On days when I little boost

Being a stay-at-home/work-from-home mama is a joy for me and I love it, but it does have its challenges. It is not just lounging on the couch relaxing at home – it is a true job and I work hard each and every day. Sure, some days I stay in my pajamas all day long but that doesn’t mean I was lazing around. It just means I was comfortable while I worked. 😊

LJ and books

Let me be very clear: I love staying at home and am very, very grateful that I can do so. Justin and I talked it through and we were both 100% agreed that this was the right thing for our family right now. I am thrilled that I get to spend my days as the primary caregiver for our son. I am so thankful for a flexible administrative job I can do from home to bring in a little income. I am really and truly happy with our current situation.

BUT. There are some days that just hard. There are days that feel monotonous. There are days when I get a little stir crazy. There are days where it feels like my husband will never get home from work. There are days when I feel lonely and crave adult interaction. There are some days when I just need a little boost to lift my mood or my energy level. Today, I thought I would share some of my tried-and-true mood-boosting, spirit-lifting pick-me-ups for days where I just feel overwhelmed, stressed, lonely, etc. and need a little something extra. They work wonders for me now in this season of staying at home, but many were also strategies I used when I was teaching full-time and had a hard day.

My mood-boosting, spirit-lifting pick-me-ups

1) Listen to a podcast

I have mentioned my love for Gretchen Rubin on the blog before and one of the reasons I love her so much is the podcast “Happier” that she does with her sister Elizabeth. I started listening to it after LJ was born as I washed dishes, cleaned the house, drove him to appointments, etc. I quickly became obsessed and went through all the episodes (there are over 190 of them)! It is uplifting and fun and has given me a ton of practical, manageable tips and tricks for building happier habits into my daily life.

Other podcasts I enjoy are The Purpose Show, Rise Together, and The Goal Digger Podcast. I also occasionally listen to Binge Mode (they are currently binging Harry Potter!), The Minimalists, and The Dave Ramsey show. Each podcast gives me some type of insight into a part of my life and I enjoy having a moment to uplift and uplevel my mind during the day, even if it’s only for a few minutes.

2) Go for a walk

Sometimes I get pretty stir crazy in the house and just need a change of scenery. Going for a walk never fails to give my spirits a lift and calm my stir-craziness. Often, I will just put LJ in the stroller and walk around our neighborhood. If I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll also take our dogs along (we look like a traveling circus but it’s fine). There is also a nice public trail near our house that I sometimes drive to for an extra change of scenery. If it’s a rainy or cold day, I will drive to the mall and walk loops indoors. This may surprise you since I just professed my love for podcasts, but I typically do not listen to anything while I’m walking. Walking is a chance for me to shut my brain off and just enjoy the sounds of nature or the buzz of people around me. It refreshes my mind and the movement gives me an energy boost.

3) Light a candle

Something about just lighting a candle feels indulgent to me. It makes my house smell good and is so cozy and festive (right now I’m loving Farmer’s Market from Yankee Candle – the perfect fall scent). It instantly gives me a little mood boost!

4) Carve out reading time

Some days, when nap time rolls around I put housework or other tasks on pause and take a little mental escape into a book.  I feel so relaxed and refreshed and ready to jump back in to work after 30 minutes cozied up on the couch with a snuggly blanket and a good book!

Side note: I often hear people say that they don’t have time to read. Honestly, I just don’t buy that. You have time to do whatever you prioritize doing. If you have ten minutes to scroll through your Facebook feed, you have ten minutes to read. If you have an hour to binge something on Netflix, you have an hour to read. Reading might not be what you choose to do with the time you have, but you can make time for it if you want. For me, I just love reading so it is what I find the time to do instead of other things.

5) Exercise

I really cannot emphasize this one enough. Exercise has so many positive benefits for both my mental and physical health. The feel good endorphins that I get from a great workout will keep me energized all day long. I love the classes offered at my local YMCA and try to go to their spin class 1x/week and bootcamp class 2x/week. This is only possible for me because of the YMCA childcare, which I am so thankful for. If your gym does not provide childcare, consider trading babysitting with a friend so you can swap going to the gym or find an at-home workout you can do during naptime (there are tons of free workouts on YouTube).

6) Enjoy a phone call

I am really close with my sisters and mom and I talk to at least one, if not all, of them every week. While they all work at jobs outside of the home, they each have breaks in their day and if there is a day that I really need to chat with a human over the age of one, I’ll send one of them a text to call me over their break. Spending a few minutes catching up always perks up my mood!

7) Put on real clothes

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of days where I stay in my sweatpants all. day. long. But I often put on jeans and a casual top instead – it might sound crazy but real clothes make me feel put together and accomplished and sometimes I just need that mental boost.

Bonus – Go to a coffee shop for a hot chocolate

Some days are just extra hard. Maybe LJ was teething and extra fussy. Maybe one of the dogs threw up on the carpet. Maybe LJ skipped a nap and our whole day was thrown off. On days like this, I communicate my needs with Justin. We have a coffee shop about 3 minutes from our house and I might say “hey, when you get home, I would really like to just go to the coffee shop by myself for a little. Is that okay?” He is always so supportive of me going and it feels like such a treat to just sit by myself drinking a hot chocolate and reading a book or working on my laptop for an hour. It gives him quality one-on-one time with LJ and gives me a mommy break so I can come back refreshed and ready to love on both my guys with my best self. I’ve only done this maybe 3 times since LJ was born so each time feels special and indulgent and SO rejuvenating!

 

What is your go-to trick that gives you an instant mood boost on the days you need a little something extra?

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Remembering My First Baby

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Rememberance Day, and is part of October’s Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Approximately 1 in 4 pregnancies end in a loss – this is my story.

October 14, 2016 started as a day just like any other except for the fact that Justin and I were keeping a big secret – I was eight weeks pregnant!

Baby #1 Pregnancy Test

My first official ultrasound was not scheduled until ten weeks, but I had no risk factors or symptoms to indicate things were going any other way than perfectly. Justin and I were over the moon and could not wait to share our news with the world.

Baby #1 - 5 weeks
My first “bump” tracking picture @ 5 weeks

This particular day was a Friday. I had just finished eating lunch in my classroom and headed to the copy room make a few quick copies before my next class. As I was walking down the hall, I realized I felt sick. VERY sick. I immediately changed course and headed for the bathroom.

From there, things quickly spiraled downhill. I didn’t just have a little pregnancy nausea; I experienced an extremely violent sickness. I will spare you the details but suffice to say it was worse than any other illness I’ve ever had. By the time Justin got off work, I was also experiencing searing side pain. He immediately rushed me to the ER where an ultrasound confirmed terrifying news: my pregnancy was not going as perfectly as we had thought and our baby was not growing in my uterus but actually within my right fallopian tube – a condition known as an ectopic pregnancy. To make matters even worse, my tube had ruptured and was causing a very serious amount of internal bleeding that was life-threatening to me. I was immediately taken into surgery to remove the pregnancy and stop the bleeding.

October 14, 2016 marks the day we lost our first baby. It was, quite honestly, the absolute worst day of my life.

Waking up from surgery was like waking up in a nightmare. I was devastated by our loss and also in a tremendous amount of physical pain. I had to undergo four blood transfusions due to the significant blood loss from the rupture. I couldn’t even sit up without passing out. And perhaps worst of all, I was in so much pain that I couldn’t even cough without having to brace my abdomen with a pillow, let alone do what I really wanted: scream, howl, and ferociously ugly cry to mourn the loss of my sweet little baby.

The days and weeks following my surgery were full of sorrow and recovery. I took ten days off work and spent my time lying on the couch with my dogs snuggled up beside me, my eyes puffy and red from constant crying. I wouldn’t wish the pain and sadness of those dark days on my very worst enemy. My long, slow journey of healing had only just begun.

Baby #1 - hospital bed
The first small step towards healing came when I woke from a nap and realized Justin was sleeping next to me in the hospital bed, holding my hand. The road to healing would be long and difficult but in this moment I was so thankful that we had each other to lean on.

It is hard to describe the roller coaster of emotions that come with the loss of a pregnancy. One moment you can be numbly watching Netflix on the couch and in the next moment you’re screaming and crying into a pillow over how unfair life is. You might see a pregnancy or birth announcement on social media and try to conjure up happiness for the other person but you really just want to smash your phone into a thousand little pieces because you desperately want to be able to make that announcement too. You finally get up the energy to leave the house for a much-needed date or outing with your husband and you enjoy yourself, only to post a picture and then feel like a fraud because your marriage looks perfectly together online when in reality you’re both just trying to deal with your grief and make it through one day without breaking down in tears over the “what could have beens” for your family. You aren’t sure if you will ever really feel like yourself again and wonder if this cycle of anguish and heartache is just your new normal.

Then finally…finally…you have a day where you are truly okay. And then another day when you’re okay. And then another. And suddenly, you’re just okay. Until you’re not. And then you have a hard, hard day where grief encompasses you all over again. But this time, it’s a little easier than your last hard day. You get back to being okay a little bit quicker. And the long cycle of healing continues.

Justin and I are so grateful that we were able to get pregnant again (a miraculous story for another time) and did not take a single moment of my second pregnancy for granted. We welcomed LJ into our lives with so much joy and tears of happiness and gratitude. We are so in love with him and so SO thankful to be his parents. But this doesn’t erase 100% of the grief from our first loss. Two years later, reliving it all by writing this blog post has brought me to tears several times. When I was pregnant with LJ, I cried during the Mother’s Day church service and again on our baby’s due date (May 25, 2017). I still trace the tiny scar on my belly from my emergency surgery – my only physical reminder of the life I carried for eight weeks. And I still hesitate whenever a curious stranger making small talk asks me if LJ is my first because the truth is, LJ may be my firstborn but he is not my first baby (but it’s way too heavy and complicated to explain to a stranger making small talk that my first baby is actually waiting for me in the arms of Jesus so I just smile and say “yes” and walk away with a twinge of sadness in my heart).

Pregnancy loss is an ongoing journey. It’s messy and hard and multi-faceted. If you are struggling with the loss of a pregnancy or infant, know that you have been in my thoughts many, many times over the past two years, even if I don’t know your name of your story. I am praying for you and sending you so much love. You are not alone.

September 2018 Book Reviews

Today is the final installment of catching up on book reviews from my summer reading list. After this, I will just have one book review each month. I’m currently working through my October reading stack so that review will likely come in a couple weeks.

September 2018 Book Review

Let’s jump in to what I read in September – I’ve got an eclectic mix this time around!

You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld

You Think It

I saw this collection on the featured shelf in the library and decided to give it a chance since I rarely read short stories. There is no doubt that this author is talented and the stories are well written; however, I just didn’t connect with or enjoy the majority of them. This is an unfortunate example of how sometimes it doesn’t pay off to start a book you know nothing about – from a manipulative one-night-stand to emotional/physical cheating to contemplation of extramarital affairs, there was subject material that was just not my cup of tea. After the first two stories fell flat for me, I considered stopping but ultimately kept plugging away since the book was short. I did like a few stories (like Bad Latch and Off the Record) but most just left me feeling sad or cynical for one reason or another. This is sadly not one I enjoyed or recommend.

Final Girls by Riley Sager

Final Girls.jpg

Three women, Lisa, Sam, and Quincy, have never met but are uniquely bonded together as “final girls” – they are each the sole survivor of a horrific mass murder. We primarily follow Quincy, who has no memory of how she survived a cabin weekend where all her friends were brutally killed. After Lisa is unexpectedly found dead, Sam shows up on Quincy’s door and forces Quincy to deal with the past she has blocked out, which leads to a heart-pumping race to figure out the truth of what really happened that horrible night in the cabin. I have to start by saying the first 40% of this book went slower than I expected; I could tell it was meant to build suspense but it just wasn’t really working for me.  But then, the first major twist/revelation occurs and my interest level completely changed. The pace picked up, the story became more intricate and suspenseful, my heart started beating faster – I could not put it down! There were some shocking twists that kept me guessing until the very end. I gasped. I shuddered. I turned on ALL the lights. Even now just writing this review, I have literally looked over my shoulder no less than five times. This book is the perfect blend of psychological thriller + slasher movie (and I say this as someone who flat out refuses to watch any even remotely scary movie, let alone a horror/slasher flick). I loved the unique premise, the flashbacks to the night in the cabin, and the surprising twists throughout. So even with the disappointingly slow start, I did enjoy this book and would recommend it!

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Great Alone

In 1974, a fairly unstable Vietnam War veteran tries to get a fresh start by moving to rural Alaska with his wife and teenage daughter, Leni. They are welcomed into the small, tight-knit community and things go really well at first. Leni even starts to believe that maybe life will really be different for their family in Alaska. But then, winter comes and it turns out, even Alaska isn’t far enough away for her father to escape his demons. This book was fantastic! In May, I reviewed Kristin Hannah’s book Summer Island and it just fell short of the standard I have for her books after her excellent novels The Nightingale and Winter Garden. I was hopeful that this book would redeem my high expectations for her and it did not disappoint! It is vibrant, poignant, and captivating. The descriptions of the Alaskan wild are so vivid I feel like I have actually seen it with my own eyes. I came to love (most of) the characters and became so invested in their stories. There are some pretty heavy mental health issues included that are heartbreaking to see play out but contribute to an intriguing, emotional plot. It’s not a light read by any means but gosh, I just loved it. Highly recommend!

Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turkle

Reclaiming Conversation

Sherry Turkle is a trained sociologist and psychologist who takes a deep dive into how the pull of technology has led us away from conversations. She examines how our departure from conversation affects relationships with our family, friends, work, and even our own self-awareness. People are losing the ability to be empathetic and connect with others beyond the surface level. While I did enjoy reading this book and feel everyone would benefit from its message, I realize not everyone wants to read a nonfiction, heavily researched book about the effects of technology and devices on our view of ourselves, our relationships, our work life, etc. This book did get a little long and dense at times which led to me skim some of the sections. In a nutshell: while it can be a great resource, there are limitations with what technology can provide. Use of a device simply cannot serve as a replacement for face-to-face conversation. Conversations bring creativity, deeper relationships, and change and it is important for us to turn outward to others rather than downward to our phones or other devices. Turkle makes some compelling arguments for conversation and overall, I was pretty fascinated and took a lot of notes. I feel like there will be a separate blog post in the future where I can expand more on what I took away from this book so stay tuned for that!

And that’s a wrap on my summer reading! Now what do I need to include on my fall reading list?

 

 

 

Traveling with a Baby {Plane Tips}

Disclaimer: In this post I do mention a few specific items and provide links for them. None of these are sponsored and I was given no compensation for mentioning or linking them. They are all just items that I loved having on our flights and wanted to pass along!

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post where I shared some tips for simplifying road trips with a baby. I’ve mentioned before that Justin and I love to travel and while we have done several road trips with LJ in tow, we have also gone to a few destinations by plane. LJ has flown to Florida at 11 weeks, Texas at 4 months, and Minnesota at 8 months and all seven flights (we had some connections) have gone smoothly.

Austin, TX
Enjoying the view of Austin, TX with four-month-old LJ

We have another plane ride coming up in November for a short work trip so today I wanted to share some of the tips that have helped on our flights with LJ so far.

Travel Tips for Flying with a Baby

Before I begin, I want to reiterate that I know every baby and mama are different and these tips might not be for everyone. These are the things that have helped our family simplify the chaos of flying with a baby so we could enjoy our travels – I share them in hopes that someone else might benefit from hearing what worked for us. Let’s get started!

Tip #1: Take a nursing pillow

LJ in airport
LJ chilling at the airport gate at 11 weeks old.

Even if you aren’t breastfeeding, I absolutely recommend taking along a nursing pillow. I use this one but I think other brands would work just as well. I have used this pillow for every single flight and it has been so helpful in a variety of situations besides just breastfeeding. Even tiny babies get heavy after a while and it’s nice to have something comfy to help hold them. I’ve used our Boppy on top of a muslin blanket on the floor to let LJ lounge at the gate while waiting to board. I’ve also placed it on my lap during every flight so he can rest on it. This keeps me from having to actively “hold” him the entire time which gives my arms a nice break and allows him to be nice and cozy. I have used this item as my “personal item” and it has worked out great!

Tip #2: Use a pacifier

LJ first airplane

If your baby will use a pacifier, I highly recommend taking it along. It helps with the ear-popping at take off and landing and can offer soothing comfort to your baby during the flight. I particularly love this WubbaNub because the stuffed animal helps prevent it from popping out easily and it’s easy to locate in a diaper bag.

Tip #3: Take a baby carrier

Riverwalk
Justin and LJ enjoying the San Antonio Riverwalk

We have not taken a stroller to any of our flying destinations thus far. First of all, I prefer to have my hands free through the airport and not be pushing a stroller. It’s one less thing to lug around and keep track of through the airport and at our final destination. I also don’t want my nice stroller to get banged up and knocked around in storage on the plane. So far, this has worked out great. We have been able to wear LJ in his carrier through the airport and around every destination without a problem. Now that LJ is getting bigger, we will need to start thinking about taking along a stroller. I picked up a gently used umbrella stroller for $4.50 at a consignment sale recently and I’ll be taking it along on our next flight in November. It’s lightweight, easy to fold/carry/store, and won’t be expensive to replace if it gets banged up on the plane.

Tip #4: Backpack Carry-On

Magnolia
Enjoying Magnolia Silos in Waco, TX with our faithful diaper backpack in tow.

I can’t stress this enough – the more you can do hands-free in an airport, the easier everything becomes. If it’s at all possible to pack your carry-on in a backpack, I recommend you do it! Our diaper bag is a backpack and it is so easy to carry around the airport and our final destination. I also recommend consolidating as much as you can and taking the least amount of bags possible. Airports can be stressful as you navigate security and find your gate or rush to make a connecting flight, especially with a baby in tow, and I prefer to simplify things by having fewer bags to keep track of. I don’t take a purse with me anymore and instead use the front pocket of my diaper bag for all my “purse items” (check out my diaper bag posts here and here to see what I mean). When I flew with LJ by myself to Minneapolis, I even consolidated all our items into his diaper bag (the trip was only 1.5 days) so that it was the only bag I had to keep track of. That is a more extreme example and wouldn’t work for the majority of our trips, but the point is, streamlining what we take into as few bags as possible has simplified airport travel tremendously.

Tip #5: Check Airline Policies

I’ve flown different airlines with LJ and I have been pleasantly surprised to find out how accommodating each one is for flying with a baby. Every airline is slightly different so make sure to check out their policies online before leaving. Some things to check for:

  • Items to Gate Check: We have been able to gate check our car seat for free with each airline we’ve flown. LJ has been able to chill in the car seat while waiting to board and it’s right there waiting for us when we reach our destination so we don’t have to go to baggage claim. If you check a car seat, I highly recommend a car seat bag. It keeps the car seat protected from getting banged up and dirty on the flight. We use this one which is a backpack (lightweight and super easy to carry) and fits either an infant seat or a convertible seat. Airlines are different with what you can gate check for free (some let you check a car seat and stroller, some a car seat or stroller, some also allow a pack n play, etc) so just make sure to check your airline’s policy.
  • Diaper Bags: Some airlines will allow you to bring a diaper bag on board without counting it as your carry-on or personal item. So it’s essentially a bonus item you can bring on. Make sure to take advantage if this is a perk your airline offers!
  • Family Boarding: Some airlines allow families with small children to board first. This is nice because it allows you to get to your seat without bumping into people or holding up the line while you get settled.

Tip # 6: Bonus Items

These last few items were all helpful to me to have along to make life a little easier while on the plane.

  • Nursing cover: Nice to have privacy when I needed to breastfeed on the plane and it doubled as a blanket when LJ slept on the Boppy.
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Chlorox/Lysol wipes to wipe down seat, armrests, other surfaces (I did not do this but LJ and I sat next to someone who did this for us and it was nice to know our area was clean)
  • Baby layers: Hat, socks, mitts, etc. Keeps your baby warm on the plane and also prevents strangers from touching his head/hands/feet when you’re trying to minimize the spread of germs
  • Handheld breast pump: I’ve occasionally given a bottle on the airplane and I also prefer traveling with my inexpensive manual pump instead of my electric one.

 

And there you have it! These few little tips have helped simplify our travels greatly. I’d love to hear what has worked for you! Have you ever flown with a baby? What tips/tricks have you learned?

 

Little Brother’s Wedding!

Over the weekend, my little brother got married! LJ was the ring bearer – since he is not walking yet, he was pulled in a wagon by the two-year-old flower girl. It was as adorable as it sounds.

LJ Ring Bearer

This post was originally intended to be a wedding weekend re-cap, but when I sat down to actually write it, I realized I had taken virtually NO pictures of the entire weekend. Aside from a few quick snaps of the wedding ceremony, a few grainy pictures of my little family at the reception, and 33 attempts to get LJ to smile in the above picture, I don’t have any pictures to show for the weekend. At first, I was a little dismayed.

Once I thought about it though, I decided that it is actually pretty cool that I hadn’t taken many pictures. It means that I was absorbed in the moment – so absorbed that I wasn’t even thinking about documenting it. My focus was on other things and I didn’t even have my phone on me most of the time. I was more or less unplugged during a weekend spent with family and I think that is really special.

I don’t have many pictures, but I do have memories. I have memories of helping my mom choose shoes for the rehearsal dinner. I have memories of giggling with my sister as we pampered ourselves with face masks and DIY pedicures on the bathroom floor the morning of the wedding. I have memories of wrangling my son into his wedding outfit (he was not feeling that cute little bowtie at first) and hearing the amused chuckles of the wedding guests when he looked so sweet getting pulled down the aisle. I have memories of crying discreetly at my brother’s beautiful wedding vows, then crying not so discreetly as he surprised his bride by singing to her at the reception. I have memories of tearing up the dance floor with siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins and having such a great time laughing, hugging, and celebrating.

Sometimes, I think I get too focused on making sure to take the “perfect” picture for Instagram or capture memories in a certain way. When my focus is on taking the perfect pictures, I miss out on making the actual memories. Don’t get me wrong, I think pictures can be a wonderful gift for looking back on different moments in life and I will continue to take them! But this weekend was a great reminder that sometimes it’s nice to not worry about getting a perfect picture and just absorb yourself in making memories of the moment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 2018 Book Review

Hi friends!

It’s time for another summer reading list book review. Today I’m reviewing the books that I read in August – and without further ado, here we go!

August Book Review

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

Girl Wash Your Face

This book has certainly been making the rounds on social media lately and while I had never heard of Rachel Hollis before, I had a ton of people tell me how much they absolutely loved this book so I was excited to read it. I went in with really high expectations and while it wasn’t OMG-earth-shattering from start to finish for me, I did enjoy it. Each chapter in this book is dedicated to a lie the author used to believe that got in the way of her happiness (i.e. “I’ll start tomorrow,” “I’m not a good mom”) and how she worked through that lie to no longer believe it to be true. There were some amazing chapters that really spoke to me and gave me a lot to think about (one section in particular felt like it was written specifically for me) and there were other chapters that didn’t resonate much with me at all. I liked the author’s conversational writing style and I appreciated her insight on things like motherhood, self-worth and self-care. I feel like there are a lot of quote-worthy nuggets in there that are good for daily inspiration or a pick-me-up. I did think it was weird that it’s marketed as a Christian book but didn’t have much reference to how the author’s faith shaped her life and instead was a “you are in charge of you” message. Just something to be aware of if you’re thinking this book will read more like a devotional (it doesn’t).  Even so, I enjoyed this book, gained some wisdom and encouragement from it, and recommend it.

An American Marriage by Tayari JonesAn American Marriage

Celestial and Roy are recently married and starting their life out with big dreams for their future in Atlanta. Unfortunately, they travel to visit Roy’s family in Louisiana and while there, Roy is accused of a crime he did not commit and sentenced to 12 years in jail.  It is hard to put into words how I feel about this book. It is very well written; the characters are vividly described and you really feel for the them and the situation they find themselves in. It covers many thought-provoking topics: the injustice of racial profiling and prejudice in the criminal justice system, the impact of a wrongful conviction on the accused and everyone close to him, how fragile marriage can be if a couple is separated, what loyalty means and whether it’s fair to ask for (and if so, for how long). There are some really hard, heavy moments and tough choices made throughout the book that made it depressing for me to read at times. It just made me so sad and frustrated to think about how things “could have been” without this wrongful conviction. But then, isn’t that the point? The fact that I felt that way is because I was drawn deeply into the story and felt for each one of the characters and so wanted things to turn out well for them.  I do think it’s a remarkable piece of writing and worth checking out!

All the Beautiful Girls by Elizabeth J. Church

All the Beautiful Girls

Lily Decker is orphaned at eight years old and sent to live with her aunt and uncle. Life is less than ideal with them and she finds solace in dancing. When she is older, Lily leaves her tiny hometown with all the bad memories, changes her name to Ruby Wilde, and moves to Las Vegas in the 1960’s where she tries to make it as a dancer but instead becomes a showgirl. I happened to see this book on a shelf at the library and the premise sounded interesting so I checked it out. Honestly, this book wasn’t for me. Lily’s childhood circumstances are very disturbing to read about at times. I was so happy for her when she finally left her hometown and I became pretty interested in the story with Ruby’s transformation and efforts to make it in Vegas; however, as her story continues, things spiraled downhill for me again and I stopped enjoying the book once more. I really don’t want to say more for fear of spoiling something in the plot. The middle third of this book was about the only part I really enjoyed reading, so overall this is not a book I recommend.  (TRIGGER WARNING: I think it’s important to note that if you do decide to read this book, there are some pretty difficult moments with sexual abuse and assault.)

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Truly Madly Guilty

Ugh. I was SO disappointed by this book! I typically love Moriarty’s work but this one was a miss for me. The title makes it seem like it will be super dramatic and gripping but in reality, I felt like it was about 200 pages too long and went along at a snail’s pace. The story alternates between the perspectives of six different adults (three couples), some of whom are longtime friends and others mere acquaintances,  who were present at a barbecue where something happened . . . but you don’t find out what exactly happened for a l-o-n-g time. The chapters jump back and forth between the day of the barbecue and the present time to show the drastic difference in relationships then vs. now and how every character wishes the barbecue hadn’t happened. I think the intent was to build suspense and make you wonder what shocking thing could have possibly happened but it just made me feel impatient and disinterested. This story is not plot-driven so it hinges on character development and the reader connecting with and caring about the characters, and its redeeming qualities and bright spots just didn’t make up for the fact that I was mostly bored and just wanted it to be over. I recommend checking out one of Moriarty’s other works, Big Little Lies, The Husband’s Secret, The Hypnotist’s Love Story, instead.

It feels weird to end on such a dud of a book, but never fear, the September book review is only a week away and I have some fantastic reads to discuss! Stay tuned!

Simplifying the Diaper Bag {Infant}

In a previous post, I shared with you what I carried in my minimal-ish newborn diaper bag. That system worked very well for us for roughly the first 3 months of my son’s life and then our needs started to shift a little. Today, I thought I would share how I updated what I packed in LJ’s diaper bag as he left the newborn stage. I still tried to keep things simple so I had what we needed when out and about without carting around half our house.

Simplifying the Infant Diaper Bag

If you missed the newborn diaper bag post, you can find it here. In it, I spend some time discussing the diaper bag I use. I love its simple, clean look and minimal-ish use of space and pockets! I’m going to try not to repeat the first post today so I’d say start with that post if you want to learn more about the diaper bag. And again, I want to say that I know every baby and mama are different and needs will vary – this is just what worked for us. The list is “minimal-ish” because there are a few things included that aren’t really needs but sure do come in handy. I also link to a few items; I don’t get any compensation for this but just wanted to share products that have worked for us.

Now let’s jump in to what I carry around with my infant!

Infant diaper bag essentials (plus a few extras)

The front compartment is still my “mom” compartment and the only change to this pocket from the newborn stage is the inclusion of a sunscreen stick as summer arrived. This was the perfect size for the pocket and I found it to be super convenient to just swipe on my face/shoulders and go! Otherwise, I still keep the same items as before: my wallet, checkbook, 1-2 pens, headphones, chapstick, hand sanitizer, a snack, hair tie, and gum. I also still have disposable nursing pads and motrin in the small pocket inside.

Infant Mama Compartment

The back compartment remains exactly the same as before and is still used exclusively for diapering needs. I keep 5-6 diapers, wipes in my wipes clutch, a changing pad, diaper cream, and a diaper bag dispenser.

Infant Diaper Items

The main compartment is where the big changes happened. I used to carry around at least 3 burp cloths at any given time because my newborn baby spit up frequently. After 3 months, there was a noticeable change in spit up and now it’s a pretty rare occurrence so I usually only carry one burp cloth. I also carry a lot more toys since he is much more interactive and I need a variety of items to keep him entertained. I have a mix of silent toys and noisy toys so I can adjust what he plays with based on our surroundings. Once he started eating solids around 7 months, I included a bib and a silicone placemat that we could put on a table at a restaurant so he could pick up food and not be touching the surface of the table. I also typically carry around a simple, non-perishable snack such as puffs or melts and a straw sippy cup.

Infant Main Pocket

In addition to these items, I still carry a muslin blanket, a flannel blanket, a light hat, my nursing cover, and 2 outfit changes.  I also still roll my items and store them vertically so I can see almost everything at a glance and grab what I need without much rummaging. In the back pockets of this main compartment I keep socks, 2 gallon ziploc bags (in case of a diaper blowout that soaks through his clothes), a pacifier on a clip, and animal links. I now also include sunscreen since we have been outside a lot.

Depending on where we are going and what food will be available, I might also include a jar of baby food and a spoon but this is pretty rare since we generally can give LJ some of whatever we are eating. 

And there you have it!

A few of my extra tips:

  • I try to regularly check the diaper bag at home to make sure it’s ready to go. Having extra space in the diaper bag means there is room for other things to get put in there (such as an item we bought while out and about or maybe LJ’s shoes we took off or something). I try to leave the house with the diaper bag back to ‘baseline’ if possible.
  • When I check the bag, I also check the diaper compartment. I try to always have at least 4-5 diapers and plenty of wipes so we never have an “oh no!” moment when out and about and we realize we’re out of these crucial things. I love my wipes clutch because I can easily and quickly add more wipes at home.
  • When the bag is back to ‘baseline’ and ready to go, I place it on a certain chair in our kitchen. That way I know I can grab it on the way out the door and not have to worry that I might not have everything I need.
  • I have one of LJ’s toys on a pacifier clip so I can attach it to him if we’re at a restaurant or somewhere where I don’t want to keep picking up toys off the floor. Huge help!

For me, taking less has actually helped reduce stress because I have everything I need and can access it quickly and efficiently without sifting through a lot of extra stuff. If you have an infant and feel like you’re carrying around half of his or her earthly belongings every time you leave the house, I hope this post gave you a few times for simplifying the diaper bag!