Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Baby Shower Pro: Guest Edition

Baby Shower Pro: Guest Edition
Tackling Baby Showers Because Everyone 
and Their Mom is Having a Baby
...but you have no idea what that actually means


Welcome to Baby Shower Pro: Guest Edition.

I made this because I am now officially at an age where there's something in the water and I, too, drank that Kool-aid because I'm also knocked up.

Woop Woop!

However, that doesn't mean I know what I'm doing, I'm just doing a lot of research.

I've been invited to baby showers of really good friends and acquaintances and every time I feel like it can be a crapshoot. 

Are they going to do really awkward games that will make my social anxiety flare up?

Will there be food?

They literally put two things on their registry and someone bought them both...damn it!

So I'm here to show my fellow millenials a go-to guide on how to tackle this fun and sometimes awkward season in our life.

Before I go on, I feel like the following message needs to be said:

People want you at their baby shower. It's a really exciting time in a couple's life. They're either starting a family or continuing to grow their family and that is super cool. However, it's also a really stressful time in their lives and that stress can sometimes make it difficult to see other perspectives. You get invited because you're someone that they want to celebrate with so please keep that in mind. 

I'm going to have more messages similar to this throughout the post, so bare with me.

Who Throws a Baby Shower?

Old etiquette says a family friend but really anyone can throw it. It's a party, and life is always better with more parties, especially themed parties.

Do you have a friend having a wee one? Consider throwing that person or couple a baby shower! Nothing is more awkward than being a couple surrounded by friends and no one offers to throw a shower. Ryan and I were that couple for a little bit and were about to throw a goodbye party for ourselves slash baby shower and a group of wonderful friends realized that and took over hosting.

It's such a thoughtful gesture and baby showers can be thrown with all types of budgets. Keep that in mind if you're a guest. Someone has spent money to entertain you to help support the new parents

R.S.V.P.

The bane of my existence is hunting down R.S.V.P.s so don't be a jerk and actually go and RSVP. People do all sorts of invitations today from Evites to paper invitations and even a Facebook event. While initially I would get annoyed with Facebook invites for formal events, ya gotta keep in mind that budgets are very diverse for these things. 

So if you're invited through a paper invite or social media, RSVP.

When you don't RSVP, the host(s) have no idea how many to expect. Which equates to not knowing how much food to have, how many thank you cards and gifts to have ready, or even what type of activities to have.

Remember that first message I typed way up there?

You were invited because the couple wants to celebrate with YOU. 

Unless the invite says to only RSVP with regrets, contact the person you need to contact and do it on time.

If you've already contacted the host, also contact the couple. It really stinks when you're excited about having someone at an event and they reply with a "can't go" online and you have no idea why.

Don't be a jerk.

Gifting and Registries

Note: Parents-to-be will (or should) be appreciative of anything they receive. However, this isn't meant to be a feel-good sesh for the guest. As a guest, I want to be helpful to the new parents so this segment is my personal opinions on how to be the most helpful. You may disagree and that's okay.

Registries can be all over the board. Ryan and I chose Babylist because you can add anything from anywhere onto that registry site and even make up your own things (i.e. secondhand baby clothes). 

We liked that feature and we were able to prioritize what we really need on there in a specific order. For example, we put gift cards to places like Amazon, our baby photographer, and doula because those will help us purchase pricier items that are still a high priority for us. 
This prioritization system was also used with other items so that people can decide what's within their budget and compare it to what we need. Guests can then "reserve" the item on the registry and the cool thing about Babylist is that the guest can purchase it from anywhere. So even if I linked Amazon for baby wipes, a guest can purchase those same wipes at Target and the registry will still note that the guest still purchased that item. It really provides the guest with flexibility in purchasing at his or her own convenience.

We also added personal notes to almost every item explaining why we chose that over something else. This was important to us, especially for "boring" items that are very necessary because that's something that can really help us but people like to overlook because they're not an excitingly branded thing.

Registries or Whatever the Guest Thinks is Cute?

This might be a tricky topic. So refer to that previous note.

My number one tip is to check out the registry. I say this because parents do their own level of research and they might have really great financial backing or they might not. So getting something that they could use or really want off of their registry is a win in my book.

I personally love receiving items off of my registry because I have taken a lot of time investing in putting the best products for my family on there. My friends know that about me. I'm a researcher.

So what happens if I just get the couple or 
new parent whatever I want?

There are so many endings to that line. One the new parent(s) should always be incredibly gracious. 


However, if it's something they don't need, there is a possibility that it's going to get returned for something they do need. Ouch.

It could end up being used or it could end up being re-gifted or sold in a rummage sale.

For me, whenever I get a gift for someone, I want to make sure they can use it and will really appreciate it.  Not just through a thank you card.

 Checking that registry is going to help that a lot.

What if their registry is completely covered?

One- that is super awesome. Two- this might be presumptuous of me but there is a large probability that the parents may or may not have put everything they need on there.

Contact them and ask what they do need.

For me, baby clothes are the very last thing I need because I can always run to Target or Old Navy and get sales clothes. In fact, I know with my personality that my child will never be naked unless he wants to be ;)

The things that I need are the essentials like bottles, diapers, etc. 

When a friend had three items on her registry, I asked her what her plans for diapers were (cloth or disposable) and it turns out they hadn't really looked into any brands of sposies (yeah, get that new parent lingo). Having talked to a lot of moms I've heard good things about Target brand and Pampers so I got her a giant box of size 1 Target diapers and a slide. I knew the giant box of diapers in that size would definitely get used and diapers, especially boxes, are pricier so that would help the parents save some money. The Little Tykes slide wasn't on the registry but I also supplied a GIFT RECEIPT in case they wanted to return it.

Always supply a gift receipt. Many stores will allow for diaper exchanges so if baby is done with size 1 and there a crap ton (haha crap ton) of size 1 diapers, the parents can exchange that for the size they need. 

Pro Tip: Greeting Cards are usually the same cost as a board book or children's book if purchased on Amazon. Yikes right? I prefer to provide a book with a little paper note inside instead of a card for that reason. Some parents are awesome about keeping cards in an album but some parents will throw them away and that was a $6 card.

Whether you do a card or a book, I personally find it helpful if the written aspect tactfully lists out what was gifted. I had people gift me diapers and I had no idea that they did that because it was an unmarked package of diapers. 

I have so much secondhand baby stuff, can I gift them that?

I think this depends on the parent(s). Many people are very appreciative of receiving additional baby things like secondhand clothes. I personally would not give them that as the sole gift at a baby shower.  I would give them that at a different time. Again, people are different and each situation is unique. I've had people gift us a few new items and then a separate bag of baby items in good condition that their littles ones no longer used- I loved that.

If you do choose to give secondhand items, make sure they're in good condition. I've seen a few items used as the predominant gift at baby showers with torn pages, questionable crusty things on them, or the free products you receive as promotional products. Everyone is in a different financial situation and for our family, we're so delighted to have people celebrate with us so financial situation good or bad, we want everyone to feel welcome.

It's my recommendation that you DON'T gift what your kids cleaned out their room 30 minutes before and gave you the baby stuff they found. It puts the new parents in a position because if it can't be cleaned, then they have to throw away what was gifted. Awkward.

What if I'm not in a good financial situation?

That's totally okay! People invite you because they want to celebrate with you, not for the presents. I can think of a ton of alternatives that are low cost and just as meaningful. What I really miss about living in Wisconsin was having years and years of relationships built up. If someone was sick, we'd bring food or if laundry needed to be done or the house cleaned, someone else took care of it. If you can't financially support a friend at a baby shower, think of what you're comfortable with. Do you have the means of walking their dog everyday or if they have children, taking them to school or babysitting them a few hours. Sometimes parents just want time to exercise or even take a shower. Maybe you can help organize a freezer meals drive. You can help in so many ways that don't cost a fortune or anything at all.

You can turn that into a crafty coupon book or just write a thoughtful letter explaining your intent to the parents-to-be.

If you are low on cash but still want to provide a gift, check out the guest list and see if any buddies would like to go in on a gift with you. 

We did this for a friend after throwing her a baby shower. All four hostesses (including myself) wanted to give the parents something because they were in a tighter financial spot. We split the cost of the stroller on their registry four ways, so for a really good friend, we only paid about $50 each.

How much should I spend?

This is my personal gauge but I've seen others use pretty similar cost breakdowns:

Acquaintance - $25+

Friend - $50+

Good Friend/Family - $75-$100+

I've been invited to baby showers where I really don't know the couple super well so I usually spend at least $25 in the form of a gift card and I also provide a book instead of a card. Keep in mind that with baby products, $25 is not a lot. I know it's enough to cover a box of diapers, a few baby outfits, OR hygiene supplies. However, a $25 gift card combined with other gift cards can help pay for car seats, a crib, etc. It won't go to waste.

For a friend I usually spend $50. The box of diapers and a slide were almost $50 but I also gifted that family baby clothes, a basket, and other toys when they announced they were having a baby. A family can do quite a bit with a $50 gift card and if your budget is $50, you usually can get a really nice baby product or a few nice products with that.

For our best friends and family members, their baby is pretty much a brand new addition to our family, regardless of blood relation, distance, etc. We want to take care of that baby, too. This is when going in as a group for a higher priced can be pretty helpful. I'm most likely to get my friend one really nice baby product like a Tula baby carrier (saving that for my military family over in Italy). Some of that budget might also be used to help gift the family something for when they announce they're having a baby or after the baby is earthside, like a housekeeping service. 

Baby Shower Games and Activities

Arriving at the baby shower can be quite the experience. 

Take a look around.

Breathe it in.

Baby showers today are super cute. They are created with all sorts of budgets so sometimes you get things that are like Pinterest on steroids or just really simple.

Some are heavy on games and others on activities.

For my Harry Potter-themed baby shower, we had four games but three activity stations. I'm so not big on games personally. I dread starting them but then I get really competitive. It's a weird relationship where I then need to win.

Any Pinterest search will lead you to a ton of game ideas. Classics include the clothespin "don't say baby" game, baby bottle chug, baby gift bingo, etc. Some games are super weird like let's guess how big the mother's stomach got by using string for our guesses. No thank you.

Regardless of your feelings towards games or activities, participate!

Take a look around, ask questions, and get involved. My favorite couple from our shower were the Harrises. They were so into the games and activities. Having that positive energy was so much fun!

I totally acknowledge that people don't always like games so the stations were a nice alternative. We had a onesie design station using iron-ons that I made with my Silhouette. We had ready-made expressions and sayings so people could just pick something that fit them. It was a big hit.  We also had a wand making station and then a guest book with my Instax camera and a Sirius Black photo op.

Prizes can be so different depending on the budget of the shower but they're fun as well. I've received nail polishes, face masks, and for ours since it was HP-themed we gave away a large owl wax melter (like a Scentsy) and then of the smaller plug-in versions. I chose that because I thought people could use that throughout the year in their home. 

Most baby showers have some type of guest book, so make sure you check in to see if there is one. I can't wait for our little guy to see all the people who came to celebrate that special day with us.


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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Pink Blush Maternity - Mint Green Floral Dress

Pink Blush Maternity
Mint Green Floral Dress

I have had the amazing opportunity to model one of the GORGEOUS maternity dresses from Pink Blush Maternity.  I love this company because they have beautiful dresses and it is so fun to stay fashionable because I feel so beautiful during this time in my life.

Photography by Rocio Rivera Rosado

What I love about this dress is that it's 
1). Floral 
2). Flowy 
3). Doesn't wrinkle 
(or if it does, it doesn't wrinkle easily).

The material is so soft, doesn't irritate my skin, and with us moving I had this dress thrown into a suitcase and it's easy to quickly grab to give yourself a dressier look with minimal effort.


I've seen so many cute stylings with this dress, which I love because you know that the dress is easy to adapt to so many social situations. Tie your hair up into a ponytail and pair with tennis shoes and you've got a sporty look. Put your hair through wavy curls and heels and you've got the perfect dress for a night out. 


Before the shoot, I was actually touching up paint quickly in this dress around our house. 
It's that comfortable!


Pink Blush Maternity has kindly offered to provide a gift card to one of my lucky readers! 

Comment below with your favorite dress or outfit from Pink Blush Maternity 
to win the gift card!


If you liked this post, share it with others! If you feel particularly moved by it, leave a comment because I love feedback and discussion. Social media links are provided below and thanks for reading!
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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Baby Erskine's Gender Reveal

Baby Erskine's Gender Reveal

The Friday before Ryan's birthday we had a gender anatomy ultrasound. This is the third ultrasound we've had with this pregnancy and the second time we were able to have pictures!

It of course started out epically with me not paying attention to signs in the bathroom, not locking both doors, and having an older gentlemen walk in on me in my bra as I was putting on the gown.



As I screamed out "SORRY!!" I rushed back into the room, laughing hysterically as I explained to Ryan what had happened. I just changed in the room after that.

Our ultrasound tech, Julie, came in and explained what she would be doing that day. She was going to start the ultrasound by taking several pictures of the baby and taking measurements. At first we could see the overall baby based on being able to see the spine and head.

We didn't get to see the iconic profile until the very end:




Julie asked us if we wanted to find out the baby's gender and we said YES! She then asked if I wanted to do the gender reveal before or after emptying my bladder. I truly was worried that I would pee myself from excitement so when you gotta go, ya gotta go.


I coordinated with KayCakes to surprise our parents with the gender reveal! The cupcakes, apparently, were fantastic and they were incredibly professional to work with. My one complaint is that they only seemed to accept payment through check, which gets complicated when you live in a completely different area of the country. However, the final product was great and we were able to tell our families through Skype as they ate their cupcakes. Recording their reactions was so fun!


We surprised our friends with a gender reveal cake at Ryan's birthday party. Our local commissary ended up doing a cupcake order wrong when we were doing our pregnancy announcement so we were able to negotiate this cake for free! I ended up going with a two layer cake (both chocolate and vanilla) with plain vanilla frosting on the outside. The cake topper is from Glambanners on Etsy! The shop owner coordinated with me to figure out the best shipping options. For a total of $16 (with the expedited shipping), I think I could have made it on my own but I was still happy with the quality. I picked up rock candy at Candy Masterpiece in Great Falls. Their customer service was excellent! Our friends "voted" by picking the rock candy color of their choice.


IT'S A BOY!

We are so thrilled! It was so funny because our ultrasound tech was saying how the baby was on its side/tummy and was kicking away. I can't tell you how much I loved seeing that beautiful baby kick his feet! She then showed us the view of baby where we could see his little booty and feet. She pointed out the left thigh and right and then was like, "there's the gender." I can't wait to meet him in person! We just started brainstorming names but I think we've found a name we really like!


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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Gender Reveal 2016

Little Girl or Little Boy
Baby Erskine 2016 Gender Reveal


I am so excited because we are finally finding out the gender tomorrow morning! We're telling our folks back home first soooo I'm afraid no updates until late on Saturday. We actually coordinated a gender reveal through cupcakes with a business called KayCakes back home. We're texting her the gender in the morning right after we find out and the cupcakes will be delivered to my MIL's house! Ahhhh I can't wait! Unfortunately my dad will still be driving back home from his weekday job (about 2 hours away) so they won't be able to eat their cupcakes or Skype until the next day.

Saturday is Ryan's birthday so we're really excited to celebrate with friends here on base with a CAKE! After a snafu with the pregnancy announcements cupcakes, our commissary's bakery offered me a free gender reveal cake. I had them make it incredibly simple, just white frosting on the outside. I ordered a super cute cake topper from Glambanners on Etsy. Pictures to come!

What is your guess?

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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Mother Blessing Prep

 Mother Blessing Prep

 Hello...it's me.



I know, it's been a really
really
really
really
long time since I've sat down to blog.

But really and truly, life has just been busy.

I know, what a terrible excuse but that's all I've got.
In the mean time, I've been busy planning several events with friends before our BIG move.
You heard that right, a BIG move out of BIG SKY COUNTRY.

But more on that later (plus it's a reason for me to blog some more).

I am so excited y'all because my AMAZING friend Rocio is helping to facilitate a MOTHER BLESSING for me.

A mother blessing is a beautiful ceremony that originates from a Native American tradition called a Blessingway. Since I am not Native American, nor do I have Native American ancestry, I choose to respect a Blessingway's roots by choosing to celebrate with a Mother Blessing.

I've heard people call it an alternative to a baby shower but the thing is, Ryan and I are having a baby shower.

I consider a Mother Blessing to be an opportunity for women to gather together to celebrate the beauty that it is to be a woman. Whether you're experiencing a pregnancy, fostering, adoption, or becoming a guardian - it's this beautiful passage into motherhood that should be celebrated by the people in your most trusting circle.

I've also heard that baby showers tend to focus on the material aspects and gifts, which is amazing and I'm totally not knocking. However, Mother Blessings focus on what the human body and spirit can do - and that is really fricken cool.

I'm having two Mother Blessings, one in Montana and one in Wisconsin because both of those circles contain women who are so important to me and I'm really excited to celebrate this momentous time in my life with the ladies who have supported me through everything.

When talking to Rocio, we were tossing ideas around to establish what I really wanted out of this ceremony. I know when people hear this concept, a lot of ideas come up.

When explaining it to a hairstylist, she said (and I quote), "I don't want to use the word cult but I imagine drums would be involved."

What...?

It can be very spiritual or not at all, it really depends on the goals of the mother and the group.

I definitely wanted mine to be very comfortable, relaxed, and fun.

The main things that I wanted to see or have at the event:
Yummy Food
Getting Rid of Fears
Floral Crown Station
Birth Affirmation Banner
Unity Circle
Bracelet & Charms
Candles
Centerpiece

Getting Rid of Fears

Rocio and I wanted to incorporate something into the very start of the ceremony to unite everyone, create a positive vibe for the overall event, and really lay out that this not your typical baby shower event.

We're thinking of having her fire pit going in the backyard and giving the ladies an opportunity to write down the things that really inhibit them in life whether it's in their relationships, friendships, marriage, work, being an adult, etc.

After they write them down- we're going to burn them!

Yep, it's super hippy but I'm crunchy as granola and it's fantastic.

Birth Affirmation Banner


I can tell you now that I'm already quite a bit nervous for the laboring aspect of giving birth. I have certain birth plan goals right now but that could go all out the window. I am getting a doula at my next base location, but I still appreciate the support from ladies back at Malmstrom.

A birth affirmation banner is basically a cloth bunting withe each square containing a positive message, birth or motherhood affirmation, or empowering thought from someone in my social circle.

When I have my mother blessing, I'll definitely share what it turns out like in another post!

Floral Crown Station

Have you ever rocked a floral crown?

It's incredibly femine and fantastic. 


I'm doing my own spin on this. I've seen several Mother Blessings where guests bring a single bloom to add to the mother-to-be's crown but where's the fun in that? I want each of my guests to feel like mother effin queen of nature at this shin dig. 

As guests walk in, this will be basically another activity station so they can feel uber feminine and get their fabulous on!

Candles & Thread

This is the print out I'm using for my Mother Blessing candles (sorry it's off center y'all). Candles for this ceremony are very symbolic and one of my favorite traditions involves a large center candle. Many Mother Blessings create a central area, centerpiece, or alter in which the group will ultimately sit around. There are so many gorgeous pictures of this set up and I'll definitely share mine as well. What I'm planning is having a large white candle be part of the center piece and a large circle will be formed around that with the candles that guests can take home. I scored tags from Target's Spot section for $1 that are wooden with gold glitter. My very tall votives are from the Dollar Tree and the tags each have the above print out on them.

But hold on because it becomes even cuter y'all!

Each guest selects a color of embroidery thread and cuts a long piece. She ties part of it onto my center candle, cuts, and then ties the remaining piece to her candle. As I go into labor, Rocio will shoot out an e-mail to all of my guests to let them know and they can light their candle.

Ladies in so many different states will be supporting me with their candles.


I haven't even had my Mother Blessing and I'm going to cry y'all. I'm so emotional.

Unity Circle & Bracelets & Charms

After burning fears (yep take a note at the top), all the ladies will gather in a circle in my lovely living room to talk. In my past experiences with other Mother Blessings, this is one of my FAVORITE things, which makes sense since this is the BIG event. Ladies will go around the circle and talk about a birth or motherhood affirmation that they have for the mother-to-be. Each lady also selected a charm that represents them or our relationship, and explains why she chose that. I've seen Mother Blessings where people bring a bead but after seeing an awesome charm bracelet made for a beautiful Mother Blessing, I chose to go that route. During this time, the ladies may also consider adding their embroidery thread to the candle. As I go into labor my candle with all the different colors of embroidery thread will be lit and I'll be wearing my charm bracelet to remind me of all of the beautiful women in my life who are supporting me during that time.

A tradition that I really loved was the connecting yarn on the wrists of everyone in the circle. However, the more I thought on it, the less attached I became to that specific idea. The idea is that a piece of yarn gets thrown to every lady in the group, creating an interconnecting web of women to the mother.  Then each woman cuts her portion of the web off, ties it, and wears it as a bracelet until the mother-to-be gives birth. However, my spin on it involves bangles. I got each of my guest a bangle with a charm on it that she may take on and off at her leisure but everytime she looks at it, she can say a prayer or well wish for the mother's pregnancy and labor. Being in the military, we can't always have things on our wrist and I didn't want anyone to feel bad if they had to cut theirs off, so I thought this was a nicer alternative.

Food

A huge component of creating community is FOOD. I'm having my Mother Blessing in a brunch time frame so there will plenty of delicious eats and a Mimosa Bar (with Sprite and Champagne!). 




I'm also considering a guest book option with an Instax that I'm hoping to soon own. While this event is really focused on the mother, I still want my daughter or son to be able to look back through photos and messages to see how amazing this can be.


If you liked this post, share it with others! If you feel particularly moved by it, leave a comment because I love feedback and discussion. Social media links are provided below and thanks for reading!
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