Mommy Make Up

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I wasn’t sure whether or not I wanted this to be a series up on the blog, but I keep finding new products I like and little time-saving hacks that I think other moms will appreciate. So, without further ado, here is the third installation of Mommy Make Up!

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Lazy Mama Contour – This is by far my favorite new hack. I love the idea of contouring…. but what mama has the time to watch YouTube tutorials on how to do it?! And the cost of some of those contour kits? No thanks! So I found a cheat to make it look like you’ve attempted a contour, without actually doing it. BRONZER is your friend! Yes, take a make up brush and smear some bronzer from your ear onto your cheek, stopping the brush stroke at your eye. You don’t want dark bronzer all over your cheek, so try to brush it on a controlled line from you ear to the halfway point on your cheek (for me, it’s my eye)

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Lipstick is your friend! So, I was sticking pretty much to lip balm and tinted chapstick, but I have found that I really do like lipstick! If you choose a nude color, it doesn’t look extreme, too formal, or like you’re trying too hard. It gives you just enough color to look “put together.” I didn’t buy anything special, just your typical drug store variety. Since this is the cheaper variety, you can buy a couple neutral shades and keep one in the diaper bag!

Those are the new hacks and cheats I have for you beautiful mamas!

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Winding Down Summer

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Like a true Californian, I want all the perks of fall time without the weather becoming too much colder. We have some exiting things coming up like : a double date with our friends, an Ohio State football game, and apple picking. I’m looking forward to these events, though still wishing that the warm weather won’t be leaving us.

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Even though I have grown quite fond of the Buckeye state, it is hard for me to reconcile with the impending doom of winter. Earlier in the week, my mom sent me a picture of a shirt that said: “I bake because punching people is frowned upon.” I, of course, laughed… but then I thought a little deeper about it and my love for baking. When the weather changes, I really do go into baking mode, and you can find me in the kitchen almost every day working on a new treat. I always thought that it was because I liked to be by the warm oven while it is cooling off outside. Here is my new theory though, the kitchen is where my expertise in baking collides with irreconcilable mourning of summer.

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I don’t know how or when I will stop longing for sunshine. Of course, I am the one who made the decision to stay out here in Ohio, so there must have been a good reason for leaving California. But like most decisions, we forget why we make the changes we do. We choose to see the past through the most flattering of lenses. Even though I know this, the weather still tugs on my heart strings and makes me question where I live and why I can’t go back to the golden state. So, I bake. I measure, I read recipes, I focus… it is where what I don’t know collides with what I do know.

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My mind is clear when I am in the kitchen. I carefully read instructions, take care when using specific tools, and improve my technique when I can. Baking is some thing that, when you follow the instructions and do the best you can, you will always get a perfect result. In life, [or at least in my own life] the reaction is almost always opposite. You can try your best, do every thing “right” and things may still not work out. I can control the speed on my mixer, but what I can’t control is every element affecting my everyday life. And so, I bake…

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Last week was a blur of trying to get caught up with housework. We all have weeks like that. The one good thing was that I was able to get together with some local moms, and have them over in our new house for some coffee and donuts.
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I had been having a tough week with Cora, the house was a wreck, and I had a friend hurt my feelings. I was a hormonal, emotional wreck. The local community of moms had no idea how I was feeling and yet just their presence, lighthearted conversation and fellowship completely cheered me up. As much as I struggle living outside of the Golden State, those are the moments that remind me why I decided to settle here in the first place.

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In other news, Cora is basically crawling. She can army crawl like a banshee, and can crawl short distances on her knees. Physically, she is so far ahead of where Sophie was at this age. She impresses us every day! Who knows what God has in store for a girl with her determination…

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One of the cons of such determination is that it makes her a fighter against every thing. We have had to resort to “crying it out” with her at nap and bed time. Sophie was easily soothed by my voice or my touch; Cora screams whether she is being held or left in a crib. Crying it out allows her to work through her tantrum and gives me the permission to separate myself from her fits. It helps me to calm down and not take her screaming rage personally. In fact, I would even go so far as to say the CIO method has made me more patient and loving toward her. We let her cry in 10 minute increments before going in to pat her on the back for a few minutes.  We repeat the cycle until she falls asleep. The longest she has cried is 50 minutes, but it has gotten to be less and less time the more we have practiced letting her cry it out.
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When she is awake she is such a happy, charismatic kid! There are many families in our little community who have kids around her and Sophie’s age, so I can’t wait to strengthen some of my own relationships with other moms, which will hopefully lead to solid friendships for my kids.

How do you expand your network of local parents?

Recovery

We had a busy weekend and J and I are still recovering. Summer is always a busy time in our little town, because the university puts on retreats for high school youth to rekindle their interest in the church. Honestly, those conferences are how I ended up in the Buckeye State to begin with. Anyway, J has weird work hours as the retreats take place over the weekends. Between that, the wonderful wedding we attended and Cora’s unpredictable sleep schedule, we are simply exhausted.

I stopped nursing Cora last week, and like many moms know, that decision came with a ton of different emotions. I went out and bought myself a few new clothes to help with the transition. No, I didn’t go to Macy’s or anything like that, just picked up a few things from Walmart to get me through summer, since the majority of my clothes are currently nursing tops and nursing bras with various clasps and openings that make it convenient to nurse, but aren’t overall that comfortable to wear.

The one thing keeping me smiling is Sophie’s amazing attitude. She is definitely bordering on the “terrible two” stage, but even with that being said, she is a total sweetheart 99% of the time. She is starting to interact with Cora more, becoming more responsible with the little chores and tasks we give her, and more affectionate (my personal favorite).

We have a busy week ahead, but I’m hoping to find respite by watering the garden with Sophie, cuddling with Cora, and going to the weekly moms group I recently discovered.

Steak Secrets

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Now that we’re heading into summer, I feel like cooking some steaks out on the grill will become more common place. I prefer to cook mine in a skillet though, and while J has said time and time again that he doesn’t really care for steak, he has given me the highest compliments the last few times I’ve prepared it for him. Steak is one of my favorite foods (yes, my parents would take me to Black Angus on my birthday…) and as I’ve grown older, my techniques have become a little more involved, but they are still simple enough for the novice to pick up and create a delicious meal with.

My obsession with the Food network actually became useful. I never thought about letting the meat “rest” and when Bobby Flay told “Worst Cooks in America” contestant that you’re supposed to just leave the steak alone while it cooks, I was shocked. Anyway, as silly as it sounds I have adopted some of these techniques and they have improved my cooking. Now, here’s what you need:

-A good, quality steak. I’ve become a little more choosey when it comes to steak shopping. I usually go for organic grass fed beef that doesn’t have a ton of fat that will need to be rendered down.
-a meat thermometer. I used to just go off of time (ex. 3 minutes on each side) but the meat thermometer ensures that the meat is cooked without hacking it into little pieces.
quality spices. sea salt or [my personal fave] black truffle salt are great alternatives to traditional table salt.
– letting the meat rest. I usually take my steak out of the fridge, pat off the extra juices, season it with salt and pepper, and ten leave it to rest for 30 mins before cooking it. this helps take the chill from the refrigerator off of the meat. After I’m done cooking, I let the meat rest in the pan for 10 minutes before serving it. To me, this makes for a more tender and juicy steak.

Here’s how I normally cook:
Sprinkle salt and pepper evenly over steaks, then heat a large  skillet over high heat. Add some olive oil to the pan; swirl to coat. Add steaks to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned, checking with the thermometer to see if they’ve reached 155 degrees. Reduce heat to medium-low; add butter and garlic (maybe 1 clove) to pan. Carefully grasp pan handle using an oven mitt or folded dish towel. Tilt pan toward you so butter pools; cook 1 1/2 minutes, basting steaks with butter constantly. Remove steaks from pan; cover loosely with foil. Let stand 10 minutes.

What are your cooking secrets?

{image source: aminerecipes.com}

Surviving the Last Weeks of Pregnancy

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Here I am, typing this and sitting pretty at 34 weeks. Apparently my baby is as big as a butternut squash and I’m thinking to myself, “I’ve done this before, how come I don’t remember it being so hard?” Ok, so I didn’t totally forget how hard the 3rd trimester is because I’ve secretly been dreading it ever since day 1 …but there is a particular intensity about reliving some thing you were so happy to be done with the first time.

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So since I’m not a ‘we have 2 kids and now we’re done’ kind of person, how do I handle the 3rd trimester and make it bearable? As a first-time-mom, I was able to lie on the couch as often as I wanted, nest or not nest to my heart’s content, and eat whatever I want. Now That I’m on #2 I have a shadow that follows me everywhere, insisting I share all of my food, leaving a path of destruction everywhere we go, and definitely does not let me lie on the couch all day. So here is what I do to make things a little easier on myself during these last several weeks

  1. Nap time – Nap time is time to treat yourself to anything you can’t do while the little ones are awake. If you prioritize eating a chocolate bar over doing a load of newborn laundry, I won’t judge. It’s all about survival.
  2. Spouses – When you got pregnant, *you* as an individual didn’t just sign on to be a parent, you spouse consented to parenthood to. That doesn’t start when the baby is born, that starts the second you start barfing in your 1st trimester. If you need help getting some thing done, or just need an hour to yourself to rest, TELL YOUR SPOUSE. I don’t care if he has a 12 hour work day, because you have a never-ending work day that involves a human person occupying your body, and you need the help. Contrary to popular belief, this is some thing you do together, and asking for help is one of the ways your spouse participates in the pregnancy: by making it more bearable for you.
  3. Indulge. I’m not just talking about the chocolate bar… if your back is killing you, go get a massage. If you want pink or blue toes for when your girl or boy comes, go get a pedicure. The 3rd trimester is a time to start getting excited for baby instead of just “being done with being pregnant.” Ask your spouse for help or hire a sitter if you have other kiddos. Whatever the case may be, do some thing nice for yourself that’s kind of a splurge. You’re almost there!
  4. Rubs. foot rubs, back rubs, leg rubs, anywhere you want rubbed, solicit your spouse or kids to rub for you. Maybe this sounds dumb, but one of the more vivid memories I have about the days leading up to Soph being born, include either J or my mom rubbing my legs and feet. I was just so exhausted but this helped to ease some of my discomfort. Get a nice lotion for this ritual.
  5. Tums and lots of pillows. Ok, so not every woman gets crazy acid reflux int heir 3rd trimester, but if you do, stash tums everywhere. Also, get a ton of pillows, grab some from the guest room if you have to. Even when I’m lying on the couch, I still like to have a pillow between my knees nowadays. Our bed is full of pillows too… really, any thing that will make you more physically comfortable, make sure you have those items in every room.

How do you survive the final trimester?

My Initial Approach to Parenting

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I’ve said time and time again how anxiety ridden I am on a daily basis. It probably won’t surprise you to hear that during my first pregnancy I didn’t mind being 5 days past my due date because I had no idea what I was going to do with myself when the baby actually came.

There is so much pressure on moms today and with so many split opinions on important decisions you have to make for your child, you can easily be consumed by the stress. To breastfeed or formula feed? To vaccinate or not to vaccinate? Organic food? Co-sleeping? Rear facing car seats? It’s enough to make a mama scream. After the first 48 hours of being a nervous wreck, I decided to stop caring — about what other people think, that is. I know it’s hard to do, because if you choose formula over breastmilk, people will tell you how your child will be dumb, fat, and sick for the rest of their lives. If you choose to co-sleep, people will tell you you’re coddling your baby. The risks of each choice are exaggerated in such a way that a mother feels like she’s always making the wrong choice, therefore I decided to stop caring.

Though this blog was never intended to be a faith-focused blog, I have to say that my place of acceptance a mere 48 hours after Soph was born was due to my faith in God. I believe he knows how many hair are on her head as well as how many days she has to live. Regardless of what I do as a mother, he will call her home when he calls her home. Now, there is still a seriousness in my vocation as a mother in that, God entrusted me with these tiny souls to do my very best to keep them safe and healthy; but short of my very best, he is ultimately in control. So approach #1 was….

Don’t stress about the options. Do your research, try a couple different things, and find what works for you and for baby. I put emphasis on “you” because although your babe may like sleeping by your bedside in his rock’n’play, it may drive you into a crazed, sleep-deprived state. Sophie probably would have loved to sleep in our room with us, but that wasn’t what was best for both her AND I. SUre, I heard many a mother tell me about how I would have bonded with Sophie better had I kept her close by all night, but we squeezed in plenty of bonding time during those late night feedings, and it was such a relief to be able to go back to my own bed while leaving her in her crib.

Don’t try to be a perfectionist. I really wanted to be one of those moms who had a predictable schedule, the perfect stockpile of breastmilk in the freezer, all organic cotton clothes for her baby, etc… Baby’s are surprisingly simple. All they need is food, shelter, and you. They don’t need their own stylish room, they don’t need lots of toys, they don’t even need top of the line food [yes, the organic mama within me is cringing, but it’s true] They just need 100% of pure you.

Assume that you know nothing. This was the easiest part for me because I knew nothing. Despite all the books I read, blogs I scoured, and people I talked to, I knew knowing about my baby when she came, and I had enough humility to just accept that. Sure, I can’t lie, I stressed about it some times Why won’t she stop crying? Why won’t she sleep? Shloud I feed her? Let her cry it out? These are all normal, mommy worries. At some point though, you have to just accept that you don’t know. In fact, it would irk me when we would get together with family, Sophie would start crying and a relative would hand her back to me saying “Mommy knows why you’re crying… Mommy knows what you need.” Actually, no. No I don’t. Some times you’re just clueless. As long as you’re giving it your best, comforting and loving you baby, that’s all you should be expected to do. So don’t beat yourself up for not being the all-knowing being you thought you’d become when this tiny human entered the world.

Time to yourself is essential. At least, I knew it would be for me. When I give myself to another human, I give 100% When that happens, I need time to recharge so I can be able to give again when the time comes. I learned this about myself early on in my marriage and I knew it would be even more true when I became a mother. It was hard to leave my spanking new baby with a babysitter, but I needed an hour to go to the grocery store and the chiropractor with nothing but my own thoughts. I feel that this approach to parenting helped strengthen my relationship with my in-laws, as I entrusted the care of my baby many times with them. I feel that opportunities to watch their granddaughter affirmed them and was a more concrete illustration of my faith in them as loving, trustworthy people.

Every mama is different, and perhaps some of my approaches here made you cringe. That’s ok! We all require different things from life and have various ways of acquiring them. SO let’s stop the mom shaming, and embrace our different approaches. Motherhood can be such a helpful and collaborative effort among women if they feel free to share what has worked for them, but the collaboration can only thrive if we all feel safe to share our experiences without harsh judgement. 😀

Blessing Bags

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When I was in Religious Ed [the Catholic version of Sunday school, only it was on Monday nights and lasted way longer than a class on Sunday probably would have…] we would make little Blessing Bags for the homeless of San Diego during the holidays. We would fill brown paper bags with things our parents donated such as socks, some holiday candy, prayer cards, personal hygiene products, etc. We would make hundreds of these bags and then they would be shipped off to a shelter downtown for distribution. People I grew up with, from that same parish, would keep food and water bottles in their car to pass out to homeless they might see while driving. You’ve probably seen people begging at stop lights or near on ramps when there is a lot of traffic, I know I have, so when I started driving, I carried on this tradition of keeping food in my car so I didn’t feel pressured to give money.

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Ok, honestly? I actually don’t mind giving money to the homeless. Yes, I’m aware some oft hem have addictions, and may choose to use the funds to support their addictions. Some of them though, just want to call a friend on a pay phone, or get a few things off the dollar menu. I used to serve the Pittsburgh homeless, and even the most strung out addicts would want a hot meal. So I do give money from time to time, because I believe that my generosity can never be a sin. What they might use the money on may be sinful, but on the other hand it may not be either, and you should never be afraid to be charitable based on a prejudice of the homeless.

Anyway, now that I’ve got that out of my system… I keep food and supplies in my car because I don’t always have cash on me. In fact, I rarely have cash on me unless we’re headed to church [its for the collection basket]. In San Diego, you can get by with having food and water to distribute, but when you live near the Steel City, this thing called winter happens, and the homeless are in need of much more than just food and water. When I did homeless ministry they would often ask for socks, hats, mittens, change for the pay phone, tissues, and the list goes on…

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So, I went to the dollar store and REALLY stocked up my bags. Here’s what we put in them:

-$1.50 in change
-tooth brush and tooth paste
-tea bags and a packet of sweetener [most fast food places provide hot water for free]
-band aids
-Tylenol
-deodorant
-tissues
-socks
– a pen and some paper
-wipes
– nuts
– gum
– granola bars [that don’t expire for several months]
– soap or hand sanitizer
– lip balm
– lollipops
– cough drops
– a prayer card

I also bought 4 hats, but the bags were already pretty full, so I stuck them in my car, just in case I see some one who needs one, but if not, then they will make it into my next batch of bags. I made 4 of these bags, 2 to keep in our mini van, and 2 to keep n my husband’s car. The past few times we’ve been out, we have seen homeless standing at intersections begging, and have had nothing to give them, so I am happy that we are both armed with some supplies for the next time we’re up in Pittsburgh or just around town! When we give away a bag, I’ll restock when I get home. A lot of these things, are items you probably have around the house. I can’t wait for my kids to be apart of this when they are a little older and eager to “help.” It is a great teaching moment about charity and taking care of other humans!

[tip: you can also make smaller versions of these bags with Ziplock sandwich bags. I made 3 for our recent trip to New York, so I could carry them around in my backpack and hand them out while we were walking. It was a big success and every one we gave one to was very appreciative!]

Babies on a Plane

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This is not a repeat post, I promise. You probably remember my post on flying with babies and also my “Diaper Bag Essentials” post, but I wanted to do an updated version for babes over 12 months. Maybe you haven’t heard, but most domestic airlines will let kids under 2 fly for free on your lap. This is amazing news for us, since we normally fly with $300+ tickets to California. This is bad news for us because we fly to California and it’s always a 6 hour trek [at least]. When Sugar Plum was smaller, she would nurse, sleep for half the flight, and when she was awake, she’d quietly look at the rest f the passengers or just want some thing to bite on. I laugh now when I think about how stressed out I used to be traveling with her at that age. Now we have a rowdy one year old who can crawl, walk, play, and needs so much stimulation that I’m already having nightmares about a never-ending flight the next time we go to visit my family. I think the saying goes “proper planning prevents poor performance”? I don’t know – it’s some thing like that – and that’s why I am already planning.

We recently did a 5 hour car trip for Labor Day weekend, and I felt like that was good practice. In fact, I would argue that flying is easier then car trips because both parents can give their full attention to the baby, there are some options to move around [as opposed to being strapped in a car seat], and I feel like it’s easier to do certain activities like coloring or eating. Also, most flights nowadays make you have a layover somewhere, which sounds like a hassle, but to me its the perfect halftime. I can change baby in a decent sized bathroom, grab a hot meal, and stretch out my legs while providing a change of scenery for baby.

Now, as far as how I am modifying what to pack, this is what I have planned:

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Food – Pack a snack for every hour you’ll be traveling. I know this may seem like overkill, but if your kid asks for a snack every hour, at least you’ll have one. Even if they don’t want a snack every hour, you’ll have back up snacks in case there is a delay and you don’t want to pay for airport food. *Sigh* It was so much easier when I could just nurse my little babe…

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Beverages – We carry these bottles through security empty [just to avoid the hassle of “claiming” liquids, though, if you have formula or milk, you ARE allowed to take these things through security with a baby] then fill up the water bottle with the filter at a drinking fountain. We periodically fill up the baby cup with our filtered water bottle, so everyone has some thing to drink!

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Entertainment – This is always the hardest category because you don’t want to pack too much to where toys are falling out of your bag when you go to reach for you ID, but at the same time, you want to have enough to keep a little one occupied. I pick a skinny book like our Dr. Seuss books, because they slip into the back of a backpack nicely and don’t take up too much room. Our daughter loves books, and is content to sit and flip through the pages for long periods of time so I’m hoping this will be a good activity to calm her down. Crayons and paper are also items I’ve packed. The paper is a thin little booklet from he dollar store, so again, it shouldn’t take up much room; and crayons are generally less messy than markers. If that isn’t stimulating enough, I have her “cell phone” packed, which lights up and makes different noises when you press it. Since the plane engine is so loud, it won’t disturb other passengers to have my baby play with this normally noisy toy, as a lot of its sounds are significantly muted once we’ve taken off [and anyway, it’s better to listen to the ABC’s on repeat then to hear a baby scream, amirite?]. Of course I will have my actual phone on me. The Samsung galaxy comes with a built-in “kids mode” where you can let your kids play with your phone to their heart’s content, and not have to worry about them deleting your contacts or moving around your apps. It is a password protected part of the phone that only has children’s applications on it.

As much as I’m hoping she’ll eat and sleep for me on this flight, I’m prepared for the worst! We’ve traveled so much just in the past year, so I’m sure we will slip back into our vacation groove, but it’s always to be prepared for the worst. How do you keep your child content for hours at a time?

What do you need for Baby #2?

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Lets face it, when baby #1 comes around, you’re clueless. Who knows if I want a ring sling versus a structured baby carrier? Do I even need either of those? Isn’t that what strollers are for? And why are there 500 different types of bottle nipples? You don’t really know what you’ll need, what you or your baby’s preferences will be.

I have a closet full of things I thought I would need, that I didn’t end up using. I thought the anti-colic Dr. Brown bottles would be a life saver for me, and perhaps they would have, if Sugar Plum hadn’t only wanted to drink exclusively from tommee tippee bottles. I have about 20 Dr. Brown’s. Want to know how many tommee tippe bottles we have? One. That’s right, only one of my daughter’s preferred bottles. In any case, I will be putting together a small registry for baby #2, now that I’ve been able to try a variety of products with baby 1. Here are some thing I’m thinking of:

1. white noise maker – for some reason, I thought our baby mobile would suffice. Little did I know, it sounded like the loudest music box known to man and required a loud cranking, in order to get the music to begin. At some point, Hubs got a stuffed animal that played a variety of noises, one of them being white noise. We’ve been able to get by with this toy, but I’d rather invest in an actual white noise machine for future babies to come.

2. more bottles – I breastfeed, in fact, I had an easy time breastfeeding with no latch problems or tongue ties. That being said, my baby loved to nurse. The tommee tippee bottle is much closer to resembling a breast than the Dr. Brown’s model. Since I know I will be primarily breastfeeding, I think its wise to invest in bottles that I know my baby will be able to transition with.

3. Nursing essentials –  with that being said about the bottles, I was pretty clueless as to what I would need for nursing. I figured they made nursing bras, but I had no knowledge of nursing tanks, tops, or nightgowns. You can get by without all of these things, but since we plan on having more children after #2, it seems like now is a good time to start investing in pieces I’ll be using over and over again [also, they DO make life easier as a nursing mama]

4. essential oil diffuser –  When you have a baby, particularly one under 12 months, it is very hard to medicate the child for anything. Luckily, a friend introduced me to the world of essential oils. When Sugar Plum was sick or seemed to have allergies, I couldn’t give her any kind of medicine, but diffusing oils such as eucalyptus, peppermint, and lavender, helped her to breathe easier and sleep better. It’s definitely not some thing I ever would have thought to register for, for our first child.

What are things you wish you had the first time around?