My NICU Takeaways

This post is a bit delayed (welcome to mom life I guess?!) but after 23 days in the NICU we received the OK to go home last Wednesday night.  While this wasn’t the journey I would have chosen for Anika, things all worked out and we have met/connected with some fabulous people along the way.

Between the copious hours sitting in a pleather rocker in our little room, late night pumps, and general mom hormones I have developed a list of lessons learned/silver linings about our experience:

1.) There is an amazing network of people who know what you are going through.  By far the most valuable advice/sanity came from talking to those who had been through the same experience.  Whether friends, friends-of-friends, or people I had lost touch with, those who made a point to reach out meant more to me than they probably know.  One thing I struggled with (and that honestly still bugs me) is the feeling like I “kicked” Anika out, that her being in the NICU was my fault.  While that is completely illogical, I couldn’t kick the feeling and despite being surrounded by people it made me feel extremely lonely.  It wasn’t until someone reached out via Instagram who had the same exact experience and lonely feelings that I felt “normal” and able to address.  Even if you aren’t close with someone, don’t hesitate to send a text/call/social media message, you could make someone’s day 🙂

Also, who better than to understand the day-to-day struggles than your fellow NICU neighbors.  Talking with others gave me a better perspective on our situation (could be worse) and a general sense of community within the NICU.  I had the pleasure of “rooming” next to a FANTASTIC couple who had the same issue (and doctor) as us – the mom and i exchanged numbers and would text during the day and randomly chat.  She made my stay 100% better and I can’t wait until her little guy is out so we can grab a drink and chat outside of Fairview Southdale!

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2.) It’s like Baby Boot Camp:  This advice came from some good friends of ours (and was reiterated by others) and is 100% true.  The benefit to a NICU stay is that you get to leave knowing your baby for more than 36 hours – you know their sounds, needs, and they are on a bit of a schedule.  And that leads me to my next takeaway…

3.) Leverage the staff (and get to know them, they are great):  You gain extended access to baby experts – from nurses, lactation consultants, doctors.  They see babies everyday, have been doing this for years, and probably know your baby better than you do!  Ask questions and get their advice,

Also get to know them and thank them – they are REALLY great and you spend a lot of time together.  They are the best and little things go a long way (pizza, donuts, care packages, etc).  In my case they came-in during a blizzard and paid for a hotel so they could make their next shift to take care of Anika and the other NICU babes.  If that doesn’t deserve a snack at minimum what does 😉  Shout-out to the staff at Fairview Southdale who made leaving Anika each night easier knowing she was in the BEST care.

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4.) Find a schedule that works for you: At first I was really worried about what I “should” be doing.  After talking to others, the nurses I trusted, etc. I came to the conclusion that what was best for Anika was for me to be healthy both mentally and physically.  For me that meant not staying overnight (I tried it once and I was a mess).  I would call first thing in the morning to find out when her next feeding would be and make sure I was there for at least four of her eight feedings a day (around 8:00am – 7:00pm).  This ensured I got a decent night sleep at home and could find some normalcy while still getting quality time with Anika.  We also took advantage some nights of “the best/most expensive babysitters in the world” and did date night which was important for us as a couple (a break from the small room and baby talk).  That may not work for everyone, but my point being do what works for you and consistency helps create normalcy!

5.) People are the best:  Going through this has made me realize how amazing people are.  We can’t thank my mom, sister, family in general, friends, neighbors who have made these last few weeks as stress free as possible with their visits, food, help with Stella pup, and listening ears.  Also again to the staff at Fairview and my favorite OB (shout out Dr. Toft) – thank you for taking such good care of us!

It has been quite the ride, and the first of many hiccups of parenthood I’m sure – thanks for following along and supporting Anika!  Now onto figuring out this parenting thing (even Stella is adjusting) 🙂

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An Excuse to Bake – Lactation Cookies

So I promise that this will not become a mom blog, but my life currently (and for the foreseeable future) revolves around my little Fox and working on getting her home from the NICU!

Quick Anika update: she continues to do well and is growing/getting stronger everyday.  It is amazing how much can change in one day for her!  She is considered a “grow and feed” baby at this point, meaning she is healthy and self-sufficient (no more oxygen, breathing issues, etc) but needs to build the stamina to stay awake/tolerate oral feedings.  Once she can eat fully on her own and maintain weight, she can go home.  Unfortunately that isn’t quite as easy as it sounds – we have had some good days, and some bad and it has been quite the lesson in patience.  Trying to continue to take it one day at a time as we approach the 3 week mark on Monday.

I will be going back to work and travel for my job so I want to make sure I’m doing everything I can these first few weeks to help my milk supply come-in.  I’ve been doing my best on the basics (drinking water, remembering to eat, and skin-to-skin when I’m at the hospital) but given the stress of schlepping, sitting in a dark room, and leaving my newborn everyday I haven’t been able to master the relaxation/sleep piece so was looking for some additional ideas.

My fantastic NICU neighbor recommended this Upspring drink mix (you can get it at Target or Amazon) and it seems to be helping!  After also doing some research/talking to lactation consultants, I was introduced to the world of “Boobie Bites” aka an array of recipes containing ingredients to help increase milk supply.  I really miss cooking/trying new recipes so am leveraging this as an opportunity to try something new and do something that feels a bit “normal” again!

There are several options online, but I opted for these chocolate cookies from How Sweet Eats that claim to be “the best.”  The key “lactation ingredients” are the brewer’s yeast and ground flaxseed, both I purchased from The Viatmin Shoppe!

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Overall they are pretty good (Luke even enjoys them, and don’t worry guys you won’t grow boobs from eating them), and if nothing else like I said were a good excuse to get my bake on and share with my NICU neighbors 🙂

“Skinny” Cake Pops

For those of you new to the baby world (as I was), 5 months is an exciting time because 1.) you made it through half of your pregnancy, and 2.) you get to do an in-depth ultrasound to make sure all is good with you/baby and 3.) you can find out the gender!  For a change the baby actually looks like a baby too, instead of a little blob!

I kind of went back-and-forth on whether or not I wanted to find out the gender (there aren’t too many real surprises in life, right?) but my husband wanted to find out and my a-type personality definitely sees the benefit of being able to plan!

For our “reveal” we had the ultrasound tech put the gender in an envelope and we went to dinner at a fantastic restaurant called Broder’s Pasta Bar in Edina, MN.  If you are looking for amazing homemade pasta in a cute, quaint space you need to check this place out!  We didn’t have a great plan for how we would do the reveal, worst-case thought we could have them send X drink for a boy and Y drink for a girl.  But lucky for us our waitress was AMAZING and way into it (shout out to Kaleia!) – she was in training to be a midwife and is obsessed with babies so it was meant to be!  We handed her the envelope and she came-up with a plan (meanwhile we awkwardly ate our appetizer and bread in silence, the anticipation killing us).  When she came around the corner with these cute sherbet drinks we knew we were having a little girl!

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My husband and I loved having that moment between the two of us, but also wanted to do something fun for our families but without a big party since our actual announcement was a bit bland (aka hey, by the way we are pregnant).

Insert the cake pops – with everyone in town for the holidays it was a perfect excuse to disguise some holiday baking with our gender reveal.  I have been making this cake pop recipe from Skinny Taste for a few years – they fit my “cute” criteria, are tasty, and outside of cleaning the pan are easy!  They earn the “skinny” title because the cake part is made with Greek yogurt, but full disclosure they are dipped in chocolate so I’m not sure it counts…but details, right?!

I made a few colored for the reveal and a few vanilla to share over the holidays which worked-out great!

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Here is the recipe, enjoy!

Skinny Cake Pops

One recipe makes around 24 cake pops

Ingredients:

  • 1 box yellow (or chocolate) cake mix
  • 1 individual serving (or 5.3oz) plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 package almond bark (vanilla or chocolate)
  • Lollipop sticks (I get mine at Michael’s)
  • Parchment paper
  • Cake pop pan

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Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray your cake pop pan
  • Combine all of your cake ingredients (cake mix, yogurt, water, egg whites, and vanilla) in a medium bowl
  • Using a spoon or plastic bag with the tip cut-off, gently fill the bottom half of each cake pop mold, wiping-off any excess
  • Spray the top of the cake pop pan and secure, then place in the oven for 18 minutes, turning half-way through so they bake evenly
  • Place the balls on a rack to cool and repeat until you use-up the batter.  Note you may have to clean the pan in between batches to avoid sticking.
  • Using a scissors cut-off the excess “ring” around the cake balls and place in the fridge or freezer.
  • Melt some of the chocolate according to package directions (careful not to over-heat and scorch)
  • Place a lollipop stick into each cake ball and dip in the melted chocolate – let the excess chocolate run-off then either place on parchment paper or a foam block
  • Cover with sprinkles or decor of your wish!

The (Surprising) Arrival of Baby Fox!

Luke said it well that we couldn’t be happier to meet our little peanut but I’d be lying if i said this last week hasn’t also been a bit of a test in flexibility and grace for this A-type planner 😉

To give a little background – about a week prior to delivery I started having really bad middle back pain and numbness in my right hand.  I called the nurse and this was normal, baby could be sitting on a nerve, etc.  It continued throughout the week but i got some relief with a visit to the chiropractor (I am now hooked ha).  Luke and I then traveled on Friday to Virginia for my cousin’s wedding with the rest of my family.  I had been having a very normal, healthy pregnancy and was cleared by doctor to go – why sit at home with FOMO over just back pain?

I continued to not feel/sleep well in Virginia, and started to get intense abdominal pain as well.  I called my clinic on Saturday before the wedding just to re-confirm this was normal.  They said it was tough to diagnose pain over the phone but sounded like a nerve/disc issue.  This ultimately ended-up being the best thing for us, if they would have sent us to the ER we would probably still be in VA!

I got to enjoy my cousin’s (beautiful) wedding and flew home on Sunday.  I went to the chiropractor again on Monday hoping for some relief again, and headed to my normal OB appointment.

I had Luke drive me and come with me, since the back pain made it hard to drive and I knew something wasn’t quite right.  My blood pressure was high, I had protein in my urine, and I was pretty swollen by this point so my doctor sent us immediately (in a cheery yet pointed voice) to the hospital.

From there things start to get hazy, but labs showed I had severe preeclampsia and HELLP, so essentially my blood pressure was crazy and my liver was not functioning well.  All combined with crazy platelet counts caused a need for an emergency c-section at 34 weeks 1 day within a couple hours of my appointment.

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Despite the eviction notice from my body baby is doing very well (actually she is a rockstar) just needs to grow and get basic (and normal) things like breathing/eating on her own down in the NICU for a few weeks.  We channeled my inner Scandinavian roots and named her Anika Elizabeth (Elizabeth after my and Luke’s grandma).  She is perfect.  Note her name is pronounced Ah-nick-a, we googled how to best spell and got multiple answers so just settled on one N, if it is wrong I’m blaming the magnesium IV i was on when i wrote it down 🙂

Luke and i are now home from the hospital and as I sit here pumping (guess this is the new normal right moms?!) I am feeling extremely grateful.

I can’t thank everyone enough for the calls, texts, thoughts, prayers, visits, everything.  And especially my mom/sister who just knew what I needed when i didn’t, and for taking care of our fur baby 🙂

And Luke has been my rock – I’ve felt a bit helpless in my own recovery and he has taken care of everything, even buying nursing stuff at target for me 🙂  Anika and I are lucky to have him.

Overall this has been a very humbling experience and i can’t thank everyone enough for surrounding us and little Anika with support!

Woodland Themed Baby Shower

As you have read through this blog, I love to host and get super jacked about little details, but my family takes the cake when it comes to throwing a party!

This past weekend my sister, with the help of my mom/aunts, hosted a woodland themed baby shower for baby Fox and it was absolutely amazing.  The food details, decor, etc – UGH if Kristen weren’t such a boss lady during her day job I’d recommend she quit and take-up party planning full-time!

Let’s start with the food:

They used wood serving platters to bring-in the theme along with some accent foods:

  • “Birch” Sticks (white chocolate covered pretzels drizzled with chocolate
  • “Acorns” (oreo balls dipped in chocolate with sprinkles/pretzels)
  • Fox Cookies (sugar cookies decorated like little foxes)
  • “Succulents” (mini dirt cakes with a plastic succulent)
  • “Mushrooms” (1/2 of a cherry tomato on top of a mozzarella cheese stick with pesto)

Additionally they served chicken salad sandwiches, turkey/cucumber croissants, cheese/crackers, fruit kabobs, and bacon cheese balls.  Needles to say we did NOT go hungry!

The Games/Decor:

The theme was executed in a cute, whimsical way so it wasn’t overkill but all tied together.  Kristen did a nice job of incorporating practical items that can be used in the nursery and worn by baby as well!

  • “Stay Clever Little Fox” sign: She used a wood cut-out with a cute sign on the front for baby’s nursery, and shower guests signed the back so baby and I can look back on who attended!
  • Iron-on decals: guests could make their own onesie or bib for baby Fox by ironing-on cute woodland decals
  • Late night diaper thoughts: This game is the best because it is practical and fun!  Guests write fun sayings on diapers to help get through long nights of diaper changes 🙂
  • Trail Mix Party Favor: The party favor was a bag of trail mix for guests to “fuel their next adventure”
  • Guess the Nursery Rhyme: As an interactive game, everyone received a sheet with different nursery characters and had to guess the name of the rhyme
  • Daddy Knows Best: My cousin and her boyfriend coordinated with my husband and interviewed him on a few baby related topics over video and guests had to guess what he would say.  It was so special to have my husband involved and to be able to hear his thoughts on the pregnancy/baby!  Here is the video 🙂

Baby Fox are so very lucky to have such wonderful, caring women in our lives and I can’t wait for her to join this crazy crew!

Meet Buddy!

I know I say that all of our fosters are the best, but for the first time we were actually really close to foster failing.

I “picked” Jughead (re-named buddy because, let’s be honest, Jughead is just a dumb name) as our next foster back in early December.  In his “help me” photo it said he was 1-2 years old and 30 lbs, but all I saw was this cute little puppy face looking back at me!  He was the perfect size for Stella and Luke and I are generally drawn to hound mixes so it seemed great!

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He was supposed to ride to MN from a shelter in Arkansas on December 16th with some of his other friends, but the poor little dude tore his toenail and had to be sedated, which meant he missed the “freedom ride.”  They don’t have rides going from Arkansas very often so they didn’t think he would be able to come to MN for at least a month.

We were all set to foster and another pup from the same shelter didn’t have a home so last-minute we brought Winnie (formerly known as Shirley Temple – again, dumb name) home on the 16th.

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Winnie was a very sweet, calm dog but only ended-up being with us for only four days.  A lovely young man ended-up taking her as a foster-fail – she is living the artsy life hanging out with him all day at a Children’s Theater (CUTE)!

Conveniently little Buddy was able to catch a freedom ride up north that same week, so finally he came to us the Friday before Christmas.

At first he was extremely docile and scared.  He essentially didn’t move from the same spot on our rug for two days unless we fed him or picked him up to go outside, etc.  We were kind of wondering what we had gotten ourselves into!  Also unfortunately for buddy, it was Christmas weekend so we threw him right into the Tucker family gathering.  He went to my sister’s house (with two other dogs and a baby) and still basically stuck to his dog bed the whole day.

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It wasn’t until around day 4 that he started to come out of his shell, and immediately he bonded with Stella – they play SO WELL together!  We hosted a party for New Years and had 3 other dogs at our house plus several people and kids, and he did great!

He is now all goofy/playful/clumsy personality, housebroken, and has learned to sit nicely for food/treats.  He sleeps nicely on his bed at night and after an incident with his kennel one day (photo below – I’m not even mad, more impressed!!) he hangs out in a room with Stella all day without accidents.

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Quick sidebar on his daytime activities – I purchased a Nest on black Friday for future baby Fox.  It essentially streams live video via a phone/tablet app with sound (and you can talk back to it too!).  I decided to try it out on the dog’s room the other day and O.M.G. it is SO entertaining!  Stella basically sleeps in her cozy cave all day, and when buddy isn’t roaming/whining/bugging her he also calmly sleeps on his bed.  Amazing how fun it is to watch nothing happen all day :).

So despite being obsessed with this little cutie, with baby Fox coming this spring it just probably isn’t the right time to get a second dog.  So Buddy is still adoptable via Secondhand Hounds and would be the perfect family/brewery/go anywhere dog!

Who is looking for a new family member?!

 

White Chocolate Chex Mix (AKA “Christmas Crack”)

With the holiday season upon us I am reminded of the little gem of a recipe my husband and I refer to as “Christmas Crack.”  This recipe has been floating around my family for years, and was a staple to bring to various functions throughout my childhood.

While the title has Christmas in it, this salty sweet goodness can be made any time of year, and with colored m&m’s can be tailored to any holiday! (think pink/red for Valentines day, black/orange for Halloween, red/blue for 4th of July).  You could even do gold/black to prep for New Years!

It is super easy and great for get-togethers or to package individually for gifts!

Warning though:  Snack at your own risk – once you start, it is hard to stop! (hence the crack name)

Here is the recipe, enjoy 🙂

White Chocolate Chex Mix

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (10 oz) mini pretzels)
  • 5 cups Cheerios
  • 5 cups corn Chex
  • 1 pound M&M’s
  • 1 cups salted peanuts
  • 2 packages (12 oz each) white chocolate chips
  • 3 Tbl vegetable oil

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Directions:

  • Mix together the cheerios, chex, peanuts, m&ms, and pretzels in a large bowl until combined and set aside (note I made several batches hence the multiple bowls below)

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  • Mix the white chocolate chips and vegetable oil in a microwave-safe bowl until the chips are coated
  • Heat in the microwave until smooth, being careful not to scorch!
  • Pour the melted chocolate over the chex ingredients and gently stir until evenly coated.
  • Spread on a parchment-lined cookie sheet to harden, then store in an air-tight container (you may have to break-up some of the pieces).

Happy snacking!

Megan

 

 

Holiday Cream Cheese Pear Tart

This year I received a lovely Harry and David gift basket from a vendor with a bunch of fresh pears.  I love pears, but we had so many I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them!  I decided to contribute to our family Christmas brunch with a fun holiday pear tart!

After searching through a million Pinterest recipes, I settled on a hybrid of recipes from 365 Days of Baking and Food Network (with my own holiday twist :))

Here is the recipe:

Cream Cheese Pear Tart

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces of cream cheese, softened (I used Neufchatel)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 package (2 sheets) puff pastry sheets, thawed
  • 3 medium pears, peeled and sliced
  • 1 Tbl lemon juice
  • 1 Tbl plus 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 3 Tbl brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • Optional topping: honey and sugar

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Prepare the cream cheese filling by combining the cream cheese, one egg, and the almond extract until smooth.  Set aside

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  • Prepare the pear topping by combining your sliced pears, lemon juice, cornstarch, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  Set aside
  • Beat the remaining egg into a bowl and set aside for the egg wash

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  • Spread-out the puff pastry sheets, setting one on top of the other.  Using a pizza cutter, cut into the shape of a Christmas tree (or if you aren’t doing this for Christmas, I would cut the sheets in half, length-wise making two pastries).

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  • With the remaining puff pastry sheet, cut two stars using a cookie cutter
  • Set one sheet aside, and cover one of the sheets with your cream cheese filling, leaving 1/2 inch or so along the eges

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  • Place the second sheet on top, and gently press/fold the edges creating a pocket for the topping, together then top with the egg wash
    *Note you can make smaller tarts with any remaining dough/filling/topping so you don’t waste!  You can also cut-out more stars, etc. to put on top of the tart to add to the presentation
  • Finally top the tart with the pear mixture.  Sprinkle some sugar/drizzle some honey over the tart (optional), and bake around 20 minutes on a parchment-lined cookie sheet until the tart is flaky and slightly browned.
  • Viola, you have a lovely Christmas tart!

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I adapted the tart to make it festive, but you could easily re-create our Christmas brunch for any winter occasion (menu below)!

  • Ham (a Christmas staple)
  • Mini Egg Quiches (similar to this recipe from Kitchen Snaps)
  • a Winter Fruit Salad (similar to this recipe from Bloglovin)
  • And of course the fixings for Bloody Mary’s and Mimosas!

I hope you enjoyed your holiday celebrations!

Megan

Hopper – Our 3-Legged Foster

As I mentioned in my last post, things have been a bit mental lately.  All good stuff, but Gopher Football, travel, the Alzheimer’s fundraiser, and a little thing called growing a baby – we’ve had our hands full!

Because of this we agreed (or more like Luke set the necessary boundary) that after Jammie we would wait to foster again after things slowed-down.  Essentially that meant after Thanksgiving.

I survived a few months of quickly scrolling over any sad or super cute pups on the Secondhand Hounds page, but then this I saw this:

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Quick sidebar, this screenshot is typical of “our process” – when I find dogs I’m obsessed with and want to foster, I send these photos to Luke and hope that he says yes!  Note I’m not trying to throw my husband under a bus, he keeps things manageable in our household and without him I probably would have 3 dogs, a million things going on, and would be going insane!

This dog stood out to me for three main reasons:

1.) She looks a bit like our dog, Stella
2.) Her leg was shot and had to be amputated..WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE
3.) She was on her way to MN that weekend and had no home

These things apparently stood out to Luke too, and his text response was literally “God Dammit Fine” despite knowing he would be alone with the dog about a week since I was going to be gone.  He is the best.

We picked June up last Friday and oh my goodness is she a cutie!  She is a little over a year old, and some sort of beagle, boxer, who knows mix (around 40 pounds I would guess).

 

She is super happy-go-lucky and rocks three legs!  She gets around extremely well and has some serious speed when her and Stella play chase!  She is also a huge cuddle bug, preferring to lay belly up like the photo above.

This video is a good example of her just fun, goofy personality:

 

No disrespect to the reality TV star, but the name “Momma June” was just too trashy for this fantastic little dog who has overcome so much in her short life.  So after getting to know her, we have been calling her Hopper 🙂

Hopper is staying with a temp foster while Luke and I are out of town, and when we get back we will check to make sure her ear infection is cleared-up and think she will be ready for adoption!

I’m Back, and with News!

So first I have to apologize – it has been ages since I have been on here!  I am going to chalk it up to Summer/Fall: 1; Megan: 0

But don’t worry, I haven’t been a complete sloth and do have some fun recipes/projects/pup-dates to share over the next couple of weeks as I get caught-up!

Before I do that though, Luke and I want to take a vote – which cheesy baby announcement is your favorite?!

This is part of the reason I’ve been M.I.A – there is a new pup joining the Fox family, and this time it isn’t a foster!  Baby Fox is due May 6, 2018 and we are thrilled (and a wee bit nervous in all honesty :))!

Without further ado, here is our Sunday morning attempt at some wonderfully cheesy baby announcements!

1.) We’re Prego

Don’t even need a sign, the jar says it all…and this baby loves carbs which makes it more fitting 🙂

2.) Official Baby Toy Tester

We can’t do a baby announcement without incorporating our OG miss Stella!  Even with the bribery of treats, she was a true model diva for this photo session.  These were the best we could get, and our new foster, June (or Hopper) as we call her, had to make an appearance too! (more to come on June in another post!)

3.) Stowaway

We are preparing for a trip to Europe, and this time I’m traveling with a little stowaway!  Baby Fox has been quite the little traveler – Chicago, Taiwan, and soon to be the UK and Amsterdam!

4.) Bun in the Oven

Takin’ it back old-school with the “bun in the oven” analogy 🙂

Which is your favorite?!