Golden rays and days full of trips to the library and community splash pad are here. Summertime, hello. Our first summer break is nearly here, for the both of us, in some way. It's my first time experiencing this as a mother of a school-age child and I've gotten to examine how I could effectively adjust my daily family rhythm* accordingly.



Back in January, we enrolled Zwi as a primary student at a local AMI Montessori school. Before she started, I made it a personal goal of mine to be more intentional in the evenings and sit down with her to work on art, math and writing since those areas are where she tends to excel and enjoy the most. In her classroom, she has lessons in botany, geography, phonetics, sensory skills and much more so I'm learning to incorporate activities to continue her education at home while she's home for the summer.

Z's school will be back in session in August, about a week before I return to work from maternity leave. I started working full-time when Z was about a year and a half so it's been quite some time since I've got to spend the bulk of my time enjoying her company. I've been looking forward to this "break," thrilled about spending time with both of my babies for the summer. I drafted a list of things we could do (mostly Z and myself) to keep us active, unplugged and busy both indoors and outdoors, keeping in mind supervised activities and "unsupervised" activities for when my energy is low or if I'm busy with the baby.

Here are fifteen things I look forward to doing with my four year old this summer:

  1. Nature Walks – collect leaves and things in the community to identify, label and paint with at home
  2. Painting in the park – grab our mat and water colors and paint in the park
  3. Library trips – get Zwi’s first county library card and continue encouraging her to read
  4. Alphabet beads busy bag – Pipe cleaners and sorted (vowel/consonant) alphabet beads
  5. Homemade playdoh and slime recipes
  6. Simple, classic science experiments and math lessons
  7. Fun in the Sun – splashpad and bubbles on the patio
  8. Plant something! – patio garden with herbs and flowers
  9. Create time capsules for both Zwi and her sibling to open in five years
  10. Family movie night – with movie theater treats
  11. Make a book with Z – full of her summer memories / activities. Let her narrate and illustrate it.
  12. Sign language – teach Z's baby sibling the alphabet and other communicative words in sign language
  13. Make a menu and visit the farmers market 
  14. Fun foods – fruit kabobs, faces on pancakes and oatmeal, etc. This used to be one of my favorite things when I stayed at home with Z. Now she's able to be my little fun sous chef.
  15. Travel - visit friends/family in another town or visit a "local" beach or swimming hole! 

Even though we may not get to them all, this list should serve as a guide to our summer 2017 activities. What are your favorite activities to keep your little ones busy?

I'd love to hear!

xo Aspen

P.S. *Read my interview with Meagan, of Whole Family Rhythms, as part of the #realmothersdiversevoices series here. We discussed how our family values influence our daily rhythm. 

Summer Break \\ 15 Things To Do With a Four Year Old

As we anticipate the birth of our second baby, I wanted to be better prepared this time around.


Honestly, when I was pregnant with Zwi, it was a new experience, but no matter how many pages I read from What to Expect, nothing really prepared me for the actual birthing process. I knew one thing for sure, that I wanted a drug-free, vaginal birth. And that's what I got. But, the birth itself was so speedy and surreal to me. I was certainly ill-prepared.

I wish I had taken more photos during labor and at the hospital. I wish I had known about mesh panties (like, what?!). I wish I had known I would be as exhausted, hungry, and as helpless as I felt. I wish I had known that I could have brought more items to keep me comfortable during my hospital stay following the delivery. So early on, I compiled a list of things I knew I just had to take along to the hospital in my favorite weekender bag, not only for myself but for our baby. Only three more weeks until due date!




Gear:
  • Camera/Journal - to document and calm my mind during labor, taking notes in my Promptly Journal while every moment and detail is still fresh to me.
  • Infant Car Seat - safety is always a priority! We went with the Maxi Cosi Mico 30 infant car seat, rated high in its class for safety, comfort, and style.  While I love the design and simplicity of the black model, I really like that there is a thirty pound weight limit so we can get plenty of use out of this seat. Also a plus that it's such a lightweight seat!
  • Infant Car Seat Multi-purpose Cover - Native Wilds was kind enough to send us their Nest®, a car seat cover, nursing scarf, and cart cover all in one with a handy, built-in pocket to store our essentials. This week, May 8 until Mother's Day, use code LOVEYOURMOTHER for 25% off your purchase at Native Wilds!
Wear/For Myself:
  • Comfortable Button Front PJ's and Robe - even though I know now that I'll get close to zero sleep, I still want to lounge in something that makes me feel and look good. I LOVE the soft, cozy lightweight delivery/nursing robes from PinkBlush and this floral print is so pretty. My striped pajamas are from Gap. 
  • Nursing bra/Underwear/Socks - I found my nursing bras and postpartum underwear on Amazon. Breathable, comfortable. Last thing you want is underwear that is too tight that you have to constantly adjust. Also have to keep in mind that following birth, your waistline isn't going to instantly shrink back to regular size. Your tummy will still look like you're a few months pregnant, and that's ok. Dress your body accordingly. 
  • Toiletries - rosewater spray to mist myself with during labor, hair brush and pony tail holders, dental floss, toothbrush & toothpaste, body lotion, Dr. Bronner's pure castile tea tree soap (it's been my lifesaver during this pregnancy when my skin become so easily irritated and nothing else seems to relieve it), baby butter for sore nipples and moisturizing dry skin, under-eye concealer, lip balm, deodorant, and two gentle bamboo washcloths.
  • Coming Home Outfit - tank top, oversized cardigan, leggings/loose joggers, good pair of sneakers.
For baby? As the hospital will usually provide some basic tees, socks and mittens for baby, there are only a few extra things I plan to take to give baby a special welcome.


  • Swaddle blankets and burp cloth - I love this simple dove swaddle from Max + Moose and prickly pots patterned blanket from Little Unicorn.
  • Outfit for photographs - This baby gown is cute and makes diaper changes easy!
Hope this list can be just as helpful to you! Happy Baby Planning!

xo Aspen

Hello Baby No. Two \\ What's in my hospital bag?

It's the first of May, as in, our baby is due this month! Since we are now at thirty weeks, four weeks away from baby's estimated due date, I wanted to take time to jot down how my pregnancy's been going and record how I've been feeling in the most recent weeks.


 I've been putting effort into looking better than I feel most days, dressing this bump up as much as possible. I find that when I do a little extra like curl my hair, or coordinate my outfit intentionally, I just feel much better overall and it's one less thing that will trigger the tears. Being overemotional during this pregnancy has been something I've been dealing with mostly privately...and unfortunately my husband has had to deal with me so I think we're both ready to be over with that part.

Speaking of being over something, as we get closer, I've been much more uncomfortable as baby is preparing for birth. Between the lightheadedness and mild anemia coupled with the lower back stiffness and intense pressure and pelvic pain, I've been exhausted. I'm thankful for my husband, who encourages me to rest, eat well, and take it easy and not be so hard on myself.

But the best of all, aside from Zwi asking me the sweetest questions about her baby sibling and sharing the excitement with us, baby is growing healthily, is no longer breech, and has hair! We got to see a fuzzy ultrasound image at the last appointment and could make out both a head full of hair and a face hidden behind perfect fingers. I cannot believe that we'll be meeting our littlest one in just a few short weeks.

We have pretty much everything we need and I can't help but be completely grateful for the outpouring of love and support that has been extended to our family. My company had a shower for me in our office last week so I'm in the process of putting everything in its place in our home. This past weekend, I finally took time to sort through all the clothes and precious items that have been piling up in our bedroom for the past six months. I'm getting antsy and anxious about the birth, but I know we will be ok!



Next on my to-do list is washing all the bitty baby clothes, finishing up their sleep space, and packing my hospital bag! Baby Cross will be here before I know it!

xo Aspen

Hello Baby No. Two \\ 36 Weeks

Longing for an adventure and exposure to something different, my mom and I packed our bags, with Zwi in tow, and hit I-10 to spend the weekend together in NOLA.

Originally, I had planned a mini trip so that I could meet my IG girlfriend, Leslie, who was also visiting the city from D.C. for a family photographers' retreat. Then, also by way of Instagram, I became a participant of the Family Narrative retreat as a model for Cheyenne Gil's boudoir photography session. Cheyenne is a Philly-based boudoir photographer who created the Body Love Tribe, a community focused on body positive messages and imagery. Through her beautiful work, she promotes confidence and self love. It was a privilege to not only get to model for her workshop, but also listen to stories of others and their experiences or struggles and strengths as women, mothers, and family photographers.



When I opened my gallery today, my jaw dropped. Blown away. We got to make it a mommy and me maternity boudoir session, and I'm so thankful for that. When I think about how I wanted to capture the beauty of our growing baby and my changing body in my last few months of pregnancy, these photos are everything I imagined. Getting to celebrate new life and enjoy the last few months of moments with my current "only child." If only James would have been able to make it and join the fun, but we both are so happy to have these beautiful, intimate photographs.

Here is a small bunch of my favorites. :)

  





 




 









Thank you, Cheyenne. Thank you to the Family Narrative.

One more thing, we spent the remaining time in New Orleans enjoying good food and exploring the city. My mom had told me about the Audubon Nature Institute a few years, so it was high on our to-do list. It DID NOT disappoint! I'm glad my friend Brejai got to come along and check it out with us. If you're ever in NOLA with your family, I definitely recommend heading to the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium and making it a learning trip. Amazing!! Zwi really enjoyed it and so did I.

xo Aspen

Motherhood \\ Mommy & Me Maternity Session with Cheyenne Gil

Yesterday, it dawned on me that we only have about thirteen weeks until our anticipated due date. THIRTEEN WEEKS?!

I'm a list-maker, so there have been lots of handwritten notes for everything little thing to make sure I don't forget anything as we make our way through the remaining few months. With Zwi being four years old now, there really aren't many baby items left. We got rid of mostly everything already except for items we still use, such as her boppy pillow (which I'll re-cover), her stroller (pictured below), a baby einsteins sensory toy, some books and a few bottles. So here we are starting anew and I'm actually having a great time sourcing the perfect little baby goods.

Between trying to get our home ready, my mind prepared, FMLA paperwork, planning family/maternity photographs, and shopping, I wanted to share some of my favorite items that I can't wait to put to use with our littlest one.

To Move: Some items we'll bring along while out and about!



To Feed: From breastmilk and bottles to baby food prep to enjoying a meal at the family table.



To Clothe: Simple essentials for those first few months.



To Sleep: Blankets, bassinet and baby nighttime routine items.




To Nurture: Diaper, health and safety plus books and simple toys. It's important to me that our baby gets a solid foundation for learning from birth. I have pretty much the whole line of the TouchThinkLearn and Sign Language books in my Amazon registry.


Maybe you'll find some of things useful! 

xo Aspen

P.S. What are some of your baby essentials? Please share.


Hello Baby No. Two \\ A Few of My Favorite Things

With the baby growing daily and the bump steadily increasing in size, comfortable clothing is a must! 



Whether that be work wear for the office, clothes for lounging around at home, or even getting dressed up to go out for dinner and a movie, it is so important to me that I'm dressing the bump comfortably. This past weekend, with our little one in my mom's care, my husband and I enjoyed some time together and thanks to the sweet ladies at PinkBlush, I was able to rock flattering and comfy maternity clothes. Here's how I styled my items: 


 



Would you like to win  cute maternity clothes from PinkBlush? I'm giving away a $75 gift card to one reader and all you have to do to enter is tell me what you would purchase if you're the fabulous winner! Just head on over to http://www.shoppinkblush.com and pick your favorite item(s), then in the comments below, let me know how you would style them! 

Be sure to follow me on Instagram and tag a friend on the IG giveaway post to join in on the fun.

**Giveaway participants, please read - Giveaway entry ends promptly at 11:59 PM / CST on Friday, February 10, 2017. If upon choosing a winner, you have already won a PinkBlush giveaway within 6 months, you will not be eligible to win.  PinkBlush will not be able to issue a gift card if you have already won within the last 6 months. Best wishes!

xo Aspen

Wear \\ Dressing the Bump with PinkBlush + Giveaway!

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