to my best friend, as she becomes a mother.

to my best friend, as she becomes a mother.

This is a letter to my best friend as she prepares to become a mother -- and to my best friends who will follow on this path in the years to come....

When I met you, we were young and starry-eyed. We were full of hope in what the future would hold for us. We talked about cute boys, we traveled together, and we shared life's details we wouldn't even share with our own mothers. When we talked about the future, it typically centered around where we might live or who we might marry -- not necessarily about the days we would become a mother. Motherhood seemed like a distant reality. Believe it or not, that distant reality? It's here.

I'll admit: when I became a mother, I felt like I was on my own island. A few of my dear friends who were mothers tried to prepare me for what was to come. No matter how many questions I asked, nothing could have prepared me for the journey that is motherhood. I wish I could prepare you for what is to come, but unfortunately, there is no foolproof guidebook to motherhood that you can buy on Amazon. (If there was, I would have purchased it -- and already sent you a copy.)

I marvel at the mothers who "get it" from the early days. The ones who are brave enough to nurse in public from day one. The ones who shake off the blowouts. The ones who know every last piece of baby gear under the sun. Here's the thing... I've determined most of those mothers are second-time moms. If they're not, good for them. You have to find your own groove in motherhood. It may take you six months; it may take you two years. However long it takes, you can trust I'll be there to share my journey and give my side of the story -- without insisting it's the only way. 

I won't judge if you do or don't breastfeed. I won't judge if you FaceTime me and haven't showered in days. I won't judge if you co-sleep. I won't judge if you choose not to sleep train. (Ok, I may judge if you make your own baby food -- but only because I don't have the time to do it myself.) If you haven't noticed, the theme of this whole paragraph is that I will not judge your journey to motherhood. I simply pledge to be by your side, every step of the way. 

I can try to explain the feeling you'll get when you see your baby (YOUR BABY!) for the first time, but I can't. I can try to explain all the yucky parts of those tender postpartum weeks, but instead, I promise to answer your questions and keep the fear at bay for now. I can try to explain the exhaustion that comes with motherhood, but I will fail (read: it isn't like those all-nighters we pulled in college). I can try to explain the elation with seeing your baby's firsts, but until you witness that first smile or that first roll, my words won't mean much. You'll understand soon enough.

Truth be told, I cannot wait to see how your life changes once you have that baby (your baby!!!) in your arms. It sounds incredibly cliché, but it's true: it may not always be easy, but I promise it is always worth it. Our friendship will inevitably change once you become a mother. I am ok with that. Why? We will have a whole new facet to our late-night phone calls, text message chains, and frantic emails. It will no longer be about you and me -- it will be about something much, much more

I don't want to lose sight of what brought us together in the first place, of course. When I signed on to be your best friend many moons ago, I signed up for this too. We still have so many memories to make! I can't wait to take tandem family vacations. I'm already excited for those rare girls' weekends, when we leave the boys with our brood and get a chance to relax. Most of all, I look forward to the days when we're old and gray, chatting about our grandkids and laughing about our early days. 

I may not be your sister, but I am your best friend. Whether you realize it or not, you will be an incredible mother. How do I know? You're the friend I've needed in the lowest of the lows and the highest of the highs. You're smart. You're generous. You're thoughtful. You're compassionate. You're you. The only piece of advice I have is this: trust your gut. You've got this -- and you've got me right by your side, whenever you need me.

Image HTML map generator

the classic cross body guide.

the classic cross body guide: 30+ options for all budgets.

When we were in Charleston at the end of December, I had a serious wardrobe malfunction: the strap of my trusty black crossbody bag broke while we were strolling down King Street. After nearly five years, it finally bit the dust. I got this bag in my pre-baby days and it had been an easy bag to grab over the years. It was my go-to when I made a quick trip to the grocery store or when we finally got a date night. I typically carried this bag when I didn't have my kiddos in tow. My now retired bag had a long life, so I'm looking to replace it with something which can serve a similar term. I don't want something too fancy or too boring, but I also don't want something which might not work in a few years. (I'm looking at you tassels...)

In preparation for this decision, I pulled more than 30 black crossbody bags which fit the bill below. I tend to do this when I'm deciding where to make my investment, so I've I hope you can benefit from this research too ;) I have done similar round-ups in the past, including fun leopard flats and chic diaper bags. I'm all ears if you need me to do some research on a different item on your behalf. I love the thrill of the hunt!

Do you have any favorites from this bunch? I'm still torn on my final decision, but this one and this one (on serious sale!) are my top contenders at the moment. Time will tell which one I actually choose. xoxo {av}

UNDER $100
Sole Society Thalia Crossbody Bag - $49.95 -- a near lookalike of this Chloé bag

UNDER $200

UNDER $300
Tory Burch Mini Saddle Bag - $250 $200 (20% off)
Loeffler Randall Mini Saddle Bag - $295 $177 (40% off)
Tory Burch Kira Clutch - $395 $237 (40% off)

Image HTML map generator

real perspectives with MassMutual.

real perspectives with massmutual.
This post was sponsored by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). All opinions are my own. I believe in their mission and chose to work with them on this campaign because financial savviness is key to long-term success -- for everyone. 

Happy almost 2017! You may have noticed me talking about this financial savviness quiz over on Instagram or Facebook in the last few weeks. I have a different perspective than most in the financial arena because my husband works with numbers all day long. (I expect my 9 out of 11 performance on this quiz, though not perfect, is due to him.) The caveat is that we know we have much, much work to do with our finances. The last few years have been foggy with new houses, new babies, and new jobs. 2017 is the year we straighten up. Thanks to MassMutual, we've gotten a head start.

Whether you're 24 or 31, it is sometimes hard to envision life at 58 or 73. How are you supposed to know what you're saving for when you don't know what life holds? This was one of the most eye-opening parts of working with MassMutual on this campaign. Stowing away cash for the future isn't always easy when you have your eyes set on things in present day (like a new handbag or a hospital bill). I think millenials (myself included) aren't as focused on tomorrow, as we are on today.

We did a reasonable job of contributing to our 401(k) accounts in our 20s, thanks to working for companies which offered strong matches. 401(k) accounts are easy: with direct deposit, you never actually get your paws on the cash. Padding savings accounts can be much tougher, when you have those day-to-day expenditures in front of you. However, I wish I'd read this article in my mid-20s about monthly contributions to a savings account. Let's just say there is a VAST difference to starting your savings accounts at age 22 vs. 32. (My jaw hit the floor when I saw the numbers.)

Looking to read up some more? This to-do list for retirement is a must. 401(k) accounts are not the end-all and be-all; there are plenty of other options at your fingertips. It also provides an important guide to determining what your expenses could be in retirement. Though it feels light years away, I've learned in parenthood that years are fleeting. Remembering our children in this entire financial equation is fodder for an entirely separate post. It's not just me, it's not just my husband and me, it's US. We want to be able to provide so much for their future as well. Starting now is a much better plan...

If you haven't already, I really encourage you to take a peek at this quiz. Whether you get a failing score or a perfect one, your future self will thank you. The end of an old year and the start of a new one is the perfect time to re-evaluate. Many thanks to MassMutual for encouraging this shift in my thinking -- and for revealing the places where we can better our financial health for the years (we hope are) ahead of us. Here's to a 2017 with bigger and better goals! xoxo {av}

Image HTML map generator

on the road again: running after baby.

on the road again: running after baby.

Greetings! A few friends have asked about my postpartum running journey, so I wanted to share my experience. After two babies in two years, I have some insight on the matter. What you'll find in this post is simply a window into my own return to running. I was monitored by my obstetrician throughout my pregnancy while I ran and followed the advice of my doctor once both of my children were born. As a disclaimer though, I am most certainly not a doctor, so please follow the guidance from your physician. Enjoy some snapshots from my pregnant and postpartum running days in this post -- the man you see in many of them is my dad ;)

A little background: I am one of those crazy people who ran up until the end of my pregnancies. With James, I ran 7 days before I went into labor. (I didn't run that week before thanks to a fall on some boxes during our move.) With Rosie, I ran 2 days before I went into labor. I can only imagine what the people in my neighborhood thought when they saw me waddling by their house. If you were to ask me if I loved every pregnant run, I would say no. However, I am really glad I stuck with it as I look back on those months.

on the road again: running after baby.

Pregnant running is a whole new ball game. Running in the first trimester was rough, but it was manageable. I personally loved running in the second trimester best -- when my bump wasn't so big and I still had a reasonable range of motion with my legs. I decided that running in my third trimester was a means to an end, especially after week 34. I wanted to keep running, even though I wasn't always happy to get out the door. My OB once saw me running during the last six weeks and told me she was proud to see me "waddling". I wasn't speedy, but I was moving -- and that mattered most.

My first runs post-baby always coincided with a visit with my favorite running partner: my dad. Our cadence is nearly identical and we run almost always run in stride. (When we run races together, it's almost eerie.) These first runs were both roughly three weeks after delivery. In the hospital, I was given the guidance that I would know when I was ready to get back on the road. I was told to trust my instincts and that's what I did.

on the road again: running after baby.

One important note about my return to running was when my little ones were born. James was a winter baby; Rose was a summer baby. Returning to running after Rose was a whole different ballgame than with James. With my summer baby, the frequency of my runs increased around six or so weeks postpartum. With my winter baby (who also happened to be born in the worst winter we've ever had in New England), I wasn't running more than once or twice a week until at least twelve weeks.

Here's where I get really real (so click away if you don't want the truth): my postpartum running hasn't always been pretty... or dry... if you catch my drift. I recently got a referral to a physical therapist for these issues, so I am hoping to make some progress in the coming months. I thought that running throughout my pregnancy would make it easy to come back, but I was dead wrong. I convinced myself that returning to running the second time would be different too. Nope. Dead wrong again. In my estimation, two things made running postpartum more difficult: nursing boobs (sorry to be crass) and relearning how to move without a big weight on the front of your body.

on the road again: running after baby.

I know many people think women running with a bump is nuts, but I promise you -- it is not. A pregnant body does an incredible job adapting. Once a baby is born, there is every expectation that a mother will just magically be right back to where she used to be. Nope. There are a lucky few for which this happens -- and if you're one of them, rejoice. I had my first at 29.5 and my second at 31. Things just didn't fall right back for me. Breastfeeding is a wonderful thing a woman can do for her child, but it also requires constant awareness to one's hydration (which causes a joyous postpartum issue...) and one's supply. Exercising too much can affect the supply and drinking too much can cause really unpleasant running conditions. (cough)

Truth bomb: from my experience, running while breastfeeding could be tougher than running with a huge bump. My theory is that the bump gives your ladies something to rest on... suddenly, when your bump goes away, they're just there in all their heavy, hanging glory. Nursing boobs are a serious running buzzkill. They make getting back on the road much harder because you're carrying extra weight in places you didn't have it before -- and getting some new weird aches and pains as a result. 

on the road again: running after baby.
With James, I stopped nursing at six months. Rosie is six months and we're still on our breastfeeding journey. Breastfeeding is seriously miraculous, don't get me wrong, but I will say that I didn't rediscover my joy in running until I weaned James. It is a serious struggle for me to get out the door these days, partially because of the cold and partially because I just feel like a lug. I am one of those few people who can't wait for her ladies to return to their non-milk producing state, though I will keep feeding Rose as long as she's interested in what I have to offer.

Beyond the chest department, there is serious shift in your center of gravity. I should have anticipated this would make things more difficult. Following both of these pregnancies, I felt like I had to relearn how to run -- even though I ran while pregnant. I averaged 3-4 runs per week during pregnancy, which was equivalent to my "normal" running days. (I cannot run back-to-back days because of stress fracture issues. My hope is to address this once we're sure we're done with children.) I'm currently averaging 3 runs per week -- Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. I try fit in two shorter runs (5K - 4 miles) and one longer run (6 - 8 miles). I know that's not a lot in the way of mileage, but I'll get back there soon enough. I would say that I enjoy two of those runs a week, but one of the runs feels like I'm running in five foot deep water. I can never predict when a run will feel that way, until about mile 2... when it hits me like a wall of bricks.

on the road again: running after baby.

All I can say about re-learning your rhythm is this: it takes time. Right as I got my groove back after James, I found out I was pregnant again with Rosie. (She was and is such a blessing, one which I'm not trying to bemoan. I'm just stating fact!) Because of better weather post-Rosie, I feel much better on the road speed-wise today than I did post-James. 

Take this post for what it's worth. This was my experience. I started running at age 11 -- and have run consistently since, with the exception of a few months surrounding two stress fractures in my mid-20s. When my obstetrician encouraged me to continue what I had been doing pre-pregnancy, I decided to try it. I learned to really listen to my body during my pregnancies, many thanks in part to my running. I know, without a doubt, that running helped me get through both of my labors with much more confidence. I'm glad I ran during my pregnancies, but I also know it's not for everyone. 

on the road again: running after baby.

Coming back to running post-baby is no small feat. Taking it one day at a time is the best mentality, but these four snippets of advice may also help:
  1. Set realistic expectations for your return. For example, I try to trim off 10-15 seconds per month on my overall average speed. If speed isn't your goal, add mileage gradually -- maybe a half mile a week, spread out across your runs.
  2. Know your body will tire more quickly, but also know you WILL get it back. It just takes some serious dedication and understanding.
  3. Only buy dark running shorts or pants for a long time. You'll thank me later. My cute pink running shorts are in my drawer for the time-being, as are my pretty light grey leggings. (If you're looking for options, I am especially loving these shorts and these pants for postpartum runs. The shorts run just a bit longer, so they do not get caught up in your post-baby thighs and do not cut into your midsection. The pants do an especially great job of holding in all your "jiggly bits" and masking other issues...)
  4. Shake off the "bad" runs and know that better ones are ahead. Remind yourself that you got out there -- and that's what matters most. Better runs are coming.
If you have any one-off questions, I am happy to answer them. I am not an expert nor can I offer medical advice. (Always follow your doctor's orders!) I don't want to downplay how grateful I am my body allowed me to stay active during my pregnancies -- and to resume my running when I did. Whether you're a lifelong runner or a newbie, you can do it... just don't give up before you even start. I hope my honesty wasn't too scary -- and I'd love to hear if you have any other tips. xoxo {av}

Image HTML map generator