7 Month Favorites

Where does the time go? Eliza is almost eight months old! It’s an absolute joy watching her grow and learn. She’s now at that age, where she’s really starting to play with toys…and pick some favorites. I try to be very intentional about which toys she plays with. Playtime, while fun, is a great time to start learning. I wanted to share some of her current favorites & mine! Some of these are affiliate links. If you purchase something using them, it is no extra cost to you, but I may receive a small commission. (If you chose to buy anything, know that I am super appreciative!!!) 

This first toy is Liza’s absolute favorite. My sweet, sweet friend Ansley got it for her. The Zippee is a silicone toy, with flexible textured cords. It was designed to support fine motor skills and encourages sensory exploration. It can be played with in the bath & moms, get this: you can put it in the dishwasher! We don’t go anywhere without it.

https://amzn.to/2UyXW8F

This one is pretty basic, but Liza loves this! We’re not quite teething yet, but she loves chewing on the textured side. Another dishwasher safe toy, which is important because we’re constantly washing her toys. Our dogs think she’s supposed to share them.

https://amzn.to/3iT457w

I had said previously that Eliza liked the Ryan and Rose pacifiers, but then someone *cough, cough* decided that she didn’t like them anymore. We have permanently switched over to this 100% natural rubber, Ecopacifer. It’s made from pure rubber from the rubber tree. Who knew, right? They’re sustainably made, without any chemicals and colorants. Rubber is naturally resistant to sharp teeth. 

https://amzn.to/3l4qphv

Liza love love loves these cloth books. She is constantly trying to eat them. They have vibrant colors, durable stitching, and are a great size for her little hands. 

https://amzn.to/3kWSxTo

Living in Georgia, in the middle of July, it gets HOT. It doesn’t help that Eliza is still rear facing in her carseat and I only have vents on the middle console. She also loves to be outside. Poor thing is hot natured and gets sweaty so easily. So this fan was a MUST. The tripod is bendable to grip any surface, i.e. around the stroller or car seat. There are three settings for the fan. It has a light in there and is rechargeable.

https://amzn.to/3i3dDOf

These are actually bath toys. They have a hole to squirt water out of, but we don’t really get them wet…ya know, mold. There’s not much to this other than the fact that she loves to chew on the frog and alligator.

https://www.walmart.com/ip/Munchkin-Lake-Squirts-Bath-Toy-8-Pack/19514671?selected=true

Eliza isn’t the only one with favorites. I’ve got some, too! First thing’s first is this paci clip. I can’t tell you how many times that my child has just spit out her paci or thrown it across the room. Paci clips save lives…or at least mental sanity. This also acts as a teether. I feel like the snaps are easier to use than to tie a knot, but maybe that’s just me. This conveniently comes in a two pack.

https://amzn.to/3BMJ1Zk

Okay, now I know this is expensive for just one bowl and spoon, but I love it. It’s got a silicone suction, so less mess for me! The bowl is made of bamboo, so it’s plastic free, BPA free, PVC free, lead free and phthalate free.

https://amzn.to/3iw13WA 

What’s not to love about this one? It’s a mini lawn chair! I’m obsessed. It has extra straps, so your little one can sit up in a chair, a carrying case and an attachable tray.

https://amzn.to/3zulNFm

We’ve decided not to use sip cups for many reasons. Currently, we’re using this cup. It’s sturdy, made of silicone so that her developing teeth will be protected and easy to hold in her little hands.

https://amzn.to/3zF5RA8

We have a bunch of products that we really like, but these are just our current favorites. Let me know if you want to see our overall favorites or registry must haves! 

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What I packed in my hospital bag

I am a planner. I live for planning and organizing…so I packed my hospital bag at 30 weeks. I had absolutely no intention of giving birth then, but you just never know what’s going to happen. I wanted to be prepared.

For my bag, I packed:

  • Robe
  • Button up shirt
    • These made it super easy for breastfeeding.
  • Sweatpants
  • Socks
  • Nursing bras
  • Cute home coming outfit that I didn’t wear
    • Honestly, I just wore sweatpants and a flannel shirt home. I didn’t care to look cute; I just wanted a shower and to get comfy! 
  • Shower shoes
  • Slip on shoes to walk around in
  • Face masks 
    • Gotta love covid…am I right?
  • Sound machine
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Dry shampoo
  • Body wash
  • Face wipes
    • I cannot stress them enough. Bring some face wipes! Being in a hospital just makes you feel so greasy and grimy. 
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Glasses
  • Contacts
  • Contact Solution
  • Extra-long phone charger
  • Medication I was taking
  • Ponytails
  • Chapstick
  • Make-up
  • Moisturizer
  • Face wash
    • After growing a little baby and then giving birth, your hormones are flaring. Don’t forget to take care of your face, during this time. 
  • Lotion
  • Snacks- just because with covid restrictions, you’re pretty much just stuck in the hospital
    • You’re also going to get hungry in the middle of the night, whether you’re nursing, or a nurse comes in your room to administer medicine or to check you out.
  • Boppy
    • If you’re nursing
  • Blow dryer/Straightener
  • Nipple cream 
    • because nursing is new & it’ll be uncomfortable
  • Camera 
    • make sure it’s charged before you leave the house
  • Laptop/Charger 
    • We packed this solely for entertainment and it’s a good thing that I brought it. Eliza needed to be in the NICU for a couple of days and there were times that we weren’t allowed to be in the nursery with her. 
  • Diaper bag 
    • I packed a little bit of everything that I didn’t use
      • Diapers
      • Wipes
      • Extra outfit
  • Coming home outfit for baby E

Things that I brought that I didn’t use/need

  • Diapers
  • Underwear 
  • Reusable water bottles
  • Blanket

Just because you’re going to want to get this stuff before you leave for the hospital (for a vaginal birth)

  • Frida mom ice pads
    • waaaay colder than the hospital ones. It felt like Jack Frost was blowing down there.
  • Depends underwear
    • so much less hassle
  • Frida mom foam spray
    •  felt cool and comforting
  • Perineal spray- numbing
  • Stool softener- because let’s be real…that first poop is hecking scary

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Overcoming the Overwhelming

“I can’t do this.”

Palms sweaty. Heart racing. Can’t breathe. 

“Where’s the exit?”

Head spinning. Too many people. Not enough space. 

“Am I going to pass out?”

These aren’t typically one’s thoughts at Disney…but they happened to be my mom’s. Her first of many panic attacks at the Happiest Place on Earth. Can you imagine? Kids hugging characters, experiencing the best day of their little lives, eyes full of excitement and hope. Parents carrying cameras around their necks, ready to capture the sparkle in their children’s eyes. And you…all alone with the deafening sounds of anxiety, crippling every inch of your body.

This was the beginning of a treacherous journey.

Over the next twenty years, Penny would face obstacles of insurmountable fear and dread. Fears that cause your whole body to feel either hopelessly numb or kick every sense into overdrive. 

Now, this isn’t a story about how a woman trusted God, He healed her and she miraculously lives a full life, without fear of the future. (Though it very well could be; her story isn’t over.) This is a story of a woman, who reluctantly learned that our anxieties are so infinitesimally small compared to the goodness of God. 

In 2014, Penny went to a Christian conference, where they spoke of missions and shortly after that, a family friend felt led to lead an upcoming mission trip. “I never thought that I could go to another country like that. I was scared.”

In 2015, I went with a small group of other believers to Leogane, Haiti…but my mom stayed behind. 2016 comes around and I remember asking her to go back with us. Again, riddled with fear, she declined. 2017 rolls around and we are in agreement to return one more time. This time was different though, good ole Pen Pen packed a bag and hopped on the plane destined for Haiti. She had allowed her fears to be bigger than God, swallowing her up into this pit of “what ifs.” But not that year.

That year, she said enough is enough.

The day we left, this unexplainable peace overcame her. (Funny how we say unexplainable, but really it’s all God…isn’t it?) Over the course of a week, we were all humbled by what we had seen and experienced: starving children, deprived adults, eyes so void of joy, with empty bellies and souls hungry for something more than what this world has to offer.

We all had the honor of sharing God’s word, but it was especially special to me. I got to see my mom abandon the very fears that crippled her.

I asked her if she had any particular verses that she leaned on in her perilous times and she recalled the very first verse to help her.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭41:10‬ ‭

“Isaiah 41:10 was the very first verse I clung to when it came to feeling anxious,” she said. “I also like Philippians 4:6-8.”

“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable — if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise — dwell on these things.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:6-8‬ 

When I asked her if she had any advice for someone who has anxiety or has trouble trusting God, my gorgeous mother said, 

“There is light at the end of the tunnel. You can walk on the other side of anxiety and be a conqueror of it. It may take time. It’s a process. If you need medicine to help jumpstart the process, it’s okay, but ultimately you have to rely on God. Trusting God? That probably was the toughest part, taking the leap of faith and knowing that God’s going to take care of it. Don’t live in the mentality of, ‘anxiety is your life.’ Don’t worship anxiety. Worship God. Because for so long, without me realizing it, [anxiety] was an idol that I put above God. When I focus more on anxiety, that’s less of a focus on God. The Bible tells us to focus on things above and anxiety is not something from above.”

*mic drop*

Struggling with anxiety isn’t the easiest subject to talk about, because of some reason talking about our mental health feels shameful. It’s shameful to feel disobedient to God. It’s shameful to feel like it’s better when we’re in control, instead of trusting God’s promises and goodness. I’m so thankful for my mom’s vulnerability to share her part of her story. Over the years, I have faced my own battles with anxiety and depression and knowing that I can have an open dialogue with her has cast away those feelings of guilt and shame. Why? Because when I feel overwhelmed by the weight of the world, she has continued to point me towards God. 

If you have wrestled with thoughts of anxiousness, I pray that you have someone to confide in, someone who will remind you of God’s caring attributes and mercy. If you feel totally and utterly alone, please reach out to me. I will be more than happy to set you up with resources or a listening ear. Anxiety will only consume you if you let it.

My Birth Story

All of my life I have been absolutely terrified of giving birth…well that and clowns. So moments after I saw that positive pregnancy test, excitement was met with fear. 

‘Holy crap. I have to push a little human out of my body.’

On December 3rd, I got up and went to work. Huge and pregnant. I was wearing a dress I had worn a million times before…mainly because I refused to buy maternity pants. That afternoon, I had an appointment with my OB, who was going to examine how far along I was dilated, if at all. 

After an uncomfortable exam, my doctor informed me that I was 2 cm dilated and that I could go into labor any day. Thankfully, my mom had been living with my husband and I for the last few days, helping us prepare our home for our sweet baby girl. I got into the car with my mom and we started making phone calls to friends and family with the news. I let my coworkers know that I definitely would not be going back to work the next day.

The next day around lunch time, I had my first contraction…and honestly, I wasn’t sure it was a contraction. It hurt, but it wasn’t this gut wrenching pain that I imagined it would be. Twelve minutes later, when it happened again, I knew it was a contraction. So my mom, Tyler and I did what any sane people would do.

We went to Chick-Fil-A. 

Yep, you read that right. 

My contractions were starting to get closer together, but dang it, I was going to enjoy my chicken nuggets. 

We didn’t stop there either. Right after Chick-Fil-A, we went to Bath and Body Works. Why? Because it was their annual candle sale. I kid you not, I was sniffing candles in between contractions. I would have to stop what I was doing and suffer for thirty seconds every few minutes. After we racked up some sweet deals, we went to Aldi for those last minute groceries needs. At this point, I was really starting to hurt. I had enough. It was time to go home.

After coming home and trying to watch tv for a little while, my contractions were about seven minutes apart. My mom suggests that we all go on a walk around the subdivision. I had always heard that walking helps labor.

That’s it. No one ever said HOW it helps. I always assumed that it helped alleviate some of the pain. NOPE. Walking helps speed up the process, which means the pain becomes stronger and the contractions start coming faster.

After 30 minutes of walking, I was done. I just wanted some relief. LOL. We went back inside. It was around 5 pm. I knew that I needed to go to the hospital soon. So what did I do?

Make sure I had everything I needed?

Call some family to let them know what was going on?

Stop and meditate to calm my nerves?

Nope, nope and nope. I ate a bowl of Captain Crunch.

I knew that when I went to the hospital I wouldn’t be able to eat anything and I was hungry. I’d soon find out that eating was a huge mistake. 6 o clock comes and I’m crying. The contractions are about five minutes apart and I can barely breathe, with each one. Tyler throws everything in the car and we take off. 

We get to the hospital and you have to check in. They have to make copies of your insurance card and get your personal information. All while you’re trying to hold it together. 

After getting checked in, they take me to my delivery room. I get dressed into a hospital gown, hooked up to all the machines, and lay in this bed, and answer all the nurse’s questions. 

Then comes my dear friend, Anxiety. As I’m laying in this bed, surrounded by beeping noises, cell phone notifications and different nurses coming in to check on me, I realized that there’s no way that I could give birth. I looked over at Tyler and informed him that I was going home. 

I sat up in the bed and was insisting that he drive me back. I wish I could’ve seen the look on the nurse’s face. I know she was just thinking, “Oh gosh. Here’s a crazy one.” 

After Tyler patiently and calmly told me that I could not leave the hospital, I knew that I was going to have to face my biggest fear. So I started repeating 2 Timothy 1:7. “For the Lord does not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.”

Okay. It was happening. I was doing this. 

I kept begging for an epidural, but no one seemed in a hurry. I think the doctors were waiting, because first time moms can be in labor for hours on end. No matter what they said, every time a nurse or doctor walked in, I was begging for some type of pain relief. Remember that cereal I mentioned earlier? I was in so much pain I was throwing up. (I know, I know, not a pretty picture…but let’s be real here. You’re reading a story about a human coming out of another human. None of it is pretty.) Finally around 8:40 pm, my new best friend walked into the room: the anesthesiologist. All of my prayers had been answered. I got an epidural!!!

At 9:00 pm, they did another exam and I was 9.5 cm dilated and my cervix was 100% effaced.

But y’all…my water STILL had not broken! It became very clear that the doctor was going to have to break the water.

Only one little, tiny problem. 

THE DOCTOR HAD TWO EMERGENCY C-SECTIONS.

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, there were no other doctors available to break it. 

Thankfully, my back door neighbor and new friend, Emily, is a labor and delivery nurse. She just so happened to be working that night. She told me that if I had to push, push. I truly believe that God placed a familiar face in the delivery room for me.

Finally, around midnight, the doctor came in. 

He broke my water and it was time to push. I had always assumed that when you get an epidural, you don’t feel any pain, or at least not that much of it. 

OH HONEY.

I was wrong. I felt so much. When you’re crowning, they call it the ‘Ring of Fire.’ Very accurately described.

Pushing her head was literally the most painful thing. EVER. 

As soon as her head popped out, I stopped pushing for a second. Finally, I could breathe again. The doctor sternly informed me that I definitely could not stop, because I wasn’t done.

At 12:24 am on December 5th, the most beautiful baby in the world was born.

I have never felt so proud. She was gorgeous. My worst fear collided with my greatest joy. 

All was right in my little world. 

Benefits of Reading to Your Baby

When I found out that I was pregnant, one of the first things that I did was buy sweet baby E some books. I’ve always enjoyed reading and want that for her as well. There are so many benefits to reading, no matter your age…but what about babies?

Reading to your infant aloud can help:

  1. Teach babies about communication
  2. Build listening skills
  3. Increase vocabulary
    1. Fun fact- Did you know that babies who have been read to often tend to know more words by the time they reach their second birthday over other children, who have not been read to?
    2. It also introduces them to words that you may not use in day to day conversation
  4. Introduce concepts like letters, numbers, colors and shapes in interesting ways
  5. Teach children about emotions
    1. When you’re reading about being sad, you can frown. When you’re reading about something happy, you can smile and you will change your tone appropriately. 
  6. Bond with a parent.
    1. Snuggling up with a good book can help establish an emotional connection.
  7. Can help with memory skills.
    1. When you read a book that shows a brown bear and you say brown bear, they’ll begin to make the connection. The more you read it, the stronger the connection between seeing a brown bear and knowing that it is a brown bear. 

By the time your baby reaches age three, your baby’s brain is about 80% developed. By age five, it’s already 90% developed. While your infant may not be able to speak yet…or even hold their head up, reading aloud to them significantly helps them process the world around them, while their brain is rapidly developing. Now, you have a good excuse to go to your favorite book store and stock up.