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Baby Bathing Basics

 

I did a talk last weekend at the Baby Expo Chicago on this topic, so I thought, "Why not release it into the internet wild?  Surely other parents and parents-to-be could make use of something in this."  And here we are.  Welcome!

Okay, let’s jump right in, because we have a lot to cover:  baby bathing basics.  Y’all like that alliteration?  I came up with it myself.  I’m an inventor - coming up with ideas is kinda my thing.

For those of you that have never given a baby a bath before, let me just warn you that we are going to be talking about some things here that are not topics you want to bring up over cocktails or dinner, but I'm doing this now because I care about you and want you to be prepared.  For me, that first bath was one of the most terrifying experiences of being a new parent.  I still hadn’t gotten over the whole umbilical stump thing and I had a newborn girl who I quickly found out did not like baths.  At all.  

Before we get to newborn bathing, though, I just want to come back to the strangeness that is the umbilical stump.  If you are not familiar with what an umbilical stump is, you’re in for a treat and you MUST read on.  I had no idea it was even a thing, let alone how to care for it.  I must have been playing Words with Friends or something when we talked about them in my birthing class. Or maybe I had to the bathroom for the 16th time that hour.  Who knows?  Let me give you the overview so you can be prepared:  Umbilical stumps are pretty much one of the weirdest things about pregnancy and birth right behind the placenta and the fact that all your organs get smushed under your ribcage during pregnancy.  After the baby is born, your doctor will cut the umbilical cord close to the baby’s belly button, and that small piece that is left connected...that, my friends, is the umbilical stump.  It starts off kinda greenish-yellowish color and changes to black as it dries out, a process that takes anywhere from one to four weeks.  For all intents and purposes, the umbilical stump is a scab and should be treated delicately to avoid infection.  That said, it isn’t really all that difficult to care for - keep it clean and dry and don’t pull it off prematurely as it will expose the wound.  Follow those general guidelines and you’re golden.  

Because we want it to dry out and fall off as soon as possible, It is generally recommended (HealthyChildren.org for one) to give spongebaths only and not submerge your baby’s torso in water until the umbilical cord falls off on its’ own.  Repeatedly soaking the stump won’t cause any damage, but it is counterproductive to the drying and healing process. Now, that all said, if, say, your little one has a “blow out,” or otherwise gets very dirty, giving your baby a full on bath will not prompt a call to the Parent Police.  All I suggest is that you try to avoid touching the stump as much as you can and make sure you give it plenty of air after the bath.

So how do you give a spongebath?  Step number one for spongebath or any other bath activity involving a small child is to always ALWAYS collect everything you’ll need.  You don’t want to realize when it’s time to dry off your little one that your adorable little owl hooded towel is in the other room.  That may or may not have happened to me.

For the spongebath stage, I recommend you get together:

  • A towel (the hooded ones are really great for keeping your baby warm)

  • Another towel, a blanket or even a changing pad to put your baby one after they are bundled up in said towel.  Most spongebaths happen on a bathroom or kitchen counter, so you will want to have plenty of padding on those hard surfaces.

  • A sink or shallow plastic basin to hold the water.  Many hospitals give you a plastic bin to take home for just this purpose along with other baby bathing tools - baby bodywash, a comb, etc. If you didn’t get one, a tupperware container works just as well

  • A washcloth, or you know, something even more effective, like...I don’t know...LatherMitts...

  • Cotton balls

  • Baby wash

  • Baby wipes

  • Two clean diapers (just in case...you don't want to ever be without a diaper)

  • Two change of clothes - again, just in case

  • Diaper rash cream if needed

  • Baby powder, which is optional and based on personal preference

  • Lotion, which is also option and based on preference

In case you didn’t know - babies generally HATE being cold, so I always undressed my daughter down to her diaper and kept her wrapped up the parts of her not being cleaned in her towel to keep her warm, leaving areas covered by her diaper until the very end.  But, Sarah, why? Well, I discovered leaving her naked wrapped up in her towel while cleaning the rest of her meant the potential for some big messes to clean up during or directly after getting her clean.  And if you have boys, it’s even more essential that you “mind the hose.”  Learn from my mistakes, friends…

Fill your basin with warm water and mix in a small amount the baby wash if you want - a little goes a long way.  Some people prefer to use water only, but in my experience, my daughter’s skin got very dry with just water, so I used a moisturizing baby wash, but feel free to experiment to determine what is best for your little one.  

Using a washcloth (or Lathermitts, cough, cough), dip the material in the warm, soapy water and gently rub your baby’s skin one area at a time, tucking in those arms and legs after you get them nice and clean.  I always started with the face, behind ears, under the chin, behind the neck, and then worked down from there to avoid...let’s just say contamination.  

The cotton balls can be used to wipe eyelids, clean inside ears and around the umbilical stump - I would suggest these areas use water only if you are using a baby wash for spongebaths.  Leave some cotton balls off to the side to help dry around ears and the umbilical stump as well.  At the very end, unwrap your little one, remove his or her diaper, clean between all the crevices, give their diaper areas a quick dry to avoid diaper rash, apply any creams or powders as desired, and quickly put on a clean diaper.  Generally speaking, if you can find the right frequency for giving your baby a bath that works for his or her skin type, lotions, creams and powders won’t be necessary, but I personally found that in winter, my daughter needed a little bit of moisturizer in the cold weather months on her legs.

And the safety of your baby is key during spongebaths or any type of bath - please always keep one hand on your little one and never leave them unattended on a counter or in a bathtub after they graduate to the real deal.  Accidents happen in a split second.  And on the topic of safety, while I do not recommend them, if you insist on using cotton swabs to clean ears, please do not insert the cotton swab inside the ear canal.  There is a real risk of injury to a child’s ear if you push the swab too far in, and your baby could very quickly turn his or her head with the same end result.

Regular infant bathtime uses the same tools in the toolkit we just discussed, but baby is now submersed in water inside a tub or sink.  There are several styles of baby bathtubs out there, some that are designed to go inside a full-sized tub, some that are intended to be placed on a countertop (great for c-section moms, btw, as bending over is no easy task for many weeks after giving birth) and some that fit over a kitchen sink.  Many parents, especially when the child is strong enough to sit unassisted, will put their kiddos straight in a kitchen or bathroom sink or even put them inside a laundry basket inside the full-sized tub.  Long story short - there are lots of options and I encourage you to try out different configurations to find out what works best for you and your family.  

Expert tip: If your infant is not a fan of bath night initially, like mine was, swaddling your little one in a light receiving blanket or baby towel before putting them in the warm water can help them feel more secure.

From birth until your child hits puberty, the American Academy of Dermatology actually suggests 2 to 3 baths per week.  Feel free to give what my granny calls “bird baths” with wipes or washcloths in between baths if your baby gets particularly messy.  There’s one caveat to this recommended frequency: kids should wash up each time they play in a pool or other body of water, including their hair.  Also, as babies’ hair starts to grow in, do keep in mind a child’s hair type when deciding how often to wash it.  Dry, coarse hair does not need to be washed as often as thinner, more oily hair textures.  The same goes for skin types - babies with dry skin or skin conditions like eczema typically need less frequent, shorter baths than those with more oily skin.

And speaking of puberty, there is a very common condition called baby acne that many babies go through that I wanted to call out very quickly here. It’s pretty much the same a teen acne in terms of appearance, but the root cause is still a mystery to pediatricians.  Some expert believe it has to do with hormone changes, but they all agree that baby acne should NOT be treated the same way as teen acne.  There is no baby Clearasil out there and no special treatment is needed.  It clears up all on its’ own.

Similarly, there is another condition in newborns called Milia, aka Milk Spots, which unlike baby acne are small, white bumps that appear usually around a baby’s nose, chin and cheeks within a few days after being born (development can be delayed for preemies).  In essence, they are like whiteheads: dead skin becomes trapped in tiny pockets near the surface of your baby's skin. When the surface of the bumps wear away, the dead skin is sloughed off and the bumps disappear.

Overwashing, even just sitting in a water only bath, can dry out skin, cause irritation, and is even thought to be a contributor to cradle cap, which can look like dandruff or it can be a yellowish, scaly rash on your baby’s scalp, so be sure to monitor your child’s skin and adjust the temperature of the water (warmer water dries out skin more), the duration of the bath, and the frequency of bathtimes to find the right balance.


Before I wrap up, I thought I would leave you with some clever ideas to keep in your back pocket for when your little babies grow into little toddlers.  There will come a day when your sweet, precious child decides he or she suddenly HATES bathtime.  Even kids who you couldn’t get out of the tub and you had to make up some crazy story about raisin fingers to get them to come out will do a complete 180 on their feelings about bath night.  This is where you as a parent need to get creative - here are some fun ways to help your child come to love baths again:

  • Try turning off the lights and dropping in glowsticks in the tub.

  • Purchase bath drops that tint the water - many brands come in different primary colors, so you can incorporate an art lesson and experiment with color mixing.

  • Bath crayons are a hit with kids of many different ages - they can write on the walls and it washes off with water and a little elbow grease

  • Bath blocks are great for those little builders - they come with a floating table and kids can build right on top of it with the special water-safe blocks

  • Magic capsules are great to keep kids in the tub that don’t want to stay in long enough to get clean.  Each capsule holds a sponge animal inside (which one you get is a surprise and part of the fun) which will come out after the capsule dissolves in the water, then the sponge can be part of the bathtime activities as well.

  • Balloons - who doesn’t love balloons?  Blow a few up and throw them right in.  Kids can try to push them underwater, they can play keep up with you or a sibling, you can fill them with water and they can throw water balloons at the wall.  Lots of options.

  • Reading a favorite book, especially a water-safe bath book, can keep kids who want to just “get out” until bathtime is over

  • “Will it float” experiments are a great way for parents to play with their children.  Grab a few random items and make guesses on whether the item will float or sink before dropping it into the water and seeing if your hypothesis was correct.  


And with that, I think those of you that have never given a baby a bath before are officially prepared for when that day comes.  And for those of you that are veterans, I hope I was able to give you some good ideas to make it even easier and more enjoyable for everyone involved the next time it is bath night at your house.

--Sarah


About Sarah:

Sarah Stapp is the creator of LatherMitts and mommy to a sassy 6 year old girl. She's originally from Houston, Texas, and has lived in Chicago for over a decade but refuses to adjust to the cold. After 6 years in the startup space after 6 in management, Sarah is trying out the titles of inventor and entrepreneur. Sarah loves hot yoga, trying new vegan recipes, GoT and anything relating to eco-innovation; if you want to hear more musing from Sarah, follow her on Twitter @sarah_stappFacebookInstagram and Snapchat.

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Baby Registries - Add this, Not That

Most of us are familiar with the series of articles and books Eat This, Not That! offering alternatives to your favorite foods, and while browsing through one recently (they have one specifically for pregnant moms that you might want to check out if you are getting educated on pregnancy nutrition), I had a brilliant idea.  Why not do something similar for expecting parents putting together their baby registries?  And in that moment, Add This, Not That was born.

But before we get too far down the baby products rabbit hole, let me first get the disclaimers and credentials out of the way.

DISCLAIMER: I am writing this series of blog posts to help parents and parents-to-be.  That’s all.  No company has paid me to talk about any of these products and the anecdotes and opinions are solely my own based on my personal experience as a mommy.

CREDENTIALS: And why should you even listen to what I have to say?  A very valid question and one you should be asking yourself regularly as you prepare to become a new mommy or daddy.  You will be bombarded with an onslaught of advice, hacks, recommendations, horror stories and opinions before and after your little one arrives.  Every family is different, and therefore has different needs.  What worked for me may be a life-saver for you, and maybe it will be useless, but I will do my best to give you my reasons why I suggest certain products and you can decide for yourselves if it might work for your family unit.

There are many schools of thought and styles of parenting out there, but there are a few key decisions that will determine what types of things you will need when your baby arrives:

  • Will someone be staying at home with your little one, or will he or she be going to daycare?
    • Why this matters:  Most daycares will need you to supply the items your baby will need - bottles, diapers, wipes extra clothes in case of accidents, baby food when they get to that stage, so you should just plan on doubling up on the essentials.
  • Do you plan to travel much during the first year?
    • Why this matters:  If you have family that live far enough away that travel is part of planning any get-togethers or you just a sense of wanderlust, a playard is a great place to put baby to sleep.  If you don’t foresee many overnights away from home, though, it may be something you choose to leave off your registry and approach with a “wait and see” attitude - if you need one, it might just be easier to buy one and ship it directly to where you are staying, say Grandma and Grandpa’s house, than haul it through the airport.  Just saying.
  • Do you plan on breastfeeding, bottle-feeding or a combination of both?

    • Why this matters:  Babies eat.  A lot.  And frequently.  You will want to make sure you are able to anticipate and have milk or formula at the ready before they get fussy, so you need to be prepared with the right tools. Your tool kit will vary depending on how you plan to feed your little one.  Will you be breastfeeding exclusively?  Bottles will not be something you need to have in bulk, then, and you may not have a need for all of those bottle-feeding accessories, like bottle warmers, drying racks, scrubbing brushes, etc.  That said, if you are planning on using formula or pumping exclusively, you will want an assortment of bottles and may even want to ask for a couple different styles as babies have preferences on bottle nipples.  If you plan on trying the breastmilk route, do you think pumping will be a daily activity, say if you plan on returning to the workforce after maternity leave, or will pumping be something you might need to do only on occasion, say if you will be away from your baby for a weekend?  A hand pump is great and far cheaper than the electric pumps if you are going to be the occasional pumper, but if you will need to do it every day, multiple times a day, an electric pump is the way to go.
  • What type of sleeping arrangements do you plan to have?

    • Why this matters:  Each family has different house layouts, schedules, opinions, thoughts, and feelings on where, when and how baby will sleep which will all affect what things you will need.  Getting enough sleep is important for everyone in the family, and it isn’t as easy as some people make it out to be.  If your little one will be sleeping on the same level as you, you probably won’t need a baby monitor.  However, if the floors are creaky, you might want that fancy video baby monitor so you don’t risk a squeaky floorboard rousing your baby from his or her slumber.  Do you plan on having your little one sleep in your room for any length of time?  A bassinet may be great to have next to your bed for the first few weeks.  If you want baby to sleep in the crib from day one, though, you may want to leave that item off the list in favor of some other, more useful items.
  • Do you plan on using cloth or disposable diapers?

    • Why this matters:  Just like all of these qualifying questions, this choice determines what you will and won’t need.  If you opt for cloth diapers for example, you may want to ask for a year’s worth of diaper laundering services, which typically include cloth diaper rentals as part of the offering.  If you want to try out handling the laundry service in-house, you’ll want to stock up on the cloth diapers and covers so you have plenty at the ready.  Trust me, you do not want to be without a clean diaper, cloth or disposable, for your little one.  Ever.

Using the five key factors above, I would have been:

  • Working Mom as I needed to get right back to making an income after maternity, which meant needing to maintain two sets of everything for my home and daycare provider.
  • Traveling Mom as my family was almost all out-of-state;
  • Combo Feeding mom but exclusively breastmilk, which meant a lot of pumping during the work day
  • “Play It By Ear” Sleeping Philosophy Mom as I no idea what kind of method I wanted to use but I did know I wanted everyone in the house to get a good night’s sleep as often as possible
  • Disposable Diaper Mom as cloth diapers were not nearly as popular then as they are now and I was not well- educated on the topic at the time. 

So take my “mommy profile” into account when you consider my suggested alternatives for the typical things on a baby registry.

And at long last, let’s get into the first entry in my Add This, Not That serie

High Chairs

DO add a “space saver” style high chair :

 

DON’T add a full-sized one

 

Yes, the full-sized ones are beautiful pieces of furniture, and yes, the wood grain DOES match your kitchen table perfectly, but trust me, the fifth time you run into it because there’s just no good place to store it in your kitchen when not in use, you will rue the day you asked for such a large piece of baby furniture that you in reality won’t use all that long.  The space saving style that straps to a chair is the way to go here.

Sleepers

DO add sleepers with zipper closures

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Or even sleeper gowns with elastic at the bottom

 

DON’T add sleepers with snap closures

 

Your little one will be making a good 3-5 costume changes a day, and you will likely be sleep-deprived for much of it.  Zippers are so much easier to work with when it is the middle of the night and you just want to get the diaper change done and get everyone back to bed.  Those snaps, while cheaper to manufacture, were the cause of some pretty close calls in the mommy meltdown department for me personally when I couldn’t get the last snap done while fighting off flailing baby legs and my ears were being accosted by baby girl screams.

Burp Cloths

DO add prefolded cloth diapers

 

DON’T add the flannel burp cloth sets

“But, Sarah, they have pink horses/green owls/blue dinosaurs/[insert cute baby animal in an unnatural color here]!” No one is questioning how cute they are, but the flannel material does not stand up to spit up like a cloth diaper.  Should you have a strong desire to have a pretty color or design for your burp cloths, companies are starting to come out with burp cloth/bib hybrids that are the same type of material as cloth diapers, so you may be in luck.  And for the sake of clarity, you want the cloth diaper, not the waterproof diaper covers for this use case.

Baby Food

DO add a regular old food processor If you plan on trying your hand at making your own baby food

 

Or blender

 

Or just use a food processor or blender you already own if you have one.  Side note: does anyone else think that smoothie looks like the pink slime from Ghostbusters 2?

 

DON’T add one labeled a “baby food maker”

 

Babies go from drinking milk exclusively to solids pretty quickly, so your baby food making days will be short-lived to begin with.  Why not ask for something that you’ll be able to use for more than just that short window of time?  The baby food maker kits come with a lot of extras you don’t really need (freezer containers can be replaced with simple ice cube trays which can then be put in ziplock bags) and have a much smaller capacity (usually 2-3 cups versus anywhere from 3 to 12+ cups) making it time-consuming to make food in bulk. Plus, you (or your friend or family member) will be paying quite a bit extra (up to double for the same brand) just to buy a product that has a cute smiley face on it.

Breastfeeding (if you plan on trying)

DO add the My Breast Friend

 

DON’T add a Boppy

 

While the Boppy isn’t bad and can also be used to support a baby in an inclined position to get a look around or practice “tummy time,” the My Breast Friend was designed specifically for breastfeeding and provides much better support for baby and mommy.  The filling of the My Breast Friend is more firm, like a foam mattress, whereas the Boppy has more of a pillow/beanbag type filling, and the shape of the My Breast Friend is designed to align your baby’s head for proper latching.  Improper latching results in less milk for baby and pain and discomfort for mommy.  If you are planning on doing a lot of feeding from the breast as opposed to pumping, I highly recommend the My Breast Friend - your lower back and your nipples will thank me.

 

In the next installment of Add This, Not That, I will go over what most expecting families don’t even think to ask for when making a gift registry but will make parent life so much easier. In the meantime, I’m happy to hear any feedback and/or answer any questions you want to post in the comments section below.

Until next time!


About Sarah:

Sarah Stapp is the creator of LatherMitts and mommy to a sassy 6 year old girl. She's originally from Houston, Texas, and has lived in Chicago for over a decade but refuses to adjust to the cold. After 6 years in the startup space after 6 in management, Sarah is trying out the titles of inventor and entrepreneur. Sarah loves hot yoga, trying new vegan recipes, GoT and anything relating to eco-innovation; if you want to hear more musing from Sarah, follow her on Twitter @sarah_stapp, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.

 

 

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An Open Letter to Parents: Whatever you are doing, you are probably doing just fine


To my fellow parents-in-arms,

Wherever you are in your parenting adventure, I want you to stop for two seconds and reflect on what a good job you are doing. If your little one is happy, consider yourself a successful parent. That said, if it’s just one of those days and you need some extra reassurance, I’m here to share some of my thoughts and reflections so that you can rest assured (rest...I know, hilarious, right?) your little one is going to turn out just fine.

 

To provide some context before we dive in, my daughter is 6 and if you were to ask her, she’d tell you that she is pretty much already an adult.  That’s 6 whole years of opportunities to make mommy mistakes, but even given all the missteps and stumbles I’ve made, she is still smart, happy, sweet, generous, thoughtful, funny and stubborn as a mule.  I don’t know where she got the stubborn thing from, for the record.

Yes, I let her dress herself. And yes, she did go out of the house in that. And yes, people stared, but also thought she looked adorable. Because she did.  Am I a “bad” parent because she wore jammies to the grocery store and, even more scandalously, her outfit was not color coordinated? Or am I an awesome parent because I allowed her to express her individuality? This is just one example of how:

  1. No matter what we  do as parents, someone will always judge. They may not always vocalize it, but we are being judged.

  2. It doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks of your parenting methods as long as it works for your family.

And some more real talk: no matter how good anyone else’s intentions may be, you know better than anyone what your little one needs and they rely on you for everything. It’s scary, it’s intimidating, and it’s overwhelming, but it is also amazing and humbling, and it puts the world into perspective. There is nothing more rewarding and important than being a parent.  Reading this post and relating to that statement should be confirmation enough that you are killing it in the parenting department. Either that or my mad writing skills are completely engrossing and you just can’t stop reading. Probably the former, though.

If you need more reassurance, allow me to list off the top … let’s just call them learning opportunities … I’ve made as a parent for each year of my girlie’s life thus far:

 

YEAR ONE

I didn’t realize until months (fine...years) after she was out of onesies that the flip collars flipped down to make it easier to put over my daughter’s head or to pull down for easier clean up of “blowouts.”  These things:

As a result, my attempts to pull these over her head would result in her adorable little nose getting squished every time. She did not like it then, and I may have traumatized her in the process, because even now she scrunches up her face when she puts on shirts.

 

YEAR TWO

I watched too many episodes of Dexter with my little one in my lap, and it took her pointing to the screen and saying, “Uh oh, Mommy, owies,” as Dexter was stabbing some criminal through the heart that I finally realized, “Oh, I should probably start filtering what she watches.”

 

YEAR THREE

I didn’t filter her television shows enough, and when questioned by a family member what her favorite show was, her response was Family Guy. Further, she announced that Peter was her favorite because he “made toots on Meg’s head.” Proud mommy moment.

 

YEAR FOUR

After days of a completely illogical fear of possums, I told a bold-faced lie and explained that possums didn’t like the smell of candles and put a watermelon scented candle by her bed so she would stop talking about possums. Side note: don’t ever, ever show your kids pictures of possums. Even if they ask what they look like and you think you are being a good parent by showing them and teaching them about nature. This exact picture spawned a week’s worth of nightmares and multiple conversations about what possums can and can’t do:

I still haven’t convinced her that possums can’t sneak in the house in the middle of the night.

 

YEAR FIVE

I totally ate the last of my daughter’s Frozen Lucky Charms knock-off cereal late one night and crushed her little Elsa-loving heart when they were not there the next morning. Did I feel terrible? Yes. Was I disappointed in myself? Yes. Was the cereal delicious? Yes. To be fair, she did eat the entire rest of the box herself, and there was hardly any left. I was just finishing off the last little bit to make room for other pantry items.

 

BONUS

I taught my daughter her first curse word. After weeks of scathing glances at anyone who uttered anything worse than “darn,” I slept through my alarm, realized I was very, very late, and unintentionally muttered one of my favorite four letter words. It wasn’t the worst word I could have taught her, but my friends and family thought it was HILARIOUS watching my 14-month-old walk around the house repeating, “Oh, s**t,” over and over while I tried to ignore it, hoping the new phrase would die out.

 

At the end of the day, if you care enough to even wonder if you are doing a good enough job, you are doing just fine. Enjoy the fun, crazy, and sometimes bumpy ride. The bumps make for the best stories anyway.  

 

Seriously, though, if you take anything away from this, let it be to NOT show your children Google image results without screening them first.

--

Sarah


Have any similar stories you’d like to share to let other parents know that they are doing okay?  Feel free to add your anecdote in the comments below.  And to get more information and musings from Sarah, follow her on Twitter @sarah_stappFacebookInstagram and Snapchat.


About Sarah:
Sarah Stapp is the creator of LatherMitts and mommy to a sassy 6 year old girl. She's originally from Houston, Texas, has lived in Chicago for over a decade, but refuses to adjust to the cold. After 6 years in the startup space after 6 in management, Sarah is trying out the titles of inventor and entrepreneur. Sarah loves hot yoga, trying new vegan recipes & GoT.

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We've arrived!

The official launch of LatherUp Co. and sale of LatherMitts is here, friends.  It's taken a lot of work to get here, and we are so very excited to hear what the world thinks of LatherMitts!  LatherBlog will be home to my musings on being a working mommy, running a business, and possibly some theories on the meaning of life.  Check back soon to read what is floating around in my brainspace.

-Sarah

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