Life & Littles Podcast!

Exciting news!!!

Our own Dr. Annie is on this week’s episode of Doctor Mommy, MD’s podcast talking about second trimester of pregnancy. The Life & Littles podcast may just be your new favorite listen, friends!

Photo credit Fiona Margo Photography

“Imagine your best friend is a doctor and a mom, what questions would you want to ask her over a glass of wine? What questions would you text her in the middle of the night?” Sound helpful?

Grab a coffee or glass of wine and tune in on iTunes and subscribe to get all the upcoming fun times!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/life-littles-with-doctor-mommy-md/id1451847392?mt=2&i=1000429939961

You can also find Shelly on Instagram and Facebook @doctormommymd and should check out her gorgeous blog while you’re at it!

Xoxo!

Sexy as a M*ther

There’s a new sexy in town friends, and I would argue, it’s even better than before. It’s mom-sexy. We may not have the bouncy bounty of hair and bikini top filling of yesteryear, but we have some new moves that can light the 🔥🔥🔥 of romance like none other. (Literally. Because no one who’s not a mom would do this stuff…)

Wardrobe

Those young folks are all rocking flowy, low-cut tanks and dresses that show a hint of side or underboob here and there. The sexy implication being a nipple could be exposed at any moment. Enter: nursing tanks. This garment has the significant advantage of being able to actually whip out a titty in 1 second flat. Hey-yo!!!!

Shock Value

Sure Victoria would have you think your partner wants you in lacy little get ups 365 days a year. Let me tell ya, when all they’ve seen you in for months is spit-up stained sweats and then you slip on a real nighty? Firecrackers!!!

Naughty Naughty

Remember those teenage trysts making out when you knew your parents might walk in and bust you any minute -so hot, right? Well, as a parent, you get to turn the tables! You never know when a kid might wake up with a need for an escort to the bathroom and discover you and your partner “practicing stretching” or “having a tickle fight” 😳

Exploration

Another level of kink factor is available for all you cosleepers. Kid is in your bed so that’s off limits (at least I hope, because, wow! Boundaries, people). Hello, laundry room! Or take it to the bathroom counter. Nothing makes for creative sexcapades like having a literal cockblocker in your bed.

You said it!

New Turn Ons

Totally aging myself here, but… Remember when Devin Sawa’s bowl cut was the hottest thing (or were you a JTT gal?)? And then a few years later, it was boy band moves, then Abercrombie store dudes in barely-not-showing-pubic-hair-low cut shorts? What turns you on changes with time. And let me tell ya, once you’re a parent, there is basically nothing sexier than your partner going above and beyond with home & childcare.

Tell Me What You Want

What you really really want…. I’ll tell you what I want, what I really Really want. Because I’m a mom. And ain’t nobody got time for that Oh-let’s-pretend-this-is-fun-because-I’m-too-shy-to-be-honest sh*t. We know what works (hopefully!!) and we know how to get it and THAT, my friends is sexy.

Pregnant Sex

Ok, this one is transient, but can be ahhhhhmazing!! Increased blood flow? Yes please! Embracing your new curves? Oh yeah! Those pregnant boobs? 🙌🏻🙌🏻! If comfort allows, this can be one of the biggest perks of gestation. Get. After. It. There is a big ol’ dry spell (literally, so dry down there) coming up after baby. Store up some good times to last you through!

As always, keepin it Real

Real Talk

In all honesty though, it can be hard to feel like your former sexy self as a mom. Your body is different. It might feel better, it might feel squishier, it might feel completely foreign – no matter what, it changes. You may not have time for basic self care, much less a “beauty routine”. But instead of beating ourselves up about it and missing out on the fun, why not embrace it?! Your body can LITERALLY grow human beings. It’s miraculous. This is a special season in life and won’t last forever. Get out there and have a spicy Valentine’s Day, mamas! I, for one, think you’re SMOKIN!!! 😘

Dr. Annie is newly a mom of 3, a family doctor and finding new ways to be sexy all the time 😜

 

 

Bringing Home Siblings

This post contains affiliate links to help you find the products we have found helpful. We may get a tiny reward if you use our links but the recommendations are our own. Pretty Photo above credited to Jordan Marie Photography

All of us Real Mothers have gone through the fun adventure of bringing home a second or third baby to the family and I think we’ve collectively had just about everything go wrong that the rest of you could expect. The inspiration for this post was a friend’s recent experience of her 2-year-old trying to help “calm” a fussy 1-week old brother by very silently and sneakily feeding him an almond <cue full mom panic by proxy>. Luckily she was watching and everyone is ok.

We thought we’d put together a rundown on what will help avert disaster in sibling-land and make the transition as smooth as possible. Most of this is directed toward families bringing home a new baby with a first child (or multiple children) between the ages of 1-5 years old. Older kids are generally a bit easier to explain about baby safety, mom’s recovery, etc… hopefully.

Talk early and often

IMG_3444Being pregnant while managing a tiny terrorist is hectic in and of itself. If this is baby #3 or more for you on the way, that craziness is compounding. It’s easy to forget to talk to your kids about what to expect with a new baby ahead of time because frankly, you’re just in survival mode 90% of the time as it is. However, it makes a HUGE difference and it is much easier to manage baby’s arrival at home if you have had a few convos ahead of time and set realistic expectations for big brother(s) and/or sister(s). Some strategies include using books (see suggestions below), children’s shows (also below), incorporating a little Q&A or “talking to baby” session into bedtime, or talking about it for a bit when you see other people with small babies.

Don’t Miss Topics:

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Photo credit: Fiona Margo Photography
  • Where Babies Come From: This is bound to come up in one form or another. Rather than just avoiding the conversation, do yourself a favor and have these books: What Makes A Baby and Hello in There!, for a low-level detail, kid-targeted, but medically accurate way to explain how the baby got in there and how it gets back out. Some other great books are in This Fatherly Blog Post.

 

  • Shows: This is a parent and sibling win-win situation. Your kid feels like they are being treated to TV time, and you get help explaining the sibling transition from familiar children’s characters. Some of our favorites include “We Can’t Wait to meet the Baby” and “The Baby is Here!” (also books!) from Daniel Tiger. You can also view some great short videos about welcoming baby on  PBSKids.org.

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  • Baby Safety: As reviewed above, kids love to “help” mom with baby and are often distressed by the baby’s distress. Go over specifically:
    • Never put anything in baby’s mouth (including pacifiers because you don’t know where that thing’s been when the toddler finds it). If your kid is older the rule could be “without asking a parent”, but err on the side of never. Since younger kids understand positive “DO” commands better than negative “DON’T” commands – you can frame this as always bring things to a parent BEFORE giving to baby.” This also is important because younger kids may want to share small (CHOKING HAZARD) toys that they may not understand are dangerous to baby even if they are not put near the baby’s mouth. More than one sibling in our crew has tried to share a lego or two to cheer up their new baby, and they need to understand that sharing with a baby is ONLY okay when a parent approves the toy.
    • Never put anything over the baby’s face. Kids also love to “play peekaboo” or give stuffed animals to the baby which can smother tiny nostrils easily. Again, the positive spin on this is that blankets/toys/etc always go on the legs, NOT the face. Include not putting things in the crib/basinet with baby – little kids are remarkably good at “sharing” when you least want them to.adorable baby beanie bonnet
    • Never pick up the baby without a parent’s help. If your kiddo is much older, you can adjust this to their ability. But again, err on the side of caution when baby is tiny and needs head support. A positive way to frame this is “always ask for a parent to help you pick up or hold baby.”
    • We also find it helpful to have a “no-touching-on-the-face or hands” rule to manage germ transition. Point out they can kiss the toes or top of the baby’s head. And keep antibacterial spray such as this kid-safe one from CleanWell ALLLLL over the house.close up of baby feet
  • Mom’s Body: As a second (or third or fourth)-time moms’ belly grows larger, it somehow becomes an irresistible target for kids’ boisterous jumping, bouncing and otherwise projectile launching. You can be reassured, the baby is very well protected in there – but of course if a direct hit results in ongoing pain or bleeding, go get checked! Talk a lot about ways to be gentle with mom’s belly each time this happens.

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    Photo Credit: Kimberlin Gray Photography
  • Birth and Recovery: Also take the opportunity to talk about what the plan will be while mom is at the hospital or birth center. Go over how mom will be very tired and have some “ouchies” after the baby comes out and talk about ways the kids can help out – getting ice packs for you, rubbing feet, making faces or telling stories to the baby, helping to fetch diapers, etc…. Most kids love being able to help. Emphasizing their “big kid-ness” helps them feel special. If your kid is reward-motivated, you can even set up a points-chart that they earn a sticker for each helpful act to earn a new toy or privilege.

Gift From Baby

Picking up a special time-occupying gift for big kid “from the baby” goes a long way to establishing the baby-is-your-friend status we all want. Some good ideas can be found in this post: Plane Travel with Littles: Carry-On Packing List. Do yourself a favor and DO NOT buy toys that make noise. Boys and girls alike usually like to have their own babydoll of some kind to “mirror” what the parents are doing with the real baby, here are a few other options by age.

1-2 year old: Buckle Toys, Latch Board or Latch Barn

 

 

2-5 Years Old: Magnatiles, Dollhouse and Green Toys Cars + Track

Also consider a tablet loaded with educational games, see Fave Fridays: Smart Screen Time for ideas!

 

Of course, you know your kid best, get them something you know they’ll be excited about and will play with relatively independently for a while. Avoid toys with choking-sized parts even for bigger kids until you know they’re on board with the “nothing-in-baby’s-mouth” rule.

Lower Your Expectations

Most kids go through some form of regression when a new baby comes home. That can take a lot of forms. Potty-trained kids might have accidents again. Kids who have no trouble sleeping alone at night might suddenly be getting up. They will want to play in the baby’s bouncer, ride in the stroller, suck the pacifier. It’s a normal phase and will pass if you don’t overreact. Acknowledge it, talk about it briefly and move on.

Also lower your expectations for getting stuff done. Enlist more help. You will not get those luxurious “nap when the baby naps” moments as easily as when there was just one little being taking your time. (Did those really ever happen anyway?!) Set yourself up for success with a decluttered house, easy food in the freezer and loved ones on board to help as much as possible. If you have trouble asking for help, make a list ahead of time of things that would be helpful or set up a MealTrain or other chore-registry to delegate.

love sweet face portraitThis post is about preparing the kiddos, but part of that also involves preparing your coparent and other family/friends who will be helping. Make sure they know the priority is helping with the housework and the big kid(s). Your job is the new baby. They’re NOT there to hold the new baby while you ‘get stuff done’. I repeat: THEY ARE THERE TO GET STUFF DONE and only as much of the new baby stuff as you want to delegate. Liberally use the phrase, “My doctor/midwife said I need to be holding the baby as much as possible for bonding, immunity and milk production, so can you please <do the dishes, fold the laundry, go to the store, make dinner, take Jimmy to the park, etc…> while we go take a nap together?”

IF and only if you desire a moment away from new baby to shower, snuggle your big kid or whatever else, then others get to hold new baby. No one has a “right” to new baby time except YOU.

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Photo credit: Stacey Petersen Photography

If you don’t have family or a community to help, look at neighborhood list serves like NextDoor to hire a middle or high school aged “mommy’s helper” – cheaper than a nanny or babysitter, literally they just come over and do chores or play with your big kid while you’re home taking care of baby.

Enjoy the Before

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Photo credit: Jordan Marie Photography

The one guarantee with bringing another little life into the family is that things will be different. Better in many ways, harder in many ways, and just altered in many, many ways.

Watching siblings grow together and love one another is one of the greatest joys of parenthood.

Try not to worry too much about how you’ll manage it, because you just will. Do your best to try to soak in the remaining time while the newest addition is still easily portable, fed and clean on the inside of your body. Plan special outings that will be harder with a new baby like going to a movie or kids’ museum. Take a moment every day to pay attention to the little life on the inside as you did with the first baby without even realizing you were doing it.

Good luck multiples parents-to-be, enjoy the ride!

Anne is a mom to three (including one beautiful brand new baby) and family physician in California. Christiana is a mom to three, military spouse, attorney, and currently a stay-at-home mom in New England.

Rainbow Cake for Dummies

Disclaimer: I am not an advanced baker. There are 7000 other posts on how to do a rainbow cake or a rainbow unicorn cake or an animated dancing rainbow unicorn cake on the internet if you’re beyond this level. However, if you’re more on the cake-from-a-box-with-simple-frosting kinda gal and want to take it one little notch up, this post is for YOU! It’s fairly detailed with tips and tricks since I needed them at one point or another.

My oldest was due on December 24th and through some crazy antics I managed to get myself into labor a few days early so she wouldn’t be an actual Christmas baby. However, her birthday still falls within the time that allllll the Christmas decorations, songs and festiveness are in full effect. This makes me endeavor to have an extra-special NON-HOLIDAY related birthday celebration for her to calm my inner mom-guilt. The last couple of celebrations, I bought fancy cakes for her out of laziness but this year we’re on a more strict budget so I decided to DIY it up.

Now, I may not be a fancy baker but I am SUPER picky about how my desserts taste. I let her pick the flavor of cake and frosting. She boldly and without hesitation declared she needed chocolate cake and rainbow frosting (anyone else try to do light colored frosting on chocolate cake before and gotten that lovely cookies-and-cream crumb look? Luckily I’ve already made that mistake and knew how to problem solve but I knew it would be a tedious process to say the least). I tried to convince her that funfetti frosting is sort-of-rainbowish, but she didn’t buy it. Here’s how I pulled it off!

Step 1: Cake

I got chocolate cake mix – my homemade cakes turn out delicious but flat despite years of problem solving so I made like Elsa and Let It Go. I love the Trader Joes one. I always, always make the cakes with melted butter. They taste a million times better and vegetable oil is realllllllly bad for you. Yes worse than butter. You can also use coconut oil if you can’t do dairy. I made a double batch the day before, baked them in 3 pans instead of 4 to have tall layers and let them cool completely – this is KEY STRATEGY #1. The chocolate cake will fall apart into your frosting if it’s not alllllll the way cool and set. Also put the butter out to soften overnight for frosting.

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Step 2: Frosting

I’ve played around with lots of different frostings but in the end my all time favorite is a classic buttercream. Make more than you think you need because you do not want to have to skimp! If you forgot to soften butter, you can microwave on 10% or lowest power for 30 second intervals until soft. DO NOT get impatient with this. 10%. 30 second intervals. Trust me.

Simple Buttercream (for a double batch)

  • 1 lb (4 sticks) unsalted butter (go organic if you can), softened
  • tiny pinch salt
  • 4-6 C or one bag powdered sugar
  • 2-4 Tbs milk (option to use lemon juice, liquor or other flavored liquid if desired, can sub in 1 tsp vanilla or almond extract in as well)
  • Optional: food coloring

Cream butter in mixer for 1-2 minutes until lightened. Scrape down bowl. Sprinkle salt around and sift in 1 C sugar at a time. Beat slowly until incorporated then faster until homogenous. Add in 1 Tbs liquid at a time if the frosting starts to get too stiff. Alternate with sugar until sweetness and texture is as desired. Will take at least 4 Cups.

Step 3: Color

I planned out my rainbow to be pastel based on the food coloring we had. I needed a big bunch of purple for the top and purple for between the layers since that was her favorite color and then less of each other color for the sides.

  • Purple: I separated out about 2/3 of the white frosting and added the purple dye (or use pink/red + blue) a few drops at a time, scraping down and beating in frequent alternations until the right color got there. Don’t over-beat your frosting or it will separate.
  • I then divided up the remaining 2/3 white frosting into 5 roughly even portions and did the same process to make pink (or you could do red), orange, yellow, green and blue. Place each color into one corner of it’s own plastic baggie and set aside. I did this with the children. I had 0 teaspoons of patience left at the end of this process so sent them away with their dad for step 4.
  • If it’s really hot in your kitchen, your frosting might be too soft – refrigerate for 15 minute intervals until it spreads like soft butter.

Step 4: Assembly

  1. Check your alignment: Since I overfilled the cake pans (I’m gonna call it on purpose…), one of them was lop sided so I sliced it off flat.
  2. Put down a TBS of whatever frosting you have the most of in the middle of your chosen cake plate and place first layer of cake crumblier side down – for me this was the cut side. Use strips of wax paper to protect the edges of your plate. Cutting strips of wax paper can be a good task for a 4-7 year old kid.
  3. Get a tall glass or shallow wide bowl of very warm water and set aside your frosting-wiping rag
  4. Put some large dollops of frosting around the middle on top of the cake. If your frosting spreads easily, spread with short strokes from middle of cake out to edges. If it’s sticky or stiff at all, warm your metal spreader in the water, dry off and then spread. Spread right to the edge, but not over the side.
  5. Place second layer on top and repeat step 4 for the top of cake
  6. Start the sides with the bottom color. Use toothpicks to mark out where each color goes if it helps you. I just eyeballed it. Cut about 1cm off the corner of the baggie with your first frosting color. Squeeze in a line around the bottom with one hand as you spin the cake plate with the other. Don’t worry about it being perfect, just get a line on there. Repeat going up the side with the other colors. Go back at the end and fill in any larger gaps with the appropriate color.
  7. Take your frosting utensil, warm in the warm water, wipe clean and again, using one hand while the other spins the plate, run it vertically around the side of the cake to smooth and smoosh the colors together. Smooth the top into a corner. 

  8. Add sprinkles if you feel extra-fancy and VOILA!

Chill the cake until ready to serve. Let warm to room temperature about an hour before enjoying. Cut with warm knife for optimal aesthetically pleasing slices.

 

 

Dr. Annie is an experienced family doctor, pretty-ok baker and mom of 2 with 1 more coming very soon in California.

This Christmas, Invest in Yourself

This post contains affiliate links to make it easier for you to get to the tools that were helpful for us. We may get compensation from the links, but the point of the post is to share a personal journey, not to be an ad.

As parents, we all know that our children are our priority.  So much so, that we often sacrifice taking care of ourselves (usually without even realizing it).  I am certainly no exception, and I’d like to share a personal journey of mine here today in the spirit of the holidays.

As a financial advisor, I’m here to give you permission to not only spend some of your hard-earned money on yourself, but to also call it an investment.  Because it is!  It is the BEST kind of investment, in fact.  Investing in yourself pays dividends in ways you can’t even imagine, and benefits ALL of the people around you, including the little ones in your life who deserve to have a HAPPY, HEALTHY mother.  Repeat this ladies:

My children and family will benefit when I am happy and healthy.

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It was this time last year that I realized that I wasn’t in ideal shape. Having kids changed my body and changed my metabolism. I stepped on a scale for my annual physical and was shocked!! Somehow, while all of my friends lost weight while breastfeeding, I managed to gain it and keep it on. Ugh!

You may be thinking: “Margo, how could you have not realized this without going to the doctor?”  Well, for starters, I have a wonderful husband who loves me 100% of the time no matter what I weigh, and would never EVER call something like this to my attention.  Secondly, before kids, I was mostly a slim person who didn’t really have to exercise to maintain a certain weight (annoying, I know, but stay with me), so I was not used to paying attention to these sorts of things.  I didn’t even own a scale.  Alas…  Here I was:

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I decided I wanted to get back to my best, healthiest self. But how? I started slowly but didn’t really see results – Now I know why. I didn’t know what I was doing! I know about finance, but I didn’t know about nutrition or exercise. There were 3 key things that turned it all around for me and I wanted to share with you all what worked in case it can help any of you struggling the way I was.

Step 1: Nutrition

So, in April, I decided to get serious and call in an expert. I started with Amanda Kettering and did The Arbonne 30 Challenge. Little did I realize it would be an entire lifestyle changer!! I started to learn how to eat healthier without sacrificing my happiness or sanity. The results were immediate thanks to the program and to Amanda’s coaching. In the first month, I lost 15 lbs. In the next 3 months or so of continuing the program 80% of the time, I lost 10 more lbs. That’s 25 lbs total ONLY with changing the way I eat.

This was without any exercise. If I, as someone who is horrendous at cooking with an insanely busy schedule can make this work, anyone can.  If you are committed to following the plan, you will succeed.  Yes, even if you don’t cook.  Yes, even if you are busy.  And yes, even if you’ve failed at other “diets” in the past. Want to access it?  Click here.  Have questions?  Send us a message, and I’ll tell you the honest truth about all of the good, bad and challenging.

Step 2: Exercise

After 4-5 months of this, I decided to tackle exercising. I made a huge leap and joined True Core CrossFit in Annapolis thanks to urging from my friend Andrea. She convinced me I could do it. I had heard about this place from my friend Patrick, but wasn’t convinced I was cut out for CrossFit. This was the girl who avoided any kind of weight lifting, other than her own children… Really? CrossFit? Little did I realize what enormous, amazing community I was joining. I not only got incredible education and hands-on personal help during every class, but I made a ton of wonderful friends who celebrate every success of mine as if it is their own.

True Core also gave me individualized nutrition training, followed with constant encouragement and feedback. It should surprise no one that the nutrition support closely aligned with all I had learned in Arbonne, with some modifications to support the health of someone aggressively lifting weights and working out in the CrossFit program. I also started doing intermittent fasting during this time (safely, according to the program and with the help of Kristy and Brandon). If you want to know more about intermittent fasting, see Kristy and Brandon’s post here: The Skinny on Intermittent Fasting.

The owner of True Core, Shannon, and every single one of her coaches helped me lose another 20 lbs in three months. And would you believe I am enjoying it???? Coming from someone who hates to run and usually wanders aimlessly around a gym, it should mean a lot to you all that I actually LOOK FORWARD to going to True Core 3 or 4 times a week. (Thanks to my mom Cece and my wonderful hubby for making it possible for me to make time for this!!)  Live in the Annapolis, MD area and want to check out True Core?  Click here and schedule a free intro session with one of the amazing coaches.  I’ll be there to cheer you on!

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This is me: 45 lbs less than I was a year prior.

Step 3: Skincare

There was one more problem for me… I had consulted a plastic surgeon at the beginning of all of this who said if I was able to lose my goal weight in a year, going under the knife was the only way to tighten that saggy belly skin I’d be left with. But I had a secret weapon, Dr. Annie and Kristy convinced me to try Nerium Firming Body Contour Cream. If Annie says something works, I’ve learned to believe her. And just LOOK! It’s absolutely amazing!!! Dare I say my stomach looks quite close to how it looked during my college years (after a few beers…lol)? Sure, I have a few pregnancy stretch marks but I kinda love them. The Firming Lotion lightened them significantly. Even though I love what they represent, I also love that they are lightening! This company sells only clinically proven products for wellness and anti-aging developed with a Princeton-affiliated biotech company, Signum Biosciences. Click here to get Nerium Firming AD Contour Cream for yourself.  I’m a believer!img_5613.jpg

I am here to tell you that you can BOTH love your body and be proud of what it did in pregnancy and postpartum, and also want your skin and stretch marks to look better.  I look at that before picture and feel that love and admiration for my body, AND I look at the after picture and feel love and admiration for the hard work it takes to help heal this body that grew two tiny humans that I love more than anything in this world.

I feel such enormous gratitude and admiration to these experts and friends that I feel compelled to tell you all and shine some light on their awesomeness. As you are considering Christmas gifts, don’t forget to invest in yourself. Don’t forget to call in the experts. Don’t forget that the value of these all FAR outweigh the costs. Plus, you’ll save your partner or family members the trouble of coming up with gift ideas – tell them you want this, make it easy on them, haha!

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I’ve still got work to do – more goals to hit and more milestones to celebrate, but at this point I am in the long game, and can’t wait to enjoy every minute of the adventure.

Don’t underestimate the power of consistency and desire

Your imperfect friend,

Margo

 

Strong Women Series: Lauren Greeno on Setting The Perfect Turkey Day Table

I’m beyond pleased to feature this fantastic new mama, one of my college besties, Lauren Greeno, on this #WCW. After years planning galas for the rich and famous, she has decided to create her own event production business to get more flexibility to be with her insanely adorable little dude. Who better to give us some inspiration for setting that Thanksgiving table than this fab WAHM?? Here she is! -xoxo, Annie

Hi, I’m Lauren, mama to this little guy

and founder of an up and coming event production company (my other baby!) In all fairness, my baby boy is the inspiration behind starting my own company. I wanted to spend more time with him while also doing what I love. Now that he’s on a more predictable sleep schedule, I can devote some of his precious nap time to creating my own business and with a little help from Annie, I’m bringing you some holiday hosting inspiration from our home to yours.

One of my favorite holidays is Thanksgiving (isn’t it everyone’s?!) So here is a little a peek into how I’ll be setting up my dinner table for Thanksgiving (including some kid friendly tips) that you can adopt for your upcoming Thanksgiving and/or Friendsgiving festivities.​​

 

My inspiration for this tablescape is all things fall, from autumnal leaves, pumpkins and gourds, to cranberries and warm colors like gold and bronze. First things first, I layout my place mats to not only plan for the number of guests attending, but also to have a clear placement for my centerpiece which, in this case, happens to be quite detailed but easy to put together. I love these place mats because they’re intricate with great texture, pop against my concrete table, and although they are gold, are quite neutral and can be used all year round with numerous color schemes.  

After laying out my place mats which took up the most real estate on my table, I started on my center piece. Remember, centerpieces don’t have to be just flowers or a decorative piece. I love to have numerous elements that add a cozy and fun feel to my events and dinners. I start by hand placing the leaves. Since LA doesn’t exactly have a “true” fall, I purchased a set of leaves to get started.  

​If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere where the leaves have changed colors, feel free to pick your own leaves and utilize them as decoration either on the table itself but scattering and arranging the various color leaves, in a large vase or as place cards by writing guests names on them and placing them on the plate.  

Next, it’s time to start layering on your centerpiece. I purchased these cute mini pumpkins and gourds from Trader Joes.

When I was at the pumpkin patch with my son in October picking out our Halloween pumpkins, I was looking around for mini gourds to pull double duty for both Halloween and Thanksgiving, but didn’t have much luck finding small enough ones. This would be a great way to recycle pumpkins from Halloween that aren’t decorated or carved, so try to purchase them all together or look for a great after Halloween sale. You can get creative on placement of the pumpkins and gourds, spread them out, lean smaller ones against larger ones, have some colorful bunches as well as some white pumpkins that give you different dimensions against the colorful leaves on the table.

The next step is to layer on fun, decorative pieces. I started with this bowl set that comes in two sizes. I am utilizing the larger bowl to house some dried cranberries, and the smaller one to add various heights. You can even add some sparkle by adding a gold beaded necklace to it that adds some fun and flare to the table.

I started working on each place setting by setting down glasses and plates to make sure I had enough room for the basic dinner necessities before adding more elements onto the centerpiece.

I love a beautiful charger, but I don’t think I know more than one young adult that has them… so I don’t use them often. And now, as a mom who will end up doing dishes, I definitely am not using them this year. You can create a beautiful table without them and utilize the dishes you have, especially when your main focus is the centerpiece and unique plates. So, I used my everyday dinner plates, topped them with the ever popular thankful plates (that are also on sale – yes!) and used my fancier cloth napkins that are similar to place mats, are gold, but neutral enough to use for numerous color schemes and go really well with the grey of the table.

I purchased two types of napkin rings: a leaf ring (that I ultimately felt clashed with my leaf motif in the centerpiece), and a set of gold napkin rings that added some texture, volume and much needed sparkle to the table.

Now for the fun stuff! Flooooowers! I first layout where I want to put my floral arrangements. On this table, I am using four square, gold vases and two clear circular vases of the same height from my personal vase collection. Keep in mind, if socializing and conversation are going to be a large part of your entertaining plans, make sure vases, floral arrangements and candles are a bit lower to ensure people can see and speak across the table to one another. I added clear votives, but larger cylinders or vases with dried cranberries poured around candles can also work well to add a decorative flare.

You can purchase flowers already bundled into a bouquet and cut them to size or buy individual flower sets and create your own, as I did.

My flower haul from Whole Foods – a mix of individual types of flowers and two premade bouquets

Both are great and fairly easy to do. For the clear vases, a few tips and tricks to make sure your arrangement looks as beautiful on top as the stems do in the vase:

  • Build and arrange your florals in your hand, outside of the vase first (unless you’re taping off sections on the vase for flowers as seen on professional floral arrangements). But have a few flowers and/or leaves left over to add once you’re done in case you need to add any fillers to gaps and holes in your arrangement.
  • Once you’re happy with your arrangement, tie or rubber band the stems to keep them in place.
  • Make sure your stems are arranged in a fanned out pattern so they look good in the vase. Another alternative is to purchase large leaves to wrap inside of the vase so you don’t see your stems at all.
  • Measure your arrangement and cut stems at an angle to fit into your vase. Cut stems one at a time (I know it’s tempting to cut a bunch at one time, but the stems look better cut individually and not hacked as you’re trying to saw through alot of stems).
  • Cut off the rubber band or tie before setting them in water. I like my flower tops to be right on top of the vase, but you can always add height by keeping your stems a little longer.
  • Add those left over flowers or leaves to fill any holes and gaps you may have and enjoy!

The last step is lighting the candles – I do so about an hour before guest arrive so the wax has some time to melt, channel the dripping candelabras from Beauty and Beast. Add wine, and you’re celebrating!

And if you have little ones in attendance, here are some great ways to make their table as fun and festive as the grown-ups table!

Kid friendly ideas:

  • I love these turkey place mats because they are festive and fun. You can personalize them and use them as seating assignments by using wine markers to add guest’s names. If the kiddos are a little older, you can leave these markers on the table as an opportunity to write down what they are thankful for (and thankfully for the adults, they wash off easily!)
  • Another place card option – these little turkey place cards that are super cute and can be used for either the kids or the adult table.
  • And to keep those kiddos entertained while food is finishing up, these DIY turkey masks come in a pack of 8, easy to assemble, and you can purchase additional fun decorative elements like feathers, felt balls, etc. to add to the fun.

Now that you have a beautiful table, all that is left is family, friends and most importantly, the food! Happy entertaining!

-Lauren

 

Supporting a Friend During Infertility

Infertility is a topic that will impact nearly all women in some way. Either yourself or someone you know will likely struggle with this – it affects 1 in every 10 women. For some women, it can feel unbearable to wait 6 months to get pregnant – others will wait years and spend thousands of dollars, undergoing invasive treatments to conceive. As more women wait until they’re a bit older to start trying to conceive, more struggle with this every day. As a physician, I am very well practiced at discussing the “medical” side of this when patients come into the office…. but as a friend? I still struggle to come up with the right things to say and do.

I reached out to one of my #WCW’s, Natalie Bushman, fellow mommy-blogger at Nat your average girl, for some help and am so happy to share her wisdom here. On her blog, she has shared her journey through new motherhood, then through secondary infertility (difficulty conceiving after a successful natural pregnancy), the twin pregnancy that resulted from treatments and being a mom of 3 along with fabulous personal style and home decor posts.

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Total blogger crush on this cute fam!

She recently discovered they’ll be bringing baby #4 into the family (congrats!!!) and I asked her to give us some insight into being there for friends who are going through an infertility journey since she’s personally experienced this from multiple angles.

Thinking back to when you first got pregnant with Blair, did you have friends who were already dealing with infertility issues? How did you approach them with news of your pregnancy then?

I was one of the first people to get pregnant in my friend group and didn’t know anyone at the time experiencing infertility. Looking back though, I was so naive and it never even crossed my mind that I could have a hard time getting pregnant (even though my Mom struggled for years). I just assumed that since I was healthy with a regular cycle that it would be a cinch… and lucky for me it was the first time! I didn’t think twice about miscarriage or not seeing a heartbeat at the first appointment. Ignorance was bliss but oh how the tables have turned!
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Baby Blair, their 1st

I’m sure people had all kinds of responses when you were struggling to get pregnant the second time around. You’ve blogged about the things people should NOT say to couples. Did any friends or family members say things that were helpful and supportive?

Yes, my close friends were amazing. Honestly one of the best things to say is simply,
I’m sorry. That’s so hard. Is there anything I can do for you to help?
Totally basic but shows that you care even if you haven’t experienced infertility yourself. The other things that helped were when my friends would check in on me after they knew I had a big appointment. Or they would say, “Call me after your appointment. I want to hear what the doctor said.” Things like that. Things that you would say to anyone going through a hard time or health scare. It’s just about showing you care. Hearing that someone is praying for a specific need of mine also made me feel better. To know that I wasn’t forgotten.

How can people approach this with friends who they aren’t sure if they’re having fertility problems – do you think that’s different than how you approach friends who have told you outright they’re in fertility treatment?

Ok, so I actually had a friend who told me she was struggling but she hadn’t told anyone else. At that point, she had an adopted child but had made it clear that he wasn’t adopted because of fertility reasons. She had even previously made it known to our friend group that she didn’t have a desire to have biological kids. However, over the course of time, things changed and her desire to have bio kids grew.  In group settings, it would be wildly uncomfortable because I knew to be sensitive but others didn’t. Other moms would share their birth/breastfeeding stories and I would try to direct the conversation elsewhere.
However, if people don’t know you are struggling then you really can’t expect them to be sensitive…especially if you have previously made it clear you aren’t interested in being pregnant. I guess it’s a balance. It kind of depends on your relationship with the person. I steer clear of asking strangers any type of kid-related questions. But if you’re my good friend and you’ve decided to be tight-lipped, then that is harder to help. Overall, I guess it’s just always best to be sensitive. But if people aren’t honest with their situation then it becomes harder to be sensitive.

Did you want people who knew what you were going through to check in on you regularly? Or did you feel like you just wanted to update them and not be bothered?

I kind of referred to this a little bit in question three. For me, I liked having people check in on me. There was only one instance in which I protected myself from this and that was right after IVF. I knew that I would get the phone call on December 28th that would tell me if I was pregnant or not (it was through a blood test result) and I purposely told my friends I wouldn’t know till December 30th. I wanted to be able to process the news (if it was bad) with just Matt. I wanted to have time to wrap my mind around it and be sad for a little while. I didn’t want to have to field a bunch of texts and phone calls. When we did find out I was pregnant I told them that day…it was too good to hold in!
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Evie and Cal

Did you worry about announcing this recent pregnancy since you didn’t have trouble conceiving this time?

Oh, totally. I was sweating over it. I know that a lot of my followers are dealing with infertility and I wanted to be SO sensitive to that. It was this weird mix of emotions because I was so thrilled/surprised by our pregnancy but so distraught over how others still struggling would react. I prayed that they would be encouraged and filled with hope that this could happen for them too, instead of feeling bitter or angry. This may sound ridiculous but when I was having a hard time getting pregnant, and I knew someone who just “looked at their husband” and got pregnant, I would be mad. But if someone who had struggled like me got pregnant, I would be so happy for them. Was that fair of me? No. But if I’m being honest I did have those feelings initially. Part of me hoped that since I had struggled in the past that I wouldn’t be that “annoying pregnant girl.”
For some reason, we seem to be happier for people who have “overcome” to get where they are. It sure makes for an incredible story. But, I regret being spiteful to those who didn’t have the same struggle as me. So what if they can get pregnant easily? You never know what else they could be dealing with behind closed doors… an abusive partner, ongoing sickness, the death of a parent, unemployment, depression… the list goes on and on. There’s so much sadness in our world.
I think if we all had a little more grace we’d all be better off!
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I can’t think of any better parting advice than that! Thank you Natalie! And friends, if you don’t already, go follow this awesome mama on instagram @natyouraveragegirl and check out her blog!
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Dr. Annie is a family doctor and mom in the Sacramento, CA area.