Friday, May 13, 2016

Craving: Balance


I recently took a class from an author/blogger/speaker that I absolutely admire-Hannah Brencher. It was the first class in her “Craving” series and as soon as I saw the first topic was balance, I knew it was exactly what I needed during this season of my life.

In December, I left my full-time job and accepted a new role with significantly less responsibility but also less hours. I work three days a week now in the office, and work from home two other days. This has been the absolute best thing for our family, but it surprised me when a few months into it, I still found myself feeling stressed, chaotic, and disorganized. I must have thought that working less hours per week would allow me enough time to do ALL the things. You know, like keep a clean, organized home, work out regularly, spend time with my husband and baby, sew, write, read, spend time with friends, serve at church, rest and so on. I want to do all of these things but still find myself racing around trying to do it all and at the end of the day, my to-do list still has items left unchecked.

  I read an article once I’ll never forget-it basically said that the magical cure to “doing it all” is to-get this-not do it all. I mean that maybe is over simplifying things, but no one can do everything. You have to pick and choose what’s most important to you, what is going to allow you to live the life you desire. Back to the Craving: Balance class I took, Hannah recommended that the very first thing we do is to write out what a balanced life looks like to us. To list the things we want to focus our time, energy, and attention on.

Here is what a balanced life looks like for me:




A regular routine of doing exercise I love consistently. For me, this is running. There’s nothing I love more than running so I want to make sure I fit this in at least three times a week.

Have an organized, calm, peaceful home. I want to continue simplifying and organizing my home so it’s a place of rest and peace for our family and our guests that we host. Gretchen Rubin says it best when she always says “Outer order creates inner calm.” Amen, amen.

Spend time in prayer and in the word so I can discern the Lords voice in my life.

Having weekly intentional time spent one on one with my husband.

Be present with my baby. Spending time playing with him, reading to him, taking him on walks and doing activities that will allow him to cultivate his playful & curious self.

Be a friend that shows up for people-who celebrates the wins and offers a hug and a pint of ice-cream on the stormy days.

To choose adventure of laziness. To choose filling my stolen moments of free time with books and encouraging podcasts versus mindlessly scrolling on social media. To cultivate hobbies I enjoy that allow me to be creative. Basically, to limit my social media use to have more time that bring me true joy instead of feeling discouraged, anxious, or envious when I see the highlight reel of other people’s lives.

To encourage & celebrate more then I complain.

To be generous with my time & money-to hear and obey the Holy Spirits prompting to bless others when the opportunity arrises.

These are the things I want to say yes to. These are the things I want to fight for. Many of these take discipline, these things mean choosing what is best over what is easy. This list doesn’t summarize what my life looks like right now, and maybe that’s why I feel so frazzled, so stressed, and so messy lately. Trying to do it all with no rhyme or reason. Over the next few months, I am going to spend time focusing on saying yes to these things that help me create a more balanced life and giving myself the permission to say no things that just don’t help me and my family achieve this life. One thing I know is a mama who feels like her life is balanced probably doesn’t feel like she’s running on empty seven days a week. A mama who feels like her life is balanced is likely a much better wife, mama and friend, and I think that’s worth fighting for. Over the next few weeks I hope to share how I am implementing each one of these things I listed.

What does a balanced life look like for you?

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Friday, March 18, 2016

Breaking up With the Mommy Groups


One of the best things I've done for myself as a new, first time mom is to break up with all the (online) mom groups. You know the ones? The Facebook groups and the birth club boards and the message boards with other moms in similar walks of life as you that you originally thought held all the answers to parenting and babies that you couldn't bear the thought of functioning without them? If you don't know, then consider yourself lucky because as full of helpful mamas as they are, they caused me to obsess over things in a really unhealthy way. 
 
I spent hours of my day when Porter was first born reading posts in these groups from anything to do with breastfeeding, pumping, sleep training, schedules, solid foods, and the list goes on. When Porter was just a newborn and cried and cried and cried whenever I tried getting him to sleep, someone mentioned that maybe he had reflux and a few other well meaning moms chimed in and said that their reflux baby had the same tendencies and off to the doctor I went. The doctor said yes, sounds like reflux, prescribed some meds and after about a month on it, I noticed that they seemed to be making him so much worse instead of better so we stopped the meds and it wasn't until he was five months old that we discovered he had a dairy intolerance that was making him miserable and the medicine was only creating more stomach pain for him.
 
This wasn't anyones fault on the mommy group by any means-but its is just a small glimpse into how much stock and weight I put into what I read and heard from these other mamas on the internet that I didn't even know. I was obsessed with finding the perfect, magical schedule that would solve all of Porters sleeping issues, and I would read posts from other moms about their worries and concerns and wonder "Should I be worried about that too?" 
 
I was obsessed-there's not another way to put it. Not necessarily with the mommy groups themselves, but obsessed with doing the "right" thing by my baby, and I thought that every problem or situation I encountered had a right or a wrong answer that I just didn't know yet. What I failed to realize is these mommy groups are made up of a lot of other moms just like me-moms who actually don't know what they're doing more times than not, and moms who are experts in their baby but not necessarily in mine. 
 
Mommy groups aren't bad and they even can be extremely helpful. Getting advice from what worked for other moms who once were in my situation was helpful, until I thought I was failing as a mom when their advice didn't work for my situation or for when I was doing something that other moms warned against. 
A mommy group I haven't and won't break up with-these are real moms and real friends from church
The lord has used motherhood to shape, refine and prune me. He's exposed major areas of my heart that are just ugly. I was desperately trying to control everything around me, seeking that perfect formula for winning at motherhood that I was stressed and anxious more then I was soaking up and enjoying that fleeting newborn stage. For me, one small step in opening up my hand and giving up control was breaking up with the mommy boards. Now, when things don't go like I planned or if I have questions, I talk to other moms in my real life community, I call the nurse line at the doctor, or sometimes I shrug my shoulders and say "Babies rule the world!" and accept the fact that I am not in control and that is a good thing. Porter continues to surprise me and has me shaking my head in disbelief often, but I've come to embrace that part of motherhood because I know this is only the beginning.
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Monday, March 14, 2016

I Sleep Trained My Baby and He Still Loves Me


I’ve been off social media for a few weeks now, and I am embarrassed to admit how hard it has been for me. I feel like I am missing SO MUCH. And I have more to say on this whole social media fast, but I also can tell you something I don’t miss. I don’t miss the mommy wars that are so evident and present all over social media. Its everywhere. Its in the links we share and the advice we receive and the passive aggressive comments that people make about other mom’s parenting. And if you really want to wage a mommy war, mention the words sleep training. Or the worst of the worst, the three little huge words, cry it out. Most people have a strong opinion one way or the other on letting their babies cry, and I am not here to try and change your opinion or tell you you’re doing it wrong. Simply, I want to share my experience with everyone and hope that it is helpful to another mama who needs some encouragement.

Lets all just agree that in this post, we are not going to use the words “Cry It Out” because it really does have such a negative association. Cry it out means different things to different people. Cry it out may mean putting the baby to bed and not returning to morning and letting the baby cry as long as it takes to fall asleep, or cry it out may mean letting  baby cry for a period of time before comforting and soothing, and anything and everything in between.

At about seven or eight weeks, Porter decided he wasn’t going to sleep anywhere but in our arms and if we dared to set him down, he woke up crying within 20 minutes. I spent hours and hours in the rocking chair in his dark nursery while he screamed when I tried to rock him to sleep, and screamed when I put him down. I remember spending what felt like full days sitting in there because by two months, he wouldn’t sleep easily unless it was dark and quiet. I felt really alone and wondered why my baby wasn’t like all the “other babies” who slept when they were tired, who could fall asleep anywhere. Porter never has been that baby, and never will be.

We started doing some very gentle sleep training at this age. I watched his wake times like a hawk, made sure he was changed, fed and swaddled, brought him into his quiet and dark nursery, turned on his sound machine and sung to him and then laid him down. We let him cry for 3-5 minutes before I would go back in, pick him up, and soothe him, and lay him down once he was calm. We did this method for a few months-it was called the pick up/put down method and we gave him the opportunity to learn to fall asleep on his own, but we still comforted and soothed him as he needed it because he was so little. On days that he was just hysterical or not feeling well or just over tired, I still rocked him to sleep. Now looking back I wonder if I confused him, because sometimes I rocked him, and other times I laid him down awake, but that’s okay. He quickly learned how to put himself to sleep, even though there was some crying involved usually it was less then ten minutes and he was sleeping so much better.

 By about three months, he was sleeping through the night. I did a dream feed at 10:30 pm and he slept until 6:30 am. Then the dreaded four month sleep regression hit and it was brutal on us for almost a month. Some nights he slept all night and other nights, he was up multiple times. I always tried giving him his pacifier before I fed him but he made it PRETTY CLEAR if he was starving and the paci just wouldn’t do. We had what felt like months of many paci replacements, and though I considered just quitting the paci cold turkey, I could never follow through with it. Now that he's eight months, I am glad we didn't give up the paci because he can put it back in his mouth himself! We sprinkle like, ten pacis around the crib and he always finds one on his own at night. Glory hallelujah.

By the time he was five months old, we moved past the sleep regression and I wasn’t dream feeding anymore. We did his last feeding at about 6:30 pm and put him to bed, and he started sleeping much better, though still waking for his paci a few times a night. I never did a full on cry it out session at night with him, though we did start letting him cry for about ten minutes before we went in to soothe him around this time. That ten minutes in the middle of the night felt like an ETERNITY. But, after a couple nights of this, he started putting himself back to sleep at least half the time. Sleep training for us worked out in the way that once he started indepently putting himself to sleep at night, he in turn slept better at night as well. It was about this time too that the pick up/put down method we used when he creid when we laid him down at bedtime started making him REALLY MAD every time we’d go in and pick him up and then in turn, put him back down. It seemed to be stimulating more than calming, so we did some brief patting when we went in to soothe him, but then we’d leave, even if he was still crying. I did interval checks, otherwise known as the “Ferber Method”. So we started with checks at five minutes, then we soothed him without picking him up, wait another ten minutes, and soothed him, then waited fifteen minutes.

We saw improvement really quickly in his ability to put himself to sleep at bedtime, and after waking up at night. He started sleeping through the night again, sometimes he'd wake up for one paci replacement, but that felt like a million bucks after getting up 4-7 times a night! He was sleeping from about 6:30 pm-6:30 am and if he woke before 6:30 in the morning, we used the same interval checks to get him back to sleep. 6:30 was the earliest I would get him out of his crib, and often times he did wake up a little earlier but would happily play or talk to himself until we came to get him.

At six months, I did some nap training and by nap training I mean that we set consistent times for waking up and for nap times, and he didn't come out of his crib until nap time was over. So, for us, nap time was at 8:30 am -10:00 am and if he woke at 9:15, he stayed in his crib til 10:00am. Our plan for that was : if he woke early and was playing or talking to himself, we didn't go in at all. If he cried (not whined or fussed, but cried) for more than 10 mins, I'd go do a brief check and soothe, and then leave. It took about two weeks of doing this consistently for every single nap, and then he started sleeping the full nap time. On days he doesn't sleep the full nap time now, he just plays in his crib until we come get him.

Honestly, sleep training was the best thing we've done for our baby. Nap time and bed time now are easy, because we do our quick routine of diaper changes, snuggles and songs, and then lay him down wide awake and he usually plays and talks to himself til he falls asleep. Theres very little crying involved, sometimes he fusses or complains but usually if he's really upset its because he's extra tired and a quick binky replacement and pat on the back helps him settle right down. When we go over to friends or he goes to Grandma's house, he can go to sleep easily in a pack n play without any issues at all. Porter is a much happier and well adjusted baby now that he's getting more sleep, and I am DEFINITELY a happier and better mom because I'm getting sleep as well.

Sleep training isn't for everyone, and if you don't feel comfortable with letting your baby cry, by all means, don't do it. Each and every one of us mamas gets to decide to do the best thing for our baby and family, and for our family, sleep training was beneficial for all of us! Its not easy, and you do have to put up with some crying because baby WILL protest change, but for us, it really was worth the few hard days and nights we had.



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Thursday, March 10, 2016

How To Survive Returning To Work After Having A Baby



Nothing has ever given me the amount of anxiety and stress as the thought of returning to work when I was home on maternity leave with Porter. I was angry about it, I was devastated, and I asked God WHY he didn't make a way for me to stay home with my precious baby over and over and over. But, I did it. I went back to work and I survived it. I have since dropped my hours down to part time, which has been the absolute BEST thing for our family, but I worked full time for three months and have been meaning to publish this post to help other mamas who may be facing their return to the office after having a baby.

First-remember this: It's not as bad as you think its going to be.

Like I said above, during my pregnancy and the entire twelve weeks of my maternity leave, I cried at the mere thought of leaving my baby to go back to work full time. It felt like such an impossible unnatural thing to do, and I didn’t think I would survive it. I thought it was going to be the hardest and worst thing I’ve ever done.

I’ll be honest. It wasn’t easy. Tears were shed, mostly from me, but Porter also did have a few moments where adjusting was difficult. He screamed at the bottle, despite me giving him a few bottles a week from the time he was two weeks old, and he took 30 minute naps all day instead of the 1.5-2 hour naps he usually took at home with me. But we made it through that rough adjustment period, and dare I say I was glad to be back in the office? As soon as I got back and dove into the work that I geninuely do love, I realized I can do this, and everything is going to be okay. And it is. And now that Porter is eight months old and my hormones have leveled out, I really do enjoy my time to interact with adults and kind of step out of the mom brain mode for a few hours.

If you can, go out and buy yourself a new work wardrobe.

Don’t worry that you aren’t quite to your pre-pregnancy size yet. Don’t stress if you think you will just have to buy all new clothes when you lose the rest of the baby weight. To me, spending some money on clothes I would look and feel great in, even just for a few months was way more appealing then trying to squeeze myself into my old size four dress pants, or swimming in my maternity clothes that are no longer flattering in any way. I mean, where maternity clothes ever flattering? My mom and I made a day of it and went shopping and I bought a few pairs of pants, a couple skirts, and some tops that would work now and when (if?) I lost the few pounds. I went when Loft was having a 40% off sale and tried to be smart with the amount I spent, but I decided that eventually I will have another baby and will inevitable have another transition phase where my pre-pregnancy clothes are too small but my maternity clothes are too big. I knew that I could hold onto any clothes that I eventually didn’t fit into anymore so I didn’t feel like I was wasting money.  If you are done having babies, maybe you can donate your too big clothes down the line so less fortunate women have nice work attire for interviews and their jobs. Having some pretty & professional clothes helped me immensely. I felt put together, confident and ready to kick ass at the whole working mom thing.

Find a childcare provider you love and trust.

The number one thing that has made transitioning back to work easier on me was knowing that baby Porter is being so well cared for and loved while I am away. Our family has been blessed immensely by two different dear friends who stay home with their baby and we are so happy to be able to pay them to care for Porter instead of paying a stranger or a daycare facility. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with daycare, if you find one you’re comfortable with. I personally wanted Porter to have a little more one-on-one time and also have a calmer, quieter environment as he is such an easily overstimulated baby. 

The most important thing is that you know without a shadow of doubt that your baby is in good hands. I don’t have any anxiety about the quality of care Porter is receiving which makes this whole leaving him for 40 hours a week (ok, its about 24 now that I am part time, but it was 40!) so much more manageable. If you can, solicit recommendations from friends or coworkers. Ask around and see if any stay at home moms in your social circle are looking to make some extra income.  If you can afford it, even think about looking into hiring a nanny to come to your home. There are a lot of different options for childcare,depending on your budget. Find someone you’re comfortable with, knowing that your little one is being loved on and cared for while you work.

Learn to embrace preparation, planning and organization.

The only way I can get out of the house with my head on straight is by being really meticulous and organized. I need to get myself and a little human out the door with everything we need for the day by seven AM. Just for myself, I have to remember my breast pump, extra bottles to pump & store milk, a pumping bra, my lunch , my ID badge, etc. Porter needs binkies, diapers, wipes, extra clothes, extra swaddle blankets, enough breastmilk for the day, etc. I can’t possibly get everything together + get myself + Porter ready, and nurse in the mornings so every night I pack my three bags. 

I have a specific pumping bag with all the supplies I need to pump, a work bag (that I also use as a purse because who has time for a purse when you already carry three bags) that I keep my lunch in as well as my wallet, lipstick, ID badge for work in, and then a diaper bag with everything I need for Porter.  I keep those separate so I never lose anything I need, or accidentally leave my extra bottles for pumping in the diaper bag or take Porter’s pacifier with me to work. I also left extras of just about everything Porter could need with his sitter so I don’t have to try and remember to bring extra diapers the day after he runs out. Obviously, having a supportive and helpful husband is key here-Ronnie makes breakfast in the mornings while I nurse Porter and usually packs my lunch as well.

Its okay to say no to things, even good things for a season.
The week before I went back to work, one of my best friends invited me to a concert I REALLY wanted to go to. It happened to fall on the evening of my second day back at work and as much as I wanted to go, I knew that after being away from Porter all day long, leaving him for another 3+ hours wouldn’t be good for either of us so I declined. Going to country concerts was one of our favorite things to do together before I got pregnant, and I still hope to go to many more with her. My friend was more than understanding and gracious and didn’t give me a hard time, and I think that any good friend would respond the same way. You have to know that in certain seasons, you might have to let good things go to focus on better things. Some seasons require us to sacrifice more than others, but that doesn’t mean you have to lose sight of all your freedom and self care. Just pick and chose what is most important to you and set aside times to do what you love.

We were completely blessed and humbled by the specific way the Lord answered our prayers to allow me to work part time just three months after I returned to work. I still am in awe over the way the Lord loves and cares for us. But, leaving your baby whether its one or five days a week isn't easy, and I hope that if you're getting ready to return to work, you can take comfort and peace knowing that you are just the mom the lord created for your baby. You are doing a good job, whether you work full time out of the home or stay home with your baby, you are an amazing, hard working mama and I am cheering for you!

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Exciting News for Our Little Family



Our family has some exciting news to share-we're having another baby! Just kidding. As exciting as another baby would be we are enjoying loving on our one baby now and for the foreseeable future. Speaking of our one baby, becoming a mom has been the most life changing thing that has ever happened to me. I swear my heart is full of so much love for my baby boy and his dad it feels like its going to explode out of my chest. Every stage with Porter I just adore more and more.motherhood is equally hard as it is beautiful, I am tired, oh so tired, but happy. 

I went back to work when Porter was three months old and it was the hardest thing I've ever done. I honestly truly love my job and the people I work with, but every morning as I sit in Porters nursery, snuggling him as he nurses, I physically ache knowing I have to leave him again. Five days a week, for almost nine hours a day, I'm away from him. Evenings are a blur, as we try and make dinner and spend time with Porter, wash bottles and pump parts, feed, bath and bed for baby and then we get up and repeat the next day. Its been brutal and I've cried from exhaustion, from feeling overwhelmed, from feeling like I was failing in every possible area of my life: as a mom, as a wife, as an employee, as a friend. 

We've prayed for over a year now that God would open a door for me to work less, so I could be home more with Porter. In my small, human mind, I believed God would answer this prayer by giving my husband a huge fat raise and I could stay home or work part time and all our worries would disappear. But, it turns out God's plans weren't quite the plans I had so carefully laid out to Him. Last month, I was presented with an opportunity to work part time at another company, meaning I'd have to completely leave the job I have now. And we're taking a significant hit to our finances, which will require us to live a little more simply then we're accustomed to. And to us, the reward of me getting to spend a few more days at home with Porter a week far outweigh the costs. The Lord is so so faithful to us and I am just in awe of the way he has answered this deep prayer of my heart. Oh, it doesn't come without a sacrifice but no good thing does, does it?

The decision to accept the position is one I honestly struggled with. I prayed a prayer that honestly, I don't know for certain that I really believed God could answer it. I prayed it, but did I believe? And then when God answered it by presenting this opportunity that is the perfect fit for me and our family, I doubted if it was the right thing to do. Mostly, I was (and am) afraid. Afraid of change, afraid of the unknown, afraid that financially it might be hard. And it might be hard. And it might be scary. But the life I want is one where I can snuggle my baby just a little bit longer in the mornings. I want more than an hour and a half with him in the evenings before he goes to bed. I want to have time to just breathe, to enjoy my husband, to feel like my house isn't a constant battle zone I am just trying to survive in because I don't have the time or energy to do dishes and laundry and vacuum after working all day and taking care of a baby in the evening. I want to have more time with Porter where I am not trying to multitask and get dinner going and laundry folded and dishes put away at the same time. Long term, I want to be able to send Porter off to school and be there when he gets off the bus. 

This new job, its going to allow me to stay working in my career field, but work more flexible hours. I will work three days in the office, and do some additional hours from home.Its exactly what we need in this season of our life, and I am just so incredibly grateful for the way God has answered this prayer, even in the midst of my doubt. 

I'm hoping with some of my free time, that I can show up in this space a little more frequently as well. 

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