The Firsts and the Lasts

I was prepared for the firsts but not the lasts.

I read a similar phrase a while ago and it struck such a chord with me when I think about my journey in motherhood so far.

I have always looked forward to the firsts. First cry, first smile, first full night of sleep (praise the Lord). First roll over, first bite of food, first tooth. These are all things I anticipate and know to prepare for, and we celebrate each time there is a milestone moment.

During this time of staying at home, Vi reached a pretty big milestone: she crawled for the first time!

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We knew she had been getting super close. She had been lifting her body up in push-up position for a while. Then she was pushing up to her hands and knees and rocking back and forth. It was only a matter of time before she figured out the mechanics of crawling, and Justin and I watched eagerly, cheering her on (kind of makes up for no sports on TV? 😉 ).

Then, this past Friday afternoon after Justin got home, I set her down on the floor and put the remote (her favorite thing) on the floor in front of her…and she slowly army crawled to it! It was such an awesome moment for Justin and I to witness together and we were so excited to celebrate this milestone in our daughter’s life. She’s getting so big!

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For all that I look forward to the firsts, I don’t always anticipate the lasts.

The lasts are bittersweet.  While I am so very thankful for continued growth and development, sometimes it’s a little heartbreaking to see my child leave another piece of babyhood behind. And one of those big moments happened in this quarantine too.

I’ve talked before about LJ’s deep love for the pacifier. Weaning him from the pacifier was a milestone we planned for and anticipated, so that “last” was a little easier to prepare for. However, once we snipped off the end of his beloved wubbanub, he still continued to sleep with the stuffed animal part, an elephant affectionately known as Edgar, as well as two little lovies with bear heads. Every night, he wanted them tucked in his arms and every morning, he insisted on bringing “Edgie bears” (Edgar and the bears) with him. He carried them around everywhere. He looked for them to take to nap time, and smiled and laughed when he found them. He woke up and wouldn’t let us leave his bedroom without retrieving them from the crib. It seemed wherever LJ went, “Edgie bears” needed to come too.

Over time, he has been leaving them in the crib more and more. He stopped asking for them to come with him. He stopped insisting on making sure they were all three with him before he fell asleep. He didn’t need lovies tucked under each arm to fall asleep anymore. It happened slowly over time – sometimes he still wanted them and other times he didn’t – so it was easy to not really notice the gradual changes.

Then, one day in quarantine, I realized he is totally past this milestone. He no longer asks for them at all anymore. And even if he did ask for them, his speech has improved to the point where it wouldn’t sound like “Ed-gee bears” anymore. Such a big part of his life for so long . . . and now we moved past it and I don’t even know when the “last” time was. I didn’t know when it was happening, I only know now that it has. And just like that, my sweet little boy is a little bit bigger.

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I knew to prepare for the firsts. I did not know to prepare for the lasts.

Even though I’m a stay-at-home mom, this time in quarantine has given me more time than ever with my children. I’m not going to my women’s group, so they’re not going to childcare. We’re not going to church, so they’re not going to nursery/Sunday School. Justin and I aren’t going out for date nights, so they’re not staying with a babysitter. There’s no visits with grandparents, no playdates with friends. We are together every day, all day long. And though the days are long, I know that the years are short.

While this time in quarantine can be exhausting and difficult, it is also a gift. It is the gift of time to enjoy their littleness right now. They are growing and changing subtly every day. I guess this long and rambling post is my way of reflecting during this time – a way to get all my thoughts out and remember the complex feelings of motherhood right now. I can’t wait for the day when life goes back to “normal,” yet while we’re here in this strange new normal, I’m choosing deep gratitude for the extra time I have to soak up each of my kids’ unique personalities right now. It won’t be long before they’re on to the next stage, and I’ve accepted that my mama heart will always straddle the line of bittersweet thankfulness for that. ❤

 

 

 

Fatherhood

I talk about motherhood a lot on my blog but today I wanted to talk about an equally important topic: fatherhood.

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I think it’s super common for new dads to feel a little hesitant and out of their depth with a brand new baby because they aren’t exactly sure what to do, but let’s be honest: moms feel that way too! It seems like there is this belief out there that women just instinctively know everything about motherhood.  That thinking is untrue and and does more harm than good. It can make a new mama doubt herself and feel like a failure if she doesn’t know exactly what her baby needs all the time and it can make a new dad feel like he is useless. No one gets a manual and there were many times where I felt like I had no idea what to do. I just learned one day at a time.  Each parent needs time to get to know their baby and his or her personality and particular needs – and the only way to do this is by spending time with the baby. I strongly believe it’s important for dads to be involved in the care of babies right from the beginning.

This can be easier said than done. I breastfed both of my babies so regardless of who was holding him or her, once the baby started crying, he or she was handed right back to me. It often was the case that the baby was hungry and that was something only I could do, so it wasn’t really a big deal at first. But then it started to feel like their care was always “on me” because I was the one to had to feed them.

If I didn’t want parenting to always feel like it was “on me” in the little people years, I had to let go of control and let Justin step in. This isn’t always easy for me, as I often want to be the one in control, but it has been a healthy thing for both Justin and I. When one of our babies was fussy (and I knew that he or she wasn’t hungry), I didn’t step in to try to soothe every time. I had to give him a chance too! It’s so hard as a new mama not to step in every time but it’s so important to give dads a chance to find out what works for them too.

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Today I thought I’d share a few other things that have been important for me to do in my role as mother in order to help encourage Justin in his role as a father. I think every person is different and every relationship dynamic is different, but this is what has worked for us!

Have a “thing” for dad to claim ownership of

Even when our babies were teeny tiny newborns who relied on me frequently for feedings, there were a few things that they needed that I didn’t have to be the one to provide and Justin could step up and take over. One was diaper changes – obviously not a glamorous job, but I think it can provide a sense of nurturing since it’s something the baby absolutely needs. (This didn’t mean that Justin got stuck with all the diaper changes, but it was definitely a place where he could jump in and help often). Another was awake cuddle time – bonding with the baby and getting lots of face to face time for the babies to see that he is a constant in their lives.

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Another big thing was bath time. From the very beginning when we brought LJ home from the hospital, bath time became Justin’s ‘thing.’ It was a task he could completely take care of from start to finish and was an easy way for him to have quality time with each of our children. There are days when he works late or just needs a break and I’ll give the baths but for the most part, this has been his thing for the past two years.

Communicate Ways to Help

Going from one to two kids was a huge transition for me. Tasks that I used to be able to keep up with easily started to slip as I tried to juggle more and more demands. I felt overwhelmed and stressed, and I found myself getting irritated because I felt like I was drowning in all the things on my plate and Justin wasn’t instinctively stepping up and taking over. The truth is, Justin was so willing to help but just needed to know what to do.  I had to remind myself that he is not a mind reader. While it would be great if he just *knew* that we needed to restock the diaper bag before leaving the house, it wasn’t something he thought about.

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I started to communicate how overwhelmed I was feeling and how I really needed him to step up. I listed some areas I wanted him to notice and help with, such as checking the diaper bag and restocking it before we left the house. After the first few times of us leaving the house and me asking him to check the diaper bag, now he does it instinctively. Even though it’s a small thing, it is so helpful to me and makes me feel like we are a team working together, both working to get our family out the door on time.

Another thing he has started stepping up and doing is getting the kids dressed and ready to go. At first, he would always ask me to pick out their outfits and then he would get them dressed, but I communicated how that still put all the decision fatigue on me so he started picking out outfits for them. Which leads me to…

Minimize criticism

If I’m being honest, I’ve had to really bite my tongue sometimes when I see the outfit Justin picked out for one of our kids. I usually put dresses on Vi for church, but Justin will dress her in pants. I like for clothing to be cute and coordinated, but Justin will sometimes put mismatched combinations on our kids. I am not always successful, but I try really really really hard not to criticize or correct his efforts.

Why?

Because if I ask for help and then criticize how he helps, it works against me in two ways. It makes Justin doubt himself, which leads to him always asking questions to make sure he’s doing something just like I want, which does not help relieve my mental load but in fact, adds to it. It also makes him not want to help. Who wants to do something if they’re just going to get criticized? Not me. And not him.

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So when he folds the kids laundry and puts it in the wrong spot in the drawer, I say nothing. When he doesn’t fill the diaper bag the exact same way I do, I say nothing. When Vi’s socks are on the outside of her leggings instead of underneath, I say nothing. When he brings LJ out in blue shoes, brown pants, and a gray sweater, I say nothing. (Although of course, on that day we unexpectedly had our pictures taken at church. Sigh).

I’m not always perfect at this and have slipped and let out some comments about how he did or didn’t do something, but for the most part, I try to focus on saying only one thing: THANK YOU. Because in the end, it doesn’t really matter that Vi isn’t wearing a matching bow in her hair or that we have 17 more snacks than we need in the diaper bag. What matters is that Justin and I are a team and we are working together to raise our children.

Give him opportunities

Justin can’t figure out what works for him as a dad if he doesn’t have the chance. This means stepping back and letting him figure things out for himself. A good example is bedtime routines: I have a routine for putting LJ down for bed. Justin’s routine for putting him down is different. Neither of our routines is the “right” way – they both work! I’m not going to say “well here’s what I do and you need to do the same thing.” He figured out what works for him and LJ and it’s great!

I also make sure to leave Justin alone with the kids when I can. It drives me CRAZY when people call this “babysitting.” He is their DAD. He loves them and is very capable of taking care of them. Giving him some time to figure things out on his own is important for him to feel confident in his abilities as a parent (and it’s important for me to get some time on my own to recharge).

Celebrate his unique personality

I fell in love with Justin because of who is is. He is funny, caring, and energetic. He makes everyone around him feel comfortable and important. He makes me laugh and reminds me not to take everything so seriously. We are not the same, but that is why we make such a good team. We complement each other and each bring different strengths to our relationship. The same is true in parenting. We don’t handle situations the same way, but that is actually a good thing. Justin brings things to the table that I don’t, and vice-versa.

Justin is so fun and always makes time to play with LJ when he gets home no matter how tired he is from work.

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He is also nurturing in his own way and always provides a space for our kids to feel safe and loved.

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It’s so fun to watch him take obvious joy in watching LJ and Vi grow and develop their own unique personalities. He shows so much pride in them! And now that LJ is getting older, they are starting to go on little father-son dates together. We like to go get donuts as a fun little family outing, and just this past Saturday Justin and LJ went out for donuts and then to get a haircut and when they got back, LJ was grinning from ear to ear! You could tell he had the best time just soaking up all of daddy’s attention.

Justin does a great job in pushing me outside my comfort zone. He’ll try letting our kids sit on their own or try a new food or activity sooner than I would. But many times, it turns out our kids are capable of that skill and I didn’t even realize it. I just needed someone (him) to tell me it’s okay to try it with them. He’s adventurous and helps give our kids the confidence to try new things. He is a calming presence who reminds me to relax and not stress out about little things. The areas he takes a casual approach are generally the ones I’m a little more high strung about, and the areas I’m more lax about are sometimes the things he stresses out about (he does not like food messes haha!) We make a good team and balance each other well.

Our kids need Justin’s parenting just like they need mine. I need him as a partner in parenting. What he brings to the family is important and deserves to be celebrated too.  I’ll have the kids write cards for him or make sure to tell him ‘thank you’ often. We need him! And it’s important to remind him of that from time to time. ❤

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t always love staying at home, and that’s okay

Hypothetical situation.

Let’s say a woman lands her absolute dream job. It’s the job description she wants, the salary she wants, the hours she wants, the location she wants. Great boss, great benefits, great perks. She’s happy and fulfilled at her workplace and feels very lucky and grateful to have this job. She will still have a bad day now and then. She will more than likely encounter tasks she has to complete that she doesn’t enjoy. She may have to work late some days, she may have a co-worker that she doesn’t get along with, she may have a stressful deadline. Even though this is her DREAM job, it won’t always be perfect.

I imagine that this girl would still have days where she just wants to vent to a friend about a bad day at the office or complain about a particular aspect of her job that she dislikes. I would never expect her to always be 100% happy and never issue a single complaint just because she landed her dream gig.

So, why do I put the pressure on myself to always be 100% happy about my job as a stay at home mom?

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The answer is multi-faceted. Before becoming a mother, I taught special education for six years. I truly enjoyed teaching and loved my students and co-workers but in my heart I always knew I wanted to stay at home with my kids one day. Justin was always so supportive of this dream of mine and we worked really hard to make it happen. We set aside my salary to have as an emergency fund for when we no longer had my teaching salary. We got creative with our budget. Justin was willing to pick up the occasional extra shift and I transitioned to a part-time work from home job. The decision to resign from my teaching job was not without sacrifice but we both felt it was worth it. On top of that, I am very aware that not everyone who wants to stay at home with their kids is able to, whether for financial reasons, health insurance reasons, family dynamics, or other reasons. I do not take for granted the privilege I have to be able to make this choice and I’m so very grateful to be able to stay home with my children.

Knowing all that, I find that I put this crazy amount of pressure on myself to always feel 100% happy and fulfilled every day. I wanted this life! This is my dream job! We sacrificed, I’m lucky to do this, I should be thrilled and grateful!

am grateful. Of course I am. I get to help LJ practice learning to count. I get to watch Vi’s first roll. I get to be present for so many moments in their childhood and I get to watch their sweet little sibling bond develop. I love my job! But my dream job is not perfect. I have a two year old and a six month old and these little people years can be exhausting and demanding. Some days are just really freaking hard.

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Justin comes home from a long, hard day at work and can vent to me about his stress or things that went wrong at work and I never once think he’s ungrateful for his job. I can easily give him grace to know that it’s not a bad job, it was just a bad day. And yet, I have struggled to give that same grace to myself. I struggle to let myself really feel all of my feelings as a stay at home mom without feeling guilty about them.

I feel guilty for the days I keep looking at the clock, counting down the minutes until Justin comes home. I feel guilty for feeling annoyed on days when my kids alternate naps and I never have a minute to myself. I feel guilty for the times I wish I could just zone out and read a book instead of play with trains on the floor again. I feel guilty for getting frustrated by tantrums, irritated by fussiness, or exasperated by irrational arguments (yes, you have to wear pants to the grocery store!) I feel guilty for complaining when I’m completely drained at the end of the day but there is still a pile of dishes to wash and toys to pick up and oh yeah, I’d also like some energy to do something want to do like get my workout in or read a book or just hang out with my husband.

I feel guilty because I know there are others thinking “wow, must be nice to get to stay home with your kids.” And it IS nice. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else right now. But it can be both wonderful and difficult. It is both fulfilling and exhausting. There are moments where I hold both babies on my lap at the same time and just cover them in hugs and kisses because I’m so. very. grateful. to be with them. Then there are other moments where I think I might scream if I don’t have at least 5 seconds without someone touching me/pulling on me/demanding my body for breastfeeding or to get up and get them a snack. And sometimes, those moments happen in the course of the same day.

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I’ve talked before about how much I loved Molly Millwood’s bookTo Have and To Hold, and she wrote something that stopped me in my tracks and summed up all my feelings so perfectly. She says: “As mothers, we sometimes want so much to savor the precious moments of caring for little ones before they’re no longer little. On the other hand . . . we sometimes want to fast-forward into a future we envision as more comfortable and more productive. We long for escape from the truly grueling work of caring for infants and toddlers” (page 76).

This is not only how I feel as a mother, but how I specifically feel as a stay at home mother. I want to cherish this time, because I know in the grand scheme of life, these years at home are fleeting. But there are also days where I can’t wait for some relief. Where I long for LJ to be in preschool so I have a few less hours with the demands of two children at home. I know the days are long but the years are short and I want to savor every moment, but I also know I can’t always do that because some moments are just really challenging.

It’s hard for me to put all this out there, but I truly believe it’s not talked about enough. Society acknowledges that stay at home moms work hard and that their job isn’t easy, but I have always felt like there is this underlying sense of “well, yes of course it’s hard, but you chose to do this and you’re lucky to even get to so you shouldn’t complain.” And I just think that’s completely ridiculous. EVERYONE has bad days. EVERY job has difficulties. EVERYONE has the right to express their feelings, both on the good days and bad. And that includes stay at home moms.

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I am working hard to embrace the truth of my feelings. I don’t always do this perfectly, but I’m really striving to just accept and give myself permission to own my feelings without judgement or guilt.

I have dreamed about staying home for years, my husband and I worked really hard to make this dream a reality, and I know that there are many people who wish they could stay at home but aren’t able to. I have landed my dream job as a stay at home mom – I love it and feel profoundly thankful for it.

But I don’t always enjoy it, and some days are really hard.

And as Millwood so eloquently puts it, “relief comes when we embrace the paradox. It’s both.”

I’m working to embrace my paradox, and I hope this encourages you that it’s okay to embrace yours too. ❤

Permission Granted

I don’t read parenting books. I have no idea what the Wonder Weeks are or what leap my child is going through. I read exactly one book about sleep when LJ was a baby. It’s a lot of reading and research and what works for one baby might not work for another (and honestly, by the time you find the “solution” your baby may just naturally be growing out of that phase anyway) and I just find that my time is better spent in other ways.

That being said, I did read this book about motherhood, and it has been a game-changer for me. So much so that after finishing my library copy, I actually bought my own copy so I could re-read and underline to my heart’s content.

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In her book To Have and To Hold: Motherhood, Marriage, and the Modern Dilemma, psychologist Molly Millwood puts so many of my thoughts into words. But even more than that, she puts my hidden, sometimes suppressed thoughts into words.

In her introduction, she presents the question “what if we could . . . occupy a mental space in which there is room for all our loving, nurturing feelings towards our children and our partners and room for all our other, less socially acceptable feelings, too?” (p. xi) She spends the rest of the book basically encouraging women to do just that. Reading it feels like being granted permission to, for lack of a better phrase, feel all the feels that motherhood brings. And even more importantly, remove the judgement from feeling all the feels.

Motherhood has been many things for me. It has been one of the greatest of sources of joy in my life. It has been rewarding and fulfilling and wonderful.

It has also been one of the absolute hardest things I have ever done. It is difficult, draining, and frustrating. And it has brought about some very complicated thoughts and feelings that I didn’t expect at all.

“Why didn’t anybody tell me about this part of the journey?”

Why didn’t I know that, as Millwood puts it, “the dark and vexing moments of mothering [exist] side by side with the moments of joy and fulfillment”? (p.3) Why didn’t I know that for all the external, superficial complaints and frustrations that other mothers felt comfortable warning me about (sleep deprivation! messy homes! tantrums!), I would also have much darker internal frustrations (resentment. loss of identity. disappointment that I’m not the mother I thought I would be.) that cause deeply rooted feelings of guilt?

Why isn’t this talked about?

It’s complicated, right?  I feel like I can’t ever go deeper than the surface complaint for fear of seeming like an ungrateful, bad mother. I prayed so many prayers and cried so many tears to become a mother, to be right where I am today. I wanted this, I waited for this, and I finally have it. And I love my children; how can I be anything other than deeply grateful? So I squash down the harder feelings when they start to surface. I don’t look too closely at the feelings that look like boredom or resentment or the moments where I wish I was just on my own. They feel shameful, even blasphemous, to even think, let alone talk to someone else about. I’ll issue my feelings with a generic “motherhood is tough” and hope people think I’m just talking about the more socially acceptable frustration with piles of laundry or sleep regressions.

And so the vicious cycle continues. We fear being the only ones who feel this way, so we don’t talk about our hardest, deepest feelings, so others don’t know we’re feeling that way, so they think they’re the only ones feeling that way and don’t share their hardest, deepest struggles . . . on and on and on.

But Millwood talks candidly about the often-hidden struggles of so many women, including herself, in their motherhood journeys and made me feel less alone. It felt like the biggest breath of fresh air, like lifting off the weight of guilt I didn’t even know I was carrying. Reading the stories and experiences of others led to acknowledging my own complicated feelings and allowing myself to feel that way without judgement. Permission to just accept and work with those feelings – what a gift.

Motherhood is complex. And that’s okay.

If you’re a mother, or hoping to be a mother someday, I cannot recommend this book enough. Here’s to removing some of the invisible burden of guilt and living in the freedom of knowing you are not alone. ❤

 

Storing Kid’s Clothes

I consider myself to be a pretty organized, minimal-ish person, but there is one big area that has always presented a challenge: kid’s clothes!

The first year of life is especially full of clothes since there are so many sizes (newborn, 0-3, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12 months) and you need a new wardrobe for each size. It slows down a little after that but you’re still changing sizes and seasons and needing clothing in each stage. I don’t try to achieve capsule wardrobes or limit a closet to a certain number of items, but even for someone trying to keep wardrobes small – it’s a lot of clothing!

To give you an idea of how much clothing we use at each stage, here was Vi’s wardrobe for 3-6 months:

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And here is LJ’s 2T wardrobe:

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Obviously, LJ has a lot more clothing because 2T lasts a year, so he needs a variety of options for seasons, whereas Vi’s only covers a couple months. They each have a few items also hanging in their closets like coats, dresses and nice button downs, but for the most part, this is all they have! I only keep their current sizes out; every other size is in storage.

With a son and a daughter and an unknown future (possibly having more kids and obviously not knowing their genders), we are currently keeping a lot of unused children’s clothing in our house. I quickly learned that I needed to be intentional not only with what I kept, but also how I store their clothing or things could quickly spiral into unorganized chaos. Vi turns 6 months in less than one week and she’s all but busting out of her 3-6 month clothes. Over the weekend, I was sorting through her clothes to put into storage, and I was struck by how far I’ve come in this area – storing her clothing was super manageable and didn’t take long at all.

Today I thought I’d share some of the strategies I use for what I save and how I store it in case anyone else is feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of their child’s wardrobe and wanting some tips. This isn’t a perfect system by any means, but it has helped me keep their wardrobes manageable and kept me from feeling overwhelmed by holding on to clothing.

Before Storing, SORT!

The biggest tip I have is to keep LESS. I save the outfits I really love, and I pass on the ones that have served their purpose for me. Sometimes I take clothes back to the consignment store and recoup some of the money I spent the first time. Other times I’ll donate it to a friend with a younger baby. I’ve also donated clothes to a local rescue mission that helps women and children working to overcome homelessness.

I don’t hang onto everything for two reasons. One, it’s a lot of clothes! I focus on keeping the type of clothing we use the most. We received a lot of baby outfits as gifts, only to find I mostly keep my kids in sleepers when they’re that little (it’s just easier!) My kids both sleep in pajamas every night (and sometimes we stay in them all day) so we need several pairs of pjs. I also need lots of play clothes – I make sure to have options like soft shirts and joggers that make it easy to move in. But we don’t need a lot of dressy clothes like button downs and dresses, so I only keep a few in each size.

The second reason I don’t hang on to lots of clothes is, trends change! Once I use clothing, I like to pass it on so that it can continue to be used while it’s still trendy. I have received both boy and girl hand-me-down clothing from others, and honestly, some of it seems outdated even though it was only 3-4 years old. A big place I noticed this was in pants, particularly jeans. The trend for kid jeans has shifted in the last few years and baggy, flared baby jeans from 2012 kind of look silly on Vi right now.

I also only keep quality clothing. If something has a stain that won’t come out or is torn or otherwise damaged, I donate it to a textile recycling program (I love H&M’s because they make it very easy to donate!)

Store in a user-friendly, inexpensive way

Once I set aside the clothing I love, that we use a lot, and that is good quality, I make sure it is washed and put it in storage.

My storage system for clothing is super easy, inexpensive, and not at all fancy. I have big plastic tubs that I keep in my kids’ closets. I fold up the clothes, divide sizes with cardboard pieces from broken-down diaper boxes, and use index cards to label each section. Then I just stack the tubs in each closet so they’re out of the way and nicely organized for the future.

I wasn’t kidding about it not being fancy ha! Since we don’t find out the gender of our babies ahead of time, most of our newborn clothing is gender-neutral so we only have one box in that size; otherwise, all the not-in-use boy clothes are stored in LJ’s closet and the girl clothes are in Vi’s.

Whenever Vi bumps up a size, I do go through LJ’s clothes in that size too. LJ has a lot more than Vi, only because I end up using a lot of his clothes for her (like plain colored onesies and joggers). Also, I keep future sizes stored in the shelves so they’re easy to add to as people give us gifts or hand-me-downs and are ready when we need them. In Violet’s case, I also keep sizes over 12 months in the bottom stacked tub since it’ll be so long until we use those.

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I tried to be mindful of not keeping a lot with LJ, but I’m finding that I’m keeping even less with Vi. (The middle tub above is her 0-3 and 3-6 month stash and it’s about half of the amount LJ has in those sizes!) I’m buying less, using less, and keeping even less. I just realize that babies don’t need a whole lot of outfits and we tend to wear the same things over and over. I’m favoring the functional things over the cute-but-impractical and it’s amazing how much that lessens the burden of storing tons of clothing.

Bonus Tip: Don’t overspend on clothing to begin with

As a first time mama, I was so excited to buy cute baby clothes. My mom and I went shopping the week after LJ was born and in our excitement we bought so many cute boy outfits. I didn’t realize I’d mostly keep him in sleepers. I didn’t realize he’d be a little peanut and wouldn’t even get to wear some of the sweaters because by the time they fit him, it wouldn’t be sweater weather. I have lots of cute, barely used items that are harder to part with because I don’t feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of them. I learned my lesson and these days, I mostly shop consignment. It’s better for the environment to get more use out of clothing and it’s WAY more economical. Plus, once we’ve used a $2 shirt several times, it’s very easy for me to pass it along to someone else because I feel like I’ve more than gotten my money’s worth. Just some extra food for thought!

What tips do you have for storing clothes that aren’t currently being used?

Unashamed Love for my Diaper Clutch

When I think about simple little things that make my life easier, my diaper clutch tops the list. I shared about it in this post from early on in my “2 under 2” days, but I have come to love it so much that I decided it needs its own post. Is that weird? Maybe, but I’m rolling with it!

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The first time I ventured out to my weekly bible study with both kids in tow, I went to drop LJ off in childcare and realized I couldn’t leave the diaper bag with him like I normally did because I still needed it for Vi, who was staying with me. I hadn’t even thought about the fact that I’d need something separate for LJ. Having no other options, I clipped his diaper name tag to one single diaper and handed it to his teacher like “oops! Sorry and good luck.” Such a rookie mistake.

I didn’t want to over-complicate things by trying to carry two full diaper bags, but I knew I needed something else for LJ while he’s still this little. I purchased a simple clutch (mine is sold out but this one is very similar) and it’s the perfect size for a small pack of wipes and a few diapers. I can also keep a snack and even his water bottle in it if I need to. (Bonus that it was bought from a store whose mission is to support survivors of sex trafficking!)

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I keep it stocked at all times with wipes and 1-2 diapers and store it next to my diaper bag; any time I’m going somewhere where LJ and Vi will be in separate places, I just throw it in with my main diaper bag and then have something to leave with LJ.

Two weeks ago, Justin didn’t realize he had the diaper bag in his car and ended up driving to work with it. I needed to leave the house with both kids and had no diaper bag, so I used this. I just added 2 diapers for Vi and we were good to go. It’s definitely not the ideal bag for everyday use, but it was perfect in a pinch.

Now that LJ is getting a little older, we are starting to also introduce wearing a backpack so he can learn to carry a few of his things. This pouch perfectly fits in the backpack!

And just look at how cute LJ is wearing his backpack! My heart can hardly take this. I feel like I’m practically sending him off to college right now. When did he get so big?!

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I love that this little diaper clutch solved a problem and made situations in my daily life much easier without causing a lot of extra work for me. It’s a simple solution that was easy to implement and even if it’s a weird thing to say, I sure do love it!

PS – You may have noticed that it’s Monday. 😉 I’m trying something a little different with the blog and switching to Monday, Wednesday, and Friday posts. There are multiple reasons for this switch, and I think this is going to be a better schedule for me right now!

LJ and the Paci: A Love Story

Well, it’s been over two weeks now, so I feel safe in saying this: LJ is done with a pacifier.

FINALLY.

I feel like it’d be hard to emphasize how much of a big deal this is without a lot of exclamations points and capital letters, so I’ll try not to make this post look like an excited middle school girl wrote it, but just know in my head, I’m shouting for joy from the rooftops!

LJ’s love for the pacifier started on day 3 of life when he was admitted to the NICU and the nurses there gave him one. I wasn’t anti-pacifier by any means, but I also wasn’t planning on introducing it that quickly so I had mixed feelings when I walked into the room and saw he had one. If I’m being honest, I was very emotional and overwhelmed at the time – my 25 hour delivery ended in a c-section, my son had to go to the NICU for antibiotics for 7 days (my placenta got an infection because my water had been broken for over 24 hours), nothing was as I expected it to be. I was so hormonal and honestly felt very guilty that I wasn’t with LJ 24/7 and hated that he cried so I was okay with him having this small measure of comfort.

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He honestly loved the pacifier from the beginning. He has always taken it super well and it has always been a huge source of soothing comfort to him, so we just let it happen. It was so helpful in getting him to sleep, staying content during long car rides, etc. and we loved it just as much as he did. It never interfered with my ability to breastfeed and he still was able to take a bottle when needed as well.

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When he turned one, our pediatrician gently suggested we consider thinking about when we’d like to get rid of the pacifier. Justin and I thought we would address it “soon,” but it was still such a huge help on car trips and at night time that we didn’t make it a huge priority.

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Then LJ turned 18 months, and it felt like the right time to wean him. We started slowly reducing its use and eventually he was down to just using his wubbanub affectionately named Edgar (we’ve been through “Gigi” the giraffe and “Patrick” the puppy as well – for us they last about 6 months and then break off because they’re used so much!) at naps and bedtime. LJ was leaving him in the crib and saying goodbye to him when he woke up and we thought “great, we’re almost there!”

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Then, his little sister was born.

20190828_094413Oh my, did we see a BIG regression here. First of all, Vi had her own little wubbanub now (a hedgehog we so creatively named…Hedgie) and LJ was all sorts of curious/jealous of that. He loves to steal Hedgie and put it in his own mouth. He’d see hers and it would remind him of his, so he’d run up to his room and grab Edgar. He went from only needing Edgar at nights, to wanting a pacifier almost full-time again and all the other pacifiers came back out. It was really discouraging for us!

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We knew that he was dealing with a lot of changes when we brought the new baby home, so we accepted the regression and decided to try again in a few months. I really wanted to make it a goal to be done by his second birthday.

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I had a hollow pumpkin (this cookie jar is similar) placed on our kitchen island for fall decor, and throughout October and November I started using it as a pacifier stash. Whenever he would get distracted and leave one of the regular pacifiers (we had these and these) somewhere, I discreetly picked it up and snuck it into the jar (I took a video of it and grabbed some screenshots so you could see). Eventually, I had collected all the pacifiers and he was down to just using Edgar again.

For a few weeks, he carried Edgar around everywhere. We tried to encourage Edgar to stay in the crib (with mediocre success). His second birthday came and I formulated a plan. We were going to go cold turkey. Edgar is technically Edgar #2 (he bit through the first Edgar about 8 months ago and we weren’t quite ready to fully wean the paci at that time so he got another one) but we still had the first Edgar. My plan was to switch the two back so he had the ‘broken’ Edgar that didn’t have anything to suck.

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The week after his birthday, we planned to go to Ohio for Thanksgiving and return Saturday night. I figured LJ would fall asleep on the car ride home and we could transfer him to the crib without a pacifier and he’d still sleep. Then when he woke up, there’d be no paci. Simple, right? Well, of course he didn’t sleep in the car and he was very awake and aware when we got home. We had placed Edgar #1 (the “broken” Edgar with no paficier tip anymore) in the crib and he was SO sad. He cried and cried. We alternated letting him cry a little, then going in to soothe and comfort. It was rough and it took FOUR. HOURS. before he finally fell asleep.

We agreed it was super hard to stay strong, but I convinced Justin to try this for three days. If LJ was still this upset after three days, then we’d assume he wasn’t quite ready and try again at another time. We also took away Hedgie (honestly, Vi isn’t a big pacifier fan and never took to it well like LJ did) for that time so there were no pacis to be found anywhere in the house.

The second night and third nights each got better and better though and we knew it was the right time. Honestly, by night 3 it seemed like he accepted that Edgar was “broken” – we talked to him about how he could still have Edgar and snuggle him even without the pacifier and he does. He still likes to go to bed with Edgar and he’ll  carry him around the house and hold him and play with him, but it’s more of a comfort stuffed animal now. We brought Hedgie back out this week and LJ knows it’s Vi’s and not his and he hasn’t regressed to wanting his.

20191212_085945It was a LONG journey with a difficult ending, but I’m so thankful we’re at this point. I’m so proud of LJ for “graduating” this step. And bonus: now that he doesn’t have something else in his mouth all day, his language is rapidly improving (we had hoped that would happen!)

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Can you spot Edgar? 😉

Farewell Gigi, Patrick, Edgar, and all you other pacis. You’ve been good to us, but I’m glad to see you go.

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Simplify the Diaper Bag {Two under Two}

I’ve now been a mother of two for just over six weeks and I’ve made it a point to get out of the house as often as we can. I want to enjoy the warm weather while it lasts and leaving the house to go to the library, playground, or a playdate boosts my mood and helps LJ burn off a lot of energy. Win win! In order to leave the house though, I have to be prepared to take a diaper bag.

I have blogged several times about what I carry in my diaper bag (newborn, infant, toddler) and it may sound strange but these posts kind of serve like snapshots into my life at various points of motherhood. I like to share these posts not only to give some ideas to fellow mamas who might be looking to streamline their diaper bags but also to document what I carried at that point in time so I can look back later and reminisce on that stage of life. 😉

My goal with a diaper bag is simple: I want to have access to the things I may need when we’re out of the house but avoid feeling like I’m carrying around everything we own. I don’t want it to be so full that it puts strain on my back or is impossible to find anything quickly.

Today I’m going to share everything that I carry in my diaper bag these days with “two under two” (two kids under two years old). As with all my previous posts on this, I want to emphasize that this is what works for me. It might not be what works best for anyone else and that’s okay. I personally want my diaper bag to be efficient and minimal-ish (more than just a bare minimum of diapers and wipes). I know I could pack more items that may offer convenience in various situations, but I choose not to. I pack what I am most likely to need and anything not listed is honestly something we can do without in 99% of situations.

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First up, I have a new diaper bag! I had used this diaper bag since LJ was born and I honestly loved it; however, it got such heavy use that it was getting pretty worn down and the front compartment zipper had completely broken. Rather than get the same bag again, I chose this one because it offered a similar look but had a few more inner pockets which I wanted now that I have stuff for two kiddos. One thing I definitely wanted to keep the same was a backpack-style bag – my arms are full enough these days that I don’t want to have multiple bags slung over arms. I want one bag that holds what I need and allows me to be hands-free so I can push a stroller/carry a carseat/hold my toddler’s hand, etc.

As it was with my first diaper bag, the front pocket is my “mom” pocket. This takes the place of carrying around a purse and holds a pen, a few snacks (I like to have protein-packed snacks while breastfeeding), hand sanitizer, headphones, and gum.

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The side pockets are great for carrying my water bottle and I also slip my phone into the other side (usually I slip it in my jeans back pocket but if I don’t have one, I can quickly stash it there).

The main compartment is where I keep everything for the kids. I roll everything and place it on its side to maximize space and keep things easy to access. The main space holds a muslin blanket, flannel blanket, two burp cloths, a spare outfit for Vi (a sleeper, because that’s easy right now!), my wallet, a nursing cover, and a toy for LJ. I also usually throw in a snack container for LJ with crackers or something similar and his water.

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Additionally, there are 5 pockets around the side and I’m purposeful with each one (counter clockwise from “top” of picture): The back pocket holds a changing pad (came with the bag) and a reusable clutch of wipes.  The next pocket is insulated for a bottle, but since I’m currently breastfeeding I store extra pacifiers and a pair of socks for Vi here. The next pocket holds 3-4 diapers for LJ. The next pocket holds 4-5 diapers forVi, along with diaper cream. The last pocket is LJ’s “snack” pocket. It holds a reusable placemat (handy at restaurants), a bib, spoon and case, and snacks (typically 1-2 pouches, fruit snacks or a fruit strip, and some type of bar).

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There is one last thin pocket outside the diaper bag (in the back) and it is usually empty, but it’s a handy place for me to slip something small I might need to carry for a particular purpose, like our mail, a book for my bible study, etc.

A few additional tips for a “two under two” diaper bag:

-Repack when you get home. It’s not exactly calm when we’re trying to get out the door. I’m getting kids changed, breastfeeding, getting myself ready, cleaning up spit up, changing a final diaper, grabbing LJ’s water bottle, trying to find shoes, wrangling LJ into his shoes, etc. The minutes leading up to us leaving the house are often hectic and rushed. It is not the time to realize “oh shoot, we have no diapers for Vi” or scramble to grab snacks in for LJ. And I certainly don’t want to leave the house and realize I have no wipes to clean up a poop mess (have you seen this!? OMG – hilarious, but also I would be so stressed out if this happened to me!) So in order to avoid that extra stress right before leaving or realize too late that we forgot something vital, I “reset” it each time we get home. I refill diapers, wipes, snacks, take out anything extra we used last time, and just get the bag back to baseline. I may not have time to do this right away when I get home, but I don’t put the bag in its “spot” unless it’s reset and ready. This way, the ONLY thing I have to do before leaving is throw in LJ’s water and zip it up! So much less stressful.

-Have an extra diaper clutch ready to go for your toddler. The first time I took both kids to my bible study, I went to drop LJ off in childcare and realized I couldn’t leave the diaper bag with him because I needed it for Vi! So I clipped his diaper name tag to one single diaper and handed it to his teacher like “uhh, sorry this is the best I can do.” Such a rookie mistake! I purchased this simple clutch and it’s the perfect size for a small pack of wipes and a few diapers (and even his water and one snack if needed). I keep it stocked with wipes and 1-2 diapers and store it next to my diaper bag; any time I’m going somewhere where LJ and Vi will be in separate places, I throw it in with my main diaper bag and then have something to leave with LJ. So much easier!

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As you can see, I still carry quite a few things around in the diaper bag. I’m prepared for the situations that are most likely to happen (hangry toddler, messy diapers, etc) but I’m not going to stress out about every possible situation (if LJ gets bored or restless, I don’t need 7 toys in the bag to distract him because we’ll typically be able to find something in our surroundings to focus on). That’s what works for me!

What are your purse or diaper bag must haves?

First Month as a Family of Four!

Well, somehow I now have a ONE MONTH OLD.

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It feels like I just I shared Vi’s birth story and she is already one month old! She hit the milestone yesterday and while I’m thankful she’s healthy, growing, and settling into more of a routine (which generally means more sleep – whoo hoo!), I’m already missing the sweet little newborn cuddles.

IMG_20190923_200939As I’m sure you can imagine, my days at home with a toddler and newborn have been a little chaotic (see photo below ha!) but we’re hitting our groove now and I’m hoping to get back into more consistent blogging. I figured the best place to start was to have a catch up post where I bring you up to speed on what life has been like for us over the past month. It’s been a sweet, challenging, FULL month to say the least!

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My c-section was on a Friday, so I stayed at the hospital through the weekend. Several members of my family and Justin’s family came to the hospital during our stay to meet the baby. Since we didn’t know the gender ahead of time, it was fun to keep the surprise a few more hours until our parents could come to the hospital and find out in person – we loved getting to see their reactions when they heard we had a girl!

We came home from the hospital on Monday morning and it was SO good to be back at home. Right away, LJ wanted to hold Vi and it was just THE. CUTEST. THING. We didn’t even have to tell him what to do – he held his hands out and it was the most natural thing in the world. My heart was in a puddle!

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Justin had four workdays off for paternity leave (six total including the weekend) and it was so nice to get settled back home as a family. My mother-in-law stayed to help us during our first week home and then my mom stayed with us the second week. Honestly, I don’t know what I would have done without them. They cooked meals and kept our house semi-clean and most importantly, kept LJ entertained so I could focus on breastfeeding and getting into a routine with Vi. It was also nice to get a few naps in and catch up on sleep while they watched the kids! Because of my lifting restrictions, I wasn’t able to lift LJ in and out of his crib so they were the only reason nap time and bedtime continued to run so smoothly! I’m SO thankful for their help!

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The past two weeks we’ve been on our own as a family of four. This post is already getting super long so I’ll just touch on some of the highs and lows of the past two weeks.

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Lows:

-LJ got croup last week and it was so hard to keep him separate from Vi. He ended up spending two days at my parents house (we joked he was in quarantine) so he could rest and recover and Vi could stay healthy.

-We expected sleep to be elusive, but there have been a couple nights that we were awake more than we were asleep and even one night where Vi AND LJ were up most of the night. We know loss of sleep goes with the territory of having a newborn, but it is still tough!

-The first couple weeks, Vi did NOT like to be set down. She would sleep for 3 hours if someone was holding her…but would wake up in 20 minutes if I had set her down to sleep somewhere. It got to be draining to always have to hold her for hours (although it did lead to sweet snuggles).

-Vi started out wanting to feed every 90 minutes like clockwork. I’m so thankful I’m able to breastfeed, but being that on demand was exhausting and challenging.

-Two kids under two years old means someone always needs me. It’s a constant juggling act and some days it’s felt extremely overwhelming.

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Highs:

-The brother-sister bond is just about the cutest thing to watch. I love how LJ searches for Vi first thing every morning, he goes over to her when she cries, he tries to give her the pacifier, and he loves to hold her on the couch. It’s just so precious!

-LJ has grown so much in the past month. He’s using his words better, gaining more independence, and actually helps me with simple tasks like bringing a pacifier or throwing something in the trash. So proud of my big boy!

-Vi took to breastfeeding well and had a much better latch than LJ did starting out. It made the beginning of our breastfeeding journey MUCH more pleasant this time around!

-Justin and I have learned some tricks to help Vi sleep better in the bassinet or pack and play and it’s made life a lot easier to not have to hold her for all her naps.

-We’re finally getting longer stretches of sleep at night!!

-I mean…girl clothes are just the cutest. I already have a mild bow obsession. 🙂

-We’ve had a few days out as a family and it’s been great to get to have time together doing something fun outdoors!

-It has been a nice season of slow. It was initially hard to accept the fact that my house would just be less clean and I’d get less “done” during the day, but I’ve come to enjoy the shift in priorities. Snuggles trump folding laundry any day and I’ve enjoyed just spending time with my littles instead of worrying about all the other things that just don’t really matter that much.

-The dogs are unfazed by the presence of another tiny human. 😉

20190924_200202Love you Vi. Thanks for one unforgettable month. ❤

BABY WEEK is here!

It’s finally BABY WEEK! Whoop whoop!

Tomorrow I will be 39 weeks and my repeat c-section is scheduled for Friday, so we are very very very close to meeting this little one! I’ve been cleaning the house, stockpiling groceries, making freezer meals, and just finishing up a few little things. It’s crazy to think in just a few short days we’ll be a family of four!

Special thanks to Natalie Joy Photography for some absolutely dreamy maternity pictures!

I wanted to do one last pregnancy update before baby comes (and this will be the only blog post this week because I’ll be busy with other preparations). If you’re interested in reading back through the previous updates, I did one for first trimester, 20 weeks, and third trimester.

Symptoms/How I’ve Been Feeling

All things considered, I’ve been feeling really good. I had a little bit of a cold a few weeks ago and stuffiness + sneezing while pregnant definitely isn’t fun but if that’s the worst I have to deal with, I’ll take it. I’ve been loving my BaoBei support band (pictured below) this pregnancy – it’s like a sports bra for your belly and really helps alleviate many of the aches and pains surrounding a growing belly.

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I have been having some weird shooting pain that comes and goes in my upper legs/groin area and I think it’s due to how I’ve been carrying LJ and walking, plus the way my pelvis is shifting. Stretching a lot has helped with this but it’s been a literal pain to deal with and I’ll be glad when it’s not an issue anymore! Other than that, I really can’t complain. I’ve been feeling good and I just love this stage of a big ol’ pregnant belly poppin’ out. 🙂

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Energy/Workouts

I have continued to keep up with the Expecting and Empowered at-home workouts consistently. I’ve mentioned before that the co-founders do frequent 10-week accountability challenges and we’re currently in week 8/10 of a challenge. This has really helped me stay on track and make sure to get the strength training AND cardio in each week.

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Justin and I did make the decision to drop our YMCA membership because we just weren’t using it enough so I’m no longer attending cycling classes there but I have been keeping up with long stroller walks with a friend and we do have a treadmill at home so I’ve stayed active. I only track my weight gain at OB appointments, and I’m staying about 7-8 lbs lower than I was with LJ’s pregnancy, which I credit to all this activity!

Food Cravings & Aversions

Still no food aversions but lately I’ve been craving ALL THE SWEETS. Seriously, my sweet tooth is out of control! My latest discovery is a new ice cream: Blue Bell Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Dough. Oh sweet goodness, that stuff is dangerously delicious.

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I’m still needing to eat something small every 2-3 hours and I particularly love keeping things like string cheese or protein bites on hand for little snacks throughout the day.

Sleep

Ahh sleep. How I miss you. This baby is very nocturnal and loves to party hard starting at like 9 pm and go all night. Needless to say, it makes getting a restful night of sleep difficult, especially now that baby is so big. I’m tossing and turning, waking up multiple times a night to get comfortable, and just not really getting much restful sleep. Up until about 36/37 weeks, I wasn’t needing to get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, but in the last week or two I’ve needed to at least once a night, which also interrupts my sleep.

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Because nights aren’t restful and baby is less active during the day, I’ve really been trying to nap or at least rest when I can. LJ is thankfully back on track with taking a 2-3 hour nap each day so I’m able to get a few things done and then rest a bit which is a nice way to recharge a bit during the day.

What I’m Looking Forward To

Sweet baby snuggles. Little baby coos. That indescribable newborn smell. Seeing LJ as a big brother. Finding out if baby is a boy or girl and calling him or her by name. Even just writing all these things makes my heart feel like bursting – I am just so looking forward to meeting this person whom I’ll love for the rest of my life!

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Boy/Girl Predictions

I had a dream where essentially at one point, baby was a girl and at another point, baby was a boy. All within the same dream! So I’m still very much in the dark with no gut feeling or intuition. Most people have guessed girl based on how I’m carrying or whatever wive’s tales they subscribe to, so we’ll see!

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LJ’s Awareness

Little man is blissfully unaware of how his life is about to change. He still points to my belly when we ask where the baby is, gives my belly kisses, and likes to lift my shirt and support band and actually rest on my belly skin when we talk about the baby. It’s so sweet! We recently set up the pack and play downstairs and talk about how it’s “for the baby” so he’s getting used to that. I also ordered him a boy and girl baby doll and we’ll give him whatever gender his sibling is on Friday so he’ll have a baby of his own. I’m a little nervous about how the transition will go for him but luckily we’ll have lots of family around to help the first few weeks so he’ll still get lots of individual love and attention.

Misc Stories

I had a case of major pregnancy brain and totally skipped an OB appointment two weeks ago. I never miss appointments and this was especially bad because I am at the point in pregnancy where I’m going every single week on the same day at the same time. AND I had just been texting a friend earlier that morning about how she had a mom brain moment and totally forgot her son’s pediatrician appointment. Despite all these helpful things, I still totally forgot about my own appointment. I was so embarrassed!

I had a recent burst of nesting energy and convinced Justin it was the right time to paint both the nursery and LJ’s bedroom. You can see our sweet little nursery update here. I know that baby won’t actually be using the nursery for a few months, but just having it done made me feel so much more prepared and ready for baby!

I love that I’m close enough to birth that when people ask when I’m due, they get freaked out. Last night I was in Costco to get a new cell phone and the worker asked when I’m due – when I replied “Friday” he got a slightly panicked look on his face like I was going to go into labor on the spot and said “OH! Wow!” Ha!

Pretty much every random stranger who comments on my belly thinks it’s a girl. We’ll know if they’re right in FOUR. DAYS.

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Thanks for following along with me on this pregnancy journey! Crazy to think that my next blog post will be introducing you to my baby! All thoughts and prayers appreciated for a smooth delivery on Friday. ❤