An Adventurous Life for the Budgeting Family

My Natural Birth Story

My Natural Birth Story

If you’re squeamish about medical stuff and women’s bodies, stop reading now.

Some friends have recently asked me about natural birth because they’re considering it for their own labor. So I thought it might be helpful to share my story here in case there are other curious mothers-to-be who want the nitty gritty details.

During my pregnancy, I saw a group of midwives. I rotated which midwife I saw so that I would get to know each one who could potentially be on call when I would go into labor. I liked all of the women, but did have a favorite. She was the most earth mama hippie-ish of them all, and really made me feel like my pregnancy and labor was in my hands and that I could have a lead role in the care of myself and my baby.

When I was past my due date, I had a scheduled checkup at the midwifes’ office. I had been leaking and thought maybe my water broke a few days prior, but when I went to the hospital they checked and said it was just regular vaginal fluids or maybe I had accidentally peed myself. I was a little embarrassed and went home. Anyway, at my appointment a few days later, my midwife Esther said she’d check the liquid again. She came back from using the microscope, calmly looked me in the eye, and sweetly said, “Summer, you’re going to have this baby today.” My heart stopped. Since I was past my due date, I knew I’d be going into labor sometime that week. But I was still shocked that it was time. I didn’t feel any contractions at all. I said, “Okay, so I guess we will go home and get our overnight bags packed and bring the dog to daycare.” But she said, “No, we don’t have time for that. You need to be induced right away. Everything is great, though.”

That didn’t sound great to me. My eyes started tearing up. It didn’t cross my mind that something might be wrong because she was so calm. But being induced, in what I had read and watched in my many hours of labor research, was more likely to lead to an epidural and c-section. That wasn’t how I had envisioned things. My heart had been so set in keeping everything natural.

But Bobby held my hand and Esther reassured me some more and we headed to Labor and Delivery.

Ready to have a baby

I had planned on having an unmedicated water birth using hypnotherapy birthing techniques that Bobby and I learned about in childbirth classes. Unfortunately, we didn’t take the class that seriously. We were the ones giggling and writing notes to each other in the back of the classroom like naughty school children. It was hard for us to get serious about the visualization exercises, and I always ended up going home, taking a bath, and fulfilling my need to read cold hard facts about what really goes down during childbirth.

The good news was that Esther decided to start me with a half of a pill’s worth of Cytotec, which ripens the cervix to get you ready for labor. The plan had been to wait 4 hours, then take the other half of the pill, then wait another amount of hours, then take Pitocin. After only half an hour to an hour after taking the pill, my contractions began. And they ramped up quickly. My parents had already arrived in town from South Carolina to be there for the big event, so they helped out with the dog and brought our hospital bag. We had loaded up our iPad with movies, and we were just getting ready to watch one together when my contractions suddenly got really painful and only about 3 minutes apart. So we didn’t get to do any of the fun stuff I had planned. Ha! How naive.

I asked Esther if I could get into the tub now. She said my cervix had to be dilated at least 5 inches before I was allowed to be submerged in the water. So all we could do was have the hubster hose me down while I sat in the jacuzzi tub in our hospital room. Yes, hose me down like a big elephant. How glamorous. But the hot water hitting my back felt amazing. As the contractions became more and more painful, it was the only relief from the pain. I am a water person and baths heal all of my aches and pains, physical and emotional, which is why I yearned for a water birth. As the afternoon turned into evening, the pain was more and more intense. I kept throwing up, and the only position I could stand to be in was with my legs folded under my chest, fetal position style without being on my side, with my chest and arms propped up on a squatty potty looking plastic step stool.

My midwife left Bobby and I to do our thing most of the time. During the daytime hours, she had meetings and appointments that took her away from our section of the hospital. At times I wondered where the heck she was and why she wasn’t doing something to help. But in retrospect, I really liked that I had privacy and the empowerment to get through this on my own with Bobby’s help. Of course, she and nurses were on hand if anything were to go wrong, but I enjoyed the darkness and quiet of our room without people in and out the whole time. Esther did check my and the baby’s heart rate every once in a while, and brought me popsicles. They were the red, white, and blue kind that people eat on the 4th of July. I had never tasted anything more glorious. In one of her visits, Esther persuaded me to try a different position, saying that a lot of women find relief sitting backwards over the toilet. I slowly, carefully, painfully got out of the tub, dripping water down my back, and tried the toilet position, Rocket Pop in hand. As soon as I squatted over the toilet, any minor relief I had felt in the water fled and I was in agony. I went to lick my popsicle, and the whole thing slid off the stick and landed on the bathroom floor. I cried for my loss, and then puked. Thankfully, she led me right back to my tub and hose-down.

Bobby was an incredible coach. It was really cool to experience this with him. He hosed me down like a champion. However, at one point, I looked up and he was scrolling through his phone. I grimaced and said to him through bared teeth, “If you are looking through Facebook right now, so help me…” He turned his phone around to show me he was looking up calming classical music to play. Divorce averted. The music was helpful to keep my mind off how much longer I had to do this.

Later in the night, probably around 11pm, though I can’t be sure as I had no concept of time during all this, Esther came in and the pain was almost unbearable. It felt like there were no breaks between the contractions anymore. She still hadn’t checked my cervix to see if I could submerge in the tub. This made me think that we were nowhere near even halfway to the end point and meeting our baby. I sobbed and cried out, “I can’t do this. I can’t do this!” Later, I would remind Bobby of this and ask why they didn’t listen to me and get me drugs. He said that I never said I wanted drugs, so he thought I was just letting out my pain verbally. In the moment, I truly didn’t think I could go on. As much as I wanted to do a natural labor for a multitude of reasons, I felt like I did not have the strength to go on like this for hours and hours more. Esther was by my side for part of this time, and she said in her pleasant, calm voice, “But Summer, look at you. You are doing it.” That quieted me down. I went inside myself and found strength to keep going. But when she left the room again, I told Bobby that I really wanted her to check my cervix because I had to go into the water for some relief.

Esther said she was afraid I’d be disappointed if she checked me and I wasn’t ready yet. But I told her that I could handle it. As she gripped my elbow to help me out of the tub, Sploosh! my water fully broke and a puddle of green-yellow liquid was all over the ground. Once I was on the bed and she inspected me, she called in some nurses and told me that it was about time to push. She told Bobby he could definitely start filling up the tub. He plugged the drain and turned the hot water on full blast.

Esther asked me how much time there was between my painful contractions. I told her the truth – there was zero time between contractions, it was just wave after wave of pain and seizing up of my uterus. Tears were streaming down my face. She hooked me up to the stationary machines to monitor me and the baby and told me it was time to start pushing. I immediately went to work. I pushed so hard and put everything I had in me and more to push and be done with this pain. She actually told me that I was pushing too hard and to hold on a second. Then, she called in a team of NICU doctors and nurses and suddenly an oxygen mask was on my face and I heard all sorts of beeping noises and pitter pattering of extra people’s feet rushing into the room. I looked up at Bobby, who was holding my hand at the side of the bed. He looked really scared as he stared at the heartbeat monitoring machine. For some reason I thought maybe I was dying and that just drove me to push harder because I wanted my baby to be born so I could look at him or her before I passed. For some reason it didn’t cross my mind that the baby was not okay. I think because I just could not bear for that to be reality. I just had to get my baby born and then the doctors could take care of the baby and they could figure out what was wrong with me later.

Then, our baby was born. The tub was just about full and a nurse ran over to stop it from overflowing. Suffice it to say, I did not get my water birth. But I got the most amazing gift in the world. Our baby had arrived. For a moment, I didn’t hear anything. Then, after a beat, we heard the miraculous first cry. I started to cry tears of joy that my baby was okay. I actually kept shouting, “My baby! My baby!” The NICU doctors took the baby away, but only to the other side of our room, where they had a table and all the tools they needed. Bobby went over to look at this new little life. He came back smiling and said that everything was okay. I asked the important question – “So is it a boy or a girl?”

“Oh. I don’t know.”

“Oh my gosh go check!”

“It’s a boy!”

We both were so happy. Our little baby boy. We hadn’t decided between our top two boy names, but he was here and he was beautiful and healthy. Thank you Lord, the NICU staff gave the baby the okay and handed him back to Esther. She placed the baby, wiped down but not washed off yet, on my stomach and I watched him wriggle, eyes closed, instinct leading him, up to my bare chest and find my breast and begin to eat for the first time. It was the most amazing thing. All of the pain from the hours leading up to this was well worth it to have feeling in my body and clarity in my head to be present for this moment with my son. It was the happiest moment of my life and one I will never, ever forget.


Our baby was born at 12:59 am the day after I went in for my normal midwife checkup. It turns out, Esther had seen meconium – a baby’s first poop – in my water leakage. She couldn’t be sure how long I had been leaking amniotic fluid, and a baby pooping inside can be very dangerous because it can get into his lungs and cause big problems. That’s why she knew I needed to have the baby that day. I’m grateful that she didn’t give me all these details, knowing I would be in a panic. During my transition period and the time that I was pushing, the baby’s heart rate slowed to a dangerous level. That is why they put an oxygen mask on me, to try to get more air to the baby. I am glad I pushed him out so quickly, too, because the cord was wrapped around his neck. Esther skillfully unlooped it with her fingertips as he came out of me, which allowed him to breathe perfectly once he was out in the world.

Thank you to the midwives and nurses at Ochsner Baptist, to my parents, to my amazing supportive husband, and to God for our most precious blessing and biggest joy being born a year ago.

If you’re considering a natural birth with a midwife, I suggest you begin your journey by watching The Business of Being Born.

Midwife Led Natural Birth Story

How to Be a Fit Mom Without a Gym Membership

How to Be a Fit Mom Without a Gym Membership

I’m nowhere near a swimsuit model or anything, but I’m in fairly good shape for having a baby in the past year. I’ve thought about getting a gym membership to a facility with childcare, but it would be a big strain on our already tight budget.

That leaves me with needing to get fit at home. Here are the ways that I stay in shape and take care of my physical health as a stay-at-home mom.


Fit in Tiny Bits of Exercise

When I’m playing on the floor with my baby, every once in a while he will be really absorbed with a toy and I have a minute to be still. This is when I’ll do push-ups, lying down leg raises, or some sort of ab workout like planks or sit-ups. Don’t worry about doing a certain amount or thinking you need to do a full half hour to an hour workout; every little bit of movement helps!

Get a Jogging Stroller

I quickly found out that most moms in New Orleans have jogging strollers, whether they run or not. The sidewalks here are jagged and uneven from hurricanes and huge oak tree roots growing beneath them. At least that’s what my guess is for the reason. Having the proper stroller makes it easier to go on runs or long walks. That way you aren’t struggling to try to lift the stroller and navigate around potholes the whole time.

My baby boy doesn’t like to sit still for long, so I wait until the end of the day, when he needs a body rest, to go for a jog. Sometimes I get the courage and energy to drive to our lovely nearby Audubon Park for a great running path, but it can be tricky. It’s better to not risk your child getting fussy in the car ride and just leave for your jog straight from home. That way, you get more bang for your buck and fit in more exercise before a potential meltdown! I also make sure I don’t go too far from home before circling back for the same reason. You can always do your loop again if your child is still happy to be riding along.

Be Creative with the Jogging Stroller

On the way back from my jogs, I do calisthenics on the last couple of blocks. These strollers have a strap for your wrist, so you can take your hands off the handle. You can do high knees, lunges, cherry pickers, and other exercises that really work your muscles while still moving forward towards home. You’ll really feel like you did your body good by the time you conquer those last couple of blocks home!

Have an At-Home Workout Plan

There are plenty of apps that are available to help you work out from the comfort of your home. This way, you can do workouts while your kids are sleeping or napping. I know there are usually a bunch of other things to get done, and sometimes I opt to rest as well instead of being productive, but if you decide to make exercise your priority then you can let the laundry be dirty just a little longer some days.

My favorite exercise plan is from Kayla Itsines. I downloaded her PDF of quick HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts that you do over the course of 3 months to get in shape. She now offers an app called Sweat with Kayla instead of the downloadable file. It’s a little pricier, but I can attest to how good these exercises are. I used them to get in shape before my wedding, and it was the most toned I’ve been since my high school sports days!

Play with Your Kids!

This is the most fun and important way to fit exercise into your busy mom life. Play with your kids! It’s quality time that is good for you and your children in many ways. It’s tons of fun to have dance parties and run around outside. My baby loves when I do squat jumps while holding him when we listen to music. His added weight makes the move even more effective on toning my legs.
Best of luck to you ladies. And remember, your body is beautiful no matter what. Do what makes you feel good and healthy!

Why You Should Go to The Angola Prison Rodeo

Why You Should Go to The Angola Prison Rodeo

The Angola Prison Rodeo is a wondrous thing. Although many of our friends here in New Orleans have heard of the infamous rodeo, we discovered that none of them had actually ventured to Angola to witness it. Bobby and I went together and had a lot of fun, and have been almost every year since. This October, we hope to bring our tot with us!

Fun Facts

When you first drive into the grounds of Angola, you’ll see signs to tune your car radio to the prison’s channel. A booming voice tells you a bunch of interesting facts about the prison, starting each fact with “Did you know…?” We got a kick out of it and often quote it randomly to make each other laugh. And the facts really are interesting! For example, did you know that Angola sits on 18,000 acres of farmland, and inmates grow their own food? The scary information about Angola, like those I found here, are not included in your welcoming ride. A not-so-fun fact for a blogger is that cameras aren’t allowed at the rodeo. Dang.

Carnival Food

There are booths where you can purchase food and drinks once you park and enter the rodeo grounds. There are zero healthy options, so if you’re a stickler to health foods or have food intolerances, make sure you eat before arriving. You can have funnel cake, ice cream, fried oreos, frozen slushies, and a variety of other fried junk. Hooray! And ouch my stomach hurts just thinking about it.

The Crafts and Home Goods

If you don’t want to watch the rodeo, you can purchase a ticket just to get into the grounds and see all the goods for sale. The inmates make and sell their woodwork, furniture, paintings, jewelry, and all kinds of knick knacks and tchotchkes. So far I have purchased a leather keychain with my name engraved on it, a pair of silver Spongebob earrings, a beautiful wooden secret box (where you have to take the box apart like a puzzle in order to open it), and a cute guitar bookend. The real prize items seem to be the very impressive paintings and patio furniture. There are perfectly whittled and stained gliders, rocking chairs, dining room sets, and we even saw an intricate working grandfather clock for sale on one visit.

Unique Bargaining

I know this is a little voyeuristic of me, but I find it fascinating to speak with the inmates. I also find it really great that they have this opportunity a few times a year to spend quality time with their families and friends who visit. Many of the prisoners mill about amongst all the paying customers, hanging out by their goods in case anyone wants to purchase something. And then you walk into the covered area of the fair and see long lines of fence. Inmates are on the other side of the fence, open to bargaining with you. I couldn’t help but wonder if these men had done most atrocious acts and couldn’t be amongst everyone else. It’s pretty intimidating. Bobby was bold enough to ask flat out why some inmates had to stay behind a fence. The man he asked said, “Well, most people here are guilty of bad things like murder, but a lot of us are not guilty, like me. Wrongfully accused. The guys behind the fence are new or got in trouble so they haven’t gained the trust to come out here.” So, there you have it.

The Rodeo!

And now for the main event – the rodeo! If you’ve never been to a rodeo before, then you need to see it for yourself. If you have been, this one has some fun tricks up its sleeve that you don’t want to miss. There are monkeys that ride on dogs! There are amazing horseback stunts! There are bull games where inmates compete to be the last one sitting at a poker table with a bull charging at them! It’s fun and silly and outrageous and entertaining. We like to sit right up in the dirt around the perimeter of the ring, where usually little kids have seats. That way you can really feel a part of the action and get some dirt on your cowboy boots.

The Scenery

After our first rodeo, we hung behind in the parking field so we would miss all the traffic leaving. We eventually got kicked out by a guard on a four-wheeler, but before that happened we enjoyed sitting in the grass, watching the cows in the distance. That’s when we took these cute photos. Then, after leaving in our car, we followed a sign on the side of the road that said “Waterfalls”. I’m happy we did this, because it led us to a wooded trail that did indeed have lovely waterfalls. I’d like to pack some hiking clothes next time so we can spend longer exploring the forest. There were also some farm animals on the road to the trailhead. Awesome.

Angola Rodeo and Waterfalls Angola Rodeo and Waterfalls Angola Rodeo and Waterfalls Angola Rodeo and Waterfalls Angola Rodeo and Waterfalls Angola Rodeo and Waterfalls Angola Rodeo and Waterfalls Angola Rodeo and Waterfalls Angola Rodeo and Waterfalls Angola Rodeo and Waterfalls Angola Rodeo and Waterfalls Angola Rodeo and Waterfalls
Tickets for the Angola Rodeo are on sale now for each Sunday in October. They also hold the event one weekend in April each year. We hope to see you there!




Why I Love Being a Fire Wife

Why I Love Being a Fire Wife

I’ve read many a blog post and article, and even one self-help book (ain’t no shame in it!) about the struggles of being in a relationship with a firefighter. After all, firefighting is consistently in the top careers with highest stress, and stress can really affect a marriage. I’m even part of a Facebook group about helping fire families with all the struggles they face.

Despite all this, there are many positive aspects to loving a firefighter. I am going to keep it on the positive and share with you why I love being married to mine. Here are some of the struggles on fire marriages, flipped around to see the positive side.

The Alternative Schedule

Different cities have different schedules for their fire department. In New Orleans, they work 24 hours and then are off for 48 hours. When I worked full time on a regular 9 to 5 schedule, this could be very frustrating. He would be off during the week when I had to be in the office, and then we would barely have time together on the weekend while we were both off. And a lot of times, he would get overtime to work an extra weekend day, so we’d go weeks without a full day and night together. But there is a flipside. Now that I also have an alternative work schedule, we can enjoy weekdays together when we are both off. If we decide to go on a two day trip or do some outing in our city, the prices are lower to stay overnight and restaurants and downtown areas are less crowded.

The best part about the fire family schedule is mutuals. Mutuals are, in my simple way of understanding them, when firefighters trade work days with each other so they can take off on days that are more convenient for them and then make up for it later. This means that if an important event is coming up, it’s possible that my firefighter can get the day off for it (and then work an extra day sometime later).

Time Apart

Although I treasure our time together, every couple needs some time apart. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved my alone time. I loved to pretend and play alone for hours in my bedroom. As I got older, I continued loving my alone time to recharge, work on creative personal projects, or just veg out watching my guilty pleasure shows or taking long baths. Most married couples have their usual routine of coming home after work and spending the evening and night together. I actually like that every third night I can have my “me” time after I put the baby to bed. I open up my coconut La Croix and watch some old episodes of Dance Moms. Party time.

The Firefighter 

The best piece of relationship advice I ever received was this: Remember what made you fall in love with your spouse in the first place. Those same qualities will end up driving you crazy, so you need to remind yourself that you love them. Okay, I did not put that eloquently at all. But let’s say, for example, you love that your boyfriend is always on time and very responsible. Years go by, you get married, and he freaks out on you when you are getting ready for a social gathering because he fears you might be two minutes late. You get frustrated. But guess what? This is what you loved about him, so remind yourself of that and see the greatness of it again.

I say all that because most firemen have a wonderful innate quality of wanting to help others. It’s easy to fall in love with that personality trait. It’s so noble and romantic and brave. Until you are deep in love and can’t sleep at night while your significant other is on shift because you fear he/she is putting their life in danger for complete strangers. You need them to come home to you the next day, can’t they see that?

Of course they do. And your family is their number one priority. If your firefighter will put their life on the line for strangers, imagine what they would do for you and your children. And if your firefighter is like mine, he’ll help people without a second thought outside of work as well. Any time someone looks distressed on the side of the road, we are the first car to pull over. My husband is so selfless that he will take time out of whatever he has going on to help someone who is hurt or in need in any way. He doesn’t expect anything in return and has no ulterior motives behind helping. He’s just a good person. And that makes me incredibly proud. It also pushes me to try to be more like him in that way.

The All-Encompassing Lifestyle

Firefighting is more than a career. It often is the major part of a firefighter’s identity and also social life. Although my husband and I are homebodies and not big on night-life, others spend all their work time and then their social time with their coworkers. It might feel limiting and closed off, but it’s also a really wonderful thing. Your fire department compatriots truly become like a family. Even as uninvolved as we can be in the fire social scene, we still call many other firefighters and their wives our good friends. I feel very blessed that some of the fire wives I know became pregnant around the same time as me. Our friendships have blossomed a lot more from the shared experience of becoming mothers. I feel comforted, especially since I live far from any other family, to know that my kid(s) will have these built-in family friends to spend time with and feel safe around as they grow up. I also know my husband needs his coworkers as friends. Who else could understand what they see and go through day in and day out at work? It’s hard for him to openly talk about his job with people outside of the profession, and I’m sure it’s good for him to have people to vent to and joke around with that “get” it.

I imagine the lifestyles of military and police families are somewhat similar to the firefighter one. I pray that all of these families will stay strong, stay close, and see the positives through all the stress.


Free Fun: Food Truck Thursdays in Mount Pleasant, SC

Free Fun: Food Truck Thursdays in Mount Pleasant, SC

Free fun alert!

Last week, while visiting my parents in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, I went to the first Food Truck Thursday of the summer in the lovely I’on neighborhood.

This idyllic – almost freakishly so – neighborhood has gorgeous houses, a town center with restaurants and shops, and plenty of green space. There is a wonderful tennis and swim club in the planned community, and you see kids on bikes and families in golf carts driving to it and the shops all day long.

We hopped on the golf cart bandwagon and drove a borrowed one to the big lawn where the event was held.

Baby A in golf cart

There were already lots of chairs, umbrellas, and blankets set up when we arrived. A band of youngsters, probably in the early years of college, were playing rock and alternative cover music. I was pretty excited to hear some 311 and Sublime. Baby A totally loved that music, too, as he could not stop bouncing and doing his cute little baby dances!

There were a lot of families out here for this chill night. Now, I stay positive on this blog, but I just have to say that one thing I don’t like about this amazing neighborhood is the lack of diversity. It was very striking to my husband and I. It really seemed like him and our baby were the only non-white people around. But that’s some social commentary and issues for another blog.

Food Trucks Thursday

Anyhow, we set up our blanket and chairs and popped open some bottles of wine. We didn’t realize that you need to get on the food truck lines early, however. I suggest you get there right on time and hop on that line if you want to eat anything from the trucks. Of course, you can bring your own food, too, but the food trucks had really interesting options. One was a lobster truck with a ton of variations of ways to eat lobster, and the other was the same but with pork. By the time we got on the long line towards the end of the event, most of the food items were sold out and we were so hungry that we had already called to order a pizza to bring home.

Lawn Chairs in I'on

The lovely spring weather and being outside with loved ones and new friends made the night really special though. And the band was really good! It was nice to have some fun live music without being cramped in a bar with no kids allowed, or at a music festival that’s overrun with scantily clad youth on Molly. Oh gosh I am such an old fogey!

Uncle Taylor's Hat

Baby A in big hat

So if you’re in Mount Pleasant or Charleston on a Thursday this summer, get some fresh air and chill tunes and head out to the I’on Food Truck Night!

First Birthday Doljanchi and Doljabi

First Birthday Doljanchi and Doljabi

As you read about in my last post, we recently threw our baby’s first birthday party at the beach. While it was tons of fun to plan all of the beach-themed food, decor, and entertainment, the most special part of his celebration was the injection of Korean traditions. The photos below are by my talented sister-in-law. You can find her photography and early childhood education work at

Bobby’s mother is from Korea, so she advised me on all of the first birthday traditions. She also generously bought Baby A’s first hanbok and all of its accessories. Towards the latter half of the party, Bobby, our mothers, and I brought the baby into a bedroom to ceremoniously change him into his hanbok.

Getting Dressed in a Hanbok

Getting Dressed in a Hanbok

Hanbok socks

The traditional Korean outfit is stunning. There are exquisite details and ornate patterns and fabrics. Although the pink was a bit feminine, Baby A rocked it!

After our guests oohed and aahed over the cuteness of the outfit change, we began the doljabi game. I had done a lot of preparation for this game. The Doljabi is a tradition where the child is placed in front of various items or objects (Usually 6 – 8 items). Then, the child grabs an item from the set of objects where each choice represents a certain future of the child with respect to his or her career or a lifestyle. Bobby and I thought long and hard about what objects to choose to represent different career paths. At one point, he joked that we should just buy 6 different colored stethoscopes to ensure he will become a doctor. Ha! Of course, we would never push our boy like that, but it was a funny idea.

After hours poring over Doljanchi blogs and toys on Amazon, we finally came up with six items. Next, I designed Raffle tickets and labels to make the Doljabi into a game for all the party guests to partake in. I laid out jars labeled with each of the career paths, and gave everyone two raffle tickets to place their bets. I chose two raffle tickets from the winning career jar and those two people won fun prizes! I love graphic design and using my handy dandy Photoshop, so I had a lot of fun matching the raffle tickets to the party’s overall beach theme.

Doljabi Jar Setup

Doljabi Raffle Tickets

Doljabi Votes are in!

Before presenting Baby A in his hanbok, I announced for people to finish making their votes. Then, we laid the six objects out on a big beach towel and placed him down in the center. Because he loves Pout Pout Fish, I thought for sure he’d crawl to the Pout Pout Fish stuffed animal, which represented Biology. Instead, he made a beeline for the Melissa & Doug paintbrush set! The Doljabi had spoken – our little guy might grow up to be an artist of some sort! Pretty cool.

Doljabi game action shot

Korean doljabi game

I love this photo of everyone getting excited over the game outcome.

Doljanchi guests

Baby A’s halmeoni (grandma) then proceeded to dress him in more variations of the hanbok. She even had a third outfit, but we decided to do a separate photo shoot since it was too hot for him to be in all these layers of clothing for long.

Halmeoni Hanbok Baby Our Half Korean Family

A First Birthday Beach Party

A First Birthday Beach Party

Since my family was already gathering for our annual beach trip to Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, we decided to celebrate Baby A’s Birthday a few weeks early so everyone could attend. It also turned out that my best friends from NY could come as could Bobby’s family. Needless to say, I have been looking forward to this first birthday party for a long time. My mom helped a ton with the planning and we came up with the cutest games and decorations and food for this beach themed first birthday!

The Birthday had a second theme, which was the traditional Korean doljanchi. You can read all about the Korean traditions we injected on this post. These elements were definitely the most special and my favorite part to plan.

Feel free to pin these images as inspiration for any beach party and a child’s party in particular! Most of the following photos were taken by my extremely talented sister-in-law. You can commission her for photography and early childhood education consulting at She also has a great early readers blog at

Beach Ball Baby


No beach party would be complete without beach balls and beach rafts all over the place. We even used a blow-up baby pool as our drink cooler. La Croix galore Yesssssss!

Baby Pool Drink Cooler

We had a couple of activities that involved prizes for the kids. Sunglasses, toy fish, and this cool watermelon cup were just a few of the fun prizes.

I still can’t believe my friends came from afar to celebrate A’s first year. He is a loved child!

kristina michele_jonny


Although first birthday parties are more of a party for the parents to celebrate their child’s first year than they are for the actual child, we still wanted to make this a very child-oriented party. So, we had to have some games! We DIY’ed a super cute deep sea fishing game for the kiddos, who ranged from 6 months to 8 years old.

During our beach vacation, my family colored these cute sea animals to use at the party for the deep sea fishing game. We decorated a big piece of craft paper, hung it across a doorway, and had the children “fish” for prizes. I sat on the floor behind the sheet and attached prizes to the DIY fishing pole. When they felt me tug on the fishing pole string, it meant they got a bite and could reel it in. The little boys and girls were giddy with delight every time they caught a new toy!

To make the DIY fishing pole:

  • buy a cheap butterfly net from a toy store or a dollar store (we found ours at Dollar General)
  • cut the tape holding the net onto the stick and remove the net and metal pieces
  • slide a thick, metallic cording/yarn through the holes that were holding the net in place. You can tie the cording off or tape it to the pole with cute Washi tape
  • cut your cording so that it is the proper height for a child to hold and throw over the other side of your paper seascape
  • on the dangling end of the fishing line, tie a large clothespin. This is how you will attach toys to their fishing pole!


Baby A Fishing

Little Boy Fishing

We printed out some extra coloring pages of sea creatures and left out markers and crayons so any guests could do their own decorating and coloring.

Coloring Sea Creatures


The guest of honor was a little confused by the birthday song, but he was totally into his smash cake. He went for it face first. I could not stop laughing.

Bringing out the smash cake


By the way, how cute was my parrot t-shirt? I got it from a local surf shop on Isle of Palms, and it was made by Billabong. I paired it with high-waisted shorts and colorful sandals for the casual party. The pom pom shoes were from Target.

Party Pom Pom Shoes

For the rest of the guests, my mom and I made a sandcastle cake. It was 3 layers – 2 small and 1 large – of pound cake with cream cheese frosting, marshmallow castle turrets, gummy starfish, and crushed graham crackers and Nilla wafers for the sand. It was cute and delicious.

Sandcastle Pound Cake
We also served Chick-Fil-A nuggets, gummy sharks, Swedish fish, goldfish, fruit, and “sand dollar” ice cream sandwiches. We used snickerdoodle cookies for the sandwiches as they already feel sandy.

Another little detail was leaving cute children’s books about the beach out on the low tables.


cousin_hugs crab_toss

We also had a bubble machine blowing on the screened-in porch and had fun beach-themed toys to pick up and play with, like the crab catch mitts my nieces posed with.

The food was served out of beach pails and we finished the look with a fishing net, sand dollars, seashells, and tiny drink umbrellas dispersed on the table. To serve the food, we found super cute matching whale and goldfish paper plates and napkins from a local party supply store. It all came together beautifully.






Man oh man I love the beach and I’m so happy our littlest family member does too! It was a first birthday for the books!

A Rainy Day in New York City

A Rainy Day in New York City

We went to New York City recently so I could go to my BFF’s bachelorette party. Whoa, I’m such a party girl! The party was fun and I was grateful that Bobby came along to take care of Baby A while I had a night out with the bridesmaid gals and guy.

Even better, our family had an excuse to spend a long weekend together in Manhattan. The bummer? It rained and poured pretty much the whole time we were there. My view of the city was pretty much what you see below.

Luckily, I had planned ahead and researched an indoor play area to take Baby A in case of bad weather. We ended up going to City Treehouse ( for a few hours on Saturday. It had a nice playroom for crawling babies, and a huge water table and pretend Treehouse to climb in the older kids room.

Baby A dressed appropriately, knowing it was a bachelorette weekend with the theme of “Send Nudes.”

Bobby played a lot with us, but I caught him being a naughty parent and playing on his phone. There were a lot of nannies with children, and I believe some of them thought I was a nanny also. It was very eye-opening to hear about their experience and see how they interacted with the children under their care.

As with most places in NYC, our hotel room was tiny so we didn’t want to be stuck there too much. We let Baby A play a little bit in there while we settled in and after his naps. He was interested in the land line telephone and in the interesting city sky views.

We quickly realized that we would need baby rain gear in order to get anywhere for meals or touring. We found a nearby Bye Bye Baby to get a universal stroller rain shield and baby raincoat. It was so nice to get out of the rain that I think we stayed in the superstore for close to four hours. Oops! The Mother’s Room was a nice place to feed the baby and take a much-needed body rest for the whole family. Nice and quiet. Thank you baby stores for providing these havens.
After gearing up and resting up, we had a great Korean lunch near our hotel. I found that people watching was the best baby lunch activity to occupy him while we enjoyed our bi bim bap and bulgogi. When Baby A finished eating, we let him face the street in his high chair and he was highly entertained by the scurrying pedestrians of midtown Manhattan.

On our first night, we had a special dinner with just the bride-to-be and her fiancé. It was fun letting them get to know our boy better and having one on one time with the couple. We even let little man stay up late so we could continue the fun back at our hotel lobby, catching up and telling stories while playing with the baby.

The bachelorette party was great. It’s the first time I had a night out since having a baby. It felt good to just be silly with my best friends. My favorite part of the evening was getting our Karaoke on in Koreatown. Our private room was so much fun.

The next day was coincidentally Mother’s Day. I considered my gift from Bobby to be him taking A the night before so I could go out. I never really give him the opportunity to do that for me because I love being home with my family so don’t seek out night outings ever. But this was an exception. Anyway, on Sunday we finally had sunny skies. My only non-damp clothes were a hodgepodge mixture of patterns and I looked like a homeless lunatic – my husbands’ description of my outfit. But I didn’t care. It was nice to get some outdoors time!

Soon after, it was time to head out of the city for a couple of nights on Long Island. Thanks for the fun night out to my gal pals! See you again soon NYC, my old stomping grounds!

Colorful Gender Neutral Baby Nursery

Colorful Gender Neutral Baby Nursery

When I was pregnant, I spent tons of timing looking on Pinterest for gender neutral baby bedroom/nursery ideas. My favorites tended to be black-and-white themed rooms with pops of bright color. I also found some very cute Woodland themed nurseries, though those tended to look more […]

Free Fun: Tot Time in Atlanta

Free Fun: Tot Time in Atlanta

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