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}

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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}

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a complete baby preparedness + registry guide (from a second time mom).

a complete baby preparedness + registry guide (from a second time mom): 50+ products and insight included!

I know ten million similar posts exist in the blogosphere, but I have a few friends who have asked for registry insight and I wanted to have one place to point them. This is the equivalent of about 12 blog posts in one, so forgive my wordiness. If you're not on the market for baby goods now, you might want to bookmark this post for future reference. Have a sister or friend who's pregnant now? Feel free to pass this along.

As always, these items were what worked for our family and our budget. Many similar items can be found, but I simply wanted to have a "catch-all" post for friends and readers who have asked for this resource. Some of these items have appeared on previous newborn survival guides I published (after baby one and after baby two), but I figured it was worth putting everything in one place. While pulling this post together, I realized this should really be deemed "everything you could possibly need for baby (and more)", not just what your registry should contain. Not all of these items will be used in baby's first year, so don't get overwhelmed. Remember: this is an exciting time -- and you just have to take it one choice / purchase at a time.

Last but not least, since you can't always refer to a blog post, I also made a PDF containing all the information you'll find below. Click here to provide your email and you'll receive a link once you confirm your subscription! It isn't a fancy eBook, but it is a thirteen page (!!) document which goes from soup to nuts. Download it to bring along as you register or just to share with your significant other. Enjoy!

Need to have:
  • Fisher Price Rock n Play Sleeper - Whenever anyone asks what to include on their registry, a Rock n Play -- as my phone knows as a RnP -- is always the first out of my lips. I don't care what color or version you get, but I do recommend it is one in which you can put batteries for the vibration. It's like the magic fingers I used to love at hotels in the late '80s ;) I'd never seen a fancy version like this, but in my research for this post I found it. I'm not sure it's worth the extra cash, but I figured it was worth sharing!
  • 4Moms Breeze Playard - This playard isn't light on the wallet or biceps, but it is the easiest one I've seen to assemble. We've used ours for a myriad of things, from sleep to diaper changes. We kept ours on the first floor of our house in the early months as a changing station / nap location. It recently made the journey upstairs to our room as an in-between while we transitioned our son into a toddler bed to free up the crib for baby #2.
  • 4Moms Breeze Sheets (Bassinet + Playard) - These sheets are made specifically for the Breeze, which means it fits snugly and leaves me worry-free if it's being used for sleeping. I also like that these sheets are waterproof, which is good for diaper changes ;) I recommend getting two of each size to have one when the other is in the wash. It doesn't come with any sheets, so if you don't buy these, it's not exactly comfortable for baby.
  • ERGObaby Original Swaddlers - When it comes to keeping your baby bundled, these swaddlers were our favorite. Both of our babies were little Houdinis, so I loved the pockets for the arms to keep the startle reflex at bay. If you live in hotter climates (I'm jealous!), but these ERGObaby Lightweight Swaddlers are the same -- just in a bit lighter material.
  • Halo Wearable Swaddle Blankets - We discovered Rosie liked her arms free after six or eight weeks. We tried one of these Love To Swaddle options, but we kept coming back to the Halo brand.
  • Aden + Anais Sleeping Bags (Options from Serena + Lily or direct from Aden + Anais) - Once babies start to roll, the tight swaddles are no more. These wearable sleeping bags are perfect over a footie and give just the right amount of warmth. I don't love the fleece versions because they're so thick; the cotton ones are what I prefer.
Nice to have:
  • Deluxe DockaTot - I'm in a few Facebook groups for moms and a DockaTot is consistently lauded for sleep success. I discovered them a few weeks after our second was born, but I never pulled the trigger to get one of our own. Though I can't speak from experience, I hear they are amazing for making the crib transition -- which is something worth noting! (You can find a few other designs here.)
  • Halo Bassinest Bedside Swivel Sleeper - This is another item I hear about frequently from my friends who are new moms. Whether you're breastfeeding or not, being able to grab at arm's length in the middle of the night would be clutch. This was the only downside for me of the Rock n Play. I wished it was taller, so I wouldn't have to bend down as far -- especially in the week or so after delivery.
  • Babymoov Lovenest Flat-Head Pillow - I found this when our second little one seemed to always sleep with her head facing the right. It may be a gimmick, it remains to be seen, but I felt better about her head when I used it. I discontinued using it after she was rolling around more.
  • 3-inch Pack n Play Mattress - If we're staying somewhere besides our house and don't have our own Breeze with us, I always try and make sure to have one of these on hand. The crinkly sound and uncomfortable feel of some Pack n Plays make it virtually impossible to imagine a little one getting a good night's sleep. This mattress gives a little extra cushion and has proven to give us more sleep when we're not in our normal sleeping quarters. (Extra sleep on vacation = priceless!)
  • Marpac Dohm All-Natural White Noise Sound Machine - This was a more recent addition to our arsenal, but I'd heard people rave about this particular machine for ages. We run this puppy at night in the Jack n Jill bathroom, which separates their bedrooms -- in the hopes that one won't disrupt the other's sleep.
Of your own choosing:
  • Crib - This kind of goes without saying, but for full preparedness, I included it. The crib we got from Pottery Barn has since been discontinued, so don't always rely on it being around forever. Register also for the "conversion" kit if you want an easier transition to a toddler bed. Many cribs choices have this as an option.
  • Crib Sheets - I would recommend getting two (or three!) to ease your mind when that middle of the night blowout occurs. No baby wants to sleep in a sheet-less crib!
  • Glider - We haven't purchased a second glider for baby #2's room, but in some ways, I wish we had. I love the peacefulness that this chair brings. Choose whatever style you like. If it's available (and suits your style), try to find one which reclines. You'll understand why later.

Need to have:
  • Little Unicorn Hooded Towel Set (Available at Anthropologie and direct from Little Unicorn) - Whether you register for them or not, you'll end up with a ton of hooded towels. (People love babies in towels!) We received one of these towels when Rosie was born and I fell in love. They're beautiful and functional, the perfect combination!
  • Skip Hop Moby Bath Spout Cover - Perfect for boys and girls, this prevents run-ins with the scary, shiny, and hard faucet.
  • Skip Hop Moby Waterfall Bath Rinser - A close companion to the spout cover, this 'rinser' has the ideal design for kindly pouring water on baby.
  • Puj Tub - Here's a choice that depends greatly on your bathing set-up, but this is the infant tub we love. It folds up pretty compactly for easy storage -- and there is a travel version if you need it.
  • Boon Fleet Stacking Boats - After reading an absolutely disgusting article somewhere about mold found in baby bath toys, I swore off any toys which could somehow hide water. These stacking boats are ideal because they have no little crevices to grow mold. Win!
Nice to have: 
  • Kyte Washcloths - Since babies have delicate skin, I'm an advocate of these extra soft cotton washcloths. They certainly aren't a necessity, but it is a sweet little luxury.
  • Munchkin White Hot Inflatable Duck Safety Tub - We used this tub when James made his way from the Puj to the actual tub. It's about to come out stoarge for Rosie's transition. Its pricetag and size make it attractive because it doesn't serve a purpose for a crazy long time. I think we used it for about a month while James developed stronger sitting skills.

Need to have:
  • OXO Tot Perfect Pull Wipes Dispenser - I may be in the minority here, but I decided my kids didn't need warm wipes to manage their messes. I love this OXO option because it has a weight which goes on top of the wipes and works with any brand you decide to use. The wipes stay wet, which doesn't always happen if the lid on a package isn't secure. (We've even brought one for each of our kids at daycare and their providers love them!)
  • Munchkin Waterproof Changing Liners - I've professed my love of these for years, but they're perfect for at home and on the go use. They have a waterproof barrier and can go on top of whatever cute changing pad cover you choose... because you won't be as upset to throw away a $3 changing pad liner as you would your favorite (and more expensive) changing pad cover.
  • Regal + Lager Dékor Plus Diaper Pail - Not going to lie, we have three of these in our house: one in each of our kids' rooms and another in our living room, where we spend the most time. I've NEVER ever had a smell issue from these. They're easy to change once they're full and even have a handy cutter on the door (which took us about 18 months to discover... oops?). There's nothing worse than walking into a house and smelling diapers. When there are two under two, I was worried it was inevitable. The Diaper Dékor is a miracle worker!
  • Munchkin Contour Foam Changing Pad - You really can't go wrong with a basic foam changing pad. Some people choose really posh, fluffy ones, but I don't see the point. You want something that isn't going to soak in every bodily fluid which might pour out... so waterproof is the way to go. You might want to buy a few anti-slip pads to hold it in place, depending on what surface you place the changing pad.
Nice to have: 
  • Keekaroo Peanut Diaper Changing Pad - When we were on Nantucket for vacation in September, we used a rental company for a good amount of our baby needs. They had a Keekaroo in stock, so we gave it a try. Though I generally think it's kind of ugly, it worked beautifully for a tiny infant and a rambunctious toddler. I couldn't get over the aesthetics, but I definitely think it's worth a look for something "all in one" -- no liners or changing pad covers necessary.
  • Summer Infant Ultimate Flat Crib Sheet - One of my most seasoned mom friends swears by this crib sheet. We've used it from time to time, but I figured it was worth including since it came with a resounding endorsement from a mom of three.
Of your own choosing:
  • Changing Pad Cover - I would be sure to grab two or three of whatever you choose. #accidents 

Need to have:
  • KicKee Pants Footies (On occasion, they will come up on Gilt and Zulily -- so that's often when I jump on them!) - I may sound like a broken record on KicKee Pants, but I can't get enough. They're so so so so soft, which is perfect for tiny little babies.  I don't mind the snaps, but if you do, Magnificent Baby is always an option.
  • Goumikids Goumiboots + Goumimitts - Soft and sweet, these rather neutral booties and mittens are ideal year-round. The booties grow with them, thanks to the Velcro-like closure. The mittens protect their delicate faces from their razor sharp nails. Win win!
  • Little Unicorn Muslin Blankets or Aden + Anais Swaddles (Multiple options at Nordstrom and Bloomingdale's) - I feel like blankets count in the "wearing" category for those early days. You can never have enough of these in your arsenal. They also work as a nursing cover (tied at the neck) when you're in a punch. I also love the KicKee blankets for swaddling, but they feel totally different than the muslin.
Nice to have: 
  • Zutano Cozie Fleece Booties - If this was just a winter baby registry list, this would be in the "need to have" category. As the name implies, they're perfectly cozy to prevent cold toesies. They now have non-skid bottoms, so I may even get a pair for our toddler this winter. I just wish they came in my size!
  • Freshly Picked Moccasins - Do you need these moccasins? No. But are they adorable? Yes.
  • Baby Bling Headbands - I swore I'd never put a bow on my daughter, but these Baby Bling Headbands taught me otherwise. They'll work from birth until they won't let you put a headband on them anymore ;)
  • Colonial Mills Wool Blend Hamper with Lid - Based in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, one of my closest friends introduced me to Colonial Mills just before James was born. They make classic rugs and house goods, one of my favorites being this handy hamper. We have a few to hold toys and clothes. They're well made and won't hurt if someone takes a tumble into them!
  • This is an older post, but here are some fun ideas on building a building a gender neutral baby wardrobe. I don't generally recommend putting clothing on a registry (since you're likely to get a ton of it unsolicted), but I wanted to put the food for thought in this post ;)
Of your own choosing:
  • Basic white onesies (short + long-sleeved) - There's nothing cuter than a baby in a basic white onesie. They're good for wearing under belly-baring outfits or just chilling on the couch at home. 

Need to have:
  • My Brest Friend Nursing Pillow (Black + White Slip Cover) - I know everyone thinks of the Boppy as the #1 nursing pillow, but I personally think My Brest Friend is superior. The buckle helps keep it in place and there is even a bit of back support. 
  • Anita Seamless Nursing Bra with Underwire - Some people dislike underwire in their nursing bras, but I need it. It isn't bulky and pulls down over the ladies with ease. The straps are supportive and stay in place. I actually miss wearing it when I'm no longer nursing!
  • Milk Snob Cover - I wish I had discovered Milk Snob when I was nursing in public with James. It may be second mom confidence, but I truly attribute my Milk Snob to ability to nurse more comfortably in public. Available in some fun patterns and bold colors, this nursing cover can also serve as a car seat cover and as a shopping cart cover.
  • Medela Pump In Style Advanced Breast Pump On-The-Go Tote - I rented a hospital grade pump with my first little one, but I managed to get this more portable pump through insurance with my second. The letdown feature is key and it's relatively light for travel. I also purchased a battery pack, which makes it super easy to pump... anywhere (including a club in the Hamptons while attending a bachelorette party -- I'm speaking from experience! ha!)
Nice to have:
  • Le Mystere Underwire Nursing Demi Bra - This bra has a totally different feel than the bra I mentioned above. The cups are molded and it feels a bit more like armor, but it does feel a bit more "sexy" (as nursing bras come) than most.
  • Dr. Brown's Gia Nursing Pillow + Pillow Cover - I've spent a great amount of time with my nursing pillows over the last couple of years. I especially like that this pillow isn't so bulky all the way around. It has a more "shrimp" like shape, if that makes sense, and offers the right angle for baby. (More cover options are also available on Etsy.)
  • Medela Breastmilk Cooler Set - If you plan to travel while you're pumping, register for at least one of these cooler sets. It fits beautifully in the pump bag I mentioned above, but it also eliminates any extra wiggle room and quells my fear of #spilledmilk.
Of your own choosing:
  • Nursing Pads - 8 out of 10 friends (I'm guessing here) will have some leaky issues until supply is regulated. It doesn't really matter what brand you use (I'm brand loyal and used the Medela ones), as long as you have them. I didn't like the washable ones... because milk can be stinky. There, I said it. I just wanted to throw mine out after they were soaked, rather than needing to wash them.
  • Lanolin - This is something to have on hand, but be forewarned -- it can stain (even though it's clear!). A few brands exist, but they all work virtually the same. I used this one. I did learn that a few drops of breast milk (left exposed) work wonders on painful nipples.

Need to have:
  • Phil & Ted's Poppy Highchair - I'll admit I didn't do a ton of research around highchairs, but I chose this one because I didn't want a poofy cloth one which would be hard to clean. From those first days eating purées to recent days simply trying to keep James in one place, this one has served us well. It wipes down easily. The only thing I could possibly complain about is that I trip over its legs.
  • Boon Clutch Dishwasher Basket - These are an absolute lifesaver. Whether you give your baby formula or breast milk, there will inevitably be bottles to clean. It took me forever to learn that you could actually wash your bottle parts in the dishwasher. (Our dishwasher even has a sanitizing rinse cycle.) We keep this in the top level of our dishwasher at all time. It works for everything from bottle parts to sippy cup parts.
  • Boon Grass Drying Rack - Should you choose to wash bottles or other baby gear by hand, this drying rack is the way to go. I'll admit we also use it for washing delicate wine glasses ;) (If you're against the green, you can find it here in white!)
  • Dr. Brown's Natural Flow Wide Neck Bottles - We've been Dr. Brown's fans from the very beginning. If I'm being honest, it is also the only bottle I've ever tried with our little ones. Dr. Brown's claims to help reduce feeding problems like colic and spitting up, so it's probably why I like them. There are a few parts to their bottles, but I'm used to them and our little ones have never had an issue. There available in multiple sizes (here's the next size up) and they're virtually indestructible.  (Everyone talks about Comotomo, but again, I've never tried anything else. Every baby is different, so you may have to give a few different bottles a try.)
  • Aden + Anais Burp Cloths - In the early days, these cloths work beautifully for draping over shoulders when burping tiny infants. They can also be snapped and provide lots of coverage once they're a little bigger. These Aden + Anais Snap Bibs are another cute option in the same fabric once babes have moved on to more regular bottle feeding and eating solids.
  • Green Sprouts Stay-Dry Infant Bibs - We sent these bibs with both babies to daycare. They're not particularly soft, but they do the trick and have a waterproof inner layer. This is great for particularly drooly or messy babes!
  • ZoLi Bot 6 oz. Straw Sippy Cup - We did a ton of sippy cup trials, but none scored well with our son until we found the ZoLi Bot. Some little ones do better with a straw -- and James is one of them. We bought a few in each size (here's the other - ZoLi Bot XL 9 oz. Straw Sippy Cup). One tip: buy only one color per size to reduce confusion which top goes with which cup. The straws are cleaned easily when placed in the open position in our Boon Clutch. They only leak when the lid isn't placed on correctly.
  • The Honest Company Formula Dispenser - Once James made the move to formula around 6.5 months, I lived by these dispensers. I could get ready to get out the door without having to lug the entire container of formula with me.
Nice to have: 
  • Stokke Tripp Trapp Highchair - This attractive highchair was added to our seating arrangement around the time James turned one. It seems to work well for the slightly older set. We use it interchangeably with our Poppy Highchair. (Hello, baby stuff central!) In order to make it functional as a highchair, you'll also need to buy the Chair Tray and the Baby Set. This makes it a much less cost effective option. However, it is a little easier to swallow long term as it grows with them with its adjustable foot rests and removable tray.
  • Phil & Ted's Lobster Portable Clip-on Highchair - If you don't love using restaurant highchairs, this is a great alternative. Some tables can't accommodate it, so be aware it may not work everywhere. It packs up in a handy and non-obnoxious bag. In my opinion, it definitely falls in the nice to have, not the need to have category.
  • EZPZ Happy Mat Silicone Feeding Mat - You won't put this in the rotation until your little one is a bit bigger, but this feeding mat is fun for baby and easy to clean. Unfortunately, they don't work well on either of the high chairs I mentioned. It is great for those days when you allow your little one to belly up to the table. If you were willing to tote it along, it would be nice for eating out of the house. (One thing we always have on hand when we go out to eat? These Neat Solutions Neat-Ware Table Toppers. Great to create a clean surface on the go!)
  • KicKee Bibs - My beloved KicKee fabric in a big in cute solids and patterns? Sign me up.
  • OXO Tot Roll-up Bibs - Need an easy bib to toss in your diaper bag which wipes clean? This is your winner.
  • ZoLi Stuck Suction Bowl Feeding Kit - As we try to limit the mess in our kitchen and dining room, this suction bowl has helped immensely. It prevents cereal bowls from ending up on our little one's head... 98% of the time. (They do make good hats!)
  • OXO Tot Flippy Snack Cup + Munchkin Snack Catcher - Either one of these cups are handy for snack food on the go. (Think puffs, yogurt bites, and berries!) I like the Munchkin version for younger ones and the OXO version for slightly older babes.
  • Boon Pulp Silicone Feeder - Part teether and part feeder, this is a handy food delivery device. Put cold purées inside and it helps calm those painful teething gums -- and gives them a snack at the same time.

 Need to have:
  • BabyBjorn Bouncer - When we purchased this for James at four weeks, I wished we had it a few weeks sooner. Thankfully, we had it from the day we got home from the hospital with Rose. Once they both hit about eight or ten weeks, this Toy Bar became a handy addition for easy entertainment.
  • Boppy Newborn Lounger - We didn't have this lounger with James, but I wish we had. I got it when Rosie was about two weeks old and I was glad I did. It just felt like a safe place to place a tiny baby without fear of rolloffs or rollovers. Once Rosie turned about ten or twelve weeks, it slowly made its way out of our rotation.
  • Skip Hop Farmyard Activity Gym - You can pick any activity gym you want, but you will definitely need one. It is wonderful for tummy time and can enchant little ones of many ages (including a toddler, who now likes to lay underneath of it with his sister). I chose this classic, very gender neutral set. It also has some coordinating toys, mentioned in the nice to have category!
  • Skip Hop Playspots Foam Floor Tiles - These super neutral floor tiles help make your house or apartment feel less like a daycare. They help soften the blow when little ones tumble as they start moving and shaking.
  • Original Sophie the Giraffe + Sophie the Giraffe Teether - They're worth the hype. That's all.
Nice to have:
  • 4Moms Mamaroo - This is a much hyped registry addition, but it also comes with a bit of a pricetag. To save money, I bought ours on Craig's List. I'm glad I didn't pay full price because neither of our kids loved it. I did buy a Newborn Insert to help make it cozy. Some babies looooove it, which is why I included it -- ours just did not.
  • Pottery Barn Kids Fun on the Farm Stacker + Pottery Barn Kids Farm Animal Rattle Blocks Set - These match the activity gym I referenced above. They are well made and didn't show their age once James moved on from them.
  • Bumbo Floor Seat - Another perennial registry favorite, it gets my endorsement... but we didn't use it nearly as much as I expected we would. Once James and Rosie were beginning to spend some time sitting up, this was another stop on their activity rotation in our living room.
  • KidCo Go-Pod Portable Activity Seat - This came highly recommended to me by a dear friend and seasoned beach goer. For all intents and purposes, it's a portable jumperoo. It is handy to have for keeping babies in one place while on the beach (and off of it, too). It folds up smaller than a camping chair, so its slim size is also a selling point.
Of your own choosing:
  • Jumperoo - They're ugly and huge, but babies LOVE them. The giggles and smiles they bring help make their aesthetic ickiness more tolerable. The good news is that they don't need to stay in your living space forever ;)

Need to have:
  • Bumbleride Indie All Terrain Stroller - I fell in love with this stroller at a local children's boutique. As a runner, this is perfect for short jogs (probably not for speed work or marathons). As a mother, it's great because you can still be active and go over crazy terrain with ease. They also have an Indie Twin, to which we have now transitioned since we have two on board. A lot of people go for a BOB or something similar, but this has my ringing endorsement. It is American made and isn't as bulky as some joggers can feel. I would go test out as many as you can before you make your decision, but if you're like me, you'll always come back to Bumbleride.
  • UPPAbaby VISTA Carbon Frame Convertible Stroller - I wish we purchased this when we had James. It is an ideal stroller for two under two, allowing multiple configurations which fits both little ones comfortably. It also works really well for one baby, coming with a bassinet (which can actually be used as a place for the baby to sleep in the house!) that feels comfortable and cozy. There are ENDLESS accessories which you may need, like plastic rain covers and car seat adapters, but you should wait until you make all your gear choices before you buy.
  • UPPAbaby G-LUXE Reclining Umbrella Stroller - We were grateful to receive this portable stroller off of our registry. We like it so much that we may even pick up the double version in the future. It is the smallest of our strollers, but it still feels sturdy and has weathered many trips. I would also make sure to have the UPPABaby G-Series TravelSafe Travel Bag because UPPABaby will cover any issues on the spot, if their bag is in use.
Nice to have:
  • UPPAbaby SnugSeat Seat Inset - We didn't get this until Rosie was a bit older, but it is handy to have when newborns are SO small and it feels like they're falling out of their seats.
  • UPPABaby CozyGanoosh Footmuff - You won't need this if you live somewhere warm, but it is a fantastic option for babes in colder climates.

Need to have:
  • Maxi-Cosi Mico AP Infant Car Seat - As time moves on, baby seats get better. We've loved our Maxi-Cost Car Seat because its as light as they come. This is much more important than you realize as your baby goes and you're suddenly carrying a huge weight on your arm. It weathered 7 months with James and over 5 months with Rosie. I would certainly get it again. However, if we were going to get something new, I would consider the UPPAbaby MESA Car Seat (as it fits in our stroller system without an adapter) or the Nuna Pipa Car Seat (as it comes highly recommended by friends). This is a very personal choice, so go and feel them before you decide! Whatever you choose, be sure to get a second base -- because it is one less thing to worry about when transporting little ones.
  • Britax Boulevard Clicktight Convertible Carseat - Another very personal choice which requires your own research, we went with this Britax model after we did our own. We moved James to this seat because he was a BIG boy and I was tired of carrying the infant seat. I anticipate keeping Rosie in hers a bit longer because she's slightly more petite and because it's easier to wrangle a baby and a toddler that way ;)
  • Skip Hop Chelsea Diaper Bag Backpack - A fun spin on this classic diaper bag, I'm aching to own this one for myself. Backpacks are cool, I promise -- especially when you need one extra hand free. I include this here, even because I don't own it, because I trust their brand and their reviews. It's also not ugly in the slightest, so that's something, right? (You can also see a few others in a round-up I did before baby #1 was born!)
  • On the Go Sleep Sheep - Getting your little one out of the house can come with anxiety about crying and interrupting those around you. Thankfully, this sleep sheep (and others like it) help calm your little one and you as well.
  • ERGObaby 360 Baby Carrier - Baby carriers are another hot item, but this is the one which worked best for us. I liked that baby could face in during the early days and face out once they got a bit bigger. I always feel like the carrier is securely placed around my hips. It also works for my husband with just a few quick adjustments.
  • ERGObaby Easy Snug Cotton Poplin Baby Insert - This is an updated version of what the infant insert we have. This is ideal for carrying tiny babies without a worry.
Nice to have: 
  • Bébé au Lait Love Muslin Car Seat Cover - While I love my Milk Snob cover, this is another wonderful (and breathable!) option.
  • Rebecca Minkoff Knocked Up Baby Bag - This is the baby bag I treated myself to during a Shopbop sale a few years back. It cost a pretty penny, but it feels less like a diaper bag and more like a normal bag I might carry -- without table top covers or toys or diapers inside.
  • Solly Baby Wrap - Another baby carrier option, this one is beloved by many -- including me. I didn't always have the patience to wrap it, but I always felt like my littles were cozy and warm while wearing it. Regardless of which one you get, it works for all-sized humans, which is also a plus.
  • Baby K'Tan Wrap Baby Carrier - The K'Tan was an early favorite of ours, which is less crazy to try and put on than the Solly (in my opinion). It is a sized option, however, so it doesn't work across families. 

Need to have:
  • Nest Security Camera - You have plenty of options when it comes to baby monitors, but this camera was the one which fit our needs. It is a positive for us, but for others, it is a negative -- it can be viewed from anywhere on a compatible phone or tablet. Call me a bad mom if you wish, but I don't have the monitor on at all times (except I do have it on once we go to bed). We have two cameras now with two little ones -- and both can be seen from the same screen. We're fans!
  • Beautycounter Baby Soothing Oil - Gosh, I wish I had this when James was born. It truly feels like a dream when you put this on baby's skin. It is lightweight and fragrance-free -- and doesn't stain clothes as other oils can. We use it right before bedtime to give Rosie a tiny massage. I wish I had that every night ;)
  • Beautycounter Baby Gentle All-Over Wash - This silky smooth wash is something I want to add to my routine. I feel confident knowing that it doesn't have unnecessary chemicals and it rinses easily to leave my little ones clean.
  • Beautycounter Baby Daily Protective Balm - For little eczema spots, this balm works wonders.
  • Braun Thermoscan No-Touch + Forehead Thermometer - You need one of these. They come from a variety of brands, so pick your poison. This is the one we have. I didn't spend much time on the choice. It works, though not perfectly -- but none of them do. The next item is a bit more precise...
  • Vicks Baby Rectal Thermometer - I know, I know. Who wants this? But I promise you'll want one around for better readings than a forehead thermometer can give.
  • FridaBaby NoseFrida Nasal Aspirator - It looks gross, but it is truly essential. This snot sucker will help you get some sleep back on those stuffy nights for your little one. You'll also want some replacement FridaBaby NoseFrida Hygiene Filters, some Little Remedies Saline Spray to help loosen the phlegm, and  Boogie Wipes to clean up the mess without yucky residue.
  • FridaBaby Windi the GasPasser - I didn't use these regularly, but they did assist well when our kids weren't regular -- if you catch my drift ;)
Nice to have: 
  • Em's Baby Earmuffs - If you're going to see fireworks or a sporting event with a baby in tow, this will help you feel more confident that their little ears are protected.
  • WubbaNub Pacifier Toy - Neither of our little ones were fans of pacifiers (weird!), but we received a few of these -- and I loved that they came with a tiny stuffed animal that babies could hold. Pacifiers are something nice to have on hand, but be prepared (like bottles) to try out a few brands.
  • ZoLi Buzz B. Electric Nail Trimmer - You don't need to spend a lot of money on a nail trimmer, as your teeth work just as well, but if you wanted one, this is a good one to get.
  • FridaBaby NailFrida TheSnipperClipper Nail Care Set - Need to cut slightly bigger finger nails? I like this FridaBaby option. You can see through the top to make sure you don't cut too far.

Under $25:
  • Milestone Baby Cards - I received these as a gift -- and I love them! They work with both genders and also make a sweet keepsake.
  • Junior Babiators Sunglasses - Get some laughs at a shower with this fun add-on to any gift.
  • JellyCat Stuffed Animal - No baby can ever have too many JellyCats.
  • Baby Lit All Aboard! Books - Along the same lines, no baby can ever have enough Baby Lit!
  • Little Unicorn Fruitful Bib Set - Don't know what bibs a mom might choose? These are an adorable (and mostly gender-neutral) option.
  • Angel Dear Blankies - James is obsessed with his "lalas". We have quite a few -- all in different colors and faces. A dear friend suggested to have a few extra on hand in case one goes missing, so they'd make a perfect gift -- because a little one can never have enough!
Under $50:
  • Chewbeads - Cute and functional, this necklace makes it possible for a new mom to wear jewelry again -- even if it is meant for their little one to chew ;)
  • Tooth Fairy in a Box - So much focus is placed on those newborn days, but giving something like this little tooth fairy guarantees your gift will keep on giving many years down the line.
  • Moulin Roty Childhood Treasures Souvenir Box - I'm a packrat, so I love this. It would be a wonderful gift for a sentimental mama.
  • FridaBaby Bitty Bundle of Joy - Instead of buying all the FridaBaby fixes individually, this could make a great gift. It's a one-stop shop for all my favorites (plus a few extras!).
Under $100:
  • Jennifer Ann Personalized Name Blanket - You will see lots of blankets below, but this one is my favorite by far. Chances are you have probably seen ours in my photos -- and it is sure to be a lifelong keepsake. The lead time to receive a blanket is roughly a month, so make sure you have that time baked in before you'd like to give this precious gift.
  • Little Giraffe Chenille Blanket - There are cult fans of Little Giraffe, so I'm sure this would be a gift that would be welcomed with open arms by babies and parents in need of some coziness.
  • Aden + Anais Dream Blanket - This starry blanket would be a dream-inducing and super soft gift to be enjoyed for years to come.
  • Welcome Baby Gift Set - Help new parents care for their little ones in comfort with this boxed set of all the best Beautycounter baby products.

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recent wardrobe + beauty finds: fall 2016.

cape cod | october 2016

This pretty photo of buoys isn't related to this post whatsoever. I just decided it was prettier than any collage I could create on little to no sleep, so I hope you enjoy this vignette from my drive last week on Cape Cod. (Yay for the four month sleep regression!) This post is actually about what has been catching my eye or made its way to my closet or beauty drawer in the last few months. I am really rocking the mom bod these days, so give me a little grace in the 'lack of fashion forward choices' department. I am focused on function and wearability these days. Read on to see what is working for me...

-I picked up this silky wrap blouse in winter white for my return to work this fall. (I could also add this top under the "nursing friendly" category.) It comes in a number of other prints and colors, so you can always grab a couple of colors. Once it hits the sale rack, you can almost always find an additional promotion at Ann Taylor. 
-Still at Ann Taylor (and still on sale), this dress is rather conservative and not that exciting, but it is a solid staple to add to your dress rotation. I have a ton of black dresses in my closet, but I liked that this was navy and black -- perfect to wear with some of my favorite black flats. (As I write this, I am realizing that my work wardrobe is pretty basic, so please don't judge. Showing up to work with the same pair of shoes can be a feat these days!)
-In total opposition to what I just said, I am lusting over this crazy dress -- because leopard is a neutral, right? It isn't exactly pumping friendly, but that's why I have my MilkSnob handy.

-For less than $35, you can add this cozy vest to your weekend wardrobe. I'm partial to the dark gray, but the camel and light gray are just as versatile.
-I readily admit that I am a lululemon addict, but my local store tolerates me coming in to try on a boatload of things from time to time. This top is one that I want to love, but I need to learn to embrace its blouse-y shape. It would be perfect to toss on when you don't really have any plans and you don't know what else to wear on a weekend morning. I tend to buy a 6 in lululemon, but I would definitely pick this top up in a size (or two!) smaller.
-Speaking of lululemon, they took my favorite top and made it a little less boobilicious in this crew neck version. I treat myself to one of these on occasion. I am just diligent with keeping it out of the dryer (and hanging to dry) to keep it living longer.
-This simple top + a cute pair of pants + cozy scarf + a pair of boot(ie)s? The perfect fall outfit.
-Splendid is one of my go-to's for relaxed yet polished tops. This top has an unexpected detail -- a long line of buttons on the back -- which make it more than just a boring striped shirt.

-When I was pregnant last winter, I looked high and low for a coat like this but couldn't find it. Of course, I can find it now. That said, I don't hate the idea of getting it this year since I'm not loving the  tailored coats I have in my closet yet.
-I only wish I discovered the ASOS Nursing section before I had James. This dress worked beautifully toward the end of my pregnancy with Rosie; it is still on heavy rotation now, 4.5 months postpartum. I can wear it and nurse through the available holes, keeping things rather discrete. It works well by itself in the summer, well with a cardigan in the fall and winter, and well with a jean jacket in the spring. You can just call me its number one fan...
-I have this sweater in the winter white from two winters ago -- and I've loved pulling it out each year. I might need to pick it up in the gray to toss on over some jeans or leggings for the next few winters. It hides those lumps and bumps because it's just the right kind of roomy.
-Though my postpartum belly doesn't fully disappear with this pair of underwear, it certainly helps the cause. I wear them when I just need to contain my situation a bit ;)
-Back during the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, I discovered Spanx leggings. They're legit. I snagged this "leather" pair for a little edge. The jury is still out as to whether I'm cool enough to pull them off.

-I am downright obsessed with this tinted moisturizer. Over the last year, I had a few introductions to Beautycounter but I never made a purchase. I just wish I made the leap sooner. It took me going to their Nantucket Pop-up in September to bring home my first Beautycounter product. Not only does this moisturizer have SPF, it actually leaves my skin hydrated all day long and doesn't look cakey with the color.
-On that same visit to their pop-up shop, I also grabbed this rosewater mist. I have to admit I was skeptical, but it is a game-changer for my tired skin.
-P.S. I know it may sound like I've had a drink of the Beautycounter Kool-aid. I guess I have. Their mission is legit and it's made me re-think my whole beauty routine (so much so I'm now a consultant for them). Now that I have a daughter, I am thinking about her future beauty routine too. I want her to grow up with safer and healthier options. I'm not going to inundate you with products, don't worry, but I do plan on sharing my favorites -- which is what I've done since I started blogging almost seven years ago.

A few parting notes: I know this post is light on pants. Why? I'm still not really fitting into the pants I was before Rosie (or really before James). My body has changed considerably, so I need to take some time to mourn my pre-baby shape (#RIP). While I nurse, I hold onto weight rather than drop it. If I try to work on my diet or increase my exercise, it affects my milk supply. In other words, until I stop nursing, things are the way they are. I plan on taking some time soon to find some real solutions other than my beloved Align pants because, let's face it, I have to accept that lululemon leggings don't count as pants.

This post is also light on accessories. I could say "oops", but in reality, it is because I am not really wearing pretty things like necklaces or earrings these days. My 4 month old is grabby and I can barely remember to put my wedding ring on after I shower. I'll accessorize again when they're grown. Or something like that?

Last but not least, I wanted to open it up and see if there was anything special you'd like me to explore on the blog. I'm constantly thinking of ideas for posts, but I want them to resonate with you. (Example: If you're pregnant or a new mom, I'm also happy to take requests on round-ups you'd like to see. Email me and I'll start pulling it together.) I may not post as often as I'd like, but I still want to be a valuable stop on your procrastination chain on the internet ;) Have a great night! xoxo {av}

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pantone color report: spring 2017.

pantone spring 2017 color report // graphic by @luvfromafar

If you've been following {long distance loving} for any length of time, you will know I create a post every fall to illustrate Pantone's top ten hues for the next spring. With that in mind, it is only right that this is my post to say "hello, I'm going to try my best to blog again". So much has changed in my life in the last six months, but I'm determined to keep up my favorite little corner on the Internet. I may not be blogging every day, but I am certainly going to try my best to get all of the posts swirling around in my head out. I need some head space back! #mombrain

After looking through my previous illustrations from 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013, I have to say that this year's report is rather vibrant. If I had to pick favorites, I would have to choose two of the three beautiful blues, Niagara and Lapis Blue. Don't hate me for being stuck in the blues: I promise my color choices don't reflect the sunny state of life in my world! It may not all be sunshine and rainbows, but I have never been as happy as I am today. I can't wait to give you more color (pardon the pun!) on life with two little ones. Lots more soon! xoxo {av}

Can you choose a favorite (or two!) from this year's Pantone Color Report?

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