our daily routine?  Our daycare opens at 6:30am, which is about the time that Dan leaves home for work.  Initially I hesitated to have Dan drop Kenny off, because if I did it, Kenny would have an extra 60-90 minutes at home with me before my commute.  But then I realized, if Dan drops Kenny off, I have time in the morning to make myself breakfast, clean the house, get ready, even work out (once I get back on that horse).  My coworker, mother of four boys, told me, "Don't feel guilty about not getting that extra hour with him; all he was going to do was sit in a bouncer watching you get ready in the morning!"  And she's right.  Guilt absolved!

By having Dan drop Kenny off, and me picking him up, it not only allows us both a chance to interact with his daycare providers, but a chance for me to take care of myself and our home so there isn't as much to do in the evening.  I don't feel like a hot mess at work, and I have more energy for Kenny when I get him at the end of the day, because I've already done dishes, vacuumed, or whatever.  I can also really take my time getting Kenny ready in the morning while Dan gets ready, because I'm relaxed in my pajamas and focused solely on him.

I honestly didn't have very much trouble taking Kenny to daycare, leaving him with a sitter, even going away for an overnight.  I didn't cry, but I did miss him.  The hardest part about going back to work was getting used to staring at a computer screen all day and feeling tired after using my brain all day!  I felt like I got a personal boost once I had help with Kenny's childcare, because suddenly I had more freedom to grab lunch, go shopping, run errands, cook, clean, etc. in my spare moments.  It also makes me feel more motivated to do things with him on the weekends.  I do think it helped that I put Kenny in daycare on a Monday, but started work on that Thursday.  It gave me a few days to pick him up early if I wanted/get prepared for work.  It also meant I only had to survive two days in the office before a weekend break.  I highly recommend it!

Final Thoughts
My sister called me the other day, simply to tell me she was proud of me for the mother I've become.  I think she really expected me to be full-on obsessive and rigid as a parent, because I've always been such a planned and calculated person.  But she said she can tell Kenny is thriving, and that we're doing well with him.  It felt like the best thing I could have heard at that moment in time.  I know that babies can internalize how we are feeling, and even sense when we enter the room.  And I want positive energy only for Kenny, because he's going to battle sickness, teething, growth spurts, and more.  Adulting is hard, and parenting makes it harder.  But we're finding our groove and keeping on!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Back to Work: Pumping after Maternity Leave

I have been back to work (with Kenny in daycare) for nearly a month now, which is hard to believe!  Since I've had a few people ask me about pumping as a working mother, I figured it merited a blog post.  Caveat: I'm a first-time Mom who feels completely unqualified to offer advice to anyone on motherhood, but I am willing to share what has worked for me!

I'm very much of the attitude that a fed, healthy baby is the most important thing, so I keep formula samples that we get in the mail just in case.  We used two bottles' worth while I was hospitalized for preeclampsia, but other than that Kenny has been exclusively breastfed.  My original goal was nursing for three months, with a hopeful goal of six months.

Before Kenny was born, I ordered a free breastpump via my health insurance.  I chose the Spectra S2, a closed system pump, based on reviews and recommendations.  During maternity leave, I would mostly use a silicone hand pump on my nightstand to relieve engorgement.  Any milk that I saved, we'd use in an occasional bottle for Kenny when we were out and about.  We figured it was good practice for him.  As work began to approach, I would try to do a morning and evening pumping session to build up a stash for daycare ahead of going back to work.

My pumps, my pumps my pumps my pumps... check it out

Before I went back to work, my Mom and I helped Kenny "rehearse" for daycare by bottle feeding during the day for four days.  This accomplished two goals: training him to accept the bottle repeatedly and determining how much he eats.  The tough part of nursing on demand means you aren't on a consistent schedule or counting ounces like they do at daycare.  But we were able to estimate what I needed to pump and have in each bottle based on those few days!

Now that I've been back at work for a few weeks, I'm averaging 3-4 pumping sessions during the work day.  Sometimes my first session is at home before I leave.  I find I really need to maximize that first session, because my supply is best in the morning.

I also bought a barely used Spectra S1 rechargeable pump via Facebook Marketplace, because keeping one pump at work and one at home for home/travel minimizes the amount of stuff I have to haul on my commute.  Since Spectras are closed system, I feel confident that there isn't a risk of contamination after sterilizing the parts, but you should be careful when purchasing used pumps.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Checking In

You guys, there's so much I could write, but we all know I've sucked at keeping up this blog for the past few months as I've been throwing myself headfirst into motherhood and getting back to my corporate gig.  Yikes, it's been a while...  this space used to be my escape and release in a way, a creative outlet.  Now, I don't get here as often because it's usually easier to wax philosophical on Instagram while I'm pumping...

I love my tiny human.  Kenny is a good baby, and we're in a blissful period where we're sleeping a bit more and enjoying lots of smiles and giggles.  It seems like every time we get something figured out, it changes; babies are 100% a moving target!  But it's fulfilling, and it sort of feels like he's been with us forever.

I've definitely had to say no to more things...  after-work fun, local influencer events, blog opportunities, etc.  I'm exhausted each and every day!  But I did manage to page at our DAR state conference by having Mom stay at the hotel with the baby.  We've also survived a few weeks of daycare, an evening with a non-family babysitter, an overnight work trip away, a week of solo parenting, and a road trip.  Whew!  That's a lot for a little guy who's only been out here breathing oxygen for a few months.  So I think that what's happening in non-essential stuff is eliminated from the calendar, and the stuff I really want and prioritize is making the cut.  That's not a bad place to be.

I'm also "graduating" from regular therapy!  I started using Talkspace over a year ago, because I was stressed out and struggling.  Dan and I were having conflicts about trying to conceive (it can put a lot of strain on a marriage!), I was overweight and overeating, I was navigating work and personal relationships, and I needed an objective ear that wasn't my friends.  Having a therapist in my phone to text or video chat with helped so much.  I went from a monthly video chat and 5x weekly texts to just texts, then to a few times a week, then to once a week texts.  Now, I don't feel like I need the sessions anymore, and my therapist supports me stepping back until I know I need help again.  I made sure I had support from that point, through pregnancy nerves, to those initial baby blues, to my transition back to work, and I couldn't be prouder or happier that I feel so much better now than I have in so long!

I've made sure to do some things for myself since Kenny was born.  I'm still active in the DAR, which I love!  I've gone to Happy Hours (just not 2-3 a week like the old days).  I've gone to Target after the baby is asleep to walk around.  I've worked on my scrapbooks and photo books.  And now I'm taking some time to reconnect with this blog, as I've got a bunch of stuff on my mind that people might find useful or interesting to read!

I have a few posts I'm thinking through, including my latest Stitch Fix recap, my experience going back to work (and pumping!), favorite baby things, and Kenny's 100 Days party/my first Mother's Day!  Hopefully I'll get around to those now that I'm tackling my to-do list to an extent.  But the desire to write has to be > the desire to sleep, and I have to have showered.  Because sometimes you just have to go into survival mode, and put yourself back together when you can.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Nursery Tour

When we found out I was pregnant, we decided that rather than moving to a larger home, we'd stay in our 2BR 2BA apartment.  We have plenty of space (1200 sq ft!), so we felt like it would be better to stay put and save money for now.  That said, with all of our family out of state, we wanted our 2nd bedroom to be a dedicated guest room for extended grandparent visits.  So we decided to share one walk-in closet in our bedroom and turn the other into our nursery.

I've had a lot of friends curious about our "closet nursery" so I decided to share it here.  That said, it's not going to be one of those lifestyle photo shoots, just a completely functional peek into our life with baby!

Outside of the nursery, on my side of the bed, we added a rocker, my Christmas gift from my mother-in-law.  We got it via Amazon, carefully looking for a smaller rocker that would fit that specific space.  We also got a ton of baby books from folks too, which wouldn't fit in the over-door hanging storage I got.  So the wall above the rocker became a baby book nook with display shelves, and the over-door hanging bins became storage for stuffed animals.

Inside the nursery, we were fortunate to have a great space and some closet shelving to work with.  For obvious reasons, we kept the shelves above the crib empty, but I felt confident in the strength of the shelves to store diapers above our changing table.  After all, baby isn't to be unattended on the changing table!  We also love having everything we need for the baby in one main spot, organized so we know where to reach even when we're tired.  Kenny loves the mobile above the changing table too.

Since I took these photos, I've filled up the bottom clothing rack with 3-6 month clothes!

We also chose a mini crib because of the space, and Kenny sleeps in it every night!  It's shorter than a full size crib, and about four inches less wide.  The space is the size of a pack 'n' play basically.

We've also got baby "stuff" in other areas of the apartment, but we try our best not to let it take over the whole space!  I think that once Kenny is bigger, that will be tougher... but for now, it's not so bad!  We have a mini dishwashing/drying station by the kitchen sink.

In the living room, we have two bins under the coffee table that hold books and toys that we use for the day.  We also have a little foldable swing and Kenny's activity mat.  Usually there is a bunch of baby stuff on the coffee table during the day, but by creating designated spots for baby stuff we have managed to keep it pretty tidy in general.

In addition, because I was craving natural sunlight, Dan put privacy film on the lower 2/3 of our patio windows, so I can see clearly outside when standing but be hidden when I'm sitting on the sofas nursing.  Since we're on the first floor facing the parking lot, I really appreciate the privacy, and Kenny and I get good natural lighting all day.

So there you have it!  That's how baby has changed our apartment, and how we created a nursery in our closet.  We like having Kenny "in" our room, so our family can stay in the other bedroom and visit us as often as possible.  I'm sure once he is mobile and getting into things, we will have to childproof and adapt, but for the past couple of months it has worked for us.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Kenny's Birth Story

A month ago (wow!), I gave birth to our first child, Kenny.  Considering that his due date was just a week ago, it was a roller coaster ride to be sure.  I finally found a few minutes, jotting notes here and there over the past month, to share the story here.

I'd gone to my OB for my regular weekly appointment at 37 weeks, expecting a normal visit, but my preeclampsia symptoms (which began around 35 weeks) were getting worse.  I was carrying a ton of water weight, my blood pressure was going up, and I had protein in my urine.  My doctor ordered additional labwork to be run that day, telling me I needed to put my feet up from now until the baby was born.  So I headed back to the office, let everyone know I'd be working from home for a while, then headed to dinner with my friends.  I had a blast with them, and then afterwards I was sitting on the couch at home eating a candy bar when the on-call doctor phoned.  They told me that I needed to come to the hospital for induction that night.  Dan wasn't even done with work yet; I had to call him to tell him to come home.  I was shaking!

Photographic proof that I was out with my friends P & M that night, not knowing I'd be heading to the hospital

We arrived at the hospital late on January 30th for me to have medicine placed to prepare my cervix.  I guess my preparedness paid off in some ways...  I already had my bag packed in the car, with a copy of my hospital pre-admission paperwork and everything we needed ready to go.  We also had the carseat installed and inspected the weekend prior!

The next morning, my water broke on its own.  I was coming back to bed from the bathroom, and it just happened.  I wasn't exactly sure if I was correct about it, but the nurses confirmed what it was.  It was such a crazy sensation!

At about 10 a.m., we started the medicine pitocin to induce delivery.  I made quick progress with dilation over the course of the day, and I remember being hungry (of course LOL).  I remember the joy I felt when I was given a popsicle, and I was so glad that I ate a big meal with my friends the night before!  My contractions kept getting stronger and stronger, to the point I was ready for my epidural.  Oh boy, I loved that epidural!  Meanwhile, my parents drove down from Indiana and arrived around 3 p.m.

By 5:30 p.m., I was prepared to push.  Dan and my mom were on my left side to support me during delivery.  Pushing with the epidural was definitely challenging in a way... As a first-timer, I didn't know what I was doing, or what was productive, and I needed a nurse coaching me on when a contraction was coming.  But my doctor and nurses were so great, and I got the hang of things in the end.  After an hour of pushing, our Kenny was born!  He cried right away (I heard him before I saw him), and they placed him on my chest, goo and all.

I remember crying.  I remember my Mom was crying, and that Dan cut the umbilical cord.  I think my first reaction upon seeing Kenny was just surprise...  did I really have that little guy inside me all this time?  (That's what she said... LOL)  But seriously, I couldn't believe that this little person was ours, and that he had such a sweet face.  It was all such a blur.  Our hospital really emphasizes skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding, and within his first hour of life I was nursing him for the first time.

This photo is my everything!

The hospital cafeteria was closed by the time I was allowed to eat, so Dad and Dan went and got me some Steak 'n' Shake.  Dan fed me chicken tenders while I lay in bed.  It was the best-tasting chicken ever given the circumstances.

Kenny was born on a Wednesday, so we moved to a recovery room and spent that night and Thursday night in the hospital.  Dan stayed in the room with me, and we had our first sleepless nights with a newborn.  We had no idea what we were doing, and it was scary even just picking him up.  Were we doing it right?  Clueless.  Fortunately the nursery nurses were amazing.  We had some coaching on breastfeeding from a lactation consultant, Kenny got checked out by a pediatrician, and I got checked out by a doctor from my OB's office.  A photographer came by too, so we have some precious photos of Kenny from when he was less than 24 hours old!

By Friday, my preeclampsia symptoms seemed to have subsided, and we were discharged to go home.  But the story doesn't end there.

On Saturday, I wasn't feeling great, but I figured that was normal after giving birth.  I had a headache that wouldn't go away, and I was seeing sparkly "floaters" in my vision.  Dan went to work that day for his brewery's anniversary party, and I remember thinking that maybe I was tired and dehydrated from being up at night with a newborn.  But then I recalled the symptoms of preeclampsia that my doctor had repeated to me over and over...  so I told Dan to bring home a Gatorade and a blood pressure cuff from Walgreens, so we could see what was up. When we took my blood pressure, twice, it was through the roof.

Everything became a blur.  My parents were staying with us, and my Mom was going to be with us for a couple of weeks.  We knew that I needed to get to the ER, since my doctor's office was closed.  So we left the baby with my parents (thankfully I had saved formula samples in the pantry!) and went to the hospital immediately.  We knew we made the right call by the way the ER personnel acted when I arrived.  In fact, the ER doctor told Dan (while I was out of the room) that if we hadn't known to come in, I could have ended up having seizures and in a coma!  I was admitted to the hospital for preeclampsia and spent 24 hours on magnesium treatment, then another night for observation.

Those two nights in the hospital were gut-wrenching.  I was not allowed out of bed except for the nurse to take me to the bathroom, and the treatment made me feel terrible.  In addition, because Kenny had been discharged from the hospital, he couldn't go back into the nursery, so having him room with me at the hospital (not to mention the terrible flu season) felt risky.  Not to mention I was being checked every hour, on the hour, by nurses.  Instead, he stayed home with Dan and my parents, and I got familiar with the hospital's breast pump.  I didn't see him from Saturday night until Monday afternoon.  Not being able to control anything, I set an alarm for every three hours to pump milk for Kenny.  I'm so glad that I did, because my milk came in while I was there!  The nurses stored it for me in the NICU fridge, and Dan would come back and forth (we live three miles away) to bring home food for our son.

I took these photos while I was in the hospital for the 2nd time, to commemorate my misery.

I cried and cried every night being away from the baby.  It was so hard, even though I know I made the right call at the time!  In some ways, if you look for silver linings, I got some reassurance out of it.  I learned that I could survive being separated from my baby (as tough as it was), and Dan got the experience of being a full-time caregiver in a way most new fathers don't get right away.  He had two nights to bond with that baby, which made me feel better.  I also learned that Kenny was fine with formula (and later breastmilk) from a bottle.  He was nourished, and I didn't have to worry about that.  Lastly, I learned that I have to take care of my own well-being to be able to take care of my baby.  The hospital stay allowed me to rest (somewhat) and recuperate fully so I could go home to my baby.  Kenny was thriving, so I couldn't let myself feel any guilt over how things happened.

Once I got home on Monday, I did notice that my "baby blues" hit in the evenings, and that I was experiencing anxiety related to our health.  Every time I had a headache or something, I was worried I was going to end up back in the hospital.  Every time anything happened with Kenny that I wasn't sure was normal, I was suddenly paralyzed with fear that he was going to overheat or starve or stop breathing or be sick.  In hindsight, I think that my feelings were very normal, but that second week post-partum (let's face it, my first week was a hospital stay) was definitely tough.  Thank goodness my Mom was there to help me through it, and that Dan was so great throughout.  Once my doctor reassured me that I was out of the woods for preeclampsia, my anxiety subsided.

So there you have it!  Kenny's birth story, plus my bonus hospital stay.  A month later, I definitely feel recovered from delivery and preeclampsia, and now I'm full-on in newborn land.  It's a whole new level of exhausting, but ultimately everything I've been through has been worth it!

I mean, look at this guy...  :)

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Maternity Photos

I wanted to get some photos with Dan before the baby came, so of course we called upon our talented friend Steve Cross to take them for us!  Steve shot our engagement photos and wedding photos, all in Franklin, so it was only fitting to head back to the park at Harlinsdale Farm where Dan and I got married in 2015 to take some pictures.

I did my own hair and makeup, which is not my forte, but in the end I think that it made it just that much more natural and authentic.  I was 36 weeks pregnant, so baby was moving quite a bit during the shoot!  It felt like our first family portrait with him, in a way.

You may recognize the barn area from our wedding photos if you've been around this blog for a while.  It was kind of magical to stand where we said our vows and think about how our relationship and family have evolved.

There's going to be lots more baby stuff on this blog, I imagine.  It's hard not to be consumed by it when you're largely pregnant or about to dedicate so much of your time to caring for someone else.  But I'm hoping that this blog and our family continue to be authentic and natural, always Aubrey as my blog title says.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Pregnancy: Things I've Learned These 9 Months

So... my baby was born on January 31st, and I never posted this!  Here you go... promise to come back later with maternity photos, baby birth story, and more.

At my last general pregnancy check-in here on the blog, I'd made it 7 months... and now I'm past 9 months, and I have a few more notes to share!  Honestly, if I had to sum up my pregnancy, Weeks 0-20 felt like this endless nauseous, heartburn-filled saga of exhaustion.  Weeks 20-37 have been more relatively easy, though I'm at the point I'm starting to get uncomfortable.  I feel like this is the complete opposite experience from what some women go through.  It's crazy how every pregnancy is so completely different for everyone!

Attending my company holiday party

My favorite pregnancy app has been The Bump (free), though there are a lot of similar apps out there.  I liked that each week I could read up on baby's development but also what symptoms I could expect for myself or changes in my own body.  I think that it's the kind of thing you only use during your first pregnancy (kind of like reading pregnancy books, if you're into that like I was!) but for us it was useful.  Dan downloaded it to his own phone, so it was nice because he kind of felt connected to how the baby was doing and also informed him of some of the things he might observe in my behavior or health.

My favorite photo app has been Little Nugget (not free), which will also be useful once baby arrives.  I feel like the stickers are on trend and plentiful once you buy it, and I found that I liked it more than using my letterboard or something else.  It keeps things at your fingertips, and you can customize colors and whatnot!

My least favorite pregnancy symptom, aside from the pregnancy nausea last year, has been swelling.  CANKLES.  In my 35th week, I ballooned up in weight, and it was almost entirely in my feet, legs, and hands from water retention and swelling.  Most of my shoes don't fit!  We had to keep an eye on my symptoms in case preeclampsia became a risk, which was nerve-wracking for me.  I did find my compression socks (with cute cats of course) were helpful, as was elevating my feet whenever I could.

Sausage feet stuffed into socks

My favorite maternity clothes were either non-maternity (like my Three Bears Company pieces), Target maternity solid-colored dresses and tops from my Mom, and a handful of maternity pieces I got via Stitch Fix.   I got a lot of compliments on my Dwell & Slumber pieces too, but I found that as the weather cooled off I got a lot more wear out of mixing solid layers and leggings with dresses.  (I found the Dwell & Slumber pieces harder to layer because of the way the caftan sleeves bunched up for me.)  I wore a lot of non-maternity stuff the entire time, using leggings and maternity camisoles to make them work.

The Stitch Fix pieces I kept

My maternity clothing fails were Le Tote for Maternity (I just didn't like the fit of what I ended up with, so I cancelled), maternity jeans and pants that weren't ponte or leggings (like a bad tube top, I kept having to pull them up), and buying tops with a distinctive print.  The two print tops I had, I felt like I couldn't wear them as often as solid colored pieces, which could be mixed and matched more often.  That's why I recommend solids, because you can wear the same stuff every week and just remix it like a capsule wardrobe.

What else have I learned since my last post?

I still stand by a lot of what I wrote a couple of months ago.  Pregnancy is still gross.  And you still have to surrender, even more as you get bigger and rounder and more exhausted.

Other thoughts...  Nesting is real, and I love it.  People love to talk about pregnancy and be super nice to you.   People love babies and will surprise you with gifts.  Sometimes I cried for stupid reasons, like because I felt too tired and swollen to go out with my girlfriends one night, or because my laundry basket was too heavy.  Hormones!

One thing I've grappled with overall is just fear...  I've never been hospitalized, and I've never had major surgery.  So yeah, childbirth feels scary.  And not knowing when it's going to happen?  That's scary too.  But now that I see the light at the end of the tunnel, the level of discomfort that I feel plus the excitement of meeting my baby is starting to outpace the fear.  I think a little fear is natural, but it definitely feels like it's going to be worth it!

Lastly, I'm trying to be kind to myself.  I think a lot of women beat themselves up over things related to childbirth, breastfeeding, motherhood, etc.  I hate seeing wonderful mothers do that.  So while I know I'll have those moments, I'm still going to try to focus on not having crazy expectations of how things are going to go.

Here's hoping these last weeks of pregnancy are healthy and happy as can be!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Baby Showers & Breakfast

In January, I was blessed with TWO more baby showers, both of which ended up being brunch or breakfast events!  Given that I love breakfast foods, it was pretty perfect!  The first, thrown by my friend S, was a local celebration that brought together a bunch of my favorite Tennessee ladies and some out of staters too.

I didn't do a great job getting a bunch of photos, but my favorites were the mimosa/bellini bar (with sparkling water for me!), the breakfast buffet with favorites like biscuits and hash brown casserole, and doughnuts instead of cake.  Yum!

We had folks from Nashville, Brentwood, and Franklin, but also longer hauls like Knoxville, Cookville, Crossville, Chattanooga, Monteagle, and even Illinois and Indiana!  I think it was really good for my Mom to see what a great community I have here in Tennessee.  After six years, it's definitely my favorite place I've lived thus far as an adult.

Then at work, my friends J and P put together a shower in one of our conference rooms.  The snowy weather caused a reschedule, but it ended up being a really nice breakfast "open house" style shower.

And the super-fun balloons from my shower made their way up to my desk later too.  :)  People who missed the shower are still bringing gifts by my desk, and it's so touching and sweet!

Something we've received that wasn't necessarily on our registries: tons of books!  Here's a nursery sneak peek where you can see how we've displayed a bunch of them, and we are going to store the rest in a book bin.  We love reading (I worked at the public library in high school) so it's wonderful to have these already to read to baby Kenny!

Now after three (yes, three!) baby showers, I've written over 100 thank you notes and counting.  We are just so grateful for all of the gifts and love that we've received, I wanted to make sure to thank everyone individually for thinking of us.  I'm old school about notes and snail mail like that.

I also wanted a way to keep all of the adorable cards we've received.  I decided to use the same method I used for our wedding cards; I punch a hole in the corner and use a loose binder ring to keep everything together.  I even included the invitations to the baby showers, so I could keep those together with the cards.

When I'm sitting in the living room with swollen pregnancy feet, it's encouraging to flip through the cards and read what people wrote to us.  I'm tempted to stick it in our hospital bag, just so I can read it if I need the encouragement.  :)

I'm so grateful for the blessings and love we've received in anticipation of our new arrival!

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