Happy Anniversary

Today Andrew and I celebrate our 9 year wedding anniversary so it seems there would be no better day than today to introduce this new site to you.  Formerly known as HeatherVreeland.com – a poorly tended to soapbox I used at various points in time to share random musings (mostly rants) – has been transformed into a shared space for Andrew and I to update our friends, family and circle of influence (whoever that may be) with what our real life is like being married and being in business together.  Welcome to our virtual reality show.  Just kidding.  No really.  IDK.

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I never gave the previous platform much attention because while I do love to write and am a natural “over-sharer” it always felt very unnatural to just be blogging by myself.  While I am very much the face of what we do at our company, I am in no way the only part of the engine that keeps our business running – yet people always think that this gig is all mine.  It’s not.

I am the optimistic, dreamer and doer.  I often describe Andrew as the weight to my bushel of balloons.  If it weren’t for him I’d be all over the place.  Over worked, inefficient and out of control and so would our business.

His perspective helps me focus my energies toward the most efficient workflows and effective area of growth for our business… and for the beginning 7 years of our business – he did all that while also managing thousands of air planes flying at 500 miles an hour.  Talk about a multi-tasker.

The core reason Occasions Media Group is what it is today is because, as Andrew once said, “My wife is a genius and I have a loose wallet.”  Pretty much.  I only began to think it was possible to start a business until I met Andrew.  When we were first married he supported whatever it was I wanted to do – be it start a family, find a job or start a company.  I chose the later and he asked how much was it going to cost – both financially and emotionally for a newly married couple – and then he bet both on my vision and alas here we are together, today.

It’s not all rainbows and unicorns like it sounds or may seem when you flip through the pages of our magazines or instagram feeds.  We’re not the perfect couple, but we try to live humbly in God’s perfect vision and plan for our life.   One thing we both wholeheartedly agree on is that there is a mass amount of transparency that is lacking in today’s online arena that misleads people to think that business, marriage and parenthood is easy.  So – you won’t find any of that here.  We’re all about keeping it real.

Photo by Zach Thomas of Monarch Studios

Stay tuned for more stories of struggle and triumph and probably potty training horror stories.

Happy Anniversary Andrew – we made it 9 years!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11.

I’m Fundraising for the Junior Service League of St. Augustine and the Alpha Omega Miracle Home

Sometimes you have to get outside of your bubble to get the best perspective on life.  Or at least that’s what I’ve heard. I personally find it very difficult to do this.  I’m a keep-my-nose-to-the-ground, spend all my hours at my computer, plugged in 24 hours a day type of business owner.  To a fault.

So, when we relocated our family to St. Augustine, FL and I became a mom, I told myself I would make more of an effort to say yes to more party invitations, say yes to more family time, say yes to building more relationships outside of my comfort zone – the offices of Occasions Media Group.  And as luck would have it, just as I was telling myself to be more of  a “yes woman,”  I was asked by the Junior Service League of St. Augustine to volunteer as a “candidate” for their annual gala.  So I said yes.

This year I’ve been asked to be a “Queen Candidate” to raise money on behalf of the Junior Service League and their charitable efforts each year.  In doing so, they asked me to pick a local charity that I will represent in my efforts and if I raise the most amount of money among all of the other queen candidates….. my charity of choice will be awarded $5,000 for my efforts.

I got this.

I have chosen to fundraise for the Junior Service League of St. Augustine on behalf of the Alpha Omega Miracle Home.  While the money I raise goes to the JSL’s bank of funds that are donated to the St. Augustine community, it is awareness and additional funds that my efforts will bring to the Alpha Omega Miracle Home.

Why did I choose the Alpha Omega Miracle Home?
My life was transformed the day I became a mother.  I had an amazing pregnancy experience, was showered with gifts from friends and family, had an amazing birth experience with the best midwife, doula and nursing staff, the most supportive husband a girtl could ask for, and had access to every convenience, technology and information resource a new mom could ask for.  While I was experiencing a surge of “happy mommy hormones” I couldn’t help but think of the many other mother’s who wouldn’t have it like me.  I thought of every women who has struggled with the choice of abortion.  Women who are on waiting lists for adoptions.  Mothers who were in unsafe home environments, victims of abuse, struggling to recover from past choices ….whatever the case… my heart was so heavy for these women and felt like I had to do something to help.

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I started to do research on organizations that help women in crisis pregnancy situations and mentor them by providing relief during their pregnancy and life as a new mom or educating them on the gift of adoption.  I found the Alpha Omega Miracle Home in St. Augustine, FL.

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What is the Alpha Omega Miracle Home?
AOMH provides transitional housing for homeless women and their children and permanent, supportive housing for senior women.

The organization was started by Lisa Franklin, a native of St. Augustine, who was once herself a pregnant teenager.  In choosing life at such a young age, she has seen her son grow to be a loving husband, father and community leader.  Because of her experience, she found herself called to mentor young mothers and support elderly women in a way that forms a surrogate family for the two.

Alpha Omega Miracle Home is a safety net for women and children that works to break the bondage of poverty, abuse and homelessness by responsibly sowing Godly love, compassion, and material resources. They are a hand up, not a hand out organization.  They address both the external issues of income and housing, as well as the root causes that have led to a family’s homelessness, in order to help single mothers become who they were created to be: productive members of the community. In addition, Alpha-Omega endeavors to honor the gifts and contributions of our senior residents while providing safe, affordable housing.

Below is a video about their efforts worth taking a few minutes to watch….

For more information on the Alpha Omega Miracle Home, visit their website here.

What does this all mean to you?
It’s fundraising time.  I am seeking corporate sponsorships for the Junior Service League Gala to be made in my name.   If you are seeking PR opportunities for your company that supports a worthy local cause, give you the benefits of a tax write off and tickets to the gala, I will happily hand deliver your donation to them.  😉

You can access a PDF outlining the efforts of the Junior Service League and the sponsorships levels at the dropbox link below.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/wun0m2ahi2sgptk/2015JSLGalaSponsorship.pdf?dl=0

Please let me know if you have any questions and what level participation you’d like to be involved in for this year’s event.

Thank you so much for your support and help to win the Alpha Omega Miracle Home $5,000.

Showing the Way

I recently came across this quote on Facebook that struck a nerve with me. A good one.

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. ~ J C Maxwell

It made me think of how I feel about this blog.  I started it with the intention of sharing marketing and business advice with friends and clients and not with the intention of being a blogger.  A money making blogger that is.  So, posting here gets put on the bottom of my to do list after I’ve tended to everything relative to what I DO make money at.

Then there’s the whole “perception” thing that comes with bloggers. Perfect perception that is. I’m a big believer that there is way too much emphasis on being the most stylish, most put together, and most successful person out there in the blogger hemisphere and I just do not have the time to keep up with that nor do I want to mislead my people to thinking this life of mine is so simply perfect.  It ain’t.

And don’t even get me started on the whole “but who really cares what Heather Vreeland has to say?” ever looming question I ask myself everyday.  There are A LOT of people claiming to be experts on the internet and whether they are just making noise or making a living….how is my experience/take any better/different?

But, I’ve found that as a result of being concerned if this is the best way to be spending my time, or are my pictures pretty enough for this blog, or is anyone even listening… my voice has become stifled.   Which is sad because I really like helping people and I really feel like I can help the most amount of people here.

So, when I read that quote this week I realized – that’s me.  A leader.  I know the way because I work it every single day.  I don’t proclaim to be an expert, but I AM experienced.  I go the way because that is what it takes to survive and be successful.  I’m not a millionaire, but I am making money.  And, because I know in my heart of hearts that sharing those two things can make all the difference in someone’s life who is just starting out….  I will show the way.  Okay maybe not the way.  But, my way.

Asher is 7 Months + Family Pictures… Finally

Words.  That’s typically the space filler I use when I begin to create a blog post as I add images in first.  Then I usually go back and fill in what I want those words to be.  But today I’m at a loss… what words are there in the English language, or any other language for that matter, that can precisely communicate with you the joy my heart feels being a wife, mom and putting family first.  None.

So…. pictures instead.  And how lovely they are.  As I type this Asher will be 7 months this week.  My heart.

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Our photos were taken by Wedding photographer, Debra Eby.  I met Debra while lunching with her, my friend and team member Serena and another talented photographer Emily A. a few weeks ago. We had actually all been at the opening of The Conservatorie in St. Augustine a week prior but didn’t realize it until we posted photos on Instagram.  So… to actually BE social (like… in person) and start meeting wedding vendors in Northeast Florida we scheduled a lunch date and now I have a family photographer for life.  Yay.

She took hundreds… here are some of my favorites.

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With all the amazing technology and crazy talented photographers out there today, every family should have the treasure of family photos like these.  Best investment I’ve made.  These beauties will be gracing our Christmas cards this year and nearly every wall in my house.

 

21 Must Have Baby Essentials for New Moms

Here we are and it’s already mid March.  Where does the time go?  I’m coming up on the three month mark as a new mom and I wanted to share some of my favorite baby products that I absolutely could not have lived without these past few weeks.  When I created my baby registry I didn’t have a clue where to start.  The lady at Babies R Us didn’t help either.  She said “just register for everything… you never know what you’ll need.”  Excessive much?  I think so.  I’ve always been one to keep it simple so that’s pretty much what I did while prepping for Asher.  And, I’m glad I did.  I picked products that I read about in baby magazines and heard about from friends and I can honestly say I would 100% recommend each and every one of these items below a million times over.  So, if you’re at a loss on where to begin your baby registry, I’ve outlined 21 must have baby essentials new moms need in the first few weeks and beyond. 

21 Baby Essentials for New Moms

1.  Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper.  The greatest invention for new moms everywhere.  This bassinet butts up against your bed so that baby is within “arm’s reach” of mommy at all times of the night.  I love it because I can see Asher whenever I open my eyes and I don’t even have to sit up to feed him at night.  If you only buy one thing, buy this.  I got mine at Buy Buy Baby.  Sidenote:  I discovered this product from a qtr page print ad they had in Fit Pregnancy magazine.  And people say print advertising is out.  Whatever. #printlives

2. City Select Stroller by Baby Jogger.  I am a stroller snob.  I had originally picked out the Uppa Baby and Stokke strollers but common sense got the best of me so I opted for a regular Graco Jogger stroller that I found online.  Once in the store and saw it in person I realized it was too heavy and cumbersome so I returned it and the salesguy at Buy Buy Baby recommended the City Select Stroller over all the brands they carry. And… they carry a lot.  This thing is the Mercedes-Benz of baby strollers.  It’s beautiful, rides so smoothly, has a minimalist color scheme (nothing too outrageous), easily converts to a 2-child stroller, and has the largest storage basket of the other comparable brands.  It’s not cheap at about $499 + extra $100 cost of the bassinet but it’s soooo worth it.

3. Brica Car Mirror.  Makes driving with baby much easier when I can see his smiling face staring back at me.  Comes in black and tan.

4.  Diaper Dekkor.  This diaper pal does it’s job… keeps the stink of diapers contained.

5.  Udder Covers Nursing Cover.  Great for nursing in public (NIP as the cool kids call it) with it’s neck strap and and sturdy neckline that make it easy to look down and see baby while feeding. Pretty much any nursing cover without a sturdy neckline is useless if you’re really trying to be discrete. But then again you know how I feel about the whole “discrete nursing thing”.. see here.

6.  Maxi Cosi Prezi Infant Car Seat.  The SOFTEST, most comfortable carseat on the planet.  Seriously.. just go into Buy Buy Baby and rub your hands on all the carseats in the store.  Nothing compares to how soft this thing is.  Asher loves it and mommy loves it because of it’s clean, simple design and basic color scheme.

7.  Seventh Generation Baby Wipes.  These are organic, fragrance free and super sturdy.  They are the thickest ones I’ve found and most importantly they do the job while being gentle on baby’s bottom.

8.  Changing Pad.  Save your back and your wallet buy buying one of these and putting it on your dresser to change baby.  I don’t think a changing table is necessary. If baby has a dresser… just pop this on top.  I use it multiple times a day.

9.  Baby Born Baby Sitter.  Probably the second most used item besids the co-sleeper.  This bouncy chair goes everywhere in our house.  It’s super lightweight, easy to clean and it bounces with baby’s movement.  Asher sits in this chair while I shower, while we cook in the kitchen, in my office, in the yard.. everywhere.  And it grows with baby.  Not cheap, but worth it in the long run.

10. Nasal Syringe.  No need to buy, the hospital will send you home with one. I use this every day.

11. Burp clothes.  You can never have too many.  I have burp clothes sitting on every chair and piece of furniture in my house.  They’re great for spitup and drool clean ups.

12.  Baby Aquafor.  Great to keep baby’s skin moisturized and protected at the first site of diaper rash.

13. Gas Relief Drops.  Otherwise known as miracle drops.  These magic little drops help to ease gas and move it along.  I keep a bottle in my purse and by our bed at all times.

14.  Swaddle blankets.  While I did not swaddle Asher (he hated it and I felt like swaddling made me miss his hunger cues)… these light weight blankets by Aden and Anais are soft and handy to have around.  They aren’t bulky so they roll up easily to stick on in the diaper bag, have on a chair, cover baby at night, etc.

15.  Lansinoh Lanolin Cream.  The only thing that keep my nipples moisturized and pain-free during the first few weeks of breastfeeding.  I’d say don’t try to go for the plant-based nipple creams either… they aren’t as thick and don’t work nearly as well as this stuff does.

16.  Baby Tub.  I’m not partial to this particular one… it’s the one we got, but any baby tub will due.

17.  Huggies Pure and Natural Diapers.  For moms looking for the best organic diapers… this was the best option I found.  I tried Honest Diapers but Asher got a rash as soon as I put them on… so I opted for these and they are wonderful!  Super soft, no fragrance and they hole a lot in!

18.  Sound Machine.  Sounds of the womb and white noise drown out distracting noises and help baby sleep!

19. Noodle and Boo Baby Bath Products.  If only you could bottle up the sweet smell of baby and sell it in an all natural lotion free of chemicals and parabans….. apparently you can.  Noodle and Boo Baby Bath Products are hands down the BEST baby lotion and baby wash on the planet.  Not only do I love the cute packaging (see sucker for pretty packaging in my bio), but the fragrance is soft and sweet and derived from all natural ingredients, and there are no harsh solvents, sulfates and parabens included.  People.. that Johnson and Johnson garbage they sell is full of preservatives!!!!  Opt for this stuff.. I even use it on me!  You can’t get it at the big box baby stores so buy online here.

20.  Lansinoh Disposable Nursing Pads.  Don’t let anyone tell you different.  Disposable nursing pads are the only thing that kept me dry when my girls were leaking like crazy. And yours will leak like crazy too.

21.  Motherhood Maternity Nursing Tank Tops. Pretty much the only thing I wear anymore these days.  And why? Because it’s convenient as all get out to upclip, whip it out and feed baby in an instant. They are great for momma’s mental state of well being because the ruching on the sides makes them fit great and they accentuate your assets that start showing back up when the baby weight comes off.  DO NOT buy the nursing tanks at Target.  You will feel like a friggin frumpy monkey.. they have no shape.  You can get them here.

The one thing I neglected to add here was a rocking chair.  That’s because you should NOT DO what I did and buy a rocking chair.  Biggest mistake.  Instead BUY A GLIDER.  We bought an expensive rocking chair from Pottery Barn and I hate that thing.  I finally broke down and ordered a new base from an upholstery supplier that makes it a stationery rocker and now I can handle it.   It’s ghetto as can be, but at least now I don’t rock into the wall every time I sit in it.

And there you have it.  Besides baby clothes, I can’t think of anything else I truly needed during the first 6 weeks of sweet Asher’s life.  This was it.  As he grows and his needs grow I add to our baby gear arsenal as needed.

Something I missed?  Mamas…. what products do you recommend to new moms that I haven’t listed here?