Texas Memories

During our recent trip to Texas, my main goal was for Luna to live it up with her Grandparents and family that she so rarely gets to see. I let her stay up later than normal, eat more junk than I ever let her eat and basically let my parents do everything with her. They fed her, bathed her, played with her, walked with her… which basically means I was on vacation all week. Wahoo! Seriously, though, she had a blast with her Texas family!

Luna spent a lot of time getting messy. There is only a short period of time that a human can run around naked, rub food all over their face, eat dirt and look adorable while doing it. I want Luna to get the most of this time in her life, and I think we’ve been successful so far! One of my fav activities in Texas was one suggested from a friend. We used plain greek yogurt and food coloring to make edible finger paints! It was one big fun and super messy activity. She loved it!

ooooh my, those baby blues
ooooh my, those baby blues
Our sweet cousin had way too much fun playing with Luna and "helping" her paint!
Our sweet cousin had way too much fun playing with Luna and “helping” her paint!
"painting" Luna's face and body
“painting” Luna’s face and body
mmmmmmm
mmmmmmm

I’m sure this will probably set her up for a life-long habit of eating paint, but hopefully she’ll learn the difference between toxic and non-toxic.

We spent a day on the coast with the family and Luna’s boyfriend, Orion, too. Once again, we got a little messy and a little naked.

dirty beach baby baby in water baby butt beach

We made some unforgettable memories in Texas! Luna is one lucky little girl to have so many Texans who love her so much! Can’t wait until next time!

Cheers!

Yes, It’s Hard

beach with family

For the last eight years, I have been asked time and time again if it’s hard to live so far away from “home”, from my family. The answer has always, and will always be, yes. It is not easy to live so far away from my parents, sister, other relatives and many close friends (they are in Texas, I have been all over the place, but currently Tennessee). I miss them constantly, but I also choose where I live for so many reasons (that would be a whole different post). It’s hard, yes, but THANK GOD we make it work. Thankfully, we have phones, texts, video chat, Skype, email, Facebook, etc etc. We make it work, and more importantly, we still make lots of efforts to see one another as much as possible.

side by side

Last week, we were in Texas. Oh how nice it is to go home and be spoiled and loved on by your parents. That’s one plus side of living far away….lots and lots of love and attention when you get together! We drove all night so Luna could sleep and knocked on my parents’ door bright and early at 6:30am. My Mom immediately took over with Luna and told us to catch up on our sleep. If you insist!  She was more than happy to get some much needed quality time with her Granddaughter. I retired to the living room couch where I lightly napped. Between napping, I spied. I spied on Luna and her Honey (my Mom). I spied because I didn’t want to interrupt or spoil the precious moments unfolding before my eyes.

honey walk

The two of them ate breakfast together at the tiny Mickey Mouse folding chairs and table my Mom bought. Honey taught Luna to color, and Luna taught Honey the joy of taking the crayons out of the bag one at time, and putting them back into the bag one at a time…and out…and back in…and so on, and so on. They ran all over the house, keeping each other on their toes. They snuggled in the recliner and watched cartoons. Honey blew bubbles for Luna to chase around in her PJ’s. They loved on each other as if they lived next door to one another and played side by side on a regular basis. I can’t tell you how full my heart felt as I watched them bond.

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There were many many full hearted moments that week. Seeing my parents be Grandparents is really special. I hate that I can’t see it everyday, but maybe it makes it even more special this way, more appreciated, no moment taken for granted. (Though, my fingers are still crossed that they will one day move to Tennessee!) I also got to see my nephew, who I haven’t seen since Thanksgiving! Having my nephew and Luna together was the best!

bath with micah

cousins

Then, there my cousins, aunts, uncles, friends, babies, babies and more babies! Every trip to Texas is a crazy whirlwind of visiting one person after another. There is never enough time to see everyone I want to see or see enough of the people I do get to see. Texas just has too many awesome people living in it! (That’s right, that Texas pride never fades, nor does its modesty.) While we may have been ready to get home and get Luna back on a normal schedule, we weren’t ready to say goodbye.

beach day

beach hat

So, yes, it’s hard to live so far from “home”, but we make it work. While the distance may be hard, staying connected isn’t. Sure, it takes a little work, but doesn’t everything worth anything take some work?

reading with pawpaw

Until next time, Texas…

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Cheers!

The Third Edition of Annual Friend Photos

Welp, another year has come and gone, meaning another year of “annual friend photos” has taken place. Remember those stunning photos my BFF’s and I took last year? And the year before? We take a group photo each year to 1) make sure we always get together at least once a year, 2) commemorate our time together, and 3) watch our families grow, and grow and grow. We actually took this year’s photos over Thanksgiving break, but because I am SO behind in life, I’m just getting around to sharing them.

That's one BIG group
That’s one BIG group

The amazing, talented, sweet, loving and life-saving Simone from ST Photography took our photos again this year. To be honest, we originally scheduled with another photographer (simply because we planned to get a new photographer each year, just as part of the tradition). However, at the last minute lots of things went wrong (no one’s fault) and our session with our new photographer got canceled. I had very limited time left in Texas, and we were all certain the annual photos were not going to happen. Enter Simone. She literally rearranged her schedule to fit us in, never rushed us, was incredibly patient and somehow managed to get 5 sessions squeezed into one hour before the sunset. ALL with 6 very active kids! It was nothing short of miraculous. Maybe we should call her Saint Simone?

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BFF's
BFF’s

God, my friends are beautiful, inside and out.

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Annddd then, there are the family photos.

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It’s magical. Photographers are magicians. Thank you, Simone for giving us these bits of magic to cherish forever and ever.

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Cheers!

Surviving a Road Trip With a Baby

In the last ten months we have taken a handful of road trips with Luna. She has driven from Nashville to Southeast Texas twice, across Tennessee a couple of times, to Hilton Head Island, Indiana and Atlanta. I’m thrilled to say we have survived every road trip with very few fits and in great time (and some with a dog!). Husband and I like to think of ourselves as expert travelers. I knew having a baby would change the way we travel, but definitely not keep us from doing it. Luna just made it slightly more challenging, and at ten months old I think we’ve got the “road trip with a baby” down pat.

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1. Drive while baby sleeps. I cannot stress enough how important this is. Our route to Texas takes 11 hours. Prior to Luna we have always made the trip in 11 hours or less. The first time we attempted this road trip with Luna I knew I didn’t want to drive all day because a) I didn’t want Luna to be stuck in her carseat all day, b) I didn’t want to be stuck in the car all day, making multiple stops and wasting time. We decided to begin driving at 8pm, Luna’s bedtime. It worked like a charm. In fact, the most recent trip took us 11 hours there and 11 hours back. Bam!

2. Arrange Accordingly. When traveling with a baby you have to pack the car strategically. First of all, you are most likely bringing way more crap than you typically would, so you need to be sure it all fits. Also, you need to be sure you can reach the things you need and get to them quickly. The diaper bag, snack bag, drinks, phones, car chargers, purse and sunglasses are my most important items and are either in the front or right behind my seat.

3. Stock up. Pack lots of healthy snacks, water, caffeine, diapers, wipes, baby snacks (bottle, cheerios, sippy cup), good music, and entertaining baby toys. We have made the mistake of traveling without food and always end up eating too much fast food and junk. Driving all night/day makes you feel bad enough and when you throw sugary salty processed food into the mix it can make you feel 1000 times worse. Plus, when you have everything you need on hand you save money and the time it would take to stop. I usually get snacks that are easy to eat while driving…nuts, fruit leathers, apples, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, granola bars, etc.

4. Sit with baby. If the baby wakes up, it may be a good idea for one of you to move to the backseat. Luna is often fussy when she wakes up and it helps if she can see someone’s face or have someone rub her belly and sing to her. Of course, the musical noisy toys help too!

5. Be smart. Do not drive sleepy. It is very tempting to try to push yourself to drive, drive, drive and get to your destination as quickly as possible, but it’s not worth your’s or your baby’s safety. Husband and I made it very clear to one another that we are in no hurry. We take turns driving while the other one sleeps and if we have to pull over and sleep or even get a hotel, then so be it. While we are on the subject of safety; make sure that your baby is buckled in correctly. You may want to brush up on the correct way to use your carseat.

6. Take advantage of pit stops. The times that Luna did wake up, we found a place to stop, but not just any place. If we were going to take the time to stop, feed and change Luna then I wanted to make the most of our time. If possible, find a place with clean restrooms, wi-fi, decent food options, a comfortable place to sit and room for baby to get out some energy. So far, I have had great experiences at Starbucks, Chick-Fil-A and McDonalds. They aren’t the healthiest options, but you’d be surprised by their cleanliness, customer service, and coffee options…especially at 4am.

7. Plan for things to not go as planned. If you have a baby you know that it is virtually impossible to plan ahead. We often have the best intentions; we make lists, pack more than we need, leave early and follow every single guideline, but Luna often has her own agenda. So, when your baby wakes up, throws up, has a diaper explosion or just needs to get out and wiggle, learn to go with the flow. I am a planner, so I know this can be hard to accomplish, but if you plan for things to go awry, it won’t be as disappointing when they do. Plus, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when everything goes smoothly!

Happy traveling,

Cheers!

When Texas Friends Come to Town

Meet my friend, Danica!
Meet my friend, Danica!

I have this friends, she’s awesome. She lives in Texas with her Husband, baby boy and funny corgi. She’s Mexican, speaks no Spanish but cooks a mean enchilada. She is always honest, always herself, dangerous to shop with, so much fun, snorts when she laughs, very thoughtful and ready to listen to me vent without a moments notice. Her name is Danica and she and her family just spent the last week with us.

Me and Danica with our babies at Percy Warner Parker (where we did NOT see Taylor Swift BTW)
Me and Danica with our babies at Percy Warner Parker (where we did NOT see Taylor Swift BTW)

Danica and her Husband love to travel, like Husband and myself, so they have visited us when we used to live in Tennessee, both years we lived in NY and they even went with us on our recent trip to NYC! A month later they are here in Tennessee to see our new house and spend the week with us. We had them, their baby plus their puppy. It was a party every night in this house. And, by party I mean a strict routine of baths, story-time, lullabies, crying and Netflix for adults once the babies finally fall asleep.

passed OUT
passed OUT

Last time they came to Tennessee, we went hiking, repelling, caving, watched fireworks and went downtown. This time was our plans were much more relaxed and completely kid-friendly. We went to parks and playgrounds, the zoo, Cheekwood Botanical Gardens, the Opry Hotel, the Escape Game and even managed to fit in some hiking. It’s really nice that we both have babies and need to stick to a somewhat regular schedule. We had a blast and it was awesome to see our two little ones bond and spend so much time together.

watching the trains together at Cheekwood
watching the trains together at Cheekwood
They were clearly thrilled to meet Mrs. Claus at Santa's PJ party...
They were clearly thrilled to meet Mrs. Claus at Santa’s PJ party…
just chillin' with the kangaroos
just chillin’ with the kangaroos

Almost every outing turned into a photo session for the babies. We had some beautiful fall weather and could not help but set the babies in the bright colorful leaves and start snapping away. At one point one of us was lying on the ground with the camera, one was tossing leaves in the air and the other was jumping around making noises like a monkey to get smiles. They were the best little models. We got very little attitude and we could pay them in Cheerios. They even formed their signature poses. Luna loves to throw her hands in the air in excitement and Orion prefers the calm and cool look.
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We went out to eat way too much, as we do anytime guests come to visit, but we did cook at home a few times too. The great thing about having friends stay with you is that you can be totally comfortable and have a great time no matter what the setting. It really didn’t matter if we were in East Nashville at a trendy hotspot or sitting on the living room floor snacking on chips and guacamole, either way we were doubled over with laughter and making some unforgettable memories.

did a mention we had some amazing fall weather?
did a mention we had some amazing fall weather?

I have got to tell you that if you have been putting off visiting an out of town friend or having a friend come to stay with you, stop and just do it. I know it is hard to plan, pack, arrange schedules, travel and deal with kids, but it is so worth it. Staying with a friend is truly the best way to travel. You get to see a new place through the eyes of a local, eat the best foods, meet new friends and stay somewhere for free. (Assuming your friends don’t run a brothel or something.)  It’s also a really special way to bond with your friends you rarely see and create even more ridiculous inside jokes.

looks like someone is trying to sneak a kiss!
looks like someone is trying to sneak a kiss!

Personally, I love when we have guests. I love getting to spend more time with them, get to know their families better and it gives us a really really good reason to clean and get some much needed stuff done around the house. Soooo who’s our next guests???

come back soon best buddy!
come back soon best buddy!

Cheers!

 

The Stars at Night Are Big and Bright

Sooooo….Luna has a virus and has been running a fever for 3 days now. She has not slept at night, therefore I have not slept. I also started running this week (along with P90x3) to prepare for the Mud Run and Warrior Dash. My body is so so so tired, as is my mind. I just spent a very long time writing a very long blog all about Texas, my shameless Texas pride and the reasons I left Texas for probably ever. I said things like “the armpit of Texas” and other negative things about my hometown. Then, I explained how leaving gave me a brand new perspective and respect for the place that molded me into the ball of sunshine I am today. It was a lovely post.

Then, my computer died and my post was forever lost. The above paragraph was the best I could do to recreate it. Now, just enjoy these beautiful pictures of the place that will always be “home”. Then, pretend you just read something enlightening, witty and a little humorous.

The whole family together; a rare occasion.
The whole family together; a rare occasion.
Playing washers under the restaurant on the water...Texas style.
Playing washers under the restaurant on the water…Texas style.
Sweet sweet girl loving on my Luna.
Sweet sweet girl loving on my Luna.
Playing at the park
Playing at the park
Luna dressing up in a fancy vail at her Honey's shop.
Luna dressing up in a fancy vail at her Honey’s shop.
My nephew chasing a duck in the local park.
My nephew chasing a duck in the local park.

Cheers

First Family Photos

I got the results from our photo session with the wonderful Simone from ST Photography when we were visiting Texas and I love them!!! She took beautiful photos of Luna at two months old lying in wildflowers. These were Luna’s and our family of three’s first professional photos. Our wrote about our wonderful experience here. Take a look at the outcome!

My beautiful baby
My beautiful baby
oh I could just eat those feet for breakfast!
oh I could just eat those feet for breakfast!

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Our little family
Our little family

Thank you so much for your hard work Simone, you never disappoint!

Cheers and Happy Mother’s Day to all of you wonderful Moms out there! xoxo

 

5 Tips for Traveling With a Newborn

Before Luna’s first flight (our recent trip to Texas) I spent a lot of time planning what to pack for her. Husband and I have learned to be very light packers over our years of traveling. I even wrote a blog about it. We only bring carry-on’s, even if it’s a 3 week trip on the other side of the world. It’s just so easy and fast, but is it possible to keep this up with a baby?

In typical me fashion, I made a list. I wrote down everything I thought baby needed and then tried to narrow that down to things she actually needs. Of course, I still had to make my own list of things to pack for myself. Sadly, I had to narrow down my own list even more than normal in order to fit in baby items.

After all of this planning and list-making Husband and I managed to each pack one carry-on suitcase, a backpack for him, a diaper bag for me, a car seat and that is it! We did not have to check a single thing. I was a little worried we didn’t bring enough, but we were going to my parents house, not a third world country, so we could always run to Target if we needed something.

I chose not to bring our stroller because I thought it would be a pain in the airport and assumed we would have to check it. Turns out you do not have to check it. They will stow it for you as you board the plan. After towing around our chunky baby in a car seat through three airports I was DYING for a stroller, and I have one bicep that is much larger than the other. We also wanted to bring our “tote-a-tot”, but the night before we left we discovered that it doesn’t work for an infant car seat.

photo of someone else's tote-a-tot
photo of someone else’s tote-a-tot

 

Luna had to come out of her car seat to go through security, but that was it. We were very fortunate that none of our flights were full and she could stay in her car seat next to us on all four flights without us having to pay for an extra seat. However, if they had been full we would have held her and the flight crew would have stowed the car seat for us. (BTW the attendants and flight crew on American Airlines were super nice about the baby, but sadly they no longer offer wings for first flights.)

hehe, love this pic of her strapped in her car seat in the airplane seat
hehe, love this pic of her strapped in her car seat in the airplane seat

Also, did you know that you can fly with liquids if they’re for your baby!? I had 2 bottles of breast milk that weren’t even questioned. Any medicine or food for a baby is allowed. You just have to show it to them as you go through security.

We learned a few “do’s and don’t” on this first trip, and I think it’s worth sharing what I learned with you! Here’s my list of Top 5 Tips for Traveling with a Newborn.

  1. Only pack the necessities. I brought:

-one outfit for each day, but they were mostly onesies. If she was older I’d bring less.

-2 blankets. I love the Aden & Anais brand best because they are very lightweight and breathable. I use them for EVERYTHING.

-one new pack of wipes

-diaper rash cream

-diapers for the plane. We were going to order a box of diapers from Amazon and have them sent to my parents ahead of time so we wouldn’t have to pack a week’s worth of diapers, but my Mom ended up picking up a box for us because she is awesome like that.

-a toy

-travel-sized baby bath products

-2 pacifiers

-breast-pump and bottles

-one bottle of breastmilk

-nursing cover (scarf from Marie Nohr!)

-a couple of zip-loc bags for dirty clothes or stinky diapers

-car seat

And here’s what I wish I would have brought:

-my Moby wrap

-a stroller. However, if we end up traveling overseas this year (fingers crossed!) we still won’t bring a stroller. I’m hoping a Moby wrap or Ergo Carrier will suffice.

-one of those little clips that attaches the pacifier to your bag or baby’s clothes. I cannot tell you how many times we lost both pacifiers.

  1. Consider the final destination. If you are traveling to a place with a washer and dryer than you won’t have to worry about having lots of extra outfits or blankets. If you have the address you can ship or order some things from Amazon ahead of time. Amazon is awesome! You can order diapers, wipes, formula, snacks, whatever you need and have it waiting for you when you arrive. Also, we did not have to pack a bed for Luna because my parents have a pack-n-play at their house. However, hotels should all offer pack-n-plays or bassinets as well. Just call ahead of time.
  1. Be prepared for a crying baby on the plane. Luckily, Luna only cried for 2 minutes before take off on one out of 4 flights. It was great. However, those two minute were absolute hell, and I can’t even imagine having a screaming baby the whole flight, but it happens so the best you can do is be ready with a pacifier, a bottle or a boob! Also, do not look at the strangers sitting around you. Their glares will not make you feel any better or help in any way. (Best advice I’ve ever got!)
  1. Don’t sweat it. Spit-up on your clothes? Dirty Diapers in the airport? Missing your ridiculous amount of baby gear? No big deal. Everyone feels gross in an airport already, so a little spit up isn’t going to hurt your ensemble. Just throw a baby blanket over that mess. I actually had a stranger offer to hold Luna after I changed her so I could wash my hands. And, you know, you don’t really need all that baby crap. We survived the week by swinging the baby in our arms, bathing her in the sink or with us and just listening for her cries when she went to bed before us.
  1. Tag team it. Thank God for awesome partners, right? We took turns holding her, calming her, rocking her, changing her and everything but feeding her. Let Daddy keep baby company while you grab some Starbucks. Have him check the flights, carry more bags or pick up a snack while you do the feeding. Whatever works for you, just make sure you do it together. We all love our babies more than anything, but sometimes you need a break…especially if you’ve been up and traveling since 3:45am.

That’s it. Our first trip with Luna was smooth-sailing! Hope all future trips go this well!

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Cheers!

Until Next Time, Texas

I have just a bit more to share from our trip to Texas. We spent most of our time hanging out with my parents who are just beside themselves about being Grandparents. They had fun snuggling, bathing and spoiling Luna. We had fun teasing my Mom who somehow had Luna crying every time she held her, and then stopped the second my Dad held her. I think Luna was enjoying teasing her too. And, my Dad now considers himself the baby expert. Anytime she began to cry he very confidently said, “Let me see her”.

Smiling at her PawPaw
Smiling at her PawPaw

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One night we decided to go through some old boxes in the attic where we found some of my baby clothes. I took out a handmade dress that I wore at 9 months old and a knitted hat that I will one day put on Luna. We even found my Dad’s christening gown. Then, we hit the jackpot: My Mom’s wedding dress. Her dress was made by her Mother and is probably the teeniest dress ever created. My Mom is a petite 4’11 person, and was so so small when she was married at 19 years old.I attempted to put the dress and it was impossible to zip-up or even put my arms down. I looked like a haunted bride and every picture we took.

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so much lace!

We also found her high school drill team costumes and a retro college t-shirt, which is also my alumni.

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The best part of our trip was definitely just spending time with our loved ones. Luna is so lucky to have so many friends and family who love her so much. I love our trips to Texas and can’t wait to go back this summer!

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Cheers!

A Quality Photographer Can Make All the Difference

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While in Texas I was lucky enough to have Simone from ST Photography take photos of my little Luna. I do not have her edited photos yet, but I have to share our experience with you. Photographers seem to be a dime a dozen these days. Everyone (myself included) has a fancy camera to play with and half of these fancy camera owners have started their own photography business. In some ways, this is great because we have so many options, locations, prices and people to choose from when having photos taken. However, it’s often hard to know who has not only professional quality, but a professional work-style. Trust me, it’s no fun to pay for crappy pictures.

Here’s how our photos session in Texas went… First of all, Simone asked us to take photos in a field of wildflowers because everything was in bloom and beautiful. She knew exactly where to go and knew I’d love to have baby photos taken. I follow her on Facebook so I know she is always driving around searching for the perfect locations and excited to try new places and ideas, so I trusted her opinion.

the field, so simple yet so perfect
the field, so simple yet so perfect

Of course, as soon as we were all dressed and ready the bottom fell out and we all assumed we would have to cancel the session. Immediately, I received a phone call from Simone. She was not only willing to reschedule for another day (which would have been sometimes this summer), but she was also willing to play it by ear and work with us and the weather. Luckily, it stopped storming after an hour or so. It was almost sunset and I was sure that it was too late and too wet to go through with the photos, but when I called Simone she immediately left her home and her family to drive out and meet us just before the sunset. It was rushed and a little muddy, but she made it work.

All dressed and ready before the rain started.
All dressed and ready before the rain started.

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Luna was a happy smiley baby when we woke her up and dressed her for photos, but almost 2 hours later I was certain she’d turn into a fussy grumpy baby. Not long after lying her down with the flowers she began to whine and was on the verge of tears when Simone instantly picked her up and soothed her. She hugged and loved on her until she was happy again. This happened a few times and we were somehow able to get through the entire session with no tears. I kept waiting for a meltdown, but Simone was like the baby whisperer. I only wish she drove home with us afterwards!

simone photographer flowers blue eyes

She’s not only good with babies, but she can tell adults what to do also! I need someone to give me direction and Simone isn’t afraid to say, “look this way…put your hand here…fix that wild hair…etc”.  Clearly, Simone is a pro and I am so glad I can use her for family photos when we are in Texas. I cannot wait to see how all the pictures turned out, but until then here’s a little spoiler!

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If you live in Southeast Texas and need photos taken for any event I highly recommend Simone from ST Photography.If you do not live near her, then I suggest searching for a photographer with a website and a Facebook page with lots of updates, comments and followers. It will give you the best idea of how they work.

Thanks Simone!

Cheers!