For Vlad.

My husband. When I think of Vlad, I think, “am I ever lucky.” Blessed really, by the grace of God, to have him in my life. I definitely don’t deserve him.

Vlad is like wearing a warm coat on a snowy day. Or a cup of the most delicious tea in a cozy, stay here forever, plush chair.

A loyal and faithful friend to all. He has a gift in making people feel welcome and secure. He’s always the one joking around with the checkout workers at the grocery store. All of the senior citizens that attend our gym know him. Not too long ago, at friend at church reached out to me, saying,

“Your husband just amazes me. I have watched on two separate occasions as strangers have walked into the service late. Your husband would get up from his seat, introduce himself, and find them a place.”

Yep, that’s Vlad.

As years go by, I see his desire to serve God in the every day more and more. He isn’t proud about it. He just simply follows the Lord and if he feels you are in the right place for it, he will tell you about his walk.

You aren’t going to see a lot of attention grabbing activity from him. In fact, in a large crowd, he would rather stay silent and let someone else enjoy the spotlight. But get him one on one and prepare for some excellent and thought provoking conversation.

I love this about him and so much more. I love all our silly inside jokes. I love seeing him in the role of “dad” and how tender he is with Zoya. I love finding new mind blowing documentaries to watch together in the cold winter nights and adventuring through the city during the summer days.

Today Vlad is 31. He hates making a big deal out of his birthday so there’s no giant party. But he is a big deal to me, the aforementioned reasons being part of why.

Cue the fireworks and the parade, complete with endless gummy candy being tossed to the crowd.

Happy birthday, Babe.

Continue reading “For Vlad.”

April 25, 2018

Today, April 25, marks exactly one year since I found out I was pregnant with Zoya. I’m pretty sure it will forever be seared into my memory.

Vlad and I had decided that we would let the cards fall where they may when we decided we were ok with getting pregnant. I purposefully had pretty low expectations for myself in regards to timeline. The heartbreak of infertility and pregnancy loss are all too common and I wanted to protect myself from the pain at all costs. I wasn’t trying to be negative, but I did want to be real.

We had planned a fun trip to California for Vlad’s birthday, April 28th. (That’s coming up, so feel free to love on him extra this Sunday!) Our flight to San Francisco was the evening or April 25th.

Leading up to that day, I had been feeling utterly exhausted. I was also constantly starving. While working, I would finish my lunch within a few hours of arriving and actually resorted to buying sandwiches from Dunkin’ Donuts to make it through the rest of the day (yes, they were delicious and greasy). I shared what had been going on with a coworker.

“Oh my gosh. You’re totally pregnant. You need to take a test!” She laughed, pointing my way towards our point of care room, where we had multiple boxes stocked for patients. I refused, waving it off as a waste of time.

Several days later, we were packing. The perpetual exhaustion I felt had been joined by breast tenderness. On top of that, my period was mysteriously missing. I was thinking out loud to Vlad about all that had been going on.

“I had better not get my period on vacation!” I lamented. We decided that I would take a pregnancy test just to be super extra 100% certain nothing else was going on. I was in no big hurry.

The day of our flight, I went to my nail appointment and picked up a pee stick at the local Dollar Tree. Cause I wasn’t about to pay more than a dollar to find out I wasn’t pregnant. Obviously.

At home, I continued last minute packing. The test lay on my bed in it’s plastic bag, waiting for it’s time.

At last, when Vlad’s brother arrived at our house to give us a ride to the airport and with less than an hour before we had to leave the house, I locked myself in our upstairs bathroom. After a deep breath, the testing commenced. I had stolen a styrofoam cup from the water cooler at the nail salon so I wouldn’t actually have to pee on a stick (knowing me, I would for sure miss).

With my enough pee in the cup, I gingerly dipped the test and waited as the moisture seeped into the result window. I was really only half watching as a pink line appeared. It wasn’t faint either. If it was a paint color, I would call it “desert mauve”. The line appeared so fast that the control didn’t even have time to develop.

I was the definition of the word shook. Admittedly, the words “oh crap, what did we do?!?” popped into my head as well as the realization that this was forever.

I had been thinking of how I would tell Vlad I was pregnant when it would actually happen…there were vague ideas of doing some sort of cute prank and taping his reaction. Now that I was definitely pregnant, I was in such shock that the mental capacity required to come up with anything that adorable was long gone.

I slowly walked into the office, where Vlad was nonchalantly making his headphones into a neat little roll for the trip. I’m pretty sure my jaw was dragging on the floor somewhere behind me.

He looked up at him. I looked back wide-eyed.

What happened next was a lot of frenzied whisper screaming so we wouldn’t clue in Vlad’s brother, chilling downstairs. We tried our best to play it cool as he dropped us off for our flight.

If it’s possible to be ecstatic, terrified, confused and amazed all at once I was all of those. Plus slap happy. My body was actually creating a very tiny human. I felt different…yet I didn’t feel any different. I wondered if I looked different to anyone or if it was obvious to any of the thousands of people at the airport that I was with child. It was the most surreal experience.

Morning one of being pregnant. Note the giant breakfast.

Vlad and I had the most amazing trip, pondering the future and savoring every present moment. When I was ready to tell people at work, I found the nurse who had called me out initially and we jumped up and down in the medication room.

This is my story. I love it because it is perfectly representative of me – kinda quirky and silly, but also constantly aware of the emotional depth some moments hold.

Every mama has their own story, and they are also perfectly imperfect. Some stories are still being written, and that’s ok too. Truthfully, there are so many beautiful ways to arrive at parenthood.

I’m thankful to be able to share mine with you today.

I just wanna be OK

Can we all just acknowledge for a second that the motherhood struggle is real? And that although the hardships are now being more publicly spoken about, many times the sharing is done via perfectly curated Instagram images that still set the bar so high.

Basically, society dictates that you can be a hot mess, but in a very coordinated, photogenic way,

Instagram worthy serenity

Let’s face it though, sometimes we’re just a mess. No hot prefix. And the daily grind of being a mom doesn’t always inspire beautiful sentiment and song a la Disney princess.

When I was pregnant I had a notion that after giving birth, love for my baby would give me superhuman energy. I thought I would be able to jump out of bed in the middle of the night to tend to Zoya’s every need with an angelic smile and the energy 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep gives. It was bewildering and guilt inducing when, in fact, I felt the opposite. “They’re only this little once, enjoy this sweet season” – was what I heard from every outlet. Except the tiny baby season is also so, so tough. There are long nights that turn into early mornings and constant guesswork relating to a new baby’s needs. I wanted to cherish all the moments, but constant exhaustion was like a foggy veil that I couldn’t shake some days.

I was also frustrated at myself over struggling to figure out the balance of caring for a baby and exclusively pumping while simultaneously…uhh…doing everything else. There were days that getting dressed in anything but clean pajamas was unfathomable. Housework was like a mountaintop that I didn’t even want to begin to scale. Going back to work added a whole new layer to the mix. Girlfriends who had been through the season of fresh motherhood told me, “Don’t worry, you’re not supposed to get anything done right now.” Yet, as someone who has thrived on the satisfaction of accomplishment, accepting the growing mountain of laundry in the hamper as the new normal seemed like a big fail.

It took me a while to figure out that feeling this way was OK. It was normal and didn’t make me an inferior mother. Neither did the fact that I’m not a machine that can simultaneously fold laundry, work out, and make a gourmet meal while raising a baby.

I’ve learned to seriously prioritize all the things and be fine if some tasks don’t get accomplished. I figured out my sanity is more important than a clean house, a home cooked meal or even (gasp!) a baby participating in ten different activities a day. If I need a shower and I want to snuggle Zoya during nap time, and that means I have to order Instacart groceries, so be it. (Note: I’m very particular while grocery shopping, so giving the reins to someone else has required some serious humility and personal growth.)

When there’s multiple balls in the air, it’s ok to let some drop so you can catch the others.

This has become my daily reminder.

So if you’re just as overwhelmed and underenthused as a new mama or in any life stage, allow the reminder to also become yours.

You’re doing your very best, giving as much as you can give, within your present circumstance. You’re enough. You’re nowhere close to perfect, but it’s ok cause you’re nowhere closer to failure either.

Reality: Utter chaos
Trying to get some rest any way I can
These pants and sweater have become my uniform

Changing Waters

There are people in the world that thrive in its presence. They relish the idea of new seasons and changing tides. I am not one of them. I love the feeling of the fuzzy familiar. Perhaps the only exception to that would be work, where I enjoy seeing a variety of patient cases…as long as I am with the same wonderful coworkers and consistent environment. Sameness makes it very easy for me to feed my inner, sometimes unhealthy, need to plan everything and control the world around me. With change comes unpredictability. That is where I falter.
Lately, there has been so much change in my life it feels like an altogether different reality. I ended maternity leave and began a brand new job, transitioning to nursing in the outpatient arena. OK, I totally initiated that change but still, it was difficult and I spent many days missing the position I left. There is so much to learn and with working in a new hospital system a whole culture to get accustomed to, which has had its difficult moments. Our church has been going through some turbulent times and the process has been akin to a painful pruning. 
Obviously, the birth of Zoya has been the biggest and most radical adjustment of them all. The large scale change of her appearance in this world has been punctuated by so many small ones that I can hardly keep up. Right after her birth, I recall missing being pregnant and feeling her little kicks. After Vlad went back to work and the new baby high wore off, I struggled with the loss of my daily routine and instead having to put a tiny human first.  Most recently, she stopped sleeping in the bassinet next to our bed and transitioned to her “big girl crib” in her room. The first night was the hardest. I had grown so used to her sleeping within arm’s reach of me. The wall separating our two rooms made her seem so far away. My sleep was restless all night even though I knew she was perfectly safe in her beautiful nursery.
Going through these transitions felt bumpy in the moment. Now that I’m a bit farther down the road with each of them, I can really see the positives in each. My new job has catapulted me into a whole new arena of the nursing scope of practice and has tons of promise for the future, along with a more “mommy friendly” schedule. Both Vlad and I have agreed that as rough a go as our church has had, it now feels more authentic and is utilizing people’s gifts that were otherwise on the back burner. And although there were times where both Zoya and I were crying together from frustration at one another, I wouldn’t trade her flipping our life upside down. As tough as it was to “let go” and have her sleep on her own, I am now so glad to have our room back! 
In ruminating on all these changes, I have been reminded that God does not desire us to be stagnant. Accepting the Gospel as truth and committing to a relationship with Christ is akin to an entire reconstruction of one’s heart. We are catapulted into a life of constant transformation as we figure out what it means to live for Him. 

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 3:18

Through all of this, God himself is constant. There are SO many great verses in Scripture that showcase his nature, one of my favorites being Psalm 90:2

Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

Whether we are a boat that is peacefully gliding in glistening waters or if we are getting tossed around by life’s storms, God is like a lighthouse. Firmly fixed in place, showing us the path as we try and make our way towards Him. Maybe this is a cheesy analogy, but meditating on it when life seems to be moving a bit too fast gives me peace. 

Change is hard no matter what. Viewing it from a spiritual lens brings a bit of relief by reminding me that change has a purpose. Better yet, God is the same forever – no amount of earthly turnover can shake Him or His word. I can rest in the knowledge that He is the one thing that is certain.

Pump It Up

Of all the plethora of information I got from others during my pregnancy, the most prevalent words were, “breastfeeding is the hardest thing you will ever do.” I believed everyone, but I also had a secret fantasy that it would come miraculously easy for me. I enjoyed fantasizing about the amazing bond it would create between my baby girl and I as I snuggled her to my breast, complete with perfect skin and flowing hair. Things did not turn out exactly as planned.

With her being 8 weeks early and me ending up with a c-section, the odds of my milk coming in well were not great. Because Zoya was so tiny, the work of getting milk from the breast would actually take more calories from her than she would gain. When she was stabilized, I could only put her to breast for about ten minutes so as not to exhaust her.

A week after Zoya came home, her pediatrician gave the green light for us to try to extend our nursing sessions. However, by that time, all the bottle feeding we did in the NICU had taken hold. She realized it was much easier to extract milk from the bottle than from my breast. Every trial at a nursing session was anxiety ridden as I tried to get her to latch while she was wailing and falling off repeatedly. The girl was hungry! When we did manage a good latch, I spent a lot of time wondering if she was actually drawing out milk or just sucking for comfort. During a time when weight gain was crucial, the idea that she may not be getting any food was terrible. Needless to say, I realized I could not breast feed exactly as I had pictured.

But I could pump. I started pumping a few hours after delivery. Every 3 hours, round the clock, I hooked up the machine and watched as my body created food for my child. I brought a cooler of milk with me every night when Vlad and I went to visit Zoya in the NICU until the nurses finally told us to stop because they were running out of fridge space. Then we bought a deep freezer and I began building a stash for later.

Before this journey, I only knew of two ways of feeding a baby – breastfeeding and formula feeding. My situation opened my eyes up to the entirety new world of exclusively pumping. After a few weeks of struggle and anxiety over trying to get Zoya to latch and eat well at home, I made the decision to exclusively pump. I loved the idea that I could still give her my milk in a way that was acceptable to her while being certain of exactly how much she was eating.

Exclusively pumping is a full time job. I have so much respect for all the mommas out there who choose to do this. Establishing supply in the first 12 weeks is crucial so you have to commit to regular pumping sessions and work them in amidst taking care of an infant. Vlad was extremely helpful in feeding Zoya simultaneously as I pumped when he was home. However, when he went to work I was on my own. Every time I fed her and got her to sleep I wished I could take a nap too…but most of the time I couldn’t because I needed to pump, to wash pump parts or a dozen other pumping related tasks. Thank God for whoever invented hands free pumping bras, because if it wasn’t for those, I would be lost forever!

Now, I’m over 16 weeks into it and I have settled into a routine. I tote around a giant bag with my on-the-go pump and express wherever I need to – the store, work, most often in my car. I’m always trolling the internet for pumping hacks and gadgets. It’s become a way of life.

That’s why I was so excited to learn about the Moxxly Flow Kit and even more thrilled when they sent me one to try and tell you guys about.

The Kit is comprised of bottles and tubing and is designed to hook into your existing pump motor. This includes the Medela Pump In Style Advanced (my on-the-go pump), Medela Symphony, Hygiea Enjoye, Freemie Freedom and, most recently, the Spectra S1/S2/S9 (cue the fireworks as the S2 is my at home workhorse pump). It is designed to give pumping moms a hands free and discreet experience.

After receiving my kit in the mail, I eagerly opened it, sanitized all my parts and have been trying it out for the past two weeks. Here’s what I’m absolutely loving:

  • You can wear a regular bra! Yes that’s right ladies. When I read about this tidbit I just about screamed from joy. You can ditch that frumpy nursing bra and enjoy looking fine again as long as the bra you choose has some give in the band and is sans underwire (as recommended on the Moxxly site). All you do is slip the flange and attached bottle under the band of your bra, align with your nipple and pump away. The band of your bra holds everything in place. As soon as I got my Flow Kit, I went shopping for some cute lacy numbers and it bumped my confidence level way up.
  • Pumping can be done in public…privately. Because of the way the Flow Kit is worn (once again, under a regular bra) a flowy tunic or t-shirt can easily be worn over the whole contraption. The tubing will run out of the bottom of your shirt and to the pump. I can easily walk around with my Medela PISA in a tote bag, running via battery pack, and pump. No one will note two tiny tubes..and they are totally concealable between the tote and my body. This means I don’t have to hide in a bathroom or a mother’s lounge if I’m pumping on the go. Confession: on Friday while driving home from work and pumping simultaneously I went through a Starbucks drive through and no one batted an eye.
    Set up in a snap. It is so easy to put the parts together and start using. The valve snaps onto the 5oz collection bottles and the flange screws in on top. The tubing is also easy to figure out even if you are too impatient/excited to start using and don’t read directions fully (aka me). I pump and drive to and from work to save time. With my conventional hands-free pump bra system, I would have to take down my nursing bra, put on my pumping bra, then hook everything up and begin. With the Flow Kit, I am hooked up and ready to go in a minute (yes, I timed it) and I didn’t flash the mailman in the process.
    Feed & Pump. Prior to this, feeding Zoya and pumping simultaneously was a non starter. Not only would she wail like a siren as I fumbled with the hookup, the bottles and flanges would constantly get in the way. She would end up pulling and unhooking the tubing several times throughout the feed. Because the Flow Kit is tucked away inside of my shirt, I can relax knowing that our time saving pump & feed sesh isn’t going to turn into a messy meltdown.
  • Feeling the love. I am huge on customer service anywhere I go. A restaurant can have the most amazing food but if the waiter was mediocre I likely will not be back. Moxxly is like the opposite of the mediocre waiter. They employ women who are passionate about supporting moms wherever they are in their pumping journey. Communication was super easy and I was assured that they are here for me if I needed to troubleshoot my Flow Kit or had any additional questions. I felt genuine warmth and care for me not only as a consumer of their product but also as a mother. And hey, we all need a little support.

A few notes…

    Like everything in life, there is definitely a learning curve. It takes practice to align the flanges correctly and comfortably. Once you figure it out though, the rest is smooth sailing.
    I’m happy to report that my supply did not fluctuate with the new flanges. This is great and the beauty of Moxxly Flow – functionality of the kit while still being able to harness the power of a great pump.

The Moxxly Flow Kit is available here for $79.99. It is a worthwhile investment for any mom on the go and definitely anyone who is exclusively pumping.

My current goal is to get Z to 6 months and I am more than halfway there!

Thanks for letting me share my experience with you guys. Please do contact me with any questions on the Moxxly Flow or pumping in general – I have done my homework and can now employ a consultancy fee (I kid, I kid.)

Until later,

Your favorite Mother Pumper

All The Best Things…

Following delivery, I could not sleep. Not that I didn’t want to. Believe me, it was all I wished for. However, for 24 hours afterwards I remained on the magnesium drip to continue to protect my brain. This required neurological checks performed by the nurses every hour. Just as were done with a check and I began to drift off, time rolled around for the next one. No sleep meant that I was forced to face my thoughts. Physically, I felt as if I had been run over by that runaway train I was involuntarily riding earlier. Emotionally, I fell into a dark hole. I had created so many fuzzy scenarios about giving birth in my head – how exciting it would be when my labor would start, how I would labor at home as much as possible before presenting to the hospital, how Vlad would coach me through pushing and how deliriously happy we would be when Zoya was finally out. All of that got ripped away within just a few days time. I could barely comprehend what had happened. To top it off, the NICU team called to say that Zoya developed a bleed in her lung and had to be placed on a ventilator until it (hopefully) resolved. I didn’t even have the capacity to adequately process the emotional blow of that news – I simply said OK and hung up the phone.

My faith in God had never been so tested. In that moment, I needed God’s consistent goodness, sovereignty and faithfulness to be more than just nice words Christians use in hard times. I needed them to be true. I clung on to my faith that God has a good plan to work even the worst of situations for our benefit and ultimately, His glory.

In the days after, the good plan began to be revealed. So many blessings poured out on us from all different directions. It was one of the most awe-inspiring, edifying moments in my faith walk. I want to share with you just some of the main outcomes that resulted due to Zoya’s early appearance in this world.

1) Learning to relinquish control

Thank goodness for technology, right? I spent a lot of time reading the Bible on my phone in order to find peace in the midst of the chaos. One of the verses that stuck out to be was Psalm 100:3 –

Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

For those that don’t know me, I am a major control freak and have struggled with surrender for a majority of life. This lovely character trait is especially pronounced in times of stress. It seems as if I would rather run myself into the ground trying to find solutions to situations in which not much can be done, rather than be still and patient, knowing God is in control where I am not. With Zoya’s birth, God kinda sorta forced my hand in letting go. Even if there was something I could have done, in the first few days postpartum I was physically and emotionally incapacitated. I had no choice but to trust that God is who he says He is. I reran Psalm 100:3 over and over in my mind. Great comfort was found in the knowledge that God takes ownership of His children. I imagined Him protectively holding me and Zoya by the hand as we walked down a scary path, keeping our steps steady, giving us what we needed to make it through.

In a time when I could have been panicked with fear, accepting that I am powerless while God is all I am not and resting in His promises brought peace I would have otherwise never had. It was a rough, but necessary, learning experience that has since impacted every aspect of my life.

2) A New Bond
Going on seven years of marriage at the time of Zoya’s arrival, I felt like Vlad and I had found a sweet spot in our relationship. We knew each other. We were a true team. With every passing year, we were learning how to love and serve one another on a daily basis. But let me tell you guys, I’ve never felt that my husband truly loved me as much as when he was helping a flabby, leaky and wobbly me shower four days after delivery. It was painful to stand for a long time and just as uncomfortable to have him see me in such a state. I wanted nothing more than to get out of the bathroom. Vlad broke down my insecurities with his unconditional love. He calmed my worried heart as I was recovering. During hospital stay, he woke up with me every 3 hours to help me pump and then would personally walk down my breastmilk to Zoya in the NICU. He was my cheerleader as I shuffled down the hospital hallway despite the c-section incision pain. I’ve never been so dependent on another human being in my adult life. It was scary and humbling and left me breathless every time I thought about it. The experience of becoming parents in such a tumultuous way strengthened our relationship with a bond that could not be created in any other way. Talk about growing pains.

3) Friends in New Places

Following Zoya’s birth, we had a waterfall of texts, calls, messages – you name it – coming to us from all communication platforms. Our friend group surrounded us with love and support in every possible way. We had people bring us coffee and all kinds of delicious treats, call and pray with us, clean our house. My friend, Rita, started a meal train so we wouldn’t have to worry about cooking. It was amazing to know that the friends I considered as close really were that as they served us over the next few months. The best surprise of it all, though, came in the form of people who I was not close with or had lost touch with over time reaching out to us in love. Many shared their own stories of preeclampsia or experiences with having a NICU baby. Many just said words of encouragement. The transparency of these individuals, who were all but strangers, was incredibly uplifting. A particularly sweet girlfriend who I had previously been close with but fell out of touch with, offered to come over after I was home from the hospital and just be with me. She did not seek to be entertained but was simply willing to keep me company as I did whatever mundane things I needed to do that day. Zoya was the catalyst that ended our season of distance and started us on a path to a deeper friendship than we had in the past.

4) Fresh Professional Perspective

I’m a nurse, and nursing is all about empathy. It’s a skill that is actually taught during our education through practicing therapeutic communication, active listening and the like. Of course, the best empathy comes from personal understanding of the patient experience. Up until Zoya, I had very little expertise in being sick. I had never broken a bone. I had never gone to the Emergency Room. My “big story” was getting IV fluids and Toradol (like an ibuprofen, but given intravenously) at an urgent care for a bad UTI. I tried my best to be empathetic and compassionate to my patients, but looking back, I probably failed miserably many times over. I don’t blame myself, because I simply didn’t know what being a patient was like.

Being in the hospital for 6 days left me in awe of how tough the patient life really is. From the vulnerability of wearing a hospital gown instead of regular clothes to the unpleasant taste of saline in my mouth during an IV flush (it’s a weird phenomenon, but so real) to how mind numbing it is to remain in the same room for days on end, I kept thinking to myself, “wow, so this is what it’s really like!”.

It was a deeply personal experience that created a fresh professional perspective. I knew it was going to make me less dismissive, more compassionate and ultimately a better nurse.

These wonderful byproducts of Zoya’s birth story are just some of the ways in which I have felt blessed in those subsequent days.

There is so much more. Every day I would survey my life and find even more good. It was all around me, seeping out of every crack of this situation. It would have been very easy to sink into a dark hole in those days. To be honest, some days I was on the very edge. Relinquishing my personal control and holding on to God’s promises were what pulled me up and out. I did not forget the anger or fear that I felt. Yet simultaneously, my eyes were trained on all the good things, and ultimately, on a good God.

Makeup Must-Haves

I love makeup. It’s so fun to play with and fun to wear. I’m one of those people that will start off telling herself to just put on some mascara, get a little carried away and end up with a dramatic smoky eye look for a trip to the grocery store. Pilgramages to Sephora and Ulta can easily take up several hours of my day as I oogle all the latest goodies to hit their shelves. Lately though, I don’t have much time for makeup. In fact, I’m lucky enough if I brush out my hair on any given day between exclusively pumping and doing all the mom things. Still, a little makeup makes me feel put together and more “me” during this bewildering stage called postpartum. I’ve been trying to consolidate my routine and find products that are easy and fast to apply without compromising quality or payoff. Additionally, I am always on the lookout for any item that has potential to make me look less sleep deprived and unkempt than currently am.

I’m excited to share with you my 12 current ride or dies. It’s rather a big number and I’d be lying if I said I applied them all daily…but in picking my favorites it was kind of like listing best friends; I felt wrong leaving anyone out. The price ranges are truly all over the board here. While I love indulging in fancy buys, nothing gets me going more than a drugstore brand product that packs a big punch. You’ll note that most of these are cream based. I used to be a straight up powder gal but recently have found that cream products are much friendlier to my dry skin and easier to apply. I can drop ’em in my purse and feel OK blending with my fingers for on the go touch ups. If you’re on the oily side, any good primer will still allow for cream based goodies to be your go-to.

All right, without any further a do…

1) Hangover Replenishing Primer $32

Kinda wish I knew about this when I was working nights in the emergency room; my makeup would flake and slide off my face at hour 8 of 12. This primer is made with coconut water to superbly hydrate and revive the appearance of skin. It honestly feels refreshing going on, not at all slimy like some other primers. Best of all, it helps my makeup look fresh even after a full day.

2) Missha Perfect Cover BB Cream $22

I found out about this sensational brand from a friend while visiting Russia, where the K beauty craze hit about a half year before it took over the U.S. After reading a gazillion positive reviews, I ordered and have not looked back since. This BB cream feels like a lightweight moisturizer while behaving like medium-full coverage foundation with the added benefit of a whopping 42 SPF. A word of advice: the light shade is very light, as my sister in law, Natasha, found found out after ordering hers. This is great news for a pale girl like me, but the rest of you should diligently peruse all the color options on the Missha site before buying.

3) Tarte Shape Tape Contour Concealer $27

This guy is the true heavyweight of full coverage concealers while remaining surprisingly (you guessed it!) moisturizing. Truly, moisture is the key to looking alive on a 4 hour sleep plus multiple caffeinated beverages day. Add in this concealer and you’re golden. Undereye bags or dark circles, redness, zits –  it will cover all with just a tiny dab, meaning your $27 investment will yield a promising return over a long time.

4) Fenty Beauty Match Stix $25

A game changer for when you need a quick contour because, let’s face it, a sculpted cheekbone makes us all feel fabulous. I have this in the cool shade of Amber but there are also warmer tones available, as well as a huge range of colors developed for concealing in addition to contouring. My favorite feature is that unlike the majority of cream or liquid bronzers out there, this product is entirely matte and will not leave you a hot glittery mess.

5) Algenist Reveal Concentrated Color Correcting Drops $38

This stuff is so cool! Formulated with good-for-you ingedients, these drops are designed to be mixed in with skincare or foundation to ensure an even, radiant complexion. My favorite use has been mixing it with a highlighter and stippling on my cheekbones and eye area for seriously awesome light-catching results.

6) Glossier Cloud Paint $18

One thing I’ve learned: whether I’m stressed from an upcoming meeting at work or a colicky babe and have five minutes for makeup – don’t skip the blush! A well placed dab on the apples of your cheeks can take me from sallow to lively in seconds. This one by Glossier has been my favorite for some time now due to the big time color payoff and excellent staying power. I’m also a total sucker for the cute packaging.

7) Smashbox Photo Op Undereye Brightener $20

I was recommended this by Smashbox rep who also found me an amazing red lipstick so I figured, why not? Many moons later, I reach for this on days when I don’t have time for a serious concealer job or just aren’t feeling it. It’s like a cup of coffee for my tired eyes. A quick swipe in my under eye area after applying BB cream and I look instantly perky. This tiny tube lasts forever and is only a fraction of the cost of another insanely popular under eye brightener.

8) Eyeko Me & My Shadow Waterproof Shadow Liner $12.50

As far as I’m concerned, eye shadow is completely optional on mornings when I have mere minutes to get ready. However, if I do need a little extra glam for the day, this shadow always comes to the rescue. The stick formulation with a handy dandy brush on the other end makes it a breeze to swipe on. This particular version is possibly being discontinued (sad face) on the Eyeko site; the flip side is that you can grab up the remaining colors at half price! The full range of shades are still available at many other retailers at the full price of $25 and can be found via Google.

9) NYX Tinted Brow Mascara $7.50

I have said time and time again, brows are the eyeliner of the face. I believe that nothing will define your eyes more than a strong brow. If there is one thing I will do before leaving the house, it’s to put my eyebrows on. In fact, I distinctly remember begging Vlad to remember to grab my brow product when he went home to get some of our things after I delivered Zoya. Brow mascara is the perfect alternative to the more time consuming pot and brush brow products .While some brow mascaras can be goopy, making application and a natural look difficult, I have found a faithful friend in this one. It does a great job of filling in gaps while delivering a “these are my natural amazing brows” look.

10) L’Oreal Lash Paradise Mascara Primer $9.99

No matter how little time I have, if I am going to apply mascara, I always do primer first. This is a practice I adopted while working those long 12 hour ER shifts. I found that primer was an excellent way of ensuring that I didn’t end the work day with a raccoon eye look. This one from L’Oreal (which is incidentally my most favorite drugstore brand) is a winner. My sparse lashes look fuller and longer. Plus, I can go about my day confident that my mascara is in the same place I put it that morning.

11) Benefit Roller Lash Mascara $25

This is my holy grail of mascaras. I’m sad to say that I have tried it and discovered its full glory only recently. Until then I bounced around from every drugstore and department store mascara you can think of, never finding one that was consistently excellent. Enter Roller Lash. Just as the Benefit site description claims, it gives me lift and length. Every. Time. For that kind of result, the $25 price tag is worth it.

12) L’Oreal Rouge Signature Matte Lip Color $11.99

Another L’Oreal goodie here. I actually received a set of these to review as part of an Influenster campaign, otherwise I probably would have never found these gems. Having a well-defined lip is important, especially because I have such a pale complexion, and I’m always on the hunt for great lip products. I have a love-hate relationship with matte lip color; while I love the refined look, I hate, hate, hate the cake-y, dry way they all inevitably make my lips feel. I am happy to report that L’Oreal may have solved the issue. These matte lip colors have the lightweight, watery feel of a stain which I absolutely love. They’re not runny either, making even the darker colors easy to apply on the first time. The product withstands hours of wear, including meals, and my lips feel pretty great. I count this as a win!

So there you have it – a list of my most favorite, grab if the house is on fire, beauty essentials. Feel free to message me with comments, questions, and also to share your must haves! Makeup is nothing without a great canvas, so look for my next beauty related post covering skincare!