Transitioning from Baby’s Nursery to Toddler’s Room

You may have seen my previous post about our son’s baby nursery design. Now that he is no longer a baby, I have made several changes to his room and wanted to do a follow up post with his updated room. One of the major changes was that I rearranged all of the furniture. I wanted to create a layout that gave him more room to play on the floor. Also, he started climbing up on the daybed to look out the window at the garden. Previously, the daybed was just on the edge of the window, so as soon as I saw him leaning over to look out the window, I started rearranging all of the furniture. We also found two cute rugs at Ikea that work well in the middle for a cozy play area.

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I wanted his toys to be organized and accessible for him, so I got the toy box at Ikea also, and ordered the toy hammock online to hold all of his stuffed animals (how did we accumulate so many of those so quickly?!).
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The picture frames are all empty for now, until I eventually get around to ordering prints (you would think we don’t have any pictures of our son or something with all of those empty frames!). The octopus kite was a cool vintage find in Edison’s favorite color, red. I let him pick out a plant for his room one day when we were out plant shopping, and he picked out a spider plant. :)
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This wall has new items, all crafty things that Edison and I have made together. The weaving was our first craft project together. He handed me nails and helped me make the loom on the back of an old drawer, and helped me pick out yarn from the stash of yarn that I used for his newborn photoshoots.
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These are a couple of activity boards that I made for him. The one on the left is a little magnetic board, that we use with magnetic numbers and letters for learning time. The rest of the time, I keep the letters and numbers packed away since they just end up all over the house otherwise. :) The board on the right is an old cork board that I turned into a fun felt story board. I purchased some felt stickers of owls, fish, bees, and ladybugs at Joann’s Fabrics and then cut out some trees and a pond. I put Velcro on the back of the animals and bugs and Edison loves playing with them and moving them around. Sometimes the fish even end up in the trees. :)
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This branch was another project Edison and I made together. He loves trees, so I took a branch that I pruned from our yard and we covered it with fabric scraps to hang up in his room.
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His cloud bunting is still up, with the addition of a (temporarily empty) frame above it.
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We are still cosleeping at night, but I am trying to encourage Edison to use his crib for naps. He was never a fan of the crib, but since my husband converted it to a toddler bed, he is much happier with it. Edison is an awful napper for the most part, but I was beyond excited a couple of times recently when after playing in his room, he climbed up into his bed on his own and took a nap. :)
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Edison loves to pick out his shoes each day, so I have his box of shoes down low and accessible, along with plenty of books and a few toys.
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This vintage Edison print was an amazing antique store find. :)
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That’s it! I also moved the changing table out of this room, into the hallway near my office for a couple of reasons (first so that my clients could use it without having to go into the the personal area of our house; second since it was not very much fun to play on the floor next to a diaper bin!). Pretty much everything else is the same. I try to keep things organized and keep clutter to a minimum so the room does not turn into a huge disaster. Our bedrooms are so small, so keeping them organized is so important! We may do a decluttering round soon on some of those stuffed animals. :-/

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Letting Go of Worrying What Others Think About Us

Friends and loyal readers, I have a confession to make. I have failed my family in one crucial area ever since our son started walking. I have let what others say get the best of me, usually preventing us from enjoying mass on Sunday, and a few times when our son was having a particularly wild day, we did not even go for fear that we were going to annoy everyone else. As moms, we tend to be the spiritual backbone of our family. As my husband’s Godparent, I feel that responsibility even more so. Yet we temporarily got into a rut where we were just so overwhelmed and I felt like I was failing as a mom, wife, Godparent, and Catholic and Christian in general.

Our son is a very active, chatty, social little guy. He loves talking to strangers, and running up to see new people. He was very easy to keep contained in church before he started walking, and was usually on my chest in the baby carrier. However, once he started walking, he mostly lost interest in being in the baby carrier. He likes to explore, be free, and hates feeling constrained. Our normal parish does not have a crying room, which is nice since it encourages families with young children to sit with the rest of the parish. Unfortunately, not everyone enjoys having a toddler near them in church. After a few weeks with some unfortunately discouraging comments, I was too embarrassed to keep going, so we tried other parishes.

I wanted to go to a church with a crying room, so that I could relax a bit. We tried a church with a very full crying room, but after one week there, my husband and I both agreed that was not how we wanted to raise our son. We could see that the kids (even the older, school-aged kids) in there were just getting into a habit of not paying attention to the mass at all, and were just busy playing with toys and all of the other kids. We tried another church where the crying room was usually empty. That worked for a few weeks, but then our son started to catch onto the fact that we were separated from everyone else. He started beating on the glass walls like he was trying to escape from a cage. All of the normal recommendations that people give about keeping your kids occupied during church were not working for us. Normally, at home or at the library, our son is a little bookworm. He loves looking at books and “reading”, but for some reason had no interest in books at all when we were at church. He also loved his sensory box when we were at home, but would not even glance at it when we were in church. I tried making a few pages for a quiet book for him to use during church, but he had absolutely no interest in it during mass (even though he loved those pages when we were at home). I tried setting aside the special books and quiet book pages so he was only looking at them when we were at church and they would be fun and new to him, but that still did not work.

Then one day something occurred to me. Our son is very sensitive to my emotions. I have spent months being tense on Sundays, worrying that his chattering, whining and squirming was disturbing everyone. I have not allowed myself to relax for fear of bothering everyone around us. Then I read this blog post and this one, and the words of these wonderful, experienced Catholic moms assured me that what we were going through was not unusual. I let go of my anxiety that we were disturbing everyone around us. I started making an effort to stop caring what others say or think about us, both in life and in church. I worked on getting myself into a calm, peaceful place before we went to mass. Guess what happened. Our son’s behavior suddenly changed.

The past few weeks have been wonderful. Our son Edison has been peaceful during mass, has sat quietly with his quiet book, his sensory box, and his big children’s Bible. He has cuddled in my lap and listened to the priest speak. He has loved singing along with the music during mass since he was about five months old, but then a few weeks ago he said “Amen” after everyone else did, and he even reached out to shake my hand during the Sign of Peace. I realized then that maybe I was not doing such a bad job after all.

For some reason, his original sensory box disappeared. I spent days looking everywhere for it, and it was just gone. I figured it was time to upgrade to a toddler model anyway, so I made a new one. I have a little plastic statue of Jesus that someone gave me for my First Communion that Edison loves. He loves saying “Hi Gee!” when he sees it, so I made sure to include that in the new box. :) I also added some latches and other items that were not in the original box.

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I have gone a bit Pinterest crazy lately researching quiet book templates and planning our tot school homeschool room and curriculum (more on that coming soon). I found some great templates for quiet book pages, especially at this blog. I put together a Pinterest board with a lot of great resources that have inspired me with various pages. Some of the pages I designed on my own and cut out freehand, and others I followed a template, or modified a template to my own design. I plan to do a page for each letter of the alphabet, plus some other pages as well, so it is far from finished but it has plenty to keep our son occupied for now. I do not like cutting out letters, so I found some foam alphabet stickers that I hot glued on where I wanted to spell out words.

This first page is a modified version of the felt board that I made for our son’s room (updated room tour coming soon too). I purchased the felt stickers at Joann’s for the ladybugs, bees, and fish, and added Velcro to the back. The rest I cut out freehand. I also did the same for the page with the owls later in the book.

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Around Town: Day Trip to Downtown L.A.

♫ ♪♩ “Downtown” by Petula Clark ♩♪♫

When you’re alone and life is making you lonely
You can always go downtown
When you’ve got worries, all the noise and the hurry
Seems to help, I know, downtown
Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city
Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty
How can you lose?
The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares
So go downtown
Things will be great when you’re downtown
No finer place for sure, downtown
Everything’s waiting for youI love that song. It always cheers me up when I hear it. I lived and/or worked in downtown L.A. for many years and downtown is definitely one of my places I go when I need some cheering up. The past couple of weeks have been particularly rough for all of us, so yesterday I decided that my son and I needed a day downtown to cheer us up.One night last week, my husband, son and I were out running errands. Edison had been cranky from getting his molars poking through, but seemed otherwise fine. I had him on my chest in the babycarrier while we were running errands, hoping he would take a nap. The teething pain had been pretty extreme so he had gone almost an entire week without a nap longer than five minutes. When we got home, he looked flushed and dazed. I felt his forehead and he was suddenly burning up. We took his temperature and it was 103.5 degrees F. My husband and I went into panic mode. We quickly gave Edison some infant acetaminophen and got into the car to head to the emergency room. The E.R. doctor said that it looked like he had roseola, and the fever should be better in a few days. I was so scared that the doctor was wrong and perhaps something more serious was wrong, like perhaps he had somehow gotten meningitis like I had last year. Sure enough, a few days after our E.R. trip, the fever broke and Edison broke out in a rash, just as predicted. I was incredibly relieved.The teething situation was unfortunately still not getting better though. It seemed like the poor little guy was just miserable, and getting all of the molars cutting through at once seemed to be just way more than he could handle. We had a few nights where none of us got any sleep because Edison was screaming in pain all night, no matter what my husband and I tried. I knew it was his teeth bothering him since months ago, we started the “point at what is bothering you” game every time he starts crying. I started to get concerned that perhaps he had an infection in his gums or something. Yesterday, I took him in to see a pediatric dentist who assured me that he was okay, just in an extreme amount of pain (apparently it is not that common to get all of the molars all at the same time).After we left the dentist’s office, I wanted to take Edison to do something fun. We had both been cooped up in the house for days and were going stir crazy. He still has a bit left of his roseola rash, and although he should not be contagious anymore, I did not want to bring him anywhere with other kids (roseola is primarily only contagious to people ages three and under). Downtown Los Angeles seemed like the perfect adventure. He could sit back and people watch, be entertained, and stay occupied without exerting himself. I was hoping the day trip would keep him distracted enough to keep the screaming at bay. Thankfully, it did the trick. I am grateful that we are only a half hour’s drive from downtown (during non-rush hour times). It is always fun to spend a day there.

I apologize in advance for all of the cell phone pictures. I wanted to take pictures of our adventure, but I did not want to juggle a cranky toddler and my big camera. Edison and I started out going to Grand Central Market. I have actually never been inside of Grand Central Market, but decided to check it out since I have seen a lot of pictures posted lately about it on social media.  I could not find any organic produce like I would have hoped to find, but there were a lot of cute little places that would make some nice lunch/dinner options. I love the new little street parkettes in downtown, like the one in front of Grand Central in the photo below. The city carved out sections of the asphalt, replaced it with outdoor flooring, and put in adorable little cafe tables and chairs with umbrellas and big planters of succulents. They are in various areas of downtown, and free for use for the public. Such a great update for the city!

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Next we went to The Last Bookstore. I love this place, and books always cheer up my little guy. This is seriously the coolest bookstore I have ever seen. The last time I was there, somehow I did not notice this little vault room filled with vintage books. It is tucked behind the children’s book area. I suppose since I was pre-baby the last time I went there, I was not paying too much attention to the children’s book department. :)

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My little bookworm always loves looking at new books! Poor little guy is extra skinny right now from being sick. :( His head appears to have had another growth spurt though, despite being sick. :) aliciainwonderlandblog
Then we happened to find a nice little park in the middle of downtown, even with a nice little play area for kids!
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Since Edison had his first trip to the dentist, I thought it would be fun to show him where his great-great-grandfather had his dentist’s office. Edison is a fifth generation Angeleno…my family (on both my mom’s and dad’s sides) has been here since the late 1800’s! I love our family history in this city. :) The Bradbury Building is one of those amazing places that everyone needs to go check out. The last time I went in there was a really fun day, when my mom and my grandma came to visit me downtown after I got out of work. My grandma showed us around some of the historic buildings, and reminisced about visiting her dad at work in the Bradbury Building, ditching school by taking a red car to go see a movie in one of the old theaters, lunch at Cliftons, and more. My grandma was the best.

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I used to joke that Urban Outfitters should rename themselves Suburban Outfitters since all of their SoCal stores were initially only in the suburbs (that used to drive me nuts when I was in college and wanted to shop there more often). Look at them, proving me wrong! I get so happy every time I see one of the old historic theaters being put to use. It would have made my grandma happy to see them being used again.
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Many memories of working here, running across that bridge on my lunch break to check out some Friday sample sales. :)
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This Zara used to be the Ann Taylor where I worked for years while in college. Nothing against Ann Taylor (I loved working there and it was great shopping for the women who work in the financial district), but this newly revamped 7th & Fig shopping mall is such a great use of space. When I was in fashion school, I actually did a project about how the space could be redesigned to improve traffic (the mall was nearly vacant for a while). Given the proximity to USC, FIDM, LA Trade Tech College, and a few others, the area was in high need for a shopping center that catered to college students. I was really surprised when I walked past the mall and saw a sign that said “Welcome back USC students”, as well as the new H&M and Zara. It looks like the mall executives finally caught on and livened the place up a bit. :)aliciainwonderlandblog
This is just one of my favorite buildings downtown. If you had asked me 10 years ago where I saw myself in 10 years, I would have said living in a cool building like this with my cat Fluffy. :) aliciainwonderlandblog aliciainwonderlandblog

Every time I go downtown, I am excited about all of the improvements continuously being made. It is finally starting to feel like a “real” city. In my mind, based on all of the major cities I have been to, a vibrant city center should have the following things:
1. Excellent public transportation.
2. Ample shopping, including grocery stores, a variety of clothing stores, a big box store like Target, and more.
3. Coffee shops, cafes, restaurants, and bars.
4. Movie theaters and other forms of entertainment.
5. Areas to sit an enjoy a cup coffee or just relax for a minute and people watch.
6. Accessible public restrooms.
7. Handicapped accessibility.

For many years, downtown L.A. was lacking in most of the categories on my list except for the public transportation category. DTLA’s public transportation is highly underrated, and I am speaking from experience. If you live and work near downtown, or the surrounding areas (as far away as Hollywood), you can easily exist without a car in Los Angeles. I did for about 10 years. The subway is so fast and clean, and the LADOT Dash buses were my favorite, with a variety of routes downtown.

In the past few years, DTLA has made some amazing improvements in items number 2 through 5 on my list. I am so happy with the changes! There are just two more areas that I feel could still use a bit of improvement: restrooms and handicapped accessibility. Most of the businesses downtown do not have public restrooms, so if you are visiting the area and need to go, you are usually out of luck. A major goal of any city should be to increase spending (especially from visitors and tourists). It is difficult to spend any decent amount of time downtown when you can’t find a restroom. The first time I was in London 16 years ago, there were permanent public restroom booths on the street that were self-cleaning. They were pay per use and it is such a brilliant concept. If the Brits could implement such innovative technology to improve their city (almost two decades ago!), surely we are capable of doing the same now, right L.A.? Furthermore, if the restroom booths were big enough for a mom and a stroller, you would encourage a whole new demographic to come shop downtown! I saw one public restroom booth at Pershing Square, so at least that is a step in the right direction!

Which brings me to the other area needing serious improvement: handicapped accessibility. I haven’t spent much time downtown with my stroller before yesterday, but it brought some issues to my attention. The handicapped ramps on the curb are so infrequent and sporadic. There is a ramp often on one side of the street but not the other. Seriously, how is this even acceptable? How are disabled people in wheelchairs navigating these sidewalks of downtown? I honestly do not get it.

If the city could just make those two more changes, it would be darn near perfect. Thank you to our city leaders and planners for working so hard on making downtown better and more beautiful. The new improved downtown makes me proud to be a 4th generation Angeleno! I even noticed a significant change in the attitude of people downtown now. In previous years, any time anyone said much of anything to me downtown, I got nervous that I was about to get mugged again (it happened a couple of times unfortunately). I grew anxious and worried all the time. However, yesterday, it felt like the whole attitude of the city had changed with the revitalization. Strangers smiled and said hello, and opened doors for each other. I was initially afraid to go downtown with my son, my nice stroller, sparkly wedding rings, etc. Since I had a few scary experiences when I didn’t have any of those, I was a bit nervous to go spend much time downtown now. I am so happy to say that for the first time, downtown felt like a safe, warm, welcoming place. I encourage other moms to bring their kids out for a visit downtown too! Thank you to all of the LAPD officers that I saw all around the streets, keeping our city safe! I don’t know what kind of changes you have made lately, but I definitely noticed a difference.

One last funny story in closing…last year when I got sick with meningitis, my husband took me to urgent care initially. The only urgent care open at that time of night was in DTLA. He assumed he would not need to use GPS since I usually know the grid of downtown streets like the back of my hand. When we pulled off the freeway, our conversation went something like this:

Husband: Where do I turn? Which way is Olympic?
Me: I don’t know! You just exited the freeway into the Twilight Zone!
Husband: What are you talking about?!
Me: I have no idea where we are! Nothing looks familiar! Why don’t you use the darn GPS?
Husband: I assumed I wouldn’t need it since you used to know the area so well!
Me: I don’t know what to tell you. Downtown was not pretty and sparkly when I was here all the time so as far as I’m concerned, we may have just driven to a foreign country. :)

For the record, I had a viral infection in my brain making me loopy, but downtown really has undergone quite an amazing transformation in the past few years. :)

Wellness Wednesday: My Herb Garden Tour

I have been working on my herb garden expansion for a few months now, I am very excited to give a tour of my complete collection! I started out just growing culinary herbs and lavender. I started using lavender for so many things that it sparked an interest for me in growing other medicinal herbs. Lavender the plant and lavender the essential oil were both my “gateway drugs” into expanding my repertoire of herbal medicine. ;) I don’t actually have lavender in my herb garden since I have it planted all over the place in the front and back gardens. I fit in lavender anywhere I can. :)

I wanted to make sure that our son does not get into my medicinal herbs, so I tried to think of some kind of barrier to keep him out. I found these rolls of little picket fencing held together with wire which has been working perfectly (purchased at Lowe’s). I love that it goes nicely with the picket fence that we are adding to the front of the yard also.
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Previously, I have planted my catnip plants in the ground and in lower hanging containers, and our neighbor’s cat has destroyed them each time. Even when I had my catnip in one of our window boxes, that pesky cat still found it and destroyed it. I have relocated my catnip up into a hanging flower pot near our front door. I actually do not give the catnip to our cats often, but use it primarily for making soothing teas for our son and our dogs (when they are upset and stressed out from fireworks). Next to the catnip, we hung my St. John’s Wort plant (mostly because I think it is such a pretty plant to have hanging!). Yes, we still have our Christmas lights up! My husband says that by the time we finish all of our other urgent projects, it will be time to put them up again, so why bother? :)
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Some of my culinary herbs prefer to have consistently moist soil, so I keep them in a small self-watering planter.
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In the rest of the herb garden, I have a bunch of other culinary herbs.
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I use sage and steevia often in my tea mixes. Sage is a great caffeine substitute and steevia adds a great natural sweetness, which I love in some tea blends (I never give our son any teas with sage…he has enough energy already).
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On the other side of the herb garden, I have the rest of my medicinal herbs. I use lemon verbena in lots of my teas since we all love the flavor. Hyssop is something new that I just recently started experimenting with, and the toothache plant has been a lifesaver for us (more on that coming in another post).
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Valerian and lemon balm are more calming herbs that I use for teas and tinctures.
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I cannot remember why I initially purchased rue, but it has the added benefit of deterring pests, especially cats out of the herb garden. Ever since I planted it, my herbs in here have been free from that pesky cat (I still wouldn’t go so far as to trust my catnip plant in there, but the rest of the plants have been unharmed, which is a first here at this house!). Feverfew is another herb I use for teas and tinctures. Comfrey is great for external uses, such as in a warm compress over an injury, etc. I heard one herbalist recommend trying it in a tea (despite the FDA’s warnings against internal use). The day that my husband and I tried comfrey in our tea, we both had a debilitating headache for two days. We are never trying comfrey internally again.
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Three more of my medicinal herbs, a bit sparse since I had just made a bunch of teas and tinctures.
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In the back, I keep two of my herbs that prefer shadier conditions.
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Most of my mints grow under our fig tree and pergola.
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I have found that for me, most herbs tend to grow best in dappled sunlight. Even the herbs that claim to need full sun have done much better for me when they are getting some filtered sunlight near a tree, but not directly under a tree (exceptions being lavender and rosemary – those love full sun but rosemary will tolerate dappled light). Some of the herbs grow well in the ground, and  I plant the ones the ones that need better draining soil in flower pots. I have the comfrey in a pot to control its size; I have been told that it can quickly take over your garden.

I will go into more detail in future posts about how I use each of the medicinal herbs! Are there any in particular that anyone is most interested in learning about? Feel free to let me know!

If you are interested in learning more about growing herbs, this is one my favorite books: Your Backyard Herb Garden.

*Disclaimer: the link above is an affiliate links. Any books I recommend are books hand selected by me that I enjoy and personally recommend (i.e. not sponsored selections). If you are interested in purchasing one of those books, purchasing thorough those direct links is much appreciated and helps keep this blog running!

Why I Blog + Keeping Poisonous Plants Out of Our Garden

Sometimes I wonder why I bother blogging at all. Some days it seems like many people view bloggers as just someone to contradict, like the internet is one big arena of the high school debate team. I know I personally do not blog to try to start arguments, debates, or be insulted about the way that we live our lives, and I cannot imagine any blogger who would write with that intention. Most bloggers do not get paid for running their blog, so it is not like they are getting a weekly paycheck for keeping up with a blog, or have a boss telling them what to write about, or editing their entries.

So, why did I start my blog? Way back here on my first post on Tumblr, I started the blog with the intention of teaching my husband more about portraiture. I figured if he was documenting my more creative outfits and outfits I had designed and sewn, with the intention of posting the photos on a blog, he would be more motivated to work on his skills than if he was just photographing me for photos that no one else would ever see. He had experience with photography, but I wanted to work on his skills with portraits so he could assist me as needed in the photography business we wanted to start. I very quickly got bored of only blogging about my outfits, and decided that since I had already gone to all of the trouble to build the blog, I might as well start posting more interesting content.

A couple of generations ago, things like gardening and creating new recipes were common activities. I noticed among my own friends that they were hobbies and interests that were not as common as I am sure they used to be. I wanted to share some of my own experience (especially with gardening), and help inspire others to get out and get creative in their gardens, and maybe try making some healthier meals at home. I started writing about things I was growing in our garden, and documenting some of the recipes I came up with.

I started gardening at the age of two, with the encouragement of my dad. It is something he enjoys as well, and so did his mother. While my dad was always encouraging and teaching me about gardening, his mother was not encouraging to me about my gardening skills. She would tell me horribly mean things, like I would never be able to grow strawberries as well as she does (strawberries are not the easiest food to grow). She would tell me that nothing I grew would ever be good enough to win any awards or receive any recognition. Some of those comments stuck with me for a long time.

Since gardening has been something I have been interested in for so long, I wanted to help demystify the process of gardening for those who read my blog. It really is not that difficult (no matter what my grandmother claimed). I wanted to help inspire others to get outside and grow something beautiful or useful (or both!). Even when I only had a little studio apartment with an old fire escape at the end of the hallway, I still worked on growing a container garden of edibles that became a community garden for my building. I want people to know that it is easy to grow your own food and flowers. That is why I blog.

I also blog as a way to document our lives, mostly for our own reference. It may sound a bit morbid, but after having a couple of close calls with my health where my doctors were having conversations with my husband about the fact that I may not make it to the following day, I wanted to make sure that I was documenting our family from my point of view. A few times, when I have been too ill to be up and about with my normal routine (either when I had a severe case of pneumonia, was on pregnancy bed rest, had meningitis, etc.), my husband actually referenced several of my blog posts to find some of my recipes or figure out how I normally handle certain things around here. I like having that peace of mind knowing that my simple act of blogging could be a great point of reference if needed. Also, it is so much fun for me to be able to document our little guy growing up, especially for family members who are not local!

In addition to all of that, I really enjoy sharing when I have found something that works well for us, like the amber teething necklace post or my rave review of the gDiapers system. Those were not sponsored posts, they were just honest reviews of things that I was excited about and wanted to share with others. Unfortunately, sharing what works for us has not always been met with favorable responses.

After I wrote my gDiapers post, I was suddenly flooded with angry hate mail from crazy crunchy moms who were upset that I referred to disposable diapers as “regular diapers”. I know that cloth diapers are the original thing that everyone used, but sorry…disposables have become the norm, whether any of us like that fact or not (hence my use of the term “regular”). Such a minor thing to gripe about in reality anyway. I posted my low-sugar lemonade recipe, and got more angry hate mail from people who were upset that it was not as sweet as store-bought lemonade. With the disclaimer that it is a low-sugar recipe, without artificial sweeteners, why would you expect a sickeningly sweet lemonade anyway? When I decided to share the artwork I designed for our son’s nursery (for free, as printable pdfs), I mistakenly made a typo in referencing one of the Bible verses. As soon as the first person brought it to my attention, I corrected the post and the artwork, and apologized profusely for the typo. I still got tons of angry emails and comments because I was not able to correct the typo in the pin that had since gone all over Pinterest. Sorry, but that is not my fault…I did not design Pinterest. As I told one angry reader, the last time I checked, there has only ever been one perfect person, and He has never yelled at me for a simple typo. You would think that people interested in free Bible artwork would have a little more patience. It’s not like they purchased the artwork and it was defective!

I may have some strong opinions about how we do things in our house, and I often share those on my blog. But here’s the thing…it’s my blog. Meaning my own personal corner of the internet. I am not writing for a boss, or writing to get a grade at school. If you do not like how we do things here or how I write, you can simply find something else to read. I have a zero tolerance policy for internet bullying and rude comments. Even less patience if those rude comments come from someone I actually know or worse yet have considered a friend. If you have a legitimate concern, that is understandable, but people who just want to complain for the sake of complaining are persona non grata in my world. Just because you stand up publicly and say “here’s what I’m doing and it works for us” doesn’t mean you are also saying, “here’s what I’m doing, rip me apart if you don’t agree”!

Also, I never claim to be a certified expert at anything I write about. I am not a certified Master Gardener (yet…I don’t have the time to complete that process now). I never claim to be the best gardener in the world, or have grown the world’s biggest squash, or anything of the sort. If anything, I always think I am not doing a good enough job with our garden, and if you follow me on Instagram or are friends with me on Facebook, you know that I almost did not even bring my squash to the fair that ended up winning first place and division winner. When I am proud of an accomplishment or award I receive, it is just news that I am excited to share…that’s it. Like most of us, I am always learning and challenging myself to learn more and try new things. My blog is just my way to document the process.

If you have been reading my blog for a while, has it inspired you to get out and try new things in your garden, experiment more in your kitchen, try a new DIY decorating project, give cloth diapers a try, or something else? If it has, please send me a photo! I would absolutely love to do a special post with reader photos that have been inspired by my past posts!

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Thank you for reading my rant, and now back to the regularly scheduled programming, so to speak. I always try to keep our garden free of any poisonous plants. I have realized recently that this is not always something that people take into consideration when planning a garden. If you have children, grandchildren, or pets, it is a good idea to keep in mind that some plants may be toxic or poisonous if ingested. Our son does a pretty good job now of knowing what he can pull off and snack on in the garden and what he cannot. He even can tell when a tomato, strawberry or kumquat is not ripe yet. I have worked with him extensively on this for months. However, one of my good friends had a scare a few months back with her daughter. She texted me a photo of a plant that her daughter had nibbled on, and was worried that it may be poisonous. Thankfully it was not poisonous, but it motivated me even more to make sure that nothing in our garden was toxic. Even though I grow specific plants for our pets to eat, some of them have a tendency to nibble on just about anything when they are in a certain mood.

When planning what I would plant in our garden, I selected mostly plants that have edible flowers, such as sages, rosemary, roses, nasturtiums, and lavender. I wanted to be sure that just in case something was accidentally ingested by our son, one of his friends, or one of our pets, it would not be a problem. I used to grow things like sweet pea flowers, just because I love the way the smell. Unfortunately, sweet pea flowers are highly toxic. I tried planting them in places that I thought our pets would not find. Our one cat became so infatuated with the smell that he seemed to find them no matter where I planted them. I have since stopped growing sweet peas.

When we purchased our house, it had lots of elephant’s ears plants everywhere (seen above). They are highly toxic, and unfortunately grow from little tiny pieces of the root system, making it difficult to completely get rid of them. Even the tiniest piece left underground seems to allow them to come back. I thought I had previously gotten rid of all of them when we first moved here, but they keep popping up when I least expect it. It means that I go out in the garden early each morning and do a quick check before our son and any of our furry kids wake up and come outside to play. Another thing that I keep trying to get rid of is the English ivy around our son’s garden, also poisonous if ingested. Ivy is nearly impossible to kill off, and it keeps coming back despite my best efforts. I have resigned myself to the fact that it may be a lifelong battle, but I at least try to keep it trimmed back enough so that it does not drape down into Edison’s garden. It is currently growing in the retaining wall planter above his garden.

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When I was purchasing plants for our back yard garden, I researched each plant online before purchasing. I have a variety of succulent arrangements in containers in the back yard. When I first researched the fire sticks shown below, all I read online was that they could be a mild skin irritant. That did not seem too serious so I did not worry about it much. However, in the series of gardening classes that I recently took at our local botanical garden, the instructors started talking about how dangerous fire sticks can be around children. They can be poisonous and deadly if ingested in large enough quantities, and can even cause temporary blindness. I was completely freaked out and it was a scary reminder that I need to always be sure to get my information from a reputable source online. I since replanted my fire sticks in their own containers, and relocated them up onto the high ledge above our son’s garden, where they are out of reach from him and all of our pets. Similarly, I also made sure all of my medicinal herbs are not accessible. Most of these are intended for internal use, but that does not mean I want anyone going in there and nibbling on things they should not be eating (more info on my herb garden coming next week).

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If you are researching plants for your own backyard, I highly recommend referencing the ASPCA list of toxic and poisonous plants. Many of the things in our garden that were planted by previous owners were on that list, and I have removed them, such as lantana, elephant’s ears, etc. If you ever have any concerns that your pet or child has eaten a plant, contact your veterinarian or pediatrician immediately.

Introducing Wellness Wednesday: Natural Pet Care

Back when I was a child, I wanted to go into the medical field. My grandfather started out as a D.O. and then later got his M.D. He was a big influence on my interest in the medical field, and since he started out as a D.O., he always tried to find a natural solution first, unlike many medical doctors these days. My first choice in life would have been to be a veterinarian, but I could not handle the thought of having to advise pet owners on the decision to put their animal to sleep. My second choice was to work with neonatal babies in the NICU. During my pre-med internship during my undergrad years, I could never get into the NICU rotation because I was always sick. I was tiny when I was born, with no baby fat pads and a weak immune system. That weak immune system seemed to follow me into adulthood, and it forced me to give up my dream of ever working as a doctor in the NICU. I just seemed to pick up every germ in that hospital, no matter what I was doing at the time to try to stay healthy.

Over the years, I have nursed many of my own sick pets back to health through homemade remedies. I have astounded our vets with the results I have achieved on my own when I have tried to find a more natural treatment option. I have been a pet parent almost my entire life, but being a parent to a human child is something I am still learning about. :) Recently, I decided to expand my knowledge and repertoire of natural treatments that we use at home. My husband and I have been having a lot of (sometimes heated) debates about our photography business, and keep going back and forth with the decision to close the business. The two primary reasons he would like me to close the business are  because of the stress the business has caused for us, and the health concerns I have been dealing with in the past few years.

I decided that I wanted to find a better way to try to balance everything, and keep us all healthy, happy, and hopefully still be able to find a way to keep my business in some form. So I started expanding my knowledge of herbal remedies, taking some classes, and reading tons of books. I am going to start documenting our journey with a new Wellness Wednesday post for the next few months. I am hoping that some of you may find some recipes that will be useful for yourself and your families as well. Some of the recipes I cover will be made with herbs from my herb garden (full tour of my herb garden coming next week). Others will include recipes with essential oils, and some will be a combination. Full disclosure…I am now officially a Wellness Advocate for dōTERRA Essential Oils! For those who read my blog and are friends with me, don’t worry…I am never one to push sales on friends and won’t bring up oils unless you have any questions for me. I not the type of person that goes around soliciting friends for sales. ;)

I have been using essential oils for years, and really started to get excited the more I read about dōTERRA. All of the oils are made from ethically sourced herbs and completely organic. They are the highest quality essential oils, and can even be used internally. Many essential oils that you find in stores can only be used externally because they are not pure enough in form. For those who are not familiar with essential oils, they are a very highly concentrated form of the herb, with the oils extracted out. Even the method in which the oils are extracted makes a difference in the quality of the oils, and dōTERRA only uses the best forms of extraction. I decided that I wanted to document our journey with my newly expanded herb garden and new collection of essential oils here on my blog. I figured that some people reading may want to try the recipes for themselves, and what better way than for me to be able to provide a direct link where you can find everything you will need!

I figured I may as well start this new weekly series with what I have the most experience with…natural pet care!
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A few years ago, our older dog was diagnosed with liver problems. The vet was not sure how long he would make it given the current state of his liver. The vet did not give us too many reasons for his elevated liver panel results, but attributed the change to old age and his aging body’s inability to properly process a high-protein diet. They recommended some very expensive prescription pills ($200+ per month!), but that was not possible in our budget at the time. I discussed the issue with the doctor at length, and since there was no way that we could afford that monthly prescription in our budget at the time, I decided that I would do some research and find something that would help him (with the vet’s close supervision of course). Even the vet admitted that the prescription he was recommending would possibly just help our dog maintain his current liver panel results, preventing him from getting worse, but it may not help actually improve our detoxify his liver. I made a doggy detox diet that he went on for a couple of weeks, and made him a dandelion root tincture. I thought I had blogged about the detox diet at the time, but now I can’t find the old post. For his detox diet, I cooked him homemade meals every day for two weeks with sweet potatoes, carrots, dandelion greens, and white fish (all organic). He had to reduce his protein, so I kept the fish at 25% of his daily intake. I also made a dandelion root tincture which I added to his meals. Dandelion root is excellent for detoxifying the liver. (I will go into more detail in a few weeks about how to make a tincture.) Within a month, our dog went back for a follow up appointment, and his liver panel was showing results for a normal healthy dog. The vet joked that I had performed some kind of magic and said that I added years and years to his life. I was extremely happy. Upon further discussion with the vet, we realized that the medicine he was recommending for our dog is actually available for humans as well over the counter, as Sam-e, and it is significantly less expensive when buying the human version. With the vet’s permission, we started purchasing the human version of Sam-e for our dog. He is a big dog (as big as me), so there was no need for dosage adjustment (however that would not be the case with all dogs, so definitely seek proper medical advice from a vet before giving your dog any pills).  Now, as routine maintenance, he is on a low protein dog food, and we give him Sam-e supplements, and whenever his liver panel results start creeping up again, I start giving him the dandelion root tincture again.

We have all of our pets on a monthly wellness plan, which allows unlimited office visits to the vet, and includes lots of routine blood tests and other lab work. I always take full advantage of that and bring all four of our pets in whenever I have any questions, and they all get regularly scheduled appointments and testing every six months, as well as dental cleaning every year. I think I probably win the award for being the pet parent in their office the most and everyone there knows us well. :) All of the natural treatments that I have tried for our pets have all been closely supervised by the vets, with testing and exams performed both before and after.

Anyone who has ever been to our house will tell you that the big dog also has a major flatulence problem. It has been very embarrassing at times. I decided to start trying to treat his digestion problems with one of the dōTERRA  blends, DigestZen. It is not good to give pets undiluted essential oils, so I dilute the essential oil down with regular organic coconut oil. I put one drop of DigestZen in a small canning jar with two tablespoons of coconut oil. I have been drizzling a few drops of this oil mix on the dog food each night, and it has really cut down on his gas problems! Now we can start having guests without being so embarrassed. :) I have tried putting fennel tea mixed into his dog food in the past (fennel really aids in digestion), but he didn’t like the taste or smell and would not finish it.

With four furry kids, flea control is always a major issue in our house. They all sleep in the bed with us, so you better be sure that I am darn picky about flea control. We have definitely seen a reduction in the flea problem since we got rid of all of our lawn, but any time we bring the dogs to the park, everyone seems to end up with fleas after. We used to use the topical flea medication that you put on their fur, but we stopped using that after our son was born. It is literally impossible to keep him from petting the furry kids, no matter what we try, and we definitely don’t want our son ending up with pesticide all over his hands. We work so hard to keep everything around here organic, so using that flea medication never sat right with me anyway. Since I refused to use that stuff anymore, the vets recommended the pets start taking an internal flea control medication. After our son was born, we started using the internal flea medication, and then I started reading more about it and got more upset. We try hard to keep our home and everything we eat organic, and I hated feeding them toxic chemicals like a pesticide taken internally (especially since it wasn’t working well)! I was determined to find another solution. I am extremely organized with scheduling routine items in our household, and I enter everything into my calendar; haircuts (I do everyone’s haircuts here), fertilizing plants, flea medication, etc. Everything gets scheduled and entered into my calendar. Even though we were giving the pets the internal flea medication exactly as directed, it still was not cutting down on the fleas the way that the externally applied pesticide worked.

I tried a few various home remedies that people recommended, and nothing was working. Then I tried using the dōTERRA Cedarwood essential oil after reading that it is great for flea control. I put a few drops on each of the pets after the vet said they all had fleas, and just a few days later at a follow up appointment, they were flea free! I placed the drops of oil in places where they could not lick, such as the back of their necks and just under their chins. Just a couple of drops of oil for each of them was enough to work. I am so incredibly happy that we finally found a natural solution! I am going to keep applying the oil on a weekly basis, and keep getting follow up exams at the vet to be sure that it continues to work.

One of our cats always seems to have issues with tape worms, no matter what we do. Even when we were using the external flea control and she was consistently free of fleas, we have always had trouble completely getting rid of her problems with worms. The dewormer shots from the vet work perfectly well for our other pets, but for this cat in particular, they have not worked 100% for some reason. I tried ordering over-the-counter dewormer meds for her, but they just made her throw up. I read that DigestZen can help for intestinal worms, so after I saw recently that she had some worms again, I started adding a few drops of the diluted down DigestZen to the cat food as well. They all just went into the vet again for a checkup, and were all free of worms! I was amazed that the DigestZen worked so well in getting rid of the worms in just a few days.

If you decide to try any herbal remedies for your pets, always do so with the supervision of an experienced veterinarian. Our monthly wellness plan at the vet is great because it allows me to keep all of our pets closely monitored whenever we are trying something new.

I hope that you have enjoyed this first round of Wellness Wednesday! I have lots more interesting posts lined up, including detailed information on how to make herbal tinctures, a tour of my herb garden, natural beauty remedies, and lots more. :)

Disclaimer: For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. I am not a medical doctor, certified herbalist, or any other medical practitioner. I am just a mom who has had a lifelong passion for health and wellness, and I am sharing my experiences with you. Always do your own research and speak to your doctor or veterinarian. The links above are affiliate links, and if you enjoyed the advice in this article, purchasing through those links helps keep this blog running. :)

How To Deal with Miscarriage, Postpartum Depression & Lingering Pain

People often talk about the trials of postpartum depression that sometimes face a new mother with a baby. Your hormones are going through lots of intense changes, your body has gone through some huge trials, and you are beyond exhausted. Any woman who has ever had a bad case of PMS (and any man in her life for that matter), should understand on some level how hormones can play serious havoc on your mind and well being. I did not deal with postpartum depression after our son was born, but I have faced something similar on many occasions now.

As I wrote about in this previous blog entry, miscarriage is often a topic we do not discuss much as a society. It is an unfortunate fact since I feel strongly that women who have gone through a miscarriage probably are even more in need of strong postpartum support. Women who have gone through a miscarriage have all of the same factors listed above that can contribute to postpartum depression. The only difference is the new mothers who are diagnosed with postpartum depression have one thing the other women do not…a new baby to hold.

With all of my miscarriages before our son was born, each one was devastating. I felt inadequate, deformed, incomplete. I felt like there was an innate ability that most women possessed that I just did not seem capable of, carrying new life into this world. I even read one article that claimed that women with my particular uterine birth defect were not completely female and were somewhat akin to asexual beings. I happened to read that article right after a miscarriage, and I cried for days after I read that and didn’t get out of bed. That idiot medical “professional” obviously has no clue what he is saying, and if I ever met him I would probably punch him in the face.

With this most recent miscarriage, I had a different situation than in the past. I finally had a child of my own to give me comfort. This time around came with its own set of challenges though. The day of the miscarriage was a traumatic event for all of us. I think I was in shock when it happened, and I kept yelling “it’s a baby, it’s a baby,” over and over. I felt awful that our son came into the room to see what was wrong. The bathroom was a frightening scene and he started crying horribly. It reminded me a little of the traumatic scenes in the show Dexter where he (and later his own son) were traumatized by witnessing such a gruesome scene. I felt horrible that the whole thing affected our son so much. I felt guilty that somehow I was not able to shield him from this traumatic event. The weeks since the miscarriage have been really difficult, and his sleep patterns have definitely been disturbed. He is finally settling back into a normal routine, but for the weeks since the loss, he has woken up every night with a nightmare, crying and yelling, “baby, baby!”. I have been running on empty trying to soothe him, and being filled with guilt for the fact that the whole event upset him so much.

In addition, this particular miscarriage left me in an unusual amount of physical pain for quite a long time. Normally with a miscarriage, the physical pain starts to go away after the bleeding finishes. Unfortunately, with this case, the pain continued for weeks. One day in particular, it got so bad that I was concerned something was wrong. My doctor had not ordered a follow up ultrasound after the miscarriage (we aren’t sure why it wasn’t ordered), and I was starting to get concerned that there may be some problems with lingering tissue. I went to the urgent care, and after several hours there, I was sent to the emergency room. I wanted to avoid the emergency room at all costs since I hate exposing our son to all of the germs there, but the urgent care center did not have an ultrasound machine. Thankfully, my parents came to bring Edison out of the E.R. waiting room.

After a bunch of tests and ultrasounds in the E.R., the doctors had no conclusive answers about why I was still in excruciating pain. They could definitely pinpoint from the ultrasound that the pain was coming from my uterus (the area was extremely sore to the touch and I was wincing in pain every time they put the ultrasound wand near that area). They told me that unfortunately they did not know why I was still in pain, but there was no remaining tissue and no cysts currently on my uterus or ovaries. I could see from the ultrasound that my uterus looked a little stretched out still compared to its usual (abnormal) shape. Since this miscarriage happened in the early second trimester, my uterus must have started to stretch out a bit.

After a few hours of being in the E.R. without our son, I started to notice a slight lessening in the pain. When I started thinking about the way I described the pain to the doctors, I started to realize it was sounding a lot like contractions. The pain got worse the more I was on my feet, etc. Our son had a particularly rough day when things got really bad for me, and he had been binge nursing around the clock. I started to realize that the breastfeeding must have been triggering prolonged postpartum contractions. I also started thinking back about my pregnancy with our son. My uterus has a birth defect and is classified as t-shaped, and comprised of what is called nonelastic tissue. This means that it is extra small, and when it does stretch, it hurts like crazy and I ended up getting lots of tiny little tears throughout my second trimester with our son. I realized that I was probably really sore now because it had started to stretch and tear with this pregnancy as well, and then the contractions were happening, aggravating the already intense pain from the little tears. Once I figured out what was causing the pain, it made it easier to deal with. I have a very high pain threshold, and have been starting to feel a lot better. Things also seem to finally be healing up. I am still a bit sore, but the contractions have finally stopped.

With this miscarriage, I spent a lot of time cuddling our little guy, which really helped with the emotional pain of the loss. I am so grateful to have him, despite all of the odds, and just spending time playing with him really helped me a lot. This miscarriage was very traumatic in ways that my previous miscarriages were not, particularly because I saw the tiny baby intact, and had deep regret for not trusting my gut instincts, despite what the doctors were telling me about whether or not I was pregnant in the first place. I kind of felt in a certain way that only the three of us that had been in that room really understood the pain that we were all going through with this loss.

I am not a medical professional or a professional in the field of psychology, but I know that different people deal with depression in their own ways. I knew that I was starting to feel symptoms of severe depression after this miscarriage. When I have gone through previous miscarriages, I have gotten very depressed, not leaving the house for months at times. I didn’t want to be a depressed mother, so I tried to figure out what works best for me personally to help get myself out of a slump of depression. I am naturally more of an introvert by nature, and I am most comfortable just with my two guys. I also am happiest when working on my garden, so that is what I did. Edison and I spent extra time working in the garden, and I used the gardening to work through my physical and emotional pain. I have always found so much joy in gardening because there is something so wonderful about nurturing life and beauty. I feel strongly that my gardening has helped me work through the pain and emotional struggles with our battle with “infertility”. Even though I have had a really difficult time nurturing new life in my body, I have no trouble nurturing new life and growth in my garden. My plants are my other babies (my roses even joined in on signing my mother’s day card too). Also, hard physical work can really help distract you from chronic pain. To my friends, I apologize if we have been a bit antisocial. It is nothing personal…this is just how I work through things best. Edison is definitely more social than my husband and I are, so he was not always happy about being at home so much, but he loves working in the garden too.

I also started thinking about my goals for the garden, which reminded me about how I had wanted to enter a vegetable in the “biggest specimen” category at the Orange County Fair. When my big squash won first place and division winner, I felt such a sense of joy, pride, and accomplishment. There is something so refreshing for the soul to set a goal and meet it. As silly as this may sound, this particular squash plant felt like a gift from God just for me, to lift my spirits. I was so sad that we installed our new raised beds so late in the season this year, and I was convinced that I would have nothing to enter in the “biggest” category for the fair. This little squash plant sprouted on its own from my homemade compost, and with a little love and care, my mystery squash grew quite large. When I stood there that day with my ribbons, I started to feel the heavy weight of depression lifting off me.

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For any other women out there who have gone through a miscarriage, I strongly encourage you to seek help if you need it. Don’t be ashamed to ask for support from those around you, or consult with a professional for help. Do some reflection and think about what you enjoy most in life, and do it. Do that activity as often as you can, whether it is working out, gardening, singing, crafting, whatever. Draw your loved ones close. Put distance from others for a bit if you are more of an introvert and that helps you. Do whatever you need to do that helps you feel more like yourself again and helps you acknowledge and deal with the loss. Give your body ample time to rest too…the massive blood loss has always taken a toll on my energy levels. Eat as healthy as possible and replenish your body. Postpartum support for women with a miscarriage is so important, and so completely overlooked in our society today. For all of you ladies who have suffered a similar loss, know that you are not alone.