We don’t have a lot of friends with babies who live near us, but we DO have a lot of friends with babies in Long Island. One thing I’ve always liked about that whole crew is how they put a lot of work into putting together fun parties for the kids, giving them a chance to play and make new friends even at a very young age. Now that Vivi is getting older (and actually appreciating other kids), I was excited to finally take our turn in planning a fun get-together for a few little ones.
Plus, not going to lie, I really wanted an excuse to dress Vivi like a penguin.
And thus, my plans to throw Vivi a zoo-themed party were born.
Now, Vivi is only about a year old, so I wasn’t going to go too crazy. I wanted to keep the guest list as close to ten kids as I could, and I was less concerned with planning organized activities than I was for creating a fun theme and having good snacks. (And, you know, the aforementioned penguin costume.)
Here’s a run-down of what we did, ate, and wore for all you other party animals out there.
^^The closest to “safari chic” I will probably ever get.
I did actually consider having the party at a real zoo, but given the young age of our guest list, I ultimately decided it would be better to just create our own version in Joey’s parents’ backyard. They graciously offered up the space, and I set to work creating activity stations for the little guests (as well as just making sure there were a lot of toys around to keep short attention spans occupied, from bubbles to play tables and beyond).
I painted a few signs to hang around the yard to differentiate the areas, and my sister drew some animal prints leading up the sidewalk with chalk to guide our guests to the yard.
The yard also gave us room to have a few different areas for adults to sit, including tables, benches, and swings. (Because moms and dads gotta relax too, ya know?)
What were these stations, you ask? First, I present The Monkey House.
Okay, okay, so basically all I did was cover the swing set in fake vines (I got mine on eBay) and add a few stuffed monkeys (thank you, Mom, for finding all my old Beanie Babies!) for effect. But, come on. That’s a pretty cute monkey house, right?
Next up, we have The Aquarium.
A water table, a kiddie pool full of plastic fish, and a handful of bubbles (plus some cute sea life stick-ons from the party store), and we were under the sea.
Finally, there was The Petting Zoo:
I originally intended this to be the area that even the youngest tots could play in, but those horsies turned out to be a big hit with the older kids as well. (Plus, clearly the Boges was into it.)
What we ate
Of course, everyone knows that decor is nice but a party is only as good as it’s food. The menu included PB&J sandwiches cut into animal shapes, Annie’s Mac & Cheese in Silly Sea Life shapes, a cucumber snake with homemade tsaziki, a hummus lion with bell pepper slices, a watermelon hedgehog, and fruit kabobs. I also put together an animal-themed trail mix for some of the tables.
For dessert, I created Jell-O “aquariums” topped with Swedish Fish and funfetti cupcakes with animal toppers. Viv especially enjoyed her first cupcake (clearly).
To make sure grown-up bellies were full as well, I asked each guest to bring an app and served a “jungle juice.” Because, let’s be real, we had all probably earned it.
The photo booth
To be totally honest, the kids probably kept their costumes on for approximately half an hour. (But GOSH were they cute!) Predicting this, I welcomed each guest and then promptly directed them to the photo booth to make sure they got a pic of their little cutie dressed as their favorite animal.
To create the booth backdrop, I created a jungle of tissue paper poms (tutorial I used here) and cut-out paper leaves. To create the cage, I purchased an oversized picture frame from Michael’s, removed the glass and back piece, and strung rope-like yarn to create the bars.
Pro tip: I highly recommend a group photo at the beginning of the party if possible. By the end of the day, everyone is tired and dirty, and getting the kids to cooperate will be harder than ever. Look how cute they were when they first arrived!
Once the pictures were taken, costumes could be ripped off, water could be splashed, cupcakes could be smushed in faces, etc. Save yourself the trouble and get the pictures done early.
What we wore
As I said, my main priority here was getting Viv dressed as a penguin. #MomGoals
The create her costume, my mom actually took a larger penguin costume, cut off the belly and wings, and sewed them onto a black onesie. She turned the head into a little cap Vivi could wear, but it really only lasted for the pictures. (To make up for it, I drew a little yellow beak on her nose using costume makeup.) I also added a pair of yellow tights from Lunaby Baby to complete the look. She killed it, I must say.
As for Joey and me, we decided the most appropriate attire would be that of zoo keepers. Basically, we wore a lot of khaki and sun hats I found at Costco. It was surprisingly effective.
What’s a party without a little something to take home? The best part about having a small guest list is that you can go a little more creative with the favors. Each kid took home an “adopted” animal and a box of animal crackers to keep the party going.
One other fun extra? I also created a Snapchat geo filter for the party. Totally gratuitous, but it was $5 and pretty cute! (Learn how to make your own here.) Here’s what it looked like:
All in all, we had such a blast at Vivi’s first party. Thanks again to all her friends (and their cool folks) for coming out to join!
And a special thank-you to Aunt Yoyo (AKA, my sister Joelle of Figment Art Photo) for photographing the whole event!
*Vivi’s Joyful Thread leggings were provided for this review; opinions 100% my own.
A friend of mine and I were recently discussing how everything about air travel is bonkers.
I mean, I recommend not thinking about it too hard, but…you’re flying through the air. In a hunk of metal. Because of air. And gasoline. Because THAT makes sense. I’m a mostly not-nervous flier (okay, maybe a teense bit), but there will always be aspects to the whole charade that I can’t wrap my head around.
You know what else seems like it just shouldn’t work? Taking a baby on that plane with you.
I’m kind of kidding. But, let’s be real: Childless passengers aren’t the only ones who take a deep breath when a baby is carried on board. So when we planned a trip to Florida to visit my parents last month, I was a little apprehensive how it would go.
Vivi has flown before. She has actually flown quite a bit for someone who has fewer than four teeth. She has even done longer flights than this, making it all the way to the Pacific Northwest and back. What she hasn’t done? Flown since she has started crawling and walking.
As we planned our trip and I began my famous packing lists (seriously, these things are intense), I struggled to remain optimistic about our chances of touching down without a meltdown. Fortunately, I thought ahead and asked for plenty of advice from fellow parents. Here are my top five tips for a successful plane ride with a baby, garnered from research and crowdsourcing all my friends. Enjoy!
1. Keep those ears clear.
Most babies will be their fussiest during take-off and landing because of the change in pressure. Ideally, you could nurse or give them a bottle to encourage sucking (and therefore ear-clearing), but most airlines insist that you hold the baby over your shoulder during take-offs and landings.
Side note: Every airline I’ve flown has told me a different way of holding my baby is “the safest way,” but all of them insist the baby be unharnessed (unless she’s in a car seat) in some way. This makes no sense to me, so I would usually clip Vivi into some kind of carrier as soon as the flight attendant was out of sight. Any former flight attendants out there who know why they recommend a loosened baby? I’m genuinely curious.
Regardless of how your baby sits, though, do what you can to encourage swallowing and sucking to keep the pressure from building up. A pacifier, snacks, and even just tapping your baby’s tongue periodically can be a big help. A trip to the pediatrician before a long flight can also be helpful if your baby tends to experience ear aches or sinus issues, just to fend off any problems.
2. Bring snacks.
Listen, I’m not encouraging eating your feelings. But I AM saying that a handful of puffs or a squeezy pack can be just the ticket to curb a total over-tired tantrum at 40,000 feet. You may recall that this was also one of my recommendations for road trips, and that’s just because a full baby is generally a more happy baby. My daughter is also a seagull, so even if we ran out of planned baby snacks, it was usually easy to distract her with a nibble of whatever we happened to be eating.
One thing to keep in mind: Babies tummies can get upset by the pressure changes just like yours can, so avoid anything with too much fiber or something your baby has never eaten before. The last thing you need is a diaper blowout during the beverage service.
3. Burn before you board.
Now that Vivi is much more mobile, nothing drives her crazier than being forced to sit still. But when you’ve got about eight inches of leg room (and you’re sharing it with a stranger), there isn’t a lot of space for an almost-toddler to play. On our flight to Florida, we actually ended up having an empty seat next to us (helpful for letting Vivi get some standing time in and distracting her with the window), but even then, I didn’t like to leave her unstrapped for very long.
To fend off the ants in the pants, we got her moving as much as possible before we left for the airport and then as we waited in the terminal. She loved crawling over the arm rests on an empty bench as she watched the planes come in and out through the big windows, and we were fortunate that she slept the whole first hour of the flight.
4. Create a cozy sleeping space.
Obviously, you’re most-likely not going to have an actual bed on board with you. Unless you’re a millionaire. Or have one of these. (Has anyone ever actually tried that thing? Vivi’s too big for it now, but it seems sort of genius if you have a window seat.) What is much more plausible? Wearing that baby. Y’all know my love for the Beluga Wrap (also, squeee for week-old Vivi in those photos!!!). Vivi is about 20 pounds, so we can still use ours for walking around, but it’s even more helpful when I’m trying to get her to sleep in a new place. She just can’t resist that snuggly bamboo cotton!
I’ll typically wear the wrap from the moment I get through the security screening since it almost looks like a shirt when it’s tied on. From there, I can simply pop Viv in and out as needed, and I’m comfortable either way. Plus, Haley has even more colors since I last wrote about these wraps — including an extremely scrumptious forest green that has me wanting to get pregnant again just so I have an excuse to buy it. (KIDDING, JOEY.) Haley is even sharing another coupon code with you guys: Use “JUSTINE” for $10 off! (And remember, the site’s prices are in Canadian dollars, so the wraps are actually more like $55 for my American readers.)
5. And at all costs, keep that baby comfy!
This is not the time to dress your baby is fussy layers or excessive accessories. A baby will scream over a single scratchy tag, after all. My go-to? The BEYOND soft and comfortable baby leggings from Custom Threads. These suckers are stretchy, breathable, and custom-made from a variety of fabrics according to preference. They even have a Mommy + Me version so you can get in on the coziness. (Because moms hate scratchy tags too, right?)
I dressed Vivi in a onesie, her pants, and a pair of socks (since she would be walking over heavily-tread carpets, after all), and she didn’t fuss or pull at her outfit once. The leggings are also great for sleeping, so I can sub them for a full set of jammies while the weather is still warm. Plus, how cute is that pattern? Owner Emily is really helpful when it comes to finding the pattern you prefer, and she has tons of choices.
So there you have it! What are your tips for flying with a baby?
I don’t write posts for the comments. Really. I’m incredibly self-centered that way.
This blog is and, in a large way, always will be for me. My personal record that I was and I did.
But every now and then, I write a post that gets a lot of feedback. A post that gets me texts and emails and comments and even phone calls from people I haven’t talked to in years or, sometimes, haven’t talked to ever. And even though I don’t do this for that, there’s something magical about when it happens. Because, as I’ve said, I love those moments of bonding. Of “I thought it was only me.”
Yesterday’s posts was one of those posts. And I can’t tell you how much it makes my heart sing when I read every single comment, text, or email I got from so many of you. Because you don’t have to do that. And you did. And it just…I don’t know. I can’t put it into words except to say it’s why I write. And hopefully you know me well enough to know how much weight those words carry.
The point is, I appreciate the kindness. I appreciate the love. I appreciate you relating to me, and I can’t tell you what a compliment it is to hear that I wrote what so many of you feel.
Next week, the blog will go back to its same fun, (mostly) frivolous fodder, but I couldn’t just go on without acknowledging the niceness. You guys are pretty swell, and I’m happy to have you as readers.
I’m having a clothing swap with a few girlfriends this weekend, so I started this week by cleaning out my closet and drawers. When I looked at my newly pared down wardrobe, one thing was hard to deny: I have a LOT of white shirts.
When Vivi was first born, while I wouldn’t say I completely let my sense of style go, I definitely had to make quicker choices. I needed to be comfortable, and I needed to be able to whip out a boob at a moment’s notice. (Ah, the joys of breastfeeding.)
White T’s became my go-to, and the love affair has only grown — even though I now I like to think I put more effort into my look than in those early days.
The problem is, when you’re staring down a drawer full of white shirts, things start to look a little…bland.
But while I’ll never let my white shirts go, I’m not quite ready to resign myself to boring style. So I decided to challenge myself to create three completely different looks that each featured my favorite wardrobe staple.
Look #1: White V-neck with a skirt and heels
One of my favorite things about white T-shirts is how easy they are to dress up despite their otherwise casual nature. A slightly flared skirt with a pair of heeled sandals is the perfect look for lunch with a friend, or I could throw on a statement necklace for an evening out.
Look #2: Boyfriend T-shirt with high-waisted skinny jeans, heels, and a pendant necklace
Honestly, this is what you can likely find me in almost any given day. (Minus the heels — my day-to-day is more of a sneakers or wedges look.) I used to shy away from baggy tops because I felt like I needed to highlight the narrowest part of my body, but I love how versatile boyfriend T’s are, especially when you tuck them into high-waists. And that pendant? Perfect for Vivi to play with as I carry her to and fro.
Look #3: White button-down with belted shorts and sneakers
Rompers were all the rage this year, but I found it hard to find one that was truly flattering on my body but still modest enough to wear in real life. My solution? Pairing a matching top and shorts. I love how summery this outfit feels without feeling like a costume (the belt helps break up all the white), and contrasting sneakers add just enough visual interest to still feel a little dressed up (even though they’re so comfortable).
What are your “mom uniform” staples?
One of my favorite parts of being Vivi’s mom is our bedtime routine. I’ve mentioned before the practical value of establishing a regular routine to wind-down a baby so they go to sleep more peacefully, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t get something out of it too.
I often say that, for me, the best part of sleep training (besides, you know, the sleep) is that I get to end every day madly in love with my baby. From the moment we start our routine, Vivi is typically calmer and cuddlier until the moment I lay her down in her crib. We end virtually every day with songs and snuggles and a peaceful parting.
Granted, there are times this doesn’t happen. (I wrote this post last night, and, of course, that was actually one of the evenings we ended with an overtired baby and a lot of frustration.) But those times just serve to make me even more grateful for the fact that that is not our routine — it’s the exception.
Typically, our nights go like this:
5:00/5:30: Family dinner
6:00: Vivi gets a bath (usually Joey does the bath so I can have a few minutes to unwind to myself, but if he’s working late I sub in)
6:20-7:00: Joey and Vivi play and spend time together
7:00: Joey reads to Vivi while I nurse her, then he says her bedtime prayer and I’ll rock her and sing a couple of songs before putting my now very sleepy babe to bed
While I would say the last few moments are my favorite part of the routine, Joey would undoubtedly say the bath and playtime are his favorite moments. I also love sitting in the living room and listening to Vivi belly laugh as she plays with her bath toys and splashes with her Dada. It’s such a great way for us all to relax and for Vivi and Joey to bond before bedtime.
A few months back, my friend Haley introduced me to a new kind of bath cleanser that has helped turn our evening routine into an even more relaxing — and, dare I say, spa-like? — experience for Vivi: Bébé de Luxe Coconut & Oat Milk Bath.
When we started giving Vivi baths after she came home from the hospital, we noticed pretty quickly that she had extremely sensitive skin. She was prone to rashes if we used any non-organic soaps, and we had to make sure all lotions and creams were formulated for delicate skin. So when I visited Haley in Vancouver when Vivi was about six months old, I was fascinated when I watched her sprinkle this delicious-smelling powder into her daughter’s bath.
“You have to try this,” she told me. “It smells like cookies.”
Um…a baby that looks AND smells good enough to eat? Sold.
The Coconut & Oat Bath is made from 100 percent certified organic and food-grade ingredients (thus the whole “smells like cookies” thing). Besides providing rinse-free cleansing, the oatmeal also soothes and moisturizes dry or itchy skin. And the coconut milk has natural anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties. Amanda, the owner of the company, recently posted on Instagram a photo of her son’s squirty bath toys — she had been using them in his bath (with the Coconut & Oat Milk) for over six months, and none of them had developed any kind of mold or mildew. That’s kind of amazing.
Using the milk bath is easy — just sprinkle three-ish tablespoons into warm running water, let your babe splash around for a while, and then dry off. No other soap or rinsing is required. And while I typically follow up Vivi’s bath by slicking her head to toe in baby lotion, I’ve noticed it’s less necessary when using the milk bath than it is with regular soap. Even better, mommas can get in on the action by using the powder as an exfoliating face mask — just mix the Coconut & Oat Milk Bath with a bit of water to make a paste and rub in circular motions on your face for instant glow. (Because, let’s be real: Mommas are in need of a spa experience too.)
And while Joey might appreciate an upgrade to his bath time routine, I still think I come out the winner here. After all, I’m the one who gets to snuggle a baby who smells like cookies every night.
Great news! If you want to try Bébé de Luxe Coconut & Oat Milk Bath, Amanda is offering Stop Me if You’ve Heard This One readers a 10 percent off discount code! Just use JUSTINE10 when you check out — and just try not to give your baby a nibble.
My family recently went on a trip to Virginia with some friends. I was excited about the trip, but, I’ll be honest, a little nervous for how Vivi would do in the car.
Joey and I tried to travel as much as we could before we had a baby, and most of our trips were out of the country. We both always felt like we should save the domestic trips for when we had kids. I think we both look forward to showing Vivi the Grand Canyon, national parks, and oceans and lakes throughout the United States — and it’s even better when we can drive there.
Vivi has done a major road trip before; we drove to Cleveland when she was about three months old. But a 10-month-old baby is different from a 3-month-old baby. For one, Vivi is a lot more mobile these days, meaning she expects to burn off some energy crawling and toddling around most of the day. For another, the older she gets, the more she expects out of entertainment. Meaning I can no longer expect her to be thrilled by what she sees out the window.
Fortunately, the trip went well — thanks to a little preparation. Here are the four things I’d recommend to any momma looking to hit the road:
2. Vivi isn’t big into TV or movies yet, but she will watch short videos, especially if a song is involved. This extendable tablet holder made it easy to prop up Joey’s tablet and play her favorite music videos and a few Disney favorites. (Not going to lie; the adults in the car may have enjoyed this more than Vivi.)
3. One thing that really gets Vivi steamed in the car is when the sun is in her eyes. To prevent that (and keep the car cool), we use these retractable window shades. Plus, they’ll also tell you if the car is getting too hot!
4. The final thing that I never leave home without? Snacks, snacks, and more snacks. Vivi eats a lot of what I’m eating these days, but squeezy fruit and veggie puree packs are clutch when we’re on the go. Because a hungry baby is definitely not a happy baby.
Now, let’s talk discounts! Whether you’re planning your own RTWAB (road trip with a baby…what? Is that not a thing?) or just love the look of a babe in a romper, I’m so excited to share a coupon code from Lunaby Baby with my readers! Use code JUSTINE10 when you check out for 10 percent off your entire order. The rompers, bibs, and colorful tights are all super reasonably priced, so you can walk away with a pretty great haul of seasonal basics for your baby. Happy shopping!
Romper provided by Lunaby Baby; opinions 100% mine.