Baby Stuff Recommendations: Months 1 – 3

Tomorrow Penny will be 3 months old (!!), so I thought it might be a good time to finally publish the product recommendation post I’ve been talking about posting for the past, um, month? (Have I mentioned how much harder it is to complete a blog post these days? Lol.) If I’d had my game together maybe I would’ve had this posted in time for Black Friday / Cyber Monday so you guys could’ve taken advantage of the many, many sales going on over the weekend buuuuuut… sorry. Hopefully it’s helpful anyway!

I think you guys may have realized that I now own and have tried out a LOT of baby crap at this point. So these are some of the things that I recommend based on how the past three months with our little munchkin have gone! Probably doesn’t need to be said, but 1) as Penny is my first baby, I am clearly not an expert, and 2) every baby is different, of course, so what’s worked for Penny may not work for your little one, and vice versa.

But, that being said, I know that I myself found product recommendation posts super helpful when I was preggo and doing my due-diligence in researching and browsing and building my registry. I’m sure this’ll end up being quite a long list, so I’ll try to keep my commentary short & sweet… with “try” being the operative word, since y’all know how I do like to go on. Also, some of the links below are affiliate links — if you end up wanting buying something through them, I just get a little somethin’ from Amazon that I can put towards the next round of stuff I’ll inevitably be buying for my baby. 😉

All right, heeeeere we go!

BABY ESSENTIALS:

  • Diaper Bag: Ju-Ju-Be B.F.F
    • You’re gonna need a diaper bag, that’s just a fact. If you’re anything like me, your diaper bag WILL be your purse, so it might as well be cute, right? Ju-Ju-Be bags are kind of pricey but I was gifted mine as a shower present from my wonderful friend Jackie, and I looooove it. It’s cute and super functional (can be worn as a shoulder/messenger bag or as a backpack, the entire thing is machine washable). The only thing is that I do wish it were a little bit bigger, but Ju-Ju-Be does make a larger backpack-style diaper bag called the B.R.B. as well (which my sister has.)
  • Wet Bag: Planet Wise Diaper Small Wet Bag
    • Even if you don’t plan on cloth diapering, having some wetbags around is crucial since tiny babies are known for causing all kinds of messes when it’s least convenient. I keep an extra outfit for Penny in one of these wet bags inside her diaper bag. If she has an accident or spits up too much and needs to be changed while we’re out on about, the new outfit goes on and the dirty clothes go right into the bag. Then you can toss everything in the wash when you get home — bag included!
  • Burp Cloths: Aden + Anais Burpy Bibs and Cloth Diaper Prefolds
    • You’re gonna need burp cloths and you’re gonna need a LOT of them. I LOVE the Aden + Anais Burpy Bibs because they are burp cloths that are perfectly shaped to go over your shoulder but also have a small snap so you can use them like a bib that goes all the way around your baby. I also highly recommend picking up some diaper prefolds even if you’re not planning on cloth diapering because they make amazing spit-up rags — so cheap and absorbent!

 

  • Swaddle Blankets: Aden + Anais Silky Soft Swaddles
    • Penny hated being swaddled the instant she turned about 13 days old, but I’m still glad we have 134920394 muslin swaddle blankets because they’re definitely multifunctional — I use them as blankets, of course, but also as burp cloths, nursing covers, to lay down on the floor for tummy time, etc. So it’s not a bad idea to have a little stockpile of muslin blankets, and despite Penny’s face in the photos above indicating otherwise, these Silky Soft Swaddles are our favorites. They’re SO soft but also have just the tiniest amount of stretch so if you are going to use them for swaddling, they let you wrap up that baby burrito nice and tight.

 

  • Boppy Pillow
    • If you’re planning on nursing, I highly, highly, highly recommend you get a Boppy pillow and a couple of covers. It makes nursing a floppy, can’t-control-any-part-of-its-body-newborn so much easier, and has functionality beyond nursing once your baby is stable enough to prop up. I use mine all day, every day, and even brought it with us to Texas.

 

  • Pacifiers: Phillips Soothie and MAM pacifiers
    • I’ve mentioned before that Penny would only take Soothies, which I didn’t like because I think they’re ugly, but who cares if it makes your baby happy, right? Only she still couldn’t really keep them in her mouth — even when using a Wubbanub, which is a Soothie with a stuffed animal attached to it that’s supposed to help with that. Well, I’m glad to say that Penny is now using MAM pacifiers really well and she can actually keep them in her mouth and even sort of pull it back in once it starts to fall out!
    • If you’re a mom-to-be I would recommend you do what I did and pick up at least one of every type of popular pacifier (SoothieMAM, Nuk, Tommee Tippee) so you can see what your baby might take to — and do the same with bottles.
  • Bottles: Phillips Avent Natural Bottles and Comotomo Baby Bottle
    • Speaking of bottles, we primarily use the Avent Naturals with Penny, but also really like the Comotomo. However, the latter is a lot more expensive, so we only own one and decided it was more economical to invest in the Avents. Like with pacifiers, we tried a lot of different ones to see what worked best for Penny (you can get a free bottle in baby registry welcome kits a lot of the time.)

LET’S TALK ABOUT POOP:

So, babies poop. A lot. For the first six weeks of her life, Penny pooped every time she ate, which meant we were changing like 8 – 10 poopy diapers a day. You’re gonna wanna make changing those diapers as easy on yourself as possible, which, for us, means we have three separate changing areas set up around the house.

Upstairs we have a pack ‘n’ play with a changing table attachment in our bedroom plus a station set up on our dining table (which we don’t use very much), and a station in the nursery downstairs. Here are all the various poop-related accoutrements you’re gonna want to look into:

  • Wipes: Bloom Baby Jumbo Wipes, Amazon Elements Baby Wipes
    • I LOVE Bloom Wipes — they are huge and soft and have just the right amount of moisture. Big fan, but the cost per wipe is almost twice as much as Amazon Elements Baby Wipes, which are also great. I definitely would say opt for wipes packs that come with the little plastic flip top on each package, unless perhaps you enjoy the challenge of trying to shove the 5 extra wipes you accidentally pulled out back into the pack.

 

  • Diapers: Honest Company
    • Okay, okay, you caught me: obviously what I really love most about Honest Co diapers are the prints! But I also really like that the diapers are pretty chemical-free as far as diapers go, and are environmentally greener. Penny has also never had any issues with diaper rash using these, and we’ve only ever had one blowout in an Honest diaper (I bet I just totally jinxed it by saying that in writing though, lol.) You can get a diaper subscription through Honest or buy packs individually at Target, Buy Buy Baby, CVS, etc.
    • My thoughts on some other brands: I do like Huggies a lot – they feel soft and cushy, Pampers are fine but not my fave (feels like they run small?), and I really don’t love Luvs (ironically?), as I think they feel really thin and cheap (I mean, they are a very economical choice tho!). All three brans are also scented, which is a little more irritating to Penny’s sensitive little baby bottom. I’ve also tried Parasol brand diapers and like them a lot (they also have super cute prints, and are much softer than Honest), but they swell up a lot when they’re wet just like Luvs do, and for the price I still think I prefer Honest.

  • Hatch Baby Grow Scale + Changing Table
    • The Hatch Baby Grow has been an awesome, if admittedly somewhat unnecessary, addition to our household. On its own, it’s a very nice, wipeable foam changing pad, but what really makes it great is that it’s also a baby scale that syncs with the Hatch Baby app. Through the (free) app, I can also keep track of Penny’s feedings, sleeps, diapers, etc.
    • It is expensive, but there are changing pads out there like the Keekaroo Peanut that cost the same amount and don’t have any of the smart functionality, so I figure it’s worth it. Plus, Hatch’s customer service is AWESOME.
  • Diaper pail: Dekor Plus Hands-Free Diaper Pail
    • I like that the Dekor Plus lets you use regular garbage bags if you want (or a wet bag, if you’re cloth diapering), instead of (or in addition to) its own bag refill system. It contains the smell well and is a good size (and is half the price of diaper pails like the Ubbi!)

NURSING:

Breastfeeding is a commitment, and you might think that you’re saving tons of money by not having to buy formula, but you still need some stuff to make it all go smoothly. I’ve had a much easier time breastfeeding than a lot of other women, and I still think it’s tough. I highly, highly recommend having the following before you even head to the hospital:

  • Reusable breast pads: EcoNursing Pads
    • I like these ones better than Bamboobies brand because the outer layer is kind of waterproof so you’re less likely to leak through even if you were to fill the pad.
  • Lansinoh Soothies Gel Pads
    • They’re totally overpriced because you only get two per item, but they are soooo necessary in the first couple of weeks. Stick ’em in the fridge before applying.
  • MotherLove Nipple Cream
    • I got both this and lanolin cream, and vastly preferred this nipple butter as the lanolin was so thick it kind of hurt to apply.
  • Sleeping nursing bra: Fiery Youth Nursing Bra Five-Pack
    • These bras are not exactly super supportive, but they are very comfortable and a great price for getting so many. I still wear a bra or a nursing tank top to bed each night so I can use breast pads (and also because it’s just more comfortable.
  • Daytime nursing bra: Bravado! Designs Nursing Bra 
    • You’ll want a more supportive bra for daytime use. They do sell underwire nursing bras, and I’ve also heard you can take any bra to Nordstrom and they’ll alter it to turn it into a nursing bra, but I find underwire incredibly painful and uncomfortable these days. This bra is pretty supportive even for being wireless, and it’s well-made and comfy.

Also, get use to planning your outfits around how easy it is to access your boobs. This usually means I’m dressed one or two ways these days — either I’m wearing an actual nursing top or dress, OR I’m using the two-shirt method with a nursing tank underneath a regular shirt or sweater. Here are my recommendations either way:

  • Nursing tanks: Caramel Cantina 3-Pack
    • I originally got the black, white, and grey set, then went back and purchased the other set of three later, so I have six in total. I throw these on under any shirt, sweater, or button up and am good to go.

  • Breastpump: Spectra S2
    • My health insurance paid for my breastpump, and I got the Spectra S2 after seeing so many raves about it. Though i don’t really have anything to compare it to, I love this pump and it works really, really well for me. The flanges are wide-necked, which means they work directly with the Avent bottles, but you’ll need an adapter to pump into Medela storage bottles (I received a few of those from my insurance as well, so I got the adapter online for like $6.) I also ordered a smaller flange size to maximize my output, and I also got longer tubes so that I’d be able to sit further back from the base while pumping.
    • I will say, I kind of wish I’d paid extra to upgrade the S1, which is exactly the same pump only it has a battery pack instead of needing to be plugged in. If you’ll be taking your pump back and forth to the office or anything like that, you might want to consider the S1 as an option instead.
  • Silicone Pump / Milk Catcher
    • I’d never heard of a silicone pump before joining some new mom Facebook groups, but this thing is a total game changer if you just want to keep a small stash of milk in the fridge or freezer without committing to regular pumping. It’s this little pump that you just suction to your other breast while nursing your baby, and it catches your let-down and allows you to rack up a nice little store of milk with no extra effort. For me, it “catches” 1 – 2 ounces each time I use it.

O BLESSED SLEEP:

I feel like I should be inserting a bunch of jokes about not really remembering what sleep is like, but we’re actually starting to get into a pretty good groove with sleep these days so I can’t say that anymore! She’s not sleeping straight through the night or anything, but she is getting to be predictable and have nice long stretches of 6 hours to start the night, then usually a 4 to 4.5 hour one after that, and then sometimes another 1 – 2 hours after that, so I really am not complaining.

That said, as you guys probably remember, this modicum of predictability in her sleep routine did not come quickly nor easily, and I definitely tried basically every single baby sleep product that exists in order to find out what works for us. And so!

  • Sound machine: Hatch Baby Rest Night Light and Sound Machine and Cloud b Sleep Sheep / Peaceful Panda
    • A sound machine has been a total necessity for Penny to sleep longer and more deeply. In addition to the scale, Hatch Baby also makes a cool nightlight/sound machine that is app controlled to be fully customizable, from the color and intensity of the light, to the type and volume of sound, how long it stays on, etc. It even has an “okay to wake” feature that you can use for when you have an older child that tries to get out of bed too early. I really love this because you can leave it going all night if you want, whereas most other baby sound machines all timeout after a certain amount of time.
    • We also have the Cloud b Peaceful Panda (full-size) and Sleep Sheep On the Go (travel-size). These are great because they can attach to her crib, bassinet, swing, carseat, or wherever she’s sleeping, although they suffer from the time-limit issue mentioned above. White noise for everyone!

 

  • DockATot
    • You guys know from my previous post that I’m a 100% drinker of the DockATot Kool-Aid. This overpriced dog bed has just worked out really well for us, haha. Once Penny stopped letting us swaddle her, we couldn’t get her to sleep in her bassinet no matter what we tried, and I was super paranoid about just letting her sleep loose in bed with us. The DockATot solved both issues by helping her sleep better in her bassinet if we put it in there and allowing us to cosleep with her more confidently.
    • The DockATot is what initially got us from 1.5 – 2 hour stretches of sleep, to 3 – 4 hours, which made a HUGE difference in my ability to, like, I dunno, function? And even though she doesn’t sleep in it every night anymore, it’s still awesome for naps and was super convenient when we traveled to Texas last week. All that being said, if there’s only ONE recommendation you take away from this entire far-too-long list, it’s not actually the DAT but what comes next…

 

  • Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit
    • Baby Merlin, I love you. This ridiculous marshmallow suit is without a doubt the BEST THING I HAVE PURCHASED. By transforming Penny into the Michelin Man each night, it has enabled her to graduate to the aforementioned 6+ hours stretch of sleep each night… in her CRIB… in her ROOM. I KNOWWWW!! A quick nursing session in the middle of the night and she’s back to sleep. Does it have actual magical powers? Perhaps! All I know is this ridiculous baby snowsuit has been my literal saving grace.
    • Notes: it comes in both a microfleece and a cotton version. I got the cotton version because I was worried about her overheating, and it works really well where I can still put her in a onesie or a light sleeper underneath. Alas, this cannot be used for newborns, as I believe the minimum weight requirement is 12 lbs, and the maximum weight (of the next size up) is 21 lbs.

BABY CONTAINERS:

Much though your baby may protest, you are just not going to be able to hold him or her 100% of the time. Yeah, yeah, I know we have to cherish the snuggles and this time because it’s fleeting and before long they won’t want to be held, the laundry can wait, blah blah. This is true. But it’s also true that the laundry can only wait so long when every item of clothing I own is covered in spit-up, drool, sweat, breastmilk, or spilled food (from trying to eat while holding the baby.) And so, yes, sadly but truly, you gotta be able to put your baby down.

 

  • Boppy Newborn Lounger
    • Penny l-o-v-e-d the newborn lounger for the first month of her life. As she’s gotten bigger, she likes it less as I think she is less comfy and cozy in it (and also she prefers sitting up so she can see stuff), but it’s still nice to have a place to set her down next to me on the couch. I got an additional cover for it on Etsy as Boppy doesn’t actually make covers for this product (though you can put the whole thing in the washing machine.)

  • Activity Gym/Playmat: Skip Hop Silver Linings Activity Gym
    • This activity gym makes for a super plush place for Penny to get her play on a few times a day. It comes with a bunch of toys, a tummy time pillow, and has a great aesthetic that I really vibe with, lol. It’s such a plush, comfy playmat that Penny often falls asleep on it.

  • Swing: Fisher-Price Cradle ‘n’ Swing
    • You may already have read about how I was very resistant to getting a swing because our place isn’t very big, and swings take up a lot of room. Buuuut then I actually came home with my baby and realized that physically rocking her and bouncing her and swinging her all the time wasn’t really all that enjoyable when you had to do it for an hour straight. So we shoved our dining room table to the side and made room for the Cradle ‘n’ Swing, which I’d had the opportunity to try out at my sister’s house and Penny tooootally loved. Penny can easily take a 2-3 hour nap in this thing, it’s awesome.

  • Floor Seat: Fisher-Price Sit-Me-Up Floor Seat
    • Like I said above, Penny is at a stage where she absolutely loves sitting up and being able to see and interact with things, but, of course, is still too little to sit up on her own. A friend gave me her Bumbo floor seat, but alas, it didn’t work too well because A) the back doesn’t come up that far so Penny’s head kept falling all the way back, and B) her meaty thighs were already getting stuck in the leg holes, hahahahaha. Enter the Sit-Me-Up. Penny loves it! I still try not to have her in there for more than 10 – 15 minutes at a time as I want her to develop her own sitting up muscles, but it’s a really great way to entertain and exhaust her — the equivalent of holding her in a sitting position on my lap.

 

  • Baby Carrier: Baby K’Tan & LilleBaby All-Seasons Complete
    • So what happens when your baby just won’t tolerate being put down, even in one of the aforementioned boss-ass baby containers? I mean, hey, I get it — they spent nearly 10 months INSIDE US, can you blame them for wanting to remain close? Well, thankfully, there’s babywearing. Strap that baby into a carrier or wrap her up in a sling, and go about your business! I have both a wrap-style carrier and a traditional soft carrier, and like both of them.
    • The Baby K’Tan is like a wrap/sling for cheaters, which makes it perfect for me. It consists of two loops that you can wear like an infinity scarf when not using the carrier, and then you just loop your arms through and pop your baby in when you need to. I used it when flying with Penny by myself and it was sooooo helpful. I also typically use this when I’m wearing her inside the house.
    • I honestly haven’t used my LilleBaby a ton, just a for taking Penny out on a few walks around the neighborhood, but I do really like it. It has six different positions (I think I’ll love it even more once I can start wearing Penny facing out in it), it’s sturdy without being stiff, is highly adjustable and easily accommodates my post-baby belly (this brand came up a lot in my research as being good for plus-sizes), and it comes in the best prints — mine has donuts on it! 😀

CLEAN & HEALTHY:

All right, we’re down to the last category here — things you’ll want to help keep your precious, delicate babe clean and healthy and perfect as can be.

  • NoseFrida: The SnotSucker
    • This thing is FAR superior to the aspirator bulb you’ll get from the hospital at helping babies when they have congestion and a runny nose. Don’t worry, the snot doesn’t end up anywhere near your mouth.
    • I actually got the FridaMom Bitty Bundle of Joy kit which comes with the NoseFrida, extra filters, the MomWasher (awesome for your postpartum down-there care), Nail Clippers, Windi (for gas relief — I gave them to my sister as Alex was a bit gassy / colicky and she said they worked pretty well). I recommend all their products TBH.

  • Baby Bathtub: Schnuggle Bath
    • There are a lot of baby bathtubs out there, and the most common one you’re likely to come across is a long blue tub that goes in your bathtub and a lot of people love. I wasn’t really looking for a reason to be crouching or kneeling next to a bathtub any sooner than I’ll have to, so I opted for the Schnuggle Bath, a bucket-style tub instead that fits in our kitchen sink. This way, I can stand and give her a bath right there, or I can fill it and move it to wherever is convenient to get her squeaky clean.
    • We use Aveeno Baby shampoo, wash, and lotions which have worked out great as well.
  • Little Remedies Gripe Water
    • Sometimes if Penny is just a little extra fussy or upset, a squirt of gripe water is just what she needs to help calm her gas pains or settle her stomach. I’ve tried both the Mama’s Bliss and the Little Remedies brands of gripe water, and prefer the latter just because I like the applicator that comes with it better, but both have worked well for us.

Okay! So there you go, a really ridiculously long list of products that have been officially Penny-tested and Gretchen-approved. But wait, there’s more!

BONUS: FAVE BRANDS IF YOU LOVE LARGE CREDIT CARD BILLS AND EXASPERATED HUSBANDS:

Because sometimes it’s not just about the functionality, it’s about the adorableness?

  • Monica + Andy: Super soft organic baby clothing, blankets, and more with the best prints – unicorns and rainbows and coffee cups and donuts and foxes and I gotta say, I think this is starting to become a bit of an addiction… ::gulp::
  • Cuddle + Kind: Adorable hand-knit dolls with a great cause attached — for every doll sold, 10 meals are given to children in need. They just released a unicorn doll WEARING A RAINBOW SWEATER, so obviously I am now a fan for life.

  • Freshly Picked: Super trendy baby and kid moccasins that are soft, adorable, and really do stay on those squirmy baby feet!
  • L’ovedbaby: Also very soft, organic cotton baby clothing that fits really well.

AAAAAND okay NOW I’m done, I promise. Although I’m pretty sure I’ve still forgotten several items I wanted to mention… Oh well. I’ve been trying to finish this post for like a week, so if there’s a particular item you’re wondering about, just ask! And obviously if you have a die-hard fave item that I didn’t talk about, please please leave a comment letting me know what it is!

For additional product recommendations/help building a baby registry, I’d also highly recommend checking out Lucie’s List. It’s a great starting point for sorting through the insane amount of baby products there are out there, especially for the big stuff — cribs and mattresses, strollers, carseats, etc. I didn’t go into recommendations on these products since so you’ll probably want to do a lot more research on what’ll be a good fit for you functionally, stylistically, and price-wise, but just in case you’re interested, we went with the Chicco Bravo Travel System (comes with the Bravo stroller and the Chicco Keyfit30 carseat + base), the DaVinci Lila 3-in-1 Convertible Crib, and the Colgate Eco Classica III crib mattress.

A Texas Thanksgiving

Howdy, and happy Monday! I hope you all had as great of a Thanksgiving as our little cowgirl! We spent Turkey Day this year in Texas Hill Country where Sean’s uncle has an awesome house, and it was so much fun! We ate barbecue, soaked in the outdoors, had an amazing Thanksgiving meal, ate more barbecue, and spent time with Sean’s whole extended family.

Penny was, naturally, the star of the show, hehe.

 

Penny did great her second time flying (well, at least, she did great on the flight THERE), and I learned the reality that is packing for a week away with an infant (apparently 2 adults + 1 baby = 3 checked bags and 3 carry ons, not including the stroller and carseat.) Even though I’ve traveled with Penny before, going to see my sister and her kiddos is a bit of a different affair when it comes to packing. That big blue suitcase picture above? That’s JUST Penny’s crap, and I still didn’t pack enough burp cloths. -_-

It was all more than worth it though, of course! Sean’s uncle’s place is located in Dripping Springs, Texas, and happens to be a mere stone’s throw away from one of the best barbecue places in aaaaaall the realm: The Salt Lick!

 

This place is pretty famous for its deliciousness (just ask its almost 3,500 Yelp reviews!) and for good reason — their barbecue is serious gold! It’s so good, in fact, that we ended up going twice during our stay, hehe.

Now, I’m sure this comes as a HUGE SHOCK to you all, but I am not exactly what you’d call a country gal. That said, this city slicker can certainly appreciate the beauty of the great outdoors every now and then, and this was definitely one of those times! Sean’s uncle’s house sits on a huge slice of land with walking trails and a great lake and whatnot, and it was really nice taking Penny around the property — I mean, even if she did just sleep through it all, at least she was getting lots of fresh air.

Sean’s brother is a photographer, and snapped tons of great shots in addition to the zillion I have on my phone, so we definitely have our first REAL family trip appropriately documented!

And it was definitely a special week indeed, because aside from it being Penny’s first Thanksgiving, it was also her first time meeting all of Sean’s extended family — her great-grandmother included! She did awesomely meeting so many people and experiencing so many new sights and sounds. Everyone kept telling us what a good baby she is, which we are very aware of and is definitely one of the things we are super thankful for (in addition to, you know, just being thankful for her existence in general!)

 

Yep, that makes for four generations of Foxes represented at the Thanksgiving table. 🙂

And speaking of Thanksgiving itself, let’s talk about the fooooood!

There were TWENTY-FOUR people altogether for Thanksgiving this year, which made for a crazy amount of food. The spread was so intense and impressive that I didn’t even remember to take a picture of the entire smorgasbord, which included not one, not two, but THREE different kinds of turkey (roasted, smoked, and deep-fried, heheheheheh.) I did, however, at least manage to snag some snaps of the three dishes that Sean and I contributed: maple & bacon roasted brussels sprouts, mac ‘n’ cheese, and loaded mashed potatoes.

  

There was also stuffing, bourbon glazed carrots, green beans, sweet potatoes, corn, cranberry sauce, Irish beer rolls, and pies galore: apple, chocolate, coconut creme, pumpkin, and pecan if I’m not mistaken. I KNOW. My mouth is literally filling up with saliva just thinking back on it all. ::drool::

Sean’s aunt, who was crazy generous with us all weekend (she gifted us with the amazing cowgirl outfit pictured above, amongst many other amazing things to honor Penny’s quarter-Texan roots, heh), also thought to bring a reclinable high chair to the ranch so that Penny could join us at the table on Thanksgiving.

 

Turns out, Penny found the chair so comfortable, she napped straight through the meal in it! Kiiiinda makes me want to buy this specific highchair for her now, even though we totally already have one. Because what we need is more baby junk, right?

But hey, turns out some of that baby junk was absolutely ESSENTIAL on this trip! After getting to 5-6 hour stretches of sleep pretty regularly at home, I was convinced that it would all go to hell and Penny would sleep horribly on the trip. I mean, with the travel, being in a new place, there being so many new people, etc, who would’ve blamed her, right?

But it turns out our fears were all for nothing. In addition to the high chair, Sean’s aunt was also kind enough to bring a pack ‘n’ play up to the ranch for Penny, so we just tucked her into her Baby Merlin Magic Sleepsuit, and she slept like a rockstar! She didn’t sleep quite as long as she had been at home, but she did 4.5 hours the first night and then 5-5.5 each night after that, which was far better than I could’ve hoped.

 

We also brought the DockATot with us, and I was really glad we did even though she didn’t sleep in it at night. It was soooo convenient being able to tote it around the house and be able to have a place to put her down. After all, we were without all the rest of our baby containers — her swing, her floor seat, her activity gym — so it was great to just be able to bring the DAT with us from room to room as needed.

 

So yes, a fabulous trip where Penny was able to get in touch with her Texan roots and I was able to eat my bodyweight in various kinds of meat. A successful trip, wouldn’t you say?

 

Alas, the fun had to stop at some point, and Penny was unfortunately a lot fussier on the plane ride home from Texas than she was on the way there. I also developed quite a nasty cold on the last day of our trip, and sadly it looks like Penny has gotten sick too! She is quite congested and has a runny nose that I’ve been NoseFrida-ing like crazy, and she had a low-grade fever last night. This morning she’s back to her happy little self and her fever’s back down though, so fingers crossed things remain that way…!

Hope everyone has an easy week getting back into the swing of things work-wise. I have just under three weeks until I’m back at work myself! Hopefully I can kick this cold soon so that I can enjoy every last minute of my maternity leave. And at least if I have to be going back to work, I’m going back during the BEST TIME OF THE YEAR!

Yep, we had a great trip, and Thanksgiving is fun and delicious and all, but let’s be real: in the end isn’t it really just the final barrier standing between me and Christmas?

So let the holiday music play, folks, it’s CHRISTMAS SEASON! And I gotta tell you, if you thought I was being extra with Penny’s first Thanksgiving or Halloween… just you wait, just you wait.

Penny’s First Halloween

So Halloween had kind of been losing its luster for me over the past few years. In my early twenties, I got SO JAZZED for Halloween: throwing parties, coordinating group costumes, doing the whole shebang. But, y’know, time passes and we all get old and lazy and my Halloweens of late have been a lot more about eating all the candy that I definitely, 100% got for the trick-or-treaters and not for eating in my pajamas with some kind of animal-ear headband on (only like, six kids ever come to our house, lol.)

But I won’t lie, Halloween with a baby — even one still firmly ensconced in the useless-lump-of-a-human category, like Penny — is like 1000x more fun!

Even though the only plans we have for today are lunch with a friend and going for our two-month pediatrician’s appointment (which means SHOTS! 🙁 🙁 🙁 ) everything is made just a smidgen better because Penny can be in costume, lol.

We took her unicorn costume for a test spin last week when we went to Spooky Tots at Fairfax Corner, where I got to coo and aww over all the adorable toddlers trick or treating in their costumes, while other parents appropriately cooed and awwed over Penny (something I never could have known prior to, y’know, having one, is just how much random stranger in the world flippin’ love babies, man!)

 
And because one costume is simply not ever enough, I also picked up the most amazing Bubble Tea outfit from BuzzBearStudio on Etsy — is she not the most delicious? 😀

Happy Halloween, friends!

Engagement Paparazzi

I gotta say, one of the real perks of having a wedding photographer duo as your brother and sister-in-law is a lightning quick turnaround time on your engagement photos, hehe.

 

That’s riiiiight, our engagement photos from Taylor & Ben are back, and I’m in lovelovelove! So many great shots of Sean and me together!

See, whereas I basically put my entire life on the interwebs for all to watch, observer, and comment on, Sean, um, doesn’t. He changes his Facebook profile photo like once every other year, the only thing even close to social media that he participates in is Reddit (and even then, he mainly lurks, never comments). What this all equates to is a high level of resistance to the number of selfies I try to take of us. In fact, trying to get him to pose for a photo with me often results in, well:

Heh. So, imagine how wonderful it was for me to have a built-in excuse to take a plethora of pictures together with him! He was a very good sport about the entire thing, putting up with an outfit change (we literally changed in the street, hahaha) and multiple locations. Although, to be fair, he certainly got his jollies out of the whole experience too — telling me I had an imaginary bug in my hair, or bear-hugging the crap outta me, for example.

Of course, that being said, I was not without a few bloopers of my own, hehe:

Is it weird that these are some of my favorite ones? 😛

We shot our photos outside the US Botanical Gardens, as well as at Blind Whino, this really cool old church-turned-art gallery/event space in SE DC.

 
Now, it’s admittedly very difficult for me not to be super critical of myself in every photo, zeroing in on flaws that I imagine nobody else really cares about. Even with all of my preaching about loving thyself no matter your pant size, body love, and whatnot (all of which I really do believe!), I am still my own worst critic.

But I think having these photos taken is genuinely helping me live those things. I love these pictures — I love what they represent, what they portray, and I even love the way I look in them. I feel like they really showcase how truly happy I feel (cheesy, I know, but true!). Do I still wish that I didn’t have a back roll in one picture, or that my chin was jutted a little further out in another? Sure, but not enough to make me stop loving each photo nonetheless.

These pictures are a true, perfectly imperfect account of who I am now. The me that is getting to marry the man that I love. And I would much rather show the photos off than hide them away just because I don’t like the way a certain specific part of my body might be looking.

Anyway, enough with the heavy. Back to how much I freaking love the photos we took at Blind Whino! So colorful, despite the chain-link fence surrounding the building that I definitely did not realize would be there, hahaha.

 

As an extra bonus, the building is located in this really quiet neighborhood in DC, so we were able to get a few street/crosswalk shots as well! I loved the way the trees arched over this street. Made for a pretty perfect picture, I tell ya.

Also, a fun thing about shooting photos in the middle of the street is that you will get people shouting “Congratulations!” from their cars as they drive by, hahaha!

Engagement Shoot solo pictures together

I was superextraspecial excited (hard to imagine something beyond my normal level of excitement, I know, but it’s true!) to get these photos back because I have been chomping at the bit to send out our Save the Dates!

I know that January is still relatively far off, but since we have a lot of friends and family from out of town, plus with the proximity to the holidays, I want to give people as much notice as possible. Plus, I think I’m just looking to how official it’ll feel to have something printed with our wedding date on it, y’know?

Not without difficulty, we have narrowed down the Save the Date photo to these three, and I’d love your input! I definitely want to use a photo with the ampersand in it, so what do you think of the following? 1, 2, or 3?

I love all color going on in #1, but the overall image of #2 seems more striking. And while part of me thinks that #3 might be a little silly, well, so I am. So it’s definitely the most personality-ish one. Anyway, I’d love to hear your thoughts! I’m like 99% positive we’ll be doing a magnet Save the Date if that makes any difference.

I also can’t wait to get some of these photos uploaded to the wedding website that I’ve been working on! And to replace basically every profile photo I’ve ever had on any website ever. And to make it my phone wallpaper. And computer screensaver. And basically just pore over them obsessively forever and ever and ever and… okay, I should really go.

‘Til next time!

Gown Hunt: Plus-Size Edition

So, as you may have already seen, I said “Yes!” to my wedding dress a couple of weeks ago. In fact, it was the very first major wedding decision that I made, go figure! One thing to immediately check off the Wedding To-Do list, hehe.

Now, I know that for many people, buying your dress before you even have your venue or date solidified is a little bit crazypants, and I didn’t necessarily intend to have my decision made so early on, but that being said, it wasn’t a quick decision either. It took visiting quite a few different salon visits and trying on just a few different dresses before I made my decision, so I’m glad I got started early.

Now, for those of you who may be hoping for a fairytale story all about how I tried on The Dress, knew immediately, cried, and it was all over, I hate to disappoint you, but that’s not exactly how it went for me. I mean, I did find The Dress, and there were tears (eventually), but it didn’t exactly go down the way you see it on TV.

I was actually pretty anxious about the dress-buying process, due to a combination of my love of designer wedding dresses and the fact that I am most definitely NOT a sample size. See, unless you’re shopping exclusively at big box stores like Kleinfeld’s or David’s Bridal (or at a salon that specializes in plus-size gowns), sample sizes dresses are what you have to work with. And for those of us ladies with a little more to love, the wedding dress samples in bridal salons will almost certainly NOT be your size.

Allow me to elaborate for those of you who might not be familiar with the process. Bridal salons usually own dresses in one size, and that size is usually a “wedding” size 10 or 12. Which, in real life, equals about a street size 6 or 8. (How cruel is that, by the way? C’mon, wedding industry! How about a little vanity sizing, eh?)

Soooo, what this means is that if you’re smaller than the sample size, when you try on a dress, your consultant will use clamps and pins to pull in the dress to make it fit closer to your body.

And for someone on the other side, when the sample is too small, the salon will use clamps and pins to clip the dress to your bra, or use other means of securing it, since it won’t be able to zip up all the way.

But what did this mean for someone who is a size 16, like me? Well, it meant that I was admittedly pretty nervous going into the whole dress shopping experience, that’s what. After all, what if I would be physically unable to try on the dresses I liked? You hear horror stories about plus-sized brides going dress shopping and having to do things like hold the dress up in front of them to “get an idea,” since they can’t actually put it on. I was definitely not excited about that prospect.

Complicating things further was the fact that I knew dress shopping wouldn’t exactly be a “classic” experience for me. You know, the kind that you see on SYTTD, where you go in and tell the consultant some things you like, and they pull dresses for you. Stuff like, “I like lace, I don’t like beading, I’m open to a mermaid-style silhouette,” and all that.

But I’ve spent so much time reading blogs, watching TLC, and generally being a crazyperson, that I already knew specifically which dresses I wanted to try — Hayley Paige Dori, Lazaro 3450, Jim Hjlem 8500, Monique Lhullier Bliss ballgown, and so on. So I actually chose bridal salons to visit based on whether or not they carried those gowns (most salons list what designers they carry on their website, so I just called to ask if they had those specific gowns.) Which also meant that I wasn’t able to simply go to a plus-sized bridal atelier to find my gown, because the two that are in this area don’t carry the dresses that I wanted to see.

Anyway, knowing that I loved certain gowns but being unsure as to whether or not I’d actually be able to try them on, one of the first things that I did was make an impromptu solo visit to David’s Bridal (where the above photos were taken as well.) I wanted to be able to try on some different shapes and silhouettes, since they do carry most of their dresses in larger sizes (and they also go by normal sizing there — I tried on dresses that were primarily sizes 14 – 18.)

While I already had a pretty good idea of what I wanted, this appointment definitely confirmed the silhouettes I liked (A-line and ballgown):

Versus those that, well, just were simply not as flattering (pretty much anything else, haha):

None of the DB dresses I tried ended up being “the One,” (the Melissa Sweet in the upper left corner of the first collage was the one I liked best), and even if I had fallen in love that day, I knew I wouldn’t have been able to commit without first being able to see the other dresses that I already had in mind. So, armed with some knowledge of how different shapes looked on my body, and a lot of hope, I made my bridal salon appointments.

And, lo and behold… the dresses fit!

Lazaro 3450

Sort of!

This Lazaro blew my mind with its ombre skirt, but was reeeeeeally far outside of my budget, womp womp.

I mean, obviously they didn’t fit. But, amazing, miraculously, astonishingly, I was able to get on every dress I had my eye on — with a bit of finagling, of course. They were barely able to zip up at all, so the bodices were basically left totally open in the back and all had to be pinned/clamped on. But! I was able to get a real idea of how the dresses would look… with just a little of imagination needed to reassure my mom that my boobs will (hopefully) not be spilling out of my dress once it’s in my size. Heh.

Now, I do think that it just happened to be good fortune that the silhouette I loved was also the easiest for me to try on (since the size of my hips/butt doesn’t really matter with ballgowns), but if I had been looking for a more fitted style, I would probably have been SOL.

Anyway, from there on out, it was basically just a matter of trying on the, um, not small number of dresses that I had my greedy eyes on, hahaha.

Clockwise from top: Lazaro 3108, Hayley Paige Londyn, Monique Lhullier Bliss ballgown, Hayley Paige Dori (white), Jim Hjelm 8500, Hayley Paige Dori (alabaster)

And I did also try on additional dresses that the consultants recommended, some of which I also really liked:

Clockwise from top: Lazaro 3018, Watters Carina bodice and Ahsan skirt, Hayley Paige Lennon (omg this sample was so small), Lazaro 3100

So yeah, as if I hadn’t been annoying enough throughout the dress-buying process, as it turned out, I basically loved every single dress I tried on. Oops. So trying on dresses turned out to be more like a process of elimination rather than a “This is the one!” kind of experience.

I was able to say goodbye to some because they were too expensive (the easiest way to eliminate options, haha), some because they didn’t feel quite “bridal” enough (though I still looooved the gowns), and some just didn’t have quite the “unique” factor that I was looking for. And eventually I narrowed down my choices to just two dresses!

I actually ended up trying on both of my final contenders multiple times because I was so enamoured with them both, and had a pretty difficult time deciding between the two of them because they were so different. Which, I know, sounds super cliche, but it’s true! They have totally different aesthetics and general feel, even if the silhouette is similar.

We did do our own little version of “jacking me up” (as Monty from SYTTD Atlanta puts it, haha), with the whole veil/belt/hairpiece reveal and, I am happy to report, that I did finally have my tearful reaction (hooray!) to one dress in particular. But I was still torn because while I did have that visceral reaction to one dress, I kept thinking that the other dress was more in-keeping with the overall theme and vision for the wedding.

So I left the final bridal appointment having decided not to decide just yet. I wanted to take the weekend to think about it, and I’m definitely glad that I did because…

… as you probably already suspected, eventually a decision was made! Turns out that over the weekend, I couldn’t get one dress out of my mind (the one I ended up crying for), and I knew that was probably a pretty good sign. So, I headed back to the salon and officially made my purchase!

I won’t be revealing my dress here on the blog on the off-chance that Sean suddenly decides to start reading here (he doesn’t normally follow my blog, but you never know…), but I will share with you what the runner-up was:

Hayley Paige Josie

The Hayley Paige Josie was in close, close contention for being my wedding dress, due to it’s incredible fully beaded bodice (these pictures really don’t do it justice) and beautiful color (it comes in both white and moonstone.) I also thought it had a really glamorous feel, which fit very well with the overall wedding vibe I was thinking of.

Ultimately, though, I decided that this dress had so much wow-factor, it was almost overwhelming. I also thought it would be harder to accessorize with, since the bodice of the dress is already so blingy. And when it came down to it, the dress I chose just felt entirely more “me,” which definitely makes it feel like the right choice.

So, I put my deposit down and couldn’t be happier with my decision! The agonizing part now is going to be waiting for it to come in! Designer dresses can take anywhere from three to six months to come in, and then have another month or two of alterations after that. Whew!

It does bear mentioning that I had to pay a “size surcharge” on top of the cost of the dress, which, let me tell you, didn’t feel super great. Apparently with Hayley Paige any dress over a bridal size 18 come with an extra fee. Which, I gotta say, does kind of feel like BS to me, because you could be a street size 10 or 12 and still have to order a bridal size 18 depending on your measurements.

See, to be safe, wedding dresses are usually ordered based on the size that matches your largest measurement (since it is infinitely easier to take in a dress over letting it out.) Actually, that was a bit of a dilemma in and of itself, because my hips measured several sizes above my waist, but the consultant said that it should be fine to order the dress based on the smaller size because of the silhouette. Anyway, what’s done is done with regard to paying the fat tax surcharge, and I’m still happy with my choice. It just wasn’t the most self-esteem boosting part of the experience, haha.

So there you have it! My “I Found the Gown” experience from beginning to end. Well, from beginning until I get it in my hands, and then the alterations process can begin, haha. Hopefully, I was able to accurately portray my gown shopping experience. There aren’t a ton of resources out there on what dress shopping is like for a plus-size bride in general, let alone for someone who has as, ahem, particular tastes as me, so I’m hoping this will be a helpful accounting for at least one other person out there? And if not, at least I got to post a lot of pictures of gorgeous dresses, so that’s fun. 😛

What was your gown shopping experience like? And what did your wedding dress look like?