Dating Your Spouse

I don’t remember a lot of advice I was given during the newborn haze of the first few weeks of LJ’s life, but I will never forget these words from our pediatrician at his 2 week check-up: “You are the foundation of his life.” Basically, he said we can do a lot of things to help LJ grow and develop but the thing he is going to see every single day is US. The stability of our relationship and how we treat one another is going to be one of the biggest things that he watches as he grows. Our marriage is a huge part of LJ’s life and will form the foundation for his childhood. The pediatrician took a few minutes to specifically encourage Justin and I to make sure not to lose ourselves or our marriage to our new job as parents, but to continue to foster our relationship and prioritize one another as well.

I mean, wow, right!? What an amazing reminder to brand-new, slightly-overwhelmed parents to not get so wrapped up in parenthood that they forget what started the journey in the first place: their relationship. Justin and I were so appreciative of this reminder that we can love our son SO much, want the absolute best for him, try our hardest to be great parents, and still want to prioritize our marriage.

I blogged about our recent trip to Chicago last week. We take LJ with us on a lot of trips, but this was one we took without him. It was so wonderful to have a few days away together and we both felt reconnected and rejuvenated and ready to get home and love on our boy on Sunday! Obviously, it doesn’t always work to do something big like a multi-day getaway; but Justin and I have really tried to take our pediatrician’s advice to heart and remember to prioritize our marriage and spend time together. It doesn’t mean we have to spend a lot of money, or even any money at all, but it is important for us to connect and enjoy our marriage together every once in a while. Sometimes it’s just talking on the couch during LJ’s naptime. Other times we go out for a movie, sporting event, dinner, putt-putt golf, etc. It keeps our marriage strong, helps us focus on our love for each other, and is just plain fun. We are always ready to come home and give LJ so much love and attention afterwards!

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Together again – ready to love on LJ!

Today I’m sharing a few ways that Justin and I utilize to spend one-on-one time together. These are ways that work for us – they may not work for you and that’s totally okay. I encourage you to find what works for you and your partner and carve out some time to focus on the relationship that started your little family: your love!

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Relax together after LJ’s Bedtime

We have a few shows we both really enjoy watching (This is Us, A Million Little Things, and occasionally The Bachelor depending on the season and main person). Some days one or both of us may still have some work to finish on our computers so we will have those up while we watch but it’s still fun to be together while the show plays so we can discuss our thoughts during and after. Some nights we both are totally finished with work and there isn’t a show we want to see so we’ll curl up together on the couch, usually with bowls of ice cream, and watch a movie together.  It’s such a fun, relaxing way to just spend some time together! Of course, there are days when it feels like Justin and I are just counting down the minutes until LJ goes to bed and we’re both so exhausted from our long days that we just kind of zonk on the couch and do our own thing. It’s always nice though to watch something together.

Screen-Free Time

Occasionally during naptime or after bedtime, we’ll intentionally set 30 minutes of screen-free time. TV is off, computers are shut, phones are away, and Justin and I just sit and talk. We might talk about our days, our dreams for the future, our plans for the week, or whatever else is on our minds, but it’s always just nice to have focused, uninterrupted time to reconnect. The busier the season of life, the more important I think this time is!

Utilize grandparents (if possible)

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I know we are SO lucky to have parents who want to be very involved as grandparents. Both Justin and my parents adore LJ and love to love on him. We are also lucky that my parents only live just over an hour away and frequently babysit LJ (we know Justin’s parents would love to do this too but they unfortunately live several states away). I personally think it’s important to take them up on their offers to babysit not only so Justin and I can have some time to reconnect, but also so LJ can develop a relationship with his grandparents. It is so sweet to watch their bond grow! My mom often offers to come watch LJ at our house so we can have a date or take him to their house for a day/night/weekend. I had no problem leaving him in their care early on (they first babysat him at 2 weeks old for 2 hours so we could attend Justin’s work Christmas party nearby) but I did take much longer to feel comfortable leaving him overnight. They first watched him overnight when he was about 8.5 months old. It went so well though – they loved it, LJ had a great time (they sent lots of pics and videos), and Justin and I got to enjoy a little getaway for my birthday (read the recap here). Once we did it once, it became much easier to continue to do and increase the length of stay. My parents just had LJ for 4 nights while I joined Justin in Chicago and it was amazing. They all had a fantastic time and Justin and I both agreed that it was so nice to have time away together to relax, explore Chicago, and just spend time together.

I will say – yes this is a “free” option for us, but we do try to be conscious of the fact that it’s not free for my parents to drive an hour or buy groceries for LJ when they keep him overnight. We try to split driving (I’ll drop him off, they pick him up) and I’ll typically send along some food for him in addition to what they have. If my parents come to watch him so we can go out to dinner, I will try to either have dinner made for them to eat or they know they can always raid our fridge/pantry if they need. We never want them to feel like we’re taking advantage of them and want them to feel appreciated for all they do!

Swap with friends

I realize that many people don’t have the option to have grandparents babysit for a variety of reasons. Justin and I also swap free babysitting with friends. We have close friends who actually live in the same neighborhood as us so it’s super convenient to drop our kids off at each other’s houses. This isn’t something we keep track of, like your-turn-my-turn, but it’s more of a “when we need each other, we’re not afraid to ask” situation. We watch their two little boys if they need us for a dinner (they’re also into intramural sports so we sometimes watch the boys if they have a game in the evening) and they watch LJ if we need a date night or have something else going on. We 100% trust them and vice versa so it works really well for us.

Split a babysitter

There was a night when both we and our “swap” friends needed a babysitter, so since we couldn’t swap with each other, we split a babysitter. It was much cheaper to pay one person to watch 3 kids together and split the cost than to find two separate babysitters. I dropped LJ off at their house and the babysitter was great with all three! Problem solved!

Mega-Swap, or the “Night of Chaos”

One of my friends had the brilliant idea to create a kind of “mega babysitting swap” amongst our group of friends. There are six families with 12 kids between us. Each couple takes one month and picks a night to host ALL the kids at their house so the other couples can have a date night. It’s a pretty hectic night for the hosting couple (hence we playfully dubbed it the “Night of Chaos”) but you only have to do it 2x each year and the other 10 months of the year you have a free babysitter and date night each month! I will say that each couple has at least one member certified in CPR/First Aid and we are all parents who handle a variety of situations, which definitely adds to our comfort level with something like this. I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t have trust and confidence in each couple that was part of the group. But it works really well for us and it’s a great way for Justin and I to make sure to carve out time each month to do something together!

If nothing else, take him along!

Our friends hosted a Christmas party and we didn’t have someone to watch him so we just took him along in his jammies. We set up a pack n play in their guest room, brought our sound machine and his wubbanub, darkened the room, and just put him down there at bedtime. When we left at the end of the night and got him down from upstairs, guests who showed up after we put him down said “wait, there was a baby up there!?” He didn’t disturb the party and we didn’t disturb him. We’ve done this a few times now and while it is still preferable for LJ to fall asleep at home, this option works well if we need.

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I know not everyone feels comfortable with this and that’s okay. You don’t have to do it if it doesn’t work for you! I will say that the more we do it, the easier it becomes. We travel enough with LJ that he has gotten used to sleeping in places other than his crib in his bedroom and he does a good job in other environments. If we never had him sleep anywhere else, he probably wouldn’t do well with a pack n play in a guest room during a Christmas party. But because he sleeps other places often enough, now it’s super easy to put him down somewhere and have him go right to sleep! He transfers well to the car seat then and back to his crib when we go home. I would just encourage you to try it a few times and see if it works for you. The first time didn’t work flawlessly, but we kept at it and LJ got better at it (and so did we) and I’m glad we didn’t give up.

 

What works for you in making time for your spouse? What dates do you enjoy together?

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Chicago Re-Cap

Last week, Justin had a board certification exam + conference to attend in Chicago. He left Monday morning and I joined him on Thursday after dropping LJ off with my parents. We so enjoyed a few days together in the city!  Beware this re-cap involves a lot of food and March Madness – you have been warned!

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Several of Justin’s co-workers were also attending this conference and I drove up with another spouse on Thursday. We arrived right around lunch and met up with our husbands at the hotel (we stayed at the Grand Sheraton downtown). Justin and I ran up to our hotel room to quick drop off my luggage and then we headed out to lunch at Mother Hubbard’s. It was a sports pub with TONS of TVs which was perfect for us because the March Madness tournament had just begun and we were excited to get to watch a lot of games and smack-talk our brackets.  We ate a light lunch because we had plans for a big dinner and hung out at the pub for a few hours watching games. I love the atmosphere of a sports pub when there is a big game on, and at one point the entire bar was watching and cheering loudly for the Auburn vs. New Mexico State game because it was so close. The energy in the room was awesome! It was a relaxing and fun way to spend an afternoon.

We strolled back to our hotel room to freshen up and met up with our friends to walk to dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. Justin and I split an entree so I still had room for dessert – Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple did not disappoint!

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After dinner the six of us walked to the theatre district and enjoyed all the stunning views of the city along the way.

We arrived at the Nederlander Theatre to watch A Bronx Tale. Honestly, this was not my favorite Broadway play ever and I thought the plot kind of jumped around a lot but the music made up for it. The performers were all SO talented and two in particular blew me away with their vocal performance. It was a great way to cap off our first day!

Friday morning Justin and I enjoyed the fact that we were kid-less which every parent knows means you can SLEEP. IN. Glorious! We met up with a couple of our friends for breakfast at Yolk, which was super delicious. I didn’t remember to take a picture until all I had left was one piece of cinnamon roll french toast left, but take my word for it that my skillet breakfast and french toast was beautiful and delicious!

After breakfast Justin and I both had a little work to do so we headed back to the hotel to work on our laptops for a few hours. Around lunch we headed out to meet up with my uncle at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel which was an absolutely stunning building! There are different restaurants inside and we chose The Game Room, which has an awesome old-time clubhouse feel. The ambiance was just incredible! Their menu is limited with small portions, which was perfect for splitting a few small plates among the three of us since Justin and I were still pretty full from breakfast. The restaurant had March Madness games playing and since my uncle is a University of Cincinnati alum, we got really into their game vs. Iowa.

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After the game finished we headed up to check out the rooftop restaurant Cindy’s, which has a great view of Millennium Park and the lake. It was the perfect lunch spot to enjoy and catch up with my uncle!

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Justin and I headed back to the hotel but couldn’t resist a pit stop at The Bean for some super touristy pictures. I love the one with “The Bean and our growing Little Bean” haha!

We headed back to relax in the hotel room and watch more March Madness (and I took a nap – once again, kid-free gloriousness!) until it was time to head out to dinner. Because this conference is so huge, there are a lot of schools and organizations that have alumni meet-ups and Justin and I went to his school’s alumni dinner at Pizzeria Due. Nothing like delicious deep-dish Chicago style pizza! It was fun to catch up with a few people we knew from our time in West Virginia and hear what everyone is up to now.

Afterwards we met up with our friends at Timothy O’Toole’s for a few drinks and, you guessed it, more March Madness. I was cheering hard for my Buckeyes! It was extra fun with our group of six because everyone’s brackets were different so our alliances kept changing each game with who we were co-cheering with. Only one other friend had picked OSU to win their first game so we were pretty smug for the rest of the night. 😉

Saturday morning Justin attended a few hours of his conference so I headed to the gym to get a workout in. The gym overlooked the river so it was fun to watch the buzz of city life go by as I got my cardio in.

We met up with all our friends for lunch (another spouse arrived Saturday morning so we were now a group of seven) at Weber Grill, which was fantastic! Once again, I got so into our conversations and enjoying time together that I have zero pictures but our food was delicious and we were all very happy with our choice!

We split off into groups after lunch, as some people wanted to shop Michigan Avenue and others wanted to find dessert. I was in the dessert camp and we ended up at Ghirardelli’s where a friend and I split a delicious sundae and we enjoyed people watching from the window.

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Justin and I, along with two of our friends, had decided to leave Saturday evening instead of Sunday morning so we spent the afternoon packing up and getting ready to leave. We met up for one more group dinner at Pinstripes, which was a fun atmosphere. I got their wood-fired pizza which, while not deep dish Chicago, was still delicious! Next door to the restaurant was Molly’s Cupcakes and as soon as we saw they were Cupcake War winners, we knew we had to give them a try. I was stuffed so we got two cupcakes to enjoy later.

Once back at the hotel, we grabbed our things, said goodbye to the friends leaving Sunday, and headed back to Indiana. We didn’t get back until around midnight but it was worth it to have a relaxing Sunday morning before meeting up with my parents to take LJ on a plane to Virginia (yes! So much travel in so little time!) It was a short and sweet trip to Chicago but we really enjoyed the time away!

Calm & Quiet Mornings

Mornings. All is calm, all is quiet. There is nothing quite like a peaceful start to my day!

Today I want to talk about how waking up early (translation: before LJ wakes up) has made a really positive impact on how my days have gone lately. I have always been a morning person, but I’m also someone who does not function well on little sleep. Motherhood and the subsequent sleep deprivation threw a bit of a wrench in my early-bird lifestyle but I feel like right now I’m back in a season where I can get up early again and it’s made a big difference!

A disclaimer: when LJ was a newborn or going through a sleep regression, waking up early was the very last thing on my mind. In those days I was sleeping in as long as possible and would not get out of bed until he woke up. If he woke up at 4:15 I woke up at 4:15. If he slept in until 8:00, I slept in until 8:00. If you’re a mom to a newborn or baby who isn’t sleeping through the night yet, do not put the pressure on yourself to wake up early. Girl, you need sleep! Take care of yourself and listen to what your body needs.

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For the past 3 months or so, LJ has been consistently sleeping in until 8:00 am, give or take 15 minutes. I was still waking up when he woke up but my mornings began to feel more groggy and disheveled, like I was actually over sleeping. I was going to bed at 9:30 and getting up at 8, which was exactly what I needed when I was being woken up multiple times each night to breastfeed, but not what I needed now that my baby slept through the night. It also started to feel like I was waiting for my morning to wake me up and the days didn’t start on my terms. Since I knew that 99% of the time, LJ would wake up sometime between 7:45-8:15, I started setting my alarm to get up a little earlier. My mindset changed from letting my day wake me up to purposefully waking up and greeting my day. My mornings have significantly improved since I’ve done this!

I typically try to get up somewhere around 6:30. I put on some clothes, splash cold water on my face (I stopped using face cleanser in the morning about 6 months ago after reading multiple dermatologists recommend not over-cleansing your face), apply moisturizer, swipe on deoderant, and put in my contacts. I head downstairs to let the dogs out, fill their bowls with food and water, and pour myself a bowl of cereal. I then jump straight in to my devotions. During the school year, I participate in a Bible Study Fellowship so I’ve been completing each day’s lesson while I eat my breakfast.

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If nothing else, my goal is to get through that entire routine and brush my teeth before LJ wakes up. Some days that’s all I can do but even then it still feels like I’ve started the morning out on the right foot and I feel ready for the day. As long as I get up by 7:00, 99% of days I can get through all that before LJ wakes up.

On the mornings where I get up by 6:30 and LJ sleeps in, I am able to get much more accomplished. Typical things I’ll try to do in this time might be empty the dishwasher (when it’s full, we run it at night so the dishes are dry and clean by morning), start some laundry, wash any dishes left in the sink from the day before, straighten up a room that was left in disarray, or take care of my one cleaning task for the day. I might spend time finishing up a blog post (like I did today!) or get a little work done for my job. Sometimes I will even just light a candle and curl up with whatever book I’m reading and get a few chapters in before LJ wakes up. It feels SO GOOD to be able to start the day off with a sense of calm and accomplishment. Even if nothing else “productive” gets done for the rest of the day, I still feel like I at least have it a little bit together because I had a smooth and relaxing morning.

Of course there are still days where I sleep in. Just the other night, Justin and I stayed up late so I slept in until LJ woke up. When I was in my first trimester with baby #2, I respected and listened to my changing body. If I felt extra fatigued, I just turned that alarm off and kept on sleeping. Sometimes I’m only up for 10 minutes before LJ wakes up. Other days, I get a great night of sleep and wake up on my own at 6:00, ready to start my day. I don’t stress too much about having an exact time or plan but really try to listen to what my body needs while also knowing my days do start so much smoother and happier if I get a little time to myself to start the morning off in the calm and quiet. Just like I said in my self care post last week, I’m a better mom, wife and person when I take care of myself, and waking up early to start the day my way is a form of that.

If you’re feeling like your day wakes you up instead of you waking up to greet the day, try setting your alarm a little earlier and see how you feel. Even just 15 minutes to drink a cup of coffee in silence may make a big difference for you!

 

Refreshed and Recharged: A Self-Care Soapbox

As I write this blog post, I am sitting at a table in Starbucks on a Wednesday afternoon. I have a cold pressed juice in front of me, a delicious blueberry scone in my belly, and LJ is 6 miles away playing at a friend’s house. And I’m not going to lie, it is downright glorious.Self Care 7.jpg

I love my role as a work from home mom. I am so thankful I get to spend my days with LJ and also make a small income (read more about how I strive to balance these here). When I got pregnant with LJ, Justin and I decided that the best situation for our family would be for me to take a break from teaching to stay home and now almost two years after that initial decision, we are both extremely happy with how this has worked for us.

That being said, I can’t be “on” as mom 24/7 and never take a break to recharge.  I can’t give 100% of myself 100% of the time and not refill my own tank or I’m just running on empty and that helps no one.

Self-care is an overused buzzword these days, but I do truly believe that it is critical for a healthy, balanced life. While I love my days at home, I know I need to have a little “me” time in order to be the best mom, wife, woman I can be. It’s been on my heart lately to write a post about the importance of taking care of yourself, so that’s where we’re headed today. And just for the record, self-care isn’t important for just moms. If you are single and work full time, you need to take care of yourself. If you are in grad school and working part time, you need to take care of yourself. If you are married, dating, divorced, no kids, seven kids, mid-20s, mid-60s, etc. you need to take care of yourself. This is important for everyone! I’m going to be specifically speaking to why it’s important for me as a wife and mom, but you just insert your own labels to make this fit you. It is important for you, regardless of where you are in life, to take care of yourself.

Better self = Better wife, mom, and human

Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish. In fact, taking a little time to recharge and refresh is actually selfless, because it allows you to be your best self when it comes to pouring into others. Before every plane ride, you are given the safety instruction that if the oxygen masks are activated, you need to take care of yourself first before helping someone else. You must make sure that you are functioning well enough to be able to adequately help someone else.

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Photo Credit: The Commoneer

If I spend my day in sweats and I don’t take a few minutes to wash my face or brush my teeth because I’m so busy taking care of my son, I feel pretty crummy about myself. If I spend every single nanosecond of LJ’s awake time personally engaging him in play, preparing him food, feeding him, and diapering him, and every nanosecond of naptime cleaning my house, preparing food for dinner, completing work for my job, doing laundry, etc, I feel completely depleted and exhausted by lunch.  If I don’t get a little mental escape occasionally, my brain feels fried.  If I don’t move my body and get a workout in at least 2-3x a week, I feel sluggish and low energy. And when I feel crummy, depleted, sluggish, and exhausted, my temper shortens, my frustration heightens, and my patience wanes. Sounds like a happy, fulfilling life, right?

But. If I take a few minutes to quick wash my face, brush my teeth, and change into clean clothes (even if they’re just clean sweats), I feel refreshed. If I take just a few more minutes to swipe on some make-up, I feel put-together and prepared. If I allow LJ to play with his blocks independently while I finish my morning devotional nearby, I feel centered. If I carve 20 minutes out of naptime to read a book or paint my nails (or take a nap!) I feel recharged. If I take advantage of the YMCA childcare or complete one of my E&E workouts at home while LJ watches, I feel energized. And if I take a friend up on her offer to watch LJ for a couple hours one Wednesday afternoon so I can have some time to myself at a Starbucks, I feel rejuvenated. When I feel these things, I am kinder, more patient, flexible, and happier.

Now. Crummy, depleted, sluggish, exhausted, short-tempered, frustrated, and impatient OR refreshed, put-together, prepared, centered, recharged, energized, rejuvenated, patient, kind, flexible, happy. Which version of Sarah do you think is at her best mom/wife/woman self? It’s not a very tough call is it?

Sounds great. But I’m still a busy mom. HOW can I take care of myself?

Find “mini” boosts. I wrote a whole blog post about small ways that I can get a little mental boost and recharge my batteries on days where I need a little lift but don’t have a ton of time. It doesn’t have to take an hour or cost tons of money. Most of my mini boosts take just a few minutes or can be done with LJ. These things are extra beneficial on days where Justin works a super long shift (sometimes up to 24 hours) and I have to fill both our roles at home.

Communicate with your partner. If there is a week where Justin has several long shifts or we’ve had a lot going on and I need a little break, I communicate my needs with Justin. This might be “hey, I’ve had a crazy day today – can you take care of figuring out dinner or should we order pizza?” or it might be “this week is about to do me in – is there an afternoon or evening where you’ll be home with LJ so I can go to a coffee shop for an hour?” I thrive on a time to myself in a coffee shop to read a book, prepare a blog post, catch up on work for my job, etc. This does WONDERS for me. I always return happy, refreshed, and ready to jump back in to life and be the best mom and wife to my guys. It’s gotten to the point now where if we have a slow day at home, usually on a Sunday afternoon, Justin will ask me if I want to go have “me” time for a while without me even mentioning it. (Once it even involved me going to Panera and actually eating dinner uninterrupted by myself. Nirvana.) He has seen that this time makes a difference for me and I appreciate that he’s supportive. On the flip side, I support when he needs time away too. Just this past weekend, he got asked to join some friends for laser tag and I wholeheartedly supported this. He enjoys golf in the summer and we find days in our schedule where he can work it in so he can recharge and be his best self for us. It’s a give and take! But it doesn’t happen if you don’t communicate what you need. It’s not helpful if I am frustrated and snappy and just expect him to know what I need.

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Say BUH-BYE to any guilt.  Mom guilt, man. What a crock. I have had to come to terms with the fact that self-care isn’t selfish. It doesn’t mean I’m not a good mom. It doesn’t mean I’m loving my child any less. I cannot, I repeat, can NOT give 100% of myself to my husband and child every moment of every day. It leaves nothing left. How can I function on nothing? Not one person would try to tell you it’s a good idea to keep driving another 150 miles once your gas light comes on, yet it seems that our culture often makes moms feel bad for taking time to take care of themselves. That is crazy! I know that when I take care of myself I am able to actually do a better job. I am a happier, more patient mom. I can be my best self, which is what I want to be. I want to give Justin and LJ my best and I’m at my best and brightest when I’m running on a full tank. And my tank is fullest when I’m making myself a priority too.

What do you enjoy doing to take care of yourself?

 

 

 

Simplified Grocery Shopping

Good morning!

I’ll be honest, I did not expect to be writing a blog post about grocery shopping today, but it seems like lately I have been sharing about this topic a lot in my real life so I was inspired this morning to share what I do to simplify grocery shopping.

Call me crazy, but I actually like grocery shopping. I’ve never used anything like ClickList or grocery pick up, although I can definitely see the advantages to using these services, particularly when I have more kiddos in tow in the future. I will say that it always feels like an extra treat when Justin is home and I can go to the store by myself, but it still feels pretty manageable with LJ along. Grocery shopping with a toddler can definitely feel chaotic sometimes so today I thought I’d share just a couple tips that I have to keep it as streamlined and simple as possible.

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Side note: Anyone else take their kid to the grocery store in a sleeper? Ha! #noshameinmymomgame

#1: Bring “things” for LJ

We’re still pacifier people around here. It’s 100% fine if you’re not a fan of them or if you think we should have ditched it long ago; you do what works for your family! This is what works for ours. I’m not trying to push pacifiers by any means but since LJ does take one and it is a huge soother for him, I always make sure to have one clipped to him on a pacifier clip. Obviously this isn’t a forever solution but for now it just keeps him happier in the cart. I also try to take a snack along because as he sees me put food into the cart, he always wants some too (I literally have to distract him from looking at the cart anytime I buy bananas until I can hide them under something because he loves them so much and will cry if he sees them and can’t eat one).

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When he was a little younger I always took my animal links and hooked them around the cart handle so he had something to play with but now that he’s bigger he’s not interested in that anymore and prefers to people watch or play with something I am going to purchase that is hard to destroy (like a bag of shredded cheese).

#2: OUR GROCERIES APP

You guys. This app was an absolute game changer for my family. Does that sound dramatic? I don’t care. It really has made such a huge difference for us. I am getting zero compensation for this endorsement; I just really really love this app! We used to write stuff down on a physical list. The problem was that sometimes I would be near the grocery store and have time to pop in, but I wouldn’t have my list. Or I would be upstairs and think “we’re running low on toothpaste, I need to remember to put that on the list” and I would completely forget about it by the time I got downstairs. Or Justin would stop by the grocery store without the list and I was working and couldn’t respond to his texts so he wouldn’t know what all we needed. It was so frustrating! Now Justin and I each downloaded this app and and our grocery list game has never been the same. Some of the best features are:

Synced lists. Justin and I both downloaded the app and synced our phones to the same list and this is an AWESOME feature. Justin can add something to the list and I immediately see it on mine. This is so helpful if I’m at the grocery store and he realizes we need something else; he can just add it to the list and I see it! It’s also helpful because we always know what the family needs at any given time. Say I popped into Target to look at swimsuits. Before checking out, I can look at the list and see if we need anything. Oh look, Justin put contact solution on the list! Let me just grab some of that before I leave. It’s so so simple and he didn’t have to remember to tell me that we’re low on contact solution. Or if he is going to have time to stop in the grocery store on the way home, he already has the list and doesn’t have to call me to see if I need anything. We can include specific brands or amounts (such as 2 lbs, 16 oz, etc) if it matters to us so the other person knows exactly what to get. Easy peasy!

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A bonus tip with this is sometimes if Justin is stopping at the grocery store and I just want him to pick up ingredients for dinner, I’ll put an * in front of the item. This way, he doesn’t spend time getting everything on the list but just gets what I’ve marked for that evening.

Multiple Lists. I can keep a running list of things I like to buy at other stores. For example, there are some things I love from Trader Joe’s, but we don’t have one in our city. Anytime we’re in a city with a Trader Joe’s, I like to pop in and stock up on a few favorite things (I’m looking at you, cookie butter). I just keep that list separate so whenever I’m in a TJ I don’t have to try to remember all my favorite things; they are already on the list! I do this with Costco too because even though we have one nearby, I probably only stop in maybe once every 6-8 weeks and stock up, so it helps to have my basic list always prepared. You can make a list for anything! Maybe you want to keep a running list of clothing you need to buy for your kids or items you need to purchase for a vacation; you can just add a different shopping list and then you can keep things like new tennis shoes separate from your grocery list. I love this feature!

My list is always nearby. I don’t know if I can blame mom brain on this one because I was like this before LJ, but I find it so dang difficult to remember something I need to put on the grocery list if I don’t write it down immediately. I’ll know we need toothpaste when I’m in our master bath upstairs and the second I start walking downstairs it just floats out of my brain. Whether this is a good thing or bad thing, my smartphone is almost always nearby so now if I see we need toothpaste, I can put it on the list when I first notice it in our bathroom and then I don’t have to remember for later. Or if I’m out and about and think “I need to remember to get LJ a new swimsuit for our vacation,” I can put it on the list right away. It takes away the pressure of having to hold all these items in my brain which is so nice!

Record of crossed off items. A difference with using this app vs. just notes on your phone is that the app keeps track of your crossed out items. When I buy something, I just tap the word and it moves from my list to the “crossed off” section beneath my list. Then if I need that item again, I can just click it in the crossed off section and it jumps back into my list. This keeps me from having to type/delete each item every time and even though that’s a pretty small, simple thing, it is super easy and convenient!

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We only have the free basic app and haven’t paid for any of the upgrades but I know there are ways to make this list even easier (you can synch with Alexa so she can add to your list, you can add pictures, use barcode scanner, etc). Even just the basic app has made such a big difference for us!

#3: Stick to the same stores

I pretty much rotate between two grocery stores for 99% of my shopping. I love Aldi for all my basic grocery needs and go there the most frequently, but I also love going to a store called Fresh Thyme (which reminds me of a Trader Joe’s) for produce and inexpensive natural, healthy options. I know where everything is in both these stores and so I don’t waste time backtracking or searching or debating brands. It just makes the process quicker and smoother! Plus Fresh Thyme has a little stand where kids can get one piece of fruit for free while shopping so LJ is extra happy there with his free banana. 🙂

I will say that I do end up at Wal-Mart sometimes too because Aldi and Fresh Thyme are smaller stores and don’t always have super specific items and it always takes me longer at Wal-Mart because I’m not as familiar with where everything is.

#4 Keep my car ready

Since Aldi requires a quarter to rent a carts, I always have a quarter ready to go in a little holder in my car. I also keep all my reusable grocery bags behind the passenger seat. It just is so easy to grab a few bags and my quarter without having to rummage around in my car.

And that’s it! None of these tips are particularly earth-shattering but they all have helped keep grocery shopping a simple, enjoyable experience rather than a chaotic and stressful mess.

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What helps you with keeping grocery shopping simple?

Simplifying Preparation for Trips

Good morning!

Once Justin gets home from work tomorrow we are heading to Florida for the next 8 days. He has a conference for work and LJ and I are going to tag along and enjoy some sunshine! After last week’s Polar Vortex we are more than ready for warm, sunny days!

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Throwback to our last beach vacation. So excited for more sun and sand next week!

Today is going to be spent cleaning, packing, and preparing for our trip. Since traveling with a little one always seems to add a layer of chaos, I’ve learned that early preparation is key for trips. Today I thought I’d share a few things I do before we leave on a trip to try to simplify the chaos of packing/remembering everything. Some of these things may seem overly simple, some may not work for you. These are just the things that work for us and have helped me pack and prepare for vacations with as little stress as possible!

Get whatever you can permanently “ready”

I used to write out a detailed list for our dog sitters with everything they needed to know/do for our dogs, and since there were always little variations, I would re-write the list each time. Now, I have a generic instruction list that is always ready to set out and if there’s anything “extra” (like asking them to pick up our mail if we’re gone more than a few days), I just write that on a sticky note next to the regular list. This is a small thing, but it saves me time and mental space because it’s one less thing I have to prepare before leaving (and we inevitably always forgot to write out the list until we were heading out the door so it was stressful to have to remember everything to include).

The Week Before

In the week leading up to a trip, I start setting aside clothes for LJ. I did a big load of laundry on Monday, so I set aside all the clean clothes that I knew I wanted to take on the trip. This prevents last-minute panic; I’m not stressing out because we have no clean sleepers when it comes time to pack. This does mean I have limited options for what he can wear for the rest of the week after I’ve set aside the clothes to pack, but it’s really not a big deal and we manage just fine.

As I get things out and ready to pack, I lay them out on our guest bed. This includes setting out all the extra things (for example, this trip I need his swimsuit, hat, swim diapers, etc). So on packing day, I’ve already set out what I need and I don’t forget anything. I also can see if there’s anything I need to get for him in advance (this time, I needed a swimsuit since he’s grown out of his old ones). Once LJ’s clothes are all out, I’ll set mine out as well. Justin is on his own to pack what he needs. 😉

The Day Before

In the day before leaving, I get out all the extra things we’ll need to take (pack n’ play if we’re driving, carseat bag if we’re flying, umbrella stroller, etc). I prepare LJ’s diaper bag, set aside his boppy pillow, and will typically get everything packed in suitcases except toiletries or other items we still need to use. I’ll also do a load of laundry, which serves the dual purpose of making sure everything I want to pack is clean and also keeping there from being a laundry mountain waiting for me when we get back.

I also clean up the house for our dogsitter. Because of my super-simple cleaning routine, this doesn’t usually involve much cleaning, but I’ll do things like run and empty the dishwasher, freshen up the guest room if needed, etc.

If we’re flying, I also double-check flights and make sure we’re set with the airline rules for traveling with children (some allow free checked carseat and/or stroller, some allow free diaper bag in addition to personal item, etc). Each airline is slightly different so it’s always good to double check to make sure we know what to expect with our flight. I’ll also set out any documents we might need (passports if applicable, some airlines require a copy of a birth certificate, etc).

The Day Of

Usually I will have packed the clothes in our suitcases the day before, but if we’re not leaving until late in the day I may wait until the day of. I pack up our toiletries and any other final items, we (eh-hem, Justin) pack up the car, do a last minute sweep of the house, and head out! Because I’ve done so much prep work earlier in the week, the day of travel typically goes pretty smoothly.

If you’re interested in some of my other travel-with-baby related posts, check them out below!

Tips for Road Trips with Baby

Tips for Flights with Baby

Tips for Hotel Stays with Baby

Simplified Packing for Travel with Baby

What tips do you have for preparing for a trip?

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.

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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.

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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?