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Lacey's 9th Month

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Lacey has slowed down getting bigger physically (she has been wearing 18-month-old Gerber onsies for 3 months now), but developmentally, she grew up so fast this month! Every day she makes big progress in her motor skills and recently just started crawling military style very clumsily, which is adorable! The only thing that slowed her down was having her first serious fever which led to being diagnosed with her first ear infection this month. She is finishing up her last couple days of antibiotics though and is feeling pretty much back to her old self and is ready to move! At the doctor’s office this month, she weighed 24 lb 2 oz (>99th percentile) and measured 29.5 inches in height (98th percentile). She is officially half my height! We must be an interesting sight together haha! She hasn’t made any huge leaps in her speech development, but her doctor and I just think that is because she is making such fast gains in gross and fine motor skills.

Things I want to remember about this month: 

  • Her first 2 teeth came through her gums! We finally understand what teething is... She was miserable for a couple nights right before the bottom front incisors “erupted”, so we gave her some Tylenol which seemed to help ease her pain.

  • She is a pro at turning in circles when on her belly. She can do it really fast now.

  • Earlier this month, she would sometimes push herself backward very short distances when on her tummy. She started pushing with her arms and rounding her back from her tummy to get on hands and knees with less and less effort every time and then she will rock by shifting her weight forward and back. It is really cute.

  • She started crawling forward for the first time a couple days ago! It is kind of like a military style crawl, but it is super clumsy and effortful right now. She really pushes almost entirely with her right leg which makes her to veer to the left, but she corrects her path by rolling over haha. She also will pull forward on the ground with her arms sometimes like she is swimming.

  • When she is sitting up and wants to move forward, she will bounce and pull with her heels to scoot forward.

  • Just a couple of times, I have watched her transition from sitting up to leaning forward to end up on her belly.

  • She does well with holding her balance to stand when she is holding onto something, but she is not able to lower herself down in a controlled way (or at all really and I just have to lower her down myself when she starts crying because she wants to be done).

  • She has been trying a lot more foods! We are still going with baby led weaning approach and are giving her healthy food that we are also eating at meal time, but modified into finger sized pieces.

  • She can do a pincer grasp with her index finger and thumb now to pick up small things like a cheerio.

  • She has been making a funny under-bite looking face ever since her bottom 2 teeth came in.

  • As far as sleep goes, she has been doing really well since we transitioned her to her own floor bed in her room. I sleep next to her for parts of the night now, but she is napping and sleeping longer stretches at night by herself. I’m going to transition to just sleeping in the room with her, but not next to her. She is still nursing a couple times a night.

  • Throwing up used to be such a common thing when she was a newborn, but now we know something is wrong when she vomits. She started throwing up a lot when she was sick and when we started giving her antibiotics for her ear infection.

  • She doesn’t scratch her face anymore. A couple months ago or so, I used to see a new scratch on her face as soon as the one before healed. I realized that it has been a while since I saw one.

Her likes and dislikes:

  • She loves to move! She always seems to have a huge smile on her face when she rocks on hands and knees or bounces when she is sitting.

  • She likes to be a part of mealtime with Brian and me. She has shown a lot more interest in solid food this month.

  • She seemed to really like green pepper and would suck on it after scraping the soft inner part with her two little teeth. She still likes banana.

  • We gave her a big piece of an oven baked pork chop and it looked like she really enjoyed gnawing on it, it was sort of like a delicious chew toy for her.

  • She hates getting things forced into her mouth, which we have been really trying to limit doing. Unfortunately we have been needing to pin her down to give her antibiotics through an oral syringe :(

  • She loves to be carried around in my new Tula carrier for her. I had to get another carrier because she outgrew the other’s weight limits… I should have just splurged on the great quality one from the beginning! Although this one probably would be too big for her.

  • She doesn’t like to be away from Brian and me. In the past, we have been able to drop her off at the nursery at church, but last Sunday she was very sad to be away from us, so we held her and listened to the message through the speakers instead.

  • She loves the drawstrings on my shorts or sweatpants.

  • She still loves water bottles. Some of her other favorite toys are her wooden animal teething toys, wooden puzzle, baby-safe mirror on the floor, and big Lego-like blocks.

  • She loves books, especially one with photographs of people’s faces. Starting a book has calmed her down after having just been crying. One time I was napping with her on the floor and woke up to see her lying on her back and looking at the pages of a book that she held open above her :) 

  • She thinks Brian’s feet are hilarious.

  • She loves to bang toys together, especially if it makes an interesting sound.

  • I’m not sure if how she feels about the taste of kale, but she likes to rip it into small pieces.


Follow along on Instagram :)

Lacey's 8th Month

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Lacey has developed so fast in a lot of ways. We have been changing her on a changing pad on the floor because she is so squirmy and rolly. These days it is alarming to think that we ever changed her on the changing table and even more shocking that we actually stepped out of the room to wash our hands while she was still lying on it! I also realized that we rarely have to use a burp cloth because she only spits up once in a while every few days and it is so nice compared to the days when she would spit up after almost every meal. I am enjoying this phase so much, she is so much fun and we are getting to know her personality more and more because she can express herself in a lot more ways.

Things I want to remember about this month:

  • She is able to hold her balance when standing if she is holding something. The first time I saw her do this was when I was trying to lower her to sit down in the pack n’ play; while I was putting her in, she grabbed the rail and stood instead of sat.

  • When we hold her hands while she is sitting and we pull her forward, she is strong enough to pull up into standing.

  • She hasn’t crawled forward yet, but she is very good at pivoting when she is on her belly.  She can also push backward when on her tummy mostly using pure arm strength and she can scoot forward little by little when she is sitting.

  • She is very good at holding her balance when sitting up and is very good at knowing her limits about what she can reach and what she can’t.

  • We started introducing solid foods to her this month. We are trying baby led weaning and so far I think she is doing pretty well. Her gag reflex is getting less common and we can tell that she is learning how to move solids in her mouth.

  • She makes the cutest faces including a fish face, scrunchy smile, and “ooooh” face.

  • She said “dada” for the first time on Brian’s birthday! It was the best gift he could have ever asked for :)

  • Her Uncle Johnny lived with us for a month and she became so comfortable with him.  I loved that my brother got to see what she acts like when she is herself.

 

Her likes and dislikes:

  •  She hates when people feed her without her initiating it. She definitely prefers to have control over what goes in her mouth. This has been a game changer for us with bottle or sippy cup feeding, which use to be so frustrating for everyone. Once we started waiting until she either tilted her chin up with her mouth open or she pulled the bottle/cup to her mouth, things were so much better! There was so much less fussing and she would eat so much faster.

  • She makes faces at most solid foods that we have introduced, but she seems to like them after the 2nd time we give them to her, like hummus, avocado, sweet potato, and green beans. She was very hesitant to try broccoli, but we have only tried it once so far.

  • Her favorite word is dada! She says it all the time. She shouts it and even whispers it. She seems really excited about this new sound that she can make.

  • She laughs a lot when she is sitting on something like a bed or trampoline and someone jiggles it around her.

  • She loves her and my reflection in the mirror. She always has a big smile when I walk over to stand in front of the bathroom mirror and when we get to the last page of “Peek a who” which ends with a mirror on the last page.

  • She loves books so much! She really enjoys turning the pages and is often trying to turn them way too fast for us to keep up reading. I have been reading the ABC book by Dr. Seuss a lot because I think it makes sure that I am saying all the different vowels and consonant sounds to her repeatedly.

She is not a fan of the crib. We’re trying a new thing out this month and have been having a lot better sleep because of it. It’s called, a floor bed! I might post more about it soon!

This was the first month that she has been able to support her self and hold her balance on her own when holding onto something stable with her hands.

I love these goofballs!

There were a lot of family visits this month <3

Lacey's 7th month

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Lacey is at such a fun age! We love how interactive she is with us and those around her. She has learned a lot of new motor skills and sounds when babbling, but still isn't able to move from point A to point B, so we don't have to worry about her getting into places or to things she shouldn't be near quite yet. She is getting more attached to me and really doesn't like to be alone in a room for more than a few seconds when she is awake. Sleeping during the night and getting her to nap during the day has been the biggest challenge still. She has seemed uncomfortable the past couple of weeks at night and we think it might be teething, but she hasn't had any pop up yet. The only place she naps well is at home because we have blackout curtains or in her carseat when we are on the highway, so being out of the house for the day with her is difficult. Unfortunately, we are finding strategies like rocking, cuddling, singing, walking in a stroller, and massaging less and less effective at lulling her to sleep. I photographed 2 weddings during the month of July and had to be away from her a full day while Brian took care of her, but she has been bottle feeding like a champ now so it made me feel much more at peace to get text updates from him after each successful meal from the bottle  :) 

Things to remember about this month:

  • She started clapping! It is so adorable and she seems to do it either when she is excited, like when someone enters the room, or occasionally when she is mad, like getting her diaper changed.

  • She doesn't seem particularly interested in solid food this month. It's not like she stares at food as it goes from our plate to our mouths or anything like that.

  • She thumps her tummy like a little gorilla and it's really cute because it makes a hollow-ish sound.

  • She rarely falls over when she is sitting up unsupported on a firm surface. She is really good at keeping her balance even when really reaching for toys.

  • She is a pro at rolling now, although it is always the same direction both from tummy to back and back to tummy.

  • She isn't crawling yet, but can slowly pivot when on her tummy in a circle.

  • She doesn't really notice animals. She has been around ducks, cats, and dogs and doesn't follow them with her gaze or have any reaction really.

  • She is currently indifferent to bubbles, big or small.

Her likes and dislikes:

  • She loves books and reading time :) Up until this month, she really didn't seem interested. But now when we read to her, she gets excited, more vocal, and even tries to flip the page (and is successful sometimes if we turn it half way for her). We are sticking to board books right now because she is really aggressive with grabbing them and likes to chew them.

  • She thinks puppets are hilarious! She got a finger puppet board book of a cow from our friend and immediately started cracking up when I wiggled it around. She smiled so much at a hand puppet too.

  • She does not like sweet potato. We mashed up some cooked sweet potato and put it in front of her on the highchair to eat. After mushing it around with her hands and making a mess, she finally got some in her mouth and looked disgusted and confused. She gagged a little too, it is a lot different than milk.

  • She likes avocado :) We tried again with mashed avocado for her 2nd meal. She also made a huge mess with it, but this time when she finally got some into her mouth, she seemed to be interested and started sucking her fingers.

  • She loves being around other babies and toddlers. She was much more interactive with her cousin who is 4 months older than her when they came to visit compared to the past. She smiles whenever a small child comes up to greet her.

  • She still loves her feet and has been chewing her big toe on her right foot at times.

  • She is fascinated by water bottles.

I have to be quicker and quicker with these each month!

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Follow along on Instagram :)

 

Lacey's 6th month

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Lacey has become mobile this past month! We are both excited and nervous about it. We have to be even more careful to avoid any dangerous situations like her rolling off a raised surface, but it has been fun witnessing her reach different milestones. She is wearing 18 month Gerber onsies still and size 3 disposable diapers are getting pretty tight on her. She has her "6 month" pediatric appointment next week, so we will see what her official measurements are then!

I'm sure her pediatrician will give us tips on starting solid foods at that appointment, but I'm in no rush. She has been such a pro at breast and bottle feeding, so I have been really enjoying feeding her milk and I will be sad to start weaning her. I think back to a couple months ago and remember that her refusing to feed from a bottle was a major stressor in my and Brian's life, so I am really grateful that bottle feeding isn't a problem anymore. I was able to be away from her for the first wedding of my 2018 photography season, and it was such a relief to get texts from Brian throughout the day telling me each time she finished a bottle of stored breast milk. I missed her so much, but it relieves me to know that she was ok with me away from home for a good amount of time. The next challenge we face is getting her to nap without me around.

She is still nursing throughout the night every 2-4 hours... On the plus side, this has prevented my period from coming back, but I am still pretty exhausted and definitely looking forward to the day she sleeps >6 hours without needing to be fed.

Things to remember about this month:

  • She is rolling! At the beginning of June, I would notice that she had changed positions from being on her back to being on her stomach without actually witnessing the roll. Now I watch her roll all the time from her back to her stomach, almost always towards her left though. We still don't think she has rolled from stomach to back yet.

  • She can sit without support really well and keep her balance on her own, but she still needs close supervision because she will tip backwards once in a while.

  • Her arms are getting strong. She has mastered a press-up when on her tummy and is able to lift even her belly a little off the floor when she straightens her arms.

  • She reaches for things now. We have been extra vigilant to make sure there are no choking hazards in her vicinity.

  • She can pivot at least 360 degrees when on her tummy, very slowly though.

  • Lacey is getting pretty ticklish especially at her armpits and thighs. Sometimes at her neck or feet too!

  • She has gotten the hang of saying "muh" and often says "muh-m!" which sounds a lot like mama :) She mostly says that when she is upset for some reason, ha! We have heard her say "buh" and even "la" one time.

  • Lacey went to her first wedding this month and was such a good girl!

  • She went to the pool for the first time this month, but she didn't seem entertained at all.

  • We're pretty sure she is teething because she chews whatever she can get her mouth on including straps, her fingers or our fingers, cloth or hard toys, etc.

Her likes and dislikes:

  • Brian makes her laugh more than anyone, including me who is with her all day long! She laughs when he jumps or moves his head around and says "Hi!" when he looks at her.

  • She is fascinated by glasses or bottles of water. I think she likes the sparkle :) She stares at them and then reaches out to grab them, sometimes making me spill all over myself.

  • Lacey enjoys songs with hand gestures, like when I sing Itsy Bitsy Spider.

  • She is always trying to touch tags and likes to crinkle them.

  • We got her a drum as a half birthday present for her and she loves it! She loves banging things with her hands, and the drum is her favorite thing to slap. Sometimes she is even able to hit it with her drum stick, which is super cute!

  • She likes being around other kids and will stare at them.

  • She hates when we lay her on the changing table for some reason. Besides being hungry or tired, that makes her cry the hardest.

  • We have been having her try a door jumper. She seems to be entertained by jumping in it, but doesn't smile lol.

  • She loves to grab things, especially our faces.

Look at how much she has grown!

Month by month baby photos

She loves her daddy and he loves her! Sometimes he can't help but rub her chubby cheeks like Ash massages Pikachu's! haha

She's getting so strong and coordinated! 

We took Lacey to her first wedding, she loved being around family!

I love my little chunky monkey!

It was her first 4th of July! Unfortunately we didn't watch the fireworks because it had just rained a lot outside and we didn't want to risk her getting bitten by mosquitos.

4 things I love about my new GoPro video camera

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As someone who loves to be in the water when the sun is out, I have been looking for a camera that lets me document moments in environments that my iPhone can't.  I absolutely love snorkeling and have used othe underwater cameras, but unfortunately they were not very reliable and broke on me even after using them just a couple times. This made me especially sad to lose a some footage when I swam with whale sharks in the Philippines :(

Adventures look a lot different for me nowadays with a 5-month-old baby girl, but they are even more precious to me!  I didn't put as much as I could have on our baby registry when I was pregnant, but I added a GoPro Hero6 on it in hopes we might receive it as a group gift because I knew I would use it on trips for family videos.  As we packed our towel and diaper bags to take Lacey to the pool for the first time, I made sure to put our new GoPro Hero6 in the bag to try out!

My thoughts on using the GoPro for the first time:

#1: It is easy to use

It only has 2 buttons (power and record) and a touch screen. I'm really glad it has a screen so I can see what I'm recording. It takes a little time to figure out how to use the touch screen menu, but no more time than you would need to figure out a new app on your iPhone.

#2: It is small and discreet

I didn't feel like I was drawing attention to myself when using it like my pro Nikon camera does. Not that I'm trying to spy on people or anything, I just would rather people not know that I'm a crazy millennial momtog who constantly records everything my daughter does!  I'd say it's even less obtrusive than a phone.

#3: It is waterproof right out of the box

For some reason I thought I needed an additional housing for the camera, but I was wrong!  As long as you make sure the memory card and battery slots are closed and sealed, you can definitely submerge it in water (as long as you're not going deeper than 33ft like you might when scuba diving).

A couple optional accessories I'm thinking of buying are a floaty wrist band (to keep clumsy me from dropping it to the bottom of a lake or something) and a hydrophobic lens protector (to prevent beads of water getting in the way of my shot).

#4: The video quality is really nice!

My husband and I were surprised with how great the video quality was when we uploaded the footage to our computer. The colors pop. The brightness is pretty well adjusted. The picture is crisp. See for yourself with the video below! Besides using specific clips, adding a title at the beginning and fading out at the end, I didn't do any editing. The color, exposure, and everything else is how it looks straight out of camera!

So far, I am really happy with my GoPro Hero6! I will continue to use it on my family adventures and keep you updated with any new things I discover about it :)


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4 things I love about my new GoPro Hero6 waterproof video camera

Lacey's 5th month

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Since my last post, Lacey had her "4 month" appointment and she was already 19 pounds 8 ounces! Our pediatrician is amazed with her growth. She has outgrown her 6-9 month Gerber onsies. Lacey is getting more and more adorable each month and we are loving this stage as she gets more of a personality! There have been so many firsts for her, it's been hard to keep track, I feel like I'm writing something down constantly in my baby journal. The biggest challenges are that she is really distracted when nursing which makes it pretty difficult to not draw attention to myself when in public and she is still waking up 2-3 times to feed during the night. I think it's because she has been only able to focus on feeding in a dark room at night, so she is still relying a lot on nighttime feedings. 

Firsts and things to remember: 

  • She is pretty close to independent with sitting with her Boppy Pillow. She can sit completely unsupported for 10-20 seconds at a time before she tips over to the sides or backwards. She reached upward to grab a toy when she was supported by the Bobby Pillow one time.
  • She is laughing a lot more often! Sometimes on cue when we tickle her tummy or armpits.
  • When she babbles, we hear her making a lot more different consonant sounds including "muh", "guh", and "bah". Just this week she said "la"for the first time and it was so cute watching her move her little tongue.
  • She is noticing other babies more and smiles at them now :)
  • She has rolled twice, but is far from being a pro at it. The first time it took nearly 15 minutes to completely go from her back to stomach. I didn't see the 2nd time, but it hasn't happened again since.
  • She met a lot of Brian's family at a get together a couple weeks ago. She was not shy and enjoyed everyone's company, which I was glad for. Seeing her next to her 2nd cousins who are so cute and little was so sweet!
  • She is getting more endurance with supporting all of her weight when we balance her, but only when her knees and hips are all the way straight.
  • Her hand-eye coordination keeps getting better and better. She is staring at her hand all the time while she opens and closes it. We just started to notice a little pincer grip action.
  • She always wants to jump! She can really get going when she is being held and her feet are resting on someone's lap.

Her likes and dislikes:

  • This past month, she suddenly started grabbing and holding her feet all the time which is super adorable. She is pretty obsessed with feet these days including ours. She also does this really cute thing where she claps them together.
  • Crinkle toys are fascinating to her finally! We had a few of them and had always tried to get her attention with them, but now she loves to grab them.
  • She is starting to like splashing in the bathtub with her feet and can get us pretty wet.
  • New sounds are very entertaining to her (as long as they don't scare her) and she will sometimes giggle when she hears one.
  • She loves her grandparents, aunts, and uncles :) She always seems to be smiling when she's around them.
  • She hates waking up in a dark room all alone.
  • If she's sick, getting her boogers out with a Nose Frida really makes her mad.
  • She is just beginning to get a hang of her door jumper and enjoys when she gets going in it.

 

Here are my highlights from the month:

Thanks for stopping by!

Lacey's 4th month

I have found taking care of a 4 month old to be very challenging because she is so dependent but wants to explore so bad!  This is tough when she is pretty heavy to carry around.  But she is somehow getting even cuter everyday and her smile makes me forget about all the work that goes into being a mom. There have been a few firsts for her travel-wise.  Trips this month included the Northwest suburbs of Chicago, Minneapolis, and Madison Wisconsin.  We also took her to her 2nd movie in the theatre this month and she only made one peep.  Lacey is getting more and more aware of her surroundings everyday and also more coordinated (although she looks pretty uncoordinated next to her 8-month-old cousin who is very purposeful with each movement).  She is still waking up about twice each night to nurse, but she did sleep a whole 8 hours one magical night, right before she got sick... She has added a couple more consonant sounds to her speech like "guh" and I think she has mastered "muh". Lacey seems to have more control over the volume of her voice and now we often hear her cooing in a way that isn't yelling or crying and it so adorable.  She also started laughing this month which is the sweetest sound my ears have ever heard :)

Things to remember:

  • We heard her laugh for the first time very briefly at Costco on 4/7 while she watched Brian strapping on the baby carrier to his chest.  We both heard the little giggle but neither of us saw it because I was carrying her outwards and Brian had his attention on buckling the straps.  The first time we really saw and heard her laugh was when she was being carried by her great-aunt Karen.  We heard her laugh from the other room and rushed to try to see it and saw a couple giggles before she stopped.  Ever since then, she laughs here and there but Brian and I have not figured out the trick to get her to laugh when we try to make her laugh.  Our family members seem to have better luck with it for some reason, I guess Mommy and Daddy aren't funny enough!
  • On April 16th, she said her first word (on accident probably, but still!). I had just finished a video call meeting and Brian was holding her her in the living room.  I walked into the room and when I made eye contact with her, she looked at me with a pouty lip and cried “ehhhh- Mama!”  Brian and I were completely surprised and shocked because she said it incredibly clearly. I will never forget Brian's face and the way he started to tear up, he was such a proud dad.  That moment just melted my heart in every way.
  • At the beginning of the month, she made her first trip out-of-state to Illinois to visit her grandma and grandpa while I photographed a styled shoot in the morning.  It was my first shoot since becoming a mom and in a lot of ways it felt good to get back into the swing of things, but I also missed her like crazy!  I'm glad she was able to spend time with Brian's side of our family, including meeting her great-grandparents.
  • A couple weeks later she made an even longer road trip to Minneapolis with Brian, my sister, and me to visit my brother and cousins.  We needed feeding breaks along the way because it was a 5 hour drive each direction.  It was a challenge to travel with a 3.5 month old, but Lacey really was such a trooper.  We felt bad that she had been in the carseat for so long, so we gave her a break from it for a few days after that.  It was so good to see my brother and my cousins with their almost 8-month-old baby girl :) She and Lacey didn't seem to notice each other very much, but when they did it was super cute! One of the funniest moments was when we were walking down frat row to pick up my brother on the U of Minnesota campus, Lacey was so out of place while Brian carried her in the carseat, a college girl walked by and asked, "Who's baby?" with a confused face.  It was hilarious!  I love Minneapolis so much and get emotional with nostalgia thinking about my days as an undergrad there.
  • Then just last weekend, she had her first trip to a city very special to my husband and I, good ole Madison WI :) Madison is home to our first place together, where we both went to school at the same time (undergrad for Brian and grad school for me), and where we got married almost 2 years ago! So we were very excited to introduce her to that wonderful place. We came because Brian raced in the Lake Monona 20k for the 2nd (and probably last according to him, it was a long race for him haha) time, but we decided to stay 2 nights to enjoy a weekend there.  We ate at our favorite places, but I think the food highlight of the weekend was the smoked turkey sandwich from Brasserie V on Monroe St.  We walked around a lot (Brian's poor post-20k feet!) including around the Capitol, State St, and Lake Wingra.  We also made sure to make a stop on the Monona Terrace rooftop where we had taken our favorite wedding photos.
  • She had her first cold this past month :( You wouldn't have been able to tell from her attitude because she was still a happy baby through most of it.  I just noticed when she had so much congestion in her nose and she had to breathe through her mouth at times.
  • She started sucking and chewing on her thumb this month. I'm not sure how I feel about it yet, but for now I'm not going to try to stop it.  We'll just have to make sure her hands are clean at all times!
  • She has been super grabby this past month. She can reach out and grab toys and objects with ease now.
  • Unfortunately she has also been very grabby/scratchy with faces as well.  I often have to block one of her swipes with my thumb which she gladly grabs and brings to her mouth to chew on.  Her own face has also been a victim, she has had at least 1 scratch on her face the entire past month.  I try my best to keep up with clipping her finger nails every few days, but they grow so fast! I'm glad her little scratches heal up pretty quick.
  • Whenever we pull out the phone to catch her doing something cute on video, she stops as soon as she sees it.
  • She will look at us and coo “hooo” to get our attention. It was the cutest thing the other day, I was playing with her in the living room while Brian was doing dishes. When I brought her into sitting, she looked over the couch at her dad and did her “hooo” coo from across the room until he looked at her.
  • She is getting a lot better at sitting and is able to hold her balance while holding my hands pretty well.  She hasn't been able to sit unsupported for more than a split second or two yet, but I'm sure she'll be doing it for longer soon.
  • We started trying to give her a bottle regularly every or every other day. She took it a lot easier when she was 2 months, but we are all starting to figure it out again with practice.

What she likes and dislikes:

  • She loves toys! Her favorites include: a stuffed giraffe with easy to grip legs, arms, and neck; Oball rattles; burp cloths and dress skirts (lol); and other easy to grip chewable toys from her nana and papa.
  • She hated getting her boogers sucked out by the Nose Frida when she was really stuffy and sick :(
  • She is fascinated with her toes and it is hard to resist her ab crunch forward in supported sitting when she is determined to touch them.  She is reaching and grabbing for them more and more during diaper changes.
  • She is very entertained by outside. She is much calmer if I position her so that she can look out the window during tummy time.
  • She really doesn't mind bath time anymore.  She is starting to get excited when we pour a stream of water from a bucket on her chest.
  • She still is content in her carseat as long as she's not hungry.
  • She likes to be able to see her surroundings, so she prefers to be held upright and outwards.
  • She is enjoying longer and longer periods of tummy time.
  • She smiles so big when we say hi to her in the morning.  Morning is my favorite time of the day with her because she is so happy.  She also has a big smile when her daddy gets home from work :)
  • She hates waking up in a room without people around her, so every time I put her down to nap in the other room, she wakes up screaming.  However, if she wakes up and we look at her and talk to her when she opens her eyes, she looks reassured and either goes back to sleep or smiles as she wakes.

I think she has mostly grown in length this past month.  Here is a side-by-side comparison of her at 3 months old vs 4 months old:

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And now, a bunch of photos from this month!

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I told you she loves her giraffe...

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Lacey and Daddy :)

We had a great weekend in Madison and I think she liked cheering on her dad.

Other times it wasn't very enjoyable for her...

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When we were on the rooftop of the Monona Terrace, I couldn't help myself and I tried to take photos in the same spot as our wedding photos by the lovely Katie Ricard.  A lot has changed in 2 years!

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She loved meeting her great-aunt and great-uncle when they came to visit (our uncle ran away from my camera).

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Lacey got to hangout with her uncle, auntie, and my cousins in Minneapolis!  She even got to try out some toys :) It was so good to hang out and talk with family who are also new parents, I really needed it. 

They are 4 months apart, but nearly the same size lol.

Thank you for visiting, I hope you enjoyed this little update on our lives!

Lacey's 3rd month

As if time wasn't blowing by fast enough for us as parents, Lacey is growing surprisingly fast!  She is 3 months old and now fitting pretty perfectly in Gerber 6-9 month onesies.  I have gone to a couple meetings with other parents and their babies and Lacey was as big or bigger than some 6 month olds.  Brian's bicep is getting bigger just from holding her haha!  She is such a good girl.  She is very calm in her carseat (although she has almost outgrown it).  We really haven't been limited in going places because she has such a good temperament, we are so lucky.  She has been quiet and content at church, the grocery store, and even the movie theatre!

Things to remember about this month:

  • She is doing so good at tummy time now.  Last month she was able to lift her head about 45 degrees, now she can consistently hold it up 90 degrees for a couple minutes in a row!  She made a lot of progress with this after she realized she should use her arms to prop herself up instead of hovering her arms mid-air (doing a superman).  
  • Her hand-eye coordination was the biggest change this month for me.  She is really good at gripping fabric (and my hair) now.  It looks so cute when she looks like she is fluffing up her tutu when she wears one. 
  • A couple times, I have noticed her staring at her hand for a long time. It looks like she has discovered her limbs :)
  • If we give her an easy-to grip toy, she will start chewing on it.  I'm pretty sure she is teething...
  • Her balance has also really improved and now she has good head control if we sit her up and support her at her lower ribs.
  • We took her to the movie theatre for the first time this month.  Brian and I really wanted to see Black Panther because we had heard good things, so I suggested we just go and take Lacey.  She is such a good girl, I thought she could do it!  We happened to get a back row pair of seats right next to the exit luckily, but we didn't end up needing it. We put on her noise reducing earmuffs and she slept almost through the whole movie, she never made a peep!  She got a little squirmy a couple times while I was holding her, but I was able to nurse her discreetly in the dark theatre and she fell back asleep.
  • We took her to church for the first time on Good Friday.  Brian carried her in the forward-facing carrier so that she could look around.  The only noise she made was a happy coo like she wanted to sing along with the worship music :)
  • Her hair is long enough to brush to the side and stay put now.  She has more options than just a faux hawk now haha.
  • Her nails grow so fast!  I clip them twice a week now I think.  I can only take care of them when she is sleeping because she moves too much when she's awake.  I love using my Nail Frida clipper, makes it a lot less scary of a task.
  • She doesn't smell like a newborn anymore :(  I already forgot that smell, something like milk I think?
  • We took her on a couple walks outside, but it still hasn't been warmer than 45 degrees when we go.  She saw Lake Michigan for the first time this month.
  • We started a 6-step bedtime routine, and that has made all the difference with getting her to sleep. We change her diaper, wipe her face and hands with a warm washcloth, use the Nose Frida, change into pajamas, nurse, then read. We found that the exact time we put her to bed doesn't matter as much as doing the same steps in the same order and put her down in a very dark (nearly pitch-black) room.  She still eats a couple times at night after going to bed, but now she falls asleep pretty quickly when she is done eating which she wasn't doing last month.

Her likes and dislikes:

  • She likes music, especially if it involves singing or dancing.  Sometimes I start doing my dance workouts in front of her when she is crying and she stops pretty quickly and sometimes falls asleep.
  • She loves eye contact.  Most of the time, I can get her to smile if I look at her, wave, and say hi. If I'm not giving her the attention that she wants while nursing, usually because I'm trying to catch up with messages, she'll make a little hoot to get me to look her way and then she has the cutest little smile when I make eye contact with her :)
  • She doesn't like getting her hair washed in the sink right before we put her in the bath, she is usually crying during this first step. She likes being submerged in the water for bath time, she is always very calm after just having been crying and she seems to enjoy kicking her feet in the water with some splashes sometimes.  She hates when we take her out and dry her, she is usually screaming during this stage.
  • She still loves to look at the ceiling corners, lights, and outside.
  • She calms down whenever we rock her in her rock n' play, but she won't be able to use it much longer because of her size.
  • She gets really scared and starts crying when Brian makes this roar noise that sounds like a tiger.  He's only done it once or twice because she gets so upset!
  • She loves to play with her dad.  One time, when Brian got home from work and I was holding her, he came up close to her and said hi and she turned her head away to the other side and smiled.  Then Brian went to the other side of me to go face-to-face with her again and she smiled and turned away again.  It looked like she was playing a game with him! It was so cute.

Lacey's 2nd Month

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This month, Lacey has grown a lot in becoming more vocal and socially interactive.  She has discovered that she can do more with her voice than just cry.  It makes me so happy that now she is not only able to track our faces from side-to-side, but she also seems to look for us when we leave her field of vision or when she hears our voices.  She is getting more and more of a personality everyday which is so fun to watch.  Brian and I are also finally developing a daily routine, which has helped her fall asleep faster after waking up at night. Physically, the biggest thing I’ve noticed is that her neck strength and endurance have gotten a lot better and now she can balance her head when upright for short periods of time, although it starts to wobble as she gets tired. I feel like I'm starting to get a hang of this phase, but it will be a whole new ballgame once she learns to roll and becomes more mobile!

Things to remember about this month:

  • Instead of just being a reflex, her smile is much more purposeful compared to last month.  She smiles at me or Brian when we first make eye contact in the morning or after a nap, it's such a sweet moment in my day.
  • She has started being very vocal, besides crying, this month. She started to do this coo that sounds like an owl hooting ("ooo, ooo, ooo") while tilting her chin up and it just melts my heart!
  • This past week, sometimes she does this excited squeal while kicking her feet and waving her arms which sounds and looks almost like a laugh. We might have heard her first laugh a few days ago, but it was so short it was hard to tell.
  • She makes this facial expression that looks like she is amazed by opening her eyes really wide. It is really funny.
  • We are figuring out her different cries.  So far I can distinguish between her hungry cry (which is my least favorite one since I hear it the most at night) and her tired cry (which is pretty cute since she makes a pouty lip when she does it).
  • Her skin is so soft!  My and Brian's favorite thing is to rub our cheek against hers. Right now her complexion is perfect with barely, if any, baby acne or dry skin.
  • At 14 lbs 11 oz and 24 inches, she is in the 98th percentile for weight and 97th percentile for length. She has grown out of most of her 0-3 month clothes already!  She still fits in some brands' 0-3 month clothing like Cat and Jack from Target.  It is amazing how much the clothes in one size can vary from brand to brand.
  • She is very calm when Brian reads to her.  A lot of the time she falls asleep, perfect for our developing bedtime routine.
  • She got to meet a lot of extended family on my mom's side, including my cousin's 6-month-old Frida.  We are both so excited that they are so close in age!
  • I loved seeing my 93 year-old grandma, Inang, hold Lacey and sing to her.  Inang is moving to the Philippines and I was pretty emotional saying goodbye to her and watching her say goodbye to Lacey.
  • She still likes to sleep with her arms above her head. It reminds me of her dad :)
  • Nursing has been really good this past month!  I haven't had any pain the past few weeks, which makes me very happy.  We both have mastered nursing when lying down and sitting, now I just have to work on standing.  I nursed in public for the first times this month including at Costco, Qdoba, and at a restaurant brunch.  Nursing in public was the easiest when I was carrying her in my ring sling, much more comfortable than crossing a leg over in sitting using a cradle hold.

What she likes and doesn't like:

  • She still seems unsure about bath time.  She makes a startled face and breathes in a borderline crying pattern when we first submerge her, but then she calms down and seems to enjoy kicking her feet in the water after the initial shock. Using a thermometer to keep the water just above 100 degrees F has given me peace of mind that it isn't the temperature that is making her uncomfortable.
  • She doesn't mind tummy time too much.  About half the time we end it because she falls asleep. She really prefers to keep her head turned to the right side during tummy time or when she is being carried, so we recently have been trying to carry her and do other activities with her head turned towards the left which she doesn't really like but is gradually getting used to.
  • She always smiles when I wipe her face with a burp cloth or warm wash cloth.
  • She likes batting at hanging toys, especially her favorite chime toy.  Thanks to my parents, she has a new play gym that is perfect for her.  She loves it because she can play with her hands and her feet by kicking piano keys.
  • She likes to look at my face and coo along when I sing to her :)
  • She still loves to look at light coming through blinds, corners that have a lot of shadows, slats of her crib, and lamps.
  • She still loves her carseat, and we are so thankful!  She is usually fast asleep by the time we are out the door and really only wakes up when we stop and park the car.  Multiple times we have been able to eat at a restaurant while she is quiet in her carseat. 
  • Just like I would have expected, she hated getting shots at her 2-month appointment. I felt bad, but she calmed down pretty quick after I picked her up and started nursing.

Here are some photos from this past month:

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She had her first Valentine's Day this month and looked very happy about it!  I love how it looks like she is winking when she smiles sometimes.

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Her hand-eye coordination is coming along.  She is getting good at batting toys and is just starting to reach to grab things.

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She loves her play gym!  I highly recommend this one by Fisher Price; I really like how adaptable it is to fit different stages of her development and to work on different positions. Good choice Nana!

She's showing more and more head control during tummy time and now she is able to lift and turn her head side-to-side.

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I love the way she sleeps with her hands up and her legs curled up.

She looks like a completely different person to me when she is upright versus lying down!  Gravity is not her friend right now, haha.

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Maybe she'll be a Gopher one day like her mom :D

I love taking pictures of this little girl!

I finally captured her heartbreaking pouty lip on my camera!

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We love our little Lacey!

I feel so lucky to be starting a family as the same time as these wonderful people.  Frida was so adorable even while she was sick.  I'm sure there will be plenty of photos of cousins Lacey and Frida together in the future :)

Lacey spent some good quality time with my side of her family.

I am so thankful that my grandma was able to hold Lacey. 

I love this picture of Inang with Lacey's cousin baby Frida :)

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Four generations in one photo.  I'll cherish this forever.

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I love watching Lacey and Daddy time.

Our little girl is growing.  I can tell she is definitely getting chunkier with a side-by-side comparison of one vs two months.

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Thanks for visiting! Stay tuned next month for a 3 month update :)



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Lacey's 1st Month

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It still hasn't hit me that I have a 1-month-old baby!  She really is growing faster than I could have imagined, time seems to fly by so fast when it sees like nearly every day she is reaching a new milestone.  I'm trying to live in the present and ingrain each moment in my memory when I hold her and look at her face.  On one hand, I feel like I have way too many photos and videos of her on my phone/computer/camera, but on the other hand I am afraid to miss any new thing she does.  That is a big reason I'm really going to put an effort into taking photos on my actual camera, print them, and also put together these monthly blog posts with highlights of what is going on each month.  Even if no one looked at these, I will love looking back on them as she grows up.  

Memories from her first month:

  • Hearing pure joy in Brian's tearful voice saying "that's our baby" when he first heard her cry as they pulled her out in the operating room.
  • Seeing her suddenly calm down and open her eyes when they laid her on my chest to meet each other face-to-face.
  • Lying skin-to-skin with her that first night in our postpartum room and watching her clumsily figuring out how to suck in order to nurse.
  • Seeing the emotion on our parents' and siblings' happy faces when they first met Lacey.
  • Finally leaving the hospital on the 5th day and seeing her look so snuggly and content in her carseat.
  • Watching her becoming more alert every day. The first few days, I would get excited when she would open her eyes.  Now she is looking around and even follows my face from side to side!  It's really cute because her eyes are still uncoordinated and jumpy, so there is a bit of a delay when she tracks someone moving.
  • Her getting startled in her sleep.  It happened a lot more frequently during the first couple of weeks. I didn't know it was a thing that just automatically happened as a reflex, but it is my favorite! So adorable!
  • Her smiles.  Right now they still seem a bit unintentional, but I love when she smiles while she sleeps right after nursing.  Sometimes if I'm lucky, she'll smile with her eyes open if I kiss her cheek or upper lip :)
  • The noises she makes!  She makes the funniest moans and groans when people move her around or while sleeping.  I had heard that newborns are noisier than you would think, but I think it is hilarious. She snores sometimes and is just starting to make cooing sounds, melts my heart!
  • She smells so good.  I remember smelling newborns before her and thinking it was just how a freshly bathed baby smells, but she seems to smell better each day after a bath so I really think I just enjoy the essence of her smell.  My mom said it smells like innocence and I really do agree.
  • Her pouty lower lip when she cries. Her crying can be unsettling, but sometimes I think it is so cute, especially because it isn't super loud right now.
  • Seeing her look so calm and happy even when she is naked in just her diaper at the pediatrician's office. A naked baby is so fun to watch because those jerky, uncoordinated arms and legs are the cutest in just a diaper!  
  • Watching her grow.  Since I'm breastfeeding, it does make me a little nervous not knowing how much milk she is actually getting, but every appointment she has is so reassuring.  At a 1-week lactation consultant appointment, they weighed her before and after a feeding and figured out that she was already getting 3 ounces!  It was also great to see her surpass her 9 lb 9 oz birth weight by weighing in at 10 lb 14.5 oz at a 3 week pediatrician appointment.
  • Seeing her lift her head during tummy time.  My big girl impresses me everyday with her strength! haha
  • Her umbilical cord stump fell off at 3 weeks.  Her belly button was sort of raw looking when it came off, but some ointment from the pediatrician helped it heal nicely.
  • Having my mom stay over to help us during my recovery.  She has been the biggest help this past month and it is great to see her bond with Lacey.  It has been a blessing to be able to hand Lacey to her early in the morning after nursing every 2-3 hours at night and take good 2-3 hour naps during the day.  Her delicious Filipino cooking is a huge bonus!
  • Learning how to nurse Lacey and watching her learn too.  Getting a good latch has been a big challenge for us and was harder than I thought it would be, but I have been trying different strategies, techniques, and positions with her and I think we are starting to get the  hang of it at 4 weeks.  Also, I had no idea how much of a challenge it would be on the 5th day when my milk arrived!  I am so thankful for having a local community of breastfeeding women and women like my mother-in-law to answer my questions and brainstorm solutions.

Lacey's favorite things:

  • Her dad's voice.  Brian has been able to calm her down even since the first days in the hospital.  At times she has been crying hard, but Brian has brought her to silence by just humming "ooooohmmmmmmm" at a low pitch.  It's pretty funny to see, hopefully I will get it on video one day.  She also seems to like when my mom speaks or sings Tagalog to her.
  • She loves her newborn rocker and it has been so so helpful to be able to safely put her down in it in the living room while we do chores and other things while being able to keep an eye on her.  Thank you to my cousin Tracy for recommending we put it on our registry and to Sage for getting it for us!  I'll be a little sad when she outgrows it.
  • She loves to stare at our push-pin world map that Brian gave to me as an anniversary present that is hanging on the wall above our couch. Maybe she'll love traveling like her parents!
  • Bath time.  As long as she isn't surprised by not-so-warm water on the colder side, she loves the water.  She always is zonked out afterwards.
  • Her carseat. We are so grateful that she falls asleep right away in her carseat!  It has allowed us to be able to get out of the house a few times already now.
  • Wrapped and carried on my chest, most of the time...  Once I made the mistake of trying to put her in the wrap while she was crying to calm her down, and that made her VERY upset.  As long as she is calm when I wrap her on my chest, she falls asleep or doesn't mind it.  This is and will continue to be very helpful to free up my hands and help me avoid hurting myself from carrying her just with my hands and arms.
  • Sleeping on her stomach on people's chests.  I've been surprised with how she really doesn't mind being on her stomach.
  • Peeing and pooing with her diaper off...  We call it her poop/pee surprise, so we have to be ready every diaper change.  We are thankful she is a girl when it comes to diaper changes so we don't have to deal with a fountain aimed at our faces!
  • Music.  I like to play worship music when I hang out with her alone, but she also has liked (or been calmed by) other music that my family plays for her like the rock-a-bye baby lullaby on our sound machine, my mom and I's singing, Brian playing guitar, Gabbi playing Lauryn Hill and my dad playing Kenny G.  In general she gets upset in a quiet room, so we play beach sounds at night on our sound machine while she sleeps in the pack n' play next to our bed (the beach sounds are also nice for us to listen to at night, more so than the heart beat or white noise modes which she also likes).

Those are the highlights from her first month that I can think of, but here are photos I took on my camera this past month!

After a being separated about half of the time from Lacey while she was getting an IV in the nursery, we were happy to be home.  She was only 4 days old and already rocking tummy time!

She loved visits from her grandparents during her first week :)

Brian and I dressed her up in some props to attempt some newborn photos when she was 11 days old.

She is growing fast, so I'm going to take photos with her next to a letter board (for size reference) every month.  Here she is 5 days on the left and 1 month on the right :)

She isn't very happy with me when I pose her sometimes though...

She has so many people that love her <3

Especially her mommy and daddy!

I told you she likes to stare at our world map, haha!

I love my little cutie!!

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How my husband and I spent less than $3500 on the trip of a lifetime to Italy and Germany

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Brian and I had been talking about going on a trip to Europe for our 1-year anniversary when we first got engaged, maybe even before that.  We knew a trip to Italy and Germany would not be kid-friendly because of the potential long distances of walking to various restaurants, historical sights, etc, so we wanted to do it very early in our marriage.  We are so glad that we did, and the timing could not have been any more perfect.  I wanted to share with you in this blog post how we managed to spend <$3500 total on our trip together and how we could potentially have spent <$3000 for an even better trip.  To be honest, the highlight of our trip was Italy and I had a sinus cold during our visit to Germany, so this post is focused on our visit to Florence Italy.

Airfare

If you are like me, this is where you start when planning travel because saving here can be the most cost effective when planning to travel abroad.  My parents are fantastic at finding travel deals and had heard us talk about wanting to go to Europe, so my dad forwarded me an email about a sale being offered by Iceland Air for travel from Chicago to "London, Glasgow, Frankfurt, and Munich" for $509, and it even happened to be for dates right around our 1-year anniversary 😃.  Since it was the end of the December and the deal was set to end on Jan 2, Brian and I talked about travel dates for a couple days and bought our tickets before the new year!  For 2 roundtrip tickets Chicago to/from Frankfurt, the total was $977 including tax!  Our experience with Iceland Air ended up being a very pleasant one.  The only negative we observed compared to other international airlines was that there were no complimentary snacks or meals, but we were able to purchase food onboard.

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We definitely wanted to visit Florence, Italy, so in order to get close, we bought 2 roundtrip tickets Frankfurt to/from Pisa for $172 from Ryan Air.  Now these tickets from Ryan Air are cheap for a reason.  Think Spirit Airlines where you have to pay for carry-on, but worse.  We didn't realize until much later that Ryan Air flew out from a smaller airport in Frankfurt different from the main Frankfurt airport, which cost us extra money and travel time because we had to take a 1.5 hour long bus ride ($66 for 2 roundtrip tickets) between the 2 Frankfurt airports (who knew they would be so far apart?!).  I recently checked Ryan Air's website while writing this post and it seems that they may have added more flights out of the main airport, so maybe this wouldn't be an issue in the future.  We ended up paying an extra $110 in unnecessary check-in fees because we failed to find a printer to print out our boarding passes before getting to the airport, so don't make the same mistake as us!  On our return trip Pisa to Frankfurt, our flight was delayed by several hours for an unknown reason and we received very limited updates from the Ryan Air staff.  Cheap tickets, but we might have preferred to take a scenic train across the alps instead of waiting in an uncomfortable airport, and this would have saved us the bus ride as well.

Accommodations

Brian and I are huge fans of Airbnb.  We always try to immerse ourselves in a culture when we travel, to experience a city like a local as much as we can vs a tourist.  Staying at an Airbnb instead of a hotel/resort is one great step in the right direction.  We purposely seek out "super hosts" and spend a lot of time researching reviews whenever we travel.  We are so so glad we did this, especially for Florence, because our host, Michele, had THE BEST recommendations. We purposely chose Airbnbs that included washer and dryers for laundry so that we didn't have to pack as many clothes. 

Left: This was our view right outside the window of our Airbnb; Right: I packed all of my belongings for the trip in these two bags.

Left: This was our view right outside the window of our Airbnb; Right: I packed all of my belongings for the trip in these two bags.

This is what our spending on accommodations was (after taxes):

  • $85 for 1 night in Pisa
  • $257 for 3 nights in Florence
  • $243 for 3 nights in Nurnberg
From left to right: Pisa, Florence, Nuremberg

From left to right: Pisa, Florence, Nuremberg

Food

By planning our meals around recommendations from our Airbnb host, we were able to avoid marked-up tourist prices at restaurants and find sort-of hidden gems frequented by locals, so the food was more affordable and probably better!  Michele even gave us a helpful tip that in Italy, a trattoria is typically more casual and affordable while a ristorante is usually fancier and more expensive (sort of like bars vs fine dining in America).  Despite eating out for lunch and dinner nearly every day, we really didn't break the bank in this category because the food was very affordable!  This was surprising to us considering it is probably the best food we have ever had.

For example, we had multiple affordable meals at Trattoria da Rocco.  For an appetizer (4.5 Euro), main dish (5.5 Euro), soda (2 Euro), and dessert (3 Euro), it only cost us $16/person (the exchange rate during our trip was 1 Euro = $1.0909).  It is hard to believe that I would spend more money at a Chili's back in the USA, and this was a world-class meal including delicious Tuscan style chicken and a tiramisu leagues above any in the US.

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Another example, our host recommended that we try a traditional Florentine T-bone steak at I' Brindellone, so of course, we went.  The steak was 1.2 kg (42 oz) for 36 Euro which comes out to $40 for a steak definitely big enough for the 2 of us.  The same quality and size steak would easily cost over $100 back in the US, but instead, it was $20/person for the juiciest, tastiest steak I have ever had in my life.

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Sights and attractions

We only ended up paying $72 total for sight-seeing.  These were all the things that we got to see for free:

Leaning Tower of Pisa:

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Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore:

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 Piazza della Signoria:

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 Ponte Vecchio bridge

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Just walking the streets was beautifully picturesque:

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These are things we paid for:

Galleria dell'Accademia ($41.67 for 2 people):

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Giardino Bardini ($17.50 for 2 people):

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Public transportation

Travel on land was very easy in Europe.  We loved the trains!  We took an easy train ride from the Pisa airport to Florence for $9 each ($36 total for 2 people, roundtrip).  Thankfully we learned that Florence is actually Firenze in Italian; I would recommend learning the native names for cities of interest before you travel 😃  Italians who work frequently with tourists, like the staff at train stations, know a decent amount of English, so we didn't have too much trouble going up to the counter to purchase with cash from the cashier.  The train was surprisingly fast and comfortable!

While in the city, we walked everywhere and only used a taxi once for a short drive from the Florence train station to our Airbnb because we had had a long day of travel and were carrying our bags.  We definitely put our tennis shoes to use!  It was a bonus that the style in Europe is to wear comfortable athletic shoes when in public (we would have stood out like sore thumbs as Americans with flip-flops even though it was a very comfortable 70 degrees F most of the time). We ended up walking from our Airbnb to the Florence train station when leaving the city, which was easy because we had packed everything for our trip into hiking backpacks.

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When traveling by train within Germany, we really wanted to experience the high-speed German train.  We took the ICE train between Frankfurt and Nürnberg which was $250 total for 2 roundtrip tickets.

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Raisa and Brian's must-sees/dos

  • Go to the Galleria dell'Accademia to see the David by Michelangelo (Tip: Make sure to buy tickets online to avoid the LONG line).
  • Visit the Bardini Gardens on a clear day for a view of the entire city. 
  • Share a T-bone steak at I' Brindellone.
  • Walk around the city and make sure to see the Duomo (Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore) and Piazza della Signoria at least.

What we were glad we did

  • Used public transportation
  • Stayed in an Airbnb hosted by a super host
  • Asked for help when we could use it (we wouldn't have found places like the Bardini Gardens if we hadn't asked locals on the street where to find a pretty view of the city)
  • Visited in early May, the weather was perfect

What we might have done differently

  • Planned big to-dos, like the Galleria, from home
  • Used the app called "Mango" for conversational Italian instead of audio books
  • Took a train instead of flying via Ryan Air
  • Stayed in just Italy, maybe gone to Rome
  • Woke up early to go inside the Duomo (buying tickets ahead of time)

How we could have saved more

  • We could have stayed in one city for a longer period of time to maximize on the 1x cleaning fee for an Airbnb rental.  Staying put would have also helped us minimize travel costs.  When traveling to Europe, it can be so tempting to try to "see it all!", but if we had focused on one city, it would have been an overall more relaxing vacation.  At the very least, we are going to stay in one country next time we travel to Europe.
  • Another way we could have maximized the money of flying overseas would be to stay longer.  Even though we saved on airfare, it always is a big chunk, so it would have been cost-effective to plan a longer vacation.  However, this was not possible for us at this time because of limited vacation time.

Our overall thoughts

This ended up being the most fulfilling vacation I have ever gone on.  It was amazing to go through so many adventures with the love of my life and we learned so much about each other, ourselves, and the world.  A big lesson we learned was that even with a language barrier between people, a smile is universal.  Europeans were very patient with us not being anywhere close to fluent in their language, and they did appreciate when we put in a little effort at least.  We were very appreciative of their grace.

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Follow more of our adventures on Instagram :)

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How pregnancy has been

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I can't believe I am already 32 weeks along now!  Brian and I are busy this week with moving to the Wisconsin lakeshore and I will be relieved to get settled into our new home soon (I think the nesting instinct is just beginning)!  The days are racing by, so I wanted to start a habit of documenting our life on here and give you all a little update on how things are going with us 😃 

These were some highlights for us during the past 7 months:

Our first ultrasound - It hadn't really hit me that I was pregnant after a positive at-home pregnancy test and positive blood test.  We were not sure of how far along I was, so we were scheduled for an ultrasound to figure out our due date.  Brian was so sweet and held my hand as the ultrasound tech pointed out our baby to us, who was the size of a pistachio at the time.   When she played audio of our baby's heartbeat, we both teared up and I think that was when it hit me that a life was growing inside me.

Feeling the first kicks - I was really antsy for the day when I could start feeling Baby's kicks, especially when my midwife started asking if I could feel the baby move.  In anticipation, I tried to figure out if I was feeling Baby moving or just my normal digestion activity.  Finally, I was sure that the flutters lower in my abdomen were from the baby and I connected these new feelings with movement I saw during our 20-week ultrasound, which was such a beautiful sight to see.  We were lying in bed the first time that Brian felt our baby kick.  I told him to try putting his ear to my belly to see if he could hear anything and as soon as he put some pressure of his head on me, Baby kicked him right in the ear!  Brian's face lit up with a smile and he excitedly said, "Baby kicked me in the ear because it doesn't like me!"  It was funny and such a sweet thing to see his face in that moment.

Our third ultrasound - We were lucky to get to see an extra ultrasound of Baby at 28-weeks.  My midwife ordered one because our baby was extra mobile during our 20-week ultrasound and the ultrasound tech was not able to get a good view of the heart.  We were blessed to see a 3D photo of Baby's face.  I was shocked to see how much the face on the screen resembled my own.  I couldn't help but cry from joy looking at the baby I am soon going to meet.  I often find myself pulling up the picture on my phone.  We were happy to hear that Baby looked healthy and everything is developing normal from what they could tell on the ultrasound.

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Here are some things I have learned or noticed while being pregnant:

-Picking a name is hard!  Brian and I made it a little more difficult by not finding out the sex of our baby, so we had to figure out both a boy and girl name haha. There is surprisingly a lot of pressure in choosing a name for a person that they will live with as a child and adult.  We are keeping both secret just between the two of us though until Baby is born.

-I feel more confident and less anxious the more I educate myself.  I have come to really enjoy reading books on pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding.  I also get excited to go to my weekly birth classes.  Having a low-intervention birth without pain medication is something I am striving for, which I know is no easy feat.  In attempt to set myself up to reach my goals, Brian and I have been going to Bradley Method classes which is a considerable 12-week commitment where we meet with an instructor and other moms-to-be once a week.  We chose this course because of the proven positive outcomes in achieving their goal with stats showing that 86% of women who complete the Bradley Method course end up having unmedicated vaginal births.  I have learned so much already and still have 6 more classes to go!  I am also looking forward to joining a local La Leche League group to learn all about breastfeeding at monthly meetings with other breastfeeding moms :)

-I like thinking of childbirth as an athletic event instead of a medical procedure.  I think this is a big reason why I have been enjoying my Bradley Method classes because their philosophy is that going through labor is like running a marathon and you should train for it if having a low-intervention birth is a priority.  Just like a marathon, you can go for an unmedicated birth without preparing, but without the training and appropriate strategies you will probably won’t make it without an epidural or be in absolute misery.  Looking at it from this perspective makes me more excited-nervous instead of a fearful-nervous.  We even do an exercise progression at the beginning of each class, I have worked up to 5 squats deep as possible for 45 second holds.

-Bonding with Baby during pregnancy can be fun.  I smile whenever I sit on the couch and massage what I think is my baby's foot and feel a nudge back in response.  I have enjoyed writing and reflecting in a journal that I will end up giving to my baby as an adult.  Personally, I want to start bonding before I give birth with my child and these things help me with making a connection.

-It is so true that every pregnancy is different.  Shortly after getting pregnant, I heard about how awesome 2nd trimester is compared to the others, but that is not what I experienced at all.  In fact, I would consider it the worst during my pregnancy.  2nd trimester was the only one where I had to throw up about every 1 or 2 weeks, it's weird I never threw up during my 1st trimester. 3rd trimester seems a little more typical for me, discomfort from a really big belly and running out of room has been the theme of this 3 months.

-Having heartburn starting in first trimester probably means it will be severe by the third.  I was feeling optimistic about being able to manage my heartburn even when a nurse told me that it will only keep getting worse during my first prenatal visit, but she was right.  I am currently taking 2 Pepsids a day and as many Tums as I can for the pregnant limit, but it still keeps me up at night.  This week I am trying to eat dinner early, have lighter fruit-based snacks after 6pm, and prop up my torso on pillows at night, which I think has helped.

-It is harder than I thought to move around with a big ole 3rd trimester belly.  I really have been throwing momentum into transitions like rolling out of bed and getting up from the couch.  The amount of arm and leg flailing that happens when I'm in a hurry must be very comical to watch.

-My love and admiration for my husband grows everyday.  I find myself looking at Brian across the room and just being so happy that he is the father of my child and thanking God that I got to marry such a good man.

Time is seriously flying for us.  I really want to make it a point to take pictures together as our family grows every year so we can look and reflect on a snapshot in time.  Here are some photos from our maternity session a couple weeks ago taken by Rachel W. Photos :) 


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Weddings by Raisa is moving to Wisconsin

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My husband and I are moving to Wisconsin in a couple weeks, so Weddings by Raisa will be returning to the state where it all started.  With me being 7 months pregnant, this is sort of a hectic time for me and Brian, but we didn't want to pass up the opportunity to move closer to most of our closest family and friends.  We figured moving while I am pregnant should be easier than moving with a newborn, so this is all happening very quickly!

Here what the move means for Weddings by Raisa:

  1. I am now offering weddings to couples getting married in Wisconsin (including in Milwaukee, Sheboygan, Madison, Door County, and more) and Chicago without additional travel costs!  I will also be offering engagement, anniversary, and boudoir sessions in Wisconsin 😃 
  2. I will still be available for Michigan weddings!  The biggest change is that I will be adding costs for my travel and accommodations into my wedding package for Michigan weddings that are booked going forward.  You will still receive a portrait session, but this will probably happen within a couple days before your wedding when I will already be in the area for your special day.  The reason I include a portrait session with my couples before their wedding day is because it makes all the difference in warming up to each other with me behind the camera and you in front of the camera before the big day.  Nothing will change for Michigan couples who have already booked their date with me as of October 2017.
  3. Madison WI, I will most likely be heading your way in the spring offering mini sessions, so make sure to subscribe to my email list so that you don't miss the date!  You can sign up with the form at the bottom of this post.  Same goes for people in the Sheboygan/Milwaukee areas.  I am also contemplating holding a boudoir session marathon if there is enough interest.
  4. I will be on the lookout for married couples to model as bride and grooms as I plan to organize styled shoots with awesome vendors in the area.  😉  Stay tuned for updates on that as well.

Feel free to email me if you are curious about anything I talked about here or if you have any questions!  Brian and I will miss living in Michigan and the friends we have made here, but are excited for the next turn in our journey.  We'll be there soon Wisconsin!

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AfterWERQ - A Grand Rapids Michigan Dance Fitness Event

If you get to know me, it won’t take long for you to figure out that I love love LOVE to dance.  I am so happy that I came across WERQ dance fitness at my local gym when I was living in Madison Wisconsin.  Since then, WERQ has become not only my favorite way to exercise, but has also given me a community of fun, amazing women.  I was beyond excited when my friend Angie asked me to photograph this AfterWERQ charity event at 20 Monroe Live in downtown Grand Rapids Michigan.  I am so excited to share my favorite images with you from last night!  Hopefully these photos give you an idea of what WERQ is about, but it might help to play your favorite radio hip hop, pop, and rock while you scroll through ;)