I got by with a little help from my friends

It is SO tempting to compare yourself to others on social media. It’s easy to look at someone else’s Insta-perfect hair/outfit/makeup/family/home and assume that they have it all together and you somehow don’t quite measure up.

This picture was snapped after lunch yesterday. We are still dressed up from church and look like just another happy, loving family that has it all pretty much together.

0930181335

But can I just be real for a minute?

This past week was a doozy for me. You know those weeks where you feel like you’re running behind from the get-go and just never catch up? That’s what I’ve felt like. Coming back from the vacation high straight into the tasks of daily life with a mile long to-do list, an over-committed schedule, and a teething baby who started waking up multiple times every night. I quickly went from relaxed vacation mom last week to frazzled, hot-mess mom this week.

My default has always been to try to handle things myself. I’m a recovering perfectionist who likes to be able to do it all and do it all well. But it is an absolute LIE to believe that I can do everything all the time. Supermom is not real. She needs help and so do I.

Which brings me back to this past week. How did I manage to make it through?

When Justin had to unexpectedly work late one day instead of come home to be with LJ, I reached out to a friend who was more than happy to watch him for an hour so I could make it to my eye doctor appointment on time.

When another friend made a large crockpot meal and invited us to dinner one evening, I gratefully accepted and crossed “figure out dinner” from my to-do list.

When it was time for my weekly cycling class, I prioritized my own physical and mental health by going to class and utilizing the YMCA childcare services for an hour.

And when Justin and I needed a full night of rest to refill our depleted sleep tanks after this long week, I asked my parents for help. They were SO thrilled to have LJ at their house for dinner and a sleepover. My mom didn’t even mind his waking up at night because it meant she got extra cuddles with him. It blessed my parents to have special grandparent time and it blessed us with a night of uninterrupted sleep. When we were reunited with LJ today, Justin and I were refreshed, recharged, and ready to be our best parenting selves and love on our little man so hard!

So don’t let my cute little family photo fool you or make you feel bad about yourself in any way. In fact, don’t let any picture on social media make you feel that way. There is always more going on beyond the little 2×2 square. Yes, we are a happy, loving family. Yes, I was able to actually do both my make-up AND curl my hair instead of choosing one or the other. Yes, we really were having a fairly pulled-together moment with smiles on our faces here. But it doesn’t mean we just had an easy-breezy week and our life is picture perfect. We didn’t get to this moment alone. It truly takes a VILLAGE and there is no shame in my mom game to say that we had help getting through this past week.

I get it, it’s hard to ask for help. It means that we have to admit that we cannot do it all. It can makes us feel like we fell short somewhere or we aren’t enough somehow. I have felt that way too but I have come to realize that I’m a better wife, mom, and human when I’m not frazzled, stressed, and overwhelmed. And I can’t do it all without help.

If you are having one of those day or weeks (or months or years) where you feel just overwhelmed by whatever life is throwing at you, I hope this encourages you to ask for and accept help from others. We are all in this together. ❤

Advertisements

Stay in the picture, mama

In Monday’s post, I shared a bunch of pictures of my family’s recent vacation to Virginia Beach. After publishing the post, I noticed something about the pictures I chose to share as highlights. Mainly, I noticed I wasn’t in them.

Allow me to indulge in a brief trip down memory lane. When my husband and I returned from our honeymoon 5+ years ago, I posted a ton of pictures of our trip on Facebook. I mean, why not? We had an absolute blast on the trip and we documented it well. In many of these pictures, I was in a bikini.

Honeymoon balcony

Everyone from my best friends to my husband’s grandmother could see my bikini pics and I didn’t think twice about it. I was dang proud of my body. In the months before our wedding, I created and stuck to a workout regimen. I went to the gym for at least an hour 4-5 days each week. I ate healthy foods. I ran for miles. I worked hard for months and months and when the wedding rolled around, all my hard work paid off. I felt confident and proud in my wedding dress.  And on my honeymoon, I rocked my bikini like I never had before.

Honeymoon

Flash forward 5 years, and we took another beach vacation. Once again, we had an absolute blast on the trip and documented it well. Once again, I wore a bikini for a lot of the trip. This time, however, when it came time to post pictures, my bikini pictures remained safely on my phone.

My body has experienced drastic changes over the past 19 months. I gained and lost 45 pounds; I was stretched out and didn’t shrink back the exact same way. To be clear, I am so thankful for my body. I was able to get pregnant and grow a human, something I worried wouldn’t happen after the loss of my first pregnancy. I have breastfed my son for over ten months and am so grateful that my body can provide him nourishment. I take walks with my family, attend a weekly cycling class at my local YMCA, and squeeze in a bootcamp class when nap time allows. I don’t say any of this to brag, but to honestly say that I truly am proud of what my body has done and can still do.

But the bikini pictures remained on my phone.

To be completely open and vulnerable, for as proud as I am of what my body has done and can do, I still struggle to wholeheartedly love the way it looks. It’s easy to post a bikini picture when you have rock-hard abs and nothing jiggles. It’s harder to post when your stomach has a stubborn post-baby pooch and you’re soft around the edges. I felt pretty good about the fact that I even wore a bikini on our vacation, but I wasn’t about to share the pictures.

Until I took the time to really look at them.

LJ and Mommy 1 (2)

Look at my son and his pure joy in this moment. He doesn’t care that his mommy’s belly is squishier than it once was. He doesn’t care that her hips are bigger and her baby pooch never left. He doesn’t care that mommy isn’t standing at a flattering angle to the camera or that oops, her c-section scar is showing (did you even notice that? My inner mean girl sure did).

LJ and Mommy 2

My son cares that his mommy is playing with him. He cares that his mommy is focused on him. He cares that he feels safe and loved and knows mommy is going to catch him every time she throws him up in the air. I see love and happiness in these moments captured from my son’s first beach trip and I’m so glad I have these pictures.

LJ and Mommy 3

It would be easy to hide these pictures. It would be easy to keep them on my phone or in some remote corner of my hard drive where they’re never seen. It would be easy to forget they exist. It would even be easy to stop taking them in the first place.

But here is the truth. I want to be in the pictures. Even if I’m not looking my best, I want these sweet moments captured from this all-too-fleeting baby stage of my son’s life. I want us both to be able to look back years from now and cherish the fun we’ve had together. Plus, I want to raise my son to know that a woman is worth so. much. more. than her outer appearance – I can hardly teach him that truth if I’m not living with the confidence of knowing it’s true about me too!

So I am going to continue to ignore the narrative in my head, the critical inner voice who says my body isn’t “back” and I’m not “ready” to be in a bikini. I am going to continue to throw that suit on and make memories with my son at every stage. I want to be the mom running around in the splash pad with my toddler, sliding down a water park slide with my six-year-old, and challenging my ten-year-old to a cannonball contest. I can’t waste energy comparing my honeymoon body to my mom body. My body has changed and I am not the same 24-year-old who could spend 60-90 minutes in the gym every day. But ten months ago, I brought a human into this world and I am dang proud of all my body has accomplished since then.

If you are a mama struggling to love on your postpartum body, I just want to encourage you today to stay in the picture. Don’t sit on the sidelines, don’t keep out of the frame. Keep loving on your kiddos no matter if you’re bundled up in snowsuits building a snowman or splashing in a pool in your swimsuit. Make those memories. Cherish those times. Take those pictures. Your kids don’t care what you look like. They care that you’re there. ❤

 

Simplifying the Diaper Bag {Newborn}

When my son was a few weeks old, I realized that while I loved being a stay-at-home mom, our days got pretty monotonous and long if I took my job title too literally and spent all of our time at home. I soon got stir crazy and longed for a little change of scenery once in a while so I started to look for small outings that he and I could make out into the world to feel like part of civilization again. In order for these little trips to be successful and (relatively) stress-free, a well-packed diaper bag was crucial.

But oh, how the diaper bag could quickly become a chaotic mess.

Seriously, I *knew* babies need a lot of stuff but I didn’t really KNOW how. much. stuff. that could end up being.  I wanted to hit the delicate balance between having whatever my 7 pound baby might actually need without throwing my back out lugging around 70 pounds of his stuff (which only felt like a slight exaggeration at the time). 

After a little trial and error, I struck that balance and it made leaving the house so much easier. Today I wanted to break down what my newborn diaper bag contained in case there is another mama out there trying to figure out how to leave the house without taking half of it with her. I know that each baby is different and each baby/mama is going to need some different items. This might not be the perfect diaper bag for anyone else, but it’s what worked for us!

Tips for Simplifying a newborn's Diaper Bag

First things first, I use this diaper bag. I wanted a backpack style bag so that my hands could be free and I chose this neutral shade so it would go with anything I wore. I love the simple, clean look – I get tons of compliments on the style and people are often shocked it is a diaper bag! I have seen many reviews saying it is too big and “boxy” for small frames. I am 5’2” and it is a little boxy but I adjust the arm straps as tight as they go and it works well for me. My 6’0” husband prefers a slouchy backpack and so he doesn’t love the fit as much through the arms even when he loosens the straps all the way; however, he carries it less often than me so this hasn’t been a big deal.

Magnolia

I also chose this backpack is because it didn’t have 587 pockets. I know some people want a lot of pockets to store things in a diaper bag. For me,  if I see a pocket, I’m going to want to fill it and as a minimal-ish mama, I didn’t want to be carrying around more than I needed just because I had pockets to do so. So I liked that this one had just a few pockets that I could make good use of. This diaper bag has three major compartments and I’m going to go through what I carried in each one.

Newborn diaper bag essentials (and a few extras)

The front compartment is “mine” and stores everything I need to carry around for myself.

Mama Pocket Items

This pocket contains: my wallet, checkbook, 1-2 pens, headphones, chapstick, hand sanitizer, a snack, and gum. There is also a small pocket in this compartment where I slipped two disposable nursing pads (leaks happen!) and a packet of Motrin. That’s it! It is actually a little shocking to me that this is now all I carry around because my pre-kid purse had m-u-c-h more than this in it, but I have come to find that this is really all I actually need! 

Mama Pocket

The back pocket is for diapering and diapering only.

Diaper Pocket Items

I keep it simple so all I need to do is unzip and peek in to make sure I have what I need before leaving the house. It also ensures that when the inevitable diaper emergency happens, I can quickly access what I need without wasting precious seconds desperately rummaging around. The bag came with a very handy machine washable changing pad that I keep back there. This pocket also contains: diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream,  and this diaper bag dispenser (handy when there is an extra stinky diaper).

Diaper Pocket

The middle/main pocket is where I keep everything else.

Main Pocket Items

This main pocket contains: a muslin blanket, a flannel blanket, three burp cloths, a bib scarf, my nursing cover, 2-3 outfit changes, and 1-2 baby toys.  In the newborn stage, I did not waste precious space on lots of toys. My baby was usually asleep when we were out and about but if he was awake, he was largely entertained by just looking around at people. I stored everything by rolling the items and placing them in vertically so I could see everything in one glance. This compartment also has two small pockets in the back where I stored socks and a hat (due to having a winter baby), a pacifier with clip, 2 gallon ziploc bags (to seal up a messy outfit – blowouts will happen!) and animal links.

Main Pocket.jpg

Notice how when everything is stored like this, there is still so much room on top! This is so handy if I’m out and about and there’s something I need to stuff in there quickly (such as LJ’s coat or a purchase from a store).

This diaper bag also comes with an insulated side pocket which we used occasionally when we needed to take along a bottle with pumped milk. The other side has a pocket the perfect size for me to take along my Swell water bottle to stay hydrated.

Side Pocket

That’s it! My minimal-ish diaper bag. I cannot think of a time where I was ever out and about and realized I was suddenly desperate for something other than what I’ve listed. Simplifying my diaper bag allowed me to leave the house with confidence and have minimal stress and wasted time rummaging around looking for things when I’m out and about. Win-win!

A few tips for simplifying the chaos of a diaper bag:

  • Have 4-5 diapers packed each time you leave the house.
  • Use a refillable wipes clutch so you always have plenty of wipes with you
  • Get in the habit of quickly checking the diapers/wipes before leaving the house
  • Take distinctive burp cloths. Someone gifted me three Gerber cloth diapers/burp cloths with colorful ribbons sewn on. These are the ones I take out and about since they are unique and therefore harder to lose at childcare/playdates/etc.
  • Take multi-functional items. My nursing cover doubles as a car seat cover which was a wonderful asset during the winter and allowed me to get two major uses out of one item.

What is one must-have in your newborn diaper bag?

Traveling with a Baby {Road Trip Tips}

Whether it be day trips, weekend getaways, or international adventures, travel has always been a big part of Justin and my marriage. We love exploring and trying new things and I’d be lying if I said we weren’t a bit nervous that we’d lose the ability to travel once we became parents. What would traveling with a baby look like? Will it be so stressful that we’ll just prefer to stay home? Will we have to stop traveling until our children are older? We had a lot of questions and not a lot of answers with what traveling would look like once there was a third person tagging along.

It turns out that we didn’t need to worry – we have still been able to travel (and actually enjoy our trips!) with a baby in tow. We have traveled by car and plane with LJ and much to our relief both methods of travel have gone smoothly thus far. We have obviously had to make adjustments to the way that we travel and we have learned a few things along the way. Since we are currently at the beach after a 12+ hour drive, I thought I would share some of the tips we have used in our road-trips with LJ (4 multi-state/country road trips under his belt so far!) as well as some of the gear that helps us greatly on these road trips.

Road Trip Tips with a Baby

I know every baby is different and these tips might not work for everyone but these are the things that have helped us to simplify the chaos of travel so we can actually enjoy our time together and look forward to travelling with a baby. 

Tip #1: Start early.

LJ Carseat Going Home

This tip was more for me personally to get to a “we can do this!” mindset. We took our first road trip from Indiana to Virginia when LJ was about 5 weeks old to visit family for Christmas. I think if I had waited months to attempt a trip, I would have stressed out thinking of everything that could go wrong or how it might mess up his routine and I might have talked myself out of even trying. Planning a trip early in LJ’s little life stopped me from having too much time to talk myself out of it and didn’t mess up his (honestly, non-existent) newborn routine and bonus – when it went smoothly it gave me the confidence to continue to travel! I also believe starting early helped LJ form good travel habits (like being comfortable with sleeping/staying in his car seat).

Tip #2: But don’t start early.

LJ Sleeping with Spoon

Whenever Justin and I used to road trip we would pack the car up the night before, wake up early and hit the road as soon as possible. Nowadays, we still have everything packed up and ready to go ahead of time, but we let LJ wake up at his normal time. I breastfeed him, let him play and get out some energy, feed him again, and then hit we the road around the time of his morning nap. In other words, the first 2 hours of the day are like any other day for him. Sure, this means we get on the road a little later than normal (his morning nap is around 9:00 am) but it also means he is tired and will often sleep for a good long stretch at the beginning of the trip so we can knock off a lot of miles. Our trips start on a positive note and this makes a big difference!

Tip #3: Plan for extra time on stops

Fargo Pit Stop.jpg
A photo op during a pit stop walking around downtown Fargo, ND

When LJ was a newborn, stopped when it was time to breastfeed and then he went right back into the car seat and happily slept as we journeyed on. Now that he’s older, he gets pretty fussy after a pit stop if he didn’t get adequate time out of the car seat so we stop at places where we are able to get out for a while. It might mean a rest stop with picnic benches and a grassy area where LJ can roll on a blanket or a restaurant where we can sit down and eat rather than grab food to go. I have even stopped at a Target and just walked around with LJ in the cart. Yes, this adds time to our trips (at least 30 mins per stop) but makes the car ride so much nicer. It allows LJ to get some energy out and get a little mental stimulation and then he is a much happier camper when he gets put back in the car seat. I would way rather extend the trip a little if it means having a pleasant travel companion! 

Tip #4: Slim down the packing list

M&M Bag

Yes, babies need a lot of stuff. But your trip is only going to feel stressful if you can never find what you or your baby needs because you brought so. much. stuff. and your trunk is packed to the brim. A few things we do to try to limit the amount of things we pack are:

-Toys. I keep a few toys in my diaper bag at all times. Other than those toys, I do not pack extras on road trips. LJ is entertained by almost anything we might have in the car. Some things he’s spent significant time playing with before are a plastic spoon (see pic under tip #2 – can you spot it?), an empty M&M bag, a plastic water bottle, etc. He loves shiny and crinkly things and there’s been no need for us to pack a ton of extra toys for entertainment. Saves so much space!

-Don’t pack what you can easily buy. For example, on a week-long vacation where we’ll go through lots of diapers, we don’t waste trunk space taking a bunch since we can pop in to a grocery store or a Target to buy a pack once we get where we’re going.

-Crib Rentals. Our pack n play is awesome but it’s one more thing to lug around/take up trunk space. Many hotels and rental homes will provide a crib or pack n play, often for free or a nominal charge. Just make sure to call ahead to reserve a crib! I also pack my own crib sheet – I think laying on a sheet that smells and feels like home helps LJ sleep in an unfamiliar crib (plus I know that the sheet is clean to my standards).

Tip #5: Helpful Gear on Road Trips

-Collapsible high chair

We use this high chair that folds up like a camping chair and love it. It is compact, lightweight, and an easy way to make sure there is somewhere for LJ to safely sit no matter where we are. I honestly keep this in my car at all times and have used it in so many different situations. I highly recommend it!

-Ergo Carrier

Austin, TX

Our stroller takes up a lot of car space, so there have been several road trips where we just take this and no stroller. It doesn’t take up a lot of room and is a comfortable, easy way to walk around with LJ.

-Breastpump

I was able to get the Spectra S1 pump through my insurance and I LOVE because it has a battery and therefore doesn’t need to be plugged in when charged. I can pump comfortably in the passenger seat while Justin drives and then we have a bottle to quickly and easily give LJ whenever we stop. If space is an issue or I just don’t want to take my nice pump along, I have also taken my Medela Handheld Pump. This pump is not as convenient to use but it is a good, inexpensive option to take along, particularly when packing light.

What tips do you have for traveling with an infant?