Life with Baby · Parenting · Tried

Review: YMCA Parent/Child Water Discovery class

We were super excited to enroll Lillian in a swim class recently taking place at the David D. Hunting YMCA location in Grand Rapids. At $84 for a seven week class, we knew it was a little pricey, but we thought it would be worth it for Lillian to have some daddy-daughter time doing something she loves: being in the water! I’d like to share about our experience in the class in case you’re looking into doing something similar, just so you can be prepared for what it might be like!
Swimming3Pros: Every week, we got to look forward to Lillian’s special time with daddy in the pool. She was allowed to come early, so she could also free play independently before the class started. The instructor sang some active songs with the children that had fun motions in the water, like “The Wheels on the Bus” and “Ring Around the Rosie” (replacing “ashes, ashes” with “splashes, splashes”). When there was a substitute instructor, she taught parents how to get in and out of the pool safely with their child. The regular instructor also tried to work on getting children used to going under water and swimming on their backs (which Lillian hated, but was still a good experience!). At the end of the class she got a little certificate of completion.
Swimming2Cons: The class was supposed to be thirty minutes, from 6:10-6:40, but ended at least five minutes early every class. When you’re paying $84 for a class, you really want to get your money’s worth and have every minute you’re promised! Also, the instructor (and all of the instructors we saw) was generally very unenthusiastic, often telling the parents what to do and then staring off in the distance while parents and children completed the task. Maybe as a former teacher myself my expectations are too high, but I thought the instructor would interact more with the parents and children while they were doing each activity. I also thought the instructor would at least fake some excitement when teaching the class and when saying hello and goodbye to the parents, but it really just seemed like the instructor was bored and didn’t want to be there.

Additionally, the family restrooms were almost always dirty, so I didn’t feel super comfortable getting Lillian changed in them. Lastly, despite contacting several staff members in advance about having to miss a lesson due to a family trip and asking if we could do a make-up lesson, not a single person returned my phone call or got back to me in any way.

Conclusion: Ultimately, I’m glad we had the experience of doing swim lessons with Lillian, but I’m even more glad that it’s summer and she can now play in a pool at home. Until she’s a little older, we’d like to do swimming with her without a structured class. When we think she’s ready to start learning more skills than we can teach her, we would like to take a trial lesson before joining another class (which our YMCA location does not offer). I think the next class we might try will be a tumbling class, but somewhere else.

I hope this review was helpful to you, and would love to know: Have you ever taken your child to any classes like swimming? What was your experience like? Do you have any recommendations? I’d love to hear from you!

xx Caitlyn

Learning · Life with Baby · Projects

The more the water, the higher the boat (free printable!)

Sometimes you just have a string of days (or heck, weeks!) that just leave you in a funk. Maybe it’s not that things are all that bad…they’re just not great. Maybe you just don’t have energy, or time, or the weather has been crummy. Or things are just leaving you feeling low in general. Recently I had a brief bout of hyperthyroidism that left me feeling fatigued and with achy muscles. I was so tired every day and felt guilty for not being more energetic with my daughter and for not doing enough around the house. Somehow after only a couple of months, the hyperthyroidism resolved itself (yeah, what?), and though I was confused about the whole thing, I decided not to linger too much on the why and just be extra grateful!
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I really love this quote from Alan Spence’s The Pure Land. It’s been nearly ten years since I read this romantic adventure based on a true story about the modernization of Japan, but I jotted down this quote when I read it and still really like it today. Enjoy a printable of the quote by clicking here for a PDF or by clicking directly on the image to download, and remember this quote, too: “If something is rubbing so hard against you, you can be sure it’s working on you.” -Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love

Have a good day, lovelies!

xx Caitlyn

Life with Baby · Reviews

Lillian’s cake smash photo session

Can we please talk for just a minute about Kara Hanes Photography? (Oh, and would you also like to take a look at my beautiful daughter?) Just two days before Lillian’s first birthday (and the day before her party), we had a Cake Smash Photo Session with Kara. As always, we were welcomed into Kara’s studio feeling comfortable and ready to have fun. We took guesses: would Lillian destroy the lovely pink cake and become painted in frosting? Or would she ignore the cake completely and try to race off–tutu bobbing as she crawled to whatever else she could get her hands on? Before finding out for sure, Kara took some really darling shots of Lillian on a couple of Kara’s beautiful studio backdrops.
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Are you not just squealing at the cuteness here!? After shots like these we almost felt like we didn’t need to even mess around with the cake, but we knew it was important to settle the debate once and for all: what would this cute baby do when presented with cake?
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And the answer issssssss: she took a lot of coaxing to get messy!  She just sort of touched the cake gently at first, and then–after it didn’t peak her interest further–was ready to go explore elsewhere! Did Kara care? Of course not! She just kept up her playful attitude, chatting with Lillian and guiding Chad and I with ways to move Lily around the set. We even tried to tell Lily “NO!” to see if she would suddenly feel more inspired to touch something she shouldn’t!
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Eventually, as you can see above, Lily did get into the cake, and it was pretty darned cute. The photo shoot was full of so much laughter (and frosting!). Kara was able to capture Lillian’s happy spirit, but also the pure sweetness of her, too, as pictured below.lillian1year35
I can’t say I’ve ever looked that beautiful after stuffing my face with cake…

As with our family photos, these pictures of Lillian are true treasures. We feel so lucky to have a family photographer who is genuine, playful, and who makes everyone feel relaxed. Though Kara has a lot of experience, she still approaches each photo session in a way that makes you know she cares about capturing your story–a story that is uniquely yours. I truly cannot recommend her enough, and hope that even if you’re not currently in need of a photographer that you go look at her gorgeous website and blog! (Oh, and side note: if you are in need of a photographer, Kara is currently offering a deal on studio sessions through February 29th!)

Have you ever witnessed a baby’s cake smash? What kind of cake would you smash into, if given the choice?

xx Caitlyn

Life with Baby · Party · Projects

Lily chan’s first birthday party

Last year on January 29th I had resigned to thinking I’d have to be induced because I was already four days overdue with Lillian. We went out for some okonomiyaki in Tokyo and I planned on visiting the cute little old Japanese lady’s bakery around the corner for a croissant the next morning for National Croissant Day. But then the contractions started, and you know the story from there.
This year on the 29th, on the other side of the globe I was busy with our Lillian’s first birthday party in Michigan (though her actual birthday was Monday, the 30th). After lots of prep and planning, I was super excited to celebrate our daughter’s first year with some friends and family.
These flower decorations were really easy to make once I got the hang of it. You can find the tutorial here!Chocolate and (pink) white chocolate dipped madeleines, white chocolate frosted animal cookie bark (you can just see the bark peeking at the top of this photo, but the recipe can be found at Sugar and Cloth, here) and white chocolate raspberry cupcakes rounded out the desserts after a taco bar lunch. My sister in law made the delicious cupcakes!
I loved how the photo booth props I made turned out, and they only took about an hour to make!
I also really loved these guestbook pages I made to go in Lillian’s scrapbook. Everyone could write a special birthday message for Lily on the cherry blossoms.
I made a poster all about Lillian inspired by this one, and although we found out we were a little off on her height and weight at her one year checkup on Tuesday (she’s actually 30 in long and about 23 lbs!), I thought it turned out pretty cute, even if it wasn’t perfect.We of course had to do a little cake smash, even though Lillian *did* have a super adorable cake smash photo shoot with Kara Hanes Photography the day before (more on that in a future post, soon!). Lily seemed to get right into her cupcake, which we think had something to do with the frosted circus animal cookie on top. 
My other sister-in-law made Lily’s pink and gold tutu. Isn’t it super adorable!?
I still cannot believe our little girl is already one! She was such a champ at her birthday party despite the business of the day. We were sure to relax a lot with her the rest of the night and the next day on her actual birthday (though we sang Happy Birthday many times, of course!). We are so grateful to all who came to celebrate with us.

Thanks for letting me share!
xx Caitlyn

 

Life with Baby · Pregnancy

Lillian’s Prenatal Baby Book


A couple of weeks ago I was super excited to finally finish Lillian’s prenatal baby book. I did a pretty good job keeping up with updating the book throughout my pregnancy, but the last few months before Lillian was born I sort of dropped the ball. Fortunately, I took lots of notes in my art journal that year, so I was able to remember a lot of what happened and how I was feeling! It also helped that I used a small photo album about 5X7 size. I got to choose what to put in Lily’s book, and wasn’t overwhelmed by having to fill a big space! Here are a few of my favorite pages:

We took pictures in a Japanese photo booth for our pregnancy announcement, so it was fun to add some to the book (you can see more by clicking here 🙂 ).

I loved the quote I found to add to the Studio Ghibli pages from The Secret World of Arrietty: “It’s funny how you wake up each day and never know if it’ll be the one that will change your life forever.” Lillian has sure changed our world!In Japan they give you an ultrasound at every appointment, so we were really able to watch Lillian grow over the months. It was such an amazing gift before she was born, that I don’t know we’ll have with future babies. I recorded my birth experience in Japan (read that, here), and printed that off to end Lillian’s book. I feel so happy with it, and think it will be really cool for Lily to look at when she’s older! Now to start on her baby book for her first year–phew!!

Have you ever made a prenatal baby book? What kinds of things did you record to remember?

xxCaitlyn

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Life with Baby · Reviews

Our family pictures 

Years ago when we got married, one thing we decided we would pay a little extra for was our wedding photography. After hearing a lot of stories from people who had negative experiences, we wanted to have a good one. The photographer we chose did take some nice photos, but we didn’t actually get our prints–let alone see very many of the digital ones–for SIX MONTHS. Even years ago that was a bit unheard of. Our photographer also lost the receipt of the package we purchased from her and tried to give us her smallest package (luckily I had kept my copy!), among other things.

Fortunately for us, we also had our good friend Kara Hanes at the wedding, who happened to shoot a few photos of her own. Still today, some of the pictures she took from our wedding are my favorite because she got some really nice candid shots. That’s why I was super excited when we got the chance to have our family pictures taken with her in August, all these years later.
lilliandykehouse7lilliandykehouse18 lilliandykehouse22I absolutely love the way the pictures of Lillian turned out, though I’m obviously a little biased on the subject! Here’s the thing though: despite it being a summer day, it was really cold and–especially on the beach–windy! But Kara still managed to get smiles out of Lillian (who was grumpy on top of being cold that day!).  lilliandykehouse33 lilliandykehouse41 Lillian just loves Kara, and it’s easy to see why. Kara not only has confidence and talent, but also a way of making you feel relaxed and at ease. She was playful with Lillian, but made us laugh, too. And she didn’t even blink an eye when we had a crazy wardrobe issue in the woods when Lillian suddenly got hungry (let’s just say any passersby would’ve been met with quite the scene!).  lilliandykehouse9 lilliandykehouse16copyKara can take lovely staged photos, but she also is great at capturing candid moments. The family photos she took for us are treasures to me, and I got to see them not six months later, but within days (some of them that very same night!).
lilliandykehouse5Thank you for letting me show off my family, and for letting me share what a great experience we had (and always have) with Kara. Even if you’re not in need of a photographer at the moment, you should check out more of her work on her website, and also check out her engaging and fun Instagram and blog!

xx Caitlyn

http://www.karahanesphotography.com/
Kara’s Instagram
Kara’s Blog

 

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Life with Baby

Mornings

Wouldn’t you love this morning view?

Until I had my daughter, I was never a morning person. Absolutely could not get out of bed, and didn’t know how to communicate in a way that didn’t come off as grumpy (whether I was actually in a bad mood or not) for 30 minutes to an hour after I woke up. But just as “me time” has changed, so have my mornings. 

I wake up to a smiling baby every morning, waiting to be changed before I feed her in the quiet of the new day. Then we snuggle with dad in bed for a little while before he starts coffee. Chad and I enjoy our first cup while chatting or while I read to Lillian, and often eat peanut butter toast with honey. If it’s not raining we enjoy our second cup of coffee while going for a walk (Lily tends to fall asleep in the stroller). Sometimes we walk along the river, and sometimes we go to Frederik Meijer Gardens

I absolutely love mornings now–something I never thought I’d say! In a couple weeks I’m going to start working again, and although it’s going to be super part time, I’m sad to be giving up our wonderful morning routine three to four days a week. 

What are your mornings like? Do you have a favorite breakfast, or even eat breakfast at all? How about a favorite coffee or tea, or a favorite mug?

xx Caitlyn