Travel

How I Survived a Transatlantic Trip with a Toddler and a Baby

I wanted to talk about one aspect of our trip to France this summer: the airplane travel itself. Hopefully this is helpful if you’re anticipating an international flight with kids too. You can do this! And then keep reading for some crazy passport drama that I had not anticipated — you seriously need to know about this rule, because I had never heard about it and this wasn’t my first rodeo!

So. Before we could get to this…

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… we had to get through this:

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We went to France this summer to visit my family, and I headed over on my own with the kids while Andrew joined us two weeks later, since it was tough for him to take so much time off work. I was understandably nervous to be by myself, but I came prepared: I charged up the iPad with shows and games for Adelina, brought plenty of baby snacks for Jonas, and this time, we were determined to get the sky cot (that’s what Delta calls it, other airlines may have different names for it).

THE BASSINET

You can request a bassinet on certain types of aircraft (typically the bigger ones, on long-haul flights like international trips) but the thing is, it’s still pretty random. For one, it’s first-come-first serve. And only if it’s available. Plus, you have to be seated in the right spot for it to attach — it only attaches in one particular spot on the airplane.

Last time we went, with a six-month-old Adelina, we called ahead of time to ask about it and were told to request it at the desk when we arrived at our gate. Well, turns out nobody told us we had to be seated in a specific spot (and this differs depending on the aircraft) and they couldn’t change our seats so we were screwed. We managed to sort of get her to sleep on blankets on our folding tray tables, but it was really rough.

This time around, we vowed to get the dang bassinet. I don’t know how I could possibly do it on my own with a baby AND a toddler otherwise! We made sure to arrive at the airport plenty early, got to the gate before anyone else, and immediately requested the bassinet. Andrew had upgraded our seats so we’d be seated at the bulkhead, which happened to be extra legroom, so more expensive, but we figured it was worth it. So we get to the counter and… they had changed our aircraft, so I wasn’t actually in the right spot for the bassinet. UGH. I wanted to scream. But I let Andrew smooth over the flight attendants while I took a breather far away with the kids… and they were able to move our seats so we’d get the bassinet. PHEW! Bonus: it wasn’t upgraded seating so we got a refund for the upgrade!

I was ecstatic. We were so ready! We said our goodbyes (two weeks is a long time to be apart!) and boarded. Adelina was so excited to have her own spot. I had bought her this headphone/ear muffs thing, which is nice because little kids can never keep headphones on. She was all set up.

The flight attendants come and install the bassinet once you’re at cruising altitude, they can’t have it on during takeoff and landing. I was SO happy to see them come around with this thing!

Let me tell you, it is a game-changer for long flights with an infant. He slept beautifully in it (although he’s an easier sleeper than his sister ever was), and it was also nice to be able to set him down from time to time for a minute, instead of having him perpetually on my lap. I need some personal space too! I cannot express enough how amazing the bassinet is for these long flights. DO EVERYTHING YOU CAN TO GET IT. OK, maybe don’t elbow babies out of other moms’ arms as you race to the counter to request it… probably not very nice.

One thing that’s a bit of a bummer is that in order to get the sky cot, you have to be at the front, so you don’t have under-the-seat storage in front of you — meaning you have to stow all your bags in the overhead bins. I grabbed a few little things I could stuff in those flat pockets you can glimpse above, but it’s very tight space. But the bassinet is so worth it. I also snuck a few things in the bassinet, ha.

Adelina thought it was so cool to have her own seat and her own little TV — and she ended up basically just watching Trolls on repeat the whole flight, ha! Go figure, she got sick of the headband pretty quickly and eventually just watched it play without sound. Whatever.

I actually got to watch a movie or two, believe it or not! It wasn’t all peaches and roses, but it went really quite well considering everything. It was an early evening flight, so they served us dinner and then later on turned down the lights so people could sleep and have a “night” on our way to France. Jonas did really well all things considered, but his sister fought sleep for a good long while…

Until she finally succumbed!

Poor girl. By the time they were turning the lights on for approach, she was out cold and wouldn’t be moved.

One thing about the cot — and it may be different depending on the airlines (we flew Delta/Air France) — is that you technically have to have them covered when they’re in it, in case of turbulence or something. Which makes sense, can you imagine hitting a bad air pocket and your sleeping infant flying straight up to hit the ceiling?! But it’s also a little awkward — for one, hard to not wake them up with all that velcro, etc. But we managed.

Finally, we were landing in France — always so incredible to me how lush and green it is compared to Wyoming and the Rockies — and I was so excited!

But we had one last leg to get to Bordeaux from Charles de Gaulle airport, and even though it’s a short, one-hour flight, it was the most brutal part of the trip. Everyone was tired and grumpy, plus CDG airport is a maze and there’s a lot of walking to get where you need to be. Not to mention I had to check on the status of some of our luggage, etc. Just not fun. By the time we actually made it to our plane and sat in it an extra 45 minutes because they had to reconfigure seating to make way for a stretcher (strange that they use regular flights? I’ve never seen such a thing!) the kids were kind of melting down. Jonas finally fell asleep, Adelina did plenty of whining and probably annoyed our neighbors, but we got there.

And just like that, we were in my hometown with the welcoming party!

(The return flight was much rougher, even though we had my husband with us this time — the timing of the return flight: early morning, traveling all day — is tough on kids. And it’s the return trip, all the anticipation and excitement is gone… with that one, we seriously just gritted our teeth and bore it as best we could… and holy crap going through customs in the US is such an endeavor! But I digress.)

So there’s our saga — oh, and I can’t forget the most crazy part in all of this: when we first arrived at the airport to check in, I was told MY PASSPORT WASN’T VALID FOR THIS FLIGHT. No, it wasn’t expired, I knew better than to do that. But apparently when traveling to EU countries, your passport must still be valid for three months after your return flight. (that is some serious wiggle room). Mine was off by only a day. ONE STINKING DAY. This is something that infuriates me in travel: when you reserve tickets, you have to inter ID info, passport numbers, etc. So you’d think they could give you a little ping: “hey, by the way, your passport will be expired/won’t let you travel on those dates,” you know? I had never heard of this rule, and I’ve made this trip a good number of times in the last ten years! My husband turned to me with a horrified look on his face, and I was in a cold sweat, but luckily I happened to also have my French passport with me, and we were suddenly good to go! PHEW. So now you know about the three-month rule. I was incredibly lucky to have the option of whipping out a second passport, for one, and then that Andrew had insisted several years ago I get one (I didn’t see the point of paying for two passports if I only needed one to get around). I am SO GLAD now that he had the foresight to push me to do it, because it would have been so expensive to change four tickets on the return flight to make this trip work. Yikes!

So remember: your passport must be valid for three months after the return date on your trip. 

Ok. With that said, a few other things that might be helpful:

  • Entertainment: I brought a little sticker book, a few books Adelina likes, a fully-charged iPad (traveling is one time it’s not worth fighting the media fight!) a couple of baby toys, and plenty of diapers and wipes and a change of clothes for each kid in the diaper bag. But in the end, they didn’t really play with much of it, Adelina just thought her own little TV was super fun. Oh, and bring headphones your kid can actually keep on — those little earphones they hand you in the plane can’t hold in their little ears! This is the one we used.
  • Snacks: I had some good baby-appropriate stuff (purees, puffs, etc.) but the snacks I brought for Adelina mostly didn’t get eaten either because the airline plies you with pretzels and nuts and drinks, etc. and I would just keep crackers or cookies from meals in case she wanted them later. New snacks are always more fun than mom’s old stuff 😉 Jonas was still breastfeeding so I didn’t need to deal with milk for him, luckily. One thing that is super useful though is bringing an empty sippy cup — Adelina knows how to drink from a cup but nobody wants to deal with an elbow-y toddler and an open drink! Just pass it to the flight attendant when they come around with beverages and she’ll fill ‘er up 🙂 And flight attendants, for the most part, are super friendly and extra helpful when you have kids. Ours were awesome and if we needed anything extra they were happy to help.
  • Sleep: our three-year-old had a little travel neck pillow her cousins gave her (they’re very experienced travelers!) and other than that we just used the airline blankets. She just made herself comfortable the best she could… for babies, you can get the bassinet as I mentioned above, but it’s a little tricky and somewhat depends on luck/first-come-first-serve. My best advice is to call your airline ahead of time — more than once, because we’ve gotten bad advice in the past — and then get to the gate first thing to set it up. They attach to that wall at the front, usually where the bathrooms are, so you need to be in the center aisle and in front of the wall. Just an FYI when choosing seating. But still call and double-check. Cover all your bases.
  • Luggage/moving around in transit: I wish I had simplified a little. With a bigger purse I could’ve made my purse the diaper bag and had one less bag to lug around. I checked the car seats from the beginning because even though US airlines let you gate-check strollers, others may not. Air France doesn’t do it. So last trip with Adelina, we got to Paris and had to go check our stroller before boarding, it was a pain. This time, I wore Jonas in our awesome LilleBaby carrier (that thing is incredible) and that was super helpful for getting around the airports.

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    But fewer bags would’ve been nice considering I was already carrying this little chunker!

    The other thing is Adelina’s bag: she had her own carry-on, a Trunki, and although she loved it and it sounds like a super fun idea (they can pull it themselves or sit on it while you pull them), it was actually really annoying because one wrong movement and you pull it right out from underneath them.

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    And the wheels don’t curve or anything, so if you swing too wide they’re getting stuck everywhere and mowing down passengers (ha!). More than once she fell off, cried, there was drama… plus because she had it she always wanted to ride, even though she was perfectly capable of walking. And then later on in the trip, it popped open and we thankfully had a luggage bungee on us to close it up again, but that was fun picking up her stuff off the floor at the train station! (Turns out it wasn’t broken, one of the closures had just popped off and we managed to fix it. She LOVES that suitcase, so we keep it around for car trips and such, but I don’t love it nearly as much for airplane travel!) So looking back we’d have been better off just giving her a small backpack with a few things and skipping the diaper bag and just stuffing things in my bag. Two fewer bags to manage. (I will say, it was kind of fun when it worked as intended. And she loves her suitcase. But most of the time it was actually pretty tricky to navigate, so if you’re on the fence I’m not convinced it’s worth it.)

  • Strollers: we didn’t bring a stroller this time. We planned to be able to borrow one or just buy an umbrella one if needed. We were worried about space in my aunts’ car too when we got there — between all our luggage, and car seats, and a stroller… it was overwhelming. But looking back, we needed a stroller for one particular leg of the trip. We ended up borrowing a friend’s for most of the stay in Bordeaux, but we made the decision not to bring it on our Switzerland trip (I think we would’ve had to pay for it, since we used a discount airline) — bad move. Adelina did not want to walk that much, and looking back we were foolish to not anticipate that. It led to a pretty stressful day at one point, and I feel bad because Andrew had really been looking forward to that town too.

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    Bless him. And wearing Jonas worked a lot of the time — especially with cobblestone streets and cities meant for pedestrians — but a stroller would’ve been nice some days. But again, traveling in a European-size car with luggage AND a stroller? Not sure how it would’ve worked. I think what we really should’ve done is buy an umbrella stroller in Switzerland just for that leg of our trip. Luckily my friend Clementine lent us her extra one on the day she showed us around Bern!

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    So there’s some rambling food for thought on strollers. (Side note, we LOVE our Chicco Bravofor2 stroller that we got just recently! It folds up nearly as compact as a single stroller and for all the times Adelina was jealous of Jonas getting to ride, I wish we could’ve had it with us for the Switzerland trip!)

  • And remember to make sure your passport is valid a full three months after your return date! Yikes!

I hope this is all helpful. Hang in there, parents, you can do it! To be 100% honest: I used to love traveling, but doing it with kids is definitely a challenge. It absolutely makes things more logistically complicated, especially if you a have a finicky sleeper ::cough:: Adelina ::cough cough:: But if it’s important to you, you can make it work. And we had some amazing experiences this summer, so it was absolutely worth it!

Now, stay tuned for the fun parts of the trip (with prettier pictures), coming soon! I’m going to enjoy re-living it all since it’s the dead of winter right now… ha! And in the meantime: do you have any good travel tips for young kids? Please share your wisdom!

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Home Decor

Townhome Kitchen Renovation

It’s finished! We’ve been doing some work on our home to modernize it a little and make it more to our taste, and the biggest project yet, renovating the kitchen, is finally done! (Ok, the biggest project time-wise was painting. Holy cow, that takes forever. But this is one we’ve been saving up for and I’m so thrilled with the transformation!)

So you can really get the full effect: here’s a before from when we moved in.

Really, it already had charm. What immediately made me fall in love with this place was the sunshine and warmth — we visited it in the dead of a very snowy Wyoming winter. Previous owners had repainted the cabinets from an icky orangey-brown laminate wood color, which was awesome. But all that yellow and cream and more off-white… no thanks! And the sink was beat-up porcelain and stuck out from the counter quite a bit so there was always grime building up around the edges and water trapped behind the sink.

It just didn’t make financial sense to tear out and redo the kitchen completely — the cabinets are small and old, sure, but that’s a lot of money to throw into a townhome! But, we felt like we could do something. So we decided to just switch out the counter tops and add a back splash. We’ve been working on repainting the whole home from that buttery yellow (it’s actually a color that wasn’t so awful — at least it’s warm and sunny — but definitely dated and not my style), so that was going to help, and then we got a quote from a nearby contractor (these guys, if you’re local!) who came highly recommended. They were awesome to work with, and they helped us take it from that photo above…

to…

drumroll….

This!

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We were going for “bang for our buck” here, so I chose an upgraded laminate, and seriously, it looks so much like actual stone! It’s gorgeous!

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(It’s Wilsonart “Bronzite,” if you’re curious, with a premium finish — it has a little texture instead of being completely smooth)

As for the back splash, good old subway tile was a classic look and nice and cheap, plus I love it so I was happy to go with that option. The gray grout is what really helps it tie everything in, and I think it turned out just gorgeous! (Funny how little things make such a big difference)

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(Yes, we’re keeping the twinkle lights. Until spring comes back. Gotta hygge things up!)

The biggest usability improvement was swapping out the old sink with a stainless, single sink and a taller faucet. It makes SUCH a difference! For one, I can fit a casserole dish AND several pots and pans — at the same time! It also has very low edges, so cleaning around and behind it is easy. And the faucet is awesome. When we were renting our previous apartment it had an awful, super low faucet which made it really hard to do dishes in the already-tiny sink. We actually bought this same one and installed it there and it dramatically improved our quality of life (you laugh, but I’m not kidding. I was also super pregnant and it was a really hot summer and that small thing brought quite a bit of relief!) The owner reimbursed us for the faucet too! So something to consider, even when renting: you can do small things to improve the place you’re living.

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That’s kind of our philosophy about home stuff with Andrew: we generally agree to not take massive risks and keep resale in mind (OK I’m usually pulling for the crazier ideas and he’s reining it back to normal territory ha), but the other one is taking the pains to do it right and take care of what you have. Maybe this isn’t our forever home, but it’s worth making it into a cozy space and making it work for us with our family’s current needs. The cloffice is a good example of this!

The only thing we changed to the layout was to extend the counter top on the “peninsula.” There’s not a ton of storage space in this kitchen so I wanted to eventually add shelves beneath the end of the counter top, kind of like this.

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(Source) And I found the PERFECT, super cheap IKEA hack for it! (No seriously, it’s a $15 fix) I’m so excited, we’re picking it up this weekend! Of course it’s nice to have the extra ten inches of counter space. And pretty to look at, too!

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There you have it! A major kitchen upgrade without having to redo the whole thing and spend who knows how much on all that work. I think it was absolutely worth it, even if it might be considered putting lipstick on a pig. In this home, it was the perfect fit, and it really does feel like having a whole new kitchen. Even just swapping out the sink and faucet is huge! And removing the “back splash” ledge from the old laminate counter top gives us an extra inch of space, plus the white tile gives some more light to those corners. It’s just perfect for us. ❤

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Adelina agrees, and insisted on being in the picture 😉

We still have a few things we’d like to do in an ideal world: the appliances are getting old and I’m ready to be done with the ivory theme anyway, plus those globe pendants are something else, but one thing at a time. And I love that we made a big impact and really improved our day-to-day experience without starting all over and spending an arm and a leg.

Thanks for stopping by!

Clubfoot

So You’re Expecting a Clubfoot Baby: Thoughts, Tips, and Resources

Hello there! If you just found out the baby you’re expecting has clubfeet and googled “clubfoot” in a panic, welcome to the club! I want to say one thing first and foremost: you are going to be OK. And your baby will be happy, healthy, and will thrive! You can do this! And, congratulations on your precious arrival! ❤

When we found out that our son would have bilateral clubfeet, we were understandably worried. I don’t think I’d ever even really heard of the condition. And what scared me most was that when doctors see one problem, they’re immediately looking at other parts of the body: could he also have trisomy 18? spina bifida? Could he have a cleft palate too? We ended up opting out of genetic testing (honestly, it’s really expensive, and it wasn’t going to change the outcome for us regardless, so we didn’t see the point) but we were sent to a fetal ultrasound specialist who took a good, long look at baby’s brain, cranium, palate, kidneys, heart, spine… and didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. It wasn’t a guarantee, but I felt sufficiently reassured: anything else, we would face when the time came.

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And by the way, don’t panic: clubfoot is actually a pretty common birth defect, and the majority of cases are just isolated clubfoot, nothing else. The odds are on your side here. (more)

We certainly mourned some things: I worried how casts and BNB would affect breastfeeding and positioning, for example. (they didn’t) I was sad about those cute, utterly pointless itty bitty baby shoes he wouldn’t wear during those first months. And I worried about how we’d dress the little guy — but I came across some blogs and a Facebook group that was so helpful. So I want to share some of the tips and tricks we learned along the way, and most of all, I want to tell you this: EVERYTHING WILL BE OK. Get your kid a Ponseti-trained orthopedist, and you will be in good hands. You’ve got this! And enjoy that sweet child!

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One more thing: this is likely a small, small moment in your child’s life. It won’t define your child throughout their life. It isn’t life-threatening. It’s so, so treatable. It’s tough at first, but it will all be OK, and it’ll soon be like a bad dream. (I should add that there are complex cases — I don’t mean to make everything sound rosy and easy. Some kids end up relapsing multiple times throughout their life. But many, many children are treated as infants/children and then move on with their lives. This method works. Please don’t make yourself crazy by going to the worst-case scenario: the odds are on your side for everything to be just fine.)

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These little ones are so resilient, you’ll be amazed at how quickly casts or boots become their new normal. And it becomes your new normal too; at 14 months now, putting on and taking on Jonas’ BNB is just part of the naptime/bedtime routine, just like zipping up his sleep sack or turning on the white noise.

Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here: of course we need take the time to mourn the things we’re losing. It’s perfectly normal and healthy. And I can’t imagine having to go through this all with your first child, because EVERYTHING is new with a first child. Hang in there. And know this: there’s plenty of hope ahead. It will go by SO fast, and you can come away with awe and gratitude at the incredible medical treatment you have access to, and maybe a little extra compassion for other parents of special needs children. It’s certainly what I’ve gained from this journey. ❤

You can read more about our experience with our clubfoot son here.

And please keep in mind: I am not a doctor. I am sharing what has worked for us in our situation. I’m one parent of one clubfoot child. It goes without saying that if you have any concerns, please talk to your (qualified) orthopedist. Also, our clubfoot cutie is only one year old, so I’ve got nothing for you on getting a four-year-old to sleep with a brace! But I do link to other great resources below.

So here we go into the nitty gritty: 

Choosing a doctor: I found ours by googling our location + clubfoot treatment, and we were lucky enough to live a few hours from a clinic that specializes in clubfoot treatment. I still made sure to check the Ponseti website for our doctor though, and she was on the list! We go to a Shriners hospital and they are amazing — especially because we’re able to get help paying for all his boots through their program as he grows out of them. Something to consider if you’re struggling with the expense of all this. Also, they were awesome and let us come in to visit with the doctor and ask questions while I was still pregnant (we even saw another baby getting casted).

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Expense: I can’t remember exact numbers now, but I remember the total cost of his treatment in the casting phase (casting appointments and tenotomy) was approximately what the hospital birth cost after insurance, if that gives you ballpark figure. I want to say around $2,000. It was really a bummer that his tenotomy happened after the new year, since we had hit our deductible the year he was born… so if you’re lucky enough that things work out in one calendar year that will definitely keep expenses down!

And speaking of expenses: you can buy the boots for BNB directly from the manufacturer for about $250. The hospital/clinic bills them to insurance three times that (or more), so if after insurance you’re still paying more $250 for them, it could be worth it to go straight to the source and bypass insurance. Insurance absolutely should cover all of this by the way, if they’re refusing to pay for boots they may be coding things incorrectly. Work with your doctor’s staff, and fight them on this. If you’re struggling to pay for boots and bar and you live in the US, get in touch with the Clubfoot Shoe Exchange, they take donations of used boots and pass them on to people in need for free. There are some wonderful people in this clubfoot community!

Starting treatment: the general rule is 2-3 weeks after birth, but sometimes circumstances make it much later (scheduling difficulties in clinics, having to travel for care, a NICU stay). We started at three weeks I believe, because the clinic couldn’t get us in sooner. So getting a hold of them soon is helpful. And just a thought: take a picture, impression, cast or something to remember those sweet, tiny feet by. You’ll want to remember it. We made this Christmas ornament the day before his first casting ❤

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Casting appointments: be prepared with a pacifier or bottle (I found it really awkward to hold him in a good enough position to nurse while doing the casting, but some people do that as well) to keep your baby calm, and plenty of sushing helps too. I would just caress his head/face, keep the binky in, and hold him close and shush and I could usually keep him relatively calm while they were messing with his feet. We would give him a dose of baby Tylenol when we arrived at the clinic so by the time we were casting it was sinking in, and we’d use Tylenol for a day or two after too just to ease things. He wasn’t crazy fussy but the first casts or two were a little tough. Tylenol seemed to help. And then, it just became his new normal!

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Removing the casts sounds scary because there’s an electric saw involved but it’s actually designed only to rip the plaster. (Some doctors do nylon-type casts, so that’s a different story, I believe they’re soft and just unwrap. I have no experience with that though.) And the noise really doesn’t bug the kids — consider it white noise 😉 They say they might cry when you finally remove the cast since their knees have been stuck in a position so long, moving them or stretching out could be uncomfortable, but Jonas never did. He was pretty stoic about it. See how it’s done below:

Tenotomy: some kids may not need this, but it seems to be relatively standard procedure. It is super quick, but it’s certainly nerve-wracking to let a doctor cut into your baby’s foot! (this website describes the procedure) That being said, it happened so fast, and I knew he was in good hands. What was tough for me was the casting immediately after. They came back out to get us and I held him while he cried through the casting. The doctor had just cut his Achilles’ tendon and was now stretching his foot into position — even with the numbing cream, it clearly wasn’t pleasant for him. (some places do general anesthesia, others just a local one; ours did local and as rough as it was I would have been nervous to put an infant under general anesthesia so I was happy with their way of doing it)

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I’ll be honest, this was the hardest part of the entire thing for me. It was the one time he was so clearly in pain. BUT. You grit your teeth, you hold them, and it’s over.

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Waiting for the numbing cream to act… and after getting back from the clinic.

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He had a good nap on the ride home, we gave him plenty of Tylenol, and the next day it was as if nothing had happened. He truly bounced back SO fast. So, take courage. You’ll both get through this, even if it is hard. (I wrote about the tenotomy back here)

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Jonas in his post-tenotomy cast, the next day: all smiles! The last cast stays on three weeks, by the way, to give the tendon time to heal and lengthen. They might get a little tight but just watch those toes for redness or purple — if they get purple, get to your orthopedist.

Watching out for slipped casts: speaking of toes, it’s helpful to take a picture of their toes right after casting so you can compare if you think the casts might be slipping off. It does happen, but we didn’t have to deal with it, luckily. (And by the way, if it’s happening a lot, that’s a red flag that you need to get a better doctor.)

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He definitely got some impressive muffin-top thighs though! Also totally normal.

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As a side note, some people like to keep the casts as a souvenir of sorts — we just kept the first and last ones.

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Their feet look a little raw in-between casts, but it’s so awesome to see the improvement little by little. You should also get a chance to bathe them before the next cast is put on at your appointment.

And by the end of casting, this is how perfect his little feet came out!

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Going into BNB: the first few nights were rough — he had to adjust to a whole new way of holding his legs and feet after being in stiff casts for so long, I think he must have been uncomfortable. Plenty of nursing (and more Tylenol), and then after a bit things went back to normal. Some people use a bar cover to protect crib rails and other family members’ extremities (seriously, don’t be in the path when that thing comes slamming down!) — I made one for him in the 23-hour phase, but after he was down to naps and night it felt a little pointless since he’s in a sleep sack anyway. There are some cute ones out there though!

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First day in BNB!

 

What to wear: When your baby is in casts, getting things on and off their legs is tough. I’ve heard of people making footie pajamas work by sizing up, but even then I always felt like it was a huge pain because it’s hard to pull over the rough casts, etc. So frequent diaper changes (which are a reality for newborns, including at night) are a huge pain with pants or footie pajamas. We just put our son in onesies and then covered the casts with legwarmers, and it was so easy! There are tons of cute legwarmers out there (babyleggings always has some deal going for five free pairs, you just pay shipping) and that way diaper changes are easy. Our son even slept in that! Plus that way you can protect the casts from knocking against each other too hard and from blowouts… yup, those are fun!

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The funny thing is most people never even noticed he had casts! I wasn’t specifically trying to hide it or anything, but if you are sensitive about people asking questions, the leggings make for good camo 😉

Also, don’t mess with short socks — you need long, thin socks that won’t be too bulky or bunch, but can also be tall enough to fit over the boots. (there’s a tongue at the back that goes up pretty high, it can’t be comfortable to have a short sock digging into your calf underneath them or have your foot against silicone for long periods of time) We like to use triple roll socks, they’re thing, stretchy and perfect for BNB. Walmart’s garanimals brand works great! And I usually change out his socks at night and in the morning, so have a good amount on hand. Some people do cute knee socks, but I don’t imagine they’re quite as comfortable. Also, it helps to fold down the top of the sock over the boots to keep any elastic from digging in.

Babywearing: it’s definitely doable. A soft wrap carrier was easiest at the casting stage to mold to the odd shapes of the casts, and it definitely calmed him down.

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When he was in 23 hour wear with BNB, I was worried about pulling his ankles and hips at odd angles so I just didn’t — except during our free hour. But there’s a whole Facebook group dedicated to babywearing with clubfoot babies so go there, they’re better at it than me! Honestly those first few months we were in blizzard conditions and frigid temps so there weren’t many outdoors walks happening, ha! Now, he loves our carrier (and so do we)!

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Ha, my husband is amazing!

What their feet will look like: Jonas has some crazy turnout as you can see above. It’s totally normal, the brace keeps them over-rotated to prevent relapse. It hasn’t seemed to keep him from learning to crawl and start walking. In fact, I need to get him in dance or figure skating or something because that turnout is a huge advantage, ha! You’ll also notice the top of their foot is a little extra chubby, as well as their calves above the boots. It’s just the tightness of the ankle brace pushing the fat out of the way. Also totally normal!

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His feet look a little red above, but this was earlier on in bracing — they look less red nowadays. And those folds of skin on the outside of his ankle eventually go away, it just takes time — consider how their feet were at first, totally turned in, that’s a good amount of extra skin on the outside once they’re corrected!

Sleep: I’m just going to say this, and you may already know it, but if you don’t: some babies are crappy sleepers, they just are. My first was. We tried EVERYTHING, but at the end of the day she did what she wanted, which was not sleeping much. Our Jonas, he was a much better sleeper. And I feel like bracing doesn’t affect his sleeping at all. He’s perfectly adapted and positions himself comfortably and he’s good to go. So just don’t be so quick to blame bad sleeping on the BNB. It could be that, but it could also just be that your baby doesn’t like to sleep. (Why do babies hate sleep?!) So hang in there, but by all means, brace on. Don’t let your kiddo relapse, it is so awful to have to start all over. My mother-in-law called us the other day because the child of an acquaintance of hers had to start all over with casting, surgery, etc. at FIVE years old. Because the parents got sloppy with bracing. Don’t do that. Stick with the program. (I’m not saying this in an accusatory tone, by the way. I know it can be tough. But it’s so important to be consistent and stick with it. You are doing your child a huge favor by bracing properly.)

The change you will see early on is incredible. It is worth it! You are on your way to a happy, healthy, thriving, very mobile baby!

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(He was so proud of himself for getting on that chair by himself. And, he is SO close to taking those first steps right now! I’m excited!)

Websites & Other Resources:

Ponseti International this is the official website for the Ponseti method — there is a “french functional method” too but you probably won’t see it outside of Europe (and interestingly, our orthopedist, who lived in France, says it’s kind of evolving to become more like the Ponseti method. You can do plenty of googling for more on this all, but bottom line: find a Ponseti doctor, don’t just go to a random orthopedist. They will not have the experience or qualifications, even if they say they can do it. Don’t risk it — they can actually make your child’s feet worse with improper casting, and then you need to start all over again and potentially deal with surgeries to correct the mess. The Ponseti website has a list of Ponseti doctors here)

Clubfoot Hub is an awesome website put together by clubfoot parents who have a lot of experience with the condition. Tips and tricks galore, resources on finding a good doctor, etc. And some lovely encouragement too. Plus great recommendations for products!

Clubfoot Mommas is a Facebook page for… well, you guessed it. I found it helpful to connect with other clubfoot moms, it’s nice to know you’re not alone! That being said, a word of caution: you’ll also hear/see horror stories. Don’t let that freak you out: there are many, many cases that are perfectly straightforward. I heard so many stories about blisters and rubbing in BNB and it NEVER happened for us. And it never happens for many people. After being on that page a good while, I realized many (not all, but a lot of them) of those cases are either due to improper treatment to begin with (again, get thee a Ponseti doctor!) or user error/lack of information (not to mention the members from countries that may not have access to good treatment in their area — and on that topic, MiracleFeet is an amazing organization which helps bring treatment to areas that need it). And yes, there are complex cases as well. But don’t let it get to you.l

The Clubfoot Store has a super cute bracelet I’ve been eyeing for a while!

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They also sell awareness t-shirts, gift items, and bar covers. There are several people on Etsy who make bar covers too.

One clubfoot mama who is a seriously talented artist made this beautiful, whimsical children’s book about clubfoot, and get this: the main character is called Jojo! (we use that nickname for Jonas all the time) I love it! The illustrations are gorgeous and the story is a sweet, imaginative way to make bracing feel special.

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And finally, Daoust TribeWriting Mother Fashionista are two clubfoot bloggers/IGers that I enjoy following 🙂

There you have it! I hope this was helpful. Hang in there mamas, you’ve got this!

Family

Family Photos In My Hometown

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I realized I never really shared these, and they are probably some of my favorite family photos ever! And we could all use some sunshine in January, right?

My husband is amazing: he’s the one who came up with the idea to do family photos while we were in France this summer. I love that he recognizes how much photography means to me — and it was a brilliant idea because I will cherish these for a long, long time!

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I wanted candid, natural photos, not posed studio shots, and our photographer (who happens to be a family friend) got it just right. It was SO hard to choose only fifteen (!) but I forced myself to do it because let’s be real, how often do you actually use those 150 photos from your latest session? That’s right, never. They go to die on a hard drive or CD somewhere!

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(Side note: getting gelato downtown was something Adelina was looking forward to because we’d been reading Olivia Goes to Venice, and it’s all about going on holiday and being a tourist and having new experiences… and eating plenty of gelato! So she was totally ready for this, ha! We love the Olivia books.)

Originally, my husband was looking at flytographer, which is a genius concept — and surprisingly affordable! Essentially it’s a service that allows you to book a local photographer while you’re on vacation abroad. (Seriously. Take a minute to peruse their website, it’s so dreamy. I would love to do this when we take our ten-year-anniversary trip someday!) But we were only going to be in Paris for a very brief two days and I figured it would be hectic, plus I knew an awesome photographer in Bordeaux, and having photos in those streets I roamed as a teen would just be so much more special. So there you have it — our 2017 family photos. I sure do love these people ❤

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“What matters most is what lasts longest, and our families are for eternity.”

M. Russell Ballard

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“Our family is the focus of our greatest work and joy in this life; so will it be throughout all eternity.”

Russell M. Nelson

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I love that one. I got a nursing photo or two with Adelina too, and it’s pretty special to me to have had this relationship with both of our kids now. Especially now that it’s over with Jonas too! And let’s just say, nursing in France was so awesome: I felt perfectly at ease and nobody ever batted an eye.

I’ve also loved watching a relationship develop between these two. There certainly are the moments where he’s stealing her toys and she’s pushing him around, but I’ve also seen her console him when he cries, or watched him follow her around adoringly. I hope we can continue to foster a positive relationship and true friendship as they grow up.

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And of course, we can’t end without this handsome guy: the mastermind of this whole photo shoot, and the one who makes our life so good. We met up with my aunts and handed off the kids so we could go off on a date night together after, and it was such a perfect evening. Not to mention that the food was incredible. I could go for another date night like that right about now!

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“Aimer, ce n’est pas se regarder l’un l’autre, c’est regarder ensemble dans la même direction.” // “Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Life · Organization

To Dare Greatly

“The credit belongs to the [woman] who strives valiantly”

I’ve been thinking a lot about goals for the new year. Yes, I know, it’s the January energy burst which will soon be followed by three more long months of winter and monotony… But I’ve been wary of goal-making the past few years because I struggle so much to keep to them. I always have such lofty goals and then fail to even begin to implement them.

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But this year is a different kind of year. I’ve realized it’s not my will or dreams or desires that are defective: it’s my methods! I just don’t have the proper tools to implement all of this, and that’s what needs to change. You can find so many TED talks and articles and books about change, goals, progress, habit-stacking, getting things done (<– life-changing, and I say this with no exaggeration) etc. so you don’t need the whole speech from me. I even heard recently that sharing your goals with people actually makes you less likely to achieve them, because the satisfaction of people acknowledging the lofty goals gives you satisfaction and you almost sort of feel like you’ve done the work. (Crazy how our brains work, right?!)

All that to say, as I finish out my twenties, that’s been one of my greatest lessons learned: it means nothing to have dreams or goals without a viable plan to make those things happen. (oh, and networking/connections… but I won’t go off on that tangent for now!) This has been the missing link a great deal of my life so far, and this is the muscle I need to flex. I always thought I was just lazy — turns out all I need is a good brainstorming session and a next actions list. (OK, I may be a little bit lazy too… ha!)

AND, here is one simple tool I desperately need: REVIEWING FREQUENTLY

Every time I make big goals, I do this to myself. I dream, I write them all out, I might even do some outcome visioning. But then, my dreams and goals list goes in a drawer or disappears in a long list of email drafts on my phone, never to be seen again. So this year, here’s my one goal I WILL share: I want to be better at regularly reviewing my plans. It’s OK to have big dreams, but to make these things happen I need to be taking small, regular steps to get there.

A friend of mine has her Sunday evening planning sessions — she pulls out the planner, checks her projects/goals lists, syncs calendars with her husband, asks herself how she’s doing. I love that, and it’s just the thing I need! Some time set aside for introspection and planning.

(Speaking of tools: Believe it or not, I’m still going back and forth on using a paper planner or not this year… sheesh! I used to be such a believer in holding something in your hands, until I realized it wasn’t working for me that well, then I switched to my phone calendar but it’s so easy to ignore or dismiss notifications there too, and I hate that I can’t get a glance-type view with it. Sigh.)

With that being said, I know many people who like to have a “word of the year” to guide their thoughts and energies. I’m not good at drilling down to a single word, but this next quote contains exactly the spirit of what I hope for this year. I want to dream big, and I hope to get better at finding the tools to make those dreams happen. And I sure could use some beautiful words to keep the fire alive!

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

― Theodore Roosevelt

And I can’t forget our traditional “first morning of the year in PJs” photo 😉 Happy New Year, friends!

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I’d love to hear about your favorite change/habit-forming/progress/planning tools! Paper planner? String around your finger? Multiple alarms throughout the day? Quotes? Let’s hear it!

Life

2017, You’ve Been Grand!

We are spending the night in — the whole family has a cold so we are taking it easy! And believe me, I plan on being in bed well before midnight. (Besides, it’s already been 2018 in France for hours so we’re all good!)

In the meantime, we’ve been looking back on a year that has generally been pretty good to our family ♥️

In January, Jonas finished casting and went into BNB — he now has beautifully corrected feet! He wears his brace at night and never seems to mind, so it feels like we’re out of the deep end of the clubfoot pool. (Read more about our clubfoot journey here)

We survived the long, cold winter.

Adelina went from an adorable toddler to a real little girl, and it’s incredible. I love that we can have actual conversations, how she remembers every little detail and brings things up weeks or months later. I love to see those little wheels turning, and I love her sweet spontaneous hugs after we’ve driven each other crazy ❤

Andrew survived his first year in a very stressful new job.

In February, I joined a nonprofit organization as translation coordinator and traveled for a group presentation in the spring. To be honest, I’ve talked about it very little “publicly” because it was a lot of work and I worried about announcing things and then burning out. And I was right about that feeling: I ended up handing off my responsibilities and taking a major backseat this last month (I’m staying on in a consulting role) because it was too much stress and responsibility with two small kids at home. This balancing act is tricky, and it got to a point where I would resent my children for making demands on my time. It’s not where I wanted to be, so I thankfully I managed to listen to the quiet but insistent promptings to step back. I am however grateful for the opportunity to have played a small role in setting up procedures and getting the ball rolling. I know I was able to give some good time and talent to the project and to a cause that’s very dear to my heart, and I know it’s in good hands now as well.

Adelina and I did plenty of cooking together — she’s my favorite little sous-chef! And I love how she loves it, she’ll frequently ask to “faire la cuisine” with me ❤

My little sister got married! It was so fun being a part of it all — I actually got to do their engagement photos for them too, and I’m pretty happy with how they turned out. It doesn’t hurt that my sister is basically a model 😉

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It was just a lovely event overall. Always a wild time when we have the four sisters together!

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(Sarah Tagg Photography is the lady behind the lens at the wedding!)

We traveled to France and Switzerland this summer — a whole month for the kids and I, soaking up family and friends and sunshine and incredible food and sights. (And yes, I still haven’t blogged any of it… need to get on that ASAP!) We also got to attend a dear friend’s wedding while there — total serendipity that we were going to be at the right place, at the right time!

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And Andrew repainted the living room in secret before joining us, because… we bought our house! (Isn’t he amazing? I walked into the living room and it took me a few seconds to realize what had changed. It looks so much better!)

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Andrew completed coast guard recruiter training in September, and we survived without him for three weeks — longest we’ve ever been apart! In the meantime I renovated half the house, ha.

Adelina started dance class in the fall and LOVES it. It was so much fun watching her at her first recital ever ♥️

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And no, she’s still not potty trained… We were off to such a great start, but got completely stuck on number 2. Blah. That one is definitely on my list for 2018…

We almost finished repainting the house, and we celebrated eight years of marriage. Crazy how time flies!

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Andrew and I traveled to San Antonio for a work conference in October and took Jonas along, while Adelina spent time with her grandparents. It is such a cool town!

I started a daily photography project at the beginning of the year and learned and practiced so much. I kind of fizzled out with the daily part of it after France though… but rallied to end the year strong enough! I’m definitely not doing daily photos next year — that was intense! — but Andrew got me a membership to a photography group (Clickin Moms) for Christmas and I look forward to taking my skills to the next level and improving more this year. My goal is to get the camera out once a week in 2018. I’m so grateful to have so many beautiful photos of my family thanks to this project!

We hosted Thanksgiving (OK it was only two people, my sister and her husband, but it was still fun!)

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Andrew and I both got a little better at trying to achieve our fitness goals. He’s been losing some serious weight — I’m so impressed and proud of him for getting up early in the freezing cold and moving every morning! — and I am finally getting myself to the gym regularly (I also started an adult ballet class, which feels so amazing). Still a good ways to go (especially because I smashed my knee into our garage floor while tripping over something last week… ouch!) but it feels good to have started a bit of a rhythm.

And, we had a beautiful, wonderful Christmas

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Here’s to a new year, full of lofty goals (hooo boy. I want to at least try) and good times with this beautiful family of ours!

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(Video made with an app called 1SecondEveryday — not a free app but it’s worth it!)

Holidays · photography

Christmas Is Coming

Hello friends! I couldn’t resist getting some cute pictures of our kids in their Christmas jammies, just because, and I love how they turned out!

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I just strung up some lights in Adelina’s room and danced around like a monkey to get a few decent shots… ha. Photographing kids can be so tricky! But I just love these sweet Christmas portraits I got out of it ❤

In fact I ended up printing them out and putting them above our mantel for the season.

We started December out with lots of cheer and fun, and then the last week has been… not as thrilling. Poor Jonas has been dragging a cold for weeks, and it got to a point where he was coughing so much at night we took him to the doctor and he finally got some antibiotics. So he started improving immediately, and I was so glad to give him some relief finally! Then a few days later… he woke up caked in vomit. I prayed it was just food poisoning — he was fine throughout the rest of the day (other than being really tired), and I had been feeling queasy myself and we had both had the same lunch. But then, two days later, his sister woke up vomiting (“is yucky mama!”) and spent the rest of the night throwing up the entire contents of her poor tummy. Luckily it was a quick 24-hour bug, but it explains why she had been complaining of not feeling well for several days… (“je me sens pas bien…” — I thought she was just trying to get hot chocolates and special treatment, poor girl!) So anyway, I’m praying we’re out of the woods now, especially because her Christmas dance concert is this weekend and she’s been so excited about it for months!

Seriously though… winter is rough with little people. I swear I’m never taking them out in public again, ugh! I try so hard to give them vitamins, get them good sleep, wash hands, etc (although clearly I’m going to need to start carrying around hand sanitizer…) and we got to church or the library and all my efforts are destroyed. Blah!

That being said, in the meantime, I’ve had so many extra opportunities to snuggle these sweet kiddos and baby them a little extra, and I’m not complaining about that! The loads and loads of extra laundry though… Pass!

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We sure love these two ❤

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