Monday, January 28, 2013

She’s my daughter

Just in case anyone was wondering…

this is a Winter family trait that Elizabeth is carrying on just fine.





haha. pretty sure my dad will not be excited about this picture:)

Friday, January 25, 2013

How to: Travel with a baby


Disclosure: I’m not an expert.

I have friends who should be writing this post…who have traveled with more than one kiddo at once, more than once. But alas, here I am writing it. We just returned from a week long trip in Florida with Elizabeth and it was fantastic. After getting some information from my friends, reading a few different blog posts, and being realistic about who we are; we planned, packed, and executed a very fun trip with our 6 month old. Some may have called us crazy but it really wasn’t as bad as I imagined. In fact, like she does most every day, our baby girl blew my expectations out of the water. She was a traveling champ.

For our first trip away with Elizabeth we picked a place that is our vacation spot of choice. We headed down to Palm Harbor, Florida which is near Tampa and Clearwater just as we have been doing as a married couple for the past 7 years. My Dad and Stepmother own a condo there so the fact that we can stay for free sweetens the deal. Not only that but at the condo they provide pack n plays and highchairs. You never know what you will get but I was certain whatever it was it would be clean, newer, and functional. And they were.

So how did I plan, what did we bring, and how did it go?

1. Think through the details

Here’s our packing list

(click here to open and print)

Before we left I thought through what our days would look like and where we would be staying. I knew that we would spend quite a bit of time at the pool and that we would be laying low. That helped in creating a packing list. One bonus perk of where we were staying was the ability to do laundry. HUGE bonus especially with a baby!

2. Consider what you want to check through


We decided to bring our Uppababy stroller. Not everyone would want to bring such a big stroller but we knew it would be helpful for eating out, shading Elizabeth at the pool, and for walks. We ended up gate checking it because of the TravelSafe program we got through using their travel bag. Some people love using their stroller in the airport but we chose to use our Ergo instead mainly because our back wheels needed to be removed to fit in the bag. Added bonus we just walked right through security with Elizabeth in the Ergo.

We also gate checked our car seat in this bag; I didn’t like the idea of the car seat going uncovered (ew!) nor did I like the thought of checking it with baggage as I’ve heard it can be brutally handled, end up damaged, and possibly lost. That meant we needed to cart two large pieces of necessary baggage through the airport. We also decided to bring our roll-a-boards and not check them. What can I say we’re pretty cheap!


So I carried E in the Ergo throughout the airport (HIGHLY RECOMMEND), carried our diaper bag on my back (AGAIN HIGHLY RECOMMEND), and pulled our stroller behind me. Alex carried the car seat on his back and rolled our two roll-a-boards. It was really easy, convenient, and worked like a charm. Again this is all personal preference but it worked great for us. Only item checked: golf clubs.


3. Bring identification

For whatever reason on our flights back we had the “Mr. Beans” of the airport. They were incredibly diligent about doing there job and did check to see Elizabeth’s birth certificate. I took it along as a ‘what-if’ and I’m glad I had it with us. Also one thing I learned through this great e-book was to make sure Elizabeth was added to our tickets as a lap child before arriving at the airport. I would’ve never known to do that since we couldn’t do it while purchasing our tickets (we used frequent flyer miles). Again they made sure the designation was on our tickets at every counter.

4. Things worth packing and things to consider buying there

-People always say to bring a TON of diapers with you when you fly. One trick is to pack a bunch in your car seat travel bag. Then they are accessible to you (if you gate check) and you don’t have to fill your diaper bag to the brim.

-Consider buying things like diapers etc. at your destination or have them shipped by to get there when you arrive. We head to Target upon arrival every year to gather food supplies and other things so we bought E’s food and other things at the same time.

-We brought a few of her favorite toys in the diaper bag and packed another gallon zip lock of toys in the car seat bag. Bring things that are small and well-liked and can do dual purpose. Hit toys of the trip were her bath squirties…work in the pool, the tub, and while playing on dry land.

-Tip for transitioning to new time zones: keep your normal schedule despite the time change. Elizabeth slept better on vacation somehow than she does at home. So when we arrived in Tampa at 5pm we got her to bed by 7pm Eastern time. That was actually like 6pm to her but she went down fine and awoke the next morning around 7am.


Resources for trip planning:

- Flying with Baby (e-book/$2.99) Definitely worth the money

- Solicit the advice of friends and family who have done it before:)

- check out these great posts on HelloBee

What are some of your tips for flying/traveling with your kids?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Elizabeth – 7 Months

She’s entered the other side of a year. Before we know it she’ll be walking and talking and sleeping through the night:) (knock on wood for the last one!)


I’m fairly certain our baby girl is no longer a newborn. Gone are the days of sleeping most of the day, letting us cuddle her to our hearts content, and being teeny tiny. These days she’s moving around, laughing with glee, and daily stretching our hearts further than we ever thought they could go. I take advantage of every time I can hold her sleeping little self, get her to laugh at my ridiculous antics, and snuggle her close.


Every morning when I hear her waking my heart does a little battle between wanting to sleep and wanting to enjoy our little girl. Thankfully the latter wins and my very favorite time of day is when all three of us enjoy coffee and playtime in the basement before the tasks of the day take over. It was so nice to be away and our trip was sweet for my soul. To get away from the daily grind, get some rest, and take in all the preciousness that Elizabeth is was a special treat. Sometimes a change in scenery can offer new insight and refresh the soul.


This past month Elizabeth has sprouted even more. We’ve seen little glimpses of her personality coming out! So many firsts this month…eating more solids, going on vacation, plane rides, swimming, swinging, first owie and most importantly learning to move. While she’s not crawling forward, she can definitely get where she wants to go. So often we’ll leave her playing (in a safe spot of course) and come back to realize she’s in an entirely different spot. Between rolling, scooting backwards, scooting on her bottom while sitting up and being up on all fours, she’s figured the movement thing out.


Each day that passes, even when the tears are flowing endlessly (like today), I feel so blessed to be a mother. It’s harder than I ever imagined, my selfishness abounds, and I’m clamoring to find my rhythm, but I’m so thankful for Elizabeth. Precious little gift. I can’t believe these days will be over soon and we’ll be on to bigger and better things.

I’m just try to soak it all in!

7 months


Monday, January 21, 2013

Florida 2013

We survived!

On Saturday we returned from a very relaxing and enjoyable trip to Florida. Alex and I have been heading down near Tampa for the past 7 years and were very excited to take Elizabeth along on an adventure.

6 nights. 5 bags. 4 flights. 3 rounds of golf. 2 refreshed parents. 1 happy baby.

It was really better than we could have imagined. I think we pictured the worst case scenario knowing anything would be an improvement upon our imaginations and our delightful little girl showed her momma. Seriously I’m thinking maybe we should move there…she napped better, slept better,  and enjoyed herself more.

We left on Sunday morning and I’m sure everyone thought we had some screws loose as we only checked one bag. Alex’s golf clubs. Instead we hauled a car seat bag, a stroller bag, two roll-aboards, and a diaper bag through the airports. And to be honest I don’t think we would have changed a thing. Worked like a charm. Going through security on the other hand was quite the sight!


Of course there were a few hiccups and a few tears (by Elizabeth) along the way but we’re ready and anxious for the next trip in March. Traveling is something we love to do so we’re excited that Elizabeth did so well as we plan to take many trips as a family of 3!

When Alex and I traveled on our own we spent much of our time relaxing by the pool, golfing, and staying VERY low-key. We knew it wouldn’t be hard to have Elizabeth along as our vacation stayed relatively the same, with the exception of an earlier night in. So at night Alex and I either ordered dinner to go or caught up on past seasons of Parenthood which to be honest, isn’t a bad way to spend vacation evenings. I have a post coming with some tips for traveling with a babe but for now it’s all about the pictures!

Our little girl LOVED the water. Not surprising since her momma and daddy love it too but she probably could have spent the entire time getting wrinkly in the pool. She also went on a swing for the first time and visited her first aquarium!



Just looking at these is enough to make me want to jump on a flight back down to tropical weather! Such great memories:)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

truth I’m believing

and this pertains to every aspect of my life

it’s okay to be me

and it’s taken this girl a long time to realize that


here’s to being the beautiful people God created us to be

uniquely us.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Anne Bradstreet by D.B. Kellogg

Remember how I review books? Well I’ve just begun partnering with a new Publisher…Thomas Nelson Publishers, through their review program for bloggers called Book Sneeze. Any blogger can do this…just give an honest review of a book and in turn you get the book for free. I’m excited about this partnership because Thomas Nelson publishes some of the most well known Christian books. For instance, Jesus Calling the amazing devotional by Sarah Young is one of our favorites and yes, is published by Thomas Nelson. I’m itching to get my hands on Desperate by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson next!

But first I have to review my first copy that I actually was sent quite awhile ago. Time gets the best of us.

With my history as an English major I’ve read quite a bit of Anne Bradstreet over the years. That’s the thing about 4 years in college studying all works of literature, you read A LOT! So I was excited to read more about this great poet and mother and puritan woman.

This book, Anne Bradstreet by D.B. Kellogg, is a little gem. Small in size that would fit in a pocket, this book is portable and easy to store. But what’s better is the content. If you have ever wondered what life was like for this poet, this is a great resource for more behind the scenes information. The chapters are short and the information concise, with plenty of excerpts from her work. The small book is full of historically accurate accounts that are not boring nor lacking in interesting little facts.

The book follows Anne’s life, from childhood to adulthood, focusing on the challenges and successes she encountered as a child, woman, wife, and mother. From those challenges and successes came her poetry, an outpouring of her life. The story of her faith journey is worth the read, how God used her life as an outpouring of Christ.

I found the book to be a worthwhile read if you are at all interested in Puritan life or the life of Anne Bradstreet. While difficult to read at times, as a whole the book was well composed and interesting.

This book would be well suited for those over the age of 13 given some of the issues conveyed in the book and definitely a great book for young poets and history buffs alike.

Disclosure: This book was given to me free from the publisher through the Book book review bloggers program in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Elizabeth & Food

I just had to write this post. Not because I think I’m doing anything new or transforming when it comes to feeding a baby but just because I love all things food:) Plus it just wouldn’t be right, documenting Elizabeth’s first year, without including some talk of her first bites!

You might recall me mentioning back in some earlier posts that I was thinking of doing Baby Led Weaning (BLW) when it came to starting solids with Elizabeth. When I mentioned it to our pediatrician, whom I love by the way, she made sure to remind me to have realistic expectations. (ie: doesn’t work for every kid). Remember I just mentioned how I was needing help in the expectation area:) Well we were all set forth to go that direction until a snag crept up in our plan. Miss Elizabeth was HUNGRY! Well maybe not so much hungry, but VERY interested in our food. So then and there I decided we’d do a combination. One part BLW and one part purees and so far it’s going great.

Around 5 1/2 months we started with some oatmeal cereal. To date this is her least favorite food. She dislikes it so much that I stopped serving it. So after cereal we gave her mashed banana & avocado. Both of which she loved. And mid-December when she was just shy of 6 months we began giving her finger foods to begin playing with per BLW. So far she’s tried a vast array of food and has not disliked anything with the exception of oatmeal. For the pureed foods some are Gerber organics and some were homemade using fresh or frozen foods steamed and pureed in large batches with our food processor. I love making her food…must be because I love making and eating food in general…not for everyone!

Here’s what she’s had so far:


In addition to starting solids she’s also been experimenting with her sippy cup. It’s incredibly adorable watching her try…so far she can get it in her mouth and can sip from it if we tilt it but she doesn’t quite have the tilt down on her own!


As far as stuff for feeding, well after a month we have some favorites of course. I’ve found that easy to clean/wipe off is best and that the fewer items the better. So here are some of our favorite feeding items…we just have one of everything below and it’s been more than enough!

items copy

1. Baby Bjorn Bib - BEST BIB EVER! We had some cheap ones before and they would get SO gross. Easy to wipe off and catches everything.

2. Gerber Soft Spoons – These just happened to be the ones that landed in my cart at Target. No reason other than they work. Why mess with a good thing!

3. Ikea Highchair – BEST HIGHCHAIR EVER! Very inexpensive, super easy to clean, nice looking, and best of all it’s ALL PLASTIC. No gross food getting stuck anywhere.

4. Kidsme Feeder – This is great. Super easy to clean (are you catching a theme!) and doubles as a teething toy either with ice in it or on it’s own.

5. Cookbook – My resource for making purees as well as this site and this one.

6. Baby Led Weaning Book – I own both and the cookbook is much easier to follow and contains all the info from the regular book.

7. Avent First Sippy Cup – Easy to clean, easy to hold, and so far it’s easy for her to get water out of.

8. Freezer trays – One ounce portions, easy to get food out of, and can be used after the fact. Many people also like this one and this one. I got this model because I had a gift card at a local store that only carried this particular one.

So that’s how we’ve done it. Like everything I’m sure there will be some give and take but I want Elizabeth to be exposed to as many different tastes/textures/etc. in hopes that she will be a great eater later. Although I was the pickiest eater as a kid and now I love just about anything…so there’s hope if that’s the case for her.


SO tell me…do you have some favorite items/recipes/foods your kids loved?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Giving myself grace

That’s my theme for 2013. Word of the year = grace.
Sometime around Thanksgiving I started letting myself off the hook. Off the hook for having everything together, decorating our house perfectly, being scheduled. Our life is far from perfect but if motherhood has taught me anything in 6 short months, it has taught me that I need more and more grace.

Especially from myself.

I don’t tend toward perfectionism normally. Mainly because I’ve lived enough years making a fool of myself. Perfectionism and Andrea just don’t go hand in hand. Before Elizabeth, I never held myself to the unattainable, the world’s standard. I never felt beat up or like I had to get it together. I spent way too many years in early adulthood striving for that and it led nowhere. My motto for life, ever since a dear mentor mentioned it in college, has been learning to manage my expectations:

“The difference between your expectations and reality is disappointment.”

Isn’t that the truth? And yet, I’ve spent the past 6 months, not disappointed necessarily, but living in this place between satisfied and frustrated. Right after Elizabeth was born things were really good. I was happy and fulfilled and enjoying every single minute with my baby girl. And then came the slight hints of disappointment. Here or there they would pop up. I thought, for some silly reason, that I could do it all. I mean, we all can do it all for awhile, right? Then the Lord hits us over the head.

I can’t do it all. I can’t even come close. Try telling that to a girl who has a servant heart, loves quality time, and is introverted. That translates to a girl who gives so much she’s forgets herself, any spare time she fills up with people because she needs the quality time, and then in the aftermath she realizes there’s nowhere to turn for some good introverted introspection and time alone. I’m not a schedule person and I was becoming neurotic over Elizabeth’s “schedule.” I don’t know who that person was.
It wasn’t me.

I became a mess of emotions. Self-pity, resentment, bitterness, pride, selfishness…they all came out to play. Unable to give myself grace because for some silly reason I felt as though I needed to do it all. I mean Elizabeth was depending on me. And the downward spiral began…and on my birthday I began to see again. Began to see what was missing.

I missed me. Slowly in all the day in and day out matters I had lost sight of myself. That woman that is confident, care-free, non-type-A, silly. Before Elizabeth ever came I remember repeating the hierarchy to myself…(God first, Alex second, Elizabeth third). And somewhere as the months flew by this hierarchy began to look like Elizabeth first, second, and third. And people kept telling me it was just a season as I grew more dissatisfied.

I don’t know when mommy martyrdom began but I’m totally opposed. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE being a mommy…I waited my whole life for this and it’s everything I ever imagined it to be. What I didn’t imagine was losing myself. I feel for me to be a good momma I need to be in good health. Not physical per say, but emotional, mental, and spiritual. And as my birthday passed me by, I began reflecting and giving myself grace. Mommy hood to me doesn’t mean losing my identity in motherhood. Because there’s so much more to me.

So I’ve been working, slowly, to dig deep and find that person that was left behind. She was still in there, thank goodness. And I’ve set some things up to make sure I don’t get lost again. Safeguards.

As Christmas came around, like any momma, I wanted it to be perfect. But just so you know, I didn’t bake one cookie, I only took a few pictures, I didn’t pose Elizabeth in 500 different poses to get the right shot, I didn’t worry about our d├ęcor in our house, I didn’t buy her an ornament, I didn’t do any of the 500 great crafts on Pinterest, and we only made it 1/2 way through our advent reading. Instead I cuddled our sweet baby girl, gave her kisses, helped her to sleep, and fell in love all over again with myself and with Alex. I just looked at Pinterest and told it to step back. Not gonna bring me down.

I gave myself grace. It wasn’t perfect, not even close. And I’m still giving myself grace. I put Elizabeth in the nursery at Lifetime Fitness so I  could walk on the treadmill and have a few moments to myself. And that’s okay. I wanted to stop nursing but I didn’t. And that’s okay. I want Elizabeth to sleep better but she doesn’t so I just cuddle her more. And that’s okay. I wish my family lived closer so we could see them more often but they don’t. It’ll be okay. I want to write and live and be a woman, be me. And that’s okay.

I have to take care of myself so that I can take care of others. So that I can better make much of Jesus. So that I can love my husband and daughter more. I’m re-learning that to thrive in motherhood I need to be okay stepping back at times and managing my expectations. And that means giving myself grace.

So here’s to 2013 and giving GRACE!
The Lettered Cottage