Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Looking Back on 2020

WHAT. A. YEAR. We've all been impacted by 2020 - between a global pandemic, racial injustice, the presidential election, and all of the challenges that came with the uncertainties during this time. I have gone through many highs and lows in the last 12 months and feel extremely fortunate to have my job, my home and my family. My heart goes out to the millions of people in our country and around the world who are not able to say the same. 

This year started strong with my husband throwing me a surprise 30th birthday party in January, and soon slipped into a very different reality. It's weird to imagine that just a year ago we felt comfortable hosting a large gathering, and now I have a favorite face mask and my hands are perpetually dry from washing them so much. Quarantining in late March, all of April and the beginning of May brought some of my darkest days and loneliest nights. 

In the midst of the national shutdown, Jack was extremely sick off and on for weeks. It all started when he had an allergic reaction to amoxicillin that was given in response to his first ever sickness and ear infection. He had hives covering his entire body. He tested negative for coronavirus, strep and mono several times but had a high fever that was not responding to medication, and he began limping. We could not comprehend how Jack was getting sick back to back when he wasn't even leaving the house. Greg and I were switching off doing only essential outings and were very diligent about wearing our masks, sanitizing, wiping down the groceries, etc. We spent countless hours at the doctor's office until we eventually landed in the ER at Nemours Children's Hospital in Orlando. Because of covid restrictions, only one parent was allowed to accompany Jack, and what followed in the next 4 days was a nightmare. 

{waving to Dada from our hospital room}

Watching my son being poked and prodded for numerous blood tests, having a catheter inserted for a urine sample, getting multiple X-rays and ultrasounds, being sedated through anesthesia for an MRI - was truly painful for me, as I had to not only try to comfort him through it all, but also help restrain him so the doctors and nurses could do their job. Trying to be strong for my son and hold back tears while I was scared and playing out every scenario in my mind was awful. Being alone in a hospital room not knowing what was wrong with my 16-month old child was the worst experience I could ever imagine. Greg was my rock. He parked outside the hospital for 4 whole days, waved to us from our room's window and brought me iced coffee every morning, along with any other essentials to make us more comfortable. Jack and I FaceTimed Dada, Nana and Pop Pop constantly in between tests and resting. Jack nursed pretty much non-stop since that was the only thing keeping him calm through his pain. 

Jack's fever and inflammation levels finally came down and we were discharged without a clear diagnosis, despite every team at the hospital looking for answers. Multiple doctors from Infectious Disease, Rheumatology, and Orthopedics came to see Jack, trying to figure out what was causing these fever episodes. We were able to rule out cancer, lupus, septic joint, and anything truly serious. That hospital stay was one of the hardest times of my life. Jack and I have had a strong bond from the moment he was placed on my chest after birth, but I think in the wake of what we went through together, that bond is even deeper. He knows that no matter what, Mama is there for him.

{sick snuggles}

We landed back in the ER one month later and the doctor that night thought maybe it could be Periodic Fever Syndrome. She immediately called the rheumatologist and set up a follow-up appointment with the specialist. After 5 episodes in 8 weeks, with fevers up to 104-105 and lasting 3-5 days each, Jack was diagnosed with the rare, non-genetic, auto-inflammatory disorder PFAPAPeriodic fever, aphthous stomatitis, pharyngitis, cervical adenitis (PFAPA) is characterized by fever, mouth sores, sore throat, enlarged lymph nodes, inflammation, and sometimes joint pain that occurs at regular intervals (typically every 3-8 weeks). The cause and trigger is not known, and it is not contagious. 

We have a treatment of oral steroids to be given at the onset of an attack and it has helped eliminate the episode entirely. Luckily the frequency of Jack's episodes have slowed down recently, with our longest stretch being three months between flare-ups. The outlook is good - most children grow out of PFAPA by their second decade of life, with no negative effects to their growth and development, and are otherwise healthy as the disorder is relatively benign. Nonetheless, it is terrifying and heart wrenching to watch your child go through something that neither of us can control. 

I don't want Jack to miss out on anything because of an episode and that unknown is tough for a worrier like me to overcome. He had a flare-up on the day of his first school pictures and I know it's such a small thing, but it broke my heart that he missed it, and made me think of the other events in the future (soccer games or trumpet recitals, birthday parties and field trips) that he might not be able to attend because of PFAPA. Greg and I have been absent for multiple days of work to be home with Jack to administer the steroid and comfort him through the attack.

{turning the corner and playing with the heart rate monitor}

Jack's health has been at the forefront of every single agonizing decision Greg and I have made this year. Sacrificing seeing our family and closest friends, going out to eat at a restaurant, or getting a haircut for fear of contracting the virus and subsequently passing that to Jack, whose immune system may not be able to handle it, has been absolutely devastating. Weighing the risks to leave our house and not be literal hermits is exhausting and challenging every day. I have cried more tears this year than I ever have, and I am so thankful to have an incredible support system in my husband, my parents and Jack's care team, who have gone above and beyond to help us through this diagnosis. 

This year has been excruciatingly hard, but I know I will look back on 2020 with a grateful heart - grateful for our quality time together as a family and memories made in our home. We had so many wonderful days this year too, and they are that much sweeter with this newfound perspective. On Jack's good days, I relish in the moments of laughter and playfulness, knowing in the back of my mind that tomorrow may bring his illness without warning.  

Of all the lessons I've learned this year, the biggest one that stands out is to be kind. You never know what someone may be silently struggling with. We've all been through it this year in more ways than one, and having some empathy and giving others grace will stick with me long after 2020.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Beauty Swaps

Sharing the beauty swaps I've made this year in an effort to be more intentional, environmentally friendly and aid in my current lifestyle.

First up, I switched from makeup remover wipes to a cleansing balm. To think that 350+ makeup wipes end up in a landfill every year just from my own use is mind blowing. I started using the Versed Cleansing Balm and I love it! It eliminates every trace of makeup, mascara included, and leaves my skin feeling super soft. I follow it up with a second cleanse of Cetaphil and then slather on my nighttime skin care routine. Versed is a vegan, cruelty-free and clean drugstore brand, available at Target. This is the first product I've used from the line, but have read glowing reviews on others too.

Since going back blonde, I've been using a purple shampoo to help combat the brassy tones that creep in between salon appointments, which have been dragged out even farther in the era of coronavirus. My current favorite is Amika Bust Your Brass Cool Blonde Shampoo. Not only is it super effective & affordable, but it also smells amazing and doesn't have the horrible ingredients in other shampoos (parabens, sulfates, phthalates). A little goes a long way - I use a dime-sized amount once every 7-10 days so one bottle lasts a long time. I've trained my hair to go longer between washes and currently only shampoo twice a week. When I'm not using my purple shampoo, I stick to Amika's Vault Shampoo & Conditioner which locks in my color.

Finally, I've been trying to find more clean & natural products and one of my favorite brands is Summer Fridays. I have used their Jet Lag mask as my overnight moisturizer for the last year, and their Vanilla Lip Butter is heavenly. I also just ordered the Overtime Mask after trying a sample - it smells like pumpkin and exfoliates my skin so perfectly. I have yet to test out any products outside the OG masks, but I've heard great things about the CC Me Serum which is loaded with Vitamin C. I follow one of the founders, Lauren Ireland, on Instagram and her blog (You & Lu) - she is a super-relatable working mama to a toddler with another one on the way.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Dear Jack - Part 2

You are officially 2 years old today, my sweet boy. This year has definitely had its challenges, but even with all the uncertainty, darkness and division that 2020 has brought, you have been my guiding light through it all. It is unbelievable how much you have changed in the last year - taking your first steps in February, starting two days a week at "school" in March, chatting up a storm, and blossoming into your personality. You are so cuddly and affectionate, playful & charming, particular, smart and silly.

I never want to forget how hard your little arms squeeze my neck when you give hugs. I never want to forget the way you grab my hand and lead me around the house to follow you, your little feet pitter-pattering on the wood floor. I never want to forget the sound of the words you innocently mispronounce and how you always go on "two" when we count to three. I never want to forget the way you squeal when you and Dada play, and say "agin" over and over. I never want to forget those six weeks of quarantine, I will be forever grateful for that extra quality time together as a family.

 You are the most loved little boy and are so lucky to have the most amazing village around you. Your Nana and Pop Pop are two of your favorite people and the feeling is definitely mutual. You love to catch lizards in the backyard. Your favorite color is orange. When you try to do "thumbs up" you stick up your pointer finger and I love it so much. You would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially if it involves the beach or a swing. You talk in the third person and call yourself “Jack” or “Bubbaaaa” if you’re doing something mischievous. The best part of your bedtime routine is dancing in the kitchen when you snuggle into the nook of my neck and melt into my arms. 

Seeing the world through your eyes has shifted my perspective - to slow down and enjoy the journey, to see the positive and remember what is most important in life. Being your Mama is my greatest gift. Life just gets better and better with you and I want to soak up every single moment. 

Happy Birthday Jack Man! Love you to the moon and back.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

My Relationship with Exercise

{after completing the Melissa Wood Health Method water workout}

Health and exercise has looked different in many phases of my life:

+ I was a competitive dancer in middle school and early high school. I battled an eating disorder and ultimately quit dance my sophomore year. Although I overcame anorexia and exercise bulimia, I still struggled with negative self-image.

+ In college, I pretty much did cardio exclusively: logging hours on the elliptical and the occasional spin class. But you can't outrun a bad diet and I was not fueling my body with nutritional food. Think: pizza, pasta, fried food and alcohol.

+ While living in California, I began eating cleaner and started adding weight-training and yoga into my cardio-focused routine and really started seeing a change in my physique. Although I no longer owned a scale because I would get obsessed with the number, I dropped almost 20 pounds over 9 months and felt amazing.

+ Before our wedding, I was motivated to reach my ideal goal, so I started a Paleo diet and ramped up my at-home weight-training to 3 days a week, ran 3-4 miles a couple days a week and one day of yoga. I felt so confident when I walked down the aisle.

+ During my pregnancy, I continued to eat healthy but stopped the strict Paleo diet, and was walking almost every day, up until the day I gave birth. At 6 weeks postpartum, I was back to me pre-pregnancy weight but my body composition was totally different. I lost a lot of muscle, my midsection was wider and I felt low-energy (also thanks to not sleeping with a newborn!).

+ The first year with Jack, exercise took a backseat other than walking with the stroller twice a week. 

When 2020 started and I turned 30, I knew I needed to make myself a priority for my mental state more than anything. I wanted to find a new routine that I could stick to and fit into my already hectic day as a working mother. In early February, based on a recommendation on Cupcakes and Cashmere, I downloaded the Melissa Wood Health app and started the 7-day free trial. I was hooked after day one. The MWH Method is a low-impact pilates and yoga based workout with classes ranging from 10-45 minutes, and focus on everything from total body, arms & abs, lower body and booty, etc. She also offers a treadmill series, water aerobics, pre- and post-natal exercises and guided meditation.

It's been 7 months since I started MWH and I feel better than ever. I aim to complete a 20-30 minute class (sometimes two shorter classes) Monday-Friday every morning before work. I wake up, make the bed, pour myself an iced-coffee and pick which class I want to do that day. The low-impact and meditative approach is ideal for the morning, minutes after I've gotten out of bed, instead of a crazy HIIT workout, dripping sweat right after opening my eyes.

I'm seeing such a difference in my body, which I did not expect with the short videos and simple moves that are deceivingly hard and burn in the best way possible. I'm also still walking as much as possible: two long walks on the weekend (over 3 miles each day) and going for a 15-minute walk on my lunch break a few days a week. I've lost inches all over my body, toned my legs, arms, and even Greg commented on my abs showing through! Melissa has coined the term "long lean lines" and it could not be more true. I feel that her workouts enhance my natural curves. I still don't like to weigh myself but base my progress on how my clothes are fitting and how I'm feeling. My posture, which has always been horrible especially with a desk-job, is getting better, as I'm more mindful of my body alignment throughout the day.

When it comes to nutrition, I'm making healthy choices, but not restricting any major food groups. It's essentially a Mediterranean diet - focused on plant-based meals with plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains, light meat (seafood and chicken), a little dairy, and limiting processed foods, sweets, alcohol and red meat. I also like the 80/20 rule of eating clean 80% of the time and leaving the other 20% to enjoy life - ideally in the form of cookies and red wine.

I spent so much of my life hating my body and focusing on my "flaws," but have finally found peace in the body I'm in. After growing a human, birthing my baby and nursing him for a year and a half, I look at my body in a different way - as Jack's first home, as his nourishment and comfort. I now celebrate  my body for what it is, rather than tear it apart for what it's not. I care more about being healthy and strong instead of skinny. 

I'm loving the new balance I've found through Melissa Wood Health - I feel stronger, centered mentally, less anxious, more present, and overall healthier. It is so attainable (I workout at home every day), affordable ($9.99 a month!), and I can fit it into my schedule with ease (whether it's early AM before Jack wakes up, during his nap time, etc). I'm continuing my mission to move every day, even if that means squeezing in just 10-minutes, I feel so much better. The mental shift after carving out some time for me, in turn allows me to show up better in my roles as a wife, mother, employee, daughter and friend.

*This post is in no way sponsored, I'm just sharing the program that has truly transformed my life in many facets.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Our Breastfeeding Journey

{Day 1 vs. Day 546}

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, I thought it was a good time to reflect on my experience nursing Jack. My initial goal was to exclusively breastfeed for 6 months, and my ultimate goal was 12 months. In the end, we made it 18 months! This post is my personal story. I truly believe fed is best and that every mother should feed her child the way that works for her and her baby. 

Let's start at the beginning... Jack latched right on in the hospital. It's so hard to know how much milk your baby is getting when nursing because you can't see/count the ounces. The lactation consultant in the hospital, Laene, was a literal angel. She had the most calming demeanor and helped make sure Jack was getting the nutrient-rich colostrum he needed right after birth. Laene made sure we had a deep latch and I was holding Jack correctly and comfortably. We had a follow-up appointment with her a week after Jack was born, and she was so helpful with tips on pumping, how long to nurse on each side, when to introduce a bottle of expressed milk, etc. By the time of the appointment, Jack had grown past his birth weight and she made me feel like I won a gold medal in nursing!

The first few nights at home were rough, as Jack was cluster-feeding all night long. I was exhausted but fully committed. We co-slept out of ease so he could latch on whenever he wanted to. Those first 6 weeks, Greg and I slept on the couch with Jack on my chest on the chaise lounge. Looking back it was bliss, but in the moment we were tired beyond recognition. Thankfully I have the most supportive husband who always encouraged me, helped wash bottles and pump parts, and changed the nighttime diapers so I'd have a moment to wake up before feeding Jack again.

I started pumping about a month in so I could start a freezer stash before going back to work full-time. Greg gave Jack his first bottle of expressed milk, which took some time for him to adjust to, but he did well with it after a few tries. I have a hate/hate relationship with the breast pump. I had a Spectra S3 and it worked well but I felt like an actual cow being milked. It was so mechanical and didn't give me the warm fuzzies like looking down at my sweet baby. I pushed through with pumping solely to keep my milk supply up. 

We had a few hurdles, but nothing super serious. I had an overactive letdown so the poor thing was practically drowning when the milk started flowing. Jack would pull off my breast screaming and it was heart-breaking. Eventually my supply matched his needs and we had a few months of wonderful feedings. Thankfully I didn't experience mastitis. I had a clogged duct one time, but Jack fixed it right away.

When I went back to work, I pumped twice a day, plus nursed Jack in-person on my lunch break. My parents watched him and they live 10 minutes from my office so I was able to feed him and play mid-way through the work day. I loathed pumping - my anxiety would spike watching how many ounces I was producing. After we introduced solids at 6 months and he moved to his crib for nighttime, my supply dropped. After traveling to my best friend's wedding when Jack was almost 10 months, and being away from him for 2 nights, my supply took a big hit even though I stuck to a pumping schedule while we were gone. I really beat myself up, but with Greg and my parents' support, we decided to supplement with formula. I also decided to stop pumping after a couple days of barely getting any milk - literal drops after 20 minutes had me hysterically crying in the bathroom at work. The stress was crippling and I felt it was better for my mental state to nurse Jack when we were together and give him formula when I was at work.

Once I was free from the guilt, formula supplementing and no longer pumping made me enjoy Jack's feedings even more. It was our time together and I cherish those moments of him smiling up at me, milk dribbling out the corners of his mouth, and him falling asleep on my chest, light suckling in his dreams was the sweetest thing.

By the time he was 12 months old, we cut down our nursing sessions to about 2-3 times a day. We had a big setback at 15-16 months when Jack got really sick and wound up in the hospital during a recurrent fever episode. The only thing that would comfort him was the boob, so that's what we did for 4 days straight in the hospital room - all alone because of the COVID-19 rules and only one parent was allowed in. Probably the hardest thing I've ever done, but that's a story for another day.

When Jack was feeling well again, we transitioned to only before-bed feedings. We would rock in the rocking chair in his room for a few minutes and snuggle before I laid him down in his crib. It was such a special time and one of my favorite phases. I could feel that Jack was ready to wean but I was holding on. We moved the rocking chair out of his room and into the living room. I had a full on meltdown, crying to Greg how I wasn't ready yet but knew it was time. Jack and I nursed in the living room for about a week and he was less and less interested each day. Until one day I didn't go out to the living room to rock. Instead I held him in my arms and rocked him back and forth in front of his crib with his head resting on my shoulder. He hasn't asked or wanted to nurse since. 

It was time for our breastfeeding journey to end and it happened so beautifully. With a gradual transition, my body adjusted really well and didn't have any issues with clogged ducts or anything. Our bond is indescribable and will continue to strengthen and evolve with each new phase we enter together. I nursed my baby boy for 546 days and although it was a bittersweet chapter to close, I will be forever grateful for our amazing experience. 

Thursday, June 4, 2020


We are almost halfway into 2020 and it's been eye-opening on every level. From the corona virus global pandemic, the economic shutdown, George Floyd's murder, the protests and riots, crisis and chaos...the division among us has never been more apparent. Although it is often heart-breaking, I make it a point to watch the news every morning and listen to the New York Times "The Daily" podcast so I am informed. Ignorance may be bliss but this is not the time for us to sit idly by. 

I don't often publicly speak about matters such as these, but rather I have private conversations with my loved ones on the so-called touchy topics. In the days following Floyd's death, I have focused on reading, listening and learning through activists, influencers and podcasts, but now it's time that I break my uncomfortable silence. Finding the right words is tough and I know I will make mistakes along the way, but I will do better as I continue to learn and grow. This blog has always been a place to share my experiences and opinions, so I am using my outlet to release the feelings that are weighing heavy on my heart.

It's a scary and polarizing time in our country. Having a child in the midst of this is even more challenging. I don't take my responsibility as a mother of a white male lightly. I am digging deep within myself to acknowledge my white privilege, understand the systematic racism that plagues our country, take a hard look at my own learned prejudices, and looking to recommended resources for change. I want a better world for my son's generation and that starts with me, and how my husband and I raise him.

I will teach Jack to be kind to everyone - no matter their race, religion, political view, socioeconomic status, gender or sexual preference. I will teach him to be actively anti-racist. I will teach him to be an ally to people of color. I will teach him to understand his privilege and be empathetic to others. I will teach him to listen more, and speak less. In the era of #MeToo, and as a victim of sexual assault myself, I will teach him to treat women and their bodies with respect. I will teach him about climate change and protecting our planet. I will teach him that a simple smile can completely change a stranger's day. I will teach him to accept and value peoples' differences. I will teach him to stand up for what is right and what he believes in.

I want change - and beyond the internal work I am doing, the hard conversations I am having, and how I am planning to parent - I am going to take action and VOTE in the upcoming local and presidential elections. I hope you do the same.

Sunday, January 26, 2020


I will be turning 30 tomorrow and today I'm reflecting back on the milestones of the last decade. My twenties were incredible. I learned so much, grew as a person, married the love of my life and brought my baby boy into the world.

At 20 years old, I was a sophomore at Florida State, living in my first apartment. I met Greg two months before my 20th birthday, and we've been together for a third of my life! He's been there through a lot of my personal growth, from a sorority girl in college to a mom now. 

Obviously the biggest event at 21, is turning 21! I was a junior at FSU, majoring in Retail Merchandising and Product Development, with a minor in Business. Thinking back I can't imagine a better degree for my current career. I also started my blog in 2011, and have written over 500 posts since. Greg and I went to the Keys together for the first time.

This was a huge year for me - I interned in LA at BCBG for 8 weeks, and interviewed for a job before returning to FL. I came back to FSU and graduated cum laude. 5 days later, I landed my dream job as an Assistant Buyer at BCBG! I moved across the country immediately to embark on a new adventure after an extremely bittersweet goodbye with Greg. I did not know anyone in LA when I moved, which was incredibly scary but my dreams were much bigger than my fears. I lived alone for the first 6 months which helped me gain a much-needed independence.

After an entire year of long-distance, Greg moved to California! Our first year living together was great and we adopted our shelter cat, Zoey. We quickly outgrew my tiny studio apartment in Silver Lake, and moved to a townhouse in Hermosa Beach. We went back to the Keys for lobster season.

I was promoted to Associate Buyer at BCBG. We lived the California lifestyle to the fullest and loved spending quality time together as a couple. One of the best Keys trips happened this year!

Traveled to Big Bear, San Francisco & Seattle, Palm Springs, and another Keys trip! After 3.5 years in LA, we decided to move back home to Florida to settle down, get married and start a family closer to our own families.

I started working at Ron Jon Surf Shop as an Assistant Buyer, and was promoted to Associate Buyer after 6 months. Greg proposed at the top of Jay Peak while vacationing in Vermont. Still one of the best moments of my life!

Celebrated my golden birthday, bachelorette party with my three best friends, and married my love in a very special place for us - Key West! We moved to a beachside bungalow shortly after our honeymoon.

I was pregnant for the majority of 28 and gave birth to Jack on December 4th. I was promoted to Accessory Buyer.

Mom life in full-swing! Greg and I bought our first home! And took on another challenge at work, taking over the Women's Apparel category, in addition to Accessories.

I am really proud of the place I'm in currently. My Type A and planner mentality kept me on course for where I wanted to be at this point in my life. Hard work, big risks and a little bit of luck. None of these amazing things would have been possible without the support and guidance of my parents and my husband. I am so excited about the next chapter, entering my 30's and becoming the woman, wife and mother I want to be.