15 Simple Self Care Activities for Moms

Self care. It’s something that gets thrown around a lot these days. Especially towards moms. Traditionally moms have been expected to prioritize everyone else first, while multitasking seamlessly everything that is on their plates.  We know that is not a sustainable or healthy way to live, but it’s hard sometimes to break that mold. And in these uncertain times, self care is even more important. I don’t know about you, but we have serious quarantine fatigue over here. It’s been 8 weeks and the monotony of having everything in our lives happen in one place is beyond exhausting. So it’s a good time to review some simple self care activities for moms and make sure we are fitting those in to our routines.

These are important junctures, for me at least. Because if I am being worn down to my last thread or ounce of energy- nobody in my house is going to benefit from that. Instead of focusing on how difficult and scary this phase of life is, we could also use it as a time to pause and think about how we better take care of ourselves. It’s most important now. Especially in the most stressful moments when it seems we have even less time. When you think about everything you have to do, maybe something has to go to fit in yourself.  

self care for moms relaxingUnfortunately, we get pushed down to the bottom of the priorities. School has to happen, work has to get done, the house needs to be clean for us to live here, we need clean clothes to wear, everyone needs to eat 3+ times a day. And the list goes on.  But there has to be a way to find time for ourselves. Even if it’s 5-20 minutes a day, and fitting in longer stretches 3 times a week. 

I wanted to create a resource of real ideas that work for people. So I asked my friends and moms on social media for their favorite self care activities to compile this list. There were some common themes and also very individualized ways people make time for themselves.

Self care does not have to take up a lot of time, nor cost a lot of money (even though a spa day would be amazing). Taking care of ourselves daily is found in simple moments that refuel us. Fill your cup so you can continue being the badass mom you are. 

I’m planning on sustaining what I have started and picking 2-3 more activities to integrate into my life. You don’t have to do it all at once! Take baby steps and incorporate as you can.

self care exercise for moms

Exercise.

The majority of the moms and women I spoke to mentioned exercise, so it has to be mentioned first. Rightfully so, as movement gives your body bursts of serotonin. If you’re groaning right now. Don’t! It can be as simple or as involved as you want- just moving your body more. Many mentioned their favorites- walking, taking bike rides, and virtual classes like dance, weight lifting, yoga and HIIT.

This is one activity that I have been able to maintain during our quarantine days for at least 2-3 times a week. And it has helped tremendously in my mood and patience for homeschooling. 🙂 My FAVORITE way to exercise has always been dance classes.10 years ago (!!!), I specifically searched for a place in Chicago that offered dance fitness and strength training classes. I have been going to Mazi Dance Fitness ever since. So crazy, because it feels like a different life-I hadn’t even met my husband yet!

When the shelter in place went into effect, they launched their Mazi On Demand. Thank goodness! Because it’s my happy place and I needed that outlet. But the best thing is that anyone can try it out now, not just those that live in Chicago. I have a code for any of my readers that want to give it a try. It is also run by two amazing sisters that are also moms, so they get it.

There is a 14 day free trial, and you can use the promo code “URBANMOM” to get 25% off the monthly membership ($14.99/month) when that is done. Or use the code “URBANMOMYEAR” to get 25% of the yearly membership of $99/year. Whichever you choose- you’d get 25% off of as a one-time discount. If you give it a try, I’d love to hear what you think about it.  It’s exciting to be able to “dance” with more women, even if it’s virtually. 

Sleep.

This is one I’m adding for myself. I’m so tired when my kids go to sleep, but then I get a second wind with all the alone time and stay up too late. Sometimes I’m productive, other times I scroll mindlessly on the gram. No bueno. When you repeat this pattern too many times, it does not end well. From my personal experience. So this is on my list, go to bed earlier. Simple. 

Learn a New Skill or Practice an Old Hobby.

Learning something new sparks a different side of us that unfortunately lays dormant most of the time. If you are not sure what to do, think of things you did as a child that made you happy. That is one of the reasons I looked up dance fitness as an adult, because it was something I did all the time with my sisters. Maybe you’ve always wanted to start knitting, gardening, or calligraphy. It could be anything! 

Dress Up.

I’m not great at this one either. And I’m not planning on going full makeup or real clothes, while I’m stuck at home. But it is one that I am focusing on. When I make a little more effort in the mornings, I feel better. Usually it’s taking 5 minutes to do a face mask, or putting on my nicer leggings (ha!). (Real pants are overrated when you are simultaneously working from home and taking care of three kids.) That is what works for me, if putting on a dress makes you happy- please do it! 

Spa-like Treatments.

Give yourself a manicure or pedicure. Exfoliate, deep condition, put on a relaxing face mask or take a bubble bath. You don’t have to fit in a full spa day to get a little therapeutic tlc. Light some aromatherapy candles and put on relaxing music. All those things together will make you feel like you are in a real spa. 

self care activity for moms getting outside

Get some Fresh Air.

Take a walk or just read a book outside. Play with your kids or just sit on a blanket while your kids play. There are tons of proven benefits of Vitamin D and being outside. 

Connect with Friends.

If you’re like me and you can get lost in your daily grind, this is an important one. Especially now when we can’t physically see our people, staying connected is even more important. Schedule some zoom or facetime calls to make sure you have time to connect with loved ones. Having zoom calls with friends and other moms has filled my cup many times. Even if I feel exhausted when I am getting on. 

Organize and Make To Do Lists.

This can be self care! Especially if being organized brings you peace. Just make sure you write down some activities for yourself when you are getting your life organized. Actually integrating these into your daily schedule will make them more likely to become good habits. If organizing brings you peace, organizing projects around your home will probably bring you lots of joy.

Gratitude.

Sometimes if I am especially stressed and I have a full day ahead of me still,  I just sit down and think. Sometimes I jot them down. Just being grateful and listing what you love. It’s not easy to get off the stress train, when you are on it. An easy self care activity happens with a mindset shift. Think of all the things you are grateful for, you can jot them in a journal or onto a post it note to hang up in your home. Our thoughts are a powerful thing. 

Take Out Activities.

It’s not always about adding something new, but eliminating something that makes you feel worse. If you find yourself spending time on things that aren’t necessary to your life or bring you sadness- it may be one of your best self care activities to eliminate it from your life. For some people, this is browsing social media- either late at night or for long stretches of time. 

Date Night.

Solo or with your significant other! Sometimes a silly movie on my own is what I need and other nights a chance to connect with my partner without our children helps us refuel from our long days.

self care activities for moms

Do Something you Love.

Read a good book. Get lost in a long puzzle. Make a tiktok dance challenge video. Go on a hike. Watch a new show. Eat poptarts alone in your room (one of my friends shared this with me on Instagram and I cracked up. I like the idea of having my own favorite snack stash that won’t be devoured in one day by my kids!) 

I love reading and have recently tried Kindle Unlimited. (aff) I was skeptical at first if I would find anything I like but I have been pleasantly surprised. My favorite feature is the majority of the time you get the audio and e-book to easily switch back and forth. I like to listen when I am doing household jobs, but I rather read when I am in bed or taking some time for myself. 

Listen to Something Inspiring.

I love a good playlist or audio book when I’m doing dishes or folding laundry. Many people also love podcasts. I’ve added a few recommendations to my podcast collection. Saving a story or song you love can add something special to otherwise mundane household tasks. Or just as a background to relaxing on a rainy Sunday. 

Fresh Flowers or Plants.

If keeping plants alive brings you stress, this may not be a good self care tip for you. 🙂 I love adding touches to a space that add life and freshness and nothing does that like a plant or nice flowers. It is still something I am learning about, but there are many plants out there that are easy to take care of. Definitely start with those if this is a new venture for you. Candles or aromatherapy diffusers can also brighten up a space, or make it more relaxing. 

Do Nothing.

Why are moms always having to do stuff?? I wrote a Don’t Do List recently, because I was kind of over this supermom culture where we are expected to do it all. Maybe your best self care is to do nothing. But not with your phone. Just sit and chill. Maybe take a nap, you deserve it. 

If you have any more self care ideas that have worked for you or other thoughts you want to share- feel free to add them in the comments!

 

Weekly Meal Planning Printable Guide

Cooking is one of the household chores I enjoy most.  Coupled with my love of making printables, these meal planning printable guide was born. I’ve seen the rewards of meal planning, but I’m not always consistent with it. Having the right tools like this meal planning printable kit and ensuring it’s one of my habits has been essential in becoming more successful. One of the most important rewards for meal planning (for my household) is saving money at the grocery store. When you have  a shopping list directly tied to a meal plan, it keeps you focused at the store. meal planning printables

People talk about it all the time, but why should we meal plan? There are so many reasons! Which is why it’s something most of us will benefit from, regardless of your goals. It helps save money, helps your family eat healthier meals and takes away the daily stress of figuring out what and how to feed your family. 

The stress part alone is worth it to me, but we are also on a budget and finally I don’t want my kids to get used to eating out all the time.  You don’t have to make traditional “healthy” meals like salads every night.  The majority of stuff you cook at home will have better ingredients (and therefore overall healthier) than what you buy in a restaurant.  

What is Important to your Family?

Step number 1 is to consult your family.  Usually, I pick three different proteins and base our meals around those.  We like to have some variety, while still rotating through some of our favorite meals. Think through as a family what your main preferences are.  Are you planning around dietary needs, budget guidelines or easy and fast meals? 

meal plan template favorite family mealsNext, write down your family’s favorite meals.  You may have some already and add more as you try out new recipes.  These are golden.  And you’d be surprised how you can forget if your family loved a meal.  The hustle and bustle of life is real.  Last year, I stumbled on a recipe again that I had completely forgotten about.  It was one that was loved by everyone so clearly had to go into our regular rotation.  I added it to our favorite meal list, so it won’t be forgotten again.

Every week will be different. Maybe sometimes you’ll want to try something new, or your family is craving something specific. Then there are those other phases of life where you just go to the recipes you know how to make and your family loves.  For me, that is most of December leading up to Christmas.  There is so much going on that I want to think as little as possible about what I’m cooking. 

Start with What You Have 

freezer pantry inventoryHaving a freezer and pantry inventory help so much! Because those items will last you longer than a week, so it’s easier to forget if you still have a certain spice or canned tomatoes for a recipe.  Write those out first, and then each week you can take an inventory of what else you have. 

 One of the easiest ways to save money, is to take inventory of what you have in the refrigerator that can go bad. If I have veggies, I’ll plan to put them in omelets, or salads, taco bowls or fried rice.  With fruit, you could make a fruit salad, yogurt parfait, or freeze for smoothies.  Whatever I decide, I plan for those items early in the week so they get eaten and not end up in the trash can.  i.e Throwing away money. No bueno. 

Look at Weekly Sales Online

Most grocery stores have their weekly circular online, listing their sales for that week.  I go to the meat section first, since they are usually the most expensive part of the meal. Based on which are on sale, I look at the recipes I have and pick what I will cook for the week (you can also plan for two weeks, month or whatever works best for you).  We also do at least one night a week meatless. It’s usually whole wheat spaghetti with a veggie sauce because it’s easy.

If you’ve never shopped at Aldi and are on a budget, you must start! Easily one of the best ways to save money on groceries.  There are not many name brand products, but you learn their brands and they are just as good if not better sometimes. While their stuff is already priced low, there are also weekly ads for additional discounts. 

Write it Down in your Meal Planning Printable! 

meal planning printables kit

Pick a day for planning and grocery shopping- they can be different or the same.  For you to stick with meal planning, there has to be time carved out for it on a regular basis. Use your meal planning printables to write down all your meals and shopping list for the week. You can laminate and hang it up in your kitchen, or print it weekly. 

That’s it! Starting to meal plan can be tough.  The steps are simple, but starting anything can be challenging. We have to work on making it a habit first.  Which takes practice.

Another fun way to approach meal planning is having themed days. It also gives you a framework. Especially if you don’t have a list of favorite meals yet, it narrows down all of the different recipes out there. For example,

  • Monday: Meatless
  • Tuesday: Tacos
  • Wednesday: Instant Pot
  • Thursday: Seafood
  • Friday: Pizza

Other ideas can be Asian, BBQ, American, Chicken etc.  You can choose your favorites and it will give your planning a framework to work with.   

meal plan template versionsOur meal planning kit has everything you need to get started on your meal planning.  Including a one pager meal plan sheet and a more detailed form with a separate shopping list.  I have the basic one hanging up and fill it in as I think of recipes.  Then I use the more detailed sheets when I sit down to fully plan the week out. 

Hope you find these useful! Let me know in the comments if you have other advice or questions!

Cholestasis of Pregnancy and a Positive Induction Story

My third pregnancy was vastly different than my first two. Even though I was having a third boy. There were new challenges that I hadn’t experienced before.  First, nausea took over my first two trimesters, and fatigue seemed stronger this time around as I mentioned previously in my first trimester reflections.  And of course, I was taking care of a 4 and 2 year old. For a while, I thought my life in general was the likely cause of being more tired this time around. As I was diagnosed with Cholestasis of pregnancy at the beginning of my third trimester, all of the symptoms started to fit together. cholestasis of pregnancy, pregnancy induction, positive induction story, 37 week induction, rhys' birth story, icp

On the plus side, I was more active- I continued to walk and attend my favorite cardio classes about twice a week. My weight was more maintained  than my second pregnancy where it skyrocketed (and never fully went back 🙂 ). I was proud of myself for this part because it’s something I have struggled to do in previous pregnancies, and I thought it would help me have an overall better pregnancy.  And it did, until life had other plans for me. 

As I transitioned into the third trimester, the nausea hadn’t diminished completely but it wasn’t as frequent.  I never fully felt the second trimester wave of energy and to be honest- I started to feel really low.  It’s hard for me to be so tired, constantly sick and raging with all the hormones. I started to worry how it was affecting my household,  myself,  my kids and my marriage.  Which just made me even sadder, but the fatigue was so strong that I could only cry and do the best possible. All of my routines were off and I couldn’t seem to get a handle on any of it. For someone that thrives on routine, it was really hard for me to accept and not feel guilty about. 

The Itching Started

I remember the night I started itching very well. I was 32 and 1/2 weeks pregnant. It was my birthday weekend and my good friends cooked a dinner for me (that was absolutely amazing by the way).  The friend that hosted knew how bad I had been feeling. Being surrounded by friends and feeling understood for all my rollercoaster feelings was definitely something I needed.

Earlier that day, I had been pretty itchy all over.  At first, I thought it was just another “fun” pregnancy symptom.  But then I had to apologize to my friends for constantly reaching into my shirt to scratch my stomach and arms during our conversation. It was nonstop that night and just intensified as the hours passed.

Around 1am I had been in bed for a couple hours, but I hadn’t slept at all. My husband had to help me scratch as I was miserable. The itching was now most intense on my hands and feet. It felt like an army of fire ants was on them.  That is the only way to describe how much more intense it was than just regular pregnancy itching.  It was unbearable.

In my state of insomnia and between scratches, I got on Google. Naturally. I was initially just looking for ways to get some relief. I had already pulled out the cortisone cream and any lotions I could find.

That is when I found out about Cholestasis.  I had never heard of it before but what sent the alarms off in my head was the number one symptom is itching. And not just regular itching- but specifically in your hands and feet. I described it to my husband and we decided to call my doctor.

Right when I told her where the itching was, she told me to come into Triage that day.  Thankfully it was a Sunday, so Jordan stayed home with the kids. I had barely slept so I practically dragged myself there.  

On the way, I texted my mom and sister the page I found on Cholestasis and told them that I was pretty sure I had this.  I’m not the kind of person that diagnoses herself quickly, but it sounded exactly like my experience had been.

The other symptoms were dark colored urine, which I had just mentioned to my doctor at my previous visit. Fatigue, nausea and depression are the other signs.  Hello! I  had all of this! But any of those can come around in pregnancy, the itching is what set it apart.

What is it?

The scariest thing you will find when you look up Cholestasis are the risks.  Fetal distress, preterm birth or stillbirth.  Exactly. The last things you want to hear while pregnant. My mind started spinning and I probably got to a point where I read too much about it and too many real stories.  That is how I work though, I want to know as much as possible about things. But I read the good accounts AND the bad, which to be honest was scary. 

Cholestasis happens when the liver slows down or stops the flow of bile. When bile acids build up, it can spill into the bloodstream. There aren’t concrete causes for it yet, but some general associations. Most women are diagnosed in their third trimester when the pregnancy hormones are elevated the most. So there is a direct correlation with elevated hormones and the onset of the disease.  It also has genetic links and environmental factors that contribute.  

Bile acids in the bloodstream can cause stress on the baby’s liver, which is what makes it so serious.  It also affects their breathing. .

I found it interesting that I never heard of this or that it is not routinely tested for during pregnancy. Why do we get routinely tested for other things that can occur in pregnancy but Cholestasis can go unnoticed and undiagnosed if someone is not familiar with the symptoms?

In Triage

They attached me to the baby monitor immediately. He was active and the heartbeat looked good. Then they did an ultrasound to check the amniotic fluid, which was also where it should be.

Blood tests were then done- as they are the best source at diagnosing Cholestasis. The first one tests your liver enzymes and results are given within the hour.  The second is the most important. It tests your bile acids, but you don’t get the results for a few days.  

One of my liver enzymes was slightly elevated, which wasn’t enough to diagnose me. But purely on my symptoms, they started me on the medication for Cholestasis. Urso maintains your bile acids and helps alleviate the itchiness. There would be no harm in taking it if I didn’t have it. 

Waiting Game

The “normal” range of bile acids in a pregnant woman are 0-10 and anything above that would diagnose me officially with Cholestasis.  A few days passed and I got a 10. Which was annoying. I’d rather it be a 2 and not have it, or above a 10 and have it. Right on the border meant more waiting and more tests. My doctor retested me the following week and my acids had elevated to a 13.  And this was after I had already been on the medication for a week that helps regulate bile acids.  

So after a couple weeks of all this- I was officially diagnosed.  Beyond the medication I was already on, they induce women with Cholestasis early because the most danger to the baby happens in those last weeks.  We scheduled my induction for 37 weeks and it was a whirlwind wrapping my head around the fact that my “deadline” for getting ready for this baby just moved up 3 weeks.  

I had really wanted to go into labor naturally and I worried about my baby coming out earlier than he was supposed to.  But this is what was best for him now.  And that is really all that matters at the end. 

They also prescribed me non-stress tests twice a week in addition to my regular OB visits. They check on the baby’s movement, heart rate and amniotic fluid.  Every SINGLE doctor constantly told me to regularly count kicks and movement. And to make sure I came in if there was any decrease in movement.  Do you know how scary it is to hear that over and over again?  

I became a little obsessive. If he was sleeping, I would freak out and shake my belly to move him and make sure he was still good.  It was stressful, emotional and overwhelming.  Finally, I tuned in to his patterns more and made sure he was moving at his usual times instead of constantly poking my belly around. 

Talking About It

The worry was always in the back of my head. It was hard for me to talk about it all beyond my inner circle. 

I’d casually mention I had to be induced early but probably left many people confused because I wouldn’t really explain why.  When I had to explain what Cholestasis was and the risk it could have for my baby, my eyes would instantly tear.  So I probably appeared flippant in responses, merely because I didn’t want to go into detail and get emotional.

I read so many heartbreaking real stories that I couldn’t confidently announce that this baby was definitely coming on this date etc. Not until he was in my arms. 

Induction

My last OB appointment was at 36 weeks and my cervix was absolutely nowhere near ready for labor.  It was early after all so that made sense.  My doctor moved my induction to the night before I was set to arrive.  These extra hours I was given cervidil to prepare my cervix before I was officially induced in the morning.  

Yes, there were more worries!  I was worried I wouldn’t progress- that it would lead to a 3 day induction or c-section.  I worried about him- that he would need intervention being so early, that maybe he wouldn’t be big enough or developed enough yet to come out. And of course- the biggest worry still loomed over all of that.  That my body was attacking him and this early induction could still end up not being early enough.

1cm is what I came in with Monday night at 7pm and what I still had Tuesday morning when they took out the cervidil at 8am. But my cervix did cooperate and get softer. I was mentally prepared for a marathon though.  Even when everyone confidently said that third babies come quickly.  At this point, it didn’t seem like it would be going that way. 

9:30am they started pitocin.  I was getting contractions but not anything I couldn’t talk through. They put in a foley bulb around 10:15. It is a balloon type thing that would help get me to 3cm.  Around 11:50 it had done it’s job and came out.  They had also slowly risen the amount of pitocin given every 30 minutes to an hour. 

Contractions came every 2 minutes but I could still talk and walk through them.  My husband and I went for a walk in the halls- while dragging the IV drip behind me.  We may have gone too far and gotten in trouble-lol.  Didn’t know I could only walk in the little hallway in front of my room until my nurse came after us that she had lost signal for me.  Whoops.

Then I sat on the birthing ball- bouncing and stretching.  Anything I could think of. I sat on it through my liquid lunch while my husband had real food- still hospital food so I wasn’t too jealous. They kept asking me for pain levels but I was still comfortable. I knew from experience that you are not in active labor until you become uncomfortable. 

My doctor came back around 2pm and said she thought it was time to break my waters and move this along.  She warned me that contractions would probably get a lot stronger and be ready to ask for the epidural if I wanted it.  I wasn’t in pain yet at all so I said okay, but in my mind thought it was going to be a while before it actually happened.

By 2:30pm I was in crazy pain! The contractions were so strong and frequent that we started the process of getting the epidural.  Low and behold, they weren’t available when I requested it so I had a good 45 minutes of super painful contractions before the anesthesiologists came in. 

My doctor kept coming back to check on me. She confidently said we’ll have this baby by midnight.  As she came back to check again at 5pm, she moved the time up even more.  I was actually progressing! Hallelujah! I was 5cm at this point. cholestasis of pregnancy, pregnancy induction, positive induction story, 37 week induction, rhys' birth story, icp

He’s Here!

Things moved quickly the next couple of hours.  Around 7:15 she asked me if I was ready to push and in a daze I agreed. She paused for a minute and asked if I was okay. I was a little shell shocked- the worries were still looming.  But I snapped out of it and said let’s do this. 

We’re gearing up for this crazy pushing phase.  Some back story- I pushed for almost an hour with both of my two older boys. The second one hurt like heck so my husband and my mom- who were there for those also- got into position- ready to cheer me on and motivate me through this final phase. 

Guys, I pushed less than 10 minutes.  Maybe 4-6 times and he was out.  The world finally decided that the extreme nausea, Cholestasis and fears for my baby were enough. Hours of pushing would just be overkill.  Thank you!

I burst into tears. He was perfect.  7 pounds, 7 ounces- even at 37 weeks. Who knows what he would have grown to if he cooked longer! The anxiety I was holding in my body finally released into a pool of tears.  He wasn’t tiny or had trouble breathing from being early as I had feared (lungs are one of the last things to develop).

There was a healthy baby boy in my arms. All the feelings of love and relief were incredibly intense. Everyone told me how happy I looked in the pictures we shared after. Letting go weeks of fear created a purely euphoric feeling. cholestasis of pregnancy, pregnancy induction, positive induction story, 37 week induction, rhys' birth story, icp

Reflecting Back

In many of the stories I read about Cholestasis, many women were shrugged away about their itching. Told to get some benadryl and they’ll be fine.  Or not prescribed the right medicine. I am so grateful for how my doctors handled my symptoms, and took me seriously enough to prescribe me the medicine right away.  They had a sense of urgency that should be there for something that can have such a fatal result.  The problem seems to be that there isn’t enough knowledge, even among doctors in the field. 

Follow your instincts. With itching or anything else.  This website ICPCare.org was an amazing resource for me. They have accumulated medical research, real stories, and outreach programs about this disease and what is needed for treatment. cholestasis of pregnancy, pregnancy induction, positive induction story, 37 week induction, rhys' birth story, icp

Ramblings about my Third Pregnancy and Feelings about Gender

There are some aspects of my third pregnancy that have been pretty magical, especially my oldest being aware of what’s happening. And then there are some symptoms that are still incredibly real and heightened miserably- especially with two toddlers running around.

As I write this, I’m entering my second trimester and already feeling the symptoms of the first trimester fade away.  Thank goodness. I feel very optimistic of what’s ahead. This post is purely a capture of everything I have experienced and felt so far in this journey- not just physical changes but also feelings on finding out the gender of our third baby.

The Good

Older Kids More Excited

When I was pregnant with my second son Ellis, my first son Miles was 22 months. He was unimpressed, lol.  The whole idea was just over his head at that age.  This time around, he just turned 4 and is so adorable. He understands that we are expecting a new baby and says things like, “I can’t wait to meet him!”,  “So when the baby is done growing in your belly, he’ll be born and then grow bigger like Ellis and I?” and also some wonderings, “When you eat then, you share your food with the baby?”

It’s pretty special to share this experience with one of your children and have him actually take interest in our growing family and ask such thoughtful questions. Ellis on the other hand is 2 and said, “I don’t want to be a big brother, I want to be Ellis!” That response is soo him.  He will be almost 3 when the baby comes and is a really loving kid so I’m sure he’ll be enamored as well.  The abstract concept will probably not connect with him though until he meets the new addition.

You know what to Expect

This isn’t my first rodeo.  There is peace in having experience. That can’t be denied. I don’t constantly research every feeling or symptom.  I know what symptoms are serious and which ones are “normal”. This helps to give myself a little more slack. I was anxious about my first doctor’s appointment to get a confirmation of the little baby that was in there. But now, I’m trying to just take every day one at a time.

The Not so Good

Very Aware and Sick

I’ve read other third pregnancy accounts where moms have said that it was just flying by and they didn’t have time to even think about being pregnant.  Not having time is very true.  I am chasing two active toddlers around and it’s very difficult to only focus on being pregnant.  But I have been the sickest this pregnancy and that makes it really hard to forget I’m pregnant.

With my first, I maybe threw up once. I would always have crackers on my nightstand, and eat a couple in the morning before getting up. That worked beautifully. Same with my second pregnancy, a little nauseous in the morning but then it would go away. This time I threw up probably Every. Single. Morning for at least a month.  And then also many afternoons. The grand finale was having to tell a cab driver to pull over so I could get sick on the side of the road.  I always thought I’d be drunk and leaving the best party ever if that happened to me.  But no.  That was not the case.

So yeah, it’s hard to “forget” you are pregnant when that is happening. Especially when my oldest would  ask me every morning if I was going to throw up before we left the house. That’s how used to it he was.

Fatigue

The exhaustion is still very real.  I was staying up after the kids went to bed to work on my blog and other work I had.  That ended really quickly after I got pregnant. By the time we put them down, I was just sooo tired.  Also, there was a fear I’d get sick again if I stayed awake so it was just safer all around for me to go to sleep.

As I write this, I am officially 14 weeks tomorrow. I haven’t gotten sick in a week and I’m already feeling a little more energetic.  It feels good to be more productive again, because even if I try to remind myself that I am pregnant and it’s part of growing a human- the to do list doesn’t go away.

Conflicting Emotions

Initial Gender Discovery

This is probably the hardest for me to write about.  But if you are in my inner circle at all, I wasn’t quiet about what I wanted. After two boys, I wanted a girl.  Actually I’ve wanted a girl from the beginning, but since this is planned to be our last baby- I really wanted a girl this time. The feeling was heightened and combined with pregnancy hormones.

My pregnancy being so different this time made me feel like I was maybe having a girl. They say you are sicker with girls, so of course! Also, everyone around me was convinced we were having a girl also.  I’ve realized now that’s a societal expectation- everyone will say you are having the opposite of what you already have.

I am 35 so had my genetics test done around 12 and 1/2 weeks.  They give you 7-10 days and call you with the results.  If you choose to find out, they’ll let you know the gender.  Of course I wanted to know.  They called me on day 7 and confirmed this baby was ALL MALE.

I cried. A lot. And you know what- I’m not going to say I feel guilty about it.  Because human beings are complex.

Emotions are complex.  You can feel differing emotions simultaneously.

I needed the space to mourn the idea of mothering a girl. It was an idea and a dream that I’ve wanted for so long and it was officially never going to happen. And it’s not just about frilly dresses, I wanted the experience of raising both genders and what it would be like for me- and my husband- to parent a girl.

Those feelings don’t mean that I wasn’t grateful for the little boy growing inside of me. Or grateful that I could have another healthy baby. Or happy that we were blessed with this family.  Because all of those feelings were still there.

Many women have these feelings and they feel guilty because gender can seem very petty and superficial in the grand scheme of things. And sure, maybe it is a little bit. While it may seem trivial, we all have dreams and vision of what our family will look like. Experiencing the loss of a dream are still valid feelings to work through.

I gave myself time to have those feelings and talk to my husband and family about it.  After two days, I was ready to move on. I read a few other posts about gender disappointment and it really helped me process my feelings and move past them. This is one of my favorites where she writes a letter to her daughter, saying goodbye to the vision she created of her.  I cried ugly tears reading this,  since I found it that first day and it really spoke to what I was feeling. As I read it again, this paragraph stuck with me and kind of created a basis of moving forward.

And because of that, it is with a tear filled face but excitement in my heart that today I say goodbye to the dream you were. You hold the dreams of my past and to hold on to you any longer takes moments away from my precious boys. At this point to want you here means one of them would not BE. And as I anxiously await the arrival our newest, and our last little I cannot imagine life without ANY of them. They are each so special to me and I love them beyond imagination. And you see, they deserve all of me, not just the broken pieces. And I deserve to have complete, whole happiness in each of them. From this point forward I am all in. They are each the dreams of my present, and the dreams of my future.

Dreams of our Future

I started to imagine what my family IS going to look like. And get excited for it. What my future has in store for me and my amazing little boys. While I have 3 sisters and 1 brother, I grew up with 2 sisters.  And I am close to both. We did so much together like choreograph dances, sing all the songs to Grease, play dress up– and we were truly a little tribe. My 3 boys can totally have that similar experience. Whatever that will look like for them.

There are so many benefits to having a 3rd boy- let’s not forget how much money we will save. I would have most definitely gone overboard on the girl stuff, clothes and all the things. I started to imagine this little baby boy and what he could be like and my love has only grown. And that doesn’t mean that the love wasn’t already there or that I want to replace him with a girl.

If you are having similar feelings, know that it won’t last forever. From what I’ve read, it’s lasted throughout the whole pregnancy for some, but right when they met their little baby- the feelings diminished.

My advice is to let yourself feel. When you feel guilty and suppress your emotions, you aren’t giving yourself the space to fully deal with them. Working through those thoughts lets you go to the other side. Where you start rejoicing and planning the family you were MEANT to have.

Excitement!

Here are my two boys announcing their baby brother. Aren’t they adorable??? It’s going to be pretty cool to see what this third little guy brings to the mix.

third pregnancy, third boy announcement, gender disappointment, three brothers, pregnancy announcement

Weekly Cleaning Schedule Printable- FREE

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you may have picked up on a couple things.  Cleaning is my arch nemesis weakness and getting my kids on a schedule has been one of my strengths.  As the new year has settled in and spring cleaning is on the horizon, I decided it was time to really tackle my cleaning routines. It is definitely one of my goals this year and I haven’t made much stride yet in changing how I approach cleaning and organizing my house in general.

Usually, I prioritize ALL of my other responsibilities- which in my defense, there are many at times. But cleaning is still a responsibility so I’d find myself having to do 6 loads of laundry in one day or cleaning the whole house in one very long day.  This obviously is not working as I often find myself stressed or overwhelmed by the task.  So I thought- why not implement what has worked in many other areas of my life and create a cleaning schedule.

*To be honest, my very first thought was how can we incorporate a cleaning lady in the budget!!?? But that didn’t really work out so I went to plan B. 🙂

At first I was going to find one online and print it- but none really fit exactly what I wanted. So I procrastinated on cleaning again by spending a few hours to make one myself.  And it’s available for you all to download for free! Win win.Get super organized with this pretty and easy to use cleaning schedule printable. It is a weekly cleaning schedule but also lists daily, biweekly and monthly tasks. Each weekday is assigned a room in your house to keep you focused and ease the overwhelm of maintaining a clean and beautiful home.

UPDATE: This is super important and I can’t believe I forgot to mention this before.  I do not do this completely by myself!  My husband handles all the dishes and folds lots of laundry as well as other things.  It’s a team effort and we made the system that worked best for us.

It is a basic checklist, but breaks everything up into very manageable chunks. Everyday has a list- make the bed, do dishes, one load of laundry, clean up toys etc. Then each day of the week has a specific room assigned, Monday is all about the kitchen and so forth. On the side, there is also a list of biweekly and monthly tasks to remember.

I printed mine on cardstock and laminated it and it’s hanging in my kitchen. This way you can use a dry erase marker and wipe away your checkmarks for a fresh start each week. Alternatively, you could also print a few copies at a time and use the checklist that way.

Get super organized with this pretty and easy to use cleaning schedule printable. It is a weekly cleaning schedule but also lists daily, biweekly and monthly tasks. Each weekday is assigned a room in your house to keep you focused and ease the overwhelm of maintaining a clean and beautiful home.

The download includes one filled in and another blank in case you want to write in your own tasks! Let me know if you have any questions on using the checklist or ideas to make it better.

Vision Plan 2018: Making Goals for the New Year

A clean slate is a great feeling.  The new year does that for us. Making goals for the new year and feeling refreshed for what is ahead.  But as I reflect on last year, it’s made me think about how we approach goals and changes.  We put a lot of pressure on ourselves with resolutions, and right when real life struggles hit- we give up.

Forging through the rough times is the most important battle. Making small changes and being kind to ourselves along the way.  Most of us are moms to small children and that life can get hard, some days you are in plain survival mode.  And that is okay.  We can still remember what we are working towards, while being kind to ourselves as life throws different hurdles our way. We’re going to have hurdles, we just need to be able to bounce back and not let them get us down permanently.

2017 was not a bad year for us.  Overall, we were challenged but made some amazing accomplishments. My husband led the charge in paying off our debt, and we were able to do it faster than we thought we could.  His obsession with Dave Ramsey was a bit annoying at first :-), but it payed off and I feel grateful for him and his dedication.  Because it sure wouldn’t have happened without it!

I worked on some really fun projects and excited about taking them further this year!  I’ve spent more time with my babies this year and it’s been amazing taking them to new experiences and just trying to enjoy this time when they are so small.

Making goals and a vision plan last year was really good for me. It helped me to just sit down and reflect on what matters to me and what I should be focusing on.  I don’t like to call them resolutions per say, because a lot of the goals I made last year I am still working on.  Even though I made great progress in some, I’m adding another level to push myself even more this year. Then there are others that just need to be put right back on the list because I made no progress at all!

Changing Habits

One thing I talked about last year was changing habits.  I’m proud because I definitely added some positive habits back in my life.  For example, I’ve exercised pretty consistently this year.  Every week isn’t always as much as I’d like, but I still get there at least twice- with most weeks being 3 or 4.  Which is way more than I was doing before!

One thing I didn’t want to do was overwhelm myself.  And that is what ended up happening! There were other goals that fell to the wayside, because it was so hard to work on creating so many new habits at once.  Now that I’ve established some new habits, I can work on a couple other changes.

It’s okay to take it slow

Real change and real success takes time!  There were many times this year when I wanted to give up exercising because the numbers on the scale weren’t moving fast enough.  I took on a part time job in addition to blogging and taking care of my two kids. It nearly wore me down. It threw my routine out of wack even though I was grateful for the opportunity.  It just didn’t seem possible to juggle it all and my house was starting to look like a tornado.  That made me feel so bad about myself instead of focusing on all the good things.

It’s normal to feel failure or feel like your goals just aren’t coming into fruition.  There was a moment at the beginning of this blog that I didn’t think anyone was going to come and read it.  I still kept writing but stopped looking to see who had come to the blog.  That is when I had my first viral post!

I also stopped obsessing about my weight and started focusing on my how much more stable my mood was and how much stronger I was becoming. And how much I enjoyed working out and the women I started seeing regularly.

Sometimes it’s not our goals that need to be changed.  It’s our mindset to keep going even if it doesn’t seem like we may be getting anywhere. Because we are!  Things don’t happen overnight- especially not the things that are really worth it.

Vision Plan

I still love a great visual so wanted to make a new vision plan for this year.  Makes a great screensaver for your phone or computer!Creating a vision plan is perfect for making goals for the new year. You can set it as a screensaver so that you never forget what you are working toward!

*I made my vision board on PicMonkey using their collage feature.  You could also make one on Canva, Adobe products or PowerPoint. On your phone you can use any of the pic collage apps.

Goals: Looking Back and Forward

These are the goals from last year and my reflections on how it went.  Truly, I am not going to add more to this list.  That was part of my problem last year- that it was too much at one time.  So this year I’m going to focus on the goals that were neglected last year.

As a family- we are trying to buy a house this year! Wish us luck! That may help with my first declutter and organization goal- because it’s going to be mandatory if we are moving.

Simplify

  • Organization– De-clutter and reorganize. We live in a condo and have to be creative at times with all this stuff!
    • Ugh- did not do well on this.  It was great at the beginning but I never got a great system developed. Now the house has even more toys from Christmas and I desperately need a new toy organization unit.  Will be one of my first tasks of the year!
  • Daily Routines– Find a balance for kids, home, blog, exercise and meal planning.  All daily necessities! (I’m working on this and will share soon!)
    • I did great at most of this.  I still need a better cleaning schedule and I also started working part time from home so it threw me off for a while.  But I did take my kids to lots of great classes, kept them on a pretty regular routine, exercised every week and wrote a blog post most weeks.  I really really need a cleaning schedule I can stick to though!

Be Present

  • Technology Free Times– during meals and outings with kids (except for pictures of course!)
    • Ugh- back on the list for this year! Instagram and Facebook are such time suckers for me. I really need designated technology free time.
  • Experiences over Things– Regular outings to create valuable memories; with the family and also for just my husband and I.  
    • Did some of these, but will always want this as a goal.  I just need to be more present in the little moments as well. Would love to have a weekend getaway with just my husband this year.  And I’d like to do more educational games with the boys when we are at home.

Self Care

  • Exercise Routine– Since I haven’t had a regular routine in a long while, start with 3 times a week and increase to 5 later. 
    • Yay! I’m so proud that I actually exercised regularly for a year.  Did I lose an insane amount of weight? No. But I’m stronger and feel a million times better.  Will extend this goal to do more strength training instead of the cardio that I love.
  • Meal Plan and Cook at Home– This has double rewards! It’s a big part of our new budget and will help cut calories.
    • I cooked a lot more this year!  A next step for me is doing more monthly freezer batches.  I need to be able to grab something healthy on busy days or weeks.
  • Blog Regularly–  Create an editorial calendar. Be creative, connect with other moms and bloggers, and build a business.
    • This has been so fun! The blog has been such a fulfilling project for me and I’ve connected to a lot of moms which is exactly what I wanted to do!  This year I’d like to connect with and meet more bloggers as well as keep learning and growing the platform.

Will I accomplish all of these things? Maybe, maybe not.  But they will keep me focused and motivated when I want to give up.  And serve as a reminder for what I want to become!

What are you looking forward to in 2018?! I’d love to hear about it!

Find out the Truth- Why Don’t I Love My Postpartum Body?

Many of us have struggled accepting our postpartum bodies. Regardless of the truly miraculous things our bodies just accomplished. In the same instance, for many of us, it’s not the first time we have hated on ourselves. After struggling to lose all of the weight of my second pregnancy and feeling badly about myself, I finally got to the point where I’m just fed up with negative self talk and started making steps to love my postpartum body. And not just small changes to mask my real feelings, but try to dig deep into why I can’t truly love everything I am. Finding the truth on how to dig deep into your self talk to develop a positive body image and finally say I "love my postpartum body"! 8 Tips Included!

Think about the titles of articles about our bodies and what intrigues us to read them:

     “How to love your body even when you don’t”

     “Follow these Tips to Accept your Postpartum Body”

     “How to Love a Body you Hate”

There is still a negative connotation towards ourselves.  We need to learn to love our bodies. Period.  Not mask the fact that we don’t look at ourselves in a positive way.

The bigger picture is that our society’s conversations about women and their bodies is very small minded.  It whittles us down to way less than we are. And feeds on our insecurities. Look at how many articles are out there on how to love your postpartum body (or body in general), and millions of fitness programs geared towards moms.  There is nothing wrong with those things, but it’s sad that we are targeted as such an easy and vulnerable group.  And why is that? Why are moms so targeted in needing new fitness routines and motivation? It’s so overwhelmingly the message, that it probably has even the healthiest moms questioning themselves! Now that my body has had two babies, it’s been an evolution of positive self talk to love my postpartum body and enjoy this phase of my life.

This is a revolutionary thought for me.  Because I’ve been on a rollercoaster ride for some time now about how I treat my body- and in turn how I feel about myself in general.  

I listened to a Ted Talk from Brene Brown about shame and read some articles (reading her book is on my list!).  These are a couple of things that stood out to me:

“Shame, for women, is this web of unobtainable, conflicting, competing expectations about who we’re supposed to be. And it’s a straight-jacket. Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

In reflecting on our history with our own self talk and image, we can hopefully figure out the root of it all and work on changing it.  So this is my vulnerable story that I had to explore.

The Beginning

High school was a pivotal point for me and pretty much started my rollercoaster on how I viewed myself. I’ve always been a more introverted person.  Always had a small group of great friends, but I don’t go into new situations talking to everybody or make friends really fast because I take my time getting to know them.  We moved my 1st grade year, 3rd grade year, 6th grade year, 9th grade year and then again 10th grade- beginning of my sophomore year.   When I had to go to my second high school and start over again I kind of fell apart.  

I got really depressed and uninterested in meeting any new friends.  I thought there was no point.  Everything that I did during that time was so against my natural personality but I felt lost.  Probably broke my mom’s heart multiple times those three years, but I don’t think she realized until later that I wasn’t just acting out- that I felt broken myself.  This was the start of my emotional eating and roller coaster of weight gain and loss.  I was lonely and sad, so I self medicated with food.  It’s a super vicious cycle that carried me into adulthood.Finding the truth on how to dig deep into your self talk to develop a positive body image and finally say I "love my postpartum body"! 8 Tips Included!

Transitioning to “Grown Up”

Thankfully in college, I started to become myself again.  Definitely going through phases trying to find out who I really was and really wanted to be.  But I was generally happy and made some amazing friendships and connections. The problem that kept following me:  I still correlated love for myself in how I looked and you could see it in my romantic relationships. If you don’t truly love yourself, there is this little voice in the back of your head telling you that you don’t deserve better and you should settle for less.

I moved to Chicago after college at 23 years old. For the first four years, it was definitely a time where I felt grown up in that I had a career as a teacher, but still figuring out myself in relationships.  Again my internal image of self love was developing, but not fully there. There was a period of  time with constant drinking, going out to eat, traveling and just enjoying life.  Physically, I completely let myself go.  Kind of like in high school, but not because I was depressed.  Or maybe I was in a way, again at a crossroads trying to figure out what the next steps of my life would be. Four years into it, teaching had become incredibly stressful and exhausting. And I wondered if I’d ever find someone to start a family with, which I dearly wanted.

As I reflect on this time and my time in high school- it’s clear that at times when I feel at my lowest- I treat my body the worst way possible.  Since I feel so many things about other aspects of my life, I can’t even find room for healthy foods and exercise.  Which is terrible, because that is when I should be taking care of myself most!  

Around my 27th birthday, I decided to kick my butt in gear and make some changes.  I started working out and eating well, which led to my healthiest weight and look in a long time.  I was happy and met my husband a year later.  

This is what is sad about that.  

I didn’t feel confident enough during my “unhealthy” phases because I felt so much shame for how I looked and who I thought I was.  It’s sad that I couldn’t feel good when I wasn’t being perfect or when life provided challenges.  We shouldn’t wait until we think we are perfect before experiencing life and loving our journey.

The Era of Pregnancy

My most vulnerable.  I have wondered at times if my husband would still love me if I didn’t get back to how I was when he met me.  Which is sad. And that’s so hard for me to admit out loud.  Because it truly is absurd! But it’s a thought I’ve had at my lowest points.  Those types of thoughts don’t do anything good for your soul! And he always tells me how beautiful I am, it’s just sad that there are times I couldn’t even believe him.

After my first son, I had gained a little over 40 pounds but managed to lose all of the weight by working out and eating healthier.  My second pregnancy, I gained 50+ pounds and am still working on losing the last 10 (he’ll be one in a few weeks).

I’ve been working out, eating healthier, even did a sugar detox and I felt like I was getting nowhere.  All the things that have worked for me in the past.  Maybe it’s my age or my second pregnancy or my habits.  Who knows? Finally I thought…and who cares?!

My aha moment.

I want OFF of this rollercoaster once and for all.  I set goals to be more consistent.  But also be even more aware in times of real stress where I am the hardest on myself. Waiting until I’m perfect to go out there and feel good enough is not okay.  Or feeling so much shame because I feel like I should be looking a different way.

But this is my revelation.  I need to love myself at every point of my life.  Be proud of all the things I’m doing. Not strive for a former self or imaginary self. I’m so much healthier and my mood is euphoric after working out, regardless of how quickly or not quickly the physical changes happen.  Finding the truth on how to dig deep into your self talk to develop a positive body image and finally say I "love my postpartum body"! 8 Tips Included!

8 Things to Help You:

  1. Follow a variety of positive body models and influencers on social media.  I recently added @powertoprevail and her posts are so inspiring! Not only the images but little tokens of knowledge that really make you think and motivate your self talk.
  2. Reflect on your story. Why and how did you start viewing yourself in a negative way? What can you do to shift your self talk?
  3. Set goals for yourself.  Not just how you look, but things to aspire to that can lead to an overall healthier life.  Physical and mental.
  4. Try and tune out the advertisements.  “Look how these celebrities got their perfect bodies 1 week after labor!” “Do you have that summer body yet?!”  Think about how you feel when you consume certain types of media and make changes that are the best for you.
  5. What your body can do and has done is flippin’ AMAZING. Focus on that!
  6. Work out and eat healthy because of all the benefits to your life, not for vanity measures.
  7. Remember to tell yourself you are beautiful.  Because you are.  
  8. Spread the self love to others around you.

When I look at myself in a positive light, it doesn’t matter what the number on the scale says.  Yes, I’m working out regularly.  I eat healthy the majority of the time.  I’m enjoying my life.  I’m going to take my boys to the pool, even if I’m not perfect.  And I’m not going to second guess my husband when he tells me I’m beautiful.  

I’ll just smile, take it in and simply say “Thank you.”

5 Ways to Overcome Money Issues in your Relationship

 

Creating new budgets or really most situations involving money management can get stressful.  My husband and I also have different financial personalities, that adds another fun level to dealing with money. When we decided that it was best for our family if I become a stay at home mom, we needed to create a new budget for the change in income.  A lot of adjustments and plans were made in preparation.  Sometimes your best laid plans aren’t enough and you have to make even more changes.  This can be especially true when trying to reach goals as a team. We had to figure out the hurdles of a new budget. Which led to 5 things you need to overcome money issues in your relationship together.  How to overcome money issues in your relationship together to avoid marriage problems because of financial problems.

You can read the details about our conversations before going to one income, but I’ll just do a quick recap. The biggest change of course was going to one income.  We sat down and evaluated where we were money-wise.  Paid off some debt, cut cable, decided on lifestyle changes and made goals for saving money.  Also, I started meal planning in a more intentional way, since the biggest money saver would be food.

I am going to get really vulnerable now.

I am the spender in my relationship.  I’ve alluded to that, but it’s hard for me to just go right out and admit it.  Yes, I have used and loved retail therapy a few too many times. Also, I’ve broken every credit card rule.  Starting when I was 19 and got my first credit card so I could have “money” to travel abroad for a semester.  It took me 6 years to finally close that card.

This wasn’t the last credit card I would have or rule I would break.  One time, I used my student loan refund to pay off a credit card.  Yes, I used debt to pay off debt.  I would love to say that I was young, but this was in grad school.  When I started to make more money, my tastes just got more expensive.  As I grew older, some of my habits have definitely gotten better.  But I was still carrying around a credit card with a large balance.  Like many others out there, I had charged parts of our wedding and honeymoon that still lingered 2 years later.

I am married to a saver.  When I met Jordan, he was 25 years old and already owned his own condo.  His place looked grown up- not like an ex boyfriend I had who got all his towels from the gym.  He had a great job, investments, savings, multiple retirements, etc.  Over the next few years, the credit card debt he had was paid off.  He is human so of course he had made mistakes with money, he also used a student loan refund to buy his car when he was 22. Overall though, he was/is great with money and using it wisely.

So yes, we are money opposites.  

It can be a great balance if you work together as a team.  It can also be frustrating and debilitating if you never hit it head on and work against each other.

We didn’t fully combine money at the beginning of our marriage.  There were two paychecks and all rent and bills were split evenly.  We figured out how to pay everything else together without getting into the nitty gritty.

The white elephant in the room.  He knew of my “spending past”, even though I had already come a long way.  This worried him.  On my end, I was worried of a too strict system that didn’t leave any room beyond the necessities.  

Then our second income went away. We had to face that huge white elephant and make a stricter budget all at the same time!  We definitely started peeling away some of our concerns before this change happened.  But there are some things that you can’t even begin to overcome until you experience it.  These are some of the hurdles we have faced and the plans we put in place to overcome money issues as a team.

Be Honest

I am going to share this because I know I’m not the only one in this situation and hope it can help others avoid it in the future.  I’ve heard this come up in stories of couples just dating, engaged, but even in established marriages.  Making large purchases or acquiring credit card debt that your partner doesn’t know about will of course kill your budget, but it can also hurt your relationship as well.  

Jordan knew I had a credit card.  I was making a large payment every month, but I was also still using it so not really getting at my principal balance at all.  He thought it had a lower balance than it had.  By a few thousand.  Yes, yes-I know.  I kept thinking that I could take care of it, but I wasn’t trying anything new.  My spending habits had changed and I was living within my means, but I hadn’t dealt with the lingering debt that followed me from past decisions. I didn’t tell him that the balance was lower than it was, but we never talked about what it actually was.  It was part of the white elephant of our different financial personalities and us not really wanting to combine our money so much that we had to worry about each other’s differences.

We talked about this right at the beginning of making our new budget.  It was icky. For a while.  It brought up some arguments and lack of trust in regards to spending.  In the end, I think this made us tackle that stupid elephant once and for all.  But it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pretty either.

I’ve heard of even worse stories, partners not even knowing that a credit card existed, let alone that it had over 10k charged on it.  Being open about this stuff can be hard, especially if you think they will react negatively.  It can be hard, but oh so important to be honest about big issues in your marriage- one of those being money spending.  

On the other end, it is important to forgive your partner for things they have done in the past.  It is harder to be honest with someone that constantly reminds you of every little thing you have done wrong.

Align Goals & Methods

Being the responsible and passionate money saver in the relationship, Jordan became really interested in Dave Ramsey and got his book “Total Money Makeover”.  Before this, we had decided that we would pay a small amount on our remaining debt of student loans and not really worry about them right away.  What Jordan learned was that any debt can be detrimental to budgets and financial goals.  So he wanted to add complete debt elimination to our budget. Remember this is a completely new budget of two months that we were still getting used to with half the income we previously had.

This was really overwhelming to me. He suggested we just eat beans and rice for dinner every night.  I almost lost it, I don’t want to eat beans every night! I already did that the first 10 years of my life, lol.  This is exactly what I had worried about- these unrealistic, strict rules on our life.  I knew this was a good goal to have.  We want to buy a house next year, and not worrying about debt payments in addition to a new mortgage would be great.  But we had to find a better way.

Let’s pause for a minute and think about the different ways this could go.  Lol.  I could fight it, because it goes against what I think is doable and manageable right now.  Or realize that this is something that is extremely important to my husband, and how much stress debt causes him.  He’s pushing us to achieve a goal that is good for us, not make bad decisions.  

We sat down and looked at our budget AGAIN.  How could we actually reach this goal and what would that mean for our monthly expenses?  This meant we really need to work as a team, respect each other and make compromises.  The grocery budget needed to be even lower, but I made sure there was room to eat beyond beans and rice (thank god!).  

We wouldn’t be taking any vacations this year, but I also knew we needed to put some money aside for special events such as our anniversary, traveling for the holidays and the kid’s birthdays.  Those things are important to us, regardless if they are beyond needs. (This took some convincing) I have been wanting, without actually being financially ready, to move to a house for a while.  This new plan (that was crazy hard to get to!) actually created a path to buying a house in a responsible way. It became a blending of our wants and goals, not just one person dictating their plan to the other.

Have Weekly Meetings

If you are seeing a theme here, the most important way we overcome our budget hurdles is talking.  A LOT.  Disagreeing, but hearing each other out and creating a plan that respects both of our decisions.  For us, this happened after arguing about money for a couple days, not talking about it for a couple days and then sitting down with a fresh mindset and perspective.  It doesn’t happen overnight.  

Doing a budget together can be difficult at first.  You almost want to skip over all this talking and disagreeing, to just do it yourself.  Over time, it can help strengthen your relationship as a team.  Money issues can be stressful, so having that burden land solely on one person can be overwhelming and kind of unfair.  Carrying it together will help your decision making and long term goals. (I know there are couples that decide on someone that does most of the work with the budget, but some input from the other partner is still important)

Many couples have weekly budget meetings.  Ours are not regularly scheduled…yet.  But we do check in on how we are doing.  The more consistent you are the better.  You don’t want to wait until the end of the month to see how you are doing.  We use mint.com for our budget and log in to see how our spending is in each category.  I love that this happens automatically.  Sometimes you do have to log in and move things around, but it’s pretty simple.  

Respect and Compromise

I’m not sure if you are the saver or spender in your relationship.  Maybe you are both savers or both spenders.  From the perspective of being the spender that may have not made all the best money decisions, putting blame and punishing your spouse for their past mistakes won’t help!  After you have resolved it, let it go.  This goes for things beyond money!  If you are trying to make a budget with a spender, verbalize what you want to change, but make sure you also listen and respect your partner’s point of view.

From my husband’s perspective of a saver- a spender has to show they want to compromise and make better financial decisions.  Back up with actions. This helps assure you are on the same page.

I think we both have a little of the other in us as well, so holding each other accountable is key.  If you are both extreme spenders, hiring a financial advisor may help strike some balance.  

Don’t Give Up

You are going to get discouraged.  If I haven’t already painted that picture for you!  I spent about two hours at the grocery store one day.  Analyzing everything- making sure I was buying things on sale and making sure I stuck to the weekly meal plan.  Feeling accomplished, I was proud of the work I put in. Then I went to pay.  I needed it to be a $100 and it was $150.  UGH! Big difference right?  It was so disheartening and made me want to give up.  

You want to know what my life saver was? ALDI! Oh my goodness, I should have started shopping there a long time ago.  I had been going to the same grocery store that I was comfortable with, clipping the coupons wasn’t enough.  The bill just wouldn’t get to a place we needed it to be.  Sometimes we have to adjust along the way and keep making our actions better and better.

In the End

I would have never picked up Dave Ramsey on my own, lol.  Now that I have, it does give a great foundation for creating a better system for money management.  Regardless of which system you choose to follow, working as a team is essential for your success.  I hope our story helps you see that couples with different financial personalities can tackle a budget together.  You both just have to want it!  Being honest and respectful to each other’s differences was essential in our progress.  If you don’t start out wanting the same goals, talk about it!  We didn’t at first, but ended up in a place where we both compromised and had our biggest needs and wants aligned in common goals.  

 

Perfect Mother’s Day Gift – Get Her in the Pictures!

Alright moms, pick up your phone and go to your pictures.  Scroll back through the last few events that you attended with your kids.  How many were you “there” for? Meaning, actually in the pictures.  I wasn’t at the park with my family, or at the Bubbles playspace, or art class, or building a snowman (except that I built the whole thing) .  When I am “there” it’s usually in a selfie.  Which is fine, better than nothing… but to an extent. There’s only so many angles and shots you can get through a selfie.  That is why the perfect Mother’s Day gift is getting pictures of mom (that she doesn’t take herself!). Moms are not in pictures enough! The perfect Mother's Day gift for the mom in your life is a way she can document the year with beautiful photos.

We all know moms are not in pictures enough.

Usually, we are taking the pictures, or maybe we don’t get in because someone has puked in our hair or on our clothes. Or maybe we haven’t brushed our hair in days, or slept a full 8 hours in months. So we take pictures of our kids alone- because they always looks so cute and refreshed!  I am definitely guilty of always being the one behind the camera, or shying away for various reasons. With Mother’s Day approaching, getting moms in some pictures can be a perfect Mother’s Day gift.  (If you are a mom reading this, just forward to your husband or kids or whoever gets you mother’s day gifts 🙂 ) A fun, easy way to do this is by booking a Mother’s Day mini session with a professional photographer. Moms are not in pictures enough! The perfect Mother's Day gift for the mom in your life is a way she can document the year with beautiful photos.

Perfect Mother’s Day Gift Photo Session

If you read my post about our stressful family photo shoot we took in the Fall, you may recall that my toddler Miles is ANTI pictures. It was a struggle to get him to smile or even just sit with us, without an awkward pumpkin or wagon in the shot.  I didn’t want to focus on the photographer when I wrote that article, but it was frustrating to my husband and I. We were the ones trying everything we could think of to get Miles engaged.  Maybe the photographer had an off day. But now that I have experienced something different- it helps to have a photographer connecting with your kids and helping them feel comfortable! Moms are not in pictures enough! The perfect Mother's Day gift for the mom in your life is a way she can document the year with beautiful photos.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband took the boys to Wicker Park here in Chicago.  They happened to meet Allie and her family.   I wasn’t there at the time, but getting much needed me time after he had been gone for a week (yes, I felt the need to tell you why I wasn’t at the park with my family, lol).  After talking to them for a while, my husband had a feeling we’d get along great and made sure we connected.  He was right! After talking to her, it was serendipitous that she was a family photographer and offering a Mother’s Day mini session.  So she graciously let us be her test subjects and afterward we had a play date- win, win!

Naturally, on the day of our Mother’s Day mini session, when Allie and her daughter Adair greeted us- Miles said that he did NOT want to say hi and buried his head in my legs.  I wasn’t really surprised and told her, “Oh yeah, have I told you he hates taking pictures?”

She didn’t flinch at all, instantly reached in her bag and said, “Hey Miles, do you know what Adair brought for you?”. He slowly lifted his head and looked at her, with a “you’ve got my attention but I’m not sure you’re worth my time yet”, type of look.  She pulled out a baseball and Miles was intrigued and walked up to her.  And she continued to amaze him by showing that the ball was squishy, not like the other baseballs he had seen.  While squeezing the baseball in his hand and a smile plastered on his face, Miles walked with us to the location of the pictures.  

Moms are not in pictures enough! The perfect Mother's Day gift for the mom in your life is a way she can document the year with beautiful photos.
Miles holding his magic baseball

Unbeknownst to her at the time, she would pull out something else that Miles loved! Snacks! Allie pulled out a bag of snacks for her own daughter but Miles exclaimed, “What is that?!” She thought about it for a second and used this enthusiasm for our advantage.  She explained that after we took some pictures and he gave her his best smiles, we could all sit down together, play and eat snacks. And that did it! A magical baseball and the promise of snacks are apparently the keys to my son’s heart and love for pictures.  He was so happy and smiley and cooperative! Moms are not in pictures enough! The perfect Mother's Day gift for the mom in your life is a way she can document the year with beautiful photos.

Moms are not in pictures enough! The perfect Mother's Day gift for the mom in your life is a way she can document the year with beautiful photos.

Moms are not in pictures enough! The perfect Mother's Day gift for the mom in your life is a way she can document the year with beautiful photos.

It was refreshing to have someone help my son be comfortable, which in turn made the experience more enjoyable for me.  

And of course, Ellis was chillin’ as usual!  Who knows what he’ll be like as a toddler. These days if he has slept and ate- he’s cool as a cucumber.  He had just woken up from a long nap, so not really up for one of his big smiles.   Instead he was mesmerized with Allie, not taking his eyes off her!  Usually, he’s pretty amused with Miles’ roars or me (I am his mom and all that), but not today!  I have a feeling he may have a love for taking pictures, but we’ll see. Moms are not in pictures enough! The perfect Mother's Day gift for the mom in your life is a way she can document the year with beautiful photos.

The location Allie chose was perfect, lots of natural light and clean urban background.  It was short and sweet at 15 minutes, perfect for little attention spans.  And just enough time to get some pictures that I am actually in!  I am OBSESSED with them and so glad that I got to share this special moment with my boys. And when they are older I won’t have to convince them I was there, they will know for sure!  

MINIMAL PHOTO by Allison Rose definitely won our hearts.  Not only in how she approached my toddler, but her beautiful shots that captured the essence of our family.  Her bright lifestyle approach is fresh and modern, and she gets great candid moments that you will cherish for years to come.  The fact that it’s affordable and you get your pictures back in 48 hours are just added bonuses! If you are in the Chicagoland or Indiana area, I highly recommend her! Check out her website for more info.  Moms are not in pictures enough! The perfect Mother's Day gift for the mom in your life is a way she can document the year with beautiful photos.

Moms are not in pictures enough! The perfect Mother's Day gift for the mom in your life is a way she can document the year with beautiful photos.

Hope you have an amazing and relaxing Mother’s Day!

 

6 Tips on Transitioning to a Happy Stay at Home Mom

Whether being a stay at home mom is something you’ve always wanted or it made the most sense for your family- we all want to make it the best experience it can be.  So, how do we become a happy stay at home mom? Making a big change in your life can be difficult! And mom-ing 24/7 is a lot of time! If you are reading this, I bet you just made a huge decision for your family and yourself… and it wasn’t easy.  I know it wasn’t for us.  

Are you going to become a stay at home mom? Read these 6 Tips on Transitioning to a Happy Stay at Home Mom. How to transition so you are fulfilled and organized in your new role.

This has been a typical scenario at my house.  I love making crafts with my kids and taking them on adventures to try new activities. I was a teacher and a counselor for most of my career.  The creative, crafty, teaching part of being with my kids is definitely my forte. Housework on the other hand is my arch nemesis. There have been days when I know that I should do some serious cleaning.  Then I look at my dishwasher-nah.  Then at my kitchen and contemplate cleaning it.  Or how about that basket of clean laundry that everyone has been picking through to find their clothes? But ugh! So boring.  

Instead I’d look at my toddler and say, “So, do you want to make orange slime?!” How could I turn down that enthusiastic “Yes”!?  I mean I wouldn’t want to disappoint him?!  (Orange is key since that’s his favorite color).

We’d have a great time. Then we’d make an even bigger mess that needed to be cleaned up. By the time we are done, we have to make and eat lunch, then reading and naps for both the baby and toddler– so no time to clean! They sometimes nap at the same time, but really I’m lucky if I get an hour alone.  Before you know it, the day is over.  I end up feeling guilty that I didn’t accomplish enough, even though I’d spent quality time with my kids and did a lot with them- our house looked like a tornado went through it and it makes us feel crazy!

This is a little of my backstory….  After working in education full time for 10 years, we decided that it was best that I stay home with our 6 month old baby and 2 year old toddler.  You can read how we came to that decision here.  There were conversations and plans we put in place to make the transition.  There were also some unexpected reactions to the news that I was quitting my job.  The preparation was only the first step.  We’ve had some interesting disagreements about money that have taught us a lot! Living and breathing it brings a whole other set of revelations. I’ve been home for 4 months, and making the transition has already taught me a lot. About what did not work in making this change and what has worked.

Be Kind to Yourself

I always talk to my sister at the end of the day while she drives home from work (it used to be both of our commute times). During my first month at home, I felt like I was just barely making it through the days. She would often tell me that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself.  It’s a catch 22- the feeling that I need to do more is what keeps me motivated but it can also make me feel guilty on days that I think I didn’t do “enough”.  Not every day will be great, and this is a job that you never leave from.  It doesn’t help anyone in your family to hold on to negative feelings about yourself just because you had a bad day or even a bad moment.

I have a 2 and ½ year old- he decided that his toy fish wanted to go swimming in his potty.  It was disgusting! I had explained to him that fishes prefer clean water and not pee, because that’s gross.  He did it anyway.  I was particularly worn out at that point in the day and didn’t react in a very positive way.  Then I felt bad, because I know he’s still learning and figuring out his boundaries. We all make mistakes.  We will continue to make them, so just learn, forgive and move on.  

Don’t Commit to a Plan Right Away

Do not create this perfect schedule right away and try to follow it.  You will lose your mind.  As you gain experience and try different ways of mastering the days, you will organically develop a routine that works best for you.  Remember that this is something new and you are in charge of how the day is going to go.  You may have read someone else’s schedule, printed it out and tried to follow it to a “T”.

I tried to get up at 5am and it doesn’t work for me.  Maybe one day I’ll learn and know that is the only way to really successfully tackle the day, but I am naturally a night owl and get a lot done after the rest of the family has gone to sleep.  This is what works for me right now.  I can’t automatically think that I will be a terrible mom because everyone says I should get up at 5am to be happy.  Everything will not work out the same for you.  There’s a lot that goes into creating the perfect schedule for YOU.  Nothing is set in stone.  You can try different variations of schedules until you settle into something that works for your home. I tried different times to leave the house based on when both my babies were well rested and finally found our golden hours. It took some trial and error first.

Develop a Schedule

You know my story about the orange slime?  Those situations (yes it happened more than once) really affirmed that I needed a schedule.  There has to be time blocks dedicated to the things that I don’t naturally like to do.  We have been following a schedule all of our lives- in school, at work etc. It’s important to maintain that order in this job as well and create a schedule.   

All of you that just cringed at the last statement- hear me out!  It can be as relaxed or structured as you want, but just having one is key.  Raising your kids, building your home and taking care of yourself is a FULL TIME job!  The only difference is that you are your own boss- you decide what needs to get done and when.  There are many advantages to that, but without structure things can quickly fall apart.  You could just wing it, but trust me- your days will fly by with nothing accomplished. I went to this blog because I liked her editorial calendar (blog planning) and ended up using her simple weekly calendar as well.  It’s hanging in my kitchen and is so helpful!  If you want more ideas about creating a schedule, read all about my toddler baby schedule!

Communicate with Your Spouse

We had A LOT of conversations before making this change for our family.  And we continued to have them after.  We knew there would be some growing pains and there have been.  Mainly our hurdles have been money related. As you can imagine, it’s really hard cutting back half of your income and starting a new stricter budget.  I’ll write another post in more detail on the challenges we have faced tackling a new budget, but the main way we have overcome and figured out how to go forward is consistently talking to each other.

There was one Sunday after a hard week where we sat down for almost 4 hours looking over our budget and actually sharing everything that was frustrating. We analyzed what we could do to actually meet it.  Sounds terrible right?!  Definitely not the type of Sunday I look forward to!  Afterward, we were on the same page more and it was easier to face this new goal. Totally worth the stressful afternoon to get there!

Make Time for Yourself

This is how I THINK I look working out. 🙂

A few days ago, my 9 month old baby Ellis was sick.  He had a really bad cold that had kept him up almost all night the night before.  So the ONLY thing he wanted was for me to hold him. He was upset and groggy and I pretty much had to rock him and comfort him the entire day.  My husband worked from home in the afternoon and could hear the day’s events.  

When he saw me at the end of the day and I had drool and snot all over my shirt, he goes “I can take over.  You should go for a walk and get some air.  Maybe change your shirt first.”  It was amazing!  I went to Target though and ran errands.  I would say that running errands shouldn’t be the norm for your “me time”!  Even though I got our toilet paper and other things, I took a really long time trying on some clothes and I bought an expensive, deliciously smelling candle.  So it was enjoyable.

Make time for your hobbies and things you like to do.  Things that I consistently fit in my weeks are working out in a fun way and writing on this blog.  They give me balance, energy and happiness to keep tackling each day. I wasn’t making time for those things when I was working because I was so stressed and overwhelmed. Looking back I should have made more time for myself then as well.

Visit with Friends

All of my good friends work during the week.  So having a network has been difficult.  I talk to other moms at the classes where I take the boys to, but that’s not the same.  Recently I joined a Chicago Stay at Home Mom meetup group.  Yes, I am online dating to find new mom friends.  LOL.  If I don’t put myself out there, I’ll never meet anyone!  Just like meeting my husband, he didn’t come knocking on my door.  If you don’t know other moms, try new ways to meet more people. As a naturally introverted person, this isn’t always easy for me either.  

It’s also important that I visit with my friends some weekends on my own.  You’re going to miss adult conversations…A LOT.  It’s important to have connections with other adults and form friendships with others that are in similar situations as yourself. Nobody will truly understand what you are going through as much as other moms.  

 

In the end, you can be extremely happy and fulfilled in your new role.  Regardless of what it is and how you got there. By taking care of yourself with time and kind self love.  Know that things will not always work the way you envision- you learn from it and keep it moving. You will never have this time again! I haven’t met a mom that said, “I wish I had spent less time with my kids”. Before you know it, the kids will be in school and those days with them will be gone.  Let’s enjoy this crazy ride called motherhood.

What are your tips for transitioning to a stay at home mom?