My Favorite (Free) Apps

I’m an app addict. Just look at my home screen! (You’ll notice I made everything smaller so I could fit more apps and widgets in).

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I’m always downloading, testing, deleting. For work, it’s social media tools. Lately, I spend my free time testing out new parenting apps to see if they can make those first few months a little easier on us. And, of course, I have to have any app that makes my photos and videos the best they can be.

I’ve been through so many apps, I’d like to think that I’ve done enough user testing to have a pretty fantastic selection. So, here are my top apps for life and for work/side hustle.

 

Life

Instagram – I don’t need to explain this one to you. Instagram is by far my favorite social network, my least favorite being SnapChat. If my friends didn’t share so many snaps of their babies on the platform, I’d delete my account… for about the 10th time. Now that Instagram has most of the same features as SnapChat, it’s my go-to app for sharing moments and wasting time.

Pinterest – SPEAKING of wasting time, I can’t tell you how many hours of pregnancy insomnia have been filled with the Pinterest app. From looking up labor symptoms to planning out all of the summer cocktails I’m going to have once Max is out in the world.

Relaxio – I first downloaded this when I was looking for white noise options for the baby, but I ended up using it for myself instead. The baby has his own white noise MACHINE. I like for bedtime to sound like I’m in the woods next to a stream, and this makes that happen. Unfortunately, my husband likes it to be totally silent when he sleeps… so I just wait until he’s out to turn on my zen noises. (PS – I tried a LOT of white noise apps and hated many of them!)

Baby Center – Of all of the apps out there for pregnant women, I would only recommend two:  This one and the one below. This app gives you facts about your baby week after week, lets you know what veggie they are the size of, reminds you to take your prenatals and helps you track you bump as it grows. It also has a busy community where you can ask questions and read answers from others. Fair warning… the forums have taught me that there IS such a thing as a dumb question.

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Ovia Pregnancy – Ovia is similar to Baby Center, but it’s a little bit more attractive and gives you more options for tracking how baby is growing, including size themes (fruits and veggies, animals, toys and games) as well as hand and foot size.

AirBrush – If you want to do some serious editing on a photo… like make a raccoon look like Brad Pitt… this is the app you want to use. It’s also good for small edits, blurring out parts of a photo and more.

Candy Camera – When it comes to filters, Camera Candy is my favorite app. There are dozens to choose from and you can make your own adjustments to each one. I barely use anything for photo editing outside of this app and Airbrush.

Wunderlist – I am a list woman, and my husband is a list man. There are a TON of list apps out there, but when it comes to errands and our weekly grocery list, we really love Wunderlist. I can add things to the list at home on my computer and then access that list from my phone or his. This has really come in handy in the third trimester when a trip to the grocery store can take up all of my energy. I can build the list and send him to the store… and creepily see as he checks each item off.

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Photofy – I used this to make all of my “bumpies” in pregnancy before I started to make my own. This app adds fun text and images to your photos and has a TON of free customization options. Though I have paid for a few content packs and to get their watermark removed.

Keep – Like post-its on the go, I save a TON of things in keep, from which restaurants I’d like to try to what fun facts I have about myself in case I need an ice breaker.

MightyText – I LOVE MIGHTYTEXT. I am on a computer all day for work, and it feels like such a hassle to check and respond to people on my phone when I have this full keyboard at my disposal. MightyText pushes my texts and phone notifications to my computer so that I can answer them like an IM.

 

Work/Hustle

Later – It is SO annoying that Instagram hasn’t given users a way to schedule yet. Later makes it a litttttle bit less annoying. You can upload your image, write your description, add your hashtags, and schedule your post. When that time comes, Later will remind you to post and put together your post for you, but you still have to press the button.

Ripl – Ripl allows you to put animation, text, and photos together to build a fun little video for social. You can use this in your personal life (you can actually use all of these in your personal life), but we recommend this as a tool for the small retailers we work with to promote their products.

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Legend – Similar to Ripl, but with more of a focus on text. Personally, I love to use this for work, the blog, and just for myself. It animates your text and makes it visually appealing without a lot of effort from you!

Repost – Sharing is caring, and repost makes it easy to repost Instagram posts from other users just by copying the post URLs.

Pocket – Pocket is a bookmarking service that allows you to save and tag links. I use it a lot for the blog to save sources (stores I want to share with you, tagged by type of products) and for work to save info (URLs of retailers we work with).

How many of these apps do you use? Any of them totally new to you? You can download all of these apps from the blog’s NEW Pinterest page! There is a special board just for this post. Be sure to follow the account while you’re at it!

 

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Caffeine + Credit Cards: May Meant Prepping for Post-Baby

Caffeine + Credit Cards is a Monthly Series covering my must-buy items of the month, complete with reviews.

It’s a lot of work prepping for baby… or at least it was for me. There were so many books I wanted to read, so much gear I wanted to research. To be honest, I almost forgot that there will be a life AFTER baby comes out, where I’m not perpetually pregnant and unable to bend over.

For this month’s budget, I had a little bit less to work with than in April. My husband and I are experimenting with some new savings strategies, and I gave up a portion of my personal budget to go toward things that are important. Like an emergency fund. Or a house. But it was also my birthday month, which meant I had some wiggle room to purchase some extra things with gift cards.

After my shower in April, I had everything I needed for baby. But with 22 days left until my due date, my brain has shifted for life with baby, and how my life will change as a new mom. My first thought? Oh my gosh… I haven’t bought new clothes in months.

Of course, this is a rough time to purchase clothes. I have zero idea what size non-preggo pants I would wear, and plan on spending more quality time in my maternity jeans. But I decided to play it safe and size up on some spring items. Items that I wouldn’t mind styling baggy with skinny jeans.

J. Crew had an AWESOME sale this month, and I couldn’t help but snag a few items.

Thin resin bangle set (in Tortoise) ($19.50 + 25% off)

Thin resin bangle set

Deck-striped T-shirt ($14.99 + 25% off)

Deck-striped T-shirt

Linen V-neck Pocket Tee (in Brilliant Peony) ($29.50 + 25% off)

Linen V-neck pocket T-shirt

Cotton Jackie Striped Shell (In White Gold) ($29.99 + 24% off)

Cotton Jackie striped shell

I got an adorable gingham top in grape azure, as well, but it is currently sold out on the website. Here is the same style of shirt in the windowpane print, but it looks like this will be selling out soon, as well!

Penny Windowpane Top with Cuffed Sleeves ($54.99 + 30% off)

I can’t wait for this baby to come out so that I can slowly start wearing non-stretchy fabric again. But during my clothes shopping spree, I realized that I didn’t have anything picked out for MY coming home outfit from the hospital. I know that my size won’t change a lot in a few days, so I bought an army green, super stretchy dress that I can belt post-baby.

12 Ami Solid V-Neck Pocket Loose Maxi Dress ($28)

And while I was at it, I tossed in this tunic, which I think will be great for the next few months as I live in leggings!

LARACE Women Short Sleeves Flare Tunic Tops (In Deep Green) ($14.99)

But you can’t think about post-baby clothing without thinking about nursing bras. I bought a few from Target that I started to wear… and most of them have already worn out! The lace ripped on one and the underwire came out of the other. I was really disappointed with the quality, but I didn’t love expensive bras I’d gotten from Motherhood Maternity, either. My friend told me she liked the nursing bras she got on Amazon, so I ended up buying these:

Lataly Womens Sleeping Nursing Bra Wirefree (In black and gray) ($16.99)

I got them in black and gray and have been wearing them since they came in. SO comfortable, and appropriate for both sleep and wearing out. I will most likely end up getting them in the lighter colors, as well!

I’ve really been working up a thirst in my third trimester and wanted to invest in a really nice tumbler. I kept seeing these in stores and finally caved and got one!

Corksicle Tumbler – Classic Collection (In Gloss Peach Echo) ($29.95)

I use this all day long, but particularly at night when I get really thirsty. I’ll fill it with ice and water when I go to sleep, and wake up to FULL ICE CUBES 9 hours later. It fits in your car’s cup holders and is incredibly cute to boot. Some users on Amazon complained that the mouthpiece fell closed too easily and generally hated the lid. I have been using a regular straw in it, however, and haven’t had any problems with it!

Free Download: 10 Tips for Capturing the “Just Right” Moments in Smartphone Photos

How many times have you tried to capture the perfect moment in a photograph, only to be a few seconds too late. Increase your chances of capturing those once-in-a-lifetime moments with these 10 tips you can do completely with your smartphone. From voice commands to syncing to the cloud, you can save yourself a ton of time and hassle trying to snap:

  • Your baby’s first steps
  • Your dog in the perfect sleeping position
  • Your best friend’s wedding kiss
  • Your parents attempting a 3-legged race

Or whatever else you think is worth capturing! And just so you know this guide is legit before you download, here is a preview of my 10 tips:

  1. Try for natural lighting
  2. Purchase a mini ring light
  3. Enable your 1-swipe camera
  4. Use the burst feature
  5. Enable motion photo
  6. Screenshot a video
  7. Turn on HDR… sometimes
  8. Enable RAW and JPG
  9. Use voice commands
  10. Sync Phone Photos to the Cloud (My #1 tip!)

Just click here to fill out a form to get your free guide. With Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, summer picnics (and a birth, for me) on the horizon, you just can’t take chances when it comes to the perfect photo.(Note that submitting means I’ll be able to contact you in the future. I like to keep emails to once per month when I do send.)

10 Tips for Capturing that Just Right Moment in Photos

Hopes for my Son

A few weeks ago, I low-key announced here that I was having a boy. Maxon Robert Mey, due June 13th.

I know nothing about boys. I grew up in a house with my mom, dad and sister. My cousins were much older than me and I wasn’t around their kids. I owned dozens of Barbie dolls, my favorite board game was Pretty, Pretty Princess and I wanted to BE Belle from Beauty and the Beast.

So when the ultrasound tech found the right spot and I knew, for the first time, I was having a boy… I already knew I was going to be out of my comfort zone. I found out I was pregnant at 4 weeks, and around 6 weeks, I started to tell people that I thought it was a boy. My guess never wavered, if only slightly on the drive to the ultrasound. I’d like to think it’s mother’s intuition but it’s probably dumb luck.

I am really, really excited to be a boy mom. Even if I know nothing about cars. Even if soccer bores the crap out of me. Even if I get all of the Marvel super hero plots confused. My first time being around little boys was when I met Mike and our nephews, and as far as boys go, they are the best. They think their mom hung the stars, they call me beautiful, they are sensitive and yet like tiny bulls in a tiny China shop. They are more rough than I am used to and can somehow make a story out of a couple of matchbox cars and some legos. I ave loved watching them learn, and they’ve taught me a lot in return. I feel honored and privileged to be blessed with a little boy of my own.

At Max’s shower, we had guests fill out their wishes for him. It was a fun activity and I recommend doing it at your own shower. Most of the answers were heartfelt, some were downright hilarious. And they inspired me to make a list of my own wishes for Max. Saturday makes a month until his due date, and I haven’t spent a lot of time capturing what I’m feeling during this time… beyond the nausea and pain. I think keeping this list here will be a nice reminder of this time. A nice reminder of that moment before my life changes forever.

Here are my wishes for Max:

  • I hope you love your dad’s jokes. He mastered the dad joke long before you came along.
  • I hope you’re more of a dog person than a cat person. We’ll probably never get a cat.
  • I hope you have the chance to be a big brother one day, and that you enjoy teaching your little siblings about the world.
  • I hope you love to read.
  • I hope you find friends that you’ll take with you through your whole life.
  • I hope that you are kind to everyone you meet, even if your kindness isn’t returned. (It’s always better to be the one spreading love rather than hate.)
  • I hope you never start a relationship where you have the same Facebook account.
  • I hope you love hockey and rooting for the Pens.
  • I hope you love foods from many different cultures. Life is too short for chicken nuggets every day.
  • I hope you get the opportunity to travel.
  • I hope you don’t get my anxiety, but if you do, I hope you swallow your pride and always allow people to help.
  • I hope you get your dad’s freckles.
  • And my green eyes!
  • I hope you never think socks with sandals are acceptable.
  • I hope you don’t gridlock in traffic. No one likes a grid-locker.
  • I hope you volunteer. It feels good to do good.
  • I hope you stick with things even though you don’t get them at first.
  • I hope you see failures as opportunities to improve.
  • I hope you treat everyone with respect. Not just elders. Not just women. Everyone.
  • I hope you find love that makes you a better you.
  • I hope you quickly master grammar basics. And NEVER say, “I seen…”
  • I hope you are honest and fair.
  • Even when playing Monopoly.
  • I hope you respect others’ opinions on religion and politics. I also hope you don’t try to change their view or let them change yours.
  • I hope you think Freddie Mercury is the greatest male vocalist of all time, because he is.
  • I hope you always let us know where you are and what you are up to so that I don’t have to give you a curfew. I never had a curfew. Don’t be a punk.
  • I hope you have the courage to get out of bad situations before they get worse. Anything from a bad job, a bad relationship or a bad habit.
  • I hope you have the confidence to stand up for yourself when the situation calls for it.
  • I hope you make learning a lifelong passion.
  • I hope you treat you own body and the bodies of others with respect and care.
  • I hope you find one of those elusive jobs that don’t feel like work.
  • I hope you know that every job is important.
  • I hope you’re not power-hungry, but that you don’t want for much.
  • I hope you see that building a life is so much more than building a career.
  • I hope that when someone doesn’t appreciate you enough, you find someone who does.
  • I hope you read “The Alchemist” and get something from it.
  • I hope you are easy-ish to potty train.
  • I hope you aren’t someone who posts fake news stories online. You should be born with journalistic integrity (and also you’ll sunburn easily.)
  • I hope you have a healthy relationship with food. So many people think just women have issues with body image, and I know that’s not true.
  • I hope you meditate. It’s good for the body and soul.
  • I hope you enjoy doing little acts of kindness. 
  • I hope you pick your battles in life.
  • I hope you are someone people come to for help.
  • I hope you are creative enough to see a door where others see a wall.
  • I hope you draw me lots of pictures.
  • I hope you’ll smile in family photos.
  • I hope you play in lots of mud puddles. They are healthy for you.
  • So is being brought down to earth when your ego gets a little too out of control.
  • I hope you are able to take all of your sad moments and learn lessons from them. Sometimes what seems like the worst moment of your life can just be a pivot in the right direction.
  • I hope that you feel entitled to nothing and grateful for everything.
  • I hope you let karma do its work when you are wronged. (It’s always worked in my favor.)
  • I hope you find a sense of style but that it doesn’t involve skinny jeans.
  • I hope you’re punctual. Tardiness is rude.
  • I hope that for some period of time, you live alone. Not with friends, not with a girl, not with us. Just you.
  • I hope you vote, but I hope you educate yourself first.
  • I hope you count your cousins as friends. Cherish the chance to grow up with them.
  • I hope you always put your cart back at the grocery store. Failing to do so is pure laziness.
  • I hope you smile at strangers. Even the grumpy looking ones or the ones wearing Philadelphia gear.
  • I hope you appreciate beauty. I’ve seen church ceilings in Italy that took a lifetime for someone to carve. 
  • I hope that you recognize the talent that Billy Joel has.
  • I hope you watch Forrest Gump 10,000 times and still notice something new each time.
  • I hope you know how loved and wanted you are.

– Mom

More of my favorite life advice:

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Maternity Photos! (+ a Pregnancy Update)

I am learning so much about pregnancy while I’m in the throws of it. I’d mentioned that I had a false alarm last week and I wanted to give more of a back story to that, because maybe you’ll learn something, too.

Last Monday, Max dropped. It was 50% amazing and 50% awful. Being able to breathe again felt like a miracle, but the new pressure on my pelvis alerted me that I’d reached a new level of the game, and there was a new boss to beat. Here is my week 33 photo vs. my week 34 for comparison.

PicMonkey Collage

My husband was travelling for the week, and I kept myself extremely busy. Monday was my birthday – dinner with my mom and sister. Tuesday I spent walking around the mall and getting dinner with friends. Wednesday I had an OB appointment where Max and I got the healthy thumbs up once again.

On Thursday, I started to get what I thought were Braxton Hicks contractions around 4 p.m. I kept busy with work and didn’t pay too much attention to them – this was the third time I’d had them, and they always went away after about an hour. When my husband got home around 6:30 p.m., we headed out to dinner, during which I was complaining about a lot of pelvic pressure. He agreed that the baby had dropped, and I figured that was where the pressure was coming from.

We went home, watched some TV, and got into bed. Only I never fell asleep. My contractions were getting stronger, and it seemed like they were getting closer together. I tried to relax but around 1:30 a.m., I started to throw up from… I wasn’t sure. The contractions didn’t feel THAT strong, but I felt miserable. I woke Mike up and he called the OB, who told us that it was up to us whether we wanted to come in, but she thought it was a good idea to stop in if the contractions were closer than 8 minutes apart.

We spent the next hour and a half tracking my contractions, which were averaging 1.5 minutes, 5 minutes apart. I called my mom to see if she could feed the dog if we needed her to in the morning, and we grabbed the bags I’ve had packed for weeks.

We got to the hospital around 3:30 a.m. I joked that it was a nice trial run if this wasn’t “real” labor. I was calmly taken from the ER to a triage room on the labor and delivery floor of West Penn hospital. They hooked baby and I up to monitors and took my blood pressure, which was normal. A resident checked me for dilation and found… nada. No progression whatsoever. They said they would check me again in a few hours.

It was incredibly uncomfortable to lie on my back, but every time I leaned to the side, I threw the baby off the monitor. My nurse came in to check it once and challenged me to stay on my back for just 20 minutes so that they could get readings for him. She had trouble getting his heartbeat on the monitor again, and I told her that I thought he was lower than she thought. She moved the monitor down and found him right away.

And so we waited. I took Snapchat selfies and Mike fell asleep on my arm. I was incredibly uncomfortable, and incredibly tired. I had no idea what was going on and the staff kept using words like, “IF you get admitted,” or, “IF you need antibiotics.” At one point, my OB came in to check on me. She let me know that she didn’t think I was in pre-term labor, but noted that “if I delivered him” that he would be ok. Apparently once you hit 35 weeks (I was 34, 4), they don’t keep you from going into labor because typically the baby will be fine.

She told me that once my bladder infection test came back negative, and her replacement checked that I wasn’t dilating, I would be discharged. After the second check, I was still at 0. I asked one of the nurses if what I was having was Braxton Hicks and she said, “We can’t tell the intensity, we just know you aren’t progressing.”

I was confused, because my contractions weren’t textbook Braxton Hicks. They pulled at both the top and bottom of my abdomen and were consistent.

“You’re definitely having contractions,” my OB said, “But you’re not dilating at all.”

And so, we got my instructions to rest and drink plenty of water, and to come back if my contractions got more intense and close together, my water broke, or I saw blood. We got home at 8 a.m. to my mom and the dog waiting on the couch for us. I immediately went to sleep – I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Mike ate breakfast and went into work. I have no idea HOW, but he did.

And so, the day passed and the night passed, and it was finally the weekend. Someone shared a resource with me on prodromal labor (thanks, Marissa!)- “real” labor that doesn’t lead to active labor. I started doing some research and it seemed to be exactly what I had experienced. Strong contractions, no dilation, consistent timing. I also read that the contractions can come at the same time each day… so it made sense when I couldn’t sleep AGAIN because of 1:30 a.m. contractions. I woke Mike up to rub my back and was verbally uncomfortable. I was feeling contractions in my thighs. But… they didn’t grow in intensity or number. I think I fell asleep around 4 a.m.

Today has been a rough one. Contractions all day, off and on. Sometimes painful, sometimes barely noticeable. I am definitely feeling exhausted and worried that I could still have 5 weeks of pregnancy ahead of me… filled with contractions. Max could come anywhere from tonight to two weeks after his due date, and I’m feeling completely out of control of the situation.

But there was a slice of sunshine to today:  We got our maternity photos back! My friend Andria is an amazing photographer and shot our wedding for us. It only made sense to have her do maternity photos, and I can’t wait to have her do family photos for the decades to come! I wanted to give you a sneak peek of them here. She did an amazing job, as always, even if the dog was more interested in rolling in mud than taking family photos!

Guest Post: 6 Tricks to Make Your Family Feel Fantastic

Whew. I’ve had a crazy week. On Thursday evening I went into what I’m learning is most likely prodromal labor – where you have real, consistent contractions that never lead to active labor. I’ve been instructed to load up on water and rest and I’ve been taking these instructions very seriously. (As a note, everyone is perfectly healthy!)

Luckily, the blog doesn’t need to rest with me. We have our first C+C guest post to entertain you while I rest up and chug down! It’s fitting that the post just happens to be about family and health. I’ll let Cassie take it from here!

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As a parent, the well-being of your family rests on your shoulders. You’re responsible for everything from snacks and bedtime to managing finances and instilling good values in your kids. Keeping your family happy and healthy can be the hardest and scariest parts of parenting. Luckily, there are lots of time-saving, healthy tips you can use to make sure your loved ones always feel their best.

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Here are six simple tricks to make your family feel fantastic.

Exercising

Making sure your family gets plenty of exercise can be a difficult proposition. Luckily, technology has made it easy to encourage your kids to get more exercise even when they don’t realize it. Most health experts recommend that children get at least 60 minutes of aerobic activity every day.

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Apps such as NFL Play 60 make it fun for kids to get plenty of exercise. Kids use the app to play interactive games that require them to run and jump to earn points and win the game. As they continue to play the game, they’ll be having so much fun, they won’t even realize it’s good for them.

We use this app at my house on cold or rainy days. The kids still get their daily exercise in, but don’t even realize it. They think they’re just getting extra screen time. It’s a total win-win.

Eating Healthy

The battle over healthy eating can be frustrating for children and parents alike. One way to make sure kids are getting enough healthy foods in their diets is to serve them in ways they might not expect.

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The book “Deceptively Delicious” by Jessica Seinfeld is filled with recipes kids love. The catch? Nearly all of the recipes have hidden vegetables in them, such as pureed cauliflower in mac and cheese and kale in spaghetti and meatballs. Creating meals from these recipes will eliminate dinnertime squabbles since kids will be eating foods they love, and you’ll know they are getting plenty of the nutrients that are good for them.

Picking Up the House

No one wants to be constantly nagging family members about picking up items left around the house. Instead of a chore, turn picking up and putting away into a game. Check the house for items that need to be picked up and create a scavenger hunt for everyone to participate. Assign each person items to locate and pick up. Once all the required items are found and put away, the house will be picked up, and the kids will feel like they won a game rather than being forced to help around the house. Everybody wins.

Getting Plenty of Sleep

Bedtime is another daily event that can be a constant struggle between parents and kids, making everyone frustrated and cranky. A good bedtime ritual, though, can ease kids into their nightly routine and take much of the power struggle out of bedtime. A routine that remains the same every night will calm children and make them relax into sleep more easily.

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At my house, we start by cleaning up after dinner and then getting into pajamas. Next, we get everything ready for the next morning. Then we head to the bathroom for teeth brushing and face washing. Finally, everyone gets to choose one story that we read together. Now we all know what to expect at bedtime and everyone is getting more sleep.

Staying Organized

Keeping track of an entire family’s schedule is almost a full-time job by itself. An app like Cozi is the answer to every busy family’s need to stay organized. The app puts everyone’s appointments in one place and includes auxiliary functions such as grocery and chore lists. After using it for a while, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

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Best of all, since most of us access the internet from an array of different devices every day, Cozi can be used on any mobile device or your desktop computer. If you’re concerned about storing your family’s schedule on a mobile device, you should consider using a Virtual Private Network when accessing the information to ensure it remains private.

Drinking Water

Drinking enough water is an important habit for everyone, adults and kids alike. Ensuring your family is drinking plenty of water can be difficult, but there are lots of ways to make it more fun. For kids, you can try using drinking glasses in funny shapes or with their favorite characters on them. You can also try silly straws or ice cubes in fun shapes. Ice cubes made with frozen fruit make for a nice treat after the water is finished and the ice has melted.

Keeping a family healthy and feeling great is no small task. Try adding a few of these tricks to your daily routine, and you’ll be surprised by the results. Your entire family will be feeling more fantastic than ever in no time at all.

About the Author: Cassie is a health enthusiast and a mother of four. As a freelance writer and a busy mom, she is a champion at keeping her family healthy and happy, and she loves sharing what she’s learned with other busy moms.

My Top Tips for New Puppy Parents

On April 23rd, we celebrated our corgi, Bowie’s, gotcha-versary… the cheesy name I’ve given to the anniversary of when we picked him up from the breeder. Looking back on the past year, I cannot believe how far he has come, and how far we have come as dog mom and dog dad. I can still remember those first few nights when he cried for HOURS in his crate, had to be let out almost every hour and peed as soon as he came INSIDE, instead of when he went out.

On his way home to Pennsylvania.

I won’t lie, it was HARD. I honestly look at it as practice for becoming a parent to a child. The sleepless nights, the body fluids… can’t wait to do all of that again in June 😉

But today, we have a sweet, well-behaved and healthy dog who gives us licks and companionship daily. I’m not sure I could handle working from home each day if I didn’t have my little assistant with me!

With a year under my belt of caring for a pup, and a lifetime of helping to care for family dogs, these are the biggest pieces of advice I’d give to someone who is thinking of adopting a new puppy.

1. Don’t Expect a Lot of Sleep at First

It didn’t last long, but the first few nights with Bowie at home were agonizing. In fact, the first night in his crate, he cried from when we put him in to when we took him out. I tried putting toys in to comfort him and laying next to the crate. We got no sleep not only from the noise, but because we constantly checked if he was safe. My husband took him out every hour. On day three, we both broke down into tears because we were so exhausted and SO just wanted the little guy to be happy.

But it was a time of transition. After the first week he didn’t LOVE the crate, but he slept in it without crying. Being able to hold it for an hour turned to two, then to four, then to eight. We figured out how to mesh our schedules with his, and now, Bowie BEGS to go to his crate every night. It’s his den, a place that is all his.

The sleepless nights do end, but don’t expect the first week to be a walk in the park!

2. Do Expect Pee, Poop, and Vomit

Most young puppies don’t come house trained. It’s your responsibility to get them where they need to go and master the art of not pooping in the house. We ran into a lot of potty training issues with Bowie, the funniest and most frustrating being that he was so low to the ground, we couldn’t tell when he was peeing. When we used puppy pads, he preferred to chew them to shreds and then pee on the floor next to them.

It felt like we were CONSTANTLY running him outside, only to bring him back in and have him pee on the floor as we took our shoes off. I think there were moments my husband thought he was doing it just to spite us.

Oh, and puppies get sick, too. Poor Bowie had Giardia and Lyme when he got to us, and we had a few scary moments that involved bloody poo and puke. Once after picking him up from the vet after a treatment, Bowie conveniently got diarrhea in the tea cup my husband had in the cup holder. We can laugh about it now… really really hard. (Bowie is in excellent health today!)

We used positive reinforcement to teach Bowie what we did want, and ignored him when he did what we didn’t. No smacking, no rubbing his nose in anything. And… it worked! Slowly, but it worked. Bow still has an occasional accident when we take him other places, but he’s great at letting us know when he needs to go outside and can really hold it like a champ, though we try not to make him prove it often.

3. Really Think About Cost

The Lyme and Giardia I mentioned above were unseen expenses on top of purchasing a purebred dog and stocking up on all of his necessities. Luckily, we’d chosen to go with the Banfield Hospital Optimal Wellness Plan, which covered his vet visits, neutering, vaccines, preventative tests and gave us discounts on his medicine, blood work, and surgeries. The plan paid for itself in about three months, but we still ended up paying out-of-pocket for more than we expected. He needed prescription food for a while and other little expenses.

You also have to know the breed you are getting and how often they need to be groomed. Bowie doesn’t need to be trimmed often, but we do take him to get his nails grinded. We handle baths at home.

Daycare, boarding, and training are more additional costs. We take Bow to a daycare sometimes when we’re going to be gone for long stretches, and we can watch him play on a camera. I REALLY take advantage of that. For longer trips, we leave him with my parents, which saves money and gives them time to play with their “granddog.”

We’ve spent about $250 on training up to this point. Bowie is currently in an intermediate training class to prep for the baby, and we LOVE the results that we see. Training is so important to us, in fact, that it’s next on the list.

4. Find a Good Trainer

We don’t take Bow to any fancy training school. He goes to sessions at PetSmart, where he takes 1-hour classes that happen once a week for 12 weeks. I know that a lot of people hope to train their dogs on their own, but our trainer has helped us work with Bowie on his specific needs SO MUCH and he LOVES her. I honestly think that training is worth it simply to save some of your sanity. When you can communicate better with your dog, you’ll come home to fewer messes and a happier pup.

Not to mention, training helps teach lessons that could save your dog’s life one day, like coming when called and waiting when they need to wait for you.

5. Socialize Them Early

There will be a time when your dog doesn’t have all of his shots yet. After that time is over, it’s time to make some friends! We started taking Bowie to the dog park and taking him to friends’ houses to play with their dogs AS SOON AS we could, and I attribute his love of dogs of all sizes to the fact that he was playing with pit bulls from the beginning.

Socializing him has allowed us to take Bowie to dog-friendly public places like Lowes, PetSmart and outdoor areas of restaurants, and to dog-friendly parties and get-togethers. He gets a little riled up when he is around friends, but I am never worried about him being timid or aggressive.

6. Do Some YouTube Research

Even though I knew we would eventually put him into training, I spent a lot of time watching training videos by Zak George to help me out when it came to training Bowie. The videos really helped me get a handle on how to crate and potty train him. I also watched a lot of videos on corgis, since this was our first time owning one. And speaking of breeds…

7. Find a Tribe that “Gets” Your Breed

I joined a few corgi groups on Facebook simply because I wanted to share photos of Bowie and see photos of other corgis as well. But these groups have been ESSENTIAL in getting good advice on how to care for Bowie’s specific breed. When we were worried that we were overfeeding Bowie a bit after getting comments from non-corgi owners at the dog park, I turned to the group. They assured me that he wasn’t extremely overweight and gave me the tip to sub half of his kibble with frozen green beans. I ran the idea by our vet, and Bowie is already down a pound!

It’s nice to be able to chat with other dog owners, but it’s incredibly helpful when those dog owners are familiar with the breed.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. We’ll see what I learn in my next year of doggie parenthood. Fellow dog owners, anything you would add to this list? Comment below to let me know!

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My Favorite Way to Save $$$ as a Mom-to-Be

Having babies is expensive. Yes, there are a lot of ways to cut down on the cost of a new baby:  Accepting hand-me-downs, choosing the store brand, taking advantage of the MANY coupons out there for baby gear. One of my favorite ways to save is by shopping consignment for baby clothes!

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I started thrifting when I moved to Pittsburgh and had better options for finding great deals on women’s clothing. Some of my favorite jewelry was picked off of a yard sale table, and I once found a Kate Spade bangle at a thrift store for .50 cents.

Soon after I found out I was pregnant, I decided to pop into Once Upon a Child to see what they were really all about. I’m a little bit picky about what I want to dress my kids in. I have a style in mind that CERTAINLY will not line up with what they want when they get older, which means I have a limited amount of time to make that style happen. I don’t love children’s clothes that highlight looks. “Handsome Like Daddy” or “Pretty Like Mommy”… or worse “Tough Like Daddy” and “Cute Like Mommy” aren’t really things I want advertised on my kids’ shirts. I did buy a “Future President” onesie long before we knew the gender.

Because I was so excited to pick out clothes for the baby, we asked shower guests to focus more on building baby’s bookshelf than their wardrobe, which left most of the clothes shopping to me. That can get REALLY expensive considering this incredibly adorable OshKosh outfit is $40 and will probably fit for about three months.

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After finding out I was pregnant, I decided to pop in and see what Once Upon a Child had to offer. Once Upon a Child, as well as other national chains like Kid to Kid and some local names, pay for new or gently used children’s clothing and gear to resale. Think of it as Plato’s Closet, the infant addition. You can make a little bit of money from old items you’re not using anymore as a seller, and get “like new” items for a fraction of the price as a buyer.

I managed to walk out of Once Upon a Child empty handed the first time, but I’ve been back MANY times since and have tried to stop into as many children’s consignment stores and consignment events as my pregnancy has progressed.

Why do I love shopping children’s consignment so much? Here is why:

I love to shop, but I hate to overspend.

SO MANY of the clothing items on the shelf at Once Upon a Child still have the tag on them. Many people sell clothes that they got at their shower and couldn’t return or simply never get around to putting the baby in that cute outfit from aunt Sandra. I’ve bought outfits with the tags still on them one day and seen the SAME OUTFIT still full-price at Carter’s the next day. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Used products must hit certain qualifications.

Once Upon a Child asks that items be freshly washed, free of stains and over-wear, meet current safety standards and have been purchased within the last five years.The mention of safety standards is incredibly important – it means that you should NOT find items that have been recalled in their stores.

Most consignment stores have a certain list of qualifications that products need to meet in order to be purchased and resold.

The lifespan of children’s clothing is incredibly short.

Kids grow. Did you know that? And they grow PRETTY DARN QUICKLY. That means that, on average, a baby will wear a certain size of clothing for… 3 months? Sure, their clothes will get a decent amount of shady substances on them during this time, but, all-in-all, it’s easy to end up with a ton of barely-used clothing every few months. Consignment stores help families get relatively new clothing without spending a fortune AND get a little bit of money out of products they won’t use anymore.

Big box stores carry all of the same brands.

I feel like even gas stations sell Carter’s baby clothing now. Whether I’m at Kohl’s, Target, Macy’s, etc. I feel like I see ALL of the same outfits. Consignment stores give you a little bit of variety as people resell clothing from all over. I got a Kickee Pants take home outfit (retail $41) for $5! Plenty of high-end brands pop up here.

The deals are too good to pass up.

The typical consignment item costs somewhere between $1.50 and $20 – $1.50 (or less) being the price of a onesie and $20 being the price of outerwear. I am pretty sure I’ve never spent more than $10 on an item at a consignment store or sale. Once Upon a Child has semi-annual dollar sales, where a ton of items go on sale for a dollar and others are steeply discounted… on top of already being steeply discounted. We ended up getting MOST of Maxon’s clothes during one of these sales, where we left with two garbage bags full of clothing for under $75.

Basically, consignment sales are a parent-to-be’s dream, as long as you have the patience to look for some really good items. Here are some of my top consignment tips:

  • Look for stains and holes. The store IS supposed to do this, but they sometimes get by them, and it’s up to you to know what you’re purchasing
  • Don’t even stop by a children’s consignment store if you don’t have time to browse. Often gems are found in the wrong places or hidden between bulkier items. I regularly spend at least an hour shopping, even if I’m just going through 5 sizes in boys’ clothing. And yes, I sit on the floor to reach the bottom racks. Those suckers are FILLED with goodies
  • Have what you want in mind… or you’ll buy the entire store. Go in knowing that you don’t need any more 0-3 onesies NO MATTER how cute they are
  • Look for original tags. New is awesome!

Have I convinced you to go used or go home? If so, here are some stores and events to check out in the Pittsburgh area:

Happy saving!

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Caffeine + Credit Cards: April is all About Beauty and Skincare

Caffeine + Credit Cards is a Monthly Series covering my must-buy items of the month, complete with reviews.

On past blogs, I’ve failed miserably at keeping up with series that I launched. I’d like to think that this blog is a fresh start for me, so all of those fails don’t carry over. With that said, I’m launching a new series called Caffeine + Credit Cards! (Note: I’m not a supporter of loading up credit cards. I just wanted some alliteration.)

Shopping is a major hobby of mine. In fact, I think I missed my calling as a personal shopper or buyer for a department store. If I am feeling a little bit of cabin fever from working from home, it’s almost a guarantee that I’ll get out of the house and walk right into a store. I even upped my shopping game in March when we got Amazon Prime to make it easier for us to get things like dog food and diapers.

Each month, I have my own personal budget I can work with to buy whatever I want, separate from our family budget. Since I found out I was pregnant, almost ALL of that budget has gone into buying cute baby stuff I saw at the store. But now that we are all stocked up and baby only needs a few things, I was back to having room to spend on myself this month. And oh, how I’d missed it. While I don’t ALWAYS focus my budget on health and beauty items, that was definitely the overall theme for this month. Here are the products I tried out this month:

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1. [Mizon] All in One Snail Repair Cream

I have to admit… this product was a little bit out of my comfort zone. It uses snail mucus to regenerate skin cells. Yuck, right? But I figured that we have a LOT of products with yuckier chemicals in our bathroom right now, so I gave it a try. Admittedly, I haven’t used this a ton yet. The main reason I bought it was to help with breakouts, but Maxon and my hormones have been good to me on the acne front the past few months. I’m sure my usage will pick up post-labor and delivery!

However, though you can’t take my word for it yet, this sucker has 1,000+ Amazon reviews and four stars.

2. [TONYMOLY] I’m Real Mask Sheet Pack of 11

TONYMOLY isn’t a new company to me. You can find their masks, lotions, cleansers, lip glosses, etc. at Ulta, where I’ve purchased MANY a sheet mask. I’ve always had great results from them, and they are far less expensive than some other brands. With Korean skincare getting more and more mainstream, TONYMOLY is getting more of a name… but you should believe the hype. I use one of these a week to wind down over the weekend. I even packed one in my hospital bag, which my husband thinks is ridiculous.

3. Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay

For most of the products on this list, I looked to PInterest for bloggers to tell me what the best Amazon finds were. This seemed to be on almost every list. And when I shared a photo of my purchase on Facebook, SO MANY of my friends sang its praises. Apparently I was behind on this trend. Don’t be like me.

You mix this clay mask with apple cider vinegar and let it harden on your face. I ended up needing to use the suggested mixture for sensitive skin, but figure out what works best for you. My skin honestly felt so clean and fresh after this.

4. Innisfree No Sebum Mineral Pact

I’ve used Bare Minerals as my setting powder for a few years now, but I was intrigued by this compact’s promise to hide sebum, that oily stuff that lubricates our skin and hair. Especially with summer approaching.

I’m happy to say that this compact does what it says, getting rid of the shine while not causing me to breakout. The applicator it comes with, however, is pretty weak, so I apply it with a brush instead.

 

5. Schwarzkopf Professional OSiS+ Dust It Mattifying Powder

 

This is probably what I was most excited to get on this list. I wouldn’t call my hair flat, but it’s definitely not voluminous. My friend and hair stylist hooked me up with a great wet volumizer, but I wanted a powder that I could apply to dry hair, if needed. This came highly recommended.

One thing to note is that the actual bottle this is in is VERY, VERY small. I was a little bit shocked at that. However, a small bit of product goes a long way. I sprinkled just a little boy on my roots and got an instant lift that lasted for hours. My only complaint is that it makes your hair hard to brush through and gives it almost a… sticky feeling? I just tried to avoid touching the crown of my head, because it LOOKED great.

6. Yes To Grapefruit Correct & Repair Rejuvenating Facial Wipes, 30 Count

These are nice wipes with a good scent, and like that Yes To products include fewer harmful ingredients than other brands. However, I’d just come off of using exfoliating apricot wipes from Target and my face didn’t feel as clean with these wipes as it did with the textured Target wipes. This is another item getting tossed in my hospital bag for delivery.

7. Colourpop Super Shock Shadow

I bought the Colourpop products directly from their website – with a purchase of $30 you get free shipping. This shadow is SO PRETTY and long-lasting. And it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than a lot of department store makeup brands. I’ve heard so many awesome things about Colourpop (rumors say that Kylie store her lip kit formula from them) and I just had to try it. I got a few colors and they were all beautiful.

8. Colourpop Lippie Primer

This little stick keeps all lipsticks on my lips, Colourpop or not. And it’s incredibly cheap. It’s definitely a staple for me from now on.

9. Heritage Store Rosewater & Glycerin, 8 Ounce

Another Amazon favorite, this rosewater appealed to me because I love the smell of roses. Well… rose-scented things. Roses make me sneeze. This spray can be used as a toner, makeup setting spray, pre-moisturizer and more. I’ve particularly loved spraying it on myself and then sitting in front of a fan to get through a pregnancy hot flash. It’s also a great light body spray for anyone who isn’t into overwhelming scent.

 

10.Colourpop Ultra Matte Lip in Mama

Again, I love Colourpop. This stuff stayed on through several drinks and didn’t look overdried like some matte lipsticks. See photo below.

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11. Garnier SkinActive Moisture Bomb the Anti-Oxidant Super Moisturizer

This stuff is the moisture bomb.com. It has hyaluronic acid to keep you looking young and fresh, and the gel consistency feels amazing on the skin. Not to mention, it really moisturizes. Since I started using it, I feel like my makeup goes on smoother and my skin looks healthier overall.

12. Mud Pie “Put Your Face On” Carry All Case-Natural

With all of these new products, I needed a REALLY BIG makeup bag. This sucker is the biggest one I could find with a style that I loved. Mud Pie has such adorable products for women and babies, and this product has been particularly useful since I got it. It holds almost all of my makeup.

Most of these items are Prime Eligible on Amazon, so add them to your shopping cart and start treating yourself!

Don’t expect a lot of makeup in next month’s Caffeine + Credit Cards post. My face needs a break 😉

Note: Post contains affiliate links.

Learning to Sit

My mom says I’m always on the go. She isn’t wrong.

When she called yesterday to ask a question, I was breathing heavy from trying to organize a high shelf in my kitchen. I had a piece of toilet paper shoved up my nostril to stop a particularly heinous nose bleed.

She told me to sit down until my nosebleed stopped, but I was eager to get ready to go grocery shopping, setting out my reusable bag and explaining to my husband that I’d printed out coupons, a list of items on sale at each store, and our grocery list. We needed to get meals for next week, but we’re also starting to prep and freeze food for after the baby comes, so we had a lengthy list. Two stores and four hours after we left the house, despite my husband suggesting that we stop halfway through, we finished our grocery shopping.

It was 10 p.m. and I felt like I got hit by a truck.

At a young age I learned that when I was booked solid, I had less time to be anxious. It was the very first way I ever coped with my anxiety order, though I wouldn’t have called it coping at the time. And to be honest, it worked! I was full of energy and had a head full of creative ideas. I’d just go from one activity to the next without stopping to think, “Do I need a break?”

When I was 23, I moved into an apartment alone. I thought I’d have a really difficult time with all of that time to self-reflect, but instead I took advantage of being able to come and go with no one asking where I was. Every night was booked, whether I was getting drinks with friends, working from a coffee shop, wandering around Target or hitting up a bar with coworkers. I rarely got home before the sun went down and I rarely stayed long.

When I met my husband, I had more of a reason to stay home. My need to stay busy was executed more in NEEDING to paint this wall TODAY or NEEDING to get such and such at Kohl’s in the next hour. I know very few people who can out shop me.

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Around week 29 of my pregnancy, my body started to give me an attitude.

I hadn’t been working at 100% since I came home from my honeymoon and found out I was expecting, but during the first and second trimesters, I didn’t have a lot of down time. The first, I was asleep all. Of. The. Time. I took naps after I showered and was more than willing to crawl into bed at 7 p.m.

The second, I had a little bit of energy back and started to cook more, to shop more, to prep for baby more.

And then I got to that elusive third trimester and while I’d spent most of my pregnancy in awe of what my body COULD do (”I am growing a spinal column right now,” I’d tell my husband as I read from the baby books), I was all of a sudden in awe of what it couldn’t.

I can’t be on my feet all day. I can’t shop at 10 different stores. I can’t get a good night’s sleep. I can’t make plans in the morning, afternoon, and still be open for going out at night. I’m tired, I’m in pain, I’m achy. I’m SO excited to meet this baby and grateful that he (yes, he. More on that later) has not decided to come early, but I am also very, very new at this.

Not new at motherhood, though I am. I’m new at this sitting thing. This “being” thing. This lack of agenda or plan or distraction.

Luckily, there are a lot of things to do around the house when you have a baby on the way. I’ve realized that folding onesies quiets my brain without swelling my feet. Stalking the mom-to-be forums offers almost the same amount of of entertainment as an afternoon shopping and is better on my bank account. I’ve been fortunate to not have many anxiety flare ups during my pregnancy, so while my body has been setting off alarms when it comes to physical activity, my mind has been… relatively calm.

I can remember falling asleep in the summer as a kid, listening to the crickets with my window open. It was a rare moment in which I could relax. Today, the crickets have been replaced with the rush of a highway, but I’m finding myself more and more relaxing into the white noise and the light wind blowing.

It’s not easy to sit. To relax. To give up on planning it all out. But as I’m planning on teaching my son so many things, it looks as though he is teaching me the value in being still.

Have any of my fellow mamas struggled with pregnancy slowing them down?