Stretch Marks in the Home Stretch
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Watching your body grow a baby is one of the most beautiful things to witness. What's not so beautiful? The stretch marks. It seems like they make 1,001 products for scar removal, but what about prevention?

This is my second pregnancy so there are a ton of things I've learned from the first go. One of the main things I wanted to do better this time around is to experiment with what works to keep my skin moisturized against all the tugging and stretching it endures, especially in the second-third trimester.

There are two items I absolutely swear by. Let me first say I am not advertising or affiliated with these brands! These are just products I use and love. They aren't super fancy, but they are super effective. The item I use every day at least 2 times a day is the Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula Skin Therapy Oil with Vitamin E. This oil is amazing because it isn't heavy and absorbs straight into the skin. It's good for scars, stretch marks, uneven skin tone, and aging. It is very lightly scented which is great because I have very sensitive skin.

The second item is from a natural brand that I found when I was at an event in Washington, DC. It is the Shea Gourmet Oatmeal Essence Cream by Kimo Bentley. Kimo Bentley can only be found on their website! The owner is a International Esthetician who's been making natural beauty products for over 10+ years. Her and her husband are the spokespeople for the brand and they are literally the sweetest people ever! They even added free oatmeal soap bars to the order for Aria who has pretty severe eczema.

I use both of these products everyday, the oil first, then the moisturizer. I'm a little obsessive about rubbing down my belly because I really only got stretch marks in the last three weeks of my first pregnancy. This time, I'm absolutely determined to stick to this regime until our boy is born. So that's it! I've linked both of the products I shared with you all above, so definitely take some time to check them out if you're growing your own bean. 

Let me know if you have any amazing home remedies or family recipes. I'd love to hear what worked for you all.

Xo,

Ashley

So That's How I Got Here! Aria's Birth Story

So although I've been blogging for more than 2 years, I realized that I have never shared Aria's birth story! With all this new baby hullabaloo, it's brought up so many old memories that I want to make sure I document on in the baby book and on the blog!

Some of you may know that when I was pregnant with Aria, Dez and I decided to not find out the gender. It was a cute idea at first but it drove our parents totally crazy. We figured gender neutral items would do and when the baby arrived we would get things more geared toward the gender. At about the 20 week mark, I was absolutely positive we were having a boy. We threw out names like Malachi (Kai), Cruz, we even bought one comforter with sports gear on it, just in case.

We had planned to have a natural birth. I even checked out the natural birthing center at the hospital I was designated to. I read up about all the benefits of a natural birth for baby and mom. How hard could it be, right?

At 37 weeks, I had a regular check up on a Tuesday. I saw my OB, Dr. Winthrop in the morning and she excitedly shared with me that I was 2 cm dilated. I was terribly surprised to say the least remembering the fancy Doona carseat/stroller we had ordered from BuyBuy baby hadn't even arrived yet! She assured me that it could be days or weeks before I gave birth, so I went home and continued on with my day.

Calling me "active" while pregnant would be an understatement. I single-handedly set up the nursery when I was in nesting mode. I successfully put together the crib, the rocking chair, hung all the closet gear, hand-painted and framed a canvas, picked out every tiny piece of decor to be nailed into the wall, or sit nicely on the steel bolted shelves I power-drilled into the wall. I even changed out the electrical fixture because everything had to be perfect for our new babe. 

In the evening following my appointment I was still moving like a champion. I was crushing piles of laundry and whipping up my daily craving-baked lemon chicken, while I waited for Dez to get home from work. He got home around an hour after I was feeling minor contractions. We ate and got comfortable on our bed watching tv until he started drifting off to sleep. Unfortunately, I was wide awake when the contractions gradually started to increase.

Soon, they were almost intolerable! I had the bright idea to take a warm bath. I filled the tub with warm water and epsom salt and slid into the tub. It felt amazing for the first 15 minutes and I got out because I didn't want to overheat. For a few minutes, the pain stopped, only to return with a vengeance. I ripped off my towel and sunk back into the tub for another 15 minutes. This time, when I got out, they only stopped for a few minutes. 

I remember putting on a sleeveless flannel nightgown (it was September) and I laid in the bed next to Dez swatting at him every few minutes when the contractions started up again. He was dazed but reached out his hand to squeeze when the pain got too tough. Soon, I was sweating buckets and I forced him to wake up so I could call the nurse.

I could barely make it through the phone call without screeching in this poor woman's ear and she politely told me it was time to get my -ish and make our way to the hospital. We were stunned! No baby bag was packed. I was jamming stuff into my petite Vera Bradley duffle through the contractions which were now only a few minutes apart. I had to stop at times while packing sitting on all fours just trying to get through the pain of each one. 

Slippers, check, nightgown, check, newborn outfit, check, eyeliner? Sure, throw that in there. I'm pretty positive it was the most ill-prepared bag in history. I coiled up the straps in my arms and my beloved snoodle pillow (curved pregnancy pillow) and Dez was ready to take us to the hospital. He raised his phone for a selfie and I almost punched the phone out of his hand. We got into my sedan He drove eagerly to the hospital which was only 10 minutes away. I screamed in the backseat of my Hyundai, laid across all the seats. I was pressing the door of the car with my soles so hard that my left foot kicked a hole through the speaker of the car. It was almost 3:00 am so luckily there was no traffic because nobody was on the road that early. 

When we got to the hospital, it was after-hours so the normal entrance was locked. We felt defeated and desperately tried to find the entrance while I waddled around in pain with my pillow in hand. We had to enter through the emergency room of the building, and when I realized the room was absolutely full, I realized I looked absolutely ridiculous. I had a Ludacris fro, I was sweating all over my face. I'm trying to block everyone's view of this tragedy with my gigantic pillow and the woman at the front desk was entirely too calm.

"What are you here for?" She asked us. I'm 37 weeks pregnant and I'm about to have a baby." I responded with a hand on my belly and a grimace. She called the Ob unit and told me to sit in a wheelchair while we waited for assistance. Soon, my name was called and Dez wheeled me to the triage room where the nurse asked me to pee in a cup for her. "A WHAT?" I thought. I was absolutely positive I was going to have our baby on the floor of the bathroom. 

"You're 10 centimeters dilated," she informed me as I laid on the hospital bed when she finally came back into the room and checked on me. Even though we had planned to have a natural birth, I was ready to throw all of that out the window for pain relief. I asked for an epidural and she uttered, "It is too late for that, you're about to have this baby, now." They wheeled me over to the delivery room and I gripped the hospital bed darting my eyes from left to right as I watched the nurses scramble to prepare for delivery.

Thank GOD, my normal Obstetrician Dr. Winthrop was on call and she walked into the room and greeted me with a smile. "Didn't I just see you today?" She laughed. Once she was dressed and ready she checked the monitors and told me I needed to get ready to push. Dez was standing to the right of the bed doing his best to walk me through their instructions and stay calm. Pushing wasn't the hardest part, the contractions were, but by now, I was exhausted and I felt like she would never make her way through; even though I pushed as hard as I could.

With one last gust of energy, I was able to bring her into the world. She cried and her daddy gladly cut her umbilical cord to assist them and they whisked her away to be cleaned. At 3:42 a.m on a Wednesday, they informed us "It's a girl!" And we looked at each other in total shock. We were grateful for whatever gender our baby was and were just glad she was healthy and safely in our arms.

Hours later, we cradled her in our arms checking her face and all her tiny toes. "What should we name her?" I asked Dez. Aria? I asked. Aria. He agreed. Aria Rose. Aria Rose clocked in at 6 lbs. and 6 oz.

Baby was perfect, and we all left the hospital together a day later after staying only that first night in the hospital.

Fun fact: Mommy popped a blood vessel in her eye which was visible in all our initial pictures together.

Did any of you have to switch up your whole birthing plan? What did or didn't work for you all? Sound off below!

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What Moms Really Wants for Mother's Day (When you're on a budget)
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Happy Mother's Day weekend to all my mums out there!

We are amazing people to be able to deal with tiny humans, live out our own dreams, work out 9-5's, wash everyone's laundry, and STILL make time for our partner-before we even think of ourselves. 

Most of our American holidays shove down our throats that we need to go to Kay Jewelers to find something special and unique for mom, but that's NOT what moms really want for mother's day. I'm going to speak for all of us when I say, we just want a restful day with our loved ones. A day where we're not sprinting children to practice, or waking up at 7 a.m. to not be late for school. Here are some awesome ideas to celebrate mother's day without breaking the bank!

  1. Freshly baked bread. You can literally go to the grocery store, buy a box of bread mix, throw some chocolate chips or dried fruit in it. Hell, throw some nuts in it if that's what mom likes and throw it in the oven. Banana Nut is highly recommended.
  2. Breakfast in bed. I'm telling y'all, we LOVE it when our families take the time to cook for us. It's like waking up on Christmas for a mom. You can keep it simple with toast, eggs, and bacon, or you can shake it up by making some crepes or blueberry pancakes for her. Here's a fab recipe for my favorite, Lingonberry crepes.
  3. Make her a video. Heck, you have an iphone. Get it edited on Fiverr to personalize it for $5. For all of her children to speak and share what they love about her. Movies and film are forever, we cherish all our pictures but videos make us feel like we can remember exactly what they looked and sounded like at that moment in time. Doblonk is a great person to use!
  4. Set up an outdoor picnic. Make some basic sandwiches with cut fruit and chips or swing on over to Potbelly and grab some. Set up a cute blanket outside with wine or juice for mom. We love to slip off our shoes and surround ourselves in the great outdoors.
  5. Clean up the house. Take some initiative by vacuuming the house, sweeping and picking up the rooms. Having a clean home without forcing someone to do their chores is a magical feeling that no mom can truly explain. Warm a candle or stick some cinnamon in a pot with water with some citrus, bring it to boil then let it simmer.
  6. Paint her something. Michael's has amazing deals for assorted acrylic paints that you can get for about 0.50 cents each. Kids can use brushes or paint with their hands. We literally try to keep everything so anything handmade feels that much more special.
  7. Give her a day off. Ask dad to make sure mom doesn't have to lift a finger unless she wants to. Kids forget every other day that they can ask their dad for snacks and everything else they harass mom for. Let dad take the lead that day. 
  8. An Edible Arrangement. You can literally make them at home with hand-cut fruit and bamboo skewers if you're a DIY queen like me. I used a bucket from the dollar store, styrofoam, skewers, a pineapple, strawberries, grapes, and cantaloupe which cost me about $12. If not, Edible Arrangements can be purchased in time for mother's day for pick up near your home! 
  9. Movie day. Binge on Netflix or load up on the newest Redbox movies. You can set up a comfy spot to lounge in your living room where everyone can pile together. Lazy days are the absolute best days and when you're a mom, those days are few and far in between.
  10. Make a Handmade Card. We literally always get sappy when we look at the ornaments and cards our kids made from scratch. Cards can be expensive when you purchase them from the store and often aren't very personal. Colored pencils and some help from dad goes a long way in making mom smile.
Goodbye OB, Hello Midwifery!
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Goodbye Obstetrician, hello midwife! 

A typical hospital birth can be described as a triage check-in and waiting until you're fully dilated (10 cm) and then you're shuttled into a frantic delivery room, with twenty nurses running around, and an on-call obstetrician who grabs your baby and rolls out before you even name it. This time around, I suggested to use midwives instead, and I'll tell you why.

First, what is a midwife? What is the difference between delivery with an obstetrician and delivery with a midwife? The difference is vast but for me, it boils down to two things, energy and environment.

Obstetricians will intervene often. There's a lot of yelling and swift movements with lots of people running through the hospital room. After you give birth, there are umpteenth visits from nurses Jill, Sue, and Steve and you're laying there on that hospital bed that is painfully uncomfortable. 

Midwives are highly-trained nurses who specialize in fertility and fetal-health medicine. They are generally used for women who are considered "low-risk" in pregnancy because they allow the patient to labor largely on their own in natural birthing suites. Their deliveries cater to making sure the women are comfortable and tend to their individualized needs during labor like music preference, temperature, aroma, etc. Midwives also provide a source of calming, feminine energy that is empowering when you need the strength of a superhero.

Labor is going to be SO different this time around! Aromatherapy to relax, in-suite hydrotherapy tubs to labor in, immediate skin-to-skin contact with baby, and a family-centered room.

This is super important for us because my fiancé, Dez was instrumental in assisting with the labor and delivery of Aria- he even cut the umbilical cord! Now, I will have him and Aria to be a part of such the beautifully painful process of delivering our son and Aria’s new brother.

Through a my first pregnancy, I found out that I am a friggin' warrior. I've already developed one baby and brought her in the world, safely, with "0" pain-reducing medication. I sure as hell can do it again!

(SPOILER: Our whole plan was to deliver naturally in a very comfortable birthing suite in our hospital with an 'OB' but Aria came so damn fast, she had other plans! I ended up laboring at home in our tub, Dez raced to the hospital fully dilated kicking out the speakers in our backseat and gave birth only about an hour after we checked in)

When it comes to delivery, I feel way more confident going into labor knowing what to expect and how we should do things differently. What they don't tell you during pregnancy is that the contractions are the worst part of the birthing process. I wouldn't advise suffering through contractions on a hospital stretcher.

I mean, you can physically feel your pelvic bones shifting to make way for your baby, it puts into perspective any type of pain you've ever experienced. Anything up until that point was really not that bad compared to what you endure to bring life into this world.

Since I'll have to go through that labor all over again for number 2, I'd rather do it in a tub, with soothing fragrances around me than strapped to a hospital bed, wouldn't you?! 

If you've used a midwife in the past, feel free to share your experiences with me!

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Baby numero dos!
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We are absolutely thrilled to announce that we're expecting baby number 2! Our family is growing so quickly as we become a family of 4 (6 including our pit-children) and Aria is excited to step into the new role of being a BIG sister!

During my first pregnancy, we were hesitant to share all of the moments we documented and did not share our news publicly until I was 7 months pregnant! During our first pregnancy, we decided not to get information on the gender and we didn't know that we were having a little girl until the day she was actually born (how the heck did we wait that long!?). For some reason with numero dos, I could hardly stand it. I was the most impatient, crazed, mama-to-be that couldn't wait one second longer!

Recording a video was an easy way for us to document this amazing moment as a family where we learned if we would be seeing shades of blue or tints of pink in our future. This time around, I want to be extremely open about my pregnancy about all the first time I feel the baby kicking to the disgusting crap they don't tell you but you find out anyway. I'm a little over three months now so we are entering this second trimester fully knowledgeable thanks to the beautiful little first born who more than prepared us for parenthood. Thank you all for caring to stay in the know and for keeping up to date with us as we ride this amazing wave of expanding our family, again!

Watch the video below to find out what the Seifu family will be welcoming in November of 2018!

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Charlie Takes His Shot is a HIT!
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Within a year, Jackie’s teammates and fans of every race cheered for him. Could Charlie do the same for golf?
— Nancy Churnin, Charlie Takes His Shot

Nancy Churnin is a fabulous children's book author who has taken the world of literary non-fiction by storm! Her dynamic children's books are filled with the greatest historical figures that have been lost in American history. These were not the heroes that wore capes, but the ones that broke down cultural and barriers for people of color and those who were considered different.

Nancy knew she had a HIT when she wrote Charlie Takes His Shot. Her historical research into the life of this character showed, and allowed this story to feel authentic and true. The text was perfectly arranged so that the font and the story was together on one page without clashing with one another. The storyline was well-paced so it was exciting, but read it fluidly, which is very important to keep the attention of new readers and young listeners. I would highly recommend this book to parents and educators who are looking for dynamic and diverse books. It is perfectly suited for ages 3-9 years old.

Charlie Takes His Shot absolutely blew me away! The illustrations by John Joven are wonderful, picturesque, and packed with deep color values. John Joven's strong depiction of the scenery highlighted the atmosphere that the character would have been surrounded by.

You can get your own copy of Charlie Takes His Shot on Amazon and from the Albert Whitman & Company.

Book Summary

Charlie Sifford was a young man with humungous dreams who grew up in a time and place where only whites were allowed to golf, much less be a part of a professional golf associations! Charlie learned from the sidelines by being a caddie for the golfers while he patiently waited for his turn to play. He dominated tournaments between other black players, but he still eagerly wanted to play professionally.

When Jackie Robinson became the first black player in the Major League of Baseball to become a star, he inspired all black athletes of that era. If Jackie could succeed and win support in his sport, why couldn't he? Charlie seized an opportunity to talk to his idol, Jackie Robinson in 1948. Jackie warned him about the trouble he would face, but Charlie didn't back down from the challenge. 

Charlie traveled the world as a professional golfer and was eventually compensated for his efforts. In 1957, he won the The National Negro Open. Times were changing and other black athletes were pounding down the barrier that barred blacks from professional organizations like the MLB and NBA. Years later, Charlie Sifford earned his right to play in the PGA as the first black player ever admitted.

He dealt with fierce discrimination from hotels, players, and even tournament attendees. Eventually, he won the PGA tour in front of all the people who both supported and hated him. He thrusted open the door for all of the famous black golfers who were able to join the PGA after him like Calvin Peete, Harold Varner III, and of course, Tiger Woods.

Follow children's book author Nancy Churnin on Facebook and Twitter