Achieving My Greatness

Okay, so I’m nine years removed from my days of sitting in a lecture hall full of twenty-something’s with aspirations of being the next CEO of some Fortune 500 company. I’m also two years removed from my “I’m going to be a mommy!” moment, and two babies into this gig.

I’ve always had dreams of greatness. Ever since I was young, my parents instilled the value of hard work. If I worked hard in school, sports and whatever activities I participated in, I would be great. “Always try your best, never give up, and you can do it,” were things I heard from my mom and dad on a daily basis.

After practicing what my parents preached, I was able to achieve things I’d always hoped to achieve. Those dreams of greatness as a child, and later as a college graduate shifted once I became a mom. Time has had this funny way of continuing to put numbers between myself and what my dreams once were. It’s nearly impossible now for me to even think of the dreams I once had. Why, you ask? Because there’s a two-year-old in front of me who is constantly asking questions. (For those of you wondering, Gia is in the “why” phase of toddlerhood.) There’s always a face to wipe, a diaper to change, discipline to enforce and a night of sleep interrupted.

The idea or thought of being something great comes to mind on a regular basis, asking me to believe that it’s true: I wanted to be something great and now I’m just a mom.

It’s not that I don’t love motherhood, because I truly love it, even the hard parts. Outside of a few hundred shared photos on Instagram, does anyone really see my motherhood?

I feel like my destiny of becoming something great is in this role as mom. But can I still be great if no one sees me?

The answer is yes, because it is how I define greatness. I don’t let someone else define it for me.

After spending countless hours in study hall during my college years, and stressing over papers, mid-terms and finals, I wish I could tell my college self a thing or two.

The work I did then was important and it helped me to learn and grow. The work I do now is invaluable because I am truly making a difference. I’m mostly treading water, but there are three other people in my life who I get a chance to serve everyday. And when I really start to think about it, my greatness doesn’t lie in what jobs I’ve held or what titles I have. My greatness lies solely in how much of myself I give away to others, to my family. I wanted to be something great, and my husband and daughters give me the chance to do that every single day that I have them.

What’s Your “Why?”

Last Wednesday, during a walk, I listened to my second podcast ever. Yep, I’m late to the party. The only other podcast I’ve ever had the chance to listen to was Serial, which I highly recommend if you’re a fan of podcasts. Serial and the podcast I stumbled upon are completely different. The podcast I found talks mostly about motherhood, parenthood and all of the relationships that come with those roles. (I’m having a mental block on the name right now, but I’ll post it here at a later time!)

If I’m being honest, it felt so good to listen to because I felt like I was “hanging” out with someone like me, someone who understands the phase of life I’m currently engulfed in. Plus, it was just nice to hear adult voices instead of “baby shark radio,” although, admittedly, I love baby shark.

The podcast got my wheels turning and made me think in ways that I haven’t lately. It made me give real thought as to why I share on social media. Why do I share my kids (many people look down on parents who post photos of their kids), why do I share my ups and my downs, etc.?

Basically, what is my “why” for social media? Well, it’s a little bit of a long winded answer. Social media, especially Instagram and my blog is a platform for my tiny voice to be encouraging to others. It’s where I can express my creativity through writing or photography, since my normal daily life doesn’t allow for other forms of creativity and expression.

It’s also an escape. I know many people use social media as an escape. You can mindlessly scroll and checkout for a bit, or it can make you feel more connected to the outside world when you’re a stay at home mom, like me. For me, when using social media I feel more seen and known, but not in a way where I need attention or validation. I feel seen because I’m home alone much of the time. It’s my way of communicating and connecting with adults when I can’t do it physically. Does that make sense?

My value and worth are by no means measured through social media, comments, likes or followers. When people start to feel a hunger for validation through social media I think it’s time to pause, take a step back, and take a break from it to be loved by the “real” people in your life. I’ve done this on occasion and it’s a nice way to detox when you get caught up in scrolling for the wrong reasons.

I share the things I do because I have a genuine desire to. The things I share have meaning to me, and the Ashley you see on social media is the same Ashley you’ll see in real life.

Xo

A Different Kind Of Mom Bod

I’m supposed to say, I love my body. I made little humans. I really like the cellulite that showed up on my butt. Aren’t these the things I’m supposed to believe with all of the body positivity, motherhood vibes and girl power that I champion??

Postpartum feelings are confusing and after both of my pregnancies I haven’t felt how I thought I would. For the last three years or so I’ve given my body away in a pretty substantial way, by going through two pregnancies in a relatively short period of time. Truth be told, I still give my body away every single day. I nurse my almost three week old, I hoist my two year old into the car, I schlep the dog up the stairs, I wipe dirty little faces and I pick up an endless array of toys.

It might sound selfish (and it feels selfish) that I want my old body back. I know what you’re thinking – you’re thinking, “Ashley, you’re not even three weeks postpartum. Let yourself heal. Give it time. It took months to make those beautiful babies, so allow yourself to take the time to get back to where you were.” I get it. I agree, but it’s not that easy.

Seeing your postpartum body for the first time can be a pretty big shock. It’s hard (and amazing) for any woman to see such a huge transformation. Being that I recently shared with all of you that I had history with an eating disorder, it feels even harder seeing this change in my body, especially for the second time.

The good thing is that I’ve been through this all once before and I know what my body is capable of. I know I will lose the baby weight, regain my strength and feel like some semblance of myself again. I just hate the waiting game. It’s uncomfortable, but life can be uncomfortable.

While I was pregnant with Gialina I worked out 5-6 days per week, ate a balanced diet and treated myself when it felt right. With Viviana I did the same routine. The only difference that I can think of is that with Gia I stuck with more cardio based workouts, and with Vivi I continued my weight training with my cardio.

I gained 43 pounds with Gia and 40 with Vivi. The only reason I tell you this is because I’m a firm believer that your body is programmed to gain a certain amount of weight while pregnant, regardless of what you do. I did everything “right” through both of my pregnancies, yet I still beat myself up for not gaining the recommended 25-35 pounds.

Obviously those numbers can’t apply to everyone. The woman who is 5’2″ will very likely gain differently than the woman who is 6’0″. We aren’t the same and neither are any of our pregnancies.

Trust the process. This is my own reminder to myself to do just that. Sometimes when you put things out in the universe (like sharing vulnerabilities) good things happen. Healing happens. Support is given. People feel less alone. That’s my intention here. I’m reminding myself that I will get where I want to be soon and if you’re in a similar season in your life, you will too.

I’m sure you may have heard the saying, “people only show their highlight reel” through social media outlets. A friend of mine reminded me of this the other day, and it’s so true. Of course we are all quick to share the great things in our lives, but I find it just as important to share our bumps in the road or messy moments. We are all so much more alike than we realize. The moment we stop pretending that we are better than one another or comparing our highlight reels, is the moment we will all feel more connected.

 This is about my entire self, about all the parts of me – more than just getting my body back. It’s about the parts that existed before two little people filled my arms and my heart, and the parts that will continue to exist long after those people have fully grown.

Share your experiences – good and maybe not so good. I having a sneaking suspicion that someone else will reach out in appreciation, creating a ripple effect. Pass on kindness, pay it forward and if comfortable, share your truth.

Xo

My Old Friend, ED

For a long time I’ve kept a secret. I used to think this was the kind of secret that could never be told. I was ashamed to share it with others, but today I choose to share it because it just feels right.

Sadly, like many young women (and men too) I suffered in silence with an eating disorder. I’ve been wanting to share this on my blog since I started writing. One, it feels empowering to talk about it now because I can proudly tell you that I no longer have disordered eating habits. Second, I tell you this because I know people who have had eating disorders and maybe my story will encourage someone who hasn’t gotten help to reach out.

The thing about many eating disorders is that they make you chase an unattainable goal. Initially for me, my goal was to just be even healthier than I already was. At the time when my eating disorder manifested, I was in college and on a full softball scholarship.

My logic behind all of this was that I ate healthy and worked hard, so why not turn it up a notch? I told myself I’d eat even healthier and workout outside of my rigorous, daily softball workouts and practices.

I’ve always been athletic and in “good” shape, but as soon as I started to tweak my routine in this extreme way I started to lose weight. I’d be gone for a weekend softball tournament and after having three games in one day, I’d go back to our hotel and run on the treadmill. Meanwhile, my healthy eating became full blown restriction and starvation. I’d lose a few pounds in one weekend, and it wasn’t like it was just water weight. My body had no fuel and my muscles were basically eating themselves.

After months of doing this to myself, I knew it was wrong and I’d tell myself I’d stop once I saw a certain number on the scale. But, each time I’d hit my “goal” I’d create a new one in my head. That’s where the unattainable comes in. With the state I was in I was constantly depressed about my outward appearance and I was angry. I’d lash out at loved ones, but it was always unintentional. I was so, so unhappy and in a very dark place. I knew I needed help but I was beyond scared and didn’t know where to start. I was scared to gain weight and do what it took to get healthy again. I was scared to tell anyone the truth about what was going on and I was scared of losing more than I already had – and I’m not talking about losing weight. I’m talking about losing things that were important to me, like softball.

Ultimately, I was losing weight at a pace that was pretty dangerous. I was ordered by my doctor to no longer travel with my team and participate in practice or games. Talk about a crushing blow. At the time I felt like I was totally abandoned and forgotten by my coaches and teammates because I wasn’t present with them everyday, even though I was still a part of the team. I was so embarrassed that I had this huge part of me taken away. After all, my whole identity was wrapped up in being a softball player. It’s something that defined me since a very young age. To say I was having an identity crisis during this time would be putting it mildly.

Part of me wants to place the blame on someone else for all that I went through. I won’t go into detail about that here, but at the end of the day I did essentially do this to myself. I still have a very bittersweet taste in my mouth when I look back at some of my college years. Regardless of all that, I’d never change what happened because it has molded me into the woman I am today.

Without my eating disorder I wouldn’t have the outlook on health and mental wellbeing that I do now. I also probably wouldn’t be as mindful of my actions and habits. If there’s one thing that this disease (yes, it is a disease) has taught me, it’s that I NEVER want my daughters to measure their worth by a number on the scale or from their outside appearance. Although I think my girls are the most beautiful beings on the planet, it’s what is in their hearts that matters. If I’m not kind to myself, they will never know how to be kind to themselves, or others.

So for anyone out there suffering, whether it be from an eating disorder or any other terrible struggle – there’s a hope that’s waiting for you in the dark. If you don’t want to get better, do it for someone else who loves you. Asking for help was by far the hardest thing I did through my journey back to health. There were setbacks, countless tears shed, fights and loss, but today I am healthy in my mind and body.

Having a healthy mind after having an eating disorder is tricky though. Although I don’t act on my old ways of thinking, there are days where I do have negative self talk, just like anyone might. Recovering from an eating disorder is kind of like sobriety. There’s always temptations out there and that little devil on your shoulder can sometimes talk a little louder than the angel on the other shoulder. With that, you accept the challenges and push through to the best of your ability. At least that is always the goal.

There’s a lot more to my story, but I hope that this little glimpse into one of my most unhappy times can help someone else heal.

We are all worthy and we deserve to love ourselves! Sometimes we just need a reminder of that.

Xo

Tired Eyes & A Grateful Heart

As I write this I’m currently snuggled up on our big arm chair that is usually occupied by my husband. I have a loyal dog at my feet and a sweet smelling newborn asleep on my chest. Gia is napping in her room down the hall and Craig is out on a run.

I sit here with a full heart and tired eyes and know that there will be many challenging days ahead as we continue to navigate the ebb and flow of parenthood. For some reason, becoming a mom for the second time has relaxed me. I’ve heard that is usually the case, as this isn’t my first rodeo. But, do any parents really know what they’re doing? No. We are all just trying to do what’s best for our children and sometimes that means making some mistakes along the way.

The most difficult thing about having a two-week old and a two-year old isn’t the sleepless nights and breastfeeding. Albeit, those things are certainly a challenge! For me, what’s most difficult is letting go of my big girl Gia. I have had to surrender my position as her number one caregiver because I have a hungry newborn and a husband with seemingly useless nipples. Seriously though – accepting that I physically cannot do what I did for Gia the way I could before Vivi came is so, so hard. This part is temporary, but that’s hard for me to remember.

Even though we are in the very early stages of figuring out how to balance and adjust to the addition of our newest family member, I cry often about missing my Gia. I can’t be the one to always make her meals, I can’t always get her dressed, I can’t always play with her the second she might want me to, etc. If I’m being completely honest, it’s heart wrenching and scary, but again, temporary.

I know this phase we are all in is just that, a phase. It doesn’t make it easy though. I think that Gia understands and sees that the baby is on me often because I’m obviously feeding her all the time. She sees that I have her and automatically realizes that if she needs or wants something then she should go to daddy. It’s great that she’s figured that out, but there’s a part of me longing for her to do that with me instead.

Craig will be heading back to work in a week, which will be interesting on many levels. I’m very nervous about the thought of holding down the fort all by myself. The thing is, I have so much help nearby if I need it. I just want to be able to figure out how to manage this mom of two thing on my own and with as little delay as possible. It will take time though, and I will ask for help when I need it because there’s no sense in making it harder on myself than necessary.

One thing I am eternally thankful for is Gia’s continued positive reaction to being a big sister. In no way has she lashed out or directed any anger or frustration towards her new sister. She has had her moments of frustration with other normal toddler things, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary.

It’s just amazing to me how this time around, I’m so much more confident in my abilities as a mom. I’m able to trust my gut more and worry less. I’m sure a lot of my relief is directly related to being able to successfully breastfeed. I’m not sure how long my breastfeeding journey will be, but for right now I’m so proud of myself for being proactive in getting it right.

I had such severe mastitis with Gia that it derailed my breastfeeding plans with her. Along with dealing with the physical challenges of mastitis, there was also the guilt and shame I felt for not being able to breastfeed Gia the way I wanted to. As so many people say, fed is best, and as a mom I needed to have my sanity to be the best version of myself for Gia.

The bottom line is, being a new mom is tough business, but the most rewarding thing. I feel like I’m slowing down and really savoring the newborn stage because I now have first hand experience with just how quickly it passes.

Regardless of how much chaos Craig and I are facing and will face in the future, we constantly remind ourselves how others fight so hard to have what we have. We are blessed beyond measure because we have two healthy, beautiful little girls who light up our world.

I’ve never known my purpose until having my children. Motherhood is the best thing to have ever happened to me and I’m so grateful for everything that comes with it.

Xo

A Birth Story: Viviana Noelle

Last weekend something pretty amazing happened – we became parents for the second time. We are beyond blessed to have a healthy, beautiful new little girl in our family.

Our sweet new addition, Viviana Noelle, came into this world 12 days earlier than predicted, with the same ferocity as her big sister, Gia.

Before I dive into the details of how Vivi decided to make her entrance, let me tell you about the days leading up to her birth.

For me, all of my prenatal appointments have a certain excitement about them. This was certainly the case for my 37 week check up.

I had been looking forward to this particular appointment because I wanted to discuss a “plan of action” for the coming weeks. My reasoning for this was because I had an unusually rapid labor with Gia. So you could imagine how I wanted to be prepared for an even quicker labor, and possibly earlier arrival for Viv.

My doctor basically told me that I needed to be ready to go the second I felt the tiniest twinge. To my surprise, I was already 2cm and 50% effaced at that appointment. That could mean no baby for weeks, or it could mean any day. Knowing how I was progressing made the anticipation that much worse. I was also taken aback when the doctor told me she’d see me in two weeks, for what would be my 39 week appointment.

I was a little bit disappointed that I wasn’t going in before then because again, I wanted to know how my body was progressing. I just reminded myself that it didn’t matter and my body would let me know when it was time, appointment or not.

Needless to say, after my 37 week appointment, birth was the only thing on my mind. I did my best to stay present and really enjoy my days with just Gia. Thinking about how my world was about to be turned upside down (in the best way possible) made me stay more in the moment.

As the next week crept along, I continued my usual routines. Gia and I would go to the gym together while Craig was at work. I didn’t do much else outside of town, for fear of going into labor too far from the hospital.

On Thursday, September 20th I started to feel regular contractions. After letting them continue for a few hours I thought it wise to just call labor and delivery to tell them what was going on with me. They knew by looking up my chart that I had a history of precipitous labor and advised me to come in and get looked at.

I sent Gia with my mom and dad, called Craig at work and told him to meet me at the hospital when he was off in 30 minutes. I have to say, walking into the hospital alone, wondering if this was it was a bizarre feeling.

I stayed at the hospital for a couple hours while I was being monitored. I most certainly was having regular contractions, as the nurse confirmed that for us. My cervix was still 2cm, so for that day we were meant to remain a family of three for a little bit longer.

The nurses were so nice to me when I came in for that “false alarm.” I told them that I was sorry I made them do all that work. Obviously it’s what they are there for, but I felt silly about it. They reassured me that it was completely reasonable that I came in based on my birth history. Their sincerity made me feel better about our short little visit to the hospital that evening.

The following day I was praying that the baby didn’t come. I had house keepers coming to do a nice cleaning in anticipation of our baby. Also, I really wanted this baby to come when Craig was home from work, but the odds weren’t necessarily in my favor since Craig was working overtime that day too.

My prayers must have been heard because that day (Friday) there was no baby. I was now into my 38th week of pregnancy and felt like everyday was Groundhog Day. Little did I know, I’d only have to endure it for one more day.

The morning of Saturday, September 22nd Craig, Gia and I woke up and did our usual thing. We made breakfast, I hit the gym and came home to play with Gia and watch Craig set up our double stroller. When Gia went down for her nap around noon, it was Craig’s turn to hit the gym and my time to rest a little. The whole time Gia was napping I was reading on the couch and timing my contractions. They kept up for over two hours. By the time Craig was home and Gia was up, Craig wanted to head to the grocery store. I said we should give Gia a bath first and get that out of the way. Boy, am I glad we did!

After bath, Craig mentioned going to the store again and I told him that I think I should just call labor and delivery. He knew I was still having contractions and if this was the real deal I didn’t want to let it get going with being at the hospital.

Cutting to the chase, we sent Gia off to my parents and got the go ahead from the hospital to come in. Once we were there I just had the feeling that they weren’t gonna let me go home. I was right. I was at 4.5cm and 80% effaced when they were monitoring me. They said they were just going to transfer me to a room because knowing how I worked, I’d be having a baby real soon.

We were hardly in the triage area and had gotten to our room where the nurse wanted to get my i.v. hooked up. She was explaining everything about an epidural and my mind started to race. I was also feeling very different at this point. Lots and lots of intense pressure was happening. I wanted to try and have a natural birth, just like with Gia. I felt like if I did it once I can do it again, but since I had to make a decision I was nervous about making the right one regarding an epidural.

As the nurse attempted to place my i.v. I was having such intense contractions that I needed to focus and it meant not getting the i.v. in quick enough. Once I had a quick break between contractions the nurse was able to place the i.v., but there was no time to even hook it up.

My water broke and then I immediately felt the need to push. The nurse said you need to wait for the doctor, we aren’t ready. “To hell with that,” I thought. This baby is coming! I was able to hold off on pushing momentarily while the doctor and nurses where able to get things in place. Thank goodness they were fast because it was 6:55pm when my water broke. Nine minutes later and three pushes later, at 7:04pm I had Viviana on my chest.

I remember Craig telling me she had lots of hair and I was doing such a good job. Those words from my husband were all I needed to motivate my body to get her out. I also remember looking up at Craig with Vivi on my chest, telling him, “I did it!” The look on Craig’s face was one of such pride. It made my heart swell and immediately I knew that I had the capacity to love two children equally and fiercely.

After Viv’s rapid arrival, the doctors told me I had a lot of bleeding and clotting that needed to get under control. This scared me because without hesitation I thought about what that could mean. It could mean surgery and even more blood loss. In that moment my thoughts were on just wanting the bleeding to stop so I could hold and feed my baby.

Thankfully, after being injected in the thigh with multiple medications, the bleeding and expelling of blood clots was under control. Thank God.

Now we didn’t need to worry and could continue the focus on Viviana. Being that she was 12 days early, she was smaller than Gia at birth. Gia was born at 41 weeks and Vivi at 38. Weighing 7 pounds, 9 ounces, and 20.5 inches in length, Viv was a good size for being early. I can only imagine how big she would have been if she decided to come on her due date of October 4th.

Our time spent in the hospital was pretty brief. We left in the early afternoon the day after Viviana’s arrival. Gia met her new sister at the hospital before we brought her home. That moment was one I will never, ever forget. I couldn’t have been more proud of our big girl and how we had created this little family. Gia meeting her sister is a blog post for another day. After all, I am writing this post with a sleepy newborn on my chest and a tired toddler napping in the other room.

Women’s bodies are amazing. Birth is amazing. I share my story because it proves how different and beautiful all birthing experiences are. There should be no shame for any one way a child enters the world. C-section, epidural, home birth, natural delivery – they are all equal. As long as I have a healthy baby in my arms, I don’t care how that baby came into the world because it’s not a competition.

To all the badass mamas out there, mamas-to-be and those longing to be mothers, I send all my love and good vibes to you.

Xo

Prepping For Baby #2: Three Things I Wish I Had The First Time Around

As much as I’d like to think this second pregnancy thing is a cake walk, it’s isn’t. The “been there, done that” mentality is there, but only to a certain degree. I hate to say it, but the fact is my pregnancy symptoms have been totally different than with Gia. As far as resting goes….well there is no rest when you have a toddler!

For me, there’s more to this than just getting my body ready to have our next baby. I’ll be adjusting my social life once again, my home and preparing a two-year-old for the arrival of our new family member.

You would think that after giving birth only two years ago that I’d be pretty well versed on doing the whole newborn thing again. Truth is, mom brain is real and I’ve forgotten a lot about those early days. I know most of it will come back to me, but new babies bring on different challenges.

One thing I do know about being a second-time mom is there are a few items that I’ll be needing that I didn’t have with Gia. Two of the three things I need for this go-round are solely for baby #2 and one thing is for both children.

So what are they you ask?

#1: Dockatot

Dockatot is a multifunctional sleep aid for your babe. It’s like it’s own little bed that can also serve as a place to sit, do tummy time, play and snuggle. It’s also great for safe co-sleeping and you can bring it anywhere. I don’t plan on using it for co-sleeping, as we did not co-sleep with Gia, but never say never.

I like the idea that it will give the new baby that cuddled feeling while sleeping. From what I’ve heard and read, it’s amazing and helps babies sleep for longer durations.

Gia was in a bassinet that has been in my family for years. While I love the idea of continuing that tradition, I also want to do what I think works best for us and baby. Thankfully Gia was a good sleeper, so I pray this baby will be the same!

#2: Rock ‘n’ Play

The great thing about having a sister-in-law who had her second baby before me is that I can ask her tons of questions. One thing that she got for her second boy was a Rock ‘n’ Play. She used it all the time for her baby. If it weren’t for her encouraging me to get one I’m not sure I would have thought of it myself.

What I think I’ll use it for most is to have a free hand to help Gia. Eventually when I’m home alone with two kids, I will quickly need to figure out how to balance their needs. I’m sure a lot of Gia’s needs will require me to set the baby down in a safe, portable environment. What’s great is that I’ll be able to bring it outside while Gia is playing.

There are quite a few versions of the Rock ‘n’ Play out there. I was able to purchase one on Amazon Prime Day for $30 off the original price. Who doesn’t love a deal?!

#3: Double Stroller

Stroller shopping can be overwhelming because there are so many options. With Gia we bought a Peg Perego stroller and car seats. Naturally, since I loved them so much I immediately gravitated towards the brand’s Duette Piroet stroller.

The hardest part about deciding on what kind of double stroller to get was the side-by-side set up versus the tandem set up. Ultimately, after seeing both options from Peg Perego in person, Craig and I agreed the tandem version is what we prefer. My gut says it will be easier to maneuver and it will just work well with our lifestyle.

Beyond these items, I’m pretty much good to go. I have plenty of beautiful clothes that I’m excited to see our new girl in. We have all the toys and play accessories a baby could need. The last few things I need to do are along the lines of rewashing baby clothes, packing a hospital bag and making sure I have what I need for my own recovery.

I’m sure if we were to have a third child, I’d have a brand new blog post listing what I’d need for baby #3 that I didn’t have the first two times. There’s always new and amazing products, as well as things we think we just need to have.

For now, we are very happy to become a family of four and we’re planning on keeping it at that. Four has always seemed like the right number for us.

Now I just need to stick out eight more weeks of being hot and uncomfortable. We can’t wait to meet our newest girl. Gia is especially excited….for now! 😉

Xo

Foolproof Funfetti Birthday Cake

Soooo, we’ve got a two-year-old now!!  How bizarre is that?!  I can totally relate to the saying, “The days a long and the years are short,” because that’s how the last two years have felt.  Parenthood brings you lows and the highest of highs.  It’s truly amazing how full your heart feels from raising a little one, and celebrating Gia’s birthday definitely made me feel all of the things!

Surprisingly enough, I didn’t turn into an emotional mess over Gia turning two this weekend.  The biggest thing I felt though was pride.  Pride over the little person she’s becoming, pride in myself for being the best mom I can be, and pride in my husband for showing me time and again why marrying him was the best decision ever.

This year for Gia’s birthday I knew I didn’t want a huge bash like we had for her first birthday party.  Number one, it’s just a lot of work to do.  Number two, at eight months pregnant there isn’t as much energy left to be the hostess with the mostess.  Therefore, Craig and I agreed that inviting our immediate family who lived in the area would be the best way to celebrate.  We kept it easy and very summery by having a BBQ that included Craig’s tri-tip, grilled veggies, watermelon and my potato salad.  (My potato salad is damn good and so simple, so I might have to share that with you too!)  No birthday is complete without cake, and this year that meant a homemade funfetti Elmo cake.

About a month ago I decided to recipe test before making the cake for Gia’s special day, and I’m really glad I did!  Initially I found a recipe from Food52 for funfetti that I tried out.  To my surprise, it was an overly oily cake.  I was really disappointed because I own two cookbooks by Food52 that are excellent, so I figured this recipe would work out fine.  Wrong!  I mentioned the cake mishap to my mom and she said she had a recipe from one of her cookbooks for a foolproof funfetti cake.  Of course I made her send it to me and I tried it out right away.  Let’s just say that my husband, friends and neighbors were please that I had decided to recipe test cakes.  Thank goodness all this test cake off my hands, or else I might have eaten my weight in cake leading up to Gia’s birthday.  Pregnant lady problems can be very stereotypical at times!

I was really happy with how my cake turned out and was even happier with the cute cake topper I ordered from Etsy.  For those who asked if I would share the recipe for the cake, here it is:

fullsizeoutput_2537.jpeg

Like I mentioned before, this is not my own recipe and I believe it came from “Great American Cakes.”  To make the cake my own, I dyed the frosting a dusty pink and used rainbow sprinkles to cover the sides of the cake from top to bottom.  The three layers made it feel decadent and special, while still remaining light and delicious.  It was a hit with the birthday girl and my entire family.  Craig’s dad and mine even went back for a second helping!  That’s always a compliment in my book.

IMG_E3375IMG_E3404IMG_E3406

Overall, Gia’s second birthday party was perfect (although it wasn’t without a good two-year-old tantrum).  Like most toddlers, she’s spoiled beyond belief and loved to no end.  I’m pretty sure she felt like the rockstar that we all think she is.  As much as I don’t want the years to fly by, I can’t wait to do it again for her next year.  Making my daughter’s birthday cake is a privilege and something that I will continue to do over the years, just like my mom did for me.

I hope you all enjoy the recipe as much as we did!

xo

9 Things I Learned From Having My First Baby That I Hope To Remember With Baby #2

Two short years ago I was very pregnant with my first little girl, Gialina.  I had no idea that she’d choose to over stay her welcome by one full week, then decide to come into the world with the ferocity of a thrashing great white shark, all while weighing an ounce shy of 9 lbs.

Today I’m 30 weeks pregnant with Gia’s little sister and I can’t help but feel a little bit more anxious about her arrival.  A lot of it has to do with the fact that I know what to expect when it comes to an unmedicated labor and delivery, but a bigger part has to do with how we will adjust to adding a new member to the family.

Don’t get me wrong, being a new mom isn’t easy – no matter how many times you do it.  It’s always a challenge adjusting to no sleep, postpartum pain and numerous other things that come with the territory.

With my second baby arriving around October 4th, I know some aspects of this new mom thing will be easier.  It’s not because I’m suddenly an expert after having one child.  I’m still unorganized at times, drowning in laundry and tired.  I’ve just got more tricks up my sleeve this time around.  Most of my tricks are really just common sense that I didn’t have the first time around with Gia.

So expectant mamas and new mamas alike – don’t wait for your second or third baby to read this.  If I could send a letter back in time here are a few things I would tell myself before having kids:

You will never be fully prepared for what it’s like to be a parent.  It doesn’t matter how many books you’ve read, how many friends/family you have with children, how much you’ve nested, or how long you’ve actually waited to become a parent.  No amount of preparation will truly prepare you for children.  You will learn so much about yourself and your spouse the moment that little life comes into this world.  You will have a lot that you will continue to learn, so consider this the most educational experience of your life.

Appreciate your pre-baby body for all that it has done for you.  You will never realize how amazing and beautiful your body is until you’ve given birth.  Before having a child I spent too many days worrying about that one dessert, worrying about how my jeans looked and all of the workouts that I just had to complete.  As hard as it will be to see your body change through pregnancy, it is equally as amazing.  Once Gia arrived I realized there was so much more to life than a bikini body.  I can still want to look and feel good, but in a healthier way.  I would never want my daughters to be so critical and self-depricating, the way I once was about myself.

It’s okay to ask for help.  You think you know how to do it all, but you don’t.  Take a few deep breaths and tell yourself, “this too shall pass.”  You’re going to make mistakes, but how you come back from them is what matters most.  You don’t need to be superhuman.

Tell everyone around you how much you love and appreciate them.  They’ll never tire of hearing it, so tell them every chance you get.  After giving birth you will appreciate your mother in a way that you never could before becoming a mother yourself.  Tell your spouse how much you love them, because they will be your rock while you recover from labor and delivery.

Just when you think you’re starting to figure things out the routine changes.  I felt like this was most relevant for me during the newborn phase.  Just when I thought we were doing X amount of naps per day, it changed to Y amount.  Babies and toddlers change and grow so quickly that you can’t expect these phases to last long.  So be prepared, once you fee like you’ve mastered something it’s about to change in a hurry!

If nursing hurts and doesn’t get better after the initial latch, unlatch and try again.  I did not consider myself successful at breast-feeding.  In fact, I felt so shamed by the lactation consultants when I sought help.  I remember after my first night in the hospital with Gia that I felt so lucky that she latched well.  The problem was that she looked like she had a perfect latch (according to the nurses), but I still had issues.  I gave breast-feeding my best shot for about a month or so.  It was one of the most stressful things I’ve been through in adjusting to life as a new mother.  I don’t say these things to scare new moms, but I say it in hopes of people taking initiative to educate themselves.  Go take a breast-feeding class offered by your hospital.  I did this and found it very helpful and I’m even signed up for the same class before baby #2 arrives.  I developed a very, very severe case of mastitis while breast-feeding with Gia.  It was so shocking to me that the signs and symptoms of mastitis were never mentioned to me during my first breast-feeding class.  If your breast feels hot to the touch, has red splotches, or you have a high fever, it’s likely you are suffering from mastitis.  This was what took me out of the breast-feeding game.  TMI but, I had nipples that were cracked like the Grand Canyon, blood blisters, the whole nine yards.  I mention all of this because there is nothing wrong with making the decision to stop nursing.  At the end of the day fed is best and when our kids hit kindergarten no one will know who had formula and who had breast milk.  You need to be the best mom you can be and sometimes that means knowing when to stop something.

Make sure the ruffles on the diaper aren’t tucked in.  This might seem really stupid and basic, but it’s very helpful if your child is having diapers that explode often.  Another good thing to try if you feel like you’re changing diapers and outfits on the regular is go up a diaper size.  I didn’t really have to worry about this too much, but did have to remind relatives that ruffles go out!

Swaddle, sway, swing, shush!  If you’re baby is having a hard time sleeping (day or night) you need to swaddle your baby.  It makes them feel safe and secure, just like when they were in your tummy.  Swaying and swinging motions help many babies fall asleep once they’re swaddled because that motion feels the same as the motion they felt while growing inside of you.  Think about it – you didn’t sit your entire pregnancy.  When you moved, your baby moved.  It’s comforting!  The shush noise was also something they heard in the womb.  You have blood flowing and tons of other bodily fluids that are moving throughout your entire body that create a shush sound that makes baby feel at home because it’s all they hear all the time.  (I just mention these tips because I remember they worked for me.  All babies are different and just because I say it worked for me doesn’t mean it has to work for you and your baby.)  I read a book called “The Happiest Baby On The Block,” prior to Gia’s arrival that really dives into these tips.

Just say NO!  Now that I’m a mom of an almost two-year old I’m used to saying that little two-letter word.  People are going to want to come visit you and the baby right after birth.  People are going to tell you that you need to be feeding them solids by a certain age and that they should have rice cereal in their bottle.  People are going to tell you that you don’t need to be so routine oriented about their sleep schedule.  You know what you say to all those people?  NO.  Just because certain things worked for them doesn’t mean you should do it too.  Anything being said to you that’s annoying, opinionated and unsolicited – just go ahead and say no.  It’s your baby, not theirs.

The bottom line here is listen to your gut.  Becoming a new mom for the first, second or third time is a lot.  Like I’ve said many times before, we’re all just winging it and doing what works best for us.  I’m glad I’ve put this all on my blog because it serves as something I can come back to so I can remind myself of these things.  Lord knows that two months from now I’m gonna forget all about everything I learned the first time around with Gia.  Here’s to hoping I re-read this post during all of the middle of the night feeding sessions that I’ll soon be experiencing.  Don’t be hard on yourself, trust the process and trust yourself!  You’ve got this!

xo

Two Books To Help Me With My Independent (almost) Two-Year Old

Scores and scores of moms, and parents in general, are overcome with stress.  Although at times we can see humor in stressful times, insight and occasionally find a practical solution to our stress, there’s still that serene lifestyle that is out of reach.  Yes, when you have adult responsibilities such as a career, children, running a household,  and financial commitments, stress is just part of the everyday norm.

If I’m being 100% honest with myself and totally transparent, my source of stress right now is my almost two-year old and the worries that most other parents face.  Most days, Gia is my little shadow – she’s eager to please me, mimics everything I do and is an overall very happy and well-mannered child.  Like any toddler, she has her moments and now those moments come around a little bit more often as she is tasting what it’s like to be an independent big girl.

The last week or two has brought about new behaviors that are usually directed towards me, mommy.  After all, I am with her everyday, all day, so it’s only natural that she would show defiance and resistance to me more than daddy or grandparents.  We all want to raise respectful, well-behaved kids who make good choices, but it’s not so easy at this age.

About two weeks ago when I took Gia to use the potty she was adamant about not going (because she was very busy playing) but it had been far too long without her taking a potty break.  Most of the time if she says “no” to going potty, I honor her request but keep a very close eye on her because she usually refuses to go only to exert her power.  This particular time I wasn’t going to bend because we were out in public and business needed to be handled before getting in the car.  The short of it is that she smacked me right on the head because she didn’t want to go.  This was a brand new behavior that was kind of shocking to me.  I’m sure she’s seen other kids do this at our gym daycare, but I was still emotionally hurt by it.

This week, after an activity packed visit to San Diego to see her cousins, Gia has had more frequent outbursts that are quite obviously the “terrible twos.”  I’ve always kind of hated that term, but it’s now truly starting to rear it’s ugly head just a couple weeks before her second birthday.

Learning to discipline such young child who is obviously very bright can be confusing and frustrating, to say the least.  There are so many methods of discipline and ways to parent, and everyone who has their opinions about it.  Craig and I are approaching this new phase of toddlerhood with as much patience as possible and with open minds.

I think that the hardest part about all of this for me is that I expect so much of Gia.  I don’t expect perfection by any means, because I expect that of no one.  It’s just difficult to remind myself that she still is quite young.  Just because she’s grasped so many things at such a young age makes me forget that she’s still not quite two years old.  Her mind is still developing and the concept of discipline is hard at this age.  I mean, really, what kid her age will sit in time-out, even if just for one minute?!  (If your kid does this, my hat is off to you and you can message me immediately about how you make that happen!)

What I’m getting at is that these little humans are evolving every single day and sometimes that means the days feel a little bit longer.  I like to share these normal hiccups and challenges because as parents we ALL go through it but don’t always share about it.  Sometimes it’s just nice to commiserate, simply to know that you aren’t alone!

As a result of our opinionated and independent girl developing new habits, we are slowing down and taking the time to explain things at her level.  She has such empathy for her age and knows when people are hurt or even if feelings are hurt.  If she hears me say to another adult that I was upset she immediately tells me, “Mommy, don’t worry.”  The fact that she tells me this means we’re doing something very right.

We are just continuing to plow through and prepare her for life the best way we know how.  We’ll continue to make mistakes along the way, but we’re all just winging it anyway!

In case any of you are going through this phase of toddlerhood, I’d like to share two books that I just ordered through Amazon to help me out:  “Hands Are Not For Hitting” and “Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.”

I know that people laugh about these kinds of books because they weren’t accessible to parents of earlier generations and their kids “turned out fine.”  While that may be true, just because there’s new knowledge and support in the world doesn’t mean it’s bad or that we can’t be open to it.

Happy Friday my friends!

xo