Gift Guide for New Moms

This will be the last gift guide I share this year, but I didn’t want to let the season pass without acknowledging new moms! A baby’s first Christmas also means that there’s a woman in your life celebrating her first Christmas as a mama. Last year, Lyla was three months old at Christmastime. I was so tired and didn’t really know what to ask for because I didn’t even know what I wanted. My thoughts were completely consumed with Lyla. Chances are, if there’s a new mom in your family, she’s in the same boat. I tried to choose items I thought would appeal to most women, regardless of their personal style. You will note that none of these gifts are baby items. Moms are still women in addition to being mothers. New moms think about their baby and put them first 24 hours a day. Do not get something for the baby as “their” gift. Of course moms love getting gifts for the baby, but don’t forget to acknowledge that you still see her as herself and not just as baby’s mom.

Loopy phone case // I honestly don’t know how I would make it without this thing. As the mom to littles, you constantly have a million things in your hand. Being able to loop my phone around a finger or thumb and know it’s not going anywhere is so helpful.

Mom Q & A journal // My sister-in-law got me this last year and it’s been one of my favorite gifts. It has a short prompt for each day of the year, and you’ll answer each question/prompt for five years. There’s so much I want to remember about these days but it’s so hard to collect my thoughts. It all goes by so fast. Being able to focus on one day at a time and just write a couple sentences has allowed me to preserve memories I probably would have forgotten. I love that I’ll be able to look back each year at the previous years’ responses, too.

A massage // If anyone deserves a massage, it’s new moms. Their body has been through so much and they spend almost all day looking down, picking up a baby, and probably taking care of the housework, too. Get a gift certificate for a reputable, local massage therapist. Did she get pre-natal massages? Buy a certificate for that same place!

Baby’s initial/name necklace // The necklace linked is the most popular style right now. I ordered my necklace from this company. I love the cursive “L,” and I couldn’t find a letter necklace in cursive. There are lots of personalization options if you search “name necklace” on Etsy. You can incorporate birthstones, choose an option that allows you to add more names/initials in the future, opt for a monogram, or go with the letter trend.

A comfy robe // If she’s had a baby in the last year, chances are she’s going to be spending a lot of time around the house. Get something she won’t feel too frumpy in, like this soft, pink number.

A large tote bag // I linked a more fashionable option, but if you’re going for maximum functionality, I’ve heard great things about this Land’s End canvas tote. They have lots of sizing options and you can personalize. Most of the time, moms will be carrying the diaper bag. But it’s nice to have something to easily transfer your things to when you’re leaving the baby with someone else.

A gift card for a mani/pedi // New moms need pampering, but often feel guilty taking time for themselves. A gift card will give them a reason to go have some mommy time.

Cute sneakers // Whether she’s at the grocery, the pediatrician, running errands, or taking baby for a stroller walk, new moms will be getting some serious steps in. Get her a pair of sneakers that are comfy and go with everything. I’m also linking something more trendy here. I love Keds and these leather lace-ups can be worn with tons of different outfits. I would personally lean toward the Nikes because if you can keep white leather shoes clean, you’re a wizard.

Cozy slippers // I would opt for a pair with hard, non-slip bottoms. Bonus points if you get a matching robe, slippers, and a coffee mug for a themed present since that’s basically the new mom uniform.

Cute loungewear/PJ sets // I can’t stress enough the value of being able to feel somewhat put together but also comfy. Matching loungewear or pajama sets make it seem like you put an outfit together even when you’re just in sweats.

Beauty gift set // Ulta has a ton of great gift sets. You can get fragrance, skin care, makeup, or hair care products in trial sizes for a great price. They also have special holiday sets that feature seasonal colors, packaging, and combinations of a brand’s best-selling products.

A meal delivery service subscription or gift card: This year has been extremely hard on new moms. Because of COVID, many went without the support they so desperately need. Mama didn’t get a meal train when baby was born? Make up for it by getting her a subscription to Hello Fresh or another meal delivery service.

Stocking stuffers:

  • Coffee mug // For obvious reasons
  • Hair accessories // Baby is going to be grabbing mom’s hair 24/7. Thankfully, hair accessories are trending right now. Headbands, scrunchies, and clips, oh my!
  • Wet Brush // Once I switched to a wet brush, I couldn’t go back. I linked classic black, but I have my eye on this Disney Princess one.
  • Beauty tools // Make her makeup routine as easy as possible.
  • Nail polish // This Target brand is the best I’ve found at not chipping.
  • Gift cards // For clothing stores so she can work on her post-baby wardrobe.
  • Hand lotion // She’ll be washing her hands a lot.
  • Lip balm // Baby takes all your moisture with them when they’re born.
  • Soft, cozy socks // for plodding around the house for night feedings
  • Small candle // Because babies fill your house with ALL the smells
  • Pom pom keychain // So she can easily feel her keys in her purse
  • Jewelry // Doesn’t have to be expensive, just something that matches her style
  • Sheet mask // For quick, at-home self care.
  • Mascara // Get a trial size of a more expensive kind for her to try, or stock up on her fave.

And that’s all she wrote for gift guides around here this year! If you haven’t gotten your shopping done, now is the time! Shipping times are getting crazy, stores are getting busy, and things will go out of stock. If you need more ideas, check out my gift guide for men, gift guide for one year olds, and best baby buys!

To 20 from 30

November 8th will be my 30th birthday. It’s a little hard to wrap my head around that number, but I’m so excited for what my 30’s may hold. Hitting this milestone has me looking ahead more than looking back on the past, but I have found myself reflecting on where I was the start of this decade versus where I am now. I had so much fun writing my letter to Lyla on her first birthday and to my pregnant self. I wanted to speak to the 20-year-old version of myself, now that I have a decade more experience under my belt. I don’t tend to hold back, but I got really real in this one. Maybe there will be something here than resonates with you, no matter your age!

Dear Ashton,

Happy birthday! Your 20’s have officially started. SPOILERS AHEAD: This will be the year you have your first, actual, serious boyfriend (Hey, Stephen!), the year you get your first job, the year you learn what a toxic relationship is and begin the slow process of walking away from it, and the year you work at Disney World, which will turn out to play a major role in your life. I’m torn, because I don’t want you to do anything different. I want you to take all the steps that led you to the life you have here at 30. But there’s also so much I’d love to tell you, if you’ll let me.

On boys: Listen to me, pretty girl. If a boy who is worth your time likes you, it won’t be confusing. It will be easy and natural and fun and exciting. He won’t fall head over heels for you, then get bored the second you like him back. He won’t make your head spin with mixed signals, like sitting beside you in every group setting but spending the whole time making fun of you, or writing you letters in private, but acting too cool for you in public, or holding your hand ice skating one weekend and introducing you to his new girlfriend the next. He won’t swear up and down that the two of you are “just friends” but freak out when his girlfriend shows up at the restaurant where you’re eating, or motion for you to be quiet when she calls while you’re hanging out. (Begging the question, if we’re just friends, WHY DOES IT MAT-TER?!) You’re going to waste so much of your precious time trying to figure out which series of flaming hoops will get you those guys and constantly picking yourself apart wondering why you’re never the one anyone wants. I want you to repeat this to yourself and live by it until the right one comes along: I don’t want to CONVINCE someone to love me. You did not have to convince Jesus Christ Himself to love you. You sure don’t have to convince some boy. I don’t want to spoil too much for you, but if you could see the way your baby’s face lights up when the man you end up marrying gets home from work, not another tear would be shed over the boys who didn’t want you.

On body image: I know you don’t realize this because you’ve been so busy criticizing yourself, but you are a ten. There are a million girls in a million gyms trying to get the body you have without lifting a finger, and all you can see is what it doesn’t have enough of. Your skin is radiant (For the love of God, cherish it!), your stomach is flat (!!!!!), and your eyes are your secret weapon. There is nothing wrong with your size or your shape. As the version of you whose entire body responded to pregnancy like a balloon that had juuuuuuuust a little of the air let out, I am begging you to wear crop tops and bikinis as much as you can. And take pictures. Stop worrying that you’re not measuring up, what size you are, and what people think. No one questions someone who’s confident, they just question themselves. You are altogether beautiful, my love. One helpful hint? You have eyebrows. Do something with them.

On anxiety: Speaking of worrying, let’s just go ahead and cut back on that. When I look back at the photos from this year of your life, I see the fun memories and the smiles. I see you surrounded by incredible young women and true friendships. I see cute boys with their arm around you. And I know that you operate under the assumption that those girls are all better friends with each other than they are with you. And that none of those boys like you, they’re just being nice (Hint: boys aren’t nice). You would never say it out loud, but the voice in your head isn’t a big fan of yours. All your life you’ve made your decisions primarily out of fear. Fear of failure, fear of disappointing your parents or a teacher or a bible study leader or any adult for that matter, fear of “doing it wrong.” You’re in Cru with a ton of kids from Nashville and Louisville who are getting together to write songs and you’ve never even told anyone that you sing. Or that you’ve been writing songs in your notebooks since you could write. You think anything outside the very acceptable “get a scholarship-go to college-pick a sensible major-get a good job” model is for kids who are braver than you and whose parents are richer than yours. If there’s anything I could change for you, it would be that. Stop thinking so dang hard about everything. Do the thing you want to do. You are allowed to fail. You’re allowed to try something and not be incredible on the first try. There is no Achievement Police. I could write a whole book on this topic, but I’ll leave you with something I know you’re going to think sounds lame: Just breathe. Trust me. It’s never as complicated as you’re making it.

I think that’s all for now. This is a great year, full of learning about yourself, working through some baggage you’re carrying, spontaneous adventures, and opening yourself up to love and heartbreak. You’re so beautiful, and life is so good right now. Let it be that simple. Your future is a dream come true, I promise.

Family Halloween Costume Ideas

I’m so excited to celebrate Halloween with Lyla this year! Last year she was only seven weeks old and I was too exhausted to do anything. Since she’s not really old enough to have a preference on her costume , I decided to go with something simple we could mostly put together from items in our closets. Here, I’m sharing our easy costume idea along with some other suggestions. These are mostly for a family of three, with the option to add more characters for a bigger family. I also have some classic group costume ideas. I chose ideas based on the baby costumes I’ve seen for sale this year and the feasibility of putting the outfits together with your closet, Goodwill, or inexpensive costumes. Keep reading if you haven’t landed on a costume idea for this year and need something more realistic than Pinterest!

Farmers & Livestock/Produce:

The Cude family is celebrating Halloween as proud farmers with their prize pumpkin! Andrew and I will wear jeans, flannels, and hats we already have. I ordered Lyla a pumpkin costume that has already come in. It has sleeves attached, and I have the option to put her in pants or leave her legs bare depending on the temperature. Halloween in Kentucky can be freezing or sweaty, there is no in between. This is a really easy costume because there are tons of animal and fruit/veggie baby and kid costumes. Some of my favorites besides a pumpkin are linked below:

Other farm-themed baby costumes: Cow, strawberry, and pig.

The Flinstones:

A family of three could go as Fred, Wilma, and Pebbles. If there were more in the group, you could add Barney, Betty, and Bam-Bam. Fred and Wilma costumes for adults are easy to find. Ladies…just make sure the fabric isn’t see-through if you buy a costume on the cheap side. If you’re crafty or sew, these costumes would be easy to make.

Mickey, Minnie, & Pluto:

Shockingly I couldn’t find a good picture of these three to share here, but I think everyone knows what they look like! My sophomore year of college, a girl I met through mutual friends sewed me a Minnie Mouse skirt. I think I’ve worn it every Halloween since. A classic never dies. Disney has an affordable baby Pluto costume this year. Mickey and Minnie costumes can pretty easily be put together with black tops, red shorts and suspenders for men, and a red polka dot skirt for women. Bonus points if you manage to find yellow shoes! If you’re crafty, you can make ears. If you’re like me, you can buy them. For a bigger family, simply add more Disney characters! Goofy, Donald, and Daisy are icons, too.

Jurassic Park:

The adult costumes for this would be fairly easy to put together with a Goodwill trip and a browse through your closet. Number of kids = number of dinos in your park! You don’t have to buy the same costume for everyone (unless you think it will help avoid sibling bickering!), there are lots of cute options, like this one and this one.

Star Wars:

There have been so many Star Wars movies now, you could reasonably make a Star Wars costume out of things you already own. I didn’t want to share photos of random families from the internet, but if you do a Google or Pinterest search for Star Wars family Halloween costumes, you’ll get some good ideas! At the very least, outfits could be pieced together on a Walmart run. Add lightsabers from the toy section and you’re a Jedi!

Costumes for a group:

Here are some ideas that could incorporate kids or be worn by a group of adults.

The Wizard of Oz

These costumes would be a little more elaborate and require either some craftiness or a higher costume budget than some other options. These classic characters will be quickly recognizable at any Halloween gathering, and the movie has enough characters to accommodate a large group.

Scooby-Doo

Why not celebrate spooky season with American’s favorite mystery-solving dog? If you’re true to the original, this would be best with a group of five. Unless you want to have a sixth person play your masked culprit and refer to you exclusively as “meddling kids” the whole night.

Gilligan’s Island

I’m gonna be honest, it was hard to find an example photo for this one that didn’t feature Ginger and/or Mary Ann in a bikini. This costume has characters for seven people and would be pretty easy to assemble from your respective closets, Goodwill, and a costume shop.

These are just some basic suggestions to spark your creativity. Halloween is one of the only days we all get to embrace our inner child so I say if you have an idea, go for it! What are you dressing up as this Halloween? Share in the comments!

Simple Fall Decor

I was so excited for fall this year. I couldn’t wait to put out all my fall decor. Then I realized, I literally have two flat surfaces in my home that I can decorate. For one thing, we’re living in a rental that we had to move into very quickly. It’s an old farmhouse so it was built for utility, not luxury. The other reason? I have a one-year-old who is into EVERYTHING. Anywhere she can reach is off limits for breakable items. Or items that could not conceivably withstand being coated in peanut butter. Needless to say, I’ve had to adjust my expectations for decorating this year. At first I was a little bummed, but I shifted my perspective and I’m challenging you to do the same. Instead of feeling like you have to buy something new, flex your creativity and be inspired by what you have. This is a good practice no matter what season you’re in.

Decorate smarter

For holidays/seasonal decorating, I like to pick a few key areas to focus on, rather than feeling like I have to fill the whole house. Like I said, my spots to decorate were chosen for me by my circumstances. I have our porch, our entry table (which is actually a buffet), and the top of our bookshelf. Since I couldn’t go too crazy on either of the indoor surfaces, I decided to focus most of my creativity on the porch. It made perfect sense because Lyla can’t wreck something she’s never around, and our porch isn’t big enough for play. I bought pumpkins and a mum from a local pumpkin farm. I had so much fun picking them out! I bought one bag of small pumpkins and one bag of gourds from the Walmart produce section. Other than fall candles, that was all I spent on fall decor this year. Since my other decorating was so minimal, I knew it would be silly to spend money on it. I laid out what I already had and picked a few simple things.

Decorate smaller

I always love grouping collections of small items together. It’s a great way for your decor to look intentional, it’s interesting without being too busy, and it’s inexpensive. I made use of our letter board by putting up a fall quote by my favorite author, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Don’t overthink it

On our bookshelf, I swapped out a quote I keep up year round for this fall-themed piece. On top I simply placed a pumpkin and a fall candle. These items have to be kept out of Lyla’s reach. The other shelves are for Lyla’s books and large books that anchor the shelves in place so she can’t pull them out. (Yes, that happened.) I left the rest of the space empty because she pulls everything off. We always discipline Lyla when it comes to her safety, but for me personally, I don’t think decorations are worth the fight right now. Of course she’s going to pull things down that she can reach. She won’t be this little forever, and a home is for living, not looking perfect.

As much as I love going all out and getting festive, sometimes it’s nice to pare it down and really focus on the memories made in your home rather than the decorations you put up. I still had fun figuring out how to use what I have in this new-to-me space, and the small touches go a long way in a small house. How are you decorating for fall this year? Do you go all out or keep it simple? Share in the comments!

Gift Guide for a One-Year-Old

We’ve had a one year old in our house for a few weeks now, and, I have to say, one is fun! We’re enjoying this age so much as Lyla becomes more and more of a tiny person. Lyla got really good gifts at her birthday party and I’ve been looking into Christmas gifts. I compiled all her favorites along with what I’m thinking of getting her into this guide. A couple of these will overlap with my Favorite Toys in the First Year post, but I wanted to have all my recommendations in one place. If you have a one year old in your life, hopefully this will give you some good ideas! Share your own suggestions for this stage in the comments!

Crawling toy: I bought this for Lyla around six months and she was terrified. #momfail. I brought it back out the day before she turned a year old and she’s obsessed with it. She smiles and claps when it lights up. It has settings for carpet and hardwood, and attempts to redirect itself like a robot vacuum when it gets stuck.

Shape sorting toy: There are hundreds of versions of this classic developmental tool. You can go with the OG Fisher-Price version, Montessori (aka hipster) style with a wooden option, or choose an activity toy that encourages pretend play. Lyla has this Leap Frog picnic basket and loves it. It has multiple settings she will be able to use for imagination play as she gets older. In a similar vein is this tea set she got for her birthday. I could hardly get her to open her other presents because she wanted to play with it right away!

Crawling tunnel: I wanted to get Lyla one of these for her birthday, but we’re saving it for Christmas. I’m still deciding between a few different options: a crawling tunnel by itself, a tunnel with a tent, or a more aesthetically attractive tent.

Palm Crayons: We don’t have these, but I put them on Lyla’s Christmas list as soon as I read about them. They’re designed in an egg shape, for babies who might enjoy coloring but are too little to safely be given a regular crayon.

Large stuffed animal: Lyla fell in love with her stuffed animals at this age. She takes turns hugging them and handing them to us to love. About 12 inches in length is a good size at this age. They can really bear hug it. She also LOVES her Squish-Mallow. Just make sure to get one that can be machine washed. They will likely go through a lot!

Suction Kupz: This is another item Santa Clause might be bringing Lyla. These multi-use silicone cups sold me when I learned they could stick to the fridge for her to play with while we try to get dinner on the table. (Is than an Olympic sport in anyone else’s house, or just me?)

Push walker: I mentioned the Sit to Stand walker in my favorite toys post. Lyla loves hers and a walker of this type was suggested by her pediatrician as being a good developmental toy for encouraging independent walking.

Wooden puzzles: These are in every nursery, classroom, and daycare for a reason. A puzzle with knobs on the pieces will go a long way in helping babies at this age conceptualize matching the shapes.

Building blocks: I’ve been wanting to get these for Lyla forever, and I think she’ll finally be the right age at Christmas. I like that these come with a bag for storage.

What’s in my [Diaper] Bag

I used to love when magazines would feature a glimpse into a celebrity’s purse. They always called it “What’s in my bag?” The designer totes were filled with things like luxury beauty products, gorgeous personal care items, and interesting odds & ends. Well I’m no celebrity, but I have a bag! Today I’m showing you what’s in my diaper bag, from what kind of bag I use to how I pack it for every possible situation.

The bag:

When I was pregnant, several friends advised me to get a diaper backpack instead of a tote bag. Their reasoning was that it’s so much easier to have it on your back and have one less thing in your hands with baby in tow. I totally get what they meant because babies do require a ton of stuff, and any time you’re out with your baby you feel like you have a million things you’re holding. However, I found the backpack to be frustrating. No matter how many pockets it has, the big section of a backpack always turns into a black hole. I hated not being able to just reach into it for things. I had to unload whatever I was carrying and take it off to get into it. After using it for about six months, I switched to an open, structured tote and haven’t looked back. I like being able to glance in and make sure it’s all packed. I reach into it all the time while it’s on my shoulder, and toss things in on the top when needed. This particular tote is from a store that went out of business so I can’t link it, but I’ve linked some similar options below.

Links: Amazon tote (comes in lots of colors), H&M Shopper, Walmart leopard straw tote

The contents:

Our diaper bag stays packed with diaper changing supplies, a change of clothes for Lyla, small toys, basic baby care items, my purse items, my wallet, phone, glasses/sunglasses, and keys. I put a full itemized list at the bottom that you can use as a checklist! To keep everything organized, I use these clear bags. I use the larger ones for travel, and three small ones in the diaper bag: one for clothes, one for toys, and one for baby care. For my stuff I use a zipper pouch so that when I need to leave the diaper bag with Lyla (like in the church nursery or at grandparents’ houses), I can just put the pouch in my purse and have all my stuff ready to go.

In addition to these staples, make sure your bag can also fit feeding supplies, baby’s outerwear (jackets are supposed to come off in the car seat and oftentimes they get hot in their stroller), loveys/stuffed animals, and any other random thing you might find yourself needing to carry. Basically, make sure your tote is large enough that it has negative space. There will be so many times you just need to get something out of your hand and it’s so helpful to be able to just toss it in.

I hope this post is helpful to those of you in the diaper bag stage of life. I clean mine out multiple times a week to keep it from becoming a bottomless pit of junk. Below is a checklist you can use to pack your bag. Modify it according to your needs!

Lyla’s First Birthday Party

Let’s be honest, first birthday parties are for the parents. I chose a donut theme for Lyla’s party for two reasons. One: I used to work for a photographer who did a lot of one-year sessions. Moms would buy these cute smash cakes for their babies to tear in to, and the babies usually just stared at them. Additionally, Lyla gets uncomfortable when a lot of people are looking at her. I wanted to avoid a big buildup to the moment she would eat her cake, so I started thinking about alternatives. Two: Andrew loves donuts. I mean he is literally passionate about them. I knew if I chose a theme he was excited about, too, it would make planning the party a lot easier. Below, I’m sharing my inspiration for the party along with some photos from the day.

Source: Twinkletwinklelittleparty.com

The colors:

The first thing I choose when I’m decorating something is the color palette. Color is what makes the most sense to me in design and the first thing I notice. Lyla’s signature color is lavender, but most girl stuff is pink. I went with a purple, pink, and teal color palette to make choosing my decorations easier.

The invites:

I found tons of cute, customizable options on Etsy. I chose these and asked for the design to be tweaked just slightly to match the party colors. I had them printed on cardstock at Office Depot and picked up A7 envelopes while I was there.

The food:

We ordered from a local donut shop called Munal’s Donuts. They customized an icing color for us at no extra charge! We did donut kebabs using these paper straws, also from Etsy. Andrew built the donut board and I have hopes to use it for future parties. Rumor has it the Krispy Kreme recipe originated at Munal’s Donuts. An employee there branched off and created Krispy Kreme. They have a non-compete contract clause that states Munal’s cannot lay claim to the Krispy Kreme recipe, but Krispy Kreme can never open a location in the Paducah area. Paducah is so cool!

Since the donuts were so sweet, we also served healthy and savory finger foods. We did a vegetable tray and Chik-Fil-A nuggets. I wish I always had a tray of nuggets in my house. For drinks we did milk, coffee, and bottled water. We went very simple with the food and I felt like we had plenty. I don’t think anyone shows up to a child’s birthday party expecting a huge meal.

The decorations:

The decorations ended up being a little challenging. I had everything picked out from Party City, but they kept canceling my order as soon as I placed it. I had to make do with what I could find at other stores, and most places aren’t stocking party supplies right now. I ordered this set of serving pieces from Amazon. Full disclosure: the color on the plates and napkins is a yellow-ish ivory, not white. I got a lavender plastic tablecloth at Target and a banner from Hobby Lobby to go over the food table. I put together a backdrop with the intention of using it for photos with the birthday girl, opening presents, and to sit her hi-chair in front of for her donut & singing “Happy Birthday.” I got a fringe curtain from Amazon, a tassel banner from Michael’s, and balloons from Target. I’m not linking the fringe because it fell down approximately one minute after being put up. It was adhesive but if you do something similar, I would tack it in with thumbtacks. The banner had to be strung and tied so I’m not linking it either because I found it super frustrating that it didn’t come assembled. And the balloons ended up being a hassle. We had to find somewhere to get them inflated, the place we went had obviously not trained anyone on how to use the helium, and the balloons ended up deflating by the time of the party. So my dreams of Pinterest perfection were dashed. But for a brief, shining moment we had a cute backdrop.

I also made two banners for the party, one to go on her hi-chair and one to display her monthly photos throughout the first year. I used thin purple ribbon from Michael’s. For the “ONE” banner, I used scrapbook paper, cardstock, and sticker letters from Hobby Lobby. I am cursed with being creative but not artistic, so I had Andrew cut out the pennants. For the photo banner, I got square prints of her photos and used mini wooden clothespins from Hobby Lobby to hang them. I loved it so much I hung it in her nursery after the party!

The favors:

Since most of the guests at the party were going to be either adults or babies who can’t have anything that would present a choking hazard, I opted not to do favor bags. Instead, I ordered these thank you stickers from Etsy and put them on food-safe white bags from Michael’s so people could take home a donut. I knew we would have extra and the personalized stickers were such a cute touch.

We had so much fun at Lyla’s party! She did great and she had a blast getting all the attention. It was a bittersweet day for me as my family was unable to be there while my Dad fights leukemia, but we were blessed by the family and friends who were able to join us. My best friend since 5th grade, Victoria, even drove up from Mississippi during some of her rare days off from being an ER doctor to be there! It felt too good to be true!

I’m linking my Pinterest board for the party below for more inspiration! Hopefully this will give you some ideas for your next party!

My Biggest Lessons as a Rookie Parent

#themalicotes-32

Parenting years are like dog years. Even though I’ve only been a parent for one year, I’ve learned so many things (usually the hard way) that I want to share. Below are my biggest takeaways and hardest-won wisdom from the first year of parenting.

  • No one remembers the newborn stage.

These wise words were passed to me at one of my baby showers, and now I’m passing them on to you. When you say you’re having a baby, everyone pictures a six month old. Anyone who has children over the age of three has forgotten the newborn stage. If we all had vivid memories of the first few months of a baby’s life, the species would not survive. People will have expectations for you that aren’t realistic. People will make ignorant comments about your choices. Everyone gets so excited when a new baby is added to the family, and they start picturing all the wonderful memories they’re going to make. Then the baby gets here and…they don’t do anything. They just lie there and soil diapers and cry. Be loving, patient, and firm as you help jog their memory on the realities of newborn life. 9 times out of 10, they will have a That’s So Raven-style vision of themselves in your situation back in the day.

  • Snaps in the streets, zippers in the sheets

Repeat after me: snaps in the streets, zippers in the sheets. Do not put your baby to bed for the night in snap pajamas unless you want to teeter on the brink of insanity at 3 o’clock in the morning. Zipper jammies are the only jammies. Bonus points if they have the option to zip from either the top or bottom. For the newborn stage, I preferred snap-on outfits for daytime. You can lay them completely flat, lay baby on top, and snap them in. The alternative is having to pull something over your baby’s teeny tiny head multiple times a day.

  • Never move a happy baby

As a new parent, you constantly feel like you should be doing something for your baby. You try to anticipate their needs, often to avoid hearing them cry when they get dissatisfied. Please hear me when I say: never move a happy baby. Make this your parenting mantra and repeat it to everyone who comes over to see the baby: If baby is happy, we leave baby alone. Because, inevitably, they will start crying. Guess what? If your baby needs or wants something, they will cry. It’s their WHOLE thing. Crying is their only way to communicate. If they are at all displeased with their current circumstances, you will know it. I’m not saying only pick up your baby if they cry. I’m just saying, less is more. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. If they’re playing happily on their activity mat, don’t say, “Oh they’ve been playing here for a long time, they’re probably about to get bored. I’ll move them to their Boppy so they can prop up!” NO. Do not do it. Leave that baby playing happily on their mat. So much of parenting is just learning to breathe through the moments.

  • Every mom has a capacity; operate at yours.

This is another nugget that was doled out to me by a mom friend. Every mom is different. Every baby is different. Some moms feel like they can snap their baby in the car seat and go all over creation, no problem. Some moms are overwhelmed by the thought of a simple errand (it me). Some babies are super low-maintenance and easygoing. Some babies thrive on a schedule or are more sensitive. Your household, your lifestyle, your personality, and your baby’s personality are all unique. Find what works for you and own it! Lyla was every bit of four months old before I felt comfortable taking her places. At her 48 hour checkup, the nurse said, “The flu’s already started this year. Stay home!” As a brand spanking new mama, those words embedded themselves in my brain. I was convinced we had to stay home for all of flu season, and then flu season ran long. Eventually, I was ready to start trying outings. I started with a small grocery run, then worked my way up. Lyla and I both prefer to follow a predictable routine. I stick to it as much as I can while also leaving room to live life. Some days we get out and about. Some days I just don’t have the energy and I know we are parked at the house that day. Don’t get caught up in what you “should” be doing. There are a million ways to do this mom thing right. Find your way and stick with it!

  •  Don’t be a glutton for punishment

When Lyla was 5 weeks old, we found out she had a milk allergy. There are only two types of formula in existence that she can drink.  Both of them are $40 a can. Stretched thin by the cost, we tried to be frugal. We had ONE bottle in our entire house. ONE. We tried several and returned the ones that didn’t work for us. Instead of buying more of the bottles we were using, we washed one bottle and reused it every time. It sucked. And it wore out the nipple so we had to buy more. When she moved up to the next bottle size, we bought a multi-pack. One day into using it we were laughing at ourselves. Why had we ever lived with one bottle?! And yet, we didn’t learn our lesson. Fast forward to the sleep sack. Lyla sleeps and takes every nap in a sleep sack. For MONTHS we only had one because we were too cheap to buy another. If she peed or spit up and got it wet, we were out of luck. If it was in the wash…you guessed it, out of luck. We realized it was the bottle situation all over again! We bought a second sleep sack and don’t know how we ever lived without it. The moral of these stories is: don’t be a glutton for punishment. Don’t make life harder on yourself when there are resources available. If sleep is a nightmare and you don’t know how to fix it, take a sleep training course (We did Taking Cara Babies Newborn Course). If there’s anything you use as part of your daily routine, buy multiples! Of course sometimes there will be financial constraints, but try your best to skimp in areas other than baby care. It will save your sanity just as much as it will serve your baby.

Those are my MVPT’s (most valuable parenting tips)! I’m certainly not an expert. I have a lot left to learn; but I hope these tips will be helpful to someone who’s a step behind me on their parenting journey. What about you? What were the greatest pieces of advice you received about parenting? Any lessons you’ve learned the hard way? Share them in the comments!

Dear Lyla: A letter to you on your first birthday

Dear Lyla,

Today you are one year old! I’m finding myself in the same position of every parent: grateful and excited to welcome this new stage with you, while also mourning your baby days a little. I’m telling myself you’re still a baby until you’re two, and then you’ll be a toddler. But the truth is, we’re transitioning from the baby stage to the toddler stage. You’ve grown so fast!

The first week with you was complete bliss. Daddy was home with us and we did absolutely everything as a family of three. Mommy and Daddy were too full of excitement and adrenaline to realize how exhausted they were. Every day since then has been a girls day! Mommy and you stay home together while Daddy goes to work. In the evenings, we welcome Daddy home, have supper, play, have bath time, then Daddy puts you to bed. On the weekends we have family adventures and enjoy time at home together. It took the better part of a year to get our days to look that way. The first four months held many sleepless nights, tears (from you AND mommy & daddy!), and challenges as we navigated parenthood for the first time. There will always be good days and bad days. There will be nights you don’t sleep well. But we have truly taken time to savor each stage with you, and we end each day so grateful for the joy of getting to have you. We don’t take a single moment with you for granted.

This year you experienced your first Halloween, first Thanksgiving, and first Christmas. No sooner had you gotten big enough for mommy to feel brave to take you places than the world was struck by a historic pandemic, and everything shut down as never before. The last 6 months have been so heavy, dark, and depressing all over the world. In the midst of that, our family has had its own hardships. But through it all, you have been our constant comfort. If you are healthy and happy, the rest can worry about itself. Yet at the same time, we don’t make your health and happiness an idol. We know Jesus is always on his throne, and his hand holds and guides your life.

Some of my favorite memories from this year include holding you in the hospital, feeling like it was the most natural thing in the world that you should be here and I should be your mommy. That first week with Daddy, doing every single thing together and talking about everything we were experiencing each night as we waited for the next feeding. Dressing you in all your little outfits like my baby doll. Seeing you all wrapped up in your towel after a bath. I think a squeaky clean, rosy cheeked baby in a towel might be the cutest thing in the world. Dancing with you in the kitchen. Discovering new ways to entertain you, like piling the laundry on you fresh out of the dryer (always taking out anything with metal buttons first!) and having you “help” me fold it. Watching you reach new milestones like rolling over, sitting up, crawling, and pulling up. Realizing you are always out ahead of me and I’m playing catch up. Hearing you babble and talk. Rocking you and singing you lullabies like my mommy and daddy used to sing me. This year has been so special-full of memories too numerous and precious to name- and, following the example of Mary in Luke, I will treasure it in my heart.

You are in such a fun stage right now. We’ve had so many days recently where I’ve thought “This is just plain fun!” You give the best hugs! You squeeze so tight and lean your whole body in. You know what “Can I have a smooch?” means and often reward us with the sweetest, wettest kiss we could hope for. You don’t say anything on command, but you say “mama” and “dada” occasionally. You are very tactile. Your little hands are always working. When you play with something, you turn it over and over in your hands, wanting to examine it from all sides. You feel your feelings HARD. You smile big, laugh big, get mad big, and cry big. You love to eat and you will try anything. You are so good at figuring out new finger foods and love to eat your veggies! You are sensitive and affectionate like Daddy. You are clever and curious like Mommy. We see so much of ourselves reflected back in you but we also know God has made you unique and we can’t wait to learn more about who he created you to be!

As I look out over this next year, I’m–as always–intimidated by the unknown. You’re our firstborn, so everything with you is an experiment. We’ve never parented a one year old before! But those feelings are vastly overshadowed by my excitement about experiencing new ages and stages with you. I’m excited for this fall and holiday season when you will be a little more interactive than last year. I’m excited to watch you become more of a tiny person as you begin to walk, talk, and discover more about the world around you.

There’s a reason I so often call you angel/angel baby/angel girl. God has revealed his goodness to me so much through you. Today I will thank him a little extra, for the gift of holding you for a year.

Love,

Mama

Best Baby Buys

 

We’ve almost made it through the first year with our little Lyla Rose! Over the course of that year, we’ve come to know and love baby products that have made our lives easier. There are so many baby products out there, things can get overwhelming fast. That’s why I’m sharing the things we’ve used the most. Of course every baby is different, and what works for one may not work for another. But each of these products is certainly worth a try! I also wrote a post about baby registry tips that you can read here!

Fisher Price Sit-Me-Up-If I had the brain space, I would write a love song to the Sit Me Up. We got so much use out of this thing. Lyla loved it, and it allowed us to be hands-free with her while knowing she was both safe and entertained. I squeezed her in it until she couldn’t squeeze no more. This is truly my favorite piece of baby gear.

Hatch baby rest & portable sound machine-If you’ve read a baby products post in the last year, you’ve read about the Hatch Baby Rest. It’s a white noise machine and nightlight that can be controlled from your phone. White noise is an essential component for baby sleep, and this thing is worth every penny. You’ll also want a portable sound machine for on the go. I’ve heard great things about the Rohm, but I think just about any sound machine that has the option to plug in and use battery will do. We have this one.

Fridababy Baby Basics Kit-We had used everything in this kit by the time Lyla was 4 weeks old. The silicone brush is great for cradle cap, the nail clippers and file are so helpful for those impossibly tiny fingernails, the gas passer saved us on a couple occasions in the newborn days, and the snot sucker is legendary.

Fisher Price Space Saver Hi-Chair-I’m always interested in products that can transition through different phases with baby. This hi-chair can be used for bottle feeding, starting solids/table foods, and as a booster seat in the toddler stage. It also saves space by attaching to a kitchen chair you already have. Every part of it is machine washable or dishwasher safe. I even take the straps off once every couple weeks and run them through the washer in a garment bag. We love this thing!

Aden & Anais Burpy Bibs-These burp cloths cover the most surface area, are soft and absorbent, and have a snap closure for use as bibs. They come in so many cute prints and colors. We’re still using them as we approach one year. I can’t promise you won’t get spit up on (actually I can promise that you will), but I can say these are your best chance for keeping everyone’s outfit clean.

Zarabee’s Daily Bottom Balm– This is the only diaper cream we’ve found that truly keeps diaper rash at bay. Lyla never had a problem with diaper rash until she started solids. This was the cream that cleared it up, and we’ve stuck with it ever since. If she does happen to get some redness, it’s gone within 24 hours. We apply it every night as a preventative. And a bonus–this cream is more like a gel than a thick paste, making application easy. And it doesn’t stick to every surface like some of the creams we’ve used.

Ubbi Weighted Wipes DispenserWe received this as a gift from one of my dear college friends whose eye for practicality I always trust! It keeps your wipes from coming out one million at a time. It fits every pack of wipes we’ve tried, and the simple design doesn’t clash with nursery decor. Trust and believe, it will be a diaper changing game changer!

Hello Bello Diapers & WipesIf you can’t tell by now, diapering is a huge part of the first year of baby’s life. I first tried Hello Bello diapers because they were significantly cheaper than Pamper’s in the bulk size. I’m always skeptical of celebrity brands, but I’ve been so happy with Hello Bello products. Their wipes are 99% water, and I think the combination of their diapers and wipes with Zarabee’s diaper cream is what keeps Lyla’s booty clear of diaper rash. You can bundle their diapers through their site or pick them up from Walmart.

Pampers Wipes For Cleanup-We may be a Hello Bello household, but no shade to Pamper’s. I keep a pack of Pamper’s wipes on hand for clean up because they contain more soap. I also use them in the diaper bag since they are multi-functional. It’s not that Hello Bello wipes don’t work for cleanup, I just prefer to keep all my diaper changing supplies stocked for that purpose only. It makes it easier to grab a 3-pack of Pamper’s, knowing they will only be used for messes and on-the-go. These things work wonders on smeared peanut butter, messy hands and faces, and wiping down surfaces in a pinch.

Gas Drops & Tylenol-Plan to have a few basic medicines on hand before baby arrives. We used these gas drops SO much during Lyla’s first couple months (hello, milk allergy!). Tylenol is just good to have on hand. Obviously, I am not a doctor. Always consult your pediatrician before giving your child medications.

What I wish I’d gotten:

There are a couple items I didn’t get that I will be getting if I have another baby. Learn from my mistakes!

Boppy Pillow-Per the advice of friends, I registered for a Boppy Newborn Lounger and a My Brest Friend pillow. In hindsight, I could have gotten the original Boppy and it would have performed both functions and grown with Lyla. Lyla didn’t care for the Newborn Lounger and it doesn’t really function past the newborn stage. My Brest Friend is a great tool for nursing, but leave it in the package until you’re sure you’re going to nurse. I wasn’t able to, but I couldn’t return it because I had brought it to the hospital. The Boppy pillow is a place to prop baby, a nursing pillow, and will serve as a support when they start sitting up. If I had it to do over again, I’d just get the Boppy and get the My Brest Friend if I needed it for nursing help.

Ottoman-This may seem really out of left field, but I would get an ottoman for your rocker if you have one that doesn’t recline. I love our rocker and I wouldn’t want a different one, but I do wish I had something to prop my feet on for those long nights when baby needs to be held. No matter what kind of sleep training you’re doing, those nights will come!