Tips on Traveling with an Infant

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disclaimer: I was provided the Dockatot Grand and Travel Bag in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own.

Wondering how to travel with a baby? It doesn’t have to be as scary as it seems. I would encourage any family wanting to travel to definitely do so, and to start young. We took Leo on our first family (car) trip up north at 3 weeks, first international trip to Mexico at 8 weeks, and to Nashville at 6 months.

Many of our friends and coworkers couldn’t believe we weren’t going to curb our travel once we became parents, but it is truly a passion of ours and we never want to stop exploring or going on adventures together. We want to show Leo the world!

Here’s a few tips and pieces of information for anyone traveling with an infant.

1. Getting a Passport
Infant/Child passports are good for 5 years. Birth certificates are made available to the State within 3 weeks of birth. Both parents will need to be present when applying for a passport, and it must be done in person. You can check online using your zip code to see what office is closest to you. Normal processing time is 4-6 weeks. We expedited ours for an additional $60, and it arrived in about 10 days.
*Try to print a picture beforehand. The size is 2×3, which is NOT the same as “wallet size.” Learned that one the hard way…*

2.Planning Flight Travel
An infant up to 2 years of age can be considered a “lap child/child in arms” and you do not need to purchase an additional ticket for them. After purchasing an (international) ticket for yourself, contact your travel agent or the airline and let them know about your child and they will add them to the flight. For international flights, you will need to pay the international fee and taxes for the baby, even if they are considered a lap child. (For Mexico, this was about $18 each way.) For domestic travel, the check-in counter can add them to your flight ticket and it will print with your boarding pass. *Be sure to bring the baby’s passport for international travel and either passport or birth certificate for domestic travel.*

When you check-in for your flight, ask the airline if the flight is full. If it is not, you will be able to bring your carseat on the flight with you (placed rear-facing, in a window seat.) Make sure you have the FAA sticker that approves it for flight. Some flight attendants may ask to verify.

3. Navigating the Airport
Bring your stroller and car seat for FREE! Both these items, as well as your pump, and diaper bag all qualify as “courtesy items” and will not be charged as a carry-on or checked item. If you are traveling with breast milk, this is considered “liquid medication” and does not have to be stored in 3oz sizes-it can be more. Pack in a cooler with ice and go through security-they’ll likely scan it with a laser to make sure its just milk.

When we’re traveling with Leo, we keep him in his stroller until we get to the gate. We also bring our Ergo360 for transporting him-this is handy walking through the airport if he wants to be held, or if the flight is full and we aren’t able to bring our carseat on.
When you get to the gate agent, ask for the tags that say “gate check” Put your stroller (and carseat if the flight is full) in your gate check bags, and put the gate check tag on each bag. This way, the ground crew will bring your stroller and carseat back up to the ramp as you deplane.

My biggest tip in-flght would be to feed your baby at take-off and landing. This will help their sensitive ears adjust to the rapidly changing pressure in the cabin. Other than that, kids will be kids and you can only plan and pray so much that it will go well. You could try introducing a new toy, packing snacks, or trying to plan your flight during nap time. We’ve been very fortunate that Leo has been a happy, sleepy, curious traveler so far.

Don’t leave home without….
Dockatot
For those that follow my blog or instagram, you know how much I LOVE our Dockatot! This is the #1 thing I recommend to all expecting parents. We bring it with us everywhere. Its great for tummy time, play time (look how cute the new play bar is!), sleepy time, and all the times in between. Who wouldn’t want to travel with their own bed? Its comfy and familiar. The geniuses at Dockatot just came out with a travel bag that makes it so easy. The travel bag is available in both the Deluxe Size (perfect as a carry-on) or the Grand Size (needs to be checked.) I pack all of Leo’s diapers, clothes, and necessities for the week in the bag as well.
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Have any questions on the Dockatot, what to pack, or traveling with a baby? I’d love to help! email: emeraldandoakblog@gmail.com

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City Guide: Nashville

nashWelcome to the south, y’all!

We headed to Nashville for a quick getaway over Memorial Day Weekend. We’ve had Nashville on our minds for a number of reasons and decided it was time to check out the neighborhoods and experience downtown already. We were not disappointed by this southern city! I’m a city girl and Cody is a southern country boy, and Nashville is the perfect mix of both.

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There’s live music everywhere, from Broadway Honky Tonks to the Grand Old Opry, even stages on street corners and bands playing in the airport terminal as you deplane.

We loved the food! From the sweet tea given as you enter Reese Witherspoon’s boutique, Draper James, to the incredible burger scene at Burgerup and The Pharmacy, amazing brunch at Pinewood Social and Flipside, and of course, hot chicken and classic meat and three barbecue.

The city is surprisingly familiar feeling, and I found it easy to get my directional bearings right away. It feels both accessible and approachable. We loved exploring the neighborhoods of East Nashville and especially 12South, and spent a lot of time downtown by Broadway and The Gulch.

If you’re seeing Nasvhille in 3 days, here’s what we’d recommend:
Nashville Eats:
The Pharmacy (East Nashville) Amazing burgers, German beers, and one hell of a courtyard to sit in. Too busy? Walk across the street to Mas Tacos.
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Pinewood Social (Downtown, walkable to Broadway and the Pedestrian Bridge.) This is a warehouse converted into your ultimate hangout-brunch, bowling, bocce ball, TVs, Soaking pools, chairs for laying out, and even an outdoor Airstream bar for ordering poolside.
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Hattie B’s hot chicken, hot line…order ahead or go early.
Flipside (12South) Don’t even order brunch. Just order the $25 Bloody Mary. You won’t be disappointed. or hungry.
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bartaco (12South) Tacos in a fun indoor/outdoor nautical feeling setting. This place draws a crowd and has some killer food and drinks.
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Biscuit Love (Gulch) order at the counter style brunch, easy and fast and equally delicious.
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Jeni’s (12South) a must stop for the best ice cream you’ll ever have.
Five Daughters Bakery (12 South)
Jack’s BBQ (Broadway) If you’ve had too much to drink at the honky tonks on broadway, slip into Jack’s for some quick eats and get back to it.
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Explore Nashville:
Murals. These instagram-worthy murals are all over the city! The quintessential “I believe in Nashville” mural is located in the 12South neighborhood and the Wings are in The Gulch.
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Broadway. Broadway packs honky tonk after honky tonk in this six block area, and is known as the bachelorette mecca. They start to fill up at 10 am and most are open until 4 am.
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Pedestrian Bridge. The bridge is located downtown, just a few blocks from Broadway and Printer’s Alley, and is also a really easy walk from Pinewood Social. This bridge goes over the river and connects to the Tennessee Titans stadium. Great for taking pictures, getting fresh air, or having a picnic in the park afterward.
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Grand Ol Opry. This is a destination country fans surely don’t want to miss. We took the backstage tour and learned more about the birth of country music, how the Opry came to be, how it was rebuilt, and even toured the dressing rooms and got up on stage with the mic.
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Opryland Hotel. Connected to the Opry, and within walking distance to a huge shopping complex and everything kids may ever want to do, the hotel is massive and fun to explore.
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12South Neighborhood. Cute boutiques & awesome restaurants!
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If we had a week to spend in Nashville, we would have added in a few hikes and explored Franklin. We’re already excited to get back and experience more!

Have you been to Nashville? What are your must see’s and do’s?

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On Maternity Leave

I thought I’d accomplish more on maternity leave these past 10 weeks. I had high hopes of reading the books I’ve had on my list for months. I wanted to brush up on Greek and Roman mythology, a topic I haven’t delved into since high school Latin, but know would definitely come in handy during Jeopardy. I wanted to finally master calligraphy, which can be really tough and requires extra practice for a lefty like me. I wanted to learn about art history, specifically architectural and the building of Grand Rapids. I thought I’d cook more, and would have time to put together cute outfits. I thought I’d finally put pen to paper on no less than 25 blogs I’ve been meaning to write, and maybe even finally catalog all of our photos.

In reality, I kept renewing the same titles from the library until I ran out of renewals and had to return them.
I never practiced calligraphy or learned more about art and architectural history.
When we watch Jeopardy, I’m still just guessing.
We had take out often and most days my leggings and sweaters were covered in spit.
Those 25 blogs are still sitting in the draft folder.

And none of it matters. I wouldn’t trade the days of can’t-put-him-down cuddles, cluster feeds, and sleepless nights for any of the things on my wish list. I’ve learned to slow down my life these past few months and really truly cherish being in the moment. On the hard days, I’d remind myself: he’ll never be this little again, and I’ll never have this time again. I know the time, attention, affection, and love I’ve given my son are exactly what we both needed.

Today is my last day home with Leo. Tomorrow, I’ll go back to work full-time and Leo will go to daycare full-time. This is our new normal. We feel good great about the in-home daycare where he’ll be spending his days while we’re working. But transition doesn’t come without its challenges.

I’m excited to work, I love my job, and it’s the best decision for our family at this point in time. But leaving him will be hard and guilt comes easily.

We’ll walk into the house, go over the routine, meet his new friends and if I’m lucky, I’ll get to the highway before tearing up in my car. It’s hard to imagine not spending my days with him and missing out on some of his first moments. I’m anxious about how he’ll behave for others, if he’ll take the bottle from someone he’s just met, if he’ll get enough attention along with the other children, if he’ll get sick or hurt, and the list goes on. Even when you know you’re making the best decision for your family, it isn’t always easy.

When I was pregnant, someone voiced their opinion that “it would be hard to be a good mom and not stay at home.” Although I still can’t comprehend why some people feel their choice of lifestyle is the only option, I do know this: I am a damn good mom. And that’s not going to change whether I’m working or not.

There are undeniably awesome things that can come out of working. He’ll be immersed in another culture through daycare, and will hear other languages. He will meet friends and learn to play. He’ll be on a routine and know what to expect in his day. There are many things he’ll learn by seeing his mom work as well: a strong role model for work ethic, providing for a family, and the importance of education, commitment, and hard work. By working now, Cody and I hope to achieve flexibility in the future.

Family schedules and work commitments can vary widely from part time or full time work, one parent staying home exclusively, one or both parents working from home, etc. I’m sure there are pros and cons to each option, even when you know you’re making the best decision for your family.

So tomorrow it is.
And every day after that, at least for now.
Cheers to the moms that make it look easy, who manage and balance and shuffle and compromise.

And in case you need to hear it today too, whether you stay at home or work part-time or full time:

You’re a damn good mom.
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Mexico

Cody, Leo, and I just got back from our first international family trip! I’m still on maternity leave and we decided to make the best use of the time and take a trip now during the cold winter months. Leo absolutely loved being outside and was such a great traveler.

One of the visions for our family is to travel as much as possible and we want to share those experiences and sense of adventure with Leo, even at two months old.

We expedited a passport for him and booked a long weekend to Puerto Vallarta for an all-inclusive. (I promised Cody a relaxing, all-inclusive vacation after traipsing all over Europe for a few weeks last year.) It was great to sit in the sun, swim up to the bar, get massages on the beach, and not have to make any decisions. This was an easy first vacation with an infant as well because we had everything we needed at the family-friendly resort.

We were a little nervous about his first flight, but he was amazing! Leo fed at take-off and landing to help his ears adjust to the pressure, and during flight, slept in his carseat.

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Winter Wardrobe & Wood Watches

disclaimer: I was provided a JORD watch in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own.

As part of my New Year’s resolutions, I’m committed to making better use of my time. One way I know I can achieve this is by being on my phone less. I use my phone for everything-email, calendar, clock, etc. and I’m sure you do too. To help achieve my resolution, I’ve started using my notebook calendar for reminders and events and wearing a wristwatch instead of checking my phone for the time.
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I’ve never worn a wood watch before, but absolutely love the look and feel of this JORD watch. The Sandalwood style is slightly masculine and the contrast is really stunning when paired with a feminine look. The watch can easily change from casual to classy or day to night. This watch is handcrafted and high quality-perfect for pairing with luxe layers during the winter! It adds contrast and texture to any outfit.
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I was so impressed by the beautiful packaging my watch arrived in-an engraved wooden box-and immediately thought these wood watches would make a great gift idea. (Valentine’s Day is coming up after all!) JORD’s handcrafted watches can be sized to your wrist before shipping, the box can be engraved, and the watches come in all styles for men and women.

I’ve put together a few winter looks I love featuring my wood watch below.

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How would you style your wood watch? JORD Watches and I have teamed up to give one Emerald & Oak reader a $100 gift card to JORD! You can enter the contest here, open until 1/22/17.

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Wooden Wristwatch

 

Winter White

One of my favorite fashion trends for this time of year is winter white! Personally, I think this look can be tough to pull off if you live in the Midwest and are surrounded by piles of snow. The tendency around the Midwest and especially in Michigan is to wear all black in the wintertime, but its fun to mix it up with cream or white for winter too.

I wear a ton of white in the summer between dresses, pants, and blouses. White certainly looks better with sunkissed skin, rather than the ashy, dry time in January. But white can look really classy and beautiful in the winter too, especially when paired with gold jewelry and the right shoes or over the knee boots.

Here are a few of my favorite pieces for putting together a winter white look.

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1. White Scarf
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2. Oversized turtleneck
Comfy, warm, and right on trend.
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3. Skinny pants
For white pants in the winter, look for a nicer fabric and steer clear of distressed denim-leave that for the summer.
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4. Wool Jacket
This jacket is amazing! I love the structure and the color. It can be dressed up or down and the color is warm enough to not wash you out in the winter.
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5. Modern Blouse
Effortless and put together. This blouse can be dressed down with jeans or dressed up a number of ways.
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6. Studded Heel
These. are. amazing.
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7. Nude Suede Pump
I don’t even think I own a pair of black or brown pumps anymore. I wear tan/nude everywhere! This suede is a great fabric for the season, and the color will complement nicely with winter white and cream without being as stark as black or brown would be. If you’re wearing a sweaterdress or skinny pants, also try a gray over the knee boot!
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8. Crisscross Top
I’ve seen lace up and crisscross tops absolutely everywhere this season! This is an easy way to try the trend without investing a lot.
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9. Long Necklace
This necklace is so versatile!
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10. Camel Coat
I love the look of a white/cream pant and blouse or turtleneck with a camel coat over it. While white can easily make you look pale in the winter, a camel coat will warm your skin tone and contrast nicely to the blouse and pants.
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11. Sweater Dress
This sweater dress is season appropriate and would look great paired with gray over the knee boots.
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12. White Pants
These fit and flare jeans are 50% off!
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Milestone Cards

disclaimer: I was provided The Original Milestone Cards in exchange for review. All opinions are solely mine.

Time is already flying as a mom, just like everyone said it would! I can hardly believe Leo is already 7 weeks old. He’s got his passport, shots, and has grown out of his newborn clothes already. It was so sad to pack up all those cute onesies and newborn outfits so soon!
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I’d recommend a baby book to all parents! I want to remember all these cute moments and preserve them in a memory book for Leo to look back on as he is older. Milestone Baby is an excellent supplement to your baby book! These cute cards are an easy, cute, and fun way to photograph, sign, and celebrate the big moments for your little one. They include age cards like “Today, I am 2 weeks old” all the way to months and one year birthday. I think a cute idea is to sit your little one in the same chair next to a card each month and take a photograph. In the same chair or position each month, you can really start to see their growth over time!
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There are also really cute cards to celebrate all the firsts like first tooth, crawling, first time sleeping through the night (still waiting for that one…)

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You can sign and date the card and insert it into your baby book as a keepsake. Milestone Baby even has some FREE printables on their site to celebrate all the first holidays!

These cards would make an excellent baby shower gift or gift to take a new mom when you’re visiting.

How do you celebrate and commemorate all your little one’s special moments? I’d love to hear what traditions you’re starting for your family!

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