Grow Baby Grow! Livia's First Year

grow-baby-grow-livia-year-one Yes, that's what Livia's first 52 weeks on this planet looked like.

In the months leading up to her birth I saw a bunch of bloggers taking really cute weekly and monthly photos of their babies. As a PhotoShop nerd, I thought "well, I can do that!" So, I picked out my favorite elements, created a template and set about taking one photo of Livia each and every week.

I'll be honest: it wasn't easy. Some weeks every photo we took was blurry, the white balance was off, the lighting terrible or the photo impossible to edit. I kept thinking there had to be an easier way.

Around week 40 I said, "I wish there was an app for this." Then, Rob and I kind of looked at each other and said, "Why don't we make the app for this?!"

I'm a little embarrassed that it took two tech geeks 40 weeks to figure out that we were the solution to our own problem. I blame new parent brain!

That's my way of introducing Grow Baby Grow! our baby photo app that was released in the app store a few days ago. Creating an app has been a really fun experience and  I'm hoping it does for new parents what Rob and I wished we had those first 52 weeks: a quick, easy way to take an adorable photo of our little one.

It's definitely version 1.0 and we have a ton of ideas for how to improve and add to it in the coming months, but if you are a parent looking for a clever way to capture your baby each week (or month!) then head on over and download our app -- it's only 99cents!

Family date at the Bargello

bargello-1 bargello-2 bargello-3 This past weekend we took a family date to the Bargello. The big open courtyard on the first floor is a great spot to let Livia run around and explore. She would occasionally stop and stare up at the sculptures in awe (some of them are massive) and then turn around and run in the other direction. We got just enough energy out in the courtyard that she was quiet as we explored some of the other rooms. She *loved* the pottery room and was mesmerized as she looked through the glass at everything -- although all I could think was, "I feel so bad for the person that needs to clean the glass tonight." Fingerprints galore!

In my opinion, the Bargello is a great museum to visit with kids because there are a lot of spaces for them to roam, catch a breath and reset. It's also typically not very crowded so you don't have to worry about your kid getting too overwhelmed by crowds or, even worse, lost in the crowd. Plus, I think sculpture more so than painting is a bit more interesting to really young kids because it seems a bit more lifelike.

The truth about being a work-from-home parent

katelivia Photo snapped by Michelle during a fun girls' brunch.

In one short month Livia will be turning one year old. During the past year I'd like to think that I've learned a little bit about what it takes to be a work-from-home parent, and I'm therefore qualified in some small way to share the lessons I've learned in hopes that it might help someone else. Also, I'm hoping my insight as a work-from-home parent will take some of the pressure off work-in-office moms that feel guilty about missing time with their kids.

Myth: work/stay-at-home moms don't miss any major milestones. Fact: I missed the first five times Livia rolled over. Count 'em, five! The first two times I had my back turned and was...working. The other three times I was out of the house on well-earned lunches with friends. Those first five times it was someone else (mostly Rob) that saw those milestones. And you want to know something? When I finally caught her in the act it was like she did it for the first time because I was experiencing it for the first time with her. For me, there was no less magic when I finally did see it. I've been there for other "firsts" and missed others. It happens. So, don't guilt yourself either way on that.

Working from home is hard enough to begin with, but add a baby into the mix and things get even tougher. I spent the first few years of self- and co-employment (with Rob) learning how to structure my time, project manage, delegate and generally work from home. I had it all figured out and worked like a well-oiled machine. Then...baby arrives! If you're lucky the baby stays on a schedule for little periods of time (days, weeks or, God bless her, a month or two). But, then they change it up. You go from working 9-5 to 6-10 in the morning and then again from post-dinner to midnight. Sometimes you don't work the same hours for days on end. Clients see you write emails at 2am after a feeding.

This has -- without a doubt -- been the biggest adjustment for both Rob and I. Sometimes I find myself working way later than I should simply because I don't know what tomorrow will be like. Also, it's rare for Rob and I to be able to work at the same time. This makes us slightly less efficient and has affected the number of projects that we can take on. A month ago we hired a nanny to start coming a few hours, 3x per week. It has helped so so so much! Plus, Livia loves her!

Maternity leave? What maternity leave? Let me be clear: I was back designing websites before I could even comfortably sit in my desk chair post-labor. Three days after popping out a kid I was working again. Why? Because there was no one else to do my work. Because it had to get done. Because I am a professional and even though my clients probably would have understood, I didn't want the work looming over my head. Plus, our work definitely has a flow and momentum to it and I didn't want it slowing down. The closest thing I've come to extended time off was 10 days in the U.S. in February.

The best part about being a work-from-home parent is this... Being there for the little moments. I'm not going to lie, when Livia starts asilo nido (daycare) next month I'm going to miss the post-nap snuggly wake-ups. The goofy dancing midday. Taking her to grocery store to pick-up lunch and watching her munch on the bread she's given. The good news about little moments is that you can create them no matter what your work schedule.

The best work-related thing about being a work-from-home parent is this... You get insanely efficient with your personal work time. What I can do in one or two hours now compared to before is amazing. When she starts asilo nido and works her way up to the full 7-hour stay, I really don't know how I will handle 7 hours of work time again. I feel like I'll be able to create a gazillion new websites.

-

Every time I read another article about women leaning in or opting-out or opting-back in or that we can't have it all, I want to SCREAM. It seems that every time I turn around women are beating themselves up for not being the perfect mom. News flash: nobody is perfect. The is no perfect way to raise a kid. Stay-at-home moms have raised serial killers and 70-hour work week moms have raised Rhodes Scholars. You can only do what's best for you and your family and remember that it's the time that you spend with your baby/kid that matters more than anything. I guarantee that kids will remember the times you were there and what you did together and the other times won't even matter.

Stuck on You: Review & Giveaway

Stuck-on-you-1 Time for my readers that are parents of young kids to get excited! Today we have a review of an awesome company, Stuck on You, and a little giveaway! When they contacted us a little while back about sending some personalized goodies for Livia we naturally jumped at the chance and I must admit that I got a little giddy when I saw how adorable everything was when it showed up on our doorstep!

Stuck on You Personalized Height Chart Livia's room is all about animals, so I knew this growth chart would be perfect for her when I saw it. It comes with cute stickers so that you can track how tall she is at each of her first ten birthdays. If she's anything like me she'll max out at around age 5, so here's hoping she gets some height genes laying dormant somewhere in there :-)

I'm really impressed by how high quality the height chart is. It's a nice, heavy canvas that will hold its own among the chaos that is Livia and her room. Every parent knows how hard it is to keep kids -- particularly a wild 9-month old -- from ripping and pulling things. Suffice to say this growth chart passed the Livia test.

By the way, I took about 20 photos of Livia with the growth chart, but homegirl is fast! I don't like taking photos with flash, but it's nearly impossible to get a non-blurry photo. Here's the best I could do:

stuck-on-you-2

Stuck on You Personalized Silicone Placemat This placemat couldn't have shown up at a better time for us! With the big move, we've needed an easy way to create a Livia-safe eating environment. The placemat has been awesome -- if she wants to eat banana while playing on the floor we just put the mat down and she's good to go. It's easy to wash, so we don't have to worry about tracking germs everywhere. I'm sure it's meant to be used at the table like a civilized person, but you know, you work with what you've got :-)

They have a great selection of colors and characters to put on the mats. From cupcakes to dinosaurs, there is something for every kid. I personally love all of the gender neutral options. Livia definitely is not the pink princess type of gal. As Rob jokes, we're a little closer to Xena Warrior Princess with this one!

stuck-on-you-3

There are so many other great products available. I love this wooden puzzle, storage hampers and clocks are all so cute, too! Personalized gifts are particularly nice for expat kids that bounce around a lot. It's a nice way to make a room feel personalized and special when it's potentially full of furniture that feels temporary or not totally theirs. Heck, I felt that way in our partially furnished last apartment!

Now for the fun part...

Stuck on You is giving away three $30 (or euro, if that's better for you!) gift cards to our readers. The giveaway is being held over on Facebook. You receive entries for liking our Fb page, Stuck on You's Fb page, Tweeting, sharing -- seriously, there are like a gazillion ways to enter! The contest will be open until next Monday when we'll announce the winners. We use a handy dandy Facebook app for this so everything is done fair and square.

Ready to win?

CLICK HERE TO ENTER!

What 9 Months Looked Like

Pregnancy9Months
Pregnancy9Months

Livia has just passed the 8 month mark and I find myself wondering how it is possible that this little girl is growing so fast. It's crazy town! I decided that it's finally time to share the little photo project we undertook while I was pregnant: monthly progress photos.

I admire those ladies that somehow manage to take a weekly photo, but in that state -- in the heat of summer -- it was challenging enough to find one day where I didn't look like a total hot mess.

If you're wondering how we accomplished this project it was actually pretty darn simple:

  1. Once a month (typically around the 15th for consistency) we took a photo in front of a solid white wall.
  2. Using PhotoShop, I edited out the background and inserted a fun solid color*.
  3. Each month I would add the photo to the master collage above.

God bless month 5 when I finally transitioned from fat chick to dignified pregnant woman :-) Also, God bless pregnancy hormones that gave me shiny, healthy and thick hair. I would *almost* get pregnant again just for the hair. Fun fact: I think this is the first time I've ever worked in PhotoShop and tried not to make myself look skinnier.

Honestly, I LOVED taking the monthly photo and watching the master collage above slowly fill up with photos. It blew. my. mind. to think that the final photo would include a baby. We're doing something similar for Livia's first year (that does include weekly photos) that I'll eventually share, too and it's so cool to see how much she's changed over 34 weeks.

*Sadly, my pale skin against the white background meant that the magic background eraser tool in PhotoShop was useless, so I had to use my Bamboo tablet and pen for most of the editing. After month two I got pretty good at it and editing only took about 20 minutes.