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?

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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. ❤

 

Simplifying the Diaper Bag {Newborn}

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

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

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

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

Tips for Simplifying a newborn's Diaper Bag

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

Magnolia

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

Newborn diaper bag essentials (and a few extras)

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

Mama Pocket Items

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

Mama Pocket

The back pocket is for diapering and diapering only.

Diaper Pocket Items

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

Diaper Pocket

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

Main Pocket Items

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

Main Pocket.jpg

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

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

Side Pocket

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

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

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

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