Ava’s Precious Pink & Gray Nursery!

I am so in love with my daughter’s nursery.  It is my, ::ehem:: I mean her, sanctuary. I worked on it for months.  And now that we spend so much time in it playing, I thought this would be a great time to showcase it.

For those who have followed me, let’s not forget what this room USED to look like. 

You can see the full project at projectnursery.com!!

I organized all of my inspiration on Pinterest.  I love that site!

General nursery inspiration: https://www.pinterest.com/livingfor2plus/little-girls-nursery/

Specific items for Ava’s room:  https://www.pinterest.com/livingfor2plus/avas-room/

Nursery organization ideas: https://www.pinterest.com/livingfor2plus/nursery-organization/

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Netflix maternity leave–and why I’m furious

I recently read an article about a topic near and dear to my heart. 

Maternity leave. 

Netflix announced that it will be offering unlimited maternity leave for the first year after having or adopting a child. Not only that, a parent (whether mother or father) could return on a modified status. 

We want employees to have the flexibility and confidence to balance the needs of their growing families without worrying about work or finances. Parents can return part-time, full-time, or return and then go back out as needed. We’ll just keep paying them normally, eliminating the headache of switching to state or disability pay. Each employee gets to figure out what’s best for them and their family, and then works with their managers for coverage during their absences.”


While I am happy that a company recognized the importance of PAID maternity leave, part of me is furious. 

For the past three years, I worked in a predominantly female profession. I was a teacher. And I loved my job. Until I got pregnant. 

I would have never thought that a profession so dominated by females (84% that is, according to the National Center for Education Information, 2011) would have a barbaric maternity leave policy. My job only adhered to the minimum of what is federally mandated: 12 weeks of UNPAID leave. This policy, also known as FMLA, guaranteed that my job was protected during my leave. 

12 weeks aka 3 months. Regardless of when it started. So when I was put on early bed rest due to preterm contractions, my maternity leave kicked in. Meaning that four weeks after giving birth, the school expected me to return to work or risk losing my job. 

I would talk to fellow employees in outrage at my unpaid and short leave. However, it seemed to be accepted as the status quo. A shrug here. A story there, about how they had to return two weeks after delivery in order to continue earning a paycheck. A blank stare. A recommendation that I use my sick days during my leave for pay: my FIVE sick days that I’m allotted.  A shocked look at me that I even  contemplated taking off my full maternity leave. “You’re taking the whole three months?” What? I couldn’t believe how lax people were. No one seemed to want to change the policy. Everybody seemed to be more critical of me and my “choice” to get pregnant. “Why didn’t you plan to have her in the summer?” The comments I got from people were ridiculous. 

Meanwhile, at my husband’s firm, they offered paid maternity leave. I guess I didn’t choose the right profession. 


First days home.

The United States has one of the worst maternity leave policies in the world.  It is the only developed country in the world that does not offer paid maternity leave.  Most countries offer at least three months of PAID leave.  

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 8.59.33 PM

Not a single week is paid during maternity leave in the US. Credit: The Guardian.

I was due in December.  The doctor ordered a mandatory bed rest in October since my employer and I could not reach an agreement on a part time schedule—a flexibility that would have allowed me to work longer.  But the US doesn’t mandate that companies offer accommodations to pregnant women.  Seems silly.  To lose an employee completely as opposed to having them work part time. 

After Ava was born, I had to apply for a disability leave.  During this leave, my job wasn’t necessarily “protected,” which the school made evident by a job posting that I saw online for my position. 


I received no pay during my leave.  And, to add insult to injury, I was unpaid when I returned to work.  How is that possible? The way my district calculates pay, I “owed” them money because of the amount of time that I took off.  So I worked “for free” for about 2 months AFTER I returned.  And, as if to further the inequity of the situation, a man who was ostensibly hired to replace me, but wasn’t clear to work before I returned, was present during this time.  Since I had returned, he was relegated to observing classes because he had signed a contract.  During the time period that I worked without paid, he received checks while not actually teaching (his own set of 6 classes).  Such is the real-life consequences of maternity leave in America.

My story is not that bad in comparison to the many women who suffer through poor maternity leave policies.  I am lucky: I was in a stable, dual income relationship during my pregnancy.  But what about the single woman who is pregnant? Or the family with no savings who finds themselves expecting? To forgo pay for months is an impossibility for many families.  

But there are consequences to rushing to return to work right after delivery.  The physical trauma of pregnancy & delivery does not heal itself within a matter of weeks.  In fact, it takes month for a woman to feel “back to normal,” if she ever does at all.  


And what about finding and paying for childcare?  Our dismal maternity leave is matched by our disgraceful early childcare industry.  And what about nursing? How can one expect a company to be flexible with a nursing mother if they can’t be with a pregnant mother? 

“I can’t sympathize with your nursing thing.  I guess because I didn’t do it.”

-coworker at my high school

(Who says these things??!!)

The US maternity policies (or lack of) make me sick.  While I think it is commendable that ONE company, Netflix, has decided to take a huge step in accommodating parents with new children, I can’t help think about all of the other companies that don’t offer any paid leave, or any job protected leave outside of the FMLA 12 week cycle.  Or what about half of all employees who don’t even qualify for FMLA, therefore living in the daily fear of losing their job.  I applaud Netflix, but I’m waiting for the country as a whole—not private companies, not individual states—the entire United States of America to adopt better, federally mandated maternity leave policies.  

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Hospital Must Haves

It seems like just a few days ago that I gave birth to one of the most awesome little human beings in the world…


A few minutes old.

Ava Grace.

She went from a pink faced little cherub to a bouncing and darling baby.


Perhaps because I have now joined the “mommy” club, I’m noticing that my Facebook mini feed is full of pregnant women and new mommies.  I remember just a few years ago, it was filled with a ton of people getting engaged & married.

Maybe it’s the age–that almost thirty age group that is now cranking out cute little babies like no tomorrow. And I swear, with all the vitamins and health conscious measures that we are all taking, we are certainly creating a race of bionic, ridiculously smart & advanced children (my baby included, of course!).

Being that we are all crossing the threshold into motherhood together, I often get questions from expecting mommies, such as what did I bring to the hospital when Ava was born? Or, what did I find useful the first few weeks of motherdom?

The daunting task of preparation.

I hope that this post is helpful to those who need it or are interested in any nursing product reviews.

1. Pinterest


First things first: I am an admitted Pinterest junky, and I have no interest in rehab. In my humble opinion, Pinterest is honestly one of the best social media gadgets out there!  I made this board to organize all of my ideas and tips related to baby care, including packing my hospital bag. Later, I created this board which is exclusively dedicated to packing for a hospital/diaper bag. 

My favorite pin:

I liked this pin because it streamlines what you should bring for all parties involved–yourself, the baby, and the hubby (people always forget about him, but he is an integral part of the team! At the very least, he can get an extra t-shirt). Big takeaways:

  • make sure you bring your iPad or whatever Internet/video enabled device that you own
    • I was able to videochat with friends and family who couldn’t visit me in the hospital. It was so beautiful to show off Ava to my East Coast family and friends.
  • don’t forget your “college shower” flip flops.
    •  I forgot mine and had to shower in socks…annoying and awkward, to say the least.
  • nice nightgowns
    • These are a good idea because 1) you want to be comfortable, 2) new and nice pjs make you feel special, 3) you’ll naturally look good for pictures and 4) you don’t want to get a two piece pj set just in case you get a C-Section (think about it: waist bottoms rubbing against a fresh C-Section incision…bad idea).  If nursing, you’ll want some nursing friendly pjs, like ones with the bra snaps or ones that button down in the front. I got pjs similar to the ones below:

2. Nipple cream

I always knew that I wanted to breastfeed. But in the beginning stages, breastfeeding was really uncomfortable and painful.  Particularly when (::TMI warning::) my nipples got dry and cracked from nursing every two hours (or less). I couldn’t live without this Boobease Natural Nipple Balm (Amazon, $12.79). This is particularly great if you are allergic to wool--most other brands use lanolin, which is a wax made from wool bearing animals. I happen to be allergic to wool. That would have been an awful surprise those first days, so buyer beware!

3. Nipple pads

In the first few days of nursing, your breasts are incredibly sore.  These gel pads were such a life saver.  Just place them in the fridge and then stick them on–super simple, and super soothing.  These are also useful after milk comes in and breasts become engorged.  I used to put on the nipple cream and then these pads…even though the box said not to do so. It just felt so divine!

4. Your own comforter

Why, oh why, do hospitals never have nice, thick comforters? I suppose that on a mass level, they would be difficult to keep clean and sanitized for patients. But in a cold hospital, I knew way in advance that the extra warmth was necessary. I was so glad to have my comforter. Not only did it keep me nice and toasty, but it also smelled like home. This is very calming in a hectic environment, when doctors were running in and out of my room every minute.


You can’t see it, but I am all wrapped up in my blanket.

5.  Ear plugs & Eye mask

Image source:  eBay.

Image source: eBay.

I was very lucky–my hospital was almost like a luxury hotel stay.  But even in this lovely environment, there was still outside ambient noise and light leaking in through the door.  My ear plugs and eye mask were crucial in allowing me to get a few hours of sleep.  For me, sleep was hard to come by those first few days–I was so amped up on adrenaline but exhausted at the same time.

6. Mints 

Image source: Google image

Image source: Google image search

This is a great tip that I never used.  A friend of mine warned me to bring some mints to the hospital just in case there was a delay in the c-section.  As many know, you can not eat anything the day of a surgery, c-section included.  She advised that sucking on some mints can cut the hunger pains as the hours pass.  Lucky for me, my surgery was scheduled early.  However, it was delayed and probably would have been performed later in the day, but the monitors started going crazy and my doctor decided Ava had to leave NOW!

These are my top must haves. What are yours? 

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First weeks home

Someone recently asked me what were the first weeks like with Ava.

I had to pause and really think hard about that.

 A few days after bringing Ava home. 

Although the “first days” were really just a few weeks ago, the experience feels like a distant memory in the far distant past. The routine and rhythms (or lack of) are blurred, swirling memories. What endures, though almost vaguely, are the vast range of emotions I felt during my initiation into motherhood. Perhaps that’s a good thing…

Because in all honesty, the first weeks were hell for me.

My doctor told me on many occasions that the first two weeks are the hardest and then “it gets better.”  That wasn’t the case for me. The first two months proved to be a long, hard, and slow period of acclimation and adjustment for my new family. And that’s ok. Because although I had banked on my challenges being limited to just the first two weeks, the number one thing I had to remember after those first two weeks was that every child is different. I can only now say that that’s ok because I am out of the trenches. While on the battlefield, the last thing that I wanted to hear was that “every child is different.”  That made me feel so lonely. While reading all the baby books in the world can prepare you with general parenting skills, nothing in the world can prepare you for the unique personality that your baby has. And that can be very lonely. Not so much physically lonely (because I was surrounded by a lot of love)–it can be mentally lonely. Loneliness is one of the unspoken, yet common emotions that many first time parents experience. I personally found a lot of comfort in joining online communities, such as Babycenter Community Groups because I got to commiserate with other moms of babies that were going through the same developmental stages as my daughter. I also joined Facebook Breastfeeding groups.

 Yes, less than a week after Ava’s birth, I ran to Babycenter Birth Club/Community Group to get advice on soothing a baby. I got some really helpful tips. This is a screenshot from the app My Pregnancy (Babycenter).

Other than loneliness, the first days at home were also filled with pain and exhaustion. Of course I was excited to have Ava home, but I was also in severe pain from my c-section.  And my breasts were extremely sore and cracked from around the clock nursing–around the clock nursing which left me with no time to sleep. No sleep and no routine. Healing while trying to care for another little being was one of the hardest juggling acts I’ve ever performed.

I felt like I had no “me” time and that I served at the pleasure of Ava–a sweet faced but finicky baby who cried a lot and was often hard to console. She woke up at all hours of the night and wouldn’t go to sleep. I was actually miserable. She was probably even more miserable. But the doctor (and every baby book or website I could get access to) said that it was completely normal and that most babies were like that.

I didn’t anticipate the sense of hyper-vigilance that I had over Ava. I felt like I couldn’t ever sleep because I was constantly worried about her and my body was ultra sensitive to any sound that Ava made. A deep sigh would jolt me out of my sleep, in anticipation that Ava was about to wake up hungry and then inconsolable for hours.

I remember hoping every night that from whatever time she last ate, that she would at least make it until 4 am for her next feeding/cry session. At 4, I felt like it was “late” enough to get my coffee and day started.

  Even my dog was worried about her. 

The most helpful bit of advice I got came from the book “The Happiest Baby on the Block.” It proposed thinking about newborns as fourth trimester babies (or fetuses) that are continuing to develop, but outside of the womb. It challenged parents to think about how jarring and scary life is for newborns outside of the warm waterbed they were used to for 40 weeks. Get the image of the fat smiling baby out of your head! That fat smiling baby will come, but not for another two to three months.

 What people imagine newborns to be like versus the reality. Image from the book The Happiest Baby on the Block

At two months, something clicked. We got into more of a “loose” routine. She started sleeping much longer at night, waking up only once or twice. She started to smile and to babble. She was just darn adorable. My fat smiling baby finally appeared.


While love is one of the most anticipated emotions that you expect after having a baby,
it is not like what movies depict. I certainly felt a maternal love for Ava–a quiet love. But also, I felt frustration, anger, pain, and exhaustion–all of which was “Ava’s fault.”  I don’t say this to be mean and I certainly don’t/didn’t actually blame Ava. Besides just pure shock at being a new mom, I believe part of my “lower than expected excitement” was also due to my hormones trying to readjust themselves. But everyday my love grew for Ava.

I really hate to say this…but nothing prepares you for motherhood.  The closest experience I can relate it to is like pulling constant all nighters and cramming for exams during finals week.  But add pain and frustration to the mix.

All in all, I am very happy and excited to be a mom. Yes, sometimes I want to lock myself in a room, alone for some “me” time. But I absolutely adore Ava. My favorite time everyday is when I rush home to see her chubby cheeks and chunky hands reach out for me to pick her up. I love the smell of her hair when I go to kiss her, or seeing the bright spark of life in her eyes. I love holding her as she gets ready to eat. Or singing songs in the bathtub as she kicks her feet and flails her hands to splash the water. All these moments and more, I hold dear to my heart.


 At 6pm, Ava and I snuggle together to watch the tv show “100 Latinos dijeron” (basically, Spanish version of Family Feud).

 From my instagram. We basically chill together all evening long. 

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#FBF: Happy “Holiday/Friendsgiving/Welcome Home Baby” Party

The holiday season is by far my favorite time of the year. I get to see family members, eat incredibly delicious food, and partake in gift giving. This holiday season was extra special for me because in between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I was due to deliver my baby Ava!

Far in advance I knew that this holiday time would be very taxing with the arrival of my first child. So I began planning ridiculously early. Holiday cards were designed and Christmas decorations were pulled out of storage by early November. My super pregnant self waddled around Michaels, Target and Pier 1 looking for items to add to my collection. Christmas preparation this year was definitely half fun and half crazy (being that I was carrying a full term baby…).

I love you Pier 1!

My urgency to decorate my house as what I call “a winter wonderland” was primarily driven by my desire to have a festive home in time for Ava’s arrival. Also, a Christmasy house reminds me of my parents’ home–they always have beautiful decorations for each season, especially for Christmas, which makes me feel a sense of warmth and love. And finally, I was planning a party just a few days before my due date–something of a Holiday party mixed with a Friendsgiving element combined with a celebration of Ava’s homecoming. Why I decided to add the stress of preparing for a party will not be understood by many, but I was so happy that I did it!

Bringing you a top bun and sass at 38 weeks pregnant (5 days before delivery!) 😘

Bringing you a top bun and sass at 38 weeks pregnant (5 days before delivery!) 😘

I baked several dishes and friends brought over wine and even sparkling cider specifically for me! One friend brought some paleo/gluten free cookies (yum!). Over yummy food, we chatted and played games. It was so nice to share my home with friends 🙂 Enjoy the pics!

Close ups from around the table. The runner and tree were from Target.

Shots of some friends!

Shots of some friends!

Shots of some decorations. Notice the “Joy” pillow from Pier 1.

Last picture together while pregnant!

Last picture together while pregnant!

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Happy 1 Week Birthday, Ava!

Yesterday marked the one week birthday of my little Miss Ava Grace, who was born on Dec 2nd, measuring in at a grand ole 6 lbs 12oz and 20.5 inches long. I can’t believe that she is here! All the pregnancy woes and difficulties, the continuous hiccups and samurai kicks, the workouts and healthy diet, all to produce this teeny little creature who will now call me “mommy.” It is so surreal.


I had Ava by planned c section due to my seizure disorder. The main positive about a “planned” c section is that I can prepare for a known arrival date, as opposed to natural delivery where the baby can come at any time (despite an estimated due date). For weeks I’ve been preparing for the big day, for example, by cooking and freezing meals, setting up my winter wonderland decorations (another post soon to come), and fully setting up Ava’s pink & gray nursery. The night before the c section, I was a bundle of nerves. In an effort to “chill out”, I took a warm bath, drank some tea, and listen to Christmas music. I also took the opportunity to write a letter to Ava describing how I felt and how excited I was to meet her 🙂 I plan on including it in her baby book so she can always know how excited her mommy was the night before she was born.

At around 4 am, Sean and I got ready to head to the hospital. Amazingly, I was as cool as a cucumber. I even took a selfie to document my last belly shot with Ava. We arrived at the hospital, registered, I changed, and waited in bed. But when the anesthesiologist entered my room in order to discuss my epidural, the enormity of the day hit me full force and I was a “hot mess.” Oh boy. I started to get really nervous and overly anxious, especially as I walked to the surgery room to get my epidural. I have had a life long fear of epidurals and have always wondered why there are so few pain management options for laboring women. The idea of a needle in my back is less than appealing…

IMG_1926.JPGSELFIE alert! On the morning of Ava’s arrival

Well, needless to say I freaked out quite a bit and was able to request a “pre-medicine” to calm my nerves. It really helped. I then was instructed to sit up on the surgical table so that they could administer the epidural–a small shot in my spinal sack, but without a catheter. The shot was MAJORLY uncomfortable. Not to the point of crying but it was a few minutes of pure torture, particularly since the doctor began to play “let’s explore Allison’s vertebrae with a needle” (due to my bedrest, my back was a bit swollen and it was hard to locate my spinal sack). Oh yay. But it was over in a few minutes and I suppose the benefit of being awake with no pain outweighed being asleep and missing my baby’s entry into the world.

The c section began quickly (probably as soon as they raised the curtain). Sean was right by my side, dressed in scrubs, waiting for our little Lima bean. Then, all of a sudden, we heard the “cry.” I was flooded with so many emotions and began immediately balling when I heard Ava’s sweet whimpers. Those first cries symbolize so much: her arrival to the world (there’s no turning back now, haha) and her good health (thank God). Sean was the first one to hold her. Then I got to see her rosy face. There are no words that can describe the overall experience: seeing my husband hold our daughter was such a memorable moment–the start of a lifelong bond between two special people in my life.

The c section went so quickly! Time flew by!

Then my eyes got heavy…The anesthesiologist gave me a medicine to put me in a sleepy/twilight state while the doctor stitched me up.

The rest of the day was a blur. But you couldn’t take Ava out of my arms. I just wanted to hold her and to smell her. If softness could have a scent, it would be the one that she has. Sweet sweat and milk. The light fragrance of a clean diaper. My personal definition of perfection.

She’s so cute!

I only stayed in the hospital for a few days. I was able to leave on my third day. While in the hospital, which had amazing amenities and nurses, I was able to work with a lactation consultant at almost EVERY feeding with Ava. The hospital is very pro-breastfeeding, to the point that they assume that that is what you are going to do and you have to request a bottle if you plan to formula feed. This type of support seems so rare, and seven days out, I’m happy to report that Ava and I are in a good flow (no pun intended)–breastfeeding is going extremely well and I’m so glad at I’m doing it.

Little facts about Ava:
Likes: eating, suckling, being held. After feeding time, she enters a coma like state and literally passes out with milk dripping out her mouth, as if she fell out before completing her last gulp. To be honest, sometimes I pass out as well!

This is NOT a staged picture. This is real life. Ava and I fell out after her feeding. The sleepiness was contagious (see my dog, Tyrion). Breastfeeding has become a family activity.

Dislikes: diaper and wardrobe changes (aka, being naked and cold)!
Eats: every two hours, but she’ll often go longer when she pities her sleep deprived mom.
Poops: I don’t think I can even count…
Cool things: she smiles and smizes every day. I live for those smiles.


Best friend: our dog, Tyrion. He has become her body guard and so obviously has become protective of her.

Tyrion hardly leaves Ava’s side
Mommy or Daddy?: Sean and I have settled on the allocation of the following features–Ava has my nose and lips while she has Sean’s eyes and hair. I also claim her long dainty fingers 😉


*We also think that she is the smartest, most advanced baby ever born (as do most parents believe about their own children…haha)


Ava’s first week has been pretty amazing. Happy birthday sweet pea 🙂

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Nursery progress!

It is week 32 in my pregnancy. Barely two months remain until little Ava “graces” us with her presence! 👶 So my husband and I have kicked our formally nonexistent baby prepping into a full blown “must have everything done ASAP” baby prep. We made so much progress this week!!

After much Pinterest-ing and combing through Projectnursery.com, I settled on a pink and grey themed nursery, with an ultra feminine & soft touch. Originally, I wanted to do a super pink/girly ballet themed nursery. After showing my husband what I was thinking, we discussed having a more neutral palette. I then decided on a girly, jungle theme, which is what I put on my registry. But then after a ton of online research, I moved to a cleaner theme–feminine and elegant. I kept some pink, but more as an accent color as opposed to the main color. My recommendation for expectant mothers: start early and take your time when deciding on a nursery theme!

Images from Pinterest. Inspiration for nursery!

Last week we settled on paint colors. On Saturday, we had a painter come over. By the afternoon, we had our three grey walls & one pink wall.

Grey wall: Valspar Reserve Hydrochrome in Pantone String; pink wall: Valspar Reserve Hydrochrome in Pantone Blushing Bride

In various stages, and with the help of two friends (thanks Holly & George!!), we built our crib and dresser…



My friend George hung these beautiful curtains that I purchased on Etsy. I used a double curtain rod from Ikea so I could have the option to pair these curtains with either practical black out curtains (to help with nap time) or more decorative sheer curtains.

I LOVE these curtains.

I also made a trip to Babies R Us to pick up some items, one of which was new bedding…

I’m pretty sure that after the first baby, I will never care to iron a bed skirt again. Haha.

…And more clothing. I pulled off all tags, sorted them by color, and began washing them using Tide Pods Laundry Detergent, Free & Gentle. Some people recommended that I use the more expensive brand Dreft when washing baby clothes, but Tide is essentially the same thing (but for less money) and recommended by nurses and several baby books! Here’s a tip: do NOT buy the Tide Pods from Amazon or Target. For some reason, they mark up the price significantly-for a 72 count they both charge $17.99. Stick to Walmart or Sam’s Club. For the same 72 count of pods, Walmart sells the pods at $9.97 & Sam’s Club (for a 90 ct) at $20.98.


This was only one load of her laundry…there are about four more to go. Oy!

As I finish week 32 and head into week 33, I look forward to putting together Ava’s bassinet, ordering some organizational items & floating bookshelves from Ikea, and settling on a rocking chair. I also look forward to packing my hospital bag! Everything is moving so fast! I can’t believe so little time is left until Ava’s arrival!

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