Knox: A Birth Story

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Introducing our 3rd sweet boy, Knox Gannon Notes! He graced the world with his presence on Sunday August 19, 2018 at 6:48pm at 6 lbs 7.1 oz and 19 inches. I can’t believe today marks 3 weeks that he joined and completed our little family. We are so happy to have him here. Both Nico and Luca are over the moon and constantly fawning over our little guy. They don’t really understand that he mostly eats and sleeps in these early days, and they just want to play with him all day! They have taken on their new roles as big brother and big, big brother very well, and I couldn’t be more thrilled!

During my pregnancy with Knox, it was the first time I really felt strong signs that labor was going to be on the way. I was induced 2 weeks early with Nico due to IGR (intrauterine growth restriction — turns out he was fine, and just small, which was no surprise to me), and with Luca my water broke, but I never went into active labor and also had to be induced. This time around, I REALLY didn’t want to be induced. I was really hopeful that I would be able to go into labor on my own.

I started to see (well FEEL) signs of labor preparation as early as the 2nd trimester with Braxton Hicks contractions. I would feel them usually at nighttime when relaxing at the end of the day. This baby was larger than the others and he felt super heavy to carry around especially in that 3rd trimester. I tried to keep moving as much as I could throughout my pregnancy, but once about Week 37 hit, I was lucky if I got in one good workout per week. My body was OVER it!!!! I remember that after walking around, even just a little bit, I felt like I needed a huge rest after. It was uncomfortable to walk, get up and down, sleep at night, and even just drive my car. My baby was getting so big, and I only had so much room in my little 5’0 frame! I was READYYYY!

On my 34th Birthday, July 26th, we went to Coney Island as a family to celebrate with my boys along with my sister and brother-in-law. It was a really great day, but as we were walking around, if I started to walk too fast, I got SHOOTING pains going up through my body from below. I have since found out that this is a “thing” and it’s called “lightning crotch.” WHAT?!?! Haha, I know…I had no idea either. It didn’t feel at all like contractions, but I knew something was happening and he just HAD to be arriving soon!!!

Time passed, and then nothing…haha. I started to get super impatient. Started to do every little thing around the house…got the boys bunk beds, ordered all the baby things that we neglected to order earlier, started purging a bunch of toys we didn’t need anymore, cleaned out our office. Thank God hubby was on board to help with all of this. I was on a rampage and was starting to get super bored. I was too scared to go too far, because I was CONVINCED the baby was going to arrive any minute…but then he wasn’t coming and so it was a lot of days sitting at home in the AC and nesting nesting nesting away haha.

At my 38 week midwife appointment, they checked my cervix and I was already at 2cm dilated! Now for many, this may not seem like a big deal, but for someone who had only dilated on her own to 1cm in the past, I took this as a good sign. I had been eating TONS of dates, drinking loads of loose red raspberry leaf tea, taking primose oil capsules every day, and moving around as much as possible since about 36-37 weeks, so maybe something was working here! I was feeling more and more Braxton Hicks so I felt something must be happening soon.

A week goes by, and at my 39 week appointment, nothing had changed. I was a little defeated, but hey maybe he just wasn’t ready yet. Since this baby was bigger than my other two, I at least knew that he wouldn’t be evicted for an induction unless he was super late to arrive. That said…remember how READY I was? As much as I really truly wanted to enjoy all the kicks and feelings of my last pregnancy, I also was just very uncomfortable and wanted him to arrive ASAP! So when the midwife asked if I wanted her to strip my membranes, it was an immediate YES PLEASE!!! It took her awhile…apparently I have an oddly shaped cervix, but she eventually made it happen. This doesn’t work for everyone, but if it does, it usually helps to speed along labor to happen within 24-48 hours.

Welp, that time went by, and nothing was happening. I was still feeling contractions, but they weren’t strong and they definitely weren’t very regular. I started to become convinced that maybe he was never coming, and I would have to be induced again at the end of the month…

Nonetheless, we decided to have my mom come up the weekend before my due date so she would be here when it all went down to watch Nico and Luca. It’s funny because as soon as she got here, it was this overwhelming sense that okay, this might really happen soon. We were all ready to go. We stocked up on groceries at the Farmer’s Market that Saturday and walked around on that super hot day.

Next thing I remember is waking up the next morning to a long contraction that started out in my back and got stronger than normal. It was 5AM, and I was actually moaning in my sleep and it woke me up. 20 minutes later, it happened again, and I said…”Zack, today might be the day.” Now at the time, that statement didn’t carry a TON of weight, because I had been saying comments like this for about the past 3 weeks!!! Haha. So what did I really know? But it felt stronger than normal, and he couldn’t stay in there forever right?

The weird thing was…the WHOLE family woke up that morning at 5AM, which is very unusual. Zack was up…Nico and Luca came into our room…and even my mom was awake in the living room. It was a strange feeling like we all knew something was about to happen that day. Zack made us a big breakfast on my request (because I thought maybe it would be my last meal haha), and I felt contractions on and off that morning but generally about every 20 minutes.

As excited as I was that something may happen that day, I got slightly discouraged when after 5-6 hours nothing had really progressed. I was still feeling contractions, but they still weren’t super strong and they weren’t getting any closer together. Zack and I decided to go for a walk to try and get things moving while my mom stayed home with the boys. We walked and walked for about an HOUR, and at this point, I started to get PISSED. Haha. I think I only had 2 small contractions during that walk, and I was getting discouraged and uncertain. My mother in law (also a midwife) mentioned something about prodromal labor, which basically means you could feel these things and it could last a few days or even weeks before “real” labor begins. I was super frustrated, and decided to just lay down and rest after our walk.

At that point, I was texting some of my best friends, and they were all curious if anything had progressed. I mentioned to my childhood best friend Rhiannon what was going on, but that things weren’t really progressing. She wrote back that it sounded like it may happen soon, and told me, “It could change any moment.” LITERALLY a moment after her text arrived, I felt a huge GUSH!!!! And started saying, “Omg omg omg!!!” My water had BROKEN! And also, Rhi, I think you are psychic.

Now that my water had broken, it was a game changer. I knew this baby would be arriving no later then 24 hours later. Holy cow! This was getting REAL! This time around, my body knew what to do. In a short amount of time, my contractions started to get stronger and also closer together. It was happening pretty fast, and when they were about 5 minutes apart for about 30 minutes, we decided we should move in the direction of the hospital so that when things picked up we would be close by.

I had a few contractions on the way there that were pretty intense, but less than I had anticipated, and again started to question myself if we were going too early. Zack asked me if I wanted him to drop me off at the front of the hospital, but I didn’t want to wait alone or walk to labor and delivery by myself while he parked the car and brought in all of our stuff, so I told him it was no big deal to go with him to park, especially since my contractions had kind of slowed down.

Welp, I immediately regretted that decision! Haha. As soon as I stepped out of the car and started to walk, it was like contraction upon contraction…every couple steps I would have another one (yes on the street corner!) and have to bend over and breathe it out until it subsided and I could take a few more steps. That walk to the hospital from the parking lot across the street (and down the hill) was probably the most excruciating walk (and longest walk of such a short distance) of my life. And poor Zack was carrying a million things too.

By the time, I got to triage, I was in some serious contraction pain and definitely making some loud noise up in there! Lol. They checked me and I was already at 6cm dilated. So GOOD thing we decided to come to the hospital when we did. I did express that I would want an epidural, but things were moving pretty fast. The contractions were seriously painful and only a couple minutes apart, so there was very little time for rest.

I got to the labor and delivery room, and honestly I just remember screaming like a psychopath, excruciating contractions, my throat killing me from all the screams, and sweating profusely. It felt SO.DAMN.HOT. in there. I don’t know if it was just me, but it was terrible. In terms of the clock, my labor was going REALLY quick, but in my mind this felt like a fricken eternity. It kept getting more and more intense. The midwife questioned me getting an epidural at this point. She checked me and I had moved to 9cm. She told me I was so close, why would I get one at this point, and of course the competitive/challenger part of my personality was thinking, “Hey maybe she is right! Maybe I don’t need it!” And then another contraction would come and I would scream, “I’M DYING!!!!!!!!!!!” Hey…you guys wanted me to keep it real, right? LOL. She had me try to bear down a bit to get him to come down, and it felt so horrible to try and push, the contractions were still right on top of each other and I felt like I would have no energy to push and get through this pain at the same time.

So I tossed my challenger personality to the side and at that point, I very adamantly told them I wanted the epidural. I just needed some relief. They warned me that because it was so late, it may not fully take and that it may be harder to push and that I would have to sit VERY still while the anesthesiologist was inserting the needle, but I didn’t care. This mama wanted that relief and wanted it NOW! Part of me wonders what it would have been like to deliver fully au natural, but at the same time, I don’t regret my decision. Sometimes, us mamas have to do what is right for us in the moment and go with our gut, so that is what I did. Everyone is different, and I did what I felt I needed to do!

The hardest part of the labor was sitting still during 9+cm contractions while this doctor was putting in that epidural. I just kept telling myself “Don’t move, don’t die” lol. I knew that I had to get through this part without moving and just completely stay in my head until it was over for the sake of myself and my baby, and then I would feel some relief. As predicted, the epidural didn’t fully take since I was so far along and I could still feel some pain (although much less). They had to add to it two times before I stopped feeling the pain, and then at that point my legs were completely NUMB. Like way more numb than I had ever been with previous births. I couldn’t feel my legs at all. They felt like dead tree trunks. I thought to myself, “how am I ever going to push now if I can’t feel anything?”

The photo below is us after the epidural kicked in and right before pushing Knox into the world. I was a hot and sweaty mess after going through crazy labor, though the epidural did give me the shakes/chills. I was just happy to not be feeling the pain anymore…

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Shortly after, Knox’s heart rate started to decelerate because he was dropping into the birth canal. Things were MOVING! It was a little scary and hectic, but it was time for me to push him the heck out. I don’t know how I did it, because I literally felt nothing below the waist, but I dug down deep into my abdomen or something and pushed with all my might. Luckily I am a pro-pusher haha, and he was out before I knew it and on my chest. They did have to rush him away after a minute to check on him because of the heart deceleration, but he was okay, and he was HERE!!!!

(And about 5 hours before his due date…already prompt from birth!)

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It was a pretty surreal experience and so much different than my other two labor and delivery experiences. We had so many moments of calm and lots of time for photos with the other two. This time around, with being in 9+ cm of labor before an epidural it all just felt super intense and crazy and there was no time for any of that! Haha. When he arrived, I honestly just could not believe I was finally holding him in my arms, and I was so utterly happy that he was here and healthy. ❤

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My post partum experience was a little crazy as well being at a different hospital than the other two. They had no private rooms available and Zack was unable to stay with me, so shortly after delivery, I was basically on my own (with a pretty terrible roommate quite honestly). Luckily my mother-in-law (who is also a midwife) had arrived at the hospital to meet the baby and check on me before they had to leave, because the post partum unit didn’t do a great job of checking on me that night. They did do a great job of keeping me awake though. We got about ONE measly hour of sleep that night…I was in a lot of pain because I had just delivered, but I had to care for the baby by myself and listen to my roommate having contractions next to me (because she hadn’t given birth yet apparently). When they finally moved her from the room, I was so relieved I could sleep…but then they came in to clean up the room in the middle of the night. Like, really? No sleep in Brooklyn apparently.

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I tried my darndest to get out of the hospital a day early, but I had to spend another night there on my own during which Knox was cluster feeding like crazy to get my milk to come in. I also had to fight for a “baby friendly” experience as the staff kept trying to take my baby away to the nursery for every test, etc. and I kept having to remind them that “you are not taking my baby.” It was exhausting and difficult, but we eventually broke free from the hospital and came home.

Because discharge took so incredibly long, I was able to finally take a shower, put on some make-up and take a few photos with our sweet new baby.

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Once we got home, I was so incredibly grateful to have my mom at our house for the week to help nurse me back to normalcy with her amazing food, helping with laundry and cleaning, and playing with the older boys. And Zack, of course, was also a HUGE help (and still is.)

The most difficult part of our journey thus far has been nursing. After 2 weeks, we discovered that Knox had a posterior tongue tie and lip tie resulting in some SERIOUS pain for this mama. I had felt pain in the beginning with the other two and figured it would subside eventually once he got a little bigger. But it never got any better, and I knew there was something else going on. So we decided to have the ties revised with a doctor who specializes in this field and will hopefully be working with a craniosacral therapist soon to help with getting Knox to open his jaw more, stretching the muscles, etc. so that we can have a better breastfeeding experience. I have felt a little improvement, but we still have a ways to go. I’m hopeful we will get there eventually.

The sleepless nights are tough, but with two other kiddos prior, I am used to no sleep, so that I can deal with! I know these early days are always tough in the beginning, but again…having been through it before, I know we will get into a routine soon, especially with the older boys having just started back at school. Tomorrow is Zack’s first day back to work, and I will be solo managing the 3 boys for the first time on my own! It will be a challenge, but we will find our groove.

In the meantime, I am holding onto ALL the amazing newborn snuggles and cuddles right now, and boy are they awesome. ❤

If you are still reading, thanks for sticking with me! I know that was long-winded, but if you know me by now, then you know I’m not a woman of few words haha.

Wishing you all a wonderful week ahead and a happy holiday to those celebrating tomorrow.

XO,

Gina

Maternity Shoot With Tyler Lyons

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Our little man has arrived!!!

I will be sharing my birth story along with some adorable photos of our new little addition here on the blog soon, but seeing as I never got around to posting our maternity photo shoot with Tyler Lyons over here, I decided first things first!

We headed to Rockaway Beach for some sunset photos in early July, and while family photo shoots with two kiddos under 5 are no, picnic, Tyler handled it like a champ and he was able to capture some beautiful photos of both the bump and the fam.

It’s still surreal to me that our little babe is no longer in my belly but rather he is here, outside in the real world! So grateful to have these photos to look back upon and remember this pregnancy with our sweet, 3rd little boy. ❤

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Wearing — Dress by A Pea in the Pod Maternity (now on sale!)

On Zack —  Button Down: Goodfellow & Co for Target / Shorts: Goodfellow & Co for Target

On Nico: Button Down: Cat & Jack for Target / Shorts: Cat & Jack for Target

On Luca: Button Down: Genuine Kids from Oshkosh for Target / Shorts: Old Navy

Thanks again to Tyler for capturing these awesome shots. We will cherish them forever.

I thought motherhood the 3rd time around would be easy peasy, but we are having a few challenges, especially with nursing. So we are heading to an ENT specialist in Long Island today to see if he can help. Luckily, nothing severe is going on or anything like that. Baby is getting plenty of food…it’s just that mama is in a ton of pain in the process. So hopefully we can figure out the cause and we can resume nursing in a less painful way!

Otherwise, things are your pretty standard sleepless nights and balancing raising three. The big boys go back to school on Wednesday which means that things may get a little easier, but we also have to get up super early on a sleepless night! LOL. I’m sure we will figure it all out and get into our new “normal” routine soon.

Hope you all had a Happy Labor Day Weekend!

XO,

Gina

Baby Mama’s Hospital Bag Checklist

Baby Mama's Hospital Bag Checklist

As I hit 37 weeks on Monday with my 3rd pregnancy, I realize maybe I’ve been a liiiiiitle too lax this time around! We enjoyed vacation, and then upon returning home, I have been frantically realizing that we might not have as much time as we think we do, and being full term, who knows when this baby will arrive! Along with trying to get bunk beds set up for Nico and Luca, I am also planning their 5th and 3rd Birthday Party, running my health + fitness coaching business, and trying to survive a hot summer home as a stay at home working mama with two kids 24/7 home from school.

I still have yet to pack my bag even after making this checklist…I think that will be the first thing I do after hitting POST on this! But do as I say, and not as I do, right? 😉 Haha. I would recommend having this bag packed by 36 weeks at the latest, because you honestly just never know!!! At least the essentials.

While this checklist may seem quite large…know that I am a serial over-packer. You’re like, ok….WHY am I reading this post then? This is supposed to be HELPFUL! Haha, but hear me out. Everyone has different needs and necessities, and I also got some feedback from many of you that was fantastic…so I do include quite a bit to make sure I covered most of the bases. That said, if I mentioned EVERYTHING that people suggested, then it would become too overwhelming. So I included many of the things that I found useful and a few additions that I know others have truly found useful in past pregnancies.

I will highlight some of my FAVORITES and MUST-HAVES for ME…and then I have included an overall checklist that you can feel free to print out. I included a section at the bottom in case you want to add some things that I didn’t find necessary that you may want to bring.

I hope this is helpful for many of you new mamas out there! Or even any 2nd or 3rd or beyond time mamas, because through the craziness of labor and delivery, sometimes it’s hard to remember back when!

Okay so here we go:

THE HIGHLIGHTS:

1. Footwear: I absolutely recommend a pair of your own non-skid socks as they make you wear them in the hospital so you don’t slip, and the ones they give you are pretty terrible. I just bought this pair from Kindred Bravely. Many people also love to have a pair of slippers. I didn’t really find I needed them having all August babies, but if you are a slipper gal, these are a nice pair. I DO recommend bringing flip flops, because you will want to take a shower at some point post-partum, and you will NOT want to put your bare feet in that shower. I also wore my flip flops coming home, so they were essential!

2. Hair Ties/Head Band: I definitely wanted something to pull my hair back after a long time in the delivery room, so a hair tie was essential for me! A headband can also be a good idea. No need to get fancy here. I picked mine up from a local drug store. Post partum, I needed a brush/comb for after a shower. Some people take the time to blow dry their hair if that’s your thing and makes you feel like a human afterwards, but I threw mine up in a top knot personally and called it a day.

3. Make Up: This is what DOES make me feel more like a human. Haha. Post partum after showering, I definitely wanted to freshen up, especially before it was time to go home and see my mom and family (not that they cared, but again, makes ME feel better!) So I plan to bring this BB cream, powder, under eye concealer, blush, eyeliner, mascara, and lipstick. I will also bring CHAPSTICK for labor and delivery, which definitely should not be forgotten as your lips will get super dry with all the hospital air and all the heavy breathing.

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4. Nursing Bra: Comfort is KEY. Something I can sleep in as well as wear all day and comfortably nurse in and then go home in. I think I’m going to purchase these. (certain colors are also on sale now!) Will let you know how I like them! I may also bring a stretchier, comfy sports bra or bralette.

5. Robe: I stayed in the hospital gown almost the whole time with my first baby, and wished I had brought a robe, so the 2nd time I brought a comfy one that I got for free from Ulta along with a purchase. So much more comfortable that time around! Here is another one from Victoria’s Secret that looks cozy.

6. Motherlove Nipple Cream + Breast Pads: Not gonna lie. Nursing hurt like a B*TCH for me for the first couple weeks after having BOTH babies. Motherlove Nipple Cream was my savior and the only thing that made them feel better and heal. I applied it literally every time after I nursed, and will absolutely do it again. Breast pads are also a good idea as your milk may start to come in and leakage is no fun. I like these reusable ones that you can wash and use again, but also use and love these disposable ones from Lansinoh as well.

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7. Herbal Perineal Spray: I have never used this before, but I have read about them on a few different blogs, and it sounds like I have been missing out and that it’s super helpful with recovery and pain after birth, so I plan to get some of this Earth Mama ASAP to add to my bag!

8. Comfy Clothes: I plan to pack some comfy clothes all around…a couple days worth of tops, pants, (most likely my maternity leggings or something similar) in dark colors, pajamas or something to sleep in, and then something to go home in. Nothing fancy. Comfort is KEY.

9. Pillow + Nursing Pillow: It’s nice to have some comforts from home, so I always brought my own pillow to try and sleep as much as I could since I was so exhausted during and after giving birth! I also found a nursing pillow to be really helpful for breastfeeding, and I used my Boppy every time!

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10. Towel: Hospital towels are the WORST and ridiculously small. It will feel SO amazing to dry off with a soft, comfortable towel from home after your first post partum shower.

11. Cell Phone + Charger: This is kind of an obvious, because who doesn’t go anywhere without their phones these days. But one thing you may want to add is a portable charger or an extension cord to your list, because oftentimes the plugs can be so far away from the beds and it’s a pain to have the phone so far away while charging.

12. Camera: I always brought my DSLR camera to take some photos before and after delivery and for those early moments in the hospital. Sure, you can use your phone, and I will likely take phone pics also, but I will absolutely bring my camera to capture some precious moments. Make sure to bring your camera FULLY charged, so you don’t have to worry about bringing chargers…and also make sure your SD card is IN your camera! I can’t tell you the number of times I have brought my camera out to shoot something and then realized my SD card was in my computer or somewhere else.

13. Toiletries: These will be different for everyone, but I plan to bring shampoo, conditioner, a little hair de-frizz product, soap, face wash, face wipes, face oil/moisturizer, body lotion, deodorant, toothbrush, and toothpaste.

14. Snacks + Water Bottle: You may or may not be allowed to eat in the delivery room, but either way, you will want some snacks for the next couple days. Hospital food is mediocre at best and you will be STARVING. I also always try to scope out the local food in the neighborhood of the hospital, so I can send hubby out on a food run! Trust me, he is MORE than willing to oblige as he doesn’t want that hospital food either! Haha. Many of you suggested bringing your own water bottle to the hospital because you either didn’t like the cups provided or they were too small and you had to keep refilling. I don’t remember water being an issue for me, but wanted to include it here and will pack one this time just in case since it’s a new hospital for me.

15. Clothes for Baby: You will definitely want some onesies for the baby while you’re in the hospital. I always hated the clothing they had them in at the hospital the first time, so the second time I brought my own clothes. And then something for them to go home in. I usually just chose a cute sleep and play with a baby hat to match. Bonus if the outfit has built-in anti-scratch mittens, because the separate ones always fell off my babies hands.

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16. Swaddle Sleep Sack: 2 kiddos down and I still can’t properly swaddle using a blanket, so I will bring our Halo Sleep Sack for baby, so I don’t need to call a nurse every time I need to swaddle!

17. Car Seat Installed: Make sure you have your car seat installed now just in case so you are ready when it’s GO time! I remember feeling like our babies were SO tiny in those things, and I just couldn’t quite believe they were going to let us take them home!

18. Gifts for Nurses/Staff: I have never actually done this before, but I have read it on a few other blogs and it seems like a really nice gesture to at least give them some cards with a nice note and maybe a sweet treat.

If you have older siblings in the house, it’s also a nice idea to bring them a gift or a goodie bag from “from the baby.” Since the baby will be getting so much of the attention, it will be nice for them to feel the extra love coming from baby! Since all my boys are August babies, I plan on having the new baby give them Birthday presents when he arrives!

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There are some other things on the printable list for you to go through, but these were some that I really used, needed, or enjoyed having there! Can’t believe we will be doing this again soon! Okay…time for me to go pack now!

Your printable checklist is below. Happy packing and congrats on your sweet babe on the way!

XO,

Gina

Baby Mama’s Hospital Bag Checklist

Baby Mama's Hospital Bag Checklist

4 Years of Motherhood

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Dear Nico,

Has it really been FOUR years since you came into this world and made me a mama? Today you seem so grown up from the little baby I remember holding in my arms. We prayed so hard for you, and I was so nervous the whole time you were in my belly…my little rainbow baby. After complications and scares throughout my pregnancy with you, and a SUPER long time in the hospital with not one but TWO inductions….having you arrive on this day four years was the biggest blessing.

You taught me about unconditional love. The type of love that is so strong that it overpowers you like none other. That you can’t even understand until you are living it. You taught me about selflessness, about true responsibility. I remember your Papa and I thinking…”Oh my God, they are going to let us take this little tiny baby HOME from the hospital?!?!” And re-watching the video of the nurse swaddling you over and over again so we would know how to do it right. FYI…I still can’t swaddle right lol.

You have always been such a strong person your entire life…even when just a tiny little guy. I can’t even get mad at your stubbornness and strength, because I know you got it honest right from your Mama. You are fierce and competitive, but you are also sweet and loving. You have a heart of gold and a smile that is contagious. You make friends wherever you go which reminds me of your Nano and your great-grandpa Frank that you never got to meet. You have a sense of adventure like your Papa and you are always up for exploring and trying new things.

Your sense of humor makes me laugh constantly, and I love how you and your little brother tell each other knock-knock jokes and make them up yourselves. You have taken on the big brother role so well these past two years. While yes, sometimes, you are that typical big brother who picks on the little one…you also always have his back. You make him laugh. You teach him new things (even when those things are how to climb out of his crib lol), and you protect and love him with all your heart. Seeing you and your little brother together makes my heart light up and makes me so happy to see your relationship with each other grow.

You have such an eagerness to learn. You have an incredible attention span for learning and you just soak every little bit in. You remember things that happened over two years ago…things that I don’t even remember and the smallest details. You seriously impress me every day with your ability and passion to expand your mind and I know this quality will take you far in life.

I am so happy to be your mama. You make me proud every single day. I love you with all my heart my Nico, Bonzo, Little Monkey, NiNi (as Luca called you), Nico Nics, and so many other names we have created for you. Thank you for teaching me and challenging me and loving me and I know you will continue to grow and flourish in this world.

Happy 4th Birthday my sweet, Nico. I love you so freakin’ much.

Love,

Mama

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Excited to be spending this special day with family down in the Outer Banks, North Carolina. We have a little rain today, but that won’t “rain on our parade.” Fun times in store for this sweet Birthday Boy and the whole fam! ❤

Hope you all are enjoying this last bit of summertime!

XO,

Gina

March Into Spring

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The first photo here is 6 weeks post partum with my 2nd baby. I clearly felt uncomfortable about taking this photo even though I had no reason to. I stayed healthy throughout my pregnancy. I exercised regularly…ate well…I JUST HAD A BABY FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. And I had already lost 20 pounds of baby weight after this photo was taken. I had a PLAN of action this time around, unlike after 1st baby when I had no clue what sort of whirlwind I was being thrown into. This time I was prepared. Yet, I was still feeling uncomfortable in my own skin taking this photo. As much as I wish I could have just embraced my body and what it did for me (and trust me I LOVE what our bodies are capable of. I think it’s truly amazing and has brought me two of life’s most greatest blessings)…I still hated seeing myself like this. With my line of work as an online health and fitness coach, I knew that in order for others to see how our programs work, I was going to have to show others what was possible. So I took the photo, but I didn’t love doing it. And it’s still tough for me to share here today…even though in my heart of hearts I KNOW there is absolutely NOTHING I should feel bad about. If anything I should feel proud that my body was able to create two amazing little humans.

That being said…the 2nd photo here is taken about a year later. After a lot of hard work. After ups and downs. After a lot of personal and mental growth. After CHOOSING to make sure that I did not get lost this time. That I remained a priority in my own life. It’s not easy to make a change. But I knew after my 2nd baby, I wanted to feel GOOD. I wanted to feel like myself. I didn’t want to wait around and “see what would happen.” I made a decision to take things into my own hands. Instead of letting life control me, I would control my OWN life.

I know 100%, that without Beachbody, I would not have been able to make this type of change. I would have told myself that I would make it to the gym, that I would go on a run before my husband left for work, that I would somehow, someway fit it into my day…but I wouldn’t. I now know that about myself. I now know that I needed something I could do from home. I needed something that could be done quickly. I needed something structured…that told me what to do each day and how to eat better so that I didn’t have to think too much about it. That I could just get it done in 30 minutes, and move on with my day.

I was able to make this change not only with the incredible workout programs and nutrition plans (because they seriously are AMAZING), but even more so because of the community of SUPPORT that I have had to stay on track toward my goals and stay consistent with a healthy lifestyle. I don’t have some “insane level of dedication or motivation.” People message me frequently and tell me that they love my dedication, or they also tell me that they wish they were as motivated as I was. But I’m here to tell you that I’m not any different than anyone else. I love ice cream and pasta just like the rest of us. (and I eat it often lol) I sometimes hate to get my workout in. I am definitely not perfect…not even close. But because of this community…because I stay more accountable for things when I know I will be checking in…because I have the support of like-minded people around me…because I’m the coach and I know I need to lead by example…I have been able to achieve things that I never believed would be possible after two kids.

If you are like me and you WANT to feel good about yourself, but:
-you struggle to fit working out into your busy day, or
-you have become stagnant on your journey toward reaching your goals…
-if you think you could use the extra support of a positive community that values individual progress over competition…
-if you cannot afford an expensive trainer at the gym, but want workouts that are going to get results…
-if you need to improve your nutrition habits or need new ideas to make meals more fun…

then please join me and my group as we MARCH INTO SPRING…with our heads held high. Starting March 6th, we will begin our next group based on making progress toward reaching our goals and feeling more confident than ever going into that spring break season. I don’t know about you, but I have Punta Cana on the calendar, and I want to feel my best!

***Comment below with MARCH INTO SPRING and your email address if you want to join or you would like more details about the group! You can also feel free to email me at gina.notes26 {at} gmail.com ***

 

Hoping you’re having a fantastic weekend!

XO,

Gina

Get Happy, Get Lean – Let’s Rock 2017!

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Almost 2 years ago, I finally decided I had enough of being unfit after having my first baby and made the commitment to my health + fitness by starting P90X and becoming and online fitness coach. Two days into the program, I found out I was pregnant with baby #2 and had to change the course of my journey. The road toward success or change is never easy and there are bumps (and in my case baby bumps! hehe) along the way. I could have easily quit and said “I will just wait until after I have my 2nd baby to work on myself. But I didn’t. I chose to keep going. A 2nd baby was an absolutely blessing…and it certainly was not an excuse to quit or give up on myself. Instead I chose to get healthy THROUGH my pregnancy…kept up with my exercise, improved my nutrition, helped others do the same…and it made it that much easier once baby arrived to keep going and get those results that I had originally intended.
 
This past year after getting back to my pre-pregnancy weight…I ended up surpassing that and getting back into even better shape than before. I challenged myself with tough programs + heavy lifting, and I also let myself breathe and have fun with yoga and dancing. I have continued to grow my business helping over 300+ challengers and have grown a team of 20+ coaches who are out there leading and inspiring others to reach their goals. I have also grown myself in ways that I never thought possible. I have learned that in order to help others, it starts within, so this past year has been incredible for self-reflection and growth. I have also learned that I would never be able to do this without the incredible supportive community of challengers and coaches to keep me accountable along the way.
 
Beginning January 2nd, I am LEAPING into the New Year strong to continue my personal journey, and I would LOVE for you to be there with me alongside to support each other!!! It’s never too early for resolutions, so if YOU are looking to make a CHANGE in the New Year, then please jump in to our amazing group and receive that support you deserve to reach your full potential.
 
The Beachbody community is also running their 2nd Health Bet this next month where challengers and coaches have the opportunity to win a share of a $2 Million pot JUST for completing 3 workouts per day and drinking Shakeology 5x per week. Sounds like easy money to me!!!! Getting paid to work out? Yes please!!!!
 
Let’s Get Happy, Let’s Get Lean…Let’s Rock Out 2017!!!
 
Who’s with me?!?!?!?!
 
Comment below or email me at gina.notes26 {at} gmail.com for details 🙂 ❤ 🙂 ❤
XO,
Gina

On Overcoming Pain

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So you may be looking at this photo, thinking “What the heck does this have to do with pain?” Bear with me. You all know I typically love to keep this space a happy, positive, fun place, but if I only shared the happy stuff, that wouldn’t be real life, right?

The other night, I was sitting on my couch prepping for my Leadership class that will go on tonight, and turned to the Chapter in John Maxwell’s “The 15 Invaluable Laws of Leadership” titled “The Law of Pain.” Ugh. To say that I was less than excited to dive into this chapter is an understatement. But this class has been so amazing and eye opening for me that I knew I had to continue on and reading this chapter is all part of the growth process.

So I dove in…and it was not easy. This chapter forced me to go back and think about all the painful experiences I have had in my past. And it asked me to evaluate how I had responded to this pain. Because no matter what…you can be the best person out there…but bad experiences have a way of finding you. It’s just a fact of life that there are ups and downs that we are unable to control. But what we CAN control is how we react and manage the pain.

As I looked back into my “pain file” of bad experiences, I looked over at my Christmas Tree and thought about one of the hardest times I have ever had in my life. It was a fall of 2012. It was supposed to be a happy time. I had just found out I was pregnant with my first baby. We named the baby Peanut. We were ecstatic. We called our closest family and friends and shared the news. Everyone was bubbling with excitement. We started looking at baby things online and thinking about how to shift our apartment around and decorate a nursery. And then only a few short weeks later, when I was 7.5 weeks pregnant our world came crashing down. I had started having some complications, but we were hopeful because we had seen a heartbeat on the monitor. But after one rough weekend, I knew something was wrong and come that next doctor’s appointment, our little Peanut was no longer on the screen.

It was the first time I saw my husband cry. And actually now writing this…as I thought I had come a long way from my pain, I am seeing that maybe it’s not true and it’s still very much there…as the tears are welling up in my eyes once again. I don’t know if I dealt with my pain very well at the time. I know I cried. A LOT. I know I felt empty inside. Like something was missing. Like I was supposed to be a mom, but then I wasn’t. It was just ripped away from me. Stolen. Like it was a fake, imaginary, dream…well more like a nightmare. Like this couldn’t possibly be my first experience at being pregnant. This negative, awful, scary feeling. Thoughts rushed through my head of “Would I ever be able to have a child?” and “Is there something wrong with me?” I think I closed up into a ball for awhile when I was alone and just wailed…and in public, I tried to put on a brave face and pretend that I was okay.

I think I finally decided to truly embrace my pain when I wrote about this experience on this here blog. When I decided the walls needed to come down. I decided that it wasn’t my fault, and that this terrible experience was out of my control. And that I wasn’t some weird anomaly. This happens to a lot of women, and they just don’t talk about it. So I decided to talk about it. And deal with it. And I pretty much wrote that post as therapy for myself I guess…but I never expected what would happen in return. I got an outpouring of messages, comments, + e-mails from other women who had gone through the same thing. People that I was close to, and had NO idea they had gone through this. People that I hadn’t talked to in years came out and wrote me. People said “thank you” for sharing this, and I realized wow…I am not alone. And neither are they. I truly wish no one ever has to go through this horrible loss of an unborn child…but if they do, I am glad that I was able to be there for them as someone who could relate to their pain.

Now what does this all have to do with the photo on this post? Well, this wooden rattle was the first toy that we had gotten for our little Peanut. My husband brought it home from work, and we just loved it. We were so excited. And when we found out the horrible news, I just couldn’t bear to hang onto it for another child or to give it away either. It was Peanut’s rattle. We weren’t really sure what to do with it…so when Christmastime came along, we decided to make an ornament out of it as a symbol of our little Peanut. So that we would never forget that first little ray of sunshine. I suppose this was a positive way to deal with our pain.

Each year we open our Christmas box, and we take out that ornament to put on our tree…and I don’t get sad anymore. Instead I feel happy. I feel that Peanut is a part of us. That he or she is watching down over us on this special time of year and is blessing our little family, which now has two happy, healthy little boys. And I keep that hope that eventually one day I will get to meet my little Peanut in “person.”

I hope that whatever pain you have dealt with in your life or you may be dealing with now during this holiday season, that you can find a positive way to overcome it and growing stronger because of it.

Lots of love and light this Thursday evening to you all!

XO,

Gina

Easy Soups for Fall

 

I recently ran a Crockpots + Squats health and fitness challenge, and it had me experimenting a little more in the kitchen! I posted a few photos which had a lot of people asking for recipes, so I decided to put this together to share. I took these recipes from my cookbook called The Italian Slowcooker by Michele Sciolone, but I added a few of my own twists to them as well to make them my own.

First up:

Butternut Squash Soup

Serves 6

1 medium onion, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large garlic cloves, chopped

1 large butternut squash, about 1.5 pounds, peeled, seeded, and cut (Mom tip: buy this pre-cut! More expensive, but WORTH saving the time!)

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks

3 fresh sage leaves or 1 tsp dried

4 cups chicken broth

Salt and fresh ground pepper

olive oil for drizzling

*I also added a can of coconut milk and lots of cinnamon!)*

In medium skillet, cook the oinion in the oil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, but not browned, about 10 minutes. If the onion starts to color, add a tablespoon or two of water and lower the heat slightly. Stir in the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Scrape the mixture into the slow cooker. Add the squash, potatoes, sage, and broth. I also added cinnamon here. If necessary, add water so that the vegetables are covered with liquid (I did not add water, FYI. I just added coconut milk or more broth until it was covered with liquid).

Cover and cook on low for 4 hours or until vegetables are soft when pierced with a fork. Let cool slightly, then puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Season with salt and pepper to taste. I actually added cinnamon on top of mine, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Voila!

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The next soup I made last week was:

Creamy Cauliflower and Potato Soup

Serves 8

2 heads cauliflower, about 1.25 pounds each, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

1/4 cup olive oil

4 garlic cloves

3 cups chicken broth

4 cups water

*I replaced some of the water with canned coconut milk instead)*

1/2 cup fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (I used Romano because that’s my jam)

In a large slow cooker, combine the cauliflower, potatoes, oil, garlic, broth, water, coconut milk, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours, or until the vegetables are very soft.

Let the soup cool slightly, then pour into a blender and puree until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with a sprinkle of cheese. Boom!

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And there you have it!!!!

Two delicious soups for fall!!!

The entire family ate all of this right up. Mom tip: If it’s difficult to feed younger children a pureed soup like this, you can also give them the chunks of veggies before you puree! My little guy devoured them!

Enjoy, and please share below any of your favorite easy soup recipes for fall!

Reminder: TOMORROW I will be announcing the WINNER for the Country Heat Giveaway!!! For your last chance to enter, please visit popcorn and pandas on Facebook before the end of the day!

Make it a great day everyone!!

End of Summer

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Romper: Target (similar here) – Also love this long-sleeved one for early fall / Sandals: Call it Spring / Sunglasses: Brickyard Buffalo / Pendant: antique heirloom / Watch: Michael Kors / Bracelets: Tory Burch, Stella & Sparkle, Guilty Jean

Ahhhh, yesterday was the first day of fall, and while I do love all things pumpkin, I am sad to see the summer come to an official end. We had a great summer complete with lots of traveling and adventures, and this romper sure got a lot of play from the lake in the Poconos, to the playgrounds of Brooklyn, to the streets of Nashville in Tennessee, to the Jersey Shore in Cape May, down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Our first full summer as a family of four was a success! Can’t believe it’s over. We will remember it fondly, but part of me is excited to break out the boots and crush some pumpkin spice lattes. 😉

Happy Fall + Happy Weekend!

XO,

Gina

{40} Lately…

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Lately I’ve been…

reading  I’ve read a lot since my last Lately… post! Some of my favorites include Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins (finally read it!), Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero and No Excuses! by Brian Tracy.

writing  A workout calendar and agenda for my Lipstick + Lunges Challenge that starts TOMORROW! So excited. There’s still time to join, so feel free to comment below if you want to be included.

listening  You may think this song is terrible, but I don’t care. I love it anyway. 

thinking About how excited I am for my littlest guy who just started learning how to walk!!! If you haven’t seen the video yet, you can check it out here on my Instagram page.

smelling  The amazing food from the coffee spot I am currently sitting at writing this post. That’s right…I’m at a coffee shop…ALONE! #amazing

watching  Not much these days, but still Orange is the New Black when I’m folding laundry or need a break.

wearing  Jeans and a tank top or tee. My fav go-to uniform these days. My Mama Bird tee above can be found here along with some others you might enjoy.

exercising Been beasting out lately with Hammer + Chisel, which is mostly weights. Whew! Not so used to the constant weight lifting and the longer workout times (I’m used to getting it done in 30 minutes over here!), but after 2 weeks down I am feeling pretty strong!!! I think I’m even ready to bump up the weights a bit.

feeling  Uneasy about the recent explosion that went down yesterday in Chelsea (NYC).

wanting  Time to slow down. My boys are getting too big too quick.

needing  To decide what I am going to pack for my upcoming coach’s trip to Sundance, Utah!!! My coach is setting up a professional photo shoot for each Diamond member of our team! And of course, out of the whole trip, we are in a tizzy about what to WEAR! LOL! Typical…

loving  The hilarious and imaginative stories my 3 year old has been coming up with lately. Everything from traveling to different states by train, to being eaten by bears! He cracks me up and I love hearing what he will come up with next!

wishing  That I brought headphones to this coffee shop. But honestly. I’m not complaining. Because remember? I’m at a coffee shop…ALONE.

hoping  That I can find the Califia Farms Pumpkin Spice Latte at my local Target. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE be there! I must try it.

craving  The Farmer’s Biscuit with egg, kale, and cheese at this coffee shop I’m sitting in…oh wait…craving satisfied. I’ll work that off tomorrow. 😉

clicking  Over on the fall trends at my favorite go-to mama/baby/kid deal shop, Brickyard Buffalo. Obsessed with the “Sharing is Caring” tee!

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HAPPY SUNDAY!

What have you been up to lately?

XO,

Gina