My Mom Uniform

Good morning!

Today I’m once again joining Erika & Shay‘s monthly Let’s Look link-up (which will actually be tomorrow, I’m just posting a day early) and this month’s topic is your favorite “outfit of the day” or OOTD. 

If you’ve been around for a long time, like 5 years ago before my blog’s hiatus, you know that this space started out as a place to share lots of teacher outfits. My Instagram used to be exclusively dedicated to sharing my teacher ootd and I would share simple, everyday looks that were professional, comfortable, and affordable. The outfits are all still saved under my closet archives but here’s a little sampling of what my professional wardrobe used to be:

 

I loved mix-and-matching basic pieces in different ways – I loved little details like a fun ruffle, statement jewelry, or unique shoes and I enjoyed finding fun ways to layer. I still enjoy dressing up like this if I have the occasion to!

Now that I am no longer teaching and stay at home with LJ all day, it would be super easy to live in sweatpants, but I still try to get dressed every day. I don’t mean get dressed up, I mean just get dressed in anything other than the same old sweats.  It is literally JUST as easy to throw on a basic striped shirt as it is to throw on a sweatshirt, and it may seem silly but it affects my overall confidence and happiness. I’m way happier bumping into a friend in the grocery store if I’m wearing a “real” shirt. I’m way more confident kissing my husband when he comes home if I’m not in the same sweatpants I was wearing when he left for work in the morning. When I feel like I look even just a little bit put together, I feel better about myself and a happier, more confident Sarah is honestly a happier, more confident wife and mom.

All that being said, I don’t have the same about of time to piece together a daily outfit like I did when I was teaching and even if I did, there’s no real reason to go to that level of thought and effort. My days usually include pushing a stroller on a walk or running around my backyard or reading books on the floor so the heels have taken a leave of absence. Plus, many days I end up with yogurt on my pants or have a strawberry thrown at my shirt (thanks LJ) so I stick with basic, easy to clean clothes. I have a “mom uniform” of sorts that goes something like this: easy top in a classic pattern (stripes, plaid, etc), one piece of simple or statement jewelry, skinny jeans, and flats. It maybe takes an extra two minutes to pull these items from my closet instead of reaching for sweats, but the minimal amount of extra effort makes a huge difference.

All of those outfits were super easy to thrown on, and I felt so much happier and more confident heading out the door. And they are all still comfortable and easy to “mom” in!

Now do I also take the time to do full-on hair and make-up everyday? Heck no. I’m often in a messy bun with maybe a few swipes of bronzer and mascara. And of course there are days where LJ and I are in jammies and sweats all day long. But I really do try to put at least a little effort into getting dressed more often than not.

I also want to address that now that I’m pregnant, my wardrobe is reduced and comfort is the name of the game, but I still try to look put together. I’m rocking a comfy, simple top, skinny jeans, and my Converse most days.

Also, since it’s approaching summer, we’re outside playing a lot now so I’m often wearing some form of athleisure.

My favorite OOTD is one that is comfy, cute, and requires minimal thought and effort while still staying a step or two above my ratty college sweatshirt. By keeping a simple “mom uniform” in mind, it’s easy for me to feel put together every day.

What’s your standby, go-to outfit that makes you feel put together and confident?

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Simplify the Diaper Bag {Toddler}

Before I begin, thank you to all who have been praying for G, the student I shared about in Tuesday’s post. He is still in ICU, so please continue to pray! Thank you!

One of my main goals, both in life and on this blog, is to keep things simple. So often we over-complicate things and make life more difficult, time-consuming, mentally draining, or stressful than it needs to be. Sure, some things are worth lots of extra time and effort, but most things can really be brought down a notch or two (or seven) and life can still flow smoothly.

One thing I have really tried to keep simple is my diaper bag. I have a distinct memory from before I had children of a friend coming over to my house carrying her baby in the carseat, her purse was slung over her one shoulder, and her stuffed-to-the-brim diaper bag over the other. She waddled into my house bogged down with all this stuff and I thought “whoa, that looks so exhausting!” I started to look around at moms when I was out and about and noticed that my friend was not unusual; lots of moms were carrying multiple full bags on their shoulders or in their strollers and it just seemed like they had so much stuff with them at any given time. I decided that when my time came to use a diaper bag, I wanted to do things differently.

If you’ve followed me for any length of time you know I’m very to-each-her-own around here. If you want to think through all the possibilities for what your child(ren) may or may not need while out and about and take it with you just to be safe, that’s totally your prerogative and I support you and have zero judgement! For me, I don’t want the weight of heavy bags yanking on my shoulders. I don’t want to have to dig around for several minutes just to find something at the very bottom of my bag. I don’t want to *think* I have something with me but really the bag is too full to easily locate it to be sure so I just leave my house and then when I need that item, come to find out it’s not actually in there at all. I want things to be simple, streamlined, and easy on my shoulders and back. I want to have what we need while out and about without carrying half my house everywhere I go.

Each stage of LJ’s life has required different necessities. I’ve previously shared what was in my newborn diaper bag and then my infant diaper bag. Today I wanted to share how I’ve updated what I carry now that LJ is a toddler. And I want to emphasize again: every baby and mama are different! This may not be the perfect diaper bag for anyone else but it is what works well for us!

Check out this post to learn more about the diaper bag I use. I love its simple, clean look and minimal-ish use of space and pockets!  I use the word “minimal-ish” to describe my bag and list of essentials because there are a few things included that aren’t really needs but sure do come in handy. I also link to a few items; I don’t get any compensation for this but just wanted to share products that have worked for us.

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Toddler diaper bag essentials (plus a few extras)

The front compartment is still my “mom” compartment and this pocket really hasn’t changed much over time. I still keep the same items as before: my wallet, checkbook, 1-2 pens, headphones, chapstick, hand sanitizer, a snack, hair tie, gum, and a sunscreen stick for LJ and I.

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The back compartment remains exactly the same as before and is still used exclusively for diapering needs. I keep 4-5 diapers, wipes in my wipes clutch, a changing pad, diaper cream, and a diaper bag dispenser for super stinky ones.

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The main compartment is where the big changes happened. I do still carry a burp cloth because every now and then he will throw up (usually just if he’s straining hard to poop – TMI?) and it’s handy to have. I changed up the books/toys to be ones he is more into as an active toddler. I have a bib and a silicone placemat that we can put on a table at a restaurant so he could pick up food and not be touching the surface of the table. I also now carry around a spoon in a case which is super helpful. Also, there is nothing worse than a hangry toddler so I always carry around a variety of non-perishable snacks like food pouches, a dry snack in a container (goldfish, animal crackers, Cheerios, etc) and a straw sippy cup.

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In addition to these items, I still carry a muslin blanket and a flannel blanket (although once the weather warms up for good, I’ll probably nix the flannel blanket). I  still roll my items and store them vertically so I can see almost everything at a glance and grab what I need without much rummaging. In the back pockets of this main compartment I keep the food pouches, spoon +case, bib, placemat, and a pacifier on a clip.

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You’ll notice I don’t carry around a change of clothes anymore. I honestly can’t even think of the last time he actually had a diaper blowout or ruined his clothes while we were out and about. The bib prevents most food spills and I’m not really worried about it if he gets dirty while playing outside. It just felt like a waste of space to carry around extra clothes that literally never got used. Once we start potty training and expect accidents, of course I’ll start carrying extras again. But for now, it makes sense to use the space for other things.

A few of my extra tips:

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

For me, taking less has actually helped reduce stress because I have everything I need and can access it quickly and efficiently without sifting through a lot of extra stuff. The last picture shows that I can really see everything in one quick glance and grab what I’m looking for easily. If you have an toddler and feel like you’re carrying around half of his or her earthly belongings every time you leave the house, I hope this post gave you a few times for simplifying the diaper bag!

What are your diaper bag essentials?

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?

 

 

 

A Simplified Nursery

Good morning!

Now that I’m 16 weeks along with baby #2, I’ve begun to start thinking about how our living arrangement will soon change. We live in a 3 bedroom house and use the third bedroom as a guest room since we frequently host out of town guests. Right now I’m taking a “wait and see what works best for baby #2” approach. Perhaps he or she will need to stay in our bedroom longer (LJ transitioned to his crib at six weeks) or maybe we’ll figure out a way to have a combo guest room/nursery situation and just move baby back with us when we actually have guests. Or maybe we’ll transition LJ into the current guest room and move baby into his nursery. We’ll see what works best when the time comes!

Since I’m not planning out a nursery this go-round, I thought it would be fun today to share a peek into LJ’s nursery and how we planned and prepared for his arrival (before we knew his gender). Our goal was to create a sweet and simple (and inexpensive) little bedroom for him. I don’t have an exact number, but when I calculated up approximately what our nursery cost us, it was around $400 (some things we already had and others, like our crib mattress, diaper pail, changing pad, etc, were gifted to us at our baby shower and not counted towards that total).

Before I begin I want to clearly state: if you are all about trendy, matching furniture and decide to spend $2000 on a brand new crib/dresser/nightstand set from Pottery Barn, or you splurge on the gorgeous $1600 Tufted Wingback Upholstered Swivel Glider (and the matching $700 ottoman) from Restoration Hardware, OR you don’t have space or money for a nursery and keep your baby in a pack and play in your room (because when it really comes down to it, all babies need in a bedroom is a safe place to sleep), that’s your choice and you will get 0% judgement from meTruly. You do you, mama. You know your preferences, you know your finances. The decision is for you and your partner to make. Justin and I agreed that babies cost a lot after they are born (clothes, diapers, wipes, food) and we didn’t want to spend tons of money on stuff before the baby was even here but we did want to create a space for our baby in his or her own room. For us personally, we chose to find ways to keep the nursery simple and inexpensive. That’s what worked best for us, and so I’m sharing how we made that happen. If you choose to do things differently, you do you.

Creating our Simplified Nursery

We re-used or re-purposed a lot of what we already had.

When we registered for LJ, Justin and I both really loved a glider that we tested at Target. It was our style and the color went perfectly with our color scheme, but it was $400. We knew that there was a very small probability that it would be bought for us and we had other items in the pricier range that we needed to prioritize (like a stroller and car seat). So we said no to the glider and instead bought a $70 slipcover to go over an old, but still very comfy and functional, tan recliner that we inherited for free from Justin’s grandparents several years ago. It’s maybe not *exactly* the look we would have chosen, but for a $330 savings, we could absolutely live with it. 😉 I do want to say that while I’m so glad we could find an inexpensive alternative, I am thankful we had a comfortable chair in the nursery. We have spent a LOT of hours in this chair breastfeeding, rocking, reading books, comforting in the middle of the night, even sleeping on the nights LJ would.not.sleep. without being held – I strongly recommend a comfy place to sit in your baby’s room!

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We reused an old crate that Justin’s mom gave us several years ago. When we were first married, we needed a TV stand so she gave us this crate she had in storage. At the time all we did was sand the rough edges and stain it. We decided to use it as a combo bench/bookshelf/toy storage/nightstand in the nursery and I actually love how it looks there!

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My favorite re-vamped piece was this mid-century dresser we got off Craigslist a couple years ago for $30. We painted everything except the legs (I believe we used Slate Tile from Sherwin Williams and we just needed a quart of their Color to Go sample) and I spray painted the existing knobs gold and then roughed them up a little with sandpaper to look antiqued a bit. I absolutely love the way it turned out and the paint+spray paint supplies cost less than $15 total.

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We got crafty (or enlisted crafty people)

Justin made this shelf for me a few years ago based on a picture I found on Pinterest. He used reclaimed wood and it was the perfect fit for above the changing table dresser!

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My sister is super creative and talented so she made most of our nursery artwork (the Peter Rabbit print was a farmer’s market find but the rest are my sister’s handiwork).

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I was able to snag a few pillows and fabric from a JoAnn’s that was going out of business so I made some simple pillowcases to spruce up the little bench area for a very low cost.

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We prioritized where to spend money

There is SO. MUCH. INFORMATION. out there about baby gear. It’s overwhelming! Before registering, we read the latest version of Baby Bargains and this was one of our best decisions. This organization does use affiliate links but does not take money from the brands it reviews or participate in partnerships or sponsors or anything like that. I felt like we got good information from the book and it really helped Justin and I decide what items we wanted to splurge on (car seat, stroller) and what we could feel comfortable with a less expensive option (like a crib). We went with a simple Ikea crib for $100 (I couldn’t find our exact one but this one is similar) and love that we didn’t have to spend a ton of energy (or money) on the decision.

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We kept a super simple “theme”

Again, if you are all about a coordinated nursery and dream of a woodland/nautical/Parisian/etc room for your baby, that is totally your choice.! Since we re-purposed many items and wanted a gender-neutral space, it was easier for us to select individual items that fit a general vibe instead of buy themed items. We chose a gender-neutral color palette (white, gray, and shades of blue that didn’t feel like too “boy”) and selected fabrics, paint colors, and decorative items that worked within that palette. I found I preferred simple, whimsical items so I picked up little things here and there that fit that vibe. I mixed in plants for a splash of color and included some items from Justin and my childhood for a touch of nostalgia (on the triangle shelf sits his Winnie the Pooh and my bible from my dedication at church). I think think the result was a simple, sweet space that we were really pleased with.

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I’m really happy with how this space turned out and have really enjoyed spending time here over the past 15 months. Talking about all this nursery prep is sure getting me excited for another baby to snuggle in a few more months! What are your nursery must-haves?

And in case you’re interested, here’s a general source list of where I picked things up. I included links if I could find the exact or similar item (I make $0 off this, just sharing what has worked for me!)

Crib: Ikea (similar here and here)

Crib mattress: Amazon

Art above crib: Hobby Lobby

Basket with blankets: TJ Maxx (similar here)

Lazyboy Slipcover: Target

Salt lamp: Amazon

Sound machine: Target

Light-blocking curtains: Target

Small iron basket: Hobby Lobby (similar here)

Fabric basket: Ikea

Hanging Shelf w/brackets: World Market

Letterboard: Walmart

Cement planter: Magnolia (similar here)

Basket holding plant: Ikea

Fake succulent: TJ Maxx (similar here)

Diaper Pail: Playtex

Diaper basket: Target

Monitor: VTech

Changing pad: Munchkin

Changing pad cover: Aden + Anais

Mobile: Baby Jives & Co

Wall paint color: Magnetic Gray

Trim Color: Alabaster

 

Working Out as a SAHM

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

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

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

exercise

Gym Workouts

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

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

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

cycling 1

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

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

At-home workouts

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

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

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

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

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

How do you fit exercise into your life?

Breastfeeding: a complicated journey

The end of an era is upon me.

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

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

Things I wasn’t expecting

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

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

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

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

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

Things I’m SO glad I did

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

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

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

Things I hated

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

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

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

Things I loved

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

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

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

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

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