Sunday, August 19, 2018

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Greetings faithful blog readers,

A new school year starts tomorrow, and as I reflect back on these 20 weeks I've had with Willa and the time we had together as a family of three this summer, I feel incredibly grateful. Being away from her will be tough, but I will be able to stop in and nurse her at lunchtime each day, and we know that she is in great hands. I also looking forward to see her interact with other babies and to getting back into the classroom. I'll teach a new class (American Lit II) this semester, and I can't wait to get to know my students (which won't happen for another week. This week is just meetings).

As I reflect back on summer vacation, it would be easy to think to myself that I didn't do enough, but instead, I want to celebrate all that we did get to do!

A is for Austin
Brendan and I are used to romantic, adventurous trips each summer. This summer, our version of that was staying at my parents' house while they were on vacation. The change of scenery was much appreciated, and a bonus: it was the cheapest vacation we've ever taken!

B is for Breastfeeding
I troubleshooted breastfeeding this summer, and it finally became easier. Willa has grown 6.2 inches and gained 6 pounds, 5.5 ounces since birth. And I've been really hungry/thirsty! I've taken a break from pumping the last month of summer (and I've immensely enjoyed that break!), and we're starting daycare with 250 ounces in the frozen stash.

C is for Celebrate
My first Mother's Day, Brendan's first Father's day, many family birthdays including my own, fourth of July, and five years of marriage. Summer is like a never-ending party!

D is for Doctors Visits
This past week, Brendan and I both had our annual doctor appointments, Willa had her four month shots, and even Zoe took a trip to the vet (she had a UTI but thankfully is better now!)

E is for Embracing it All 
Being tired, having a baby that will only nap next to you, and getting very little done: it all comes with the territory of the infant stage. I'm glad that we embraced the changes.

F is for Family & Friends
We saw SO many friends and family this summer. A family reunion, my best friends from high school meeting Willa, and Willa meeting her great-grandparents and spending time with family in CT and Maine will forever be great memories.

Growing Up 
Willa is constantly rolling over, grabbing toys, and babbling. She can do so many more things now, and it's so fun to watch her grow.

H is for Hacks 
Life hacks that is. I'm on the hunt for every way imaginable to simplify chores and make life easier. I made a huge batch of chili this weekend, and we refrigerated half and froze half. I plan to do some freezer cooking every weekend. I'm also picking out outfits and packing lunches and the car the night before. Any other life hack tips?

I is for Ice Cream
Shout out to my favorite favor of the summer: Bluebell's Butter Crunch.

K is for Kimchi Fries 
Maybe my favorite discovery of all time. Thank you Chi'lantro!

L is for Lobster
Cause I ate a ton of it. 

M is for Maine
We made it up to Maine for the annual family vacation. It was a little more complicated with a baby in the mix, but Willa proved to be a great traveler. M is also for Merlin's Magic Sleep Suit because we actually got some sleep this summer!

O is for Organizing
Last week, I pulled everything out of my closet that doesn't fit or isn't nursing friendly and put it in a storage container under the bed. I also packed up things to send to Goodwill and to Dress for Success. I went through Willa's clothes to put away the stuff that's too small (she's wearing 3-6 month stuff now).

P is for Playdate 
Willa got to play with her friend Sadie a couple of times this summer, and we got to see Maggie Lyn and Atlas in Austin, Emma, Cecelia, and Theron in Connecticut, and Everett in Maine. We also saw Tucker in Midland! Baby mania!

R is for Reading
I did a lot of reading this summer, and luckily, not all of it was board books! I enjoyed reading Evicted, Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew DesmondWe Have Always Lived in the Castle and Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson, and Florida and Other Stories and Delicate Edible Birds by Lauren Groff (I'm currently working on Monsters of Templeton also by Groff).

S is for Shopping 
Since none of my pre-baby clothes are nursing friendly (and let's face it, most of them don't fit) I did an online shopping spree at Seraphine and Milk this past week to get ready for the school year ahead.

T is for Twosome
Brendan and I got some quality time together. From our secret date to see Paul Simon to our anniversary dinner at Barley Swine, we got to take some time for just the two of us, which was much needed. We also got to go on some couple's dates with Amanda & Matt and Cassie & John.

W is for Working Out
We joined the YMCA this summer because they have free childcare, which meant we could both workout at the same time. Brendan loves the cardio and weight rooms, and I have taken so many classes (Barre, Yoga, Pilates, BodyPump, Zumba, RPM, Mommy & Me). I even told Brendan I was going to swim a mile one Sunday and then had to stick to it (that's 32 there and back laps, yikes!) Bonus: I've started to meet some new friends. We also have stuck to our morning family walks which help us get outside before it gets too hot.

Y is for Yard Work 
This one is 100% Brendan: he weeded, he cut back, he watered, and our front and backyard are in their full glory (promise to take some pictures). We saw a wasp the size of a hummingbird. It was horrifying!

I didn't cover every letter, but you get the idea. We had a nice last weekend of summer: Farmer's market, yoga, walking, cooking, and labeling everything for daycare. Wish us luck tomorrow as we head into uncharted territory. I'll never forget the sweetest summer of our lives!

Have a great Sunday evening!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Family Fun & Tips For Flying With a 4 Month Old

Greetings faithful blog readers,

Thanks for your patience with my absence! We've been soaking up summer, family time, and baby cuddles. Now I'm backtracking to tell you about our recent adventures and our tips for flying with a four month old.

When I found out I was pregnant, I did some quick math and discovered our baby would be around four months old in late July/early August when we often visit Brendan's family in Connecticut, and I was so excited. Getting Willa to Connecticut to meet her great grandparents and much of the extended family plus see her grandparents and aunt was a big priority for us. We knew getting there and back wouldn't be easy, but we were excited for everyone to see her. It was amazing to see four generations together all at once.

Brendan's parents hosted a lovely cookout, so we got to see Brendan's friends since elementary school and their families, plus his aunt Carol and uncle John, and neighbors. Willa loved meeting everyone!

Brendan's cousin Jeremy had a baby girl, Cecelia, just a few days after Willa! The babies got to meet. Plus, we saw aunt Jeri (Jeremy's mom) and cousins Sawyer and Spencer and Jeremy's wife, Jennifer.

After a few days in CT, we made the 5 hour drive to Maine. Willa did great; we only had to stop once. Check out this post for my car trip tips. Once there, we enjoyed blueberry picking, fishing, games, cooking, and kayaking. And of course Lobster Lobster! 

Blueberry Picking

We also introduced Willa to the lake, which she wasn't very impressed by (yet!) 

Plus, Willa met her cousin Everett who is just one month older than her (she'll have so many playmates!) 

Baby Swap

After a week in Maine, we took three planes (an eleven hour travel day) on Saturday, and we arrived back in Austin. Now that I've done five plane rides with a four month old, here are my tips (granted, your "mileage" may vary, but here's what worked for us).

1.) FLY SWA--Southwest Airlines is the most family friendly. Their open seating policy means that if there are any open seats and you travel with your carseat, you get to bring it on board for free. PLUS, they have family boarding immediately following the A group, so you never have to worry about getting separated. They gate check or check strollers and car seats for free. Gate check is fast too. Once, we even found our stroller already set up for us at the gate. Plus, passengers on SWA are chill. Since Southwest is like the bus of planes, nobody is trying to have some luxury experience, and in the summer, there are tons of babies and kids traveling, so if your kid freaks out, no one will even know to blame you! We always traveled SWA before kids because of the friendly service (is it just me or is American Airlines full of mean cranksters?) and now we will continue with our allegiance. Plus, thanks to points, I didn't pay for a single flight this summer!

2.) Book an EARLY flight. Our first flight left at 5:35AM, and Willa spent the 3 hour trip mostly asleep. On the way home, we weren't as wise, and it was more stressful. If you book early, there is also a better chance you can get a new itinerary in the event of delays or cancelations. The last thing you want is to be stuck somewhere overnight with a baby.

3.) If you plan to travel with a car seat, buy a car seat bag. Willa was a bit small for her stroller without the car seat, so we decided to bring both and gate check them. Realize that this makes going through security a NIGHTMARE as you will have to break down the stroller and send it plus the car seat through. Still, it was worth it to be able to run from one terminal to another when we almost missed a flight. The car seat bag looks like this (you can also find them with backpack straps instead of wheels) and the reason you want it is to prevent your car seat from being cracked or getting wet. Thanks for this tip, Laura!

4.) If you plan to travel with a car seat/stroller, consider gate checking. Gate checking equals less opportunity for your stuff to get damaged, and you can use your travel system to navigate the airports.

5.) Bring your own water bottle/snacks. Many airports have hydration stations once you get past security, and you will likely not have as much time to buy food with all the extra stuff you are dealing with, so it's really nice to have your own sandwiches, granola bars, trail mix, etc. On the plane, you can order a drink + water. Drink it all!

6.) Buy disposable changing table liners. Mine came from the now defunct babies r us (thanks Casey!) but these will do the trick.  Basically, you can put them down on the changing table (or in the car or on your breastfeeding pillow), and if your baby has an accident, you don't have a mess (just throw it away). If it's fine, I refold it for later use. On the plane, we changed diapers on our laps with one of these underneath (we were just dealing with wet diapers). With a little baby, this works fine.

7.) My Brest Friend makes an inflatable breastfeeding pillow, and my friends, it is amazing!! It inflates in less than a minute and deflates in seconds. You can fold it in your diaper bag. I used it for two weeks (indoors, outdoors, on planes) and it feels just like your normal breastfeeding pillow.

8.) Speaking of diaper bags, Brendan got me this one for my birthday, and it is GREAT for travel. The mom pocket is nice and big. It holds lots of diapers, toys, blankets, burp clothes, and the bottle pockets can hold 4 of the 4 ounce Philip Avent bottles. You want to overpack diapers and wipes just in case. About ten for a day of travel is a wise idea!

9.) If you are breastfeeding, I'd travel with one small bottle (3 ounces) of pumped milk just in case. When you can't get baby to suck on a pacifier but have to have her in the car seat (like if you have turbulence), it's a good option. Willa probably just drank drops from hers, but it got her ears to pop at least! Remember to take it out during security check.

10.) A note on privacy-- If you do get to bring your car seat on the plane, it needs to go in the window seat. If breastfeeding, mom can go in the middle seat for some added privacy. If we didn't get an extra seat, I picked the window. Travel with a cover if you want, but make sure to test it first. Lula Roe's Mimi is actually Willa's preferred cover even though I bought it the year before I had her! I think it's "retired" now, but you could probably still find one on a website like ebay or poshmark or look for a similar poncho. Photo of cover from a previous summer:

Though I had anxiety about breastfeeding, I noticed I wasn't even the only one on the plane feeding a baby (I think you only notice breastfeeding once you yourself are aware of it; kind of like how once you buy a new car, everyone is driving the same make/model). Southwest Airlines even states on their website that they support breastfeeding, so try not to overthink it! I did get one kid that turned around in his seat to stare, but no one else seemed to even notice.

11.) Toys to consider: Rainmaker (thanks Lauren for the tip!), baby Einstein take along tunes (thanks Gigi and Buddy!), and baby bug books (thanks Pam!). Make sure you have SO MANY pacifiers.

12.) Your Pump is a medical device, which means it doesn't "count" as a carry on. Just make sure only your pump and pumping accessories go into the bag.

13.) I bought this cooler to transport freezer bags of milk. I didn't end up pumping on vacation, but I think it would keep about 4 bags (about 24 ounces) frozen if you needed to transport milk home. I'll be road tripping back from Austin with it and can update you then (just leave me a comment if you're curious about its performance!) The best part is that you just freeze the cooler and don't have to hassle with ice packs. It's also small (the size of a lunchbox), so you could probably put it into another bag once you were past TSA.

While flying with a four month old isn't simple, it's doable. I have a feeling we'll become better at it but also know it will be a different ball game as she gets older. Thank goodness there are two of us!

We hope everyone's week is off to a great start. We'll be soaking up the last two weeks of summer time with our love. I also got my hair done today. I feel so put together as a result! I wanted something a little darker so it'd grow out better. Here's my end of summer lowlights:

Happy Tuesday to all!


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