Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Look Into the Process of Surrogacy

 My own infertility journey has been very educational and eye-opening. There are so many options to help families grow thanks to modern medicine and technology, from IUI, drugs or IVF to surrogacy or adoption. If you are struggling with infertilty, what options are on the table for your family?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

10 Baby Registry Must-Haves at buybuy BABY {Giveaway - Ends 3/4}

This may be my second baby, but it really feels like my first in a lot of ways! We started off with practically nothing baby at all at the beginning of this pregnancy, plus A LOT has changed in the baby realm in the six years since I had Buddy. I thought preparing for baby was overwhelming back then, but holy moly have options increased immensely in those six years!

Thank you to buybuy BABY for sponsoring today's discussion and providing me with a gift card, diapers and wipes. All opinions are 100% my own.

My recent visit to the Roseville, California buybuy BABY was a fun one. I chatted about baby products for over two hours with their product experts, Bobbie Jo and Joel. I have a feeling we could have gone out to lunch together and all had a grand time. What a delightful bunch! Employees receive extensive product training from buybuy BABY and brand vendors, and also take into account the personal experiences they hear of from moms, so there's no question that these folks know what they're talking about. I started my baby registry while there (although I don't need too much more at this point!), which I should mention there are plenty of awesome reasons to register at buybuy BABY.  

Now that I'm almost officially a mom for the second time, I've compiled my top 10 must-haves for your baby registry. These can perhaps be viewed as generically obvious must-haves to some, but I wanted to help new moms-to-be get a quick start on their registries. Of course a full registry includes a lot more than this! I have included brand recommendations as well, based on personal experience or that of my mama friends. And remember moms, you should register for everything you think you'll need in the first year.

10 Must-Haves for your Baby Registry 

1. Swaddle Blankets
Swaddling your baby is all the rage and for good reason. Most infants enjoy being snugly swaddled in those first few months since it imitates the snug space they occupied in the womb for 9 months! Choosing a thin, breathable material like 100% cotton muslin or flannel, or bamboo is best. Plus, after the swaddling stage, these blankets are perfect for many other uses including tummy time, as a nursing cover or just for snuggle time. Brands I like: Aden + Anais and SwaddleDesigns.

2. Co-Sleeper or Bassinet
Baby needs to be near mom practically 24/7 during those early weeks and months. If bed-sharing isn't your thing, a co-sleeper or bassinet cozied right up to your bedside is a convenient option for soothing baby and those frequent middle of the night feedings. A versatile play yard will also serve the same purpose, but will grow with your child and serve as a great sleeping space at grandma's house too. Brands I like: Arm's Reach and HALO Bassinest.  

3. Sophie the Giraffe
For the newbie parents out there, I'm with you. Sophie wasn't a hot find when I had Buddy, but after his teething days were over, all I've heard since is that Sophie is the best teething toy on the market. She's made in France from 100% natural rubber and her appendages are apparently irresistible for teething babies. She even squeaks! 

4. Nursing Pillow
No matter how your baby is being fed, a nursing pillow is essential to your postpartum recovery (and sanity) as your arms adjust to holding your new baby. A good nursing pillow allows you to bring baby up closer to the breast for nursing, and also keeps baby propped up (with proper supervision) as they get older. Brands I like: Boppy, My Brest Friend, and Bebe au Lait. 

5. Baby Monitor
Depending on the layout of your home, you'll likely want to have a baby monitor for when baby is sleeping in another room. Give yourself piece of mind that your baby is sleeping soundly and not needing you every two seconds. Buddy was born before there were wireless, video or audio options, so I'm thrilled to do a major upgrade this time around! Brands I like: Summer Infant and Motorola. 

6. Fisher Price Rock 'n Play Sleeper
Everyone seems to RAVE about this product - including all my sisters who use theirs with their new babies. Mama, you need a safe place to put baby down on occasion, and the Rock 'n Play is what you want in your everyday living area! It's inclined seat and rocking ability make it a must-have for new moms. It's portable, lightweight and pretty compact for any situation. I have mine ready to go!  

7. A Functional and Lightweight Stroller
When choosing a stroller, buybuy BABY expert, Joel, sees two main features to consider - it's weight and functionality. Can you easily fold up and load the stroller into the trunk of your car? Is the stroller compatible with your selected brand of infant car seat? Does the stroller's seat change positions? Is the basket large and easily accessible? It's also important to think about your lifestyle - will you need a jogging stroller or are you a mall walker like myself? A good stroller is a quality investment that should be carefully researched. Brands I like: UPPAbaby and Britax.

8. Blooming Bath
A registry favorite, this innovative bath option is a large, soft flower that molds to fit any kitchen sink. Babies seem to love how comfortable this bathtime option is. Bonus: it's machine washable!

9. Baby Carrier
Whether it's a wrap, sling or soft-structured carrier, babywearing is so healthy for baby and can be a sanity-saver for mom so she can have both hands. Watch out for crotch dangler styles that aren't good for baby's pelvis, but otherwise you can go wrong with these brands I like: Boba, Ergo, Moby and Baby K'tan.

10. Diapers and Wipes
This should be a no-brainer, but a lot of new parents seem to underestimate the cost and amount of diapers their new baby will use in that first year! Whether you plan on using cloth, disposables or a combination of the two, registering for your diapering needs is definitely warranted. Buybuy BABY brand disposables and wipes are a great value, and cloth brands I like include Bumgenius, Charlie Banana and Grovia.

What else would YOU add to this list?

Enter To Win:
One of my readers will receive a $50 gift card to buybuy BABY!

Monday, February 16, 2015

UnitedHealthcare Children's Foundation :: New “Oliver and Hope’s Superhero Saturday” Book to Help Families in Need #UHCCF

Disclosure: This post is brought to by UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation.

The new inspirational children's book, “Oliver and Hope’s Superhero Saturday," was just unveiled by the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation (UHCCF) this past weekend at the North American International Toy Fair in New York City! This exciting new adventure is the third book in the award-winning Oliver & Hope™ series, and proceeds help fund UHCCF grants.

Filled with colorful illustrations and a heartwarming story of friendship, resiliency and imagination, this 32-page book is sure to delight your youngsters age 3-8. When the characters put on their hero capes, they have fun pretending to save a pirate ship, rescue a hot air balloon and face an evil mud monster. But when they discover their friend Chewie™ the English bulldog really needs their help, the friends must work together to become real heroes.

“We created the Oliver & Hope series to provide joy and inspiration for children. We are grateful to have received such positive feedback on the books, especially since the proceeds from the books and toys are helping children access medical care that will improve their health and quality of life,” said UHCCF President Matt Peterson.

All three books from the Oliver & Hope™ series are available for $13.95 each. To purchase this new book and more from the Oliver & Hope™ series, visit

About UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation
The UHCCF is a charitable organization that provides medical grants to help with children’s medical expenses not covered, or not fully covered, by their parents’ commercial health insurance plan. Last year, UHCCF awarded medical grants worth an estimated $5.4 million to more than 2,000 children across the United States. To apply for a grant, donate or learn more, please visit

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Bring Your Digital Photos to Life with Polaroid Fotobar {Giveaway - Ends 2/27}

Do you print the photos you've taken with your smart phone? What about all those captured moments from your recent family photoshoot? I didn't think so.

Even with all the devices and grand technology that make it possible to have a camera on our person at all times, I'm surely not the only guilty of never actually printing any photos. Well, in a very long time. It's been years since I sent off photos to be printed! Years. That's why my family and I really enjoyed the convenience of our recent visit to the new Polaroid Fotobar at the Galleria at Roseville. The Roseville Galleria location is the sixth micro-store to open up in California.

I received complimentary product for review purposes. All opinions are 100% my own.

Polaroid Fotobar is a fun retail concept that allows users an easy way to "liberate" their photos and turn them into a unique photo products. Simply add photos to your account from anywhere (phone, Facebook, Instagram, computer etc), select from several printing options and choose some photo accessories if you wish. Photos are printed on a 1.2mm thick silky board using an eight-color HD printing process. These are really sturdy, non-bendable, and available in three sizes - original, medium and large.

Knowing we would be visiting Polaroid Fotobar, I created my account online at and downloaded all the photos from my computer that I wanted to print. This way we could simply just choose photo sizes, quantities and photo accessories while there from their computers. We were able to test out the process for adding photos from your smartphone though, since Hubby had a few he wanted to print. It was as simple as having him email the photos to the specific email address associated with my Polaroid Fotobar account. For Facebook or Instagram you need to just sign in and authorize access to your photos.

Fun Photo Gifts for Everyone
There are so many great options when it comes to photo accessories. From the modern, bright colored shadowboxes to the vintage-style rustic photo clip or clothesline frame, Polaroid Fotobar has a lot to choose from in every price range.

This is a medium size (9" x 11") print in a Rustic Shadowbox - it's gorgeous! I love the way that prints appear to be floating inside the frame. This shadowbox will also fit six original size (3.5" x 4.25") prints if you choose. The entire line of Rustic photo accessories is just beautiful!

We ordered about 40 of the smallest, original size prints and a few fun photo accessories for displaying. I think many of these prints will be sent to family with magnets on the back for displaying on the fridge - we printed lots of just Buddy. There is the option of having the classic white space at the bottom, and including text if you want, but most of our photos worked better without the text this time. The shadowboxes are really neat because photos are interchangeable and just snap in with magnets.

I have to say that I think the printing quality is better than I expected for just $1 each for the original size. However, some prints showed the printing lines and the coloring was just off on a few compared to reality (my green maternity dress was totally teal for example). Some prints that we got double of even looked different. The interesting thing is that our medium print looks amazing!

Ready to Shop?
The instant gratification of ordering your prints and having them in your hands just a short time later, is an awesome concept. Now, technically you could just send your photos to be printed at a 1-hour place, but how fun is this!? You won't get the classic Polaroid style anywhere else. Find a retail location near you or order whatever you want on

Enter To Win:
One of my readers will receive a $50 code to Polaroid Fotobar!

Monday, February 9, 2015

34 Week Pregnancy Update + Photoshoot + More from PinkBlush Maternity

Can you believe I'm already 34 weeks?! My last update was at 28 weeks...this sweet time in our lives is rushing by without an extra moment to share more. BUT, at 32 weeks we were blessed with an opportunity to have a family/maternity photoshoot done so I really want to share some of those shots, complete with the latest pregnancy details after.

On the day of our photoshoot it was freezing, and the sun had yet to appear even by 1 o'clock on that overcast day despite the clear forecast. However, it made way for a really unique tone and landscape to our photos and I LOVE THEM. Our AMAZING friend and photographer truly captured our family - something we haven't really done in years! Here are a few of my favorites (some fully edited, some a bit raw)...

I received complimentary product for review purposes. All opinions are 100% my own.

PinkBlush Maternity sent me several outfits for our photoshoot. I picked out the Emerald Green Draped Accent Maternity Maxi Dress myself (no longer available), but the Ivory Lace Belted Maternity Dress ($44) and Beige Knit Crochet Neckline Long Sleeve Maternity Top ($32) were a total surprises! And guess what? They all fit like they were made just for me!! That's one thing I absolutely adore about PinkBlush Maternity. There's consistency in the fit of their huge array of maternity apparel, which is so so so important for the short period of time a woman actually needs to wear maternity. I also wore my PinkBlush Maternity Dark Wash Maternity Skinny Jeans ($45) with the beige top (along with my brown boots). A HUGE thank you to PinkBlush Maternity for my photoshoot wardrobe!

How Far Along: 34 Weeks

Due Date: March 23, 2015

Weight gain: +24 pounds

Boy or girl:
GIRL!!!! :)

Symptoms: Wow, have I hit the third trimester or what!?! I feel like a bit of a mess, and my body feels very pregnant at this point. The past two weeks of sleep have been quite miserable, waking every hour to pee and even sooner to flip over because my hips hurt. I've decided to not return to the Chiropractor despite this because it's technically manageable now, just uncomfortable and the intensity comes and goes. There's just something scary about being adjusted while pregnant anyway! Hormones are flaring with high emotions and also hot/cold spells at night. This past week I've been waking up so hungry in the wee hours of the morning that I have to eat something before I can even try to get some more shut eye in. So that means two breakfasts! Baby's clearly needing the extra calories which makes perfect sense since this is when she should be mostly just gaining fat now.
I also noticed at about 31 weeks that despite my belly not growing much (from my view anyway), baby grew a lot! She's definitely starting to run out of room!

Cravings: Cottage cheese, pickles, chocolate milk, anything else chocolate and candy.
I'm having a difficult time taming my major impulsiveness at the grocery store lately!

What made me cry recently: Ha! Everything makes me cry. I'm pretty sensitive right now and the anxiety of baby preparations and not feeling ready yet are totally getting to me. Every few days it seems to become too much and I'm just an anxious wreck, so I end up over doing it to compensate so I can "reset" and feel better until it happens again. I can't wait to have every little detail done!

Medical stuff/appointments: I'm nearly to weekly appointments! This Friday is my next regular appointment and I'm looking forward to confirming that baby girl is still head down. She flips and turns a lot, which makes me nervous considering Buddy was a transverse, very stuck baby. She seems to have a favorite spot though with her feet on my left side, always poking out quite a bit. I love it.

Something I am excited about: Over the weekend we took a 5-hour labor class that was amazing and left us feeling prepared for what's to come. With the support of my Hubby and our doula, I'm confident that a VBAC is totally achievable, and that I can handle the pain of labor and birth without medication. I'm so excited to meet our little girl!

Favorite part of the past few weeks: A lot has happened since my last update! Of course I love feeling my little girl move soooo much, but realizing this part's nearly over is bittersweet. I can't wait to actually have her in my arms though! Also, taking family/maternity photos a couple weeks ago was awesome! Seriously, I felt so anxious that I was thinking with my luck I'd go into preterm labor the night before our photoshoot or something crazy. We haven't had professional photos done for just our family in many years, so this was a real treat. The joyful memories I have associated with this time in my life were truly captured, and I'm so looking forward to printing and framing so many of them to build our gallery wall. Also since my last update we hired our doula, visited my mom to pick out nursery colors, and officially transferred care to the best VBAC-friendly OB/Midwife practice and hospital in the Sacramento region. We're wrapping up the many little details from here on!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Learning to Tie Our Shoes with Umi {Giveaway - Ends 2/20} #NewArrivals

I received complimentary product for review purposes. All opinions are 100% my own.

It's only February, but we can count on warmer weather making it's appearance sooner than we may realize. You know what else that means? Umi Children's Shoes has a new Spring/Summer Collection! These new arrivals are fresh, colorful, and playful for the upcoming season.
As an Umi Certified Reviewer and Brand Ambassador, I've had the great privilege of being one of the first to get their hands on the new styles of each season. Umi is well known for their breathable, comfortable, flexible shoes and spacious toe boxes that put your kid's feet first.

Buddy has been wearing his last pair of Umi's (the Cruz II) to death, but I'm happy to report they have held up very well. The Jett B sneakers have similar features, but with an all canvas upper and laces instead of velcro. Buddy is now six years old and I figured it is time to teach him how to tie shoe laces!

This is the Jett B in the Taupe Multi color. We opted for the brown and taupe colors with the bold pop of orange this time since Buddy is becoming a bit more of a rough-and-tumble boy as he gets older. Hellooooo holy jeans and dirty shoes. 

This style arrives with elastic laces (making them slip-ons), but includes regular tie laces if you desire. The shoes were slipping off Buddy's heels a little with the elastic laces, but I'm sure we could have cut and tightened the elastic to make it work. My mission was learning how to tie shoes though!

This is our FIRST pair (of recent memory) that actually has laces! The convenience of velcro is great, but at some point I believe it's important that kids learn to tie shoes too. I think that waiting until your child has the dexterity necessary for tying shoes, it's not worth the frustration. Buddy is definitely ready, and picked it up almost immediately! We're working on keeping those loops tight and I'll still help if he asks, but I'm so excited he's learned this new skill. He's very proud of himself too, as he should be.

The all canvas upper is great for breathability as the weather gets warmer. The rubber toe-box is not only a classic sneaker feature I love, but it's added protection for my rough boy's little toes no matter what mischief he finds himself in.

As with the Cruz II we reviewed last, the rubber orange sole is a big hit with my orange-loving boy. It has definitely held up well with that pair, and so I'm glad that is a feature that was not changed at all! Buddy has wonderful grip in these!

The Jett B sneaker is available for $46 and comes in five colors - a couple girly ones too! For more adorable styles for boys and girls from Umi from this new collection, be sure to check them out at the links below.

Connect with Umi Children's Shoes
Shop - Facebook - Twitter - Pinterest

Enter To Win:
One of my readers will receive a $60 gift card for a pair of Umi Children's Shoes!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

$400 Target Gift Card GIVEAWAY! {Ends 3/4 - Open WW}

With a Target less than a mile away, you could say that we're "frequent" visitors. If you're anything like me, I'm sure you could totally score with a huge prize like this! Good luck!

Prize: $400 Target Gift Card

Giveaway organized by: Oh My Gosh Beck!

Rules: Use the Rafflecopter form to enter daily. Giveaway ends 3/4 and is open worldwide. Winner will be notified via email.

Are you a blogger who wants to participate in giveaways like these to grow your blog? Click here to find out how you can join a totally awesome group of bloggers!

Enter To Win:
$400 Target Gift Card!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Naturalmat :: The Organic Coco Mat Crib Mattress {Giveaway - Ends 2/16}

I began researching crib mattress options early on in my pregnancy. The amount of options these days can be overwhelming, but thankfully there are an increasing number of crib mattress companies that are using more organic materials and fewer or no synthetics. This results in parents' peace of mind that their baby is sleeping in a healthy environment with excellent ventilation, comfort and insulation.

I received complimentary product for review purposes. All opinions are 100% my own.

One organic bedding company that stands far out from the crowd for me is Naturalmat. Their line of baby mattresses and bedding are made by hand in Devon, England from pure organic and natural,
renewable materials like organic coconut coir, natural latex, organic lambswool, and organic cotton, all sourced from sustainable, local sources.

The company was founded in 2000 with the aim of helping babies and children sleep safely and comfortably in the best, most natural environment possible. Before Naturalmat came to be, founders Mark Tremlett and Peter Tindall were keen sailors who became frustrated with the poor quality of synthetic mattresses found on boats. From there, Mark and Peter set to work to create a range of pure natural fiber mattresses when Mark's first child was born. Here's a beautiful video that truly captures what Naturalmat is all about:

Naturalmat prides itself in handcrafting their bedding in their own factory in Devon, where their quality can be strictly controlled and monitored. What you receive is a product that is made with the best care, and of the best materials possible. I love that Naturalmat is committed to such high standards for their bedding!

In the midst of my baby nesting, we recently received a Coco Mat. The Coco Mat is one of Naturalmat's three baby crib mattress options, and the most ideal for newborns and small babies since it's the most breathable of the three.

Peeling away the outer, washable organic cover, I discovered the inner cover which piqued my interest. Since it also has a zipper, I decided to open it...

...which revealed the amazing core layers of the Coco Mat! After watching the video above and then seeing the inside of this mattress, I am so in love with the absolute disclosure and integrity of materials that I can actually see. Peeking inside also revealed just how simple and natural this mattress is. The organic coconut coir is what gives this mattress it's stability and firm support, while also having a little natural spring to it.

The organic coconut coir is layered with organic lambswool on each side, then covered in organic cotton. The final organic cotton cover is the quilted one, giving the mattress a comfortable yet firm surface for baby to sleep on (with an organic crib sheet over it of course).

The Coco Mat has a lot of impressive features that deserve to be shared in their entirety. If you're anything like me in regards to crib mattress research, these nitty gritty details are important! Non-toxic materials, breathability and safety are my top priorities when it comes to purchasing a crib mattress, and I have found the Coco Mat to withstand my high expectations.

Breathable & Organic
• Does not absorb heat or moisture.
• Naturally breathable and self-ventilating materials.
• Helps babies regulate their temperature and sleep through the night.
• Organic lambswool is an excellent insulator, keeping children warm in cold conditions and cool in warm conditions.
• Eco-friendly packaging made from paper starch and a mixture of recyclable and renewable paper sources.

Anti-Allergy & Anti-Bed Bug
• A treatment of lemon, eucalyptus and lavender makes Naturalmat lambswool anti-dust mite, anti-moth and anti-mosquito - properties will help to reduce the risk of asthma and other allergic reactions.
• Outer cover is finished with a natural compound derived from geraniol which renders them anti bed-bug.
• Outer cover has zip so that it can be removed and washed at 140°F. Dust mites are killed at 135°.

Comfort & Support

• Naturalmat’s organic coir (from the outer husk of the coconut) is sourced from the only organic coconut plantation in the world.
• Its superb natural spring and support ensures baby and child maintain a good posture while they are growing.
• Wool is an excellent insulator and ventilator, ensuring an even temperature and helping babies to remain comfortable.
• Naturalmat’s organic lambswool comes direct from local certified organic British West Country farms.
• This helps sustain local raw materials and craftsmanship and keeps the carbon footprint of the mattress low.

As you can see we have a very snug fit with the Coco Mat inside our standard crib. Although putting on a crib sheet is definitely not a fun task (but when is it ever fun to make the bed?), this helps prevent baby from getting stuck between the slats and mattress.

I am thrilled with our Coco Mat for our baby girl, and I feel safe knowing just how natural this crib mattress is. Now, will she be a crib-lover or co-sleeper?  While this remains to be seen, it's comforting to know that should she prefer her crib (especially in the first year when SIDS is a concern) her crib mattress is not compromised of a toxic elixir of chemicals. Thank you Naturalmat for truly caring about what's in your crib mattresses!

The Naturalmat Coco Mat is available for $399 at It now includes a waterproof mattress protector which is a $70 value.

Follow Naturalmat
Twitter: @naturalmatusa

Naturalmat video:

Enter To Win:
One of my readers will win a Naturalmat Top Mat, RV $135!

Ideal for Vacations and Weekends Away with Baby! The Naturalmat Top Mat is a lightweight machine washable quilted mattress that rolls up neatly into a drawstring bag for transport, making it ideal for travels with baby. Top Mat offers a comfortable natural fiber overlay to a crib mattress ensuring baby gets the best night’s sleep away from home. Top Mat is made by using deep tufted organic wool which is then covered with an unbleached cotton ticking, making it breathable and ideal for all climates. Size: 52” x 28” x 1”