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Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star First Birthday Party Theme

I went bold, gold and glittery for my daughter, Genevieve’s, first birthday party. We chose a Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star theme and made sure it was evident in each party element.

I added gold sparkle stars to the cake…11986459_10207622476901212_5887433222058256061_n

…And also used the stars to accent the food.10994459_10207622486541453_6497901864622618463_n

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We kept centerpieces simple using adorable .99 cent vases from Ikea and adding baby’s breath, sprinkled in gold glitter. As as accent, we threw in hand-painted pink wooden stars that are now keepsakes.

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Photo collage made with images printed from Social Print Studio.11995964_10207622476541203_8664712206095473704_n

I ordered this sign as a download on Etsy, then printed and framed on my own.1545786_10207622473341123_5685634544832546561_nMy friend made a custom canvas guest book.11988595_10207622483061366_576708681237036576_n

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For favors, kids got gold sparkly wands from Oriental Trading and adults were treated to chocolate-dipped pretzel rods adorned with–you guessed it– gold stars!11988622_10207622483581379_5897518827420903477_n

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We had a table of fun for the kids. I pulled together clip art from the Internet and made coloring book pages in Photoshop.

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Star props from Oriental Trading.12004874_10207622474501152_4840802611718785683_n

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I made custom 12-month banner using gold star twine and monthly photo stickers from ShopVivaLaGlitter.

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Gold star from Etsy. 12004037_10207622475621180_5074519312699968437_n

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We set up a mock photo booth to take photos with guests:

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And of course, the host herself was dressed head to toe in gold glitter. Shirt from ShopVivaLaGlitter and skirt from LolaAndDarlaDesigns.11027936_10207591975578698_929553331493564748_n

Pinterest-Inspired First Birthday Photoshoot Fail

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I planned my daughter’s first birthday photo shoot months in advance. Everything was set, from her dress and props to the smash cake. I even made my husband plan his outfit so we could take family photos with our dogs.

Then, the week of the photoshoot, my Baby G got a runny nose type of cold and a tooth decided to cut through her upper gums. She was cranky, but I didn’t want to reschedule, so I forged ahead with crossed fingers.

Mistake number one: Attempting a photoshoot when baby is under the weather.

Mistake number two: Not trying on her dress before the day of the pictures.

I bought her a big frilly, pink tutu dress with cupcakes on it earlier in the summer. It was too big then, but I figured she would grow into it. Great plan, but it didn’t happen. My daughter is very tall and thin, so a lot of baby clothes for her age don’t fit well. I find that most clothes are made for chubby babies. This was the case with her cupcake dress. It was too big. Of course, I realized this one hour before the photographer was scheduled to arrive at our house. Thankfully, I have a closet full of tutu dresses. I averted a panic attack by putting on a 9-month ombre tutu dress she wore to meet the Easter Bunny and hoped no one would notice, until now, as I point it out. I also dressed her in the special “one” outfit she’ll be wearing for her birthday party.

Mistake number three: Not visiting the photoshoot location ahead of time.

I planned to shoot the photos on the playground at the elementary school across from our house because it has a nice background of green grass and tall trees. But when we arrived, we noticed that there was no shade. It was way too sunny and we had to quickly scout a new location.

Mistake number four: Scheduling the photoshoot close to nap time.

I had a feeling that 2 p.m. was not the ideal time to get my baby in a good mood, but I had to work around the photographer’s availability. I hoped that after her morning nap and lunch, my daughter would be in play mode at 2 p.m. and then take her afternoon nap at home. It probably would have worked out that way if she was feeling well.  However, she was cranky the whole shoot and didn’t crack a smile once. She wouldn’t even eat her smash cake!

We tried our best and called it a day. As soon as we got home, Baby G fell asleep for two hours.

Lesson learned.

Moving forward, first birthday photoshoot tips:

  • Make sure your baby doesn’t have a cold
  • Schedule for early morning, after breakfast and a good night’s sleep
  • Scout your location
  • Try on her outfit a week before and have backups
  • Test out her palette and see if she even likes cake.

After her good nap, I set up a mini shoot outside our house and as luck would have it, she smiled and played. She still wouldn’t eat sweets– we tried a donut– but at least I got some good shots.

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And the professional photographer posted one picture as a preview, and it turned out amazing, so I have hope for the rest!

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I have a one year old!

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I cannot believe my baby girl is one-year-old. The past year has been so amazing. I remember watching her eyelashes grow, wondering when her hair would follow suit. All the late night crying and cuddles at 2 a.m. Her first smile, her first laugh. When she started to recognize her mommy and daddy. How every milestone– rolling over, sitting up, eating solid food, first tooth– was so special, yet the next one came and reminded us how quickly she’s becoming a little person with  a ton of sass. I loved the baby stage, but life is becoming so much fun now that she is learning words and on the move. I can’t wait for all the toddler adventures!

I haven’t slept a full night in over a year, but this little face is worth the dark circles under my eyes.

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My Labor Day: Otherwise Known as the Scariest and Happiest Day of My Life

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This year’s Labor Day just so happens to fall on September 7th, my daughter Genevieve’s first birthday. It seems like only yesterday that I was in the hospital experiencing the most terrifying and heartwarming day of my life.

I didn’t have a birth plan. I thought about making one, but then decided it wasn’t worth it because you can’t predict what’s going to happen during labor and delivery. My husband and I took a prenatal education class to learn a little about what was going to happen to my body. Like most mommy’s-to-be, I also read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” every week to find out what was happening inside my belly. I skimmed the chapters about childbirth because I didn’t want to build up anxiety. I completely skipped past the material on C-sections.

Of course, I ended up with a C-section and also needed pitocin during labor. My two delivery fears became my reality.

Throughout my pregnancy, I worried about how my body was going to handle childbirth. I have chronic fatigue so I didn’t see myself faring well over hours on end of pain and no sleep. When I first went for my pregnancy checkup, the doctor joked that I might have a big baby with broad shoulders because my husband is basically a giant, towering over me at 6 ft. 3 inches. I laughed it off, but always kept that in the back of my mind. Part of me thought maybe I would do better with a C-section.

It was terrifying to think about. I quizzed friends who recently had babies and everyone said “get an epidural and you’ll be fine.”

Ha. Ha. Ha. (I just want to interject here that the epidural does not do anything for back/butt pain during labor. The nurses informed me of this while I was pretty much on the verge of tears).

My water broke three days past my due date on a Saturday night. I showed some signs that this was happening during the day, but I didn’t want to get too excited. I was determined to finish editing my book for the printer and was paranoid about becoming a mother. I knew my whole world was going to change and I was trying to stall it, as excited as I was!

When my water broke it was like the ice bucket challenge in my bathroom. But we don’t need those details. I had to go to the hospital right away to get hooked up on antibiotics since I tested positive for Group B strep. That also meant that I would have to deliver the baby within 24 hours to avoid risk of infection.

I took a shower and did my hair, thinking it would actually stay pretty for post-birth pictures. What an unnecessary waste of energy!

I wasn’t having contractions so I had to get pitocin. I knew the drug would make my contractions  stronger and more painful. Oh. My. Gosh. My advice to any mom who gets told she will be induced with pitocin is to go right for a scheduled C-section because you’ll most likely end up with one anyway and it’s better to avoid the worst pain of your life.

I didn’t know that you could get an epidural as soon as you entered the hospital. Instead, I went six hours in brutal pain trying to be some sort of warrior and hold out until I really couldn’t take it anymore, like the recent nursing school graduate suggested. Thank heavens the nurses changed shifts and I got a nice, experienced older nurse who said something like “you poor thing, why didn’t they tell you that you could get your epidural?”

Things got better for a little while after the painkiller started to circulate. But then, the scariest moment of my life happened.

My daughter’s heartbeat went off the monitor.

All of a sudden, a million doctors and nurses rushed into my room. I looked down and I was bleeding. Then, someone put an oxygen mask on my face. I was hysterical. My teeth were chattering. My husband remained calm but was freaking out inside. I felt out of control, out of my body. I just had to lay there and pray and trust that everything would be OK.

The doctors told me that the pitocin made my contractions too strong and too fast. They knocked the baby’s breath out. It was too much for her to handle.

Eventually, everything was OK. Except, after 20 hours of labor, I was stuck at six centimeters dilation. My doctor, who was also nine months pregnant, tried the best she could to help me deliver naturally. I was at my breaking point and there was no way I would be able to deliver naturally within the next four hours. We both agreed on a C-section. To be honest, I begged for one.

It was really weird being wheeled down the hospital hallway. I see it all the time on General Hospital, but that didn’t comfort me.

The surgery room was the brightest room I’ve ever seen. Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle” was blaring across the speakers. I was quickly strapped down, as my teeth chattered uncontrollably. Before I even knew that the doctor began cutting, the baby was out! Less than ten minutes, I swear.

I was under a lot of pain medication and couldn’t really speak or comprehend everything. But I saw my baby held up, thought “she’s so big!” –she was 8 pounds 5 ounces and 21 inches long– and watched my teary-eyed husband run with the camera to go cut her cord.

Then, I thought I was dying. Or that I was going to pass out. Maybe that’s why the doctor gave me oxygen and told me to try to sleep while they stitched me up. Being up for two days straight probably didn’t help me.

When I entered recovery, I finally got to hold my baby. It’s so surreal, holding this little person that you’ve been waiting to meet. She’s a stranger, but she’s your baby. You just want to stare at her and soak in every perfect detail.

September 7, 2014 was the scariest and best day of my life. The year flew by.

I can’t believe I have an amazing one-year-old little girl with a spitfire personality. She is my husband’s mini me looks-wise, but a mommy’s girl at heart. We’re basically attached at the hip. We fall asleep together, as she wraps her arms around my neck and holds onto my hair. She wakes up in the morning, slaps my face and calls out “mama.”

She has no idea how much I love her. How she’s my dream come true. And how she was worth every minute of that draining pregnancy and traumatic labor.

My Labor Day is the day my whole new life began.

Zenni Optical: Affordable Eyeglasses for Fashionable Moms on a Budget

I used to be able to wear contacts all day long. Then, they started to give me headaches and my eyes itched like crazy when I took them out. Those problems led to me wearing glasses 24/7.  I feel more like myself in contacts and still wear them for brief hours during special occasions–like my wedding day–where I’ll be taking a lot of pictures. However, I decided that if I have to wear eyeglasses all the time, I’m going to have fun with it.

I discovered Zenni Optical, a site that lets customers order fashionable prescription glasses and sunglasses for super cheap. I’m addicted.

Prices start at around $6 for frames AND lenses and go up if you want reflective coating, etc. I even ordered a pair with tinted lenses that I use as sunglasses.

I’ve been collecting my Zenni’s for about two years now and have different pairs for different moods:   Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 3.45.52 PM

My first pair: oversized blue. I wear these specks on bold, summery days. Frame cost: $15!  I get lots of complements.

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My hipster pair. These were my every day glasses, but I recently got new ones because these slide off my face a little. Not yoga friendly. Frame cost: $25.

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I wanted tortoiseshell keyhole frames and ended up with this pair. I have mixed feelings because they are super oversized, so sometimes I feel like I’m in the 70s. That’s one of the downsides to ordering frames online and not being able to try them on before making a purchase. But they fit really well! Total cost: $35 with reflective coating, etc.

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These frames are a bit flimsy but perfect for laying down and watching TV. Wait, did I just say that? All I do is sit on the couch and watch nursery rhymes with Baby G! Frame cost: $19.

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My new, every day normal black frames. The classic pair. Frame cost: $12!

I love Zenni because I can change up my look. I’m not spending $300 on a single pair of designer frames–plus the cost of lenses– that I’m obligated to wear daily. Honestly, the only issue I’ve had wearing them is that my baby likes to rip them off my face!

Expert Article: 6 Things about Getting Pregnant You Didn’t Know

Guest blog by ALYSSA DWECK, MD, OB/GYN at the Mount Kisco Medical Group in Westchester County, New York

Starting a family and getting pregnant can be a serious undertaking for couples who are having a bit of trouble. TTC couples who take every precaution to baby-making may lack some simple yet very critical steps that can elevate pregnancy stress. ALYSSA DWECK, MD, OB/GYN at the Mount Kisco Medical Group in Westchester County, New York provides care to women of all ages and has delivered thousands of babies offers 6 tips to about getting pregnant TTC couple might not know.

1. You can’t get pregnant on just any day of the month. Teenagers might worry a lot less about pregnancy with a little out of the classroom SEXed regarding the menstrual cycle and fertility. Education about ovulation, peak fertility and “safe times” during the menstrual cycle whether it be from an phone app, a friend or a healthcare provider is key. This of course is not so easy if your cycles are irregular and doesn’t take the place of contraception and/or condoms, but sure is handy info nonetheless.

2. Women can learn a lot by charting their monthly cycles. It’s amazing what your menstrual cycle can tell you whether you are trying to conceive or prevent pregnancy. Predicting ovulation doesn’t have to be complicated if you are in tune with your body. By simply tracking basal body temperature and cervical mucus changes women can have valuable information to plan or prevent pregnancy.

3. Ovulation doesn’t always happen on Day 14… Newsflash! It’s not uncommon to assume that conception occurs specifically at the moment of ovulation. In fact, sperm can live up to five days in a woman’s body. The best time for intercourse is actually a few days before ovulation and a day or so afterward.

4. Some lubricants can have a negative effect on sperm motility. Many common lubricants contain sperm-toxic ingredients, have the wrong pH or have high salt levels, all of which have may have a negative effect when trying to conceive. Even saliva and water can kill sperm and should be avoided when trying to conceive. Fertility friendly lubricants like Pre-Seed mimic cervical mucus to optimize fertility. Pre-Seed’s isotonic and pH balanced formula supports sperm on their journey through the cervix to meet the egg.

5. A surprising number of women will experience infertility, miscarriage or both. At least 1 in every 10 women will have significant trouble getting pregnant, and 1 in 5 will experience miscarriage at least once. These are emotional rollercoasters to say the least. Good news, there are tests and treatments to help prevent and treat the many fertility problems that we face. Rest assured, if you are facing this challenge, you are not alone.

6. Life is full of uncertainty, but the relationships you form will be your source of strength when things don’t go as planned. Coping with the anguish and emotion of miscarriage, no matter how early or infertility, is easier with support from your partner, friends, family, clergy and healthcare provider. Community is vital and all can serve as life lines when we face adversity.

Expert Article: 10 Tips for Getting Pregnant

Guest post by Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D., author of “The Impatient Woman’s Guide to Getting Pregnant”

For many women, getting pregnant can be a frustrating and anxiety-filled experience. That’s just how I felt, which is why I wrote “The Impatient Woman’s Guide to Getting Pregnant” offering tips for TTC women to feel more in control of their fertility.

Try the following 10 tips:

  1. Obviously, it’s time to throw away your once beloved birth control!  A good rule of thumb is to get off of the pill three months before trying to conceive if you have been on it for less than a year, and six months prior if you have been on it for over a year.
  2. Make friends with your ovulation cycle.  Between a third and two-thirds of women under age 35 who are aware of their fertile time are able to conceive in their first month of trying.
  3. Find your fertile time by using a fertility monitor, ovulation predictor kits (OPKs), charting, or (my personal favorite) all three. Sometimes this can be trickier than it sounds – for example, traditional “line” OPKs can be difficult to interpret. Consider a digital test with a clear “yes” or “no” like the First Response Digital Ovulation Test. Then you’ll know exactly when to get busy.
  4. If you’ve been having ovulation-focused sex for over three months and still haven’t conceived- don’t freak out! Keep calm and consider convincing your partner to get a quick and easy sperm analysis.  This “male factor” or sperm issue comprises nearly half of all fertility issues.
  5. Adjust your dietfor optimal fertility.  Incorporate fertility-boosting foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, soy foods, and olive oil.  Avoid trans-fats and partially hydrogenated oil, found in frosting and some baked goods. These are so bad that the FDA just outlawed them! Food companies have 3 years to comply, so for now you have to police it yourself.
  6. Many studies show that taking prenatal vitamins, such as folate and vitamin B6 increases your chances of getting pregnant quickly.  Omega 3 fatty acids (fish oil) have been linked to better embryos in IVF and smarter babies overall.  There is also strong evidence that prenatal vitamins lower the chance of birth defects, so begin taking them immediately.FIRST RESPONSE™ Reproductive Health Multivitamin Gummies have a delicious, natural Berry Citrus flavor and are specially formulated to provide women with the essential nutrients they need when planning to get pregnant.
  • 400 mcg of Folic Acid
  • One serving is an excellent source of Vitamins A, C, D & E
  • 100 mg of Calcium
  • 50 mg of Omega-3 DHA
  • Excellent source of Iodine per serving
  • Gluten free
  • No iron added, so they’re gentle on the stomach
  1. Contrary to popular belief, having sex every day doesn’t lower sperm count, So feel free to have as much sex as you please, and enjoy it.  But, if you are dry, use Pre-Seed,a sperm safe lubricant developed specifically for couples who are trying to conceive.  Pre-Seed is properly pH balanced and isotonic to mimic a woman’s fertile fluids and optimize the journey for sperm. Mimicking natural fertile fluids, it allows swimming sperm to move freely and its pH balanced to match fertile cervical mucus and the pH of sperm.
  2. Cut the caffeine.  Non-smoking women who consume about 2-5 cups of coffee per day cut their fertility by 12 percent.  Consuming caffeine has an even worse effect on male fertility, where having 5 cups of coffee a day will cut his fertility in half.  An alternative to getting more energy?  Try getting a full eight hours of sleep- it will enhance your mood and your health.
  3. Soak up the sun! Sunlight causes your skin to generate Vitamin D, which has been linked to fertility.  Sit outside for 15-30 minutes without sunscreen a few times a week in the afternoon. This will also help you sleep.
  4. When you think you may be pregnant — the earlier you know, the better. Several scientific studies and a Consumer Reports study showed that the First Response™ Early Result Pregnancy Testdetects the smallest amount of the pregnancy hormone – so it can tell you sooner than any other test.  The sooner you know you’re pregnant, the sooner you can begin making healthy pregnancy choices for yourself and your baby that include: diet, nutrition and limiting your exposure to hazards.

If you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed about getting pregnant, more information lies within “The Impatient Woman’s Guide to Getting Pregnant.”  Besides planning on incorporating these tips into your daily life, here are two things that you can do right now: take a supplement of 1,000 mg of fish oil a day and learn the relaxation technique of deep breathing and you will begin to feel better.  You’re about to start your trying to conceive (TTC) journey.  Enjoy the ride.