How to Stay Well Rounded

Marketers are savvy. When I was pregnant and discovering my new world, a friend joked that she had to stop opening the website links I emailed her – she was becoming inundated with ads for maternity clothes and didn’t want to raise eyebrows at her office. Recently, I’ve been feeling like there’s an ad agency or browser cookie in my phone monitoring my conversations...I’ll be texting with a friend about being a stay-at-home mother, and *BOOM* I’ll get an email from Well Rounded about that topic. It turns out that Jessica Pallay and Kaity Velez, the editors at Well Rounded, are even savvier. I decided to sit down with these Mamapreneurs to discover how they run an incredibly popular online magazine brand and juggle motherhood at the same time (and to not-so-subtly accuse them of spying on my texts, which they promptly denied!)

Jessica & Kaity. Credit: Jonica Moore Studio 

Jessica and Kaity met years ago when they worked in the fashion publishing industry. They became friends and would frequently enjoy nights out filled with cocktails at NYC hotspots. Around four years ago, something changed. Jessica was a little nervous for her next meet up with Kaity, because she was freshly pregnant and didn’t know how to order a virgin cocktail without it being obvious…only to find out that Kaity was pregnant too!

The life-changing journey through pregnancy and becoming a mama is immense. As first-in-your-friends-circle-to-become-pregnant girls, both Jessica and Kaity were relieved to have each other – but also a little surprised that there wasn’t a whole lot of information out there that addressed their needs as modern city women. What does this change mean for your career? For your social circle? And what about the actual physical changes you will go through? The list of topics and unanswered questions can go on.

Together, they wanted to create an online community for women like them (and me, and countless others). It started out as idea sharing – at one point, they met at Eataly for a girl’s date and Jessica brought print-outs of other websites to discuss the industry (I am SO jealous I wasn’t there). After two years of planning, they launched Well Rounded, an online magazine and community for women from pregnancy to beyond.

Well Rounded covers a number of topics, including one of my favs: #BumpEnvy @WellRoundedNY

Well Rounded covers a number of topics, including one of my favs: #BumpEnvy @WellRoundedNY

Here is my Q&A with Jessica & Kaity:

Q: You had the idea for Well Rounded when you were pregnant, and now you both have little ones who are running around, talking back to you, and beyond their “toddler years”. However, your blog talks to women in all of those stages, including the very early ones. How do you stay focused on addressing the needs of everyone in your audience?

Jessica: You have to remember that we both started out in men’s fashion – so we have always enjoyed being editors from a journalist’s perspective. Our goal was to be a site that women would want to visit in all the stages of this journey. Over the years, we have grown the community of women that we talk to on a regular basis – and we work with a lot of guest bloggers to ensure that we constantly offer advice or tips that are fresh and relevant to everyone.

Kaity: When we were pregnant, there were a lot of personal blogs our there. We wanted to make sure that our content could offer advice and tips to all women, and not just be about the journey we personally went through. There shouldn’t be any time where someone feels judged or alienated – we want to cover every angle, so everyone can relate to our content.

Q: I’m recently a new mother, and sometimes it’s an effort to get into a pair of clean jeans in the morning. You both had full time jobs, new babies, and an idea that you wanted to bring to life. How did you do it?

Kaity: There were so many days and nights where if I had worked on this on my own, I might have lost steam or motivation, or might have postponed something because I didn’t have the energy. Working with someone else holds you accountable. We knew that to make this happen and to push this to the next level we had to be “fully in” – and so we kept at it, and kept each other motivated to really commit to getting to that next level.

Jessica: I don’t think we could have done this without each other. I know it personally helped me to always give my personal best. If we set a time to meet, we couldn’t just back out, because we didn’t want to disappoint each other. There were a lot of late nights, with texts back and forth until midnight, but we knew we were both in it for the long haul and that was a huge motivation to keep going. It helps that we love what we do and we love to know that we are inspiring others. Loving what you do is such an important part of finding success.

Q: Finally, if you had one tip for other mothers that you wish someone would have told you, what would it be?

Jessica: Trust yourself. Being a new mom is filled with so many unknowns and it makes even the most confident among us second-guess our actions. But...what works for someone else might not work for you. Try not to compare and get caught up in what someone else thinks is "right." You're the expert when it comes to your baby, and don't let anyone make your feel otherwise. And there's so, so many ways to be a great mother. 

Kaity: Keep an open mind but and don't compare yourself to others. Only you know what's best for your family!

Whether you are pregnant, nursing, or having conversations with your little ones, check out Well Rounded online to get inspired and learn some handy tips from real women who are going through what you are going through. You can also get some of their best article shares through their Facebook, or follow along on Instagram for #BumpEnvy

This Mama is Wild

When I was pregnant I kept hearing about “this store in Brooklyn” that was a great resource for new pregnant women. When my mother visited from California she constantly forgot the location of the coffee shop on my block but somehow remembered the location of “this amazing store” that she found. Even my friends without babies seem to know that “there’s a baby store, or something” nearby where I live. Wild Was Mama, formerly known as Caribou Baby, turned out to be the kind of place that everyone knows about in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

So naturally I was delighted to sit down with Adriane Stare of Wild Was Mama to learn a little bit more about her, how she managed to launch the store just 18 months after having her first child, and the inspiration for the second retail location on the border of Park Slope and Prospect Heights (now open at 464 Bergen Street).

To the ordinary person it may look like a “baby store” on the outside, but Wild Was Mama is designed as a place for mothers to come and get the support they need starting with pregnancy through post-partum and onto motherhood. Its a subtle difference that only new mothers would understand. Sure, it’s also a retail store that will sell you some pretty damn cute baby stuff, but they are known for offering a range of classes and services (some free) to help make the transition to motherhood easier. And as if on cue, while Adriane was talking to me about how its important to create a welcoming space, a new mother came in because it had started to rain on her walk home and she desperately needed somewhere to stay dry and breastfeed her 5 week old. She nestled on the couch next to us and said she knew she would be welcomed to make herself at home there (and she was).

Wild Was Mama is also known for letting women explore some of the “crunchier” sides of parenting and is often THE source for new mothers to learn about topics such as baby wearing or cloth diapering (and even “Elimination Communication”, which Adriane herself practiced with her boys).  When Adriane became a mother she found that this is what other local mothers were the most curious about and realized that there wasn’t any other place around that provided a space where mothers could talk about their curiosity and compare their questions. 

Here is my Q&A with Adriane:

Q: First off, what is with the name change?

A: I had known for years that the name needed a change, but it took opening a 2nd location to really put the paperwork into motion. We wanted something that could be trademarked, and Caribou Baby was not available. Also, Caribou Baby implies that the store is just a baby store, but we really define ourselves as a store for mothers – it’s all about supporting the bellies and boobs… and vaginas!

Q: Your store is one of the first to really tackle non-mainstream baby care and parenting choices. Why do you think this is such a hot topic with local Brooklyn moms?

A:  A lot of people in New York moved to the city to follow their own path and are used to making unconventional decisions, so they question everything when they go into parenting. They aren’t just doing what their neighbor does. New Yorkers tend to make the conscious choice to have children later in life and have developed strong lifestyle preferences and can afford to make deliberate choices, such as wanting more environmentally friendly ways to bring up their children.... so they will learn about cloth diapering.

Q: Your store is the epitome of a kid-friendly store. Did you always bring your kids to work with you?

A: Actually, I don't! My children are a huge influence for me and a driving factor in how I relate to other mothers… but I don't want my kids to become the focus or take my attention away from the mothers who need help. I want to provide an environment where mothers can make their own decisions and won't feel pressured by my own parenting choices. Plus, now my kids are much bigger they would look like “little monsters” compared to the teeny tiny newborns being brought to the store, and I don't want any new mothers to become overwhelmed or intimated!

Adriane's husband also popped by the store during our chat

Q: What has the process been like to prepare for a 2nd store opening?

A: We had to take a step back and rewire a lot of the business so it was set up for expansion. Opening a 2nd store meant developing a central office and warehouse fulfillment center, and it took a while to find and develop that space, which is now in Bushwick. We also had to think about how to expand and train the staff so that there’s a strong consistency between the stores –it’s important to us to have our strong customer service continued, and to make sure our brand values were consistent. Now that groundwork has been laid who knows but maybe we will open multiple stores down the line!

Finally, if you had 3 tips for other mothers that you wish someone would have told you, what would they be?

1) There is no kind of parenting that will change your child from being who they are. In my experience, kids tend to come out the way they do, and there is nothing you can do to change that. Having a baby that is cranky, colicky, irritable or hard to settle and soothe is NOT a reflection of your mothering. The more quickly you accept this and learn how to not take it personally, the sooner you will start developing positive strategies to cope and respond.

2) Parenting is the wilderness. Each new family is made up of unique parts, and there is no one perfect or "best" way. There are only your instincts and experimenting how to move forward. If something doesn't feel right to you, it probably isn't right for you. If something feels okay to you, it probably is okay for you. When in doubt, I like to ask myself "if I were alone in a shed in the middle of the woods with only my baby in this very moment, what would I do?" This applies for questions of sleeping, feeding, soothing, carrying, playing. 

3) PLEASE hire a postpartum doula for yourself after birth! Ask for it on your registry, save up the cash for it, do whatever you gotta do... but hire a woman who can come to your home and really, truly tend to your whole family. No matter how easy your birth was, or if you have parents coming into town to help, there is nothing as healing and necessary as a professional postpartum doula (that you have chosen and actually trust) who will listen to your needs and connect you with resources. Even if you don't think you will need it! As a culture, we are so used to doing things by ourselves and afraid to trust, ask for help and be at the mercy of others. But when you have a baby, it's as if you yourself have also become a baby too. Show yourself some love and hire someone who can help give you what you need, so that you can give your baby what they need.


Learn about classes and services at Wild Was Mama, or visit one of their (now) two Brooklyn stores in Greenpoint and Park Slope. Or you can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram

C is for Cookie Exchange!

The holiday season is a great time to reflect on the things that you feel incredibly lucky for. I’m constantly in awe of my amazing husband and still can’t believe the little bundle of joy that we welcomed to the world just under two months ago.

I’m also incredibly grateful for my local mama’s group. Brooklyn has a fantastic online community of mothers and I’ve been so lucky to meet the amazing and inspiring women that I have featured on my Mamapreneurs series.

In the spirit of holiday cheer, my sub-group of mamas got together last Sunday for a cookie exchange. It was really nice to see everyone together, with husbands and partners along for introductions, and I came home with a brilliant little collection of holiday cookies that I’ve been eating all week.

I'm constantly appreciative of the support my mama's group provides. We have shared intimate birth stories and we have all helped each other with support and advice through the grueling first weeks of motherhood.  Having a group of women in a similar situation has taken the pressure off 2am Google searches which leave you twitchy and paranoid. We will all be there for each other as our babies start to crawl and then walk. Above all, I now have a new group of friends that I can call, text or email on a daily basis about the random baby-related thoughts that pop in my head and they get it.  

Oh and the cookies were great (I may or may not be eating one as I type this right now).

An Ode to Doulas

My son is now almost four weeks old, and I keep thinking back to my labour with a little bit of awe - each time I'm asked questions about how it went, it feels more and more like I'm talking about a fond memory than recalling the gory side of it, which I think people secretly want to know all about. I was told that this would happen - that the "will this never end?" part of the day will fade away through a hormonal "erasing" of the memory. After all, if birthing a baby was that bad then women wouldn't keep doing it.

My birth was fairly "average" in the grand scheme of things. I have heard all the birth stories from the mothers in my mommy-group, and I was lucky to have had an uncomplicated birth, but it definitely wasn't quick and pain-free. However, each time I tell people how it went, it seems the “fun” elements make their way into the story - on the day I went into labor I went to the farmers market to walk off my early contractions (and yes, I bumped into more people than I would have liked), our cabbie was dodging Central Park horse carriages and got pulled over for running red lights en-route to the hospital (and the female NYPD cops who pulled him over were encouraging and offered us a police escort like in a sit-com), and I had an insatiable craving for a vanilla milkshake all through the "pushing stage" (which was fulfilled immediately after by my amazing husband). But the one part of the story that I will never neglect to include is that I felt absolutely loved and supported throughout my entire labour because of the amazing "birth team" I had that day - my husband and my doula

So, what exactly is a doula? The word "doule" is an ancient Greek word that means "a woman who serves" and is used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides physical and emotional support to a birthing mother. A doula is not a midwife or a doctor, and is not trained to give medical advice, but is more like "that wise woman who knows a thing or two about having a baby". She's an expert at knowing how to make the mother feel her best, and knows how to help her feel confident and strong during a very difficult time.

Frankela Albury was my birth-doula. Frankela is a NYC birth doula servicing the Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and parts of Northern NJ. Frankela can be reached at girlsgroup2007@gmail.com or you can follow her on Instagram @mydoulababy

Frankela Albury was my birth-doula. Frankela is a NYC birth doula servicing the Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and parts of Northern NJ. Frankela can be reached at girlsgroup2007@gmail.com or you can follow her on Instagram @mydoulababy

There are two types of doula - a birth doula and a post-partum doula. Some doulas are trained to do the role of both. A birth doula will help the mother throughout the birth - meeting with her before the baby is born to help her with her birth plan, educate her about the process, and to be there on the day to help provide comfort measures during the difficult and painful part of the labour - almost like a birth coach. It's very much an emotional and physical job. Frankela, my birth doula, had the best poker face - and her calmness helped make every situation seem perfectly part of the plan. She also had the most magic hands and helped massage away my contraction pains for over 12 hours. The birth doula will also help provide the same kind of emotional support for the father, who is likely to be very overwhelmed in the process. Frankela and my husband worked as an unbelievable team and my husband and I cannot even imagine how the day would have gone without her. 

A post-partum doula helps once the baby is home - and can walk the new parents through newborn care, help the family adjust, and can provide an extra set of hands for meal preparation and light household tidying. Tia, my post-partum doula, made sure that my husband and I were well rested, fed, and helped get us through our weekly agenda with all the calmness we didn't have walking out of the hospital. She took us through our baby's first bath at home, baby wearing, helped talk me through the emotional distress I was experiencing during painful breastfeeding, and took the time to make sure I felt like I was doing an amazing job and that I took each day at a time.

Tia Dowling was my post-partum doula. Tia also provides infertility advice/support and birth doula support. Tia can be reached at metoodoula@gmail.com, or on  Facebook  or her  website

Tia Dowling was my post-partum doula. Tia also provides infertility advice/support and birth doula support. Tia can be reached at metoodoula@gmail.com, or on Facebook or her website

Some studies show that having a birth doula can mean a lower chance of medical interventions (use of Pitocin, emergency C-sections, etc) and shorter and less painful labours. Having a post-partum doula can help you through the hormonal journey you experience the days after your birth and keep you from having an endless rollercoaster of meltdowns in the first week with the inevitable bouts of depression that can kick in once your baby is home. There's an *endless* amount of resources online that will list the advantages of having a doula and I will happily recommend having a doula to any mother because a doula will make having a baby in a cold large city feel like a warm hug and welcome to motherhood.

So THANK YOU to both Frankela and Tia and I'd like to raise a glass to all doulas out there who help millions of mothers go through this amazing journey!

Being Part of Da Hui

Let me first start off saying this - Brooklyn Baby Hui has saved me during my pregnancy. It’s been an amazing resource for all my curiosities, I have met some amazing friends that I’ll become new moms with, and I have met almost all the mothers in this Mamapreneurs series through “Hui” (as it’s affectionately shorted to). I am eternally grateful for Penny, who I will be featuring today, for her role in keeping the Hui community going and keeping it a place that feels warm and safe for all my unanswered concerns and questions. 

Brooklyn Baby Hui is an online group of parents who support, inspire and empower each other in the challenge of raising children through sharing experiences, stories and resources. It is a members-only Yahoo Group based in my neighbourhood of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Hui (based on the Hawaiian term “da hui” which means group or club) was founded by Yvette in 2004 as a way for a small group of moms to plan outings. Yvette eventually moved away and Penny took over moderating the group in 2007 – and has since been joined by friend and fellow mama Jess. Its not just a "mommy group" - and it’s even got some street cred: earlier this year NYC police were able to nab a serial groper based on the power of the group who put together enough evidence and testimonials to take action. 

Let's pause to think about what it means to have an online community that’s been going for 11 years: In 2004 the main social community was MySpace, the iPhone had not yet been rolled out, you probably cried over Ryan Gosling in The Notebook, and Britney Spears’ “Toxic” was still playing on the radio. Williamsburg was not “hipster” (and certainly not yet “gentrified”) and real estate prices were $269/sq ft (the neighborhood is now renowned for being one of the most expensive in the city).

A lot has changed in 11 years but there’s one thing that hasn't: new moms have the exact same questions and concerns they have always had. Sure, the clientele has shifted (there’s more chatter on the comparison of costly night nurses, and more questions coming from waterfront properties), but when it comes down to it new moms just want to know how they can make sure their babies are eating and sleeping enough.

Being a Hui moderator is no easy feat. There are over 6,000 members and 2,000 messages a month, which can mean 50-100 emails a day to approve. There’s been multiple offers to buy out the list, and there has been considerations to charge a membership fee like some other communities do but in the end Brooklyn Baby Hui remains a free service that is run by unpaid staff, Penny & Jess. Penny is lucky to work mainly from home (shes an interior designer), because being a moderator can take over 2 hours of her day. Every. Single. Day. She would never complain though – the rewards in helping others through this difficult stage of life are well worth it. 

Here’s my Q&A with Penny (also affectionately known as “xo Penny, Mela 9”)

One of the most distinctive things about Hui is that each post *must* be signed with your name, as well as your child’s name and age. How did this tradition start?

It started organically with that first group of moms. We’ve kept the tradition by requiring posts to be signed in that way. We feel it really fosters a sense of community, and it makes it easy to recognize each other on the playground and around the neighborhood. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met someone because I recognized the mom and baby name combo being called across the park! It’s also interesting and helpful for others to see the perspective on certain topics in relation to a child’s age.

Being a new mom is tough – there’s a lot of crazy hormones, no sleep, and everything is changing every minute. What is your favourite way that Hui helps moms through this time?

Hui helps new moms by being a free resource, run by local mamas. If a new mom is having nursing troubles at night, she can get instant responses with tips to try, who to call, when the next La Leche League meeting is. We’ve had posts from parents whose child is having a rare/scary/unidentifiable medical issue, and amazingly someone else has been through it and can offer insights and comfort within a few hours! When a mom is exhausted and at the end of her rope and just needs to vent, the list is there.  Getting advice and commiseration from your actual neighbors, with children of varying ages, is invaluable. And we’re so happy to help new mamas meet each other in real life, by starting up the sub-groups seasonally. Sub-groups let mothers who are expecting at the same time or have babies at the same age to meet to have the support they need for free.

Not all topics are met with shared enthusiasm. In fact, some conversations can easily turn into major “mommy drama”. Can you tell us about some incidents in the past?

Oh, there has definitely been drama over the years! Sometimes it’s not a topic you’d expect, like schools. During one flare up a few years ago, there was one mom who was creating false email accounts to agree with herself! My partner Jess is really good at sniffing out those email trails. There are definitely a few subjects that always have the potential to get touchy, like "Cry It Out". But many times the thread comes up with no drama. It’s good to remember that many moms on the list are newly post-partum, and can be particularly raw and sensitive; nervous, exhausted and really hormonal.

Because of the nature of how sensitive the topics are, and how trusting people are, it’s important that there is a social fabric in place that protects the group. Tell us more about the guidelines to keep this a sacred place for moms.

A few years ago, we starting asking for potential new members to complete a questionnaire, asking for their phone number, where they live, names and ages of children or due dates, how they found out about the list, etc. We check them out to the best of our abilities, sometimes we call randomly if something seems suspicious or we need verification (but that's very rare). And it’s another reason we insist upon the proper sign off. We also started charging a small fee for Commercial Posts. This has drastically reduced the amount of spam we get, and kept the commercial posts relevant to our listserv.

Your daughter is 9 years old now, and you have seen generations of “new moms” since being a new mom yourself. What inspires you to keep taking such an active role?

Motherhood completely changed me. I had no idea how much love and fierce protectiveness I would feel for this perfect new being. It changed the way I viewed everything. Knowing how much this list helps so many new mamas, like me, inspired me to take it over when it was ready to shut down. So many women don’t have a support group in NYC when becoming a parent. Many of us don’t have family in NYC, and don’t have parent friends yet. It can be very lonely and confusing in those first few weeks and months. Having a community to reach out to is crucial, even if it is online. And because we are local, parents meet in the neighborhood and become real friends. Through all the years of running this list, many of the same threads come up over and over again: is my baby eating enough? sleeping enough? Why am I having problems nursing? How can I go back to work? All any mama wants to know is “is my baby ok?” It’s universal. And I’m happy to be a part of a community that will give you confidence and comfort.

Finally, if you had 3 tips for other mothers that you wish someone would have told you, what would they be?

  1. Sleep when baby sleeps. Really. It’s more important than doing chores. Every mom I know wishes they’d done that sooner!
  2. Trust your mama instincts and listen to your baby. You’re a team! All the answers are there. Just follow her lead.
  3. Enjoy! You will not believe how much you can possibly love another human being when you become a mama! It is life-changing, mind-blowing, earth-shattering stuff!

xo Penny, Mela

 

Brooklyn Baby Hui also has a Facebook page and there is a separate list run for dads (independently) for all new parents in Williamsburg and Greenpoint (Brooklyn). If you don't live in North Brooklyn, there are plenty of other online support and neighbourhood groups and I highly recommend that you join one!

 

 

To Dye For

Pregnancy has done some funny things to me - I suddenly feel like I can tackle some pretty crafty projects that I would never have even considered before. 

I learnt how to tie dye for the first time. It seems everyone else I know has tried this at least once when they were younger, but here I am trying it for the first time during my pregnancy. 

I recently learned how to "ombre" with dyes and made my husband and the baby a matching blue and grey gift set that they could wear at the same time (I'll take photos of them wearing the set if I'm not balling my eyes out with utter adoration). The ombre technique took a lot more discipline than I was expecting (splashing is the enemy), and the product isn't perfect but I can't wait to see them being worn.

It had started with a white dress that I wore for Diner En Blanc earlier this summer. Diner En Blanc is a 5,000 person "pop up" dinner where everyone is required to dress head to toe in white, bring their own tables/chairs and food, and party at a secret location that you find out about merely hours before. This was our 4th year doing it, and there was no chance of fitting into my old white dresses, so I invested in an all-white maternity dress. Do you know what one does with an all-white maternity dress after an all-white party? NOTHING. I couldn't find a single time I wanted to wear an all-white dress at the largest size I have ever been. So I bought a DIY tie-dye kit and gave it some fringe. You get the idea.

The last attempt at tie-dyeing has been the least successful, but I kind of like the end result anyhow. I took the "matching gift set" one step further, and included myself in the process. I started to get a little more ambitious with the pattern planning, and it didn't quite work out the way I had envisioned, but there's certainly consistency in the outcome.

I've dyed my hands quite a few times, and I'm not sure I'll take this on again. But I did have a lot of fun making these and learning something new. I look forward to the day my son is old enough for me to teach him how dyes work, and maybe we will make more t-shirts again together.... at that time. 

Love Letters

I love sitting in my baby's nursery and I smile when I think about how much more time I will be spending in there once he is born.

It wasn't always like that and its not just because of "pregnancy hormones" (promise).

My favourite part of my baby's nursery was not bought on Etsy or a little hipster shop around the corner in Brooklyn. Above my baby's crib-to-be are 26 hand painted and decorated letters of the alphabet, each with a personalized note on the back for our son, made by a group of my best male and female friends. 

One of my favourite things about living in NYC is having an incredibly diverse and amazing group of friends that have become our extended family. We are the first of our close friends to have children and they are equally excited about adding a little boy into "the family." 

However, there's only so much that they want to hear about the different types of changing pads that exist (I don't blame them) and there's only so long I can get them to look at my Pinterest board before eyes start to glaze over. I wanted to find a way to connect my friends to all the planning and decisions I was starting to make, including the details of decorating the nursery.

I liked the aesthetic of these wooden letters from Land of Nod, and a crafty-friend-of-mine made a quick observation that I could recreate them for much cheaper using paper mache letters from "any craft store." We were sharing a lunch on her sofa when we had the "aha" moment - what if *we* made them. At my baby shower. Each guest could "do a letter", and finish it with a note on the back welcoming our son to this world. 

I had to realize that some of my friends were probably not going to be as enthusiastic about this as I was. I also had to let go of controlling what the end product looked like (a learning experience for a control-freak). To top it off, my baby shower was co-ed, so I was half expecting a few of the men to politely bow out of the task. I pre-painted the letters to avoid a mess at the restaurant, brought a handful of black sharpies, lots of beer, and let my guests at them: the emphasis being on writing the letters for our baby on the back.  

The results exceeded my expectations and I was blown away by how much my friends got into it. Sure, some of them weren't the "most artistic" and a few people didn't quite follow "the rules", but the notes on the back were truly the icing on the cake. Some made us tear up and gave us goosebumps, and some made us chuckle outloud. Needless to say, putting them up on the wall was one of the most fun "nesting" nights my husband and I have had during the pregnancy. Each time I look at them up on the wall I think of all the amazing secret notes that our little boy will one day read.

(Bonus: every time a friend comes to our apartment they look for their letter up on the wall, and feel connected to the nursery)

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