Parenting, kids

Today, I put it on God.

Today, I put it on God. I don’t say that lightly at all. Today, we were faced with so many questions as a family about where we are going— where we want to be. Personally. Professionally. Short term. Long term. I feel like so often, we’re told that being stressed, being overwhelmed, or unhappy is part of life— it’s what we now call “adulting.” I used to believe that. I used to think that I had to settle for that. But after having a child, my thought process has drastically changed. Do my husband and I need to work in order to provide for our family? Absolutely. I’m not saying I’m searching for the plush life of staying at home, living large, and not working. Instead, I’m telling you that maybe, just maybe, it’s about perspective.

Do we need to feel trapped in our jobs? Do we need to feel under-appreciated day in and day out? Do we need to sacrifice time with our family for others who wouldn’t blink an eye to do the same? While society tells me each day “Yes!” my head and heart are now screaming “No!”. No, I don’t need to settle for a job that looks at me as simply a number. No, I don’t need to settle for sacrificing hours of my time at home with my young family, to go above and beyond for someone else’s children. No, I don’t need to settle for a job that no longer makes me happy. I’m tired of the emptiness I’m feeling right now and stressing about this day in and day out. I don’t want to keep watching my husband struggle with the balance of wanting to provide a comfortable lifestyle for our family, while feeling stifled inside. Stuck. Unable to pursue his real dreams and goals.

Part of me knows that my mindset needs to change. I need to stop being sucked into the consumerism of today’s world. To stop worrying about the fleeting things of the physical world (the bigger house, the fancy car, the designer clothes) and instead focus on the gifts I’ve been given( my talents, my husband, my kids). It’s hard, but possible…with His help.

I wish that it was simple and that with a snap of my fingers all the stress of work would all go away. It won’t. So, instead, I’m putting it in God’s hands. Instead of complaining, I’m sending my stress, my worries, and my trust to him. Instead of thinking I’m in control, I’m leaning on him to show and provide a more balanced path for our family; to guide me to the path that he has perfectly paved for me. It may be hours, weeks, months, or years. I know he’ll provide. But for today, I put it all on God.

Philippians 4:6-7: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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kids, Parenting

Tummy Time Must Have: Activity Mat Review

It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the concept that my sweet little baby is already five-months old. While I felt like my pregnancy flew by ( minus those last two weeks!), the time since we’ve welcomed our son home has flown by ten times faster. It has been amazing these past few months to watch him grow his own personality and begin to truly discover and explore the world around him.

Since our son was born, I’ve tried to be diligent in getting him to participate in daily tummy-time sessions. Luckily, our son LOVES his tummy sessions. Thus, for Christmas this year, we wanted to purchase him a new tummy time mat, as he had begun to outgrow the mat we initially used when he was a newborn. If you’re a first-time mom, like me, the hunt for a tummy time mat and playtime essentials can be DAUNTING! I vividly recall calling my husband to tell him I was going to make a quick-trip to BuyBuy Baby for some tummy-time toys and to check-out which mat to purchase for Christmas. Three hours later, yes THREE hours later, I emerged out of the store, squinting at the daylight, with just one toy. I felt defeated. I had NO idea how many options for play mats there were. I had no idea what toys my then four-month old son would truly interact with.

Thus, I began my hunt online. Looking at three things:

1. Honest, mom reviews: Why? Because we’ve tried the products on our own kids and we know what’s the real deal and what’s just been hyped up by advertising.

2. Price: I may be new at this mom thing, but I was not going to be coaxed into spending ridiculous amounts of money for a play mat that lies on the floor with my child, only to be used for a few months.

3. Gender neutral: Again, let’s be practical. My husband and I plan to have more offspring and I’d like to get a second use out of it, no matter the gender of our next child.

After much research and tireless searching of Black Friday and impending holiday sales, I settled on our playmat, Disney Baby Mr. Ray Ocean Light’s Activity Mat.

Why I love it:

  1.  The mat’s overall set up. The mat sets up and creates a barrier wall on almost 3/4 of the mat. This is great for my wiggle worm who likes to not only roll from his tummy to his back, but then scoot himself so that he can kick the inside of the mat. By doing this, the mat is staying firmly in place and he still has a soft surface to lay on.
  2. The mat’s features. The activity mat not only lights up, but also plays two different sound options. You can have a fun, musical set play with the flashing, colorful lights, or you can have soothing ocean sounds play. I love using the musical setting and lights during play time, then switching to the ocean sounds ( similar to his sound machine) as playtime is wrapping up. This helps us transition to nap time.
  3. The mat’s material. The activity mat can be easily wiped off for quick, spot cleaning after a drool or spit up episode. However, it can be disassembled easily to be washed as well.
  4. The mat’s pillow. The mat comes with a fun, green rounded pillow that looks like seaweed! It’s great for propping your child up for tummy-time beginners, as well as for head support while your little one plays on their back.
  5. The mat’s toys. The mat comes with a variety of toys that can be attached for your child to play with during his activity time. They include a Dory puppet, a Nemo teething toy with three rings, an octopus rattle, a turtle beaded rattle, and a mirror. In addition, all the toys can be removed and used separately or attached to other items, such as your child’s car seat or stroller. All the toys are brightly covered and high quality.  In addition, the toy placement is evenly spread across the mat, allowing for your child to reach toys from a back or tummy position.

We absolutely LOVE our activity mat purchase and watching our son learn and grow as he plays on it. If you’re in the market for an activity mat for your little one, or looking to purchase one for a friend or relative, I highly recommend this one!

Christmas, Parenting

Elf on the Shelf: Navigating Elf Shenanigans

* This post may contain affiliate links.*

It took me a year to convince my husband that the Elf on the Shelf was a Christmas tradition that we should start. I saw Pinterest boards full of the best Elf on the Shelf ideas and I thought it sounded fun–a way to keep the Christmas spirit and magic alive, while having a little extra incentive to be good in our household….WHY NOT?

A year in and I still think it’s a fun tradition, but I do realize that it can be difficult to keep up–even with the elaborate Pinterest boards– because let’s be honest, parents get tired, parents forget, and sometimes our sweet little Elf, just doesn’t pose like those Pinterest boards! Thus, I am sharing our family’s Elf on the Shelf ideas, along with some pictures of our Elf in action. Now, keep in mind our Elf is tailored for a 5 year old girl this year!

Sadie the Elf’s Shenanigans for 2018: I will update as we continue with the Shenanigans this month!

  • Sadie arrives back from the North Pole with My Little Ponies as her reindeer for her sled. The Elf on the Shelf book is left to be reread as a reminder of the rules.
  • Sadie is sitting in our bathroom next to nail polish bottles with a note that says, “I left your dad a funny treat. Go find him and look at his feet!” (Sadie painted my husband’s toes!)
  • Sadie was found in the refrigerator, drinking syrup from a straw.
  • Sadie piloted the Barbie boat and took it for a ride with her Barbie friends in our bathtub ( add blue food coloring to make the water pop!)
  • Sadie and Elsa toilet papered our tree to “build a snowman”
  • Sadie, The Grinch, and Max left a “Whoo-ville” Gingerbread house for our family to complete together!
  • Sadie was found roasting marshmallows for s’ mores over a candle.
  • Sadie and her reindeer friend Libra ( Elf on the Shelf Pet) left us all the ingredients to make a yummy “reindeer food” treat!
  • Sadie stole our wrapping paper and wrapped the entrance to our kitchen!
  • Sadie was sad that we were going away for the weekend and we caught her reading a book all about our daughter!
  • Sadie decided she didn’t want to be left behind as our family went to Great Wolf Lodge for a family Christmas weekend, so she packed her suitcase and got in the car to join in on the fun!
  • While at Great Wolf Lodge, Sadie packed her goggles and swimmies and was dressed for the pool ( we failed to capture this image 😦 )
  • Sadie packed her suitcase and surprised us in the car again, this time with some special souvenirs from our trip!
  • Sadie took the dogs for a walk today!
  • Sadie took a bubble bath in the CrockPot today and left a fun bath bomb for our daughter!
  • Sadie played guitar for our carolers.
  • Sadie thought we needed a few more Christmas lights inside (our daughter LOVED this one!)
  • Sadie sent us on a treasure hunt by hiding clues all around our house! (Our daughter LOVES these types of things right now, so it was perfect! The prize at the end was gold coins and an Elf on the Shelf pen.)
  • Sadie set-up for class today on our daughter’s easel!
  • Sadie decided to get “fancy” and play dress-up and makeup!
  • Sadie tried to make a popcorn snack!
  • Sadie decorated our Christmas tree with underpants!
  • Sadie felt bad about the underpants, so she surprised us with a North Pole breakfast!
  • Does your family participate in the Elf on the Shelf tradition? What our some of your favorite shenanigans? Share by replying to this post!
Parenting

Confessions of a New Mommy: Top 5 Things I Wish I Had Registered For

{this post may contain affiliate links}

When you find out for the first time that you’re expecting a little one; there’s an endless amount of emotions. You’re excited and filled with joy, while nervous and scared all at the same time! I remember reaching twenty-weeks, finally knowing that we would be welcoming a sweet little boy, and being so EXCITED to begin registering for everything we would need to ensure we were prepared (HA!) for our little man!

Then, we walked into BuyBuy baby. I began sweating–I mean literally sweating! I didn’t have a clue where to start. The store and the amount of things to purchase  were overwhelming! Even my husband, who had done this before, felt overwhelmed! Thankfully, I had some amazing mommy friends who guided us into some must-have items and we were showered with gifts by our friends and family.

By August, I felt that the nursery and all other areas of the house were baby ready! But, as all parents eventually learn, no one child is alike and as prepared as you may feel you are, there will be more purchases down the road ( so HOLD onto to those gift cards for post baby!) Thus, I have compiled a list of the Top 5 things I WISH I would have registered for, that I had NO IDEA that I would need or use. I hope it helps as you prepare for your new little one!

1. Baby Delight Snuggle Nest
About a month into Kellen being home, he WAS NOT sleeping anywhere but on mommy! I loved the cuddles, but I also needed sleep! We thought we were prepared–we had a crib, a rock ‘n’ play, and even a napper on his pack’n play, but he wanted NOTHING to do with any of those! I read online reviews about the Dock-A-Tot, but honestly, couldn’t justify the price tag. So, after much research I settled on purchasing the Baby Delight Snuggle Nest. It is perfect for co-sleeping and I love that is can be zipped up for road trips to grandparents or hotel trips! Ours has a nightlight and sound machine as well! Once we got this, he finally began sleeping better!

2. Nested Bean Zen Swaddle Classic
Again, a month in our son would not sleep! I was scoured the internet to find ANYTHING that I thought would help. I had received swaddle blankets and even the easy to do swaddles that came with the velcro, but none of them seemed to help. I finally decided to give this weighted swaddle a try, knowing I could return it if not. It is AMAZING. Within a few minutes of us wrapping our son in this, he is calm and ready to sleep! The weighted middle and sides give him just enough comfort to let go of mommy or daddy and to sleep! My husband and I have already agreed we will buy the Zen Sack once he outgrows his swaddle!

3. Soundbub Portable Bluetooth Speaker and Soother
We have a one of those rare babies who HATES the car. When I first had Kellen, I was still in the middle of volleyball season and returned to coaching to finish out our season. Thus, Kellen, my Husband and I spent a few hours in the car each week traveling to practices and games. A screaming infant that entire time is NO fun. We eventually figured out that he loved white noise. We had a machine for his bedroom, but nothing for the car or shopping trips. Normally, you’d find my hand stretched awkwardly to the backseat with a YouTube channel of white noise to help calm him down or get him to sleep. Finally, I decided to get a portable soother and it has been AMAZING! It has a time, but can also run continuously. What I love about this one, is that it has a rechargeable lithium battery–that lasts! I was able to play it ALL night and even through a car ride and shopping trip to Target!

4. Nosefrida the SnotSucker
Now this one, my husband will disagree with me on, because he thinks the idea is disgusting, but I LOVE IT! The snotsuckers that you can bring home with you from the hospital are great at getting the gunk out, but I have been difficult for me to use successfully. I always feel like I am traumatizing my son! With the Nosefrida, I am able to get all the little boogers, simply by sucking through the contraption, without bothering my son at all! To me, it’s not disgusting, as long as you remember the filter–that is key! I have found that this snotsucker causes less tears than the original!

5. Medela Breast Milk Bottle Set
This item was extremely helpful, honestly, because I became super lazy! Our health insurance covered my breast pump (whew!) and we had registered for some breastfeeding items, but honestly not a lot because I wasn’t sure if we’d be successful and I didn’t want to invest a lot, or have friends invest a lot, if it was going to be something that just didn’t work for us. Once I got going, I would breastfeed during the day, but then would have to pump so we’d have milk for him while I was coaching. I would pump into the provided bottle that came with breast pump kit, then transfer it into a bag or bottle. I wanted to eliminate that middle step, thus eliminating more work and an extra bottle or two to clean. This little order did the trick!

These are my Top 5 items that I didn’t register for, but wish I had!  I am sure as I continue down this new-mommy road I will find new items to add.

What items do you wish you would have registered for when you were expecting? Comment below!

Parenting

The Hypocritical Momma

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I will never be a stay at home mom. I remember thinking that, saying that, and rolling my eyes at the thought of any sane person who, after spending years in school and thousands of dollars on a college education, would just up and decide to abandon their dreams and goals to sit at home feeding their baby all day. And to a point, I have kept that promise. I am not a stay at home mom; but now my long-term goal? To be one.

If you met me five years ago, you’d find a very different woman. I had my “dream” teaching job at a school our staff called “Disneyland”, I was completing my Master’s in School Administration, I owned my own home and spent the weekends downtown with good friends. What else do you need at 26? I was content. I had goals of becoming a school administrator and following in my parents’ footsteps (both work in school administration).

Then, I met my husband and just like every cheesy Hallmark movie, you find yourself head-over-heels in love and your priorities change. I decided to leave the amazing job and sell my house for love–and to this day I would not change a single aspect of that decision.We were married on June 16, 2017 and celebrated with the most amazing week in Jamaica, followed by a “familymoon” with my step-daughter, Aubrey, to Disney World. Life was great!

As the suitcases were unpacked and stored and school began, we switched our focus to adding to our family. While we had Aubrey, we only had her 50% of the time with the shared custody agreement, and as much as I saw her as my daughter and loved her as my own, I still would never be “her mommy.” I had wanted to be a mommy since I received my first baby doll. I wanted to carry a child, love on that child, and be there for each new memory and moment. Little did I know, it wouldn’t be that easy. My past medical history (a post for another day) made it difficult for us to conceive. As I was given rounds of medication to help the process, I also began digging into bible verses to help me keep the faith that God was a part of this process. Justin and I prayed together each night, and we read bible verses related to conception and trusting in God’s plan and timing. Six months. That doesn’t seem like a long time–especially to others who I know have tried, without success, for longer than that to conceive. In our sixth month, our doctor referred us to a fertility doctor. I was crushed. I remember sitting in the doctor’s office–feeling so empty as I listened to my doctor go through the information and “next-steps”. I vividly remember thinking that maybe this was why God led me to Justin and Aubrey–that maybe I would never get to be a “real” mommy, but I’d still go through the joy of parenthood with him through raising Aubrey.

As the holidays approached, I tried not to think about the news-but my mind focused on the “what-ifs”. What if we can’t afford these appointments? What if we find the money and the procedures don’t work? A million questions swirled and occupied my mind. My husband tried to take my attention away from my fears, planning a birthday month countdown for my 29th birthday. Christmas Day came–my 29th birthday. My only wish? A positive pregnancy test. I woke up early that morning to sneak one more test in–hoping for a Christmas surprise. Negative. I hid my disappointment and enjoyed the next few days of celebrations with our family.

December 29th. Three days until our appointment with the fertility doctor. On a whim, I decided to give it just one more go for this month and picked up a pregnancy test to take while Aubrey napped that afternoon, splurging just one last time for the digital ones. Two LONG minutes and I sat in our bathroom, crying again. Except this time, in disbelief, staring at a small, bold “PREGNANT”. My mind raced. I didn’t have time to Pinterest “cute ways to tell your husband you’re pregnant.” I FaceTimed Justin right then and there–in the bathroom–and 39 weeks later, we welcomed our sweet Kellen Robert Ray.

What’s the point of this story? It took us six months to conceive our sweet boy– pennies to those who have struggled  longer, or those who continue to still struggle. Those six months were some of the hardest of my life–filled with self-doubt, sadness, frustration and fear that my husband would be disappointed in me for something so very out of my control. I felt broken. My heart aches for those who are still struggling, for those who suffer through a miscarriage, or those whom lose their child.

Most importantly, those six months taught me why momma’s struggle with the “back-to-work” or “stay at home” decision. They have waited so long to have a child– their WHOLE life in fact. Then, when they finally meet their childtheir WHOLE world– they have just weeks or months to decide whether they will leave their job and the financial stability it provides, or leave their WHOLE world in the care of someone else. It’s hard. I am in month three of my maternity leave and it’s constantly in the back of my mind. What do I do? What is best for my family? What will I miss? What if….?

So don’t be like me. Don’t be quick to judge the stay-at-home mommas who left careers to devote their life to their children. And stay-at-home mommas, please be slow to judge the mommas who can’t stay at home–know their struggle is also real. It’s difficult to leave their child each day in someone else’s care–knowing they will miss out on some milestone or “first” along the way. Instead, encourage, support, and lend an ear to both of them because in the end, no matter what type of “momma” you are, it is a hard, yet ever so rewarding job.