January 2019 Book Reviews

My first book review of 2019 is finally here!

I have been so excited for this post because this month, I picked four absolute winners. We’ve got historical fiction, some lighter, fun reads, and one captivating survival story.  I really enjoyed each book this go round and I’m so eager to share them with you, so let’s do this!january 2019 book reviews

My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan

I’ve mentioned before that I enjoy following Shay’s blog Mix and Match Mama and I particularly like following her book reviews. I feel like we have pretty similar taste in what we enjoy reading so I often add a few of her suggestions to my To Be Read list. When she named this book as her very favorite book of 2018, I immediately put it on my list and it did not disappoint! It follows Ella, an American Rhodes scholar traveling to England to study literature at Oxford despite having a promising political career opportunity back home. While there, she takes missteps, develops friendships, and meets a handsome man. I don’t want to spoil to much, but this was such an enjoyable read! I loved the characters and got emotionally invested in the plot. It was the perfect blend of lighthearted fun and serious depth and made me want to ride around on a bike exploring all the charming, quaint little nooks around Oxford.

Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge

This was also a top read of 2018 for Shay so I put it on my list as well and OH. MY. GOSH. This book amazed me. Two strangers survive a plane crash on a remote, virtually unknown island in the South Pacific and have to work together to survive. I wasn’t really sure what all to expect here, but I absolutely loved how the author wove this story together. The story mostly centered on their life on the island but there were also chapters that included what I can only call “extra” information from other time periods that helped tie everything together. I thought this story was beautiful, heartbreaking, uplifting, complex, and captivating – I could not put it down and it gave me a week-long book hangover (you know, when you can’t even think about starting another book because the last one you read still weighs so heavily on your mind). I loved it!

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve read a book from cover to cover in one day, but I did it with this one. This book follows Rill Foss, a 12-year-old “river rat” living on a houseboat in the 1930s, and Avery Stafford, a well-connected lawyer with possible political ambitions in present day. These two women have seemingly nothing in common but as their individual stories unfold, connections are made and their stories begin to weave together in ways neither would have imagined. I had this book sitting on my couch one day when my mom was visiting and after reading the insert summary she promptly declared “I could never read this book!” While I personally loved it, it can be a very heavy read, as the fiction story is based off of a disturbing real-life scandal in Memphis from the 1920s to the 1950s (one I had previously known nothing about). There were times where it made my mama heart just break into pieces; however, despite the tragic and distressing events of the past, the author spun an emotional and moving tale of  family, identity, and belonging. I couldn’t put it down and flew through it.

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

In October, I read Crazy Rich Asians and really enjoyed it, then in December I read China Rich Girlfriend and thought it was just okay. This month, I finished the trilogy with Rich People Problems and oh my gosh I LOVED it! I think it helped that there was one really big central story line and just a few side plots that tied together. In this story, Nick Young’s incredibly wealthy grandmother is dying and all his wacky relatives are gathering together in her mansion in Singapore to pay their last respects (and make sure they’re in her will). I loved the characters, I loved the downright zany situations they find themselves in, I loved the way everything from the previous two books came together in just a perfect way. I was really satisfied with how this wrapped up the trilogy and didn’t leave any loose ends. This was definitely my favorite book in the series, but you really do need to read the whole series in order because the plot lines build off one another.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?

#DeclutterLikeAMother Week Four

Good morning friends!

For the month of January, I’ve been participating in the #DeclutterLikeAMother challenge. The goal is to spend 30 minutes each day targeting an area of your home and the focus is on progress, not perfection. Previous weeks focused on bathrooms and closets, kitchen, and toys. This week’s focus was clothing.

phonto

About four years ago, long before the Netflix documentary brought about her KonMari frenzy, I read Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and implemented a lot of her strategies. I literally emptied my entire closet and all my drawers and went through every single item, only keeping what brought me joy. After that experience, I really have shifted my focus to trying to keep only the items I really love or that serve a purpose and get worn. I also apply this to what I buy and only purchase items I really truly love. While I periodically go through my closet and purge, and I do the same with LJ’s things, my closet has remained very manageable since my first KonMari experience. I don’t have a lot of clothing, but I also don’t have a “capsule wardrobe.” I don’t subscribe to any rules about what to keep or what not to keep other than: I keep what I love and I wear what I keep. That being said, I still did get rid of some items this week!

Of the things I got rid of, I noticed two distinct categories: things I once loved and things for future use. I had a skirt and a cardigan that I absolutely loved once upon a time and would have once listed as my favorite, most-frequently-worn items. But they both have holes now and to be honest, they were both “teacher” items. My stay-at-home mama clothing needs are different than my teacher needs. I don’t wear the teacher-y items and looking at them now, I don’t love them anymore. I just did once. Into the recycling bag they went. I also got rid of a few other items that I once wore a ton but just don’t anymore.

The other category was things for future use. The bulk of these were maternity clothes. I had someone offer me maternity clothes for cheap after she was done having babies. This was so generous! The problem was, she and I aren’t the same size normally. And I wasn’t very far along in my pregnancy with LJ when she offered. So I bought clothes I thought I might use in the future. Unfortunately, even in the last weeks of my pregnancy, these clothes still didn’t fit well because they weren’t the right size. So there clothes didn’t fit and honestly weren’t much my style, yet I kept them because I thought they served a specific purpose for a specific window of time. Honestly though, I have enough clothes that I bought that I like and are the correct size, so there is no need to keep what didn’t really work.

I didn’t declutter much this week because clothing is something I do try to regularly stay on top of. I thought I would share a few of the strategies I use for maintaining the clothing we take in and the clothing we keep (“we” meaning LJ and I. Justin is in charge of his own clothing and I don’t worry about what he keeps or doesn’t keep). Most of these are pretty simple concepts, but they have all served me well!

Accept the size you are right now.

When I got married, I was my smallest size ever. I was working out a ton, eating super well, and had that wedding dress goal that motivates like none other. A few years into marriage, I had gained a little weight back. I still felt healthy and strong, but my body naturally is happier at a slightly bigger size than my wedding size. I held on to my smallest jeans for so long thinking “I paid good money for these and what if I drop a size and fit into them again?” so I kept them for far too long. The problem with this thinking is that I wasn’t accepting that my body was happy and healthy at it’s current size; I was holding on to the mentality that smaller was better. Plus, let’s think about this. I got married almost 6 years ago. Jeans that were in style in 2013 are not jeans that are in style in 2019. I didn’t own skinny jeans then. I don’t really wear flared jeans now. Even if I had kept those jeans to this day and fit into them again, I probably wouldn’t want to wear them. I’ve learned it’s better to accept your current size and keep what works for you now and let go of what doesn’t (unless you’re going through some huge transition like pregnancy or postpartum).

Keep a bag for worn-out or damaged textiles.

I keep a bag behind my closet door where I’ll toss in old clothing with holes, stains that don’t come out, or other damage. I’ll also toss in old items that are not worth donating (clean but used underwear, socks, etc) and whenever the bag gets full, I’ll take it in to H&M for their textile recycling program. I love this program – I clear out old clothing that I don’t want but isn’t in good shape to donate and the clothing stays out of a landfill. Plus, for every bag of textiles you donate, you get a coupon to use at H&M! Win-win!

Be discerning as things come in.

This is a particularly big one for LJ’s clothes. We had a huge influx of clothing when he was born! Some people bought new outfits as gifts, others were happy to donate outgrown clothing from their babies. I was truly so thankful for the generosity of everyone who gave us clothes! But the truth of the matter is, we had way more than we needed. We got so many 0-3 month outfits that we couldn’t get through them all before he was the next size up. We also got things that were in good condition, but just not at all my style or something I would have picked for LJ. And I got a lot of donated clothing that was way too big for him and would take years (literally) to grow into. So I had to learn to be discerning with what I kept from the beginning. I looked at what all we had, thought about what we needed, and kept only what I knew would work for us. Whatever we didn’t need, I turned around and donated to various places. There are so many organizations out there to help young single mothers or struggling families and I was so happy to donate items we didn’t need to these places.

Kids clothing: be discerning about what you keep for siblings.

LJ spit up a ton when he was little, and baby spit up can stain over time. Once he outgrew them, the stained items went in the H&M recycling bag. No matter how cute the item was originally, I did not save a stained item for a future baby. I also didn’t save items that I didn’t enjoy using. For example, I had a few really cute baby sleepers that I liked the look of, but they had snaps. Why oh why do companies do this?? I absolutely hated snap-up sleepers. When you have a sleepy, squirmy baby with a poopy diaper in the middle of the night, a snap sleeper is super annoying to work with. I prefer zip-up sleepers and that’s what I buy if I have the choice. So once LJ outgrew the snap ones, these went into the donate pile and I only kept the zip-up ones.

What tips do you have for purging clothing?

Surviving Sick Days at Home

For the past week, our household has been dealing with the dreaded “s” word that seems to be lurking everywhere in the winter: sickness.

LJ has been sick for almost a week now but I feel like we’re finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. His runny nose is clearing up, his cough is disappearing, and his appetite is coming back. It’s crazy to me how much our world is rocked when the littlest member of our family isn’t his normal self.

I think it’s easy to look at social media and think that everyone has is together, but the truth is, we see an incomplete picture. We see a highlight reel. We see the best days. It’s pretty rare to see the struggles, the difficulties, and the low points. Today I’m changing that and sharing a little bit of what life has looked like us for the past week. We’ve been off our game, we’ve had to roll with the punches, and we’ve gone through a lot of Kleenex.

My brain is kind of all over the place right now, so I’m just going to share a few thoughts on sicks days. Let’s roll with it, shall we?

Sick Day Thoughts

Food = food.  In an ideal world, LJ will eat a healthy balanced meal 3x/day. In the real world, toddlers are picky so I do what I can to get a fruit or veggie in as often as I can. In the sick day world, we go with a “food is food” approach and whatever he is willing to eat is great. When I’m sick, my appetite changes so of course LJ’s does too when he’s feeling sick. If this means he eats a yogurt and goldfish, great. He ate something! If this means he eats applesauce and two blueberries, great. If all he wants is pasta noodles and a roll, fine. We focus on getting him to drink liquids and eat as much as he can and I don’t stress about what the food actually is.

The snuggle is real. Sick days mean we stay in our pajamas or other comfy, soft clothing. We get out blankets, we use the pacifier, we just get cozy. I’ll be honest, this is the part of sick days that I actually love.

img_20190115_225822_372

TV “rules” relax. Honestly, Justin and I don’t have any established rules with LJ. In an ideal world, LJ would be engaged with his surroundings and we would never need the TV.  Ha! In the real world, we do use the TV as a tool to occupy LJ for brief periods of time when we need to get something accomplished or distract him so we can trim his fingernails or something. In the sick world, we snuggle up on the couch and enjoy The Octonauts or Daniel Tiger without worrying about imposing a limit. Sometimes this even lulls him to sleep and he’ll just sleep on me.

Grandmas are amazing. My mom was able to come over one day and help out and this was such a huge blessing. She watched LJ so I could clean the long-overdue bathroom, tackle my laundry mountain, and make it to my cycling class. I was so thankful to be able to get some things done and know LJ was still getting lots of loving attention.

0123191746b.jpg

We do what we can and don’t stress the rest.  I’ve previously posted how I keep up with my cleaning routine, workout regimen, work-from-home job, etc. On sick days, these routines are still helpful because I have an ingrained system for what to do (like immediately start my work-from-home job when LJ goes down for a nap). That being said, I do what I can and I don’t allow myself to stress out or feel bad about what doesn’t get done. I didn’t do my daily cleaning task for several days in a row. I wasn’t able to make it to the gym for bootcamp at all because I couldn’t take LJ to the childcare. It is what it is and it was fine. We all survived even though the kitchen wasn’t clean. 😉

Now that it seems like we’re on the other side and things are improving, we’ll be able to slowly get back into our routine. I think I’ll appreciate it a lot more now that we’ve had a week of being “off” and I’ll especially be glad to see LJ return to his usual happy, energetic toddler self.

What are your tricks for managing sick days?

#DeclutterLikeAMother Week Three

Good morning! We’re back with another installment of the January #DeclutterLikeAMother challenge! If you missed them, be sure to catch up on week one (bathrooms and closets) and week two (kitchen).

Week three of the challenge centered on decluttering toys and to be honest, this is not an area I feel overwhelmed by. From the very beginning of parenthood, Justin and I decided that we don’t want our home to feel overrun by toys. Of course, we want our kids to have toys and to enjoy playing with them, but we don’t want to have such an excess that it becomes unmanageable. We’ve always been very intentional about the amount of toys in our home, so I spent very little time decluttering last week (honestly like 20 minutes). Today’s post is going to be more of an update on how I consistently manage the intake of toys, since that is the main reason this week wasn’t a big one for decluttering. I realize everyone makes their own choices when it comes to toys for their children; this is just what works for us.

Week Three.jpg

I have previously posted how we find balance with toys and you can read all about what toys LJ has and how we store them here. Since I first posted that in October, we have had both LJ’s first birthday and Christmas and I still feel that our toy situation is manageable. For LJ’s birthday, we asked for book donations to a local charity. This worked out so well – we got to support an organization we love and LJ didn’t get a bunch of toys (We had a little celebration, but he actually got no gifts at all, which was our goal. He had no idea what was going on or what he was “missing out” on, and we knew he would get plenty of gifts for Christmas in a few weeks). We won’t do this for all his future birthdays, but we’re really glad we did it for his first one!

When Christmas rolled around, LJ received several gifts, including new toys. Both of our families requested wish lists for presents, and LJ’s list was mostly filled with non-toy items (he got things like wipes, a stroller attachment, money towards a convertible car seat, clothing, socks, etc). Like I said before, he is too little to know that he’s getting the “boring” gifts and there is no shame in my mom game to limit the toys and ask for other things he really needs. That being said, I did include some toys and books I knew he will use throughout the next year. There were also a few toys my mother-in-law texted me about that she found while out and about and I was honest about what I thought he would love and use and what was pretty similar to something he already has. Communication is key! I appreciated that she asked me what I thought so I could give feedback on what I thought he’d like best. For the most part, we got things on our list. We also got a few extras and that was 100% okay!! The goal for us isn’t to be super controlling and only allow x number of toys or these exact things into our home. The goal is to just keep things manageable and a few extra toys does not push us over the edge. At the end of the day, we focus on being grateful for the generosity and loving spirit behind the gifts. It’s fun to see the things our families find that make them think of LJ and sometimes, an “extra” gift ends up being one of LJ’s favorites!

When we came home from Christmas, I immediately looked at the space we had for toys  and decluttered before putting anything away. While I do keep a few small amount of toys in his bedroom and my bedroom (see my toy post for more info), most of his toys are in the playroom. In our playroom, we have a green cabinet where we store toys and we have a rule that unless a toy doesn’t fit because it is too large (like his activity table), it must be stored in the cabinet. This allows for plenty of toys but keeps the overall amount to a manageable number. If the cabinet doors don’t close, we have too many toys!

We’ve always kept a loose definition of toy and LJ had things in his toy cabinet like a snack can and a plastic waterbottle with a straw. These are things I easily got rid of to make room for his new toys. I also took out some toys he never showed much interest in or that were really similar to other toys. Once I streamlined and made room for his new items, I put everything back in the cabinet.

Week 3.jpg

When it came time for this week of #DeclutterLikeAMother, our toys were mostly already streamlined from Christmas, but I did find a few more things to get rid of. Our book bin was pretty full and it was hard to fit everything in there, so I got rid of a few he never chooses to read and a few that won’t be age appropriate for several years (like one for learning how to tell time – that’s helpful, but I can find something like that in a few years when we’re ready to teach him this). We had several stuffed toys so I got rid of a couple he doesn’t use. And I set aside the two bigger items we had borrowed from a friend, a music table and push toy, so they are ready to be returned to their owners.

Even with all we got rid of, LJ still has plenty to keep him busy. Ha!

week three declutter

For me, the key is to just keep an eye on what is being used and what is fostering imagination. LJ doesn’t really have many toys that are passive entertainment; most of his toys require him to move them or do something with them. If I notice a toy isn’t working well anymore or he’s never wanting to play with it, I take it out to sell or donate. Just a little effort every now and then to make sure we’re using what we have helps keep things at a manageable level.

If you are a parent, what tips do you have for keeping your toy inventory manageable?

Working Out as a SAHM

Before I was married, I worked out almost every day after work. I’d head to the gym straight from work and get a solid 60-90 minutes in before heading home. I came up with a workout regimen where I’d focus on different areas each day, the whole shebang.  Then I got married and we moved to a different state where I had a 40 minute commute to work. I didn’t go every day anymore, but I did still try to make it a priority to go a few times a week and found a workout buddy who helped motivate me and we both contributed to our regimen.

Then…I became a parent. Ha! I’m now a stay-at-home mama with a part time work-from-home job. It feels like my brain is full of about 23049823 things at any one time and I’m about maxed out without thinking about when to workout and what to do once I have the time to do it (do I do abs or legs? push-ups or burpees? full body or target one area?) Decision fatigue is a real thing and exercise started to feel like one more set of decisions that I just didn’t have the energy for.

That being said, exercise is still really important to me. I know there are so many health benefits to exercise, both short-term and long-term, plus I also feel more energized and happy when I’m exercising somewhat regularly. I want to make taking care of myself a priority, not just for my own happiness but because I’ve got a little person watching at home and I want him to see that women can be strong. I want him to see that women can be great mamas, loving wives, caring friends, and still take time for themselves. I’ve just had to adjust my expectations with my lifestyle. I no longer have 90 minutes to go to the gym every day, but I can still do something! Today I thought I’d share a little about how I’ve changed things up to fit my lifestyle now and what I do to still get exercise while eliminating most of the decisions around it. This is what works for me as a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) and might not work for everyone, but I share in hopes that it might be helpful for someone else to get ideas for how to squeeze in exercise in their own life.

exercise

Gym Workouts

Gone are the days where I want to put any mental energy in to a workout regimen. I don’t have the capacity or desire to think about if I want to do biceps or triceps, elliptical or treadmill, cardio or weights. I literally just want to go to the gym and get a workout in without putting any thought into it. Because of this, I have fallen in love with group fitness classes at my local gym. I just show up, put my brain in low power mode while I just follow the instructor, and get a great workout in. I always leave feeling so energized and refreshed!

Two mornings a week, I go to a bootcamp class. It’s a mix of cardio and strength training; sometimes we do our own little station, sometimes we complete an obstacle course. It changes frequently so it never gets boring!

One afternoon a week, I take a cycling class. This is by far my favorite class and if I do nothing else all week, this is the class I do everything in my power not to miss. It is 45 minutes of a solid cardio workout and I can just zone out and work my booty off. I love it!

cycling 1

My local YMCA offers childcare as part of our family membership and that is honestly the only reason I am ever even able to make it to the gym. I’m so thankful for this option!

If your gym doesn’t have childcare available, another option would be to try to find a friend to do a childcare swap with (you watch her kids for an hour so she can workout and she watches yours for an hour, etc).

At-home workouts

As much as I would love to make it to all three of these classes each week, it’s just not always feasible. The bootcamp class happens in the late morning and sometimes LJ’s nap interferes. Other times, if he has a little cold or anything, I don’t take him because I don’t want him to spread anything around in the childcare. Or now that we’re in winter, the weather doesn’t always cooperate and I’m not going to drive out in snow and ice. Because of this, I’ve had to start relying more on in-home workouts.

I’ve tried apps to workout at home in the past, but honestly, decision fatigue gets me there too. I don’t want to decide on a body area or figure out what workout to do. I don’t want to have to decide between YouTube or NikeFit, cardio or yoga, etc, etc. So I decided to purchase an entire workout program that makes all the decisions for me. I found Expecting and Empowered through Instagram and I only wish I had found them sooner! They have programs specifically tailored to mamas, both in pregnancy and postpartum (they even have one for mamas like me who are “further out” – meaning 10+ months postpartum). I haven’t had their program long, because I didn’t know about the pregnancy one until I was almost through my pregnancy with LJ and the postpartum ones only came out a few months ago but so far I am loving it! I love that their workouts are designed for busy mamas, with minimal equipment (just a resistance band and/or hand weights) and give a great workout while targeting areas of a woman’s body that are affected by pregnancy and need strength and healing.

The program eliminates decision fatigue because I just follow along with whatever day I’m on. I can sometimes get the workout in during LJ’s naptime, but if that doesn’t happen, I’ve figured out a little set-up.

It’s moments like these where I am reminded of Amy (co-creator of E&E’s) little mantra: “it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be done.” And that’s so true with my at-home workouts. They look far from perfect. If LJ is awake, I set up in the hallway entrance of my house next to our playroom and set him up with toys and snacks.   I imagine him cheering “go mama, go!” and just do what I can.

Truthfully, that is my workout strategy for this busy time in my life. Do what I can. I make exercise a priority but understand that sometimes life happens differently than I plan for. Some weeks, I can get 5 workouts in. Some, I don’t get any. Most weeks, I am somewhere in the middle. And I’m learning to give myself grace to be okay with that. I do think it’s super important to know yourself and understand what is going to work for you. If decision fatigue is weighing you down and making exercise difficult to do, try eliminating as many decisions as possible. I wake up on Mondays and Fridays knowing I’ll be at bootcamp. If LJ is napping or sick or it snows, then I know I won’t go. But if none of those things happen, then I’m going. It’s not a decision to really make because I’ve already made it, and once I get there, the biggest decision I have to make is whether to use 8, 10, or 12 pound weights. I can handle that one decision! I encourage you to try to find ways to eliminate as many decisions regarding exercise as possible – it’s amazing how much more manageable it seems when you don’t have to use a ton of mental energy on it.

How do you fit exercise into your life?

#DeclutterLikeAMother Week Two

Good morning friends!

I hope you all had a great weekend! LJ stayed with my parents from Friday-Sunday (it was the first time I’ve spent more than one night away from him!) so that Justin and I could attend several of his work functions. It was so great to have a chance to sleep in, recharge, and enjoy staying out late with friends but we were pretty darn excited to be reunited Sunday. 🙂

Declutter Like a Mother – Week Two

I explained in a previous post that I’m participating in the #DeclutterLikeAMother challenge (read more about it here) in January. You can read about my week one experience with decluttering bathrooms and closets here. Last week was all about: the kitchen!

week two

So I have to first admit that I strayed from 30 minutes a day goal. In fact, I really only spent maybe a total of an hour over the whole week going through cabinets in my kitchen. I decided not to stress about doing things perfectly, because the spirit of the challenge is progress over perfection, so I just focused on doing what I could. That being said, I feel like the work I did still made a huge impact!

Week Two declutter.jpg

Over the years, I have done a pretty good job of weeding out small kitchen items. I don’t keep a million spatulas, I get rid of items that don’t work well, and if I bring something new into the kitchen, it has to be something I know I’ll use frequently or for multiple things. For this reason, what I have is mostly what I use. I only got rid of a few items from my drawers (a cookie frosting decorator I got as a hand-me-down years ago and always “thought I’d use someday”, an old round cake pan that has seen better days, etc). The big change happened in two main cabinets.

Cabinet one was my appliance cabinet. I don’t like clogging up my counter top with lots of appliances, so I use a large cabinet as storage to store everything (crockpot, toaster, blender, stand mixer, etc) except our coffeemaker. This cabinet had two really huge items that take up a ton of space and don’t get used: my juicer and my Instant Pot. Now, I’m not getting rid of my Instant Pot, I just need to actually spend some time figuring it out (people who love theirs, tell me your tips! I have made one soup and it had so much prep work that I’m not sure it was actually faster for me than just dumping things in a crockpot? Help!) This challenge was a great reminder for me to get it out of the cabinet and spend time learning it. Use it or lose it, right?

While the Instant Pot remains, it’s time for the juicer to go. I love a yummy juice, but I just don’t take the time to buy all the ingredients, prepare it all to go in the juicer, clean all the parts afterwards, etc. It’s too much work for me and I haven’t used it in over a year. It is going to find its way onto Facebook marketplace this week so someone who will actually enjoy it can put it to use.

The other HUGE change happened in a large pantry cabinet off the kitchen. You guys. This space was so. bad. It had become a catch-all cabinet for mostly serving items but also things that just didn’t have a place anywhere else. And it was a disaster area. I literally had to try to keep things from falling down on me.

Why oh why did I have the things I most frequently use on the bottom of the top shelf? This basically guaranteed an avalanche every time. See the nice eye-level shelf full of things I rarely or never use (a growler and an old coffeemaker!?) – why didn’t that house the things I most often reach for? I’m honestly baffled.

Check out this before and after.

I’m ridiculously excited about this change. I can easily access the things I most often need, and even the things I use less frequently are now very easy to get without causing a landslide.

The biggest thing that was reinforced to me from decluttering the kitchen was to let go of my “someday” items. It is so tempting to fall into the trap of keeping something that is in decent condition and could be used “someday.” Take all those big plastic food storage containers. I don’t use them now because they don’t fit in my cabinet. They’ve been in storage almost three years because maybe “someday” I’ll … what? Move and have a bigger pantry? Will I even want to use them at that point? Or would I prefer to get a matching set? Or by that time will I just prefer to leave things in the original container? Why would I hold on to something I haven’t used in several years and have no clear idea of when I would want to use it again? Same with my Brita water pitcher. This was great at a previous house, but then we moved and now have a fridge with a filter. I don’t take up space inside the fridge with a pitcher that provides water we can easily get from the outside. Again, haven’t used it for several years and have no goal to use it again. WHY AM I KEEPING IT!? If any of these items cost hundreds of dollars, maybe I could make the case for keeping them. But these are things that if “someday” comes and I really do wish I had them, I can get them again pretty easily. And you know what else? When I asked my sisters if they wanted anything, my younger sister jumped on the coffee maker and food storage containers. These are things she wants now. They can fulfill a purpose for her now. Why on earth did I want to keep these things in storage for “someday” when someone else can put them to use now? 

I may not have spent a ton of time decluttering the kitchen last week, but I’m super pleased with what I was able to accomplish. It feels so much lighter to just have what I need and know the things I’m not using will now be able to be used by someone else.

Is there one spot of your house that baffles you like my pantry baffled me?

 

Breastfeeding: a complicated journey

The end of an era is upon me.

After 13.5 months, I can feel LJ and my breastfeeding journey is drawing to a close. For a few months now, LJ has become more and more interested in food (and eats a ton!) and less and less interested in breastmilk. My supply has naturally adjusted and dwindled. We’ve gradually been dropping feeds and for the past month have really only done morning and night feeding. Recently, he’s become obsessed with all things daddy so Justin has been putting him to bed and the night feed has faded. Now we’re only consistently feeding in the morning and even that is becoming a 1 minute event before he’s ready to go downstairs for breakfast. My parents are watching him this weekend and I’m not going to pump or anything. I have a feeling this may signal the end of the road for breastfeeding.

While it’s a little bittersweet, I know LJ and I are ready for this. It’s been quite the journey for us and if I’m being completely honest, my feelings towards breastfeeding have been complicated. I am so grateful that I was able to do it so long and don’t take that for granted. But while breastfeeding is awesome and beautiful, it’s also freaking hard and brought about a lot of contradictory feelings. Today I just wanted to take a look back at some aspects of my experience. This post is mostly to help me process that it’s drawing to a close but also to offer encouragement to anyone who might be breastfeeding as well. For the record, I in no way mean for this post to shame other moms who make different feeding choices for their babies. This is simply what my personal journey looked like.

Things I wasn’t expecting

How awkward it felt in the beginning. I just expected LJ to pop on and go to town and it just be a natural thing. Nope. Didn’t work like that. It was awkward and stressful and took several weeks before we got into a good, comfortable routine.

My supply to tank around 9 months. All of the sudden, I barely had enough milk to keep LJ satisfied, which led to stress and panic, which obviously did not help my supply. I started using supplement mix and eating lactation cookies (I bought these and also made some using a recipe I found online) and this greatly helped boost my supply. It was a stressful month though!

How isolating it was sometimes. We went to a minor league baseball game and the stadium seats are not exactly the most comfortable place in the world to breastfeed (and it was like 90+ degress that day). Luckily, our local stadium has a little room for breastfeeding moms. I was so thankful to have a much more comfortable place to sit and feed LJ; however, it meant that I had to remove myself from the company of my family for half an hour and that was a bummer. This scenario repeated itself often – there would be a more comfortable place to breastfeed, but it meant I had to leave the conversations that were happening with friends, family, whomever. I sometimes resented the fact that for me to do what I needed to do comfortably, I had to choose to leave the company of whoever I was with.

How hungry it made me! I had heard that breastfeeding burns calories but man, I was not expecting for it to make me want to eat all. the. things.

Letdown. It’s a really strange, hard-to-describe feeling when your milk lets down and I just wasn’t expecting that!

Things I’m SO glad I did

Utilized the *FREE* resource center at my local hospital. I met one-on-one with a lactation consultant in the first two weeks when his latch was super painful and it made a HUGE difference. I also attended their weekly breastfeeding support group. I made some great mama friends and got SO much support, not only for breastfeeding, but also for transitioning to solids, sleep questions, travel tips, and general mama wisdom. I think it is so important to look at what is offered within your community and take advantage of any available resources to help make your experience with feeding the best it can be!

Kept a nursing cover in my diaper bag. I used this one and appreciated the stretchy, breathable fabric. I know some mamas prefer no cover and that’s 100% fine – there were times I didn’t use one as LJ grew larger. But I think it’s so important that both mama and baby be comfortable during feeding and this cover significantly helped my comfort level as a new mama feeding in public.

Used a nursing pillow. My boppy became my best friend during nursing – it made the experience so much more comfortable and I took it with me on all trips as well.

Things I hated

Middle of the night feeds. I will be the first to say I am not someone who functions well on little sleep. I need my sleep and I’m very cranky when I don’t get it. Until he started sleeping through the night, it was really hard for me to deal with getting up at 2 am, 4 am, etc to feed.

Pumping. Oh my gosh. I even had a pump that I loved, but I just did not enjoy having to be hooked up to that machine for 20 minutes. I would use a hands-free bra, but that meant taking off my regular bra first and I often ended up having to apply pressure to certain parts of my boobs to get all the ducts going anyways. Plus rinsing all the parts is a drag (although Justin often did the actual washing later and that was so helpful), then you have to label milk, reassemble parts again, store everything…it’s just a big process to repeat. I know it sound like I’m being super whiny about this, but it felt like a lot of work every time and was just not enjoyable.

Being the only parent who could feed. LJ originally took a bottle well, but that meant I had to pump, and you know how I felt about pumping. In order have enough pumped milk for Justin to regularly feed LJ  and keep up a big enough freezer stash to have what we needed for babysitters/emergencies, I had to pump daily. It also meant sometimes I’d  breastfeed LJ and then pump afterwards, which is absolutely no fun. It’s like feeding two babies in one go! Or Justin would use stored milk to feed him, but I’d have to pump anyways because I was so full so that wasn’t actually a break for me. All this meant I didn’t pump often, which led to not a ton of stored milk, which meant Justin could not feed LJ often. I’m not proud of it, but this was something I resented at times. Every other aspect of parenthood was shared with Justin but feeding was something I had to be the one to do 6-8 times a day and somedays this was frustrating.

Things I loved

Knowing my body was providing nourishment for my son. There is something really empowering about that feeling!

The sense of accomplishment when we finally hit our stride a few weeks in. LJ had a very painful latch at first and I worked with an LC to learn how to help him learn a proper latch. It felt amazing when he finally started latching correctly without any intervention from me. I wanted to throw confetti I was so happy!

When he was super little, breastfeeding almost always made him fall asleep. It was so cute to see him become more and more sleepy until he would finally drift off, curled into my body. ❤

Quiet morning moments when he’s still a little drowsy, his salt lamp is casting a glow around the room, and we’re just rocking softly in the recliner in his nursery as he feeds. There is something really magical about starting a day in such a way and I will miss these moments.

When I think back on breastfeeding in the years to come, I hope I don’t put on the rose colored glasses and only remember the good parts. I also hope I don’t become cynical and only remember the hard parts. The truth is, breastfeeding was both beautiful and challenging. There were days I was so thankful to be doing it and then days I strongly resented it. It’s bittersweet to be ending this journey but I also kind of want to throw a party. I hope to always remember this experience for what it truly was: wonderful, difficult, complicated, and life-giving.