Blaise’s Birth Story + Our Fresh 48 with Allison Wolf

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Allison Wolf Photography

Happy Six Months Baby B! You are the chunkiest chunk of love that God has given your dad and I, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. You’re 3x bigger than you were when you were born. And while that makes me a teeny bit sad because you’re getting big so fast, I’ll never take a chubby baby for granted.

Six months later I’ve given a lot of thought to Blaise’s birth story and why it was so difficult for me to write it.

Expectation, comparison and judgment were the key mental blocks I had, and what kept me from accepting the circumstances surrounding Blaise’s birth. Both comparison to my other births as well as to other women’s birth stories, and the judgments that society has of certain aspects of birth. Quite frankly; having cancer has changed my perspective so much and really, I am just SO grateful to have a healthy baby.

I think that there is a lot of judgment in motherhood, especially on social media, that has played a part in how I felt about this birth. I felt like a failure because my birth wasn’t what I wanted or expected. The fact: no matter how it happened, I brought new life into the world. I carried him in my womb for 39 weeks. How is that a failure? In Spanish, to give birth is “dar a Luz,” which literally translated is actually to “give a light.” That’s kind of amazing, and true: every child is a light brought into this world for a purpose.

But for weeks I felt like my birth was a failure and that I wanted a do-over. I kept thinking about how I could have changed it or what I could have done to change it, which is pretty ridiculous because really it is what it is and the idea of a multiverse won’t do me any good. Let me give you some backstory here.

Mathias’ birth was a pushing marathon; I pushed for four hours and because he had pooped in his bag and because I was bleeding a lot, I didn’t get to hold him right away. My heart goes out to all of the mothers whose babies get rushed to the NICU and can’t hold them for days, because even a few hours was awful for me. His birth was traumatic, and there were several distinct thoughts I had during his birth, including: “I’m never having any more kids,” “I feel like I’m dying” and “I want a c-section.” I pushed for so long because I refused to get an episiotomy, and my midwife told me I didn’t need one and we could get him out without needing to do it. This plays an important role in my birthing psychology.

Livia’s birth was the opposite of Mathias’. I was induced at 39+2 because I was already 5 cm and fully effaced and my sister in law was in town to babysit only until the end of the weekend. After the traumatic birth I had, I wanted as much control over Liv’s birth as possible, meaning: my midwife and my husband present and not having to worry about Mathias during that time. They started me on a slow drip of pitocin which didn’t really help my contractions progress, but once they broke my water I dilated the rest of the way and pushed Livia out in 45 minutes. My labor was fast and furious; for whatever reason my epidural didn’t kick in and I experienced the ring of fire. But I pushed four times and pulled her out onto my chest, and laid and nursed her successfully. It was everything I had wanted; to pull her out on my own terms, to have a hungry baby who had the right instincts to nurse, to not tear at all in delivery. She was my redemption birth.

So after two polar opposite births, my expectations were high. I expected to fly through labor again, to not tear, to have that beautiful moment of reaching down and retrieving my baby from my womb and placing him on my victorious body. I had all of the signs that it would be a fast and easy delivery; I had been contracting my whole third trimester and was four centimeters dilated at my 38 week appointment. A few days before he was born, the ultrasound technician measured Blaise around 6 and a half pounds. No sweat.

The evening of February 22nd I knew that labor was imminent. First – Lucas and I were fighting, which is the perfect time to go into labor (#sarcasm). Second – every 30 minutes or so I would have a super painful contraction and had to go to the bathroom. This continues through the night, and I kept going back to bed expecting to wake up in full-blown labor. Instead, I woke up to a steady stream of contractions increasingly close together, but no more painful. I was 39 weeks exactly.

Lucas had to go downtown to work a huge Home Show, and told me that either we go to the hospital or that I could call him whenever I thought I was close to having the baby and we’d rush to the hospital again. Not wanting to deal with my kids while having bothersome contractions and afraid of going into labor alone or at home (no offense to home birthers – but having the possibility of another special needs baby it is not a responsible option for me or for my child) I chose to go in, despite my pain level not being very high. I even told Lucas to stop at the gas station so he could get himself snacks.

When they checked me I was 6 cm dilated and contracting 3-4 minutes apart. Should be no time at all, they said. So I sat on a yoga ball and chatted with my husband for an hour, two hours, with no chance at all. Then my midwife arrived and asked me if I’d like to just break my water to “get the show on the road.” My midwife, Anna, has delivered all three of my babies and I’m so blessed to have had her on my team. I know a lot of women don’t even get their OB to deliver once. But Anna is as much a doula as a midwife and I called her cell when I decided to go into the hospital. She’s the best. She remembered that with Livia all it took was for my water to break to fly into labor. So I said let’s do it.

My water broke in a huge gush that continued to spill out for several minutes after I thought it was over. At 7 centimeters, my midwife suggested to get an epidural before the pain was too high for me to sit through. I hesitated; Lucas looked at me and asked if I wanted to try to do it naturally. I said nah let’s just get this over with – and waited for the epidural.

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It took nearly 45 minutes to get my epidural because of some missing equipment, and in that time I hadn’t progressed at all. It was just taking SO LONG.

Once the epidural was placed, the nurse assigned to me asked me if I’d like to do some spinning babies techniques to try and help Blaise move along. I said yes, and so for an hour I rotated from side to side, peanut between my legs, stretching and trying to get this baby (who for so long seemed like he wanted to come out early) to finish the job. As a baby moves down towards the birth canal, they kind of nose-dive from your front to back. Blaise seemed determine to stay in the front and push down on the wrong place. 

During this time, things started to get increasingly more painful. I’m not talking about pressure – I’m talking about searing, intense pain, and contractions that made my eyes water. On multiple occasions Lucas told me to hit the epidural button to get more juice; I ignored him the first few times and succumbed one or two more times. Because my epidural was so dense with Mathias I couldn’t feel a damn thing and I didn’t want that to happen again; so I try to take it easy with the anesthesia. My ideal epidural: one that takes the edge off, but isn’t so thick that I can’t tell what’s going on with my body. It was at ten centimeters that Lucas asked if he could press the button for me, and I succumbed through tears. 

“It’s disconnected.”

What?!

So epidurals work like this: the anesthesiologist places a catheter through the needle into your back. The needle is taken out, but the catheter stays in place to provide more medicine as you need it. It’s not like an IV drip; it’s controlled by a machine and you can hit a button to inject more anesthesia as you need it. It was over two hours from the time the epidural was first connected to when I needed to start pushing, and since I had a walking epidural the whole time (total control of my legs) I didn’t realize what had happened; I just thought that the pain was getting worse. In reality: the wire that connected to the machine had disconnected and I hadn’t gotten any epidural juice since my first injection, which explained the intense amount of pain I had felt as Blaise moved down into the birth canal. 

The anesthesiologist was called into the room and after the machine was back in order he told me that I could hit the button and get more anesthesia, but that it might not kick in until after I had the baby. I didn’t care. I pressed it anyway, hoping for some amount of relief.

My midwife got her gloves on and we got ready for me to push. I pushed twice and she told me –

“You’re a great pusher. One more push and his head will be out.”

His head was out in the next push.

There was a variety of exclamations and I was told to push one more time to get the rest of his body out. I pushed. Once, twice, for longer than I pushed to get his head out. I pushed as hard as I could and nothing was changing. The sounds around me changed from excitement to an anxious cacophony as Anna attempted to pull the baby out while I pushed. Lucas’ face was concerned as urged me to push faster and that the baby’s face was turning blue. The baby hadn’t cried. NICU had arrived in the room, ready for the worst. All this in what felt like seconds. 

“Faith, she’s cutting you, she has to cut you -” Lucas stammered, wide eyed, torn between watching me and watching what was going on. “She cut you.”

The baby gave a weak cry and was passed immediately to the NICU team. They had to check to see if they had broken anything. He had gotten stuck at his shoulders, Lucas explained to me. There was nothing I could do, he was really that stuck. He was really big. Over 8 pounds! Bigger than my previous babies, a week ahead of schedule. And he was ok.

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I laid back, exhausted, upset that I couldn’t hold my baby. Lucas checked his toes and said they were normal; 93% of children with Smith Lemli Opitz Syndrome have second and third conjoined toes (it was the key to discovering that Mathias had SLOS) and since we don’t do genetic testing in utero this is the closest way to get an immediate answer. Sidebar: for those who are wondering, there’s only one way to know if the baby has SLOS in utero, which is an amniocentesis. Amnios are done after 20 weeks but there are some risks associated with it and according to Mathias’ geneticist the results are inconclusive for SLOS babies. To be completely honest: it doesn’t matter to me. We’re having the babies we have regardless of their genetic makeup. Liv and Blaise were both tested via cord blood testing after they were born, and they are both carriers (like myself and Lucas). But I knew right away with both of them that they didn’t have SLOS because they were able to latch and were obviously hungry from the moment they were put on my chest.

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I told the team too late to not wipe Blaise down, my mind focused on my midwife stitching me up. Lucas told me I had a full episiotomy. Emotionally destroyed, I asked Anna how many stitches I needed. Her answer: “a lot.” 

We named him faster than either of our other kids. “He has to be Blaise.” Lucas said. “He got stuck at his neck.”

We had a few names that we’d tossed around for a while, but Blaise and Liam were our top two. St. Blaise is the patron saint of the throat and it was too appropriate.

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When they handed me my new baby he nursed right away. My mind drifted between the present situation and the fact that I had failed. That’s how I saw my birth. A failure. A failure because it took so long; a failure because it didn’t go according to plan; a failure because I had an episiotomy. The reason I pushed for four hours with Mathias, thrown out the window. My previous two births had left me with a total of one stitch. Now – one long scar, where no woman should have to have one.

I couldn’t, wouldn’t accept it. I kept replaying the day in my head, telling myself that if I had gone in later, or waited longer, or gotten more exercise, maybe this wouldn’t have happened the way it had. 

I had totally different expectations. I thought I would have a fast labor, with minimal pushing and no tearing because that’s how Livia was (and frankly, that’s how Mathias was too, minus the four hours of pushing). But nope. That wasn’t the case. 

I was so upset about it and I think I needed my body to fully heal before I could accept it. Healing was awful, and it was by far my worst recovery. And in my obsession with my failure – which was completely out of my control and totally necessary, as my husband and my midwife repeatedly assured me – I lost focus on the good and how happy I should have been to have a healthy, hungry baby.

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Because at the end of the day, that’s what matters, right? That my baby isn’t just healthy, but thriving. Before Mathias, I took the health of my children for granted. Before cancer, I took my own health for granted. It is not guaranteed. It is not something to take for granted. So today that is what I am so grateful for: that this baby was born healthy and full of life.

Blaise is my happiest and easiest baby. He is constantly being shown love by  both of his siblings – something that I didn’t imagine was possible. Mathias ignored Livia for the majority of her infancy but he has grown so much since then and he shows Blaise affection at least five times a day. Livia is a little mamacita whose first word every morning is “Blaise?” when I go to take her out of her crib. The amount of love that I felt from my toddlers when they met their baby brother far exceeds anything I’ve ever felt from them before. It was a magical moment and I’m so grateful that Allison Wolf was there to capture all of those first moments with them less than 24 hours after Blaise was born!

Father’s Day Gift Guide + A Peek inside Lighthouse Woodworks

Collaborations, Uncategorized

Lucas and I met in 2012. Our relationship was long-distance, which gave us plenty of time to talk about anything and everything. One thing that Lucas told me at the age of 25? “I never want to own my own business.” Well, five years later, Lucas started a business with a lifelong friend of his and hasn’t looked back.

Owning a small business has changed our lives. We’ve had our ups and downs and a lot – a whole dang lot – of late nights, but we can’t deny that starting Lighthouse Woodworks has been the greatest thing to happen to our family besides having kids. In two years Lighthouse outgrew their original space and has acquired an additional two offices, two shop spaces and a showroom!

Our kids have been a driving force behind Lucas and his partner Daniel – in the time that they’ve been full-time, we’ve added four babies to our families! Being dads is such a huge part of who they are and I wanted to gift something to Lucas this Father’s Day that would be both special AND practical! A lot of times I end up gifting things that are sentimental (hello, Enneagram 2 over here) and they only get taken out on special occasions. I teamed up with Rustico to gift Lucas this awesome Journeyman Apron and wanted to give you some other handcrafted and functional leather gift ideas for the dads in your life!

For the Fisherman

Rustico’s Leather Fishing Log is a perfect gift for the fisherman in your life! Lucas loves fishing (I would call it a summer obsession, actually) and thought that this would be a really cool gift – think he’s trying to hint something? It’s handcrafted out of top-grain leather and made in Utah.

If your guy is into Fly Fishing, Rustico also makes this unique Book of Flies that is designed to hold up to 20 flies! It’s felt-lined on the inside and the outside is that same buttery Top-Grain as the Fishing Log and comes in a bunch of different colors!

If you can’t make up your mind, Rustico sells this On the Fly Gift Set so that you can purchase (and personalize) both!

For the Beard Aficionado

Ah, Beards. A source of pride for many husbands, the length of which may be a source of conflict between husband and wife… well, if he’s gonna let it grow, beard care is key! This Beard Grooming Kit comes with all the essentials and a gorgeous leather pouch to house all those products.

For the Businessman

Why should women get all the fun when it comes to bags? This Surveyor Leather Messenger Bag is perfect for the working professional, made with full-grain cowhide leather and designed with plenty of pockets for organization. It has antique brass hardware and can fit up to a 15″ laptop!

This Knox Bifold Leather Wallet has a sleek and minimal design; it’s a classic gift that will last for years.

For the Carpenter

The Waxed Canvas Journeyman Apron is such an awesome, functional gift for the maker in your life! I cannot say enough about how great it is. It’s made of waxed canvas and has multiple leather pockets, great for storing small craftsman’s tools.

The canvas and top-grain leather will show some wear over time but according to the use each artisan puts it to, so it’ll age rustically to tell the story of each person’s craft. It’s durable and has a beautiful design. It also comes in a variety of canvas and leather color options so it’s super customizable!

I’m biased but I think Lucas looks pretty dang good in his.

For the Beer Lover

This Beer Taster’s Gift Set is perfect for the craft brewer or beer lover! Just beer isn’t usually special enough for a gift…but pair it with this leather beer log, miner mug and leather coasters and it’s definitely something he’ll use and love!

Lucas’ Picks

Lucas is a huge fan of this Phoenix Copper Water Bottle; he said that he’d love to take this camping or fishing and I agree that it is pretty dang cool.

Lucas was also really into this Epoch Apple Watch Band – he wears his Apple Watch everyday! Lucas loves watches and I actually can’t believe I didn’t think of gifting this to him. Don’t be surprised if he ends up with one of these.

Every guy needs one good leather belt, and Lucas has been wearing the same one for seven years. It’s about time he gets a new one (as he pointed out to me) and this attractive, minimal leather belt is exactly what he has in mind. Rustico’s Leather Men’s Belt comes with nickel or brass hardware and comes in four colors.

Rustico has so many great products and their website actually organizes gift ideas into different categories too, so if you haven’t found something you love on this list, you definitely will on their site!

Thanks so much Rustico for gifting this Apron to us! *This product is gifted but all ideas are my own.*

A Non-Definitive Guide to Boston Beaches, Part 1

Adventures, Cities, Uncategorized

Nantasket Beach, Hull MA.

This is our fourth summer living in Boston! Every year summer rolls around and the question arises: “which beach should we go to?”

Lucas and I have differences of opinion; Lucas has two priorities: location and parking. He never wants to go very far. Firstly because we usually go in the afternoon, and secondly because we don’t know how the kids are going to behave that day which means if they’re not in the mood for the beach it’s a waste of time to drive for an hour just to leave an hour later. Lucas is from Denver which means that it still irks him that we have to pay for parking everywhere and doesn’t like having to walk very far from a parking spot to our destination (although, I think this is true for all people). He’s a very practical person. I am less practical, especially when it comes to beaches. My opinion is that I’d rather drive a little longer if that means the beach is much nicer! I also care less about parking, but maybe that’s because I am not the one who’s stuck carrying everything (sorry, Lucas).

With that in mind, here are some universal truths about all the beaches I have thus encountered in Boston.

  • The water is cold. Even in August.
  • You’re not finding a beach that makes you feel like you’re in Key West, sorry.
  • If you have a toddler between the ages of 6 months – 2 years you will change at least two sandy 💩 diapers per child.

Disclaimer: I am not a beach expert, just a mom living in Boston who has spent a lot of time thinking about which beach to go to!

Here are some of our most frequently visited beaches along with their pros and cons.

Nantasket Beach, Hull MA.

Nantasket Beach

Nantasket is a 30 minute drive from Boston and about 45 minutes from Eastie where we live! I’m gonna be honest: I do not like driving to the south shore. Not because there’s anything wrong with it, but because I dislike driving through the tunnel and the city when there are plenty of beaches on this side of Boston. However, if you’re already on that side of the tunnel – this is a worthwhile trip!

Pros: It is a good, family beach. It’s pretty clean, has ample parking (although depending on how busy it is, you may need to pay for parking – going on Memorial Day weekend meant it was packed and we had to splurge $20 to park in a grassy lot) and the water is clean! The sand is also pretty soft and fine.

This beach is located in a great beach town – there are quite a few bars, restaurants and ice cream shops in beachfront locations or walking distance from the beach. This is something a lot of beaches are lacking in and around Boston and something I don’t take for granted.

Also – and this could be a fluke, since we have only been here a few times – this beach has some serious waves! We saw a dozen or so surfers this weekend, while most beaches in Boston don’t get that kind of action.

Depending on where on the beach you park your fam, you can also go fishing – which is something my husband considers important.

Cons:

It’s a good beach and people know it – so it’s packed. Like, really packed. More than once one of the kids wandered into someone else’s space and you really need to stay on top of them – no wandering at this beach!

Another con – the tide! High tide reaches almost to the rocks, which pushed people out of the beach and squeezed them even closer together.

Bucket or Fuckit?

Bucket.

Winthrop Beach, Winthrop MA.

Winthrop Beach

I think Winthrop Beach is a hidden gem. Located in Winthrop, MA, this beach is tucked away from tourists and city dwellers, thanks to a lack of T stops near this beach. It’s mostly all locals and I don’t think they want to share.

Baby Mathias @ Winthrop Beach. You’re welcome.

Pros:

This is another clean, pretty beach, with fine sand and a vast beach – you’re not getting pushed off the beach from the tide at any time of the day. It’s quiet and family-oriented, and pretty empty during the week. Next to no waves makes this beach safe for your littles to hop into the water, which you can do with peace of mind; Winthrop Beach had one of the highest water cleanliness ratings in 2019, with a perfect score of 100%.

Nearby Deer Island has great fishing, with lots of striper bass; my husband and a friend caught two a few days ago.

Cons:

Parking is a big problem over here, especially if you plan on coming on the weekend. This is a big pain in the 🍑.

There’s also no shops or restaurants close enough to walk to, so pack a lunch or bring snacks!

Bucket or Fuckit?

If you only have access to public transportation or are going on the weekend, fuckit. But if you’re a mom looking for a quiet beach? Bucket.

Baby Liv @ Constitution Beach, East Boston MA.

Constitution Beach

Constitution Beach is a year-round favorite of ours thanks to a really awesome playground that they have (it frequents my stories). It isn’t the *best* beach but it’s a few minutes away from us and right next to the Wood Island T stop. Other bonus features? A concession stand, tennis, handball and basketball courts, and an ice skating rink.

Pros:

Everything I mentioned above, plus tons of free parking! This is a good all-around, family-centered beach. Plus, this is another beach that had great water cleanliness scores this year, with a 95% cleanliness rating.

Cons:

This beach is not a place for conversation, thanks to its location. You can see and hear planes landing and taking off at Boston Logan, which sits right across from the beach. Here’s a picture from the winter where you can see the planes pretty clearly.

The sand here isn’t the greatest, but the beach itself is clean.

Overall though? This is such a good place for a family outing!

If you’re local – bucket.

Revere Beach, Revere MA.

Revere Beach

Revere Beach has a bad rep. I think anyone from Boston (or who has lived in Boston for a few years) turns their nose up at Revere Beach, which is kind of the Coney Island of Boston. The oldest public beach in the states (est. 1896), this beach is probably the most busy beach closest to the city.

Lucas and I feel very differently about this beach.

Pros: it’s close to the city, and it’s a huge stretch of land, over three miles long. It’s accessible by two T stops on the blue line (Revere Beach and Wonderland) and there is parking all down the three miles of beach. There’s also a bandstand and a sprinkle of restaurants and ice cream shops. The beach itself is pretty wide and you won’t have a problem finding a spot to pitch your (beach) tent.

Cons: it’s not the cleanest beach, the sand is gritty and the crowd there isn’t the most family centric; meaning – while weed might be legal here now, I don’t want it around my kids. #isaidwhatisaid

But! Really, the city has done a great job trying to clean this place up. The water rating was 98% this year, pretty damn close to perfect, so even if you find some empty cans in the sand, know that the water quality is actually outstanding.

Revere Beach also hosts a Sand Sculpting Festival every July, and that brings out musicians, tons of food trucks and other fun activities for the whole family. In 2018 there were approximately 1 MILLION attendees, which is both amazing and claustrophobic, depending on how you view things. The sculptures are always really impressive.

Bucket or Fuckit?

There are better beaches. But the Sand Sculpture Festival is one for the Bucket list.

Nahant Beach

Nahant is about 30 minutes north of the city, but this long strip at the end of a peninsula is one of my favorites close to Boston.

My younger brother, last summer at Nahant Beach, MA

Pros:

The sand is soft and light, the water is clean, and there’s a fresh breeze that drifts back and forth over the sand. Another beach that received a perfect score on the water quality report, this one tends to be populated but not overcrowded. This beach feels more like a vacation beach and less like a city one because it’s placed away from anything else.

Cons:

It’s isolated. I like this, but this also means there’s nothing besides beach, not even a lone ice cream shop. Parking also cost $10 for MA residents and $20 for non-residents after Memorial Day, making it the only one on this list without any free parking. My husband thinks this one is overrated, but I appreciate that it’s secluded and that the clientele tend to be less rambunctious than those at Nantasket or Revere.

Bucket or Fuckit?

Toss up. I think it’s worth the parking cost; Lucas does not.

That’s it for now – and I’m only scratching the surface of the beaches in and around Boston! I’ll be writing another post soon, since there are four other beaches we venture to often that aren’t on this list!

Getting Out of the House with Three Under Three

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Getting out of the house can be daunting with one kid, never-mind three. So how do I do it?

It’s really simple: I just do.

I’m not saying that it’s easy, or that everyone behaves, or that we don’t leave early or leave in a rush. But it’s 100% possible for any mother to do on her own – with the right attitude and the right combination of essentials.

I had posted this photo two weeks ago on a Facebook group thinking that it was a really candid, imperfect photo and someone still used it in a “how can she do it, it’s impossible it’s not easy” way. But it is NOT impossible. I’ll reiterate what I said: if I can get out, with a two month old baby and a special needs toddler and one in between, so can you.

The most important thing? To be positive. That means preparing for the worst but expecting the best and going into it with energy and enthusiasm. My kids, as young as they are, pick up on my emotions. If I’m stressed, they’re more likely to start fighting. If I’m upset, they know. If I’m happy – they feel that too!

I’m not saying to go out every day. I’m saying on days when you feel positive, to take the risk! It gets easier!

The second most important thing? To be prepared.

That means different things. It sometimes means to bring changes of clothes to play dates (I woefully did not and Mathias got to sit in his diaper on the way home from this trip because he jumped in a mud puddle). It means to bring all the snacks and then some. It sometimes means bribing your kids with rewards.

Part of being prepared is having the right baby gear! In my case, there are a few things I ALWAYS have in my car:

1. My stroller

2. A ring sling

3. My Binxy Baby Shopping Cart Hammock.

If I’m going out with all three kids I usually need a combination of these. If I’m going to the park or on a play date I usually bring my UPPAbaby Vista and a ring sling.

Since all of my kids are still little I can put whoever’s struggling in the sling. The weight capacity is 35 lbs and Mathias is the heaviest at 28, so I’ll be able to wear all of them for a while still!

This sling is called “Bella” and is part of Poppet Slings’ new 2019 spring/summer collection.

If I’m going to the supermarket, I bring my Binxy Baby shopping cart hammock and a sling in preparation for a meltdown.

I also come prepared with snacks for the kids and a list because honestly going to the store has to be in and out – no browsing is happening with three babies!

People ask me how it is to have three under three. Simply put: it’s hard! It is definitely hard and we all have our strengths and weaknesses. One of my strengths is that I’m high energy and I can generally keep up with my kids! Physically I don’t struggle if I need to carry one or two at a time either. I’m the oldest of seven kids and I’ve spent my whole life around children. Wearing one kid in a sling makes it that much easier for me to carry two if necessary.

This is what works for me and I think it’s super important to find what works for you!

I’ve been so impressed with our Binxy and so many people have asked me about it! Here’s my link for 10% off. Thanks so much to Binxy Baby for gifting this product to me, I wish I knew about it when my other kids were babies!

And finally….

This is a joke but I’m totally guilty of thinking this! It is so hard to not compare ourselves or our kids to other people on social media. But the fact is that no one can do everything! I can’t. I said earlier what my strengths are. I am a high energy person. I will fight for my kids. I’m pretty social and am not afraid of meeting new people but I’m also very comfortable being alone.

My weaknesses? I’m indecisive. I avoid conflict. I don’t stick up for myself when others aren’t treating me well or claim credit for my ideas. I’m terrible – terrible – at keeping up with the laundry and staying organized. I care too much about what other people think.

Getting out with my kids means overcoming my fears that day. I take every trip one at a time, and don’t beat myself up over an imperfect outing because no outing with kids is going to be perfect. But it’s worth doing and anyone can do it!

So to you new moms that are worried about leaving your house, whether it’s your first baby or your second or third or sixth – you can do it! It gets easier! Some days are hard and some days are good and that’s just the way it is.

Frost + Flurries, Babywearing and Planning an Event on a Budget from an Industry Insider

Babywearing, Uncategorized

Lots of you know that I’ve been super involved in the babywearing community since I had Mathias. To give a little background information – I’m the oldest of seven kids and I have strong memories of my mom babywearing my siblings while I was growing up. She had one ring sling that was “super ugly” (her words) that she used for all of us (she likes to bring this up when she sees my sling stash). When I was pregnant with Mathias I knew I wanted a sling because I remember my mom being hands free, slinging and nursing and doing the dishes at the same time. Basically, being Wonder Woman.

In a nutshell: Instagram led me to find Wildbird Co. and I’ve been hooked on babywearing ever since.

Since I’ve been involved with Wildbird, I’ve co-planned two events with my friend Kiera Joujoute (@mrsjoujoute on Instagram). Last year we planned a “One of Every Color” shoot of every sling that Wildbird had released until that point and this year when Wildbird reached out to Kiera about hosting their first “Flock” event outside of California, Kiera asked me if I’d co-host with her.

In case you’re wondering why Kiera asked me, it’s because I’ve been working in the events industry in Boston for 3 1/2 years! I’ve worked as a jack-of-all-trades at Warehouse XI in Somerville and have gotten to know (and love) a lot of people in the industry. Working for a venue means that I’ve learned so much about event planning even though that hasn’t been part of my job description (thank God, because it is a LOT OF WORK! Props to all of you event planners out there!).

Some facts:

The Flock event that Wildbird had asked her to host was simple in theory: throw an event where the attendees could pick up limited edition slings (purchased in advance).

The things we had to problem solve:

  • How many people should or could we comfortably host?
  • How large scale of an event would we plan – and how many vendors would need to be involved?
  • How would we pay for everything?

Regarding the number of people, Kiera and I decided right away that we didn’t want to have to offer tickets lottery style. The original event that Wildbird held in California was opened up to everyone in the Wildbird VIP group on Facebook (which has around 30k members) so everyone could enter but only a few would actually be selected to go (via lottery).

But here’s the thing – Kiera and I wanted to hold a community event for the women in the New England area. The fairest solution, from how we looked at it, was to open it up to our local babywearing Wildbird off-shoot group which is composed of women from the New England region. We wouldn’t offer a plus-one option until after we knew we could hold more than just these mamas and their babies in the space.

The maximum capacity at Warehouse XI is 150 but with our setup we would really only have space for 100-115. Which, FYI, is a LOT of people.

We were not given a budget from Wildbird. They didn’t ask us to go all out and throw the event we decided to throw, but throwing a big event in February in Boston meant that we needed an indoor space, we needed to decorate, feed the attendees, etc…

We added $10 per adult ticket, $7 per child (over 12 months) and $10 per plus one, because we knew we would have to at least pay for the following:

  • Venue Fee
  • Food + Beverage
  • Decor

It did not add up to a lot, considering. But we wanted to make it affordable when the slings themselves already cost $90 or $120.

Here’s the breakdown of our budget.

Half went to food + beverages. We decided on donuts + hot chocolate because it felt appropriate for a winter event (Kiera came up with the name “Frost + Flurries”, which was perfect after the California event which had been titled “Salt + Sand”). Could we have ordered Dunkin Donuts and saved money? Yes. Does anyone like DD donuts? …. I don’t. Maybe I’m not a real Bostonian yet. But if I have the choice to order from Dunkin or Union Square Donuts, I’m picking the fancy, fluffy, fresh donuts. We got a 10% discount because they’re down the street from the warehouse and we’ve worked with them before, but they were not cheap.

#worthit

Kiera took on the task of gathering together all the hot chocolate supplies; everything was purchased at Costco or Target. The platters/decor for the bar mostly came from my house.

Let’s talk about the venue + vendors.

Because I work at Warehouse XI (and have worked for my boss for a long time, built the website, did all of her branding, etc…) we only had to pay a utilities fee. This was extremely generous of her because typically an off-peak 8 hour Saturday rental is $3,000.

Obviously, finding a free space is ideal. If you live in a region with beautiful weather, take advantage of that! That’s what Wildbird did for their first event. However, if that isn’t an option for you, here are a few tips:

  1. Venue fees are always lower during the week. Usually that means Monday – Thursday. Saturdays are typically the most expensive day of the week, with Friday and Sunday falling right behind, if they aren’t all the same price (weekend rate vs. weekday). What that means is that venues are more likely to have flexibility with pricing during the week.
  1. Do your research! And I mean looking across multiple platforms – not just google and yelp. Yelp won’t usually have bigger event spaces; Google ranks via SEO and depending on the website and how much traffic they’ve gotten, if they are using AdWords, etc, great venues might not show up until three or four or eight pages into google. Wedding Venues in particular compete with big directories such as The Knot, Wedding Wire, The Venue Report etc. when it comes to google rankings and it makes it hard for local vendors to always land on the first page! The Venue Report is probably my favorite place to look and usually will have links to new places too. Instagram is also a great place to look; at least check to see if the venue has an IG and it’ll give you an idea of their space and what they do there!
  2. Send out inquiries EVERYWHERE, even if you don’t think they will be interested!

Photo Credit: Abigail Jean Photography

  • This brings me to my next point: how to approach vendors about your event.
  • If you’re active on Instagram, whether as an influencer or a “micro-influencer” or what have you, chances are you have approached brands via DM or email about collaborations. That’s what successfully planning an event on a budget comes down to.
  • Obviously I had an advantage here of knowing vendors through my venue – but I still struggled to find vendors who were available on short notice or vendors who considered it worth their time. If your event is during wedding season (May – October), that will limit your options because the industry is busy and people don’t usually even have the time – which is why styled shoots are often shot during our off-season (December – April).
  • This event is, in a lot of ways, a styled shoot for the vendors involved. In the events industry, a bunch of vendors will collaborate on a styled shoot with a theme (let’s say, “Modern Industrial Styled Shoot”) in order to create content for their website, social media, etc. Everyone offers up their talents for free (sometimes a venue will have to charge a small utilities fee). This is what your goal is: to convince the vendors that this is an opportunity for content creation where they can receive social media exposure, from you, and the other vendors (and in this case – Wildbird).
  • My other suggestion is to cast a wide net. Ask a LOT of people and don’t feel bad if you get rejected. I also suggest asking vendors who are newer in their industries and have a smaller following on Instagram. Those are the vendors who need content and will likely work just covering the cost of product.
  • Sidebar – there’s always the option of finding a vendor that’s an “extra” fee that your guests can pay out of pocket if they want to. Maybe there’s a local macaron cart or a nail artist that you’d love to bring on but you can’t pay for them. That’s ok! See if there’s enough interest from your attendees. That’s how I approached Ashley from Abode Beauty Bar – I asked her if she’d be interested in offering a braid bar at the event for any mamas/toddlers and she said she’d charge $10/adult and $5/child. I brought it to the group and we had so many people interested that we had to start braids early!
  • Finally – ask vendors who you can connect to on a personal level or who can connect to your event. That means if you’re doing a babywearing event, ask vendors who are also mothers! Connecting on a personal level is super important because it elevates the worth of the project from just a photo op to something more.
  • That’s really what motivated me to make this event bigger and better than what was asked of us: it was personal. Babywearing is a huge part of my journey as a mother – brands aside – and finding a community of other mothers has been super important in my life.
  • When I finished school I realized that I didn’t know where I would meet people. Most people make work friends, but I was working as an interior designer’s assistant in a small firm. Some of my friends stayed in Brooklyn after we graduated, but it was still hard to stay in touch. When I moved to Boston we had almost no friends here (Lucas did, but I didn’t) and once again I found myself working as an assistant and had no “work friends” in sight. And then I became a mother and my friends from college were all still single or working or nowhere near motherhood, so I didn’t even have those friends to talk to or vent with or ask questions.
  • And so, the memory of my mother babywearing led me to some research on Instagram and that led me to a small group of 5,000 or so women on Facebook, which would virtually change my life…

    So doing this event as a celebration of motherhood, as a thank you to the women who have supported me in dark days, who have sent me unexpected pick-me-ups and comforted me when I received difficult news, as a reminder that motherhood is HARD but BEAUTIFUL – that mattered to me. I wanted to create something that represented who I am, who we are…what we represent, why a piece of fabric and aluminum rings matters…

    I hope that we did a good job – that everyone enjoyed the event and that all of our hard work paid off. I was really happy with how things turned out, even though I burned myself out and came home and dry heaved for five minutes because I was 36 weeks pregnant and spent all day on my feet, didn’t drink enough water and barely ate more than a donut all day – honest motherhood, right?

    Would I do it again? Not 9 months pregnant. But I would under the right circumstances. Until then, I’ll settle for my small group meetups at breweries (you heard me) and coffee shops and anywhere we can get away with bringing a small army of babies + toddlers.

    Venue: Warehouse XIPhotographer: Allison Wolf Photography

    Florals: Hafsa & Co.

    Lovebird Installation: My Sunday Afternoon

    Braid Bar: Abode Beauty Bar

    Tables: Lighthouse Woodworks

    Donuts: Union Square Donuts

    Cookie Challenge Halfway Point Update, and Perfectly Giftable Cream Cheese Stuffed Red Velvet Cookies

    Baking, Uncategorized

    Firstly, a little commentary on how this 25 Days of Cookies Challenge is going.

    Not every day has been successful. I have baked every day! But several days were less than impressive. So I’m not going to post every recipe on here, but rather the ones that I am definitely happy to make again and would recommend to my friends.

    However – this week has been pretty successful! I started off on a high note on Day 10 with these Red Velvet cookies that we devoured too quickly and that have me wanting everything Velvet this week.

    Full disclosure: this is a multi-step cookie. It is not a one-bowl, in the oven in 15 minutes cookie. But it is #worthit if you have the time!

    The recipe is from Sally’s Baking Addiction and is multi-step (fridge time, freezer time, all the time).

    You need to:

    • Make the cookie dough, put it in the fridge
    • Make the cream cheese filling, put it in the freezer, then roll into balls and put back in the fridge
    • Make little cookies out of the dough, place the cream cheese filling in, and then cover with more dough
    • Roll in sugar
    • Place in the oven

    So my suggestion is to do this on a day where you are relatively free or can stop to fulfill a step or two.

    I thought my oven had been acting weird lately but I think I might just be making my cookies too big. I have one cookie scoop which is AMAZING but it’s not one-size fits all.

    I ruled out my oven being the issue by getting an oven thermometer and it’s definitely within 5 degrees of the temp I set it to.

    I love these so much. They qtr chewy with crunchy rims, and the tangy cream cheese filling off-sets the sweetness of the granulated sugar they’re rolled in.

    I’m planning on making these again next week to gift to some of Mathias’ therapists because they really are amazing!

    Trying This Blogging Thing, Again

    Uncategorized

    Remember that time I tried to start a blog?

    It was over a year ago, and I thought that it’d be a good thing for me to do. But I wasn’t ready.

    I thought I was, but I wasn’t. I was overwhelmed by a handful of life-changing events and I wasn’t ready to share my life because I was struggling and couldn’t handle it.

    Since then, our lives have changed completely.

    Lucas was working for an a-hole boss who took advantage of him. We were still living in a one bedroom (two moves ago!), we had one very stressful baby who wasn’t growing and we didn’t know why. Then we moved, we started to get answers, we got pregnant again, got more answers, Lucas started a business, we had our baby and then we had baby #2. And a week before I had baby #2, I started to be more open about what was going on, and I was ready to start talking about it.

    The first round I wasn’t ready to share, but I also didn’t have a purpose. This time I do – to educate, to advocate and to share someplace besides Instagram.