18 Weeks With Neda

Tuesday, January 14, 2020


Here we are. Nearly 18 weeks with our sweet babe. I can't believe we're here. Whistle and Flute sent us these matching tops before Neda was born, and I just couldn't picture a baby wearing it earth-side — would it be a boy or a girl? Would we wear them outside of the house? When would hers fit?

Then Neda came, but imagining this happy scene suddenly felt even more impossible. The beginning was so hard for us. I didn't think I'd be a fan of the newborn stage, but I didn't realize how difficult it would be for me. Neda and I have conquered a lot together the past 18 weeks — mastitis, colic, a serious case of the baby blues — and I know many tough days are still ahead. But, 18 weeks later (as my maternity leave comes to an end, of course), this is truly the best. I couldn't love being a mom more. I couldn't love her more. I couldn't be more grateful <3

Matching sweaters courtesy of Whistle and Flute. We love them so much! 

2019, A Year in Review

Monday, January 6, 2020


In every way, 2019 was the year of Neda. I found out I was pregnant on January 3, and it feels like every second of every day, every thought, every ounce of energy has been dedicated to her since. I don't see that ever changing (but I wouldn't be upset if we added more sleep into the mix ;) and I'm OK with that. She's truly our whole world, and we're so, so grateful for her. We're in awe of her, and holding her close and seeing the world through her eyes has been the best thing to ever happen to me. Looking back at this year, it's beautiful to see how she entered our lives, the village she had before she even got here and how much she's grown in a few short months! We couldn't love her more. 

I'm heading back to work in a few weeks, and between that, much more limited family time and freelancing here and there, I'm not sure how much time I'll have to dedicate to this space and what it will look like in 2020. But, I want to thank you so much for being here. Whether you've been reading for years or just stopped by, thank you for visiting my very little corner of the Internet <3 

These yearly photo roundups are my favorite :) I try to not take things for granted throughout the year, but every January, going through and reminiscing about so many wonderful moments, it's hard to not get emotional. I say it every year (year in review posts from 201820172016201520142013!) but I'm so grateful for this life. There are always lows, of course, but at the end of the day, this really is as good as it gets <3 

Happy Holidays! Custom Portrait Giveaway!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019


I can't believe it's almost 2020 (and what a year 2019 was!). We're heading to the suburbs this weekend to spend some time with our families, but before we go, I wanted to share this custom portrait Ashlyn of Lemon Milk Co graciously sent me! It's based off a photo we took on Thanksgiving — one of our first family photos. It's such a treasure and the cutest addition to Neda's nursery <3 Thank you, Ashlyn! 

Ashlyn is giving a Make the Most reader a free custom portrait! Check out my Instagram for details on how to enter :) Since it's a digital file, you don't have to be a U.S.-based participant for this giveaway. Yahoo! 

If you want to order from Ashlyn, message her on her Instagram account. 8x10 prints are $45, and digital portraits are $35. She's giving my followers $5 off, so let her know I sent you. She creates the portraits in less than 48 hours — the perfect last minute gift! She'll send you a draft to review, too, and can make any changes you request. I'm in awe of how quickly she turns these around!

And that's a wrap on 2019 around here!!! Thanks for visiting my corner of the Internet and sharing in all of our excitement this year. What a wonderful year. 

Snack Prep 101

Thursday, December 12, 2019


Before I went on maternity leave, a coworker told me a story about how she gained the most weight in her third pregnancy but lost it all almost instantly, in the worst way. Instead of taking care of herself once she came home from the hospital — exercising once cleared from the doctor, eating healthy and easing back to "normal"— she ate mostly only M&Ms that were in bowls around the house, and the pounds shed like crazy. Her mind was everywhere but on her own health, and she's still paying for it, she says. 

A notorious meal planner, I ate really well my whole pregnancy. I felt my best when I ate fresh foods, so I made fruits, vegetables and light meals a priority. I was in a great routine, and my mom stocked our fridge to the brim before Neda was born, so I was confident I'd stay on that path. I wasn't worried about losing the baby weight — it took nine months to put it on, I was going to give myself nine months to lose it. 


Then, Neda came. And life got much crazier than naive me was expecting. I was nursing around the clock. And when I wasn't, I was doing laundry, trying to squeeze in a quick shower or change the millionth diaper. I was exhausted, stressed and not hungry. I'd shove an Rx Bar in my mouth a few times a day (Brian called them my Kalteen bars), but other than that, feeding myself was the last thing on my list. So I, like my coworker, shed the pounds fast. Really fast. A few days after we were home, I weighed less than I did before Neda, and my poor skin, hair and breast milk supply was showing it more than anything else. 

Before I could correct anything myself, B and my mom stepped in and made little snack stations for me (B made sure the nursery always had a huge flask of water and a bowl of almonds, and I would inhale them during late night feedings). And I am so grateful. While life naturally got easier each week, I also got my energy back because I was actually eating again.


We're almost at week 13 now, and finally in a bit of a groove :) Sure, Neda's still not napping, I'm not brushing my teeth until the late afternoon and we rarely leave the house, BUT, I'm taking much better care of both of us. Every weekend, while Brian is home, I make several snacks and meals readily available and put them in these Ello containers. That way, I can just grab something without having to think about it during the day. Such a lifesaver. I'm so frazzled and lazy, that I even color coordinate the containers. For example, my mind knows that teal is vegetables, magenta is a charcuterie snack, so I know where to go for what I want. The containers are big, have tight lids and are made of glass, which is especially nice for lunches. If I have a hot meal in one, I reheat it in the microwave directly from the container and don't feel bad about heating plastic (which is the case with our decade-old Tupperware...). 

And B makes us morning coffee in these Ello travel mugs. At first I thought it was strange that he wasn't making mine in a mug (again, we aren't going anywhere...) but that's naive me again — he wants it to stay hot as possible since I usually don't get to it until the late morning, and these mugs do the trick :)


As hard as it would have been to, I wish I had prioritized my own health more in those early weeks. It took me too long to realize the importance of getting dressed every morning, and embarrassingly, even longer, the importance of my own nutrition (especially when someone else's body relies on mine). These days, meal prepping is back on the agenda and just as much of a priority as feeding Neda. Happy baby, happy mama, but also, happy mama, happy baby. And you need energy to be happy... and if you're not getting energy from sleep, you better get it from food ;)

(This post was sponsored by Ello. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Make the Most.)

Our Family's Christmas Card!

Monday, November 25, 2019


For me, one of the very best parts of the holiday season is sending and receiving holiday cards from friends and family near and far. As someone who loves photos and can't get enough of all things pictures, I especially love seeing cards with happy faces of loved ones (and their littles :). Getting the mail each day during this season is so much fun for me (... the only time of the year that rings true!), and I can't help but hang and display each card we receive in our kitchen. Thank you to all our friends and family for sending us one each winter! 



This year, I partnered with Basic Invite to make our family's Christmas card. They have a huge holiday photo card collection this season, it was tough to pick a favorite. We went with this one — I love the raised gold foil, and you can't tell in the photos, but I chose the luxe velvet paper, which is heavier than typical cards and feels so smooth. I'm also impressed with the photo printing — the images are so crisp!

We had the lovely Alicia Mayorca take some quick family photos a few weeks ago, and we love how they turned out! Since I couldn't choose just one photo (Neda realllly hammed it up for Alicia that morning), I made a collage in iPhoto, which I uploaded to Basic Invite. I can't recommend Alicia enough if you're looking for family photos in Chicago. She makes you feel so comfortable and captures everyone in their natural state  (a more put together natural state...). I texted her after she left that I consider her a mama friend and our resident family photographer (...whether she likes it or not)!



You can customize each card a number of ways — change the font, colors (180 to choose from!), move the text, change sizing and play with the image. There are dozens of ways to customize the back, too. And you can get a sample of your card before doing a full order, which is awesome for someone like me who's notorious for little spelling mistakes. At the hospital, the day after Neda was born, I accidentally spelled her name N-E-A-D-A to the social security people ordering her card! Oops.

There are also 40 different envelopes to choose from, and you can customize those, too. Basic Invite offers an address capturing service that allows you to share a link on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other social media to request friends and family's addresses. They also offer recipient address printing at no cost on all card orders.



I always order a few extra to store as a keepsake, and this year's card feels super special... so maybe I ordered a dozen extra, I don't know ;) I just love how they turned out! Looking forward to busting out the Christmas tunes, finishing stamping and stuffing these cards and getting them out ASAP. And so excited to see everyone else's across on our fridge <3

P.S. Basic Invite is offering readers 15% off with code 15FF51.

(This post was sponsored by Basic Invite. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Make the Most.)

Seven Weeks with Neda Maliheh Hayes

Thursday, October 31, 2019


Seven weeks (on Saturday ;). Seven hard, beautiful, life-changing weeks. Seven weeks full of so many emotions, so many ups and downs, so much love. And so many tears. Oh so, so many tears. I have learned so many things the past seven weeks as I've become a mother. I've learned a lot about babies. I've learned a lot about my own specific baby girl, and her signals and signs. I've learned it's OK to let other people help you — even if you think you can do it all on your own. I've learned a lot about myself, too — and how to function on little sleep, type with one hand and get the hardest of stains out of the littlest clothes. I've learned how to bounce a fussy baby to sleep with one arm while making dinner with the other. I've learned how to let some things go and just sit beside my baby and take it all in. I've learned a whole lot about love, too.

The Baby is Here!

Monday, September 23, 2019


We are so thrilled to introduce our sweet, sweet little girl (a girl!), Neda Maliheh Hayes. She was born on Saturday, September 14 at 2:03am (my brother’s birthday!) after an exciting and relatively quick labor. Her middle name is my late grandmother's first name, which makes her even more special to me. Can’t wait to share more over the next few months. She has the loveliest demeanor and is absolutely perfect. We are over the moon and exhausted, as to be expected:) Lots of love and thank you again for all the well wishes! xoxo

Bits and Pieces

Monday, September 2, 2019

I said I was signing off in my latest post, but here I am, still pregnant, terribly anxious, doing whatever I can to pass the time and ease my mind, which today is backing up photos from my phone and washing the shower curtain. It's been a glamorous few weeks around here, ha. I'm trying my best to enjoy these last few slow days, but my nerves are getting the best of me and the uncertainty of the days ahead are hard for me to sit with. I just have to keep reminding myself of how lucky I am to be in this space and how my most exciting chapter is so close <3







Our Neutral Nursery

Thursday, August 22, 2019


When I first found out I was pregnant, I was really overwhelmed by the prospect of putting together a registry and nursery. I avoided it for months and months, refusing to "nest" well into my third trimester. I thought that if we were prepared, baby would somehow know and feel welcomed to come early, but if I ignored it all, I'd buy us some time (you're right, that makes no sense). But when the potential of an early delivery surprised us a few weeks ago, I decided it was time to roll up our sleeves and get started that next weekend...


Since we only have two bedrooms, one of our priorities was to keep a double bed in that room, for guests in the future and for us in case we need it after transitioning the baby from our room to his or hers after a few months. We kept the same bed and West Elm bedding we had in our guest room, but we added a new headboard to spruce things up.


We went back and forth on whether to get a glider, but we ultimately decided to wait and see if it's necessary. Instead, we're using a comfy armchair that used to be in our living room with this Moroccan pouf I'd wanted for years but had no reason to get until now.


As with everything for this baby, I've wanted to meld our two cultures as much as possible (the boy name we have picked out is equally Irish and Persian, and I love the meaning in both languages... I wonder if we'll get to use it!), and I adore this print from an Irish artist, which we had framed by our friends at Framed and Matted. The print says "Animals come in many shapes, sizes and colours. They can't speak to us, though that's no reason not to be nice to them." I hope Mooshi understands the underlying social justice issues we're referencing there ;)


We've tried to keep things as neutral and simple as possible. I know that once I know the sex and meet our babe I'll go overboard and fill this room with too many things, but for now I'm loving how calm the space feels. I also like that so many pieces will last us a long time. Like this beautiful neutral crib, which can be used as a toddler bed, our beloved first Persian rug and bookshelves that Brian made — filled with books from dear family and friends. I didn't want the room to feel too baby, I want it to be a space that can keep its character but grow with our family.


My favorite thing in this room is the personal touches. I love that Brian made the shelves, a sweet mouse print (Mooshi means mouse in Farsi ;) illustrated by my best friend's mom, a fox stuffed animal knitted by Brian's aunt (she also made us the most darling sweater), a quilt that was embroidered by a close family friend, a blanket from another friend's mom, my friend Kate crocheted us the cutest mouse lovie. So many people care for our little Moosh, and I plan on keeping these treasures for decades and decades. The most important thing in our lives are the people that are in them, and I'm humbled and glad to see that every time I'm in this room.


Since I'll likely be signing off on here for a bit, I wanted to say thank you for all of your kind words, support, encouraging comments and the general love you’ve shown throughout my pregnancy. The past nine months have been so surreal and the fact that our baby is almost here feels like a dream. I can’t wait to share this next chapter of my life with all of you!

Other products, in case you're wondering ;)


(This post was sponsored by Wayfair, which gifted us our pouf and crib. We also received complimentary framing from Framed & Matted. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Make the Most.)

Is Mooshi a Boy or Girl? Testing 12 Old Wives' Tales

Tuesday, August 20, 2019


37 weeks! Term! We made it!!! I've begged our little babe to stay cooking every day for the past three weeks (when early labor signs sent us to the hospital), but anything goes now (that doesn't mean I'm ready, though...)! Brian joked that if we did make it to 37 weeks, I'd get greedy and plead for something new — September, baby! Just make it through Labor Day weekend, baby! So true :) My dad flew to Munich on Saturday, and I'd really appreciate it if Moosh stay put until he's back.

I mentioned in my third trimester post that we chose to not find out the baby's sex, and it's driving me crazy. Of course it doesn't matter either way, but I've been on pins and needles wanting to know! I'm an extremely anxious person, not at all patient and a gossip by nature (don't bother telling me a secret), so this is truly torture. So many times Brian told me to find out and end my misery, but each time I'd think "I've made it this far..." and he's stayed firm on not wanting to know. I couldn't possibly keep it in if I did and he didn't!

I feel like I've put every old wives' tale to the test the past nine months, and B's coworkers suggested this blog post so we have the prediction in writing. When the pregnancy test said positive at four weeks, we both instantly thought it was a girl; something in our hearts was just so sure, same with the names we quickly picked. Everything just felt right. Brian has stuck to his prediction since (and a September 8 birthday), but I've switched almost daily. Our families are split down the middle, and at each of our baby showers, guests were 50/50, too! But strangers on the street (who have loved screaming their predictions for months) and sweet random grandmas who ask a lot of questions and ask for a lot of views always guess boy. What's in there?!?!

According to much research scouted from around the Internet (so they must be true ;) here's what we're having...

1. Sweet versus salty cravings: They say if you find yourself craving all things sweet, that’s a sign you’re having a girl. Cravings for salty or protein-rich foods mean it might be a boy.
I haven't really had any cravings! In general, I've just wanted light, cold foods (like hard-boiled eggs and blueberries) because anything too rich leaves me feeling even more heavy. But, I have found myself inhaling brownies by the batch on several occasions, so let's say girl

2. The garlic test: If you’re able to eat a lot of garlic but not smell like it, apparently that means you’re carrying a girl.
Boy, then. Up until recently I was working out often, and I could always smell the garlic oozing out of me after a big Italian dinner. Yep, gross. 

3. Morning sickness: If you’re suffering from excessive nausea and morning sickness, it’s said you could be having a girl.
Boy. I've been very, very lucky to have an easy pregnancy in that regard. I didn't experience nausea or vomiting and always had my appetite. I was worried little things like a coworker's lunch or perfume would bother me, but it was smooth sailing. 

4. Pregnancy glow, or no: From the source: if your complexion is bright and your hair resembles that of a Pantene commercial, you could be having a boy. If that much-talked-about “pregnancy glow” is MIA and you’re breaking out, it may just mean you’ve got a girl growing.
While I don't feel like I'm glowing, my skin has cleared up, and my hair has been amazing. I'm scared of what's to come, but for now I've been loving how thick and strong my once thinning, frizzy dry hair is (even Brian has been like "dang, girl!"). So, boy

5. Partner’s weight gain: If your partner is gaining weight alongside you (also known as “sympathy weight”), that could be a sign that you’re carrying a girl.
Brian just doesn't gain weight. Ugh. Boy.

6. Moody versus mellow: If you’re feeling more moody than mellow, you might be having a girl. If you’re more chilled out, legend has it you should get ready for a boy.
Brian mentioned this in our wedding anniversary post, but I was so calm when I first found out I was pregnant. Strangely so, everyone around us was surprised. As someone who's always worried about something, I was so at ease with everything and just wanted to soak it all in. The tides have definitely changed since, but since I started on such a high note, I'm going to say boy.

7. The eye test: Look in the mirror for about a minute. If your pupils are dilating, it means you’re having a boy.
Umm, girl. 

8. Carrying high versus low: According to pregnancy lore, carrying high means you’re having a girl, while carrying low means it’s a boy.
I've thought I've been carrying low from the start, and now that the baby is dropping, I feel like it's super low. I keep asking the doctors if it looks OK to them ("Doesn't it feel like it could be at my knees soon?" was my latest concern), but they seem to think it's right where it should be... boy.

9. The ring test: Tie a ring on a string and hang it over your belly. If it swings in a circular motion, you could be having a girl, but if it’s swinging side to side, it means you’re having a boy.
Brian had our friend Angie do this on me on vacation a few weeks ago and shared it on his Instagram! Consensus: girl

10. Heart rate: During your ultrasound, pay attention to baby’s heart rate. If that little ticker is beating faster than 140 beats per minute, get ready for a girl.
This has fluctuated with every appointment (150-135 bpm), but at our hospital stay, it was high, consistently above 150. And the first time we heard it it was 150, too. So, I'm going to go with girl.

11. Chinese gender chart: Place one finger on the age you were when you conceived and another finger on the month of conception. Where your fingers meet in the middle will tell you if you’re expecting a little boy or girl.
Boy!

12.  The key test: Ask the pregnant mom to pick up a key. If she picks the key up by the narrow end, it’s a girl. If she picks up the key by the rounded top, it’s a boy.
Someone asked me to do this, and I was so confused at the time. But, girl!



Bonus,  a random one I didn't test out: Salt test: In Romania, they sprinkle salt over a pregnant woman without her knowledge, and wait to see if she rubs under her nose or her lower lip first. If she brushes her nose, it’s a girl. If she rubs her lower lip, it’s a boy.

So, what's our conclusion? 7/12... boy! We'll see! Stay tuned! Any day now... eek!


P.S. A quick test if you're interested :) This one leads to boy for me, too.

Answer yes or no…
1. Have you been craving sweet (not salty) foods?
2. Did you have lots of morning sickness?
3. Are you extra moody?
4. Is your face rounder than usual?
5. Are your hands soft, versus drier than usual?
6. Did the man initiate sex at the time of conception?
7. Is your right breast larger than your left breast during pregnancy?
8. Are you graceful during pregnancy, versus clumsy?
9. Is your belly low versus high?

More yes answers = It’s a girl!
More no answers = It’s a boy!