Hospital Packing List

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Let’s be honest, it can be overwhelming when it comes to packing, much less packing for something like a hospital stay! So when I had my first baby I made a list on my phone of things I wish I would have had and then was able to refer back to it for my second. Here is what I ended up taking with me:

slippers - I hate the hospital socks. So the first time I took my nice Ugg slippers, but guess what? My feet swelled up three sizes bigger and I couldn’t wear them. So this time I bought a pair at Walmart in the next size up. I also made sure they didn’t have any backs on them because it’s easier to get your feet into when they are swollen and you can’t bend over yet (at least if you have a c-section, not sure on a vbac what the bending capability is after birth)

depends - Yes, the hospital gives you mesh underwear and pads, but I did not find them comfortable! Especially if you had a c-section and they hit right at your scar (unless you have the binding on) Anyways, these were much easier to deal with, so make sure you have a few in your bag, if anything for the day you go home so you are more comfortable than the mesh underwear

oils - I needed my Valor and Peace & Calming like crazy before birth! I had so much anxiety and I had these nearby to calm me down. I know that some people who have a vbac also bring a diffuser and have the oils going while giving birth!

nipple cream - because yeah…I really love the Motherlove brand

nursing cover - because people are constantly coming in and out of your room, from nurses, family, doctors, etc…it’s just a little more private this way. I also really love Milkmaid Goods, their covers are SO soft! I loved them so much I actually got two of them!

sleeping mask - The hospital room is full of lights and when nurses come in all hours to check on you they usually leave a light on, anyways, I found it easier to block it out by putting on an eye mask

chapstick - because you will have some dry lips, thank me later

airpods - When I was up feeding or pumping (because of baby being in the NICU) I needed something to do, but didn’t want to wake my husband, so I put these in and listened to my Insta Stories

swelling lotion - the single most important/best thing I took with me! My feet swelled SO bad with my first pregnancy so I prepared this time by making a lotion. I used any lotion as a base and added Lemongrass, Lavender, and Citrus Fresh essential oils. Then I had my husband rub it all over my feet and legs several times a day. It dramatically reduced the swelling and by the third day in the hospital the doctor couldn’t believe how good my feet looked! I actually stopped using it because I thought it was done, and within a day they swelled up again. But a few more applications and it was back to normal! Last time it took several weeks before I could get into a pair of shoes!

kindle/book - You may not ever use it, but I did have some downtime where I wasn’t sleeping and wanted something to do

pajamas for nursing - While those hospital gowns are great, it’s nice to feel human again after birthing a small human! Plus there were so many visitors coming in and out I felt much more comfortable being in pajamas vs the gown. We also had to go down to the NICU several times a day and so it was better to be in some decent clothing than an open back gown! Just make sure they are nursing friendly with some buttons and if you have a c-section you may not want pants or short but a dress instead. Though once I had the binding on the waistband didn’t bother me.

robe - When my first was born it was September (in Texas) which mean it was still hot, so I had a lightweight robe from PinkBlush. It was perfect for putting on over my gown or pajamas and going for a walk on the floor or the NICU. For my second it was December so I got a big fluffy robe. I LOVE this thing! I put it on at home too and it’s great for just having over you pajamas since you are pretty much just nursing all day in the beginning.

maternity tights/clothes - make sure you have your maternity clothes with you to go home from the hospital. You’ll still be wearing these for awhile while your uterus shrinks back or your c-section scar heals

binding - Make sure they give you this in the hospital before you try to get up and walk! I’ve had some friends say they never gave them one, so you might want to grab one off amazon and bring it. Honestly, I couldn’t have survived my c-section without it! If you didn’t have a c-section it’s still a nice thing to have because it helps shrink your hips back faster

phone charger - need I say more?

bathroom items (glasses, contact case, make up, shower stuff, deodorant, etc)

baby items: clothes, swaddle, car seat with infant insert, paci, and a fully packed diaper bag for the ride home

I have an Amazon list if you want to see all the products: http://a.co/2A0Af3X

My Top Picks for Newborns: Misc

Alright, since the list is kind of long, I’m going to try not to go into much detail here, but just list some of my favorites/things that are good to register for.

  1. Winter Time booties - If your newborn is a winter baby these will save your sanity, because socks and shoes DO NOT stay on at this age!

  2. Baby carries (moby, ring sling, and ergo/lille) - Yes, I recommend all three! They serve different purposes. The moby I really only use in those early months. It keeps baby close to your chest and all cozy, great for when they don’t want to be put down. I use the Lille and or Ergo (I’ve had both, but after I lost the Ergo in airport security I decided to go with LIlle, both work great) Anyways, I like this one for traveling through airports or more adventurous hiking/walks because it keeps baby super secure and they go on your back after a certain age. And lastly the ring sling, it’s my more everyday wrap. I really love the ones from Wildbird Co. They have so many great fabrics and I love when you can find a good product from a small shop. It’s easy to fit inside a diaper bag and holds babies well even after a year old. Plus it’s way easier to put baby in than the other two.

  3. baby book - There are so many great books out there, so it really depends on your style. I really like the more simplistic books I’ve seen, but I don’t like their $99 price tag! So here’s one I found that’s similar but cheaper.

  4. fawn diaper bag - y’all this bag is a must!! It’s pricey but so worth it! My mother-in-law got it for me for Christmas and it’s been one of my favorite gifts. It’s cute, functional, and wipes easy.

  5. high chair (ikea or graco) - We have the graco one that attaches to a table, but I also like the Ikea one, really cheap and you can find cute covers all over Etsy

  6. changing pad or pack n play that has one with it - Some people never use a changing pad and just prefer to change baby wherever, which totally works, but having the c-section meant I couldn’t bend over very well so having a changing pad up high was a huge help, plus it wipes clean when you have explosives coming at you during a change…which is totally common with newborns! This time around we actually are just using the changing pad on the pack n play, and that works pretty well for us right now. And if you get a changing pad cover, make sure and get one that’s wipeable! We got one that wasn’t and that was just plain silly. You end up getting all kind of nasty things on that and do you really want one more thing to have to wash constantly!

  7. Lotus Travel Cot n play or the 4moms Breeze- So for a pack n play I really like these two. They are super easy to put together and the Lotus is really light and great for travel. If you want to have the infant bassinet and changing pad area with your pack n play, then I recommend the 4Moms one. We actually use Graco because I got it for free from a company, which totally works too, but if you plan on taking it back and forth to grandparents house or traveling a lot invest in the Lotus or 4moms!

  8. diaper pail - because newborns poop a lot…

  9. Swing - I like the 4moms RockaRoo. It has an app that works with your phone and you can play sound machine noise or music and adjust the speed of the rocking. It’s a great place for baby to hang out when they are being a little fussy and you need a break from the endless holding and rocking!

  10. monitor - Love this monitor! It comes with two cameras, which may seem silly, but if you have two kids in separate rooms it's nice or if you want an extra camera to keep for travel instead of unplugging or unmounting the other one it’s a great option. What I looked for in a monitor: video, two way speaker, temperature reading, dual-voltage (because we needed it overseas and didn’t want to use a transformer), and reasonably priced.

  11. infant car seat pillow - We totally didn’t realize this was a thing. And when we went home from the hospital with our first the nurse mentioned how we might want to get one because the one that came with the car seat was a joke! It was so flat and did nothing. So make sure you have something similar to this so their little head can be properly supported in the car seat.

  12. mittens - Not for the cold, but so they don’t scratch themselves all day long! Plus a lot of people have a hard time with cutting the nails, so this will help until you get better at it. I also really like Goumikids brand because they put the black and white contrast patters on their stuff to help with baby’s development, otherwise you can just get a cheap pair like these.

  13. bandanas - I didn’t see the point of these at all, until our first started teething…then cue alllll the drool. His clothes would be soaked in drool and drive me nuts. So when I put a bandana on him it would catch all the drool and save me from wanting to change his clothes all the time! Plus if you have a baby who spits up a lot it’s great for that, so much easier to change the bandana than clothes.

  14. chew book - a little toy for your babe. Our first didn’t want to do much toys and rattles and such, but he did love having a book that he could chew on and it makes a little crinkle noise

  15. Play gym/mat - I really like things that aren’t full of color and plastic so I looked for a play gym that was more simple and could fit in a suitcase. We went with this one, but if it didn’t need to fit in a suitcase I would have gone with something like this and then just put a nice rug underneath it.


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CHECK OUT ALL THE PRODUCTS ON MY AMAZON IDEA LIST: http://a.co/7prcWJS

My Top Picks for Newborns: Strollers & Bassinets

Since having Ezra there has been several new products that make life with newborns much easier. I’ve decided to update my list of favorite items because maybe it can help anyone who is about to have baby, whether for the first time or third time.


STROLLERS:

So I’m going to include a few options based on price and need.

  1. Expensive - Uppa Baby Vista

    If I could afford it I would have totally gone with this stroller! Not only is it a beautiful design, but it grows with your family. You can start with just one seat or bassinet for baby and then when the time comes for number two you don’t have to buy a new stroller, just add another seat! It’s also not bulky and huge, especially for a double stroller.

  2. Affordable - Baby Jogger City Select Stroller with 2nd Seat or the Baby Jogger City Mini GT Single Stroller

    Again, I recommend investing in the double stroller version of the Baby Jogger because it can be used with one seat and then when you have the second (if you plan on having them close in age) you can just buy the second seat and not invest in a whole new stroller.

    If you aren’t interested in the double then really any of the Baby Jogger strollers are great. You get high quality for great price. We ended up getting the Baby Jogger City Mini GT after our first stroller was destroyed by the airlines. The only thing I didn’t like about it was the basket underneath, it’s hard to get things in and out of it, but not the worst thing in the world. The other thing is that you can’t push the seat back into upright position with one hand. You have to stop and use both hands to get it up, whereas our old stroller let you do it with one hand super simple. The only reason we went with the City Mini GT vs another model is because we needed something with wheels that could withstand dirt roads and pot holes, otherwise I’d totally go with one of the smaller versions.

  3. Deal - Graco DuoGlider Click Connect Double Stroller

    We ended up with this for our double stroller and got it for under $100 on Prime Day. We decided not to invest as much money because of taking it to Africa and already having airplanes ruin our old stroller. This way we won’t be too disappointed if it ends up breaking. I also did not want a double wide stroller because I wanted to fit through doors and small aisles easier. So far I only have one complaint with this stroller an that’s that if you put the infant bassinet in the back part you can’t access the basket underneath. Other than that it’s been great so far.


    My best advice is to go to Buy Buy Baby and just start trying all the strollers. I was SUPER overwhelmed when looking for strollers, and honestly this didn’t help me much, but the second time around I knew which brands I liked and features I wanted to make sure I had so testing out all the strollers in the store worked so much better for me! Plus they have people who work in that department and can help answer all my crazy questions.

    Things I look for in a stroller:

    1. Price (duh)

    2. Works with my infant carseat (If you don’t have a car seat already, I recommend buying a travel system that comes with the carseat, like Graco does, otherwise just make sure you can get an attachment for a carseat with whatever stroller you go with) The Baby Jogger has attachments, but some of them are HUGE, luckily the Graco one is really small and works perfectly.

    3. East to fold, lightweight/not bulky

    4. Wheels do not require air

    5. reclines flat option

One more favorite is the GB Pockit Stroller. If you want to use a carseat then you have to get the Pockit Plus and it only works with a few carseats, so plan ahead if you plan on using the Pockit Stroller with a car seat. We already had a Graco Carseat so I just decided to get the regular Pockit and not worry about using it with the carseat. I mainly use it for my toddler and when traveling in airports because as mentioned above the airlines in Africa likes to give me trouble, so with the Pockit stroller I can just fold it up and put it in my bag!

GB Pockit Stroller

GB Pockit Plus Stroller (can be used with carseat)

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  1. UppaBaby Vista | 2. Baby Jogger City Select Double Stroller | 3. Baby Jogger City Mini GT Single Stroller | 4. Graco Duoglider Double Stroller | 5. GB Pockit Plus Stroller



BASSINETS:

Expensive: The Snoo. Y’all I’ve heard AMAZING things about this guy! I wish we would have known about it before we got our bassinet. I only say that because they know how an option to rent the snoo and since we were only going to be in the states for a little while it might have been worth the cost. If you wanted to rent the snoo for the entire time you usually have a baby in a bassinet, well, then you might want to save up. Basically this bassinet is based on the 5 S’s that help get babies to sleep (soothe, swing, swaddle, shush, and side or stomach). The bassinet has a built in swaddle and white noise machine. When it hears the baby cry it adjusts the swinging and shusher to help calm baby. It also works with your smart phone to alert you when baby is crying and to let you know that it might be because they need a diaper change or feeding.

Affordable: The Halo Bassinet. There are different reasons why people recommend this bassinet. A lot of people like the ability to put it next to your bed and use the collapsable side wall to pull baby out and feed in the bed. For me, the reason why I like this bassinet is because of it’s height. With our first baby we had a rock n play and it was so low to the ground I couldn’t get our baby in and out of the bassinet because of my c-section. This time I wanted something higher so I didn’t have to bend over. Works like a dream! It also rotates well and allows you to rock the baby and the Dock a Tot Deluxe fits perfect inside it. The only downside is that there is no way to make it incline, which is super helpful and really necessary for babies with acid reflux (like my first).

Deal - The Swaddle Me Sleeper. This bassinet also raises high (not as high as the Halo, but high enough) and it has the ability to incline. We found ours on Amazon for a random deal of less than $40, which was cheaper than what I was finding in second-hand stores. But that’s another tip, look for the Halo and SwaddleMe in second hand stores or online marketplaces. I’ve seen them all over the place and you can save some money that way!

CHECK OUT ALL THE PRODUCTS ON MY AMAZON IDEA LIST: http://a.co/7prcWJS




Birth Story : Kennedy Marie

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On December 27th, 2018, at 8:08 am Kennedy Marie came into the world. She was scheduled to appear this day via C-section and since it happened to be the birthday of my late Aunt Brand Marie Dooley, we decided to give her Brenda’s middle name. It’s also the birthday of my Uncle Bruce (Brenda’s twin) and my cousin on the other side of my family, Matt, who got hold Kennedy on their birthdays later that day. So needless to say December 27th is a big birthday day in my family!

While it seems my birth stories are anything from the home birth, mellow, beautiful stories you so often seen floating around online, they are still MY stories and my experiences, and I think it helps to process it all by writing it all out—the scary details and all.

So at 5:00 am on the 27th Reed and I left for the hospital to check in for the c-section. Once you arrive and change they hook you up to a machine so they can start monitoring you and the baby. It turns out I was already having contractions (couldn’t feel them though) so I’m curious how much longer you would have made it in my belly!

The next step was to get the blood drawn and iv in. Now since I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything since midnight it is usually really hard to find my veins. But this time, it was extremely difficult! They kept jumping around and so after a few sticks the nurse tried another spot and this time I vasovagal, a word I had never heard of before, but it means you get really hot and sweaty, as in I thought my body was going to explode of heat, I became super light-headed and dizzy, my color completely disappeared, which is how the nurses saw what was happening, I lost the ability to really communicate and started throwing up and blacking out. Needless to say, it was one of the scariest moments I’ve experienced. But after a few minutes all returned to normal and I was ok, except for extremely tired…and we’ve barely begun.

After that it was just getting the epidural and waiting to be wheeled back for surgery. I remember being extremely nervous because of how difficult and painful the c-section with Ezra was, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. So by the time they wheeled me back into the OR I was starting to have a panic attack. I’ve never really had one, but I’d say that was it. I couldn’t stop crying and since I couldn’t feel my legs it started freaking me out and I began having a hard time. I’m just SO thankful for the wonderful anesthesiologist. They recognized I was having a hard time and were so sweet; telling me it would be okay, calming down with words and also calming me down with meds. They gave me something to help me calm down and honestly it was the best thing. It made me extremely tired but I kind of liked it that way. I was very awake for Ezra’s c-section and it freaked me out the whole time. Getting to be in and out of sleep allowed me to relax and Reed was there the whole time to record what happened. I only remember hearing a few things, like her weight and that my doctor was going to Angelfire for vacation after the surgery. Literally, the word Angelfire was like the only thing I remembered afterwards, so weird. But I was no longer freaking out and the baby was born! I do remember that as soon as they pulled out Kennedy my belly instantly felt like a popped balloon, but in a good way. I felt all the pressure and nasal congestion and just a huge weight (literally) lift off my body, it was a strange feeling and I don’t remember that at all with my first!

Afterwards they wheeled me into recovery and I got to have my parents and Reed in there with me at different times. With Ezra, he was rushed to the NICU so everyone went with the baby and I was left alone in recovery, which ended up being very scary for me because I had no idea what was going on, so this time I was thankful to not be alone! They soon brought in Kennedy for me to hold and try to nurse, such a new experience since I never got to do that with Ezra! It was amazing. After going through something like that it’s nice to then hold your baby to make it all better!

Then I nursed for the first time ever really and it seemed to sweet and gave me hope that nursing might actually work! (I was wrong, but it was nice while it lasted, since I didn’t get to try and nurse Ezra until day 7, and it never worked with him)

After recovery, they wheeled me up to the room and brought Kennedy. Again, it was so amazing to have her in the room with us and I was so excited to have a very different hospital experience with her—so much so that I just seemed to feel happy!

They had also changed the way they did their pain meds since I had Ezra in 2016 and it seemed to be a much better experience pain-wise. They left the catheter in for 12 hours and didn’t have me walk to the bathroom until then, where as in last time it was only a few hours after being in the room and it was PAINFUL! So by the time I got up to walk for the first time there were no tears! It was so encouraging. I was up moving and healing way faster than before.

We had our first night with Kennedy and it went mostly well. She cried and I would nurse her and then we would put her back to sleep. There was one time when she wouldn’t go back down so the nurse came in and took her to the nursery so we could get some sleep and then brought her back when it was time to feed. Early that morning they took her back to the nursery to get her vitals and found her blood sugar was low. They gave her some formula so they could then check it again and see if it improved, but since it didn’t they decided it was best that she be brought to the NICU.

When I found out my heart sank. I was angry and sad. I felt like we were repeating Ezra’s story and that’s not what I wanted! So after a few tears, I gathered my thoughts and determined that since I felt much better and had already started nursing I would do whatever it takes to keep nursing her at the feeding times. So for the next few days Reed would wheel me down to the NICU and I would nurse Kennedy and then she would have a little formula after they checked her blood sugar each time. It ended being three days in the NICU before she was released, so we only stayed in the hospital one extra day.

I actually really enjoy being in the hospital. There is unlimited sonic ice, cranberry juices, people who are always helping you and giving you pain meds, people who make your food for you and clean your room, and willing to help you get some much needed sleep. Plus the bed that moves up and down is amazing when you have trouble bending and moving after surgery. So staying an extra day (for me) is always something I kind of like, because once we go home it’s taking care of two human beings plus ourselves and doing it all on 2 hours of sleep increments.

But thank goodness for family, especially my mom who came and stayed with Ezra while we were in the hospital. And on top of it all Ezra came down with some sort of cold and was sneezing, feverish, coughing, and needing all the snuggles. She was up with him during the night and most nap times trying to get him well. And when we came home we had to work really hard to keep him away from the baby and me because of it was contagious. In fact, the day my mom left to go back home, she came down with what he had and had to get antibiotics and meds. But luckily, no one else seemed to get it! (Well, except my in-laws who also had it..)

So in the next couple weeks we slowly got a routine. I was eventually well enough that I moved into the bedroom (something that took way longer with my first) and once I began sleeping in the bedroom, I learned how to feed and change diapers all from the bed. (Thank you Halo Bassinet and thank you to The Drivers who let us borrow theirs!)

But after about a week I began having pain. My gallstones were back and eating began sparking pain. I would have dull mild pain after every meal and then out of nowhere a big attack would happen. I still had one pain pill from my c-section so it helped me get through what is usually the worst pain of my life. But the bad part was that I hadn’t eaten any of my trigger foods and I now was at a lost of how to proceed. It seemed everything I ate sparked pain and I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it 2 more weeks until my first appointment with the doctor and then who knows how long after that for surgery.

When I had that first attack, we called the doctor and left a message explaining the situation and a few days later we got a call back. The doctor wanted me to come in that day and try and do surgery the next day. It was sudden and shocking, but we knew it was something we needed to ASAP. So we headed in to begin the process.

What was supposed to be a day surgery ended up being three days in the hospital. After the gallbladder remover of over 100 stones I still had some in my bile duct, so the next day a different doctor had to go into my bile duct and remove over half a dozen stones. I stayed another night in the hospital and then went home the next day. It was tough and involved a lot of pain and anxiety, but luckily, the grandparents stepped up and helped take care of the kids. And now, I’m finally on the mend and we are slowly getting in a routine.

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Kennedy Marie : One Month

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The months go by so fast, yet so much has happened this month. We took you home from the hospital on New Year’s Eve and rang in 2019 while in a sleepy, drugged state. A couple weeks later I went to the hospital to have my gallbladder removed and ended up having to stay for a few days. You got to spend time with your grandparents and you’re big brother loves you so much.

You really only care about your milk and naps, but you do get fussy and it seems only laying on someone’s chest and being rocked will calm you down. Regardless, it’s been quite a month of transition and we are still figuring it all out, but it’s been so fun to have a baby girl around here. And you’ve done a great job of growing these last couple weeks, you officially weighed 9 pounds 4 ounces at your one month check-up.

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My Top Picks for Newborns: Feeding & Sleeping

Since having Ezra there has been several new products that make life with newborns much easier. I’ve decided to update my list of favorite items because maybe it can help anyone who is about to have baby, whether for the first time or third time.

So for this post I want to focus on the things for feeding, sleeping, and diapering/bathing. The things you spend most of your day doing with a newborn!

FEEDING

BOTTLES:

I recommend waiting to have baby before you pick a bottle. I’ve heard of so many babies who end up picking their bottle instead of the parent. Luckily, that wasn’t our case, but we did find issues with some bottles and had a few preferences come baby number two. I also recommend waiting because you don’t know if you will be exclusively breastfeeding or not. I thought I would be, but it turns out I’ve needed bottles for babies now. So here’s my favorites:

For our first we went with Dr. Browns because he was having so much trouble with acid reflux gas. The Dr. Brown bottles helped reduce the gas so we stuck with it. But washing plastic bottles in Africa became a CHORE! The bottles turn foggy and basically I’m trying to cut out all plastics. Luckily, Dr. Brown now has a glass option! And if you don’t want the vent straw it lets you use the bottle without it.

My other top picks are Joovy Boob (a little expensive, but great choice for using bottles and breastfeeding since the nipple is designed to mimic mom), Como Tomo, and Boon Nursh.

Things I look for:

  1. Glass or Silicon (bye bye plastic)

  2. Nipple that mimics mom

  3. Some sort of vent system to reduce colic/air bubbles

  4. 8 oz plus bottles because after a few months baby will need more than 4 oz per feeding and it’s super annoying to have to make and clean two bottles each feeding

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  1. Boon Nursh | 2. Dr. Brown Glass Bottles | 3. Como Tomo | 4. Joovy Boob Glass

PUMPING:

  1. I exclusively pumped with my first baby so trust me when I say I’ve had my share of pump problems/opinions. I used the Medela pump in Style with Ezra and while it was a great pump, it meant I was tied down to a chair for 20-40 minutes 6-8 times a day. Something that is NOT possible with your second. So I was pretty against any kind of pumping with my second, but sadly I’ve had to pump with her as well. Luckily it’s not exclusive, but still a lot. That said, I went through insurance and got the Freemie Hands Free Pump for free. I LOVE it! It just pops in your bra and the pump is charged by a mini USB cable. So you can stick it in your pocket and do the dishes, feed baby, chase a toddler, all while pumping. Makes life way easier. I also don’t have to change into a hands free bra for pumping, it works with whatever I already have one. Super simple for car rides.

  2. If I had the budget I’d invest in the Willow Pump, but I wouldn’t do it until you knew how much you’d be pumping. For example, if you will be going back to work and needing to pump at work or if you are exclusively pumping then I would recommend saving up for the Willow Pump. It’s basically like the Freemie pump but with added features. You don’t have to worry about bending over or laying down because it’s spill proof and it syncs with your phone to let you know how much you’ve pumped. Completely worth the price tag of $430-$500!

  3. Haakaa - this little thing is amazing! While you breastfeed you just squeeze it to place on the other side and let it do the rest. It basically sucks out the milk and let down while you feed your baby and in the end you can have anywhere from 1-4 ounces! I’ve had a ton of moms tell me they don’t even pump anymore. They just use this guy each time to store up their stash of breastmilk.

  4. Also, get some pump wipes so when you pump outside of the house (or at night) you can just wipe the parts clean and don’t have to worry about hot water and soap and drying.

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  1. FREEMIE PUMP | 2. WILLOW PUMP | 3. HAAKAA | 4. PUMP WIPES

OTHER ITEMS:

  1. Take a breastfeeding class. Now with my second I’m learning how valuable this would have been. I know I could still take one, but sadly my budget is spent, but that’s another story. That said, I recommend registering for the cost of on on a registry or if you get to have a shower and have a lot of items gifted to you then you can have some extra money or save up to take a class. I would think there are free ones out there, but I never found any…though not sure how hard I tried, because I didn’t realize breastfeeding wasn’t something that just came natural to both momma and baby. It takes practice, tools, and help…lots of help. And you don’t really get all that help while you’re recovering in the hospital, so if you can try and do it before then hopefully you’ll be more successful. Here’s an online one you can take if you can’t find something else: https://lactationlink.com/

  2. Gripe Water - This stuff is amazing and we used it with Ezra for at least the first year. It’s a beautiful tool when sleep training or trying to calm a fussy baby! We don’t go anywhere without it and most of the time we barely use any at all or just dip the syringe in it. Baby sucks on it a little, calms down and takes the paci! (note, when looking at different brands to check ingredients, b/c a lot of brands will put HFCS or sugar in there!)

  3. Gas Drops - We are trying anything to help with gas at this point, so we give these to our babe as directed.

  4. Probiotic Drops - We are using these with our second because she has terrible gas. Our first did too and after doing a lot of research it seems that gas can be really common with c-section babies because they aren’t passed some of the things they need from momma when delivered that way. Not sure how many people agree with that, but it makes sense to me since that’s a common question asked by doctors when determining if someone has candida later in life. Also, feeding via bottle in the early days creates more gas in newborns. So I’ve read several articles about how probiotics can help heal the gut and help little ones with gas, and since they are safe to give, we are trying anything, because the waking up crying with gas is just too much for both baby and momma! However, I will note that these are expensive, so I’d wait and see if you think you need them before you buy them.

  5. Nipple Butter - take this with you to the hospital! I really like this brand and was recommended by the lactation consultant because it has candela in it for healing tissue (very helpful if you have cracking or bleeding like I did with my second)

  6. Burp Rags - Invest in these! We used them like crazy with Ezra because of his acid reflux and constant spitting up. We don’t use them as much with our second, but it’s super helpful because she seems to not swallow all the time and it just drips everywhere! I love the Aden + Anais ones because they can also snap around like a bib. But I like the Burt’s Bees ones for my diaper bag. I received one for free in a baby kit and it’s the perfect size for travel.

  7. Breastfeeding Pillow - I’ve tried the Boppy and the Brestfriend Pillow and I really like the Brestfiend much better, especially if you have a c-section because it puts the baby above your incision. I do recommend the velcro strap over the buckle strap if you have any sort of curves, because it’s hard to get it to fit at the right places and the velcro one can be adjusted to larger sizes.

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  1. LACTATION CLASS | 2. GRIPE WATER | 3. GAS RELIEF DROPS | 4. PROBIOTIC DROPS | 5. NIPPLE CREAM | 6. BURP RAGS | 7. BRESTFRIEND PILLOW

SLEEPING

  1. First off, let’s just get the hard stuff out of the way. Register/take this newborn sleeping class! I wish I had the budget to take it, but since it’s our second we have some experience in all of this so I’m not freaking out just yet, but would have been WAY helpful for the first! Plus follow her on Instagram to get some great tips as well!

  2. This book. You could also just keep taking Cara’s classes, but since we followed this book with Ezra and it worked, we are going to try it again with Kennedy.

  3. Swaddles. A very important part in getting your baby to sleep longer! We love this one but if you want to splurge i’ve heard this one is great too.

    Pro Tip: Get two swaddles, because when massive spit ups happens you don’t want to be left without a swaddle while you wait for it to wash and dry! I actually only use the swaddle blankets for lightweight blankets or for photos. I highly recommend the viscose bamboo ones from Aden + Anais.

  4. Pacifiers. Another tool for getting babies to sleep. However, I do know of several moms who have said their baby either didn’t take pacis or became super picky on which one they would take. So it might be best to wait and see how baby responds? The hospital gave us some pacis, they were actually the same as the wubanub ones, but I ended up switching to Dr. Browns because that was the same bottle my first was using. However, with our second I really wanted to try Ryan & Rose. I had heard so much about them, plus they are super cute and a small company. So far, it’s been a hit! I ended up buying their paci clips too, because there’s nothing more frustrating than dropping a paci on the floor! Which speaking of, get some paci wipes to keep in your diaper bag.

    Pro Tip: Buy two pacifiers so you have one a clip in the car seat or diaper bag and the other one for using at home that pretty much stays in the bassinet.

  5. Dock a Tot - We wished we would have had this sooner with our first. When Ezra started sleeping longer stretches at night he would still wake up around 5-6 am, so after a quick feeding we would try to put him back to sleep, but he wasn’t always having it. We found if he was wrapped tightly in between us with pillows he would calm right down and fall asleep. this was also more common when he was older and able to crawl over, meaning he wasn’t in the bassinet next to our bed anymore and we had to get up to soothe him. Having the Dock-a-Tot means baby can be safely in between us on the bed and we don’t have to get up every five seconds while sleep training. Plus it helped a ton for naps! And now that he’s older it’s really helpful when we travel a lot. It gives him a sense of security and familiarity no matter where he is. And we plan to use it for his toddler bed, but of course we are using the Grand for Ezra and the Deluxe for Kennedy until 9 months.

  6. Sound Machine - We didn’t invest in one of these until our first was over 1 year old, BIG mistake. I’m not even sure why we waited. The sound machine is super helpful in the newborn stage because it mimics the heartbeat of mom. It’s not so much for blocking out noise at this age as it for creating a soothing sound. Once they get older and tend to wake up easier the sound machine is helpful for blocking out noise. We have two. One for Ezra to use each night that has a little light on it and also has the option for the light to go off when it’s time for your toddler to leave the bed. It supposed to help them with not getting up before it’s time…we haven’t transitioned out of the crib yet, so not sure how well this will work for us! And of course this one works with an app on your phone because that’s how all the things seem to work nowadays! Hatch Sound Machine

    The other sound machine we use is a small one that clips anywhere. It charges via USB cable and has an app that works with it where family members can record things and it can play on the speaker. It has a bluetooth so it works with your phone. I haven’t tested that part of it out yet, but we picked this one because it was the only portable one I could find that didn’t turn off after a set amount of time and also didn’t rely on batteries, just charing.

  7. Gowns (I recommend zippers, magnets, or open ended gowns) These are the easiest for those late night diaper changes, because snaps are annoying and should be banned from all pajamas.

    Zipper

    Magnet (look for these are upscale resale shops!)

    Gowns

  8. Lovey/Blanket - You don’t want your infant sleeping with this, but it’s a great thing to get one for putting over them when it’s cold and you’re holding them and it’s also good for you to start sleeping with it so it gets your scent on it. Then when they are older it helps soothe them. We did this with Ezra and he still has his blanket from birth, however, I want to throw it away because y’all it’s naaaasty! This also makes a great gift because people love getting them and then having their name put on it. I don’t really have a specific one in mind, but I’ve usually found my favorites at TJ MAXX.

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  1. newborn sleeping class | 2. sleep book | 3a. nested bean swaddle |
    3b. bamboo swaddle blankets | 3c. ollie swaddle | 4. pacifier & paci clips | 4b. paci wipes | 5. dock a tot | 6a. hatch sound machine |
    6b. travel sound machine | 7. magnetic gowns | 8. baby blanket

DIAPERING/BATHING

  1. I love Honest Diapers and wipes. I have heard of a lot of babies who can have sensitivities to diapers because of all the chemicals so I really wanted something that offered a more natural solution. There are several on the market, but we went with Honest because they will have a lot of deals on their bundles, they offer cute prints, and they hold liquids like crazy! We’ve even been able to find them at discounted prices at TJ MAXX and Marshalls.

  2. Diaper Cream - We use two different types of diaper creams, one is just a basic coconut oil product from Honest Co. and the other is an actual diaper cream with the zinc in it to help clear rashes. We use the basic coconut oil one more with our older son and on boys after circumcision, but I use the diaper cream more with girls since they tend to be more sensitive down there. I am loving the Young Living diaper cream. Not only is it void of all the nasty chemicals (which is hard to do in diaper creams) but it has lavender essential oil in it which is great for calming. And it’s not a messy smelly mess all over your hands like other diaper creams.

  3. Linen Spray from Young Living - just spray it on the bassinet a few minutes before laying baby down. Helps calm them (and you!)

  4. Lotion - Young Living Seedling Lotion - Again it has lavender in it and helps calm baby, plus you don’t need very much and this will seriously last forever, just like the diaper cream. Before Young Living came out with their baby products we used Honest lotion and bath wash, but after trying Young Living’s products I’m hooked! If you have a membership to YL then this would be a great gift for a new mom!

  5. Bathtubs:

    Splurge - Bloom Bath. It’s super cute and makes for great photos, but not sure how well it works on newborns?

    Puj Tub - we got this with Ezra only because we needed something that could fit in a suitcase to take back to Africa. Works well in a sink, but not in a tub as the magnets will unsnap for a heavy baby.

    I really only recommend the high end ones if you plan on traveling a lot and need to take the tub with you, like to grandma’s for a week or if you spend time vacationing a lot.

    Save - First Years Tub - This one is nice because it works really well with a newborn, but you will need a big sink to make it fit otherwise you’ll have to use the tub. Using the tub isn’t the end of the world except in those early days (at least with the c-section) bending down is NOT happening for the first several weeks.

    Angelcare Bath - I’ve never used this one, but I like it’s sleek design

  6. Wash Clothes/Hooded Towels - Something I totally didn’t think to register for, but luckily people got them for us with our first baby. Here are a few of my favorites: Washcloth/Towel Set, Washcloths, Towels

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CHECK OUT ALL THE PRODUCTS ON MY AMAZON IDEA LIST: http://a.co/7prcWJS

Ethical Christmas Gift Guide: 2nd Edition

Last year I wrote a blog with several companies that sold ethical goods. This year I thought I’d narrow it down a bit and list a few individual items from some of my favorite brands. I’ve also tried to include a little something for every one your list! Everything (except one item) is well under a $100 in an effort to show you that ethical doesn’t have to break the bank! I’ve even broken them down into categories of Splurge (above 40), Spend (in the $30 range) and Save (from $29-$12) and at the bottom is a $10 guide.

So no more excuses that ethical shopping is too expensive, it’s out there, you just have to find it. And most of these stores offer coupons when you sign up for their email newsletter list. Including our company, Dreamer & Co…so take advantage!

The Mama/Sister/Aunt/Special Girl in Your Life:

Obviously the most easiest category out there, because most of the fashion market is geared toward women. So here are a few of my picks (see the last category for under $10 ideas)

Splurge:
These Shoes from Root Collective

This necklace from Dreamer & Co

Spend:
This Stone Tray from Noonday Collective

This Scarf From Vickery Trading Co.

This Necklace From Dreamer & Co

This clutch from Purse & Clutch via The Brightly Co

Save:

This pair of earrings from Starfish Project

This tassel from Noonday Collection

This necklace from Dreamer & Co

Our Home Tour: Horn of Africa

I’ve been inspired lately by Taking Route’s blog series on homes around the world. And even though we aren’t currently in our home in Africa right now and when we go back we will actually be find a new place, I thought it would be fun to do a blog about the place we did call home from 2016-2018. It was Ezra’s first home and our first home in the Horn of Africa, and it will always hold a special place in our heart.

I’m also going to try and link some of my favorite things to bring back in suitcases for decorating, because sadly Target, Ikea, and Hobby Lobby haven’t cracked the market where we live. However, there are a few new places that popped up about a year after moving there that have provided a few affordable decorating options! But it’s still nice to bring those cheap Amazon and Target finds from home.

And speaking of home, I’m hoping this helps inspires me for our next place. In case you are interested in our crazy timeline of events our 2019 house hopping looks like this:

Baby Girl arrives end of December 2018

We pack up our belongings and move out of our temporary housing here in the states and head back to Africa mid-March 2019

We find a place to stay for a week or two as a family of four until we move into our supervisors house in April

We house sit for our supervisors while they are away, and slowly try to find a few necessary things in storage (baby bassinet, blender, etc)

For the summer, we make the mass exodus to ???? (location to be determined based on our language needs and availability) If you haven’t been following along or heard me talk about it, everything shuts down for the summer because of the heat. Our programs come to a stop, locals leave to visit family in neighboring countries, and expats take the chance to visit home or brush up on language skills in other countries.

So for the summer we will be living out of suitcases in another country (as we don’t plan to return to the states for summer 2019 due to cost) and hopefully we’ll stock up on a few needed things and escape the heat.

Then in September we return to our host country and begin searching for our new place!

So yeah, home is very relative these days, and I’m about to become super nostalgic for our old/first home in the Horn of Africa.

The view from our balcony. We had apartment complexes all around us (despite what many people though that elaborate building was) and an empty field to the right. That field gained quite a few things over the months we were in this place. There lived as sweet family there who owned a restaurant on their property often frequented by construction workers and guards. Toward the end there was a giant container out there and usually a pack of goats.

The view from our balcony. We had apartment complexes all around us (despite what many people though that elaborate building was) and an empty field to the right. That field gained quite a few things over the months we were in this place. There lived as sweet family there who owned a restaurant on their property often frequented by construction workers and guards. Toward the end there was a giant container out there and usually a pack of goats.

The Living Room

We were lucky enough to find an apartment that was mostly furnished. The year we moved to the Horn of Africa there was an influx of refugees coming from Yemen and needing apartments with furniture, so most of the places included everything. Now (only two years later) that’s nearly impossible to find, but it also means cheaper rent since there are way more places for rent. However, it also means we have to buy some furniture when we return…a very costly expense in our country.

As a side note, I LOVED this dining room table! It was a beautiful wood and huge! I would decorate it for each season and we did family meals, language study, projects, you name it on this place. One of my goals is to find a table this size for our new place. It’s perfect for having friends over too. It’s hosted many of holiday parties and random get togethers.

BEFORE PHOTOS

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And speaking of holiday parties, here’s a shot of our set up for a Christmas party with some of our team members. Our place also came with a white patio table so we pulled it in and set it in the middle. This should give you an idea of how huge the living room/dining room area is that it can fit a table for 8, another table, two couches, and three other pieces of furniture! And what’s crazy is that I’ve seen a lot bigger living rooms that ours!

And speaking of holiday parties, here’s a shot of our set up for a Christmas party with some of our team members. Our place also came with a white patio table so we pulled it in and set it in the middle. This should give you an idea of how huge the living room/dining room area is that it can fit a table for 8, another table, two couches, and three other pieces of furniture! And what’s crazy is that I’ve seen a lot bigger living rooms that ours!

A closer look at the couch. I actually replaced this couch cover with one I got on Amazon. I like the fitted couch cover look better, so that was an easy fix. And if we need to take it off to wash, we have an extra one ready to go. I bought the couch off of our teammates who were retiring for a mere $8, finally a deal that won’t break the bank! (I’ll include links to everything below) I’m also planning on bringing back pillow covers for these three pillows—still searching for the perfect ones, but so far Amazon looks like my best option. The curtains we brought with us from the States and have actually had them since our first apartment as a married couple, I may have even had them before that?

A closer look at the couch. I actually replaced this couch cover with one I got on Amazon. I like the fitted couch cover look better, so that was an easy fix. And if we need to take it off to wash, we have an extra one ready to go. I bought the couch off of our teammates who were retiring for a mere $8, finally a deal that won’t break the bank! (I’ll include links to everything below) I’m also planning on bringing back pillow covers for these three pillows—still searching for the perfect ones, but so far Amazon looks like my best option. The curtains we brought with us from the States and have actually had them since our first apartment as a married couple, I may have even had them before that?

Here’s the couch with the new cover on it. Not amazing, and I probably would have gone with a different color if I had seen it in person, but the price was right!

Here’s the couch with the new cover on it. Not amazing, and I probably would have gone with a different color if I had seen it in person, but the price was right!

Another look at the living room, when it’s not set up for a party. We also had an old elliptical machine we found in our team storage that we put in the right corner. I eventually added an exercise ball and a few hand weights. You really need some sort of inside exercise place because it’s so hot and I still don’t feel comfortable running outside by myself.

Another look at the living room, when it’s not set up for a party. We also had an old elliptical machine we found in our team storage that we put in the right corner. I eventually added an exercise ball and a few hand weights. You really need some sort of inside exercise place because it’s so hot and I still don’t feel comfortable running outside by myself.

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Our balcony which opens from the living room

Our balcony which opens from the living room

One of my favorite things about our house is this bookshelf. Another buy off a family who was moving and we were lucky enough to get to send a ton of our stuff over on a container. So I packed those plastic buckets full of memories. The decor has been rearranged quite a bit over the years and of course we’ve added a few things, but this is the general idea. It contains our wedding photo book, our wedding guest book, things people made for us for our wedding, and of course photos and some of our favorite coffee table books. I’m still debating on whether or not I want to eventually paint this thing white, but the wood on it is much prettier than a lot of our other pieces so it will probably depend on if I have any paint left. (I bought a paint off of Amazon that’s similar to chalk paint, so no sanding required. I did not bring this in a suitcase so I’m not sure what the rule is on that, I was able to get it over on a container, but I’ll link it below too)

One of my favorite things about our house is this bookshelf. Another buy off a family who was moving and we were lucky enough to get to send a ton of our stuff over on a container. So I packed those plastic buckets full of memories. The decor has been rearranged quite a bit over the years and of course we’ve added a few things, but this is the general idea. It contains our wedding photo book, our wedding guest book, things people made for us for our wedding, and of course photos and some of our favorite coffee table books. I’m still debating on whether or not I want to eventually paint this thing white, but the wood on it is much prettier than a lot of our other pieces so it will probably depend on if I have any paint left. (I bought a paint off of Amazon that’s similar to chalk paint, so no sanding required. I did not bring this in a suitcase so I’m not sure what the rule is on that, I was able to get it over on a container, but I’ll link it below too)

Some other things we added to the living room:

  1. A rug. While I wish I could have afforded some beautiful rug that brings the whole room together, it just wasn’t possible. I mean, even in the states rugs are expensive! But we did have access to the US military base and we bought an off-white carpet rug that ended up being perfect. The main reason is because when Ezra was still crawling (or learning to crawl) the tile floor was too much. Once we got a rug, he immediately started crawling! Plus rugs are just great.

  2. Target dollar finds for the wall. We have concrete walls and even though we got a drill out we still could not manage to get anything hung on the walls with nails. So I gave up and used velcro strips. REally important to note we did not use anything but velcro! Anything else was too flimsy and the heat would just melt it right off! But for some reason the velcro stayed through the heat. I’ll link these things below too. My favorite was a gather sign that I found for Thanksgiving in the dollar section and hung above our dining table.

  3. Even though I had all of these photo frames to hang on the wall, I had to give up that dream. So I took the photos out of the frames and ended up hanging them up with clothes pins on twine.

The Hallway

Here’s a look at the hallway when we first moved in with all our stuff. The front door is right behind the angle of where the photo was taken and then all the doors to the rooms (bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom, and even the living room) are off of the hallway. I feel like maybe the better title for this space is the foyer.

Here’s a look at the hallway when we first moved in with all our stuff. The front door is right behind the angle of where the photo was taken and then all the doors to the rooms (bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom, and even the living room) are off of the hallway. I feel like maybe the better title for this space is the foyer.

We ended up putting quite a few pieces of furniture in this space. The kitchen didn’t hold much so this space held a lot of our fancy dishes, odds and ends, and we had a coffee bar at the end of the space. I ended up replacing the knobs with ones I brought back and got marble contact paper off of Amazon to replace the old contact paper that the previous owners had put on the piece. I also have grand plans to paint this guy white, but we’ll see…as for the pieces you see on there, we got the owl cookie jar at a local garage sale of moving expats, the tree is a handmade gift from Kenya, and the letterboard was a necessity I brought back in the suitcase, along with my assortment of cookbooks. And of course the amazing Ikea foldable boxes. (links below)

We ended up putting quite a few pieces of furniture in this space. The kitchen didn’t hold much so this space held a lot of our fancy dishes, odds and ends, and we had a coffee bar at the end of the space. I ended up replacing the knobs with ones I brought back and got marble contact paper off of Amazon to replace the old contact paper that the previous owners had put on the piece. I also have grand plans to paint this guy white, but we’ll see…as for the pieces you see on there, we got the owl cookie jar at a local garage sale of moving expats, the tree is a handmade gift from Kenya, and the letterboard was a necessity I brought back in the suitcase, along with my assortment of cookbooks. And of course the amazing Ikea foldable boxes. (links below)

The back of our hallway and to the left is our kitchen. You can see our water tower and after this photo was taken we actually turned that back table into a coffee station. Our coffee collection kept growing and it made since to keep it next to the filtered water. We also had to get a fan for this space because it was the hottest place in the house and where we always ended up talking with visitor forever…equals sooo much sweaty conversations. You can also see the original contact paper of the furniture piece and how much better it looks with new knobs and contact paper, a cheap and easy fix! To the left you can see part of the other piece of furniture we had in this space—holding mostly all of our kitchen appliances.

The back of our hallway and to the left is our kitchen. You can see our water tower and after this photo was taken we actually turned that back table into a coffee station. Our coffee collection kept growing and it made since to keep it next to the filtered water. We also had to get a fan for this space because it was the hottest place in the house and where we always ended up talking with visitor forever…equals sooo much sweaty conversations. You can also see the original contact paper of the furniture piece and how much better it looks with new knobs and contact paper, a cheap and easy fix! To the left you can see part of the other piece of furniture we had in this space—holding mostly all of our kitchen appliances.

Here we are from the front door, and you can see how the hallway/foyer works as you walk in. The Taco mat was a great find from Walmart. (link below)

Here we are from the front door, and you can see how the hallway/foyer works as you walk in. The Taco mat was a great find from Walmart. (link below)

The Guest Room/Nursery


BEFORE PHOTOS

This is one of the bedrooms with the bed, night stand, lamp, and curtains that came with the apartment.

This is one of the bedrooms with the bed, night stand, lamp, and curtains that came with the apartment.

I got a map wall decal off of Amazon and we put this rocking chair on a container. The decals are great, because they peel off without taking off the paint and if you are good enough you can reuse them, but I couldn’t get it off in good enough shape to reuse. However, one thing on this rocking chair. The white part of the fabric turned yellow where our body oil touched it and mixed with the heat and then the screws rusted and rotted and eventually broke. Very disappointing, but I guess you get what you pay for, but now we are on the hunt for something a little higher quality for baby number 2. I’ll link the rocking chair below for anyone who doesn’t live in an extremely hot environment.

I got a map wall decal off of Amazon and we put this rocking chair on a container. The decals are great, because they peel off without taking off the paint and if you are good enough you can reuse them, but I couldn’t get it off in good enough shape to reuse. However, one thing on this rocking chair. The white part of the fabric turned yellow where our body oil touched it and mixed with the heat and then the screws rusted and rotted and eventually broke. Very disappointing, but I guess you get what you pay for, but now we are on the hunt for something a little higher quality for baby number 2. I’ll link the rocking chair below for anyone who doesn’t live in an extremely hot environment.

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Here you can also see the wardrobe in the corner. Another must have item we’ll need to replace!

Here you can also see the wardrobe in the corner. Another must have item we’ll need to replace!

I love expat garage sales. We got this changing table from an embassy family who didn’t need anymore and these the small chest of drawers from another family who was leaving. I changed the handles out of the drawers and will paint it white eventually. I’d love for the changing tablet to be white as well, but whatever. The chevron tubs are from target, and we were lucky enough to find the crib in our team’s storage container!

I love expat garage sales. We got this changing table from an embassy family who didn’t need anymore and these the small chest of drawers from another family who was leaving. I changed the handles out of the drawers and will paint it white eventually. I’d love for the changing tablet to be white as well, but whatever. The chevron tubs are from target, and we were lucky enough to find the crib in our team’s storage container!

We did a lot in this room. We replaced the curtains with navy curtains from Walmart. Added a bunk bed, where we didn’t use the bottom mattress but instead left the double bed underneath for guests. The bunk bed will eventually be part of Ezra’s big boy bed, since the double bed was part of the furnished apartment. We also added a cute tent from Amazon and had a fuzzy rug from Ikea. I’ll link them below, especially since I don’t have photos!

We did a lot in this room. We replaced the curtains with navy curtains from Walmart. Added a bunk bed, where we didn’t use the bottom mattress but instead left the double bed underneath for guests. The bunk bed will eventually be part of Ezra’s big boy bed, since the double bed was part of the furnished apartment. We also added a cute tent from Amazon and had a fuzzy rug from Ikea. I’ll link them below, especially since I don’t have photos!

So I can’t believe I don’t have more photos of the nursery/guest room. I guess we spend the least amount of time in this room, because half of the year Ezra sleeps with us due to only running the a/c in one room, but here’s the best photo I could find of his crib.

So I can’t believe I don’t have more photos of the nursery/guest room. I guess we spend the least amount of time in this room, because half of the year Ezra sleeps with us due to only running the a/c in one room, but here’s the best photo I could find of his crib.

Master Bedroom

Here’s the very real view of our bedroom. It’s the room we spend most of our time in during the hot season because we run the a/c at night and it stays cool for most of the day. We also have a TV in here that we got an embassy garage sale for $5! It’s the only TV with HDMI so we usually hook up our computer and can watch netflix. The end tables and wardrobes came with the apartment so we’ll have to buy some for our new place, but the bed and other pieces of furniture we bought from families who were leaving. I am going to paint that dresser white and the handles gold. It’s my first painting project on the list. I’ve wanted to do it so many times, but the task just seemed so daunting, and moving always seems like a good time to paint before you get things settled. There’s our rocking chair which we moved into our room during the hot season and you can see the yellow stains from our body oil/heat…eww. But since it’s broken we probably won’t be using it anymore. We also had a pack-n-play, a small entertainment center, and another small piece of furniture that held our towels and Ezra’s diapers and pajamas during the hot season since he was sleeping in the room with us.  We also had a bathroom to the left with a tub, shower, and bidet. I wish I had a photo of it so you could see the rugs and shower curtain; it made a HUGE difference in making the bathroom look better. I’ll link some of my favorite finds below.  Our bed isn’t made, but we brought our comforter from the states that we got as a wedding gift. I once had a friend who grew up overseas tell me about bringing your comforter from home because it makes your bed feel much more homey, and they are right! We also brought our sheets—the ones on the bed I picked up at Ross and they have little elephants on them, as well as the pillows. When our bed is made it has a white blanket at the end I got at Ikea and had for years and several pillows we got as gifts from our wedding.  As for the decals on the back wall, I picked them up at Target and they are gold feathers. I was able to save those decals when I pulled them off so I’m sure I’ll use them somewhere in the next house. (links below)

Here’s the very real view of our bedroom. It’s the room we spend most of our time in during the hot season because we run the a/c at night and it stays cool for most of the day. We also have a TV in here that we got an embassy garage sale for $5! It’s the only TV with HDMI so we usually hook up our computer and can watch netflix. The end tables and wardrobes came with the apartment so we’ll have to buy some for our new place, but the bed and other pieces of furniture we bought from families who were leaving. I am going to paint that dresser white and the handles gold. It’s my first painting project on the list. I’ve wanted to do it so many times, but the task just seemed so daunting, and moving always seems like a good time to paint before you get things settled. There’s our rocking chair which we moved into our room during the hot season and you can see the yellow stains from our body oil/heat…eww. But since it’s broken we probably won’t be using it anymore. We also had a pack-n-play, a small entertainment center, and another small piece of furniture that held our towels and Ezra’s diapers and pajamas during the hot season since he was sleeping in the room with us.

We also had a bathroom to the left with a tub, shower, and bidet. I wish I had a photo of it so you could see the rugs and shower curtain; it made a HUGE difference in making the bathroom look better. I’ll link some of my favorite finds below.

Our bed isn’t made, but we brought our comforter from the states that we got as a wedding gift. I once had a friend who grew up overseas tell me about bringing your comforter from home because it makes your bed feel much more homey, and they are right! We also brought our sheets—the ones on the bed I picked up at Ross and they have little elephants on them, as well as the pillows. When our bed is made it has a white blanket at the end I got at Ikea and had for years and several pillows we got as gifts from our wedding.

As for the decals on the back wall, I picked them up at Target and they are gold feathers. I was able to save those decals when I pulled them off so I’m sure I’ll use them somewhere in the next house. (links below)

We brought those curtains from home and since they were too long I just pinned them to make them shorter, that way if our next place has long windows I don’t have to regret getting them cut and sewn! There’s the other pieces of furniture that’s next in line for a paint job, and hopefully that bed will get one too! So many paint jobs around here!

We brought those curtains from home and since they were too long I just pinned them to make them shorter, that way if our next place has long windows I don’t have to regret getting them cut and sewn! There’s the other pieces of furniture that’s next in line for a paint job, and hopefully that bed will get one too! So many paint jobs around here!

Again, real life. The entertainment center belonged to the apartment, so we’ll look for something else when we move. The rug is one we picked up from the US base and it was a game changer! We eventually hung photos on twine with clothes pin above the tv because I gave up trying to get anything nailed to the walls. (see photo to the right)

Again, real life. The entertainment center belonged to the apartment, so we’ll look for something else when we move. The rug is one we picked up from the US base and it was a game changer! We eventually hung photos on twine with clothes pin above the tv because I gave up trying to get anything nailed to the walls. (see photo to the right)

Here you can see our comforter in the bottom of the photo and the twine with photos idea I ended up doing around the house.

Here you can see our comforter in the bottom of the photo and the twine with photos idea I ended up doing around the house.

The before photos of the master bathroom, trust me, the decor did wonders for this space

The before photos of the master bathroom, trust me, the decor did wonders for this space

We had a small storage piece to left of the sink for our stuff and also had hanging organizer on the back of the door. I’ll link a similar one below.

We had a small storage piece to left of the sink for our stuff and also had hanging organizer on the back of the door. I’ll link a similar one below.

The Kitchen

We moved this table out onto the balcony and just brought it in when necessary.

We moved this table out onto the balcony and just brought it in when necessary.

the kitchen sink—real special, I know.

the kitchen sink—real special, I know.

In place of the white table we put this piece of furniture we got from a teammate. This piece is beautiful and made so well. I think they brought it over from England years ago and I love it.

In place of the white table we put this piece of furniture we got from a teammate. This piece is beautiful and made so well. I think they brought it over from England years ago and I love it.

So why take photos of the cabinets? Because they are a rarity in homes here! If you want cabinets you have to buy them yourself and have them installed, but we were so excited to see our apartment came with some, even if they weren’t that pretty or straight…

So why take photos of the cabinets? Because they are a rarity in homes here! If you want cabinets you have to buy them yourself and have them installed, but we were so excited to see our apartment came with some, even if they weren’t that pretty or straight…

And our washer, again it was provided with the house, which is not usually the case, and yet another thing we’ll have to buy when we get back. This washer was brand new because the original one didn’t work, we were spoiled indeed! And Ezra loved watching the wash through the little window.

And our washer, again it was provided with the house, which is not usually the case, and yet another thing we’ll have to buy when we get back. This washer was brand new because the original one didn’t work, we were spoiled indeed! And Ezra loved watching the wash through the little window.

We got this piece from our teammates as well and I painted it white (despite what the photo shows) and painted the handles gold. Notice our transformer and Ninja blender. :)

We got this piece from our teammates as well and I painted it white (despite what the photo shows) and painted the handles gold. Notice our transformer and Ninja blender. :)

So another rarity—a HUGE fridge! Seriously, most of the fridges are teeny tiny and also don’t come with the apartment. I’ll probably miss this thing the most and be sad to see what we can buy with our budget.

So another rarity—a HUGE fridge! Seriously, most of the fridges are teeny tiny and also don’t come with the apartment. I’ll probably miss this thing the most and be sad to see what we can buy with our budget.

The Office

Again, a room I don’t have many photos of, but here’s one side of the office. We actually had three desks in here because it served as our team office when needed. Reed has a desk, I had a desk, and we had an extra one for a team member. We also kept our books and a lot of storage items for camping and whatnot in here.

Again, a room I don’t have many photos of, but here’s one side of the office. We actually had three desks in here because it served as our team office when needed. Reed has a desk, I had a desk, and we had an extra one for a team member. We also kept our books and a lot of storage items for camping and whatnot in here.

Here’s my side. We ended up moving the bookshelf you see in the photo to the left behind my desk because we got another bookshelf to keep up with our ever growing book collection. We end up taking all the books from families when they leave since no one wants to use up luggage space for heavy books! We also have a really big metal cabinet we used for storage and I loved getting to put photos and magnets of friends on there.

Here’s my side. We ended up moving the bookshelf you see in the photo to the left behind my desk because we got another bookshelf to keep up with our ever growing book collection. We end up taking all the books from families when they leave since no one wants to use up luggage space for heavy books! We also have a really big metal cabinet we used for storage and I loved getting to put photos and magnets of friends on there.

Courtyard

One thing I wish we had more of at this apartment was a place to play outside. Even though it’s hot, there are some months in the year where it’s nice to be outside, especially with a toddler. We only had a small little area and it’s really where the cars went, but I made use of this favorite corner of mine and always took photos here.

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The gate to our place!

The gate to our place!

Daddy and Ezra hanging out of the window of the office

Daddy and Ezra hanging out of the window of the office

Links To My Favorite Things


  1. Chalk Finish Paint

  2. World Map Decal

  3. Wall Decals - Since I can’t find the feather ones I bought I just linked a bunch of things from Target, but if you can browse Target you’ll find better deals

  4. Marble Contact Paper

  5. Battery Operated String Lights (I didn’t mention these above, but I love these. I use them for the holidays and also for general decor. I’ve draped them around the tent for Ezra and also put them in glass jars as well as hanging them above doorways.

  6. Foldable Play Tent for Ezra’s Room

  7. Hammock Swing (Which I’ve failed to figure out how to hang yet)

  8. Couch Cover - we bought this one but the price has gone up quite a bit! But there are lots of options out there, just make sure you get the right size

  9. Bamboo Towels - If you don’t have a dryer and hate crunchy towels, then get yourself some bamboo towels! They dry so soft and are amazing! These are the ones we bought, but they are unavailable, so just search for bamboo towels on amazon

  10. Travel Power Surge Protector - This is a must have! We have had a hard time finding a surge protector and already had several issues, so I got another one of these babies and use it for our tv or any important electronics.

  11. Over the Door Organizer - I used something similar to this for our bathroom since bathroom storage was non existence and furniture/plastic drawers are crazy expensive!

  12. Pillow Covers - I haven’t actually purchased any yet as I’m always looking for deals at Ross or TJ Maxx or Target, but I really like this color scheme, however I may have to change my curtains to make it match a little better…we’ll see what I end up with.

  13. Ikea Rug - fits in your suitcase and makes a great background for baby photos

  14. Letter Board

  15. Gemstone Knobs - I got similar ones to this for some of our furniture

  16. Storage Boxes

  17. Similar Taco Mat (I found mine at Walmart but it’s not there anymore, but it’s just an idea, these things are lightweight and great to add a little something to the floor)

  18. Chevron Rocking Chair and the rocking chair I’m thinking of getting for our next container


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If you’re interested I also have a pinterest board for inspiration for our next home. Everything is based on ideas that can be replicated at low cost or brought in a suitcase (minus a few pieces of furniture). You can find it here: https://www.pinterest.com/jessicaleegardner/gabode/

Organizing Photos

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With the amazing cameras on smartphone these days, organizing photos has become even more complicated. I’m still working on a system to get my iPhone photos organized and saved, but for now I want to share how I organize my photos from my “big” camera.

For anyone who has had a external hard drive malfunction you’ll understand the importance of cloud storage. And even though I’ve had a external hard drive malfunction or two, I’m not sure why I haven’t been using cloud storage earlier! I went to a system where I backed up photos on two externals and put one of the copies in a fireproof safe, but hello, cloud storage is way better!

So here’s my process:

1. Get yourself 2 good external hard drives at either 1TB or 2TB depending on what size your files are. I have lots of RAW and high res JPGs for client photo shoots as well as big video and design files, so 2TB works best for me, but for most people 1TB is more than you will ever need. You can find some cheap alternatives on Amazon, just search and look for one with good reviews. (I don’t really have a good brand I recommend, but I will say my Lacie Hard Drive gave out on me, so while I use to only buy that brand, I don’t anymore…) Also, very important, get a case!!! This will help your hard drive not break down on you when you transport it or are not using it.

2. I prefer to organize my photos by date. So when I open my hard drive you will first see folders label as such: photos, design, video, documents, etc. (see screenshots below). Once you click on photos you will then see dates starting from 1999. Yes, 1999! I have scanned images in there and starting in 2003, begins my first digital files.

As you open each folder with a specific year you will then see folders labeled with events. Some people prefer to then go to months, but I can’t remember what dates happened in what months, so I like having events next. For example: Ezra’s 2nd birthday, Arboretum visit, etc…

Then inside each folder I have one folder for all the RAW images and one folder called JPGs. The JPGs are actually all the edited photos I decided to keep when I post processed in Lightroom. So I don’t have to worry about knowing there’s a bunch of non-useful photos in that folder.

3. So now that I have my JPG folders I then take that folder and upload to the cloud! I actually use two different systems for my cloud backup. I have Zenfolio, which is unlimited photo storage! But I only use this for clients. It’s a great system that sends emails and lets you password protect as well as order prints, so it’s great for business, but not as necessary for personal stuff.

For personal photos I actually use Flickr. I went with Flickr because they now offer 1TB of FREE storage! I mean, how can you beat that!? I use to use Flickr all the time back when I first started photography in 2005, but to conserve space I deleted all those photos that weren’t necessary (over processed sideways photos of plants anyone?) . . .

Other places I would recommend for uploading to the cloud are Dropbox and Google Photos. But depending on how many photos you have you will have to pay for these. Also, as a personal organization note I use flags on folders that still need to be uploaded to the cloud so I know what hasn’t been done. Since I started late on uploading to the cloud I have lots of flags…baby steps, y’all.

4. Okay, so now we have our “big” camera photos backed up, but what about iPhone photos? I am taking more and more photos on my phone these days and I really need to figure it out! One thing I do is pay the 99 cents a month for more cloud storage. So if I don’t get to saving them on my hard drive, it’s okay, because at least I know they are backed up somewhere. However, you have to make sure your phone is set to back up photos and you’re actually letting it work! Then I follow the same process for adding these photos to my hard drive. I may add them in photo albums (like Arborteum) but instead of adding them to the JPG folder, I actually call it iPhone photos. Feel free to mix however you want, but I like to keep my separate.


And that’s it! I’ve put a few screenshots below of my folders and if you follow me on Instagram I’ve done a few stories of things as well. I’d love to hear if anyone else has other suggestions for good photo storage, especially for those iPhone photos!!

PHOTOS & DOCUMENTS

PHOTOS & DOCUMENTS

INSIDE THE PHOTOS FOLDER (I USE THE RED DOTS (FLAGS) TO TELL ME WHICH PHOTOS STILL NEED TO BE UPLOADED TO THE CLOUD)

INSIDE THE PHOTOS FOLDER (I USE THE RED DOTS (FLAGS) TO TELL ME WHICH PHOTOS STILL NEED TO BE UPLOADED TO THE CLOUD)

INSIDE THE 2018 FOLDER

INSIDE THE 2018 FOLDER

INSIDE THE ARBORETUM FOLDER

INSIDE THE ARBORETUM FOLDER


Colorado 2018: My Picks for Visiting with a Toddler

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So instead of just showing you all the photos of the fam in Colorado I thought I'd add a little information to the post. While we've been to Colorado (specifically Estes Park and Grand Lake) for several years now, we have never been with kids, much less pregnant! So that meant adjusting our normal activities for things that were situated for an out-of-breath pregnant woman and bouncy one year old who needs his naps come afternoon time, but who am I kidding, I needed those naps too! 

The view from the tram on the way down

The view from the tram on the way down

First off a few tips for those going to Colorado while pregnant. My doctor and a few friends warned me it would be difficult and to take it easy the first few days, so plan on that! Schedule your first day to do something that doesn't involve hiking or a lot of walking. We decided to do the tram, even though we were going up in elevation, I figured I'd give it a try and it turned out just fine. Also, they have an adorable gift shop with unique items in the lobby of the tram. Just a little FYI if you're tired of seeing the same 'ol thing everywhere!

Anotehr thing I did was drink water constantly! I cut back on my diet soda intake and some days didn't even have one. I usually have a hard time drinking water unless it's cold, so I ended up carrying my own glass water bottle with me. I would fill it up with ice and add a lemon or lime to it, and I ended up loving it. I never went anywhere without my water bottle in my hand. Honestly, I feel like this was the number one reason why I felt good the whole time. In fact, I felt better there than I do back in Dallas...probably the water. womp, womp.

So what things did we do?

Flat Hikes that were stroller friendly

Okay, so other than that I just said no to any hikes that went in elevation. I knew I couldn't handle it because I get some crazy pain just from a lot of walking, but we did manage a few flat walks at Estes Park Lake, Lily Lake and Sprague Lake. They were also find for our stroller. So it made it even easier not chasing a toddler out of the pond and hanging on to a stroller.

P.S. Sprague lake was my favorite because it's where we saw the mama and baby moose!

Sprague Lake

Sprague Lake

Sprague Lake

Sprague Lake

Estes Park Lake

Estes Park Lake

I did have to pass on the fly fishing though, but that's okay, we made up for it by going for a drive in Rocky Mountain National park all they way to our one of our favorite places on the earth, Grand Lake Lodge.

Other things that were great were walking through town and exploring all the shops. One morning they had a great farmer's market. And of course going at dusk or dawn to look for animals in the park. We also had a little date night at the Stanley to eat dessert (kid free) and even managed to sneak away on a few adventure just the three of us.

Honestly, it was a great vacation for kids. I didn't feel like we missed out things and we had a huge house off of air-b-n-b that really made it worthwhile. If you have kids then you know you end up spending a lot of time at your lodging due to naps and early bedtimes, so make sure you have a place with lots of games, scenic views, or at least a pool or something so you don't feel confined to a small room your whole trip (totally felt this way on our cruise last year).

A few of my favorite places:

1. Kind Coffee (grab a kind latte (shots brewed with honey and sugar) and a sit outside and enjoy the view)

2. Inkwell & Brew (the Provencal is to die for (lavender and honey latte) and a store full of journals, um swoon!)

3. The Stanley Hotel - Take in a fancy dinner or just have dessert and drinks at the Stanley. You can also go for a tour or just look around. It's worth it!

4. Fun City - the kids had so much fun! And if your little one is close to two they can do just about anything with an adult!

5. The Tram - you get to ride up the tram to the top of the mountain. There is a coffee shop and gift shop at the top and you purchase peanuts to feed the chipmunks, great for kids!

Ezra loved watching (and attempting) to feed the chipmunks at the top of the mountain. You get there by taking the tram.

Ezra loved watching (and attempting) to feed the chipmunks at the top of the mountain. You get there by taking the tram.

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Ezra running the trail at the top of Trail Ridge Road. 

Ezra running the trail at the top of Trail Ridge Road. 

And lots of evenings spent around the fire the this view...let's just say this is after the kids went to bed. :)

And lots of evenings spent around the fire the this view...let's just say this is after the kids went to bed. :)

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This was the only place I really had trouble with pain or breathing, I mean you are 11,000 feet up!

This was the only place I really had trouble with pain or breathing, I mean you are 11,000 feet up!

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Dressed in our PJs looking for elk!

Dressed in our PJs looking for elk!

We went looking for animals at dusk in the national park

We went looking for animals at dusk in the national park

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The view behind Kind Coffee

The view behind Kind Coffee

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The massive slide at Fun City

The massive slide at Fun City