Top 9 Things New Moms Need at Home

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

A couple of months ago (which feels like a couple of YEARS ago now that we're in the midst of a pandemic, let's be honest), I wrote a post about what I feel are nine of the top baby items for birth through six months of age.

Today I'm going to share what I feel are nine of the top things a new mom should have at home waiting for her when she returns from giving birth. This list is definitely not exhaustive, but thinking back to my first days home from the hospital back in August, these are nine things that definitely saved my life and made me feel good. (Let me also add that I delivered Bert vaginally -- notice I did not say "naturally" because ALL BIRTH IS NATURAL but that's a post for another day! -- so if you have a C-section there are probably different items you might like!) I am very honest in these recommendations, so read at your own risk! Okay, here we go!

1. Carnation Breakfast Essentials Light Start -- I got these shakes a couple weeks before Bert was born because I had a coupon and thought why not? I am so glad I did. Breastfeeding made me SO hungry, and I definitely woke up every morning starving, but sometimes (alllll the time!) baby can't wait to eat. Luckily, with these shakes you can drink one really fast right before you feed your baby, or you can even drink it as you feed your baby because it only takes one hand! I especially like the "light start" ones because they are low in sugar but high in protein. I like both the chocolate and vanilla flavors. 

2. Cliff Bars -- This goes along with number 1, but basically these Cliff Bars are packed with good things, easy to eat, and delicious. They filled me up enough to feed Bert, and just like the breakfast shakes I could eat them while feeding him if necessary. My favorite flavor is Chocolate Chunk with Sea Salt. 

3. A good water bottle -- I'd been using the Camelbak Eddy since the beginning of last school year, and I love this water bottle! Breastfeeding makes you THIRSTY (at least it does most people) and having a full water bottle at all times is so important! 

4. Extra heavy overnight maxi pads -- So in the interest of full disclosure, the most shocking thing I learned in pre-baby class was I would likely bleed for six weeks after having my baby. SIX. WEEKS. I was appalled! The upside of pregnancy some people say is you don't have a period for about nine months, but people fail to tell you that once you deliver the baby you will basically get all your periods at once. I was outraged. I called my mom and asked her if she knew about this. Haha. 

5. Hemorrhoid supplies -- I had to go to Walmart and buy hemorrhoid cream and witch hazel pads AFTER I had the baby, and Walmart was not the place I wanted to be three days post-partum. Do yourself a favor and get these things before. Also, my mom sent me the Rachel's Remedy Down There Relief Pack, and it was great. All I will say is I was woefully unprepared for this situation. WOEFULLY.

6. Flushable wipes -- I doubt you really need me to say too much about this, so I won't. Get some. 

7. Nice pajamas -- Chances are you will be wearing pajamas a lot the first few weeks, and having nice, clean pajamas really made me feel good. I had ordered a pajama dress from Amazon prior to Bert's birth which I really like (still wear!), and I was also really fortunate because my mother-in-law got me this really nice pajama set from Soma too. At night I would lay out what I wanted to wear the next day so I was ready to go when I got up early, and I would just wear that thing all day and sleep in it too. I can't tell you what a difference nice, clean pajamas made in my overall outlook on life. Get yourself a couple of nice pairs. 

8. A comforting show to watch -- After Joe returned to work and all the grandparents went home, I was left alone with Bert for the first time. It got a little lonely around the house, and it really helped to have a familiar show on in the background during the day. It might sound silly, but it helped me feel less alone. I was a big fan of Jane the Virgin when it was still on TV, and so I would turn it on on Netflix during the day when I was home alone with Bert. I recommend this show because it's funny and over-the-top dramatic while also being incredibly heartwarming and well written. It was especially fun to re-watch Jane during her pregnancy and delivery after I had just been through my own.

9. A new show to watch -- My friend Maggie recommended to select a new show to watch during the night when I was breastfeeding Bert. It was great advice! I just kept my Chromebook plugged in near the love seat in our room where I did Bert's overnight feedings. While Joe was changing Bert's diaper, I'd prep my show. Joe would go back to bed, and I'd watch the show while feeding Bert. I'd turn the subtitles on so it wouldn't be too loud. It really gave me something to look forward to during those lonely overnight hours. I watched Dead to Me and also Good Girls, both of which are on Netflix. 

Along with these nine things, I'd also suggest making sure your medicine cabinet is stocked with Advil and Tylenol. 

Parents, siblings, significant others, and friends of new moms -- maybe consider getting the new mom in your life something from this list like nice pajamas, easy to eat snacks and drinks, or a Netflix subscription if she doesn't already have one. One more suggestion would be meals or a meal service. I got REALLY strung out by the thought of meal prep before Bert was born. It was nothing at all for me to sit in his room for hours organizing his clothes by size, but the minute I thought about prepping meals for the freezer, I panicked. I'd look up recipes, see there were more than four ingredients, and panic-close the browser tab. I mentioned this to my sister Erin one day and she said something that changed my life: "Meal prep is for people who enjoy meal prep." I have never enjoyed cooking or making meals, especially ones that involve a ton of ingredients, and I realized how right Erin was. I mean, I plan a weekly menu of dinners for our family every week, but that's about as much as I can do. What helped was that Erin and my other sister Emma made several meals while they were here and put them in our freezer (because they like cooking). My mom and Joe's mom also cooked while they were here. Finally, some of our extended family who live far away sent us a week's worth of meal delivery from Freshly. I told Daniel and Catherine this, but I didn't realize how much energy I spent planning meals every week until I didn't have to for a while. 

The last thing I'll say is this: whatever your "feel good" thing is, do that thing. This might sound really stupid, but I really like to have my eyebrows filled in. If I could have only one make up item, it'd be eyebrow powder, I'm not even kidding. So even when I was showering every other day or so, had dirty hair, or was wearing pajamas, I filled my eyebrows in every day. It made me feel awesome. So if you have something like that, give yourself permission to do it. Your baby won't miss you for the three minutes it takes you to fill your eyebrows in, do some stretches, or sit outside in the sun. 

You are Never Ready.

Monday, April 20, 2020

I know a couple of people who are expecting babies and people who are thinking about having babies, and I have found myself saying something a couple of times lately that I think it's important for people to know. I am not here to give advice (check it), but this is not advice really; I'd like to think that it is a supportive statement. So here's what I want you to know:

You are never ready to have a baby. 

Joe said this to me a lot during my pregnancy, and man, he was so right. The thing is, we tried to be as prepared as we could be for Bert; we made sure he had a crib and car seat, we painted his bedroom, we took a birthing class. And you know what? He popped out and threw us all for a complete loop. Even if he had come out completely healthy and fine, there is still no preparing for those never-ending nights that finally end, the weird crying over what seems like nothing, and just generally what it feels like to be completely responsible for another human being 24/7.

Friends, there is nothing you can buy, no amount of money you can save, no plan you can make that will completely prepare you for a baby. And while that might sound scary, it's actually not, and here's why: because God has already given you everything you need to be your baby's mother (or father). It's like what a fellow teacher told me once about being a new teacher: you give 100%, and maybe your 100% is only 30% of what your baby actually needs, but that's okay because God will give the other 70%. He will plug in those holes, and it will be beautiful. My friend Maggie reminds me a lot that Bert is Joe and my child for a very specific reason. God gave Bert to us because we are exactly the parents that Bert needs. We were all made for each other. Also, Joe tells me a lot too that Bert doesn't know what the internet says he should be doing or accomplishing, and that's true. Maybe you've never been a mother before, but guess what? Your baby has never been anyone's baby before either.

If you're reading this, here's what I know about you: you are already a great mother. And you have everything you need.

I mean, look how happy this kid looks, right? I'm clearly killing it as a mom. :) 

My Babies Grew Up

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

If you've been reading this blog for a while, or if you know me in person, then you definitely remember my group of students that I lovingly referred to as my "ragtag group of weirdos." They were my first class of seventh grade students my first year of teaching, and I had them in eighth grade as well. The class started with 11 boys and one girl and grew to 11 boys and two girls by the end of the eighth grade. I had been warned that they were badly behaved and difficult to handle, and at first they were. I can't put my finger on exactly when things changed or why or how, but this wild, rambunctious, off the wall class became the thing I loved most in life.

I could sit here all day and list stories about them: the funny things they said, the pranks they pulled, the gift they gave me which I will never forget (and still follows me to new classrooms to this day). But I don't have all day, so all I can say is I love, love, love them dearly and I'd do anything to get all 13 of them back in one room just one more time.

I've been thinking about these students a lot lately because they are getting ready to graduate high school. I honestly cannot believe it. I have been thinking a lot about my time with them and all the things they did and the things we went through together, both awful and wonderful. And I realized that this group, who were always in some kind of trouble for doing some sort of nutty thing or other, this group of ragtag weirdos whom I loved more than anything, are now these people:

- Eagle scouts (Two students!)
- Going to West Virginia University on a soccer scholarship and is the salutatorian of her class
- Going to West Point on a tennis scholarship
- State golf title winners (Two of my students from this class were on this team, plus one student I had a couple years later was on the team, too! And one of my students was the team leader.)
- Selected for the West Virginia Youth Symphony Orchestra and also the National Youth Symphony Orchestra 
- 4.0 students

And these are just the things I thought of off the top of my head that have happened lately and don't even include just the general ways in which they have done good deeds or made other people's days brighter.


Tyson, Emilie, Chase, Tanner, Devan, Sam, Armaan, Matthew, Gabe, Tommy, Cameron, Tucker, and Ian (see I can still even put you in alphabetical order quickly!):

I always knew that you would be a huge part of my life's story while I was only a small part of yours. I continue to thank God every day for blessing me with you. Thank you for the joy you brought to my life for the two years I saw you every day. My heart hurts a little bit when I think of those times because I miss them so much. But I am so happy when I think of all the things you'll do with your lives. I love you all dearly, and I am so, so proud of you.


Miss L. 


Wednesday, April 8, 2020

I have seen a couple posts lately by people whose babies are about the same age as Bert mentioning that their children can crawl, can pull up to standing, can eat the same dinner foods that the parents are eating. I'll admit it, I freaked out. And, like most rational, calm people, I immediately began Googling "8 month olds and ______" *fill in whatever verb I'm worried about* I saw phrases like "typical babies" and "most babies" at 8 months old can do things like roll a ball or spot a toy across the room and crawl over to grab it.


I definitely began beating myself up, wondering what I've been doing wrong with Bert and why he can't do these things other babies can do. I was really worried, and I was also really embarrassed.

This morning I got up really early, and I began to think about Bert and how he is a unique child, how he "doesn't know what the internet says he's supposed to do" as Joe rightly says, and how, most importantly, he was made in God's image.

So, with a deep breath, I thought that maybe it would help someone else to know the following:

Bert turned 8 months old this past Saturday, April 4. Bert just recently started being able to sit for longer than a minute or two. Even now, after a short period of time sitting, he begins to tip forward and cry because he's uncomfortable. He's unable to really play while he sits because 99% of the time he needs at least one hand on the ground or on his leg to stabilize himself. He is nowhere near being able to to crawl, nor has he shown any interest in standing, let alone walking. He still eats pureed food only and has only recently (read: yesterday) been able to eat tiny chunks of banana that aren't completely pureed or mashed. He struggles to pick up a piece of food and put it in his own mouth. He has tried 15 foods and is still on the "try a new food, wait three days to try a new one" eating plan. He is not in the ballpark of eating what we eat for dinner. Bert cannot roll a ball. He cannot spot a toy across the room and crawl to it. He can't say any words, he just makes noises.

And he is a person, and I love him because of who he is, not what he can do.

And I think that's the lesson I need to take from all of this. There is nothing -- NOTHING -- that Bert could do that would make me love him any more. The love I have for my son comes from his personhood, not his achievements or abilities.

Even as a mom of only a few months, I already see how competitive moms can be with other moms, trying to "one up" with their kids' achievements -- from straight-up bragging to indirect comparisons and those ever-famous "humblebrags" -- even when their kid is only a few months old! (Not saying that every status update is one of those things; some people share just to give a genuine update. I'm sure you understand the difference.) I'm so happy for you and your child and what he or she can do. That's amazing and you should be proud, mom! But friends, this is where I officially step out of that race. I've never been a fast runner anyways. I never, ever want my little guy to feel like I'm disappointed in him or embarrassed by him because he cannot do what other kids his age can do. What a horrible disrespect for him and his soul. And I also want him to learn to be intrinsically motivated to do things and not do things for the recognition he will get from the world.

And when I thought about it more, I realized that, in fact, what I've been doing is projecting my own insecurities and shortcomings on Bert. I have always been achievement-driven and for many years felt that I "deserved" love because of the things I accomplished. I still struggle with this.

So maybe you're reading this and you don't have kids or your kids are all grown up. But here's what I think you can take from all of this: I think it's so easy to compare ourselves to others, no matter our age or situation. Other people your age might own a home/have a fabulous job/have a lot of savings. And maybe you don't. This age of social media just makes it worse, and I won't add to the commentary on that since there's already been so much research done on the topic. But I'll agree it's true. I think now, with the virus crisis we're all in, it's even worse because we all have so much more time to surf social media or the internet and see that other people are devoting their unexpected time off to learning new skills/taking online classes/running. And maybe you're not doing any of those things and your biggest lock down "achievement" has been watching all nine seasons of The Office on Netflix (again).

Friend, not that you need me to tell you this, but in case you do, I want you to know that your value as a person comes from WHO YOU ARE not WHAT YOU DO. 

It Came Just the Same

Monday, March 30, 2020

On Friday we found out that our diocese officially cancelled masses through April 19. While I think we all knew this was coming, I have to admit it was truly a gut punch to hear that we will not be assembling for Mass on Easter Sunday. EASTER SUNDAY. 

I am still trying to wrap my mind around this. Easter is the most holy of days in the church year. Easter Sunday is always so beautiful: looking around church at all the people who maybe haven't come in a while, all the people spending time with their families, all the bright and beautiful colors people are wearing after a long Lent and an even longer winter. Even if you don't go to church, I believe Easter is still -- like many holidays -- a time that you want to spend with your extended family, a happy occasion to look forward to. 

After hearing the news, I sat there for a few minutes, just stewing. Easter is cancelled? EASTER is CANCELLED?! I thought about how I won't be able to celebrate Bert's first Easter in the usual way. About how my sweet sister-in-law Alex won't get to join the Catholic church as she has long been planning. My previously upbeat attitude took a sharp turn downward, and I was just ready to throw in the towel. But all of a sudden, out of nowhere as I was mopping the floor, a line popped into my head:

It came just the same. 

You know this line too. Of course, it's from Dr. Seuss's classic book How the Grinch Stole Christmas. And while that story is about another holiday, the more I thought about it the more I realized that the lesson of that book can absolutely be applied to our situation now. More than "can be" -- MUST. 

Remember all the things the Grinch did to "steal" Christmas from the Whos? He thought if he took all their stockings and their toys and their food that Christmas just wouldn't arrive. He would stop them from joining together and singing praises. But remember how confused and surprised the Grinch was when he realized that nothing he did would ruin the Whos' Christmas? Dr. Seuss writes:

Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small,
Was singing without any presents at all!

He hadn't stopped Christmas from coming! It came!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!

My friends, will this Easter be weird, painfully weird? Oh yes, it will. But the thing is, even without the egg hunts and the Easter baskets and the picnics and, most importantly, church, Easter will come. Easter cannot be cancelled as I first thought. No amount of social distancing, of illness, of empty grocery stores can stop Easter from coming. Jesus will still be risen, a sign of hope in our hurting world. Like the Whos, we must not focus on what we are losing this Easter, but instead we must focus on what we still have, what we are gaining. 

The virus hadn't stopped Easter from coming! It came!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!

Springtime Bert with his bunny best friend, Benedict.

Happy News

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

I feel like I've been handling all of this pretty well, but last night I kind of hit a wall. I know you might think that being forced to stay at home wouldn't be that different from my usual life of staying at home with Bert, but it really has been. I found that I've really come to rely on our weekly trips to the library, our Target runs, our random errands, and our walks with our friends. Joe has been home a lot, but he's also had to leave for work still, too, so I've been feeling somewhat isolated, as I'm sure so many people have. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that it's been in the 50s and raining the past few days, but I was thrilled to wake up today to sunshine and a temperature that will reach the 70s today. Indeed, the rest of the week should be mostly sunny and will also be in the upper 60s to the low 80s (!!!), and I truly think that will help. As soon as I could this morning I opened a bunch of windows, opened all the blinds, and lit a springtime candle. I am thanking God that this is all happening when we have the opportunity for open windows, walks outside, and lighter evenings instead of in the depths of December and January. It makes me a little sick to my stomach to even imagine that, so I won't.

I have been surviving by making Bert new foods to try (this morning was his first day trying Greek yogurt, and I mixed some peaches and banana in for him) and working on our house. We have a lot of work to do in both the front and back yards of our house, and we are taking every opportunity to work on it. It just feels good to get outside, to sweat, to feel dirt in our hands.

We have also tried not to watch *too* much news. I do turn it on in the mornings to just check in, and I do try and tune in when there's a White House update, but other than that, I really need to avoid it. There are so many opinions, so many people placing blame, so many people arguing -- it's just too much. And all that hoarding?! Still happening?! Sheesh. Here's what Bert thinks about all that selfishness:

I bet you feel bad now, don't you?
Are you feeling a little down also? I think you might be, so I thought it might help all of us to hear a little good news. I scoured the internet to bring you some happy stories!

1. Some awesome people I know in Huntington have organized a "scavenger hunt" for families in town that can be done from the comfort of their cars. Check this out. Isn't it amazing?

2. Public Relations students at Marshall University hold a fundraiser every spring to help the Ronald McDonald House. Of course, since school is no longer being held in person and every event in the country has been cancelled, they can't hold their normal fundraiser this year. Instead of just going home, doing their online classes, and blaming the virus for their inability to help RMH (which they could totally do!), they are holding an online fundraiser because they are so dedicated to their mission! Check it out!

3. The NCAA has lifted a regulation that does not allow student athletes to use their likenesses for crowd funding. This was in direct response to Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and his girlfriend raising money online for family relief and support for virus victims. Lawrence and his girlfriend, also a student athlete, also plan to write letters of encouragement to those who are suffering. I've always liked this kid a lot (and have shared this video with students in the past), and I'm proud of him for using his fame for good.

4. A student I know from Fatima (who is the nephew of our very own Aunt Sarah and Uncle Drew!) is writing letters of encouragement and love to nursing home residents whose families cannot visit them. How cute is that?! I think I will write some too!

5. Aunt Jena's school is having a virtual spirit week so that students and teachers can connect! Each day is a different theme, and teachers and parents are sharing photos on social media. Although I don't have a classroom this year, I can truly understand the heartbreak of losing students without any notice. I'd be devastated. I think this is a wonderful way to help teachers feel like they still have their babies and help students know they are still loved and supported.

6. Amazing author and illustrator Mo Willems is teaching a daily drawing course for children called "Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems"! He is the creator of one of our favorite books, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. I just read it to Bert yesterday.

7. Bert has learned no new skills and accomplished absolutely nothing, but here's him looking like a Bert-rito!

8. There are so many cool virtual field trips! Check it out:

San Diego Zoo

The Louvre

Mars (seriously!)

National Parks

There are so many more, too!

9. And finally ... I accidentally hoarded bananas. I know, I know. I put 9 of them on my Walmart order. Then the app told me the bananas weren't available, so I found some organic ones that were, blah blah. Long story short: between the time I originally added the bananas to my cart and the time I actually checked out (a day or so later), the bananas became available again. So when I went to pick up my order ... 21 bananas, a mixture of regular and organic. And last week the max you could order was six! The Walmart people probably think I'm insane. I already cut up five of them to freeze and will likely make Jane and Asha some dog ice cream too. I can't believe I did that! Luckily Bert, Joe, and I eat them every day.

I know there have to be more happy stories out there! Will you share some that you've seen? Also, if you need any fun ideas for Language Arts or Social Studies for kids in grades 5-8, please let me know. I'm happy to dig some things out, and it would be fun for me to do!


Thursday, March 19, 2020

Bert woke up this morning at 7 a.m. as he usually does. Joe went in to pick him up and change him as I began to prepare to feed him. Although Bert wakes up happy, he usually starts crying pretty soon after when his brain catches up with his stomach and he realizes he's starving. As he does, Bert started crying as Joe was changing his diaper, and I heard Joe say, "Buddy, you don't have to cry. We've never let you down."

And I stopped in my tracks because ... Joe is a father reassuring his child that he doesn't have to cry because he's never let him down. And I immediately thought: this is exactly what God is saying to us right now, too.

I admit that I have been rather calm about all this, until yesterday when news began to come out that said that the virus may be more harmful to children than previously believed, specifically to babies and toddlers. Most of you know that my son was born with several health complications that landed him in the children's hospital for several days, and my mind immediately went to seeing my son suffer once again. I had to actively remind myself that God has taken care of my son before, and I have no reason to believe He won't this time, too: He's never let us down.

One of the strangest things about all of this is the lack of Mass. My grandfather, the oldest member of our family, is almost 90, and he has never seen this in his lifetime. As of yesterday evening, there are NO public masses anywhere in the United States. None. I said to Joe last night: did you ever think that here in the United States of America we wouldn't be able to go to Mass? It's so unthinkable that it's laughable. But here we are.

We were blessed this morning because our wonderful parish priest, Father Jack, said a Mass that was broadcast on Facebook Live. Joe, Bert, and I sat on our kitchen stools participating with Father Jack as we watched him on our laptop. Father Jack said something that really struck me. He said that God is using the situation we are in to give us a glimpse of what hell is like. Hell is total physical isolation from God and others; it's the ultimate social distancing. And don't we all hate this? As Father Jack also said, we are made for community and family and this is our time to look at all the things in our lives that we take for granted and begin to show our gratitude for them.

And it really made me think because according to Sister Lucia, one of the Fatima children, the final battle between God and Satan will be over marriage and the family. I think we could all agree that we are having marriage and family problems in the world right now. How else could God shift our focus back to our families and force us to really spend time with them than through a situation like this?

I realized this morning that it's Spring. SPRING. What a miracle. And here in Georgia it will be 77 degrees and sunny today. After we watched Mass this morning, Joe and I opened all our windows. We took the time to really clean our house -- not just the usual Thursday cleaning, but all the things we never make time for like scrubbing out our windowsills (those things are gross!) and really mopping our floor with Pledge and not just a quick wipe with the Swiffer. I put away our Snow Lodge candle and pulled out the spring-smelling Cactus Blossom candle I bought right before all this happened.

Are we scared? Yes. Well, I am. Joe, as always, is calm. But I look around my house and realize that Joe is home, we are healthy, our house is clean and smells fresh, and there is fresh air and sunshine pouring in the windows. Those are all blessings. We have to continue to find them where we can.

And remember: Buddy, you don't have to cry. I've never let you down.

Bert thought his legs looked especially toned and trim in this outfit, so he wanted to share a picture of himself with you!
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