baby’s first birthday | budget friendly tips

The husband and I had decided well before pregnancy, that should we ever have children, we would do our best to focus on the quality time we spend with them, the values we instill, first by our example, and the importance of love that we see in the Bible. Because these things were paramount to us, we made the decision of going against the grain and having a small, modest first birthday celebration for our son. Not that we have anything against large parties or the traditional Korean Dohl celebration, but this was our decision and our way of trying to hold true to our values. Because we saved so much money from not having a huge party, we were excited to have the opportunity in making a gift to the adoption department of Bethany Christian Services. We thought not only what a great birthday gift to our son it would be, to make a donation in honor of his first birthday, but to also one day teach him that as an act of worship to God, giving to others who are also God’s children is much more important than a big party that he would not even remember.

So in lieu of a party, we invited a few of our family and friends over for a nice, intimate lunch, and did our best to keep things simple, but still be as presentable as possible. The challenge then came of how to budget such a lunch, what to invest in and what to DIY or find less expensive alternatives for, so I wanted to share a few tips that I learned along the way for those that might be interested in putting together a more budget friendly birthday lunch or get-together!

Tip 1: Stick to the budget and be realistic  With lovely outlets like Pinterest, Instagram and so many others, it’s easy to drift off to lalaland and start hoarding every inspiration (I’m guilty of this!) but it’s important to come back to earth and remember that at the end of the day, your friends and family will love you and be there to celebrate with you no matter what. So try to be realistic and keep an honest, ongoing list of any and every item you purchase for the get-together. Whether it be a pack of toothpicks, party favors, catering, etc. always keep track of everything you buy (keeping receipts helps in case you are able to return unused items!) One add-on mini tip is to try out Amazon Prime’s 30 day free trial so you can easily have items delivered right to your doorstep – a lifesaver when you are a stay at home mom and tending to the home’s and family’s everyday needs. I found most items were much more affordable when purchased online with the 2-day free shipping! Just remember to cancel before the trial is up if you no longer plan on using the services.

bdaysignage

bdayspreadfrontal

Tip 2: If you have the time and patience, DIY smartly, in advance – I know not everyone enjoys or has the luxury to make their own decorations or favors, but I guarantee if you do so strategically, you can save a lot of money and your guests will appreciate your efforts. What I mean be smartly is, try to be realistic in whether or not DIY-ing will save you money in the long run. If you have to go out and buy every single tool and item, then most likely, you may end up spending more than a readily available, finished product. If you do have most of the tools, like scrap paper, glue guns, double stick tape, cardboard, etc., go for it! Of course not everything may look as streamlined as something a professional would put together, but hey, we’ll call it “rustic”, right? Luckily, we went with a BabyBear Country theme, so the more “rustic” things looked, the better! I personally love DIY projects, so although I had to rush through a lot of them during baby’s nap times and late at night, they were so much fun and I loved being able to zone out into my own creative space away from the daily grind.

Although we did not have a traditional Korean Dohl party, I wanted to incorporate a little bit of the culture into the spread, so I made these super easy “dohl towers” by using a paper towel roll, printable templates, beans and some fabric glue/hot glue gun. They are a bit time consuming, but they add such character and dimension, and they’re reusable if you take good care of them. Share with friends, or save them for future babies!

bdayspreadtrailmix

bdayspreadsmores

bdaybears

bdayspreaddohl

Tip 3: Allow yourself to invest in a couple of nice pieces and for the rest, try to use items you already have or will use over and over again – I definitely think the one “investment piece” I decided on (other than the catered food), was the cake! Since the cake usually acts as a centerpiece for most birthday spreads, I went a little bit fancy and got a large double layered cake for the guests, and a matching small smash cake from Magnolia Bakery. I chose a basic vanilla cake with vanilla frosting in case any of our guests had allergies to chocolate, nuts, etc. and also because I liked how the simplicity of it would go along with the rest of the decor. I added a border of gold sprinkles and garnished with some foliage under the tray and called it a day! Additionally, I splurged a little on the sippy cup favors for our baby-guests because they were just too cute to pass up on and I knew that they would someday be useful for our thirsty friends! Other than that, most of the other purchases I made were things like jars or small vases that I knew I would use on an everyday basis and for other occasions. I tried to incorporate items I already owned, like silk flowers and plants, mugs, candles, frames, even Christmas ornaments and decorations, etc.

 

bdaycake

bdaycandle

bdaycakeface

Tip 4: Take it easy on the day of and if it’s not a big deal, let it go – I know, easier said than done when you’re playing host/hostess, but this is something I was taught for my wedding day, and boy did it make a difference! Whether in life, for big celebrations, or small lunches, not everything will go perfectly. But that’s okay, and if it’s not life threatening or truly offensive, then just let it go! At the end of the day, you just want to be surrounded by good people, have some laughs, and spend some quality time with those you love. So just breathe in, let out a woosah and everything will be alright!

bdaysmile

bdayfamily

I am by no means an expert in planning lunches, throwing parties or putting together decorations, but I hope some of these tips are helpful for any of my fellow mamas and papas who are planning to opt for a smaller, more intimate birthday party for their child. We have no regrets with our decision and hope to continue the tradition for our future children should we be fortunate to have them. Thanks so much for stopping by and for sharing along on this journey!

 

my journey of motherhood and a test of faith

My mother would always tell me that nothing can really prepare you for the most incredible journey that is motherhood, and boy, was she right! From the moment you read the plus sign on the pregnancy test, to that first time you hear your baby’s thumping heartbeat, even pregnancy itself is quite the adventure and learning experience, let alone motherhood. I actually clearly remember my pregnancy, the not-so-fun morning sickness, all my doctor’s visits, getting so excited to see baby via ultrasound, and my favorite – feeling baby kicking and dancing all day (and night) long! I feel so fortunate to have had a very smooth pregnancy, almost so smooth that I will admit, I became a bit cavalier in thinking that it was such a breeze. Because of such an easy pregnancy, I was really very confident in thinking that labor and delivery would be just the same. Little did I know, God would put my pride in check and really test my faith.

Just a year ago, I remember everything clearly as if it were yesterday. I had reached week 39 and was feeling very tired and heavy, so I hadn’t been doing much moving around, but it was my birthday, and my mother who was visiting to help when baby would arrive, convinced me to take a nice, slow walk and get some fresh air. During that walk, I actually started feeling consistent cramps, but because they weren’t very close apart, I ignored them as Braxton Hicks. The day continued, and baby didn’t arrive, although I was continuously feeling dull, consistent cramps, even through the night. The next day, I ignored the cramps and went about my day, until that evening they began to get stronger and stronger. I must have been in denial because I didn’t think much of them, when all of a sudden around 10pm the pain was pretty significant and I told my husband that we should have the carseat ready, just in case. I remember my mom’s concerned gaze every time I would wince in discomfort or grab my tummy which made me think, maybe I am going into labor. I figured worrying or thinking too much wouldn’t do anything so we called it a night and went to bed. By midnight I was wide awake because the cramps were too painful to ignore and my husband and I began timing them, which by then we considered, contractions. I remember them being about 7 minutes apart, too early to head to the hospital, so I tried to rest as much as possible, and I did end up falling asleep. At about 2am something woke me up and I instinctually ran to the restroom and just like that, my water broke. And boy did it break! They tell you your water will not break like in the movies (with a big splash!), but life imitates movies, right? Because my water broke, quite dramatically! We all stayed as calm as possible, gathered our things and headed towards the hospital with my mom nervously waving us off. On the way there, we called our doctor, who actually told me we don’t have to rush to the hospital right away (even if my water broke), and that unless my contractions are for sure 4 mintues apart, it might be better to stay home. So we turned around and went back home, only to head back to the hospital an hour later due to strong contractions about 4 minutes apart. I waited in triage, got one last ultrasound to check baby was okay and head-down, everything looked great. I was wheeled off to my L&D room, where I was given an amazing cherry-flavored Italian ice, haha! For some reason though, my contractions began to wane off and weaken – stage fright they said. We waited about an hour and the head nurse said they would need to give me Pitocin if my contractions didn’t start back up because since my water had broken, I would have to deliver the baby within 24 hours to prevent any kind of infection. My temperature was also a bit higher than normal, so they were extra cautious and wanted to move things along. By then, all I wanted was baby to arrive safely into the world, but I will admit, I was a bit disappointed because I did not want to take Pitocin, but we conceded.

My contractions started back up right away, and they came on strong, I mean really strong. So strong I was actually getting overlapping contractions without breaks in between. So I was taken off the Pitocin and they allowed my body to contract naturally. But the contractions were still coming on quite strong, and I will say that it is the most pain I’ve ever felt in my entire life. I held off on the epidural for as long as I could. There was a point however, where I didn’t think I’d be able to focus on breathing and pushing so I took the epidural when I was 7cm dilated. It was about noon and my doctor had arrived by then. Everything was looking good and about an hour later, I was fully dilated and ready to begin pushing. I pushed for a couple hours with very little progression, so we tried different positions and methods, which must have worked, but in a not-so-great way. The strong contractions and the pushing had caused baby’s heart rate to drop dramatically, causing about 10 nurses and technicians to come running into my room, pressing a bunch of beeping buttons, moving me into different positions and giving me an oxygen mask – I was terrified! Baby’s heart rate finally stabilized and they allowed me to have a quick break while they would monitor baby and me. A little while later, they gave me the OK to try pushing again, and about an hour into it, baby’s heart rate dropped again. By then, the doctor was very concerned and tried to figure out if baby might have the umbilical cord wrapped around or if something was wrong. He said he didn’t feel comfortable having me continue pushing in fear that baby’s heart rate might drop again, which could cause major problems, he suggested a c-section. It was the one thing I had not even bothered to plan for, because I was so confident in thinking that the L&D would go smoothly. It was also a great fear of mine and I selfishly asked if there was any way around it. The head nurse actually thought I was progressing well and she and my doctor bumped heads a little, but they came to an agreement to allow me to try pushing one more time, but if baby’s heart rate dropped again, I would pretty much have no choice. So by then, I had already been pushing for about 4 hours, and I was completely exhausted as I had not slept except for the 2 hours at home, and had not eaten a meal in about 24 hours. We pushed for another hour and actually made a lot of progress, doctor said he could see that the baby was just about to crown but of course, baby’s heart rate dropped again and we had to stop pushing, this time for good. By this point, I was already so discouraged but then upon examination, the doctor informed me that the baby was too far down the birth canal that he was “stuck” and that even with a c-section, there would be a high chance of uncontrolled uterine tearing. I thought I was in the twilight zone – this was not supposed to be happening, I thought it was enough that I had to have a c-section, but to hear this completely numbed me. What I still remember today, is I asked like a 5-year old child, “If there is tearing, does that mean I might die?” (yes, that’s exactly what I said!) The doctor didn’t reply, and he didn’t need to, because his face said it all. I was too much in shock and too exhausted to cry, and again I was just in disbelief. I was first angry at God for allowing this to happen, and I became very hopeless and discouraged. But praying together with my husband as they prepped me for surgery, talking to my dad on the phone, and really just asking God for faith helped me get through it. At the end of the day, I just wanted baby to arrive safely, so we moved forward with the c-section.

I remember lying on the operating table, the nurse stroking my head and telling me that everything is going to be okay (if you are an L&D nurse, you are an amazing person, I have so much respect for you!) I tried to just visualize holding my baby and trusting that God would get me through it. I actually remember the operation (as you are awake during c-sections), and I even remember the conversations the doctor was having with the staff – they were talking about such light-hearted things like tv-shows and their day, which actually calmed me down and kept my mind off of the actual operation. All of a sudden, I hear my doctor say, “What in the world?!” and start laughing, yes laughing! I hear the rest of the staff laughing too – what had I given birth to?? By then they finally allowed my husband into the room, and they were patching me back up. All I could think was, I’m still alive. And the most beautiful moment of my life followed, I could hear my baby boy crying and as I slowly turned my head towards the sound, I could see little feet wiggling about and my husband’s face, streaked with tears. They quickly placed baby on my chest and allowed us to have skin to skin, which was pure bliss – and I’ll never forget, baby stopped crying immediately. I was on cloud nine and I thanked God over and over again. After the operation, my doctor informed us that baby was perfectly healthy, but that the most bizarre thing happened, and that in all his practice, he had never seen something like this before; baby had somehow pulled himself out of the canal, became un-stuck, and FLIPPED! All through the labor and right up until the c-section, baby was head-down, which is the correct position to deliver safely, but somehow, baby was in breached position when they opened me up, which actually allowed for a safe operation and delivery with no tearing. And that is why, I always tell people, it’s impossible not to believe in God after you have a baby. The doctors and the whole staff were in shock, hence the laughing, and as much as I was completely elated and in such relief, God became that much more real to me and I was completely humbled. My pride and sense of control had gotten the best of me all up until giving birth, and God totally put me in check and said that I need to let go and leave it all up to Him. He reminded me that everything happens for His glory, and I was in such awe that He was so personal and would care to play such an intimate role in my life.

family

braedonbear

 

Here we are, one year later, and I thank God everyday for the most amazing gift He’s given our family. Braedon is a healthy, happy, silly boy who has imprinted a permanent smile on our faces and melted our hearts. Every time I look at him, I am reminded of God’s grace, His faithfulness, and the miracle that He gifted us with. We pray that we can raise Braedon to love God, to have his own personal relationship with Him, and to live out this life with purpose, because he surely arrived into the world with one! It’s a happy birthday indeed, and I will always be grateful to God for the best gift ever.

let’s talk baby wearing

With so many baby gear products available on the market these days, it’s sometimes a bit daunting to seed through what are gimmicks, and what are true gems. There are especially so many ways to carry around little babe, from strollers to bassinets, to carriers and wraps and as a new mom, I was at first very intimidated on how I would take my little precious cargo from point A to point B, especially for those early on doctor’s appointments. Living in the city and always on the go, I’ve been forced to try a handful, and I’ve got to say that I personally enjoy using a baby wrap the most. I tried a couple different designs out, but hands down my favorite is the Solly Baby Wrap. From ease of usability to aesthetically pleasing colors and designs, it is truly the perfect accessory for any parent, and makes for a sweet baby shower gift! What more, I love that they are a family business with amazing customer service and all materials, even the packaging, are made ethically in the U.S.

babywearing1

My only gripe is that I can’t use it forever! The suggested use is until baby is 25lbs or a year old, which is inching closer for us! So I’m really squeezing all the use out of the wrap until I will have to store it away for….baby #2? (although I don’t think that will be for a while).

Beyond the obvious reasons of why baby wearing with a wrap is convenient and helpful, i.e. doing simple chores, transporting baby, taking strolls, etc., I’ve come to love baby wearing, particularly with the Solly Baby Wrap, because with its lightweight material and pretty design, it has easily integrated into my daily wardrobe and has almost become like second skin. Whether I’m out running errands, transporting groceries from our underground garage to our fourth floor condo, visiting the doctor’s office or simply trying to put baby down for a nap, this wrap has totally been a lifesaver! But one particular experience stands out, and that is when Braedon decided to go on a nursing strike. I was so torn and an emotional wreck when I thought the little guy abruptly weaned off, when evidently he had gone on a nursing strike for a few days. I tried everything to get back on track, and the only thing that really worked was keeping baby boy close all day and all night in the wrap, that, and God’s grace, because nothing else worked! After that incident, I became a loyalist! As much as the Ergo does come in handy for heavy-duty baby carrying needs, I don’t think I could have carried him around the clock in it, buckling and unbuckling, strapping and unstrapping.

And just a word of advice for daddies out there, the wrap will make you an instant girl-magnet (even more so than doting around your cute babe), so beware! Just over the weekend, my husband wore little B during an afternoon stroll and I could feel the stares from googly-eyed women. I even overheard a lady say to her guy, “When we have a baby, you’re wearing our baby like that!” Ha!

babywearing2

Don’t be afraid, guys, baby wearing is totally au courant for you macho men! Just be ready to explain those smiley glances from passerby ladies to your wife!

And another reason why I adore this wrap? Look how cutely it packs into itself! And the little pocket, come on! Perfect for storing baby’s small toys or teethers, or your phone, keys and wallet for quick runs to the store.

babywearingwrap

I promise I wasn’t sponsored or paid to say these things, I just really really love this wrap, and as my time for using this guy for Braedon is coming to a close, my hope is that my fellow mamas and papas will try baby wearing out, whether with the Solly Baby Wrap or any other one out there. It really is such an intimate way to carry baby around and it’s been such a great help for me, personally; I hope it can do the same for others. It sounds silly, but it’s a baby item I’m going to have a hard time letting go, and one of the reasons why I want another babe again, sooner than later!

babywearing3

Savoring every moment!

 

away we go

We recently went through a fortunate misfortune when our building’s plumbing decided to go berzerk, causing one of our walls to be in need of some major repair. With talks of tearing down drywall, mold remediation, repainting and whatnot, we thought it would be best to take advantage of the situation and take a trip up to Santa Barbara, especially as to avoid the little one from breathing in unnecessary fumes.

Although during the couple weeks leading up to the repair I’ll admit there was a lot of grumbling on my part, I guess things happen for a reason, and it was actually perfect to pack our bags and spend some much needed family time away from the city. Neither my husband nor I had ever been to Santa Barbara, so it was exciting to take in all the sights with fresh eyes, not to mention, it was our first trip away with the little guy.

Before checking into our hotel, we played tourists and explored up and down State Street, of which my favorite little nook was, La Arcada. So charming and sweet, with tile lined streets and ivy covered walls, it felt like we were whisked off to the streets of Europe.

SB11

SB2

SB9

SB4

After a nice lunch at State and Fig, where Braedon giggled his way through all the complimentary french bread, and a long walk window shopping the streets (and picking up some English treats at Hampstead Village), we went to check in at our much anticipated hotel.

I had read so much about the newly renovated Kimpton Hotel, The Goodland and was eager to check out the digs and enjoy it as our home away from home for the weekend.

I will admit, it is not your typical fancy, five-star hotel and if you’re used to good old, ritzy luxury, then you may be in for a bit of a surprise, but it was exactly what we were looking for, especially with a wiggly energetic baby. Quick, easy access to your room, friendly staff members, an unpretentious community-like feel, and excellent cuisine at their onsite restaurant, The Outpost (may I suggest the mushroom bao bun, and the amazing steamed chocolate cake), I would definitely recommend The Goodland to any of my friends. A sidenote – I would have taken photos of my delicious food, but we had to eat in the dark in our hotel room because it was past baby B’s bedtime (a new experience for us new parents!)

SB12

SB7

SB14

SB15

SB3

Although it was a new, and learning experience for us traveling with a baby, we absolutely enjoyed every second. And I feel as though B really grew during the trip, being in unfamiliar surroundings and adjusting to a different routine and sleeping arrangement. Although we had to be quiet as mice after the little guy went to sleep at 7:30pm, the husband and I savored the quiet time, whispering over the white noise maker – yes we brought it with us!

And moments like these are worth every second of staying in for the night…he is quite the affectionate, kissy baby.

SB

SB5

After a lovely stay, it was time to head on home, but not before taking a quick photo in front of the resident airstream of course! And then we thought, we couldn’t let the fun end so soon, so we made a pitstop at the cute, kitsch town of Solvang where we devoured our yummy Danish pancakes and B attacked the bread basket again (we agreed to let him indulge while on vacation!)

SB6

SB10

On the road again, to home we go (our fixed up, nice and fresh home that is!) Can’t wait for our next family adventure!

a new adventure

I had originally started the Ella Row blog as a casual hobby, to document and share things I had been enjoying, outfits on rotation, DIY projects, and inspirations. It quickly became a passion and something I loved working on into the wee hours of the morning, and I very much loved planning how I could share a curated portion of things that I fancied. Since I was also working another job, maintaining a consistency with the blog became a bit challenging as is, and then the most wonderful thing happened – I became pregnant! All of my time, energy, thoughts and activities became invested in this little blessing that was quickly growing inside of me. And because family means everything to me, I made the decision to put 100% focus on the gift I was fortunate to have received, and dedicated everything I could to ensure a healthy, safe and happy pregnancy. So I thought it would be best to take a break from blogging.

Fast forward to present day, my husband and I are over the moon thrilled to be parents to our little energetic butterball, who is already 10 months old. I put a lot of thought into how much of my personal life, and especially, an innocent baby I wanted to share on a public realm, and it’s still not yet fully decided, however as a lot of my family and friends live far away, it is a great, somewhat controlled way that I can share tidbits of my life and the growth of our little family.

As I very much enjoy blogging, I am eager and excited to share a whole new side of me and a new adventure. Thank you for riding along!

update2.24.15

 

hello, again

Hello, friends! It’s been a while! We’ve been through many wonderful life changes over here and I wanted to share a fresh start with you. New inspirations, life goals and heartfelt confessions to come this way. I hope you will join me!

All my love,

Angela