Exactly three years ago, our family shared some very special news: that we were expecting our first child, a baby girl born in January of 2015. Now, at age two and a half, Alexandra August has some big changes coming up in her future… Ryan and I are expecting our second child! Alexandra will be Big Sister to a little mister! Baby BOY Wiese is due in February 2018.
They’ve just opened a plethora of presents under the tree and were drug to more holiday events than they can count. As much as we try to make them feel special and not forgotten after the Christmas chaos, winter birthdays aren’t the best. Everyone’s coming down from that yule-tide high and ready to just #NetflixandChill. After those packed schedules that come with the holiday season, people are beginning to settle back into their regular routine and at this point, are frankly partied-out.
Personally, my summer birthday was awesome: close enough to the end of the school year to keep in touch with friends on event details, yet everyone was already bored & eager to gather for something fun, and there were boundless ideas for celebrating in the summer sun…I vividly remember amazing birthdays spent at the wave pool, the water park, and more.But what to do when the dreary days of January & February have most of us ready to hit the fast forward button to Easter? My little one has an early January birthday and last year I kept it low-key for her first birthday celebration. Admittedly, that approach was due to me feeling like I was still getting my shit together has a new mom and couldn’t fathom adding party planning into the mix. So we went for something small and intimate, no guest list to manage, no decorations to fuss over. I have a little twinge of mom-guilt over it, but we ended up skipping the traditional 1st bday party in lieu of a morning of simply doing an activity she loved. We chose to spend a couple hours at Little Land Play Gym before a Tex-Mex lunch with my parents joining us. A true Texas babe, her first birthday dessert was an avocado tres leches cake from Dos Chivos.This year, I am kinda taking the opposite approach… Thankfully it is now in my capacity to take it up a few notches for her second birthday. We’re throwing our little one a Texas “2”-Step themed party. To kick things off, we are hosting local children’s music artist “Mr. Will” Dupuy for a live performance at our home. Y’all, he’s soooooo good: his kids songs sung with a Texas-country twang, laid back cowboy style, and jokes for the parents that go over the little one’s heads make for a kids concert that all attendees will enjoy. My daughter Alexandra has one of his branded t-shirts and whenever she sees it, she starts singing Wheels on the Bus…it’s super cute BUT…imagine how she’s going to flip her lid when she sees him live and in concert right from her living room!Lunch will be catered by Austin’s famous Franklin Barbecue. –Have y’all tried their brisket? Some swear it’s the absolute best in Texas. This Eastside joint is a favorite of President Obama, celebrities, and famous chefs. However, due to their 2-hour wait (like at least 2 hours standing outside in line, with no guarantee that there will be any left for you when it’s your turn to order), we’ve never tasted its deliciousness in the 5 years we’ve lived here. There is a workaround, though: Pre-Orders. Place your large catering order online in advance and walk right up to pick it up at the designated time your choose. –Score!
Now, I know random things like Cedar Fever, toddler tantrums (these have officially started for us!), and last-minute guest cancellations can possibly put a damper on the day, but I’m hoping we fondly remember her epic second birthday party. I’m unabashedly looking forward to a pretty fantastic morning of music and BBQ. However we choose to celebrate birthdays, wether it be small & intimate or over-the-top, I hope my little one grows up knowing how valued she is each and every day of the year.
Any other new moms suddenly have toys on the brain? Interacting with toys is now a daily part of our lives and it’s my mission to figure out some best-buys in the playfulness department. So, I consulted Toybrary Austin owner (and thus, toy connoisseur) Liza Wilson to get her feedback on which toys are top-notch. –We’re talking best types of toys and the best brands to buy! Before she opened Austin’s local toy-lending library, she was a teacher, working with ages 2 through high school. Although preschool is her happy place, she’s experienced in public, private, and Montessori schools and believes play and learning go hand-in-hand.
Why does my daughter seem to go weeks, even months, only playing with a handful of her toys while the rest sit ignored? “Children’s brains are evolving very rapidly between the ages of 0-3. It’s their full time job to learn! They need lots of new stimulation on an ongoing basis. Once a child has ‘conquered’ a toy, it’s time to expose them to something new. If they are not playing with a toy, it’s likely because it has become boring to them and they no longer need to explore whatever the concept is. The toys that she plays with are the ones that are helping her learn.”
What are some quick tips & tricks moms can do to boost engagement, imagination, and self-guidance in the playroom? “One of the most effective practices is to rotate toys. Put the majority of your child’s toys in the garage or another unused space, and just pull out a few at a time for your kids to play with. This keeps a cycle of seemingly new items available to them. Research shows that kids cannot focus on more than 7 toys at one time. If there are more than 7 available, the rest will get ignored (causing piles of clutter). Even with only 7, these eventually become commonplace and it’s time for kids to move on to a new stimulus. That’s definitely the right time to pull out new toys and either get rid of the ones they are bored with, or put them away to try again later.”
What types of toys typically generate the most interest at Toybrary? “It’s funny, there are always new and fascinating toys on the market, but the old standards remain the most popular: dinosaurs, dolls, cars & trucks, pretend kitchen items, costumes, and all animals. The slide, bikes, trikes, and push carts are also enormously popular. Toys don’t need to light up or make any noise for the kids to love them. In fact, it’s much better on everyone’s mental health if they don’t!”
What are the signs of a high-quality toy?
“Wooden toys are almost always the highest quality toys, for several reasons:
- They are easy on the earth. Plastic never goes away and fills our landfills.
- Because they are wooden, they are naturally simpler. We want toys to provide a stimulus for kids to be creative, not passive. Eliminating the lights and noise causes kids to be much more interactive with toys, which means their brains are working a lot harder. In other words, instead of the plastic cow “mooing” at the kiddo, he/she should be working on learning to make all kinds of animal sounds on his/her own. This is learning.
Another sign of a high quality toy is that it has multiple uses/teaches multiple lessons. In other words, it promotes “open-ended” play. Blocks are a great example. Many toys focus on just one skill, like pushing a button. With open-ended toys, there is no limit to how many different ways they can be used. Kids can build a tower, a castle, a farm, a house, etc. with blocks. Because of this, blocks are interesting and stimulating for years!”
What are some of your favorite toy brands? “I love the European toys the most (especially Haba & Janod). –This is not to be snobby! It’s because they are generally truly more child friendly. The colors aren’t just yellow, red, and blue like they are often are in the U.S. They use beautiful oranges and purples as well. The toys are sturdy, well made, long-lasting, beautiful, and classic. You don’t find sexy or violent toys coming from Germany or France. That being said, Plan Toys, KidKraft, EverEarth, and Manhattan Toy are great American companies, and I love Green Toys as well. Their toys are simple, durable, attractive, and long lasting!”
ATX Moms: Try before you buy! Check out these brands and more at Liza’s toy wonderland, Toybrary. Plus, there are options to stay and play, drop-in childcare, and educational activities like excellent classes for kids and useful parent workshops. There’s always a new carefully selected speaker or special event going on there to add to your calendar!
That Hatchimal on their Christmas list gone out of stock? Tired of kids with their eyeballs glued to a video game? Or (in our case), does your toddler actually play with the box more than the toy inside? Consider giving the gift of shared experiences this year! –Not only shared experiences, but a gift the whole family can use year ’round. I’m talking about the gift of memberships: wether it be season passes to a local amusement park or an annual family admission package to their local zoo; memberships are a unique way to ensure you give the gift that keeps on giving. Here are a couple GREAT options local to Austin:
- Thinkery: Austin’s official children’s museum is a wealth of opportunity for fun & learning for families with kids of all ages & stages. They put on a slew of summer camps, reserve a “Baby Bloomers” morning just for the littlest crawlers, host a number of special events throughout the year, etc. As my “Community Placement” with Junior League of Austin, I volunteered there a couple years ago to help with summer camps and kinda feel in love with the place. Their exhibits are rooted in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) education — it’s almost as if you can see the little cogs spinning in their minds as they interact & play. The Family Membership is $99/year and grants general admission for a family of four at each visit BUT there are a number of pricing options to suit each family’s needs, including monthly giving.
- Toybrary: A library is to books as Toybrary is to toys. –Super-cool concept, right!? Toybrary is a toy-lending library and kids’ birthday party venue that also offers drop-in childcare. Parents and children can stay & play and then check-out their favorite pieces to take home for awhile. Here’s the dollar-by-dollar breakdown: the average family in the U.S. spends $740 a year on toys if they have one child, and $1,200 a year on toys if they have two children. (PRWeb.com) With Toybrary memberships at $40 per month & a year’s membership adding up to $420, the savings most families see is over $300 per year! If you go once a week, and check out 3 toys each time, the kids get to use 12 toys per month. But don’t forget, families can visit and exchange toys as often as they like.
Well, it’s November 1st. Halloween is behind us. The holiday season has begun! Our family Christmas cards actually arrived from the printer’s last night, marking the occasion perfectly. I went out around 10 p.m. to bring in the candy bowl and found the box sitting on the porch…my own little trick-or-treat surprise!We recently had the special opportunity to shoot our family holiday photos at Sekrit Theatre located in East Austin. Our amazing photographer Laura Morsman had the contact & found the location, which is 2-acres of greenhouse, gardens, fountains, and artistic touches at every turn. Although it’s private property and you do need an appt./permission to shoot there, I spoke with the owner at length before our session & he is opening it up as much as he can for photos. The venue (his home) is his labor of love and called it like a cultural center…holding weddings there is donation-based, for example.
It’s sad, really: due to some city zoning issues & complaints from neighbors, it’ll probably get all torn down and turned into condos soon. You can read more about the plight of the our community’s “secret theater” here. Go visit this little Austin gem while it’s still around! Today, I’m sharing photos from inside the greenhouse, but more moments from the rest of our shoot will be shared here on the blog & on my Instagram in the coming weeks. THANK YOU Laura Morsman Photography!!!
Austin-area kids are invited to rock their hearts out at The Domain’s the third annual Hush Hush Music Bash, a free music festival for kids on Saturday, October 8, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Baby Alexandra & I went last year and had an absolute blast! Such cool family event and a nice ACL-alternative.
KB Whirly will kick off the bash at 3 p.m. Known for his earthy, folksy, bluesy and always upbeat music, KB incorporates storytelling, improvisational song writing and interactive music making in his one-man band. Next, The Que Pastas will hit the stage at 4 p.m. This local kindie (kid+indie=kindie) band’s uplifting, highly interactive and ridiculously funny performance is sure to thrill the kids. At 5 p.m., Sonia De Los Santos’ musical stories will inspire messages of joyful community music making and cultural bridge building. Performing songs about history, art and culture, El Tule Band will perform at 6 p.m., finishing off a night that will have kids begging for more.
In addition to getting down and funky at the main concert, kids will enjoy hands-on activities, giveaways and more, all on the lawn outside iPic Theaters.
For more info, check out the Facebook event page. See y’all there, Mamas!
I imagine going through infertility treatment is very much like going through any other major medical care. While the end-goal here is not to find a life-saving cure for yourself, the similarity lies in that finding a cure still equals life…not for you, but for the potential of life for your future child. You as the patient are bound by the condition of your physical body, the prescribed medical treatment plan, and the will of God/the universe/karma/chaos. –Whatever you chalk it up to, it feels as though powers outside of your control hold your fate.
As evidenced by the title, this post is about leaning into faith in God during an infertility crisis. I know not everyone shares my Christian faith or follows this doctrine, but I personally believe my Savior is in control. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have our faith tested and certainly a negative medical diagnosis can bring even the most devout follower to doubt. After going through a three-year struggle to become pregnant, here are some personal truths I’ve realized after making it to the light at the end of the tunnel.
God’s ideas were better than mine: It never quite comforted me when a fellow Christ follower would advise, “It may not be the Lord’s will right now” or “God does things in His own time.” While this was disheartening to hear, I forced myself to take comfort in knowing that His plans for me & my family are greater than I could imagine. — After all, how limiting it would be if the extent of our life’s richness was limited to our simple human mind’s own vision! The Bible says, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'” (Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV)
Prayer can give life to His plans: I don’t think we as Christians give enough credit to the power of our prayers, especially during a health crisis when it can feel like our hands are tied. There is life-affirming power in the words we speak and there is weight in the fervent prayer of children to their Father. What’s more, there are instances in the Bible when man’s communication with God appears to persuade Him onto an alternate course of action, i.e. Moses asking to spare the Israelites (Exodus 32:9-14), Abraham speaking on behalf of Sodom (Genesis 18:22-33) and Hezekiah pleading for his own life (2 Kings 20:1-7). While He is sovereign, omnipotent, unchanging and doesn’t bargain, I do believe prayer was an integral factor in my path to pregnancy.
Cling to the Lord’s promises: After receiving the frustrating diagnosis of ‘unexplained infertility,’ the fear of the unknown drew me closer to God, my rock. Somehow, in my heart of hearts, I knew that He wanted me to have children and I held steadfast onto that intuition. I wholeheartedly believe our Lord wants us to receive the desires of our hearts…especially when that desire is to build a family. In the end, I think the strongest notion –my saving grace throughout treatment– was the promise conveyed in Luke 11:9 (NLT): “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”
No better time than National Infertility Awareness Week (April 24-30, 2016) to finally begin sharing my personal journey through infertility on social media. Even after crying tears of joy, making it to some major motherhood milestones —successfully getting pregnant, a smooth birthing experience, and even upon celebrating my daughter’s one year birthday– still, I wasn’t ready to openly discuss it.
However, I received an email today about Kaya Singer — entrepreneur, mentor, and author of the book Wiser & Wilder. Singer says that success comes to those who focus on being authentic, in the right circle of people, in a balanced and actualized way, with a strong voice. It also means being willing to face the unhealed parts of yourself that hold you back.
I have no reason to remain held back by my infertility, I have beat it once and I can beat it again. Kaya’s mission is to support visionary women to wake up, stop hiding and invest in themselves so they can reach their true potential and make a bigger difference in the world. So, I’m following Singer’s advice and facing my experience head-on by sharing that tough part of my life as openly and honestly as possible. Look out for a more personal post here later this week, as well as one I wrote to go live soon on Austin Moms Blog.
Back to this being National Infertility Awareness Week: the theme for this year is #StartAsking. Awareness is important as there are so many women and men (7.5 million suffers) that don’t know where to begin. Every day people with infertility are asking real and important questions. “Why me?” “How can we afford this?” National Infertility Awareness Week is not only an opportunity to raise awareness about this disease, but also motivate all that are touched by infertility to commit to the cause.
Employers for insurance coverage.
Your lawmakers and legislators to support issues important to the infertility community.
Friends and family to support you.
The media to cover infertility and the real challenges we all face.
Your partner to get involved.
Those who have resolved their infertility to stay involved.
OB/GYN or healthcare provider to talk about YOUR reproductive health.
For affordable care for treatment of a disease.
Legal access to all family building options nationwide.
About men’s reproductive health
My newest venture? Regular Contributor to Austin Moms Blog! After submitting my application & completing a phone interview, I’m honored to have been selected from their largest Contributor Call to-date! I’ve shared the news on Facebook but wanted to blog a bit about this year-long commitment, too.
Since becoming a mom, I’ve had to reevaluate where & how I spend my time…be more intentional about what I’m doing with any extra energy I can spare. I’ve got lots to share on the mom-front, but didn’t really feel like Blog Joie de Vivre was the best outlet for all those Mama/Baby feelings. Plus, AMB gives me access to thousands of new readers and an engaged local audience in my same stage of life.
AMB is a part of the City Moms Blog Network — is there a “sister city” where you live? Before I began guest-blogging for them, I was an avid reader and member of one of their local Neighborhood Groups. It’s been a valuable (and fun!) resource for me thus far in my motherhood journey and I’m honored to now be a part of their writing team. I just humbly hope that I can add to their mission of connecting moms in all seasons and journeys of motherhood.
Please click here to check out my first post: a little introductory bio 🙂
Any first-time parent knows: once you become pregnant, navigating the aisles of the baby superstore is a mix of excited confusion and nervous anticipation. The vast array of options in each department can be overwhelming — there are like 15 kinds of spoons you can add to your baby registry, for example. Here is a small sample of some products that I’ve tried & loved during baby’s first year:
No-Slip Hair Clips: Ribbies Hair Accessories. I’m not into super frilly dresses for my little girl, so I find myself feeling somewhat obliged to put something bow-like on her head, lest she get mistaken for a boy by strangers. Wether it’s the elastic headbands that are too tight & threaten to leave an indention on her head, the hat that immediately gets pulled off, or the barrettes that just slide right out of her baby-fine hair; baby girl hair accessries are kind of the worst. However, I was lucky to find local Austin, TX-based and mom-owned company Ribbies Clippies offered bows that actually stay in place all day! Each one is made with a special foam strip, a “non-slip grip,” that actually works on even the thinnest & finest of hair. So far, I’ve been super impressed with the materials (leather & suede, Liberty of London prints, etc.) and the perfect craftsmanship — thanks to Ribbies for these awesome little hair bows!
Quick & Easy Cradle Cap Cure: Mustela Baby shampoo. Forget the messy baby oil/brush approach — this product is basic to apply, high-quality, and smells so fresh. Not sure what magic lies inside the bottle because it’s not even labeled for the use of healing cradle cap. It was recommended by a friend on one of my online moms’ groups and figured I’d give it a try. –Baby girl’s cradle cap was gone after the first wash! Not only does it instantly clear those sweet lil’ scalps up, we’ve never had an issue with cradle cap again…so it seems to work at keeping it away, too. –Hello, our new favorite shampoo! No parabens or phthalates, hypoallergenic, and tear-free formula.
Boogie Wipes: From pureed food caked on her cheeks to the occasional super-sneeze = snot blowout move (your kid ever do one of these? –gross, yet hilarious), I feel like I’m constantly wiping her face down. And ugh, why is it kids hate to have their face wiped? Regular tissues don’t always cut-it, either…sometimes you need something more wet washcloth-like to clean these toddler-sized messes. I was recently sent a package of Boogie Wipes to review for the blog and found that these saline-infused wipes are gentle yet effective & great for on-the-go. What’s more, regular baby wipes can irritate my little one’s face…leaving her skin at risk for becoming dry, irritated, and chapped. This winter, we’ve both been happy with how Boogie Wipes get the job done while moisturizing and healing dry skin.