Thursday, 29 October 2015

Allergies - Halloween, Allergies and the Teal Pumpkin Project

One of the most awesome things about Halloween is that you are able to become whatever you want.  It's like career shadowing on steroids because you actually can be Batman, or a tiger or a box of cereal.  It's a big, exciting, marathon game of dress-up and everyone is invited.  As a kid I always appreciated that we were all doing the same thing and able to compliment cool costumes no matter what our social group was, and no one was ever left out of participating.

The Flying Bats Pumpkin

When I first heard about the Teal Pumpkin Project I was intrigued.  This initiative was launched in 2014 as a campaign by Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) to raise awareness and promote inclusion on Halloween.  Essentially you get a pumpkin, paint it teal and then print a sign that you can download from FARE that indicates that you have non-food treats available for those who ask.  This allows children who have severe allergies or can't eat candy an opportunity to participate in the Trick or Treating experience.

The Piranha Pumpkin

Thankfully the minions don't have any allergies that we know of yet (unless you count listening and a slight allergic reaction to dog hair). I can only imagine how difficult managing severe allergies must be for many parents and in turn the kids, especially when it comes to holidays and events where food is a main focus, like Halloween.

In 2014, 50 states and 7 countries participate in The Teal Pumpkin Project.  We usually get 100-150 kids at our door every Halloween, and this year we will be participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project and give out non-food treats for anyone who asks.

Teal Pumpkin Project
Our first Teal Pumpkin after the first coat of paint...I was going for a minion, but it looks a little more like Plankton from Spongebob Squarepants.

Image Courtesy of  Fanpop

Want to participate and need non-food ideas? Here are some that might work for you (available at most discount/dollar stores):

  • Blowing Bubbles Kits
  • Funky Pencils or Erasers
  • Glow sticks or bracelets
  • Stickers or temporary tattoos
  • Rubber balls
  • Colouring books
  • Crayons
  • Balloons
Happy Halloween!

Looking for some creative ways to curb the post Halloween Candy Overload, consider these!

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Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Saturday Night - Drunk Moms Talk About Their Kids

It’s Saturday night and you’ve managed to steal a few hours away with your spouse or some friends and a few glasses of wine (okay maybe it was most of a bottle).  Either way, it was a lovely evening and you’re proud of yourself for remaining a “cool” mom who has made me-time a priority.  You’ve read a bunch of articles about how making time for yourself will refresh you and are certain you’ll be a better parent for taking a few hours off.  You arrive home to pay the sitter, get a regular update on how the evening went and find yourself sloppily gushing about how freaking amazing your kids are to the sitter who probably just wants to go home, but you just can’t help yourself.  Once you’ve finished traumatizing the caregiver, and sent them home in a cab (there’s no way you’re sober enough to drive anyone home) you stumble to the nursery to check in on your kids.  You give them a cuddle and continue your Jerry Maguire inspired monologue about how they “complete you”. 

The next morning when your children wake you up, likely at least an hour earlier than their regular awake time and with diarrhea, because life’s just a bitch like that, you find yourself falling into the hungover mom shame spiral: How much did I drink last night? Did I embarrass myself in front of the sitter?  Where is the hot water bottle?  Will my semi-annual drunken late night visits to my children’s room become a recurring topic of discussion at a regular therapy session, no doubt caused by mommy dearest?   Most importantly, you feel a need to ask yourself, what is it about those rare grown-up nights out that turns you into a one woman edition of Drunk Moms Talk About Their Kids?

Date night this spring at a wedding....quality kid free time!

Once you get over your drunken mommy shame, you wonder about why, even when you make a concerted effort to get away from parenting you find yourself back where you started, going on at great length about motherhood.  Some parents find it prudent to put a ban on conversation about their kids on date night or nights out with friends, so they can remember their lives BC (before children) and reconnect.  Others find it the only place where they can have an honest conversation about said children away from little ears. 

Maybe instead of getting embarrassed about an intoxicated expression of affection towards your kid(s), it’s time to re-evaluate taking more me time, so every stolen night away doesn’t have to be “New Year’s Eve” equivalent of fun.  When we become parents we focus so much time and attention on our kids and parenting that we lose focus, and practice, taking time and care of ourselves. Skill mastery is about repetition and perseverance and that includes taking time for yourself as a couple or an individual.    The next time you find yourself going on a wine induced rant about how awesome your kids are, consider this, maybe this is a sign that you just need more breaks, not less, and book another block of time for yourself, alcohol not (necessarily) required.

To read about ways to save money on babysitting click here.

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Tuesday, 27 October 2015

The Chair - Putting a Child Within Reach

As a mother of twin infants I constantly sought out every foreseeable parenting shortcut or life hack to make my new life a little bit easier and help things run a whole lot smoother.  I quickly discovered that it was worth seeking out zippered onesies, because no one wants to secure buttons on a wriggling infant at 3AM and that the only thing my manual breast pump was accomplishing was a workout that was quickly turning my forearms into “guns” that would rival Popeye’s: clearly it was time to move from acoustic to electric.

I never thought much about mobility and wheelchair accessibility until after I had children.  All of a sudden destination planning included a double stroller that was roughly the size of an adult wheelchair.  If I couldn’t fit through the doorway, or onto the elevator alongside my stroller, I wasn’t going in, period.  I found myself actively boycotting businesses that failed to meet wheelchair accessibility codes.  Another twin mom I knew had started an email campaign where she’d contact businesses to point out their failure to comply with basic accommodations for wheelchairs (or double strollers), as a major flaw in customer service and citing the infraction as the reason as to why they’d no longer receive her business.

Some of my fondest memories from the early months and years of my children’s lives come from the long morning strolls we’d go on together. The rhythm of my walking would soothe them to sleep or calm contentment and in turn I was rewarded with sweet silence and the ability to look down at my babies lovingly.  I wouldn’t trade that part of our routine for anything.

As a first-time expecting mother, 35 year old Sharina Jones was concerned about whether she’d be able to use a stroller while in a wheelchair.  Thanks to a special design program at University of Detroit Jesuit High School, Jones was paired with high school senior Alden Kain who designed a functional and affordable stroller attachment that met her needs.  The collaborative project resulted in Kain’s design of a portable attachment that uses a simple quick release system to connect with her wheelchair, holds a diaper bag and connects safely with a traditional car seat.

This program shows that one person can make a difference and that by participating in projects that create solutions together we can do amazing things.  Whether it’s providing people in wheelchairs access to trending fashionable clothing, and education provided by groups such as Think Beyond the Chair we can make positive change. How has parenting expanded your perspective?

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Friday, 23 October 2015

With These Hands - Story of a Recovering Thumb Sucker & Blanket Addict

I was almost relieved that my infant daughter was a thumb sucker.  She was fussy, had colic for months on end, and was Twin A/Type A to her more laid back Twin B Brother.  Any self-soothing she could provide herself was welcomed.  Neither of my kids were big on pacifiers and I'd often joke that the best thing about a thumb sucking baby was that she'd never lose her "binky".  Fast forward four years.

Before the minions entered kindergarten Chris and I had a lengthy discussion about potential barriers and things that may make transition into a new school, with new friends more difficult.  One potential issue that we flagged for Molly was her Linus Van Peltish blanket loving and thumb sucking.

Linus, Peanuts, Blanket
Image courtesy of Peanuts Wiki

At pre-school she'd often arrive with her blanket in her hand and would often have her favourite ECE worker fashion it around her like a fashionably jaunty scarf. While she's never had just one blanket, as we purposefully mix it up to avoid a Knuffle Bunny situation it remains her key accessory.  If someone were to produce a "Molly Doll" the action figure would come with a blanket and sparkle boots.

In the end, the blanket was a lot easier to solve than we imagined.  Before she entered kindergarten we told her that she'd be giving up nap time and therefore would no longer need her blanket.  She still wanted it nearby, so we came to the compromise of rolling it up like a taco (Molly's words) and putting it at the bottom of her backpack, so she knows it's there and safe.  She doesn't take it out at school or her before and after program, but will often ask for it on her way home and we happily hand it over.

Baby and her blanket
  Baby Molly and her blanket courtesy of Shawn F. Nolan Photography.

As for the thumb sucking, it has continued.  It's not as constant as it once was, but she tends to associate it with the blanket and comfort and sucks her thumb when she's watching TV in the evening, tired or right before bed.

Chris and I decided on a "wait and see" policy on bringing up the thumb sucking with her, knowing that it was better as a decision she came to on her own.  Kindergarten has been enough of an adjustment without taking away her safety net.

Although there is some debate among dentists surrounding thumb sucking and jaw development, most kids generally stop on their own between age two and four, and adult teeth don't come in until around age five-six.


A few weeks ago Molly noticed a bump on her thumb, was concerned and came to us to ask about her boo-boo. She has a callous/blister on her thumb, caused by over four years of her habit. Anxiously she asked us for a solution, our answer: Stop sucking your thumb.  She told us that she was ready and wanted us to remind her when she was sucking her thumb and we agreed.

The next morning, after a deliberate effort to stop sucking her thumb Molly asked us if her blister was gone.  When we told her it wasn't and that it would take time and then she burst into tears.  She wanted the blister gone immediately.  We reminded her that it took four years to create the blister, it would take longer than 16 hours for it to go away. We asked her if she wanted a congratulatory present when she finally kicked the habit for good, she's decided on a Little Mermaid Ariel doll.

She's doing great and making progress, but evenings, bed time, and when she's stressed out or gets hurt (she's clumsy like her mom) are the toughest times to kick the habit.  The callous is slowly fading and this weekend I offered to put scented lotion on her hands and paint her nails to celebrate how well she's doing.  I'm so glad that I withheld my usual instinct to push on this one, maybe I am learning a thing or two about parenting.

For a list of helpful Do's and Don'ts to stop your child from thumb sucking click here.

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Wednesday, 21 October 2015

The Power of Love

Today, October 15, 2015 is the date that Marty McFly travels to in the iconic sequel Back to the Future II.  What that means is that after today Back to the Future II will occur in the past, Blew your mind didn't I? As much as I love the sometimes campy, often shockingly correct interpretation of 2015 offered in this movie I don't crave to re-watch it the same way I do the original.

This past summer we stumbled upon Back to the Future on TV one rainy weekend and watched it with the kids.  Other than Molly's extreme confusion as to how Crispin Glover could possibly be old enough to be Michael J. Fox's father, they both enjoyed the movie and if I can find it on TV this week (It's not on Netflix Canada, I already checked), we're going to watch it again.

Movie Poster Back to the Future
Image Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Thinking back and re-watching Back to the Future reminded me of some important lessons...Behold my justification for anyone who wants to watch Back to the Future with their children this week to celebrate Back to the Future Day!

7 Life Lessons Learned from watching and re-watching Back to the Future

  1. Grown-ups can be bullies too
    I always thought it was strange that George McFly would choose to work for his high school bully, Biff, (or hire him in the second version of 1985) but then I realized that it Biff could be replaced by any adult jerk boss treating George like crap....which leads me to my next lesson.
  2. Stand up for yourself
    Don't let people push you around, stand up for yourself.  Just thinking about what a wimp George McFly is in this movie gives me the urge to push Crispin Glover, steal his woman and total his car.
  3. Your family may still be annoying, but they're a big part of your life and who you are
    The McFly family is sad and flawed, but deep down inside they love each other: whether it's the first or second version of 1985.
  4. Secure your book cases to your they don't fall on you like they did on Marty
    Doc may be a brilliantly eccentric scientist, but he's no Mike Holmes.
  5. Your parents are real people
    Marty's experience fighting off the advances of his "boy chasing" mom reaffirms that parents are in fact real people who were once dumb kids too.
  6. Your actions will have consequences
    Whether it's Marty getting hit by the car instead of George or Doc trying to pull a fast one on the Libyan Nationalist Terrorists: you need to be accountable for what you do.
  7. The Song, The Power of Love is amazing
    Don't believe me?  You must be remembering it wrong, click here

What did you learn from watching and re-watching Back to the Future?

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Tuesday, 20 October 2015


As a rule we don't pre-screen most of the minions TV and movie watching to ensure that it's "appropriate".  It's not that I don't care, it's just I don't have the inclination to sit through more children's programming than I absolutely have to. I am fairly confident that the programming geared towards pre-schoolers available on Netflix kids isn't going to get me into big trouble, to date no one has woken me up with a nightmare about Peppa Pig.

On most Sundays mom and dad get a turn picking a movie that we all watch as a family. We generally select a childhood favourite or something that we've heard is good but haven't seen yet.  

Recently this backfired when we decided to watch The Princess and the Frog.  We checked out the score on Rotten Tomatoes, which was decent, and figuring that it was a modernish take on the Disney princess formula we all watched together.  For a few days after the movie everything was okay, until the nightmares began about The Shadow Man - the movie's main villain.  Both children have been convinced that The Shadow Man is lurking around their bedroom late at night, in Jack's case disguised as a giant duck (there are no giant ducks in The Princess and the Frog, so I have no idea where that came from).  Epic parental failure.  You would think we we'd have learned our lesson about horrifying books and movies after the "Pinocchio Incident" of 2013.  While both Chris and I are equipped with nightmare busting best practices  it doesn't change the fact that we were awoken by one (or more) blood curdling screams in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back asleep.
He looks like a stand-up guy, right?

So what's a parent to do if they still don't want to pre-screen?

Here are five ways semi-lazy parents can prevent their children from watching inappropriate movies:

1.     Look up the show or movie on a website like Common Sense Media to get an idea of the recommended minimum age for the selected programming.

2.     Read kid appropriate reviews with a grain of salt...I personally don't care if there is light innuendo in movies or shows that my kids are watching, nor do I object to slightly (pastel shaded) "colourful" language.  Decide what you want to monitor for based on your own personal values, not the censors.

3.     Know what scares your kids and what doesn't.  My kids are totally cool with comeuppance for bad guys (like in The Princess Bride or Frozen), but for the most part want to see something where the good guys win and survive their battles.

4.     Evaluate the bad guys and their motives.  Molly and Jack are much more accepting of a villain who falls into the category of annoying jerk (Biff from Back to the Future) compared to someone who uses say black magic and implied Satan worship for world domination.  I'd say the threshold for bad guy scariness falls somewhere in the spectrum between Ursula the Sea Witch at the low end of the scale and Maleficent as the maximum scary level permitted. 

5.     Talk to other parents.  This is actually a great topic of conversation to pull out at school pick-up in place of the usual awkward small talk about weather.  Ask other parents what their child is watching, What their older kids were scared of or about the movie they previewed too early or too late.  Ask an opinion about a movie you’re debating watching. If they tell you they don't permit their child to watch movie or TV ask for book recommendations instead.  If that doesn’t work, go talk to someone else.

Does anyone have any thoughts on the perfect age to premiere the The Nightmare Before Christmas with their kids?  I don't know if I can handle waiting three more years as recommended...

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Thursday, 15 October 2015

Long as I can See the Light

There are a lot of exciting roles to look forward to as you ready yourself to welcome a new child: mom, dad, grandparent, god parent, aunt, caregiver, friend, babysitter, mentor...the list goes on and on.  Then there are the other roles that we don't want to label, because we hope that we never have to face them.

Today, October 15th, is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day: a special day to build awareness, education and provide support to those who are suffering or may know someone who has suffered from a miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth or loss of an infant or child.  Not only is this day about providing a forum for those who have experienced loss, it is also meant to help educate people on what to say and how to support their friends and family, who all too often are suffering in silence.

Chris and I are very fortunate to have two healthy and happy twins and to have never experienced a miscarriage or the loss of a child.  Today I am reminded of how terrifying pregnancy can be, particularly a high risk one.  My mother has said that her biggest fear is outliving her children.  Until I became a parent myself this is something that I didn't understand.

Burning Candles, October 15

In the last trimester of my pregnancy Jack's health became an increasing concern.  He wasn't growing anymore while Molly was thriving and he was breech, another entirely separate issue.  At the time I didn't know that it was fairly common practice for the mother to go in and get steroid injections to help with lung development, but when I was sent because of concerns surrounding Jack I was terrified.  It hadn't been decided yet, but if I opted for natural labour there were two distinct possibilities 1) an emergency C-section for Jack and 2) that Jack would lose oxygen.  To make matters worse my blood pressure was also becoming an issue.

I had been reading a number of books about high risk multiple pregnancies and twins, preparing for the worst, as each appointment seemed to be laced with concerns about Jack, his health and development.  About a month before the kids were due to be born Chris and I asked two of our friends to take on a role that I couldn't imagine fulfilling.  We gave our friends a key to our house and asked them, should anything happen to one or both of our babies, to go into our house to dismantle the crib(s) and remove it from our house forever, so we wouldn't face it when we returned from the hospital should the unthinkable happen.

Thankfully, other than some hyper breathing and some crummy blood sugar results, Jack was born via C-section a healthy baby and now is a healthy four year old.

Today I can't stop going back to that fear and how thankful I am both for healthy children and for the support of friends who were willing to quietly agree to a job that no one would ever want to accept.

Tonight at 7PM (all time zones world wide) everyone is invited to participate in the Wave of Light in the loving memory of our babies.  To participate simply light a candle and leave it burning for at least an hour, so there will be a continuous wave of light over the entire world today.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Panda Song

The buzz surrounding Toronto's Zoo resident giant panda, Er Shun, birthing twins this morning had me thinking about my two little cubs and their own twin identities.  While both the minions are aware that they share a birthday and are twins, I don't feel that their "twinness" has been ingrained on them the same way it is for other multiples.  We have rarely had the time or inclination to put them in matching attire, and attempts at things like coordinating outfits or Halloween costumes have been epic failures.  They have never had twin songs or twin languages or so many of the other "multiple" things I had eagerly anticipated.  (The number of times I have been sent the viral Twin Baby Talking video since I conceived Molly and Jack is unreal)

Twins love Panda
My Twins and the Panda

This year as they entered kindergarten we thought it was a good opportunity to let them spread their wings (there may be a lot of animal analogies in this post) and further develop their own identities.  It didn't surprise us too much that Jack is struggling with the separation whereas Molly is not.  The school has been extremely accommodating and has allowed the minions to have snack together once or twice a day to help Jack adjust and things are improving, slowly.

We have never made the birth order of the minions a secret or avoided talking about who is twin A and who is twin B, although I am beginning to understand why some parents decide to keep birth order of their multiples under wraps.

After a conversation with the parents of Molly's new "bestie" it turns out that my darling twin A has made a point of telling people that she is Jack's big sister, having successfully convinced most children and some parents that she is in Sr. Kindergarten and her "pesky" little brother is in Jr. Kindergarten.

Has our effort to make Molly and Jack's role as "twins" not the focal point of who their identity robbed them of some of their multiple experience?  Or is Molly simply displaying typical twin A behaviour? I tend to lean towards the latter.

Any other parents of multiples have any thoughts on "twinness" and birth order and how it's impacted the family dynamic?

To read about toddler "twinning" in the minions click here.

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Thursday, 8 October 2015


Have you ever been baffled by the way someone is acting?  You wonder what you've done for them to be so angry, obstinate and difficult.  It seems as if they have planned their day around being hard on you, yelling at you and being generally unpleasant.  Then you remember, they're only four years old and just maybe you're the one being the @$$h0*e.

Jack has worked really hard on quelling his anxiety caused by the major changes in his life in kindergarten and we are very proud that his obsessive hand sucking has nearly, entirely stopped. Unfortunately, this has been replaced by a need for negative attention, lying and a lot of anger.
Here's the thing...We've been spending so much time thinking about correcting Jack that we've neglected a focus on our responses to his actions and the example they set.  I would say as parents Chris and I both have very high expectations in terms of manners, politeness and kindness.  One of my anger triggers, which I am positive I inherited from my mother, is my level of embarrassment when the minions behave like jerks in public - this includes reports of them being disrespectful or difficult to any of their teachers or caregivers, which are coming in lately, unfortunately, on a daily basis.

Jack taming the wolf statue circa 2014.

Last night I tossed and turned until I came to a big realization, I am the @$$h0*e.  I am setting unrealistic expectations for Jack, who is in a difficult and challenging situation that he has little to no control over, since he's only four years old.  As an adult, I've had to make big decisions and dramatic changes to my life because of the impact escalating negative situations have had on my health, happiness and general well-being.  I couldn't have made the difficult decisions I needed to without my solid support network of family and friends.  When I was feeling really terrible about myself these people reminded me about why I am awesome and this helped me immensely.  Why should this need for support be any different for a four year old who is not yet the master of his own destiny? Sure he's still going to face consequences for lying and other major infractions, but perhaps it's time to put away the iron fist and try the velvet glove.

In a revised plan of action to help Jack work through the anxiety and anger he's been feeling lately, we're going to attempt to respond to what he's saying and doing in a more constructive way. When Jack gets frustrated and yells, "YOU GO TO TIME-OUT!" to Chris or I,  we're going to take his suggestion and all take a two-three minute quiet time so everyone can calm down.  When I ask Jack to do something and he responds with, "Not now, soon though." we'll let it slide, just a little bit. If Jack isn't ready to talk about what's bugging him, we're going to give him a hug and come back to him later when it isn't so raw.  In non-stressed moments we are going to talk about other things we can do and coping mechanisms to distract ourselves and calm ourselves down when we're mad, like singing a song or counting to ten.  Most importantly I am going to work on praising the little things that he's doing awesome at and reward his good behaviour, because we all need encouragement.

Every once in a while, when Chris and I get snippy with each other Jack steps in and tells us to apologize and be nicer to each other, because we're best friends.  It's time to take his lead.

To read about other challenges in adjusting to school click here.

To read about lessons learned in speech therapy and managing obsessive tendencies click here.

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Monday, 5 October 2015

Friend is a Four Letter Word

The first three months after a baby is born is often referred to as the fourth trimester.  It's when new or returning parents get thrown into the deep end of the pool and they discover "the new normal" while baby slowly gets used to the world outside of the womb.  Long forgotten are the beautiful hand knit blankets and designer baby bags that were bestowed on the new parents before little Junior was born.  Many new parents argue that this is the hardest and least rewarding part of parenthood, where sleep is the most rare and those who come over to visit or "help" spend all their time cooing over the newborn during the only few moments when they're actually sleeping.

Sleeping Jack, Two weeks old

If you have friends who just had a baby (or babies) here are four things you can do for them in the first three months for under $5 that will really help (although I'd argue that doing most of these things are pretty awesome at any time, new baby or no new baby).

  1. Send "thinking of you" email or texts.
    You don't really have to say "thinking of you" anywhere in the body of the message, but sending a quick note with a funny joke, the name of a great podcast, a movie suggestion from Netflix or simple check-in is a nice way to show that you care.  By sending these messages instead of a call or a drop-in you also allow the new parent to respond on their own schedule, because they probably don't feel much like talking when they're in the middle of the fourth cluster feed of the afternoon or elbow deep in poop.
  2. Bring them food.
    Okay, this may cost you more than $5, depending on what you're cooking, but our friends and family kept us well fed on yummy, healthier food than the unsteady diet of cereal and Little Caesars "hot and ready" pizza we would have lived off of otherwise.  If you have an extra portion, or three, of something consider wrapping it up and delivering.
  3. Offer to run an errand or give them a ride.
    Being a new parent means a lot of trips to the doctor's office, often both for baby and mom. When I had my twins I wasn't allowed to drive for six weeks after my C-Section.  This may not seem like a big deal, but it really impacted my independence.  Offers of a ride to an appointment, mailing thank you cards for me or picking up a bag of milk meant a lot, even if I didn't take the person up on their kindness.
  4. Bring them hot beverages.
    There is this scene from the movie Reality Bites (which I am aware that I reference a shocking amount in this blog) where Troy Dire announces, "This is all we need.  A couple of smokes, a cup of coffee and a little bit of conversation.  You and me and five bucks."  While new parents might not be keen on you showing up with Camel Lights, the sentiment is right.  Showing up with a hot cup of tea or coffee and some good conversation can be amazing.....Just remember to warn them that you're coming, no drop-ins!
What help did you receive during the fourth trimester that made a big difference?  What help were you afraid to ask for?

For tips on baby shower gifts that will actually get used  click here.

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