March 12, 2019

My Favorite Books For Pregnant Women and Moms!

I am a big reader/researcher even when it comes to the smaller things in life so you can imagine how obsessed I became with finding good books once I wanted to get pregnant, be pregnant, and become a Mom. I also love hearing good resource recommendations from other people I trust and I get asked all the time on Instagram “what was that one book that talked about…” so I thought I’d have my top reading list here all in one place so I can say which is good for different parts of the motherhood journey and a little about what is so special about each selection. Some of these are newer picks and others are pretty dogeared on my bookcase but they represent the books I recommend most to friends and online friends too!

Taking Charge of Your Fertility: A must read for anyone with a vagina!! I didn’t read this book until I was 30 years old and I realized I can gone my entire life without knowing exactly how my period and fertility cycles worked. Like, for example, I never realized that cervical fluid (i.e. normal vaginal discharge) has a purpose and a pattern that can tell you so much about your cycle and how helpful it is to track your temperature (and how to read it properly). Also, lots of tips for increased fertility timing as well that you may have been charting incorrectly if you aren’t aware of how your particular cycle operates. It’s so much beyond all that as well and it’s one that I recommend for all women who both do and don’t want to get pregnant and I would also suggest this for all teen girls as well to help understand how their cycle works from the beginning.

How to Conceive Naturally and Have a Healthy Pregnancy After 30: This book is great for giving practical steps to increase your overall health and fertility (mostly for women but has steps for men as well) as well as lists of foods/supplements to increase fertility and a plan for a 3-month detox to prep your body for getting pregnant (which I did before getting pregnant with Lola). While I eat much more plant-based than this book recommends as far as their recipes go, I still think it has a wealth of knowledge and while any age would benefit from the tips and list of suggested supplements and superfoods, it also has great material to help those “older” moms not give into the fear of a “geriatric pregnancy” (moms 35 and older) that can be so prevalent in the culture. It also has specific chapters and tips for each stage of pregnancy and beyond and lots of natural remedies for a host of pregnancy ailments as well.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth: This is kind of like the natural birth Bible as far as the midwife/home birth/birth center community goes and it’s easy to see why after you read it. I did a whole book review on this one but I found it so helpful in helping to normalize the beautiful process of birth and help you feel less afraid and more empowered. Very focused on the “mind/body” connection during birth as well and if you are planning on (or thinking about) a more natural birth route then this is a great place to start as she has a lifetime of wisdom and passion for that path.

Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding: Having actually breastfed a baby of my own now I find that “how-to” books on breastfeeding aren’t really that helpful in my opinion. It’s not bad to read about all the differing holds and techniques, but until you are really doing it yourself, you really don’t know what to ask or what your unique problems are yet. While this book does cover different feeding positions (and what to try when) I mostly like it for how it makes you feel about breastfeeding. Even if you felt like the idea of breastfeeding is pretty cool before reading this book (or especially if you are on the fence about whether or not you think it’s better or worth it) then I feel it’s invaluable for getting you so incredibly pumped up on the amazing miracle that is breastfeeding that it can help carry you through feeding difficulties you may have when baby comes. I had a really hard time with Lola’s tongue tie and a low milk supply and to be honest breastfeeding was one of the most difficult areas for me as a new Mom, but knowing how amazing of a process it is, and how good even just a little could be for Lola, it really helped me to hang in there as long as I could. Of course not every Mom is able to breastfeed or is able to as long as they would like (as it was in my case) but if it’s something you are wanting to try then I highly recommend this book. I also had Todd read certain sections of it and he was so blown away and impressed with what he read that it also helped him feel passionate and supportive about wanting to help me breastfeed for as long as I could, and believe me, having a support system like that is invaluable especially is breastfeeding is a challenge for you.

Baby-Led Weaning: I realized when Lola was about 5 months old that I had been so overwhelmed by my trip to Babyland that I had no clue how or when I wanted to start her on solid foods (which usually happens around 6 months of age). A friend of mine mentioned Baby-Led Weaning which was a term I had never heard of (and is a bit misleading as you aren’t weaning the baby off of milk which is usually what comes to mind with the term) and the more I looked into it, the more I really loved the concept. It’s all about teaching babies to take control of their own food by discovering textures and tastes and feeding themselves from an early age and encourages wide ranges of flavors and spices and family-centered dinners. I’ll absolutely do this method with any more kids we have, I really love the results as Lola is such a good eater and it freed us up at mealtimes when she was young to eat while she ate rather than having to spoon feed her and take turns eating our food. I did a whole post on our process and I shared some meal ideas we liked to do as well when starting out.

The Postpartum Depletion Cure: This is the newest of my book recommendations but it’s one that I wish I had known about in my first month of postpartum life. While the “How to Conceive Naturally” book does cover the 4th trimester, this one is super in-depth into what happens to your body after baby with tons of practical solutions to help with the fatigue/sleep deprivation/hormonal imbalances/lowered immune system/anxiety/depression/weight gain or loss etc. that can happen after baby. It’s so hard to get extended follow-up care for the Mom in the months and years after a baby is born (all the focus usually switches to the baby) and this helps to give you all the tools you need to find out what your issues are and how to help correct them.

Bringing Up Bebe: One of our favorite books! I wrote a review on this one as well and while I read it initially years before I was pregnant, I read it again when I found out we were having a baby and I’ll probably keep reading it every few years as a refresher. I love reading about the different ways that the author sees French kids being raised and while I don’t think that all of the methods/priorities fit exactly in line with our parenting style, a lot of them do and I love how they treat children like mini-adults in certain respects expecting them to eat and enjoy wide varieties of foods and respect and acknowledge others around them without making them the center of the universe and a “child king” as they call it. Lots of interesting methods to read about (especially on how they get small babies to sleep through the night) but also just plain fun to read.

The Happiest Kids in the World: In a similar vein as Bring Up Bebe, this looks at children in the Netherlands who rate as the happiest kids in the world (and they rank #1 in education as well) and how their parents live and raise them and what they value as a nation as a whole. A great look into how they raise kids in a low-stress zone while still fostering family, independence, and creativity. I love reading this book having also ready the book about French kids because they have some similarities but also some major differences of opinions on what is best— it’s fascinating to read both perspectives and think about which you find more appealing and why.

The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers: This book was such a breath of fresh air for me as a new Mom and I love how she sympathizes with your emotional and physical plights in a way that only another mother can understand. I think I cried a hundred times reading the chapter on understanding your value as a mother and other habits like saying no to competition are life-giving in our age of social media comparison. I’ve bought this book and given it out to other new Moms I love it so much and I plan to re-read it often for myself as well.

Liturgy of the Ordinary: I think this is a great read in general, but especially for those of you who are faith-based Moms, and especially Moms with little children. Having young children especially can be such a joyous, but at the same time, a rather soul-sucking time as you are just giving and giving of yourself all day long until you feel like you have nothing left (let alone time for hours of spiritual contemplation/prayer or volunteering for those in need). As a Mom of little kids herself, as well as an Anglican priest, Warren is in the perfect position to help gently guide the reader into recognizing ordinary and small moments of the day for what they are—small opportunities for reflection, prayer, praise and thanksgiving transforming the ordinary things into extraordinary moments.

The Five Love Languages: Why is this book on the list? If you haven’t already come to this realization on your own, having kids can be a lot on a relationship no matter what state it was in before the babies came along. Even the best/strongest of bonds can be tested to the point of breaking with difficult seasons that can last for months or years at a time and one of the ways you can see past all the negative emotions and tendencies to fight over who’s doing more than their fair share of the chores, etc. is to know each other’s love languages and make special efforts to show your partner you care in their love language rather than your own. With people we love it’s human nature to do unto others we wish others to do unto us, but it’s so important to show love not only in the way you receive it, but in the way that the other person is wired. Sometimes big events like a baby can completely change how we want to receive love so it’s a good idea to keep this book around and retake the quiz every couple of years to see if your top languages have changed over time. My languages are basically a tie between “Quality Time” and “Acts of Service” and I have to keep in mind that Todd’s are different and show him affection in the ways that he receives it best. For serious relationship troubles I would always suggest a good marriage counselor, but even at that level of need I still think this is a great help to strengthen any relationship and bring the focus back to loving each other in practical ways you know they will recognize and receive.

There you go! Of course you can get these books from your local library as well (which I sometimes like to do before buying a book to see if it’s one I want to keep) but most of these are on my permanent bookshelf now because I like to loan them out or refer back to them in different seasons (or just completely reread them with more underlining, etc) so you can do whichever option you like! Hope one of these is helpful for whatever season you find yourself in!

xo. Laura

February 18, 2019
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Whatever Lola Wants…

We had our small share of the polar vortex blow through the past few weeks and we actually had a broken window that week that was covered with cardboard and plastic so that was great timing! Just trying to count down the winter days with hot chocolate and fun indoor actives (like Lola’s first play dough sessions!) but I will be more than overjoyed when Spring finally appears…when will that be again?? Oh well, here are some other things making me happy this week:

I love having slipper socks like these for Lola around the house in the winter. When super cold I layer them with another pair of socks underneath and they are great for keeping feet warm but also giving her some grip while running and playing.

Bought her these rainbow stripe jammies for when the weather warms up and I can’t wait to see her in them.

This outfit! That top is totally something I would wear.

Easy jersey dresses like this are great for places like church where I want her to be a little dressed up but still able to move and play in the nursery (here’s another good leopard option too).

This is Lola’s Valentine’s Day outfit…I got her this one last year and I love the picture I got of her in it so I’m trying to take a V-Day photo every year now.

I got her some leggings with this pattern and I just saw they have it in a romper too

Lola’s getting a little too heavy to lift and hold for hand washing each time we need to wash up so I got this stool and it’s great since it has the two steps so she can get high enough. I also like that it’s a little nicer looking than some of the kid stools that are plastic and rubber but I would suggesting adding some gripper pads to the bottom of the feet and some non-slip strips across the top since the wood could be slippery without gripper socks on.

This. Swimsuit. Has. Killed. Me. Dead.

Even when it’s cold Lola loves the outdoors too much to stay inside all the time so she will play outside in any temperature and still kicks and screams to come in even when Mom and Dad have had enough. Love our little polar bear…

xo. Laura

P.S. That pom pom tassel sweater in the photo is one of my favorites and you can use the code GUMMERGAL on their site for a discount on whatever you buy—I think I’m going to get the yellow one for her too!

February 15, 2019

Stuffed Animal/Lovie Coloring Pages For Lola

I love this little thing we did for Lola so I thought I’d share it with you in case you wanted to do it too for your kids! Lola has three main “babies” that she constantly asks about and needs to find throughout the day and at nap time. When Lola started finally getting the hang of coloring with crayons a few months ago I saw that Todd had drawn one of the babies on her paper and she immediately knew who it was and was so excited about it. I drew the other two lovies on another paper, and again, she knew exactly who was who even though they were very simple drawings. I thought it would be fun to trace the drawings onto a plain piece of paper with a marker so I could copy them on our printer (it has the scanner on top of the printer that you can use as a copier) and print out lovie coloring pages of the babies whenever she wanted! The real life babies…Lama (a.k.a “MaMa”), Kit Kat the bunny, and Bunny (a.k.a “BaBa”). If you’re wondering why Kit Kat is actually a bunny, that was the only word she could say when she got him (yep, her first word was feline related) so he’s been called that from the beginning. It’s not confusing at all—ha ha! Not only is it exciting for her to color in her favorite friends, but it’s also been really fun for Todd and I as we can get a bit competitively creative and try and draw them doing funny things with different hairstyles etc. on our pages. If your kid loves coloring and has a special stuffy, this might be really fun for them too and you’d be surprised at how simple the drawing can be (you don’t have to be a professional artist for sure!) and they’ll still know their friend when they see them. Too cute!

xo. Laura

February 14, 2019

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Besides Christmas, Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. It’s partially because it’s my middle name (Laura Valentine Gummerman) and Lola’s middle name now too, but it’s mostly because I have such fond memories of special Valentine’s Day surprises as a kid that the love of the holiday has always stuck with me. One year we left up our live Christmas tree so long that it started to sprout new growth and we decorated it with hearts as a Valentine’s tree. My dad would always put candies on our dinner plates at dinner time once he was home from work and a lot of the time they were those heart-shaped tins full of candy so I wanted to carry on the tradition with her as well. I bought some cute little tins to be the ones that we use every year now and I’ll fill them with candy or a small surprise present for everyone to open at our V-Day meal. I love that we’ll have reusable tins so they can be our “thing” that we do every year now.

I’ve been getting into the holiday spirit this week by wearing red/pink in some aspect every day, but I really love this tone on tone look with my new red teddy jacket (it’s so comfy!) which came just in time for the “holiday season”, hahaha. Also, people this week may think I’m going a bit overboard with the heart sunnies, but it’s our little secret that I’ve been wearing them non-stop since this summer (although they obvs feel super appropriate this week).  Not too bad for a relatively quick round of decorating! I love all things streamers for Valentine’s Day…
              Lola’s pink romper and hair clip and shoes (similar), My red jumpsuit and bodysuit
If you’ve ever dressed up a toddler to take a photo, you know that it’s quite a risk and can be a lot of work but every time I put the effort in and get some sweeeeet photos like these, it just makes my Mom heart burst and it’s so worth it in the end.

It’s pretty casual but I’m planning on having a little early dinner together with Lola and our heart tins and then Todd and I will do our at-home pizza-date when she’s in bed. Maybe next year we’ll do a proper evening out, but a pizza seemed to fit the budget just perfectly for this year’s events. Hope your day is filled with people you love!

xo. Laura

P.S. Can you even believe how much red I’m wearing lately?? As a person who used to maaaybe wear red once every two years, it’s quite the change. I’m still very picky about my shades of red, but it’s been fun so far!

January 30, 2019

What Happened When I “Got Ready” Everyday For One Week

Winter is the worst time of year for me. Oh sure, Christmas is fun and sparkly, but once the tree comes down, it’s just crawling to the finish line of a warm spring day. I usually suffer through the winter months and have gotten used to feeling a bit blue and moody without much sun (which I think is pretty normal for most people) and the early sunset, but I realized lately that when I would get up from my office chair halfway through the day and go put on some cuter clothes and makeup, it kind of made me feel better about the bleak weather. I mean, I wasn’t doing cartwheels around the house, but I could tell my disposition was a little sunnier in general.

Based on that, I thought it would be interesting to try getting fully dressed at the beginning of each day for one week (real clothes, hair done, makeup, and some jewelry) to see how it affected my mood. Now, by saying getting fully dressed was a change means that it’s not usually something I do on a regular Tuesday morning (especially if it’s gloomy outside). Most of the time it’s leggings and a sweatshirt with crazy hair and no makeup on the weekdays (unless I have a photo shoot) and I save the effort for the weekends or hanging out with friends, but the possibility of a better mood seemed worth a little extra time spent on getting ready. And the results??

Days 1-5 actually went really well! There were a couple of mornings where it was extra gloomy and I was standing in my bathroom tired and feeling a bit grumpy, but by the time I finished my hair and caked on the bronzer (and I mean, like, a lot of bronzer!) I really did feel a ton better than when I started. I began the morning feeling like Gollum’s sister from Lord Of The Rings and left the bathroom waaay more Arwen if you know what I mean…she knows what’s up with that dewy elf glow….

A few of the days I did have to be in leggings for a morning physical therapy appointment (working my way through some back issues the past 6 months), so I changed back into jeans when I got home, but as long as I got fully ready at least halfway through the day it seemed to help. We did have more sun out that usually that week too, but like I said, the mood change was pretty dramatic on the cloudy days so I really do think it helped.

Day 6 Todd and I went on a Staycation here in town while his parents watched Lola for us at the house. I excitedly packed a bunch of cute things for outfit options, but I came down with a stomach virus that’s been working it’s way around town soooo we had to cancel all our plans and I spent the day in sweats and pjs. Weirdly enough, before I caved and realized I was indeed too sick to go anywhere, I had already gotten all my makeup on and I think once the main wave of stomach cramps passed, I actually did feel a little less gross while sick since I had already made half an effort to get ready that morning.

Day 7 was easy to get dressed for as it was a sunny Sunday and I was feeling so much better so Todd and I went out for a leisurely brunch before going home to Lola. Waking up and getting ready for a weekend brunch date is totally a ritual from a more “care-free” time in my life so it was fun to do that again…

Anyways, hopefully I don’t have to spend too long explaining that it’s not outer beauty that counts and all that jazz and I’ve had my fair share of times (like everyone else) where I’ve had to use my inside (brain) to convince my outside (facial expression) to feel confident and proud but I think it can totally work the other way around too. Sometimes you can jumpstart your grumpy mood by projecting an outside image that looks fresh and put together and bronzed and dewy (thanks shimmer bronze highlighter stick!!!) and the interior mood will follow—maybe not every time and not for every person,  but it still seems worth a try if you haven’t tried it before.

So, will I do this every day? I’m going to try to! Realistically it probably won’t happen everyday, but any day I do put in the effort and notice a difference is time-well-spent if you ask me. The only downside to it is that I hate washing my face every night and I can get away with not doing it if I didn’t wear makeup that day (I mean, I probably still should even if I didn’t put on makeup, but sometimes I  don’t). You may not need this challenge if you live where it’s warm and sunny all year round (lucky ducks) but for those of you who are tired of eating your 5:00 dinner in the dark next to a space heater, well, I hope this idea helps boost your mood a bit too!

xo. Laura