9 Places To Go Apple Picking Near Chicago

Hi, all! Happy Thursday! I hope you’ve had a great week so far. We’re taking my little nephew to a pumpkin patch this Sunday and I can’t wait. This will be our first fall activity of the season and just thinking about it makes me reminisce about some of my favorite fall activities that we enjoyed last year like apple picking.

Three years ago we started an apple picking tradition at Jonamac Orchard with our good friends the Meyers, but unfortunately the tradition couldn’t carry on this year because they moved out of state. I’m so sad they won’t be here this year, but you can read all about our apple picking tradition at Jonamac Orchard from two previous years here and here. I’m still hoping John and I will get the chance to go before the season is over since I’m a huge fan of their locally grown Pazazz apples and freshly baked warm apple donuts that are just oh-so tasty and delicious. Even if we don’t make it to our usual spot, there are several orchards and farms nearby to choose from. With that being said, I went ahead and compiled a list of 9 places to go apple picking near Chicago for all of my local readers and apple lovers.

  1. County Line Orchard: Hobart, IN (40 miles from Chicago); open August 28-October 31.
  2. Stade’s Farm and Market: McHenry, IL (50 miles from Chicago); apples, raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes and pumpkins available.
  3. Kuipers Family Farm: Maple Park, IL (55 miles from Chicago); open August 17 through October; apple orchard, pumpkin farm and Christmas trees.
  4. All Seasons Orchard: Woodstock, IL (65 miles from Chicago); open August 31 through November 2; apple orchard and pumpkin patch.
  5. Goebbert’s Pumpkin Patch and Apple Orchard: Pingree Grove, IL (50 miles from Chicago); open from Friday of Labor Day Weekend through October 31.
  6. Prairie Sky Orchard: Union, IL (60 miles from Chicago); they grow Asian Pears as well (John’s favorite); open Sept. 30-til available.
  7. Apple Holler: Sturtevant, WI (65 miles from Chicago); apples and peaches available.
  8. Honey Hill Orchard: Waterman, IL (65 miles from Chicago); no admission fee, straw maze and petting zoo.
  9. Jonamac Orchard: Malta, IL (70 miles from Chicago); corn maze, pumpkins, apple picking, apple cider and bakery.

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Best of Baby with Walmart

Happy Tuesday and happy fall y’all!! My favorite season of the year is finally here and now I’m just waiting for the weather to catch up. I can’t believe it’s already mid-September and I’m only two weeks away from third trimester! Eek. I’ve always loved this time of year and the next few months are going to fly by. Baby girl will be here before we know it.

Now that we’ve transitioned away from the summer months and into fall, September is always a great time to stock up on items like fall apparel, gadgets, home decor and baby items because of all the great deals and retailer events happening in-store and online. Walmart currently has their semi-annual event, Best of Baby month, happening now through the end of September with over 700 deals online and a handful of Rollbacks available in store. This is the perfect time for all of you soon-to-be mommas to stock up on all of the best baby essentials on the top brands and more since Walmart’s semi-annual baby event is like a mini Black Friday with similar or even better pricing. We just went to Walmart the other day and picked up a few necessities since we’re in the process of decorating baby C’s side of the room (our spare room was converted into my dressing room a while back so it’ll be half nursery, half closet). If you prefer to shop online, Walmart.com even offers next day and 2-day delivery and you can save on hundreds of items.

Some of my must-have items include the 4Mom High Chair with magnetic tray (marked down from $299.99 to $239.99), the Owlet Smart Sock 2 Baby Monitor (receive a $50 Walmart gift card with purchase), the Graco Modes Click Connect Stroller (marked down from $199.99 to $149.00), Tommee Tippee Pump & Go Complete Breast Milk Set (marked down to $39.99), Sealy 2-in-1 Natural Rest 2-Stage Crib and Toddler Mattress (currently $89), and the Evenflo Exersaucer Bounce and Learn (marked down to $44 from $59).

Shop my post below and if you missed my Walmart baby registry blog post from a few weeks ago, you can check it out here.

Thank you Walmart for sponsoring this post.

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Our Luau Gender Reveal Party

It’s a GIRL!!!

A sweet little girl is on the way!! She’s already loved so much and we can’t wait to meet her in a couple of months. Deep down I’ve always known that I’d love to have a little girl one day and I just always pictured John as a girl dad so it was a little extra special to learn that our first born is going to be a girl. Bring on all the frilly dresses and bows!!

We decided on a Hawaiian luau theme for the party as a fun way to say goodbye to summer and find out our baby’s gender surrounded by our closest friends and family members. My in-laws hosted the party at their house because they have the perfect backyard for throwing parties and my mother-in-law is a rock star organizer/party planner who did such a wonderful job putting everything together for us. She also put together our display bridal shower a few years ago which you can read about here and she’ll be hosting our baby shower this fall. I can’t wait.

We had our 20 week anatomy scan the week before the party which is a level two ultrasound that looks at the baby’s full anatomy to make sure everything looks normal, as well as the baby’s sex. We did not do any genetic testing early in the pregnancy which can also determine the baby’s sex as early as 11 weeks with a simple blood test so we really had no clue what was going on in there. Unless you’re carrying multiples or are having a difficult pregnancy, they only offer one ultrasound in each trimester so the last scan we had was back when I was only 9 weeks along. All we really cared about was that our baby was developing as she should and for a healthy pregnancy. All expectant parents will tell you that a healthy baby with all ten little fingers and ten toes is what they wish for and finding out the sex halfway through is just an added bonus. We let the tech know ahead of time that we did not want to know our baby’s gender so we closed our eyes while she snooped around and then she sealed an envelope with a sonogram photo with the words, “It’s a girl” typed across that she handed to my MIL after our appointment. I know. How did we not want to rip that envelope apart? Well, we like surprises and it was only another week so it wasn’t hard, plus my MIL is one of the most trustworthy people I know so it was a no-brainer that she would be able to keep this big secret from us.

We purchased some of our decor from Party City like the table skirts, door curtain, mine and John’s leis and some other miscellaneous items, and then my MIL ordered the majority of the supplies from Oriental Trading like the pink and blue leis for our guests, plates/napkins, a vinyl banner she hung on the gate, wine bottle labels, labels to put over the Hershey’s chocolate bars she handed out after the reveal that said, “Thank heaven for little girls,” as well as the pink smoke canisters we put inside the volcano. Her good friend’s granddaughter made our volcano with papier-mâché and put an empty tin can in the opening for the smoke canisters. My MIL had our cake made at Mariano’s and we ordered all the food from a local catering company that we’ve used for other parties, and then some friends brought a few appetizers. Her friend put together the pineapple palm tree center piece for the fruit plate below. You can view a tutorial similar to the one he used here.

Guests were able to choose pink or blue leis for the gender they thought the baby was and we held a raffle for our guests to enter by purchasing a ticket for $1 and putting it in a pink or blue bucket for the gender they thought we were having, and after the reveal, we pulled a name from the pink bucket and one winner took all the money from both buckets. Our friend Kasey won $196! Woohoo!!

Our gender reveal party was probably the best day of my life so far and a day I’ll always remember. I’m looking forward to showing baby C these photos one day.

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You can watch the video of the big reveal below.

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What’s On My Walmart Baby Registry

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Happy Friday, all! We have a three day weekend ahead of us and I’m really looking forward to getting together with family and friends for end of summer festivities. I always think of Labor Day weekend as the start of transitioning into fall (my favorite season).

If you’ve been following me on Instagram, then you probably saw that we found out the gender of baby C last weekend and we are having a GIRL!! We’re so excited and we can’t wait to meet her. I’ll be sharing photos from our Luau theme gender reveal party on the blog next week.

Now that we’re a little over half way there and know the gender, John and I can officially start planning and shopping for items we’re going to need for baby girl’s arrival. Thanks to Walmart and their new personalized baby registry, I’ve been able to put together a list of some newborn items that I’m going to be asking for and adding to my very own registry. This is my first go at this so any of you veteran mommies out there, please send me your suggestions and any must-have items you swear by. For any of you first-time, soon-to-be mommies like me, Walmart’s baby registry is a great place to start because they have so many items to choose from, including rockers/gliders, diapers, bottles and bottle warmers, strollers, bedding, breastfeeding starter sets and everything you’ll need to help you get through nursing (e.g. breast pumps, pump accessories, breast care, breast milk storage and breastfeeding support (e.g. pillows, nursing covers, etc.)). They also have a variety of cribs and bassinets to choose from, highchairs, clothes, car seats and so much more. The last time we set up a registry was for our wedding over five years ago, but it wasn’t nearly as fun since we already had everything we needed, plus baby items are so much cuter and way more fun to shop for!

You can shop all of my picks for newborn necessities that I put together through Walmart’s personal baby registry above or by clicking on the images below. Happy shopping! xo

Thank you Walmart for sponsoring this post.

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We’re Having a Baby!!

Can you guys believe it?! It still feels so surreal to write those words and say them out loud. We’re so grateful to all of you for the outpouring of love and well wishes we received on our big announcement on social media a few weeks ago and we can already tell how loved baby C is going to be when he or she makes their arrival in the new year. Our EDD is January 2, 2020. We truly couldn’t be happier or more excited for this next chapter and to be able to share it with our families and our closest friends. It’s been a long time coming!

To follow up on our baby announcement, I wanted to share a special blog post with our favorite photos from our photo shoot we did in Lake Geneva at the end of June (I was 13 weeks then), our pregnancy journey, why we waited so long to start a family, and how we found out, as well as touch on the loss we suffered with our first pregnancy in 2018. I know there are so many couples out there who have suffered a miscarriage(s), have babies up in heaven and have struggled with or are currently struggling with infertility so please know that our hearts go out to all of you. Just remember, you’re not alone and the road to parenthood is a very personal one. I think we all need to remember to be a little more cognizant and mindful before asking that next couple when they’re going to have a baby because you never know what someone has or is going through. Every pregnancy journey is unique and every couple has their own story to share.

With that being said, sit back and grab a cup of coffee (or tea) as I share our story and I apologize in advance for this somewhat lengthy post ahead.

Why We Waited

John and I are going on 14 years together in December so you can imagine how many times we’ve been asked, “When are you having a baby??” just as often as we used to get asked, “When are you getting married?!” 🙂 To give you some insight as to why we waited so long to start a family, the next paragraph gives a brief history on our almost 14 year long relationship.

Firstly, John and I met in our early 20s. I was 21, still in college and John was just about to turn 24. We were both so young and social butterflies who were very much into Chicago’s nightlife. It was something we both enjoyed doing before we met and something we enjoyed doing as a couple. At the time, we both still lived at home (John got his own place a few years later and I moved in about two years after that) and there was still so much we both wanted to experience before we settled down and started a family. Neither of us ever felt rushed to get married or have kids since we were already in a committed relationship and none of our friends were in serious relationships at the time, let alone married (we were one of the first couples in our group of friends to get married). We enjoyed going out, traveling and being selfish so marriage and starting a family just wasn’t a priority, but it was definitely something we both wanted one day. After six years of dating, we got engaged on New Year’s Eve 2012 followed by a two year engagement before finally tying the knot in 2014. We just celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary in May (you can read all about our destination wedding here).

For the longest time, John and I were very content with it being just the two of us up until a few years ago. To be completely honest, his “biological clock” started ticking before mine, but he never really voiced it until I started entertaining the idea of having a baby. My parents got divorced when I was really young and due to circumstances and a messy divorce, my birth mom wasn’t in my life for 20 years which I believe has a lot to do with why “motherhood” just wasn’t something I had always longed for. I always knew that I wanted to have a partner in life and get married, but I just never really saw myself as a mom. As I got older though and my friends started having babies, I realized motherhood was something I truly did want, but we just kept pushing it off due to “bad timing.” However, the birth of my nephew two years ago officially sealed the deal for me. I never realized how much joy and happiness a new baby could bring into one’s home or how much love I could have for this innocent little human.

Our Pregnancy Journey

I had been on birth control since my early 20s and so when we decided it was “time,” we just assumed it would take us longer to get pregnant and for my hormones to regulate on their own after being on birth control for so long. I was 33 when I stopped taking birth control in August of 2017. Much to our surprise, we fell pregnant just a couple of short months later and found out we were first expecting in December of 2017. We were completely shocked, surprised, nervous, happy, in awe and speechless since we technically didn’t “plan” it or think it was going to happen so quickly. My cycle had always been regular and like clockwork so I just knew when I was late that month that I was probably pregnant. I bought a pregnancy test on my way home from work and didn’t even tell John until I saw two faint lines which meant a positive pregnancy test. I called for John to come upstairs to look at the test and tell me what he saw. He was so confused as to what was happening because he had no clue that I even took a test so once the initial shock wore off, we just looked at one another, smiled and squeezed each other tight before I sent him back out to pick up a few more pregnancy tests to really confirm that we were pregnant. They all came back positive. As unexpected as it was, it was one of the best surprises we could’ve received.

We found out two weeks before Christmas so we decided to surprise our families on Christmas day with our big news. Both of our families had been begging us to give them grandkids for some time so we knew Christmas would be the perfect time to share the news with everyone. We wrapped up a pregnancy test for my parents and then we placed another test inside a baby stocking engraved with the initial “C” for John’s parents to open. It was such a special day and one we’ll always remember.

Our 2018 Miscarriage

Unfortunately, our joy was short lived because we miscarried at the end of January when I was nine weeks along. We found out at our nine week ultrasound that our baby had stopped developing a couple of weeks earlier, but my body hadn’t recognized the loss just yet. A few weeks prior at our six week ultrasound, we were told there was a good chance the baby would not survive because of its lower than normal heart rate of 92 BPM. A normal fetal heart rate at six weeks is between 120-160 BPM, increasing to around 170 BPM at its peak around ten weeks and then decreasing again to a steady rate between 110-160 BMP through the third trimester. Even though we were made aware of our impending miscarriage, we tried to stay hopeful and prayed for a miracle as we waited to see what would happen.

After learning that the baby had stopped developing at our nine week appointment, we were given the option of waiting for my body to miscarry naturally or having a D&C (dilation and curettage) procedure to remove the tissue from my uterus, but we decided to wait it out and let nature take its course. As if I couldn’t have wished or yelled it out any louder for this nightmare to finally be over, I started to miscarry later that evening. Ultimately, my miscarriage lasted a couple of weeks. Physically, it wasn’t painful and I’d say it was comparable to a two week long menstrual cycle; however, I ended up having an incomplete miscarriage which resulted in me having the D&C after all to expel the remaining tissue just a couple days shy of my 34th birthday in February. It was a long, drawn-out, and very sad process that lasted about four weeks from start to finish.

After our loss, we were both extremely heartbroken. Going from pure joy to heartache in a matter of weeks was a lot to take in and we just never imagined we’d go through something like that. I found comfort and peace having my friends and family there for us and hearing other couples’ stories about their own miscarriages (1 in 4 women suffer a miscarriage). I hope that in speaking out and sharing our story, we can break the stigma of miscarriage which is very often a silent and lonely grief. You’re not alone and there is nothing to be ashamed of. The single most common reason for an early miscarriage is due to a chromosomal abnormality and nature’s way of freeing your body of something that is incapable of survival or leading a normal life. You’ll never forget what you’ve gone through or the thought of “what could’ve been,” but I am here to tell you, it does get easier and there is always a rainbow at the end of the tunnel.

At the end of the day, we knew we were ready to start a family and it was something we really wanted. I believe that going through a loss like that has only made us stronger as a couple, more appreciative and extremely grateful for this new life growing inside of me.

Our Pregnancy Journey Continued

After our miscarriage I was told I shouldn’t have any problems getting pregnant again and to try as soon as we were ready, but we decided it would be best to not rush anything and when it’s meant to happen, it’ll happen.

I noticed a few months later that my cycles seemed to be getting shorter and lighter, but I didn’t think much of it. When fall came around, I was starting to get a little concerned as to why I wasn’t pregnant yet. In December 2018, I made an appointment with my OB to get some blood work done since at that point it had been a year since our first pregnancy. I had some basic blood work done including Cycle Day Three which measures various hormone levels that help determine if you’re ovulating as well as your ovarian reserve (egg supply). Everything came back normal except for my TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) levels which came back abnormally low, indicating I had too much thyroid hormone or hyperthyroidism. My OB didn’t seem too concerned about me not conceiving yet, but told me to get in touch with my primary care physician to get my thyroid looked at which she thought could’ve been contributing to us not conceiving and my lighter periods.

I’ve never had any thyroid issues in the past nor has anyone in my family. Ironically, within a week or so of getting my blood work done, I started to feel unwell and feel pain in my throat and have swelling around my neck. I scheduled an appointment with my primary care physician who sent me in for an ultrasound to look at my thyroid gland which showed severe inflammation. We had some blood work done to determine if I had a thyroid autoimmune disease which thankfully I did not, but it turned out that I had developed acute thyroiditis which is an attack or injury to your thyroid gland possibly caused by a viral or upper respiratory infection. Unfortunately, due to how severe my thyroid gland was infected, I ultimately developed long-term hypothyroidism which is a condition where your thyroid no longer produces enough thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and you need to take medication to help regulate it. Your thyroid gland plays a major role in how your body functions, including your metabolism, energy levels, mood and fertility.

Since “it will happen when it happens” was taking longer than expected and we were starting to get anxious about starting a family sooner than later, I decided to try an ovulation test with my next cycle to help determine my most fertile days. Ladies, if you’re trying to get pregnant, I highly recommend Clearblue Digital Ovulation Tests (the brand I used) because you’d be surprised at how short of a window you have to actually get pregnant and how off you might be on your ovulation days. I had been keeping track of my cycles for a year with my Iphone App, FLO, but the ovulation tests were more accurate. One month I ovulated just a couple of days after my cycle began and the following month I ovulated almost two weeks later. After getting my thyroid regulated and using ovulation tests for three months, we conceived again naturally. If you’re trying to conceive and want another option, I know a few women who have used the Ava Women bracelet which is a fertility tracker you wear at night that keeps track of your cycles. It’s more expensive, but it seems to be pretty popular and has helped many couples conceive.

How I Found Out

I briefly mentioned above that due to parents complicated divorce, my mother and I weren’t in contact for about 20 years. After my mother and I reconnected in 2009, I had gone back to visit her in Serbia a few times, but she had never come to the states. My mother was granted a Visitor visa last summer so I had suggested that she visit us in spring or summer of this year and ultimately we decided on mid-April so we can celebrate Serbian Orthodox Easter together. Serbian Easter is our holiest holiday and my mother is a big believer in the Orthodox Faith so I just thought it would be a special time for her to visit. She stayed with us from April 14 through April 29, and lo and behold, we learned that we were expecting during her first visit! How amazing is that?!

This photo was taken on 4/20/19, a week before I found out I was pregnant (three generations in this photo and we didn’t even know it). I love how there’s a rainbow over us which I believe signifies our rainbow baby.

I mentioned above that my cycles have always been on track and like clockwork which would typically last about 25 days. The week that my period was due in April, I just had this gut feeling, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up. There had been a few instances in previous months when I was hopeful that I could be pregnant after being a couple of days late, but then my period would come. Womp, womp.

By day 26 of my cycle, I still hadn’t seen any spotting which is usually a clear indicator for me that my period is coming. I didn’t want to get my hopes up so I was being patient and not trying to think about it. Day 27 came around and I was starting to feel more hopeful. By day 28, I should’ve definitely started spotting and so I thought to myself that if by Thursday (day 29) I don’t see anything, I could very well be pregnant. Thursday came around and still nothing. I took my mother to the Sky Deck in the city and to show her where I worked, but I was totally out of it all day and in my own little world. We went out to dinner that night and I said to myself, if the next morning I didn’t see any spotting, I would take a test. Friday came and there was still no spotting (five days after my missed period). It’s always best to wait at least five days to a week after your missed period for the most accurate results.

At that point, I allowed myself to get excited and found one unused pregnancy test in our linen closet. My mother and I were the only ones home that day so I decided to take the test while my mother was downstairs drinking her coffee. When it was time to look at the test, there was a very noticeable plus sign which meant I was pregnant! I was ecstatic and on cloud nine as I carried my positive pregnancy test downstairs with this big goofy grin on my face as I handed it to my mother and said, “Surprise!’ She took the test out of my hand as she just looked back at me and started crying. She said she just had this feeling I could be pregnant and was so unbelievably happy for us. I’m so thankful to have been able to share this once in a lifetime moment with her.

How I Surprised John

My mother was scheduled to leave the day after Easter and I was thinking to surprise John on our 5th wedding anniversary that Wednesday, but my mother insisted I surprise him while she was still in town to be able share the moment with him too. I’m so glad I told him when I did. All day Friday I was keeping this little (big) secret from John and on Saturday my mother and I went out to find leftover Easter decor so we can put together a little basket for John. I found some paper confetti eggs and wrote, “We’re EGG-specting Jan. 2020!” on the eggs with the pregnancy test hidden in the basket.

On Easter Sunday my mother and I had plans to go to church so we told John we would have coffee and breakfast with him before we left and that’s when I surprised him with the big news. I excused myself and said I was going to bring down the Easter basket I had for our nephew and told him I had one for him as well. I handed John his basket and sat back down as he just stared inside not really comprehending what he was looking at as I just sat there with the biggest grin on my face waiting for him to say something. When he finally read the words out loud and realized what was happening, we all got pretty emotional as my mother congratulated both of us on our exciting news. It was seriously the best surprise and I’m pretty certain that Easter Sunday will always be just a little extra special going forward.

Photography Credit: Taylor May Photography

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