It's the last day of April and I'm finally getting around to blogging about the baby hacks I asked fellow mamas about at the beginning of April! I'm not gonna keep the intro long because I personally don't like long intros when I go to blog posts for recipes and hacks, but I will put out a disclaimer that these hacks were collected from personal questions I posted on my IG stories regarding babywear, bouncers/rockers/swings, and where baby sleeps. I pooled the most common responses and listed them below. Here we go!
Q: WHAT DID YOUR BABY WEAR INSIDE THE HOUSE DURING THE DAY?
Q: WHAT DID YOUR BABY WEAR TO SLEEP?
Q: DID YOU USE A BOUNCER/ROCKER/SWING? IF SO, WHICH ONE?
Q: DID YOU USE A BUMBO SEAT? DID YOU LOVE IT?
Q: WHAT DID YOUR BABY SLEEP IN AT NIGHT (CRIB, BASSINET)?
ANYTHING ELSE I SHOULD KNOW AS A FIRST TIME MAMA?
(GET READY TO TEAR UP!)
Moses basket is from Sugar Babies, Grey swaddle blanket is from Aden & Anais, Newborn outfit and hat is from Carter's, Pacifier and pacifier clip is from Glorious Cubs
Not gonna lie, it was tough to get through re-reading the last part of without feeling emotional. I can't believe that in less than a month, we'll get to meet our precious baby boy!!! For anyone reading this, I hope the stuff above helps you narrow down decisions as you prepare for the arrival of your baby. I know for sure it helped Mitchell and I narrow down what we want to buy and what we want to borrow from friends instead. All we know is that we're super excited to meet and hold and cuddle and kiss our baby boy!!!
I am writing this 6 weeks post-baby party. which is also 6 weeks since the government of Canada put the whole country on lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It's so crazy to think that 6 Saturdays ago, we were surrounded by some of our favourite people, celebrating our baby boy over a massive Filipino feast and lots of dancing and chanting and laughter. And now I sit in our living room, typing this out, reliving the last time I hugged our family and friends because 6 weeks without it is 6 weeks too long. It's even crazier to think that 4 weeks prior to our baby party, Mitchell and I were actually closer to the epicentre of the virus during our babymoon in Tokyo than we are now, yet the effects of the pandemic is hitting us more this time than it was when we were in Tokyo.
Anyways, the point of this blog post was to remember the last party we threw. I'll save the pity party for another blog post lol.
We picked March 14th as our baby party date because 1) Pi Day, and 2) we figured throwing a baby party sooner than later in my pregnancy would be more beneficial for me since I'd still have the energy to walk (in heels) without feeling like a whale. And in hindsight, I'm really glad we decided to throw the party at 30 weeks. We rented the Hearth Room at Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Association and my sisters and my mom did an AMAZING job with helping me plan and pick the decor for the party! They honestly made my baby shower dream come true!
The main focal point was the balloon arch that framed the faux greenery with a wicker love seat that we borrowed from Rebekah Bronte of Brontë Bride. (PS, this part of the post is about to feel like an Amazon ad but it ain't. Amazon was just real clutch with having all the things we needed for the party so we basically bought everything from there. Plus, prime membership is the answered prayer to my impatient side!)
I also made a linen banner with Scripture that Mitchell and I have been speaking over our baby since we found out we were expecting! This banner served as a backdrop for our Books and Gifts table as we opted for Books for Baby Lee in lieu of cards. We figured this was a good way to start baby's library, and of course we kicked it off with books that Mitchell and I picked that rep us individuals and as parents-to-be: T is for Turbo (because Baby Lee wouldn't be Mitchell's baby if he didn't know car parts), My First Book of Tagalog Words (because I want him to embrace and carry on his Filipino heritage), and God Gave Us You (because he literally is the greatest blessing we've received). The letter board was from Euris Co. and the baby onesie is from TLC Decor.
FEAST FOR DAYS
And of course I can't forget about the food. It's just the most essential part of every Filipino get-together. Mitchell and I requested a feast with some of our favourite Filipino and Chinese dishes to honour Baby Lee's heritage. We had a whole Lechon - the biggest one my parents could order (as per Mitchell's request) and we had homemade Pansit Palabok and Lumpia. And we had our favourite House Special Fried Rice and Chicken Wings from our favourite Chinese restaurant by my parents' house. (This fried rice + chicken wing combo is something Mitchell and I have been ordering from this Chinese restaurant since we were in University, so it's more of a sentimental menu item than it is an authentic Chinese item). One thing I forgot to mention is that the day before our baby party, the Government of Alberta was already putting protocols in place prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people. This affected the number of people that were able to make it to our party, for health and personal reasons, which was totally understandable. But man, my parents stepped their game up to a whole new level to ensure that cleanliness and sanitation was the top priority food-wise. Not only did they buy food warmers just for the party, they also bought Lysol and individual wet wipes for our guests to use and they handled all the food with specific measures to make sure that cleanliness was top notch. MY PARENTS ARE SERIOUSLY THE BEST.
And what would a feast be without desserts? Mitchell's siblings and their SO's all teamed up to get us the best dessert spread from local bakeries in Calgary and it was so bomb! We had donut holes, cake pops, and egg tarts from Glamorgan Bakery and macarons from Ollia which were gone in a heartbeat!
Lastly, what would desserts be without coffee? My sister and brother-in-love graciously provided coffee for our guests, which helped warm us all up since it was snowing that day! Honestly, we had the best team that pulled together to make our feast request a reality! One thing I didn't have a photo of was the massive BABY LEE balloons that hung over our dessert and coffee table, which I plan to use for all the other Baby Lees I plan to make in the future lol!
OTHER EXTRAS BECAUSE WE'RE EXTRA
We had originally made arrangements with a photographer for the baby party, but because of the government protocol that was announced the day before our party, we decided to cancel the photographer. It was a tough decision for us to make since we wanted this day documented and we didn't want any of our photogra-friends to be working that day. But thank God for, and thanks to, my brother-in-love for stepping in and volunteering to take family photos (hence the photos I have here) AND take video footage of the party for us to remember this day by. It was one of the most beautiful gifts we received that day, especially now looking in hindsight.
And to top everything off... what would a Graza (my maiden name) party be without someone (or specifically some Graza Girls) busting out into a song? My sisters who are beyond talented and beyond extra wrote a med-lee for Baby Lee. I don't have it on video because I was too busy enjoying their gift and marvelling at their love for Mitchell and I and our growing baby. You can see a snippet of them singing in the video below. Who knows, I might be able to convince them to redo their medley and record it so I can share it on here!
And that's that for our Baby Party! Post-party blues got me wanting to hug every single person that celebrated with us, but I unfortunately will have to wait until this whole lockdown gets lifted. Maybe then we'll plan another party?
Wow, where has time gone? I'm writing this exactly 10 days since I've entered my third trimester and 104 days since my last blog post (which was also my first blog post). My second trimester was super busy and super eventful (which isn't a surprise for the type of person that I am) that I barely found time to blog while I was in it. But I figured I'd do it sooner than later while everything's still fresh in my mind. So let's get recapping!
DECEMBER (MONTH 4)
Christmas is my next busiest season as a calligrapher, after weddings. Although I didn't go as ham on marketing my stuff this year (for obvious reasons.. um first trimester fatigue hit me hard right when I'd be prepping for Christmas advertising), I still found myself busy with tons of ornament orders. Praise Jesus of course! But on top of managing the custom orders, Mitchell and I were busy writing our P. Eng application. We dreaded that whole process SO MUCH, but it had to be done. So we spent most weeknights and weekends typing our hearts out, trying to prove to APEGA that we are competent professionals worthy of an Engineer seal. The moment we hit "Submit" on that thing, we felt a heightened sense of freedom lol!
We also researched doulas this month. We interviewed two and ended up hiring the first doula we met with! She bought us treats from the cafe she owns with her sister and I swear we were hooked the moment we took a bite out of the protein balls she brought lol. She spoke with so much enthusiasm and confidence over her work as a doula and her why and we felt at peace the whole time she was with us. Oh, we also sent out our first ever Christmas postcard! I figured we're probably gonna end up sending Christmas cards when baby comes, so why not start one with baby in da bump?
Just before our trip to Cali for Christmas, Mitchell and I both finally submitted our P. Eng application! The second we hit SUBMIT on that application, a huge boulder was lifted off my chest and I finally felt like I could breathe. It brought me back to writing finals around Christmas time and waiting until you were done finals to start Christmas shopping.
And lastly, baby bump made its first international flight to San Francisco with the whole Graza fam for a Ruiz Christmas! The last time we were down in Cali for Christmas was in 2000! Also it was the first time all seven of us in my family had flown together! I thoroughly enjoyed flexing my bump at this point, since it's gotten more visible since our pregnancy announcement photoshoot. It was also low-key nice to visit family in the States preggers since the question we get the most from family is, "When are you guys gonna have kids?" lol. Anyways, the fam Christmas party was a typical Ruiz/Graza gathering - we played bingo, the Titas gave out money, and my fam and I showed up proud in our red plaid shirts lol. On our last night with family, before heading to San Francisco, we were spoiled with one of the most epic boodle feasts I've ever seen in my life. Click HERE if you don't know what a boodle feast is.
JANUARY (MONTH 5)
After coming back from our Christmas vacay, Mitchell and I took a much needed 3-day Sabbath at home where all we did was sleep in, snuggle in bed for hours, and move slowly because we know that in 4 month's time, such luxuries would no longer be available to us. Well we didn't just live the retired life; we also started studying for our NPPE Exam which was scheduled for February 4th, and this was our life every weeknight - wake up, go to work, work out, have dinner, study, sleep, repeat. On a few free weekends in Red Deer, we treated ourselves to a trip to Home Depot where we bought stacks on stacks of totes and shelves and purged and organized our basement! Talk about Adulting 101. We also started moving my studio to the basement where Mitchell's office is (yay office neighbours!) and we started turning my studio into a nursery, one Amazon purchase at a time lol. And by "WE", I mean Mitchell because my short torso and growing belly made it real hard for me to carry anything big.
The main event of our January 2020 was our gender reveal! We had the 20-week anatomy scan 4 days after we got back from Cali and it was so surreal seeing our baby's features, especially since the last time we saw him/her were at 7 weeks! And at that point, baby was just a cute little blob! Now he/she's an actual fetus with a head and feet and hands! It was also really nerve-wracking to look at the ultrasound screen and not catch a glimpse of baby's genitals since we wanted the ultrasound tech to keep the gender a secret from us and write it on an envelope instead so we could give it to our friends, Joy and Chilton. Anyways, as soon as we got in the car after the scan, both Mitchell and I *TRIED* peeking through the envelope to see if we could read what the sheet said. We both thought we saw a penis on the ultrasound screen and we both thought the sheet inside the envelope said "boy", but at this point anything was possible.
Anyways, back to our gender reveal. I seriously have the best and the most extra family ever! We rented the Panorama Community Hall to fit around 30+ people for our gender reveal. Everything that went into our gender reveal was a fruit of my family's love for Mitchell, myself and Baby Lee. We had a beautiful balloon arch, coffee from Monogram, a 12-foot grazing table, custom sugar cookies, my mom's famous Oreo cheesecake, and pins with mine and Mitchell's baby faces for guests to guess the gender.
Best part of the night? Finding out that Baby Lee is a BOY!!!!!! I get to have my own mini-Mitchell!!!!! Our hunch after the ultrasound was right, even though we didn't explicitly see a penis on the ultrasound and the writing on the sheet inside the envelope was so faint, the only way you'd be able to read it is if you actually unfolded the sheet. This was such insane news considering that ever since getting pregnant, I've had vivid dreams about having a baby girl AND my gut feeling was that I was having a baby girl! Talk about the opposite lol!
It was also around this time that I started getting carpal tunnel syndrome on my right hand. MY RIGHT HAND! MY MONEY-MAKING HAND! I was writing on a card for a friend's wedding when I started feeling numbness after 3 words! It was painful and I was confused. I started getting it checked by my Physio and I also bought a brace to wear at night.
We also started our baby gear shopping and first stop was buybuyBABY to check out 2 strollers. You see, Mitchell and I have a foot in height difference, so we wanted to make sure that whatever stroller we end up getting fits both of our heights comfortably. And we also wanted to make sure that the stroller we get is travel-friendly since we plan on travelling a lot with baby! I initially wanted to check out the Babyzen YOYO in person since I had my heart set on it after seeing multiple petite bloggers rave about it, but after seeing other options in person, i.e. the UPPABABY VISTA, I was then convinced that I wasn't the right person to be researching strollers. So I then gave the honour of picking a stroller and carseat to Mitchell who was more suited for that kind of research and objective decision than I was.
FEBRUARY (MONTH 6)
Alright, now we're in February. Although February is the shortest month of the year, this February felt like it dragged on forevaaaa. First we had to drive to Calgary to write our NPPE exam and I swear, I felt like a huge boulder was taken off of my chest the moment I walked out of that exam room. It felt so sooooo good to be done with APEGA lol.
Two days after the exam, we were on our way to Tokyo for our babymoon amidst the news of the Coronavirus spreading to Japan. Mitchell started hearing about this virus on his site visit in early January, and since then we've followed it on the news since the place where it all started (Wuhan, China) is pretty close to Japan. We thought about cancelling our Tokyo babymoon and possibly going some place else since little was known about the virus and how it could affect me or the baby at that time, but after much consideration (and a whole lot of mask and hand sanitizer searching), we decided to still go to Tokyo.
The photo on the right side above was taken at the Vancouver airport before we boarded the plane. I'd say about 30% of people were wearing masks at this point, and Mitchell and I kept our masks on to ensure we weren't touching our faces. Anyways, Japan was a blast as it was when we went in 2017 for our honeymoon! Back then, we made it our goal to visit as many places in Japan, so we did. We even flew all the way to the island of Hokkaido (where Sapporo is), where a lot of tourists don't go. Anyhow, this time around we wanted to just stay in Tokyo and explore the city a little deeper. Of course I enjoyed eating all the Japanese food I can eat without feeling guilty of the calories!
I did end up flying home 4 days early because of a pregnancy-related health condition. I've journaled about it already, I just don't know if I'll ever share to the public. IDK, maybe one of these days I will. Anyways, the rest of February was a little more cheerful post-Japan. My parents gifted us with the crib (GOD BLESS THEIR GENEROUS HEARTS) and we were able to take it home after Japan and actually start turning the nursery into a nursery. I also took my gestational diabetes test this month, where I had to sit at DynaLife for an hour after drinking this mini bottle of over concentrated sugar (it looked like Fanta). I wasn't expecting to get a phone call from my OB about gestational diabetes since I haven't really craved sweets since getting preggers. And I didn't get a phone call so that's good news. After coming back from our Tokyo vacay, I also requested to start working 30 hours a week. At this point, the residual symptoms from the condition I developed from our Tokyo trip plus my carpal tunnel that seemed to be getting worse by the day just wasn't letting me function the same way, so I thought it was fair to start asking for reduced hours.
Aaaaaanyways, that's it for my second trimester recap! Not gonna lie, I started this blog post on March 8th at 10:29 PM and I'm ending this on April 1st at 9:14 PM lol. Talk about hella delay! I blame it on the carpal tunnel and the world crisis that's going on right now which I'll most likely blog about after this!
Yessss, you read that right! Mitchell and I are having a baby!!!!!!!
Baby Lee is 14 going on 15 weeks and will be joining our party of two in May 2020! It's been so surreal and so special to walk these past 3 months knowing that I'm carrying a little babe inside of me! We recognize that it's purely by the grace of God that we're able to make life out of the love we have for each other and to sustain this little life thus far. We've enjoyed keeping this little secret between us at first and then slowly sharing it with our friends and family in the span of 2 months. Every single time we announce our baby on the way, we keep getting more and more excited to meet our LEEtle one!
HOW WE FOUND OUT
If you know us irl, you'll know that we are planners. Even before we got married, we knew that we wanted to invest a few years into our marriage before welcoming a little baby into our love story. I also knew that I wanted to pursue my career as much as I can before transitioning into being a hot mama (yes, imma be a hot mama!) Heck, I walked through a year-long journey of being unemployed before landing a job in my career again, so I definitely wanted to enjoy every minute of it.
When we felt ready most ready to start trying, we did the beautiful thing that makes beautiful babies and next thing you know, 2 days after Mother Nature was supposed to come hand me a red envelope, she didn't. And I then knew I had to take a test. So I told Mitchell about it, we bought a pregnancy test, I took it, we waited, and when we found out, we were both SHOOK. Like shook because as hopeful as we were to conceive right away, we recognize that complications could happen. So the whole time between us doing the beautiful thing and me waiting for Mother Nature not to come, I was praying for a baby and also for peace if a baby doesn't come right away. And in writing this, I recognize that God is so good. Not because we were able to conceive right away, but because He is no matter what. God is still good even if our journey took longer.
THE FIRST 8 WEEKS
The first 8 weeks were the most foreign 8 weeks of my life. Growing up, I'd heard about morning sickness and nausea in the first 3 months of your pregnancy and I had none of that. So being someone who jumps to conclusions for fun, I immediately thought to myself, "Am I even really pregnant?", or "Is something wrong with me or my baby because I'm not throwing up?" Like real talk, there was this huge cloud of anxiety over me every day that passed that I didn't get "morning or afternoon or evening sickness". But even though I didn't get morning sickness, I got heavy heartburn. And I've never experience heartburn in my entire life, so when I started getting heartburn I didn't even have words to describe how I was feeling. I swear I'd text my husband everyday with things like "I feel like I didn't fully swallow my food and it's formed into a rock and it's stuck in my chest". I eventually Googled what that feeling was like and lo and behold, it was heartburn.
I've also never felt soooooo exhausted (for doing the least amount of external physical labour) in my entire life than I did the first 8 weeks. You see, I'm an Enneagram 3 - The Achiever. And not being able to (physically) achieve things and cross things off my To Do list was a HUGE struggle for me. Everyday after work, I'd take a 3-hour nap, wake up for dinner, which my husband has selflessly prepared after his own long day at work, then I'd go back to sleep. No time and no energy for the things I enjoyed doing - working out, calligraphy, even seeing friends! I swear I caught up on all the sleep and relaxing I've deprived myself of because of my over-working nature. There were many days I'd cry because I felt useless for not even having the energy to help with the dishes, let alone go to the gym. But I thank Jesus for my husband who never failed to pray with me when all I could do is cry, and who never failed to remind me of the precious life my body is creating internally.
HOW WE TOLD OUR FAMILIES
Our first ultrasound appointment was around the 7-week mark and in that appointment, we got to see the baby and listen to the heartbeat! I can't even put in words how joyful we were to be able to listen to our baby's heartbeat. I'm crying right now from just recalling that feeling! Leading up to the appointment, we had already started planning how we were gonna tell our families about our baby.
Thanksgiving was the week after our ultrasound and we were gonna spend it with my family so we knew our props had to make that deadline. We had this idea of using Village Ice Cream to share the news with my family because 1) I love ice cream, 2) I love Village Ice Cream, and 3) my whole family loves ice cream and Village Ice Cream. If you've ever had Village Ice Cream, you'll know that their pints have watercolour illustrations of people on them. So I contacted Amanda from Made By Meli to illustrate a photo of Mitchell and I in watercolour (photo on the left) but change it so that we're holding a baby onesie in the middle (photo on the right). I then got my VA, Lea (whom I will introduce in another post because she is thaaa bombbb), to basically recreate the Village Mini Pint with our own illustration and with some tweaks to it to make it unique to us. So anyways, come Thanksgiving after we've had dinner, we told my family that I landed this gig with Village Ice Cream where they'd feature my watercolor portraits non their mini pints next year and that they sent us samples of what the mini pints would look like with my work on them - which was all a lie. One by one, Mitchell starts handing out the mini pints - first to my parents, then to my siblings. It didn't take long for one of them to notice the baby onesie and next thing you know, my sisters and my mom were all crying and cheering and jumping and crying some more! My brother in love, with his quick videographer reflexes, grabbed his camera quick and captured all the crying and cheering and jumping.
A few weeks later, we were getting together with my husband's family for my father in love's birthday, and at every family gathering we grub on some good Chinese cuisine. So figured it'd be fun to make custom fortune cookies with our baby announcement and get it served at the end of our meal (instead of getting the restaurant's actual fortune cookies). The one catch is, Mitchell has 4 brothers and a sister, so announcing the coming of "Baby Lee" could mean that it could be any one of this brothers'. So when it came time to order the fortune cookies, we had to get real specific with the fortunes we were writing. And by real specific, I meant we had to emphasize a fact that was unique to Mitchell and I, and that's the fact that we're both engineers. At the end of it, we came up with 3 different fortunes:
1) A mini engineer is coming in May 2020
2) Engineers in Training, Parents in the Making
3) Toyota 4Runner, Subaru Outback, Toyota Sienna...?
The first 2 were an easy giveaway; the last one, however, was a little more tough to unpack. Toyota 4Runner and Subaru Outback are the cars that we currently own and Toyota Sienna is the van that Mitchell would get if we were to get a van when baby comes (side note - I'm still resisting the idea of owning a van). Anyways, the guys in Mitchell's are car guys. They all enjoy talking about and working on cars, so we figured one of them would get the car reference. But here's the plot twist: after dinner, the owner himself hands our table a plate with our custom fortune cookies, and the ladies in the family end up getting the cookies with the car references on them!! So needless to say, it took a while to decode that fortune. Meanwhile, my father in love (who got Fortune #1) and my brother in love (who got Fortune #2) slowly get they fortune and once all ears were on them, everybody started cluing in to the fact that Mitchell and I are having a baby!
Both videos are up on my IG page if ya wanna check it out! Click HERE!
BABY ANNOUNCEMENT PHOTOS
Like I said earlier, Mitchell and I are planners. We (I mean, I) knew what I wanted to do for our baby announcement photos, and we knew we wanted to wait until we've told both families before getting it done. So after sharing the news with our family, we hit up our photographer-friend Joy Breitkreutz for a photoshoot date and idea, and I bought all the things a pregnant woman with a vision and with a budget could buy. I bought giant gold balloons that spelled BABY, a helium tank, gold confetti, and a PREGGERS shirt from Etsy (which was one of the shirts Beyoncé wore when she was preggers with the twins). I had envisioned a white space with the gold balloons floating in the back, and Mitchell and I throwing confetti and celebrating our little baby on the way! Except sometimes, things pop out of nowhere and you're forced to come up with a back-up plan. The thing that popped this time was the "A" in "BABY". Right before our shoot. I remember being so emotional about the balloon popping and being even more emotional when I found out that Mitchell literally called every single dollar store in Red Deer and that none of them carried a gold balloon A. In spite the million emotions running through my body that afternoon, both Mitchell and Joy convinced me to just write the letter A in calligraphy because DUH, I'm a calligrapher. I eventually snapped back to reality after my husband specifically said, "I like that the A isn't a balloon and that it's in your writing. The photos will still be beautiful, Gian. If anything, they'll be more beautiful 'cuz it's more realistic and less Pinterest-y." And he couldn't be more correct. When we got the photos back from Joy, all I could focus on was the fact that we're having a baby! Not the balloons, not the calligraphy, heck not even the lashes on my left eye that were starting to come off. All I could feel when I look at those photos are excitement and joy and a little dash of impatience because I just wanna hold our little baby in my arms already!
And exhale! Talk about a novela script for my first blog post. If you made it this far, thank you for sticking it through and reading all the way! I've sincerely enjoyed writing about this journey thus far and I'm sure this won't be the last of my blog posts! If you're a mama or a mama-to-be, I'd love to know if you shared the same experience in terms of heartburn and exhaustion or if you had a different experience than me! If you're an aspiring mama-to-be, I'd love to know how you stay hopeful in your journey! This new season of my life has given me sooooo much more appreciation for the strength women have and I'm sure that'll be another topic to write about. Until then, peace out queens!