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How To, Inspiration

My 2017 Vision Board + How to Make Your Own

2017 felt like the birth of many big dreams for me.  And not just dreams that I wanted to start chasing, but dreams that I wanted to start living.  I actually wrote about all that, here-my dream to really commit to growing this blog.  I also set goals for myself in areas like motherhood and family life.  In the midst of realizing my dreams and goals, and determining that I was going to start living them out now, I began making a plan of how to keep myself inspired.  I don’t know about you, but I am a very visual, have-to-see-things-on-paper type person.  I am the type of a person that if I don’t write out a to-do list, nothing will get done!  (bad bad, I know!)  So I knew that my plan to start living my dreams would not become much of a reality if I didn’t create a “roadmap,” of sorts, of how that was going to look.  A vision board seemed to be the perfect tool!

I love creating “mood boards” in my house!  I have so many bulletin board collages of pictures that just inspire me, scattered throughout my house.  But for this, I wanted to create a vision board for 2017.  I wanted to fill it with words that inspired me and pictures that motivated me.  This vision board is to encourage me every time I sit down to write on my blog, to remind myself of why I am doing it and what I want to accomplish.  It is to help me take a breath when motherhood is overwhelming me and remind myself that I am enough.  This board is to reassure me that it is okay to simplify my life, to do less with more focus, and to say NO sometimes.  And more than anything, I want this board to remind me that God is making a way in my life, that He has plans for me, that I only have to have faith and take the risk!

On my vision board, I included pictures of my little family (because they are my biggest motivators), images of coffee and flowers (because I feel energized and focused by both), quotes about taking risks and going after things (because the fear of stepping out can psych me out), and pictures of cameras (because I want to become better at photography and I want to finally start a YouTube channel).  I could probably fill up 10 vision boards full of inspirational things, but this was a good start!

If you want to make a vision board to get inspired to start living your dreams, here is a list of what you will need:

  • Framed cork board or other board of your choice
  • Fabric to cover board
  • Staple gun
  • Ribbon
  • Push pins or spray adhesive to attach your pictures
  • Pictures, images and quotes that inspire you!

I recommend that you take some time, sit down with a cup of coffee or tea-planner, journal, inspirational books in hand-and write down your goals for 2017.  Just take some time and envision your life.  Think about where you are right now and where you want to be.  Once you have determined this, you can fill in all the in between steps.  Don’t create goals that are unattainable within a certain time frame.  Create small, achievable goals you can meet along your journey.  Remember, life is not just about an end destination-this one place or thing that will finally make you happy.  It is about the journey-what you learn along the way through trials, missteps, triumphs and success.  I firmly believe that when we envision the life God has for us and truly believe that He wants great things for us, we will succeed and flourish and live a fulfilling life!  Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish: . . .”

Friends, I believe that God wants us to dream and dream big.  He wants us to have a vision for our life.  There is nothing wrong with making plans for your life when you are following God’s prompting.  If He has given you a talent, a calling, a prodding or a dream, go for it!  Follow after it!  Live it!  Live your life with intention.  Live it to the fullest.  Don’t believe the lies of the devil or the discouragement of others when they say you can’t do something; because, you can do anything you put your mind to.

So fill your vision board with words and images that will draw you closer to your goals and that life you envision for yourself.  Every time you look at it, be inspired that you are capable to achieve and live out your dreams.  This first month of 2017 was great, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year holds for my family and yours.

If you create your own vision board, I’d love to see it and be encouraged in watching you live out your dreams!  So tag me @thegrowingnest or use the hashtag #growingthenestvisionboard on Instagram so I can see your creation!  Remember, we rise by lifting others; let’s lift each other up and cheer each other on as we live our dreams in 2017.

 

Motherhood, Parenthood, Pregnancy

What I’ve Learned from my First Year of Motherhood

I always wanted to be a mom, for as long as I can remember.  Maybe it was because my mom was a mother of 4 (and she was pretty awesome at it!) or maybe it was just something built into my DNA.  If there was a baby doll, I was taking care of it; if there was a doll house, I was playing “house.”  When I was a teenager, I would daydream about my life one day: living in a cute, little house with Matthew-loud, full of love, and full of babies.

After Matthew and I had been married for about a year and a half, I started getting baby fever.  I began asking him month after month, Hey babe, do you want a baby?  Hey, don’t you think a baby would be soooo cute?!  ha!  It was pretty funny the stuff I came up with to try to convince him to want a baby.  But I patiently (okay, maybe impatiently) waited until he was ready.  And one day, he just decided he was ready, and we weren’t together at the time because he was working, and he told me in a text.  I actually love that he did because now I have this memory to keep forever.

I remember the feeling of elation and pure excitement I felt in this moment knowing we were going to grow our nest.  And 2 months later, we got those 2 pink lines!

 

When Avary came into this world, life changed in an instant.  I cried the moment they laid her on my chest.  This baby, this little person-designed by God-was nurtured by my body and came from me and my husband.  I love that Avary is a tangible representation of the love Matthew and I share.  How incredible!  She is our love wrapped up in her sweet little self.

I think motherhood has taught me more about myself than any other experience I’ve had in life.  It has shown me that I am way stronger than I ever thought I was.  Going through the tiring work of growing a human being, to the exhausting work of labor and delivery, to the long and sleepless nights with a newborn, motherhood has shown me that I have strength and endurance!

Motherhood has taught me about sacrifice.  Giving up my body again after pregnancy to commit to breastfeeding was a true sacrifice.  Becoming a stay-at-home mom, many times I have to sacrifice the things I want for the things we need.  Motherhood has transformed my way of thinking.  Instead of a self-centered way of thinking, being a mom has shown me that I can make someone else #1 and that it is okay.

Motherhood has shown me that life is messy ( ^) and imperfect and doesn’t always go they way we think it should.  That in the midst of endless days and sleepless nights, poopy diapers, constant spit-up, colic, reflux, nose-sucking, sleep training, babywearing, breastfeeding, nap-skipping, tantrum-throwing days, we can rest in the fact that our job-as “Mom”-has meaning and value beyond the ‘every day.’  We are not just “babysitting” tiny humans; we are raising world-changers!  The love, time, and attention we pour into our little ones all day long is shaping their minds.  The values we instill are shaping their hearts.  The struggle of motherhood-trying to find a spare moment to go to the bathroom alone, microwaving your coffee 3 times because it went cold before you could drink it, going Hulk-crazy on the dog for barking during naptime-that’s life.  I’ve learned that I can let the upsets confuse me, frustrate me, and derail my whole day or I can just go with the flow, laugh at the madness, and embrace the crazy mess.

I recognized the truth in the statement ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’ because friends, IT DOES!  Motherhood was not meant to go at alone.  You need support.  I learned that when I tried to do everything on my own and hold myself to an unrealistic, Tumblr-type standard of perfection, I failed miserably.  And, I made myself miserable in the process.  Reach out and reach up!  Until I started reaching out to my husband, my mom, my sisters, my friends, other moms, the online community and looking to God for help and guidance, I was drowning in my role as a mother.  I’ve since learned to surround myself with a #tribe and not do this motherhood thing alone.

What I learned from my first year of motherhood is that love at first sight does exist. . .  The love that I have for my little girl is beyond anything I expected.  The moment I laid eyes on her, I felt like I knew her all my life and I loved her instantly.  She holds my heart in her hands.  I am so thankful that God entrusted her to me, that she made me a mama, and that I get to experience life with her.  She is forever my heart-changer, my mini-me, and my baby. . .

I love you, Avary Layne.

 

Family, How To, Motherhood, Parenthood

How to Afford Being a SAHM + FREE Budget Printable

Before my husband and I got married, we talked about the family we would grow one day.  When we talked about kids, I always knew I wanted to stay at home with them.  At the time, I didn’t know the logistics of how we would make that possible, but I knew it was a priority.  My own mom was a stay-at-home mom throughout much of my 3 older brothers’ lives, as well as mine, until she began a teaching career when I started school.  So all my childhood memories, I remember my mom always being there with us.  That is the kind of childhood I wanted to give my kids.

Matthew joined the military straight out of high school, we got married at 20, and I attribute the fact that I can stay at home all to the security of his job and the amazing health insurance we receive.  However, I have heard so many women talk about how they wish they could stay home with their little ones, but they feel like it is impossible.  So I wanted to give you all some practical tips on how we have afforded living on one income so that you can examine your own living situation, if staying at home with your kids is what you really long to do!

1.  Plan, plan, plan AHEAD

Like I mentioned above, Matthew and I discussed what we wanted our life to be like when we had kids, so we planned accordingly.  When Matthew joined the military, we spent 2 years dating long-distance.  While he was living 1,000+ miles away from me and deploying regularly, and I was home going to college, we SAVED.  Matthew opened a 401K and started saving for retirement, as well as saving a large portion of his income in a savings account he didn’t touch.  I saved for our wedding and he saved for our future.  One of the best things you can do if you want to become a SAHM is to plan ahead-before having children-what you want your life to look like and saving for that.  If you already have kids, that’s fine!  My best advice is to try to build up your savings account as much as you can.  Also, work as much as you can before and during pregnancy.  I know this is not possible for all women, but if you have a healthy pregnancy, it is great to try to make as much money as you can before the baby comes and you stop working.

2.  Begin living on one income well before the baby comes

This helped us tremendously on the shock and adjustment that going from a two to a one income household brings!  While I was pregnant and still working, we began transitioning all of our bills to come out of my husband’s paycheck.  Even though we still had the “cushion” of my income, we did not use it to pay bills.  Instead, we used my income strictly for baby purchases we needed or savings.  This method really helped us reevaluate our income, what we were spending money on, what our necessities were, and that being a SAHM was going to be possible!

3.  Make a budget!

This probably should have been tip #1, but guys, make make a budget!  You have to do it!  When we were both working and we were newly married, we spent money on whatever we wanted and we didn’t keep a checkbook (do those even still exist?!) or really keep an eye on our money.  But when we wanted to make this transition, it was important that we sat down and wrote out our budget for us to see.  We took our bank statements and looked at what are monthly income was, the bills we had, the areas we were needlessly spending money, the areas we could cut down on expenses, and how much we felt we needed to save and invest.  And who says budgeting can’t be fun?!  Get creative with it!  I know that I am most productive and willing to stick with something if I can write it out and it looks cute and pretty.  So that’s why I made this FREE Monthly Budget Printable for you guys!  Hopefully this will help you get organized and stay motivated to stick with your budget.

4.  Plan large purchases ahead of time

One thing that my husband and I have really been trying to get better about is planning out our large purchases ahead of time and saving for them!  We do not like the idea of going into debt for something we need, so we try to save for it and pay in cash.  These could be purchases like furniture, a car, a laptop, a camera, a new mattress, etc.  Obviously most of us can’t pay in cash for something like a house, so you still want to save as much as you can and make sure it is a home below or at what you can truly afford.

5.  Minimize your monthly expenses

When you write out your budget, you will be able to clearly see where your money is going every month.  One of the biggest areas that sucks away your income is those recurring, monthly expenses.  While some of these are necessary, paying them down or eliminating them will free up so much extra cash!  For example, we have two car payments each month.  Even though we bought used vehicles, we have these two recurring payments that suck almost a quarter of our monthly income!  We have recently been following Dave Ramsey’s debt snowball idea to aggressively start paying of this debt.  Minimizing your monthly expenses can also mean cutting those subscription services you use like, Amazon Prime, Hello Fresh, Fab Fit Fun, whatever.  While they might seem like a good deal by themselves, they truly add up!  Also, cut your cable!  I am a firm believer that cable is the most overrated, unnecessary monthly expense that most of us have in our homes.  Cable is sooo expensive and a lot of us rarely watch enough live TV for it to be worth it.  With all the free shows on the internet the day after or Netflix, Hulu, etc., cable proves pretty unnecessary.  Unfortunately for us, the only internet provider in our area is Comcast, and for us to have internet, the cheapest way is to bundle it with their basic cable package.  It is frustrating because I know so many people who pay much less than us but with Comcast as the only internet option, our hands are tied.  But, we got our bill as low as possible!

6.  Look for sales, use coupons and thrift

I will admit, I am not a couponer!  One of the main reasons I don’t use traditional coupons very much is because we generally try to buy whole foods-fresh produce-and we shop at stores that don’t accept most coupons you see from manufacturers.  We live in an area where the cost of living is rather high compared to many other places, so we do most of our grocery shopping at Aldi and Trader Joe’s.  We have found that we can get the most from our money here and it allows us to get more fresh and organic foods at a price we can afford.  But, for household items like toilet paper, laundry detergent, diapers, baby wipes, etc., I absolutely look for coupons!  You can always find deals on items like this usually in the P & G section of your Sunday newspaper and stores regularly run sales on them, as well.

Another super easy, amazing way to save on the items you have to buy is through rebate apps!  Rebate apps will give you cash back or rewards towards gifts cards, etc. on the purchases you make.  My very favorite rebate app to use is Ibotta!  To use Ibotta, you just:

  • Unlock cash back rebates (by watching a short video or answering a simple question)
  • Go shopping, buy products you love & keep your receipt
  • Verify your purchases by scanning the products you bought and taking a photo of your receipt

The best thing about Ibotta, compared to most rebate apps, is they offer rebates on a general item like: bread, milk, eggs, bananas, etc. instead of it having to be a specific brand name.  This is huge because sometimes you might not be buying the brand that the rebate offers.  I also love that you can get rebates for fresh fruits and veggies!  Also, Ibotta is not just for groceries, but for online shopping (Ebay, Groupon), pharmacy items, clothing, and even restaurants.  If you don’t have it, try it out because it is amazing!  If you want to sign up and use my referral code gjneyap, you can get a free $10 credit when you redeem your first rebate!

Another rebate app I love is Shopkick.  It is super easy to use and when you shop, it rewards you with “kicks” just for walking in the door of your favorite stores.  You also can get kicks for simply scanning certain items in the store, as well as purchasing certain items.  These kicks can then be redeemed for gift cards!

If you are an avid online shopper like most of us moms are, you need to be using the rebate site Shop at Home!  All you do is visit their site when you are ready to do some online shopping and pick your store out of the thousands they have on there, you purchase the item through their website, and you then get a percentage of cash back straight to your account.  You literally are getting rewarded for online shopping! (My hubby won’t get upset about that!)  Shop at Home will also show you the great deals all your stores having going on so you won’t miss a thing.

Another way to save big when you are living on one income is to look out for sales for kid’s clothes.  We all know how quickly are little ones grow and that means we are always buying clothes!  When I know I need to get Avary new clothes, I wait for when stores are giving away cash back like, Old Navy super cash, Children’s Place cash, Carters rewards.  Most stores now give cash back for you to spend when meet a minimum threshold.  I shop to get the cash back when the store is running a good percentage off discount or I have a coupon code.  Always sign up for the rewards program at the stores you frequent because it just means more coupons and sales in your pocket!

Also, thrifting or buying second-hand clothes is a great way to score gently used children’s clothes at unbeatable prices.  Consignment shops are popping up every where, and depending on the area you find them in, you can find some name-brand, quality pieces!  You can also consider joining a Facebook buy/sell/trade page in your area to find even more steals.  A lot of times these items are priced even lower than a consignment shop because you are buying directly from the owner.  Shop smart!

7.  Choose free or cheap entertainment

When you are wanting to become a SAHM, you have to evaluate what areas you can cut to save money.  Entertainment is definitely one of those areas.  Going out to the movies, going out to eat, going to amusement parks, or planning costly vacations can take up quite a bit of money.  Instead, try to create free or cheap entertainment for your family!  This could mean family pizza night at home with a $5 family pizza from Aldi and a Netflix movie or a coffee date night for you and your husband at home instead of at a coffee shop.  You can still have fun without spending so much!

Also, look up free activities in your area for kiddos!  You can find library storytimes, playgroups, and parks that are all free of charge.  And, you can always call up a friend for a play date, take a walk in the stroller, play in the backyard, or go window shopping to entertain your little one.  Use your imagination!  There are lots of ways to create free fun at home with children, and I find so many ideas on Pinterest!

8.  Meal planning + cooking at home

I know we all lead busy lives, especially us moms!  But let me tell you, you will save so much money if you begin meal planning for your family and cooking at home.  Just within the last couple of months, I have really gotten into the habit of planning out our meals before going grocery shopping, and wow-what a difference it makes!  Not only does it cut down on our grocery bill, but it cuts down on food waste.  So before going shopping, I’ve been sitting down with a free meal planning printable from Christene at Keys to Inspiration to plan out my meals for each week and jot down the ingredients I need to make it.  If you sign up for her email list, you get access to all her free printables, check it out!  Meal planning will help you stick to a specific menu and encourage you to cook at home.  When you have a plan, you can always prep something ahead of time to save on time for a busy day.

So those are my 8 tips on how to afford to be a stay-at-home mom!  I’m not going to lie, going from two incomes to one was a big adjustment-a lifestyle change, really.  But I never once have regretted my decision to make the sacrifice.  If you have a strong desire to stay home and care for your little ones, but you don’t think it is possible, I challenge you to take a step back and reevaluate.  Look at your budget, try living out these steps and see if they make a difference in freeing up some money, and determine what you feel are essentials and non-essentials for your family.  No matter what-SAHM, working mom, or WAHM-you are amazing and what you do for your family is priceless.

Let me know in the comments, how did you decide to be a SAHM?  Was the transition hard for you?  Let me know any tips you have on how you afford to live on one income!

 

Encouragement, Motherhood

Struggling With Anxiety as a Mom

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I remember the first time I had an anxiety attack.  I was around 35 weeks pregnant and working as a teacher at a child development center.  I was in the infant room that day.  As the day was winding down and there were only 2 babies left, I sat on the floor with another teacher.  I remember becoming hotter and hotter, like a wave of heat hit me.  I was burning up and it was making me feel nauseous.  I asked the other teacher if I could go to the restroom.  I walked down the hall, into the restroom and locked the door.  I looked down at myself and my skin was bright pink, my stomach was in a knot.  I went to the sink and splashed some water on my face and looked up at my reflection in the mirror.  Right at the base of my neck, I could physically see my pulse pounding.  I put my fingers there and felt my heartbeat racing.  As I did so, I began feeling my heart beating violently.  I tried to breathe deeply to help it slow down.  As I tried to form purposeful breaths, I felt like my chest was being crushed and my airways closing in.  I couldn’t take a deep breath.  I was beginning to panic.  What is wrong with me?  Am I going to pass out?  Am I having a heart attack?  Am I about to die?  My mind was racing and my body was in overdrive.  I knew something wasn’t right and I was scared.  I left the bathroom and started down the hallway when my director saw me.  She had one look at me and yelled for me to come sit down.  She asked me what was going on and I started bawling.  Tears streaming down my face, I told her it was hard to breathe, that my heart was racing and wouldn’t slow down, and that I didn’t know what was wrong with me.  She got me water and sat in front of me talking to me and getting me to calm down.  I slowly started feeling a little better.  She wanted me to go to the doctor, but I just wanted to go home.  When I got home (earlier than I should have been), Matt was confused because it wasn’t my normal time.  I walk in the door with tears still pouring down my face.  In a worried voice he ran up to me and asked what was wrong.  I couldn’t talk and so he just hugged me.  I’m pretty sure he was about to go grab the hospital bags and put me in the car because he assumed the baby was coming!  After the incident was over and upon doing some research, I realized that I had experienced an anxiety attack.  I don’t know if it was the stress of working, being in college full-time, and being largely pregnant, but apparently I just couldn’t deal.  I went on maternity leave 2 weeks after that.  It was my first and only anxiety attack while I was pregnant.

JD Middleton Photography

JD Middleton Photography

After Avary was born, I was blissfully happy.  I was on cloud-9.  I felt like life couldn’t get any sweeter.  Even though I had to have an induction and her birth didn’t go as I had “planned”-you can read my birth story, here-every moment of labor, delivery, and taking our baby home felt like perfection.  I was on a high!  I had just had a vaginal birth, pushed my 1st baby out in 15 minutes, and those endorphins had me feeling like a super hero!  You mamas know what I mean!

The days and weeks following Avary’s birth were nothing short of incredible.  So when I went in for my 6 weeks postpartum appointment, and they had me fill out that questionnaire about how I was feeling-if I had any negative thoughts about myself or my baby, if I was feeling hopeless/anxious/depressed, etc.-I found it so odd!  Of course I didn’t feel any of those things, I thought.  Everything is perfect!  I handed in my questionnaire, and they didn’t ask me a single question about it.  Looking back, they didn’t even discuss postpartum depression/anxiety (PPD/PPA) with me at all.  And so I thought everything would be fine, and I no longer had to think about PPD again.  Fast forward several months and things began to change. . .

For me, around the time Avary was 5-6 months old, things began changing.  It felt like my hormones were on a rollercoaster ride.  My body was still trying to adjust to no longer housing a human being, my baby was well out of the “newborn phase” and changing dramatically, my family was 1,000 miles away, my husband had a job that took him from home on a regular basis. . .I began experiencing anxiety.  I’ve talked about in a previous post how I have always been and a somewhat anxious/fearful person, but this was on a level I had never known.  The anxiety made me feel like bad things were imminent. Like, what if we get in a car accident on the way to the grocery store, what if Avary’s cough is really some deadly disease, maybe my breastmilk is terrible and not good enough, maybe I am a terrible mom, what if someone breaks into the house and tries to steal Avary. . .  I was experiencing irrational fears and anxiety and it was affecting my mood.

The truth is, more women than you might think struggle with postpartum anxiety or postpartum depression.  Postpartumprogress.org estimates that close to 20% of mothers experience mood or anxiety disorders-that is nearly 1.3 million women annually.  When I was having my anxious thoughts, I didn’t understand what was wrong with me.  I kept trying to just “snap out of it” and stop worrying. . . Until I did research into PPA did I realize that this wasn’t a problem I just developed on my own, but one that was affected by pregnancy and postpartum.  PPA and PPD can occur up to a year after birth, not just a few days or weeks.  I’m not an expert on this topic, just sharing my personal experience, but if you need help, seek help!  I wish there was more follow-up care for mothers after birth so that so many women wouldn’t suffer in silence and confusion.

My anxiety was mild compared to what so many face and has begun correcting itself, but every woman is different and every experience with postpartum anxiety or depression is different.  Do not be afraid to talk to your doctor and get help!  It is nothing to be ashamed of.  And do your research!  While most all new mamas experience some degree of “baby blues,” anxiety and depression should be taken seriously.  Reach out to your spouse, your friends, your family, anyone you need to so you can get the support you need.  For me personally, it did wonders for me to talk through what I was feeling.

I write this post to tell you that you are not alone in your feelings of stress, anxiety, or depression.  It happens.  But you don’t have to be alone in your struggle and their IS help and support.

Also, I hope you never forget that in the midst of your most anxious days, when you in are in the thick of your fears, when stress seems like it will crush your spirit, you have a God to turn to.  You have a Father that wants to give you freedom over fear and power over anxiety.  Never underestimate how much He cares for you.

all-your-anxities

Let’s break the “taboo” that postpartum depression and anxiety has surrounding it, and share our stories.  Let’s encourage fellow mamas to get help.  And let’s support one another on this crazy, rewarding venture called motherhood.

sean-1

 

 

Baby, Motherhood

How To: Create a Routine as a SAHM

*This post contains affiliate links.  This means that if you choose to use these links, I may get a small commission for connecting you to the source.  I only share links to products I love and use, and that I believe will benefit you.*

When we made the decision that I was going to be a stay-at-home mom to our little girl, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into.  I assumed that the job was pretty easy because all I had to do was take care of the baby, right?  Wrong!  Being a SAHM is much more than “taking care of the baby.”  A lot about being a SAHM is being a homemaker-making sure things stay cleaned and organized, planning meals, preparing food, doing laundry, running errands and just simply keeping the house running.  Not to mention, taking care of the baby involves a host of different tasks.  I’m feeding, changing, nursing, bathing, entertaining, comforting, and nurturing a little human being.  And now that my little girl Avary is at the age where she is crawling, pulling up, and cruising around the house, our playtime has to be more meaningful and teaching and SUPERVISED.  I have to teach her what is and is not safe to stand up on, what we do not touch, that we do not eat dog food, that we should not take the dog’s bed, that we cannot eat books or fuzz or the rug or DVDs. . . (ha!)

And what I have learned is, if we just wake up in the morning, with no plan for our day, the day is going to be very unproductive.  I won’t be able to get chores done around the house, we will miss running our errands, the baby will probably act out because she doesn’t know what to expect next.  It took me months to realize that what we needed was a routine and a schedule!  Once I added this to our lives, everything changed!  So I thought I would share with you my tips on how to create a routine as a SAHM + stick with it, as well as a glimpse at what our daily schedule looks like.  I would like to preface this by saying, in the first 3 months of Avary’s life, we did NOT have a schedule.  I felt that in those early newborn days, it was important for me to allow Avary to make her own schedule so we could get to know each other and she was giving me cues to exactly what she needed.  We really started carving out a routine when she was around 4.5 months old when we began transitioning her from co-sleeping to sleeping in her own room and crib.  Remember, you know your baby better than anyone, so experiment with routines and schedules and find what works for you!

Tip #1: Get a Planner

Get a planner, get a planner, get a planner!  I cannot tell you enough how helpful a planner is in staying organized and helping create a routine.  Depending on what you like, you can pick up a cheap planner from Target or if you want to get serious, you can get something like the Erin Condrin Life Planner or Lara Casey’s Powersheets.  You can use your planner to write down any important dates to remember like appointments, work schedules, meetings, playdates, birthdays, holidays, vacations, weekly cleaning schedules, to-do lists, goals, priorities, etc.  Basically, you want to write down anything and everything here so you won’t forget and so you can stay motivated to check tasks off your list.

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Tip #2: Plan Out Your Day

Planning your day out is a great way to give your day structure, as well as productivity.  I have often found that if I have no plan for the day, I end up getting nothing done.  There is something to be said for predictability; it has its place.  Some people thrive on planning out their day down to the hour.  I personally am not that rigid.  But, I plan our day so I know when we are having mealtimes, naptimes, going out, cleaning, etc.

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Tip #3: Create a Baby Schedule

After you are past the newborn phase, babies truly do thrive on a schedule.  They need the predictability and stability that a schedule provides.  It helps them in their development to be able to learn their routine.  When we transitioned Avary to sleeping in her own room and crib, this was the time that we started shaping out her schedule.  One of the biggest things that I believe helped solidify her schedule was creating a stable bedtime routine.  For us, this looks like:

  • 5 pm:  Dinner
  • 5:30 pm: Playtime
  • 6:00 pm: Winding Down Play/Books; Clean Up Toys; Head Upstairs
  • 6:10 pm: Bathtime *(she doesn’t get a bath every night so on nights she doesn’t, our winding down play is a little longer)
  • 6:25 pm: Diaper, “Night Night” Lotion, PJs & Nighttime Nursing Session

Once you get a bedtime routine down, you can start incorporating when baby needs a nap into your daily schedule.  You also want to carve out times for play-whether structured (a planned activity) or free-play.  I have also found that with a baby Avary’s age, she needs to get outside a couple times a day.  As long as the weather permits, we do a playtime out in the backyard in the morning, we take the dog on a walk while Avary rides in the stroller midday, and go to the park or play outside again in the afternoon.  She loves being outside and fresh air is so good for babies.  If you want to see what our full daily routine looks like, a post on that will be coming soon!

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Tip #4: Create a Cleaning Schedule

I don’t know why I didn’t do this a long time ago; maybe because I was working and just cleaned whatever I could squeeze in that day, but since becoming a SAHM, I have realized the beauty that is a cleaning schedule!  I actually came across “Clean Mama” on Instagram, you can find her here.  She has created a simple cleaning and homemaking routine you can follow weekly to help keep your home clean and organized.  I love it because each day you have a different cleaning tasks.  It helps so much; because, you don’t feel like you have to tackle one hundred different things in one day.  It feels more doable with the one or two tasks to complete each day.  She also has printables to help you stay organized in your schedule.

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Tip #5: Take Care of Yourself

I am going to be honest, in the first couple of months of motherhood, it is so incredibly easy to lose sight of yourself when you are constantly taking care of another human being.  It is so easy to forget to shower or get dressed or make yourself some food or workout.  Every day looks different, but I learned that it is so important to take care of myself, my body, and my health.  If I am not taking care of myself, I won’t be able to take good care of Avary.  In this season of life, we just don’t have the luxury of paying for a gym membership where I can drop Avary off at the childcare and go workout.  So I had to come up with a way to exercise when I was home with her.  I was looking for exercises on YouTube that I could do from home, and I came across Moms Into Fitness.  These workouts are designed especially for moms for strengthening your body postpartum.  I absolutely love them!  They have really helped strengthen my core, my back, and my pelvic floor.  There are workouts anywhere from 5-40 minutes I have found.  Honestly, doing something to get your body moving and working-even if it doesn’t seem like a lot-is going to help!  You can find the Moms Into Fitness workouts on Youtube, here.  Or you can purchase full length workout videos here.

Also, when it comes to nutrition, try to make sure you aren’t skipping meals or forgetting to feed yourself.  I think us moms have our fair share of times that we forget to eat because we get so busy!  One way I’ve tried to alleviate this problem is by having easy meals or snacks ready to go.  I might make a batch of hard boiled eggs, which are great for breakfast or a quick snack.  I also love to make my own trailmix with almonds, cashews, dried cranberries, raisins, and chocolate chips.  I always have granola bars and fruit on hand.  Another thing I love is putting dinner in the slow cooker in the morning, so I don’t even have to worry about it all day!  Meal planning and meal prepping is another way to save you time in the kitchen and take care of your health.  This is an area that I am trying to learn and grow in.  Remember, when you take good care of yourself and your body, you will be able to take care of your littles much better!

Those are my 5 tips on how to create a routine as a SAHM.  Being a stay-at-home is much harder than I thought it would be; because, it truly is a job and you have to be organized and productive the same as any other job.  Creating a routine saved my sanity and made me feel like I was running our home well.  I know everyone’s routine will look different, but what is one thing that helped you when you became a SAHM?

sean (1)

 

 

 

Baby, Fall

Fall 2016 Baby Capsule Wardrobe

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*Disclaimer:  This post is NOT sponsored, I just really love these clothes and companies!  If I ever do a sponsored post, I will disclose it at the beginning of the post.  I do not own the images of these products, they are property of the online retailers-which you can find at the below links.*

Capsule wardrobes seem to have become a “trend” lately-and rightfully so-because it is such a great idea!  When it comes to dressing my little girl, it is pretty much necessary for me to have pieces that will mix and match together, as well as core pieces that will build her wardrobe.  Also, I am always looking for a good sale!  That is why I do the majority of my shopping at Old Navy, Carters, or Target.  Most of these pieces are from Old Navy because their fall line for baby girls was on point!

I love shopping at Old Navy because they have adorable, on-trend fashion for my baby, they have affordable prices, and they are ALWAYS running great sales!  I feel that Avary always looks put together and trendy without breaking the bank.

As far as accessories go, like bibs, scarves, bows, and headwraps, I like to shop small!  I always find unique, cute pieces this way.  If I could afford to shop small for all of Avary’s clothes, I totally would-it’s just not in the budget right now.  So if you need a little inspiration on how to shop for your baby girl, shop the links included below!  All links follow the order of the pictures from left to right.

Also, for your reference.  Avary is 8.5 months old and wears a size 6-9 months or 6-12 months.  She is on the petite-side and has room to grow in these sizes, which will be great to transition some of these into wintertime, as well.

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Floral Swing Dress. | Gray Cardigan. | Cream Cardigan. | Striped Swing Dress.

These swing dresses are so cute and easy to build an outfit around!  You can pair them with flats at the beginning of fall when it is still warm, or pair them with tights and boots once it starts getting chilly.  And these cardigans, oh!!  I love them so much!  They are dainty and sweet and look great with jeans, leggings, or dresses.  They are knit, but surprisingly warm.  I wish they had them in my size!

Pink Ruffled Leggings. | Pom Pom Beanie. | Kishu Baby Bib. | Striped Ruffled Leggings.

Old Navy’s leggings for baby girls are ADORABLE because they have ruffles on the bum!  Who doesn’t love a ruffly baby bum?!  A beanie is essential for any fall wardrobe, as well and I love this one with pom poms.  Also, these bibs from Kishu baby are amazing!  I love them because they look more like fashionable baby scarves than bibs so they make a great accessory + drool-catcher for a teething babe.  They are made of cotton muslin so they are super soft and breathable.

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LOVE Bodysuit. | Fringe Booties. | 6 Pack Socks. | Gold Moccasins. | Pink Graphic Bodysuit

Bodysuits are just essential for my baby.  I like putting Avary in regular shirts, but they inevitably ride up and her belly and back are always hanging out.  When it is chilly outside, I just prefer having some cute, graphic bodysuits!  These ones are great and inexpensive.  Old Navy has the cutest baby shoes! (I am probably saying ‘cute’ and using exclamation points way too much, so I apologize-but I can’t help it).  I love these fringe booties for everything and their moccasins are great, as well.

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Strappy Black Ballet Flats. | Kishu Baby Bib. | WildSunshine Threads Headwrap.

More shoes and bibs. . . I just LOVE.  This headwrap from WildSunshine Threads is so classic.  If you love big bows, you will love this.  Go follow them on Instagram-you won’t be disapointed!

Roll-cuffed Jeggings. | Fox Knee-Highs. | Cable-Knit Tights. | AWESOME Graphic Tee.

When I say Avary lives in these jeggings, I am really not exaggerating.  I don’t know what it is about them, but they look great!  They have a great stretch-just like a legging, they are cuffed at the bottom which I like so they don’t drag on the ground, and they have the stitching of pockets and seams to make them look realistic.  Score!  Every little girl needs a pair of fox knee-highs.  Enough said. (HA)  The graphic tee that says Awesome is from Carters and it is a great basic and layering piece.

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BEAUTIFUL 2-piece Pajamas. | Utility Jacket. | Floral 2-piece Pajamas.

You are probably going to think I am ridiculous, but the first time I put Avary in 2 piece pajamas, I about cried!  I mean, zip up jammies mean your baby is little, right?!  At least, to me it does.  When I put her in 2 pieces, it meant she was a big girl!  I don’t know why, I am just weird (LOL).  I love these ones from Old Navy, though, because they are super soft and snug fitting.  I use them when I put her in a sleep sack for bedtime if it is chilly.  Last but not least, this army green utility jacket is everything!! It just screams fall and I love it.

Let me know in the comments what YOUR favorite stores are to shop at for your baby!  Or do you have a small shop?  I’d love to check it out, so let me know!  Happy shopping, mamas!

sean (1)

 

 

Fall, Food

Trader Joe’s: Fall Favorites

Trader Joe’s is one of my absolute favorite grocery stores to shop at for my family.  I don’t know if it is just something about the “neighborhood-feel” of the store, since it is much smaller than the traditional grocery store, or the yummy specialty items they carry, or the fact that there prices are SO affordable-I just love everything about it!  Well, and Trader Joe’s + Fall = Awesomeness!

Let’s be honest, putting pumpkin in everything come fall time makes any product more marketable, am I right?  Just the other day, I saw a “fall harvest” spaghetti sauce. . .  Doesn’t sound very appealing to me, but it is on the shelf because someone is buying it! (Ha!)  Anyways, I love love many of Trader Joe’s special fall items so I thought I’d share with you 4 of my current faves.

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Spiced Cider.  If you find yourself unable to get to a local orchard, or you just don’t feel like spicing cider yourself, you need to try this cider!!  It is so yummy and basically tastes like fall in a cup.  It’s refreshing cold or delicious warmed up.

Pecan Pumpkin Oatmeal.  I am a big oatmeal fan.  Ever since breastfeeding, I eat it all the time.  I’m always looking for ways to spice my oatmeal up so I was excited to try this, and mmm it is tasty!  Add a few fresh pecans to the top, some dried cranberries, and chia seeds and you have a hearty, healthy, delicious breakfast!

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Spread.  Guys, my food weakness is bread, bagels, croissants, baguettes, biscuits, rolls. . . basically anything that is a carb. . . (ha!) So when I saw this cream cheese, I knew I had to try it on a bagel or some cinnamon toast.  Oh my goodness, this stuff is delicious!  Definitely dangerous but so very worth it.

Pumpkin O’s.  If I eat cereal, I am a basic cereal person.  I think Cheerios are great even though they are super plain.  So why not add a little variety to your Cheerios?  These are fun and yummy for fall and great with some fresh fruit on top and Trader Joe’s vanilla almond milk!

So there you have it!  Some of my favorite fall finds at Trader Joe’s!  Do you shop at Trader Joe’s?  What’s your favorite fall specialty item they sell?  If you would like a part 2 of this, comment down below!

Happy Fall, friends!!

sean (1)

 

Family

Our Fall Bucket List + Family Traditions

Happy Fall, ya’ll!

Okay, I don’t ever say ya’ll, but the little saying is cute so I went with it! (ha!)  Anyways, Happy Fall!  If you’re like me-or like any basic woman or mom out there-you love fall.  Autumn is by far my favorite season!  I just love the coziness of it, the start of routines and traditions, the food, the smells, the coffee, the cider, the pumpkins, the apples, the baking, the fashion, the Bath and Body Works candles. . . okay, I’ll stop now because my list is later!  I also love the fall because it is like the start of the holiday season, and it just reminds me of all the goodness right ahead.

So every year, I always formulate a “bucket list” in my head of things I want to do for the season, but I never have actually written it down.  This year, I decided to create my bucket list and share it with you all and maybe you will get some inspiration to go out and make sweet memories this fall!

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Now I know what every parent means by seeing through your children’s eyes.  I’m so excited to share the fall and the upcoming holiday season with Avary.  I can’t wait to help her pick out her very own baby pumpkin and watch Matt help her pick apples from the trees.  I can’t wait to see the look on her face when she plays in a pile of crunchy leaves (she loves anything that makes a crunch noise!).  It is just so fun to get to experience all her ‘firsts’ with her!

What I also love about the fall is the little family traditions Matthew and I have created together.  I love how family traditions are formed through influences we both had as children and what we did with our own families.  Every fall season we find a local apple orchard and pick apples that are in season, get a gallon of apple cider, buy some apple butter, and get some tasty treats like apple cider donuts or caramel apples.  I did this with my mom every single fall and it is such a special memory for me.  I can’t wait to create these memories with Avary.  A trip to the pumpkin patch was something Matthew and I both did with our families.

I don’t know about you but the crisp, cold air in the fall just puts me in the mood to bake and make yummy, warm food!  Some of my favorite things to make in the fall are recipes passed down from my mom like: pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, banana bread, pecan tartlets, and blondie brownies.  I also love making slow cooker meals like: beef stew, chili, potato soup, and chicken tortilla soup.  This year, I’d like to try baking double chocolate zucchini bread and pumpkin scones!

Here is the link to my go-to Beef Stew recipe from Butter With a Side of Bread and the recipe for double chocolate zucchini bread I am going to try from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

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Sally's Baking Addiction

Sally’s Baking Addiction

You can find all the fall recipes I’m loving and all the fall goodness I’m pinning here!

So what is on your fall bucket list?  Do you have special traditions you do with your family?  Share them with us all below!  Excuse me while I go drink a glass of Trader Joe’s spiced cider!  Happy Fall!

sean (1)

Encouragement

Freedom Over Fear

FEAR (n): an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.

FREEDOM (n): the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint.

Fear.  It is something we all have experienced at one time or another; but some of us, on a different level than others.  For me, fear has been a personal struggle of mine for as long as I can remember.  When I was around 8 years old, my family moved into an old, Victorian style house.  It was one of the ones with tall doors and lots of rooms.  I remember that my bedroom was connected to the attic.  And it wasn’t just a drop door or a crawl space to the attic, it was a regular door to a full-size, unfinished, creepy-looking attic.  I was the youngest in the family, with 3 older brothers, so I got this room all to myself.  Every single night, I would be so scared that something was going to come out of that attic!  Of course nothing did, but the fear I felt as a small child was real-even though there was no real danger.  Ever since then, I can pinpoint a pattern of fear in my life.  It is my greatest spiritual struggle, and I constantly am being reminded of God’s faithfulness through this struggle.

In the world we live in, filled with so much  uncertainty, violence and heartbreak, sometimes it is hard to feel safe.  Sometimes it is hard to feel free.  Sometimes it is hard to live life without a sense of fear; because, it seems our safety has been compromised.  Because it feels like no matter how hard we try to block out the fact that there is a big, creepy door to a dark attic looming in the corner of our bedroom, it is still there and we cannot change that fact.  And the truth is, we can’t change all the factors in our world, in our environment, in our jobs, in our families, in our relationships that scare us, but we can; however, change how we respond to these fearful encounters.

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The truth, my friends, is that God offers us a way out of a fear.  He offers us freedom!  You see, fear can be crippling, debilitating. . . Fear can cause you to live a timid life-unwilling to take risks, missing out on opportunities, living half-heartedly for fear of what living fully might bring.  God did not create us to live in fear, nor did He desire for us to ‘live safely.’  He designed us to live freely and fully-embracing all the goodness life has to offer.  He welcomes us to live in the overflow of His spirit and His unchanging nature.

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When I feel afraid or when my thoughts are overtaking my actions, I remind myself that fear is not of God.  God supplies me with power and love and a sound mind.  You know, when I was 8 years old and scared of that attic door, I never opened it.  My mind created all these images of what might be behind the door, but I didn’t want to open it and find out what was really there.  But one day, one of my older brothers held my hand and pushed the door open and made me look.  (I don’t think he was trying to be ‘nice,’ per se, but it actually helped me!)  You see, he made me confront my fears and what I found was an old attic with dusty wooden rafters and no monsters. . .

I think God is a lot like this.  Maybe He holds your hand and draws you closer to your fears and helps you overcome them.  Maybe He is holding your hand and drawing you into the middle of stormy waters. . . But friend, He is not trying to drown you.  He is encouraging you to conquer your fears, to hold tight to Him, to walk in freedom, to become brave.  Bethel Music has a worship song that I just love that says:

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I am so thankful that God’s love and promises to me has made a way for me to overcome my fear.  My battle with fear is a daily one.  It is constantly reminding myself that God is in control, that my life is in His hands, that He only wants good for me, and that He has not created fear but freedom.  When I live in these truths, my life is so much more full.  So friend, if you’re anxious about an upcoming move, if you’re nervous about whether to accept that “crazy” different job offer, if you’re unsure whether you are parenting “the right way,” if you’re worried about standing out among your friends and coworkers, if you’re scared of failing at whatever it may be-give it to God!  Give your fears and concerns over to Him and live in the freedom of God’s grace!

“They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.  They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly.” Psalms 112:7-8

sean (1)

Motherhood

The Truth About Being a SAHM

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I want to preface this post by saying that this was very hard for me to write.  I feel so vulnerable sharing these thoughts with you all, but I felt compelled to share them; in hopes that one of you mamas realizes that you are not alone in your thinking, you are not a bad mom and that what you feel is normal.

While I was pregnant with our baby girl, Avary, I knew that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom.  I was working as a childcare provider at the time, and–while I loved my job–I didn’t want to care for someone else’s child while missing out on my own.  I always wanted to be a mom, for as long as I could remember.  I fantasized about all the amazing things I would get to do as a stay-at-home mom–dress the baby in the most adorable clothes (that would somehow never get dirty), breastfeed the baby peacefully, clean the house, get a workout in with the baby, take the dog for a walk with the baby, do the laundry, go shopping with the baby; oh, and start all those cute DIY projects I pinned from Pinterest, bake delicious pies and cookies like the Pioneer Woman, and have a scrumptious dinner waiting for my husband when he got home every night.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that I truly thought I would be able to accomplish all of these things as a stay-at-home mom because I thought I would have so much “extra time.” Well, and, all those mama Instagram feeds I stalked showed women with their perfectly dressed children playing or sleeping peacefully on their white furniture, while the mom-in full glam makeup and spit-up-less clothes-was knitting, or doing something so gloriously homemaker-ish.  Soon after being a SAHM, I realized that all these things were not a reality for me.  But what I am beginning to realize is that what I see on Instagram and on blogs is not the reality of someone’s 24/7 life, but just snippets–just a tiny glimpse of their everyday life.  Just like a new movie puts out previews–showing all the best scenes–you have to remember that social media is much the same.  It is so easy for us moms to get sucked into this vicious cycle of comparisons-whether it be to other SAHM’s, WAHM’s or working moms-vying for the title of whose job is “the hardest” or “the easiest.”  Instead of being united in motherhood, united in the understanding that being a mama is one of life’s hardest roles, we feel discontent because we want to be like ‘that mom.’  When the truth is, you are the very best mom your babies need.

Being a stay-at-home mom is hard.  It is the hardest thing I have ever done.  And it is a full-time job.  Except with this job, you don’t punch in or out, and you don’t get a lunch break.  This is a 24/7 job.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my baby girl, but I have days where I get burnt out. . . Sometimes I get jealous of working moms who get to leave the house and actually have adult conversations/interactions during the day; because, what no one tells you about being a SAHM is how lonely it can be.  It can be so lonely and isolating.  Because of my husband’s job, I spend 48-72 hours alone with Avary.  On these days, I don’t get a break at all.  I feed her, change her, entertain her, play with her, love on her teach her, bathe her,  put her to bed.  I do it all, and it is exhausting some day.  I would feel such a huge sense of mommy-guilt on these days when I would find myself thinking, ‘I just want a break!  I just want 5 minutes to myself!’  But the truth is, we all feel that way sometimes!  We all need a break sometimes.  I never realized how big of an investment motherhood was going to be.  I say an investment; because, for (at least) 18 years of your child’s life, your job is to invest in them.  Our job, as mothers, is to pour everything ounce of ourselves into our children to nurture them, teach them, motivate them, and raise them to be independent, inspired seekers of truth and followers of God.  Wow, what a monumental task!  So, when put in perspective, it’s OK to get burnt out.  To be able to pour yourself into your children, you have to nurture yourself by filling up on God’s truths, by setting aside alone time, by getting out of the house with the girls so you can adult for a little bit!

When you feel lonely and isolated and the only ‘person’ you have talked to all day is a 6 month old or a toddler, call a friend!  Talk on the phone, take a walk, go to the park and talk to another mommy, set up a mommy/baby playdate, go to storytelling at the library, Facetime your mama or your husband, read the Word. . .  I’ve found that I have to intentionally create moments that I am engaged with something or someone to combat the loneliness.

When you feel inadequate and “less-than,” when you’re covered in spit-up or your toddler’s lunch, when you still have on the yoga pants and sweatpants you wore to bed, when you’re having a “family potty party” because you have to go but the kids are always in tow, when you don’t think you can sing one more nursery rhyme or listen to “Let It Go” again, when you’re tired of nursing, feeding, changing, wiping, playing, entertaining, and-parenting. . . Remember that to those precious little faces, you are more than enough!  To them, you are superwoman!

We all have good days and bad days, that’s life.  But try to focus on the good ones.  Some days, I feel so tired of nursing and just want my boobs to myself!  But usually Avary will look up at me and smile a big grin with milk trickling down her mouth, and I feel so grateful that I even get to feed her!  Some days, I feel so discouraged that Avary won’t sleep, but then I feel so lucky that she still wants me to rock her to sleep.  Some days, I get jealous and discontent that my house is my “cubicle,” but then I remember the countless women who would give anything to be in my shoes, and I feel blessed.

Don’t let being a SAHM isolate you or depress you or minimize you or discourage you.  Your job and role as a mother will have a lasting impact, and it truly matters.  My desire is to embrace this season of motherhood to the fullest-with all its flaws and shortcomings; because, it’s just that-a season, that is so fleeting and will be gone before I know it.

No, being a stay-at-home is not at all what I thought it was going to be.  It’s long and taxing and tiring, emotionally-draining and physically-exhausting, but oh so very sweet.  The truth about being a stay-at-home mom is that you’ll love it, and you’ll hate it.  And you won’t want to change a single thing.

sean (1)