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. ❤

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?

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.

 

 

 

On days when I need a little boost

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

LJ and books

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

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

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

1) Listen to a podcast

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

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

2) Go for a walk

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

3) Light a candle

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

4) Carve out reading time

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

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

5) Exercise

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

6) Enjoy a phone call

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

7) Put on real clothes

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

Bonus – Go to a coffee shop for a hot chocolate

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

 

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

Simplifying the Diaper Bag {Infant}

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

Simplifying the Infant Diaper Bag

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

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

Infant diaper bag essentials (plus a few extras)

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

Infant Mama Compartment

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

Infant Diaper Items

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

Infant Main Pocket

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

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

And there you have it!

A few of my extra tips:

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

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

I got by with a little help from my friends

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

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

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But can I just be real for a minute?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay in the picture, mama

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

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

Honeymoon balcony

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

Honeymoon

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

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

But the bikini pictures remained on my phone.

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

Until I took the time to really look at them.

LJ and Mommy 1 (2)

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

LJ and Mommy 2

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

LJ and Mommy 3

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

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

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

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