Wednesday, April 1, 2020

A Few of My Pregnancy Favorites!

This post has been sitting in my drafts since partway through my pregnancy with Axton. I just never got it finished and posted back then. Now here I am, on round two, and I find myself using all of the same favorites again, as well as adding in a few new ones! 
I would've loved to read a post like this in my first pregnancy especially, so I hope that it can be helpful to any newly expectant mamas reading today! Maybe you aren't expecting but you have a pregnant sister/friend you could share it with, or you could bookmark it for "someday". I for one find that the tips/recommendations from those who have "done it before" are my favorite ways to learn, and I hope that can be the same for some of you as well!
Also! The above picture was taken during this pregnancy and I wanted to pop it in and also ask if y'all would be interested in a post with my tips for building a maternity wardrobe without breaking the bank? I would share outfit ideas/pictures, hacks, favorite brands and places to shop, etc. 
Let me know in the comments below! 
I wore the above top, this knit tunic in rust, through both of my pregnancies, and it has been SUCH a favorite! I actually bought it right after I got married-it isn't maternity at all!-but even after I got pregnant with Axton, I found that it worked perfectly for maternity. It was also a very forgiving and slimming postpartum piece to wear after Axton was born, and I've worn it this pregnancy as well.
(for reference, it fits true to size, and I got the size small)
(almost full-term with Axton)
This warm and lovely robe.
John bought me this robe (the light blue color option) just before winter, when I was pregnant with Axton, and I LOVE it! It isn't technically maternity, so I sized up. After having it for my third trimester with Axton, which was winter months, and then my first two trimesters with this pregnancy, I have to say that I highly recommend every pregnant mama to have a warm snuggly oversized robe for winter pregnancies. It is very warm and cozy and just perfect for winter. I'm currently on the lookout for a pretty summer option for my last trimester and postpartum days! Any recommendations anyone?
Here's a picture of me wearing the same robe, this pregnancy! Axton and I had both just woken up in this picture, hence the morning faces. =)

Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
(the pictured tea was given to me; the link is for a similar kind on Amazon)
This stuff is amazing! I drank a big 24oz cup of it every day during the end of my pregnancy with Axton. (I'm a little behind this pregnancy and have been taking some raspberry leaf capsules instead, and doing different flavors of tea) I know some ladies start taking raspberry tea earlier on in their pregnancies, and there are varying opinions on when is the best time to start. I've found that I like it best chilled, so I steep it, then add a bunch of ice cubes to chill it, and sip on it for the next few hours. Perfect!
A friend sent me the sweetest little "congratulations" package in the mail following our pregnancy announcement, and this tea was one of the items she included. I have loved brewing a cup of it almost every morning to have during my quiet time. It is a delicious blend!
I cannot recommend this stuff highly enough! Every mama needs it in her cupboard and in her hospital bag! Without going into too much detail, it is a life saver for keeping mamas regular and keeping everything moving correctly. I didn't have to take a single prescription after labor, I just went straight back on this and had no issues. GET YOURSELF SOME. Mama or not. We all need our bodies functioning well and properly! =)

Prenatals. This is the list that I took everyday (some earlier, some added in closer to birth) while I was pregnant with Axton. The bottles list the recommended time for taking each, which is very helpful. I honestly didn't do tons of research with what I took, but instead asked questions and used what my midwives recommended.

Rainbow Light Prenatal Multivitamin
Evening Primrose Oil
Wild Harvest Alfalfa
Dr Christophers Birth Prep 6 Week Formula
Mountain Meadow Herbs Gentle Birth 

The multivitamins I started on the beginning of my pregnancy, and they are actually great for taking throughout nursing/postpartum as well. (I slacked and didn't stay so consistent during that time) The next three I took for about the last month before Axton was born. And the Gentle Birth, I just started the week before he was born. I should've been taking it longer, but forgot about it and didn't get it ordered til last minute. One of my friends highly recommended it and said it really helped with her births, and my midwife also suggested it. I'm planning to start it earlier this time.

Of course, with these things, I don't really have anything with which to compare, since I have only completed one pregnancy and birth thus far. I will say, however, that my actual pregnancy and my recovery from birth with Axton were both amazing and I have to think that some of that is attributed to some of these products!
My midwife had me add in this one this pregnancy. It is supposed to be good for a number of things. 
Earth Mama Organic Morning Wellness Tea
My dear mother send this tea to me in a sweet little birthday package and I loved it as well! I've become a bit of a tea junkie during pregnancy, I think. =) I am not positive if it helped at all with the morning sickness; it is honestly so hard to know what helps and what doesn't when one is trying so many things! But it was yummy and soothing and definitely good for me so I fully enjoyed every cup.
Motion Sickness Patches
I have tried just about everything for my morning sickness. Sometimes, these seem to help. Other times, not-yesterday morning and this morning I threw up even though I had just put them on. They aren't listed for helping with morning sickness, but you never know til you try what might work! My  husband has been incredible in researching and buying multiple things for me to try, and it has been such a blessing.
A reader of my husbands' family's blog shared some ginger pills with my mother-in-law, and she shared them with me. The ginger seemed to help with the nausea, so I tried these natural ginger dramamine pills when I ran out of those, and they seemed to be very similar. Again, I couldn't always tell that they worked, but there were definitely a few times I felt like they did.
Hiccapop Maternity Pillow
Saving the best item for last...=) Oh my goodness, this pillow is a pregnancy GAME CHANGER! I have heard SO many women talk about how hard it is to get comfortable when pregnant and trying to sleep. John was so sweet; he researched and then bought me a couple of different kinds of maternity pillows to try out for my pregnancy with Axton, and this one ended up being the one that I kept. It was the smallest but was the one that was most comfortable and worked the best for me. I absolutely loved it, and now am loving it again! Who knows, it could partly be genetics, but I will attribute much of my good sleep during all nine months of my pregnancy with Axton (I literally slept great right up until the night I went into labor!) and now with this second pregnancy as well, to this nifty little contraption. It allows me to sleep on my side and supports my growing bump perfectly.
(in the picture, I'm holding it up so you can see the brand/name on the side, but when I use it I lay it flat-it is a wedge shaped pillow-and it slides perfectly underneath my belly)

Other important things for me during pregnancy have been drinking water, getting chiropractor adjustments and prenatal massages, taking magnesium baths, and walking. I did not do very well with consistent exercise during my pregnancy with Axton, but I am trying to get out and walk often this spring and I can already tell a difference in my energy levels!

Let's chat! I would love to hear if you've already tried some of these things, or if you have any favorites to add! Also, please leave a comment if you would be interested in the maternity style post I mentioned in the beginning! 

Happy Wednesday!
-Chels

(note: all of the items linked in this post are affiliate links to items we have and love! 
Click here to see my affiliate link disclosure)

Friday, March 27, 2020

Sundays During Quarantine


This past Sunday was our first quarantine Sunday. It definitely had a different feel to it than our usual, but, as it looks like this will be the new normal for the indefinite future, I wanted to share what we are doing for our Sunday services! Maybe you are looking a good livestream option and would like to "join" us!

(If you haven't already taught your little ones to sit quietly during church services, these "home church" Sunday's are a prime opportunity for you to do so. Kids don't turn four or five and automatically learn how to sit still--the best trained ones learn when they are little!)

For our church services (11am and 6pm) we watched the livestream from my previous church back in Iowa. Both messages were SO relevant and encouraging to both of us, and we were so blessed! Marion Avenue Baptist also did a fabulous job "re-creating" a service without the typical full building of people. They had worship, announcements, special music, AND a message! It literally felt so similar to one of the many services I have attended there.
Marion Avenue will be livestreaming their services (Sundays and Wednesdays) for the coming weeks, and I highly encourage you to tune in if you are looking for a service to watch! 
I'll end with a fun picture for you all! Axton greatly preferred the evening service since he got to watch the beginning of it from his favorite location-the bathtub. Pretty sure his ideal church service would look just like this one, every Sunday, if he got to chose. =)

Be blessed, friends! 
-Chels

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Pregnancy, Motherhood, & Marriage Update

(reading to my babies. As you can see, my lap is filling up these days!)

I am just over 27 weeks into my second pregnancy, and wanted to pop in with a little update on things, like I promised back in my pregnancy announcement post. This time around has been quite different from my pregnancy with Axton, in a number of ways.
First of all, I already have a baby this time! Axton has been a champ but it is definitely different to figure out how to get extra sleep, deal with morning sickness, etc, while running after a very active little toddler, as you other mamas know!
Secondly, it is one thing to grow a baby; but entirely another to figure out how to do so while transitioning baby #1 to the next stage of things to make way for baby #2! Namely, this happened in the area of weaning. Axton really wasn't interested in solids at all and if I would've had the milk for him, I'm guessing he would've been one of those children who would've nursed exclusively until age one or something. But right away when I got pregnant again (he was almost eight months) my supply started to dry up, so ready or not, it was time to wean. The first couple of weeks were a little rough with the transition, but we kept going, and by the beginning of December (just in time for our first night away from him!) he was totally weaned and doing great on his new diet. He even chunked up a little more! Contrary to the recommendations of almost all online sources, I went ahead and let him try raw milk by ten months, and he has loved it. (I was raised on a dairy farm with unlimited raw milk consumption and I am so passionate about the health benefits of it!) It has been a huge blessing to be able to give him a warm bottle every night before he goes to bed, and know that he is getting great nutrients from such a healthy source. It also makes me feel like he is staying a baby longer...totally mental I know, but it makes this mama heart happy!
Thirdly, speaking of morning sickness, with Axton, I had a very unusual type of morning sickness. I would get sick about one morning a week, from my second trimester, right up until a few weeks before he was born, and the rest of the time I felt amazing. I was really quite spoiled. Basically no cravings, smells didn't "set me off", and as long as I got enough sleep, I really felt like quite the energizer bunny! However, this second pregnancy has been much worse with morning sickness. When I feel good, I feel great! But about half of the days of the week I start my days with throwing up. (Not to be TMI with that, but I discovered lately that when some moms say they have morning sickness, they just mean feeling a little "off", or nauseated. I'm not much for exaggerating, so I thought I'd just explain it straight =))
I am not complaining, though-I am still SO extremely and abundantly blessed in this pregnancy again, even if there are extra challenges. And it is such a gift to have the opportunity to be sick and carry another little life. I'd do it again and again in a heartbeat for such a blessing! (I'll be sharing more about this in the future)
(post bathtime smiles! Isn't he just SO squish-able?!)

Motherhood is amazing. A number of people have asked me if having babies this close together is an overwhelming thought for me. Honestly, it isn't! Don't get me wrong, I'm sure I will have moments, especially in those early days of adjusting to caring for two babies instead of just one! But I saw my own mother have five babies in six years, and if I can do it with half the grace and energy she did, I'll be just fine. =) I suppose I would be much more overwhelmed depending on what kind of a child my current son was, but we have been pretty intentional in ordering his life, and not letting him run ours, and as a result, he is a super happy and very scheduled little guy. I don't say that in a prideful way, at all-there have been many learning moments for me and many times when consistency has stretched me as a mama! I have failed often and growing in this is a continual process. But having him on a schedule early on, and giving him a little life of order and routine, has paid off HUGE dividends in our quality of life now, and I am confidant that will just continue as we transition this summer into life with two babies.

(date night-out for dinner and an overnight with my hottie husband for my birthday)

And marriage continues to be so blessed as well. Does it take more intentionality to stay connected in these days of parenthood? Absolutely! But it is so worth it! Just today, after lunch, we were sitting on the living room floor, talking, while Axton bounced around walking and crawling all over us. I turned to John and said, "isn't it just mind-blowing how he is half you and half me and just the sweetest little thing ever?" Axton adds so much spice and energy to our lives and it is hard sometimes to remember what it was like before he came along! Impossible though it may seem, our marriage is even richer and fuller WITH a baby, than it was before! Axton has taught us both so much about who we are as individuals and parents and just people in general. I know not everyone is given the gift of children right off, and it is one that I definitely don't take for granted; rather, I am just overwhelmingly grateful that we have been given the gift of not one but two little babies in our first few years of marriage. It has truly grown us even closer to each other and been such a blessing in our lives!

That's a little update from my world! I would love to hear from you mamas in the comments below-how was your transition from one to two babies and how do you work to stay intentional with balancing motherhood AND marriage?

Happy Thursday!
-Chels

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Axton's First Birthday Party


Axton turned the big ONE on January 26th! I'll say the typical mom thing because it is TRUE---I have no clue how he is one already?!?! The past year has flown by! 
We had his party the evening of his birthday, Sunday, with all the family that was able to make it. He gained a couple of brand new playmates-to-be the weeks before his birthday, in the form of two tiny cousins, and between that and sickness, party attendance was quite a bit smaller than the initial plan. We still had a grand time with all of those who could make it!
My father in law captured a whole row of Axton's expressions during dinner. Pretty adorable! He was SO THRILLED to have people over. We had just completed a very quiet week of no company and really no social activities either (as we recovered from the prior week of John being out of town at a funeral, me out of town at a wedding, and all three of us getting some level of sickness afterwards)  so we decided Axton's social cup must've been quite depleted, based on his extreme happiness to see everybody!
For some reason, though, he got very serious at dessert time!

He looks positively concerned. =) Not sure why, as he was loving little tastes of frosting before dinner!

The actual "cake smash" situation didn't go quite as planned. The sticky frosting was quite frustrating for him (see above, him trying to "fling" it off his fingers) and he wasn't even interested in getting to the actual cupcake. I guess the prior training to keep hands clean and not touch his food had been very successful! =) He loved dinner though, so even though the cake wasn't such a hit, it was okay!
After dinner he had fun practicing his walking skills. A roomful of cheering fans was a big plus. =)
So fun!
And then it was time to open his gifts!
Amongst other things, he received:

These adorable little bath "bubble" toys. His daily bath time is his favorite time of day, so these have been such a fun addition to his little supply of bath toys. They are little floating toys and he loves them.

This Wooden Ramp Racer Set. It is the cutest little thing and Axton loves watching the cars race up and down. It's almost as fun for daddy and mama too! =) At first he was mainly interesting in watching and chewing the cars, but lately he has figured out how to make them go on the track himself, and he is quite proud of his accomplishments in doing that.

This Duplo Truck & Tracked Excavator Set.  Axton adores this set! They are his first real duplos and a huge hit with him thus far.
We ended the night out with the uncle/aunties staying later to chat, and Axton got to stay up an hour past his bedtime, which quite thrilled his little soul. He always gets a bottle of milk every night before going to bed, so here he is, quite worn out after all the festivities, enjoying his bottle while being snuggled by one of his aunties. 

Of course there is no way to really know what is happening in their little baby minds, but based on his smiles and laughs and overall joyfulness all evening long...I'd say Axton loved his first birthday party!

If you're a mama, what did your babies do to their cake at their first birthday? 
Any special traditions you have?
-Chels

(Note: All of the items linked in this post are affiliate links to items we have and love! Click here to see my affiliate link disclosure)

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Our 2019 Holidays

Today I thought I'd share a little about how we did our holidays this past winter season. It worked out perfectly to spend time with both of our families as well as our own little household, and we were so blessed by each experience!

We hosted Thanksgiving for the first time in our little home, and I LOVED every minute of it! There is something just so fun about being in charge and responsible for making the Thanksgiving feast come together, and preparing a warm and inviting atmosphere for those joining. It was truly a delight. The "farm fam" (what we call my Bontrager family who lives on the farm) came from Iowa to join us, along with my Grandma Bontrager. Due to complicated work schedules, they only ended up being with us for less than 24 hours, but it was a treat nonetheless!
My grandma is the gravy queen (well actually she is the queen of anything in the kitchen) so I was very honored to have her assist in the gravy preparation. 
As always, Axton adored all the people and the extra attention. He is little Mr Social, just like his daddy. =)
Fresh bread!
Axton enjoying stories with Grandpa! This "Five Little Monkeys" book was given to him by one of his Maxwell aunties, and it is one of his favorites!
My dear husband oversaw the prepping, cooking, and carving of the turkey. It was the most flavorful and delicious turkey I have ever had! One of his secret ingredients? Homemade apple kombucha! 
The beautiful spread.
Game time! 
One of my younger siblings favorite games to play when they visit us is this Dr Eureka Speed Logic Game. It is a super fun logic game that keeps you speeding along and thinking fast! We also gave it to one of John's brothers' and his family for Christmas and it has been a hit with them as well. You definitely should check it out if you are looking for a fun new game to add to your collection! Great for young and old alike!

Another favorite game here that our guests seem to love, is this Ice Cool game. Just get it and play it and then you'll know. I've seen adults get SO into this game-it's pretty great!
After Thanksgiving, it was time to set up Christmas decorations! Axton loved the process. =)
In December, we enjoyed a number of holiday activities, such as the annual favorite of Christmas caroling with the Maxwell tribe. We even got a beautiful snow this year for the event!
It was COLD but we bundled up WELL and Axton didn't fuss a bit! He really loved it, and when he and I quit early after two hours, it wasn't because he wasn't doing well but because mama was getting cold and because it was past his dinner time!
Our hats kept us warm and snug! You can get my mustard one here and Axton's black/grey marble one here!
We had the "late nighters" of the group over afterwards for soups and bread! The perfect ending to a cold evening!
John put up this garland and lights around our window and it added such a fun touch to our living room! I still haven't taken it down-I think it is winter decor, not just Christmas decor. =)
Out on a special December date!
Just hanging out helping in the kitchen! Temporarily! =)
Gift wrapping has always been one of my favorite things. I got my wrapping paper from Home Goods this year and went with a gold theme. Ah, so pretty!
Holiday babysitting so their parents could go out on a Christmas outing. Practicing being parents to six is a riot and we had a grand time! =)
We took Axton to his first Christmas nativity, "A Walk Through Bethlehem".
The animals were his favorite!
My parents came for a super brief visit in early December and we loved the time with them!
Our anniversary isn't a holiday, technically, but with it happening right in between Christmas and New Years, it sure feels like a holiday! We celebrated with a 24 hour trip to Vegas to see the NFR. John had been before but it was my first time to that particular rodeo and it was a TREAT. It was also our first time leaving Axton overnight but my mom came to stay with him and he did just great for her, as I knew he would. It was so special to spend time away, just the two of us, celebrating two wonderful years of marriage.
We went to a very classy restaurant and my favorite part was the made to order crepe station. Amazing!
Take a farm girl to a rodeo and you'll have a happy happy HAPPY wife. =)
We walked in amongst hundreds of people also wearing boots and denim, and I smelled the sawdust and animals, and told John, "I LOVE IT ALREADY." It was SO much fun. Of course, being there with my incredible husband was the BEST part of all!

Christmas Eve Day was spent with John's family, per tradition. It has been super special to join in on John's family's traditions for three years/Christmas's now! They go all out and it is SUCH a fun party, not to mention a full and lively house!
It was such fun to watch Axton experience everything!
Axton had his auntie Anna's name in one of the gift draws and he got her this very fun auntie theme shirt.  
He also enjoyed "helping" her open it. =)
Opening his set of adorable new clothes from Grandma!
John had a rather interesting placement of his gift. He was quite creative in retrieving it, and the whole process offered great entertainment for a collection of onlooking nieces and nephews in particular. =)
Let's just say that in the days since then I have discovered that there are literally countless items that can be shot with salt. Who knew?? =)
Axton loved the whole day, especially doing one of his favorite things-climbing into the toy box and just enjoying himself. 
Auntie and niece smiles!


The expectant (at the time) Maxwell mamas (two little boys have since been born!)
We came back home Christmas Eve...and while I put Axton to bed, John was putting the finishing touches on a surprise project: a fire in our downstairs fireplace (first time!) along with Christmas lights and greenery strung all over and a bed made up on the floor in front of the fireplace! It was like that perfect magical Christmas eve moment and so so beautiful.
Christmas Day found us at home, just the three of us. We continued on with our little family traditions started last year-sleeping on the floor on Christmas Eve, Christmas morning breakfast, opening our gifts to each other, a special Christmas lunch (not the "typical" Christmas spread, just a meal we've picked ahead of time that is extra special to us) games and family time Christmas afternoon, and an added new thing this year--playing with Christmas gifts with Axton throughout the day.
Quite serious about daddy's new cologne. =)
Axton was quite thrilled about this little bunny that he picked out for his mama. Sweetness.
LOVE his little expression of intensity as he opened his gifts!
John picked out the PERFECT gift for Axton-this remote control dump truck. I texted one of my friends a video of John and Axton playing with the truck and she responded: "Hmmm. Was that a gift for the daddy or gift for the son?" =) It has definitely been very mutually enjoyed! John runs the remote and Axton chases the truck all over and giggles when it "moves on its own!" 
And then...Christmas lunch! This year it was hot ham and cheese sliders (with poppyseed/butter/brown sugar/dijon mustard sauce goodness) chips, veggies, and one of our favorite drinks, Welches Sparkling Rose'.

A special Advent celebration time, Christmas evening, at Gigi's house, with a few of the others.

And finally, we closed out 2019 and began 2020 with a family vacation with my side, the Bontragers, in southern Iowa. My parents rented a lovely place big enough for all of our little growing families, and we enjoyed three days of delicious food, lively games, and wonderful conversation and reconnecting. These four little kiddos add a ton of spice to our get togethers now, and are doted on by, well, everyone. Nana Bontrager brought these healthy lollipops that were a highlight. All involved enjoyed them greatly but took the process quite seriously. =)
Auntie Rebs in her glory, surrounded by all four babies.
We had a very fun gift exchange one day! Taylor's gift wrapping skills are INCREDIBLE, don't you agree? Or maybe he has a very gifted sister who helped him? =)
Case IH tractors for all the little grandsons because all good Bontragers GO RED. Axton was thrilled!
He knew what to do with it right away!!
Great conversations, with beautiful live background music.
Coffee/tea/chocolate station. Open 24/7!
Blanket rides with Uncle Mitchell and Auntie Liz. The babies all really did love it but weren't sure about the very close quarters of all riding together.
Breakfast time! We all took turns doing meals and wow, as always, we ate like kings and queens!
There were many lively games!
Movie night!
Puzzles! 
It got finished at 11:27pm on December 31st. Just in time. =)
More yummy food!
These two are six weeks apart in age and the best little buds. It was so cute to watch them play together so well! I think part of the reason they just jumped right in and loved each other was because they are very familiar with seeing each other on a regular basis through their mamas' Marco Polo chats. =)
Baby swap! Just for a few minutes. =)

And there are our holidays and celebrations of 2019! Hope you enjoyed!
-Chels

(Note: All of the items linked in this post are affiliate links. Click here to see my affiliate link disclosure)