Helpful Tidbits, Personal Writing

12 lessons from my first year of parenting

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It’s been a hot second since I’ve written something for my blog. I’ve been in sort of a writing slump the past few weeks, honestly. I have all these ideas of things I want to write about but then Jameson goes down for a nap and I have to choose between writing for my blog or doing some necessary housework or just SITTING for a second. Sitting usually wins.

BUT I really want to write about this, my first year of parenting. I want to document what God has taught me and I want it to hopefully be of some help to other new mommies who are currently in the thick of it. It’s been so good for me to meditate on the things I’ve learned in this year…to see what has been useful and to know what I’ll do differently if we’re ever blessed with another baby.

So here we are. Year one is complete. My sweet, snugly, wild, adventurous, wonderful baby boy is officially a toddler and he’s heading bright-eyed and bushy-tailed into his second year of life. This first year has challenged and changed me in ways I didn’t even know I needed. It has been painful at times, exhausting and confusing, stressful and exciting, so much fun, and so fulfilling. There’s nothing I’ve found in this world (apart from the salvation I have in Christ) that I love or cherish as much as motherhood.

And this is what I have learned…

  1. Nothing lasts forever. This is good news and bad news. The good news is that every hard thing you face in the first year (and beyond) is just a phase. Your baby will grow out of all those things that seem endless right now. But that also means that your baby will also grow out of your favorite things, too. Like those sleepy newborn yawns and stretches, the inchworm crawling, even the toddling around like a drunk sailor. All of it will pass you by eventually. Each new stage brings with it some hard things, but many many more wonderful things. Have fun with the good, wait out the bad.
  2. You know your baby best. Take all advice you get with a grain of salt. Some of it will be extremely wise and useful, some of it will be total crap (well-meaning crap, but crap all the same). Sift through it with your husband, on your own, with your Biblical lens on. You know what will work for you and for your child and it doesn’t have to match exactly what anyone else recommends.
  3. Don’t stress the scheduling thing.  “Get on a schedule, get on a schedule, get on a schedule…if you want to live.” I actually heard this advice when I was pregnant! Yes, scheduling will save your sanity down the road…but you don’t have to force it. I tried sleep training Jameson WAY too early and he just wasn’t ready. All it did was stress me out and make me feel like a failure because I couldn’t figure out how to get my baby to sleep at regular intervals throughout the day. I was angry all the time because I felt like Jameson wasn’t doing what he was “supposed to be doing” until one day I said ENOUGH! And let him sleep how and when he wanted to. Eventually we got into a routine and now he’s very scheduled, but I could have saved us both a whole lot of anxiety in those early days if I had taken a breath and focused on enjoying our time together, rather than how I was going to get him to take a “good” nap at the “right time.”
  4. Take a shower every day. Really, just do it. Even if you think you don’t have time. Even if you don’t trust anyone (not even your husband, lol sorry Alex) to take care of your infant. Hand someone that baby and take a shower. It’ll make you feel human again. Sometimes ten minutes (all by yourself!) is all you need to recharge.
  5. Don’t feel guilty about not enjoying everything. One of the most common pieces of advice I’ve received this year is the ever so well-meaning, “Enjoy every moment! Even the hard ones!” Well, I’m telling you right now…no mother enjoys every single moment. I certainly didn’t enjoy spending the night trying to get my three month old to stay asleep for more than 40 minutes straight at a time (YEAH, GOOD TIMES!!!). It can be so hard when people tell you that it “goes by so fast” and to “soak it all in” when it’s all you can do to not drown in a sea of spit up and restless sleep. Feeling frustrated or overwhelmed does not mean you aren’t thankful for motherhood or that you don’t love your child. It means that you’re feeling very real things that every mother feels. God can (and does) fortify you in your weakness. He is your refuge and your strength, and he is a very present help in your times of trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
  6. Find reasons to get out of the house a few times a week. For me, actually, more like at least once a day haha. I go a little nuts if I don’t. And it doesn’t have to cost money! Jameson and I have been known to hit up the garden center of Home Depot just to look at the flowers from time to time. The library is always a hit, too. Go on a walk or to the park or have a play date with some friends. It doesn’t matter, just get your booties out of the house. It can be hard at first, especially if your baby hates his car seat as much as Jameson used to hate his. But once you feel more comfortable, even just a half hour outside can change your whole day. I promise it’s worth it! It breaks up the monotony of your day and keeps you both from going stir crazy.
  7. Join a playgroup. This is along the same lines as number 6, but I feel it’s important. I only recently learned this but I wish I had sooner! Playgroups are an awesome opportunity for you to connect with other moms going through the same things, get advice, share stories, teach your kids about sharing and playing nice, and basically just get the chance to see that you’re not alone. Your library will probably have playgroups already scheduled for your child’s age range, which can be a great jumping off point. Or just start your own! My sister and I started meeting up with a few moms from our church and it’s already been such a blessing. Find your people. Join a playgroup.
  8. Put the camera down every so often. This is something I’m still learning and still working on. Taking pictures is so easy these days. Our phones come programmed with really nice cameras and they’re pretty much always with us. I’m tempted every day to try and document as much as I can. Jameson will do something cute and my very first instinct is to grab my phone and take a picture or video. But I don’t want it to be that way! I don’t want my teenage kids to someday come up to me asking for stories of their childhoods and me being like, “Hold on let me pull up my dusty old Instagram account.” No! I want real stories that I remember because I was fully present, no camera between my child and me. So even though I feel this pressure to capture every single adorable thing my baby does, sometimes I force myself not to. Sometimes it’s better to make a memory and keep it just for yourself.
  9. Make your marriage a priority. I’m writing this mostly as a reminder to myself. When all is said and done, when the kids are grown up and leading their own lives, it’ll be you and your spouse. It will always be you and your spouse. Your marriage should come even before your relationship with your kids. I know that sounds weird to say, especially in our culture, but it’s a lesson we need to learn if we want to be a good example for our children. I don’t mean neglect your kids and run off to spend tons of alone time with your husband, but carving out intentional time to be together (however that looks for you two) must be a priority. Your marriage should be “the foundation upon which all other aspects of family life [are] built” (Voddie Baucham Jr., Family Driven Faith). Discipline, discipleship, counseling, advice, every choice you make for your kids…it should all stem from the two of you working together as one for your family.
  10. Spend time praying over your child. I don’t just mean those moments throughout the day where you’re like, “Lord, give me strength right now because I’m about to LOSE MY MIND.” (Although that’s good, too.) I mean setting aside some time each day to pray thoughtfully and specifically for your child. I started making this more of a priority a few months ago and it has changed how I deal with difficulties in parenting so much. I chose a specific time of day (happens to be right after I put Jameson down for bed) and I just spend a few minutes every night in prayer over him. Sometimes I just thank God for a wonderful day with Jameson. Sometimes I pray for his future wife. Sometimes I’m on my knees next to his crib begging for forgiveness for all my shortcomings of the day, asking God to show me how to parent him better and lead him to Christ. Ever since I started doing this, I’ve found that I’m much more likely to turn to prayer during the day when we hit rough patches and it has been so good for both of us.
  11. Change your attitudes and actions first. This is probably one of the most important things God has taught me this year. You cannot parent well (at least not in the Biblical sense) if you’re too busy dealing with anger and frustration inside yourself. When Jameson is going crazy and I start feeling sorry for myself for having to deal with this (or worse, start feeling angry at Jameson for not doing what I want him to do)…I lose all hope of responding to the situation in a Godly, productive way. If, however, I turn to the Lord for help and begin trying to change my areas of sin, it suddenly becomes immensely easier to address the problem with gentleness.
  12. Give more grace. Every breath we take, every time our hearts beat, every moment of every day, we are experiencing God’s grace. He never tires of us even in our darkest, most sinful hour. We should be the same with our children. When they cry through the night, give them grace. When they spill their yogurt on your nice clean floor, give them grace. When they come to you whining and crying with a snotty nose for the 100th time that morning, give them grace.

(And give yourself grace, too. You are doing better than you think you are, and God is on your side.)

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Helpful Tidbits

Hospital & Postpartum Survival Kit

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I’ve been meaning to write this post for, oh I don’t know, eight months now. I came up with the idea almost immediately after Jameson was born and really wanted to put it together as a way to hopefully help some future mamas. But, you know, I got busy aka distracted. Life, amiright? Anyway, better late than never! I hope you find this list of items you might need for the hospital and for your postpartum recovery helpful in some way. Please let me know what you think!

Disclaimer: I labored naturally at home and Jameson was born just about an hour after we arrived at the hospital. Because of this, I didn’t bring any labor-specific items to the hospital and we only stayed one night. If you have opted for a C-section or want to be prepared in case you end up needing to stay longer in the hospital for any reason, you may need to tweak this list here and there.

FOR BABY

A few (swaddle) blankets – Only if they’re sentimental or wanted for pictures, though. The hospital will provide and send you home with plenty of their own swaddle blankets.

A few simple outfits – Again, only if you plan on dressing your baby in the hospital. We ended up just keeping Jameson in a diaper and swaddling him up because 1) it was easier to change him; 2) they run all kinds of tests while you’re there and it’s much quicker if the baby isn’t covered in clothes; and 3) skin-to-skin bonding is recommended, especially if you’re breastfeeding.

Going home outfit and a spare going home outfit – Normally I would say this is overkill because really, what are the chances that your itty bitty one will completely destroy his meticulously chosen outfit moments before being loaded into the car seat for the first time? 100% likely with Jameson. I was literally strapping him in his car seat when – BAM! – poop explosion. So he ended up coming home in a random onesie I had jammed in his diaper bag.

** Don’t bother with diapers & wipes because the hospital will provide everything you need (and more!) and the ones you brought will just take up space. Grab those hospital freebies like they’re going out of style.

FOR THE HUBS

Sweatshirt – One of the top recommendations I got when asking people for advice on what Alex should pack. They were right! Our room got chilly and he was glad he had it.

Nice camera – In all likelihood, you won’t be taking many pictures (you’ll be busy, you know, being a mom and all). Decide who will be in charge of taking pictures, whether that’s a professional or your husband with your good camera, and make sure you pack the charger.

Other electronics – Phone, chargers, possibly something to watch movies on (Alex and I brought my iPad and watched The Office on Netflix while Jameson snuggled with us in bed).

Comfortable Clothing & Toiletries You know the drill.

FOR YOU!

Ready for the nitty gritty? We’ll start off easy…

A copy of your birth plan – If you have one. I never even used mine (I knew how I wanted my labor to go and my midwife was extremely accommodating) but it might be nice to have on hand, especially if you think it would be helpful to have your preferences clearly laid out in writing for the doctors and nurses.

Anything you might need for labor – As I mentioned above, I labored almost entirely at home so I didn’t bring anything. But this could include special music, a focus item, a Bible with specific verses marked to read during labor…

Hair ties – Maybe one or two. My hair was a hot mess after delivery so I just threw it in a pony and that was that.

Chapstick – Always good to have.

Loose-fitting pajamas/other outfits – If you want to avoid the hospital gowns. Some people really prefer to be in their own clothes, which I totally get. I personally just stayed in the hospital gown the entire time (didn’t even wear a bra) because it was convenient for nursing, convenient for all those frequent doctor checks, I didn’t care if it got ruined, and I was really just too lazy to get changed. Seriously. Next time I deliver a baby I’ll probably bring one pair of pj’s just in case and that’s it.

**Clothing recommended to me: Yoga or sweat pants, flowy shirts, a nightgown, and a robe. Make sure you’re not too attached to any of these items since they could get rather…stained. Ew.

Nursing bra and/or nursing tank – If you’re planning on breastfeeding. Again, I ended up not even wearing mine but I would still recommend bringing one anyway.

Socks and/or slippers – I believe hospitals recommend you bring those with good grip on the bottom, just in case you decide to wear them while laboring and want to walk around.

Flip flops – A definite must. I wore those bad boys right into the shower. I don’t care how many chemicals have cleaned that bathroom, I knew what was coming out of me (yep, gross) and I knew I wasn’t the first to be in that situation.

Toiletries – The hospital does supply you with shampoo, conditioner, soap, etc. so you could skip this if you want to pack light. I, however, am the kind of person who likes to use the products I’m used to. Don’t forget your toothbrush, though! 🙂

Beauty supplies – The only thing I used in this category was a little bit of mascara so I didn’t look like a total zombie in our first family pictures. But I did pack my straightener as well. (I didn’t yet know that you don’t really have that kind of time with a newborn. Ah, youth.)

Going home outfit – Keep in mind that you will probably look about six months pregnant even after delivery (boo!) so choose something comfortable and roomy. I wore leggings and a long, loose shirt.

Nipple cream (for all you nursing mamas) – Yup, now we’re getting into it. You probably won’t know what works best for you until a few days in so just grab a brand and try it out. I used Lanolin by Lansinoh but I’ve also heard great things about Earth Mama Angel Baby Nipple Butter if you prefer lanolin-free.

Depend for Women – Hey, you don’t want your baby to be the only one in diapers do you?! Yeaaahhh. To be quite frank, you’re going to be bleeding a lot. It’s going to look like a murder scene in your pants every time you use the bathroom. The hospital has these mesh thunder-pad panties that lots of women swear by, but they never fit me very well. I wore them at the hospital just because I paid a buttload of money for that hospital stay and darn it, I’m getting me some mesh panties! But once I got home I switched to Depends (picked up at Target) and they fit much better. Plus, soooo sexy! Seriously though, I much prefer diaper-wearing to worrying about a regular pad sliding around my underwear all day and night. Once the bleeding subsides a little in a couple of weeks you can switch to the regular pads (I did), or just keep on rocking the diaper.

TO HAVE READY AT HOME

(your postpartum care)

Perineal Irrigation Bottle – Found on Amazon here, or stolen from your hospital. Use to clean…er…down under.

Dermoplast – The blue kind, not the red kind. The hospital will probably send you home with some but I had more ready for me at home and I’m so glad I did. This stuff will numb the heck out of your nether-regions, which is definitely what you want (whether you had tearing/stitches or not).

Some sort of stool softener – Just…yeah. Take it.

Lansinoh soothies gel pads – For nursing mamas, found on Amazon here. I didn’t actually use these so I can’t speak from experience, but I’ve heard they work wonders on sore or damaged nipples and I wish I had bought some.

More Depend for Women – Just buy a whole bunch. C’mon, you know you want to.

And that’s it! I would really recommend checking out The Postpartum Experience on Lucie’s List as well, especially if you’re not sure what to expect in terms of your delivery, what happens at the hospital, what happens afterwards, and so on. Meg breaks everything down so easily and she’s a riot. Can’t recommend her work enough!

Let me know if I missed anything important! I’d love to hear what worked well in your experience.

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Helpful Tidbits, Life with Jameson

Tips for flying solo with a baby

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Waiting for the plane with my sister and my niece.
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The only picture I took from Jameson’s first plane ride!

Jameson and I recently got back from a week-long trip to Georgia for a visit with some family, so I thought I’d write up a little something with some tips and tricks I learned from the vacation – specifically, my advice for flying alone with a baby for the first time. Granted, I did fly with my sister as well, but since she had her infant too we were kind of on our own for the most part. So I still count the experience as “flying solo with a baby.” 🙂

I know there’s plenty of wisdom out there from well-seasoned flying mamas but I thought I’d add my experience to the mix too, just in case it can be helpful to someone!

{Each flight was approximately 4 hours total and Jameson was seven and a half months old at the time.}

BEFORE YOU GO

Keep a running packing list going in the week leading up to your trip – Any time you think of something you’ll need, write it down so you won’t forget it when you’re packing.

Buy a few cheap toys to break out once you’re on the plane I got a few from the Dollar Store and a few from the dollar section at Target. Jameson loved the newness of them and they kept him interested for longer than his old toys (which I definitely packed too many of haha).

Plan out your luggage – Figure out exactly how many bags and other large items you’ll be taking and which of those you’ll be checking vs. carrying on. I ended up with 1) one duffle bag which I carried on, 2) my backpack-style diaper bag (highly recommended so you can free up your hands) which I carried on as my “personal item,” 3) one Pack ‘n Play which I checked before going through security, 4) one car seat which I checked before security as well, and 5) one stroller which I brought up to the gate and the airline employees put under the plane for me.

Keep ALL your baby’s needed items for the flight in ONE bag  (for example, your diaper bag)  You don’t want to be scrambling through several bags looking for a specific item mid-flight.

Less is more with packing! – Babies don’t mind re-wearing outfits (especially pj’s) so pick your favorites and add just a few extras. If you’re staying somewhere where you’ll have access to a washer/dryer, even better! I definitely over-packed on clothes for Jameson and he ended up not even using half the outfits.

Roll up your baby’s tops and bottoms together in your suitcase This helps you save space and makes it easy to grab a matching outfit.

Ziploc bag it up – If you’re flying carry-on like we did, make sure each of your liquids are 3 fluid ounces or less in size and put them all in one big Ziploc bag. Keep that bag near the top of your suitcase or somewhere easy for you to find as you’re going through security. Do the same with your other questionable items, like electronics. The last thing you’ll want is to be fumbling around your suitcase trying to locate all your liquids and electronics while simultaneously managing a wiggly baby.

Pack enough diapers and wipes for the flight only Plan on buying more once you arrive at your destination, especially if you’re short on space like I was. (Same advice goes for baby formula/baby food if you need it.)

Bring an empty sippy cup  Buy your baby’s favorite drink at the airport once you’re through security.

 

AT THE AIRPORT

** You’ll most likely be allowed to go through shorter versions of all the lines (checking in, security, plane boarding) because you’re traveling with a baby so make sure you ask someone if you’re not sure where to go!

Bag up your car seat – (if you plan on checking it rather than buying a plane seat for it) Bring along one of those oversized black garbage bags so your car seat won’t get dirty when it’s tossed under the plane. It’s not cute, but it does the job. Make sure you also fill out a tag with your info on it and attach it somewhere on the outside of the garbage bag, in case other people have the same idea.

If you decide to bring your car seat up to the gate, remember you can still check it there along with your stroller so have a garbage bag handy for that situation too.

Wear your baby through the airport – Serious. Life. Saver. I have the Ergobaby 360. Since I didn’t have my husband for extra help, I needed to free up my hands as much as possible. I had my carry-on duffle bag in the stroller, my backpack diaper bag on my back, and Jameson in the carrier on my front (allowing me to actually push the stroller). I’m sure I looked like a pack mule but what are ya gonna do?

By the way, the airport will most likely allow you to wear your baby through security too, which is a HUGE help. Just know that they’ll check your hands for gun residue, but this only takes a few extra seconds.

Choose easy-to-eat foods if you’re grabbing something before the flight – (which I recommend you do if your baby is young and may potentially throw your in-flight food around the plane, like Jameson certainly would have). I chose a Chipotle burrito which was a big mistake because it turned into a mess and I couldn’t eat it very well while also taking care of Jameson. Pick something you can eat with one hand, like pizza.

 

ON THE PLANE

Bring sanitizing wipes and wipe down everything as soon as you get on the plane – I totally spaced on this and Jameson inevitably found a way to stick his mouth on all sorts of gross things around him (the back of the seat, the tray, etc.). I was wishing I had remembered something stronger than just baby wipes.

Dress comfortably and conveniently – I had Jameson in a t-shirt, sweatpants, and socks. That was it. I didn’t want to be in that teeny airplane bathroom trying to snap on a onesie or zip up a sweatshirt as the plane is rocking and Jameson is wiggling all over. The sweatpants were easy on, easy off. For me I just made sure I was wearing a nursing-friendly shirt, jeans with pockets for my phone/ID, and slip-on shoes for going through security. **Bring an extra outfit for your little one and maybe an extra shirt for you if you’re checking your bags and won’t have access to them during the flight. You know, just in case your baby decides to have a poop explosion mid-air. (It didn’t happen to me, but I’ve heard stories…)

Choose an aisle seat if you have the opportunity – I can’t tell you how nice it was to have easy access to the aisle when Jameson needed a diaper change or needed to stretch his legs for a little bit. Plus it gave me extra room for nursing. If you have a sensitive baby, an aisle seat would also give you the opportunity to easily walk up and down the aisle when the seat belt sign is off.

Avoid ordering food or drinks unless you absolutely need to – Little ones can be grabby. 🙂 I just drank from the water bottle I bought at the airport and snacked on Cheerios with Jameson. I wasn’t too hungry because of the messy burrito I had just eaten/sort of dropped everywhere at the airport.

Wear your nursing cover at all times if you breastfeed – Seriously, this was a great idea I got from someone else. I have an awesome cover from Covered Goods which can be worn as a scarf as well. I pulled it down when needed and wore it as a scarf the rest of the time. Having it on the whole flight made it SO much easier to just quickly nurse Jameson as soon as he was showing signs of wanting to eat (or whenever he was fussy and just needed to be close to me).

Feed your little one during take-off and landing – The pressure changes can really bother some babies’ ears, but the sucking and swallowing helps them regulate the pressure so it’s more comfortable. If you’re breastfeeding, this is easy. Just whip out your boob as the plane is lifting off or beginning its descent. If you’re bottle feeding it may be a little trickier, but you should be just fine as long as you have this advice in the back of your mind while you’re preparing the formula you’ll need for the flight.

Have all your distractions ready to go and rotate through them throughout the flight – Our flight was four hours which is a long time for a baby to sit in one place, so I came prepared with plenty of entertainment. Snacks, quiet toys, my iPad pre-loaded with baby games, comfort items like Jameson’s blankie, etc. As soon as Jameson got bored with one, we switched to another and kept working our way through.

 

AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST

My number one piece of advice – Try to relax and don’t stress too much about what other people are thinking. Babies fuss and sometimes cry and they have just as much right to be on that plane as anyone else. You’ll find that most people are so nice and so helpful, especially if you’re flying alone. Almost everyone has either flown with their own kids in the past, is currently flying with their own kids, or at least has a moderate liking for babies in general. They get it. They don’t mind. They know you’re doing your best and they know you can’t control what kids do. And the ones who do mind usually stick their headphones in/can’t hear your kid crying over all the other sounds on the plane anyway.

In all honestly, you’ll most likely be pleasantly surprised by how well your little one does (I certainly was with Jameson!). If, for whatever reason, your baby is having an extra cranky day…just do your best and know that you will get through this and you will make it to your destination in one piece!

And…don’t forget to ask for help when you need it. 🙂 The people around you will probably be more than happy to give you a hand lifting your bags or play peekaboo with your baby to get a cute smile. Everyone was so kind and very complimentary of Jameson on both of our flights and we made some really nice acquaintances during our travels.

Best of luck to you and I hope you have a wonderful vacation!

 

Do you have any tips for flying solo with an infant? Let me know if there’s something I should add to the list!

Helpful Tidbits, Products + Reviews

What’s in my diaper bag

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+ diaper bag: Ju-Ju Be B.F.F.

+ nursing cover: Covered Goods

I thought I’d do this fun little post really quick for any moms-to-be out there who are wondering what exactly they’ll actually need in their diaper bags (I used to way over-pack mine haha). Jameson is almost seven months now so I pack a little differently than I did when he was a newborn, but it should give you a pretty good idea about what some of the essentials are.

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+ front pouch aka the “Mommy Pouch” (pictured above): my wallet, some gum, dental floss (you never know), hand sanitizer, Chapstick & a lipstick or two, and a few Advil in a plastic baggie.

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+ mini zipper pouch: a pen, an extra binky (which Jameson really just uses as a teether now), sunglasses, and my cell phone if it’s not in my pocket.

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+ main pouch: a small red cosmetic bag which I use to hold diapers (usually 5-8 because I overprepare) and wipes so that I can easily find them, teethers in the plastic-covered picture display pockets for quick access, a burp cloth, an extra onesie and extra shorts/pants, sometimes a pair of pjs if we’ll be out for awhile, one of those packages of sample wipes just in case I run out of my usual ones, health-related essentials grouped in one of the inside pockets (spare thermometer, his special lotion for dry skin, a travel baby brush, and a nasal aspirator), a few non-teething toys that he likes, our spare baby monitors (not a real essential, but we spend the weekends hanging out with family so they’re useful to have on hand), my nursing cover which Jameson is eating in the picture above, and maybe a snack for me.

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+ insulated side pouches: his sippy cup on one side and either a snack for him (usually Puffs) or my water bottle on the other side.

++ the back of this diaper bag has a pouch that holds the memory foam changing pad it comes with, and I sometimes shove random stuff (junk) back there too.

And that’s everything for now! The nice thing about this diaper bag is that it really has a lot of space and plenty of inside pockets for organizational purposes. I’m excited to see how it grows with us and fits our needs in the future as Jameson gets older, and as we hopefully add more little ones to our family!

Did I miss any essentials? Let me know what you keep in your diaper bag! 🙂

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Helpful Tidbits, Products + Reviews

Baby Registry Basics

So you’re having a baby… Yay!!! Congratulations on bringing a brand new, adorable little squish into the world!

Deciding what to buy/register for when you’re pregnant with your first baby can be so overwhelming at the beginning. Recently a friend of mine (who’s pregnant with her first baby, hooray!) asked me if I could share with her a list of everything I think is a “baby essential” for new mamas. She’s putting together her registry and was looking for tips on where to get started. I sent her my list but I thought I’d share it here as well, just in case other mamas-to-be could benefit from it.

{By the way, I am by no means an expert…these were just things that I personally registered for and/or found super helpful these past four months with Jameson. I also have a shorter review of my top eight favorite baby products, which you can check out here.}

Okay strap in and let’s get started…

Stroller & Car Seat

I thought I’d start off with the big ones. You can buy these separately but we’ve found that the stroller + car seat combo option (aka a travel system) is super convenient and easy because you can literally unclick the car seat from its base in your car and click it right into the stroller (which is extra magical when Jameson falls asleep in the car and we don’t want to wake him up). We use the Britax B Agile (stroller) with the Britax B Safe (car seat) but there are lots of other great brands as well. Alternatively, you can actually buy a car seat alone and then buy a stroller frame that the car seat can click into, but that stroller frame can’t be used in the future without the infant car seat. So that’s why we chose the full travel system instead, and we’ve loved it from day one.

Baby Carrier

There are sooo many options and I drove myself crazy researching and trying to figure out the best ones. Ultimately I bought two different wraps (but I liked the Solly Baby the best out of the two…it can be used for an infant and an older baby) AND we also got a soft-structured carrier (the Ergobaby 360) for things like zoo trips and situations where I want to wear Jameson for longer periods of time. But if you prefer wraps to the structured carriers (or vice versa) you really don’t need both…that’s just what we did.

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Swing or Bouncer

Seriously, if you can get your great-aunt-whoever to buy you a really nice swing, it will not disappoint. If not, just go with the best you can afford. Total life saver for me when I needed to get dinner together or clean up or whatever and Jameson was too little to just leave somewhere and be entertained. We have the Fisher-Price My Little Snuggapuppy swing. Getting a bouncer is another (cheaper) option, but you probably don’t need both the swing and the bouncer, so go with whatever works best for you.

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Graco Pack ‘n Play with reversible napper and changer

{Find it here on Amazon} This bad boy is easily packed up and taken places so your baby always has a safe place to sleep and play. Plus it has a bassinet on top which flips to be a changing station, so you can set it up in your bedroom and let your little one sleep there at night if you want. Otherwise, you might want to buy a full bassinet to keep in your room during the first few months. If you go with the Pack ‘n Play, though, it’s all in one (the main reason we went that route). You’ll also want to register for a couple of the Pack ‘n Play mattress sheets (on Amazon here) and possibly a separate, more comfy mattress than the one it comes with (such as the Dream on Me), if you’re planning on using it long-term.

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Bath Time Supplies

  • Go with the cheap blue bathtub that everyone gets (Walmart has them here) with the infant sling in it for when your baby is super itty bitty. No need to get fancy in this area.

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  • We use plain old Johnson & Johnson products for shampoo, body wash, and lotion (you can register for the gift set if you prefer).
  • And make sure you throw some washcloths and hooded towels on the registry for your babe, too.

Sleepy Supplies

  • First off, you’ll definitely want to register for some swaddle blankets. You can get specific “swaddlers” that just velcro so you don’t have to worry about wrapping and folding and all that black magic, but Jameson never liked those. We ended up buying a bunch of the adin + anais muslin blankets instead (kind of pricey but if someone buys them for you…scoreee!). They’re super breathable and can be used for swaddling of course, but we use them for lots of other things too.

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  • Depending on your house size, you’re going to want to register for some baby monitors. If you’re in a small apartment you might not even need them, but if you’re in a larger home (or if you’re just a worrier like me) then you’ll need some good ones. We originally registered for audio-only monitors but as we’ve been transitioning Jameson to his crib at night, I personally felt like I needed more for my own peace of mind. So with our Christmas gift cards we ordered the Levana Stella video monitor and it’s been awesome. Either way, do a bit of research before you decide on a monitor so that you’re sure you found a quality one.
  • A sound machine is another item you might want on your registry, especially if you have loud neighbors, loud animals, loud spouses (ahem). There are plenty of cheap ones that will do the trick, or you can go all out and get a fancy shmancy one. We use the plain old HoMedics SoundSpa sound machine and keep it on the white noise setting. Or sometimes we just put a small fan in Jameson’s room, which works just as well for drowning out unwanted noises.Some sort of night light. Doesn’t have to be anything expensive (unless you want it to be), but I’d definitely recommend one for those late night feedings when you’re basically half asleep and bumping into everything.

Feeding Supplies

  • Bottles/slow-flow nipples if you’re planning on bottle-feeding or pumping (even if you’re not, you might want to grab a couple of bottles and nipples like the Philips Avent starter gift set, as well as some formula, just in case you get in a bind and breastfeeding isn’t an option at the moment for whatever reason).

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  • A hand pump and/or an electric pump for breastfeeding mamas (you can get a nice electric pump through your insurance under Obama Care). Also some sort of storage system for your pumped milk, if you want. {I can’t really speak too much on this area because I personally don’t pump or store breast milk.
  • Burp cloths. LOTS of burp cloths. (We use Gerber brand and they double as cloth diapers if you’re into that sort of thing). Some bibs might be good as well.

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  • Nursing pads for inside your bra (I personally prefer the washable kind because they’re softer and cheaper than constantly buying the disposable kind). Even if you don’t plan on breastfeeding, having some nursing pads on hand is helpful at the beginning because you’ll most likely leak a little when your milk comes in.
  • Nipple cream or butter (I just used Lanolin by Lansinoh when I needed it at the beginning) but I’ve also heard good things about Earth Mama Angel Baby nipple butter.
  • A good nursing cover. Don’t skimp on this one! It’s so worth it if you’re breastfeeding. I started with the standard bib-type (aka the front-facing cape) but it felt so awkward and revealing to me so I searched for a more modest option. Ultimately I found Covered Goods and ordered the cover online almost immediately. It’s literally probably my favorite baby-related purchase, not only because it’s so modest and comfortable but also because it has so many other uses as well. Check them out for sure!

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  • A Boppy (or some other type of nursing pillow) is helpful when you’re learning how to breastfeed, and it’s good for tummy time for babes. You’ll also want to register for at least two nursing pillow covers just because…babies are messy.

Diapering Doo-Dads

  • You can register for diapers and wipes, but you’ll probably get those as gifts anyway.
  • A wipe warmer. Some people say to skip this one, but for Jameson it was a must. When he was a newborn he haaaateeedd getting his diaper changed and a wipe warmer seriously made such a difference for him.

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  • Some type of diaper rash cream (I highly recommend Boudreaux’s Butt Paste, partly because the name is hilarious but also because it’s just a really good product)
  • Possibly a diaper pail, although we just use a small trash can.
  • A good diaper bag. There are about 6 zillion options to overwhelm you, but whatever you decide…make sure it’s good quality. You’ll probably be using it for many years down the road (and possibly for multiple kids), so invest now. I went with a Ju Ju Be diaper bag (the Ju Ju Be B.F.F. model because it’s also a backpack) and I’ve loved it ever since. Cute, convenient, comfortable to carry, machine-washable, and versatile.

Nursery Essentials

{Just stick with the basics.}

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  • A mattress (you can go organic with this, or something like the Safety 1st Heavenly Dreams mattress on Amazon)
  • A few waterproof mattress pads and a couple of extra sheets (for those lovely late-night leaking adventures)
  • A dresser (we have the Fisher-Price Lakeland Double Dresser that matches the crib)
  • A changing pad to go on top of the dresser if you want to skip the whole extra “changing table” piece of furniture like we did) and a few changing pad covers to go on it.
  • A glider for you (doesn’t have to be fancy, just something comfy you can rock/feed your bebe in when you get tired of bouncing them around). We just got one of the cheapest ones we could find on Amazon and it’s been perfectly fine.
  • A mobile like the ones from Buy Buy Baby can be great.

Playtime 

  • A play mat is a MUST (Jameson learned so much about using his hands from his mat and he has so much fun with it). Fisher-Price makes great ones, in a variety of price ranges.

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  • For older babies, Exersaucers are a blast (found here on Buy Buy Baby) and so are those bumper jumpers that you can attach to the door frame (found here on Buy Buy Baby).
  • You might also want to see if a Bumbo (on Amazon here) is something you want for when your baby is a little older. If so, I’d recommend getting the tray attachment for it so your baby can easily play with toys or have a snack or whatever else.

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  • Some sort of car seat toy (Amazon has a bunch of options here). This is especially useful when you have a baby like Jameson who strongly believes that the car seat is quite literally torture.
  • Maybe a couple of bath toys? You can delay this, though. Newborns just sort of lay there in the bath haha.
  • Any other toy that looks fun! Rattles, things with buttons and silly songs, some teethers. But really, you’re probably going to get a bunch of these whether you register for them or not.

Randoms

  • Pacifiers. You’ll probably want to register for a couple different brands to see which your babe prefers (if any). We used Soothies at first and now Nuk brand since Jameson was about one month old.

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  • Some sort of snot remover device (we use the NeilMed Naspira Nasal-Oral Aspirator which looks like the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen in your life but works SO AMAZINGLY WELL). You can also pick it up at Target or Walmart or wherever.
  • A mirror for the car so you can see your baby while you drive (like this one).
  • Receiving blankets are great to have on hand, for swaddling when the baby is little and for tummy time and things like that (those things get so much spit up on them all the time, you’ll probably want quite a few).
  • Maybe a couple of cute baby blankets, although you’ll most likely get those as gifts anyway.

 

And that’s it! Phew! You made it.

** Word to the wise…don’t bother registering for baby clothes unless there’s something specific you really really want. You’ll be up to your eyeballs in adorable baby clothes at your shower anyway. **

Another AWESOME resource I’d encourage you to check out is Lucie’s List. It’s what I used when I was researching baby products and putting together my registry. The sheer number of options for literally every baby product is like…insane. But Lucie’s List made it easy for me to compare the top brands and choose what I thought would be best for my baby and my family. Plus Meg (the main author) is hilarious and she has a great newsletter that gets sent directly to your email with tips and info depending on where you are in your pregnancy/mommyhood. I loved getting those newsletters every couple of weeks during my pregnancy, and even after the birth of my son.

I hope you found this giant registry overhaul helpful!!! Please comment with any other registry essentials you may have, or with any questions. Thanks for reading!

– Jess

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Helpful Tidbits, Life with Jameson, Personal Writing

Things I wish I had known when I was pregnant

There’s a pretty good amount of fear that comes along with a first pregnancy, no matter who you are or how calm you usually are about major life changes. For a Grade-A Worrier such as myself, that fear (of the unknown, of the what-if’s, of the crap that people scared me about) was something I wrestled with at times throughout my pregnancy. Now that I’m here and have almost two months of parenting under my belt I can see exactly what a colossal waste of time all that worrying was. (Hindsight, yo.) But in my defense, I just really didn’t know at the time. And when you have so many sources telling you to basically just brace yourself for the storm that is childbirth and newborn parenting, it’s easy to get scared. That’s why I decided to write this…for anyone who might be scared right now and anyone who might be scared in the future. My main theme: whatever you’re worrying about will probably not be anywhere near as bad as you’re imagining it to be, and – in fact – will probably pleasantly surprise you. So here we go. Things I wish I had known when I was pregnant…

#1. Giving birth to your first baby won’t necessarily be a long and terribly painful experience. I was all ready to be in blinding, horrifying pain for like 30 hours straight and fully expected to be begging for the epidural the second we reached the hospital. This was because of the countless horrible, scary things I had heard/seen/read about childbirth (especially concerning your first time with labor). Well guess what. You are stronger than you think and God can totally surprise you. Your body is capable of so much more than you realize and it’s actually (*gasp!*) designed to do this. Yes it hurts and yes it might take longer than you want it to, but it’s nothing you can’t handle. Your mindset is your biggest tool with which to battle the pain. If you go in determined to have the kind of birth you want (particularly those who want to do it completely naturally like I did), the pain won’t be the thing to stop you (obviously some things are outside your control, but pain is totally manageable). Plus, labor is just exciting! You get to meet your baby at the end and you know the end is coming soon. No one told me how excited I’d feel, even during the hardest parts.

#2. Your body will be different after giving birth but you won’t care nearly as much about it as you thought you would. Seriously. You won’t. I spent so much time freaking out about what I would do to lose the baby weight, get rid of stretch marks, fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes, etc. etc. And yeah, some things about your body will be different but you’ll be so surprised by how much you literally don’t even care once you have your baby. You know what I care about now? Making sure my son is healthy and safe and taken care of. The amount of time I spend thinking about my appearance is drastically less than it ever has been in my life (which is actually an enormous blessing that I’m so thankful to God for). And actually, you’ll be surprised by how resilient your body is. Most things really do go right back to normal within a matter of weeks.

#3. Your relationship with your husband will change, but it’ll be better. Whaaaat?? Are you kidding me? No, it’s true. I can’t even tell you how many times I was warned (while I was pregnant) to enjoy the time I had with my husband while I still could because we’d never have time for each other after the baby. That, my friends, is a load of garbage. Alex works full-time and goes to school online full-time and we still have no problem making time for each other. Yes, Jameson is always with us too but that makes it better, not worse like so many people make it seem. No one told me that we’d have all these inside jokes about our son and crack ourselves up about them all the time. No one told me that I’d fall more in love with my husband as I watched him fall in love with my baby and that this new love would be so much deeper and richer than the way it was before. No one told me that I wouldn’t want to be apart from Jameson and that Alex wouldn’t either…that we’d be happiest when we were all together. If you don’t have a baby yet, absolutely enjoy this season of your lives together. But don’t be afraid that you’ll have to “give it up” because really, it feels like you’re gaining so much more. (You are.)

#4. You won’t be anywhere near as sleep-deprived as everyone seems to think you will be. This was something I was dreading about the newborn phase because, once again, I was warned countless times to “enjoy sleep while I can” since those late night wake-up calls were apparently going to ruin everything good about sleep. Not true. Not every newborn is a crappy sleeper. Jameson was giving us three hour stretches from the very beginning and would wake up 2-3 times a night to eat for ten minutes and go right back to sleep on his own. Totally manageable. I understand that it’s not that way for everyone but I was made to believe that I would basically be a zombie during the day because my baby would be keeping me up for hours and hours at night. It just wasn’t true and I was worried for nothing. Plus, I’ve never minded waking up to care for him. Even his little cries don’t bother me at all. I actually love that he still needs me so much…someday he won’t. And for the days where it is harder than usual (because sometimes it is)… coffee. Problem solved.

#5. Breastfeeding is probably going to be hard (and quite possibly painful) at first and then it’s going to get ten million times better. Just hang in there. I knew that it might be tricky at first (after all, it’s a brand new skill that you and your baby both have to learn) but I think I was kind of hoping I’d be the exception. Well I wasn’t. It hurt really bad at the beginning because I didn’t know how to position Jameson very well and he didn’t know how to latch on very well. But then all of the sudden, it was SO MUCH BETTER and I felt like a new woman! I was so excited every time he wanted to eat because I was just so proud of us for figuring it out. The bonding is amazing and then when you go to the pediatrician for that first check-up and you see all the weight your baby has gained entirely because of you, there is no greater pride. Seriously, if you just go in expecting that it’s going to take practice but determined to stick it out, it’s really one of the best parts about motherhood.

#6. You will know what to do. Maybe not at first, though, and that can be so frustrating. Having a baby flips everything about your world upside down. Suddenly you meet this new person who is completely dependent on you and you really have no idea how to help them at first because you literally just met them. There’s a lot of trial and error at the beginning and you’re probably going to guess wrong a few times before you figure out your baby’s cues (example: the first night we had Jameson home he was crying and crying and I kept trying to feed him when all he really wanted was to be snuggled up to sleep. I could have saved us both a whole lot of tears if I had just been calm and patiently tried other things. But, like I said, I had barely met him and I just didn’t know). You’ll quickly pick up on things (you probably won’t even realize how much you’re learning so fast) and then it’s really easy.

#7. You won’t miss the way it was before. This is something I think every parent-to-be worries about at times (I definitely did). Having a baby absolutely changes every last thing about your life…physically, mentally, emotionally, everything. But you won’t ever wish it could go back to how it was before. I think back to what things were like before I had Jameson and I don’t even remember who I was. Now I know that God designed me to be Jameson’s mommy all along and that this is who I’m supposed to be. I am exactly the kind of mother he needs, and the things I thought were important before seem so insignificant now. I actually feel sorry for the old me because I didn’t know him yet. You won’t miss your “old life” one little bit because your new life will be filled with more love and surprises and reward than you can even imagine.

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DIY, Helpful Tidbits, Pregnancy

Jameson’s Nursery

We’re FINALLY done with our little boy’s animal-themed nursery (after months of putting it together a little bit at a time) so I wanted to make a post to show some of my favorite parts about it. I absolutely love how it turned out and I’m so thankful to my husband for helping me with all of it, even when he was tired from work or busy with school. He is the best and Jameson and I are so blessed to have him. 🙂

And now, without further ado, please enjoy the crapload of pictures I’m about to post…

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Jameson has about 50 million onesies which I could tell were about to end up in massive heaps inside his dresser, so I ended up buying some IKEA drawer organizers from Amazon to help keep everything organized and easy to manage. I rolled each onesie to save space and separated the sizes into three drawers (newborn, 0-3 months, and 3-6 months, with a few 9 month onesies in there too). This is his newborn drawer:

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The other side of his dresser has three drawers as well, filled with hats, socks, toys, a billion diapers, receiving/swaddling blankets, and a few burp cloths.

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My sister uses these aden + anais swaddling blankets for her daughter and I loved how breathable and soft they were. Now Jameson has a set too! 🙂

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Above his dresser/changing station are these gorgeous, original pieces of art that were given to us at the shower by Alex’s aunt. I added the ribbons to tie into the light blue accents we have around the room and I love how they turned out!

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Quotes I saved from my baby shower decorations.

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I saw this binky jar idea on Pinterest and definitely wanted to include it in Jameson’s nursery. This way, I always know where to find a pacifier for him. We have a few different brands in there (including a wonderful mustache pacifier) so we can figure out which he likes best.

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Charlie loves looking out the sliding glass doors in Jameson’s room.

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One of my friends designed this cute little decoration:

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Can you tell books are kind of my favorite thing? I’m so grateful to my husband for giving up his time to hang everything for me. ❤

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I found these adorable baby safari animal prints on Etsy and fell in love with them, so we ordered a set for above Jameson’s crib (installed very securely, don’t worry people).

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This cutie was customized by one of my best friends for Jameson because she knows I love sock monkeys. 🙂

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Some stuffed animals we wanted in his crib… a crocheted Mickey Mouse that Alex actually got for me while we were still dating, a Guess How Much I Love You bunny blanket that was one of the first things we bought for Jameson (before we even knew his gender), and a teddy bear by Gund because I have a very similar one (named Freddy) that I used to sleep with every night/still sometimes do hahaha.

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Two more stuffed friends…a blue puppy from Alex’s parents and the best bunny ever by Jellycat, which I’ve been obsessing over for months after seeing someone I follow on Instagram post pictures of her son with his Jellycat bunny.

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We went with the RIBBA picture ledges from IKEA for most of the shelving in the nursery. I thought they were cuter than just putting up a massive bookshelf and I also liked how they feature the books outward so that they add to the decorations in the room.

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Inside his closet (surprise! Even more clothes. I hope this kid likes being dressed up)…

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I handmade these closet organizers to help keep everything separated by size (particularly so that Alex can find stuff easily).

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Just one of my favorite outfits, based on Where the Wild Things Are. 🙂

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Since I couldn’t fit all the bottoms that go with many of Jameson’s onesies inside his dresser, I used a cheap organizer I found at Target to separate them all by size.

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Each section has a label so it’s easy to grab what we need.

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The bottom two sections have pull-out drawers and they’re filled with things like towels and blankets and extra sheets.

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We have one other organizer on the other side of the closet for all his little baby shoes and some linen-related things (plus a couple of extra sections for whatever else we might need to organize later).

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The bedding set goes with our neutral, animal-themed ideas perfectly.

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I love the different textures on the blanket!

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Charlie loves hanging out in here. 🙂 Especially because he can juuuust squeeze under the crib for a nap lol.

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