Posts in Motherhood
Small Spaces Filled With Big Dreams

It’s possible to create a decorative nursery nook in your own room!

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Three years ago, we were lucky enough to have an entire room in our last home to set up to create an amazing little gender-neutral nursery for Aria.

This time, we only had the ability to utilize the space in our current bedroom to create a functional and decorative nursery which initially was frustrating and seemed impossible!

It’s amazing what some re-organization of room furniture did for us to open up usable space to insert the basics that we’d need for the first six months.

To prep for the baby furniture, we moved our gigantic (and heavy) bed to the far left of our room, and slid the dresser with the TV over as well. We measured the space that we had left which was three feet for the changing table and about 3 feet for the bassinet on the opposite side of the bedroom door, close to my side of the bed for nighttime nursing.

We decided that we would only purchase what we needed in the room immediately. Unfortunately, we had sold everything except the Doona stroller/carseat and Rock-A-Roo swing from when Aria was a newborn. 

We were definitely baby ballin’ on a budget so we were wise about all of the items we chose for the room. We looked for masculine and durable items to create a modern nursery nook in our small space. Here’s what we bought: 

  1. Changing table from Facebook Marketplace. I’m obviously a huge fan of DIY things so I bought two cans of flat black paint ($10.00) and painted it black. I finished it with a coat of matte coating and wiped it down thoroughly once it dried completely for 2 days. 
  2. Three sets of stainless steel baskets in a grey color from Amazon. The baskets came in two different sizes, so the smaller baskets with the diapers, burp cloths, and accessories are on the first shelf and the bigger ones with clothes in newborn and 0-3 month sizing are at the bottom.
  3. Wipeable changing pad from Bumbo in grey. Little boys are known to be the ultimate pee-ers while you’re changing them so cloth covers were out of the question.
  4. Accordion Wall Rack in Grey from Amazon. Clearly, this buy was more for decoration, but I wanted to have a place where we could hang hats and cute little jackets. I stand by the idea that this was $20.00 well spent. 
  5. Skip Hop night soother for music and illuminating projections. The projector is amazing for soothing baby to sleep after night feedings.
  6. Extra long wall tapestry from Wayfair. We had a hole in the drywall from when our nephew was the room’s occupant which was a total eyesore. I also felt like this piece gave me so much inspiration for incorporating texture. 
  7. Oasis Bassinet from Baby Planet in the color Graphite from Amazon. You always need a sturdy crib or bassinet. I originally was looking for a Moses basket but ultimately decided we needed something more modern looking!
  8. Snuggle-Me-Organic lounger in the standard size. We chose the color Moss because of the dreamy green tone. We also bought back up covers just in case of an unexpected accident. 
  9. Modern Black Gem Mobile from Pottery Barn. I wanted something clean and modern with no gaudy colors or animals on it to stimulate baby.
  10. Oval-shaped rug from Target. We needed something that tied together the colors from the Tapestry and the changing table.

You really don’t need all the decorative items if you are really only purchasing the necessities for your room. I find that adding little touches of decor makes you appreciate your space so much more!

What were your nursery must-haves? Feel free to share with me what your life-saving purchases were!

Just Throw It In A Bag!
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No clue what to pack for the hospital? My best advice is if it will make you more comfortable, just throw it in the bag!

Hopefully, you will only be there for a night or two but those first couple days are some of the most painful when your body is recovering from even smooth deliveries. 

There are a handful of essentials I would recommend for you and baby since you’ll be packing for the two of you. 

For mama:

1. Comfortable loose fitting pajamas & non-slip socks. I’ll be bringing a red button down set with minimal elastic that’s easy for nursing. My jersey T-shirt dress will serve nicely as a backup.

2. Nursing bras and nipple cream. Definitely not cute but necessary. Leave anything with underwire at home. For nipple cream, my fave is the organic balm by The Honest Company.

3. Toiletries. For me, it’s daily contact lenses & saline, deodorant, body wash, a toothbrush and some deodorant. 

4. For the millennial mom, bring a charger and a phone loaded with soothing playlists. 

5. Maternity underwear! This is the thing no one says. You need a few pairs of underwear that you can ruin. Something you can fit an ice pack in because you’ll be icing your Lucy for the first few days.

6. Non-slip socks or comfy slippers. The hospital is a cold and slippery place. It may seem silly but it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

7. Last but not least, snacks. My #1 must have are Snickers bars. They have no nutritional value whatsoever but they are de-licious.

For baby:

1. Bring an outfit or two. Cute ones at that! This is their grand entrance into the world so bring some clothes with personality, some socks, and a hat that isn’t hospital provided.

2. A stretchy swaddle blanket. Loads of companies make them. I made my own from Cotton-Lycra fabric I purchased online and cut to size. Most babies prefer to be tightly bundled in the beginning. 

3. A nursing pillow like a Bobby pillow. This is if you plan to breastfeed. If that’s not in your plan than please disregard! No judgement here. Sub for formula if that’s your plan. A fed baby is a happy baby.

4. A pacifier or bottles. This is completely optional depending on what your families’ needs are. 

The goal is to keep you and baby warm and comfortable before you make that life-changing trek home.

For my fellow veteran mamas, what was the one thing you couldn’t live without during your hospital stay?! Let me know below.

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It's OKAY To Not Be Okay.
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Depression is something that people try to avoid talking about. It’s the silent elephant in the room that looms over you and everyone else around you when you’re having a bad day. You can’t see it, but you can feel it all around you.

It’s worse when you’re forced not to talk about it so you don’t annoy someone else talking about how you feel. I want anyone whose ever dealt with a day of depression to know that It’s OKAY to not be okay, I too have to remind myself of this often. I am one of those people who has to talk about it to survive.

Depression can lead to life-threatening thoughts when someone doesn’t feel like other people care about them. People who don’t know or understand depression will grow tired of dwelling in sadness and push them away not knowing that it causes their loved ones to sink deeper into that hole.

The CDC reports that “1 out of 10 women” will experience depression in their lifetime. Statistics vary from state to state, with some regions showing 1 in 5 women can be affected by depression. That’s a lot of women. Many who I wish I could hug and shout, “you’re amazing, you’re valuable, you are important. Even if no one has told you today.”

That’s not to say that men cannot experience depression, but for the sake of today, let’s talk about us, the women who give up weeks on end, their fit bodies, and their lifetime to commit to taking care of tiny humans and our spouses.

Some of us will put on excellent fronts like everything is going okay. We wake up, do our hair, put on makeup, maybe something cute, pour a cup of coffee and just. keep. moving. Underneath it all, many of us are terribly tired, sometimes sad, often misunderstood, and even a little bit lonely.

Especially when you’re embarking on motherhood in your twenties, it seems like nobody is in that tiny boat with you. Soon you have one, two, maybe three friends who start having kids. Schedules get hectic so you may not see them often if at all. Most of your friends are living carefree lives that consist of going to work Monday-Friday and little else extra.

As women, we do a LOT. We manage multiple people’s schedules from school to doctors appointments, wash clothes, feed and walk animals, grocery shop, cook dinner, pack lunches, and some of us even manage full-time jobs, too. Us women often ask for little in return. For me, I could care less about gifts and fancy things, the best way to show me love is by giving me your undivided time (yes, phones off or away).

Life can get extremely busy so it is necessary to have consistent & healthy outlets to express yourself on those hard days. Whether that’s a conversation with a close friend, painting a picture, exercising, blogging, or whatever.

Talk about it, shout about it, cry about it, just don’t push it deeper inside. Surviving depression depends on grounding yourself to those warm and happy moments in life. I promise to always be an ear if you ever feel depressed or sad, write me, and I will write back.

Please correspond to me at acolebooks@gmail.com.

Motherhood, YDMA. ColeYDMComment
Why I Care About Diverse Books, and You Should Too!
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Diversity in books. I talk about it all the time, but why

Well, it's about inclusion. What does it mean to be included? Doesn't it give you a sense of fulfillment and confidence in yourself if someone invites you to participate with them? Have you ever been that kid- the one who didn't receive an invitation to a classmate's party? How would that make you feel to be left out?

That's precisely the feeling that people of color have had with books, especially with children's books. It wasn't until recently that there was a major push to create and distribute books that represented cultures from around the world. Now, it's becoming a fad to add characters of color because many authors are seeing the need when it's always been apparent for people of color. 

I'm African-American and our culture overall has often been limited to family scrapbooking and a love of soul food. Our culture has been lost with name changes, poor record keeping, and familial displacement from slavery. The only books with a black girl on the cover I can remember from my childhood was the "Addy Series" from the American Girl company.

Addy was a character raised during the Civil War period. Books about African-Americans have historically been based on slave narratives and escaping hardships. They were sad, often limited in pictures and filled with somber tales. Our kids are fortunate because they are growing up in a time when kid literature is changing and becoming more inclusive. Also, they are not only "African-American", they are African from their paternal side. Their paternal ancestry is Ethiopian and Ethiopia is a country rich in culture, language, and amazing tradition. 

For me, creating diverse books is about creating characters that represent my kids. I want them to look at the books they read and see dark skin, natural hair that's worn in afros and braids, and the kids have smiles on their faces. I want them to see books and think, "Wow! She looks just like me!" I want them to see happy, beautiful children who teach them to be kind and encouraging people in an often discouraging world.

Why should you care about diverse books? It's simple. Our country is a diverse place, our WORLD is a diverse place. The books that our kids read influence them just as much as the shows they watch, the media that's in their faces, and their kids they spend their time around. Kids books give children a visual of what the world around them looks like around them.

When they go to school they are surrounded by children from ethnic backgrounds who speak different languages and are immersed in widely different cultures at home. Exposing your kids to these backgrounds early empowers them with knowledge of the world. It helps them understand the culture unique to their peers who speak a variety of languages and celebrate holidays that reflect the religions they practice at home. Reading diverse books can teach kids the about geography and regions of the world they've never explored. Heck, reading about the world can even encourage your child to be world travelers and see the all the places they've learned about one day.

Books are just tools parents can use to educate their kids in an engaging way. I found that reading books with positive messages can open up dialogues between parents and children that is different from lecturing to them or instructing them. The reason why I encourage reading diverse books is for everyone-including parents-to have a greater understanding of the colorful world we live in.

I'm sure we all can agree that this world can use a lot more love and understanding. That's why I've started the initiative to share 1000 days of diverse books. 1000 days of diverse books will give families amazing book ideas to order for their homes or check out from the library. Each book will have characters that depict uniqueness or promote cultural understanding of different ethnicities.

If we can learn about each other, we can learn to love each other. 

Do you read diverse books to your kids at home? What are some of your favorites? Share with me below!

Help us encourage this movement by using the hashtag #1000daysofiversebooks and follow @acolebooks to see these awesome titles everyday for the next 994 days!

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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